IDF 2011: Lucid HyperFormance Technology Improves Game Responsiveness

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Motherboards | September 14, 2011 - 06:12 AM |
Tagged: virtu, mvp, lucid, idf 2011, idf, hyperformance, hydra

Lucid has a history of introducing new software and hardware technologies that have the potential to dramatically affect the PC gaming environment.  The first product was Hydra shown in 2008 and promised the ability to use multiple GPUs from different generations and even different vendors on the same rendering task.  Next up was Lucid Virtu, a software solution that allowed Sandy Bridge processor customers to take advantage of the integrated graphics features while also using a discrete graphics card.  Lucid added support for AMD platforms later on and also showcased Virtual Vsync earlier this year in an attempt to improve user gaming experiences. 


That is a nice history lesson, but what is Lucid discussing this time around?  The technology is called "HyperFormance" (yes, like "High-Performance") and is included in a new version of the Virtu software called Virtu MVP.  I'll let the Lucid press release describe the goals of the technology:

HyperFormance, found in the new model Virtu Universal MVP, boosts gaming responsiveness performance by intelligently reducing redundant rendering tasks in the flow between the CPU, GPU and the display. 3D games put the greatest demands on both the CPU and GPU. And as the race for higher performance on the PC and now in notebooks never ends, both CPUs and GPUs keep gaining performance.

First, a warning.  This software might seem simple but the task it tries to accomplish is very complex and I have not had enough time to really dive into it too deeply.  Expect an updated and more invasive evaluation soon.  There are a couple of key phrases to pay attention to though including the idea of boosting "gaming responsiveness performance" by removing "redundant rendering tasks".  The idea of boosting responsiveness pertains to how the game FEELS to the gamer and should be evident with things like mouse movement responsiveness and the stability of the on-screen image (lack of tearing).  Lucid's new software technology attempts to improve the speed at which a game responds to your actions not by increasing the frame rate but rather by decreasing the amount of time between your mouse movement (or keyboard input, etc) and what appears on the screen as a result of that action. 

How they do that is actually very complex and revolves around the Lucid software's ability to detect rendering tasks by intercepting calls between the game engine and DirectX, not around dropping or removing whole frames.  Because Lucid Virtu can detect individual tasks it can attempt to prioritize and learn which are being repeated or mostly repeated from the previous frames and tell GPU to not render that data.  This gives the GPU a "near zero" render time on that current frame and pushes the next frame through the system, to the frame buffer and out to the screen sooner. 

To think of it another way, imagine a monitor running at 60 Hz but playing a game at 120 FPS or so.  With Vsync turned off, at any given time you might have two to four or more frames being rendered and shown on the screen.  The amount of each frame displayed will differ based on the frame rate and the result is usually an image some amount of visual tearing; you might have to top 35% of the screen as Frame1, the middle 10% of the screen as Frame2 and the bottom 55% as Frame3.  The HyperFormance software then decides if the frame that is going to take up 10% of the screen, Frame2, has redundant tasks and if it can be mostly removed from the rendering pipeline.  To replace it, the Lucid engine just uses 65% of Frame3. 


The result is an output that is more "up to date" with your movements and what is going on in the game engine and in "game time".  Like I said, it is a very complex task but one that I personally find very interesting and am looking forward to spending more time visualizing and explaining to readers.

Interestingly, this first implementation of HyperFormance does require the use of a multi-GPU system: the integrated GPU on Sandy Bridge or Llano along with the discrete card.  Lucid is working on a version that can do the same thing on a single GPU but that application is further out.


Frame rate without HyperFormance 

There is a side effect though that I feel could hurt Lucid: the effective frame rate of the games with HyperFormance enabled are much higher than without the software running.  Of course, the GPU isn't actually rendering more data and graphics than it did before; instead, because HyperFormance is looking for frames to report at near zero frame times, benchmarking applications and the games themselves *think* the game is running much faster than it is.  This is a drawback to the current way games are tested.  Many gamers might at first be fooled into thinking their game is running at higher frame rates - it isn't - and some might see the result as Lucid attempting to cheat - it isn't that either.  It is just a result of the process that Lucid is trying to get to work for gamers' benefits.


Frame rate with HyperFormance

Instead, Lucid is attempting to showcase the frame rate "increase" as a responsiveness increase or some kind of metric that indicates how much faster and reactive to the user the game actually feels.  It might be a start, but claiming to have 200% responsiveness likely isn't true and instead I think they need to spend some time with serious gamers and have them find a way to quantify the added benefits that the HyperFormance application offers, if any. 

There is a LOT more to say about this application and what it means to PC gaming but for now, that is where we'll leave it.  Expect more in the coming weeks!

Source: PCPer

IDF 2011: Other Foundries Falling Further Behind Intel Technology

Subject: General Tech, Processors | September 13, 2011 - 10:07 PM |
Tagged: TSMC, idf 2011, idf, GLOBALFOUNDRIES

While learning about the intricacies of the Intel tri-gate 22nm process technology at the Intel Developer Forum, Senior Intel Fellow Mark Bohr surprised me a bit by discussing the competition in the foundry market.  Bohr mentioned the performance advantages and competitive edge that the new 22nm technology offers but also decided to mention that other companies like TSMC, GlobalFoundries, Samsung and IBM are behind, and falling further behind as we speak.


