The Vives are coming

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2016 - 02:18 PM |
Tagged: htc, vive, VR

As of today if you order an HTC Vive VR Headset you should receive it mere days after you place your order, no longer is it a preorder process where you would need to wait an indeterminate amount of time.  The package will cost you  $799US or $1,149CAN so it is not quite an impulse buy but it certainly is very tempting.  You can order online or drop by a Microsoft Store, Gamestop or Micro Center if such things exist in your neighbourhood.  Al took a look at some of the technology in the Vive in this article, which is interesting to look at even if you can't quite afford one yet.

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"HTC ViveTM can now be purchased through www.vive.com in 24 countries, shipping within 2-3 business days of purchase. In addition to online availability from HTC, individuals can now buy the revolutionary Vive virtual reality system in select Microsoft Stores, GameStop and Micro Center locations. Pre-orders placed through these retailers will be fulfilled beginning this week."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: HTC

Intel Launches Xeon E7 v4 Processors

Subject: Processors | June 7, 2016 - 09:39 AM |
Tagged: xeon e7 v4, xeon e7, xeon, Intel, broadwell-ex, Broadwell

Yesterday, Intel launched eleven SKUs of Xeon processors that are based on Broadwell-EX. While I don't follow this product segment too closely, it's a bit surprising that Intel launched them so close to consumer-level Broadwell-E. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, though.

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These processors scale from four cores up to twenty-four of them, with HyperThreading. They are also available in cache sizes from 20MB up to 60MB. With Intel's Xeon naming scheme, the leading number immediately after the E7 in the product name denotes the number of CPUs that can be installed in a multi-socket system. The E7-8XXX line can be run in an eight-socket motherboard, while the E7-4XXX models are limited to four sockets per system. TDPs range between 115W and 165W, which is pretty high, but to be expected for a giant chip that runs at a fairly high frequency.

Intel Xeon E7 v4 launched on June 6th with listed prices between $1223 to $7174 per CPU.

Source: Intel

iBuypower Demos Project Snowblind

Subject: Cases and Cooling | June 7, 2016 - 08:30 AM |
Tagged: project snowblind, ibuypower

So... how an LCD works is quite interesting. They do not produce light, but rather, they block it. On televisions and monitors, they are put in front of colored filters that, themselves, are in front of a white (give-or-take) light source. When they are fully open, you see the subpixel's value of red, green, or blue. When they are fully closed, you see as black as the panel is capable of producing.

This brings us to Project Snowblind, which iBuypower demoed at Computex 2016. Again, we didn't have a physical presence there (Ryan was about 500 miles away in Macau at the time) but other sites did, so we're embedding PCGamer's video below. Basically, they put an LCD panel -- just the shutter part -- on the case's side window. This allows them to output a mask over the view into your components, even with animation. They apparently even successfully made it tint the light as it passes through somehow.

Video Credit: PCGamer

The technology currently dedicates an HDMI port to itself, which could be a scarce resource for multi-monitor users with a single graphics card, but a USB version is expected at some point. It's purely aesthetic, but I could see it having a practical, aesthetic purpose: dimming. I'm not sure if iBuypower will officially support this, but I could see users outputting black, or even just a really deep shade of grey, onto their case windows if they want to, say, darken the room to view a movie.

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Currently no word on pricing, availability, or the like.

Source: PCGamer

AMD Release 16.6.1 Crimson Edition for Mirror's Edge: Catalyst

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 7, 2016 - 08:02 AM |
Tagged: graphics drivers, amd

Over the last few months, AMD has been fighting their reputation for being slow and unreliable with driver updates. Ryan wrote a piece about it after AMD discussed the issue with him. He noted that, while the increase is noticeable and great, it takes time and consistency to trust that a company will provide their products with a certain level of support.

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Since then, AMD has released two drivers in April, three in May, and now, already, one in June. Each of these provide enhancements for individual games, right in line with their release dates, as well as fix several issues along the way. Crimson Edition 16.6.1 aligns with Mirror's Edge: Catalyst, which makes this post surprisingly difficult to type. It also includes enhancements for Paragon and a Crossfire profile for Dark Souls III. If users were experiencing flickering and corruption with videos in a web browser, AMD claims that was also fixed in this version.

