NVDIMM: Nonvolatile... Not NVIDIA

Subject: General Tech, Memory, Systems | February 10, 2013 - 03:44 AM |
Tagged: NVDIMM, micron, IMFT NAND, imft

So a RAM chip, a NAND module, and an “ultracapacitor” walk into stick...

This week Micron released a press blast for technology called, “NVDIMM”. The goal is to create memory modules which perform as quickly as DRAM but can persist without power. At this point you could probably guess the acronym: Nonvolatile Dual In-line Memory Module. It has been around for a few years now, but it is in the news now so let's chat about it.

I often like to play the game, “Was this named by an engineer or a marketer?” You can typically tell who was responsible for naming something by gauging how literally it breaks down into a simple meaning versus not having any apparent meaning at all. A good example of an engineer name is UHF, which breaks down into ultra-high frequency because it's higher than VHF, very-high frequency. A good example of a marketing name would be something like “Centrino”, which sounds like the biggest little penny-slot machine in the world. I would quite comfortable guessing that NVDIMM was named by an engineer.

NVDIMM.jpg

This is AgigA Tech's module, who provides the capacitors for Micron and their NVDIMMs.

The actual makeup of NVDIMMs is quite sensible: DIMMs are fast but die when the power goes out. You could prevent the power from going out but it takes quite a lot of battery life to keep a computer online for extended periods of time. NAND Flash is quite slow, relative to DIMMs, in normal operation but can persist without power for very long periods of time. Also, modern-day capacitors are efficient and durable enough to keep DIMMs powered for long enough to be copied to flash memory.

As such, if the power goes out: memory is dumped to flash on the same chip. When power is restored, DIMMs get reloaded and continue on their merry way.

According to the Micron press release, the first NVDIMM was demonstrated last November at SC12. That module contained twice as much NAND as it did DIMM memory: 8GB of Flash for 4GB of RAM. Micron did not specify why they required having that much extra Flash memory although my gut instinct is to compensate for write wearing problems. A two-fold increase to offset NAND that had just one too many write operations seems like quite a lot compared to consumer drives. That said, SSDs do not have to weather half of their whole capacity being written to each time the computer shuts down.

Who knows, double-provisioning might even be too little in practice.

Source: Micron

Arctic Releases MC001-XBMC HTPC Running XBMC 12

Subject: Systems | February 6, 2013 - 10:55 AM |
Tagged: xbmc 12, SFF, openelec 3.0, htpc, arctic

Arctic has released a small form factor PC that comes pre-installed with the recently-released XBMC 12 media center software. The Arctic MC001-XBMC is available in the United States and Europe. It measures 161 x 40 x 266mm with the PC attached to the stand. The MC001-XBMC comes in black or white and should fit easily into your AV rack.

The HTPC can be used to playback a variety of music and video file formats and can also be used as a network attached storage (NAS) device. On the software side of things, it comes pre-loaded with XBMC 12 “Frodo” and Openelec 3.0. It can act as a media center and television PVR.

MC001-XBMC(US) SFF HTPC (2).png

The HTPC is powered by a dual core Intel Atom D525 processor clocked at 1.8GHz, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5430 with 512MB of GDDR3 memory, 2GB DDR3 1333MHz system memory, and a 1TB laptop hard drive (5400 RPM). Networking is handled by a Gigabit Ethernet controller and a 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi radio.

MC001-XBMC(US) SFF HTPC (3).png

The front of the system includes an IR receiver, two USB 3.0 ports, two audio jacks (headphone/mic), and a card reader. The back of the MC001-XBMC features the following IO options.

  • 6 x analog audio jacks
  • 1 x S/PDIF optical audio output
  • 1 x VGA
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x RJ45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 5 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x DVB-T connector for the ATSC tuner
  • 1 x DC power jack (19V, 60W)

The XBMC 12 UI is a Windows Media Center alternative, and while setting up TV recording features requires additional software and is more difficult to setup it is otherwise a decent media center experience. Users can control the HTPC using the included infrared remote or via apps on Android or iOS smartphones.

