MrSeb writes: "Mike Shropp, the self-titled Total Geek who brought us the monstrous-yet-beautiful three-motherboard PC made out of Lego last year, has gone one better and created a wind tunnel for his new PC. The PC itself is a beast: An Intel Core i7-3770K clocked at 4.5GHz, with twin Radeon HD 7970 graphics cards. Like Schropp’s Lego workstation, the wind tunnel-cooled computer is used for grid computing — in specific, IBM’s World Community Grid, which researches possible cures for cancer and AIDS. But enough about the specs: What we really care about is that Schropp built a damn wind tunnel to cool his PC. Building the wind tunnel seems like it was fairly easy: Schropp built the basic shape out of MDF edged with aluminium, with a couple of pieces of polycarbonate forming the see-through window around the PC itself. Schropp then painted the whole thing, added some awesome buttons to the front of the case, put a standard box fan at the entrance to the tunnel (recessed a little, to reduce its noise output), and finally mounted his PC in the middle. The end result is a fantastic-looking case — and, almost as an added bonus, it’s also quite effective as a cooling solution."
MrSeb writes: "Researchers at MIT have discovered a new state of matter with a new kind of magnetism. This new state, called a quantum spin liquid (QSL), could lead to significant advances in data storage, superconductors, and long-range quantum entanglement communications. Generally, when we talk about magnetism’s role in the realm of technology, there are just two types: Ferromagnetism and antiferromagnetism. Ferromagnetism has been known about for centuries, and is the underlying force behind your compass’s spinning needle or the permanent bar magnets you played with at school. In ferromagnets, the spin (i.e. charge) of every electron is aligned in the same direction, causing two distinct poles. In antiferromagnets, neighboring electrons point in the opposite direction, causing the object to have zero net magnetism. In combination with ferromagnets, antiferromagnets are used to create spin valves: the magnetic sensors used in hard drive heads. In the case of this new state of matter, quantum spin liquids, the material is a solid crystal — but the internal magnetic state is constantly in flux. The magnetic orientations of the electrons (their magnetic moment) fluctuate as they interact with other nearby electrons. “But there is a strong interaction between them, and due to quantum effects, they don’t lock in place,” says Young Lee, senior author of the research. It is these strong interactions that apparently allow for long-range quantum entanglement."
MrSeb writes: "One of the ways — if not the best way — to track the progress of LEDs over the past few years has been through the metric of lumens-per-watt. As you can gather from the name this is an efficiency rating that is based on the amount of visible light emitted relative to the amount of power consumed. A lumens-per-watt (lpw) rating is especially interesting because it works regardless of the light source — the lpw rating for an incandescent bulb is a lowly 15 (or so) while newer LED bulbs are in the range of 75. While 75 lpw is plenty efficient, it’s no where near what manufacturers like Cree are working on. In fact, the company has just put out a 200 lpw LED known as the XLamp MK-R."
MrSeb writes: "If you’ve gone shopping for a power supply any time over the last few years, you’ve probably noticed the explosive proliferation of various 80 Plus ratings. As initially conceived, an 80 Plus certification was a way for PSU manufacturers to validate that their power supply units were at least 80% efficient at 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% of full load. In the pre-80 Plus days, PSU prices normally clustered around a given wattage output. The advent of the various 80 Plus levels has created a second variable that can have a significant impact on unit price. This leads us to three important questions: How much power can you save by moving to a higher-efficiency supply, what’s the premium of doing so, and how long does it take to make back your initial investment? ExtremeTech investigates."
MrSeb writes: "General Electric has unveiled what seems to be the thinnest, high-performance cooler for the next-generation of ultra-thin tablets and laptops. While this cooler obviously allows for slimmer designs (or more space for other components), it also uses just half the power of a comparable fan, granting a significant boost to battery life. Oh, it’s almost silent, too. The technology behind GE’s cooler is called DCJ — Dual Piezoelectric Cooling Jets. DCJ basically acts as a miniature pair of bellows: Expanding to suck in cool air, and then contracting to expel hot air. GE originally invented DCJ to help cool commercial jet engines, but two years ago it seems someone had the clever idea of miniaturizing the tech for use in computers — and so here we are. GE’s cooler is roughly the size and thickness of a credit card, and the complete cooling solution (presumably including a heat sink/pipe) is 50% thinner than existing fan-based solutions. Perhaps most importantly, though, according to GE VP Chris Giovanniello, “DCJ can be made so quiet that users won’t even know it’s running.”"
