WebKit Proposal for WebGPU

Subject: General Tech | February 9, 2017 - 03:46 AM |
Tagged: webkit, webgpu, metal, vulkan, webgl

Apple’s WebKit team has just announced their proposal for WebGPU, which competes with WebGL to provide graphics and GPU compute to websites. Being from Apple, it is based on the Metal API, so it has a lot of potential, especially as a Web graphics API.

Okay, so I have mixed feelings about this announcement.

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First, and most concerning, is that Apple has attempted to legally block open standards in the past. For instance, when The Khronos Group created WebCL based on OpenCL, which Apple owns the trademark and several patents to, Apple shut the door on extending their licensing agreement to the new standard. If the W3C considers Apple’s proposal, they should be really careful about what legal control they allow Apple to retain.

From a functionality standpoint, this is very interesting, though. With the aforementioned death of WebCL, as well as the sluggish progress of WebGL Compute Shaders, there’s a lot of room to use one (or more) GPUs in a system for high-end compute tasks. Even if you are not interested in gaming on a web browser, although many people are, especially if you count the market that Adobe Flash dominated for the last ten years, you might want to GPU-accelerate photo and video tasks. Having an API that allows for this would be very helpful going forward, although, as stated, others are working on it, like The Khronos Group with WebGL compute shaders. On the other-other hand, an API that allows explicit multi-GPU would be even more interesting.

Further, it sounds like they’re even intending to ingest byte-code, like what DirectX 12 and Vulkan are doing with DXIL and SPIR-V, respectively, but it currently accepts shader code as a string and compiles it in the driver. This is interesting from a security standpoint, because it obfuscates what GPU-executed code consists of, but that’s up to the graphics and browser vendors to figure out... for now.

So when will we see it? No idea! There’s an experimental WebKit patch, which requires the Metal API, and an API proposal... a couple blog posts... a tweet or two... and that’s about it.

So what do you think? Does the API sound interesting? Does Apple’s involvement scare you? Or does getting scared about Apple’s involvement annoy you? Comment away! : D

Source: WebKit

A peek at The Bard’s Tale 4

Subject: General Tech | February 8, 2017 - 07:24 PM |
Tagged: gaming, bards tale, inxile

inXile have been very busy recently, doing a stellar job at resurrecting Wasteland into a new, modern RPG which is soon to see its third incarnation released.  The long anticipated Torment: Tides of Numenara arrives at the end of this month, the beta has been a tantalizing taste as was the YouTube 'choose your own adventure' teaser.  There is another project they have been working on, bringing the old Bard's Tale gaming into the modern era.  A trailer showing in-game footage, including combat has just been release which you can see over at Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN.  It certainly doesn't look like the Bard's Tale of old!

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"On the game HUD, you can see your party occupying 2 rows of 4 spaces each. Enemies will line up on the opposite grid with the same number of slots. The exact positioning of enemies, as well as your own party, will determine which attacks can land, and which will swing wild past their mark."

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Gaming

FreeSync 2 - The Adaptification!

Subject: General Tech | February 8, 2017 - 05:44 PM |
Tagged: amd, FreeSync2, David Glen, Syed Hussain

TechARP published a video of their interview with AMD's David Glen and Syed Hussain in which they discussed what to expect from FreeSync 2.  They also listed some key points for those who do not wish to watch the full video; either can be found right here.  The question on most people's minds is answered immediately, this will not be a Vega only product and if your GPU supports the current version it will support the sequel.  We will not see support for it until a new driver is released, then again we also await new monitors to hit the market as well so it is hard to be upset at AMD for the delay.

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"While waiting for AMD to finalise Radeon FreeSync 2 and its certification program for their partners, let’s share with you our Q&A session with the two key AMD engineers in charge of the Radeon FreeSync 2 project – David Glen and Syed Athar Hussain."

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Source: Techgage

Star Wars Humble Bundle III; better than the movie!

Subject: General Tech | February 7, 2017 - 08:01 PM |
Tagged: gaming, Star Wars, humble bundle

Do like Star Wars games, PCPer and Unicef?  If so there is a Humble Bundle perfect for you running for the next two weeks.  Depending on how much you pay you can get up to 15 games and an X-Wing verus TIE Fighter t-shirt, with a percentage of your purchase helping us to continue to provide the content you love.  There is some overlap with previous bundles you may have picked up but for those of you missing KOTOR 1 or 2, The Force Unleashed 1 or 2, Shadows of the Empire or even the second Star Wars Battlefront game it is well worth the cost.

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How can you resist that t-shirt?

 

Intel's Atom C2xxx processors may just make like a banana and split

Subject: General Tech | February 7, 2017 - 06:31 PM |
Tagged: Intel, c2000, Avoton

"System May Experience Inability to Boot or May Cease Operation" is not the errata note you want to read, but for those running devices powered by an Intel Avoton C2xxx family Atom processor it is something to pay attention to.  The Low Pin Count bus clock may stop functioning permanently after the chip has been in service for a time, rendering the device non-functional.  Intel had little to say about the issue when approached by The Register but did state that there is a board level workaround available to resolve the issue.

The Avoton famliy of chips were released in 2013 and were designed to compete against ARM's new low powered server chips.  The flaw is likely responsible for the issues with Cisco routers that have been reported on recently; the chip can also be found in the Synology DS1815+ and some Dell server products.  It will be interesting to see how Intel responds to this issue, they have a history of reluctance discussing flaws in their product's architecture.

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"Intel's Atom C2000 processor family has a fault that effectively bricks devices, costing the company a significant amount of money to correct. But the semiconductor giant won't disclosed precisely how many chips are affected nor which products are at risk."

