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Subject: Graphics Cards | March 24, 2016 - 06:04 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Ubuntu 16.04, linux, vulkan, amd, nvidia
Last week AMD released a new GPU-PRO Beta driver stack and this Monday, NVIDIA released the 364.12 beta driver, both of which support Vulkan and meant that Phoronix had a lot of work to do. Up for testing were the GTX 950, 960, 970, 980, and 980 Ti as well as the R9 Fury, 290 and 285. Logically, they used the Talos Principal test, their results compare not only the cards but also the performance delta between OpenGL and Vulkan and finished up with several OpenGL benchmarks to see if there were any performance improvements from the new drivers. The results look good for Vulkan as it beats OpenGL across the board as you can see in the review.
"Thanks to AMD having released their new GPU-PRO "hybrid" Linux driver a few days ago, there is now Vulkan API support for Radeon GPU owners on Linux. This new AMD Linux driver holds much potential and the closed-source bits are now limited to user-space, among other benefits covered in dozens of Phoronix articles over recent months. With having this new driver in hand plus NVIDIA promoting their Vulkan support to the 364 Linux driver series, it's a great time for some benchmarking. Here are OpenGL and Vulkan atop Ubuntu 16.04 Linux for both AMD Radeon and NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- XFX R9 390 Double Dissipation Black Edition @ [H]ard|OCP
- Far Cry Primal Graphics Card Performance Analysis @ eTeknix
- Inno3D GTX 980Ti iChill Black @ eTeknix
Subject: General Tech | March 24, 2016 - 05:47 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: western digital, VR, vnand, vive, video, Samsung, podcast, Oculus, hgst, He8, CRYORIG C7, 8tb red, 850 EVO
PC Perspective Podcast #392 - 03/24/2016
Join us this week as we discuss the Samsung 850 EVO V2, VR Build Guides, the End of Tick-Tock, and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the Store (audio only)
- RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader (audio only)
- MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file
Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano
Program length: 1:33:37
Week in Review:
0:28:00 This episode of PC Perspective Podcast is brought to you by Braintree. Even the best mobile app won’t work without the right payments API. That’s where the Braintree v.0 SDK comes in. One amazingly simple integration gives you every way to pay. Try out the sandbox and see for yourself at braintreepayments.com/pcper
News items of interest:
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
Ryan: Sony A6300 4K Camera
Subject: General Tech | March 24, 2016 - 04:36 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
It would appear that red bread mould is capable of far more than ruining a good sandwich. Researchers are investigating its ability to recover rare metals from electronics and to extend the life of batteries. Indeed, from what Hack a Day could glean from the research papers adding specially treated mould to lithium ion cells and supercapacitors is quite effective, with a test battery still able to charge beyond 90% of its original charge after 200 discharges. If that isn't strange enough for you the wonderfully titled link from The Inquirer just below will teach you about a new type of solid state lithium battery, no liquid inside and a charging rate similar to a supercapacitor.
"Researchers used the carbonized fungal biomass-mineral composite in both lithium ion cells and supercapacitors. The same team earlier showed how fungi could stabilize toxic lead and uranium."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Boffins find a way to lick batteries by dropping acid @ The Inquirer
- Apple's Lack of Bug Bounty Program May Explain Why Hackers Would Help FBI @ Slashdot
- Hackers hit utility and water systems @ The Inquirer
- Patch Java now, says Oracle. Leave the chocolate until later @ The Register
- NESPi Controller @ Hack a Day
- Streaming now outsells downloads – Recording Industry Ass. of America @ The Register
- Troubled Acer is going to chop itself into three bite sized chunks @ The Register
- AMD Publishes Initial Open-Source Driver Code For Next-Gen Polaris @ Phoronix
Subject: General Tech | March 24, 2016 - 07:00 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: wireless, mouse, logitech g, logitech, g900, chaos spectrum
While attending GDC last week and catching up on the world of VR that will be in our laps this spring and summer, I spent some time with Logitech to learn about the company's latest in gaming hardware. We already told you about the G610 keyboards using Cherry keyswitches but today Logitech is revealing a brand new wireless gaming mouse.
