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The Final Bottom Line

We have written thousands of "The Bottom Lines" over the last couple of decades, but this is truly the last one. What I wrote in my "Goodbye HardOCP - Hello Intel" statement is not a cruel April Fool's Day joke. Tomorrow is my first day working for Intel...promise. I wanted to take a moment to say thanks to all you guys. The simple fact is that without YOU, there would not be 20 years of HardOCP history to sit around and reminisce about, but make no mistake it is the readers that made HardOCP what it is. We have long tried to gauge what you wanted to read about, and how you wanted that delivered, then we tried our best to fulfill that desire. During the last 20 years, there is no doubt that there were times that we stumbled along the way, but I always tried to learn from our shortcomings to make us better on the other side. And again, it was the readers that held our feet to the fire and made us get better at producing content that you wanted to read. The readers made HardOCP what it was. Many thanks to a long list of editors and hardware enthusiast that I have worked with here at HardOCP. While I am not going to list them all, Brent Justice, Paul Johnson, Dan Dobrowloski, and Cliff Murphy (our backend admin) have been with me the longest and truly made HardOCP better. Many thanks gentlemen! While HardOCP will no longer be publishing, the HardForum will still be going strong. I will still be part of that community and you will see me active there, so I will not be hard to find. You will also be seeing me all over the country very soon, hopefully close to your backyard, and if you get the chance, please swing by so we can talk Intel tech. If you want to keep tabs on what is going on with me, give my Twitter account a follow @KyleBennett. Ongoing Discussion
Posted by Kyle March 31, 2019 8:23 PM (CDT)

Signing out One Last Time

Today is the last day that I'll be doing the news on Hardocp and I just wanted to tell everyone that it was an honor to be allowed into your workplaces and homes through a few humbly written articles. I hope that my writings brought a little joy and happiness to my friends here; yes, I consider us all friends. I was taught by my parents to show love to others by sharing and I hope my articles entertained the Hardocp audience. The questions, answers, and lively debate that they generated certainly entertained me. Thank you @Kyle_Bennett and the [H]ardocp family for giving me a chance. Thank you, KG Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 22, 2019 6:32 PM (CDT)

Micron Cuts DRAM and NAND Flash Output as ASP Falters

Micron has revealed plans to cut production of its DRAM and NAND flash products by 5% to combat its average selling price (ASP) falling by 20% in the quarter ended February 28, 2019. Oversupply in both sectors led to the sharp fall in pricing and was "worse-than-expected DRAM and NAND pricing." Micron DRAM revenues experienced a "decrease 30% sequentially and 28% from a year earlier to account for 64% of its total revenues in the second quarter of its fiscal 2019." Micron's NAND revenue slid "18% sequentially and 2% on year to account for 30% of company revenues in the fiscal second-quarter 2019. ASPs went down about 25% from the first quarter." Micron expects revenues to drop another 17% in fiscal Q3 2019. Micron bought back 21 million shares of its common stock. Thanks @workshop35 !

Looking into the fiscal third-quarter 2019, Micron expects revenues to register another sequential drop of about 17% to US$4.6-5 billion, with gross margin sliding to 37-40% from 50% in the prior quarter. "Micron continues to execute well across a range of product, operational and financial initiatives against the backdrop of a challenging market environment," said Micron president and CEO Sanjay Mehrotra. "These initiatives and our focus on high-value solutions, cost competitiveness and innovation will enable us to emerge even stronger as the market environment improves."

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 22, 2019 5:16 PM (CDT)

VRoamer Generates On-The-Fly VR Experiences While Walking Through Buildings

VRoamer is a new Microsoft Research project that generates VR worlds on-the-fly while users walk through unknown building environments. Players can wear their HMD and no longer have to rely on artificial locomotion techniques such as teleportation. They simply walk through their environment and the game is built around them. This is possible through the use of a wearable tech camera that scans the environment in front of the user and visualizes a playable virtual world. The system paints its virtual environment over real world objects such as doors. The system keeps the user safe from objects in the real world, even though those objects are hidden to the user. Transitions are done through corridors that are constructed to the available space in the user's environment. Players can open real doors to progress the game and the corridors may contain weapons, enemies, keys, etc. Objects that suddenly appear in a user's environment such as other people may become skeletons or traps.

In this paper, we present VRoamer, which enables users to walk unseen physical spaces for which VRoamer procedurally generates a virtual scene on-the-fly. Scaling to the size of office buildings, VRoamer extracts walkable areas and detects physical obstacles in real time using inside-out tracking, instantiates pre-authored virtual rooms if their sizes fit physically walkable areas or otherwise generates virtual corridors and doors that lead to undiscovered physical areas. The use of these virtual structures that connect pre-authored scenes on-the-fly allow VRoamer to (1) temporarily block users' passage, thus slowing them down while increasing VRoamer's insight into newly discovered physical areas, (2) prevent users from seeing changes beyond the current virtual scene, and (3) obfuscate the appearance of physical environments. VRoamer animates virtual objects to reflect dynamically discovered changes of the physical environment, such as people walking by or obstacles that become apparent only with closer proximity.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 22, 2019 4:47 PM (CDT)

