Podcast #499 - Onyx Boox, BitFenix, and more!

Subject: General Tech | May 10, 2018 - 04:35 PM |
Tagged: podcast, velocity micro, qualcomm, Portal, Onyx Boox, nvidia, Netflix, microsoft, linux, K63, Intel, hyperx, google, evga, corsair, coolermaster, ChromeOS, bitfenix, arm, amd, 4k, video

PC Perspective Podcast #499 - 05/10/18

Join us this week for discussion on Onyx Boox, a slick BitFenix case, 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, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Ken Addison,

Peanut Gallery: Alex Lustenberg

Program length: 1:01:13

Podcast topics of discussion:

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Picks of the Week:
    1. 0:47:40 Jeremy:Building a Ryzen on a budget eh?
    2. 0:50:10 Josh:I have issues.   We know
    3. 0:52:20 Allyn: System monitoring Gadgets. On Windows 10. Good ones.
  4. Closing/outro
 
Source:

Microsoft releases 64-bit SDK for Windows on Arm platforms

Subject: Processors, Mobile | May 8, 2018 - 07:30 PM |
Tagged: windows on snapdragon, windows on arm, microsoft, 64-bit

During the Microsoft BUILD developer conference, the Windows initiative for Qualcomm and Arm processors got a much needed shot in the arm (heh) with announced support for a 64-bit SDK.

Visual Studio 15.8 Preview 1 contains the early version of these tools that will give developers the ability to build native 64-bit Arm apps. Microsoft claims that this “represents the next step in the evolution of the Always Connected PC running Windows 10 on ARM” and I couldn’t agree more.

qcwindows.jpg

This gives software developers the ability to target Arm-based processors like the Snapdragon 835 from Qualcomm natively without forcing users to depend on emulation layers provided by Microsoft. While the emulation layer is critical for compatibility, it does slow performance quite a bit compared to native-running code.

While the Windows Store already supports ARM32 packages, ARM64 packages will be supported “soon” based on what Microsoft is telling us. Even more interesting, Microsoft is promoting the ability for developers to post the Win32 (non-Store) ARM64 version of software online, rather than waiting for the Store apps to be approved.

The Microsoft website has details on how developers can start this integration. Qualcomm has its own documentation as well.

From my own view, this a necessary step for Microsoft to take, even if it does seem later than many would have liked. The benefits of Windows 10 running on Snapdragon and Arm are real and substantial, but being hindered by performance due to emulation was always known to be a speedbump. Getting developers access to better, and easier to use, Arm compilation is the next step.

I would also like to see Microsoft take a more proactive role in pushing developers to offer both versions of software. MS simply cannot take a passive, backseat approach to the Always On, Always Connected PC initiative and have it be a success.

Source: Microsoft

Podcast #498 - Microsoft Surface Book 2, Intel 905P Optane, and more!

Subject: General Tech | May 3, 2018 - 09:19 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, video, surface, podcast, Oculus, Nocutua, microsoft, kaby lake-x, Jim Keller, Intel, coolermaster, arm

PC Perspective Podcast #498 - 05/03/18

Join us this week for discussion on Microsoft Surface Book 2, Intel 905P Optane, 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: Ryan Shrout, Allyn Malventano, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath

Peanut Gallery: Ken Addison, Alex Lustenberg

Program length: 1:31:26

Podcast topics of discussion:
  1. Week in Review:
  2. Casper
  3. News items of interest:
  4. Picks of the Week:
    1. 1:21:20 Ryan: Oculus Go
    2. 1:22:20 Jeremy: Great deal on a B350
    3. 1:26:25 Allyn: Got a Vive? Buy a Gear VR cheap! (and do some modding with these)
  5. Closing/outro
 
Source:

Oh Hey! Windows 10 April Update Is Online!

Subject: General Tech | April 30, 2018 - 08:59 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

Microsoft has just released Windows 10 Version 1803 to the general public. This one is called the April Update, and it comes with the build number of 17134. It was a long update for me, clocking in at almost an hour… with a Samsung SSD and a desktop Core i7… but it went smoothly.

windows-10.png

I could immediately notice several changes with this upgrade. First, the Settings screen has been, once again, redesigned. Each button looks smaller and wider, which I think looks a little cleaner than it has been. There is also a highlight effect, called Reveal, around your mouse cursor as you move around, but only if you have Transparency effects turned on in your Colors panel.

If you’re curious about the features, Microsoft has a handful of YouTube videos, such as:

To pick up the latest version, just run a check on Windows Update (if you’re on Windows 10).

