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Intel Networking: XL710 Fortville 40 Gigabit Ethernet and VXLAN Acceleration

Subject: General Tech, Networking, Processors | September 8, 2014 - 09:29 AM |
Tagged: xeon e5-2600 v3, xeon e5, Intel

So, to coincide with their E5-2600 v3 launch, Intel is discussing virtualized LANs and new, high-speed PCIe-based, networking adapters. Xeons are typically used in servers and their networking add-in boards will often shame what you see on a consumer machine. One of these boards supports up to two 40GbE connections, configurable to four 10GbE, for all the bandwidth.

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The Intel XL710 is their new network controller, which I am told is being manufactured at 28nm. It is supposedly more power efficient, as well. In their example, a previous dual 10-gigabit controller will consume 5.2W of power while a single 40-gigabit will consume 3.3W. In terms of a network adapter, that is a significant reduction, which is very important in a data center due to the number of machines and the required air conditioning.

As for the virtualized networking part of the announcement, Intel is heavily promoting Software-defined networking (SDN). Intel mentioned two techniques to help increase usable bandwidth and decrease CPU utilization, which is important at 40 gigabits.

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Receive Side Scaling disabled

The first is "generic segmentation offload" for VXLAN (VXLAN GSO) that allows the host of any given connection to chunk data more efficiently to send out over a virtual network.

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Generic Segmentation Offload disabled

The second is TCP L4 Receive Side Scaling (RSS), which splits traffic between multiple receive queues (and can be managed by multiple CPU threads). I am not a network admin and I will not claim to know how existing platforms manage traffic at this level. Still, Intel seems to claim that this NIC and CPU platform will result in higher effective bandwidth and better multi-core CPU utilization (that I expect will lead to lower power consumption).

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Both enabled

If it works as advertised, it could be a win for customers who buy into the Intel ecosystem.

Source: Intel

IDF 2014: HGST announces 3.2TB NVMe SSDs, shingled 10TB HDDs

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | September 9, 2014 - 11:00 AM |
Tagged: ssd, SMR, pcie, NVMe, idf 2014, idf, hgst, hdd, 10TB

It's the first day of IDF, so it's only natural that we see a bunch of non-IDF news start pouring out :). I'll kick them off with a few announcements from HGST. First item up is their new SN100 line of PCIe SSDs:

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These are NVMe capable PCIe SSDs, available from 800GB to 3.2TB capacities and in (PCI-based - not SATA) 2.5" as well as half-height PCIe cards.

Next up is an expansion of their HelioSeal (Helium filled) drive line:

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Through the use of Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR), HGST can make an even bigger improvement in storage densities. This does not come completely free, as due to the way SMR writes to the disk, it is primarily meant to be a sequential write / random access read storage device. Picture roofing shingles, but for hard drives. The tracks are slightly overlapped as they are written to disk. This increases density greatly, but writting to the middle of a shingled section is not possible without potentially overwriting two shingled tracks simultaneously. Think of it as CD-RW writing, but for hard disks. This tech is primarily geared towards 'cold storage', or data that is not actively being written. Think archival data. The ability to still read that data randomly and on demand makes these drives more appealing than retrieving that same data from tape-based archival methods.

Further details on the above releases is scarce at present, but we will keep you posted on further details as they develop.

Full press blast for the SN100 after the break.

Source: HGST
Manufacturer: EVGA

Introduction and Features

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EVGA continues to raise the bar with the introduction of two new power supplies in their popular SuperNOVA line, the 1000 P2 and 1200 P2. Both new power supplies are 80Plus Platinum certified and feature all modular cables, high-quality Japanese brand capacitors, a single high-power +12V rail, and a 140mm dual ball bearing cooling fan (with the ability to operate in silent, fan-less mode at low power levels). The 1000 P2 and 1200 P2 are also backed by a 10-year warranty (with registration). And last but not least, many PC PSU enthusiasts will be happy to know the new 1000 P2 and 1200 P2 are being supplied by Super Flower; the same OEM that EVGA has been using for many of their higher output, premium PSUs!

