|Asus' ROG Swift PG278Q G-Sync monitor reviewed||53|
|A quick look at AMD's Radeon R7 SSD||66|
|The TR Podcast 159: Kaveri returns, Shield delivers, and Brix gets game||13|
If you're running a load of Chrome extensions, you may want to pay attention to a research study set to be presented at the Usenix Security Symposium in San Diego tomorrow. As PC World reports, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley discovered that many extensions engage in "a variety of affiliate fraud, credential theft, advertising fraud and social network abuse." These extensions don't behave badly right after being installed; instead, illicit activity is triggered by specific kinds of web content.
The study examined 48,000 Chrome extensions and found 130 to be "outright malicious." 4,712 extensions were classified as suspicious, but the PC World story doesn't call out any of the offenders by name. It does, however, note that millions of folks have downloaded some of the questionable extensions. More details will presumably be released during tomorrow's presentation.
Google worked with the researchers during the study, and it's already taking action based on the findings. The firm has reportedly made it more difficult to "sideload" applications that aren't available via the official Chrome Web Store. Extensions offered through the Web Store should be thoroughly vetted, and Google will presumably be paying closer attention to the behaviors uncovered by the study. Affiliate fraud is apparently being addressed with changes to Google's extension policies.Unity to add native x86 support on Android
Intel is trying to carve itself a slice of the Android market, and that endeavor involves pushing for more native x86 apps. As part of that push, Intel announced this morning that it's teamed up with Unity Technologies, the folks behind the ubiquitous Unity game engine, to provide native support for x86-based Android platforms.
Here's the official scoop:
SANTA CLARA, Calif. and SEATTLE, Aug. 20, 2014 – Intel Corporation and Unity Technologies today announced a strategic collaboration to advance the development of Android*-based applications on Intel® architecture. The agreement accelerates Intel’s mobility push as millions of developers using the Unity development platform can now bring native Android games and other apps to Intel-based mobile devices. Unity adds support for Android across all of Intel’s current and future processors including both the Intel® Core™ and Intel® Atom™ families.
Unity will ensure Intel product enhancements, including both graphics and CPU performance improvements and features, will be seamlessly integrated into future releases of the Unity 4 and Unity 5 product lines. As Intel architecture continues to gain market segment share on mobile devices, these improvements will help ensure that the Unity developers' games run natively as well as look great and perform beautifully on Intel platforms.
In addition, developers using Unity can now easily add support for Intel architecture in their applications or produce native applications for Intel architecture only with minimal extra effort.
We gleaned a few more details yesterday in a phone call with Intel's Christos Georgiopoulos, who serves as both VP of the chipmaker's Software and Services Group and General Manager of its Developer Relations Division.
On the subject of performance, Georgiopoulos told us that, while Unity games already run "very well" on Intel-powered Android slates via the ARM translation layer, they're at a "little bit of a disadvantage" as far as startup times and frame rates go. Native titles could cut startup times by half, and depending on CPU utilization, they may improve frame rates "significantly."
The first native Unity titles should hit the Google Play store in the early part of the fourth quarter. A version of Unity with x86 support is already available for "for private distribution," Georgiopoulos said, and it will become "broadly available" to all developers in late Q3 or early Q4. More native releases will presumably follow.
Last, but not least, Georgiopoulos added that Intel is working with other gaming middleware vendors—"most" of them, in fact—on native x86 support. Intel is also undertaking similar efforts with companies like Adobe, whose middleware is used for non-gaming apps.Here's a 37-minute video of The Witcher 3
Got some time to kill this morning? Well, you're in luck. A lengthy gameplay demo of the upcoming Witcher sequel has just landed on YouTube. The video clocks in at 37 minutes, and as Joystiq reports, it's straight out of developer CD Projekt RED's demo from the Gamescom show last week:
I'm not much of a Witcher fan, but I've gotta say, those graphics are pretty impressive stuff. Medieval towns and woods are a staple of action RPGs, but they don't usually look so... intricate. (Some of those character models could use a little work, though.)
Sadly, the game is still a ways off. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is scheduled for release on February 24, 2015. It'll be available for the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One—but not previous-gen consoles, which probably explains the eye candy.Steve Ballmer leaves Microsoft board, goes ballin'
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gave up his last official position with the company yesterday. In a letter to current chief Satya Nadella, Ballmer resigned from the board of directors "effective immediately."
Ballmer relinquished his role as CEO in February, ending 14 years as chief executive. He first joined Microsoft way back in 1980, when the firm was still in its infancy. After helming it through the glory days of the PC, he was largely blamed for being slow to respond to the burgeoning mobile market.
