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NZXT announces the Phantom 240 chassis

NZXT announces the Phantom 240 chassis

NZXT has only announced the white Phantom 240, but more colours are expected.


NZXT has taken the wraps off of a new chassis, the Phantom 240, and it’s the least expensive of the Phantom range.

With a mid-tower ATX design, the Phantom 240 maintains the range’s signature asymmetrical shape that has divided opinion since launch and sports curved front and roof panels. The case also features a large side panel window and while NZXT has only officially announced the classic white version, it’s hinted that further colours will be coming, so it’s possible we’ll see black, grey and even red editions too.

It ships with two 120mm fans out of the box – a front intake and a rear exhaust. These are NZXT’s FN V2 models, which were recently redesigned to provide better cooling and produce less noise.

In total, the case can house six 120mm fans – two in the front, one in the rear, one in the bottom and two in the roof (where 140mm fans are also supported). Water-cooling support hasn’t been confirmed, but we’d be surprised if double radiator all-in-one coolers were not supported, given that NZXT itself produces a range of them.

Inside, there’s also room for three 5.25-inch drives and six internal 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch drives, and both optical drives and hard drives can be mounted tool-free, judging by the released photos. We also see that the case has a number of cable routing holes (without grommets), a large CPU cooler cutout on the motherboard tray and reusable PCI brackets. Other features include external USB 3 ports and dual audio jacks as well as a removable HDD cage.

The suggested retail price of the NZXT Phantom 240 is $69.99. We’ve enquired about UK pricing and will update if and when we receive and official response, but our estimates (based on a conversion with tax added) puts the case at or around £55.

Does the Phantom 240 look like it could take the budget case market by storm (trooper), or is it more likely to wind up in bargain bins? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.

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Julian Gollop’s Chaos reboot successfully funded

Julian Gollop's Chaos reboot successfully funded

Julian Gollop, creator of the original X-Com, has succeeded in his efforts to raise funding through Kickstarter for a reboot of his Chaos franchise, born on the ZX Spectrum.


A crowd-funding campaign to reboot the classic ZX Spectrum title Chaos: The Battle of Wizards has succeeded, raising $210,854 on an original goal of $180,000 for its creator Julian Gollop.

Strategy game giant Julian Gollop published the original title through Games Workshop in 1985, on the back of his partnership with the firm on 1984′s Battlecars. In 1990, Gollop’s now-defunct Mythos Games published sequel Lords of Chaos through Blade Software, expanding the title’s appeal with ports for the Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC range and 16-bitters the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga as well as a copy for ZX Spectrum stalwarts. His true breakthrough, however, was MicroProse-published UFO: Enemy Unknown, the first title in the X-Com series and the game for which he is best known.

Having disappeared under the radar after working on Ubisoft’s 2012 title Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, the Bulgarian-based developer kept a low profile until exploding back onto the scene with a crowd-funding pitch for a next-generation successor to Chaos and Lords of Chaos. Dubbed Chaos Reborn, the title asked for $180,000 via the Kickstarter crowd-funding site for a modern reboot of the series. Taking the turn-based strategy theme of its predecessors, Gollop promised an attractive title missing the iconic attribute-clash of its predecessor and switching out the tile-based graphics for the Unity Engine that retained the spirit of his much-loved earlier works.

Just 34 hours before the funding run came to an end, the goal was reached and exceeded with $210,854 from a total of 5,051 backers pledging to the project as it closed this morning. ‘Thank you to everybody who backed the project and promoted it,‘ Gollop wrote in an update to the project. ‘Thanks to my team for working after hours to make the prototype possible, and providing all the art and publicity material during the campaign. And thanks mum for being such a vocal supporter!

More details on the game are available on the official website, while an animation preview – a far cry from the visuals of the ZX Spectrum original – is reproduced below.

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Microsoft reissues Windows 8.1 Update 1 via WSUS

Microsoft reissues Windows 8.1 Update 1 via WSUS

Microsoft has resolved the issue with rolling Windows 8.1 Update 1 out via WSUS and appeased customers with a new 120-day grace period, but home users are still facing the 13th of May deadline.


Microsoft has reissued its Windows 8.1 Update 1 patch for Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) users, having resolved a flaw that would prevent client systems from installing future updates.

A mandatory install for all Windows 8.1 users – those without Update 1 will be blocked from downloading security and bug-fix updates starting with next month’s Patch Tuesday on the 13th of May – the update has been the source of more than a little heartache for Microsoft’s customers. As well as the flaw that saw it pulled from WSUS shortly after release, users have reported numerous issues installing the patch and further flaws once the software is installed.

