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HummingBoard, Banana Pi take on the Raspberry Pi

HummingBoard, Banana Pi take on the Raspberry Pi

The Banana Pi pictured, and HummingBoard SBCs offer pin-compatibility with Raspberry Pi accessories but significantly improved features and performance.


The success of the Raspberry Pi project has kick-started interest in low-cost Linux-powered single-board computers, but it has been surprisingly free of clone designs – until now.

Unlike rival development platforms such as the Olimex OLinuXino family or the popular Arduino microcontroller, the Raspberry Pi is not open hardware. Its design is locked-down and proprietary, and its principle components – namely the Broadcom BCM2835 system-on-chip (SoC) processor – not available in small quantities or without signing restrictive non-disclosure agreements. This may have contributed to a lack of compatible clones appearing on the market since its launch more than two years ago – until now, with two companies announcing Pi-compatible creations featuring considerably improved specifications: the HummingBoard and the Banana Pi.

First, the HummingBoard. Created by Solid-Run, the company behind the ultra-compact CuBox product line, the HummingBoard boasts the same features, design and layout as the Raspberry Pi – right down to the 26-pin general-purpose input-output (GPIO) header at the top-left of the board, which is pin-compatible with existing Pi accessories. Unlike the underpowered single-core 700MHz ARMv6 processor of the Pi, the HummingBoard boasts a quad-core 1GHz Freescale i.MX6 chip, 2GB of RAM – four times that of the Pi – and integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. Additional enhancements over the Pi include an upgrade to gigabit Ethernet, an on-board real-time clock module, and an infra-red receiver.

The Banana Pi goes a step further. Created by OSSUG Company, The Banana Pi again duplicates the layout and footprint of the Raspberry Pi and includes both the 26-pin GPIO header and the smaller P5 header of its established rival. Although its 1GB of RAM and dual-core AllWinner A20 processor can’t match the performance of the HummingBoard, the Banana Pi boasts an on-board SATA connector with 5V power output for mass storage. The board also includes gigabit Ethernet, an infra-red receiver, three on-board buttons and, interestingly, a microphone.

Thus far, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has been slow to offer an upgraded version of its award-winning single-board computer. The initial Raspberry Pi Model B was succeeded by a Revision 2 design which added the P5 connector and doubled the memory to 512MB but retained the slow single-core ARMv6 processor, while the Model A is a cut-down version which drops to a single USB port and loses the Ethernet networking chip. Its most recent product, the Compute Module, still uses the outdated BCM2835 chip – leaving the market open for Pi-compatible devices like the Banana Pi and HummingBoard that can offer buyers higher performance and more features.

Pricing for the HummingBoard has yet to be confirmed, with the Banana Pi available on import from Chinese resellers for $59 (around £35, a mere £7 more than a Raspberry Pi Model B.)

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OpenSSL forked into LibreSSL

OpenSSL forked into LibreSSL

The Heartbleed vulnerability has shone a light on the OpenSSL project, and OpenBSD developers have discovered enough flaws in its code to justify the creation of a fixed fork dubbed LibreSSL.


The OpenBSD project has announced the inevitible outcome of its recent deep-dive into the OpenSSL source code: a full fork of the project, dubbed LibreSSL, to feature a significantly improved codebase.

The OpenSSL cryptographic library made unfortunate headlines earlier this month due to the Heartbleed vulnerability, a nasty bug caused by incautious coding that allowed an attacker to steal memory contents – including, but not limited to, usernames, passwords, and even the entire private key – from any server using the software. With an estimated two-thirds of all webservers using OpenSSL for encryption, that’s a significant target base – and the attack, before it became known to the public, left no trace on the host machine.

OpenSSL is an open source project, meaning anyone can download, examine and modify the source code that drives it. In theory, fans of the open methodology claim, this leads to improved code quality and security – the ‘many-eyes’ theory. In practice, it appears, when an open source project reaches a certain size, individual contributors can become the sole controller of particular sub-sections – with the result that their code goes unchecked by their peers.

