Intel crams 100 GFLOPS of neural-net inferencing onto a USB stick
— 5:00 PM on July 20, 2017

It's been a couple years since Intel floored an old friend of ours with a computer miniaturized to the size of a disappointingly-small candy bar. Today, Intel announced a new type of compute stick, but this one isn't designed to replace your desktop computer. Instead, the Movidius Neural Compute Stick provides deep neural network processing inside a self-contained, low-power package.

As the product's name suggests, the Neural Compute Stick was made possible by technology from Movidius, a company that Intel acquired last September. The device contains one of Movidius's Vision Processing Units, which power the company's low-power machine vision devices. The Neural Compute Stick consumes so little power that it merely needs to be plugged into a USB 3.0 port, yet Intel claims that it provides more than 100 gigaflops of performance. This allows the device to handle AI inference applications without being connected to a network.

Developers using the Neural Compute Stick will still need to do algorithm training on much more powerful equipment, but these diminutive sticks will allow them to perform inference anywhere that real-world data needs to be interpreted. With a convolutional neural network from a deep-learning framework like Caffe, users can quickly put machine-learning capabilities into low-power devices. From its promotional materials, Intel seems to think that one of these sticks would do interesting things inside of a drone. And if one stick alone doesn't provide enough processing power, a simple USB hub can be used to harness the capability of a couple more.

Intel plans to show off the Neural Compute Stick at the upcoming conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition starting on Saturday. Those interested can already purchase these devices through one of Intel's partners for the strikingly reasonable price of $79.

6 comments — Last by DancinJack at 6:47 PM on 07/20/17

Microsoft and Johnson Controls put Cortana in a thermostat
— 3:00 PM on July 20, 2017

Google bought its way into home thermostats by snapping up Nest Labs for a whopping $3.2 billion back in 2014. Microsoft is taking a different approach to home temperature regulation by partnering with Johnson Controls on the GLAS smart thermostat. The companies unveiled the fruits of their labor in a YouTube video.

GLAS is powered by Redmond's Windows 10 IoT Core operating system, and it can monitor temperature, air quality, and the presence of people in the room. The thermostat can be controlled by Cortana voice services commands. The brains of GLAS run on Microsoft's Azure IoT cloud services.

GLAS is a fitting name, given the minimalisitc aluminum-and-glass aesthetic of the thermostat. The prominent LCD panel bears a touch-screen interface that looks to offer a clear presentation and simple controls. The GLAS thermostat is part of Microsoft's new campaign to get Windows and Cortana into a broad range of connected devices. The company has already partnered with Harmon Kardon on the Invoke Cortana-enabled speaker, but will have to work hard to overcome Amazon's head start in voice-enabled consumer electronics. Neither company provided any details about a price or street date for GLAS.

13 comments — Last by LostCat at 10:06 PM on 07/20/17

Space Exploration Day Shortbread
— 1:30 PM on July 20, 2017

I get it!

PC hardware and computing

  1. SILVIA Technology - Intelligence On Command interview @ PC Perspective
  2. Enermax Revolution SFX 650W PSU review @ Tom's Hardware
  3. EpicGear Melodiouz in-ear gaming headset review @ Think Computers
  4. CRYORIG A40 liquid cooler review @ TechPowerUp
  5. Review: SanDisk Extreme 500 (500GB) @ Hexus
  6. The Intel Kaby Lake-X i7-7740X review @ Hardware Canucks
  7. The top 5 best motherboards of all time @ HardOCP
  8. In Win 101 [case] review @ bit-tech
  9. Ubiquiti EdgeSwitch 8 150W managed PoE+ Gigabit switch with SFP reviewed @ SmallNetBuilder

Games and VR

  1. Ark devs cancel mass server wipe, add new servers instead @ Rock Paper Shotgun
  2. American Truck Simulator isn't quite ready to do what Spintires does @ Quarter To Three
  3. The ongoing debate over amiibo in Zelda speedrunning @ Polygon

Science, hacks, makers and gadgets

  1. SpaceX appears to have pulled the plug on its Red Dragon plans @ ArsTechnica
  2. Microorganisms can't hide from droposcope @ Hack A Day
  3. iPhone-powered Mira Prism is the cheapest way into AR yet @ New Atlas
  4. New research shows humans could outrun T. Rex @ Slashdot (that's all the reason I need to watch 'Jurassic Park' again)

Cheese, memes, and RGB LEDs

  1. They're in: your stories about cheese on apple pie @
  2. The mad cheese scientists fighting to save the dairy industry @ Bloomberg
  3. Ok, this isn't funny anymore, why the drought in RGB LED reviews?

8 comments — Last by Bobs_Your_Uncle at 4:06 PM on 07/20/17

Geil de-blings its Evo Spear memory modules
— 12:00 PM on July 20, 2017

Some folks like their memory with large heatspreaders. Some like to go even further with colorful RGB LED-illuminated modules. Peacock-like DIMMs can add some flair to a certain kind of PC build, but not everyone seeking performance wants something so flashy. Geil's DDR4 Evo Spear memory kits are designed for buyers seeking performance with restraint. The company will offer single, dual, and quad-channel kits tailored for AMD or Intel platforms. The Spear modules' standard-height heatspreaders have a tasteful black finish.

