Nice OS you have there; shame if something happened to it

Subject: General Tech | March 21, 2019 - 01:02 PM |
Tagged: Windows 7, windows 10, microsoft, EoL

It does have to be said that running a 10 year old Microsoft OS might not be the wisest decision; though it is better than running one 24 years old.  However, as we learned in 2017 many businesses are not even close to adopting Windows 10 on the majority of their systems.  There are numerous reasons for that delay, from licensing through security to privacy not to mention the interface is different enough to upset many executive level users. 

That hasn't stopped Microsoft from once again displaying splash screens on Windows 7 machines, as KB4493132 rolls out to those with automatic updates enabled.  Thankfully it does not attempt to fool you into updating by changing the way they close window button works but then again, the update is no longer free.  The Inquirer, as you might expect, is as enthused about this as most users.

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"HERE WE GO AGAIN. Two years on from Updategate, Microsoft is back to posting nag screens on its outgoing operating system."

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Source: The Inquirer

PC Perspective Podcast #537 - Division 2 GPU Testing, Google Stadia, and the End of [H]ardOCP

Subject: General Tech | March 21, 2019 - 12:05 PM |
Tagged: The Division 2, stadia, razer, ray tracing, Oculus, Intel, hardocp, game streaming, DirectX 12, Basilisk

PC Perspective Podcast #537 - 3/20/2019

Join us this week as we review the new NVIDIA GTX 1660 and a high-end case from Corsair, discuss NVIDIA's Mellanox acquisition, get excited over Halo for PC, and more!

Subscribe to the PC Perspective Podcast

Check out previous podcast episodes: http://pcper.com/podcast

Today's sponsor is KiwiCo. Change the way your kids learn and play. Get your first KiwiCo Crate free: https://www.kiwico.com/pcper

Show Topics
00:00:22 - Intro
00:02:10 - Review: Razer Basilisk Essential Gaming Mouse
00:05:49 - Review: The Division 2 Performance Preview
00:18:34 - News: Real-Time Ray Tracing for Pascal
00:29:19 - News: Google Stadia
00:46:19 - News: GameWorks RTX & Unreal/Unity DXR Support
00:48:54 - News: Crytek Neon Noir Ray Tracing Demo
00:50:48 - News: Variable Rate Shading for DirectX 12
00:54:06 - News: NVIDIA T4 GPUs for the Server Room
01:00:10 - News: NVIDIA Creator Ready Drivers
01:04:29 - News: Oculus Rift S
01:08:39 - News: AMD Immune to SPOILER
01:18:13 - News: Windows 7 DX12 Support in Adrenalin Drivers
01:22:32 - News: Kyle Bennett Joins Intel
01:34:28 - Picks of the Week
01:44:58 - Outro

Picks of the Week
Jim: Cheap Threadripper
Jeremy: RogueTech Mod for BattleTech
Josh: Intel 660p SSD
Sebastian: OCAT 1.4

Today's Podcast Hosts
Sebastian Peak
Josh Walrath
Jeremy Hellstrom
Jim Tanous

This is your father's BattleTech!

Subject: General Tech | March 20, 2019 - 02:15 PM |
Tagged: roguetech, mod, gaming, battletech

Have you already collected every 'mech available in the game and bashed your way through the Flashpoint expansion and are looking for something new in your BattleTech gaming time?  How does gunning down a CattleMaster, Uriel or Phoenix Hawk with an LBX Autocannon sound?  RogueTech is a huge mod for Harebrained Schemes' BattleTech which adds over 1000 'mechs, just about every weapon added into the tabletop game over the years, a fair number of new crunchies and even those annoying Power Armour nitwits.  

The changes go deeper than that, with total overhauls to movement, gunnery and how damage is inflicted, by yourself as well as others.  Expect your first missions to go poorly as you stumble your way through the complete revamp of the game, as you can read about over at Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN; installation instructions included.

Roguetech-Bessie.jpg

"It brings the combat a little more in line with the full, expanded tabletop rule-set (which no sane person ever used, thanks to requiring dozens of skill checks and countless dice rolled a turn), but through the magic of computers, we can experience all the thrills of full simulation-level ‘Mech combat without putting you to sleep or frying your brain."