The DHS Issues Medical Advisory for Medtronic Cardiac Devices

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a cybersecurity warning that documents vulnerabilities in the Medtronic Conexus Radio Frequency Telemetry Protocol. Medtronic makes cardio-defibrillators that are planted into a patient's chest and can be read and programmed by trained medical personnel. This allows the devices to communicate with home monitoring devices and Carelink programmers found at doctor's offices. These vulnerabilities require a low level of skill to exploit as the proprietary Conexus telemetry protocol utilized within this ecosystem does not implement authentication or authorization. An attacker can inject, replay, modify, and/or intercept data within the telemetry communication. This communication protocol provides the ability to read and write memory values to affected implanted cardiac devices; therefore, an attacker could exploit this communication protocol to change memory in the implanted cardiac device. Because the devices also lack encryption, attackers can listen to communications, including the transmission of sensitive data. Medtronics is working on developing updates to fix the vulnerabilities.

"It is possible with this attack to cause harm to a patient, either by erasing the firmware that is giving necessary therapy to the patient's heart, or by directly invoking shock related commands on the defibrillator," he said. "Since this protocol is unauthenticated, the ICD cannot discern if communications its receiving are coming from a trusted Medtronic device, or an attacker." A successful attacker could erase or reprogram the defibrillator's firmware, and run any command on the device.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 22, 2019 4:05 PM (CDT)

Microsoft Patent Describes a Persistence of Vision Augmented Reality Display

Microsoft has filed a patent for a new type of mixed-reality head-mounted display (HMD) called a Persistence of Vision Augmented Reality Display. The display uses movable screens to simulate a 360 degree field of view. These screens can rotate back and forth, spin around a user's head, or spin in front of the user's eyes. The device isn't guaranteed to ever see the light of day, but hopefully some of the ideas make it into other products.

Microsoft's patent FIG. 4A below illustrates a movement based display device with a movable member configured to rotate about a user's head; FIG. 4B illustrates a movement based display device with a movable member configured to reciprocate in front of user's eyes; FIG. 4C illustrates a movement based display device with movable members configured to spin in front of the user's eyes

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 22, 2019 3:17 PM (CDT)

Audeze Mobius Review

Hardware Canucks has reviewed the $400 Audeze Mobius premium 3D gaming headset. The reviewer loved the 3D mode for movies, but didn't see the point in it for gaming. He also noted the decreased sound quality in 3D mode. The 3D tracking would lose the headphone's position and was entirely too slow to react to head movements when it worked. The reviewer didn't think the virtual 7.1 surround mode on the headset was that great, and the short range on the headset's Bluetooth would cause him issues if he walked around the office. The cabling included with the Audeze Mobius was subpar and the microphone quality was lackluster. He did appreciate the immersive sound quality that the planar magnetic headset exhibited when in Hi Rez mode. You can read our review of the Audeze Mobius here.

The Audeze Mobius is supposed to be a gaming headset that will satisfy audiophiles with incredible planar magnetic drivers and 3D positional audio. It has literally every feature but it also costs $400. But if you have the money, this might be the best gaming headset available.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 22, 2019 12:04 PM (CDT)

AMD Confirms Stadia Will Run on Intel CPUs

As one of the world's most pervasive cloud service providers, Google is in a better position to launch a successful game streaming platform than almost anyone. The hardware they choose to use for the launch of their "Stadia" streaming service will undoubtedly influence future game streaming efforts, hence AMD's stock price shot through the roof when Google announced they were using AMD GPUs. However, PCGamesN writer Dave James noticed that Google was conspicuously silent when it came to Stadia's CPUs. They were happy to share clock speeds, cache numbers and the fact that they're using "custom" x86 chips, but they refused to confirm the vendor of the platform's CPU. Eventually, AMD reached out and said that "the Stadia platform is using custom AMD Radeon datacentre GPUs, not AMD CPUs." Barring any surprise announcements from VIA, that more or less confirms that Stadia will run on some sort of Intel CPU platform, but just why Google refused to mention Chipzilla by name remains a mystery. The author suggested that Intel might not want to associate themself with what might be a "doomed" venture. Maybe Google plans to switch to EPYC CPUs or an unannounced Intel server platform sometime in the future, or maybe they just don't think it's particularly relevant. Whatever the reason may be, I also find the omission to be curious, and look forward to seeing what happens with Stadia's hardware in the future.

