Rumor: VESA Might Have Accepted AMD's FreeSync

Subject: General Tech, Displays | April 6, 2014 - 02:41 AM |
Tagged: vesa, freesync, DisplayPort, amd

According to French website, hardware.fr, the VESA standards body has accepted AMD's proposal for FreeSync into an extension of the DisplayPort 1.2a standard. FreeSync is the standards-based answer to NVIDIA's G-Sync, a process for allowing the monitor to time itself according to its driving GPU. At CES 2014, AMD claimed that the technology was already in development to be used for mobile devices to save power (less frequent monitor refreshes).

vesa-logoBlack.png

By presenting image to the user only when the work is complete, you can avoid "tearing" and latency. The tearing will be eliminated because the graphics card does not change the image being drawn by the monitor as it is trying to display it. The latency is eliminated because it does not need to wait until the monitor is ready (up to one-over-the maximum refresh rate of the monitor). It should also save power by reducing its refresh rate on slower scenes, such as an idle desktop, but that is less of a concern when you are plugged into a wall.

What does this mean? Nothing yet, really, except that a gigantic standards body seems to approve.

Source: Hardware.fr

HCW Reviews Vortex KBT Race II Mechanical Keyboard

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | April 4, 2014 - 06:59 PM |
Tagged: vortex, mechanical keyboard

Carl Nelson of hardCOREware published a review of the Vortex KBT Race II mechanical keyboard. The quick summary is that he was impressed by several of its features but found that it was not as pleasant to type on, compared to other keyboards that he used - even with the same switch. It is a compact keyboard, slightly smaller than a Tenkeyless layout. The keycaps are laser-etched (which should give decent durability) with the same font as Windows 8. It is also backlit, the black model glows white and the white model glows green.

hcw-kbt-race-2-keycaps-620x394.jpg

H...C...W... how subtle, Carl.

They keyboard itself is about $130 USD and comes in Cherry MX Red, Brown, or Blue. It supports 6-key rollover but he does not mention whether there are any other limitations. For instance, does the interface allow for 6 buttons to be pressed, but you are screwed if press shift, up, and right together? This was the case with my old Logitech G15v1 and it made for an impossible task to play The Scout with the arrow keys in TF2. On the other hand, if it was based on an NKRO keyboard with the limitations of the USB interface, that is not so bad. I just do not know.

To see a little more, check out the review at HCW.

Source: HCW

Build 2014: .NET Foundation Announced with Open Source

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | April 4, 2014 - 03:42 AM |
Tagged: BUILD 2014, microsoft, .net

Microsoft has announced the creation of the .NET Foundation along with the open source release of several .NET frameworks and languages. This comes a day after the simultaneous unveiling and open sourcing of WinJS, a JavaScript library which brings "Modern"-like interface elements to websites (and web apps). While building block APIs are common, this could help Microsoft's design paradigms gain traction with apps from other platforms.

microsoft-dotnet-foundation.png

.NET has been very popular since its initial release. I saw it used frequently in applications, particularly when a simple form-like interface is required. It was easy to develop and accessible from several languages, such as C++, C#, and VB.NET. Enterprise application developers were particularly interested in it, especially with its managed security.

The framework drove an open source movement to write their own version, Mono, spearheaded by Novell. Some time later, the company Xamarin was created from the original Mono development team and maintains the project to this day. In fact, Miguel de Icaza was at Build 2014 discussing the initiative. He seems content with Microsoft's new Roslyn compiler and the working relationship between the two companies as a whole.

WinJS is released under the very permissive Apache 2.0 license. Other code, such as Windows Phone Toolkit, are released under other licenses, such as the Microsoft Public License (Ms-PL). Pay attention to any given project's license. It would not be wise to assume. Still, it sounds like a good step.

Source: ZDNet

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).

Quake III Arena.png

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.

