ARM's chips are flying off the shelves in Q1

Subject: General Tech | April 22, 2015 - 01:29 PM |
Tagged: arm, Q1 2015

ARM seems to be completely ignoring the sales downturn that almost every single component manufacturer has seen in this quarter, as well as previous ones, turning in on increase of 14% on revenue and 24% on profit in Q1 of 2015.  As The Register points out that equates to 450 chips selling every second, something even automated stock trading algorithms have to be impressed by.  Royalty revenue increased by 31% thanks to Mali, regardless of Apple's decision not to use that chip in their iPhone 6.  You can expect to see more news on ARM from us in the near future and you can expect the news to be good for their investors and users.

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"The first three months of 2015 have been good to ARM, which saw revenues of $348.2m and pre-tax profits of $120.5m in the first quarter, with 3.8 billion ARM-based chips shipped - or more than 450 chips per second."

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Source: The Register

Gigabyte To Host X99 Champion Challenge on HWBOT

Subject: General Tech | April 22, 2015 - 10:26 AM |
Tagged: overclocking, hwbot, gigabyte, contest

Gigabyte will host the upcoming X99 Champion Challenge beginning May 1st on HWBOT.org, and the overclocking contest runs in six stages ending on May 31.

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According to Gigabyte, "by participating, overclockers have the chance to win $2,800 USD in cash prizes and some exciting hardware, including the leader of them all, the X99-SOC Champion!" True to the name of the contest participants must use a Gigabyte X99 motherboard, and each stage offers a different challenge:

Contest Stages
Stage 1: XTU - May 1st until May 8th, 2015
- CPU frequency 4GHz max
- RAM at 3300MHz max.
- GIGABYTE X99 Motherboards only

Stage 2: XTU - May 8th until May 15th, 2015.
- CPU frequency 4.5GHz max
- Uncore at 4.5GHz max.
- GIGABYTE X99 Motherboards only

Stage 3: XTU - May 15th until May 31st, 2015.
- CPU frequency 5GHz max
- GIGABYTE X99 Motherboards only

Stage 4: Fire-Strike - May 1st until May 27th, 2015.
- Single NVIDIA GT 730 graphics card
- GIGABYTE X99 Motherboards only

Stage 5: Catzilla 720p - May 1st until May 28th, 2015.
- Single NVIDIA GT 730 graphics card
- GIGABYTE X99 Motherboards only

Stage 6: 3DMark 2001 SE - May 1st until May 28th, 2015.
- Single NVIDIA GT 730 graphics card
- GIGABYTE X99 Motherboards only

The full press release with contest rules is available here.

Source: Gigabyte

The Linux AMDGPU for R9 285 arrives

Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2015 - 03:07 PM |
Tagged: tonga, linux, carrizo, AMDGPU, amd

It will not be officially rolled in until kernel 4.2 but you can currently grab the new binary blob by following the links from Phoronix.  This new AMDGPU kernel driver will be used by both the full open-source driver and the Catalyst driver provided officially by AMD and provide support not only for the R9 285 but upcoming families as well.  There is still some development to be done as AMD's Alex Deucher told Phoronix that this initial code lacks power management features for Tonga but that will be addressed shortly.

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"At long last the source code to the new AMDGPU driver has been released! This is the new driver needed to support the Radeon R9 285 graphics card along with future GPUs/APUs like Carrizo. Compared to the existing Radeon DRM driver, the new AMDGPU code is needed for AMD's new unified Linux driver strategy whereby the new Catalyst driver will be isolated to being a user-space binary blob with both the full open-source driver and the Catalyst driver using this common AMDGPU kernel driver."

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Source: Phoronix

AMD's Lisa Su Expects Windows 10 to Launch in July

Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2015 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, windows, microsoft, amd

The CEO of AMD is an unexpected, but probably very accurate, source when it comes to knowing the Windows 10 release date. First off, the news broke on a quarterly earnings call. When you make a statement on those, you have a strong legal obligation to be telling the truth according to the knowledge that you have at the time. Also, as a major hardware vendor of CPUs and GPUs, her company would have been notified by Microsoft so that they could plan development of graphics drivers and so forth. It also aligns with the “Summer” announcement made last month by Microsoft.

She believes that Windows 10 is set to launch in July.

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Of course, this led to a flurry of comments that claim three months will not be enough time to bake a successful product. Others, naturally, claim that Microsoft has been developing software for long enough to know that they can finish their product in three months. Still others shrug and say, “Yeah, you both make sense. I'm going to go play some Grand Theft Auto.”