Geil claims the Spear kits for AMD systems have been tested for compatibility with Ryzen CPUs. They come in five speed grades ranging from 2133 MT/s all the way up to 3200 MT/s. Individual 8 GB, 16 GB, and 32 GB modules will be available, though 3200 MT/s sticks top out at 16 GB. The 3200 MT/s dual and quad-channel kits are made of different combinations of 4 GB and 8 GB modules, but slower kits assembled from 16 GB DIMMs are also available. 

The Intel kits start at the same 2133 MT/s base rate, but Geil will offer seven different speed grades for the blue team, topping out at 3466 MT/s. As with the AMD-specific Spear memory, the highest speed grade is not available in the largest capacity.

Geil didn't provide pricing information for the DDR4 Evo Spear memory modules, but TechPowerUp says bling-averse builders of standard-sized and mini-ITX systems can expect to find the memory on shelves by the end of July. 

8 comments — Last by albundy at 6:24 PM on 07/20/17

Thermaltake View 21 chassis doubles up on tempered glass
— 10:30 AM on July 20, 2017

It seems so long ago that PC enthusiasts made do with dinky little side windows. Who wants to peer through a window when entire sheets of glass are available instead? Thermaltake's View 21 Tempered Glass Edition boasts tempered glass panels on both the left and right sides of the case, and saves space for liquid-cooling setups by eliminating the drive cages.

As a mid-tower chassis, the View 21 can handle ATX, microATX, and Mini-ITX motherboards. At 19.4" tall by 8.2" wide by 18.5" deep (292 x 208 x 471 mm), it's a little more petite than some other mid-tower cases on the market, but it's still capable of fitting 160-mm CPU coolers and 16.1" (410 mm) graphics cards. Not only the tempered glass panels, but the front panel of the case is also transparent. Thermaltake doesn't specify the material, though, so it's likely acrylic. The overall effect puts less emphasis on the chassis and more on the internal components, creating a look that's quite clean and professional—at least until one installs a bunch of Thermaltake's RGB LED fans.

The unit doesn't ship with those fans, however. The chassis comes with a single 120-mm fan installed in the back. Overall, the case has room for six 120-mm fans, and plenty of room for AIO liquid-cooling systems. The rear of the case can accommodate a 120-mm radiator, but the front can fit radiators up to 360 mm long. Cool air is drawn into the chassis through long vents along the front panel that run from the top to the bottom of the case. To keep dust out, Thermaltake installs two air filters on the front panel, one with a super-fine mesh. Another filter on the bottom panel keeps the air intake for the power supply clean and dust-free.

Even though the View 21 lacks traditional drive cages, builders will still find room to mount their drives behind the left side panel, where there are two mounts for 3.5" drives and two mounts for 2.5" drives. Additionally, there are two more mounts for 2.5" drives atop the case's full-length PSU cover. Thermaltake anticipates that the View 21 Tempered Glass Edition will be available by the end of this month, but didn't specify the case's price.

4 comments — Last by DPete27 at 1:49 PM on 07/20/17

Asus Crosshair VI Extreme pulls out all the stops for AM4
— 9:00 AM on July 20, 2017

Asus just announced what is likely to be the flagship of its fleet of Ryzen-ready motherboards. The Republic of Gamers Crosshair VI Extreme takes the "everything and the kitchen sink" approach that we frequently see on high-end motherboards and applies it to an EATX Socket AM4 platter powered by the X370 chipset. Aside from an integrated waterblock, we struggle to imagine a motherboard feature that this model misses.

All of the most obvious hallmarks of a high-end motherboard are present on the Crosshair VI Extreme, starting with its size. The extra width of EATX allows Asus to pack on a pair of M.2 sockets—one of which is concealed by a heatsink. The board also boasts three PCIe x16 slots, four DDR4 DIMM slots, and 12 fan headers. There's also a specialized header for monitoring a waterblock's temperature, flow rate, and leak detection sensors.

Obviously, this is a board built for overclocking, and Asus claims that the board's "intelligent auto-tuner" can take into consideration the hardware installed in the board as well as the cooling connected to it. Folks who want to do their own tweaking will appreciate the onboard power and reset buttons, as well as an easy-to-access CMOS clear switch and diagnostic LED readout. There's even a Molex auxiliary power connector in the lower left corner of the board for extra stability under extreme overclocking.

Two of the PCIe x16 slots are reinforced to protect them from rough handling, and they're spaced extra wide to make room for massive GPU coolers. Asus tapped Intel NICs for the board's network connections, and the board sports both Gigabit Ethernet and 2x2 802.11ac Wi-Fi. Like on Asus' other high-end boards, Realtek's top-tier S1220 chip is mated to an ESS Sabre DAC to power the "SupremeFX" onboard audio suite.

Builders who choose the ROG Crosshair VI Extreme can hook up eight SATA devices to the board, and plug in to USB 3.1 Type-A or Type-C on the back panel. There's also an internal header for front panel USB 3.1, as well as an older-style USB 3.0 front-panel header. With these headers in play, the board can provide ten USB 3.0 ports and four USB 3.1 ports.