First, I know that a lot of gamers, both those in the professional spaces and those that strive to that level of competition, are going to have concerns about this being a wireless mouse. Logitech believes and has convincing evidence that they have built the best and fastest wireless implementation of any option on the market today. I'll go over some of their testing below, but first let's dive into the mouse itself.
Much to the delight of left handed users and anyone looking for a ambidextrous mouse, the G900 Chaos Spectrum is built for you! The design is balanced on both sides and even has a unique button configuration to permit thumb use for both lefties and righties. I have been mousing with it for the last three days, and as a right handed user, am completely comfortable with the design. As the name implies, the G logo on the mouse is completely controllable with RGB LEDs through the Logitech Gaming Software suite.
On the bottom of the G900 you'll find the on/off switch and sync button. Logitech tells us that you will be able to get at least 24 hours of continuous use out of a single charge of the mouse, 32 hours if you turn off lighting, and charge time is going to be around 2 hours. That's actually very good battery life for a high performance sensor like the PMW3366!
On the front is a micro USB port used for charging, which I'll touch on in a minute. The buttons on the G900 are unique as well, using a new mechanical pivot button design. Logitech claims they were built for "crisp, clean clicks". With the pivot point moved back towards the center of the mouse, engineers were able to reduce the travel distances between the buttons and switches and keep the amount of force required for the click to a minimum.
Subject: Storage | March 23, 2016 - 10:16 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: newegg, Mushkin, silicon motion, micron, ssd
Here's a brief post for our Canadian fans. If you have been interested in a decent, large SSD, then you might want to check out Newegg Canada. The Mushkin Enhanced Reactor 1TB is currently $100 off, which puts it at a price of $299.99 CDN plus tax and shipping. While 30c/GB might sound mundane to our neighbours to the south, the currency conversion works out to about 23c/GB USD.
Sure, it's not the fastest SSD on the market, but it's a solid, mainstream one. A 2TB version also exists, but you will be paying about $60 more than just getting two, 1TB SKUs. This version uses the Silicon Motion SM2246EN controller and Micron flash. We might end up with better or cheaper drives coming in the future, I have no idea, but this should be good for cheap, decent, and now.
Subject: General Tech | March 23, 2016 - 05:34 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: warhammer fantasy, total war, gaming
To the undead those map markers denoting where a huge battle took place are more than just a reminder of a great battle, they are a harvestable resource which provides them with skeletons and zombies, their lowest tier troops. Dead troops can also be summoned back to fight for you in battles and even if the unthinkable happens and your entire army and hero are slain, there is a way to reanimate that dead hero. Being undead does have its disadvantages, wandering beyond provinces you own will cause massive attrition as your army starts to decay and disintegrate around you and as Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN discovered, zombies are rubbish. You can read about their experiences when giving the Vampire Counts factions a test as well as see a video of the Master Necromancer right here.
"The undead don’t behave like any faction previously seen in a Total War game. That makes sense. They shouldn’t. Even the most militant and war-ready hordes can’t repopulate the ranks of their warriors quite as efficiently as an army capable of raising the dead and commanding them to fight."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Humble Sega Strategy Bundle
- System Shock Meets Open World Survival: P.A.M.E.L.A. @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Bethesda reveals all of DOOM's multiplayer modes @ HEXUS
- Built-A-Bot Workshop: Fallout 4’s Automatron DLC Out @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Ooooh: X-COM Creator Julian Gollop Announces New ‘Turn-Based Tactical Combat Game’ @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
Subject: Mobile | March 23, 2016 - 04:32 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: surface, surface book, tablet, Skylake, notebook, microsoft, Intel
The Register is not exaggerating in the quote below, the new Microsoft Surface Book ranges from $1500-$3200 depending on the model you chose, passing even the overpriced Chromebook Pixel by quite a sum of money. For that price you get a 3200x2000 (267ppi) 13.5" display on a tablet which weighs 3.34lbs (1.5kg), the detachable keyboard with an optional Nvidia GPU and an extra battery as well as a Surface pen. If you want the dock which adds more connectivity options, well that is another $200 and seeing as how there is only two USB3.0 ports, a single MiniDP and an SD card reader on the keyboard you are likely to want it.
