In-Win Rereleases D-Frame Mini Chassis With More Colors, Lower Price

In-Win took to Twitter to announce that it has brought back one of its discontinued chassis offerings, resurrecting the D-Frame Mini with a variety of new colors and a lower price tag.

The In-Win D-Frame Mini is unchanged from its previous design, with a compact open-frame case made of aluminum tubing and two tempered glass panels encasing a motherboard tray that supports the mini-ITX form factor. The chassis can house up to three 3.5” and two 2.5” drives, in addition to ATX PSUs up to 220mm, high-end graphics cards up to 340mm, and up to a 240mm water cooling radiator. The front panel I/O consists of two USB 3.0 ports as well as mic-in and headphone-out audio jacks.

The rereleased D-Frame Mini comes in a variety of new colors, including red, black, green, orange, white, and blue. All of them are available now on Amazon for $199. Previously, the case went for €299.90, which is around $370 USD. In-Win did not indicate for how long the mini-ITX chassis would be available, and the lack of a proper product page on the company’s website leads us to believe this could be a limited-time offer.

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New Intel Graphics Drivers Add Automatic Game Configuration Feature

Intel released a new graphics driver for 6th generation (Skylake) and newer processors (including  8th gen CPUs with RX Vega graphics) that introduces a Graphics Control Panel which automatically configures game settings for a handful of popular titles.

The Intel Graphics Driver for Windows version 15.65 adds support for Age of Empires: Definitive Edition and Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age and introduces the new feature that automatically configures a game to an optimized setting based on the hardware’s capabilities, similar to AMD and Nvidia’s respective software (Radeon Software Adrenalin and GeForce Experience).

The Intel Graphics Control Panel is still in beta testing, and as such, game availability and functionality is limited. At present, it can automatically configure Battlefield 1, Battlefield 4, American Truck Simulator, Call of Duty WWII, Destiny 2, DOTA 2, Grand Theft Auto V, League of Legends, Overwatch, and World of Tanks, in addition to FortniteBattle Royale, They Are Billions, Lost Sphear, Age of Empires: Definitive Edition, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, OK KO: Let’s Play Heroes, Subnautica, Legrand Legacy, Tale of the Fatebounds, and Dragon Ball FighterZ on processors with HD Graphics 620 or better, and Kingdom Come: Deliverance, Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition, and Metal Gear Survive on Intel Iris Pro graphics.

Intel’s late 2017 hiring of former AMD figurehead Raja Koduri outlined the company’s goal to be competitive in the client graphics market. This means that it has shifted its focus, at least somewhat, to gamers, and if Intel wants to compete on a hardware level, the software has to also be compelling and user friendly. New discrete graphics hardware may indeed be Intel’s end game, but creating software that caters to gamers is something that can be implemented for existing products much sooner, and the new automatic game configuration feature implemented with this graphics driver is another early indication that Intel means business in that endeavor.

You can download the new Intel Graphics Driver for Windows via the company’s website.

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Zotac Zbox Magnus EN1060K-U Barebones Mini PC Review

Zotac’s Zbox Magnus mini-PC lineup packs everything from lean muscle machines to world-class weightlifters into its small boxes. The SKUs include Intel processors ranging from Core i3 to i7, and Nvidia graphics starting at GTX 1050 and going all the way up to GTX 1080. Today, we’re taking a look at the midrange, with a barebones offering of the Magnus EN1060K, a Core i5- and GTX 1060-equipped gaming PC that offers VR-ready performance in a small form factor for under $1,000.

Is this barebones box worth the bucks to outfit into a full configuration, or is it the value equivalent of a brick?

Specifications

Exterior

The Zbox Magnus EN1060K is the usual Zotac fare, with a ring embedded in the lid of a small, boxy chassis, measuring in at only 210 x 203 x 62.2 mm. The small form factor (SFF) gaming PC’s black-plastic and metal chassis isn’t much to look at, and an orange LED around the power button is the only major nod to aesthetics on the device.

Vents line the four edges of the bottom panel, allowing fresh air to flow over the components. The top panel has vents on three of the four edges (the front edge is solid), exhausting hot air up and out of the chassis, and a copper heatsink is visible through the vent on the back panel. Cooling is always a significant factor with SFF PCs, and we’ll see if Zotac’s EN1060K can dissipate the heat properly in our benchmarks.

