GDC 15: Khronos Acknowledges Mantle's Start of Vulkan

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | March 3, 2015 - 03:37 PM |
Tagged: vulkan, Mantle, Khronos, glnext, gdc 15, GDC, amd

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Neil Trevett, the current president of Khronos Group and a vice president at NVIDIA, made an on-the-record statement to acknowledge the start of the Vulkan API. The quote came to me via Ryan, but I think it is a copy-paste of an email, so it should be verbatim.

Many companies have made great contributions to Vulkan, including AMD who contributed Mantle. Being able to start with the Mantle design definitely helped us get rolling quickly – but there has been a lot of design iteration, not the least making sure that Vulkan can run across many different GPU architectures. Vulkan is definitely a working group design now.

So in short, the Vulkan API was definitely started with Mantle and grew from there as more stakeholders added their opinion. Vulkan is obviously different than Mantle in significant ways now, such as its use of SPIR-V for its shading language (rather than HLSL). To see a bit more information, check out our article on the announcement.

Update: AMD has released a statement independently, but related to Mantle's role in Vulkan

A taste of the new Pi

Subject: General Tech | March 3, 2015 - 03:01 PM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi 2 Model B

Linux.com have just released benchmarks of the new Raspberry Pi 2 Model B with its improved processor and RAM.  Benchmarking a Pi is always interesting as you must find applications which are reasonable for this device to use, with webserver software being a decent choice to compare to ODroid-U2, Radxa and the Beaglebone Black.  openSSL 1.0.1e,DES and AES cbc mode ciphering and Blowfish were all tested with the Pi performing slowly but improved from the previous generation and certainly decent for a $35 piece of hardware.  In addition both a full KDE desktop and KDE/Openbox were successfully installed with Openbox the recommended choice.  Get all the results right here.

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"Released in February, the Raspberry Pi Model 2 B is an update to the original board that brings quad cores for six times the performance of the original, 1 gigabyte of RAM for twice the memory, and still maintains backwards compatibility. The many CPU cores are brought about by moving from the BCM2835 SoC to the BCM2836 SoC in the Raspberry Pi 2."

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Tech Talk

Source: Linux.com

Who Should Care? Thankfully, Many People

The Khronos Group has made three announcements today: Vulkan (their competitor to DirectX 12), OpenCL 2.1, and SPIR-V. Because there is actually significant overlap, we will discuss them in a single post rather than splitting them up. Each has a role in the overall goal to access and utilize graphics and compute devices.

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Before we get into what everything is and does, let's give you a little tease to keep you reading. First, Khronos designs their technologies to be self-reliant. As such, while there will be some minimum hardware requirements, the OS pretty much just needs to have a driver model. Vulkan will not be limited to Windows 10 and similar operating systems. If a graphics vendor wants to go through the trouble, which is a gigantic if, Vulkan can be shimmed into Windows 8.x, Windows 7, possibly Windows Vista despite its quirks, and maybe even Windows XP. The words “and beyond” came up after Windows XP, but don't hold your breath for Windows ME or anything. Again, the further back in Windows versions you get, the larger the “if” becomes but at least the API will not have any “artificial limitations”.

Outside of Windows, the Khronos Group is the dominant API curator. Expect Vulkan on Linux, Mac, mobile operating systems, embedded operating systems, and probably a few toasters somewhere.

On that topic: there will not be a “Vulkan ES”. Vulkan is Vulkan, and it will run on desktop, mobile, VR, consoles that are open enough, and even cars and robotics. From a hardware side, the API requires a minimum of OpenGL ES 3.1 support. This is fairly high-end for mobile GPUs, but it is the first mobile spec to require compute shaders, which are an essential component of Vulkan. The presenter did not state a minimum hardware requirement for desktop GPUs, but he treated it like a non-issue. Graphics vendors will need to be the ones making the announcements in the end, though.

Before we go further, some background is necessary. Read on for that and lots more!

Gigabyte's Force H3X is great for gaming but perhaps not podcasting

Subject: General Tech | March 2, 2015 - 03:56 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, audio, Force H3X, gaming headset, analog

Gigabyte's Force H3X gaming headset sports the 50mm neodymium drivers we have become used to, with a decent frequency response range of 20Hz to 20KHz.  The microphone is a bit different, using two 2mm pickup drivers on each side for a total of four but from the testing Modders Inc performed it did not help with the quality of your recorded audio.  This does not matter so much on a gaming headset but this is perhaps not the best choice for a budding YouTube star.  For audio in gaming Modders Inc does give the headset good marks and they also found it to be very comfortable over long periods of time, definitely worth checking out if you are in the market for a new headset to game with.

