The Third x86-based SoC Player: VIA & Centaur's Isaiah II

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | July 11, 2014 - 04:58 PM |
Tagged: x86, VIA, isaiah II, Intel, centaur, arm, amd

There might be a third, x86-compatible processor manufacturer who is looking at the mobile market. Intel has been trying to make headway, including the direct development of Android for the x86 architecture. The company also has a few design wins, mostly with Windows 8.1-based tablets but also the occasional Android-based models. Google is rumored to be preparing the "Nexus 8" tablet with one of Intel's Moorefield SoCs. AMD, the second-largest x86 processor manufacturer, is aiming their Mullins platform at tablets and two-in-ones, but cannot afford to play snowplow, at least not like Intel.

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VIA, through their Centaur Technology division, is expected to announce their own x86-based SoC, too. Called Isaiah II, it is rumored to be a quad core, 64-bit processor with a maximum clock rate of 2.0 GHz. Its GPU is currently unknown. VIA sold their stake S3 Graphics to HTC back in 2011, who then became majority shareholder over the GPU company. That said, HTC and VIA are very close companies. The chairwoman of HTC is the founder of VIA Technologies. The current President and CEO of VIA, who has been in that position since 1992, is her husband. I expect that the GPU architecture will be provided by S3, or will somehow be based on their technology. I could be wrong. Both companies will obviously do what they think is best.

It would make sense, though, especially if it benefits HTC with cheap but effective SoCs for Android and "full" Windows (not Windows RT) devices.

Or this announcement could be larger than it would appear. Three years ago, VIA filed for a patent which described a processor that can read both x86 and ARM machine language and translate it into its own, internal microinstructions. The Centaur Isaiah II could reasonably be based on that technology. If so, this processor would be able to support either version of Android. Or, after Intel built up the Android x86 code base, maybe they shelved that initiative (or just got that patent for legal reasons).

Android-x86.png

But what about Intel? Honestly, I see this being a benefit for the behemoth. Extra x86-based vendors will probably grow the overall market share, compared to ARM, by helping with software support. Even if it is compatible with both ARM and x86, what Intel needs right now is software. They can only write so much of it themselves. It is possible that VIA, being the original netbook processor, could disrupt the PC market with both x86 and ARM compatibility, but I doubt it.

Centaur Technology, the relevant division of VIA, will make their announcement in less than 51 days.

Source: 3d Center

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

The PC is still not dead

Subject: General Tech | July 10, 2014 - 02:30 PM |
Tagged: market share, desktop pc

There has been a 2 year slump in PC sales due to a number of reasons, from a lack of attractive system upgrades to the increasing capabilities of mobile devices but according to Gartner this is coming to an end.  While Acer and the smaller brands and no-name systems continue to see sales declines the major players such as Lenovo HP, Dell, and Asus have all seen increases in the amount of systems they have sold in this past quarter.  The Register quotes Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa in their article, "... we expect to see slow, but consistent, PC growth" as emerging markets augment their low cost tablets with purchases of full PCs. 

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"By Gartner's estimates, worldwide PC shipments were essentially flat for the second quarter of 2014, growing just 0.1 per cent when compared to the same period a year ago. But even that is encouraging, the analyst firm points out, because shipments have declined for the last eight consecutive quarters."

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Source: The Register

Podcast #308 - Intel and Mantle, XSPC Watercooling Kits, Quantum Dots, and more!

Subject: General Tech | July 10, 2014 - 01:17 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, Intel, Mantle, amd, nvidia, XSPC, quantum dots, western digital, My Cloud Mirror, A10-7850K, Kaveri, arm, quakecon

PC Perspective Podcast #308 - 07/10/2014

Join us this week as we discuss Intel using Mantle, XSPC Watercooling Kits, Quantum Dots, 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, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, Allyn Malventano, and Morry Tietelman

Program length: 1:25:47

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

 

Coming soon to a PC near you; the Skywind Public Beta Test

Subject: General Tech | July 9, 2014 - 02:45 PM |
Tagged: skywind, skyrim, morrowind, gaming, elder scrolls, !console

It has been a long time coming and unfortunately it isn't quite here yet but sometime in the not too distant future Skywind will be opened up to the public for testing.  If you do not own Skyrm then you probably have no interest in this mod but you may need to ensure you have a copy of Morrowind, including both Tribunal and Bloodmoon addons.   You will need both games installed as well as the soon to be released assets from TESRenewal.com to try out Skywind for yourself.  If your head is about to explode from the excitement and anticipation you probably shouldn't watch the video below nor read more about it at the equally excited Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN.

