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Original author: 
Andrew Cunningham

So far this year's Google I/O has been very developer-centric—perhaps not surprising given that I/O is, at the end of the day, a developer's conference. Especially compared to last year's skydiving, Glass-revealing, Nexus-introducing keynote, yesterday's three-and-a-half-hour keynote presentation focused overwhelmingly on back-end technologies rather than concrete products aimed at consumers.

There's still plenty to see. All this year we've been taking photos to show you just what it's like to cover these shows—we've shown you things as large as CES and as small as Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference. Our pictures from the first day of Google I/O should give you some idea of what it's like to attend a developer conference for one of tech's most influential companies.


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I/O is held in the west hall of the Moscone Center, and between the giant Google signs and this real-life Google Maps pin you'd be hard-pressed to miss it.

Andrew Cunningham

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Original author: 
Peter Bright

AMD

AMD wants to talk about HSA, Heterogeneous Systems Architecture (HSA), its vision for the future of system architectures. To that end, it held a press conference last week to discuss what it's calling "heterogeneous Uniform Memory Access" (hUMA). The company outlined what it was doing, and why, both confirming and reaffirming the things it has been saying for the last couple of years.

The central HSA concept is that systems will have multiple different kinds of processors, connected together and operating as peers. The two main kinds of processors are conventional: versatile CPUs and the more specialized GPUs.

Modern GPUs have enormous parallel arithmetic power, especially floating point arithmetic, but are poorly-suited to single-threaded code with lots of branches. Modern CPUs are well-suited to single-threaded code with lots of branches, but less well-suited to massively parallel number crunching. Splitting workloads between a CPU and a GPU, using each for the workloads it's good at, has driven the development of general purpose GPU (GPGPU) software and development.

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Original author: 
Andrew Cunningham

Andrew Cunningham / Aurich Lawson

A desktop PC used to need a lot of different chips to make it work. You had the big parts: the CPU that executed most of your code and the GPU that rendered your pretty 3D graphics. But there were a lot of smaller bits too: a chip called the northbridge handled all communication between the CPU, GPU, and RAM, while the southbridge handled communication between the northbridge and other interfaces like USB or SATA. Separate controller chips for things like USB ports, Ethernet ports, and audio were also often required if this functionality wasn't already integrated into the southbridge itself.

As chip manufacturing processes have improved, it's now possible to cram more and more of these previously separate components into a single chip. This not only reduces system complexity, cost, and power consumption, but it also saves space, making it possible to fit a high-end computer from yesteryear into a smartphone that can fit in your pocket. It's these technological advancements that have given rise to the system-on-a-chip (SoC), one monolithic chip that's home to all of the major components that make these devices tick.

The fact that every one of these chips includes what is essentially an entire computer can make keeping track of an individual chip's features and performance quite time-consuming. To help you keep things straight, we've assembled this handy guide that will walk you through the basics of how an SoC is put together. It will also serve as a guide to most of the current (and future, where applicable) chips available from the big players making SoCs today: Apple, Qualcomm, Samsung, Nvidia, Texas Instruments, Intel, and AMD. There's simply too much to talk about to fit everything into one article of reasonable length, but if you've been wondering what makes a Snapdragon different from a Tegra, here's a start.

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samzenpus

An anonymous reader writes "Linux developers are now working on open-source 3D support for NVIDIA's Tegra in cooperation with NVIDIA and months after the company published open-source 2D driver code. There are early patches for the Linux kernel along with a Gallium3D driver. The Tegra Gallium3D driver isn't too far along yet but is enough to run Wayland with Weston."

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STARING EYES!
Faces are everywhere in games. NVIDIA noticed this and has been on a 20-year odyssey to make faces more facey and less unfacey (while making boobs less booby, if you’ll remember the elf-lady Dawn). Every few years they push out more facey and less unfacey face tech and make it gurn for our fetishistic graphicsface pleasure. Last night at NVIDIA’s GPU Technology Conference, NVIDIA founder Jen-Hsun Huang showed off Face Works, the latest iteration. Want to see how less unfacey games faces can be?

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Mark Cerny gives us our first look at the PS4's internals.

Andrew Cunningham

By the time Sony unveiled the PlayStation 4 at last night's press conference, the rumor mill had already basically told us what the console would be made of inside the (as-yet-nonexistent) box: an x86 processor and GPU from AMD and lots of memory.

Sony didn't reveal all of the specifics about its new console last night (and, indeed, the console itself was a notable no-show), but it did give us enough information to be able to draw some conclusions about just what the hardware can do. Let's talk about what components Sony is using, why it's using them, and what kind of performance we can expect from Sony's latest console when it ships this holiday season.

The CPU


AMD's Jaguar architecture, used for the PS4's eight CPU cores, is a follow-up to the company's Bobcat architecture for netbooks and low-power devices. AMD

We'll get started with the components of most interest to gamers: the chip that actually pushes all those polygons.

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Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang unveils the Nvidia Grid server at the company's CES presentation.

Andrew Cunningham

The most interesting news to come out of Nvidia's two-hour-plus press conference Sunday night was doubtlessly the Tegra 4 mobile processor, followed closely by its intriguing Project Shield tablet-turned-handheld game console. However, company CEO Jen-Hsun Huang also revealed a small morsel of news about the cloud gaming initiative that Nvidia talked up back in May: the Nvidia Grid, the company's own server designed specifically to serve as the back-end for cloud gaming services.

Thus far, virtualized and streaming game services have not set the world on fire. OnLive probably had the highest profile of any such service, and though it continues to live on, it has been defined more by its troubled financial history than its success.

We stopped by Nvidia's CES booth to get some additional insight into just how the Grid servers do their thing and how Nvidia is looking to overcome the technical drawbacks inherent to cloud gaming services.

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The debate about whether games are a legitimate art form is a never-ending back-and-forth that's actually getting a bit tiresome at this point. At the very least, though, outside bodies are beginning to recognize that games at least contain artistic elements that are worthy of consideration in their own right. Thus, we have thatgamecompany's hauntingly beautiful, cello-heavy Journey soundtrack being nominated for a Grammy this year in the Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media category.

The Austin Wintory-composed soundtrack (which you can listen to in its entirety here) will compete directly with works by well-known film composers such as John Williams (The Adventure of Tintin), Howard Shore (Hugo), and Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight Rises). Wintory tweeted his speechless reaction to the nomination announcement and the outpouring of support he received following it. "I don't think I've ever felt genuinely overwhelmed before until last night, reading everyone's messages," he wrote. "You are all SO wonderful."

The soundtrack debuted at No. 8 on Billboard's "Soundtrack" charts (and No. 114 on the overall chart) by selling 4,000 copies in a week, putting it behind Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock as the second-best-selling video game soundtrack ever. The game itself became the fastest-selling downloadable game ever on the PlayStation Network after its release earlier this year.

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