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Oculus shows off their new headgear at GDC

Subject: General Tech | March 20, 2019 - 01:20 PM |
Tagged: Oculus Rift S, Oculus, vr headset, gdc 2019

The brand new Oculus Rift S is being shown off at GDC and Ars Technica had a chance to play with it.  The new implementation is rather impressive, a single wire connects you to your PC and there are now no external cameras, instead they have been relocated to the headset itself.  From the description in the review it seems they have done so very successfully, with location tracking improving as opposed to degrading due to that change.  Your eyeballs also get an upgraded experience, with each eye having a 1280x1440 display, though as of yet Oculus have not changed to AMOLED screens.

Check it out here.

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"This is out-of-the-box room scale," Oculus co-founder Nate Mitchell said as he gestured to the Oculus Rift S, the new PC-focused VR headset launching "this spring" for $399. This headset will effectively replace the standard Oculus Rift headset, which has had production all but halted to make way for the new model."

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Source: Ars Technica

NVIDIA is ready to storm the server room

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Networking, Shows and Expos | March 19, 2019 - 06:16 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, t4, amazon, microsoft, NGC, Mellanox, CUDA-X, GTC, jen-hsun huang, DRIVE Constellation, ai

As part of their long list of announcements yesterday, NVIDIA revealed they are partnering with Cisco, Dell EMC, Fujitsu, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Inspur, Lenovo and Sugon to provide servers powered by T4 Tensor Core GPUs, optimized to run their CUDA-X AI accelerators. 

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Those T4 GPUs have been on the market for a while but this marks the first major success for NVIDIA in the server room, with models available for purchase from those aforementioned companies.  Those who prefer other people's servers can also benefit from these new products, with Amazon and Microsoft offering Cloud based solutions.  Setting yourself up to run NVIDIA's NGC software may save a lot of money down the road, the cards sip a mere 70W of power which is rather more attractive than the consumption of a gaggle of Tesla V100s.  One might be guilty of suspecting this offers an explanation for their recent acquisition of Mellanox.

purty.PNG

NGC software offers more than just a platform to run optimizations on, it also offers a range of templates to start off with from classification, and object detection, through sentiment analysis and most other basic starting points for training a machine.  Customers will also be able to upload their own models to share internally or, if in the mood, externally with other users and companies.  It supports existing products such as TensorFlow and PyTorch but also offers access to CUDA-X AI, which as the name suggests takes advantage of the base design of the T4 GPU to reduce the amount of time waiting for results and letting users advance designs quickly. 

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If you are curious exactly what particular implementations of everyone's favourite buzzword might be, NVIDIA's DRIVE Constellation is a example after JoshTekk's own heart.  Literally an way to create open, scalable simulation for large fleets of self-driving cars to train them ... for good one hopes.  Currently the Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development utilizes these products in the development of their next self-driving fleet, and NVIDIA obviously hopes others will follow suit. 

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There is not much to see from the perspective of a gamer in the short term, but considering NVIDIA's work at shifting the horsepower from the silicon you own to their own Cloud this will certainly impact the future of gaming from both a hardware and gameplay perspective.  GPUs as a Service may not be the future many of us want but this suggests it could be possible, not to mention the dirty tricks enemy AIs will be able to pull with this processing power behind them.

One might even dream that escort missions could become less of a traumatic experience!

Source: NVIDIA

Google Announces Stadia at GDC 2019

Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2019 - 03:28 PM |
Tagged: google, stadia

Google Stadia, a new gaming service, was announced at the 2019 Game Developers Conference. Much like OnLive and PlayStation Now, users connect to an instance of video games running in datacenters. Because it is a conference for game developers, they also mentioned a few added features, such as directly transcoding for YouTube and allowing the audience to wait in line and jump into a streamer’s game session.

Requirements and price were not mentioned, but it will arrive sometime in 2019.

Google also mentioned that applicable games would run on Linux and the Vulkan API. Given their Android initiative, and their desire to not pay Microsoft a license fee for VMs, this makes a lot of sense. It also forces major engine developers to target and optimize Linux-focused APIs, which will be good in the long run, especially if Google starts adding GPUs from Intel and NVIDIA in the coming years. I'm not sure how much it will push Linux ports, however, because that's not really why publishers avoid the platform.

