Apple Announces New Mac Minis with Haswell. What?

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | October 17, 2014 - 03:22 PM |
Tagged: Thunderbolt 2, thunderbolt, mac mini, mac, Intel, haswell, apple

I was not planning to report on Apple's announcement but, well, this just struck me as odd.

So Apple has relaunched the Mac Mini with fourth-generation Intel Core processors, after two years of waiting. It is the same height as the Intel NUC, but it also almost twice the length and twice the width (Apple's 20cm x 20cm versus the NUC's ~11cm x 11cm when the case is included). So, after waiting through the entire Haswell architecture launch cycle, right up until the imminent release of Broadwell, they are going with the soon-to-be outdated architecture, to update their two-year-old platform?

((Note: The editorial originally said "two-year-old architecture". I thought that Haswell launched about six months earlier than it did. The mistake was corrected.))

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I wonder if, following the iTunes U2 deal, this device will come bundled with Limp Bizkit's "Nookie"...

The price has been reduced to $499, which is a welcome $100 price reduction especially for PC developers who want a Mac to test cross-platform applications on. It also has Thunderbolt 2. These are welcome additions. I just have two, related questions: why today and why Haswell?

The new Mac Mini started shipping yesterday. 15-watt Broadwell-U is expected to launch at CES in January with 28W parts anticipated a few months later, for the following quarter.

Source: Apple

AMD's anorexia, another 7% of its workforce has been dropped

Subject: General Tech | October 17, 2014 - 01:44 PM |
Tagged: amd

Sad news again from AMD as roughly 710 employees from across the globe will be getting severance packages for Christmas.  The cuts are likely to come from the Computing and Graphics division as they saw a 16% year-on-year decline in income.  The Enterprise, Embedded, and Semi-Custom division saw a 21% increase and were the reason AMD's total income only dropped 2% when compared to this quarter last year.  The news for the future is also not good, with The Inquirer reporting that AMD expects its revenues to slide another 10-16% per cent in the next quarter.  Perhaps that is part of the reason Lisa Su will take home a salary that is $150K less than what Rory Read was earning.

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"Following a grim earnings report on Thursday, AMD has announced a restructuring plan that includes axing seven per cent of its workforce by the end of the year.

The plan will see AMD issuing layoff notices to about 710 employees worldwide, and is expected to cost the chipmaker $57m in severance payment."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Google is looking for a brand new band

Subject: General Tech | October 16, 2014 - 01:30 PM |
Tagged: wireless, google, FCC

Google seems to be investigating a new way to extend their reach as an ISP, over and above Google Fibre and WiFi in Starbucks.  They have applied to the FCC to test data communication on 1mm frequency waves between 5.8GHz and 24.2GHz frequency band as wll as 2mm waves from 71-76GHz and 81-86GHz.  The wireless spectrum available continues to shrink as carriers bid on the remaining unclaimed frequencies which can penetrate the electronic noise that permeates highly populated areas and so companies are exploring frequencies which were not used in the past.  From what The Inquirer was told, these particular frequencies could be capable of sending data at speeds of several gigabits per second bandwidth over short distances, that could really help reduce the cost of connecting new users to their fibre network as the last mile could be wireless, not wired.

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"GOOGLE HAS FILED A REQUEST with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to test high-speed wireless spectrum at several locations in California."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Podcast #322 - GTX 980 4-Way SLI, Samsung's EVO Performance Fix, Intel Earnings and more!

Subject: General Tech | October 16, 2014 - 01:16 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, nvidia, GTX 980, sli, 3-way sli, 4-way sli, amd, R9 290X, Samsung, 840 evo, Intel, corsair, HX1000i, gigabyte, Z97X-UD5H, Lenovo, yoga 3 pro, yoga tablet 2. nexus 9, tegra k1, Denver

PC Perspective Podcast #322 - 10/16/2014

Join us this week as we discuss GTX 980 4-Way SLI, Samsung's EVO Performance Fix, Intel Earnings 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!

