Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 11, 2013 - 04:06 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: wwdc 13, MacBook Air, Mac Pro, apple
Sometimes our "Perspective" is needed on Apple announcements because some big points just do not get covered by the usual sources. Other times, portions of the story can be relevant to our readers. This is one of those days where both are true. Either side should review our thoughts and analysis of Apple's recent ultrabook and, especially, their upcoming desktop offerings.
The MacBook Air has been, predictably, upgraded Intel's Haswell processors. Battery life is the first obvious benefit of the CPU, and that has been well reported. The 11-inch MacBook Air gains an extra four hours of battery life, usable for up to 9 hours between charges. The extra space on the 13-inch MacBook Air allows it to last 12 hours between charges.
Less discussed, both MacBook Airs will contain Intel's Iris iGPU more commonly known as Intel HD 5000. You cannot get Intel HD 5000 graphics without selecting a BGA socket component which you would install by soldering it in place. While there are several better solutions from competing GPU vendors, Apple will have one of the first shipping implementations of Haswell's canonical graphics processor. Iris is said to have double the performance of previous generation Ivy Bridge graphics for a fraction of its power consumption.
Also included in the MacBook Air is an 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi network adapter and Bluetooth 4.0. Apple is not typically known to introduce new standards and often lags severely behind what is available on the PC unless they had a hand in trademarking it, USB 3.0 being the obvious and recent example.
The specifications will be somewhat customizable, the user is able to select between: an i5 and an i7 processor, 4GB or 8GB of RAM, and 128, 256, or 512GB SSD. It has shipped the day it was announced with base prices ranging between $999 for an entry-level 11-inch and $1099 for an entry-level 13-inch.
But now we move on to the dying industry, desktop PCs, where all innovation has died unless it is to graft a touch interface to anything and everything.
"Can't innovate any more, my ass", grunts Phil Schiller, on the keynote stage.
Whether you like it, or think "innovation" is the best word, it's a legitimate new design some will want.
While the new Mac Pro is not a system that I would be interested in purchasing, for issues I will outline soon, these devices are what some users really want. I have been a very strong proponent of OEM devices as they highlight the benefit of the PC industry: choice. You can purchase a device, like the new Mac Pro, from a vendor; alternatively, you can purchase the components individually to assemble yourself and save a lot of money; otherwise, you can hire a small business computer store or technician.
We need more companies, like Apple, to try new devices and paradigms for workstations and other high-performance devices. While it is less ideal for Apple to be the ones coming up with these redesigns, Apple's platform encourages applications to be vendor-specific (only run on a Mac), it can still benefit the PC industry by demonstrating that life and demand still exists; trying something new could reap large benefits. Not everyone wants to have a full ATX case with discrete components but still want workstation performance, and that is okay.
Now when it comes to actual specifications, the typical coverage glossed over what could be easily approximated by a trip to Wikipedia and Google. Sure, some may have been in a rush within the auditorium, but still.
The specifications are:
- Intel Xeon E5-2600 V2-class CPU, Ivy Bridge-E, 12 cores max (suggests single-socket)
- 4-channel DDR3 ECC RAM, apparently 4 DIMMS which suggests 4x16GB (Max).
Dual FirePro GPUs, 4096 total shaders with 2x6GB GDDR5.
- Pretty clearly based on FirePro W9000
- Seems to be slightly underclocked, losing about 0.5 Teraflop per GPU.
- PCIe SSD
- Thunderbolt 2, USB3.0, and WiFi ac (+ a/b/g/n??), Bluetooth 4.0
Now the downside is that basically anything you wish to add to the Mac Pro needs to be done through Thunderbolt, Bluetooth 4.0, or USB 3.0. When you purchase an all-in-one custom design, you forfeit your ability to reach in and modify the components. There is also no mention of pricing, and for a computer with this shoplist you should expect to pay a substantial invoice even without "The Apple Tax", but that is not the point of purchasing a high-end workstation. Apple certainly put in as close to the best-of-the-best as they could.
Now could people stop claiming the PC is dead and work towards sustaining it? I know people love stories of jarring industry shifts, but this is ridiculous.
Subject: General Tech | June 10, 2013 - 01:01 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: apple, ios 7, mac, wwdc
If you are wondering what is going on in the computer world on the other side of the fence, you are either watching the live stream from Microsoft (which will not always be on, regardless of their slogan), or you are wearing a black turtleneck and counting down the hours until the big reveal. Apple is, as always, rather secretive about what the next new release is but The Inquirer has a few well informed hypothesis about what you can expect. The most interesting will probably be the new operating systems, the new iOS, the first mobile interface designed by Jony Ive and likely to be somewhat different from previous incarnations. Desktop devices will also be seeing a new interface with the arrival of OS X 10.9, this will likely not change to the extent of the mobile version but it might arrive on a peice of new hardware for you to salivate over. Their last informed guess is the arrival of iRadio to compete with Spotify and other streaming providers, though completely conjoined to your iTunes account
"SOFTWARE GIANT Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) is just a few hours away, with excitement building over what analysts are calling Apple's most important announcements to date.