OpenBSD is, as the name suggests, an open-source port of the BSD operating system. Designed for maximum security, the project was hit by the Heartbleed bug and vowed to examine the OpenSSL source code more closely in the future. The result has been the exposure of numerous terrifying kludges and bugs in the code – which, it must be remembered, still drives two-thirds of the web – in what has been dubbed the OpenSSL Valhalla Rampage. Having found everything from ‘temporary’ compatibility code reaching back more than a decade to a kludge which uses the server’s private key as entropy for the random number generator – potentially exposing the entire private key to any plug-in RNG used on the system, a major security hole – the OpenBSD researchers have reached a conclusion: OpenSSL can’t be trusted.

The result: LibreSSL, a fork of OpenSSL which benefits from the changes made by the OpenBSD project. Announced on a particularly spartan website – ‘donate now to stop the Comic Sans and Blink Tags,‘ its creators exhort visitors – the LibreSSL project will become the default cryptographic library for the OpenBSD 5.6 release. Initially, that will be the only supported operating ssytem; once the codebase has been cleaned of extant bugs and rewritten to improve maintainability and a source of funding secured, LibreSSL will be extended to additional operating systems.

Whether LibreSSL will improve security overall or simply divert resources that could be better used improving the cross-platform OpenSSL directly remains to be seen.

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The Elder Scrolls Online Review

The Elder Scrolls Online Review

The Elder Scrolls Online Review

Price: £34.99-£54.99 plus £8.99 monthly subscription
Developer: Zenimax Online
Publisher: Bethesda
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Version Reviewed: PC

Playing The Elder Scrolls Online is the most boring experience I’ve endured since I was seventeen years old, when a series of unfortunate events led to my family moving into my uncle’s two-bedroom house. Because there wasn’t an awful lot of room to do our own things, every night we’d end up playing Scrabble. Now, Scrabble isn’t necessarily a bad game, but after six months it certainly starts to feel like one.

The Elder Scrolls Online is like six months of Scrabble, only it manages to perfectly recreate that sensation of repetitive hopelessness within six hours. What Zenimax Online have attempted is to build a halfway house between the traditional The Elder Scrolls games and the familiar MMO mechanics of World of Warcraft. The result is a game that fails to satisfy in either category. Its formulaic quest structure is recycled over and over, unconvincingly disguised with a superficial smear of “story”. Players are corralled down the same pathways in a world that initially appears free and open, but quickly reveals itself to be anything but. Your interaction with the environments are necessarily limited by the fact that ESO is an exhibit built for thousands of players to witness, rather than a malleable world crafted for the individual.

The Elder Scrolls Online Review

Your character’s life begins in Coldharbour, a prison realm overseen by Molag Bal, the Daedric prince of domination (not that kind of domination). But Zounds! You escape! Thanks to the help of a blind old man thrillingly known as the Prophet. So begins a quest to reunite a band of ancient heroes and defend Tamriel against Bal’s plans to enslave the population.

At this point, the game drops you into Tamriel proper, the specific location depending on which of the three warring factions you’ve pledged allegiance to. Rather than retread my beta steps in Skyrim and Morrowind allied with the Ebonheart Pact, I joined forces with the Daggerfall covenant, an alliance between the Bretons, Orcs, and Redguard. Previously, the game introduced players using a series of starting islands, but this meant it took several hours before you even reached the mainland. Now though, your character begins his adventures on the central continent. Except, you still have to return to the starting islands and go through that before you can get very far. Instead of removing this tedious tumour, Zenimax have moved it from the leg into the brain.

