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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.

Twitter.com 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 Twitter.com 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.”

 

 

 

Midiatek Developing Two SoC’s for Tablets

April 17, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

MediaTek is working on two new tablet SoCs and one of them is rumored to be a $5 design.

The MT8735 looks like a tablet version of Mediatek’s smartphone SoCs based on ARM’s Cortex-A53 core. The chip can also handle LTE (FDD and TDD), along with 3G and dual-band WiFi. This means it should end up in affordable data-enabled tablets. There’s no word on the clocks or GPU.

The MT8163 is supposed to be the company’s entry-level tablet part. Priced at around $5, the chip does not appear to feature a modem – it only has WiFi and Bluetooth on board. GPS is still there, but that’s about it.

Once again, details are sketchy so we don’t know much about performance. However, this is an entry-level part, so we don’t expect miracles. It will have to slug it out with Alwinner’s $5 tablet SoC, which was announced a couple of months ago

According to a slide published by Mobile Dad, the MT8753 will be available later this month, but we have no timeframe for the MT8163.

But there’s nothing to see here as far as Torvalds is concerned. It’s just another day in the office. And all this in “Back To The Future II” year, as well.

Meanwhile under the bonnet, the community are already slaving away on Linux 4.1 which is expected to be a far more extensive release, with 100 code changes already committed within hours of Torvalds announcement of 4.0.

But there is already some discord in the ranks, with concerns that some of the changes to 4.1 will be damaging to the x86 compatibility of the kernel. But let’s let them sort that out amongst themselves.

After all, an anti-troll dispute resolution code was recently added to the Linux kernel in an effort to stop some of the more outspoken trolling that takes place, not least from Torvalds himself, according to some members of the community.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Global Foundaries Sheds Light On 14nm Game Plan

April 10, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Global Foundries clarified details of the ramp up of 14nm chip production at fab 8 manufacturing facility in New York.

It has apparently  has taped out multiple 14nm designs and is tweaking its equipment using a lead product at the moment. The company is on track to start high-volume shipments of 14nm chips this year.

Jason Gorss, a spokesman for Global Foundries said that the outfit’s 14nm FinFET technology is maturing and on schedule at our Fab 8 facility in Malta, New York,.

“The early version (14LPE) is qualified in our fab and our lead product is yielding in double digits. Since 2014, we have taped multiple products and testchips and are seeing rapid progress, in yield and maturity, for volume shipments in 2015.”

The comment follows a statement from Mubadala Development last week week which claimed htat Global Foundries had begun ramping manufacturing of 14nm chips for customers.

Mubadala, which owns GlobalFoundries, did not provide any details. Even though production is currently not in high volume, it is clear that GlobalFoundries ships certain chips to clients.

It is not clear what 14nm chips GlobalFounfries produces at present, but it is highly likely that the company makes Samsung Exynos 7420 application processors for its process tech partner.

Another early partner of GlobalFoundries with its 14nm FinFET production could be Apple, which is expected to use Samsung’s 14nm process tech to make its upcoming A9 system-on-chip.

Global Foundries licensed Samsung’s 14LPE (low-power early) and 14LPP (low-power plus) process technologies last year.

This process uses FinFET transistors and rely on back-end-of-line (BEOL) interconnects of 20nm manufacturing technology. The14nm FinFET transistors allow a performance boost for chips by 20 per cent at the same power or cut power consumption by 35 per cent without decreasing performance or complexity.

Courtesy-Fud

Was Crytek Saved By Amazon?

April 9, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

The deal that helped Crytek recover from its recent financial difficulties was Amazon, according to a report from Kotaku.

The online retail giant signed a licensing deal for CryEngine, Crytek’s proprietary game engine. Sources within the company put the deal’s value at between $50 million and $70 million, and suggested that Amazon may be using it as the bedrock for a proprietary engine of its own.

However Amazon uses the technology, though, the importance of the deal for Crytek cannot be overstated. Last year, during the summer, it became apparent that all was not well at the German developer. Employees hadn’t been fully paid in months, leading to an alleged staff walkout in its UK office, where a sequel to Homefront was in development. Koch Media acquired the Homefront IP and its team shortly after.

