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Qualcomm Gives Snapdragon More Umph

April 20, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm has released a new Trepn Profiler app for Android which will profile Snapdragon processors and tinker with them.

The Trepn Profiler app identifies apps that overwork the CPU or are eating too much data. The app will pinpoint which of the apps drain the battery faster.

All data that will be obtained by this app can provide information you need to know which program is slowing down your phone.

Most Android phone users will not give a damn, but developers will find it useful. Those who are interested in testing roms, custom kernels, and their own apps can use the data gathered by the Trepn Profiler.

Developers can measure optimisation and performance on Snapdragon-powered mobile devices. Data are real-time include network usage, battery power, GPU frequency load, and CPU cores’ load. Key features also include six fast-loading profiling presets, and an advanced mode to manually select data points and save for analysis.

The Advanced Mode allows profiling a single app or device, offline data analysis, and increasing of data collection interval. This special mode also allows longer profiling sessions, displaying two data point in one overlay, and viewing of profile data.

All up this should enable developers to come up with more Snapdragon friendly apps.


Twitter Re-designs Home Page, Hopes To Attract New Users

April 17, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter, hoping to attract new users, is turning its home page into a portal for news and content around dozens of topics. has been redesigned to make content posted to the site more accessible to people who do not have accounts with the service. Those people can visit the site, and as of Wednesday they will find 18 tabs leading to streams of content on various topics, whether it be country singers, general news, or travel guides.

There’s also dozens of other curated streams of content accessible from links on the home page, with the content organized around more granular topics like U.S. federal agencies, art museums and wedding guides.

Previously, visitors to who did not have accounts were greeted with a sign-up page.

The changes come as Twitter faces continuing pressure to grow the number of people who use its site, and find new ways to make money off people who see its tweets and interact with them. Twitter ended the last quarter of 2014 with 288 million users who log in monthly — a 20 percent increase from the previous year, but the smallest annual growth rate Twitter ever reported.

One of Twitter’s biggest problems is that many people still don’t understand what it’s for.

With the redesigned home page, the company is trying to address this, by highlighting the site’s value as a source of real-time information and news. The tweets Twitter has selected for its new streams, the company says, come from some of the most popular accounts posting on those topics.

People without accounts still can’t do much to interact with the content. To reply to, re-tweet or “favorite” one of the tweets, the visitor is prompted to create an account. But with the redesign, Twitter hopes it might give the uninitiated enough bait to sign up.

And even without a flood of new sign-ups, Twitter’s new home page is likely to get more tweets in front of more people. That could give rise to new advertising methods around those tweets.

The new home page is available first in the U.S. on the desktop, Twitter said on Wednesday, though it will be arriving “to more places over time.”




Altera Shareholders Not Too Happy With Intel’s Merger Offer

April 16, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Several key Altera shareholders have forced the company back to the negotiating table to discuss the merger with Intel.

Talks with Intel broke down over the price, which Alteria management felt was too low. Cadian
Capital Management and TIG Advisors, have told Alteria to stop mucking about and talk turkey with Chipzilla.

In letters to Altera’s management, shareholders have raised concerns about the company’s ability to create value on its own that matches Intel’s offer, Bloomberg reported.

The company has agreed to resume takeover talks with Intel.

Some other large investors also have also sent letters, two people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.

Intel’s offered $50 per share range while Altera’s shares are currently worth $43.86 and valued at $13.2 billion. The stock has surged nearly 27 percent since merger talks was first reported by the Wall Street Journal in March.

Cadian was Altera’s 10th-largest shareholder, with a 2.77 percent stake. TIG owns about 1.5 percent of Altera’s outstanding shares, one of the people told Bloomberg.  It looks like what will  be Intel’s biggest buy out is back on again.


U.S. Government Bans Intel From Selling Xeon Chips To China

April 14, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

U.S. government agencies have banned Intel from selling microprocessors for China’s supercomputers, over concerns about their use in nuclear tests.