In the mean time you can distract yourself by chatting with the Fragging Frogs in the Forum and get some gaming done to burn off some of that nervous energy.

"Skywind, the total rebuild of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind in Skyrim’s engine, continues to play sweet melodies on my heart strings. They’re nostalgic tunes that lull me like the most charming of snake charmers. There’s a new trailer out, and I can practically feel the Balmoran cliff racers pecking at my back, making me invent new deities just so I can use their names as curse words."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Quantum dots may be screening on your mobile by 2020

Subject: General Tech | July 9, 2014 - 01:38 PM |
Tagged: cellphone, lcd, quantum dots

Research into using quantum dots in LCDs has been ongoing and several breakthroughs at research laboratories have proven that they can provide much a much wider and more accurate colour spectrum than conventional backlit LCDs.  The size of the dot effects the colour, with larger dots fluoresce red, mid-sized dots green and the smallest blue, emulating the familiar spectrum of pixels at a lower energy cost and greater accuracy.  DigiTimes is reporting on the predictions of DisplaySearch which feel that quantum dots will be the next step forward for LCD technology and could represent up to a quarter of the smartphone display market by 2020. 

The technology to incorporate quantum dots into displays is currently available but there are several hurdles which need to be overcome before you can expect to see them in your next mobile device.  First and foremost is the price of manufacturing, as with any new process the first generations are quite expensive to manufacture, even if it is ways to molecularly seed a panel with a tailored particles to produce quantum dots succeeds in large quantities.  Current mass production relies mostly on heavy metals such as Cadmium which are strictly regulated when used in commercial products and would likely not be approved for use in the production of mobile phones in the amounts currently required.  It won't happen in the next few generations of phones but keep your eyes peeled for greatly enhanced LCD panels by the end of the decade.

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"The firm said that the penetration of quantum dots in smartphone TFT LCDs will be 3% in 2015, growing to 26% in 2020. Penetration in tablets will also be relatively high, with nearly 2% penetration in 2015, growing to 15% in 2020. The quantum dot penetration in LCD TVs is expected to be lower, due to the large area of TV displays. DisplaySearch forecasts that less than 1% of LCD TV screens will use quantum dots in 2015, growing to 9% in 2020."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

Panasonic ARMs will be fabbed at Intel

Subject: General Tech | July 8, 2014 - 01:40 PM |
Tagged: SoC, Panasonic, Intel, arm

Intel has been fabbing ARM chips for Altera since the end of last year after their unprecedented move of allowing non-Intel designs into their fabs.  This decision allowed Intel to increase the percentage of time the fabs were active, as they are no longer able to keep them at full capacity with their own chips and have even mothballed the new Fab 42 in Arizona.  Altera is a good customer, as are Tabula, Netronome and Microsemi but together they are still not enough to bring Intel's capacity close to 100%.  The Register has reported on a new contract with the ink still wet from signing; Panasonic will now be using Intel's Fabs for their ARM based SoCs.   The immense size of Panasonic should keep Intel busy and ensure that they continue to make mountains of money licensing their 14nm-process tri-Gate transistors as well as the Fab time.

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"Intel has notched up another customer for its fledgling Foundry business as it tries to make money out of its manufacturing and engineering expertise besides x86 processor sales.

The world's most valuable chip manufacturer said on Monday that Panasonic's audio-visual gear will make future system-on-chips (SoCs) in Intel's factories."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: The Register

Breaking News: League of Legends Is Hard. "Intro Bots" Soon.

Subject: General Tech | July 7, 2014 - 05:13 PM |
Tagged: riot games, moba, lol, free to play

MOBAs are known to be intricate, unforgiving PC games. League of Legends is one of the most popular at the moment (#1 PC game in terms of hours played for May 2014 according to Raptr). It is free to install and play, with small purchases to unlock more content ("microtransaction"). The free-to-play business model is quite interesting, albeit polarizing, because your commitment starts when your users installs your title, not ends. This often leads to one of two outcomes: abusers of human psychology or constantly developed, great games that strive to never get boring.

