NVIDIA Updates CUDA: Major Release for Science Research

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | January 29, 2012 - 02:53 AM |
Tagged: nvidia, gpgpu, CUDA

NVIDIA has traditionally been very interested in acquiring room in the high-performance computing for scientific research market. For a lot of functions, having a fast and highly parallel processor saves time and money compared to having a traditional computer crunch away or having to book time with one of the world’s relatively few supercomputers. Despite the raw performance of a GPU, adequate development tools are required to bring the simulation or calculation into a functional program to execute on said GPU. NVIDIA is said to have had a strong lead with their CUDA platform for quite some time; that lead will likely continue with releases the size of this one.

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What does a tuned up GPU purr like? Cuda cuda cuda cuda cuda.

The most recent release, CUDA 4.1, has three main features:

  • A visual profiler to point out common mistakes and optimizations and to provide instructions which detail how to alter your code to increase your performance
  • A new compiler which is based on the LLVM infrastructure, making good on their promise to open the CUDA platform to other architectures -- both software and hardware
  • New image and signal processing functions for their NVIDIA Performance Primitives (NPP) library, relieving developers the need to create their own versions or license a proprietary library

The three features, as NVIDIA describes them in their press release, are listed below.

New Visual Profiler - Easiest path to performance optimization
The new Visual Profiler makes it easy for developers at all experience levels to optimize their code for maximum performance. Featuring automated performance analysis and an expert guidance system that delivers step-by-step optimization suggestions, the Visual Profiler identifies application performance bottlenecks and recommends actions, with links to the optimization guides. Using the new Visual Profiler, performance bottlenecks are easily identified and actionable.

LLVM Compiler - Instant 10 percent increase in application performance
LLVM is a widely-used open-source compiler infrastructure featuring a modular design that makes it easy to add support for new programming languages and processor architectures. Using the new LLVM-based CUDA compiler, developers can achieve up to 10 percent additional performance gains on existing GPU-accelerated applications with a simple recompile. In addition, LLVM's modular design allows third-party software tool developers to provide a custom LLVM solution for non-NVIDIA processor architectures, enabling CUDA applications to run across NVIDIA GPUs, as well as those from other vendors.

New Image, Signal Processing Library Functions - "Drop-in" Acceleration with NPP Library
NVIDIA has doubled the size of its NPP library, with the addition of hundreds of new image and signal processing functions. This enables virtually any developer using image or signal processing algorithms to easily gain the benefit of GPU acceleration, with the simple addition of library calls into their application. The updated NPP library can be used for a wide variety of image and signal processing algorithms, ranging from basic filtering to advanced workflows.
 

Source: NVIDIA

Intel pays good money for bad software

Subject: General Tech | January 27, 2012 - 12:37 PM |
Tagged: RealPlayer, Intel, patents

The idea that RealPlayer lives on to this day may not sit well with some techs who remember the times where the product degenerated into a virus that would some times let you play movies.  However, not only were they still in business yesterday, Intel paid them $120 million to acquire the rights to 90 patents and 170 patent applications as well as a codec which seems to have been their main project focus recently.  There must be some value there, it might look like Intel occasionally tosses money around but that is deceiving as Intel did not become as profitable as it is through inauspicious purchases.  According to the story at The Register, this deal is not the death knell for RealNetworks, they retain rights to some patents and seem to be looking forward to working with Intel in the future.  It will be interesting to see if this cash can help RealNetworks regain at least part of what used to be a large share of the online video codec market.

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"In the latest maneuver of the tech industry's ongoing patent wars, Intel has struck a $120m deal with RealNetworks to purchase 190 patents and 170 patent applications, along with what both companies define as "next-generation video codec software"."

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Source: The Register

There is an elegance in simplicity; Cooler Master's QuickFire Keyboard

Subject: General Tech | January 26, 2012 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: quickfire rapid, mechanical keyboard, input, gaming, cooler master

If you prefer keyboards with built in fans, sirens, LEDs and a key count somewhere north of 200 then you might as well skip this review.  Cooler Master not only eschews extra function keys on the QuickFire Rapid gaming keyboard, they've also dropped the numpad.  The keyboard features CHERRY MX blue switches which are intended more for typists, with the red and black varieties more for usage by gamers.  Sporting a quick response time in USB mode and true n-key rollover in PS/2 mode, you won't find yourself dying because the game didn't register a keystroke.  If you are interested in a mechanical gaming keyboard and don't mind paying $80 then check out the review at Techgage.  If you want to shop around then check Scott's reivews on out front page.

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"CM's QuickFire Rapid gaming keyboard is unlike any other. It's not flashy, it doesn't have a bunch of bright LEDs, it has no macro support and... it has no numpad. So what is it that sets it apart? Its sturdy design and use of CHERRY MX blue mechanical key switches. Let's see if those features make up for what's lacking."

