Category Archives: Technews

Are processors pushing up against the limits of physics?

Bycpu John Timmer

When I first started reading Ars Technica, performance of a processor was measured in megahertz, and the major manufacturers were rushing to squeeze as many of them as possible into their latest silicon. Shortly thereafter, however, the energy needs and heat output of these beasts brought that race crashing to a halt. More recently, the number of processing cores rapidly scaled up, but they quickly reached the point of diminishing returns. Now, getting the most processing power for each Watt seems to be the key measure of performance.

None of these things happened because the companies making processors ran up against hard physical limits. Rather, computing power ended up being constrained because progress in certain areas—primarily energy efficiency—was slow compared to progress in others, such as feature size. But could we be approaching physical limits in processing power? In this week’s edition of Nature, The University of Michigan’s Igor Markov takes a look at the sorts of limits we might face.

Clearing hurdles

Markov notes that, based on purely physical limitations, some academics have estimated that Moore’s law had hundreds of years left in it. In contrast, the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS), a group sponsored by the major semiconductor manufacturing nations, gives it a couple of decades. And the ITRS can be optimistic; it once expected that we would have 10GHz CPUs back in the Core2 days. The reason for this discrepancy is that a lot of hard physical limits never come into play.

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Alleged phone thief calls 911 because victim won’t leave her alone

By Casey Johnston

A suspect accused of stealing a cell phone called 911 to report her alleged victim for harassment, according to a report from Komo News Tuesday. Police responded to the call when the suspect said the victim was “following her and refusing to leave her alone.”

The Seattle Police Department relayed the suspect’s story: she was sitting on the bus with her boyfriend near a sleeping 21-year-old man who suddenly woke up and accused the couple of taking his phone. According to the alleged victim, he was listening to music on his phone with his eyes closed when the music suddenly stopped. When he looked up, he alleged, the suspect and her boyfriend were holding his phone.

When he accused them of taking his device, he reported that the couple began punching and kicking him and then ran off the bus. He followed them, and the boyfriend ran away while the woman paused to call 911. Komo News reported that police arrived on the scene, and the woman continued to insist that she had not taken the phone until officers noticed a phone-shaped bulge in her pocket. She was arrested and taken to King County Jail for investigation of robbery as well as for allegedly possessing three grams of crack.

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Tiny, reversible USB Type-C connector finalized

By Andrew Cunningham

The USB Type-C cable and its various connector designs.
USB-IF

The USB Promoter Group announced today that it has finalized the design of the USB Type-C plug, a new type of USB plug that’s designed to completely replace every size of all current USB connectors. Like Apple’s Lightning cables, the new connector is reversible so that it can be used in any orientation.

According to the USB-IF’s press release (PDF), the new connector is “similar in size” to current micro USB 2.0 Type-B connectors (the ones you use for most non-Apple phones and tablets). It is designed to be “robust enough for laptops and tablets” and “slim enough for mobile phones.” The openings for the connector measure roughly 8.4mm by 2.6mm.

As we’ve reported previously, cables and adapters for connecting Type-C devices into older Type-A and Type-B ports will be readily available—the prevalence of these older ports will make any industry-wide shift to USB Type-C an arduous, years-long process.

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Via: Ars Technica Gadgets


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Broadwell is coming: A look at Intel’s low-power Core M and its 14nm process

By Andrew Cunningham

You were fabbed in the long summer; you’ve never known anything else.
Aurich Lawson

Last week I flew from New Jersey to Portland, Oregon, to get briefed by Intel PR reps and engineers about the company’s next-generation CPUs and the new manufacturing process behind them. It was my first-ever visit to Intel’s campus.

One of its campuses, anyway. I saw several peppered throughout suburban Portland, and that’s not even counting the gargantuan Intel-branded factory construction site I jogged by the next morning, or Intel’s other facilities worldwide. Usually our face-to-face interactions with tech company employees take place on neutral ground—an anonymous hotel room, convention hall, or Manhattan PR office—but two-and-change days on Intel’s home turf really drove home the size of its operation. Its glory may be just a little faded these days, primarily because of a drooping PC market, tablet chips that are actually losing the company money, and a continuing smartphone boom that Intel’s still scrambling to get a piece of, but something like 315 hundred million PCs were sold worldwide in 2013, and the lion’s share still has Intel inside.

That’s what makes Intel’s progress important, and that’s why we’re chomping at the bit to get the Broadwell architecture and see Intel’s new 14nm manufacturing process in action. The major industry players—everyone from Microsoft to Dell to Apple—depend on Intel’s progress to refine their own products. The jump between 2012’s Ivy Bridge architecture and 2013’s Haswell architecture wasn’t huge, but for many Ultrabooks it made the difference between a mediocre product and a good one.

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Chromebooks Sales Growing But Still A Drop In The Devices Ocean

By Natasha Lomas

Chromebook2_015_Detail2_Titanium Gray

Chromebook sales are rising, fueled predominantly by the North American education sector, but despite some increase in sales the Google OS-powered laptops will remain a niche market for next five years, according to analyst Gartner. Read More

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