Random thoughts and updates

Well, it’s been a while since my last blog… Let’s cover some recent events on various topics…

JPGLoader

I’ve done some more testing and found some bugs that still remained in my JPGLoader. Today I solved one of them, which didn’t handle an End Of Image marker properly at the end of a stream (not all JPGs have that marker, in many cases the file ‘just ends’). The decoder didn’t crash… the last two 8×8 blocks in my test image were just slightly garbled.

Another issue seems to be when you have files with extremely high compression. It seems that the quantization table isn’t loaded correctly… Not sure what is going on exactly, but so far I’ve found only one image with the issue, and I created that by using ‘0%’ quality in Paint.NET. I am not giving this very high priority, because at this point it seems unlikely to occur in regular images.

OpenCL

AMD released Catalyst 9.12 drivers, which again did not contain OpenCL support. However, they also released a 9.12 hotfix, which isn’t an official driver, but it does contain OpenCL, among some other new features not present in the 9.12 drivers. Hopefully AMD will have an official driver release with OpenCL support soon. In the meantime, quite a few Cuda applications seem to emerge. Adobe has adopted Cuda for accelerating Premiere Pro, and Kaspersky is working on a Cuda-accelerated virus scanner.

nVidia news, or not?

Some ‘leaked’ benchmarks of nVidia’s upcoming GTX360 and GTX380 surfaced on various places on the web. They paint a positive picture for nVidia, with the GTX380 comfortably outperforming AMD’s HD5970 flagship. I have reason to believe that these benchmarks are fake though… However, the more interesting thing seems to be the responses to these benchmarks. AMD fanboys flocked to the forums and comment sections to play down nVidia’s alleged success. Sure, AMD would just release an updated card, and everything would be just fine… And nVidia would be very expensive anyway, so you should still buy AMD… It’s just a paper launch, and it will be months before cards will be available… And ofcourse nVidia is evil, etc etc.

Oh well, I hope some real benchmarks show up soon though, not to mention the cards themselves. If the price and performance are right, I’m going to replace my Radeon HD5770 with a GTX360. As a developer I just prefer nVidia’s developer support, their excellent drivers, tools, and the features/APIs that AMD just doesn’t offer. Getting full C/C++ support for GPGPU programming is going to be a big step forward.

New phone?

Yesterday, I got a call from my phone provider, because apparently I need to renew my contract. And I get to select a new phone. They would throw in a free 8 GB SD card aswell. Hum, not bad… Except I had no idea what phone I would want. I haven’t been paying attention to phones.

Oh well, after a few hours of surfing, reading and comparing, I figured I’d go for the LG Viewty Smart. It’s supposed to have a very good camera, and excellent multimedia capabilities. It has a large hi-res touchscreen too, which should be great for surfing the web and reading email and such. I wonder if the camera is going to be good enough for YouTube videos. I currently use my Samsung G600 for it, but its camera is very slow, so you only get about 15 fps max, and fast movement turns into a blur very quickly. If the LG isn’t good enough, I’ll have to shop for a separate camera, perhaps a HD webcam, or a Flip HD of some sort.

Intel going to court again

This time it’s the FTC in the US. Recently I saw an interview with Steve Ballmer, someone from the audience asked why they resisted the EU for so long, and now they had to pay and meet their demands anyway. Steve’s answer was very interesting. He said that Microsoft was in a unique and new situation, and there weren’t any clear rules to follow. So what Microsoft wanted to achieve with the court cases, was to make the rules clear, so they could stay within them. That made very good sense. There is now a ‘case law’ for Microsoft. Microsoft has probably gotten themselves a lot more ‘freedom’ now, than if they would just plead guilty right away. Microsoft just questioned every accusation and every penalty. I think that’s a good thing, because all this anti-trust fuss is of a very arbitrary nature. Microsoft has now ‘marked their territory’ in a legal sense. I think Steve Ballmer was sincere in that Microsoft wanted to follow the rules, now that the rules were agreed upon.

I think much of the same goes for Intel. Sure, just like Microsoft, they have probably done a few things that they won’t be able to get out of… but if you look at the charges the FTC put forward, it looks like the FTC is just throwing the book at Intel, and I think Intel has a good chance of getting out of at least a few of these charges. Intel is also in a new and unique situation, and they too should spend a lot of time to mark the territory, not just for the current charges, but also for possible future charges.

With both the Microsoft and Intel court cases, sometimes you get the feeling that just being a large and successful company is a crime. It’s important that it doesn’t get out of control, because before you know it, you’re creating a legal environment where anyone who tries to compete with such a company, can sue them and win because “it’s not fair that they’re much bigger and we don’t get a chance”. I happen to believe that capitalism and free market are good things, to a certain extent. Sure, Microsoft and Intel aren’t allowed to abuse their influence on the market to get rid of their competitors in an unfair way… but organizations like the FTC shouldn’t be allowed to get too much control either. They shouldn’t be able to tell companies what prices they can and cannot charge for their products, and they also shouldn’t be able to tell companies what products they may or may not offer (eg Internet Explorer/Media Player, or Intel Compiler).

Windows XP: end of the line?

Recently I had a discussion with a fellow game developer. He had found out that in Windows Vista, DirectSound could no longer be hardware-accelerated. Another developer and myself pointed him towards OpenAL as an alternative which does allow hardware-acceleration across all common versions of Windows. He didn’t think that OpenAL would be supported on Vista/Windows 7, and especially on the x64 versions. It seemed very hard to convince him. Once you showed him one thing, he’d just move his argument to the next. It started to annoy me. I mean, Vista has been around for about 3 years now, and 64-bit OSes have been around even longer. As a developer, don’t you think you have the responsibility to at least have tried newer Windows versions and 64-bit OSes by now, or at the very least be familiar with the basic features and potential problems regarding your software? Especially since Microsoft has free beta programs where developers can use upcoming OSes for free, on their own PC. If he had just bothered to register for the beta program of Windows 7, he could have had free 32-bit AND 64-bit copies of the new OS, and test his code, and prepare for the transition.

Then he presented the argument that 80% of all computer users were still on Windows XP. Oh really? So I pointed him to http://www.steampowered.com/hwsurvey. Those statistics showed very clearly that, at least among his primary target, the gaming audience, less than 50% still used Windows XP. In fact, Windows 7 is gaining ground at a tremendous rate… And what’s more, the 64-bit version appears to out-sell the 32-bit version.

Sadly he hasn’t responded since. So I’m not sure if he’s still in denial of this reality, or if he has accepted it, but was too shocked or embarrassed to comment any further. I just think that it’s pretty sad that some people still cling to Windows XP and 32-bit so strongly, and live in some kind of fantasy world that nobody uses Vista/Windows 7, let alone 64-bit. Especially when they are developers themselves. Developers shouldn’t be BEHIND their target audience in terms of technology, they should be AHEAD!

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