More Talks About Process Technology

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | December 8, 2013 - 04:11 AM |
Tagged: TSMC, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, broadcom

Josh Walrath titled the intro of his "Next Gen Graphics and Process Migration: 20nm and Beyond" editorial: "The Really Good Times are Over". Moore's Law predicts that, with each ~2 year generation, we will be able to double the transistor count of our integrated circuits. It does not, however, set a price.

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A look into GlobalFoundries.

"Moore's Law is expensive" remarked Tom Kilroy during his Computex 2013 keynote. Intel spends about $12 billion USD in capital, every year, to keep the transistors coming. It shows. They are significantly ahead of their peers in terms of process technology. Intel is a very profitable company who can squirrel away justifications for these research and development expenses across numerous products and services.

The benefits of a process shrink are typically three-fold: increased performance, decreased power consumption, and lower cost per chip (as a single wafer is better utilized). Chairman and CTO of Broadcom, Henry Samueli, told reporters that manufacturing complexity is pushing chip developers into a situation where one of those three benefits must be sacrificed for the other two.

You are suddenly no longer searching for an overall better solution. You are searching for a more optimized solution in many respects but with inherent tradeoffs.

He expects GlobalFoundries and TSMC to catch up to Intel and "the cost curve should come back to normal". Still, he sees another wall coming up when we hit the 5nm point (you can count the width or height of these transistors, in atoms, using two hands) and even more problems beyond that.

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Image Credit: IONAS

From my perspective: at some point, we will need to say goodbye to electronic integrated circuits. The theorists are already working on how we can develop integrated circuits using non-electronic materials. For instance, during the end of my Physics undergraduate degree, my thesis adviser was working on nonlinear optics within photonic crystals; waveguides which transmit optical frequency light rather than radio frequency electric waves. Of course I do not believe his research was on Optical Integrated Circuits, but that is not really the point.

Humanity is great at solving problems when backs are against walls. But, what problem will they try?

Power consumption? Cost? Performance?

Source: ITWorld

How Many OSes Does Microsoft Need?

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | December 5, 2013 - 06:53 PM |
Tagged: windows, microsoft

Peter Bright at Ars Technica is wondering how many operating systems (OSes) Microsoft actually needs and, for that matter, how many they already have. Three consumer versions of Windows exists (or brands of it does): Windows RT, "full" Windows, and Windows Phone. Then again, it is really difficult to divide up what a unique operating system even is. All of the aforementioned "OSes" run on the same base kernel and even app compatibility does not align to that Venn diagram.

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In my personal opinion, it really does not matter how many (or what) operating systems Microsoft has. That innate desire to categorize things into boxes really does nothing useful. At best, it helps you create relationships between it and other platforms; these comparisons may not even be valid. Sure, from the perspective of Microsoft's marketing team, these categories help convey information about their products to consumers.

... And if recent trends mean anything: very incorrect and confusing information.

So really, and I believe this is what Peter Bright was getting at, who cares how many OSes Microsoft has? The concern should really be what these products mean for consumers. In that sense, I really hope we trend towards the openness of the last couple Internet Explorer versions (and of course Windows 7) and further from the censored nature of Windows RT.

You can have 800 channels or just a single one but that doesn't mean something good is on.

Source: Ars Technica

Microsoft CEO: Choice Between Alan Mulally & Satya Nadella

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | December 2, 2013 - 02:23 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, CEO

And then there were two, we think?

The search for a Microsoft CEO has been intensely monitored by journalists and financial analysts alike. The recent acquisition of Nokia (which was just approved by the DOJ, by the way) suggested that its CEO, Stephen Elop, was in the front running; if you watched coverage you would think CEO of Microsoft was his fate while everyone daydreamed of Alan Mulally.

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While not confirmed, it looks like he (and former CEO of Skype, Tony Bates) are out of the running.

The top two candidates are Alan Mulally and Satya Nadella. The former would be an "acquisition" from Ford (more like a stressful retirement from there). His fame arose from turning that company around just prior to the 2008 Financial Crisis which wrecked the rest of the US auto industry. The latter runs the Cloud and Enterprise group which successfully evolved as times change without even a peep of trouble; it is just about the only stable division the company has.

