Xaggerated claims from Intel? Psah, we've heard that googolplex of times before

Subject: General Tech | August 12, 2016 - 01:16 PM |
Tagged: 3D XPoint, Intel, FMS 2016

You might have caught our reference to this on the podcast, XPoint is amazingly fast but the marketing clams were an order or magnitude or two off of the real performance levels.  Al took some very nice pictures at FMS and covered what Micron had to say about their new QuantX drives.  The Register also dropped by and offers a tidbit on the pricing, roughly four to five times as much as current flash or about half the cost of an equivalent amount of RAM.  They also compare the stated endurance of 25 complete drive writes per day to existing flash which offers between 10 to 17 depending on the technology used. 

The question they ask at the end is one many data centre managers will also be asking, is the actual speed boost worth the cost of upgrading or will other less expensive alternatives be more economical?


"XPoint will substantially undershoot the 1,000-times-faster and 1,000-times-longer-lived-than-flash claims made by Intel when it was first announced – with just a 10-times speed boost and 2.5-times longer endurance in reality."

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Source: The Register

Microsoft Won't End Support for Skylake on Windows 7/8.1

Subject: General Tech | August 11, 2016 - 05:42 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

Previously, Microsoft said that they will end support for Skylake-based processors on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 before the OS's extended support date. Later processors, like Intel's Kaby Lake and AMD's Bristol Ridge, will not be supported on 7 and 8.1 at all. To use those processors, their associated devices will need to be running Windows 10 (or, you know, Linux or something).


This has just changed for Skylake, but not for Kaby Lake and Bristol Ridge. Skylake will now be supported through the entire life-cycle of Windows 7 (January 14, 2020) and Windows 8.1 (January 10, 2023). This is particularly good because Skylake was already released and in the hands of users when they first announced pulling the plug. Now users will know before they purchase their hardware (albeit not before many have purchased a retail copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.x with transfer rights that intend to continually upgrade beyond Skylake or to AMD's Zen architecture) that Microsoft will not support it outside of Windows 10.

Source: Microsoft

Helicopter headphones from ARCTIC, for AirWolf enthusiasts and ... others

Subject: General Tech | August 11, 2016 - 03:51 PM |
Tagged: audio, arctic, P533 Military, gaming headset

Arctic has a rather unique product up for sale, an analog gaming headset modelled after the style you would see a helicopter pilot on TV wearing.  The P533 Military Stereo Headset utilizes the standard 40mm neodymium drivers common to many headsets with a dynamic range of 20Hz-20KHz, 32Ohm impedance and 95dB sensitivity.  The microphone boom is longer than usual and features several joints to allow you to position it exactly where you want.  The P533 also has an integrated volume control knob on the outside of the right ear cup as opposed to inline on the cord, which ends in 3.5mm jacks.  There is no doubt that the hard, rounded cups are unique looking although perhaps not what most of us are looking for.  Check out Nikktech's review of the P533, even if it is just to see the design of these things.


"It may not be the best attack helicopter headset clone in the market today but the P533 Military Stereo Headset by ARCTIC might just be the most affordable one."

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Source: Nikktech

Backdoors are bad Microsoft; hadn't this become very obvious already?

Subject: General Tech | August 11, 2016 - 12:48 PM |
Tagged: Secure Boot, microsoft, backdoor, security

Yes, even though this occurs on a regular occasion, we are to be shocked that another secret backdoor into a security product has been discovered, exploited and published.  In this case it is Microsoft's Secure Boot which has been unlocked and even better news is that it probably cannot be completely repaired without rendering previous backups and installations incompatible.  On the positive side, devices which are locked down even for those with administrative privileges such as ARM-based Windows RT tablets can be unlocked and you can chose a different OS to install.  The negatives will have more of an effect on businesses and system builders who relied on it to prevent modified Windows installs from booting, preventing infections and questionably sourced Windows images from being used. 

The Register has links to more information on Secure Boot and Microsoft's response and you can read some information about the group which found and released the information about this over at The Inquirer.


"Microsoft leaked the golden keys that unlock Windows-powered tablets, phones and other devices sealed by Secure Boot – and is now scrambling to undo the blunder."

