ARM TechCon 2013 Will Showcase the Internet of Things

Subject: Processors, Mobile, Shows and Expos | October 26, 2013 - 11:13 AM |
Tagged: techcon, iot, internet of things, arm

This year at the Santa Clara Convention Center ARM will host TechCon, a gathering of partners, customers, and engineers with the goal of collaboration and connection.  While I will attending as an outside observer to see what this collection of innovators is creating, there will be sessions and tracks for chip designers, system implementation engineers and software developers.

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Areas of interest will include consumer products, enterprise products and of course, the Internet of Things, the latest terminology for a completely connected infrastructure of devices.  ARM has designed tracks for interested parties in chip design, data security, mobile, networking, server, software and quite a few more. 

Of direct interest to PC Perspective and our readers will be the continued release of information about the Cortex-A12, the upcoming mainstream processor core from ARM that will address the smartphone and tablet markets.  We will also get some time with ARM engineers to talk about the coming migration of the market to 64-bit.  Because of the release of the Apple A7 SoC that integrated 64-bit and ARMv8 architecture earlier this year, it is definitely going to be the most extensively discussed topic. If you have specific questions you'd like us to bring to the folks at ARM, as well as its partners, please leave me a note in the comments below and I'll be sure it is addressed!

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I am also hearing some rumblings of a new ARM developed Mali graphics product that will increase efficiency and support newer graphics APIs as well. 

Even if you cannot attend the event in Santa Clara, you should definitely pay attention for the news and products that are announced and shown at ARM TechCon as they are going to be a critical part of the mobile ecosystem in the near, and distant, future.  As a first time attendee myself, I am incredibly excited about what we'll find and learn next week!

Mozilla Summit 2013, Day 3: Toronto Office Tour and Games!

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | October 7, 2013 - 11:55 PM |
Tagged: Mozilla Summit 2013, mozilla

Summit 2013 came to an end on Sunday after a few closing keynotes, breakout sessions, a tour of the Mozilla Toronto campus, and interpretive dancing of what the fox says. Do not worry, Mozillians in our audience, I will only interpretively illustrate the interpretive dance with a totally unironic Shockwave Flash screenshot.

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Real smooth moves, indeed.

On the topic of Flash demos, the first session I attended included an extended preview of Shumway. As discussed in Day 2, the project intends to keep Flash content alive after the platform fades. A few demos were shown to attendees including a signification portion of the HomestarRunner email, "Your Friends", where Strong Bad harms the entire cast except himself and The Poopsmith (and other off-cast or yet-to-be-introduced characters, of course). The video played just about perfectly.

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BananaBread OF DOOM!

"Bananabread" was also modified into a special demo showing live textures from video elements. The game even projected a separate game of Doom against the wall of the level. This can, of course, be used for non-gaming projects as well; projects have been developed to use shader effects on web camera video for GPU-accelerated post-processing tasks.

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The closing ceremonies followed the breakout sessions and mostly thanked their community. A few "Mozillians" were voted by their peers for their popular influence and were recognized with signed posters and, in one case, a paid trip to any Mozilla campus in the world. Plus, people were hugged by a fox; a picture is worth a thousand words.

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The last event of the day, at least the last one relevant to a computer hardware website, was a tour of the Mozilla Toronto campus. The office is structured in departments around a central kitchen, restroom, and discussion area. They attempt to have a sort-of Canadian cottage feel with a couple of Adirondack chairs and a wood-beam ceiling. There is also a group of desks called "Benoits St." because, well, it just so happens everyone who works in that section is named Benoit.

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Community Room with its reconfigurable tables and musical corner.

Thus ends the coverage of Mozilla Summit 2013, Toronto.

Source: Mozilla

Mozilla Summit 2013, Day 2: APCs and Servos in a Flash

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | October 6, 2013 - 01:14 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, Mozilla Summit 2013

The second day of Mozilla Summit 2013 kicked off with three more keynote speeches, a technology fair, and two blocks of panels. After two days and about two dozen demos, several extremely experimental, I am surprised to only see one legitimate demo fail attempting to connect two 3D browser games in multiplayer over WebRTC… and that seemed to be the fault of a stray automatic Windows Update on the host PC.

