Author: Nermin Hajdarbegovic

Lady Geek wants to turn ladies into proper geeks

Advertising agency Lady Geek has blasted womens’ magazines for failing to cover tech and provide more information on gadgets and computers.

The tech industry is still dominated by men, usually men who don’t know their way around women, hence Lady Geek is trying shake things up with a few interesting campaigns and tech marketers could learn a few tricks from the up and coming agency. 

Just one percent of women think tech manufacturers have them in mind when designing products, yet the number of women involved in electronics purchases both at home and at work is skyrocketing. As many as four out of ten gadgets purchased in Britain are bought by women.

Women currently hold only 17 percent of tech jobs in the UK, although 30 percent of the best paid jobs for a woman are in tech.Luckily, big players have already identified the trend and companies like Dell, Microsoft, Nokia, Sony and Ubisoft are already working with Lady Geek to bring their products to women. Intel is conspicuously absent from the list, although Intel’s President Renee James is one of the highest ranking women in tech.

Lady Geek says it doesn’t want to feminise technology, it just wants to de-masculinise it. In other words, not every tech product needs to look like it was designed by a 9-year-old boy and named by Chuck Norris. Maybe then womens’ mags would be willing to pay more attention to tech, provided their target audience are real women, not Miley Cyrus wannabes. 

Gartner sees smartphones smarter than users by 2017

Smartphones are getting smarter with each new generation, so research firm Gartner has gone out on a limb with a new forecast straight out of a dystopian sci-fi movie.

It claims smartphones will become smarter than their users by 2017.No, this will not be the result of artificial intelligence or magic for that matter. Smartphones will get smarter by tapping data gathered using cognizant computing, the next step in personal cloud evolution.

Basically smartphones will collect so much data about your habits, schedule, location and all movements (apart from bowel movements, hopefully). This data will then be shared with the NSA, but it will also be used to come up with contextual information used by your smartphone. 

“Smartphones are becoming smarter, and will be smarter than you by 2017,” said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner. “If there is heavy traffic, it will wake you up early for a meeting with your boss, or simply send an apology if it is a meeting with your colleague.”

Saying that smartphones will get smarter may not be the right description. Smartphones will get faster, the cloud will be bigger and more information will be available, allowing phones to make sense of more information and put it to good use. Of course, to make it all work, users will have to share more information with their devices and the tin foil hat gang won’t like it at all.

Cognizant computing consists of four distinct stages. First of all users will have to sync more information and make it available. These first two stages are known as Sync Me and See Me. The next two stages are Know Me and Be Me. The latter sounds a bit scary.

Gartner believes cognizant computing will become a big thing over the next two to five years. It will also see more players vying for information in the cloud and offering more services, so monetization should not be an issue.However, privacy will be a big concern for many consumers, but in many cases this is an issue only if the users don’t get much in return for their data. As Big G puts it – consumers tend to give up a lot for convenience. 

Intel hopes for a netbook zombie apocalypse

Five years ago the market was abuzz with talk of cheap netbooks based on Intel’s Atom processors and AMD’s upcoming low-end APUs. Then Steve Jobs took to the stage with the first iPad in tow and the rest is history – netbooks died out faster than any PC form factor in recent history.

However, the basic concept never really went away. Although Intel lost interest in doing cheap netbooks and ultraportables (if it ever had any interest to begin with), AMD stepped up with a couple of cheap APUs. Intel netbooks were killed off, but slightly bigger 11.6-designs are still around, based on AMD and Intel silicon. Google also joined the fun with Chromebooks and they are taking off slowly. 

Netbooks weren’t a bad idea, but neither Intel nor Microsoft seemed too interested in actually coming up with good platforms. There were too many hardware limitations and netbooks never offered anything really new or revolutionary – they were just small, underpowered notebooks. 

Now we’re seeing an interesting trend. Redmond botched the Windows RT rollout and Windows 8 never caught on as a tablet OS. Intel on the other hand is rolling out new Bay Trail chips, with a lot more muscle than Atoms of yesteryear, but with much higher efficiency. Intel is now talking up 2-in-1 designs and other form factors that practically look like the natural extension of netbook evolution.

Asus recently launched a Windows 8.1 tablet with a keyboard dock for just $349. It’s the first such machine – a Windows 8.1 tablet on the cheap, with a proper keyboard to boot, but it’s by no means the last one. New designs from big PC players are on the way and they are bound to be cheap. Several companies have already rolled out 8-inch Windows 8.1 tablets and $299 seems to be the sweet spot, so these hybrid designs should end up priced anywhere from $349 to $449 – cheaper than an iPad, but more expensive than cheap Android tablets. 