The cause of the WSUS flaw has been isolated, at least, and Microsoft has officially rereleased the update for corporate customers. ‘This means that you can now easily deploy these updates to the computers or servers you manage,‘ explained Microsoft’s Brendan LeBlanc in the company’s announcement. ‘For computers and servers that have already installed these updates, note that Windows Update will re-offer them but it will only install the portion of the update that addresses the fix. Other portions of the update which users have already downloaded and installed will not be downloaded or installed a second time.

Having perhaps recognised that the rollout of the first major update to Windows 8.1, and a mandatory one at that, hasn’t gone smoothly, LeBlanc also announced a new grace period to win over corporate customers. ‘We’ve decided to extend the timeframe for enterprise customers to deploy these new product updates from 30 to 120 days,‘ LeBlanc explained. ‘In order to receive future updates, all customers managing updates using WSUS, Windows Intune, or System Center Configuration Manager have until August 12th to apply the new updates. For those that decide to defer installation, separate security updates will be published during the 120-day window.

For home users, however, the extended deadline does not apply: anyone outside a WSUS-controlled corporate network who has not installed Windows 8.1 Update 1 by the 13th of May will not be able to download updates until Update 1 is installed.

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Intel pledges Skylake ramp in 2015

Intel pledges Skylake ramp in 2015

Intel has pledged to begin mass production of its 14nm Skylake family in the second half of 2015, despite the schedule slip suffered by predecessor Broadwell.


Intel has pledged to continue with plans to begin mass production of its next-generation Skylake chips in the second half of next year, despite the schedule slip that delayed predecessor Broadwell.

Broadwell, the successor to the current-generation Haswell microarchitecture, is based on a 14nm process node which has been giving Intel a spot of bother. Plans to begin mass production of Broadwell processors last year were postponed due to yield problems at the extremely small feature size required of the parts. Although since resolved, Broadwell is still hanging back with rumours claiming overstock of Haswell parts is staying Intel’s hand.

The delays that have beset Broadwell may have a knock-on effect for its successor, Skylake. Detailed in a slide leaked in July last year, Skylake follows the process shrink of Broadwell with an updated microarchitecture at the same 14nm process node. Skylake will, the slide claimed, support PCI Express 4.0, Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX) 3.2 and DDR4 memory. Officially, Skylake has no formal launch date but those following Intel’s earlier release schedules have expected a release some time in late 2015 to early 2016.

Although Intel refuses to comment on rumours surrounding its launch schedule, the company’s chief executive Brian Krzanich has suggested that Skylake will be hitting the market within its originally-rumoured timeframe. ‘We had a lot going on,‘ Krzanich claimed, in response to an analyst’s query regarding Intel’s use of Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) for SoFIA chip production, in his company’s most recent earnings call. ‘The ramp of Broadwell, the ramp of Skylake in the second half of next year, plus bringing these products inside.

Krzanich also confirmed plans to transition its mobile parts, including the outsourced SoFIA heavily-integrated chip, to internal production on a 14nm process. These moves, Intel has claimed, will boost demand for its parts – but profitability for its loss-making Mobile and Communications Group is a long way distant. ‘I’d say for 2015, I would expect to see reduction in the loss [of the group],‘ chief financial officer Stacy Smith added. ‘Not profitability, but a reduction in the loss will feel pretty good when we get there and then we’ll keep driving towards the long-term profitability goal.

Sadly, Intel did not confirm any further details regarding Skylake – but if production ramp is planned for the second half of 2015, retail availability should not be far behind.

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Intel Q1 financials show data centre growth

Intel Q1 financials show data centre growth

Intel’s Q1 2014 results slightly exceeded analysts’ expectations, but the company’s mobile arm is suffering a significant drop in revenue.


Intel has released its financials for the first quarter of 2014, and things are looking good with better-than-expected results despite its continued struggles to break into the mobile arena and a still-shrinking desktop market.

The company’s official figures for the quarter show $12.8 billion in revenue, exactly matching analysts’ expectations, with a gross profit margin of 59.7 per cent for a total earnings per share of $0.38 – above the $0.37 average expected by analysts. $3.1 billion of this came from the Data Centre Group, responsible for server and high-performance computing (HPC) products, which enjoyed a bumper 11 per cent boost in revenue over the same period last year; the PC Client Group, which targets the still-shrinking PC market, brought in the lion’s share at $7.9 billion, a one per cent drop compared to Q1 2013.