Okay technically another demo “failed” because an audience member asked, from the crowd, to browse a Mozilla Labs browser prototype, Servo, to an arbitrary website which required HTTPS and causing the engine to nope. I do not count that one.

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Speaking of Servo, the HTML rendering engine ended the “Near Term Strategy and the Products we Build” keynote with an announcement of its full score to ACID1. The engine, developed in Mozilla’s own RUST language, is a sandbox for crazy ideas such as, “What would happen if you allow Javascript to execute in its own thread when it would normally be blocked by Gecko?” Basically any promising task to parallelize is being explored (they openly solicit community insights) in making the web browser better suited for the current and upcoming multi- and many-core devices out there. Samsung is also involved on the project, which makes sense for their mobile products.

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Also discussed is Shumway, a Javascript rendering engine for Flash content. Candy Crush Saga was presented as an example of a game, entirely reliant on Flash, playing without the plugin installed in a similar way to how WINE allows Windows applications within Linux. Shumway has been known for a while but is becoming quite effective in its performance. What happens to content after Flash becomes deprecated (be it 3 years, 10 years, or 100 years) has been a concern of mine with videos such as HomestarRunner holding cultural relevance despite not updating in almost 3 years.

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Lastly, we saw a demo of the APC Paper which is expected to lead Firefox OS into the desktop market. It is actually a little smaller than I expected from the pictures.

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One more day before everyone heads home. So far not much has happened but I will keep you updated as things occur.

Source: Mozilla

Mozilla Summit 2013, Day 1: Unreal Engine and UP

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | October 5, 2013 - 03:58 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, Mozilla Summit 2013

I have volunteered with Mozilla starting about a month after I read the Windows Store certification requirements (prior to that I was ramping up development of modern apps). I am currently attending, due to that volunteer work, Mozilla Summit in Toronto. The first day, Friday, has been filled with keynotes including some partially-new announcements.

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Mozilla has a number of branded elevator doors, signs, and carpets covering the hotel to promote the event for the attendees. Unfortunately, my hotel room was not in the tower this elevator serviced. Also unfortunate, I did not realize that until I was on said elevator at in the 27th floor. Moving between the first and 27th floors took all of about 5 seconds; popping my ears took longer. To be fair I was given correct directions by the hotel staff I just did not realize that the building was, in fact, multiple buildings and so my interpretation was off.

On to the important stuff: explosions! The second keynote contained high performance 3D browser games and, albeit less kablooieie, site personalization.

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The latter we have talked about before. Mozilla is implementing interface elements in the browser for users to share demographic information with websites. They understand that advertising is how the web works and does not want it outright dead. They do believe (at least some) advertisers mine too much data from their users because they need to mine some data from their users. One-on-one conversation with a couple Mozilla staff somewhat confirms my suspicions that the initiative is to remove the temptation for just a little more data with homegrown solutions. This seems to be their last idea, however, given the discussion at the panel.

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The former was an Unreal Engine demo on stage during the “Envisioned Future State” keynote. The presenter had several multi-kills with a rocket launcher. I should note the entire demo ran off of the file protocol so no internet connection was required. This was quite literally Unreal Tournament 3 running native to Firefox.

Well, I think that is it for today! A lot of information was released but I believe these were the top-two most interesting points.

Source: Mozilla

Kingston HyperX Holds Global DotA 2, Overclocking Competitions Leading Up to CES 2014

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | October 3, 2013 - 01:41 PM |
Tagged: kingston hyper x, kingston, DOTA 2, competition

Fountain Valley, CA – October 3, 2013 − Kingston Technology Company Inc., the independent world leader in memory products, will soon begin two global competitions to further show its support and commitment to the eSports and the enthusiast community. The HyperX DotA 2 League features 16 of the world’s top professional DotA 2 gaming teams battling for a large cash prize. On October 7, HyperX will begin an open global overclocking competition. The finals for both competitions will be held during 2014 International CES® in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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The HyperX DotA 2 League tournament begins later this month with 16 teams competing for a total of $50,000 (USD) in prize money. An additional $40,000 will be offered to cover flight and hotel for the top four teams that advance to battle each other in Las Vegas for the championship. Each match is a best-of-three maps and all matches will be broadcast live so fans can follow the progress of their favorite team. The format and complete competition details can be found here.