Since giving up his duties as CEO earlier this year, Ballmer has become "very busy" with other pursuits, including his newly acquired NBA team, the Los Angeles Clippers. Staying on the board would be "impractical" given his committments. Ballmer will, however, retain his sizable stake in Microsoft. He also says Nadella can count on him "to keep ideas and inputs flowing."
Now 58 years old, Ballmer hasn't lost any of his infamous enthusiasm. Here's some entertaining footage from Monday, when he was officially introduced as the Clippers' new owner:
Oh, Steve. Don't ever change.
Thanks to Meadows for the tip—and Ronald for the assist.Tuesday Night Shortbread
Eight is Enough
Read more... Asus has a smartwatch up its sleeve, plans Sep. 3 unveilng
Smartwatches are turning up left and right lately—and another one might be just around the corner. SlashGear reports that Asus has sent out a teaser for an event at IFA Berlin on September 3. The teaser image shows what looks like the outline of a smartwatch dial, and it's accompanied by the following words:
Time has been transformed, and we have changed; it has advanced and set us in motion; it has unveiled its face, inspiring us with bewilderment and exhilaration
Yeah, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. If the quote isn't obvious enough for you, SlashGear says that, earlier this year, Asus' Jonney Shih talked in no uncertain terms about an upcoming smartwatch with voice and movement controls.
If Asus does release its smartwatch on September 3, the company may be the latest one to beat Apple to the punch. According to AppleInsider, the Mac maker's fabled iWatch may not debut until October—both after the Asus event and on the heels of the iPhone 6 launch, which is also expected to take place early next month.SanDisk's Ultra II SSD combines TLC NAND with clever caching
SanDisk has lifted the lid on the Ultra II, a new SATA SSD that combines three-bit TLC flash with Marvell controller technology. The drive also features the second generation of SanDisk's nCache scheme, which addresses a slice of the flash as single-bit SLC NAND. This SLC cache serves as a temporary, high-speed repository for incoming writes.
TLC NAND typically has slower write speeds than flash with fewer bits per cell, so caching can definitely improve performance. Three-bit flash also has lower endurance, which nCache can somewhat mitigate by packaging small writes into larger blocks before passing them to main storage.
The Ultra II is supposed to hit 550MB/s with sequential reads and 500MB/s with sequential writes. Those are the only specifications published on SanDisk's website, but we've asked the company for more details, including the drive's endurance rating. The warranty expires after the usual three-year term.
Starting in September, versions of the Ultra II will be available with up to 960GB of storage. The top model is slated to sell for $429.99, or $0.45 per gig. Expect to pay $219.99 for the 480GB variant, $114.99 for the 240GB, and $79.99 for the 120GB.New Corsair contraption controls fans, temps, LEDs
There's a new product out from Corsair today, and it's something a little unusual for the company. The Commander Mini isn't a slick-looking case or a memory kit with flashy heatsinks. Rather, it's meant to operate discreetely inside your PC. There, the Commander Mini can power lights, fans, and "other Corsair devices"—and allow for both monitoring and control via Corsair's Link Dashboard software.
The Commander Mini has six fans headers, four temperature probe headers (for use with bundled thermistor cables), four Corsair Link Digital ports, and a connector for Corsair Link LED light strips. It draws power from a SATA connector (no need to dig up an old Molex cord), and for data, it simply hooks up to a USB 2.0 header on your mobo.
Once it's set up, the Commander Mini can monitor everything from fan speeds and ambient temperatures to coolant temperature in Corsair Link-enabled liquid coolers. The contraption also lets you "manage fan speeds individually, set up customized cooling profiles, or program fans to respond to changes in ambient or component temperature." You can even configure LED lighting to change color based on the cooling profile in use—or to "relay critical system information," Corsair says.
All the monitoring and control happens with the Corsair Link Dashboard software, which runs from the Windows desktop. Corsair claims the software offers "more advanced control and expansion options" than motherboard firmware.
The Commander Mini is available right now for $59.99 via Corsair's website. That seems a tad pricey for a fan controller, but then again, I suppose few fan controllers can pull off the same feats as this thing.Enermax's new card readers are perfect for empty external bays
Enermax's new Mighty Charger card readers slipped under our radar last week. The bay inserts aren't the most exciting products, to be honest, but I kinda want one for my own PC. These things have just the right mix of fast memory card slots and juiced-up USB ports.
The multi-pronged card readers support SuperSpeed transfer rates, and so do the blue USB jacks. The yellow ones are "Super Charge" ports that can feed up to 2.4A to compatible devices. Those ports are compliant with version 1.2 of the USB battery charging specification, according to Enermax, and all the USB 2.0 connectors are capable of supplying 1.5A. (USB 2.0 ports generally provide only 0.5A.)
