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Intel Shows Off First Light Peak Laptop 271

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the more-bits-please dept.
Barence writes "Intel has provided the first hands-on demonstration of a laptop running its Light Peak technology — an optical interconnect that can transfer data at 10Gbit/sec in both directions — at the company's inaugural European research showcase here in Brussels. Intel has fitted Light Peak into a regular USB cable, with optical fibres running alongside the electrical cabling. Intel provided a visual demonstration of how data is passed through the cable by shining a torch into one end of the cable, with two little dots of light visible to the naked eye at the other end. The demonstration laptop was sending two separate HD video streams to a nearby television screen without any visible lag. The laptop includes a 12mm square chip that converts the optical light into electrical data that the computer understands."
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Intel Shows Off First Light Peak Laptop

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  • Server technology? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Happy Nuclear Death (911893) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @11:42AM (#32087112)

    It's nice they've developed a way to transfer data at ridiculous speeds, but it does the average user no good as long as we're using mechanical hard drives. Even a "mere" 1 gigabit network connection outstrips the ability of spinning platters to absorb it. I guess this Light Peak thing is aimed at the server market then?

    • by Microlith (54737) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @11:47AM (#32087192)

      It's aimed at reducing the number of different cables on your desktop, I believe.

      The initial demo showed an LCD panel, HDD, and at least one other thing running off a single Light Peak chain. Effectively, they want it to replace USB (for data connections), Firewire, eSATA, SATA, SCSI, SAS, DVI, DisplayPort, probably every audio connection you have, Ethernet, and likely more.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by doogledog (1758670)

        Ooh and with that unification think of the DRM possibilities!

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Kjella (173770)

          Also called "putting all the eggs in one basket"...

        • by jellomizer (103300) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @12:23PM (#32087808)

          I think you are misunderstanding how DRM works... All those connections were for digital information you can DRM digital information. You are thinking about DRM over HDMI that is because the previous methods sent analog information to the device.

          It is difficult to DRM Analog information (heck lets even call it ARM (Analog Rights Management)). As the main information is easily decoded. Digital Information can be encrypted.

          However you must also realize that Analog has a fundamental weakness is that it isn't accurate and cannot be copied exactly. Hence why all the fuss about DRM. Digital Stuff can be copied over and over millions of time and it is still as good as the original. Analog copies after 1 or 2 copies of copies you can tell the difference.

          It isn't about the wire or unification of the wire, or the interface it is the software the handles the information the determines DRM

          • by psbrogna (611644)
            Huh? How is digital more accurate than analog? Isn't an infinite state system more accurate than a two state system?
          • by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @12:55PM (#32088320)

            Analog copies after 1 or 2 copies of copies you can tell the difference.

            Of course, one would digitize the first copy from analog sans drm, and be able to reproduce it millions of times from there without further degradation.

          • by Spykk (823586)
            You do realize that cable television was an analog signal that required a special box to decode for years...
            • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @01:21PM (#32088654) Journal

              You do realize that cable television was an analog signal that required a special box to decode for years...

              Actually it mostly needed the special box just to tune it - frequency shift the normally-structured 6 MHz bandwidth TV signal to a frequency where the TV would receive it.

              Early "premium channels" were "encrypted" by inserting a strong but narrow-band interfering signal in an otherwise empty slot in the signal, near the sound carrier. This would intermittently "capture" the FM sound decoder and paint bars across the video, jamming the picture and sound. Subscribers had a narrow-band notch filter installed in their feeds to remove it.

              (There were other systems, too, including one used on "air" channels which selectively lowered the strength of the vertical and horizontal sync signals to below the level of the video. A subcarrier in the sound provided the information necessary to identify and boost the sync signals back to normal.)

            • by spazdor (902907)

              In this case, "Decode" was a computationally trivial analog signal transformation. It was like an RF version of ROT13.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Lumpy (12016)

            All you need is ONE analog copy, then digitize it and no further degradation.

            I do this all the time, I record HD over component analog into a encoder. I encode to mpeg4 and several billion copies of that all look fantastic.

            In fact, I find it hard to find someone that can tell my 720p analog copy is a analog copy.

            This is why I love the analog hole, it's very useful and bypasses corporate stupidity.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by debrain (29228)

            Sir –

            Incidentally, Macrovision [wikipedia.org] was the dominant analog signal encryption for quite some time. Macrovision was easier to decode - as you note, albeit difficult to decode perfectly.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Khyber (864651)

            "However you must also realize that Analog has a fundamental weakness is that it isn't accurate and cannot be copied exactly."

            Which makes digital doubly useless as you then introduce further loss trying to replicate an analog signal, preserve it in a digital format, then re-convert it for output from an analog device (no matter how 'digital' your LCD or Plasma screen claims to be) you are analog and thus it must output in analog.

