Apple May Build New Data Center In Oregon

Subject: General Tech | December 4, 2011 - 10:28 PM |
Tagged: server farm, Internet, data center, cloud, apple

CNet is reporting that Apple is currently considering constructing a new data center outside of Prineville, Oregon. The 31 Megawatt facility would be built on 160 acres outside of the small Oregon town and would join other prominent tech companies’ data centers including those of Facebook, Amazon, and Google.

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According to Oregon Live, it is the area’s mild climate (meaning lower cooling costs compared to naturally warmer climates in addition to all the heat from servers), low electricity costs, and certain “rural enterprise zones” that exempt computers and equipment from normal business property taxes. They state that such exemptions could save Apple several million dollars.

Although Apple has so far declined to comment, city officials have commented that the company looking to purchase the land for the data center codenamed “Maverick” appears to be serious about going through with the purchase. Two major issues stand in the way of Apple building a large data center in the area, however. The company is concerned about tax issues against their intangible assets. Due to Apple putting a great deal of stock (er, the other kind :P) in their brand name, trademarks, and patents, they could face further taxes in the way Oregon’s State Department of Revenue taxes data centers. The largest issue; however, lies in power concerns. In order to supply enough electricity to the various data centers in the area (including Apples should they indeed be building one), Bonneville Power Administration would need to upgrade the Ponderosa Substation, construct an additional substation, and add further transmission lines. This is because the utility company’s transmission capacity to the area is currently nearly maxed out. A 31 Megawatt data center would consume enough electricity to power approximately 22,000 homes and that kind of capacity is not available in an area where towns are a fifth of that size.

The upgrade to the areas electrical subsystems would cost nearly $26.5 million and would take almost three years. Member Services Director for the Central Electric Cooperative, Jeff Beaman, believes that after the appropriate upgrades, a new data center “seems doable.”

Whether this elusive “Maverick” is indeed Apple, and whether the company decides to build a data center remains to be seen; however, it is certainly plausible. Now that Apple is moving more services to the Internet, and the increased adoption of IOS devices thanks to the iPhone being available on all the major US carriers, the company would definitely benefit from having another facility on the other side of the country as their current North Carolina based data center for performance as well as redundancy and stability reasons. What are your thoughts on the reports, is Apple looking to put more cloud (server horsepower) in your icloud?

Source: Oregon Live

Mighty Mite; the ARM Cortex A15 and Samsung

Subject: General Tech | December 2, 2011 - 01:37 PM |
Tagged: Exynos 5250, Samsung, cortex a15, arm, 32nm

Samsung is the first to put ARM's new chip into a product, the Cortex A15.  While only 500MHz faster on paper, enhancements to the architecture have wonks predicting double the performance of the Cortex A9.  This little chip will be capable of outputting 2560 x 1600 video over DisplayPort as well as supporting SATA, UART, and USB 3.0.  This is a rather impressive list for a chip from a manufacturer that many have ignored.  You can bet that the power consumption on this chip will be minuscule, but the capabilities are not.  Check out SemiAccurate for the full story.

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"Samsung (SEO:005930) has started sampling a processor based on the latest microarchitecture, the A15, from ARM. The processor is fabbed using 32nm high-k metal gate low-power process technology. The processor clocks in at 2GHz, but thanks to advances in the microarchitecture, it is roughly twice as powerful as an A9-based processor running at 1.5GHz.

Samsung has named its new chip the Exynos 5250."

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Source: SemiAccurate

Algorithms, Voxels, and Octrees - Oh my indeed!

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards | December 2, 2011 - 03:45 AM |
Tagged: nvidia

Even back around 2005 when the rush was still getting higher and higher resolutions to fill the finally high-resolution TVs, I always assumed that the next trail blazed in the graphics war would be lighting. Lighting is a complicated process which we are all very accustomed to it being done perfectly due to our living in the real world. Technologies such as Unreal Lightmass, PureLight, and Autodesk Beast have created more realistic lighting profiles that account for multiple bounces but cannot change in games like Mirror’s Edge. Battlefield 3, thanks to Geomerics, is one of the first games to take this problem on in semi real time such that if you alter a light the indirect lighting changes with it. The advancement does not stop there according to a recent NVIDIA blog which details research into better real time lighting.

