As an avid Hangouts user, the news of a new desktop version excites me. Google has announced a new Hangouts Chrome app for Chrome OS, as well as Windows, which brings a slew of improvements and changes.
First and foremost, is now Hangouts looks much like Facebook Messenger with its Chat Heads, meaning you won't need to open up Chrome or Hangouts to see your chat. With the updated Hangouts app, your contacts and chats are now combined into a separate toggle window, which is super easy to get to. Google explained on its blog post: "You'll get all your messages as long as you have the app running, and your chats will sync across Hangouts on all your devices".
Better yet, the new Hangouts app includes voice and video calling, which makes it a one-stop-shop for all things communication with Google. Google added: "We recently announced you can make phone calls to any number in the world (via Hangouts dialer) and now you can do this right from your desktop. If you use Google Voice, the app includes complete Google Voice support, so you can make and receive calls, and get your voicemails and SMS messages directly in Hangouts".
AMD has just released its new Catalyst 14.9 drivers, which has a massive list of performance improvements that it provides to various benchmarks, and some of the hottest games out right now.
The biggest improvements come to games like Murdered Soul Suspect on the Radeon R9 290X at 2560x1440 with 4x MSAA and 16x AF enabled, where there's performance improvements of up to 50%. Plants vs. Zombies receives an improved CrossFire profile, with the R9 290X in CrossFire at 4K seeing 92% scaling. Batman: Arkham Origins also sees improved CrossFire scaling, bumping up to 70% improvements.
Mantle improvements are also at play here, with Mantle being supported on AMD Mobile products with Enduro technology. Battlefield 4, Thief and Star Swarm all see improvements. You can read the full list of improvements, and grab the new Catalyst 14.9 drivers right here.
Valve is moving more and more outside of your sole gaming PC, with the announcement of Steam Music Player for all Steam users. The company has also launched a new sale with six of its games in the Half-Life universe, and their original soundtracks.
Steam Music Player was announced earlier this year, which allows gamers to use Steam to player music from their computer, playing their own tunes while gaming away. When it comes to the soundtracks for some of your Steam games, these albums will show up in the Steam Music library. Part of the Steam Music launch has Valve dropping 75% off of most of the titles in its Half-Life universe.
You can get 75% off the following Valve titles: Half-Life, Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode One, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Portal and Portal 2. Better yet, the soundtracks for all of those titles, and the one for Free to Play, which is the Valve-created DoTA 2 documentary, are all available for free. This offer expires on October 1 at 10AM PT.
NVIDIA has just unleashed two new sets of drivers, with the new GeForce 344.11 and 344.16 drivers. The GeForce 344.11 drivers are full WHQL, while the 344.16 drivers are offered up as a beta set.
Both sets of drivers are Game Ready for some of the hottest games coming out next month: Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, The Evil Within, F1 2014 and something I'm looking forward to greatly, Alien: Isolation. The duo of drivers also include support for the just-announced, Maxwell-based GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970 GPUs.
Apple users are frustrated with difficulty in upgrading to iOS 8, as download times are painfully long. To make matters worse, some networks are being slammed by so much traffic, it's almost like they are under distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack.
Networking company Procera Networks found one CIS mobile network that saw its network traffic jump an incredible 4000 percent than normal - an astronomical traffic amount for non-video applications.
Everything from Apple's iPhone models to its smartwatch were criticized - but anytime there is a new iOS release, Apple fans quickly flock to download the latest operating system. However, after just a few days, adoption for iOS 8 has been slower than that of iOS 6 or iOS 7, according to analysts. The iOS 8 upgrade requires 5.8GB of storage space, forcing some users to delete photos, videos, and other data to free up space to upgrade.
Microsoft Windows Live Messenger, previously known as MSN Messenger, will officially end later this year. The software giant is pulling the plug in October for Chinese users, ending 15 years of service to users. Microsoft's service will remain active until October 31, with Chinese users shifting to Skype later this year.