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"Don't you hate that when you are camping with a sniper rifle and all of the sudden some one sneaks up behind you and puts a knife through your head? Of course! We have all been there. Don't you wish you heard that guy who was sneaking up on you? Maybe then you could have switched to a Desert Eagle …"

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Audio Corner

Source: Modders Inc

Read more about Intel's new Cherry Trail

Subject: General Tech | March 2, 2015 - 01:49 PM |
Tagged: SoFIA, silvermont, modem, LTE, Intel, Cherry Trail, atom x7, atom x5, atom x3, 7260

With MWC in full swing Intel showed off their mobile silicon to Ryan and to The Tech Report who compiled complete specifications of the Cherry Trail based Atom x5-8300 and 8500 as well as the x7-8700.  All three of these chips will have an Intel designed XMM 7260 LTE modem as well as WiFi and NFC connectivity with the X7 also featuring Intel WiGig. You can also expect RealSense, True Key facial recognition and Pro Wireless Display to send secure wireless video to compatible displays for meetings.  Check out the full list of stats here.

gsmarena_001.jpg

"Intel says the dual-core Atom x3-C3130 is shipping now, while the quad-core Atom x3-C3230RK is coming later in the first half of the year. The LTE-infused Atom x3-C3440 will follow in the second half. In all, the chipmaker names 19 partners on board with the Atom x3 rollout, including Asus, Compal, Foxconn, Pegatron, Weibu, and Wistron."

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MWC 15: HP Spectre x360 Has Broadwell Core i5 and i7

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | March 1, 2015 - 11:07 PM |
Tagged: spectre x360, spectre, mwc 15, MWC, hp, Broadwell

HP announced their updated Spectre x360 at Mobile World Congress. Like the Lenovo Yoga, it has a hinge that flips the entire way around, allowing the laptop to function as a 13.3-inch tablet with a 1080p, IPS display. There are two stages between “tablet” and “laptop”, which are “stand” and “tent”. They are basically ways to prop up the touch screen while hiding the keyboard behind (or under) the unit. The stand mode is better for hands-free operation because it has a flat contact surface to rest upon, while the tent mode is probably more sturdy for touch (albeit rests on two rims). The chassis is entirely milled aluminum, except the screen and things like that of course.

The real story is the introduction of Core i-level Broadwell. The 12.5-hour battery listing in a relatively thin form-factor can be attributed to the low power requirements of the CPU and GPU, as well as its SSD (128GB, 256GB, or 512GB). RAM comes in two sizes, 4GB or 8GB, which will depend slightly on the chosen processor SKU.

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Which pun would be more annoying?
"Case closed" or "I rest my case"...?

Prices start at $899 and most variants are available now at HP's website.

Source: HP

MWC 15: LG Demos WebOS Smartwatch ("Urbane LTE")

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 1, 2015 - 09:46 PM |
Tagged: webOS, smartwatch, mwc 15, MWC, LG

A while ago, LG licensed WebOS from HP for use in their smart TVs and, as we found out during CES, smart watches.

The LG Urbane LTE is one such device, and we can finally see it in action. It is based around (literally) a circular P-OLED display (320 x 320, 1.3-inches, 245 ppi). Swirling your finger around the face scrolls through the elements like a wheel, which should be significantly more comfortable to search through a large list of applications than a linear list of elements -- a lot like an iPod (excluding the Touch and the Shuffle). That said, I have only seen other people use it.

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The SoC is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400, clocked at 1.2 GHz. It supports LTE, Wireless-N, Bluetooth 4.0LE, and NFC. It has 1 GB of RAM, which is quite a bit, and 4GB of permanent storage, which is not. It also has a bunch of sensors, from accelerometers and gyros to heart rate monitors and a barometer. It has a speaker and a microphone, but no camera. LG flaunts a 700 mAh battery, which they claim is “the category's largest”, but they do not link that to an actual amount of usage time (only that it “go[es] for days in standby mode”).

Video credit: The Verge

Pricing has not yet been announced, but it should hit the US and Europe before May arrives.

Source: LG

GDC 15: Quixel Advertises MEGASCANS with Jungle Scene

Subject: General Tech | March 1, 2015 - 09:11 PM |
Tagged: quixel, GDC, gdc 15, ue4, unreal engine 4, gdc 2015

You know that a week will be busy when companies start announcing a day or two early to beat the flood. While Game Developers Conference starts tomorrow, Quixel published their Jungle demo to YouTube today in promotion of their MEGASCANS material library. The video was rendered in Unreal Engine 4.

