Computex 2017: Intel Compute Cards Coming In August

Subject: General Tech | June 13, 2017 - 07:02 PM |
Tagged: vpro, SFF, sbc, modular computer, Intel, computex, compute card

Launched earlier this year at CES, Intel’s credit card sized Compute Cards will begin shipping in August. Intel and its partners used Computex to show off the Compute Card itself along with prototype and concept devices based around the new platform.

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techtechtech opened up the Core M3-7Y30 equipped Compute Card at Computex.

As a quick refresher, the Compute Card is a full PC in a small card shaped form factor measuring 95mm x 55mm x 5mm that features an Intel SoC, DDR3 RAM, solid state storage, wireless connectivity, and standardized I/O (one USB-C and a proprietary Intel connector sit side by side on one edge of the card). The small cards are designed to slot into devices that will use the Compute Card as their brains for smart home automation, appliances, industrial applications, smart whiteboards, and consumer products such as tablets, notebooks, and smart TVs.

At its Computex press events, Intel revealed details on specifications. The initial launch will include four Compute Card SKUs with two lower end and two higher end models. All four of the cards are equipped with 4GB of DDR3 RAM and either 64GB of eMMC or 128GB SSD storage. The two lower end SKUs use Intel Wireless-AC 7265 while the more expensive models have Intel Wireless-AC 8265 (both are 2x2 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.2). Processor options from top to bottom include the 7th generation Intel i5-7Y57, Core m3-7Y30, Pentium N4200, and Celeron N3450. Enterprise customers will appreciate the TPM support and security features. Reportedly, the Compute Cards will start at $199 for the low-end model and go up to $499+ for the higher end cards.

Intel partners Dell, HP, and Lenovo were reportedly not ready to show off any devices but will launch Compute Card compatible devices at some point. ECS, Foxconn, LG Display, NexDock, Sharp, and others did have prototype devices at Computex and have announced their support for the platform. The Compute Card concept devices shown off include tablets, laptops, All In Ones, digital signage, kiosks, and a monitor stand dock that lets the user add their own monitor and have an AIO powered by a Compute Card. Other uses include ATMs, smart whiteboards, mini PCs for desktop and HTCP uses, and docks that would allow business user sand students to have a single PC with storage that they could take anywhere and get work done. Students could plug their Compute Card into a laptop shell, computer lab PC, whiteboard for presentations, their home dock, and other devices..

(My opinions follow:)

It is an interesting concept that has been tried before with smartphones (and Samsung is currently trying with its S8 and docks) but never really caught on. The promise and idea of being able to easily upgrade a smart TV, computer, smart appliance, home security system, ect without having to replace the entire unit (just upgrading the brains) is a great one, but thus far has not really gained traction. Similarly, the idea of a single PC that you carry everywhere in your pocket and use whatever display you have handy has been promised before but never delivered. Perhaps Intel can drive this modular PC idea home and we could finally see it come to fruition. Unexpectedly absent from the list of partners is Asus and Samsung. Samsung I can understand since they are trying to do their own thing with the S8 but I was a bit surprised to see Asus was not out front with a Compute Card support as they were Intel's partner with its Zenfone and they seem like a company with a good balance of R&D and manufacturing power but nimble enough to test out new markets. The other big PC guys (Dell, HP, and Lenovo) aren't ready with their devices yet either though so I guess we will just have to see what happens in terms of support and adoption. The other thing that could hold the Compute Card back is that Intel will reportedly allow manufacturer lock-in where devices and Compute Cards can be made to only work with hardware from the same manufacturer. Restricting interoperability might hurt the platform, but it might aslo creat less confusion for consumers with the onus being on each manufacturer to actually support an upgrade path I guess. 

What are your thoughts on the Compute Card? 

Source: Intel

Original Xbox Games Potentially Emulated on Windows

Subject: General Tech | June 13, 2017 - 04:08 PM |
Tagged: xbox, pc gaming, microsoft

Before we begin, the source of this post is a PC Gamer interview with Microsoft’s Phil Spencer, who leads the Xbox team. The tone seems to be relaxed and conversational, so, for now, it should be taken as something that he, personally, wants to see, not what the division is actually planning, necessarily.

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Still, after it was announced that the Xbox One would get emulation for original Xbox titles at the Xbox E3 2017 Press Conference, PC Gamer asked whether that feature, like so many others lately, could make it to the PC.

His responses: “Yes.” and “I want people to be able to play games!”

