Here There Be Dragons (and "Four Horsemen")

Subject: General Tech | February 1, 2015 - 11:56 PM |
Tagged: x-plane, programming, development

“The Hacks of Life” is a blog from some developers at Laminar Research, which created the X-Plane franchise. Ben Supnik, the company's graphics lead, wrote an interesting and fairly lengthy blog post about optimizing for software performance, and it applies to more than just games.

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In software development, the typical concept is: “write it, then profile it and fix what needs it”. This comes from the fear that developers will spend the majority of their time fixing the wrong problems. A profiler can tell you the chunks of code that hogs resources when you experience stutter, hitches, or hangs. They can also tell you how much of your overall performance is being used by specific parts of your application. These places have the most room for optimization, which allows you to budget more time for them. If you squeeze even a 100x performance increase out of code that runs for a tiny fraction of a millisecond per frame, then you spent all that time recovering at most a tiny fraction of a millisecond. All of that time could have been spent even doubling the performance of an 8ms effect, saving you 4 whole milliseconds per frame, which is the difference between 50 FPS and 60 FPS.

What I get from Ben's post is that, while not all of your code needs to run well, you cannot skip the design phase. The profiler can end up being an excuse to charge blindly into development. In a construction analogy, there is a difference between creating blueprints for your entire life, and building a house without any plans -- but that's okay, we can cut holes in the drywall if we need more windows and doors.

It's an interesting post, and is the eventual result of mantras being taken too literally.

MediaTek MT6753 64-bit Eight-Core SoC Announced

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | February 1, 2015 - 03:17 PM |
Tagged: mt6753, mediatek

We do not talk about MediaTek's higher-end products too often. Part of that is because they use stock architectures, ARM's Cortex CPU, ARM's Mali GPU, and Imagination Technologies' PowerVR GPU, rather than designing their own CPU and/or GPU portion. Likewise, their design wins are also not covered too much on this site, such as the new Amazon Fire HD tablets, for their own reasons. They still make some interesting chips, though.

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Image Credit: A Weibo user via GSM-Arena

The MediaTek MT6753 is a true eight-core, 64-bit ARM SoC. Its press release makes the rest of its details... confusing. The release claims that it is clocked at 1.5 GHz and contains an ARM Mali-T720 GPU that is capable of OpenGL ES 3.0 and OpenCL 1.2. The ARM Mali-T720 is actually capable of OpenGL ES 3.1 and OpenCL 1.1. This leads some sites to report that the MT6753 actually contains a Mali-T760, which is newer and can utilize OpenGL ES 3.1 and OpenCL 1.2 (it is also used in the MT6752 that was released several months ago). Other sites report what MediaTek claims.

GSM-Arena, one site that claims the (more-sensible) Mali-T760, also claims that the Cortex CPU cores can be clocked up to 1.7 GHz. This might not be inaccurate either, because it could be intended to run at ~1.3 to 1.5 GHz with a 1.7 GHz peak for vendors that want to take it to eleven. Alternatively, they could be wrong and it could peak at 1.5 GHz. We don't know, and MediaTek should be more clear about these important details.

Everyone seems to agree on the chip's networking capability, though. It will directly support LTE protocols for both China and western markets. This is expected to make them more competitive against Qualcomm, which might lead to more interesting designs.

Devices containing the MT6753 are expected to ship next quarter.

Source: MediaTek

Aorus enters the keyboard battle armed with the Thunder K7

Subject: General Tech | January 30, 2015 - 01:49 PM |
Tagged: input, aoris, thunder k7, mechanical keyboard, cherry mx red

Aorus is expanding the mechanical keyboard market with their Thunder K7 which uses Cherry MX Red switches and has a removable numpad which you can attach to the left or right of the board, or completely separated from the main board if you so desire.  The 20 keys on the numpad can all be programmed with macros, to help you copy and paste the UbiSoft game keys given away during our podcasts.  The brightness of the keyboards backlighting can be adjusted with the wheel located at the top of the keyboard and the numpad as well.  Modders-Inc found themselves liking this board, you can read about it right here.

