Tag: steam

Intel’s eight core plans revealed

While Intel is about to release some of the first processors based on its Haswell-E specifications, it is starting to look like they will not be the eight core fiestas expected.

Of the three Haswell-E Core i7 CPUs expected, only one of them, the Core i7-5960X, will actually come with 8 cores, and that is the one which will cost an arm and a leg to buy.

The Core i7-5960X and the other two, the i7-5930K and i7-5820K, will contain only six cores.

Dubbed the Core i7-5960X Extreme Edition, the flagship CPU of the first Haswell-E lineup and will have two more cores and four more threads than the company’s current Ivy Bridge-E based Core i7-4960X Extreme Edition processor.

Built around the 22nm Haswell architecture, this new 8-core CPU will head to the deep-pocketed gaming community.

The Core i7-5960X will be clocked at a 3.0GHz base, with a 3.3GHz boost frequency. It will also include support for the latest DDR4 2133MHz memory, and 20MB of L3 cache as well. In addition, its power rating will be 140 watts TDP, or only 10 more watts than the 6-core i7-4960X.

The new DDR4 memory controller resides on the processor and the RAM is directly connected to the CPU. The DDR4 modules themselves use only 1.2 volts of power, compared to DDR3’s 1.65/1.5 volts.

The two other Haswell-E Core i-7 chips are 6-core, 12-thread processors. Aside from clock speeds, their specifications are primarily the same. The i7-5930K runs at 3.5GHz, about a 3.9-4.0GHz boost, but it is nearly half the price. The i7-5820K, will run at a 3.3GHz base, with a 3.6-3.8GHz clock boost. It will list for around $300. Both will support a 15MB L3 Cache.

So the question is what is it about eight cores that make shelling out that sort of money cost effective? At that price Intel has priced the 8-core i7-5690X out of mainstream machines.

All three processors will be compatible with Intel’s upcoming x99 chipset and motherboards. We expect them out during the fourth quarter.

It is possible however that next year will be the year of the less-expensive, 6-core CPU. 

Russians want AMD and Intel out

The Russian government has decided that it is much safer not to use Intel and AMD chips and it wants home grown chips used in government computers.

Russia’s Industry and Trade Ministry announced that it will replace Intel and AMD chips with domestically-produced micro processor Baikal in a project worth dozens of millions of dollars,.

The Baikal micro processor will be designed by a unit of T-Platforms, a producer of supercomputers, next year, with support from state defence conglomerate Rostec and co-financing by state-run technological giant Rosnano.

The first products will be Baikal M and M/S chips, designed on the basis of 64-bit nucleus Cortex A-57 made by UK company ARM, with frequency of 2GHz for personal computers and micro servers.

The Baikal chips will be installed on computers of government bodies and in state-run firms, which purchase some 700,000 personal computers annually worth $500 million and 300,000 servers worth $800 million. The total volume of the market amounts to about five million devices worth $3.5 billion.

Russia has been unhappy with Intel and AMD since the US government’s spying programme was revealed and routers from Cisco were found to have been intercepted and installed with bugs.

The US tech industry is terrified that the other governments will follow suit in response to American spying programmes. 

AMD is split in two

Designer of chips, AMD, has split itself into two groups and promoted two executives for the next phase of its cunning plan to make some cash.

The company has struggled financially in recent years, with a loss in the most recent quarter after two consecutive quarters of modest profits.

Under the restructuring, Lisa Su is being promoted to chief operating officer and is now seen as a number two to CEO Rory Read. She will head up the Enterprise, Embedded and Semi-Custom Business Group. Su is currently senior vice president and general manager of global business units and will take on her new role July 1.

Meanwhile the other division will be ruled by Scotsman John Byrne who has been named senior vice president and general manager of the new Computing and Graphics Business Group, which includes PC and tablet chips and graphics products. Byrne is currently AMD’s chief sales officer.

Restructurings are fairly dull but this one reduces focus on what is left of AMD’s foundry operations. After selling its foundry operations to GlobalFoundries in 2009, AMD hired a team to fix the manufacturing problems. However AMD has claimed its manufacturing issued are a thing of the past and in April signed a new wafer-supply agreement with GlobalFoundries.

Like many restructurings it is impossible to tell at this point if it has just meant that two senior executives have been given more power to allow the CEO to become a more distant figure and give him or her more time for golf. There have been no mention of redundancies or much in the way of mooted change. 

AMD runs out of steam

The success of the SteamOS Linux distribution is revealing that AMD is going to get a kicking in the future and it just cannot see it.

For a decade it would have been fair enough for a consumer chipmaker to ignore Linux. All those who said <insert this year> will be the year of Linux on the desktop were usually greeted with much mockery.

While 2014 is not the year that Linux will take control of the desktop either, the writing is appearing on the wall and it is silly for AMD to ignore it.

