Unity 2017.2.0f1 Released

Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2017 - 12:22 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, Unity

While it’s not technically released yet, Unity has flipped the naming scheme of Unity 2017.2 to Unity 2017.2.0f1. The “f” stands for final, so we will probably see a blog post on it soon. This version has a handful of back-end changes, such as improved main-thread performance when issuing commands to graphics APIs, but the visible changes are mostly in two areas: XR (VR + AR) and baked lighting.

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From the XR standpoint, a few additions stand out. First, this version now supports Google Tango and Windows Mixed Reality, the latter of which is tied to the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, so it makes sense that Unity would have support in the version before that gets released (October 17th). In terms of features, the editor now supports emulating a Vive headset, so you can test some VR elements without having a headset. I expect this will mostly be good for those who want to do a bit of development in places where they don’t have access to their headset, although that’s blind speculation from my standpoint.

The other area that got a boost is baked global illumination. Unity started introducing their new Progressive Lightmapping feature in Unity 5.6, and it bakes lighting into the scenes in the background as you work. This update allows you to turn shadows on and off on a per-object basis, and it supports double-sided materials. You cannot have independent lighting calculations for the front and back of a triangle... if you want that, then you will need to give some volume to your models. This is mostly for situations like the edge of a level, so you don’t need to create a second wall facing away from the playable area to block light coming in from outside the playable area.

I’m not sure when the official release is, but it looks like the final, supported build is out now.

Source: Unity

Still no good news on the DRAM front

Subject: General Tech | September 22, 2017 - 02:05 PM |
Tagged: DRAM, Samsung, SK Hynix, micron

The change process technology continues to have a negative effect on DRAM supplies and according to the story posted on Electronics Weekly there is no good news in sight.  The three major vendors, Samsung, SK Hynix and Micron are all slowing production as a result of new fabs being built and existing production lines upgraded for new process technology such as EUV.  This will ensure that prices continue to slowly creep up over the remainder of this year and likely into 2018.  Drop by for more information on the challenges each are facing.

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"While overall DRAM demand will remain high in 2018, new fabs being planned will not be ready for mass production until 2019 at the earliest."

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Podcast #468 - AMD Raven Ridge rumors, Intel and Global Foundries new fabrication technology!

Subject: General Tech | September 21, 2017 - 12:43 PM |
Tagged: z270, windows 10, WD, video, toshiba, ShadowPlay, ryzen, podcast, nvidia, nuc, msi, max-q, Intel, gs63vr, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, gigabyte, EPYC, ansel, 2500U, 12TB

PC Perspective Podcast #468 - 09/21/17

Join us for discussion on AMD Raven Ridge rumors,  Intel and Global Foundries new fabrication technology!

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, Josh Walrath, Sebastion Peak, Allyn Malventano

Peanut Gallery: Ken Addison, Alex Lustenberg

Program length: 1:39:59

Podcast topics of discussion:
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  4. Closing/outro

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

Source:

GLOBALFOUNDRIES Technical Conference Releases

Subject: General Tech | September 20, 2017 - 09:44 PM |
Tagged: GLOBALFOUNDRIES, FinFET, FD-SOI, 12nm, 14nm, 14nm+, 22FDX, 28FDX, 12FDX, amd, Vega, ryzen

The day after Intel had its Technology and Manufacturing expo in China, GLOBALFOUNDRIES kicks off their own version of the event and has made a significant number of announcements concerning upcoming and next generation process technologies. GF (GLOBALFOUNDRIES) had been the manufacturing arm of AMD until it was spun off as its own entity in 2009. Since then GF has been open to providing fabless semiconductor firms a viable alternative to TSMC and other foundries. Their current 14nm process is licensed from Samsung, as GF had some significant issues getting their own version of that technology into production. GF looks to be moving past their process hiccups in getting to FinFET technologies as well as offering other more unique process nodes that will serve upcoming mobile technologies very well.
 
