Archive for the ‘mobile’ Category
This week during Mobile World Congress 2014, SanDisk introduced the world’s highest capacity microSDXC memory card, weighing a hefty 128 GB. That’s a huge leap in storage compared to the 128 MB microSD card launched 10 years ago.
Amazing to think how small the form factor and how large the storage size has gotten with microSD format memory cards. I remember the introduction of SDXC cards and the jump from 32GB to 64GB flash SD sized cards. It didn’t take long after that before the SDXC format shrunk down to microSD format. Given the size and the options to expand the memory on certain devices (noticeably Apple is absent from this group), the size of the memory card is going to allow a lot longer timeline for the storage of pictures, music and video on our handheld devices. Prior to this, you would have needed a much larger m2 or mSATA storage card to achieve this level of capacity. You would have needed to have a tablet or a netbook to plug-in those larger memory cards.
Now you can have 128GB at your disposal just by dropping $200 at Amazon. Once you’ve installed it on your Samsung Galaxy you’ve got what would be a complete upgrade to a much more expensive phone (especially if it was an iPhone). I also think a SDXC microSD card would lend itself for moving a large amount of data in a device like one of these hollowed out nickels: http://www.amazon.com/2gb-MicroSD-Bundle-Mint-Nickel/dp/B0036VLT28
My interest in this would be taking a cell phone overseas and going through U.S. Customs and Immigration where it’s been shown in the past they will hold onto devices for further screening. If I knew I could keep 128GB of storage hidden in a metal coin that passed through the baggage X-ray without issue, I would feel a greater sense of security. A card this size is practically as big as the current hard drive on my home computer and work laptops. It’s really a fundamental change in the portability of a large quantity of personal data outside the series of tubes called the Interwebs. Knowing that stash could be kept away from prying eyes or casual security of hosting providers would certainly give me more peace of mind.
If there is any single number that people point to for resolution, it is the 1 arcminute value that Apple uses to indicate a “Retina Display”.
Earlier in my job where I work, I had to try and recommend the resolution people needed to get a good picture using a scanner or a digital camera. As we know the resolution arms race knows no bounds. First in scanners then in digital cameras. The same is true now for displays. How fine is fine enough. Is it noticeable, is it beneficial? The technical limits that enforce lower resolution usually are tied to costs. For the consumer level product cost has to fit into a narrow range, and the perceived benefit of “higher quality” or sharpness are rarely enough to get someone to spend more. But as phones can be upgraded for free and printers and scanners are now commodity items, you just keep slowly migrating up to the next model for little to no entry threshold cost. And everything is just ‘better’, all higher rez, and therefore by association higher quality, sharper, etc.
I used to quote or try to pin down a rule of thumb I found once regarding the acuity of the human eye. Some of this was just gained by noticing things when I started out using Photoshop and trying to print to Imagesetters and Laser Printers. At some point in the past someone decided 300 dpi is what a laser printer needed in order to reproduce text on letter size paper. As for displays, I bumped into a quote from an IBM study on visual acuity that indicated the human eye can discern display pixels in the 225 ppi range. I tried many times to find the actual publication where that appears so I could site it. But no luck, I only found it as a footnote on a webpage from another manufacturer. Now in this article we get more stats on human vision, much more extensive than that vague footnote all those years ago.
What can one conclude from all the data in this article? Just the same thing, that resolution arms races are still being waged by manufacturers. This time however it’s in mobile phones, not printers, not scanners, not digital cameras. Those battles were fought and now there’s damned little product differentiation. Mobile phones will fall into that pattern and people will be less and less Apple fanbois or Samsung fanbois. We’ll all just upgrade to a newer version of whatever phone is cheap and expect to always have the increased spec hardware, and higher resolution, better quality, all that jazz. It is one more case where everything old is new again. My suspicion is we’ll see this happen when a true VR goggle hits the market with real competitors attempting to gain advantage with technical superiority or more research and development. Bring on the the VR Wars I say.