SteamOS users are suffering from a lack of proper AMD driver support and it is taking ages for anyone to get games on the OS running.

Valve used Nvidia and Intel hardware, with the promise that AMD support will arrive later, however no one seems to be in a rush.

AMD support for Linux is pants and there is no reasonable OpenGL support. Moreover AMD is unwilling to expand the drivers.

Nvidia is doing well at working with game developers and Valve and is even bringing in new features like overclocking. AMD drivers just fix some problems with the software.

So why is AMD providing rubbish support for those who snub Windows? By refusing to see how things are going with Valve, they are ignoring the way that the industry is headed and in the long term it is going to suffer for its mistake.

Users who want to get the most out of their Steam box will buy an Nvidia and Intel combo, not because they want to, but because AMD will have such a bad reputation.

What is important to realise here is that gamers have been AMD’s bread and butter for a while. The fact they want to change their operating system should make no difference to the chipmaker, but the fact is that it does. 

Valve confirms it will have AMD GPUs inside its Steam Boxes

Valve has confirmed that its new Steam Machine game consoles will use AMD graphics chips and not just Nvidia GPUs.

Prototypes of Valve’s Steam Machine consoles, which were seen last week used Intel CPUs and graphics chips made by Nvidia. But a spokesman for Valve Software has confirmed that future designs will use AMD graphics.

At the time of the launch there was a confusing statement from Steam. It said that the graphics hardware which had been selected for the first wave of Steam Machine prototypes included a variety of Nvidia cards. However it warned that it was not indication that Steam Machines are Nvidia-only.

Now it seems that it has clarified that position by saying that there will be Steam Machines with graphics hardware made by AMD, Nvidia, and Intel.

Valve has worked closely with all three of these companies on optimising their hardware for SteamOS, and will continue to do so into the near future, the spokesman said

What is still not clear is if the Steam Machines would actually use AMD’s microprocessors, or just still to Intel’s creations.

The Steam Machines are Valve’s attempt to create a working console. It has also released a large number of different specs with varying hardware.

The company thinks that there will be a significant percentage of Steam users would actually want to purchase—those who want plenty of performance in a high-end living-room package. Others will want budget machines, or super quiet versions.

When the specs came out, many were surprised that AMD was not included because of its strong presence in the graphics and games market. AMD chips had also been under the bonnet of both the Sony and Microsoft consoles.

This led PC World to get onto the blower and ask AMD why it been excluded from the Steam Machine programme.

AMD confirmed that it had been actively engaged with Valve on these products and campaigns. Valve has not named the AMD GPUs which will be used. 

Valve's SteamOS takes on consoles

Valve founder Gabe Newell has dismissed Windows 8 as a “catastrophe” and gone on the attack with his own Linux-based, gaming operating system, SteamOS.

Valve has won the hearts and minds of PC gamers with its Steam platform – a popular portal for buying games and arranging cooperative play, infamous for its sales that see fans lumbered with more games than they can play.

The Linux based OS will be based on the PC platform and let users stream games from their computer to the living room. SteamOS has the living room squarely in mind: “As we’ve been working on bringing Steam to the living room, we’ve come to the conclusion that the environment best suited to delivering value to customers is an operating system built around Steam itself,” Valve says.

In addition to bringing PC gaming to the “big screen”, Valve promises it’s working with “many of the media services you know and love”, claiming to bring music and video to SteamOS. There will also be family sharing options so games can be shared in the same household, letting users earn achievements for their own profiles. 

Valve says the operating system will be open, meaning greater customisation for developers and the end user on the hardware and software front. 

The company is expected to make further announcements, possibly this week. Rumours have been floating around for some time now that Valve will bring out its own hardware, nicknamed Steam Box by fans, which could complement SteamOS. 

Head of games at IHS, Piers Harding-Rolls, believes there will be some hurdles for Valve to jump. Although it recognises the lofty ambitions of the company, it believes Valve opening up Steam to third party manufacturers “reflects the limitations the company faces in building its living room presence” using just its own technology.

But Valve’s large userbase, and putting together an OS which can be adopted by hardware partners, can be a threat to the traditional console base, as well as putting pressure on Apple and Google which have so far not managed to tackle the living room.

IHS warns even if Valve announces its own brand hardware, there are questions about whether it will manage to get the balance right between ricing and usability. If SteamOS needs a high specification PC to stream content, this threatens to cut its potential.

“The long delay to the platform reflects that finding the right commercial balance is not easy to achieve,” IHS says.

Valve confirms Steam console

Valve has confirmed that it will be making a foray into hardware, with its Steam set top box expected to debut next year.

Speaking with Kotaku, Valve boss Gabe Newell appeared to confirm the company will begin selling a hardware system that would link up to a TV, with games downloadable through its online store.

