Run Windows on Intel's Galileo

Subject: General Tech | August 20, 2014 - 09:35 AM |
Tagged: galileo, Intel, windows, SoC

Intel's first generation low powered SoC which goes by the name of Galileo and is powered by a 400MHz Quark X1000 is now capable of running Windows with the help of the latest firmware update.  Therefore if you are familiar enough with their tweaked Arduino IDE you should be able to build a testbed for low powered machines that will be running Windows.  You will want to have some time on hand, loading Windows to the microSD card can take up to two hours and those used to SSDs will be less than impressed with the boot times.  For developers this is not an issue and well worth the wait as it gives them a brand new tool to work with.  Pop by The Register for the full details of the firmware upgrade and installation process.

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"Windows fans can run their OS of choice on Intel’s counter to Raspberry Pi, courtesy of an Intel firmware update."

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Source: The Register

An odd Q2 for tablets and PCs

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | August 19, 2014 - 09:30 AM |
Tagged: jon peddie, gpu market share, q2 2014

Jon Peddie Research's latest Market Watch adds even more ironic humour to the media's continuing proclamations of the impending doom of the PC industry.  This quarter saw tablet sales decline while overall PCs were up and that was without any major releases to drive purchasers to adopt new technology.  While JPR does touch on the overall industry this report is focused on the sale of GPUs and APUs and happens to contain some great news for AMD.  They saw their overall share of the market increase by 11% from last quarter and by just over a percent of the entire market.  Intel saw a small rise in share though it does still hold the majority of the market as PCs with no discrete GPU are more likely to contain Intel's chips than AMDs.  That leaves NVIDIA who are still banking solely on discrete GPUs and saw over an 8% decline from last quarter and a decline of almost two percent in the total market.  Check out the other graphs in JPR's overview right here.

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"The big drop in graphics shipments in Q1 has been partially offset by a small rise this quarter. Shipments were up 3.2% quarter-to-quarter, and down 4.5% compared to the same quarter last year."

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Also, Corsair's Cherry MX RGB Launch Date Changed

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | August 18, 2014 - 07:02 PM |
Tagged: corsair, mechanical keyboard, cherry mx rgb

So I actually did not see this until after I published the Razer story. Just a few hours ago, Corsair posted an announcement to their Facebook page that claimed a "cbange" in launch date for their Cherry MX RGB-based keyboards. I actually forgot that the K70 RGB Red was supposed to be out already, with availability listed as "late July" (the rest were scheduled to arrive in "late August"). Corsair does not yet have a new date, but will comment "in a few weeks".

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Got to say, that does look nice.

While, again, no further details are given, it sounds like a technical hurdle is holding back the launch. Corsair claims that they want the product to live up to expectations. This, of course, chips further at the company's exclusivity window and could put them in direct competition with Razer's custom design, and may even be available second, almost in spite of the exclusivity arrangement.

Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma Announced

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | August 18, 2014 - 06:17 PM |
Tagged: razer, mechanical keyboard

Earlier in the year, we reported on Corsair's exclusivity over Cherry MX RGB-based mechanical keyboards. The thing is, Razer develops their own switches and is not reliant on ZF Electronics (Cherry Corporation). The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma mechanical keyboard uses their own switches, not Cherry's, and is not subject to Corsair's exclusivity. The keyboard can be ordered now for $179.99 USD and will be available in September.

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I contacted Razer and asked them about their technology. They could not provide any direct comparison between their design and the Cherry MX RGB, but they were able to add a few details to their offering. The BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma was designed with its LEDs positioned away from moving parts and lined up with the keycap imprint. The LEDs are pointed upward for brightness.

Razer will be providing developers with Chroma SDK, allowing games and applications to control the Chroma-enabled device lighting to assist or immerse their users. I say "Chroma-enabled device" rather than "Chroma keyboards", because they already have plans for mice and headsets with the same technology. At the very least, they expect that users will appreciate coordinated colors across their gaming peripherals.

The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma is available to order, for $179.99 USD ($199.99 CDN), and ships in September. A Chroma-enabled mouse, based on the DeathAdder design, and a Chroma-enabled headset, based on the Kraken model, are announced but do not yet have pricing or availability information.

Source: Razer

Can you really have a wireless gaming mouse?

Subject: General Tech | August 18, 2014 - 02:05 PM |
Tagged: input, mouse, wireless gaming mouse, SteelSeries Sensei

Gaming mice have wires as it reduces input lag that would otherwise be the death of you while gaming.  Unfortunately for some this means they cannot sit on the couch streaming YouTube to their TVs since the wire on their mouse just isn't long enough.  SteelSeries claims to have overcome the technical problems of gaming wirelessly with their SteelSeries Sensei.  The software is definitely aimed at gamers, with an impressive array of settings to tweak and an impressive macro editor but that is not enough to solve the performance issues.  Believe it or not when TechGage compared it to a wired mouse they could not detect any difference whatsoever.  I would still recommend wearing pants while frying bacon regardless of your final mouse choice.

