Ubisoft Has Some Games for Free

Subject: General Tech | October 8, 2016 - 07:33 AM |
Tagged: ubisoft, pc gaming, free games, free

This has apparently been going on since June, but I just found out that Ubisoft was giving away some of their older titles for free. Like EA's “On the House” promotion, you can keep the title, but only if you add it to your UPlay account before the cut off date. We're just before the change in months, so, for the next few days, you can add The Crew. Then, starting on October 12th, you can pick up the original Beyond Good and Evil for free.


As expected, you will need to have a UPlay account for this to work. Still, it's an otherwise free game, and a cult classic at that. While this promotion is officially for Ubisoft's 30th anniversary, and two games will go free after Beyond Good and Evil, Ubisoft took the opportunity to announce that a sequel to Beyond Good and Evil is being developed. I guess this means that we'll only have a couple more E3s where journalists write top ten “I want to see announced” lists containing Beyond Good and Evil 2. Yet another thing that will probably be released before Half-Life 2: Episode 3.

Source: Ubisoft

Like matte rubber on your mice? Check out the Dream Machines DM1 Pro

Subject: General Tech | October 7, 2016 - 02:48 PM |
Tagged: dream machines, gaming mouse, DM1 Pro

Dream Machines is not a well known brand but do have a line of computer equipment including the newly released DM1 Pro gaming mouse.  The mouse uses a Pmw3310dh optical sensor with DPI ranging from 400 to 5000 and indicates your current setting in a unique way, the colour displayed by the LED indicates the current sensitivity.  There are six buttons present, including the sensitivity toggle, with thumb buttons positioned for right handed users.  Kitguru liked the mouse but were disappointed by the complete lack of software to customize the mouse, take a peek and see what you think.


"The latest mouse to come in for review is the Dream Machines DM1 Pro. A Polish company, you would be forgiven for not having heard of them. However, they supply laptops, speakers and mice so we were pleased to be sent the DM1 Pro mouse. Priced at £39 in the UK, it sports an ambidextrous design and optical sensor – but how does it fare in the real world?"

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Source: Kitguru

Accessorize your Oculus, if you are still interested in the Rift

Subject: General Tech | October 7, 2016 - 01:56 PM |
Tagged: oculus rift

The Rift just got a lot more expensive to set up for those of you who prefer it to the Vive.  The kit has expanded its requirements and prices for those who would like the ability to move around in VR and those who want something more accurate than the basic remote.  To upgrade your remote is $199 and the additional sensor to track your body movement is $79.  While that is not too bad as they are additional features it seems that Oculus had the incredibly bad taste to use a proprietary audio connector.  That means if you want upgraded audio that is receiving from the same source as your video you need to fork over an additional $49.  As The Register points out, this is somewhat more than the originally quoted $350 price tag for a functional VR headset.


"It's bad enough that the basic system costs $599 – almost double the expected price of $350. Today, the Facebook-owned biz revealed a range of accessories that will push its cost even higher."

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Source: The Register

Microsoft Focusing Efforts, Forming AI and Research Group

Subject: General Tech | October 6, 2016 - 11:37 PM |
Tagged: supercomputer, microsoft, deep neural network, azure, artificial intelligence, ai

Microsoft recently announced it would be restructuring 5,000 employees as it focuses its efforts on artificial intelligence with a new AI and Research Group. The Redmond giant is pulling computer scientists and engineers from Microsoft Research, the Information Platfrom, Bing, and Cortana groups, and the Ambient Computing and Robotics teams. Led by 20 year Microsoft veteran Harry Shum (who has worked in both research and engineering roles at Microsoft), the new AI team promises to "democratize AI" and be a leader in the field with intelligent products and services. 

AI Cortana.jpg

It seems that "democratizing AI" is less about free artificial intelligence and more about making the technology accessible to everyone. The AI and Research Group plans to develop artificial intelligence to the point where it will change how humans interact with their computers (read: Cortana 2.0) with services and commands being conversational rather than strict commands, new applications baked with AI such as office and photo editors that are able to proof read and suggest optimal edits respectively, and new vision, speech, and machine analytics APIs that other developers will be able to harness for their own applications. (Wow that's quite the long sentence - sorry!)

