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s
Software

Following the reports of Microsoft integrating Start Menu back into the Windows at annual Build developers conference 2014, here comes the new Windows 8.2 images. Titled as Windows 8.1 Update 2, Windows 8.2 is expected to be released in September this year.

Famous leaker Wzor claims that Microsoft will be reinstating the traditional Start Menu on the desktop versions. This would give the sense of familiarity as a number of users complained about the drastically changed interface that was introduced with Windows 8. Seems like now we can actually expect this highly missed and one of Windows‘ longest-serving features this fall.leaked Windows 8.2 Update 1

Microsoft Windows 8.2:

You might recall from our last report (that Xbox One actually runs Windows 8) that we have in our possession the complete slide deck of Microsoft’s Build 2014 Tech Presentation. We went through it and decided the post some very important information that Media Outlets failed to report. One such faucet is the existence of Xbox One ERA States and the details on just how exactly Xbox One uses it for Process Lifetime Management.

Cover Image

Xbox One uses ERA States for efficient Resource Optimization and Seamless Gaming

Before I go into ERA States, let me just go over what a “Seamless Gameplay Experience” is and why 1080p @60 is just one part of it. Frank Savage in his presentation talked about the changing trends of the current generation (of people ), and how we are moving towards multitasking integrated into our very lives. Since the resources of a console are limited, efficient use of the same becomes of critical importance since you are going to be doing multiple things at once. Say you are playing a game, you pause and switch to listen to music or watch a movie, then resume back into the game. Just how exactly will the Xbox One cope with that without slowing down one thing or another? The answer lies in Process Lifetime Management and more importantly Xbox One’s ERA States. Now to be sure, ERA States is a buzzword for resource optimization, and interestingly Frank Savage failed to mention what exactly ‘ERA’ is an abbreviation for. Although I can take a guess: ‘Efficient Resource Allocation”

A few months back, many news outlets reported that Xbox One runs 3 Operating Systems. They further went on to claim that the one was a stripped down version of Windows 8, one was the Xbox One OS and the last was a switching layer between the two. Well they were wrong. Xbox One does indeed run three operating systems but the correct ones are: a full fledged windows 8, a stripped down windows 8 and a Host OS (RTOS). The implications for this are immediate and stunning and we will go upon each in this article.Xbox One runs Windows 8

Xbox One Games and Apps Actually run on Windows 8

We recently received the slides from Frank Savage’s presentation at Build 2014 along with the audio of the same. And we noticed something that many news outlets failed to report. The fact that Xbox One runs Windows 8. Not only that, but we realized that so many of the news outlets had gotten the initial leak completely wrong. Because if you run a game or an app on the Xbox One, it will either run in the full Windows 8 or  the stripped down version of Windows 8. Either way it runs on Windows 8. Let me start by explaining the three operating systems present in Xbox One.

The first tier ‘Host OS’ and the ‘to-the-metal- operating system present in Xbox One dubbed the ‘Host OS’ is an RTOS (Real Time Operating System) has complete control over the entire Xbox One hardware and resources. In Frank Savage’s words “… owns where everything and how everything works…. owns CPU…GPU”. This is your basic Xbox One Operating System. However the thing is , this particular OS only handles tasking and the security layer. It does not run any game or application. It does however host (in a non – hyper-v form) the ‘OS’ and the ‘Exclusive OS’, which is Windows 8 and the stripped down Windows 8.

Since I might or might not have access to Premium Trackers, I usually know (or do not know) when any game gets pirated and leaks early. However, sometimes a game tends to take me by surprise. This is one such case. Titanfall, ladies and gentlemen, has just been leaked. However, it is more or less utterly useless to you.  That is, unless you want to get banned, blocked, etc. Or you want to download it and be ready for the launch of Titanfall’s servers and run the risk of getting banned.

titanfall

Titanfall Xbox 360 Version Gets Leaked – Servers not even online yet, Download to get banned.

As you may realize by now this leak is utterly useless. I am not really sure why people would risk their jobs, not to mention piss off the legal response team for a seemingly meaningless end. Because not only is Titanfall a completely server side game, the servers themselves aren’t even up yet and the only thing you will get by running the game is a ban. Of course, the problem once again is that some people have allegedly received their  genuine Xbox 360 copies ahead of schedule, which would mean if those innocent folks plug in the game, zap.

DX12 logo
Hardware

Microsoft announced their next generation DirectX 12 API a few days ago which will deliver performance improvement in gaming applications by reducing the CPU overhead and delivering new features including enhanced blend modes and conservative rasterization.directx_12.0_cinema_960.0

Microsoft “Only Teased” DirectX 12 – More Features Reserved For Next Generation GPUs

During the press conference at GDC 2014, tech giants such as Intel, NVIDIA, AMD and Qualcomm announced that their current generation of graphics processors would feature support for DirectX 12 API and its features. The DirectX 12 API will help leverage the performance of existing graphics units (GCN, Kepler, Maxwell, Fermi, Iris Pro) by reducing CPU dependency and improving stability for multi-core systems so that the GPU can be fed faster. This low-level (close to console) API will have its advantages for both developers and gamers. With such access to API, developers will be easily able to code and optimize upcoming applications.

