Podcast #467 - NVIDIA WhisperMode, HyperX Keyboard, iPhone 8/X, and more!

Subject: General Tech | September 14, 2017 - 12:01 PM |
Tagged: whispermode, video, shadow rock 2, Seasonic FOCUS, Samsung, podcast, nvidia, nuc, MX Ergo, macchina, logitech, iphone x, iphone 8, Intel, hyperx, GTX 1070Ti, Dawson Canyon, Cites: Skylines, BeQuiet, ASUS ZenFone 4 Max, apple, 7nm, 11nm

PC Perspective Podcast #467 - 09/13/17

Join us for discussion on  NVIDIA WhisperMode, HyperX Mechanical Keyboards, iPhone 8/X 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: Ken Addison, Alex Lustenberg

Program length: 1:27:20

Podcast topics of discussion: 
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. 1:12:20 Ryan: Logitech MX Ergo
    2. 1:17:15 Jeremy: Macchina is shipping
    3. 1:22:45 Allyn: Alternative black air cooler? (be quiet Shadow Rock 2)
    4. 1:23:45 Alex: Cities: Skylines
  4. Closing/outro
 

Source:

Toshiba Negotiating With Bain Capital For Sale of Its NAND Manufacturing Arm

Subject: General Tech, Storage | September 14, 2017 - 10:32 AM |
Tagged: western digital, toshiba, nand, flash memory, bain capital

Toshiba remains in a financial crisis in the aftermath of massive losses in its Westinghouse US Nuclear power division and has been attempting to sell off its still very much profitable NAND flash manufacturing business to compensate and right the company to avoid being delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Unfortunately for Toshiba it has now missed three target dates for selling off the business. Not for lack of suitors, but primarily because of legal issues resulting from anti-trust concerns as well as legal battles brought by Western Digital  – who Toshiba is in a joint venture with for flash manufacturing in Japan – to attempt to prevent the sale.

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Jumping to the present, Toshiba has decided to proceed with the negotiations with an investment group led by Bain Capital despite disappointment (and more legal objections) from Western Digital who tried to block similar negotiations back in June. On Wednesday, it was revealed that Toshiba had signed a “memorandum of understanding” and is engaging in private talks to negotiate the sale with an investment group led by Bain Capital and including SK Hynix (who is allegedly only providing financing at this point and not going after a stake in the business to try to avoid further delaying the sale from increased anti-trust red tape), Apple, Dell, Seagate, and two Japanese government controlled entities known as Innovation Network Corp and Development Bank of Japan (again, Bain Capital is offering them the chance to invest post any WD concessions and legal battles in the business to improve chances of the sale going through). As the preferred (by Toshiba) buyer, the Bain Capital-lead group deal is reportedly worth nearly 2.4 trillion Yen ($22 billion USD) including $1.8 billion earmarked for infrastructure. The company expects come to an agreement in late September and is hoping that it will be able to finalize the sale by March so that it can avoid reporting negative net worth and risking being de-listed from the Tokyo Stock Exchange and being cut off from a huge swath of public investors and capital.

Due to the negotiations being private, details are not readily available yet. It is not clear whether Toshiba will be able to pull it off or what the implications will be for the market if it does. (With Toshiba being the world’s second largest flash memory supplier, whoever ends up acquiring the company is going to have a lot of influence on the market and flash technology R&D.) It certainly seems Toshiba’s battle to right itself is going to continue into next year and Western Digital is not going to make it easy. The US-based WD stated:

“We are disappointed that Toshiba would take this action. Our goal has been — and remains — to reach a mutually beneficial outcome that satisfies the needs of Toshiba and its stakeholders.”

A California court has reportedly ordered Toshiba to give Western Digital two weeks’ notice of any deal with the consortium and its two previous arbitration requests through ICC are still pending resolution. Barrons reports that Toshiba may convince WDC to allow the sale if it gives its joint venture partner enough concessions such as an assured long term NAND supply contract and agreed participation in joint Fab projects that would protect SanDisk's contractual rights. Other interested parties for the sale include Foxconn and Western Digital itself. Perhaps SoftBank or the $100 Billion Vision Fund will come in and scoop it up as well.

