TSMC's 28nm process is going to be around for the long haul

Subject: General Tech | March 20, 2012 - 01:12 PM |
Tagged: TSMC, nvidia, amd, southern islands, kepler, 28nm, maxwell, llano

TSMC's 28nm process has been in the news for a long time, sometimes this was a good thing but more often it was not.  Back in May of 2009 the first announcements of TSMC's brand new 28nm process hit the news with major production slated to start in early 2010.  That didn't happen on time, much to several companies dismay as Josh unhappily discussed towards the end of 2010.  This set a trend for TSMC's 28nm process for a while, for instance AMD did not quite meet their promise of readily available 28nm GPUs in 2011, though a late December launch for the HD7970 did meet the spirit of the agreement.  The delays and issues on TSMC's 28nm lines had a variety of causes, perhaps one of the worst being TSMC's overly optimistic attitude about their production capabilities especially when AMD had a surprise for them.  Add to that the long line of woes during the development and production of NVIDIA's 28nm Kepler GPU as well as the recent shutdown of the production line, and you can see why TSMC's 28nm process has spent a lot of time being maligned in the news.  It almost makes you forget about the 40nm process woes, but that is ancient news.

All that effort is not going to waste as DigiTimes reports that TSMC is planning on expanding their 28nm capacity this year and expects that process to account for 10% of their 2012 revenue.  The next question on most peoples minds is the progress on TSMC's 22nm process which in 2010 they announced would be ready by Q3 2012, something which NVIDIA's Maxwell team is probably anticipating with great anxiety.

TSMC.jpg

"With current capacity for 28nm processes filled up, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is likely to expand the leading-edge process capacity later in 2012, according to industry sources.

TSMC reportedly is running at full capacity at its 12-inch fabs due to strong orders for 28nm as well as 40nm and 65nm designs. In order to avoid orders to rivals such as United Microelectronics (UMC) and Samsung Electronics, TSMC will have to speed up the pace of its leading-edge capacity expansion in particular its 28nm capacity, the sources said."

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Source: DigiTimes
Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Cerwin-Vega

Introduction and Features

It's not very often that I get to use and enjoy a review item while working on the actual review, but that's exactly what I'm doing as I sit here listening to my favorite music. The new Cerwin-Vega! XD3 Powered Desktop Speakers have been designed to optimize sound quality while keeping the enclosures small and providing easy integration with your PC and other desktop accessories at an affordable price. The XD3 desktop speakers incorporate ¾" silk dome tweeters, 3" woofers, high-quality cross-overs, and a 15W per channel internal amplifier in solid wood (MDF) enclosures.

2-XD3-lg.jpg

XD3 Powered Desktop Speakers Key Features:

• The perfect companion for your computer and/or media player
• Compact size without "compact" sound
• Rich and natural sound of a real wood enclosure
• Two-Way speaker: ¾" Tweeter and 3" Woofer
• 15 Watts per channel amplifier with built-in crossovers
• Front panel Aux. in and Headphone out
• Ported enclosure and Vega-Bass help increase bass response
• Magnetically shielded to prevent interference
• Appearance matches laptops and LCD monitors
• Perfect for music, gaming and media production

Continue reading our review of the Cerwin-Vega XD3 Powered Desktop Speakers!!

Apple Sitting On Pile Of Cash, Will Pay Out Dividends

Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2012 - 01:44 PM |
Tagged: finance, computer, apple

Apple inc, the popular consumer electronics and computer company behind such brushed aluminum products as the MacBook and iPad is currently sitting on a huge pile of cash. Specifically, they have $97.6 billion dollars on hand in cash and securities (!). Allegedly, former CEO Steve Jobs maintained these liquid assets in the event that they needed to buy out a company to make any problems go away.

Apple_MoneyVault.jpg

Apparently, current CEO Tim Cook has other ideas about what to do with the company's money, including giving a small portion of it back to shareholders in the form of dividends. In light of this announcement, the company expects their stock price a grow over the long term. After generating $31 billion in cash last year (September to September), and on track to rake in even more profits this year Tim Cook does not foresee a dividend having any negative impact on their liquid assets. The quarterly dividend in question is set to be $2.65 per share stating July 1, 2012.

Apple is further instituting a $10 billion share buyback program that is reportedly being implemented to offset shares issues to employees. The buyback program will last for three years and begins on September 30, 2012.

After the release of the iPad 3 new iPad (sigh) and positive reaction to dividend announcement, their stock price is rising and they are still sitting on quite the pile of money even with the new dividend!

