Saturday, June 7, 2008

AMD Rolls Out Highly-Anticipated AMD Turion X2 Ultra Mobile Platform

Advanced Micro Devices on Wednesday introduced its highly-anticipated new-generation platform for mobile computers code-named Puma. The new platform includes a brand-new AMD Turion X2 Ultra microprocessor with advanced power management capabilities as well as a breed of new chipsets with rich multimedia functionality. Notebooks powered by Puma are likely to become popular among consumers.

“AMD is uniquely positioned to deliver balanced platform solutions that tightly couple computing and graphics capabilities for a visually rich user experience. Our next-generation AMD notebook platform contains a host of interrelated innovations that together deliver enhanced business productivity and the ultimate in HD visual performance on the go,” said Dirk Meyer, president and chief operating officer at AMD.

AMD Turion X2 Ultra Enters the Scene

The heart of AMD’s latest notebook platform is AMD Turion X2 Ultra processor code-named Griffin. The new dual-core Turion X2 Ultra processor is based on the approved K9 micro-architecture, but sports several substantial enhancements aimed to reduce power consumption of the chip. In particular, the new central processing unit can independently clock each of its cores depending on the workload or disable a core if it is not needed, it sports power optimized HyperTransport 3.0 bus as well as dual-channel DDR2 memory controller with reduced power consumption.

Initially there will be three AMD Turion X2 Ultra processors available: ZM-80 (2.10GHz, 512KB cache per core [1MB L2 in total]), ZM-82 (2.20GHz, 512KB cache per core [1MB L2 in total]) and ZM-86 (2.40GHz, 1MB cache per core [2MB L2 in total]). Thermal design power of AMD Turion X2 Ultra processors is 35W, however, since the chip has power saving capabilities, actual average power consumption should be considerably lower than that.

The new processors are made using 65nm silicon-on-insulator process technology at AMD Fab 36 in Dresden, Germany.

AMD Improves Multimedia Capabilities of Mobile Computers

The new processors are compatible with new AMD 7-series chipsets for mobile applications that bring a lot of multimedia capabilities to the mobile platform. The new series of chipsets for notebooks includes the AMD M780G chipset with ATI Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics core with DirectX 10 support and Hybrid CrossFireX support, the AMD M780V chipset with ATI Radeon 3100 integrated graphics core, the AMD M780 discrete chipset that should be coupled with ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3000-series discrete graphics processing units. All chipsets will work with existing AMD SB700 I/O controller, at least initially.

Along with the new processors and chipsets, AMD also introduced ATI Radeon HD 3800-series discrete graphics processing units for notebooks aimed at gaming and multimedia applications.

“With the advent of Microsoft Windows Vista, its new graphics and multimedia features, as well as the applications that will be tailored to this operating system, discrete graphics have become a much more important part of the purchase decision. With the transition from desktops to laptops, consumers and business professionals are not only seeking the portability and connectivity provided by notebook PCs, they are also unwilling to compromise on the features and performance needed to drive the latest generation operating systems and applications. This next generation of notebooks must deliver the graphics and video capabilities to address this requirement,” said Bob O’Donnell, program vice president at IDC.

Notebooks powered by AMD Puma platform will feature various communication option, including 802.11a/b/g and/or 802.11 draft-N as well as 3G or WiMAX support.

Over 100 Design Wins

With this new-generation AMD notebook platform, AMD has nearly doubled the number of design wins over the previously unveiled dual-core AMD Turion 64 X2 to over 100. As well, the number of AMD notebooks with discrete graphics has increased by approximately 30% over the last major technology introduction of dual-core into the AMD Turion, the company indicated.

These new notebook designs come from leading OEMs including Acer, Asustek computer, Fujitsu, Fujitsu Siemens Computers, HP, MSI, NEC and Toshiba.

Microsoft Wants System Makers to Ensure Windows 7 Compatibility As Soon As Possible

In a bid to avoid situation when compatibility issues plague its new operating system, Microsoft Corp. strongly demands that independent hardware vendors (IHVs) tested beta version of its next-generation Windows 7 operating system (OS) alongside Windows Vista once that beta emerges. But while the process will allow keep away from problems with Windows 7, it will require additional efforts from IHVs.

“Beginning with the first beta of Windows 7 all Windows Vista submissions must include a complete CPK (compressed package) with test logs from Windows 7. The test logs generated are note required to pass,” a statement in the most recent list of requirements for IHVs who want to get Windows Vista logo.

