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GPU is the new CPU

In the past, the CPU was king. But as games required more processing power, developers looked at ways to improve the GPU, to the point where it is now a mini server within the computer, writes BRIAN PEREIRA of Digital Creed.

The CPU (central processing unit) was king in the PC era. I remember the hotly contested race between two chipmakers (Intel and AMD) to make the fastest CPU. Megahertz was the metric for clock speed then and today it’s gigahertz. Using clever tricks like ‘Turbo mode’ the CPU clock speed could be further bumped up.  The math co-processor and graphics processing unit or GPU played second fiddle or sidekick roles. Recently, I attended the NVIDIA GTCx India 2016 conference in Mumbai, and was surprised to learn how the GPU has matured almost into a graphics server within the computer. In fact, there were demos showing how GPUs are much more efficient than CPUs in processing data. The GPU has cut down processing time significantly, and many real-life applications across industries have benefitted. I will talk about some examples later in this post. But first, let’s get into a time machine and go back to the 90s to see how GPUs evolved.

As gaming software got more defined (realism) and monitor resolutions improved, more power and more memory were needed to process all those mathematical equations that generate those stunning graphics. The CPU (and its IBM PC architecture) could not keep up. Hence we witnessed the emergence of graphics cards. My earliest memory of one is the Hercules Graphics Card. Later we had CGA, VGA, and XGA versions. These graphics cards were mounted in expansion slots on the motherboard.

With better graphics came better sound. There was demand for surround sound on PCs, and multi-speaker systems became available (my favourite ones were manufactured by a company called Creative Technologies). Again, the CPU could not process the complex sound algorithms for surround sound, and hence we got sound cards with onboard sound processors and Digital to Analog (DAC) converters. Back to graphics.

Today’s graphics cards have so much power and memory, they would give a 1990s PC a complex. Sample this: The NVIDIA GTX 1080 graphics card has 2560 CUDA cores, a base clock speed of 1607 MHz, 8GB memory and it consumes 180W of power! If your geekiness makes you curious about CUDA you can read more about it here. Essentially, CUDA is a parallel computing platform and programming model that adapts a GPU for general computing.

And because of the sheer power that today’s GPUs have, they are transforming everything from deep learning and AI to visual computing, high performance computing (HPC) and VR.

Demos & Examples

Walking along the exhibit area at GTCx India 2016 I was thrilled to discover a number of interesting examples. Apart from the various startups showing some amazing demos, there was also a special zone called VR Village.

I was lucky to experience an interactive model of the Bank of England building that was destroyed in 1920. The lobby of the bank was recreated using an interactive model, photo-realistically rendered using NVIDIA’s Iray VR software.

When the HTC Vive VR headset was placed on my head, I was stunned with what I saw. It looked like I was in the deserted lobby of the bank in the early morning hours. The sun’s rays filtered through the glass dome in the atrium.  I looked up and saw the gold gilded edges on the ceiling reflecting the sunlight at just the right angles, relative to my viewing angle. Shadows were created around the grooves and niches on the elegant statues placed around the lobby. And as I walked around or rotated my head, the shadows changed in relation to  changing viewing angles.

Later, as I walked around the exhibit area I visited some of the stalls and witnessed some demos. EDGE Networks has been using the power of GPU processing for a business application. Interestingly, they use data science and AI for workforce transformation and an HR application. I spoke to Rahul Kulhari, their Lead Data Scientist. He told me that their talent acquisition app scans through thousands of resumes and filters candidates based on skills and experience that match a job description. This kind of processing used to take days to complete with a CPU. But now, with the power of a GPU it takes only a few hours.

I sat through an interesting presentation by Mandar Kulkarni, Head Automotive CAE, TCS. He spoke about some product development challenges and how GPUs and HPC have helped cut down production time and cost in automotive manufacturing.

“Earlier we had to make 100 prototypes of an engine and test each prototype. So development used to take years. But now we create virtual prototypes and do various simulations on the models. There are 500 types of simulations for every car — all the components have to be tested. We even do simulations on the coffee cup holder on the dash,” said Kulkarni.

The various simulation include vehicle crash, external aerodynamics, and aero acoustic analysis (to name a few). And billions of equations must be solved to create these simulations. This is only possible through parallel processing and HPC — which a modern GPU can perform.

