Intel Launches Open Source SFF MinnowBoard Platform For Embedded Systems

Subject: General Tech, Systems | August 3, 2013 - 04:13 AM |
Tagged: SFF, open source hardware, open source, minnowboard, Intel, embedded system, atom

The Intel Open Source Technology Group along with CircuitCo recently launched a new small form factor bare-bones system based on open source hardware and running open source software. The Minnowboard includes a 4.2” x 4.2” motherboard, passively-cooled processor, rich IO, UEFI BIOS, and the Angstrom Linux operating system.

Intel MinnowBoard SFF x86 PC With Angstrom Linux.jpg

The Minnowboard is powered by a single core Intel Atom E640 processor clocked at 1GHz. It is a 32-bit CPU with HyperThreading and VT-x virtualization support. Other hardware includes an integrated Intel GMA 600 GPU, 1GB of DDR2 memory, and 4MB of flash memory used for motherboard firmware. Storage can be added by plugging a SSD or HDD into the single SATA II 3Gbps port.

The Minnowboard has following IO options:

  • 1 x micro SD
  • 1 x SATA II 3Gbps
  • 2 x USB 2.0 ports
  • 1 x micro USB
  • 1 x mini USB (serial connection)
  • 1 x RJ45 jack (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 2 x 3.5mm audio jacks (line in and line out)
  • 1 x HDMI

The Minnowboard also has a GPIO header with 8 buffered GPIO pins, 2 GPIO LEDs, and 4 GPIO switches. As such, the system can be expanded by adding extra open source modules called “Lures.” The board is aimed at developers and embedded system manufacturers. The Minnowboard can be used as the bare system or can be integrated into a case or larger device.

Intel MinnowBoard SFF x86 PC With Angstrom Linux_top.jpg

The Minnowboard costs $199 and is available for purchase now from Digi-Key, Farnell (UK), Mouser, and Newark.

Obviously, the Minnowboard is nowhere near as cheap as the $35 Raspberry Pi, but it is running x86 hardware which may make it worth it to some users.

If you are interested, you can learn more about the hardware and get involved with the Minnowboard project over at Minnowboard.org.

Epic Intel vs Qualcomm Battle to the Death... WiFi Adapters...

Subject: General Tech, Networking | August 1, 2013 - 09:43 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, killer, Intel, 802.11n

Another BigFoot sighting...

PCWorld compared an Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6230 to a Qualcomm Killer Wireless-N 1202 using two distinct benchmarks. The first of the tests, a ping and jitter assessment written by Qualcomm, claimed a significant win (2ms vs Intel's 4-8ms) for Killer between laptop and router. The second test measured bandwidth where Qualcomm matched or sometimes doubled Intel's performance except in close range 5GHz scenarios; Intel won, in those cases, by about a factor of two.

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Of course, a difference of 2-to-6ms is low for online games. I would imagine those who are genuinely concerned about latency, especially during a LAN Party, would not settle for any form of wireless solution much less plan ahead for it. That could be just my perspective, however; I almost never consider Wi-Fi adapters because I will immediately hunt for an Ethernet jack.

That said, Qualcomm is apparently selling these adapters for prices very comparable to Intel. According to these benchmarks, grains of salt added to taste, Killer would not be a downgrade for a gaming device and should be considered if presented to you. The only time it clearly lost is high speed data transfers at 5GHz less than 10 feet away.

Seriously, Ethernet, keep one in your laptop bag. Magic.

If curious about a purchase, check out the benchmarks (or just skip 802.11n and look for 802.11ac or .11ad equipment); if curious for entertainment, check out Ryan's review of the original, wired, Killer NIC.

Source: PCWorld

Intel Ivy Bridge-E Processors Available In September Starting At $310

Subject: Processors | July 31, 2013 - 06:47 AM |
Tagged: lga 2011, Ivy Bridge-E, Intel

Intel’s Ivy Bridge-E processors are on their way to enthusiasts and should be available as soon as September 4th according to TechPowerUp. The new HEDT parts are compatible with LGA 2011 motherboards and the CPUs bring performance and power efficiency increases to the enthusiast platform.

Intel Logo.jpg

The Ivy Bridge-E parts start at $310 and will be price competitive with the existing Sandy Bridge-E and high end Haswell parts. The Core i7-4820K is the lowest-end Ivy Bridge-E processor. This quad core part has base and turbo clockspeeds of 3.7 GHz and 3.9 GHz respectively, 10MB of L3 cache, 48 PCI-E 3.0 lanes, and a quad channel memory controller. It will cost $310.