Now you can see why it is polarizing (or just read our impending comments).

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The business model does permit games that are deep in gameplay mechanics, however, if it keeps a core user base playing (and buying additional content) forever. Unfortunately, this also makes it difficult for new players to join -- especially when it is competitive and multiplayer.

Riot Games noted that they were uncomfortable with how many of their players lose "Battle Training", which is supposed to be a tutorial. Some even prove to have significant skill later on. They interpret this as the problem being how they educate new players. There is high complexity that is fair, and then there is just bad user experience.

"Intro Bots" is designed to be a mode which adjusts its difficulty to match the player currently, and as they progress. Hopefully it works. Obviously that is the limiting factor. It does seem to be designed reasonably. It teaches with repetition and in realistic scenarios.

Intro Bots is coming soon, after a brief stop in public beta. Ironically, the public beta realm was refered to as "PBE"... in a press release for a feature intended to be easier for new players. You know, the people who might not know the game's vocabulary. Just saying.

Source: Riot Games

Everything old is new again on the Internet o' Thangs

Subject: General Tech | July 7, 2014 - 02:34 PM |
Tagged: internet of things, MIPS, prpl, linaro

Imagination Technologies is reinvigorating their MIPS architecture by collaborating with Oracle and Qualcomm on MIPS-focused Java and OpenWRT Linux as well as continuing older partnerships with Ingenic and Ineda Systems.  MIPS has been a large player in low power WiFi enabled SoC's for quite a while with three billion MIPS-based products shipped in set-top boxes, mobile phones and wearable tech but have seen ARM take the lead and continue to garner more market share along with Intel's Quark.  These new partnerships may help MIPS based devices become more popular as some of the projects being developed are quite interesting, for instance Linux.com mentions the Dhanush Wearable Processing Unit which will run Linux and is aiming for a battery life of 30 days.

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"Imagination Technologies has launched a campaign to turn the 30-year-old MIPS architecture into an Internet of Things platform.

The IP designer's recent moves include the establishment of a Linaro-like "Prpl" industry group for MIPS, as well as collaborations with Oracle and Qualcomm on MIPS-focused Java and OpenWRT Linux development, respectively."

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Source: Linux.com

Google I/O 2014: Android Extension Pack Announced

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | July 7, 2014 - 04:06 AM |
Tagged: tegra k1, OpenGL ES, opengl, Khronos, google io, google, android extension pack, Android

Sure, this is a little late. Honestly, when I first heard the announcement, I did not see much news in it. The slide from the keynote (below) showed four points: Tesselation, Geometry Shaders, Computer [sic] Shaders, and ASTC Texture Compression. Honestly, I thought tesselation and geometry shaders were part of the OpenGL ES 3.1 spec, like compute shaders. This led to my immediate reaction: "Oh cool. They implemented OpenGL ES 3.1. Nice. Not worth a news post."

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Image Credit: Blogogist

Apparently, they were not part of the ES 3.1 spec (although compute shaders are). My mistake. It turns out that Google is cooking their their own vendor-specific extensions. This is quite interesting, as it adds functionality to the API without the developer needing to target a specific GPU vendor (INTEL, NV, ATI, AMD), waiting for approval from the Architecture Review Board (ARB), or using multi-vendor extensions (EXT). In other words, it sounds like developers can target Google's vendor without knowing the actual hardware.

Hiding the GPU vendor from the developer is not the only reason for Google to host their own vendor extension. The added features are mostly from full OpenGL. This makes sense, because it was announced with NVIDIA and their Tegra K1, Kepler-based SoC. Full OpenGL compatibility was NVIDIA's selling point for the K1, due to its heritage as a desktop GPU. But, instead of requiring apps to be programmed with full OpenGL in mind, Google's extension pushes it to OpenGL ES 3.1. If the developer wants to dip their toe into OpenGL, then they could add a few Android Extension Pack features to their existing ES engine.

Epic Games' Unreal Engine 4 "Rivalry" Demo from Google I/O 2014.

The last feature, ASTC Texture Compression, was an interesting one. Apparently the Khronos Group, owners of OpenGL, were looking for a new generation of texture compression technologies. NVIDIA suggested their ZIL technology. ARM and AMD also proposed "Adaptive Scalable Texture Compression". ARM and AMD won, although the Khronos Group stated that the collaboration between ARM and NVIDIA made both proposals better than either in isolation.

