Intel reproduces '8MB bug', fix coming soon.

Subject: Storage | July 24, 2011 - 09:22 PM |
Tagged: ssd, Intel, firmware, 320

We've seen some recent mumblings about a corner case where inadvertent or improper power loss to an Intel 320 Series SSD would result in the drive getting stuch in an inaccessible mode where it appears as an 8MB drive. From what I've gathered, the issue seems rare and may be tied to some specific hardware configurations.

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The SSD 320 we tested back in March (we couldn't get it to 'stick' in 8MB mode).

More after the break...

Intel MLAA: Matrox had the right idea, wrong everything else

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | July 22, 2011 - 08:20 PM |
Tagged: MLAA, Matrox, Intel

Antialiasing is a difficult task for a computer to accomplish in terms of performance and many efforts have been made over the years to minimize the impact while still keeping as much of the visual appeal as possible. The problem with aliasing is that while pixels are the smallest unit of display on a computer monitor, it is large enough for our eye to see it as a distinct unit. You may however have two objects of two different colors partially occupy the same pixel, who wins? In real life, our eye would see the light from both objects hit the same retina nerve (that is not really how it biologically works but close enough) and it would see some blend between the two colors. Intel has released a whitepaper for their attempt at this problem and it resembles a method that Matrox used almost a decade ago.

MatroxAA.jpg

Matrox's antialiasing method.

(Image from Tom's Hardware)

Looking at the problem of antialiasing, you wish to have multiple bits of information dictate the color of a pixel in the event that two objects of different colors both partially occupy the same pixel. The simplest method of doing that is dividing the pixel up into smaller pixels and then crushing them together to an average which is called Super Sampling. This means you are rendering an image 2x, 4x, or even 16x the resolution you are running at. More methods were discovered including just flagging the edges for antialiasing since that is where aliasing occurs. In the early 2000s, Matrox looked at the problem from an entirely different angle: since the edge is what really matters, we can find the shape of the various edges and see how much area of a pixel gets divided up between each object giving an effect they say is equivalent to 16x MSAA for very little cost. The problem with Matrox’s method: it failed with many cases of shadowing and pixelshaders… and came out in the DirectX 9 era. Suffices to say it did not save Matrox as an elite gaming GPU company.

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Look familiar?

(Both images from Intel Blog)

Intel’s method of antialiasing again looks at the geometry of the image but instead breaks the edges into L shapes to determine the area they enclose. To keep the performance up they do pipelining between the CPU and GPU which keeps the CPU and GPU constantly filled with the target or neighboring frames. In other words, as the GPU lets the CPU perform MLAA, the GPU is busy preparing and drawing the next frame. Of course when I see technology like this I think two things: will this work on architectures with discrete GPUs and will this introduce extra latency between the rendering code and the gameplay code? I would expect that it must as the frame is not even finished let alone drawn to monitor before you fetch the next set of states to be rendered. The question still exists if that effect will be drowned in the rest of the latencies experienced between synchronizing.

AMD and NVIDIA both have their variants of MLAA, the latter of which being called FXAA by NVIDIA's marketing team. Unlike AMD's method, NVIDIA's method must be programmed into the game engine by the development team requiring a little bit of extra work on the developer's part. That said, FXAA found its way into Duke Nukem Forever as well as the upcoming Battlefield 3 among other games so support is there and older games should be easy enough to just compute properly.

37407.png

The flat line is how much time spent on MLAA itself, just a few milliseconds and constant.

(Image from Intel Blog)

Performance-wise the Intel solution performs ridiculously faster than MSAA, is pretty much scene-independent, and should produce results near the 16x mark due to the precision possible with calculating areas. Speculation about latency between render and game loops aside the implementation looks quite sound and allows users with on-processor graphics to not need to waste precious cycles (especially on GPUs that you would see on-processor) with antialiasing and instead use it more on raising other settings including resolution itself while still avoiding jaggies. Conversely, both AMD and NVIDIA's method run on the GPU which should make a little more sense for them as a discrete GPU should not require as much help as a GPU packed into a CPU.