[Opinions follow heh] I am interested to see how it all will eventually shake out. It remains less than ideal to see Toshiba must sell it off and have the market possibly lose a big flash memory player as the market share power gets more consolidated if it does get picked up by an existing memory manufacturer (see: hard drives, flash memory seems to be going through the same consolidation of companies from lots of little players into fewer bigger ones). I am not certain on the deal specifics as far as ownership and control of TMC and any cash only vs equity splits but with Japanese investors as part of all three bidding / competing consortiums it seems at least part of the business (if only money from it if not voting power) will remain rooted in Japan even if not under the Toshiba brand.

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Source: Tech Report

Colorful Reveals Custom Eight Slot Motherboard For Cryptocurrency Miners

Subject: General Tech, Motherboards | September 14, 2017 - 02:13 AM |
Tagged: password cracking, mining, gpgpu, cryptocurrency, colorful, ai

Colorful recently unveiled an interesting bare-bones motherboard focused on cryptocurrency miners and other GPU heavy workloads with its main feature being eight double spaced PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots. The non-standard form factor Colorful C.B250A-BTC PLUS V20 motherboard measures 485mm x 195mm (approx. 19.1 x 7.7 inches) and offers a no-frills setup that is ready for miners to attach to open racks. The motherboard is based on Intel’s LGA 1151 socket and B250 chipset.

Colorful C_B250A-BTC PLUS Mining 8 slot motherboard.jpg

The majority of the board is taken up by eight PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots where the top slot is wired directly to the CPU and is electrically x16 while the rest are wired to the B250 chipset and are x1 slots. There are 16(!) PCI-E power connectors (eight 6-pin and eight 8-pin) for providing power to the GPU and two 4-pin ATX power connectors for powering the CPU and single SO-DIMM slot through what looks to be six power phases. Notably, there is no 24-pin power connector on this board to make it easier to use multiple power supplies and share motherboards between power supplies (though it’s not clear how Colorful plans to control turning all these power supplies on/off at the same time). Beyond the PCI-E slots there is not much to this motherboard. Internal I/O includes the 1151 socket for Skylake and Kaby Lake CPUs, a single DDR4 SO-DIMM slot, one SATA port, one M.2 slot, and six fan headers. Around back are two USB ports, one HDMI video output, and a single gigabit ethernet port.

The board is a no-frills design that should be quite appealing for miners but also as an easy way to jump into GPGPU projects (AI research, rendering, machine learning, password cracking, etc.). The 2-slot spacing allows air cooled (hopefully blower style) cards to be installed without needing to find and test quality PCI-E riser cables. There is no word on pricing yet, and while it should be on the cheaper side based on the features and hardware it’s packing as it’s a custom design aimed at mining it may actually come out at a hefty premium for the convenience it offers them. On the bright side, it might have decent resale value to factor into the ROI calculations for the other non-mining applications I mentioned (a mean password cracking rig!). A neat board in any case, and as I mentioned previously it is interesting to see the new designs and configurations the mining craze has enticed manufacturers into exploring.

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Source: TechPowerUp

Intel Releases Dawson Canyon NUCs With 15W Kaby Lake CPUs

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 13, 2017 - 07:29 PM |
Tagged: SFF, nuc, kaby lake, Intel

Following last year’s Baby Canyon NUC kits, Intel is launching its Dawson Canyon NUCs powered by 15W Kaby Lake processors. Despite Dawson Canyon sounding more dramatic than Baby Canyon (which sounds more like a creek), the new NUCs are lower powered and ditch Iris Graphics and USB 3.1 Type C.

Specifically, Intel is launching six new models that will come in three flavors: barebones board, slim case kit, and a taller kit with room for a 2.5” drive. Each type of NUC kit will come with either a Core i3 or Core i5 processor. Dawson Canyon further supports Intel RST (Rapid Storage Technology) and Optane memory.

Intel Dawson Canyon.jpg

Processor options include the Core i3 7100U (2.4 GHz) and Core i5 7300U (2.6 GHz base, 3.5 GHz boost) which are both dual core processors with HyperThreading, 3 MB cache, Intel HD Graphics 620 GPUs, and 15W TDPs.

Internal I/O includes two DDR4 SO-DIMM slots, two M.2 slots (one full length (80mm) and one 30mm slot for Wi-Fi adapters such as the included Intel 8265 with is included in the kits with cases but not the bare board kits.), one SATA port, and headers for serial, USB 3.0, and USB 2.0 ports.

External I/O consists of four USB 3.0 ports, one Gigabit Ethernet port, and two HDMI outputs (one protected UHD).

