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Unreal Engine 4.25 Released Featuring Beta Support for Next Generation Consoles

EPIC Games has announced that a new version of its industry-spanning Unreal Engine is now available. Version 4.25 adds Beta support for development specifically geared for upcoming, next generation Xbox Series X and PS5 consoles, thus allowing non-first-party studios to accelerate their development on the platform using the tried and true Unreal game engine. Part of this support includes development modules for next-gen audio features - remember these consoles will feature hardware-accelerated audio that's supposed to kick audio development in games towards the next gear.

It remains to be seen what exactly developers will be ready to achieve, but has consoles become the most common development dominator for upcoming games, their specs will definitely facilitate advancements in game development for the future. High core-count CPUs and GPUs, right alongside high-speed storage in the form of NVMe-based systems will now become the norm, which means us PC gamers will also reap some benefits from these development requirements. Version 4.25 of the Unreal Engine also adds production-ready support for Niagara VFX (used for water animations), as well as for the Chaos physics and destruction system that is already employed in Fortnite. New shading capabilities are also in store for developers.

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.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX GPUs to Support the DirectX 12 Ultimate API

NVIDIA graphics cards, starting from the current generation GeForce RTX "Turing" lineup, will support the upcoming DirectX 12 Ultimate API. Thanks to a slide obtained by our friends over at VideoCardz, we have some information about the upcoming iteration of the DirectX 12 API made by Microsoft. In the new API revision, called "DirectX 12 Ultimate", it looks like there are some enhancements made to the standard DirectX 12 API. From the leaked slide we can see the improvements coming in the form of a few additions.

The GeForce RTX lineup will support the updated version of API with features such as ray tracing, variable-rate shading, mesh shader, and sampler feedback. While we do not know why Microsoft decided to call this the "Ultimate" version, it is possibly used to convey clearer information about which features are supported by the hardware. In the leaked slide there is a mention of consoles as well, so it is coming to that platform as well.

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.

AMD Releases Radeon Software Adrenalin 2019 Edition 19.10.1 with Support for Radeon RX 5500 and RX 5500M

AMD today released a newest update to its Radeon Adrenalin driver. Dubbed version 19.10.1, the new release brings many new bug fixes and improvements to the table. For starters it will enable support for the newly released Radeon RX 5500 an 5500M desktop and mobile graphics cards, so now the buyers of these cards will have a driver from day one to start their experience smoothly. Additionally, support for the upcoming game "GRID", set to release on October 11th, is also included with this driver release.

Download the Adrenalin 19.10.1 Driver here.
The change-log follows.

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.

AMD's Latest AGESA Update Removes PCIe 4.0 Support from Pre-X570 Motherboards

AMD's latest AGESA update, which is being seeded to motherboard manufacturers, culls efforts to implement support for PCIe 4.0 in boards not carrying the latest X570 chipset. Some motherboard manufacturers had enabled support for the new standard on existing B450 and X470 motherboards - some with limited support, as was the case on some of ASUS' motherboards, others with full support. However, these efforts from motherboard manufacturers went against AMD's strategy with their X570 platform - all in all, these "rogue additions" reduced one additional feature of new X570 motherboards over their older counterparts.

The new AGESA code carries the part number AM4 1.0.0.3 ABB, and will likely be reflected in manufacturers' release notes for new BIOS versions that incorporate the code - and remove added PCIe 4.0 functionality. Other changes in this AGESA code release include fixes for Destiny 2 gamers' woes, which were having a hard time getting the game to run properly on Ryzen 3000 processors. If you're an avid Destiny 2 player and want PCIe 4.0 support, you'll likely be reminded of Rick and Morty's pickle episode. If not, you can always defer these AM4 1.0.0.3 ABB updates, if your system is behaving properly.

Epic Games Supports Blender Foundation with $1.2 million Epic MegaGrant

Epic Games, as part of the company's $100 million Epic MegaGrants program, is awarding the Blender Foundation $1.2 million in cash to further the success of Blender, the free and open source 3D creation suite that supports the full range of tools empowering artists to create 3D graphics, animation, special effects or games.