Source: Microsoft

The cure worse than the disease; get your new patches or enjoy a total meltdown

Subject: General Tech | April 27, 2018 - 12:59 PM |
Tagged: meltdown, microsoft, security, patch, Windows 7, server 2008 r2

Wasn't it hilarious when Microsoft released a patch for the Meltdown flaw that made things even worse by allowing write access to kernel memory as well as read access?  Well, if you haven't the patch which fixes the patch in place you won't be laughing so hard today.  The Register has seen proof of concept code which makes use of this flaw to elevate a DOS shell window to NT AUTHORITY\System from a user without admin privileges.  Get yourself patched up, especially that Server 2008 instance!

stop-hitting-yourself-meme.jpg

"If you're not up-to-date with your Intel CPU Meltdown patches for Windows 7 or Server 2008 R2, get busy with that, because exploit code for Microsoft's own-goal flaw is available."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

Windows 10 Lean for Devices with Small Drives

Subject: General Tech | April 25, 2018 - 07:41 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, windows 10 lean, mean

A recent Insider build, from beyond the soon-to-be-released Windows 10 version 1803 feature update, added a new version of the OS: Windows 10 Lean. According to Windows Central, it is 2GB smaller than the typical versions, and is expected to target devices with 16GB of storage.

microsoft-2016-surfacebook.JPG

That… is quite small for a device to have, especially when you consider patches.

And then there’s the way that they’re apparently doing it: dropping rarely-used applications. Internet Explorer? Gone. Reminds me of when I used to use nLite and vLite to make custom Windows installs back in the early-to-mid aughts. (I got Vista to boot in less than a minute on spinning rust before… whole lot of services to trim out of that one -- who knew? Okay… everyone did.)

What does this mean for us? Probably nothing. I expect that most of us will continue to use Windows 10 Home or Pro, even if Microsoft allows us to choose at install time. Still, I would expect that Microsoft has devices in mind when they created this initiative – God I hope they didn’t just do this on a whim – so we’ll need to see whether those are worthwhile for us.

See spring outside your windows? You might be seeing it on your Windows as well

Subject: General Tech | April 24, 2018 - 02:37 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, spring update

The rumours are flying that the Windows 10 April Update might start arriving on machines today.  The root of this rumour is a large update released today for those running the last major update and it is not alone.  The Inquirer also spotted some information suggesting the Surface Phone may be launching soon as well as Windows Lean, a slimmed down OS for hybrid tablets which will hopefully be better than Windows 10 S.  The last bit of speculation has to do with how Windows will update.  This could be the last large update Microsoft pushes out and we may start to learn more about how they intend to move their OS into a service model instead of a product. 

None of this has been confirmed, so keep your eyes peeled for official announcements. 

win10-logo.jpg

"A cumulative update (KB4093105) for the previous Fall Creators' Update (1709) was pushed through this morning and we'd bet it probably readies the ground for the big update."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Microsoft Takes a Mulligan with Windows 10 Build 17134

Subject: General Tech | April 16, 2018 - 09:21 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

We were supposed to get Windows 10 build 17133 last week – but we didn’t.

windows-10-bandaid.png

As it turns out, Microsoft says that they noticed their reliability metrics fall below their comfortable threshold, so they pulled the build. They could have fixed the issues with a Cumulative Update, but they didn't. While I’m sure Microsoft doesn’t want you to avoid Windows Updates, cough cough, the feature updates are kind-of the blank slates that get updated, so it’s probably for the best that they meet a certain level of stability. I mean, it would suck to not be able to install an update because your machine crashes before it installs the update that fixes the crash, right?

Fast forward a week, though, and we now have a new build, 17134, which is being pushed to Insiders. This means that it will probably be a bit of time before the public gets their hands on it. It would seem kind-of odd to push a build to Insiders and then YOLO it to the world at large the very next day.

Maybe next week? Maybe the week after? No idea. It's coming, though.

What a load of codswallop; sard off Microsoft!

Subject: General Tech | March 28, 2018 - 12:45 PM |
Tagged: wtf, microsoft, censorship

You might have noticed and deleted an email from Microsoft this morning, informing you of a change in their Services Agreement with you.   Fortunately someone over at The Inquirer actually read the update and noticed a particularly egregious update, if you swear at your friends on Skype you just might lose your account.  By using Microsoft services you are now agreeing not to share inappropriate content or material, which includes offensive language, so you should watch your tongue around Cortana in case she reports you. 

It is unlikely that Microsoft will have the capability to monitor all conversations so the use of occasional blue language may escape their notice; hopefully they don't watch the bloody podcast.  Illegal content remains illegal and is what they should be devoting their resources to detecting, not someone showing off their intellect and grasp of language.

this-trope-is-bleep_family-guy_8588.jpg

"If you violate these Terms, we may stop providing Services to you or we may close your Microsoft account. We may also block delivery of a communication (like email, file sharing or instant message) to or from the Services in an effort to enforce these Terms or we may remove or refuse to publish Your Content for any reason."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer
Manufacturer: Microsoft

O Rayly? Ya Rayly. No Ray!

