Category: Chips

How Intel killed Microsoft’s Surface

microsoft-surface-3-02The dark satanic rumour mill has been noting how Microsoft’s popular Surface 3 is starting to disappear from the shelves.  All this suggests that Vole is planning to kill off the tablet.

However, it would appear that the Surface 3, which is a cheaper cut down version of the Surface Pro, might be a casualty of Intel’s Atexit earlier this year and its decision to cull Atom development.

The Surface Pro arrived last Spring with a Cherry Trail Atom under the bonnet. It was a serviceable, if not rather dull mobile chip.  Microsoft would normally be thinking of replacing it with something better about now and Intel would normally have complied by replacing it with something from the the “Broxton” family with a new Goldmont core.

Intel however gave up on most of its planned Broxton processors as it scaled back its investment in phone and tablet components. Some Airmont parts have been announced, but they have all been aimed at low-end desktops and laptops with processors in the 4-6 watt space, not tablets with 2W processors such as the Surface 3.

Intel could offer Vole its Core M parts, which would have given the Surface a substantial performance upgrade. However, that would represent price hike from $37 for the Atom to about $250 for a core M.  AMD does not have a chip in this range, and an ARM chip would break most of the Surface’s Windows software.

Qualcomm asks for Chinese court help

qualcomQualcomm wants a Chinese court to get a local smartphone maker, Meizu, to agree to licensing terms for patents that the company broadly agreed to with the Chinese government last year.

The chip company s has asked the Beijing Intellectual Property Court for a ruling that the terms of a patent licence it offered Meizu comply with China’s Anti-Monopoly Law, and the US company’s “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory licensing obligations.”

Qualcomm alleges that Meizu in Zhuhai is refusing to sign the patent agreement although over 100 players, including top Chinese phone makers, have accepted the terms under a new rectification plan agreed with China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) last year.

Meizu has more than 1,000 employees and sells its smartphones through 600 retail stores. It claims a global presence in Hong Kong, Russia, Israel and Ukraine, according to its website.

Last year, Qualcomm paid a $975 million fine to Chinese authorities for alleged monopolistic business practices relating to its patent licensing business. It also agreed to modify its business practices.

The outfit has been doing its best building its bridges in China, including by setting up a server chipset design and sales unit with the Guizhou provincial government.

The company has also announced other collaborations in the country that would help it gain access to the local market, including for the local production of its Snapdragon mobile processors by Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation.

Qualcomm charged Meizu with “unfairly expanding its business through the use of Qualcomm’s innovations without compensating Qualcomm for the use of Qualcomm’s valuable technologies.” It added that Meizu’s move to use the technologies without a license was also unfair to other licensees.

 

China makes supercomputer without US chips

Mao Tse Tung - Wikimedia CommonsThe People’s Republic of China has made a huge supercomputer without needing to buy any US chips.

The Sunway TaihuLight China has 10.65 million compute cores built entirely with Chinese microprocessors and there is not a single US computer which matches it. The TaihuLight sticks two fingers up at the US for banning the sale of Intel’s Xeon chips to China.

The super computer has a theoretical peak performance is 124.5 petaflops and it is the first system to exceed 100 petaflops.

TaihuLight is installed at China’s National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, uses ShenWei CPUs developed by Jiangnan Computing Research Lab in Wuxi. The operating system is a Linux-based Chinese system called Sunway Raise.

It is used for advanced manufacturing, earth systems modelling, life science and big data applications.

The US initiated this ban because China, it claimed, was using its Tianhe-2 system for nuclear explosive testing activities. The US stopped live nuclear testing in 1992 and now relies on computer simulations. Critics in China suspected the U.S. was acting to slow that nation’s supercomputing development efforts.

The fastest US supercomputer, number 3 on the Top500 list, is the Titan, a Cray supercomputer at US Dept. of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory with a theoretical peak of about 27 petaflops.

1,000 core chip developed

many-coreA team of boffins has emerged from its smoke filled labs with a microchip with 1,000 independent programmable processors.

The team, from the University of California, Davis, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, developed the energy-efficient 621 million transistor “KiloCore” chip so that it could manage 1.78 trillion instructions per second.

Team leader Bevan Baas, professor of electrical and computer engineering said that it could be the world’s first 1,000-processor chip and it is the highest clock-rate processor ever designed in a university.

