AMD lays off 10-12% of workforce, new CEO cleans house

Subject: General Tech, Processors | November 3, 2011 - 08:22 PM |
Tagged: layoffs, amd

We have been discussing AMD’s condition and future outlook over most of recent memory. Since the lawsuit versus Intel and the subsequent trying by the Big Blue Giant: AMD’s apparent jab-haymaker combo of lawsuit-Sempron to push heavily in the consumer market seems to have been mostly dodged and countered by Intel. While this last quarter has been positive there is little time for positive press; AMD has, today, removed 1400 employees from their company.

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There was a time that AMD said they could beat anything Intel could throw at them.

That means that what AMD is releasing now is as-good or better than where they thought CPUs would be.

Food for thought.

It is not very uncommon to see layoffs during restructuring in the 10% range when a new CEO enters a company. The sad part of restructuring is that there is often little consideration about which employees comprise that 10%; rather, their job descriptions. These layoffs in isolation do not say much about AMD’s health in the upcoming time but should tint in one way or another how to perceive their upcoming actions. Where the future is positive or negative depends on how this ties into that.

Source: BSN

A look into AMD's future

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2011 - 12:38 PM |
Tagged: amd, vector computing, exascale, APU

Chuck Moore, CTO of AMD's Technology Group, gave a talk this week about AMD's plans for the future of their architecture.  As you might conjecture the focus was on the further integration of the CPU and GPU, with an eye on power consumption.  The hurdle he feels will be the tallest is the bandwidth for passing data back and forth between the two processors and he sees 3D stacks of memory sitting between the main system memory, the GPU and the CPU.  Once developed he feels that the stacks of memory should be able to increase the amount of available communication bandwidth to the point where tasks can be handed smoothly back and forth between the two processors depending on which is more effective at certain tasks.  Performance is not everything however, when The Register quotes Moore when he discusses the power requirements of a mid-range exascale class machine costing $200 million just to power and cool over a year, you begin to see the importance of bringing down power consumption and heat production.

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"Because Advanced Micro Devices has not yet announced its 16-core "Interlagos" Opteron 6200 processors, it has to talk about something, and in situations like that, it is best to talk about the far-off future. And so AMD rounded up a bunch of its partners on Wednesday in San Francisco for a shindig to talk about the challenges of exascale computing."

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Source: The Register

PC Gaming Alliance: Cross-Platform Gaming Spec next week

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2011 - 01:18 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming

The PC Gaming Alliance is not the most beloved industry body lately. The goals of the PC Gaming Alliance are to create an agency which addresses the issues with PC Gaming in an attempt to further it. What ultimately occurred was a stack of news stories chronicling who is no-longer a member of the PCGA for any given day and a series of jeers toward the group and the users of said platform. Occasionally they release studies -- like an upcoming one as announced on Intel’s software blog -- about a specification for cross-platform gaming.

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United we stand, divided we prone.

Intel’s blog teased at the contents of a webinar that is scheduled to happen on the 9th:

During this webinar discussion we’ll be outlining a couple of key proposals that should not only help PC Gaming, but most other gaming ecosystems as well. A couple of the key trends we’re seeing in the research from the PC Gaming Alliance, and in discussions with Game Developers, is an increased desire to support and adopt various ‘Cloud gaming’ scenarios that are accessible across a wide spectrum of devices and displays. (aka. Compute Continuum, 3 screens, etc). This ‘Cloud Gaming’ movement is critical to comprehend in tandem with another key trend as games increasingly move towards a games-as-a-service (aka GAS) model. Due to the global popularity, massive install base, and extensibility of Personal Computers as gaming devices, the PCGA’s set of proposals will be largely targeted at addressing the PC Ecosystem.

What do you guys think of the upcoming webinar? What does Intel and the rest of the PCGA have in store for their specification?

Source: Intel Blog

Really Ryan? 8.429 GHz? … *Scoff* - New World Record!

Subject: General Tech, Processors | November 2, 2011 - 05:55 PM |
Tagged: overclock, bulldozer, amd

Remember back in September when Ryan was all excited about seeing AMD exceed Intel with their Liquid Helium-cooled overclock? 8.429 GHz bulldozed past the 8.309 GHz record set upon Intel’s Celeron and all rejoiced at AMD’s 130 MHz triumph. Well out with the old and in with the new: there is a new overclocking king and it goes by the name of -- well it is also the AMD FX-8150. That is irrelevant, however, as the new record (if validated before someone beats it too) has become 8.461 GHz.

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Someone’s the new king in town… the current king.

The new world record was set by Andre Yang, an overclocked from Taiwan, with an ASUS Crosshair V Formula motherboard. Benchmarks were not possible as when you get overclocking to this level: successfully running CPU-Z just to query the specifications of a CPU is generally considered sufficiently stable to be qualified as an overclock. Do not be surprised if SuperPi blows a hole through your chassis. It was not stated which method of cooling was used to allow the processor to reach those specifications.

Source: X-Bit labs

Mechwarrior Online: Free to Play... when it's set free.

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2011 - 04:00 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, pc exclusive, Mechwarrior, free to play

If you were a long-time PC gamer it is quite possible that some revision of Mechwarrior was installed to your C-drive at some point. If you are me, you likely had multiple of them. While the web of who owns what part of Mechwarrior and its larger Battletech universe is complicated to say the least, Smith and Tinker owns what Microsoft formerly acquired from FASA and is using it to make a new Mechwarrior game exclusively for the PC.

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A ComStar faction should be an amusingly terrible idea.

Image from Piranha Games

The original announcement for Mechwarrior Online was quite different than where we are today. Mechwarrior Online, then called Mechwarrior, was scheduled for release on the Xbox 360 and Windows PC as a full retail game. That decision has since been overturned: Xbox 360 support has been dropped and the game is slated as a Free-To-Play PC release. Constant DLC is planned but free for players. The time-frame has also been shifted from 3015 to 3049 with each real day translating to a full day in game. You will also be able to select your Inner Sphere House when you launch and control over each planet is persistent. Like all free-to-play games, the ultimate question is how they plan to encourage their players to make small purchases leading to how successful the game will be when it is launched sometime in 2012.

Figuring out what all those graphics options in Battlefield 3 are for

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2011 - 03:07 PM |
Tagged: gaming, battlefield 3, tweaks

[H]ard|OCP has been spending a lot of time looking at the same level of the Battlefield 3 single player game, in order to test the performance of 8 GPU setups.  Three AMD cards and three NVIDIA cards were tested, with the top two cards also being tested in multiple GPU setups to show the current upper limits of performance.  Before they started the testing they also put together a nice guide describing the various settings on the graphics page to ensure you understand what you are tweaking before you start.  Gaming at 1920x1200 you can expect to not only get good performance on any of the cards they tested but also have quite a few of the eye candy options turned on.  See the actual results at [H].

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"Battlefield 3 was released last week to throngs of anxious, eager gamers. The PC version shows PC gamers some love with some awesome lights and DirectX 11 effects. In this article, we're looking at Single Player Campaign gameplay performance and image quality with 8 of the best video card solutions on the market right now."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

A*STAR is making a name for themselves in storage

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2011 - 01:02 PM |
Tagged: A*STAR, hdd, STT-MRAM

A*STAR Data Storage Institute was in the news two weeks ago with the results of their experiment of doping hard drive storage medium with salt allows a 6 fold increase in storage density thanks to much tighter sputtering of magnetic grains on the platter.  They are back in the news with another development in a different kind of storage medium altogether.  With Micron partnering in the development they are working on a new type of resistive RAM, which will bring speeds better than you can get with flash and in a non-volatile form.  The technology is referred to as spin transfer torque magnetic random access memory or STT-MRAM.  Drop by The Register for a look at what they are up to, as well as what the competition is working on to bring us the next generation of NAND.

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"NAND suppliers and technology developers are anticipating this by developing follow-on technologies centred around the idea of non-volatile, resistive RAM (RRAM), which is faster to access than flash and has a longer working life. There are a variety of ways of altering the resistance of a memory cell and Micron is entering into a joint research and development agreement with Singapore's A*STAR Data Storage Institute (DSI) to develop spin transfer torque magnetic random access memory or STT-MRAM."

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Source: The Register

Bulletproof earbuds, really?

Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2011 - 01:16 PM |
Tagged: audio, earbuds, v-moda, vibrato remote headphones

It is hard to imagine just why you would need Kevlar reinforced cords on a pair of earphones, but that is exactly what V-MODA did with their Vibrato Remote Earphones.  There is also no indication what is remote about the headphones, but that is enough attention paid to the marketing.  Think Computers wanted to know how they sounded, not what the package said which is why the earphones were quickly out of the package and into their ear canals.  One of the more noticeable features was the length of the cable, at a total of 45" you won't feel restricted while wearing the headphones.  Another nice touch was the inclusion of a microphone on the volume control so that you can use the Vibratos with a cell phone or digital recorder.  You'll have to read the full review to see if as much thought went into the audio quality.

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"I only started using earphones or earbuds as many people call them a few years ago. So many people think that all earphones are the same and will use the ones that come with their device. I did that for quite some time before I tried a different set of earphones and since then I’ve been trying all different types of earphones. Today we have a set of earphones on the more expensive end coming in at $130. These zinc-alloy earphones feature 8mm V-MASQUE drivers, BLISS 3.0 (Bass Level Isolating Soft Silicone) hybrid silicone fittings, Kevlar reinforced cables and a 24K gold plated plug. Le t’s check them out and see if they will be the next earphones you own."

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ASUS may be out of HDDs but they are not out of tablets

Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2011 - 12:11 PM |
Tagged: asus, netbook, tablet, ultrabook

ASUS seems to be sitting in a very nice place in the market, with several flavours of 'killer' products, so that which ever ends up winning the form factor battle ASUS will come out with a profit.  In this high tech game of rock, paper, scissors we have The Ultrabook, with their newly released Zenbook, The Netbook, their Eee series being the best known and The Tablet, being that nice looking Eee Pad Transformer.  They even still sell laptops for those who prefer to exercise their arms and core.  Which ever form factor becomes dominant ASUS already has a model out now, with new ones on the way, which explains the 11% growth in profit they recorded this quarter.

One major benefit ASUS has with these smaller form factors is that they all use flash memory for long term storage.  With the devastation hitting Thailand as flood waters cover homes and businesses, the tech world also watches the stocks of platter based HDDs plummet.  In fact ASUS reported to The Inquirer that they expect to be out of hard drives by the end of the month.  That will only effect the larger form factors, ASUS may still hit the 1.8 million tablets shipped target that they are aiming for by the end of 2011.

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"ASUS managed a slight increase in profit for the third quarter of this year, despite the global slowdown in PC sales.

ASUS is still shipping notebooks, but has also been strong in netbooks and has launched its own fondleslab range, all siblings to its popular Eee PC netbook, led by the Eee Pad Transformer, but to eventually include the Eee Memo, Slider and Slate."

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Source: The Register

Asus Releasing Two Windows 8, Two Android Tablets Next Year

Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2011 - 08:25 AM |
Tagged: windows 8, tablet, software, kal-el, hardware, Android

With Asus’ previous tablets being a success, the company has decided to push forward with four new tablets that are slated to debut next year. The new tablets will join the ranks of the Transformer and soon to be released Transformer Prime tablets under the Asus Eee Pad lineup. Of the four new devices, two tablets will be running Google’s Android OS (Operating System) while the remaining two tablets will run Microsoft’s Windows 8 OS.

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The two tablets running Android are slated for release in the first quarter of 2012. While Asus has not released any specific hardware specifications, they will likely be powered by the quad core Nvidia Kal-El ARM processor like the upcoming Asus Transformer Prime (or the Kal-El’s successor).

On the other hand, quarter 3 of 2012 will see the release of two tablets running Windows 8. Interestingly, Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors are also supposed to launch in 2012, which would make for a nice match of technology.  Whether we'll see Ivy Bridge powered tablets; however, will depend on how soon Ivy Bridge launches and how quickly Asus can turn around and roll out a product designed around it.

The marketing speak in the above slides indicates that at least the marketing department is excited about the prospect of what they have dubbed hero products. They are striving to win mind share and achieve a “perfect” product. Whether they will achieve that or not remains to be seen; however, having more Windows 8 tablets isn’t a bad thing! More information can be had here.

Are you still holding out for your “perfect” tablet, and if so what are you looking/waiting to see from a tablet?

Source: Softpedia