Do AMD Drivers Really Deserve Such a Hostile Reception?

Introduction


AMD has a serious image problem with their drivers which stems from buggy, unrefined updates, and a slow release schedule. Even though this perception began many years ago, it’s still impacting on the company’s sales and explains why their market share is so small. The Q4 2015 results from Jon Peddie Research suggests AMD reached a market share of 21.1% while NVIDIA reigned supreme with 78.8%. Although, the Q4 data is more promising because AMD accounted for a mere 18.8% during the last quarter. On the other hand, respected industry journal DigiTimes reports that AMD is likely to reach its lowest ever market position for Q1 2016. Thankfully, the financial results will emerge on April 21st so we should know the full picture relatively soon. Of course, the situation should improve once Polaris and Zen reach retail channels. Most importantly, AMD’s share price has declined by more than 67% in five years from $9 to under $3 as of March 28, 2016. The question is why?

Is the Hardware Competitive?


The current situation is rather baffling considering AMD’s extremely competitive product line-up in the graphics segment. For example, the R9 390 is a superb alternative to NVIDIA’s GTX 970 and features 8GB VRAM which provides extra headroom when using virtual reality equipment. The company’s strategy appears to revolves around minor differences in performance between the R9 390 and 390X. This also applied to the R9 290 and 290X due to both products utilizing the Hawaii core. NVIDIA employs a similar tactic with the GTX 970 and GTX 980 but there’s a marked price increase compared to their rivals.

NVIDIA’s ability to cater towards the lower tier demographic has been quite poor because competing GPUs including the 7850 and R9 380X provided a much better price to performance ratio. Not only that, NVIDIA’s decision to deploy ridiculously low video memory amounts on cards like the GTX 960 has the potential to cause headaches in the future. It’s important to remember that the GTX 960 can be acquired with either 2GB or 4GB of video memory. Honestly, they should have simplified the process and produced the higher memory model in a similar fashion to the R9 380X. Once again, AMD continues to offer a very generous amount of VRAM across various product tiers.

Part of the problem revolves around AMD’s sluggish release cycle and reliance on the Graphics Core Next (GCN) 1.1 architecture. This was first introduced way back in 2013 with the Radeon HD 7790. Despite its age, AMD deployed the GCN 1.1 architecture on their revised 390 series and didn’t do themselves any favours when denying accusations about the new line-up being a basic re-branding exercise. Of course, this proved to be the case and some users managed to flash their 290/290X to a 390/390X with a BIOS update. There’s nothing inherently wrong with product rebrands if they can remain competitive in the current market. It’s not exclusive to AMD, and NVIDIA have used similar business strategies on numerous occasions. However, I feel it’s up to AMD to push graphics technology forward and encourage their nearest rival to launch more powerful options.

Another criticism regarding AMD hardware which seems to plague everything they release is the perception that every GPU runs extremely hot. You only have to look on certain websites, social media and various forums to see this is the main source of people’s frustration. Some individuals are even known to produce images showing AMD graphics cards setting ablaze. So is there any truth to these suggestions? Unfortunately, the answer is yes and a pertinent example comes from the R9 290 range. The 290/290X reference models utilized one of the most inefficient cooler designs I’ve ever seen and struggled to keep the GPU core running below 95C under load.

Unbelievably, the core was designed to run at these high thermals and AMD created a more progressive RPM curve to reduce noise. As a result, the GPU could take 10-15 minutes to reach idle temperature levels. The Hawaii temperatures really impacted on the company’s reputation and forged a viewpoint among consumers which I highly doubt will ever disappear. It’s a shame because the upcoming Polaris architecture built on the 14nm FinFET process should exhibit significant efficiency gains and end the concept of high thermals on AMD products. There’s also the idea that AMD GPUs have a noticeably higher TDP than their NVIDIA counterparts. For instance, the R9 390 has a TDP of 275 watts while the GTX 970 only consumes 145 watts. On the other hand, the Fury X utilizes 250 watts compared to the GTX 980Ti’s rating of 275 watts.

Eventually, AMD released a brand new range of graphics cards utilizing the first iteration of high bandwidth memory. Prior to its release, expectations were high and many people expected the Fury X to dethrone NVIDIA’s flagship graphics card. Unfortunately, this didn’t come to fruition and the Fury X fell behind in various benchmarks, although it fared better at high resolutions. The GPU also encountered supply problems and emitted a large whine from the pump on early samples. Asetek even threatened to sue Cooler Master who created the AIO design which could force all Fury X products to be removed from sale.

The rankings alter rather dramatically when the DirectX 12 render is used which suggests AMD products have a clear advantage. Asynchronous Compute is the hot topic right now which in theory allows for greater GPU utilization in supported games. Ashes of the Singularity has implemented this for some time and makes for some very interesting findings. Currently, we’re working on a performance analysis for the game, but I can reveal that there is a huge boost for AMD cards when moving from DirectX11 to DirectX12. Furthermore, there are reports indicating that Pascal might not be able to use asynchronous shaders which makes Polaris and Fiji products more appealing.

Do AMD GPUs Lack Essential Hardware Features?


When selecting graphics hardware, it’s not always about pure performance and some consumers take into account exclusive technologies including TressFX hair before purchasing. At this time, AMD incorporates with their latest products LiquidVR, FreeSync, Vulkan support, HD3D, Frame rate target control, TrueAudio, Virtual Super resolution and more! This is a great selection of hardware features to create a thoroughly enjoyable user-experience. NVIDIA adopts a more secretive attitude towards their own creations and often uses proprietary solutions. The Maxwell architecture has support for Voxel Global Illumination, (VGXI), Multi Frame Sampled Anti-Aliasing (MFAA), Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR), VR Direct and G-Sync. There’s a huge debate about the benefits of G-Sync compared to FreeSync especially when you take into account the pricing difference when opting for a new monitor. Overall, I’d argue that the NVIDIA package is better but there’s nothing really lacking from AMD in this department.

Have The Drivers Improved?


Historically, AMD drivers haven’t been anywhere close to NVIDIA in terms of stability and providing a pleasant user-interface. Back in the old days, AMD or even ATI if we’re going way back, had the potential to cause system lock-ups, software errors and more. A few years ago, I had the misfortune of updating a 7850 to the latest driver and after rebooting, the system’s boot order was corrupt. To be fair, this could be coincidental and have nothing to do with that particular update. On another note, the 290 series was plagued with hardware bugs causing black screens and blue screens of death whilst watching flash videos. To resolve this, you had to disable hardware acceleration and hope that the issues subsided.

The Catalyst Control Center always felt a bit primitive for my tastes although it did implement some neat features such as graphics card overclocking. While it’s easy enough to download a third-party program like MSI Afterburner, some users might prefer to install fewer programs and use the official driver instead.

Not so long ago, AMD appeared to have stalled in releasing drivers for the latest games to properly optimize graphics hardware. On the 9th December 2014, AMD unveiled the Catalyst 14.12 Omega WHQL driver and made it ready for download. In a move which still astounds me, the company decided not to release another WHQL driver for 6 months! Granted, they were working on a huge driver redesign and still produced the odd Beta update. I honestly believe this was very damaging and prevented high-end users from considering the 295×2 or a Crossfire configuration. It’s so important to have a consistent, solid software framework behind the hardware to allow for constant improvements. This is especially the case when using multiple cards which require profiles to achieve proficient GPU scaling.

Crimson’s release was a major turning point for AMD due to the modernized interface and enhanced stability. According to AMD, the software package involves 25 percent more manual test cases and 100 percent more automated test cases compared to AMD Catalyst Omega. Also, the most requested bugs were resolved and they’re using community feedback to quickly apply new fixes. The company hired a dedicated team to reproduce errors which is the first step to providing a more stable experience. Crimson apparently loads ten times faster than its predecessor and includes a new game manager to optimize settings to suit your hardware. It’s possible to set custom resolutions including the refresh rate, which is handy when overclocking your monitor. The clean uninstall utility proactively works to remove any remaining elements of a previous installation such as registry entries, audio files and much more. Honestly, this is such a revolutionary move forward and AMD deserves credit for tackling their weakest elements head on. If you’d like to learn more about Crimson’s functionality, please visit this page.