Working together with HWBOT, the premier informational website for overclockers and performance enthusiasts, contestants will compete to post the highest benchmarks for Maximum Memory Frequency, Super PI and Intel® XTU. Beginning October 7, there will be an open online qualifying competition lasting four weeks. Winners will be determined weekly with the five final contestants competing in January 2014 during CES. For the finals, components will be supplied by Kingston and its partners: ASUS, Cooler Master and Intel®. Complete rules can be found here.

“The HyperX 2013 DotA 2 tournament will be epic as the best professional gaming teams in the world battle each other and fans will be able to watch every minute live online,” said Annie Leung, HyperX global strategic marketing manager, Kingston. “We are also very excited to hold an overclocking competition globally to see how far HyperX memory can be pushed. Both events will be fun and exciting for gamers and enthusiasts.”

Please visit the Kingston HyperX Website for more information.

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Kingston is celebrating 25 years in the memory industry. The company was founded on October 17, 1987, and has grown to become the largest third-party memory manufacturer in the world. The 25th anniversary video can be found here along with more information, including a timeline of Kingston's history. In addition, HyperX memory is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The first HyperX high-performance memory module was released in November 2002.

Source: Kingston

AMD GPU Lineup Announced: R9 and R7 Series

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | September 25, 2013 - 05:23 PM |
Tagged: radeon, R9 290X, R9, R7, GPU14, amd

The next generation of AMD graphics processors are being announced this afternoon. They carefully mentioned this event is not a launch. We do not yet know, although I hope we will learn today, when you can give them your money.

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When you can, you will have five products to choose from:

  • R7 250
  • R7 260X
  • R9 270X
  • R9 280X
  • R9 290X

AMD only provides 3D Mark Fire Strike scores for performance. I assume they are using the final score, and not the "graphics score" although they were unclear.

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The R7 250 is the low end card of the group with 1GB of GDDR5. Performance, according to 3DMark scores (>2000 on Fire Strike), is expected to be about two-thirds of what an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti can deliver. Then again, that card retails for about ~$130 USD. The R7 250 has an expected retail value of less than < $89 USD. This is a pretty decent offering which can probably play Battlefield 3 at 1080p if you play with the graphics quality settings somewhere around "medium". This is just my estimate, of course.

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The R7 260X is the next level up. The RAM has been double over the R7 250 to 2GB of GDDR5 and its 3DMark score almost doubled, too (> 3700 on Fire Strike). This puts it almost smack dab atop the Radeon HD 6970. The R7 260X is about $20-30 USD cheaper than the HD 6970. The R7 is expected to retail for $139. Good price cut while keeping up to date on architecture.

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The R9 270X is the low end of the high end parts. With 2GB of GDDR5 and a 3DMark Fire Strike score of >5500, this is aimed at the GeForce 670. The R7 270X will retail for around ~$199 which is about $120 USD cheaper than NVIDIA's offering.

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The R9 280X should be pretty close to the 7970 GHz Edition. It will be about ~$90 cheaper with an expected retail value of $299. It also has a bump in frame buffer over the lower-tier R9 270X, containing 3GB of GDDR5.

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Not a lot is known about the top end, R9 290X, except that it will be the first gaming GPU to cross 5 TeraFLOPs of compute performance. To put that into comparison, the GeForce Titan has a theoretical maximum of 4.5 TeraFLOPs.

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If you are interested in the R9 290X and Battlefield 4, you will be able to pre-order a limited edition package containing both products. Pre-orders open "from select partners" October 3rd. For how much? Who knows.

We will keep you informed as we are informed. Also, the announcement is still going on, so tune in!

Source: AMD

JavaOne 2013: GPU Is Coming Whether You Know It or Not

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | September 23, 2013 - 09:38 PM |
Tagged: JavaOne, JavaOne 2013, gpgpu

Are the enterprise users still here? Oh, hey!

GPU acceleration throws a group of many similar calculations at thousands of simple cores. Their architecture makes it very cheap and power efficient for the amount of work they achieve. Gamers, obviously, enjoy the efficiency at tasks such as calculating pixels on a screen or modifying thousands of vertex positions. This technology has evolved more generally than graphics. Enterprise and research applications have been taking notice over the years.

GPU discussion, specifically, starts around 16 minutes.