In February, four supercomputing institutions in China were placed on a U.S. government list that effectively prohibits them from receiving certain U.S. exports.

The four institutions, which include China’s National University of Defense Technology, have been involved in building Tianhe-2, the world’s fastest supercomputer, and Tianhe-1A.

The two supercomputers have been allegedly used for ”nuclear explosive activities,” according to a notice posted by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Back in August, the U.S. Department of Commerce notified Intel that it would need an export license to ship its Xeon and Xeon Phi parts, the company said on Friday. These chips were to be used in supercomputing projects with Intel customer Inspur, a Chinese server and supercomputing provider.

“Intel complied with the notification and applied for the license which was denied. We are in compliance with the U.S. law,” the company added.

The four Chinese institutions had been placed on the list by a government committee made up of representatives from the U.S. departments of Commerce, Defense, State and others. Inspur was not among the entities named.

The U.S. government had found the four Chinese institutions to be “acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States,” the Department of Commerce’s notice said.

On Friday, the National Supercomputing Center of Guangzhou, which was named on the list and operates the Tianhe-2, declined to comment.

“We are not very clear on this situation,” said an employee at the center.

Intel has been selling its Xeon chips to Chinese supercomputers for years, so the ban represents a blow to its business. China increasingly wants to build more supercomputers that are faster, and Intel has been a major partner.

But the country has also been developing its own homegrown processors, and the U.S. ban could accelerate those efforts.




Intel Shows Off Wire-free Laptop

April 13, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Intel showed off what it has labeled the “world’s first no-wires” laptop, which has wireless charging and can connect to peripherals without cables.

The prototype laptop frees users from carrying a bulky power adapter, since the laptop recharges after being placed on a wireless charging table or surface.

It also connects wirelessly to external displays through Wi-Di (Wireless Display) technology, which could eliminate HDMI and DisplayPort ports. The wireless display needs to support Wi-Di technology.

“This is going to be the world’s first PC where you’d never need to connect a wire to it,” said Intel’s Kirk Skaugen, senior vice president and general manager for Intel’s Client Computing group. He showed the laptop during a speech this week at the Intel Developer Forum in Shenzhen, China.

Intel first talked about the concept of a wire-free laptop in June last year. The laptop is only shipping to software developers looking to write applications that take advantage of the wire-free features.

A number of laptop makers are supporting Intel’s vision of wire-free computers. For example, Lenovo wants to bring such features to its business laptops, Skaugen said.

The laptop shown was a hybrid in which the screen could be pulled out of the keyboard dock. Intel is looking to link laptops wirelessly to peripherals like monitors and external storage through the emerging WiGig technology. At data transfer speeds of 7G bps (bits per second), WiGig is much faster than Wi-Fi.

The wire-free prototype is also the first laptop based on Intel’s upcoming sixth-generation processor code-named Skylake, Skaugen said. PCs based on Skylake will start shipping in the second quarter this year, though it isn’t clear when laptops will start getting wireless charging and other features.




Chromebooks With Intel’s Braswell Chips Coming Soon

April 8, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

A new crop of low-cost Chromebooks will be unveiled, powered by the Intel Braswell chips that are expected to debut later this week.

The new Braswell chips include new Celeron and Pentium processors, which will support both Chrome OS and Windows, said sources familiar with Intel’s product plans. More details on Braswell will be shared at the Intel Developer Forum in Shenzhen this week.

New Chromebooks running Braswell are expected in the coming months from top PC makers, as well as from low-cost manufacturers China who might bring the price point down to less than $200. Braswell will also appear in low-cost Windows laptops, desktops and tablets.

Intel first announced the Braswell chips a year ago, but shipments were delayed due to problems with the company’s 14-nanometer manufacturing process.

Chromebooks, favored by some who do most of their computing on the Internet, are powered by a range of Intel or ARM processors. Most Chromebooks priced starting at $200 to $300 have aging Celeron processors based on the Bay Trail architecture, which Braswell will replace. The fastest and most expensive Chromebooks such as Google’s Chromebook Pixel have Intel’s Core chip, which packs more horsepower than Celeron or Pentium processors.