            Looks like digital is JUST AS LOSSY, especially when the original source is ana

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by h4rr4r (612664)

        So only one device gets to talk at a time? Sounds great.

        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          Yes and no.
          It will probably use Time Division multiplexing.

        • Ethernet suffers from exactly the same problem.

          Oh wait, it doesn’t.

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            Actually it does. and it indeed causes all kinds of problems if you ever want to use it for very low latency communication. You end up stringing one link for each pair of machines.

            • Not seriously in most typically applications, though.

              • *typical

                Point being, it’s not like this limitation is bound to render it unusable.

                • by h4rr4r (612664)

                  I will grant you that, but these high speed interconnects would be way more awesome if they did not have these limitations. Would it really cost a lot more to run 8 fibers per cable so that 4 devices can talk at a time?

                  • What if you wanted to have 8 devices talking at a time, though? Or 10? Or 16?

                    A serial bus is scalable right up to the point where the packet collisions make it impractical.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Atmchicago (555403)

      Don't you suppose Intel is aware of it, and would like to sell you their SSDs? In a few years nearly all new PCs will sport an SSD.

      • I just put an SSD into my new laptop and I can say with confidence that I will never buy a computer without at least an SSD boot drive. Less than 30 seconds from cold boot to having programs opened on the desktop, many programs open in less than a second. It is a massive performance boost.

        • by Lumpy (12016)

          I get that with windows 7 and a 10,000 rpm drive.

          but I also get a 320gig drive for the same price as your 80gig.

    • by sznupi (719324)

      I don't think they would demonstrate it using a laptop and sending video to an external screen in case it would be aimed at server market...

      But there you have a usage for it - sending video signal; "one connector to rule them all"?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ryanleary (805532)

      It's nice they've developed a way to transfer data at ridiculous speeds, but it does the average user no good as long as we're using mechanical hard drives. Even a "mere" 1 gigabit network connection outstrips the ability of spinning platters to absorb it. I guess this Light Peak thing is aimed at the server market then?

      That's not really a fair analysis. HD video is often stored compressed, but needs to be transferred at full resolution uncompressed to the display medium. The DVI spec supports 3.96Gbit/s. HDMI even goes up to 10.2Gbit/s. There are plenty of other examples where a high-bandwidth transport will be useful.

    • by travisb828 (1002754) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @11:51AM (#32087260)
      Someone will develop something that will take advantage of that ridiculous speed, and then someone will develop something that can take advantage of data being transfered at ludicrous speed. Then one day, in the future, computers will go to plaid.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      That's just ridiculous. SSD drives demanded an upgrade to SATA 6.0 Gb/s because they were saturating the SATA 3.0 Gb/s link. Last I checked 3 is bigger than 1.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jeffmeden (135043)

      Ah, er, what's that? SATA2 runs at 3Gb/s because the paltry 1.5Gb/s of SATA1 was outpaced by fast hard drives. This isn't even counting RAID0 controllers that can effectively double that. Now, on to Gigabit ethernet. Even with optimization most find .7Gb/s is the practical limit for things like NFS or SMB. You may do better with dedicated storage systems but you're getting away from consumer-grade technology.

      Summary: Is 10Gb/s too much for a modern consumer desktop? No; if you have a lot to transfer y

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by drsmithy (35869)

        Ah, er, what's that? SATA2 runs at 3Gb/s because the paltry 1.5Gb/s of SATA1 was outpaced by fast hard drives.

        Rubbish. There isn't a SATA hard disk on the market that exceeds 1.5Gb/s, even in synthetic benchmarks, for anything except a direct-cache transfer (which is irrelevant due to its size). Though they are getting close, with 10k RPM drives and high-density 2TB drives hitting ~140MB/sec. In real-world use it's unlikely most people would notice even if bandwidth was a "paltry" 0.75Gb/s.

        This isn't

    • by V!NCENT (1105021) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @12:06PM (#32087556)

      "It's nice they've developed a way to transfer data at ridiculous speeds, but it does the average user no good as long as we're using mechanical hard drives."
      What's the problem with most humans? They always seem to want to only advance to the bare miminum required.

      How about:
      "Yo guys, I got an idea!"
      -"Shoot"
      "How about making a cable that is so fast that we'll never have to think about the transfer speed anymore?"
      -"That'll be awesome!"
      ???

      • by karnal (22275)

        Because you can typically charge more for 3 iterations to get to the same "awesome speed" as you can by just going to "awesome speed"....

    • by alen (225700)

      what is the return on investment? these days we have IP KVM's and integrated light out from HP that give you access to a server from a cell phone if need be. how much is this gizmo going to cost compared to existing solutions and how is it going to save our employers money?

