WoW, Microsoft is back in the porting business again. x86 to ARM expected with Redstone 3

Subject: General Tech | November 22, 2016 - 12:34 PM |
Tagged: CHPE, arm, x86 emulator, x86, windows 10, redstone 3

We haven't seen Windows 10 Redstone 2 yet but already we have some news about Redstone 3 which hints at the coming of the Surface phone.  Microsoft is working on x86 emulation for ARM processors, allowing proper Windows programs and not just Universal Apps to work on ARM based machines.  They pulled this off in the past with the switch from 32bit to 64bit applications, with Windows on Windows emulation and porting x86 to ARM and vice versa has been a long term project at Microsoft. 

The possible issue that comes from this eventuality is the interface.  Just like in a game ported from a gaming platform to PC, moving from an ecosystem with a limited input device to a platform designed with a mouse and keyboard will cause issues.  The reverse tends to be worse, for instance Skyrim's abysmal inventory system exists specifically because it was planned to be released on consoles.  Now imagine Excel or file management software trimmed down and designed specifically to run on a phablet, as well as on a PC.  For more on this possible nightmare, check out The Inquirer.

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"According to Mary-Jo Foley, the font of all knowledge Windows-wise, the company is looking at x86 emulation for ARM processors. It’s not a new idea, but it's looking likely for Redstone 3."

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Source: The Inquirer

You need a mouse with a heartrate monitor, right?

Subject: General Tech | November 21, 2016 - 06:28 PM |
Tagged: input, mionix, naos QG

Mionix have added new features to their Naos QG gaming mouse, some of which you might be hard pressed to understand.  The mouse is capable of tracking your clicks per minute and the current speed of the mouse, which is perhaps reasonable, but it also tracks your heart rate.  This is perhaps a nod towards the sports portion of eSports, but it certainly raises the question as to what your target Hearthstone heart rate is, should it be low or high?  On the other hand it uses a PMW-3360 optical sensor, capable of up to 12000 DPI resolution with five steps available, seven programmable buttons and an onboard ARM processor for eventual macro support.  Even if you feel this is far beyond the pale, you should check the mouse at eTeknix out just for its uniqueness.

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"They’ve already proven a popular choice with the eSports scene, and their latest mouse, the Naos QG is about to make an even bigger splash on the eSports and streaming scene, with its biometric data that can show you a gamers physical performance in-game, as well as offer developers a new level of interaction to gamers too. "

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Source: eTeknix

Love to argue on the internet? Why not leave your mark on the IoT!

Subject: General Tech | November 21, 2016 - 12:26 PM |
Tagged: iot, security

Hack a Day takes you on a bit of a trip through memory lane to demonstrate how current programmers can have a major influence on the standards that the Internet of Things will eventually adopt.  If you remember X.25's loss to TCP/IP thanks to the volume of adoption the latter had, or mourn the loss of SOAP's XML based transmission to JSON then you have an idea what they are discussing.  

If a large enough group of programmers choose a particular communications protocol or software library to design connected household appliances, manufacturers will find it easier and more economical to base their products on the skills of the programmers who work for them.  Any security and performance enhancements that come about because of this would be an added benefit to the company and of great value to the end users.  Pick up that keyboard and see if you can't turn the tide and plug up the I/O ports of the death toaster.

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"In the long term however it’s unlikely we’re going to let one company become the backhaul for consumer Internet of Things traffic. It’s unlikely that there will be one platform to rule them all. I don’t think it’s going to be long till IFTTT starts to see some complaints about that, and inevitably clones."

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Source: Hack a Day

There is classy, and then there is Apple classy

Subject: General Tech | November 18, 2016 - 12:29 PM |
Tagged: apple, iphone 6 plus

There are quite a few Apple iPhone 6 Plus owners who are having troubles with the multi-touch functionality, or even with serious screen flickering and today Apple announced what causes it.  They have decided that blaming their customers is the best way to deal with this issue and they will fix it for you, if you give them $150.  Their justification is that this issue could only be caused by multiple drops onto hard surfaces, even if the screen has not cracked Apple has decreed that there is still damage being done internally and you need to pay to have it repaired.  The Inquirer has a different solution, buy a different phone.  That might be hard for some people to do, even if Apple devices are not as stable as the competition.

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"Apple has determined that some iPhone 6 Plus devices may exhibit display flickering or Multi-Touch issues after being dropped multiple times on a hard surface and then incurring further stress on the device," said the Apple Multi-Touch programme information."

