Conroe and Merom are here

The new processors from Intel have arrived.

For a fantastic overview of the road to Conroe, check out this retrospective from Tom’s Hardware. Intro:

History may credit AMD almost as much as Intel with the creation of the Woodcrest, Conroe, and Merom architectures, the latter two of which Intel released today. In 2004, AMD effectively threw down a very sizeable gauntlet, challenging Intel on every conceivable front, including retail outlets and courtrooms, to innovate or perish. In good time, Intel responded, with a marketing program and technology initiative that many felt was contrived, inconclusive, lacking vigor.

Intel’s Israel design team spelled out for the company the extent of what it had to do to meet AMD’s challenge: The NetBurst architecture was a physical and thermal dead end. Intel had to stop, repurpose itself, and build the most convincing low-power, high-performance architecture in history, from scratch. It would be an impossible task for any other company. Whether Intel has actually succeeded will depend on the next few months of extensive user testing. But we’ve seen the power of Intel’s new launch vehicle, and the capability for it to meet and probably exceed anything AMD ever anticipated, appears to be there.

Giving credit to AMD for Conroe might just cause Sharikou‘s head to explode 🙂 But the benchmarks are pretty clear: Core Duo 2 blows the Athlon FX away – with no sacrifices in price, performance, or power consumption. The time has come for mobile-on-desktop computing.

also makes Julienne fries

MacBook owners rejoice!

cooking an egg with a macbook1. Get a macbook and turn it over so the screens over the edge of your desk/counter (shown in picture)

2. Run your favorite process intensive program to get it to heat up

3 Some tinfoil on uper left part of the laptops underside (the hottest part of the macbook

4. Put your cup of coffee on the power supply to keep it warm

5. Cook your egg on the tinfoil, it will take longer than normal

6. Enjoy your breakfast

I suppose this is part of the value-add of the black casing. Should I be envious?

can world peace be far behind?

anyone remember having to use a special mail prefix for sending email to Compuserve or Prodigy users? If not, count your blessings. Though, if the evil forces opposing net neutrality have their way, we might yet see such abominations arise in our URLs…

Well, instant messaging has been in that particular limbo for many years. Decades, in fact. Until today. A while back, Google announced total compatibility with the Jabber chat protocol; that finally set off enough alarm bells of fear at Miccrosoft and Yahoo to set in motion the grand plan of cross-platform chat once and for all. And today, those plans come to fruition.

Behold – cross-platform chat, on Yahoo Messenger and MSN.

Intel CPU roadmap after Conroe

DailyTech has a fascinating and accessible summary of Intel’s CPU designs beyond the Conroe processor (the desktop version of the 64-bit Merom, itself the successor to the 32-bit Yonah that launched this January replacing the Pentium M). Lots of interesting details, but this in particular caught my eye:

Intel tri-gateAccording to Intel’s long term roadmap, Penryn will become the last “Core” (NGMA) microarchitecture, but it will not become the last 45nm generation. A new architecture, based on the Nehalem core, will make an appearance in 2008. This Core successor, dubbed by many as NGMA2, will essentially take all of the 45nm manufacturing principles of Penryn and apply them to the totally new Nehalem architecture. This transition will be very similar to the P6+ transition with Yonah from Dothan to Conroe.

If P1266 was radically different from the 65nm Core CPU, P1268 takes what is normal on Penryn and throws it out the window. The first P1268 processor is what Intel has publically announced as Nehalem-C. Nehalem-C is still based on the Nehalem (NGMA2) microarchitecture, but is a die shrink from 45nm to 32nm. P1268 employs all of the neat manufacturing techniques found on P1266, but uses a totally different lithography process called EUV, or Extreme Ultraviolet. Although it sounds trivial to swap a traditional DUV lithography setup with an EUV one, there is a fundamental problem with EUV that prevents foundries from doing so; the EUV wavelength is so small at 13.4nm that virtually every material absorbs the wave including the lenses and atoms in the air. EUV must be done in a vacuum with reflective surfaces instead of lenses to focus and redirect the lithography.

The photo is an SRAM sample under the 45nm process. But it’s just cool – today’s latest chips are at 65nm. And as the article mentions, EUV will take us down past 32nm to 13.4 nm! We are really at the cusp of nanotechnology-scale there. And all within five years. Neat stuff.

But remember, Intel is dooooomed


My wireless Microsoft mouse – which I’ve owned for years – just emitted a gigantic POP that scared the crap out of me. The batteries inside appear to have exploded somehow. I guess I’m lucky it wasn’t worse – I just threw the mouse outside the front door and will let it sit out there for an hour to calm down before I try to open it up and peek inside. Good thing I have a couple of extra wired optical mice lying around.

