Oak Ridge National Laboratory Chooses IBM and NVIDIA for Two Supercomputers, Summit and Sierra

Subject: General Tech, Systems | November 27, 2014 - 08:53 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, IBM, power9, Volta

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory has been interested in a successor for their Titan Supercomputer. Sponsored by the US Department of Energy, the new computer will be based on NVIDIA's Volta (GPU) and IBM's POWER9 (CPU) architectures. Its official name will be “Summit”, and it will have a little sibling, “Sierra”. Sierra, also based on Volta and POWER9, will be installed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

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Image Credit: NVIDIA

The main feature of these supercomputers is expected to be “NVLink”, which is said to allow unified memory between CPU and GPU. This means that, if you have a workload that alternates rapidly between serial and parallel tasks, that you can save the lag in transferring memory between each switch. One example of this would be a series of for-each loops on a large data set with a bit of logic, checks, and conditional branches between. Memory management is like a lag between each chunk of work, especially across two banks of memory attached by a slow bus.

Summit and Sierra are both built by IBM, while Titan, Oak Ridge's previous supercomputer, was developed by Cray. Not much is known about the specifics of Sierra, but Summit will be about 5x-10x faster (peak computational throughput) than its predecessor at less than a fifth of the nodes. Despite the fewer nodes, it will suck down more total power (~10MW, up from Titan's ~9MW).

These two supercomputers are worth $325 million USD (combined). They are expected to go online in 2017. According to Reuters, an additional $100 million USD will go toward research into "extreme" supercomputing.

Source: Anandtech

Run softly and carry a big GPU

Subject: Systems | November 25, 2014 - 03:48 PM |
Tagged: asus, STRIX GTX 980, i5-4670K, scythe, Kotetsu, quiet computing, Z97-PRO

Silent PC Review has put together their recommendations on how you can build a powerful computer which runs very quietly.  The recommended component list certainly lives up to a high powered gaming machine, a STRIX GTX 980, a 3.4GHz i5-4670 and 8GB of DDR3-1866 running on the Asus Z97-PRO.  For cooling they chose an air cooler, specifically the Scythe Kotetsu as in their opinion most of the AIO watercoolers have loud fans on their radiators which defeats the purpose of this build.  The enclosure of choice is the sound dampened Fractal Design Define R4 with a be quiet! Straight Power 10 600W as opposed to a passively cooled PSU as the excess heat would mean the rest of the fans would need to spin faster to dissipate it.  Check out the full article for their alternative suggestions as well as the finished results of the builds. 

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"The first of our quiet gaming build guides for the season is an ATX tower featuring the highly efficient NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980. Join us as we plan, build, and stress test this beast, while trying to keep it quiet enough to satisfy our own high standards. A sneak preview: We managed to keep it under 20 dBA@1m under all test conditions!"

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Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano; are you a fan of fanless mini PCs?

Subject: Systems | November 13, 2014 - 04:03 PM |
Tagged: zotac, zbox ci540 nano, fanless, haswell, i5-4210Y

The Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano is a bit more powerful than your average Bay Trail based mini-PC, it sports a Haswell based dual core i5-4210Y which runs between 1.5-1.9GHz and has Intel's HD4200 onboard.  This won't play AC:Unity but comes close to matching a NUC containing a Core i5-4250U, you give up a bit of horsepower for completely silent operation and for media it sports enough power to watch your favourite videos.  As you look at Silent PC Reviews' article you can see the honeycomb patterned knockouts on the casing to allow heat to dissipate and to let in liquid if you don't put some thought into where you are going to place the ZBOX.  It does have Bluetooth and there is an unofficial optional IR receiver that can be used to make it easy to place this tiny computer in a safe place.

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"The Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano gives up a little CPU/GPU horsepower to deliver a completely fanless, silent and full-featured mini-PC experience."

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NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet Update for November: Android 5.0, "Green Box", GRID Gaming Service

Subject: Systems, Mobile | November 13, 2014 - 02:48 PM |
Tagged: shield tablet, shield, nvidia, grid, geforce grid

Today, NVIDIA has announced the November update for their SHIELD Tablet, which is really about three announcements that are rolled up together.