However, it’s far from perfect and some users initially experienced worse performance with this update. Of course, there’s going to be teething problems whenever a new release occurs but it’s essential for AMD to do everything they can to forge a new reputation about their drivers. Some of you might remember, the furore surrounding the Crimson fan bug which limited the GPU’s fans to 20 percent. Some users even reported that this caused their GPU to overheat and fail. Thankfully, AMD released a fix for this issue but it shouldn’t have occurred in the first place. Once again, it’s hurting their reputation and ability to move on from old preconceptions.

Is GeForce Experience Significantly Better?


In recent times, NVIDIA drivers have been the source of some negative publicity. More specifically, users were advised to ignore the 364.47 WHQL driver and instructed to download the 364.51 beta instead. One user said:

“Driver crashed my windows and going into safe mode I was not able to uninstall and rolling back windows would not work either. I ended up wiping my system to a fresh install of windows. Not very happy here.”

NVIDIA’s Sean Pelletier released a statement at the time which reads:

“An installation issue was found within the 364.47 WHQL driver we posted Monday. That issue was resolved with a new driver (364.51) launched Tuesday. Since we were not able to get WHQL-certification right away, we posted the driver as a Beta.

GeForce Experience has an option to either show WHQL-only drivers or to show all drivers (including Beta). Since 364.51 is currently a Beta, gamers who have GeForce Experience configured to only show WHQL Game Ready drivers will not currently see 364.51

We are expecting the WHQL-certified package for the 364.51 Game Ready driver within the next 24hrs and will replace the Beta version with the WHQL version accordingly. As expected, the WHQL-certified version of 364.51 will show up for all gamers with GeForce Experience.”

As you can see, NVIDIA isn’t immune to driver delivery issues and this was a fairly embarrassing situation. Despite this, it didn’t appear to have a serious effect on people’s confidence in the company or make them re-consider their views of AMD. While there are some disgruntled NVIDIA customers, they’re fairly loyal and distrustful of AMD’s ability to offer better drivers. The GeForce Experience software contains a wide range of fantastic inclusions such as ShadowPlay, GameStream, Game Optimization and more. After a driver update, the software can feel a bit unresponsive and takes some time to close. Furthermore, some people dislike the notion of GameReady drivers being locked in the GeForce Experience Software.  If a report from PC World is correct, consumers might have to supply an e-mail address just to update their drivers through the application.

Before coming to a conclusion, I want to reiterate that my allegiances don’t lie with either company and the intention was to create a balanced viewpoint. I believe AMD’s previous failures are impacting on the company’s current product range and it’s extremely difficult to shift people’s perceptions about the company’s drivers. While Crimson is much better than CCC, it’s been the main cause of a horrendous fan bug resulting in a PR disaster for AMD.

On balance, it’s clear AMD’s decision to separate the Radeon group and CPU line was the right thing to do. Also, with Polaris around the corner and more games utilizing DirectX 12, AMD could improve their market share by an exponential amount. Although, from my experience, many users are prepared to deal with slightly worse performance just to invest in an NVIDIA product. Therefore, AMD has to encourage long-term NVIDIA fans to switch with reliable driver updates on a consistent basis. AMD products are not lacking in features or power, it’s all about drivers! NVIDIA will always counteract AMD releases with products exhibiting similar performance numbers. In my personal opinion, AMD drivers are now on par with NVIDIA and it’s a shame that they appear to be receiving unwarranted criticism. Don’t get me wrong, the fan bug is simply inexcusable and going to haunt AMD for some time. I predict that despite the company’s best efforts, the stereotypical view of AMD drivers will not subside. This is a crying shame because they are trying to improve things and release updates on a significantly lower budget than their rivals.

Microsoft Releases Roadmap for Windows 10

When Microsoft released Windows 10 there were mixed opinions, with many saying that the unstable and unsupported features it presented meant that upgrading came at a risk. People then raised issues when they found that there were no Windows 10 update notes, a decision they eventually changed. Most recently they’ve come under fire due to the UWP, a system that’s been used in both their current releases and has even raised a developer to question their commitment to gamers. In order to help ease our questions, Microsoft has now released a roadmap showing what has, and what is to come.

In development is the ability to use a Windows or Android phone to store remote credentials to unlock your Windows 10 PC’s and use an app to unlock anything that runs Microsoft’s passport or Windows Hello systems. This will then be expanded with companion devices like the Microsoft Band 2 being used in two-factor authentication to unlock your PC’s.

Enjoy viewing your screen somewhere else? Microsoft is currently working on streaming Continuum-compatible devices to any screen connected to a Windows 10 PC while another feature they list is the ability to stream your entire PC experience to another PC. With Picture in Picture mode and the remote display experience also in the works, a key focus seems to be sharing the Windows 10 experience on a variety of devices.

With nothing achieved or cancelled at the moment, it will be interesting to see how these projects go and which ones come alive in the future. You can check out the roadmap here  to see the long list of potential and upcoming features for yourself.

VS Mode Coming to Killing Floor 2

Killing Floor started it’s life as a mod, with up to 6 players facing off against wave after wave of ZEDs only to face their creator, the Patriarch, at the end. In a market where competitive gaming is the focus of many games when Killing Floor got a stand alone release the cooperative nature of the game made it stand out. The games sequel, Killing Floor 2, looks to continue this tradition, but for those who like to put their friends in their places, you will be able to thanks to the reveal of an upcoming VS mode for the game.

During PC Gamers Weekender Event, several new features were revealed for Killing Floor 2, including new game mode and maps. With ZEDs coming in an array of forms, from the slow but numerous Clots to the stealthy and deadly Stalkers, players will soon be able to choose between playing as a human defending their life, and ZEDs who would be made all that much happier with the humans removal from the game. If that wasn’t enough, both the Patriarch and Hans (an additional boss that you have a chance of facing instead of the Patriarch) will both be playable as well.

In order to fend off the new threat, players will soon be able to equip the sniper perk class. With the lever action rifle and crossbow bringing deadly precision to the game followed only by the M14EBR, snipers will be able to quickly decimate the ranks with well-placed shots. The end result for a sniper though will be the new Horizon Tech Railgun, a weapon we can all but wait for.

In addition to this, two maps from Tripwires mapping content will also be included in the game soon. With Hostile Grounds looking to force you to survive wave after wave, Containment Station is an objective based map, forcing players to defend points and complete hidden objectives in order to survive.

Minecraft Update Brings More Features to Windows 10 & Pocket Edition

When it was released people couldn’t stop talking about it, while the graphics were done in blocks Minecraft’s simple graphics has done nothing but focus people’s attention on the options and gameplay choices. With versions for every console, including the Wii U, and people creating everything from houses to working mobile phones, it’s no surprise that when Microsoft brought out the game, they wanted to keep expanding on it. The latest update sees just that for the Windows 10 Beta and Pocket Edition.

Titled the “Overworld” update, everything from new visual updates to new gameplay choices have been added. Amongst this list, you can create some of the more advanced Redstone components, from creating repeaters and dispensers to trapped chests (for all those ‘visitors’ to your house). If you go near a swamp be warned as the spooky witches will now be there protecting their cauldrons, containing all kinds of randomly generated potion’s.

Microsoft seems keen to expand on the already popular game, with the release of an “educational edition” this summer. I haven’t played the game in a while and was thinking of booting up the server again at some point, but what do you all think? Has Minecraft had its time? Are you still playing the game and if so do you think the updates are enough to keep people interested or are the mods people create more useful when you want to find something new to do?

Garmin Unveils The “Quatix 3” Luxury Watch

The humble watch is seen as somewhat old-fashioned compared to the digital life that nearly all consumers live these days, tech companies on the other hand, have been looking to integrate various digital features within so-called smart watches with the aim of marketing the product for the 21st century. Global GPS brand Garmin who are synonymous with Sat Navs have unveiled a new watch by the name of the Quatix 3.

Below is a quick rundown of the announced specifications.

  • Physical dimensions – 2.0” x 2.0” x 0.6” (51.5 x 51.5 x 16.0 mm)
  • Display Size – 1.2” (30.4 mm) diameter
  • Display resolution – WxH – 218 x 218 pixels; transflective MIP colour; sapphire lens
  • Weight – 3.0 oz (85 g)
  • Battery life – Up to 50 hours in UltraTrac mode; up to 20 hours in GPS training mode; up to 6 weeks in watch mode

The watch also comes equipped with a “protective stainless steel EXO bezel and buttons”.

