Intel Releases Details of New Processors: Core i3, Core i5, Integrated GraphicsThe 17 new processors Intel plans to introduce will extend the Nehalem microarchitecture through the desktop and laptop PC lines, with the Core i3 CPUs the new entry-level family, and Core i5 christened as the midrange. Core i7 will remain the high-end CPU option.The Core i5 CPUs will support Turbo Boost, which allows for dynamically overclocking the CPU's clock speed if there's the proper headroom to do so, and Hyper-Threading, the ability to run more than one thread per core, for increased performance.Also of particular note is that the Core i3 and Core i5 processors will contain Intel HD Graphics—the first time Intel has included integrated graphics on the processor instead of in a separate chip. (Core i7 CPUs, intended more for gamers and enthusiasts who will need or want discrete graphics, will not include integrated video.) The new graphics capabilities can decode two HD streams in hardware.Stephen Smith, Intel's vice president and director of PC clients and enabling, said at a press conference on Thursday that the HD audio and video in the chipsets are "[g]ood enough that a home theater vendor would use them for their high end consumer products."
Have Scientists Found Dark Matter?Scientists believe they have found evidence of dark matter, the invisible substance believed to comprise three-quarters of the matter in the universe, in a defunct iron mine in northern Minnesota. The tentative detection of two dark-matter particles, known as weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs) for their tendency to pass unimpeded through ordinary matter, was made by the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) project and announced by several laboratories, partners in a consortium that manages the project.Despite the announcement, project scientists acknowledge that there is still about a 25 percent chance that the detections were caused by some other unrelated effect, and that they will need at least five detections before they can definitively state they have found dark matter.The detections were made by cryogenically cooled sensors at the bottom of the Soudan Iron Mine, a location that shields the detectors from more ordinary stray particles. To reach the underground laboratory, a particle would have to pass through half a mile of iron-rich rock. And to be detected, the WIMP would still have to collide with the nucleus of an atom in the sensor's Zip detectors. These employ state-of-the-art thin-film superconducting technology using 250g germanium and 100g silicon crystals, which are capable of recording the extremely low energy generated by such a collision. Such collisions are extraordinarily rare, if indeed the detections are valid.Dark matter was first proposed in the 1930s by astronomer Fritz Zwicky to account for the fact that clusters of galaxies remain cohesive despite not having enough visible matter to keep them from flying apart. Therefore, there must be additional matter, unseen and undetectable by normal means, to keep them gravitationally bound.Cosmological evidence of dark matter has been gathered through the measuring of gravitational lensing by galaxy clusters. (In an effect predicted by Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, the gravity of massive objects such as a cluster of galaxies will bend the light coming from more distant objects.)The elusive dark matter has been a holy grail for both astronomy and particle physics, and its definitive detection would be a major advance in our efforts to understand the universe.
2010 Storage Roadmap: Bigger Drives, Faster Connections Although hard drives don't technically follow Moore's Law, they might as well. Every year it seems they get more capacity at lower prices. That was certainly true in 2009, and should continue in the foreseeable future.This year's big news was the introduction of 2TB 3.5-inch drives and 1TB 2.5-inch drives, respectively the top-end capacity for desktops and notebooks. Capacity has been growing at about 40 percent a year, and the hard drive vendors see no slowdown.Current drives are using a technique called perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR), which started hitting the market three or four years ago and is expected to continue for several more years. After that, most vendors are talking about using a technique called heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR), although other techniques, such as self-ordered magnetic arrays, are also being investigated.Drive makers have been talking about new technologies for many years, but so far PMR has continued to scale dramatically. Manufacturers typically can now store 320GB on a single 2.5-inch platter, which is why 640GB drives are a common size. A year from now, we may see that grow to about 500GB per platter, making 1TB 2.5-inch drives common and a three-platter, 1.5TB, 2.5-inch drive possible. In desktop 3.5-inch drives, we now commonly see 500GB per platter, with a four-platter drive reaching 2TB. This, too, should grow.Solid-state drives (SSDs) have