As Asus' top-tier AM4 board, the Crosshair VI Extreme naturally comes with top-tier pricing, too. Asus says the board will go for $349 when it launches early next month.

15 comments — Last by albundy at 6:41 PM on 07/20/17

Doom 6.66 update brings free DLC and a multi-platform free weekend
— 4:31 PM on July 19, 2017

Doom came out in May of 2016 to almost universal critical acclaim, and Id Software has continued to update the game regularly since then. Today, update 6.66 drops, bringing what Id is calling the "ultimate" Doom experience. Along with several fixes to multiplayer and SnapMap, there are a few big things worth making note of. Most importantly, all multiplayer DLC is now unlocked for all players. "We've retired the Doom season pass and are making all of the multiplayer DLC content free to all players," writes Doom Game Director Marty Stratton. "That's three multiplayer DLC packs, which include nine of our best maps, three additional guns, three additional playable demons, new equipment, armor sets and more." That's on top of free features like bot support that players are already enjoying.

Also on the "free stuff" front, Doom is getting a free weekend across all platforms. For us PC kids, the free weekend starts on July 20—that's tomorrow—at 12:00 PM Eastern Time. Xbox users can check out the game on July 20 starting at 1 PM ET, while PlayStation 4 players will be able to play on Thursday, July 27, starting at 12:00 PM ET. During these time periods, the game's first two campaign levels will be available for tire-kicking, and the multiplayer and Snap Map modes are available in their entirety. If you should happen to like what you see during this time, any campaign, multiplayer, or SnapMap data will be retained when you buy the game.

The team has also revised the multiplayer progression system. Instead of unlocks being a randomized dice roll, you'll now be able to unlock items through specific leveling requirements and in-game challenges. You can build your perfect Doom Marine instead of hoping you get the right chestplate next time you level. Longtime players will want to know that their levels will be resetting to zero. You can choose to keep your unlocked items, though, or reset those, too, if you like. Veteran players will be getting a special badge, and those who have reached maximum Slayer level will be getting their own badge, too. Also coming to the game with this update are an all new Runes system for multiplayer, an overhauled in-game HUD , and a series of minor imenu improvements to better illustrate player status.

Best of all, though, is the pricing to celebrate that devilish version number. During this free weekend, the entire game will be available for $14.99 US, including the campaign, arcade mode, and all that DLC and multiplayer content. That applies to digital puchases of the game through Steam, PlayStation Network, and Xbox Live. If you don't already have Doom, $15 is a steal. We'd encourage giving the game a shot and maybe even picking it up while you don't have to sell your soul for a copy.

27 comments — Last by meerkt at 10:06 PM on 07/20/17

Intel graphics driver 15.46 fixes a slew of games
— 3:00 PM on July 19, 2017

Intel's latest graphics driver release is a pretty big one. The new driver, version 15.46, adds game-specific support for three new releases: Epic's building-and-survival game Fortnite, Motiga's hero shooter Gigantic, and season 2 of Telltale's Minecraft: Story Mode. A number of other games and applications also got fixes, and this release also expands the API support of Intel's graphics processors, too.

Epic Games' Fortnite

Pyre, Master x Master, Secret World Legends, Pit People, Guilty Gear Xrd, Fallout 4, Euro Truck Simulator 2, Guild Wars 2, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Vikings—Wolves of Midgard, Rainbow Six Siege, For Honor, Watch Dogs 2, and apparently shut-down MMO Lego Minifigures Online are the rest of the fixed-up games mentioned by name, but there's also an "and other games" note as well. A number of the listed titles are based around the Unreal Engine, so it's likely any game using that middleware will benefit from the new driver. Intel mentions that Halo 2 "and other DX9 games" should no longer suffer texture flickering.

Additionally, Guild Wars 2, Dota 2, and The Talos Principle should stop crashing. The latter two games only suffered crash bugs in Vulkan mode, and it's likely that the new driver's support for Vulkan 1.0.38 has something to do with the fixes. Driver version 15.46 adds support for OpenGL 4.5 and widens the Intel hardware's support for OpenCL and DirectX 12 optional extensions. Intel says it added support for the Computer Vision SDK and Deep Learning Deployment Toolkits, as well.

We should note that this new driver is only for Intel's ninth-generation graphics hardware, which means the IGPs of SkylakeKaby Lake, and Apollo Lake processors. Older chips will have to use a prior driver version. (The newest driver for Haswell and Broadwell chips is 15.40, released in March.) If you want to read the full release notes, you can grab the PDF, or you can head on over to Intel's download site to simply grab the driver.

33 comments — Last by RAGEPRO at 7:51 PM on 07/20/17

Fujitsu joins the deep-learning stampede with specialized silicon
— 1:30 PM on July 19, 2017

Nvidia's revenues, profits, and share price have all benefited from surging demand in both the PC gaming hardware and the graphics compute marketplaces. The company could potentially face growing competition in deep learning from rival AMD's Vega graphics chips, the Radeon Instinct family, and the company's ROCm platform, but the AI jockeying doesn't stop there. Intel is working on its own Lake Crest chips, and Google is working on its Tensor Processing Units.