The Elder Scrolls Online Review

Regardless of whether you take a direct or delayed route through the introductory areas, it soon becomes clear that nearly all the PvE content, meaning every area in the game save for Cyrodiil, is directed specifically toward you. You’re special, you see. You’re special because you, er, don’t have a soul, which handily explains both why your character is so wilfully obliging when helping other people, and why in conversation you have all the personality of a Rich Tea biscuit. Every quest-giver you speak to, whether it’s through the main story, the Fighters Guild, the Mages Guild, or just people you encounter while wandering the landscape, specifically want your help. And that’s all well and good right up until you enter your first dungeon, where you and seventeen other unique world-saving heroes all run through the same corridors to kill the same goblin.

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AMD investors positive despite $20M quarterly loss

AMD investors positive despite $20M quarterly loss

AMD’s Q1 2014 financial report shows a drop back into the red with a $20M loss, although investors seem bullish on the company’s future.


AMD’s most recent earnings report has investors impressed, with the company’s stock price rising almost 12 per cent on news of $1.4 billion in sales – despite an overall loss of $20 million for the first quarter of its financial year.

AMD’s quarterly earnings call this week announced $1.4 billion in revenue for Q1 2014, an impressive rise of 28 per cent year-on-year at a time when the global PC market is continuing to shrink – albeit slower than previously. While the quarter-on-quarter shrinkage of 12 per cent might seem like bad news, that’s comparing heavier sales in the run-up to Christmas to the post-Christmas slump; a sequential dip at this time is always to be expected.

A gross profit margin of just 35 per cent, indicative of AMD’s push towards the lower end of the market in CPUs and strong competition from rival Nvidia in GPUs, led to overall operating income of $49 million for the quarter; not enough, sadly, to prevent a loss of $20 million overall. With AMD ending the last quarter on an $89 million profit, that’s a blow – although one significantly less strong than the whopping $146 million loss the company made in the same quarter last year.

AMD continued our momentum by building on the solid foundation we set in the second half of 2013, further transforming the company,‘ claimed AMD president and chief executive Rory Read during the call with press, investors and analysts. ‘Backed by our powerful x86 processor cores and hands-down best graphics experiences, we achieved 28 percent revenue growth from the year-ago quarter. We are well positioned to continue to grow profitably as we diversify our business and enable our customers to drive change and win.

The company’s results show that the PC market slump, while slowing, is continuing to have an impact: AMD’s Computing Solutions business unit’s revenue dropped eight per cent quarter-on-quarter and 12 per cent year-on-year, due to a drop in shipments. Its operating loss, however, was a mere $3 million; down from $7 million last quarter and a painful $39 million in the same quarter last year.

AMD’s Graphics and Visual Solutions business unit is the most interesting story, however: a 15 per cent drop in sequential shipments has been more than offset by an impressive 118 per cent increase year-on-year, attributed to the company’s deals to put semi-custom system-on-chip (SoC) processors in the Microsoft Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4 consoles. Overall, the division made a $91 million profit for the year, down from $121 million last quarter when Microsoft and Sony purchased their console chips but up from just $16 million in the same quarter last year.

During the conference call, AMD’s Lisa Su, general manager of global business units, confirmed that the company is still in the design stages of a new semiconductor process node. ‘We are 28 [nanometre] this year, we have 20 nanometre in design, and then FinFET thereafter,‘ she claimed in response to an analyst query – suggesting that 20nm parts won’t be available in quantity until 2015 at the earliest, with the 3D FinFET transistor move – designed to compete with Intel’s Tri-Gate Transistor technology – likely to come the year after.

Su also had positive things to say about AMD’s foray into the low-power server market with Cambridge-based ARM’s IP. ‘There’s been a lot of customer interest around Seattle [chips], so certainly for the server guys, the hyper-scale guys and then even some adjacent markets, there’s good customer interest, claimed Su. ‘I’ll say the interest in the platform is quite high and it’s a major milestone for us to introduce our first 64-bit ARM chip into the market.

