Technology

Windows 8 is Worth Having

When was the last time you heard something good about windows 8? Probably not in a while. With people like John Carmack and Gabe Newell spewing no-sense that Windows 8 is bad for PC gaming and people getting mad about the Metro interface being terrible, it’s not surprising. Well, I’m here to tell you otherwise. I bet you’re thinking “those guys are pretty smart so they have to be right. What do you know?” I’ve been using Windows 8 for a long time, since the developer preview in fact, and I have a few reasons why Windows 8 is worth having.

First I’d like to address the comments about Windows 8 being bad for gaming, claims that I find have no ground to stand on. I have played many many games on my Windows 8 desktops and even my tablet. People have this misconception that Metro is Windows 8. Well, it’s not. In fact it’s a small part of it in my opinion. I use Steam and Origin for all my games and I am able to play thousands of games at will just like in Windows 7. In fact, I think it’s better for gaming and developers in general. With the addition of Metro and the Windows Store, more people can make more games with more variety while reaching a larger group of people. With everyone having Windows 8 looking for apps, those people will see your games. It’s great!

The second reason is that people think Metro is an end of the line, in your face, pile of crap. I won’t argue it’s unnecessary for desktops, but what I will say is that I never use it. I only do so when I start my PC and turn on Steam. I use it like a desktop full of icons, but without cluttering my desktop, I just use features in Windows 7 more. Pinning programs to my taskbar is actually really awesome and I don’t mind it anymore. The place where the start button was still brings you to the start screen you’ll rarely use, and right clicking it gives you more options than the old start menu.

The last few reasons are that, among other things changed, they made a lot of great changes for people with multi-monitor support. There are numerous tweaks and a whole new task manager. The security of the OS is much better than 7 and it’s very stable for me. The only gripe I have during daily use is that I can’t have a clock on all the taskbars, so if I’m gaming, my main monitor is being used and I can’t see the time. That’s really it, honestly.

Windows 8 is great, give it a chance and don’t believe the hype. It’s awkward at first, but I promise you’ll adapt quickly and learn to like it.

Technology

Alessio Wants: Midi Fighter Pro

Hello all!

I’ve been away, but now I have returned.

This month’s “Alessio Wants” is very live music oriented. This month, I want: A Midi Fighter Pro!

DJ Tech Tools, a site that I’ve mentioned or linked to at least a dozen times on Geek Time in the past, is the only possible place that you can procure this marvel of modern technology, unless, of course, you’d rather just learn how to make one on your own (which, by the way, is what I may be doing/getting someone else to do *wink wink*). The site’s founder/on site guru, Ean Golden, is the fine creator of this glorious little USB husk of a midi controller. There’s really nothing to it, it’s a few arcade buttons (authentic!), some other customizable odds and ends, and it works as a generic USB Midi controller for you to utilize with Ableton Live, Traktor, Scratch, or any other midi reading software. That’s it. But boy does it look gorgeous!

Here’s a video of it in motion.

To follow up on my previous “Alessio Wants”, I now officially have a Playstation Vita. Which means, unless someone on staff corrects me, that I am the only one who can write reviews, previews, and hands-on articles with the Vita. I’m ecstatic.

Keep your ears to the ground for the next entry of “Alessio Wants”!

Technology

680 GTX- Head to Head

For years AMD and Nvidia have been at war and fighting the good fight on the battlefield that is the graphics card market. AMD generally gets the drop on Nvidia as far as releasing a new video card series but Nvidia normally counters with a monster that blows AMD out of the water, for a price.

This year AMD released the AMD 7000 series, which is their high-end line that truly goes unchallenged, until now. Nvidia has just unleashed their own series of video cards to replace the dated 500 Fermi Series: meet the 600 Kepler series. These video cards, like their AMD 7000 competition both sport the new 28nm process. The only card released thus far is the 680 GTX, and in this article we will go over the benchmarks and advantages this card can offer you and what it means for your next gaming rig. Let’s get right into it with some benchmarks and comparisons.