Given its small case, the Zbox Magnus EN1060K-U offers ample USB and display connectivity. On the front panel, you get two USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports (one Type-A, one Type-C) capable of data transfer speeds up to 10 Gbps, in addition to two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports on the rear. Two DisplayPort 1.3 and two HDMI 2.0 ports give you plenty of options to connect a display (most likely a TV in your living room), and a card reader on the front panel makes it easy to transfer photos off of your camera.

The Zotac Zbox Magnus EN1060K-U also sports dual gigabit Ethernet ports powered by a Realtek RTL8168 controller, and a single antenna provides Wi-Fi connectivity via an Intel Wireless AC 3165 NIC.

Interior

As with all barebones PCs, you have to install some of your own components before you can boot the device. Zotac makes this process about as easy as it gets.

The rear edge sports two thumb screws that hold the bottom panel in place, and removing the plastic panel is as simple as sliding it away from the chassis with moderate pressure. There’s even a groove in the plastic into which you can place your thumb so that you can easily get a grip.

Zotac’s interior layout makes component installation a breeze, with the memory SO-DIMM, M.2, and 2.5” SATA drive slots all exposed and accessible without making you use any tools or remove more panels. The aforementioned Wi-Fi module (an Intel Wireless AC 3165) is positioned below the SATA connector, and a fan near the center of the device passes through the visible PCB to push air to the CPU and GPU, which are in the top half of the chassis. End users aren’t meant to toil with the primary components, and the lack of access to the processor and graphics keeps things simple.

Install the memory by lining up the grooves in the module and slot and pushing it in at an angle. Once it’s completely in, just push down toward the PCB, and the module will snap into place. The M.2 slot’s stud and screw are already configured for Type-2280 devices, so you just have to remove the screw, insert the drive at an angle, and tighten it back down to the stud.

The 2.5” drive tray can be removed by loosening the thumbscrew and pulling the plastic away from the PCB. You will attach your drive of choice using the four plastic pegs protruding from the tray’s inner sides, making sure to position the drive with the SATA connectors on the opposite side of the thumb screw hole. Replace the tray, slide the connectors into place, and tighten it back with the thumbscrew. We loaded the EN1060K with our usual barebones components (an M.2 NVMe SSD, an 8GB kit of memory, a 1TB 2.5” SATA HDD) that we’ll detail on the next page.

Software & Accessories

The Zotac Zbox Magnus EN1060K-U is a barebones PC, so it doesn’t come with an operating system or any software. However, the company gives you two options to load your drivers: a typical installation DVD, or a thumb drive. This is particularly useful, considering there’s no optical drive.

In addition to needing a Windows license key (about $100), end users of the barebones version will have to purchase their own memory and storage.  A minimalistic dual-channel kit of memory will cost you roughly $70; a moderate-capacity M.2 NVMe SSD goes for around $120; and a 2.5” HDD can run you $60 or so for 1TB of space. All said and done, you will spend anywhere from $350 to $600 (if you really go nuts) just to get the EN1060K-U up and running. There are ways to get in the door cheaper (even less RAM, less ambitious storage), but cutting costs will slice performance in ways we wouldn’t recommend.

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Crypto-currency craze ‘hinders search for alien life’

Scientists listening out for broadcasts by extra-terrestrials are struggling to get the computer hardware they need, thanks to the crypto-currency mining craze, a radio-astronomer has said.

Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) wants to expand operations at two observatories.

However, it has found that key computer chips are in short supply.

“We’d like to use the latest GPUs [graphics processing units]… and we can’t get ’em,” said Dan Werthimer.

Demand for GPUs has soared recently thanks to crypto-currency mining.

“That’s limiting our search for extra-terrestrials, to try to answer the question, ‘Are we alone? Is there anybody out there?’,” Dr Werthimer told the BBC.

Mining a currency such as Bitcoin or Ethereum involves connecting computers to a global network and using them to solve complex mathematical puzzles.

This forms part of the process of validating transactions made by people who use the currency.

