Linux Gaming Is Growing on Us?

Subject: General Tech | June 6, 2016 - 11:46 AM |
Tagged: steam, pc gaming, linux

According to Phoronix, gaming on Linux has experienced exponential growth in recent times. Over the course of the last two years, Steam's catalog on the platform expanded from 500 games up to over 2200. This is a little over a 4.4x increase over two years. If I'm doing my high-school math correctly, and I seriously hope I am, this corresponds to an average increase of just under 2.1x year-over-year.

In other words, this is litearlly the trend, minus half-life. Snicker snicker snicker.

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The quantity of Linux's games catalog is a very different argument from its quality, of course. Still, you can find many interesting titles there. Valve has been porting their catalog to the OS, as have other, high-end titles, like Tomb Raider, Trine, Civilization V, Civilization: Beyond Earth, XCOM, and a couple Borderlands versions. If interested in specifics, and you enjoy a sense of humor like you would see on our PC Perspective Podcast, check out LinuxGameCast for their reviews of specific titles.

Source: Phoronix

A Potentially More Harmful Coil Whine Issue

Subject: General Tech | June 5, 2016 - 06:18 PM |
Tagged: security, Cyber Security, coil whine

As new hardware launches, many readers ask whether they produce any noticeable form of coil whine. For instance, this is an issue for graphics cards that are outputting a very high frame rate. The electronics create sound from the current oscillating as it flows through them. It can also be an issue for motherboards or power supplies as well. You can check out this fairly old video from LinusTechTips for a demonstration.

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Image Credit: ACM

It turns out that, because this whine is related to the signal flowing through the oscillating circuit, security researchers are looking into the types of information that can be inferred from the whine. In particular, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) published a paper called Physical Key Extraction Attacks on PCs. It discusses several methods of attacking a device, such as reading minor fluctuations in its grounding plug or monitoring induced radiation with an antenna. Its headlining method is “Acoustic” though, which listens to coil whine sound produced by the computer, as it decrypts RSA messages that are sent to it, to gather the RSA secret key from it.

While they have successfully demonstrated the attack using a parabolic microphone at 33ft away, and a second demonstration using a mobile phone at 1ft away, the news should be taken with a grain of salt. Mostly, it's just interesting to realize that there's nothing really special about a computer. All it does is stores and processes data on whatever physical state we have available in the world. Currently, that's almost always radio-frequency radiation flowing through semiconductors. Whatever we use will have consequences. For instance, as transistors get smaller, to push more complex signals through a given surface area and power, we'll eventually run out of atoms.

This is just another, often forgotten side-effect: electric signals induce the transfer of energy. It could be electromagnetic, acoustic, or even thermal. In the realm of security, this could, itself, carry some of the data that we attached to our world's state, and allow others to access it (or sometimes modify it) without our knowledge or consent.

DigitalFoundry Records The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine at 4K

Subject: General Tech | June 5, 2016 - 07:44 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, The Witcher 3

The Witcher 3 is one of the best looking games available, and its final DLC, Blood and Wine, intended to raise that graphical bar slightly. Near the base game's initial launch, in early 2015, there was a bit of a controversy surrounding the image quality and how it sort-of rolled back. Righting this issue was apparently one of the design goals for this final DLC, leaving users with fonder memories of the title before CD Projekt Red moves onto newer projects. Granted, the memories weren't all that bad to begin with, but it was nice to address regardless.

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As you can see, this environment is bright, vibrant, and heavily saturated with color. The medieval city is alive with colored cobblestone, flowers, banners, and buildings all under a bright, blue sky. There was quite a bit of texture pop-in that I saw, even at 1080p, but it wasn't too distracting. This, again, is supposed to be the last time that CD Projekt adds substantial content to The Witcher franchise for the foreseeable future, but I hope that the mod community will keep the title alive.

Adobe XD Will Apparently Be a UWP Application

Subject: General Tech | June 5, 2016 - 02:55 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, uwp, Adobe

So a company, who refuses to port its applications to Linux, is experimenting with UWP for future products. Adobe's Experience Design (XD) CC is going to arrive on Windows later this year, and a representative from Adobe claimed on Twitter that it will use Microsoft's UWP platform. Granted, we're not talking about something like Photoshop or After Effects, but rather a UX mock-up tool, sort-of along the lines of Pencil Project.