This tells me my job with foursquare is to be “driven” like a calf into a local business. Of course, this has been the assumption from the start. But I had hoped that somewhere along the way foursquare could also evolve into a true QS app, yielding lat-lon and other helpful information for those (like me) who care about that kind of thing. (And, to be fair, maybe that kind of thing actually is available, through the foursquare API. I saw a Singly app once that suggested as much.) Hey, I would pay for an app that kept track of where I’ve been and what I’ve done, and made that data available to me in ways I can use.
foursquare as a kind of Lifebits I think is what Doc Searls is describing. A form of self-tracking a la Stephen Wolfram or Gordon Moore. Instead foursquare is the carrot being dangled to lure you into giving your business to a particular retailer. After that you accumulate points for numbers of visits and possibly unlock rewards for your loyalty. But foursquare no doubt accumulates a lot of other data along the way that could be use for the very purpose Doc Searls was hoping for.
Gordon Moore’s work at Microsoft Research bootstrapping the My Lifebits project is a form of memory enhancement, but also logging of personal data that can be analyzed later. The collection or ‘instrumentation’ of one’s environment is what Stephen Wolfram has accomplished by counting things over time. Not to say it’s simpler than the My Lifebits, but it is in someways lighter weight data (instead of videos and pictures, mouse clicks and tallies of email activity, times of day, etc.) There is no doubt that foursquare could make a for profit service to paying users where they could collect this location data and serve it up to subscribers, letting them analyze the data after the fact.
I firmly believe a form of My Lifebits could be aggregated across a wide range of free and paid services along with personal instrumentation and data collecting like the kind Stephen Wolfram does. If there’s one thing I’ve learned readings stories about inventions like these from MIT’s Media Lab is that it’s never an either or proposition. You don’t have to just adopt Gordon Moore’s technology or Stephen Wolfram’s techniques or even foursquare’s own data. You can do all or just pick and choose the ones that suit your personal data collection needs. Then you get to slice, dice and analyze to your heart’s content. What you do with it after that is completely up to you and should be considered as personal as any legal documents or health records you already have.
Which takes me back to an article I wrote some time ago in reference to Jon Udell calling for a federated LifeBits type of service. It wouldn’t be constrained to one kind of data, but all the LifeBits aggregated potentially and new repositories for stuff that must be locked down and private. So add Doc Searls to the list of bloggers and long time technology writers who see an opportunity. Advocacy (in the case of Doc’s experience with foursquare) on behalf of sharing unfiltered data with the users on whom data is collected is one step in that direction. I feel Jon Udell is also an advocate for users gaining access to all that collected and aggregated data. But as Jon Udell asks, who is going to be the first to attempt to offer this up as a pay-for service in the cloud where you can for a fee access your lifebits aggregated into one spot (foursquare,twitter,facebook,gmail,flickr,photostream,mint,eRecords,etc.) so that you don’t spend your life logging on and logging off from service to service to service. Aggregation could be a beautiful thing.
- Picture This: Hosted Lifebits in the Personal Cloud | Cloudline | Wired.com (carpetbomberz.com)
- Stephen Wolfram Blog : The Personal Analytics of My Life (carpetbomberz.com)
- Foursquare Takes on Yelp With Recommendations. Our Verdict: Good Start, Not There Yet (readwriteweb.com)
During Intels annual investor day on Thursday, CEO Paul Otellini outlined the companys plan to leverage its multi-billion-dollar chip fabrication plants, thousands of developers and industry sway to catch up in the lucrative mobile device sector, reports Forbes.