The firm is widely expected to unveil its next generation iOS and Mac operating systems, as well as its long-awaited Spotify rival, so here's a rundown of what we can expect."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- The TR Podcast 135: All's well that's Haswell
- Sneaky new Android Trojan is WORST yet discovered @ The Register
- Samsung Galaxy Note 12.2 leaks, set for third quarter release @ The Inquirer
- Google To Buy Waze For $1.3 Billion @ Slashdot
- Live from Microsoft's Xbox E3 2013 press conference
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | April 19, 2013 - 02:51 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: raja koduri, apple, amd
Interesting information has surfaced today about the addition of a new executive at AMD. Raja Koduri, who previously worked for ATI and AMD as Chief Technology Officer, departed the company in 2009 for a four year stint at Apple, helping to turn that company into an SoC power house. Developing its own processors has enabled Apple to stand apart from the competition in many mobile spaces and Koduri is partly responsible for the technological shift at Apple.
Starting on Monday though, Raja Koduri is officially back at AMD, taking over as the CVP (Corporate Vice President) of Visual Computing. This position will result in more complete control over the entirety of the hardware and software platforms AMD is developing including desktop discrete, mobile and APU/SoC designs. This marks the second major returning visionary executive in recent memory to AMD, the first of which was Jim Keller in August of 2012 (also returning from a period with Apple).
It will take some time for Koduri to have effect on AMD's current roadmap
Having known Raja Koduri for quite a long time I have always seen the man as an incredibly intelligent engineer that was able to find strengths in designs that others could not. Much of the success of the ATI/AMD GPU divisions during the 2000s was due to Koduri's leadership (among others of course) and I think having him back at AMD at an even more senior role is great news for both discrete graphics fans and APU users.
In a discussion with Koduri recently, Anandtech got some positive feedback for PC gamers:
Raja believes there’s likely another 15 years ahead of us for good work in high-end discrete graphics, so we’ll continue to see AMD focus on that part of the market.
Koduri sees 15 years more GPU evolution
So even though this hiring isn't going to change AMD's position on the APU and SoC strategy, it is good to have someone at the CVP level that sees the importance and value of discrete, high power GPU technology.
In many talks with AMD over the last 6 months we kept hearing about the healthy influx of quality personnel though much of it was still under wraps. Keller was definitely one of them and Koduri is another and both of the hires give a lot of hope for AMD as a company going forward. Some in the industry have already written AMD off but I find it hard to believe that this caliber of executive would return to a sinking ship.
Subject: General Tech | March 8, 2013 - 01:27 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: apple, Intel, rumour, running gag
Once again the old rumour has resurfaced and discussions of what will happen to the market if Apple chooses Intel to manufacture their mobile chips. As we heard at the end of last year, Intel might be willing to fab ARM processors for iPhones if Apple is willing to move to x86 processors for other larger mobile products. Today via The Register we heard more about the possibility of the two companies working together, though no real confirmation has yet been made. This move makes sense for Intel who are not making revenue from the mobile market and even more sense for Apple who are in the midst of suing their current chip provider Samsung in multiple cases across the planet.
"Rumors are again swirling that Apple and Intel are in discussions about Chipzilla baking the chips Cupertino uses to power its iDevices.
"A source close to one of the companies says Intel and Apple executives have discussed the issue in the past year but no agreement has been reached," Reuters reported on Thursday."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- AMD looks to HSA Foundation to avoid AMD64 mistakes @ The Inquirer
- Real multifunction “Sonic Screwdriver” @ Hack a Day
- BGA rework station @ Hack a Day
- Mmmm, TOE jam: Trev shoves Intel's NICs in his bonkers test lab @ The Register
Subject: General Tech | February 14, 2013 - 01:47 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Android, iOS 6, apple, security, FROST
Two different mobile phone security concerns were revealed today, one for devices using iOS 6.1 and one for Androids. DailyTech has posted text instructions as well as linking to a video which shows how an iPhone 5's password protection can be completely bypassed and allow anyone with physical access to your phone to log into the phone with full access. The second vulnerability, tested with Android 4.0 but possibly wide spread, was discovered by a team at the Friedrich-Alexander University in Germany, and it allows you to recover information from a phone which has used the Android disk encryption. They used both a freezer to drop the temperature of the phone and a trick with the battery which puts the phone into 'fastboot' mode and allows the loading of a custom image via a Linux PC which installs their Forensic Recovery Of Scrambled Telephones tool, aka FROST. As you can see from the images below, that gives you the ability to get the encryption key or even brute force some passwords.