While other multiple-processor chips have been created, none exceed about 300 processors. Most of those were created for research purposes and few are sold commercially. IBM, using its 32 nm CMOS technology, fabricated the KiloCore chip.

Because each processor is independently clocked, it can shut itself down to further save energy when not needed, said graduate student Brent Bohnenstiehl, who developed the principal architecture. Cores operate at an average maximum clock frequency of 1.78 GHz, and they transfer data directly to each other rather than using a pooled memory area that can become a bottleneck for data.

The 1,000 processors can execute 115 billion instructions per second while dissipating only 0.7 Watts which mean it can be powered by a single AA battery. The KiloCore chip executes instructions more than 100 times more efficiently than a modern laptop processor.

The processor is already adapted for wireless coding/decoding, video processing, encryption, and others involving large amounts of parallel data such as scientific data applications and datacentre work.

AMD shows off Polaris-based Radeon RX 470 and RX 460

4528082378_4d5b9fb99e_zAMD has been showing off its latest Polaris based GPUs at E3 2016.

For those who came in late, Polaris is AMD’s bright new hope in the GPU world – a bit like Zen is for the CPU, only it appears to exist whereas Zen doesn’t.

THe Radeon RX 470 and RX 460  join the recently announced RX 480 as part of the company’s new Polaris family. Polaris is AMD’s newest GPU micro-architecture, which is based on the 14nm FinFet production process.

AMD is not telling us the prices of its new GPU, but it is possible to have stab at it. The  RX 480 is made for 1440p gaming, and the RX 470 will focus on delivering a “refined, power-efficient HD gaming” experience. The RX 460 will offer a “cool and efficient solution for the ultimate e-sports gaming experience.”

The 4GB version of the RX 480 will start out at $200, it’s safe to assume that these two other cards will launch at lower price points.

AMD says the chips are extremely thin, offering a very low Z-height, and will fit into thin and light gaming notebooks.

The entire new RX line will also support a wide variety of features that include DX12, Vulkan, HDR, HDMI 2.0b, DisplayPort 1.3/1.4, and H.265 encoding/decoding.

There is no release day  but since the RX 480 is scheduled to launch on June 29 the other two should be soon after. AMD is claiming that card outperforms $500 graphics cards in VR.

Qualcomm releases Connected Car Platform

accidentcarinwashingtondcQualcomm has released its Connected Car Reference Platform, which is designed for the car industry to build prototypes of the next-generation connected car.

If carmakers go for it, Qualcomm could make itself a pretty penny as cars are supposed to get more intelligent, even as their owners lose brain cells.

While the package does not seem there yet, as autonomous steering and collision avoidance features were missing, on-board specialised processors, in addition to new capabilities are all there.

Qualcomm will probably apply its machine learning SDK, announced just a few weeks ago, and the Snapdragon 820 processor to meet those needs.

Qualcomm said the Connected Car Reference Platform uses a common framework that scales from a basic telematics control unit (TCU) up to a highly integrated wireless gateway, connecting multiple electronic control units (ECUs) within the car and supporting critical functions, such as over-the-air software upgrades and data collection and analytics.

The vehicle’s connectivity hardware and software to be upgraded through its life cycle, providing automakers with a migration path from Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) to hybrid/cellular V2X and from 4G LTE to 5G.

It can also manage concurrent operation of multiple wireless technologies using the same spectrum frequencies, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy.

The system supports OEM and third-party applications to providing a secure framework for the development and execution of custom applications.

Qualcomm appears to be trying to solve the problem of over-the-air software updates. Updating software on a mission-critical system such as an autonomous car is a much harder problem than updating a smartphone because it has to be completely secure and work every time without reducing safety.

Qualcomm has to solve this problem anyway to accelerate shipments not only to the car market but to the IoT market, where it hopes to sell tens of billions of chips.

#Qualcomm says it expects to ship the Connected Car Reference Platform to automakers, tier 1 auto suppliers and developers late this year.

ARM shows off new chips

ARM logoBritish mobile chip designer ARM has been showing off a few new chips at Computex Taipei 2016.

The Cortex-A73 CPU and Mali-G71 GPU are designed to increase performance and power efficiency and support mobile VR.

Mali GPUs are big in the mobile world, with over 750 million shipped in 2015. The new Mali-G71 is based around the company’s third-generation Bifrost architecture.