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The big announcement today was the existence of the 12LP process. This is a "12 nm" process that looks to be based off of their previous 14nm work. It is a highly optimized variant that offers around 15% better density and 10% better performance than current 14/16nm processes from competing firms. Some time back GF announced that it would be skipping the 10nm node and going directly to 7nm, but it seems that market forces have pushed them to further optimize 14nm and offer another step.  Regular process improvement cadences are important to fabless partners as they lay out their roadmaps for future products.
 
12FP is also on track to be Automotive Grade 2 Certified by Q4 2017, which opens it up to a variety of automotive applications. Self-driving cars are the hot topic these days and it appears as though GF will be working with multiple manufacturers including Tesla. The process also has an RF component that can be utilized for those designs.
 
There had been some questions before this about what GF would do between 14nm and their expected 7nm offering. AMD had previously shown a roadmap with the first generation Zen being offered on 14nm and a rather nebulous sounding 14nm+ process. We now know that 12LP is going to be the process that AMD leverages for Zen and Vega refreshes next year. GF is opening up risk production in 1H 2018 for early adopters. This typically means that tuning is still going on with the process, and wafer agreements tend to not hinge on "per good die". Essentially, just as the wording suggest, the monetary risks of production fall more on the partner rather than the foundry. I would expect the Zen/Vega refreshes to start rolling out mid-Summer 2018 if all goes well with 12LP.
 
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RF is getting a lot of attention these days. In the past I had talked quite a bit about FD-SOI and the slow adoption of that technology. In the 5G world that we are heading to, RF is becoming far more important. Currently GF has their 28FDX and 22FDX processes which utilize FD-SOI (Fully Depleted Silicon On Insulator). 22FDX is a dual purpose node that can handle both low-leakage ASICs as well as RF enabled products (think cell-phone modems). GF has also announced a new RF centric process node called 8SW SOI. This is a 300mm wafer based technology at Fab 10 located in East Fishkill, NY. This was once an IBM fab, but was eventually "given" to GF for a variety of reasons. The East Fishkill campus is also a center for testing and advanced process development.
 
22FDX is not limited to ASIC and RF production. GF is announcing that it is offering eMRAM (embedded magnetoresistive non-volatile memory) support. GF claims that ic an retain data through a 260C solder reflow while retaining data for more than 10 years at 125C. These products were developed through a partnership with Everspin Technologies. 1Gb DDR MRAM chips have been sampled and 256Mb DDR MRAM chips are currently available through Everspin. This technology is not limited to standalone chips and can be integrated into SOC designs utilizing eFlash and SRAM interface options.
 
GLOBALFOUNDRIES has had a rocky start since it was spun off from AMD. Due to aggressive financing from multiple sources it has acquired other pure play foundries and garnered loyal partners like AMD who have kept revenue flowing. If GF can execute on these new technologies they will be on a far more even standing with TSMC and attract new customers. GF has the fab space to handle a lot of wafers, but these above mentioned processes could be some of their first truly breakthrough products that differentiates itself from the competition.

NVIDIA news; Ansel and ShadowPlay walk into Mordor

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 20, 2017 - 06:21 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, ShadowPlayk, ansel, battlegrounds, shadow of mordor

Gamescom 2017 just wrapped up and NVIDIA made a few interesting announcements during the conference.  For those enjoying PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, they announced the game now fully supports ShadowPlay Highlights along with the newly released Lawbreakers.  That means you can capture all your gameplay in 4K 60 FPS, with either always-on or manual saving, and built-in uploading tools.

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In addition to video capture of gameplay, their Ansel screen capture tool for the artistically inclined has also been updated.  Ansel now works in 25 titles, from The Witcher 3 through Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice to new genres like Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 so you can truly show that the 'injured' player lying on the turf truly did take a dive.  NVIDIA reports that you will be able to capture super-resolution, 360-degree, HDR, and stereo photographs in games developed in either the Unity Engine or the Unreal Engine as Ansel will now be provided as an add-in for those game engines.

