NVIDIA gives Nouveau the boot again

Subject: General Tech | April 16, 2015 - 01:47 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, maxwell, Nouveau, open source

The initial benchmarks that Phoronix and other Linux tech sites ran on the new Maxwell cards from NVIDIA were using the proprietary binary drivers, the same as with all AMD cards.  Unlike AMD who have always released signed binary-only firmware blobs which could not be reverse engineered and modified for use, previous generations of NVIDIA cards did not require signed firmware images, only a lot of dev work.  Maxwell is locked down and the current open sourced Nouveau driver can now only be used to set up display outputs, it has no ability to use the card for hardware accelerated graphics.

NVIDIA states that the new requirement is to prevent shady characters from modifying slower cards to look like new Maxwell GPUs but Phoronix feels that they have gone overboard.  It is sad to see NVIDIA taking a step backwards in supporting the open source community, mimicking AMD's procedure of only offering binary-only firmware blobs though AMD is at least updating the blobs and open source driver relatively frequently.  That said, the new Maxwell cards do perform very well with the proprietary Linux driver so users should not feel they have to avoid NVIDA; unfortunately for developers the same is not true.

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"While NVIDIA's new GeForce GTX 900 series is dominating for Linux gamers with excellent performance with their $1000+ GPU as well as great Linux OpenGL/OpenCL performance out of their lower-cost GPUs with excellent power efficiency, that's only when using the proprietary driver... NVIDIA's newer GTX 900 / Maxwell hardware is less open-source friendly than their previous generations of hardware. "

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Source: Phoronix

Another slice of Pi, this time it is saucier

Subject: General Tech | February 11, 2015 - 01:03 PM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, open source

We have seen the improved specs of the new Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, with a quad-core Cortex-A7 based Broadcom SoC running at 900MHz, 1GB RAM, a 40 pin I/O connector block and four USB 2.0 ports, with the rest of the inputs remaining the same as the previous models.  It will still charge at 2A but you will need an SD card of at least 4GB to fit on the OS, which you can buy preloaded or configure yourself if you so desire.  The Inquirer used the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark to test the speed of the new Raspberry and the results matched the advertised gains, 4452.1ms to completion on the new model as compared to 23692.7ms on the Raspberry Pi Model B+.  If you are working this devices predecessors on a project that would benefit from more power, or Windows 10 support, this will be a great investment for you.

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"SWELLING THE RANKS of fruity-themed computers, the Raspberry Pi 2 is an upgraded version of the popular single-board computer, sporting a new processor and double the memory of previous models."

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Source: The Inquirer

Epic Games Donates $13,500 to Blender Development Fund

Subject: General Tech | July 17, 2014 - 05:16 PM |
Tagged: open-source, open source, fbx, epic games, Blender

Blender, probably the most popular, open source 3D creation suite (sorry Wings!), was given a healthy donation of $13,500 USD by Epic Games. According to the tweet from Ton Roosendaal, Chairman of the Blender Foundation, this is intended to support FBX development, which is becoming the industry standard method of importing and exporting 3D models, skeletons, animations, and so forth. It is also for "epic-game-style navigation controls" (not sure what this is -- Unreal Editor-style controls maybe??)

FBX support would definitely be a welcome area of development. It exists, but not at the level of other 3D applications, because those could link directly to Autodesk's library. The format is owned by Autodesk after they acquired Kaydara in 2006. Its closed-source SDK was put under a license that was incompatible with Blender and its public documentation was non-existent. Since then, the Blender community has been working on reverse-engineered support. They have come a long way, the exporting from Blender and importing into Unreal Engine 4 is apparently reasonable, today. Of course, with Epic's focus on the indie developer, $13,500 seems like a good investment to help it continue.

Beyond its status as the default import format into Unreal Engine 4.x, FBX is also standard in many different modeling applications. While it is fairly easy to move around most base, polygonal geometry (and UVs to properly apply materials to them) from suite to suite, the same cannot be said for animation data, and so forth. FBX was designed to be a single pipeline for all of that.

Hopefully, Blender can become a first-class citizen.

HSA on Linux

Subject: General Tech | July 11, 2014 - 02:36 PM |
Tagged: linux, hsa, amd, open source

Open source HSA has arrived for the Linux kernel with a newly released set of patches which will allow Sea Islands and newer GPUs to share hardware resources.   These patches are both for a sample driver for any HSA-compatible hardware and the river for Radeon GPUs.  As the debut of the Linux 3.16 kernel is so close you shouldn't expect to see these patches included until 3.17 which should be released in the not too distant future.  Phoronix and Linux users everywhere give a big shout of thanks to AMD's John Bridgman for his work on this project.

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"AMD has just published a massive patch-set for the Linux kernel that finally implements a HSA (Heterogeneous System Architecture) in open-source. The set of 83 patches implement a Linux HSA driver for Radeon family GPUs and serves too as a sample driver for other HSA-compatible devices. This big driver in part is what well known Phoronix contributor John Bridgman has been working on at AMD."

