Back from the Dead! (Part 3)

It’s been more than a year since the last post, and the blog is undergoing a major transplant and overhaul! I had a great time using WordPress, but due to various local server issues, it was becoming increasingly unstable. I may return to it someday, but for now we’re rocking a brand new SquareSpace site. 

I’ve been rooting around, trying to clean up and repair posts that degraded over the last couple years, but it’s time to get some new content out rather than fix links to my off-base technology predictions from 2009. 

And on THAT note, here’s a little bit of 2012 before it’s over: 

Higgs Boson was discovered, bolstering support for the Standard Model of Physics. 
Higgs Boson was discovered, bolstering support for the Standard Model of Physics. 
One overly-attached-satirical-girlfriend launched from a Justin Bieber fan video straight into our hearts. 
One overly-attached-satirical-girlfriend launched from a Justin Bieber fan video straight into our hearts. 
Mass Effect 3 LITERALLY broke my heart. 
Mass Effect 3 LITERALLY broke my heart. 
Aaaannnnddddd.....We're all still here? Psh, Isaac Newton said we have till 2060 anyway. 
Aaaannnnddddd…..We’re all still here? Psh, Isaac Newton said we have till 2060 anyway. 

AMD Radeon 7970 Released

Reviews are flooding the tech sites, the AMD Radeon 7970 is now available! The significant change from previous cards is the transition from VLIW cores to SIMD cores. What does this mean to you and me? The new 7000 series GPUs are significantly more capable of generalized processing.

AMD always says, “The Future Is Fusion.” By enhancing the ability of their new GPUs to act as generalized processors, AMD sets the stage for Fusion to excel in any case where massively parallel workloads exist. This is Intel’s only real weakness, so it’s probably wise that AMD is acting aggressively in this regard.

UPDATE: Reviews indicate the Radeon 7970 is on average 25% faster than the Radeon 6970. It also dethrones the Nvidia GTX 580 as the fastest single GPU available. A premium card at a premium price, AMD plans to start selling the card at $550,  50% higher than the going price ($350) of the 6970 .

Snow?

It’s nearly Christmas in Boston, and beyond a light dusting several weeks ago, no snow graces our only recently chilly city. For one, it hasn’t been cold enough, we regularly have afternoons in the 40s (Fahrenheit, 5-10 Celsius) so snow wouldn’t last long anyway. If it had snowed earlier in the season it’s possible it would be cold enough for snow now. Why is that, you might wonder? Clean, white snow reflects sunlight back into the sky, preventing it from heating the ground. Snow can have a reflection coefficient near 0.9 if it is fresh. Either way, I’m crossing my fingers for a white Christmas.

Reflection Coefficient, aka Albedo, is the measure (between 0 and 1) of a substance's reflectivity.
Reflection Coefficient, aka Albedo, is the measure (between 0 and 1) of a substance’s reflectivity.

Faster than light particle measured?

Information coming from CERN, a center for nuclear science in Geneva, Switzerland, claims that particles called neutrinos may have broken Eisenstein’s speed-of-light speed barrier. This is big news, if independently verified, and could shatter almost a century of physics assumptions.
UPDATE: A measurement error may have occurred due to the time keeping process used in the experiment. Satellites were used to synchronize clocks at the start and end stations of the neutrino’s path, but the relativistic motion of the satellites may not have been considered when updating the clocks. In other words, Einstein is likely still correct, nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.

Neutrino Sensor Room
Neutrino Sensor Room

Windows 7

I’m currently testing out the (free) Release Candidate (a kind of late Beta) for Windows 7. Long story short, Windows 7 is awesome and I’ll definitely be picking up a copy when the full version is released. Anyone who installs the Windows 7 RC has until March of 2010 before they even have to think about spending a dime. The new taskbar, improved memory management, Libraries, Themes, HomeGroups, Device Stage, chilled UAC, and increased zippyness make this a solid (though not essential) upgrade for Vista users. This is Microsoft’s best shot at getting entrenched XP users into the 21st century.

Even the boot screen is more awesome!
Even the boot screen is more awesome!

Tech and Gaming Updates

GOG slams this one out of the park, I've been waiting years for this
GOG slams this one out of the park, I’ve been waiting years for this

First of all, to those of you I swindled into purchasing a copy of Beyond Good & Evil on Steam, GOG.com (Good Old Games) has recently started selling the same title, but with their patented un-suckify programming the game actually runs well with only a few of the incredible number of tweaks necessary for the Steam version. Check it out, here

Ironically, GOG also offers the (partial) soundtrack as a bonus for buying BG&E. That soundtrack is actually the reason I started doing anything with StormEffect.com. I loved the music, but it was not available from anyone or anywhere, unless you could obtain a PC copy and unpack the sound files directly from the game. So, I did, and then I posted them on my main page for all fans of the game to enjoy. It took me several months to get everything together, and after exploring at least 100 dead links to find parts of it, I vowed to keep my BG&E soundtrack link up and running for as long as humanly possible. It’s been almost half a decade, and it’s still up at www.stormeffect.com/beyond.

OnLive

Here’s a new one! Modern PC games overwhelm many computers today, though this is usually only due to the subpar Graphics Processing Unit in most systems. Yeah, you could go spend 100 bucks on a new state-of-the-art GPU (only if you have a desktop, laptops aren’t upgradable like this), but now there is an incredibly ambitious alternative called OnLive.

When you decide to play a game (examples: Crysis, World of Warcraft, Bioshock, or Company of Heroes) on your computer you install the game and run it. Your Central Processing Unit (CPU), Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), Random Access Memory (RAM), and Hard Drive (HDD) are stretched to their limits in order to drive a real-time  gaming experience. While many games, usually those that are at least 3 years old, will run on most computers due to natural hardware improvements, most modern AAA titles are out of reach for the average laptop system. 

The OnLive Real-Time Gaming Wall of Awesomeness
The OnLive Real-Time Gaming Wall of Awesomeness

When you decide to play a game OnLive, you simply open up your browser, log in to your OnLive account, pick (demo, rent, or buy) a game to play (Bioshock, for instance), and less than 5 seconds later you are in the game having a grand time with a very high framerate and maximum graphical settings. How is this possible? When you installed Bioshock yourself your system was reduced to a crawl, you could barely see what was going on at 3 frames per second and the graphics were set so low everything looked like rocks. Here is where the ambitious part comes in: Instead of running the game on your computer, OnLive is actually running the game on their big iron servers (big iron – defined: large, expensive, ultra-fast computers) and sending the resulting video frames over the internet to your computer. Your input, such as a mouse click (shooting a gun maybe), is then sent back over the internet to the server. This is all done with no discernable lag at all. No matter how sad and underpowered your PC might seem, if you can watch a television show on Hulu, you can play Crysis at maximum settings using OnLive. One of the coolest gimmicks of the service is the login screen/user page, which is propped up in front of a giant video wall of hundreds of other users playing games in-progress over OnLive. Once again, it’s all handled on their servers, so while you think something like this would kill your computer, it doesn’t. 

I had an idea like this over a year ago, but OnLive has been in stealth development for 7 years now, so these guys definitely win the race. The implications are enourmous,  this has the potential to turn every PC into a gaming console, instantly putting immense pressure on Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. Microsoft is put into an interesting position because all of the available games will essentially Windows (PC) games, and OnLive’s servers will be running Windows. We’ll see what happens when the service opens up to the public in Winter 09. You can find more info here.

Also, check out their site frontpage, and enjoy their spiffy introduction trailer.