The AMD 7970 is the main competitor of the Nvidia 680 GTX and those are the two most high-end cards on the market at the moment. The 7970 offers 3 Gigs of video memory where the 680 GTX only offers two, for current gen games this really won’t ever make a difference unless you use multiple monitors for eyefinity or Nvida Surround. They are both powerful cards and are designed to go head to head. Let’s look at those benches now.

I chose to use the Unigen Heaven 3 as a benchmark as I have felt that it fully utilizes DX 11 and yields the most consistent and accurate results. These benchmarks, as you can see at high resolutions, were a lose for Nvidia, surprisingly. They even had this to say about the card: “We should have a pretty comfortable lead in Heaven 2.5 and 3.0. I’m surprised we lost in your moderate tessellation testing at 25×16. Running 8xMSAA we’re likely memory bandwidth bound as Heaven isn’t a pure tessellation benchmark. It also stresses other parts of the GPU besides just tessellation. If you run a tessellation test like tessmark or Microsoft’s SubD11 tessellation test (which both AMD and NVIDIA use when quoting tessellation perf) you’ll see that 4x difference in tessellation horsepower we’re referring to.” – NVIDIA PR

The aftermarket AMD 7970 used in this benchmark really made this an even fight. Now you may be thinking “hey didn’t he say Nvidia counters with a beast of a card?” well yes, generally, this isn’t that card, this is what you’d call the Nvidia 560 TI of the 600 series, meaning in effect that the real beast isn’t out yet. I feel this was simply a way for Nvida to try to catch up with AMD always getting the drop on them at first.

Now both cards come at a price, the Nvidia card comes in at only $500 dollars for a reference model where the 7970 is a whole 50 dollars more at $500. There are many reasons to want each, Nvidia has Physx support for games that use that hardware, Nvidia has better drivers for Windows 8, it’s $50 dollars cheaper and it also uses less power. In reality though the best choice comes down to what you want and what you use it for, do you do multi monitor gaming? Nvidia requires SLI for that, so you’d need to buy two of these cards, AMD has more memory for multi-monitor gaming and better connectivity such as more display port connectors.
The bottom line is that the 680 GTX is a beast and a great price, but so is the AMD 7970, what to get really comes down to what you want and what you’re going to use it for. If you want to play with muli-monitors get AMD, if you want Physx support and better drivers go Nvidia.

Technology

Intel Ivy Bridge – The Bleeding Edge

Intel released Sandy Bridge back in early 2011. It’s been a year since then, so what’s next you ask? Intel’s Ivy Bridge along with the new Panther Point Chip-set (may feature Thunderbolt). This falls right into Intel’s tick-tock cycle. Will this hardware juggernaut’s new processor live up to the hype?

(pclaunches.com)

Intel’s new Ivy Bridge processor lineup comes with a new technology that has been under development for around ten years, 3D transistors. Traditionally the transistors in a CPU are flat. These new transistors in leaked benchmarks don’t seem to actually make that much of a difference, but the truth is yet to be seen now. The only true advantage is that in the future, 3D transistors will allow Moore’s Law to continue a while longer. Ivy Bridge will be manufactured on the 22 nm process, this allows for greater transistor density and less heat generation than current 32 nm products. The die shrink isn’t all that’s getting changed though!

In addition to a die shrink, Intel is releasing the newer series of its integrated graphics as well, the HD 4000 series; this will invalidate the current 3000 series. Of course this is of no concern to most people and especially gamers. The only notable (yet useless) enhancement is 4k resolution support, being there are no consumer 4k monitors, at the moment it is entirely useless.

Ivy Bridge is expected to give a 15-20% increase in performance over current gen I-series processors on socket 1155. This, however, does not apply for Intel’s current flagship the I7-3960X, but it will come close. That is until the socket 2011 Ivy Bridge Extreme that will be released in late 2012 as the replacement for Sandy Bridge E series.

