Podcast #414 - AMD Zen Architecture Details, Lightning Headphones, AMD GPU Market Share and more!

Subject: General Tech | August 25, 2016 - 10:51 AM |
Tagged: Zen, video, seasonic, Polaris, podcast, Omen, nvidia, market share, Lightning, hp, gtx 1060 3gb, gpu, brix, Audeze, asus, architecture, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #414 - 08/25/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the newly released architecture details of AMD Zen, Audeze headphones, AMD market share gains 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, Josh Walrath and Jeremy Hellstrom

Program length: 1:37:15
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  4. Closing/outro

Qualcomm and OSIsoft Announce Snapdragon-Powered Smart Ballpark

Subject: General Tech | August 24, 2016 - 04:15 PM |
Tagged: utilities, SoC, snapdragon, Smart Ballpark, San Diego, qualcomm, Padres, OSIsoft, iot, industrial, baseball

Ever wonder how efficiently a major venue operates when it's only full of fans on game days? It turns out they don't operate all that efficiently, and the overhead is very expensive. This is where Qualcomm and OSIsoft step in, collaborating on a new “Smart Ballpark” project for San Diego's Petco Park.

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“The San Diego Padres are utilizing edge intelligence gateways, powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon processors, to collect data from critical infrastructure systems and stream it in real-time to OSIsoft’s PI System in order to monitor utilities, improve operating efficiencies and drive sustainability across the team’s entire Petco Park ballpark.”

With usage monitoring for utilities (electrical and gas energy, potable and non-potable water) the Padres - San Diego’s Major League Baseball team that calls Petco Park home - see the potential to save more than 25% in the next five years.

“The edge intelligence gateways, using Snapdragon processors, connect to sensors and legacy systems throughout the ballpark using a broad range of communication methods, including wired and wireless technologies, analog and digital inputs and multiple communication protocols. These edge intelligence gateways acquire, store and stream data in real-time to the OSIsoft PI System which then presents the data to the Padres’ facilities managers using OSIsoft’s Visualization Suite and analytics, providing the operations team with deep situational awareness of everything happening in the venue.”

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This is a mammoth implementation of IoT (Internet of Things), with OSIsoft’s PI system a major player on the industrial side. Qualcomm naturally needs no introduction, as the smartphone SoC maker found in so many devices across virtually all brands. Qualcomm has also worked on improving mobile data performance in large venues such as ballparks, with products like the X16 modem (expected in products starting in the second half of 2016) offering improved connections via carrier and link aggregation, and use of unlicensed spectrum.

Full press release after the break:

Source: Qualcomm

Deus Ex: GPU-kind divided

Subject: General Tech | August 24, 2016 - 03:30 PM |
Tagged: gaming, deus ex: mankind divided

You are probably wondering what kind of performance you will see when you run the new Deus Ex after you purchase it; as obviously you did not pre-order the game.  TechPowerUp has you covered as they have tested the retail version of the game with a variety of cards to give you an idea of the load your GPU will be under.  They started out testing memory usage with a Titan, running Ultra settings at 4K will use up to 5.5GB of memory, so mid range cards will certainly suffer at that point.  Since not many of us are sporting Titans in our cases they also tried out the GTX 1060, 980Ti and 1080 along with the RX 480 and Fury X at a variety of settings.  Read through their review to garner a rough estimate of your expected performance in Mankind Divided.

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"Deus Ex Mankind Divided has just been released today. We bring you a performance analysis using the most popular graphics cards, at four resolutions, including 4K, at both Ultra and High settings. We also took a closer look at VRAM usage."

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Source: TechPowerUp

Love upgrading memory on your laptop? Double check any Apollo Lake machines you like.

Subject: General Tech | August 24, 2016 - 01:01 PM |
Tagged: ultraportable, LPDDR4, Intel, apollo lake

A report from DigiTimes is bad news for those who like to upgrade their ultraportable laptops.  To cut down on production costs companies like Acer, Lenovo, Asustek Computer, HP and Dell will use on-board memory as opposed to DIMMs on their Apollo Lake based machines.  This should help keep the costs of flipbooks, 2 in 1's and other small machines stable or even lower them by a small amount but does mean that they cannot easily be upgraded. Many larger notebooks will also switch to this style of memory so be sure to do your research before purchasing a new mobile system.

