In a Galaxy far far away?

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | February 6, 2014 - 01:44 PM |
Tagged:

*****update*******

We have more news and it is good for Galaxy fans.  The newest update states that they will be sticking around!

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Good news GPU fans, the rumours that Galaxy's GPU team is leaving the North American market might be somewhat exaggerated, at least according to their PR Team. 

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This post appeared on Facebook and was quickly taken off again, perhaps for rewording or perhaps it is a perfect example of the lack of communication that [H]ard|OCP cites in their story.  Stay tuned as we update you as soon as we hear more.

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Party like it's 2008!

[H]ard|OCP have been following Galaxy's business model closely for the past year as they have been seeing hints that the reseller just didn't get the North American market.  Their concern grew as they tried and failed to contact Galaxy at the end of 2013, emails went unanswered and advertising campaigns seemed to have all but disappeared.  Even with this reassurance that Galaxy is not planning to leave the North American market a lot of what [H] says rings true, with the stock and delivery issues Galaxy seemed to have over the past year there is something going on behind the scenes.  Still it is not worth abandoning them completely and turning this into a self fulfilling prophecy, they have been in this market for a long time and may just be getting ready to move forward in a new way.  On the other hand you might be buying a product which will not have warranty support in the future.

"The North American GPU market has been one that is at many times a swirling mass of product. For the last few years though, we have seen the waters calm in that regard as video card board partners have somewhat solidified and we have seen solid players emerge and keep the stage. Except now we seen one exit stage left."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Sony Sells VAIO to Japan Industrial Partners (JIP)

Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 6, 2014 - 03:26 AM |
Tagged: sony vaio, sony

Oh look, something that was not purchased by Lenovo.

Sony has decided to sell its VAIO brand to Japanese Industrial Partners (JIP). Sony has been developing computers under thO brand since the mid 90's. While never a top-five player in the industry, they had a significant presence in stores and in the possession of people I bumped into on a day-to-day basis. The division was apparently in the red. It currently employs 1,000 people, of which 250-300 are expected to be hired with this deal.

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Whether the rest will be laid off or reshuffled within Sony remains to be seen.

As for Sony, they hope to focus on smartphones and tablets. They had a significant presence at last month's CES where they brought multiple Xperia models. VAIO also had its share of the attention though, so I guess that really does not mean much.

The acquisition is expected to complete near the end of July.

Source: The Verge

Satya Nadella is Microsoft's New CEO

Subject: General Tech | February 6, 2014 - 02:34 AM |
Tagged: microsoft, CEO

We are a little late on this news, but the hunt for a new Microsoft CEO is over. Satya Nadella, an internal choice from the enterprise division, will take over the entire company. Apart from a little buzz around Stephen Elop, and a lot of it around Allan Mulally, he was the figure on the rumors. Even though the decision was not shocking, it does question Microsoft's role in consumer devices.

Satya only mentioned devices and services twice in his first email to employees.

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Speaking of his introductory email, Satya claims to have asked Bill Gates to "devote additional time to the company". He has been a Microsoft employee for over two decades and he will be supported by its famous co-founder. All of this follows the attempts to discover outside candidates and re-invent the company.

More confusingly, the aforementioned first email contained the line, "This is a software powered world", as a single-line paragraph. He wanted to make this sentence perfectly clear. He believes that Microsoft is the only company with routine success developing platforms and ecosystems. Microsoft has not felt this much like Microsoft in quite some time, which contrasts the last two years of corporate soul-searching.

Then again, those were some of their best years.

Source: Microsoft

Focus on Mantle

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | February 5, 2014 - 02:43 PM |
Tagged: gaming, Mantle, amd, battlefield 4

Now that the new Mantle enabled driver has been released several sites have had a chance to try out the new API to see what effect it has on Battlefield 4.  [H]ard|OCP took a stock XFX R9 290X paired with an i7-3770K and tested both single and multiplayer BF4 performance and the pattern they saw lead them to believe Mantle is more effective at relieving CPU bottlenecks than ones caused by the GPU.  The performance increases they saw were greater at lower resolutions than at high resolutions.  At The Tech Report another XFX R9 290X was paired with an A10-7850K and an i7-4770K and compared the systems performance in D3D as well as Mantle.  To make the tests even more interesting they also tested D3D with a 780Ti, which you should fully examine before deciding which performs the best.  Their findings were in line with [H]ard|OCP's and they made the observation that Mantle is going to offer the greatest benefits to lower powered systems, with not a lot to be gained by high end systems with the current version of Mantle.  Legit Reviews performed similar tests but also brought the Star Swarm demo into the mix, using an R7 260X for their GPU.  You can catch all of our coverage by clicking on the Mantle tag.

