AMD Silently Depreciates and Hides 32bit Drivers

As part of the ongoing process for technological advancement, 32bit support has begun to decline throughout the ecosystem. The latest firm to silently reduce support for 32bit systems is AMD with their GPUs. Starting with the latest Crimson Software 16.3.2 release, 32bit drivers for their latest GPUs have gone missing from their usual links. This follows the Radeon Pro Duo which only launched with 64bit drivers.

Moving away from 32bit makes a lot of sense as even mainstream GPUs are starting to have more than 4GB of VRAM, the same amount 32bit systems will handle. Once you add in system memory, there really isn;t a point to be using a 32bit system with the latest GPUs except for compatibility reasons. Furthermore, the market for 32bit drivers has been shrinking, with only about 13% of Steam users running a 32bit system. Given the intense ram requirements for games these days, 64bit is nearly a must. Dropping 32bit support also means more resources to put towards 64bit drivers and making those better.

The biggest complaint I have though is the silence from AMD. Rather than admit that they are reducing 32bit support, they silently started hiding their 32bit drivers. For users who click on 32bit drivers, they get sent to a page telling them to move to 64bit. At the same time, 32bit drivers continue to be made and are available with a bit of URL guessing (just change the “64” at the end of the 64bit bit link to “32”). Instead of trying to hide it, AMD should have made an announcement that 32bit support would end at X date in the future and continue for now to make 32bit drivers easy to access. This whole thing just smacks of bad PR and miscommunication. There is no shame to move away from 32bit and hopefully, AMD will get this.

AMD Finally Launches Datacenter Opteron ARM Chips

Nearly 4 years after AMD first revealed their ARM plans, their first ARM-based Opteron chips are finally ready. Shipping today, the octa-core Opteron A1100 server SoC and platform is already able for purchase from several partners and is available in 3 SKUs. Despite such a late launch, the A1100 may yet find a home in the datacenter.

First off, AMD has done a lot of work to build a comprehensive ARM server SoC. The Opteron features up to eight 64bit A57 cores running at 2Ghz. This puts it roughly in the same space as Intel’s Silvermont Atoms clock for clock. The key is the 4MB of L2 cache and 8MB of L3 cache that connect up to 128GB of DDR4 (DDR3 is limited to 64GB) over a 128bit bus. This is all backed up by an A5 co-processor to handle system control, compression and encryption as well. I/O is impressive as well, offering up to 8 PCIe 3 lanes and 14 SATA3 ports and two 10GbE ports.

While the A1100 will undoubtedly blow its way past Intel Atoms and other ARM competitors as a server SoC, the biggest competition comes from Intel’s big Xeons. At $150, AMD is pricing their chip dangerously close to Intel’s big cores which offer much higher performance and potentially better performance/watt. Still AMD is offering a viable chip to cater to the microservices and cluster-based computing market. If AMD’s in-house K12 arrives on time and on performance, AMD stands a good chance as securing a strong foothold in this market.

Mozilla Release 64bit Firefox

Nearly a decade after the idea was first floated around, Mozilla is finally releasing an official 64bit version of their popular browser. This confirms earlier speculation that the new flavour of the Firefox was going to drop soon. It’s also about 9 months since the first beta version of 64bit debuted and after various forks have already moved to 64bit. With this move, Mozilla brings their browser a bit closer to rival Chrome which had its first 64bit version released back in 2014.

While 64bit support us undoubtedly the biggest feature to come with Version 43, the new version does come with a big drawback. As part of the transition from the supposedly insecure and unstable NPAPI, 64bit Firefox won’t support any plug-ins just yet. Silverlight and ironically, Flash are still supported for now. Even with all the problems with Flash, Mozilla still knows Flash is needed everywhere for now.

This release marks the end of cycle of cancelled and rebooted attempts to get 64bit support. With this, the next major change will be the release of Electrolysis, where it will adapt the multi-process nature that Chrome has been using for ages. Whether or not this will be enough for the browser to shore up flagging usage remains to be seen.

Download the latest version of Firefox here.