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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Morry Tietelman

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

 

Flustered over Win10's surveillance habits? Have you met Predix?

Subject: General Tech | October 14, 2014 - 06:28 PM |
Tagged: predix, Cisco, Intel, GM, verizon, Privacy, security

GM's Predix asset management platform has been used for a while now, after they came to the realization that they were in the top 20 of the largest software developers on the planet.  They found that by networking the machines in their factories as well as products that have been shipped to customers and are seeing active use that they could increase the efficiency of their factories and their products.  They were aiming for 1% increase, which when you consider the scale of these industries can equate to billions of dollars and in many cases they did see what they had hoped for.

Now Cisco and Intel have signed up to use the Predix platform for the same results, however they will be applying it to the Cloud and edge devices as well as the routers and switches Cisco specializes in.  This should at the very least enhance the ability to monitor network traffic, predict resource shortages and handle outages with a very good possibility of a small increase in performance and efficiency across the board.  This is good news to those who currently deal with the cloud but it is perhaps worth noting that you will be offering up your companies metrics to Predix and you should be aware of any possible security concerns that may raise because of that integration to another system.  You could however argue that once you have moved to the cloud that this is already happening.

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"GE, Intel, Cisco, and Verizon have announced a big data deal to connect Predix — GE’s software platform — to machines, systems, and edge devices regardless of manufacturer."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Samsung Announces 60GHz Wi-Fi (802.11ad)

Subject: General Tech | October 14, 2014 - 05:43 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, 802.11ad, wigig

Samsung Electronics, a member of the WiGig Alliance, has just announced an implementation that is capable of achieving 4.6 gigabit (575MB/s) speeds under the 802.11ad standard. Samsung claims that they have overcome "the barriers to commercialization" of wireless over 60GHz. This band has several disadvantages, including resonance with oxygen molecules (included under the blanket of "path loss" in the press release) and its opacity to many solid objects (referred to as "weak penetration properties" in the release).

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

Some features that Samsung credits themselves with are beam-forming with less than four-tenths of a millisecond latency and the ability to track multiple devices simultaneously. Beam-forming in particular is said to help offset the mostly line-of-sight properties of earlier 60GHz prototypes. This allows the signal to be directed toward devices, typically by manipulating interference patterns to reduce the energy lost by transmitting to locations without a receiver and thus giving more energy to the locations that do.

Its usage as a product will mostly depend on how tolerant they are to non line-of-sight situations. This rate is comparable to a high-end SATA SSD. Samsung claims that it will be useful for their Smart Home and Internet of Things initiatives, similar to the Stanford and Berkeley announcement last month, but also mention it in terms of medical devices.

Source: Samsung

Anandtech Teaches Some Physics

Subject: General Tech | October 13, 2014 - 11:57 PM |
Tagged: processors, microprocessor, FinFET, fab

Ah, Solid State Physics. Semiconductors are heavily based on this branch, because it explains the physical (mechanical, electrical, thermal, etc.) properties of solids based on how their atoms are organized. These properties lead into how transistors function, and why.

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Put it back, Allyn.

Anandtech has published a seven-page article that digs into physics and builds upon itself. It starts with a brief explanation of conductivity and what makes up the difference between a conductor, an insulator, and a semiconductor. It uses that to build a simple transistor. From there it explains logic gates, wafers, and lithography. It works up to FinFETs and then keeps going into the future. It is definitely not an article for beginners, but it can be progressed from start to finish given enough effort on the part of the reader.

While this was not mentioned in the article, at least not that I found, you can derive the number of atoms per "feature" by dividing its size by the lattice-distance of the material. For silicon, that is about half of a nanometer at room temperature. For instance, 14nm means that we are manufacturing features that are defined by less than 30 atoms (up to rounding error). The article speculates a bit about what will happen after the era of silicon. This is quite interesting to me, particularly since I did my undergraduate thesis (just an undergrad thesis) on photonic crystals, which route optical light across manufactured defects in an otherwise opaque solid to make an optical integrated circuit. It has the benefit of, with a mixture of red, orange, and maybe green lasers, being able to "go plaid".