The Epic MegaGrants initiative is designed to assist game developers, enterprise professionals, media and entertainment creators, students, educators, and tool developers doing outstanding work with Unreal Engine or enhancing open-source capabilities for the 3D graphics community.

DOOM Eternal to Also Support Raytracing

In another iD Software game supporting ray tracing (we already know Wolfenstein: Young Blood will support it), id Software's Marty Stratton confirmed that DOOM Eternal will also support the graphics technology. In what capacity, it is unclear as of yet; whether for a global illumination solution, like Metro: Exodus, or just for reflections and shadows like most games seem to be using, is unknown at this point. Looking back at how the "original" DOOM looked, and considering changes to graphics technologies under the new iD Tech 7 engine, however, DOOM Eternal really is looking to be one of the best looking games - at least on the PC platform.

As Marty Stratton put it, "RTX makes it look, you know, amazing. There are great benefits but it doesn't necessarily expand our audience or that the way that the way that something like Stadia does so, but absolutely people can look forward to DOOM Eternal and id Tech 7 supporting ray tracing. Absolutely. I mean we love that stuff, the team loves it and I think we'll do it better than anybody honestly."

NVIDIA Has No Plans for Adaptive Sync Support on Maxwell, Prior GPUs

In case anyone's been living under a rock (and in these times, if you can do that, I probably envy you), NVIDIA at CES 2019 announced it was opening up G-Sync support to non-G-Sync totting monitors. Via adoption of VESA's open VRR standard (Adaptive Sync, on which FreeSync is based), the company will now add support for monitors that usually only support FreeSync. The company also vowed to test all configurations and monitors, with a whitelist of automatically-enabled panels and manual override for those that don't pass the certification process or still haven't been subjected to it.

Now, via a post on NVIDIA's GeForce forums, ManuelGuzmanNV, with a Customer Care badge, has said, in answer to a users' question on Variable Refresh-Rate support for NVIDIA's 9000 series, that "Sorry but we do not have plans to add support for Maxwell and below". So this means that only NVIDIA's 1000 and 2000-series of GPUs will be getting said support, thus reducing the number of users for which VRR support on NVIDIA graphics cards is relevant. At the same time, this might serve as a reason for those customers to finally make the jump to one of NVIDIA's more recent graphics card generations, in case they don't already own a VRR-capable monitor and want to have some of that smoothness.

AMD "Zen" Does Support FMA4, Just Not Exposed

With its "Zen" CPU microarchitecture, AMD removed support for the FMA4 instruction-set, on paper. This, while retaining FMA3. Level1Techs discovered that "Zen" CPUs do support FMA4 instructions, even through the instruction-set is not exposed to the operating system. FMA, or fused multiply add, is an efficient way to compute linear algebra. FMA3 and FMA4 are not generations of the instruction-set (unlike SSE3 and SSE4), but rather the digit denotes the number of operands per instruction. Support for both were introduced by AMD in 2012 with its FX-series processors, while Intel added FMA3 support in 2013 with "Haswell."

The exact reasons why AMD deprecated FMA4 with "Zen" are unknown, but some developers speculate it's because AMD's implementation of FMA4 is buggy, even though it's more efficient (33% more throughput). Intel's adoption of FMA3 made it more popular, and hence more stable over the years. Level1Techs used an OpenBLAS FMA4 test-program to confirm that feeding "Zen" processors with FMA4 instructions won't just return a "illegal instruction" error, but also the processor will go ahead and complete the operation. This is interesting because FMA4 isn't exposed as a CPUID bit, and the operating system has no idea the processor even supports the instruction. For linear algebra, FMA4 has proven more efficient than AVX in both single- and double-precision.

NVIDIA Introduces RAPIDS Open-Source GPU-Acceleration Platform

NVIDIA today announced a GPU-acceleration platform for data science and machine learning, with broad adoption from industry leaders, that enables even the largest companies to analyze massive amounts of data and make accurate business predictions at unprecedented speed.

RAPIDS open-source software gives data scientists a giant performance boost as they address highly complex business challenges, such as predicting credit card fraud, forecasting retail inventory and understanding customer buying behavior. Reflecting the growing consensus about the GPU's importance in data analytics, an array of companies is supporting RAPIDS - from pioneers in the open-source community, such as Databricks and Anaconda, to tech leaders like Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM and Oracle.