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Source: The Register

Playing with VR, Call of the Starseed edition

Subject: General Tech | August 10, 2016 - 02:13 PM |
Tagged: gaming, starseed, VR, amd, nvidia, htc vive

When [H]ard|OCP looks at the performance of a VR game, be it a Vive or Rift title, they focus on the gameplay experience as opposed to benchmarks.  There are numerous reasons for this, from the fact that these games do not tend to stress GPUs like many triple A titles but also because the targets are different, steady render times below 11.1ms are the target as opposed to higher frame counts.  AMD initially had issues with this game, the newest driver release has resolved those issues completely.  The takeaway quote in [H]'s conclusions provide the most telling part of the review, "If we were to perform a blind gaming test, you would not be able to identify which GPU you were gaming with at the time."


"We are back this week to take another objective look at AMD and NVIDIA GPU performance in one of the the top selling games in the VR-only realm, The Gallery Episode 1: Call of Starseed. This is another GPU-intensive title that has the ability to put some GPUs on their heels. How do the new RX 480 and GeForce 1000 series perform?"

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Retro nerd fight; something is amiss with the rebooted ZX Spectrum team

Subject: General Tech | August 10, 2016 - 12:44 PM |
Tagged: sinclair, ZX Spectrum Vega, Spectrum Vega+, crowdfunding

If you like your drama and tech mixed you should pop over to the The Inquirer to read about what is going on behind the scenes at Retro Computers Ltd, who successfully crowdfunded the return of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum.  Two founders and former directors quietly left the company back in April and are now loudly lawyering up in a suite they launched due to lack of communication from the remaining directors of Retro Computers.  In return Retro have revealed that they too have lawyers, which are demanding information about unaccounted company funds which they believe were siphoned off or otherwise mismanaged. 

Shortly after The Inquirer published their article both sides come out with updates about the case and more accusations.  It could prove to be an interesting saga, especially with the upcoming release of the Vega+.


"Look, we're going to keep reporting this because it's fascinating, but at the same time, how much more of this dirty laundry is going to get aired, and why is it happening? There's a missing piece of the puzzle here. "

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Source: The Inquirer

Mechanically sound, the Patriot Viper V760

Subject: General Tech | August 9, 2016 - 06:54 PM |
Tagged: input, patriot, viper v760, Kailh, RGB LED

Patriot have been focusing on peripherals as of late, while still more commonly known for volatile memory they have branched out into numerous other product lines.  The Viper V760 uses Kailh switches equivalent to Cherry MX Brown; of the RGB LED variety for this is another colourful keyboard.  Techgage tried out this keyboard in their latest review, appreciating many of the features of the board, perhaps most notibly the price of $100 or less.


"While mechanical keyboards have slowly become ubiquitous, not everyone has had a chance to try one out. For this article, we not only test out the latest keyboard from long-time memory company Patriot, with its Viper V760, we take a look at it from a new perspective – the perspective of someone who’s never used a mech before."

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Source: Techgage

Windows 10 Rollback Period Cut to 10 Days

Subject: General Tech | August 9, 2016 - 05:21 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

According to ComputerWorld, Microsoft has decided that their 30-day rollback period is too long, and so they reduced it to 10 days with version 1607. Honestly, 30 days seemed a bit too long to leave (in my case) 30 GB of crap laying around your main drive, especially considering a new build is dropped to the public once every six to nine months or so. They should have an interface for users to easily delete early, and maybe even a power-user tool to move it to external storage or something.


This should not affect users who upgrade from Windows 7 and 8.x, unless the rules have changed since the November (1511) update. A non-Windows Insider machine will only install a new build of Windows 10 if the previous install was a clean install, or if the rollback period has already timed out. Also, users can still return to Windows 7 or Windows 8.x by performing a clean install with their respective product key, and Microsoft still provides ISOs on their website even if the user lost their install DVD.

That said, Microsoft still should make this much more clear in their interface, though. Looking at the Settings page, above, there doesn't seem to be any indication that my time is running out. Not cool.

Can Netlist use Samsung in their upcoming HybriDIuMM to challenge Intels XPoint?

Subject: General Tech | August 9, 2016 - 02:55 PM |
Tagged: XPoint, Samsung, Intel, HybriDIMM

Bit of a correction folks, Netlist developed the HybriDIMMs using Samsung DRAM and NAND, united using their own proprietary interface. This, and my confusion, is in part to do some nasty and very costly IP litigation behind the scenes which lead to Samsung getting more credit for this than they deserved. 

Netlist and Diablo Technologies worked together for a while and then parted ways.  Soon after the split Diablo licensed SMART to produce ULLtraDIMMs and a court case was born. Not long afterwards SanDisk grabbed the IP from Diablo and now WD is buying SanDisk, making this an utter nightmare for a smaller company.  Samsung invested $23m in Netdisk and offered  a source of chips, albeit likely with strings, which has allowed Netdisk to develop HybriDIMMs. 