One aspect that I don't see mentioned enough is that Microsoft has multiple projects and teams on the go, and we only see a fraction of what is being done in our Insider branch. Despite the narrative that Microsoft wishes to avoid another Windows 8 fiasco and they want their users to guide development, they have alluded that a major reason for the Insider program is to test their build delivery system. While I am having a bit of a hard time finding the supporting quote, I did find one reference to it being the reason for ISOs being delayed.

And finally – we heard from you loud and clear you want ISO images of the new builds we release. We felt it was important to listen to that and give you what you want – but there’s a catch. Getting the update & install data from our Preview Builds mechanism is super important for us. It helps us ensure smooth ESD distribution, download, and upgrade success for this program going forward, and also will help us ensure great upgrades for people once we release Windows 10. So we’re going to release the ISOs at the same time as we publish to the Slow ring. That means if you want to be FIRST and FASTEST to get the build, you’ll need to use our Preview Builds mechanisms (either automatic or Check Now in PC Settings to download.) If you must have an ISO you’ll have to be a bit more patient. I hope that you’ll consider that a fair tradeoff.

So what is my point? Basically, it is difficult for us to make assumptions about how baked Windows 10 is from our standpoint. They are being more open with us than ever about their development methods, but we don't know certain key things. We don't know what final feature set they plan. We don't know how much work has been done on any individual feature since it was merged into a build that we saw. We also don't know how much has been done by third parties. In some cases, a release in three months could equate to like, six months of work for a specific team since their last contribution was merged. I do think that any major feature we see at BUILD will pretty much be the last additions to the OS before it launches though, unless they have a surprise that will surface at E3 or something.

Also, remember that the things they show us are slanted to what they want feedback about.

Source: Thurrott.com

AMD is making SeaMicro walk the plank

Subject: General Tech | April 20, 2015 - 01:17 PM |
Tagged: amd, seamicro, HPC

Just over three years ago AMD purchased SeaMicro for $334 million to give them a way to compete in HPC applications against Intel who had recently bought up QLogic and the InfiniBand interconnect technology.  The purchase of SeaMicro included their Freedom Fabric technology which was at that time able to create servers which could use Atom or Xeon chips in the same infrastructure.  AMD developed compatibility with their existing Opteron chips and it was thought that this would be a perfect platform to launch Seattle, their hybrid 64bit ARM chips on.  Unfortunately with the poor revenue that AMD has seen means that the SeaMicro server division is being cut so they can focus on their other products.  Lisa Su obviously has more information that we do on the performance of AMD but it seems counter-intuitive to shut down the only business segment to make positive income, but as The Register points out the $45m which they made is down almost 50% from this time last year.  AMD will keep the fabric patents but as of now we do not know if they are looking to sell their server business, license the patents or follow some other business plan.

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"Tattered AMD says it's done with its SeaMicro server division, following a grim quarter that saw the ailing chipmaker weather losses beyond the expectations of even the gloomiest of Wall Street analysts."

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Source: The Register

Windows 10 Internal Builds "Jump" from 1006x to 101xx

Subject: General Tech | April 20, 2015 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

According to WinBeta, the internal builds of Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system have jumped from the 10060s-range to the 10100s. This mirrors the activity before January's consumer event, which led to the release of 9926. What this likely means is that Microsoft has forked internal development ahead of their BUILD 2015 conference, which takes place between April 29th and May 1st.

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I expect that they will release a new, highly-tested build in the 1006x-1008x range to both Fast and Slow rings, like 9926 was, at or around the time of the event. Meanwhile, new and experimental features will land on the 10100 branch. The interesting question is: when will we see that later fork?

If Microsoft dedicates themselves to rapid releases, it might not be too long for users in the Fast ring, or a faster-than-Fast ring that they could potentially announce at the event. With the visibility of BUILD, it would be a good time for them to shake up their release cycle. They really cannot afford to relax quality control any more significantly than they did with 10041 without assurance that Insiders get the message. The journalist attention of the conference would likely do it though.

Alternatively, the released build might be classified as a developer preview that is expected to stick around for a while. If I needed to guess though, I doubt it. As stated earlier, it will probably be a highly QA-tested build for Slow ring users, but I see little reason for Microsoft to throttle down the more enthusiastic users. When 10049 was the last build for Fast users, you could say that they were not wanting to overshadow BUILD. That obviously does not apply after the conference is over, and I cannot see anything else further on the horizon.

That is, of course, unless they are getting cold feet about releasing not-fully-baked builds to the public.

