Intel AVX-512 Expanded

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | July 19, 2014 - 03:05 AM |
Tagged: Xeon Phi, xeon, Intel, avx-512, avx

It is difficult to know what is actually new information in this Intel blog post, but it is interesting none-the-less. Its topic is the AVX-512 extension to x86, designed for Xeon and Xeon Phi processors and co-processors. Basically, last year, Intel announced "Foundation", the minimum support level for AVX-512, as well as Conflict Detection, Exponential and Reciprocal, and Prefetch, which are optional. This, earlier blog post was very much focused on Xeon Phi, but it acknowledged that the instructions will make their way to standard, CPU-like Xeons at around the same time.

Intel_Xeon_Phi_Family.jpg

This year's blog post brings in a bit more information, especially for common Xeons. While all AVX-512-supporting processors (and co-processors) will support "AVX-512 Foundation", the instruction set extensions are a bit more scattered.

 
Xeon
Processors
Xeon Phi
Processors
Xeon Phi
Coprocessors (AIBs)
Foundation Instructions Yes Yes Yes
Conflict Detection Instructions Yes Yes Yes
Exponential and Reciprocal Instructions No Yes Yes
Prefetch Instructions No Yes Yes
Byte and Word Instructions Yes No No
Doubleword and Quadword Instructions Yes No No
Vector Length Extensions Yes No No

Source: Intel AVX-512 Blog Post (and my understanding thereof).

So why do we care? Simply put: speed. Vectorization, the purpose of AVX-512, has similar benefits to multiple cores. It is not as flexible as having multiple, unique, independent cores, but it is easier to implement (and works just fine with having multiple cores, too). For an example: imagine that you have to multiply two colors together. The direct way to do it is multiply red with red, green with green, blue with blue, and alpha with alpha. AMD's 3DNow! and, later, Intel's SSE included instructions to multiply two, four-component vectors together. This reduces four similar instructions into a single operating between wider registers.

Smart compilers (and programmers, although that is becoming less common as compilers are pretty good, especially when they are not fighting developers) are able to pack seemingly unrelated data together, too, if they undergo similar instructions. AVX-512 allows for sixteen 32-bit pieces of data to be worked on at the same time. If your pixel only has four, single-precision RGBA data values, but you are looping through 2 million pixels, do four pixels at a time (16 components).

For the record, I basically just described "SIMD" (single instruction, multiple data) as a whole.

This theory is part of how GPUs became so powerful at certain tasks. They are capable of pushing a lot of data because they can exploit similarities. If your task is full of similar problems, they can just churn through tonnes of data. CPUs have been doing these tricks, too, just without compromising what they do well.

Source: Intel

AMD Posts Financial Results for Q2 2014

Subject: General Tech | July 17, 2014 - 11:37 PM |
Tagged: quarterly earnings, GCN, financial results, APU, amd

Today, AMD posted financial results for its second quarter of 2014. The company posted quarterly revenue of $1.44 billion, operating income of $63 million, and ultimately a net loss of $36 million (or $0.05 loss per share). The results are an improvement over both the previous quarter and a marked improvement over the same quarter last year. 

The chart below compares the second quarter results to the previous quarter (Q1'14) and the same quarter last year (Q2'13). AMD saw increased revenue and operating income, but a higher net loss versus last quarter. Unfortunately, AMD is still saddled with a great deal of debt, which actually increased from 2.14 billion in Q1 2014 to $2.21 billion at the end of the second quarter. 

  QoQ   YoY  
  Q2 2014 Q1 2014 Q2 2014 Q2 2013
Revenue $1.44 Billion $1.40 Billion $1.44 Billion $1.16 Billion
Operating Income $63 Million $49 Million $63 Million ($29 Million)
Net Profit/(Loss) ($36 Million) ($20 Million) ($36 Million) ($74 Million)

The Computing Solutions division saw increased revenue of 1% over last quarter, but revenue fell 20% year over year due to fewer chips being sold.

On the bright side, the Graphics and Visual Solutions group saw quarterly revenue increase by 5% over last quarter and 141% YoY. The massive YoY increase is due, in part, to AMD's Semi-Custom Business unit and the SoCs that have come out of there (including the chips used in the latest gaming consoles).

