The fine waterline between genius and madness; toilet water PC cooling

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | April 3, 2012 - 12:01 PM |
Tagged: case mods, watercooling, toilet, couric

When Google discusses using toilet water to cool a data centre, they don't exactly mean it in the way that this case mod went, but the latter is certainly easier to set up at home.  Other such inventive cooling solutions have been tried, after all what good is it if the weather outside is -40o if you don't have it vented through to your PCs intake fan?  However this is probably the first time someone popped a water pump into a toilet reservoir to use as an open cooling loop for a PC.  With a slight change to the tubing, you could probably ensure you never have to sit down on a cold seat again. ExtremeTech has pictures of the system and its creator here.

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"Hot on the heels of news that Google uses toilet water to cool one of its data centers, it has emerged that an enterprising hardware hacker had the same idea some seven years ago. As you will see in the following pictures, though, Jeff Gagnon’s computer is much more than a toilet-cooled rig — it’s a case mod tour de force."

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Source: ExtremeTech

Optical or laser, EpicGear's Meduza can do one or both at once

Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2012 - 02:31 PM |
Tagged: meduza, input, gaming mouse, epicgear

If you can't decide if you prefer an optical sensor or a laser sensor better then EpicGear's new mouse is a great find.  It sports laser, optical and the blended HDST mode which combines them both and offers better sensitivity than the optical sensor though not quite as much as in laser only mode.  They also offer a hybrid mouse pad designed to be used with the mouse, which OC3D also tried out.  The software for programming macros is also worth a mention, not only does it properly record pauses between button presses but is easily editable after you've recorded them, just in case you didn't time it perfectly.

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"Epic Gear are willing to throw their hat into the gaming mouse ring with the innovative Meduza mouse."

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Source: Overclock3D

Ever wonder what is in a Reviewers Guide?

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | April 2, 2012 - 12:13 PM |
Tagged: NVIDA, gtx 680, reviewer guide

A long held tradition in the hardware reviewing world is to accuse reviewers of biasing their reviews by only running the benchmarks that the manufacturer wants you to run and providing slanted results.  It really doesn't matter if every single site comes out with similar results, for some if a review doesn't fit their personal bias it is obviously flawed.  As [H]ard|OCP mentions, there was a time when Reviewer's Guides did resemble something along those lines but they have changed over time as suppliers realize the more biased they attempt to make their guidelines, the less likely a review site is to follow them. 

These guides are now more of a mix between a white paper and a lengthy PR release, with relatively in depth discussions on the capabilities of the product along with highlights of what the company feels are the key features on the new product.  [H] has posted the document which arrived with their GTX 680, discussing features and yes ... suggesting the appropriate games with which to show off their cards features, though what game could you test PhysX with other than Batman?

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"Many times we have been asked what exactly CPU and GPU companies "require" of us when working on a review of yet-to-be-released hardware. Published here is the Reviewers Guide from the recent NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 launch in its entirety. Besides it being a great geeked-out read, you will likely learn a few things."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Used Game Sales -- Tempest Cartridge in a Teapot

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | April 2, 2012 - 02:39 AM |
Tagged: used sales

I start to wonder how people got so successful at business with such a short-sighted mindset.

When I arrived home tonight I cautiously browsed the tech news as I often do. Many complain about April Fools being difficult for journalists due to the plausibility of certain pranks conflicting with the fact checking process. In my travels I came across an editorial from Don Reisinger about the ethics of used game sales. While it is marginally possible to have been an early joke, the sentiments contained in the post are too common in the industry.

Piracy and used game sales are sore spots for an industry of companies who believe you either make a sale or you lose a sale. The truth of the matter is that you should be thankful that your product was not flat-out ignored and attempt to derive as much value from that relationship as possible.

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First they came for my used copy of Mechwarrior 3...

Used game sales have been mostly extinct on the PC platform since the wonderful invention of recorded product keys. Users have flocked to the consoles to retain the second sale and have often berated the PC platform for it. As consoles move closer and closer to denying used sales I wonder where they will flock to next. Perhaps maybe they should instead demand that the publisher accept used sales?

For a publisher, a used game sold is a new user of your product. Your retail partner gained extra revenue and brought users closer to your other products which might be first-sale. The user might purchase DLC, sequels, spin-offs, sister-titles, expansion packs, merchandise, and franchise tie-ins as a result of that used game. The user will probably end up playing more video games altogether than they otherwise would. Do you really wish to give up all of that value by indulging in how you feel ripped off by your own paying customers? Also, what about the first sale customer who sold their game to make up the used sale?

