Category: Hardware

Nvidia shows off GeForce GTX 1080 Ti

Nvida just lifted its kimono on the long-rumoured GeForce GTX 1080 Ti during the San Francisco Games Developers Conference.

The card will sit at the top of Nvidia’s  GeForce offerings snuggled alongside the Titan X and GeForce GTX 1080. According to Nvidia’s marketing material the GTX 1080 Ti, promising significant performance gains over the GTX 1080 and faster than Titan X performance, for a much lower price of $699.

The 12 billion Nvidia GP102 transistors on the card have 3,584 CUDA cores, which is the same as Nvidia’s Titan X.

However, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti will have fewer ROP units at 88, versus 96 in the Titan X.

The 1080 Ti will also, however, come equipped with 11GB of premium GDDR5X memory from Micron clocked at 11,000 MHz for an effective 11Gbps data rate.

Peak compute throughput of the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti is slightly higher than the Titan X due to the Ti’s higher boost clock.

Memory bandwidth over its narrower 352-bit GDDR5 memory interface is 484GB/s, which is also slightly higher than a Titan X as well. Nvidia’s also noted that peak overclocks on the core should hit 2GHz or higher if the wind is in the right direction.

This means that the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti will be faster than the Titan X out of the box, faster still when overclocked.

Nvidia is having to compete with cheaper and just as effective offerings coming out from AMD so the card had to be pretty good.

Nintendo’s CD refusal pays off

In the 1990s the former maker of playing cards  Nintendo faced much mock when it decided against using CDs on its Nintendo 64 system and stuck with expensive and (in comparison) lower-capacity cartridges.

Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn, both used CDs and Nintendo’s choice lost a lot of loyal third-party supporters who went to the PlayStation.

Now retro collectors are saying that Nintendo’s stubbornness was actually far sighted because optical media is rotting away while the cartridges still go on.

The world is fast learning that even if you care for CDs they are useless after 30 years’ service because the chemicals used in the disc’s protective layers fail.

The CD’s  reflective layer, usually made of aluminium also starts to oxidise and the discs “bronze” over.

However, cartridges are traditionally quite robust – hence the fact that people are still happily playing Atari VCS and NES games on original hardware – so N64 games should continue to be playable for quite some time yet.

Sharp sees first profit in two years

sharp2Sharp posted its first quarterly net profit in over two years as the Japanese LCD maker pressed ahead with cost-cutting measures under its new Foxconn owners.

Sharp raised its operating profit forecast to $329.85 million for the year ending in March from an earlier forecast of $227 million.

Net profit was $37,136,400 for October-December, compared with a $218,348,000 loss in the same period a year earlier. It was the first profit on a net basis since July-September 2014.

The return to profit comes as Sharp uses Foxconn’s mighty parts procurement power, reviewed the lineup of products and implemented various measures to cut fixed costs.

Sharp also benefited as production cutbacks by Korean rivals in LCD panels for television sets fuelled an industry-wide shortage of panels and pushed up market prices.

Its core display device unit posted an operating profit of 11 billion yen, against a 11 billion yen loss a year prior, swinging back to profit for the first time in two years.

 

Boffins to build real large scale quantum computer

schrodingers_catAn international team, led by a scientist from the University of Sussex, has today unveiled the first practical blueprint for how to build a quantum computer.

Powered by cats who may, or may not be dead, the computer will be the most powerful on Earth and has calculated the existence of rice pudding even before it has been built.

According to the journal Science Advances, which we get for the spot the quark competition, the blueprint includes a new invention which uses connections created by electric fields that allow charged atoms (ions) to be transported from one module to another. This new approach allows 100,000 times faster connection speeds between individual quantum computing modules compared to current state-of-the-art fibre link technology.

Previously, scientists thought of using fibre optic connections to connect individual computer modules.

The project’s top boffin Prof Winfried Hensinger, head of Ion Quantum Technology Group at the University of Sussex said the availability of a universal quantum computer may have a fundamental impact on society.

“Without doubt it is still challenging to build a large-scale machine, but now is the time to translate academic excellence into actual application building on the UK’s strengths in this ground-breaking technology. I am very excited to work with industry and government to make this happen.”