Microsoft has just announced a raytracing extension to DirectX 12, called DirectX Raytracing (DXR), at the 2018 Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco.

microsoft-2015-directx12-logo.jpg

The goal is not to completely replace rasterization… at least not yet. This effect will be mostly implemented for effects that require supplementary datasets, such as reflections, ambient occlusion, and refraction. Rasterization, the typical way that 3D geometry gets drawn on a 2D display, converts triangle coordinates into screen coordinates, and then a point-in-triangle test runs across every sample. This will likely occur once per AA sample (minus pixels that the triangle can’t possibly cover -- such as a pixel outside of the triangle's bounding box -- but that's just optimization).

microsoft-2018-gdc-directx12raytracing-rasterization.png

For rasterization, each triangle is laid on a 2D grid corresponding to the draw surface.
If any sample is in the triangle, the pixel shader is run.
This example shows the rotated grid MSAA case.

A program, called a pixel shader, is then run with some set of data that the GPU could gather on every valid pixel in the triangle. This set of data typically includes things like world coordinate, screen coordinate, texture coordinates, nearby vertices, and so forth. This lacks a lot of information, especially things that are not visible to the camera. The application is free to provide other sources of data for the shader to crawl… but what?

  • Cubemaps are useful for reflections, but they don’t necessarily match the scene.
  • Voxels are useful for lighting, as seen with NVIDIA’s VXGI and VXAO.

This is where DirectX Raytracing comes in. There’s quite a few components to it, but it’s basically a new pipeline that handles how rays are cast into the environment. After being queued, it starts out with a ray-generation stage, and then, depending on what happens to the ray in the scene, there are close-hit, any-hit, and miss shaders. Ray generation allows the developer to set up how the rays are cast, where they call an HLSL instrinsic instruction, TraceRay (which is a clever way of invoking them, by the way). This function takes an origin and a direction, so you can choose to, for example, cast rays only in the direction of lights if your algorithm was to, for instance, approximate partially occluded soft shadows from a non-point light. (There are better algorithms to do that, but it's just the first example that came off the top of my head.) The close-hit, any-hit, and miss shaders occur at the point where the traced ray ends.

To connect this with current technology, imagine that ray-generation is like a vertex shader in rasterization, where it sets up the triangle to be rasterized, leading to pixel shaders being called.

microsoft-2018-gdc-directx12raytracing-multibounce.png

Even more interesting – the close-hit, any-hit, and miss shaders can call TraceRay themselves, which is used for multi-bounce and other recursive algorithms (see: figure above). The obvious use case might be reflections, which is the headline of the GDC talk, but they want it to be as general as possible, aligning with the evolution of GPUs. Looking at NVIDIA’s VXAO implementation, it also seems like a natural fit for a raytracing algorithm.

Speaking of data structures, Microsoft also detailed what they call the acceleration structure. Each object is composed of two levels. The top level contains per-object metadata, like its transformation and whatever else data that the developer wants to add to it. The bottom level contains the geometry. The briefing states, “essentially vertex and index buffers” so we asked for clarification. DXR requires that triangle geometry be specified as vertex positions in either 32-bit float3 or 16-bit float3 values. There is also a stride property, so developers can tweak data alignment and use their rasterization vertex buffer, as long as it's HLSL float3, either 16-bit or 32-bit.

As for the tools to develop this in…

microsoft-2018-gdc-PIX.png

Microsoft announced PIX back in January 2017. This is a debugging and performance analyzer for 64-bit, DirectX 12 applications. Microsoft will upgrade it to support DXR as soon as the API is released (specifically, “Day 1”). This includes the API calls, the raytracing pipeline resources, the acceleration structure, and so forth. As usual, you can expect Microsoft to support their APIs with quite decent – not perfect, but decent – documentation and tools. They do it well, and they want to make sure it’s available when the API is.

ea-2018-SEED screenshot (002).png

Example of DXR via EA's in-development SEED engine.

In short, raytracing is here, but it’s not taking over rasterization. It doesn’t need to. Microsoft is just giving game developers another, standardized mechanism to gather supplementary data for their games. Several game engines have already announced support for this technology, including the usual suspects of anything top-tier game technology:

  • Frostbite (EA/DICE)
  • SEED (EA)
  • 3DMark (Futuremark)
  • Unreal Engine 4 (Epic Games)
  • Unity Engine (Unity Technologies)

They also said, “and several others we can’t disclose yet”, so this list is not even complete. But, yeah, if you have Frostbite, Unreal Engine, and Unity, then you have a sizeable market as it is. There is always a question about how much each of these engines will support the technology. Currently, raytracing is not portable outside of DirectX 12, because it’s literally being announced today, and each of these engines intend to support more than just Windows 10 and Xbox.

Still, we finally have a standard for raytracing, which should drive vendors to optimize in a specific direction. From there, it's just a matter of someone taking the risk to actually use the technology for a cool work of art.

If you want to read more, check out Ryan's post about the also-announced RTX, NVIDIA's raytracing technology.