Amazon Chimes in with a videoconferencing solution that is primed to take on the big players

Subject: General Tech | February 14, 2017 - 01:39 PM |
Tagged: amazon, chime, videoconferencing

If there is one thing we are short on, it is incompatible videoconferencing applications to use and support.  Obviously this is why Amazon purchased Biba and has now leaped into the fray to provide Chime, a truly unique service which will transmit your voice and video over the internet in something called a conference.  Sarcasm aside, Amazon Web Services have proven that they provide a solid set of services, which will be the backbone of the new app.  Those who have struggled with Adobe's offering or tried to have a meeting during many of the outage periods which plague various other providers might want to take a look.

The basic service is free, Plus allows screen sharing and access to corporate directories for $2.50 per user a month and the Pro version runs $15, allowing up to 100 people in a video call as well as the all important personalized URL.  Pop by Slashdot if you so desire.

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"Amazon has released new service to make voice and video calls and share screen. Called Chime, the service is aimed at business users. It directly competes with well-known players such as Skype, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, Zoom, and Cisco's WebEx, among others."

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Source: Slashdot

Clearing storage newsblasts from cache

Subject: General Tech | February 13, 2017 - 12:59 PM |
Tagged: acronis, caringo, Cisco, fujitsu, Intel, mimecast

The Register received more than a few tidbits of news from a wide array of storage companies, which they have condensed in this post.  Acronis have released new versions of their Backup suite and True Image, with the Backup suite now able to capture Office 365 mailboxes.  Cisco have released a product which allows you to have your onsite cloud run like Azure while Fujitsu announced their mid-range ETERNUS AF650 all-flash array.  Intel have updated their implementation of the open source Lustre parallel file system for supercomputers and several companies released earning data, though Mimecast wished their news was better.

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"Incoming! Boom, boom and boom again – storage news announcements hit the wires in a relentless barrage. Here's a few we've received showing developments in data protection, cloud storage, hyper-converged storage, the dregs of flash memory and more."

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Source: The Register

Blender Foundation Releases 2.78b... for Performance!

Subject: General Tech | February 9, 2017 - 05:03 PM |
Tagged: Blender

It has been a few months since the release of 2.78, and the Blender Foundation has been sitting on a bunch of performance enhancements in that time. Since 2.79 is still a couple of months off, they decided to “cherry pick” a bunch of them back into the 2.78 branch and push out an update to it. Most of these updates are things like multi-threading their shader compiler for Cycles, speeding up motion blur in Cycles, and reducing “fireflies” in Cycles renders, which indirectly helps performance by requiring less light samples to average out the noise.

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I tried running two frames from different scenes of my upcoming PC enthusiast explanation video. While they’re fairly light, motion graphics sequences, they both use a little bit of motion blur (~half of a 60 Hz frame of integration) and one of the two frames is in the middle of three objects with volumetric absorption that are moving quite fast.

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The "easier" scene to render.

When disabling my GTX 670, and only using my GTX 1080, the easier scene went from 9.96s in 2.78a to 9.99s in 2.78b. The harsher scene, with volumetric absorption and a big streak of motion blur, went from 36.4s in 2.78a to 36.31s in 2.78b. My typical render settings include a fairly high sample count, though, so it’s possible that I could get away with less and save time that way.

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The "harsher" scene to render.

Blender is currently working on Agent 327, which is an upcoming animated feature film. Typically, these movies guide development of the project, so it makes sense that my little one-person motion graphics won’t have the complexity to show the huge optimizations that they’re targeting. Also, I had a lot of other programs running, which is known to make a significant difference in render time, although they were doing the same things between runs. No browser tabs were opened or closed, the same videos were running on other monitors while 2.78a and 2.78b were working, etc. But yeah, it's not a bulletproof benchmark by any means.

Also, some of the optimizations solve bugs with Intel’s CPU implementation as well as increase the use of SSE 4.1+ and AVX2. Unfortunately for AMD, these were pushed up right before the launch of Ryzen, and Blender with Cycles has been one of their go-to benchmarks for multi-threaded performance. While this won’t hurt AMD any more than typical version-to-version variations, it should give a last-minute boost to their competitors on AMD’s home turf.