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"What do you look for in a keyboard? Do you look for items such as mechanical switches, dedicated macro keys, and LED backlighting? Do you want silent keys or loud keys? There are plenty of keyboards on the market with more features than you can shake a stick at. Some are useful, while others are gimmicky."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Modders Inc

ASRock Adds VisionX 471D To Small Form Factor PC Lineup

Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 30, 2015 - 03:03 AM |
Tagged: visionx, SFF, radeon, m270x, haswell, asrock, amd

ASRock has unleashed an update to its small form factor VisionX series. The new VisionX 471D adds a faster Haswell processor and dedicated Radeon mobile graphics to the mini PC.

ASRock VisionX 471D SFF Mini PC.jpg

The 7.9” x 7.9” x 2.8” PC chassis comes in black or silver with rounded corners. External I/O is quite expansive with a DVD optical drive, two audio jacks, one USB 3.0 port, one MHSL* port (MHL compatible port that carries both data and video), and a SD card reader on the front. Further, the back of the PC holds the following ports:

  • Audio:
    • 5 x Analog audio jacks
    • 1 x Optical audio out
  • Video:
    • 1 x DVI
    • 1 x HDMI
  • Networking:
    • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet jack
    • 802.11ac (2 antennas)
  • Storage/Peripherals:
    • 5 x USB 3.0
    • 1 x USB 2.0
    • 1 x eSATA

ASRock has gone with the Intel Core i7-4712MQ processor. This is a 37W Haswell quad core (with eight threads) clocked at up to 3.3GHz. Graphics are handled by the AMD Radeon R9 M270X which is a mobile “Venus” GCN-based GPU with 1GB of memory. The 28nm GPU with 640 cores, 40 TMUs, and 16 ROPs is clocked at 725 MHz base and up to 775 MHz boost. The PC further supports two SO-DIMMS, two 2.5” drives, one mSATA connector, and the above-mentioned DVD drive (DL-8A4SH-01 comes pre-installed).

ASRock VisionX 471D Rear IO.jpg

The VisionX 471D is a “barebones” system where you will have to provide your own OS but does come with bundled storage and memory. Specifically, for $999, the SFF computer comes with 8GB of DDR3 memory, a 2TB mechanical hard drive, and a 256GB mSATA SSD (the ASint SSDMSK256G-M1 using a JMF667 controller and 64GB 20nm IMFT NAND). This leaves room for one additional 2.5” drive for expansion. Although it comes without an operating system, it does ship with a Windows Media Center compatible remote.

This latest addition to the VisionX series succeeds the 420D and features a faster processor. At the time of this writing, the PC is not available for purchase, but it is in the hands of reviewers (such as this review from AnandTech) and will be coming soon to retailers for $999 USD.

The price is on the steep side especially compared to some other recent tiny PCs, but you are getting a top end mobile Haswell chip and good I/O for a small system with enough hardware to possibly be "enough" PC for many people (or at least a second PC or a HTPC in the living room).

Source: ASRock

Podcast #334 - GTX 970 Memory Issues, Samsung 840 Evo Slowdown, GTX 960 and more!

Subject: General Tech | January 29, 2015 - 02:43 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, wetbench, video, Samsung, Primochill, podcast, nvidia, microsoft, GTX 970, gtx 960, DirectX 12, 840 evo

PC Perspective Podcast #334 - 01/29/2015

Join us this week as we discuss GTX 970 Memory Issues, Samsung 840 Evo Slowdown, GTX 960 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, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

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

 

Mow the lawn or enjoy the Internet we grew up with, kid

Subject: General Tech | January 29, 2015 - 01:17 PM |
Tagged: vexbox, Kickstarter, 56k

The VexBox will bring tears to the eyes of parents and children, though only for the parents will they be tears of joy.  It is a device being Kickstarted which will connect to your main router and provide a separate connection, both wired and wireless, to the devices you assign to it.  You can then throttle the connection when you feel it is needed, all the way down to 56K modem speeds while leaving your connection unaffected.  You will need to have a tiny bit more technical savvy than your children, if they can guess your password or the main router password then obviously they can circumvent the VexBox but as long as you can manage to keep a step ahead you can slow your internet down for anyone that isn't living up to your expectations.  The KickStarter is here, one of their stretch goals is to be able to limit speeds depending on the URL being accessed so that actual online research can be performed at full speed.   You will also need to block or confiscate 4G devices to avoid excess data charges if attempts are made to circumvent the VexBox.  Join The Inquirer and "retro enthusiasts and people of a certain age" in bringing this beautiful device to the market.

