Async Compute turning the Gears of War

Subject: General Tech | November 23, 2016 - 01:39 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, gears of war 4, gaming, dx12, async compute, amd

[H]ard|OCP sat down with the new DX12 based Gears of War 4 to test the performance of the game on a variety of cards, with a focus on the effect of enabling Async Compute.  In their testing they found no reason for Async Compute to be disabled as it did not hurt the performance of any card.  On the other hand NVIDIA's offerings do not benefit in any meaningful way from the feature and while AMD's cards certainly did, it was not enough to allow you to run everything at maximum on an RX 480.  Overall the game was no challenge to any of the cards except perhaps the RX 460 and the GTX 1050 Ti.  When playing at 4K resolution they saw memory usage in excess of 6GB, making the GTX 1080 the card for those who want to play with the highest graphical settings.  Get more details and benchmarks in their full review.

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"We take Gears of War 4, a new Windows 10 only game supporting DX12 natively and compare performance with seven video cards. We will find out which one provides the best experience at 4K, 1440p, and 1080p resolutions, and see how these compare to each other. We will also look specifically at the Async Compute feature."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Touchless jackpotting, making ATM's disgorge their contents remotely

Subject: General Tech | November 23, 2016 - 12:50 PM |
Tagged: hack, bank, atm, security, cobalt

Imagine walking down the street, only to notice an ATM spewing money out of its slots and into a bag held by a shady looking character; but not in a video game.  In at least 14 countries including Russia, the UK, the Netherlands and Malaysia, hackers are using a program dubbed Cobalt to conduct remote logical attacks on ATMs.  These attacks cause the ATM to empty itself, into the waiting hands of an accomplice who only needs to show up at the appropriate time.  As the attacks are conducted remotely the mule may have only the slightest connection to the hackers that compromised the banking system which makes them very hard to catch.  The Inquirer has links to more information on Cobalt, unfortunately they do not have any details on fortunate times or locations to be present at.

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"HACKERS HAVE MANAGED to hack cash machines so that they do what everyone who has ever used one has wanted them to do, which is just spit out cash like it was going out of fashion."

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Source: The Inquirer

Dishonored 2 v1.2 Released with Performance Fixes

Subject: General Tech | November 22, 2016 - 04:57 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, dishonored 2, bethesda

When Dishonored 2 came out, it apparently had quite a few performance issues. Users were complaining about stuttering and low performance, even with high-end graphics cards. One post on Reddit grew popular when an employee of Bethesda allegedly tweeted that a GTX 1070 should get ~60 FPS on Very Low at 1080p. The card is generally recommended for users looking for maxed out 1080p or 1440p for the next couple of years, so you might be able to see the expectation mismatch.

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The second patch, released yesterday, is primarily aimed at performance optimizations. First, NVIDIA users are recommended to upgrade to 375.95, which was pushed to GeForce Experience and their website late last week. Beyond adding an SLI Profile, Bethesda “strongly advise[s]” the driver to fix a performance bug.

On their side, they fixed an issue with AMD GPUs when cloth is simulated and they now allow those cards to use HBAO+. They also allow the user to limit frame rates all the way up to 120 FPS, although the physics engine cannot handle rates above that, so it’s hard-capped there. This sucks for users with 144Hz monitors, but 120 FPS is pretty generous of a cap if one must exist. Bethesda also addressed stuttering and they fixed the engine attempting to allocate more VRAM than the card has. I’m not sure whether this bug led to outright crashes, or just stuttering as the asset is pulled from system RAM or disk, but either way is quite bad.

If you had a problem playing Dishonored 2, then you might want to try again. If you are waiting to purchase, or have already refunded the game, then unfortunately I can’t say whether it’s all better; I haven’t played it, at least not yet.

Acer's Predator XB321HK, the highest resolution G-SNYC monitor you can hope for until DP 1.3?

Subject: General Tech | November 22, 2016 - 02:38 PM |
Tagged: g-sync, Predator XB321HK, acer, 4k, ips

Thanks to DisplayPort 1.2's bandwidth being limited to a maximum of 17.28Gbit/s, shoppers looking for a high end variable refresh rate gaming monitor have a tough choice to make.  Leave aside aspect ratio, colour depth and panel type for the immediate question; do you prefer the higher definition of a 4K display but with a limited maximum refresh rate or will you be satisfied by 1440p or 1080p with a refresh rate that can hit upwards of 200Hz?  The Predator XB321HK chooses path of greater resolution, offering 3840x2160 but with a maximum refresh rate of 60Hz, on an IPS screen with 4ms grey to grey response time.  If you prefer an MVA ultra-widescreen with a higher resolution, perhaps investigate the Acer Z35, if the XB321HK is closer to what you are looking for check Hardware Canucks full review here.

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"With a sensible 4K form factor, a G-SYNC module and a stunning IPS panel, Acer's Predator XB321HK is the stuff gaming monitor dreams are made of. Unfortunately its refresh rate is limited by today's interface technology."

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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

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