Subject: General Tech | March 15, 2012 - 08:14 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: webM, web browser, mozilla, html5, h.264, firefox
Mozilla executives working for the foundation behind the Firefox web browser today announced that they would be giving in to the H.264 codec as the open WebM VP8 codec has lost the war. The H.264 and VP8 (part of WebM) codecs are used to encode and decode video files, and are especially important on mobile devices as Flash support is less ubiquitous (or totally absent if you're using Apple products). In the absense of flash, the web turned to the HTML5 standard which provides <code><video></code> tags that allow direct embedding of videos into websites. Also important is that H.264 has wide support for being hardware accelerated on many mobile devices, enabling smart phones to smoothly playback high quality files that the low power CPU portion of ARM SoCs would otherwise struggle with. This situation is also available to desktop users, but is less of an issue as processing power is not as scarce and can, ah, accommodate Adobe's Flash plugin (heh).
The downside, and where all the controversy arises from, is that the H.264 codec is not free and requires manufacturers or sites that stream H.264 videos for a fee to license it as well as users, though the actual cost for licensing is generally rolled into the cost of the OS, device, or other piece of purchased software. Further, because the HTML5 standard does not specifically define a set video codec, there is room for fragmentation. Adobe, Mozilla, and Google eventually would jump behind what is now known as the WebM standard, which is an open (and free) video codec (VP8) that would not require expensive licensing restrictions. On the other hand, Apple backed the H.264 standard. Mozilla would roll WebM into their browser but not H.264, meaning that users could view HTML5 videos using Firefox but not HTML5 videos encoded with the H.264 codec. Google, Apple, and Microsoft would support the H.264 codec for HTML5 videos, despite Google developing WebM (and the included VP8 video codec) and giving word of mouth support for WebM. This meant that Chrome users could view both WebM and H.264 based HTML5 video.
According to the article, Google promised to drop support for H.264 and move solely to the WebM VP8 codec to entice websites to move to the open codec. Unfortunately, the company never came through with that promise, and has continued to offer dual support while Mozilla was left holding the open source support banner and causing their users to suffer as a result. The article references a study by MeFeedia that suggests that as of December 2011, H.264 based HTML5 video accounts for 80% of the market, implying that WebM has already lost the war. Brendan Eich, Mozilla's Chief Technology Officer noted that WebM needed support from a larger entity than Mozilla, and it needed that support in the beginning. Especially with Apple heralding H.264, for mobile site publishers, WebM really needed heavy backing to compete with Apple's market share and influential support of H.264 to have a chance. He further stated that:
"it might not have worked then, even with Google on-side. Now, with just Mozilla going it alone, all we do is kill our mobile initiatives in order to appear pure...That does not serve our mission or users."
Mozilla is now looking to support H.264, if a bit grudgingly. At this point, not supporting H.264 is only hurting their users and market share and not furthering their push for WebM. After all, if users are forced to look at other browsers just to play videos, it will not be WebM that is the only open source software forgotten (rather, the entire Mozilla web browser will wain).
Granted, Google is not the only company to blame for VP8 not catching on, Adobe also failed to properly push the codec. Also, Google is allegedly continuing to develop VP8 and WebM. Right now; however, losing Mozilla's support seems to be the final nail in the WebM coffin and the recognition that H.264 is the dominant format. More information is available here.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | March 14, 2012 - 05:29 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: rumour, nvidia, leak, gtx 680
Below you can see a screen grab from PConline which purports to show the specifications of the GTX 680. While the specs are well within reason, without any way to verify this leak, or to translate the Chinese characters it is hard to have these specs confirmed or denied as they stand. Whether you should take the below with a good dose of NaCl is as of yet unknown but for now we can enjoy the speculation until NVIDIA finally releases the cards for review.
Please feel free to add any speculations, doubts or other leaks in the comments below ... or even a decent translation would be great! You can catch the Google Translation here, if you wish to torture your brain with exclusive exposure.
