Podcast #425 - Samsung 960 EVO, NZXT S340, NVIDIA revenue, wireless Vive, Serious Sam VR, Steam VR on Linux and more!

Subject: General Tech | November 17, 2016 - 03:53 PM |
Tagged: wireless, VR, video, valve, TPCAST, tempered glass, steam, serious sam, Samsung, S340, podcast, nzxt, linux, htc, 960 EVO, 375.86

PC Perspective Podcast #425 - 11/17/16

Join us this week as we discuss new Samsung 960 EVO, NZXT S340, NVIDIA revenue, wireless Vive, Serious Sam VR, Steam VR on Linux 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!

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

Program length: 1:13:46

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Ryan:
  4. Closing/outro

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That's an expensive Linux install! Microsoft gives the Linux foundation $550,000

Subject: General Tech | November 16, 2016 - 12:34 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, linux

Microsoft is obviously serious about its new found support of Linux, having just joined the Linux Foundation at the top tier of membership.  Already, we have seen the bash shell integrated with Windows 10, with familiar commands such as grep, sed, and awk as well as scripting support.  After that somewhat surprising development Microsoft once again made the unexpected move of offering eight different Linux server images on Azure.  Their newfound interest in the open source OS expands today, with their membership in the Linux Foundation they can continue to integrate more open source tools and projects into their current offerings.  You can pop by The Inquirer to read more about this unexpected turn of events.

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"The non-profit group advances open technology development and promotes Linux, and Microsoft has signed up as a Platinum member, the highest-ranking option that comes with a $500,000 annual fee."

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Source: The Inquirer

Valve says VR is soon coming to Linux

Subject: General Tech | November 14, 2016 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: linux, mac os. valve, steam, VR, steamvr, OpenVR

Valve's OpenVR based project, which goes by the obvious moniker of SteamVR, has been shown powering an HTC Vive, using Vulcan on an unspecified Linux distro.  This proof of concept is to back up their claims that SteamVR should be available to consumers very soon.  At the moment their are few VR games using either OpenGL or Vulkan so your software choices will be limited.  At the same time, you may also be limited in the headset you can choose as Oculus developers have stated that all Mac OS support projects are currently on hold.  Road to VR has the full presentation from Valve’s Joe Ludwig embedded in their post here.

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"However, Valve will soon move to encourage a diminishing of that monopoly, as it plans to bring SteamVR – the company’s Steam-integrated VR platform – to both Linux and Mac OSX platforms within the next few months."

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Source: Road to VR

Phoronix Tests NVIDIA GPUs OpenGL vs Vulkan on Linux

Subject: Graphics Cards | November 5, 2016 - 08:19 PM |
Tagged: linux, DOTA 2, valve, nvidia, vulkan, opengl

Phoronix published interesting benchmark results for OpenGL vs Vulkan on Linux, across a wide spread of thirteen NVIDIA GPUs. Before we begin, the CPU they chose was an 80W Intel Xeon E3-1280 v5, which fits somewhere between the Skylake-based Core i7-6700k and Core i7-6700 (no suffix). You may think that Xeon v5 would be based on Broadwell, but, for some reason, Intel chose the E3-1200 series to be based on Skylake. Regardless, the choice of CPU will come in to play.

They will apparently follow up this article with AMD results.

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A trend arose throughout the whole article. At 1080p, everything, from the GTX 760 to the GTX 1080, was rendering at ~101 FPS on OpenGL and ~115 FPS on Vulkan. The obvious explanation is that the game is 100% CPU-bound on both APIs, but Vulkan is able to relax the main CPU thread enough to squeeze out about 14% more frames.

The thing is, the Xeon E3-1280 v5 is about as high-end of a mainstream CPU as you can get. It runs the most modern architecture and it can achieve clocks up to 4 GHz on all cores. DOTA 2 can get harsh on the CPU when a lot of units are on screen, but this is a little surprisingly low. Then again, I don't have any experience running DOTA 2 benchmarks, so maybe it's a known thing, or maybe even a Linux-version thing?