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"Notebook vendors have mostly adopted on-board memory designs in place of DIMMs to make their Intel Apollo Lake-based notebooks as slim as possible, according to sources from Taiwan's notebook supply chain"

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Source: DigiTimes

Hey Ken, print me out a shroud! ASUS introduces 3D printed parts for their motherboards, GPUs and peripherals

Subject: General Tech | August 23, 2016 - 07:02 PM |
Tagged: asus, 3d printing

ASUS have just released FreeCAD and 3D source files for you to print out embellishments and useful add-ons for your ASUS motherboards, graphics cards and peripherals such as the ROG Spatha.  Below you can see a 3D-printed finger rest addition to the Spatha, just one of the possibilities this new program opens up.

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Certain motherboards such as the Z170 Pro Gaming/Aura sport mounting points specifically designed for 3D printed parts, or you can use empty M.2 mount points as the designs ASUS have made available use the same screws as you would use in an M.2 port. 

Z170 Pro Gaming Aura_protective armor.jpg

You could add a nameplate, an additional fan mount or even extra plastic shielding, in whatever colours you have available to print with.  ASUS chose to use FreeCAD to design the parts so that you do not necessarily need a 3D printer yourself, services such as ShapeWays can print the parts out for you.

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If you have SLI or CrossFire bridges that need sprucing up, they have designed covers to snap over your existing parts as well as cable combs to keep your cables under control.  The current designs only scratch the surface of what you could create and add to your builds and you can bet ASUS will be adding more possibilities in the coming months.  You can just add a little something to make your machine unique or go all out with modifications, just check out the designs and see what grabs your attention.

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Source: ASUS

What dwells in the heart of HoloLens? Now we all know!

Subject: General Tech | August 23, 2016 - 12:40 PM |
Tagged: hololens, microsoft, Tensilica, Cherry Trail, hot chips

Microsoft revealed information about the internals of the new holographic processor used in their Hololens at Hot Chips, the first peek we have had.  The new headset is another win for Tensilica as they provide the DSP and instruction extensions; previously we have seen them work with VIA to develop an SSD controller and with AMD for TrueAudio solutions.  Each of the 24 cores has a different task it is hardwired for, offering more efficient processing than software running on flexible hardware.

The processing power for your interface comes from a 14nm Cherry Trail processor with 1GB of DDR and yes, your apps will run on Windows 10.  For now the details are still sparse, there is still a lot to be revealed about Microsoft's answer to VR.  Drop by The Register for more slides and info.

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"The secretive HPU is a custom-designed TSMC-fabricated 28nm coprocessor that has 24 Tensilica DSP cores. It has about 65 million logic gates, 8MB of SRAM, and a layer of 1GB of low-power DDR3 RAM on top, all in a 12mm-by-12mm BGA package. We understand it can perform a trillion calculations a second."

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Source: The Register

A trio of mechanical keyboards from AiZO, the new MGK L80 lineup

Subject: General Tech | August 22, 2016 - 03:14 PM |
Tagged: AiZO, MGK L80, Kailh, gaming keyboard, input

The supply of mechanical keyboards continues to grow, once Cherry MX was the only supplier of switches and only a few companies sold the products.  Now we have choice in manufacturer as well as the switch type we want, beyond the choice of Red, Brown, Blue and so on.  AiZO chose to use Kailh switches in their MGK L80 lineup, your choice of click type and also included a wrist rest for those who desire such a thing.  Modders Inc tested out the three models on offer, they are a bit expensive but do offer a solid solution for your mechanical keyboard desires.

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"The MGK L80 series is the latest line of gaming keyboards manufactured by AZIO. Available in red, blue or RGB backlighting, the MGK L80 offers mechanical gaming comfort with a choice of either Kailh brown or blue switch mounted on an elegant brushed aluminum surface."

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Source: Modders Inc

Use Bing in Edge for 30 hours a month and get ...

