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.


"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.


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.


"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

You can run your RX 480 on Linux kernel 4.7

Subject: General Tech | July 25, 2016 - 01:12 PM |
Tagged: linux, kernel 4.7, security, rx 480, LoadPin

For now we are awaiting the benchmarks but with the release of this new kernel, Linux users will be able to run the new RX 480 from AMD.  The new kernel also contains a new security feature called LoadPin which ensures that kernel-loaded files come from within the same file system in an attempt to maintain security without requiring each file to be individually signed.  There were also some improvements made to network drivers along with several other changes which The Inquirer covers in their own unique manner.


"Despite it being two weeks since RC7, the final patch wasn't all that big and much of it is trivial one- and few-liners. There's a couple of network drivers that got a bit more loving."

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Source: The Inquirer

Linux on a highway, I wanna ride it all night long

Subject: General Tech | July 14, 2016 - 01:28 PM |
Tagged: linux, iot, security, Automotive Grade Linux

Has the almost obscene lack of security in automobile software made you somewhat paranoid, even if you trust the Tesla autopilot?  Has the fact that a mere attempt to access your cars software could land you in jail turned you completely off of buying a car less than 10 years old?

How would you feel about a version of Linux controlling some of the features of your car?  That is exactly what the Linux Foundation is working on with the AGL project.  The hardware used will include DragonBoard, Wandboard, and Raspberry Pi and automobile manufacturers joining the project include  Ford, Subaru, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Nissan, and Jaguar Land Rover.  So far the project only encompasses in-car entertainment but it does have the potential to grow beyond that.  Check out the story on Linux.com for more.


"The Linux Foundation’s Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) project, which is developing a “Linux-based, open platform for the connected car,” announced the release of the second version of its Unified Code Base (UCB) distribution for in-vehicle infotainment (IVI)."

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Source: Linux.com

AMD Seems to Be Stepping Up RX 480 Support on Linux

Subject: Graphics Cards | July 6, 2016 - 09:37 PM |
Tagged: amd, linux, graphics drivers, rx 480, Polaris

Linux support from AMD seems to be improving, as it has been on Windows. We'll be combining two separate, tiny stories into one, so bear with us. The first is from Fudzilla, and it states that AMD has AMDGPU-PRO 16.30 drivers for the RX 480 out on day one. It's nice to see that their Radeon driver initiative applies to Linux, too.


That brings us to the second story, this one from Phoronix. One Windows, the Crimson 16.7.1 drivers will include a fix for the RX 480 power issues (which we will obviously test of course). Michael Larabel was apparently talking with AMD's Linux team, and it seems likely that this update will roll into the Linux driver as well. They "are still investigating", of course, but it is apparently on their radar.

Source: Phoronix

Steam Hardware Survey Shows Drop for Linux

Subject: General Tech | July 2, 2016 - 02:21 AM |
Tagged: valve, steam, linux

The current split of Steam users, according to the Steam Hardware Survey, is 95.5% for Windows, 3.6% for Mac OSX, and 0.8% for Linux. Phoronix reports that this does not count SteamOS, and there might be other “inaccuracies” with the survey, but the Linux figures are 0.04% less than they were before (a relative drop of about 4.8%).


Windows users are up, and Mac OSX is flat.

A 4.8% drop in a month isn't promising, but it's also not too concerning. If you were intending to target a platform with 0.8% marketshare, then you can benefit from the long shelf life that Linux provides. It's not like a publisher is counting on that platform to reach two-week launch window sales figures. We'll see if the pendulum will swing back in the future, especially if Valve creates compelling, new, first-party content for Linux. They seem to be waiting to put their full weight behind it.

Windows 10 versus Ubuntu 16.04 versus NVIDIA versus AMD

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 20, 2016 - 04:11 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, ubuntu, R9 Fury, nvidia, linux, GTX1070, amd

Phoronix wanted to test out how the new GTX 1070 and the R9 Fury compare on Ubuntu with new drivers and patches, as well as contrasting how they perform on Windows 10.  There are two separate articles as the focus is not old silicon versus new but the performance comparison between the two operating systems.  AMD was tested with the Crimson Edition 16.6.1 driver, AMDGPU-PRO Beta 2 (16.20.3) driver as well as Mesa 12.1-dev.  There were interesting differences between the tested games as some would only support one of the two Linux drivers.  The performance also varies based on the game engine, with some coming out in ties, others seeing Windows 10 pull ahead and even some cases where your performance on Linux was significantly better.

NVIDIA's GTX 1080 and 1070 were tested using the 368.39 driver release for Windows and the 367.27 driver for Ubuntu.  Again we see mixed results, depending on the game Linux performance might actually beat out Windows, especially if OpenGL is an option. 

Check out both reviews to see what performance you can expect from your GPU when gaming under Linux.


"Yesterday I published some Windows 10 vs. Ubuntu 16.04 Linux gaming benchmarks using the GeForce GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 graphics cards. Those numbers were interesting with the NVIDIA proprietary driver but for benchmarking this weekend are Windows 10 results with Radeon Software compared to Ubuntu 16.04 running the new AMDGPU-PRO hybrid driver as well as the latest Git code for a pure open-source driver stack."

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Source: Phoronix

Yooka-Laylee Trailer for E3 2016 Released

Subject: General Tech | June 6, 2016 - 03:46 PM |
Tagged: windows, pc gaming, osx, linux

The next week-and-a-half should be good for video game enthusiasts. E3 2016 starts on June 14th, although EA, Bethesda, Microsoft, Ubisoft, Sony, and AMD (with PCGamer) have press conferences throughout the 12th and the 13th. Of course, not to get lost in the traffic, many entities are releasing their announcements prior to those conferences. For instance, Watch Dogs 2 will have a reveal on this Wednesday, June 8th, five days prior to Ubisoft's press conference.

This post is about a Kickstarter project called Yooka-Laylee, though. This title is being created by Playtonic Games, which contains several past employees of Rare, apparently to create a proper Banjo-Kazooie-style platform title. It raised over two million British Pounds (~3 million USD) and targeted an October 2016 release date. That has since slipped to Q1 2017, but that should be expected for a crowdfunding project, especially when the stretch goals start piling up. It is scheduled to be released on Windows, Mac, and Linux... and a few other boxes.

Of course, they couldn't resist making a Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts joke at the end...

... I chuckled.

Linux Gaming Is Growing on Us?

Subject: General Tech | June 6, 2016 - 07:46 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.


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