When the company’s management eventually addressed the rumors, it had already secured the financing necessary to take the company forward. No details of the deal were offered, but it’s very likely that Crytek got the money it needed from Amazon.

We have contacted Crytek to confirm the details, but it certainly fits with the perception that Amazon could emerge as a major creator of game content. It has snapped up some elite talent to do just that, it acquired Twitch for a huge sum of money, and it has been very open about where it plans to fit into the overall market.

Courtesy-GI.biz

 

Is MediaTek Working On A Secret GPU?

April 8, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

An upcoming MediaTek SoC has been spotted in GFXbench and this tablet-oriented chip has created a lot of speculation thanks to the choice of GPU.

The Cortex-A53 based MediaTek MT8163 was apparently tested on a dev board with 2GB of RAM and the benchmark failed to identify the GPU. GFXbench identified the GPU as a part coming from “MediaTek Inc. Sapphire-lit”.

Spinning up the rumour mill

This is where the speculation starts, as many punters associated the GPU with AMD, and the presence of the word “Sapphire” also prompted some to conclude that AMD’s leading GPU add-in-board partner had something to do with it.

The Sapphire word association doesn’t look like anything other than clutching at straws, because it’s highly unlikely that an AIB would have much to do with the process of licensing AMD IP for mobile graphics.

However, this does not necessarily mean that we are not looking at a GPU that doesn’t have anything to do with AMD. The fact that MediaTek’s name is on it is perhaps more important, because it suggests an in-house design. Whether or not the part is indeed an in-house design, and whether it features some AMD technology, is still up for debate.

Why would MediaTek need AMD to begin with?

MediaTek relies on ARM Mali GPUs, although it uses Imagination GPUs on some designs. So where does AMD fit into all this?

As we reported last month, the companies have been cooperating on the SoC graphics front for a while, but they are tight lipped about the scope of their cooperation.

MediaTek is a supporter of HSA and a founding member of the HSA Foundation, but this doesn’t prove much, either, since the list of founding members includes ARM, Imagination, Texas Instruments, Samsung and Qualcomm.

Using AMD technology on SoCs would have to be a long-term strategy, built around the concept of using AMD IP to boost overall SoC performance rather than just GPU performance. This is why we do not expect to see the fruits of their cooperation in commercial products anytime soon.

Improved compute performance is one of the reasons MediaTek may be inclined to use AMD technology, but another angle is that “Graphics by AMD” or “Radeon Graphics” would sound good from a marketing perspective and allow MediaTek to differentiate its products in a saturated market.

Courtesy-Fud

LinkedIn Acquires Startup Refresh

April 6, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

In a move that could produce even more automated suggestions and tips for LinkedIn users, the professional network has purchased California startup Refresh, the maker of an app that gathers news and insights about participants in meetings.

Launched three years ago, Refresh is designed to be a “digital briefing book” that can call up online information related to people that users are scheduled to meet. The information can be anything from blog posts, news articles or Facebook posts to personal notes or favorite sports teams.

The Refresh mobile and desktop app is aimed at helping people relate to one another more quickly, but it can also be used to refresh one’s memory when running into acquaintances unexpectedly.

The details of the deal were not disclosed. Refresh has stopped taking on new users and its app will shut down April 15.

“Refresh has surfaced insights associated with hundreds of millions of meetings, and has been central to countless connections and closed deals,” co-founder Bhavin Shah wrote on the Refresh blog in announcing the deal.

LinkedIn already has an app called Connected that was somewhat of a rival to Refresh. It can log the people users have met and offer updates and information about interests shared with “connections,” which are acquaintances in the LinkedIn lingo. It’s unclear whether Refresh features will be added to Connected or the LinkedIn website itself.

“Our team will focus its efforts on providing LinkedIn members with more insights to help them better do their jobs,” Shah wrote.

 

AMD Working On Asynchronous Shaders

April 2, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMD has been working closely with Microsoft on the upcoming DirectX 12 to create something which it calls “Asynchronous Shaders,” which are more efficient way of handling task queues.

In DirectX 11 synchronous task scheduling is handled with multi-threaded graphics with pre-emption and prioritization.

