The System Shock Reboot is Unreal

Subject: General Tech | March 8, 2017 - 01:32 PM |
Tagged: gaming, Kickstarter, system shock, unreal engine 4, Nightdive Studios

It was just announced to backers and the public that the System Shock reboot from Nightdive Studios has moved from Unity to Unreal Engine 4 and they have a pre-alpha video that shows off what that will look like.   The reasoning they gave was perhaps poorly worded, suggesting that this is because the choice was solely to make the game look good in the console version.  They gave backers, such as myself, reassurance that "PC is the main target for everything we do" and that the console version was already planned in Unity.  Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN feels the change makes the quality of the visuals better, but perhaps not as true to the original as the previous example they showed using Unity.  Check out the pre-alpha video below to see for yourself.

"In this matter at least, I am confident my sanity is unaffected. For as well as an apparent shift in its art direction to something more traditionally sci-fi/horror, SSR has hopped from Unity to the Unreal engine, resulting in a very different-looking game."

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Dropping all the Docks in the bay

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | March 8, 2017 - 12:50 PM |
Tagged: dell, hp, Lenovo, docking station, usb 3.1, thunderbolt 3, Type-C

Wave goodbye to your old docks as they sail away thanks to a thunderstorm.  The Register reached out to Dell, HP, Lenovo and ASUS about the rumours that the docking station will be a thing of the past and all but the latter responded.  It seems the vendors feel that as USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt 3 have united under the Type-C plug it is time to cover up that slot in the bottom of your PC and use a wire to connect you to docks.  Lenovo will also persist with their WiGig docks, for those who don't want to have to remember to 'undock' a cable.  Their post also has some tidbits on some of the features to expect on laptops from these three companies, so check it out for more info.

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"When you shop for PCs this year your theme tune may well be “Ding, dong, the dock is dead” because now that USB 3.1, USB-C connectors and Thunderbolt all play nicely together there's much less need for dedicated hardware to connect a laptop to peripherals."

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Source: The Register

ARMing the Cloud; Qualcomm's Centriq 2400 Platform will power Microsoft Azure instances

Subject: General Tech, Systems | March 8, 2017 - 12:20 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, OCP, microsoft, falkor, centriq 2400, azure, arm, 10nm

Last December Qualcomm announced plans to launch their Centriq 2400 series of platforms for data centres, demonstrating Apache Spark and Hadoop on Linux as well as a Java demo.  They announced a 48 Core design based on ARM v8 and fabbed with on Samsung's 10nm process, which will compete against Intel's current offerings for the server room.

MSFT Proj Olympus with Qualcomm Centriq 2400 Motherboard.jpg

Today marks the official release of the Qualcomm Falkor CPU and Centriq 2400 series of products, as well as the existence of a partnership with Microsoft which may see these products offered to Azure customers.  Microsoft has successfully configured a version of Windows Server to run on these new chips, which is rather big news for customers looking for low powered hosting solutions running a familiar OS.  The Centriq 2400 family is compliant with Microsoft's Project Olympus architecture, used by the Open Compute Project Foundation to offer standardized building blocks upon which you can design a data centre from scratch or use as an expansion plan.

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Enough of the background, we are here for the specifications of the new platform and what can be loaded onto a Centriq 2400.  The reference motherboard supports SOCs of up to 48 cores, with both single and dual socket designs announced.  Each SOC can support up to six channels of DDR4 in either single or dual channel configurations with a maximum of 768GB installed.  Falkor will offer 32 lanes of PCIe 3.0, eight SATA ports and a GbE ethernet port as well as USB and a standard 50Gb/s NIC.  NVMe is supported, one design offers 20 NVMe drives with a PCIe 16x slot but you can design the platform to match your requirements.  Unfortunately they did not discuss performance during their call, nor any suggested usage scenarios.  We expect to hear more about that during the 2017 Open Compute Platform US Summit, which starts today.

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The submission of the design to Open Compute Project ensures a focus on compatibility and modularity and allows a wide variety of designs to be requested and networked together.  If you have a need for HPC performance you can request a board with an HPC GPU such as a FirePro or Tesla, or even drop in your own optimized FPGA.  Instead of opting for an impressive but expensive NVME storage solution, you can modify the design to accommodate 16 SATA HDDs for affordable storage.

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Qualcomm have already announced Windows 10 support on their Snapdragon, but the fact that Microsoft are internally running Windows Server on an ARM v8 based processor is much more impressive.  Intel and AMD have long held reign in the server room and have rightfully shrugged of the many times in which companies have announced ARM based servers which will offer more power efficient alternatives.  Intel have made huge advances at creating low power chips for the server room; AMD's recently announced Naples shows their intentions to hold their market share as well.