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Source: The Inquirer

Thrustmaster Announces New TS-PC Racing Wheel

Subject: General Tech | November 18, 2016 - 12:12 AM |
Tagged: wheel base, wheel, TX, Thrustmaster, T500, T300, racing, force feedback, Alcantara

Thrustmaster is announcing today the upcoming availability of their latest PC focused racing wheel and base.  The TS-PC is a brand new design that integrates many new features as compared to their previous offerings.  The press release did not mention compatibility on consoles, but it seems for now that it is aimed squarely at the PC (hence the name).

The big improvement from past part is the inclusion of a 40 watt motor providing more force than what we had seen previously in the T500, T300, and TX series of wheel bases.  I do not know how it compares to the Fanatec CSL’s 6 Nm of force, or the higher end ClubSport V2’s 8 Nm.  My guess is that it could very well be somewhere between those two options.

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The motor needs some extra cooling so that apparently has received a pretty good upgrade.  Thrustmaster seems to like their acronyms, so they are calling this cooling system the MCE.  This stands for Motor Cooling Embedded.  Few details were provided, but this system is in place to keep the motor at peak efficiency even at high transient levels of force.  It does this without ramping up the speeds of the fans in the base.  Hopefully soon we can find out how Thrustmaster was able to increase the thermal capacity in a base that is not all that much larger than previous products.

Thrustmaster is also implementing what they call a F.O.C algorithm (Field Oriented Control) that supposedly boosts the already impressive precision of the H.E.A.R.T. system (Hall Effect AccuRate Technology).  I told you they like acronyms.  This features the same 16 bit resolution of the T500 and T300 products, but it seems the new software reading the values is able to do a better job at it than previous parts.

Powering all of this is an external power supply that supports up to 400 watts of peak power.  This is a peak number and not what it can do under constant load.  That number is probably closer to 100 watts, but the specifics have not been released yet.  The motor in the wheel base does not pull a constant amount of current, so its needs are varied depending on the type of inputs required by the application.  When more force is required, it typically is not for extensive periods of time.  It seems that the power supply that Thrustmaster is using is going to be quite a bit more powerful than those that were integrated into the T500/T300/TX wheel bases.

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The open wheel itself is a new design.  It features suede grips, an aluminum plate, and aluminum paddles.  Thrustmaster claims that it has optimized stiffness and weight to give it the best overall response for the size of the product.  More mass is never a good thing when trying to transmit small or subtle variations of force feedback, so the less mess in a wheel while maximizing rigidity gives the best overall experience no matter how strong the motor is.

The TS-PC is compatible with the entire Thrustmaster ecosystem of parts.  This includes the 599XX Alcantara wheel that I reviewed some months back.  Wheels, pedals, and shifters are all compatible with the new base so users can customize their experience as needed.

The TS-PC will be available on Dec. 5, 2016 for $499.

Click to read the entire press release.

Source: Thrustmaster

Podcast #425 - Samsung 960 EVO, NZXT S340, NVIDIA revenue, wireless Vive, Serious Sam VR, Steam VR on Linux and more!

Subject: General Tech | November 17, 2016 - 03:53 PM |
Tagged: wireless, VR, video, valve, TPCAST, tempered glass, steam, serious sam, Samsung, S340, podcast, nzxt, linux, htc, 960 EVO, 375.86

PC Perspective Podcast #425 - 11/17/16

Join us this week as we discuss new Samsung 960 EVO, NZXT S340, NVIDIA revenue, wireless Vive, Serious Sam VR, Steam VR on Linux 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:  Allyn Malventano, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, and Sebastian Peak

Program length: 1:13:46

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

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

Not a bad quarter to be a GPU vendor, though some fared better than others

Subject: General Tech | November 17, 2016 - 12:56 PM |
Tagged: amd, Intel, nvidia, jon peddie, q3 2016

Compared to Q2 2016, total GPU shipments including discrete and integral chips in the mobile and desktop markets increased by 20%; good but not enough to recover to the volume we saw in Q3 2015.  Indivdually, total AMD sales increased by 15% and but Intel 18% but it was NVIDIA that was the most successful with a 39% increase.  In AMD's case they saw sales of their aging desktop APUs drop by 10% but that was more than offset by a jump in discrete GPU sales of 34.7% and an increase in laptop demand by 19.1% . The discrete GPU market as a whole has grown by 35.6% from the last quarter and by 10.1% when compared to last year.  This is not bad news for AMD or Intel but it is certainly NVIDIA who has the most to celebrate.  Pop over to Jon Peddie Research for a look at their overview, or check out the full report if you subscribe to them.