Could Matrox’s last gasp from the gaming market be Intel’s battle cry?

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Source: Intel Blog

Intel and AMD Provide Positive Earnings

Subject: Editorial | July 22, 2011 - 01:59 PM |
Tagged: Sandy Bridge E, Q2 2011, llano, Intel, bulldozer, APU, amd

 

The first half of this year has been surprisingly strong for the chip industry, and Intel and AMD are helping to lead the way and satiate demand for new processors at all market levels.

Intel was first off the bat to release earnings for their 2nd quarter, and they again broke revenue and profit records for Q2.  Gross revenue was a very healthy $13 billion and the company’s net profit was an impressive $3 billion.  Margins are down from last year’s high of 67%, but the actual 61% far outshines that of their competition.  Q2 2010 results were $10.8 billion in gross revenue and $2.9 billion net profit.  While profit was “only” $100 million more than Q1 2010, the extra $2.2 billion in revenue is something to sit up and notice.

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Sandy Bridge based parts have continued to propel Intel's domination of the CPU market.

Probably the two greatest strengths for Intel are extracting the most amount of performance per mm squared of die and of overall process technology leadership.  Intel has been shipping 32 nm parts for some 18 months now, and their redesigned Sandy Bridge architecture has left their primary competition in the dust when it comes to overall multi-core CPU performance.  Intel has improved their integrated graphics capabilities, but this is one area where they simply cannot compete with the more GPU focused AMD.  Intel is also facing much increased competition in the mobile market from the Llano based chips and their accompanying chipset, which has been a virtual fortress for Intel until recently.  While Intel still rules in CPU performance, the combination of rich graphics, chipset features, and competitive power consumption has made Llano a true threat to the mobile sector.

Click here to read more.

Source:

Podcast #163 - Mini ITX Z68 Motherboard, PDXLAN coverage, Sandy Bridge-E rumors and more!

Subject: General Tech | July 21, 2011 - 03:37 PM |
Tagged: vellamo, podcast, nvidia, Intel, eyefinity, Android, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #163 - 7/21/2011

This week we talk about a Mini ITX Z68 Motherboard, PDXLAN coverage, Sandy Bridge-E rumors and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom and Allyn Malventano

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their all new Sandy Bridge Motherboards!

Program length: 1:22:27

Program Schedule:

  1. 0:00:31 Introduction
  2. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  3. http://pcper.com/podcast
  4. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  5. 0:02:20 BlackBerry PlayBook Review: Good Hardware Seeks Great Software
  6. 0:04:10 Eyefinity and Me - An Idiot's Guide to AMD's Multi-Monitor Technology
  7. 0:05:05 Qualcomm Vellamo Browser Benchmark and Results - Android Web Performance
  8. 0:10:45 Zotac thinks small with their new Z68 motherboard
  9. 0:15:15 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their all new Sandy Bridge Motherboards!
  10. 0:16:20 One Billion work units down and the FLOPs are still rising - team ranking page 
  11. 0:20:05 Intel Sandy Bridge-E Processors Just In Time For Christmas But With Some Features Removed 
  12. 0:25:02 Steam readies update to download system, just in (Valve) time
  13. 0:29:25 PDXLAN Custom Cases Round 1
  14. 0:34:15 Overclockers Achieve Impressive Llano Overclocking Results, Come Close to 5GHz
  15. 0:38:30 Intel and AMD be warned; ARM could grab up to 20% of the laptop market in the next 4 years 
  16. 0:44:00 Southern Island is ahead of the pack, but it is set to low power for now  
  17. 0:48:02 FPS games have hit the innovation wall? Not so says John Carmack 
  18. 0:56:35 With Intel's recent purchasing habits, could crossdressing be in their future? 
  19. 1:03:00 New Apple Hardware overview
  20. 1:09:45 Quakecon Reminder - http://www.quakecon.org/
    1. Tshirts, prizes, stuff!
  21. 1:12:30 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
    1. Ryan: Spotify
    2. Jeremy: sweet RAM deal
    3. Allyn: http://www.passwordcard.org/en
  22. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  23. http://pcper.com/podcast   
  24. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  25. 1:20:55 Closing

Source:

With Intel's recent purchasing habits, could crossdressing be in their future?