Subject: General Tech | August 22, 2016 - 01:26 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, microsoft rewards, windows 10, bing, edge

If you remember Bing Rewards then this will seem familiar, otherwise the gist of the deal is that if you browse on Edge and use Bing to search for 30 hours every month you get a bribe similar to what credit card companies offer.  You can choose between Skype credit, ad-free Outlook or Amazon gift cards, perhaps for aspirin to ease your Bing related headache; if such things seem worth your while.  The Inquirer points out that this is another reminder that Microsoft tracks all usage of Edge, otherwise they would not be able to verify the amount of Bing you used. 

Then again, to carry on the credit card analogy ...

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"Microsoft Rewards is a rebrand of Bing Rewards, the firm's desperate attempt to get people using the irritating default search engine, and sure enough the bribes for using Edge apply only if you use Bing too."

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Source: The Inquirer

Mozilla Publishes WebVR 1.0 to Nightly Releases

Subject: General Tech | August 20, 2016 - 05:36 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, webvr, Oculus

Earlier this month, the W3C published an Editor's Draft for WebVR 1.0. The specification has not yet been ratified, but the proposal is backed by engineers from Mozilla and Google. It enables the use of VR headsets in the web browser, including all the security required, such as isolating input to a single tab (in case you need to input a password while the HMD is on your face).

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Firefox Nightly, as of August 16th, now supports the draft 1.0 specification.

The browser currently supports Oculus CV1 and DK2 on Windows. It does not work with DK1, although Oculus provided backers of that KickStarter with a CV1 anyway, and it does not (yet) support the HTC Vive. It also only deals with the headset itself, not any motion controllers. I guess, if your application requires this functionality, you will need to keep working on native applications for a little while longer.

Source: Mozilla

Now we know what happened to Josh's stream; does your camera do YUY2 encoding?

Subject: General Tech | August 19, 2016 - 01:06 PM |
Tagged: yuy2, windows 10, skype, microsoft, idiots

In their infinite wisdom, Microsoft has disabled MJPEG and H.264 encoding on USB webcams for Skype in their Adversary Update to Windows 10, leaving only YUY2 encoding as your choice.  The supposed reasoning behind this is to ensure that there is no duplication of encoding which could lead to poor performance; ironically the result of this change is poor performance for the majority of users such as Josh.  Supposedly there will be a fix released some time in September but for now the only option is to roll back your AU installation, assuming you are not already past the 10 day deadline.   You can thank Brad Sams over at Thurrott.com for getting to the bottom of the issue which has been plaguing users of Skype and pick up some more details on his post.

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"Microsoft made a significant change with the release of Windows 10 and support for webcams that is causing serious problems for not only consumers but also the enterprise. The problem is that after installing the update, Windows no longer allows USB webcams to use MJPEG or H264 encoded streams and is only allowing YUY2 encoding."

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Source: Thurrott

Gamescom 2016: Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord Video

Subject: General Tech | August 19, 2016 - 01:40 AM |
Tagged: mount & blade ii, taleworlds

Mount & Blade is a quite popular franchise in some circles. It is based around a fairly simple, but difficult to master combat system, which mixes melee, blocking, and ranged attacks. They are balanced by reload time (and sometimes accuracy) to make all methods viable. A 100 vs 100 battle, including cavalry and other special units, is quite unique. It is also a popular mod platform, although Warband's engine can be a little temperamental.

As such, there's quite a bit of interest for the upcoming Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord. The Siege game mode involves an attacking wave beating down a fortress, trying to open as many attack paths as possible, and eventually overrunning the defenders. The above video is from the defending perspective. It seems like it, mechanically, changed significantly from Warband, particularly the Napoleonic Wars DLC that I'm used to. In that mod, attackers spawn infinitely until a time limit is reached. This version apparently focuses on single-life AI armies, which Warband had as Commander Battles.

Hmm. Still no release date, though.