Fujitsu is now throwing its hat into the deep-learning ring, as well. The Japanese server and supercomputer manufacturer announced its intention to build a Deep Learning Unit (DLU) AI processor before the end of its fiscal 2018 (running from April 2018 to March 2019) at the International Supercomputing Conference. Fujitsu's Takumi Maruyama claimed the DLU chip will offer a ten-fold improvement in performance-per-watt compared to competitors' silicon, though it's not clear whether a training or inferencing workload was used to make that claim.

The DLU chip will be composed of an array of Deep Learning Processing Units (DPUs) connected using a high-performance fabric.  A dedicated master core manages the collection of DPUs and the interaction between DPUs and the on-chip memory controller. The chip has native support for FP16, FP32, INT16, and INT8 datatypes. Fujitsu says the low-precision integer datatypes can be used effectively with some deep-learning applications to reduce power consumption while maintaining acceptable accuracy. The company says the chips will have a simple pipleline in order to reduce hardware complexity and an on-chip network for DPU-to-DPU communication.

Fujitsu says the DLU will run using an all-new instruction set architecture (ISA) designed specifically for deep learning. Each DPU has 16 deep-learning processing elements (DPEs), each of which is made up of eight single instruction, multiple data execution units and a "very large" register file under full software control. The DLU will utilize on-package HBM2 memory, as well. The company promises that the design will be scalable using its proprietary Tofu interconnect technology.

 The first-generation DLU silicon  will be sold as a coprocessor, similar to the way that Nvidia offers its Tesla GPU compute products. Fujistu plans to embed the DLU into a CPU starting with the second-generation products. Given the Japanese electronics manufacturer's links to the SPARC architecture, integration of DLUs into future Fujitsu SPARC chips seems most likely. The company didn't provide any estimates of a release date for these integrated chips.

8 comments — Last by ptsant at 3:08 PM on 07/20/17

Arctic Cooling Liquid Freezer AIOs stand ready for Threadripper
— 12:00 PM on July 19, 2017

Arctic Cooling has quietly put up a page on its website listing coolers compatible with the mammoth TR4 socket for AMD's upcoming Ryzen Threadripper 1920X 12-core  and Threadripper 1950X 16-core CPUs. So far, the only known members of this newly founded club of TR4-compatible coolers are the company's Liquid Freezer AIO closed-loop units.

The compatibility of these coolers suggests that the thermal output and large heatspreader of Threadripper CPUs can be managed using coolers with conventionally-sized cold plates. The specifications for all three cooler models explicitly state that a free retention ring must be obtained separately in order to use the cooler with Ryzen's AM4 socket. No such requirement is listed for Threadripper's novel TR4 socket, but additional parts will almost certainly be needed to adapt older coolers to the brand-new socket.

All three models of Arctic's Liquid Freezer AIOs are available at Newegg today with prices ranging from $83 for the entry-level model with a 120 mm radiator and two 120 mm fans to $120 for the range-topping kit with a 360 mm radiator and a whopping half-dozen nine-bladed spinners. If the TR4-socketed CPUs can indeed be cooled effectively by coolers  with "normal" size contact patches, we look forward to a number of similar announcements from Arctic's rivals in the coming weeks.

10 comments — Last by chuckula at 1:27 PM on 07/20/17

Intel price list reveals Core i9-7920X cache size and base clock
— 10:30 AM on July 19, 2017

Intel has released its latest CPU price list, and right at the top is a pretty interesting little morsel of information: some clock speed and cache size info for the as-yet-unreleased Core i9-7920X. I'll save you the trouble of looking it up: that's a 12-core, 24-thread CPU, and we now know it'll offer 16.5 MB of L3 cache. The listing sets the CPU's base clock at 2.9 GHz, as well, which is a pretty significant step down from the Core i9-7900X's 3.3 GHz base clock.

The addition of the Core i9-7920X appears to be the only change on Intel's price sheet, but that's no real surprise given that the last one came out just three days ago. The listing, which you can see above, prices the new CPU at $1,189. That's $200 for two more cores over the 7900X, and still a pretty far cry from the $1,723 that Intel is still asking for the last-generation 10-core Core i7-6950X. Of course, $1200 seems like it could be a tough price point for this part, given that the Ryzen Threadripper 1920X and its 12 cores and 24 threads will go for just $799. The 16-core, 32-thread Threadripper 1950X will still undercut the i9-7920X by about $200. We don't know how any of these parts will perform yet, though, so we'll withhold final judgment until we have performance numbers of our own to judge by.

Unfortunately, the Core i9-7920X isn't on Intel ARK yet, so we don't know what its boost frequencies (standard Turbo Boost as well as Turbo Boost Max) will be. We would presume, given this CPU's purported 140W TDP, that it will not have the same 4.3 GHz Turbo frequency as the i9-7900X, though it may maintain the 4.5 GHz two-core boost speeds from that chip. Only time will tell, though, as Intel hasn't said a word yet. Hat tip to VideoCardz for the spot.