Certainly The Register liked the looks, design and power of this ultrabook but with the competition, up to and including Apple, offering similar products at half the price it is a hard sell in the end. Ryan expressed a similar opinion when he reveiwed the Surface Book.
"Sumptuous and slightly absurd, Microsoft's Surface Book is the most expensive laptop you can get, short of ordering a 24-carat custom gold plated jobbie."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
More Mobile Articles
- Microsoft Surface Book @ The Inquirer
- Dell XPS 15 @ Kitguru
- SilverStone Reversible Phone Charging & Data Cord @ [H]ard|OCP
- Razer Nabu Watch Review @ Hardware Canucks
- ASUS ZenPad 7.0 @ Tech ARP
Subject: General Tech | March 23, 2016 - 04:10 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Samsung, ssd, BGA
Instead of the standard pin grid array, Samsung's PM971 SSD uses BGA which allows them to for a much smaller overall size, albeit at the cost of it being permanently soldered to a circuit motherboard. The three models, 128GB, 256GB and 512GB, will each be smaller than an SD card which is why these SSDs will be able to be used in future generations of small mobile devices. This not only foretells of a significantly higher storage capacity for your phone but also a faster one as Samsung's PR describes sequential read speeds of up to 1500MBps and sequential writes at 600MBps, or if you prefer, 190K random read IOPS and 150K random write IOPS. They haven't really given any details beyond those stats but you can try to glean some more information from the Japanese language article which The Inquirer links to in their story here.
"SAMSUNG HAS been showing off what it believes is the answer to the question of how to squeeze even more out of smartphone and tablet form factors. And with blazing speeds of 1500MBps it's hard to argue."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Your money or your life! Another hospital goes down to ransomware @ The Register
- Azure's wobbly day as three services glitch around the world @ The Register
- Building A Butcher Block Computer Desk To Comfortably Handle Six Monitors @ Phoronix
Subject: Processors | March 22, 2016 - 09:08 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: Intel, tick tock, tick-tock, process technology, kaby lake
It should come as little surprise to our readers that have followed news about Kaby Lake, Intel's extension of the Skylake architecture that officially broke nearly a decade of tick-tock processor design. With tick-tock, Intel would iterate in subsequent years between a new processor microarchitecture (Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge, etc.) and a new process technology (45nm, 32nm, 22nm, etc.). According to this story over at Fool.com, Intel's officially ending that pattern of production.
From the company's latest K-10 filing:
"We expect to lengthen the amount of time we will utilize our 14 [nanometer] and our next-generation 10 [nanometer] process technologies, further optimizing our products and process technologies while meeting the yearly market cadence for product introductions."
It is likely that that graphic above that showcases the changes from Tick-Tock to what is going on now isn't "to scale" and we may see more than three steps in each iteration along the way. Intel still believes that it has and will continue to have the best process technology in the world and that its processors will benefit.
Continuing further, the company indicates that "this competitive advantage will be extended in the future as the costs to build leading-edge fabrication facilities increase, and as fewer semiconductor companies will be able to leverage platform design and manufacturing."
Kaby Lake details leaking out...
As Scott pointed out in our discussions about this news, it might mean consumers will see advantages in longer socket compatibility going forward though I would still see this as a net-negative for technology. As process technology improvements slow down, either due to complexity or lack of competition in the market, we will see less innovation in key areas of performance and power consumption.
Subject: Displays | March 22, 2016 - 07:32 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: acer, Predator Z35, 200hz, g-sync
The Acer Predator Z35 is a big display, 35" of A-MVA panel with a resolution of 2560x1080, an 11ms response rate, 4ms GTG, the ability to display 72% of standard colour gamut and a W-LED backlight. With an MSRP of $1050 it will not come cheap and Hardware Canucks are on the job to determine if it is worth the investment. The virtual On Screen Display is similar to the Predator X34, a menu button brings up shortcuts to the various controls which you can then navigate to change your desired settings. When they tested performance it was obvious that they have stretched the DP 1.2 connection to the maximum, which is why that particular resolution was chosen and unfortunately the 0.32mm dot pitch is painfully obvious. Hardware Canucks did like this monitor but overall felt that a higher resolution with a lower refresh rate of 100-144Hz is a better choice for gamers.
