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Intel’s gen-12 Core HX put ‘desktop-caliber’ CPUs in laptops • The Register

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Intel Vision Intel said it has put “desktop-caliber” silicon in a mobile package to provide its fastest 12th-generation Core laptop processors yet, which can, apparently, outperform AMD and Apple’s best notebook chips.

The chipmaker unveiled the seven 12th-generation Core HX laptop chips at the Intel Vision event Tuesday, where the company also revealed AI chips meant to challenge Nvidia and a roadmap for its fledgling product line of infrastructure processing units for datacenters.

These latest Core chips are expected to power more than 10 laptops coming out later this year from Dell, HP, Lenovo, and other PC makers, and they are based on the same Alder Lake hybrid architecture that debuted with Intel’s 12th-gen Core S-Series processors for desktop PCs last fall.

Specs and features

What makes the 12th-gen HX chips different from other Alder Lake laptop processors that came out earlier this year is that they are said to be more powerful and come with features that are geared toward heavy-duty users, such as PCIe 5.0 connectivity, error-correcting code memory and RAID support. Like other processors in the broader 12th-gen lineup, select models include Intel’s vPro enterprise-level management and security features.

As for other functionality, the processors come with support for overclocking, which includes the ability to overclock the memory as well as the processors’ efficient cores. The processors also support up to 128GB of DDR4-3200 and DDR5-4800 memory as well as Thunderbolt 4 interfaces for up to two controllers.

The HX chips consist of a total of seven Core i5, i7, and i9 models, and they feature up to 16 CPU cores — split between eight performance cores and eight efficient cores — a 5GHz max turbo frequency, a 2.3GHz base frequency, and a 30 MB L3 cache. For integrated graphics, the chips feature up to a 1.55GHz max graphics unit frequency, and all but one of the models pack 32 execution units.

But in exchange for the high performance and advanced features, the processors require a great deal of power. The base power for all the latest chips is 55 watts, and it can go up to 157 watts to squeeze every ounce of performance out of the silicon. This is higher than the power envelope for the regular 12th-gen H-Series processors, which have a base power of 45 watts and a turbo power of 115 watts.

Performance claims

Intel said architecture improvements allows its latest flagship mobile chip, the Core i9-12900HX, to provide 17 percent higher single-threaded performance and 64 percent higher multi-threaded performance compared to last year’s Core i9-11980HK, based on internal tests using the SPECint_rate_base2017 benchmarks.

A slide showing how Intel's new Core i9-12900HX compares to other processors, including those from AMD and Apple, across single-threaded and multi-threaded performance benchmarks.

A slide showing how Intel’s Core i9-12900HX allegedly compares to other processors across single-threaded and multi-threaded performance benchmarks. Click to enlarge.

The semiconductor goliath also said it found performance gains across specific applications, with 81 percent higher performance for 3D rendering in Blender, 28 percent higher performance for model creation in Autodesk Revit, 21 percent higher performance for simulation in Autodesk Inventor, and 12 percent higher performance for design in Autodesk AutoCAD.

Intel claims the Core i9-12900HX is much faster than the best laptop silicon from AMD and Apple. Specific benchmark figures were not provided for the tests it performed, though Intel shared various performance comparisons [PDF] that put its new flagship chip well above Apple’s M1 Max and AMD’s Ryzen 9 6000 H-Series chips across multiple tests.

A slide showing how Intel's new Core i9-12900HX compares to other processors, including those from AMD and Apple, across Blender and CrossMark benchmarks.

A slide showing how Intel’s new Core i9-12900HX compares to other processors, including those from AMD and Apple, across Blender and CrossMark benchmarks. Click to enlarge.

“With the new core architecture and higher power limits of 12th-gen Intel Core HX processors, we’re enabling content creators to tackle the most demanding workflows like never before – for example, executing 3D renders in the background while continuing to iterate on other 3D assets in the scene,” said Chris Walker, head of mobility client platforms at Intel. ®

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The final Fifa: after 30 years, the football sim plans to go out with a bang | Games

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Earlier this year, at the famed La Romareda stadium in Zaragoza, Spain, EA Sports organised two football matches, one each for male and female pro players. During these competitive 90-minute fixtures, all participants, including subs and officials, wore advanced Xsens motion capture suits that recorded their every movement, shot, tackle and celebration. Involving more than 70 people it was, according to gameplay producer Sam Rivera, the largest number of players ever motion-captured in a single session.