He also talked about Xbox 360 emulation on PC, specifically how it would be difficult, but he wants games to run across console and PC. “I want developers to be able to build portable games, which is why we’ve been focusing on UWP for games and even apps that want to run on multiple devices.”

You might know my personal opinions about UWP by now, specifically how it limits artistic freedom going forward through signed apps and developers, which is a problem for civil rights groups that either need to remain anonymous or publish expressions that governments (etc.) don’t want to see public, but cross-device is indeed one of the two reasons that it’s seductive for Microsoft. Content written for it (unless it finds an unpatched exploit, like how Apple iOS jailbreaks work) cannot do malware-like things, and they should be abstract enough to easily hop platforms.

But you won’t see me talk ill about preserving old content, especially if it could be lost to time based on a platform decision they made fifteen years ago. I hope that we do see original Xbox games on the PC. I also hope that we develop art in a medium that doesn’t need awkward methods of preservation, though.

Source: PC Gamer

Buy Select EVGA GeForce GTX, Get Destiny 2 and Early PC Beta Access

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | June 13, 2017 - 01:39 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, free games, evga, destiny 2

Were you a fan of the original Destiny or simply a fan of free games and happen to be shopping for a new NVIDIA GPU?  EVGA have just launched a new giveaway, if you pick up one of their GTX 1080 or 1080 Ti's they will provide you with a code that not only provides you with a free copy of Destiny 2 but also allows you access to the beta.

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As usual you need to have an EVGA account so you can register your GPU and so the code can be provided to your account.  From there head on over to NVIDIA to redeem the code and patiently await the start of the beta and final release of the game. 

June 13th, 2017 - Get Game Ready with EVGA GeForce GTX 10 Series and experience Destiny 2 on PC. For a limited time, buy a select EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti or EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card and get Destiny 2 at PC Launch and [Early] Access to the PC Beta!

GeForce GTX 10 Series GPUs brings the beautiful world of Destiny 2 to life in stunning 4K. Experience incredibly smooth, tear-free gameplay with NVIDIA G-SYNC™ and share your greatest gameplay moments with NVIDIA ShadowPlay using GeForce Experience.

About Destiny 2:
Humanity's last safe city has fallen to an overwhelming invasion force, led by Ghaul, the imposing commander of the brutal Red Legion. He has stripped the city's Guardians of their power, and forced the survivors to flee. You will venture to mysterious, unexplored worlds of our solar system to discover an arsenal of weapons and devastating new combat abilities. To defeat the Red Legion and confront Ghaul, you must reunite humanity's scattered heroes, stand together, and fight back to reclaim our home.

Learn more and see qualifying EVGA cards at https://www.evga.com/articles/01112/destiny-2-game-ready/

Source: EVGA

Change that default RasPi password, unless you meant to be donating cryptocurrency

Subject: General Tech | June 13, 2017 - 12:31 PM |
Tagged: security, cryptocurrency, Raspberry Pi

If you are using a Raspberry Pi and did not set up two factor authentication or even worse, never changed the default passwords on the system then there is a very good chance you are mining for someone other than yourself.  There is a new piece of malware out there, in addition to the many which already exist, targeting Raspberry Pi machines and recruiting them into a mining group, instead of the usual usage which is to enlist them in a botnet for DDOS attacks.  Hack a Day has some additional suggestions, over and above the glaringly obvious recommendation to not keep default passwords; at least in this particular case they are not hard coded into the system.

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"According to Russian security site [Dr.Web], there’s a new malware called Linux.MulDrop.14 striking Raspberry Pi computers. In a separate posting, the site examines two different Pi-based trojans including Linux.MulDrop.14. That trojan uses your Pi to mine some form of cryptocurrency. The other trojan sets up a proxy server."

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Source: Hack a Day

E3 2017: Alienware Advanced Gaming Mouse (AW558) and Alienware Elite Gaming Mouse (AW958) Announced

Subject: General Tech | June 12, 2017 - 07:01 PM |
Tagged: gaming mouse, e3 17, E3, dell, alienware

As mentioned in the Alienware mechanical keyboard news, the brand is pushing back into gaming peripherals at this year’s E3 conference. This announcement is for their pair of RGB-lit gaming mice, the Alienware Advanced Gaming Mouse (AW558) and the Alienware Elite Gaming Mouse (AW958), which consists of a base model and a higher-end one variant with more customization.