Qualcomm Unveils 24 Core ARM Server Processor

Ever since ARM took over the mobile world, we’ve been hearing about how the RISC architecture was trying to expand into other higher performance areas. While ARM first entered the server world via relatively weaker micro-servers, it looks like performance options are coming along soon. Qualcomm, one of the major ARM partners and licensees, has unveiled their first 24-core server processor.

Running off the latest ARMv8-A instruction set, the chip will be part of Qualcomm’s Server Development Platform and part of a stack of server tools. While details on the chip itself have been slim, we do know that it is based off a FinFET process, meaning either TSMC 16nm or Samsung 14nm. The core is also fully custom meaning it is not like the A57/A53 found int he Snapdragon 808/810 and given the server environment, probably isn’t Qualcomm’s in-house 64bit Kyro architecture found in the Snapdragon 820.

Along with the Soc, the SDP  also includes server-class PCIe and storage interconnects. Other hardware requirements like ethernet and FPGA are to be proved by Mellanox and Xilinix respectively. On the software side, SDP comes with a software stack capable of running a KVM Linux hypervisor, OpenStack DevStack, and guest Linux distributions running Apache and WordPress as shown in the demo.

With a complete package available, Qualcomm stands a good chance at breaking into the server market. The biggest question is if ARM will be able to bring the same performance to the table as x86 does while still remaining more power efficient and cheap. This is especially true of single threaded IPC where Intel has historically dominated.

Google Finally Unveils Stable 64 Bit Version of Chrome

Google made the exciting reveal of 64 bit Chrome for Windows 7 and 8 back in June. Since that reveal the 64 bit version has yet to be released to the public in a stable form, that’s until today. Today Google revealed the stable version of 64 bit Google Chrome as part of the Chrome 37 rollout. As expected the 64 bit version promises faster browsing, more stability and better security. Google are touting improved media performance such as with the VP9 codec that is used in YouTube HD videos – they claim 15% better decoding performance. Results from Google’s beta programs also reveal that the 64 bit rendering engines are almost twice as stable as their 32 bit counter-parts.

You can download Google’s 64 Bit Chrome for Windows 7 & 8 64 Bit right here.

Source: Chromium Blog

Image courtesy of Google

Shipping of ZOTAC ZBOX plus with Windows 8.1 and Bing Has Started

Zotac is most known for their great Nvidia graphic cards and barebone mini PCs. Listening to their users feedback, they’re now venturing into ready-to-use system as well.

In a press release today, Zotac announced that the new “Perfect everyday computing mini-PCs with Windows 8.1 with Bing in four different flavours” have started shipping.

“Users requested we include Microsoft Windows with the ZBOX mini-PCs so the system is ready to use right off the shelf,” says Tony Wong, CEO of ZOTAC International. “We’ve been listening and thanks to Microsoft’s introduction of Windows 8.1 with Bing, we’re able to give buyers the full Windows experience in a mini-PC form factor at an excellent value.”

The quartet of ZOTAC ZBOX Plus mini-PCs will ship with 2GB of DDR3 memory and Windows 8.1 with Bing x64 pre-installed on a 64GB SSD.

The ZOTAC ZBOX C-series nano Plus mini-PCs provide silent PC aficionados with snappy performance and noiseless passive cooling in Intel and AMD flavors. The ZBOX CI320 nano combines the performance and energy efficiency of a quad-core Intel Celeron N2930 processor while the ZBOX CA320 nano takes advantage of a quad-core AMD A6-1450 APU with Radeon HD 8250 graphics.

ZOTAC ZBOX BI320 and ID18 mini-PCs deliver a good computing experience for daily web browsing and productivity tasks with dual-core Intel Celeron processors and Intel HD Graphics. A classic ZOTAC ZBOX chassis provides the ZBOX BI320 and ID18 with vast external expansion and flexible placement capabilities.

Availability has started at the different retailers, but most are estimating the arrival in 1-2 days. The cheapest price for the four devices as of writing is €124, €165,  €120 and $102 respectively.

Thank you Zotac for providing us with this information

Images courtesy of Zotac