Every year, the developers of Fifa tell us that their key aim is authenticity. This year, Fifa 23 – the final product of EA Sports and Fifa’s 30-year partnership – is about making key moments more intelligible, detailed and dramatic, zooming in ever closer to the action at pitch level. That grand Zaragoza mo-cap session provided 10m frames of animation – twice as much match capture as Fifa 22 – allowing for more than 6,000 authentic player animations, a wealth of which are female-specific.

Fifa 23 - Vini Jr v Lores.
Fifa 23 – Vini Jr v Lores. Photograph: Electronic Arts

That data has also been fed through Hypermotion 2, EA Sports’ machine learning engine, which uses the mo-cap data to create new, highly authentic animations on the fly, seamlessly filling in the gaps between mo-cap moments. This should mean smoother, more controllable movement on the ball. “Dribbling is getting more responsive,” says Rivera. “The personality of the players really shines through. We got the feedback in Fifa 22 that dribbling felt slidey; players were skating sometimes when turning. With the new system, they’re a lot more grounded, turning feels good, and the steps in between every single dribble touch are created by the algorithm. This means every step matches the path, creating better visuals.”

The designers are also enhancing dribbling’s defensive counter-action: jockeying. The machine learning system has been trained to detect which player is between the advancing player and the goal, and then governs their movements. They’ll usually approach the attacker from an angle rather than face-to-face, letting them tackle effectively. “They even put their hands behind their backs when they’re inside the box,” enthuses Rivera.

Players will accelerate differently, too: controlled, lengthy or explosive. This means a player such as Erling Haaland or Vinícius Júnior will burst away at speed, but will then slow more quickly, while someone with lengthy acceleration such as Virgil van Dijk won’t be quite as quick off the mark, but will gain speed. The idea is to break up the predictability of one-on-ones: it’ll no longer be quite as clear who’ll get to a loose ball first, or who will outrun an opponent down the wing.

Another new feature is the power shot: when players hit both bumpers while pressing the shoot button, the game brings up power and positioning options for a controlled, pinpoint strike. “It’s a risk v reward system,” says gameplay design director, Kantcho Doskov. “You can try it at any time, but if there’s a defender nearby, they’re going to tackle you. You really have to carve out that space, and even when you do, you have to aim precisely. Aiming at the top corner of the goal takes a bit of skill! When I try power shots, most of the time I don’t score, but it’s fun to test the keeper. And sometimes, just because the shot is so powerful, he’s forced to parry the goal back to my striker, who taps it in.”

Elsewhere, EA is telling us to expect redesigned set-pieces, with aiming on the right analogue stick, aided by a preview projection line – and defenders can now lie behind the wall to block low shots. And impact physics have been improved, so a player’s foot might be knocked sideways by a ball travelling at velocity, affecting their touch. The virtual grass now has individual blades, and the surface degrades as the match goes on: sliding tackles and knee-slide celebrations will tear up the turf, leaving scars that remain for the whole game. “At the moment, it’s purely visual,” says senior art director, Fab Muoio.” But we’ve had discussions about whether or not it will impact play and that’s something we’ll think about in the future.”

Fifa 23 - Signal Iduna Park.
Fifa 23 – Signal Iduna Park. Photograph: Electronic Arts

Muoio talks a lot about drawing inspiration from modern TV broadcast aesthetics. “Just look at the real-world use of drone cameras,” he says. ”I saw some footage from the Etihad of a drone shot going all the way through the concourse and the stadium. It looks amazing, like CG.

“We also reworked our out-of-play cameras to make them look a lot nicer when you have a corner kick, throw-in or goal kick: we’ve adjusted the depth of field and the composition, just to have the player pop a little bit more from the background. It looks more in line with what you see in modern broadcast football, with that heavy depth of field.”

An early beta demo shows all of these new details in action. Playing as Manchester City, you see the fast, insightful runs of Jack Grealish and Kevin De Bruyne and the amazing shot-stopping capabilities of Ederson. Attempting a power shot with Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio gives you a real sense of his strength and accuracy. There’s also a beautiful moment of animation fluidity when Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus turns and volleys in a crowded box, arching the ball into the top left corner. A couple of hours of play show up more diversity of movement and interaction between players, and although the pace is similar to Fifa 22, it feels like there are a few more milliseconds available to line up ambitious passes.