There are numerous other examples and demos I can describe here to show the power of GPU, but that’s going to make this post a lot longer than I expected! So I will write about these separately in future posts.

I met and interviewed Greg Estes, Vice President, Enterprise Marketing, NVIDIA. Lookout for the interview that I’ll post on this site very soon.

* Brian Pereira has been tracking technology since 1989. He is the former editor of CHIP and InfomationWeek magazines in India. He now blogs at www.digitalcreed.in

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How to create an esports team

2018 was a landmark year for South African esports as one of the country’s best teams took the battle overseas and made waves in the international scene. A year ago Bravado’s top Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) team relocated to Arizona in the U.S., a venture dubbed Project Destiny, where they used the opportunity to train as full-time professional athletes and conquer the best teams out there.

Project Destiny was a massive success. A year later and Bravado’s CS:GO team had carved a name for itself through several high-profile victories and invitations to top tier tournaments. Clearly this is not the end of the story and the team has been reflecting on the lessons and opportunities.

Team captain Dimitri “Detrony” Hadjipaschali helped lead Project Destiny and gleaned a considerable amount on what needs to go into an esports team.

Team for the right reasons

For aspirant pro players who want to up their game, pun intended, he advises starting at the basics: why do you want a team?

“In recent times, people want to create a team with no direct intention, not knowing if they want to do this casually and socially, or professionally. Doing this professionally requires risk. It depends on how much work and sacrifices are contributed to the cause of creating a team. Playing socially is fine, part-time, as many people do, but playing professionally and wanting to reach the top one day, purely depends on your dedication, motivation and intention.”

Put in the hours

Like any aspirant pro athlete, preparation requires hours of training. Bravado’s players all put in several hours of training daily, 7 days a week, and Project Destiny’s full-time pros worked multiple training sessions every day, usually in the morning and afternoon for 4 hours each, as well as competitive matches in the late evening.

But even Bravado members who are not full time still put in hours of training every day. Serious players need to find the time and build up their dedication because this level of performance is simply the bar set in esports. Said Dimitri:

“The general esports title or game a team competes in will require anything, if not more than, a traditional sport outside of esports would require to get to the top.”

Fortunately, you don’t have to go all-out from the start. Esports are tiered with the top players in the highest tiers. So there is space to cut your esporting teeth while making room for it in your life. But never forget that to be one of the best means no half-measures. In esports, you have to commit to win.

Share goals

“A good team player is an individual who views his team as a single unit and not just himself as an ‘individual player’ in the bigger picture,” said Dimitri. “They put their team first and before themselves. This is the first main fundamental of a mindset required for a team player.”

Pro teams shouldn’t be mistaken for gaming clans, which are more casual and where gaming is a hobby. Even though they can be very competitive, clans mostly play for fun and entertainment, whereas a professional team is highly competitive with goals that it sets out to accomplish.

This is important because it helps the team members agree on the importance of those goals and the focus required. If you are not willing to show up every day to play the same game, partake in training exercises and learn from feedback, a pro career won’t work for you:

“Playing professionally requires aligned individuals where they share common goals and have equal intentions to realize what they want to achieve and what it takes to compete at a high level.”

Be patient

Professional athletes aren’t created overnight. It takes many years of focus and dedication while also pursuing studies or working at a day job before someone manages to ascend into a paid career. Esports is the same and demands patience alongside dedication.

Esports teams amplify this requirement. While in Arizona, Bravado applied the maxim “Teams who work together win together.” Household chores were divided up between players, creating a sense of common responsibility. This repetitive reinforcement of team values is crucial for success, whereas impatience for a team to ‘click’ is a recipe for disaster:

“Often, teams do not achieve their desired results and achievements in the short run and immediately resort to a roster change. Or someone in the team is replaced without a completely valid reason. This underestimates the importance of sticking together to create synergy in the long run.”

He also added that using time smartly is perhaps even more important than the amount of time spent on training. The team under Project Destiny used a full-time coach who helped set routines, objectives and priorities:

“The mistake with teams struggling to improve these days is that they do not know and understand how to work with limited time, and how to do this best and constructively as possible. Often teams that aren’t at a top competitive level yet arrange bootcamps, but set the limited time they have with each other incorrectly, or rather not to the best potential.”