And I was all set to make fun of mac users for their woes, too. Well, MacBooks DO cost about two orders of magnitude more…

Fry’s sucks

Let me pile on to Kevin’s mini-rant:

The worst offender on this score (to my knowledge, anyway) is Fry’s Electronics: their customer service for returns isn’t bad out of laziness or bad management, it’s deliberately bad because they want to discourage people from returning things. So screw ’em. Their prices aren’t all that great anyway. I do all my shopping at Micro Center, and I do it there solely because they’ve always been decent and efficient at processing my rare returns.

Fry’s maintains the illusion of low prices almost exclusively via rebates. The rebate process is one of the most stealthy scams in existence. And, I have never, ever asked a question of a Fry’s associate to which I received an informed answer. They seem to recruit sales representatives who are almost willfully ignorant of technology fundamentals. And what others say is true – when asked a technical question, Fry’s associates tend to make it up or outright lie rather than admit they don’t know.

Their advertised specials are the only reason to shop there – I watch the ad copy every week in the local paper. So there will always be a reason to shop there. But if you do need to shop at Fry’s, beware. Daniel Fishman’s rules for shopping at Fry’s is really quite good – and, I am sorry to say, entirely accurate. If you’re going to go to Fry’s for any reason, you need to read it. Fry’s goes out of its way to put obstacles in your path, misdirect you, and bank on your laziness. But by far the best advice is the summary:

Think of shopping at Fry’s like a competition. There can only be one winner of a Fry’s visit, you or them. Like any sport you need to be in both good physical and mental condition.

At least the stores are cool. The Clear Lake store has a NASA motif – I’ll try to sneak some pics.

Intel is dooooomed

Blogger “Sharikou” is pretty obviously an AMD partisan. He wears his heart on his sleeve. That said, his blog, Journal of Pervasive 64-bit computing, is a solid resource for AMD-Intel horseracing, with an emphasis on the future that is 64-bit.

For example, he notes that Intel’s aggressive price-cutting has really put the squeeze on Dell. Low prices on Intel CPUs eat away at Dell’s volume-discount price advantage over its competitors, and lower PC prices overall – bad news given that Dell has always operated on razor-thin margins. If Dell goes to AMD, it will be a massive blow to Intel, but the price pressures on Intel from AMD are inexorable.

He also posts some initial benchmarks between Intel’s latest Conroe chip with the AMD Athlon FX62, and points out that despite the dual-core hype behind Conroe, the performance lags way behind Intel’s claims. Conroe isn’t even formally launched yet and the Athlons have been out for some time, so AMD has a head start and will probably maintain the price/performance lead on the desktop.

Where do all these predictions lead? That Intel will be out of business by 2008, of course. And that Dell’s days are numbered as well.

My take on all this is that the analysis is extremely biased towards the 64-bit picture, but aside from Linux it’s not clear to me that there’s really enough 64-bit software to matter. He makes much hay of the fact that AMD owns 100% of the 64-bit notebook market, but who cares? Who runs 64-bit on their laptops? The simple fact is that the Yonah/Core Duo processor launched this January by Intel has been a staggering success and variations of either Dothan (Yonah’s single-core predecessor) and Yonah are in the vast majority of noteboks sold today. True, AMD has the 64-bit laptop market soliid right now, but Windows isn’t ready for 64-bit anyway. Intel’s Merom chip, the 64-bit version of Yonah, is coming out at the end of the year. Micorosft Vista won’t even be ready until January. So any advantage that AMD has in the notebook market is both miniscule and premature.

And for all the talk of Athlon performance, the future is towards mobile-on-desktop computing. That’s a topic for another day.

webcams and IM

Microsoft is making webcams now:

The new product announcements are straightforward. The US$100 model will feature a wide-angle lens with a 1.3 megapixel sensor, while the US$50 model comes without wide-angle and with a VGA resolution sensor. One interesting feature of both is a large button on the top of the cameras that users can tap to bring up instant access to a buddy list, which should make placing a call as simple as a making a couple of clicks. The whole idea of the new cameras is to make videoconferencing and blogging as simple as possible for less technically-inclined users.

This is interesting news. Continue reading “webcams and IM”

Dell XPS M1210

Andrew at NotebookReview has a review of the much-anticipated XPS M1210 laptop from Dell. This 12″ laptop is a truly impressive unit, from both perspectives of performance and design. Some of the highlights compared to the old Inspiron 700/710m models that it replaces:

– higher resolution screen (1280×800 rather than the 1024×780 that is standard for most 12″ models)
– option for dedicated graphics (GeForce Go 7400)
– integrated rotating webcam with directional microphone
– full connectivity suite, including Bluetooth and EVDO
– long battery life (claimed up to 7 hours, but Notebook Review estimates up to 4.5 which is impressive)
– Media Direct quick boot to play movies, music and view photos

As Andrew points out, despite the small screen the M1210 isn’t an ultralight laptop – with all the bells and whistles it weighs almost as much as my 14″ T42 (just under 5 pounds). But the laptop really is an all-around performer – small enough for comfortable travel, powerful enough for any computing tasks and media playback, and robust design build with cool yet professional styling. This thing would be at home on your desktop or as your travel box.