CUDA been done sooner! NVIDIA open sources CUDA platform

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | December 15, 2011 - 04:03 AM |
Tagged: CUDA

NVIDIA lays as the current front-runner for the “Last Year’s Best Decision, This Year” award. You may remember our coverage last June of the AMD Fusion Developer Summit; industry members such as ARM, Microsoft, and of course AMD discussed the potential of utilizing specialized processors and developing on open platforms such as OpenCL and Microsoft’s announced C++ AMP. Do you know what would have been an amazing announcement for AFDS to stomp OpenCL and C++ AMP? That NVIDIA would open up CUDA. Know what announcement missed that bus by a whole half a year? NVIDIA will open up CUDA.

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Your platform pooh-pooh? Bear a CUDA.

While I just harassed NVIDIA for their timing, it might not be too late. CUDA is still a powerhouse of a GPGPU platform with substantial software support from absolute mammoth software packages such as Adobe Creative Suite to smaller projects like KGPU. With the open sourcing of the CUDA compiler, NVIDIA is also permitting manufacturers like AMD and even Intel to support CUDA with their GPUs, x86 CPUs, and other processing units. While I am excited at this outcome, I am still somewhat confused about NVIDIA’s timing: they are just a little late to open up and crush the market, and they seem quite abrupt if they originally intended CUDA to survive as a forever-proprietary computing platform.

Source: NVIDIA

Google Extending Free Domestic Gmail Calling Another Year

Subject: General Tech | December 15, 2011 - 01:09 AM |
Tagged: voip, google, gmail

Just in time for the holidays, Google is extending the free domestic calling via the Gmail VOIP service another year. Last year the company extended the free computer to telephone VOIP service another year and now they are doing it again. “This is our way of helping you connect with friends and family across the country,” states their recent blog entry.

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In case you haven’t used the Gmail VOIP service yet, it is similar to the computer to computer and computer to cellphone (or land line) calling that you can do in Google Voice, only this is integrated into Gmail. It does require a small browser plug-in; however, it is worth it. Accessing it by clicking on the “Call a phone” link in the Gmail sidebar (in the chat/SMS section), you are able to put that headset to work by calling anyone in the US and Canada for free. I’ve used it a couple of times and found it to be rather handy for quick conversations while at my computer. Have you tried it out yet, and did you find it useful?

Source: Google

Holy failed patch Batman!

Subject: General Tech | December 14, 2011 - 12:42 PM |
Tagged: gaming, dx11, batman arkham city

Batman makes it three for three as far as failed patches go for the current major releases.  Battlefield's patch was probably the best of the three, Skyrim being the worst with Batman's simply failing to deliver what it promised ... improved DX11 performance.  [H]ard|OCP recently reviewed the original game and now has published the results of their testing with the new patch.  The good news is that most of the stuttering and crashes have been fixed, leaving only significantly lower performance when in DX11 mode compared to DX9.  Originally you could expect a 50% reduction in fps when enabling DX11 and NVIDIA users can expect the same results at this point, AMD users will see their performance reduced by even more than pre-patch though the game its self should be more stable.  If you want to run Batman Arkham Asylum at high resolution, you better have two GPUs.

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"Days after our Batman: Arkham City Gameplay Performance and IQ review was published, the game was patched. The patch was ostensibly reported to fix DirectX 11 performance problems plaguing the game, but does it really do the trick? Where do our DX11 video cards stand now?"

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Bad for reviewers, great for gamers ... AMD will allow non-reference Tahiti graphics cards

Subject: General Tech | December 14, 2011 - 12:00 PM |
Tagged: tahiti, radeon, pitcairn, overclock, HD7000, amd

One quickly forgets about the initially released reference GPUs once the cards with custom coolers, capacitors and PCBs arrive on the market all cool and factory overclocked.  Usually the original GPU and card designer, in this case AMD, licenses theit top tier partners, like MSI , Gigabyte or Sapphire, to sell cards following a design that AMD provides along with the license to design and sell the cards.  As SemiAccurate points out, this has lead to a market where the only unique feature they can add is usually armed and wearing a bikini.  After the card has been on the market for a while, then AMD allows non-reference designs to appear for some cards from some manufacturers.

Not so with one of the four lineups of GPUs soon to arrive on the market, AMD will be freeing us from the tyranny of Ruby in different outfits and allow their partners to modify the Tahiti Pro cards from the get go.  Expect to see a large difference in the appearance and specifications of AMD's new high end series of cards.  That is the only one of the four to get this treatment, Tahiti, Pitcairn and Pitcairn XT cards will still come out only as copies of the reference card design.  This may change over time but for now the idea of custom cooler, power distribution and PCB design is something to look forward to in the coming years.