Of course, users are not required to install every version, but it's available for those who want it.

Source: AMD

Even Mods Have Pre-E3 Trailers -- Skywind

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2016 - 07:15 AM |
Tagged: skyrim, morrowind, elder scrolls, bethesda

TESRenewal Project is basically about taking earlier Elder Scrolls titles and bringing them to newer engines. Three mods are under the control at the moment: Skywind, which puts Morrowind into Skyrim; Skyblivion, which puts Oblivion into Skyrim; and Morroblivion, which puts Morrowind into Oblivion. Morroblivion is already out in the wild, with the latest release dating back to November, 2014, but the other two are being worked on behind closed doors.

They have now released a small update teaser video (above) -- less than two minutes long -- that shows off various environments (and the assets in them). Obviously, at this point, Skyrim is fairly old. It was released almost five years ago, and it still runs on DirectX 9. It is still very popular though, and what we can see from the trailer looks at least as good as Bethesda's default content.

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Skywind will be a non-commercial mod, although it will require both Skyrim, Morrowind, and their expansions (except Hearthfire) to play -- even though it doesn't use any Morrowind assets. This may or may not be a Bethesda requirement; they tend to be quite restrictive with their copyrights and trademarks. (The Mod Workshop payment issue, the Scrolls trademark issue, and the Fallout-posters fan site trademark issue all jump to mind.)

Either way, it will be free if you own both titles, and it looks like an interesting total conversion.

Motherboard by Colorful Includes GTX 1070 Graphics

Subject: Graphics Cards, Motherboards | June 6, 2016 - 05:14 PM |
Tagged: pascal, nvidia, motherboard, gtx 1070, GP104, colorful

So here's an interesting bit of news from Colorful, via Videocardz and LG Nilsson. Remember when on-board graphics was a pejorative? Since the GPUs that are attached to many CPUs tend to sufficiently cover everything below a discrete graphics add-in board, there is not a whole lot of mind-share for discrete, on-board GPUs. You get the occasional desktop-style device with a mobile add-in module, but that's about it.

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Image Credit: LG Nilsson (via Videocardz)

In this case, it looks like Colorful, the Chinese PC hardware manufacturer, integrated the required components from a GTX 1070 directly onto a motherboard's PCB. We've heard rumors that GP104 would be available in mobile form-factors in a few months, so it's possible that this draws from some laptop initiatives, but it's interesting to see others consider it too. As Videocardz pointed out, this is not an ATX-standard board, so it's possible that Colorful is planning on getting into (or supporting someone getting into) small form factor desktops or is building hardware for all-in-one PCs.

So what's next? A vendor like ASUS making a VRWorks Audio sound card with integrated Pascal?

Source: VideoCardz

Silverstone's TD02-E, decent all round and easy on the pocket

Subject: Cases and Cooling | June 6, 2016 - 04:01 PM |
Tagged: water cooling, Tundra Series, TD02-E, Silverstone, cpu cooler, All-in-One cooler

A few years back you may remember that  Morry did a review of the SilverStone Tundra Series TD02 AiO watercooler.  More recently, Modders Inc reviewed the newer model the TD02-E, part of their high performance line.  The waterblock is compatible most modern processors but you will need a decent sized case to accommodate the radiator as it measures 278x124x27mm with two 120mm fans. The cooler performed admirably, especially for its ~$90 price tag and did so at reasonable noise levels, going full out at 2500RPM it measured  50.2 dBA, or 38dBA at a more modest 1400RPM.

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"Silverstone Technologies has made quite a career making cooling solutions for the PC DIY market. Their solutions are also quite often a unique alternative with out-of-the-box oriented ideas and far from having a "me too" design philosophy. With the all-in-one liquid cooling solution's popularity, Silverstone also has thrown their hat in the ring with alternatives from the typical Asetek OEM"

Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:

CASES & COOLING

Source: Modders Inc

Yooka-Laylee Trailer for E3 2016 Released

Subject: General Tech | June 6, 2016 - 03:46 PM |
Tagged: windows, pc gaming, osx, linux

The next week-and-a-half should be good for video game enthusiasts. E3 2016 starts on June 14th, although EA, Bethesda, Microsoft, Ubisoft, Sony, and AMD (with PCGamer) have press conferences throughout the 12th and the 13th. Of course, not to get lost in the traffic, many entities are releasing their announcements prior to those conferences. For instance, Watch Dogs 2 will have a reveal on this Wednesday, June 8th, five days prior to Ubisoft's press conference.

