Technewsday Tuesday – IBM Storage Goes Atomic

Welcome to a snowy Tuesday here in Canada, and what a perfect day it is to talk about some tech news!

In what I would professionally classify as “very cool, dude!” (the term’s a bit technical, I know), IBM has announced that they’ve discovered a way to store a 1 or a 0 in a single atom. Previously, “atomic storage” meant that the use of patterns of atoms to create readable data.

The science behind it is a bit beyond my expertise, but essentially IBM uses a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) to hit a Holmium atom with electrons, causing it to change spinning state. The spinning state can then be read by the STM, letting it represent a 1 or 0.

This level of storage opens up possibilities for the future, such as smaller drives or very high capacity drives. However, this is still in a very early stage. They have reportedly had trouble with thermal energy causing spontaneous loss or flipping of the spin.

They are still investigating different atoms, clusters of atoms, or small molecules for more stability, but either way we’re talking early stages of what could be a digital storage revolution.

The key there, of course, is “early stages”. I wouldn’t expect anything to come out of it any time soon, but still….the potential is there.

Adaptive Sync – Will You Adapt?

If you’ve listened to our technobabble podcast, you’ve probably heard me defend the virtues of NVIDIA G-Sync with reckless abandon.

 

Well today, on a grey, snowy Monday at the RBG Lair, I’d like to pull up a chair around the gas fireplace with a hot, watered down cup of whatever was left in the coffee maker and have an honest chat about adaptive sync technology.

 

For those of you that aren’t quite sure what that is, I’ll give you a quick synopsis to the (admittedly underwhelming) extent of my knowledge. Refresh rate is the rate at which your monitor refreshes its image, usually measured per second (Hz). Adaptive sync technology such as NVIDIA G-Sync or the Team Red alternative FreeSync allows your monitor to adjust its refresh rate to match the frame rate being put out by your video card. This prevents the common screen tearing that can happen when your monitor refresh rate and your frame rate are not synchronized, and a new frame is rendered mid refresh (or vice versa).

 

 

As far as Red vs Green goes, NVIDIA G-Sync uses a module inside the monitor itself to control the refresh rate

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Whereas AMD uses the Adaptive-Sync component originally developed for the DisplayPort 1.2a standard.

 

 

This means that NVIDIA’s solution is proprietary, and involves actual modifications to monitors as opposed to AMD’s use of a free to use solution, resulting in a rather high price premium for G-Sync enabled devices.

 

 

While some will argue NVIDIA’s use of a hardware controller should theoretically give them the advantage, actual comparisons have been inconclusive at best. In addition, AMD announced FreeSync 2 back in January, the next generation of the technology which reportedly improves the minimums (currently, adaptive sync has trouble below 30 FPS) while having support for HDR. At this point, I have a hard time not giving Team Red the victory here. Their only true disadvantage at this point is a lack of modern GPUs at the higher end of the spectrum, while NVIDIA is churning out monsters like the GTX 1080, 1080 Ti, and Titan X.

 

 

 

The real question is: who is this technology for?

 

 

In my opinion, everyone!

 

In addition to smooth, tearing-free games, adaptive sync can have other advantages such as improving battery life in laptops due to making the display work only as hard as it has to. It has also been cited as an advantage for stutter-free video playback.

 

Adaptive sync has another potential advantage for games in that it can theoretically increase the effective life of a graphics card. As modern games see a dip in frame rate, adaptive sync’s smoothing effect will make it more tolerable. Capping your frame rate around where you average is will prevent spikes, and adaptive sync will keep your refresh rate from causing more tearing.

 

 

So what’s holding us back? Well, at the moment, there aren’t that many G-Sync and FreeSync enabled monitors at reasonable prices. That number has been growing, so we have hope for the future.

 

Price is another big factor, especially on NVIDIA’s side of the fence. As it becomes more common, I’m hoping we see prices even out. Heck, I hope it becomes a standard for all displays.

 

 

All that said, I find it very hard to recommend G-Sync monitors at this time, even as someone who owns one and loves it. The price premiums are excessive in my mind, but if you want the best experience regardless, G-Sync is for you…just so long as you weren’t planning on switching teams any time soon. For my Radeon users out there, I wholeheartedly recommend picking up a FreeSync enabled monitor if you’ve got the cash for an upgrade.