If you happen to be a fisherman or an avid race boat enthusiast, the Quatix 3 has you covered, below is a quick summary of these targeted features.

  • Saltwater fishermen – Will have features available to them that include navigational as well as NMEA 2000 data including depth, speed, water temperature etc.
  • Sailors – Will have the option to receive data that includes a virtual starting line feature that lets you set up a starting line between 2 marked GPS waypoints, e.g., a buoy and the committee boat
  • The watch also contains an Altimeter, Barometer and Compass.

The watch is expected to be released within the first quarter of April 2016, prices are expected to be $599.99 (£420.54).

It will be interesting to see if this watch has a great appeal within the general consumer market when you consider many of the features are targeted at a specific audience. Garmin will hope this watch will be able to hold its own, it makes sense for Garmin to implement its knowledge within a new smartwatch.

Ubisoft Confirms The Division Will Have Multi GPU Support And More!

Ubisoft has historically struggled to produce optimized PC versions of their major game releases which scale properly across a wide range of hardware configurations. For example, Watch Dogs ran extremely poorly, and didn’t really utilize SLI setups in an effective way. Additionally, it’s difficult to forget the complete mess that is Assassin’s Creed: Unity. As the PC gaming market continues to grow, it seems Ubisoft is finally starting to realize its potential and might just be investing the right resources to create a proper PC release. According to the publisher, The Division will not be a port, and feature a huge array of PC specific features:

  • Flexible user interface: move, scale and adjust the opacity of the HUD.
  • Intuitive controls: navigate easily through the interface, inventory panels and map designed specifically to be used with a mouse or a controller.
  • Full mouse & keyboard support: opt for the high precision mouse and keyboard experience and switch to a controller in the middle of any encounter without interruption.
  • Text chat: team up with more agents of The Division by using the in-game text chat.
  • Optimized graphic settings & customised GPU effects: adjust a vast variety of technology treats, from realistic lighting, shading, snow particles, local reflection, fog volumetric scattering, depth of field and much more…
  • Multi-GPU support: unleash the graphic power of the best computer set ups for jaw-dropping graphics powered by Massive Entertainment’s game engine Snowdrop.
  • Multi-screen support: play with up to three screens for the most immersive and stunning experience of The Division.
  • Multi-resolutions: opt for 1080p or 4k and automatically adapt the resolution to fit multi-screen configurations with FOV correction.
  • Unlocked framerate: let the most powerful computer reach the highest framerate.
  • HBAO+: enjoy the most realistic shadowing, lighting algorithm and ambient occlusion.

While, I’m still fairly cautious given Ubisoft’s chequered past, it’s fantastic to see HBAO+ implementation, multi-GPU support, an unlocked frame-rate, and native support for high resolution monitors. I do wonder if the resolution options extends to 21:9 panels without requiring a UI fix. Clearly, the PC version offers a huge boost in graphical fidelity compared to the current crop of consoles but there’s always suggestions about the visuals being downgraded. Despite this, the screens so far look pretty good, and it will be interesting to see the performance on various setups. Thankfully, I’ve already got my beta access code, and should be able to write-up a technical analysis once the beta officially begins.

Basic Solid State Drive Features Explained

When we report on storage news as well as in our reviews, we use a lot of terms and features that might not be familiar to everyone. The words and acronyms sound good and you chose your products based on whether they are present or not. But what do they actually mean? That is something that I’ll try to explain a little more today. I think there is a little bit for everyone here, whether you’re an advanced system builder or new to the area.

First I’ll start out with the basic features that are present in almost any storage drive these days, whether it’s a flash drive, hard disk drive, or solid state drive, and then slowly move on to the more exclusive features further down.


S.M.A.R.T.

S.M.A.R.T. is the most basic feature that you’ll find and at the same time it is one of the most useful ones. S.M.A.R.T. stands for Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology and it is a way for the drive to keep track of itself and let you have access to the information too. There are many tools out there that can read out the information for you and most systems can also keep track of them trough BIOS and chipset functions. A simple and free tool to get access to the information is CrystalDiskInfo.

Most SMART values are can be two values, either good or bad, but there are a few that keep track of total reads, writes, and power-on hours as well. An application like CrystalDiskInfo will also show you the expected health status as you can see in the image above.

S.M.A.R.T. can also include self-tests that can be run manually or scheduled by a lot of systems. The short and long tests will check electrical and mechanical performance and are basically identical. The short will only test small parts of the area where the long test will test the entire surface of the disk with no time limit.


TRIM

TRIM, also know as a Trim command, is a way for the operating system to inform a solid state drive which blocks of data are no longer considered in use and can be wiped. Internally, SSD operations are quite a bit different from HDD operations and TRIM was created because of that. The typical way in which operating systems handle deletes and formats would result in progressive performance degradation of write operations on SSDs.

With TRIM, the SSD is able to handle the garbage collection itself and free up the cells for new writes. We all know that a deleted file in the operating system doesn’t mean a deleted file on the drive, not until the physical location of the file has been overwritten. A mechanical drive handles a write and an overwrite action the same way, but an SSD doesn’t. It would first need to erase the area before it can write there again. It also means that a deleted file is gone ones the Trim command has processed the area.

There are manual tools to trigger the Trim command, but they’re aren’t needed if you got a modern operating system. There are independent tools for it and pretty much any SSD toolbox and software also has a button to send the command to the drive. This is a thing that we can expect to see removed from such software in the future as it’s fully automatic now.


Garbage Collection

Garbage collection is basically the same function, except that the garbage collection is performed on a drive level where TRIM is an operating system function. In return, it means that it also works on systems that don’t support TRIM and helps to keep the performance up.

I could go a lot into detail about how it works, but then we’re missing the point of easy information in this article. Without TRIM or garbage collection, the SSD doesn’t know what files have been marked as deleted and aren’t no longer needed. Those deleted data might still be moved around on the drive itself when it is optimizing and that will result in a lot of extra writes. There are many ways this is implemented in drives and it comes down to the drive itself, the controller, and manufacturer how exactly it works.


Wear Leveling

There are two types of wear leveling, dynamic and static. Static is also sometimes referred to as global wear leveling and it is this type that we usually find in solid state drives. Dynamic wear leveling, on the other hand, is mostly found on flash drives. Both types will attempt to use all physical flash equally so one chip doesn’t burn out before the rest and render the drive useless. Where the static will do this on the entire drive, the dynamic will only do this with memory blocks that get replacement data. The static wear leveling is a little slower but gives the drive a longer life expectancy. It doesn’t just help to prolong the life of the drives, it also helps with a more even performance.


DevSleep

DevSleep, DevSlp, or Device Sleep are all words for the same thing and it is the newest and most effective way for drives to enter a low-power sleep mode. In traditional low-power modes, the SATA link still needed to remain powered on to allow the device to receive a wake-up signal again. With DevSlp, the rarely used 3.3 V power connection is used instead to send the signal, allowing the drive to enter an even deeper sleep state by turning off more functions. The return is an even faster response time when it wakes up again and less power consumption. This is particularly useful for notebook users.


PFM+, IPS, and more

These are all synonyms for basically the same function, so I’ll stick with one that is present in one of the drives that we’ve recently reviewed: Power failure management plus (PFM+) that is present in OCZ’s Vector 180 series. With different names, they all perform the same function: get as much data safely to the storage drive in case of a power failure. There are extra capacitors in the drive that store currency in order to flush more data to the flash cells before all the power is gone. The capacitors also ensure that all metadata is safe and that the drive will continue to operate normally after a power loss, i.e. the NAND mapping table won’t be lost, which can brick the drive or at least slow down the next boot up as the drive has to go through a recovery process. This used to be a feature reserved to enterprise class drives, but we see it enter more and more enthusiast drives too.


ECC

ECC or Error Correction Code is present in a lot of devices and it is no different for solid state drives. It is an extra code that allows the drive to correct minor errors in sector reads and to recover data from sectors that have gone bad while storing that data in the spare sectors. It is basically what it says it is. It corrects errors.

