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ASUS Xonar Essence STX

Published on April 6, 2009 by Rory Buszka | Comment (0)

The majority of the high-end PC audio cards targeted at enthusiasts typically focus on multi-channel performance, with a variety of decoding modes, DSP enhancements, and other features tossed in. The Xonar Essence STX from ASUS has an entirely different focus – delivering audiophile-quality stereo output.

Hulu Pulls Plug On Boxee Streaming

Published on February 19, 2009 by Rory Buszka | Comment (0)

A post made yesterday evening to Hulu’s official site blog states that, under pressure from their content providers, they will no longer be allowing streams of their content via the Boxee client. The blog post fails to identify exactly which content providers made the demand to remove Hulu from Boxee, but the list of ‘usual suspects’ is short enough. The blog post, written by Hulu’s CEO, Jason Kilar, expresses disappointment at the content providers’ decision, but reaffirms the company’s commitment to cooperating with the providers’ wishes — simply because without cooperation from content providers, there would be no Hulu.

It’s impossible to say at this point (without speculating wildly and groundlessly) who or what is to blame for the content providers’ decision to end Hulu service via Boxee. Still, it’s difficult to overlook the fact that the two technologies complemented each other in such a way as to create a compelling alternative to broadcast television, whether OTA, cable, or satellite-based — a fact that’s caught the attention of cable and satellite providers. The move is likely to be a bigger setback for Hulu than for Boxee, which continues to provide content from a number of cable channels like CNN and Comedy Central.

Boxee is currently limited to Apple hardware and PC hardware running Linux, but the company announced at this year’s CES that they hadn’t turned a deaf ear to the deluge of requests for a Windows-based client. Their ace in the hole, however, is likely the easily-hackable Apple TV, which many enterprising gadget-freaks have turned into a standalone Boxee player, much like Netflix’s Roku streaming box. It’s clear that the goal in preventing Hulu from streaming via Boxee is to prevent the type of presentation that Boxee affords, which allows easy enjoyment on large screens.

It’s difficult to see how Hulu comes out on top in this, but it’s easy to see how the content providers benefit — by keeping Hulu’s streaming content on the desktop and off the big screen, they satisfy cable and satellite providers, as well as the hundreds of over-the-air broadcast affiliates, while keeping you tuned-in to distribution methods that might have a difficult time competing with the flexibility of Hulu and Boxee.

The maddening part of writing this blog entry is that we realize that there is no immediate win here for users. Please know that we take very seriously our role of representing users such that we are able to provide more and more content in more and more ways over time. We embrace this activity in ways that respect content owners’ — and even the entire industry’s — challenges to create great content that users love. Yes, it’s a complex matter. A tough mission, and a never-ending one, but one we are passionately committed to.

IRS Urged To Levy Taxes On Economies of Virtual Worlds

Published on January 12, 2009 by Rory Buszka | Comment (0)

One aspect of real-world societies that translates extremely well into the virtual world is economics, with many MMOs boatsting thriving economies where players buy, sell, barter, and trade with one another, in a currency with a specific  denomination and uniform value.

Ars Technica reports that with games like World of Warcraft, Second Life, and even Ultima Online showing continued strong popularity among PC gamers, the IRS has begun to look at the feasibility of taxing in-game transactions between players, consisting of weapons, trinkets, character adornments/costumes and other items of various in-game usefulness (which, in the case of Second Life, includes sex toys). According to a report published by Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson on the IRS’ web site, virtual online economies are an “emerging area of noncompliance” that the IRS should “proactively address”. Tax policy currently covers the exchange of real (the operative word here) money for the virtual currency of a particular in-game world, but Olson’s report cites the burden of tracking and reconstructing a paper trail for these transactions as the primary difficulty in “help[ing] taxpayers comply with their tax obligations”.

The collective response from a number of commentators is, “Oh, is that the best you can do?” And indeed, we can think of a number of other ‘difficulties’ the IRS may run into, such as what to do with all that virtual money, which is valueless unless converted back into a real-world currency. Perhaps the U.S. government plans to spend the additional virtual revenue on funding its cyber-counterterrorism efforts? And what about the small matter of ‘taxation without representation’ — will Mulgore finally get a seat in the U.S. senate? There are much less far-fetched ways that the IRS can benefit from the growth of in-game economies than actually attempting to tax in-game trade, prizes, and winnings, such as simply taxing the conversion of real-world currency to game currency, though even this seems tantamount to taxing the tokens won at Chuck E. Cheese (which can also be exchanged for ‘goods’, mind you).

