Microsoft Plans to Throttle Background Processes

Subject: General Tech | April 23, 2017 - 08:02 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

Pre-release builds of the next major update to Windows 10, planned for the September time frame, give or take, introduce a new power management feature. Starting with Intel’s sixth-generation Core processors, with support for other vendors planned in the coming months, Windows 10 will be able to prevent background apps from forcing high-power states. This will keep the CPU at a voltage and frequency that gets more work done per watt, even if it takes a little longer, which should result in longer battery life.

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There will be (and currently is) an override available for end-users, as well as an API for developers to suggest which processes can be throttled, and under what circumstances. This entire feature will also be disabled when the device is plugged in. I wonder if we’ll see that characteristic change a little in Windows Server, though, since it might be useful for data centers to throttle some maintenance tasks to cut down on the power and cooling bills for their many, many machines. Currently, it’s designed for battery life.

You can play around with this feature in the new Insider build, but, again, not while plugged in.

Source: Microsoft

PCPer Meetup in London! Sponsored by ARM! Win a FREE Chromebook!

Subject: General Tech | April 23, 2017 - 10:27 AM |
Tagged: meetup, london, giveaway, contest, Chromebook, arm

For a short romantic summer trip, Josh Walrath and I (Ryan Shrout) will be heading across the pond to London, England! With the primary goals of technology education and beer consumption, we thought it would be prudent to invite any and all PC Perspective fans in the area to join us for a night of talking tech, comparing beer preferences and just saying hello!

On Thursday April 27th starting 7:30pm, you will find Josh and me sitting in a dimly-lit booth at the Momentus Bar inside The Cumberland Hotel located at Great Cumberland Place London W1H 7DL. We have no specific agenda but will probably be there until at least midnight, hamming it up with anyone that walks over.

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Yes, it looks fancy, but you're talking to some fancy lads, right!?!

As if hanging with your favorite hosts of the PC Perspective Podcast wasn't enough, I was able to coherce our good friends at ARM to sponsor the event and handing us a couple of Chromebooks to give away as well! That's right - come meet Josh and me at The Cumberland Hotel and have a couple of drinks!

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On display at the event in London will be two ARM-powered Chromebooks: the Acer R13 and the new Samsung Chromebook Plus!

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The Samsung Chromebook Plus powered by ARM

The Samsung Chromebook Plus is powered by the OP processor...a curious part with an even more curious website: www.whatisop.com.

Even though only those in attendance will be able to get hands-on with the two Chromebooks, we are offering the giveaway of the units to our global fan base! All you have to do is enter via the Gleam competition below for your chance to take home one of these two devices!

ARM-powered Chromebook Giveaway!

So, here's the summary: if you are in the London area on April 27th and want to come hang out with Josh and me at Momentus Bar at The Cumberland Hotel, we would love to see you at 730pm! If you aren't in the London area on April 27th, enter the contest above for your chance to win an ARM-powered Chromebook!

PC Perspective London Meetup! Sponsored by ARM!

7:30pm - 12:00am on April 27th

Momentus Bar at The Cumberland Hotel

Great Cumberland Pl, Marylebone, London W1H 7DL, UK

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A HUGE THANKS to our friends at ARM for sponsoring these events and paying for Josh's excuse to drink! Hopefully we will see a lot of you in person very soon!

Windows 10 Cloud ("S"?) Performance Targets Leaked

Subject: General Tech | April 22, 2017 - 12:49 PM |
Tagged: windows 10 cloud, windows 10, uwp, microsoft

The upcoming version of Windows that can only install applications from the Windows Store, Windows 10 Cloud, will be Microsoft’s latest attempt at locked-down devices, like Windows RT was back in the Windows 8.x days. The goal is to take on the Chromebook market, which is similarly locked down to Google Chrome and Google Play Store apps (although Google allows developer sideloading). To be fair to Windows 10 Cloud, it can be upgraded to Home or Pro to run Win32 applications for a fee, although that somewhat flies in the face of “streamlined, simpler experience” if you acknowledge a monetary value in unlocking the features you claim those users theoretically don’t want.

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Image Credit: Windows Central

Preamble and opinion aside, it would seem that Microsoft is hoping to push OEMs into making decent devices. They are recommending a minimum specification of quad-core Celeron, 4GB of RAM, >40 Wh battery, and “fast eMMC or SSD” storage. This last note about “fast” eMMC amuses me, because it not-so-subtly telegraphs that cheap laptops, despite having technically solid state memory, don’t have a noticeably better experience than typical hard drives.

