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DirectX Coming to Linux...Sort of

Microsoft is preparing to add the DirectX API support to WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux). The latest Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 will virtualize DirectX to Linux applications running on top of it. WSL is a translation layer for Linux apps to run on top of Windows. Unlike Wine, which attempts to translate Direct3D commands to OpenGL, what Microsoft is proposing is a real DirectX interface for apps in WSL, which can essentially talk to hardware (the host's kernel-mode GPU driver) directly.

To this effect, Microsoft introduced the Linux-edition of DXGkrnl, a new kernel-mode driver for Linux that talks to the DXGkrnl driver of the Windows host. With this, Microsoft is promising to expose the full Direct3D 12, DxCore, and DirectML. It will also serve as a conduit for third party APIs, such as OpenGL, OpenCL, Vulkan, and CUDA. Microsoft expects to release this feature-packed WSL out with WDDM 2.9 (so a future version of Windows 10).

Google Chrome Beta Receives Tab Grouping Feature

There are two types of people in the world: tab minimalists who have just a few tabs open at a time and tab collectors who have...significantly more. For minimalists and collectors alike, we're bringing a new way to organize your tabs to Chrome: tab groups. This feature is available now in Chrome Beta. Now, with a simple right click, you can group your tabs together and label them with a custom name and color. Once the tabs are grouped together, you can move and reorder them on the tab strip.

Unfixable Flaw Found in Thunderbolt Port that Unlocks any PC in Less Than 5 Minutes

Dutch researcher from the Eindhoven University of Technology has found a new vulnerability in Thunderbolt port that allows attackers with physical access to unlock any PC running Windows or Linux kernel-based OS in less than 5 minutes. The researcher of the university called Björn Ruytenberg found a method which he calls Thunderspy, which can bypass the login screen of any PC. This attack requires physical access to the device, which is, of course, dangerous on its own if left with a person of knowledge. The Thunderbolt port is a fast protocol, and part of the reason why it is so fast is that it partially allows direct access to computer memory. And anything that can access memory directly is a potential vulnerability.

The Thunderspy attack relies on just that. There is a feature built into the Thunderbolt firmware called "Security Level", which disallows access to untrusted devices or even turns off Thunderbolt port altogether. This feature would make the port be a simple USB or display output. However, the researcher has found a way to alter the firmware setting of Thunderbolt control chip in a way so it allows any device to access the PC. This procedure is done without any trace and OS can not detect that there was a change. From there, the magic happens. Using an SPI (Serial Peripheral Interface) programmer with a SOP8 clip that connects the pins of the programmer device to the controller, the attacker just runs a script from there. This procedure requires around $400 worth of hardware. Intel already put some protection last year for the Thunderbolt port called Kernel Direct Memory Access Protection, but that feature isn't implemented on PCs manufactured before 2019. And even starting from 2019, not all PC manufacturers implement the feature, so there is a wide group of devices vulnerable to this unfixable attack.
Thunderspy attack

Valve Removes SteamVR Support on macOS

Valve has announced that SteamVR will drop support for the macOS platform so that development teams can focus on Windows and Linux support. SteamVR users running macOS who wish to continue using SteamVR will need to opt-in for legacy macOS builds from the "Beta" tab under SteamVR properties. This measure will probably stop functioning relatively quickly as new hardware and software changes appear. This move doesn't come as much of a surprise as the macOS platform isn't known for its VR activity, in the long-term macOS users will have to migrate to an alternate operating system or dual boot if they wish to continue accessing SteamVR.

Lenovo to Ship ThinkPad Laptops with Fedora 32 Workstation Pre-installed

Lenovo's ageless ThinkPad line of business laptops have been known to be fiercely Wintel, but the company is diversifying both its hardware- and software- feature-sets, beginning with AMD "Picasso" powered ThinkPad T-series models, and now a big announcement along the sidelines of the Red Hat Summit - ThinkPads with Fedora 32 Workstation operating system pre-installed.

A new line of upcoming ThinkPads will ship with Fedora 32 Workstation pre-installed, along with preparation for the end-user to install proprietary software, such as NVIDIA GeForce official drivers, at first startup. Out of the box, the ThinkPads will include open-source software, pointing to OSS repositories. Fedora is an open-source (out of the box) free-software derived from Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and includes a flavor optimized for desktops, notebooks, and workstations, Fedora Workstation. Since the announcement comes from the Fedora team, we don't have hardware specifications of the ThinkPads, yet.
A video presentation by the Fedora Project follows.