In terms of hardware, Google claims that an instance will have about 10.7 teraflops of GPU performance on an AMD platform. In terms of compute, this puts it equivalent to a GTX 1080 Ti, although AMD tends to have reduced fillrate, etc., which keeps them behind NVIDIA parts with equivalent compute performance. (Those equivalent AMD parts also tend to be significantly cheaper, and thus comparing flop to flop isn’t fair in most other circumstances.)

google-2019-stadia-controller.png

As long-time readers know, I am also very cautious about streaming services because they are about the epitome of DRM. While the content is available on other, local platforms? Not really a big deal. If a game is developed for Google’s service, and requires Google’s API, then games that leave the service, either by Google’s license ending or Google simply not wanting to host it anymore, will be just about impossible to preserve. Games are not movies or sound files that can be transcoded into another format.

Linux and Vulkan does provide a bit more confidence, but you never know what will happen when a company, with no legal (ex: the GPL) obligation to remain open, gets large enough.

It’s something that I’m still worried about, though.

NZXT Announces the HUE 2 RGB Ambient Lighting Kit V2

Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2019 - 02:34 PM |
Tagged: RGB, nzxt, lighting, HUE 2 Ambient RGB Kit V2, HUE 2, ambient

NZXT has announced the version 2 of the HUE 2 Ambient RGB Lighting Kit, an update which the company says "brings product improvements that make installation easier and help ensure that the included LED strips will be securely attached to your monitor". The lighting kit uses NZXT's CAM software to select between lighting modes - which include an ambient mode that changes the lighting to compliment the images on your monitor.

HUE 2 Ambient RGB Lighting Kit.jpg

"The HUE 2 ecosystem delivers the broadest line of RGB lighting accessories for PC Builders with over 10 different accessories such as the HUE 2 RGB lighting kit, underglow kit, AER RGB 2 fans, and cable combs."

NZXT provides this list of features for the new HUE 2 kit:

HUE 2 Ambient RGB Kit V2 New Features:

  • Stronger Adhesive: Upgraded the 3M LED strip adhesive backing tape to be thicker and stickier. It is more compatible with the different surfaces and textures of monitors on the market.
  • L-Shape Corner Connector: For easier setup, we replaced the 150mm corner connectors to an L-shape corner connector for the top left and bottom right of your monitor.
  • Alcohol Wipes: As your monitor may be dusty or dirty, we added alcohol-based cleaning wipes so you can clean the back of the monitor before adhering the LED strips.

HUE 2 RGB Ambient Lighting Kit Features

  • Available in two configurations, one for 21” to 25”/34”-35” UltraWide monitors and one for 26” to 32” monitors, the HUE 2 RGB Ambient Lighting Kit adds gorgeous lighting to your gaming PC and provides a more immersive in-game experience* by projecting the colors from the edges of your display to your walls.
  • HUE 2 RGB Ambient Lighting controller
  • Faster microprocessor enables incredibly smooth lighting effects and virtually instantaneous response changes to colors on the screen in ambient mode
  • Multiple LED strips in various lengths, along with easy-to-follow configuration and installation instructions for various monitor sizes and aspect ratios
  • AC power adapter
  • All necessary cables
  • Compatible with all HUE 2 accessories and CAM lighting modes

* Ambient lighting modes are available only with the HUE 2 Ambient Lighting controller and require the use of CAM as a registered user, including acceptance of the then-current NZXT Terms of Service.

