Trending March 2024 # Why Building A Gaming Pc Is A Terrible Idea Right Now # Suggested April 2024 # Top 8 Popular

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Building a gaming PC is an absolutely terrible idea at the moment. Prices in just about everything are through the roof (though who knows when they’ll come down), and new products are just about to be launched. Instead of dropping, prices are climbing, with high demand and low supply providing the essential economic forces to create unaffordable prices.

1. Insane GPU Prices

The most recent iteration of the cryptocurrency craze has pushed the prices for graphics cards through the roof. Because these cards can be used to mine cryptocurrency, all but the most pathetic graphics cards are selling for a fortune. In fact, if you have one collecting dust, now might be a nice time to get rid of it. Year-old cards are selling for above their retail MSRP at launch, and anything being sold at a reasonable price is snapped up instantly. Some outlets have taken drastic measures, either strictly limiting the number of cards you can purchase or attempting to maintain a “gamers only” policy.

In addition to the outrageous prices, there’s a ton of variability in the market. If the cryptocurrency bubble pops, we’ll get some relief here. But Bitcoin’s drop at the beginning of the year didn’t have an immediate impact on GPU prices.

2. Expensive DDR4 RAM

The effect of RAM on a gaming PC has been the matter of some debate over the years. But the near-universal accord has been that faster memory helps performance, and gamers want at least 16 GB. So if you’re building a gaming PC, you’re going to want the fastest RAM you can reasonably afford.

Unfortunately, that might be DDR-nothing at the moment. The newest RAM, DDR4, is currently prohibitively expensive for most gamers. Extremely strong demand in the smartphone industry is causing OEMs to build tons of DDR4 for mobile devices, leaving comparatively little production capacity for desktop DDR4. This means that the relatively short supply comes with a twist: instead of falling, prices just keep rising.

Rumor has it new fabrication facilities will come online in China soon, but who knows what will come of that. Worse still, the slower and more plentiful DDR3 RAM has spiked in price as well, with trends rising towards a price tag twice as high as launch MSRP.

3. Product Life Cycles and New Launches

The second generation of AMD’s Ryzen processor is just over the horizon, with a rumored launch in March or April 2023. We’ll get new motherboards to match, and we might see pricing moves by Intel in response. Intel’s Coffee Lake processors have already been released, but motherboard manufacturers have been slow to provide a ton of board variety. We’re likely to see more boards come out shortly to support the newest chips. Nvidia is also primed to release its GeForce 20xx series graphics cards in three to four months.

If you wait until late spring or early summer, we expect you’ll have your pick of brand-new processors, motherboards and graphics cards.

Conclusion: Be Patient

Pre-built gaming PCs have been slightly less sensitive to fluctuating parts prices, and NewEgg and Microcenter have attempted to woo their gamer audience by bundling core PC parts together, hoping to avoid miners. With those deals, you might get a decent machine for a comparatively affordable price. But if you can afford to wait, you should.

Alexander Fox

Alexander Fox is a tech and science writer based in Philadelphia, PA with one cat, three Macs and more USB cables than he could ever use.

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Is A Gaming Pc Really More Expensive Than A Console?

If you want to play video games in this day and age there have never been more options. You can grab a smartphone or hop on a game streaming service and be playing in no time. However, for most people who play video games as a primary form of entertainment, there are two choices: PC vs console.

Consoles are purpose-built gaming machines that offer plug-and-play gaming with no need to mess about with game settings. They are also pretty affordable, or at least their initial price tag is. 

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PCs, on the other hand, offer complete hardware flexibility and, if you spend enough, the sort of gaming horsepower that no console can match. Except perhaps right as a new generation of consoles launches.

While the PC platform is, in general the home of premium video game performance, gamers often baulk at the perceived price of being a PC gamer. The question is whether that perception is accurate. The answer, as we’ll see, depends on how you look at things.

The Hardware Costs

There’s no two ways about it. The amount of money you have to hand over to take a console home is less than you’d pay for an equivalent or better gaming PC. As a console’s lifespan rolls along, that fact changes. Since the console hardware doesn’t change, new PC hardware becomes more powerful at a lower price. So eventually a similar asking price for the console will net you a PC with better specifications.

