GDC 2016 Sessions Are Up and DirectX 12 / Vulkan Are There

Subject: General Tech | January 20, 2016 - 07:06 PM |
Tagged: vulkan, ue4, nvidia, Intel, gdc 2016, GDC, epic games, DirectX 12, Codemasters, arm, amd

The 30th Game Developers Conference (GDC) will take place on March 14th through March 18th, with the expo itself starting on March 16th. The sessions have been published at some point, with DX12 and Vulkan prominently featured. While the technologies have not been adopted as quickly as advertised, the direction is definitely forward. In fact, NVIDIA, Khronos Group, and Valve have just finished hosting a developer day for Vulkan. It is coming.

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One interesting session will be hosted by Codemasters and Intel, which discusses bringing the F1 2015 engine to DirectX 12. It will highlight a few features they implemented, such as voxel based raytracing using conservative rasterization, which overestimates the size of individual triangles so you don't get edge effects on pixels that are partially influenced by an edge that cuts through a tiny, but not negligible, portion of them. Sites like Game Debate (Update: Whoops, forgot the link) wonder if these features will be patched in to older titles, like F1 2015, or if they're just R&D for future games.

Another keynote will discuss bringing Vulkan to mobile through Unreal Engine 4. This one will be hosted by ARM and Epic Games. Mobile processors have quite a few cores, albeit ones that are slower at single-threaded tasks, and decent GPUs. Being able to keep them loaded will bring their gaming potential up closer to the GPU's theoretical performance, which has surpassed both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, sometimes by a factor of 2 or more.

Many (most?) slide decks and video recordings are available for free after the fact, but we can't really know which ones ahead of time. It should be an interesting year, though.

Source: GDC

Skylake and Later Will Be Withheld Windows 7 / 8.x Support

Subject: Processors | January 17, 2016 - 02:20 AM |
Tagged: Windows 8.1, Windows 7, windows 10, Skylake, microsoft, kaby lake, Intel, Bristol Ridge, amd

Microsoft has not been doing much to put out the fires in comment threads all over the internet. The latest flare-up involves hardware support with Windows 7 and 8.x. Currently unreleased architectures, such as Intel's Kaby Lake and AMD's Bristol Ridge, will only be supported on Windows 10. This is despite Windows 7 and Windows 8.x being supported until 2020 and 2023, respectively. Microsoft does not believe that they need to support older hardware, though.

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This brings us to Skylake. These processors are out, but Microsoft considers them “transition” parts. Microsoft provided PC World with a list of devices that will be gjven Windows 7 and Windows 8.x drivers, which enable support until July 17, 2017. Beyond that date, only a handful of “most critical” updates will be provided until the official end of life.

I am not sure what the cut-off date for unsupported Skylake processors is, though; that is, Skylake processors that do not line up with Microsoft's list could be deprecated at any time. This is especially a problem for the ones that are potentially already sold.

As I hinted earlier, this will probably reinforce the opinion that Microsoft is doing something malicious with Windows 10. As Peter Bright of Ars Technica reports, Windows 10 does not exactly have an equivalent in the server space yet, which makes you wonder what that support cycle will be like. If they can continue to patch Skylake-based servers in Windows Server builds that are derived from Windows 7 and Windows 8.x, like Windows Server 2012 R2, then why are they unwilling to port those changes to the base operating system? If they will not patch current versions of Windows Server, because the Windows 10-derived version still isn't out yet, then what will happen with server farms, like Amazon Web Services, when Xeon v5s are suddenly incompatible with most Windows-based OS images? While this will, no doubt, be taken way out of context, there is room for legitimate commentary about this whole situation.

Of course, supporting new hardware on older operating systems can be difficult, and not just for Microsoft at that. Peter Bright also noted that Intel has a similar, spotty coverage of drivers, although that mostly applies to Windows Vista, which, while still in extended support for another year, doesn't have a significant base of users who are unwilling to switch. The point remains, though, that Microsoft could be doing a favor for their hardware vendor partners.

I'm not sure whether that would be less concerning, or more.

Whatever the reason, this seems like a very silly, stupid move on Microsoft's part, given the current landscape. Windows 10 can become a great operating system, but users need to decide that for themselves. When users are pushed, and an adequate reason is not provided, they will start to assume things. Chances are, it will not be in your favor. Some may put up with it, but others might continue to hold out on older platforms, maybe even including older hardware.

Other users may be able to get away with Windows 7 VMs on a Linux host.