The new Celeron and Pentium chips could also be Intel’s answer to last week’s release of sub-$200 ARM-based Chromebooks from Haier, HiSense and Asustek. Chromebook shipments are rising in a flat PC market, and have become a new battleground for Intel and ARM, who also compete in servers and mobile devices.

Braswell should deliver better graphics performance, though battery life may not get a boost. The chips may be a good fit for Chromebooks, in which the speed of a wireless connection is most important with the bulk of processing happening not locally but on remote servers hosting applications. That may change as Google is making available more applications that work offline.



Stellar Evolution’s Missing Link Found In Young Star

April 8, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

A massive young star may prove to be the missing link between two stages of star formation.

While most stars have winds that pile the gas around them into columns streaming from their poles, some stars expel spherical winds of expanding material. A real-time study over almost two decades reveals for the first time a star in the process of changing from spherical winds of charged particles to streaming columns of them, linking the two structures together.

Describing how scientists understood stars with spherical expanding winds, Carlos Carrasco-González, of the Centre of Radio Astronomy and Astrophysics in Mexico, said, “We were speculating that these stars were in a younger stage, and that they would develop collimated winds in the future. But this has been proposed by theoretical works, and we had not actually obtained proof of this.” Carrasco-González served as lead author on a study that examined the massive young star W75N(B)-VLA2 over 18 years, and a second study that examined the star in 2014.

“With this work, we have obtained a link between the two stages, the spherical and the collimated one,” Carrasco-González said.

Sunlike stars are abundant and easily observable in the galaxy, so formation theories about them are fairly well established. But massive young stars remain more challenging. Because they are rare, these stars tend to lie farther from the sun, making them harder to observe in great detail. Furthermore, they are often embedded in the dusty clouds where they form, making them difficult to observe in the optical wavelengths for telescopes like NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

As a result, a number of theoretical problems plague scientists’ understanding of how these stars form.

“The main problem is that the strong light that arises from these massive protostars can push out the material which is falling onto it, and at some point the star stops growing,” Carrasco-González said.

According to theory, this growth ends before the star becomes the kind of behemoth that scientists observe. Yet scientists are observing these stars, so some physical mechanism must allow the objects to continue to gather material before pushing it all away.

In 1996, Carrasco-González and his team used the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (JVLA) to observe a massive young star located 4,200 light-years from Earth. At the time, the star had a circular ring of material around it stretching 185 astronomical units in diameter. (An astronomical unit is the distance from the Earth to the sun — 93 million miles or 150 million kilometers). Scientists interpreted the disk as material heated up by the circular winds flowing evenly from the star.

While the scientists continued to study other characteristics of the star with different instruments, it wasn’t until 2014 that the team used the JVLA again, and realized the star had changed significantly. The new image revealed that the material no longer encircled the star; instead, an elongated jet of material stretched outward. The estimated age for the expanding shell is about 25 years.

For a star, with a lifetime of tens of billions of years, a quarter of a century is barely the blink of an eye. So, these observations allowed astronomers the rare opportunity to study star evolution in real time.

“If the changes are due to either the turn-on of a new jet or a blob of gas being ejected in the jet, then these would be very rare events,” Melvin Hoare, of the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, told by email. Hoare, who was not part of the research, wrote the Perspectives article that accompanied Carrasco-González’s research.

“The likelihood of catching one is rare,” Hoare wrote.

The research and the Perspectives article were both published online today (Thursday, April 2) in the journal Science.

Most stars tend to emit strong winds, though these winds may originate from a variety of processes. The magnetic field may play a role in extracting material from the stellar atmosphere, as is the case of the sun, or in gathering material from the surrounding disk of material.

Massive young stars are hot and bright; W75N(B)-VLA2 shines about 300 times as brightly as the sun. Because it is a form of energy, the starlight pushes against the cold molecular cloud of material that surrounds it, heating and exciting it to create the signatures Carrasco-González and his team observed over time.