Why are consoles so much cheaper? There are a few reasons for this. Console makers get preferential hardware prices because they build millions and millions of consoles. Console makers also don’t need to make a profit on their consoles. Often they either break even or take a loss on each unit. 

This is acceptable because of something known as the “attach rate”. In the case of a console, this refers to the games, services and accessories users must buy to get any real use out of their machine. So even if the console hardware itself doesn’t make any money, there’s instant profit from the sale of the first game, accessory or subscription.

With PCs, every component has a profit margin. The individual manufacturers need to make a return on the hardware or there’d be no point. The end result of this is that, from a performance-per-dollar point of view, PCs are more expensive than consoles. However that’s not the whole story. It would be more accurate to say that PCs cost more upfront. But if we look at the cost over the lifespan of a typical console, that picture changes. 

The Software Costs

Because consoles are a closed platform, game developers need to pay for the privilege of releasing games on that system. This comes in the form of a fee attached to every copy sold. Rather than take a hit to their own profits, that cost is passed on to the console gamer. So you’ll find that, at launch, console games cost more than the same title on PC.

That’s not all! Since several different distributors compete for PC game sales, you’ll hardly ever pay retail price for a PC game. Whether it’s a pre-order discount or price cuts mere months or even weeks after launch, there are always amazing deals to be had on PC games. Console games, in contrast, tend to hold their full price for much longer. They also don’t enjoy price cuts nearly as deep as those on PC when they do go on sale.

This is where the main equalizer in the price of gaming on PC vs console comes into play. However, this clearly depends heavily on how many games you buy. 

For argument’s sake, let’s say that a console game costs $10 more than the PC version on average. If you buy one game a month for five years, that would be $10 x 12 months x 5 years. Equalling $600.

If you had added that $600 to your initial console purchase and bought a $1000 PC instead, your total expenditure would have been the same. These days, a $1000 can buy a pretty decent gaming laptop or desktop. However that’s just one area of hidden cost that console gamers have to contend with.

Online Services Costs

Since the PC offers an open platform, players don’t have to pay for functions such as multiplayer to a third party.  On consoles, online multiplayer is usually reserved for a subscription service, which is in addition to any actual game subscriptions you might have to pay.

Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft have all sweetened the deal by adding discounts and “free” digital games into the mix. So whether that’s worth the cost will be up to individuals. However, the bottom line is that if you want to play online at all the fee isn’t optional.

So the value added aspects don’t carry that much weight. If you add the difference in monthly online multiplayer subscriptions to the average difference in game prices, it further equalizes the price difference between PC and console hardware over the console life cycle.

Upgrade Costs

Next, we need to factor in the cost of upgrading a PC. First of all, upgrades to PC over the course of it’s console equivalent generation is optional. At least when it comes to cross-platform games. 

A rather recent development with consoles is the mid-generation upgrade. Which gave us the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X. Neither of these were essential upgrades, but they did offer a fairly affordable bump to graphical power. 

The CPUs for these mid-generation machines were virtually unchanged. So if you did the same thing to your PC mid-generation and only upgrade the GPU, then you’d spend about as much (or less) as you would on a new, updated console. From that point of view upgrading has a negligible effect when comparing PC vs console.

Do You Need A PC For Other Things?

The next important consideration when calculating comparative cost is whether you need a computer for anything besides gaming. If you do need a computer for more than gaming, then the console’s cost is in addition to that of a non-gaming PC.

In that case, you might as well add the costs together and get the gaming PC. If you don’t need a PC at all, then we can leave it out of the cost comparison.

A Different Perspective On Costs

As we’ve seen, if you look at the total cost of ownership over the lifespan of the typical console, the cost differences of PC vs console aren’t nearly as dramatic as they’ve been made out to be. Of course, PCs can be incredibly expensive at the high end, but this is not a comparison of extremes.

Why Is Regulating Artificial Intelligence Imperative Now?