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Source: The Register

Logitech Announces BRIO Webcam: 4K and HDR

Subject: General Tech | February 7, 2017 - 09:31 AM |
Tagged: logitech, webcam, brio, 4k, hdr

Today’s announcement of the Logitech BRIO rolls in many features that have been lacking in webcams. With it, you can record in 720p30, 720p60, 1080p30, 1080p60, and, the big reveal, 4K30. It is also capable of shooting in HDR using RightLight 3, although they don’t specify color space formats, so it’s unclear what you will be able to capture with video recording software.

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On top of these interesting video modes, the camera also supports infrared for Windows Hello “or other facial recognition software”. Unlike Intel’s RealSense, the webcam claims support for the relatively ancient Core 2 and higher, which sounds promising for AMD users. I’m curious what open-source developers will be able to accomplish, especially if it’s general enough to do background rejection (and so forth). Obviously, this is just my speculation -- Logitech hasn’t even hinted at this in their documentation.

As you would expect for a 4K sensor, Logitech is also advertising quite a bit of digital zoom. They claim up to 5X and FOVs user-configurable between 65 degrees and 90 degrees.

Finally, the price is $199 USD / $249 CDN and it ships today.

Source: Logitech

Mozilla to Require Rust (and Dependencies) for Firefox

Subject: General Tech | February 7, 2017 - 07:47 AM |
Tagged: mozilla, firefox, web browser, Rust, llvm

Firefox 52 will be the company’s next Extended Support Release (ESR) branch of their popular web browser. After this release, Mozilla is planning a few changes that will break compatibility, especially if you’re building the browser from source. If you’re an end-user, the major one to look out for is Mozilla disabling NPAPI-based plugins (except Flash) unless you are using Firefox 52 ESR. This change will land in the consumer version of Firefox 52, though. It’s not really clear why they didn’t just wait until Firefox 53, rather than add a soft-kill in Firefox 52 and hard-code it the next version, but that’s their decision. It really does not affect me in the slightest.

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The more interesting change, however, is that Mozilla will begin requiring Rust (and LLVM) in an upcoming version. I’ve seen multiple sources claim Firefox 53, Firefox 54, and Firefox 55 as possible targets for this, but, at some point around those versions, critical components of the browser will be written in Rust. As more of the browser is migrated to this language, it should be progressively faster and more secure, as this language is designed to enforce memory safety and task concurrency.

Firefox 52 is expected in March.

If you were going to sell Mechanical Keyboards, what name would you choose?

Subject: General Tech | February 6, 2017 - 10:26 PM |
Tagged: MK Fission, mechanical keyboard, input, Cherry MX

If you wanted MechanicalKeyboards.com then TechPowerUp has some bad news for you, as it is already taken.  When not brainstorming with Captain Obvious, they are the North American retailer for Ducky Keyboards, a name you might have possibly heard before.  Their MK Fission comes in 18 flavours, you can only choose black or white keycaps but you have your choice of the full range of Cherry switches.  If you have lost track of the score that includes Red, Brown, Blue, Black, Silent Red, Speed Silver, Green, Clear and White.  The keyboard has blue backlighting and the RGB disease has only infected the outer casing of the keyboard, giving it a look which might be familiar to anyone who knew someone in the 90s' with questionable taste in car accessories.

mk-fission.jpg

"MechanicalKeyboards.com is a prominent retailer of mechanical keyboards, as the name would suggest, based in the USA. Today we get to take a look at their new MK Fission full size keyboard that comes in 18 possible options to choose from, Yes, there is RGB included but perhaps not the way you think."

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Source: TechPowerUp

Do you like turtles? Upgrade your online banter with the Turtle Beach Stream Mic

Subject: General Tech | February 6, 2017 - 07:46 PM |
Tagged: turtle beach, microphone, audio, Stream Mic

Upgrading your microphone from the one found on your gaming headset can make a significant difference in the way you sound online.  Being able to do so for around $50 and to be able to use the same device on your PC, Xbox and PS4 might just convince some that the upgrade is worth it.  The Turtle Beach Multi-Format Stream Microphone can be transferred between devices with a simple switch and it will run without any drivers.  It also has a a built in headphone amplifier so you can move your headset with you without unplugging.  Drop by eTeknix for a look at it.

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"While many of us only need a standard headset with a simple boom mic, there’s a growing demand for higher quality microphones for both gamers and streamers, on Twitch, YouTube Live and much more. Turtle Beach are not the first to make a dedicated streaming microphone, but they are one of the more affordable options too, and their new Stream Mic comes with support for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC, making it a tempting solution for the multi-format gamer and streamer."

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Source: eTeknix

The first Cyber Grand Challenge; using AI to hunt bugs. What could go wrong?

Subject: General Tech | February 6, 2017 - 06:36 PM |
Tagged: darpa, ai, security, Usenix Enigma 2017

DARPA hosted the first Cyber Grand Challenge last summer, in which the software from seven machine learning projects competed to find and patch vulnerabilities in a network, and to attack each other.  While the specific vulnerabilities discovered have not been made public you can read a bit about what was revealed about the contest at Usenix Enigma 2017 over at The Register.  For instance, one of the programs managed to find a flaw in the OS all the machines were running on and then hack into another to steal data.  A different machine noticed this occurring and patched itself on the fly, making sure that it was protected from that particular attack.  Also worth noting is that the entire contest was over in 20 minutes. 

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"The exact nature of these new bug types remains under wraps, although we hear that at least one involves exploitable vulnerabilities in data queues."

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Source: The Register