Chromebooks are an interesting development, too. Although they lack the x86 legacy appeal of cheap Bay Trail gear, they appear to be selling quite well. Acer, HP and Samsung already have a few designs each and they are going for $249 to $399 – somewhat cheaper than what a full size Bay Trail tablet should cost. Lenovo recently launched the IdeaPad 10, a cheap Android netbook, although we’re not sure it has much mainstream appeal. Gateway launched a 10.1-inch Windows 8 netbook for $329 and the new Asus F102 is also a 10-inch netbook with a €299 price tag, with an AMD APU running the show.

So what’s going on here? 

Well, touchscreens are dirt cheap and so are 10-inch panels, yet Windows 8.1 is becoming a viable OS for cheap ultraportables and tablets, thanks to Intel’s Bay Trail and AMD Jaguar parts. Although netbooks are dead, quasi-netbooks are starting to make sense again, especially for players who did not roll out Chromebooks of their own. Convertible tablets like the Asus T100TA seem to offer the best of both worlds – an ultraportable Windows 8.1 notebook that’s also a tablet on the cheap. It all makes us wonder what would have been had Intel and Microsoft taken netbooks seriously five years ago.

Intel fab deal is no fab deal

Altera has announced that its next generation 64-bit ARM parts will be built by Intel. The announcement caused shockwaves and rippled through the industry for no apparent reason. Many observers wrongly viewed it as a deal under which Intel is yielding to competitive pressure and opening its fabs to ARM outfits. This is simply not the case.

The Altera deal includes the fabrication of several designs based on ARM’s new 64-bit instruction set and the quad-core chips in question will apparently be based on the Cortex A53 cores. They are not consumer parts, they are aimed at the embedded market.

For some reason overexcited hacks and analysts quickly started saying the deal would open the floodgates to ARM chips built in Intel’s fabs, using the upcoming 14nm FinFET process. This is simply not the case. There is absolutely no reason for Intel to allow competitors like Qualcomm, Samsung or even Nvidia to use its process for consumer-grade parts.

In fact, the only way Intel’s own x86 SoCs can be competitive in the short run is if Intel leverages its superior manufacturing process. As x86 is inherently less efficient than ARM, Intel simply needs to cram more transistors to get the same results, but x86 parts also have a lot of advantages, namely Windows support.

While it is true that fabs don’t come cheap and Intel could use the cash, that doesn’t mean it will put a gun to its head for a bit of fab revenue. It will not and we will not see third-party application processors manufactured alongside Intel’s own Airmont parts. Anyone claiming otherwise is spectacularly wrong.

AMD declares all out war on Nvidia

Yesterday, October 23, 2013 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of Nvidia was suddenly and deliberately attacked by GPU and FUD forces of the Empire of AMD.

Nvidia was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of AMD, was still in conversation with its management and its Emperor Raja Koduri looking toward the maintenance of peace in the high-end GPU market.

Indeed, one hour after AMD GCN squadrons had commenced bombing in the Nvidian island of Kepler, the AMDese Ambassador to Nvidia and his colleague delivered to our CEO a formal reply to a recent Nvidian message. And, while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of price war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from AMD’s homeland makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the AMD management has deliberately sought to deceive Nvidia by false statements, benchmarks, prices and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday of Volcanic Islands has caused severe damage to Nvidia’s high-end and ultra-high-end forces. I regret to tell you that very many Nvidian sales and margins have been lost. In addition, Nvidian flagships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the AMDese Government also launched an attack against our AIBs.
Last night AMDese forces attacked Titan.
Last night AMDese forces attacked Kepler.
Last night AMDese forces attacked the GK110.
Last night the AMDese attacked our margins.
And this morning the AMDese attacked the GTX 780.

AMD has therefore undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the high-end area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of Nvidia have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our business model.

As Chief Executive Officer of Nvidia I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense, that always will our whole company remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the Nvidian people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Board and of the fanboys when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our sales, our AIBs and our margins are in grave danger.

With confidence in our GPU designers, with the unbounding determination of our marketing team, we will gain the inevitable triumph. So help us DirectX.

I ask that the Board declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by AMD on Thursday, October 23, 2013, a state of war has existed between Nvidia and the AMDese Empire.

President and CEO Jen Hsun Huang – October 24, 2013.

IBM, STMicro to open fabs in India

The Indian government has approved plans for the construction of two wafer fabrication plants in the country.

The first chips are due to roll out in two to three years, according to EE India

IBM proposed the first fab with the backing of Jaiprakash Associates and cooperation from TowerJazz. It will have a capacity of 40,000 CMOS 300mm wafers per month and feature 90nm, 65nm and 45nm nodes in phase one, but later it will get to 28nm and 22nm in phase two and three respectively.

