USB superfriends ... Intel, Thunderbolt and the USB Promoters Group are here to save us from the USB-IF!

Subject: General Tech | March 4, 2019 - 02:42 PM |
Tagged: usb-if, usb 4, thunderbolt 3, open source, Intel

Intel has made good on their promise from 2017 to release the Thunderbolt specifications to the industry so that upcoming products can offer that connection without being tied to an Intel license and the possible limitations included therein.  Today Thunderbolt 3 was released to the USB Promoter Group, who promptly undid the insanity that the USB-IF released upon us last week by promptly announcing it will be the basis of USB 4.

Thanks to their lack of an obsession over stringing letters and numbers to the back of USB 3 we will end up with a certified standard that provides "two-lane operation using existing USB Type-C cables and up to 40 Gbps operation over 40 Gbps-certified cables" (pdf link).  It will maintain backwards compatibility with previous Thunderbolt generations as well as the various flavours of USB 2 and 3.  It may or may not be compatible with the new ones, such as USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 ... indeed one might hope they refuse to accept such things into their specifications. 

Considering that the USB-IF and USB-PG are closely related, this new nomenclature will be the new standard and last weeks announcement just a memory.

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"Releasing the Thunderbolt protocol specification is a significant milestone for making today’s simplest and most versatile port available to everyone. This, in combination with the integration of Thunderbolt 3 into upcoming Intel processors is a win-win for the industry and consumers."

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Source: Intel

Q2VKPT Makes Quake 2 the First Entirely Raytraced Game

Subject: General Tech | January 18, 2019 - 06:09 PM |
Tagged: vulkan, rtx, raytracing, Quake II, quake, Q2VKPT, Q2PRO, path tracing, open source, nvidia, john carmack, github, fps

Wait - the first fully raytraced game was released in 1997? Not exactly, but Q2VKPT is. That name is not a typo (it stands for Quake 2 Vulkan Path Tracing) it's actually a game - or, more correctly, a proof-of-concept. But not just any game; we're talking about Quake 2. Technically this is a combination of Q2PRO, "an enhanced Quake 2 client and server for Windows and Linux", and VKPT, or Vulkan Path Tracing.

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The end result is a fully raytraced experience that, if nothing else, gives the computer hardware media more to run on NVIDIA's GeForce RTX graphics cards right now than the endless BFV demos. Who would have guessed we'd be benchmarking Quake 2 again in 2019?

"Q2VKPT is the first playable game that is entirely raytraced and efficiently simulates fully dynamic lighting in real-time, with the same modern techniques as used in the movie industry (see Disney's practical guide to path tracing). The recent release of GPUs with raytracing capabilities has opened up entirely new possibilities for the future of game graphics, yet making good use of raytracing is non-trivial. While some games have started to explore improvements in shadow and reflection rendering, Q2VKPT is the first project to implement an efficient unified solution for all types of light transport: direct, scattered, and reflected light (see media). This kind of unification has led to a dramatic increase in both flexibility and productivity in the movie industry. The chance to have the same development in games promises a similar increase in visual fidelity and realism for game graphics in the coming years.

This project is meant to serve as a proof-of-concept for computer graphics research and the game industry alike, and to give enthusiasts a glimpse into the potential future of game graphics. Besides the use of hardware-accelerated raytracing, Q2VKPT mainly gains its efficiency from an adaptive image filtering technique that intelligently tracks changes in the scene illumination to re-use as much information as possible from previous computations."

The project can be downloaded from Github, and the developers neatly listed the needed files for download (the .pak files from either the Quake 2 demo or the full version can be used):

  • Github Repository
  • Windows Binary on Github
  • Quake II Starter ("Quake II Starter is a free, standalone Quake II installer for Windows that uses the freely available 3.14 demo, 3.20 point release and the multiplayer-focused Q2PRO client to create a functional setup that's capable of playing online.")

There were also a full Q&A from the developers, and some obvious questions were answered including the observation that Quake 2 is "ancient" at this point, and shouldn't it "run at 6000 FPS by now":

While it is true that Quake II is a relatively old game with rather low geometric complexity, the limiting factor of path tracing is not primarily raytracing or geometric complexity. In fact, the current prototype could trace many more rays without a notable change in frame rate. The computational cost of the techniques used in the Q2VKPT prototype mainly depend on the number of (indirect) light scattering computations and the number of light sources. Quake II was already designed with many light sources when it was first released, in that sense it is still quite a modern game. Also, the number of light scattering events does not depend on scene complexity. It is therefore thinkable that the techniques we use could well scale up to more recent games."

And on the subject of path tracing vs. ray tracing:

"Path tracing is an elegant algorithm that can simulate many of the complex ways that light travels and scatters in virtual scenes. Its physically-based simulation of light allows highly realistic rendering. Path tracing uses Raytracing in order to determine the visibility in-between scattering events. However, Raytracing is merely a primitive operation that can be used for many things. Therefore, Raytracing alone does not automatically produce realistic images. Light transport algorithms like Path tracing can be used for that. However, while elegant and very powerful, naive path tracing is very costly and takes a long time to produce stable images. This project uses a smart adaptive filter that re-uses as much information as possible across many frames and pixels in order to produce robust and stable images."

