Dell Teases "Smart Desk"

Subject: General Tech, Displays, Systems | November 3, 2016 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: dell

Update November 3rd @ 2:20pm: As noted in the comments, the video and article are back from 2014. As I said in the article, the concept was teased in Adobe MAX, but I must have found an old source and misread the date. I've also embed the new video just below.

Original post below

Adobe MAX started yesterday, and Dell used it as a venue to announce their Smart Desk concept. While it draws comparisons with Microsoft's Surface Studio, especially with their dial-based input accessory, it's unclear whether the similarities stop. For instance, while they promote how it uses “Dell Precision workstation performance,” they don't explicitly state that it is a PC itself. Unlike the Surface Studio, it might be a peripheral to be paired with a full desktop, which its thin profile suggests, unless it requires a specific device that's just not pictured.

I mean, it would be possible to fit a laptop into a twenty-some-inch tablet that's designed to permanently sit on a desk, but, unless the software requires deep OS integration, you would think that going the Wacom route would be a win for both parties. While powering hardware wouldn't be an issue, you would still need to use slower-for-the-price laptop components to dissipate heat and exist in a small volume. If it does contain a PC, it would be running Windows 10, too, because that was clearly shown on the secondary UltraSharp 27 monitor attached to it. On the other hand, the interface, while nothing about it excludes being a complex driver for everyday desktops, is the sort of thing that a company would do if they're shipping it in a full PC.

dell-2016-smartdeskconcept.jpg

We'll know more in the future as Dell spills the beans (and probably develops a marketable product to have beans spilled over). What would you be more interested in? An all-in-one or a peripheral?

Source: Dell

Steam "Discovery Update 2.0" Changes Screenshot Policy

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2016 - 03:58 AM |
Tagged: steam, valve, pc gaming

According to leaked images of an announcement that Valve made to Steam developers, which PC Gamer claims to have confirmed with Valve, the digital distribution platform will undergo several changes in “a couple weeks”. The message calls this initiative “Discovery Update 2.0”. While I would guess that this is the final name, it could be a placeholder that tells developers to expect changes similar to 2014's Discovery Update, which introduced Steam Curators and the Discovery Queue to the front page.

SteamLogo.png

A lot of the changes, like the original Discovery Update, affect how games can be found on the front page. There will be a focus on promoting whatever the user's Steam friends are consuming as well as elevating the visibility of the “Top Selling New Releases” screen. The will also be more picky about who to show ads for new games to, which Valve expects will lead to fewer impressions, but hopefully higher click-through.

Valve will also refresh the Steam Curator feature by allowing them to communicate about titles in a more nuanced way, possibly without even making a recommendation one way or the other at all. We'll need to wait a little while and see how it is actually implemented, along with all of the other changes, but they might nudge the platform away from the visibility issues that users and indie developers alike were complaining about. At the very least, you can expect Valve to carefully measure how sales are impacted by these alterations, and continue to experiment with why.

Then we get to the screenshot policy.

Two changes are planned, each addressing a wholly different issue. The first change regards mature content. Valve does not seem to be planning to discourage gory, lewd, or offensive content, but rather force developers to properly tag their content so the user can filter out what they aren't interest in (or disgusted by). Of course, censorship could creep in with the correct mix of misguided good intentions and complacency, but that doesn't seem to be the goal, which should mean that accidents will be fixed as they arise.

The other change alters the way they intend screenshots to be used. Previously, they were treated like promotional content, even by Valve. In fact, their one example picked apart the store page of their own game, DOTA 2. Valve seems to want to change it into a glimpse of the actual game, like a demo in still image form. Basically, the “screenshots” section is turning more literally into a section of screenshots, rather than, as they verbatim say, concept art, pre-rendered cinematic stills, or images that contain awards, marketing copy, or written product descriptions. “Please show customers what your game is actually like to play.”

This all seems like fairly routine changes to me, although we will need to wait until it's live (or another leak occurs) to truly know.

Thoughts on Alcatel IDOL 4S / Windows Mobile Announcement

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2016 - 03:07 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, VR, snapdragon 820, qualcomm, microsoft, idol 4s, alcatel

While it does make a little sense if you pay attention, I guess, Microsoft's business in the mobile space has been... sporadic. Initiatives seem to come and go with little notice, and they may or may not oppose one another. To me, they do seem to point to Microsoft wanting to keep Windows Mobile relevant as a third-place contender, but they realize that, outside of leaning it against the development of Windows 10 for PCs, it's a money pit. Its problems cannot be solved by simply throwing money at it, so don't throw any more than is necessary.