Intel's new SoC, the Joule

Subject: General Tech | August 18, 2016 - 02:20 PM |
Tagged: Intel, joule, iot, IDF 2016, SoC, 570x, 550x, Intel RealSense

Intel has announced the follow up to Edison and Curie, their current SoC device, called Joule.  They have moved away from the Quark processors they previously used to a current generation Atom.  The device is designed to compete against NVIDIA's Jetson as it is far more powerful than a Raspberry Pi and will be destined for different usage.  It will support Intel RealSense, perhaps appearing in the newly announced Project Alloy VR headset.  Drop by Hack a Day for more details on the two soon to be released models, the Joule 570x and 550x.

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"The high-end board in the lineup features a quad-core Intel Atom running at 2.4 GHz, 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, 16GB of eMMC, 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1, USB 3.1, CSI and DSI interfaces, and multiple GPIO, I2C, and UART interfaces."

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Source: Hack a Day

Skyrim isn't done with you yet; full conversion Enderal arrives

Subject: General Tech | August 17, 2016 - 02:02 PM |
Tagged: Enderal, SureAI, mod, skyrim

 Enderal: The Shards of Order is a complete conversion of the Steam version of Skyrim into a completely new game in a brand new world.  The mod is 8 GB in size and requires a separate launcher, both available at Enderal.com and you can expect between 30 to 100 hours playtime.  You may remember this team from Nehrim, their previous total conversion mod for Oblivion.  Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN have covered this mod previously, however until now it was only available in German.  The full English version, including voice acting, is now complete and ready for you to dive into.  You might want to consider unmodding your Skyrim to install the mod, it does create a copy of the Skyrim installation so you can restore your Thomas the Tank Engine mod once you are set up. 

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"A final version of Enderal: The Shards of Order has been completed and can be downloaded for free now. While ‘Enderal’ sounds like it could be something made by a United States pharmaceutical company, it is actually a massive total conversion mod for Skyrim, not just adding new weapons or turning it into a survival game, but creating a whole new RPG using the raw materials of its parent."

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Source: rock

That old chestnut again? Intel compares their current gen hardware against older NVIDIA kit

Subject: General Tech | August 17, 2016 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, Intel, HPC, Xeon Phi, maxwell, pascal, dirty pool

There is a spat going on between Intel and NVIDIA over the slide below, as you can read about over at Ars Technica.  It seems that Intel have reached into the industries bag of dirty tricks and polished off an old standby, testing new hardware and software against older products from their competitors.  In this case it was high performance computing products which were tested, Intel's new Xeon Phi against NVIDIA's Maxwell, tested on an older version of the Caffe AlexNet benchmark.

NVIDIA points out that not only would they have done better than Intel if an up to date version of the benchmarking software was used, but that the comparison should have been against their current architecture, Pascal.  This is not quite as bad as putting undocumented flags into compilers to reduce the performance of competitors chips or predatory discount programs but it shows that the computer industry continues to have only a passing acquaintance with fair play and honest competition.

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"At this juncture I should point out that juicing benchmarks is, rather sadly, par for the course. Whenever a chip maker provides its own performance figures, they are almost always tailored to the strength of a specific chip—or alternatively, structured in such a way as to exacerbate the weakness of a competitor's product."

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Source: Ars Technica

Interesting, Simple Vulkan Tutorial Now Online

Subject: General Tech | August 16, 2016 - 08:10 PM |
Tagged: vulkan

Vulkan-Tutorial.com, while not affiliated with The Khronos Group, is a good read to understand how the Vulkan API is structured. It is set up like the tutorials I followed when learning WebGL, which seems to make it quite approachable. I mean, we are still talking about the Vulkan API, which was in no way designed to be easy or simple, but introduction-level material is still good for developers of all skill level, unless they're looking for specific advice.

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To emphasize what I mean by “approachable”, the tutorial even includes screenshots of Visual Studio 2015 at some points, to help Windows users set up their build environment. Like... step-by-step screenshots. This explanation is also accompanied by Linux instructions, although those use Ubuntu terminal commands.

IDF 2016: Intel Project Alloy Promises Untethered VR and AR Experiences

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Displays, Shows and Expos | August 16, 2016 - 01:50 PM |
Tagged: VR, virtual reality, project alloy, Intel, augmented reality, AR

At the opening keynote to this summer’s Intel Developer Forum, CEO Brian Krzanich announced a new initiative to enable a completely untether VR platform called Project Alloy. Using Intel processors and sensors the goal of Project Alloy is to move all of the necessary compute into the headset itself, including enough battery to power the device for a typical session, removing the need for a high powered PC and a truly cordless experience.