Beyond that, the Core i7-4930K is the lowest-end six core IVB-E processor. It has six cores clocked at 3.4 GHz base and 3.9 GHz turbo, 12MB L3 cache, 48 PCI-E 3.0 lanes, and a quad channel memory controller. This part will cost $555.

Finally, the top end Core i7-4960X Extreme Edition is a six core CPU clocked at 3.6 GHz base and 4.0 Ghz turbo with 15MB of L3 cache, 48 PCI-E 3.0 lanes, and a quad channel memory controller. This Ivy Bridge-E HEDT CPU will cost $990.

Compared to the existing Sandy Bridge-E chips, IVB-E is actualy coming out of the gate with lower initial MSRPs. Further, the i7-4820K is actually about $30 cheaper than the Core i7-4770K “Haswell” CPU. The six core i7-4930K may be more enticing to those comparing the enthusiast LGA 2011 platform and the LGA 1150 platform, however. The six core Ivy Bride-E part is about $215 more expensive than the $340 four core Haswell i7-4770K which may be a small enough gap that enthusiasts are willing to make the jump for the extra two cores. Granted, Haswell is a bit faster in some respects than IVB-E (according to leaked benchmarks), but the extra two cores gives it a healthy multi-threaded performance advantage.

Read more about Intel's upcoming Ivy Bridge-E processors.

Source: TechPowerUp

Intel's ARM escalation

Subject: General Tech | July 30, 2013 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: Intel, arm, low power, server, Avoton, rangeley

Intel envisions a sea change in the server room, with servers, SANs and racks of switches which all have been controlled separately becoming much more software based as the ability to virtualize hardware becomes more prevalent.  This is not to imply that the hardware will disappear and that Intel will go the way of IBM and get out of the chip business as neither are true; instead Intel is moving forward on the belief that the optimization of your virtualization software will be more important than specific hardware optimizations.  While it is great to have tiered storage with expensive SSDs, solid SAS drives and other longer term and lower availability all working together there is little benefit if the software which allocates your data to those media doesn't do so properly.

In this new server room the SoC could be king, modular designs which offer scalable processing power to any and all tasks which is something that ARM cut its teeth on and is now scaling up their power to become a major player in server room design.  Intel is coming at this market segment from the other direction as it has to trim power down on its chips without crippling them like we saw in the first 45nm Atom chips.  To that end they are working on the new Silvermont architecture, the 22nm Avoton and Rangley which will be mature 64bit chips, something that ARM is still in early days with.  Check out more info on these two chips and their successors, along with a teaser on Broadwell at The Tech Report.

avoton-block.jpg

"Last week, Intel hosted an event for press and analysts where it provided some updates on the state of its data center business. Then it proceeded to confound our expectations by demonstrating how it's gearing up for a protracted fight with ARM."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

A teaser on Intel's upcoming San Francisco IDF teaser

Subject: General Tech | July 25, 2013 - 01:52 PM |
Tagged: Intel, idf 2013

DigiTimes wrangled up some information on part of the upcoming IDF, a teaser on Intel's expected mobile announcements.  Intel powered smartphones developed with Lenovo, ZTE, Acer and Asustek Computer will be on display though it is unclear what processor will be inside, it is unlikely to be the 22nm Merrifield as that is still months away but you never know with Intel.  Wearable computing, voice recognition and gesture controllers will also be making an appearance so Ryan should have an interesting trip again this year.

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"Intel is set to host Intel Developer Forum (IDF) 2013 in San Francisco, the US from September 10-12 to further discuss its 2-in-1 device plans as well as its latest progress in Android smartphone and tablet development, according to sources from the upstream supply chain."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

New Atom C2000 processors and 14nm Server CPUs from Intel

Subject: General Tech | July 23, 2013 - 03:44 PM |
Tagged: Intel, atom, 14nm, Avoton, Broadwell, Denverton, xeon, rangeley

Intel has spent the day announcing new products for the server room, from new Atoms to Xeons.  Atom will bear the names of Avoton and Rangeley, Avoton will deal with microservers where power and heat are a major concern while Rangeley will appear in network devices and possibly mobile communication devices.  In the case of Avoton it will be replacing a chip that has not yet been released, the 32nm Atom S1200 lineup is due out in the near future and will fill a new niche for Intel that Centerton failed to fill.  The Register talks a bit more indepth here.

intel_avoton_atom_block_diagram.jpg

Slightly more powerful will be new Broadwell and Denverton Xeons, the first SoC server chips from Intel which will be manufactured on the 14nm process.  We heard much less about these upcoming chips, due for 2014 but you can read what is available at The Inquirer.