When Intel introduced strained silicon in 2003, it took competition until 2007 to implement it.  For High-K Metal Gate technology that Intel brought into market in 2007 it wasn't until 2011 that AMD introduced in its product line.  Finally, with tri-gate coming in 2011, GlobalFoundries is talking about getting it implemented in the 2015 time frame.

Obviously those are some long delays but more important to note is that the gap between Intel and the field's implementations has been getting longer.  Three years for strained silicon, three and a half for high K and up to four years for tri-gate.  Of course, we could all be surprised to see tri-gate come from a competitor earlier, but if this schedule stays true, it could mean an increasing advantage for Intel's products over AMD's and eventually into ARM's. 

This also discounts the occasional advantage that AMD had over Intel in the past like being the first to integrate copper interconnects (on the first Athlon) and the first to develop a Silicon-on-Insulator product (starting with the 130nm process); though Intel never actually adopted SOI. 

Source: PCPer

Intel & McAfee submerging their DeepSAFE deep into the Core

Subject: General Tech | September 13, 2011 - 09:05 PM |
Tagged: mcafee, Intel, idf 2011, idf

As the Intel Developer Forum commences we finally learn a little bit about what Intel is attempting to do with the acquisition of McAfee among other tidbits. Malware is one of the banes of computing existence. Information is valuable, security is hard, and most people do not know either. Antimalware software remains a line of defense between you and infections in the event that your first three lines of defense (patching known security vulnerabilities in software; limiting inbound connections and permissions; and common sense) fail to help. While no antimalware software is anywhere near perfect Intel believes that getting protection a little deeper in the hardware will do a little more to prevent previously unknown exploits.


Great Norton’s Ghost!

According to McAfee’s website, DeepSAFE is a platform for security software to see more of what is going on in the hardware around the Operating System itself. They are being very cagey about what technology is being utilized both on their site as well as their FAQ (pdf) which causes two problems: firstly, we do not know exactly what processors support or will support DeepSAFE; secondly, we do not know exactly what is being done. While this is more details than we knew previously there are still more than enough holes to fill before we know what this technology truly is capable of.

Source: McAfee

IDF 2011: Intels Shows a PC Running on Solar Power

Subject: General Tech, Processors | September 13, 2011 - 05:22 PM |
Tagged: solar power, solar cell, idf 2011, idf

While on stage during today's opening keynote at the Intel Developer Forum, Intel CEO Paul Otellini showed of a prototype processor running completely on a very small solar cell.


Paul on the left, Windows 7 in the center, prototype ultra-low power CPU on the right

Running Windows 7 and a small animated GIF of a cat wearing headphones, the unannounced CPU was being powered only by a small solar panel with a UV light pointed at it.  Though Intel didn't give us specific voltages or power consumption numbers they did say that it was running at "close to the threshold of the transistors".  Assuming we are talking about the same or similar 22nm tri-gate transistors used in Haswell, we found this:


My mostly uneducated guess then was that they were able to run Windows 7 and this animation on a processor running somewhere around 0.1-0.2v; an impressive feat that would mean wonders for standby time and the all-day computing models.  This is exactly what Intel's engineers have been targeting with their transistor and CPU designs in the last couple of years as it will allow Haswell to scale from desktop performance levels all the way to the smart phone markets on a single architecture.

Keep in mind only the CPU was being powered by the solar cell; the rest of the components including the hard drive, motherboard, etc were being powered by a standard power unit.


You can see the solar panel and UV light on the right hand side of this photo.  Interestingly, when the presenter moved his hand between the light source and the panel, the system locked up, proving that it was indeed being powered by it. 

Source: PCPer

IDF 2011: Intel Haswell Architecture Offers 20x Lower Standby Power

Subject: General Tech, Processors | September 13, 2011 - 05:05 PM |
Tagged: tri-gate, sandy bridge, Ivy Bridge, idf 2011, idf, haswell

The first keynote of the Intel Developer Forum is complete and it started with Paul Otellini discussing the high level direction for Intel in the future.  One of the more interesting points made was not about Ivy Bridge, which we will all see very soon, but about Haswell, Intel's next microarchitecture meant to replace the Sandy Bridge designs sometime in late 2012 or early 2013.  Expected to focus on having 8 processing cores, much improved graphics and the new AVX2 extenstion set, Haswell will also be built on the 3D tri-gate transistors announced over the summer.

Otellini describes Haswell's performance in two important metrics.  First, it will use 30% less power than Sandy Bridge at the same performance levels.  This is a significant step and could be the result of higher IPC as well as better efficiency thanks to the 22nm process technology.  


Where Haswell really excels is apparently in the standby metric: as a platform it could use as much as 20x less power than current hardware.  Obviously Intel's engineers have put a focus on power consumption more than performance and the results are beginning to show.  The goals are simple but seemingly impossible to realize: REAL all-day power and more than 10 days of stand by time.

