Linux, your Source for gaming

Subject: General Tech | November 13, 2013 - 03:02 PM |
Tagged: source engine, linux, gaming

By now you should have heard about the Linux version of Valve's Source Engine which allows you to play any of the games based on that engine on the open source OS.  Phoronix has just completed a battery of tests showing the performance of both AMD and NVIDIA GPUs in these games as a prelude to what you can probably expect from the Steam Machine.  AMD's older cards performed at a higher level than did NVIDIA's legacy GPUs as well as taking top spot overall with the HD 6870.  Check out both reviews to see how your silicon will handle TF2, CS:Source and other favourites.

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"For your viewing pleasure today is a 13-way AMD Radeon graphics card comparison when testing out the open-source Radeon Gallium3D drivers on the wide spectrum of ATI/AMD GPUs while looking at the performance for Valve's Source Engine with Counter-Strike: Source and Team Fortress 2. Given the imminent arrival of Steam Machines and SteamOS to push Linux gaming into its long-awaited spotlight, is AMD's open-source Linux graphics driver capable of delivering a reasonable level of performance?"

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Source: Phoronix

Linux support for Broadwell is looking good

Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2013 - 01:28 PM |
Tagged: Intel, linux, open source, Broadwell

Over the weekend 62 patches to the Linux kernel were released, enabling Broadwell GPU support well ahead of the processors scheduled release date.  Not only is this great news for open source enthusiasts who appreciate it when large companies like Intel release detailed driver code but also means that Broadwell should function well with Linux on its release date.  Phoronix also reports that more code is scheduled to arrive this week to enable other features which are unique to Broadwell, keep your eyes peeled for any specifications we can infer from the code as it becomes available

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"While Intel's Broadwell processors won't be launching until 2014 as the successor to Haswell, this weekend the initial open-source Linux GPU kernel driver was published ahead of the Linux 3.13 kernel merge window. The changes are massive and it's looking like the Broadwell graphics improvements will be astonishing and provide significant improvements over Haswell and earlier generations of Intel graphics."

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Source: Phoronix

Remote controlling computers the Linux way

Subject: General Tech | October 28, 2013 - 12:52 PM |
Tagged: linux, secure, remote access

Sick of the Logmein.com email 'updates'?  Annoyed that join.me isn't for Linux and aren't sure what the alternatives are?  Linux.com has put up the second in their series of how to remotely control PCs running Linux with this installment focusing on Network Manager which is an OpenVPN client.  Windows users may find Network Manager a little hard to grasp at first as it does not pop up a GUI of a remote computer so the article offers a good analogy, "think of OpenVPN as a virtual Ethernet cable to your server or LAN, all wrapped in a nice stout layer of encryption".  Using OpenVPN creates a secure tunnel to the remote PC which you can then use to run secure (or insecure) applications such as SSH to interact with the remote machine. 

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"Greetings fellow Linux users, and welcome to the second part of our glorious OpenVPN series. When last we met we learned how to set up a simple OpenVPN encrypted tunnel between a home server and a remote node, such as a laptop. Today we're adding refinements such as how to daemonize OpenVPN so we don't have to start it manually, use Network Manager for easy connecting to our remote server, and access services."

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Source: Linux.com

AMD cards get an unexpected boost from the Linux 3.12 kernel

Subject: General Tech | October 15, 2013 - 01:30 PM |
Tagged: amd, linux, catalyst, 3.12 kernel

Phoronix had a very pleasant surprise over the weekend which was apparently also a complete surprise to the AMD Linux driver team; vastly improved GPU performance on the 3.12 kernel.  In tests on a dozen cards ranging from the elderly HD3850 to the HD6950 all cards showed at least some improvements and in some cases increases of 50%.  Keep your eyes tuned for updates as they work with AMD's Linux team to see where these performance increases originated from and to give Phoronix time to get their hands on new hardware for more testing.  Check out the complete review here.

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"Over the weekend I released benchmarks showing the Linux 3.12 kernel bringing big AMD Radeon performance improvements. Those benchmarks of a Radeon HD 4000 series GPU showed the Linux 3.12 kernel bringing major performance improvements over Linux 3.11 and prior. Some games improved with just low double-digit gains while other Linux games were nearly 90% faster! Interestingly, the AMD Radeon Linux developers were even surprised by these findings. After carrying out additional tests throughout the weekend, I can confirm these truly incredible performance improvements on other hardware. In this article are results from ten different AMD Radeon graphics cards."

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Source: Phoronix

C'mon man! Do you really think your technically inclined customers aren't going to catch on?