Independent hardware vendors begin to develop drivers for next-generation operating systems long before those OSes become available to general public. However, in the current case, when there are a lot of users still use different versions of Windows XP and a lot of users already utilize Vista, development and polishing off the drivers for Windows 7 will either require additional resources for IHV driver teams, or may lead to re-allocation of workforce from XP and Vista development to Windows 7 driver creation.

“The tests should be run after performing an upgrade from Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008 to the beta OS. Testing on the new beta OS must be done with drivers that are intended to install on the beta OS,” the world’s largest software maker explained.

Even though development and improvement of drivers for Windows 7 operating system will cost hardware developers a lot of efforts, considering the fact that the next-generation operating system from Microsoft is due in late 2009 or early 2010, it does make sense to start all the works as soon as possible. Moreover, the experience that IHVs gain by creating and testing drivers for Windows 7 may be valuable even for further development of Windows Vista drivers since both OSes have a similar driver model.

Nvidia Presents New Lineup of Mobile Graphics Chips

Nvidia Corp., the world’s top supplier of discrete graphics processors, unveiled its new lineup of graphics processing units (GPUs) at Computex Taipei 2008. The new GeForce 9-series supports such features as Hybrid SLI as well as some clock-speed improvements over GeForce 8M-series. Still, the new lineup seems to be based on previous-generation technology and does not provide feature or performance breakthroughs.

Nvidia GeForce 9M family of graphics chips for notebooks currently includes nine members aimed at various market segments, from low-end integrated to entry-level and mainstream discrete. The new chips feature improved high-definition PureVideo engine functionality thanks to new drivers as well as the new MXM version 3.0 graphics module specification. In addition, thanks to Hybrid SLI technology, the new GPUs can work in tandem with built-in GeForce 9M graphics cores to boost video game performance or disable themselves to reduce power consumption.

The mainstream – GeForce 9650M GS, GeForce 9600M GT, 9600M GS and 9500M GS – seem to be based on Nvidia code-named G84 graphics processor or its derivative with 32 unified shader processors and should offer slightly higher performance compared to GeForce 8600M and 8700M offerings due to higher clock-speeds. The models that address the entry level market of notebook standalone GPUs – GeForce 9500M G, 9300M GS and 9300M G – seem to be based on Nvidia code-named G86 chip or its younger brother with 16 unified shader processors. Nvidia GeForce 9200M GS and 9100M G are integrated graphics cores with 8 unified shader processors. Nvidia remained tight-lipped over specs of the vast majority of its new offerings.

“Beginning this summer, GeForce 9M GPUs and Hybrid SLI, paired with AMD and Intel CPUs, will enable a new breed of notebooks. These new notebooks will be optimized to deliver a visual experience and raw computing performance that traditional cookie-cutter notebooks with integrated graphics simply can’t touch,” said Jeff Fisher, senior vice president of the GPU business at Nvidia.

According to Nvidia, the new GeForce 9M GPUs will power the visual computing experience in over a hundred notebook models beginning this summer.

IBM Touts New Liquid-Cooling Technique

In IBM’s labs, tiny rivers of water are cooling computer chips that have circuits and components stacked on top of each other. The design promises to increase the number of circuits on a chip and significantly reduce energy consumed by data centers.

IBM researchers, in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute in Berlin, demonstrated a prototype that integrates the cooling system into the 3D chips by piping water directly between each layer in the stack.

These so-called 3D chip stacks – which take chips and memory devices that traditionally sit side-by-side on a silicon wafer and stacks them together on top of one another – presents one of the most promising approaches to enhancing chip performance beyond its predicted limits.

IBM believes that 3D chip stacks would have an aggregated heat dissipation of close to 1 kilowatt with an area of 4 square centimeters and a thickness of about 1 millimeter. Moreover, each layer poses an additional barrier to heat removal.

“As we package chips on top of each other to significantly speed a processor’s capability to process data, we have found that conventional coolers attached to the back of a chip don’t scale. In order to exploit the potential of high-performance 3D chip stacking, we need interlayer cooling. Until now, nobody has demonstrated viable solutions to this problem,” explained Thomas Brunschwiler, project leader at IBM’s Zurich research laboratory.

The IBM team piped water into cooling structures as thin as a human hair (50 microns) between the individual chip layers in order to remove heat efficiently at the source. Using the superior thermophysical qualities of water, scientists were able to demonstrate a cooling performance of up to 180W/cm² per layer for a stack with a typical footprint of 4 cm².

