Fluid Simulations via Machine Learning Demo for SIGGRAPH

Subject: General Tech | May 29, 2017 - 08:46 PM |
Tagged: machine learning, fluid, deep neural network, deep learning

SIGGRAPH 2017 is still a few months away, but we’re already starting to see demos get published as groups try to get them accepted to various parts of the trade show. In this case, Physics Forests published a two-minute video where they perform fluid simulations without actually simulating fluid dynamics. Instead, they used a deep-learning AI to hallucinate a convincing fluid dynamics result given their inputs.

We’re seeing a lot of research into deep-learning AIs for complex graphics effects lately. The goal of most of these simulations, whether they are for movies or video games, is to create an effect that convinces the viewer that what they see is realistic. The goal is not to create an actually realistic effect. The question then becomes, “Is it easier to actually solve the problem? Or is it easier having an AI learn, based on a pile of data sorted into successes and failures, come up with an answer that looks correct to the viewer?”

In a lot of cases, like global illumination and even possibly anti-aliasing, it might be faster to have an AI trick you. Fluid dynamics is just one example.

Windows Git gud

Subject: General Tech | May 29, 2017 - 02:41 PM |
Tagged: git, windows, microsoft

Microsoft have moved their huge collection of source code from an internal proprietary tool to Git.  The repository is 300 GB and is very popular with The Register reporting 8,421 pull requests and 1,760 official builds a day.  To help people access the repository they have developed their own Git Virtual File System, which present Git as a FAT file system to users.  This has not been viewed as favourably as they had hoped, the popularity is causing the service to process requests slowly, however it is still generally faster than going straight to Git.  If you want to give it a shot, read through this blog post over at Microsoft.

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"Redmond's certainly feeling pleased with itself about the move, in particular stroking itself about being able to move the whole 2,000-strong Windows OneCore team from the Source Depot internal tool to Git over a weekend."

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Source: The Register

Computex 2017: RIOTORO Ghostwriter Elite Prism Keyboard and Aurox Prism RGB Optical Gaming Mouse

Subject: General Tech | May 29, 2017 - 02:23 AM |
Tagged: gaming mouse, gaming keyboard, riotoro

RIOTORO also had a couple of peripherals at Computex this year: a keyboard and a mouse.

The Ghostwriter Elite Prism keyboard is their new flagship mechanical keyboard, build around Cherry MX Red or Cherry MX Silent switches. Its RGB backlights can be controlled from the keyboard itself, without installing a driver. They don’t say whether this keyboard supports Linux, but moving that functionality to the hardware itself, rather than a proprietary driver, is a good sign. It also has USB pass-through, allowing easy access to a port for devices that hate hubs (like some high-end mice). Its volume control is a roller, which is my preferred way to adjust volume on a PC.

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The RIOTORO Ghostwriter Elite Prism will be available in Q3. Pricing is expected at $149.99 USD.

The Auxor Prism RGB Optical Gaming Mouse is based around the Pixart PWM3330 optical sensor, which has a resolution of 10,000 DPI. Unfortunately, while it’s relatively symmetric in shape, its three thumb buttons are an exception, so it’s right-handed only. Right-handed users, however, might take a little extra interest in the “three thumb buttons” comment. Many mice have two, one forward and one back. This one adds an extra, trigger-like “sniper” button that RIOTORO intends to drop DPI for precise shots – for eight programmable buttons total. As hinted, it also has 16.8 million color RGB lighting.

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A little tip as an aside – if you’re going to the extent of dropping your DPI to snipe in PC games, consider binding a fire button to the keyboard. For instance, when I played with the arrow keys (again, I’m a lefty) I bound NumPad 0 to fire (as well as the left mouse button). Clicking a button will cause the mouse to jiggle a bit, so separating that action off to your other hand (for critical shots) makes a significant difference for the better. If you have ever played America’s Army 2 back in the early 2000s, and tried to qualify for sniper training, then you’ll probably know what I mean when I say “that’s how I passed it”.

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The RIOTORO Aurox Prism RGB Optical Mouse will be available in black or white (limited edition) in June. The website doesn’t confirm this, but the PR email has price expected at $39.99 USD for the black, and $44.99 USD for the white.

Source: RIOTORO
Author:
Manufacturer: ARM

ARM Refreshes All the Things

This past April ARM invited us to visit Cambridge, England so they could discuss with us their plans for the next year.  Quite a bit has changed for the company since our last ARM Tech Day in 2016.  They were acquired by SoftBank, but continue to essentially operate as their own company.  They now have access to more funds, are less risk averse, and have a greater ability to expand in the ever growing mobile and IOT marketplaces.