They are your customers -- and they are always right. Shut up and take my money when you can.

Source: Slashgear

PC bill of materials articles creeps lower.

Subject: General Tech, Systems | March 31, 2012 - 07:01 PM |
Tagged: laptops, desktops

ZDNet and others published articles discussing the rising prices of PCs: it needs a grain of salt.

News publications love to publish large stories about how an industry is forcibly altered. For instance, are you sick of stories proclaiming the term “Post PC” yet? It is the season’s fashion to paint darker tones over any portrait of the personal computer.

According to a report from Ben Reitzes of Barclays Capital, certain PC components have gotten more expensive due to a series of recent events. It does not look like such a bleak future, however. Granted, ZDNet and Barclays Capital are both focused on their investment-oriented customers, but still.

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As you can clearly see, the PC is doomed.

Image from Don McMillan presentation.

Foremost on the list of concerns is the elevated price of hard drives. ZDNet claims that Apple will have an advantage due to their switch to solid state devices in Macbook Airs and iPads. Apple does not have an advantage -- anyone can put an SSD in their devices, and many PC manufacturers who sell their product for a base price of a thousand dollars do if it suits the goal of the product.

LCD panels are expected to elevate in the near future as OEMs build up inventory ahead of the launch of Windows 8-based products. I am sorry, but come on. Prices of components tend to rise when you abruptly spike in sales. Moving on…

DRAM prices have also risen about 7 percent compared to just a few months ago. My issue is that RAM prices have absolutely plummeted since even just last year. For a PC which costs four hundred dollars, RAM is expected to make up just $15 of that. 7 percent on $15 is, for all practical purposes, a rounding error for a $400 device.

The sky is not falling.

Source: ZDNet

Want headphones more impressive than Als? Check out the Roccat Kave headset

Subject: General Tech | March 30, 2012 - 01:38 PM |
Tagged: audio, roccat, cave headphones, 5.1 headset

 With four mini-jacks to provide surround sound and a USB connection to control the lighting, a pair of these would put even an NFL coach to shame.  A control is also attached to the USB cord, which allows separate control of each of the front, rear, centre and bass speakers, pushing this beyond the capabilities of many 5.1 headsets on the market.  Hardware Secrets were impressed by the audio capabilities of the earcups and the microphone as well as the compactness of the headset when folded up.  They did feel that at a price of $120 Roccat could have included a carrying bag; it would also be nice to see them back in stock.

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"Roccat is releasing the Kave, a large foldable headset with 5.1 surround sound and a separate unit for volume control. The connectors include four minijacks (3.5 mm for the sound channels) and a USB (for the control unit and headset lighting). Let's describe the Kave and then proceed to its evaluation."

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He's dead Jim ... or at least that's what my Tricorder says

Subject: General Tech | March 30, 2012 - 01:13 PM |
Tagged: tricorder, DIY

The plans for the Tricorder Mk II have been released by The Tricorder Project and just who in their right mind would not want to build one for themselves ... or their kids.  The device uses an Atmel AT91RM9200 processor, 32MB SDRAM and a pair of touchscreen OLEDs powered by an Epson S6E63D6 and runs Debian Linux. 

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The sensor suite onboard can monitor a variety of atmospheric, electromagnetic, temperature and spatial values.  Toss your old IR thermometer away, the Tricorder will give you that measurement and distance as well.  You might as well dump the GPS as well since the Tricorder has you covered.  You will need a bit of skill in assembling electronics and soldering to finish the project, along with roughly $500 but the instructions are very detailed and in the end ... you get a working Tricorder!

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"The Science Tricorder Mark 2 prototype sensor board contains ten different sensing modalities, organized into three main categories: atmospheric sensors, electromagnetic sensors, and spatial sensors. Many of the sensors are similar to those used in the Science Tricorder Mark 1, where the differences are centrally in upgrading sensors to higher-resolution versions where possible. The prototype sensor board also includes an imaging sensor, in the form of a cell phone camera, that is untested. Sensor boards for the Mark 2 are designed to be self-contained, include separate microcontrollers for low-level sensor communication, and as such are more easily upgraded."