This project is the result of work by one Christoph Schied, and was "a spare-time project to validate the results of computer graphics research in an actual game". Whatever your opinion of Q2VKPT, as we look back at Quake 2 and its impressive original lighting effects it's pretty clear that John Carmack was far ahead of his time (and it could be said that it's taken this long for hardware to catch up).

Source: Q2VKPT

NVIDIA Releases Open Source PhysX 4.0 SDK on GitHub

Subject: Graphics Cards | December 21, 2018 - 02:00 PM |
Tagged: physx 4.0, PhysX, open source, nvidia

As promised in the company's initial announcement earlier this month, NVIDIA has released the newly open-sourced PhysX 4.0 SDK via GitHub. Now, thanks to its 3-Clause BSD license, any game developer, hardware company, or coding enthusiast can grab the latest version of NVIDIA's realtime physics engine and tinker, improve, or implement it in hopefully creative new ways.

The one limitation, of course, is that in its current form PhysX 4.0 (and version 3.4, which is now open source, too) still references lots of NVIDIA's closed source APIs, notably CUDA. But with the PhysX framework now available to fork, there's nothing to stop an eager company or programmer from creating and implementing their own alternatives to NVIDIA's proprietary tech.

In addition to going open source, PhysX 4.0 introduces a number of new features as outlined on NVIDIA's developer site:

New features:

  • Temporal Gauss-Seidel Solver (TGS), which makes machinery, characters/ragdolls, and anything else that is jointed or articulated much more robust. TGS dynamically re-computes constraints with each iteration, based on bodies’ relative motion.
  • The new reduced coordinate articulations feature makes the simulation of joints possible with no relative position error and realistic actuation.
  • New automatic multi-broad phase.
  • Increased scalability with new filtering rules for kinematics and statics.
  • Actor-centric scene queries significantly improve performance for actors with many shapes.
  • Build system now based on CMake.

BSD 3 licensed platforms:

  • Apple iOS
  • Apple MacOS
  • Google Android ARM
  • Linux
  • Microsoft Windows

Unchanged NVIDIA EULA platforms:

  • Microsoft XBox One
  • Sony Playstation 4
  • Nintendo Switch
Source: GitHub

Microsft heals some wounds as it moves to Open Source

Subject: General Tech | December 7, 2018 - 01:57 PM |
Tagged: windows, open source, microsoft, edge, chromium, browser, Opera, firefox

One of the big stories this week has been the rumour and confirmation of Microsoft's move to Chromium.  What we hadn't seen until this morning was what the competition thought about it, which we now know thanks to a link from Slashdot.   You will be shocked to learn that Firefox sees this as solid proof you should have been using Firefox all along, or should switch immediately.

Opera and Google both applaud the move; Opera pointing out that they did something very similar about 6 years ago while Google welcomes Microsoft to the open source community it once spurned.  Take a peek at the rest here.

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"Google largely sees Microsoft's decision as a good thing, which is not exactly a surprise given that the company created the Chromium open source project. "Chrome has been a champion of the open web since inception and we welcome Microsoft to the community of Chromium contributors. We look forward to working with Microsoft and the web standards community to advance the open web, support user choice, and deliver great browsing experiences."

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Source: Slashdot

Microsoft Confirms Edge Browser is Moving to Chromium

Subject: General Tech | December 7, 2018 - 10:02 AM |
Tagged: windows, open source, microsoft, Joe Belfiore, edge, chromium, browser

It's official: Microsoft is indeed moving their Edge browser to Chromium as previously reported. Windows VP Joe Belfiore made the announcement yesterday with a blog post entitled "Microsoft Edge: Making the web better through more open source collaboration".

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The post begins as follows (emphasis added):

"For the past few years, Microsoft has meaningfully increased participation in the open source software (OSS) community, becoming one of the world’s largest supporters of OSS projects. Today we’re announcing that we intend to adopt the Chromium open source project in the development of Microsoft Edge on the desktop to create better web compatibility for our customers and less fragmentation of the web for all web developers.

As part of this, we intend to become a significant contributor to the Chromium project, in a way that can make not just Microsoft Edge — but other browsers as well — better on both PCs and other devices."

Not an immediate move, the under-the-hood changes to the Microsoft Edge browser will take place "over the next year or so", with the transition described as happening "gradually over time". From Microsoft:

1. We will move to a Chromium-compatible web platform for Microsoft Edge on the desktop. Our intent is to align the Microsoft Edge web platform simultaneously (a) with web standards and (b) with other Chromium-based browsers. This will deliver improved compatibility for everyone and create a simpler test-matrix for web developers.