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As expected, the SHIELD Tablet is getting a roll-up to Android 5.0 Lollipop and its new, “Material Design” style guide. NVIDIA's took the opportunity to refresh the SHIELD HUB (my shift key must think that this is an MSI announcement by now...) in the same design specification. While interesting, the two other announcements probably beat it out, especially the GRID streaming service (and how it relates to the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4).

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But before we get to GRID, let's talk “The Green Box”. In May, NVIDIA sent us a green crowbar to mark the availability of Half-Life 2 and Portal on the NVIDIA SHIELD. These were full, native ports of the PC title to ARM and Android that is exclusive to the NVIDIA SHIELD. With the November update, Half-Life 2: Episode One has also been ported to the platform. The three games, Portal, Half-Life 2, and Episode One, are also packaged in “The Green Box” bundle, which will be included free-of-charge with the SHIELD Tablet 32GB. Note that, while the games are included with the tablet, they require a controller to play, which is not included.

Now we talk about GRID.

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Netflix is a popular service where people can watch a variety of movies from their rolling catalog. It will not replace ownership of certain, intrinsically valuable titles, but there is probably options for anyone who wants to consume some form of entertainment. GRID is a similar service for video games, and it is not the first. We took a look at a preview of OnLive in 2010, connecting to a server about 2400 miles away, which is over twice the maximum intended range, and found the experience somewhat positive for games except Unreal Tournament 3 at that relatively extreme latency. Another company, GaiKai, was purchased by Sony and rebranded as PlayStation Now. It will serve up a selection of games from the PS3 catalog. Again, content on these services can be pulled at any time, but if you are just looking for the entertainment value, something else will probably be there to scratch your itch.

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The interesting part that I have been teasing throughout this entire post is the performance of NVIDIA GRID. PlayStation Now is rated at 192 GFLOPs, which is the theoretical GPU compute throughput of the PS3's RSX chip. GRID, on the other hand, is rated for 2448 GFLOPs (~2.5 TFLOPs). This is higher than the PlayStation 4, and almost twice the GPU performance of the Xbox One. On the PC side, it is roughly equivalent to the GeForce GTX 760 Ti.

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This compute rating has a hidden story, too. Back in 2011, Epic Games demoed “Samaritan” in Unreal Engine 3. This was the bar that Epic Games set for Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo to mark a new console generation. When Unreal Engine 4 was unveiled at the end of E3 2012, it was embodied in the Elemental Demo, which also ran at (you guessed it) 2.5 TFLOPs. At the PlayStation 4 (1.9 TFLOPs) announcement, the demo was scaled back with reduced particles and lighting complexity. It was not shown at either Xbox One (1.3 TFLOPs) announcement at all.

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What all of that means is simple: NVIDIA GRID is the only fixed hardware platform (that I am aware of) to meet Epic's vision of a next-gen gaming system. I say fixed, of course, because the PC can over-double it per card, with some games scaling to four discrete GPUs. This also says nothing about the CPU performance, system memory, or video memory, but it has the GPU in the right place for a next gen platform.

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The NVIDIA GRID preview will launch in November for North America, with East Coast and West Coast servers. It will expand in December for Western Europe, and in “Q2” for Asia Pacific. The service will be free for SHIELD users until June 30th, 2015. The Android 5.0 Update for the SHIELD Tablet will be available on November 18th.

Source: NVIDIA

Newly Refreshed Cirrus7 Nimbus Looks Cool (Pun Intended)

Subject: General Tech, Systems | November 11, 2014 - 11:11 PM |
Tagged: haswell-t, haswell, fanless

This one is more for our European readers, because this company operates out of Germany, but the Cirrus7 Nimbus is an interestingly designed, fanless system. Its fin shape is said to be assembled out of laser-cut layers of aluminum that sandwiches in the I/O plate at the rear. FanlessTech has noted that the systems are now available with Haswell processors, up to a Core i7 based on Haswell-T. Their storage options now also include the Samsung 850 Pro, up to 1TB.