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Last but not least is a giveaway.  NVIDIA will be giving away 50,000 Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor game codes to GeForce Experience community members!  You do have to sign up to win but once you are a member of GFE you are automagically entered to win.  They will message you in app on Sept 26th to let you know if you are a winner so you can still sign up if you are interested.  It will also support Ansel, if you run across a photogenic orc beheading you want to share.

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As a reminder, the offer for any who purchases of select GeForce GTX 1080 Ti or 1080 GPUs, as well as systems and laptops containing the same will get Destiny 2 on the PC launch date.

 

Source: NVIDIA

Divinity: Original Sin 2 arrives

Subject: General Tech | September 20, 2017 - 02:13 PM |
Tagged: gaming, divinity original sin 2

The original game was the first RPG that offered you a chance to argue with yourself, with a unique method of dialogue between the two main characters you played.  It incorporated the environmental effects of spells in a much more effective way than the majority of RPGs, making it wise to dump water on an opponent before zapping them with a lightning bolt.  The quests were often quite unique and the sequel seems to keep that alive, one reviewer at Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN describes how they "ate the meat from the shark’s mouth" as part of the solution to a quest.  If you are looking for a different type of fantasy RPG that will make you smile, cry and scratch your head, often simultaneously, then check out the review and see if you want to pick up the game that launched today.

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"Divinity: Original Sin 2 is out of Early Access and fully released. Adam and John have both spent many, many hours with the alpha, and are now beginning to chew their way through the full version."

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NUC-kle up Baby, we're off to Hades Canyon!

Subject: General Tech | September 20, 2017 - 01:39 PM |
Tagged: nuc, kaby lake h, Intel, Hades Canyon VR, Hades Canyon

CNXSoft were granted a look at upcoming Intel NUC models this morning, including the next generation of systems, dubbed Hades Canyon, with a variety of other Canyons as well.  The most interesting are the top models, powered by Kaby Lake H and a discrete GPU, the NUCxi7HVK aka Hades Lake VR and NUCxi7HNK which is Hades Lake without VR.  Those two models will support for up to six displays and offer two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a pair of PCIe SSDs as well as support for Intel Optane.  All of these features could require a slightly larger footprint than we are used to with NUCs especially considering the dGFX.  Head on over for more details on the other NUC models you can expect to see in the coming years. 

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"Intel’s new generation of Gemini Lake and Coffee Lake processors is expected to launch at the end of this year, beginning of next, and this morning I received Intel’s NUC roadmap that gives a good idea of what’s coming in 2018 and 2019."

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Source: CNXSoft

Intel Technology and Manufacturing Day in China

Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2017 - 11:33 PM |
Tagged: Intel, China, cannon lake, coffee lake, 10nm, 14nm+, 14nm++, 22FFL, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Samsung, 22FDX

Today in China Intel is holding their Technology and Manufacturing Day. Unlike previous "IDF" events this appears to be far more centered on the manufacturing aspects of Intel's latest process nodes. During presentations Intel talked about their latest steps down the process ladder to smaller and smaller geometries all the while improving performance and power efficiency.
 
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Mark Bohr presenting at Intel Technology and Manufacturing Day in China. (Image courtesy of Intel Corporation)
 
It really does not seem as though 14nm has been around as long as it has, but the first Intel products based on that node were released in the 2nd half of 2014.  Intel has since done further work on the process. Today the company talked about two other processes as well as products being made on these nodes.
 
The 10nm process has been in development for some time and we will not see products this year. Instead we will see two product cycles based on 14nm+ and 14nm++ parts. Intel did show off a wafer of 10nm Cannon Lake dies. Intel claims that their 10nm process is still around 3 years more advanced than the competition. Other foundry groups have announced and shown off 10nm parts, but overall transistor density and performance does not look to match what Intel has to offer.
 
We have often talked about the marketing names that these nodes have been given, and how often their actual specifications have not really lived up to the reality. Intel is not immune to this, but they are closer to describing these structures than the competition. Even though this gap does exist, competition is improving their products and offering compelling solutions at decent prices so that fabless semi firms can mostly keep up with Intel.
 
