Why the world of WiFi is as murky as the HiFi market

Subject: General Tech | March 6, 2017 - 01:42 PM |
Tagged: wifi, networking

Our own Sebastian Peak has delved into the nightmare world of testing WiFi, specifically MU-MIMO and explained some of the difficulties you encounter when testing wireless networks.  It is now Ars Technica's turn to try to explain why your 2.4GHz router never delivers the advertised 1,000 Mbps as well as how to test your actual performance.  As with many products, the marketing team has little interest in what the engineers are saying, they simply want phrases they can stick on their packaging and PR materials.  While the engineers are still pointing out that even the best case scenarios involving a single user less than 10 feet away, with clear line of sight will not reach the theoretical performance peak, the PR with that high number has already been emailed and packages are printing. 

Drop by Ars Technica for a look at how the current state of WiFi has evolved into this mess, as well as a dive into how the new technologies work and what performance you can actually expect from them.

TP-Link Talon AD7200.jpg

"802.11n was introduced to the consumer public around 2010, promising six hundred Mbps. Wow! Okay, so it's not as fast as the gigabit wired Ethernet that just started getting affordable around the same time, but six times faster than wired Fast Ethernet, right? Once again, a reasonable real-life expectation was around a tenth of that. Maybe. On a good day. To a single device."

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Source: Ars Technica

Even More PC Controller Choice It Seems... Nintendo Switch

Subject: General Tech | March 6, 2017 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: switch, Nintendo, gamepad

While mouse and keyboard is awesome for many games, a few benefit from the layout of a gamepad (or the way it’s used). There was a drought in these for a few years, particularly around the ~2007 time-frame, but this console generation provides us PC gamers with quite a few competent options. When they launched, both the PS4 and the Xbox One allowed their controllers to be used on the PC, and both eventually provided wireless adapters to make it function. Microsoft did it for Windows 10, and Sony did it for PlayStation Now. Even Valve got their Steam Controller out there, which is definitely an alternate alternative, like it or hate it. Personally, I’ve never tried.

While Nintendo hasn’t really ever supported the PC market, apart from, like, Mario is Missing, their Bluetooth-based controllers also never really tried to block PCs from using them. Apparently, the Nintendo Switch is no exception, and its Pro Controller seemingly just connects with the old gamepad API.

This isn’t supported, so it’s probably best to not go out and buy it for the PC, but feel free to try it if you already have a Switch and Pro Controller (and a Bluetooth adapter for your PC).

Raspberry Pi Zero W Adds Built In Wireless Radios

Subject: General Tech | March 5, 2017 - 04:24 PM |
Tagged: raspberry pi zero, single board computer, sbc, broadcom

The Raspberry Pi Foundation recently introduced a $10 Pi Zero W which resembles the $5 single board Pi Zero computer it launched in 2015 but adds built in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios.

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At the heart of the Raspberry Pi Zero W is a 1GHz single core Broadcom BCM2835 application processor and 512MB of RAM. Storage is handled by s micro SD card slot. The tiny board includes the following I/O options:

  • 1 x Mini HDMI
  • 1 x Micro USB OTG
  • 1 x Micro USB for power
  • 1 x 40-pin HAT compatible header
  • 1 x CSI camera connector
  • 1 x Composite video header
  • 1 x reset header

The Pi Zero W uses the same Cypress CYW43438 chip as the Pi 3 Model B and offers 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. According to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, they found that many users were using USB wireless dongles along with a HID (keyboard/mouse) and they needed to carry around a hub or integrate it into their project. Adding built in wireless frees up the single Micro USB port for ither devices and hopefully allows smaller devices that use a Pi Zero as its brains.

Per RasPi.TV’s testing, the new Pi Zero W uses approximately 20mA more power than the Pi Zero which the site attributes to the wireless radios. While it more power than the previous model it is still half that of the Raspberry Pi 3 B. Specifically, the Pi Zero W pulls 120mA at idle and up to 170mA when playing back a 1080p video. Recording 1080p video from a camera uses ~230 mA. The SBC is rated at 0.6W to 1.2W (120 to 230 mA at 5.19V).