This post is about a Kickstarter project called Yooka-Laylee, though. This title is being created by Playtonic Games, which contains several past employees of Rare, apparently to create a proper Banjo-Kazooie-style platform title. It raised over two million British Pounds (~3 million USD) and targeted an October 2016 release date. That has since slipped to Q1 2017, but that should be expected for a crowdfunding project, especially when the stretch goals start piling up. It is scheduled to be released on Windows, Mac, and Linux... and a few other boxes.

Of course, they couldn't resist making a Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts joke at the end...

... I chuckled.

FSP's new Hydro X series; technically the less expensive model?

Subject: Cases and Cooling | June 6, 2016 - 02:55 PM |
Tagged: fsp, PSU, Hydro X, 650W, 80 Plus Gold

With all the hoopla and brouhaha caused by Computex last week some smaller launches were missed, such as the FSP Hydro X 650W PSU.  This particular PSU is non-modular but does carry a five year warranty, an 80 Plus Gold rating and a single 12V rail capable of providing 649.92W @ 54.16A.  [H]ard|OCP's testing showed it to be a solid PSU, providing stable power and meeting with the claimed standards.  Unfortunately there is currently a bit of an issue, though FSP is working to resolve it.  This PSU sells for $95 but the previous fully modular model can be picked up for $85 or less, even though the MSRP is technically higher.  [H] reached out to FSP about this issue and you can see how they plan to resolve the issue in the full review.

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"FSP does not have much to say about its Hydro X in terms of marketing speak, but it does hit the high points that enthusiast system builders are looking for: "Silent operation, High efficiency ≧ 90%, Full Japan-made electrolytic capacitors, Powerful single +12V rail design, Ribbon cables, and Complete protection: OCP, OVP, SCP, OPP, OTP."

Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:

CASES & COOLING

Source: [H]ard|OCP

What did we just tell you about bloatware?! Now ASUS Live Update is the risk of the day

Subject: General Tech | June 6, 2016 - 02:26 PM |
Tagged: asus, bloatware, security

After last week when several laptop OEMs, including Lenovo once again, were caught installing highly insecure bloatware on their laptop you might hope that this week would be different.  Sadly you would be mistaken as once again software preinstalled on laptops is in the news.  In this case it is ASUS Live Update which transmits requests for updates in plain text and does not check any software updates which come back for authenticity.  This of course leaves you wide open for man in the middle attacks, where someone posing as those update servers could feed you whatever installation files they desired.  As the pull quote from The Inquirer below states, removing it immediately would be a very good idea.

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"My advice to anyone who purchased an Asus device: remove LiveUpdate. It's really that simple. If you're an IT administrator, find devices making periodic calls to Asus's domains and blackhole them, get the user to come and see you,"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

SilverStone Announces SX800-LTI 800W Titanium SFX-L Power Supply

Subject: Cases and Cooling | June 6, 2016 - 08:03 AM |
Tagged: SX800-LTI, small form-factor, Silverstone, SFX-L, SFX, SFF, PSU, power supply, computex 2016, computex, 80 Plus Titanium

SilverStone introduced a 700W SFX-L power supply at CES in January, and with that SX700-LPT PSU now officially released the company has raised the bar again as no less than 800W is coming to the SFX-L form-factor.

SX800LTI_0.jpg

Image credit: TechPowerUp

SilverStone's SX800-LTI not only offers a massive 800W, but does so with an 80 PLUS Titanium certification (!). The power supply pushes this massive wattage along a single +12V rail, and the SX800-LTI features a fully-modular design for a clean build. An added benefit to the SFX-L form-factor, other than the potential for these powerful designs, is the use of a 120 mm fan, which allows for much quieter operation under load compared to the smaller SFX variant.

SX800LTI_1.jpg

Image credit: TechPowerUp

We are now approaching full ATX power with these SFX-L PSUs, and indeed the 800-850W range should be all most users would need for even a dual-GPU system (especially as we enter the era of 14-16nm GPUs with their lower power requirements).