But what you are seeing is a form of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) being spread about to sow the seeds of mobile Intel processors sales. The doubt is not as obvious as questioning the performance of ARM chips, or the ability of manufacturers like Samsung to meet their volume targets and reject rates for each new mobile chip. No it’s more subtle than that and only noticeable to people who know details like what design rule Intel is currently using versus that which is used by Samsung or TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp.) Intel is currently just releasing its next gen 22nm chips as companies like Samsung are still trying to recoup their investment in 45nm and 32nm production lines. Apple is just now beginning to sample some 32nm chips from Samsung in iPad 2 and Apple TV products. It’s current flagship model iPad/iPhone both use a 45nm chip produced by Samsung. Intel is trying to say that the old generation technology while good doesn’t have the weight and just massive investment in the next generation chip technology. The new chips will be smaller, energy efficient, less expensive all the things need to make higher profit on consumer devices using them. However, Intel doesn’t do ARM chips, it has Atom and that is the one thing that has hampered any big design wins in cellphone or tablet designs to date. At any narrow size of the design rule, ARM chips almost always use less power than a comparably sized Atom chip from Intel. So whether it’s really an attempt to spread FUD, can easily be debated one way or another. But the message is clear, Intel is trying to fight back against ARM. Why? Let’s turn back the clock to March of this year in a previous article also appearing in Apple Insider:
Apple could be top mobile processor maker by end of 2012 (Apple Insider, March 20, 2012)
This article is referenced in the original article quoted at the top of the page. And it points out why Intel is trying to get Apple to take notice of its own mobile chip commitments. Apple designs its own chips and has the manufacturing contracted out to a foundry. To date Samsung has been the sole source of the A-processors used in iPhones/iPod/iPad devices as Apple is trying to get TSMC up to speed to get a second source. Meanwhile sales of the Apple devices continues to grow handsomely in spite of these supply limits. More important to Intel is the blistering growth in spite of being on older foundry technology and design rules. Intel has a technological and investment advantage over Samsung now. They do not have a chip however that is BETTER than Apple’s in house designed ARM chip. That’s why the underlying message for Intel is that it has to make it’s Atom chip so much better than an A4, A5, A5X at ANY design ruling that Apple cannot ignore Intel’s superior design and manufacturing capability. Apple will still use Intel chips, but not in its flagship products until Intel achieves that much greater level of technical capability and sophistication in its Mobile microprocessors.
Twin-track development plan for Intel’s expansion into smartphones (The Register, May 11, 2012)
Intel is planning a two-pronged attack on the smartphone and tablet markets, with dual Atom lines going down to 14 nanometers and Android providing the special sauce to spur sales.
Lastly, Ian Thomson from The Register weighs in looking at what the underlying message from Intel really is. It’s all about the future of microprocessors for the consumer market. However the emphasis in this article is that Android OS devices whether they be phones or tablets or netbooks will be the way to compete AGAINST Apple. But again it’s not Apple as such it’s the microprocessor Apple is using in it’s best selling devices that scares Intel the most. Intel has since its inception been geared towards the ‘mainstream’ market selling into Enterprises and the Consumer area for years. It has milked the desktop PC revolution as it helped create it more or less starting with its forays into integrated micro-processor chips and chipsets. It reminds me a little of the old steel plants that existed in the U.S. during the 1970s as Japan was building NEW steel plants that used a much more energy efficient design, and a steel making technology that created a higher quality product. So less expensive higher quality steel was only possible by creating brand new steel plants. But the old line U.S. plants couldn’t justify the expense and so just wrapped up and shutdown operations all over the place. Intel while it is able to make that type of investment in newer technology is still not able to create the energy saving mobile processor that will out perform an ARM core cpu.
I would like to applaud Apples 32nm migration plan. By starting with lower volume products and even then, only on a portion of the iPad 2s available on the market, Apple maintains a low profile and gets great experience with Samsungs 32nm HK+MG process.
Anand Lal Shimpi @ Anandtech.com does a great turn explaining some of the Electrical Engineering minutiae entailed by Apple’s un-publicized switch to a smaller design rule for some of it’s 2nd Generation iPads. Specifically this iPad’s firmware reads as the iPad 2,4 version indicating a 32nm version of the Apple A5 chip. And boy howdy, is there a difference between 45nm A5 vs. 32nm A5 on the iPad 2.
Anand first explains the process technology involved in making the new chip (metal gate electrodes and High dielectric constant gate oxides). Most of it is chosen to keep electricity from leaking between the two sides of the transistor “switch” that populate the circuits on the processor. The metal gates can handle a higher voltage which is needed to overcome the high dielectric constant of the gate oxide (it is more resistant to conducting electricity, so it needs more voltage ‘oomph!’ applied it). Great explanation I think regarding those two on-die changes with the new Samsung 32nm design ruling. Both of the changes help keep the electrical current from leaking all over the processor.