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Nothing like handling a 10nm Cannon Lake wafer with bare hands! (Image courtesy of Intel Corporation)
 
A new and interesting process is being offered by intel in the form of 22FFL. This is an obviously larger process node, but it is highly optimized for low power operation with far better leakage characteristics than the previous 22nm FF process that Intel used all those years ago. This is aimed at the ultra-mobile devices with speeds above 2 GHz. This seems to be a response to other low power lines like the 22FDX product from GLOBALFOUNDRIES. Intel did not mention potential RF implementations which is something of great interest from those also looking at 22FDX.
 
Perhaps the biggest news that was released today is that of Intel Custom Foundry announcing and agreement with ARM to develop and implement those CPUs on the upcoming 10nm process. This can have a potentially huge impact depending on the amount of 10nm line space that Intel is willing to sell to ARM's partners as well as what timelines they are looking at to deliver products. ARM showed off a 10nm test wafer of Cortex-A75 CPUs. The company claims that they were able to design and implement these cores using industry standard design flows (automated place and route, rather than fully custom) and achieving performance in excess of 3 GHz.
 
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Gus Yeung of ARM holding a 10nm Cortex-A75 based CPUs designed by Intel. (Image courtesy of Intel Corporation)
 
Intel continues to move forward and invest a tremendous amount of money in their process technology. They have the ability to continue at this rate far beyond that of other competitors. Typically the company does a lot of the heavy lifting with the tools partners, which then trickles down to the other manufacturers. This has allowed Intel to stay so far ahead of the competition, and with the introduction of 14nm+, 14nm++, and 10nm they will keep much of that lead. Now we must wait and see what kind of clockspeed and power performance we see from these new nodes and how well the competition can react and when.

Texting troubles with 2FA

Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2017 - 02:07 PM |
Tagged: security, sms, 2fa

Two factor authentication is the way to go when dealing with important information online, unfortunately the most common way of enabling 2FA has proven rather vulnerable.  With just your name, surname and phone number an unsavoury type could use a vulnerability on cellular networks to gain access to your accounts.  The example given over at Slashdot is of a Coinbase wallet with 2FA, registered with a Gmail address also protected by 2FA, which the security researchers easily took control of.  Take a look at the article for more details on the SS7 network vulnerabilities this attack exploits as well as better ways of making use of 2FA. 

If you do intend to continue to use SMS as part of your 2FA, at least consider disabling the feature on your phone which allows you to breifly read a text without unlocking your phone.

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"The report notes of several ways you can protect yourself from this sort of attack: "On some services, you can revoke the option for SMS two-factor and account recovery entirely, which you should do as soon as you've got a more secure app-based method established. Google, for instance, will let you manage two-factor and account recovery here and here; just set up Authenticator or a recovery code, then go to the SMS option for each and click 'Remove Phone.'"

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Source: Slashdot

Raven Ridge rumours

Subject: General Tech | September 18, 2017 - 04:17 PM |
Tagged: amd, raven ridge, Bristol Ridge, Ryzen 5 2500U, Zen, Vega, 14nm

If the rumours are true, the new 14nm Raven Ridge based AMD Ryzen 5 2500U will offer an impressive jump in performance compared to AMD's current generation of APUs.  The Inquirer's source suggests the new APU will offer a 50% jump in single threaded performance and an impressive 90% advantage on multi-threaded performance.  The multithreaded performance improvement may be the headline but seeing a huge increase in single threaded applications, AMD's recent Achilles Heel, shows some interesting improvements to Zen.  This will also mark the arrival of their first APU with Vega onboard, so you can expect better graphics performance as well.  The benchmark numbers and links are here.

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"LEAKED BENCHMARKS for AMD's forthcoming Raven Ridge APUs suggest that upcoming devices, expected to be launched in time for Christmas, will outperform current Bristol Ridge APUs by up to 90 per cent on multicore applications."

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Source: The Inquirer