More Intel Inside Chromebooks

Subject: General Tech | April 3, 2014 - 03:19 PM |
Tagged: Braswell, Bay Trail, Intel, SoC, 14nm, idf

Intel's Atom has finally shaken the bad name that its progenitors have born as Bay Trail proves to be a great implementation of an SoC.  At IDF we received a tantalizing glimpse at the next generation of SoC from Intel, the 14nm Braswell chip though little was said of their ultra low powered Cherry Trail SoC for tablets.   Braswell is more than just a process shrink, Intel is working to increase their support of Chromebooks and Android by creating a 64-bit Android kernel that supports Android 4.4.  This seems to have paid off as Kirk Skaugen mentioned to The Inquirer that Intel chips will be present in 20 soon to be released models, up from 4 currently.

intelbroadwell.jpg

"INTEL HAS REVEALED PLANS to launch Braswell, a more powerful successor to the Bay Trail system on a chip (SoC) line used in low-cost devices like Chromebooks and budget PCs."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

ADATA Moves Quickly on New DDR4 Specification

Subject: General Tech | April 3, 2014 - 03:00 PM |
Tagged: adata, ddr4, xeon

ADATA has been rather busy lately, the release of the brand new Premiere Pro SSD family and now the launch of DDR4 modules for the next generation of Xeon processors.  These new DIMMs follow the current trend of energy efficiency in the server room by dropping the required voltage to 1.2V which can add up to quite a bit in a large server farm.  The specified speed of 2133MHz is attractive for a first gen server RDIMM though there does not seem to be much information available on the timings.

Taipei, Taiwan – April 3, 2014 - ADATA Technology, a leading manufacturer of high-performance DRAM modules and NAND Flash application products, has announced the launch of new DDR4 modules. Working in close cooperation with Intel, ADATA has successfully developed and launched DDR4 RDIMM (ECC Registered DIMM) that are fully compatible with the newly announced, next generation platform of Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 v3 product family.

Coming in densities of 4, 8 & 16 gigabytes, the new modules run at 1.2 volts, and at a frequency of 2133MHz. The higher clock frequencies, faster data transfer rates, and low voltage operation of DDR4 memory make it especially suited for use in the growing cloud server, storage and networking application fields.

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According to Jacky Yang, Product Manager at ADATA: “We are enthusiastic about the great potential of this new DDR4 specification, and we will move quickly to bring this new technology to our customers. Currently in development are DDR4 versions of ECC SO-DIMM, VLP RDIMM, & LRDIMM, so we look forward to providing the stability and reliability that ADATA is known for in a low voltage and high performance package.”

Source: ADATA

Podcast #294 - Frame Rating Mantle in BF4, DirectX 12, Sub-$700 4K Monitors and more!

Subject: General Tech | April 3, 2014 - 01:30 PM |
Tagged: video, Samsung, podcast, Mantle, Glacer 240L, GDC 2014, frame rating, dx12, cooler master, BUILD 2014, BF4, amd, adata, 4k

PC Perspective Podcast #294 - 04/03/2014

Join us this week as we discuss Frame Rating Mantle in BF4, DirectX 12, Sub-$700 4K Monitors 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!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath and Allyn Malventano

 
This podcast is brought to you by Coolermaster, and the CM Storm Pulse-R Gaming Headset!
 
Program length: 1:12:29
 
  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:43:40 This podcast is brought to you by Coolermaster, and the CM Storm Pulse-R Gaming Headset
  3. News items of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
    1. Allyn: Like MAME? Try MESS, and further - UME (systems list)
  5. Closing/outro

Be sure to subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube channel!!

 

Build 2014: Microsoft Presents New Start Menu

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | April 2, 2014 - 09:53 PM |
Tagged: BUILD 2014, microsoft, windows, start menu

Microsoft had numerous announcements during their Build 2014 opening keynote, which makes sense as they needed to fill the three hours that they assigned for it. In this post, I will focus on the upcoming changes to the Windows desktop experience. Two, albeit related, features were highlighted: the ability to run Modern Apps in a desktop window, and the corresponding return of the Start Menu.

I must say, the way that they grafted Start Screen tiles on the Start Menu is pretty slick. The Start Menu, since Windows Vista, has felt awkward with its split between recently used applications and common shortcuts in a breakout on the right with an expanded "All Programs" submenu handle on the bottom. It is functional, and it works perfectly fine, but something just felt weird about it. This looks a lot cleaner, in my opinion, especially since its width is variable according to how many applications are pinned.