Further, the company is currently sourcing 50% of its wafers from Global Foundries.

“Our transformation strategy is on track and we expect to deliver full year non-GAAP profitability and year-over-year revenue growth.  We continue to strengthen our business model and shape AMD into a more agile company offering differentiated solutions for a diverse set of markets.”

-AMD CEO Rory Reed

AMD expects to see third quarter revenue increase by 2% (plus or minus 3%). Following next quarter, AMD will begin production of its Seattle ARM processors. Perhaps even more interesting will be 2016 when AMD is slated to introduce new x86 and GCN processors on a 20nm process. 

The company is working towards being more efficient and profitable, and the end-of-year results will be interesting to see.

Also read: AMD Restructures. Lisa Su Is Now COO @ PC Perspective

Source: AMD

Epic Games Donates $13,500 to Blender Development Fund

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

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

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

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

Hopefully, Blender can become a first-class citizen.

Apple and IBM; together again

Subject: General Tech | July 17, 2014 - 03:52 PM |
Tagged: zip drive, powerpc, IBM, apple

Ah, sweet nostalgia.  It seems like only a short while ago that Apple was saved by IBM, and Motorola, granting access to the PowerPC chips which were near the top of the field back in 1991.  The Motorola 68K was falling behind the Pentium MMX chips in PCs and Apple needed some way to compete in the market and the 200-MHz 603e PowerPC was the answer.  Now history is repeating itself with a partnership between IBM and Apple to bring iPhone apps to the enterprise, with apps specifically for enterprise environments as well as updates to existing apps to make them more enterprise friendly.  Read up on your history, or refresh your memories of times gone by as well as what this partnership will bring in the future on Slashdot.

v3400chero.jpg

"Apple and IBM, which just announced partnership to bring iOS and cloud services to enterprises, have helped each other before. IBM played a key role in turning the Macintosh into a successful hardware platform at a point when it — and the company itself — were struggling. Nearly 25 years ago, IBM was a part of an alliance that gave Apple access to PowerPC chips for Macintosh systems that were competitive, if not better performing in some benchmarks, than the processors Intel was producing at the time for Windows PCs."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: Slashdot

Podcast #309 - Live from Quakecon 2014!

Subject: General Tech | July 17, 2014 - 12:54 PM |
Tagged: Z97-WS, video, quakecon 2014, quakecon, podcast, flash voyager gtx, corsair, asus, 760T

PC Perspective Podcast #309 - 07/17/2014

Join us live from Quakecon 2014 as we talk about the ASUS Z97-WS, Corsair Flasy Voyager GTX 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, Allyn Malventano, and Morry Tietelman

Program length: 0:50:48

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

Have $200, looking for 1080p

Subject: General Tech | July 16, 2014 - 07:24 PM |
Tagged: amd, nividia, budget, 1080p, r7 265, gtx 750 ti, r7 260x

[H]ard|OCP's testing was performed using an i7-3770K but for those looking at the G3258 or other lower priced processors their results will still hold true.  As of this posting all three of these cards are within $15 of the $150 mark so even including taxes and shipping you can get your hands on one for less than $200.  If you have a 1080p monitor and want the best bang for your buck, which card is the best choice?  The results were not absolutely clear cut and your experience may vary depending on the overclock you can achieve but in the end one card stood out, see which one in their full review.

14052724203xFTLu2VZl_1_6_l.jpg

"Today we continue our quest at finding the best value for 1080p gaming at less than $200. We are looking at two video cards from ASUS, the R7 265 DirectCU II and the GTX 750 Ti DirectCU II OC. We will compare across a variety of 1080p gaming, and draw our conclusion on the best value between the R7 260X, R7 265, and GTX 750 Ti."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP

More testing of Mantle's mettle

Subject: General Tech | July 16, 2014 - 04:16 PM |
Tagged: gaming, Mantle, battlefield 4, BF4

Mantle is currently supported by the Nitrous, Frostbite 3 and CRYENGINE engines, and the current official list of released or soon to be released games that support the new API has reached eight AAA titles.  eTeknix lined up three of these games to test, Battlefield 4, Thief and PvZ Garden Warfare to test on an R9 290X paired with both a AMD FX-8350 and an FX-4100.   For BF4 with the Ultra preset, no V-Sync @ 1920 x 1080 both systems saw a noticeable jump in performance and Thief even more so for the FX8350 system.  Check out the full results in their review.