Microsoft is expected to discuss the initiative on May 2nd at their #MicrosoftEDU event.

Oculus App Version 1.14 Released

Subject: General Tech | April 22, 2017 - 02:37 AM |
Tagged: Oculus, oculus rift

Oculus has updated their Oculus App to version 1.14. This release has two noteworthy features: full support for 360-degree tracking with three sensors, and the Touch controller can now be used with some, but not all, games that were previously gamepad-exclusive. For the latter, you will need to check with each specific game in the Oculus store, where it will be listed with a “Touch (as gamepad)” tag.

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As for the former, Oculus has been allowing 2- (like the Vive) and 3-sensor setups for 360-degree tracking for a while, but experimentally. They have apparently settled on the three-sensor setup for final support, though. According to their documentation, they recommend that two of the sensors are plugged into USB 3.0 or higher, while leaving the third on USB 2. Specifically, the USB 2-connected sensor will be the one behind the user, with the two USB 3.0 sensors sitting out in front; to visualize this, imagine stereo speakers sitting on either side of your TV, with only one surround sound speaker behind the user. It will be interesting to see how Oculus two-sensor, Oculus three-sensor, and Vive two-sensor compares, especially since the last two are (in the case of Oculus, now) officially supported, but the first one isn’t.

While I don’t currently have a Rift, Oculus apparently delivers updates on a staggered schedule. Don’t be surprised if your system isn’t pushed to the new version immediately.

Source: Oculus

Twitch Announces New Affiliate Program

Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2017 - 07:49 PM |
Tagged: twitch, pc gaming, amazon

While Twitch had quite a large lead as a streaming service, it had a fairly large gap between its regular creators and their “Twitch Partners”. If you weren’t a Twitch partner, you couldn’t directly monetize your stream, guarantee that your stream would be transcoded, and so forth.

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That isn’t changing, but they are introducing an easier to obtain, middle tier that will have some, but not all, of the Partner perks. “Twitch Affiliate” is this middle-ground, and, while it is invite-only, it is open to pretty much anyone who intends to stream on a regular basis. Specifically, the threshold is about 500 online minutes in a month, spread out over at least seven days, and an average of at least three viewers at the same time; you will also need at least 50 followers. If you stream a few times per week, this is not a very high bar, but it’s still not automatic.

I should note that Twitch will only consider the previous 30 days, rolling.

The goal of this new tier is to provide some support for streamers, as they try to find their on-ramp to being a Twitch partner. At first, only the (relatively controversial) “Bits” system will be available for monetization, but other revenue streams, like video ads, should follow. Also, while you’re not guaranteed to receive video transcodes, Affiliates get priority access to whatever is left over from the Partners.

Personally, I’d like a guarantee that transcodes would be available, because I don’t want to occasionally alienate some viewers by sending Twitch too high of a bitrate for the, let’s say even just 10% of the time, that lower-quality versions would be unavailable. It still puts pressure on me to lower the quality that I send Twitch, which will often result in worse VOD quality. (I realize that you can use multiple encodes… and I currently do… but certain things, like frame rate, need to be consistent – at least with the current version of OBS Studio.)

Twitch should begin to contact eligible streamers soon, and will continue rolling in new users as they become eligible. Even then. it's not an immediate, automatic thing, though.

Source: Twitch

Modulate all the things! EpicGear's Defiant modular gaming keyboard

Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2017 - 03:33 PM |
Tagged: modular, mms, mechanical keyboard, input, epicgear, defiant

Move over modular PSUs and mice, the Epicgear Defiant is a modular keyboard.  What that actually means is that you can swap the actual switches on the keyboard, as long as they are Modular Matrix Structure switches.  The MMS switches as described as analogous to Cherry MX switches, though the colours do not translate directly and The Tech Report found them to be of equivalent quality.  In their testing they found that gaming with mismatched switches was somewhat unpleasant, so make sure to get a full set of the ones you plan to use.  The full review can be found here.