OWC Unveils the Newest Iteration of its Wildly Popular Mercury Elite Pro External Storage Solution

OWC a leading zero emissions Mac and PC technology company and one of the world's most respected providers of hard drives, SSDs, Mac & PC docking solutions and performance upgrade kits, today announced the latest edition of its legendary Mercury Elite Pro external storage system for Mac, PC, Linux machines, Smart TVs, and PS4 and Xbox consoles. The 3.5-inch USB 3.2 5 Gb/s hard drive system is a modern day workhorse, delivering real-world performance up to 283 MB/s and capacities up to 16 TB to keep pace with the demands of everything from video editing projects, critical business data, and irreplaceable personal content to expanding PS4/Xbox One game storage and enjoying music/video content via a Smart TV.

The Essential External Storage Solution for Everyone
The Mercury Elite Pro kicked off OWC's rich, storied history of storage solution innovations nearly 20 years ago, and it has successfully stood the test of time by continuing to offer an incomparable blend of performance, quality, and value in a single HDD storage solution.
OWC Mercury Elite Pro OWC Mercury Elite Pro

Intel joins CHIPS Alliance to promote Advanced Interface Bus (AIB) as an open standard

CHIPS Alliance, the leading consortium advancing common and open hardware for interfaces, processors and systems, today announced industry leading chipmaker Intel as its newest member. Intel is contributing the Advanced Interface Bus (AIB) to CHIPS Alliance to foster broad adoption.

CHIPS Alliance is hosted by the Linux Foundation to foster a collaborative environment to accelerate the creation and deployment of open SoCs, peripherals and software tools for use in mobile, computing, consumer electronics and Internet of Things (IoT) applications. The CHIPS Alliance project develops high-quality open source Register Transfer Level (RTL) code and software development tools relevant to the design of open source CPUs, SoCs, and complex peripherals for Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) and custom silicon.

Khronos Group Releases Vulkan 1.2

Today, The Khronos Group, an open consortium of industry-leading companies creating advanced interoperability standards, announces the release of the Vulkan 1.2 specification for GPU acceleration. This release integrates 23 proven extensions into the core Vulkan API, bringing significant developer-requested access to new hardware functionality, improved application performance, and enhanced API usability. Multiple GPU vendors have certified conformant implementations, and significant open source tooling is expected during January 2020.

Vulkan continues to evolve by listening to developer needs, shipping new functionality as extensions, and then consolidating extensions that receive positive developer feedback into a unified core API specification. Carefully selected API features are made optional to enable market-focused implementations. Many Vulkan 1.2 features were requested by developers to meet critical needs in their engines and applications, including: timeline semaphores for easily managed synchronization; a formal memory model to precisely define the semantics of synchronization and memory operations in different threads; descriptor indexing to enable reuse of descriptor layouts by multiple shaders; deeper support for shaders written in HLSL, and more.

Intel 10 nm Ice Lake is Alive: Server and Desktop Support Added to the Linux Kernel

There were many rumors about Intel's 10 nm CPUs, many of them indicating that Intel will not manufacture 10 nm CPUs for desktop users, due to the 10 nm manufacturing process being in a bad shape. Those rumors were later countered by Intel, claiming that 10 nm is doing very well on improving yields and that we will see desktop CPUs based on the new node very soon.

Thanks to the Linux kernel mailing list (LKML), we now know that support for Ice Lake desktop and server CPUs has been added. A Patch titled "Add more CPU model number for Ice Lake" has many details about variants of Ice Lake with names like Ice Lake X for server Xeon CPU, Ice Lake D for Xeon D CPUs, Ice Lake L for mobile, and regular Ice Lake for desktop series of CPUs. This confirms Intel's claims that Ice Lake is on its way to desktop and server users in the near future. Possible launch date on these CPUs would be sometime in 2020, when Xe graphics cards are launched in July/August, so Intel could bundle both processors on the same 10 nm node.

Intel Submits USB4 Support to the Linux Kernel

As we are nearing the launch of USB4, which will feature Thunderbolt 3 like speeds of up to 40 Gbps, PCIe and DisplayPort support within USB-C form factor, there are already drivers showing up to support the new standard and ensure the launch and transition to the newest USB version will go smoothly.