No word yet on price or availability.

Source: TechPowerUp

Linux Gaming Is Growing on Us?

Subject: General Tech | June 6, 2016 - 07:46 AM |
Tagged: steam, pc gaming, linux

According to Phoronix, gaming on Linux has experienced exponential growth in recent times. Over the course of the last two years, Steam's catalog on the platform expanded from 500 games up to over 2200. This is a little over a 4.4x increase over two years. If I'm doing my high-school math correctly, and I seriously hope I am, this corresponds to an average increase of just under 2.1x year-over-year.

In other words, this is litearlly the trend, minus half-life. Snicker snicker snicker.

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The quantity of Linux's games catalog is a very different argument from its quality, of course. Still, you can find many interesting titles there. Valve has been porting their catalog to the OS, as have other, high-end titles, like Tomb Raider, Trine, Civilization V, Civilization: Beyond Earth, XCOM, and a couple Borderlands versions. If interested in specifics, and you enjoy a sense of humor like you would see on our PC Perspective Podcast, check out LinuxGameCast for their reviews of specific titles.

Source: Phoronix

HSA 1.1 Released

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors, Mobile | June 6, 2016 - 07:11 AM |
Tagged: hsa 1.1, hsa

The HSA Foundation released version 1.1 of their specification, which focuses on “multi-vendor” compatibility. In this case, multi-vendor doesn't refer to companies that refused to join the HSA Foundation, namely Intel and NVIDIA, but rather multiple types of vendors. Rather than aligning with AMD's focus on CPU-GPU interactions, HSA 1.1 includes digital signal processors (DSPs), field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), and other accelerators. I can see this being useful in several places, especially on mobile, where cameras, sound processors, and CPU cores, and a GPU regularly share video buffers.

HSA Foundation_Logo.png

That said, the specification also mentions “more efficient interoperation with non-HSA compliant devices”. I'm not quite sure what that specifically refers to, but it could be important to keep an eye on for future details -- whether it is relevant for Intel and NVIDIA hardware (and so forth).

Charlie, down at SemiAccurate, notes that HSA 1.1 will run on all HSA 1.0-compliant hardware. This makes sense, but I can't see where this is explicitly mentioned in their press release. I'm guessing that Charlie was given some time on a conference call (or face-to-face) regarding this, but it's also possible that he may be mistaken. It's also possible that it is explicitly mentioned in the HSA Foundation's press blast and I just fail at reading comprehension.

If so, I'm sure that our comments will highlight my error.

Computex 2016: Corsair Announces Neutron XTI SSDs

Subject: Storage | June 6, 2016 - 03:40 AM |
Tagged: ssd, corsair, neutron, neutron xti, Neutron XT

Corsair announced a new line of SSDs at Computex. We didn't have boots on the ground there this year, and it's not yet on Corsair's website, so we needed to go with Tom's coverage of the product. The Corsair Neutron XTI uses Toshiba's 15nm MLC flash and the Phison S10 controller “with expanded cache”. This added cache addresses some “performance consistency” issues that Corsair identified, but they didn't seem to elaborate on what that is. It is rated at up to 100,000 IOPS Read and 90,000 IOPS Write, but that obviously needs to be tested to specify when, how, and how often.

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Image Credit: Tom's Hardware

Speaking of tested Corsair Neutron SSDs, Allyn reviewed the previous model, the Corsair Neutron XT, all the way back in November, 2014. He was impressed with the drive at the time, although, while it was super fast at low queue depths of about ~1-4 items, it slowed down above that. Since that time, he has been developing some interesting testing methods to figure out whether slowdowns could be related to individual hitches that would be lost in benchmarks that aggregate results and implicitly average them out. He didn't have those methods back then, though, so it's unclear whether the queue depth issue was a symptom of a latency problem, and whether the “expanded cache” will help that.

We'll see when it's launched. It will be available in 240, 480, and 960 GB varieties.

