Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Intel's Light Peak to Debut Thursday

Intel Light PeakThe technology world loves rumors, in fact, I think that they live, breath, eat and sleep rumors. I feel that if there were no internet rumors, then we would have a lot of depressed computer people out there with nothing to do to fill their free time. It's quite sad really. But, alas, we have another rumor floating around the internet that all the little techies are drooling over and that is the rumor that Intel will officially launch its Light Peak high-speed connection technology this Thursday.

This great speculation comes from Intel telling the media that it will "host a press briefing to discuss a new technology that is about to appear on the market." CNET apparently has "an industry source familiar with details of the event" and says that it will indeed be Light Peak. Other speculation surrounding this news is concerning whether or not this launch will have anything to do with the new MacBook Pros also set to be launched on Thursday.

Rumors have been circulating since late 2010 about Apple possibly incorporating Light Peak into its 2011 MacBook Pro models. Since then, there have been leaked spec sheets floating around as well as product photos of a 13-inch MacBook Pro which would back up this rumor if it is true. If this is true, then Apple plans on renaming it "Thunderbolt". However, it is unclear whether or not Intel will adopt this nomenclature as well.

Whether you decide to call it Thunderbolt or Light Peak is up to you, but know that it is a single interface designed to replace the SCSI, SATA, USB, FireWire and PCI Express ports on a computer. The technology, which is copper-based, supposedly delivers 10Gbps bi-directional data transfers and is the main reason some people have speculated Intel has been so slow to adopt native USB 3.0 support on its motherboards, something Intel has not surprisingly refuted.

Source: Maximum PC - Intel to Debut Light Peak on Thursday, Apple Calls it "Thunderbolt"

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New Fab 42 from Intel

On Friday, February 18, Intel announced that they will be constructing a brand new $5 billion fab in Arizona. The fab will be used for the manufacturing of chips using a 14-nm manufacturing process and leading edge 300-mm wafers.

In the statement that Intel released on Friday, it was said that the new fab would be called Fab 42. Construction of the facility will begin sometime in the middle of 2011. Intel is saying that Fab 42 will be "the most advanced, high-volume manufacturing facility in the world." It should be finished in 2013.

The announcement about Intel’s latest investment was made on the same day that President Obama toured an Intel facility in Hillsboro, Oregon. While at the facility, Obama decided to go ahead and name Intel’s chief executive Paul Otellini as a member of the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Going along with this, it is definitely not coincidental that the new fab that Intel is constructing will create "thousands of construction and permanent manufacturing jobs" that go right along with Otellini’s new position.

One of the biggest advantages that Intel has had in the past has been its strong manufacturing line. They have constructed several different fabs around the world. These fabs have really helped to keep Intel in competition with their rival AMD, who has been trying to undermine Intel by designing more efficient chips.

The new 14-nm fab that is being constructed by Intel will be considered one of the most advanced semiconductor fabs compared to any in its category. According to PCmag, the fabs will be “putting out chips that will incorporate linewidths that are twice as fine as Intel's current ‘Sandy Bridge’ processors, which use a 32-nm process.” As of right now, a comparison cannot be made between the chips that Intel is putting out currently and those that will be made with the new process, but we can say that the new chips will most likely use less power or run much faster than the versions that Intel is currently releasing.

"The investment positions our manufacturing network for future growth," said Brian Krzanich, senior vice president and general manager for Intel's manufacturing and supply chain operations, in a statement. "This fab will begin operations on a process that will allow us to create transistors with a minimum feature size of 14 nanometers. For Intel, manufacturing serves as the underpinning for our business and allows us to provide customers and consumers with leading-edge products in high volume. The unmatched scope and scale of our investments in manufacturing help Intel maintain industry leadership and drives innovation."

In the past few weeks, Intel has been dealing with a small roadblock that the company discovered concerning a support chip that is associated with the Sandy Bridge chip processor.

At the end of January, Intel found what is now being called the “Cougar Point” flaw and were forced to recall the chip. Shipping resumed about a week after the problem was discovered, but it was under the condition that Intel and OED could both assure one hundred percent that the flaw would not manifest.

Due to the temporary roadblock that Intel was forced to deal with, its rival AMD went ahead and launched an ad campaign on Friday in an attempt to pull in customers. We’ll have to see if Intel can jump right back into the race.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Google Searches Drop while Bing Searches Rise

Google vs Bing vs YahooIn the great search engine war, two competitors reign supreme above all others, Google and Bing. While there are a lot of search engines out there, none get the attention or press like these two. Google has its name everywhere and you can hardly flip through the channels without seeing a commercial for Bing. But exactly how close are these two competitors when it comes to number of users? Closer than you might think, actually.

Even though Google is still the leader of the U.S. search engines, it did see a drop in market share slightly in January whereas Bing continued to pick up more steam. For the first month of 2011, Google's portion of all searches dropped by 1 percentage point to 65.6%. While this was happening to Google, Bing's portion of searches jumped up 1.1 percentage point to 13.1%. This left the other search engine Yahoo flat with a 16.1% cut of all searches in January.

These numbers are right in line with a pattern that for the past several months has plagued Google in which the company sheds a little bit of their shares while Bing edges up slightly. The good thing for Google is that these drops have usually only been fractions of a percentage point as opposed to the full point the company saw in January.

The number of core searches tallied rose from 16.4 billion to 16.9 billion from December to January, a 3% increase. Google hit the number one spot with a total of 11.1 billion searches. Yahoo came in second with 2.7 billion, followed by Bing who tallied only 2.2 billion. These numbers represent a 1% increase in January for Google, a 4% increase for Yahoo and a 13% increase for Bing.