Samsung Netlist has developed HybriDIMMs, replacing some of the DRAM on a memory module with NAND.  This allows you to significantly increase the amount of memory available on a DIMM and reduces the price dramatically at the same time.  The drawback is that NAND is significantly slower than DRAM; they intend to overcome that with the use of predictive algorithms they have called PreSight to pre-fetch data from the NAND and stage it in DRAM.  This will compete with Intel's Optane XPoint DIMMs once they are released and will mean the DRAM market will split into two, the DRAM we are currently used to and these hybrid NAND DIMMs.  Check out more details over at The Register.


"Gold plate can give a durable and affordable alloy a 24-carat veneer finish, adding value to cheap metal. DRAM gives Samsung-Netlist Hybrid DIMMs a cache veneer, providing what looks like DRAM to applications but is really persistent NAND underneath, cheaper than DRAM and lots of it."

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Source: The Register

Xbox One S is Compact, Power Efficient, and (Slightly) Faster

Subject: General Tech | August 8, 2016 - 11:06 PM |
Tagged: xbox one s, xbox one, TSMC, microsoft, console, 16nm

Microsoft recently unleashed a smaller version of its gaming console in the form of the Xbox One S. The new "S" variant packs an internal power supply, 4K Blu-ray optical drive, and a smaller (die shrunk) AMD SoC into a 40% smaller package. The new console is clad in all white with black accents and a circular vent on left half of the top. A USB port and pairing button has been added to the front and the power and eject buttons are now physical rather than capacitive (touch sensitive).

Rear I/O remains similar to the original console and includes a power input, two HDMI ports (one input, one output), two USB 3.0 ports, one Ethernet, one S/PDIF audio out, and one IR out port. There is no need for the power brick anymore though as the power supply is now internal. Along with being 40% smaller, it can now be mounted vertically using an included stand. While there is no longer a dedicated Kinect port, it is still possible to add a Kinect to your console using an adapter.

Microsoft Xbox One S Gaming Console 4K Media BluRay UHD.jpg

The internal specifications of the Xbox One S remain consistent with the original Xbox One console except that it will now be available in a 2TB model. The gaming console is powered by a nearly identical processor that is now 35% smaller thanks to being manufactured on a smaller 16nm FinFet process node at TSMC. While the chip is more power efficient, it still features the same eight Jaguar CPU cores clocked at 1.75 GHz and 12 CU graphics portion (768 stream processors). Microsoft and AMD now support HDR and 4K resolutions and upscaling with the new chip. The graphics portion is where the new Xbox One S gets a bit interesting because it appears that Microsoft has given the GPU a bit of an overclock to 914 MHz. Compared to the original Xbox One's 853 MHz, this is a 7.1% increase in clockspeed. The increased GPU clocks also results in increased bandwidth for the ESRAM (204 GB/s on the original Xbox One versus 219 GB/s on the Xbox One S).

According to Microsoft, the increased GPU clockspeeds were necessary to be able to render non HDR versions of the game for Game DVR, Game Streaming, and taking screenshots in real time. A nice side benefit to this though is that the extra performance can result in improved game play in certain games. In Digital Foundry's testing, Richard Leadbetter found this to be especially true in games with unlocked frame rates or in games that are 30 FPS locked but where the original console could not hit 30 FPS consistently. The increased clocks can be felt in slightly smoother game play and less screen tearing. For example, they found that the Xbox One S got up to 11% higher frames in Project Cars (47 FPS versus 44) and between 6% to 8% in Hitman. Further, they found that the higher clocks help performance in playing Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One in backwards compatibility mode such as Alan Wake's American Nightmare.

The 2TB Xbox One S is available now for $400 while the 1TB ($350) and 500GB ($300) versions will be available on the 23rd. For comparison, the 500GB Xbox One (original) is currently $250. The Xbox One 1TB game console varies in price depending on game bundle.

What are your thoughts on the smaller console? While the ever so slight performance boost is a nice bonus, I definitely don't think that it is worth specifically upgrading for if you already have an Xbox One. If you have been holding off, now is the time to get a discounted original or smaller S version though! If you are hoping for more performance, definitely wait for Microsoft's Scorpio project or it's competitor the PlayStation 4 Neo (or even better a gaming PC right!? hehe).

I do know that Ryan has gotten his hands on the slimmer Xbox One S, so hopefully we will see some testing of our own as well as a teardown (hint, hint!).

Also read:

Source: Eurogamer