STMicroelectronics is behind the second plant, which will have the exact same capacity, 40,000 wafers per months, 300mm size, and CMOS technology. The first phase will feature 90nm, 65nm and 45nm nodes, but phase two will bring 28nm and 22nm capacity as well.

The government has required technology providers to take 10 percent equity in the new projects, while the state will also grab 11 percent equity.

They’re expected to directly employ about 22,000 people and up to 100,000 indirectly. 

AMD's A8-6500T and A10-6700T on pre-order

AMD has put its A8-6500T and A10-6700T Richland low voltage chips onto pre-order in the US.

The APUs have four Piledriver CPU cores, 4MB L2 cache, along with HD 8550D and HD 8650D graphics.

According to CPU World the 6500T operates at 2.1 GHz but can manage up to 3.1 GHz when the Turbo feature is active.

The 6700T has a base clock of 2.5 GHz which is pushed to 3.5 GHz when the turbine revs up. Both GPUs are clocked at 720 MHz.

The APUs have 45 Watt TDP, and they are compatible with socket FM2, like all desktop Richlands. Pre-order prices for the A10-6700T and A8-6500T are $156 and $108 respectively. 

Japan to build ice wall under Fukushima plant

The Japanese government is once again being forced to deal with TEPCO’s mess. As if the company’s handling of the Fukushima disaster wasn’t bad enough already, the government is now forced to step in and foot the bill for a £300 million plan to construct a giant ice wall under the plant to stop Japan from becoming the world’s leading exporter of three-eyed green fin tuna.

It has recently emerged that up to 400 tonnes of radioactive water leaks from the wrecked nuke station out to sea every single day. Rather than changing all the menus in the country, the government decided radical measures are called for. Although the idea may sound radical, it is nothing new.

The Soviets also tried to place a huge cryogenic plant under the Chernobyl plant, but eventually they just decided to fill the excavated cavity with concrete. For some reason, people who opposed the cunning plan and didn’t agree with the cover-up were usually found dangling from ceiling fixtures and wooden beams. As Stalin once put it: “Death solves all problems – no man, no problem.”

Freezing the ground works, and the approach has been applied in many tunnel and mining projects around the world. But this time it is a bit different, as the patch of frozen ground will have to be quite a bit bigger than what engineers usually do when building tunnels or mineshafts, reports Gizmodo.

Some punters believe the announcement was timed to coincide with the Olympic Committee’s decision on Tokyo’s candidacy to host the 2020 Olympic Games.

We’re wondering where all the water will go once the “ice wall” is constructed? 

Huge DoS attack hits China

A massive denial-of-service attack took down much of China’s internet on Sunday. The attack was described as the biggest DoS attack ever faced by the Chinese government.

It began early Sunday and in a couple of hours it picked up to the point that it started to affect users. The attack targeted the .cn registry which was eventually knocked out for two to four hours. Lucliky, most .cn sites weathered the storm, relying on registry records stored by service providers.

The attack appears to have stopped and Chinese users are now able to access all websites smoothly, apart from those that discuss democracy, dissidents, Tibet, the Tiananmen Square massacre and a few thousand other things communists don’t like to talk about.

The big question is who was behind the attack. Although things are relatively quiet on the international front, China is embroiled in a few internal PR disasters, including the trial of Bo Xilai and a crackdown on social media. The Great Firewall of China is good at filtering embarrassing internet searches, but it was never designed with security in mind. Well, at least not this sort of security.

CloudFlare says the attack could have been carried out by a single individual, despite its sophistication and apparent success, reports the WSJ.

Intel enables SSD overcocking

Intel has had a chequered past when it comes to overcocking. First it didn’t care, then it kindly asked people not to torture its lovely processors and then it realised it could make a quick buck peddling unlocked processors for enthusiasts. 

Today it’s possible to overcock just about anything, phones, tablets, CPUs, graphics cards, smart toasters. SSDs are apparently the next step. According to Xbit Labs, Intel will demonstrate SSD overcocking at IDF next month. It’s not as straightforward as overcocking a CPU, but it sure does sound a bit easier than making a 7200rpm hard drive run at 10000rpm.

SSD performance is generally dictated by two main factors, the speed and type of controller used and the speed of NAND chips. It is possible to tinker with both, although upping the controller clock sounds a bit easier. However, although it’s possible, it doesn’t exactly make too much sense.

The SATA 6Gbps is the bottleneck right now, so high-end SSDs don’t stand much to gain from overcocking. It does, however, make more sense than Intel handbags.

That said, Intel is planning to rollout SATA Express chipsets next year, effectively doubling the theoretical transfer rates and making overcocked SSDs a possibility.