Windows Insiders Receive Several New Features Post-Holiday

Subject: General Tech | January 21, 2017 - 11:27 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

Now that the holidays are over, software developers are going back to work. It seems like ones at Microsoft had several big changes stashed away, waiting to release when they would be around to support them in the new year. Over the last two weeks, we received three different builds, each with several significant changes. They seem to be tapering off, though, which would make sense if they’re merging through their backlog from 2016.

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One feature that might be lauded by our readers is the ability to temporarily pause updates. This one came in on build 15002, and it gives users an option to delay any update that will cause a restart for up to 35 days. Unfortunately for some, this will be restricted to Windows 10 Pro and above, because Microsoft still does not trust that Windows 10 Home users will not ignore updates then complain about how insecure Windows is when a 9-month-old worm hits them. Instead, from Home users, they are pushing a change to “Active Hours”, allowing it to be extended into an 18-hour window. Sorry if you have a 24-hour render or something!

Moving on, some users will appreciate the lunar calendar being added to the taskbar calendar, alongside the conventional, Gregorian one. You would think that this localization feature should have been implemented years ago, but, with the Creator’s Update, affected users will have a more functional, built-in calendar.

Another interesting feature, which came out in the most recent build, 15014, is the power mode slider attached to the battery icon. Rather than having it buried in the advanced power settings, Microsoft is allowing users to “slide right” when they need things like higher CPU power states. In the current build, the UI isn’t hooked up to the back-end yet, because they’re still discussing (with OEMs) what power settings the slider options should correspond to.

There are also a lot of enhancements for Edge, of course, as all web browsers are still undergoing a rapid release schedule. A lot of it involves tab management, such as stashing tabs for later (like a more transient bookmark) and sharing them to other applications.

The Windows 10 Creators Update (1703) is expected for April.

Source: Microsoft

Another reason IPv6 is not as common as it should be

Subject: General Tech | January 20, 2017 - 06:00 PM |
Tagged: ipv6, microsoft

Among the numerous incompatibilities and troubles we are seeing with the rollout of IPv6 is a new hitch.  It seems Microsoft just opened up a ticket with themselves over a problem they are having with their Azure Active Directory cloud-based ID system; it would seem it is incompatible with IPv6.  The Register specifies Windows 10 for this issue however it is very likely that previous versions are also going to encounter issues.  You can read more about the troubles and attempted solutions here.

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"According to Redmond's principal network engineer Marcus Keane, the software giant is struggling to move over to the decade-old networking technology due to a DHCPv6 bug in Windows 10, which made it "impossible" to expand its planned corporate network."

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Source: The Register

Just Picked Up: Google Chromecast Ultra

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | January 20, 2017 - 12:39 PM |
Tagged: google, chromecast ultra, chromecast

One of the disadvantages of the ZTE Axon 7, which a lot of other phones share, is that you cannot directly connect it to a TV over HDMI via MHL. Granted, it’s a good screen and great speakers, so I can just pass the device around, but sometimes you want to show a video (or something) on the TV. As such, I was looking around at the Chromecast, but I heard a bunch of complaints that ranged from low frame rate to frequent stutters in some apps.

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Then Google announced the Chromecast Ultra, which launched in November. I put my email address on the official waiting list and... haven’t heard a thing since. I also haven’t seen it in many stores. I then found out that the local Best Buy Mobile kiosk had it (yet the full store a few blocks away somehow did not???) Interestingly, when I arrived, they had several of them, and on sale for $20 off, too.

Upon bringing it home, it had a little difficulty connecting to my WiFi router. (The 5 GHz band was a little weak at that location.) Once that was resolved, though, it was a very pleasant experience. It played 1080p60 video from YouTube without any trouble, even switching to the correct input automatically with HDMI CEC (although I needed to manually change it back to the digital TV box when I was done).

I don’t have a 4K or HDR TV, though, so I cannot test its more advanced features. Sorry!