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been expanding its roots rapidly. From small and simple tasks to highly complicated tasks, AI aces it easily. But that has brought some fears we might need to think upon. Like what if the machines became as smart as humans? Already they are running far good than what was expected. So, as it says with every good step you’ve something associated that could bring down the joy is what we are going to focus on in this article. Should artificial intelligence be regulated? Like what if it’s not?

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been expanding its roots rapidly. From small and simple tasks to highly complicated tasks, AI aces it easily. But that has brought some fears we might need to think upon. Like what if the machines became as smart as humans? Already they are running far good than what was expected. So, as it says with every good step you’ve something associated that could bring down the joy is what we are going to focus on in this article. Should artificial intelligence be regulated? Like what if it’s not? What can be the possible consequences we could turn to? Let’s take this with an example. An AI assistant calls up at a restaurant to book a table for two. The manager there has so many questions to put up like which day, time, cuisine etc. Of course it does not know that much, but somehow manages to gear up on the call. The assistant answers it all with proper usage of pauses. The person other side could not even recognize it was a bot. That’s what we have made! A replacement to humans that is even more perfect. This displacement could be dangerous as it might lead to having more of these bots and less humans. Obviously that is less chaos but what about other factors? What about employment and persons being employed? Simple and radical tasks would now be done via these bots which get better at their work day by day. So where will the people go? Who shall fulfill the employment ratios? That’s the darker side to be focused on. Moreover, we have bots which spread this fake news over the social media. Images and even fake videos can be generated within minutes and spread like a forest fire on the entire social media. This could reflect in weird and absurd results pertaining to worse conditions. But as the trend goes on, small sized companies and mediocre firms are too into this automation process. According to surveys conducted last year, 74% of CEO’s said they would never accept automation process. Just in some 12 months this changed to 73% of them already working or planning to get their hands into AI. Now that everybody is into this and already aware of what AI can really do, regulating AI has become the next big step to be taken. Regulations however will not limit the powers of what AI can do, but will rather boost the incorporations it could make. Before we could think of measures to avoid the forthcoming fourth industrial revolution, we shall begin with regulating AI. Cyber security has to be of prime importance. We can never ignore the data breaches, fake news spread or some other intelligent ethics to be at stake. Machines have this autonomous decision-making, but can we completely rely on the results? Will the results be liable enough to take further steps without the knowledge of who’s behind these machines like their manufacturer or user? Such questions would be tempting us until we give a perfect solution to this problem. There have been times where in machine’s decision is of course far better than what humans can predict, but not always it’s the other way round. Miracles do often once in a blue moon! Our future has to be secured and made more efficacious. So now is the correct time to act and to regulate.

You Can Build A $500 Gaming Pc With Cyber Monday Deals

Building at this time of year is great. You can stack the deals to get nice parts at big discounts. The results put prebuilt desktops in the same price range to shame. And happily, the gravy train has kept rolling through Cyber Monday. Right now you still can roll a system capable of 1080p Ultra at 60fps, with an easy path for future upgrades, for $500 or less. All the parts are new and are sold by first-party sellers only.

Have different needs? You can also move up to $800 for a 1440p build or scale down to under $400 for 720p, too. Just check out the example builds below.

This article is part of a series we’ve done on the cheapest Black Friday gaming PC you can build. For fun, you can compare this year’s results to 2023, 2023, 2023, 2023, 2023, and 2024. If you’re a returning reader, this year’s take is a little different, as you’ll see. After a couple of years of pandemic-induced austerity, it’s party time.

The $500 1080p Ultra Cyber Monday gaming PC build

This build doesn’t cut corners unless you’re trying to stick tight to $500 or below (the latter is a possibility if you live near a Micro Center). In fact, drop the graphics settings and you can go up to 1440p. You also get a sweet bonus of three free games, thanks to two AMD promotions.

As typical for suggested gaming PC builds, the cost of a mouse and keyboard aren’t included in the list. But for the sticklers out there, you can mentally add another $33 for a budget mouse and mechanical keyboard to the total.

Build notes

Also available from B&H at the same cost, but without the free copy of Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves.

This motherboard requires flashing to a newer BIOS to work with Ryzen 5000 processors. You can request a free loaner boot kit from AMD for this purpose. A local computer shop may also be able to perform this service for a fee.