Source: WinBeta

Red Hat Joins Khronos Group

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | April 20, 2015 - 07:30 AM |
Tagged: Red Hat, Khronos

With a brief blog post, Red Hat has announced that they are now members of the Khronos Group. Red Hat, one of the largest vendors of Linux software and services, would like to influence the direction of OpenGL and the upcoming Vulkan API. Also, apart from Valve, they are one of the only Linux vendors that contributes to the Khronos Group as an organization. I hope that their input counter-balances Apple, Google, and Microsoft, who are each members, in areas that are beneficial to the open-source operating system.

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As for now, Red Hat intends to use their membership to propose OpenGL extensions as well as influence Vulkan as previously mentioned. It also seems reasonable that they would push for extensions to Vulkan, which the Khronos Group mentioned would support extensions at GDC, especially if something that they need fails to reach “core” status. While this feels late, I am glad that they at least joined now.

Source: Red Hat

Moore's Law Is Fifty Years Old!

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | April 19, 2015 - 02:08 PM |
Tagged: moores law, Intel

While he was the director of research and development at Fairchild Semiconductor, Gordon E. Moore predicted that the number of components in an integrated circuits would double every year. Later, this time-step would slow to every two years; you can occasionally hear people talk about eighteen months too, but I am not sure who derived that number. In a few years, he would go on to found Intel with Robert Noyce, where they spend tens of billions of dollars annually to keep up with the prophecy.

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It works out for the most part, but we have been running into physical issues over the last few years though. One major issue is that, with our process technology dipping into the single- and low double-digit nanometers, we are running out of physical atoms to manipulate. The distance between silicon atoms in a solid at room temperature is about 0.5nm; a 14nm product has features containing about 28 atoms, give or take a few in rounding error.

Josh has a good editorial that discusses this implication with a focus on GPUs.

It has been a good fifty years since the start of Moore's Law. Humanity has been developing plans for how to cope with the eventual end of silicon lithography process shrinks. We will probably transition to smaller atoms and molecules and later consider alternative technologies like photonic crystals, which routes light in the hundreds of terahertz through a series of waveguides that make up an integrated circuit. Another interesting thought: will these technologies fall in line with Moore's Law in some way?

Source: Tom Merritt

Google Chrome Team Commits to XP Throughout 2015

Subject: General Tech | April 17, 2015 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: windows xp, windows, microsoft, google, EoL, chrome

It has been a year since Microsoft cut off extended support for Windows XP including Internet Explorer security updates for the platform. Yeah, I know, it doesn't feel like it. Other browser vendors announced that they would continue to target the retired OS after Microsoft washed their hands of it. At the time, Google said they would give at least 12 months support, which brings us to yesterday.

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Now Google is extending their commitment to the end of the year. They did not say that it was a hard deadline for their customers, but they also did not add an “at least” qualifier this time. The browser vendor wants people to upgrade and admits that they cannot genuinely provide a secure experience if a known issue bites everyone at the OS level. You can keep training the guard at the door, but if your window falls out, mind the pun, then it is still dangerous to be inside.

Granted, we have not seen a major attack on XP over the last year. You would have to think that, even if the attacks are sophisticated, some of the victims would have noticed and reported it to someone. Still, I wonder how it keeps surviving, especially since I would have thought that at least one vulnerability in the last twelve Patch Tuesdays could be ported back to it.

Maybe it is too small of a target?

Source: Google

Microsoft Currently A/B Testing Virtual Desktop Behavior

Subject: General Tech | April 16, 2015 - 05:21 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, virtual desktops, microsoft

Virtual Desktops is one of the largest interface changes for Windows 10. It is an organizational feature, which allows users to group relevant windows together. This puts them out of sight when you don't want them but also easily accessible when you do, and with the programs that you would want to use alongside them.

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Microsoft is wondering about one specific area though: should running applications be visible in other desktops? Some believe that a virtual desktop should only show icons for applications in the current context, and alt+tab should behave the same. It makes sense, because otherwise you're exposing the clutter in the taskbar and alt+tab, which are some of the most visible places. Others want everything to be visible at all times, or alt+tab-able to at all time. I guess this is to reduce the clutter on the desktop, without touching the clutter otherwise?

Microsoft has stated clearly that both cases will be user-selectable because there is enough usage on both sides. A user can have virtual desktops affect the taskbar or not, or alt-tab or not, independently. The question they are trying to solve right now is “What should the default be?”

If you are a Windows 10 Technical Preview user, and you care about the adoption of Virtual Desktops, Microsoft might push you into one or the other camp. Later, they will pop up a notification to ask your opinion once they feel you have used it long enough.

This is one area that your vote will influence Windows 10 in a very specific way.

Source: Microsoft