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Both mice are built on a nine-button, right-handed chassis. It’s difficult to tell from the photos, but it looks like the mouse has three buttons on the thumb side, two on the pinky side, and an extra button on the top (as well as left, right, and scroll wheel click, of course). I could be wrong about this, though. The RGB lighting, two strips of it below the buttons and one going up the palm rest, forming a triangular crosshair, is available on both models.

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So what’s different about the Elite? The higher-end mouse can have its side-grips replaced to change up the form and feel of the thumb buttons. It can also have weights added to it, which should help twitch gamers get used to it quicker, because they can make it feel slightly more familiar. Interestingly, the higher-end model (AW958) can store five DPI profiles, while the lower-end one (AW558) can only store three. I don’t know why they didn’t just let both choose five.

The Alienware Advanced Gaming Mouse (AW558) has an MSRP of $49.99 USD and the Alienware Elite Gaming Mouse (AW958) has an MSRP of $89.99 USD. They are available on June 13th.

Source: Alienware

E3 2017: Alienware Advanced Gaming Keyboard (AW568) and Alienware Pro Gaming Keyboard (AW768) Announced

Subject: General Tech | June 12, 2017 - 07:00 PM |
Tagged: mechanical keyboard, e3 17, E3, dell, alienware

Alienware has announced a pair of mechanical keyboards at E3 this year. While the company has made gaming mice and keyboards before, its been quite a while. After a little Googling, the most recent entries that I’ve seen were over five years old, those being the TactX mouse and keyboard. If you look on their website recently, though, you can’t really see anything first-party -- just brands like Razer and Roccat.

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These two keyboards, the Alienware Advanced Gaming Keyboard (AW568) and the Alienware Pro Gaming Keyboard (AW768), are based on a similar design, with a few differences. First, the similarities. Both of these are mechanical keyboards that are based on brown switches from Kailh, which are very similar to Cherry MX Brown switches. Each key is also isolated in the key matrix, which Alienware claims is N-key rollover, but it’s unclear whether they just mean to the keyboard’s controller, or whether the PC will stop registering buttons after some multiple of USB limitations. (Typically, NKRO requires PS/2, although keyboards started doing things like registering as multiple keyboards to extend this limit... but it’s hard to find a USB keyboard that can literally handle every button independently.)

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As for the differences, the main changes are, surprise surprise, RGB backlighting and a volume roller on the AW768 (versus no backlight and volume buttons on the AW568). Interestingly, Alienware claims onboard memory for the AW768, to store macros, although they just advertise the Alienware Control Center for the AW568. This might mean that the AW568 doesn’t have onboard memory, requiring the driver for custom macros, but it could just be an awkwardly-worded press release.

The Alienware Advanced Gaming Keyboard (AW568) has an MSRP of $89.99 and the Alienware Pro Gaming Keyboard (AW768) has an MSRP of $119.99. They will be available in the US on June 13th.

Source: Alienware

E3 2017: Hyperkin Announces Duke Xbox One Controller

Subject: General Tech | June 12, 2017 - 03:34 PM |
Tagged: xbox, xbox one, controller, gamepad

When the original Xbox launched, back in 2001, it was bundled with a massive controller in most regions, which was eventually nicknamed “Duke”. While some users loved this form factor, Microsoft decided to make the “S” controller (the default for Japanese Xboxes) the international default about a year later. Duke ended up a cult classic.

Now, at E3 2017, Hyperkin Games Inc. is launching an Xbox One controller with a very similar design, which will also be compatible with Windows 10. A few liberties were taken to add and subtract buttons that didn’t exist on the opposing side of the Xbox 1 - Xbox One design fence. Hyperkin consulted with Seamus Blackley, one of the original developers of the Xbox console, who approved the remake.

No word on pricing, but it will be available this holiday season (2017).

Source: Hyperkin

Just a little more Computex in the cache; check out what Adata is up to

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 12, 2017 - 12:19 PM |
Tagged: ssd, sata, NVMe, M.2, computex 2017, adta

Adata had a flashy booth at Computex, focusing on their upcoming storage and memory products which The Tech Report spent some time at.  They had quite a lineup to show off, a pair of Enterprise class NVMe M.2 drives, the IM2P33E8 powered by Silicon Motion's upcoming SM2262 controller which is reputed to hit 3000 MB/s read, 1500 MB/s write as well as the SATA IM2S33D8 using the SM2259 controller.