It's unclear whether UWP will be a choice.

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The logo looks like it's laughing at us with its tongue out.

I still find UWP a concern as Microsoft, while responding to some feedback, still has some key restrictions in play that limit free sharing. Until it becomes technically (or legally) unfeasible for Microsoft to lock down the platform, there will always be the concern that they could, for instance, revoke people's ability to develop software or remove (or prevent installation) of existing software. Even if they don't want to do it themselves, someone with authority over them may just compel it, such as a government who is against encryption.

If you build it, someone will abuse it. The only thing preventing Microsoft from realizing their Windows RT vision, if they still choose to, is the popularity of Win32 applications and how incompatible they are with that framework. We, as a society, want them to remain popular enough that Microsoft cannot afford to abandon it. They want to. They hate the stigma that Windows is where viruses are. That's reasonable, but they're not just throwing out the bathwater.

As an aside: they also want a platform that is less reliant upon x86, and could be recompiled for other hardware if Intel doesn't go where Microsoft wants to be. This is kind-of ironic if you think about it.

Source: WinBeta

LWJGL 3.0.0 Released

Subject: General Tech | June 5, 2016 - 01:29 AM |
Tagged: Java, lwjgl, vulkan

Don't be confused by the date on the LWJGL post -- its release date was June 3rd, as mentioned later in the thread, not February 27th. It looks like they disabled edit timestamps. Regardless, Lightweight Java Game Library (LWJGL) 3.0.0 was just released, which is a library that binds Java code to APIs that are, normally, not directly accessible through that platform.

To be clear: LWJGL is not a library like, say, Qt, which simplifies common tasks into classes. Its goal is to connect you to whatever API you need, and otherwise leave you alone. Unless you're the type who wants full control over everything, or you're actually making a framework yourself, you will want to use existing frameworks, engines, and/or middleware for your projects. The advantage, of course, is that these frameworks, engines, and middleware now have access to newer APIs, and can justify deprecating old features.

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This release adds Vulkan support, which will provide a high-performance (and high-efficiency) base to abstract many other graphics and GPU compute tasks on. DirectX 12 and Vulkan are still being worked on, as an industry, but its mechanism is theoretically better, especially with multiple threads (and multiple graphics devices). They basically add a graphics layer to a GPU compute-style API, basing everything on lists of commands that start and end wherever the host code desires.

While Java has been taking a massive hit in public opinion lately, it is still a good platform for some applications. Gaming seems to having a resurgence of native APIs, especially with “AAA” engines becoming available to the general public, but more frameworks isn't a bad thing.

Source: LWJGL

The Wit.nes Runs in an NES Emulator

Subject: General Tech | June 4, 2016 - 07:24 PM |
Tagged: nes, the witness, the wit.nes, pc gaming

The Witness, from Thekla Inc. and Jonathan Blow, caught the attention of a few of us at PC Perspective... mostly Allyn. Anywho, it's based on an island that you explore and solve puzzles along the way. I'm not talking about puzzles in the “Space Quest”, point-and-click adventure sense, but like, puzzles that you would expect to find in a newspaper, which unlock doors and turn on machinery when solved.

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If that sort of game is for you, then you might want to check out a “demake” of it, called The Wit.nes. It is created by an indie developer who goes by the name Dustmop, for NES emulators. Being a game that's based on the NES platform, the entire virtual ROM is currently 40KB. (NES titles varied between ~8kB and ~1MB). It plays from a top-down perspective in its exploration mode, rather than first-person for what should be obvious reasons, but the puzzles are apparently quite faithful to the original style.

It's free and small, so check it out at their Itch.io page if you're interested.