EVGA was founded in 1999 with headquarters in Brea, California. They continue to specialize in producing NVIDIA based graphics adapters and Intel based motherboards and keep expanding their PC power supply product line, which now includes seventeen models ranging from the high-end SuperNOVA 1600 G2 to the budget minded EVGA 430W power supply.

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In this review we will be taking a detailed look at the EVGA SuperNOVA 1200 P2 power supply.

Here is what EVGA has to say about the new SuperNOVA P2 Gold PSUs: “Introducing the EVGA SuperNOVA 1200 P2 power supply. This power supply raises the bar with 1200W of continuous power delivery and 92% (115 VAC) / 94% (220~240 VAC) efficiency. A fully modular design reduces case clutter and 100% Japanese Capacitors ensure that only the absolute best components are used. What does that mean? The best stability, reliability, overclockability and unparalleled control. The EVGA SuperNOVA 1200 P2 is the ultimate tool to eliminate all system bottlenecks and achieve unrivaled performance."

EVGA SuperNOVA 1200 P2 PSU Key Features:

•    10-Year Warranty and unparalleled EVGA Customer Support
•    80PLUS Platinum certified, with up to 92~94% efficiency under typical loads
•    Tight voltage regulation (2%), stable power with low AC ripple and noise
•    Highest quality Japanese brand capacitors ensure long-term reliability
•    Fully modular cables to reduce clutter and improve airflow
•    Quiet dual-ball bearing fan for exceptional reliability and quiet operation
•    ECO Intelligent Thermal Control allows silent, fan-less operation at low power
•    NVIDIA SLI and AMD Crossfire Ready
•    Intel 4th Generation CPU Ready (Haswell, C6/C7 idle modes)
•    Compliance with ErP Lot 6 2013 Requirement
•    Active Power Factor correction (0.99) with Universal AC input
•    Heavy-duty Protections: OVP, UVP, OCP, OPP, and SCP
•    MSRP for the 1000 P2 PSU : $219.99 USD (181.99 after mail-in rebate, Amazon.com)
•    MSRP for the 1200 P2 PSU : $269.99 USD ($225.99 after mail-in rebate, Amazon.com)

Please continue reading our review of the EVGA SuperNOVA 1200 P2 Platinum PSU!!!

Apotop S3C SSD, Silicon Motion's new controller for less than $0.50/GB

Subject: Storage | September 12, 2014 - 02:30 PM |
Tagged: SM2246EN, S3C, mlc, Apotop

The Apotop S3C SSD uses the same controller as the Angelbird drive Al reviewed recently.  It uses synchronous MLC NAND with the 4 channel present on the Silicon Motion controller and is able to provide more than the specified 490 MB/s read and 275 MB/s write in some benchmarks.  It can often read faster than the wrk SSD but the writes cannot always keep up though it is not something likely to be noticeable in real usage scenarios.  The MSRP is very attractive with the 512GB model expected to be released at $200.  Silicon Motion is likely to start appearing in a lot more SSDs in the near future with this mix of price and performance.  Read the full review at Kitguru.

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"The new Apotop S3C SSD features the Silicon Motion 2246EN controller which we first reviewed in the Angelbird 512GB wrk SSD back in August this year. The controller impressed us, so we have already high hopes for the Apotop S3C."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: KitGuru

IDF 2014: Skylake Silicon Up and Running for 2H 2015 Release

Subject: Shows and Expos | September 9, 2014 - 02:27 PM |
Tagged: Skylake, Intel, idf 2014, idf, 14nm

2015 is shaping up to be an interesting year for Intel's consumer processor product lines. We are still expected to see Broadwell make some kind of debut in a socketed form in addition to the mobile releases trickling out beginning this holiday, but it looks like we will also get our first taste of Skylake late next year.

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Skylake is Intel's next microarchitecture and will be built on the same 14nm process technology currently shipping with Broadwell-Y. Intel stated that it expects to see dramatic improvements in all areas of measurement including performance, power consumption and silicon efficiency.

On stage the company demoed Skylake running the 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark though without providing any kind of performance result (obviously). That graphics demo was running on an engineering development board and platform and though it looked incredibly good from where we were sitting, we can't make any guess as to the performance quite yet.

