Amazon's new kit

Subject: General Tech | September 21, 2018 - 03:02 PM |
Tagged: amazon

Amazon announced a variety of products, new or improved for you to order from them.  The Echo Dot, Plus and Show have all been improved, both in performance and aesthetics such as adding temperature monitoring to the Plus to give feed back to your smart thermostat.  The Echo Sub can be linked to existing bluetooth speakers to give your audio some bass while the Echo Input can add any speaker into your Alexa powered audio system.  Pop by The Inquirer for a look at the rest of the new products, up to and including the microwave.

466285028664.jpg

"AMAZON HAS taken the covers off its new Echo and Alexa range and against all expectation, much of the range will be coming to the UK from the outset. But it looks like we've been diddled out of the microwave."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Has your Amazon Fire TV been running a little hot lately?

Subject: General Tech | June 12, 2018 - 01:36 PM |
Tagged: amazon fire tv, amazon, security, cryptocurrency, Android, ADB.Miner

New cryptomining malware has been popping up on Android devices recently, especially Fire TV's with debugging mode or installation of unsigned apps enabled. ADB.Miner runs a program called Test under com.google.time.time and will happily suck up as much of your devices processing power as it can, causing slow performance and occasionally interrupting video playback with a screen which reads Test.  If you have seen this you should probably disable debug, set the device to block unsigned apps and do a factory reset. 

The Inquirer also describes an Amazon store app called Total Commander which should remove it, but the factory reset will offer a better guarantee of removal.

41-EH8m42xL._SY300_QL70_.jpg

"AFTVnews has the scoop and reports that the threat, a malware worm variant dubbed 'ADB.Miner', is installing itself on Amazon gadgets as an app called 'Test' under the package name 'com.google.time.time.' "

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Amazon Lumberyard Beta 1.14 Released... with VS2017!

Subject: General Tech | May 28, 2018 - 09:03 PM |
Tagged: amazon, lumberyard

The May 2018 beta release of Amazon Lumberyard has been pushed to their website. This version brings a long-standing feature request to fruition: Visual Studio 2017.

amazon-2018-lumberyard-wind.png

This is particularly important for someone looking to try out Lumberyard. Previously, if the user installed Visual Studio 2017, they would need to uninstall it, run a post-install clean-up script from a Microsoft GitHub account, install Visual Studio 2015, then install Visual Studio 2017 to get it to run. Yup, Visual Studio 2017 needed to be installed after Visual Studio 2015, and the standard Visual Studio uninstaller wouldn’t correct the broken state (at least on my machine when I attempted it a few times). This is a large, annoying burden for someone who just happened to accidentally install Visual Studio 2017 for some other project.

Now you should be able to just use Visual Studio 2017.

In terms of actual rendering features, the two main ones are Wind Volume and Sky Cloud components. These are additions to Amazon’s Entity Component System that give the ability to blow objects around, including vegetation, as well as create several types of clouds, including volumetric ones.

As always, Amazon Lumberyard is free. Completely free. The catch is that you’ll need to use Amazon Web Services for your servers (unless you roll you own servers) if you have any online element, such as multiplayer, online leaderboards, and so forth.

Source: Amazon

What's more terrifying than an EPYC vulnerability? Your entire Amazon.com history!

Subject: General Tech | May 28, 2018 - 01:24 PM |
Tagged: scary, amazon

For some unknowable reason, Ars Technica determined a way for people to request their entire Amazon.com purchase history, since the creation of the account.  The link provided doesn't seem to be compatible with other Amazon sites, such as Amazon.ca which may be a blessing for many readers.  As part of the project the Ars staff reminisce about some of their past purchases and what Amazon has meant to them. 

Are you willing to see what you have been doing all these years?  If so, click here.

amazon-logo.jpg

"As Americans who've spent many years ordering things off the Internet, we at Ars all have Amazon shopping histories in common, but that doesn't mean we all use the site the same—or feel the same about Amazon's reach, quite frankly."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Ars Technica

Your MP3s are about to be evicted from Amazon Music Storage

Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2018 - 01:43 PM |
Tagged: amazon, mp3

If you were under the impression you owned the music you have stored on Amazon's Music Storage Service, Mr. Bezos would like to remind you that you rent, and that you now have an eviction notice.  On April 29th, not only will you not be able to create a new account on this service, you will not be able to renew an existing account and once it expires all your music shall join the toasters in silicon heaven.  If you log into your account and locate the "keep my music" option, clicking it will give you until January 2019 to move your music before it evaporates.  The Register notes that both Prime Music and Music Unlimited will remain active, it is only the Music Storage Service which is being discontinued.

amazon-music-650x366.jpg

"Amazon says subscribers to its moribund Music Storage Service have 30 days to claim any song files they have stored on the service or lose them forever."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register
Manufacturer: Microsoft

It's all fun and games until something something AI.