Of course, my major complaint with Windows 8.x has nothing to do with the interface. There has not been any discussion around sideloading applications to get around Windows Store certification requirements. This is a major concern for browser vendors and should be one for many others, from hobbyists who might want to share their creations with one or two friends or family members, rather than everyone in an entire Windows Store region, or citizens of countries whose governments might pressure Microsoft to ban encryption or security applications.

That said, there is a session tomorrow called "Deploying and Managing Enterprise Apps", discussing changes app sideloading in Windows 8.1. Enterprise users are already allowed sideloading certificates from Microsoft. Maybe it will be expanded? I am not holding my breath.

Keep an eye out, because there should be a lot of news over the next couple of days.

Source: ZDNet

Cooler Master Introduces QuickFire Rapid-i Mechanical Keyboard For Gamers

Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2014 - 09:49 PM |
Tagged: quickfire rapid, NKRO, mechanical keyboard, gaming, cooler master

Cooler Master has introduced a new mechanical keyboard to the QuickFire Rapid family. The upcoming QuckFire Rapid-i is a fully backlit mechanical keybard that offers up gaming-friendly features.

Cooler Master is keeping many of the detailed specifications under wraps, but we do know that it supports both PS/2 and USB, uses laser etched matte keycaps along with mechanical switches, and uses a 32-bit ARM processor to drive the various back-lighting profiles (a technology Cooler Master calls ActivLite).

Cooler Master QuickFire Rapid-i Mechanical Keyboard.jpg

The keyboard supports 1ms response times in USB mode along with NKRO (N Key Roll Over) which allows simultaneous pressing of multiple keys which can come in handy when using the keyboard for gaming. The ActivLite technology supports five key backlighting modes with an additional five brightness levels in each mode. Cooler Master demonstrates one mode on their website where the keys being pressed light up and slowly fade in a trailing lighting effect as you continue typing. The keyboard has on board memory capable of storing four saved lighting profiles (users can program the backlighting of individual keys).

Unfortunately, Cooler Master has not stated which mechanical switches it is using in this keyboard beyond saying that they are both "tactile" and "quiet." Considering its predecessor used Cherry MX switches, those are a good bet though.

If you are interested in Cooler Master's latest mechanical keyboard, keep an eye on the product page the company set up for further information as it gets closer to a physical launch date.

As Irrational swims with the fishes, so can you

Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2014 - 06:27 PM |
Tagged: bioshock infinite, burial at sea, irrational

One hopes that by now you have managed to free the 40-some gigabytes of storage required to install Bioshock Infinite so that you can play the recently released second Episode of Burial at Sea.  Many have chose to wait to touch Episode 1 until the second instalment was released as Valve has developed a tendency to wait a bit between their releases.  If you have been too busy playing Goat Simulator and have not yet played through the release you can tease yourself with the trailer below.  If you have played it, Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN's recent Wot I Think is worth reading through as they give a well thought out look at Irrational's last product.

"You’ll hear no politics from me, though by God it’s tempting to correlate Burial At Sea Part 2′s status as a swansong for two BioShock universes with the recent, shock closure of Irrational. Whatever else there is to both tales, at least this concluding DLC for BioShock Infinite reverses the sense of decline we’ve seen since the original BioShock."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Erosion is inevitable, even in Redmond

Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2014 - 06:11 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, Build Conference, win 8.1

What was once called a Service Pack and is now referred to as 'Update 1' will be arriving soon for those few who currently run Windows 8.1.  The feature with the biggest potential to gain this OS market share is Enterprise mode with legacy support for IE11; allowing large corporations to chose Win 8.1 without having to redesign legacy applications and global intranets from scratch.  It's ability to run on 1GB of memory is also attractive to large industries who have no desire to upgrade the hardware on custom DOM machines nor legacy task specific servers.  The Inquirer also mentioned an intriguing feature referred to as a Start Menu and enhanced support for arcane peripherals such the keyboard and mouse.