As a reward for this work, the miners receive a small crypto-currency payment, making it potentially profitable.

GPUs are high-performance chips and aren’t just used for powering video games – they may be stacked together by Bitcoin miners, radio-astronomers or others interested in processing large amounts of data for certain applications.

“At Seti we want to look at as many frequency channels as we possibly can because we don’t know what frequency ET will be broadcasting on and we want to look for lots of different signal types – is it AM or FM, what communication are they using?” explained Dr Werthimer, who is chief scientist at the Berkeley Seti Research Center.

“That takes a lot of computing power.”

He added that at some telescopes, Seti has around 100 GPUs crunching data from large listening arrays.

These arrays can pick up the faintest of radio frequencies that have been flung across our solar system from elsewhere in the universe – often from natural phenomena such as collapsing stars.

Seti is currently trying to improve its capacity for analysing such data at two observatories – Green Bank in West Virginia and Parkes in Australia.

But the institute has been hit by the GPU shortage.

“We’ve got the money, we’ve contacted the vendors, and they say, ‘we just don’t have them’,” said Dr Werthimer.

Earlier this year, there were reports that video gamers had been hit by a sudden rise in the cost of GPUs, thanks in particular to a rise in Ethereum mining, which can be done with chips aimed at consumers.

At the time, major chip-maker Nvidia said that retailers should make arrangements to make sure gamers’ demands were met.

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Star search

Other radio-astronomers have been affected.

A group looking for evidence of the earliest stars in the universe was recently shocked to see that the cost of the GPUs it wanted had doubled.

“We’re in the process of expanding our telescope – we got a grant from the National Science Foundation here in the United States to do so,” said Aaron Parsons at the University of California at Berkeley.

Prof Parsons’ radio telescope array, the Hydrogen Epoch of Reionisation Array (Hera) project, is an American, British and South African venture located in South Africa’s western plains.

It has been designed to listen to low frequency radio waves emitted by the reionising hydrogen gas that permeated the universe before the first stars and galaxies formed.

GPUs are needed in order to bring together data from Hera’s many small radio telescopes – this synthesises a much larger array, offering an especially wide field of view peering out into the universe.

Three months ago, the Hera team had budgeted for a set of GPUs that cost around $500 ($360) – the price has since doubled to $1,000.

“We’ll be able to weather it but it is coming out of our contingency budget.” added Prof Parsons.

“We’re buying a lot of these things, it’s going to end up costing about $32,000 extra.”

He also said he was concerned that future work could even be stopped in its tracks, should the GPU shortage worsen.

Mining’s meteoric rise

Thanks in part to a recent boom in the price of crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, mining crypto-currencies has never been more popular.

While Bitcoin miners have largely moved on to specialised “Asic” chips that have been designed from scratch to support mining, it’s still possible to use GPUs on the Ethereum mining network to lucrative ends, according to cyber-security expert Matthew Hickey at Hacker House.

“[You can] use GPUs effectively to turn a small profit, you’re not going to make millions but if you put 12 or 24 GPUs together, you’ll make back the cost in six months,” he told the BBC.

GPUs are versatile, he added, pointing out that cyber-security experts sometimes use them for password-cracking experiments, in which computers make many millions of attempts at breaking into a system.

But Mr Hickey has also noticed that GPUs are now being sold on sites such as Ebay at inflated prices.

“It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find suppliers and cards,” he said.

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EveryDollar review: Baby steps to budgeting

EveryDollar review: Baby steps to budgeting | PCWorld

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Michael Ansaldo/IDG

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When you get on the budgeting bandwagon, you face a host of perplexing decisions. Do I pay off my credit cards first or start building an emergency fund? What’s more important: saving for my kids’ college education or my retirement? The ensuing confusion causes many to abandon budgeting altogether.

everydollar vertEverydollar

The Every Dollar app is part of personal finance guru Dave Ramsey’s “Baby Steps” method for providing budgeting newbies a road map. Think of it as the facilitator for the journey. Like YNAB, it’s based on the envelope method and the principle of giving a job to every single buck.