Price is after $20 mail-in rebate. MIR must be filed within 21 days of purchase.

Price is after $20 mail-in rebate. MIR must be filed by 12/30/2024.

Promotion valid with purchase of a qualifying AMD CPU from AMD, Amazon, Micro Center, or Newegg.

Promotion valid with purchase of a qualifying AMD graphics card from AMD, Amazon, Micro Center, or Newegg.

This system nets you a build with a solid 6-core, 12-thread processor, a micro-ATX Wi-Fi motherboard that supports RGB and ARGB fans, 16GB of DDR4-3600 memory (Ryzen 3000 and 5000’s sweet spot for RAM speed), our top recommendation for NVMe Gen 3 SSDs, a power supply rated as Tier B on this respected list, on-board Wi-Fi, and a solid airflow case. And yes, the Windows 10 license is included—no cheating here. (Full disclosure: I was tempted to.) The key comes from PCWorld’s affiliated software store, so it’s above board.

Oh, and again, this build also includes three bonus games (technically four). This is a lot for a build between $500 and $600. Remember the prebuilt mentioned above? That has a weaker lower core count processor, much weaker graphics card, half the memory (and slower memory at that), and no free software. This build smokes it, even without any RGB fans.

The main caveats? You need to flash the motherboard’s BIOS to a newer version before the Ryzen 5 5500 will work in it. You can request a free loaner boot kit from AMD for this purpose. A local computer shop may also be able to perform this service for a fee. (Or a good friend for free, if they like you.) This build also only supports PCIe 3.0, but SSDs and graphics card running at that standard’s speeds will still be plenty fast for a long while.

Areas for improvement

Storage: A 500GB SSD will fill up pretty quick, especially if you play big blockbuster AAA games. If you can afford it, buy the 1TB version of the Crucial P3 ($63) instead.

Additional fans / alternative case: My original pick, this $53 DIYPC case, included several RGB fans but sold out by Black Friday proper. (Alas.) The Cooler Master model listed above has only one included fan, so you can either buy more fans yourself for optimal airflow, or pay about $10 more for the Bitfenix Nova Mesh, which comes outfitted with four RGB fans.

Suggested upgrades:

CPU Cooler: This build relies on the included stock cooler that comes with the 5500. But using a more powerful aftermarket air cooler will improve your temps and possibly performance if you live in a warm (or downright hot) location. There aren’t really any on sale, so our recommendation would be a well-known, solid performer like the be quiet Pure Rock 2 ($40).

Memory: 16GB will hold work for many people who primarily game and don’t have a lot of things open at the same time. But if you’re a browser tab hoarder (hi), stepping up to 32GB of RAM ($85) isn’t much more expensive right now. 

Motherboard: An ATX motherboard will support more expansion cards, like an internal game capture card and/or a sound card. Newegg has these $100 Gigabyte B450 Aorus Elite, $105 ASRock B450 Steel Legend, and $120 Gigabyte B450 Aorus Pro Wi-Fi models that are worth a look.

Storage: Whether you stick with the suggested 500GB SSD or move up to a 1TB model as your boot drive, it doesn’t hurt to still have more storage available. This $50 2TB Seagate Barracuda HDD runs at 7,200RPM, making it a faster option. (For a spinning platter drive, anyway.)

Alternatives Micro Center variant – $473

Swap in this $130 Ryzen 5 3600 CPU + Gigabyte B450M Wi-FI motherboard combo (available in-store only), opt instead for this $50 Montech X1 case, and ditch the Windows 10 license for Linux, and you’ve got yourself a very nice sub-$500 gaming PC. Even if you keep Windows, you’ll still sit at $539 total, which is cheaper overall.

Bare-bones variant – $502

If you must slash costs, you could switch to this $70 motherboard without Wi-Fi, drop to 8GB of memory, and install Linux instead for $70 in savings. Don’t nerf the RAM that hard, though. Saving that $10 isn’t worth it.

