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Strap a peltier to your DSLR so you can lengthen your exposure

Subject: General Tech | October 14, 2016 - 12:45 PM |
Tagged: DSLR, peltier

Peltier coolers have proven too inefficient to cool modern CPUs and have been relegated back to car seats and other traditional usages, until now.  A company called PrimaLuce will send you a Nikon D5500 with a peltier cooler strapped to the back which will cool your camera during long exposures which reduces image noise.  It will also prevent the camera from getting obnoxiously warm, a common complaint around the PCPer office.  This particular camera is intended for capturing the night sky, the inclusion of a anti-dewing system is very welcome.  Pop on over to Ars Technica to take a look.


"For €2,190 (£2,000/$2,400), the Italian company PrimaLuce will sell you a Nikon D5500 DSLR with a dual-Peltier cooler strapped to the back, called the Nikon D5500a Cooled. In addition to the cooler, the modified camera also switches out the standard low-pass filter in front of the sensor for something that is specially tuned to be more sensitive to astronomical wavelengths of light (specifically H-alpha deep red)."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Ars Technica

Stepping Up the Simulation Game

I don’t exactly remember when I first heard about Fanatec, but it likely was sometime after the release of DiRT 2.  I was somewhat into racing games before that, but that particular title sold me on the genre and I have not looked back since.  Before then I used a Microsoft Sidewinder FFB stick for my racing, but it was D2 that convinced me to purchase a wheel for the full fledged experience.  The initial impression of Fanatec was of course “high priced, but really nice gear”.  These were products that I did not think I would ever see in any personal capacity as they were out of my price range and my driving passion was just not amped up enough to rationalize it.


My dog is quite suspicious of the amount of boxes the set came in.

I know I probably talk about it too much, but the introduction of DiRT Rally really supercharged my interest in driving accessories due to the work they did on physics and Force Feedback effects.  My older Thrustmaster Ferrari F430 wheel featured a meager 270 degrees of rotation and clunky FFB that did not translate well with this particular title.  It may have done OK with older, more arcade based racers, but with the latest generation of sims that focus on accuracy in experience it just did not cut it.  Purchasing a Thrustmaster TX based unit was a night and day experience for these latest titles.

The next few months after that I spent time with multiple other wheels and accessories and provided a few reviews based on them.  My level of interest grew exponentially about what the industry offered.  I was able to contact Fanatec and they agreed to put together a bundle of products based on their latest ClubSport V2 products.  This would include the ClubSport V2 Base,  ClubSport Universal Hub for Xbox One, ClubSport Pedals V3, ClubSport Shifter SQ, and the desk mounting hardware for the units.


Fanatec is not for the faint of heart when it comes to pricing.  The total package I received is worth 1800 Euro, or about $2016 US.  This is a pretty tremendous amount of money for racing gear, but it is about average for higher end products that exist in this market.  People will question why it costs so much, but after my experience with it I now know why.

Click here to read the rest of the Fanatec Review!

Wide load coming through, Carbide Series AIR 740

Subject: Cases and Cooling | October 13, 2016 - 05:10 PM |
Tagged: corsair, carbide air 740

At 426x340x510mm (16.8x13.4x20.1") the new Carbide AIR 740 looks like a double wide and there is a reason for that.  Corsair have separated the drives and PSU into a secondary chamber, going so far as to mount the PSU vertically.  The design also gives you more than enough room to install radiators in a number of locations inside the case without impinging on any other components nor will you have issues with even the tallest CPU heatsink.  [H]ard|OCP was impressed enough with the case to give it the Gold, though they would have liked to see a fan controller in an AIR series case.


"Corsair is back with another cube type case this time in its Carbide AIR series. The model AIR 740 is a big steel case that has a big footprint, and along with that comes a spacious interior that will lend itself to just about any amount of hardware you want to install and Corsair has its sights set on excellent cooling for all that hardware."

Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:


Source: [H]ard|OCP

Think you can handle the Wang? NVIDIA is giving away $50,000 worth of Shadow Warrior 2 codes

Subject: General Tech | October 13, 2016 - 03:50 PM |
Tagged: shadow warrior 2, nvidia, geforce, geforce experience 3.0, giveaway

Shadow Warrior 2 is out today, bringing Lo brow humour and procedural gore back to PC gaming.  For those of you who have created a user at GeForce.com, you have a chance to win a copy of the game for free, all you need to do is install GeForce Experience 3.0 on your machine and you are entered to win.  If you haven't the desire you can pick the game up on GOG or Steam, but you will have to pay for it.  This new incarnation adds four player co-op to the game and the levels are described as procedural, theoretically places you have previously visited will not be the same if you head back.  More info on the contest in the PR below


Shadow Warrior 2 launched today, and GeForce gamers using GeForce Experience may be getting it free. We will be giving away $50,000 worth of codes for the over the top first person shooter Shadow Warrior 2 to random gamers registered with GeForce Experience 3.0. This marks the second game code giveaway this month and more are coming soon. Just download and log in to the new GeForce Experience 3.0 to be eligible. Shadow Warrior 2 is highly anticipated first person shooter that is focused on fun. But not to be missed behind the numerous weapon choices, over-the-top gore, and edgy sense of humor is an indie release that is loaded with next generation technology thanks in part to a collaboration between NVIDIA and Flying Wild Hog, the game’s independent Polish developer.

The developer of Shadow Warrior 2, Flying Wild Hog, along with Devolver sister company Gambitious, were a part of the NVIDIA Indie Spotlight Program launch with their game Hard Reset: Redux. So naturally working with them on Shadow Warrior 2 to expand the indie game partnership between Devolver and NVIDIA seemed like the natural next step.

PC Gamers count on GeForce Experience to get the most from their games. It keeps drivers up to date. It automatically optimizes game settings for more than 300 games. And it’s the easiest way to capture gameplay video, stream it to Twitch or YouTube, or share it with another player over the Internet using the easy-to-use in-game overlay tool.

And now it rewards you for playing on GeForce. Dating back to July, NVIDIA has thanked their loyal GeForce Experience gamers by giving away: MSI VR-Ready Notebooks, HTC Vive Systems, GeForce GTX 1080s, SHIELD Android TVs, alpha access codes to the game LawBreakers and $200,000 worth of codes for Dead by Daylight.

More than 75 million gamers can’t be wrong--GeForce Experience is the gateway to great PC gaming.

Source: NVIDIA

Microwave your RAM to make it faster?

Subject: General Tech | October 13, 2016 - 03:19 PM |
Tagged: terahertz, research, memory

You have probably recently heard of terahertz radiation used to scan physical objects, be it the T-Rays at airports or the the researchers at MIT who are reading books through the covers.  There is more recent of news on researchers utilizing the spectrum between frequencies of 0.3THz and 3THz, this time pertaining to RAM cycles and the possibility of increasing the speed at which RAM can flip between a 0 and 1.  In theory a terahertz electric field could flip bits 1000 times faster than the electromagnetic process currently used in flash memory. This could also be used in the new prototype RAM technology we have seen, such as MRAM, PRAM or STT-RAM.  This is still a long way off but a rather interesting read, especially if you can follow the links from The Inquirer to the Nature submission.

EM Spectrum.png

"Using the prototypical antiferromagnet thulium orthoferrite (TmFeO3), we demonstrate that resonant terahertz pumping of electronic orbital transitions modifies the magnetic anisotropy for ordered Fe3+ spins and triggers large-amplitude coherent spin oscillations," the researchers helpfully explained."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Podcast #421 - iPhone 7, Drobo 5C, Intel FPGAs and more!

Subject: Editorial | October 13, 2016 - 11:22 AM |
Tagged: XG-U2008, western digital, video, stratix, ssd, podcast, nvidia, msi, kaby lake, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 7, iphone, Intel, drobo, asus, apple, 5c

PC Perspective Podcast #421 - 10/13/16

Join us this week as we discuss our review of the iPhone 7, the Drobo 5C, Intel FPGAs 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!