Source: Google
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Nintendo

Price and Other Official Information

Since our last Nintendo Switch post, the company had their full reveal event, which confirmed the two most critical values: it will launch on March 3rd for $299.99 USD ($399.99 CDN). This is basically what the rumors have pointed to for a little while, and it makes sense. That was last week, but this week gave rise to a lot more information, mostly from either an interview with Nintendo of America’s President and COO, Reggie Fils-Aimé, or from footage that was recorded and analyzed by third parties, like Digital Foundry.

From the GameSpot interview, above, Reggie was asked about the launch bundle, and why it didn’t include any game, like 1 - 2 - Switch. His response was blunt and honest: they wanted to hit $299 USD and the game found itself below the cut-off point. While I can respect that, I cannot see enough people bothering with the title at full price for it to have been green-lit in the first place. If Nintendo wasn’t interested in just eating the cost of that game’s development to affect public (and developer) perceptions, although they might end up taking the loss if the game doesn’t sell anyway, then at least it wasn’t factored into the system.

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Speaking of price, we are also seeing what the accessories sell at.

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From the controller side of things, the more conventional one, the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, has an MSRP of $69.99 USD. If you look at its competitors, the DualShock 4 for the PlayStation 4 at $49 and the Xbox Wireless Controller for the Xbox One at the same price, this is notably higher. While it has a bunch of interesting features, like “HD rumble”, motion sensing, and some support for amiibos, its competitors are similar, but $20 cheaper.

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The Switch-specific controllers, called “Joy-Con”, are $10 more expensive than the Pro Controller, at $79.99 USD for the pair, or just $49.99 USD for the left or right halves. (Some multiplayer titles only require a half, so Nintendo doesn’t force you to buy the whole pair at the expense of extra SKUs, which is also probably helpful if you lose one.) This seems high, and could be a significant problem going forward.

As for its availability? Nintendo has disclosed that they are pushing 2 million units into the channel, so they are not expecting shortages like the NES Classic had. They do state that demand is up-in-the-air a bit, though.

Read on to find out about their online component and new performance info!

Another Beautiful, Profound Breach of Nintendo Trademarks

Subject: General Tech | January 19, 2017 - 01:13 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, ue4, Nintendo

Once again, one of CryZENx’s videos found its way into my YouTube recommendations list. This one outlines progress on their recreation of various Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time elements in Unreal Engine 4. While the graphics have been updated significantly, such as using inverse-kinematics for foot positioning, they have also remade the original pause menu, which wraps around the camera like a box (with no top or bottom).

If anyone is wondering, inverse-kinematics is an animation tool that focuses on goals, as opposed to individual rotations. Instead of bending a knee by X degrees and bending the hip by Y degrees, you say that the foot of the skeleton must be at some point, and the skeleton adjusts to make that happen. This is obviously much easier for animators to visualize in many situations, especially when trying to align to objects that you know will be in range of the skeleton, but not exactly where.

I’m not exactly sure how Nintendo hasn’t struck their Patreon and YouTube pages yet, given their reaction to other fan materials. I’m glad it’s up, though. They’re quite impressive homages to the games they love.

Source: CryZENx

Looking for quality desktop speakers? Perhaps Audioengine's HD3 would fit the bill

Subject: General Tech | January 18, 2017 - 07:25 PM |
Tagged: audio, speakers, Audioengine HD3, Audioengine

We have seen a lot of headset reviews but lately there have not been many reviews of desktop speakers which some of us still use.  CPCR have offered up a change of pace for those looking for some new stereo speakers with their review of Audioengine's HD3 powered desktop speakers.  They contain a Burr Brown PCM5102 DAC as well as a OPA2134 amp if you do happen to have a set of high impedance headphones you might have occasion to utilize.  Those components do come at a cost, the MSRP is $399, but if that doesn't immediately scare you off you should take a look at their full review.

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"When it comes to premium desktop computer speakers, few manufacturers on the market match the level of Audioengine when it comes to sound quality. Over the years, we’ve had the opportunity to review the Audioengine A2+ and the Audioengine A5+ which were outstanding speakers that are simply unmatched by other computer speaker manufacturers..."