Android Extension Pack is set to launch with "Android L". The next release of Android is not currently associated with a snack food. If I was their marketer, I would block out the next three versions as 5.x, and name them (L)emon, then (M)eringue, and finally (P)ie.

Would I do anything with the two skipped letters before pie? (N)(O).

Rob Pardo, Former Chief Creative Officer at Blizzard, Resigns

Subject: General Tech | July 6, 2014 - 04:08 AM |
Tagged: blizzard

After 17 years at Blizzard, the developers of the Warcraft, Diablo, and StarCraft franchises, Chief Creative Officer Rob Pardo resigned on July 3rd. He was credited as the lead designer of StarCraft: Brood War, Warcraft III and its Frozen Throne expansion, and World of Warcraft and its Burning Crusade expansion. He has not announced any future plans, except to be a better Twitter user.

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Of course, several projects that he influenced are still on their way, even after he leaves the company. Beyond the games, he notes that eSports and the upcoming Warcraft movie are initiatives that he looks back on with pride, in terms of his contributions.

Source: Blizzard

DDR3 Overclocking World Record: 2.31 GHz

Subject: General Tech, Motherboards, Memory | July 6, 2014 - 03:53 AM |
Tagged: overclocking, memory, gigabyte

About a week ago, HWBOT posted a video of a new DDR3 memory clock record which was apparently beaten the very next day after the movie was published. Tom's Hardware reported on the first of the two, allegedly performed by Gigabyte on their Z97X-SOC Force LN2 Motherboard. The Tom's Hardware article also, erroneously, lists the 2nd place overclock (then 1st place) at 4.56 GHz when it was really half that, because DDR is duplex (2.28 GHz). This team posted their video with a recording of the overclock being measured by an oscilloscope. This asserts that they did not mess with HWBOT.

The now first place team, which managed 2.31 GHz on the same motherboard, did not go to the same level of proof, as far as I can tell.

This is the 2nd fastest overclock...

... but the fastest to be recorded with an oscilloscope that I can tell

Before the machine crashes to a blue screen, the oscilloscope actually reports 2.29 GHz. I am not sure why they took 10 MHZ off, but I expect it is because the system crashed before HWBOT was able to record that higher frequency. Either way, 2.28 GHz was a new world record, and verified by a video, whether or not it was immediately beat.

Tom's Hardware also claims that liquid nitrogen was used to cool the system, which brings sense to why they would use an LN2 board. It could have been chosen just for its overclocking features, but that would have been a weird tradeoff. The LN2 board doesn't have mounting points for a CPU air or water cooler. The extra features would have been offset by the need to build a custom CPU cooler, to not use liquid nitrogen with. It is also unclear how the memory was cooled, whether it was, somehow, liquid nitrogen-cooled too, or if it was exposed to the air.

Source: HWBOT

Oculus Rift Shipments Suspended to China

Subject: General Tech, Displays | July 5, 2014 - 04:11 AM |
Tagged: oculus vr, oculus rift, Oculus

The popular VR headset development kit, Oculus Rift DK2, is no longer available for order in China. The reason, according to their subreddit, is due to "extreme reseller purchases". In other words, because too many were purchased with the intention of selling them at a markup. They, then, ask enthusiasts to wait for the consumer version. These are for developers to develop.

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Reselling product happens frequently. You see it at big sales, when a retailer sells product near (or under) cost to lure people into their stores. Unless they have a quantity-per-purchase limit, that is enforced, you will see the occasional person buying obscene amounts. Some will even tell the cashier that they intend on reselling it elsewhere.

Oculus is "looking into alternative ways to make sure that our development kits are getting into legitimate developer hands in China". Also, they claim to have not canceled all orders in China., because, "that would be messed up".

Yes, Oculus, that would be.

The Oculus Rift DK2 is still available in the other regions.

Attitude One's colourful Alamz headsets

Subject: General Tech | July 4, 2014 - 03:32 PM |
Tagged: audio, gaming headset, Almaz, Attitude One

Attitude One joins the crowded headset market with their new foldable Almaz headset with a detachable microphone which is designed to be lightweight enough to carry with you everywhere.  The bundled cables are compatible with both Android and Apple devices as well as one you can plug into your PC and simply leave for when you arrive home.  The price of €110 quoted by TechPowerUp seems a bit high but the two year warranty somewhat alleviates that investment.  If you need a portable lightweight headset with earcups this might be worth investigating as an option.