Subject: General Tech | March 14, 2012 - 05:08 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: audio, corsair, vengeance 1300
While many USB headsets make the claim that they need no drivers to work, an analog headset is about as Plug and Play as you can get. Corsair's Vengeance 1300 is no different and will start working once you plug it in. You do of course lose some of the features of digital sound, no 5.1 emulation on this headset, just stereo sound is available. Hardware Secrets found them very comfortable to wear for prolonged periods of time as well as very portable so for those who find themselves on the road they make a very solid choice. Check out the review here.
"Corsair first entered the gaming-grade headset market with the HS1, a digital model we already tested. Now they put on the market the Vengeance line, comprised of an analog model (the 1300) and its digital equivalent (the 1500). We will test the Vengeance 1300, beginning with a look at its physical characteristics and then proceeding to its performance."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- ROCCAT Kave 5.1 Gaming Headset @ techPowerUp
- CM Storm Sirus 5.1 Headset Review @ HardwareLOOK
- Microlab FC360 2.1 Speakers @ kitguru
- Mastered for iTunes: how audio engineers tweak music for the iPod age @ Ars Technica
- AntLion ModMic Review @ OCC
- GEAR4 PocketLoops Portable Music Creation Studio Review @ Tech-Reviews
- Grooveshark Bluetooth Kit by Livio Radio @ TechwareLabs
Subject: General Tech | March 14, 2012 - 02:46 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Mechwarrior, gaming
Though not a single player game in any sense of the word, MechWarrior has finally come back to the PC in the form of a free to play online game. Think of it as a large Solaris VII Arena where two teams of 12 mechs compete for domination. You don't have to restrict yourself to assault mechs either, as effective scouting with smaller mechs will net you the same experience awards as blowing the leg off of an opposing mech. For those who want a more persistent experience you can join a mercenary company or if you prefer to just jump into battle like Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN had the chance to do then jump into a cockpit and lay waste to your enemies in the newest implementation of the Crytek 3 engine.
"It’s been ten years since the last MechWarrior game. Which seems odd, since the idea of stomping around in giant robots is such a popular one. But now the license has been put in the hands of Piranha Games, and it’s going online, and MechWarrior Online is going free to play. I saw it in action at GDC, so read on for my report."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- SWTOR Free Weekend Trials Start Thursday @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Epic Citadel now available in a web browser near you @ The Tech Report
- Mass Effect 3 GPU & CPU Performance Test @ TechSpot
- New BioShock Infinite trailer discusses creation of creepy Handyman enemies @ Ars Technica
- Face To Face With Crytek: Warface Interview @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- First Look: Sins Of A Dark Age @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Bioshock Infinite will come out in late October @ The Inquirer
- Crusader Kings II Review @ Techgage
- Alan Wake @ Kitguru
- Unstoppable Gorg PC Review @ eTeknix
- All Zombies Must Die! (PC) Game Review @ HardwareHeaven
- EA reveals new Medal of Honor: Warfighter for October 23, BF3 DLC details @ Ars Technica
- Magicka PC Review @ eTeknix
- 10 Classic Computer RPGs @ PC Mag
- The State of DirectX 11 Gaming @ SemiAccurate
- Next-Gen Xbox Guide @ eTeknix
- Journey PlayStation 3 @ Tweaktown
- Street Fighter X Tekken (XBOX 360) Game Review @ HardwareHeaven
- SSX (PS3) Game Review @ HardwareHeaven
- Mass Effect 3 (ME3) Xbox 360 @ Tweaktown
- Binary Domain (XBOX 360) Game Review @ HardwareHeaven
- Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour Edition (VT4) PlayStation Vita @ Tweaktown
- Uncharted Golden Abyss (PS Vita) Game Review @ HardwareHeaven
- LUMINES Electronic Symphony (PS Vita) Game Review @ HardwareHeaven
- Jak and Daxter Collection (PS3) Game Review @ HardwareHeaven
Subject: General Tech | March 14, 2012 - 12:36 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: remote desktop protocol, patch tuesday, fud, rdp, security
Remote Desktop Protocol is a very handy tool, as the name suggests it allows you to take remote control of a desktop and is commonly used for everything from logging into a remote server to change settings to helping a long distance friend to get their printer installed to logging onto your home machine to start a Steam download and install so your game will be ready for you when you get home from work. Unfortunately it does open up a way into your PC for attackers, though thanks to the Network Level Authentication feature which was added into Vista and later versions of Windows, PCs on an authenticated network are much safer than they would be without it. Unfortunately NLA will not exist on home workgroups, nor is it supported by versions of Windows previous to Vista. That is why The Register warns of a RDP vulnerability that Microsoft will be patching next patch Tuesday, as older machines as well as home machines could be at risk if someone launches an attack before the patch is released and installed. For the mean time you might want to disable RDP unless you actually use it regularly.