Hosts:  Ryan Shrout, Allyn Malventano, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, and Sebastian Peak

Program length: 1:22:35

  1. Week in Review:
  2. Today’s episode is brought to you by Casper!
  3. News items of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Ryan: UE Boom 2
    2. Jeremy: Hee hee, you really want Win7?
  5. Closing/outro

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

It's time for another Fragging Frogs VLAN! Saturday Oct 29 @ 10:00 AM ET - Virtual LAN party #14

Subject: General Tech | October 12, 2016 - 07:10 PM |
Tagged: VLAN party, gaming, fragging frogs

It's time to load up your Flak Cannon, squirrel away a Redeemer, tune up your Rocket car and feed your pet dinosaur because the Fragging Frogs are hosting their 14th VLAN party on the last Saturday of this month.  There will be games, there will be prize giveaways and there will be fun!  If you have attended a VLAN in the past you know the drill but if you have yet to take part in one of these events with the best group of gamers around then you can follow these steps to ensure you have a spot.

  • You must be a registered member at the PCPer forums (register here)
  • You must post to this thread stating your intention to attend the VLAN event
  • You must meet the eligibility requirements (if any) of the individual sponsors below
  • Your shipping address must be in the Continental United States or Canada (for prizes)
  • Lastly, you must join Teamspeak and participate in the VLAN event by playing games with us and having fun !!

You will need to supply your own snacks and beverages so make sure to stock up as the party kicks off at 10AM Eastern and doesn't stop until the last Frog drops, which is often sometime on Sunday.  The games we play are up to you, post suggestions in the thread if you don't see your favourites already listed, if we can find interested bodies we are happy to play anything. 

Prizes are not yet announced but you can expect some great hardware, software and possibly even some interesting collectibles.  Keep your eyes on the thread for more announcements and make sure to thank Lenny for all the effort he puts into organizing these events. 

Join up and have some fun on Saturday, you might just find yourself becoming a regular participant in the Fragging Frogs weekly gaming sessions too!


Here is some more Tech News from around the web:


Introducing the XG-U2008 switch – 10G networking for only $249

Subject: General Tech, Networking | October 12, 2016 - 04:22 PM |
Tagged: asus, XG-U2008, unmanaged switch, 10 gigabit

Planning an upgrade to your network or looking to build one that will last into the next generation of NICs?  ASUS has just made an unmanaged 10 gigabit switch available at a price far below the average asking price of the devices currently on the market.  $250 is still a steep investment for a switch but is less than half of the competitions, albeit without the management features found on those switches.  The LEDs on the front will glow amber if the cable you use is not up to the new standard, otherwise expect green for go.  It will support Jumbo Frames of up to 16 KB just like the more expensive models.  It is a compact 9.44x4.92x1.06", so you should easily be able to find a home for it.  PR below the snazzy product shot, technical details from ASUS here.


Fremont, CA (October 10th, 2016) -- Outside the enterprise market, the transition from Gigabit to 10-Gigabit Ethernet has been rather slow. While there are growing small-business and prosumer demands for the additional bandwidth that 10G networking provides, the cost of entry is high. Until now, the availability of compliant devices has been limited to enterprise-class products that are built with corporate networks in mind, with pricing for 10-Gigabit switches starting at $800. That certainly isn’t expensive by corporate standards, but for the rest of us, it relegates adoption to cases of absolute necessity and the upper echelon of enthusiasts.

While it’s advisable to plan ahead and overprovision your network for scalability, paying extra money for ports or features that you’ll never use doesn’t make sense. So, there’s a clear need for 10G networking devices that are suitably tailored for the small business, prosumer, and enthusiast markets. Cue the ASUS XG-U2008, an unmanaged 10G networking switch available for only $249.99.