What we’re doing here is identifying this opportunity long before it has taken place,‘ added Read, ‘and we’re catching it just as the way it is forming. That’s the kind of innovation leadership that we really want to go after. This is going to be an important market over the next three, five years, and we have an opportunity to truly lead in this ARM server ecosystem, and take advantage of our ambidextrous capability. This is spot-on in the strategy.

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AMD updates its Never Settle Forever bundle

AMD updates its Never Settle Forever bundle

AMD is today extending its Never Settle Forever bundle to include more games and cards


AMD is today rolling out an update to its Never Settle Forever bundle, promising more titles and variety as well as availability with a wider range of its graphics hardware.

The Never Settle Forever bundle is AMD’s ongoing promotion, whereby purchasers of certain AMD graphics cards from participating retailers are eligible for up to three free games, as well as a few other bonuses.

The company claims that this latest update is a response both to customer demand for more and newer titles as well as to the fact that the previous bundles were a few months out of date and did not incorporate the full range of AMD’s latest cards.

As you can see, everything from the R7 240 series up to the mighty R9 295X2 is now included in the promotion. The tiered system of bronze, silver and gold (one, two and three free games respectively) is being maintained. Users will need an R7 260 or R9 270 series card to qualify for the silver tier, while only those who buy an R9 280 series card or higher are eligible for the gold one.

AMD updates its Never Settle Forever bundle *AMD updates its Never Settle Forever bundle
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While games from the previous offer are being carried over, AMD is adding a number of new and unreleased ones to the lineup from which users can pick. Thief, AMD’s TrueAudio launch title and the latest Mantle-compatible game, was recently added, and will continue to be offered in both the gold and silver tiers. Murdered: Soul Suspect, which is a few months out, is now also available for the gold and silver tiers – users will receive the code upon the game’s release. It doesn’t support Mantle, but will have AMD optimised technologies, much some other recent Square Enix titles like Tomb Raider and Deux Ex: Human Revolution.

AMD updates its Never Settle Forever bundle *AMD updates its Never Settle Forever bundle
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Also introduced as of today are a selection of indie titles, a first for a graphics card package. Guacamelee!, Dyad, The Banner Saga and Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack are the current choices. It’s also worth noting that for each game choice you have (i.e. two in the silver tier) you’re able to pick two indie games.

Other new additions include what AMD is referring to as classic titles. For these, AMD is working closely with developers who have optimised their game codes for AMD hardware, and offering a selection of games released in the past few years which users may have missed at the time.

AMD updates its Never Settle Forever bundle *AMD updates its Never Settle Forever bundle
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The full list of the current 21 games and their global availability is listed below – in case where games aren’t available, AMD ensures us it’s due to regional availability issues rather than their own program.

AMD updates its Never Settle Forever bundle *AMD updates its Never Settle Forever bundle
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Finally, each tier of the Never Settle Forever bundle comes with some extra bonus offers. First is a key code for three months’ free use of Splashtop, which lets you stream games from a PC to mobile devices over your home network. Next up is $10 off the AMD Radeon RAMDISK 64GB software, and lastly is the AMD Operator Bundle for the free-to-play game FireFall, which includes some exclusive armour and equipment.

AMD updates its Never Settle Forever bundle *AMD updates its Never Settle Forever bundle
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The Never Settle Forever codes will be delivered physically or digitally, depending on the retailer and board partner in question. The coupon is good for a single transaction only – you must select all of your games at once. The reason this is relevant is that AMD has promised to continue updating the selection, so it may pay off to wait to redeem your code. The current codes are valid until August 31 2014.

What do you think of the updated Never Settle Forever package? Has such a package ever been the deciding factor in your GPU purchases? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.

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Goat Simulator Review

Goat Simulator Review

Price: £6.99
Developer: Coffee Stain Games
Publisher: Coffee Stain Games
Platform: PC

Goat Simulator Review

Well, here we have it. The defining moment in gaming. The pinnacle of the form. For the play it was Hamlet, for the novel Ulysses, and for film Citizen Kane. Each took its own medium and elevated it to unrepeatable heights. Now we have our own unrivalled masterpiece, a classic that will be remembered even when the last human on Earth hunches over the dying embers of the final flame. “I was there,” this crooked old man, bent by time and torment, shall whisper to the ether. “I was there when Goat Simulator was released.”