In these experiments, scientists piped water through a 1 by 1cm test vehicle, consisting of a cooling layer between two dies or heat sources. The cooling layer measures only about 100 microns in height and is packed with 10 000 vertical interconnects per square centimeter.

The team overcame key technical challenges in designing a system that maximizes the water flow through the layers, yet hermetically seals the interconnects to prevent water from causing electrical shorts. The complexity of such a system resembles that of a human brain, wherein millions of nerves and neurons for signal transmissions are intermixed but do not interfere with tens of thousands of blood vessels for cooling and energy supply, all within the same volume.

The fabrication of the individual layers was accomplished with existing fabrication methods, except those needed to etch or drill the holes for signal transmission from one layer to the next. To insulate these “nerves”, scientists left a silicon wall around each interconnect (also called through silicon vias) and added a fine layer of silicon oxide to insulate the electrical interconnects from the water. The structures had to be fabricated to an accuracy of 10 microns, 10 times more accurate than for interconnects and metallizations in current chips, IBM said.

To assemble the individual layers, Mr. Brunschwiler with colleagues from the Fraunhofer Institute developed a sophisticated thin-film soldering technique. Using this technique, scientists achieved the high quality, precision and robustness needed to ensure excellent thermal contacts as well as electrical contacts without shorts. In the final setup, the assembled stack is placed in a silicon cooling container resembling a miniature basin. The water is pumped into the container from one side and flows between the individual chip layers before exiting at the other side.

Using simulations, scientists extrapolated the experimental results of their test vehicle to a 4cm² chip stack and achieved a cooling performance of 180 W/cm².

The results were presented in a paper entitled “Forced convective interlayer cooling in vertically integrated packages” at the IEEE ITherm conference in Orlando, Florida, where it received a Best Paper award. This makes the third consecutive year in which the IBM Zurich Lab’s Advanced Thermal Packaging team was awarded for their chip-cooling innovations at leading IT cooling conferences.

By borrowing efficient concepts from nature and combining these with their long-standing expertise in microscale heat and mass transfer in addition to micro-fabrication techniques, IBM researchers have developed a new breed of highly efficient chip-cooling technologies that have the potential to resolve the cooling issue for generations of high-performance, efficient chips to come.

Intel Proposes to Play Demanding PC Video Games on Handhelds Remotely

In a bid to popularize mobile Internet devices (MID) with moderate performance for advanced video games among those who use handheld devices to play, Intel Corp. teamed up with StreamMyGame company, which software allows to play one’s PC video games on other devices by streaming them over the Internet.

During the speech given by Intel executive vice president Sean Maloney at Computex Taipei 2008, Intel demonstrated how a powerful Intel processor-based desktop PC hosting an intense 3D game could be streamed and played remotely on a mobile device connected to the Internet wirelessly without compromising the game-play experience. The demonstration was made possible by the combination of powerful microprocessors and a fast WiMAX wireless broadband network.

Technologies from StreamMyGame enable members of its web-site to play games and use applications when they are away from their PC. The PC game’s video and audio is captured in real-time and sent over the Internet to a remote device, which may be another PC, Sony PlayStation 3, ultra-mobile PC or even a handheld. The keyboard input at the remote device is sent back to the PC and used to control the game.

“We are entering a new mobile age where everything from video, audio, software applications and games can be accessed and played on the move. Our members can play games installed on their home PCs whenever and wherever they choose,” said Richard Faria chief executive officer of StreamMyGame.

Acer Releases Aspire One Low-Cost Sub-Notebook

Acer, the world’s third largest supplier of personal computers, unveiled its first low-cost netbook during Computex Taipei 2008 trade-show. The Acer Aspire One is aimed at the emerging market of affordable sub-notebooks, but it will feature components that can be found on many business and consumer models nowadays, thus, will not be feature-constraint.

“The Aspire one is a brand new product which, despite its size, is not just another notebook: it’s a stylish all-new digital device designed to deliver continuous access to the internet no matter where you are,” a statement by Acer claims.

Acer Aspire One comes with 8.9” screen with 1024x600 resolution and is based on Intel Atom N270 (1.60GHz) processor as well as Intel 945GMS and ICH7-M core-logic with integrated graphics core. The notebooks will be equipped with 512MB or 1GB (Windows XP version only) of PC2-5300 (DDR2 667MHz) memory, 8GB solid state drive (Linux version) 80GB hard disk drive (Windows XP version), memory card reader, 1.3MP webcam, Ethernet controller, Wi-Fi controller, Bluetooth controller, audio outputs, USB ports and so on. The weight of the machine starts at about 1Kg (2.2 pounds).