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Image Credit: Cirrus7 via FanlessTech

The customization options are actually pretty decent. I find that a lack of meaningful upgrades to be a problem with modern PC builders, however this one does not apply. Eight CPUs are offered, ranging from a Celeron up to a 45W Haswell-T; RAM comes in 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB; up to three drives can be installed, up to one mSATA and up to two SATA; Intel Wireless N or AC is available; external DVD or BluRay burners are an option; and one of seven OSes can be installed, including two versions of Linux (Ubuntu 14.04 or Ubuntu 14.10). If you get all of the bells and whistles, you are probably up to about 3,000 USD, but you cannot expect two terabytes of Samsung 850 Pro SSDs to be cheap. It seems reasonable enough, especially for the EU. The big limiter is the lack of a discrete GPU unless you are using this device for something like audio recording, which an Intel HD 4600 can easily handle.

The Cirrus7 Nimbus is available now at their website.

Source: Cirrus7

Raspberry Pi Gets an A+ for Education

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | November 11, 2014 - 03:27 AM |
Tagged: usb computer, Raspberry Pi B+, Raspberry Pi, Education

The Raspberry Pi was intended as a learning device. David Braben, previously known for Rollercoaster Tycoon and other video games, noticed that computer science education was lacking and he wanted to contribute to its advancement with a cheap, portable, and highly-programmable PC. Yesterday, the organization announced a new model, the Raspberry Pi A+, which is (theoretically) cheaper, smaller, and has a few better components. This announcement follows the release of the Raspberry Pi B+ from last July.

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I say “theoretically cheaper” because, although the organization is touting a price reduction from $25 to $20 USD, that always depends on the reseller. MCM Electronics, one of the foundation's US-based distributors, is selling the A+ for its list price of $20 (plus an extra ~$10 in shipping, before tax). In the UK, however, the currency conversion works out to about $25 before VAT. That said, the UK is known to be expensive for electronics.

Whatever the price, the device is slightly improved. While it keeps the same, Broadcom BCM2835 SoC and RAM, the memory has been upgraded to a locking MicroSD card slot, the audio's power delivery has been improved to reduce noise, and the number of GPIO pins has been increased from 26 to 40. The latter enhancement will allow the Pi to interface with more, and different, sensors and motors for robotics and other embedded applications.

The Raspberry Pi A+ and B+ are both currently on backorder for $20 and $35, respectively, before a $10 shipping fee and any applicable taxes.

Author:
Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: Steiger Dynamics

Overview

Often times, one of the suggestions of what to do with older PC components is to dedicate it to a Home Theater PC. While in concept this might seem like a great idea, you can do a lot of things with full control over the box hooked up to your TV, I think it's a flawed concept.

With a HTPC, some of the most desired traits include low power consumption, quiet operation, all while maintaining a high performance level so you can do things like transcode video quickly. Older components that you have outgrown don't tend to be nearly as efficient as newer components. To have a good HTPC experience, you really want to pick components from the ground up, which is why I was excited to take a look at the Steiger Dynamics Maven Core HTPC.

As it was shipped to us, our Maven Core is equipped with an Intel Core i5-4690K and an NVIDIA GTX 980. By utilizing two of the most power efficient architectures available, Intel's Haswell and NVIDIA's Maxwell, the Maven should be able to sip power while maintaining low temperature and noise. While a GTX 980 might be overkill for just HTPC applications, it opens up a lot of possibilities for couch-style PC gaming with things like Steam Big Picture mode.

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From the outside, the hand-brushed aluminum Steiger Dynamics system takes the form of traditional high-end home theater gear. At 6.85-in tall, or almost 4U if you are comfortable with that measurement system, the Maven Core is a large device, but does not stand out in a collection of AV equipment. Additionally, when you consider the standard Blu-Ray drive and available Ceton InfiniTV Quad PCIe CableCARD tuner giving this system the capability of replacing both a cable set top box and dedicated Blu-Ray player all together, the size becomes easier to deal with.

Digging deeper into the hardware specs of the Maven Core we find some familiar components. The Intel Core i5-4690K sits in an ASUS Z97-A motherboard along with 8GB of Corsair DDR3-1866 memory. For storage we have a 250GB Samsung 840 EVO SSD paired with a Western Digital 3TB Hard Drive for mass storage of your media.

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Cooling for the CPU is provided by a Corsair H90 with a single Phanteks fan to help keep the noise down. Steiger Dynamics shipped our system with a Seasonic Platinum-series 650W power supply, including their custom cabling option. For $100, they will ship your system with custom, individually sleeved Power Supply and SATA drive cables. The sleeving and cable management are impressive, but $100 would be a difficult upsell of a PC that you are likely never going to see the inside of.

