"Lego spelunking!" LEGO Minecraft available for pre-order

Subject: General Tech | February 18, 2012 - 01:22 AM |
Tagged: Minecraft, Lego

Most of the success of Minecraft can be attributed to that little part of your brain which desires to be creative while at play. Prior to Minecraft, other toys such as LEGO clung on to that yearning for their successes. A mash-up between the old and the new is a natural stage in the evolution of Minecraft. LEGO and Mojang announced a LEGO-themed Minecraft set.

Who knows, maybe we will eventually get LEGO Minecraft the videogame and complete the circle.

Recent events would lead you to believe that Mojang has enough money -- and you are correct. The Minecraft LEGO set was created from LEGO’s CUUSOO program. If a CUUSOO product is selected to become a part of LEGO’s portfolio, it can collect 1% of total net sales of the product. According to the official LEGO press release, Mojang will donate the royalties they collect from this LEGO product to charity.

If you desire to explore blocky caves in real life then head on down to the Jynx website and submit your order. The set is expected to be available sometime in the summer. Also, check out the LEGO CUUSOO project to submit or vote upon other potential products.

Source: LEGO

HP dates NVIDIA on Valentine's Day. We get Z1 workstation.

Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 17, 2012 - 10:39 PM |
Tagged: workstation, nvidia, hp

Here is a story for the professional computer users out there.

Professionals have standards: be polite, be efficient, and have a multi-year plan to cram as much hardware into a small case as you can seat. NVIDIA and HP have obviously played too much Team Fortress -- or I did -- let us just all three of us have. The engineers have dispensed with the desktop tower and crammed everything in the monitor with their Z1 product series. While not original, it does hold a number of nice features.

HP-Z1.jpg

… But honestly, what the user really wants is for it to dispense Bonk!

As soon as I read the announcement I immediately jumped over to HP’s product page and confirmed the existence of external display connections. Sure enough, HP did not entirely botch this product and allows the connection of one extra monitor by display port. While being limited to just two monitors is a bit disappointing -- I currently have a three monitor setup -- if they were to introduce a workstation computer with just a single monitor it would have been product suicide. Thankfully they had enough sense.

The real flaunted feature of the Z1 workstation is its ease of upgrade. The included power supply is rated at 400W which to my knowledge is decent for a single-card workstation class computer. HP claims support for up to 2 internal 2.5-inch drives or a single 3.5-inch drive; unfortunately they do not clarify whether you can install all three drives, or if you must choose between the one larger versus the two smaller drives.

HP-z1-open.jpg

HP and NVIDIA go on a date -- they dress workstation classual.

The workstation is expected to start at $1899 when it ships sometime around April. Unfortunately HP’s technical specifications list an Intel Core i3 and Integrated HD 2000 GPU -- most likely to hide the price of the products with the components that you actually want. I guess you will need to wait a couple of months to find out what you will actually be paying.

Source: NVIDIA

Rumor: Amazon didn't start the Fire. Kindle Fire 2 in May?

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | February 17, 2012 - 08:58 PM |
Tagged: kindle fire, amazon, foxconn, Quanta

Amazon had quite the successful launch of their Kindle Fire tablet PC. The original Kindle Fire is based on the Blackberry Playbook design and manufactured by the same company, Quanta. Despite being out for just three months, we may be just three or four months away from its successor.

18-Mmm-amazon.png

Foxconn is expected to do the work as OEM... a Quanta of solace.

The news was first reported by The Commercial Times, a Chinese-language Taiwan publication and put online by their sister publication, China Times (Microsoft Translation). According to the article, the original Kindle Fire may not be dying an early death. As is almost expected from Amazon, the original Kindle Fire will persist as Amazon’s 7-inch Kindle Fire model. The new Kindle Fire is rumored to compliment that product, not replace it.

The new Kindle Fire is expected to be a 10-inch model and, unlike the Blackberry Playbook design which Quanta sold Amazon last year, be more heavily designed by Amazon themselves. It is expected that while Quanta will continue to manufacture the 7-inch Kindle Fire, the 10-inch will be assembled at Hon Hai (Foxconn). Commercial Times does not suggest what other changes Amazon will introduce with the new product.