The computer’s possibilities for solving, explaining or developing could be endless. However, its size will be anything but small. The machine is expected to fill a large building, consisting of sophisticated vacuum apparatus featuring integrated quantum computing silicon microchips that hold individual charged atoms (ions) using electric fields.

Still anything that involves getting dead cats to do the ioning is almost certain to be a winner.

 

 

Microsoft’s cunning anti-Apple plan is working

microsoft-surface-3-02Software King of the World Microsoft claims that its cunning plan to remove Apple’s from the high-end computer market, is working.

Microsoft CFO Amy Hood said that Microsoft’s business of licensing Windows out to PC manufacturers was up five percent last quarter,  accounting for both business and consumer PCs.

The outfit’s business of licensing Windows for the “non-pro” (as in, consumer) market had its own five percent growth last quarter, beating the overall shrinkage of the PC industry, “as our partner ecosystem continued to see growth and share gains in the Windows premium device category”.

These “premium devices” are computers in the $900-plus price range which in the consumer market are those with more money than sense – Apple’s turf.

Microsoft’s PC partners spent the last several years focusing on low- to medium-priced computers and let Apple have that ground. After all it was not really worth the effort.

Microsoft changed all that with the Surface Book laptop in 2015, the company explicitly declared that those days were over, pitching it as a more powerful and versatile alternative to Apple’s flagship MacBook Pro.

There was also a market for laptop/tablet hybrids like the Surface Pro 4. Meanwhile there had been a slow rise of virtual reality headsets like Facebook’s Oculus Rift – which requires a powerful gaming PC for the best results.

And what was the fruity tax-dodging cargo cult doing while Microsoft was staging its come-back? Well nothing really. In fact, it did not upgrade its hardware for four years.

When it did it stripped a lot of the functionality out of the MacPro making it useless for professionals.

Now Volehas  introduced the Surface Studio PC, a unique blend of tablet and desktop computer, competing with the Apple iMac. It is not cheap at $2,999, it’s reported to be selling better than even Microsoft’s most optimistic projections.

US looking for vendors for two exascale supercomputers

Eniac-USarmyPhoto700The US Government is ready to seek vendors to build two exascale supercomputers — costing roughly $200 million to $300 million each — by 2019.

The two systems will be built at the same time and will be ready for use by 2023, although it’s possible one of the systems could be ready a year earlier.

However the boffins and the vendors do not know if   Donald “Prince of Orange” Trump’s administration will change directions. Indications are so far that science and supercomputers might be something that his administration are not keen on as they might be used to look at climate change.

At the annual supercomputing conference SC16 last week in Salt Lake City, a panel of government scientists outlined the exascale strategy developed by President Barack Obama’s administration. When the session was opened to questions, the first two were about Trump. One attendee quipped that “pointed-head geeks are not going to be well appreciated”.

Another person in the audience, John Sopka, a high-performance computing software consultant, asked how the science community will defend itself from claims that “you are taking the money from the people and spending it on dreams,” referring to exascale systems.

Paul Messina, a computer scientist and distinguished fellow at Argonne National Labs who heads the Exascale Computing Project said that the goal of the exascale computing project is to help economic competitiveness and economic security.

Politically, there ought to be a lot in HPC’s favor. A broad array of industries rely on government supercomputers to conduct scientific research, improve products, attack disease, create new energy systems and understand climate, among many other fields. Defense and intelligence agencies also rely on large systems.

There is also likely to be a technology race between the US and China. The Chinese want to have an exascale computer ready by 2020 which will challenge America’s tech dominance.

The US plans to award the exascale contracts to vendors with two different architectures. This is not a new approach and is intended to help keep competition at the highest end of the market. Recent supercomputer procurements include systems built on the IBM Power architecture, Nvidia’s Volta GPU and Cray-built systems using Intel chips.

The timing of these exascale systems — ready for 2023 — is also designed to take advantage of the upgrade cycles at the national labs. The large systems that will be installed in the next several years will be ready for replacement by the time exascale systems arrive.

 

 

Never mind AI, Intel has Nervana

3d2a123ddc312423225755a14fe7db2dChipzilla’s billion dollar investment in Nervana might be the key to making its server chips more intelligent.