 

 

What do you think about adaptive sync? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Wallpaper Engine

A feature introduced with Windows Vista Ultimate Edition back in the day that I really enjoyed was the live wallpaper (DreamScene) function. I would often have the stream playing in the background and I honestly thought it took the Windows desktop to the next level. Well in Windows 7 the feature was hidden and since Windows 8 the feature was removed altogether.

Recently I stumbled upon a Steam Early Access software called Wallpaper Engine. Now we’ve seen things like this before on the internet. Programs that will change your wallpaper every so often to keep things interesting. The problem with many of those programs is that they often contain computer crippling performance bugs or are literally a skin on a virus itself. Wallpaper Engine is none of those things.

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Wallpaper Engine sets out to make your desktop active like the live wallpaper in that was contained in Windows Vista but with higher resolution video and even some interactive wallpapers that can be quite interesting as well.

Looking at the application, it is relatively well thought out. The main portion of the app is dedicated to a grid section of pre-installed live and static wallpapers. Most are live thankfully. The biggest deal here is that there are nearly 800 different wallpapers live and not live (again most have a live component to them and some even have music which can be turned down in the settings) which is huge. There are wallpapers for your AMD and nVidia fanboys, Mass Effect fans, and a ton of anime stuff I have never seen before.

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If I had one thing I would like to see improved is a category system so we can filter out say, the anime stuff as while I enjoy anime I am not up on all the latest stuff out there.

My favourite wallpapers so far include the standard Matrix wallpaper, a neat futuristic computer UI wallpaper and a sweet Mass Effect wallpaper from the beginning of Mass Effect 2.

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I am really enjoying this program. One thing to note, it’s default setting is to run at 15FPS. This is smart as it requires some real computer resources to up it to 25 or all the way to 60 as I have on my machine. In the initial setup it will only allow you to go up to 25FPS but you can change this later in the setting of the application.

If you are interested in using a unique background and have a decent enough PC pick up Wallpaper Engine on Steam. It does cost 4.49 CAD but it’s totally worth it.

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RBG Gaming Lounge 002 – Switch it Up!

Join Jeff and Dan as they go through the latest in gaming news and poke around at the upcoming releases.

1) WB Games Announces Middle-Earth: Shadow of War (Shadow of Mordor Sequel)
i) Silver/Gold/Mithril Editions
ii) “Leak” by Target

2) Nintendo Switch Launch

i) Prone to scratching when placing it in the dock (plastic screen)?

ii) Screen protectors and vinyls having issues with melting/breaking down due to heat

iii) Dead pixels happening – Nintendo issues statement that dead pixels aren’t defects.
3) For Honor numbers drop after initial flurry

4) Xbox GamePass – $10/month Game Library

5) Sonic Mania

6) Rocket League surpases 10.5 million sales

The Tech War Roundup – Q1 2017

Our favourite technology teams have traded blows in the last couple weeks. Let’s look at where the war for our hearts, minds, and most importantly our money, sits.

 

Team Red (AMD)

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The Red Revolution has kicked it into high gear in the last few weeks. The great comeback into the high end CPU scene has arrived in the form of Ryzen, and it has been the talk of the town.

AMD’s new dreadnoughts of the CPU world, the Ryzen 7 series, have taken us all by storm with 8 cores, 16 threads and a very reasonable price point. The new flagship chip, the 1800X, has shown multi-tasking power competitive with Intel’s top of the line i7-6900K at roughly half the price.

AMD has positioned Ryzen 7 at a price point to make them the processor manufacturer of choice for content creators, streamers, and the like. The average gamer unfortunately must wait until AMD unveils the Ryzen 5 series.

 

Team Green (NVIDIA)

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The Green Team has made two major announcements in recent days regarding their top of the line GPUs.

Despite AMD only teasing us with their new Vega architecture, NVIDIA appears to be getting ahead of the game with the announcement of their new flagship gaming card, the GTX 1080 Ti.