Dawson Canyon NUCs will be available towards the end of the year (Q4’17) with pricing yet to be released. For the fanless, ahem, fans Fanless Tech reports that Simply NUC will be offering NUCs with custom fanless cases. These are likely to be cheaper than Baby Canyon and be popular with businesses wanting monitor mounted thin clients or low power workstations for office users that just need to run productivity applications.

Source: FanlessTech

Blender Foundation Releases Blender 2.79

Subject: General Tech | September 13, 2017 - 07:03 PM |
Tagged: Blender, amd

The latest version of Blender, 2.79, makes a few significant changes, especially for users with AMD GPUs. Their main rendering engine, Cycles, has now reached feature-parity on OpenCL and CUDA. While those with NVIDIA GPUs will keep using the latter compute API, users of recent AMD GPUs can now (on Windows and Linux -- macOS requires a driver update) harness their graphics cards for higher performance.

blender-2017-cyclesdenoise.png

10 samples is actually very low. I'm usually in the 100-1000 range.

For the rest of us, there are four improvements that I would consider major. First, Cycles now has a denoise filter, which reduces speckles and thus should let you get away with fewer samples. Second, Filmic Color Management is now included by default, which can represent a much wider dynamic range. This was available as a user mod for a while, but you needed to manually install it. Third is a shadow catcher object for Cycles, which lets you render off translucent shadows onto dummy objects and composite them later (in Photoshop, After Effects, or Blender’s video editor).

Fourth, and most interesting to me, is their new PBR shader. I’ve done PBR materials in Cycles before, and it’s a bit of a pain to set up. If I don’t copy/paste from an existing material, it takes about 15-20 minutes of my time to wire together diffuse nodes, glossy nodes, Fresnel nodes, and so forth such that I can attach metal, bump, and so forth to it. Now? Just drag in one node and hook up the correct textures and colors, like the ones that are generated in Substance or Quixxel.

As always, Blender is free, so have fun.

The Fallout: New Vegas prequel mod may soon arrive as Fallout: New California

Subject: General Tech | September 13, 2017 - 03:21 PM |
Tagged: gaming, mod, fallout, Fallout: New California, fallout: new vegas

This mod has been eight years in the making but we may soon see it released for us all to enjoy.  The New Vegas mod will put you into the wilds of the NCR after being rather abruptly ejected from your home in Vault 18.  This will be a nice experience for those who found Fallout 4 to have strayed a bit far from the games roots, especially in the dialogue.  Head over to Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN for a video showing off the mod and giving you a look into how your adventure will start.

01newcali1.jpg

"Vault 18 is at the heart of the California Wasteland high in the San Bernardino Mountains, and its legendary Wasteland Scouts have managed to keep its secrets safe for decades despite the wars raging beyond the great door. In their old age, their adventures have created a new generation to take their place… if their rebellious adopted kids survive the threat brewing within their own ranks."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

 

So, about that D‑Link DIR 850L wireless AC1200 you might be using ...

Subject: General Tech | September 13, 2017 - 03:03 PM |
Tagged: DIR 850L wireless AC1200, ac1200, D-Link, router, security

If you have a D-Link DIR 850L wireless router or know anyone that does, you should unplug it without delay.  The Register posted a link to the recently released findings of security researcher Pierre Kim, who originally contacted D-Link in February about the flaws only to see a single patch released since then.  The vulnerabilities are rather severe, ranging from a lack of verification for firmware images, through stored default private keys to an actual buit in backdoor.  The router is not compatible with DD-WRT so you cannot resolve the issue through that method; it should be treated as a brick until D-Link resolves these issues in an update.

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"A security researcher has shamed D‑Link by publicly disclosing 10 serious, as-yet unpatched vulnerabilities in a line of consumer-grade routers without notifying the vendor first."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

Fool me once, shame on me ... Chrome gives Symantec the cold shoulder

Subject: General Tech | September 12, 2017 - 02:29 PM |
Tagged: chrome, symantec, security

The original issue dates back two years ago, when a serious security issue was discovered effecting all Norton and Symantec products which allowed an attacker to easily infect your Windows kernel without any user interaction.  Following that revelation were a round of firings at Symantec which were intended to reassure customers and security experts which were somewhat successful, until earlier this year.  In January it was discovered that Symantec provided digital certificates to verify the authenticity of several questionable sites, including ones never authorized by ICANN.  This has been enough for Google; Chrome will no longer trust older Symantec certs in version 66 and will not trust any as of version 70.  The Inquirer provides a full timeline here.