Subject: Editorial | July 20, 2011 - 06:10 PM |
Tagged: vpro, TPM, speculation, security, mcafee, intel txt, Intel, infineon, amt

Not too long ago the tech world was buzzing with the news that Intel had aquired McAfee for $7.68 billion.  This gave them the knowledge base to start thinking about putting antivirus technology directly onto their chips, which seemed far more likely than an Intel branded software antivirus product.  When Intel CTO Justin Rattner started talking about technology that resembled the failed attempts at digital rights management, such as Microsoft's Palladium, or the Trusted Platform Module, aka TPM, a different idea was promoted with its own acronyms; Intel Active Management Technology (AMT) and Intel Trusted Execution Technology (Intel TXT).  This theory was lent credence by the mention of Intel's vPro and a desire by Intel to move security to the top of their list of priorities.  By integrating security software directly into vPro architecture, it might not even be necessary to place antivirus code directly on their hardware. Adding optimization to product architecture that Intel trusts absolutely, as they made it themselves, and the overall level of security on an Intel based virtual machine would be greatly increased.

vpro.jpg

Then Intel went and muddied the water with the $1.9 billion purchase of Infineon Technologies AG’s wireless business, which doesn't own manufacturing facilities but does own the intellectual property and patents for chips providing wireless communication.  Suddenly some discarded theories about the purchase of McAfee seemed valid again.  One possibility that was bandied about was the idea of Intel moving into ARM territory in the cell phone business.  With Intel's new focus on low power chips, with Atom being the starting point, the idea of Intel moving into providing secure CPUs appropriate for cell phones and tablets became much more believable.  With the current rise of viruses targeted at those mobile platforms and the vulnerabilities present in Android and Windows based phones having hardware based antivirus, or at least optimized hardware, makes a lot of sense.  

It also differentiates them from ARM, who has more market experience making ultra low power chips but certainly does not own an antivirus vendor.  The security concerns with cell phones and tablets will continue to increase at the same pace as the capabilities of the devices increase.  Where once bluejacking was the biggest concern of a cell phone user, a smart phone user can browse the world wild web and expose themselves to all sorts of nastiness, including more than just the nastiness they intended to browse for.  A hardware solution would leave more processing power for the user; running Norton 360 on a cell phone or tablet would chew up a lot of cycles.

cell_killer.jpg

Today those muddied waters were stirred up even more as Intel announced it is planning to buy Fulcrum Microsystems, maker of high end 10Gbps and 40Gbps ethernet switches.  This purchase would support the theory decided before the purchase of Infineon's wireless group; that Intel is taking a serious look at a total TPM ecosystem.  In order to truly trust your platform you need to do more than secure your endpoints.  If your server is running AMT or Intel TXT, then you can be assured that any virtual machine running on it can be trusted.  As well, if both the server and client are running processors capable of Intel's TPM (sounds so much better that DRM, eh?)  again both machines can be considered trusted platforms. 

That does not help with trusting data which has been transferred over a WAN, or in some cases even a LAN.   Data transfer allows an attacker a means of entry, or at least a way of denying data transfer.  With a trusted platform, any data which does not match what is expected by the receiving machine will be prevented from running, so a successful man in the middle attack might not allow remote code execution or privilege escalation but would certainly act as a DoS attack as the TPM client refuses to accept the incoming data.   Once the routers and switches involved in the data transfer are secured with the exact same TPM specifications, the entire route is protected and can all be considered part of the same Trusted Platform.  The network devices would reject any code injection attempted on the data during transfer, allowing data to flow freely inside a LAN as well as customized WANs. 

intel_AES.jpg

Returning to the secure cell phone theory, we can now consider the possibility of a TPM compliant cell phone thanks to the theoretical integration of Intel processors into your phone and tablet. Now you would be able to include your mobile communications into your TPM ecosystem.  Properly implemented that security and not only will you challenge ARM 's market share by out-securing them, you could topple RIM's share of the business market as a BlackBerry may be handy to the sales team but they are a nightmare for the IT/IS security team.  Nothing is perfect but that would be a huge step towards defeating the current attack vectors that effect business systems.  So far Intel is not saying much, so all we can do is speculate ... which is fun.