For high end users there are the NVMe XPG SX9000, XPG SX8000 and XPG SX7000, the former with a Marvell controller and Toshiba's evergreen 15-nm MLC NAND, the latter pair with a Silicon Motion controller and IMFT 3D MLC flash.  For the price sensitive they have launched an M.2 drive which only uses two PCIe lanes, it will not be as the high end drives but should leave a HDD or older SSD in the dirt. 

As for what is below?  Why that is an XPG Spectrix S10 drive which is the world's first RGB infected SSD.

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"Without high-end motherboards or funky case concepts to show off, Adata focused its Computex presence on its strong point: storage. Join us as we walk through the company's upcoming SSD offerings."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Logitech G PowerPlay Brings Wireless Charging Gaming Mice to Reality

Subject: General Tech | June 12, 2017 - 03:00 AM |
Tagged: powerplay, logitech g, logitech, lightspeed, g903, g703

Logitech has finally released what I can only describe as the holy grail of mouse technologies. By combining the well-established and high performance wireless connectivity of the G900 mouse with a while-in-use wireless CHARGING system for new Logitech gaming mice, Logitech is promising to be bring us “unlimited gaming” and a life that no longer requires cables, battery notifications, or location-based timeouts.

Rather than bury the lead by diving into the new mice that go along with the technology, let’s first discuss PowerPlay, both the brand and the product name that Logitech is giving to the wireless charging mat that makes this all happen. Wireless charging is not a new idea, and it has been implemented on other products prior, but not to this scale. With Logitech PowerPlay you are not required to leave the mouse over a certain section of the surface and pause usage to charge. Instead, PowerPlay, when paired with one of the two mice launching with the technology, affords you continuous power that keeps you charged WHILE you are gaming!

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This is a significant advancement and one that leads to quite a few improvements for gamers. First, overcoming the need to be placed and still, PowerPlay creates the largest single surface for charging any device I have seen. The size of the surface is 275mm x 320mm and closely mirrors other Logitech G mouse surfaces. Getting a surface that large, with enough power to guarantee the mouse will be provided more power than it can consume while in use, took a long time to engineer. And going above anything this size will be even more difficult as EMI restrictions from governmental bodies around the world come into play.

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Implementation of PowerPlay is a USB-attached power input that has a hard surface that goes on your desk or table. Logitech then provides a soft surface that go over it to suit your preference. The mice that support PowerPlay (shown below) will still have USB connections on them for charging or use while away from your main PC, so you aren’t stuck in one place or lugging around the added hardware if you don’t need it.

The amount of charging power on PowerPlay provides wasn’t stated exactly, but it is definitely lower than a direct USB connection. I asked Logitech engineers how I could compare the performance of both power input methods. From a zero-state on the mouse to a full charge, the USB cable takes about 2 hours, while the PowerPlay would charge it in close to 14 hours. That’s significant difference, but Logitech assured me that a user could game forever with this system assuming no interruptions in power to the pad itself. The power delivery has multiple steps and Logitech says it will charge faster when in idle.

I can’t tell you how often I have asked for a feature like this, or how often the idea has been brought up by readers. Logitech has delivered – though it will cost you $99, plus the cost of a new mouse, to get up and running.

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Logitech G903

Speaking of those new mice, Logitech is bringing two options today that will work just fine with, or without, the PowerPlay feature. The G903 is the successor to the incredibly popular and well-reviewed G900, a wireless-based gaming mouse that has exceeded my expectations in performance at each turn. Second is the G703, a successor to the G403. These mice are priced at $149 and $99, respectively. The PowerPlay technology is supported by a small module that is put in place on the underside of the mouse. That opening can also house a 10g weight for users that would prefer a heavier model; note that you cannot use both the weight and utilizing wireless charging.

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Logitech G703

Finally, Logitech has used this opportunity to brand the wireless data technology that first debuted in the G900 as Lightspeed. I have talked about the engineering and design that went into Logitech’s release of its wireless gaming hardware previously, and it does bear repeating and a deeper dive coming soon. But gamers that worry about wireless not being as fast or as accurate as wired gaming mice should be convinced through the testing and science behind Logitech’s implementation.

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In total, this hardware from Logitech provides what I feel is the most robust and feature rich gaming mouse package that exists today. The G903 and the G703 retain their superior design and capability (with some improvements along the way) while the PowerPlay wireless charging mat offers a new feature that gamers, and PC enthusiasts of all kinds, have been clamoring at for years.

We should have our sample units in very shortly, with availability starting in late June for the mice and in August for the mat!

Full press release below!