Intel is laying out its roadmap to advance artificial intelligence performance across the board and Nervana technology appears to be everywhere.

The high-performance silicon market is dominated by GPUs. However, with Nervana inside, Intel hopes its new corporate tech with its a fully-optimized software and hardware stack will give that business model a good kicking.

Nervana hardware will initially be available as an add-in card that plugs into a PCIe slot. The first Nervana silicon, codenamed Lake Crest, will make its way to select Intel customers in H1 2017.

Intel is also talking about Knights Mill, which is the next generation of the Xeon Phi processor family. Intel said that Knights Mill will deliver a 4x increase in deep learning performance compared to existing Xeon Phi processors and the combined solution with Nervana will offer orders of magnitude gains in deep learning performance.

Diane Bryant, Executive VP of Intel’s Data Center Group said that the Intel Nervana platform to produce breakthrough performance and dramatic reductions in the time to train complex neural networks.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said that Nervana’s technologies will produce a 100-fold increase in performance in the next three years to train complex neural networks, enabling data scientists to solve their biggest AI challenges faster.

Apple makes its MacBook Pro even less upgradeable

MACBOOKPROThe MacBook Pro is fast turning into the chocolate teapot of laptops. Not only is it packed with last year’s chips, Apple has designed it so that if you want to upgrade it you have to buy a new one.

The Touch Bar model, which has arguably the only bit of new technology in the range, has no cutout in the logic board for removable flash storage and a non-removable SSD.

Basically, Apple, in its wisdom, permanently soldered the SSD to the logic board, meaning that users will be unable to upgrade the Touch Bar MacBook Pro’s flash storage beyond Apple’s 512GB to 2TB.

Apple is hoping that users will back up data using Time Machine or a similar solution in case of logic board failure, but that sort of defeats the purpose of having a laptop over something more net based.

Jobs’ Mob has been doing this a lot lately. The 12 inch Macbook lacked a removable SSD. There is no advance for the user but every advantage for Apple. After all, if you want a better SSD you must buy a new computer.  However, it is yet another nail in the coffin for the laptop which had few good reasons to buy.  Of course, it has an Apple logo on the back, and that is enough for fanboys, but when it comes to spec, price and usefulness the beast is lacking.

UK’s Micro heads overseas

3-BACKThe Micro Bit mini-computer is now going to get a worldwide distribution and enthusiasts are to be offered blueprints showing how to build their own versions.

The announcements were made by a new non-profit foundation that is taking over the educational project, formerly led by the BBC.

About one million of the devices were given away free to UK-based schoolchildren earlier this year.

The BBC says they encourage children, especially girls, to code

Beyond the UK, Micro Bits are also in use in schools across the Netherlands and Iceland. But the foundation now intends to co-ordinate a wider rollout.

The foundation’s new chief executive Zach Shelby said the goal is to reach 100 million people with Micro Bit.

“That means [selling] tens of millions of devices… over the next five to 10 years.”

Micro Bits will be available across Europe before the end of the year and currently the outfit is developing Norwegian and Dutch-language versions of its coding web tools to boost demand.

Next year the foundation will target North America and China, which will coincide with an upgrade to the hardware with a more powerful chip and better sensors.

Micro Bits currently sell for about £13, excluding the batteries needed to power them.

Samsung drags its feet on VR

maxresdefaultSamsung does not believe it needs to do much more on VR for the moment as it thinks that the display technology has gone as far as it can for now.

Samsung has made inroads into the mobile VR space thanks to the Gear VR for the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note series.  For those who came in late, Samsung confirmed they were working on a standalone VR headset in April.  But it did not happen

Now it seems that the outfit has said that it does not believe the technology is quite there yet and they are holding back on releasing a standalone VR headset.

The company also says VR is at the peak of its hype phase, and they want to wait and see if the market matures.

Samsung’s President & Chief Strategy Officer, Young Sohn said that display technology needs to advance to at least twice the pixel density that we have in smartphones today.

In otherwords a until we can see a standalone VR headset with Ultra HD display panels there is little point putting “go faster stripes” on what we have.

Sohn said that it would cost Samsung $5 to $10 billion to push the technology and develop a 10K mobile display and it does not think it is worth that type of investment.  The fear is that the market will stagnate when the shine goes off the hype.