A Potentially More Harmful Coil Whine Issue

Subject: General Tech | June 5, 2016 - 02:18 PM |
Tagged: security, Cyber Security, coil whine

As new hardware launches, many readers ask whether they produce any noticeable form of coil whine. For instance, this is an issue for graphics cards that are outputting a very high frame rate. The electronics create sound from the current oscillating as it flows through them. It can also be an issue for motherboards or power supplies as well. You can check out this fairly old video from LinusTechTips for a demonstration.

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Image Credit: ACM

It turns out that, because this whine is related to the signal flowing through the oscillating circuit, security researchers are looking into the types of information that can be inferred from the whine. In particular, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) published a paper called Physical Key Extraction Attacks on PCs. It discusses several methods of attacking a device, such as reading minor fluctuations in its grounding plug or monitoring induced radiation with an antenna. Its headlining method is “Acoustic” though, which listens to coil whine sound produced by the computer, as it decrypts RSA messages that are sent to it, to gather the RSA secret key from it.

While they have successfully demonstrated the attack using a parabolic microphone at 33ft away, and a second demonstration using a mobile phone at 1ft away, the news should be taken with a grain of salt. Mostly, it's just interesting to realize that there's nothing really special about a computer. All it does is stores and processes data on whatever physical state we have available in the world. Currently, that's almost always radio-frequency radiation flowing through semiconductors. Whatever we use will have consequences. For instance, as transistors get smaller, to push more complex signals through a given surface area and power, we'll eventually run out of atoms.

This is just another, often forgotten side-effect: electric signals induce the transfer of energy. It could be electromagnetic, acoustic, or even thermal. In the realm of security, this could, itself, carry some of the data that we attached to our world's state, and allow others to access it (or sometimes modify it) without our knowledge or consent.

DigitalFoundry Records The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine at 4K

Subject: General Tech | June 5, 2016 - 03:44 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, The Witcher 3

The Witcher 3 is one of the best looking games available, and its final DLC, Blood and Wine, intended to raise that graphical bar slightly. Near the base game's initial launch, in early 2015, there was a bit of a controversy surrounding the image quality and how it sort-of rolled back. Righting this issue was apparently one of the design goals for this final DLC, leaving users with fonder memories of the title before CD Projekt Red moves onto newer projects. Granted, the memories weren't all that bad to begin with, but it was nice to address regardless.

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As you can see, this environment is bright, vibrant, and heavily saturated with color. The medieval city is alive with colored cobblestone, flowers, banners, and buildings all under a bright, blue sky. There was quite a bit of texture pop-in that I saw, even at 1080p, but it wasn't too distracting. This, again, is supposed to be the last time that CD Projekt adds substantial content to The Witcher franchise for the foreseeable future, but I hope that the mod community will keep the title alive.

Computex 2016: Gigabyte Grants Sneak Peek at GPU Dock

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | June 5, 2016 - 02:02 AM |
Tagged: gigabyte, external gpu

External GPUs can be a good idea. If it is affordable, easy, and not too big, users can augment their laptop CPU, which is probably good enough to at least run most tasks, with a high-end GPU. While GPUs are more efficient that CPUs, the tasks that they are expected to do are so much larger that a decent graphics chip is difficult to cram into laptop form factor... for the most part.

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Image Credit: Tom's Hardware

Preamble aside, it's been tried and dropped numerous times over the last decade, but the last generation seems to be getting a little traction. Razer added the feature to their relatively popular Blade line of laptops, and AMD, who was one of the companies to try it several years ago, is pushing it now with their XConnect technology. Even Microsoft sort-of does this with their Surface Book, and it's been a small source of problems for them.

Now Gigabyte, at Computex, announced that they are investigating prototypes. According to Tom's Hardware, their current attempt stands upright, which is likely to take up less desk space. Looking at it, I could see it hiding in the space between my monitors and the corner of the room (because my desk slides into the corner). Of course, in my case, I have a desktop PC, so I'm not the target demographic, but who knows? It's possible that a laptop user might have a similar setup to me. It's still pretty big, though.

Currently, Gigabyte limits the power supply to 250W, which drops GPU support to under 175W TDP. In other words? Too small for a GeForce GTX 1080. The company did tell Tom's Hardware that they are considering upping that to 350W, which would allow 260W of load, which allows all 1x PCIe 8-pin graphics cards, and thus many (but not all) GTX 1080s.

No pricing or availability yet, of course. It's just a prototype.