Source: Logitech G

Project Scorpio Unveiled as "Xbox One X," Lands November 7th for $499

Subject: General Tech | June 11, 2017 - 04:56 PM |
Tagged: Xbox Scorpio, xbox, microsoft, E3

At its E3 2017 keynote Sunday, Microsoft finally unveiled the official details for its upcoming "Project Scorpio" console, now called "Xbox One X." The console, surprisingly smaller than even the Xbox One S, will launch November 7, 2017 and, as expected, will be priced at $499, the same launch price of the original Xbox One in November 2013.

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With a maximum 6 teraflops of GPU horsepower and a class-leading 326GB/s memory bandwidth, Microsoft is hoping that its significant performance advantage over Sony's $399 PS4 Pro, as well as its ability to play UHD Blu-ray discs, will help justify the $100 price difference for consumers.

  Xbox One X PS4 Pro

CPU

2.3GHz 8-Core 2.16 GHz 8-Core
GPU 6 TFLOPS 4.2 TFLOPS
Memory 12GB GDDR5 8GB GDDR5
Memory Bandwidth 326 GB/s 218 GB/s
UHD Discs Yes No
Storage 1TB HDD 1TB HDD
Price $499 $399

One of the criticisms of the PS4 Pro is that many of the games "optimized" for the system do not utilize 4K assets or run at true 4K resolution. In response, Microsoft clarified repeatedly throughout its keynote that many games designed for Xbox One X will indeed run at 4K/60fps. While Microsoft will likely ensure that its own house-published titles and those from close partners will hit this mark, it remains to be seen how well cross-platform games from third parties will fare.

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As for those who don't have 4K displays, Xbox One X will use supersampling to increase perceived resolution and quality at 1080p. The popular Xbox 360 backwards compatibility feature (which will soon include original Xbox games) will also benefit from the Xbox One X's increased horsepower, with Microsoft promising faster load times and improved anti-aliasing.

As with the PS4 Pro, all games will support both console generations, with many titles going forward "enhanced for Xbox One X." One of Sony's biggest problems is the lack of games that truly take advantage of the PS4 Pro's unique features, so Microsoft's ability to bring third party developers on board will be key to the Xbox One X's success.

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We'll need the console to hit the market to get a more detailed look at its technical specifications, but based on Microsoft's claimed performance numbers, the Xbox One X looks like a relatively good deal from a hardware perspective. The console's 6 TFLOPS of graphics processing power compares to an NVIDIA GTX 1070, which currently retails for just over $400. Add in the 1TB hard drive, custom 8-core CPU, and UHD Blu-ray player, and the price is suddenly not so unreasonable. Of course, newer cards like the AMD Radeon RX 580 also hit around 6 TFLOPS for ~$220, but you won't be able to find one of those these days. At a $100 premium over the PS4 Pro, however, it's unclear how the console community will value the Xbox One X's hardware advantage.

One thing that is clear is that Microsoft's Xbox team wasn't too happy to be the source of mockery based on performance and sales for the past four years, and they're highly motivated to come out swinging this fall.

Preorders for Xbox One X have yet to be announced, but you'll find the Amazon pre-order page here when orders go live.

Source:

Windows 10 S ... the S could stand for secure

Subject: General Tech | June 9, 2017 - 02:29 PM |
Tagged: Windows 10 S, security

Microsoft recently pointed out that their new lite version of Windows 10 for students, Windows 10 S, is completely immune to all known malware.  This does make sense, the OS is simply unable to install anything that is not from the Windows Store, which does not host any official malware, even if some of the available programs are not entirely useful.  That security will last as long as no one figures out a way to fake the file validation and the connection to Microsoft's online store, or manages to get a malware infected file approved for sale on the store.  Apple has had some experience which prove that is not an impossibility.   Pop by Slashdot for more.

You could also chose to go with the OS of choice for financial institutions and various other industries, Windows XP Embedded with the Enhanced Write Filter.  Generally secure and can be reset with a simple reboot ... in most cases.

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"However, if you want to guarantee your safety from ransomware, then Microsoft points out there's an even more secure option to consider -- Windows 10 S. The new, hardened Windows 10 variant only runs apps from the Windows Store, which means it can't run programs from outside Microsoft's ecosystem, and that includes malware. Which is why, as Microsoft says, "No known ransomware works against Windows 10 S."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: Slashdot

Logitech's G433 7.1 Gaming Headset: Stylish Looks and Pro-G Drivers for $99

Subject: General Tech | June 9, 2017 - 02:23 PM |
Tagged: wired, surround, Pro-G, logitech, headset, headphones, gaming, G433, DTS Headphone:X, drivers, 7.1

Logitech has released their latest surround gaming headphones with the wired G433 Gaming Headset, a 7.1-channel (via DTS Headphone:X) model that is latest to use the company's Pro-G drivers.