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Personally, I must say that those were just about the two best candidates in the pool -- at least from an outsider viewpoint. Their roles as CEO seem quite different but might not be. Both Mulally and Nadella have a track record of successfully navigating a changing landscape; the difference has been the rate and visibility.

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This should be good news either way. Journalists will not have as many exciting things to talk about if Satya will be chosen but this is Microsoft's story, not theirs.

Support PC Perspective with Amazon Affiliate Codes!

Subject: Editorial | November 25, 2013 - 02:05 PM |
Tagged: pcper, amazon

UPDATE: With biggest buying season of them all creeping up on this week here in the US, I just thought I would offer up another reminder about those readers that would like to support PC Perspective while they happen to be shopping on Amazon.com.  You can either install one of the quick and easy extensions listed below or, if you would rather take the passive approach, click the link below and shop away!

Recently a couple of PC Perspective fans have asked about an Amazon Affiliate code they could use for their normal Amazon purchases to help support the team here.  Previously, we rarely used one of these codes so I setup a new one specifically for our use.  As it turns out the small commission we receive for Amazon purchases is quite a bit LARGER than any commission we get for our various links to Newegg.com for example. 

Our Amazon code is: pcper04-20

The easiest way to integrate it into your shopping, rather than remembering to add it to your URL each time, is to use a couple of plugins for Chrome or FireFox.  For Chrome, the plugin is called Amazon Affiliate Link and is super easy to install.

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Install the plugin.

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Right click the new icon in the upper right corner.

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Set the affiliate IDs to pcper04-20

For FireFox, the plugin is called AffiliateFox

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Add the plugin to FireFox.

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Click the okay to install it.

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Go to your Add-on settings and add pcper04-20 as each code.

That's it, you're done and you're supporting PC Perspective!  We thank you tremendously for it and promise to do our best to continue to bring you the best possible content!!

PC Perspective Halloween Hardware Giveaway - Brought to you by Corsair and Gigabyte

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | November 25, 2013 - 01:02 PM |
Tagged: halloween, giveaway, gigabyte, corsair, contest

UPDATE: We have our winner!!  I would like to introduce you to...The Glorious PC Gaming Master Race!

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There quite a few excellent entries in both photo and video form, but this was far and away the favorite of the PC Perspective voting staff.  If you would like to see some of our other favorite entries, just click here and scroll to the bottom.  Thanks to everyone who participated and made our holiday at PC Perspective a humorous one.  :)

END UPDATE

If there is one holiday that I find myself getting more and more attached to as I get older, it is definitely Halloween.  The opportunity to dress up like a fool and (legally) scare children and adults in your neighborhood is an occasion that should not be missed!  :)

To celebrate this wonderful time of year, PC Perspective has teamed up with our friends at Corsair and Gigabyte to giveaway a collection of hardware that just about anyone would be envious of.  Here is what is up for grabs:

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That's more than enough hardware to get anyone started on a killer gaming rig.  Just add in your Intel Core i7/i5 Haswell processor, an AMD Radeon or NVIDIA GeForce graphics card and your off and running!  Maybe a Zotac GeForce card would fit the bill to maintain the orange/black theme?  Total estimated value of this hardware is over $830!!

So how do you enter?  We have a few ways, but you are going to have to get creative for this one.  We are looking for PC Perspective readers that are able to express their nerdom and hardware fanaticism in costume form.  What kind of crazy costumes do you have planned and how are they associated with gaming, or hardware or technology?  Pics or it didn't happen!  Here are the rules:

  1. We want YOUR costume and not some image you stole off Google image search.  That means you are going to need to hold up a piece of paper that says "PCPer" or "PC Perspective" on when you have your snapshot taken.  This prove to us that you actually read this before the photo was taken!
  2. You can submit your entry in a few ways, all of which are equally judged.
    1. Leave a photo and description on the wall of our PC Perspective Facebook page.  This is probably the easiest option.
    2. Leave a photo and description on the wall of our PC Perspective Google+ page
    3. Leave a photo link and description in the comments below.
    4. If you want to get really creative, you can leave a video response on our PC Perspective YouTube channel!

That's it!  We will accept entries starting today and going through November 3rd (to allow for the weekend parties) so get to planning and get creative!  We'll pick a few of our favorites to showcase in a news post announcing the winner then ship the hardware to our favorite.  Good luck!