Java, a friend of scientific and "big-data" developers, is also evolving in a few directions including "offload".

IBM's CTO of Java, John Duimovich, discussed a few experiments they created when optimizing the platform to use new hardware. Sorting arrays, a common task, saw between a 2-fold and 48-fold increase of performance. Including the latency of moving data and initializing GPU code, a 32,000-entry array took less than 1.5ms to sort, compared to about 3ms on the CPU. The sample code was programmed in CUDA.

The goal of these tests is, as far as I can tell, to (eventually) automatically use specialized hardware for Java's many built-in libraries. The pitch is free performance. Of course there is only so much you can get for free. Still, optimizing the few usual suspects is an obvious advantage, especially if it just translates average calls to existing better-suited libraries.

Hopefully they choose to support more than just CUDA whenever they take it beyond experimentation. The OpenPOWER Consortium, responsible for many of these changes, currently consists of IBM, Mellanox, TYAN, Google, and NVIDIA.

Source: JavaOne

Gabe Newell LinuxCon Keynote. Announcement Next Week.

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Mobile, Shows and Expos | September 16, 2013 - 09:15 PM |
Tagged: Steam Box, LinuxCon, Gabe Newell

Valve Software, as demonstrated a couple of days ago, still believe in Linux as the future of gaming platforms. Gabe Newell discussed this situation at LinuxCon, this morning, which was streamed live over the internet (and I transcribed after the teaser break at the bottom of the article). Someone decided to rip the stream, not the best quality but good enough, and put it on Youtube. I found it and embed it below. Enjoy!

Gabe Newell highlights, from the seventh minute straight through to the end, why proprietary platforms look successful and how they (sooner-or-later) fail by their own design. Simply put, you can control what is on it. Software you do not like, or even their updates, can be stuck in certification or even excluded from the platform entirely. You can limit malicious software, at least to some extent, or even competing products.

Ultimately, however, you limit yourself by not feeding in to the competition of the crowd.

If you wanted to get your cartridge made you bought it, you know, FOB in Tokyo. If you had a competitive product, miraculously, your ROMs didn't show up until, you know, 3 months after the platform holder's product had entered market and stuff like that. And that was really where the dominant models for what was happening in gaming ((came from)).

But, not too surprisingly, open systems were advancing faster than the proprietary systems had. There used to be these completely de novo graphics solutions for gaming consoles and they've all been replaced by PC-derived hardware. The openness of the PC as a hardware standard meant that the rate of innovation was way faster. So even though, you would think, that the console guys would have a huge incentive to invest in it, they were unable to be competitive.

Microsoft attempts to exert control over their platform with modern Windows which is met by a year-over-year regression in PC sales; at the same time, PC gaming is the industry hotbed of innovation and it is booming as a result. In a time of declining sales in PC hardware, Steam saw a 76% growth (unclear but it sounds like revenue) from last year.

Valve really believes the industry will shift toward a model with little divide between creator and consumer. The community has been "an order of magnitude" more productive than the actual staff of Team Fortress 2.

Does Valve want to compete with that?

This will only happen with open platforms. Even the consoles, with systems sold under parts and labor costs to exert control, have learned to embrace the indie developer. The next gen consoles market indie developers, prior to launch, seemingly more than the industry behemoths and that includes their own titles. They open their platforms a little bit but it might still not be enough to hold off the slow and steady advance of PC gaming be it through Windows, Linux, or even web standards.

Speaking of which, Linux and web standards are oft criticized because they are fragmented. Gabe Newell, intentionally or unintentionally, claimed proprietary platforms are more fragmented. Open platforms have multiple bodies push and pull the blob but it all tends to flow in the same direction. Proprietary platforms have lean bodies with control over where they can go, just many of them. You have a dominant and a few competing platforms for each sector: phones and tablets, consoles, desktops, and so forth.

He noted each has a web browser and, because the web is an open standard, is the most unified experience across devices of multiple sectors. Open fragmentation is small compared to the gaps between proprietary silos across sectors. ((As a side note: Windows RT is also designed to be one platform for all platforms but, as we have been saying for a while, you would prefer an open alternative to all RT all the time... and, according to the second and third paragraphs of this editorial, it will probably suffer from all of the same problems inherent to proprietary platforms anyway.))

