Archive for June 2009
Imagination is the name of the of company making the wicked cool low power graphics chip called PowerVR SGX. In the handheld manufacturing market Imagination scored two huge design wins. First was the Apple iPhone and iTouch. Second is the Palm Pre. It is very encouraging that the designers at Palm chose the PowerVR in order to create the iPhone killer. No doubt Palm benefited directly from inside knowledge of the iPhone when they hired former Apple VP Jon Rubinstein to head this new iPhone killer project at Palm.
Now Apple realizes it needs to protect it’s competitive advantage. They are sinking some several million dollars in Imagination stock to prevent any hostile takeover of their strategic partner. Even more interesting than this move on Apple’s part is Intel has already staked a huge claim on Imagination without having a single design win to announce. There’s some word out that future netbooks will use an integrated PowerVR chip. But the next revision of the Atom CPU and chipset will definitely have PowerVR integrated in, scoring some bigger more strategic design wins on the low power front. Intel hopes to best Apple at the low end, low power, long battery duration category.
The investment is considered important for Apple, which uses only PowerVR graphics in its iPhone and iPod touch devices. Its most recent launch, the iPhone 3GS, uses a PowerVR SGX video core now believed to be the SGX535.
I watched this program this past Tuesday and I noticed Slashdot and some other vetted link-sharing websites are picking up on it too. My own feeling about this is it’s bad form for any government contractor to allow their computers to fall into the hands of anyone outside their own IT organization. If the folks that manage and audit the computers cannot encrypt, wipe or destroy hard drives on their computers, they need to be fired. It’s that simple. I’m sure some manager felt that the computers they were managing didn’t need top secret level procedures performed on them when they were de-aquisitioned and ‘recycled’. But who knows what little details are swimming around in those Word documents (stuff like the revision controls for instance). Too often everyone who manages computers lives by the dictum, “Do the absolute minimum necessary.” But no one even imagines what ‘could’ happen later on, like having your computer wind up in Ghana. It proves anything can happen and you should treat every Hard Drive like it needed to have the Top Secret procedures performed on it before it’s taken off your property list.
Thats particularly a problem in a place like Ghana, which is listed by the U.S. State Department as one of the top sources of cyber crime in the world. And its not just individuals who are exposed. One of the drives the team has purchased contains a $22 million government contract.It turns out the drive came from Northrop Grumman, one of Americas largest military contractors. And it contains details about sensitive, multi-million dollar U.S. government contracts. They also find contracts with the defense intelligence agency, NASA, even Homeland Security.When the drives’ data are shown to James Durie, who works on data security for the FBI, hes particularly concerned about the potential breach at the Transportation Security Administration TSA.
Check back in two weeks from today
Industry insiders in Taiwan today have claimed Samsun is dumping it’s 1.8″ Hard Drives in favor of providing devices like the Mini Card based Solid State Disk drives.
The Mini PCI Express or Mini Card form factor is available as an expansion slot on many PCs. Samsung is manufacturing Flash Drives in the Mini Card format using it’s latest Flash chips. Compared to traditional 2.5″ Flash Drives from Intel and others, Mini Card devices are going to consume a little less battery power. I wonder if any netbook sized laptops have the MiniCard expansion slots built in. It might prove to be a good marketing direction if enough manufacturers decide to add open slots to their motherboard designs. I also know that Samsung manufactuers 1.8″ Hard Drives and at one point that was the preferred form factor for netbook devices. It was also heavily used by Apple iPods. Getting rid of a SATA or PATA disk controller is a good thing. Hopefully connecting to the Bridge chips through PCIe might provide better throughput than going through a disk controller then through the same Bridge chips.
The denser memory also permits a level of storage that isnt normally found in this class with 16GB, 32GB and 64GB capacities coming on launch. All of them use just 0.3W of power and so contribute little to the total power drain.
Back in the days of Byte magazine still being published, there was a lot of talk and speculation about new technology to create smaller microchips. Some manufacturers were touting Extreme UV, some thought X-rays would be necessary. In the years since then a small modification of existing manufacturing methods was added.
“Immersion” lithography, or exposing lithography masks using water as the means of transmission rather than air was widely adopted to shrink things down. Dipping everything into optically clear water helps keep the UV light from scattering, the way it would if it were travelling through air or a simple vacuum. So immersion has become widespread, adding years to the old technology. Now even the old style UV processes are hitting the end of their useful life times.And Intel is at last touting Extreme UV as the next big thing.