 

Intel and AMD be warned; ARM could grab up to 20% of the laptop market in the next 4 years

Subject: General Tech | July 19, 2011 - 01:02 PM |
Tagged: Intel, amd, arm, mali, low power

Those who ignored Microsoft's announcement that Windows 8 will support ARM processors will perhaps take note of Isuppli's claim that ARM could grab 1 in 5 of the laptops sold by 2015.  The extremely low powers System on a Chip design that they have been selling were at the opposite end of the market from AMD and Intel's X86 chips, but with the rise of the APU the market has undergone a fundamental change.  While the X86 makers are trying to lower the power requirements of their APUs, ARM is busy trying to ramp up the power of their chips.  There are already several vendors establishing a relationship with ARM, up to and including Apple

ARM's Cortex A9 and Mali are impressive, but ARM is already talking about console level graphics quality from their next generation of chips which we will see in roughly 18 months.  This improvement will also encompass their next generation of power efficency research, which should keep power consumption and heat well below what Intel and AMD will be trying to reach.  As well, it might provide an interesting opportunity for NVIDIA as the lack of a license to integrate chips with the new X86 based architecture will not stop them from developing graphics enhancements for ARM based laptops.  Drop by The Inquirer for more on this topic

ARM_Mali-T604 Architecture_675.jpg

"CHIP DESIGNER ARM could power over 20 per cent of all laptops shipped in 2015, according to analyst outfit IHS Isuppli.

IHS Isuppli has forecast that the domination of X86 chips in the laptop market will start to diminish as Microsoft releases its Windows 8 operating system. Windows 8 will be the first desktop operating system from Microsoft that will support the ARM architecture that is found in just about every smartphone in existence."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Intel Sandy Bridge-E Processors Just In Time For Christmas But With Some Features Removed

Subject: Processors | July 16, 2011 - 12:54 AM |
Tagged: sandy bridge-e, processor, Intel, cpu

It seems as though intl is running into a slew of snags as they attempt to push out their Sandy Bridge-E processors and their accompanying X79 chipset motherboards. While it was previously thought that the Sandy Bridge-E processors would not be available until at least Janruary 2012, VR-Zone is reporting that the CPUs may actually be out in time for Christmas this year; however, they will have a reduced feature set. The X79 chipset that powers the Sandy Bridge-E processors will also be released with a reduced feature set. While Intel may reintroduce the removed features in later iterations of the silicon, the first run components will have PCI-Express 3.0 and four SATA/SAS 6Gbps ports removed.  Further, Intel is waiting an extra CPU revision until it begins shipping the procesors out to board partners for their testing; the C-1 stepping instead of the C-0.

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In the case of PCI-E 3.0 support, Intel has had trouble testing their engineering silicon with PCI-E 3.0 cards and is not confident enough to integrate it into their production chips at this time. due to the lack of widely available PCI-E 3.0 add-in cards, support for the standard is not that large of a loss in the short twrm but will certainly affect the component's future proofing value. The removal of the SATA ports is due to issues with storage that have yet to be detailed.

While new technology is always welcome, one cant help but feel that delaying the new processors and motherboards until the silicon is ready (and containing the planned features) may be better for consumers. The board and investors likely do not agree, however. In any case, Sandy Bridge-E and X79 are coming, it is just a question of how they come.

Source: VR-Zone

A PC Macbook Air: Can Intel has?

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Systems | July 10, 2011 - 02:45 AM |
Tagged: Intel, ultrabook

Intel has been trying to push for a new classification of high-end, thin, and portable notebooks to offset the netbook flare-up of recent memory. Intel hopes that by the end of 2012, these “Ultrabooks” will comprise 40% of consumer notebook sales. What is the issue? They are expected to retail in the 1000$ range which is enough for consumers to buy a dual-core laptop with 4 GB of RAM and a tablet. Intel is not fazed by this and has even gone to the effort of offering money to companies wishing to develop these Ultrabooks; the OEMs are fazed, however, and even with Intel’s pressing there is only one, the ASUS UX21, slated to be released in September.