The genesis of DX12 can be found in technology trends. GPUs have continued to rapidly increase in performance, while single-core CPU performance has been gated by power limits. Multi-core CPUs have provided some advancement but still trail GPUs in peak performance.

An interesting turn of events over at the DirectX12 GDC Reveal. They demoed Forza 5 at 1080p and 60fps Rock Solid and almost everyone thought it was running on the Xbox One. This post will clear up a major misconception: Forza 5 was actually running on a beast of a Rig powered by a GTX Titan Black GPU.

thumb900_phppkvcxwp1010613Image credits only: PCPer.com

Forza 5 DX12 TechDemo was running on a Titan Black Powered PC

As you may know, Microsoft demoed Forza 5 running at a rock solid 60 frames per second at 1080p. The addition of DX12 to Xbox One seemed like a brilliant conclusion to the entire Resolutiongate sage because Microsoft had previously made claims that such a thing (every game running on 1080p/60fps) could only be possible if the cloud was used so this was a very pleasant surprise. However it turns out that Forza 5 Demo was actually running on a Super Powered GTX Titan Black powered rig. And the aim was to show the unbelievable porting power of the DX12 API. This raises very very interesting questions about Forza 5. But before we do that, a picture of Forza 5 Tech Demo at the DX12 reveal, courtesy of PCPer.com;

Now here is Nvidia’s official blog post about DirectX 12 and note the para of Forza 5 in particular, I have taken the liberty to quote it for you along with a screenshot:

Microsoft has popped the lid on their upcoming DirectX 12 API which aims to enhance GPU performance with low-overhead and adding new rendering features. Most of us were expecting that the new DirectX 12 API will require new hardware to fully support the technology but that’s not the case at all as revealed during the GDC event, DirectX 12 will support all current hardware from NVIDIA, AMD and Intel.Microsoft-DirectX-12-GDC-2014

Microsoft’s DirectX 12 API Supports All Current GPU Architectures

This is a great news for desktop users as the majority of PC audience use a variety of hardware configurations which include mainly three vendors – Intel, NVIDIA and AMD. All major hardware companies have announced that their current generation of products will fully support the new Direct3D 12 API which will improve the utilization of the hardware to its maximum potential so that applications get improve performance in gaming along with ease of development on developers end.

AMD’s Raja Kadouri was the first to announce DirectX 12 support for their GCN (Graphics Core Next) hardware. AMD has always been the first to adopt the latest DirectX APIs due to their partnership with Microsoft on GPU and API development. Since DirectX 7, their GPUs have been the first to feature support for the new APIs from Microsoft and they had been working closely with Microsoft in the development of DirectX 12. Bear in mind that AMD had already developed their own proprietary API known as Mantle which is available in DICE’s Battlefield 4 and recently came to THIEF from Square Enix a few days ago.

Note: This post is a work in progress and will keep on updating itself over the next few hours.

Ladies and gents, Microsoft has finally released the much awaited DirectX 12 API.

directx_12.0_cinema_960.0

Direct3D 12 Tech Details: Full Mantle Features, Multicore Scalibliity, Memory Management and More.

During the actual reveal, Microsoft talked a lot about how the CPU overhead is a major problem and how the performance of GPUs is going constantly uphill while the performance of CPUs is not increasing proportionally. They also correctly noted that single core performance of CPUs is increasing at a snails pace. The answer is ofcourse to put more load on the GPU so no bottleneck is established, and the way to do it, you guessed it right folks, the Mantle way.DX12′s main aim is to solve the major CPU overhead problem and believe it or not, it actually goes one step further than even Mantle. In an example that Microsoft showed, it is revealed that in DX11, core optimization was low. However in DX12 the workload is more spread and the actual work decreased as well. I have attached the benchmarks below courtesy of PCPER.

Well well well, this is going to be a very interesting article. The delightfully controversial SemiAccurate.com has just revealed that DirectX12 is nothing more than DirectX11 with Mantle API shamelessly integrated. This raises a couple of important points to discuss, including but not limited to, its impact on the flailing Xbox One (Its performance boost on the PC platform is obvious).

directx_12.0_cinema_960.0Image Credits Only: Polygon.com

DirectX 12 is a Mantle Integrated DirectX 11 – Questionable Performance Boost for Xbox One, If Any

Now Mantle has been raising many an eye with its blindingly obvious advantages, advantages that only a Low Level API can provide. The DriectX API has been mostly stagnant for the past couple of years but now, forced by Mantle, they have swung into action, ushering in a new “DirectX 12″. Now DirectX 12 has not been revealed to the mainstream yet but sources have already revealed what it is all about.

DirectX 12 arrived very suddenly, and it can be safely concluded that it was rushed because of the PR Damage Mantle caused. It was clear that unless the next installment of Microsoft’s API gave the users a Mantle-like performance boost (i.e. a low level advantage) it would not fare well. And it seems that this is exactly what Microsoft has done. All the features provided by Mantle will be available in DirectX 12 (to a suspiciously identical extent). Now the advantage of DirectX 12 on PC will be beautiful. We have already seen Mantle benchmarks for Battlefield 4 and for Thief and they do not disappoint (especially Thief). However just what exactly,  would this entail for the Xbox One?

