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August 21, 2009 / steve8

IT window

Current and near-future IT to keep an eye out for.

Software>

Proof of concept www.wolframalpha.com shows a taste of the future of querying data.

Windows 7 which is a refined build of Windows Vista is the best Desktop OS.

Google Chrome 3 is by far the best consumer web browser.

Google Voice provides 1 number with voice, voicemail, and SMS capability.  Those can be forwarded to a mobile phone if desired.  There is a Google Voice application for android which lists text messages and voicemails for you to read/listen/delete/reply-to individually (it transcribes voicemails so you can read them before you choose to listen).  Using this application, SMS’s and voicemails are transmitted over DATA, so they do not count as a text messages in your plan.  The whole system has a web interface for you to send and view text messages, voicemails and call history.  It will also allow you to keep in touch with SMS/voicemail while you travel outside of your cell phone service coverage.

 

 

 

 

Storage>

Seagate has 500GB platters which it uses in products like:

  • 3.5” 7200rpm 1TB @$90
  • 3.5” 5900rpm 2TB @$200

 

Intel has launched their 2nd Generation MLC Solid State Disk using 34nm flash (as opposed to 50nm)

These new Intel drives support something called TRIM, which is also supported in Windows 7.  Without Trim, when a file is deleted, the TOC is updated to consider that area on the drive empty, the data isn’t actually wiped.  This is fine for rotating discs because the drive will simply over-write those bits when a new request is received.  On current SSDs there is a problem, because blocks must actually be erased before a write, so when a request to write data on the previously used space, it must first erase the area, then write, and this costs time.  TRIM tags the areas of the drive where the data was deleted, and the drive will (on its own time) erase those blocks of bits.  This means in some cases a block won’t need to be erased prior to write, since the drive actually erased it on its own time.

This is good, but you should know that if there is live data in the vicinity of a write, the SSD must still read the entire block into memory, erase the block, add the new data to the data in memory, then write the entire block.  The push should be for reducing the block sizes, to reduce the time-tax in random writes.  Intel AFAIK has the smallest block size around.  I’ll review this new Intel SSD soon.

 

Memory>

DDR3 has arrived at reasonable price points.

  • Crucial 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3-1333 kit @$65
  • Crucial 4GB (2x2GB) DDR2-800   kit @$53

what DDR3 desperately needs is higher density, supposedly reasonably priced 4GB dimms will arrive in the coming months with Samsung chips.

 

CPU/Platforms>

We are in a weird space now.

Last year Intel launched its revolutionary 45nm Nehalem CPU which features an integrated memory controller.  These chips launched with a very high-end and expensive x58 platform.  Due to the price of the platform and (at the time) expensive DDR3 memory, this platform never really hit the average or value conscious consumer.

Because of this, most computers sold are using a relatively old Penryn CPUs built on 45nm technology without an integrated memory controller.  These CPUs have been for sale since January 2008!  And the Penryn was just a die-shrink of the Conroe which was famously launched in the summer of 2006.  Great for 2006, but it’s been a long time.

In the coming weeks Intel will launch consumer-oriented Nehalem-based CPUs (Lynnfield).  They will be slightly improved, slightly cheapened versions of the current Core i7.  The new platform is the Intel P55 with a new socket (LGA1156) supporting the double channel memory controller (as opposed to 3x in the current i7).

These new chips are still 45nm.

 

   new

 

That’s all well and good for high end consumer PCs and big and clunky laptops, but for thin-light mobile notebooks it doesn’t do that much, these are still 45nm, and they aren’t even attempting a Low or Ultra-Low Voltage variant.  And the normal voltage new chip will still require 3 separate chips to complete the platform (including video = GPU).

What’s interesting is around January intel is releasing the 32nm Family of processors with GPU (graphics processor) integrated in the CPU package! 

This reduces the number of major chips needed to 2 for the entire platform, and these chips will be lower power due to the die shrinks.

It’s called Westmere, and while desktop and clunky laptops will also get their own models, they don’t need it nearly as much.

here are some Westmere Desktop options available in January:

i5

GPU performance on Westmere will be roughly double that of the modern x4500HD, it also ads some video decoding features.

 

Here’s the picture for the Ultra-Low-Voltage space (think Macbook /Air and smaller) dual cores. (~10W for CPU duties, ~8W for GPU)

.
.
-12 months now +1 month +6 months +18 months
CPU
.
1.4Ghz Penryn =>same =>same 1.2Ghz Westmere Sandy Bridge
process tech CPU 45nm =>same =>same 32nm 32nm
process tech GPU 65nm on Northbridge =>same =>same 45nm in-package 32nm on-die
Memory Controller on Northbridge =>same =>same on-die on-die
chips in platform 3 =>same =>same 2 probably 2

Exciting times after Christmas for thin and light laptops like the Acer Timeline 13.3”, Dell adamo, MacBook Air, ThinkPad x301, etc.

 

So in the thin notebook segment there will be a massive improvement on the platform in about 6 months, what about Netbooks with the ATOM?

 

Currently the atoms are a bit too slow to be useful in a mini-notebook and use a bit too much power for small gadgets.

In the coming few months there will be new Atom processors, still using 45nm tech, but will have an Integrated Memory Controller, and an Integrated Graphics Processor, both on-die!

 

intel_pine_trail_moblin_disclosure_4

 

  now in a few months
ATOM N270 N450
CPU process tech 45nm 45nm
chipset 945GSE+ICH7m NM10 Express
chipset process tech 130nm probably 65nm
# of chips in Platform 3 2
Platform’s footprint 2174mm^2 773mm^2
Platform AVG PWR 4W 2W
Platform TDP 16W 7W

 

Drastic decrease in power usage for the platform, down to 2 chips instead of 3… should allow for fan-less designs.  The atom finally becomes modernized!  May be still slower than desired.  In 2010 we should see 32nm Atoms.

 

So huge improvements in the netbook space to come real soon!

 

I havn’t talked about AMD, currently they are not competitive in the low-power mobile space (in fact they don’t have any 45nm parts, so they can’t compete on energy efficiency).  But they have migrated to 45nm on the desktop and probably have the best integrated platform out there.  Speaking of the 785g chipset paired with a 45nm AMD CPU, if you need an inexpensive and quick desktop today, buy this.

AMD has this corner dominated until Intel releases Westmere after Christmas.

 

 

Mobile Phones:

currently only 3 worth mentioning:

  • iPhone 3GS
  • Palm Pre
  • HTC/T-mobile G1 and myTouch 3G

The next 6 months will prove interesting as around 6 more Google Android mobile phones will be released on T-mobile, AT&T and Sprint.

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