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"Does AMD's Mantle graphics API deliver on its promise of smoother gaming with lower-spec CPUs? We take an early look at its performance in Battlefield 4."

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SBSA reaches an ARM into the server room

Subject: General Tech | February 5, 2014 - 01:35 PM |
Tagged: arm, OCP, open source, Intel, amd, seattle, opteron

The Inquirer had a chance to talk to Lakshmi Mandyam, the director of Server Systems and Ecosystems at ARM, about their plans for the server room.  ARM and their SBSA team have joined forces with Microsoft's Open Technology initiative which is key to AMD's adoption of ARM architecture in their new Opteron series.  These projects will offer several key benefits to customers, the open source nature will allow customization in the server room for those customers with specific needs and the know how to implement them and the nature of ARM processors can bring energy bills down.  This could also be great news for smaller businesses that require a proper server, they will be able to build that server out of a number of inexpensive ARM based processors instead of having to spend the price of the currently available x86/64 CPUs from Intel and AMD.

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"CHIP DESIGNER ARM announced at the Open Compute Project (OCP) Summit last week that servers based on its architecture have taken a step forward with the arrival of ARM v8-A based 64bit servers, known as the Server Base System Architecture (SBSA) specification."

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Source: The Inquirer
Manufacturer: PC Perspective
Tagged: Mantle, interview, amd

What Mantle signifies about GPU architectures

Mantle is a very interesting concept. From the various keynote speeches, it sounds like the API is being designed to address the current state (and trajectory) of graphics processors. GPUs are generalized and highly parallel computation devices which are assisted by a little bit of specialized silicon, when appropriate. The vendors have even settled on standards, such as IEEE-754 floating point decimal numbers, which means that the driver has much less reason to shield developers from the underlying architectures.

Still, Mantle is currently a private technology for an unknown number of developers. Without a public SDK, or anything beyond the half-dozen keynotes, we can only speculate on its specific attributes. I, for one, have technical questions and hunches which linger unanswered or unconfirmed, probably until the API is suitable for public development.

Or, until we just... ask AMD.

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Our response came from Guennadi Riguer, the chief architect for Mantle. In it, he discusses the API's usage as a computation language, the future of the rendering pipeline, and whether there will be a day where Crossfire-like benefits can occur by leaving an older Mantle-capable GPU in your system when purchasing a new, also Mantle-supporting one.

Q: Mantle's shading language is said to be compatible with HLSL. How will optimizations made for DirectX, such as tweaks during shader compilation, carry over to Mantle? How much tuning will (and will not) be shared between the two APIs?

[Guennadi] The current Mantle solution relies on the same shader generation path games the DirectX uses and includes an open-source component for translating DirectX shaders to Mantle accepted intermediate language (IL). This enables developers to quickly develop Mantle code path without any changes to the shaders. This was one of the strongest requests we got from our ISV partners when we were developing Mantle.

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Follow-Up: What does this mean, specifically, in terms of driver optimizations? Would AMD, or anyone else who supports Mantle, be able to re-use the effort they spent on tuning their shader compilers (and so forth) for DirectX?

[Guennadi] With the current shader compilation strategy in Mantle, the developers can directly leverage DirectX shader optimization efforts in Mantle. They would use the same front-end HLSL compiler for DX and Mantle, and inside of the DX and Mantle drivers we share the shader compiler that generates the shader code our hardware understands.

Read on to see the rest of the interview!

NitroWare Tests AMD's Photoshop OpenCL Claims

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | February 5, 2014 - 02:08 AM |
Tagged: photoshop, opencl, Adobe

Adobe has recently enhanced Photoshop CC to accelerate certain filters via OpenCL. AMD contacted NitroWare with this information and claims of 11-fold performance increases with "Smart Sharpen" on Kaveri, specifically. The computer hardware site decided to test these claims on a Radeon HD 7850 using the test metrics that AMD provided them.