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The ARM of today certainly is quite different than what we had known 10 years ago when we saw their technology used in the first iPhone.  The company back then had good technology, but a relatively small head count.  They kept pace with the industry, but were not nearly as aggressive as other chip companies in some areas.  Through the past 10 years they have grown not only in numbers, but in technologies that they have constantly expanded on.  The company became more PR savvy and communicated more effectively with the press and in the end their primary users.  Where once ARM would announce new products and not expect to see shipping products upwards of 3 years away, we are now seeing the company be much more aggressive with their designs and getting them out to their partners so that production ends up happening in months as compared to years.

Several days of meetings and presentations left us a bit overwhelmed by what ARM is bringing to market towards the end of 2017 and most likely beginning of 2018.  On the surface it appears that ARM has only done a refresh of the CPU and GPU products, but once we start looking at these products in the greater scheme and how they interact with DynamIQ we see that ARM has changed the mobile computing landscape dramatically.  This new computing concept allows greater performance, flexibility, and efficiency in designs.  Partners will have far more control over these licensed products to create more value and differentiation as compared to years past.

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We have previously covered DynamIQ at PCPer this past March.  ARM wanted to seed that concept before they jumped into more discussions on their latest CPUs and GPUs.  Previous Cortex products cannot be used with DynamIQ.  To leverage that technology we must have new CPU designs.  In this article we are covering the Cortex-A55 and Cortex-A75.  These two new CPUs on the surface look more like a refresh, but when we dig in we see that some massive changes have been wrought throughout.  ARM has taken the concepts of the previous A53 and A73 and expanded upon them fairly dramatically, not only to work with DynamIQ but also by removing significant bottlenecks that have impeded theoretical performance.

Continue reading our overview of the new family of ARM CPUs and GPU!

Samba Developers Release Patch For Remote Code Execution Vulnerability (CVE-2017-7494)

Subject: General Tech | May 28, 2017 - 07:10 PM |
Tagged: samba, linux, ransomware, security, networking

Last week, the development team behind Samba – popular software suite used on Linux and Unix clients and servers that uses TCP/IP protocol for file and print sharing to SMB/CIFS clients (including Microsoft Windows) – released a security advisory along with patches for a remote code execution hole that has been present in Samba for seven years since the release of Samba 3.5.0 in March 2010. The vulnerability, classified under CVE-2017-7494, allows an attacker to upload malicious code to a Samba server and get the server to run the code by sending a malformed IPC request that references the local file path. The Samba server will run the code in the malicious shared library (.so) file even though it is from an untrusted remote source.

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The bad news is that this is a fairly serious flaw that could lead to an attacker successfully holding a business or home user’s files (including backups!) at ransom, stealing data, or using the now owned file server to attack other network resources that trust the file server. If not securely configured (e.g. allowing anonymous writes), the attack could even be wormable which would allow it to self-replicate across the network or Internet. Further, while various security firms have slightly different numbers, they all seem to agree that around 100,000 Internet-accessible machines are running vulnerable versions of Samba.

It is not all bad news though, and in some respects this vulnerability is not as big of an issue as the WannaCry ransomware and EternalBlue SMB vulnerability because in order to successfully exploit the Samba flaw an attacker needs to obtain credentials to upload the malicious code to the file share(s) which need to be writeable in the first place and not running as noexec under a SELinux policy. Also, attackers need to know or guess the local path name of the files on the file share to send the malformed IPC request. More importantly, the Samba team released three security releases (4.6.4, 4.5.10, and 4.4.14) for the newer branches and is working with OS distributions on providing patches for older Samba versions. For systems that cannot be updated or patched, there is also a workaround that can be implemented by modifying the global Samba config file to contain the setting “nt pipe support = no”. While this will break some expected Windows functionality (mainly machines will not be able to access null shares and will need to use the specific share path rather than just the server path), it will make it so that Samba will not accept the malicious requests.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of this vulnerability is that security researchers estimate that up to 90% of the vulnerable Internet-connected Samba endpoints do not have a direct patch or update available yet and may not ever get one. While the enterprise hardware and even bigger consumer and SMB hardware providers will provide support for this in the form of patches or firmware updates, there is a sea of home routers, NAS boxes, file and print servers, and IoT devices running on home networks that are not open to user updates and may not ever get firmware updates. The best thing to do in this scenario according to the security advisory (if you can’t just not use it or replace it with different hardware that can be patched or isn’t affected of course) is to not expose it to the Internet. There would still be a risk of it being exploited should someone get a virus on a client machine through email, malicious downloads, or social engineering though. Considering these home NAS devices are usually used as destinations for backups, the risk of ransomware not only infecting client machines but also the main file share and network backups is scary. I have always been a fan of offline and/or cloud backups and in these modern times they are more important than ever with the rise of ransomware and other profit motivated viruses.