106 comments — Last by MOSFET at 10:23 PM on 07/20/17

ASML demonstrates production-ready EUV tool throughput
— 9:01 AM on July 19, 2017

Although you may not have heard of ASML, you've certainly heard of its customers. The company provides lithography equipment to major semiconductor manufacturers around the world, including Intel. That means ASML plays a crucial role in driving down process sizes and pushing Moore's Law forward. Extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) is widely understood to be one of the next steps on that road. The company has been developing extreme ultraviolet lithography tools for some time now, but production-ready versions of that hardware have proven elusive. For just one example, an AMD presentation (PDF) projected that EUV "could be ready for high volume manufacturing of semiconductor chips in 2012 or 2013" all the way back in 2007. Today, GlobalFoundries has only committed to "EUV compatibility at key levels" for its upcoming 7-nm process, and TSMC expects to begin deploying EUV technology in 2020 at its purported 5-nm node.

If those companies were holding their breath thanks to ASML, they might be able to exhale a bit now. According to ASML itself and reporting from EE Times, the company has achieved a major milestone on the way to delivering production-ready EUV tools to its customers. Thanks to what the company calls "an upgraded EUV source" install in one of its own Twinscan NXE:3400B step-and-scan tools, ASML says that tool can now achieve its internal performance target of 125 wafers per hour of throughput. EE Times says that this source delivers 250 W of EUV photons, a figure the site says "is directly related to productivity." For perspective, EE Times says that EUV sources were limited to just 25 W in 2012.

Now that ASML has demonstrated a functioning version of this EUV source, the company says it will begin focusing on "achieving the availability that is required for high-volume manufacturing as well as further improving productivity." ASML says its EUV equipment order backlog grew to €2.8 billion in its second-quarter financial results, a development it says is indicative that "preparation for high-volume manufacturing is well underway in both logic and DRAM." EE Times reports that the majority of those orders are for Intel's fabs, but the blue team hasn't publicly commented on when it plans to insert EUV tools into its production process. Whenever major semiconductor companies do begin using EUV to make production chips, however, we can be sure we'll hear about it.

33 comments — Last by Liron at 8:30 PM on 07/20/17

Caviar Day Shortbread
— 4:30 PM on July 18, 2017

PC hardware and computing

  1. The AMD Radeon Vega Frontier Edition 16GB Liquid-Cooled review @ PC Perspective
  2. World's worst Bitcoin mining rig @ Hack A Day
  3. Wooting One analog mechanical keyboard review @ Tom's Hardware
  4. SteelSeries Arctis 7 headset review @ TechPowerUp
  5. Logitech G Pro Gaming mouse and keyboard review @ Legit Reviews
  6. Reviews - BeQuiet Pure Power 10 CM 500W @     JonnyGuru
  7. Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501 review: a thin, powerful Max-Q gaming laptop @    HotHardware
  8. The top 5 worst motherboards of all time @ HardOCP
  9. MSI X299 SLI Plus review @ bit-tech

Games and VR

  1. Hands-on: ViveNChill fan helps fight sweaty faces and foggy lenses @ UploadVR
  2. The Joy Of creating citizen stories in Cities: Skylines @ Rock Paper Shotgun
  3. Atari wants in on the throwback console fad @ Quarter To Three
  4. Nintendo's New 2DS XL is the closest you'll ever get to a '3DS XL Lite' @ Engadget
  5. Just Cause 3 multiplayer mod parachutes onto Steam next week @ Rock Paper Shotgun (maybe I'll actually play this now)

Science, hacks, makers and gadgets

  1. A 3D scanner that Archimedes could get behind @ Hack A Day
  2. Forward-thinking ravens plan for the future @ New Atlas
  3. Fidget spinners put the 'S' in STEAM education @ Hack A Day

Cheese, memes, and RGB LEDs

  1. Prize-winning cheese stolen from Somerset show @ BBC
  2. Again with the no RGB LEDs?

11 comments — Last by HERETIC at 1:47 AM on 07/20/17

Everybody was a winner at the TR BBQ XIV
— 4:06 PM on July 18, 2017

TR BBQ XIV is in the books. I'd tell you it was a good time, but that would be stating the obvious. drfish and his family have the art of entertaining internet people down after over a decade of hosting the TR community at their lakeside cottage. Mother Nature did her part by handing us a clear day with a high near 75° F (24° C)—perfect for hanging out by Lake Michigan and enjoying everything the BBQ has to offer.

By my estimate, 54 people joined the festivities by the end of the day, keeping up a record of strong attendance that's persisted through the three BBQs I've attended. That number was bolstered by the large family of BBQ first-timer finkka, who cleaned up in our raffle by sheer numbers. I may have indulged in some of just brew it!'s wide-ranging beer selection while failing terribly at hacky sack with finkka and several other gerbils, as well. Let's hope there are no records of that event.

Speaking of, this year's BBQ was enlivened by some fresh faces and travelers from far afield. TR code monkey Bruno "morphine" Ferreira journeyed all the way from Portugal to drfish's beachside cottage, and our business guy Adam Eiberger drove up from Kansas City with Nathan "Gyromancer" Wasson in tow, leading to what may have been the most complete meeting of the TR staff in recent memory. Long-time TR supporter Corsair sent PR folks Harry Butler and Justin Ocbina out from California to visit with us, as well, along with a truckload of prizes to motivate our cornhole tournament participants. More on that in a moment.

zgirl's ribs are arguably the most critical part of any TR BBQ, and her hours of practiced low-and-slow cooking paid off in spades again this year. "Delicious" doesn't ever seem adequate to describe these delectable pork slabs, and my stomach is rumbling again as I write this. Seems going back for fourths wasn't enough. Our deepest thanks to Kelli for putting in the hard work to feed dozens of hungry nerds year after year, and to everybody who brought food and drinks to share.

