Custom PC, Issue 115

Custom PC Issue 115This month’s interview column for Dennis Publishing’s Custom PC talks to Nvidia’s Jason Paul about his company’s latest surprise hardware launch: the Project Shield hand-held gaming console.

Based around Nvidia’s Tegra 4 system-on-chip processor, which combines four ARM Cortex-A15 general-purpose processing cores with GeForce graphics processing technology and a power-saving Cortex-A9 core for background tasks, Project Shield is a departure for the company. Rather than a reference design or OEM offering, Project Shield is to be launched – first in the US, with the UK to follow later in the year – as a full retail offering.

It’s certainly a novel device: looking like a small TFT glued to an Xbox controller, it provides access to Android games and apps while also connecting to desktop PCs running Nvidia GeForce graphics cards and streaming full-fat PC games – cloud gaming minus the cloud, in other words. Fog gaming? Mist gaming? Whatever.

Paul was full of interesting anecdotes about the project, including the fact that the original prototype of the device – which has been dreamed up, designed, developed and produced in under a year – was little more than a smartphone and a game controller screwed together with a plank of wood.

“I don’t think I would be quite as able to express the pain and agony of cramming all this into a device as well as our engineering team! It was pretty challenging. To give you one anecdote, we got a lot of the device designed and laid out and then realised that we had these amazing speakers that were larger than we had allocated in the device. So, we had to go back and redesign a bit of the area around the speakers to be able to cram in the bass reflex quad speaker audio.”

This interview was actually something of a last-minute change to the planned schedule. A previous interview with open-source engineer Andrew Back, originally due to appear in this issue, will now appear in Custom PC Issue 116.

The rest of the interview appears in Custom PC Issue 115, available in stores now and digitally through the Zinio service.

Custom PC, Issue 110

Custom PC, Issue 110In this month’s Custom PC, I have three features: my regular Mobile Tech Watch column, a bonus opinion column, and a how-to guide on constructing a temperature-sensitive LED from an Arduino microcontroller following a reader request on the Bit-Tech forums.

First, Mobile Tech Watch: on the request of editor Ben Hardwidge, this month’s column looks at cloud gaming technologies – specifically Gaikai and Nvidia’s GeForce Grid proejct – and whether mobile gaming is truly turning a corner. Now, this article was written and submitted before high-profile cloud gaming company OnLive closed, sacked half its staff and re-opened to avoid massive debts, but the article’s focus specifically on Gaikai means it’s none the worse for that.

Cloud gaming is certainly generating plenty of interest: offering console-quality games on mobile platforms, and even branching out into Smart TVs – Samsung has signed a deal with Gaikai to put the company’s technology into its next TV sets for console-free gaming – it’s a something-for-nothing deal for the end-user, but can cost a fortune to run. Even using the very latest Nvidia Grid technology, a Gaikai server can only run four simultaneous streams.

Do I think that cloud gaming has a future, or is it a just a fad? Better read this month’s column to find out, hadn’t you?

Next, the cover-gracing LED temperature sensor feature. Following a reader request, I designed, programmed and constructed a temperature sensor that uses an Arduino to vary the colour of an RGB LED. If the case is cold, the LED is blue; as the case warms up, red is added and blue removed until the LED is completely red.

The code is available on my GitHub repository, while a correction to an equation I fat-fingered in the feature can be found on Bit-Tech.

Finally, the op-ed: normally, I only do a single column for each issue, but illness meant there was a last-minute gap as this issue was going to press. To solve the problem, I stepped in and wrote an opinion column on patents, the problem with patents and a suggestion for how said problem can be resolved. Considering the short deadline and the research-heavy nature of the piece, I’m extremely pleased with how it turned out.

For all this and more, pick up Custom PC Issue 110 wherever geeky magazines are sold, or digitally via Zinio.