According to the finds of Phoronix, Intel's open-source engineers have been working on a patch to support the new standard in the Linux kernel. Being based on Thunderbolt 3, the bring-up of USB4 isn't very difficult as it allows for a lot of code reuse, making things easier for kernel developers. Only 22 patches were submitted that resulted in under 4,000 lines of new code in total. For now, the support is in the stage of a pull request, so it should go mainstream very soon, most likely with the release of Linux kernel 5.5, if other features like power management are worked out soon.

Intel Says Its Upcoming Gen12 GPUs Will Feature Biggest Architecture Change In A Decade

Intel is slowly realizing plans to "one up" its GPU game starting from first 10 nm Ice Lake CPUs that feature Gen11 graphics, equipping users of integrated GPUs with much more performance than they previously got. Fortunately, Intel doesn't plan to stop there. Thanks to the recent pull request found on GitLab Mesa repository, we can now expect to receive biggest GPU performance bump in over a decade with the arrival of Gen12 based GPUs, found on next generation Tiger Lake processors.

In this merge request, Francisco Jerez, member of Intel's open source Linux graphics team, stated the following: "Gen12 is planned to include one of the most in-depth reworks of the Intel EU ISA since the original i965. The encoding of almost every instruction field, hardware opcode and register type needs to be updated in this merge request. But probably the most invasive change is the removal of the register scoreboard logic from the hardware, which means that the EU will no longer guarantee data coherency between register reads and writes, and will require the compiler to synchronize dependent instructions anytime there is a potential data hazard..."

Din's Legacy Released

Soldak Entertainment today announced Din's Legacy has been released. Din's Legacy is an action RPG with mutating characters, set in a dynamic, evolving, fantasy world for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

During the Orc Schism, the entire Orc race was violently split into Dark Orcs, Zombielords, and the Mutated. The Mutated are tainted with Orc blood, a zombie parasite, and necromancer magic. This makes people seriously mistrust and even fear them. The fact that they slowly mutate over time makes it even worse. Who is going to trust you when you grow horns overnight?

Battle Heresy from Within - Heretek is Out Now

Kasedo Games and Bulwark Studios are pleased to announce that Heretek, the expansion to the critically acclaimed Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus, is now available for Windows PC, Mac & Linux, priced at $9.99, €9.99, £6.99.

Exposing the dark underbelly of the Adeptus Mechanicus faction like never before, in Heretek, players must uncover what has brought civil unrest to The Caestus Metalican while also battling the fearsome Necrons on Silva Tenebris.

ARM Revokes Huawei's Chip IP Licence

As the trade war between the US and China continues to unfold, we are seeing major US companies ban or stop providing service to China's technology giant Huawei. Now, it looks like the trade war has crossed the ocean and reached the UK. This time, UK based ARM Holdings, the provider of mobile chip IP for nearly all smartphones and tablets, has revoked the license it has given Huawei.

According to the BBC, ARM Holdings employees were instructed to suspend all interactions with Huawei, and to send a note informing Huawei that "due to an unfortunate situation, they were not allowed to provide support, deliver technology (whether software, code, or other updates), engage in technical discussions, or otherwise discuss technical matters with Huawei, HiSilicon or any of the other named entities." The news came from an internal ARM document the BBC has obtained.

Intel Releases ModernFW as Open Source, minimal Firmware Replacement

Today Intel announced ModernFW - an experimental approach to building a minimum viable platform firmware for machines such as cloud server platforms. The reason for this software is that, while traditional PC Firmware has evolved over time and retained its backward compatibility, it has become very big and often inefficient.

So to meet the requirements of new platforms that need to be built quickly and adapted easily, Intel decided to offer a new software package that will help with that. The new firmware package targets x86_64 from ISA standpoint and Linux kernel based OSes.

SUSE Linux Among First Operating Systems to Natively Support Intel Optane DC Persistent Memory

SUSE today announced support for Intel Optane DC persistent memory with SAP HANA . Running on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP Applications, SAP HANA users can now take advantage of high-capacity Intel Optane DC persistent memory in the data center. Users can optimize their workloads by moving and maintaining larger amounts of data closer to the processor and minimizing the higher latency of fetching data from system storage during maintenance. Support for Intel Optane DC persistent memory, currently available in beta from multiple cloud service providers and hardware vendors, is another way SUSE is helping customers transform their IT infrastructures to reduce costs, deliver higher performance and compete more efficiently.

"Persistent memory technology will spark new applications for data access and storage," said Thomas Di Giacomo, SUSE CTO. "By offering a fully supported solution built on Intel Optane DC persistent memory, businesses can take greater advantage of the performance of SAP HANA. SUSE continues to partner with companies like SAP and Intel to serve customers worldwide who are looking to fuel growth by transforming their IT infrastructure. It is their needs that drive the direction of our innovation."

