It is high time I started blogging about Loaded content because goodness knows I have more to say about the day's tech news than I can fit into a 4-minute show. So here goes. I'm going to try to do these daily so that you can click the links that are pertinent to the stories that I discuss and ring in with your own comments, if you see fit.
I'm happy to announce that we're launching a little event series here in San Francisco called CNET Showcase. Our goal is to bring local tech enthusiasts together to talk about new consumer technologies with the people who are studying them and making them. And--bonus!--we want to give folks a chance to get their hands on new stuff in a more relaxed and educational environment than a store or giant jam-packed trade show.
Our first event is less than a week away, on Thursday, April 8, at 6 p.m. We'll be bringing in five vendors of … Read more
Students at Harriton High School in Lower Merion School District near Philadelphia are given Apple MacBook laptops to use both at school and at home. Like all MacBooks, the ones issued to the students have a Webcam. And, in addition to the students' ability to use the Webcam to take pictures or video, the school district can also use it to take photographs of whomever is using the computer.
Taser International, the company that makes Taser guns to help law enforcement subdue unruly suspects, now has a product aimed at children. At CES, the company announced the Protector Family Safety Program--a series of products designed to help parents monitor and control what their kids are doing with their phones.
Lets parents listen in Protector goes further than most parental control products in that it doesn't just provide a summary of activity--such as the incoming and outgoing numbers of people the kids call or text--but allows parents to listen to actual calls and read text messages.
Depending on … Read more
It's been years since the concept of a digital convergence was seriously debated. Today, it's rare to see a single-function electronic device.
Digital still cameras can record video, and camcorders can take still photos. Even cheap cell phones include cameras. There are Web browsers in cell phones, cameras, televisions, and digital picture frames. In fact, it seems like it's only a matter of time before everything with a battery or power cord will be connected to the Internet.
So it's a little startling to see a new gizmo that does nothing but display text, especially when … Read more
I'm very impressed by the Nook, Barnes & Noble's new e-book reader. It's clear B&N has studied Sony's Reader and Amazon's Kindle very carefully.
The Nook has almost all of the major features of both product lines, plus a few more, with few competitive disadvantages. B&N has also followed Amazon's lead on support services. The Nook has a very good online e-book store as well as applications to support e-book reading on Macs, Windows machines, and smartphones.
The Nook doesn't ship until the end of November, but here's what I found most significant from the announcement and the pages at nook.com:
Industrial design I think the Nook is attractive and well-designed. It looks better than the Kindle 2, but not as good as Sony's Reader Touch Edition, which offers a larger screen in a smaller form factor. Also, Sony's forthcoming Reader Daily Edition is only slightly larger than the Nook, but offers a much larger screen.
Secondary color display This feature surprised me. It seems expensive and insufficiently functional for what must be a significant added cost. The low resolution of this display (480 x 144, according to a CNET blog post) means it won't be useful for much beyond the basic user-interface features B&N has already described: book covers, menus, and a keyboard for note-taking. (Although I should note for the record that while B&N says "Its full-color touchscreen encourages you to bookmark, add notes, and highlight passages," I haven't found a photo on the company Web site depicting the virtual keyboard shown in some of the pre-release images. Perhaps that's one of the features still under development.)
By comparison, the secondary color screen built into the Alex e-book reader from Spring Design, shown in another recent CNET story, is large enough to be useful. Unfortunately, it's also large enough to be very much in the way, leading to an awkward device. Spring Design and B&N need to make up their minds-- are they making e-book readers or something else?… Read more
Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices' ATI division are taking different approaches to graphics processing in the next generations of their products. Both strategies have strengths and weaknesses, and I think it's too soon to pick the eventual winner in this long-running fight.
Before I get into my analysis, I should say that Nvidia paid me to write a white paper on the implications of its new GPU architecture (code-named Fermi) for high-performance computing applications. The white paper was released as part of the Fermi launch event at Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference last week.
