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A brisk tour of IDF 2014

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 10:04 AM |
Tagged: idf 2014, western digital, hgst, Intel, dell

The Tech Report have been busy scribing up the various announcements and product releases that Intel and others are revealing at this years IDF.  The HDD is staying alive by offering larger capacities than were available previously, from Western Digital's  6.3 TB archival model to HGST's 10TB helium filled monster with a 3.2TB SSD also available for frequently accessed data.  From Intel comes information on Skylake systems and their wireless charging to the first benchmarks we've seen for Core M ultraportables.  Also present were Dell, which allowed TR some hands on time with their Venue 8 7000 and of course a small announcement from that other company.

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"Somewhat surprisingly, the initial model's capacity is listed as 6.x TB. The Ae is based on an "innovative Progressive Capacity model" that allows WD to increase the capacity of shipping drives as yields improve and the company gets better at squeezing more data onto the platters. The gains will be small—capacities of 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3 TB are listed as examples—but WD says the folks who need drives like these are hungry for even incremental improvements."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

SanDisk Launches 512GB SDXC Card for $799.99

Subject: General Tech, Storage | September 12, 2014 - 01:08 PM |
Tagged: sandisk, sdxc, sdhc, sd card, 512GB

Assuming your camera, card reader, or other device fully conforms to the SDXC standard, Sandisk has developed a half-terabyte (512GB) memory card. Beyond being gigantic, it can be read at up to 95 MB/s and written at up to 90 MB/s, which should be enough to stream 4K video. Sandisk claims that it is temperature proof, shock proof, water proof, and x-ray proof. It also comes with a lifetime warranty and "RescuePRO Deluxe" recovery software but, honestly, I expect people would just use PhotoRec or something.

It should be noted that the SDXC standard covers memory cards up to 2TB so it will probably not be too long before we see another standard get ratified. What is next? SDUC? SDYC? SDALLTHEC? Blah! This is why IEEE assigns names sequentially.

The SanDisk Extreme PRO UHS-I SDHC/SDXC 512GB memory card should be available now, although I cannot yet find them online, for $799.99 MSRP.

Source: SanDisk

IDF 2014 Storage Roundup - RAM and NVMe and IOPS! Oh my!

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | September 16, 2014 - 09:49 AM |
Tagged: ram, NVMe, IOPS, idf 2014, idf, ddr4, DDR

The Intel Developer Forum was last week, and there were many things to be seen for sure. Mixed in with all of the wearable and miniature technology news, there was a sprinkling of storage goodness. Kicking off the show, we saw new cold storage announcements from both HGST and Western Digital, but that was about it for HDD news, as the growing trend these days is with solid state storage technologies. I'll start with RAM:

First up was ADATA, who were showing off 64GB DDR3 (!) DIMMs:

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Next up were various manufacturers pushing DDR4 technology quite far. First was SK Hynix's TSV 128GB DIMMs (covered in much greater depth last week):

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Next up is Kingston, who were showing a server chassis equipped with 256GB of DDR4:

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If you look closer at the stats, you'll note there is more RAM in this system than flash:

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Next up is IDT, who were showing off their LRDIMM technology:

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This technology adds special data buffers to the DIMM modules, enabling significantly higher amounts of installed RAM into a single system, with a 1-2 step de-rating of clock speeds as you take capacities to the far extremes. The above server has 768GB of DDR4 installed and running!:

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Moving onto flash memory type stuff, Scott covered Intel's new 40 Gbit Ethernet technology last week. At IDF, Intel had a demo showing off some of the potential of these new faster links:

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This demo used a custom network stack that allowed a P3700 in a local system to be matched in IOPS by an identical P3700 *being accessed over the network*. Both local and networked storage turned in the same 450k IOPS, with the remote link adding only 8ms of latency. Here's a close-up of one of the SFF-8639 (2.5" PCIe 3.0 x4) SSDs and the 40 Gbit network card above it (low speed fans were installed in these demo systems to keep some air flowing across the cards):

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Stepping up the IOPS a bit further, Microsoft was showing off the capabilities of their 'Inbox AHCI driver', shown here driving a pair of P3700's at a total of 1.5 million IOPS:

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...for those who want to get their hands on this 'Inbox driver', guess what? You already have it! "Inbox" is Microsoft's way of saying the driver is 'in the box', meaning it comes with Windows 8. Bear in bind you may get better performance with manufacturer specific drivers, but it's still a decent showing for a default driver.

Now for even more IOPS:

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Yes, you are reading that correctly. That screen is showing a system running over 11 million IOPS. Think it's RAM? Wrong. This is flash memory pulling those numbers. Remember the 2.5" P3700 from a few pics back? How about 24 of them:

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The above photo shows three 2U systems (bottom), which are all connected to a single 2U flash memory chassis (top). The top chassis supports three submodules, each with eight SFF-8639 SSDs. The system, assembled by Newisys, demonstrates just how much high speed flash you can fit within an 8U space. The main reason for connecting three systems to one flash chassis is because it takes those three systems to process the full IOPS capability of 24 low latency NVMe SSDs (that's 96 total lanes of PCIe 3.0!)!

So there you have it, IDF storage tech in a nutshell. More to come as we follow these emerging technologies to their maturity.

It's a roundup in your ear

Subject: General Tech | September 9, 2014 - 12:07 PM |
Tagged: audio, roundup, earbuds

For those who prefer to leave their circumaural headsets at home and travel with earbuds, sooner or later they sustain enough damage that you need to shop for a new pair.  The least expensive model that is easily available is a decent choice but for those with specific requirements there is a round up over at The Inquirer of what they feel the best earbuds currently on the market are.  From those who like to listen to audio while swimming to those who want their earbuds to look fancy or even glow in time with the music, this round up has them all.