MC001-XBMC(US) SFF HTPC (1).png

The MC001-XBMC comes with a two year warranty and has an MSRP of $229 US or EUR 199. It is no speed demon by any means, but the SFF system is plenty of hardware to playback up to 1080p video files.

Source: Arctic

Dell Goes Private, Microsoft Loans Some Help

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Mobile | February 5, 2013 - 05:10 PM |
Tagged: dell

Dell, dude, you're getting a Dell!

So it is official that Dell is going private. Michael Dell, CEO, as well as: Silver Lake, MSD Capital, several banks, and Dell itself will buy back stocks from investors 25% above the January 11th trading price. The whole deal would be worth $24.4 billion USD.

dell.jpg

Going private allows the company to make big shifts in their business without answering to investors on a quarterly basis. We can see how being a publicly traded company seems to hinder businesses after they grow beyond what a cash infusion can assist. Even Apple finds it necessary to keep an absolutely gigantic pile of cash to play with, only recently paying dividends to investors.

Also contributing to the buyback, as heavily reported, is a $2 billion USD loan from Microsoft. While it sounds like a lot in isolation, it is only just over 8% of the whole deal. All you really can pull is that it seems like Microsoft supports Dell in their decision and is putting their money where their intentions are.

Source: The Verge

Fanless MintBox PC Receives Price Cut, Makes It More-Competitive Intel NUC Alternative

Subject: Systems | February 3, 2013 - 09:32 AM |
Tagged: mintbox, mint, linux, fitpc3, compulab

The MintBox is a small form factor, fanless computer released in summer 2012. It was developed in collaboration between CompuLab and the Linux Mint project. At launch, the base model retailed for $476, but CompuLab has cut the price by almost $100 to kick off 2013.

 

mintbox_front.png

The MintBox basic is powered by a dual core AMD G-T40N APU clocked at 1.0 GHz, 4GB of RAM, an APU-integrated Radeon G290 GPU, and 250GB hard drive. The system has a aluminum chassis that acts as a heatsink. It is essentially CompuLab’s fitPC3 case with a few custom tweaks to add the Linux Mint logo. Further, it comes pre-loaded with the Linux Mint 13 operating system. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0 radios are included as well as two mini-PCIe cards and one mSATA connector (for an SSD).

mintbox.png

The front of the MintBox has four USB 2.0 ports surrounding the Mint logo. The rear of the MintBox includes the following connectivity options:

  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x DisplayPort
  • 1 x S/PDIF
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x eSATA
  • 1 x RS232 serial port
  • 2 x external Wi-Fi antennas .

 

In many respects, the MintBox resembles a typical home wireless router, but it is actually a full PC. Before shipping and any applicatable taxes, the MintBox Basic is $379. Reportedly, 10% of the proceeds will go towards the Linux Mint project to assist with development of the open source operating system. While the hardware itself is not new, Mint and CompuLab are offering up a healthy discount which may bring it more in line with Intel’s NUC systems. It may not be as fast, but it will cost less and is pre-configured unlike the DIY NUC.

Have you been looking to get a small form factor system? What do you think about a fanless box running Linux Mint for your next PC?

Intel really needs help with the name of their new NUC, DC3217IYE just doesn't roll off the tongue

Subject: Systems | January 28, 2013 - 07:20 PM |
Tagged: nuc, Intel, DC3217IYE

The new Intel NUC DC3217IYE is a tiny little system with a Core i3-3217U on a QS77 Express chipset with a pair of HDMI ports, three USB 2.0 ports, WiFi, ethernet and a mini PCIe slot that can handle mSATA, which is good as there is no internal storage apart from that.  Once you have purchased the NUC, all you need to do is install an mSATA drive and RAM and you have a fully functional system.  The inclusion of a Core i3 processor helps make the performance of the NUC significantly better than what it would be with an Atom and while the HD4000 is good for some applications it is not a strong gamer.  X-bit Labs likes the idea of the NUC but questions the $300 price it will command.

xbit_inside.jpg

"Intel decided to give it a shot in the ultra-compact desktop systems market. And they immediately came up with a unique product: a miniature system case only 12x11x4 cm in size based on Core i3 processor. It boasts a truly impressive combination of features, but does it make practical sense to give us a large desktop box in favor of a tiny guy like that?"