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Intel then surprised us by bringing a notebook out from behind the monitor showing Skylake up and running in a mobile form factor decoding and playing back 4K video. Once again, the demo was smooth and impressive though you expect no more from an overly rehearsed keynote.

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Intel concluded that it was "excited about the health of Skylake" and that they should be in mass production in the first quarter of 2015 with samples going out to customers. Looking even further down the rabbit hole the company believes they have a "great line of sight to 10nm and beyond." 

Even though details were sparse, it is good news for Intel that they would be willing to show Skylake so early and yet I can't help but worry about a potentially shorter-than-expected life span for Broadwell in the desktop space. Mobile users will find the increased emphasis on power efficiency a big win for thin and light notebooks but enthusiast are still on the look out for a new product to really drive performance up in the mainstream.

Intel's security on the silicon is starting to pay dividends

Subject: General Tech | September 8, 2014 - 09:52 AM |
Tagged: IBM, Intel, txt, mcafee

Intel have been diligently working on their Trusted Execution Technology to provide security on the actual silicon and with their purchaser of McAfee this technology has quickly improved over the past year.  IBM subsidiary Softlayer, who offer cloud storage, have announced that the will be implementing TXT along with the Intel Trusted Platform module to offer enhanced security on their servers.  This should make them attractive to government and law enforcement agencies which utilize clouds storage as well as businesses that need to keep their customers data secure.  They are not the first to consider TXT but are among the largest of vendors who are currently deploying servers that take advantage of the new security.  Check out more at The Register.

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"BIG BLUE IBM has announced that its Softlayer subsidiary will be the first cloud service to offer bare metal servers powered by Intel technology that provides monitoring and security down to the microchip level."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Toshiba Chromebook 2: 13-inch Full HD IPS Display

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 9, 2014 - 07:57 PM |
Tagged: toshiba, Chromebook, chromebook 2

Somehow, I heard about Toshiba's $120, Windows 8.1 tablet but not their Chromebook 2. This ChromeOS-based laptop will have a choice between one of two 13.3-inch displays. The entry level is standard HD while the premium model is upgraded with a 1080p, IPS monitor. Prices range from $249.99 to $329.99. It is expected to be available on October 5th.

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On the low end, you are looking at a browser-only device with 2GB of RAM, and Intel Celeron processor, 802.11ac, HDMI out, an HD webcam, two USB ports (one 2.0 and one 3.0), and an SD card slot. The higher-end device is the same, except with the better screen and double the RAM (4GB). At $330, that is a pretty good deal if you can live in Google Chrome day-in and day-out. Of course, this raises concerns about browser lock-in because you are buying a device with only one choice. That said, you are doing the same if you buy iOS, FirefoxOS, or Windows RT devices, so it is not a complaint about ChromeOS, specifically.

As stated, the Toshiba Chromebook 2 will be available October 5th, starting at $249.99.

Source: Toshiba

StarCraft II WCS is Changing for 2015

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 11:39 PM |
Tagged: Starcraft II, WCS, blizzard, blizzcon, esports

The StarCraft II World Championship Series is Blizzard's official method of conglomerating numerous tournaments, including their own, into a canonized ranking system. Players get points for winning various Intel Extreme Masters, Red Bull Battle Grounds, DreamHack events, GSL seasons, and so forth. Beyond the prize money of each event, points are awarded to sort a global standings list. These points, beyond bragging rights, lead to an invitation to the year's final tournament at BlizzCon.

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The system has drawn some criticism, however. One specific complaint is that players are allowed to partake in any region of their choosing. This seems to lead to tactical placement of players relative to other ones, rather than actual geography. Moreover, this allows players to join in servers that they are not anywhere near to, introducing lag in the online components. If I remember correctly, the rules stated that, unless both players chose to play on a server that was outside the region (ex: a South Korean server for two competitors in WCS America), the server would default to the region (America in the previous example). For 2015, Blizzard is requiring that all players must be legal residents of the region they choose to play in. The reasons for this decision do not seem to be publicly explained, but it should discourage the shuffling of players for logistical advantages.