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"SAN FRANCISCO: CHIPMAKER Intel has revealed more details about its server processor roadmap, including its upcoming Atom chips codenamed Avoton and Rangeley and new 14nm Xeon and Atom parts codenamed Broadwell and Denverton, respectively."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

New Intel PCN Addresses NUC Overheating Issues

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | July 20, 2013 - 03:29 AM |
Tagged: Intel, dccp847dye, nuc, SFF, pcn, wi-fi

Intel recently posted a Product Change Notification (PCN, number 112432-00) regarding one of its first NUC bare-bones systems, model number BOXDCCP847DYE. The PCN seeks to address the overheating issues that several hardware review sites encountered when performing large file copies across the network using the built-in Wi-Fi card. Intel has reportedly found a solution by adding a 9.5mm thermal pad to the underside of the top cover. The thermal pad will make contact with the mSATA SSD and facilitate heat transfer from the drive into the metal chassis.

Intel PNC Upgrade to Bottom NUC cover aids cooling.jpg

The overheating problems spotted by PC Perspective (in our review) and other tech sites lead to system freezes and restarts. When transferring large amounts of data across the network, the built-in mPCI-E Wi-Fi card would heat up, and because the SSD is mounted just above the Wi-Fi card, the system would lock up or crash when the SSD overheated. Thus, Intel’s workaround is to improve the cooling of the SSD such that it (hopefully) will no longer overheat and users will not have to resort to buying a USB Wi-Fi dongle or running an Ethernet cable to the switch.

According to the PCN, the solution works and system retailers should expect shipments of the BOXDCCP847DYE with upgraded cover to arrive as early as August 1st. Notably, Intel is planning to ship out all pre-modification inventory before moving onto shipping updated bare-bones systems. It may be some time before consumers can be sure they are getting the updated model. In the meantime, users can always opt to use one of the many third party NUC cases that take full advantage of passive cooling techniques.

Source: Intel (PDF)

Cooler Master Unveils Massive V8 GTS CPU Cooler

Subject: Cases and Cooling | July 20, 2013 - 02:03 AM |
Tagged: v8 gts, Intel, hsf, cpu cooler, cooler master, amd

Cooler Master has unveiled a massive CPU cooler called the V8 GTS. The new high end air cooler measures 154 x 140 x 153.5mm and weighs 1.9 pounds. It combines a horizontal vapor chamber, eight heat pipes, triple aluminum fin stacks, and two shrouded PWM fans with red LEDs.

10_Product_V8 GTS_installed 01.jpg

The V8 GTS is compatible with both Intel and AMD CPU sockets, including LGA 775, 1150 1155, 1156, 1366, and 2011 on the Intel side and AM2, AM3, AM3+, FM1, and FM2 on the AMD side. A horizontal vapor chamber is used for the CPU baseplate to effectively move heat away from the processor an into the heatpipes.

20_Product_V8 GTS_bottom.jpg

Eight 6mm heat pipes further transfer heat to three total aluminum fin stacks. Further, two 140mm PWM-controlled fans move cool air across the fins to facilitate cooling high end and overclocked processors. The fans can spin between 600 and 1,600 RPM and are rated for between approximately 28 and 82 CFM respectively.

14_Product_V8 GTS_side.jpg

Other features of the Cooler Master V8 GTS include red LEDs and a black shroud. The cooler is designed to allow plenty of room for clearance around the RAM area to allow for memory with heatspreaders to be used. It is rated to be able to cool up to 250W. It may be rather heavy and may or may not be a hemi, but it certainly looks cool (heh)!

7_Product_V8 GTS_front01.jpg

The CM V8 GTS is model number RR-V8VC-1GPR-R1 and comes with a 2 year warranty. Cooler Master has not yet detailed pricing or availability. In the meantime, Hardware Secrets managed to get their hands on the massive cooler to put its performance to the test.

Engineering Sample of Intel Core i7-4960X, Ivy Bridge-E

Subject: General Tech, Processors | July 18, 2013 - 07:41 PM |
Tagged: xeon, Ivy Bridge-E, Intel

Tom's Hardware acquired, from... somewhere, an early engineering sample of the upcoming Core i7-4960X. Intel was allegedly not involved with this preview and were thus, I would expect, not the supplier for their review unit. While the introductory disclaimer alluded to some tensions between Intel and themselves, for us: we finally have a general ballpark of Ivy Bridge-E's performance. Sure, tweaks could be made before the end of this year, but this might be all we have to go on until then.

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Single Threaded

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Multi Threaded

Both images, credit, Tom's Hardware.