Li battles Justin for beanbag supremacy

Once everybody's stomachs were full, the knives came out over the cornhole boards as attendees battled for supremacy in our beanbag tournament. I didn't follow through on my commitment to practice from last year, so I fell to Bruno's unconventional-but-effective overhand style in the preliminary round. In turn, Bruno was defeated by drfish's experienced hand in the first round of actual competition, making way for eligible gerbils to take a shot at our prize pool. And what a prize pool it was this year, thanks to the amazing contributions of Justin and Harry at Corsair and the audio wizards at Tunai.

Corsair threw in one of its Crystal 570X RGB LED-illuminated cases, two K95 Platinum keyboards, five Void headsets in an assortment of wired and wireless versions, and two MM800 Polaris RGB LED mouse pads.

Tunai contributed 10 each of its Clip Bluetooth headphone amplifiers and Firefly Bluetooth sinks to the pool.

Though zgirl put up an incredible fight, Josh S. ultimately emerged victorious for the second of my three BBQs. He took home a K95 Platinum keyboard and eternal fame.

zgirl grabbed a Void RGB headset from the pile as her second-place prize.

FroBozz_Inc took home the second K95 Platinum as his third-place trophy.

Dposcorp was the lucky winner in our raffle for the Crystal 570X case.

While many more prizes were subsequently given away, I didn't grab pictures of every winner. That's because with 30-plus Corsair T-shirts and 20 Tunai audio devices to choose from, nearly everybody who attended went home a winner in our random drawings. Our thanks again to Corsair and Tunai for their support of the TR BBQ.

After the sun set over Lake Michigan, perennial pyromaniac Shoes brought out a brand-new custom fireworks rig tailored to fire off bigger and brighter mortars than ever. My eyes have never been as dazzled nor my ears as deafened by a TR BBQ fireworks show. Shoes may need a permit if he keeps outdoing himself like this.

Best enjoyed muted.

I've said as much every year I've been, but it's only become truer with time: the TR BBQ is one of the highlights of my summer. The excellent food, friendly competition, and tight-knit community that's arisen from this event is a credit to drfish and everybody else who pitches in to make sure a fun time is had by all. The TR staff extends its thanks once again to drfish, zgirl, and everybody else who made this event possible. We'll see you all again next year.

25 comments — Last by albundy at 6:51 PM on 07/20/17

Google Glass returns as a tool for businesses
— 3:00 PM on July 18, 2017

The last we heard of Google Glass, the heads-up display spectacles had turned into something of a national punchline. Google stopped selling the devices to individual customers in 2015, and the public found other face-mounted displays to get hyped about. As it turns out, though, the Glass program didn't disappear. Instead, the Glass team has spent the last two years working with industry partners to develop a business-friendly variant of the spectacles called Glass Enterprise Edition.

For an idea of Glass' new lease on life, Google points to Agco, a manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment. The company's workers have been using Google Glass on the factory floor to help guide them through complicated assembly instructions. General Electric's aviation mechanics have also been using Glass instead of printed assembly manuals, and the company reports that the technology has helped them reduce errors and increase the efficiency of their mechanics. Other companies who've gotten on board with the revitalized Glass include DHL, Samsung, Boeing, and Volkswagen.

The new hardware looks like it operates similarly to previous versions of the device. The transparent display is still mounted to a pair of spectacles, although the new models look a lot more like safety goggles than designer glasses. Users can still issue verbal commands to interact with the device, access videos and other digital media, and initiate live video streams using a built-in camera.

Now that the Glass-for-business program has wrapped up its incubation period, the technology is back on the market again. Companies interested in the Glass Enterprise Edition headsets won't be buying them through Google, though. Instead, there's a list of Glass Partners, each with a industry specialty, that offer the devices, relevant software, and support to interested parties. Pricing will depend on the customization, training, and support needed.

10 comments — Last by frenchy2k1 at 6:04 PM on 07/19/17

BenQ Zowie XL2546 strobes its way to smooth motion at 240 Hz
— 1:30 PM on July 18, 2017

Back when we initially saw BenQ's competition-ready Zowie XL2540 monitor, the first question on my mind was whether it supported the company's blur reduction mode. Not long before, BenQ had released the Zowie XL2735 featuring an apparently-new technology called "Dynamic Accuracy," or DyAc. DyAc isn't actually new, though; it's a new name for the company's austerely-named BenQ Blur Reduction feature. Firestarter, ready your wallet, because BenQ's latest Zowie monitor is the 25", 240-Hz, DyAc-equipped XL2546.

In every perceptible way, the Zowie XL2546 is essentially an XL2540 with Dynamic Accuracy. That means its 1920x1080 TN panel has the same 24.5" viewable display area, 1000:1 static contrast ratio, 240-Hz refresh rate, and 1ms response time. BenQ specs a slightly lower typical brightness on the XL2546—320 cd/m², versus 400 cd/m² on the XL2540—but judging by the XL2735's example, that's probably because this monitor has the DyAc strobing technology permanently enabled.