These figures are derived from explicit core searches. This just means search terms manually entered into the search bar. This data also takes into account all of a company's search sites. So, in Google's case, these results included searches on Google's main page and the ones on YouTube, Google News, Google Images, and other proprietaries.

These numbers also include "powered by" searches. In January Google's number of "powered by" searches on its own sites and on AOL and was 62.8%, whereas Bing searches on Microsoft and Yahoo reached 25.6%. This showed yet another loss pattern for Google as the company lost a small percentage of their "powered by" searches as well.

While Google does remain in a commanding lead, Bing could slowly creep up and surpass Google as the leader of the search engine world. However, you do have to take into account the recent battle between Google and Bing where Bing was accused by Google of stealing search results. If proven guilty, this could have a serious effect on Bing and their search engine.

Source: cnet News - Bing continues to grab more searches
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Friday, February 11, 2011

'Jeopardy!' Contestants Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter Face Off Against Watson, the Super Computer from IBM

Jeopardy WatsonIt will be a battle fit for the record books, one that will go down in history alongside Gettysburg and World War II. Only this one will not be fought with swords, guns or armies, but with little clickers and incredible knowledge. That's right, I am talking about the epic showdown set to take place on Jeopardy! this coming Monday which pits two of the show's biggest all-time winners, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, against Watson, a computer designed by IBM.

If you are not familiar with the popular game show that tests contestants' knowledge in a wide range of categories, then you will not know who Ken Jennings or Brad Rutter are. To put it simply, Jennings won a grand total of $3,022,700 on the show coming in second only to Brad Rutter who took home a total of $3,255,102. Needless to say, these gentlemen are extremely smart and ready to test their wits against the ultimate competitor, technology.

According to Stephen Baker, author of Final Jeopardy: Man vs. Machine and the Quest to Know Everything, "The computer is fast on the buzzer, and if it's given certain specialties - it's good on facts about facts it can find and nail down - it could win. But humans are better with complex English, puns, nuances, so..."

This challenge was initiated by IBM after its scientists worked on Watson for four years. The outcome has already been determined as the show does not air live, but it is a secret. The episodes were taped on January 14th, 2011 and are set to air on Monday, February 14th, 2011 and conclude on Wednesday, February 16th, 2011. Alex Trebek, the host of Jeopardy! since 1984, isn't budging on giving away the result either.

"I think the guys have a slight edge on knowledge because their memories are good," says Trebek. "In terms of speed, it's no contest. Watson has the edge there. But it'll all come down to luck." Trebek also added that Watson could not see or hear him "so it was pointless to comment in his direction!"

Executive Producer of Jeopardy! Harry Friedman noted that putting the show together was definitely a challenge. Nobody has every done this before and the closest thing to be done like this was when chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov took on an IBM computer known as Deep Blue. He lost. According to Friedman, "Producing for people and with people is one thing, but dealing with a computer was another."

Friedman sees the competition as a "fascinating exhibition of technology" and not a tournament or a competition. "It is to be judged for what technology can do," he says. However, don't tell that to Jennings or Rutter. Jennings stated that he was spooked by the setting, which took place inside the labs of IBM. "No one was cheering for me. It was at their (IBM's) home arena. It was an away game for humanity."

Rutter, who has won the highest accumulative amount on Jeopardy! ever, says that he does not think humans are becoming outdated and that he enjoyed being a "guinea pig" playing against a computer. According to Rutter, "People watch the show to see the contestants and how they react. Watson will never jump up and down when he gets it right."

The contest is going to air this coming Monday, Feruary 14th, 2011. Check your local listings so you can tune in and see who is smarter, man or machine.

Source: USA Today - 'Jeopardy!' champs compete against computer

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Intel Design Flaw Affects HP Availability

The tech world has been buzzing over Intel's second generation of processors known as "Sandy Bridge", but now they might be buzzing in a slightly different way as a major design flaw is stirring things up with not only Intel but other technology companies that have invested in devices using the processors.

HP has stated that the availability of some of their devices will be "impacted" by the design flaw in the chips that was recently disclosed by Intel. This flaw will also delay a product presentation by HP that is scheduled to take place in San Francisco next week.

According to a statement by Edelman Public Relations Worldwide, "We are postponing the business notebooks briefing on February 10 as the availability of HP products will be impacted by the flaw outlined by Intel." Intel said in a statement on January 31 that it will incur $1 billion in missed sales and higher costs to fix this design flaw. This flaw is also affecting PC makers like Samsung, who said they will offer refunds on some PCs, and NEC, who said they may push back the release of four new models.

The flaw is in a support chip, or chipset, for Intel's latest Sandy Bridge processors which were designed to improve PC graphics and repel a challenge by Advanced Micro Devices Inc. HP sells many computers that use chips other than the Sandy Bridge ones from Intel. According to Marlene Somsak, spokeswoman for HP, "HP has the broadest lineup of PCs in the industry and there are many HP choices using a wide variety of processors."

Dave Frink, spokesman for Dell, stated in an e-mail that "the Intel flaw affects four Dell products sold under its XPS, Vostro and Alienware brands." Frink went on to say, "We're committed to addressing this with customers who have already purchased one of the four products, will work directly with them and provide further details as they become available."

Devices that could potentially have the faulty chips have been sold since January 9 and Intel said it has corrected the flaw and has already begun manufacturing a new version of the chip to resolve the issue.

Intel plans on delivering an updated version of the Sandy Bridge processors, known as Cougar Point, to customers in late February with full production happening in April. Eight million Cougar Point chips have already been shipped out by Intel that will have to be replaced.

Source: Business Week
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