Subject: General Tech, Systems | May 17, 2012 - 03:13 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Microsoft Store, crapware
“Factory computers” have been loaded with demos and trials for several years now in an effort to subsidize part of the cost, get lower prices, and bloat your computer -- that last part is unintentional. Microsoft created their “Signature” lineup of PCs a couple of years ago to highlight products that only have software which Microsoft intended to install. Microsoft will soon offer a service to bring existing PCs to what Microsoft deems a Signature status for $99 if you can find a Microsoft store.
While our readers are affected by this story they are probably less so than just about any other blog.
If you did not acquire your computer by having it assembled -- and if you did, we hope you consulted our regularly updated Hardware Leaderboard -- you probably purchased it from an OEM. To make their product seem more appealing most OEMs load their products with product demos and other advertisements. This is particularly bad for PCs because they are not only annoying but also tend to bog the machine down.
What is it with Microsoft Stores and awkward $99 products lately?
(and yes I realize the image is inaccurate because I chose a non-consumer workstation)
Since Microsoft tends to get the brunt of the bad recognition when a Windows machine it comes to no surprise that they eventually attempted to encourage a more vanilla experience. The Microsoft “Signature” lineup of PCs were OEM-produced machines which have been removed of all software that should not come with Windows -- except maybe a few Windows Live Essentials products.
Microsoft will expand their Signature program to any PC if you can find a Microsoft Store and pay $99 to undo what their partners did.
It is unclear what specific goal Microsoft is hoping to accomplish with this program. Everyone’s first reaction would be that they are attempting to cash in at the expense of their users but that just does not make sense. They could be attempting to promote the Windows store but this certainly seems less like a carrot and more like a wet noodle. They could also be trying to pressure their OEMs by reducing the cost-per-impression they can acquire for each ad because of how easily it could be removed.
It would be most like Microsoft to honestly believe that this service will be appreciated by users. If that is true, I must disagree. ZDNet has already used this as an excuse to promote Apple computers -- which makes me headdesk because $99 is pocket change compared to that -- so I expect that if that was Microsoft’s intent it will backfire wholly.
What do you think Microsoft’s goal is: selfish vulching their consumers or something less devious?
Subject: General Tech | May 16, 2012 - 10:45 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: vengeance 2000, vengeance, headset, gaming, corsair
Popular computer case and power supply maker Corsair recently launched a sweepstakes to get the word out about their new Vengeance 2000 wireless gaming headsets. They will be giving away five of the new virtual surround sound headsets to winners.
The contest is open to new entrants until Monday (5/21/12), and is very simple to enter. To enter the contest, head over to their Facebook contest page and hit the “Like” button. Then click on the green “Enter Sweepstakes” button. After that, they invite you to tell your friends about the contest. They have a couple thousands entries so far, so get in while you can! The Official Rules are linked on the bottom of the contest page but it looks like anyone over the age of 18 not affiliated with the company is eligible to win.
The Vengeance 2000 is essentially the wireless version of the company's Vengeance 1500 USB gaming headset with a noticeable makeover. The headset uses 50mm drivers and 2.4GHz wireless technology to deliver virtual surround sound without a wired connection to the PC, and up to about 40 feet. It also features a rechargeable battery in the headset and an adjustable noise canceling boom microphone. The headsets have an MSRP of $149 USD.
Best of luck in the contest, and if you win be sure to let us know what you think of them!
Subject: General Tech | May 16, 2012 - 06:31 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Windows 7, windows, microsoft signature, microsoft
Microsoft’s Signature program is a Microsoft Store and online service where the company resells OEM partners’ computers without all the traditional bloatware programs. The company puts a clean install of Windows on the hardware, installs Microsoft applications–including Microsoft Security Essentials, Live Movie Maker, and Live Mail–and optimized the OS for that particular machine’s hardware. This Signature install of Windows has only been available to users that purchased a new computer from Microsoft–until now.