Logitech G433_Red.jpg

The style of the new G433 is quite eye-catching, with four colors (black, red, blue, and blue camo) of a unique fabric finish that Logitech says is hydrophobic (repels water) for enhanced durability. The G433 primarily function as an analog headphone (with a 3.5 mm plug) unless an included USB DAC/headphone amp is used, giving PC users access to DTS Headphone:X surround up to 7.1 channels and customizable EQ via Logitech's Gaming Software. The microphone is a removable boom style with noise reduction to help improve voice clarity, and Logitech has used a 5-element double-grounded cable to eliminate crosstalk and prevent game audio from bleeding into voice.

g433_colors.jpg

The G433 arrives with an MSRP of $99, making the headset the least expensive Pro-G option to date, but this comparatively low price tag for a premium option still provides the buyer a complete accessory pack including the USB DAC,  alternate ear pads, two 3.5 mm audio cables (one with inline mic), a 3.5 mm audio/mic Y-cable, and a fabric storage bag.

Logitech G433_Blue.jpg

The Logitech G433 is available now, and with a pair on hand will have a full review up very soon!

Source: Logitech

AI to the rescue? Microsoft assimilates the security company Hexadite

Subject: General Tech | June 8, 2017 - 12:42 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, hexadite, windows defender, security

If you have never heard of Hexadite you are not alone, the online security company was formed in 2014, headquartered in Boston but based in Tel-Aviv.  As it was just purchased by Microsoft for around $100 million so they can integrate Hexadite's Automated Incident Response Solution into their Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection.  AIRS is not antivirus software, instead it is a tool that integrates with existing software and monitors for any alerts.  Once an alert is detected the tool automatically investigates that alert and searches for solutions, in theory saving your security teams sanity by vastly reducing the number of alerts they must deal with directly.  It will be interesting to see if this has an effect on the perception of companies and users as to the effectiveness of Windows Defender. 

More over at The Inquirer.

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"Hexadite's technology and talent will augment our existing capabilities and enable our ability to add new tools and services to Microsoft's robust enterprise security offerings."

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Source: The Inquirer

Podcast #453 - More Computex, WWDC, 3D Xpoint, and more

Subject: General Tech | June 8, 2017 - 11:22 AM |
Tagged: X399, x370, x299, wwdc, video, shield, podcast, plex, pixel, macbook, Mac Pro, Logitech G413, Lian-Li, gigabyte, computex, asus, asrock, apollo lake, 3D XPoint

PC Perspective Podcast #453 - 06/07/17

Join us for talk about continued Computex 2017 coverage, WWDC '17, 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, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano

Peanut Gallery: Alex Lustenberg, Ken Addison

Program length: 1:33:54
 
Podcast topics of discussion:
  1. Week in Review:
  2. Computex Continued
  3. WWDC 2017:
  4. News items of interest:
  5. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  6. Closing/outro
 

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

Source:

IBM Announces 5nm Breakthrough with Silicon Nanosheet Technology

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2017 - 09:31 PM |
Tagged: silicon nanosheet, Samsung, IBM, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, FinFET, 5nm

It seems only yesterday that we saw Intel introduce their 22nm FinFET technology, and now we are going all the way down to 5nm.  This is obviously an exaggeration.  The march of process technology has been more than a little challenging for the past 5+ years for everyone in the industry.  Intel has made it look a little easier by being able to finance these advances a little better than the other pure-play foundries.  It does not mean that they have not experienced challenges on their own.

We have seen some breakthroughs these past years with everyone jumping onto FinFETs with TSMC, Samsung, and GLOBALFOUNDRIES introducing their own processes.  GLOBALFOUNDRIES initially had set out on their own, but that particular endeavor did not pan out.  The ended up licensing Samsung’s 14nm processes (LPE and LPP) to start producing chips of their own, primarily for AMD in their graphics and this latest generation of Ryzen CPUs.