Everybody just sort of automatically assumes that the internet is going to work regardless of wherever they are. There may be pluses or minuses of their specific environment but nobody says, "Oh I'm in an airplane now, I'm going to use a completely different method of accessing data across a network". We think that should be more broadly true as well. That you don't think of touch input or game controllers or living rooms as being things which require a completely different way for users to interact or acquire assets or developers to program or deliver to those targets.

Obviously if that is the direction you are going in, Linux is the most obvious basis for that and none of the proprietary, closed platforms are going to be able to provide that form of grand unification between mobile, living room, and desktop.

Next week we're going to be rolling out more information about how we get there and what are the hardware opportunities that we see for bringing Linux into the living room and potentially pointing further down the road to how we can get it even more unified in mobile.

Well, we will certainly be looking forward to next week.

Personally, for almost two years I found it weird how Google, Valve, and Apple (if the longstanding rumors were true) were each pushing for wearable computing, Steam Box/Apple TV/Google TV, and content distribution at the same time. I would not be surprised, in the slightest, for Valve to add media functionality to Steam and Big Picture and secure a spot in the iTunes and Play Store market.

As for how wearables fit in? I could never quite figure that out but it always felt suspicious.

Read on for our transcript of the keynote speech. Bare with us, it is a little bit rough.

Source: LinuxCon

Intel Developer Forum (IDF) 2013 Keynote Live Blog Day 2

Subject: Processors, Shows and Expos | September 10, 2013 - 02:47 PM |
Tagged: idf, idf 2013, Intel, keynote, live blog

We are preparing for the second day of keynotes at IDF so sign up below to get a reminder for our live blog! After the first keynote saw the introduction of Intel Quark SoCs, showcases of the first 14nm Broadwell processor and a 22nm LTE smartphone, day 2 could be even more exciting!

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The event starts at 9am PT / 12pm ET on Wednesday the 11th!

 

 

 

IDF 2013: Announcing Quark SoCs that are even smaller than Atom

Subject: Processors, Shows and Expos | September 10, 2013 - 02:31 PM |
Tagged: quark, Intel, idf 2013, idf

In a very interesting and surprising announcement at the first Intel Developer Forum keynote this morning, Intel's new CEO Brian Krzanich showed the first samples of Quark, a new SoC design that will enter into smaller devices that even Atom can reach.

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Quark is the family name for the new line of SoCs that are open, synthesizable and support with industry standard software.  An open SoC is simply one that will allow third-party IP integration with the processor cores while a synthesizable one can be moved and migrated to other production facilities as well.  This opens up Intel to take Quark outside of its own fabrication facilities (though Krzanich said they would prefer not during Q&A) and allow partners to more easily integrate their own silicon with the Quark DNA.  Intel had previously announced that Atom would be able to integrate with third-party IP but that seems to have been put on the back burner in favor of this.

Quark will not be an open core design in the same way that ARM's core can be, but instead Intel is opening up the interface fabric for direct connection to computing resources. 

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The Quark SoC is square in the middle

Krzanich showed off the chip on stage that is 1/5 the size of Atom and 1/10 the power levels of Atom (though I am not sure if we are referring to Clover Trail or Bay Trail for the comparison).  That puts it in a class of products that only ARM-based designs have been able to reach until now and Intel displayed both reference systems and wearable designs. 

UPDATE: Intel later clarified with me that the "1/5 size, 1/10 power" is for a Quark core against an Atom core at 22nm.  It doesn't refer to the entire SoC package.

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Intel hasn't yet told us what microarchitecture Quark is based on but if I were a betting man I would posit that it is related to the Silvermont designs we are looking at on Bay Trail but with a cut down feature set.  Using any other existing design from Intel would result in higher than desired power consumption and die size levels but it could also be another ground up architecture as well.

I'll be poking around IDF for more information on Quark going forward but for now, it appears that Intel is firmly planting itself on a collision course with ARM and Qualcomm. 

UPDATE 1: I did get some more information from Intel on the Quark SoC.  It will be the first product based on the 14nm manufacturing process and is a 32-bit, single core, single thread chip based on a "Pentium ISA compatible CPU core."  This confirms that it is an x86 processor though not exactly what CPU core it is based on.  More soon!