Source: Ars Technica

Intel still manages a profit in a tough year

Subject: General Tech | January 15, 2016 - 12:55 PM |
Tagged: Intel, earnings

Even with the difficulties the PC market encountered over 2015 Intel still managed to make a good sized profit.  Compared to Q4 of 2014 their profits shrank a mere 1% down to $8.76bn,  a feat unequalled by other silicon slingers as the entire market shrunk by about 10%.  Their data centre group provided the most impressive results, a 5% increase in revenue likely spurred by the growth of hosting providers for the various Clouds which formed or grew over the past year.  The Inquirer also points out the release of the sixth generation of the Core family of processors certainly didn't hurt them either.

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"INTEL HAS POSTED strong quarterly profits in its fourth quarter earnings, revealing results that were higher than Wall Street was expecting despite a tough year for the PC market."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

EVGA Z170 Motherboards to Support BCLK Overclocking Non-K CPUs

Subject: Motherboards | January 14, 2016 - 08:04 PM |
Tagged: unlocked, overclocking, oc, LGA 1151, Intel K series, Intel, evga, bios, BCLK

An upcoming BIOS update for EVGA Z170 motherboards to allow BCLK overclocking on non-K Intel processors.

z170.jpg

The news came from EVGA Product Manager Jacob Freeman via Twitter this afternoon:

Update: The new BIOS 1.07 enabling non-K BLCK OC is now available from EVGA.

We have been following the story of BCLK overclocking of locked Skylake CPUs since early last month, when Techspot published benchmarks from an Intel Core i3-6100 clocked at 4.70 GHz - thanks to a pre-release ASRock BIOS. The BIOS has since been released, and other vendors are updating their Z170 motherboards to support these locked processors as well, the latest being EVGA.

It remains to be seen if Intel will have anything to say about their cheaper "locked" processors becoming more attractive to potential overclockers, as the unlocked K parts have provided a nice profit margin for the company. So far, board partners are moving forward seemingly unimpeded with the updates to remove the overclocking limitations, and that's great news for enthusiasts.

Source: Twitter

Intel expands its grasp into wearables and robots

Subject: General Tech | January 14, 2016 - 01:15 PM |
Tagged: Intel, drone, wearables, realsense, DOMINATION

Intel is planning on getting inside a wider variety of pants, as well as drones and robots in the very near future, diversifying out of a PC market which has not been growing at an attractive place for over a year.  They certainly have the budget to do so as well as several technologies which will give them powerful leverage in those markets.  One example that immediately leaps to mind is selling drones with Intel RealSense sensors installed, the extra functionality that would be added to the drone would be impressive.  Intel's Curie SoC will be found in eyeglasses and clothing in the not too distant future and they have partnered with robot manufacturers to ensure their chips will compatible with the wide variety of operating systems used in controlling robots.  You can glean more about their plans over at The Register.

Intel-RealSense-Camera.jpg

"The need to control not just the processor itself, but the whole surrounding software and connectivity platform, was very clear in Intel’s launches and keynotes a last week's Consumer Electronics Show."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Is it better to freeze or give bad results? Skylake and complex math need to learn to get along

Subject: General Tech | January 11, 2016 - 03:00 PM |
Tagged: Intel, Skylake, bug

You may remember the infamous Pentium FDIV bug, which could cause the wrong decimal results to be given in an answer to complex mathematical calculations which caused much consternation among scientists in the early 90's.  Now there is a new bug to remember, found on Skylake processors, which can cause the processor to freeze during complex calculations such as you would do in Prime95 or if you contribute to the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search project.  The issue has been replicated on both Windows and Linux systems and on different motherboards, signifying that the issue does indeed come from the CPU.  While having a freeze is certainly better than getting an incorrect result, it is still inconvenient and we hope that Intel's BIOS update will arrive soon.  You can follow the detection and investigation of the bug and what is being done over at The Register.

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"The good news is that the bug's triggered by complex workloads. It was turned up by prime number experts the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS), who use Intel machines to identify and test new large prime numbers."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

CES 2016: New Intel Compute Sticks

Subject: Systems, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2016 - 03:45 AM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, Intel, compute stick

Intel has announced two new Compute Sticks with a handful of available SKUs.

On the high end, in terms of Compute Sticks at least, two products are available. At the low end of the two, a Core m3 processor will be present, and Windows 10 will be pre-installed for $399. The high-end variant will have a faster Core m5 processor, but no pre-installed OS for $499. It seems odd that a choice in SoC will be tied to the OS, but I'm guessing the Intel doesn't want to have too many SKUs for a potentially low-volume product.

intel-2016-computestick.png

Regardless of the above choice, both Core M-level Compute Sticks, above, have 4GB of RAM, 64GB of eMMC storage, HDMI, and 3x USB ports. They also have Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.1 for wireless connectivity.