Further, Microsoft wants to build the world's fastest AI supercomputer using its Azure cloud computing service. The Azure-powered AI will be available to everyone for their applications and research needs (for a price, of course!). Microsoft certainly has the money, brain power, and computing power to throw at the problem, and this may be one of the major areas where looking to "the cloud" for a company's computing needs is a smart move as the up front capital needed for hardware, engineers, and support staff to do something like this in-house would be extremely prohibative. It remains to be seen whether Microsoft will win out in the wake of competitors at being the first, but it is certainly staking its claim and does not want to be left out completely.

“Microsoft has been working in artificial intelligence since the beginning of Microsoft Research, and yet we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible,” said Shum, executive vice president of the Microsoft AI and Research Group. “Today’s move signifies Microsoft’s commitment to deploying intelligent technology and democratizing AI in a way that changes our lives and the world around us for the better. We will significantly expand our efforts to empower people and organizations to achieve more with our tools, our software and services, and our powerful, global-scale cloud computing capabilities.”

Interestingly, this announcement comes shortly after a previous announcement that industry giants Amazon, Facebook, Google-backed DeepMind, IBM, and Microsoft founded the not-for-profit Partnership On AI organization that will collaborate and research best practices on AI development and exploitation (and hopefully how to teach them not to turn on us heh).

I am looking forward to the future of AI and the technologies it will enable!

Source: Microsoft

VR Lets Legally Blind Man Experience Clear Vision For First Time

Subject: General Tech | October 6, 2016 - 07:00 PM |
Tagged: virtual reality, htc vive, assistive technology

As technology continues to advance, virtual reality is slowly but surely becoming more of a reality. For many readers, VR is the next step in gaming and achieving an immersive (virtual) experience. However, for Jamie Soar virtual reality is being used to allow him to experience what it is like to have "normal" vision in the real world. Mr. Soar lives with a genetic and progressive eye condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa as well as diplopia (or double vision) which means that he has severely limited night and peripheral vision. Jamie uses a white cane for mobility and needs to get close to things like computer monitors and signs in order to read them.

HTC Vive.png

EIC Ryan Shrout using the HTC Vive to enter a VR world (Job Simulator) during a live stream.

Enter the HTC Vive and its dual lens solution that puts the displays (and the vitrual world) front and center. After donning the virtual reality headset at a PC World demo in the UK, Jamie was amazingly able to experience the virtual world in a similar way to how many people see the real world. His eyes were able to refocus on the close up displays, and thanks to the illusion of depth created by the dual lenses, he was able to look around the virtual world and see everything clearly and in brilliant color both near and far! 

vision with retinitis pigmentosa.png

Via Blindness.org: An example of what vision is like with Retinitis Pigmentosa in an advanced stage. Peripheral and night vision are generally the first aspects to be lost as photoreceptors (rods) on outer edges of retina die.

In an interview with Upload VR, Mr. Soar had this to say to those with similar visual impairments:

“Try VR . Find a means to try it because I went so long without ever knowing that this extra dimension existed that you can see. Try out as many experiences as possible. It might not be for everyone but it might give people a lot more freedom or independence in what they do.”

This is a very cool story and I am excited for Mr. Soar. The aspiring music producer plans to continue experimenting with VR and I hope that as it continues to advance it can help him even more. My first thought jumped to Scott's desire to use VR for productivity work using an infinite desktop and how it could help Jamie compose and produce his music and get the same – or better – benefits most people get from having mutiple monitor setups without having to lean in to each monitor. I do not have nearly the vision loss that Mr. Soar has, but I can definitely empathize with him on many points. I think that it is awesome that he was able to test out VR and explore how he can use it to help him!

In my case I am more looking forward to AR (augmented reality) and future products built on things like Or Cam, Microsoft's Seeing AI project (which I thought I wrote about previously but can not find it via Google heh), and even things like and AiPoly (iOS) that use neural networks and can identify objects, people and their facial expressions, and even describe what is happening in natural language (we are not quite there yet but are definitely getting there).