Source: PCPer

Oh joy the BIOS level trojan is finally here

Subject: General Tech | September 13, 2011 - 05:00 PM |
Tagged: security, fud, bios, trojan, bmw

You do not want BMW; it is a Trojan that uses your master boot record and your BIOS to ensure that it remains on your system so even after a format and reinstall of Windows it will still be infecting you.  It originally infects winlogon.exe on Windows XP and Server 2003, and to wininit.exe on Windows 7 and Vista but once it is on it installs and uses HOOK.ROM at the BIOS level to check to see if it has been uninstalled and if so it will reinstall itself.  The Register points out that in this case the enormous variety of BIOS setups is a good thing as it ensures that any BIOS level virus will always be limited in scope even if it is a vulnerability shared by a single BIOS type.


"SECURITY RESEARCHERS at Chinese antivirus firm 360 have identified a piece of malware that installs rogue code into the BIOS of targeted computers.

Dubbed BMW by 360 and Mebromi by other security vendors, the threat has separate components for the operating system, the master boot record (MBR) and the system BIOS."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk


Source: The Inquirer

A little device to make your iThang sound iNcredible

Subject: General Tech | September 12, 2011 - 09:40 PM |

Fostex's HP-P1 Headphone Amplifier & DAC is intended to sit between your audio player and your ears and skip the cheap analog path in preference of all digital signals.  That is of course a vast simplification of digital to analog conversion, but your ears are the deciding factor here.  It uses the dock port, which allows you to completely bypass any possible changes to the raw digital signal by your iThang and gets the pure digital signal that ultra-high end headphones need.  TechPowerUp was impressed, but you do have to be quite the audiophile to send $700+ on an DAC ... whether it is technically worth it or not.


"Fostex's newest product is a headphone amplifier and DAC dubbed the HP-P1. The HP-P1 offers a fully digital connection to any newer iPod or iPhone. Its ability to read digital data from the device is a unique feature that promises maximized audio quality because it bypasses the cheap analog hardware in the i-device."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner


Source: TechPowerUp

Razer's brand new Mamba doesn't like to sleep

Subject: General Tech | September 12, 2011 - 09:20 PM |
Tagged: wireless mouse, razer, mouse, mamba dual sensor 4g, input

As its name implies the new Razer Mamba Dual Sensor 4G has two sensors to increase its accuracy though you would not know it was a wireless mouse.  It is not strictly wireless either, a locking USB plug will turn it into a wired mouse for those not desiring to worry about battery life.  The driver software allows you to change your DPI settings as well as save button programming in up to 5 different profiles.   If you need a high end gaming mouse and are willing to spend $120 to get it, drop by Bjorn3D to see the Mamba 4G in action.


"The Razer Mamba Dual Sensor 4G offers the latest in wireless mouse technology with style, ensuring a response time that is equal to a wired high end gaming mouse."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Bjorn3D

Nothing new to see here but Firesheep may be news to some

Subject: General Tech | September 12, 2011 - 03:56 PM |
Tagged: firesheep, security, fud, https

About a year ago you may have read about FireSheep, a FireFox add-on which takes advantage of the unencrypted nature of many packets being sent to social networks to allow others to access your accounts.  It is specifically used on wireless connections, in what is called a man in the middle attack, as you surf using an unencrypted connection the laptop running Firesheep captures your data before it even hits your account.  That extension is still around and causing havoc, making the news recently with the revelation that packets sent via Google have a unique session ID sent in plain text which can be used to identify a Google acount and then access the search history of the acccount.   Check out The Register for more on this topic and consider HTTPS Everywhere for your laptop.


"Researchers have released a Firefox extension that demonstrates the risks of using Google search services on Wi-Fi hotspots and other unsecured networks: With just a few clicks, attackers can view large chunks of your intimate browsing history, including websites you've already visited."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk


Source: The Register

IDF 2011: Intel Developer Forum Coverage Coming Soon!

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Motherboards, Processors, Chipsets | September 12, 2011 - 02:22 PM |
Tagged: Intel, idf 2011, idf

It is once again time for our annual pilgrimage to the land of the Golden Gate to spend a few days with our friends at Intel and the Intel Developer Forum.  IDF is one of the most informative events that I attend and I am always impressed by the openness and detail with which Intel showcases its upcoming products and future roadmap.  This year looks to be no different.


What do we have on the agenda?  First and foremost, we expect to hear all about Ivy Bridge and the architecture changes it brings to the Sandy Bridge CPUs currently in the market.  Will we see increased x86 performance or maybe increases in the likelihood of us recommending the integrated graphics?  More information is set to be revealed on the 22nm tri-gate transistor as well as the X79 chipset and the Sandy Bridge-E enthusiast platform.  SSDs and Ultrabooks are also set on the docket.  It's going to be busy.

But what would a week in downtown San Francisco be without visits from other companies as well?  We are set to meet with Lucid, MSI, ASUS, Gigabyte, Corsair, HP and of course, AMD.  I expect we will have just as much to say about what each of these companies has on display as we do Intel's event.  

I am planning on live blogging many of the sessions I will be attending so stay tuned to PC Perspective all week for the latest!!

Source: Intel