They will follow the same naming system as the SB series. The letters X and K indicate overclocking capability, whereas “T” means it’s a low wattage version of that particular CPU. They processors are as follow:

(pixelsmashers.com)

If you’re planning on buying a new computer or simply want to upgrade definitely wait for Ivy Bridge. Its release date has been pushed to April 29th. Why spend the same amount of money now, when you could, in a few months, be on the bleeding edge?

Technology

What’s an Ultrabook?

I can’t use a Mac. I was born a Windows user and I’ll be damned if I ever own anything running OSX. But there is one thing that Macs do that Windows computers just can’t measure up to, and that thing is aesthetics. It’s hard to see someone holding a super thin Macbook Air and then look back at your chunky notebook. It really makes the Macbook Air feel like a viable choice when buying a new laptop, even if the specs are laughable. Luckily, Intel realized that this was a problem, and they responded with Ultrabooks.

Ultrabooks are super light, super fast notebooks meant to blow everything else out of the water. Basically, everything Apple hoped the Air would be. You will certainly see where the manufacturers took influence for their ultrabooks aesthetics; many are minimalistic and a few are even uni-body aluminum. Not just any laptop can be considered an Ultrabook, though. To be considered an Ultrabook, a laptop must comply to these standards:

  • Thin – less than 21 mm (0.8 inch) thickness
  • Lightweight – less than 1.4 kg (3.1 pounds)
  • Long battery life – 5 to 8+ hours
  • Mainstream pricing – around $1,000 USD
  • May use flash-based SSDs
  • Use CULV (17 W TDP) Intel Sandy Bridge mobile processors
    • Core i5-2467M (1.6 GHz)
    • Core i5-2557M (1.7 GHz)
    • Core i7-2637M (1.7 GHz)
    • Core i7-2677M (1.8 GHz)
  • Use Intel’s graphics sub-system HD Graphics 3000

Of course, when Intel releases its next generation Ivy Bridge processors, they will become the standard for Ultrabooks.

http://www.sawfnews.com/Tech/68121.aspx
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em (Amazon)

So, should you buy an Ultrabook? Not yet. My advice is to wait until the Ivy Bridge Ultrabooks are released, and then purchase one. After all, if you are going to drop $800-$1500 on a laptop, you will want to do as much future proofing as possible.

Technology

Top 5 Computer Misconceptions

I have spent a great deal researching computers, working on and with computers since I was a lad. I have seen the most ridiculous of comments made, weathered the worst possible storms of idiocy working in a computer store, and put up with the most absurd of the absurd. So today I think is as fitting as any to clear up some of the (not the most insane) inaccuracies, and would like to briefly go over a few of them for educational purposes.

I spent $99 on this, so it MUST be the BEST for me! (v3.co.uk)

The first misconception I’d like to address is people who constantly stress over, and pay money for internet security, I know a lot of people out there are not that good with them, but if you’re reading this I’d hope you’re of average user skill. I have come to find that the most powerful way to protect your computer is to just be safe on the internet, looking at questionable content and clicking spam emails isn’t a good thing. Always be sure of what you’re downloading and learn what processes you want running under task manager. Other ways to keep your computer clean are in fact anti-malware software such as Malwarebytes and even Spy Bot Search and Destroy. A sure sign of viruses I find normally begins with something small such as a re-direct virus, where certain sites when typed in take you somewhere else trying to sell you something or asking you to download something. If this happens run Malwarebytes and Spybot, problem solved. Just don’t go back to whatever site it was you got it from. I have not had a single active anti-virus on my computer since I was 11. There is no use if you’re smart and know your computer. Experiment with Windows, the worst you can do is need to re-install Windows.