Low-density parity-check (LDPC) is the go-to standard today for multiple reasons that I won’t go to much into here. In the past, it was rather BCH that was used, but that isn’t an effective method for modern SSDs. To say it short, LPDC allows you to correct more errors for the same ratio of user data to ECC parity. With ECC, fewer actions have to be repeated in case something goes wrong which in return gives a better overall performance.

Microsoft Previews New Windows 10 Feature

In an understated announcement, Microsoft revealed and released an early preview build of Windows 10, featuring functional nested virtualization. Or in simpler terms, Windows running on Windows, running on Windows, like a matryoshka doll of computers. And while this may seem simple and silly at first glance, think about all the components that make your PC work. For even a single virtual machine, your PC has to fool a copy of Windows (or any other operating system) into thinking it has access to those things, not to mention the resources the physical machine has to surrender to the virtual machine. So to allow a virtual machine to properly share all of these things to a virtual machine of its own is no small feat.

What does this mean for Windows 10? For one, it makes Windows 10 more attractive to developers. When fully implemented, the nested virtualization could allow a developer to run and test their application on different versions of Windows or how their application runs in a virtual environment while keeping it entirely isolated from their own machine inside of a main test virtual machine. The feature also works as a proof-of-concept of the feature that could be including in the upcoming Windows Server 2016, where businesses could run multiple sub-servers or use it to test the usage of their virtual machine configurations without having to risk a host system, which would require far more effort to recover. On a less serious note, there are certainly people out there who would just get a kick out of seeing what they could do with the ability to use these features.

Of course, this is currently a very early preview, complete with the limitations and bugs of such a release, the details of these, including how you try it yourself using the preview build can be found on Microsoft’s own Virtualization Blog.

As a regular user of virtual machines, I’m eager to see how this feature is implemented and whether it helps Windows 10’s adoption in the professional world. Does this feature appeal to you, from a tinkering or professional perspective, or does this seem unnecessary while the storm of discussion over Windows 10s current state rages on?

Beats Launches New Beats Pill+ Bluetooth Wireless Speaker

The brand Beats and its Pill lines have been somewhat a revelation since entering the market in 2012, from celebrity endorsements to a booming sales forecast, this form of portable wireless unit has certainly captured the imagination of consumers. Now, the company has announced a new incarnation of the successful Beats Pill series with hopes of expanding its base even further.

Today, (7th October 2015) Beats have introduced a new product by the name of the Pill+ speaker, below are the announced features within the press release.

Sound – The Beats Pill+ is slightly larger than the original Beats Pill speaker, allowing for a bigger and fuller sound. The stereo active 2-way crossover system creates an optimized sound field for dynamic range and clarity across all genres of music. Tweeter and woofer separation uses the same acoustic mechanics found in professional recording studios around the world.

Design – . Compact and durable enough to throw in your bag, the Beats Pill+ has implemented convenient button controls which are now at the top of the speaker.

Power management – The Beats Pill+ speaker has a 12-hour battery life to stay charged on the go. The lightning cable and power supply provide a quick full charge in just 3 hours. Keep track of your power levels with the fuel gauge so you always know how much battery is left and use the USB port to charge out.

Additionally, a new feature by the name of the “Beats Pill+ app for iOS and Android devices” takes full advantage of app functionally. The additional features include controlling two Bluetooth sources, allowing consumers the chance to play from two Pill Plus speakers and also the opportunity to sync two units together for dedicated left and right playback and also a dynamic experience.

These features may be “added value” in order to increase the price instead of being of use to many consumers. The product is priced at $229.95, but it remains to be seen concerning the RRP for other countries and the release date is expected to be around November 2015 for the US.

Thank you businesswire for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of wired

Firefox On iOS? There’s A Catch With That!

Mozilla Firefox have deployed new ways of attracting a bigger share of the browser-based market, now, users of iPhones and iPads who would like an alternative to their current mobile browsers might have found one, as Mozilla is going to begin rolling out the first public preview version of the popular and well-recognised browser for iOS. Sounds good, slight problem with that, you may need your passport.

Mozilla is aiming to garner public opinion and feedback in order to develop the software for the Apple platform, ready to immediately test drive the software? Good, I take it you do reside in New Zealand. Yep, Firefox in their blog post have stated that “we will be collecting feedback in one country, before we extend availability to get feedback in a few more countries prior to a full public launch” Did Mozilla throw a dart to determine which country would receive the preview first?

So, what features will the good folks in New Zealand have available to them? The preview release features include,

  • Intelligent Search – Which provides suggested search results and the choice of search providers
  • Firefox accounts – take your Firefox browser history, passwords and tabs from your desktop to your iOS devices.
  • Tabs – Visual Tabs, an intuitive way to keep track of your open tabs

If you’re a Kiwi and would like Firefox on iOS, then by all means test the first preview, if you’re not a Kiwi but would like to try the software, you will have to wait until Mozilla throws another dart to decide the next country to be rewarded with the version.

Thank you mozilla blog for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of wmpoweruser

Massive Witcher 3 Update 1.07 Patch Rolls Out Today

CD Projekt Red’s extensive work on the 1.07 Patch for the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is rolling out today! And the developer confirmed a long list of bug fixes and other issues that were grieving players and also adding an alternative movement scheme for Geralt.

The newest patch for the open world adventure game is already going out with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of the game. The community lead Marcin Momot said earlier today that the patch will go out for all versions of the game within 24 hours.

At around more than 7GB, this update is huge, although this isn’t the biggest patch we have ever seen, but with a patch this big it should be adding a lot of new features for Witcher 3 players. The update will also be adding a new array of stash location for storing gear, improvements coming to the game’s inventory system, a re-organization of books, among other things. Full change log below.

Usually we have seen huge updates for games that experience huge bug issues, Assassins Creed Unity for example, but in this case the developers are treating the player base to a huge update with tons of new features and a handful of bug fixes, are you excited for the new update for Witcher 3?