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IOLO U-NO-LOL. Ed Bott not amused by system optimizer ad

Subject: General Tech | March 30, 2012 - 04:36 AM |
Tagged: IOLO, Adobe

A recent Adobe auto update included a poorly labeled advertisement for IOLO System Checkup. The ad urges you to purchase System Checkup by dramatizing mundane events on your PC to be remedied only by their paid product. The scan also fails to alert for issues which actually are serious and commonplace.

Adobe has been known to be slightly haphazard with using their update application for advertising purposes. If you are not ever vigilant it is possible that your computer could be gifted a trial of McAfee antivirus or something.

An advertisement for System Checkup by IOLO has recently been added to the site you are directed to after a manual update of Flash. Upon running the “Free PC Health Check” you are prompted to purchase the full product to fix the problems it finds. Ed Bott over at ZDNet takes exception with the advertisement.

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At least it does not cripple your machine until you pay.

Ed Bott complains about the advertisement, and Adobe’s distribution of it, on two main grounds: the scanner urges you to fix things that do not need to be fixed allegedly to alarm you and it fails to warn you about things that you should be alarmed about.

Throughout the article, he runs the scanner a couple of times on a couple of setups and discusses the issues it claims to have found and points out what it should have detected but failed to.

First and foremost if software wishes to protect your PC from attack it should, at the very least, ensure that you are patched. On a completely unpatched machine, the scanner did not even try to warn the user to update their operating system.

Likewise, the application claimed that the user’s RAM required defragmentation. Most of our users should be aware of defragmenting, what it does, and why it is not useful for SSDs. Extrapolate that thought to RAM.

The moral of this story is to be absolutely careful about what you run on your PC. While the scanner itself is harmless outside of alarmism, there are plenty of others which are malicious. Even if you trust the site, it is possible that the website could have been compromised by an attack and forced to deliver you malicious content.

While, again, this situation is not malicious -- just feels annoying and grossly misleading -- it should be one more event to teach you that the only thing to keep your computing device safe and properly functioning is your constant vigilance.

Source: ZDNet

Raspberry Pi red tape: not scratch and sniff just more delays

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | March 30, 2012 - 02:29 AM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi has been further delayed while it acquires an additional certification to conform to British Law. The delay affects all regions because the products are shipped to the UK before being distributed internationally. The delay is expected to last just a couple of weeks.

It has almost been a year since the first announcement of the Raspberry Pi ultra-cheap PC and we can almost taste its arrival. Originally inspired by David Braben, developer of games such as Rollercoaster Tycoon, the Raspberry Pi was built to cheaply enable students to learn computing.

As it turns out, the cost and performance of the device drew massive attention from the hobbyist and home theatre crowd. All interested parties will need to wait, however, as the product has been briefly delayed again because someone forgot to cross their t’s.

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C’mon, almost there, almost there.

All joking aside, the delay is quite small and minor and will still ship within their original target window. The delay was caused by the foundation failing to be granted a Conformité Européenne (CE) mark for their product. The CE certification is the direct analogy to the FCC’s electromagnetic (EM) noise certification which must be obtained for cellphones and other electronic devices in the United States. CE certification is expected to take just a couple of weeks.

Delivering a product is an involved task. I am willing to give the foundation a pass on this specific delay due to their lack of experience in their field. That is unless of course the product is found to interfere with EM broadcasts of some protected frequency. That -- would suck.

Then again, I have also not attempted to order a Raspberry Pi so perhaps my opinion is invalid. What do you think?

Source: TechRepublic

Rovio buys Futuremark Games Studio: polar opposites unite!

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | March 29, 2012 - 07:24 PM |
Tagged: Rovio, Futuremark

Rovio Entertainment purchases Futuremark Games Studio, but not all of Futuremark, for an undisclosed amount.

Rovio is known for making graphically lightweight yet intensely addictive games for about as many desktop and mobile platforms as they can get away with. Futuremark Games Studio is known for making beautiful PC games which are entertaining to some extent. Naturally they make a perfect couple.

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So *that’s* how it got shattered!

Of course the real topic for discussion is why Rovio would want to purchase Futuremark Games Studio. One possible reason is that Rovio wishes to challenge Infinity Blade by Epic Games and capture the market of mobile eye-candy games. The other possibility would be that Rovio wishes to expand into making large budget games themselves.

In their purchase, Rovio has only acquired the studio but not any of their intellectual properties. Shattered Horizon and their other games remain property of the original parent company, Futuremark.

What do you speculate is just over the Shattered Horizon?

Source: Rovio