"Acer's Z35 is the father of all gaming monitors; it has a ridiculous 200Hz refresh rate, G-SYNC compatibility and A-MVA panel and a respectable 2560x1080 resolution. "
Here are some more Display articles from around the web:
- Acer Predator XB271HK 4K G-SYNC Monitor Review @ Hardware Canucks
- Asus ProArt PA329Q 32 inch Colour Accurate 4K IPS @ Kitguru
- AOC C3583FQ 35-inch 160hz curved ultra-wide @ Kitguru
Subject: General Tech | March 22, 2016 - 06:39 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: apple, Imagination Technologies, rumours
Various sites have been abuzz this morning with rumours of Apple seeking to acquire the manufacturer of the PowerVR graphics chips they utilize, Imagination Technologies. Apple has now flatly denied this rumour; which means simply that they have denied that they are making an offer at this time. That makes sense regardless of the truth of the rumour, driving up the stock price makes the acquisition more expensive for Apple so a public denial makes financial sense whether they do plan to buy the company in the future.
It does make some sense to own your hardware provider and their patents, but it is not as advantageous as it once was. Many companies have found outsourcing their manufacturing to make more sense financially, preferring to buy out competitors to gain market share and patents instead. We will keep an eye out for any new developments but it does not seem likely that we will see a deal go through in the near future.
"From time to time, Apple talks with companies about potential acquisitions. We had some discussions with Imagination, but we do not plan to make an offer for the company at this time."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Andy Grove has passed on @ Intel
- TSMC likely to raise 2016 capex @ DigiTimes
- How To Test Solid State Drive Health with GNOME Disks @ Linux.com
- iOS 9.3 now available for iPhones and iPads with CarPlay and Night Shift updates @ The Inquirer
- iOS flaw exploited to decrypt iMessages, access iThing photos @ The Register
- Google slings critical patch at exploited Linux kernel root hole @ The Register
- Intel in 3D and virtual reality dash @ The Register
- OLEDs benefit from organic electron injection material @ Nanotechweb
- Smanos W020i WiFi Alarm System Review @ NikKTech
- 5 Wide and Tall Monitors with Hacked Bezels for Wall of Awesome @ Hack a Day
- Wine Makes It Possible To Run Vulkan Windows Programs On Linux @ Slashdot
- AIDA64 v5.70 released
Subject: Cases and Cooling | March 21, 2016 - 08:05 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: nzxt, Kraken X31, AIO
The NZXT Kraken X31 is smaller than its cousins, the radiator is a compact 120x30x155mm and uses a 120mm fan to move heat. NXZT seems to offer proprietary controller software, called Cam software, but once you read the difficulties [H]ard|OCP had obtaining and using the software you will see why they recommend sticking with SpeedFan. The performance is not quite as effective as most 140mm or 280mm coolers but on the other hand it operates at a significantly lower volume, 40.9dBA at most. If you are looking for a decent performing and quiet cooler then check out the full review.
"NZXT is also moving some of its AIO cooler strategy into the realm of making it smaller and more efficient. The Kraken X31 ticks that checkbox plus a few others, such as software control, variable pump speed, 16 inch tubing leads, and a six year warranty. (Place your own "Release the Kraken," joke here.)"
Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:
- Corsair Hydro Series H5 SF AIO CPU Cooler @ eTeknix
- CRYORIG C7 CPU Cooler Review: On the Topic of Clearance @ Modders-Inc
- Bitfenix Pandora ATX Case Review @ Hardware Canucks
- NZXT Manta Mini-ITX @ Benchmark Reviews
- Fractal Design Define Nano S Case @ Kiguru
- Antec Signature S10 Premium Tower Review @ NikKTech
Subject: General Tech | March 21, 2016 - 06:37 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: coolermaster, Masterkeys Pro L, Masterkeys Pro S, mechanical keyboard, input, Cherry MX, cherry mx rgb
The difference between Cooler Masters Masterkeys Pro L and Pro S lies in the numpad, the Pro L has it and the Pro S is, as they say, tenkeyless. Apart from that the boards are very similar, using your choice of Cherry MX RGB switches, Brown, Red, or Blues. You do not need software to program the lighting or macros, they can be adjusted with the use of the Function key in concert with one of the F1-F12 keys but Cooler Master does also offer software which allows you to adjust your lighting. The Tech Report liked these boards, finding them every bit as good as the major competition, with one notable exception; the prices of the MasterKeys are a bit lower which can make a big difference when you are purchasing a glowing, clicky keyboard.