GPU’s shaders do the drawing of the image, computing of the game physics, post-processing and more, and they do this by being assigned various tasks. These are handled through the command stream which is generated through merging individual command queues.

However the queue has empty bits because they are not generated in order in multi-threaded graphics. This means the shaders don’t reach their full potential and get stuck in dead end jobs, with ugly demanding partners who demand huge sacrifices for their screaming kids..

DirectX 12 enters

In DirectX 12, Asynchronous Shaders provide asynchronous multi-threaded graphics with pre-emption and prioritization. The Asynchronous Compute Engines (ACE) on AMD’s GCN-based GPUs will interleave the tasks, filling the gaps in one queue with tasks from another.

Despite that, it can still move the main command queue to the side to let priority tasks pass by when necessary. It probably goes without saying that this leads to a performance gain.

AMD’s GCN GPUs, each ACE can handle up to eight queues, with each one looking after its shaders. Basic GPUs will have just two ACEs, while more elaborate GPUs carry eight.

AMD demonstrations show that it does not cost much in frame rate to run Asynchronous Shaders and post-processing but it will improve performance.

All the increased parallelism and will ensure that more frames make their way to the screen even faster, which can be especially interesting for purposes such as VR.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Will Intel Challenge nVidia In The GPU Space?

March 30, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel has released details of its next -generation Xeon Phi processor and it is starting to look like Intel is gunning for a chunk of Nvidia’s GPU market.

According to a briefing from Avinash Sodani, Knights Landing Chief Architect at Intel, a product update by Hugo Saleh, Marketing Director of Intel’s Technical Computing Group, an interactive technical Q&A and a lab demo of a Knights Landing system running on an Intel reference-design system, Nvidia could be Intel’s target.

Knights Landing and prior Phi products are leagues apart and more flexible for a wider range of uses. Unlike more specialized processors, Intel describes Knights Landing as taking a “holistic approach” to new breakthrough applications.

The current generation Phi design, which operates as a coprocessor, Knights Landing incorporates x86 cores and can directly boot and run standard operating systems and application code without recompilation.

The test system had socketed CPU and memory modules was running a stock Linux distribution. A modified version of the Atom Silvermont x86 cores formed a Knights Landing ’tile’ which was the chip’s basic design unit consisting of dual x86 and vector execution units alongside cache memory and intra-tile mesh communication circuitry.

Each multi-chip package includes a processor with 30 or more tiles and eight high-speed memory chips.

Intel said the on-package memory, totaling 16GB, is made by Micron with custom I/O circuitry and might be a variant of Micron’s announced, but not yet shipping Hybrid Memory Cube.

The high-speed memory is similar to the DDR5 devices used on GPUs like Nvidia’s Tesla.

It looks like Intel saw that Nvidia was making great leaps into the high performance arena with its GPU and thought “I’ll be having some of that.”

The internals of a GPU and Xeon Phi are different, but share common ideas.

Nvidia has a big head start. It has already announced the price and availability of a Titan X development box designed for researchers exploring GPU applications to deep learning. Intel has not done that yet for Knights Landing systems.

But Phi is also a hybrid that includes dozens of full-fledged 64-bit x86 cores. This could make it better at some parallelizable application categories that use vector calculations.

Courtesy-Fud

Will TSMC Win Apple’s A9 Business?

March 18, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

TSMC is reportedly getting the majority of Apple A9 orders, which would be a big coup for the company.

An Asian brokerage firm released a research note, claiming that disputes over the number of Apple A9 orders from TSMC and Samsung are “coming to an end.”

The unnamed brokerage firm said TSMC will gain more orders due to its superior yield-ramp and “manufacturing excellence in mass-production.”

This is not all, as the firm also claims TSMC managed to land orders for all Apple A9X chipsets, which will power next generation iPads. With the A9X, TSMC is expected to supply about 70 percent of all Apple A9-series chips, reports Focus Taiwan.

While Samsung managed to beat other mobile chipmakers (and TSMC), and roll out the first SoC manufactured on a FinFET node, TSMC is still in the game. The company is already churning out 16nm Kirin 930 processors for Huawei, and it’s about to get a sizable chunk of Apple’s business.