Goat Simulator Review

That’s not a very good joke, I know. But neither is Goat Simulator. As comedy games go, it is the equivalent of daytime TV covering a popular Youtube video. What works perfectly well as thirty seconds of amusement is stretched into half an hour of awkwardly searching to spin it into something more, and ultimately falling back on repeatedly pointing out how funny the original joke was.

Handing you control of one standard-issue Capra Aegagrus Hircus, Goat Simulator plonks you in a small open-world with the simple aim of causing as much destruction as possible. Now even the most nihilistic of goats would usually struggle to do more than churn a farmer’s field into mud before getting its horns hopelessly tangled in a wire-fence. Fortunately for your cloven-hoofed avatar, everything in Goat Simulator’s world appears to be made out of papier-mâché and springs.

Goat Simulator Review

Head-butting a person in Goat Simulator will send them flying across the map like a comet, while doing the same to one of the many stationary vehicles dotted around the environment will cause an explosion that catapults anything nearby into a geostationary orbit, including the twisting, flopping ragdoll of your own goat-y self. In addition, your goat can lick things to attach them to his sticky tongue, things like basketballs, chunks of broken fence, other goats, and the wheels of a fast-moving articulated lorry.

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Google pledges January launch for Project Ara

Google pledges January launch for Project Ara

Google’s Project Ara, created by one-time subsidiary Motorola and based on Dave Hakkens’ Phonebloks concept, is scheduled to hit the market in January 2015.


Advertising giant Google has confirmed that it is forging ahead with the Project Ara modular smartphone concept, and plans to release the first commercially available parts in January 2015.

Originally developed by Motorola Mobility based on concept work carried out by Dave Hakkens under the name Phonebloks, Project Ara was acquired by Google when it picked up the Mobility division from Motorola. Although the company would go on to sell the bulk of Motorola Mobility to Lenovo it kept hold of Project Ara, announcing in February this year commercialisation plans for the technology.

Project Ara aims to offer the same level of customisation available in the PC world to the smartphone – and, eventually, tablet, markets. The Ara platform uses a central chassis dubbed an Endo, to which component modules are connected via magnets. These modules contain everything from the display to the processor, storage, camera and battery, and can be assembled in almost any combination or pattern. As well as ending the annual phone upgrade cycle – the Endo itself, Google claims, would be good for five to six years – by offering the chance of incremental upgrades, the system would also allow for complete customisation: one Endo may have a high-end processor and high-spec camera, while another opts for a slower processor, no camera and a bigger battery for longer runtime.

Google held its first Project Ara developers’ conference this week, and CNET reports that it offered a timeline to commercialisation: the first Project Ara Endo will be on sale, barring any major setbacks along the way, in January next year for just $50. It will be joined by a range of component modules, although the specification and pricing for these has not yet been confirmed.

Google also outlined fabrication hardware for the modules themselves, developed in conjunction with academic and business partners and taking the form of large-scale 3D printers capable of working with conductive materials. More details on these will be provided at the next conference in July.

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Noctua NH-U12S Review

Noctua NH-U12S Review

Manufacturer: Noctua
UK price (as reviewed):
£47.99
US price (as reviewed): $69.99

When all-in-one coolers started hitting the cooling scene a few years ago, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the end of the road for premium air coolers. Noctua is one of the most established and recognised brands out there in the enthusiast scene, but even we have to admit that value hasn’t always been one of the company’s strong points. In the face of a growing number of super-cheap and capable coolers such as Deepcool’s GAMMAXX S40, you might think paying more than £30 for a CPU cooler isn’t worth it considering how well the latter performs for just £20.

*Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review *Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review
At £47.99, the NH-U12S isn’t even a humongous air cooler and you get a much smaller bit of kit than it’s larger sibling, the NH-D14, which retails for just £10 more. However, the NH-U12S isn’t about raw cooling. With a maximum rated noise of just over 22db(A) and even less using the included low noise adaptor, this is a cooler for those where noise reduction is just as important as a chilly CPU.

*Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review *Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review
Part of the reason for the NF-F12′s high price is the NF-F12 PWM Focused Flow 120mm fan included in the box. This retails for £17 on its own – one of the most expensive fans on the market. There’s a whole raft of technical blurb in this fan’s specifications but the long and short of it boils down to Noctua claiming it produces a better quality noise by utilising many of these swanky features such as a focused flow frame, varying angular distance and vortec-control notches, plus better airflow and cooling.

The heatsink itself is up to Noctua’s usual standards, however, if you haven’t seen one of the Austria-designed cooler’s in person before, that’s essentially the same as saying build quality is epic. Crammed into this diminutive cooler, which measures just 158mm tall and 125mm wide, are five heatpipes built into a compact array of aluminium fins, plus a copper contact plate that sports a nickel plating.

*Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review *Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review
Even the packing is a labour of love, with everything packed into premium-feeling cardboard boxes that are all exactly the right size to take up precisely 100 per cent of the outer box. It’s not often we feel compelled to make this sort of comment but it’s totally justified here. As such, with everything labelled for each socket, despite the above average amount of mounting components, installation is fairly painless.

The fan clips are second only to SilverStone’s latest coolers such as the AR01 , in terms of ease of use – no spindly, awkward things here, which is just as well as you need to fit the single 120mm fan after you’ve mounted the cooler to the motherboard.

*Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review *Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review
Also included are all the fittings needed to mount a second fan, including the brown antivibration corner pads plus a low noise adaptor that can drop the maximum rpm from 1,500 to 1,200, slotting in between the 3-pin power feed and the standard PWM fan cable. Everything you need is included in the box, including an extra-long screwdriver to reach the mounting screws.

*Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review *Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review

Specifications

  • Compatibility Intel: LGA775 and LGA1366 (with optional NM-I3 kit) LGA115x, LGA2011; AMD: AM3(+), AM2(+), FM2(+), FM1
  • Size (with fan) (mm) 125 x 71 x 158 (W x D x H)
  • Fan(s) 1 x 120mm, 300-1,500RPM
  • Stated Noisemax 22.4dB(A)

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MSI Shows Z97 Motherboards Including Mini-ITX

MSI Shows Z97 Motherboards Including Mini-ITX

MSI looks set to continue its support for mini-ITX when Intel’s Z97 chipset arrives


Following a leak that showed images of future products, MSI has released a few previously locked-down images of its new range of motherboards.

We’re assuming they sport Intel’s anticipated Z97 chipset, which still uses LGA1150 CPUs, and is set for launch this summer.

As we reported here, there will be several ‘Gaming-series’ motherboards, but the images show Gaming 3, Gaming 5, Gaming 7 and Gaming 9 name titles in addition to a mini-ITX board.

Many of the boards feature 802.11ac WiFi adaptors, with the mini-ITX board sporting what appears to be a custom, integrated adaptor on the I/O panel, rather than a standard slot on the PCB.

The Gaming 9 model looks like quite a beast, with an imposing red and black colour scheme and we also spotted an M.2 expansion slot between the two lower 16x PCI-E slots along with voltage measuring points near the on-board power button.

MSI Shows Z97 Motherboards Including Mini-ITX MSI Shows Z97 Motherboards Including Mini-ITX
MSI Shows Z97 Motherboards Including Mini-ITX MSI Shows Z97 Motherboards Including Mini-ITX
MSI Shows Z97 Motherboards Including Mini-ITX MSI Shows Z97 Motherboards Including Mini-ITX
The Gaming 3, Gaming 5 and Gaming 7 also offer the M.2 expansion slot, which suggests this will be a familiar feature on Z97 boards, although it appears to be absent from the funky-looking mini-ITX model.