Sure enough, he noticed a 16-fold gain in performance. Without OpenCL, the filter's loading bar was on screen for over ten seconds; with it enabled, there was no bar.

Dominic from NitroWare is careful to note that an HD 7850 is significantly higher performance than an APU (barring some weird scenario involving memory transfers or something). This might mark the beginning of Adobe's road to sensible heterogeneous computing outside of video transcoding. Of course, this will also be exciting for AMD. While they cannot keep up with Intel, thread per thread, they are still a heavyweight in terms of total performance. With Photoshop, people might actually notice it.

AMD adds open source to their hardware-based video encoder

Subject: General Tech | February 4, 2014 - 01:08 PM |
Tagged: amd, encoder, open source, VCE

You may have missed this news about AMD in amongst the Mantle announcements, support has been added for the VCE2 hardware encoding engine on newer AMD GCN based GPUs.  The open-source Radeon driver now supports GStreamer OpenMAX which can speed H.264 encoding in general but is truly optimized for encoding for mobile devices.  The current release is still a work in progress, the official release will come soon and you can track the progress by signing up to the mailing lists mentioned by Phoronix.  This is good news as previously the only open source hardware accelerated encoding was through Intel's GPU and VA-API.

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"AMD is doing another large and important open-source graphics driver code drop this morning. This morning AMD is publishing their VCE code that allows for hardware-based video encoding. "

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Source: Phoronix

The ASUS Chromebox Will Be Available in March

Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 4, 2014 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: Chromebox, asus

Often, people purchase a device with the intent of running a web browser on it. I understand the appeal of Joshtekk.com and we can all relate to the desire for it to have a dedicated machine. Google, through Chrome OS, targets this market with a line of laptops dedicated to web browsing. They are effective against virulent infections, a useful feature for casual Joshtekk encounters, with its limited native applications and simple recovery process.

The ASUS Chromebox will try to be your Joshtekk desktop.

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ASUS is, by no means, first to this market. Samsung had a couple of Chromebox models almost two years ago. That said, the ASUS Chromebox will start at $179 USD (which is much cheaper than Samsung's $329 offering). The base model will contain an Intel Celeron 2955U processor (the aforementioned Samsung packed a Celeron B840), which is not a high-performance processor, but may suffice for your web browsing needs. If not, an Intel Core i3 model has also been announced but I do not have pricing to relay about that one. A Core i7-4600U version may or may not surface, as well. Its graphics will support options up to an Intel HD 4400.

One feature that is unexpected is its video outputs. The ASUS Chromebox supports both HDMI and DisplayPort connections for dual monitors and 4K. Given that this is a 5-inch by 5-inch (and fanless) design, with access to Netflix and other streaming services, it could make a good replacement for a "smart TV".

The ASUS Chromebox will be available in March starting at $179 USD. This price comes with 100GB of Google Drive space, free for 2 years. Also free: a VESA mount kit to, I believe, attach the Chromebox to the back of an HDTV.

If interested, read on for the press release.

Source: ASUS

AMD Catalyst 14.1 Beta Available Now. Now, Chewie, NOW!

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | February 1, 2014 - 11:29 PM |
Tagged: Mantle, BF4, amd

AMD has released the Catalyst 14.1 Beta driver (even for Linux) but you should, first, read Ryan's review. This is a little less than what he expects in a Beta from AMD. We are talking about crashes to desktop and freezes while loading a map on a single-GPU configuration - and Crossfire is a complete wash in his experience (although AMD acknowledges the latter in their release notes). According to AMD, there is even the possibility that the Mantle version of Battlefield 4 will render with your APU and ignore your dedicated graphics.

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If you are determined to try Catalyst 14.1, however, it does make a first step into the promise of Mantle. Some situations show slightly lower performance than DirectX 11, albeit with a higher minimum framerate, while other results impress with double-digit percentage gains.

Multiplayer in BF4, where the CPU is more heavily utilized, seems to benefit the most (thankfully).

If you understand the risk (in terms of annoyance and frustration), and still want to give it a try, pick up the driver from AMD's support website. If not? Give it a little more time for AMD to whack-a-bug. At some point, there should be truly free performance waiting for you.

Press release after the break!

Source: AMD