Beyond the above two products, a low end, Intel Atom-based Compute Stick is available. Just one SKU will be available, though. It has the same Intel Atom x5-Z8300 that was present on the Zotac PC Stick. It also has 2GB of RAM, 32GB of eMMC storage, HDMI, and 2x USB ports. It has Wireless AC, but Bluetooth 4.0 (instead of the Core M version's 4.1). It will be available for $159.

Release dates are not announced, but the Atom-based Compute Sticks are in production, and the Core M-based one will enter production next month.

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Intel (pdf)

Intel Pushes Device IDs of Kaby Lake GPUs

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | January 8, 2016 - 02:38 AM |
Tagged: Intel, kaby lake, linux, mesa

Quick post about something that came to light over at Phoronix. Someone noticed that Intel published a handful of PCI device IDs for graphics processors to Mesa and libdrm. It will take a few months for graphics drivers to catch up, although this suggests that Kaby Lake will be releasing relatively soon.

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It also gives us hints about what Kaby Lake will be. Of the published batch, there will be six tiers of performance: GT1 has five IDs, GT1.5 has three IDs, GT2 has six IDs, GT2F has one ID, GT3 has three IDs, and GT4 has four IDs. Adding them up, we see that Intel plans 22 GPU devices. The Phoronix post lists what those device IDs are, but that is probably not interesting for our readers. Whether some of those devices overlap in performance or numbering is unclear, but it would make sense given how few SKUs Intel usually provides. I have zero experience in GPU driver development.

Source: Phoronix

CES 2016 Podcast Day 3 - New ROG Monitors, M.2 PCIe Drives, a giant case from EVGA and more!

Subject: General Tech | January 7, 2016 - 02:47 AM |
Tagged: video, ROG, podcast, patriot, nuc, maximus VII, M.2, kingston, Intel, evga, compute stick, CES 2016, CES, asus

CES 2016 Podcast Day 3 - 01/07/16

We wrap up CES 2016 by talking about new ROG monitors from ASUS, Plenty of M.2 PCIe Drives, a giant case from EVGA and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, Ken Addison and Sebastian Peak

Program length: 1:47:01

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CES 2016: Acer Shows Off Upscale Chromebook 11 With Budget $179 Price

Subject: General Tech | January 7, 2016 - 12:52 AM |
Tagged: Intel, Chromebook, chrome os, CES 2016, budget, acer

CES 2016 has seen its share of high end product unveilings, but in addition to its premium hardware, Acer is launching a very budget-friendly PC in the form of the Chromebook 11. The new Chromebook 11 is a surprising product that does not compromise aesthetics in order to hit it’s $179 price tag.

 

Running Chrome OS, the budget 11.6” notebook features an aluminum alloy top cover with crosshatch pattern that helps to give it a more high end look. The rest of the laptop is plastic though The Verge claims that the build quality feels nice with a comfortable keyboard and a body that does not flex while typing. The top cover and hinges are a metallic silver while the bottom and area surrounding the keyboard is white. The keys are black with white lettering, and the package (at least from the photos) looks like it belongs to a more expensive laptop! A webcam sits above the display and a large trackpad is nestled below the keyboard. It measures 0.73 inches thick and weighs 2.42 pounds. Acer claims it can withstand corner drops from a height of 60cm (just under 2 ft).

 

Acer Chromebook 11.png

The Verge got hands-on time with the new Chromebook at CES 2016.

 

The left side of the Chromebook 11 holds the DC power input, HDMI output, USB 3.0 port, and a SD card slot while the right side has a SIM card slot, headphone jack, USB 2.0 port, and a Kensington lock slot.

 

The Chromebook 11 had me excited, but it is not perfect. Acer did not compromise looks, but compromises had to be made somewhere and in the case of the Chromebook 11 it is, unfortunately, in the display which has a mere 720p resolution. That is the big drawback in this notebook, made slightly livable due to it having a matte finish with enough backlight that it can be used outdoors.

 

Internally, Acer is using a quad core Intel Celeron processor, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal flash storage.

 

The Chromebook 11 will be available at the end of January starting at $179 in the US and 229 Euros across the pond.

 

I think this would be a good PC for younger students or as a second PC. I was excited about this for $179 while reading about it, but it was tempered by the revelation that the display resolution is stuck at 720p which isn’t horrible but I was expecting a bit more there (at least give me 1366x768...). What do you think about Acer’s newest Chromebook?

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: The Verge