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.

The age of Ultor, Speedlink's new mechanical keyboard

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2017 - 07:15 PM |
Tagged: Speedlink, ultor, mechanical keyboard, RGB, Kailh

Speedlink's Ultor mechanical keyboard has a minimalist look thanks to the lack of a frame but they did include LEDs, blue under all but the WASD keys which are white.  They also chose to include macro keys which is uncommon on a board without a numpad by adding them as a secondary function to the Home, End, Insert, Delete, Page Up and Down keys. The mechanical switches under the keys are Kailh Red, the colour of gamers as opposed to typists.  They are currently quite expensive here in North America, in the UK Kitguru spotted it for sale at £79.91.

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"While many peripheral makers are currently chasing down the RGB trend, there is still plenty of room in the market for a standard mechanical keyboard. Today, we are taking a look at the Speedlink Ultor, a mechanical keyboard offering up red switches, macro support and more, all wrapped up in a frameless, 10-keyless design."

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Source: Kitguru

What's up with WhatsApp

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2017 - 06:13 PM |
Tagged: whatsapp, fud, facebook, encryption

By now you will have seen a headline screaming something about the security of Facebook's WhatsApp messaging service, ranging from somewhere between a backdoor purposefully inserted into the app to a complete denial of any security risk at all.  The actual issue is much larger than WhatsApp and address a security issue with all applications which depend on public key encryption. 

Many applications utilize public keys for their encryption, the encryption relies on keys unique to the sender and receivers devices and which use the public key to verify the authorization of a new device.  If your accounts key was permanently attached to a specific piece of hardware you would need a separate account for each device you used, which would be quite onerous.

The issue is that the Open Whisper Signal protocol is configured by WhatsApp in a way which makes the data vulnerable to a man in the middle attack.  If you can managed to block the transmission of a message, then take over one of the authorized devices accounts or phone numbers and trigger the generation of a new private key via a public key request to Facebook then you will be able to read messages until people realize what is going on.  This is not impossible but far from easy to accomplish, and effects any similar encryption system, not just WhatsApp.

Perhaps more worrying is Facebook's ability to take advantage of this, as they can generate a new public key to read messages, if they so choose.  If you are concerned about this, you can enable the Show Security Notifications setting under Settings -> Account -> Security to be notified whenever a contact's security code has changed.  The Register links to several articles which delve into the technology as well as the media's reactions here, if you are interested.

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"The problem – which is "endemic to public key cryptography" – was raised in April last year, and at the time WhatsApp said it wasn't a serious enough design flaw to spend time fixing."

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Source: The Register

Microsoft Confirms Windows 10 Creators Update Game Mode

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2017 - 12:17 AM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, pc gaming

A few weeks ago, Windows Insiders noticed GameMode.dll was added to the Windows 10 preview builds. It was speculated by Windows Central, based on their anonymous sources, that it would allow the user to increase performance for games. Now, in an Xbox blog post, Mike Ybarra of Microsoft confirmed the existence of this feature. It will arrive with the Creators Update and, yes, it is intended to “optimize your Windows 10 PC for increased performance in gaming”.

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That’s about all of the detail that is mentioned explicitly in the blog post. It does make a passing reference to “Windows Insiders will start seeing some of the visual elements for Game Mode this week, with the feature being fully operational in builds shortly thereafter”. While we don’t need to wait too long to actually find out, this snippet suggests that user involvement will be required. This might be a launcher or something else entirely.

On his Twitter, he also added that Game Mode will work for both Win32 and UWP games. Assuming this isn’t a mistake, and it’s stated quite bluntly albeit on Twitter, it looks likely that Game Mode’s UI won’t be an extension of Windows Store and it will work for any game. It will probably reside elsewhere, like an Xbox App or something, but we don’t really know yet.

The Windows 10 Creators Update arrives this spring. While its version number is 1703, rumors have it set for an April release date.

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft looking to lower licensing costs to compete with Chromebooks

Subject: General Tech | January 13, 2017 - 07:31 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, licensing

Microsoft has confirmed that they will reduce the cost of Windows 10 volume licenses associated with 14.1" and smaller laptops, which is intended to help their partners to compete against Chromebooks.  We have seen low cost Chromebooks launched by Lenovo, Acer, Asustek Computer, Dell and Samsung, all of which have taken market share from models running Windows as there are no associated licensing fees.  Microsoft's Volume Licensing pricing is extremely variable, screen size and relative power of the machine changing pricing, as well as the geographic location it will be sold and the size of the manufactures account.  This means we do not know the exact price reduction, only that it will be lowered.  According to what DigiTimes have found, you can expect to see this change start on March 1st.

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"Microsoft has settled with notebook vendors on Windows 10 licensing rates for models to be launched in 2017, with costs for under 14.1-inch low-cost models lowered from 2016, according to Taiwan-based supply chain makers."

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Source: DigiTimes

You must be reading this on a phone, seeing as how PCs are dead

Subject: General Tech | January 12, 2017 - 07:00 PM |
Tagged: market share, pc sales

Once again the death knell is ringing in the peanut gallery as they claim that the demise of the PC is nigh ... still.  What the data The Inquirer references is actually something we already know, sales of PCs were down 6.2% over 2016 thanks to the fact that there was little reason to upgrade your whole system.  Intel's waltz steps do not currently provide a compelling reason to upgrade, in part because of AMD's lack of new product; the lack of which has also hurt enthusiasts hoping to upgrade their AMD systems.  As for Windows 10, we have already seen the lack of influence on the market and those picking up VR headsets only tended to upgrade their GPU, which was not captured in this particular study. 

With the upcoming launches scheduled in 2017, this year should be somewhat more interesting for system builders and hardware enthusiasts both.