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"Attitude One is a new player on the gaming scene, and today, we take a close look at their first headset, the Almaz. The Almaz can be configured to act as either a headphone or headset because of its detachable microphone and multiple cables."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Source: techPowerUp

Put WiFi in all the things

Subject: General Tech | July 4, 2014 - 12:43 PM |
Tagged: texas instruments, CC3000, CC3200, wifi

The new Ti C3200 SimpleLink is an ARM Cortex-M4 based SoC with inbuilt WiFi capability, essentially Internet on a Chip for the Internet of things.  Paired with the CC3200 LaunchPad which includes sensors you can use a PC and the SDK with 40 pre-exisiting WiFi apps to enable almost any device to communicate wirelessly.  The inclusion of AES, DES, MD5 and other security and encryption protocols is a welcome inclusion for anyone aware of even basic security.  The power requirements range from mA in operation to µA in the various sleep modes, making remote use with battery power a definite option.  Check out the links at Hack a Day for the spec sheets.

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"Texas Instruments’ CC3000 WiFi chip is the darling of everyone producing the latest and greatest Internet of Thing, and it’s not much of a surprise: In quantity, these chips are only $10 a piece. That’s a lot less expensive than the WiFi options a year ago. Now, TI is coming out with a few new modules to their WiFi module family, including one that includes an ARM micro."

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Source: Hack a Day

Podcast #307 - EVGA Torq X10 Mouse, Samsung 850 Pro, OCZ RevoDrive 350 and more!

Subject: General Tech | July 3, 2014 - 03:17 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, evga, TORQ X10, Samsung, 850 PRO, ocz, RevoDrive 350, Silverstone, Nightjar, knights landing, Xeon Phi

PC Perspective Podcast #307 - 07/03/2014

Join us this week as we discuss the EVGA Torq X10 Mouse, Samsung 850 Pro, OCZ RevoDrive 350 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, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, and Morry Tietelman

Program length: 1:19:27

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

 

Do you know Juno?

Subject: General Tech | July 3, 2014 - 12:39 PM |
Tagged: linux, linaro, juno, google, armv8-a, ARMv8, arm, Android

By now you should have read Ryan's post or listened to Josh talk about Juno on the PCPer Podcast but if you find yourself hungry for more information you can visit The Tech Report.  They discuss how the 64-bit Linaro is already able to take advantage of one of big.LITTLE's power efficiency optimization called Global Task Scheduling.  As Linaro releases monthly updates you can expect to see more features and better implementations as their take on the Android Open Source Project evolves.  Expect to see more of Juno and ARMv8 on review sites as we work out just how to benchmark these devices.

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"ARM has created its own custom SoC and platform for 64-bit development. The folks at Linaro have used this Juno dev platform to port an early version of Android L to the ARMv8 instruction set. Here's a first look at the Juno hardware and the 64-bit software it enables."

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The slippery slope of Planetary Annihilation

Subject: General Tech | July 2, 2014 - 05:51 PM |
Tagged: gaming, bad idea, prerelease, planetary annihilation

Releasing unfinished games is no longer limited to EA, many developers have picked up the habit of Early Access versions of their games and it is in danger of becoming as common as pre-purchases have.  For some users this is not an issue, beta testing can be fun if you are that type of person or have a vested interest in trying to contribute to the development of a game.  Uber has gone one step further with Planetary Annihilation, actually releasing an Early Access version of the game to retail stores with a free upgrade to the full version once it is released.  There will be many consumers that do not understand that this is not a finished game and will purchase it with the expectation that it is completed.  This will likely lead to a lot of internet bile being unleashed and bad reviews being published which is something you would think a publisher would want to avoid.  Do you think that it is not an issue or perhaps a self correcting one or do you agree with Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN that this could be the start of a bad trend for the gaming industry?  It is unlikely that this particular game will die in development and never be released but if it becomes a common trend unscrupulous publishers could slap together a demo, sell it as a pre-release and then abandon development; they've already made money so why bother finishing the game if consumers are happy paying full price for a half-baked product?

