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AMD Confirms Stadia Will Run on Intel CPUs

As one of the world's most pervasive cloud service providers, Google is in a better position to launch a successful game streaming platform than almost anyone. The hardware they choose to use for the launch of their "Stadia" streaming service will undoubtedly influence future game streaming efforts, hence AMD's stock price shot through the roof when Google announced they were using AMD GPUs. However, PCGamesN writer Dave James noticed that Google was conspicuously silent when it came to Stadia's CPUs. They were happy to share clock speeds, cache numbers and the fact that they're using "custom" x86 chips, but they refused to confirm the vendor of the platform's CPU. Eventually, AMD reached out and said that "the Stadia platform is using custom AMD Radeon datacentre GPUs, not AMD CPUs." Barring any surprise announcements from VIA, that more or less confirms that Stadia will run on some sort of Intel CPU platform, but just why Google refused to mention Chipzilla by name remains a mystery. The author suggested that Intel might not want to associate themself with what might be a "doomed" venture. Maybe Google plans to switch to EPYC CPUs or an unannounced Intel server platform sometime in the future, or maybe they just don't think it's particularly relevant. Whatever the reason may be, I also find the omission to be curious, and look forward to seeing what happens with Stadia's hardware in the future.

A switch to AMD's EPYC processors has been mooted as a potential future step for Stadia, and Google's Phil Harrison told us himself that "we're just talking about Gen 1 at the moment, but there will be iterations on that technology over time," so there is some potential for a changing of the processor guard either before or after launch. Whatever the truth of the matter is I still find it beyond strange that no-one involved is talking about the Intel CPUs being used for Google Stadia, even if they're not necessarily doing anything that special with regards the innovative streaming service. Certainly the multi-GPU features on offer with the Radeon graphics cards warranted mention, but just a note on the specs slide alone could have still done good things for Intel.

Posted by alphaatlas March 22, 2019 11:20 AM (CDT)

Linux Gaming Across 9 Distros [Review in Progress]

Jason Evangelho of Forbes has started a Linux series where he reviews various Linux distributions (distros) for ease of use and performance in regards to Linux gaming. Jason's series isn't about just running benchmarks as he asks questions that everyday users would need to find out. Where am I going to get up-to-date graphics drivers for my AMD or NVIDIA graphics card? How is the default state of gaming on the Linux distro? Can I get Steam working right out of the box or am I going to have to tweak my system to accomplish this task? The 9 Linux distros that he is going to test in the series includes: Fedora 29 Workstation, Pop!_OS 18.10, Debian 9, Solus 4, Manjaro 18, Linux Mint 19, elementary OS 5, Deepin 15.9, and Ubuntu 18.10. His test system consists of an AMD Ryzen 5 2600, Radeon Sapphire RX 580, Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX 1080 and more. So far he has tested Fedora 29 Workstation and Pop!_OS 18.10 with Pop!_OS 18.10 easily winning hands down in usability and performance. With the recent announcement that Google is leveraging Linux, Vulkan, first party games, and open-source AMD drivers for games running on its Google Stadia game streaming service; Linux gaming performance may enter into our PC gaming world very soon!

If you're an NVIDIA user, good news: Pop!_OS has a separate installer image for you which automatically installs the proprietary (and far more performant) graphics driver. Again, there's no need to enable alternative software sources or hit the command line. The moment your OS is installed you're ready to start gaming. You'll be using the latest and greatest stable driver, Nvidia 418.43. Radeon gamers have an advantage across several Linux distributions: the open source driver is part of the kernel (and thus ready to use immediately), well maintained and quite performant. This typically means less steps to get up and running with Steam and Steam Proton. One distinct difference between Pop!_OS and Fedora, however, is that Fedora runs with a much newer MESA driver. Specifically, Fedora 29 uses MESA 18.3.4 while Pop uses MESA 18.2.8. The kernel on Pop is also a bit older, but again I noticed no disadvantage on the gaming side save for one: updating your kernel to 5.0 will add Freesync support which is a feature I can't live without. It is quite literally a game-changer.

Posted by cageymaru March 20, 2019 12:23 PM (CDT)

Halo Insider Program: Sign Up for Early Access to Halo: The Master Chief Collection

While there is still no release date in sight, 343 Industries has announced an early-access program that should not only make the wait for Halo: The Master Chief Collection easier but improve the much-anticipated PC port in the process. Eager Spartans can visit the Halo Waypoint site to sign up for the "Halo Insider Program," which queues them for beta testing on console and PC.