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"MICROSOFT PREVIEWED the long awaited return of the Start Menu in Windows 8.1 during a surprise announcement on Wednesday, alongside a major update for the software."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Canonical To Shut Down Ubuntu One Cloud Storage Service

Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2014 - 03:05 PM |
Tagged:

Canonical has announced that it is shutting down its Ubuntu One cloud storage service. Users will no longer be able to upload files to the cloud storage or purchase music from the Ubuntu One store. The service, which included both free and paid storage tiers, personal music streaming, and paid music downloads, will be formally shut down on June 1, 2014.

Ubuntu One is a cloud storage service that came bundled with the Ubuntu operating system starting with 10.04. Though there were clients for Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows, the service was primarily marketed to Ubuntu users and had the best client. Users could upload up to 5GB of personal files for free to the service, and a music streaming add-on allowed users to stream their uploaded music to other devices. Ubuntu One also offered up additional paid storage tiers and downloadable music in a paid store.

Ubuntu One.jpg

Canonical stated that the decision to shut down came from pressure from competing cloud storage providers that offer up more free storage and a desire to create a lean Canonical/Ubuntu that is focused on creating their idea of a convergent operating system that spans from mobile to desktops to servers. On the former, Canonical specifically stated that “if we offer a service, we want it to compete on a global scale, and for Ubuntu One to continue to do that would require more investment than we are willing to make.”

Ubuntu One will not be included in the upcoming Ubuntu 14.04 LTS operating system and the existing Ubuntu clients on older OS versions will be updated to reflect the shutdown. Users will not be able to add new files to the cloud service or purchase music from the store starting today.

Customers with active paid storage subscriptions will be issued refunds, and all users will have until July 31, 2014 to download their data. After July 31, all user data will be deleted, so if you have any important files stored there be sure to back them up as soon as possible.

Fortunately, it is not all bad news. Canonical will be open sourcing the Ubuntu One code. Note that the Ubuntu One Single Sign On and U1DB database services will continue to be maintained and are not part of the file services shutdown.

It is sad to see Ubuntu One being shuttered, but there are numerous (and better cross-platform) alternatives and I think the shutdown is ultimately the best course of action for a service that Canonical was not willing or able to fully invest attention and money into. Perhaps the open source community will find the code base useful for other projects.

Did you use the Ubuntu One cloud storage service?

Faster MinnowBoard Max With Lower $99 Price Coming In June 2014

Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2014 - 10:53 AM |
Tagged: minnowboard, linux, embedded, development, Bay Trail, atom e3825, atom e3815

MinnowBoard.org recently announced the MinnowBoard Max which is a new Intel-powered development board with improved specifications and a $100 lower price versus the original MinnowBoard. The MinnowBoard Max is an open source hardware and software development platform designed and built by CircuitCo with guidance from Intel. The MinnowBoard Max is intended to be used to develop new Bay Trail-powered products or as the brain of embedded equipment that interacts with custom I/O such as FGPAs and specialized sensors.

MinnowBoard Max.jpg

The MinnowBoard Max is slightly smaller than the original at 2.9” x 3.9” and features an improved Intel Atom processor. Rather than the single core Atom E640 at 1 GHz the original MinnowBoard used, the MinnowBoard Max uses one of two Bay Trail Atom E3800-series SoCs. The base $99 model uses a single core Atom E3815 clocked at 1.46GHz while the $129 model uses a dual core Atom E3825 clocked at 1.33 GHz. The SoC is paired with either 1GB or 2GB of system RAM on the $99 or $129 model respectively.

The MinnowBoard Max supports a wide range of I/O including:

  • 26-pin low speed expansion port
    • SPI, I2C, I2S Audio, 2 x UARTs (TTL-level), 8 x buffered GPIO (two supporting PWM), +5V, Ground
  • 60-pin high speed expansion port
    • 1 x PCI-E 2.0 (one lane), 1 x SATA 3Gbps, 1 x USB 2.0 host, I2C, GPIO, JTAG, +5V, Ground
  • 1 x USB 3.0 port
  • 1 x USB 2.0 port
  • 1 x HDMI port
  • 1 x Micro SD
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 1 x Serial Debug (via separately sold cable)
  • 1 x Micro USB 2.0

The small form factor board supports Linux and Android operating systems with pending support for the Yocto Project (which helps developers create their own Linux distribution). Intel’s Bay Trail is not open source, but the company has reportedly provided open source drivers for the HD Graphics processor-integrated GPU.