Note this article from April 22, 2008. Intel was not at all confident in how cost effective Extreme UV would be for making chips on it’s production lines. The belief is EUV will allow chips to shrink from 32 nanometers down to the next lower process design rules. According to the article that would be the 22nm level, and would require all kinds fo tricks to achieve. Stuff like double-patterning, phase-shifting, and pixellated exposure masks in addition to immersion litho. They might be able to tweak the lens material for the exposure source, they might be able to tweak the refractive index of the immersion liquid. However the cost of production lines and masks to make the chips is going to sky-rocket. Brand new chip fab plants are still on the order of $1Billion+ to construct. The number of years the cost of those fabrication lines can be spread out (amortization) is not going to be long enough. So it looks like the commoditization of microchips will finally settle in. We will buy chips for less and less per 1,000, until they are like lightbulbs. It is very near the end of an era as Moore’s law finally hits the wall of physics.
iSuppli is not talking about these problems, at least not today. But what the analysts at the chip watcher are pondering is the cost of each successive chip-making technology and the desire of chip makers not to go broke just to prove Moore’s Law right.
I’m enjoying reading about Walter Bender‘s project to make software that makes the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) or XO-1 Laptop more useful to a wider range of people. What’s even more uplifting is the same software will run on older PC and Mac hardware. So don’t recycle that PC, just install Sugar Labs-Sugar on a Stick and continue using that PC until the hard drive finally fails or the display gives out. No need to endlessly upgrade your hardware, just keep on truckin’ with Sugar Labs. For schools with budget cuts and families with older computers Sugar on a Stick is going to be a godsend.
The Sugar on a Stick environment is self-contained and sized just small enough to fit on a 1GB USB Flash drive. You can boot into the Sugar environment, run all the applications, save our data on to the Flash drive. Then when you are done just reboot and remove the flash drive. The PC goes back to its original Operating System, no fuss no muss. Considering the amount of computer waste shipped overseas to be salvaged, keeping the computer running with Sugar might be a greener alternative.
Sugar on a Stick provides a coherent and consistent computing experience. It reduces costs by providing flexibility in hardware choices, allowing schools to keep their existing investment in hardware. Learners can benefit from the increased household ownership of computers; by bringing Sugar on a Stick home, every student has a consistent, comparable computing environment that parents can share in as well. It also provides off-line access to applications and content as not every learner has Internet access at home.
Jeff wrote this book, and has kept up with the new features added with recent maintenance releases like 8.0.3 which added some cool new features
SRI celebration of the 1968 Western Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco
There’s a new video trend in personal home video. Companies are lining up to provide aftermarket tools to process and provide corrections to camera phone video. Pure Digital’s Flip! camera line has some tools available to do some minor cutting to video clips and publish it to sharing websites. All of which presents an entrepreurial opporunity to provide pay for tools to help improve poorly shot video.
Some tools are provided within video editing suites like Apples iMovie (it corrects camera shake). Now on the PC there are two new products, one of which is designed to take advantage of the nVidia GPU acceleration of parallel programming. The product is called vReveal
While vReveal works with Windows XP or Vista (and not with Macs), it will make its enhancements much faster if the machine contains a recent graphics processing card from Nvidia, Dr. Varah said. Nvidia is an investor and a marketing partner with vReveal; a specific list of cards is at vReveal’s Web site.
I’ve seen some claims that newer SSDs coming out are implementing the SATA TRIM command. This development is hailing a new era in SDD performance, something we have all wished for since the introduction of SSDs back in 2005. In the last 4 years, performance gains have usually been obtained by using RAID controllers within the SSDs. Worse yet, some SATA disk controllers on the SSDs were known to be total dogs when it comes to performance. Enter the hero of our story: Indilinx
Indilinx decided after multiple requests to enter the market and show that SSDs are worthy of some real product development. Patriot is the one of the first manufacturers to adopt the Indilinx disk controller. Given announcements from Microsoft recently over the addition of full OS support for the SATA TRIM command and now the Indilinx controller,…
One can only hope that Windows 7 will allow SSDs to finally equal or surpass their HDD counterparts. Finger crossed, hoping the Indilinx takes the market by storm and Microsoft will fully embrace and improve its support for the TRIM command
Despite the huge performance gains, two major things plague SSDs:
- Poor quality flash memory controller, performance
Patriot Memory’s new Torqx SSD addresses both–more so the former.
Going back a few weeks I dug up this article about Toshiba’s groundbreaking 32nm/32GB stacked flash memory module.
Toshiba on Monday revealed that it has started shipping its 32 nanometer NAND flash memory ahead of schedule. Originally planned for the fall, the higher-density storage is already being sampled today and should be in mass production by July. The process allows a single, thin 32-gigabit (4GB) chip and, with eight stacked chips, will allow 32GB of memory in a single package.
At the time it was not announced what manufacturers were going to use the new chip. Some speculators were thinking Apple might be using it in their top of the line 32GB iPhone 3GS. And according to all the teardown accounts iFixit & Rapid Repair, the Toshiba chip is front and center on the top of the line model.
I think its great when innovations like this can make into shipping products immediately. While the cost is prohibitive for many, you can rest assured you are getting the cutting edge, the bleeding edge of technology when you buy Apple products. Why I even remember when the first video iPods with 30GB Hard drives came out. Nobody thought you would ever need that amount of space for all your music, so Apple introduced video as another reason to buy an iPod. Now we have 32GB available on the iPhone. It just gets better and better since Oct. of 2005 when that first 30GB ipod was reviewed.