WoW, Microsoft is back in the porting business again. x86 to ARM expected with Redstone 3

Subject: General Tech | November 22, 2016 - 12:34 PM |
Tagged: CHPE, arm, x86 emulator, x86, windows 10, redstone 3

We haven't seen Windows 10 Redstone 2 yet but already we have some news about Redstone 3 which hints at the coming of the Surface phone.  Microsoft is working on x86 emulation for ARM processors, allowing proper Windows programs and not just Universal Apps to work on ARM based machines.  They pulled this off in the past with the switch from 32bit to 64bit applications, with Windows on Windows emulation and porting x86 to ARM and vice versa has been a long term project at Microsoft. 

The possible issue that comes from this eventuality is the interface.  Just like in a game ported from a gaming platform to PC, moving from an ecosystem with a limited input device to a platform designed with a mouse and keyboard will cause issues.  The reverse tends to be worse, for instance Skyrim's abysmal inventory system exists specifically because it was planned to be released on consoles.  Now imagine Excel or file management software trimmed down and designed specifically to run on a phablet, as well as on a PC.  For more on this possible nightmare, check out The Inquirer.

shot-project-gantt-chart-wizard.jpg

"According to Mary-Jo Foley, the font of all knowledge Windows-wise, the company is looking at x86 emulation for ARM processors. It’s not a new idea, but it's looking likely for Redstone 3."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

NES Classic PCB Pictured Online

Subject: Systems, Mobile | November 6, 2016 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: Nintendo, nes, Cortex A7, arm, Allwinner

It looks like Peter Brown, Senior Reviews Editor at GameSpot received an NES Classic and promptly disassembled it for a single photo. From there, users on Reddit searched the component model numbers and compiled specifications. According to their research, the system (unless Nintendo made multiple, interchangeable models) is based on an Allwinner R16 SoC, which has four ARM Cortex A7 cores and an ARM Mali 400 MP2 GPU. Attached to this is 256MB of DDR3 RAM and 512 MB of flash.

nintendo-2016-nesclassic-inside-peterbrowngamespot.jpg

Image Credit: Peter Brown

Thankfully, the packaging of each chip has quite large, mostly legible branding, so it's easy to verify.

In terms of modern phone technology, this is about the bottom of the barrel. The Allwinner R16 should be roughly comparable to the Raspberry Pi 2, only that system has about four times the RAM as Nintendo's. This is not a bad thing, of course, because its entire goal is to emulate a device that was first released in 1983 (in Japan) albeit at high resolution. Not all of the games will be free for them to include, either. Mega Man 2, PAC-MAN, Final Fantasy, Castlevania 1 and 2, Ninja Gaiden, Double Dragon II, Bubble Bobble, Tecmo Bowl, Super C, and Galaga are all from third-party publishers, who will probably need some cut of sales.

Users are claiming that it doesn't look like it could be updated. Counting the ports, it doesn't look like there's any way in, but I could be wrong. That said, I never expected it to be upgradeable so I guess that's that?

The NES Classic Edition goes on sale on November 11th for $59.99 USD MSRP.

ARM plans to mbed itself into the IoT, for better or worse

Subject: General Tech | October 26, 2016 - 01:08 PM |
Tagged: arm, Mbed OS, iot, security

Is a single point of failure more or less secure than multiple points?  That is the question IoT designers should make when considering ARM's new mbed OS, designed to rein in the fiasco which is the current state of security in the IoT market.  On the one hand this OS will run on just about any device you could want, even if you prefer your device remain on MIPS, Linux or another OS and regardless of your back end provider.  It will allow encrypted updates to be pushed out to devices software or firmware from a single source and the companies which use it will be charge on a pay per use scheme as opposed to a fixed cost.

On the sinister hand, this means that when someone manages to exploit an unforeseen vulnerability in mbed, the communications between ARM and the devices or the factory set private keys, they will be able to own every single mbed device out there.  That is unfortunately merely a matter of time and so we wait to hear from ARM as to how they plan to partition the devices which use mbed and other measures they will develop to prevent a worse DDoS than the Dyn DNS attack last week.  You can take a deeper look at mbed's structure as well as ARM's new Cortex-M33 and Cortex-M23 microcontrollers over at The Register.

index.png

"So ARM has come up with mbed Cloud, a software-as-a-service platform that securely communicates with firmware in devices to install fixes and feature updates. Product makers pay to remotely manage all their sold kit. Crucially, they pay for what they use – whether it's pushing updates, or connecting millions of units, and so on."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

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

ARM's new security focused Cortex R-52 for IoT

Subject: General Tech | September 20, 2016 - 01:20 PM |
Tagged: arm, iot, cortex r52, r-52, cortex, security

ARM's new Cortex R-52 replaces the aging R-5 and they report that it will run 14 times faster than the model it replaces.  It is also the first ARMv8-R based product they have released, it supports hypervisor instructions as well as additional unspecified safety features.  They are aiming for medical applications as well as vehicles, markets which are currently plagued by insecure software and hardware.  In many cases the insecurity stems from companies using the default software settings in their products, often due to ignorance as opposed to malice and ARM intends their default settings to be far more secure than current SOCs.  Unfortunately this will not help with those who use default passwords and ports but it is a step in the right direction.  Pop over to The Inquirer for more information.