The other, major change is that all participants of WCS 2015 need to qualify. Previously, if I (again) remember correctly, while points were reset, some placements in leagues carried over. This time, if a player is in any given league, they fought to get there from the very bottom. If anything, I expect this became necessary when the decision was made to change residency requirements.

WCS 2014 isn't over yet, though. It will close with BlizzCon on November 8th.

Corsair's big and beautiful Graphite Series 780T

Subject: Cases and Cooling | September 12, 2014 - 02:10 PM |
Tagged: xl atx, Graphite Series 780T, corsair

Corsair's Graphite Series 780T is a large case at 602 x 288 x 637mm (23.7 x 11.3 x 25.1") capable of fitting even XL ATX boards.  That gives you a total of 9 drive bays though only 6 can support a full sized 3.5" drive.  It comes with three 140mm fans but is also capable of fitting several radiators of up to 360mm in some positions.  While the size makes it appropriate for use as a small server the looks and layout also make it perfect for a high end enthusiast system with multiple GPUs.  [H]ard|OCP were so impressed with the performance and feature set of this case that they gave it a Gold Award so you know this case is worthy of the Graphite name.

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"Today we review a case from Corsair that will fit many more enthusiasts' needs, the Graphite Series 780T chassis with room for huge motherboards. This full tower comes with lots and lots of water cooling in mind, a built in fan controller, smartly designed hard drive and solid state drive housing, and has a Companion Cube-ish look."

Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:

CASES & COOLING

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Engadget and Ars Technica Reviews Moto 360

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 14, 2014 - 07:11 PM |
Tagged: motorola, moto 360, smartwatch

When I covered the announcement of the Apple Watch, one of our readers pointed out that we had very little smart watch coverage. That is fair critique, and I can see how it appeared to give Apple an unfair slant. As far as I know, we will not be reviewing any smart watch, of any sort, for the foreseeable future (my phone still runs Froyo). Engadget and Ars Technica did, though.

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Android Wear launched with three smart watches: the LG G Watch, the Samsung Gear Live, and (after a little delay) the Motorola Moto 360. The third one is a bit different from the other two in that it features a round screen. Both sites like the design but complain about its use of a TI OMAP3 SoC and its limited battery life. The OMAP3630 is manufactured at 45nm, which is a few process shrinks behind today's 28nm products and soon-to-be-released devices with 20nm and 14nm processors. With a 300mAh battery, a little less than a half or a third of a typical AAA battery, this leads to frequent charging. The question is whether this will be the same for all smart watches, and we don't know that yet. The Samsung and the LG smart watches, under Ars Technica's custom benchmark, vastly outperform it, though.

Engadget also complained about its price, at $250 and $299, which is actually $100 and $50 less than Apple's starting price. Ars Technica neither praised nor complained about the price.

Source: Engadget

Centaur Technology Extends Their Website Countdown...

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 9, 2014 - 05:38 PM |
Tagged: x86, VIA, centaur technologies

In early July, we reported on VIA's Centaur Technology division getting a new website. At the time, we anticipated that it would coincide with an announcement about Isaiah II, their rumored to be upcoming x86-based SoC (maybe even compatible with ARM, too).

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Fifty-one days later, on August 31st, 2014, we came back at quarter-to-four EDT and let the website run its course, refreshing occasionally. 4 PM hit and... the counter stayed at 0 days, 0 hours, 0 minutes, and 0 seconds. Okay, I said. For about an hour, I refreshed occasionally because things could have happened on Labour Day weekend. I, then, came back late in the evening, and the day after. I next thought about it the week after, at which point the website was updated... with a timer that expires on September 30th, 2014.

Well... crap.

So by the end of the month, we may find out what Centaur is trying to announce. I am a little less confident in the breadth of the announcement, given that the company waited for the timer to lapse before correcting their mistake. I would expect that if their big announcement, like a new SoC, were to hold up the launch, the company would have known ahead of time. At the moment, it sounds like a typical website redesign which got delayed.

I will hopefully be pleasantly surprised come the end of the month.

IDF 2014: Intel and Google Announce Reference Design Program, Guaranteed 2 Week AOSP Updates

Subject: Mobile | September 9, 2014 - 10:00 AM |
Tagged: tablet, reference design program, Intel, idf 2014, idf, google, aosp, Android

During today's keynote of the Intel Developer Forum, Google and Intel jointly announced a new program aimed to ease the burden of Android deployment and speed up the operating system update adoption rates that have often plagued the ecosystem.