MrSeb writes: "Transistor announcements aren’t the sexiest occasions on the block, but Intel’s 22nm SoC unveil is important for a host of reasons. As process nodes shrink and more components move on-die, the characteristics of each new node have become particularly important. 22nm isn’t a new node for Intel; it debuted the technology last year with Ivy Bridge, but SoCs are more complex than CPU designs and create their own set of challenges. Like its 22nm Ivy Bridge CPUs, the upcoming 22nm SoCs rely on Intel’s Tri-Gate implementation of FinFET technology. According to Intel engineer Mark Bohr, the 3D transistor structure is the principle reason why the company’s 22nm technology is as strong as it is. Other evidence backs up this point. Earlier this year, we brought you news that Nvidia was deeply concerned about manufacturing economics and the relative strength of TSMC’s sub-28nm planar roadmap. Morris Chang, TSMC’s CEO, has since admitted that such concerns are valid, given that performance and power are only expected to increase by 20-25% as compared to 28nm. The challenge for both TSMC and GlobalFoundries is going to be how to match the performance of Intel’s 22nm technology with their own 28nm products. 20nm looks like it won’t be able to do so, which is why both companies are emphasizing their plans to move to 16nm/14nm ahead of schedule. There’s some variation on which node comes next; both GlobalFoundries and Intel are talking up 14nm; TSMC is implying a quick jump to 16nm. Will it work? Unknown. TSMC and GlobalFoundries both have excellent engineers, but FinFET is a difficult technology to deploy. Ramping it up more quickly than expected while simultaneously bringing up a new process may be more difficult than either company anticipates."
MrSeb writes: "In its continuing mission to build a “Wiki Weapon,” Defense Distributed has 3D printed the lower receiver of an AR-15 assault rifle and tested it to failure. The printed part only survives the firing of six shots, but for a first attempt that’s quite impressive. And hey, it’s a plastic gun. Slashdot first covered the 3D-printed gun back in July. The Defense Distributed group sprung up soon after, with the purpose of creating an open-source gun — a Wiki Weapon — that can be downloaded from the internet and printed out. The Defense Distributed manifesto mainly quotes a bunch of historical figures who supported the right to bear arms. DefDist (its nickname) is seeking a gun manufacturing license from the ATF, but so far the feds haven’t responded. Unperturbed, DefDist started down the road by renting an advanced 3D printing machine from Stratasys — but when the company found out what its machine was being used for, it was repossessed. DefDist has now obtained a 3D printer from Objet, which seemingly has a more libertarian mindset. The group then downloaded HaveBlue’s original AR-15 lower receiver from Thingiverse, printed it out on the Objet printer using ABS-like Digital Material, screwed it into an AR-57 upper receiver, loaded up some FN 5.7x28mm ammo, and headed to the range. The DefDist team will now make various modifications to HaveBlue’s design, such as making it more rugged and improving the trigger guard, and then upload the new design to Thingiverse. Thus the open-source circle is complete!"
MrSeb writes: "Macronix, one of the world’s largest producers of flash memory, has produced a new kind of flash memory that can survive more than 100 million program/erase (PE) cycles — most likely long enough to persist until the end of human civilization. By comparison, the NAND cells found in conventional flash memory — as in commercial SSDs — generally have a lifespan of just a few thousand PE cycles. For such a huge advance you would expect an equally vast technological leap — but in this instance, that’s certainly not the case. Macronix just adds a bit of heat — literally, each of Macronix’s new memory cells contains a heating element that can deliver a jolt of 800C (1472F) heat to the cell, healing it and preventing wear-out. Furthermore, 100 million PE cycles is a low-ball estimate: In reality, Macronix’s new flash might survive billions of cycles — but it would take so long to test that the company doesn’t yet know."
MrSeb writes: "A team of material scientists from Wake Forest University in North Carolina have developed plastic light bulbs that are shatterproof, flicker-free, and seem to last forever. Furthermore, these plastic bulbs are about twice as efficient as fluorescent bulbs, on-par with LED bulbs, and — perhaps best of all — they produce a color and quality of light that “can match the solar spectrum perfectly.” These new bulbs are based on field-induced polymer electroluminescent (FIPEL) technology, with a twist. FIPEL is a fairly old technology that involves running electricity through a conductive polymer called poly(vinylcarbazole) to produce light — but not enough light to be used as a light bulb. Now, by doping the polymer with carbon nanotubes, Wake Forest has increased the polymer’s luminance by about five times — and voila, we’re into light bulb territory."
MrSeb writes: "For the past thirty years, desktop system longevity has been defined in sockets. I cut my teeth as an enthusiast on Socket 7, and I’ve owned examples of virtually every AMD and Intel socket standard that followed. For the past eight years, Intel has used an LGA (land grid array) socket in which the actual contacts are on the motherboard with contact points on the CPU. This packaging has served the company well; it’s scaled the number of contacts from 775 to 2011 on Sandy Bridge-E, and had no trouble with high TDP parts. According to a leaked roadmap, Haswell will be the last Intel chip slated for an LGA package. All of the Broadwell parts on the map are dual- and quad-core SoCs with 47-57W TDPs that would be soldered to the motherboard, using BGA (ball grid array, the usual method for soldering surface-mount chips to PCBs). Dual-core Broadwells also pick up the 10W and 15W form factors; the same article suggests Intel intends to abolish the 35W TDP segment altogether. Is Intel doing this to simply ramp up chipset sales, by forcing users to upgrade the whole motherboard rather than just the CPU? Unlikely, given the tiny number of users who still upgrade CPUs, rather than merely upgrading their entire system. More likely the move away from LGA to BGA is to reduce electrical resistance, thus reducing the TDP of the parts and pushing newer chips into lower power envelopes."