-Go to emergency call, push down the power button and tap cancel.
-Dial 112 and tap green and inmediately red.
-Go to lock screen.
Ok...ready for second part:
-Go to passcode screen.
-Keep pushing down the power button ...1...2...3...seconds and before showing the slider "turn off"...tap the emergency call button and ...voilá!
-Then without releasing the power button press the home button and ready..."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Intel's new TV box to point creepy spy camera at YOUR FACE @ The Register
- Toshiba announces a noise cancelling chip @ The Inquirer
- 555-timer charges lead acid batteries @ Hack a Day
- Micron glues DDR4 RAM to flash, animates the 256GB franken-DIMM @ The Register
- Futuremark 3DMark Review @ Neoseeker
- Hacking a Coffee Machine for a Better Brew @ Hack a Day
- Cern shuts down LHC after three years of operations @ The Inquirer
- NVIDIA/AMD OpenGL Benchmarks Of Unigine Valley @ Phoronix
- Win an AverMedia RECentral Live Gamer HD Capture Card @ eTeknix
- Funky Kit Presents: Mod-my-Box™ Spring 2013 - Official Launch
Subject: General Tech | January 23, 2013 - 01:17 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Samsung, apple, andriod, Malware, fud
The good news for Samsung last year is that it bought $23.9bn worth of semiconductor orders in 2012, while Apple ordered a mere $21.4bn which implies that Samsung is buying more chips than Apple, or perhaps is just getting a worse deal. If the information from Gartner that The Inquirer picked up on is correct, Samsung accounted for 8% of the total semiconductor market in 2012, a very impressive feat. That is more than Dell and HP's market share combined which supports the theory that the falling sales we saw in PCs was not reflected at all in the smartphone and tablet markets.
Unfortunately that success comes at a price as Samsung's OS of choice, Android, is expected to see more than one million malware threats by the end of 2013. According to Trend Micro there were about 350,000 malware threats over 2012 with only one in five Android devices actually having any sort of security software installed. Perhaps it is time to start thinking more about protecting your phone, especially if you have banking apps or the so called "pay by bonk" enabled on your phone.
"Apple, thanks in large part to its hugely popular iPhone and iPad products, was the largest consumer of semiconductor chips, that is, until 2012. Gartner claims that Samsung has overtaken Apple to become the largest semiconductor user with eight percent of all chips sold going to the firm."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- AMD alllllmost promises profitability by year end @ The Register
- AMD's chip-supply reassessment leads to big quarterly losses @ The Register
- Micron intros high-endurance MLC SSD for data center storage @ DigiTimes
- Foxit outfoxes fiendish flaw to fix foxed-up Firefox PDF plugin @ The Register
- iPad 5 with iOS7 launches alongside JOBS film at Easter @ Kitguru
- Desktop PC: Intel Says the End is Near @ Benchmark Reviews
- Professional Graphics Creation on Linux @ Linux.com
Subject: General Tech | January 2, 2013 - 01:31 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: apple, Samsung, TSMC, A6X
According to the news we are hearing from Slashdot and other sources, Apple has finally made the decision to move their chip fabrication from Samsung, for fairly obvious reasons, with TSMC being the lucky fab that will get their business. They are starting with the current A6X chip, shrinking it to 28nm for the initial run, with the contract for producing the new A7 series dependant on the success of TSMC's trial run. As the 28nm node is quite familiar to TSMC, barring any production issues that limit availability, they are very likely to win the contract.
"The test will kick off in Q1 2013, The China Times reports, with TSMC producing a new, 28nm version of the existing 32nm A6X that Samsung has been producing for the full-sized iPad 4th-gen; the smaller chip, which will likely be more power efficient as well, will debut in a new iPad 5th-gen and iPad mini 2."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Key security threats to protect against in 2013 @ The Inquirer
- Frankenstein, an all-tube home theater amplifier @ Hack a Day
- Inside the Macintosh Plus @ Hardware Secrets
- Kaiser Baas Photo and Negative Scanner @ Tweaktown
- Two months with Windows 8 @ DVHardware
- Philips Hue: Fancy and colourful lighting at a hefty price @ Hardware.Info
- Top 10 most innovative gadgets for 2013 @ The Inquirer
- KitGuru Annual Awards 2012
- TechSpot: The Year in Tech, 2012 Top Tech Stories
Since the Apple transition to Intel processors and mostly off-the-shelf PC hardware in 2006, people have been attempting to run OS X on home built computers originally destined for Windows. While running a different operating system on similar hardware may seem like a trivial thing, my historical experience with building a so called “Hackintosh” has been arduous at times. However, since it has been a few years since my last attempt, I decided to give installing OS X on modern PC hardware another try.
Otellini will never live that one down...