EA Sports has some big changes coming to Career mode, including interactive match highlights, which let you play the key moments from important matches instead of the whole game, making for a snappier, more dramatic narrative. There are announcements to come about the ever-popular but also hugely controversial Ultimate Team mode. EA has stated that it will not be abandoning the “loot box”-style random player packs that underpin the mode, even though several countries have either banned or are considering bans on them. Whatever EA does to improve this part of the game, including making it easier to progress without purchasing packs, the ethical quandary of the loot box will cast a long shadow over the entire game.

Work is progressing, too, on EA Sports’ post-Fifa future, which will arrive in 2024 as the awkwardly-titled EA Sports FC. It’s clear that Fifa itself is going to struggle to commission a new football sim that will get anywhere close to EA’s game in quality and detail. The development team views Fifa 23 as a good indication of where things are heading. “You can see by the amount of content this year: we want more, we want to continue going big,” says Rivera. “We’re excited about 2024 and what’s coming. There are a lot of opportunities. Responsiveness, visuals, authenticity – are what will take us there.”

He’ll only give up one specific detail: the use of machine learning animation, currently confined to very specific areas of the game, is likely to expand as EA moves into the next era of its simulation. There is a dedicated AI coding team at EA’s Vancouver studio that have been working on this tech for several years, and if this year’s implementations go down well, we might soon see the end of scripted animations. “I can’t talk about the details of where it’s going because these are huge future features, but the potential that we’re seeing is crazy,” says Rivera. “We can see how machine learning can take over animation in the future.”

It still feels kind of surreal that this is the end for Fifa as we know it. A game that began on the Mega Drive with its blocky, stylised sprites and electronically simulated crowd noises, now features lifelike motion captures taken from genuine matches, and an intelligent animation system that mimics the behaviours of real-life players. Fifa has been loved and loathed; it has seen off one great rival – the Pro Evolution Soccer series – and will soon compete against whatever licensed products Fifa can pitch against it. In embracing the women’s game, it’s doing the right thing at the right moment, while at the same time, its insistence on retaining the loot box lottery of Ultimate Team will ensure that controversy as well as fandom will follow it into the future. But that, after all, is football.

Keith Stuart attended a press trip to Electronic Arts in Vancouver with other journalists. His travel and accommodation expenses were met by Electronic Arts.

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Slightly late, but a worthwhile upgrade • The Register

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The first point-release of the newest Ubuntu is here, which marks the stage it formally becomes the new long-term-support release.

As we mentioned last week, there were some last-minute delays in the 22.04.1 release process. The release was delayed until August 11. But now it’s here, as Canonical announced on its official blog. The release notes list the changes.

This is only a point release of the OS, and if you are already running “Jammy Jellyfish” you will automatically get 22.04.1 when you next run a full update. No new installation of the OS is needed. If you are doing new installations, though, Ubuntu makes new installation images for each point release, so if you go to the downloads page, you will get a shiny new 22.04.1 image. If you keep an emergency boot disk, for instance with Ventoy, this is a good time to update it.

All the same, it’s significant in a few ways. It’s a bug-fix release, so with any luck, you won’t notice any changes – just a few things may start working more smoothly. In theory, the Snap-packaged version of Firefox may start a little faster.

One of the most noticeable is that the first point-release that follows an Ubuntu LTS is when people running the previous LTS release will start getting notified and prompted to update. So if you are running 20.04 “Focal Fossa,” or the previous short-term release 21.10 “Impish Indri,” then you can expect to receive nags any time now.

We are being intentionally vague about the timing as Canonical uses a process called “phased updates,” which means that immediately after the release, only 10 percent of users will be notified, and this percentage increments every six hours. So it will take 54 hours, or just over two days, for everyone to get the notification.

If you want to kick off the upgrade from 20.04 or 21.10 right away, before it’s been suggested to you, it’s pretty easy. Do a full update, however you prefer. We also recommend doing a full backup, just in case.

NOTE: If you make a second copy of your root partition on the same machine, make sure you change the backup’s UUID (a partition’s internal serial number), or you will have problems. Copy the partition, for instance with Gparted on a bootable USB. Make sure that you know its name, for example, /dev/sdb5, and that it isn’t mounted. Then do tune2fs /dev/sdb5 -U random. If you want it to be bootable, you can look up the new UUID with blkid and edit the copy’s /etc/fstab to contain the new ID, then in your main installation, run update-grub and it should appear in your boot menu.