When the jet of wind hits the cold material, it forms a bow shock as it slows down, like a wave breaking off the front of a boat. Slowly, it pushes the material away. Eventually, the cloud of material stretches from its circular physique to create an outflow along its rotation axis, the axis around which the star spins.

The winds themselves may be sporadic, occurring at random times, or they may occur periodically, repeating on a regular schedule. Because VLA2 is part of a three-star system, Carrasco-González suggests that the occurrence is periodic, taking place as the stars draw closer together, allowing the winds to become stronger.

“We think that the behavior observed in this star should also be periodic because, if not, we would be very lucky to catch this moment,” he said.

In other words, because the process lasts for less than two decades, it is very unlikely to be observed if it is a random event. On the other hand, if the episodes are periodic, behaving in the same way at different points in time, “it is more likely to be observed,” Carrasco-González said.

The team cautions that the change may not be as radical as it appears when studying the images. After the hot, young star was observed in 1996, the JVLA underwent an upgrade that allows it to take a more in-depth view of the signature of the ionized winds. Therefore, it is possible that the wind was blowing a column that the instruments simply couldn’t measure 18 years ago. However, if the star had already begun to form a column along its axis, that column would have been weak, the team said in its research.

If the hot, young star is truly evolving, then it has a good chance of helping scientists improve their understanding of how the winds evolve.

“The next step should be to study the behavior of the magnetic field in this star,” Carrasco-González said.

“We know from theoretical models and some observational studies that magnetic fields should play an important role in the formation and collimation of outflows,” he said. “But we still do not have good observational information on how magnetic fields work in these winds.”



Microsoft Has 1.5M People Testing Windows 10 Preview

April 8, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Although Microsoft has stated its Windows 10 preview program has some 2.8 million participants, just over half of those are using the early version on a regular basis, according to Web metrics estimates.

For March, U.S.-based analytics company Net Applications pegged Windows 10′s user share, a rough projection of the fraction of online users running the OS, at 0.09%, or nine PC users out of every 10,000.

That represented 0.1% of all Windows PC users, the slight difference due to the fact that Windows does not account for all personal computer operating systems, but instead about 91%.

Windows 10′s user share of all Windows PCs last month was slightly less than Windows 8′s 0.12% in March 2012, seven months before the latter’s official launch. Microsoft ran a preview program for Windows 8 in the year prior to the OS’s October 2012 on-sale date.

This time, however, Microsoft will ship the upgrade at least one, perhaps several, months sooner on the calendar than it did Windows 8: The Redmond, Wash. company has promised to release Windows 10 this summer, a wide window that could mean as early as June or as late as September.

Windows 10′s user share translated into approximately 1.5 million users, assuming about 1.52 billion Windows PCs in operation across the globe.

Microsoft last gave an Insider participant count a month ago, when Stephen Elop, formerly the CEO of Nokia and now the head of Microsoft’s Device and Services division, said there were 2.8 million registered testers.

The gap between 2.8 million Insider participants and 1.5 million Windows 10 users is not unusual in beta testing circles: More people download and try a preview than run it regularly after that.




Is Microsoft Giving Up On ‘Do Not Track’?

April 7, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft is pulling back on its commitment to the fading “Do Not Track” (DNT) standard, saying that it would no longer automatically switch on the signal in its browsers.

“DNT will not be the default state in Windows Express Settings moving forward, but we will provide customers with clear information on how to turn this feature on in the browser settings should they wish to do so,” said Brendon Lynch, the firm’s chief privacy officer, in a blog post Friday.

“Windows Express” is Microsoft’s label for the setup process after first turning on a new PC or after the installation of an upgrade.

Do Not Track signals whether a user wants online advertisers and websites to track his or her movements, and was modeled after the Do Not Call list that telemarketers are supposed to abide by. All five major browsers — Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer (IE), Opera and Safari — can send a DNT request.