A huge thanks goes to Corsair for the massive amount of hardware they provided for this contest and also to Gigabyte for the Z87X-OC motherboard.  If you want, you might even get bonus points if you include Corsair and Gigabyte in your entry somehow...

Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: Wyoming Whiskey

Bourbon? Really?

Why is there a bourbon review on a PC-centric website? 

We can’t live, eat, and breathe PC technology all the time.  All of us have outside interests that may not intersect with the PC and mobile market.  I think we would be pretty boring people if that were the case.  Yes, our professional careers are centered in this area, but our personal lives do diverge from the PC world.  You certainly can’t drink a GPU, though I’m sure somebody out there has tried.

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The bottle is unique to Wyoming Whiskey.  The bourbon has a warm, amber glow about it as well.  Picture courtesy of Wyoming Whiskey

Many years ago I became a beer enthusiast.  I loved to sample different concoctions, I would brew my own, and I settled on some personal favorites throughout the years.  Living in Wyoming is not necessarily conducive to sampling many different styles and types of beers, and so I was in a bit of a rut.  A few years back a friend of mine bought me a bottle of Tomatin 12 year single malt scotch, and I figured this would be an interesting avenue to move down since I had tapped out my selection of new and interesting beers (Wyoming has terrible beer distribution).

Click to read the entire review here!

Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer:

The Really Good Times are Over

We really do not realize how good we had it.  Sure, we could apply that to budget surpluses and the time before the rise of global terrorism, but in this case I am talking about the predictable advancement of graphics due to both design expertise and improvements in process technology.  Moore’s law has been exceptionally kind to graphics.  We can look back and when we plot the course of these graphics companies, they have actually outstripped Moore in terms of transistor density from generation to generation.  Most of this is due to better tools and the expertise gained in what is still a fairly new endeavor as compared to CPUs (the first true 3D accelerators were released in the 1993/94 timeframe).

The complexity of a modern 3D chip is truly mind-boggling.  To get a good idea of where we came from, we must look back at the first generations of products that we could actually purchase.  The original 3Dfx Voodoo Graphics was comprised of a raster chip and a texture chip, each contained approximately 1 million transistors (give or take) and were made on a then available .5 micron process (we shall call it 500 nm from here on out to give a sense of perspective with modern process technology).  The chips were clocked between 47 and 50 MHz (though often could be clocked up to 57 MHz by going into the init file and putting in “SET SST_GRXCLK=57”… btw, SST stood for Sellers/Smith/Tarolli, the founders of 3Dfx).  This revolutionary graphics card at the time could push out 47 to 50 megapixels and had 4 MB of VRAM and was released in the beginning of 1996.

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My first 3D graphics card was the Orchid Righteous 3D.  Voodoo Graphics was really the first successful consumer 3D graphics card.  Yes, there were others before it, but Voodoo Graphics had the largest impact of them all.

In 1998 3Dfx released the Voodoo 2, and it was a significant jump in complexity from the original.  These chips were fabricated on a 350 nm process.  There were three chips to each card, one of which was the raster chip and the other two were texture chips.  At the top end of the product stack was the 12 MB cards.  The raster chip had 4 MB of VRAM available to it while each texture chip had 4 MB of VRAM for texture storage.  Not only did this product double performance from the Voodoo Graphics, it was able to run in single card configurations at 800x600 (as compared to the max 640x480 of the Voodoo Graphics).  This is the same time as when NVIDIA started to become a very aggressive competitor with the Riva TnT and ATI was about to ship the Rage 128.

Read the entire editorial here!

Imagination Technologies Unleashes Warrior MIPS P5600 CPU Core Aimed at Embedded and Mobile Devices

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Networking, Processors, Mobile | October 19, 2013 - 01:45 AM |
Tagged: SoC, p5600, MIPS, imagination

Imagination Technologies, a company known for its PowerVR graphics IP, has unleashed its first Warrior P-series MIPS CPU core. The new MIPS core is called the P5600 and is a 32-bit core based on the MIPS Release 5 ISA (Instruction Set Architecture).