In today's Android market, whether we are talking about x86 or ARM-based SoC designs, the process to release a point update to the operating system is quite complicated. ODMs have to build unique operating system images for each build and each individual SKU has to pass Google Media Services (GMS). This can be cumbersome and time consuming, slowing down or preventing operating system updates from ever making it to the consumer.

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With the Intel Reference Design Program, the company will provide it's partners with a single binary that allows them to choose from a pre-qualified set of components or a complete bill of materials specification. Obviously this BOM will include Intel x86 processors like Bay Trail but it should help speed up the development time of new hardware platforms. Even better, OEMs and ODMs won't have to worry about dealing with the process of passing GMS certification leaving the hardware vendor to simply release the hardware to the market.

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But, an even bigger step forward, is Intel's commitment on the software side. Everyone knows how fragmented the Android OS market with just 20% of the hardware on the Play Store running Android KitKat. For devices built on the Reference Design Program, Intel is going to guarantee software updates within 2 weeks of AOSP (Android Open Source Project) updates. And, that update support will be given for two years after the release of the launch of the device.

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This combination of hardware and software support from Intel to its hardware ODMs should help ignite some innovation and sales in the x86 Android market. There aren't any partners to announce support for this Reference Design Program but hopefully we'll hear about some before the end of IDF. It will be very interesting to see what ARM (and its partners) respond with. There are plenty of roadblocks holding back the quick uptake of x86 Android tablets but those companies would be blind to ignore the weight that Intel can shift when the want to.

ASUS Announces the Z10PE-D8 WS

Subject: Motherboards | September 11, 2014 - 10:18 AM |
Tagged: Z10PE-D8 WS, C612, asus

Finally some new dual socketed goodness from Intel that can be used by prosperous enthusiasts.  For those who can afford the pair of Xeon E5-2600 V3 CPUs required to run a dual CPU system you can have 4 PCIe 16x slots running at full speed and compatible with both SLI and CrossFire.  The motherboard is more optimized for heavy productivity workloads such as graphics rendering but that is no reason not to use it to build the biggest and baddest gaming machine on the planet!

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Fremont, CA (10th September, 2014) - ASUS today announced the Z10PE-D8 WS motherboard based on the Intel C612 chipset and with dual processor sockets ready for the latest Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 v3 product families.

The new Server System Infrastructure Enterprise Electronics Bay (SSI EEB) motherboards have superb storage support, including the ASUS PIKE II (Proprietary I/O Kit Expansion) card and support for PCI Express (PCIe) 3.0 x4 M.2 (Next-Generation Form Factor, or NGFF). They benefit also from the ASUS Q-Code Logger for one-touch easy maintenance and a Dr. Power LED lamp to clearly indicate unusual power status.

Ultimate PCI Express 3.0 multi-GPU power
The Z10PE-D8 WS is equipped to provide the ultimate workstation graphics power, with support for up to four dual-slot graphics cards. Both 4-Way NVIDIA GeForce SLI and AMD CrossFireX are supported, so it is an excellent choice for professionals who depend on powerful graphics in areas such as design, modeling and medical research, as well as processing-intensive simulation and rendering applications.

With a total of seven PCIe 3.0 slots, the Z10PE-D8 WS offers ample room for RAID cards, PCI Express-based solid-state drives (SSDs), video-capture cards and other high-speed components.

Premium components for premium power efficiency
Z10PE-D8 WS benefits from premium components hand-chosen and carefully arranged by ASUS engineers to provide optimum power efficiency. These include integrated Driver-MOSFETs (Dr. MOS) to save space and reduce operating temperatures for more efficient operation, and ASUS-exclusive Beat Thermal Chokes II. The new Beat Thermal Chokes II design delivers up to 94% power efficiency and lower temperatures under normal operation.