If you aren't familiar with motion blur reduction features on gaming displays, they aren't snake oil or marketing magic. LCDs, OLEDs, and all other types of "always-on" display are susceptible to "sample-and-hold" blurring. This is actually caused by your eye's tendency to blur moving objects. Strobing the backlight simulates the effect that CRT monitors achieved by coincidence, and restores the truly clear motion that old farts like me grew up gaming on. Folks first figured this out by hacking the "Lightboost 3D" feature (intended to eliminate eye-to-eye crosstalk in 3D content designed for shutter glasses) to work in 2D mode.

A BenQ video demonstrating DyAc in action.

BenQ was one of the first companies to offer blur reduction as an intentional feature in its XL2411Z and XL2420Z monitors back in 2015. It's slowly creeping across the market as more gamers discover the beauty of clear motion. LG, Samsung, and Eizo all have monitors featuring custom blur reduction features now. Additionally, every G-Sync monitor supports Nvidia's Ultra-Low Motion Blur (ULMB) mode. ULMB works in a fundamentally similar way to BenQ's DyAc, except that it's not always-on.

That always-on feature is a major part of DyAc, because it means that the monitor was designed with strobing in mind from the get-go. Strobing the backlight has various side effects, most obviously reduced apparent brightness. Reducing the brightness also throws the color profile all out of whack, though, and some monitors exhibit major tint issues in strobe mode as a result. Since DyAc is always on, BenQ may have compensated for the resulting changes in image quality from the get-go. We don't explictly know that DyAc is always enabled on the XL2546 like it is on the XL2735, so we've requested clarification from BenQ on the matter.

Gamers will be able to hook up to the XL2546 using DL-DVI, Displayport 1.2, or HDMI 2.0. Getting that sweet 240-Hz refresh rate will require using one of the latter two connections, though. The monitor has both microphone and headphone jacks, as well as a three-port USB 3 hub. BenQ's stand supports pivot, swivel, tilt, and height adjustments, but if you prefer, you can VESA mount this monitor instead. B&H Photo Video has the BenQ Zowie XL2546 up for pre-order right now for $549.

27 comments — Last by Kretschmer at 12:19 AM on 07/20/17

IBM's latest Z mainframes offer a bulwark against data breaches
— 12:00 PM on July 18, 2017

Protecting data in an information economy is a tough task. Bigger data breaches have been occurring more often in recent memory, affecting retailers like Target and decidedly more seedy victims. In response to this growing problem, IBM has tooled up the Z (or Z14), its latest line of mainframe computers, to take a shot at stemming the tide. The new mainframe systems' claim to fame is their end-to-end encryption chops, a capability that IBM says will help to protect sensitive information from cybercriminals, state actors, and rogue employees both at rest and in flight.

IBM claims its new generation of big iron is specifically built to reduce corporate and government costs related to hacks and security breaches, and it's also poised to help businesses stay in compliance with new laws like the EU's General Data Protection Regulation. The company predicts that global cybercrime costs could top a heart-stopping $8 trillion by 2022, and the need for stronger encryption certainly seems pressing. According to IBM, only 4% of the nine billion data records stolen since 2013 were encrypted.

The company attributes the lagging use of encryption on corporate data stores to technological complexity in managing encrypted systems and to the reduced performance of x86 systems when extensive encryption is enabled. To ensure high performance when handling encrypted data, the company says that it has quadrupled the amount of silicon dedicated to cryptographic algorithms in the Z14 platform. The result is a claimed 18x performance increase in these scenarios compared to x86 servers. IBM further claims administrators will be able to encrypt data associated with entire databases, applications, or cloud services with a single click, as opposed to the piecemeal approach to encryption that's apparently common in today's organizations.

The company further says its new machines can protect millions of encryption keys with "tampering respoding" hardware that can invalidate the keys and restore them safely later. IBM has also created new encrypted APIs that will make it easy for developers to discover and use IBM Z applications from cloud services, as well, and that access to these APIs will be three times faster than with x86 systems serving similar requests.

As for the hardware, the Z mainframes are built up from 5.2 GHz ten-core processors built on a 14-nm silicon-on-insulator (SOI) process node. IBM says the z14 CPU boasts new single-instruction-multiple-data (SIMD) instructions for analytics and traditional floating-point workloads. The processor also has hardware-accelerated encryption capabilities and a specialized compression co-processor. Each Z server can pack as much as 32 TB of system memory, a three-fold increase over the older z13 models. IBM says the Z mainframes have triple the I/O performance of its last-generation systems, as well.

IBM says all this silicon, memory, and storage lets the Z mainframe process up to 12 billion encrypted transactions per day, offer up to 2.5x faster NodeJS performance, and 50% better Java performance than comparable x86 platforms. Administrators might also be able to host two million Docker containers and over 1000 concurrent NoSQL databases on a fully armed and operational Z14. The company didn't provide any pricing information for the new Z mainframes, but TheStreet says prices will start at a cool $500,000.

