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Sunday, August 09


Daily News Stuff 8 August 2020

Zhentarim Spies Are Drow In Disguise Edition

Tech News

  • Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms is an official sort-of-D&D game.  I say sort of because although the races and classes and characters are familiar from D&D (Minsc and Boo are in it) the skills and levels and damage rolls are completely made up.

    The way it works is that for each adventure, all your characters are reset to level 1, though you can earn favour with particular deities which lasts throughout a campaign and can sometimes be used to buy bonuses which apply to all campaigns.

    Except Zorbu.  Zorbu is different.  For each enemy he kills, he gets a tiny 0.01% damage bonus to future enemies of the same kind, and gets additional bonuses based on the total bonus for all kinds of enemies.  And while that bonus is small, it never resets.

    One particular kind of enemy is Drow.  Zorbu hates Drow almost as much as Netflix.  But Drow are a pretty rare enemy in the game, so it's hard to boost that bonus.

    What aren't rare are Zhentarim spies.  They're everywhere.  And guess what they turn out to be when you shoot them?

    Update: Waving my mouse pointer at them and reading the descriptions in the split second before they take an arrow to the knee crossbow bolt to the head, about one third of them are drow and the rest are human.  You can spot the drow once you know this because they have a tuft of white hair sticking out from under their hoods.

  • The Ryzen 7 Pro 4750G is definitely not a drow in disguise.  (Tom's Hardware)

    You can't buy it, since the Pro parts are OEM-only, and you can't buy the equivalent 4700G just yet because there aren't any.  But there are some floating around on the grey market and Tom's scooped one up and put it to the test.

    It's a 65W part (there's also a 35W version of most of these with the suffix GE) that uses 65W of power.  In load tests it pulled 58W using AVX on all cores, and 68W with the GPU at full load.  It's worth noting this because Intel's i7 10700F, also a 65W part, drew 153W under the same test.

  • AMD are flirting with 5GHz again.  (Tom's Hardware)

    Model numbers have been spotted for the upcoming Ryzen 4000 CPUs that indicate a 16-core part with a boost clock of 4.9GHz.  I'm sure AMD would love to hit 5GHz, not because that's a major performance boost, but because it looks a lot better on marketing slides.  But we can see what it does to power consumption by looking at the 10700F above.

    I call it the 95/90 rule: The first 95% of performance takes the first 90% of the TDP, and the last 5% takes the other 90%.

  • Google bought North, maker of the Focal smart glasses.  (TechDirt)

    They then killed the upcoming Focal 2 - and also all existing Focal 1 glasses.  Which are now permanently rendered dumb.

    Yes, Google did issue refunds, but they also permanently bricked a whole lot of working devices.

  • The Note 20 is a $1000 atrocity unless it isn't.  (WCCFTech)

    A number of people have been criticising the Note 20 - not the Note 20 Ultra, but the base model - for cutting corners that should not have been cut.  The Galaxy S20 has a better screen, better build quality, and in the international version a better CPU than the Note 20, for the same price.

  • Julia is production ready!  (GitHub)

    But can I finally statically compile and distribute my apps?


    Well.  Okay then.  Thanks.

    Julia is normally JIT compiled.  It uses type inferencing, and has the neat trick of compiling specialised versions of functions the first time they are called with a specific combination of types.  So one function can accept any size of int or float, and Julia will automatically produce efficient vectorised code for it on demand.

    That made static compilation tricky, and they've been working on it for a couple of years now.  It seems that it's finally ready for production.

    There's also a talk on using Julia for scripting while avoiding the JIT overhead.

  • Broken XML is a parser for broken XML.  (GitHub)

    One of those things that you really hope you never need but are happy exist, like life jackets on airplanes.

  • The Sabrent Rocket Q 8TB is a 7.68TB drive with 6.98TB of available storage.  (Serve the Home)

    Thanks for that, storage industry.

    Interestingly, the 4TB model from the same product range actually has 4TB (about 3.6TB); I'm guessing they added a couple of extra flash dies in there but couldn't do that on the 8TB model because they were at the controller limit.

    This is an M.2 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4 drive, so speeds are capped at around 3.5GB per second by the interface, and it achieves around 3.3GB per second in benchmarks.