If the submission to the OPC succeeds then we may see the first mainstream ARM based servers appear on the market.  Even if the Windows Server instances remain internal to Microsoft, the Centriq series will support Red Hat, CentOS, Canonical and Ubuntu as well as both GCC and LLVM compilers. 

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(click to seriously embiggen)

ARM may finally have reached the server market after all these years and it will be interesting to see how they fare.  AMD and Intel have both had to vastly reduce the power consumption of their chips and embrace a diametrically opposite design philosophy; instead of a small number of powerful chips, servers of the future will consist of arrays of less powerful chips working in tandem.  ARM has had to do the opposite, they are the uncontested rulers of low powered chips but have had to change their designs to increase the processing capabilities of their chips in order to produce an effective product for the server room.  

Could Qualcomm successful enter the server room; or will their ARMs not have the necessary reach?

Source: Qualcomm

Tested Tries LG SteamVR Headset Prototype at GDC 2017

Subject: General Tech | March 8, 2017 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: VR, steamvr, LG

While SteamVR is practically synonymous with the HTC Vive, Valve intends it to be an open platform with multiple OEMs. At this year’s Game Developers Conference, GDC 2017, LG was showing off one of their prototypes, which the folks at Adam Savage’s Tested got some time with. The company repetitively said that this is just a prototype that can change in multiple ways.

There are some differences between this and the HTC Vive, though. One change that LG is proud of is the second app button. Apparently, the company found that developers liked to assign buttons in pairs, such as a “forward” button to go along with a “back”. As such, they added a second app button, and placed all three above the touchpad for less accidental presses. The weight distribution is, apparently, also adjusted slightly, too. The difference that Tested seems most interested in is the pull forward and flip up hinge holding the mask, allowing the headset to be moved out of the way without fully taking it off the head, and for it to be easily moved back into place around glasses. (Thankfully, I’m far-sighted, so I can just take off my glasses when I use my Daydream headset, which I assume holds true for other VR devices.)

It’s unclear when it will come to market. Tested speculated that it could happen sometime later this year, which would put it just before when we expect the HTC Vive 2, but... speculation.

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Logitech

Introduction and Specifications

The G533 Wireless headset is the latest offering from Logitech, combining the company’s premium Pro-G drivers, 15-hour battery life, and a new, more functional style. Obvious comparisons can be made to last year’s G933 Artemis Spectrum, since both are wireless headsets using Logitech’s Pro-G drivers; but this new model comes in at a lower price while offering much of the same functionality (while dropping the lighting effects). So does the new headset sound any different? What about the construction? Read on to find out!

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The G533 exists alongside the G933 Artemis Spectrum in Logitech’s current lineup, but it takes most of the features from that high-end wireless model, while paring it down to create a lean, mean option for gamers who don’t need (or want) RGB lighting effects. The 40 mm Pro-G drivers are still here, and the new G533 offers a longer battery life (15 hours) than the G933 could manage, even with its lighting effects disabled (12 hours). 7.1-channel surround effects and full EQ and soundfield customization remain, though only DTS effects are present (no Dolby this time).

What do these changes translate to? First of all, the G533 headset is being introduced with a $149 MSRP, which is $50 lower than the G933 Artemis Spectrum at $199. I think many of our readers would trade RGB effects for lower cost, making this a welcome change (especially considering lighting effects don’t really mean much when you are wearing the headphones).Another difference is the overall weight of the headset at 12.5 oz, which is 0.5 oz lighter than the G933 at 13 oz.

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Continue reading our review of the Logitech G533 Wireless 7.1 Surround Gaming Headset!

Glad it is not Podcast night! Microsoft is not having a good day

Subject: General Tech | March 7, 2017 - 01:17 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, outlook, office 365, skype, hotmail

Many users of Hotmail, Outlook and Skype are finding themselves unable to log in to their accounts and some are complaining about access to their XBox accounts.  The problem is being described as an authentication issue, something that users of Exchange Online are all too familiar with.  Microsoft is currently working on a solution and the incident count on Down Detector seems do have dropped in the past few hours but there are still some problems.  The professional side also seems to be suffering as well, with several performance issues effecting a variety of services.  If you are one of those currently suffering, you can follow the link from The Register to report it on Down Detector, if you wish.

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"Naturally, users of Microsoft's cloud services have taken to Twitter and Reddit to moan about the downtime, with some complaining that Xbox online services have also been hit by the downtime."