If you are interested, be sure to read the article. It is a bit daunting, but much more manageable than most sources. Congratulations to Joshua Ho and anyone else who might have been involved.

Source: Anandtech

Choose Your Own Windows 10 Update Cycle Adventure?

Subject: General Tech | October 11, 2014 - 04:11 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, windows, update

I cannot help but think of Adobe Creative Cloud when I read Peter Bright report on Windows 10's update schedule. Previously, we would have general security and stability updates for Windows with the occasional Service Pack to roll updates together and sometimes introduce new features. Now, users might be able to choose how quickly to apply these updates, opt-out of everything but security patches, and/or accept experimental features.

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I say "might" because this is not technically a Microsoft announcement. Windows 10 has a new user interface, along with a few registry entries, for users to choose update frequency and development branches. The company would not say whether the Windows Insider program would continue after release, but the assumption is that it would be around for enthusiasts and IT testers to prepare for (and influence) upcoming changes. Think of it like an OS equivalent to the prerelease versions of Chrome and Firefox.

The article also suggests that the version number could periodically increase and that this initiative would replace Service Packs.

And this is where it feels a lot like Creative Cloud. Rather than waiting for an 18-month release schedule, Adobe is able to push out features at their leisure. Initially, I expected that this would lead to stagnation, but I do not see many complaints about that. On the other hand, it also pushed Adobe's software into a subscription service, which is something that people have been anticipating (and fearing with some) for quite some time now. Alternatively, it could be setting up Microsoft to subsidize Windows with online services. Either way, it could make it harder for them to justify incrementing the major version number.

Source: Ars Technica

AMD Demonstrates ARM-Based NFV Solution Using Hierofalcon SoC

Subject: General Tech, Networking | October 11, 2014 - 01:42 AM |
Tagged: sdn, nfv, networking, Hierofalcon, arm, amd

AMD, in cooperation with Aricent and Mentor Graphics, recently demonstrated the first ARM-based Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) solution at ARM TechCon. The demonstration employed AMD's Embedded R-Series "Hierofalcon" SoC virtualizing a Mobile Packet Core running subscriber calls. The 64-bit ARM chip is now sampling to customers and will be generally available in the first half of next year (1H 2015). The AMD NFV Reference Solution is aimed at telecoms for use in communications network backbones where AMD believes an ARM solution will offer reduced costs (both initial and operational) and increased network bandwidth.

AMD ARM-Based Hierofalcon 64-bit SOC.jpg

The NFV demonstration of the Mobile Packet Core entailed virtualizing a Packet Data Network Gateway, Serving Gateway, Mobility Management Entity, and virtualized Wireless Evolved Packet Core (vEPC) applications. AMD further demonstrated live traffic migration between ARM-based Embedded-R and x86-based second generation R-Series APU solutions. NFV is related to, but independent of, software defined networking (SDN). Network Functions Virtualization is essentially the virtualizing of network appliances with specific functions and performing those functions virtually using generic servers. For example, NFV can virtualize firewalls, gateways, load balancers, intrusion detection, DNS, NAT, and caching functions. NFV virtualizes the upper networking layers (layers 4-7) and can allow virtual tunnels through a network that can then be assigned functions (such as those listed above) on a per-VM or per flow basis. NFV eliminates the need for specialized hardware appliances by virtualizing these functions on generic servers which have traditionally been exclusively x86 based. AMD is hoping to push ARM (and it's own ARM-based SoCs) into this market by touting even further capital expenditure and operational costs versus x86 (and, in turn, versus specialized hardware that serves the entire network whereas NFV can be more exactly provisioned).

It is an interesting take on a lucrative networking market which is dealing with 1.4 Zetabytes of global IP traffic per year. I'm interested to see if the telecoms and other enterprise network customers will bite and give AMD a slice of this pie on the low end and low power fronts.