A modular official case is being released alongside the new board. US residents will be able to pick up the $10 single board computer at Adafruit, CanaKit, and Micro Center.

The Pi Zero has been used in a large variety of projects including robotics, arcade games, home automation and motion sensing cameras IoT, information displays, and electric skateboards. Integrating the wireless radio should make similar projects just a bit easier to out together.

HyperX Alloy FPS mechanical keyboard, fit for the ham handed

Subject: General Tech | March 3, 2017 - 03:12 PM |
Tagged: mechanical keyboard, input, HyperX ALLOY FPS, Cherry MX

The HyperX Alloy FPS is a R LED, no Gs or Bs, but you can cycle through a variety of modes using the Function key which replaces the Windows key on the right side of the keyboard.  The shell is aluminium, strong and light for those who tend to abuse their keyboards and the CherryMX switches are firmly attached and so should survive a few rage-quits.  Modders Inc liked the keyboard overall and the price is reasonable, $80 for Blue switches or $100 if you prefer Red or Brown.  Check out the full review for more specifics.

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"Over the last couple of years the gaming division of Kingston; HyperX has been working hard to bust into the peripherals market. Their products started off with mouse pads and headsets. In September 2016, the HyperX Alloy FPS was released. The HyperX Allow FPS features a compact, minimalist design to maximize desk space and portability."

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Source: Modders Inc

Fanatec Releases ClubSport Wheel Base V2.5

Subject: General Tech | March 3, 2017 - 01:48 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, wheels, wheel base, rally, racing, PC, Fanatec, ClubSport V2.5, ClubSport V2

Today Fanatec announced the immediate availability of the ClubSport Wheel Base V2.5.  Some months ago I reviewed the original ClubSport V2 and I was highly impressed by its overall quality, build, feedback, and accuracy.  It is a monstrous unit that commanded an sizeable price.  Fanatec has built evolved and improved the V2 unit and rebranded it the V2.5.
 
While the V2.5 is not redesigned from the ground up, it has some greatly improved features from the last gen.  It has a new motor that promises better response and feedback force and feel.  They next updated the USB connection so that it has an update rate of 1000 Hz for greater driving accuracy and response time.
 
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Perhaps the most impressive news about this release is the lowering of the price for the V2.5 base.  Fanatec claims that greater demand and efficiency in production has allowed them to lower the price of the new base vs. the old.  The new price is $499.95 which is quite a bit lower than the old price which I believe was in the $650 range.  Anyone that has pre-ordered the V2 units will be getting upgraded to the V2.5 parts.  I am unsure how Fanatec is handling possible refunds in these cases, but the assumption is that end users won't be ripped off.
 
This is a welcome surprise in terms of improvements and a lowering of price.  The V2 was a pretty spectacular part and it looks as though this one exceeds it in every way.  It still retains the all metal construction and features a new faceplate with the Fanatec logo etched in.  Certainly a lovely piece of gear for those that take racing seriously.

You can purchase it online from the Fanatec site!

Click to read the entire press release!

Source: Fanatec

Huzzah! Delayed reboots are returning to Win10 Home

Subject: General Tech | March 3, 2017 - 01:33 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

If you are using Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise, you may have already disabled the automatic reboot function after updates are installed but for Home users after the Anniversary update, that has not been possible.  It turns out there are a lot of users quite upset with unplanned reboots, especially those who leave their computers running overnight or while they are away.  Microsoft have accepted this feedback and will return the ability to delay reboots to owners of the Home Edition in their next update.  In the meantime, The Register describes a way in which you can regain a little more control over automatic reboots with your current build.

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"Since the Windows 10 Anniversary Update in 2016, there is no way to prevent Windows 10 [Home] from automatically installing updates and rebooting your PC," fumed one vulture fan, John, who added that a group policy can be set on W10 Pro and Enterprise editions to prevent automated restarts."