Another big annoyance I hear A LOT is when people always look at the clock speed of a Video card or Processor and asses its speed by those numbers, I have had countless clients tell me they have a computer and emphasize the Ghz without even knowing what the name of it is, You could have a 20 Ghz Pentium 4 and my I7 3930k at 3.2 Ghz would eat it for breakfast. The same goes for video cards, people don’t seem to notice that generally NVidia video cards have a slower clock speed than most AMD cards, yet have equal performance. Now I’m not saying it’s irrelevant, I’m saying you need to consider the other factors of these parts, such as core count, manufacture process and stream processors.

(legitreviews.com)

I’d have to say my third biggest beef with is the people and their computers is the notion that having an excess of unused files is to blame for a slowing computer. This is entirely false, the only circumstance this could be true is if you have filled your hard drive to the point it can no longer defragment, over time your hard drive will slow down, but due to fragmented data. Computers are slowed down by poor maintenance; my computer is never slow, and just as fast as the day I built it because I take care of it. It really only takes a few minutes. Download a program called CCleaner. It is your new best friend. It has options for disabling start up programs: go through them. Chances are you won’t need 90% of them. Simply click disable and, upon reboot, you will instantly notice a difference in speed. The best tip I can give you is that if you buy a pre-made computer (god forbid) RE-INSTALL WINDOWS. This must be your first objective as bloat ware and all sorts of things that you don’t need and clutter your desktop will be present. Make sure you buy (or download) an OEM Windows Disk. It will work with the product key on the side of your computer.

(filehippo.com)

Upgrading old computers is a good idea! No, no it is not. Old motherboards support old processors, even the best of old processors for your old motherboard, is still and old processor. RAM costs more to obtain when it’s not the most up-to-date type, and in turn you throw money down the drain. Even with video cards this is true. You will end up bottle necking your out of date parts and not even getting your money’s worth on that. Upgrading is almost never a good idea unless your computer is a year old. The method I favor is buying and selling my computer every year, then I only pay what my loss was and am always up to date. The method works very, very well.

This final statement is less of a misconception as it is common sense. I commonly research hardware I’d like, but recently I’ve seen a few reviews on older products. The most notable example is someone who was commenting on their new Intel 990X CPU (MSRP $1,050). This processor is matched by the I7-2600k overclocked at a fraction of the price, and totally decimated by the $600 3930k. Before you buy hardware, please, please see what’s around the corner and study benchmarks heavily before making poor choices. Make sure you spend your money well, be realistic in what you’ll need, if you’re only a gamer you’ll probably never need to spend over $250 on a processor. The only reason to spend more than $250 on a processor is that you want to feel cool, have money to spend, are planning for the future (if you sell and buy every year who cares), or do something that needs more, such as professional work like video editing (heavy video editing). Stay smart, stay informed, and spend wisely.

Technology

Alessio Wants: A Canon C300

In the same vein as my “So…” article this issue, “Alessio Wants” is going to the movies! This issue, I’m going to drool over the Canon C300 Cinema Camcorder!

Already thought by many to be a bit more expensive than it should be, coming in at $16,000 instead of the hoped for $14,000 price tag, Canon is offering it’s alleged “first” foray into cinema quality camcorders. Sure, sure, “But Canon already manufactures the 5D Mk. II DSLR camera, and that looks great!”, BUT, Canon’s C300 offers that experience kicked up a notch, or more. Unlike Canon’s DSLR series, the C300 offers dual CF card slots, allowing for 64GB CF cards in each slot, essentially allowing you to record hours and hours of video without ever taking out a card for a footage dump mid-shoot. The C300 also comes standard with two XLR inputs, which were a pain to incorporate into a DSLR rig without having a separate rig strictly for audio gear. But where the C300 really stands apart is in visual quality.

What a beaut! (Canon)

Canon’s C300 sports a 9.84 megapixel CMOS sensor, which is essentially half of the 5D’s 21 megapixel CMOS sensor, but it allows for Super 35 format video and framerates of 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 50, and 59.94. Internally, the sensor shoots at an aspect ratio of 4:4:4. Where I’m really wowed is in the fact that the C300 can rock an ISO as high as 20,000. Talk about shooting in low light! Now, the camera still compresses the video in MPEG-2, so I’m not too sure about artifacting or noise at higher ISOs, but I’m assuming you wouldn’t want to go into the 20,000 mark unless you really had to.