A switch to AMD's EPYC processors has been mooted as a potential future step for Stadia, and Google's Phil Harrison told us himself that "we're just talking about Gen 1 at the moment, but there will be iterations on that technology over time," so there is some potential for a changing of the processor guard either before or after launch. Whatever the truth of the matter is I still find it beyond strange that no-one involved is talking about the Intel CPUs being used for Google Stadia, even if they're not necessarily doing anything that special with regards the innovative streaming service. Certainly the multi-GPU features on offer with the Radeon graphics cards warranted mention, but just a note on the specs slide alone could have still done good things for Intel.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 22, 2019 11:20 AM (CDT)

Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2 Is Coming Q1 2020

Paradox Interactive has announced Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2 is coming Q1 2020 onto consoles and PC. NVIDIA is the official graphics partner for the sequel to the cult classic and features such as real-time ray tracing and DLSS will be integrated into the game. The creative mind behind the memorable characters of the 2004 game, Brian Mitsoda, has returned as the Lead Narrative Designer for Bloodlines 2. Paradox Interactive has announced that the game will have support well past its launch date as free DLC for new factions. The game will be placed in Seattle's Dark Heart as players live out their vampire fantasies in a city filled with intriguing characters that are shaped by your choices. The combat is melee-focused and your character grows as you progress, but don't forget to uphold the Masquerade and guard your humanity ... or face the consequences.

"When Paradox announced they were acquiring the World of Darkness IP, I immediately started thinking about what it would be like to return to Vampire: The Masquerade. Our aim has been to carry on the signature themes that made Bloodlines unique - particularly its dark tone, atmosphere, and humor - and I think that fans of the original will love what we're doing with Bloodlines 2." - Brian Mitsoda

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 22, 2019 9:51 AM (CDT)

Ransomware Encourages Victims to Subscribe to PewDiePie

PewDiePie's battle with Bollywood star T-Series has pushed some of his more enthusiastic fans to extremes. A group of hackers used printers to promote their favorite YouTuber last year, and more recently, they hacked their way into Smart TVs, Chromecasts, and Google Home devices. Now, recent reports claim that new strains of ransomware are encouraging users to subscribe to PewDiePie. The "PewDiePie ransomware" released last year didn't even bother to save encryption keys, which means whatever user data it targeted was gone for good, while a new strain that popped up this January runs in Java to make detection more difficult. However, instead of asking for a ransom, the later program simply offers a link to PewDiePie's subscription page. It claims that public keys will be released if PewDiePie hits 100 million subscribers before T-Series, while the user's data will never see the light of day again if T-Series hits that mark first. ZDNet says the software was "put together as a joke," but still managed to infect a few users, and that the code is now publicly available on GitHub. Thanks to AceGoober for the tip, and check out a demonstration of the ransomware below:

Both ransomware strains show the level of idiocy the competition for YouTube's top spot has reached. While T-Series fans have remained mostly quiet most of this time, a portion of PewDiePie's fans appears to have lost their minds and engaged in media stunts bordering on criminal behavior... The message itself has become a meme, and not in a good way.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 22, 2019 9:26 AM (CDT)

Sound BlasterX G6 Review

Audio Science Review has tested the Sound BlasterX G6 and found it to be surprisingly good for a budget device in a feature-filled package. During DAC testing it was discovered that the device's SINAD would rocket up to 112 dB if the level was dialed down by 2 dBFS (digitally.) Linearity was spot on but intermodulation distortion was a concern. Amirm discovered that dialing down the device by 2dBFS fixed the issue. He speculated that "The G6 is USB powered and likely doesn't have enough capacitance in its DC input to ride out the lasting peaks at low frequencies." The headphone amplifier measured great, and the output was decent but "there is no sensation of infinite power and you would be operating near or at max volume" when using the amp with a pair of Sennheiser HD-650 headphones. The last issue that irritated him was the lack of a properly working ASIO driver on Creative's website. He really liked the Sound BlasterX G6 and the review is full of charts and measurements conducted with a $28,300 Audio Precision APx555.

ADC Audio Measurements I was pleased that feeding the G6 2 volt, resulted in 0 dBFS showing no overflow. Performance though is not all that great with SINAD in the high 70s. We have lots of distortion components together with mains leakage. Compared to high-end products, we are short some 40 dB! Definitely not splitting hairs here.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 21, 2019 7:32 PM (CDT)

Steam Is Getting a Redesigned Library and New Events Features

At GDC today, Valve announced a new UI for the Steam Library. The new Steam Library has larger game icons and more categorization for your games. PC Gamer says the library reminds them of Plex or the Apple TV. The Steam Friend's List is integrated into the Library view on the right side. They noted that the coolest feature is using Steam Tags for games to create new categories such as "Ninja Action." A Beta release is scheduled for this summer. The new Steam Events page will create a new way for fans of games to connect with developers. Games in your library that are organizing occasions like game updates, streams, tournaments, and so on will be found here. This is being built in response to today's live service games. Developers will be able to get the word out to fans through calendar support for Google and iCal, Steam client notifications, email, text message, and Steam mobile app. These events will be shown in other parts of Steam also.

"We think of this as the way developers will be able to communicate with players through Steam," Kroll said. "We want to build the foundation for a communication platform where all the interesting things that are happening in games can find their way to the customers. And the customers that are interested in finding out 'what's happening in games in my library, what kind of events are happening, what's been updated recently, what are my friends doing,' making all that much easier for players to be able to find."

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 21, 2019 6:32 PM (CDT)