Valve and Mozilla Announce SteamVR and WebVR for macOS

Subject: General Tech | June 5, 2017 - 04:58 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, valve, steamvr, webvr, apple, macos

At WWDC, Valve and HTC announced that their SteamVR platform would be arriving for macOS. This means that the HTC Vive can now be targeted by games that ship for that operating system, which probably means that game engines, like Unreal Engine 4 and Unity, will add support soon. One of the first out of the gate, however, is Mozilla with WebVR for Firefox Nightly on macOS. Combine the two announcements, and you can use the HTC Vive to create and browse WebVR content on Apple desktops and laptops that have high-enough performance, without rebooting into a different OS.

webvr-logo.png

Speaking of which, Apple also announced a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure with an AMD Radeon RX 580 and a USB-C hub. Alternatively, some of the new iMacs have Radeon graphics in them, with the new 27-inch having up to an RX 580. You can check out all of these announcements in Jim’s post.

Source: HTC

WWDC 2017: One Small Step for the iMac, One Giant Leap for the iMac Pro

Subject: General Tech | June 5, 2017 - 04:13 PM |
Tagged: wwdc, imac pro, imac, apple, all-in-one

In a product-packed WWDC keynote Monday afternoon, Apple announced significant hardware updates to its all-in-one iMac desktop line. After letting the product line go without updates since late 2015, Apple is finally bringing Kaby Lake to its standard iMac models and, as rumored, will be launching a new high-end "iMac Pro" model in December.

kaby-lake-imacs.jpg

iMac

The now "normal" line of iMacs received a range of expected feature updates, including USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 support, and new discrete GPU options from AMD.

imac-27-gpu.jpg

The 21.5-inch 4K iMacs will be configurable with Radeon Pro 555 and 560 GPUs with up to 4GB of VRAM, while those opting for the 27-inch 5K iMac will be able to choose from the Radeon Pro 570, 575, or 580 with up to 8GB of VRAM.

The Radeon Pro 580, coupled with software and API improvements coming as part of the next version of macOS, "High Sierra" (no, seriously), was specifically called out as being ready to power a new era of VR experiences and content creation on the Mac, thanks to Apple partnerships with Valve (Steam VR), Unity, and Epic (Unreal Engine 4).

imac-vr.jpg

Other new features available on the iMac include higher official RAM limits (32GB for the 21.5-inch model and 64GB for the 27-inch), faster NVMe flash storage (up to 2TB capacities), two Thunderbolt 3 ports (which will support Apple's new external GPU initiative), and improved displays (higher maximum brightness, 10-bit dithering, and greater color reproduction).

imac-prices.jpg

The starting price for the new iMacs ranges from $1,099 to $1,799 and they're available for order today at Apple's website.

iMac Pro

By far the more interesting Mac-related announcement from today's keynote is the new iMac Pro. Although it shares the same basic design as its "non-Pro" counterparts, it features an improved dual fan cooling system that Apple claims is able to accommodate much higher end hardware than has previously been available in an iMac.

imac-pro.jpg

This includes Xeon CPUs ranging from 8 to 18 cores, up to 128GB of 2666MHz DDR4 ECC memory, up to 4TB of flash storage that Apple rates at a speed of 3GB/s, graphics options powered by AMD's upcoming Vega platform, and, to power it all, a 500 watt power supply.

imac-pro-cooling.jpg

The new iMac Pro will also include four USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports (compared to just two on the non-Pro models), as well as 10Gb Ethernet (NBase-T), making it not only the most powerful iMac, but also the most powerful Mac yet, as Apple continues to let its Mac Pro line languish in the midst of future promised updates.

imac-pro-xeon-18.jpg

The iMac Pro's hardware is already quite pricey before you factor in Apple's 5K display, design, and "Apple Tax," so those familiar with the company won't be shocked to learn that this new flagship Mac will start at $5,000 when it launches this December.

Source: Apple

Honey, I shrunk the silicon

Subject: General Tech | June 5, 2017 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: IBM, global foundries, Samsung, 5nm, 3nm. eulv, GAAFET

Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography has been the hope for reducing process size below the current size but it had not been used to create a successful 5nm chip, until now.  IBM, Samsung and GLOBALFOUNDRIES have succeeded in producing a chip using IBM's gate-all-around transistors, which will be known as GAAFETs and will likely replace the current tri-gate FinFETs used today.  A GAAFET resembles a FinFET rotated 90 degrees so that the channels run horizontally, stacked three layers high with gates filling in the gaps, hence the name chosen. 

Density will go up, this process will fit 30 billion transistors in a 50mm2 chip, 50% more than the previous best commercial process and performance can be increased by 40% at the same power as our current chips or offer the same performance while consuming 75% less power.  Ars Technica delves into the technology required to make GAAFETs and more of the potential in their article.