Through this lens, the recent announcement of the Alcatel IDOL 4S makes a bit of sense. Google has not secured their place in mobile VR, and Apple isn't even trying to enter this segment (as best as we can tell). Microsoft is also into VR and AR on the PC and console side of things, so I'm guessing that even that cost can be dulled slightly. As such, why not release a phone that has roughly the same specs as a ZTE Axon 7, which is itself positioned as a first wave of mobile Google Daydream VR devices, and hopefully plant your foot somewhere in this space? They even have an OEM partner covering the hardware side of things.

So, basically, it seems like last year, when we heard that Windows 10 Mobile would be quiet, it wasn't so much an admission of defeat. They really seem to be moving forward, slow and steady.

Source: Microsoft

Skyrim Special Edition, or Skyrim "Special" Edition

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2016 - 03:44 PM |
Tagged: skyrim, gaming, elder scrolls

If you picked up all of the Skyrim DLC then the new Special Edition is available to you for free, otherwise it could cost you up to $50.  The question of whether to install it or not is on the minds of many gamers, including the gang over at Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN.  The answer is simple if you have installed dozens of mods and have them playing nicely together; do not.  This new version will not support those mods nor will you be able to load saves from them, though there is a way for those with less common aspect ratios to be able to play.

For those uninterested in mods or who want to start all over again, there have been reports of sound issues and many of the old bugs are back; expect a lot of flying if your FPS can top 60 if your machine can play the new version that is.  As far as the new graphical features such as lighting do not measure up to the unmodded original with the high resolution texture pack as you can see in the image from RPS below.  It has no hope of matching the quality of some of the various existing mods that make the game almost photo realistic.  All is not lost, this could be a great platform upon which modders can redo existing mods or create new ones but for the most part this launch is disturbingly reminiscent of the original launch of the game.

RPS example.PNG

"I switched repeatedly between it and an unmodded Skyrim original install with Bethesda’s official high-res texture pack added in, and it didn’t take long to reach that perfect pitch of meaningless insanity that is deciding between two different shades of white to paint your bathroom. Ultimately, I came damned closed to preferring the original."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

HTML 5.1 Promoted to W3C Recommendation

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2016 - 03:26 PM |
Tagged: w3c

HTML is a format that translates text into a hierarchy of special objects, called elements, that can be arranged into Web content. The specification is controlled by the W3C, who just promoted HTML 5.1 to “W3C recommendation,” which is their final stage for a standard excluding errata or a wholly new version.

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Because standardization, intentionally, takes a very long time, this is not about new features or anything like that. In fact, one of the changes that I found interesting was the removal of appCache. This feature was originally designed for web applications to operate offline by ensuring everything it needs is stored locally. It wasn't really surprising, since Firefox actually warns users that it's deprecated since version 44, but notable none-the-less. (If anyone is wondering, Service Worker API replaced this API. Yes, I am aware of the Web standards joke “there are two standards for everything, but one is deprecated and the other is experimental”.)

If you're interested in just the changes, they are summarized here.

Source: W3C

Windows 7 and 8.1 did stop shipping to OEMs

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2016 - 12:57 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, OEM, windows, EoL

We've known for quite some time that Microsoft planned to stop providing OEMs with keys for Windows 7 or 8.1 this Halloween and they have made good on that promise.  If you already have a valid license you will contine to be able to use it on your machine and even reinstall from scratch but you won't be able to buy a machine without Windows 10 anymore.  On the corporate side this is being ignored, the new machine may ship with Win10 installed but that will not last long.  This is your last chance to grab one of the few remaining unused Windows 7 or 8.1 keys, The Register managed to spot at least one company still offering a Win7 downgrade so get moving if that is your plan.

windows-7.jpg

"If you can get Dell, HP Inc, Lenovo or any other PC-maker to sell you a PC running Windows 7 Professional or Windows 8.1, please let us know how you did it because Microsoft no longer sells the operating system to OEMs."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Logitech

Introduction and Specifications

The Prodigy G231 is the budget-minded gaming headset in the Prodigy line, and with a standard analog connection Logitech has emphasized stereo sound quality in lieu of the simulated surround effects found on their pricier G633/G933 models. I tested these headphones with a variety of material to find out how well the G231 works at providing entertaining audio, and how comfortable they are in the process.

DSC_0068.jpg

Plain old 2-channel stereo can still offer a fantastic listening experience for music, gaming, and movies - when it’s done right. Things like the perceived “width” of the stereo sound, clarity of audio across the frequency spectrum, and dynamic shifts in volume can go far in providing an immersive experience - even without surround effects. Logitech’s existing gaming headsets (G633, G933) performed very well as stereo cans when connected with a 3.5 mm cable, and if this G231 comes close it presents a good value proposition.