Moving on, running the game at 4K, the results get more interesting. In GPU-bound scenarios, NVIDIA's driver shows a fairly high performance gain on OpenGL. Basically all GPUs up to the GTX 1060 run at a higher frame rate in OpenGL, only switching to Vulkan with the GTX 1070 and GTX 1080, where OpenGL hits that 101 FPS ceiling and Vulkan goes a little above.

Again, it will be interesting to see how AMD fairs against this line of products, both in Vulkan and OpenGL. Those will apparently come “soon”.

Source: Phoronix

Adobe Releases Another Flash Player Update for Linux

Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2016 - 12:49 PM |
Tagged: Adobe, linux, mozilla

Apparently I missed this the first time around, but Adobe has decided to continue supporting the NPAPI version of Flash Player on Linux. They have just released their second update, Flash Player 24 Beta, on October 28th for both 32- and 64-bit platforms. Before September, Adobe was maintaining Flash Player 11.2 with security updates. Adobe has also extended NPAPI support beyond 2017, which was supposed to be the original cut-off for that plug-in architecture on Linux, and pledge to keep “major version numbers in sync”.

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This took me by surprise. Browser vendors, even Mozilla, have been deprecating NPAPI for a while. Plug-ins are unruly from a security and performance standpoint, and they would much rather promote the Web standards that they work so hard to implement, rather than being a window frame around someone else's proprietary platform.

So what are Adobe thinking? Well, they claim that this “is primarily a security initiative”. As such, it would make sense that, possibly, and again I'm an outsider musing here, the gap between now and 11.2 was large enough that it would be easier to just maintain two branches.

Still, this seems a little... late... for that to be the reason, unless Adobe, then, expected Flash to die off and, now, see it hanging around a little while longer. Meanwhile, on the tools side of things, Adobe has pivoted Flash Professional into Animate CC, with the ability to export to HTML and JavaScript, so they don't really need to keep Flash on life support. It's not at feature parity, but it's getting there. Granted, a lot of the game and animation hosting sites are set up to just accept a packaged Flash file, so maybe that market is holding them back?

Whatever the reason, Flash on Linux is continuing to be supported for all browsers. If you find yourself at the intersection of Linux, Firefox, and hobbyist-developed Tower Defense games, you can pick up the latest plug-in at Adobe Labs.

Source: Adobe Labs

Feral Interactive Plans Vulkan Ports in 1st Half of 2017

Subject: General Tech | October 31, 2016 - 07:12 PM |
Tagged: feral interactive, pc gaming, vulkan, linux

Beginning in the first half of next year, Feral Interactive plans to release software running on the Vulkan API. Feral is one of the three well known Linux port developers, the other two being Aspyr Media and an independent contractor, Ryan C. Gordon, who convert Windows games under some deal with the original creators.

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They didn't claim which game would be first. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided will be initially released on OpenGL, but people are speculating that, since its rendering back-end is set up to efficiently queue DirectX 12 tasks, which is the same basic structure that Vulkan uses, Feral might release a patch to it later. Alternatively, they could have another title in the works, although I cannot think of anything short of DOOM that would fit the bill, and there has been nothing from Bethesda, id, or Feral to suggest that is leaving Windows. Maybe Tomb Raider?

Whatever it is, we're beginning to see more than just engine developers port software to the new graphics APIs, and on multiple platforms, too.

Lenovo now allows Linux on Signature Edition Yoga laptops but still protest their innocence

Subject: General Tech | October 31, 2016 - 12:29 PM |
Tagged: Lenovo, yoga, linux, Yoga 900S

As we discovered back in September, the new Lenovo Yoga Signature Editions on the market would not allow you to boot your machine from a Linux installation.  This was caused by the Intel software RAID used in these machines which has had a long history of trouble with Linux.  Today Lenovo made a BIOS update available which will allow your Yoga to see a disk with Linux installed and to boot from it, likely by allowing you to switch your SATA drive from RAID to AHCI mode.  Lenovo has made it clear that any support for RAID mode will have to come from Linux developers which makes perfect sense as they are the driving force behind such support.  What confuses many, including The Register, is why Lenovo removed the ability to switch SATA modes in the BIOS in the first place.

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"Following last month's criticisms, Lenovo has released a BIOS update for its Yoga 900 range of laptops, finally allowing them to support GNU/Linux installations."