Blender 2.78b is available today, free as always, at their website.

Have you ever noticed how popular June 21, 2006 is?

Subject: General Tech | February 9, 2017 - 01:51 PM |
Tagged: workaround, microsoft

Have you ever noticed how many drivers on your system are dated June 21st, 2006?  If not, pop open device manager and take a look at some of your devices which don't use a driver directly from the manufacturer.  Slashdot posted a link to the inimitable Raymond Chen who explains exactly why so many of your drivers bear that date.  The short version is that this is a workaround which prevents newer Microsoft drivers from overwriting manufacturer's drivers by ensuring the date stamp on the Microsoft driver will never have a more recent date.  This is especially important for laptop users as even the simple chipset drivers will be supplied by the manufacturer.  For instance this processor is old, but not that old!

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"When the system looks for a driver to use for a particular piece of hardware, it ranks them according to various criteria. If a driver provides a perfect match to the hardware ID, then it becomes a top candidate. And if more than one driver provides a perfect match, then the one with the most recent timestamp is chosen."

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Source: Slashdot

WebKit Proposal for WebGPU

Subject: General Tech | February 8, 2017 - 10:46 PM |
Tagged: webkit, webgpu, metal, vulkan, webgl

Apple’s WebKit team has just announced their proposal for WebGPU, which competes with WebGL to provide graphics and GPU compute to websites. Being from Apple, it is based on the Metal API, so it has a lot of potential, especially as a Web graphics API.

Okay, so I have mixed feelings about this announcement.

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First, and most concerning, is that Apple has attempted to legally block open standards in the past. For instance, when The Khronos Group created WebCL based on OpenCL, which Apple owns the trademark and several patents to, Apple shut the door on extending their licensing agreement to the new standard. If the W3C considers Apple’s proposal, they should be really careful about what legal control they allow Apple to retain.

From a functionality standpoint, this is very interesting, though. With the aforementioned death of WebCL, as well as the sluggish progress of WebGL Compute Shaders, there’s a lot of room to use one (or more) GPUs in a system for high-end compute tasks. Even if you are not interested in gaming on a web browser, although many people are, especially if you count the market that Adobe Flash dominated for the last ten years, you might want to GPU-accelerate photo and video tasks. Having an API that allows for this would be very helpful going forward, although, as stated, others are working on it, like The Khronos Group with WebGL compute shaders. On the other-other hand, an API that allows explicit multi-GPU would be even more interesting.

Further, it sounds like they’re even intending to ingest byte-code, like what DirectX 12 and Vulkan are doing with DXIL and SPIR-V, respectively, but it currently accepts shader code as a string and compiles it in the driver. This is interesting from a security standpoint, because it obfuscates what GPU-executed code consists of, but that’s up to the graphics and browser vendors to figure out... for now.

So when will we see it? No idea! There’s an experimental WebKit patch, which requires the Metal API, and an API proposal... a couple blog posts... a tweet or two... and that’s about it.

So what do you think? Does the API sound interesting? Does Apple’s involvement scare you? Or does getting scared about Apple’s involvement annoy you? Comment away! : D

Source: WebKit

A peek at The Bard’s Tale 4

Subject: General Tech | February 8, 2017 - 02:24 PM |
Tagged: gaming, bards tale, inxile

inXile have been very busy recently, doing a stellar job at resurrecting Wasteland into a new, modern RPG which is soon to see its third incarnation released.  The long anticipated Torment: Tides of Numenara arrives at the end of this month, the beta has been a tantalizing taste as was the YouTube 'choose your own adventure' teaser.  There is another project they have been working on, bringing the old Bard's Tale gaming into the modern era.  A trailer showing in-game footage, including combat has just been release which you can see over at Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN.  It certainly doesn't look like the Bard's Tale of old!