ASUS is the world’s first server manufacturer to introduce 12K solid capacitors — the Z10PE-D8 WS has these ultra-resilient components on board. These Japanese-made capacitors are able to withstand up to 12,000 hours of temperatures as high as 105°C, far exceeding everyday demands. And at a typical operating temperature of 65°C, our 12K capacitors have an expected lifespan of 1.2m hours — or well over a century.

The Z10PE-D8 WS also employs ProCool power connectors. The ProCool design eliminates hollow areas associated with traditional power connectors, ensuring a close and secure connection with the PSU power connector pins. The flush connection enables lower impedance and better heat dissipation – helping to prevent connector burnouts.

Flexible fan speed control, flexible storage and easy maintenance
The new Z10PE-D8 WS motherboard offers flexible fan-speed controls, which can be managed manually or automatically. In automatic mode, the fan speeds are adjusted according to the processor temperature. In manual mode, the administrator can set a fan curve according to cooling requirements.

The new Z10PE-D8 WS motherboard offers industry-leading storage flexibility, with a built-in M.2 connector supporting PCIe 3.0 x4 2260 (60mm), 2280 (80mm) and 22110 (110mm) devices, and support for the ASUS PIKE II (Proprietary I/O Kit Expansion) card for high-reliability, enterprise-grade 12Gbit/s Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) devices.

The motherboard also benefits from ASUS Q-Code Logger, an easy-maintenance button that records four-digit port 80 code logs to a flash drive with one touch, so administrators can diagnose problems quickly and easily. Similarly, the conveniently-located Dr. Power LED displays messages to clearly indicate a power fault.

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AVAILABILITY & PRICING
The Z10PE-D8 WS is priced at $599 and will be available soon at ASUS authorized resellers and distributors.

Source: ASUS

Mojang AB Is Subject of Microsoft Purchase Rumors

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 12:04 PM |
Tagged: mojang ab, Minecraft, microsoft, consolitis

First and foremost, I would like to remind everyone of the Twitch.tv and Google acquisition rumors. Things are not done until they are done and it could be significantly more complicated than it appears on the surface. And yes, I am speaking from the position of someone who was bitten and wrote a news post on the subject.

Regardless, discussion has been circulating that Mojang AB, creators of Minecraft, were in talks to sell their company to Microsoft for $2 billion dollars. First, this tells us that randomly generated diamond and gold is worth a fortune; second, it tells us that Mojang, like Oculus, is twice the company that Instagram was. I guess all it took was those OpenGL filter effects.

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Joking aside, two billion dollars is a significant chunk of money, about a third of Computing and Gaming Hardware's annual revenue. Minecraft is definitely a valuable asset, especially with the licensed media and merchandise, and would be a good addition to a publisher's portfolio (along with their employees if convinced to stay on). It is not entirely without basis, either. Competing publisher, Activision-Blizzard, allegedly planned to spend $500 million on Destiny, although Bungie denies that, which Activision claims is the cost of launching a new franchise nowadays.

The most interesting part of the rumor, to me, is the Bloomberg report which claims that Notch initiated the discussions. He was quite outspoken against Microsoft for a while, especially with the licensing requirements for Windows Store. Apparently, current head of Microsoft's Computing and Gaming Hardware division, Phil Spencer, is friends with Notch and has been visiting him and Mojang AB.

But until something official is announced, this is all speculation. That said, Notch has been particularly quiet about the topic on Twitter. To me, that strongly suggests that something is up.

Source: Bloomberg

IDF 2014: Western Digital announces new Ae HDD series for archival / cold storage

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | September 9, 2014 - 01:51 PM |
Tagged: WDC< Western Digital, WD, idf 2014, idf, hdd, Cold, Archival, Ae

We talked about helium filled, shingled HDD's from HGST earlier today. Helium may give you reduced power demands, but at the added expensive of hermetically sealed enclosures over conventional HDD's. Shingling may give added capacity, but at the expense of being forced into specific writing methods. Now we know Western Digital's angle into archival / cold storage:

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..so instead of going with higher cost newer technologies, WD is taking their consumer products and making them more robust. They are also getting rid of the conventional thinking of capacity increments and are moving to 100GB increments. The idea is that once a large company or distributor has qualified a specific HDD model on their hardware, that model will stick around for a while, but be continued at an increased capacity as platter density yields increase over time. WD has also told me that capacities may even be mixed an matched within a 20-box of drives, so long as the average capacity matches the box label. This works in the field of archival / cold storage for a few reasons:

  • Archival storage systems generally do not use conventional RAID (where an entire array of matching capacity disks are spinning simultaneously). Drives are spun up and written to individually, or spun up individually to service the occasional read request. This saves power overall, and it also means the individual drives can vary in capacity with no ill effects.
  • Allowing for variable capacity binning helps WD ship more usable platters/drives overall (i.e. not rejecting drives that can't meet 6TB). This should drive overall costs down.
  • Increasing capacity by only a few hundred GB per drive turns into *huge* differences in cost when you scale that difference up to the number of drives you would need to handle a very large total capacity (i.e. Exabytes).

So the idea here is that WD is choosing to stick with what they do best, which they can potentially do for even cheaper than their consumer products. That said, this is really meant for enterprise use and not as a way for a home power user to save a few bucks on a half-dozen drives for their home NAS. You really need an infrastructure in place that can handle variable capacity drives seamlessly. While these drives do not employ SMR to get greater capacity, that may work out as a bonus, as writes can be performed in a way that all systems are currently compatible with (even though I suspect they will be tuned more for sequential write workloads).

Here's an illustration of this difference:

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The 'old' method meant that drives on the left half of the above bell curve would have to be sold as 5TB units.

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With the 'new' method, drives can be sold based on a spec closer to their actual capacity yield. For a given model, shipping capacities would increase as time goes on (top to bottom of the above graphic).

To further clarify what is meant by the term 'cold storage' - the data itself is cold, as in rarely if ever accessed:

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Examples of this would be Facebook posts / images from months or years ago. That data may be rarely touched, but it needs to be accessible enough to be browsed to via the internet. The few second archival HDD spinup can handle this sort of thing, while a tape system would take far too long and would likely timeout that data request.

WD's Ae press blast after the break.

IDF 2014: Through Silicon Via - Connecting memory dies without wires

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | September 10, 2014 - 12:34 PM |
Tagged: TSV, Through Silicon Via, memory, idf 2014, idf

If you're a general computer user, you might have never heard the term "Through Silicon Via". If you geek out on photos of chip dies and wafers, and how chips are assembled and packaged, you might have heard about it. Regardless of your current knowledge of TSV, it's about to be a thing that impacts all of you in the near future.

Let's go into a bit of background first. We're going to talk about how chips are packaged. Micron has an excellent video on the process here:

The part we are going to focus on appears at 1:31 in the above video:

die wiring.png

This is how chip dies are currently connected to the outside world. The dies are stacked (four high in the above pic) and a machine has to individually wire them to a substrate, which in turn communicates with the rest of the system. As you might imagine, things get more complex with this process as you stack more and more dies on top of each other:

chip stacking.png

16 layer die stack, pic courtesy NovaChips

...so we have these microchips with extremely small features, but to connect them we are limited to a relatively bulky process (called package-on-package). Stacking these flat planes of storage is a tricky thing to do, and one would naturally want to limit how many of those wires you need to connect. The catch is that those wires also equate to available throughput from the device (i.e. one wire per bit of a data bus). So, just how can we improve this method and increase data bus widths, throughput, etc?

Before I answer that, let me lead up to it by showing how flash memory has just taken a leap in performance. Samsung has recently made the jump to VNAND:

vnand crop--.png

By stacking flash memory cells vertically within a die, Samsung was able to make many advances in flash memory, simply because they had more room within each die. Because of the complexity of the process, they also had to revert back to an older (larger) feature size. That compromise meant that the capacity of each die is similar to current 2D NAND tech, but the bonus is speed, longevity, and power reduction advantages by using this new process.

I showed you the VNAND example because it bears a striking resemblance to what is now happening in the area of die stacking and packaging. Imagine if you could stack dies by punching holes straight through them and making the connections directly through the bottom of each die. As it turns out, that's actually a thing:

tsv cross section.png

Read on for more info about TSV!