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These advances have not been easy.  While FinFETs are needed at these lower nodes to continue to provide the performance and power efficiency while supporting these transistor densities, the technology will not last forever.  10nm and 7nm lines will continue to use them, but many believe that while we will see the densities improve, the power characteristics will start to lag behind.  The theory is that past 7nm nodes traditional FinFETs will no longer work as desired.  This is very reminiscent of the sub 28nm processes that attempted to use planar structures on bulk silicon.  In that case the chips could be made, but power issues plagued the designs and eventually support for those process lines were dropped.

IBM and their research associates Samsung, GLOBALFOUNDRIES at SUNY Polytechnic Institute Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering’s NanoTech Complex in Albany, NY have announced a breakthrough in a new “Gate-All-Around” architecture made on a 5nm process.  FinFETs are essentially a rectangle surround on three sides by gates, giving it the “fin” physical characteristics.  This new technology now covers the fourth side and embeds these channels in nanosheets of silicon.

The problem with FinFETs is that they will eventually be unable to scale with power as transistors get closer and closer.  While density scales, power and performance will get worse as compared to previous nodes.  The 5nm silicon nanosheet technology gives a significant boost to power and efficiency, thereby doing to FinFETs what they did with planar structures at the 20/22nm nodes.

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One of the working EUV litho machines at SUNY Albany.

IBM asserts that the average chip the size of a fingernail can contain up to 30 billion transistors and continue to see the density, power, and efficiency improvements that we would expect with a normal process shrink.  The company expects these process nodes to start rolling out in a 2019 time frame if all goes as planned.

There are few details in how IBM was able to achieve this result.  We do know a couple things about it.  EUV lithography was used extensively to avoid the multi-patterning nightmare that this would entail.  For the past two years Ametek has been installing 100 watt EUV litho machines throughout the world to select clients.  One of these is located on the SUNY Albany campus where this research was done.  We also know that deposition was done layer by layer with silicon and the other materials.

What we don’t know is how long it takes to create a complete wafer.  Usually these test wafers are packed full of SRAM and very little logic.  It is a useful test and creates a baseline for many structures that will eventually be applied to this process.  We do not know how long it takes to produce such a wafer, but considering how the layers look to be deposited it takes a long, long time with current tools and machinery.  Cutting edge wafers in production can take upwards of 16 weeks to complete.  I hesitate to even guess how long each test wafer takes.  Because of the very 3D nature of the design, I am curious as to how the litho stages work and how many passes are still needed to complete the design.

This looks to be a very significant advancement in process technology that should be mass produced in the timeline suggested by IBM.  It is a significant jump, but it seems to borrow a lot of previous FinFET structures.  It does not encompass anything exotic like “quantum wells”, but is able to go lower than the currently specified 7nm processes that TSMC, Samsung, and Intel have hinted at (and yes, process node names should be taken with a grain of salt from all parties at this time).  IBM does appear to be comparing this to what Samsung calls its 7nm process in terms of dimensions and transistor density.

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Cross section of a 5nm transistor showing the embedded channels and silicon nanosheets.

While Moore’s Law has been stretched thin as of late, we are still seeing these scientists and engineers pushing against the laws of physics to achieve better performance and scaling at incredibly small dimensions.  The silicon nanosheet technology looks to be an effective and relatively affordable path towards smaller sizes without requiring exotic materials to achieve.  IBM and its partners look to have produced a process node that will continue the march towards smaller, more efficient, and more powerful devices.  It is not exactly around the corner, but 2019 is close enough to start planning designs that could potentially utilize this node.

Source: IBM

Qt Outlines What Their View on Vulkan Support Is

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2017 - 09:10 PM |
Tagged: Qt, vulkan

During our recent interview, the Khronos Group mentioned that one reason to merge into Vulkan was because, at first, the OpenCL working group wasn’t sure whether they wanted an explicit, low-level API, or an easy-to-use one that hides the complexity. Vulkan taught them to take a very low-level position, because there can always be another layer above them that hides complexity to everything downstream of it. This is important for them, because the only layers below them are owned by OS and hardware vendors.

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This post is about Qt, though. Qt is a UI middleware, written in C++, that has become very popular as of late. The big revamp of AMD’s control panel with Crimson Edition was a result of switching from .NET to Qt, which greatly sped up launch time. They announced their intent to support the Vulkan API on the very day that it launched.

Yesterday, they wrote a blog post detailing their intentions for Vulkan support in Qt 5.10.

First and foremost, their last bulletpoint claims that these stances can change as the middleware evolves, particularly with Qt Quick, Qt 3D, Qt Canvas 3D, QPainter, and similar classes. This is a discussion of their support for Qt 5.10 specifically. As it stands, though, Qt intends to focus on cross-platform, window management, and “function resolving for the core API”. The application is expected to manage the rest of the Vulkan API itself (or, of course, use another helper for the other parts).