The VR Pool game has finally arrived

Subject: General Tech | October 12, 2016 - 03:43 PM |
Tagged: VR, unreal engine 4, pool nation vr, htc vive, gaming

Pool Nation VR for thr HTC Vive is an Unreal Engine 4 game and takes advantage of one of that engine's NVIDIA only features, Multi-Res Shading.  This gives NVIDIA a performance advantage at high settings over AMD, though not so much that the GTX 1060 gets a recommendation from [H]ard|OCP.  Unfortunately, neither thev R9 Fury X nor RX 480 managed decent performance from this game, if you want to shoot VR pool you are looking at a GTX 1070 at the very least.  Check out the full review and hope that mods arrive to make the game more interesting.


"If shooting pool is a passion of yours, then Pool Nation VR should be on your list if you own an HTC Vive. Even if you are not a pool shark, this title will likely lure you in to spending many hours shooting stick. But to make it look stunning, you will need a heavy duty GPU up to the task. "

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:


Source: [H]ard|OCP

Hiring! We are hunting for a video producer and editor

Subject: Editorial | October 12, 2016 - 03:23 PM |
Tagged: jobs, hiring

PC Perspective is hiring! We are on the look out for someone to help with our increasing amount of video content. We need a person that is local to our main office in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, so that will limit a lot of you.

Tasks for the new hire will include:

  • Video production and capture
  • Live video switching and production
  • Artistic capture of products for use in editorials and reviews
  • Editing of video
  • Creation animations and motion graphics
  • YouTube channel management

The ideal candidate should have some experience in the following:

  • Adobe software suite: Premiere Pro, Photoshop, After Effects
  • Knowledge of cameras and associated hardware
  • Experience with video and photo capture
  • Familiar with review structure and high quality online video content
  • Basic background in computer hardware and the gaming ecosystem

To start with we are targeting a part time work load though we expect this to expand in the near future. 


Again, this is definitely an on-site / local position - those not in the Cincinnati / Northern KY area need not apply.

If you or someone you know is a good candidate for us, please email me directly (rshrout@pcper.com) with your pertintent information including any previously built material or examples of work. 

Come join a growing team of fun and interesting people and take part in the exciting PC gaming market!!

The Internet of Things can make you a cup of tea ... in 11 hours or so

Subject: General Tech | October 12, 2016 - 02:47 PM |
Tagged: iot, iKettle

If there is one thing that the IoT excels at, it is making simple things more complex.  It opens up new toaster based DoS attacks and can turn the act of boiling water into a day long activity.  An English software developer had a very interesting time attempting to make his morning cup of tea and being a technically inclined individual he was not about to simply give up; instead he started troubleshooting the issue.  The issue started with the iKettle dropping its connection necessitating the rest of the of the base station for the kettle but escalated to the point it was interfering with the Hadoop cluster he happened to be running in his garage.  The Register captured his debugging trials in the search for a substance that was  almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.  To ensure that there was salt added to his wounds, his Hue decided to perform a firmware update later that evening.


"Our story starts simply enough: a kettle. The iKettle to be precise, an IoT device that is coveted by most INQ writers for reasons they cannot entirely explain."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Apple

Introduction and Specifications

The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are here, and while outwardly they look very similar to last year’s 6s models, there have been some significant upgrades (and a highly controversial change) to the new phones. Is there enough in this iterative update to justify an upgrade? After spending a couple of weeks using one as my primary device, I will attempt to answer this question.


While there had been rumors swirling of an all-new design featuring an OLED display, Apple appears to be holding back until next year - which just happens to be the 10th anniversary of the iPhone. Considering this fact, it may just be that the iPhone 7 is something of a stop-gap for 2017. Some of the rumored elements are here, however; with the elimination of the physical home button (it's a solid-state version now) and 3.5 mm headphone jack (the latter causing much consternation). The camera on both phones is completely new as well, with a special dual-lens version exclusive to the 7 Plus.


First we'll go over the specs of these phones. As you can see, there are still some areas that are not fully known, such as the exact speed of the low-power cores in the new quad-core SoC, and the specifics about this year's GPU.