“This change will apply when customers set up a new PC for the first time, as well as when they upgrade from a previous version of Windows or Internet Explorer,” added Lynch.

His comments implied that when users of Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 upgrade to Windows 10 later this year, the DNT setting in IE11 and Project Spartan — the new browser that will be named the default — will be left as off.

Lynch cited new emphasis in the DNT standard for the change.

The standard’s latest draft states, “The basic principle is that a tracking preference expression is only transmitted when it reflects a deliberate choice by the user. In the absence of user choice, there is no tracking preference expressed.”

“We are updating our approach to DNT to eliminate any misunderstanding about whether our chosen implementation will comply with the W3C [World Wide Web Consortium] standard,” said Lynch.




Is The ARM Cortex A57 Being Snubbed?

April 7, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

The 64-bit Cortex-A57 core is ARM’s latest and greatest CPU design, but very few chipmakers are actually building products based on this flagship core. In fact, many are skipping it altogether, so what’s going on here?

There is one thing to keep in mind. The Cortex-A57 is by no means a new design. In fact, it was announced in October 2012, with availability slated for 2014. As we all know, the roll-out wasn’t very smooth and the only Cortex-A57 consumer part ready to ship in 2014 was the Exynos 7410 of Galaxy Note 4 fame. It was followed by the Snapdragon 810 and Exynos 7420, which hardly need an introduction.

Cortex-A57 is on almost schedule, so what’s the big deal?

While it is true that the Cortex-A57 was almost on time, our concern isn’t the rollout schedule – it’s the lack of designs. For a product announced 30 months ago, it has relatively few design wins and this is not going to change. In fact, at this point it is more or less obvious that a number of major SoC makers will skip it altogether.

MediaTek recently announced its first Cortex-A72 tablet part and the company is planning to bring Cortex-A72 to smartphone SoCs by the end of the year.

Another relatively big player, Huawei HiSilicon, also appears to be skipping the A57. The company’s upcoming Kirin 940 and Kirin 950 parts should end up with Cortex-A72 cores instead. That’s not all, because some outfits like Nvidia have their own custom cores. Qualcomm is also expected to employ a custom core in the Snapdragon 820, while rumours of a Samsung custom ARMv8 core have been floating around for ages.

Thermal barrier and economics stall ARM SoC evolution

There are a few possible explanations for the lack of Cortex-A57 design wins, and they involve physics and economics.

From a technical perspective, the A57 requires too much effort and does not provide huge performance gains. Used in a big.LITTLE octa-core, the Cortex-A57 necessitates the use of four additional Cortex-A53 cores, a big GPU to match its potential, and the customary 4G modem found on high-end devices. All this results in a relatively big die with a lot of transistors, especially on planar nodes.


Thermal and power efficiency issues are another concern, as such a chip simply can’t reach its full potential on planar nodes, unless consumers suddenly become interested in buying big and thick phones, with oversized heatsinks and batteries.

The Cortex-A57 really isn’t an option at 28nm. It can, however, be successfully deployed on 20nm and 14/16nm FinFET nodes. This makes it an unattractive proposition for all but the most expensive devices, since it’s an elaborate design that requires an expensive, cutting-edge node to be implemented. By the time FinFET matures and foundry costs go down, ARM will already have another design to take its place – the Cortex-A72.

Cortex-A57 vs. Cortex-A72

The Cortex-A72 was announced in February 2015 and ARM expects to see it in commercially available devices by early 2016. Some chipmakers would like to get their hands on it even sooner, even using it on 28nm nodes rather than FinFET nodes it was originally designed for.

In some respects, the Cortex-A57 shared a similar fate to that of its predecessor, the Cortex-A15. The latter debuted on Samsung’s 32nm parts, but due to thermal issues the core wasn’t widely used until 28nm nodes became available (and cheap). However, it was all a matter of good timing – the A15 arrived just in time for 28nm, while the A57 sort of missed its window of opportunity.