Titanfall  2
Games

Microsoft’s first-person, multiplayer shooter game Titanfall is the rage of the season. Expected to be launched solely for Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Windows PCs, the launch is highly anticipated. Titanfall is expected to launch on March 11th for Xbox One and PC users. However, Xbox 360 gamers will get it after March 25.
download titanfall Beta cheats tips

With so much attention and sales expectation around, retailers are obviously jumping on the wagon to offer Titanfall. Here are the best places and deals that could have you Titanfall when it is launched!

Titanfall deals:

The obvious choice:

windows 8.1 leaked update
Software

Microsoft is set to release the upcoming Windows 8.1 Update in April. However, seems like the company couldn’t keep the updated locked in somewhere. While company is yet to officially announce and release through the usual Update channels in April, you can already upgrade to Windows 8.1 leaked update!

windows 8.1 leaked update

Microsoft Windows 8.1 leaked update:

According to reports earlier, Microsoft has finalized the development of Windows 8.1 Update 1. Russian leaker Wzor claimed that final update was compiled on February 21st and is being shared with partners and PC makers ahead of its release in April. Following Microsoft’s Build Developer Conference earlier next month, company is set to release the update to existing machines officially on April 8th. 

DirectX 12 logo
Hardware

Microsoft have spilled the beans on their next generation DirectX 12 API which will be announced and discussed by the software giant at GDC 2014 on 20th March. Microsoft’s DirectX 12 is being developed in collaboration with NVIDIA, Intel, AMD and Qualcomm which are the leading hardware manufacturers of tech industry.Microsoft DirectX 12 GDC 2014

Microsoft To Discuss DirectX 12 on 20th March at GDC 2014

The announcement of Microsoft’s DirectX 12 comes almost six years after the announcement of DirectX 11 which has seen two recent iterations, DirectX 11.1 and DirectX 11.2. The latest DirectX 12 is a surprise announcement and comes close to the launch of AMD’s own custom low-level API called Mantle which we did a thorough analysis of last month in Battlefield 4.

AMD’s Mantle was said to be a disruptive force and is being adopted by several game developers this year with the recent additions including Battlefield 4 and Thief (yet to be patched with Mantle). There are several in the pipeline but Mantle has now got an answer from the tech industry’s biggest name, Microsoft. While the DirectX 12 announcement is a great, AMD should also be credited for bringing in the concept and delivering a low-level API which works to dig into the core of a PC hardware and gain its full potential in the form of reduced CPU over-head and increased performance plus scaling. It has proved to be a disruptive force as said by Star Swarm’s dev Oxide games by forcing Microsoft and OpenGL to release a similar API as their vision.

2447899-spark
Games Software

Launched in beta on Windows 8.1 back in December, Microsoft has just launched today a beta version of Project Spark for Xbox One console too. This latest improvement expands the capability by allowing developers and gamers to create a game within a game running across PCs, tablets and Xbox consoles.Project Spark Xbox One

Microsoft Project Spark for Xbox One:

Expected to be launched in final version later this year, Microsoft requires gamers to sign up to get hold of the Project Spark Xbox One. However, if you have already been using the Windows 8.1 version, then you will automatically gain access. According to Microsoft, 250,000 people signed up for Team Dakota’s ambitious Project Spark for Windows 8.1. 

[Editorial] The Game Developers Conference is coming up and both DirectX and OpenGL have queued up some very very interesting reveals. These reveals, as you might have guessed are both dedicated at showing their respective solution to CPU Rendering Overhead and Low Level Access (Microsoft Only). If their claims have any weight what so ever, it wold effectively make Mantle Dead on Arrival. Mantle Dead on Arrival

Microsoft and Nvidia Queue Solutions to CPU Overhead and Low Level Access on GDC’14 – Mantle could be Dead on Arrival

As you probably already know, Mantle Low Level API improves the performance ingame by reducing the CPU Overhead and allowing more draw calls to be submitted to the GPU in a certain time frame. Basically it massively reduces load on the CPU, greatly helping CPU-Bound situations and Weak-CPU configurations. And of course as the name suggests, gives better access to Hardware. Now it seems that other developers have felt greatly threatened by the same because both DirectX and OpenGL are claiming to have solutions to CPU Overhead and improved Low Level Access. If this is true, then Mantle API would loose its edge entirely because Devs will not risk adapting a new API without major incentive. Here are the scheduled addresses for GDC’14:

Direct3D Futures (Presented by Microsoft)

“..discuss future improvements in Direct3D that will allow developers an unprecedented level of hardware control and reduced CPU rendering overhead across a broad ecosystem of hardware. “

Office for iPad app
Software

Microsoft Rethinking Office for iPad:

Steve Ballmer had earlier said that Microsoft will build native Office edition for iPad and Android tablets. However, the project dint seem much certain until now. While official details are still unclear about the Office for iPad app, but it’d definitely be like Office Mobile for the iPhone.Office for iPad app



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