Regardless of whether AR or VR, the advances in technology in just my 26 years have been amazing and the assitive technology available now is unbelievable. The future is exciting, indeed and I can't wait to see what comes next!

Source: Upload VR

Thermaltake's new Toughpower PSU; its RGB skill causes 850 DPS

Subject: General Tech | October 6, 2016 - 05:46 PM |
Tagged: toughpower DPS G RGB, thermaltake, RGB, modular psu, 850W

Enough is enough marketing departments!  The Toughpower branding is recognizable but when it becomes an RGB to the DPS G-unit one starts to wonder if this a PSU or a new professional gaming team.  Oh, lest we forget to mention it, the box proclaims this is indeed a VR Ready PSU; perhaps it provides 3D virtual electrons?   Aparently the DPS G portion indicates it is compatible with your cellphone as the PSU provides both modular and mobile features.  Lastly the RGB portion of the branding; if you guessed it has a fan capable of producing 256 different colours then you got it! It is even possible it creates airflow at the same time.

Does it actually work as a PSU?  Does anyone even care when it has all of these wonderous features?  Only [H]ard|OCP knows.


"Flashy lights are cool if you are into that kind of thing, but we want to know about the new Thermaltake power supply beyond the pretty hues of red, green, and blue. Toughpower units have weighed in well in the past, but how about in today's market as it is a lot more competitive now."

Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:


Source: [H]ard|OCP

Podcast #420 - REVEEN JUSTICE, Silverstone Strider 550W PSU, NVIDIA Xavier and more!

Subject: General Tech | October 6, 2016 - 03:26 PM |
Tagged: Xavier SoC, video, Silverstone Strider Platinum 550W, REVEEN JUSTICE, podcast, logitech, GTX 1050 Ti, Drobo 5C, Crimson 16.10.1, C922

PC Perspective Podcast #420 - 10/06/16

Join us this week as we discuss the REVEEN JUSTICE Air Cooler, Silverstone Strider 550W PSU, NVIDIA Xavier SoC, Google Pixel, Logitech C922, 1050Ti, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts:  Ryan Shrout, Allyn Malventano, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, and Sebastian Peak

Program length: 1:21:45

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  4. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Not everyone will be allowed to make fruit preserves; an interview with Blackberry

Subject: General Tech | October 6, 2016 - 12:36 PM |
Tagged: blackberry, Android, licensing

The Register sat down with Alex Thurber, a BlackBerry senior VP, to discuss the companies plans to license their particular flavour of Android to other phone manufacturers. Thurbur has worked at Cisco, McAfee after Intel's purchase of the company as well as a firewall company called WatchGuard so he has had some experience with locking down kit.  We will still see two more BlackBerry devices before they finally stop selling hardware but you should expect to see other brands running Blackberry licensed versions of Android soon.  They will have NIAP (National Information Assurance Partnership) certification, the same certification that Samsung's KNOX and LG's GATE qualify for.  Drop by for deeper look into what they discussed.


"BlackBerry says it won’t license its brand and security hardened Android “to any Tom Dick and Harry” as it tries to maintain the value of its brand."

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Source: The Register

Know someone who uses the Johnson & Johnson Animas OneTouch Ping insulin pump?

Subject: General Tech | October 5, 2016 - 12:43 PM |
Tagged: security, hack, iot

The good news about this hack is that you would need good timing and physical proximity to the wireless remote which instructs the pump to administer insulin; the bad news is that this is all that is needed and it could result in the death or hospitalization of the target.  The vulnerability stems from the usual problem, the transmission between the remote and pump is done in the clear letting anyone who is looking retrieve serial numbers and codes.  With that information you can then trigger a dose to be delivered or quite feasibly change the default amount of dosage the pump delivers, as was done previous with a different model.

IoT security as it applies to fridges and toasters is one thing; medical devices quite another.  News of unauthorized access to pacemakers and other drug delivery systems which could result in death is not uncommon, yet companies continue to produce insecure systems.  Adding even simply encryption to transmissions as well as firmware based dosage sizes should be trivial after the release of a product and even easier before it is released.  Keep this in mind when you are seeking medical care, choosing devices which are less likely to kill you because of shoddy security makes sense.  You can pop by Slashdot for links to some stories or wade into the comments if you so desire.