gotten a lot of attention in small capacities for netbooks, and in larger capacities for notebooks, where their thin profiles and fast read times show some benefit. For smaller capacities, around 16GB or less, they can compete with hard drives on price, but for larger capacities they are significantly more expensive. Still, we're seeing more SSDs at capacities such as 64GB and 128GB, often made from less-expensive MLC memory with special controllers.But the push toward Flash storage has hurt the market for the smallest hard drives. Only Toshiba and Samsung make 1.8-inch drives, with Toshiba seemingly most committed and now shipping a 160GB drive. (It's no surprise that Apple's largest-capacity iPod is also 160GB.) But in part because 1.8-inch drives have been slower than traditional 2.5-inch drives, they haven't seen as much use in notebooks. Instead, the vendors seem more focused on 2.5-inch drives, with Seagate introducing a 500GB 2.5-in drive that's only 7mm thick.Among the vendors, there has been some consolidation among drive makers, with the market for drives effectively shrinking to five players: Seagate, Western Digital, Toshiba (which acquired Fujitsu's hard drive business this year), Hitachi, and Samsung. Even this varies by market—Toshiba does not make desktop drives, while Seagate, Hitachi, and Fujitsu have dominated enterprise drives. Other vendors sell retail drives, but they buy the basic drives from one of these five and typically add their own software, case, and so on1.In the consumer segment, external drives, mostly connected via USB 2.0, have grown tremendously in recent years. Prices have come down, and the drives have gotten easier to use, with better included backup software and most 2.5-inch drives being powered from the port.We are seeing some renewed interest in what is now being called "cloud storage": effectively, backing up your personal computers to a network in the cloud. This isn't a new idea. Products like Mozy and SugarSync have been out for some time, but more people now seem to be paying attention. The storage and security vendors all seem to want part of this market as well, not to mention OS vendors like Microsoft and Apple.Many storage vendors are coming out with new ways of connecting your storage to devices beyond the PC. Seagate's FreeAgent Theatre and Western Digital's WDTV connect an external drive or other storage on your network directly to a TV. And Seagate has an interesting partnership with PogoPlug for letting you share your local storage over the Web in a product called DockStar.In the enterprise storage market, it's not just drives that matter: It's the controllers and software. Both network-attached storage (NAS) and storage-area networks (SANs) continue to grow, with the latter having become a staple of large enterprises.It's not so much that there are completely new technologies hitting in these areas, but some of the things that have been around for a bit are becoming more popular. Just about every storage maker offers some form of storage virtualization, making it easier to move storage from one physical location to another without the application knowing about the change. as that's the key reason for SANs in the first place. SSDs—typically very fast drives made from SLC flash and special controllers—are getting more attention, particularly in applications where fast reads can help a system handle more transactions.This year, we're seeing more of a push for tiered storage, where data is split either manually or automatically among SSDs (for the most immediately needed data, often used almost like a cache), fast Fiber Channel drives (which are typically smaller capacity than traditional drives but faster, and store frequently used data) and traditional SATA-based drives (which are larger, and used for information that isn't used quite as often, but still needs to be accessible). And of course, many people are still archiving to tape. Other features getting more attention are replication, snapshots, and as always, better management tools.The interfaces that connect drives are evolving as well. For enterprise drives, Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) is moving to a new 6-Gbps standard this year. And for external drives, while I expect USB 2.0 to still be dominant along some eSata and FireWire drives. USB 3.0 seems poised to replace it, bringing with it much faster connections. However, I don't expect to see many drives supporting that for a while. It needs chipset support on the client PC, and that isn't yet formally in either AMD or Intel's roadmaps.
Eeeya. AlienCrapWare sucks. Gimmick overload.
Intel Desktop Board DH55TC: A Media Maven Awaiting DriversOne of the first desktop motherboards to use Intel's new 5 Series Chipset, the Desktop Board DH55TC (which was codenamed "Tom Cove"), available for about $100 (street), demonstrates both the promise and the current limitations of Intel's latest technology. For builders interested in putting together a straightforward media system, it offers a fair amount of potential, but doesn't yet achieve all of it.
