Thursday, July 23, 2009

Windows 7 finally goes to RTM

Microsoft have finally announed that at 4pm today E.T. (which I’m assuming is Seattle time and not the arrival time for an alien spacecraft) Windows 7 went to RTM.

You can read the official announcement on the Windows team blog here.

This marks a significant milestone in the development of what was a very short beta and testing process. The decision to RTM has been eagerly anticipated for weeks by the very same people who were saying the beta’s not been long enough. Well, you can’t have everything I suppose!

The RTM build number is 7600.16385

ATI Expects DirectX 11 Graphics Lineup to Ramp Up Fast

ATI, graphics business unit of Advanced Micro Devices, confirmed that it is on-track to launch its first lineup of DirectX 11 graphics processing units (GPUs) “in the back half of the year” and that the product family will ramp up very quickly in the channel market. In addition, AMD promised DirectX 11 graphics chips for mobile computers to arrive in the first half of 2010.

“What I do expect to be an opportunity for AMD in the second half of the year is our introduction of DirectX 11-compatible products, in effect, a new product stack. We expect to be out ahead of our competition and we think that it will have a positive effect on our mix and hence our ASPs in the back half of the year,” said Dirk Meyer, chief executive officer of Advanced Micro Devices.

ATI demonstrated its first DirectX 11 graphics processors at Computex Taipei 2009 in early June, however, it did not outline any actual timeframes for introduction. This time the company revealed several important things: there will be a lineup of DX11-compatible products unveiled this year, ATI’s graphics cards partners will ramp up production of appropriate graphics cards quickly and that mobile DirectX 11-class solutions will be available in the first half of 2010.

“I expect that to be a very quick ramp in the desktop AIB channel, as we refer to it, and expect DirectX 11 to start to showing up in notebooks more like in the first half of next year,” said Mr. Meyer.

If AMD’s ATI unit really manages to be the first company to announce DirectX 11 GPUs, it will be able to enjoy rather high profit margins due to the lack of competition from Nvidia Corp. or Intel Corp.

“The new DirectX 11 stack I referenced will be in 40nm, and clearly that will give us an opportunity to kind of regain the high ground even more substantially and hence improve our mix in ASP and hence margins,” the head of AMD claimed.

There are unofficial reports over the Internet that ATI may release its chip known under “RV870” and “Evergreen” code-names in September or October. However, there are also claims that ATI Radeon HD 5000-series is only due in November.

Kingston Unveils Enormous Capacity USB Flash Drive: 256GB

Kingston Technology, a leading maker of flash and dynamic random access memory products, has unveiled yet another USB flash drive with incredible capacity of 256GB. The drive is currently the industry’s highest capacity USB stick available.

Kingston DataTraveler 300/256GB does not provide high transfer speeds: it can be read at 20MB/s and recorded at 10MB/s, which means that recording 256GB of data onto the flash drive will take approximately 7.1 hours. By contrast, Kingston DataTraveler HyperX supports a read speed of 25MB/s and write speed of 16MB/s, however, its capacities are “only” up to 32GB.

Kingston positions ultra-high capacity USB flash drives for those, who need rapid access to large collections of music and video or commercial databases while on the go. However, the price tag of roughly $1000 means that very few consumers or business users will be able to afford the device. Moreover, for even higher performance, it makes sense to install a solid-state drive into a notebook or desktop: it will be even faster and will cost a lot less.

AMD Phenom II X4 42 TWKR Microprocessor Sold for $11 600 at Auction

The exclusive microprocessor by Advanced Micro Devices aimed strictly at hardcore overclockers and very experienced performance enthusiasts has been sold at an Ebay auction. The final price of the AMD Phenom II X4 42 TWKR chip was whopping $11 600 and it is probably the highest price for any desktop microprocessor ever.

For the gigantic price the buyer will get one of 100 AMD Phenom II X4 42 TWKR processors ever made and one of the two such chips that will be available on the public market. The pleasure of owning such a rare item and pay $11 600 for it is somewhat questionable: it will be at least scary to experiment with a central processing unit that costs like a small vehicle.

AMD Phenom II X4 42 Black Edition TWKR microprocessor is designed to be extreme overclocker, which is why its "default" settings are not important at all: even though the nominal frequency of the chip is just 2.0GHz with 1.440V voltage, the chip will never be utilized at this clock-speed. Instead, professional overclockers will use extreme cooling methods, e.g., liquid nitrogen, dry ice, liquid helium, cascade, etc. Nevertheless, "TWKR" processors will not provide truly unbeatable overclocking results: AMD only expects maximum clock-speed to be in the range between 100MHz and 200MHz higher compared to maximum overclocking result of the Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition (3.20GHz nominal frequency) that costs $245.

Professional overclockers can make AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition processor work at about 7.0GHz, therefore, at least some TWKR processors will be able to work even faster than that.

There is another AMD Phenom II X4 42 TWKR available at Ebay at the moment.

Release Date of ATI’s DirectX 11 Chip Still Unclear

Even though ATI, graphics business unit of Advanced Micro Devices, demonstrated the planet’s first DirectX 11 graphics processing unit (GPU) back at Computex Taipei trade-show in early June, 2009, actual launch date of the processor is still unclear, at least, based on unofficial information.

There are reports over the Internet that ATI may release its chip known under “RV870” and “Evergreen” code-names in September or October. However, ATI-Forum.de web-site claims that the first DirectX 11 chip from ATI is only due in November. It is rather clear that ATI will do its best to deliver DirectX 11 hardware inline with the launch of Windows 7 and DirectX 11 in late October, 2009, however, it uncertain whether the company manages to ensure high enough supply of the processor at launch.

Earlier this year, due to low yields at 40nm node of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, AMD could not obtain enough chips to fulfill the demand towards its ATI RV740 (ATI Radeon HD 4770) chip aimed at volume entry-level market segment. In fact, ATI and TSMC were running test manufacturing of RV740 for many months ahead of launch: one the first samples were made back in October, 2008, a long time before the launch in April ’09.

The key new innovations of DirectX 11 are Compute Shaders, Tessellation, Multi-Threaded Rendering, HDR Compression, Dynamic Shader Linkage and numerous others. The new capabilities will enable richer graphics experience as well as standardized approach for using GPUs for general-purpose computing (GPGPU), which will allow game developers to use graphics chips for computing of artificial intelligence, physics effects and so on.

Despite rumoured issues with the yield of the next-gen chip that has high chances to carry Radeon HD 5000-series name, ATI/AMD is confident that it will be the first company on the market with the DirectX 11-supporting hardware.