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.

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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.

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"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."

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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."

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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.

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"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."

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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?
 
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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."

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Source: Kitguru

Intel goes WiGiggy for VR

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2017 - 02:52 PM |
Tagged: wigig, Intel, 802.11ad, VR

News of the impending demise of Intel WiGig hardware, originally touted as a way to transmit various signals such as PCIe or HDMI wirelessly arrived over at The Inquirer today.  Some companies adopted the hardware into docking stations, monitors and external storage however the flexibility of WiGig was offset by transmission limitations which competing standards such as Bluetooth or WiFi do not suffer from. The improved performance offered by Thunderbolt 3 also prompted companies to choose wired connectivity over Intel's WiGig, the outcome of which has been a refocusing of Intel's resources to VR headset development.  This move could hurt a VR incumbent, the HTC Vive incorporated WiGig into a recent wireless headset prototype.  Companies have until the end of the month to order hardware.

aqoTJlq.png

"Just days after announcing plans to discontinue its 6th-gen Skylake processors, Intel that it's ditching almost all of its current WiGig, or 802.11ad hardware by the end of 2017, including antennas and controllers."

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Source: The Inquirer

ASUS Launches the ZenFone 4 Max Smartphone

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2017 - 12:03 PM |
Tagged: ZenFone 4 Max, zenfone, Snapdragon 430, smartphone, ips, dual camera, asus, Android

The midrange phone market has a new contendor with the ZenFone 4 Max, launched today by ASUS and featuring some impressive specifications - particularly in the camera department - for an unlocked device with an MSRP of $199.

ZF4Max_1.jpg

The phone offers a 5.5-inch display - though likely due to the price target it is just 1280x720 - and the metal and glass construction gives it a more premium (if familiar) look. It's the back of the device where the dual camera sensors really set this apart from the majority of ~$200 unlocked phones: a pair of 13 MP sensors reside behind both a wide-angle and telephoto lens, which allows for more flexibility in composing shots.

ZF4Max_3.jpg

"ZenFone 4 Max features an advanced dual-camera system designed to take your mobile photography to new heights. Its 13MP main camera is equipped with the wide, F2.0 aperture lens to capture clearer photos. Its 120° wide-angle camera lets your fit more scenery and people in the frame for dramatic landscape shots, better group photos, and a more convenient photography experience in confined indoor spaces."

The application processor is the Snapdragon 430, a capable 8-core design with Adreno 505 graphics which also crucially offers 2x image signal processors for a dual camera setup. One area that is decidedly not midrange is the battery - which is a whopping 5000 mAh (!). Not only does this massive capacity allow for the unusual feature of turning your smartphone into a battery pack to charge other devices, but it should provide some really outstanding real-world battery life as well. The onboard Snapdragon 430 supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0, so refilling that huge battery should be efficient as well.

ZF4Max_2.jpg

The unlocked ZenFone 4 Max is available now for $199 on Amazon.com in a 32GB capacity.

Source: ASUS