Microsoft purchased Skype and Windows Live was switched off to most of the world's users following the acquisition. Just five years ago Windows Live had more than 330 million users, but the user base fell as Skype became the go-to chat program - and had more than 300 million users in 2012.
MSN Messenger was launched in 1999 as a rival to ICQ and AOL's AIM chat services - with video calls, games, photo delivery, and other features added later. It didn't reach China until 2005, and faced challenges from QQ messenger and other rival domestic chat services.
There are reports a Chinese-made desktop operating system could be available as soon as this October, in an attempt to battle against Microsoft, Google and Apple, according to the Chinese media. If released as scheduled, it could help users upgrade desktop PCs within the next two years, with an effort to get more users on Chinese-made mobile software within the next five years.
Washington and Beijing have repeatedly accused one another of snooping, and government officials hope a Chinese-made OS would counter those security threats. The end of Microsoft Windows XP support earlier in the year has given rise to Chinese OS developers, but without a coordinated effort, it seems unrealistic that something for long-term use can be released.
Microsoft, Google and Apple have all had issues trying to promote their products in China - with Windows 8 banned from government PCs, Google controlling too much market share.
AMD has released the new Catalyst 14.7 RC3 drivers, which no longer support Windows 8 - something that AMD hasn't supported since the Catalyst 14.6 Beta driver. AMD recommends that Windows 8 users upgrade to Windows 8.1 for free, so that they can take advantage of the new features found in the Catalyst 14.7 RC3 drivers.
The new Catalyst 14.7 RC3 drivers offer "display interface enhancements to improve 4K monitor performance and reduce flickering" with the Radeon R9 290, R9 270 and HD 7800 Series all benefiting from this. The new drivers also offer some perofrmance improvements at 4K when gaming on Assassin's Creed IV, with up to 93% more performance with CrossFire.
You can download the new Catalyst 14.7 RC3 drivers here.
Companies should prepare sooner rather than later when it comes to upgrading from Windows 7, even though there are years left before support ends. Mainstream support for Windows 7 ends in January 2015, while end of extended support is scheduled for January 2020.
The end of extended support of Windows XP seemingly caught many businesses off guard, as they were reluctant to bother upgrading to Windows 7 or 8/8.1. Moving forward, Gartner recommends users deploy Windows 8/8.1 on new PCs, in an effort to phrase out Windows 7 slowly overtime. If companies are planning to phase out Windows 7 - but don't show interest in Windows 8 - then be prepared to upgrade to the latest-generation version of Windows.
"Organizations that have already deployed some Windows 8 PCs, or that decide that Windows 8.1 Update 1 provides an attractive platform, should not shy away from deploying new devices with the OS," according to Stephen Kleynhans, Gartner Research VP, in a blog post. "However, we expect that by the time an organization is ready for a broad rollout, Windows 8.1 Update 2 will have entered the market. Shifting deployment to Update 2 should be relatively straightforward for most organizations, and in that case, Windows 8.1 Update 1 should be seen as a pilot for that ultimate deployment."
There's not much reason to be excited over DirectX 12 just yet, but Intel was showing off the performance and power benefits of DirectX 12 at SIGGRAPH 2014. Microsoft used its Surface Pro 2 with Intel HD4400 graphics, showing off some impressive performance improvements, with heavily refuced CPU power consumption.
Intel had a demo that was rendering an asteroid field with 50,000 unique asteroids, each equating to 50,000 draws per frame. Each asteroid then had a unique combination of vertices, textures, and constants. Intel's demo was able to switch between DirectX 11 and DirectX 12 with a single key press, but it could also lock the frame rate in order to keep the workload on the GPU at a constant level.
The company was showing people the benefits of DX12, with massive power gains being unlocked from Microsoft's new API. Intel locked the frame rate of the demo, rendering it for a period of time on DirectX 11, and then switching over to DirectX 12. As you see in the graph above, the CPU power consumption was reduced by over 50% when DX12 was enabled, highlighting the fact that DX12-enabled games could offer some serious reductions in power consumption on our devices.