The Halo Insider Program is the new way Halo fans and community members can partner with 343 Industries to improve our games, products, and services. As a Halo Insider, you’ll have the opportunity to regularly provide feedback and insights that help shape and inform current franchise initiatives and the future of Halo. You will also be given exclusive opportunities to participate in public flights of in-progress Halo game releases and provide feedback to the development teams.

Posted by Megalith March 17, 2019 5:35 PM (CDT)

PC Sales to Decline in 2019 Amid CPU Shortages, Weak GPU Market

Don’t place your bets on the PC market growing in the coming future: marketing firms are predicting a 0.4 percent decline per year through 2023, with a potentially significant drop this year thanks to Intel’s CPU shortages and lukewarm interest in NVIDIA’s GPUs. While gaming hardware has managed to prop up the PC industry somewhat, the current buildup of inventory simply isn’t helping. Some say the crux of the issue is that people have no real reason to upgrade.

The real problem is, the PC market is mature. People aren’t buying machines for specific new features, at least not en masse. 5G and new display technology may move the needle for some people, but given the prices such technology would command in the near future, it’s unlikely we’ll see any significant jump in sales for these reasons alone. "Something compelling at the premium end" is damnably faint praise for an industry that once enjoyed record-breaking growth streaks. Looks like it’s all we’ve got.

Posted by Megalith March 17, 2019 11:20 AM (CDT)

Classic World of Warcraft Content Progression Revealed

For many of us, World of Warcraft (WoW) was the first MMO that appealed to us. As the MMO aged, the classic content was ignored or altered to make it easier to attract new players to the game. After years of complaints, Blizzard Entertainment is bringing back Classic World of Warcraft and Community Manager Kaivax has detailed the 6 phase content patch release schedule. For example, progression in the MMO is based on newer raids superseding older content because more powerful items drop in the new raid. In the post, Blizzard details which raids will be available at the start of Classic WoW.

Currently, based on both your feedback and our own deliberations, we're now planning to increase it to six phases. Our focus is still primarily on player power-progression, but we're also aiming to capture what it felt like to play in a realm community in original WoW. To do that, we're planning to mirror the approach taken by original WoW, with patches paired together. We haven't yet determined exactly when phases 2-6 will occur, and PvP content is notably missing from the list above. That's because we're still evaluating our options regarding PvP rewards, as they also changed over time (both in power and in terms of which PvP reward items were available).

Posted by cageymaru March 12, 2019 8:59 AM (CDT)

RED Removes References to Hydrogen One Modular Components

Ultra high end camera manufacturer RED recently launched an Android smartphone with an ultra high end price (which Apple and Samsung nearly matched with recent releases), but the phone's reception was mixed. Users summed up the integrated 3D display as "neat," but note that most Android apps can't take advantage of it, and the built-in camera is conspicuously mediocre for a product that comes from one of the world's premiere camera designers. Many reviewers insisted that the promised modular expansions would justify $1300+ price tag, but Reddit user /u/ReipasTietokonePoju just noticed that RED has removed all references to the addons from their website. Project lead Jim Jannard already responded to the controversy on the Hydrogen One's user forums, claiming that the RED team is now responsible for the "professional image capture program," and that "you can expect one of the most significant 4V updates in the next two weeks." My corporate speak is a little rusty, but I don't see any references to the promised storage expansion and battery modules. Fortunately, it would appear that the camera module is alive in at least some form, and we'll presumably learn more about it in the coming weeks. Thanks to T4rd for the tip.

Some have noticed that we have taken down the images of the 2D module from our website. The reason for that is because we are currently in the middle of radically changing the HYDROGEN program. As I have said before, everything can and will change. A series of obstacles and then new discoveries have given us the opportunity to significantly improve the entire program, not only for HYDROGEN but also for RED. The changes create new opportunities to better satisfy the professional image capture customers as well as the casual consumer for the HYDROGEN program. The RED team, led by Jarred Land, as of now will now be fully in charge of the professional image capture program for HYDROGEN and the HYDROGEN team is fully engaged on the new in-device image capture system. Both are major advancements to what was previously posted. We are excited to share details as soon as we file the patents and lock down the changes and are all pretty excited about what is coming... As a side note... all HYDROGEN customers will be "obsolescence obsolete" when buying into the new professional image capture program.