The MinnowBoard Max starts at $99 and is slated to start shipping towards the end of June 2014. MinnowBoar.org will also be releasing the hardware design files under a Creative Commons license shortly after that launch point. More information can be found on the MinnowBoard Max FAQ.

The open source MinnowBoard Max looks to be a respectable upgrade over the original, and the lower price should help to make the x86 architecture more attractive to developers of embedded systems especially in the wake of the proliferation of ARM-powered alternatives.

NitroWare Reviews Seagate Business 4-Bay NAS (16TB)

Subject: General Tech, Storage | April 2, 2014 - 02:27 AM |
Tagged: Seagate, NAS

Seagate released a network-attached storage (NAS) device intended for businesses with "up to 50 employees", called the Seagate Business 4-Bay 16TB NAS. Dominic Sharoo of NitroWare reviewed one and, obviously/hopefully, gave his opinion in the process. In short, while he liked the connectivity options, he shies away from a recommendation without a price cut and a firmware update (its built-in software is not compatible with Windows 8).

seagate_nas_box_angle.jpg

As for what it did well, he was pleased by its relatively compact chassis, USB 3.0 support, and the inclusion of dual gigabit Ethernet LAN ports. It is configurable in RAID 0, 1, 5, 10, or "JBOD" (just a bunch of drives). He also liked that, in his testing, the unit did not seem to require drives from a specific vendor. If you buy the unit already loaded with drives, they are formatted in RAID 5. For a four-bay NAS, that seems like a good default. It also uses a standard laptop power supply, which should make finding a replacement (or a spare) easy.

While the device is a mixed bag, check out his review if you are interested.

Source: NitroWare

GTC 2014: NVIDIA Launches Iray VCA Networked Rendering Appliance

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | April 1, 2014 - 04:42 PM |
Tagged: VCA, nvidia, GTC 2014

NVIDIA launched a new visual computing appliance called the Iray VCA at the GPU Technology Conference last week. This new piece of enterprise hardware uses full GK 110 graphics cards to accelerate the company’s Iray renderer which is used to create photo realistic models in various design programs.

NVIDIA IRAY VCA.jpg

The Iray VCA specifically is a licensed appliance (hardware + software) that combines NVIDIA hardware and software. On the hardware side of things, the Iray VCA is powered by eight graphics cards, dual processors (unspecified but likely Intel Xeons based on usage in last year’s GRID VCA), 256GB of system RAM, and a 2TB SSD. Networking hardware includes two 10GbE NICs, two 1GbE NICs, and one Infiniband connection. In total, the Iray VCA features 20 CPU cores and 23,040 CUDA cores. The GPUs used are based on the full GK110 die and are paired with 12GB of memory each.

Even better, it is a scalable solution such that companies can add additional Iray VCAs to the network. The appliances reportedly transparently accelerate the Iray accelerated renders done on designer’s workstations. NVIDIA reports that an Iray VCA is approximately 60-times faster than a Quadro K5000-powered workstation. Further, according to NVIDIA, 19 Iray VCAs working together amounts to 1 PetaFLOP of compute performance which is enough to render photo realistic simulations using 1 billion rays with up to hundreds of thousands of bounces.

DSC01431.JPG

The Iray VCA enables some rather impressive real time renders of 3D models with realistic physical properties and lighting. The models are light simulations that use ray tracing, global illumination and other techniques to show photo realistic models using up to billions of rays of light. NVIDIA is positioning the Iray VCA as an alternative to physical prototyping, allowing designers to put together virtual prototypes that can be iterated and changed at significantly less cost and time.

DSC01447.JPG

Iray itself is NVIDIA’s GPU-accelerated photo realistic renderer. The Iray technology is used in a number of design software packages. The Iray VCA is meant to further accelerate that Iray renderer by throwing massive amounts of parallel processing hardware at the resource intensive problem over the network (the Iray VCAs can be installed at a data center or kept on site). Initially the Iray VCA will support 3ds Max, Catia, Bunkspeed, and Maya, but NVIDIA is working on supporting all Iray accelerated software with the VCA hardware.