Another major selling point for me is the fact that all Canon lenses should hypothetically fit this beast, which means that my accumulated 5D lenses would be “backwards compatible” with the C300. This saves me a lot of time and money. Another major selling point is the inclusion of a viewfinder and on-board level monitoring for audio levels. Really, this is Canon’s lot cast against the likes of Sony’s F3 and the RED Scarlet. If I had all of the money in the world, I’d still shoot for a Scarlet, or really ANY RED camera, but for the price and the fact that I already own a lot of Canon gear, this is right up my alley.

Check out this video of test footage shot on a C300 if you’d like to feast your eyes on a visual treat.

My final words? Canon seems to be finally marrying prosumer DSLR pros with the pros of HDV camcorders in their latest entry to their camera line. Is this camera powerful enough for independently produced features, shorts, etc? You bet. Will film aficionados/buffs/snobs still find something wrong with it? You bet. Is it better than the Sony F3 or the RED Scarlet? I imagine that only rigorous comparison videos and hands-on articles can really get to the bottom of that, but hey, if you’re in the market for a ~$15,000-$20,000 camera body, you owe it to yourself to do a bit more research that I could cover in this article.

Next time on “Alessio Wants”, I talk about the pros and cons of a loving family!

Technology

Geek Out: The Product Spotlight

Retro is cool, we geeks know this, and if the steampunk movement has taught us anything, it’s that mashing the old with the new is a fast track to Nerdvana.

What I have for you today is a little too modern for steampunk, but if you have a suitcase from the 1920s lying around, you may be interested in the BoomCase.

(theboomcase.com)

Created by the California-based Mr. Simo, the BoomCase is a gorgeous mash up of early twentieth century travelware and present-day audio technology, each one custom-made to the users specification. They meet the mandatory Apple compatibility check, as well as working with any audio device with a headphone jack.

The reason the BoomCase is only made using your grandads carry-on is down to the fact that, well, they don’t make suitcases like they used to. To quote the BoomCase about page, Mr. Simo shies “… away from plastic or thin suitcases because of their not so great acoustic qualities…”. The cases of choice are made from good old wood and leather.

OK, let’s be honest, this isn’t going to be something most of us will spend our hard earned cash on, especially with the purse strings being as tight as they are these days. And with a starting price of $375, this isn’t exactly impulse buy material.

But it’s ever so pretty.

If you do decide to grab some retro audio luggage, be aware that each BoomCase is unique, and, if you see one you like on the BoomCase site, it might not be there for long.

Still, we can look…

(etsy.com/shop/AtomicAttic)

I don’t like stereotyping, but, let’s be honest; if you’re a girl geek we can probably assume that you own a cat and use a Mac.

No, I haven’t been spying on you, it’s just a thing.

Perhaps you’re not a girl geek, but you might have one in your life (a girlfriend, a girl friend, a sister… you get the idea), and you may be racking your brain for something special to get them for Valentines Day, their birthday, the end of the world, or any other occasion of choice. Heck, you may be a [slightly weird] guy geek with cat and and a Mac, and you may just want to get yourself something. Well, do I have something for you.

Apple Cat Beds!

OK, not exactly cat beds made by Apple, and these aren’t exactly new, but they’re pretty cool, nonetheless. AtomicAttic are, for the low low price of $129 (no amount is too much for your little baby, right?) selling old Apple computer cases, re-purposed as cat beds!

Macs, re-purposed as cat beds!

You can get the sweet looking Mac Studio or an original iMac for your kitty to cat nap in, and you know your feline friend will love you for it. Well, they’ll tolerate you more, at least. And if you don’t want to house your cat in a Mac, AtomicAttic (clearly a cat person) has a few other items for sale that, no longer needed for their original purpose, are now destined to be sat on by furry elitists.