That hand has got to be illegal in all 50 states.

P.S. -- For a 3d Technology company, just 480p Youtube -- really?

While the blog is quite vague in how the technology actually is producing its results, those results appear to be quite spectacular in quality. Unfortunately, while the quality looks amazing for being rendered at 25-70 FPS, there is no mention of what system is required to achieve those 25-70 FPS. Back to the vagueness: the demonstration is apparently not being performed upon triangular meshes relying on voxels instead. According to their explanation, their second lighting bounce is approximated to a single cone rather than multiple rays. If I understand their cone method enough, this approximation is incapable by design of expanding to third bounces and beyond; it appears to be a simplification that falls out of restricting yourself to just two lighting bounces in a voxel environment.

Regardless of when and how it will influence our technology; does the demonstration excite you for technologies to come? Place your predictions in the comments.

Source: NVIDIA Blogs

Lephone leaked by Lenovo

Subject: General Tech | December 1, 2011 - 02:23 PM |
Tagged: Lenovo, lephone, Android, windows phone

Lenovo is moving into BlackBerry's territory with several new mobile products, two phones and a tablet that can act as as phone.  The first phone will be running an older version of Android and bears the unfortunate name of Lephone K2.  The Inquirer reports that the other will be running Windows Phone OS though it would not be at all surprising if it ends up based on Win8.  This may really hurt RIM as they are currently the choice of smartphone for enterprise users; these same users are likely using a Lenovo as their PC.  With the already established place that Lenovo bears in the office, if they can create a decent phone that interacts with their Lenovo laptop or desktop, they could push RIM right out of the office.

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"CHINESE HARDWARE VENDOR Lenovo has unveiled not one but two smartphones, the Lephone K2 and an unnamed Windows Phone 7.5 Mango device.

The Lephone K2 is the Android device and will come with Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread, not Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Details are very light on Windows alternative, apart from that it will run Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system and tip up in the second half of next year, according to PC Mag."

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Source: The Inquirer

Need style in your portable speakers?

Subject: General Tech | November 30, 2011 - 03:39 PM |
Tagged: audio, portable speakers, krator, N4-20U05 Neso 04

If you are on the road doing a presentation for clients or even just stuck playing DJ from a laptop with no real sound system it can help to have a nice looking set of speakers.  Pulling out a pair of old cream coloured boxes you've been dragging around for the past 5+ years just doesn't make the best of impressions.  Krator and their N4-20U05 Neso 04 stereo speakers on the other hand have a shape that is likely to bring positive comments from those who see them.  As an added bonus, apart from weak bass performance, XSReviews found these speakers to be quite good for the low cost.  Shame that you need to power them but at least it is over USB and not mains.

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"Krator are a Taiwanese company who are “on a mission to transform the landscape of consumer audio and computer gaming” and have recently released a stylish new range of speakers, including a new set in the Neso 04 range, inspired by raindrops."

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Source: XSReviews

So you want to play Batman? Dump the DX11!

Subject: General Tech | November 30, 2011 - 12:51 PM |
Tagged: gaming, batman arkham city, dx11, oops, consolitis

Just in case you were under the impression that Ryan was the only one having issues with DirectX 11 in Batman Arkham City, check out the problems [H]ard|OCP had.  DX11 was essentially unplayable even on multi-GPU systems, with NVIDIA handling the game a little better than AMD.  Using DX 11 in the game enables HBAO and tessellation as well as something new for NVIDIA users called Multi-View Soft Shadows, which do add to the visual quality of the game, if you are willing to live with an average 30fps or so ... with bonus stuttering.  Even better, this is yet another example of a game with its frames capped by default, not quite as bad as Need For Speed The Run but it is still limited to 24-62fps until an .ini file tweak is performed.

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"Batman: Arkham City is upon us, and we wanted to give you a preliminary look at how performance is stacking up. We've found some issues running in DX11 that seem to be a detriment to gameplay. DX11 may not be the best option, at this time, for this game, our performance data and feedback explain why."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Two families of lower power Intel chips arriving soon

Subject: General Tech | November 30, 2011 - 12:24 PM |
Tagged: cedar trail m, atom, 32nm, sandybridge DT, Pentium 350, socket 1155

There are two very different families of low power chips from Intel; one of which is available now and the other will be shipping in December after a 2 month delay.  First off are the new Atom chips which DigiTimes mentions, both dual core 32nm Cedar Trail-M parts.  Neither chip represent any major changes to the Atom lineup apart from a die shrink which allows higher frequencies at lower power.  The original delay was reported to be because of issues with 64-bit support as well as DX10 support but there has been no definitive news either way about if those problems will exist on release.   The graphics core does jump from 400MHz to 640MHz which may help Atom compete with Llano but it is still not going to be a fair competition.

The Register reports on a completely different low power chip which may find its way into some server applications.  Don't let the name fool you, the Pentium 350 is a Sandy Bridge-DT chip based on the same core you find in the Xeon E3 chips that are already on the market.  They support Turbo Boost, Trusted Execution Technology, Hyperthreading and virtualization optimization as well as all the other improvements in the Sandy Bridge lineup.  The 32nm chip has two cores running at 1.2GHz, sports a TDP of 20W and is expected to sell for around $150.  At that price and TDP it is unlikely to be a good answer to the smaller chips that ARM is now trying to sneak into the server room but at least Intel now has a low power chip for the server room.

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"Intel will launch its Cedar Trail-M platform for netbooks including 32nm-based Atom N2800 and N2600 processors in December, according to industry sources.

Because of shrinking demand for Atom processors and chipsets due to competition from tablet PCs, Intel's third-quarter 2011 revenues of US$269 million from related products dropped 32% on year, the sources indicated. Due to weak demand, Intel has delayed Cedar Trail-M from September to December, the sources noted."

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Source: DigiTimes

Gear Up with MSI: Win Intel Motherboards, GeForce Graphics Cards

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Motherboards | November 30, 2011 - 11:13 AM |
Tagged: z68, x79, sandy bridge-e, msi, GTX 580, GTX 560, giveaway, contest

This is a pretty big week here at PC Perspective as we released our highly anticipated review of the Intel Sandy Bridge-E and X79 platform.  If you haven't read that over, you need to do so, right away!!  But we also have some impressive gear to giveaway thanks to our friends at MSI and their "Gear Up with MSI" campaign!

What are the prizes?  I know that's what you want to know first...

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Wow, these are some stellar prizes!  First prize basically gets the components required for one of the fastest gaming rigs on the planet while the 2nd prize will be able to play Batman: Arkham City with all the top settings! 

So what do you have to do to win these prizes?  The steps are simple:

  1. Make a comment on this post thanking MSI for this kick ass contest!!  That's pretty simple right?  You don't have to register, though we would appreciate it!
  2. Like MSI on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MSI.ComputerUS
    1. (Just a hint, they have a lot of Facebook-specific contests throughout the year!)
  3. Like PC Perspective on Facebook: http://facebook.com/pcper
  4. Follow PC Perspective on Twitter: http://twitter.com/pcper
  5. Circle PC Perspective on Google+: http://gplus.to/pcper
    1. (Another hint, comments on our G+ post about this contest get another entry!)

We will pick random winners in our pool of entries on Wednesday, the 7th of December!  Sorry, US and Canada residents only for this one!  If you don't have a Facebook/Twitter/Google+ account commenting here will still enter you.

Oh, and if you haven't seen the other contest MSI is running around the release of Batman: Arkham City, you should check out this page on their site.  Posting a photo of yourself dressed up like Batman has never been so lucrative! 

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The Grand Prize for MSI's Batman Photo Contest!!

Winners Announced!!  Sorry about the late update, but we did pick our winners!  The first prize went to use "Equinox2355" and the second prize went to "Deman".  Thanks to everyone for participating and we'll have more contests very soon!!!

Too good to be true? Truth goggles for your browser

Subject: General Tech | November 29, 2011 - 01:14 PM |
Tagged: Internet, fact check

Definately falling into the "I'll beleive it when I see it" category is an extension developed by an MIT student for his Masters thesis which is intended to check the accuracy of information on the web.  Specifically, with the help of Politifact it will be checking the accuracy of political statements.  The big problem is going to be the quality of the facts database it checks against, as you can only be as good as the database so if it gets out of date or starts to lean one way or the other it might do more harm than good.  On the other hand we can hope that this might make people a little more leery of getting their information from only one source and not doing even a bit of fact checking on their own.  Take a look at the full story over at The Register.

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Thanks Neiman Journalism Lab!

"A student at MIT’s Media Lab is developing a browser plug-in that can check the accuracy of information posted online, and may use it to monitor political speeches for untruths.

For his master’s thesis, Dan Schultz – who was recently named a 2011 Knight-Mozilla Fellow – came up with the idea for “truth goggles” while talking to a fact checker at Truthsquad, who was explaining that the principle problem with fact checking was getting people access to the skinny. Schultz then came up with the idea as a way to correct incorrect information, but more importantly to get people to think critically about what they are reading."

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Source: The Register

Seagate Technology Provides Updated Financial Outlook

Subject: General Tech | November 29, 2011 - 12:23 PM |
Tagged: Seagate, hdd, earnings

It seems very interesting that Seagate is so upbeat about their earnings with the flooding in Thailand causing huge supply shortages of HDD world wide.  Last year at this time they were expecting 170 million units move, whereas this year is is 110-120 million units with demand outstripping supply.  That number does reflect some supply issues but perhaps not as bad as the issues faced by Western Digital and other manufacturers with a large presence in Thailand.  The profit being higher does show what happens when you have a product people want but cannot find; the price per unit quickly goes up and the business can still make a profit.  We can only hope that as supply returns to the chain that the price drops at the same speed it has risen.  We still do not have final word on Seagate's absorption of Samsung's HDD business, that will likely be in January.

CUPERTINO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Seagate Technology plc (NASDAQ:STX) today updated its financial outlook for the December 2011 and March 2012 quarters.

The company continues to believe that, due to the industry impacts caused by the extensive flooding in Thailand, hard disk drive supply will be significantly constrained for several quarters. For the December 2011 quarter, the company believes the industry will ship between 110-120 million units.

The company believes the industry’s ability to manufacture and ship hard disks drives will gradually improve throughout calendar 2012. While this may alleviate some of the unit demand shortfall, it is expected that some companies will optimize unit shipments by manufacturing lower component count/lower capacity hard disk drives; thereby, only modestly offsetting the growing petabyte shortage. Because demand is estimated to significantly exceed supply during this time, pricing is expected to remain stable.

Financial Outlook
The company’s component and disk drive factories in Thailand have not been directly affected by the flood; however, the company’s ability to manufacture hard disk drives has been impacted due to external component supply constraints as first disclosed on October 12, 2011.

For the December 2011 quarter, the company now expects unit shipments of approximately 43 million units and revenue of approximately $2.8 billion. Gross margin as a percent of revenue is expected to be 150-300 basis points above the high-end of the company’s long-term, targeted gross margin range of 22-26%. Operating expenses (R&D and SG&A) are expected to be approximately $400 million. Expenses related to the acquisition of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd’s (“Samsung”) hard disk drive business and any revenue or operating expenses of the acquired business following the closing date cannot be estimated at this time and are therefore excluded from this outlook. The company continues to expect to close the acquisition of Samsung’s hard disk drive business by the end of December 2011.

The company’s outlook for the March 2012 quarter assumes requisite regulatory approvals are received and the Samsung acquisition closes in December of 2011. The company also continues to work with its external suppliers to restore the component supply chain, and now expects that in the March quarter it will be capable of shipping a mix of products in terms of capacity per drive and expected market similar to pre-flood levels. Currently, for the March 2012 quarter, the company expects unit shipments to increase sequentially. Revenue is expected to be at least $3.75 billion and gross margin as a percent of revenue is expected to be at least 300 basis points above the aforementioned targeted range of 22-26%. The outlook for the March 2012 quarter excludes certain costs related to the integration of the acquired Samsung hard disk drive operations which cannot be estimated at this time.

The financial outlook provided today does not include the arbitration award previously disclosed on November 21, 2011.