CortexR Launch Deck-17_575px.png

"The Cortex R-52 has been five years in development and is engineered to meet new safety standards as ARM takes aim at the growing market of large-scale smart devices, such as surgical robots and self-driving cars."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Podcast #413 - NVIDIA Pascal Mobile, ARM and Intel partner on 10nm, Flash Memory Summit and more!

Subject: Editorial | August 18, 2016 - 02:20 PM |
Tagged: video, podcast, pascal, nvidia, msi, mobile, Intel, idf, GTX 1080, gtx 1070, gtx 1060, gigabyte, FMS, Flash Memory Summit, asus, arm, 10nm

PC Perspective Podcast #413 - 08/18/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the new mobile GeForce GTX 10-series gaming notebooks, ARM and Intel partnering on 10nm, Flash Memory Summit 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:  Allyn Malventano, Sebastian Peak, Josh Walrath and Jeremy Hellstrom

Program length: 1:29:39
  1. Week in Review:
  2. This episode of PC Perspective is brought to you by Casper!! Use code “PCPER”
  3. News items of interest:
    1. 0:42:05 Final news from FMS 2016
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Ryan: VR Demi Moore
  5. Closing/outro

Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: ARM

A Watershed Moment in Mobile

This previous May I was invited to Austin to be briefed on the latest core innovations from ARM and their partners.  We were introduced to new CPU and GPU cores, as well as the surrounding technologies that provide the basis of a modern SOC in the ARM family.  We also were treated to more information about the process technologies that ARM would embrace with their Artisan and POP programs.  ARM is certainly far more aggressive now in their designs and partnerships than they have been in the past, or at least they are more willing to openly talk about them to the press.

arm_white.png

The big process news that ARM was able to share at this time was the design of 10nm parts using an upcoming TSMC process node.  This was fairly big news as TSMC was still introducing parts on their latest 16nm FF+ line.  NVIDIA had not even released their first 16FF+ parts to the world in early May.  Apple had dual sourced their 14/16 nm parts from Samsung and TSMC respectively, but these were based on LPE and FF lines (early nodes not yet optimized to LPP/FF+).  So the news that TSMC would have a working 10nm process in 2017 was important to many people.  2016 might be a year with some good performance and efficiency jumps, but it seems that 2017 would provide another big leap forward after years of seeming stagnation of pure play foundry technology at 28nm.

Yesterday we received a new announcement from ARM that shows an amazing shift in thought and industry inertia.  ARM is partnering with Intel to introduce select products on Intel’s upcoming 10nm foundry process.  This news is both surprising and expected.  It is surprising in that it happened as quickly as it did.  It is expected as Intel is facing a very different world than it had planned for 10 years ago.  We could argue that it is much different than they planned for 5 years ago.

Intel is the undisputed leader in process technologies and foundry practices.  They are the gold standard of developing new, cutting edge process nodes and implementing them on a vast scale.  This has served them well through the years as they could provide product to their customers seemingly on demand.  It also allowed them a leg up in technology when their designs may not have fit what the industry wanted or needed (Pentium 4, etc.).  It also allowed them to potentially compete in the mobile market with designs that were not entirely suited for ultra-low power.  x86 is a modern processor technology with decades of development behind it, but that development focused mainly on performance at higher TDP ranges.

intel.png

This past year Intel signaled their intent to move out of the sub 5 watt market and cede it to ARM and their partners.  Intel’s ultra mobile offerings just did not make an impact in an area that they were expected to.  For all of Intel’s advances in process technology, the base ARM architecture is just better suited to these power envelopes.  Instead of throwing good money after bad (in the form of development time, wafer starts, rebates) Intel has stepped away from this market.

This leaves Intel with a problem.  What to do with extra production capacity?  Running a fab is a very expensive endeavor.  If these megafabs are not producing chips 24/7, then the company is losing money.  This past year Intel has seen their fair share of layoffs and slowing down production/conversion of fabs.  The money spent on developing new, cutting edge process technologies cannot stop for the company if they want to keep their dominant position in the CPU industry.  Some years back they opened up their process products to select 3rd party companies to help fill in the gaps of production.  Right now Intel has far more production line space than they need for the current market demands.  Yes, there were delays in their latest Skylake based processors, but those were solved and Intel is full steam ahead.  Unfortunately, they do not seem to be keeping their fabs utilized at the level needed or desired.  The only real option seems to be opening up some fab space to more potential customers in a market that they are no longer competing directly in.