    • It's nice they've developed a way to data on plastic discs, but it does the average user no good as long as we're using magnetic drums and punch cards. I guess these so called 'floppy' disks are aimed at the high end workstation market, then?

      (end sarcasm)

    • by jmichaelg (148257)

      One application is to reduce the cost of fiber to the home. If you can eliminate the $150 transceiver that converts fiber to ethernet, you've lowered the cost of entry into that market. Getting that cost down will help new companies and neighborhood coops make ftth more common.

      Admittedly, the biggest cost for fiber to the home is the labor required to string fiber but even that cost is rapidly declining as various technologies have appeared that allow digging holes without tearing up a street have shown up.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @11:48AM (#32087198)

    Intel provided a visual demonstration of how data is passed through the cable, by shining a torch into one end of the cable, with two little dots of light visible to the naked eye at the other end.

    The second little dot was a floating-point error.

    • I'd be curious to see how many people are old enough to actually get this one [wikipedia.org].

      • by dskzero (960168)
        It isn't really all that old, to be fair.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by iluvcapra (782887)
          16 years ago. Back then Apple was selling Quadras for $5000 and office managers were buying Windows 3.1 for Workgroups. The FDIV bug was discovered months before the Linux kernel 1.0 was released, and people still regularly used something called "Grolier's Encyclopedia" on CD-ROM to watch 320x240 15fps movies of the Apollo launch. Phil Hartman (God rest his soul) was selling Phillips CD-i players, A kid in my neighborhood had just bought a JVC X'EYE, and Conan was still writing for Simpsons.
      • by Amouth (879122)

        we are on /. i'd hope most people here got it old or young..

  • by jo_ham (604554) <joham999@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @11:49AM (#32087222)

    As opposed to... mechanical light?

    There's my new patented method for data transfer. Measuring the impact of photons on a force transducer.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jamu (852752)
      I guess it just means it uses visible light, as opposed to, infrared or ultraviolet for example.
  • plug (Score:3, Insightful)

    by theheadlessrabbit (1022587) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @11:54AM (#32087348) Homepage Journal

    Seems like this could be an effective plug for the analogue hole.

    Cautious optimism should be shown. Sounds like something that could come back to haunt users.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      So how exactly is this different than DVI, HDMI and DP which are also digital? I think this has great potential...

    • by alvinrod (889928)
      It only makes it slightly harder to pirate something. If I can see or hear it, there's a way to record it. Killing off analogue is probably more about making you buy new versions of the same stuff more so than stopping piracy. I imagine some crafty bastard will develop a physical device that reopens the analogue hole for anyone who doesn't want to upgrade. The main issue is that the content companies will try to get such a device declared illegal, probably over piracy claims, but it's really about making ev
    • by Uksi (68751)

      Are you serious? How is this different from any other digital transfer method? And how could this possibly plug the analog hole? As long as you gots a speaker and a microphone or an analog transfer of audio (e.g. to your headphones), you have the whole. Tell me, is this going to do away with headphones?

    • by forkazoo (138186)

      Seems like this could be an effective plug for the analogue hole.

      Only if you misunderstand the analog hole. You can push it out as far as you like, but there will always be one. For audio, you eventually have to run analog voltages to a speaker element. If you can't tap that for some reason, you always wind up with actual *sound* that you can record with a microphone.

      When the analog hole is pushed that far out, it can be damned inconvenient to make use of it, but it will always be there. Just having a p

  • The white USB plug in the demonstration laptop looks rather Apple-ish. Any rumours here?
  • i remember when Firewire got spanked by USB. Sure it was faster but no one cared if their ipod took an extra 10 minutes to sync the first time. not enough to pay the premium at least.

    same here. printers are wifi these days. i haven't had a printer for years but will probably buy a wifi one soon just to print coupons from my iphone coupons.com app.
    keyboards and mice can be had in bluetooth
    since wifi is faster than the internet there is no reason to use this as a network cable
    and how is it better than today's

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      Your printer can't print fast enough to keep up with WiFi, let alone Ethernet. The only application this cable makes sense for is the one they demoed on it -- HD video streaming. Think camera-to-computer or computer-to-project links. Now, if we just had a memory system fast enough to store and retrieve data at 10Gbits, we'd be all set!
      • by tonywong (96839)
        Not every printer is a consumer printer. Large format printers can get files gigabytes in size being thrown at them. There's lots of higher end applications that need lots of data, fast.
        • by Locke2005 (849178)
          If you've got a printer that can continuously print a gigabyte of data per second for extended periods of time, I'd love to see the paper handling system that it uses! How many full time employees are required to just feed paper into and carry paper out of the machine?