2. Microsoft Edge will now be delivered and updated for all supported versions of Windows and on a more frequent cadence. We also expect this work to enable us to bring Microsoft Edge to other platforms like macOS. Improving the web-platform experience for both end users and developers requires that the web platform and the browser be consistently available to as many devices as possible. To accomplish this, we will evolve the browser code more broadly, so that our distribution model offers an updated Microsoft Edge experience + platform across all supported versions of Windows, while still maintaining the benefits of the browser’s close integration with Windows.

3. We will contribute web platform enhancements to make Chromium-based browsers better on Windows devices. Our philosophy of greater participation in Chromium open source will embrace contribution of beneficial new tech, consistent with some of the work we described above. We recognize that making the web better on Windows is good for our customers, partners and our business – and we intend to actively contribute to that end.

The full blog post from Belfiore is available here.

Source: Microsoft

Git outta here! Microsoft just bought the largest open source repository hosting service?

Subject: General Tech | June 4, 2018 - 01:54 PM |
Tagged: open source, purchase, microsoft, github

It is true, barring any legal challenges to the purchase, Microsoft will soon own GitHub, everyone's favourite source for open source software projects.  This might not come as a complete surprise to those who remember Microsoft working with GitHub to create the Git Virtual File System to scale up the versioning and other features Git offers to be able to handle Enterprise sized storage, including the Windows development.  Microsoft's in house solution, CodePlex was shut down recently with all code moving to Git, perhaps not a great sign.  There is also the fact that Microsoft has tended in the past to scale support directly with the cost of a license, which is less than encouraging for those who strictly contribute to the open source community on Git. 

We shall see what the coming months bring; Ars Technica offers insight into how the leadership at GitHub will change if this deal goes through.

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"Microsoft has reached an agreement to buy GitHub, the source repository and collaboration platform, in a deal worth $7.5 billion. The all-stock deal is expected to close by the end of the year, subject to regulatory approval in the US and EU."

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Source: Ars Technica

Firefox goes open sores

Subject: General Tech | May 1, 2018 - 12:58 PM |
Tagged: firefox, ad supported, open source, firefox 60

Targeted advertising is all the rage right now and now FireFox wants in on the (class) action.  Starting with Firefox 60 sponsored content will start showing in your browser, though perhaps not the Pocket variety which is very easy to disable.  The reason is that Mozilla needs revenue, which is not flowing in great enough quantities from other streams, and they claim the ads will be "Worthy of your time. Not just clicks."; whatever that might mean. 

They are implementing this in a unique way, not only keeping all the data on your machine instead of slapped into a cloud somewhere, but also allowing you to access the harvested data yourself.  Perhaps you will be able to erase the one search you did on toilet seats so that you are no longer bombarded with targeted ads that think you either have 50 bathrooms or consider them single use products.  The new browser arrives on the 9th; pop by The Inquirer for more info.

Mozilla-Firefox.jpg

"It promises that "all personalisation happens at the client side" - this means that your data is kept on your computer, not uploaded. It also adds that as Firefox is entirely open source, you can look under the bonnet and see exactly what data is or isn't collected."

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Source: The Inquirer

Flashback!

Subject: General Tech | July 31, 2017 - 01:11 PM |
Tagged: flash, Adobe, bad idea, open source

Just when you thought it was safe, there is a group who are attempting to ensure that Adobe Flash never dies, just like the killer from a horror movie in the 80's and 90's.  These poor misguided fools feel that by making Flash open source, the community will be able to salve the open sores which Flash is covered in.  If you can pass a sanity check, you might wonder why anyone would want to keep this application alive.  It would seem that the developer who started this petition on GitHub because "Flash is an important piece of Internet history and killing Flash means future generations can't access the past,".  One could make the same argument about Geocities and sound roughly as coherent.  You can pop over to The Inquirer for a name, as well as a link to the petition.

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"A LOYAL but misguided fool has started a petition in the hope of convincing Adobe to take Flash's source code into the open source."

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Source: The Inquirer

If you can’t open it, you don’t own it - Macchina opens up your car's hardware

Subject: General Tech | February 27, 2017 - 12:56 PM |
Tagged: M2, Arduino Due, macchina, Kickstarter, open source, DIY

There is a Kickstarter out there for all you car enthusiasts and owners, the Arduino Duo based Macchina M2 which allows you to diagnose and change how your car functions.  They originally developed the device during a personal project to modify a Ford Contour into an electric car, which required serious reprogramming of sensors and other hardware in the car.  They realized that their prototype could be enhanced to allow users to connect into the hardware of their own cars to monitor performance, diagnose issues or even modify the performance.  Slashdot has the links and their trademarked reasonable discourse for those interested, if you have the hardware already you can get the M2 interface $45, $79 or more for the hardware and accessories.

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"Challenging "the closed, unpublished nature of modern-day car computers," their M2 device ships with protocols and libraries "to work with any car that isn't older than Google." With catchy slogans like "root your ride" and "the future is open," they're hoping to build a car-hacking developer community, and they're already touting the involvement of Craig Smith, the author of the Car Hacker's Handbook from No Starch Press."

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Source: Slashdot

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