Coming in at a hefty MSRP of $700 USD, the 1080 Ti features an identical CUDA core count to the Pascal Titan X at 3584. It also features a 1.6GHz boost clock and a memory capacity of 11GB of GDDR5X VRAM. Early benchmarks show ~30% improvement over the GTX 1080, which is a massive leap.

Thankfully, NVIDIA also announced a price drop on the 1080, so look for cheaper 1080s in the immediate future.

 

Team Blue (Intel)

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Seemingly in a preemptive strike against future AMD Ryzen gaming centric chips, Team Blue announced a “refresh” of their Kaby Lake lineup: the i7-7740K and i5-7640K. These two new chips feature a 112W TDP and improved clock speeds over the 7700K and 7600K.

 

While this improvement is only a minor one, it does set the bar slightly higher for AMD to match if they wish to tackle Intel in the high end single core performance market as they have in the professional market.

 

Intel also announced that their new 10nm architecture “Cannon Lake” will be shipping before the end of 2017, so we’ll stay tuned for that.

 

 

 

All in all, we’ve seen some exciting new PC tech so far in 2017. If you’re interested in further discussion and/or rambling on some of these topics, tune in to our technobabble podcast.

RBG Update

Hey guys!

Thanks so much for sticking with us. We have had an exciting couple of weeks here and I want to share some things with you on the future of redbluegreen.ca. Due to circumstances this week we won’t be releasing any podcasts but have no fear:

We aren’t going anywhere.

You see, RBG is run by a few enthusiasts in their off time from their homes. Yes, I have a full time job and so does Dan. And Cynthia. And Kevin. So we can get busy from time to time and content doesn’t get posted as much as we’d like.

In an effort to remain relevant to today’s news we started the Technobabble RBG Podcast that has been going for nearly half a year bi-weekly. This way we can communicate to you all directly and share what we think of the news of the last week or so.

In discussions with the rest of the team I worked on bringing some more podcasts to you. After eight episodes of Technobabble RBG, You Me and Tech was launched with Cynthia at the helm. This podcast takes a deeper dive in to the history of technology and it has been a blast to record for you all so far.

After that Dan and I decided recently that we would split the Technobabble RBG podcast in to two podcasts. Technobabble would continue to focus on technology news and the new RBG Gaming Lounge would focus on gaming.

I couldn’t be happier with the new podcasts except for one point. Better quality. Yes, up until now we have been recording in a room in my house on a noisy computer with a Blue Yeti microphone. While the Yeti is actually a very good microphone it’s not really ideal for recording three people in the same environment as Farpoint, my main computer, which records the podcast and gleefully inserts its own fan noise as I like to think it also wants to participate.

While the noise issue can be dealt with in post through filters in Audacity, my experience has been that we lose voice quality overall when I run the filters.

So I am happy to announce today that we have picked up some new audio equipment for testing and eventual use on all the podcasts. We also have a new recording studio in Dan’s secret layer under the CN Tower (listen to the Gaming Lounge for more on that) that promises less background noise. We also have a couple new recording systems that will be much quieter in the studio.

We picked up a USB mixer that will connect to one PC via USB to record our podcasts to Audacity. We will also be using a separate PC to do Skype calls leaving the main studio PC dedicated to recording and editing. With this setup we hope to get better quality Skype recordings with Kevin who lives in the United States (or anyone else that may join in). With this setup we will also be testing a new condenser style microphone. If we are happy with the quality we will be using them for all three of us on the podcast.

Yeah that’s all a mouthful I know but suffice to say we know we need better quality and in picking up these things we feel we will be able to provide that to you.

So now we get to the good news.

When the testing is complete and we feel satisfied with the setup are plan is to shift our main shows Technobabble RBG (now RBG Technobabble, yeah big change I know) and RBG Gaming Lounge to weekly recordings that will hopefully be live every Monday. You, Me and Tech will continue on as a bi-weekly show as it requires more research to be done properly. When the show is recorded it will be posted every Thursday.

So that’s it guys. With all this happening along with other plans we have set for down the road that we are really excited for we look forward to the future of redbluegreen.ca.

Thanks guys,

Jeff