What do you make of MSI’s new line-up? Let us know in the forum.

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DayZ Standalone Early Access Review

DayZ Standalone Early Access Review

Price: £19.99
Developer: Bohemia Interactive
Publisher: Bohemia Interactive
Date Tested: 26/03/2014

DayZ Standalone Early Access Review DayZ Early Access Review

Note: Early Access Reviews are critical appraisals of games still in development which are charging money for player access to their alpha and beta stages. This review is intended to give you an idea of whether the game is currently worth investing in, but without offering a final verdict.

Take a cursory glance at DayZ and it appears little has changed in the four months since release. The major content Bohemia are planning for the mod; namely vehicles, craftable bases, and broader communication channels such as radios, are still a long way from being added. Investigate a little further, however, and you’ll discover that significant changes have been made, but they’re many and small rather than large and few.

For example, rain was added about a month ago, and now players can catch the water droplets in their canteens, making it ever so slightly easier to acquire this vital resource. In addition, players can aim their guns while sat down, enabling them to sit around a campfire with friends without completely compromising their safety, or keep watch over player prisoners in a more casual, more disturbing manner.

DayZ Standalone Early Access Review DayZ Early Access Review

There are lots of different little channels that feed into DayZ’s remarkable success since it debuted on Steam Early Access at the end of last year. But one of them is this detailed way in which players can interact with their environment and the other players they encounter in post-apocalypse Chernarus. It’s this granularity of experience which Bohemia have been chasing since the Standalone release.

To understand the importance of this, it’s necessary to grasp the basis of what DayZ is, and the developer’s intent behind it. For all its layers of complexity, your ultimate goal when playing DayZ is the most basic possible. Stay alive. Do not die. See that bucket? Avoid kicking it. This is done by seeing to your needs, avoiding the zombies scattered around the environment like organic litter, and performing the delicate and potentially deadly social dance with fellow survivors you’ll inevitably encounter during your travels.

Your objective may be simple, but achieving it is anything but. Resources are scarce, and you require lots of food and water just to keep your body functional. The first hour or so of a DayZ life are a half-terrifying, half-gleeful rush as you frantically scour the nearest village for supplies, interspersed with moments of bravely running away from the prowling zombies.

DayZ Standalone Early Access Review DayZ Early Access Review

If you’re very lucky you might find enough food and water to keep you healthy. More typically you’ll either bleed to death after being attacked by your first zombie, or find nothing but rotten food, eat that in desperation, become sick, and spend the next half hour hopelessly searching for the right medication before ultimately collapsing. This is of course an entirely hypothetical scenario and definitely not what happened to me in my first and second lives.

Learning how to cope in this extremely harsh environment is a big factor in what makes DayZ so compelling. So is learning how to navigate it. Modern games are obsessed with keeping the player oriented, ensuring they always know where they are and where they are going, and there’s something about the challenge of being lost in a wilderness that is paradoxically liberating. The moment you first find a map in an abandoned car or inside a petrol station is breathlessly exciting. Then comes the puzzle of figuring out where you are on it, googling the Russian alphabet so you can translate the town signs written in Cyrillic to match them with the map names scribed in English.

DayZ Standalone Early Access Review DayZ Early Access Review

It helps that Chernarus is an incredible foundation for a game like this. Its sweeping vistas, highly realistic terrain, foreboding climate and dilapidated Baltic settlements all contribute to the sense that this is a world where nature has wrested control back from humanity, but also as a place where hope still lingers. Trekking through one of DayZ’s many forests, watching the sunlight shaft through the canopy, listening to your plodding footfall and the twittering birds in the trees is an oddly relaxing experience, providing relief between frantic zombie combat and tense encounters with other survivors.

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