Intel Releases Clarkdale and Arrandale ProcessorsIntel is making sure that 2010 does not get off to a slow start, especially for mainstream computer users. Following its initial announcement last month of its new Core i3 and Core i5 families of CPUs, which bring the 32nm Nehalem advancements of 2008 down from the enthusiast segment and introduce integrated graphics (called Intel HD Graphics) onto the CPU die itself, the company has now released the full details of the new desktop and mobile lines, respectively codenamed "Clarkdale" and "Arrandale."The 17 processors that Intel released today sport the Nehalem architecture. This gives them the ability to use Intel's Turbo Boost technology, which allows for the on-the-fly overclocking if the appropriate headroom is available; Hyper-Threading, which increases performance by allowing for two threads per processing core; enhanced Intel Smart Cache and a memory controller integrated into the CPU; and intelligent power gating between the CPU and the Intel HD Graphics. DDR3 is also the new RAM standard across all lines.Moving the graphics controller onto the CPU die means that the chipsets are now based on two chips rather than three. This is the basis of the 5 Series Chipsets, seven new iterations of which Intel releases today. These chipsets offer a number of features, including Rapid Storage technology, for faster access to and better protection of files using certain kinds of RAID; integrated HDMI, DisplayPort, and DVI support; Quiet System Technology, for reducing noise by minimizing fan speed changes; and Remote PC Assist.The three new Centrino Wi-Fi options provide increased range and speed for mobile PCs across every price range.For the most part, enthusiasts or performance freaks aren't going to find a lot in these releases—these are mainly to build out the Nehalem line that die-hard speed lovers have already known about for over a year. Enthusiasts also shouldn't expect Intel HD Graphics showing up in their favorite CPUs any time soon—Intel tells us that innovation is going to remain strictly in the Core i3 (entry-level) and Core i5 (midrange) lines. Power users will need to rely on discrete graphics (which they probably would have anyway).Intel sent us a Core i5-661 midrange desktop CPU and a Desktop Board DH55TC (using the H55 Express chipset)—we've reviewed them both. PCMag Laptop Analyst Cisco Cheng put a Core i5-540M Arrandale processor to the test as well. For more in-depth information and specs about Intel's new processor, chipset, and wireless lines
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Sony Tech Could Boost Blu-ray Capacity By 33 PercentSony appears to be readying technology that would increase the capacity of Blu-ray discs from 25 Gbytes to 33.4 Gbytes, an increase in capacity of just over 33 percent.Nikkei Electronics Asia quotes a source at Sony that says the partial response maximum likelihood (PRML) signal processing would continue to use the blue-violet laser (at 405 nanometers) currently used by the existing Blu-ray technology.The problem, according to the story, was determining the error rate of the Blu-ray media, which currently is assessed using jitter. The new technique uses a method called i-MLSE (Maximum Likelihood Sequence Estimation), which both Sony and Panasonic jointly developed in a paper presented in October.Sony plans to propose that the Blu-ray Disc Association adopt i-MLSE, which would open the technology up for widespread adoption. The story doesn't speculate on how this might affect Blu-ray media prices, or how quickly the technology could be implemented into Blu-ray readers don't appear to be the hot sellers that DVD burners once were. However, the additional capacity could easily be used by additional featurettes and other content accompanying Blu-ray movies.