If you are not sure if your network is affected, there are tools being made available (including a Metasploit module, nmap scripts, and Internet scans) to help you determine that and reduce your attack surface using that information by updating to the latest security release, applying patches, updating, using SELinux policies to prevent the server from executing files itself, and preventing them from communicating with the Internet in order of effectiveness.

All that is to say don’t panic, stay vigilant, and make sure your important data is properly backed up and secured as much as possible!

Source: Samba.org

Yungchin Realty Group Partners with iStaging

Subject: General Tech | May 27, 2017 - 10:11 PM |
Tagged: xr, VR, mr, istaging, AR

iStaging is virtual-, augmented-, and mixed-reality company that focuses on the real estate, interior design, furniture, and related industries. The news that lead to this post is that Yungching Realty Group, based out of Taiwan, has partnered with iStaging to enhance their real estate business with VR and AR. The demo that they are showing at their press conference was a virtual street, which presented information about restaurants, schools, and other points of interest for someone researching the neighborhood.

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I’d expect our audience is more interested in the technology side of this, although let us know in the comments (or via email – my address is in my author page linked on the byline) if you’re interested in the enterprise / real-estate side. From the technology standpoint, it’s interesting to see applications like these push high-end graphics into more and more businesses, large and small. Likewise, these applications give a stable income that XR technology companies (ex: HTC Vive) can rely upon while they find a foothold in fickle, but potentially lucrative consumer market.

Lastly, I’m curious what applications will be possible when another round of innovation learns from this generation. What does this enable, even if only by expanding what people think is possible?

Definitely something to think about.

Source: iStaging

SoftBank Invests $4 Billion In NVIDIA, Becomes Fourth Largest Shareholder

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | May 27, 2017 - 12:18 AM |
Tagged: vision fund, softbank, nvidia, iot, HPC, ai

SoftBank, the Tokyo, Japan based Japanese telecom and internet technology company has reportedly quietly amassed a 4.9% stake in graphics chip giant NVIDIA. Bloomberg reports that SoftBank has carefully invested $4 billion into NVIDIA avoiding the need to get regulatory approval in the US by keeping its investment under 5% of the company. SoftBank has promised the current administration that it will invest $50 billion into US tech companies and it seems that NVIDIA is the first major part of that plan.

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NVIDIA's Tesla V100 GPU.

Led by Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son, SoftBank is not afraid to invest in technology companies it believes in with major past acquisitions and investments in companies like ARM Holdings, Sprint, Alibaba, and game company Supercell.

The $4 billion-dollar investment makes SoftBank the fourth largest shareholder in NVIDIA, which has seen the company’s stock rally from SoftBank’s purchases and vote of confidence. The (currently $93) $100 billion Vision Fund may also follow SoftBank’s lead in acquiring a stake in NVIDIA which is involved in graphics, HPC, AI, deep learning, and gaming.

Overall, this is good news for NVIDIA and its shareholders. I am curious what other plays SoftBank will make for US tech companies.

What are your thoughts on SoftBank investing heavily in NVIDIA?

Intel Persistent Memory Using 3D XPoint DIMMs Expected Next Year

Subject: General Tech, Memory, Storage | May 26, 2017 - 10:14 PM |
Tagged: XPoint, Intel, HPC, DIMM, 3D XPoint

Intel recently teased a bit of new information on its 3D XPoint DIMMs and launched its first public demonstration of the technology at the SAP Sapphire conference where SAP’s HANA in-memory data analytics software was shown working with the new “Intel persistent memory.” Slated to arrive in 2018, the new Intel DIMMs based on the 3D XPoint technology developed by Intel and Micron will work in systems alongside traditional DRAM to provide a pool of fast, low latency, and high density nonvolatile storage that is a middle ground between expensive DDR4 and cheaper NVMe SSDs and hard drives. When looking at the storage stack, the storage density increases along with latency as it gets further away from the CPU. The opposite is also true, as storage and memory gets closer to the processor, bandwidth increases, latency decreases, and costs increase per unit of storage. Intel is hoping to bridge the gap between system DRAM and PCI-E and SATA storage.