Source: China Times

HTC at MWC R-U-M-O-R-S

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 17, 2012 - 06:33 PM |
Tagged: tegra 3, MWC, htc

Mobile World Congress (MWC) is approaching and you should expect our coverage of the event from a hardware perspective. The actual event occurs from February 27th through March 1st although, like most events, we expect that the news coverage will begin a couple of days before that time. Rumors about what will appear at the show are already surfacing and include a few leaks about upcoming HTC releases.

HTC-nottegra.png

Probably there's a very simple answer to it... still curious though.

(Update: As pointed out in the comments, one of the phones actually IS Tegra 3 powered. I read it as including some other processor... and somehow I only found the LG X3 when looking for Tegra 3 powered phones.)

TechCrunch rounded up details from a few sources about several phones from HTC that are expected at MWC. Ice Cream Sandwich appears to be the common thread amongst each of the leaks. Of particular note, HTC appears to be demonstrating a 10.1” tablet running an NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor. Their phones, on the other hand, do not. (Update: Yeah they do, my mistake.)

Unlike (Update: Actually, like) HTC, LG is expected to reveal a Tegra-3 powered phone, the LG X3, at Mobile World Congress -- so Tegra 3 phones are not nonexistent -- just seemingly a scarce commodity. It would be interesting to know why NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 technology appears, at least from my standpoint, so common on tablets yet so scarce on phones.

Be sure to keep checking back for our coverage of the event and all of your other hardware needs.

Source: TechCrunch

Switch on a hinge and a 350 foot network cable - how to rig up your new office

Subject: General Tech | February 17, 2012 - 03:41 PM |
Tagged: asus, office tour

Sometimes things don't work out the way you want them and you have to improvise.  In our case this week, as we prepare to move into a new office space, we had a couple of dilemmas crop up.

  1. The "cabinet" the previous owner made for network was an actual cabinet and didn't have enough depth for a switch, let alone a server.
  2. Fiber internet is coming but not for another 6 weeks - what do we do until then?

The first issue of our networking cabinet was resolved by putting a 24-port Gigabit switch on a hinge inside the not-quite-deep-enough space we had for it.  And sure, once you find out we used Gorilla glue, a block of wood and standard door hinges from Home Depot, it might sound a little bit on the ghetto side, but the fact is...it worked!

Our problem with an actual internet connection to apply to the switch in question was a bit harder.  Since our fiber wasn't going to be installed until late March, and I didn't want to see the office space simply sit there and be wasted until then, we had to find another solution.  We asked our neighbors about using their connections temporarily and while several were open to it, speed tests showed consistent 1.4 mbps downstream and 0.45 mbps upstream connections.  Not good for the amount of video we do here.

So, another option presented itself: our current office that has 20 mbps down and 2 mbps up service (mediocre, but still better) was only a short 100-110 meters away.  Could a Cat5e cable simply be run between them?  Turns out it could and we were even able to run a length has long as 500 ft without a problem, connecting 10/100 rather than Gigabit speeds.  

In total, our hinge modification cost us about $4.50 and the 500 ft spool of cable just around $50 but the hassle we saved has been worth thousands.  The cable connection issue is obviously not permanent but barring any rogue squirrel retaliation in the next 4-6 weeks, it should more than serve our purposes.

Enjoy the weekend!

NVIDIA is up for a rough year

Subject: General Tech | February 16, 2012 - 12:45 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, 28nm, TSMC, kepler, tegra, tegra 3

If you caught the podcast last night you would have heard Josh discussing NVIDIA's year end financial conference call, otherwise you will have to wait until the 'cast is posted later this week.  Until then you can read SemiAccurate's take on the call here.  There is a lot of news about NVIDIA and none of it is good, from wafer yields to chip demand nothing seems to have gone right for them.  Attempting to move off of their cursed 40nm line and switching to 28nm, NVIDIA has run into big yield problems as in entire wafers having issues as opposed to just some dies being bad.  

