That Linux thing that nobody uses

Subject: General Tech | August 14, 2014 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: linux

For many Linux is a mysterious thing that is either dead or about to die because no one uses it.  Linux.com has put together an overview of what Linux is and where to find it being used.  Much of what they describe in the beginning applies to all operating systems as they share similar features, it is only in the details that they differ.  If you have only thought about Linux as that OS that you can't game on then it is worth taking a look through the descriptions of the distributions and why people choose to use Linux.  You may never build a box which runs Linux but if you are considering buying a Steambox when they arrive on the market you will find yourself using a type of Linux and having a basic understanding of the parts of the OS for troubleshooting and optimization.   If you already use Linux then fire up Steam and take a break.

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"For those in the know, you understand that Linux is actually everywhere. It's in your phones, in your cars, in your refrigerators, your Roku devices. It runs most of the Internet, the supercomputers making scientific breakthroughs, and the world's stock exchanges."

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Source: Linux.com

Intel and Microsoft Show DirectX 12 Demo and Benchmark

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Mobile, Shows and Expos | August 13, 2014 - 09:55 PM |
Tagged: siggraph 2014, Siggraph, microsoft, Intel, DirectX 12, directx 11, DirectX

Along with GDC Europe and Gamescom, Siggraph 2014 is going on in Vancouver, BC. At it, Intel had a DirectX 12 demo at their booth. This scene, containing 50,000 asteroids, each in its own draw call, was developed on both Direct3D 11 and Direct3D 12 code paths and could apparently be switched while the demo is running. Intel claims to have measured both power as well as frame rate.

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Variable power to hit a desired frame rate, DX11 and DX12.

The test system is a Surface Pro 3 with an Intel HD 4400 GPU. Doing a bit of digging, this would make it the i5-based Surface Pro 3. Removing another shovel-load of mystery, this would be the Intel Core i5-4300U with two cores, four threads, 1.9 GHz base clock, up-to 2.9 GHz turbo clock, 3MB of cache, and (of course) based on the Haswell architecture.

While not top-of-the-line, it is also not bottom-of-the-barrel. It is a respectable CPU.

Intel's demo on this processor shows a significant power reduction in the CPU, and even a slight decrease in GPU power, for the same target frame rate. If power was not throttled, Intel's demo goes from 19 FPS all the way up to a playable 33 FPS.

Intel will discuss more during a video interview, tomorrow (Thursday) at 5pm EDT.

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Maximum power in DirectX 11 mode.

For my contribution to the story, I would like to address the first comment on the MSDN article. It claims that this is just an "ideal scenario" of a scene that is bottlenecked by draw calls. The thing is: that is the point. Sure, a game developer could optimize the scene to (maybe) instance objects together, and so forth, but that is unnecessary work. Why should programmers, or worse, artists, need to spend so much of their time developing art so that it could be batch together into fewer, bigger commands? Would it not be much easier, and all-around better, if the content could be developed as it most naturally comes together?

That, of course, depends on how much performance improvement we will see from DirectX 12, compared to theoretical max efficiency. If pushing two workloads through a DX12 GPU takes about the same time as pushing one, double-sized workload, then it allows developers to, literally, perform whatever solution is most direct.

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Maximum power when switching to DirectX 12 mode.

If, on the other hand, pushing two workloads is 1000x slower than pushing a single, double-sized one, but DirectX 11 was 10,000x slower, then it could be less relevant because developers will still need to do their tricks in those situations. The closer it gets, the fewer occasions that strict optimization is necessary.

If there are any DirectX 11 game developers, artists, and producers out there, we would like to hear from you. How much would a (let's say) 90% reduction in draw call latency (which is around what Mantle claims) give you, in terms of fewer required optimizations? Can you afford to solve problems "the naive way" now? Some of the time? Most of the time? Would it still be worth it to do things like object instancing and fewer, larger materials and shaders? How often?

Podcast Listeners and Viewers: Win an EVGA SuperNOVA 1000 G2 Power Supply

Subject: General Tech | August 13, 2014 - 05:15 PM |
Tagged: supernova, podcast, giveaway, evga, contest

A big THANK YOU goes to our friends at EVGA for hooking us up with another item to give away for our podcast listeners and viewers this week. If you watch tonight's LIVE recording of Podcast #313 (10pm ET / 7pm PT at http://pcper.com/live) or download our podcast after the fact (at http://pcper.com/podcast) then you'll have the tools needed to win an EVGA SuperNOVA 1000 G2 Power Supply!! (Valued at $165 based on Amazon current selling price.) See review of our 750/850G2 SuperNOVA units.

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How do you enter? Well, on the live stream (or in the downloaded version) we'll give out a special keyword during our discussion of the contest for you to input in the form below. That's it! 

We'll draw a random winner next week, anyone can enter from anywhere in the world - we'll cover the shipping. We'll draw a winner on August 20th and announce it on the next episode of the podcast! Good luck, and once again, thanks goes out to EVGA for supplying the prize!

Unreal Tournament's Training Day, get in on the Pre-Pre-Alpha right now!