The 5.25" ECR501 has five USB 2.0 ports and internal mounting points for dual 2.5" drives and one 3.5" unit. Auxiliary drives can't be added to the smaller 3.5" ECR301, which lacks an xD slot and is limited to three USB 2.0 ports. Both versions come with eSATA connectivity.
Enermax says we can expect to see Mighty Charger card readers on sale later this month. The ECR501 is set to retail for $39.99, while its little brother will be priced at $34.99.Rumor: AMD to shake up FX series on Labor Day
After fleshing out its desktop Kaveri lineup last month, AMD may soon turn its attention to the FX series. On September 1, Hexus reports, AMD will expand the FX lineup and cut prices on existing models. Word comes from the same sources who spilled the beans about the FX-9590 last year, so there's an air of plausibility to it all.
The scuttlebutt is that there will be three new FX-8000 processors, including two with 95W thermal envelopes. AMD is also expected to reduce the price of its flagship, the FX-9590, to match that of Intel's Core i5-4690K. The FX-9590 sells for $299.99 today (or $369.99 with a closed-loop liquid cooler in the box), while the i5-4690K, which is the cheapest Intel quad-core with a fully unlocked upper multiplier, costs $224.99.
Considering the FX-9590's humongous 220W power envelope and somewhat lackluster performance, a price cut seems overdue. Even if priced more competitively, though, I expect the chip will remain unappealing to all but the most die-hard AMD fans out there. The new 95W FX-8000 parts may be more tantalizing, if their specs aren't too pared-down.Curved IPS panel powers ultra-wide LG monitor
Curved televisions now exist, and at least one PC monitor is following in their footsteps. LG is bringing a curved 34-incher to the IFA show in Berlin, Germany next month. The aptly named Curved UltraWide 34UC97 combines a "gentle" bow with an ultra-wide 21:9 aspect ratio. It's powered by an IPS panel with a 3440x1440 display resolution.
The display has Thunderbolt 2 connectivity and 7W speakers built in. LG hasn't released any other details, but more will presumably be revealed during IFA, which runs from September 5-10. I hope they'll be demoing something like Project Cars with the three-screen setup depicted below.
On the more conventional front, LG is prepping the Digital Cinema 31MU97. This offering has a flat 31" panel with a 4K resolution. Unlike typical 4K displays, which spread 8.3 million pixels across a 3840x2160 grid, the Digital Cinema has 8.8 million pixels arranged in a 4096x2160 array. LG claims the IPS panel covers 99% of the Adobe RGB spectrum, making the display particularly well-suited to content creation professionals.
The third item on LG's IFA menu is a 24" gaming monitor dubbed the 24GM77. There's no mention of an IPS panel for this model, whose sub-one-millisecond response time hints at TN technology. The display has low input lag and can refresh at up to 144Hz, according to LG, but it doesn't appear to support adaptive refresh schemes like AMD's FreeSync and Nvidia's G-Sync.New Star Citizen trailers show beautiful racing, FPS footage
Crowd-funded space sim Star Citizen has raised over $51 million from 525,000 backers, and the latest footage suggests that money is being put to good use. Check out the "Murray Cup" trailer, which highlights the game's racing component:
The video can be streamed at 4K resolution, but it looks fantastic even at 1080p. The concept is pretty neat—sort of like the Red Bull Air Race, but with space ships circling around a city in the clouds. This component is due to be added in version 0.9 of the game.
Star Citizen will also have a first-person shooter component, which is teased in another video released alongside the racing trailer.
Ok, so none of that action is actually from a first-person perspective. The scene fades out before we get a sense of the gameplay, but the visuals are so beautiful that I don't even care. Just look at how the water splashes around the character's feet as he charges across the wet floor.
More details about the FPS module will be released at PAX Australia, which runs from October 31 to November 2. Backers could get their hands on that component this year, according to the anticipated release schedule, but that timeframe isn't set in stone. Players already have access to early versions of the hangar and dogfighting modules. The full game isn't expected to be finished until 2016, though
Thanks to Kotaku for the tip.14'' HP laptop will run Windows, cost $199
Microsoft is going after Chromebooks big time, and that means more ultra-cheap Windows laptops are coming. According to Liliputing, the next such system will hail from HP, and it will couple a 14" screen with an AMD Mullins processor for only $199.
Known as the HP Stream 14, the system isn't listed for purchase yet—but it is right here on HP's support site. According to the PDF manual, the system will have a 14" 1366x768 display, an AMD A4 Micro-6400T processor, up to 2GB of RAM, either 32GB or 64GB of eMMC storage, a 32Wh battery, and Windows 8.1 with two years of 100GB OneDrive cloud storage. The thing will be 0.7" thick and will weigh in at 3.86 lbs.