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"SKYLAKE microprocessors from Intel, the sudden appearance of virtual reality (VR), and the launch of Nvidia 10-series graphics cards were insufficient to prize open wallets in the run-up to Christmas or, indeed, during much of 2016."

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Source: The Inquirer

CES 2017: Asus Chromebook Flip Runs Chrome OS and Android Apps

Subject: General Tech | January 11, 2017 - 06:56 PM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2017, asus, Chromebook, convertible tablet, 2-in-1, core m

In addition to high powered gaming laptops and high end motherboards, Asus also used CES to launch its convertible chromebook now called the Asus Chromebook Flip C302. The 2-in-1 device measures 13.7mm thick and weighs in at just over 2.6 pounds (1.2kg).

Asus is pairing a 12.5” 1080p LED backlit LCD on the top pane with a chiclet keyboard (scissor switches with 1.4mm key travel) and 61 x 104.5mm trackpad on the bottom pane. A 360-degree hinge allows the user to flip the display all the way around so that the keys are behind the display and it can be used as a tablet (or any position in between). There is no digitizer pen but the display does support 10 point multitouch.

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Port selection is actually pretty good for a portable (especially a chromebook) with two USB 3.1 Type-C (5Gbps) ports, a headset jack, and a micro SD card slot. The only thing missing that other similar class notebooks have is micro HDMI but being a chromebook it should pair up with a Chromecast should you need to share your desktop or media to the TV or larger monitor. Wireless connectivity includes 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.2. There are also two side speakers rated at 87dB.

Internally, Asus is using 6th generation Core M3 or M7 processors (there is also a Pentium 4405Y SKU) depending on your configuration  Further, the Chromebook Flip comes with 4GB or 8GB of system memory and 32GB, 64GB, or 128GB of solid state storage. The chromebook runs Chrome OS but it is also able to run Android apps from the Google Play Store.

Battery life from the 39Whr battery is allegedly up to 10 hours according to Asus.

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The lightweight aluminum metal body Chromebook Flip has a starting price of $500 and will be available soon. Pricing on the higher end models has not yet been announced.

In all, it looks solidly built and has good specifications for a chromebook, but the pricing is going to hold a lot of people back in my opinion. Perhaps if it had an active digitizer and ran Windows I would be more interested. I am currently trying to find a replacement to my Dell XT (yes I know it is ancient haha!) and I find myself enamored by the Lenovo Yoga Book with the halo keyboard and the question if the typing experience there being the only thing that has me on the fence (I mention this because it is $549 for the Windows version and $500 with Android so is are in similar price points).

I am all for more options in this convertible space though and look forward to the reviews. If Asus’ Chromebook Flip has a great keyboard I might be persuaded!

Coverage of CES 2017 is brought to you by NVIDIA!

PC Perspective's CES 2017 coverage is sponsored by NVIDIA.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at https://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Asus

Pavonis takes a break from their Kickstarter to torment XCOM 2 fans

Subject: General Tech | January 11, 2017 - 06:51 PM |
Tagged: xcom 2, mod, long war, gaming

Fans of the Long War mod for XCOM: Enemy Unknown are in for a treat, though perhaps a rather sadistic one, as a teaser for the existence of Long War 2 just arrived.  This time the mod was announced by Firaxis as opposed to the mod team, though Pavonis have updated their website with a logo for the new project.  It will be interesting to see if this means that Long War 2 will be released as a free mod or as DLC with a price tag attached.  The difference may be in the amount of time Pavonis is willing to divert away from their current project Terra Invicta.  If Firaxis does invest their own resources into developing Long War 2 it would be somewhat appropriate for them to charge some money, even if many feel this is the game they should have released in the first place.  On the other hand, if they simply want to start turning third party mods into a revenue stream for themselves; we may have the start of a problem worse than preorders and paid for day one DLC. 

Pop by Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN for a look at the first Long War and links to the recent news.

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"Pavonis have already updated their website with a Long War 2 logo and haven’t removed info about their to-be-Kickstarted standalone game Terra Invicta. That’s an XCOM-y sort of thing, though the description suggests it’ll focus on diplomatic and political strategy rather than guns and psychics."

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Multi-monitor gaming troubles? It might not be your driver

Subject: General Tech | January 11, 2017 - 05:42 PM |
Tagged: patch, oops, microsoft

If you game on multiple monitors and have noticed problems recently, with screens rendering with off clipping or not a timely manner you may want to look to Microsoft.  It seems that KB3213986 which was released yesterday, may well be to blame.  As there are no serious security updates contained in this particular patch you can feel safe uninstalling it, unless you really need two keyboards and a fingerprint touchscreen attached to your system.  Cheers to The Guru of 3D for posting this first.

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"Users may experience delayed or clipped screens while running 3D rendering apps (such as games) on systems with more than one monitor."

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Source: Guru of 3D

Hack your NES Classic ... carefully

Subject: General Tech | January 10, 2017 - 05:34 PM |
Tagged: Nintendo, NES Classic, hack

The newly released Nintendo NES Classic shipped with 30 classic old games baked into its retrotacular ROMs.  It has now been hacked to be able to play any old game ROM you happen to be able to get your hands on, though of course you will have to make space as the storage capacity of this console is quite limited.  There are several caveats to this of course, ROMs are called read only for a reason and rooting around in them can lead to unintended and possibly permanent consequences.  There is also the source of your ROM to be considered, they tend to come from sources which could be considered slightly less than legitimate.  If you are still interested take a peek over at The Inquirer.

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"It was Russian retro gaming community GBX and a modder called Madmonkey that cracked the rebooted console, and it was Reddit users that seized on the opportunity, to give the hack a go."

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Source: The Inquirer