  • ntroduces an alternative movement style for Geralt. To enable, go to the Gameplay\Movement Response submenu.
  • Fixes a rare issue where the player’s horse would not fall to the ground properly.
  • Fixes a rare issue where the player could be locked into the aiming animation if hit while throwing a bomb on horseback.
  • Fixes a rare issue with an infinite loading screen in the Ladies of the Wood quest.
  • Includes a variety of collision fixes.
  • Fixes an issue where Wild Hunt warriors would remain present even after the player completed the main storyline.
  • Fixes an issue where players could repeatedly buy foreign currency from a loan shark and sell it at the Vivaldi Bank.
  • Fixes an exploit whereby players could loot gold from a single chest more than once.
  • Fixes an issue whereby some skills were not properly removed after the player used the Potion of Clearance.
  • Fixes an issue with target locking, which should now be more responsive.
  • Introduces a number of changes in selected game-world areas to prevent players from unexpectedly progressing quests or leaving the playable area by climbing certain elements of the landscape.
  • Fixes an issue where sometimes players could not use Signs after reaching Skellige for the first time.
  • Fixes an issue where damage from certain sources was incorrectly calculated.
  • Fixes an issue where the durability of alternative weapons did not drop as intended.
  • Fixes an issue where the game would remain in slow motion if the player had used manual targeting.
  • Fixes an issue whereby meditation could be blocked by certain quests.
  • Fixes an issue where Stamina did not always regenerate properly.
  • Fixes an issue where Geralt’s statistics could be multiplied if the player stood in a Dimeritium bomb cloud while the Cluster skill was activated.
  • Introduces a number of fixes, improvements and clarifications in the map-pins and objectives for multiple quests.
  • Fixes an issue where in certain circumstances gravity ceased to apply to the player’s horse.
  • Adds a stash for player convenience. Players can now store loot in their stash, access to which is available in different parts of the world. Stash locations are marked on the map.
  • Fixes an issue whereby the player’s horse would often stop abruptly before bridges or other narrow passages.
  • Fixes an issue whereby encumbrance was not updating correctly, resulting in players being overburdened where in fact they were not.
  • Fixes a rare issue where players were unable to choose different Signs.
  • Fixes an issue where the player was sometimes unable to craft glyphs.
  • Fixes an issue where not all merchants would accept junk loot.
  • All crafting components and alchemy ingredients now weigh nothing.
  • Fixes an issue where certain armor/hairstyle combinations interacted incorrectly.
  • Fixes an issue where instances of the Quen Sign would occasionally burst during dialogue scenes.
  • Fixes a rare issue where the player could not play gwent with Madame Serenity at the Passiflora.
  • The Zoltan gwent card should now always be present beneath the Hanged Man’s Tree if the player does not win it earlier in White Orchard.
  • Fixes a rare issue where players could not talk to, or play gwent with, the innkeeper at the Inn at the Crossroads.
  • Includes a number of wording and spelling fixes in multiple localized versions.
  • Introduces a number of improvements in the game streaming system. Players should experience fewer blurred textures, NPC spawn times should be markedly reduced, and there should be an overall improvement in the speed with which game assets are loaded. Streaming system improvements should be most noticeable on consoles and systems with non-SSD drives.
  • Improves performance in the swamps of the No Man’s Land region.
  • Fixes an issue whereby the presence of fog could adversely affect game performance.
  • Optimizes various FX which should result in improved performance during the Battle of Kaer Morhen quest.
  • Introduces a number of optimizations that improve overall performance throughout the game.
  • Improves overall game performance.
  • Fixes an issue where Keira’s magic bubble could adversely affect performance.
  • Fixes an issue whereby the mouse cursor would remain visible during in-game video playback.
  • Adds a warning if the user runs out of disk space and wants to crate a new game save.
  • Fixes an issue whereby Colorblind mode was not properly saved.
  • Fixes an issue whereby Zoltan would sometimes appear in the incorrect location after the Novigrad, Closed City quest.
  • Fixes an issue during the Last Wish quest whereby Geralt would continue his conversation with Yennefer after they parted.
  • Fixes an issue where two simultaneous instances of some characters would appear in a scene in the Broken Flowers quest.
  • Fixes an issue whereby some objectives were not available to the player and would be automatically failed during the Battle of Kaer Morhen quest..
  • Fixes an issue where in certain circumstances Lambert did not board the boat during the Final Trial quest.
  • Fixes an issue where in certain circumstances Madame Serenity was improperly placed during the Deadly Plot quest.
  • Fixes an issue where the Fake Papers quest would be failed if the player did not mention that one of the brothers was dead.
  • Fixes an issue whereby players would sometimes be unable to start the final horse race, The Heroes’ Pursuits: For the Goddess’ Glory! in Skellige.
  • Fixes an issue where unintended objects were present in Novigrad after the Battle of Kaer Morhen quest.
  • Fixes an issue where a progression break could occur if Geralt was knocked out by guards while following the Bloody Baron during the Family Matters quest.
  • Fixes an issue where players were sometimes unable to interact with a torch in the Get Junior quest.
  • Fixes an issue where players could sometimes experience an infinite loading screen during the Iron Maiden quest.
  • Fixes an issue where in certain circumstances players could encounter a blocker during the Contract: The Apiarian Phantom quest. Players who have encountered this bug need to backtrack to the frozen hive and examine the footprints around it again.
  • Fixes an issue whereby the player could get locked inside a room during the Through Time and Space quest.
  • Fixes an issue where on rare occasions players were unable to progress the game after the Get Junior quest, specifically upon reaching Vernon Roche’s camp.
  • Fixes an issue whereby purchasing wine during the It Takes Three to Tango quest would not always progress the quest properly.
  • Fixes an issue where the In Wolf’s Clothing quest did not progress properly after the player read Morkvarg’s journal.
  • Fixes an issue where on some rare occasions players were unable to interact with the Wild Hunt soldier’s body during the Echoes of the Past quest.
  • Fixes an issue whereby Keira would not always properly use the portal during the For the Advancement of Learning quest if asked to go to Kaer Morhen.
  • Fixes an issue where the Scoia’tael from Novigrad was not always available to play in the Gwent quest.
  • Fixes an issue where the player could get blocked inside a cellar during the King’s Gambit quest.
  • Fixes an issue where in certain situations the player was unable to find Triss during the Final Preparations quest.
  • Fixes an issue where occasionally the Kingfisher tavern was left without an innkeeper after the Now or Never quest.
  • Fixes an issue where Yennefer was not spawned in Oxenfurt during the Great Escape quest.
  • Fixes a rare issue where Captain Wolverstone was not at the Golden Sturgeon when intended.
  • Fixes a rare issue where the bodyguards in the Reason of State quest were not hostile.
  • Fixes a rare issue where the griffin would not always appear in the Contract: The Creature from the Oxenfurt Forest quest.
  • Fixes an issue where the wyvern would not appear in the Contract: Phantom of the Trade Route quest.
  • Fixes an issue with enlisting Sukrus from Skellige to be Hattori’s bodyguard in the Of Swords and Dumplings quest.
  • Fixes a rare issue whereby the visions in the Echoes of the Past quest were not displayed.
  • The Contract: Devil by the Well quest no longer counts towards the Geralt: The Professional achievement.
  • Fixes a rare issue when the player could not speak with Lambert at Kaer Morhen during the Final Trial quest.
  • Fixes a rare issue where players could not always complete the Hey, You Wanna Look at my Stuff? quest.
  • Fixes an issue where players were sometimes unable to summon a horse after the Fencing Lessons quest.
  • Fixes an issue where in the Scavenger Hunt: Viper School Gear quest the gate to the mausoleum was locked.
  • Fixes an issue where players could not use Signs or swords after the fistfight at the Rosemary and Thyme during the Broken Flowers quest.
  • Fixes a rare issue whereby players could not examine the source of interference during the Disturbance quest.
  • Fixes an issue with the Dirty Funds quest.
  • Fixes a rare issue with a loading screen in the Contract: The Phantom of Eldberg quest.
  • Fixes a issue with a loading screen at Aeramas’ residence during the Of Dairy and Darkness quest.
  • Fixes an issue where quest givers for the Deadly Delights and Jenny o’ the Woods contracts would disappear.
  • Introduces a number of improvements to overall game stability.
  • Fixes an issue where the Potion of Clearance would pop into the quick slot if the player ran out of food.
  • Adds a Books tab to the Inventory panel.
  • Introduces a number of additional loading screen hints.
  • Introduces a pinning feature for formulae and diagrams. Ingredients and components for pinned formulae/diagrams are highlighted in the shop view. This should greatly facilitate the purchase of currently needed elements.
  • Introduces a feature whereby currently equipped items are highlighted in the Repair panel, facilitating prioritization of items needing repair.
  • Adds a feature whereby read and unread books are marked differently in the Inventory panel.
  • The list of all available DLC packages is now displayed in the Main Menu/Options/Downloadable Content submenu for better clarity.
  • Enabled additional settings that decreases the hair and fur image quality slightly, without compromising its general appearance, to optimize HairWorks on a wider range of hardware.

 

Update For GTA V Released

Oh the fun times I have had over the years with this game series, from the original Grand Theft Auto on the now vastly outdated but immensely fun PS1, to GTA V on the latest consoles and PC via Vice City and San Andreas. This game has been surprising yet brilliant entertainment and has also had cutting edge storytelling for the times with which the games were released.

The Latest addition to the series has benefited with a new update for the PC version which is a hefty -ish 400MB in size and will be auto-downloaded from Steam and Rockstar Social Club. So what does the new content have in store? Well to summarize as I don’t want to strain your eyes to death, the new features are as follows

  • 5 New vehicles for Legendary Motorsport for Story Mode
  • Two new weapons have been added to Ammu-Nation for Story Mode and GTA Online which unlock once player progresses to a certain point.
  • 15 new tattoos, 100s of new clothing items and 8 casual glasses.
  • Nine unique Knuckle Duster variants are available from Ammu-Nation for various story modes for the latest generation of consoles and PC.

Scarves and Cuffs have been added to the accessories section in the interaction menu ( this again is for latest consoles and PC)

Above are just the key points among many for this update, as for fixes, these amount to at least 100 in total which are split across various machines. There is no official log as yet for the update but this will be released in due course so stay tuned. Well at least Rockstar have kept the game fresh and interesting with new features, now if you excuse me, I’m off to hit some people with a bat, IN THE GAME! Before anyone has any ideas.