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"RATHER ANNOYINGLY, we find ourselves in the market for some new earphones more often than we'd probably care to admit, whether it's because we left our last pair on the bus, stood on them, put them in the wash by mistake, or because we've managed to dodge all of the above but we've had them for years, and the audio quality has declined over time, something that shouldn't really happen, but it does."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Source: The Inquirer

The 750W Antec EDGE; pretty and powerful

Subject: Cases and Cooling | September 9, 2014 - 01:09 PM |
Tagged: modular psu, Antec EDGE, antec, 80Plus Gold, 750w

The Antec EDGE 750W PSU can provide up to 62A on its four 12V rails and with six 6+2 PCIe power connectors it is perfect for a system with multiple mid to high end GPUs.  When [H]ard|OCP cracked it open they saw a high quality Seasonic design similar to the XFX XTR 750W and a decent quality 135mm fan.  Once hooked up in the torture chamber the PSU passed every test they threw at it but in the end this PSU was awarded with a Silver Award as it did not vast outclass other 750W PSUs available for significantly less money.  It is a very good choice and if you see it on sale you should consider it a serious contender for your hard earned cash.

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"Antec is easily a go-to brand for many computer hardware enthusiasts and Antec has not been resting on its reputation. Today is the debut of the Antec EDGE 750W. This PSU boasts full modularity, up to 92% efficiency, high quality Japanese capacitors, "Flat Stealth Wires," all riding on two "High Current Rails.""

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

CASES & COOLING

Source: [H]ard|OCP

A half dozen pairing suggestions; does your mouse match your keyboard?

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 12:10 PM |
Tagged: input, corsair, logitech, Mad Catz, razer, roccat, steelseries, gaming mouse, keyboard, round up

The end of summer brings more than just pretty coloured leaves, you can also expect to see round ups of products released this year.  The Register has put together an article looking at the best mice and keyboards for gamers which are currently available.  In most cases they pair a keyboard and mouse from the same company so that your desk will look impressive with matching peripherals.  It is not just about the aesthetics though, they also provide you with an overview of what features make each pairing unique and the features that should intrigue you.  Check it out right here.

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"In the case of the keyboards and mice I’m reviewing, it might be difficult to put forward a convincing argument that they are to blame, as they are all developed to make the very best of my gaming talents, but often this comes at a preposterous price."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

ChromeOS Gets Android "App Runtime for Chrome (Beta)"

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 13, 2014 - 02:52 PM |
Tagged: google, chrome os, Android

To some extent...

This is not the entire Google Play Store; in fact, it is just four Android apps at launch: Duolingo, Evernote, Sight Words, and Vine. According to a Google spokesperson, via Ars Technica, the company built an Android platform on top of Native Client, which is their way of sandboxing (a subset of) native code for use in applications which require strict security (such as a web browser). Android apps can then see and use those platform-dependent Android APIs, but be kept at two arms-lengths away from the host system.

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From the app's standpoint, code will not need to be changed or ported. Of course, this is sound in theory, but little bugs can surface in actual practice. In fact, Flipboard was demonstrated at Google I/O under this initiative but is curiously absent from launch. To me, it seems like a few bugs need to be resolved before it is deemed compatible (it is dubbed "Beta" after all). Another possibility is that the app was not yet optimized for a Chromebook's user experience. Claiming either would be pure speculation, so who knows?

Android apps using App Runtime for Chrome (Beta) are available now at the Chrome Web Store.

Source: Google

Firefox Developer Tools Can Debug Non-Mozilla Browsers

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 01:22 PM |
Tagged: firefox, mozilla, web browser, web development

Well this is an interesting feature. Mozilla, like all browser vendors, has been constantly enhancing their web development tools. They are quite impressive, allowing anyone to debug any page, including WebGL shader replacement, audio network manipulation, and injecting Javascript, HTML, and CSS at run time. Firefox OS and Firefox for Android developers were even able to remotely connect to a desktop Firefox browser as if it were an IDE (which it really is these days). Today, Mozilla announced (via their Hacks blog) early support for remote debugging Safari on iOS and Google Chrome on Android.

The currently supported tools are: "Inspector", which allows searching, modifying, and injecting HTML and CSS; "Debugger", which debugs and injects Javascript; and "Console", which displays console output from the open tab and executes individual Javascript statements (which can be multi-line with shift + enter). You cannot, for instance, modify individual draw calls on a running 3D game, like you can with the same tools when manipulating a Firefox tab, but this is still pretty impressive for cross-vendor.

Remote Debugging for Safari on iOS and Chrome on Android is available in early development on Firefox Nightly with an optional extension.

Source: Mozilla

Upgrade your selfies to the next level with these new products announced at IDF

Subject: General Tech | September 15, 2014 - 12:00 PM |
Tagged: idf 2014, sony, Panasonic, Samsung, cameras

At IDF there were a few new cameras on display which caught The Register's attention in amongst the smart appliances and other gadgets.  For the highest quality selfies try the Panasonic HX-500 4K activity cam which is good at depths of up to 3 metres for up to 30 minutes.  Perhaps you would prefer to pair your Galaxy Note 4 with the Samsung Galaxy VR headset to give you an Occulus like look at the world; a 96-degree view which is intended to look like a 175-inch screen seen from 2 metres away.   Samsung users could also pick up the Olloclip for Android, giving you fisheye and wide angle lenses for your Galaxy S4 or S5.  There is more in the article, check them all out here.

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"Image is everything - or so it has been said, and if the gadgets at the recent IFA techfest in Berlin are anything to go by then manufacturers certainly seem to think we’re image obsessed. With selfies being a global compulsion, perhaps they know us better than we know ourselves."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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