          Actually, medical imaging is another application that does demand ridiculous bandwidth, but I wouldn't exactly call that "printing".
          • I just pictured the bottom of the printer opening up and dropping dozens of ink cartridges onto the sheet of paper like a WWII bomber.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by twidarkling (1537077)

            I take it you've never actually seen a modern printing press, then, eh? You can actually get ones that take from a computer, rather than having to make plates.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tekfactory (937086)

      Backup, Data processing

      I used to hang my tape backup off of my file server because it had the most data to backup and so the fastest interface to the tape drive was installed on the file server.

      All of the other machines (and file server)were given Gigabit Ethernet cards, and attached to a Switch that could handle 2GB simultaneous per port. The file server and mail server then were bottlenecked by the speed of the hard drives and the tapes themselves.

      We also had users on the high speed network that needed to

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @12:01PM (#32087466)

    Why did they have to stick it in the horribly designed USB connector?

    The engineers responsible for that connector must have never made it past sophomore design class. You either make a part that is obviously asymmetric (d-sub, ieee1394, 8p8c) or one that is truly symmetric (RCA, TRS connectors). Instead, we're stuck with this symmetric-appearing but actually asymmetric USB connector that I try to plug in backwards half the time.

    • by clone53421 (1310749) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @12:05PM (#32087534) Journal

      Instead, we're stuck with this symmetric-appearing but actually asymmetric USB connector that I try to plug in backwards half the time.

      Who actually manages to plug it in correctly on the 2nd try? It usually takes me at least 3.

    • by sznupi (719324)

      I don't think it's that much worse from the "obviously asymmetric" - in case of those you have to usually look at the plug and the socket (and what if the latter is not clearly visible?) anyway. Plus USB connector typically should have convex logo on it meaning "up", and sockets should be in an orientation that makes sense for "up" (on laptops and hubs that's easy, even motherboards seem to comply...as long as you remember that "up" means "the side where all the cpu, memory and PCI slots are")

      It has is str

      • by Locke2005 (849178)
        Plus USB connector typically should have convex logo on it meaning "up", and sockets should be in an orientation that makes sense for "up" My tower computers sit on the floor, with the USB ports 1" from the carpet. Since they are towers, the motherboards are vertical, not horizontal. So, at least in this case, I don't think "up" means what you think it means.
        • by sznupi (719324)

          Could it be why it was in ""? (and why I mentioned how it ends up in practice for motherboards)

      • One of my PCs has the usb ports on the front of the case upside down. It confuses anyone that tries to use it.
  • Great news for Lightfleet Corporation [lightfleet.com]. They are now officially completely obsolete.
  • In regards to Light Peak replacing both USB and FireWire: Anyone knows if LP uses a hub-controlled topology like USB or P2P-ish like firewire? Even 100GB/s throughput won't do much good if we have a huge bottleneck in the hub. I've tried to find out but couldn't find anything in regards to this.

  • Integrating a HBA/HCA onto a laptop? What's new?
  • That is seeing things transmitted from far away!

    Amazing!

  • For a desktop, I don't care about this. For my laptop. Especially for my Mac laptop, I want this because it's the closest Steve will get to doing a 'dock' for a Mac Laptop again. (I owned a Powerbook Duo 210/2100, so don't feel the need to remind me about them).

    For now when I put my Mac laptop on the stand on my desk, I plug in 6 cables: power, network, display, Firewire, and two USB (one is for the KVM, so that can't go into a hub, and the KVM is only 12Mbit, so the other cable can't go into it for reason

    • by harrkev (623093)

      You do realize that you can reduce this. You can buy a "docking station" that has a USB hub, USB ethernet, and USB audio on one box. Then the KVM can go into that for the mouse/keyboard. You will still need power, firewire (who uses that anymore) and video. But still, that would eliminate two cables.

      There are also USB docking stations that include their own graphics chips, but those have their own problems.

  • Power? FireWire and USB give power also E-net can give power does this?

  • by chaim79 (898507) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @12:33PM (#32087970) Homepage

    Something to remember as you look at this, the LightPeak connection isn't just a connector onto itself, it's also designed to handle all other connector types (eSATA, USB, Firewire, DVI, etc). It's designed to be the one port you plug into your laptop while at the other end a dozen different devices are connected to it, all using different protocols.

  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @01:34PM (#32088852) Journal

    Why a new proprietary optical transport when there are already standards-based transports that do the job just fine?

    Or is this just a cheap, short-range, optical ethernet transceiver with a new connector, cabling system, and optics-integrated interface chip?

    Two fibers would be consistent with using integrated LEDs for transmitters rather than separate lasers and/or using two frequencies to go bi-directional on one fiber. For short range you don't need coherent light or single-mode fiber.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333) *

      All of the above. Cheap, integrated power and they also use a coating on the sheathing so that when you bend the cable to a small radius your monitor doesn't go blank. Imagine being a tech support rep if they use standard single-mode for this application.

      Or "one cable to rule them all" if you'd rather.

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