Thank You Dark Side Of Gaming for giving us this information

Rocksteady Studios Rolls out 3.5 GB Day One Patch for Arkham Knight

Like all games being released nowadays, Batman: Arkham Knight needs a huge day one patch to get it working. This comes after players inevitably get frustrated by waiting for a game and not being able to play it even if they have it already installed and ready to go. I really don’t get developers and their strategy today, but we may have to get used to it.

Rocksteady just launched a 3.5 GB day one patch for the title, promising to deliver more performance improvements, stability fixes and other goodies. Hopefully, along with AMD’s and NVIDIA’s newly released drivers, we might see the game running to an extent where it is ‘playable’, though we might need to wait for a couple of patch releases to actually see it working properly.

The full patch notes are as follows:

  • Improved Performance
  • Stability Fixes
  • New feature: Rival Points
  • New feature: Original Batsuit skin available to select
  • Support for “A Matter Of Family” additional content
  • General gameplay, graphical, audio, UI, and localization fixes

The real question here is whether it’s worth pre-ordering. I mean, we see more and more that titles don’t work properly once released, huge day one patches that hope to fix these problems and constant updates to actually see the game working as expected… months before it gets released. Shouldn’t we like wait until they get fixed properly before we buy them? What do you think?

Thank you GamingBolt for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of UOL

Facebook Knows When You Missed The Flash

Let’s picture the scene, you upload a snap of a special occasion to your Facebook account to share with your friends, family and followers, as there are many people in the scene you decide to tag everyone individually, you think this will be easier for everyone, but there’s a problem, Facebook doesn’t recognize you as the moment the flash went off, you were pictured with your head to one side attempting to avoid a wasp which came hurtling towards you at warp speed.

Help may soon be at hand with an experimental algorithm which has been devised by Facebook’s artificial intelligence lab. This new technique is software which can recognise people in photographs even when it is unable to see their faces; instead it relies on points of reference which are unique to each individual. This can include hair style, specific clothing and even the pose which you often strike.

In order to test the final algorithm, researchers downloaded 40,000 public photos from Flickr which contained a mixture of clearly and obscure images of individuals. The algorithm was able to recognize the identities of individuals with an 83% success rate. As this is Facebook I am sure privacy of these photos were high on their agenda, cough cough.

This experiment does have the potential for real world applications, but there needs to be caution exercised if a machine can identify you without you wanting it to. If someone takes a photo before uploading the image to Facebook and you happen to be in the background, this algorithm will identify you for all to see.

Thank You New Scientist for providing us with this information

Image Courtesy of Geek Snack

Microsoft Listed the Features You Won’t See in Windows 10

As the release of Microsoft’s latest distribution of Windows approaches, we all need to be informed on what changes to expect from the company. This is why the company listed a few deprecated features for users to know what the final build will miss compared to previous versions.

Of course, we will see some driver compatibility issues at first with older hardware, but we are more interested in what features are not included compared to Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. From what we can see, Microsoft is stripping out the Media Center completely, along with Windows 7’s gadgets.

Solitaire, Minesweeper and Hearts Games will be removed as soon as users upgrade to Windows 10, but the latest distribution is said to come with a new version of the latter games named Microsoft Solitaire Collection and Microsoft Minesweeper. Also, I don’t think anyone is using a Floppy Disk nowadays, but it’s nice to see you can still get support for it through additional drivers. The full list of deprecated features can be viewed below:

Feature deprecation section

  • If you have Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 8 Pro with Media Center, or Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Center and you install Windows 10, Windows Media Center will be removed.
  • Watching DVDs requires separate playback software
  • Windows 7 desktop gadgets will be removed as part of installing Windows 10.
  • Windows 10 Home users will have updates from Windows Update automatically available. Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise users will have the ability to defer updates.
  • Solitaire, Minesweeper, and Hearts Games that come pre-installed on Windows 7 will be removed as part of installing the Windows 10 upgrade. Microsoft has released our version of Solitaire and Minesweeper called the “Microsoft Solitaire Collection” and “Microsoft Minesweeper.”
  • If you have a USB floppy drive, you will need to download the latest driver from Windows Update or from the manufacturer’s website.
  • If you have Windows Live Essentials installed on your system, the OneDrive application is removed and replaced with the inbox version of OneDrive.

Thank you Gizmodo for providing us with this information

Two New Witcher 3 Comparison Videos Revealed

Still wondering on what to play The Witcher 3 once it gets released? Well, let’s help you make up your mind with two new comparison videos that illustrate the difference between max and low graphics and PC vs PS4 graphics.

There has been a lot of hype spinning around Polish developer CD Projekt RED’s new title, having them constantly keeping fans mesmerised with features and goodies they are bound to see in the title. With details about its gameplay revealing two months ago, gameplay footages and a 200+ hour game time, the title should be quite awesome to play.

Witcher 3 also promises a great experience to users who haven’t played the previous titles too. CD Projekt RED said that it will follow the same aspects of past games in terms of look and field, with a few improvements. For example, the title will introduce a new witch-sense, combat on horseback, sea battles, underwater swimming and use of crossbows. In addition to the latter, Geralt is now able to do more interactions, such as jumping, climbing and vaulting over objects.

The above are just a few improvements worth briefly mentioning, but rest assured, there are many more that make up what CD Projekt RED wants users to experience in its title. So without further ado, here are the latest comparisons we want to show you:

Thank you DSOGaming for providing us with this information

Outlook for Android Now Ready for the Real World

After releasing 17 updates since its original launch, the Microsoft application has now had the preview title removed from the Play store. The team at Microsoft have had high expectations for Outlook, and whilst enhancing the apps performance and removing bugs they named the app as a Preview.

The application brings some new and welcomed features that make it a lot different from the standard mail client on your Android. The app features IMAP support, a revised people section, directory searching, swipe gestures and much more; the majority of the new features and changes have been requested by the end users.

“We’ve continued to polish the look and feel of the app. We updated our icon sets and simplified our fonts to provide a more consistent Outlook experience across operating systems and devices. But it was also important for Outlook to feel like a natural part of Android. We use common Android design principles like the Navigation Drawer to house the multiple tools offered in the app and have common actions like settings available in the App Overflow menu,” Microsoft explains.

The Application is available to Android users running version 4.0 and higher. The latest version of the app is 1.1.9 and is available to download here

Thank you Winbeta for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of winsupersite

Valve Restricts Steam Service Features to Users Who Don’t Spend At Least $5

If you’ve ever been bullied or targeted on Steam by spammers or phishers, then you might be excited to know that Valve has set some restrictions to its online service. Valve stated on their Support Page that they are adding this security measure to deal with the latter problems.

Therefore, if you would like to have full access to Steam as a new user or even as an old one who used the service only for Free-to-Play games, you need to spend some money to get the full features.

Valve says that if you add at least $5 on Steam Wallet it should get you access, regardless if you actually buy anything or not.

Other methods of unlocking your account(s) include purchasing games that are equal to at least $5, adding a Steam Wallet card to your Steam account or purchasing a Steam gift.

If you think that you can do something to get around this, you are out of luck. Valve says that activating a retail game, playing free demos, adding a non-Steam game, adding/playing trials, free-to-play games or activating promotional CD keys from GPU manufacturers (like the ones found on AMD cards) won’t get your features activated.

Now, moving to the thing that really matters. What is actually restricted? Well, the company seems to restrict pretty much every social communication in the service. You can’t add friends, open group chat, vote on Greenlight/Steam Reviews/Workshop, take part in the Steam Market or post often on Steam Discussions.

In addition to that, you can’t send anything to the Workshop, post in Workshop Discussions, access the Steam Web API, use the browser and mobile chat and on top of that, your Steam Profile will always have its level locked at 0.

Now the real kicker. Though Steam said a minimum of $5 (that is USD currency by the way), how will it work in other non-US regions? I’ll let you read their response below.

“If the Steam store isn’t in USD, we will track the purchase amount in USD by converting each purchase total made on Steam using daily exchange rates. Once you have made the equivalent of $5.00 USD or more in total Steam purchases, you will gain access to the restricted Steam features.”

So why do non-US countries have to pray for the US dollar to drop in value to not spend more than others? I mean, why not do this for all the currencies once you thought about adding the restriction? Let us know if you consider this fair or not in the comments below.