According to Ars Technica, Microsoft is now offering to turn any OEM PC running Windows into a Signature edition of the operating system for a one-time fee of $99. DIYers and enthusiasts are likely to scoff at the nearly hundred dollar price tag for popping in a Windows 7 install disc and doing a clean install, but the Signature service is most certainly not aimed at the technically savvy market to begin with. Rather, this is a service for ordinary computer users to get the most performance out of their computer while avoiding the numerous “optimize my PC” scams and malware-programs-masquerading-as-Windows-utilities minefield. Doing a clean install and then optimizing the OS can take at least an hour (though enthusiasts can generally shave that time down quite a bit), and a straight fee of $99 is a lot less than consumers are likely to find elsewhere (especially since that includes 90 days of tech support). And that’s where I think this program is okay, and even a good thing. Most OEM systems come pre-loaded with a bunch of unwanted programs and trial offers that serve no real purpose besides making the OEM more money. There is also the issue of security. The majority of OEM systems come pre-loaded with some form of trial antivirus (usually Norton), and customers are notorious for not upgrading to the paid edition after the trial period or replacing it with (better) free antivirus applications. For $99, Microsoft will take the OEM machine and spruce it up to be the operating system that it should have been running in the first place. Besides price, the other barrier to this catching on is that customers need to bring the PC into a Microsoft Store (which are few and far between).
That statement is where many users are not pleased with Microsoft. They believe that Microsoft should exert more control over what OEMs are allowed to do with its operating system. Certainly, that is the ideal solution, but Microsoft is not Apple and they do not have the same level of control over the resulting hardware and what is bundled into the OS after it is purchased by OEMs. The Signature program is at least a step in the right direction and making the best of the situation. Also, it is an optional service that consumers are free to shop around to find a better price (or learn how to do it themselves by checking out guides online). It may not be the best thing, but at least Microsoft recognizes that there is a problem and is offering an alternative.
I’ll admit that I reacted unfavorably when I first read about the program, especially since it seemed so expensive for what comes as second nature to me. But not everyone wants to muck around in settings and for those with more money than time the Signature program is not a bad deal. It’s not for me, but I can see situations where it will work well. What are your thoughts on the program; do you see it as useful or is Microsoft way off base here?
Subject: General Tech | May 16, 2012 - 12:04 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: gaming, diablo iii
Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN was given the chance to sit down with the senior world designer and the lead technical artist of Diablo 3. One of the topics of discussion will be near and dear to those who played the previous games in the series, co-op multiplayer, which really defined the game for those who tried it. Somehow button mashing in tandem was much more enjoyable than the already great single player experience and the development team spent a good deal of effort bringing that experience to Diablo 3. They also talk about the difficulties of including enough lore to keep players who want some depth to the story of the game but ensuring that those players who don't care for a back story don't feel it is getting in the way of their game. At no time were rainbows or unicorns discussed.
"Diablo III is now a thing that you’re capable of owning and (hopefully) playing. Just before the launch, when those network problems were yet to freeze Hell over, I sat down with senior world designer Leonard Boyarsky and lead technical artist Julian Love to keep them company as queues formed in the streets outside. Along the way, I discovered that having an ex-Troika chap on your game means that ‘lore’ is a very important word indeed, that the distant roguelike heritage hasn’t been forgotten and that technological progression doesn’t necessarily alter design principles."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Eyefinity/Surround Analysis of Rayman Origins @ Widescreen Gaming Forum
- Botanicula PC Review @ eTeknix
- Diablo III Midnight Launch and Signing Gallery @ HardwareHeaven
- ins of a Solar Empire Rebellion Beta @ Benchmark Reviews
- Inside the Atari 2600 @ Hardware Secrets
- Lucid PC Review @ eTeknix
- A Chat With Rocket, Creator Of Day Z @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN!
Subject: General Tech | May 15, 2012 - 06:22 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: LAN party, lan, gigabyte, gaming, case mod contest
Popular motherboard manufacturer Gigabyte Technology Co. recently announced the Gigabyte eSports LAN (GESL), which is its first eSports event in North America. The event includes a BYOC (bring your own computer) LANFest, tournament competitions in Starcraft II and League of Legends, a case mod competition, presentations, and an event raffle. The competitions each feature various prizes for winning including Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 motherboards, graphics cards, RAM, and other computer hardware. Starcraft II and League of Legends further offer $11,000 and $10,000 prize pools respectively.
The event will be held at the California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, California from June 15th to June 17th, 2012. In additon to Gigabyte, the eSports event is co-sponsored by Kingston and Cooler Master, among others. The LAN competitions will be broadcast in HD for free during the event for those that can’t attend in person. Alternatively, users can purchase spectator badges for $15 USD. There will also be an event raffle during the GESL that will give away various pieces of computer hardware and company swag to attendees.
Further, the case mod contest will showcase systems from participants of the BYOC LANFest or spectators, of which five winners will be chosen. They will receive computer hardware and coverage in CPU Magazine should they win.
More information on the event can be found at the Gigabyte eSports LAN website (thegesl.com).