Microsoft announced the Windows Machine Learning (WinML) API about two weeks ago, but they did so in a sort-of abstract context. This week, alongside the 2018 Game Developers Conference, they are grounding it in a practical application: video games!

microsoft-2018-winml-graphic.png

Specifically, the API provides the mechanisms for game developers to run inference on the target machine. The training data that it runs against would be in the Open Neural Network Exchange (ONNX) format from Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon. Like the initial announcement suggests, it can be used for any application, not just games, but… you know. If you want to get a technology off the ground, and it requires a high-end GPU, then video game enthusiasts are good lead users. When run in a DirectX application, WinML kernels are queued on the DirectX 12 compute queue.

We’ve discussed the concept before. When you’re rendering a video game, simulating an accurate scenario isn’t your goal – the goal is to look like you are. The direct way of looking like you’re doing something is to do it. The problem is that some effects are too slow (or, sometimes, too complicated) to correctly simulate. In these cases, it might be viable to make a deep-learning AI hallucinate a convincing result, even though no actual simulation took place.

Fluid dynamics, global illumination, and up-scaling are three examples.

Previously mentioned SIGGRAPH demo of fluid simulation without fluid simulation...
... just a trained AI hallucinating a scene based on input parameters.

Another place where AI could be useful is… well… AI. One way of making AI is to give it some set of data from the game environment, often including information that a player in its position would not be able to know, and having it run against a branching logic tree. Deep learning, on the other hand, can train itself on billions of examples of good and bad play, and make results based on input parameters. While the two methods do not sound that different, the difference between logic being designed (vs logic being assembled from an abstract good/bad dataset) someone abstracts the potential for assumptions and programmer error. Of course, it abstracts that potential for error into the training dataset, but that’s a whole other discussion.

The third area that AI could be useful is when you’re creating the game itself.

There’s a lot of grunt and grind work when developing a video game. Licensing prefab solutions (or commissioning someone to do a one-off asset for you) helps ease this burden, but that gets expensive in terms of both time and money. If some of those assets could be created by giving parameters to a deep-learning AI, then those are assets that you would not need to make, allowing you to focus on other assets and how they all fit together.

These are three of the use cases that Microsoft is aiming WinML at.

nvidia-2018-deeplearningcarupscale.png

Sure, these are smooth curves of large details, but the antialiasing pattern looks almost perfect.

For instance, Microsoft is pointing to an NVIDIA demo where they up-sample a photo of a car, once with bilinear filtering and once with a machine learning algorithm (although not WinML-based). The bilinear algorithm behaves exactly as someone who has used Photoshop would expect. The machine learning algorithm, however, was able to identify the objects that the image intended to represent, and it drew the edges that it thought made sense.

microsoft-2018-gdc-PIX.png

Like their DirectX Raytracing (DXR) announcement, Microsoft plans to have PIX support WinML “on Day 1”. As for partners? They are currently working with Unity Technologies to provide WinML support in Unity’s ML-Agents plug-in. That’s all the game industry partners they have announced at the moment, though. It’ll be interesting to see who jumps in and who doesn’t over the next couple of years.

Play nicely children; Google and Amazon having trouble with that sharing thing

Subject: General Tech | December 6, 2017 - 12:58 PM |
Tagged: amazon, google, Alexa, youtube

Google has decided that YouTube should not work as advertised on any Amazon devices, in retaliation to Amazon refusing to stream Amazon Prime Video over Google Cast nor sell Google devices online.  Currently you will just be redirected to YouTube.com when you launch your app but Google is planning on blocking all access from Echo or Fire TV in the near future.  None of us particularly care about Google and Amazon's relationship problems but sadly, similar to children whose parents are going through a divorce, we are the ones who suffer.  These two companies have been at it for a while, The Register covers some of the highlights of their disfunctional relationship here.

