Raptr's Top Twenty Games of June 2014

Subject: General Tech | July 12, 2014 - 06:20 PM |
Tagged: raptr

There have been significant changes in the Top 20 list of most played PC games for June. Raptr, the service for PC gamers to update drivers, stream gameplay, and tune settings, records the number of hours played for each game, compiling it into a monthly list. While not sales figures, it does suggest how popular one game is compared to another -- at least if you want to factor in hours played, not just the number of players.

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By far the most funny increase is Battlefield 3. This month, due to EA's Origin "On the House" program, the three-year-old shooter jumped thirty places, from 42nd to 12th. At the same time, Battlefield 4 dropped three places, from 7th to 10th, leaving it with just a 0.04% lead over its previous version. Jokes aside, this probably means that EA has a significant, untapped user base who would be interested in the Battlefield franchise.

Watch Dogs jumped eleven places, from 19th to 8th, which might sound surprising but was actually predicted by Raptr. The bigger surprise is how high it was in the last ranking, being that it launched on May 27th. That was a lot of usage for just a handful of days, almost as much as Team Fortress 2 had for the entire month.

Of course, League of Legends is still in first place, over doubling the game time of DOTA2.

Source: Raptr

The Third x86-based SoC Player: VIA & Centaur's Isaiah II

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | July 11, 2014 - 01:58 PM |
Tagged: x86, VIA, isaiah II, Intel, centaur, arm, amd

There might be a third, x86-compatible processor manufacturer who is looking at the mobile market. Intel has been trying to make headway, including the direct development of Android for the x86 architecture. The company also has a few design wins, mostly with Windows 8.1-based tablets but also the occasional Android-based models. Google is rumored to be preparing the "Nexus 8" tablet with one of Intel's Moorefield SoCs. AMD, the second-largest x86 processor manufacturer, is aiming their Mullins platform at tablets and two-in-ones, but cannot afford to play snowplow, at least not like Intel.

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VIA, through their Centaur Technology division, is expected to announce their own x86-based SoC, too. Called Isaiah II, it is rumored to be a quad core, 64-bit processor with a maximum clock rate of 2.0 GHz. Its GPU is currently unknown. VIA sold their stake S3 Graphics to HTC back in 2011, who then became majority shareholder over the GPU company. That said, HTC and VIA are very close companies. The chairwoman of HTC is the founder of VIA Technologies. The current President and CEO of VIA, who has been in that position since 1992, is her husband. I expect that the GPU architecture will be provided by S3, or will somehow be based on their technology. I could be wrong. Both companies will obviously do what they think is best.

It would make sense, though, especially if it benefits HTC with cheap but effective SoCs for Android and "full" Windows (not Windows RT) devices.

Or this announcement could be larger than it would appear. Three years ago, VIA filed for a patent which described a processor that can read both x86 and ARM machine language and translate it into its own, internal microinstructions. The Centaur Isaiah II could reasonably be based on that technology. If so, this processor would be able to support either version of Android. Or, after Intel built up the Android x86 code base, maybe they shelved that initiative (or just got that patent for legal reasons).

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But what about Intel? Honestly, I see this being a benefit for the behemoth. Extra x86-based vendors will probably grow the overall market share, compared to ARM, by helping with software support. Even if it is compatible with both ARM and x86, what Intel needs right now is software. They can only write so much of it themselves. It is possible that VIA, being the original netbook processor, could disrupt the PC market with both x86 and ARM compatibility, but I doubt it.

Centaur Technology, the relevant division of VIA, will make their announcement in less than 51 days.

Source: 3d Center

HSA on Linux

Subject: General Tech | July 11, 2014 - 11:36 AM |
Tagged: linux, hsa, amd, open source

Open source HSA has arrived for the Linux kernel with a newly released set of patches which will allow Sea Islands and newer GPUs to share hardware resources.   These patches are both for a sample driver for any HSA-compatible hardware and the river for Radeon GPUs.  As the debut of the Linux 3.16 kernel is so close you shouldn't expect to see these patches included until 3.17 which should be released in the not too distant future.  Phoronix and Linux users everywhere give a big shout of thanks to AMD's John Bridgman for his work on this project.

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"AMD has just published a massive patch-set for the Linux kernel that finally implements a HSA (Heterogeneous System Architecture) in open-source. The set of 83 patches implement a Linux HSA driver for Radeon family GPUs and serves too as a sample driver for other HSA-compatible devices. This big driver in part is what well known Phoronix contributor John Bridgman has been working on at AMD."