Still, 7.1 channel sound, even if it is being simulated with single-driver designs like Logitech’s, obviously has a lot of fans, and for good reason. Willingness to accept 2-channel headphones for gaming will be up to the individual, and just as there are enthusiasts who would no sooner accept simulated surround as use a sound bar in their home theater, there are listeners who believe that dedicated drivers are essential to proper directional surround in a gaming headset. Multi-driver presents its own issues for a cohesive experience from a variety of content, and stereo music in particular just sounds better from a pair of high quality drivers.

Continue reading our review of the Logitech Prodigy G231 gaming headset!!

Enter the AMD Massive Uprising Giveaway

Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2016 - 06:36 PM |
Tagged: gtribe, giveaway, gaming, amd

It would seem that yet another "first social media network for PC gamers" has arisen, but if you are so inclined to sign up there are giveaways including Battlefield 1 and a CyberPower gaming PC.  You have your chance to win either:

  • FOUR Grand Prize winners will each receive an ultimate gaming PC, meticulously handcrafted by CYBERPOWERPC and also receive a free download code for Battlefield 1, offered by Kinguin.  The combined value of the prizes is $9,200.
  • TEN First Prize winners will each receive a download code for Battlefield 1, courtesy of AMD Gaming.

It is a chance at a system with a Swiftech liquid-cooled XFX Radeon RX 480 Black Edition 8GB OC @ 1328 MHz GPU, and a plethora of Logitech G Prodigy gear plus BF1 ... or just BF1, for signing up on either Facebook or Twitter.  If you are interested then click away, if not then proceed directly to the comments to vent your spleen.

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Source: AMD

MSI Is Turning Thirty Years Old with Thirty Giveaways

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Motherboards | November 1, 2016 - 05:23 PM |
Tagged: msi, giveaway, giveaways, pc gaming

To celebrate their 30th anniversary, MSI is having a massive giveaway. Each day, from today (November 1st) to November 30th, you are able to answer a trivia question to be entered in that day's drawing. Being that it's MSI, they are also requiring that you capitalize every letter of your answer. I'm not joking; that really is in their How to Enter process. You also need to follow MSI and HyperX on Twitter to enter but, although the form is through Facebook, it looks like you do not need a Facebook account. I could be wrong about that last part, though.

msi-2016-30th-landing-page_102016_03.jpg

Also, winning a prize does not exclude you from winning future prizes. Don't bother trying to game the system, like waiting to enter until the “good prizes” but not the “great prizes” that will get too many entries, etc. Try every day if you can, even if you already won previously.

The prize for today is the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GAMING 4G from MSI, but they vary wildly from day to day. Even though NVIDIA is a partner in this giveaway, along with HyperX and Intel, there are even some AMD cards scattered throughout the month. I mean, it makes sense: MSI sells AMD cards. Their contest page claims that the total prize pool is up to $14,000 USD.

Check out the contest page for more details, and enter at the button below the list of prizes.

Source: MSI

Adobe Releases Another Flash Player Update for Linux

Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2016 - 12:49 PM |
Tagged: Adobe, linux, mozilla

Apparently I missed this the first time around, but Adobe has decided to continue supporting the NPAPI version of Flash Player on Linux. They have just released their second update, Flash Player 24 Beta, on October 28th for both 32- and 64-bit platforms. Before September, Adobe was maintaining Flash Player 11.2 with security updates. Adobe has also extended NPAPI support beyond 2017, which was supposed to be the original cut-off for that plug-in architecture on Linux, and pledge to keep “major version numbers in sync”.

homestar-smoothmoves.png

This took me by surprise. Browser vendors, even Mozilla, have been deprecating NPAPI for a while. Plug-ins are unruly from a security and performance standpoint, and they would much rather promote the Web standards that they work so hard to implement, rather than being a window frame around someone else's proprietary platform.

So what are Adobe thinking? Well, they claim that this “is primarily a security initiative”. As such, it would make sense that, possibly, and again I'm an outsider musing here, the gap between now and 11.2 was large enough that it would be easier to just maintain two branches.

Still, this seems a little... late... for that to be the reason, unless Adobe, then, expected Flash to die off and, now, see it hanging around a little while longer. Meanwhile, on the tools side of things, Adobe has pivoted Flash Professional into Animate CC, with the ability to export to HTML and JavaScript, so they don't really need to keep Flash on life support. It's not at feature parity, but it's getting there. Granted, a lot of the game and animation hosting sites are set up to just accept a packaged Flash file, so maybe that market is holding them back?

Whatever the reason, Flash on Linux is continuing to be supported for all browsers. If you find yourself at the intersection of Linux, Firefox, and hobbyist-developed Tower Defense games, you can pick up the latest plug-in at Adobe Labs.

Source: Adobe Labs