5nm.PNG

"IBM, working with Samsung and GlobalFoundries, has unveiled the world's first 5nm silicon chip. Beyond the usual power, performance, and density improvement from moving to smaller transistors, the 5nm IBM chip is notable for being one of the first to use horizontal gate-all-around (GAA) transistors, and the first real use of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Ars Technica
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: The Khronos Group

An Data Format for Whole 3D Scenes

The Khronos Group has finalized the glTF 2.0 specification, and they recommend that interested parties integrate this 3D scene format into their content pipeline starting now. It’s ready.

khronos-2017-glTF_500px_June16.png

glTF is a format to deliver 3D content, especially full scenes, in a compact and quick-loading data structure. These features differentiate glTF from other 3D formats, like Autodesk’s FBX and even the Khronos Group’s Collada, which are more like intermediate formats between tools, such as 3D editing software (ex: Maya and Blender) and game engines. They don’t see a competing format for final scenes that are designed to be ingested directly, quick and small.

glTF 2.0 makes several important changes.

The previous version of glTF was based on a defined GLSL material, which limited how it could be used, although it did align with WebGL at the time (and that spurred some early adoption). The new version switches to Physically Based Rendering (PBR) workflows to define their materials, which has a few advantages.

khronos-2017-PBR material model in glTF 2.0.jpg

First, PBR can represent a wide range of materials with just a handful of parameters. Rather than dictating a specific shader, the data structure can just... structure the data. The industry has settled on two main workflows, metallic-roughness and specular-gloss, and glTF 2.0 supports them both. (Metallic-roughness is the core workflow, but specular-gloss is provided as an extension, and they can be used together in the same scene. Also, during the briefing, I noticed that transparency was not explicitly mentioned in the slide deck, but the Khronos Group confirmed that it is stored as the alpha channel of the base color, and thus supported.) Because the format is now based on existing workflows, the implementation can be programmed in OpenGL, Vulkan, DirectX, Metal, or even something like a software renderer. In fact, Microsoft was a specification editor on glTF 2.0, and they have publicly announced using the format in their upcoming products.

The original GLSL material, from glTF 1.0, is available as an extension (for backward compatibility).

A second advantage of PBR is that it is lighting-independent. When you define a PBR material for an object, it can be placed in any environment and it will behave as expected. Noticeable, albeit extreme examples of where this would have been useful are the outdoor scenes of Doom 3, and the indoor scenes of Battlefield 2. It also simplifies asset creation. Some applications, like Substance Painter and Quixel, have artists stencil materials onto their geometry, like gold, rusted iron, and scuffed plastic, and automatically generate the appropriate textures. It also aligns well with deferred rendering, see below, which performs lighting as a post-process step and thus skip pixels (fragments) that are overwritten.

epicgames-2017-suntempledeferred.png

PBR Deferred Buffers in Unreal Engine 4 Sun Temple.
Lighting is applied to these completed buffers, not every fragment.

glTF 2.0 also improves support for complex animations by adding morph targets. Most 3D animations, beyond just moving, rotating, and scaling whole objects, are based on skeletal animations. This method works by binding vertexes to bones, and moving, rotating, and scaling a hierarchy of joints. This works well for humans, animals, hinges, and other collections of joints and sockets, and it was already supported in glTF 1.0. Morph targets, on the other hand, allow the artist to directly control individual vertices between defined states. This is often demonstrated with a facial animation, interpolating between smiles and frowns, but, in an actual game, this is often approximated with skeletal animations (for performance reasons). Regardless, glTF 2.0 now supports morph targets, too, letting the artists make the choice that best suits their content.

Speaking of performance, the Khronos Group is also promoting “enhanced performance” as a benefit of glTF 2.0. I asked whether they have anything to elaborate on, and they responded with a little story. While glTF 1.0 validators were being created, one of the engineers compiled a list of design choices that would lead to minor performance issues. The fixes for these were originally supposed to be embodied in a glTF 1.1 specification, but PBR workflows and Microsoft’s request to abstract the format away from GLSL lead to glTF 2.0, which is where the performance optimization finally ended up. Basically, there wasn’t just one or two changes that made a big impact; it was the result of many tiny changes that add up.

Also, the binary version of glTF is now a core feature in glTF 2.0.

khronos-2017-gltfroadmap.png

The slide looks at the potential future of glTF, after 2.0.

Looking forward, the Khronos Group has a few items on their glTF roadmap. These did not make glTF 2.0, but they are current topics for future versions. One potential addition is mesh compression, via the Google Draco team, to further decrease file size of 3D geometry. Another roadmap entry is progressive geometry streaming, via Fraunhofer SRC, which should speed up runtime performance.