Subject: General Tech | October 8, 2013 - 07:59 PM |
Tagged: amd, dirty pool, linux, open source

Rebranding existing hardware with fancy new model numbers is nothing new to either AMD or NVIDA.  Review sites catch on immediately and while we like to see optimizations applied to mature chips we much prefer brand new hardware.  When you release the Q-1200000 as the X-2200000 the best you will get from review sites is a recommendation to go with the model that has the lower price, not the higher model number. Most enthusiasts have caught on to the fact that they are the same product; we do not like it but we have come to accept it as common business practice.  Certain unintentional consequences from designs we can forgive as long as you admit the issue and work to rectify it, only the intentional limitations are being mentioned in this post.

This is where the problem comes in as it seems that this intentional misleading of customers has created a mindset where it is believed that it is OK to intentionally impose performance limitations on products.  Somehow companies have convinced themselves that a customer base who routinely tears apart hardware, uses scanners to see inside actual components and who write their own OSes from scratch (or at least update the kernel) will somehow not be able to discover these limitations.  Thus we have yesterday's revelation that NVIDIA has artificially limited the number of screens usable in Linux to three; not because of performance or stability issues but simply because it might provide Linux users with a better experience that Windows users.

Apparently AMD is not to be outdone when it comes to this kind of dirty pool, in their case it is audio that is limited as opposed to video.  If you are so uncouth as to use a DVI to HDMI adapter which did not come with your shiny new Radeon then you are not allowed to have audio signals transferred over that HDMI cable on either Windows or Linux.  There is a ... shall we say Apple-like hardware check, that Phoronix reported on which will disable the audio output unless a specific EEPROM on your adapter is detected.   NVIDIA doesn't sell monitors nor is AMD really in the dongle business but apparently they are willing to police the components you choose to use, though the causes of AMD's decision are not as clear as NVIDIA's for as far as we know Monster Cable does not have the magic EEPROM in their adapters.

If your customers are as talented as your engineers you might not want to listen to your salespeople who tell you that partnerships with other companies are more important than antagonizing your customers by trying to pull a fast one on them.  We will find out and it will come back to haunt you.  Unless the payoffs you get from your partnerships are more than you make selling to customers in which case you might as well just ignore us.

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"For some AMD Radeon graphics cards when using the Catalyst driver, the HDMI audio support isn't enabled unless using the simple DVI to HDMI adapter included with the graphics card itself... If you use another DVI-to-HDMI adapter, it won't work with Catalyst. AMD intentionally implemented checks within their closed-source driver to prevent other adapters from being used, even though they will work just fine."

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Source: Phoronix

Things that make you go hmmmm, NVIDIA edition

Subject: General Tech | October 7, 2013 - 01:46 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, linux, microsoft, open source

If you haven't heard the accusations flying over the possible scenarios that lead up to Origin PC dropping AMD cards from all their machines you can catch up at The Tech Report.  They keep any speculation to a minimum unlike other sites but the key point is the claims of overheating and stability issues, something that apparently only Origin has encountered.  If they had stuck with mentioning the frame pacing in Crossfire and 4K/mulitmonitor issue it would be understandable that they not sell AMD cards in systems designed for that usage but dropping them altogether is enough to start rumours and conspiracy theories across the interwebs.  Winning a place in the Steam Machine was great for NVIDIA but at no time did they imply that AMD was unworthy, they merely didn't win the contract.

Today some oil was tossed on the fire with the revelation that NVIDIA is specifically limiting the functionality of its hardware on Linux.  Just after we praised their release of documentation for Nouveau, their open sourced driver, we find out from a post at The Inquirer that NVIDIA limits the number of monitors used in Linux to three so as not to outdo their functionality in Windows.  For a brief moment it seemed that NVIDIA was willing to cooperate with the open source and Linux communities but apparently that moment is all we will have and once again NVIDIA proves that it is willing bow to pressure from Microsoft.

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"According to a forum poster at the Nvidia Developer Zone, the v310 version of the drivers for Basemosaic has reduced the number of monitors a user can connect simultaneously to three."

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Source: The Inquirer

Backing up with Linux is a snap

Subject: General Tech | October 4, 2013 - 12:34 PM |
Tagged: linux, rsync, crontab, backup, automation

If you have any data that is important to you then you should have a backup scheme in place, even if it is simply keeping several copies of the files on different media but for many Windows users the idea of a proper automated backup scheme is something for businesses and not home users.  Then they lose some baby pictures.  At that point it is common for the sad individual to buy an additional piece of equipment that backs up at the push of a button but still tends to be kept in physical proximity to the machine it is backing up.

