Unleash Ubuntu with the ASUS Zenbook; or vice versa

Subject: Mobile | April 9, 2014 - 05:23 PM |
Tagged: linux, asus, zenbook, UX301LA-DH71T, ubuntu 14.04, ubuntu, haswell

There is a lot to like about this particular 13.3" ASUS Zenbook, perhaps the most noticeable is the IPS display with a 2560 x 1440 resolution and a capacitive display capable of tracking 10 contact points.  There is another reason to fall in love with this notebook, it can run Ubuntu with all of the features enabled without any extra work required.  The specifications under the hood are rather impressive as well, a Core-i7 4558U with Intel Iris Graphics 5100, 8GB of DDR3-1600 and two 128GB SSDs capable of supporting RAID.  Those of you looking for a powerful notebook which does not require Windows to run properly would be wise to read this review at Phoronix.

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"As I wrote about at the beginning of March, I bought the ASUS Zenbook UX301LA-DH71T Haswell-based ultrabook to replace an Apple Retina MacBook Pro as my main system. I've been using this latest Zenbook with Intel Iris Graphics and dual SSDs for several weeks now as my main system and have taken it on four business trips so far and it's been running great. Paired with Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, the ASUS Zenbook UX301LA makes a rather nice lightweight yet powerful Linux system."

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Source: Phoronix

Qualcomm Reveals New Flagship Snapdragon 808 and 810 64-Bit SoCs Coming In 2015

Subject: Mobile | April 8, 2014 - 07:47 PM |
Tagged: SoC, snapdragon, qualcomm, LTE, ARMv8, adreno, 64-bit

Qualcomm has announced two new flagship 64-bit SoCs with the Snapdragon 808 and Snapdragon 810. The new chips will begin sampling later this year and should start showing up in high end smartphones towards the second half of 2015. The new 800-series parts join the previously announced mid-range Snapdragon 610 and 615 which are also 64-bit ARMv8 parts.

The Snapdragon 810 is Qualcomm's new flagship processor. The chip features four ARM Cortex A57 cores and four Cortex A53 cores in a big.LITTLE configuration, an Adreno 430 GPU, and support for Category 6 LTE (up to 300 Mbps downloads) and LPDDR4 memory. This flagship part uses the 64-bit ARMv8 ISA. The new Adreno 430 GPU integrated in the SoC is reportedly 30% faster than the Adreno 420 GPU in the Snapdragon 805 processor.

Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC.jpg

In addition to the flagship part, Qualcomm is also releasing the Snapdragon 808 which pairs two Cortex A57 CPU cores and four Cortex A53 CPU cores in a big.LITTLE configuration with an Adreno 418 (approximately 20% faster than the popular Adreno 320) GPU. This chip supports LPDDR3 memory and Qualcomm's new Category 6 LTE modem.

Both the 808 and 810 have Adreno GPUs which support OpenGL ES 3.1. The new chips support a slew of wireless I/O including Categrory 6 LTE, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, and NFC.

Qualcomm is reportedly planning to produce these SoCs on a 20nm process. For reference, the mid-range 64-bit Snapdragon 610 and 615 use a 28nm LP manufacturing process. The new 20nm process (presumably from TSMC) should enable improved battery life and clockspeed headroom on the flagship parts. Exactly how big the mentioned gains will be will depend on the specific manufacturing process, with smaller gains from a bulk/planar process shrink or greater improvements coming from more advanced methods such as FD-SOI if the new chip on a 20nm process is the same transistor count as one on a 28nm process (which is being used in existing chips).

The 808 and 810 parts are the new high-end 64-bit chips which will effectively supplant the 32-bit Snapdragon 805 which is a marginal update over the Snapdragon 800. The naming conventions and product lineups are getting a bit crazy here, but suffice it to say that the 808 and 810 are the effective successors to the 800 while the 805 is a stop-gap upgrade while Qualcomm moves to 64-bit ARMv8 and secures manufacturing for the new chips which should be slightly faster CPU-wise, notably faster GPU-wise and more capable with the faster cellular modem support and 64-bit ISA support.

For those wondering, the press release also states that the company is still working on development of its custom 64-bit Krait CPU architecture. However, it does not appear that 64-bit Krait will be ready by the first half of 2015, which is why Qualcomm has opted to use ARM's Cortex A57 and A53 cores in its upcoming flagship 808 and 810 SoCs.

Source: Qualcomm

Lenovo Launches New Tab A7-50, A8, and A10 Android Tablets

Subject: Mobile | April 8, 2014 - 07:01 PM |
Tagged: tablet, tab a8, tab a7-50, tab a10, mtk 8121, mediatek, Lenovo, android 4.2

Today, Lenovo announced a refreshed lineup of its A-series tablets including the A7-50, A8, and A10. The new tablets take a common hardware platform and scale it from a 7-inch tablet to a 10-inch tablet with optional keyboard. All three tablets run the Android 4.2 operating system and will be available in May.