The P5600 CPU core can perform 128-bit SIMD computations, provide hardware accelerated virtualization, and access up to a 1TB of memory via virtual addressing. While the MIPS 5 ISA provides for 64-bit calculations, the P5600 core is 32-bit only and does not include the extra 64-bit portions of the ISA.

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The MIPS P5600 core can scale up to 2GHz in clockspeed when used in chips built on TSMC's 28nm HPM manufacturing process (according to Imagination Technologies). Further, the Warrior P5600  core can be used in processors and SoCs. As many as six CPU cores can be combined and managed by a coherence manager and given access to up to 8MB of shared L2 cache. Imagination Technologies is aiming processors containing the P5600 cores at mobile devices, networking appliances (routers, hardware firewalls, switches, et al), and micro-servers.

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A configuration of multiple P5600 cores with L2 cache.

I first saw a story on the P5600 over at the Tech Report, and found it interesting that Imagination Technologies was developing a MIPS processor aimed at mobile devices. It does make sense to see a MIPS CPU from the company as it owns the MIPS intellectual property. Also, a CPU core is a logical step for a company with a large graphics IP and GPU portfolio. Developing its own MIPS CPU core would allow it to put together an SoC with its own CPU and GPU components. With that said, I found it interesting that the P5600 CPU core was being aimed at the mobile space, where ARM processors currently dominate. ARM is working to increase performance while Intel is working to bring its powerhouse x86 architecture to the ultra low power mobile space. Needless to say, it is a highly competitive market and Imagination Technologies new CPU core is sure to have a difficult time establishing itself in that space of consumer smartphone and tablet SoCs. Fortunately, mobile chips are not the only processors Imagination Technologies is aiming the P5600 at. It is also offering up the MIPS Series 5 compatible core for use in processors powering networking equipment and very low power servers and business appliances where the MIPS architecture is more commonplace.

In any event, I'm interested to see what else IT has in store for its MIPS IP and where the Warrior series goes from here!

More information on the MIPS 5600 core can be found here.

Win a copy of Batman: Arkham Origins courtesy of NVIDIA

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards | October 10, 2013 - 03:28 PM |
Tagged: podcast, nvidia, contest, batman arkham origins

UPDATE: We picked our winner for week 1 but now you can enter for week 2!!!  See the new podcast episode listed below!!

Back in August NVIDIA announced that they would be teaming up with Warner Bros. Interactive to include copies of the upcoming Batman: Arkham Origins game with select NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards. While that's great and all, wouldn't you rather get one for free next week from PC Perspective?

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Great, you're in luck!  We have a handful of keys to give out to listeners and viewers of the PC Perspective Podcast.  Here's how you enter:

  1. Listen to or watch episode #272 of the PC Perspective Podcast and listen for the "secret phrase" as mentioned in the show!
  2. Subscribe to our RSS feed for the podcast or subscribe to our YouTube channel.
  3. Fill out the form at the bottom of this podcast page with the "secret phrase" and you're entered!

I'll draw a winner before the next podcast and announce it on the show!  We'll giveaway one copy each of the next two weeks!  Our thanks goes to NVIDIA for supplying the Batman: Arkham Origins keys for this contest!!

No restrictions on winning, so good luck!!

Manufacturer: Scott Michaud

A new generation of Software Rendering Engines.

We have been busy with side projects, here at PC Perspective, over the last year. Ryan has nearly broken his back rating the frames. Ken, along with running the video equipment and "getting an education", developed a hardware switching device for Wirecase and XSplit.

My project, "Perpetual Motion Engine", has been researching and developing a GPU-accelerated software rendering engine. Now, to be clear, this is just in very early development for the moment. The point is not to draw beautiful scenes. Not yet. The point is to show what OpenGL and DirectX does and what limits are removed when you do the math directly.

Errata: BioShock uses a modified Unreal Engine 2.5, not 3.

In the above video:

  • I show the problems with graphics APIs such as DirectX and OpenGL.
  • I talk about what those APIs attempt to solve, finding color values for your monitor.
  • I discuss the advantages of boiling graphics problems down to general mathematics.
  • Finally, I prove the advantages of boiling graphics problems down to general mathematics.

I would recommend watching the video, first, before moving forward with the rest of the editorial. A few parts need to be seen for better understanding.

Click here, after you watch the video, to read more about GPU-accelerated Software Rendering.