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Source: The Register

Lenovo's Signature Edition; hold the Superfish, heavy on the RAID

Subject: General Tech | September 22, 2016 - 12:39 PM |
Tagged: Intel, Lenovo, linux, signature edition, microsoft

Yesterday we saw the first stories appear about how the malware free Lenovo Signature Editions of mobile devices such as the Yoga 900S and Yoga 710S blocked the installation of Linux and effigies of Microsoft and Lenovo were set afire.  As is common on the interwebs, the true villain was not implicated until the excitable crowd ran off with their pitchforks and torches and let the rest of us research the issue and track it back to Intel.

The issue is that the Intel soft RAID present on these machines is not really compatible with Linux, quite a common issue unfortunately.  Lenovo is not innocent in this however as thee have greatly exacerbated the issue by making it difficult to change your SATA from RAID to AHCI in the BIOS in Windows and impossible in a live boot of Linux.  In order to change your SATA settings Lenovo has decided to let you relive the days of Windows XP, when you had to bash on F6 during the initial installation of Windows to let it know you had a special disk with drivers on it to enable AHCI or RAID mode.  Even better, apparently you have to get in touch with Lenovo to get these drivers and they only work in Windows, of course.

So thanks to the lousy Linux support offered by Intel's soft RAID implementation you cannot install Linux on Signature Editions of some Yoga machines and if you have a need to set your SATA to AHCI, say because of Endpoint Encryption, you need to go through a process that went out with that OS Microsoft wants people to stop using.  If you want to track back the reddit thread and the research that was done to determine the culprit, The Register has compiled a good reference.

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"A Reddit thread this morning accuses Microsoft and Lenovo of conspiring to prevent the installation of non-Windows operating systems on the Chinese goliath's PCs at the firmware level. Linux fans vented on the message board about the difficulties of installing open-source distributions on certain Lenovo machines."

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Source: The Register

NVIDIA Releases 370.28 Drivers for Linux

Subject: Graphics Cards | September 9, 2016 - 03:59 AM |
Tagged: nvidia, graphics drivers, linux

Unfortunately, I don't tend to notice when Linux drivers get released; it's something I want to report more frequently on. Luckily, this time, I heard about NVIDIA's 370.28 graphics drivers while they were still fresh. This one opens up overclocking (and underclocking) for GeForce 10-series GPUs, although NVIDIA (of course) mentions that this is “at the user's own risk”. It also fixes a bunch of Vulkan bugs.

7-TuxGpu.png

Many of these fixes were in the previous, but beta-class drivers, 370.23. It, like 370.28, also includes experimental support for PRIME Synchronization. PRIME handles choosing which GPU drives a given display, which may be different from the GPU that is rendering that image. I'm not too familiar with the system, and I've heard some jokes from the Linux community over the last couple of years about its almost vaporware-like status, but I don't have any personal experience with it.

370.28 is available for 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Linux on their website.

Source: NVIDIA

Testing the community developed RADV driver against AMDGPU-PRO

Subject: Graphics Cards | August 31, 2016 - 05:38 PM |
Tagged: amd, radeon, open source, linux, RADV, graphics driver

As of yet, AMD has not delivered the open-source Radeon Vulkan driver originally slated to arrive early this year, instead relying on their current proprietary driver.  That has not stopped a team of plucky programmers from creating RADV, utilizing the existing AMDGPU LLVM compiler back-end and Intel's work with Mesa NIR intermediate representation to pass to LLVM IR.  You won't get Gallium3D support, ironically RADV is too close to the metal for that to work.

Phoronix just wrapped up testing of the new driver, looking at performance for The Talos Principal and DOTA 2, contrasting the open source driver with the closed source AMDGPU-PRO.  RADV is not quite 4k ready but at lower resolutions it proves very competitive.

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"With word coming out last week that the RADV open-source Vulkan driver can now render Dota 2 correctly, I've been running some tests the past few days of this RADV Vulkan driver compared to AMD's official (but currently closed-source) Vulkan driver bundled with the AMDGPU-PRO Vulkan driver."

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Source: Phoronix