Posted by alphaatlas March 12, 2019 8:34 AM (CDT)

Progress on an Iron Man Suit is Being Made

Back in 2017, Red Bull posted a video of the "Daedulus" kerosene-powered jetpack created by Richard M. Browning, and its creators set a Guinness world record later that year. But since then, Mr. Browning has gone on to become the CEO of a company built around the jetpack called "Gravity Industries," and it looks like he's made some significant progress with the device's development. The company uploads new testing footage almost every week, including a shot of a jetpack pilot landing on a moving truck, but the company is so confident that they're starting to give the press members access to the suits. In the Hacksmith's latest video, the YouTuber seemingly picked up the basics of the flight suit relatively quickly, and Gravity mentioned that they already have a cheaper, 3D printed jet suit in testing. Thanks to CaptNumbNutz for the tip.

FLYING LIKE IRON MAN RETURNS! Gravity Industries & Richard Browning have successfully flown like Iron Man with their custom jet suit that uses kerosene jet engines! I flew (punny!) down to California to meet them and try out the jet suit for myself! Stay tuned for the next video where we turn his system into a true Iron Man suit, complete with a metal iron man helmet!

Posted by alphaatlas March 11, 2019 10:11 AM (CDT)

Intel CPU Shortages Are Expected to Worsen in Q2

Intel is suffering from a 14nm silicon shortage right now, and some industry figures think that boxed DIY processor sales are getting hit particularly hard. Last year, analysts expected the shortage to persist well into the first half 2019, but now, Digitimes Research believes that the supply issues are only going to get worse in Q2. While industry supply gaps are expected to drop from over 10% in Q4 2018 to 2-3% in Q1 2019, that gap is expected to grow 1-2 points in Q2 2019, without a significant increase in total shipments. Quad-core Kaby Lake-R silicon bound for Core i5 models was particularly hard to get in Q4 2018, and some white box manufacturers in China have reportedly been "denied any supply of Intel's entry-level processors since September 2018," but Coffee Lake-based i5s and Chromebook processors are supposedly seeing the worst supply shortfalls right now. Intel is working on bringing more 14nm capacity online to alleviate the supply issues by the 3rd quarter of this year, but until then, AMD's market share in worldwide notebook shipments is expected to increase as laptop makers search for alternatives to mainstream Intel CPUs. AMD reportedly has a 15.8% share of notebook shipments in Q1 2019, and it's expected to peak at 18% in Q2 before dropping in subsequent quarters. Of course, given the age of Intel's 14nm process, one of the biggest questions hanging in the air is how, and when, Intel will move production to smaller nodes. At CES, Intel committed to shipping 10nm mobile processors in 2019. However, Digitimes Research's supply chain sources claim that "there are still many issues with the CPU giant's mass production schedule for 10nm process," and the researchers themselves think that Intel "could shift its investments directly to 7nm process development, skipping 10nm."

Apollo Lake- and Gemini Lake-based processors for the entry-level segment were second worst in terms of shortages as Intel had shifted most of its capacity to make high-end processors that offered better profit. Lenovo, which primarily focuses on mid-range and entry-level models, had a supply gap of hundreds of thousands CPUs in the second half of the year. White-box players in China have even been denied any supply of Intel's entry-level processors since September 2018. Apple's latest MacBook Air released at the end of October 2018, which exclusively uses Intel's 14nm Amber Lake processor, was reportedly also a victim of the CPU shortages. With the notebook market entering the slow season in the first quarter of 2019 and many vendors having increased their adoption of AMD's solutions, the overall CPU supply gap in the notebook market is expected to shrink to around 3%. Taiwan vendors are still seeing their gaps at above 5%, but HP, Dell and Lenovo's percentages will drop dramatically. Dell has even freed itself from the shortage issue... Intel is expected to have new 14nm capacity join production in the second half of 2019. Intel's existing 14nm fabs are mainly located in the US and Ireland and the newly expanded capacity in Arizona, the US is expected to begin volume production in July or August, to boost Intel's overall 14nm capacity by 25% and completely resolve the shortage problem.

Posted by alphaatlas March 11, 2019 8:41 AM (CDT)

US Military Changing "Killing Machine" Robo-Tank Program after Controversy

The US Army is clarifying its "ATLAS" (Advanced Targeting and Lethality Automated System) program after initial reporting of its ground combat vehicles sparked fears of autonomous machines that would kill without human interaction. Back in 2007, the agency toyed with small, machine-gun tank robots called SWORDS but was forced to end the program after the robot "began to behave unpredictably, moving its gun chaotically."