1406048971_Symantec-Logo.png

"The decision to remove Symantec certificates came as a result of the discovery of a dodgy certificate in 2015, leading to a fuller investigation that brought forward more issues with security at the beginning of this year."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: The Inquirer

Samsung Announces 11nm LPP and 7nm LPP Processes

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2017 - 05:27 PM |
Tagged: Vega, TSMC, Samsung, ryzen, Intel, euv, 8nm, 7nm, 14nm, 11nm, 10nm

Process technology is extremely complex today, and getting more and more complex by the minute.  The billions of dollars invested in each process node essentially insures that it will have to be used for years to come to get back that investment.  It not only needs to get back that investment, but provide more funds to start R&D on the next series of nodes that will come down the line.  It has only been a couple of years since the introduction of multiple 14nm processes from Intel and Samsung, as well as the 16nm node from TMSC.  We are already moving towards an introduction of 10nm parts from these manufacturers in bulk starting next year.  So have these manufacturers gotten their money worth out of their current processes?
 
Samsung-Foundry-Forum2017_main_1.jpg
 
Kinam Kim, President of Samsung Electronics’ Semiconductor Business, discloses the latest process advances from his division.
 
Part of that answer somes in the form of Samsung's latest product.  Samsung is announcing the availability of a new 11nm FinFET process that looks to be a pretty extensive optimization of the company's 14nm FF.  The new process promises 15% better performance and 10% chip area reduction at the same power consumption as the older 14nm FF.  The idea here is to further improve upon their 14nm process all the while retaining the economics of it.  This process exists separately from the latest 10nm LPP which can be considered a full jump from the previous 14nm.  11nm LPP will be primarily aimed at midrange and high end products, but will not reach the full scaling and performance of the 10nm LPP product.
 
This "little steps" philosophy has been around for ages, as AMD utilized it for most of their existence when they owned their own Fabs.  Other companies have done the same by including small improvements over the lifetime of the process so that the final product is signficantly better in terms of yield, transistor switching speed, and thermal dissipation.  Samsung looks to be doing this with their 11nm process by providing all those little steps of improvement from 14nm.
 
The second part of the announcement is that Samsung has announced their 7nm process using EUV.  Samsung had previously announced their 8nm process, but it still relies upon multi-patterning immersion litho.  Samsung has been testing their 250 watt EUV source with fairly good results.  The company is quoted as to processing over 200,000 wafers since 2014 and has achieved an 80% yeild on 256 Mb SRAM.  This is somewhat impressive, but still not ready for primetime.  SRAM features highly consistent structures and is typically one of the first complex chips tested on a new process.
 
Samsung is offering orders now of its 11nm line and it will be very interesting to see who jumps on board.  I would not expect AMD to transfer their designs to 11nm, as a tremendous amount of reworking and validating are required. Instead we will see AMD going for the 10nm node with their Zen 2 based products while continuing to produce Ryzen, Vega, and Polaris at 14nm. Those that will be taking advantage of 11nm will probably be groups pushing out smaller products, especially for the midrange and high end cell phone SOCs.
 
10nm LPP is expected in early 2018, 8nm LPP in 2019, and finally Samsung hopes for 7nm to be available in 2020.
Source: Samsung

Grado's new GH2 Heritage Limited Edition headphones

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2017 - 03:29 PM |
Tagged: Grado, GH2 Heritage, audio

We have mentioned Grado headsets often hear, and one model graces the ears of Josh during podcasts.  They are more expensive than most of the models you see reviewed, however they are also of much higher quality and each headset is hand made, something you will never get from Beats.  The Grado GH2 Heritage Limited Edition headphones sport Cocobolo wood around the outside of the open design ear cups with their new 'red' drivers inside.  You will also receive a number of soft pads for the headphones which not only allow you to increase your comfort, they are also billed as modifying the various elements of your audio.  Head over to Kitguru for a listen to what they thought of this headset.

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"Today’s Grado GH2 Heritage are a limited edition headphone, and they join an exclusive list of Grado limited run production headphones such as the ‘John Mayer’ and ‘Billy Joel’ headphones, made in very limited edition runs."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

 

Source: Kitguru