Then use the do-release-upgrade command. If it doesn’t immediately offer the new version, you can give it a kick with do-release-upgrade -d. Similarly, if you prefer doing updates graphically in the desktop, use update-manager -d.

The Reg FOSS desk had some problems with last week’s kernel update to 20.04, so we upgraded a very well-used, decade-old installation on a test machine to 22.04.1. It went without a hitch and runs perfectly. It’s probably the single smoothest Ubuntu version upgrade we’ve ever seen. ®

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Are we heading in the wrong direction when it comes to productivity?

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Jenny Darmody believes we’re falling back into a hustle culture in work rather than really thinking about what will bring a better working life for all.

The workforce is in a strange place right now. Torn between the fully remote world we were forced into during the pandemic and what the future of work could really look like, employers and employees alike are trying to figure out the best way of working for them.

A lot of the debate is around where employees will work. Some want to be fully remote, some want to be in the office on certain days, but only certain days or only for certain tasks.

While the ‘when’ and ‘where’ part of how we work will most likely take some time to solve and will depend on each company, department and need of the organisation, how hard we work is another topic that is being discussed right now.

Last month, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told employees that Google’s productivity “isn’t where it needs to be”. This followed a memo he had sent a few weeks previously, saying that the company needs to be “working with greater urgency, sharper focus, and more hunger than we’ve shown on sunnier days”.

In fairness to Pichai, this led to him introducing an initiative to crowdsource ideas for quicker product development, so the underlying goal seems to be efficiency and working smarter. However, it seems to stop short of the ‘don’t work harder’ part.

He asked employees to “think about how we can minimise distractions and really raise the bar on both product excellence and productivity”. In short, be more productive.

It’s not just Big Tech CEOs such as Pichai that is looking for an increase in productivity. According to a recent study by software company Tipalti Irish people work more hours on average than people in any other country in the top 10 apart, second only to the US.

But is working harder and longer really the direction we should be going in? The Covid-19 pandemic presented an opportunity to talk about the possibility of reclaiming our work-life balance.

It showed the global workforce the opportunities to spend more time with loved ones, while also highlighting the dangers of not knowing how to switch off and burnout.

Employers have come out in favour of more workplace wellbeing initiatives and giving its employees more flexibility and empathy, but is there a danger that deep down these same companies expect us to work even harder than before?

A few months ago, I wrote about the anti-work movement, and the bigger conversation it opens around what employers can expect from their employees and vice versa.

Now, there’s another concept that is fighting against the idea of maximum productivity – quiet quitting. This doesn’t involve actually quitting your job, but it is the idea of quitting the habit of going above and beyond in your job and instead only doing the minimum amount required.

It’s the idea of stepping away from the ‘hustle culture’, which SparkToro CEO Rand Fiskin spoke about at Future Human earlier this year.

These feelings among the workforce should not be ignored, nor should the lessons from the last two years. Employers can strive for efficiently, smarter ways of working, better ways to free up time, for sure. But they can’t then look to fill that time with even more work so that their employers no longer have time to take a breath.

Flipping the narrative

Parkinson’s Law suggests that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”, meaning if you give yourself two hours to do a job that should only take one hour, it will somehow take you two hours.

But we can use this to our advantage, if employers are willing to admit that building breaks, procrastination and downtime into our schedules is vital for employee wellbeing.

Google’s search for ideas that will make its workforce more efficient is not on the whole a misguided one. More efficiency can mean less time wasted on monotonous tasks, duplication of work and mindless tasks that don’t benefit the employer or the employee.

But where he loses me a little is the need to “minimise distractions” and “really raise the bar” on productivity. For one thing, I can find plenty of ways of being ‘productive’ without being efficient. It’s the whole idea of ‘busy being busy’.

But more importantly, distraction can serve its own purpose at work. It lets your brain wander freely, which can lead to more creative thinking. Frequently getting distracted may also be your body telling you that you need to step away from the task you’re working on and either take a break from work or switch to another task.

Ironically, helping employees to take better breaks, giving them more flexibility and giving them a better work-life balance is likely to yield better productivity anyway. But that wellbeing and flexibility has to be built into their workday, not added on as extra hours.

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