Source: PhysOrg

This new malware goes straight to your RAM, no installation required

Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2012 - 11:58 AM |
Tagged: Virus, Trojan-Spy.Win32.Lurk, ram virus, Kaspersky Labs, javaw.exe, fud

A lovely little electronic beastie was spotted by Kaspersky Labs on Russian ad servers recently which uses a Java exploit (long since patched) to corrupt javaw.exe while it is running on system memory, infecting machines without any installation required whatsoever.  While this sounds quite bad, the fact is that in your memory it can infect running programs but not move out of the memory without triggering an installation process and will not survive a system reboot.  That is why as soon as this malware finds its self on a systems RAM it immediately tries to install the Lurk Trojan, which is when your problems would start and when your anti-virus/anti-malware protection should notice something amiss. 

By its self the new virus poses little direct risk but it represents a new attack vector for drive by infections, which could get into protected space and be able to launch an attack from within the systems memory, a much faster and more intimate way of attacking than coming over the network.  With home systems sporting more that 4GB of RAM, there is a lot more space for this type of virus to work with than there was just a few years ago.  Read on at The Register, if you dare.

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"The researchers aren’t quite sure how unusual it is, describing it as both “unique” and “very rare”, but no matter how scarce this type of malware is it does sound rather nasty as it “… uses its payload to inject an encrypted dll from the web directly into the memory of the javaw.exe process.” That mode of operation means Windows and MacOS are both affected by the exploit, which is hard for many antivirus programs to spot given it runs within a trusted process."

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Source: The Register

Linux Kernel 3.3 Merges With Android, Now Available

Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2012 - 11:46 AM |
Tagged: OS, linux kernel 3.3, linux, kernel, Android

Linux kernel 3.3 has recently been released for public consumption, and it features quite a few new features and improvements. The kernel is the code that developers than build upon to create all the various Linux distributions such as Fedora, Mint, and Arch Linux (among others).

This latest release, version 3.3 includes various improvements to the file system, btrfs, networking, architecture, and EFI BIOS support. In regards to the file system, the Linux 3.3 kernel supports improved balancing and the ability to re-stripe between different RAID (redundant array of independent disks) levels. Further, the kernel will now allow an x86 boot image to be processed by EFI firmware in addition to the traditional BIOS microcode boot that is present in the majority of today's machines. Also, Kernel 3.3 improves the networking aspects by improving the ability to bond multiple NICs to improve networking throughput and/or to provide redundant connections. Support for a new architecture has also emerged such that Linux kernel will work with Texas Instruments C6X based chips. These chips include the "family of C64x single and multicore DSPs."

Tux_Droid.png

The above improvements are just the tip of the iceberg, however. The most talked about new feature is likely going to be the inclusion of Android code from Google's Android OS project. According to the Kernel Newbies website, the disagreements between Linux kernel developers and Google have been "ironed out," and code from the Android project will now start to be rolled back into the Linux kernel. They expect that Android coming home to traditional Linux will make developing code and end user software easier for everyone, and they expect further Android and Linux integration in the future.

More information on the latest Linux kernel release is available here.

You know, where I come from: Dubstep Claptrap is a disease.

Subject: General Tech | March 17, 2012 - 05:26 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, gearbox, borderlands 2

Gearbox advertises an enhanced PC experience for Borderlands 2 in the form of a love letter.

It takes a lot of devotion, effort, and trust to make a compelling game for the PC. Apparently Claptrap is willing to take all the time necessary to get into our pants -- or wherever else you carry your credit card. It is somewhat sad how stories like these are newsworthy. This kind-of calls to attention how half-assed most games are these days in general, for all systems, especially when it comes to optimizing for platform-specific traits.

claptrap.png

Actually on second thought, maybe we will need some Penicillin.

The list of PC-specific enhancements is quite long, but most entries are based on interface and Steam integration features:

  • FOV slider
  • “100%” mouse usable menus/mouse wheel scrolling
  • Remappable keybindings for keyboard/mouse
  • PC specific UI
  • Native multiplayer matchmaking
  • Push to talk
  • Logitech keyboard support ((I assume they mean LCD screen information))
  • LAN support (including OFFLINE mode)
  • Control pad support
  • Integrated v-sync option
  • Support for higher resolutions
  • Mouse smoothing options (can be disabled completely)
  • Cloud save support
  • Achievement support
  • Friends list support
  • No port forwarding required

Is there any feature that you wish would be included for the PC version? Personally I would like the option for splitscreen support especially for those with Eyefinity setups. How about you?

Google Rumored To Release $199 Nexus Tablet

Subject: General Tech | March 17, 2012 - 04:33 PM |
Tagged: nexus tablet, google, Android

The Kindle Fire and Nook Tablets are two low cost Android tablets that are arguably the first Android tablets to be very successful, especially as gifts during this past holiday season. The $500+ iPads are nice, but not everyone is willing to pay that much money for a secondary computing device (the PC isn't dead yet!). There is also the form factor issue in that many consumers prefer the smaller and more portable 7" tablets that Apple has yet to provide.