The Top 10 Features of Microsoft’s Office 2016 Mac Preview

Microsoft is finally releasing a new redesigned version of its Office suite for Mac this year. The new suite is the first refresh of Microsoft Office for Mac since 2011, a 5 year gap during which Microsoft did not release any new version for Apple’s operating system.

The new Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Outlook apps aim to bring the Office suit in par with the Windows version in terms of design and functionality. Being a preview version means that the apps are not perfect. However, Microsoft states that it will only use the user feedback to make a few minor tweaks and improvements, which leads to believe that the final product will be more or less how it looks and feels now.

The top 10 features of Microsoft Office 2016 for Mac, as highlighted by Mashable, includes a Full Screen View Support, clearly emphasising that Office 2016 for Mac is truly built for Yosemite and can switch from windowed to full screen, compared to its predecessor which could not.
https://zippy.gfycat.com/EnchantingImpoliteGenet.webm

Microsoft has also made some design changes and redesigned the Ribbons, making a consistency between both Windows and Mac version. These are now the same on both operating systems.
https://zippy.gfycat.com/CalmCarelessCoyote.webm

The suite now lets you share your documents with easy through the Sharing button in the upper right corner. Documents shared via link can even be opened directly from the email.
https://zippy.gfycat.com/FoolhardyExaltedAngora.webm

Sharing a document with a collaborator now allows you to have Threaded Conversations within comments in Word and Powerpoint. Though it is not as good as in Google Drive, it does show that Microsoft is moving forward into the right direction.
https://zippy.gfycat.com/ThoroughUntriedGonolek.webm

Microsoft has also included a new Formula Builder in its latest version, making it easier to use Excel’s formula functions in your work.
https://zippy.gfycat.com/FirsthandBigAdder.webm

Powerpoint has also received an improvement in terms of transitioning, having Microsoft adding a variety of Transitions and a separate panel for managing animations within the presentation.
https://zippy.gfycat.com/AffectionateDelightfulCoati.webm

One key feature most people using a Mac and frequently require Powerpoint will find extremely useful is the Presenter View, which lets users see the entire slide deck, note, and a timer, while an external display beams the current slide to the audience.
https://zippy.gfycat.com/IndelibleTintedGartersnake.webm

Microsoft has also added a nifty feature, namely Removable Palettes, for those who desire to customize the Office apps view to better suit their needs
https://zippy.gfycat.com/MedicalTangibleEstuarinecrocodile.webm

The OneNote app has not been forgotten as well, having it come with a Tags function which makes it easy to quickly categorize notes by topic.
https://zippy.gfycat.com/TeemingAcidicCurlew.webm

Lastly, Outlook has suffered some minor improvements as well, having added the Conversations feature which allows users to sort their inbox by conversations, in addition to date, attachments, priority level and other categories.
https://zippy.gfycat.com/ScratchyClearcutGhostshrimp.webm

Microsoft’s Office 2016 Preview for Mac can be downloaded from here.

Thank you Mashable for providing us with this information

NVIDIA Just Made Its PhysX Source Code Free

‘Free’ looks like the word everyone is using recently when it comes to technology. After we saw Epic make its Unreal Engine 4 available for free, it now looks like NVIDIA is taking the same approach with its PhysX technology by giving away its source code for free.

While some bits of the PhysX technology were available for free on Windows, the developer now has given the full source code, which means that it will include the PhysX Clothing and PhysX Destruction features.

By having the full source code free and available for anyone out there, developers will be able to take full advantage of this world-class physics effect in their games, as well as speed up the adoption of the technology in future games.

Unreal Engine 4 itself has the Clothing and Destruction technologies integrated into the engine. However, developers can now add the technology in their own game engines, should they choose not to use the UE4 engine.

The aforementioned technology has been seen in titles such as Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman: Arkham City, Bioshock Infinite, Borderlands 2, Lords of the Fallen, Monster Hunter Online, Daylight, as well as the upcoming title, The Witcher 3.

All PhysX technologies can be found in the NVIDIA GameWorks library, including the latest version of PhysX, namely 3.3.3. It is said that the latter version brings improved stability and performance, along with features such as constrained rigid body dynamics, collision detection, scene queries, character controller, particles, vehicles and much more.

The GameWorks library can be found on GitHub and accessed via the NVIDIA GameWorks Developer Program.

Thank you Guru3D for providing us with this information

Better Visuals and Modding Tools Promised in Latest Wasteland 2 Engine Update

Unity’s latest release, Unity 5, is nearly here and since more and more games are being developed with its Game Engine, a lot of developers will receive new and improved tools to tweak their games. The release promises more flexibility and power, as well as a more simplified process of developing games for a variety of platforms.

inXile Entertainment is one of the companies which are already keen on using Unity 5’s power and is currently planning on ways to upgrade its Wasteland 2 title. Chris Keenan, the project lead for Wasteland 2, posted what to expect in the near future from the title, having significant “visual improvements” and “better tools for modders” as a result of the new changes.

“…one task we’re working on right now is migrating the Wasteland 2 codebase from the Unity 4.5 engine to Unity 5, which will enable some new possibilities for us. A major benefit of moving to Unity 5 is that 5 will include many of the tools from Unity 4.x Pro. We relied on many of these tools during our development (like creating and building navigation meshes), and they will be available to modders without having to pay thousands of dollars for a Pro Unity license … Unity 5 offers physically based shading, which is already starting to look amazing in the scenes we’ve touched up.”

inXile stated that it has a few unique features planned as well, but it isn’t ready to reveal them. However, since modding and better visuals are the main topic, it’s hard to imagine the ‘unmentioned’ features being a disappointment.

Thank you Kotaku for providing us with this information

QNAP Released QTS 4.1.2 with HDMI Installation Support

QNAP has released the new Turbo NAS QTS 4.1.2 operating system that is introducing NAS Installation over HDMI. A direct setup from the NAS itself via keyboard, mouse and monitor might be easier for a lot of people than a network based one, or at least it will seem that way to them. In return, it will open up the world of Network Attached Storage to a complete new group of people.

It also adds several new features including VPN Server support, VPN Client support, block-based LUN backup, subtitle (*.SRT) support for Video Station and File Station, embedding subtitles into transcoded videos, Chromecast streaming, and more. The QAirplay & Chromecast app available from the App Center can also stream media content directly to a TV via AirPlay-enabled or Chromecast devices now.

“We have made many enhancements to the business and home features in QTS 4.1.2 to provide a better user experience and to make the Turbo NAS a great companion in the workplace and for home entertainment,” said Willy Kuo, product manager of QNAP.

Along with the new features, QNAP also fixed a long row of issues ranging from file size issues over VPN trouble to synchronize issues. You can check out the changelog for a full list of updates and fixes.

Thanks to QNAP for providing us with this information

 

‘Our Story’ Available on Snapchat to all Users

Snapchat news is something that we’ve covered before, and it’s certainly something that you’re likely to see more and more of. It’s becoming an extremely popular application for sharing photos between our younger generations – allowing you to send a photo or video to a friend, with the media deleting itself in a short time-frame.

Recently, Snapchat introduced a feature which allowed users to add their own photos and videos to the “story” of an event – trialing this at Electric Daisy Carnival, Lollapalooza and other similar events.

They were reportedly “blown away” by the public response to this new addition, so now all snapchatters, not just attendees, have the ability to use the “Our Story” feature.

The Snapchat blog let us know how to use their added goodies:

“You’ll notice today that there’s a new ‘Live’ section beneath your Recent Updates …That’s where you’ll be able to experience Stories contributed by the Snapchat community at all sorts of events. It’s a great way to check out what’s happening around the world.”

They went on to point out that this feature is their “favorite new product”. Unfortunately they made no mention of exactly what events will be put under this list and whether these events will be picked at random, or possibly even pay for the rights to be featured.

In a closing statement, they said:

“We were absolutely blown away when Snapchatters contributed over 350 hours of Snaps to Our Story during EDC, Rio, Outside Lands, and Lollapalooza,”

Image courtesy of The Tech Files

eTeknix Take a Tour of the Kingston Technologies Factory in Taiwan

Last week while we were attending Computex 2014, the eTeknix team, or more importantly myself, and the eTeknix boss Andy, stopped by the Kingston head office for a quick tour of their factory. This factory is their central hub where they create their memory products such as SSDs and ram modules. We joined a few other press teams from other global publications for the tour and set about getting into the lovely air conditioned building, away from the humid air of Taiwan.