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"You can't shut kids in cupboards under the stairs these days, as it just leads to Harry Potter fantasies. So parents have had to come up with new ways of getting someone to mow the lawn."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Kingston's new HyperX member, the Cloud II Pro gaming headset

Subject: General Tech | January 28, 2015 - 05:14 PM |
Tagged: audio, kingston, hyperx cloud II pro, gaming headset

Kingston's HyperX Cloud II Pro Gaming Headset can work as just a normal over the ear headset thanks to the removable microphone and 3.5" jack but provides more functionality when you use the inline 7.1 audio DSP connected to a USB port.  The speakers are rated at a frequency response of 15Hz–25,000 Hz and the microphone at 50–18,000 Hz but be aware that the quality of your voice is significantly better when not connected via USB.  The 7.1 audio emulation software works as advertised although the reviewer at Modders Inc prefers to use stereo.  Check out the full review right here.

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"Two years ago, I walked into the Emperor's Ballroom in Caesar's Palace hotel in Las Vegas Nevada wearing khakis and a golf-shirt, feeling woefully underdressed for the venue as I did not exactly pack a ball gown nor do I look good in one. The room had high ornate coffered ceilings, triumphal arches, elaborate carpeting and real marble floors, all …"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Source: Modders Inc

The Bard's Tale is back baby!

Subject: General Tech | January 28, 2015 - 02:06 PM |
Tagged: old school, inxile, interplay, gaming, bards tale

Ah the sweet days of exploring Skara Brae on an Apple ][e, trying to figure out how to make it down a street or corridor without being teleported back to where you started and trying to figure out if you want to promote your magic user to a sorcerer or wizard.  InXile, the same company that brought Wasteland into the modern era will now be working to bring back The Bard's Tale. This will hopefully be a much better implementation than UbiSoft's disappointing Might & Magic X: Legacy, the change from Wasteland to Wasteland 2 is vast but has been well done.  Check out Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN for more and watch the fall of Baron Harkyn and his four groups of 99 berserkers below.

"Brian Fargo and the inXile team’s next project will be another revival of an Interplay oldie. Following the success of Wasteland 2, the studio is now turning its attention to The Bard’s Tale, the fantasy dungeon crawling series last seen in 1988."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Tired of patching Flash? You might not need to worry as much anymore

Subject: General Tech | January 28, 2015 - 01:28 PM |
Tagged: youtube, google, flash, html5

Youtube has finally ditched Flash as the default player for video in Chrome, Internet Explorer 11 and Safari 8.  If you use the beta builds of Firefox you will also be provided HTML5 video by default but as of yet the official release will still be playing Flash videos.  The adaptive bitrate which HTML5 can handle, without the use of plugins, could reduce buffering by 50% in a normal situation and up to 80% on congested networks according to the information which was given to The Inquirer.  As well the VP9 Codec can provide a stream at 35% less bandwidth than Flash which makes 4K and 60fps videos start much faster.  Flash is not yet dead and you can revert back to it, if you want to play Snake while your video is loading.

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"GOOGLE'S YOUTUBE video portal has made the switch to HTML5 as a default renderer, marking yet another milestone in the downfall of the Adobe Flash format."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

A Bit Off Topic: FCC Bans Wi-Fi Blocking

Subject: General Tech, Networking | January 27, 2015 - 08:45 PM |
Tagged: wifi, FCC

Because blocking a person's mobile hotspot so you can charge them to use your Wi-Fi is a completely jerk thing to do. The FCC has just released a warning to any individuals, groups, or businesses considering these measures that blocking Wi-Fi is illegal. This follows the decision in October to fine Marriott, the hotel chain, $600,000 for blocking personal networks in a Tennessee location.

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Now who's blowing the Raspberry?

Marriott, despite paying the fine, asked the commission to consider writing an official rule on this practice. They just did. It is illegal. The blocks of spectrum belonging to wireless internet are unlicensed, and thus no particular entity is apparently allowed to claim ownership over it, even in their geographic property.

It seems like a good decision to me, one that I cannot think of any immediate side-effects for, but this is one of those cases that a problem could be hiding in plain sight. What do you think? Am I missing something? Or is this a win for everyone (except those trying to block competing services)?

Source: FCC