Google-Nexus-Tablet-with-Android-4.1.jpg

Image via techiser

It seems as though Google has taken notice of the success of the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet and is ready to throw it's weight around and show manufacturers how to replicate that success with a reference 7" tablet of their very own. Much akin to the Google Nexus smart phones that Google released to act as a base / vanilla platform for manufacturers to base their designs on; Google is planning to release a Google Nexus Tablet. Recent rumors suggest that such an Android tablet is a "done deal" according to sources within Google's supply chain. Further, the Nexus tablet will allegedly feature a 7" form factor and will be powered by a TI OMAP 4 processor to keep costs low (versus using NVIDIA's Tegra 3). In addition, the Nexus Tablet would run an updated version of Android, specifically Android 4.1.

Speaking of costs, the Verge has stated that the new Nexus Tablet will retail for $199 USD, though there may be other varied SKUs that come in at lower/higher price points depending on the amount of RAM and storage.

The Google Nexus smart phones never really caught on with the majority of consumers, but many tech savvy people appreciated the vanilla Android experience that did not involve waiting months for OS updates (I'm looking at you, Samsung). If anyone can create a low cost tablet to replicate the success of the Kindle Fire, it's Google. What are your thoughts on these recent rumors?

Source: The Verge

Microsoft Security Essentials Gaining Popularity

Subject: General Tech | March 17, 2012 - 02:01 PM |
Tagged: opswat, software, mse, antivirus

OPSWAT, a company founded in 2002, has released it's latest quartlerly report on software market share. The new report indicates that as of March 2012, the free Microsoft Security Essentials antivirus application has made the biggest gains in users this year.

MSE_GUI.PNG

Microsoft Security Essentials is a free antivirus program developed by Microsoft that has been on the market for just over 2 years (since September 2009). Despite not having the best detection rates, it is a program that is non-intrusive and lightweight on resources. Because of the automatic updating (via Windows Update) and being essentially "set it and forget it," it has garnered quite the following from tech enthusiasts that use it on their computers along with a bit of common sense browsing to stay safe. In addition, it makes for a good choice for family members as it is easy to install and requires little maintenance along with not costing any money. Also, If you have a friend or relative that refuses to pay for AV yet also refuses to stop visiting certain areas of the web, having some kind of free antivirus is better than nothing!

Specifically, the Microsoft software has managed to snag 10.08% of the worldwide antivirus market, putting it under the three big A's of antivirus: Avast with 16.26%, Avira with 11.65%, and AVG Technologies with 10.96%. Close behind Microsoft is ESET antivirus with 10.06%. Microsoft has increased their worldwide market share to 10.08% from 7.27% a year ago. They are further ahead of Symantec who holds 9.97% of the market.

Worldwide Vendor Market Share - March 2012
Vendor Market Share
AVAST Software 16.26%
AVIRA GMBH 11.65%
AVG Technologies 10.96%
Microsoft Corporation 10.08%
ESET Software 10.06%
Symantec Corporation 9.97%
Kaspersky Labs 7.75%
McAfee Incorporated 4.74%
Panda Software 3.77%
Trend Micro, Incorporated 2.22%
Others 12.54%

 

In terms of the North American market, Symantec actually pulls ahead of Microsoft, and holds the number one position at 16.09%. Microsoft then holds the second position in North American market share with 14.92%. The MS software saw big gains from last year, moving from fourth position to second position and 9.94% to 14.92% respectively. AVG holds third place at 13.22% while Avast has 11.96% of the North American market and fourth place. You can see the remaining top 10 vendors' market share in North America below.

North American Vendor Market Share - March 2012
Vendor Market Share
Symantec Corporation 16.09%
Microsoft Corporation 14.92%
AVG Technologies 13.22%
AVAST Software 11.96%
ESET Software 7.06%
McAfee Incorporated 6.76%
AVIRA GMBH 4.41%
Kaspersky Labs 4.03%
Panda Software 3.49%
Trend Micro Incorporated 3.10%
Others 14.96%

 

Drilling down beyond vendor market share to the specific programs' market share Microsoft Security Essentials holds 14.58% of the North American market as of March 2012. Also, MSE holds 9.96% of the worldwide market in March 2012. In terms of ranking, the individual software that is MSE is is number one in North America and second place worldwide. Microsoft Security Essentials holds 14.58% in North America and 9.96% globally, putting it just under AVAST! Free Antivirus which is the number one AV product worldwide with 11.91% of the market. These numbers are a bit more telling, as they indicate Microsoft is doing pretty darn well with their AV program, and it is really helping them (market share wise) to have just one main SKU/program in their lineup.