Youtube-Video-Not-Avilable-In-Your-Country.png

"Google is trying to stop Amazon Echo Show devices from streaming YouTube videos – and from January, it will block Amazon’s Fire TVs from accessing the vid service, too."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

NVIDIA Partners with AWS for Volta V100 in the Cloud

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 31, 2017 - 09:58 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, amazon, google, pascal, Volta, gv100, tesla v100

Remember last month? Remember when I said that Google’s introduction of Tesla P100s would be good leverage over Amazon, as the latter is still back in the Kepler days (because Maxwell was 32-bit focused)?

Amazon has leapfrogged them by introducing Volta-based V100 GPUs.

nvidia-2017-voltatensor.jpg

To compare the two parts, the Tesla P100 has 3584 CUDA cores, yielding just under 10 TFLOPs of single-precision performance. The Tesla V100, with its ridiculous die size, pushes that up over 14 TFLOPs. Same as Pascal, they also support full 1:2:4 FP64:FP32:FP16 performance scaling. It also has access to NVIDIA’s tensor cores, which are specialized for 16-bit, 4x4 multiply-add matrix operations that are apparently common in neural networks, both training and inferencing.

Amazon allows up to eight of them at once (with their P3.16xlarge instances).

So that’s cool. While Google has again been quickly leapfrogged by Amazon, it’s good to see NVIDIA getting wins in multiple cloud providers. This keeps money rolling in that will fund new chip designs for all the other segments.

Source: Amazon

Amazon Web Services Releases Lumberyard Beta 1.11

Subject: General Tech | September 30, 2017 - 05:57 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, lumberyard, amazon

As we mentioned last week, Amazon has been pushing their Lumberyard fork of CryEngine into their own direction. It turns out that much of their future roadmap was actually slated for last Friday, with the release of Lumberyard 1.11.

This version replaces Crytek’s Flow Graph with Amazon’s Script Canvas visual scripting system. (Think Blueprints from Unreal Engine 4.) This lets developers design logic in a flowchart-like interface and attach it to relevant objects... building them up like blocks. Visual scripting is one area that Unity hasn’t (by default) gotten into, as they favour written scripting languages, such as C#. (Lumberyard also allows components to be written in C++ and LUA, btw.)

amazon-2017-lumberyard-111-scriptcanvas.png

It also replaces Crytek’s CryAnimation, Geppetto, and Mannequin with the EMotion FX animation system from Mystic Game Development. Interestingly, this middleware was flying under the radar recently. It was popular around the 2006-2009 timeframe with titles such as Gothic 3, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, and Risen. It was also intergrated into 2010’s The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest, and that’s about it as far as we know -- a few racing games, too. I’m curious to see how development advanced over the last ten-or-so years, unless its use is more widespread than they’re allowed to announce. Regardless, they are now in Lumberyard 1.11 as their primary animation system, so people can get their hands on it and see for themselves.

If you’re interested in developing a game in Amazon Lumberyard, this release has basically all of their forward-looking systems in place. Even though a lot of features are still experimental, and the engine is still in beta, I don’t think you have to worry about being forced to develop in a system that will be deprecated at this point.

Lumberyard is free to develop on, as long as you use Amazon Web Services for online services (or you run your own servers).

Source: Amazon

Amazon Web Services Discuss Lumberyard Roadmap

Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2017 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, amazon

Lumberyard has been out for a little over a year and a half, and it has been experiencing steady development since then. Just recently, they published a blog post highlighting where they want the game engine to go. Pretty much none of this information is new if you’ve been following them, but it’s still interesting none-the-less.

amazon-2017-lumberyard-startergame.jpg

From a high level, Amazon has been progressing their fork of CryEngine into more of a component-entity system. The concept is similar to Unity, in that you place objects in the level, then add components to them to give them the data and logic that you require. Currently, these components are mostly done in Lua and C++, but Amazon is working on a visual scripting system, like Blueprints from Unreal Engine 4, called Script Canvas. They technically inherited Flow Graph from Crytek, which I think is still technically in there, but they’ve been telling people to stop using it for a while now. I mean, this blog post explicitly states that they don’t intend to support migrating from Flow Graph to Script Canvas, so it’s a “don’t use it unless you need to ship real soon” sort of thing.

One of Lumberyard’s draws, however, is their license: free, but you can’t use this technology on any cloud hosting provider except AWS. So if you make an offline title, or you use your own servers, then you don’t need to pay Amazon a dime. That said, if you do something like leaderboards, persistent logins, or use cloud-hosted multiplayer, then you will need to do it through AWS, which, honestly, you were probably going to do anyway.

The current version is Lumberyard Beta 1.10. No release date has been set for 1.11, although they usually don’t say a word until it’s published.

Source: Amazon