This isn’t the first time the concept of taxing virtual worlds has come up. Since at least 2003, people both on- and offline started looking at the tax implications of virtual economies, and Dan Miller, senior economist for the congressional Joint Economic Committee, started entertaining the idea of taxing MMORPGs in 2006 after diving into the world of online gaming himself.

A First Look at NVIDIA’s GeForce Vision Technology

Published on January 8, 2009 by Rory Buszka | Comment (0)

NVIDIA’s GeForce Vision technology claims to be able to bridge the last gap between current gaming technology and the perception of an immersive 3D environment — your 2D monitor. But can it bridge the perception gap in the marketplace and overcome the view that stereoscopic 3D technologies are a cheap gimmick?

Breaking: RIAA Officially Kicks MediaSentry To The Curb

Published on January 5, 2009 by Rory Buszka | Comment (0)

We last reported on MediaSentry, the firm hired by the RIAA to snoop around various P2P networks for potential lawsuit targets, when they accidentally targeted the distribution network of Revision3, a legitimate content provider, causing a disruption in Revision3’s service.  Recently, however, rumors began to circulate that the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) was severing ties with MediaSentry (a division of SafeNet Inc.) for reasons unknown.

According to a new story published less than two hours ago by the Wall Street Journal, those rumors had their basis in fact. The RIAA does in fact plan to stop working with MediaSentry to identify ripe lawsuit targets. However, this doesn’t mean that the RIAA is abandoning the practice of monitoring P2P networks. Instead, the industry group plans to work with the Danish firm DtecNet Software ApS, which claims to have a more advanced means of determining whether a person shared a particular song. MediaDefender’s tactics were only capable of determining that defendants had shared the music file with them, with no proof that the song had been shared indiscriminantly, a fact that had caused the RIAA some trouble in court earlier.

Mr. Beckerman cites MediaSentry’s practice of looking for available songs in people’s file-sharing folders, downloading them, and using those downloads in court as evidence of copyright violations. He says MediaSentry couldn’t prove defendants had shared their files with anyone other than MediaSentry investigators.

Rumor: Microsoft Prepares To Slash 15,000 From Workforce

Published on January 5, 2009 by Rory Buszka | Comment (0)

Call it a sign of the times, or call it something bigger – according to DailyTech, rumors have begun circulating that suggest Microsoft plans to cut 15,000 employees in the month of January, in a massive cost-cutting move that targets underperforming segments of their business. At present, the cuts remain the stuff of rumor, but for some Microsoft employees, it’s like finding the memo in the ‘out’ tray of the office copier.

At least Microsoft was charitable enough to wait until the first normal business week of January, after the holidays were over, to make any job cuts that may be announced as part of a potential restructuring plan. It’s suspected that any restructuring that occurs may focus on the company’s MSN (Microsoft Network) division, which manages its network of MSN-branded portal sites, such as MSN Money and MSN Autos.

Whether Microsoft is simply feeling the pinch of the current recessive American economy or something larger is to blame, many believe that Microsoft will need to be more focused on doing what it does best, instead of simply trying to own everything in sight that looks profitable. Yet, according to the DailyTech article, analysts don’t predict that Microsoft will simply ‘shut down’ divisions as part of a restructuring plan, but would prefer to sell them instead.

Microsoft is looking hard at areas where it can make money or save money. Making money is the reason that Microsoft keeps postponing the retirement of Windows XP. XP is huge in the netbook market thanks to the fact that most netbooks won’t run Vista and Linux isn’t appealing to many customers.

Gigabyte EG45M-DS2H

Published on December 3, 2008 by Rory Buszka | Comment (0)

On the test bench today, we have Gigabyte’s latest Micro ATX offering, the Intel G45-based EG45M-DS2H. This board carries the typical Gigabyte enthusiast charm, but also caters towards those looking to build a media center. But how does it stack up against the other Intel mATX boards we’ve tested recently?

NuForce Icon-1 Amplifier and S-1 Speakers

Published on October 23, 2008 by Rory Buszka | Comment (0)

NuForce isn’t the first company to bring high-end audio to the desktop, but their first complete PC audio system blends trendsetting aesthetics and audiophile-quality performance to form one of the most intriguing new PC audio systems we’ve yet seen. Do the Icon-1 and S-1 provide a little slice of audiophilia on your desktop?