Given the processor's puny 4.5W TDP and the fact that there's apparently not an ounce of mechanical storage in there, I'd expect the Stream 14's battery life to be fairly decent despite the small-ish 32Wh capacity. The processor might be a little sluggish, though. Its four cores are clocked at just 1GHz with a 1.6GHz Turbo speed.
According to Liliputing, the Stream 14 will start at just $199, which will put it 50 bucks below the Pavilion 10z—another Windows-based specimen with Mullins under the hood. The Pavilion 10z has a 10.1" touchscreen and a more manageable 2.5-lb weight, which might explain the price disparity.Windows 8.1 August Update causes crashes, gets pulled
The latest major update to Windows 8.1 wasn't just underwhelming. Turns out it has a host of other issues on top of that. As PC World reports, Microsoft has taken the unusual step of pulling the update and advising early adopters to uninstall it. Here's the scoop:
Specifically, Microsoft identified three known issues regarding the “behavior” it had seen when users installed the update. First, fonts that are installed in a location other than the default fonts directory (%windir%\fonts\) cannot be changed when they are loaded into any active session, essentially locking them in. Second, fonts don’t render correctly. The third issue is the most critical, however: Microsoft said that it is investigating reports that systems may crash with a “0x50 Stop error message” after the updates are installed.
Microsoft provides instructions to undo the damage under the "Mitigations" headers of this knowledge base article. Users are apparently expected to restart in safe mode, delete a file in their Windows directory, and make changes to registry entries. What a fun way to start the week.
Oh well. Here's hoping Microsoft has better luck in the fall, when that rumored Windows Threshold public preview is supposed to come out.Weekend Shortbread
Eight is Enough
Read more... Here's my appearance on Newegg TV's Alt+Tab show
If you missed the live stream earlier, here's the re-broadcast of the Alt+Tab show on Newegg TV. Paul, Steve, and I discussed a bunch of PC hardware-related topics, including FreeSync monitors and Nvidia's Denver CPU. I also gave the guys a quick tour of Damage Labs.
Thanks to Steve and Paul for having me on and for treating this video novice with kid gloves.Join me live on Newegg's Alt+Tab show at 3PM Pacific
I'll be appearing live in about 30 minutes on Newegg TV's Alt+Tab show. First time my giant noggin has been featured in a live video format. Head over to Newegg TV at Twitch if you'd like to watch!Report: Windows Threshold public beta is indeed coming this fall
Hoping to sample the next major version of Windows? You may get your chance sooner than you think.
Last week, ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley reported that a public beta of Windows Threshold could be in the cards for this fall. Today, Foley is back with word from multiple sources that a Windows Threshold "technology preview" is indeed coming—and Microsoft plans to have it out "by late September or early October."
Citing another source she claims is reliable, Foley adds that the tech preview will be "public and available to all those interested." There may be no restrictions on who gets to install it, in other words. That said, folks who jump on board may have to agree to monthly updates following the initial preview release.
This wouldn't be the first time Microsoft has previewed a new Windows release with the general public. In early 2012, we were treated to Consumer Preview and Release Preview builds of Windows 8, which gave us front-row seats to the unfortunate rise of the Modern UI interface.
The spectacle may be a happier one with Windows Threshold. The latest rumors suggest that, on desktop PCs, Threshold will retire the Modern UI Start screen, kill the Charms bar, reinstate the Start menu, and put Modern UI apps inside windows. Threshold may be the update Windows 7 fans have been waiting for.Deal of the week: A 480GB SSD for $150
I didn't intend for this week's deals post to be all about storage, but that's kinda what happened. Before we get into cheap SSDs and hard drives, though, I should note that TigerDirect has a $15 off $100 promo that's set to run until the end of September. It should work with any product, and the only requirement appears to be entering a valid email address.
That's all that caught my eye this morning. As always, feel free to add anything I've missed in the comments below.Blizzard wins the cinematic promo game
Yeah, I dunno how you do much better at promoting your game using non-in-game CGI footage than what Blizzard just released to announce its upcoming WoW expansion, Warlords of Draenor.
I'm not likely to be able to devote my limited leisure time to a time-sink like WoW, but after watching this, I kinda want to.
|Zotac's Zbox ID92 mini-PC reviewed||2|
|Some popular Chrome extensions are misbehaving||24|
|Unity to add native x86 support on Android||7|
|Asus' ROG Swift PG278Q G-Sync monitor reviewed||53|
|Here's a 37-minute video of The Witcher 3||35|
|Steve Ballmer leaves Microsoft board, goes ballin'||36|
|Tuesday Night Shortbread||36|
|Asus has a smartwatch up its sleeve, plans Sep. 3 unveilng||21|
|SanDisk's Ultra II SSD combines TLC NAND with clever caching||12|