When Bravado embarked on Project Destiny, it aimed to put South African esports on the map and serve as role models for aspirant players in the country. By those measures, it has been a huge success and Bravado continues to grow and educate. Through the ongoing support of sponsors Alienware and Intel, Bravado continues its mission of creating esporting excellence and opportunity for South Africans.

Learn more at bravadogaming.com or contact Bravado’s players directly via their social media accounts.

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Opera reveals SA browsing habits

Opera, one of the world’s major browser developers, and leader in AI driven digital content delivery and discovery, has released its State of Mobile Web 2019 report, revealing that nine out of ten people in South Africa use their mobile browser every day.

Other Key findings from the report include:

  • Internet users in Africa use their browser to access social media domains such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, followed by entertainment and search websites
  • Opera News users in Africa spend 50% of in-app time watching videos
  • South Africans pay six times more per gigabyte of mobile data than people in India
  • Opera Mini saved users nearly 100 million USD in mobile data in 2018

The report reveals that the Opera mobile browsers and standalone news app were used by nearly 20 million internet users in Africa and by more than 350 million people globally in the first quarter of 2019. The State of Mobile Web 2019 report also shows that Opera experienced a growth of more than 26 percent of its user base year on year, compared to the first quarter of 2018 in Africa.

“We are thrilled to see that our mobile browsers and news app have grown by 25 million monthly users in the last year, ” said Jørgen Arnesen, Head of Marketing and Distribution at Opera. “The new Opera News app has led this positive growth, as well as the introduction of new features to our mobile browsers like built-in VPN and crypto wallet. The successful partnerships Opera has with major smartphone manufacturers in Africa have also contributed to this massive growth”.

The 2019 edition of the State of the Mobile Web report looked into the use of the Opera Mini browser and the Opera browser for Android, and it shows that mobile browsing is one of the most popular online activities among African internet users. For example, in South Africa, nine out of ten people use their mobile browser every day, an activity they prefer over the use of other applications like YouTube.

The report also revealed that on average, Africans using Opera spend more than 30 minutes browsing online each day. The most browsed category of websites was social media platform domains such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, followed by search engines like Google, and entertainment and sport websites.

100 million dollars  saved on mobile data

In the State of the Mobile Web 2019 report, Opera gives detailed insight into the use of the data savings feature in the Opera Mini browser, and compares the average price of mobile data in 20 countries in Africa. The results revealed that the data compression mode in Opera Mini saved users nearly 100 million USD of data in 2018.

In this analysis, Opera also compared the costs of data in some African countries with the cost of mobile data in India and Germany. The outcome of this analysis showed that South Africans pay six times more per gigabyte of mobile data than Indians and almost the same price as Germans for one gigabyte of mobile data.

Rapidly changing  news and video consumption landscape

The report takes a look at the trends of news and video consumption across Africa. This includes analyzing the usage of its standalone Opera News app, which grew from launch to over 20 million users in a period of one year. Categories like breaking news, local news, and entertainment were the favourites among users in the first quarter of the year.

Video content is also becoming more popular among people who use the Opera News app. The report shows that people spend 50 percent of in-app time inOpera News watching videos on Instaclips, the recently added video feature on the news app.

The usage of Instaclips keeps growing since its test launch in December 2018: in Q1-2019, Instaclips registered a total of 122,000 videos uploaded in different languages such as English, Portoguese, French, Arabic and Swahilli.

Expanding beyond browsing to fuel digital transformation

Opera’s commitment to digital transformation in Africa is ongoing. Beyond the development of its mobile browsers and standalone news app, Opera has made major investments on the African continent, expanding its services to other technology areas such as FinTech and digital advertising.

In 2018, Opera announced the launch of OKash, a fintech micro-lending solution that quickly gained traction among mobile internet users in Kenya. Today, OKash ranks among the most downloaded micro lending applications among Kenyans and its user base keeps on growing.

In May 2019,Opera announced the introduction of Opera Ads, a new advertising platform that allows media agencies and publishers to run more targeted marketing campaigns through the Opera platforms.

Available online

The full version of State of Mobile Web 2019 report is available to read online or for download by clicking here.

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