Audioengine AW1 Wireless Audio System

Published on October 6, 2008 by Rory Buszka | Comment (0)

Does your living arrangement make it impossible to locate your PC near your preferred space for audio listening? Audioengine’s AW1 wireless audio system could be your solution, but does it improve upon the traditionally lacking audio quality of previous wireless systems?

Intel Desktop Board DG45ID

Published on September 29, 2008 by Rory Buszka | Comment (0)

We’re taking a look at Intel’s first attempt at a full-featured media center motherboard, the DG45ID. It’s also our first look at their new G45 Express chipset, which promises to finally bring DX 10 support and hardware-accelerated HD video playback to their integrated graphics offerings. Can the DG45ID prove itself a worthy choice for your HTPC?

Lucid HYDRA Engine Multi-GPU Technology

Published on August 25, 2008 by Rory Buszka | Comment (0)

One of the more exciting third-party demonstrations we saw at Intel’s 2008 Developer Forum was by a little-known company called Lucid, who promises highly-efficient multi-GPU performance scaling via their unique “Hydra Engine” technology. We take a look at Hydra Engine, and what it means for ATI’s Crossfire and NVIDIA’s SLI.

IDF 08 SF: Day 2 Keynote Roundup

Published on August 21, 2008 by Rory Buszka | Comment (0)

Wednesday’s keynote schedule may not have been as chock-full of new hardware demonstrations as Tuesday’s Gelsinger-Perlmutter marathon, but it wasn’t without some excitement of its own. Here’s our summary of the day’s keynote speeches.

IDF 08 SF: Day 1 Keynote Roundup

Published on August 20, 2008 by Rory Buszka | Comment (0)

Greetings from the Fall 2008 Intel Developer Forum! Day 1 is done, and we’ve already heard speeches from some of the biggest names at the company, regarding new products and the company’s future direction, as well as the significance of technological progress worldwide. We’ve got your details about what was said, and who said it.

Intel CEO Launches Inspire-Empower Challenge

Published on August 19, 2008 by Rory Buszka | Comment (0)

In his opening keynote speech at Intel’s fall IDF conference, which began today, Intel CEO Craig Barrett delivered a rousing speech about improving the quality of life worldwide through the use of new technologies. He proceeded to introduce a series of guests whose pioneering work in the areas of investment, healthcare, human interface, and alternative energy have created technological solutions toward that end.

All of this led up to the announcement of the Intel Challenge – four awards of $100,000 each to be given toward the development of innovative technology ideas in the areas of education, healthcare, economic development, and environmentalism. The submitted projects will be judged by an independent panel, and the awards themselves will be given at the 2009 Spring IDF.

The Challenge is designed to inspire developers, individuals, and organizations to innovate and empower them to deliver new ways to apply technology to these issues. The INSPIRE•EMPOWER Challenge advances the commitment of the Intel World Ahead Program – to connect people to a world of opportunity.

Enjoy these pictures from Craig’s keynote. We’ll post more pictures and news as it happens.

NVIDIA Denounces Rumors of Chipset Market Pullout

Published on August 1, 2008 by Rory Buszka | Comment (0)

God bless the newshounds over at The Tech Report. Upon discovering a DigiTimes article alleging that NVIDIA planned to pull out of the lucrative motherboard chipset market, they went straight to NVIDIA platform products PR chief Bryan Del Rizzo for a fact-check. NVIDIA quickly released a statement denying DigiTimes’ allegations, calling the story “groundless” and reaffirming that NVIDIA continues to maintain greater than 60% market share in AMD platform IGP solutions, and that their SLI platform continues to be the “preferred” platform for multi-GPU gaming, likely riding on NVIDIA’s dominance in the market for enthusiast video cards.

So, why might such a rumor have been so believable? Many anticipate that Intel’s Nehalem and AMD’s Fusion CPU products will take direct aim at integrated-graphics motherboard chipsets, leaving them essentially irrelevant. Back in January, NVIDIA told journalists that all their new chipsets would henceforth include an integrated GPU and be Hybrid-SLI capable, a feature that would be unnecessary for CPUs that offer their own integrated graphics cores. In addition, Nvidia’s SLI solution isn’t the most well-regarded when it comes to Vista compatibility, and the company’s stock recently took a hit when they admitted that a large number of GeForce 8-series onboard and integrated graphics products were ‘defective’ – mainly having to do with thermal issues causing their untimely demise.