Worse, Android 5.0 brought 64-bit support last year, prompting Google to tap Nvidia for its Nexus 9 tablet, as its Denver core was practically the only 64-bit ARM “big core” Google could use. Consumers could get affordable Cortex-A53 devices with 64-bit support, but they couldn’t get flagship 64-devoces. This may not be an important distinction for the average Fudzilla reader, since tech enthusiasts know 64-bit support simply wasn’t too relevant in 2014 (and still isn’t). However, it was a lot easier to market 64-bit parts based on small cores than big 32-bit cores.

So, will the Cortex-A72 end up with more design wins than the A57? Is it really much better than the A57?

Personally, I am inclined to say that the Cortex-A72 will be a lot more successful, not by virtue of its design, but thanks to better timing and the limited appeal of the Cortex-A57. ARM did not reveal a lot of information on the A72, other than to state that new core will be vastly more efficient than the A15 and A57, but its numbers were based on different nodes (28nm for A15, 20nm for A57, 16nm for A72).

We simply don’t know much about the Cortex-A72 yet and it’s too early to jump to conclusions.

What does this mean for 2015?

Moving forward, the lack of a viable 64-bit ARM core for mid-range, and even some high-end devices on 28nm, is bound have a number of implications on the smartphone SoC market and smartphone design in general.

The Cortex-A57 simply won’t end up in a lot of devices, as it only makes sense on 20nm and 14/16nm FinFET nodes, so chipmakers will have only one choice – churn out more Cortex-A53 parts at higher clocks, with faster GPUs and better LTE support. Unlike last year, they don’t have the option of using four cores (A15, A17, A9 and A7), as they can only use A57 and A53 cores, but the A57 simply doesn’t work for most market segments. The Cortex-A17 looks like a very tempting alternative and MediaTek already tapped it for some parts, but this is a 32-bit core, positioned below the Cortex-A15 and Cortex-A57. While the A17 is a good performer with a good price/performance ratio, consumers demand 64-bit chips, plain and simple.

This will obviously have the effect of blurring the line between low- and mid-end devices, as many of them will have to share similar silicon – consumers will get A53 cores whether they’re buying a $100 phone or a $300 phone.

Companies like Huawei and MediaTek have already hinted at, or revealed chips designed to address the problem, by including four A53 cores at higher clocks (Huawei calls them A53e or enhanced cores). These cores will be backed by four slower A53 cores, and Qualcomm already uses such a layout in the Snapdragon 615.

It is highly unlikely that any of these chips will be manufactured using expensive 20nm or FinFET nodes, at least not in the foreseeable future (at least four quarters, possibly five due to high demand for flagship chips in Q1 2016). Capacity is limited, cost will remain prohibitively high for months, and 28nm works just fine for Cortex-A53 parts. As a result, SoC designers are already doubling down on 28nm capacity, as it is obvious the node will have to soldier on well into 2016.

So here are Fudzilla’s predictions for 2015 SoCs and smartphones:

Cutthroat competition in 28nm low- to mid-range SoCs, every penny counts.

Use of octa-core Cortex-A53 processors in some flagship and quasi-flagship devices, especially in China.

Limited demand for Cortex-A57 products.

Lack of Cortex-A17 designs (a 64-bit alternative is needed).

Upswing in Q4 2015 and beyond, as Cortex-A72 and custom core designs come online.

Even more 28nm Cortex-A53 designs with tweaked cores, updated graphics and modems.

Smartphone makers will have to devise new ways of differentiating non-flagship products.

Prices of mid-range devices are likely to drop.

No Cortex-A53 parts on 20nm or 14/16nm nodes.

28nm node will continue to dominate the mobile landscape for at least 4 quarters and start tapering off in the second half of 2016.

Soft demand for limited capacity FinFET nodes over the next 2-3 quarters due to lack of Cortex-A57 designs.

Intel could benefit from stalled ARM development.