Newell’s comments follow months of speculation that Valve will begin to provide hardware for the living room. The company made a step towards this earlier this year by creating a Big Picture mode that allows content purchased through Steam to be optimised for larger screens.   

Steam has so far made its fortune selling PC games – enticing customers with tempting deals that has turned enormous software libraries into something of a meme.

Supporting PC gaming in the living room will be a very “controlled environment”, blurring the lines between a PC and a console. “In a sense we hopefully are gonna unify those environments,”  Newell said, adding that he expects other companies will do the same.

By throwing its hat into the ring, Valve could make life difficult for some of the big name console producers. Along with Valve’s open source platform, the Kickstarter funded Android console, Ouya, is also in development, priced at under $100. Ouya is expected to see a release in 2013.

Although these consoles might not have the power that could be expected from the typical console makers, the smaller price tag could tempt some gamers away from spending hundreds on a high end, marquee name console.  This would be bad news for the big console manufacturers which often have to sell hardware at a loss to begin with.

However, Microsoft appears to be preempting this with the rumoured development of its own TV compatible devices, with an Xbox style set top box said to be in development.

By the time the next generation consoles debut, the living room could be a lot more crowded than when the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 were released.

Nvidia pushes Linux to the limit

Nvidia has released its latest Nvidia GeForce drivers which it claims has double the performance and dramatically reduce game loading times for those playing games with Linux.

The move is part of Nvidia’s attempts to get in with Valve and other game developers who have seen a need for Linux based games, particularly on the Steam platform.

According to Nvidia, the GeForce R310 drivers are designed to give GeForce customers the best possible Linux-based PC gaming experience.

The drivers are available for download at www.geforce.com and have been tested with Steam for Linux, the extension of Valve’s phenomenally popular Steam gaming platform that officially opened to gamers starting today.

Doug Lombardi, vice president of marketing at Valve said that Nvidia has managed to increase the overall gaming performance under Linux.

This has put Nvidia in a position of leadership developing R310 drivers with us and other studios to provide an absolutely unequalled software for Linux gamers.

The R310 drivers support the newest GeForce GTX 600 series GPUs. Gamers with previous generation GeForce GPUs, including the 8800 GT and above, are encouraged to download these new drivers too.

It appears that Nvidia is carving a niche for its self as Steam starts to peddle more Linux games. 

Valve posts hardware job ad

Streaming online game distribution outfit Valve is about to make a hardware product.

The company has just started searching for hardware engineers and posted an advert for an “industrial designer”.

According to the job ad, Valve was “frustrated” by the lack of innovation in computer hardware and wants to change things.

According to the advert, successful applicants could be working on replacements for the mouse and keyboard.

We have known for a while that Valve wanted to expand beyond games into hardware but the company has never revealed what is in its collective mind.

The job ad said that while Valve owes a lot to the PC it wanted to jump start the pace of innovation by wading in itself.

Basic input, the keyboard and mouse, haven’t really changed in any meaningful way over the years and there is a real void in the marketplace, and opportunities to create compelling user-experiences are being overlooked, the advert said.

Valve wants engineers with six years in product development and to be familiar with 2D and 3D design tools.

The ad could be seen as its much touted, always denied, move into console gaming. There have been claims that Valve has wanted to put its Steam online gaming service into a stand-alone box.

Steam is supposed to start selling non-game software from 5 September, suggesting that if it does venture into hardware, it would like to keep its PC base as well.

Richard Stallman pours cold water on Steam

While many open sourcers have welcomed the news that the games company Steam might be making thousands of games available for Linux, Free Software Guru Richard Stallman is not impressed.

Writing from his bog, Stallman said that while the availability of popular nonfree programs on GNU/Linux can boost adoption of the system, it may not bring enough freedom.

He said that nonfree games were unethical because they deny freedom to their users. So if users want freedom the only way they can do that is to only have free software on their computer.

Stallman admits that if you must use these games you’re better off using them on GNU/Linux rather than on Windows. In other words, if it comes to which is better to lose your freedom on, it is better Linux than Voleware.

He thinks that Steam’s move might do both harm and good. It could encourage GNU/Linux users to install these games, and it might encourage users of the games to replace Windows with GNU/Linux.

While Stallman thinks that the direct positive effect will be larger than the direct harm, it will teach bad things to little outsourcers.

He claimed that any GNU/Linux distro that comes with software to offer these games will teach users that the point is not freedom. He already thinks that nonfree software in GNU/Linux distros works against the goal of freedom, and this would make matters worse.

Stallman said that if hardline open sourcers want to promote freedom they should not talk about the availability of these games on GNU/Linux as supporting their cause. 

Instead you could tell people about the Liberated Pixel Cup free game contest, the Free Game Dev Forum, and the LibrePlanet Gaming Collective’s free gaming night, which are much more exciting than getting the latest Halo.