In the first quarter we saw solid growth in the data centre, signs of improvement in the PC business, and we shipped five million tablet processors, making strong progress on our goal of 40 million tablets for 2014,‘ claimed Intel’s chief executive Brian Krzanich during the company’s earnings call. ‘Additionally, we demonstrated our further commitment to grow in the enterprise with a strategic technology and business collaboration with Cloudera, we introduced our second-generation LTE platform with CAT6 and other advanced features, and we shipped our first Quark products for the Internet of Things.

Other highlights include a 10 per cent quarter-on-quarter drop in revenue for the Internet of Things Group which ended the quarter with $482 million in revenue, still an 11 per cent improvement over the same period last year thanks largely to new low-power Atom and Quark processor products. The company’s Mobile and Communications Group, responsible for smartphone and tablet oriented chips, was by far the biggest loser: with just $156 million in revenue, its income was down 52 per cent quarter-on-quarter and a massive 61 per cent compared to Q1 2013.

Investors seem pleased with Intel’s performance in the quarter, with the company’s share price rising 1.08 per cent in pre-market trading to $27.06, still short of its recent April 2012 high of $28.38.

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NSA denies prior knowledge of Heartbleed vuln

NSA denies prior knowledge of Heartbleed vuln

The US National Security Agency has denied any knowledge of the OpenSSL Heartbleed vulnerability prior to it going public, stating it is biased towards responsible disclosure.


The US National Security Agency (NSA) has denied claims that it knew about the Heartbleed vulnerability in OpenSSL before it was made public, claiming that it is biased towards seeing such flaws fixed for the greater good than keeping its knowledge a secret to further its intelligence gathering programmes.

The NSA has been in the limelight of late thanks to revelations by former contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden, the source of evidence showing the NSA has been overreaching its charter with massive surveillance programmes against both US and foreign nationals. Documents leaked by Snowden included claims that the NSA works closely with major companies to gain back-door access to code and data, and even works to weaken commercial security products by recommending known-weak ciphers and random number generators.

When news of the Heartbleed vulnerability in popular cryptography library OpenSSL broke last week, many wondered if the NSA was aware of the flaw. Present in the OpenSSL codebase since 2011 and in the wild since 2012, the Heartbleed vulnerability has been proven to leak private keys – allowing the decryption of encrypted traffic, something the NSA captures and stores for several years as part of its intelligence activities.

Many in the industry had wondered why the NSA captured and stored encrypted traffic with no known way to decrypt it, but the Heartbleed bug means that the NSA – or any other attacker – could easily retrieve the private keys required to unlock the encrypted traffic. Suddenly, the NSA’s trove of scrambled data made a lot of sense – leading many to claim on sites like Bloomberg that the NSA knew of Heartbleed and had been exploiting the vulnerability for years.

The NSA has, naturally, denied this. ‘Reports that NSA or any other part of the government were aware of the so-called Heartbleed vulnerability before 2014 are wrong,‘ the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has stated. The denial has been followed by claims made to The New York Times that the NSA and other US intelligence agencies follow a process ‘biased toward responsibly disclosing such vulnerabilities.

The same article, however, quotes officials as admitting that while President Barack Obama has instructed the NSA and other agencies to follow responsible disclosure practices when flaws are found, there exists a loophole which allows vulnerabilities to be withheld for future exploitation if there is a ‘clear national security or law enforcement need‘ – something critics claim could well have applied to knowledge of the Heartbleed vulnerability, given the NSA’s corpus of encrypted data.

The Heartbleed vulnerability is still being patched, with sites affected by the flaw having to upgrade to a newer release of OpenSSL and revoke and replace their certificates before users can safely change their passwords and, where available, enable two-factor authentication.

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Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth announced

Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth announced

Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri is receiving a spiritual successor in the form of sci-fi-themed Civilization: Beyond Earth, launching this year on Windows, OS X and Linux.


A spiritual successor to Sid Meier’s intergalactic classic Alpha Centauri has been officially announced, and it brings the promise of treats for PC gamers including support for AMD’s low-level Mantle application programming interface (API) and cross-platform gaming on Windows, OS X and Linux – the latter to include Valve’s SteamOS.

Released in 1999, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri was a spin-off from the Civilization franchise, acting as a follow-on of sorts for anyone who had completed a space victory in the game. The player was given the task of colonising Chiron in the eponymous star system, and later the option of playing as one of two non-human races – previously limited to non-playable characters in the game.