    It's QLC, but it performs like a fast TLC drive (such as the Samsung 970 EVO Plus), because with so much raw storage Sabrent could enable an enormous psuedo-SLC cache.  Even at 99% full - the Achilles' heel of other QLC drives - it still nudged the 3GB per second mark.

    Just one tiny oint in the flyment: It costs fifteen hundred bucks.

  • Apple are anti-competitive and their excuses are horseshit, says...  The tame Apple press?  (Six Colors)

    Well, the exact phrasing used was
    let me be frank, a load of hooey
    But the feeling comes across.

  • Apple accidentally flagged a developer account as....  Something.  No details provided.  (

    This instantly and without notifying anyone revoked all the certificates for all his apps, causing them to show an alert that they "will damage your computer" and should be reported as malware.

    Nice passive-aggressive messaging there Apple, considering this was entirely your fault.

    Apple did fix it, which simply left the developer to recompile, re-sign, and resubmit all his apps, and all his customers to re-download and re-install them after having been told they were malware that would damage their computers.

  • While we're beating a dead Apple, the discussion on the latest WAN Show on the problems of getting a Floatplane app onto iOS is worth a listen.  (This segment starts at around 7:37, after they spend five minutes not realising they're live.)

    Essentially, there are two rules:

    1. You have to pretend that nothing exists outside of the app store.
    2. The application of Rule 1 is entirely arbitrary.

    Even if your app precisely replicates the functionality of an existing app and follows Rule 1 to the letter, chances are it will get rejected because Rule 2.

  • Classic Google Sites sites will die next year.  (9to5Google)

    This has been much better handled than is typical for Google.  A new version of Google Sites was released in 2016, and this shutdown only affects sites that were created in the older version that have not been converted using the online migration tool by September of next year.

    Can't really fault them for this.  It was originally launched in 2008 and is still supported as long as you migrate to the current version.

  • They're also shutting down Google Music, but that's been transitioned to YouTube Plus or whatever they're calling it this week, so it still works and you get ad-free YouTube.

    Also, I can apparently re-download the 5000 or so tracks I uploaded to them, which is good because they're not on my current computer or in Dropbox and I don't feel like going backup surfing.

  • Oh, right, the /1 and /2 is referring to function arity, not some weird internal versioning.

    Sorry, was reading up on Elixir.  It's slightly weird, but it's not quite that weird.

    I like the language, but I don't feel like facing Erlang stack traces, which - believe it or don't - are orders of magnitude worse than Java's.

Disclaimer: Possibly an order of magnitude of orders of magnitudes.

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Friday, August 07


Daily News Stuff 7 August 2020

Error 0 Edition

Tech News

  • One of our core database servers decided to start refusing connections today, after running without a hiccup for 18 months.  MySQL was working fine, the server was fine, storage array was fine, network was fine...  But about 20% of the time incoming network connections were rejected.

    I still have no idea what was going on, but it was bad enough that migrating the entire database to a new server on a Friday afternoon seemed like a good idea.  And as it turned out, it was.

  • Speaking of the shortages of AMD's APUs, PC Perspective had an interesting discussion today on their livestream.

    Short story shorter: AMD's laptop partners didn't order a whole lot of Ryzen 4000 APUs, and then sold everything they had almost immediately.

    They went back to AMD for more, but AMD had placed its wafer orders based on the OEM orders and there wasn't a whole lot more to be had.  Wafer orders have been increased, but the pipeline is about five months long.

    So the spare dies that were going to be sold as desktop APUs were suddenly not spare at all, and have been shuffled back into the laptop stream.  And that's why the desktop APU announcement was OEM-only, and why Lisa Su can confidently promise end-user shipments in the future - there's nothing wrong, they're just waiting for more wafers to pop out of the pipe.

  • Intel got hacked - sort of - and there's 20GB of confidential - sort of - documents floating around.  (AnandTech)

    Intel says the document dump is from their partner site where information is provided under NDA.  If they manage to track down who exfiltrated it all, someone is going to have a very bad day.

  • America has banned ByteDance (the company behind TikTok) and TenCent (the company behind everything else).  (Tech Crunch)

    The usual suspects are busy defending the surveillance operations of a genocidal fascist state.