  Apple iPhone 7 Apple iPhone 7 Plus
Processor Apple A10 Fusion SoC
2.34 GHz dual-core + 2x low-power cores (? MHz)
Graphics 6-core (unknown GPU)
Memory 2GB 3GB
Screen 4.7-inch IPS, DCI-P3 capable 5.5-inch IPS, DCI-P3 capable
Storage 32GB/128GB/256GB
Cameras Back: 12MP, ƒ/1.8, OIS
Front: 7MP, ƒ/2.2
Back: 12MP, f /1.8, OIS
Dual-camera with 2x telephoto lens
Front: 7MP, ƒ/2.2
Video Video: 4K @ 30 fps, 1080p @ 60/30 fps, 720p @ 30 fps Video: 4K @ 30 fps, 1080p @ 60/30 fps, 720p @ 30 fps
Audio Stereo Speakers
Wireless 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi‑Fi with MIMO 
Bluetooth 4.2, NFC
(Model A1778/1784)
FDD-LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30) 
TD-LTE (Bands 38, 39, 40, 41) 
UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz) 
GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
Connection Lightning
Battery 1960 mAh 2900 mAh
Dimensions 138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm
(5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches)
138 g (4.87 oz)
158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm
(6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches)
188 g (6.63 oz)
OS iOS 10
Price $649 - $849 $769 - $969

Nearly a Decade of iPhone


The iPhone was introduced in 2007 (Image credit: Apple, via archive.org)

It’s hard to believe it’s been nine years since the original iPhone launched. Announced in January of 2007 by Steve Jobs during his keynote speech at CES, it set a standard that the rest of the industry would take some time to meet (remember, the first Android phone was over a year away at this point.) But nine years is an age in technology years, and that first version seems like an antique now. (The original iPhone specs: 3.5-inch display with 320x480 resolution, single-core ARM processor running at 412 MHz, 128 MB of system memory, 4GB/8GB storage.)

Continue reading our review of the Apple iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus!!

WD and SanDisk; sneaking a peek at the new 1TB Blue

Subject: Storage | October 11, 2016 - 01:45 PM |
Tagged: western digital, wdc, WD, ssd, Blue, 1TB, marvell 1074

Al is hard at work benchmarking the new Western Digital SSDs and you should expect to see his full in depth review in the near future but for those who need immediate gratification here is Hardware Canucks review.  The 1TB WD Blue uses a Marvell 1074 controller, a full gigabyte of cache provided by a pair of Micron 512MB DDR3 chips and 15nm TLC that should survive 400TB of writes and is warrantied for three years.  Western Digital and SanDisk DNA meet for the first time in a consumer SSD, check out how it fares against the competition right here.


"Western Digital, once known for their hard drives alone, is now wading in the SSD market with two new series. In this review, we take the new Blue 1TB SSD out for a spin."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:


Turn that Note 7 off, it won't work in your Gear VR

Subject: General Tech | October 11, 2016 - 12:38 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, recall, gear vr, galaxy note 7

It is official, Samsung has called a halt to production of the Note 7 and not just because it is likely impossible to insure a building in which they are manufactured or stored.  The recall of 2.5 million handsets was damaging to the company and its reputation but the incidents of replacement batteries suffering the same catastrophic failure have spelled the end of this device.  Samsung suggests you immediately power down your device and contact your provider or retailer for a refund or for credit on a different handset.

Ars Technica also spotted a pertinent message on the current update to the Gear VR headset which states that support for the Note 7 has been discontinued and you are no longer able to install the app on a Note 7.  Thankfully there have been no reports of a battery failure while a Note 7 was inside of a Gear VR and this move should prevent that from ever happening.  Expect more statements from Samsung on this topic throughout the week.


"Oculus and Samsung have obviously realized this and has pushed out an update preventing the volatile phone from working with the Gear VR headset."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Ars Technica

Western Digital Gets Back in the SSD Game With Blue and Green SSDs!