NVIDIA puts its head in the clouds
Today at the 2012 NVIDIA GPU Technology Conference (GTC), NVIDIA took the wraps off a new cloud gaming technology that promises to reduce latency and improve the quality of streaming gaming using the power of NVIDIA GPUs. Dubbed GeForce GRID, NVIDIA is offering the technology to online services like Gaikai and OTOY.
The goal of GRID is to bring the promise of "console quality" gaming to every device a user has. The term "console quality" is kind of important here as NVIDIA is trying desperately to not upset all the PC gamers that purchase high-margin GeForce products. The goal of GRID is pretty simple though and should be seen as an evolution of the online streaming gaming that we have covered in the past–like OnLive. Being able to play high quality games on your TV, your computer, your tablet or even your phone without the need for high-performance and power hungry graphics processors through streaming services is what many believe the future of gaming is all about.
GRID starts with the Kepler GPU - what NVIDIA is now dubbing the first "cloud GPU" - that has the capability to virtualize graphics processing while being power efficient. The inclusion of a hardware fixed-function video encoder is important as well as it will aid in the process of compressing images that are delivered over the Internet by the streaming gaming service.
This diagram shows us how the Kepler GPU handles and accelerates the processing required for online gaming services. On the server side, the necessary process for an image to find its way to the user is more than just a simple render to a frame buffer. In current cloud gaming scenarios the frame buffer would have to be copied to the main system memory, compressed on the CPU and then sent via the network connection. With NVIDIA's GRID technology that capture and compression happens on the GPU memory and thus can be on its way to the gamer faster.
The results are H.264 streams that are compressed quickly and efficiently to be sent out over the network and return to the end user on whatever device they are using.
Subject: General Tech | May 15, 2012 - 02:17 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: xeon, xeon e5, Sandy Bridge E, Sandy Bridge EN, Sandy Bridge EP, lga 1356, lga 2011
Today marks the arrival of the Xeon E3-1200 single socket processor with 17 more models coming soon for two, four, or even eight socket motherboards, though according to The Inquirer Intel has no plans to scale to 16 sockets. They come in a bewildering array of models including the Sandy Bridge E we are used to, Sandy Bridge EN which uses LGA 1356 and is intended for dual CPU motherboards as it only has one QPI and the LGA 2011 Sandy Bridge EP which scales higher thanks to dual QPI. No triple QPI but that may still be in store to reduce the number of hops in an 8+ socket board to 2 when used in symmetric multiprocessing in the future.
The E5-2400 (SB-EP) has eight cores and is targeted straight at AMD's lower price, lower power consumption chips as well as offering a noticeable improvement over the already launched E3s. The E5-2600 family with its dual QPI is more suited for high powered applications that need several powerful processors working in tandem but not to the levels that the E7 series provides. By offering such a wide variety of choices, especially a family of what for Intel are very low cost processors they are really putting a lot of pressure on AMD and the soon to be released Piledriver family.
"If you were planning on buying new servers in the coming weeks and months, Intel just gave you a whole lot of homework. And if you work at Advanced Micro Devices, you're getting some homework, too."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Adobe backs down, patches critical Photoshop CS5 hole @ The Register
- Intel Sandy Bridge Is Shinier On Ubuntu 12.04 LTS @ Phoronix
- Getting around in Windows 8 @ Windows Team Blog
- Ask the Experts: Heterogeneous and GPU Compute with AMD’s Manju Hegde @ AnandTech
- Nvidia launches Nsight CUDA dev tools into Eclipse @ The Register
- Testing 10GbE Performance: QNAP TS-879 Pro & Synology DS3612xs NAS @ TechSpot
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | May 15, 2012 - 10:14 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: nvidia, GTC 2012, live
Are you interested in GPUs? Maybe GPU computing or even some cloud-based GeForce announcements? Chances are then you'll want to tune in to the NVIDIA GPU Technology Conference keynote today at 10:30am PT / 1:30pm ET.
NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang is expected to be on stage with three new announcements, one of which will likely be the the GK110 GPU we have all been waiting to hear about. Another has been teased as "a new major cloud gaming technology" while the third...well I really have no idea. It should be exciting though so tune in and watch along with us!
You can catch it all at http://www.gputechconf.com/!