GTC 2014 IRAY VCA Renders Honda Car Interior In Real Time.jpg

The virtual prototypes can be sliced and examined and can even be placed in real world environments by importing HDR photos. Jen-Hsun Huang demonstrated this by placing Honda’s vehicle model on the GTC stage (virtually).

DSC01450.JPG

In fact, one of NVIDIA’s initial partners with the Iray VCA is Honda. Honda is currently beta testing a cluster of 25 Iray VCAs to refine styling designs for cars and their interiors based on initial artistic work. Honda Research and Development System Engineer Daisuke Ide was quoted by NVIDIA as stating that “Our TOPS tool, which uses NVIDIA Iray on our NVIDIA GPU cluster, enables us to evaluate our original design data as if it were real. This allows us to explore more designs so we can create better designs faster and more affordably.”

The Iray VCA (PDF) will be available this summer for $50,000. The sticker price includes the hardware, Iray license, and the first year of updates and maintenance. This is far from consumer technology, but it is interesting technology that may be used in the design process of your next car or other major purchase.

What do you think about the Iray VCA and NVIDIA's licensed hardware model?

DX12; translated from marketing speak

Subject: General Tech | April 1, 2014 - 03:17 PM |
Tagged: dx12

Nothing beats speculating on a product that hasn't been released yet; often it ends up being more fun than the release.  Currently DX12 is providing great fodder for enthusiasts, especially when the comparison to Mantle is broached in conversation.  The Tech Report is looking to pass some ammunition on to online prognosticators by fleshing out the debate with some history and a review of what was announced and what has been stated since.  One of their biggest secondary sources of information is Matt Sandy's Blog, as a DX Developer he is a knowledgeable source about the new API, in as far as he is allowed to speak on it.  Check out the three page post here for a good resource of what we know for now.

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"We already covered the basics of DirectX 12 amid the GDC frenzy. Now that we've had time to study our notes from the show, we can delve into a little more detail about the new API's inception, the key ways in which it differs from DirectX 11, and what AMD and Nvidia think about it."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

GDC 2014: Shader-limited Optimization for AMD's GCN

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Shows and Expos | March 30, 2014 - 01:45 AM |
Tagged: gdc 14, GDC, GCN, amd

While Mantle and DirectX 12 are designed to reduce overhead and keep GPUs loaded, the conversation shifts when you are limited by shader throughput. Modern graphics processors are dominated by sometimes thousands of compute cores. Video drivers are complex packages of software. One of their many tasks is converting your scripts, known as shaders, into machine code for its hardware. If this machine code is efficient, it could mean drastically higher frame rates, especially at extreme resolutions and intense quality settings.

amd-gcn-unit.jpg

Emil Persson of Avalanche Studios, probably known best for the Just Cause franchise, published his slides and speech on optimizing shaders. His talk focuses on AMD's GCN architecture, due to its existence in both console and PC, while bringing up older GPUs for examples. Yes, he has many snippets of GPU assembly code.

AMD's GCN architecture is actually quite interesting, especially dissected as it was in the presentation. It is simpler than its ancestors and much more CPU-like, with resources mapped to memory (and caches of said memory) rather than "slots" (although drivers and APIs often pretend those relics still exist) and with how vectors are mostly treated as collections of scalars, and so forth. Tricks which attempt to combine instructions together into vectors, such as using dot products, can just put irrelevant restrictions on the compiler and optimizer... as it breaks down those vector operations into those very same component-by-component ops that you thought you were avoiding.

Basically, and it makes sense coming from GDC, this talk rarely glosses over points. It goes over execution speed of one individual op compared to another, at various precisions, and which to avoid (protip: integer divide). Also, fused multiply-add is awesome.

I know I learned.