When browsing through the benchmarks, I noticed three key points:

  • Single-threaded: slightly behind mainstream Haswell, similar to Sandy Bridge-E (SBE).
  • Multi-threaded: eight cores (Update 1: This was a 6-core part) are better than SBE, but marginal given the wait.
  • Power efficiency: Ivy Bridge-E handily wins, about 30% more performance per watt.

These results will likely be disappointing to enthusiasts who seek the highest performance, especially in single-threaded applications. Data centers, on the other hand, will likely be eager for Xeon variants of this architecture. The higher-tier Xeon E5 processors are still based on Socket 2011 Sandy Bridge-E including, for instance, those powering the highest performance Cluster Compute instances at Amazon Web Services.

But, for those who actually are salivating for the fastest at all costs, the wait for Ivy Bridge-E might as well be postponed until Haswell-E reaches us, allegedly, just a year later. That architecture should provide significant increases in performance, single and multi-threaded, and is rumored to arrive the following year. I may have just salted the wounds of those who purchased an X79 motherboard, awaiting Ivy Bridge-E, but it might just be the way to go for those who did not pre-invest in Ivy Bridge-E's promise.

Again, of course, under the assumption that these benchmarks are still valid upon release. While a complete product re-bin is unlikely, we still do not know what clock rate the final silicon will be capable of supporting, officially or unofficially.

Keep calm, and carry a Haswell?

Intel Announces Q2 Results: Below Expectations, but Still Good

Subject: Editorial | July 17, 2013 - 09:34 PM |
Tagged: silvermont, quarterly results, money, Lenovo, k900, Intel, atom, 22 nm tri-gate, 14 nm

Intel announced their Q2 results for this year, and it did not quite meet expectations.  When I say expectations, I usually mean “make absolutely obscene amounts of money”.  It seems that Intel was just shy of estimates and margins were only slightly lower than expected.  That being said, Intel reported revenue of $12.8 billion US and a net income of $2 billion US.  Not… too… shabby.

Analysts were of course expecting higher, but it seems as though the PC slowdown is in fact having a material effect on the market.  Intel earlier this quarter cut estimates, so this was not exactly a surprise.  Margins came in around 58.3%, but these are expected to recover going into Q3.  Intel is certainly still in a strong position as millions of PCs are being shipped every quarter and they are the dominant CPU maker in its market.

Intel-Swimming-in-Money.jpg

Intel has been trying to get into the mobile market as it still exhibits strong growth not only now, but over the next several years as things become more and more connected.  Intel had ignored this market for some time, much to their dismay.  Their Atom based chips were slow to improve and typically used a last generation process node for cost savings.  In the face of a strong ARM based portfolio of products from companies like Qualcomm, Samsung, and Rockchip, the Intel Atom was simply not an effective solution until the latest batch of chips were available from Intel.  Products like the Atom Z2580, which powers the Lenovo K900 phone, were late to market as compared to other 28 nm products such as the Snapdragon series from Qualcomm.

Intel expects the next generation of Atom being built on its 22 nm Tri-Gate process, Silvermont, to be much more competitive with the latest generation offerings from its ARM based competitors.  Unfortunately for Intel, we do not expect to see Silvermont based products until later in Q3 with availability in late Q4 or Q1 2014.  Intel needs to move chips, but this will be a very different market than what they are used to.  These SOCs have decent margins, but they are nowhere near what Intel can do with their traditional notebook, desktop, and server CPUs.

To help cut costs going forward, it seems as though Intel will be pulling back on its plans for 14 nm production.  Expenditures and floor space/equipment for 14 nm will be cut back as compared to what previous plans had held.  Intel still is hoping to start 14 nm production at the end of this year with the first commercial products to hit at the end of 2014.  There are questions as to how viable 14 nm is as a fully ramped process in 2014.  Eventually 14 nm will work as advertised, but it appears as though the kinks were much more complex than anticipated given how quickly Intel ramped 22 nm.

Intel has plenty of money, a dominant position in the x86 world, and a world class process technology on which to base future products on.  I would say that they are still in very, very good shape.  The market is ever changing and Intel is still fairly nimble given their size.  They also recognize (albeit sometimes a bit later than expected) shifts in the marketplace and they invariably craft a plan of attack which addresses their shortcomings.  While Intel revenue seems to have peaked last year, they are addressing new markets aggressively as well as holding onto their dominant position in notebooks, desktops, and server markets.  Intel is expecting Q3 to be up, but overall sales throughout 2013 to be flat as compared to 2012.  Have I mentioned they still cleared $2 billion in a down quarter?

Source: Intel