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"Some gaming keyboards offer customizable backlighting and key caps to change up the feel of the keys underneath one's fingers. EpicGear's Defiant keyboard goes one better and lets gamers change out its key switches themselves for a different tactile experience. We switched around the Defiant's clickers to see if the feature upped our game."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Windows 10 Releases Target ~September and ~March

Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2017 - 07:30 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

Now that Microsoft has pushed their third major version of Windows 10, the Creators Update, the company has decided to settle on a six-month rotation. This is similar to how the Ubuntu distribution of Linux pushes updates, although Windows 10 will be targeting September and March rather than Ubuntu’s October and April (and Ubuntu has a different long-term support model, as we’ll discuss below). More importantly, it’s designed to occur at the same time as Office 365 ProPlus updates, so IT departments can certify and roll out both at the same time.

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The previous release cycle was a little… chaotic. The November Update occurred about three and a half months after the initial release, followed almost nine months later by the Anniversary Update. Seven months after that, the Creators Update landed, which brings us to today.

Each version will be supported for eighteen months.

Source: Microsoft

Windows 3.11 in WebVR

Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2017 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: Windows 3.11, webvr

One of the latest WebVR experiments puts an emulated Windows 3.11 terminal in a virtual space. In it, you can play Minesweeper, Solitaire, and generally mess around. Because it’s a WebVR demo, certain browser, OS, and VR headset combinations will also work, in case you wanted to feel like you were actually in front of a beige box.

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If you’re using it without WebVR, then it will appear as a static 3D scene. Make sure you enable mouse pointer lock, because you will need to use the virtual mouse pointer, not your actual mouse pointer. It will ask you when it’s loaded and focused, but your browser will probably require you to click allow or something.

Source: Metacade

Interesting Blender Updates for Upcoming Versions

Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2017 - 02:49 AM |
Tagged: Blender

The Blender Foundation and volunteers have been quite busy, especially over the last few weeks. Two major changes that are prepared for Blender 2.79: near-parity between CUDA and OpenCL, and an implementation of the Disney PBR shader.

Aside: A physically-based (“PBR”) shader allows modeling a bunch of common materials, such as plastics, ceramics, metals, and so forth, using parameters that are independent of lighting. This means that you can reuse the same object and material in all of your scenes, and it will behave like we expect it would given the environment. For instance, PBR materials account for conservation of energy, so objects get shinier as they get smoother, but they also look darker off-axis because less light is being diffusely scattered.

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While it was always possible to render in Cycles with a PBR workflow, you needed to create your own node setup, which typically consisted of about seven or eight elements connected in a specific way. When this new version lands, you will just need to connect the appropriate textures and colors to their corresponding pins in this node. The Disney-based Principled BSDF accounts for albedo (base color), subsurface scattering, metallic, specular, roughness, anisotropic reflections, sheen, clearcoat, index of refraction, and transparency.

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Update (April 21st @ 5:35pm): Blah! I forgot to embed the chart. Here it is.
Image Credit: Blender Foundation

Now we get to “near-parity between CUDA and OpenCL”. According the Blender Foundation, OpenCL can support all features found on CUDA with the exception of correlated multi jitter. This is accompanied by a graph, embed above, showing the RX 480 beat the GTX 1060 in a variety of benchmark scenes. Unfortunately, at the same time, GPU-accelerated rendering in Cycles now requires GCN 2.0 and up, which is the AMD R9 290 and later. Blender will still work on older cards, like the R9 280 or, heck, probably even the Radeon HD 4890, but the final render will need to be done on the CPU.

Blender 2.79 doesn’t have a firm release date, but the code freeze schedule has it expected for some time in either May or June.

Joe Macri on Ryzen

Subject: General Tech | April 19, 2017 - 08:05 PM |
Tagged: video, amd, Joe Macri, ryzen

TechARP just posted a video of AMD's Joe Macri discussing the new Ryzen processors from AMD.  It is not quite 20 minutes long which gives you a chance to quickly hear from AMD about what they feel the new architecture means for the company, as well as the impact it will have on gamers and enthusiasts.  He does mention the HSA Foundation and how AMD is working towards a basic change in how PCs utilize resources. They also embedded a link to a video featuring AMD's Radeon Product Marketing Manager, Adam Kozak, on the new 500 series if you have time.

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"AMD Corporate Vice President, Product Chief Technology Officer and Corporate Fellow, Joe Macri, flew in to brief us on the disruptive nature of the new AMD Ryzen processors. Join us for his full tech briefing!"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: TechARP