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

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Source: X-bit Labs

Ceton's My Media Center goes Metro

Subject: Systems | January 23, 2013 - 05:48 PM |
Tagged: htpc, ceton, my media center, win8, Metro

Ceton's My Media Center is a replacement interface for Windows Media Center's UI, allowing you to control functions on a device separate from the display which is connected to your WMC.  That means that any device running the Metro interface of Win8, which is any flavour of Win8, can be set up to connect to your HTPC and allow you to control WMC even if you are out of the house and it won't interfere with anyone who happens to be using it at the time.  The Companion software is loaded onto both the HTPC and the secondary device and with a little configuration, which Missing Remote details here, you will be in full control of WMC from anywhere.

MR_cetonmetro.jpg

"Earlier today a new Windows 8 "Metro" version of Ceton's suite of applications for managing Windows Media Center joined the existing lineup of Andriod, Windows Phone and iOS companion apps priced at $4.99. As part of this effort they were rebranded from "Ceton Companion Apps" to "My Media Center". All the great functionality for browsing recordings, managing series and scheduling, and browsing the guide is still there, but this time Windows 8 tablet and desktop "Metro" users can also join the party. We had a chance to take an early spin through the updated UI, let's dig in."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

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VIA Launches ARMOS-800 Embedded PC

Subject: Systems | January 16, 2013 - 12:30 PM |
Tagged: VIA, pico-itx, embedded system, cortex a8, arm

VIA has launched a new small form factor PC for embedded applications and powered by ARM hardware. The ARMOS-800 is ruggedized and low power. It features a fanless design with an aluminum chassis that can operate between -40 and 80 degrees Celsius.

Internal hardware includes a pico-ITX motherboard, and Freescale ARM Cortex A8 processor clocked at 800MHz. It also has two integrated GPUs capable of dual display outputs. Other specifications include 1GB DDR3 SDRAM, 4GB eMMC internal storage, and a microSD card slot.

 

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IO options on the ARMOS-800 include a COM port, DIO port, CAN port, and three audio jacks (line in, line out, and mic in). Rear IO includes one VGA, one HDMI, one Ethernet jack (10/100), three USB 2.0 ports, and an optional VNT9271 Wi-Fi card attached via an internal USB header.

The ARMOS-800 PC uses an average of 3.14W during normal operation. It can officially support Android 2.3 or Embedded Linux 2.6. The PC measures 15 x 4.6 x 10.8 centimeters. The ARMOS-800 is available now. You can find more information on the VIA product page.

Source: Via

Xi3 Launches Low-Power, Compact Z3RO Pro Computer

Subject: Systems | January 15, 2013 - 06:36 PM |
Tagged: z3ro pro, Xi3, SFF

Xi3 Corporation recently announced a new small form factor computer with the Xi3 Z3RO Pro. The new PC features a blue and silver chassis in typical Xi3 styling. It measures 1.9 x 4.9 x 3.6 inches, which is about the size of a small paperback book.

Inside the chassis, the Xi3 Z3RO Pro features a dual core processor clocked at 1.65GHz with 2MB L2 cache, a GPU with 80 shader cores, and 4GB of DDR3 memory. Further, Xi3 will include between 16GB and 1TB of internal storage. The system will reportedly operate on a mere 15W.

Xi3 X3RO Pro Computer.jpg

Rear IO on the Xi3 Z3RO Pro includes four combination eSATA/USB 3.0 ports, a single Gigabit Ethernet jack, and two video outputs. It has one combination HDMI and DisplayPort output and one mini DisplayPort port.

The low-power system is available for pre-order now. It will officially launch in the second quarter of 2013 for around $399. The Xi3 Z3RO Pro ships with OpenSUSE 11.2 Linux, but the X86-64 compatible hardware will support other desktop operating systems like Linux Mint and Windows 8. Unfortunately, Xi3 was vague on the processor being used, but an AMD APU of some sort is a good bet. 