The Aspire One will be initially available in blue and white and the range of colors will be expanded later this year with two new soft, warm tones: brown and pink. Besides, versions with embedded WiMAX and 3G will be available later this year.

According to Acer, the Aspire One has up to 3 hours battery life with standard 3-cell battery and up to 6 hours battery life with optional 6-cell battery.

Considering the fact that Aspire One comes equipped with large hard drive, Bluetooth technology, powerful optional battery as well as optional wide area wireless network capability, the novelty from Acer cannot be called an ultra low cost personal computer, as this is a fully-fledged sub-notebook, very similar to MSI Wind, but with a set of proprietary features from Acer, such as Signal Up technology that improves wireless network operation.

The new Aspire One will be available in early Q3 through Acer authorized resellers and selected retailers throughout North America, with pricing beginning at $379 for Linux version and for about $600 for Windows XP Home version.

Intel Promises “High Volumes” of Atom Processors by Fall

Despite of the fact that there are not a lot Intel Atom processors in the lineup of Intel Corp., due to tremendous interest for such chips from system makers, demand for these chips greatly exceeds supply. Intel admits that Atom processors are in tight supply, but says that by Fall shipment volumes of the low-power central processing units (CPU) will be considerably higher compared to today.

“We’ve got four 300mm fabs, so we can really hose this stuff out. By September, there are going to be very, very high volumes [of Intel Atom processors],” said Sean Maloney, Intel Corp.’s executive vice president and general manager of sales and marketing group, reports IDG News Service.

Back in late April it transpired that Intel cannot ship its much-discussed Atom processors in sufficient quantities for those makers who demand to build netbooks or nettops on their base. This is hardly surprising, as at Computex Taipei 2008 alone about ten Intel Atom-based designs were unveiled with considerably more suppliers interested to ship “atomic” systems under their brands.

Computer maker Asustek Computer said that it would have no problems if Intel solves supply problems with Atom processors by October so that to be in position to produce sufficient ammount of Atom-based devices for holiday season. However, keeping in mind the fact that many potential customers among students or those seeking for a low-cost mobile Internet device would like to acquire their new machines in August or September, tight supplies of Intel Atom processors may hurt computer vendors.

Intel Atom processors, just like the latest Intel Core 2 and Intel Xeon chips, are produced using 45nm process technology. At present Intel has two 300mm fabs that produce chips using 45nm process technology – D1D in Hillsboro, Oregon, and Fab 32 in Chandler, Arizona. Given that Intel has a plan to aggressively ramp up production of new desktop processors using the new process technology, a slight mistake in demand prediction automatically means shortages of Intel Atom chips, which hardly received the first priority from Intel. Two additional 45nm, 300mm manufacturing factories are scheduled to open this year in Kiryat Gat, Israel (Fab 28) and Rio Rancho, New Mexico (Fab 11x), which will let Intel to manufacture sufficient amount of Atom, Core 2 and Xeon processors. Approximately 2.5 thousand Atom processors can be made on a single 300mm wafer.

Intel offers Atom processors with various specs and power consumption for netbooks, nettops as well as handheld devices. Intel also readies dual-core Atom chips for inexpensive desktops.

Sun Microsystems to Use Solid-State Drives for Servers

Sun Microsystems, a leading maker of servers, said on Wednesday that it would use solid state drives (SSDs) in several lineup of its machines to boost performance, cut power consumption and reduce cost of ownership.

“Flash SSD is the most exciting innovation to happen to system and storage design in over a decade. By mid-2009, it will be in the majority of servers and deliver more capacity than DRAM and far greater overall system performance and energy efficiency. This technology will completely change how server and storage infrastructure is designed and deployed in enterprise data centers,” said John Fowler, executive vice president of systems group at Sun Microsystems.

With the recent explosion of data that needs to be processed efficiently and immediately accessible, companies of all sizes are looking to open source storage solutions that work with general purpose hardware. Flash-based technology enables these customers to immediately increase application performance and save on energy costs compared to traditional Fibre Channel hard disk drives (HDDs). Solid state drives will also enable greater system utilization and scalability that will decrease server and storage sprawl in already maxed-out data centers.