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This is indeed the obvious end-game for VR and AR, though Intel isn’t the first to demonstrate a working prototype. AMD showed the Sulon Q, an AMD FX-based system that was a wireless VR headset. It had real specs too, including a 2560x1440 OLED 90Hz display, 8GB of DDR3 memory, an AMD FX-8800P APU with R7 graphics embedded. Intel’s Project Alloy is currently using unknown hardware and won’t have a true prototype release until the second half of 2017.

There is one key advantage that Intel has implemented with Alloy: RealSense cameras. The idea is simple but the implications are powerful. Intel demonstrated using your hands and even other real-world items to interact with the virtual world. RealSense cameras use depth sensing to tracking hands and fingers very accurately and with a device integrated into the headset and pointed out and down, Project Alloy prototypes will be able to “see” and track your hands, integrating them into the game and VR world in real-time.

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The demo that Intel put on during the keynote definitely showed the promise, but the implementation was clunky and less than what I expected from the company. Real hands just showed up in the game, rather than representing the hands with rendered hands that track accurately, and it definitely put a schism in the experience. Obviously it’s up to the application developer to determine how your hands would actually be represented, but it would have been better to show case that capability in the live demo.  

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Better than just tracking your hands, Project Alloy was able to track a dollar bill (why not a Benjamin Intel??!?) and use it to interact with a spinning lathe in the VR world. It interacted very accurately and with minimal latency – the potential for this kind of AR integration is expansive.

Those same RealSense cameras and data is used to map the space around you, preventing you from running into things or people or cats in the room. This enables the first “multi-room” tracking capability, giving VR/AR users a new range of flexibility and usability.

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Though I did not get hands on with the Alloy prototype itself, the unit on-stage looked pretty heavy, pretty bulky. Comfort will obviously be important for any kind of head mounted display, and Intel has plenty of time to iterate on the design for the next year to get it right. Both AMD and NVIDIA have been talking up the importance of GPU compute to provide high quality VR experiences, so Intel has an uphill battle to prove that its solution, without the need for external power or additional processing, can truly provide the untethered experience we all desire.

RRAM that can do the twist

Subject: General Tech | August 16, 2016 - 01:38 PM |
Tagged: RRAM, flexible silicon

Flexible computers are quickly becoming more of a reality as researchers continue to find ways to make generally brittle components such as processors and memory out of new materials.  This latest research has discovered new materials to construct RRAM which allow working memory to remain viable even when subjected to flex.  Instead of using traditional CMOS they have found certain tungsten oxides which display all of the properties required for flexible memory.  The use of those oxides is not new, however they came with a significant drawback; in order to fabricate the material you needed a larger amount of heat than for CMOS.  Nanotechweb reports on new developments from a team led by James Tour of Rice University which have lead to a fabrication process which can take place at room temperature.  Check out their article for an overview and link to their paper

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"Researchers in the US and Korea say they have developed a new way to make a flexible, resistive random access memory (RAM) device in a room-temperature process – something that has proved difficult to do until now."

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Source: Nanotechweb

Logitech G Pro Gaming Mouse: Designed With And For Professional eSports Players

Subject: General Tech | August 16, 2016 - 03:00 AM |
Tagged: pro, mouse, logitech g, logitech, gaming

Readers of PC Perspective have noticed that in the last couple of years a very familiar name has been asserting itself again in the world of gaming peripherals. Logitech, once the leader and creator of the gaming-specific market with devices like the G15 keyboard, found itself in a rut and was being closed in on by competitors such as Razer, Corsair and SteelSeries. The Logitech G brand was born and a renewed focus on this growing and enthusiastic market took place. We have reviewed several of the company’s new products including the G933/633 gaming headsets, G402 mouse that included an accelerometer and the G29 racing wheel.