Their other material samples look quite convincing. The vines on a wall (column in this case) is particularly interesting because it even looks like two distinct layers, despite being a single mesh with displacement as far as I can tell. I don't know, maybe it is two or three layers. It would certainly make sense if it was, but the top and bottom suggests that it is single, and that is impressive. It even looks self-occluding.

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Pricing and availability for the library is not yet disclosed, but it sounds like it will be a subscription service. The software ranges from $25 to $500, depending on what you get and what sort of license you need (Academic vs Commercial and so forth).

Source: Quixel

HTC Announces Vive VR Headset in Partnership with Valve

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 1, 2015 - 05:16 PM |
Tagged: MWC, mwc 15, GDC, gdc 15, htc, valve, vive, vive vr, Oculus

Mobile World Congress (MWC) and Game Developers Conference (GDC) severely overlap this year, and not just in dates apparently. HTC just announced the Vive VR headset at MWC, which was developed alongside Valve. The developer edition will contain two 1200x1080 displays with a 90Hz refresh rate, and it will launch this spring. The consumer edition will launch this holiday. They made sure to underline 2015, so you know they're serious. Want more information? Well that will be for Valve to discuss at GDC.

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The confusing part: why is this not partnered with Oculus? When Michael Abrash left Valve to go there, I assumed that it was Valve shedding its research to Facebook's subsidiary and letting them take the hit. Now, honestly, it seems like Facebook just poached Abrash, Valve said “oh well”, and the two companies kept to their respective research. Who knows? Maybe that is not the case. We might find out more at GDC, but you would expect that Oculus would be mentioned if they had any involvement at all.

Valve will host an event on the second official day of GDC, March 3rd at 3pm. In other words, Valve will make an announcement on 3/3 @ 3. Could it involve Left 4 Dead 3? Portal 3? Will they pull a Crytek and name their engine Source 3? Are they just trolling absolutely everyone? Will it have something to do with NVIDIA's March 3rd announcement? Do you honestly think I have any non-speculative information about this? No. No I don't. There, I answered one of those questions.

Source: HTCVR

New Intel NUC Will Feature i7 Broadwell-U CPU With Iris 6100 Graphics

Subject: General Tech | February 27, 2015 - 04:41 PM |
Tagged: SFF, nuc5i7ryh, nuc, Intel, broadwell-u, Broadwell

We recently reviewed a new small form factor NUC PC from Intel powered by Broadwell. That i5-powered NUC5i5RYK will soon be joined by an even higher end Broadwell NUC (NUC5i7RYH) equipped with an i7-5557U CPU and Iris 6100 graphics.

According to FanlessTech, this slightly thicker NUC will come as a barebones system with a processor, motherboard, and wireless card pre-installed in a case with customizable lids (to add NFC, wireless charging, or other features). Note that, unlike the Broadwell i5 version we reviewed, this model supports 2.5” SSDs.

i7 Broadwell NUC Features Iris 6100 Graphics.png

External I/O includes:

  • Front:
    • 2 x USB 3.0 ports (one charging capable)
    • 1 x Audio jack
    • 1 x IR sensor
  • Rear:
    • 2 x USB 3.0 ports
    • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet RJ45
    • 1 x Mini HDMI 1.4a
    • 1 x Mini DisplayPort 1.2

Internally, the NUC5i7RYH is powered by a dual core (with Hyper-Threading) i7-5557U processor clocked at 3.1 GHz base and 3.4 GHz turbo with 4MB cache and 28W TDP. The processor also features Intel’s Iris 6100 GPU which our own Scott Michaud estimates it at 48 execution units and 845 GFLOPS of performance. He further speculates that it gets to a similar level of theoretical performance as the Intel Iris 5100 graphics (used in Haswell CPUs) using more (but lower clocked at up to 1050 MHz) shaders.

The Iris 6100 GPU is likely to be the highest processor graphics we will see with Broadwell-U. It supports 4K resolutions at 24Hz as well as video decode (though apparently not hardware accelerated) of VP8, VP9, and H.265 (HVEC) via wired displays or over Intel’s WiDi wireless display technology. Further, the GPU supports DirectX 12 in its current iteration as well as OpenGL 4.3 and OpenCL 2.0.

Internal connectivity includes support for two DDR3L SODIMMs (up to 16GB), a single 2.5” solid state drive, one M.2 SSD, an Intel Wireless AC 7265 card (802.11ac+BT), a NFC header, and a header for two USB 2.0 ports.

Intel has not released pricing, but expect it to hit at least $500 since the i5 version without Iris graphics has an MSRP of $399. It is slated to arrive soon with a launch window of Q2 2015.

Source: Fanless Tech