Just say no to Accelerator support applications; yet another Lenovo vulnerability

Subject: General Tech | June 3, 2016 - 08:10 PM |
Tagged: Lenovo, security, idiots, superfish

At some point they may learn but obviously not yet as Lenovo's Accelerator support application opens two vulnerabilities for systems with the application installed.  As it uses unencrypted transmissions during the update process and does not verify the application you receive you are vulnerable to man in the middle attacks.  There are 6 notebooks and 25 desktop lines with this issue, although ThinkPads and ThinkStations are not on the list.  If you have the software you should remove it immediately.  More over at The Register.

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"Duo Security researcher Mikhail Davidov reported the holes that would allow eavesdropping attackers to tap into Accelerator's unencrypted update channels to compromise users."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Podcast #402 - GTX 1070 Review, i7-6950X Review, AMD Radeon RX480, Aftermarket GTX 1080’s, Tiny SSDs, Computex 2016, and more!

Subject: General Tech | June 3, 2016 - 03:11 PM |
Tagged: zenfone 3, ssd, Samsung, rx480, ROG Rampage V Edition 10, podcast, PM971-NVMe, i7-6950X, gtx1080, GTX1070, computex 2016, Broadwell, Bristol Ridge, BGA, avalon, 1080, 1070

PC Perspective Podcast #402 - 06/03/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the GTX 1070 Review, i7-6950X Review, AMD Radeon RX480, Aftermarket GTX 1080’s, Tiny SSDs, Computex 2016, 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!

This episode of the PC Perspective Podcast is sponsored by Casper!

Hosts:  Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, and Sebastian Peak

Program length: 2:02:07
  1. Week in Review:
  2. Casper!
  3. News items of interest:
    1. 1:12:09 Aftermarket GTX 1080s are here!
    2. 1:27:25 ASUS Computex 2016
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Allyn: Break down and organize / lookup all of those Amazon boxes.
  5. Closing/outro

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

One serving of Micron 3D TLC NAND, hold the NVMe

Subject: General Tech | June 2, 2016 - 04:26 PM |
Tagged: micron, 3d nand, tlc, mlc, DEVSLP

Micron have unveiled their new line of 3D NAND, the SATA 6Gbps TLC 1100 and the NVMe MLC 2100, although they only shared details of the former.  The 1100 will introduce DEVSLP mode, where the drives power draw will dip to less than 2mW on the smaller drives, 4mW for the 1TB with the 2TB model requiring 25mW.  The TLC used in the drive is rather impressive, the advertised speeds come very close to what their MLC based M600 drives are capable of.  Check out the full specs and more over at The Register.

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"Intel, its flash foundry partner, introduced its own 3D SSDs, MLC (2bits/cell) ones, in March with the DC P3320 and P3520, with maximum capacity of 2TB. These had an NVME interface whereas Micron’s 1100 has the slower 6Gbit/s SATA interface."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Epic Games Releases Unreal Engine 4.12

Subject: General Tech | June 1, 2016 - 10:26 PM |
Tagged: unreal engine, ue4, unreal engine 4, epic, epic games

Epic Games has released Unreal Engine 4.12, which adds quite a bit, especially cinematic tools. Those who created games or mods in Unreal Engine 3 or 4 will know about Matinee, the interface to animate objects in a scene. It has finally been replaced with Sequencer, which is designed to feel more like Adobe After Effects or Adobe Premiere. They also add a bunch of features to DirectX 12 and Vulkan, but both are still in experimental preview. Vulkan, for instance, only implements rendering features for mobile, not desktop.

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Beyond Sequencer, mentioned above, Epic has also added a bunch of new rendering technologies for high-end graphics. This includes High Quality Reflections, Planar Reflections, Grass and Foliage Scalability, and Twist Corrective Animation Node. These are quite interesting for someone like me, who has been getting back into pre-rendered animation recently, but finds that typical, production renderers (such as Cycles) are quite heavy, slowing me down. Epic was interested in bringing Unreal Engine into a video production workflow, even back in Unreal Engine 3, and it's good to see a lot of attention in this area. It might be enough to move me over at some point, especially for animations that don't have a hyper-realistic style. Even better -- this level of visual quality should land in some games, too.

Unreal Engine 4.12 is now available on Epic's Launcher.

Source: Epic Games