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Source: Phoronix

The PC is still not dead

Subject: General Tech | July 10, 2014 - 11:30 AM |
Tagged: market share, desktop pc

There has been a 2 year slump in PC sales due to a number of reasons, from a lack of attractive system upgrades to the increasing capabilities of mobile devices but according to Gartner this is coming to an end.  While Acer and the smaller brands and no-name systems continue to see sales declines the major players such as Lenovo HP, Dell, and Asus have all seen increases in the amount of systems they have sold in this past quarter.  The Register quotes Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa in their article, "... we expect to see slow, but consistent, PC growth" as emerging markets augment their low cost tablets with purchases of full PCs. 

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"By Gartner's estimates, worldwide PC shipments were essentially flat for the second quarter of 2014, growing just 0.1 per cent when compared to the same period a year ago. But even that is encouraging, the analyst firm points out, because shipments have declined for the last eight consecutive quarters."

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Source: The Register

Podcast #308 - Intel and Mantle, XSPC Watercooling Kits, Quantum Dots, and more!

Subject: General Tech | July 10, 2014 - 10:17 AM |
Tagged: podcast, video, Intel, Mantle, amd, nvidia, XSPC, quantum dots, western digital, My Cloud Mirror, A10-7850K, Kaveri, arm, quakecon

PC Perspective Podcast #308 - 07/10/2014

Join us this week as we discuss Intel using Mantle, XSPC Watercooling Kits, Quantum Dots, 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, Jeremy Hellstrom, Allyn Malventano, and Morry Tietelman

Program length: 1:25:47

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

 

Coming soon to a PC near you; the Skywind Public Beta Test

Subject: General Tech | July 9, 2014 - 11:45 AM |
Tagged: skywind, skyrim, morrowind, gaming, elder scrolls, !console

It has been a long time coming and unfortunately it isn't quite here yet but sometime in the not too distant future Skywind will be opened up to the public for testing.  If you do not own Skyrm then you probably have no interest in this mod but you may need to ensure you have a copy of Morrowind, including both Tribunal and Bloodmoon addons.   You will need both games installed as well as the soon to be released assets from TESRenewal.com to try out Skywind for yourself.  If your head is about to explode from the excitement and anticipation you probably shouldn't watch the video below nor read more about it at the equally excited Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN.

In the mean time you can distract yourself by chatting with the Fragging Frogs in the Forum and get some gaming done to burn off some of that nervous energy.

"Skywind, the total rebuild of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind in Skyrim’s engine, continues to play sweet melodies on my heart strings. They’re nostalgic tunes that lull me like the most charming of snake charmers. There’s a new trailer out, and I can practically feel the Balmoran cliff racers pecking at my back, making me invent new deities just so I can use their names as curse words."

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Quantum dots may be screening on your mobile by 2020

Subject: General Tech | July 9, 2014 - 10:38 AM |
Tagged: cellphone, lcd, quantum dots

Research into using quantum dots in LCDs has been ongoing and several breakthroughs at research laboratories have proven that they can provide much a much wider and more accurate colour spectrum than conventional backlit LCDs.  The size of the dot effects the colour, with larger dots fluoresce red, mid-sized dots green and the smallest blue, emulating the familiar spectrum of pixels at a lower energy cost and greater accuracy.  DigiTimes is reporting on the predictions of DisplaySearch which feel that quantum dots will be the next step forward for LCD technology and could represent up to a quarter of the smartphone display market by 2020. 

The technology to incorporate quantum dots into displays is currently available but there are several hurdles which need to be overcome before you can expect to see them in your next mobile device.  First and foremost is the price of manufacturing, as with any new process the first generations are quite expensive to manufacture, even if it is ways to molecularly seed a panel with a tailored particles to produce quantum dots succeeds in large quantities.  Current mass production relies mostly on heavy metals such as Cadmium which are strictly regulated when used in commercial products and would likely not be approved for use in the production of mobile phones in the amounts currently required.  It won't happen in the next few generations of phones but keep your eyes peeled for greatly enhanced LCD panels by the end of the decade.