Nvidia also paid for white papers from two other well-known microprocessor analysts, Nathan Brookwood of Insight64 and my friend and former colleague Tom Halfhill of Microprocessor Report. UC Berkeley professor David Patterson wrote a fourth white paper, and Nvidia wrote one of its own. All of these works take a different approach to the subject; all are worth reading if you need to understand what Fermi is all about.
In short, I think the Fermi architecture has been more thoroughly white-papered than any graphics chip design in history. All five of these documents are available on the Fermi home page on Nvidia's Web site, and just in case that page is moved or changed, you're welcome to take advantage of my own mirror of my white paper.
I've spent much of the last several days reading these documents plus David Kanter's excellent article on Fermi over on his Real World Technologies site. David managed to get some details on Fermi that Nvidia didn't give to the rest of us.
I've also had time to go through the coverage of ATI's recent launch of the RV870, which is what Nvidia's Fermi-based chips will be competing against. The first of Nvidia's chips bears the internal code name of GF100, and it's huge. Here's a life-size photo:… Read more
Ready for a 250-watt notebook? Intel is helping its OEMs to design such extremes.
A presentation at the Intel Developer Forum last week discussed how to build notebooks around the Core i7-920XM Extreme Edition mobile processor, code-named Clarksfield XE.
It turns out that when I estimated the maximum power consumption of a 920XM-based laptop at 80 watts to 100 watts, I was way off! (A typical notebook, by the way, averages somewhere between 40 and 90 watts.)
My estimate was reasonable for the kind of typical 920XM laptop I had in mind, but Intel showed how to go so far beyond "typical" that the resulting machine could need a 250-watt power brick.
I looked around, and the biggest power adapter I could find belongs to the Dell Alienware M17x, which needs a 210-watt brick. (I trust someone will tell me if there's a bigger one out there somewhere...Just leave a comment below.)
Intel promotes the Turbo Boost technology in its new Core i7 Mobile processors as a way to adapt to the needs of the software and get more performance from the chip, but this isn't the real reason the technology exists.
The new "Clarksfield" Core i7 Mobile processors introduced at the Intel Developer Forum last week are certainly very impressive. They're huge high-performance quad-core chips with Hyper-Threading, support for two channels of DDR3-1333 DRAM, and an on-die PCI Express controller for the fastest possible connection to discrete graphics chips.
In his IDF session announcing these parts, Intel Vice President Mooly Eden said the best of these parts, the 2GHz Core i7-920XM Extreme Edition, is "the fastest quad-core processor, the fastest dual-core processor, and the fastest single-core processor"-- all in one chip.
The key to this dramatic claim is a feature called Turbo Boost technology. Basically, if the current application workload isn't keeping all four cores fully busy and pushing right up against the chip's TDP (Thermal Design Power) limit, Turbo Boost can increase the clock speed of each core individually to get more performance out of the chip.
It's easy to see how this works when just one or two cores are being actively used; whatever power the other two or three cores would have consumed can be redirected over to the active cores, allowing them to run at higher speeds.
The quad-core mode of Turbo Boost is a little more subtle; it works when the four cores aren't running a worst-case workload--for example, integer-heavy processing, since it's generally floating-point calculations that consume the most power--so they aren't bumping into the TDP limit. Turbo Boost can increase the frequency of all four cores until they're running as fast as they can for the current workload.
Eden said that the Turbo Boost controller… Read more
The mysteries of the Lynnfield and Jasper Forest die photos (from last week's post titled "Investigating Intel's Lynnfield mysteries") were all cleared up at the Intel Developer Forum last week, and as expected, there was nothing sinister going on--just some confusion in Intel's graphics arts department.
With the help of the always-helpful George Alfs of Intel's press relations department and Intel vice president Mooly Eden (general manager of Intel's PC Client Group), we got everything straightened out. Literally!
Here's the die photo of Intel's Lynnfield chip from my previous post:
This is the newest (shipping) part based on the Nehalem microarchitecture, differing from the earlier Bloomfield by the addition of an on-die PCI Express controller. Both chips are made in Intel's 45nm process technology.
According to Eden, the Lynnfield chip design is shared with several other Intel chips that will be on the market soon, including… Read more