Don't forget to enable your team up with the Fragging Frogs while playing BF4, there is still a screenshot contest going on.

amd_mantle_featured_1.jpg

"The biggest claim to fame of this new low-overhead API is its use in EA’s Battlefield 4 blockbuster and the support it has from EA’s famous FrostBite 3 Engine. However, what is all the fuss about? How does Mantle actually perform in practice? Why should you even care about it? These are questions we are hoping to address today."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Source: eTeknix

An interesting day to be a mobile Windows 8 user

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | July 16, 2014 - 01:30 PM |
Tagged: win8 mobile, win 8.1, nokia, lumia, skype, microsoft, cyan

If you own a Nokia Lumia phone which runs Win 8.1 then there is an update with quite a few interesting features available. US customers will see a Cortana update while all users will gain the ability to search their phone with Bing, an IE11 update, encrypted S/MIME and improved VPN support.  There are quite a few app updates and users of the 1520 and Icon get Nokia Rich Recording and Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 which improves both audio and video options.  Check out Cyan at The Register but don't stop there because according to The Inquirer you will no longer need to be a Premium Skype member to make group calls from your mobile device as it is now a free feature for all.

nokia_lumia_1520_sg_311-820x420.jpg

"Nokia is rolling out Windows Phone 8.1 as an over-the-air update that comes bundled with "Cyan," a special feature package that's exclusive to Lumia devices."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Google Play Store Could Be Redesigned (Maybe Even Soon)

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | July 16, 2014 - 04:11 AM |
Tagged: google, google play, Android, android l

If you have looked at Google's recent design ideologies, first announced at Google I/O 2014, you will see them revolve around skeuomorphism in its most basic sense. By that, I do not mean that they want to make it look like a folder, a metal slab, or a radio button. Their concept is that objects should look like physical objects which behave with physical accuracy, even though they are just simulations of light.

Android-AndroidPolice-nexusae0_wm_11.png

Image Credit: Android Police (and their source)

Basically, rather than having a panel with a toolbar, buttons, and columns, have a background with a page on it. Interface elements which are affected by that panel are on it, while more global actions are off of it. According to Android Police, who make clear that they do not have leaked builds and readers should not believe anything until/unless it ships, the Google Play Store will be redesigned with this consistent, albeit broad, design metric.

Basically, if you are navigation bar, pack your desk and get out.

If true, when will these land? Anyone's guess. One speculation is that it will be timed with the release of Android "L" in Autumn. Their expectation, however, is that it will be one of many updates Google will make across their products in a rolling pattern. Either way, I think it looks good... albeit similar to many modern websites.

Intel Earnings Report (Q2 2014)

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | July 16, 2014 - 03:37 AM |
Tagged: quarterly results, quarterly earnings, quarterly, Intel, earnings

Another fiscal quarter brings another Intel earnings report. Once again, they are doing well for themselves as a whole but are struggling to gain a foothold in mobile. In three months, they sold 8.7 billion dollars in PC hardware, of which 3.7 billion was profit. Its mobile division, on the other hand, brought in 51 million USD in revenue, losing 1.1 billion dollars for their efforts. In all, the company is profitable -- by about 3.84 billion USD.

Intel-Swimming-in-Money.jpg

One interesting metric which Intel adds to their chart, and I have yet to notice another company listing this information so prominently, is their number of employees, compared between quarters. Last year, Intel employed about 106,000 people, which increased to 106,300 two quarters ago. Between two quarters ago and this last quarter, that number dropped by 1400, to 104,900 employees, which was about 1.3% of their total workforce. There does not seem to be a reason for this decline (except for Richard Huddy, we know that he went to AMD).

Intel Process nodes_575px.png

Image Credit: Anandtech

As a final note, Anandtech, when reporting on this story, added a few historical trends near the end. One which caught my attention was the process technology vs. quarter graph, demonstrating their smallest transistor size over the last thirteen-and-a-bit years. We are still slowly approaching 0nm, following an exponential curve as it approaches its asymptote. The width, however, is still fairly regular. It looks like it is getting slightly longer, but not drastically (minus the optical illusion caused by the smaller drops).

Source: Intel