Behold, the spectrum of storage

Subject: General Tech | April 5, 2016 - 04:47 PM |
Tagged: NVMe, SAS, sata, PCIe SSD, low latency

The Register have put together a nice graphic and table displaying current storage technologies and how they relate to each other.  They constructed the graph to demonstrate the major boundaries in storage, between cache/memory, local storage and external storage and how these are going to move thanks to new technology.  NVMe-over-fabric will enable companies to utilize external storage at latencies lower than internal storage that still uses SATA or SAS, with only pure PCIe local storage outpacing its potential.  X-Point, assuming it lives up to the hype, will blur the line between local storage and memory/cache storage, offering latency previously only seen in system memory or on-die cache.

They also provide a table to give you some rough ideas how this translates between storage media, normalizing it a theoretical task which would take L1 cache 1 second to access, this can make it somewhat easier to comprehend for some than nanoseconds.

memory_storage_latency_spectrum.jpg

"Two technology changes are starting to be applied and both could have massive latency reduction effects at the two main storage boundary points: between memory and storage on the one hand, and between internal and external, networked storage on the other."

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Source: The Register

Windows 10 Will Finally Get a Dark Theme in Redstone 1

Subject: General Tech | April 4, 2016 - 06:33 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

Microsoft has been slowly shifting Windows and the rest of their software toward a dark theme over the last couple of years. This is the case on Visual Studio, Edge, and... some of the operating system's user interface. You can see it in the taskbar, in a few context menus on the desktop, and so forth. If you then open the system settings, you are greeted with light grey and white.

microsoft-2016-windows10settings.png

According to Brad Sams at Thurrott.com, Windows 10 will receive an actual dark theme option in the upcoming Anniversary Update. It could have been unlocked in the registry since before Windows 10 initially launched last year, but it was very incomplete. I also don't exactly like enabling experimental things in the registry, because you never know if Microsoft will test all possible combinations of work-in-progress flags when said feature actually goes public.

Speaking of which, the Windows 10 Anniversary Update is expected at some point in July. You know, the one-year anniversary of Windows 10 reaching RTM totally not RTM, because Windows 10 doesn't go RTM.

Source: Thurrott.com

Now that the Oculus Rift has arrived you can see how shady the T&C's are

Subject: General Tech | April 4, 2016 - 05:35 PM |
Tagged: Privacy, rift, Oculus, facebook

As expected, Facebook has added some questionable features to the Oculus Rift and if any of it surprises you then you haven't been paying attention.  The Register went through it to pull out a variety of terms than many may find questionable.  Your usage will be tracked while you are using the headset and just like Facebook and many other social media apps it will use the data collected for targeted advertising.  There does not seem to be any incognito mode, so think twice before using the Rift for certain applications unless you want some interesting adverts showing up on your Facebook page. 

A Slashdot post points out a different concern for content creators, if you use the Oculus to create something original then while Oculus can't claim to own it, it can use it without your consent and without  having to pay you for for using it.  Again, this should not be surprising but if you weren't aware of the possibility, you should consider these T&C's before picking the Rift.

oculus-rift-consumer-edition.png

"THOSE OF a weak disposition should look away. News has reached us that face fun virtual reality machine, and eye of Facebook, the Oculus Rift has features that track things that people do, and use the information for the purposes of advertising."

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Source: The Register

Legend of Zelda in WebGL Voxels

Subject: General Tech | April 4, 2016 - 05:30 PM |
Tagged: zelda, webgl, Nintendo

Before it invariably gets taken offline, you might want to check out a remake of the original Legend of Zelda. It's not just a straight port of the original, though. Its pixel art assets were remade in voxels, which are rendered in WebGL at an angle that's similar to what the original pixel art implies. Original NES controls are overlaid on the screen, which is useful for multi-touch, but keyboard also works.

nintendo-2016-zeldaunofficialvoxel.png

Most of the game is plugin-free and running in the browser. The only thing that requires plug-in support is audio, and it doesn't play nice with click-to-activate. It would have been nice for them to implement it in WebAudio API, and implement Gamepad API while they're at it, but who am I to criticize a passion project that will likely be challenged by Nintendo in a handful of days?

I'm not sure how complete the game is. They seem to imply that all eight dungeons are available, but I haven't had a chance to check.

A new version of Intel E5 for your server room; Broadwell Xeon E5-2600 v4

Subject: General Tech | April 1, 2016 - 05:55 PM |
Tagged: Xeon E5-2600 v4, Intel, Broadwell-EP

Yesterday, towards the end of the day, Intel announced the arrival of their newest Xeon chips, the v4 series of Xeon E5 CPUs.   As you would expect of server chips there is no GPU present however there are new features to improve your servers performance.  The new Broadwell-EP chips will have up to 22 cores and 44 threads, an impressive 55MB of cache on some models and support for DDR4-2400.  As far as raw performance goes, Intel advertises these chips as delivering about 5% instructions per second compared to Haswell and handles AVX instructions more efficiently, allowing cores not running these tasks to remain at full speed.  The Register has a great breakdown of the other new features which these Xeons can provide.

xeon_e5_v4_skus.jpg

"These chips follow up 2014’s Xeon E5 v3 parts, which used a 22nm process size and the Haswell micro-architecture. Intel shrunk Haswell to 14nm, and after some tinkering, codenamed the resulting design Broadwell."