TSMC should have no trouble securing more customers for its 16FF process, which will be supplemented by the superior 16FF+ process soon. In addition, TSMC is almost certain to get a lot of business from Nvidia and AMD once their FinFET GPUs are ready.

Courtesy-Fud

MediaTek To Go With AMD GPUs

March 11, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

One of the hottest things we learned at the Mobile World Congress is that MediaTek is working with AMD on mobile SoC graphics.

This is a big deal for both companies, as this means that AMD is getting back into the ultra-low power graphics market, while MediaTek might finally get faster graphics and gain more appeal in the high end segment. The choice of ARM Mali or Imaginations Technologies GPUs is available for anyone, but as most of you know Qualcomm has its own in-house Adreno graphics, while Nvidia uses ultra-low power Maxwell GPUs for its latest SoCs.

Since Nvidia exited the mobile phone business, it is now a two horse race between the ever dominant Qualcomm and fast growing MediaTek. The fact that MediaTek will get AMD graphics just adds fuel to the fire.

We have heard that key AMD graphics people are in continuous contact with MediaTek and that they have been working on an SoC graphics solution for a while.

MediaTek can definitely benefit from faster graphics, as the recently pictured tablet SoC MT8173 powered by two Cortex-A72 clocked up to 2.4GHz and two Cortex-A53 has PowerVR GX6250 graphics (two clusters). The most popular tablet chip Appel’s A8X has PowerVR Series 6XT GXA6850 (octa-core) which should end up significantly faster, but at the same time significantly more expensive.

MediaTek MT6795 a 28nm eight-core with a 2.2GHz clock and PowerVR G6200 GPU at 700 MHz, which is 100 MHz faster than one we tested on the Meizu MX4, which was one of the fastest SoCs until Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 came out in late February.

AMD and MediaTek declined to comment this upcoming partnership, but our industry sources know that they both have been working on new graphics for future chips that will be announced at a later date. It’s cool to see that AMD will return to this market, especially as the company sold of its Imageon graphics back in 2009 – for a lousy $65 million to Qualcomm. Imageon by ATI was the foundation for Adreno graphics.

We have been reassured some 18 months ago by some AMD senior graphics people, that “AMD didn’t forget how to make good ultra-low power graphics” and we guess that this cooperation proves that.

Courtesy-Fud

 

AMD Goes Virtual With Liquid VR

March 6, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMD Liquid VR is not a retail product – it is an initiative to develop and deliver the best Virtual Reality (VR) experience in the industry.

AMD Liquid VR was announced at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, and the company describes it is a “set of innovative technologies focused on enabling exceptional VR content development” for hardware based on AMD silicon.

Developers will soon get access to the LiquidVR SDK, which will help them address numerous issues associated with VR development.

Platform and software rather than hardware

If you were expecting to see a sexy AMD VR headset with a killer spec, the announcement may be disappointing. However, if you are a “what’s under the bonnet” kind of geek, there are a few interesting highlights.

AMD has put a lot of effort into minimising motion-to-photon latency, which should not only help improve the experience, but also keep you from experiencing motion sickness, or hurling over that new carpet that really ties the room together.

Headline features of LiquidVR SDK 1.0 include:

Async Shaders for smooth head-tracking enabling Hardware-Accelerated Time Warp, a technology that uses updated information on a user’s head position after a frame has been rendered and then warps the image to reflect the new viewpoint just before sending it to a VR headset, effectively minimizing latency between when a user turns their head and what appears on screen.

Affinity Multi-GPU for scalable rendering, a technology that allows multiple GPUs to work together to improve frame rates in VR applications by allowing them to assign work to run on specific GPUs. Each GPU renders the viewpoint from one eye, and then composites the outputs into a single stereo 3D image. With this technology, multi-GPU configurations become ideal for high performance VR rendering, delivering high frame rates for a smoother experience.

Latest data latch for smooth head-tracking, a programming mechanism that helps get head tracking data from the head-mounted display to the GPU as quickly as possible by binding data as close to real-time as possible, practically eliminating any API overhead and removing latency.