The $800 1440p Cyber Monday gaming PC build

During Black Friday, this build was a cool $756, but even with discounts not being quite as good on Cyber Monday, $800 is still a fantastic price for a PC with these specs.

Build notes

This motherboard requires flashing to a newer BIOS before it will work with Ryzen 5000 processors. You can request a free loaner boot kit from AMD for this purpose. A local computer shop may also be able to perform this service for a fee.

Promotion valid with purchase of a qualifying AMD CPU from AMD, Amazon, Micro Center, or Newegg.

Promotion valid with purchase of a qualifying AMD graphics card from AMD, Amazon, Micro Center, or Newegg.

This 1440p build sports a 6-core, 12-thread processor that supports PCIe 4.0, an ATX board capable of powering RGB and ARGB fans, 16GB of DDR4-3600 memory (Ryzen 3000 and 5000’s sweet spot for RAM speed), our top recommendation for NVMe Gen 3 SSDs, on-board Wi-Fi*, and a solid airflow case. A Windows 10 license is included, too, and comes from PCWorld’s affiliated software store. Plus, it qualifies for three bonus games. Thank you, AMD.

(*Update: A previous version of this article had the wrong variant of this motherboard linked – the correct version is now reflected in the list above. Thanks to reader @coups79 for the catch.)

At this price point, trimming corners with a cheaper CPU just doesn’t make sense. Better to invest a little bit more money to future-proof with PCIe 4.0 support. Cutting down on memory and storage capacity feels stingy, too. And while the Cooler Master case from the $500 build is a respectable budget option, the acrylic side panel could scratch easily—this Cougar model will remain looking good for longer.

Only two caveats exist for this build. First is the power supply—if you have the money, upgrade to something with more longevity and a higher wattage, like this $80 Thermaltake GF1 80+ Gold model. It’ll survive this build (likely another one after, too) and support a beefier graphics card later on, if you so choose. Second, you’ll need to flash the BIOS before the Ryzen 5 5600 will work in the motherboard.

Suggested upgrades:

CPU Cooler: A more powerful air cooler will improve your temps and possibly performance if you live somewhere warm. There aren’t really any good sales, so our recommendation defaults to a well-known solid performer, like the be quiet Pure Rock 2 ($40).

Memory: Never met a browser tab you didn’t leave open (hi friend)? Stepping up to 32GB of RAM ($85) doesn’t cost much more.

Storage: 2TB SSDs don’t cost too much more right now, and if you want go to for blistering speed, PCIe Gen 4 models have hit all-time lows.

The $390 Fortnite Cyber Monday gaming PC build

Build notes

Was available for $114 during Black Friday week on 11/22/22. Alas.

This motherboard requires flashing to a newer BIOS before it will work with Ryzen 5000 processors. You can request a free loaner boot kit from AMD for this purpose. A local computer shop may also be able to perform this service for a fee.

Price is after $10 mail-in rebate. MIR must be filed by 12/30/2024.

Promotion valid with purchase of a qualifying AMD CPU from AMD, Amazon, Micro Center, or Newegg.

If you only need a computer for Fortnite and other lightweight games, the Ryzen 5 5600G and its beefy integrated graphics can shoulder that burden easily. It’s a much nicer APU-based system when compared to previous cheap Black Friday gaming PC builds, and has built-in Wi-Fi, too.

But as configured, it’s somewhat limited. The power supply will restrict you to budget graphics cards, should you want to upgrade to a discrete GPU in the future. And the amount of RAM and the storage drive are relatively low. Highly recommended upgrades would be the Cooler Master MWE 550W 80+ White Non-Modular ($35) and 16GB of DDR4-3600 RAM ($45). New total cost: $413, which is still very affordable for a system you can further upgrade down the road with little fuss.

The cheapest Black Friday gaming PC build possible

This one’s for my homies, who like to see how deep I can cut to the bone. (UPDATE: My homies just pointed out that I goofed on this one! Oops. Fixed now.) I put it together for Black Friday, and surprisingly, it’s still available for Cyber Monday, too.

Build notes

Price is after $10 mail-in rebate. MIR must be filed by 12/30/2024.

Price is after $20 mail-in rebate. MIR must be filed by 12/30/2024.