Battle of the $99 Video CardsIt's been an open secret for years now that, even if the only games you care about are low-intensity ones like World of Warcraft, The Sims 3, or Zuma's Revenge, a discrete video card is the way to go. Integrated graphics are okay for as much as Windows Aero, but beyond that, taking the strain off the CPU almost always improves your computing experience. A lot of people, however, don't want to shell out hundreds of dollars for a new graphics card—they want something that's both powerful and inexpensive. Today, ATI fills down its 5000 series of graphics cards with the Radeon HD 5670, a card that, like Nvidia's similarly equipped GeForce GT 240, clocks in at just under $100, a price just about anyone can afford.But which is the better buy? We warmed up one of our test beds to put both an AMD reference model of the ATI card, and PNY's retail Verto GeForce GT 240, through their paces to find out which will deliver the better experience for the casual gamer.The CompetitorsATI Radeon HD 5670You have to give AMD credit for jumping on the bleeding-edge tech bandwagon before Nvidia. The last six months or so have given ATI cards a considerable edge in the funky features department, with DirectX 11 and the multi-monitor capability Eyefinity cranking up all of the 5000-series cards' cool factors. If you want to spread images easily over multiple monitors or give your games a visual boost with things like tessellation, right now you simply need an ATI card.The question is whether most consumers in the market for a video card costing $99 will need or want these features. Most ordinary people don't just have unused monitors sitting around to take advantage of Eyefinity. (The 5670 can display across three monitors now; later updates will add the possibility of a fourth.) And because there are currently so few DX11 games—three (Battleforge, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat, and DiRT 2 as of this writing, plus the Heaven Benchmark—and none readilys fall into the "casual" category, chances are most users won't be able to fully appreciate that functionality, either. (The 5670 also supports ATI Stream, which lets the GPUs work in concert with the CPU on certain tasks, but is generally a background collaboration most users won't notice.)But the ATI Radeon HD 5670 supports them both, for adventurously laid-back gamers or those who want their card investments to pay larger dividends down the line. For everyone, AMD's reference version of the 5670 boasts compute power of 620 gigaflops, a core clock speed of 775 MHz, 400 stream processors, and 512MB or 1GB of 4-Gbps memory. Its power usage (a typical rating of 61 watts, using 14 watts when idling) won't tax anyone's power supply too heavily, and it draws all the juice it needs from the PCIe x16 slot—no additional cable from the PSU is required. And because the card requires only a single slot due to its very modest-sized fan, there will be room for it in almost everyone's case. It has DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort connectors, but no VGA, which might make it difficult for everyday users to add a second monitor, even if they want to.PNY Verto GeForce GT 240Nvidia's been largely silent on the consumer video card front as of late, with the GeForce GT 240 chipset, unveiled in November, as of one of its few major releases. And even then, Nvidia lagged behind ATI in some respects, most notably DX11—one would have thought, with Windows 7 and its DX11 support so imminent, that Nvidia would have gone out of its way to ensure compatibility. But that didn't happen—this GT 240 maxes out at support for DX10.1.. So if you're dying to play DX11 games in even small dollops of glory, Nvidia cards will not currently help you.Built-in support for 3D Vision might be a nice compromise for some—assuming you have the right monitor and Nvidia's 3D Vision hardware, you can have a pretty compelling 3D experience even with as entry-level a card as the GT 240. ATI doesn't have anything comparable built into its hardware; Eyefinity is its big deal, and based on Nvidia's press conference at CES, Nvidia plans to adapt that for use with its own initiatives as 3D Vision Surround sometime in the near future. Nvidia also supports PhysX technology, which allows for high-level physics effects in games that support it.PNY's version of the GT 240 has 512MB of GDDR5 video memory, as well as a 550-MHz core clock, 96 CUDA processor cores (for increasing performance via parallel computing, essentially the equivalent of ATI's Stream), and a 1,340-MHz processor clock. Like the ATI Radeon HD 5670, PNY's card has a small fan, occupies only a single slot, and doesn't need to draw extra power from your power supply. But its connectors are slightly different: DVI, HDMI, and VGA (which ATI's card lacks).ConclusionsBoth the ATI Radeon HD 5670 and the PNY Verto GeForce GT 240 deliver modest gaming power for their $99 price. If your needs are simple—you're just looking for something to pep up your off-the-shelf (or off-the-download games) games, and maybe transcode some videos—either card should be sufficient. But in almost every game we tested, the 5670 proved the more consistent performer, even if it was rarely faster or more visually impressive than the Nvidia card.If you're choosing between a standard 5670 and a 512MB GT 240, we can solidly recommend the later. If, however, you plan on doing more serious gaming of any kind, or you want to play at resolutions much above about 1,680 by 1,050, you'd be better off spending just a little bit more for almost any other more powerful card. These cards have their limits—either should be an okay purchase for you as long as you don't make plans to exceed them.