The response seems to have spooked the Army, which is now changing its request for information to better emphasize that the program will follow Defense Department policy on human control of lethal robots. They are also drafting talking points to further the new emphasis. The robot’s ability to identify, target, and engage doesn’t mean "we’re putting the machine in a position to kill anybody," one Army official told Defense One.

Posted by Megalith March 10, 2019 3:30 PM (CDT)

AMD Investor Slides Confirm 2019 CPU Releases

On their investor website, AMD recently published a set of slides that confirm the release of 3rd generation Ryzen and Threadripper CPUs some time in 2019. Pro variants of the 2nd generation Ryzen APUs are slated to come out this Spring, while 3rd generation Ryzen desktop processors are scheduled for a "mid-year" 2019 release.
3rd generation Threadripper CPUs didn't get a release date more specific than "2019," and AMD's 7nm "Navi" and 7nm+ "Next-Gen" GPU architectures are said to be coming sometime between now and 2020. The company also reitarated that the somewhat mysterious "Radeon Vega Mobile" GPU which, as far as I know, has only popped up as an optional upgrade in the Apple Macbook Pro, is still part of their 2019 product stack. Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 07, 2019 10:05 AM (CST)

Fujitsu Document Leaks More 9th Gen Intel CPUs

A motherboard and processor compatibility document straight from Fujitsu's website has reportedly unveiled several previously unannounced 9th Generation Intel Core processors. The document was quickly taken down, but according to the screenshots other media outlets managed to capture, many CPUs in the existing lineup are getting an "F" variant with a disabled IGP and a "T" variant with a lower TDP.
Intel is allegedly squeezing the fully enabled 8-core Coffee Lake die into a 35W TDP with the Core i9-9900T, while the Celeron G4390 even has a low power variant. Meanwhile, the 2 core, 4 thread, Pentium G5600 is getting an IGP-less SKU, which will presumably target affordable gaming desktops with discrete GPUs. Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 06, 2019 9:13 AM (CST)

New Speculative Execution Bug Allegedly Affects Intel CPUs

Back in 2018, when the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities were first publicized, many security experts feared that they opened a figurative Pandora's box. Those two exploits are part of a wider class of potential speculative execution flaws, and this week, those fears were realized, as researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute have revealed (PDF Warning) a new speculative execution exploit dubbed "Spoiler." Intel CPUs reportedly use "dependency resolution logic" to resolve false dependencies when speculatively executing load operations, and the researchers say "the dependency resolution logic suffers from an unknown false dependency independent of the 4K aliasing. The discovered false dependency happens during the 1 MB aliasing of speculative memory accesses which is exploited to leak information about physical page mappings." In that vein, the researchers claim this particular exploit only requires "a limited set of instructions," and that all Intel "Core" CPUs running on any operating system are vulnerable to the attack. The attack can be loaded with Javascript code from a website, without any need for privilege escalation beforehand, and the researchers successfully demonstrated the exploit on Nehalem, Sandy Bridge, and Ivy Bridge-based Xeon servers. Intel was reportedly informed of the exploit on December 1st, 2018, and they recently published this response:

Intel received notice of this research, and we expect that software can be protected against such issues by employing side channel safe software development practices. This includes avoiding control flows that are dependent on the data of interest. We likewise expect that DRAM modules mitigated against Rowhammer style attacks remain protected. Protecting our customers and their data continues to be a critical priority for us and we appreciate the efforts of the security community for their ongoing research.

While speculative execution enables both SPOILER and Spectre and Meltdown, our newly found leakage stems from a completely different hardware unit, the Memory Order Buffer. We exploited the leakage to reveal information on the 8 least significant bits of the physical page number, which are critical for many microarchitectural attacks such as Rowhammer and cache attacks. We analyzed the causes of the discovered leakage in detail and showed how to exploit it to extract physical address information. further, we showed the impact of SPOILER by performing a highly targeted Rowhammer attack in a native user-level environment. We further demonstrated the applicability of SPOILER in sandboxed environments by constructing efficient eviction sets from JavaScript, an extremely restrictive environment that usually does not grant any access to physical addresses. Gaining even partial knowledge of the physical address will make new attack targets feasible in browsers even though JavaScript-enabled attacks are known to be difficult to realize in practice due to the limited nature of the JavaScript environment. Broadly put, the leakage described in this paper will enable attackers to perform existing attacks more efficiently, or to devise new attacks using the novel knowledge.

Posted by alphaatlas March 06, 2019 8:47 AM (CST)