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Source: The Register

Epic Games Releases Unreal Engine 4.11

Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2016 - 06:52 PM |
Tagged: epic games, unreal engine, unreal engine 4

It has been in preview since December, but Epic Games has finally released Unreal Engine 4.11 for developers to create awesome things with. This version focused on performance and the features that were added for Paragon, which entered early access two weeks ago. DirectX 12 is still considered experimental, and Vulkan is missing officially (although John Alcatraz has a tutorial to add it to Unreal Engine built from source), but the rendering back-end has received significant changes to accommodate the new graphics APIs in the future.

epicgames-2015-paragon-hair3.jpg

The three features that I'm most interested in, apart from free performance, are lighting channels, capsule shadows, and improved building of static light. Light channels are very difficult to implement in a deferred renderer, but Epic managed. This means that you can have dynamic lights only affect certain objects in the scene, either for performance, if enough lights are ignored to justify the cost of the channels themselves, or for special effects, like making a specific object stand out in a scene. They also added new shading models for eyes, hair, skin, and cloth, and added a bunch of interesting audio features.

Unreal Engine 4.11 is available now from Epic's Launcher. It's free to use, but Epic takes a royalty on certain revenues.

Source: Epic Games

Toshiba laptops are so hot right now

Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2016 - 05:29 PM |
Tagged: toshiba, recall, fire

Forget the concerns about fertility when using a laptop placed directly on your lap, having your lap catch fire is a bit more of a concern.  If you are using a Toshiba laptop right now, quickly flip it over and check if it is on fire, or if the serial number resembles G71Cxxxxxxxx.  If either of those conditions are true, please contact Toshiba customer support on this page, which also has a software utility you can run to see if you are affected by this recall.  According to The Register, some of these batteries may have been sold individually or as repair kit for Satellite, Portégé and Tecra models so you should check; better safe than on fire.

191_1pants_on_fire_version_2.jpg

"Toshiba is recalling the battery packs in 39 notebook models over fears they could be prone to catching fire."

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Source: The Register

Podcast #393 - HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, EVGA SC17 Notebook, UWP games and more!

Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2016 - 05:17 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, VR, htc vive, oculus rift, vive pre, evga, SC17, logitech, g900, phil spencer, uwp, asus, echelon, gtx 950, acer, Predator, z850

PC Perspective Podcast #393 - 03/31/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, EVGA SC17 Notebook, UWP games 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!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, and Josh Walrath

Program length: 1:37:33

  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:45:10 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
  3. News items of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  5. Closing/outro

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

Canonical’s First Ubuntu Tablet Available For Pre-Order

Subject: General Tech | March 30, 2016 - 10:16 PM |
Tagged: ubuntu, linux, mediatek, SoC, arm, tablet

Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system, is now offering up its first Ubuntu tablet with Spanish manufacturing partner BQ. The Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition is a 10-inch tablet powered by ARM and loaded with Ubuntu 15.04.

The tablet features an all black (or white) case with rounded edges and a matte back. Mobilegeeks managed to get hands on with the Android version of the Aquaris M10 which you can check out here. The internals are a bit different on the Ubuntu Edition, but the chassis and design remains the same. It measures 8.2mm thick and weighs in at 470 grams (1.03 pounds). The front is dominated by a 10.1” AHVA touchscreen display that comes in either 1280 x 800 or Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution depending on the model. A capacitive home button sits below along with two 0.7W speakers while a 5MP webcam is positioned above the display. There is an 8MP rear camera, and the sides hold Micro HDMI, Micro USB, Micro SD, and 3.5mm audio ports.

BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition Tablet PC.jpg

The Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition is powered by a quad core MediaTek SoC with Mali-T720MP2 graphics, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of eMMC storage (with approximately 10GB usable by end users) that can be expanded via Micro SD cards up to 64GB. The Full HD model uses the MediaTek MT8163A clocked at 1.5 GHz while the HD Aquaris M10 uses the slightly lower clocked MT8163B running at 1.3 GHz.

Wireless capabilities include 802.11n (dual band) Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and GPS. It is powered by a 7,280 mAh Li-Po battery. BQ has pre-loaded the tablet with Ubuntu 15.04 which users will likely want to update once drivers are ready as it is End-of-Life.

The Aquaris M10 is available for pre-order now, with expected ship dates in early April. The HD Ubuntu Edition tablet is listed at €259.90 ($295) while the Full HD version will run you €299.90 ($340). Currently, the Full HD tablet comes in black and the HD tablet is all white. Both models come with a screen protector and case as a pre-order bonus.

BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition Tablet.jpg

It is interesting to see an official Ubuntu tablet, but I wonder if this is too little, too late for the open source OS. Canonical is positioning this as a daily driver that can be a tablet when you want to be mobile, a PC when propped up with a case and paired with wireless keyboard and mouse, and a media streamer when connecting it to the big screen with HDMI. I would expect performance to improve over time once the community gets a hold of it and starts tweaking it though the hardware is going to be a limiting factor. I want a Linux tablet to succeed, and hopefully this will open the door for higher end models. I don’t see myself jumping on this particular one though at this price.

Are you excited for the Ubuntu Edition M10?

Source: Canonical

Raiding Tombs in DX12

Subject: General Tech | March 30, 2016 - 08:58 PM |
Tagged: dx12, rise of the tomb raider, gaming

DX12 API support has arrived for the new Lara Croft game, for those with the hardware and software to support it.  For AMD users that means Fury or 300 family cards, which offer DX12.0 support and for NVIDIA, 980 Ti and all other Maxwell GPUs which offers 12.1 as well as 12.0.  The difference in support is likely because of the game, not the hardware in this case.  [H]ard|OCP takes a look at how well the cards perform in both DX11 and DX12 and as it turns out the warning below is very accurate and perhaps you should wait for a few more driver updates and game patches before switching over to DX12.

1459120058TzyrWq0uVk_1_2_l.gif

"Rise of the Tomb Raider has recently received a new patch which adds DX12 API support, in addition the patch adds NVIDIA VXAO Ambient Occlusion technology, however just under DX11. In this evaluation we will find out if DX12 is beneficial to the gameplay experience currently and how it impacts certain GPUs."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP