Subject: General Tech | February 8, 2012 - 12:13 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: gpgpu, l3 cache, APU
Over at North Carolina State University, students Yi Yang, Ping Xiang and Dr. Huiyang Zhou, along with Mike Mantor of Advanced Micro Devices have been working on a way to improve how efficiently the GPU and CPU work together. Our current generations of APU/GPGPUs, Llano and Sandy Bridge, have united the two processing units on a single substrate but as of yet they cannot efficiently pass operations back and forth. This project works to leverage the L3 cache of the CPU to give a high speed bridge between the two processors, allowing the CPU to pass highly parallel tasks to the GPU for more efficient processing and letting the CPU deal with the complex operations it was designed for.
Along with that bridge comes a change in the way the L2 prefetch is utilized; increasing memory access at that level frees up more for the L3 to pass data between CPU and GPU thanks to a specially designed preexecution unit triggered by the GPU and running on the CPU which will enable synchronized memory fetch instructions. The result has been impressive, in their tests they saw an average improvement of 21.4% in performance.
"Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a new technique that allows graphics processing units (GPUs) and central processing units (CPUs) on a single chip to collaborate – boosting processor performance by an average of more than 20 percent.
"Chip manufacturers are now creating processors that have a 'fused architecture,' meaning that they include CPUs and GPUs on a single chip,” says Dr. Huiyang Zhou, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering who co-authored a paper on the research. "This approach decreases manufacturing costs and makes computers more energy efficient. However, the CPU cores and GPU cores still work almost exclusively on separate functions. They rarely collaborate to execute any given program, so they aren’t as efficient as they could be. That's the issue we’re trying to resolve."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Laser boffins blast bits onto hard drive at 200Gb/sec @ The Register
- Intel admits Haswell uses transactional memory @ SemiAccurate
- Nvidia and Rambus bury the hatchet on patents @ The Inquirer
- Don't panic? Windows 8 and the "ribbonification" of Explorer @ Ars Technica
- DIY Solid State Tesla Coil @ Hack a Day
- Brice from Arctic reveals all in exclusive @ Kitguru
- Instructables Giving Away $50,000 3D Printer @ MAKE:Blog
Subject: General Tech, Storage | February 8, 2012 - 11:34 AM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: laser, hdd, Hard Disk
The big hoopla as of late has been wrapped around SSD's and flash memory technology, with constant die shrinks promising cheaper and faster solid state storage for your PC. Everyone seems to be slowly forgetting about good old HDD's, but spinning rust may have some life left after all.
A team of scientists formed iron and gadolinium into a series of alloy 'nanoislands'. These are basically isolated mini magnets. Each one carries a magnetic charge. Normally you would write to materials like this by hitting them with a much larger magnetic field (i.e. from your HDD write head). This team had a different trick up their sleeve - don't bother with the bigger magnet, just hit it with a burst of heat and get it to change state on its own.
Magnetic nanoislands getting hit by a frickin' laser.
Picture a sling shot, stretched out, and frozen in a block of ice. If you melt the ice, the rubber band will just snap back to its unstretched state and stay there. The same kind of thing happens when you heat a magnet - it becomes demagnetized. Now imagine if you could melt the ice, but flash freeze it while the rubber band has extended in the opposite direction. You've reversed the direction of the sling shot. Pull off the same trick with a magnet, and you can flip its poles. The trick is finding just the right length of time to heat the magnet and catch the 'flip' on the other end of its resonance. This team appears to have figured it out, and the magic number (for their material) is 60 femtoseconds. They can heep hitting the same spot repeatedly, and each time causes another flip in the poles.
Each pulse flips the bit.
To back this down into typical computer terms. A 1GHz CPU clock triggers every 1.00000 nanosecond, and 60 femtoseconds is 0.00006 nanoseconds. Ultrashort Pulse lasers have been around for a while. One was even used on my eyeballs a few years back. These pulses are so fast that the biggest issue would be getting information to the laser fast enough. The straight line theoretical speed of this technique ranges in the Terabytes per second, with densities limited by the capabilities of the nanotech used to create the islands.
To be clear, this isn't the first time heat or lasers has been used in magnetic media. TDK pioneered Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording tech years ago, but that tech is only heat *assisted*. This new breakthrough is writing, with heat, without the magnet at all. Now the only trick is figuring out how to read such a high density of tiny written bits. Since the laser writes much smaller than a magnetic head could accomplish, we might see a reversion back to optics for the reads.We're not sure how long before this technology appears on your desktop, but what we can say is that magnetic storage is not dead yet.
Subject: General Tech | February 7, 2012 - 06:39 PM | Scott Michaud
Wait, it's not Funday Monday -- why is Sean "Day" Plott dicking around? Should this not be the day where he teaches us to be a better gamer? For the release of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, Day and Felicia Day (henceforth referred to as Felicia Day) are streaming the game for the internet to see. If you are considering purchasing the game, or you enjoy watching a videogame adventurer occasionally run around in his boxers -- tune on in.
Felicia Day and friends fun-time variety show!
The event originally started as Day streaming launch-day play. During his preparation, he asked a few people if they wanted to play with him. Currently there are about a dozen internet celebrities playing in several countries. 38 Studios, the developer of the game, also caught wind of the event and offered prizes for viewers such as game codes and a giant swag hammer.
Fair warning, language is not exactly for a general audience.
Subject: General Tech | February 7, 2012 - 11:55 AM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: hdd, thailand, flooding
TechSpot did some number crunching to develop the chart you can see below which tracks the price of HDDs from September, before the flooding in Thailand straight through to last week. The spike upwards as stock and manufacturing capability was destroyed is easily noticeable but then the pattern starts to fragment. The Green lines from Seagate and WD seem to have the most resiliency, being among the first to start decreasing in price and the only ones with a still declining price. The large drives, such as the 3TB Barracuda not only declined to reduced their price but are actually getting more expensive. The mobile side of the market is also covered though it does not seem as hard hit as their desktop cousins. They didn't collect data on Enterprise drives, which are few and far between for anyone looking to grow their data centre, since it is the mobile and desktop HDDs which interest most readers. Check out the numbers here.
"The hard disk drive supply chain was hit hard late last year when a series of floods struck Thailand. The Asian country accounts for about a quarter of the world's hard drive production, but thousands of factories had to close shop for weeks as facilities were under water, in what is considered the world's fourth costliest natural disaster according to World Bank estimates. That's on top of the human cost of over 800 lives."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Adobe adds Flash sandboxing to Firefox @ The Register
- GK110 tapes out at last @ SemiAccurate
- Fabless Works for AMD @ SemiAccurate
- Nouveau Project Reverse-Engineered NVIDIA OpenCL Driver @ Phoronix
- Vendors dropping ultrabook prices in preparation of second-generation models @ DigiTimes
- TRENDnet TEW-692GR 450Mbps Concurrent Dual Band Wireless N Router and TEW-680MB HD Media Bridge @ X-bit Reviews
- eTeknix Tech Review Of 2011
- Corsair Vengeance M60 FPS Gaming Mouse Contest @ Legit Reviews
Subject: General Tech | February 6, 2012 - 05:03 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: audio, asus, Xonar Essence One
The Asus Xonar Essence One is an external soundcard and DAC designed specifically for use with high end earphones. This is designed for use by people with very discerning ears, if you are not much of an audiophile or only use $50 headphones you will be missing out on the benefits Xonar Essence One offers. If you are quite willing to discuss the merits of unbalanced and balanced outputs however this device is worth investigating. The quality parts contributed to the premuim price of $600 but they also raised the audio quality enough for the ears of the Kitguru reviewer who highly recommends this for professional musicians and audiophiles.
"Today we are looking at the latest ‘audiophile’ grade Asus Xonar Essence One external soundcard and digital to analogue converter. The Essence series of products have targeted the enthusiast and audiophile user now for some time, using high grade components such as BurrBrown DAC chips. Today we analyse the latest Xonar Essence One from ASUS in a very challenging environment, paired up with a flagship, limited edition Valve/Tube CD player and award winning Audeze LCD2 headphones."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Westone 4R In-ears @ techPowerUp
- NuForce uDAC-2 Digital-to-Analog Converter Review @ TechwareLabs
- Thermaltake Tt eSports Shock Spin Gaming Headset @ Pro-Clockers
- Arctic Living Audio Relay Wireless Media Extender Review @ eTeknix
- SteelSeries Sibera v2 – Natus Vincere edition @ XSReviews
- Microlab M700 2.1 speakers @ XSReviews
Subject: General Tech | February 6, 2012 - 02:35 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: input, gaming mouse, cooler master, CMStorm, xornet
The CMStorm Xornet attempts to give you the performance of a full sized gaming mouse in a form small enough to be easily portable. It still features the 2000 DPI Storm Tactical Optical Sensor that its bigger relatives sport as well as programmable buttons. Red & Blackness Mods had some trouble getting used to the shape of the mouse, it is smaller lengthwise but much taller than other mice in the CMStorm lineup. If you find yourself on the road and in need of a gaming mouse, for $30 CoolerMaster might have the perfect solution.
"Corsair has recently entered the mouse/keyboard gaming peripherals market and decided to make a good impression. The M90 mouse features multiple programmable buttons for RTS/MMO gamers, contains an aluminum chassis for increased durability and comes with the Avago Technologies ADNS-9500 LaserStream Gaming Sensor."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Corsair Vengeance M60 @ OC3D
- Thermaltake Azurues Gaming Mouse @ Pro-Clockers
- Roccat Isku Keyboard @ Rbmods
- Cyborg M.M.O. 7 Gaming Mouse Review @ HardwareHeaven
- CM Storm Xornet Gaming Mouse @ Rbmods
- SteelSeries World of Warcraft MMO Gaming Mouse Review - Legendary Edition @ Legit Reviews
- GeiL Epicgear MEDUZA Mouse @ Hardwareoverclock
- Cyborg GLIDE 7 Gaming Surface Review @ eTeknix
- ROCCAT Alumic Mouse Pad @ techPowerUp
- Corsair Vengeance K60 FPS Gaming Keyboard @ Kitguru
- QPad MK-80 Mechanical Keyboard Review @ eTeknix
- QPAD MK-85 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard @ techPowerUp
- ROCCAT Isku Illuminating Gaming Keyboard Review @ HardwareLOOK
Subject: General Tech | February 6, 2012 - 12:36 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: amd, piledriver, Seoul, Abu Dhabi, fad
One of the many interesting bits of information AMD disseminated at this years FAD started some conjecture about possible problems with Piledriver. It seems that somewhere along the line AMD dropped a module on the Seou chip bringing its core count down from 10 to 8. Once the hue and cry died down a bit a theory propounded by SemiAccurate offered a sensible theory for the change. It seems likely that AMD initially developed this family of chips with the belief that DDR4 would have made it to market by now, perhaps in compensation for the delay in adopting DDR3. Unfortunately DDR4 is nowhere to be seen outside of testing laboratories which has had an effect on AMD's development plans. Without new memory there is no extra memory bandwidth which will in turn starve the extra cores on the chip and likely slow the performance of all of the cores. Instead AMD opted to trim out the extra cores and as a benefit they get to utilize their existing sockets as opposed to introducing another one.
"A lot of people are in a tizzy because AMD (NYSE:AMD) has changed the upcoming Seoul CPU from 10 to 8 cores. The general responses ranges from AMD incompetence to apocalypse, but all it really signals is a lack of technical understanding on their behalf.
The slide in question was the server roadmap we wrote up here. It introduces Piledriver cored Abu Dhabi and Seoul chips, successors to the Bulldozer based Interlagos and Valencia respectively. The base part has 4 modules/8 cores, and the bigger variant is two of those in a package. The big controversy is that they were supposed to be 5 module/10 core parts."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Micron appoints a new CEO @ The Inquirer
- DIY Windows 8 Tablet @ Hack a Day
- The TR Podcast 105: Eye candy and SSD scaling
- Scott Luminor Sound and Light Wireless System (i-DXS 10 L Luminor) @ Tweaktown
- Timeline: Eight Years of Facebook Features, Feats and Flops @ TechReviewSource
- Win two fully-loaded Intel Ivy Bridge powered PCs @ Kitguru
Subject: General Tech | February 6, 2012 - 12:27 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: verizon, subscription service, redbox, movies
Netflix has stood at the top of the hill for quite a while now as the streaming and disc subscription service of choice despite the price hikes and Warner Brothers' stupidity in regards to the 56 day waiting period to get a DVD (although it takes only an hour to pirate...). They may have a new contender later this year; however, because, Verizon and Coinstar (the company behind Redbox) are teaming up to create a joint venture that will launch a new subscription service offering physical discs through the Redbox kiosks and streaming and download-able movies through Verizon.
The new joint venture will launch the product portfolio in the second half of 2012, according to Verizon. Further, the joint venture will be a limited liability company with Verizion holding a 65% stake and Coinstar holding a 35% stake. Neither company was willing to go into details on how much the subscription would cost or how exactly it would work at this time due to "competitive concerns." They did dole out a few small bits of information about the service, however.
Verizon's President of Consumer and Mass Business Markets Bob Mudge talked confidently about the new streaming service during a conference call to the press where he talked about putting Verizon's large Fiber to the Home (their FIOS service), DSL, and Wireless 4G LTE networks to work to deliver streaming services "to all consumers across the US" whenever they want and on the devices they want to use. Meanwhile, Coinstar will be using the thousands of Redbox kiosks in malls, grocery stores, Wal-Marts, Walgreens, and gas stations to deliver physical discs to consumers throughout the US. They are planning a single source, multi-platform, national product, and will be releasing more details as they get closer to the launch window.
It is certainly interesting, and the streaming subscription space could really use healthy competition and companies with enough weight to throw around to muscle the studios into entering the 21st century with increased streaming licenses and better contract deals. Redbox has recently revolted against Warner Brothers' 56 day waiting period in favor of obtaining the movies through other means, so the studios are not exactly friendly to renting discs much less streaming rights. Here's hoping that the new joint venture can become profitable and serve as further proof that providing a subscription service is a viable revenue stream to studios while being affordable to consumers. A commenter on another forum suggested that it would be a great idea for Verizon to incorporate the streaming service into its FIOS plans as a value add, which is a move that would certainly spread adoption and give the company a quick influx of users!
Do you think Verizon and Coinstar (Redbox) can take on Netflix?
Subject: General Tech | February 6, 2012 - 11:19 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, windows, start orb, start button, microsoft, crazy
Microsoft is continuing full steam ahead with Windows 8 development where they axe many of the familiar features of previous Windows iterations. According to a post over at The Verge, the latest feature to get removed is the start button of all things. In the "Consumer Preview" version of the upcoming operating system, users will be greeted with a desktop that shows application icons and the Super Bar, but no start button in sight.
Oddly enough, they are removing the Start button in favor of a small area in the lower left of the screen that, when hovered over with a mouse or swiped over on a touchscreen, a Windows 8 charm (small menu) will appear along with a thumbnail preview of the mode that will be switched to upon clicking the element. For example, when you are in the Metro Start Screen mode, hovering over this area would show a small preview of the full Windows desktop and vice versa.
I'm a bit confused by this move as it doesn't really add anything to the experience, and makes the start "button" hover area harder to hit and find. Tech support people are likely crying now, as it is difficult enough to get people to click on the start button much less have the patience to hover over an area or perform a swipe action in the lower left of the screen! Not to mention that the start button has been a signature of the Microsoft operating system since Windows 95. At least the Windows key (i hope) still works as expected, but it seems like a non sensical move. How do you guys feel about the change? Will you be keeping your relatives and/or employees on Windows 7 (heh)?
Subject: General Tech | February 4, 2012 - 09:32 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: storage space, share files, free storage, free space, free, dropbox 1.3.13, dropbox, cloud storage, backup files
Update: Dropbox is still running the beta testing extra space promotion. The latest Experimental Forum Build is version
1.3.15 1.3.19. Dropbox is still running the promotion; however, users from here on out will be limited to 3 GB total extra space. Anyone that got in before 1.3.19 and earned 5 GB will continue to keep the full 5 GB of extra space. More information is available here.
I recently needed some video files from the PC Perspective office, and we decided to use the Dropbox file sharing service to get them to me. i hit a bit of a snag; however, when I realized that I had nowhere near the amount of storage needed. Fortunately, I was able to download the individual files from the shared folder on the Dropbox website. It was sort of a nod at the idea that one can never have too much storage space, however.
That got me searching around the Internet for ideas on how to increase my available storage space for free, and fortunately came across a forum post on the Dropbox website for a beta version of the program wherein they were offering 5 GB of extra (and free!) storage space to those adventurous enough to test out the program by uploading 4.5 GB of photos or videos (which you can rename, move, or delete afterwards if you wish). The extra free space you get will remain even if you move or delete the uploaded photos and after the beta period, barring any unforseen decision change on Dropbox's part. Further, I found the process easy enough that it was worth sharing with our readers who may use the file sharing and backup service themselves.
According to their latest forum post, the new Dropbox beta application is version 1.3.13 (though the beta started at version 1.3) which fixes a few bugs, but more importantly, adds a new feature that automatically uploads photos and videos from SD cards (and other storage devices that store photos and videos in a "DCIM" folder) and other storage devices on the PC application and your Android smart phone using a beta of the Dropbox Android app. The first photo or video upload imported into Dropbox grants you a 500 MB "bonus," and then for every 500 MB of photos and videos that you allow Dropbox to import, they will give you an additional 500 MB of free additional storage space, up to a total of 5 GB (including the starting bonus). Let's get into exactly how you go about auto-importing photos.
On the Windows PC side of things, you will need to download the latest Dropbox beta build which is currently version 1.3.13. Once download from the link in the previous sentence, install it (if you already have the program installed, just install over the previous install), and then log into your account (or create a new one*). Next, make sure that you have AutoPlay enabled via Windows Control Panel (it should be by default). You should be all set to import as many photos and videos as your internet connection can handle to get all your free space. Pop in an SD card or other USB storage device into your computer via USB. Windows should open up an AutoPlay dialog box in response. There should further be a new option in the AutoPlay window titled "Import pictures and videos using Dropbox." Select that and Dropbox will begin uploading them to their cloud storage servers in a new folder called "Camera Uploads." Once the batch of photos are uploaded, Dropbox pops up a notification in notification area (lower right of the window) as seen in the photo above.
You can also use a beta of the Dropbox client on your Android powered smartphone to upload photos and videos to the service, and to apply towards your free Dropbox space. While not yet on the Android Market, you can download the beta application as a .apk file to your phone, and then install it from that downloaded file. The apk package in question is the Dropbox Experimental Android Forum Build 2.0.9 and can be downloaded via a link at the bottom of this article. All that's needed on the Android side of things (at least on my Samsung Infuse 4G), is to start up the application and log in. After that, any photos or videos I take with my phone's camera are automatically uploaded to the dropbox service. Although Google already has a similar automatic uploading service to its Google+ website, the Dropbox application is even a bit more useful because they are not only "in the cloud" but sitting on my desktop at home.
The Android Dropbox beta application
Unfortunately, Linux and Macintosh users are out of luck on the extra free space; however, I'm sure they will get a chance at it when the beta Dropbox application is closer to completion. Now that you know how to get your hands on some free space, go forth and beef up those Dropbox accounts! Some other methods for free space include adding a .edu email account to your account (to make it a Student Account) for an extra 500 MB of storage space an an increase referral bonus of 500 MB per referral, completing the various tutorials and quests on the Dropbox website, and getting referral sign ups. Do you use Dropbox, and if so what do you like (or hate) about it? Community discussion engage!
*Speaking of referrals, this is a referral link that costs you nothing and will give me and you an extra 250 MB of storage space. If; however, you're not into that sort of thing (for some odd reason), you can create a new account by heading over their main website at dropbox.com