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"Want a high-performance wireless gaming mouse that doesn’t have its battery-life measured in seconds? Well, SteelSeries has released its renowned Sensei into the wild, free to run and frolic in grassy meadows, without the need of being tethered to unsightly cables. Does the result live up to our high expectations? There’s only one way to find out."

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Source: Techgage

A good old Gigabyte Overclocking Competition

Subject: General Tech | August 18, 2014 - 10:33 AM |
Tagged: gigabyte, Extreme Overclocking Competition, overclocking

The weapons this year at Gigabyte's EOC were a Core i5-4690K and Core i7-4790K, Gigabyte Z97X-SOC FORCE LN2, Gigabyte HD7790, G.Skill TridentX F3-2933C12D-8GTXDG
and a Seasonic SSX-1200 Platinum PSU.  Team Awardfabrik hit 6578MHz on the i7-4790K with a mix of luck and skill while Team Switzerland took top spot for memory at 2106.3MHz.  Raw speed of one component is not enough to win this competition and when the nitrogen fog lifted it was Team HardwareLuxx with the overall win.  Check out what benchmarks were run and pictures and video from the event on MadShrimps.

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"Each year Gigabyte Germany organizes the Extreme Overclocking Competition. At the EOC the best overclocking teams of Germany have a chance to prove who is still king. The main organizer behind each event is Germany’s finest Roman Hartung also known as der8auer at HWBot.org. This year besides Gigabyte also G.Skill, Intel, Seasonic and Gelid solutions provided the required hardware and funds to allow this clash of the titans to take place at the Know Cube at the Heilbronn Tech University."

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Source: MadShrimps

Falcon Northwest Tiki-Z Special Edition Crams Titan Z And Liquid Cooled i7-4790K CPU Into A Stylish Micro Tower

Subject: General Tech, Systems | August 15, 2014 - 10:40 PM |
Tagged: titan z, tiki-z, gtx titan z, gk110, falcon northwest, dual gpu

The Tiki-Z Special Edition is the latest custom PC from boutique vendor Falcon Northwest. This high-end enthusiast system, which starts at $5,614 manages to pack a dual GPU graphics card, liquid cooled CPU, 600W power supply, and up to 6TB of storage into a stylish micro tower that measures a mere 4” wide and 13” tall.

Falcon Northwest has taken the original Tiki chassis and made several notable tweaks to accommodate NVIDIA’s latest dual GPU card: the GeForce GTX TITAN Z which we reviewed here. The case has a custom (partial) side window that shows off the graphics card. This window can be green glass or smoke tinted acrylic with customizable laser cut venting. A ducted intake feeds cool air to the graphics card and vents at the rear and front of the case exhaust hot air. The exterior of the case can be painted in any single color of automobile paint for free or with a fully customized paint scheme with artwork at an additional cost.

Falcon Northwest Tiki-Z Micro Tower.jpg

In addition to the Titan Z with its 5,760 CUDA cores, 12GB of memory, and 8.1 TFLOPS of peak compute power, Falcon Northwest has packed a modular small form factor 600W PSU from SilverStone, an ASUS Z97I Plus motherboard, Intel Core i7-4790K “Devil’s Canyon” CPU with liquid cooler, up to 16GB of DDR3 1866MHz memory from G.Skill, and up to 6TB of storage (two 1TB SSDs and one 4TB Western Digital Green hard drive). The i7-4970K comes stock clocked at 4GHz (4.4GHz max turbo), but can be overclocked by Falcon Northwest upon request.

Needless to say, that is a lot of hardware to cram into a PC that can easily sit next to your monitor at your desk or in your living room!

The engineering, artwork, and support of this high end system all come at a price, however. The new Titan Z powered boutique PC starts at $5,614 USD and is available now from Falcon Northwest. To sweeten the deal, for a limited time Falcon Northwest is including a free ASUS PB287Q 4K monitor (3820x2160, 60Hz, 1ms response time, see more specification in our review) with each Tiki-Z purchase.

This system is an impressive feat of engineering and it certainly looks sharp with the artwork, custom side panel, and compact form factor. My only concern from a usability standpoint would be noise from the cooling systems for the GPU, CPU radiator, and PSU. One also has to consider that the Titan Z graphics card by itself is priced at $3,000 which puts the Tiki Z pricing back into the somewhat sane world of boutique PC pricing (heh at about $2,600 for the system minus the GPU). No question, this is not going to be a system for everyone and will even be a niche product within the niche market of those enthusiasts interested in pre-built gaming systems. Even so, if noise levels can be held in check it will make for one powerful little gaming box!

Khronos Announces "Next" OpenGL & Releases OpenGL 4.5

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | August 15, 2014 - 05:33 PM |
Tagged: siggraph 2014, Siggraph, OpenGL Next, opengl 4.5, opengl, nvidia, Mantle, Khronos, Intel, DirectX 12, amd

Let's be clear: there are two stories here. The first is the release of OpenGL 4.5 and the second is the announcement of the "Next Generation OpenGL Initiative". They both occur on the same press release, but they are two, different statements.