Lenovo A7 7-inch Android Tablet.jpg

The Lenovo TAB A7-50 Android 4.2 tablet.

The new Lenovo TAB A-series is powered by a quad core MediaTek 8121 SoC clocked at 1.3 GHz paired with 1GB of LP-DDR2 memory and 16GB of internal flash storage. Users can add an additional 32GB of storage with a micro SD card. Networking is handled by an 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 radio along with an optional SIM card slot on certain models (cellular functionality not available in the North American market). The tablets come with IPS touchscreens with a resolution of 1280 x 800. Lenovo includes a 2MP webcam and a 5MP rear facing camera on all three A-series tablets. The A10 further adds stereo speakers and compatibility with a keyboard dock.

Lenovo rates all three tablets at eight hours of battery life.

Lenovo A8 8-inch Android Tablet.jpg

The Lenovo TAB A8 tablet.

Beyond the Lenovo TAB A10 being available with a Bluetooth keyboard dock, the only major differences between the new three A-series tablets are physical dimensions, screen size, and weight. The Lenovo TAB A7-50 measures 198x121.2x9.9mm and weighs 0.70 lbs. The TAB A8 meanwhile measures 217x136x8.9mm and weighs slightly more at 0.79 lbs. Finally, the TAB A10 measures 264x176.5x8.9mm and weighs 1.2 lbs.

The Lenovo TAB A10 with its Bluetooth keyboard dock.

The 7-inch Lenovo Tab A7-50 has an MSRP of $129 while the 8-Inch Tab A8 has an MSRP of $179. The 10.1-inch Tab A10 has a base price of $249 and is also available as a tablet and keyboard bundle for $299.

What do you think about Lenovo's new A-series lineup? On one hand, you have three size options at competitive prices, but on the other you only have a single option as far as internal specifications and screen resolution no matter the screen size. If you can live with the MTK 8121 and 1GB of RAM, they could be a viable option.

Read more about Lenovo tablets such as the Yoga 8 and Yoga 10 at PC Perspective.

Source: Lenovo

NVIDIA Launches Jetson TK1 Mobile CUDA Development Platform

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | March 25, 2014 - 09:34 PM |
Tagged: GTC 2014, tegra k1, nvidia, CUDA, kepler, jetson tk1, development

NVIDIA recently unified its desktop and mobile GPU lineups by moving to a Kepler-based GPU in its latest Tegra K1 mobile SoC. The move to the Kepler architecture has simplified development and enabled the CUDA programming model to run on mobile devices. One of the main points of the opening keynote earlier today was ‘CUDA everywhere,’ and NVIDIA has officially accomplished that goal by having CUDA compatible hardware from servers to desktops to tablets and embedded devices.

Speaking of embedded devices, NVIDIA showed off a new development board called the Jetson TK1. This tiny new board features a NVIDIA Tegra K1 SoC at its heart along with 2GB RAM and 16GB eMMC storage. The Jetson TK1 supports a plethora of IO options including an internal expansion port (GPIO compatible), SATA, one half-mini PCI-e slot, serial, USB 3.0, micro USB, Gigabit Ethernet, analog audio, and HDMI video outputs.

NVIDIA Jetson TK1 Mobile CUDA Development Board.jpg

Of course the Tegra K1 part is a quad core (4+1) ARM CPU and a Kepler-based GPU with 192 CUDA cores. The SoC is rated at 326 GFLOPS which enables some interesting compute workloads including machine vision.

Computer Vision On NVIDIA CUDA.jpg

In fact, Audi has been utilizing the Jetson TK1 development board to power its self-driving prototype car (more on that soon). Other intended uses for the new development board include robotics, medical devices, security systems, and perhaps low power compute clusters (such as an improved Pedraforca system).It can also be used as a simple desktop platform for testing and developing mobile applications for other Tegra K1 powered devices, of course.

NVIDIA VisionWorks GTC 2014.jpg

Beyond the hardware, the Jetson TK1 comes with the CUDA toolkit, OpenGL 4.4 driver, and NVIDIA VisionWorks SDK which includes programming libraries and sample code for getting machine vision applications running on the Tegra K1 SoC.

The Jetson TK1 is available for pre-order now at $192 and is slated to begin shipping in April. Interested developers can find more information on the NVIDIA developer website.