  • The ASRock DeskMini X300 supports Ryzen 4000 APUs which as we just noted are not available.  (WCCFTech)

    At 6" x 6" x 3" it's bigger than a typical NUC, but that means it can pack in more stuff: Dual M.2 2280 slots and dual 2.5" drive bays.  And two SO-DIMM slots, but that's pretty standard.  DisplayPort, HDMI, and for some reason also VGA output, 4 USB ports, and either WiFi or an empty M.2 slot for a WiFi adaptor, depending on which model you buy.

    There's also an Intel version if you want that for some strange reason, like for example the chips actually exist in the marketplace.

  • Apple has forbidden game streaming services from iOS.  (The Verge)

    While I'm dubious - to say the least - of the promise of game streaming, the market where it would make sense is people who only own an iPhone or iPad.

    Apple are quite clear on their reasons for this: They want to paint as large a target as they possibly can for antitrust investigators.

    Because they are idiots.

Disclaimer: Well, idiots with a hundred billion dollars in the bank, so the proper term is "charmingly eccentric".

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Thursday, August 06


Daily News Stuff 6 August 2020

Wanwan Monogatari Edition

Tech News

  • The Samsung Note 20 is here.  (AnandTech)

    And cheap at just A$2199.  (For the 512GB Note 20 Ultra.)

    If the specs are correct, only the 4G Ultra version has microSD, and none of them have a headphone jack, so you're better off with something much cheaper if you care about such things.

  • Samsung also announced the Galaxy Tab S7.  (AnandTech)

    I want something smaller and cheaper, so naturally they went larger and more expensive, with 11" and 12.4" models.  They do have microSD slots but no headphone jack, because fuck you that's why.

  • Twitter locked the Trump campaign account after it correctly noted that very few children suffer from Wuhan Bat Soup Death Plague.  (Tech Crunch)

    Because fuck you that's why.

  • The new HP Envy 15 doesn't suck.  (

    It has the four essential keys in a good location.  Two Thunderbolt ports, HDMI, USB, microSD, and a fingerprint reader.

    The base model has a Core i7-1075H (6 cores / 12 threads), 16GB RAM, a 256GB SSD, a 1080p display, and a GTX 1650 for $1150.  Maxed out with an 8-core CPU, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD, a 4K OLED display and an RTX 2060 it's a still pretty reasonable $1899.

    No AMD models.

  • But that might not be HP's fault.  (Slashdot)

    It seems that AMD has sold out of Ryzen APUs, and TSMC can't quickly ramp up production because they're busy churning out chips for the upcoming Xbox and Playstation launches.

  • The people responsible for sacking the people responsible, have been sacked.  (Vice)

    The online court hearing for the Florida teen accused of leading the recent Twitter hack, was itself hacked.  Well, "hacked" insofar as there wasn't even a password for the Zoom meeting.

  • The new 27" iMac and iMac Pro come with an option for a matte screen.  That matte finish costs as much as two entire 4K monitors from Acer.

Disclaimer: The House bill was pig doots and we chucked it.

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Wednesday, August 05


Daily News Stuff 5 August 2020

While Following An Invisible Cat I Was Run Over By A Truck Which Was Also On Fire And Now I'm A Ministry Of Agriculture Veterinarian In A World Where All The Animals Can Talk Edition

Tech News

  • Apple has released new iMacs.  (Tom's Hardware)

    They're 10th generation Intel models of the existing hardware, and they're not exactly cheap, with a fully-configured 27" system running to A$13,748.

    That does include an 8TB SSD, but since you can't upgrade the storage, you kind of have to.

  • Speaking of storage, Intel's 665p is gone.  (Tom's Hardware)

    The 660p gave decent performance (thanks to a large SLC cache) at an excellent price.  The 665p never came down to the same price, or even very close, so while it was slightly faster it was never an attractive purchase and I don't think it sold well.

  • Luau is Lua with types.  (GitHub)

    Lua is good.  Types are good.  I approve.  From the people behind Roblox.

  • The average load time for web pages is a universal constant.  (NNGroup)

    It doesn't matter how fast you make the server, the client, or the connection between them, because the controlling factor is whether the user is willing to wait. 

    Pixy's First Law of Load Times: Web pages expand to fill user patience.

  • SpaceX launched a grain silo.  (Ars Technica)

    Well, it's supposedly a Starship with just one engine and without the external skin or control surfaces, but it looks like a grain silo.