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Source: The Register

GDC 2017: zSpace Joins OpenXR Working Group

Subject: General Tech | March 3, 2017 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: zspace, VR, Khronos

About a year before I joined PC Perspective, I acquired a degree in Education, which involved teaching at a local high school. Even though that was just five years after graduating high school, the amount of available technology has exploded in that time. SmartBoards were relevant enough to be taught at my teacher’s college just in case you got one. Contrast this to when I was a high school student, where “overhead projector” was assumed to mean “transparent paper and erasable marker”.

Why do I mention this? Well, basically everyone in the tech industry has been investigating the potential of VR and AR for the last couple of years, and education is a very obvious and practical application of it.

In this case, zSpace reached out and informed that they just joined the Khronos Group’s OpenXR Working Group. They hope to guide the specification from the educational technology perspective. From what I can see on their website, their products are basically like Wacom Cintiqs, except that the pen can function the volume of air in front of the screen, and glasses with markers adjust the output image to make it look like objects are floating between you and the display.

If you’re in the education sector, then be sure to check out what zSpace is doing, if only to be aware of the teaching tools that are available in the world. Every teacher I knew enjoyed browsing Staples, looking through the various bits of stationary for ideas, like recipe cards for cheap, impromptu student polls and challenges.

As for the rest of us? The more mainstream VR and AR is, the more innovation will occur, especially when they contribute back to open standards; win win.

Source: zSpace

Wondering about upgrading your cooler mounts for Ryzen?

Subject: General Tech, Motherboards, Cases and Cooling | March 2, 2017 - 02:05 PM |
Tagged: AM4, ryzen, nzxt, fractal design, scythe

We have some good news from several companies about compatibility with that AM4 board you are hoping to set up.  NXZT have announced a program in which you can request a free AM4 mounting kit for your Kraken X62, X52, X42, X61, X41 or Kraken X31.  Just follow this link to apply for one, they will ship world wide starting on the 15th of March.  You will need to provide proof of purchase of both your AM4 motherboard and Kraken cooler.

nzxt.png

Fractal Design have a similar offer for owners of of their Kelvin series of coolers.  You can email their Support team for a bracket for your Kelvin T12, S24 or S36, make sure to attach proof of purchase of either a Ryzen processor or AM4 board.

fractals.jpg

Scythe is doing things a litle differently.  If you reside in Europe, they are offering free mounting kits to owners of their Mugen 5 cooler, simply reach out them via this link, again attaching a receipt for the cooler and either a Ryzen CPU or AM4 motherboard.  Owners of a Katana 3 or 4, Kabuto 3, Shuriken Rev. B, Tatsumi “A”, Byakko, or Iori cooler need not even go through that process, your coolers mount is already compatible.  For owners of other coolers you can reach out to Scythe via the previous link to order a bracket for  3,99€, to ship out sometime in May or later.  We will let you know when we hear from the NA branch.

scythe.jpg

"Coinciding with the new AMD Zen-based Ryzen CPUs, and the new AM4 socket, NZXT will be providing a free retention bracket for all current Kraken users. NZXT believes in providing high-quality components to our customers, in addition to exceptional customer service no matter where they reside and we will continue that support alongside the launch of Ryzen."

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Source: NZXT

GDC 2017: $200 Off Oculus Rift and Touch

Subject: General Tech | March 2, 2017 - 02:59 AM |
Tagged: Oculus, VR, pc gaming

Alongside the release of Robo Recall from Epic Games, which is free of you own an Oculus Rift and the Oculus Touch controllers, Oculus has changed up how you can purchase the Oculus Rift. As was the case since the Touch controllers shipped, the Oculus Rift is bundled with these motion controllers. The difference is that, now, the bundle will cost $598 USD. This is a $200 reduction in price compared to someone who purchased the headset and the controllers separately last week. The controllers, alone, are now $99 USD.

So this is interesting.