Subject: Storage | October 11, 2016 - 11:50 AM |
Tagged: western digital, wdc, WD, ssd, Green, Blue

It has been over 6 years since we saw an SSD come out of Western Digital, but we suspected some new ones may be coming after their recent acquisition of SanDisk. That say has come, and today we have two new SSD models announced by WD:


These new SSDs naturally borrow SanDisk 15nm TLC flash but drive that flash with aftermarket controllers. The Blue employs a Marvell 88SS1074 controller while the Green will use a Silicon Motion SM2256S. The Blue will have the typical SATA 6Gbps saturating specs seen in modern SSDs, while the Green will be derated a bit. Detailed specifications are below:

  • Form Factors: 2.5¨/7mm cased, M.2 2280
  • Endurance (Blue):
    • 250GB: 100 TBW
    • 500GB: 200 TBW
    • 1TB: 400 TBW
  • Power (Blue):
    • Slumber: 42mW-52mW
    • DEVSLP: 4.9mW-9.7mW
    • Average Active Power: 70mW
  • Warranty (Blue and Green): 3 years

WD Blue SSD Specs.png

The WD Green will be more budget minded and is to be offered in only a 120GB and 240GB form factor, with reduced endurance ratings of 40 TBW and 80 TBW, respectively.

Pricing (for the WD Blue SSD):

  • 250 GB $79.99
  • 500 GB $139.99
  • 1TB $299.99

WD Blue WD Green SATA 1.png

The WD Green SSD will be available 'later this quarter', and we do not yet have pricing for that model, but it should come in at a lower cost than the Blue prices above. We have a Blue model in for testing and should see how it fares on our new storage suite later this week.

Press blast after the break.

Western Digital Refreshes Colorful My Passport and My Book Lines

Subject: Storage | October 11, 2016 - 10:22 AM |
Tagged: western digital, wdc, WD, my passport, my book

Western Digital has refreshed their My Passport and My Book lines with a new industrial design:


The My Passport line (pictured above) features a new design and colors. Capacities now extend all the way up to 4TB. Prices:

  • 1 TB $79.99
  • 2 TB $109.99
  • 3 TB $149.99
  • 4 TB $159.99

These feature password protection and AES-256 hardware encryption. There is also a 'My Passport for Mac' model which parallels the above series but comes pre-formated for use with a Mac. Amazing that they are now fitting 4TB of capacity into a 2.5" enclosure.


Also up is a redesign of the My Book. This bookshelf style drive is now a chunkier version of the My Passport products mentioned earlier. Thanks to Helium-filled HGST HelioSeal technology recently acquired by Western Digital, capacities now extend up to 8TB on this line. Prices follow:

  • 3 TB $129.99
  • 4 TB $149.99
  • 6 TB $229.99
  • 8 TB $299.99

I like the more squared off design, especially for the My Book, as it should make them more stable and less likely to be tipped over by accidental bumps. These also support hardware encryption. All models of both the My Book and My Passport come with a 2-year limited warranty as well as backup software to help ease the process of automating your backups. 

Press blast after the break.

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Drobo

Introduction and Packaging

The Drobo 5D launched a few years ago and continues to be a pricey solution, running close to $600. This was due to added complexity with its mSATA hot data cache and other features that drove the price higher than some potential buyers were happy with. Sure the cache was nice, but many photographers and videographers edit their content on a faster internal SSD and only shift their media to their external storage in bulk sequential file copies. These users don’t necessarily need a caching tier built into their mass storage device - as they just want good straight-line speed to offload their data as fast as possible.

With new management and a renewed purpose with a focus on getting lower cost yet performant products out there, Drobo relaunched their base 4-bay product in a third-generation form. We tested that unit back in December of 2014, and its performance was outstanding for a unit that typically runs in the mid-$200 price range. The price and performance were great, but things were a bit tight when trying to use Dual Disk Redundancy while limited to only four installed drives. A fifth bay would have certainly been handy, as would USB-C connectivity, which brings me to the subject of today’s review:


I present to you the Drobo 5C. Essentially a 5-bay replacement to the 4-bay 3rd gen Drobo. This will become the new base model Drobo, meaning there will no longer be any 4-bay models in Drobo's product lineup:

Drobo 5C lineup.png

Read on for our review of the new Drobo 5C!