    Because of the layout the engine array will take in the final version, the one engine is off-center, and the software needs to dynamically control for that to keep the ship on course.

    It took off and landed without a hitch, so it seems that part works.

  • Samsung is launching a bunch of stuff today too, though most of it will not reach orbit.  (ZDNet)

    The roundup is expected to include the Note 20 and the new Fold device.

Disclaimer: Just imagine it, chatting with a griff in griffonese.

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Daily News Stuff 4 August 2020

As A Disgraced Number Theorist I Died From Overwork And Was Reincarnated As A Wombat In A World Where P=NP And For Some Reason Also Catgirl Warrior Nuns Edition

Tech News

  • TechDirt is drunk again in their own special way.  Emphasis on the special.  Mike Masnick is the only sensible one there and even he has a blind spot the size of the Horsehead Nebula.

  • Ryzen hits 6W.  (AnandTech)

    Only 2 cores, 4 threads, and 3 CUs on the graphics side, and a maximum clock speed of 2.8GHz.   Oh.  It's made on 14nm, so it's a cut-down previous-generation chip.  (AMD)

    Well, that's fine if the price is right.

  • Google has announced the Pixel 4a.  (AnandTech)

    The key point is that it costs $349, which is relatively sane.  Snapdragon 730G which is reasonably quick with two A76 cores and six whatevers, 2340x1080 5.8" OLED display, 6GB RAM, 128GB flash, only two cameras, headphone jack yes, microSD no.

    I'd much prefer it with a microSD slot, but 128GB of internal storage is enough for most tasks.

  • Intel's next-gen chips may be faster than AMD's current-gen chips on single-threaded benchmarks.  (Tom's Hardware)

    I saw it mentioned Ryzen 4000 but they mean the Zen 2 APUs; they don't have leaked benchmarks of Zen 3 just yet.  Tiger Lake comes with the new core that we've seen on a few Ice Lake parts, with around 18% better IPC than Skylake.  Zen 3 is expected to offer 10-15% better IPC than Zen 2.

  • How to increse your Elixir/Postgres performance 20x with one weird trick.  (Soykaf)

    This seems to be one of the lead developers of Pleroma.  The post starts out discussing simple stuff like using a GIN index to speed up array overlap queries, but the meat of it arrives half-way through when benchmarks show that the performance gain from adding the index depends on the order in which the benchmarks are run.

    That sort of attention to detail is very welcome and makes me more eager to try out Pleroma.

    Even if it has a dumb name.

    Anyway, the reason is that PostgreSQL tries out multiple query plans at first when a new index is added, but after a while locks in the one giving the best results so far.  So if an index scan happens to be the better solution for the first few queries that could use your new index, it will cheerfully ignore the index for that query going forwards.

    But if you connect to the database and run the query manually, it will switch back to trying out multiple query plans and find the best one, even if it's not the one your production code is using.

    I can see how that would have been a maddening debugging session.

  • Build your own COMIX-35.  (GitHub)

    Based on the RCA 1802 CPU.  Not exactly the first name in retrocomputing, but an interesting little project.

  • The most difficult possible maze.

    If you're a Roller Coaster 2 patron, anyway.

    It takes 6.6e20000 years to solve the maze but only two days to fix the code.  (GitHub)

  • If you update your Windows host file to block Windows telemetry Microsoft Defender will treat it as a virus.  (Bleeping Computer)

    You may not even be able to save the file.

    Now, detecting unwanted changes to the hosts file is a good thing, but Microsoft provides no other way to disable telemetry.

Disclaimer: We all know the reason.

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Tuesday, August 04


Daily News Stuff 3 August 2020

Splat Edition

Tech News (Mostly)

  • The Dragon capsule splashed down without mishap, and we've entered a new era of space exploration. Well, the launching of three Mars missions in a single week and communications satellites being launched by the thousands have something to do with that too.

  • Can't tell your kuudere from your coodere?  The Dere Types Wiki is here for you.

    They even categorise the countries from Polandball.  That's dedication.  Don't trust Lithuania.

  • Pleroma is a fediverse social network written in Elixir.  (

    It uses PostgreSQL on the back end and Vue.js on the front end, and supports the ActivityPub standard throughout.

    It supports pluggable UIs, including it's own PleromaFE, Mastodon's UI, and Soapbox.