Tegra is not doing so well either, with sales of Tegra 2 dropping as we approach the release of Tegra 3, which is getting a lot of bad press.  SemiAccurate refers to the chip as bloated in size as well as being downright expensive to make.  Combine that with the fact that NVIDIA is lagging on A15 adoption and Samsung and Apple turning their backs on Tegra and it doesn't look good for NVIDIA's mobile plans. The one ray of sunshine is that even combined Samsung and Apple do not account for even half of smartphones on the market, so there is still room for NVIDIA and Tegra to grow.

Tegra3_Chip.jpg

"Nvidia seems to be so far ahead of the curve that they are experiencing problems that are unique in the industry. In their recent year end financial conference call, there was enough said to draw some very grim conclusions.

Today’s conference call was a near complete validation of all the things SemiAccurate has been saying about Nvidia. Remember when we asked if Nvidia could supply Apple? Anyone notice the part about dumping early 28nm capacity, and the disappearance of 28nm Fermi shrinks? Remember how 28nm was not an issue for Nvidia, even if their product roadmap slips said otherwise. How well does this mesh with the quotes from Jen-Hsun himself on the topic?"

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Source: SemiAccurate

Mass Effect 3 is Coming, Pre-Order Now and Get Battlefield 3 (PC) Free

Subject: General Tech | February 16, 2012 - 02:08 AM |
Tagged: PC, mass effect 3, gaming, game, ea, bf3, battlefield 3

Update: Apparently EA has decided to pull the deal because it was too good of an idea :(. 

The final installment in the Mass Effect trilogy is almost upon us, and for those itching to get a taste of Mass Effect 3 can now go and download the Mass Effect 3 demo for the PC via EA's Origin service. The demo delivers about an hour (they claim two hours, but I finished it in about an hour and I was purposefully taking it slow to take in the scenery and such) of Shephard battling against a (spoilers ahead) Reaper invasion.

Personally, from playing the demo I'm not convinced that it is going to live up to the hype, and it seems to be rather "dumbed down" compared to the first one. With that said, it was not terrible and I will likely pick it up if only to finish out the story.  The story itself hits hard in the demo and I am excited for that aspect of the Mass Effect sequel, for example.  If you have not already done so, check out the demo that's out now.

masseffect3.PNG

Anyway, if you do enjoy the demo and are getting pumped for the release this March, EA is currently running a rather good deal on Origin for those willing to Pre-Order Mass Effect 3 from the Origin store. According to EA, users who place a pre-order for Mass Effect 3 through the Origin store for any platform (including digital download, boxed PC copy, Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3) before March 5, 2012 will receive a free digital PC edition of Battlefield 3 for free.  The codes for BF3 will be emailed to customers when they become available.

As always, there are some caveats:

  • The offer is only valid for those in US and Canada.
  • You must pre-order through Origin and cannot be combined with any other discounts.
  • You are not eligible for the free copy if you already own Battlefield 3 on Origin.
  • The Battlefield 3 codes will be emailed no later than March 8, 2012.

That last one is a big one (for me anyway).  Considering Battlefield 3 is already released, why can't those that pre-order ME3 get instant access to it?  I was all for the deal at first as I have not yet purchased BF3 and if I could get it for free by pre-ordering a game I was likely to buy anyway it sounded like a sweet deal.  Unfortunately, not being able to jump into BF3 to hold me over until Mass Effect 3 launched makes it less awesome.  After all, once Mass Effect 3 releases, I'm not going to want to play Battlefield 3 anymore!  Considering Battlefield 3 will likely still be approximately $60 on Origin in a few months, getting it free is still a good deal, but it's less of a impulse purchase knowing I might not get the Battlefield 3 code until after I have Mass Effect 3 downloaded.

It's there if you want it though, so go download the Mass Effect 3 demo and let us know what you think of it!

Source: EA

Just how much money is down in that mine anyway, Mojang? Psychonauts 2 could need at least $13M. Notch a problem!