This makes sense for Qt’s position. Their lowest level classes should do as little as possible outside of what their developers expect, allowing higher-level libraries the most leeway to fill in the gaps. Qt does have higher-level classes, though, and I’m curious what others, especially developers, believe Qt should do with those to take advantage of Vulkan. Especially when we start getting into WYSIWYG editors, like Qt 3D Studio, there is room to do more.

Obviously, the first release isn’t the place to do it, but I’m curious none-the-less.

Source: Qt

Dawn of War III Vulkan Support on Linux to Add Intel GPUs

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2017 - 04:54 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, linux, vulkan, Intel, mesa, feral interactive

According to Phoronix, Alex Smith of Feral Interactive has just published a few changes to the open source Intel graphics driver, which allows their upcoming Dawn of War III port for Linux to render correctly on Vulkan. This means that the open-source Intel driver should support the game on day one, although drawing correctly and drawing efficiently could be two very different things -- or maybe not, we’ll see.

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It’s interesting seeing things go in the other direction. Normally, graphics engineers parachute in to high-end developers and help them make the most of their software for each respective, proprietary graphics driver. In this case, we’re seeing the game studios pushing fixes to the graphics vendors, because that’s how open source rolls. It will be interesting to do a pros and cons comparison of each system one day, especially if cross-pollination results from it.

Source: Phoronix

Roccat's newest Kone, the EMP gaming mouse

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2017 - 03:57 PM |
Tagged: input, roccat, Kone EMP, gaming mouse

Roccat;s new Kone EMP shares some attributes with earlier members of the Kone lineup, specifically the Owl-Eye optical sensor based on PixArt’s PWM 3361DM, which can be set at up to 12000dpi and the SWARM software suite to program the mouse.  The onboard ARM Cortex-M0 and 512kB of memory allows the mouse to keep that programming, even on another machine which does not have SWARM installed.  Modders-Inc tested the mouse out, see what they thought of it here.

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"The Roccat Kone EMP is the next mouse in the Kone line up and the successor to the Kone XTD. The Kone EMP features Roccat's OWL-Eye optical sensor and four RGB LEDs for custom lighting."

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Source: Modders Inc

A chat with Paradox on sequels and expansions

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2017 - 01:21 PM |
Tagged: gaming, paradox

Paradox is well named as it has a very different philosophy from the rest of the industry about how to treat games after they have been released.  It is becoming quite common for developers to already be working on a sequel to a game that they have just released, or are in the process of releasing.  Once a game launched you can expect to see numerous and often expensive DLC released for the game, which usually offer little to no new real gameplay or functionality.

Paradox treats games completely differently, their DLC expansions are often expensive but frequently offer a significant change to the base game and when released they always add several major new features to anyone who owns the game without charge.  They do this for a long time after launch, two examples are Crusader Kings II which is five years old and has twelve expansions, while the four year old Europa Universalis IV has ten expansions.  Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN sat down with the creative director Johan Andersson and CEO Fredrik Wester to discuss the future of these games and Paradox itself, as well as talking about the effects of offering major updates to older games as opposed to the more common constant release of sequels to games.

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"With Crusader Kings II now five years old and twelve expansions deep, and Europa Universalis IV a relatively sprightly four years and ten expansions, what is the future of these titles? At what point are they done and at what point does the thought of a sequel come up."

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Coming as a shock to no one, Wannacry can exploit Windows 10

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2017 - 12:42 PM |
Tagged: wannacry, windows 10, security

If you have an unpatched Windows installation you are vulnerable to the SMBv1 exploit, except perhaps if you are still on WinXP in which case your machine is more likely to crash than to start encrypting. Do yourself a favour and head to Microsoft to manually download the patch appropriate for your OS and run it, if you already have it then it will tell you so, otherwise it will repair the vulnerability.  The version of Wannacry and its progenitor, EternalBlue, which is making life miserable for users and techs everywhere does not currently go after Win10 machines but you can read how it can easily be modified to do so over at Slashdot.

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"The publicly available version of EternalBlue leaked by the ShadowBrokers targets only Windows XP and Windows 7 machines. Researchers at RiskSense who created the Windows 10 version of the attack were able to bypass mitigations introduced by Microsoft that thwart memory-based code-execution attacks."

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Source: Slashdot