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"The firm said that the penetration of quantum dots in smartphone TFT LCDs will be 3% in 2015, growing to 26% in 2020. Penetration in tablets will also be relatively high, with nearly 2% penetration in 2015, growing to 15% in 2020. The quantum dot penetration in LCD TVs is expected to be lower, due to the large area of TV displays. DisplaySearch forecasts that less than 1% of LCD TV screens will use quantum dots in 2015, growing to 9% in 2020."

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Source: DigiTimes

Panasonic ARMs will be fabbed at Intel

Subject: General Tech | July 8, 2014 - 10:40 AM |
Tagged: SoC, Panasonic, Intel, arm

Intel has been fabbing ARM chips for Altera since the end of last year after their unprecedented move of allowing non-Intel designs into their fabs.  This decision allowed Intel to increase the percentage of time the fabs were active, as they are no longer able to keep them at full capacity with their own chips and have even mothballed the new Fab 42 in Arizona.  Altera is a good customer, as are Tabula, Netronome and Microsemi but together they are still not enough to bring Intel's capacity close to 100%.  The Register has reported on a new contract with the ink still wet from signing; Panasonic will now be using Intel's Fabs for their ARM based SoCs.   The immense size of Panasonic should keep Intel busy and ensure that they continue to make mountains of money licensing their 14nm-process tri-Gate transistors as well as the Fab time.

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"Intel has notched up another customer for its fledgling Foundry business as it tries to make money out of its manufacturing and engineering expertise besides x86 processor sales.

The world's most valuable chip manufacturer said on Monday that Panasonic's audio-visual gear will make future system-on-chips (SoCs) in Intel's factories."

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Source: The Register

Breaking News: League of Legends Is Hard. "Intro Bots" Soon.

Subject: General Tech | July 7, 2014 - 02:13 PM |
Tagged: riot games, moba, lol, free to play

MOBAs are known to be intricate, unforgiving PC games. League of Legends is one of the most popular at the moment (#1 PC game in terms of hours played for May 2014 according to Raptr). It is free to install and play, with small purchases to unlock more content ("microtransaction"). The free-to-play business model is quite interesting, albeit polarizing, because your commitment starts when your users installs your title, not ends. This often leads to one of two outcomes: abusers of human psychology or constantly developed, great games that strive to never get boring.

Now you can see why it is polarizing (or just read our impending comments).

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The business model does permit games that are deep in gameplay mechanics, however, if it keeps a core user base playing (and buying additional content) forever. Unfortunately, this also makes it difficult for new players to join -- especially when it is competitive and multiplayer.

Riot Games noted that they were uncomfortable with how many of their players lose "Battle Training", which is supposed to be a tutorial. Some even prove to have significant skill later on. They interpret this as the problem being how they educate new players. There is high complexity that is fair, and then there is just bad user experience.

"Intro Bots" is designed to be a mode which adjusts its difficulty to match the player currently, and as they progress. Hopefully it works. Obviously that is the limiting factor. It does seem to be designed reasonably. It teaches with repetition and in realistic scenarios.

Intro Bots is coming soon, after a brief stop in public beta. Ironically, the public beta realm was refered to as "PBE"... in a press release for a feature intended to be easier for new players. You know, the people who might not know the game's vocabulary. Just saying.

Source: Riot Games

Everything old is new again on the Internet o' Thangs

Subject: General Tech | July 7, 2014 - 11:34 AM |
Tagged: internet of things, MIPS, prpl, linaro

Imagination Technologies is reinvigorating their MIPS architecture by collaborating with Oracle and Qualcomm on MIPS-focused Java and OpenWRT Linux as well as continuing older partnerships with Ingenic and Ineda Systems.  MIPS has been a large player in low power WiFi enabled SoC's for quite a while with three billion MIPS-based products shipped in set-top boxes, mobile phones and wearable tech but have seen ARM take the lead and continue to garner more market share along with Intel's Quark.  These new partnerships may help MIPS based devices become more popular as some of the projects being developed are quite interesting, for instance Linux.com mentions the Dhanush Wearable Processing Unit which will run Linux and is aiming for a battery life of 30 days.

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"Imagination Technologies has launched a campaign to turn the 30-year-old MIPS architecture into an Internet of Things platform.

The IP designer's recent moves include the establishment of a Linaro-like "Prpl" industry group for MIPS, as well as collaborations with Oracle and Qualcomm on MIPS-focused Java and OpenWRT Linux development, respectively."

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Source: Linux.com