Still, NVIDIA’s motherboard chipset lineup is one of the best things the company has going for it in the all-important consumer sector, and we expect to continue seeing NVIDIA integrated-graphics chipsets for a long time to come.

To add to Nvidia’s statement, we remember Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang stating in April that customers will find value in Nvidia “motherboard GPUs” once Intel releases Nehalem processors with built-in graphics cores. According to Huang, lengthy processor release cycles will leave plenty of room for quicker and more feature-rich integrated graphics chipsets.

Sony Laptop Does Cross-Platform Hybrid Graphics

Published on July 31, 2008 by Rory Buszka | Comment (0)

When we heard rumblings of the first ‘hybrid graphics’ systems, we simply thought GPU manufacturers would use the feature as a way to capitalize on the power savings afforded by hybrid graphics systems and sell more of their own products to PC and motherboard makers. For those coming late to the party, hybrid graphics systems save power and decrease idle thermal load by disabling the system’s discrete GPU and reverting to a lower-power GPU, typically integrated into the motherboard’s chipset. To this end, NVIDIA recently announced that all their chipset products would feature an integrated graphics processor, termed a “Motherboard GPU,” or mGPU.

What we didn’t expect, however, was that manufacturers might try to combine multiple GPU platforms in their hybrid-graphics systems. We’d figured that GPU manufacturers would try to lock their discrete GPU products to their own integrated-graphics chipsets for hybrid-graphics applications, but Sony has managed to combine the integrated Intel GMA X4500 graphics core on an Intel G43 chipset with an NVIDIA GeForce 9300M GS discrete GPU. It’s an intriguing solution, but it virtually rules out the possiblity of the two graphics cores operating in tandem via Hybrid SLI.

Sony lists the graphics system as “Hybrid Graphics” with a “Dedicated Hybrid GPU Switch” based on the Nvidia 9300M GS graphics chip and Intel 4500MHD integrated graphics silicon. What makes this unique is that the switch can be done on the fly.

Maxtor OneTouch 4 Mini 320GB

Published on July 29, 2008 by Rory Buszka | Comment (0)

Maxtor’s diminutive OneTouch 4 Mini pushes the capacity envelope again, packing a positively huge 320 gigabytes of storage into a tiny enclosure. It’s also one of the sexiest mini external drives we’ve seen. Is the OneTouch 4 Mini 320GB a portable storage slam-dunk?

Get Involved In The Techgage Community

Published on July 28, 2008 by Rory Buszka | Comment (0)

We at Techgage are proud to announce the addition of a site feature that makes it easier than ever to get involved in our growing community of knowledgeable PC enthusiasts: the “Latest Forum Posts” ticker. The ticker appears in the far-right column of every page of our site, beneath the “Site Search” feature. Now, it’s more convenient to keep tabs on our forum than ever before! Simply click on a post heading to visit the thread and become part of the discussion.

Also, if you’ve got a knack for writing and are interested in contributing your talents to our site, check out the recruitment notice at the bottom of the About Us page.

An Ethernet Port On Every Set-Top Box…

Published on July 21, 2008 by Rory Buszka | Comment (0)

…and a chicken in every pot. Or something like that. Intel wants the FCC to mandate that an ethernet port should be included on every cable, satellite, and IPTV set-top box in the United States. The feature would allow set-top boxes to serve as hubs for streaming media content from various other PCs and media servers in the household. However, Ars Technica couldn’t help but notice that Intel itself might have a financial interest in such a move, since Intel is a major supplier of ethernet chipsets.

According to Ars Technica’s article, two representatives from Intel corporation visited the FCC headquarters to promote the idea of requiring ethernet capability on set-top boxes through a presentation they delivered. Set-top boxes are currently required to provide an IEEE 1394 data bus connection, and though the article gives no specifics on the purpose of including IEEE 1394 connectivity, it doesn’t seem like a far stretch to include the more ubiquitous ethernet port on the list of required features.

Cable set-top box

On the other hand, the FCC seems to be in an open devices kind of mood, given all the requirements they’re demanding of Sirius/XM in exchange for a merger, so we’ll just have to wait to see where this Intel request goes.

ASUS P-Series AMD 690G Barebone PC

Published on July 14, 2008 by Rory Buszka | Comment (0)

What if you could build a sub-$500 HTPC that was slim, fast, and capable, without the headache of picking bargain-barrel parts to accomplish your design goals? What if it had HDMI and 7.1 audio? With the help of their Pundit series, ASUS hopes to make barebones relevant again. Have they done it?

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