There are a few caveats. Some small-core chips could make it to a new node later this year, but we are talking about niche products (perhaps some wearable SoCs, or in-house designs for certain low-volume smartphones). If demand for FinFET parts proves to be much lower than anticipated, it is possible that foundries will have to reduce pricing as more capacity comes online – but this depends on a wide range of factors and we doubt anyone can make a good forecast for at least the next quarter or so.

2015 will not be a very eventful year for the ARM SoC market, but it might turn out to be a race to the bottom.


Samsung Gives Its 850 EVO Line A Makeover

April 3, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

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Samsung has refreshed its 850 EVO series by adding slim m.2 and mSATA verions.

Designed for laptops and Ultrabooks the new drives will come in capacities of 120 GB, 250 GB, and 500 GB. The mSATA EVO also offers a 1 TB version.

The drives have mSATA and m.2 connectors and have similar specs to the 2.5″ model. Maximum sequential speeds weigh in at 540/520 MBps read/write, and random performance peaks at 97,000/89,000 read/write IOPS.

The new SSDs use Samsung TLC 3D V-NAND. The proprietary 32-Layer 3D NAND offers more endurance, performance, density, and lower cost in comparison to 2D NAND. Samsung is the only company in the world shipping finished 3D NAND products and will be for a while now.

TurboWrite has been installed for a fast write buffer for incoming writes. There is also the Magician software provides tarot readings, and monitoring and management tools for the SSD, along with the optional Rapid Mode, which is a RAM-based caching feature geared for the speed-junky crowd. Magician runs on the power of a sacrificed black goat.

TLC NAND for consumers was treated with some hostility from sceptics who felt it was not tough enough for the SSD market. It turned out they were wrong and Samsung has done rather well out of it.

TLC is popular because it is slightly cheaper and is believed to have 37 percent of NAND shipments in the last quarter of 2014.

The new drives cost slightly more than a standard 2.5″ model and come with MSRPs of $100, $150, $270, and $500 for the 120 GB, 250 GB, 500 GB and 1 TB SSDs. Look to these pages soon for our full review.


Windows 7 Continues To Gain User Share Of PC Market

April 3, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Windows 7 last month powered nearly two-thirds of all personal computers running a version of Microsoft’s OS, according to recently released data from researchers.

Net Applications’ monthly user share tracking — an estimate of the percentage of all systems that rely on a specific operating system — pegged Windows 7 at 63.7% of all Windows PCs in March.

That was a 2.6 percentage point jump from February.

The climb of Windows 7′s user share has been remarkable. An older operating system — Windows 7 debuted in 2009 — typically loses share when a successor appears on the scene. Even in the dark days of Windows Vista, the OS tagged as a flop for Microsoft, Vista stole share from the then-overwhelmingly-dominant Windows XP.

Instead, Windows 7 has gained significant user share since the October 2012 launch of Windows 8. In the intervening 29 months, Windows 7′s share of all Windows PCs has climbed nearly 15 percentage points, representing an increase of almost a third.

Notable, too, has been Windows 8/8.1′s stagnation: In the last four months, Microsoft’s latest OS has grown by just six-tenths of a percentage point, reaching 15.4% of all Windows PCs in March. In the same span, Windows 7′s share of all Windows machines jumped 2.2 points.

Microsoft would prefer that Windows 7 not repeat Windows XP’s trajectory. The 2001 OS still powered more than 30% of all Windows PCs in April 2014, when free support ceased.

However, analysts have already predicted that Windows 7 will reprise XP’s late-to-leave behavior. Net Applications’ data suggests that their forecasts are on the money.





Qualcomm Shuts Down Snapdragon 815 Rumor

April 2, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

A lot of rumors regarding an alleged upcoming Qualcomm Snapdragon 815 SoC have been floating around, and now the chipmaker has informed us that that no such chip exists.

Qualcomm’s Senior Director of Public Relations Jon Carvill said that there is no Snapdragon 815 in the works:

Carvill was clear:

“There are no plans for a Snapdragon 815 processor.”