The game was critically acclaimed, but a poor seller; following its release, the Civilization franchise would again return to historical rather than futuristic settings and never again venture beyond our solar system – until now. Firaxis has announced Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth, the first space-based title to carry the official Civ branding – and a spiritual successor to Alpha Centauri.

Announced at PAX East this weekend, the game promises to revamp the Civilization experience with a new web-like technology tree, a more open-ended progression system no longer tied to real-world history, and many of the developers who worked on the original Alpha Centauri. For PC gamers, the news gets better still with Firaxis announcing that the game will launch later this year on Windows, OS X and Linux platforms – the latter to include support for Valve’s SteamOS Linux distribution. The company has also promised support for AMD’s Mantle API at launch, giving hope that the game’s performance will be acceptable even on lower-end hardware.

If all that has whetted your appetite the company has offered a teaser trailer for the title, reproduced below.

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E.T. excavation opens up to spectators

E.T. excavation opens up to spectators

There has never been an official confirmation that the landfill site is where the better part of 3.5 million unsold E.T cartridges were buried.


The impending excavation of the landfill where Atari was rumoured to have crushed and buried millions of unsold E.T. game cartridges has been opened up to the public.

The event is set to become part of a documentary backed by Xbox Entertainment Studios and produced by Fuel Entertainment. The dig was given the green light last week and now Microsoft has extended the invitation to attend to everyone.

Attendees might even be interviewed for the documentaries alongside E.T the Extra-Terrestrial video game designer Howard Scott Warshaw, the team of archaeologists and other people connected to the project.

Work on unearthing the dumped cartridges will begin on April 26 and 9:30 AM and run through until 7:30 PM at the Alamogordo landfill site in New Mexico. Xbox Entertainment Studios will be publishing the finished film as part of a documentary series.

Plans to unearth the abandoned cartridges were first announced in June 2013 and the project was briefly put on hold last week as the team was required to obtain special permission before any digging could take place.

The landfill site is purportedly the final resting place of the bulk of approximately 3.5 million unsold cartridges of 1983′s E.T video game from Atari, a title often name-checked as one of the worst video games in the industry’s history and a commercial failure that is credited as almost killing off video games as a business entirely.

Whether or not the burial site does in fact inter these cartridges has never been officially confirmed, and official statements claim that only broken and returned materials were dumped.

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AMD launches AM1 Kabini desktop range

AMD launches AM1 Kabini desktop range

AMD’s Kabini desktop parts represent its first ever socketed system-on-chip (SoC) designs, offering upgradability for the entry-level market.


AMD has officially launched its desktop Kabini products, in the form of AM1 Accelerated Processing Units (APUs) designed for the entry-level market and bearing the Sempron and Athlon brands.

Designed to compete with Intel’s Bay Trail, the Kabini desktop parts have been created to reflect what AMD claims is the changing face of every-day computing: an increase in the number of applications, like office suites and web browsers, that can make use of GPU acceleration to improve performance. That’s something that an APU can do well, of course, but Kabini is more than just a slightly faster version of what has gone before.

The new AM1 platform, as Kabini will be known at retail, represents the company’s first-ever socket-based system-on-chip (SoC) design, which AMD has dubbed ‘System in a Socket.’ The Kabini SoC design will be provided as a PGA-based, user-replaceable processor which fits into the new FS1b socket type. Unlike Intel’s lower-wattage Bay Trail, which is BGA and soldered to the motherboard at the factory, AM1 owners will have the option of after-market upgrades.

The Kabini chips that form AM1 all have a similar feature set: an SoC design featuring up to four Jaguar CPU cores and Graphics Core Next (GCN)-based Radeon graphics with DirectX 11.2 and OpenGL 4.3 support – no word yet on Microsoft’s as-yet unreleased DirectX 12 – and support for two USB 3.0 ports, eight USB 2.0 ports and two SATA 6Gb/s ports, all without the need for an external chipset. Manufacturers who need more are, of course, welcome to add extra chips as required.

AMD launches AM1 Kabini desktop range
The bottom of the Kabini desktop brand will be the AMD Sempron 2650: two 1.45GHz Jaguar cores, 128 Radeon cores running at 4000MHz, 1MB of cache and support for 1,333MHz memory. Moving up the ladder is the Sempron 3850: four 1.3GHz Jaguar cores, the same 128 Radeon cores but running at 450MHz, 2MB cache and support for 1,600MHz memory.

The higher-end Athlon range starts with the Athlon 5150: four 1.6GHz Jaguar cores, 128 Radeon cores running at 600MHz, 2MB cache and the same 1,600MHz memory support. The range tops out with the Athlon 5350, with four 2.05GHz Jaguar cores and the same cache, graphics and memory support. All four Kabini chips will, interestingly, come in at identical 25W thermal design profiles (TDPs) – higher, unfortunately, than Intel’s BGA-only Bay Trail designs.