AppOmator offers a new way to build iPhone appsAmong others, many individuals and companies in the music industry see opportunities in building their own additions to the 100,000 app-strong App Store. Creating an app that suits one's business goals or personal tastes, however, isn't necessarily easy. While some Web services provide templates to build an app, NonLinear's Mac desktop application lets users fully customize their app.Using AppOmater, you can add custom graphics for the background and menu transitions, as well as the ability to create buttons in your app. You can link to tracks with audio, video, images, and chapter index markers, taking users to a specific place in a media file.Once your app is complete, you upload it to the AppOmator Web site, where it is processed. At that point, you can pay to download it, then use your iPhone Developer Account to submit it to the App Store approval process. For a monthly fee, you also have the option to have AppOmator handle your end of the approval process for you.AppOmator is expected to be released in early February. The app will be free to download, but there will be a charge to claim your finished iPhone app.
Intel outlook points to PC industry recoveryIntel's fourth-quarter earnings breezed past Wall Street's expectations, and its rosy profit outlook for 2010 was another sign that a lasting recovery for the recession-battered personal computer market is under way.As the first major technology company to report its results for the last quarter, Intel is seen as a barometer for the PC market and for technology spending in general. Its revenue beat the Street, as did its gross margin, which can measure how well Intel managed costs.Investors were restrained in their enthusiasm. Shares of the No. 1 maker of computer microprocessors edged up less than one percent in after-hours trading. Earlier, the stock had gained 2.5 percent to end the regular session at $21.48.PC shipments grew more sharply than expected in the fourth quarter, a promising sign after a brutal year for the industry during the recession. Intel, which supplies the vast majority of the "brains" inside computers, rode the resurgence of consumer PC shopping to a profit of $2.3 billion, or 40 cents per share.That was more than nine times as much as it earned in the year-ago quarter, when profit totaled $234 million, or 4 cents per share.Intel also posted its highest gross profit margin in history, at 64.7 percent. A higher gross margin number means the chipmaker was able to turn more revenue into profit. It's a key measure for a manufacturing-intensive company such as Intel because it reflects how well costs are held in check.Revenue climbed 29 percent to $10.6 billion, as Intel sold more chips, many at higher prices than in the past.Analysts expected a profit of 30 cents per share and $10.2 billion in revenue, according to a Thomson Reuters survey.It's never clear whether chip sales line up with demand for new computers. PC makers might be buying more than they need to replenish low supplies or fewer than they need to preserve cash. But Intel clearly sees the fourth quarter as more than a holiday shopping-induced blip.Stacy Smith, Intel's chief financial officer, said in an interview that he believes consumer spending will continue to drive growth in Intel's business in 2010. While Intel hasn't yet seen signs that big companies are feeling freer to replace old computers, the CFO said he believes it will happen this year, once the companies have finished testing the new Windows 7 system from Microsoft Corp. that will be installed on most new workplace PCs.Intel executives also said the company would hire more employees as part of an increased focus on research and development.Doug Freedman, an analyst for Broadpoint AmTech, said he wasn't surprised investors weren't more effusive. Shares had gained steadily over the last few weeks as it began to seem Intel would beat expectations. And Intel's investors have a long-term perspective on Intel, treating it more like a manufacturer than a technology company.For the current quarter, Intel forecast revenue from $9.3 billion to $10.1 billion, and a gross profit margin of 59 percent to 63 percent. For the full year, it expects a 61 percent gross margin.Analysts had forecast first-quarter revenue of $9.3 billion, a quarterly gross margin of 59 percent and an annual gross margin of about 55 percent.Intel delivered strong fourth-quarter results despite having to pay $1.25 billion to settle antitrust charges brought by Silicon Valley rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc., the world's No. 2 microprocessor maker. That cut 22 cents from Intel's bottom line. The company also had said, however, that the payment would lower its tax rate because legal settlements are tax deductible.In the comparable quarter last year, Intel's earnings were hurt by a $1 billion charge for a reduction of the value of its investment in wireless networking company Clearwire Corp. That sliced 17 cents from the company's profit.Intel's full-year earnings fell 21 percent to $4.4 billion, or 77 cents per share, from $5.3 billion, or 92 cents per share in 2008. Revenue slipped 7 percent to $35.1 billion from $37.6 billion a year ago.Analysts were looking for earnings of 67 cents on $35.1 billion in revenue.