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

Subject: General Tech | August 17, 2016 - 04:41 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.


"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 17, 2016 - 12:10 AM |
Tagged: vulkan, 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.


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 - 05:50 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.


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.


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.  


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.


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 - 05:38 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


"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 - 07:00 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.


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!


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.


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.


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 - 04:22 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.


"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
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Various


Even before the formulation of the term "Internet of things", Steve Gibson proposed home networking topology changes designed to deal with this new looming security threat. Unfortunately, little or no thought is given to the security aspects of the devices in this rapidly growing market.

One of Steve's proposed network topology adjustments involved daisy-chaining two routers together. The WAN port of an IOT-purposed router would be attached to the LAN port of the Border/root router.


In this arrangement, only IOT/Smart devices are connected to the internal (or IOT-purposed) router. The idea was to isolate insecure or poorly implemented devices from the more valuable personal local data devices such as a NAS with important files and or backups. Unfortunately this clever arrangement leaves any device directly connected to the “border” router open to attack by infected devices running on the internal/IOT router. Said devices could perform a simple trace-route and identify that an intermediate network exists between it and the public Internet. Any device running under the border router with known (or worse - unknown!) vulnerabilities can be immediately exploited.


Gibson's alternative formula reversed the positioning of the IOT and border router. Unfortunately, this solution also came with a nasty side-effect. The border router (now used as the "secure" or internal router) became subject to all manner of man-in-the-middle attacks. Since the local Ethernet network basically trusts all traffic within its domain, an infected device on the IOT router (now between the internal router and the public Internet) can manipulate or eavesdrop on any traffic emerging from the internal router. The potential consequences of this flaw are obvious.


The third time really is the charm for Steve! On February 2nd of this year (Episode #545 of Security Now!) Gibson presented us with his third (and hopefully final) foray into the magical land of theory-crafting as it related to securing our home networks against the Internet of Things.

Continue reading our editorial covering IOT security methodology!!

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

Subject: General Tech | August 12, 2016 - 05:16 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?


"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

Microsoft Won't End Support for Skylake on Windows 7/8.1

Subject: General Tech | August 11, 2016 - 09:42 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

Previously, Microsoft said that they will end support for Skylake-based processors on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 before the OS's extended support date. Later processors, like Intel's Kaby Lake and AMD's Bristol Ridge, will not be supported on 7 and 8.1 at all. To use those processors, their associated devices will need to be running Windows 10 (or, you know, Linux or something).


This has just changed for Skylake, but not for Kaby Lake and Bristol Ridge. Skylake will now be supported through the entire life-cycle of Windows 7 (January 14, 2020) and Windows 8.1 (January 10, 2023). This is particularly good because Skylake was already released and in the hands of users when they first announced pulling the plug. Now users will know before they purchase their hardware (albeit not before many have purchased a retail copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.x with transfer rights that intend to continually upgrade beyond Skylake or to AMD's Zen architecture) that Microsoft will not support it outside of Windows 10.

Source: Microsoft

Helicopter headphones from ARCTIC, for AirWolf enthusiasts and ... others

Subject: General Tech | August 11, 2016 - 07:51 PM |
Tagged: audio, arctic, P533 Military, gaming headset

Arctic has a rather unique product up for sale, an analog gaming headset modelled after the style you would see a helicopter pilot on TV wearing.  The P533 Military Stereo Headset utilizes the standard 40mm neodymium drivers common to many headsets with a dynamic range of 20Hz-20KHz, 32Ohm impedance and 95dB sensitivity.  The microphone boom is longer than usual and features several joints to allow you to position it exactly where you want.  The P533 also has an integrated volume control knob on the outside of the right ear cup as opposed to inline on the cord, which ends in 3.5mm jacks.  There is no doubt that the hard, rounded cups are unique looking although perhaps not what most of us are looking for.  Check out Nikktech's review of the P533, even if it is just to see the design of these things.


"It may not be the best attack helicopter headset clone in the market today but the P533 Military Stereo Headset by ARCTIC might just be the most affordable one."

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Source: Nikktech