32 comments — Last by meerkt at 3:11 PM on 07/20/17

Adata ISSS314 TLC and MLC SSDs are ready for extremes
— 10:30 AM on July 18, 2017

A month ago Adata took the wraps off its IM2P3388 series of industrial-grade M.2 NVMe SSDs. The company's product planners must be aware that plenty of older silicon is left overseeing all manner of industrial hardware in the field, because the company is back with its ISSS314 SATA SSDs in TLC and more robust MLC varieties.

ISSS314 MLC drives are built with 3D MLC NAND flash in five capacities ranging from a meager 32 GB to a spacious 512 GB. Claimed sequential read speeds are as high as 560 MB/s and sequential writes are as fast as 520 MB/s, though we imagine only the highest-capacity drives are capable of hitting those targets. Commercial and industrial versions of this MLC drive are available. Adata says the commercial drives are rated for operation in temperatures from -14° F to 176° F (-10° to 80° C), and the industrial drives are specced to withstand temperatures from -40° F to 185° F (-40 to 85° C).

The TLC drives are available in three sizes from 128 GB to 512 GB and offer up the same sequential read and write specifications as the MLC models. The TLC drives are not as tolerant of extreme environmental conditions, however. Adata suggests operating temperatures from 32° F all the way up to 158° F (0° to 70° C) for these products.

The spec sheet for both drives is otherwise pretty thin, lacking the aforementioned endurance number, 4K IOPS figures, and the makes of the drive controllers and NAND chips. Adata did say that all ISSS314 drives can operate in conditions up to 95% non-condensing humidity, which is more than can be said for me. Adata didn't provide pricing or availability information for the ISSS314 MLC and ISSS314 TLC Industrial SSDs, but those that truly need industrial SSDs with extreme temperature capability will probably know where to find them.

1 comment — First by Chrispy_ at 11:52 AM on 07/19/17

Samsung will step up production of its 8GB HBM2 chips
— 9:04 AM on July 18, 2017

Echoing the rest of the DRAM market, HBM2 memory has been in short supply. There are only two companies producing the parts: Samsung and SK Hynix. Of the two, only Samsung is currently making 8GB modules (although that could change later this year). Today, Samsung announced that it's going to step up production of 8GB HBM2 packages to serve "rapidly growing market demand."

It's not hard for a PC enthusiast to imagine where those 8GB HBM2 parts might be going. AMD is already using 8GB HBM2 packages in its Radeon Vega Frontier Edition graphics cards, as well as its close cousins in the Radeon Instinct, Radeon Pro, and Radeon RX families. For its part, Nvidia doesn't seem to have tapped 8GB packages yet—even the mighty Tesla V100 uses four 4GB packages—but that could simply be down to a lack of supply. It's easy to imagine a forthcoming Quadro or Tesla part using two, three, or four 8GB HBM2 packages.

As a brief refresher, 8GB HBM2 dies can move 256 GB/s over a 1024-bit bus. Samsung trumpets the fact that it has over 850 patents (both awarded and pending) on technologies related to HBM2 memory, and that each package has over 40,000 through-silicon via connections. The company also says that it expects 8GB HBM2 packages will comprise more than half of the company's HBM2 manufacturing by the first half of next year. This writer wonders whether that means Samsung is seeing low demand for 4GB HBM2 packages, whether supply is already sufficient for those chips, or if the company is simply content to let its competition serve those customers. Only time will tell, we suppose.

24 comments — Last by Voldenuit at 10:46 AM on 07/19/17

Asus VP28UQG marries 4K and FreeSync in a budget display
— 3:31 PM on July 17, 2017

If you find yourself in the curious position of needing a 4K gaming monitor and not wanting to pay a lot for it, Asus might be able to hook you up. The company just updated its site with details for a new display, the VP28UQG. Like the MG28UQ before it, this monitor is a 28" display with a 3840x2160 resolution. It boasts a 1-ms response time courtesy of its overdriven TN panel.

The most common qualification that marks a monitor "for gaming" is high-refresh-rate support, and as a 4K monitor (without support for G-Sync HDR or FreeSync 2), the VP28UQG doesn't have it. It does support FreeSync, though, with a 40-to-60-Hz range of similar 4K gaming displays like my LG 24UD58. Asus specs this monitor for a 300 cd/m² brightness and 1000:1 contrast ratio, meaning both it and the MG28UQ are likely very closely related in both their panels and backlights.

Despite listing the monitor with 10-bit color support, Asus doesn't elaborate on its gamut. The VP28UQG drops the speakers and USB 3.0 hub of the MG28UQ, and it also adopts a more restrictive stand with only tilt adjustments. However, as a newer model, it swaps the HDMI 1.4 input of the MG28UQ for a second HDMI 2.0 input. That brings the final tally to two HDMI 2.0 jacks and a DisplayPort connection.

We don't actually know how much Asus plans to ask for the VP28UQG, but given the downgrades versus the MG28UQ—and its "V"-series branding—we expect it to be a fair whack cheaper. The MG28UQ goes for $430 at Newegg right now, and AOC's very similar U2879VF is on sale right now for $280 after promo code, so Asus' new baby will probably slot in somewhere between those two numbers.

42 comments — Last by RAGEPRO at 10:14 AM on 07/19/17