"The critical flaw covers all versions of Windows and is found in the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). It allows attackers to run code remotely behind the firewall, although Vista users and above can activate the Remote Desktop’s Network Level Authentication (NLA) to trigger an authentication request. RDP is disabled by default, but is often activated."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- White House CIO Describes His 'Worst Day' Ever @ Slashdot
- Apple patches steaming heap of Safari bugs @ The Register
- EC researchers demo multi-gigabit fibre-to-the-home @ The Register
- TEXT GOES HERE
- Canon PowerShot A4000 IS Review @ TechReviewSource
- Sharkoon at CeBIT 2012 @ XSReviews
- Win a DS212j NAS with Synology @ Kitguru
Subject: General Tech | March 14, 2012 - 03:34 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: walmart, vudu, ultraviolet, ripping, movies, hd, dvd, digital
Walmart Offering DVD Disc to Vudu Digital Copy conversion for cheap, but there is a caveat.
(Preface) Despite the iron fist fighting innovation and locking down media that is the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act), many tech savvy people have employed certain programs and disc drives to rip their physical DVD and Blu-ray collections to digital files that can act as backups and can be easily streamed around the house or over the Internet when you are out and about. The movie studios definitely do not like this practice; however, there is little that they can do about it (and as far as opinions go, they shouldn't). Slowly but surely the world is prodding them with a giant stick of common sense and they are starting to wake up, however. Many DVDs and Blu-rays now come with digital copies that can be unlocked and played via Itunes or Windows Media Player. (Sure, they are DRM'ed but it is a step in the right direction.)
And even more recently, several movie studios have started experimenting with the idea of stream-able copies of physical discs using their Ultra Violet DRM. The official description of Ultra Violet is as follows.
"UltraViolet (UVVU or UV for short) is an an ecosystem for interoperable electronic content. It's a branded set of specifications and agreements along with a centralized rights clearinghouse that allows retailers to sell movies that play on UltraViolet-compatible players and services."
Needless to say, the official word isn't too helpful for those not studying law or marketing (heh). Basically it is a set of standards (including DRM) that other services and retailers can follow and sell access to a library of digital movies from participating movie studios. The standards specify that Ultraviolet movies should be download-able to UV compliant devices; however, at time of writing only streaming devices are commonplace. The way Ultra Violet works is that certain physical disc purchases will have a code that can then be used to redeem a digital copy that can then be streamed to PCs, TVs, and other supported devices (which they estimate at around 300+ devices).
Walmart's approach is a bit different than that but follows the same Ultraviolet DRM and standards. The new Walmart Entertainment conversion service will allow customers to bring in their DVD or Blu-ray collection and for a $2 a disc will be given access to a digital version of that film through their subsidiary company VUDU's movie service. Because Walmart has a deal with the appropriate studios, they are able to convert the movies for a small fee and without needing to rip the discs. Instead, at the Photo Center, employees will examine the discs, then find the matching movie (if there is one, of course) on the VUDU service and add it to the customers VUDU account (or create a new account if they do not already have an existing VUDU account). According to Walmart, the movies will be available for streaming within a few minutes of activation, and customers will be allowed to keep their physical discs.
Further, customers will be able to upgrade their DVD's to an HD (not Blu-ray quality but better than DVD) VUDU copy for $5 (or $3 more than a standard conversion). The wording of the press release is a bit ambiguous but seems to suggest that DVD to SD VUDU and Blu-ray to HD VUDU count as "standard conversions" due to their "equal conversions" description. Only DVDs to HD will be at the higher priced conversion (we'll get clarification on this, so stay tuned for an update).