Yet another roadmap entry is “Unified Compression Texture Format for Transmission”, specifically Basis by Binomial, for texture compression that remains as small as possible on the GPU. Graphics processors can only natively operate on a handful of formats, like DXT and ASTC, so textures need to be converted when they are loaded by an engine. Often, when a texture is loaded at runtime (rather than imported by the editor) it will be decompressed and left in that state on the GPU. Some engines, like Unity, have a runtime compress method that converts textures to DXT, but the developer needs to explicitly call it and the documentation says it’s lower quality than the algorithm used by the editor (although I haven’t tested this). Suffices to say, having a format that can circumvent all of that would be nice.

Again, if you’re interested in adding glTF 2.0 to your content pipeline, then get started. It’s ready. Microsoft is doing it, too.

NVIDIA SHIELD TV Update 5.2 adds TV Tuners, NAS write capability

Subject: General Tech | June 2, 2017 - 04:55 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, shield, SHIELD TV, plex, plex pass

Yesterday I posted a news blurb about the update to Plex that brought Live TV viewing and an enhanced DVR capability to the widely used and very popular media software package. In that story I mentioned that the NVIDIA SHIELD (and all Android TV systems) were among the first of the roll out, capable of both serving Live TV but also streaming and viewing it. Yes, the NVIDIA SHIELD continues to be one of the most interesting parts of the cord cutting economy, with a balance of hardware performance, software improvements, and cost.

SHIELD_family_500GB@2x.png

Along with the Plex software update, NVIDIA has its own update pushing out starting yesterday, Experience Upgrade 5.2, starting with the SHIELD Preview Program members. This update brings a couple of important changes that make the Plex Live TV rollout much more interesting. First, the SHIELD now has support for a wider array of TV tuners, including direct attached USB TV tuners. Here is the updated list of supported hardware:

  • HDHomeRun Network Tuners:
    • Connect – Dual tuner, Base model
    • Extend – Dual tuner, Converts MPEG2 to H.264 for lower bandwidth and size requirements
    • Prime – Requires cable subscription and a CableCARD
  • Hauppauge Dual USB Tuners:
    • WinTV-dual HD 1595 (NTSC) – US/Canada
    • WinTV-dual HD 1590 (DVB-T/T2) – UK/EU
  • Single USB Tuners – Not recommended due to single tuner capability
    • AVerMedia AVerTV Volar Hybrid Q (H837) for US/Canada

NVIDIA claims there are more tuners on the way soon, so we’ll keep an eye out on the updates.

The second update allows SHIELD to write to network attached storage devices (NAS). Previously, the Android TV box could only mount them as read-only partitions, even in Plex, making them useless for recording live TV via the Plex DVR. With the 5.2 release you can now direct write to NAS hardware, allowing the SHIELD to store copies of recorded TV shows and movies in a location that makes sense. If you have a non-hard drive SHIELD unit, this is a great feature, and even if you have the 500GB model, this easily expands usable storage with hardware you may already own.

plex3.jpg

Also as a part of the update are more general tweaks and improvements including “network storage directory and connectivity enhancements, Wi-Fi performance improvements, and experience enhancements for SHIELD remote and SHIELD controller.”

NVIDIA is celebrating the release of this Plex update by offering a 6-month Plex Pass subscription as a part of the deal if you buy a new SHIELD TV. That’s a $30 value, but a Plex Pass is a requirement to take advantage of Live TV. For users that already own the SHIELD, you’ll have to shell out the $5/mo for the premium Plex offering (worth it for sure in my view) to try out the live TV feature.

Source: NVIDIA

Computex 2017: ASRock Launching H110 Pro BTC+ Motherboard With 13 PCI-E Slots

Subject: General Tech | June 2, 2017 - 04:02 PM |
Tagged: asrock, H110, Skylake, bitcoin, cryptocurrency, mining, storj, computex, computex 2017

ASRock showed off an upcoming motherboard at Computex that features 13 PCI-Express slots and is aimed squarely at crypto currency miners. The new H110 Pro BTC+ is an ATX board based on Intel’s H110 chipset and LGA 1151 socket (Skylake CPUs). The board is dominated by 12 PCI-E x1 slots and a single PCI-E x16 slot (I suppose for mounting a SAS card and Burst mining or running Storj heh), but it also has slots for two DDR4 DIMMs, a single M.2 port, and four SATA ports. The board also supports Intel Gigabit Ethernet, ELNA audio, USB 3.0 and DVI and HDMI video outputs for the Intel iGPU.

ASRock H110 Pro BTC.jpg

The upcoming board is powered by a 24 pin ATX, 8 pin EPS, and two Molex connectors for the PCI-E slots. The H110 Pro BTC+ appears to have a decent power phase setup for an H110 motherboard as well. ASRock showed off the motherboard running eight GPUs on Windows at Computex, though with Linux it is possible go beyond that and run all 13 GPUs. The H110 chipset does mean that miners would need to spend money on a newer CPU and DDR4 memory, but they would save money by buying fewer motherboards and/or port multipliers.