The Intel Custom Foundry Group is working with ARM to provide access to their 10nm HPM process node.  Initial production of these latest generation designs will commence in Q1 2017 with full scale production in Q4 2017.  We do not have exact information as to what cores will be used, but we can imagine that they will be Cortex-A73 and A53 parts in big.LITTLE designs.  Mali graphics will probably be the first to be offered on this advanced node as well due to the Artisan/POP program.  Initial customers have not been disclosed and we likely will not hear about them until early 2017.

This is a big step for Intel.  It is also a logical progression for them when we look over the changing market conditions of the past few years.  They were unable to adequately compete in the handheld/mobile market with their x86 designs, but they still wanted to profit off of this ever expanding area.  The logical way to monetize this market is to make the chips for those that are successfully competing here.  This will cut into Intel’s margins, but it should increase their overall revenue base if they are successful here.  There is no reason to believe that they won’t be.

Nehalem-Wafer_HR-crop-16x9-photo.jpg.rendition.intel_.web_.864.486.jpg

The last question we have is if the 10nm HPM node will be identical to what Intel will use for their next generation “Cannonlake” products.  My best guess is that the foundry process will be slightly different and will not provide some of the “secret sauce” that Intel will keep for themselves.  It will probably be a mobile focused process node that stresses efficiency rather than transistor switching speed.  I could be very wrong here, but I don’t believe that Intel will open up their process to everyone that comes to them hat in hand (AMD).

The partnership between ARM and Intel is a very interesting one that will benefit customers around the globe if it is handled correctly from both sides.  Intel has a “not invented here” culture that has both benefited it and caused it much grief.  Perhaps some flexibility on the foundry side will reap benefits of its own when dealing with very different designs than Intel is used to.  This is a titanic move from where Intel probably thought it would be when it first started to pursue the ultra-mobile market, but it is a move that shows the giant can still positively react to industry trends.

Podcast #409 - GTX 1060 Review, 3DMark Time Spy Controversy, Tiny Nintendo and more!

Subject: General Tech | July 21, 2016 - 12:21 PM |
Tagged: Wraith, Volta, video, time spy, softbank, riotoro, retroarch, podcast, nvidia, new, kaby lake, Intel, gtx 1060, geforce, asynchronous compute, async compute, arm, apollo lake, amd, 3dmark, 10nm, 1070m, 1060m

PC Perspective Podcast #409 - 07/21/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the GTX 1060 review, controversy surrounding the async compute of 3DMark Time Spy 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!

This episode of the PC Perspective Podcast is sponsored by Casper!

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

Program length: 1:34:57
  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:51:17 This episode of the PC Perspective Podcast is sponsored by Casper!
  3. News items of interest:
  4. 1:26:26 Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Ryan: Sapphire Nitro Bot
    2. Allyn: klocki - chill puzzle game (also on iOS / Android)
  5. Closing/outro

Report: ARM Holdings Purchased by SoftBank for $32 Billion

Subject: Processors, Mobile | July 18, 2016 - 12:03 AM |
Tagged: softbank, SoC, smartphones, mobile cpu, Cortex-A73, ARM Holdings, arm, acquisition

ARM Holdings is to be aquired by SoftBank for $32 billion USD. This report has been confirmed by the Wall Street Journal, who states that an official annoucement of the deal is likely on Monday as "both companies’ boards have agreed to the deal".

arm-holdings.jpg

(Image credit: director.co.uk)

"Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. has reached a more than $32 billion deal to buy U.K.-based chip-designer ARM HoldingsPLC, marking a significant push for the Japanese telecommunications giant into the mobile internet, according to a person familiar with the situation." - WSJ

ARM just announced their newest CPU core, the Cortex-A73, at the end of May, with performance and efficiency improvements over the current Cortex-A72 promised with the new architecture.

ARM_01.png

(Image credit: AnandTech)

We will have to wait and see if this aquisition will have any bearing on future product development, though it seems the acquisition targets the significant intellectual property value of ARM, whose designs can be found in most smartphones.

Podcast #404 - Crucial MX300, E3 hardware news, GTX 1080 Shortages and more!

Subject: General Tech | June 16, 2016 - 11:43 AM |
Tagged: XPoint, xbox one, void, video, Strider, Silverstone, rx 480, rx 470, rx 460, podcast, PHAB2, Optane, MX300, Lenovo, GTX 1080, Egil, crucial, corsair, asus, arm

PC Perspective Podcast #404 - 06/16/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the new Crucial MX300 SSD, news on upcoming Xbox hardware changes, GTX 1080 shortages 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!

This episode of the PC Perspective Podcast is sponsored by Lenovo!

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

Program length: 1:48:30
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
    1. 0:39:00 Xbox E3 Hardware Discussion
    2. 0:49:50 GeForce GTX 1080 Shortages?
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Ryan: Trackr
    2. Allyn: Safely Remove USB devices (or figure out what’s stopping them)
  4. Closing/outro