Intel Launches Stratix 10 FPGA With ARM CPU and HBM2

Subject: Processors | October 10, 2016 - 02:25 AM |
Tagged: SoC, Intel, FPGA, Cortex A53, arm, Altera

 Intel and recently acquired Altera have launched a new FPGA product based on Intel’s 14nm Tri-Gate process featuring an ARM CPU, 5.5 million logic element FPGA, and HBM2 memory in a single package. The Stratix 10 is aimed at data center, networking, and radar/imaging customers.

The Stratix 10 is an Altera-designed FPGA (field programmable gate array) with 5.5 million logic elements and a new HyperFlex architecture that optimizes registers, pipeline, and critical pathing (feed-forward designs) to increase core performance and increase the logic density by five times that of previous products. Further, the upcoming FPGA SoC reportedly can run at twice the core performance of Stratix V or use up to 70% less power than its predecessor at the same performance level.

Intel Altera Stratix 10.jpg

The increases in logic density, clockspeed, and power efficiency are a combination of the improved architecture and Intel’s 14nm FinFET (Tri-Gate) manufacturing process.

Intel rates the FPGA at 10 TFLOPS of single precision floating point DSP performance and 80 GFLOPS/watt.

Interestingly, Intel is using an ARM processor to feed data to the FPGA chip rather than its own Quark or Atom processors. Specifically, the Stratix 10 uses an ARM CPU with four Cortex A53 cores as well as four stacks of on package HBM2 memory with 1TB/s of bandwidth to feed data to the FPGA. There is also a “secure device manager” to ensure data integrity and security.

The Stratix 10 is aimed at data centers and will be used with in specialized tasks that demand high throughput and low latency. According to Intel, the processor is a good candidate for co-processors to offload and accelerate encryption/decryption, compression/de-compression, or Hadoop tasks. It can also be used to power specialized storage controllers and networking equipment.

Intel has started sampling the new chip to potential customers.

Intel Altera Stratix 10 FPGA SoC.png

In general, FPGAs are great at highly parallelized workloads and are able to efficiently take huge amounts of inputs and process the data in parallel through custom programmed logic gates. An FPGA is essentially a program in hardware that can be rewired in the field (though depending on the chip it is not necessarily a “fast” process and it can take hours or longer to switch things up heh). These processors are used in medical and imaging devices, high frequency trading hardware, networking equipment, signal intelligence (cell towers, radar, guidance, ect), bitcoin mining (though ASICs stole the show a few years ago), and even password cracking. They can be almost anything you want which gives them an advantage over traditional CPUs and graphics cards though cost and increased coding complexity are prohibitive.

The Stratix 10 stood out as interesting to me because of its claimed 10 TFLOPS of single precision performance which is reportedly the important metric when it comes to training neural networks. In fact, Microsoft recently began deploying FPGAs across its Azure cloud computing platform and plans to build the “world’s fastest AI supercomputer. The Redmond-based company’s Project Catapult saw the company deploy Stratix V FPGAs to nearly all of its Azure datacenters and is using the programmable silicon as part of an “acceleration fabric” in its “configurable cloud” architecture that will be used initially to accelerate the company’s Bing search and AI research efforts and later by independent customers for their own applications.

It is interesting to see Microsoft going with FPGAs especially as efforts to use GPUs for GPGPU and neural network training and inferencing duties have increased so dramatically over the years (with NVIDIA being the one pushing the latter). It may well be a good call on Microsoft’s part as it could enable better performance and researchers would be able to code their AI accelerator platforms down to the gate level to really optimize things. Using higher level languages and cheaper hardware with GPUs does have a lower barrier to entry though. I suppose ti will depend on just how much Microsoft is going to charge customers to use the FPGA-powered instances.

FPGAs are in kind of a weird middle ground and while they are definitely not a new technology, they do continue to get more complex and powerful!

What are your thoughts on Intel's new FPGA SoC?