Exact specifications along with pricing and availability are still unknown, but expect the mining crowd to jump on this so if you are interested in it be sure to set up email alerts for when it will become available so that you can get in before the miners make it go out of stock everywhere like the RX 580s! (heh)

Source: ASRock

Windows 10, the Snapdragon 835 and its X16 LTE buddy

Subject: General Tech | June 2, 2017 - 12:54 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, snapdragon 835, x16 LTE

The Register has heard the names of the three vendors that Qualcomm will tap to produce Win10 machines running on their chips.  The winners are as expected, Lenovo, HP and ASUS will be licensed to sell these mysterious low powered and extremely mobile devices.  Unfortunately that is pretty much all we know, there were no dates nor models announced by Qualcomm or its new partners.  We can certainly speculate that these devices will be as thin as the battery will allow, the cooling solution for a Snapdragon can be extremely compact, assume that you will not see any wired NICs as the RJ-45 jack would be thicker than the device.  We should be able to assume their will be a headphone jack at least.

snapdragon-chip-tiny.png

"The chipmaker says the three vendors will be making PCs that will sport its Snapdragon 835 SoC (system-on-chip) and its X16 LTE chipset for wireless broadband connectivity. Qualcomm says all of the models will be fanless and will offer all-day battery life."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

OneLogin Reports Breach in Security

Subject: General Tech | June 2, 2017 - 01:50 AM |
Tagged: onelogin, security

If you use OneLogin to manage your passwords, then you will want to check your email, which I’m assuming is they way they’ll contact customers, and see if they have any advice. (Although, now that the attack is public, be careful of spoof emails.) The password management company was recently accessed by a malicious entity, and data was copied. OneLogin claims that they encrypt sensitive data, however they also state that it’s possible the intruder also gained access to the ability to decrypt it, but they also may not have.

onelogin-2017-devices.png

The attack occurred on their US-based Amazon Web Services (AWS) instance. Apparently, OneLogin noticed several servers being created without authorization, so they considered those API keys compromised and shut down the servers.

There’s not much else to report at the moment. Check out the OneLogin blog to see what they find out as they find it out.

Source: OneLogin

HyperX Introduces Higher Speed DDR4 Memory Kits Up to 4,000 MHz

Subject: General Tech | June 1, 2017 - 04:22 PM |
Tagged: hyperx, kingston, ddr4, ryzen, x299, overclocking

Kingston’s high-performance division HyperX recently announced the availability of a slew of new Predator DDR4 memory kits based on DIMMs capable of reaching 4,000 MHz at 1.35 volts.

hyperx_predator_ddr4_dimm_2_s-lg.jpg

HyperX has added six new speed tiers to the lineup made up of individual DIMMs as well as kits of multiple sticks. Voltage is rated at 1.35V across the lineup. The kits and DIMMs being added to the lineup are listed below along with their rated CAS latencies. They reportedly all support built-in XMP profiles.

  • 2,400 MHz at CL12
  • 2,666 MHz at CL13
  • 3,000 MHz at CL15
  • 3,333 MHz at CL16
  • 3,600 MHz at CL17
  • 4,000 MHz at CL19

The majority of kits top out at 64GB, but HyperX did add a 128GB (eight DIMM) kit running at 3,000 MHz and CL15. At the high end is a single 4,000 MHz 16GB (2x8GB) kit (HX440C19PB3K2/16) running at CL19.

The Tech Report reports that the new kits are available now, but looking around online they do not appear to be listed at retailers quite yet so pricing information is unknown. I would expect the high capacity and high-speed kits to carry a decent premium though!

In any case, if you are in the market for a high-end Ryzen, ThreadRipper, or Skylake-X build these may be worth checking out.

Source: Tech Report

Podcast #452 - Computex Special

Subject: General Tech | June 1, 2017 - 12:33 PM |
Tagged: x299, WD, VROC, video, Vega, toshiba, Threadripper, snapdragon 835, ryzen mobile, qnap, podcast, nvidia, msi, max-q, Killer xTend, Intel, evga, Core i9, asus, asrock, arm, amd, agesa, a75, A55

PC Perspective Podcast #452 - 01/01/17

Join us for talk about Computex 2017 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, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano

Peanut Gallery: Alex Lustenberg, Ken Addison

Program length: 2:07:12
 
Podcast topics of discussion:
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
    1. Intel news
    2. AMD news
      1. 0:55:00 RX Vega pushed to end of July (SIGGRAPH), FE on June 27th
    3. NVIDIA news
    4. ARM news
    5. Storage news
    6. New notebooks
  3. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!