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According to Intel, system RAM offers up 10 GB/s per channel and approximately 100 nanoseconds of latency. 3D XPoint DIMMs will offer 6 GB/s per channel and about 250 nanoseconds of latency. Below that is the 3D XPoint-based NVMe SSDs (e.g. Optane) on a PCI-E x4 bus where they max out the bandwidth of the bus at ~3.2 GB/s and 10 microseconds of latency. Intel claims that non XPoint NVMe NAND solid state drives have around 100 microsecomds of latency, and of course, it gets worse from there when you go to NAND-based SSDs or even hard drives hanging of the SATA bus.

Intel’s new XPoint DIMMs have persistent storage and will offer more capacity that will be possible and/or cost effective with DDR4 DRAM. In giving up some bandwidth and latency, enterprise users will be able to have a large pool of very fast storage for storing their databases and other latency and bandwidth sensitive workloads. Intel does note that there are security concerns with the XPoint DIMMs being nonvolatile in that an attacker with physical access could easily pull the DIMM and walk away with the data (it is at least theoretically possible to grab some data from RAM as well, but it will be much easier to grab the data from the XPoint sticks. Encryption and other security measures will need to be implemented to secure the data, both in use and at rest.

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Interestingly, Intel is not positioning the XPoint DIMMs as a replacement for RAM, but instead as a supplement. RAM and XPoint DIMMs will be installed in different slots of the same system and the DDR4 RAM will be used for the OS and system critical applications while the XPoint pool of storage will be used for storing data that applications will work on much like a traditional RAM disk but without needing to load and save the data to a different medium for persistent storage and offering a lot more GBs for the money.

While XPoint is set to arrive next year along with Cascade Lake Xeons, it will likely be a couple of years before the technology takes off. Supporting it is going to require hardware and software support for the workstations and servers as well as developers willing to take advantage of it when writing their specialized applications. Fortunately, Intel started shipping the memory modules to its partners for testing earlier this year. It is an interesting technology and the DIMM solution and direct CPU interface will really let the 3D XPoint memory shine and reach its full potential. It will primarily be useful for the enterprise, scientific, and financial industries where there is a huge need for faster and lower latency storage that can accommodate massive (multiple terabyte+) data sets that continue to get larger and more complex. It is a technology that likely will not trickle down to consumers for a long time, but I will be ready when it does. In the meantime, I am eager to see what kinds of things it will enable the big data companies and researchers to do! Intel claims it will not only be useful at supporting massive in-memory databases and accelerating HPC workloads but for things like virtualization, private clouds, and software defined storage.

What are your thoughts on this new memory tier and the future of XPoint?

Also read:

Source: Intel

G.Skills svelte Ripjaws KM570 mechanical keyboard

Subject: General Tech | May 26, 2017 - 04:40 PM |
Tagged: G.Skill, Ripjaws KM570 RGB, gaming keyboard, RGB

G.Skill learned from the feedback offered from users of the KM780R and incorporated it into the KM570.  They've simplified the design and added back the top plate to protect the switches, though they did replace the volume wheel with buttons, a decision The Tech Report were not wholly enthusiastic about.   The keyboard sports two USB plugs, one is for transferring software settings to the keyboard and is not needed unless you are updating your settings.  The lighting has five different brightness settings as well as the all important off setting.  It retails for $120, which is less than much of the competitions offerings; as odd as it is to say.

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"G.Skill's KM570 puts an everything-you-need, nothing-you-don't board in the company's gaming-keyboard quiver. We tried out this distilled gaming board to see whether it has what it takes to stand out in a crowded field."

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New AI products will Crest Computex

Subject: General Tech | May 25, 2017 - 12:19 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, Intel, Lake Crest, Knights Crest

DigiTimes have heard about Intel's plans to reveal their next hardware devoted to AI functionality at Computex.  Lake Crest is their deep learning hardware to support a new generation of neural network based computing and Knights Crest is the result of Intel's $350m purchase of the deep learning company Nervana which will be based on the familiar Xeon and Xeon Phi families of processor. 

Jen-Hsun Huang, will deliver a keynote about NVIDIA's current AI projects along with their advancements in autonomous driving and deep learning, but we have not heard any juicy rumours about hardware announcements yet.  Love him or hate him, Jen-Hsun's keynotes are never a waste of time to listen to.

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"Nvidia and Intel are expected to unveil their latest plans on hardware platforms for artificial intelligence (AI) applications at Computex 2017, according to sources from the upstream supply chain."

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Source: DigiTimes