Once you create an account on the website, you’re ready to build your first budget. Every Dollar starts you off with eight main budgeting categories: Giving, Savings, Housing, Transportation, Food, Lifestyle, Insurance & Tax, and Debt. You can add more to tailor your budget to your needs. You can also create savings categories—called “Funds” in Every Dollar parlance—which carry a month-to-month balance as you save toward your goal.

At the start of each month, you can enter your income for the month or just the current pay period. Then you assign amounts from those available funds to the “planned” field for each category. As you enter transactions in any category, the amount spent is deducted.

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Every Dollar guides users through Dave Ramsey’s seven “baby steps” to budgeting.

As you execute your budget each month, Every Dollar guides you through Ramsey’s seven baby steps to financial solvency:

1. Save a $1,000 emergency fund

2. Pay off all debts using the snowball method

3. Save three to six months of expenses

  • Ramsey’s baby-steps budgeting method in EveryDollar offers a clear path for those just starting to manage their household finances, particularly those who are digging out of debt and who aren’t yet ready for investments and wealth management.

    Pros

    • Easy-to-use budgeting features
    • Guides user through Dave Ramsey’s “baby steps” to budgeting

    Cons

    • No reporting features
    • Need paid subscription to sync bank accounts






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Intel unleashes new Core i3 processor to give thin-and-light laptops a power boost

In a move which, at least to some extent, seems to be running interference with AMD’s recently released (and well-received) fresh APUs, Intel has unveiled a single new 8th-gen Core i3 processor aimed at ultraportable laptops and 2-in-1s.

The Core i3-8130U is a dual-core CPU with four-threads, clocked at 2.2GHz with Turbo up to 3.4GHz.

You get integrated graphics in the form of Intel’s UHD Graphics 620 (with a base frequency of 300MHz, maximum of 1GHz), and the chip has a TDP of 15W. It supports DDR4-2400 system memory.

Stick, no twists

The new Core i3 pretty much sticks along the same lines as its Kaby Lake predecessor, then, with the main difference being the ability to boost up to a faster speed (the old one topped out at 2.7GHz), with support for slightly faster system RAM. And of course it also features the benefits of the new architecture.

Intel boasts that the chip represents a “performance jump over the previous generation” and offers “an overall experience that is optimized for speed and simplicity.”

The company notes that this model rounds off its initial portfolio of 8th-gen mobile processors (first launched last August), and that we’ll see new notebooks from manufacturers using the Core i3-8130U before long.

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Amazon Echo Dot ad cleared over cat food order

A television ad for Amazon’s Echo Dot smart speaker that caused a viewer’s device to try to order cat food has been cleared by a UK regulator.

The advert, which aired in October, featured a man asking Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa to order Purina cat food.

A viewer said the ad caused their Echo Dot device to respond after hearing the ad on the television.

The viewer complained that the ad was “socially irresponsible”.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) announced that it would not uphold the consumer’s complaint because it did not find the advert to be in breach of the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising.

The regulator acknowledged that Amazon had taken measures to prevent its ads from triggering a response in devices that might “overhear” a command from a voice on the television.

In this case, the ad did cause the device to initiate an order for cat food, and the user cancelled the order personally.

However, ASA said that Amazon had programmed Alexa to automatically cancel any orders that had not been actively confirmed by the customer.

“We understood that it would not be possible for a purchase to be made without the account owner’s knowledge, even in instances where technology, intended to stop ads interacting with devices, had not been effective,” the regulator said in its decision.

“We concluded that the ad was not socially irresponsible and did not breach the Code.”

Ordering mishaps

In January 2017, there was a spate of such incidents in the US involving Amazon Echo devices.

The devices overheard a television news anchor on CW6 in San Diego talking about a child who managed to order a doll’s house and a tin of cookies from Alexa because the family had not activated parental controls on their Echo device.

The anchor in question, Jim Patton, said: “I love the little girl saying, ‘Alexa order me a dollhouse.'”

CW6 said that after the news segment aired, the TV station received numerous calls from viewers complaining that their smart speakers had all tried to order doll’s houses after the words were uttered on the screen.

At the time, Amazon advised users to open the Alexa app and turn off the “voice purchasing” setting.

Customers were also advised to set up a confirmation code that would need to be typed in before each order was authenticated.

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