"Cooler Master's MasterKeys Pro L and Pro S keyboards put Cherry MX RGB switches in no-nonsense chassis. They also expose most of their customization mojo through on-board shortcuts. We put our fingers to the keycaps to see how these boards perform."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro L Keyboard Review: Spectrum Ad Infinitum @ Modders-Inc
- Cooler Master 'Master Keys Pro S' Cherry MX RGB @ Kitguru
- Patriot Viper V760 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Review @ NikKTech
- Tesoro Excalibur V2 Illuminated Mechanical Gaming Keyboard @ eTeknix
- GIGABYTE XM300 GAMING MOUSE REVIEW: One Size Fits Many @ Modders-Inc
- QPAD DX-20 Pro Gaming Optical Mouse @ eTeknix
Subject: General Tech | March 21, 2016 - 05:23 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Raspberry Pi, kick ass
Not only is powering a Raspberry Pi with a steam engine incredibly impressive, its make a lot of sense to use during the winter in Sweden. A pair of propane blowtorches is used to heat the water to steam and the pressure created is used to turn a simple two cylinder engine which in turn is used to turn a simple DC electric motor which then powers the Pi. If the power goes out you might not be able to browse the internet on it, but this Pi will keep running as long as you have water and propane. You can follow the link from The Register for videos and notes, although they are in Swedish, hopefully Skype add that language to their instantaneous translation service soon.
"A Swedish schoolboy has built a miniature steam engine to power his Raspberry Pi. It is a piece of absolute engineering beauty."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- A Logic Named Joe: The 1946 sci-fi short that nailed modern tech @ The Register
- Anti-Hack: Free Automated SSL Certificates @ Hack a Day
- Updategate: Microsoft U-turns on Intel Skylake and leaves Lumia owners in the lurch @ The Inquirer
- Meet UbuntuBSD, UNIX For Human Beings @ Slashdot
- ACTIVEON CX Gold @ TechwareLabs
- Facebook, WhatsApp farewell BlackBerry @ The Register
- Critical Software Update for Kindle E-Readers @ [H]ard|OCP
- NETGEAR Nighthawk X4S R7800 AC2600 Wireless Router @ Missing Remoe
Subject: General Tech | March 20, 2016 - 04:53 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: blizzard, starcraft, Starcraft II
Blizzard is adding three new mini-campaigns to StarCraft II, with three missions each, to give more content for fans of single-player. The first one, StarCraft II: Nova Covert Ops, puts players in the shoes of Nova, who was created as the main character of the canceled third-person shooter, StarCraft: Ghost. Blizzard announced that this three-mission pack would be available on or before June 19th.
Before I end, I should probably mention the price. If you pre-purchase, the three packs (nine missions total) bundled together will cost $14.99 USD; that price will raise to $22.47 USD after launch. This is about $5 per DLC, which is reasonable. On the other hand, three-mission story arcs can be... light... for strategy titles. I'm not really the type to value art based on the time it takes up of my life. There is intrinsic value other than how big of a tiny fraction between birth and death this content fills, but that is a legitimate concern for some of our readers. It's likely a fine price, but it feels weird in the context of the free co-op maps, free Whispers of Oblivion, and relatively cheap expansion launch prices.
Whether you take it from the standpoint of cost-value or intrinsic art, though, it all depends on the missions. Three levels isn't a lot of time for an engaging story arc, and Whispers of Oblivion and Into the Void weren't exactly must-have life experiences. That said, I'm not going to underestimate what Blizzard can pull off. We'll see, and we'll see soon.
Unfortunately, you'll only find out after the 33%-off promotion.
Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2016 - 10:37 PM | Scott Michaud
Speaking of open-source animation software, the Blender Foundation has just released Blender 2.77. This is a relatively minor update, maintaining compatibility and structure with other 2.7x versions, but it has some interesting aspects to it. While there will probably be other 2.7-level updates before then, 2.8 is internally described as “the Workflow release,” which is also starting to be discussed by the foundation.
The headline feature is improved Cycles ray traced rendering, especially on GPUs. Both quality and performance get a bump, and a few particle effects are now GPU-aware. Personally, I am very interested to see how the “Edit-mode boolean tool” will work. I started 3D modeling with a NURBS-based CAD tool, and booleans were pretty much your first choice to get anything done. I then transitioned to Maya, which had the worst boolean tools I've ever seen, choosing to delete both objects if it couldn't figure out how they combine (and that was basically anything other than two plain primitives). It was liberating going to Blender, where I had a boolean tool that mostly worked, but it still causes a few glitches here and there. I'm hoping that, now that it's a default tool, it will continue to grow in robustness.
This is also the first release that (officially) ends Windows XP support. I mean, it's open source. Compile it for whatever platform you like. But you will not be able to upgrade to 2.77 with the official builds, and there's no telling how complicated back-porting will become going forward.
Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2016 - 08:36 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows, sony, remote play, ps4, game streaming
Sony will be opening up its Remote Play feature to include Windows and Mac PCs with the next system update, version 3.5. In its current form, Remote Play allows users to stream games from their PS4 to certain Sony devices including Xperia phones, Vita handhelds, and the PlayStation TV "microconsole". The new update will let users stream games from the game console to PCs over your home network.
PS4 System Update 3.5 is set to release later this month. While a beta is available, the beta build does not include the streaming feature. It does add support for live streaming to Dailymotion, updates to the social platform (e.g. planned parties), and an incognito mode that allows user to appear offline (how has it taken Sony this long to support that??).
Sony opening up the streaming is a welcome move as it puts it more in line with Microsoft's offering by not requiring specific hardware. Actually, it may be a bit better since users might be able to get away with using older Windows operating systems (Xbox One is limited to Windows 10) as well as streaming to their Macs. Further, Ars is reporting that Sony stopped shipping its PlayStation TV hardware in the US and Europe at the end of 2015. Thus, that may be one of the reasons Sony is moving away from streaming only to Sony hardware. I'm interested in trying out the Remote Play game streaming to see how it compares to the Xbox One to Windows 10 streaming which has worked pretty well so far for me in streaming Forza to my desktop!
Game streaming is proving to be popular and it is interesting to see both popular gaming consoles will soon allow you to stream games from the living room to your computers while at the same time Valve and others are pushing for solutions (e.g. Steam In-Home Streaming) to stream games from your PCs to the living room. Exciting times, especially if you're able to used wired network connections!
What do you think about Sony's plans for expanding Remote Play? Did you use the PS TV?
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 19, 2016 - 07:02 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: VR, vive, valve, htc, gdc 2016, GDC
A story posted over at UploadVR has some interesting information that came out of the final days of GDC last week. We know that Valve, HTC and Oculus have recommended users have a Radeon R9 290 or GTX 970 GPU or higher to run virtual reality content on both the Vive and the Rift, and that comes with a high cost for users that weren't already invested in PC gaming. Valve’s Alex Vlachos has other plans that might enable graphics cards from as far back as 2012 to work in Valve's VR ecosystem.
Valve wants to lower the requirements for VR
Obviously there are some trade offs to consider. The reason GPUs have such high requirements for the Rift and Vive is their need to run at 90 FPS / 90 Hz without dropping frames to create a smooth and effective immersion. Deviance from that means the potential for motion sickness and poor VR experiences in general.
From UploadVR's story:
“As long as the GPU can hit 45 HZ we want for people to be able to run VR,” Vlachos told UploadVR after the talk. “We’ve said the recommended spec is a 970, same as Oculus, but we do want lesser GPUs to work. We’re trying to reduce the cost [of VR].”
It's interesting that Valve would be talking about a 45 FPS target now, implying there would be some kind of frame doubling or frame interpolation to get back to the 90 FPS mark that the company believes is required for a good VR experience.