HUE-2-Ambient-RGB-Lighting-Kit.jpg

The HUE 2 lighting kits are available now in the USA with pricing as follows:

  • HUE 2 Ambient RGB Lighting Kit V2 (21”-25”, 34”-35” UltraWide) - $99.99
  • HUE 2 Ambient RGB Lighting Kit V2 (26”-32”) - $99.99
Source: NZXT

The Atari VCS is delayed again, but you might not be as mad about it as you think

Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2019 - 01:19 PM |
Tagged: atari, delay, amd, Vega, ryzen

You may remember the announcement of the re-launch of the Atari Video Console System back in the summer of 2017, though by now you may have decided that it is going the way of the ZX Spectrum Vega+.  If you do still hold hope, Atari is once again testing your patience by announcing another delay to the end of 2019.  There is a reason however, which you may or may not find acceptable.  They will be upgrading the AMD Ryzen chip at the heart of the system, with the new generation of Vega graphics offering modern performance.  Atari is also suggesting this will offer much quieter and cooler performance in a quote over at The Inquirer.

atari-vcs-ataribox-linux-pc-video-game-console-gaming.jpg

"The Atari VCS launched on Indiegogo and was originally set to arrive in spring 2018, but the company has announced that it will now arrive at the butt-end of 2019 (and that projection is just for the US and Canada)."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: The Inquirer

The Khronos Group Releases OpenXR 0.90 (Provisional)

Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2019 - 01:20 AM |
Tagged: Khronos, openxr

At the Games Developers Conference in San Francisco, the Khronos Group has published the first, provisional release of the augmented reality and virtual reality API: OpenXR 0.90. The goal is to allow the general public to implement it into their software so they can provide feedback (via the official forums) before it launches into 1.0.

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The last time we’ve mentioned OpenXR was SIGGRAPH back in August. That event had a demo area on the show floor with the Epic Showdown VR demo, which evolved into Robo Recall. On that end, Epic plans to continue support for OpenXR, and they pride themselves as the engine that powers the original demo. Unity has also responded positively to OpenXR, but their quoted statement doesn’t make any specific promises. Microsoft and Collabora are each, separately, providing hardware implementations of the new API. Oculus plans to support the API when it reaches 1.0 status. HTC also wants to support OpenXR with the Vive, although Valve is nowhere to be seen on the list of quotes. Google is also nowhere to be seen on the list.

You can check out the press release on the Khronos Group website.

GTC 19: NVIDIA Announces GameWorks RTX; Unreal Engine and Unity Gain DXR Support

Subject: General Tech | March 18, 2019 - 10:00 PM |
Tagged: gameworks, unreal engine, Unity, rtx, ray tracing, nvidia, GTC 19, GTC, dxr, developers

Today at GTC NVIDIA announced GameWorks RTX and the implementation of real-time ray tracing in the upcoming Unreal Engine 4.22 and the latest version of Unity, currently in 2019.03.

NVIDIA Announces GameWorks RTX

While Pascal and non-RTX Turing support for real-time ray tracing is something of a bombshell from NVIDIA, the creation of GameWorks tools for such effects is not surprising.

“NVIDIA GameWorks RTX is a comprehensive set of tools that help developers implement real time ray-traced effects in games. GameWorks RTX is available to the developer community in open source form under the GameWorks license and includes plugins for Unreal Engine 4.22 and Unity’s 2019.03 preview release.”

NVIDIA lists these components of GameWorks RTX:

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  • RTX Denoiser SDK – a library that enables fast, real-time ray tracing by providing denoising techniques to lower the required ray count and samples per pixel. It includes algorithms for ray traced area light shadows, glossy reflections, ambient occlusion and diffuse global illumination.
  • Nsight for RT – a standalone developer tool that saves developers time by helping to debug and profile graphics applications built with DXR and other supported APIs.

Unreal Engine and Unity Gaining Real-Time Ray Tracing Support

DXR_GAME_ENGINES.png

And while not specific to NVIDIA hardware, news of more game engines offering integrated DXR support was also announced during the keynote:

“Unreal Engine 4.22 is available in preview now, with final release details expected in Epic’s GDC keynote on Wednesday. Starting on April 4, Unity will offer optimized, production-focused, realtime ray tracing support with a custom experimental build available on GitHub to all users with full preview access in the 2019.03 Unity release. Real-time ray tracing support from other first-party AAA game engines includes DICE/EA’s Frostbite Engine, Remedy Entertainment’s Northlight Engine and engines from Crystal Dynamics, Kingsoft, Netease and others.”

RTX may have been off to a slow start, but this will apparently be the year of real-time ray tracing after all - especially with the upcoming NVIDIA driver update adding support to the GTX 10-series and new GTX 16-series GPUs.

Source: NVIDIA