    This is...  This is interesting.  I wrote my own blogging system because everything out there was steaming garbage, and have been working on my own social network for the same reason.

    But while Elixir isn't the first programming language I'd choose, it is a good choice.  And while I'd likely stick with MySQL out of familiarity, PostgreSQL is technically excellent.  And Vue.js my preferred client-side library.

    No Node.js anywhere.  No PHP.  No Rails, which while Ruby itself is a decent language, is rather a resource hog.

    Now I have to do battle with the sunk cost fallacy on top of everything else.

    Update: Oops, there it is.  Knew it was all too good to be true.  Node.js is contagious metastatic code cancer.

Anime Music Video of the Day

Disclaimer: Some look at things that are, and ask, seriously, what the fuck, man?  I look at things that never were and breathe a sigh of relief.  It's a tough job here at the Paratime Monitoring Station.

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Sunday, August 02


Daily News Stuff 2 August 2020

Why Brains Fall Down Edition

Tech News

Disclaimer: I saw the two articles together, so I had to.

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Daily News Stuff 1 August 2020

Don't Mess With Florida Man Teen Edition

Tech News

  • Twitter got hacked by a 17-year-old from Florida.  (TechDirt)

    Your security is only as strong as the weakest link, and the weakest link is probably an untrained minimum-wage support staffer.

    Twitter already knew this after the earlier incident with President Trump's account, but did nothing.

  • Microsoft wants to buy TikTok.  (Tech Crunch)

    That would certainly fix the security issues because no-one would use it.

  • TikTok is here for the long run, says TikTok.  (Tech Crunch)

    That's great to know.  I'm sure that when every country in the world except China has banned you for spying, and China itself has banned you for being useless, you'll look back at this moment with pride.

  • RedHat pushed a patch for Boothole.  The patch made systems 100% secure.  (Ars Technica)

    Because now they won't boot.

    There appear to be flawed patches out for Ubuntu and Debian as well.  Whatever you do, don't lesnerize.

    (As mentioned in yesterday's comments.)

  • Google won a case in Germany's high court over the fictitious "right to be forgotten".  (Deutsche Welle)

    I do have sympathy with some of these requests.  I removed the mention of someone's name from an old comment relating to a crime they were charged with and then later exonerated.  But I was able to look them up and confirm they were exonerated precisely because they hadn't succeeded in wiping all mention of this from the web.

    The solution to bad speech is more speech.  And alcohol.

  • The House Judiciary Committee isn't covering itself with glory in the current round of antitrust inquiries.  But neither are the companies under investigation.  (9to5Mac)

    Internal emails from Apple, Amazon, and Google have revealed blatantly anti-competitive practices.  Whether that arises to an antitrust case depends on whether the company is abusing a monopoly position in doing so.

  • Epic games wanted to offer its store on iOS.  (9to5Mac)

    Apple of course told them to get fucked.  That is blatantly anticompetitive, but Apple defends this by saying that their customers can switch to Android.

    But in the previous story, Apple removed Amazon's exemption from the 30% App Store tariff when Amazon pointed out the same fact.


Disclaimer: Never say in an email something that you can't defend later in court.

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Friday, July 31


Daily News Stuff 31 July 2020

Beyond The Shoe Event Horizon Edition

Tech News

  • I went out to the shops this evening for the first time in about three weeks.

    The process was slightly complicated by the fact that I threw out my shoes last weekend. At the time this seemed like a reasoanable thing to do, as (a) the heels had pretty much disintegrated and (b) I had at least four unworn pairs of shoes in the Strategic Shoe Repository at the bottom of the closet.

    I picked a pair of brown lace-ups, laced them up, and made it about two blocks before they fell apart.

    Not good.

    Trudged back home again and took a closer look at the remaining pairs. Turned out that I hadn't got a faulty pair; rather they'd been sitting there so long that the soles had denatured somehow and were only slightly stronger than damp cardboard. That's likely what did in the previous pair as well.

    Fortunately the fourth and final pair were made of a different material and were in good shape, so I did eventually make it to my destination and restock on gluten-free chicken nuggets and mi goreng and other essentials. You know you're eating the fancy ramen when it comes with five little sachets of stuff.