Also read:

Source: Intel

Google WiFi Bringing Wireless Mesh Networking to the Home

Subject: Networking | October 9, 2016 - 01:42 AM |
Tagged: wifi, onhub, mesh, google wifi, google, 802.11ac

Building on the company’s OnHub WiFi router program, the search giant will be offering up its own mesh WiFi network solution for home users later this year aptly named “Google WiFi.” Available in November for pre-order Google will offer single and triple packs of its puck-shaped smartphone controlled WiFi nodes.

Google WiFi node.png

Google WiFi is a new product that takes advantage of an old technology called mesh networking. While most home users rely on a single powerful access point to distribute the wireless signal throughout the home, mesh networks place nodes around the home in such a way that the WiFi networks overlap. Devices can connect to any node and transition between nodes automatically. The nodes communicate with each other wirelessly and connect end devices to the router and Internet by taking the best path (least number of hops and/or highest signal strengths). This model does have some disadvantages that are shared with WiFi repeater solutions in that as much as 50% (or worse!) of the bandwidth can be lost at each hop as the devices use wireless for both communicating with end devices and the backbone to the router. The advantage though is that you need only find a power outlet to set up the mesh node and there is no need to run Ethernet or deal with Powerline or MoCA setups.

Fortunately, it looks as though Google has mitigated the disadvantage by including two radios. The circular Google WiFi nodes (which measure 4.17” diagonally and 2.7” tall) pack a dual band 802.11ac WiFi chip that can operate at both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Using the 5 GHz network for in room end devices (PCs, smartphones, game consoles, Rokus, et al) and the 2.4 GHz network to communicate with each other will help to eliminate a major bottleneck. There will likely still be some bandwidth lost, especially over multiple hops, due to interference, but it should be much less than 50% bandwidth loss.

Google WiFi Mesh.png

Each Google WiFi node features two Gigabit Ethernet ports that can be setup as LAN or WAN ports, Bluetooth, and an 802.11ac 2x2 WiFi radio with beamforming support. The nodes are powered by an unspecified quad core processor, 512MB DDR3L memory, and 4GB of eMMC flash storage. The nodes apparently draw as much as 15 watts.

Of course, being Google, the Google WiFi can be controlled using an Android or iOS app that allows the administrator to pause WiFi on a per-device basis (e.g. set time limits for children), monitor device bandwidth usage and prioritize traffic, and automatically apply firmware updates to mitigate security risks. Additionally, Google WiFi automatically configures each node to use the best channel and band to get the best performance that supports all devices.

The nodes currently come only in white and are constructed of plastic. There are blue LEDs around the middle of the puck shaped device. Google WiFi will be available for pre-order in November. A single node will cost $129 while a three pack will cost $299. Google is not first to the wireless mesh party but it looks like it will be competitively priced (the three pack is $200 cheaper than eero, for example).

This looks like it might be a simple to setup solution if you or your family are currently running a single access point that can’t quite cover the entire home. I don’t really see this as a product for enthusiasts, but it might be worth recommending to people that just want WiFi that works with little setup. I will have to wait for reviews to say for sure though.

What are your thoughts on Google WiFi?

Also read:

Source: Google

Ubisoft Has Some Games for Free

Subject: General Tech | October 8, 2016 - 07:33 AM |
Tagged: ubisoft, pc gaming, free games, free

This has apparently been going on since June, but I just found out that Ubisoft was giving away some of their older titles for free. Like EA's “On the House” promotion, you can keep the title, but only if you add it to your UPlay account before the cut off date. We're just before the change in months, so, for the next few days, you can add The Crew. Then, starting on October 12th, you can pick up the original Beyond Good and Evil for free.


As expected, you will need to have a UPlay account for this to work. Still, it's an otherwise free game, and a cult classic at that. While this promotion is officially for Ubisoft's 30th anniversary, and two games will go free after Beyond Good and Evil, Ubisoft took the opportunity to announce that a sequel to Beyond Good and Evil is being developed. I guess this means that we'll only have a couple more E3s where journalists write top ten “I want to see announced” lists containing Beyond Good and Evil 2. Yet another thing that will probably be released before Half-Life 2: Episode 3.

Source: Ubisoft