IBM Expands Strategic Partnership with Samsung to Include 7nm Chip Manufacturing

IBM today announced an agreement with Samsung to manufacture 7-nanometer (nm) microprocessors for IBM Power Systems , IBM Z and LinuxONE , high-performance computing (HPC) systems, and cloud offerings. The agreement combines Samsung's industry-leading semiconductor manufacturing with IBM's high-performance CPU designs. This combination is being designed to drive unmatched systems performance, including acceleration, memory and I/O bandwidth, encryption and compression speed, as well as system scaling. It positions IBM and Samsung as strategic partners leading the new era of high-performance computing specifically designed for AI.

"At IBM, our first priority is our clients," said John Acocella, Vice President of Enterprise Systems and Technology Development for IBM Systems. "IBM selected Samsung to build our next generation of microprocessors because they share our level of commitment to the performance, reliability, security, and innovation that will position our clients for continued success on the next generation of IBM hardware."

Basemark GPU 1.1 Update Released, Adds DirectX 12 Support

Today Basemark releases version 1.1 of its multi-platform graphics hardware evaluation tool Basemark GPU. Basemark GPU has been made available for free to download and use for personal users. Additionally, Basemark has provided professional versions for Benchmark Development Program members, corporate and commercial users.

Basemark GPU 1.1 Benchmark offers unparalleled, objective comparisons between Vulkan, OpenGL, OpenGL ES and now DirectX 12 for graphics performance analysis across both mobile and desktop platforms. Our desktop Linux version of Basemark GPU 1.1 will be available in the next few days utilizing the easily installable universal Flatpak delivery format.

Basemark GPU is available for download now.

Linux Won't Boot on New MacBook Air: Apple's T2 Security Chip Prevents It

The new MacBook Air with Retina display is overall a nice upgrade from the old versions of these laptops. There's one caveat, though: the new T2 chip that manages Touch ID's Secure Enclave, APFS storage encryption or UEFI Secure Boot validation will make it impossible to boot with a Linux distribution. Apple's T2 documentation (PDF) explicitly covers how the support for booting Linux is not available: the Microsoft Corporation UEFI CA 2011 certificate used also by Linux distributions isn't trusted at this moment, so the T2 chip will make it impossible to boot from Linux distributions. Only Windows is allowed to boot via Boot Camp at the moment.

Apple's Secure Boot support page shows how the new 'Startup Security Utility' can be used to disable Secure Boot, but some people have tried to boot Linux through this method and even with that change it's impossible to boot Linux. The problem extends to the rest of machines including the T2 Security Chip, like the Mac mini, the iMac Pro or the MacBook Pro 2018, for example. Apple hasn't made any comments on the issue.

AMD Zen 2 GNU Compiler Patch Published, Exposes New Instruction Sets

With a November deadline for feature freeze fast approaching, GNU toolchain developers are now adding the last feature additions to GCC 9.0 (GNU Compiler Collection). Ahead of that deadline, AMD has released their first basic patch adding the "znver2" target and therefore Zen 2 support to GCC. While the patch uses the same cost tables and scheduler data as Znver1, it does feature three new instructions that will be available to AMD's next-gen CPUs which include; Cache Line Write Back (CLWB), Read Processor ID (RDPID), and Write Back and Do Not Invalidate Cache (WBNOINVD).

These three instructions are the only ones that have been found thus far by digging through the current code. Taking into account this is the first patch it can be considered a jumping off point, making sure that the GCC 9.1 stable update, which comes out in 2019, has support for Zen 2. Further optimizations and instructions may be implemented in the future. This is likely since AMD has yet to update the scheduler cost tables and by extension means they may not want to reveal everything about Zen 2 just yet. You could say AMD is for now playing it safe, at least until their 7nm EPYC 2 processors launch in 2019.

Two Months After Proton Over 2,500 Windows Games Work On Linux Through Steam Play

Proton is a new tool released by Valve Software that has been integrated with Steam Play to make playing Windows games on Linux as simple as hitting the Play button within Steam. Underneath the hood, Proton comprises other popular tools like Wine and DXVK among others that a gamer would otherwise have to install and maintain themselves. This greatly eases the burden for users to switch to Linux without having to learn the underlying systems or losing access to a large part of their library of games. Proton is still in its infancy so support is inconsistent, but regularly improving and the list of supported Windows games is growing each day.