What does this change mean? Well the follow-up to that question is the benchmarks that Anand runs in the rest of the article checking battery life at each step of the way. Informally it appears the iPad2,4 will have roughly 1 extra hour of battery life as compared to the original iPad2,1 using the larger 45nm A5 chip. Performance of the graphics and cpu are exactly the SAME as the first generation A5. So as the article title indicates this change was just a straightforward die shrink from 45nm to 32nm and no doubt is helping validate the A5 architecture on the new production line process technology. And this will absolutely be required to wedge the very large current generation A5x cpu on the iPad 3 into a new iPhone in the Fall 2012.
But consider this, even as Apple and Samsung both refine and innovate on the ARM architecture for mobile devices, Intel is still the technology leader (bar none). Intel has got 22nm production lines up and running and is releasing Ivy Bridge CPUs with that design rule this Summer 2012. While Intel doesn’t literally compete in the mobile chip industry (there have been attempts in the past), it at least can tout being the most dense, power efficient chip in the categories it dominates. I cannot help but wonder what kind of gains could be made if an innovator like Apple had access to an ARM chip foundry with all of Intel’s process engineering and optimization. What would an A5X chip look like at the 22nm design ruling with all the power efficiency and silicon process technologies applied to it? How large would the die be? What kind of battery life would you see if you die-shrunk an A5X all the way down to 22nm? That to me is the Andy Grove 10X improvement I would like to see. Could we get 11-12 continuous hours of battery life on a cell phone? Could we see a cell phone with more cpu/graphics capability than current generation Xbox and Playstations? Hard to tell, I know, but thinking about it is just so darned much fun I cannot help but think about it.
- Lab Tested: The new iPad 2 and old iPad 2 (hazima.wordpress.com)
- The Upgraded iPad 2 Has Significantly Longer Battery Life Than The Latest iPad (gizmodo.com.au)
- iPad 2′s new 32nm A5 processor improves battery life (tuaw.com)
Unsung Heroes of Tech Back in the late 1970s you wouldnt have guessed that this shy young Cambridge maths student named Wilson would be the seed for what has now become the hottest-selling microprocessor in the world.
via Chris Bidmead: ARM creators Sophie Wilson and Steve Furber • reghardware.
This is an amazing story of how a small computer company in Britain was able to jump into the chip design business and accidentally create a new paradigm in low power chips. Astounding what seemingly small groups can come with as complete product categories unto themselves. The BBC Micro was the single most important project that kept the company going and was produced as a learning aid for the BBC television show: The_Computer_Programme, a part of the BBC Computer Literacy Project. From that humble beginning of making the BBC Micro, Furber and Wilson’s ability to engineer a complete computer was well demonstrated.
But whereas the BBC Micro used an off the shelf MOS 6502 cpu, a later computer used a custom (bespoke) designed chip created in house by Wilson and Furber. This is the vaunted Acorn Risc Machine (ARM) used in the Archimedes desktop computer. And that one chip helped launch a revolution unto itself in that the very first time the powered up a sample chip, the multimeter hooked up to registered no power draw. At first one would think this was a flaw, and ask “What the heck is happening here?” But in fact when further inspection showed that the multimeter was correct, the engineers discovered that the whole cpu was running of power that was leaking from the logic circuits within the chip itself. Yes, the low power requirement of this first sample chip of the ARM cpu in 1985 ran on 1/10 of a watt of electricity. And that ‘bug’ then went on to become a feature in later generations of the ARM architecture.
Today we know of the ARM cpu cores as a bit of licensed Intellectual Property that any chip make can acquire and implement in their mobile processor designs. It has come to dominate many different architectures by different manufacturers as diverse as Qualcomm and Apple Inc. But none of it ever would have happened were it not for that somewhat surprising discovery of how power efficient that first sample chip really was when it was plugged into a development board. So thankyou Sophie Wilson and Steve Furber, as the designers and engineers today are able to stand upon your shoulders the way you once stood on the shoulders of people who designed the MOS 6502.
- Eben’s talk from Beeb@30 – video (raspberrypi.org)
- ARM creators Sophie Wilson and Steve Furber (go.theregister.com)
- Series revisits ARM’s humble beginnings, BBC Micro and all (engadget.com)
But it is early days yet. Google has made it clear that this is only the initial stages of Project Glass and it is seeking feedback from the general public on what they want from these spectacles. While these kinds of heads-up displays are popular in films and fiction and dearly wanted by this hack, the poor sales of existing eye-level screens suggests a certain reluctance on the part of buyers.