Promotion valid with purchase of a qualifying AMD CPU from AMD, Amazon, Micro Center, or Newegg.

This modest 4-core, 8-thread CPU build notably lacks a graphics card. Is this a gaming PC in the strictest of terms? Nope, but this is actually what the pandemic reduced us to back in 2023 and 2023. Think of this build as a reflection of how times have improved. Even if you can’t play it, you still get a free game with the Ryzen 5 4500.

Plus, GeForce Now is a great service (and one we’ve talked up many times elsewhere on the site). If you can game on a productivity PC for free because of it, who’s to argue with such cost savings?

Whoops! My original pick had one glaring error: No integrated graphics. At all. You would have had no signal out. I was a little too lost to APU land during my dive down the rabbit hole.

But hey, guess who just showed up in place of the 4500? That’s right, the 4600G, which—wait for it—is an APU with integrated Vega graphic cores. You know, the very same ones that showed up again in the 5600G, because AMD decided to break all our hearts. (In truth, the decision was likely a constraint of pandemic supply issues, etc.) So that means yes, you CAN game pretty decently on this machine, too. It just won’t have the same legs as the 5600G over the long haul, so frankly, I’d choose that one over this build’s 4600G.

And before anyone asks, yes, I could cut deeper. You can get under $300 by going down to 256GB storage and choosing a cheaper case with no front mesh panel. And giving up the Windows license for Linux gaming. But that’s asking people to suffer over the long haul, and I don’t believe in that.

The Dangers Of Using Pirated Software And Why You Should Stop Right Now

The dangers of using pirated software are evident on the economy. $82 billion worth of software programs sell legitimately worldwide, while $63 billion worth of computer programs are pirated.

Copying other people’s work has almost become an acceptable thing, albeit the presence of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) should emphasize the consequence of this problem.

Have you ever wondered how much a cheap product can cost you? It’s penny wise and pound foolish, depending on how you look at it.

Some of the dangers of using pirated software are obvious while others aren’t. Let’s explore five of these dangers of using pirated software.

1. It leaves you vulnerable to attack

According to a study, thirty-four percent of pirated software downloaded from P2P were embedded with malware that infects a computer after download. About half of these were Trojans.

You expose yourself to malware when you install a pirated software. Ransomware, Trojans, viruses and other malicious software can corrupt your device and the data you have in it.

Malicious codes embedded in some pirated software programs can gain access to your data. Your device, and webcam, can be controlled this way. Pirated software makes you vulnerable to a denial of service attack.

The risks you’re exposed to include:

Access to financial and confidential information

Access to your trade secrets

Access to customers’ transactions and personal records

Identity theft

Data loss and destruction

These are just a few of what’s possible.

2. It might stop working when you need it the most

You might find out that the pirated software doesn’t work with your device. This is because the programs are cracked versions of the original ones. These software programs are likely to alter the accuracy of your results if they end up working.

Some companies check the registration of their software, so it’s possible to have the program run for a while and malfunction as time goes on.

3. It’ll lead to legal problems

Everything that has an original is likely to be counterfeited. It’s unfair when someone steals your idea, pretends it’s theirs and sells it. It’s only natural for companies to protect their assets.

It isn’t acceptable to purchase the fake software as they hardly follow due process. It is copyright infringement.

The LA County Sheriff’s department purchased a license that allowed them to install 3,700 copies of a software by DataWall. It installed 6,000 copies, claiming that only 3700 employees were using the software. The department was sued and had to pay a fine and sttorney fees of more than $750,000.

4. The product can’t be updated

100 percent of the pirated software samples studied by Microsoft Australia had Windows Update disabled and FireWall rules changed.

Updating your software as new patches or updates are released allows you to get a better experience from it. It’s impossible to enjoy this from the pirated version, so you’re stuck with it no matter the limitations. You might even get penalized if you try upgrading to an original package.

5. It puts hardworking people out of work

A report from IDC stated that for every one-percent of pirated software, approximately $40 billion is lost. This removes 150,000 jobs from the worldwide economy.