AMD "Hierofalcon" Embedded R Series SoC

Hierofalcon is the code name for AMD's 64-bit SoC with ARM CPU cores intended for the embedded market. The SoC is a 15W to 30W chip featuring up to eight ARM Cortex-A57 CPU cores capable of hitting 2GHz, two 64-bit ECC capable DDR3 or DDR4 memory channels, 10Gb Ethernet, PCI-E 3.0, ARM TrustZone, and a cryptographic security co-processor.The TechCon demonstration was also used to launch the AMD NFV Reference Solution which is compliant with OpenDataPlane platform. The reference platform includes a networking software stack from Aricent and an Embedded Linux OS and software tools (Sourcery CodeBench) from Mentor Graphics. The OpenDataPlane demonstration featured the above mentioned Evolved Packet Core application on the Hierofalcon 64-bit ARM SoC. Additionally, the x86-based R-Series APU, OpenStack, and Data Plane Development Kit all make up the company's NFV reference solution. 

Source: AMD

Lenovo's New Yoga Tablet 2 Pro Packs In QHD Display, Pico Projector, and 8W JBL Audio

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | October 10, 2014 - 03:58 PM |
Tagged: yoga tablet 2, tablet, qhd, lenovo yoga, Lenovo, ips display, intel atom, business

Yesterday, Lenovo revealed a barrage of products at an event in London including two new convertible laptops and new 8-inch and 10-inch tablets running Windows and Android. The final bit of new hardware to round out the new tablet lineup is the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro which is a larger version of the Yoga Tablet 2 with several tweaks specifically aimed at media consumption with focus on high quality audio and video.

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Pro With Pico Projector and Improved Kickstand.jpg

The new tablet is a 13-inch tablet weighing 2.09 pounds and is 0.1-0.5” thick. Available in silver, the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro shares a similar form factor with its smaller siblings including a 180-degree rotating kickstand with a cutout to allow hanging on a wall or the back of an airplane seat. The Pro model further adds a button on the side that pops out the kickstand which is not present on the non-Pro models.

The device is dominated by a large 13.3” QHD 2560x1440 IPS multi-touch display. The JBL audio is improved on the Pro model and includes two 1.5W front facing stereo speakers in addition to a rear 5W subwoofer. A 1.6MP webcam and 8MP rear camera with auto focus remains consistent with the Tablet 2 tablets. Lenovo has added a Pico projector exclusive to the Tablet 2 Pro that is capable of displaying a WVGA (854x480) resolution image up to 50” at between 40-50 lumens. External I/O includes a micro USB (OTG capable) port, 3.5mm audio jack, and one micro SD card slot.

The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Pro is powered by a quad core Intel Atom Z3745 clocked at 1.86 GHz with 2MB cache, 2GB RAM, and 32GB of internal storage (expandable by up to a 64GB micro SD card). Wireless radios include dual band 802.11 b/g/n and optional 4G (WCDMA 900/2100) which will not be available in the US. According to Lenovo, the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro has a battery life of up to 15 hours.

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Pro With Pico Projector.jpg

Curiously, the tablet is running Android 4.4 KitKat rather than Windows 8.1. As such, this is a high end tablet that likely will appeal to consumers wanting a quality media consumption device despite the exclusive (to the Pro) hardware bits that would otherwise appeal to business professionals wanting to create and deliver presentations (which was my first thought when seeing the hardware specifications). With that said, the display and audio are sure to please media enthusiasts. I have reached out to Lenovo for comment on the absence of Bluetooth support (mainly regarding keyboard support) in the documentation and will update the article if I receive a response.

The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Pro will be available soon with an MSRP of $499. For comparison, the 10-inch Tablet 2 Android has an MSRP of $299. The $200 premium gets up a larger (and higher resolution) display, better potential audio, a projector, and a bit more internal storage space albeit at the cost of slightly shorter battery life.

Source: Lenovo