One of the big stepping stones for OS X on PC based motherboards was the widespread adoption of EFI instead of the standard BIOS environment. Official Intel Macs have always used EFI, which meant until a few years ago, emulating the EFI environment on third party motherboards to build a Hackintosh. That has changed recently and with the release of Sandy Bridge, we have seen full EFI support across all motherboard vendors.
The premiere source for information about Hackintosh builds is the tonymacx86 site and forums. The forums on tonymac is an extremely useful resource for learning about the current state of the Hackintosh scene and the experiences of people with similar hardware to what we will be using.
Tony publishes a yearly Buyer’s Guide article with components of all price ranges that will work with OS X with minimal hassle. He provides many different options in different price ranges in the 2012 guide, including H77, Z77, and even X79 based parts.
While it is technically possible to use AMD processors and graphics cards in a Hackintosh build, Apple officially supports Intel CPUs and NVIDIA Kepler GPUs, so they require much less work to ensure the operating system can fully utilize these components.
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | December 4, 2012 - 07:28 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Intel, arm, apple
Hopefully I did not make your head hurt too much with that title.
Intel announced early in the year the opening of their fabrication labs to certain other developers, none of which competing with anything Intel does. We joked about how this is the end of the world as we know it although we feel fine. As it turns out, the world might end December 2012: RBC rumors that Intel might fulfill orders of ARM processors taking away that responsibility from Samsung.
Of course, there will always be a catch. It is possible that Intel will allow Apple to manufacture their ARM-based processors at Intel if Apple switches their tablets to x86-based products. No-one said the apocalypse must be an irrational event.
When pigs fly? Challenge accepted.
If this rumor comes to fruition - and that is a mighty large if - we finally know that a line of apathy exists within Intel. Intel fabricating an architecture that they directly compete with is a big deal, ignore their motive.
Intel has allegedly made a compromise, definitively this time. We debated fairly heavily whether Intel made a compromise when they allowed FBGAs to be manufactured at their facilities. This time there is no question about whether Intel will make a concession to better its company as a whole.
I have no doubt that Intel desires to stomp competing platforms but we should all doubt that Intel would never step into some middle ground. After all, Intel is not even suffering at this point by any measure. Imagine if the situation actually begins to look dire.
Subject: Editorial, Storage | October 24, 2012 - 08:26 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: hybrid, fusion drive, fusion, apple
Dubbed 'Fusion Drive', this tech enables the late 2012 Mac Mini and iMac models to have a pseudo-hybrid drive. There's been a lot of speculation today on just how this technology will work, but I've cut through the chaff to try and shed some proper light on just how this new thing works, and how it is so different than any other 'hybrid' solution out there.
First, it's not a hybrid drive. The iMac or Mac Mini comes with an SSD and a HDD. Two individual SATA devices. Both devices appear as individual drives, even in Disk Utility. Where the magic happens is that OSX can be configured (and is pre-configured in these new systems) to combine the two drives into one drive that presents itself to the user as a single logical volume. The important point is that the drives are 'fused' together, not merged or mirrored. The SSD and HDD each have their own partition, and OSX can reach beneath the Fusion layer and shift files back and forth between the two as it sees fit. Frequently used apps and files can be shifted back and forth between the SSD and HDD, as seen in the below pic:
The biggest differences are in that since it's not a mirrored hybrid solution, where the SSD space is not available, and a failure of the HDD causes loss of all data. Fusion Drive combines the two volumes and *adds* the space together, and the apps or files will sit on either device (but not both). All files written go to the SSD first and are later shifted to the HDD in the background. This is actually a very smart way to handle things. The entire OSX install always stays on the SSD, so there is no concern of OS files 'rolling off' of the SSD cache, causing intermittent slowdowns. More (perhaps most) importantly, if the HDD fails on a Fusion Drive setup, OSX should theoretically just keep on chugging, albeit without access to the files or apps that were stored on the HDD. On the flip side, if the SSD were to fail, the HDD could simply be mounted in Target Mode under another Mac, and all files stored to that drive could then be recovered. Sure you won't get everything back in these scenarios, but it provides *much* more flexibility for data recovery, and it's worth repeating the fact that an HDD failure in any other hybrid solution results in the loss of ALL data.
A couple of other quick gotchas: You can still dual boot with boot camp under a Fusion Drive setup, but the boot camp partition will only be at the end of the HDD, not on the SSD. Windows will not only run slower because it's on the spinning disk, it will run slower because the latter portions of a HDD typically see about half of the throughput as compared to the start of that disk. Also, you are only allowed *one* additional (non-Fusion) partition on the HDD, which can be used for another OSX install *or* for the Boot Camp Windows install. Users who prefer to boot greater than two operating systems on their newer Mac will have to do so with Fusion Drive disabled.
More to follow as more data comes in. For now I'm only working off of the other speculation and the Apple Support Page on the matter.