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Source: Techgage

Frankenmalware, an antiviral boss fight

Subject: General Tech | January 26, 2012 - 12:47 PM |
Tagged: fud, Malware, Virus, Worm

Back in the ancient days of gaming and repeated in Skyrim's Draugr your enemies started out simple, a simple zombie or leever becoming a Infected Death Lord Zombie of Fiery Devastation.  Another way to look at is a supervillain origin story where exposure to something that should have killed them instead grants them powers beyond mere mortals.  There may have also been a dozen decent SciFi novels written about the topic (well, probably more like a gross) ... however you look at it, computer worms are mutating!

It seems that systems infected with a worm are being hit by certain viruses which inadvertently infect the worm, creating malware with twice the command and control servers, twice the backdoors and twice the methods to spread its self.  The Register cites a specific example of the Rimecud worm which steals passwords becoming infected by Virtob which creates a backdoor on a system.  At this moment BitDefender has found that 0.4% of the infected systems they detected had an infected worm present, a number you can expect to grow. 

Be careful out there!

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"Viruses are accidentally infecting worms on victims’ computers, creating super-powered strains of hybrid software nasties.

The monster malware spreads quicker than before, screws up systems worse than ever, and exposes private data in a way not even envisioned by the original virus writers.

A study by antivirus outfit BitDefender found 40,000 such "Frankenmalware samples" in a study of 10 million infected files in early January, or 0.4 per cent of malware strains sampled. These cybercrime chimeras pose a greater risk to infected users than standard malware, the Romanian antivirus firm warns."

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Source: The Register

Raspberry Pi Linux Computer Will Have Fast GPU For The Price

Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 26, 2012 - 11:45 AM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi, linux, htpc, hd, gpu, broadcom

As reported earlier, the Raspberry Pi is a small computer intended to run Linux and is made to be portable and able to be powered by USB. The small board is based on the Broadcom BCM2835 chipset, which includes an ARM 11 CPU and a dual core VideoCore IV graphics card co processor. The Raspberry Pi further includes connections for HDMI, component output, and USB ports. The higher tier $35 model will further feature an Ethernet jack and twice the RAM (512 MB).

Raspberry Pi.jpg

The Raspberry Pi will soon be available for sale and if the company behind the device- The Raspberry Pi Foundation- is to be believed, the GPU in the little Linux computer will pack quite a punch for its size (and cost). In a recent Digital Foundry interview with Raspberry Pi Executive Director Eben Upton reported on by Eurogamer, Upton made several claims about the Raspberry Pi’s graphics capabilities. He explained that the Broadcom BCM2835’s VideoCore IV GPU is a tile mode architecture that has been configured with an emphasis on shader performance. Upton said “it does very well on compute-intensive benchmarks, and should double iPhone 4S performance across a range of content."

The comparison to the iPhone 4S relates to his further claims that the Raspberry Pi GPU is the best on the market and can best both the iPhone 4S’s PowerVR (Imagination Technologies) based graphics and even the mighty Tegra 2 in fill rate performance. Rather large claims for sure; however, we do have some independent indication that his claims may not be wholly inflated. The coders behind XBMC, open source media center software that allows users to play a variety of media formats, have demonstrated their XBMC software running on the Raspberry Pi. They showed the Raspberry Pi playing a 1080p blu ray movie at a smooth frame rate thanks to the Broadcom GPU being capable of 1080p 30 FPS H.264 hardware accelerated decoding. You can see the Raspberry Pi in action in the video below.

The little Raspberry Pi is starting to look quite promising for HTPC (and even light gaming) use, especially for the price!  At $25 and $35 respectively, the Raspberry Pi should see quite the following in the modding, enthusiast, and education community.

Source: Eurogamer

New Xbox (Next Box / Xbox 720) To Be Six Times More Powerful Than Xbox 360

Subject: General Tech | January 26, 2012 - 01:34 AM |
Tagged: xbox 720, xbox, rumors, radeon hd 6670, next box, microsoft, gpu, gaming, console, amd

Microsoft's Xbox 360 is coming up on seven years old, and the company has sold more than 66 million units. Naturally, as graphics techniques and software has advanced, the aging hardware is starting to hold back game developers from implementing higher detail settings and larger maps with more players. Both developers and gamers are clamoring for the next Xbox to be released so that they can advance to the next stage of gaming. PCs are way ahead in the graphics quality race as the hardware has greatly advanced in the interim, and console gamers and game developers are starting to take notice and want for the features. Bring on the Next Box (or Xbox 720 or whatever it will eventually be called). With updated hardware, it should give console gamers some new (to them) shiny graphics to look at and smoother frame rates at the same quality settings we have now.

Xbox Logo.jpg

According to IGN, sources have confirmed that the next generation gaming console will have six times the processing power of the current generation Xbox 360. This increase in processing power is due in part to the updated graphics card that is akin to the AMD Radeon HD 6670 GPU, which while only a budget/HTPC card on the PC side of things, is a nice step up from the Xbox 360's ATI Xenos graphics chip.