As mentioned above, there are a couple caveats to this new conversion service. Mainly, the digital copies are (currently) only stream-able, meaning a constant internet connection is required. This point may be moot in a few months when downloads are allegedly going to be supported by Ultraviolet DRM, but at the time of writing still exists. Also, there is the fact that the files are DRM'ed, meaning that customers are out of luck if VUDU shuts down their service or they do not have Ultraviolet approved devices. The major negative that tech savvy people are likely to bring up is that the service costs money for DRM protected files when they are able to rip their DVDs and Blu-rays on their own for free and do whatever they want with the non-DRM'ed files. Finally, the service is further limited by studio support and VUDUs catalog, meaning that they may not be able to convert all of your collection for DVDs or Blu-rays that are not available on VUDU.
It is a valid point; however, it should be noted that while it is rarely enforced, the DMCA makes ripping DVDs and Blu-ray discs illegal (because the programs need to break the encryption to copy the video to the computer). Also, the Walmart service does have the benefit of cheap HD upgrades for your DVD collection at $5 a pop versus $20+ for Blu-ray versions, and it is a heck of a lot faster than waiting for the Handbrake transcoding queues to finish!
In the end, the new DVD and Blu-ray disc to digital conversion service is not perfect; however, it is a step in the right direction and a decent option for anyone that does not have the time or knowledge to rip their own DVD or Blu-ray collection. For example, this is something I could see my family members using as a good way to backup their collection and prevent the situation where their kids favorite movie will no longer play because they stepped on it and threw it like a Frisbee (and the ensuing tantrum hehe). And if they get to the point where the files are no longer DRM'ed I would definitely consider it because of the time saved in converting and cheap HD upgrade (there have been very few movies I've spent the extra money on to get the Blu-ray version whereas I'm less selective about cheaper DVD purchases).
Subject: General Tech | March 13, 2012 - 12:15 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: TSMC, nvidia, macbook, kelper, Ivy Bridge, fermi, apple
NVIDIA has been having a rough life lately with problems besetting them on all sides. Their IGP business has been disembowelled by AMD's Llano and even Intel is now offering usable graphics with the HD3000 on higher end Sandy Bridge chips. The console makers seem to have decided on AMD as the provider of choice for the next generation of products which locks NVIDIA out of that market for years to come, as console generations tend to last significantly longer than PC components. The delays at TSMC have enabled AMD to launch three families of next generation GPU without NVIDIA being able to respond, which not only hurts NVIDIA's bottom line but lets AMD set their own pricing until NVIDIA can finally release Kepler, at a price that will not be wholly of their choosing.
Now according to SemiAccurate they are losing a goodly portion of Apple's MacBook business as well. The supply issues which will be the result of the fabrication problems were likely a big factor in Apple's decision to trim back GPU orders but there is also the fact that the low to mid range GPU could well be going extinct. With the power of the forthcoming Intel HD4000 and AMD's Trinity line of APUs it will become hard for laptop and system makers to justify putting in a discrete GPU since they will have to choose relatively expensive parts to have the discrete GPU contribute to performance. That leaves NVIDIA only providing GPUs for high end MacBooks, a much less lucrative market than the mid range. Don't even mention the previous issue of overheating GPUs.
"That is exactly what SemiAccurate moles are telling us is going on. Nvidia can’t supply, so Apple threw them out on their proverbial magical experience. This doesn’t mean that Nvidia is completely out at Apple, the Intel GPUs are too awful to satisfy the higher end laptops, so there will need to be something in those. What that something is, we don’t definitively know yet, but the possibilities are vanishingly small."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Microsoft demos 1ms response touchscreen @ The Inquirer
- Asus: We are NOT killing off Transformer Prime @ The Register
- Diamond helps graphene carry more current @ Nanotechweb
- ASUS RT-N66U Wireless-N900 Gigabit Router @ Benchmark Reviews
- More CeBit Coverage @ XSReviews
Subject: General Tech | March 12, 2012 - 10:01 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SSL, search, international, google, encryption
Google recently announced on their Inside Search blog that the company would be rolling out the default SSL encrypted search option for users signed in with a Google account internationally. Previously, the company made SSL encryption the default setting for Gmail and provided an alternative encrypted.google.com webpage for users that wanted to opt in to encrypted search. Earlier this year, they began testing SSL encrypted search and search results pages for users signed into Google in the US, and they are now ready to expand the default setting to international users.