Interestingly, their report indicates that the top 10 antivirus makers hold the great majority of the market with 87.46% of worldwide market share. Of the top 10 (listed in chart 1) global AV vendors, only Trend Micro is a new addition at number 10 thanks to overtaking PC Tools with a total of 2.22% market share. The top 10 has further gained more of the total market compared to last year. In 2010, the top 10 vendors held 86.57% of the market, and they now hold 87.46%. Individual product wise, the top 10 companies' applications hold 64.94% of the worldwide market and 63.08% of the North American Market (this is for specific programs only, while the previous total numbers are for top 10 AV companies as a whole).

Further, OPSWAT states that the free offerings continue to dominate the charts with the most number of installations and market share. In North America, they identified 81 antivirus companies and 257 antivirus software applications. Globally OPSWAT detected 87 vendors and different programs. That makes the fact that the top 10 vendors hold approximately 87% of the market even more impressive.  More information on the recent OPSWAT report is availabe in the PDF format here.

Source: OPSWAT

So much for Intel's Tri-gate

Subject: General Tech | March 16, 2012 - 12:16 PM |
Tagged: tri-gate, FinFET, silicon nanowires

We've just met Intel's Tri-Gate transistor technology, which offers significant improvements in power efficiency as well as reducing waste hear but researchers have already moved onto the next new technology.  Referred to as silicon nanowire transistors in this story at The Register, the next generation of transistor may have no gates whatsoever, or be made entirely of gates, depending on how you look at it.  The wire will be wrapped in a silicon oxide, high-K metal gate making the transistor cylindrical and not limited in the number of gates possible in the same way that planar or 3D transistors are.  The development of this technology is in its infancy but could well help us see chips go below 5nm as it matures.

05EEEL013_SiNanowire_HR.jpg

"The next step in transistor architecture will likely be silicon nanowires – extremely thin silicon wires that will form the transistor's chanel, surrounded on all sides by a wrap-around silicon oxide, high-K metal gate.

"It's the ultimate fully-depleted device," the director of IBM's Semiconductor Research & Development Center, Gary Patton, said during his keynote address at Wednesday's Common Platform Technology Forum 2012 in Santa Clara, California. "You don't have a gate on just two sides, or three sides – it's fully encapsulating the silicon nanowire device."

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Source: The Register

Sapphire Unveils New AMD Radeon HD 7970 OC Edition GPU

Subject: General Tech | March 15, 2012 - 10:36 PM |
Tagged: sapphire, radeon, HD 7970, gpu, amd, 7970

Sapphire Technologies recently launched a new factory overclocked version of the AMD Radeon HD 7970 graphics card. The new Radeon HD 7970 OC Edition promises to combine the performance of AMD's 7970 GPU (you can find our review of the 7970 here) with Sapphire's own Dual X two fan heatpipe cooler.

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The Sapphire HD 7970 GPU is powered by one 8 pin and one 6 pin PCI-E power connection, and supports the PCI-E 3.0 standard and Microsoft's DirectX 11.1 technology. Other specifications include 3 GB of GDDR5 memory, a 28nm Graphics Core Next (GCN) GPU core, a 384-bit memory interface, and a dual BIOS switch depending on whether you want to run at stock clock speeds or use the factory overclocked profile.

Specifically, the Sapphire HD 7970 GPU features a dual bios switch that allows customers to switch between default clock speeds of 950 MHz core and 1425 MHz memory and the factory overclocked speeds of 1 GHz (1,000 MHz) core and 1450 MHz memory. When using the overclocked BIOS, the graphics card will employ more a more aggressive fan profile and also allows raises the maximum limits for overclocking the core, memory, and voltage values.

Further, the Sapphire GPU uses their own Dual X cooler that features a dual slot aluminum heatsink connected to the GPU core by five copper heatpipes. This heatsink is then cooled by two large fans, that Sapphire claims will enable quiet operation even while under load.

Accessories wise, Sapphire provides one DVI, one HDMI, and two mini Display Port video outputs. In the retail packaging, Sapphire provides an Active mini Display Port to single-link DVI adapter, HDMI to DVI adapter, DVI to VGA adapter, two PCI-E to molex power adapters (one molex to PCI-E 8 pin and one molex to PCI-E 6 pin), a mini Display Port to Display Port adapter, a 1.8 meter HDMI 1.4a cable, and a CrossFire bridge.

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The new Sapphire HD 7970 OC Edition is available now from authorized retailers, and is retailing for between $580 and $630 at several retailers at the time of writing.

Source: Sapphire