 

NVIDIA SHIELD: New Features and Promotional Price Cut

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile | March 25, 2014 - 03:01 PM |
Tagged: shield, nvidia

The SHIELD from NVIDIA is getting a software update which advances GameStream, TegraZone, and the Android OS, itself, to KitKat. Personally, the GameStream enhancements seem most notable as it now allows users to access their home PC's gaming content outside of the home, as if it were a cloud server (but some other parts were interesting, too). Also, from now until the end of April, NVIDIA has temporarily cut the price down to $199.

nvidia-shield-gamestream-01.jpg

Going into more detail: GameStream, now out of Beta, will stream games which are rendered on your gaming PC to your SHIELD. Typically, we have seen this through "cloud" services, such as OnLive and GaiKai, which allow access to a set of games that run on their servers (with varying license models). The fear with these services is the lack of ownership, but the advantage is that the slave device just needs enough power to decode an HD video stream.

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In NVIDIA's case, the user owns both server (their standard NVIDIA-powered gaming PC, which can now be a laptop) and target device (the SHIELD). This technology was once limited to your own network (which definitely has its uses, especially for the SHIELD as a home theater device) but now can also be exposed over the internet. For this technology, NVIDIA recommends 5 megabit upload and download speeds - which is still a lot of upload bandwidth, even for 2014. In terms of performance, NVIDIA believes that it should live up to expectations set by their GRID. I do not have any experience with this, but others on the conference call took it as good news.

As for content, NVIDIA has expanded the number of supported titles to over a hundred, including new entries: Assassin's Creed IV, Batman: Arkham Origins, Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Daylight, Titanfall, and Dark Souls II. They also claim that users can add other apps which are not officially supported, Halo 2: Vista was mentioned as an example, for streaming. FPS and Bitrate can now be set by the user. A bluetooth mouse and keyboard can also be paired to SHIELD for that input type through GameStream.

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Yeah, I don't like checkbox comparisons either. It's just a summary.

A new TegraZone was also briefly mentioned. Its main upgrade was apparently its library interface. There has also been a number of PC titles ported to Android recently, such as Mount and Blade: Warband.

The update is available now and the $199 promotion will last until the end of April.

Source: NVIDIA

Ubuntu powered Nexus 4

Subject: Mobile | March 19, 2014 - 06:27 PM |
Tagged: nexus 4, Ubuntu Mobile

We have yet to see the launch of the purpose built Ubuntu smartphones but that didn't stop The Inquirer from getting a preview of the new Ubuntu Mobile OS.  By installing the current version of the OS on a Nexus 4 they got a chance to see and use the new mobile OS.  Similar in design to the version we have seen previously on tablets it will likely feel a bit odd to those used to a multi-window OS like Android though the interface wall allow customization.  There will indeed be a Canonical App store but the open nature of Ubuntu will allow third-party stores to be set up, over and above supporting third-party apps.  Check out the hands on review here.

ubuntu-smartphone-open-apps-540x334.JPG

"CANONICAL ANNOUNCED earlier this year that the first Ubuntu smartphones will be made by BQ and Meizu. That created a wave of interest in how the open source Linux operating system (OS) distribution will look and work on a smartphone or tablet."

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Source: The Inquirer

GDC 14: WebCL 1.0 Specification is Released by Khronos

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 19, 2014 - 09:03 AM |
Tagged: WebCL, gdc 14, GDC

The Khronos Group has just ratified the standard for WebCL 1.0. The API is expected to provide a massive performance boost to web applications which are dominated by expensive functions which can be offloaded to parallel processors, such as GPUs and multi-core CPUs. Its definition also allows WebCL to communicate and share buffers between it and WebGL with an extension.

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Frequent readers of the site might remember that I have a particular interest in WebCL. Based on OpenCL, it allows web apps to obtain a list of every available compute device and target it for workloads. I have personally executed tasks on an NVIDIA GeForce 670 discrete GPU and other jobs on my Intel HD 4000 iGPU, at the same time, using the WebCL prototype from Tomi Aarnio of Nokia Research. The same is true for users with multiple discrete GPUs installed in their system (even if they are not compatible with Crossfire, SLi, or are from different vendors altogether). This could be very useful for physics, AI, lighting, and other game middleware packages.

Still, browser adoption might be rocky for quite some time. Google, Mozilla, and Opera Software were each involved in the working draft. This leaves both Apple and Microsoft notably absent. Even then, I am not sure how much interest exists within Google, Mozilla, and Opera to take it from a specification to a working feature in their browsers. Some individuals have expressed more faith in WebGL compute shaders than WebCL.

Of course, that can change with just a single "killer app", library, or middleware.

I do expect some resistance from the platform holders, however. Even Google has been pushing back on OpenCL support in Android, in favor of their "Renderscript" abstraction. The performance of a graphics processor is also significant leverage for a native app. There is little, otherwise, that cannot be accomplished with Web standards except a web browser itself (and there is even some non-serious projects for that). If Microsoft can support WebGL, however, there is always hope.