Obviously the PC is still dead ... right?

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Courtesy of JPR

"AMD's overall unit shipments increased 15.38% quarter-to-quarter, Intel's total shipments increased 17.70% from last quarter, and Nvidia's increased 39.31%."

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Please State Your Name; looking at performance in this short VR film

Subject: General Tech | November 16, 2016 - 01:33 PM |
Tagged: VR, nvidia, gaming, amd

VR offers a variety of new creative opportunities, not simply a new way to make games.  For instance StudioDisrupt has created a VR movie called Please State Your Name about a decapitated robot's head in a garbage dump.  While the movie has a script which it runs through, you have the freedom to move your perspective around the world.  While this may not sound overly interesting, Kyle over at [H]ard|OCP has watched this movie 25 or 30 times this week even before embarking on this review so there must be something to it.  Check out their full look at the performance of AMD and NVIDIA cards in this VR movie by following that previous link.  A second version of the movie is available for those using their cellphone as a VR headset, somewhat more limited but seeing as how the movie is free you should take the opportunity.

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"Please State Your Name is not a game, it is not really an "experience" either, but rather a short film done in a Virtual Reality world, which puts you right in the middle of the story. This genre of VR is where AMD has been putting a lot of its resources. Can we expect the Radeon RX 480 to show us its VR prowess once again?"

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

That's an expensive Linux install! Microsoft gives the Linux foundation $550,000

Subject: General Tech | November 16, 2016 - 12:34 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, linux

Microsoft is obviously serious about its new found support of Linux, having just joined the Linux Foundation at the top tier of membership.  Already, we have seen the bash shell integrated with Windows 10, with familiar commands such as grep, sed, and awk as well as scripting support.  After that somewhat surprising development Microsoft once again made the unexpected move of offering eight different Linux server images on Azure.  Their newfound interest in the open source OS expands today, with their membership in the Linux Foundation they can continue to integrate more open source tools and projects into their current offerings.  You can pop by The Inquirer to read more about this unexpected turn of events.

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"The non-profit group advances open technology development and promotes Linux, and Microsoft has signed up as a Platinum member, the highest-ranking option that comes with a $500,000 annual fee."

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Source: The Inquirer

Epic Games Releases Unreal Engine 4.14

Subject: General Tech | November 15, 2016 - 06:04 PM |
Tagged: vulkan, ue4, pc gaming, epic games

Every couple of months, Epic Games drops a new version of Unreal Engine 4 with improvements all over. As such, you should check the full release notes to see all of the changes, including the fifty-one that Epic thinks are worth highlighting. Here are some that I think our readers would enjoy, though.

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First, Vulkan support for mobile devices has apparently moved out of experimental. While this will not be enabled for desktop applications, it's interesting to note that DirectX 12 is still in experimental. Basically, if you squint and put blinders on, you could sort-of see some element of Vulkan beating DirectX 12 to market.

Second, Unreal Engine 4 has significantly upgraded their forward renderer. In a lot of cases, a deferred renderer is preferable because it's fast and consistent; the post-process shader only run once per output pixel, ignoring lighting triangles that are covered by other triangles. The way this is structured, though, makes multisample anti-aliasing impossible, which is slightly annoying on desktop but brutal in VR. As an added benefit, they're also using forward shading to help the deferred renderer with translucent materials.

Unreal Engine typically uses a lot of NVIDIA SDKs. This version updates PhysX up to 3.4, which allows “continuous collision detection” on rigid bodies. This means that fast moving object shouldn't pass through objects without colliding, because the collision occurred between two checks and was missed, if this feature is enabled. They are also adding the Ansel SDK, which allows players to take high-detail screenshots, as a plug-in.

Skipping down the release notes a bunch, Unreal Engine 4.14 also adds support for Visual Studio 15, which is the version after Visual Studio 2015 (Visual Studio 14.0). Both IDEs are, in fact, supported. It's up to the developer to choose which one to use, although Visual Studio 15 makes a lot of improvements regarding install and uninstall.

Finally, at least for my brief overview, Unreal Engine 4.14 begun to refactor their networking system. It sounds like the current optimizations are CPU-focused, but allowing more network-capable objects is always a plus. Epic Games claims they are benchmarking about 40% higher performance in this area.

Source: Epic Games