The card will support 1080p, DirectX11, multiple display outputs, and 3D. Unfortunately, pricing for the upcoming gaming system was not revealed nor were any other details about the specific underlying hardware. If you are in the mood for more speculation on what might be inside the next Xbox, Tech Radar has compiled a list of the various gossip around the net about the console.

Source: IGN

Multimonitor, multidimensional gaming

Subject: General Tech | January 25, 2012 - 05:16 PM |
Tagged: gaming, eyefinity, nvidia surround, 3d display

The Tech Report tackles multi-monitor gaming in 3D with their latest technique of measuring graphical performance.  Frame time seems to be very much present with some hardware when you attempt to play with this type of display but it seems the overall effect on your enjoyment is variable.  When testing Deus Ex they found less instances of high frame time than with Battlefield 3 but found they noticed the impact more on Deus Ex than BF3.  There are a lot of variables to account for in this overview, not only the differences between AMD and NVIDIA's implementation of the technology but also the differences between active shutter and passive glasses.  Read on to see if you should wait for Microsoft to include 3D support in DirectX or if you can dive in right away.

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"Join us as we slip on the funny glasses to assess the current state of stereoscopic 3D gaming on the PC."

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S3 Chrome lives on the 600 Series using VIA's soon to be released VT3456

Subject: General Tech | January 25, 2012 - 02:15 PM |
Tagged: s3, Chrome 600, VIA, VT3456, VX11

The Phoronix Test Suite is a wonderful source of unintentionally released test data, as system engineers working with processors not yet available on the market use it to test and sometimes accidentally post the results to OpenBenchmark.org.  For instance Phoronix noticed a Chrome 600 system, powered by a VIA Nano 1.2GHz Quad-Core processor, a motherboard called a VIA VT3456 VT8611BMB and S3 Chrome 600 graphics. It may have been a long time since you heard of S3 producing hardware but there is confirmation that they are still alive and have at least some customers.

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"The S3 Chrome 600 series / VIA VT3456 (VX11) still hasn't been officially announced, but here are some benchmarks of the forthcoming chipset from a VIA Nano quad-core system."

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Source: Phoronix

Intel is thinking even bigger and likely leveraging their McAfee assets

Subject: General Tech | January 24, 2012 - 01:24 PM |
Tagged: Intel, QLogic, purchase, Infiniband, HPC

Intel blew tiny $125 million piece of their record breaking quarterly income to purchase QLogic's InfiniBand business, which gives them access to a networking technology significantly faster than Ethernet.  InfiniBand is what is referred to as a switched fabric technology which allows multiple switches to connect to multiple hosts or data stores as opposed to the more point to point single broadcast which current ethernet based networks use.

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That may look familiar to some, but not as a network technology; it matches the communications architecture behind PCIe and SATA.  As we have seen, the speed difference between parallel connections and serial is quite impressive and InfiniBand's fastest implementation is currently capable of transferring 25 Gbit/s per lane.  That is significantly faster than the 1Gbit/s per lane PCIe 3.0 can provide which is why some current implementations of InfiniBand are used in High Performance Computing (HPC) applications.  InfiniBand also offers incredibly low latency of between 100 to 200 nanoseconds, depending on the implementation.

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Getting a hold of this interconnect technology gives Intel a huge boost in their capabilities of creating high performance networking technologies.  They have been looking for a way to grow in that area and push out Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) manufactures from the market, replacing those chips with low power Xeons or future Intel chips.  This would open up an entirely new market for Intel, who could see their already impressive growth increase significantly.  Intel could become even more attractive to customers by taking advantage of the benefits of owning McAfee by placing virus/malware protection directly onto their switches.   We have already seen evidence of one project along these lines at IDF 2011 when they announced the DeepSAFE project which is software that operates below the OS level, providing what they refer to as "hardware-assisted" security.  With that OS-agnostic approach it would be possible to run the security software on a network switch or on an HPC interconnect. That could give Intel not only the fastest interconnect technology but also the most secure.

When discussing this with The Inquirer, Intel's representative Kirk Skaugen stated that this purchase will help Intel design and produce an exaflop level supercomputer by 2018.  It is unlikely that this is Intel's only goal, with the purchase of Fulcrum Microsystems this summer, a company which designs ASICs for Ethernet switches and routers that run at 10Gbit and 40Gbit, they are well on their way to designing network switches for HPC applications.  The Register ponders what this could mean for companies which have used InfiniBand technology in their products.  Will they be snatched up by a networking company like Cisco, could AMD pick them up and provide competition in this industry or will they consider offering themselves to Intel the best alternative?  We will be keeping an eye on this as it will not only develop into the next generation of networking technology but could also drive the successor to PCIe.

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"The high-performance networking market just got a whole lot more interesting, with Intel shelling out $125m to acquire the InfiniBand switch and adapter product lines from upstart QLogic.

Intel has made no secret that it wants to bolster its Data Center and Connected Systems business by getting network equipment providers to use Xeon processors inside of their networking gear – that Intel division posted $10.1bn in revenues in 2011, and the company wants to break $20bn in the next five years."

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Source: The Register