Antec Makes Large Coolers. No-one Tell Morry.

Subject: Cases and Cooling | June 4, 2016 - 11:32 PM |
Tagged: fanless, cpu cooler, antec

The folks down at FanlessTech found a giant heatsink that Antec showed off at Computex. It consists of three large stacks of aluminum, weighing about 3lbs, with potentially four fans moving air slowly across it. The original post doesn't mention whether it could be used in a fanless mode, but come on. It should be able to cool something without a fan directly attached to it.

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Image Credit: GDM.or.jp

They don't seem to have price, availability, or even a model number yet, so details are scarce. It will have at least three colors, black, gold, and red, though, so you have a choice about how it will look in your case. Well, at least mostly in your case.

Update (June 5th @ 2:20pm): Turns out that I forgot to add the dimensions and specifications of this cooler. Its total size is 165mm x 142mm x 159mm. Its intended fans spin at 800-1800 RPM. At 800 RPM, they push 12.36 cubic feet per minute of air at 17.5 dBA. At 1800 RPM, they push 65.23 cubic feet per minute of air 25.9 dBA.

Adobe XD Will Apparently Be a UWP Application

Subject: General Tech | June 4, 2016 - 10:55 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, uwp, Adobe

So a company, who refuses to port its applications to Linux, is experimenting with UWP for future products. Adobe's Experience Design (XD) CC is going to arrive on Windows later this year, and a representative from Adobe claimed on Twitter that it will use Microsoft's UWP platform. Granted, we're not talking about something like Photoshop or After Effects, but rather a UX mock-up tool, sort-of along the lines of Pencil Project.

It's unclear whether UWP will be a choice.

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The logo looks like it's laughing at us with its tongue out.

I still find UWP a concern as Microsoft, while responding to some feedback, still has some key restrictions in play that limit free sharing. Until it becomes technically (or legally) unfeasible for Microsoft to lock down the platform, there will always be the concern that they could, for instance, revoke people's ability to develop software or remove (or prevent installation) of existing software. Even if they don't want to do it themselves, someone with authority over them may just compel it, such as a government who is against encryption.

If you build it, someone will abuse it. The only thing preventing Microsoft from realizing their Windows RT vision, if they still choose to, is the popularity of Win32 applications and how incompatible they are with that framework. We, as a society, want them to remain popular enough that Microsoft cannot afford to abandon it. They want to. They hate the stigma that Windows is where viruses are. That's reasonable, but they're not just throwing out the bathwater.

As an aside: they also want a platform that is less reliant upon x86, and could be recompiled for other hardware if Intel doesn't go where Microsoft wants to be. This is kind-of ironic if you think about it.

Source: WinBeta

LWJGL 3.0.0 Released

Subject: General Tech | June 4, 2016 - 09:29 PM |
Tagged: Java, lwjgl, vulkan

Don't be confused by the date on the LWJGL post -- its release date was June 3rd, as mentioned later in the thread, not February 27th. It looks like they disabled edit timestamps. Regardless, Lightweight Java Game Library (LWJGL) 3.0.0 was just released, which is a library that binds Java code to APIs that are, normally, not directly accessible through that platform.

To be clear: LWJGL is not a library like, say, Qt, which simplifies common tasks into classes. Its goal is to connect you to whatever API you need, and otherwise leave you alone. Unless you're the type who wants full control over everything, or you're actually making a framework yourself, you will want to use existing frameworks, engines, and/or middleware for your projects. The advantage, of course, is that these frameworks, engines, and middleware now have access to newer APIs, and can justify deprecating old features.

java-logo.png

This release adds Vulkan support, which will provide a high-performance (and high-efficiency) base to abstract many other graphics and GPU compute tasks on. DirectX 12 and Vulkan are still being worked on, as an industry, but its mechanism is theoretically better, especially with multiple threads (and multiple graphics devices). They basically add a graphics layer to a GPU compute-style API, basing everything on lists of commands that start and end wherever the host code desires.

While Java has been taking a massive hit in public opinion lately, it is still a good platform for some applications. Gaming seems to having a resurgence of native APIs, especially with “AAA” engines becoming available to the general public, but more frameworks isn't a bad thing.

Source: LWJGL