    Everything was open, including the RSL club, and pretty busy. Unlike Melbourne which right now is in total lockdown, again.

    This second wave is no joke though; it's killed nearly as many people as the first wave and much more quickly. Interstate travel has been largely halted until Victoria can get things back under control. I give it thirty years.

  • Philosphers discuss GPT-3. (Daily Nous)

  • GPT-3 discusses philosphers. (Pastebin)

  • Hacker News dicusses GPT-3 discussing philosophers discussing GPT-3. (Hacker News)
    One consequence of GPT-3 is that I am now highly sceptical of the human provenance of any HN comment on an article about GPT-3. It has made my HN experience objectively less enjoyable, because I’m constantly expending effort to spot nonsense and avoid wasting time reading it.

    Perhaps most worrying is not how "human-like” GPT-3 can be, but how "GPT-3 like” humans can be. When I am in "nonsense-detection” mode, I drill down into paragraphs to spot non-sequiturs etc and I find plenty of HN comments are rambling, contradictory, or I just can’t ascertain the meaning of the text.
    Yeah, pretty much.

  • GPT-3 channels Harlan Ellison by way of Fritz Leiber. (0bin)

    The first paragraph was provided as a writing prompt. The rest is GPT-3.

  • Looking at all this, you start to wonder how much of philosphy consists of deepities and the unvoidable conclusion is that it's deepities all the way down.
    We are all trapped in a cycle of life and death. Death is merciful. It brings an end to the suffering. We should embrace it when it comes.

    In other news, GPT-3 also seems to have a deep interest in art.

  • Envoy is a proxy sort of thing. (EnvoyProxy)

    It's what I'd call an application router. The idea is that you run an instance of Envoy alongside each of your applications. Your application listens and sends all its requests to localhost and doesn't need to know anything about where other services actually live.

    It handles HTTP, of course, but also MongoDB and Redis and PostgreSQL and generic TCP sockets.

  • Amazon has received the go-ahead to launch 3236 satellites. (The Verge)

    I'm so old I remember when that was a lot.

  • Sort by controversial. (Slate Star Codex)

    Three thoughts:

    1. This is a great idea for a new social network if you want to watch the world burn.
    2. It's probably fiction.
    3. It's probably not written by GPT-3.

  • Thanks for nagging me, Font Awesome.

    No, seriously.  I've been so busy the past week that I forgot about the 50% off FA 6 offer for backers of the FA 5 Kickstarter.  Grabbed it with 11 hours to go.

    $49 per year (regularly $99) for all their icons for five seats.  I'd forgotten that part; makes it a great deal for small companies with a few developers / designers.

Not At All Tech News

  • So, you decided to post this.

    Turns out I'm not the first person to think of the term cervixen in response to this nonsense.

Disclaimer: Probably.

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Thursday, July 30


Daily News Stuff 30 July 2020

Marchingup And Downagain Edition

Tech News

  • The Boothole bootloader vulnerability allows the Grub bootloader to execute arbitrary code.  (Bleeping Computer)

    Since that is the entire purpose of a bootloader, in most cases this means absolutely nothing.  But if you are running UEFI Secure Boot, this pokes a hole in it.

    On the third hand, you need to have root privileges to install this.

  • Real Capitalism 2.0 has never been tried.

    What a depressingly stupid article.  Socialists: Identifying real problems and making them worse since 1867.

  • You wouldn't download a Mac.  (GitHub)

    I mean, you can if you want.  The whole thing is only 239MB and it runs on pretty much anything.  Well, not itself, but apart from that.

  • Big Navi is big.  (WCCFTech)

    Leaks suggest 128 CUs - 8192 shaders - running at over 2GHz, more than twice as fast as anything AMD has produced to date, even ignoring the architectural improvements from Vega to Navi.

    As for when and how much, the leaks say HPC systems with 8 of the new cards will be available next March.  No prices and no details of consumer GPUs.

  • It's just a flesh wound.  (ZDNet)

    Arm fired the CEO of their Chinese joint venture over conflicts of interest - specifically that he was running his own competing investment fund.

    The CEO came up with a novel defense: He simply says he hasn't been fired.

Music Video of the Day

It fits perfectly with Ano Natsu de Matteru but the official video is not too shabby either.

Disclaimer: It's a bold strategy, let's see how that oh he's dead.

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