Image source: UploadVR
Vlachos also mentioned some other avenues that Valve could expand on to help improve performance. One of them is "adaptive quality", a feature we first saw discussed with the release of the Valve SteamVR Performance Test. This would allow the game to lower the image quality dynamically (texture detail, draw distance, etc.) based on hardware performance but might also include something called fixed foveated rendering. With FFR only the center of the image is rendered at maximum detail while the surrounding image runs at lower quality; the theory being that you are only focused on the center of the screen anyway and human vision blurs the periphery already. This is similar to NVIDIA's multi-res shading technology that is integrated into UE4 already, so I'm curious to see how this one might shape out.
Another quote from UploadVR:
“I can run Aperture [a graphically rich Valve-built VR experience] on a 680 without dropping frames at a lower quality, and, for me, that’s enough of a proof of concept,” Vlachos said.
I have always said that neither Valve nor Oculus are going to lock out older hardware, but that they wouldn't directly support it. That a Valve developer can run its performance test (with adaptive quality) on a GTX 680 is a good sign.
The Valve SteamVR Performance Test
But the point is also made by Vlachos that "most art we’re seeing in VR isn’t as dense" as other PC titles is a bit worrisome. We WANT VR games to improve to the same image quality and realism levels that we see in modern PC titles and not depend solely on artistic angles to get to the necessary performance levels for high quality virtual reality. Yes, the entry price today for PC-based VR is going to be steep, but I think "console-ifying" the platform will do a disservice in the long run.
Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2016 - 06:58 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: toonz, studio ghibli, opentoonz, dwango, digital video
This is a bit of a complicated situation to condense into a single headline. Digital Video is a research and software development studio out of Rome, who specializes in computer graphics (as their name suggests). One of their applications, Toonz, is the animation tool that Studio Ghibli used to create their video content. If you haven't heard of them, they created Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Ponyo, and the cutscenes for the Ni no Kuni video game franchise, among others. In fact, Princess Mononoke was the original use case for "Toonz Ghibli Edition" back in the mid 90s.
Today's news is that Digital Video will be open sourcing Toonz, including some or all of the enhancements made by Studio Ghibli, into a product called “OpenToonz”. This is because a Japanese media publisher, Dwango, purchased the rights to the software and wanted it to be a community project. Rather than selling the product directly, Digital Video will transition into installation, training, and support. They will also have their own version, called Toonz Premium, which they claim will be for companies to request specific customizations. It will be available for both OSX and Windows.
While a lot of studios are turning to 3D applications, like Maya and Blender, for their 2D art, and Blender is 100% open source, more is better. The software will be “presented” at Anime Japan (March 26 and 27) but they don't clarify whether that means released, demoed, on the show floor, or unveiled. Could be worth checking out for any animators in our audience.
Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2016 - 01:26 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: mozilla, servo, Rust
Mozilla, the open-source creators of Firefox and Thunderbird, have announced that their Servo project will reach public alpha in June. Nightly builds will be available, presumably around that time, for Linux, OSX, Windows, and Android. Servo is a browser engine that is built in Rust, which emphasizes security and high performance (especially in multi-threaded scenarios).
The technology is really interesting, although it is still quite early. Web browsers are massively single-threaded by design, which limits their potential performance as CPUs widen in core count but stagnate in per-thread performance. This is especially true in mobile, which is why Samsung has been collaborating on Servo for almost all of its life.
Rust, being so strict about memory access, also has the advantage of security and memory management. It is designed in such a way that it's easier for the compiler to know, at compile time, whether you will be trying to access data that is no longer available. The trade-off is that it's harder to program, because if your code isn't robust enough, the compiler just won't accept it. This is beneficial for web browsers, though, because basically everything they access is untrusted, third-party data. It's better to fight your compiler than to fight people trying to exploit your users.
Again, it's still a way off, though. It might be good for web developers to keep an eye on, though, in case any of their optimizations implement standards either correctly, but differently from other browsers and highlights a bug in your website, or incorrectly, which exposes a bug in Servo. Making a web browser is immensely difficult.