"Johnson and Johnson has revealed that its JJ Animas OneTouch Ping insulin pump is vulnerable to hackers, who could potentially force the device to overdose diabetic patients -- however, it declares that the risk of this happening is very low."

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Source: Slashdot

Google Launches High End Pixel Smartphones

Subject: General Tech | October 4, 2016 - 11:47 PM |
Tagged: usb-c, Snapdragon 821, pixel, Kryo, google, android assistant, adreno 530, 802.11ac

Google introduced its own premium smartphone today in the form of the Pixel and Pixel XL. Running Android Nougat 7.1, the Pixel smartphones will not only run the latest operating system but will be the new premium experience with the best Android features including Google Assistant and Smart Storage with unlimited cloud storage of photos and videos.

Google Pixel Smartphone.jpg

Google is definitely taking a greater interest in promoting Pixel than they have with even their Nexus devices. It will be interesting to see how other Android manufacturers react to this news but I would imagine that they are not all that pleased and Google will be in a similar position to Microsoft with its Surface products and Nvidia with it's Founder's Edition graphics cards. 

Google's Pixel lineup includes the Pixel (5.6 x 2.7 x 0.2-0.3") and the Pixel XL (6 x 2.9 x 0.2-0.34") that wrap their respective 5-inch 1080p (441 PPI) and 5.5-inch 1440p (534 PPI) displays in a full aluminum and glass unibody design that will come in one of three colors: Very Black, Quite Silver and Really Blue. The smartphones feature curved corners and rounded edges with Corning Gorilla Glass 4 on the front and half of the back. Google has put a fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone and power, volume, three microphones, a USB-C port, and, yes, a 3.5mm audio jack. 

There are both front and rear cameras and Google is claiming that the rear camera in particular is the best smartphone camera yet (with a DxOMark score of 89 points). The rear camera (which sits flush with the back of the phone) is rated at 12.3 MP with a f/2.0 aperture, and 1.55µm pixels. The camera further features an IMX378 sensor. electronic image stabilization, and both phase detection and laser auto focus. The Pixel can take HDR+ photos and videos at up to 4K30, 1080p120, or 720p240. Users can adjust white balance and use automatic exposure or auto focus locking. The front camera is less impressive at 8MP with fixed focus lens and f/2.4.

Internally, Google has opted to use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 (MSM8996) which is a 2+2 design that pairs two Kryo cores at 2.15 GHz with two Kryo cores at 1.6 GHz along with an Adreno 530 GPU, an impressive 4GB of LPDDR4 memory, and either 32GB or 128GB of internal storage which is regrettably non-expandable. The smartphones can tap into up to Category 11 LTE (Cat 9 in the US), 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, and NFC. Sensors include GPS, proximity, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, barometer, and hall sensors.

The Pixel features a 2,770 mAh battery and the Pixel Xl uses a slightly larger 3,450 mAh battery. In either case, Google rates the Pixel and Pixel XL at 13 hours and 14 hours of internet browsing and video playback respectively. Further, the batteries are able to be quick charged enough for up to "seven hours of use" after just 15 minutes of charging time using the included 18W USB-C charger.

Pricing works out to $649 for the 32GB Pixel, $749 for the 128GB Pixel, $769 for the 32GB Pixel XL, and $869 for the 128GB Pixel XL. In the US Google has partnered with Verizon for brick-and-mortar availability in addition to it being available on the Google store and other online retailers.

Google is banking a lot on these devices and asking a very premium price tag for the unlocked phones. It is certainly a gamble whether users will find the unique features enough to go with the Pixel over other flagships. What do you think about Google's increased interest in the smartphone space with the launch of its own hardware? How well will Pixel fit into the existing environment – will Pixel lead Android hardware and the OS to success or simply fragment it more?

I do like the look of the Pixel (especially the blue one) and the feature lists sounds good enough that maybe I could live without a removable battery and non-expandable storage (I'll be holding onto my old T-Mobile unlimited plan for as long as possible! heh). Pricing is a bit steep though and I think that will trip a lot of people up when searching for their next device.

Source: Google