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"Back to the new news, and it concerns the Tahiti Pro card. Word has reached SemiAccurate that Tahiti Pro will be unconstrained to the normal reference designs. If you recall, most GPU manufacturers will force AIBs to make cards based on the reference design for the first 3 months or so, and there are a variety of very good business reasons to do this.

Unfortunately, it leads to a problem where the reviews all are the same, mainly because all the cards are the same. The main difference between manufacturers comes down to what color the AIB decides to put on the chrome bikini of the girl with the big sword riding the mythical beast just below their logo. We are partial to Hafnium bikini’s on women riding giant Were-moles around here. Luckily, Tahiti Pro changes this."

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Source: SemiAccurate

Are you part of the 5% ... that won't be able to find a hard drive?

Subject: General Tech | December 13, 2011 - 12:40 PM |
Tagged: hdd, shortage, thailand

DigiTimes has been doing some good old fashioned investigative journalism and has come up with some (almost) good news about HDD shortages.  With the news coming out of Western Digital that they are set to resume HDD manufacturing sooner than was originally projected, along with the factories that produce parts for other hard drive manufacturers, DigiTimes predicts a 5% supply gap by Q2 2012.  This significant improvement will come too late for the Christmas season, which is why companies like Intel are lowering their economic outlook for this and the next quarter.  With a shortage of hard drives to put in machines comes a lowered demand for all other system components, the exception being machines utilizing only SSDs which do not make up a significant portion of the market.  By the third quarter of 2012, DigiTimes predicts a return to normalcy in the global supply of hard drives.  By that point we should also have a good idea how hard motherboard, CPU, GPU and other companies have been affected by the flooding in Thailand and subsequent shortages.

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"Thailand's floods in early October, have created strong impact toward the hard disk drive (HDD) supply chain, causing many PC brand vendors to miss business opportunities in the fourth quarter, the traditional peak season, but Digitimes Research senior analyst Joanne Chien believes hard drive capacity will see an obvious improvement starting February 2012 after experiencing the most serious shortages in December 2011 and January 2012.

Because brand vendors are already out of HDD inventory, shipment volumes of devices with HDDs in the first quarter of 2012 will remain at a similar level as in the fourth quarter of 2011, with the HDD supply gap to remain at about four million units. In the fourth quarter, brand vendors together have a total inventory volume of about 20 million units.

Benefiting from their crisis management capabilities, Western Digital and affected upstream HDD component makers are expected to restore 70% of their total capacity by March 2012, three months earlier than their original forecast."

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Source: DigiTimes

How much of PCI-E 3.0 is just marketing speak right now

Subject: General Tech | December 12, 2011 - 12:15 PM |
Tagged: PCI-E 3.0

You have likely noticed motherboards arriving on the market which claim to support PCI-E 3.0, doubling the bandwidth to 8 giga-transfers and bringing an end to the PCI-E 2.x we all know and love.  The problem lies in the lack of any add in cards which are also PCI-E 3.0 compliant; current generation cards will work in the slot but they will not see the full speed of the new standard.  Does this mean that buying a motherboard with the new standard is an investment for the future when an SSD or graphics card arrives on the market or would you just be wasting money on a marketing ploy?  That is the question Hardware Secrets asks in their recent article.

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"Recently, motherboard manufacturers have been fighting their hardest to differentiate their products from one another in an effort to re-invigorate the stagnant PC business. A lot of this messaging has taken a very aggressive turn, where companies have blatantly called out or attacked competing products for not being the real deal or being up-to-speed."

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HP bled some money, so they open sores their Palms.

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | December 11, 2011 - 03:52 AM |
Tagged: webOS, open source, hp

Sure, this title is little more than a series of bad puns. That said, HP’s situation has recently seems like little more than a series of bad jokes itself. Over the last year, HP appears to have been their own biggest public image disaster: they purchased Palm to release a tablet without much platform support; they shut down and liquidate the tablet after seven weeks; they flirt with disbanding their entire profitable division and draw intense media discussion over the death of the entire PC industry; and they sharply change their mind and keep their division long after the media damage ends. Despite that spiraling-out-of-control story, HP has just recently made a surprisingly sensible decision: Open Source WebOS.