The specification is available at the Khronos website.

Source: Khronos

GDC 14: EGL 1.5 Specification Released by Khronos

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 19, 2014 - 09:02 AM |
Tagged: OpenGL ES, opengl, opencl, gdc 14, GDC, EGL

The Khronos Group has also released their ratified specification for EGL 1.5. This API is at the center of data and event management between other Khronos APIs. This version increases security, interoperability between APIs, and support for many operating systems, including Android and 64-bit Linux.

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The headline on the list of changes is the move that EGLImage objects makes, from the realm of extension into EGL 1.5's core functionality, giving developers a reliable method of transferring textures and renderbuffers between graphics contexts and APIs. Second on the list is the increased security around creating a graphics context, primarily designed for WebGL applications which any arbitrary website can become. Further down the list is the EGLSync object which allows further partnership between OpenGL (and OpenGL ES) and OpenCL. The GPU may not need CPU involvement when scheduling between tasks on both APIs.

During the call, the representative also wanted to mention that developers have asked them to bring EGL back to Windows. While it has not happened yet, they have announced that it is a current target.

The EGL 1.5 spec is available at the Khronos website.

Source: Khronos

GDC 14: SYCL 1.2 Provisional Spec Released by Khronos

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 19, 2014 - 09:01 AM |
Tagged: SYCL, opencl, gdc 14, GDC

To gather community feedback, the provisional specification for SYCL 1.2 has been released by The Khronos Group. SYCL extends itself upon OpenCL with the C++11 standard. This technology is built on another Khronos platform, SPIR, which allows the OpenCL C programming language to be mapped onto LLVM, with its hundreds of compatible languages (and Khronos is careful to note that they intend for anyone to make their own compatible alternative langauge).

khronos-SYCL_Color_Mar14_154_75.png

In short, SPIR allows many languages which can compile into LLVM to take advantage of OpenCL. SYCL is the specification for creating C++11 libraries and compilers through SPIR.

As stated earlier, Khronos wants anyone to make their own compatible language:

While SYCL is one possible solution for developers, the OpenCL group encourages innovation in programming models for heterogeneous systems, either by building on top of the SPIR™ low-level intermediate representation, leveraging C++ programming techniques through SYCL, using the open source CLU libraries for prototyping, or by developing their own techniques.

SYCL 1.2 supports OpenCL 1.2 and they intend to develop it alongside OpenCL. Future releases are expected to support the latest OpenCL 2.0 specification and keep up with future developments.

The SYCL 1.2 provisional spec is available at the Khronos website.

Source: Khronos

GDC 14: OpenGL ES 3.1 Spec Released by Khronos Group

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 17, 2014 - 09:01 AM |
Tagged: OpenGL ES, opengl, Khronos, gdc 14, GDC

Today, day one of Game Developers Conference 2014, the Khronos Group has officially released the 3.1 specification for OpenGL ES. The main new feature, brought over from OpenGL 4, is the addition of compute shaders. This opens GPGPU functionality to mobile and embedded devices for applications developed in OpenGL ES, especially if the developer does not want to add OpenCL.

The update is backward-compatible with OpenGL ES 2.0 and 3.0 applications, allowing developers to add features, as available, for their existing apps. On the device side, most functionality is expected to be a driver update (in the majority of cases).

opengl-es-logo.png

OpenGL ES, standing for OpenGL for Embedded Systems but is rarely branded as such, delivers what they consider the most important features from the graphics library to the majority of devices. The Khronos Group has been working toward merging ES with the "full" graphics library over time. The last release, OpenGL ES 3.0, was focused on becoming a direct subset of OpenGL 4.3. This release expands upon the feature-space it occupies.

OpenGL ES also forms the basis for WebGL. The current draft of WebGL 2.0 uses OpenGL ES 3.0 although that was not discussed today. I have heard murmurs (not from Khronos) about some parties pushing for compute shaders in that specification, which this announcement puts us closer to.

The new specification also adds other features, such as the ability to issue a draw without CPU intervention. You could imagine a particle simulation, for instance, that wants to draw the result after its compute shader terminates. Shading is also less rigid, where vertex and fragment shaders do not need to be explicitly linked into a program before they are used. I inquired about the possibility that compute devices could be targetted (for devices with two GPUs) and possibly load balanced, in a similar method to WebCL but no confirmation or denial was provided (although he did mention that it would be interesting for apps that fall somewhere in the middle of OpenGL ES and OpenCL).

The OpenGL ES 3.1 spec is available at the Khronos website.

Source: Khronos