Subject: General Tech | February 15, 2012 - 04:29 PM |
Tagged: Psychonauts, Mojang

Tim Schafer and Markus (“Notch”) Persson are currently discussing a sequel to the wonderful game that no-one bought called Psychonauts. Since February 7th, the two have been discussing creating the sequel both in private as well as on Twitter. During the discussion, it was revealed that Psychonauts 2 will cost at least $13 million to make -- to which Notch allegedly responded ever so passively, “Yeah, I can do that.”

Psychonauts2-Mojang.png

I could totally see a crafting system in Psychonauts.

The original Psychonauts sold abysmally with just 130,000 Xbox units purchased globally. It has been pushed onto Good Old Games as well as Steam since that time and sales have substantially increased. It draws a smirk to my lips that the art was ultimately purchased predominantly by long-tail PC sales. I love PC Gaming.

Even still, it is possible that Notch is taking this more as a passion project. It is possible that rather than blowing his money on a big house or a private jet, he feels as though he could spend it reviving a franchise he adores. Whether or not he gets a return on his investment could not even be a concern of his.

Of course, over the last week or so this whole trade became a bit of a joke in the industry. Rock Paper Shotgun also suggested a list of games for Notch to fund a sequel of. I personally would take anyone with the word Shotgun in their name quite seriously when they hand you a list of demands.

Passion project or otherwise, I seriously hope the Psychonauts sequel does get made and does become successful. When you create a game as focused and as well thought out as Psychonauts it definitely deserves all the money it could shut up and receive.

Source: PCGamer

Far Cry 3 gets a trailer and release date, first unofficially and then officially

Subject: General Tech | February 15, 2012 - 03:22 PM |
Tagged: gaming, far cry, far cry 3, ubisoft

If you follow the information from the just released official trailer of Far Cry 3 then the date you await is the 7th of September.  The leaked trailer which arrived 5 hours ago stated a date of the 6th, which was almost the only difference between the two releases.  Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN has both the trailers if you want to take a peek.

RPS_far-cry-33333.jpg

"This is the ‘official’ version of the Far Cry 3 trailer, which is almost exactly the same as the one that leaked earlier on today. I actually felt bad about linking to that one, but we’re all about disclosure here at RPS: whether you’re Ubisoft or John Walker, we’ll get to the heart of the story, no matter what. So, tell us Ubisoft: why did the leaked trailer have a Sept 6 release date when this one says Sept the 7th?"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Take that Moore! Electron beam etching set to take us to the 10nm process

Subject: General Tech | February 15, 2012 - 01:45 PM |
Tagged: photolithography, moores law, MAPPER, etching, electron lithography

Josh has covered the lithography process in depth in several of his processor reviews, watching the shrink from triple digit process to double digit process as the manufacturers refine existing processes and invent new ways of etching smaller transitors and circuits.  We've also mentioned Moore's Law several times, which was a written observation by Gordon E. Moore that has proven to be accurate far beyond his initial 10 year estimate for the continuation of the trend that saw that "the number of components in integrated circuits had doubled every year from the invention of the integrated circuit in 1958 until 1965".  It is a measure of density, not processing power as many intarweb denizens interpret it.

With UV light currently being the solution that most companies currently implement and expect to use for the near future, the single digit process seems out of reach as the bandwidth of UV light can only be compressed so small without very expensive work arounds being implemented.  That is why the news from MAPPER Lithography of Delft, The Netherlands is so exciting.  They've found a way to utilize directed electron beams to etch circuitry and are testing out 14nm and 10nm processes and doing it to the standards expected by industry.  This may be the process used to take us below 9nm and extend the doubling of tranisitor density for a few years to come.  Check out more about the process at The Register and check out the video below.

"An international consortium of chip boffins has demonstrated a maskless wafer-baking technology that they say "meets the industry requirement" for next-generation 14- and 10-nanometer process nodes.

Current chip-manufacturing lithography uses masks to guide light onto chip wafers in order to etch a chip's features. However, as process sizes dip down to 20nm and below, doubling up on masks begins to become necessary – an expensive proposition."

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Source: The Register