MrSeb writes: "In a year or two, augmented reality (AR) headsets such as Google Glass may double up as a virtual dieting pill. New research from the University of Tokyo shows that a very simple AR trick can reduce the amount that you eat by 10% — and yes, the same trick, used in the inverse, can be used to increase food consumption by 15%, too. The AR trick is very simple: By donning the glasses, the University of Tokyo’s special software “seamlessly” scales up the size of your food. You pick up an Oreo cookie, and then the software automatically scales it up to 1.5 times its natural size. Using a deformation algorithm, the person’s hand is manipulated so that the giant Oreo appears (somewhat) natural. In testing, this simple trick was enough to reduce the amount of food eaten by 10%. The inverse is also true: shrinking the Oreo down to two-thirds its natural size increased food consumption by 15%. This new research dovetails neatly with an area of nutritional science that has received a lot of attention in the United States of Obesity recently: That the size of the serving/plate/cup/receptacle directly affects your intake. The fact is, there’s a lot more to dieting than simply reducing your calorific intake and exercising regularly. Your state of mind as you sit down to eat, and your perception of what you’re eating, are just as important — which is exciting news, because both of those factors can be hacked."
MrSeb writes: "Engineers at NC State University (NCSU) have discovered a way of boosting the throughput of busy WiFi networks by up to 700%. Perhaps most importantly, the breakthrough is purely software-based, meaning it could be rolled out to existing WiFi networks relatively easily — instantly improving the throughput and latency of the network. As wireless networking becomes ever more prevalent, you may have noticed that your home network is much faster than the WiFi network at the airport or a busy conference center. The primary reason for this is that a WiFi access point, along with every device connected to it, operates on the same wireless channel. This single-channel problem is also compounded by the fact that it isn't just one-way; the access point also needs to send data back to every connected device. To solve this problem, NC State University has devised a scheme called WiFox. In essence, WiFox is some software that runs on a WiFi access point (i.e. it’s part of the firmware) and keeps track of the congestion level. If WiFox detects a backlog of data due to congestion, it kicks in and enables high-priority mode. In this mode, the access point gains complete control of the wireless network channel, allowing it to clear its backlog of data. Then, with the backlog clear, the network returns to normal. We don’t have the exact details of the WiFox scheme/protocol (it’s being presented at the ACM CoNEXT conference in December), but apparently it increased the throughput of a 45-device WiFi network by 700%, and reduced latency by 30-40%."
MrSeb writes: "Alternative memory standards have been kicking around for decades as researchers have struggled to find the hypothetical holy grail — a non-volatile, low-latency, low-cost product that could scale from hard drives to conventional RAM. NAND flash has become the high-speed, non-volatile darling of the storage industry, but if you follow the evolution of the standard, you’ll know that NAND is far from perfect. The total number of read/write cycles and data duration if the drive isn’t kept powered are both significant problems as process shrinks continue scaling downward. Thus far, this holy grail remains elusive, but a practical MRAM (Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory) solution took a step towards fruition this week. Everspin has announced that it’s shipping the first 64Mb ST-MRAM in a DDR3-compatible module. These modules transfer data at DDR3-1600 clock rates, but access latencies are much lower than flash RAM, promising an overall 500x performance increase over conventional NAND."
MrSeb writes: "It sounds like the theoretical impossibility of perpetual motion, but engineers at the University of Michigan have created a pacemaker that is powered by the beating of your heart — no batteries required. The technology behind this new infinite-duration pacemaker is piezoelectricity. Piezoelectricity is is literally “pressure electricity,” and it relates to certain materials that generate tiny amounts of electricity when deformed by an external force — which, in the case of the perpetual pacemaker, the vibrations in your chest as your heart pumps blood around your body. Piezoelectric devices generate very small amounts of power — on the order of tens of milliwatts — but it turns out that pacemakers require very power, too. In testing, the researchers’ energy harvester generated 10 times the required the power to keep a pacemaker firing. Currently, pacemakers are battery powered — and the battery generally need to be replaced every few years, which requires surgery. According M. Amin Karami, the lead researcher, “Many of the patients are children who live with pacemakers for many years,” he said. “You can imagine how many operations they are spared if this new technology is implemented.” This piezoelectric energy harvester is about half the size of a conventional battery, too, which is presumably a good thing."
MrSeb writes: "With the incessant warnings to stock water and food for Hurricane Sandy, little was said about caring for what has become an essential part of nearly everyone’s lives — personal technology. Smartphones and computers are as much of a lifeline for most of us as land lines and light bulbs. A depressing number of people found themselves with dead cellphones and unusable computers within hours of the storm reaching their area, while in most cases a few simple precautions would have saved the day. ExtremeTech runs through some easy and fairly cheap tips, to keep your smartphone, internet connection, and other electronic lifelines up and running during a disaster, such as Hurricane Sandy."