Today Logitech is announcing the Logitech G Pro Gaming Mouse. As the name would imply, this mouse is targeted at gamers that fancy themselves as professionals, or aspiring to be so. As a result, I imagine that many “normie” PC gamers will find the design, features and pricing to be attractive enough to put next to the keyboard on their desk. This is a wired-only mouse.

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The design of the Pro Gaming Mouse is very similar to that of the Logitech G100s, a long running and very popular mouse with the professional community. It falls a bit on the small side but Logitech claims that the “small and nimble profile allows gamers of many different game types to play as precisely as possible.” It’s incredibly light as well – measuring in at just 83g!

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This mouse has 6 programmable buttons, much less than some of the more extreme “gaming” mice on the market, all of which can be controlled through the Logitech Gaming Software platform. The on-board memory on the Pro allows gamers to configure the mouse on their own system and take those settings with them to competition or friends’ PCs without the need to re-install software.

RGB lights are of course included with the Pro mouse and I like the idea of the wrap around the sides and back of the mouse to add some flair to the design. 

Logitech is using the PMW3366 sensor in the Pro Gaming Mouse, the same used in the G502, G900 and others. Though mouse sensors might be overlooked for their importance in a gaming, the PMW3366 optical sensor is known to deliver accurate translations from 200-12,000 DPI with no acceleration or smoothing integrated that might hinder the input from the gamer.

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The buttons on the Logitech G Pro use a torsion spring system rated at 20 million clicks (!!) which works out to 25 kilometers of button travel for the life of the mouse. The spring system used is designed to minimize effort and distance required for button actuation.

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All aspects of the mouse were built with gamers in mind and with Logitech’s in-house professional gamers at the design table. Everything from the plastic feel, size, weight, etc. The scroll wheel is optimized for gamer’s use, not productivity, while the braided cable prevents snags. And the best part? The Logitech G Pro Gaming Mouse is set to have an MSRP of just $69.

The full press release is after the break and we are due to have a Logitech G Pro Gaming Mouse in our hands later today. We will follow up with thoughts and impressions soon!

Source: Logitech

Google tests switching to a low fibre diet; WiFi almost all the way

Subject: General Tech | August 15, 2016 - 12:22 PM |
Tagged: google, wireless isp, LTE

The FCC bidding was not terribly exciting but the result was numerous companies buying up parts of the spectrum and more importantly to this post, the opening of 3550-3650 MHz band for anyone to use.  The 3.5GHz band is already allocated to shipborne navigation and military radar systems, this will be a test of ability of computer systems to moderate interference instead of the blanket ban they have always relied on in the past. 

Google is about to test that ability, they will be running a test in several US cities to check the propagation of the signal as well as any possible maritime or military interference from the broadcast.  This could be a way to get high speed internet to the curb without requiring fibre optic runs and would also be compatible with LTE, if Google wanted to dip their toes into that market.  You can read about the tests and where they will be happening over at Hack a Day.

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"In a recently released FCC filing, Google has announced their experimental protocol for testing the new CBRS. This isn’t fast Internet to a lamp pole on the corner of the street yet, but it lays the groundwork for how the CBRS will function, and how well it will perform."

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Source: Hack a Day

Xaggerated claims from Intel? Psah, we've heard that googolplex of times before

Subject: General Tech | August 12, 2016 - 01:16 PM |
Tagged: 3D XPoint, Intel, FMS 2016

You might have caught our reference to this on the podcast, XPoint is amazingly fast but the marketing clams were an order or magnitude or two off of the real performance levels.  Al took some very nice pictures at FMS and covered what Micron had to say about their new QuantX drives.  The Register also dropped by and offers a tidbit on the pricing, roughly four to five times as much as current flash or about half the cost of an equivalent amount of RAM.  They also compare the stated endurance of 25 complete drive writes per day to existing flash which offers between 10 to 17 depending on the technology used. 

The question they ask at the end is one many data centre managers will also be asking, is the actual speed boost worth the cost of upgrading or will other less expensive alternatives be more economical?

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"XPoint will substantially undershoot the 1,000-times-faster and 1,000-times-longer-lived-than-flash claims made by Intel when it was first announced – with just a 10-times speed boost and 2.5-times longer endurance in reality."

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Source: The Register