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Audio Corner

If you haven't tried Mechwarrior: Living Legends, here is a good excuse

Subject: General Tech | January 18, 2017 - 06:20 PM |
Tagged: gaming, Mechwarrior: Living Legends, crysis wars, mod

Mechwarrior: Living Legends is a total conversion mod for Crysis Wars, which you can grab free of charge from this site, they use the Crysis Wars demo to provide the assets so you do not need to purchase the game.  It will dump you and up to 32 players on a multiplayer map with a side arm and a desperate need to get a vehicle.  The vehicles range from smaller tanks and VTOLs to a wide variety of Battlemechs.  Development had stalled somewhat until this week when it was announced that Version 0.8 is now available.  You should pop by to download and install it so you can give this game a shot; even if you end up disliking it you will get your moneys worth.

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"Almost a decade ago, a talented team started working on what was to become the favorite game for many of us. Version 0.7.1, released in 2013, was to be the final version of MechWarrior: Living Legends by Wandering Samurai Studios."

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Practice safe programming

Subject: General Tech | January 18, 2017 - 05:39 PM |
Tagged: security, mostly harmless, google play, andriod

Fallible is a security firm which developed an automated tool for reverse engineering Android apps and used it to take a look at a large portion of the top apps on Google Play.  They found quite a few things that really should not have been there, including keys to Amazon Web Services which would grant them the ability to start and stop instances under the developers account.  In total they found 2500 apps with at least some sensitive information contained within them, in many cases those keys were necessary for the proper functioning of the app but in some cases they were secrets which did not need to be there.  Follow The Register's advice and think long and hard before hard coding keys into any apps you might be developing.

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"A security firm has reverse engineered 16,000 Android apps on Google's Play store and found that over 304 contain sensitive secret keys."

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Source: The Register

Pegatron passing much of its production to ASRock?

Subject: General Tech | January 17, 2017 - 06:03 PM |
Tagged: asrock, Pegatron, rumours

ASRock was hit hard by the downturn in PC sales over 2016, they shipped less than four million motherboards over the whole year.  The rumour over at DigiTimes is that thanks to the tiny profit margin garnered from orders by Asustek Computer and small white-box builders in China ASRock will no longer be bidding for work from those sources.  Instead their parent company, Pegatron, will be shifting most of their own motherboard and GPU design and production to ASRock along with the services they previously provided to system integrators.  This will shift their focus away from Apple, and should provide a boost to the overall business in addition to their new lines of Intel and AMD motherboards.

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"For 2017, orders from SI clients and the launch of Intel's Kaby Lake platform are expected to boost the company's performance. The company has launched new Z270-based motherboards, looking to expand its presence in the mid-range to high-end sector. Motherboards using AMD's new chipsets are also expected to launch after March which should also benefit the company's profits."

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Source: DigiTimes

Awesome Games Done Quick 2017 Sets New Donation Records

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2017 - 07:18 PM |
Tagged: speedrun, pc gaming, gdq

About a day and a half ago, Games Done Quick finished up their AGDQ 2017 event with a pacifist run of the PC indie title, Undertale. Over the course of the previous week, the marathon brought in over 2.2 million dollars for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. (As I write this, the current amount is $2,218,130.30 USD, which might still go up a little with late donations.)

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This total smashed the previous record, set two years ago at AGDQ 2015, of 1.576 million USD. Moreover, this was the first Games Done Quick event to bring in more than a million dollars on the last day. Based on last year’s totals, it looked a bit like Games Done Quick was going to plateau at about 1.2 to 1.5 million per event, which is amazing, but this new record points to potential that I’m not even sure Games Done Quick knew existed.

I’d be interested to see what the organizers attribute the increase to. The schedule was intended to be a departure from typical with a few interesting decisions, such as shelving Super Mario 64, ending with Undertale instead of a classic JRPG, and making the blocks less obvious. At the same time, the partnership with Namco Bandai, particularly the huge prize pool on the last day, drew a lot of $125-and-up donations, leading to the comment tracker crashing in the setup block. (It crashed a few times on the last day.) Whatever the cause was, something worked, and we’ll need to see how SGDQ 2017 and AGDQ 2018 live up to these new expectations.

Speaking of which, SGDQ 2017 will be in Minneapolis, Minnesota on July 2nd through July 9th.