AMD launches AM1 Kabini desktop range
AMD looks to be pushing Kabini on the desktop against Bay Trail on three fronts: wider software support for older 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems; higher overall compute performance; and price. The latter is perhaps the most surprising: the bottom-end Sempron 2650 will cost just $31 per unit in trays of a thousand, with the Sempron 3850 stretching to $36; the Athlon 5150 will cost $45 per unit in the same volume, with the top-end Athlon 5350 fetching $55. FS1b motherboards will cost around $25-$35, the company has confirmed, a price point reached by the Kabini SoC taking over tasks that would have previously required an external chipset.

AMD has named ASrock, Asus, Biostar, Gigabyte, MSI and ECS Elitegroup as hardware partners on Kabini, each of whom plans to launch low-cost FS1b motherboards in micro-ATX and the compact mini-ITX formats. Formal retail pricing has not been provided as yet.

According to AMD’s own internal testing, the new Jaguar cores – the same architecture found in the Xbox One and PS4 games consoles – offer considerable advantages over their predecessors. As well as boosts to low-power operation, the company is claiming a 17 per cent boost in instructions per cycle (IPC) over the E1-1500 Bobcat equivalent. Under PCMark 7, the company claims, that translates to a jump for the Sempron 2650 from the E1-1500′s 1125 points to over 1300.

Higher up the rankings, the Athlon 5350 doubles the Cinebench R15 single-core benchmark compared to the AMD E-350, while its extra CPU cores mean a quadrupling in the multi-core tests. How these will compare to the same benchmark on Intel’s latest low-power chips remains to be seen.

AMD launches AM1 Kabini desktop range
A particularly interesting aspect of AMD’s Kabini design comes from its dynamic power management. During GPU-heavy activity, the less-loaded CPU cores act as a heatsink to draw heat away from the GPU; when the CPU is heavily loaded, the GPU is used in a similar manner. When both are loaded, of course, there’ll likely be some down-clocking – but it’s a system which should allow CPU- or GPU-bound applications to run at a higher speed than would otherwise be possible.

UPDATE
The first UK retailers have gone live with AM1 parts, offering the Athlon 5350 for £39.99, the Athlon 5150 for £37.99, the Sempron 3850 for £29.99 and the Sempron 2650 for £25.99. Motherboards range in price from £26 up to £38.

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Nvidia claims Mantle-beating gains with 337.50 Beta

Nvidia claims Mantle-beating gains with 337.50 Beta

Nvidia’s latest beta drivers, 337.50, come with a claimed performance boost that can best AMD’s Mantle in some titles – and without the need for devs to go back and add support.


Nvidia has made big promises of its latest GeForce beta driver, with claims that optimisations made to its DirectX implementation can result in performance improvements that in some cases better those promised by rival AMD’s Mantle architecture, without the need to modify existing games.

Released late yesterday, the GeForce 337.50 Beta driver bundle make various optimisations to DirectX 11 titles which, the Nvidia claims, can have a dramatic effect on performance. According to the company’s internal testing, those running single-GPU systems will see a boost as high as 64 per cent in selected titles, while those on multi-GPU systems via SLI can expect gains as high as 71 per cent.

Granted, those gains apply only to Nvidia’s latest and greatest graphics cards, and even then only on selected titles: the company has measured a near-50 per cent boost in the performance of Sniper Elite v2 and Total War: Rome 2 using a pair of GeForce GTX 780Ti boards in SLI with an Intel Core i7 3960K and 8GB of RAM, just over 40 per cent in Alien vs. Predator, and just shy of 30 per cent in Sleeping Dogs. Other games highlighted by the company include Battlefield 4, with a promised 12 per cent boost, and Thief, with a 7 per cent boost.

The company also teased its DirectX 12 implementation, promising that when Microsoft’s next-generation API is ready for release it will bring even higher performance boosts for those whose graphics chips will support the standard.

Additional announcements made by Nvidia include the release of the GeForce Experience 2.0 software, offering optimisations for more than 150 games and the introduction of ShadowPlay and GameStream support for laptop users. The SHIELD hand-held console, yet to launch in the UK, has also seen a software update which adds the ability to stream games from a desktop over the internet as well as the local area network.

The company’s full performance figures for the new driver update, along with a link to download the drivers, are available on the official GeForce site.

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