The video of the Google Glass interface is kind of interesting and problematic at the same time. Stuff floats in and out of few kind of like the organism that live in the mucous of your eye. And the the latency delays of when you see something and issue a command give it a kind of halting staccato cadence when interacting with it. It looks and feels like old style voice recognition that needed discrete pauses added to know when things ended. As a demo it’s interesting, but they should issue releases very quickly and get this thing up to speed as fast as they possibly can. And I don’t mean having the CEO Sergey Brin show up at a party wearing the thing. According to reports the ‘back pack’ that the glasses are tethered to is not small. Based on the description I think Google has a long way to go yet.
And on the smaller scale tinkerer front, this WordPress blogger fashioned an older style ‘periscope’ using a cellphone, mirror and half-mirrored sunglasses to get a cheaper Augmented Reality experience. The cellphone is an HTC unit strapped onto the rim of a baseball hat. The display is than reflected downwards through a hold cut in the rim and then is reflected off a pair of sunglasses mounted at roughly a 45 degree angle. It’s cheap, it works, but I don’t know how good the voice activation is. Makes me wonder how well it might work with an iPhone Siri interface. The author even mentions that HTC is a little heavy and an iPhone might work a little better. I wonder if it wouldn’t work better still if the ‘periscope’ mirror arrangement was scrapped altogether. Instead just mount the phone flat onto the bill of the hat, let the screen face downward. The screen would then reflect off the sunglasses surface. The number of reflecting surfaces would be reduced, the image would be brighter, etc. I noticed a lot of people also commented on this fellow’s blog and might get some discussion brewing about longer term the value-add benefits to Augmented Reality. There is a killer app yet to be found and even Google hasn’t captured the flag yet.
- Google[x] and Sergey Brin wearing Augmented reality glasses (nextbigfuture.com)
- Move aside, Google: Oakley has been testing augmented reality glasses for 15 years (digitaltrends.com)
Not only did Apple roll out a new processor that was not what it was advertised to be, but it also snuck in a new process technology for the manufacturing of this new A5. The previous generation A5, part number APL0498, was manufactured on Samsung Semiconductors’ 45 nm LP CMOS process. This new A5 processor is manufactured on Samsung’s new 32 nm high-k metal gate, gate first, LP CMOS process technology.
Check out the article at the Chipworks website, just follow the link above. They have a great rundown of what they discovered in their investigation of the most recent Apple A5 chips. These chips are appearing in a newly revised AppleTV but have also appeared in more recently manufactured Apple iPad 2 as well. There was some amount of surprise that Apple didn’t adopt a shrunk down die ruling for the A5X used in the iPad 3. Most of the work went into the integrated graphics of the A5X as it was driving a much higher rez ‘Retina’-like display.
Very, very sneaky of Apple to slip in the next generation smaller die size on a ‘hobby’ product like the Apple TV. This is proof positive that when someone says something is a hobby, it isn’t necessarily so. I for one am both heartened and intrigued that Apple is attempting to get a 32nm processor out there on their ‘low power’ low cost products. Now that this part has also been discovered in the more recently constructed Apple iPad 2 units, I wonder what kind of heat, battery life differences there are versus an early model iPad 2 using the A5 part number APL0498?
Keeping up with the Samsungs is all important these days and Apple has got to keep its CPU die rulings in step with the next generation of of chip fabrication giants. Intel is pushing 22nm, Samsung has been on 32nm for a while and then there’s Apple sitting 1 or 2 generations behind the cutting edge. I fear this may have resulted in some of the heat issues that were first brought to people’s attention by Consumer Reports weeks after the introduction of the iPad 3. With any luck and process engineering speed, the A5X can jump ship to the 32nm fabrication line at Samsung sooner rather than later.
- Apple TV “single core” A5 actually has two cores, one is off (chipworks.com)
- Apple TV A5 SoC is 32nm, Harvested dual-core A5 (anandtech.com)
- Chipworks Offers A5X Die Photo Wallpaper for New iPad [iOS Blog] (macrumors.com)
- New Apple TV’s A5 chip found using 32nm design(electronista.com)