Snapdragon 815 filed under creative journalism

The Snapdragon 815 rumours spread like wildfire, but since they didn’t make much sense, we decided not to carry them. Basically the alleged Snapdragon 815 was supposed to be a 16nm SoC with four Cortex-A72 and Cortex-A53 cores, but the rest of the spec was hard to swallow.

Long story short, there is no such thing as a Snapdragon 815. The company never had such a product, and if you know a thing of two about SoC development, it takes years to make a new SoC design from scratch – you don’t just design a new one for a new node out of the blue.

It would be very convenient if the company managed to pull off something like this, but it’s simply not possible.

Qualcomm’s next flagship is the Snapdragon 820

Now that we debunked this rumor, we should focus on Qualcomm’s real next generation flagship SoC – the Snapdragon 820.

The company mentioned the Snapdragon 820 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, but it looks like that it will be a while before we see this chip shipping in actual devices. Qualcomm expects the new part to sample sometime in the second half of the year, so in the best case scenario we might see the first devices by the end of the year, but most products based on the new chip will start shipping in early 2016.

The 20nm Snapdragon 810 is not overheating, it works just fine, and we tested it inside the HTC One M9. We can confirm that it ends up significantly faster than the Snapdragon 801, which we had a chance to try in a few phones.



Will Intel To Buy Altera?

April 1, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Shares in Intel have surged after the news leaked that it is trying to buy fellow chipmaker Altera for a cool $10 billion.

If it goes ahead it will be Intel’s biggest purchase ever and the latest merger in the quickly consolidating semiconductor sector.

For those who came in late. Altera, was once part of AMD, and makes programmable chips widely used in mobile phone towers, the military and other industrial applications. Altera’s value to Intel is its programmable chips, which are increasingly being used in data centres, where they are customized for specialized functions such as providing web-search results or updating social networks.

It is seen as part of Intel Chief Executive Officer Brian Krzanich’s glorious plans to seek out new markets, and new technologies and to boldly go where noIntel has gone before.

Earlier this month, Intel slashed nearly $1 billion from its first-quarter revenue forecast to $12.8 billion, plus or minus $300 million, as small businesses put off upgrading their personal computers.

Altera is one of the only semiconductor companies with better gross margins than Intel, and with about two-thirds of its revenue from telecom, wireless, military/aerospace.

The story has yet to be confirmed by anyone other than the business press which probably means it is true.

Intel’s previous biggest deal, is the $7.7 billion purchase of security software maker McAfee in 2011.


Amazon Unleashes Unlimited Storage For $5 A Month

March 30, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon upped the ante: Unlimited cloud storage for individuals for $5 a month ($59.99 per year).

Amazon’s Unlimited Everything Plan allows users to store an infinite number of  photos, videos, files, documents, movies and music in its Cloud Drive.

The site also announced a separate $12 per year plan for unlimited photos. People who subscribe to Amazon Prime already get unlimited capacity for photos. Both the Unlimited Everything Plan and the Photos Plan have three-month free trial periods.

Online storage and file sharing service providers, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and iCloud, have been engaged in a pricing war over the past year. Last fall, Dropbox dropped its Pro plan pricing for individuals to $9.99 per month for 1TB of capacity. Dropbox offers 2GB of capacity for free.

Dropbox also offers members 500MB of storage each time they get a friend to sign up; there’s a 16GB max on referrals, though. With Dropbox Pro, members can get 1GB instead of 500MB each time they refer someone.

Google Drive offers 15GB of capacity for free and charges $1.99 per month for 100GB and $9.99 per month for 1TB.

Apple’s iCloud offers 5GB of capacity for free, and charges 99 cents per month for 20GB, $3.99 per month for 200GB and $9.99 per month for 1TB.

Microsoft’s OneDrive offers 15GB of capacity for free, and charges $1.99 per month for 100GB, $3.99 per month for 200GB and $6.99 per month for 1TB.

While Amazon offers unlimited file size uploads for desktop users, it limits file sizes to 2GB for mobile devices.