OpenGL 4.5 Released

OpenGL 4.5 expands the core specification with a few extensions. Compatible hardware, with OpenGL 4.5 drivers, will be guaranteed to support these. This includes features like direct_state_access, which allows accessing objects in a context without binding to it, and support of OpenGL ES3.1 features that are traditionally missing from OpenGL 4, which allows easier porting of OpenGL ES3.1 applications to OpenGL.

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It also adds a few new extensions as an option:

ARB_pipeline_statistics_query lets a developer ask the GPU what it has been doing. This could be useful for "profiling" an application (list completed work to identify optimization points).

ARB_sparse_buffer allows developers to perform calculations on pieces of generic buffers, without loading it all into memory. This is similar to ARB_sparse_textures... except that those are for textures. Buffers are useful for things like vertex data (and so forth).

ARB_transform_feedback_overflow_query is apparently designed to let developers choose whether or not to draw objects based on whether the buffer is overflowed. I might be wrong, but it seems like this would be useful for deciding whether or not to draw objects generated by geometry shaders.

KHR_blend_equation_advanced allows new blending equations between objects. If you use Photoshop, this would be "multiply", "screen", "darken", "lighten", "difference", and so forth. On NVIDIA's side, this will be directly supported on Maxwell and Tegra K1 (and later). Fermi and Kepler will support the functionality, but the driver will perform the calculations with shaders. AMD has yet to comment, as far as I can tell.

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Image from NVIDIA GTC Presentation

If you are a developer, NVIDIA has launched 340.65 (340.23.01 for Linux) beta drivers for developers. If you are not looking to create OpenGL 4.5 applications, do not get this driver. You really should not have any use for it, at all.

Next Generation OpenGL Initiative Announced

The Khronos Group has also announced "a call for participation" to outline a new specification for graphics and compute. They want it to allow developers explicit control over CPU and GPU tasks, be multithreaded, have minimal overhead, have a common shader language, and "rigorous conformance testing". This sounds a lot like the design goals of Mantle (and what we know of DirectX 12).

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And really, from what I hear and understand, that is what OpenGL needs at this point. Graphics cards look nothing like they did a decade ago (or over two decades ago). They each have very similar interfaces and data structures, even if their fundamental architectures vary greatly. If we can draw a line in the sand, legacy APIs can be supported but not optimized heavily by the drivers. After a short time, available performance for legacy applications would be so high that it wouldn't matter, as long as they continue to run.

Add to it, next-generation drivers should be significantly easier to develop, considering the reduced error checking (and other responsibilities). As I said on Intel's DirectX 12 story, it is still unclear whether it will lead to enough performance increase to make most optimizations, such as those which increase workload or developer effort in exchange for queuing fewer GPU commands, unnecessary. We will need to wait for game developers to use it for a bit before we know.

Prying OpenGL to slip a little Mantle inside

Subject: General Tech | August 15, 2014 - 10:09 AM |
Tagged: amd, Mantle, opengl, OpenGL Next

Along with his announcements about FreeSync, Richard Huddy also discussed OpenGL Next and its relationship with Mantle and the role it played in DirectX 12's development.  AMD has given Chronos Group, the developers of OpenGL, complete access to Mantle to help them integrate it into future versions of the API starting with OpenGL Next.  He also discussed the advantages of Mantle over DirectX, citing AMD's ability to update it much more frequently than Intel has done with DX.  With over 75 developers working on titles that take advantage of Mantle the interest is definitely there but it is uncertain if devs will actually benefit from an API which updates at a pace faster than a game can be developed.  Read on at The Tech Report.

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"At Siggraph yesterday, AMD's Richard Huddy gave us an update on Mantle, and he also revealed some interesting details about AMD's role in the development of the next-gen OpenGL API."

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Richard Huddy Discusses FreeSync Availability Timeframes

Subject: General Tech, Displays | August 14, 2014 - 01:59 PM |
Tagged: amd, freesync, g-sync, Siggraph, siggraph 2014

At SIGGRAPH, Richard Huddy of AMD announced the release windows of FreeSync, their adaptive refresh rate technology, to The Tech Report. Compatible monitors will begin sampling "as early as" September. Actual products are expected to ship to consumers in early 2015. Apparently, more than one display vendor is working on support, although names and vendor-specific release windows are unannounced.

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As for cost of implementation, Richard Huddy believes that the added cost should be no more than $10-20 USD (to the manufacturer). Of course, the final price to end-users cannot be derived from this - that depends on how quickly the display vendor expects to sell product, profit margins, their willingness to push new technology, competition, and so forth.

If you want to take full advantage of FreeSync, you will need a compatible GPU (look for "gaming" support in AMD's official FreeSync compatibility list). All future AMD GPUs are expected to support the technology.

Source: Tech Report