According to Sun, SSDs provide three times better performance at one-fifth the energy consumption of traditional spinning hard disk drives offerings, which is completely true, if not to keep in mind that solid state drives cost considerably more than traditional HDDs.

Sun believes that in the storage industry, 2008 will prove to be a pivotal tipping point for flash technology, as the performance and reliability along with the price of SSD is expected to be more attractive than Fibre Channel hard drive technology. Enterprise-class Fibre Channel hard disk drives have only exhibited a 40% year-over-year price decline in the last decade, while the flash SSD price per gigabyte continues to fall between 50% and 70% annually.

Sun is already shipping Solaris ZFS software optimized for SSD technologies through the OpenSolaris community and is the first major systems vendor to add an end-to-end flash-based disk product line to its portfolio.

Sun said that its SSDs are optimized for MySQL database and other leading applications. These solutions leverage open source platforms and communities to increase the performance of data intensive applications and deliver the industry’s best value by cutting down power consumption. The integration of Solaris ZFS in Open Storage systems, Sun’s industry standard servers and Sun services sets Sun apart in the industry. These solutions are “flash Ready” today so customers can easily, simply and cost-effectively scale their infrastructure as required and ensure data is securely stored and accessible 24/7, Sun said.

Sun did not reveal how it plans to address the fact that every bit of flash memory can only be recorded for a limited amount of times. Back in the days consumers who needed flash for data storage developed special software applications that counted the amount of times every bit was used and eliminated potentially faulty bits.

Sony Readies Wiimote-Like Controlling Device for PlayStation 3 – Rumour

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. may be working on a Wiimote-like controller for its latest PlayStation 3 game console to target audience not currently interested in PS3. But while the details remain in the shadows, the reasons to develop such a controller are completely clear.

There are a lot of reasons to worry for Microsoft Corp. and Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. now that Nintendo Wii is breaking its own sales records every month. There are numerous reasons for Wii popularity, but the main are orientation on casual gamers, motion sensing Wiimote controller and relatively low price. Obviously, Sony and Microsoft cannot refocus or reduce pricing of PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 overnight, but add a new controller and several games aimed at children or occasional gamers is something they are capable off.

A rumour says that Sony contacted several PlayStation 3 owners who visit PlayStation Underground forums and offered them to participate in a test of a new motion-sensing PlayStation 3 controller early this year, reported blog in late May, which has been removed since then.

According to the post, the motion-sensing PS3 controllers needed a tripod, which connected to the PS3’s USB port and also needed to be set up in the middle of one’s gaming area, much like a “batter standing above home plate” in baseball. It is unclear whether the controller itself was actually wireless and whether it was the final version of the product.

The focus group was shown capabilities of the motion-sensitive PlayStation 3 game controller with several “mini-games” that ranged from tennis, to fencing, to paintball game. The demonstrator reportedly even used the controller to play Quake on his laptop.

Earlier this year it transpired that Microsoft Corp. had patented a motion-sensing device that could control a personal computer or a video game console. The supposedly easy-to-use device could well compete against Wii’s Wiimote on Xbox 360 platform.

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. did not comment on the news-story.

Microsoft Extends Windows XP Home Availability for “Nettops”

After entry-level mobile personal computers – which are sometimes called “netboooks” – appeared to be pretty successful, a number of manufacturers are gearing up to introduce ultra low-cost desktop systems, which they call “nettops”. In a bid to offer an operating system for those ultra low-cost desktop PCs, Microsoft announced at Computex Taipei 2008 the worldwide extension of Windows XP Home availability for such systems.

Windows XP Home for desktop or mobile ultra low-cost personal computers (ULCPCs) will be available until the later of June 30, 2010, or one year after general availability of the next version of Windows. The extension of XP availability is a result of Windows Vista requirements for performance, which cannot be made available on entry-level systems presently, and the growing popularity of Linux operating system on affordable personal computers.

“Customers and partners have made it clear to us that they want Windows on their netbooks and nettops. We are committed to providing Windows solutions for these devices, helping to ensure a high-quality experience for both our partners and customers,” said Steven Guggenheimer, corporate vice president of the original equipment manufacturer division at Microsoft.

Microsoft is working with more than 20 original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) including Acer, Asustek Computer, BenQ, Dell, First International Computer (FIC), Gigabyte Technology, HP, Inventec, Lenovo, Medion AG, MicroStar Internationa, Positivo Informatica, Pegatron, Quanta Computer and Wistron to deliver entry-level Windows-based offerings for consumers.