Source: Xi3

CES 2013: Ice Computer shows off xPad and modular xPC

Subject: Systems | January 10, 2013 - 03:54 PM |
Tagged: xpc, xpad, xdock, modular computer, ice computer, ces 2013, CES

Engadget caught up with Ice Computer on the CES show floor to check out the progress on its modular xPC system. At Computex last year, the company had a prototype of the xPC, and now at CES Ice Computer has both the xPC and the dockable tablet display to demonstrate.

The xPC is a small plastic chassis containing a full computer sans display or traditional outputs. It weights approximately 50 grams and is similar in form factor to a thick cell phone. It will slide into the xPad tablet dock like a gaming cartridge on a classic (wow, I feel old) console. The xPC can also be docked into a xTop dock which connects to a television or desktop monitor along with a keyboard and mouse.

The xPC in question can use either an Intel Atom, AMD APU, or NVIDIA Tegra processor. It also hosts 2GB of RAM, up to a 64GB SSD, 1.3 or 2 megapixel webcam, and 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi radio. It will cost around $200.

Ice Computer xPad.jpg

The xPad is essentially a tablet chassis, touchscreen display, and IO ports that has a slot where the xPC docks. The xPad gets it’s processing and storage guts from the xPC meaning it cannot be used on its own. The current xPad design has a capacitive touch display with a resolution of 1366 x 768, front facing webcam, and an estimated six to eight hours of battery life. The right side of the tablet is a USB port, SD card slot, and a headphone jack. Along the left edge is the power button and volume rocker, and slot for the xPC to dock. Ice Computer expects the xPad tablet dock to be available around the same time as the xPC for $200.

The xTop will come out sometime after the xPC and xPad with an as-yet-unknown price.

The xPC is somewhat interesting in its goal, but I worry that its execution will be its undoing. Ice Computer wants the xPC to be your only computer, such that you take it everywhere and simply dock it into various devices to get more IO, a larger display, or a physical keyboard. Unfortunately, people are already carrying around a computer everywhere and it has a display and longer battery life all its own: the modern smartphone. Android, and in the future Ubuntu, smartphones can be connected to displays along with physical keyboards and mice to access a full desktop. They can be placed into docks, and in the Asus version can even be docked into a larger slate tablet (the PadPhone). I can’t shake the feeling that the xPC has a noble goal but while it is sitting in development uncertainty (there is scant information online about Ice Computer and while progress is being made, release dates are far in the future, for the tech world anyway) the xPC is being surpassed by the increasingly-popular smartphones. (Even Josh has a smartphone now!)

Further, with systems like the Raspberry Pi, enthusiasts can alreay hack together their own dockable, portable computer (expect maybe the tablet aspect) for less than even the base xPC much less the additional docks needed to make ti work.

With that said, Ice Computer’s xPC has one saving grace and that is to cater to Windows users. It could very well be a decent dockable computer that runs Windows and its plethora of applications and legacy software. The various smartphones and mini ARM-powered PCs cannot run Windows, so the xPC could carve out a niche for itself in that area. Not quite the revolutionary dockable dream, but an area where i could see it being viable.

Here’s hoping it sees the light of day sometime this year and reviewers can see it in action.

What do you think about the xPC and it’s goals? 

Coverage of CES 2013 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2013 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Engadget

CES 2013: Prototype Intel TV System Spotted at Imagination Suite

Subject: Systems | January 10, 2013 - 02:16 PM |
Tagged: CES, ces 2013, Intel, tv, intel media, imagination, PowerVR

While visiting with the folks at Imagination, responsible for the graphics system known as PowerVR found in many Apple and Samsung SoCs, we were shown a new, innovative way to watch TV.  This new system used an impressively quick graphic overlay, the ability to preview other channels before changing to them and even the ability to browse content on your phone and "toss" it to your TV. 

inteltv2.jpg

The software infrastructure is part of the iFeelSmart package but the PowerVR team was demonstrating the performance and use experiences that its low power graphics system could provide for future applications.  And guess what we saw was connected to the TV?

inteltv1.jpg

With all of the information filtering out on Intel's upcoming dive into the TV ecosystem, it shouldn't be a surprise that find hardware like this floating around.  We aren't sure what kind of hardware Intel would actually end up using for the set top box expected later this year, but it is possible we are looking at an early development configuration right here. 

Coverage of CES 2013 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2013 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!