Weekend Open Forum: Which PC case do you use?

One of the very first premium aftermarket computer cases I acquired was a Lian Li PC-60. In the 15 or so years since, I’ve had the opportunity to work with probably a hundred or more cases of varying shapes, sizes, building materials and price points including my current chassis, the hulking Cooler Master Cosmos II.

I’ve owned this behemoth for nearly four years now and have no plans of replacing it anytime soon. Outfitted with Noctua fans, a towering heatsink and a passively cooled video card, it’s nearly silent and large enough to accommodate virtually anything I can throw at it in the future.

With this week’s open forum, we’re curious as to what computer case you’re using these days? Does your current case meet all of your needs? Are you eyeballing an upgrade?

Sony offering free multiplayer weekend for PS4 owners, seeking beta testers for next system update

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Sony has announced a promotion in which PlayStation 4 owners will have access to the online multiplayer mode in any game this weekend. Normally, only those with a PlayStation Plus subscription can play online.

Sony Computer Entertainment America’s (SCEA) Andy Lum announced the news in a recent blog post, noting that it was just in time for the launch of Street Fighter Vreleased on Tuesday. Lum said it was also a great opportunity for gamers to check out multiplayer in Call of Duty: Black Ops III as the new DLC pack, Awakening, dropped earlier this month.

The free weekend starts on Friday, February 19, at 12:01 a.m. PST and runs through Sunday, February 21, at 11:59 p.m. PST.

In related news, Sony is also seeking gamers to help beta test their next system software update. In a separate post, John Koller, vice president of the PlayStation brand for SCEA, said the beta program will begin in March. Those that get selected will receive an e-mail with instructions on how to download the system software.

All that’s needed to participate is a PlayStation 4 with an Internet connection and a master account. Koller said users can roll back to the previous system software at anytime, implying that the beta software isn’t a permanent commitment.

Neverware wants to turn your old computer into a speedy ‘Chromebook’

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There’s no shortage of options when it comes to deciding what to do with an old computer once it has been replaced. Repurposing an old machine is certainly a noble cause but when it takes 10 to 15 minutes just to boot into Windows, what good can it really server?

New York City startup Neverware has a pretty great idea – transform that old clunker into a speedy “Chromebook.” And now, you can give it a try without wiping your hard drive thanks to a new dual boot option.

Chromebooks have been one of the surprise hits of the past few years. Unlike netbooks which attempted to run desktop-class versions of Windows on underpowered hardware, Chromebooks utilize a lightweight (albeit limited) OS that’s far less demanding. As a result, manufacturers have been able to churn out slim Chromebooksthat are deceptively quick and affordable enough to cause major disruptions in the entry-level laptop market.

Using Neverware’s CloudReady software (free for individuals), you can essentially create your own Chromebook (it’s not technically a Chromebook as Google owns the trademark for that name). The software is a variation of Chromium, the open source version of Chrome.

Odds are, your old laptop or desktop is probably still faster in terms of raw processing power than most new Chromebooks so you’ll end up with a very usable system absolutely free.

Android for desktop fork “Remix OS” gets 32-bit support, OTA updates and more

A company called Jide has been working on a desktop-optimized fork of Android for a little over a year now. After Kickstarting a tablet running its custom software in March 2015 and later following with a small set-top box, the company now plans to release itsRemix OS for free for anyone to install and use on an x86 computer.

Remix OS brings PC productivity features such as multiple floating windows, advanced file manager, and true mouse and keyboard support. It has a start menu where users can access installed programs, and a notification tray that swipes in from the side.

The Alpha release of Remix OS was actually released last month, but with the new public Beta coming on March 1, the company is bringing a substantial amount of improvements and bug fixes. Chief among them is adding support for 32-bit machines, which means you’ll be able to repurpose that old laptop or PC to run a productivity-oriented version of Android.

Other new features include a new hard drive installer that allows for dual-booting of Remix OS with your other main operating system, and OTA updates, allowing Jide to release updates that you can download over the internet and install without losing data.

The a wealth of apps available for Android open up the potential of Remix OS in a meaningful way that Chrome OS extensions and apps can’t match at this point. But there’s still one key feature that’s missing from Remix OS for PC: the Google Play Store. The company says it’s currently in talks with Google for certification to have official access to the Google Play Store and Services — in the meantime you can still sideload them onto your Remix OS device.

Another thing worth keeping in mind is that the user experience varies greatly from app to app depending if they’ve been designed to run only on phones or phones and tablets. If it’s the former apps may not play as well unless you keep the window down to a phone-like shape and size.

Last week we reported on another company that’s working on a solution to repurpose old PCs, only using Chrome OS instead of Android.

Valve’s latest utility determines your PC’s VR readiness, pinpoints bottlenecks

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You’ve made the decision to invest between $600 and $800 on a premium virtual reality platform but do you know if your computer is up to the task? It’s a concern that at least a few will fail to address and wonder why their new toy is riddled with lag.

Fittingly, Valve has released a new utility that takes the guesswork out of the equation and determines if your PC is capable of powering a premium VR setup like the HTC Vive. It’s called the SteamVR Performance Test and you can give it a try right now although you’ll need the Steam client to do so.

The description says the utility measures your system’s rendering power using a two-minute sequence from Valve’s Aperture Robot Repair VR demo. After collecting the necessary data, the utility will indicate if your machine is capable of powering virtual reality content at the target 90fps and how much “eye candy” you’ll be able to get away with.

Should your system fall short of the recommended threshold, the utility will let you know if it’s the CPU, GPU or a combination of both that’s the bottleneck.

If you’d rather not fool with the utility, note that HTC recommends an Intel Core i5-4590 / AMD FX 8350 equivalent processor or better, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 / AMD Radeon R9 290 or greater, at least 4GB of RAM, an HDMI 1.4 / DisplayPort 1.2 video output or newer, at least one USB 2.0 port and Windows SP1 or newer to get the best experience out of the Vive VR.

Oculus calls for nearly the exact same setup for its Rift with the exception of at least 8GB of RAM and two USB 3.0 ports.

Those in the market for a new computer to handle VR duties can save a few bucks by purchasing an Oculus Rift PC bundle (assuming of course that the Rift is your VR platform of choice). You may be able to save even more money by upgrading your existing system or building one from scratch but understandably, that’s not an option for everyone.

Apple plans Siri for Mac as tentpole feature for this fall’s OS X 10.12 launch

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Apple has reportedly been testing Siri for Mac since at least 2012, but even though the digital assistant has already made its way from the iPhone to the Apple Watch and Apple TV, it’s been notably absent from OS X. According to 9to5Mac’S Mark Gurman, that will change this year when the company launches OS X 10.2 in the Fall.

Gurman says Siri for Mac almost ready to go and will be announced as a “tentpole” feature for the next major update to OS X, which is expected to be previewed in June at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference.

The digital assistant will reportedly be summoned in a handful of ways: through a Siri icon in the top right corner of the Mac’s menu bar, using a keyboard shortcut, or with the “hey Siri” voice prompt when your computer is plugged into a power outlet. Of course if you’re down with the idea of another device “always listening” to you in your home there will be an option to disable the feature.

Beyond Siri 9to5Mac reports OS X will receive minor user-interface tweaks across core system application windows, along with performance-focused improvement. If the company stick to its usual release schedule we can expect OS X 10.12 to launch around September or October, around the same time the next major update to iOS is due.