As we mentioned earlier, this machine also shipped with a Ceton InfiniTV 4 PCIe CableCARD tuner. While CableCARD is a much maligned technology that never really took off, when you get it working it can be impressive. Our impressions of the InfiniTV can be found later in this review.

Continue reading our review of the Steiger Dynamics Maven Core HTPC!

Building a new PC for the holidays?

Subject: Systems | October 29, 2014 - 01:19 PM |
Tagged: system build

The Tech Report have updated their system build recommendations for the latter part of 2014, with changes to their system components as well as a reluctant recommendation for Win 8.1 as Win7 is scheduled for EOL in the New Year.   The Core i7-5960X did not make it as the  i7-5930K reaches similar performance for just over half the price which also means that DDR4 has appeared for the first time, specifically the Crucial 16GB and 32GB DDR4-2133 kits.  There is a lot of choice right now when it comes to GPUs; four under $150, five under $250 and four ranging from ~$300 to $630 ensuring that you can find one in your price range.  Check out the full array of choices in their update.

Make sure to check out the recent updates on our Hardware Leaderboard as well.

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"Join us for another System Guide update, this time with just about all the tools you need to build a holiday PC early. We've got Nvidia's new GeForce GTX 900-series graphics cards, one of AMD's recently discounted A-series APUs, and much more."

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Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: ECS

Introduction

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When Intel revealed their miniature PC platform in 2012, the new “Next Unit of Computing” (NUC) was a tiny motherboard with a custom case, and admittedly very little compute power. Well, maybe not so much with the admittedly: “The Intel NUC is an ultra-compact form factor PC measuring 4-inch by 4-inch. Anything your tower PC can do, the Intel NUC can do and in 4 inches of real estate.” That was taken from Intel’s NUC introduction, and though their assertion was perhaps a bit premature, technology does continue its rapid advance in the small form-factor space. We aren’t there yet by any means, but the fact that a mini-ITX computer can be built with the power of an ATX rig (limited to single-GPU, of course) suggests that it could happen for a mini-PC in the not so distant future.

With NUC the focus was clearly on efficiency over performance, and with very low power and noise there were practical applications for such a device to offset the marginal "desktop" performance. The viability of a NUC would definitely depend on the user and their particular needs, of course. If you could find a place for such a device (such as a living room) it may have been worth the cost, as the first of the NUC kits were fairly expensive (around $300 and up) and did not include storage or memory. These days a mini PC can be found starting as low as $100 or so, but most still do not include any memory or storage. They are tiny barebones PC kits after all, so adding components is to be expected...right?

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It’s been a couple of years now, and the platform continues to evolve - and shrink to some startlingly small sizes. Of the Intel-powered micro PC kits on today’s market the LIVA from ECS manages to push the boundaries of this category in both directions. In addition to boasting a ridiculously small size - actually the smallest in the world according to ECS - the LIVA is also very affordable. It carries a list price of just $179 (though it can be found for less), and that includes onboard memory and storage. And this is truly a Windows PC platform, with full Windows 8.1 driver support from ECS (previous versions are not supported).

Continue reading our look at the ECS LIVA Mini PC!!

Viva la LIVA, your USB powered system

Subject: Systems | October 20, 2014 - 05:42 PM |
Tagged: LIVA, silvermont

Yes, you read that right; this system can be powered by a USB power source, as long as it can provide a minimum of 2.1 amps.  It runs Windows 8.1 on a Silvermont generation Atom, with 64GB of local storage and 2GB of RAM and it is amazingly small, instead of showing you the exterior you can see the size of the board in comparison to the Atom and the VGA port.  It has a UEFI BIOS, certainly pared down in comparison to a high end motherboard but with more than enough options for what this device needs to do.  Check out the MadShrimps review here and be ready for another review to appear on our front page.

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"The mini PC kit ECS has offered is shipped in a DIY format, and incorporates a dual-core Intel Celeron processor, 2GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage. The footprint of the product allows us to carry it anywhere and it can be even powered by an USB powerbank, if it can deliver at least 2.1 A"

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Source: MadShrimps