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WebOS… Web Open Source… I get it now!

Obviously, we cannot tell exactly how good of a long-term decision it is for HP to support WebOS as an open project with the details we have now. A number of questions, not the least of which being about what open source license HP will use for their operating system, shroud the fate of WebOS as an open source platform. While I will not get excited yet, as I will not assume sensibility on the part of HP, it is entirely possible that HP can displace Android and Meego as the open mobile operating systems. Then again, it is entirely possible that HP can just crumble under Android and its other competitors and go back to cramming drops of ink into plastic containers and building large servers for corporate clients.

Depending on the license, as well as other factors, what do you think of WebOS as the open platform of choice?

Source: HP

SETI@Home rises again with the reopening of the Allen Telescope Array

Subject: General Tech | December 9, 2011 - 11:57 AM |
Tagged: seti, boinc

Last Spring U.C. Berkeley pulled their funding from the SETI Institute which lead to the closure of the Allen Telescope Array, part of the Hat Creek Observatory.  It has finally reopened and is once again searching the stars for a variety of objects thanks to public donations and interest by the US Air Force.  SETI is not just about searching for radio signals from the stars, it has discovered pulsars and exoplanets as well as contributing to the search for water on other planets. 

The interest shown by the Air Force has less to do with space aliens and more to do with the awareness of near earth objects such as satellites and orbiting ships.  In among the data that would be collected by the array would be positional information of these orbital objects. The extra accuracy would hopefully allow much better predictions as to the time and location that objects falling from orbit will arrive on Earth, such as happened recently

Consider helping out by dropping by the BOINC Forum and joining the PC Perspective SETI@Home team.

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"MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – The Allen Telescope Array (ATA) is once again searching planetary systems for signals that would be evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence. Among its first targets are some of the exoplanet candidates recently discovered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope.

“This is a superb opportunity for SETI observations,” said Jill Tarter, the Director of the Center for SETI Research at the SETI Institute. “For the first time, we can point our telescopes at stars, and know that those stars actually host planetary systems – including at least one that begins to approximate an Earth analog in the habitable zone around its host star. That’s the type of world that might be home to a civilization capable of building radio transmitters.”"

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Source: SETI

Gaming earbuds from Thermaltake for those who don't want to muss their hair

Subject: General Tech | December 8, 2011 - 05:08 PM |
Tagged: audio, in-ear, gaming headset, thermaltake, esports

For some people having a band across the top of the head to keep their headphones on can be a problem, being uncomfortable or too distracting when making videos or any other reason.  Thermaltake have come up with a solution for anyone who wants unobtrusive earphones and microphone with their eSPORTS Isurus.  It features in-ear headphones and an inline microphone as well as a carrying pouch and several in-ear plastic moulds.  XS Reviews was a little disappointed that they needed to play with their equalizer when switching from gaming to music and between different styles of music, but after the adjustment the sound was quite good.  For under $30 the Isurus seems like a good deal for those searching for this type of product.

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"Similar to the recently reviewed Azurues mouse, the Isurus gaming headset is part of the Tt eSPORTS lineup, the range announced by Thermaltake at CES in 2010 to provide additional gaming peripherals for the “world e-sport gaming area” due to “constant request” from distributors and end users."

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Source: XSReviews

Intel won't be the only one with 3D transistors for long

Subject: General Tech | December 8, 2011 - 12:24 PM |
Tagged: fujitsu, suvolta, Intel, transistor, tri-gate, ddc, deeply depleted channel

Fujitsu and SuVolta, a designer of custom CMOS chips, have announced the fruits of a recent joint project aimed at developing a 3-dimensional transistor to match Intel's FinFET.  As we have seen with Ivy Bridge, this advancement in transistor technology significantly reduces the power needs of a chip which utilizes them.  The current prototypes utilize a 65nm process but the companies claim it will easily scale to 32nm.  SemiAccurate also reports that the Deeply Depleted Channel shows an advantage over Intel's Tri-gate transistor design  as DDC is capable of handling variable threshold voltages; Intel's requires that all threshold voltages match.  It will be a while before we see these implemented at Fabs but it is nice to see competition in the next generation of transistor technology.

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"During the IEDM conference in Los Altos earlier today Fujitsu presented a paper jointly authored by SuVolta. The paper describes how a newly developed transistor with a deeply depleted channel can achieve the same power savings as those announced by Intel that has launched a FinFET-transistor, which the company calls a 3D transistor."

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Source: SemiAccurate