Asus sticking its neck out. (Video by Engadget)

For the launch, Intel created three processors based on the Sandy Bridge architecture: the i5-2557M, the i7-2637M, and the i7-2677M. At just 17 watts of power, these processors should do a lot on Intel’s end to support the branding of Ultrabooks having long battery life and an ultra-thin case given the lessened need for heat dissipation. Intel also has two upcoming Celeron processors which are likely the same ones we reported on two months ago. Intel has a lot to worry about when it comes to competition with their Ultrabook platform though; AMD will have products that appeal to a similar demographic for half the price and tablets might just eat up much of the rest of the market.

Do you have a need for a thousand dollar ultraportable laptop? Will a tablet not satisfy that need?

(Registration not required for commenting)

Source: ZDNet

PC Perspective Podcast #161 - AMD Llano Desktop review, the Samsung Droid Charge, RevoDrive 3 X2 and more!

Subject: General Tech | July 7, 2011 - 04:25 PM |
Tagged: podcast, llano, Intel, APU, amd, a8-3850

PC Perspective Podcast #161 - 7/07/2011

This week we talk about our AMD Llano Desktop review, the Samsung Droid Charge, RevoDrive 3 X2 and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath and Allyn Malventano

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their all new Sandy Bridge Motherboards!

Program length: 1:13:13

Program Schedule:

  1. 0:01:03 Introduction
  2. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  3. http://pcper.com/podcast
  4. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  5. 0:01:45 AMD A8-3850 Llano Desktop Processor Review - Can AMD compete with Sandy Bridge?
  6. 0:25:15 Samsung Droid Charge Review: The Droid Brand Goes 4G
  7. 0:26:20 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their all new Sandy Bridge Motherboards!
  8. 0:27:15 RevoDrive 3 article comments
  9. 0:35:25 VIA Technologies To Sell Of Its Stake in S3 Graphics
  10. 0:38:15 Meet Hondo, AMD's soon to arrive 2W TDP Brazos chip for tablets ... and Apache servers?
  11. 0:45:50 Just Delivered: ASUS ROG MATRIX GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB Graphics Card
  12. 0:50:20 Video Perspective: Corsair Special Edition White Graphite Series 600T Case
  13. 0:52:45 Video Perspective: AMD A-series APU Overclocking and Gaming Performance
  14. 0:59:25 Quakecon Reminder - http://www.quakecon.org/
  15. 1:01:24 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
    1. Ryan: AMD A-series APU system ~ $430
    2. Jeremy: Kogan offers free hdmi cable to cut the UK cable con
    3. Josh: Cheap!
    4. Allyn: http://www.jailbreakme.com
  16. http://pcper.com/podcast   
  17. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  18. 1:10:20 Closing

Source:

Step into the HTPC arena to witness the battle for iGPU dominance

Subject: Systems | July 5, 2011 - 05:33 PM |
Tagged: htpc, llano, sandybridge; a3850; i3 2100, amd, Intel, APU

In one corner is the $140 AMD A8-3850 and in the other is the $135 Intel Core i3-2100T, with matching motherboards both about $100.  We have seen how the new Llano chips stack up in computation and gaming but their use in HTPC systems is also important and requires different benchmarks.  Bjorn3D takes a look at the two chips ability to properly render Blu-ray at the proper 23.976 fps naturally as well as taking advantage of Direct X Video Acceleration.  Take a look to see how AMD's new APU can handle a role as an HTPC.

b3d_APU.jpg

"In addition to being a capable mainstream APU, the Llano and the new Lynx platform have the potential to be a perfect match for a more capable HTPC system. In this article we are taking a look at the HTPC capabilities of the A3850 and a Gigabyte A75 motherboard, and contrasting it to a comparable Intel system with a Core i3-2100T and an ASRock H67 motherboard."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

Source: Bjorn3D