You put good people out of work and affect the economy negatively. Meanwhile, services like Netflix seem to be effectively saving the system.

Beyond the dangers of using pirated software

Let’s face it, some software is pretty expensive, and you may not need all the features it brings with its premium version. So what’s a techie to do?

You have options:

Use the free version of the software: If the software has a free version, go for it, especially if the free version covers your needs. Most vendors now give free software you can use for life. If you don’t ever need the premium version, you can stay with the freemium version.

Use a less expensive version of the software: If you don’t mind spending a little money, you can buy a version of that software with limited features that will fulfill your needs.

Go for an alternative software: Find an alternative software that solves your needs for free! A competitor app may want to pick up users by offering premium features from your original choice of software for free.

For example, you can use alternative PowerPoint presentation software instead of paying a huge sum for the whole Office suite (or resorting to piracy).

Another way to use an alternative app is to find less expensive versions of your original choice. If you don’t mind spending some money, this would be a great fit.

Check if you qualify for a free premium version: Microsoft gives free Microsoft Office to students and academic organizations who qualify. Some apps may be offering free trials for their premium option or may give you free access to their program under certain conditions.

Take the word “qualify” lightly. You may just need to use an online or mobile version of their software if you create an account with them, just like what Microsoft Office 365 does.

Buy the software: If you truly need the premium version of a software with all its features, and it’s the best in its class for your purposes, then buy it. It’s probably worth spending that money if the app or software has unique features you can’t find anywhere else.

To Wrap It Up

Remember you have options! You don’t need to expose yourself to these dangers of using pirated software. Use a free version of the program or a less expensive pricing plan. Go for an alternative. Or just buy the software if it has unique features.

In order to avoid these dangers of using pirated software, always look out for reputable vendors when you buy software. Verify the authenticity of a website before you buy software from them. Price doesn’t have to always be the first factor in your decision. You might find out that your “cost effective” choice was more expensive.

Nicholas Godwin

Nicholas Godwin is a technology researcher who helps businesses tell profitable brand stories that their audiences love. He’s worked on projects for Fortune 500 companies, global tech corporations and top consulting firms, from Bloomberg Beta, Accenture, PwC, and Deloitte to HP, Shell, and AT&T. You may follow his work on Twitter or simply say hello. His website is Tech Write Researcher.

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Ultimate Guide: Building A Mask R

Mask R-CNN is an instance segmentation model that allows us to identify pixel wise location for our class. “Instance segmentation” means segmenting individual objects within a scene, regardless of whether they are of the same type — i.e, identifying individual cars, persons, etc. Check out the below GIF of a Mask-RCNN model trained on the COCO dataset. As you can see, we can identify pixel locations for cars, persons, fruits, etc.

Mask R-CNN is different from classical object detection models like Faster R-CNN where, in addition to identifying the class and its bounding box location, it can also color pixels in the bounding box that correspond to that class. When do you think we would be need this additional detail? Some examples I can think of are:

Self-Driving Cars need to know the exact pixel location of the road; potentially of other cars as well to avoid collisions

Robots may need pixel location of objects that they want to pick up (Amazon’s drones comes to mind here)

The easiest way to try a Mask R-CNN model built on COCO classes is to use the Tensorflow Object Detection API. You can refer to this article (written by me) that has information on how to use the API and run the model on YouTube videos.

How Mask R-CNN works

Before we build a Mask R-CNN model, let’s first understand how it actually works.

A good way to think about Mask R-CNN is that it is a combination of a Faster R-CNN that does object detection (class + bounding box) and FCN (Fully Convolutional Network) that does pixel wise boundary. See figure below:

                                                                         Mask RCNN is a combination of Faster RCNN and FCN

Mask R-CNN is conceptually simple: Faster R-CNN has two outputs for each candidate object, a class label and a bounding-box offset; to this we add a third branch that outputs the object mask — which is a binary mask that indicates the pixels where the object is in the bounding box. But the additional mask output is distinct from the class and box outputs, requiring extraction of much finer spatial layout of an object. To do this Mask R-CNN uses the Fully Convolution Network (FCN) described below.