However if you know someone who is familiar with Linux or are not scared to try something new yourself, there are tools that exist in Linux which allow you to script a complete backup of a system, or parts thereof, to a remote location automatically; no user interaction required.  Techgage will take you through the wonderful world of rsync, crontab and 1ftp which are powerful tools in Linux and Unix to backup your data automatically and without constantly using huge amounts of bandwidth.  Spend a bit of time with some old hardware and you should be able to build yourself a backup server or NAS for free.

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"Keeping good backups of your data is important; don’t be the sucker who loses important files and has to deal with it afterwards! In this in-depth guide, you’ll learn about using rsync and lftp to transfer files, writing your own scripts and automating them, and backing up to external storage, a NAS, and a remote server without passwords."

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Source: Techgage

AMD Published GPU Guides for Open Source Community

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | October 2, 2013 - 09:03 PM |
Tagged: amd, linux

Last week, NVIDIA published documentation for Nouveau to heal wounds with the open source community. AMD had a better reputation and intends to maintain it. On Tuesday, Alex Deucher published 9 PDF documents, 1178 pages of register and acceleration documentation along with 18 pages of HDA GPU audio programming details, compared to the 42 pages NVIDIA published.

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Sure, a page to page comparison is meaningless, but it is clear AMD did not want to be outdone. This is especially true when you consider that some of these documents date back to early 2009. Still, reactionary or not, the open source community should accept the assistance with open arms... and open x86s?

I should note that these documents do not cover Volcanic Islands; they are for everything between Evergreen and Sea Islands.

Source: AMD

AMD Catalyst 13.10 Beta V2 has been released for Windows and Linux

Subject: Graphics Cards | September 30, 2013 - 06:30 PM |
Tagged: graphics drivers, catalyst 13.10, beta, windows, linux

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AMD Catalyst 13.10 Beta V2 for Windows:

  • Includes 32-bit single GPU and CrossFire game profile for Battlefield 4
  • Total War: Rome 2 CrossFire profile update
  • CrossFire frame pacing improvements for CPU-bound applications
  • Resolves image corruption seen in Autodesk Investor 2014
  • Resolves intermittent black screen when resuming from a S3/S4 sleep state if the display is unplugged during the sleep state on systems supporting AMD Enduro Technology
  • Updated AMD Enduro Technology application profiles

o Profile highlights:

  • Total War: Rome 2
  • Battlefield 4
  • Saints Row 4
  • Splinter Cell Blacklist
  • FIFA 14

AMD Catalyst 13.10 Beta for Linux:

Resolved issue highlights:

  • System hang up when startx after setting up an Eyefinity desktop.
  • Permission issue with procfs on kernel 3.10
  • System hang observed while running disaster stress test on Ubuntu 12.10
  • Hang is observed when running Unigine on Linux
  • AC/DC switching is not automatically detected
  • Laptop backlight adjustment is broken
  • Glxtest failures observed in log file with forcing on Anti-Aliasing
  • Cairo-dock is broken
  • Severe desktop corruption is observed when enabled compiz in certain cases 
  • glClientWaitSync is waiting even when timeout is 0
  • C4Engine get corruption with GL_ARB_texture_array enabled

Source: AMD

NVIDIA Mends Open Sores? Documentation for Nouveau.

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 25, 2013 - 02:59 AM |
Tagged: nvidia, Nouveau, linux

AMD commit numerous updates to the open source driver community, three months ago, and has otherwise assisted the Linux community in the past. The same has not been true for NVIDIA. Despite a respectable (albeit lacking compared to Windows) proprietary driver for Linux, this GPU vendor was not adored by the community. They have not been accused of malice, it would just seem to be control over both the end-user experience and, of course, their secret sauce.

Well, NVIDIA is being more cooperative.

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I, obviously, do not have a crystal ball of fortune telling (the journalist house of auction ran out and the gift shop is just too expensive) so it is anyone's guess the future extent of NVIDIA's involvement. For now, their assistance included 42 pages of Device Control Block documentation and proprietary developers answering questions on the Nouveau mailing list.

Many, from Ars Technica to our staff discussions at PC Perspective, note how the change of heart aligns with the SteamOS announcement. I do not really believe these events are related if only because I doubt NVIDIA would wait to contact developers until Valve spoke up. I would have to expect that SteamOS would not be a surprise to NVIDIA especially after Gabe Newell discussed Maxwell virtualization all the way back at CES.

You would think they would have come about while working with NVIDIA on the game streaming technology. You know, allow a single desktop to utilize multiple games across multiple devices. Even still, you would think NVIDIA would just put even more effort into their proprietary driver rather than help Nouveau.

Either way, we will keep an ear out for NVIDIA involvement with the open source community.