According to recent statements by Gabe Newell, who is obviously in the HTC Vive camp, the VR market doesn’t have “a compelling reason for people to spend 20 hours a day in VR”. This assertion was intended to dispel the opinion that a price cut would help VR along. From his perspective, VR will have a huge bump in resolution and frame rate within one or two years, and current headsets are basically the minimum of adequacy.

So, from both a software and technology standpoint, VR can benefit from more time in the oven before tossing it down the garbage disposal. I see that point and I agree with it, but only to a point. A price reduction can still help in several ways. First, the games industry has made some drastic shifts toward the individual. Free tools, from IDEs to AAA-quality game engines, seem to be picking up in adoption. A high entry fee for a segment of that mind share will push those with creative ideas elsewhere.

But, probably more importantly, even if the market is small, pulling in more users makes it grow. The more lead users that you can acquire, the more risk can be attempted, which will make an even better situation for whenever we need to start considering mass market. Imagine if a factor of two increase in user base would be enough for Microsoft (or Linux distros) to consider virtual desktops for VR. If we reach that threshold a year or two sooner, then it will have a more significant impact on the value for mainstream users whenever the technology catches up to their interest.

And yes, this is coming from the guy who is currently surrounded by four monitors...

Anyway, rant aside, Oculus has jumped in to a significant price reduction. This should get it into the hands of more people, assuming the injunction order doesn’t get accepted and drop on them like a hammer.

Source: Oculus

YouTube Launching Its Own $35 Per Month Live TV Streaming Service With Cloud DVR

Subject: General Tech | March 2, 2017 - 12:16 AM |
Tagged: youtube red, youtube, live tv, cord cutting, cloud dvr, broadcast tv

YouTube is jumping into the streaming TV market with the launch of YouTube TV. The new "over the top" streaming service is aimed at cord cutters and users that want to watch live and recorded TV on their mobile devices. YouTube TV joins AT&T's DirecTV Now, Dish Network's Sling TV, and PlayStation Vue with a streaming package of ~40 channels for $35 per month that is reportedly the result of licensing negotiations and deals two years in the making.

The streaming platform, which is reportedly coming in the next weeks to months (depending on the market and local market licensing), will come out swinging with two main advantages over the existing competition: YouTube TV will allow more simultaneous streams (six accounts with up to 3 streams going at the same time) and have DVR functionality with unlimited storage and unlimited simultaneous recordings where episodes will be saved for 9 months.

YouTube TV.jpg

Unfortunately, YouTube TV suffers the same main drawback of these over the top TV streaming services which is channel selection. Due to licensing issues, YouTube TV will have a collection of 40 channels at launch including access to ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, CBS Sports Network, ESPN, E!, CW, FX, USA, Freeform, FS1, Disney Channel, and more. However, it lacks the cable-only networks like AMC and Viacom (also no MTV, CNN, TNT, TBS, Comedy Central, HGTV, or Food Network). Showtime is available for an extra monthly fee though.

The sports channels are nice to see and are sure to be appreciated, but due to Verizon's exclusivity deal NFL games are restricted to PCs and can not be streamed on mobile devices using YouTube TV.

For those interested, CNET has a full list of the channels here. YouTube TV will reportedly also allow access to YouTube Red programming, but the TV programming will still have ads (of course).

Excepting the NFL streams, users can watch live and recorded TV on their PCs, smartphones, tablets, and Chromecasts. Google Home support is currently in development as well and will eventually allow you to tune into a channel on your Chromecast using your voice.

I am a excited to see another major player enter this IP TV streaming space, and with a working DVR it will have a leg up over the competition (here's looking at you, DirecTV Now). With Google backing the venture I am hopeful that it can flex its considerable capital muscle to work out further deals with the stubborn cable networks and eventually (maybe) we will see a truly a la carte TV streaming service!

What are your thoughts on YouTube TV? Is it enough to get you to cut the cord, or are you too into The Walking Dead?

Source: YouTube