FCN is a popular algorithm for doing semantic segmentation. This model uses various blocks of convolution and max pool layers to first decompress an image to 1/32th of its original size. It then makes a class prediction at this level of granularity. Finally it uses up sampling and deconvolution layers to resize the image to its original dimensions.

So, in short, we can say that Mask R-CNN combines the two networks — Faster R-CNN and FCN in one mega architecture. The loss function for the model is the total loss in doing classification, generating bounding box and generating the mask.

Mask RCNN has a couple of additional improvements that make it much more accurate than FCN. You can read more about them in their paper.

How to build a Mask R-CNN Model for Car Damage Detection

For building a custom Mask R-CNN, we will leverage the Matterport Github repository. The latest TensorFlow Object Detection repository also provides the option to build Mask R-CNN. However I would only recommend this for the strong-hearted! The versions of TensorFlow, object detection, format for mask, etc. can demand debugging of errors. I was able to successfully train a Mask R-CNN using it.

But I have seen many people struggle with all kinds of errors. So I now highly recommend the Matterport Mask R-CNN repository to anyone venturing into this domain.

Collecting Data

For this exercise, I collected 66 images (50 train and 16 validation) of damaged cars from Google. Check out some examples below.

Annotating the Data

A Mask R-CNN model requires the user to annotate the images and identify the region of damage. The annotation tool I used is the VGG Image Annotator — v 1.0.6. You can use the html version available at this link. Using this tool you can create a polygon mask as shown below:

Once you have created all the annotations, you can download the annotation and save it in a json format. You can look at my images and annotations on my repository here.

Training a model

Next we will load our images and annotations.

class CustomDataset(utils.Dataset): def load_custom(self, dataset_dir, subset): """Load a subset of the Balloon dataset. dataset_dir: Root directory of the dataset. subset: Subset to load: train or val """ # Add classes. We have only one class to add. self.add_class("damage", 1, "damage") # Train or validation dataset? assert subset in ["train", "val"] dataset_dir = os.path.join(dataset_dir, subset) # We mostly care about the x and y coordinates of each region annotations1 = json.load(open(os.path.join(dataset_dir, "via_region_data.json"))) annotations = list(annotations1.values()) # don't need the dict keys # The VIA tool saves images in the JSON even if they don't have any # annotations. Skip unannotated images. annotations = [a for a in annotations if a['regions']] # Add images for a in annotations: # Get the x, y coordinaets of points of the polygons that make up # the outline of each object instance. There are stores in the # shape_attributes (see json format above) polygons = [r['shape_attributes'] for r in a['regions'].values()] # load_mask() needs the image size to convert polygons to masks. image_path = os.path.join(dataset_dir, a['filename']) image = skimage.io.imread(image_path) height, width = image.shape[:2] self.add_image( "damage", ## for a single class just add the name here image_id=a['filename'], # use file name as a unique image id path=image_path, width=width, height=height, polygons=polygons)

Further, you can use this notebook to visualize the mask on the given images. See an example of this below:

To train the model, we use the COCO trained model as the checkpoint to perform transfer learning. You can download this model from the Matterport repository as well.

To train the model, run the below code block:

## Train a new model starting from pre-trained COCO weights python3 chúng tôi train --dataset=/path/to/datasetfolder --weights=coco ## Resume training a model that you had trained earlier python3 chúng tôi train --dataset=/path/to/datasetfolder --weights=last

I am using a GPU and trained the model for 10 epochs in 20–30 minutes.

Validate your model

You can inspect the model weights using the notebook — Inspect Custom Weights. Please link your last checkpoint in this notebook. This notebook can help you perform a sanity check if your weights and biases are properly distributed. See a sample output below:

Run model on images and make predictions

Use the notebook inspect_custom_model to run model on images from test/val set and see model predictions. See a sample result below:

And there you have it! You just built a Mask R-CNN model to detect damage on a car. What an awesome way to learn deep learning.

End Notes

Mask-RCNN is the next evolution of object detection models which allow detection with better precision. A big thanks to Matterport for making their repository public and allowing us to leverage it to build custom models. This is just a small example of what we can accomplish with this wonderful model.

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