They announced that over the next few weeks, they will begin introducing an SSL (secure socket layer) encrypted search page for localized international google pages such as google.co.uk (United Kingdom) and google.fr (France) among others. Further, they hope that their increased SSL commitment will encourage other websites to enable SSL on their domains to protect users from MITM (man in the middle) attacks and to ensure their sessions stay private.
More encryption is a good thing, and international users will be pleased to finally get a taste of it for their google search queries, especially now that the big G has enabled personalized search results.
Subject: General Tech | March 12, 2012 - 09:54 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: tDCS, overclocking, DIY, brain, augmentation
The new Extreme Tech (RIP ET Classic) recently ran an article that talks about turbo boosting, overclocking goodness, but with a twist. Instead of the typical CPU or GPU hardware, the article talks about overclocking some wetware in the form of the human brain. More specifically, a DIY kit called the GoFlow is in the works to enable affordable tDCS, or transcranial direct-current stimulation, to stimulate the brain into a "state of flow" enabling quicker learning and faster response times.
The GoFlow β1 will be a $99 do it yourself tDCS kit that will direct you in placing electrodes on the appropriate areas of your scalp and then pumping some direct current from a 9V battery at 2 milliamps through your brain, enticing the neurons into a state of flow. This makes them more malleable to creating new pathways and increasing learning speed as well as allowing them to fire more rapidly, bolstering thought processes. The kit, which is not available for purchase yet, will not require any knowledge of soldering, and will be housed a plastic case along with wires, schematics, and a potentiometer to dial in the right amount of power.
The company behind the GoFlow β1 has further referenced cases of successful tDCS short term testing including tests of UAV Drone pilots and professional gamers all learning their respective trades more quickly than the average. Extremetech also mentions that tDCS can have therapeutic effects for people effected by Parkinson’s or post stoke motor dysfunction.
Right now, the kit is still in the works, but interested users can sign up to be notified when it becomes available on their website. At $99, is this something work a shot, or do you prefer not to void the warranty on your brain? (heh) Personally, statements such as "our tDCS kit is the shit" and "get one of the first β1's and will help us develop β2" on the webstie are not exactly instilling confidence to me, but if you're big into the early adopter adventure, GoFlow may have something for you to test.
Subject: General Tech | March 12, 2012 - 03:20 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: nvidia, kelper, GK104, gtx680
Whether you are an NVIDIA fan or not you are likely anxiously awaiting the release of NVIDIA's new GPU. Since AMD is currently holding the lead on graphics cards they have no competition to lower the price of their high end cards which can beat anything NVIDIA currently has on the market. Depending on the price and performance of the new Kepler chip, its release should have an effect on the pricing of at least one line of AMD card, be it Pitcairn or Cape Verde. This is why SemiAccurate's pegging of the expected release dates, both paper and physical, are worth taking a look at, especially if your GPU recently died and you are looking at getting a new one. We should have a good idea of the price, performance and availability by the end of March.
"Today, March 8, is the day where the press that Nvidia flew in get their ‘tech day’, basically the deep dive on Kepler. Then, like we said a few days ago, Nvidia will paper launch the cards next Monday, March 12. From that point, things get a little hazy because people are arguing over two different days. Some are saying Friday March 23, others Monday March 26, with a few more saying 23 than 26. It could be none of the above though, but if you bet on two weeks out, you won’t be far off."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Why did TSMC stop 28nm production? @ SemiAccurate
- In-Depth with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview @ AnandTech
- Six screens, one desk @ The Tech Report
- Brewtarget: Hop into Beer Brewing with Open Source @ Linux.com
- Win an LG Optimus 3D, and £50 Credit from Three! @ Tech-Reviews.co.uk
- MASTERS OF OVERCLOCKING: Final Result @ kitguru