AsRock Confirms Z390 Motherboard in Its Support Pages

Via its support pages, AsRock has spilled the beans on at least five of their upcoming motherboards based on Intel's upcoming Z390 chipset in their Live Update & App services. The naming scheme of these motherboards is in-line with previous ASRock lineups, and there shouldn't be any confusion as to their tiering. The motherboards hence confirmed are the Z390 Extreme4, Z390 Pro4, Z390 Taichi, Z390 Taichi Ultimate, and the Z390M Pro4.

ASUS Releasing 9th Gen Core Supporting BIOS Updates

ASUS announced that it is releasing motherboard BIOS updates that add 9th generation Core "Whiskey Lake" processor compatibility for almost its entire Intel 300-series chipset motherboard family. This includes models based on H310, B360, Q370, and H370 chipsets, and not just the top Z370. Intel is expected to debut its 9th generation Core processor family with three SKUs later this year: the Core i9-9900K, the Core i7-9700K, and the Core i5-9600K. The tables below list motherboard models alongside the minimum BIOS version you'll need for "Whiskey Lake" compatibility. You'll find your BIOS in the "support" tab of the product page of your motherboard on ASUS website.

Thermaltake Announces Core P5 TG Ti Edition ATX Wall-Mount Chassis

Thermaltake, a leading premium gaming tower manufacturer, has launched its latest Thermaltake Core P5 Tempered Glass Ti Edition ATX Wall-Mount Chassis, an upgrade to the predecessor Core P5. Constructed with 5mm tempered glass panel plus stainless steel panels for secure mechanism, four USB 3.0 data transfer ports, a motherboard tray and fully modular design that allows flexibility for 3-way placement layouts (Wall mount, Horizontal and Vertical), dual GPU layout locations (Horizontal and Vertical) and placement locations for liquid cooling components. Uncover greatness with the Core P5 TG Ti's panoramic viewing angle with its full tempered glass window; designed to protect and display your stunning liquid cooling system.

By practicing and incorporating the idea of "maker movement" as well as 3D printing, Thermaltake designs the open frame panoramic viewing chassis for anyone to access and do his/her own mods as well as print out his/her own ideas using available liquid cooling components and manuals without boundaries.

New "BranchScope" Side-channel CPU Vulnerability Threatens Modern Processors

In the age of cyber-security vulnerabilities being named by their discoverers, much like incoming tropical storms, the latest, which exploits speculative execution of modern processors, is named "BranchScope," discovered by academics from four US universities, Dmitry Evtyushkin, Ryan Riley, Nael Abu-Ghazaleh, and Dmitry Ponomarev. The vulnerability has been successfully tested on Intel "Sandy Bridge," "Haswell," and "Skylake" micro-architectures, and remains to be tested on AMD processors. It bears similarities to "Spectre" variant 2, in that it is an exploit of the branch prediction features of modern CPUs.

BranchScope differs from Spectre variant 2, in that while the latter exploits the branch target buffer, BranchScope goes after the directional branch predictor, a component that decides which speculative operations to execute. By misdirecting it, attackers can make the CPU read and spit out data from the memory previously inaccessible. The worst part? You don't need administrative privileges to run the exploit, it can be run from the user-space. Unlike CTS-Labs, the people behind the BranchScope discovery appear to have alerted hardware manufacturers significantly in advance, before publishing their paper (all of it, including technicals). They will present their work at the 23rd ACM International Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems (ASPLOS 2018), later today.

MSI Z170A Xpower Titanium Modded, Supports Intel Core i3-8350K

The seemingly impossible (as per Intel) has happened: an Intel Z170 motherboard was made to support Intel's latest Core i3-8350K. This news comes after various reports and counter reports went for and against this being actually viable, according to motherboard socket pin count and function allocation. That this happened not on a Z270 motherboard, but on a Z170, really does serve to open our eyes as customers to what sort of games might be being played by tech companies in product refreshes and new motherboard chipsets.
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