The core allows for 50 percent higher graphics performance, 20 percent better power efficiency, and 40 percent more performance per square mm over ARM’s previous Mali GPU. It has 32 shader cores, ARM says the Mali-G71 can match discrete laptop GPUs like Nvidia’s GTX 940M.

ARM said that the chip was designed to fix specific problems thrown up by VR, supporting features like 4K resolution, a 120Hz refresh rate, and 4ms graphics pipeline latency.

ARM also showed off its new Cortex-A73 core, which prioritizes power efficiency. It’s up to 30 percent more efficient than the previous Cortex-A72 while offering about 1.3 times the level of peak performance, but ARM has also focused on sustained usage — the A73 offers over twice the performance within its power budget.
ARM expects chips to move into production at the end of the year and appear in shipping devices in early 2017.

Nvidia talks up Pascal

nvidiaNvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang has been telling the Nvidia Computex 2016 press conference about his latest Pascal-based GPUs.

He claimed they were being broadly adopted in applications including data centers, car-use electronics and deep-learning platforms.

He said Pascal GPUs will continue to use TSMC 16nm FinFET manufacturing process to provide enhanced performance than previous-generation products.

He said next-generation servers built by Nvidia’s Tesla P100 GPUs can compete against servers that are equipped with several hundreds of CPUs. Nvidia also showcased a server system manufactured by Quanta Computer.

He also showed the Pascal-based GeForce GTX 1080 reference design, displayed at the conference, the board is manufactured by Foxconn.

Nvidia has been pushing its Pascal GPUs into industry sectors, including virtual reality, car-use electronics and deep-learning. As for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, Huang noted that Nvidia has no interest in smartphones.

Google claims its TPU improves machine learning

victorian-education-2Google claims that its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), advances machine learning capability by a factor of three generations.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai told the Google’s I/O developer conference that TPUs deliver an order of magnitude higher performance per watt than all commercially available GPUs and FPGA.

Pichai said the chips powered the AlphaGo computer that beat Lee Sedol, the world champion in the incredibly complicated game called Go. Google still is not going into details of the Tensor Processing Unit but the company did disclose a little more information in its blog.

“We’ve been running TPUs inside our data centres for more than a year, and have found them to deliver an order of magnitude better-optimised performance per watt for machine learning. This is roughly equivalent to fast-forwarding technology about seven years into the future (three generations of Moore’s Law),” the blog said. “TPU is tailored to machine learning applications, allowing the chip to be more tolerant of reduced computational precision, which means it requires fewer transistors per operation. Because of this, we can squeeze more operations per second into the silicon, use more sophisticated and powerful machine learning models, and apply these models more quickly, so users get more intelligent results more rapidly.”

The tiny TPU can fit into a hard drive slot within the data centre rack and has already been powering RankBrain and Street View, the blog said.

What Google is not saying is what a TPU actually is and if it will be a replacement for a CPU or a GPU. Word on the street is that the TPU could be a form of chip that implements the machine learning algorithms that are crafted using more power hungry GPUs and CPUs.

Intel managers fume over call to “sell” decimation

decimationChipzilla’s managers are incandescent with rage that they are being ordered to “sell” Intel’s decimation of staff to the people who are given the boot.

Intel wants to get rid of more than 11 percent of its staff as it realises that it has lost the battle for the hearts and minds of the mobile industry.  It is shutting down its projects to build chips for Mobile Phones and Tablets.

Techeye has been told that a special webcast is scheduled on Monday for managers only, and it appears that it will be part of a hard core sales pitch to  pressurise managers to convince employees to take voluntary redundancy.

As one manager moaned: “Why the Fuck do I have to deliver the VSP Bullshit to my affected reports instead of them doing their own dirty work?”

He said it was bad enough when Intel’s front line were told to trap staff to hit SSL targets and then force them to have the ISP blood on their hands through the respect and dignity execution.”

“Will probably be required to take waterboarding training next,” he muttered.

The comment has appeared on a staff site called “the lay-off” and already has attracted a few comments from hacked off fellow managers.  Oddly one does not seem particularly upset at front line manager’s (FLMs) plight.

“OP, please, do not protect and SLMs. They are falsch/fake/trash, low level life forms (respect to 10% of them who R exceptions), protecting ONLY their fat asses.”

Another thought that the whole situation proved that Intel had “really had become a shit place to work”.