We were greeted at the front desk by a few of the engineers and higher ranking officials, where we signed in and were awarded our VIP passes before being led up to a conference room deeper within the building.

They’ve got a lot of great products to their name and the front hall was highlighted with a lit display, featuring all their latest awards and products.

Our gorgeous attire for the day, including some very swanky foot covers, take note that I’m being sarcastic.

Andy strutting his stuff.

Myself looking equally stunning in this white gown and blue foot cover combo.

 

In this room, they solder memory modules onto SSDs, the products work their way down the automated production line one step at a time, although I was surprised at just how quick these machines can turn out a near finished product.

There are seemingly endless banks of these machines, each with a specific task such as cutting the PCB’s, soldering, checking, testing, heating and more.

Reels of components are rolled out like a ticker tape printer as each machine stamps the components onto the board and other machines solder them in place.

Each component is laid out on computer screen, which them assembles them based on the laid out specifications.

The boards are made in blocks, and then cut and drilled and labled, ready to be placed in their individual chassis.

This room is packed full of the components needed to create the modules, and given that there are a lot of tiny components to each SSD or memory module it’s no wonder they have so many shelves to store it all on (there were many more than you can see here).

Testing is a big part of the manufacturing process, not to mention firmware testing, patching and similar tasks. Endless banks of test benches were setup for testing everything from SODIMMS, DDR modules and SSDs.

This machine is a high performance scanning machine, it takes photographs of the finished PCB and checks it against its database for errors, making sure every product is in perfect condition. This task used to be done by hand, but the high capacity demands of the factory means that this machine had to take over the task to speed up production.

It is capable of testing multiple boards at a time as you can see with the huge banks of PCBs lining the bottom of the machine.

Yet more testing equipment.

These complete machines apply the chassis to the products, as well as the first stages of printing and adding their labels.

Starting to look more like a retail product now.

The final finish can still be done by hand in some parts of the factory. These boards are now finished after their printing, soldering, cuttings, mounting, testing and labelling.

From here on, they are boxed, packed and shipped directly out to retailers. Everything prior to shipping is done in house by Kingston, as they don’t outsource any of the manufacturing.

It may not seem like much, especially given the clinical nature of the production line, but this is where Kingston SSD and memory products are born. The factory turns out tens of thousands of them and it’s rather hypnotising to see them churned out so efficiently on the production line.

Thank you Kingston for letting us tag along and see where the magic happens, as well as letting us share these images with the eTeknix community.

Best Games to Play While Sitting on the Loo with Nvidia Shield

Introduction


When it comes to gaming, we as consumers are not exactly short on options; we have games consoles, PC’s, mobile devices, dedicated handheld games consoles and many other gadgets that allow us to enjoy one of modern societies favourite pastimes. Gaming on the big screen with our consoles or Steam’s Big Picture mode, our gaming PC’s when sat at our desk, handheld games consoles and mobile devices when we’re out and about. However, let’s not forget the one feature they don’t really put on the box for our hand held systems, they’re great for playing games while sat on the loo!

Gone are the days where we could all pronounce “disodium cocoamphodiacetate” from our endless reading of the back of a shampoo bottle, these day’s we spend our time on the throne checking our emails, chatting on Facebook, reading the news and watching clips on YouTube. In fact, smart devices such as our phones are likely to blame for us all spending more time in the bathroom than we actually need to, so why not take things to the next level and find an even better entertainment device for the bathroom.

Mobile gaming is one thing, but we all know the kind of effect this has on our smartphones battery life and while Tablets offer benefits such as bigger screens, they’re often not much more powerful than high-end smartphones, so there is little innovation in the quality of the games we play on these devices. The Nvidia Shield however does offer some unique tricks that are ideal for gaming around the house, with Game Stream you’re able to let your PC do all the graphical hard work, allowing you to play games from your PC directly onto the Shield. That’s right, high end PC gaming while sat on the toilet, welcome to the future.

First lets explain Game Stream a little, because a few things need to be in place before you can take advantage of this awesome feature. First of all you’re going to need a gaming PC equipped with a 6xx series Nvidia GPU (sorry AMD fans, but this simply will not work for you), The minimum GPU is the GTX 650 or the GTX 600M matched up with something like the i3-2100 3.1GHz or AMD Athlong II X4 620 or above for 720p Game Stream, those wanting to get up to 1080p @ 60FPS video stream quality will need a GTX 660 and an i5/FX 6-Core or above to handle the video rendering and streaming efficiently. Other general stuff you’ll need is the latest GeForce Experience app on your PC as well as the latest GeForce drivers. You’ll also need a minimum of a 801.11a/g router, but an 802.11n dual band is router is recommended.

“NVIDIA uses the H.264 encoder built into GeForce GTX 650 or higher GPUs along with special streaming software integrated into GeForce experience to stream games from the PC to SHIELD over Wi-Fi with ultra-low latency. Gamers use SHIELD as the controller and display for their favourite PC games as well as for Steam Big Picture.”

Of course there are just a couple more things you’re going to need to get all this to work, an Nvidia Shield and some games on your PC to stream to it. That plus all the stuff above may sound a lot, but in reality there is a good chance that most of you reading this own a half decent gaming PC, a half decent router and a stack of games already built up in your Steam library after a few years of hoarding games from sales. So let’s get right into the good stuff and see what you could be playing while you’re on sat on the throne.

BlackBerry Adds Stickers to its BBM Instant Messaging Applications To Attract Users

One of the best features of an instant messaging application, besides all of your friends using it, is stickers. Just like Viber, it appears that BBM is starting to offer this service to its users.

BBM is planning to take advantage of the oversized emoticons phenomena to attract more people into using its BBM service, deploying stickers for users to send and receive in their conversations. The packs have names such as “CosCat”, “Gilbert’s Tales” and “Bubble Bot” and will be sold directly from the application, containing around 20 to 25 images a pack.

It is also said that some stickers packs may be available for free, including one of that reworks existing BBM emoticons for the larger new medium. BlackBerry stated that the stickers will enter a closed beta today, however no information about when they will be available to everyone or how to join in was given. Also, BBM received a recent update which added a number of features to Android and iOS as well, including voice calls, support for its Channels feature, location sharing, and attachments.

BlackBerry is moving towards providing a great quality application, full of features, and as of recent stickers as well. However, what it really needs now is users.

Thank you The Verge for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of The Verge

Apple Gets Recommendation To Make An Android-powered iPhone By Steve Wozniak

Apple and the iPhone haven’t really changed that much over the years. It has even reached a point where nothing could innovate it further, only adding bits and pieces to make it slightly different from previous models. Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder, agrees with this and goes with the idea that introducing features into newer iPhones is not innovation.

“If you have something really good, don’t change it; don’t screw it up,” he said. “You pick up a Samsung phone and say smile and it takes a picture, but how much innovation is that? That’s just throwing in a lot of features.”
“People don’t really choose their smartphones based on features,” he added. “I think Apple is superior at being able to say no.”

However, the most interesting and ‘heretical’ thing he mentioned is the recommendation given to Apple, to release an Android version of the iPhone. He thinks that innovation has ‘stalled out’ at Apple, and that the Android approach might be something to consider, since most people don’t buy their smartphones based on features, but on brand and to be in line with their social circles.

“There’s nothing that would keep Apple out of the Android market as a secondary phone market,” said Wozniak. “We could compete very well. People like the precious looks of stylings and manufacturing that we do in our product compared to the other Android offerings. We could play in two arenas at the same time.” he added.

And an Android device is not that hard to build, especially for Apple. Android is an open-source operating system software based on the Apache Software License 2.0, and is available for any handset maker to adopt and develop. They could even make a custom version, just like Amazon did with their Kindle tablets. The only thing to consider is that they also need to license Google’s software, such as Gmail and Google Maps, but that is not impossible to work out.

The real question is, will Android fans accept a ‘iPhoneDroid’ or ‘iAndroid’ having an Apple logo on it? Or even Apple fans, will they accept an Android-powered iDevice? Crazy, isn’t it?

Thank you Wired for providing us with this information