Direct-to-display for intuitively attaching VR headsets, to deliver a seamless plug-and-play virtual reality experience from an AMD Radeon™ graphics card to a connected VR headset, while enabling features such as booting directly to the display or using extended display features within Windows.

You can grab the full AMD LiquidVR presentation here. (pdf)

What’s next for LiquidVR?

It all depends on what you were expecting, and what the rest of the industry does. AMD hopes LiquidVR will be compatible with a broad range of VR devices. LiquidVR will allow hardware makers to implement AMD technology in their products with relative ease, enabling 100Hz refresh rates, the use of individual GPUs per each eye and so on.

To a certain extent, you can think of LiquidVR as FreeSync for VR kit.

Oculus CEO Brendan Irbe said achieving presence in a virtual world is one of the most important elements needed to deliver a good user experience.

He explained where AMD comes in:

“We’re excited to have AMD working with us on their part of the latency equation, introducing support for new features like asynchronous timewarp and late latching, and compatibility improvements that ensure that Oculus’ users have a great experience on AMD hardware.”

Raja Koduri, corporate vice president, Visual Computing, AMD, said content, comfort and compatibility are the cornerstones of AMD’s focus on VR.

AMD’s resident graphics guru said:

“With LiquidVR we’re collaborating with the ecosystem to unlock solutions to some of the toughest challenges in VR and giving the keys to developers of VR content so that they can bring exceptional new experiences to life.”

A picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s 3300 frames of AMD’s virtual reality vision.

Courtesy-TheInq

Is AMD’s Mantle Future Dependent Upon DirectX 12?

March 5, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

It looks like the Mantle API developed by AMD is slowly reaching its end of its useful life.

Mantle has apparently served its purpose as a bridge between DirectX 11 and DirectX 12 and AMD is starting to tell new developers to focus their attention on DirectX and GLnext.

Raja Koduri, the Vice President of Visual and Perceptual Computing at AMD said in a blog post:

The Mantle SDK also remains available to partners who register in this co-development and evaluation program. However, if you are a developer interested in Mantle “1.0″ functionality, we suggest that you focus your attention on DirectX® 12 or GLnextGLnext.

This doesn’t mean a quick death for Mantle. AMD suggest it will support its partners and that there are still titles to come with support for Mantle. Battlefield Hardline is one of them and it’s a big one.

Back in November AMD announced a Mantle update, telling the world that there are four engines and 20+ launched or upcoming titles, and 10 developers publically announced their support for Mantle.

There are close to 100 registered developers in the Mantle beta program. The Frostbite 3 engine (Battlefield Hardline), CryEngine (Crysis series), Nitrous Engine (Star Citizen) and Asura Engine (Sniper elite) currently have support for Mantle. Some top games including Thief and Sid Meir’s Civilization Beyond Earth also support Mantle.

AMD will tell developers a bit more about Mantle at the Game Developers Conference 15 that starts today in San Francisco and will talk more about its definitions of an open platform. The company will also tackle on new capabilities beyond draw calls and it will remain there for the people who are already part of the Mantle program.

However, AMD suggests new partners should look the other way and focus on alternatives. When we spoke with Raja and a few other people from AMD over the last few quarters, we learned that Mantle was never supposed to take on DirectX 12. You should look at Mantle as AMD’s wish list, that’s what AMD wanted and needed before Microsoft was ready to introduce DirectX 12. Mantle as a low-level rending API and keep in in mind that it came almost two years before DirectX 12.

The Battlefield 4 Mantle patch came in February 2014 roughly a year ago and it showed a significant performance increase on supported hardware. Battlefield Hardline is the next big game to support Mantle and it comes in two weeks. CryEngine also supports Mantle, but we will have to wait and see if the support will ever translate into an actual game with Mantle support.

Courtesy-Fud

Can MediaTek Give Qualcomm A Run For Its Money?

March 2, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

While Qualcomm’s 20nm Snapdragon 810 SoC might be the star of upcoming flagship smartphones, it appears that MediaTek has its own horse for the race, the octa-core MT6795.