As a final note, this returns to the discussions we had prior to the launch of the next generation consoles. Developers are learning how to make their shader code much more efficient on GCN and that could easily translate to leading PC titles. Especially with DirectX 12 and Mantle, which lightens the CPU-based bottlenecks, learning how to do more work per FLOP addresses the other side. Everyone was looking at Mantle as AMD's play for success through harnessing console mindshare (and in terms of Intel vs AMD, it might help). But honestly, I believe that it will be trends like this presentation which prove more significant... even if behind-the-scenes. Of course developers were always having these discussions, but now console developers will probably be talking about only one architecture - that is a lot of people talking about very few things.

This is not really reducing overhead; this is teaching people how to do more work with less, especially in situations (high resolutions with complex shaders) where the GPU is most relevant.

Creative's talented wireless speaker/micrphone/recharger beer can thing

Subject: General Tech | March 28, 2014 - 07:28 PM |
Tagged: audio, Creative, Sound Blaster AXX 200, wireless, speaker, microphone, battery charger

The Creative Sound Blaster AXX 200 is more that just a wireless speaker for your PC or smartphone, it is also a voice recorder, a hands free microphone for your smartphone and a battery charger.  The Bluetooth speaker function can be set to stereo or 7.1 channel surround and will accept a signal from up to 10' away.  The microphone feature has a similar range and can capture audio in a 360 degree area and [H]ard|OCP were also able to make a handsfree call using only the AXX 200.  The USB plugs make it into a charging station as well, handy considering how integrated it is with your phone.

13865803974MklFQZ5hQ_3_23.jpg

"With its unusual vertical, compact design, Creative's new flagship stereo speaker system features touch controls and a multitude of wired and wireless connectivity options for your mobile phone, tablet, Mac, and PC. Today, we will tell you if there is enough room in the "mix" for great sound as well."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Now Valve Doesn't Have Michael Abrash OR Jeri Ellsworth

Subject: General Tech, Displays | March 28, 2014 - 04:21 PM |
Tagged: VR, valve, Oculus, facebook

Today, Oculus VR issued a statement which claims that Michael Abrash has joined their ranks as Chief Scientist. Abrash was hired by Valve in 2011 where he led, and apparently came up with the idea for, their wearable computing initiatives. For a time, he and Jeri Ellsworth were conducting similar projects until she, and many others, were forced out of the company for undisclosed reasons (she was allowed to take her project with her which ultimately became CastAR). While I have yet to see an official announcement claim that Abrash has left Valve, I have serious doubts that he would be employed in both places for any reasonable period of time. With both gone, I wonder about Valve's wearable initaitive going forward.

Abrash at Steam Dev Days

This press statement comes just three days after Facebook announced "definitive" plans to acquire Oculus VR for an equivalent of $2 billion USD (it is twice the company Instragram was). Apparently, the financial stability of Facebook (... deep breath before continuing...) was the catalyst for this decision. VR research is expensive. Abrash is now comfortable working with them, gleefully expending R&D funds, advancing the project without sinking the ship.

And then there's Valve.

On last night's This Week in Computer Hardware (#260), Patrick Norton and I were discussing the Oculus VR acquisition. He claimed that he had serious doubts about whether Valve ever intended to ship a product. So far, the only product available that uses Valve's research is the Oculus Rift DK2. Honestly, while I have not really thought about it until now, it would not be surprising for Valve to contribute to the PC platform itself.

And, hey, at least someone is not afraid of Facebook's ownership.

Fancy a preview of the Samsung Galaxy S5?

Subject: General Tech | March 28, 2014 - 02:48 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, galaxy s5

Some lucky Aussies at The Register sweet talked their way into a Samsung Galaxy S5 and have put together a brief preview for your reading pleasure.  There are many new features you will someday be able to use, even if El Reg couldn't quite test them yet.   There is a battery saving mode which should help road warriors and a fingerprint sensor which is touted to work with NFC to turn your S5 into a replacement for your credit cards so you don't have to carry them with you.  There is more to see in the article, including the Galaxy Gear Neo smartwatch.

galaxy_s5_copper.jpg

"This time around Samsung is keen on its battery-saving mode, IP67 rating and, once again, fitness features. Samsung Australia personnel swore blind all of those features were designed for an “Aussie lifestyle”. Because down here we all go to the beach every day, a supposition only slightly less believable than the notion that an S5 design meeting considered how to optimise sales in a nation of 23 million."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register