Logitech G Announces Arx Control (+SDK) for iOS and Android

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 10, 2014 - 12:59 PM |
Tagged: sdk, logitech g, logitech, arx control

The Arx platform is created by Logitech G to deliver "second screen experience" to PC gamers through their iOS or Android devices. Arx Control will have the ability to adjust your mouse DPI, rebind macros, and see the status of their gaming machine. Logitech did not specify the system information that would be given by app, but it does not matter in the end because they are releasing an SDK for it.

logitech-g-developer-logo.png

The Arx Control SDK, along with the LED Illumination SDK and the G-Key Macro SDK, will allow game and application developers to interact with "Logitech G" devices and the Arx Control app. This could range from providing ammo meters and timers, to offers of in-app purchases. That last point is clearly aimed more at developers than customers because that sounds really scary to me. Then again, it can be done correctly -- such as Team Fortress 2, in my opinion.

What could be cool is if a friend, watching you play, could contribute to the gameplay in some way. Then again, if a developer wanted to put that much effort, they could probably create a mobile web app. This is probably more useful for small things, like the aforementioned ammo and health status indicators, that would otherwise not be worth a developer's effort, without Logitech's platform.

The Logitech G Arx Control SDK is available now for free and the Arx Control App will be available soon on the iOS App Store and Google Play.

Source: Logitech

ASUS ZenWatch Announced

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 10, 2014 - 01:26 PM |
Tagged: asus, smartwatch, zenwatch

The ASUS ZenWatch is their "first wearable device produced in partnership with Google". It is a smart watch from the Android Wear platform. It has a curved glass display of unknown resolution, a leather strap, and a "quick-release clasp". It ships with numerous faces... because it's software and it is basically free after you pay the designer, especially with the price of storage these days. It requires a phone with Android 4.3 or later.

ASUS has customized the user interface with their ZenUI. Its main usability features either interact with your phone or track your fitness activity. It acts as a pedometer, calorie counter, heart rate monitor, and fitness goal tracker. Each of these are integrated around their ZenUI.

ASUS ZenWatch-03.jpg

ASUS has not publicly announced pricing or availability. According to VR-Zone, ASUS representatives state "under $200". This is significantly less than Apple's "starting at $349".

Source: ASUS

Fanless Noctua NH-D15 Keeps 150W Xeon E5-2687W Cool

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | September 12, 2014 - 10:56 AM |
Tagged: fanless, passive cooling, noctua, NH-D15

Sure, humans may disagree that 67C (153F) is cool, but it is for a semiconductor. More impressive, it was the temperature recorded on a CPU with a 150W TDP attached to a fanless Noctua NH-D15. Does that mean it was noiseless? Nope. The test kept each of the case fans maxed out at 12V input DC (100%).

noctua_nh_d15_4.jpg

This, without the fans.

Hardwareluxx does not specify how much air gets blown across the passive cooler. Their claim is that the case fans just ensure that the ambient temperature is as low as possible. That seems fair, but I could also, for instance, blow cool air through a 3-inch drier hose attached to a bathroom suction fan stuck out the window. That would certainly keep passive coolers chilled while only being technically fanless.

Theoretically, of course. I'm not saying it's something I did in high school or anything...

Depending on how long of a hose is used, it could even be noise in a different location (rather than case fans in the same PC). Still, cooling 150W is a feat in itself. Then again, with over two pounds of heat fins, it makes sense.

Source: Hardwareluxx

Will Ferrell Games for Cancer. He Hates Cancer. Dot Org.

Subject: General Tech | September 10, 2014 - 11:27 PM |
Tagged: twitch, Indiegogo, charity

So WillFerrellHatesCancer.org redirects to an Indiegogo page where he is raising money to fight cancer. Will Ferrell is doing so in partner with Twitch.TV. In fact, the former Saturday Night Live star will be at Twitch's San Francisco for a live-streamed event, where he will game for two hours with a randomly chosen donor ($10 minimum). Proceeds will go to Cancer for College and DonateGames.org.

The campaign started Wednesday and will go until October 12th at 23:59 PDT. It is Flexible Funding, but will only occur if they meet their goal of $375,000. Then again, the money goes toward college scholarships for cancer survivors and a charity which sells video games and accessories to fund cancer research or gives them to children and families who are affected by cancer.