Subject: General Tech | August 13, 2014 - 02:02 PM |
Tagged: Unreal Tournament, gaming, Alpha

Feel like (Pre-Pre-)Alpha testing Unreal Tournament without forking money over for early access?  No problems thanks to Epic and Unreal Forums member ‘raxxy’ who is compiling and updating the (pre)Alpha version of the next Unreal Tournament.  Sure there may not be many textures but there is a Flak Cannon so what could you possible have to complain about?  There are frequent updates and a major part of participating is to give feedback to the devs so please be sure to check into the #beyondunreal IRC channel to get tips and offer feedback.  Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN reports that the severs are massively packed now so you may not be able to immediately join in but it is worth trying.

raxxy would like you to understand "These are PRE-ALPHA Prototype Builds. Seriously. Super early testing. So early it's technically not even pre alpha, it's debug code!"

You can be guaranteed that the Fragging Frogs will be taking advantage of this, as well as revisiting the much beloved UT2K4 so if you haven't joined up yet ... what are you waiting for?

Check out Fatal1ty playing if you can't get on

"Want to play the new Unreal Tournament for free, right this very second? Cor blimey and OMG you totes can! Hero of the people ‘raxxy’ on the Unreal Forums is compiling Epic’s builds and releasing them as small, playable packages that anyone can run, with multiple updates per week. The maps are untextured, the weapons unbalanced, and things change rapidly as everything’s still “pre-alpha” but it’s playable and – more importantly – fun."

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Gaming

Meet Tonga, soon to be your new Radeon

Subject: General Tech | August 13, 2014 - 12:58 PM |
Tagged: tonga, radeon, FirePro W7100, amd

A little secret popped out with the release of AMD's FirePro W7100, a new family of GPU that goes by the name of Tonga, which is very likely to replace the aging Tahiti chip that has been used since the HD 7900 series.  The stats that The Tech Report saw show interesting changes from Tahiti including a reduction of the memory interface to 256-bit which is in line with NVIDIA's current offerings.  The number of stream processors might be reduced to 1792 from 2048 but that is based on the W7100 and it the GPUs may be released with the full 32 GCN compute units.  Many other features have seen increases, the number of Asynchronous Compute Engines goes from 2 to 8, the number of rasterized triangles per clock doubles to 4 and it adds support for the new TrueAudio DSP and CrossFire XDMA.

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"The bottom line is that Tonga joins the Hawaii (Radeon R9 290X) and Bonaire (R7 260X) chips as the only members of AMD' s GCN 1.1 series of graphics processors. Tonga looks to be a mid-sized GPU and is expected to supplant the venerable Tahiti chip used in everything from the original Radeon HD 7970 to the current Radeon R9 280."

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Select GeForce GTX GPUs Now Include Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

Subject: General Tech | August 13, 2014 - 12:26 PM |
Tagged: borderlands, nvidia, geforce

 

Santa Clara, CA — August 12, 2014 — Get ready to shoot ‘n’ loot your way through Pandora’s moon. Starting today, gamers who purchase select NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN, 780 Ti, 780, and 770 desktop GPUs will receive a free copy of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, the hotly anticipated new chapter to the multi-award winning Borderlands franchise from 2K and Gearbox Software.

Discover the story behind Borderlands 2’s villain, Handsome Jack, and his rise to power. Taking place between the original Borderlands and Borderlands 2, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel offers players a whole lotta new gameplay in low gravity.

“If you have a high-end NVIDIA GPU, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel will offer higher fidelity and higher performance hardware-driven special effects including awesome weapon impacts, moon-shatteringly cool cryo explosions and ice particles, and cloth and fluid simulation that blows me away every time I see it," said Randy Pitchford, CEO and president of Gearbox Software.

With NVIDIA PhysX technology, you will feel deep space like never before. Get high in low gravity and use new ice and laser weapons to experience destructible levels of mayhem. Check out the latest trailer here: http://youtu.be/c9a4wr4I1hk that just went live this morning!

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel will also stream to your NVIDIA SHIELD tablet or portable. For the first time ever, you can play Claptrap anywhere by using NVIDIA Gamestream technologies. You can even livestream and record every fist punch with GeForce Shadowplay

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel will be available on October 14, 2014 in North America and on October 17, 2014 internationally. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is not yet rated by the ESRB.

The GeForce GTX and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel bundle is available starting today from leading e-tailers including Amazon, NCIX, Newegg, and Tiger Direct and system builders including Canada Computers, Digital Storm, Falcon Northwest, Maingear, Memory Express, Origin PC, V3 Gaming, and Velocity Micro. For a full list of participating partners, please visit: www.GeForce.com/GetBorderlands.

Source: NVIDIA

DOTA 2 May Be Running Source Engine 2. Now.

Subject: General Tech | August 12, 2014 - 09:00 PM |
Tagged: valve, source engine, Source 2, DOTA 2

While it may not seem like it in North America, we are in a busy week for videogame development. GDC Europe, which stands for Game Developers Conference Europe, is just wrapping up to make room for Gamescom, which will take up the rest of the week. Valve will be there and people are reading tea leaves to find out why. SteamOS seems likely, but what about their next generation gaming engine, Source 2? Maybe it already happened?