Spotted by GforGames site, in a GeekBench test results and running inside an unknown smartphone, MediaTek’s MT6795 managed to score 886 points in the single-core test and 4536 points in the multi-core test. These results were enough to put it neck to neck with the mighty Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC tested in the LG G Flex 2, which scored 1144 points in the single-core and 4345 in the multi-core test. While it did outrun the MT6795 in the single-core test, the multi-core test was clearly not kind on the Snapdragon 810.

The unknown device was running on Android Lollipop OS and packed 3GB of RAM, which might gave the MT6795 an edge over the LG G Flex 2.

MediaTek’s octa-core MT6795 was announced last year and while we are yet to see some of the first design wins, recent rumors suggested that it could be powering Meizu’s MX5, HTC’s Desire A55 and some other high-end smartphones. The MediaTek MT6795 is a 64-bit octa-core SoC clocked at up to 2.2GHz, with four Cortex-A57 cores and four Cortex-A53 cores. It packs PowerVR G6200 graphics, supports LPDDR3 memory and can handle 2K displays at up to 120Hz.

As we are just a few days from Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2015 which will kick off in Barcelona on March 2nd, we are quite sure that we will see more info as well as more benchmarks as a single benchmark running on an unknown smartphone might not be the best representation of performance, it does show that MediaTek certainly has a good chip and can compete with Qualcomm and Samsung.

Courtesy-Fud

Will NASA Search Alien Life On Europa?

March 2, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

A potential NASA mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa may end up hunting for signs of life on the icy, ocean-harboring world.

NASA officials have asked scientists to consider ways that a Europa mission could search for evidence of alien life in the plumes of water vapor that apparently blast into space from Europa’s south polar region.

These plumes, which NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope spotted in December 2012, provide a possible way to sample Europa’s ocean of liquid water, which is buried beneath the moon’s icy shell, researchers say. [Photos: Europa, Mysterious Icy Moon of Jupiter]

“This is our chance” to investigate whether or not life exists on Europa, NASA science chief John Grunsfeld said here Wednesday (Feb. 18) during a Europa plume workshop at the agency’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. “I just hope we don’t miss this opportunity for lack of ideas.”

NASA has been working on Europa mission concepts for years. Indeed, last July, agency officials asked scientists around the world to propose instruments that could fly aboard a Europa-studying spacecraft.

The quest to explore the 1,900-mile-wide (3,100 kilometers) moon got on firmer ground earlier this month when the White House allocated $30 million in its fiscal year 2016 budget request to formulate a Europa mission. (NASA was allocated a total of $18.5 billion in the request, which must still be approved by Congress.)

NASA is zeroing in on a flyby mission design, something along the lines of a long-studied concept called the Europa Clipper. As currently envisioned, Clipper would travel to Jupiter orbit, then make 45 flybys of Europa over 3.5 years, at altitudes ranging from 16 miles to 1,700 miles (25 km to 2,700 km).

The $2.1 billion mission would study Europa’s subsurface ocean, giving researchers a better understanding of the water’s depth, salinity and other characteristics. The probe would also measure and map the moon’s ice shell, returning data that would be useful for a future mission to the Europan surface.

And now, it appears, NASA would like to add plume sampling to the Europa mission’s task list, if possible. Grunsfeld urged workshop attendees to “think outside the box” and come up with feasible ways to study the moon’s plumes.

If one such idea could be incorporated into the upcoming mission, so much the better. After all, the earliest that Clipper (or whatever variant ultimately emerges) could blast off for Europa is 2022 — and, using currently operational rockets, the craft wouldn’t arrive in the Jupiter system until 2030, Grunsfeld pointed out. (Use of NASA’s Space Launch System megarocket, which is still in development, would cut the travel time significantly.)

And there’s no telling when NASA will be able to go back to Europa. (Europe is developing its own mission called the Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer, which is scheduled to launch in 2022 to study Europa and two other Jovian satellites, Ganymede and Callisto.)

Grunsfeld stressed that he and other NASA higher-ups aren’t pushing to turn Clipper into a plume-centric project; the core goals of the Europa mission will remain centered on assessing the moon’s ability to support life, whatever comes out of the Ames workshop. But he doesn’t want the plume opportunity to slip away for want of effort or focus.

“I don’t want to be sitting in my rocking chair 20 years from now and think, ‘We should have done something,’” Grunsfeld, a former NASA astronaut who helped repair and service Hubble on three separate space shuttle missions, told Space.com at the workshop.

A probe such as Clipper could zoom through the plume, which may rise as high as 125 miles (200 km) above Europa’s surface; the probe could snag material using an aerogel collector, some workshop presenters said. The basic idea was demonstrated by NASA’s Stardust mission, which returned particles of the Comet Wild 2 to Earth in January 2006.

Researchers would of course love to analyze bits of Europa material in well-equipped labs here on Earth, but bringing samples back is likely beyond the scope of the flyby mission currently under consideration. And it may be possible to detect biomolecules onsite, using gear aboard a Clipper-like probe, researchers say.

For example, spotting a set of amino acids that all display the same chirality, or handedness, in plume material would be strong evidence of Europan life, astrobiologist Chris McKay, of NASA Ames, said at the workshop. (Here on Earth, all life uses “left-handed” versions of amino acids, rather than “right-handed” ones.)

“If you get 20 amino acids, all with the same chirality, that would be, I think, compelling,” McKay said, adding that spacecraft such as NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity and Europe’s Rosetta comet probe have the ability to determine chirality in sample molecules.

But collecting enough plume material to perform such analyses will likely prove extremely challenging. Indeed, it may require flying so low and so slowly that it makes more sense to send a lander down to the Europa surface through the plume, said astrobiologist Kevin Hand of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

And all of this discussion assumes that the spacecraft will be able to find the water vapor when it gets to Europa. At the moment, the plume remains unconfirmed; scientists have pointed Hubble at Europa repeatedly since the initial December 2012 detection, but have come up empty in attempts to spot it again.

So, if the plume exists, it is apparently sporadic or episodic, not continuous like the powerhouse geysers that erupt from the south pole of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus. (If Europa’s plumes are continuous, they must usually be fairly weak, ratcheting up to levels detectable by Hubble only occasionally.)

The plume discovery team plans a number of additional Hubble observations through May of this year. NASA officials, and much of the planetary science community, are eagerly awaiting the results.

Courtesy-Space

 

Will nVidia Put AMD Out Of Business?

February 26, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

It would appear that the world is rushing to Nvidia to buy its latest GPU at the expense of AMD.

According to the data, NVIDIA and AMD each took dramatic swings from Q4 of 2013 to Q4 of 2014 with Nvidia increasing its market share over AMD by 20 per cent and AMD’s market share has dropped from 35 per cent at the end of 2013 to just 24 per cent at the end of 2014.

Meanwhile, Nvidia has gonr from 64.9 per cent at the end of 2013 to 76 per cent at the end of 2014.

The report JPR’s AIB Report looks at computer add-in graphics boards, which carry discrete graphics for desktop PCs, workstations, servers, and other devices such as scientific instruments.

In all cases, AIBs represent the higher end of the graphics industry using discrete chips and private high-speed memory, as compared to the integrated GPUs in CPUs that share slower system memory.

On a year-to-year basis, total AIB shipments during the quarter fell by 17.52 per cent , which is more than desktop PCs, which fell by 0.72 percent .

However, in spite of the overall decline, somewhat due to tablets and embedded graphics, the PC gaming momentum continues to build and is the bright spot in the AIB market.

The overall PC desktop market increased quarter-to-quarter including double-attach-the adding of a second (or third) AIB to a system with integrated processor graphics-and to a lesser extent, dual AIBs in performance desktop machines using either AMD’s Crossfire or Nvidia’s SLI technology.

The attach rate of AIBs to desktop PCs declined from a high of 63 per cent in Q1 2008 to 36 per cent this quarter.

So in other words It is also clear that the Radeon R9 285 release didn’t have the impact AMD had hoped and NVIDIA’s Maxwell GPUs, the GeForce GTX 750 Ti, GTX 970 and GTX 980 have impacted the market even more than expected.

This is ironic because the GTX 970 has been getting a lot of negative press with the memory issue and AMD makes some good gear, has better pricing and a team of PR and marketing folks that are talented and aggressive.

Courtesy-Fud