In fact, this project has announced that it has now over 2,500 Windows games (2,663 at the time of writing) that work on Linux with Proton and Steam Play. Beyond those supported "whitelisted" games, there are several others that although not-whitelisted are supported and "play just as well as on Windows". Some examples are "No Man's Sky", "The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt", "Wolfenstein: The New Order" or "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim". Any user can contribute and report about the titles in his game library thanks to ProtonDB.

AMD Vega 20 Possible Performance Spotted in Final Fantasy XV Benchmark

It would appear AMD's 7nm Vega 20 has been benchmarked in Final Fantasy XV. While the details are scarce, what we do know is the hardware device ID 66AF:C1 can be linked to Vega 20 via the Linux patches back in April. Now considering AMD has not confirmed any 7nm Vega graphics cards for consumers, It is more likely this version is an engineering sample for the new Radeon Instinct or Pro series cards.

Microsoft Joins the Open Invention Network, Adds 60,000 Patents To Protect Linux and Open Source

Steve Ballmer once said 'Linux is a cancer'. Times have changed a lot, and since Satya Nadella became CEO of Microsoft, Linux and Open Source have become really important for Redmond's company. Azure is based on Linux, for example, and this OS dominates the cloud platform with about half of Azure VMs being Linux ones). Running Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, SuSE or Fedora is also possible natively under Windows 10 through Windows Subsystem for Linux.

The company has made big strategic acquisitions, and Microsoft recently acquired Github, but that approach to Linux and Open Source goes further with the new announcement. Microsoft has joined the Open Invention Network (OIN), a consortium that defines itself as a "shared defensive patent pool with the mission to protect Linux". With that move, Microsoft is bringing 60,000 patents to OIN that will be available royalty-free to anyone who joins the OIN community.

Linux Community Hit by the Blight of Social Justice Warfare, A Great Purge is Coming

Through the 1990s, Microsoft had become a super-corporation threatening to monopolize all of computing. A band of talented developers got together with lawyers that could fish out loopholes in proprietary licenses, and with some generosity from big software, Linux grew from a scrappy Unix-like OS kernel to the preeminent operating system for enterprises at first, and handheld consumer electronics later. Today it's most popular operating system on the planet. Like every big organization, the Linux Foundation is hit by employee-activism.

Employee-activism is the new unionism. Whereas trade-unions of the old fought for tangible bread-and-butter issues affecting blue-collar folk of the early Industrial era, today's employee-activist is an intellectual predator seeking to maximize their organizational footprint on the backs of other people echoing their political ideas, often through blatant insubordination and disregard for the chain of command. Survival of the fittest has changed to "survival of the loudest." From forcing Linus Torvalds to apologize for speaking his mind in public, to coming up with a new Code of Conduct document, social-justice activism within the Linux Foundation threatens to devolve the culture of meritocracy to a toxic "safe space" prioritizing inclusion of identity rather than skill, as HardOCP comments. A major blow-back from the meritocrats is taking shape.

AMD Implements xGMI for "Vega 20" as Competition to NVLink

xGMI (inter-chip global memory interconnect) is a cable-capable version of AMD's Infinity Fabric interconnect. A line of code in the latest version of AMDGPU Linux drivers reveals that "Vega 20" will support xGMI. This line tells the driver to check the state of xGMI link. A practical implementation of this could be inter-card high-bandwidth bridge connectivity that would otherwise saturate the PCI-Express host bus; similar to NVIDIA's usage of the new NVLink bridge for Quadro and Tesla products based on its "Volta" and "Turing" GPU architectures.

By no means should xGMI and NVLink implementations be interpreted as a coming back of multi-GPU to the gaming space. There are still no takers for DirectX 12 multi-GPU, and fewer AAA games support SLI or CrossFire. Even at higher resolutions/refresh-rates, existing SLI/CrossFire physical-layer standards have sufficient bandwidth for multi-GPU. The upcoming GeForce RTX 2000 graphics cards feature a new multi-GPU connector that's physically NVLink, but this is probably an attempt by NVIDIA to discard the legacy SLI bus and minimize redundant interfaces on its silicon. The TU102 and TU104 chips are implemented in the enterprise segment with the Quadro RTX family. The main application of xGMI/NVLink is to make multi-GPU hardware setups abstract to deep-learning software, so hardware can scale in the background with memory access spanning multiple GPUs. "Vega 20" will be launched in Radeon Pro and Radeon Instinct avatars late-2018.
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