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Valve is the most secretive company with values of openness that I know. They are pretty good at preventing leaks from escaping their walls. Recently, Dota 2 was updated to receive new features and development tools for user-generated maps and gametypes. The tools currently require 64-bit Windows and a DirectX 11-compatible GPU.

Those don't sound like Source requirements...

And the editor doesn't look like Valve's old tools.

Video Credit: "Valve News Network".

Leaks also point to things like "tf_imported", "left4dead2_source2", and "left4dead2_imported". This is interesting. Valve is pushing Dota 2, their most popular, free-to-play game into Source 2. Also, because it is listed as "tf" rather than "tf2", like "dota" is not registered as "dota2" but "left4dead2" keeps its number, this might mean that the free-to-play Team Fortress 2 could be in a perpetual-development mode, like Dota 2. Eventually, it could be pushed to the new engine and given more content.

As for Left4Dead2? I am wondering if it is intended to be a product, rather than an internal (or external) Source 2 tech demo.

Was this what brought Valve to Gamescom, or will be be surprised by other announcements (or nothing at all)?

Source: Polygon

Intel is disabling TSX in Haswell due to software failures

Subject: General Tech | August 12, 2014 - 01:07 PM |
Tagged: Intel, haswell, tsx, errata

Transactional Synchronization Extensions, aka TSX, are a backwards compatible set of instructions which first appeared in some Haswell chips as a method to improve concurrency and multi-threadedness with as little work for the programmer as possible.  It was intended to improve the scaling of multi-threaded apps running on multi-core processors and has not yet been widely adopted.  The adoption has run into another hurdle, in some cases the use of TSX can cause critical software failures and as a result Intel will be disabling the instruction set via new BIOS/UEFI updates which will be pushed out soon.  If your software uses the new instruction set and you wish it to continue to do so you should avoid updating your motherboard BIOS/UEFI and ask your users to do the same.  You can read more about this bug/errata and other famous problems over at The Tech Report.

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"The TSX instructions built into Intel's Haswell CPU cores haven't become widely used by everyday software just yet, but they promise to make certain types of multithreaded applications run much faster than they can today. Some of the savviest software developers are likely building TSX-enabled software right about now."

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Aftermath of the Fragging Frogs VLAN #7

Subject: General Tech | August 11, 2014 - 06:52 PM |
Tagged: VLAN party, pcper, kick ass, fragging frogs

Several rowboats worth of snacks, a couple of canoe-fulls of assorted beverages and boatloads of fun were had this weekend in the highly successful 7th Fragging Frogs VLAN; if you missed it there will be another chance some day but you really missed an epic event.  There were over 120 Teamspeak connections in a variety of channels and an estimated peak of 78 active participants.  Thanks to AMD there is a new game for the Frogs as well as Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare was a hit both to the players and to those watching iamApropos' live stream.  We also gained some ARMA 2 fans which will not only appear again next VLAN but is also in danger of becoming a frequent activity for some members. 

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Once again there was quite a bit of valuable hardware and software given away, the list includes:

AMD

  • AMD Fan Kit (headset, 16 GB USB drive, mouse)
  • AMD Gaming Series RAM - 8 GB of 2133 Mhz
  • MSI Military Class 4 A88XM-E35 FM2+ motherboard *and* A10-7850K APU
  • AMD FX-8350 Processor
  • XFX R9 290 Double D graphics card
  • Several Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare Origin codes

AMD Red Team+

  • Murdered Soul Suspect game codes
  • Sniper Elite 3 game codes  

Please stop by this thread to offer your thanks and support for all the hard work put into these events by Lenny, iamApropos, Spazster, Brandito, Cannonaire, AMD and the Frogs in general.

It's not just Broadwell today, we also have Seattle news

Subject: General Tech | August 11, 2014 - 01:47 PM |
Tagged: amd, seattle, hot chips

AMD has been showing off a reference Seattle-based server at Hot Chips and The Tech Report had an opportunity to see it.  Eight 64-bit Cortex-A57 chips are set up in pairs, each pair sharing 1MB of L2 cache while the 8MB of L3 cache is accessible by all eight chips as well as the coprocessors, memory controller, and I/O subsystems.  The system can address up to 128GB of DDR3 or DDR4, and you get support fot 8 SATA 6Gbps ports and 8 lanes of PCIe 3.0 to apportion between the slots.  There is a secure System Control Processor, a partitioned Cortex-A5 core with its own ROM, RAM, and I/O to control power, boot and configuration control with support for TrustZone as well as a Cryptographic Coprocessor which accelerates all encryption processes as you might well expect.  Read on for more information about AMD's unique new take on server technology.

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"For some time now, the features of AMD's Seattle server processor have been painted in broad brush strokes. This morning, at the Hot Chips symposium, AMD is filling in most of the missing details. We were treated to an advance briefing last week, where AMD provided previously confidential information about Seattle's cache network, memory controller, I/O features, and coprocessors."

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