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Source: The Register

Microsoft HoloLens Takes Michael Abrash Too Literally?

Subject: General Tech | March 7, 2017 - 07:37 AM |
Tagged: microsoft, hololens

When Michael Abrash moved from Intel to Valve, according to his post on the latter company’s blog, he suggested that he should help optimize Portal 2. The response from Jay Stelly was interesting: “Yeah, you could do that, but we’ll get it shipped anyway.” That’s... not something you’d expect from a company that is getting ready to ship a huge, AAA title.

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He took that feedback as a license to think outside the box, which led to their “wearable computing” initiative that eventually formed the basis of Steam VR. One key part of this blog post was the minor parenthetical, “think Terminator vision”.

Apparently, Microsoft’s HoloLens team has. As a cute little Unity demo, they are overlaying text and post-processing shaders atop the camera feed. It’s not just baked 2D text, though; they are also pushing the feed through object- and text-recognition, suggesting that users take the source (available on GitHub) and extend it through translation or text-to-speech.

The demo is primarily written in C#, which makes sense, because Unity.

Source: Microsoft

Creative Assembly Picks Up Crytek Black Sea

Subject: General Tech | March 7, 2017 - 07:07 AM |
Tagged: sega, crytek

A few months ago, just before Christmas in fact, we reported that Crytek was in the process of shutting down five out of their seven studios. Now, Sega has just announced that they are picking up one of them: Crytek Black Sea (Sofia, Bulgaria). This studio will be added to Creative Assembly, which makes the Total War series and also dipped its toe into the first person market with Alien: Isolation. As a part of this agreement, the ex-Crytek developer will now be called Creative Assembly Sofia.

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Black Sea Studios was with Crytek since July, 2008.

As far as I can tell, the other four studios that were affected by December’s decision have not been as fortunate. Apart from ex-Rockstar designer, Leslie Benzie, picking up former employees of the Budapest, Hungary studio, I haven’t seen much talk about any other studio (or significant portions of them) moving elsewhere.

Logitech Introduces G Pro Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

Subject: General Tech | March 7, 2017 - 03:00 AM |
Tagged: romer-g, mechanical keyboard, logitech g, logitech, keyboard, key switches, gaming

Logitech G has announced the new Pro Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, which features a compact tenkeyless (TKL) design, short-throw mechanical switches, and RGB lighting effects.

Logitech G Pro Gaming Keyboard 1.jpg

In addition to the TKL form-factor the Logitech G Pro Mechanical Gaming Keyboard features the company's exclusive Romer-G switches, which Logitech says "register key presses up to 25 percent faster than standard mechanical switches" and have "a short-throw actuation point 1.5 mm".

The keyboard also features keyboard durable construction with a steel back plate, and the cable is actually is a detachable micro-USB design, though not your typical micro-USB connector as this implementation features a wide three-pronged connection with support arms. Naturally, there are (optional) RGB effects for those who want them, which can be controlled via Logitech Gaming Software.

Logitech G Pro Gaming Keyboard 0.jpg

These RGB effects are per-key, which means seemingly endless levels of customizaiton considering each one can be set to one of "more than 16.8 million colors" and preferences saved to the onboard memory.

As to pricing and availability, the Logitech G Pro Mechanical Gaming Keyboard should be available later this month with an MSRP $129.99.

Source: Logitech

Listen to the colours! Tt eSPORTS Cronos 7.1 headset with RGB

Subject: General Tech | March 6, 2017 - 02:30 PM |
Tagged: Tt eSPORTS Cronos RGB 7.1, thermaltake, gaming headset, audio

Yes, it has happened; RGB-itis have spread to gaming headphones and if you are one of the infeected you can grab Thermaltake's Cronos RGB 7.1 Headset to show off your symptoms.  The LEDs on the ear cups support 256 different colours and as a bonus also provide Virtual 7.1 surround sound.  The headset is powered by 40mm neodymium magnets, with a reasonable 20Hz-22kHz frequency range.  Pop by Bjorn3D for a look, they were impressed with the audio quality of this ~$70 headset to say nothing of the glow they felt when wearing them. 

It is a pity that Tt did not take the opportunity to brand this as their new Synethsesia line.

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"Today we’ll be looking at a recent addition to the roster of gaming headsets produced by Tt eSPORTS, the Cronos RGB 7.1 Headset. If you’re familiar with Tt eSPORTS’ line of headsets then you may already be familiar with the previous iterations of the Cronos that comes without RGB lighting."

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Source: Bjorn3D