For those who prefer to play fully finished and perhaps even heavily modded games, why not join the Fragging Frogs for a gaming session

planetarybox.jpg

"The practice of releasing alpha or beta games as part of an “Early Access” plan is not, in itself, inherently harmful. It can be quite good for a game when developers priorities are in order and everyone is given plenty of information about what they’re getting into upfront. Planetary Annihilation‘s early access version on brick-and-mortar store shelves, though?"

Frogs moron

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

How about a little High Powered Computing?

Subject: General Tech | July 2, 2014 - 02:58 PM |
Tagged: HPC, ISS

The Register visited this years ISS and snapped some pictures of the hardware that was on display.  There were a lot of storage solutions being demonstrated like the Silent Brick Library from Fast LTA which offers an alternative to tape archives with the ability to can hold up to 60TB of uncompressed data with 12 bricks in a rack mounted device.  Samsung had a brief presentation on 3D V-NAND but did not reveal anything new about their new type of NAND.  AMD showed off their new W9100 FirePro and quite a few vendors, Intel included, are increasing their usage of watercooling in racks.  Click over to see the latest expensive HPC gear.

silent_brick.jpg

"The International Supercomputer Show in Leipzig, Germany, was full of fascinating things at the high-end grunt front of the computing business. Here's what attracted this roving hack's eye."

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Source: The Register

Intel's Knights Landing (Xeon Phi, 2015) Details

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | July 2, 2014 - 03:55 AM |
Tagged: Intel, Xeon Phi, xeon, silvermont, 14nm

Anandtech has just published a large editorial detailing Intel's Knights Landing. Mostly, it is stuff that we already knew from previous announcements and leaks, such as one by VR-Zone from last November (which we reported on). Officially, few details were given back then, except that it would be available as either a PCIe-based add-in board or as a socketed, bootable, x86-compatible processor based on the Silvermont architecture. Its many cores, threads, and 512 bit registers are each pretty weak, compared to Haswell, for instance, but combine to about 3 TFLOPs of double precision performance.

itsbeautiful.png

Not enough graphs. Could use another 256...

The best way to imagine it is running a PC with a modern, Silvermont-based Atom processor -- only with up to 288 processors listed in your Task Manager (72 actual cores with quad HyperThreading).

The main limitation of GPUs (and similar coprocessors), however, is memory bandwidth. GDDR5 is often the main bottleneck of compute performance and just about the first thing to be optimized. To compensate, Intel is packaging up-to 16GB of memory (stacked DRAM) on the chip, itself. This RAM is based on "Hybrid Memory Cube" (HMC), developed by Micron Technology, and supported by the Hybrid Memory Cube Consortium (HMCC). While the actual memory used in Knights Landing is derived from HMC, it uses a proprietary interface that is customized for Knights Landing. Its bandwidth is rated at around 500GB/s. For comparison, the NVIDIA GeForce Titan Black has 336.4GB/s of memory bandwidth.

Intel and Micron have worked together in the past. In 2006, the two companies formed "IM Flash" to produce the NAND flash for Intel and Crucial SSDs. Crucial is Micron's consumer-facing brand.

intel-knights-landing.jpg

So the vision for Knights Landing seems to be the bridge between CPU-like architectures and GPU-like ones. For compute tasks, GPUs edge out CPUs by crunching through bundles of similar tasks at the same time, across many (hundreds of, thousands of) computing units. The difference with (at least socketed) Xeon Phi processors is that, unlike most GPUs, Intel does not rely upon APIs, such as OpenCL, and drivers to translate a handful of functions into bundles of GPU-specific machine language. Instead, especially if the Xeon Phi is your system's main processor, it will run standard, x86-based software. The software will just run slowly, unless it is capable of vectorizing itself and splitting across multiple threads. Obviously, OpenCL (and other APIs) would make this parallelization easy, by their host/kernel design, but it is apparently not required.

It is a cool way that Intel arrives at the same goal, based on their background. Especially when you mix-and-match Xeons and Xeon Phis on the same computer, it is a push toward heterogeneous computing -- with a lot of specialized threads backing up a handful of strong ones. I just wonder if providing a more-direct method of programming will really help developers finally adopt massively parallel coding practices.

I mean, without even considering GPU compute, how efficient is most software at splitting into even two threads? Four threads? Eight threads? Can this help drive heterogeneous development? Or will this product simply try to appeal to those who are already considering it?

Source: Intel