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Source: Phoronix

Simon Hall Awarded $10K Raspberry Pi Quake III Bounty With His Open Source Graphics Driver Work

Subject: General Tech | April 3, 2014 - 11:23 PM |
Tagged: videocore iv, Raspberry Pi, open source, graphics drivers, bcm2835

The Raspberry Pi recently passed its second anniversary, but until now the open source software friendly hardware has had to rely on closed source drivers for graphics processing on the SoC's VideoCore IV GPU.This has now changed thanks to work by Raspberry Pi hacker Simon Hall who has ported over the open source graphics stack from Broadcom's recently open sourced BCM21553 SoC for cell phones to the BCM2835 SoC that powers the Raspberry Pi. In doing so, Mr. Hall has claimed the Raspberry Pi Foundation's $10,000 bounty by using the newly ported open source graphics driver to run Quake III Arena at 1080p (minimum of 20 FPS according to contest rules).

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The ported open source driver is not quite as optimized as the closed source version that the Pi currently uses (which allegedly runs Quake III twice as fast), but it is an encouraging start and the base from which the community can flesh out and optimize. The open source graphics driver is likely to be rolled into future OS releases, but for adventurous users that want the open source driver now, Simon Hall has provided step-by-step instructions for getting the driver and using it to run Quake III on the Raspberry Pi blog. Be warned, it is an involved and time consuming process at the moment.

I would like to say congratulations to Simon Hall for the bounty award and thank him for his work in porting the driver to the Raspberry Pi's SoC!

Hopefully this graphics stack breathes new life into the Raspberry Pi and the community takes up the development mantle to improve upon the codebase and pursue new opportunities that the open source nature enables such as a port of Android running on the Pi.

Read more about the Raspberry Pi at PC Perspective.

SBSA reaches an ARM into the server room

Subject: General Tech | February 5, 2014 - 01:35 PM |
Tagged: arm, OCP, open source, Intel, amd, seattle, opteron

The Inquirer had a chance to talk to Lakshmi Mandyam, the director of Server Systems and Ecosystems at ARM, about their plans for the server room.  ARM and their SBSA team have joined forces with Microsoft's Open Technology initiative which is key to AMD's adoption of ARM architecture in their new Opteron series.  These projects will offer several key benefits to customers, the open source nature will allow customization in the server room for those customers with specific needs and the know how to implement them and the nature of ARM processors can bring energy bills down.  This could also be great news for smaller businesses that require a proper server, they will be able to build that server out of a number of inexpensive ARM based processors instead of having to spend the price of the currently available x86/64 CPUs from Intel and AMD.

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"CHIP DESIGNER ARM announced at the Open Compute Project (OCP) Summit last week that servers based on its architecture have taken a step forward with the arrival of ARM v8-A based 64bit servers, known as the Server Base System Architecture (SBSA) specification."

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Source: The Inquirer

AMD adds open source to their hardware-based video encoder

Subject: General Tech | February 4, 2014 - 01:08 PM |
Tagged: amd, encoder, open source, VCE

You may have missed this news about AMD in amongst the Mantle announcements, support has been added for the VCE2 hardware encoding engine on newer AMD GCN based GPUs.  The open-source Radeon driver now supports GStreamer OpenMAX which can speed H.264 encoding in general but is truly optimized for encoding for mobile devices.  The current release is still a work in progress, the official release will come soon and you can track the progress by signing up to the mailing lists mentioned by Phoronix.  This is good news as previously the only open source hardware accelerated encoding was through Intel's GPU and VA-API.

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"AMD is doing another large and important open-source graphics driver code drop this morning. This morning AMD is publishing their VCE code that allows for hardware-based video encoding. "

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Source: Phoronix

Intel's HD4600 versus AMD's 4600 on Linux ... with special guests

Subject: General Tech | November 20, 2013 - 05:00 PM |
Tagged: gaming, linux, mesa, open source

Phoronix is continuing to test the performance of open source Linux drivers on Source Engine games with this installation focusing on the performance of the Haswell i7-4770K.  They compare it to a number of RV770 based AMD GPUs as well as the newer HD 6450.  As you can see in the result the performance of the HD 6450 and HD 4550 are almost exactly the same and are the only two Radeons that do not leave the Intel's GPU in the dust.  If you have experience with the HD 4650 you have a very good idea as to how Intel's 4600 performs as the results are very similar.  Check out the full review here.

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"Earlier this week I delivered some 13-way AMD open-source Linux GPU benchmarks when tested against Valve's Source Engine powered Team Fortress 2 and Counter-Strike: Source games. Now up for testing from the Steam Linux client on Ubuntu is the Intel open-source Mesa graphics driver performance with Core i7 "Haswell" graphics."

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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

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