Subject: General Tech | May 14, 2012 - 05:05 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Amped Wireless, R20000G, Wireless-N, gigabit router
If you don't win the brand new Netgear R6300 802.11ac router which we were giving away last week you might be wondering just how you can get your hands on a Gigabit wireless device. Amped Wireless might just have what you need if you are serious about streaming large amounts of data wirelessly, be it game data, video or VoIP calls. The R20000G provides dual 600mW 2.4GHz amplifiers and dual 5.0GHz amplifiers allowing the use of both bands simultaneously and the dual high gain antennas should blanket up to a quarter of an acre in good signal. Security can be configured for WPS One-Touch Setup, WPA and WPA2 as well as optional parental controls to lock it down further. You can check out the full product page here.
Chino Hills, CA — May 14, 2012 — Amped Wireless, the leading manufacturer of high-power, long-range wireless communications products for the home and office, today unveiled its new flagship, long range router – the R20000G High Power Wireless-N Gigabit Dual Band Router.
Engineered to deliver exceptional levels of performance, power and flexibility, this new router is designed for use in large homes and offices. The R20000G brings unprecedented, simultaneous dual band Wi-Fi to home and office users of up to 10,000 square feet of coverage or a quarter of an acre, the same size as a major league baseball diamond.
How It Works
This new router not only boost wireless coverage, the R20000G delivers a combined speed of up to 600Mbps for smooth streaming of video, music and uninterrupted gaming across a number of devices, including: Game Consoles, iPads, Internet TVs, Notebooks, PC, Smart Phones, Tablets, VoIP devices and more.
“Amped Wireless has continued to make strides in the industry with our innovative power amplifying technology and design,” stated Jason Owen, President and CEO at Amped Wireless. “The R20000G is the ideal product for any consumer that wants to outfit their entire office or home and backyard, with a high performance router with the most Wi-Fi coverage on the market today.”
Building on their award-winning Wi-Fi technology, the R20000G is engineered with the latest state-of-the-art wireless features which includes:
- Dual high power 2.4GHz 600mW amplifiers, dual high power 5.0GHz amplifiers and dual low noise amplifiers for improving wireless reception
- Dual High Gain 5dBi detachable dual band antennas
- High speed 620MHz internal processor for faster networking
- Simultaneous 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz dual band 802.11n technology
The combination of advanced power amplifiers, wireless reception amplifiers and high gain antennas, provide users with a significant increase in signal strength over great distances to improve home or office Wi-Fi coverage.
The R20000G also features 5 gigabit networking ports for connecting additional wired network devices, and a USB 2.0 port to share files among connected users. The high power router includes premium features such as, guest networks, adjustable Wi-Fi coverage controls, parental controls, website blocking and support for the latest Wi-Fi security to secure your Wi-Fi experience.
Subject: General Tech | May 14, 2012 - 03:43 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: input, gaming mouse, logitech, saitek, razer, roccat, corsair, epicgear
A sampler of gaming mice from a wide variety of companies is now available at Hardware.Info, which can be a handy tool for those looking for a new mouse. No longer is it choice between Logitech and Microsoft, the list of companies supplying the mice includes A4 Tech, Corsair, Epicgear, Razer, Saitek and more. If you want a large heavy mouse, one designed for macro button programming or a mouse you can adjust into a variety of shapes to ensure the most comfortable fit for your hand then this roundup has you covered. There is no winner, as everyone wants a little something different from their own mouse but if you'd like an idea of what is out there then they have you covered.
"To many computer users the mouse is just a necessary little tool for operating their computer. As long as it has two buttons and a wheel and the cursor goes where it's supposed to, most people are satisfied. Gamers are more demanding, however, in terms of comfort, performance, and features. We reviewed 13 gaming mice to find out what's currently out there.
A decent mouse is crucial for the serious gamer, that is why we are in the habit of regularly doing a round-up of the latest gaming mice. The 13 mice in this comparison test vary quite a bit in price, from £45 to £69. It’s a pretty big difference, which should mean that the performance and features should differ significantly as well. The only way of finding this out for sure is by a thorough test. And that’s exactly what we did."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Roccat Kone+ @ Bjorn3D
- SteelSeries Kana Mouse Review @ XtremeComputing
- CM Storm Sentinel Advance II Laser Mouse @ Benchmark Reviews
- Corsair Vengeance M90 Mouse Review @ Hardware Secrets
- MadCatz Official Xbox 360 Force Feedback Racing Wheel Review @ eTeknix
- CM Storm Trigger Gaming Keyboard Review @ Techgage
- Tesoro Durandal & Durandal Ultimate Gaming Keyboards @ Metku.net
- Cmstorm Trigger mechanical gaming keyboard review @ Rbmods
- Corsair Vengeance K90 MMO Keyboard Review @ Techgage
- Corsair Vengeance K90 Keyboard @ TechwareLabs