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"On the game HUD, you can see your party occupying 2 rows of 4 spaces each. Enemies will line up on the opposite grid with the same number of slots. The exact positioning of enemies, as well as your own party, will determine which attacks can land, and which will swing wild past their mark."

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FreeSync 2 - The Adaptification!

Subject: General Tech | February 8, 2017 - 12:44 PM |
Tagged: amd, FreeSync2, David Glen, Syed Hussain

TechARP published a video of their interview with AMD's David Glen and Syed Hussain in which they discussed what to expect from FreeSync 2.  They also listed some key points for those who do not wish to watch the full video; either can be found right here.  The question on most people's minds is answered immediately, this will not be a Vega only product and if your GPU supports the current version it will support the sequel.  We will not see support for it until a new driver is released, then again we also await new monitors to hit the market as well so it is hard to be upset at AMD for the delay.

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"While waiting for AMD to finalise Radeon FreeSync 2 and its certification program for their partners, let’s share with you our Q&A session with the two key AMD engineers in charge of the Radeon FreeSync 2 project – David Glen and Syed Athar Hussain."

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Source: Techgage

Star Wars Humble Bundle III; better than the movie!

Subject: General Tech | February 7, 2017 - 03:01 PM |
Tagged: gaming, Star Wars, humble bundle

Do like Star Wars games, PCPer and Unicef?  If so there is a Humble Bundle perfect for you running for the next two weeks.  Depending on how much you pay you can get up to 15 games and an X-Wing verus TIE Fighter t-shirt, with a percentage of your purchase helping us to continue to provide the content you love.  There is some overlap with previous bundles you may have picked up but for those of you missing KOTOR 1 or 2, The Force Unleashed 1 or 2, Shadows of the Empire or even the second Star Wars Battlefront game it is well worth the cost.

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How can you resist that t-shirt?

 

Intel's Atom C2xxx processors may just make like a banana and split

Subject: General Tech | February 7, 2017 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: Intel, c2000, Avoton

"System May Experience Inability to Boot or May Cease Operation" is not the errata note you want to read, but for those running devices powered by an Intel Avoton C2xxx family Atom processor it is something to pay attention to.  The Low Pin Count bus clock may stop functioning permanently after the chip has been in service for a time, rendering the device non-functional.  Intel had little to say about the issue when approached by The Register but did state that there is a board level workaround available to resolve the issue.

The Avoton famliy of chips were released in 2013 and were designed to compete against ARM's new low powered server chips.  The flaw is likely responsible for the issues with Cisco routers that have been reported on recently; the chip can also be found in the Synology DS1815+ and some Dell server products.  It will be interesting to see how Intel responds to this issue, they have a history of reluctance discussing flaws in their product's architecture.

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"Intel's Atom C2000 processor family has a fault that effectively bricks devices, costing the company a significant amount of money to correct. But the semiconductor giant won't disclosed precisely how many chips are affected nor which products are at risk."

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Source: The Register

Logitech Announces BRIO Webcam: 4K and HDR

Subject: General Tech | February 7, 2017 - 04:31 AM |
Tagged: logitech, webcam, brio, 4k, hdr

Today’s announcement of the Logitech BRIO rolls in many features that have been lacking in webcams. With it, you can record in 720p30, 720p60, 1080p30, 1080p60, and, the big reveal, 4K30. It is also capable of shooting in HDR using RightLight 3, although they don’t specify color space formats, so it’s unclear what you will be able to capture with video recording software.

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On top of these interesting video modes, the camera also supports infrared for Windows Hello “or other facial recognition software”. Unlike Intel’s RealSense, the webcam claims support for the relatively ancient Core 2 and higher, which sounds promising for AMD users. I’m curious what open-source developers will be able to accomplish, especially if it’s general enough to do background rejection (and so forth). Obviously, this is just my speculation -- Logitech hasn’t even hinted at this in their documentation.

As you would expect for a 4K sensor, Logitech is also advertising quite a bit of digital zoom. They claim up to 5X and FOVs user-configurable between 65 degrees and 90 degrees.

Finally, the price is $199 USD / $249 CDN and it ships today.

Source: Logitech