concealment writes: "After watching my mother-in-law happily troll Facebook and sling emails on her nearly ten-year-old Pentium 4 computer, however, an even more insidious possibility slipped into my head.
Did CPU performance reach a "good enough" level for mainstream users some years back? Are older computers still potent enough to complete an average Joe's everyday tasks, reducing the incentive to upgrade?
"It used to be you had to replace your PC every few years or you were way behind. If you didn't, you couldn't even run the latest software," says Linley Gwennap, the principal analyst at the Linley Group, a research firm that focuses on semiconductors and processors. "Now you can hold onto your PC five, six, seven years with no problem. Yeah, it might be a little slow, but not enough to really show up [in everyday use].""
concealment writes: "Late next year, consumers will be able to buy smartphones that either come with native hypervisor software or use an app allowing them to run two interfaces on the phone: one for personal use, one for work."
concealment writes: "The IBM Simon was rolled out on Nov. 23, 1992, at Comdex, though it was code-named “Angler” at the time. You likely couldn’t have fit it in your pocket, given that it was about the size of today’s Nexus 7, but then, at 18 ounces in weight, it probably would’ve made you walk funny anyway. It sported a 16MHz processor, 1MB of memory and 1MB of storage. Its operating system was a variant of DOS.
Its external app ecosystem consisted of exactly one program—a PC-to-Simon texting tool called DispatchIt, which cost $3000 for the PC software and an additional $300 for every Simon client. To be fair, however, it could do some things modern smartphones can’t, like accept fax transmissions."
concealment writes: "Intel executives continue to claim that the key benefit of x86 is compatibility: with Windows and with the vast library of application software already coded for the platform. Otellini banked on buyers wanting to run that software on their mobile devices too.
May be they do, though there’s no real evidence to show that that’s the case. Certainly, users have exerted little pressure on makers of ARM-based mobile devices to develop x86-based versions that can run Windows and Windows apps. Yes, Microsoft is offering an x86 version of its Surface tablet, but that’s as much about Redmond playing all the angles as a firm sense that some folk don’t want an ARM-based Surface."
concealment writes: "Rethink Robotics founder Rodney Brooks took to the stage at the Techonomy conference here to talk about the wonders of his new robot, Baxter, which is designed to work on factory floors doing dull and necessary tasks. He costs just $25,000 and works for what amounts to $4 an hour.
Baxter is a step forward in robotics with mass potential. It has a face and sensors to tell it when people are near. It's about as close to a humanoid robot as we can get, and Brooks said it's just the beginning.
"Within 10 years, we're going to see humanoid robots," said Brooks, who was a co-founder of iRobot, maker of iRoomba, the vacuum cleaner robot."
concealment writes: "Apple’s breakthrough products are so massive that it seems everything the company does is destined to succeed. But it doesn’t take much digging to find a trail of failures and false starts. Even in recent years, there are examples of products that seemed great but never resonated with consumers, and some that seemed so destined for failure it’s hard to imagine why any company would have brought them to market.
Here are some examples of Apple veering a bit off course."
concealment writes: "Apple Inc. (AAPL) is exploring ways to replace Intel Corp. (INTC) processors in its Mac personal computers with a version of the chip technology it uses in the iPhone and iPad, according to people familiar with the company’s research.
Apple engineers have grown confident that the chip designs used for its mobile devices will one day be powerful enough to run its desktops and laptops, said three people with knowledge of the work, who asked to remain anonymous because the plans are confidential. Apple began using Intel chips for Macs in 2005."
concealment writes: "British chip designer Imagination Technologies plans to acquire the operating business of processor maker MIPS Technologies, as well as some of its patents, in an effort to strengthen its position on smartphones. At the same time MIPS has also sold a majority of its patents to a group including ARM Holdings.
Imagination may not be a household name but its graphic processor designs are used on Apple's latest iPads and the iPhone 5. Just like its compatriot and competitor ARM, the company licenses the technology necessary to build processors but doesn't build any on its own.
The deal with MIPS sees it buying the company's operating business, including 160 employees, and IP licensing business with 82 patents for US$60 million."
concealment writes: "As the U.S. launched what's expected to be the world's fastest supercomputer at 20 petaflops, China is building a machine that is intended to be five times faster when it is deployed in 2015.
China's Tianhe-2 supercomputer will run at 100 petaflops (quadrillion floating-point calculations per second), according to the Guangzhou Supercomputing Center, where the machine will be housed.
Tianhe-2 could help keep China competitive with the future supercomputers of other countries, as industry experts estimate machines will start reaching 1,000-petaflop performance by 2018."
concealment writes: "Apple is making it more difficult for iPhone 4 owners to perform simple DIY repairs by replacing common Phillps head screws with a rare "pentalobe" screws. While newer iPhone 4s have included the screws from the factory, it is also Apple policy to replace any Phillips head screws with the new pentalobe screws whenever an iPhone 4 is taken in for service.
Wiens said that Apple had used a similar screw on early unibody MacBook Pros to secure the integrated battery, but later adopted a tri-wing screw for that purpose. The latest MacBook Airs, however, also use pentalobe screws on the outside case, making it difficult to perform what would otherwise be a simple swap of the SSD, for instance."
concealment writes: "State-owned Baotou Steel Rare Earth (Group) Hi-tech Co. said in a statement released through the Shanghai Stock Exchange that it suspended production Tuesday to promote "healthy development" of rare earths prices. It gave no indication when production would resume and phone calls to the company on Thursday were not answered.
Beijing is tightening control over rare earths mining and exports to capture more of the profits that flow to Western makers of lightweight batteries and other products made of rare earths. China has about 30 percent of rare earths deposits but accounts for more than 90 percent of production.
Beijing alarmed global manufacturers by imposing export quotas in 2009. It also is trying to force Chinese rare earths miners and processors to consolidate into a handful of government-controlled groups."
concealment writes: "In something of a follow up to This American Life's famous episode about the horrors of software patents, the Planet Money team brought on Mark Lemley to talk about how to fix the patent system. If you're aware of Lemley (or read Techdirt) what he talks about isn't all that surprising. He does note that, even if software patents are particularly silly, he doesn't agree with trying to carve them out specifically. Instead, he's still mostly focused on fixing the patent system by properly enforcing the laws already on the books. That means having the USPTO and the courts actually recognize that too many software patents are on general ideas ("functional claiming") when that's not allowed.
Next, the courts and the USPTO need to get much better at rejecting patents for obviousness. He doesn't quite get into how to do this, though I'm still a big fan of using independent invention as a sign of obviousness. He does note that the KSR case (which isn't named in the story) helped move the needle just slightly in the right direction. In that case, the court noted that merely combining two existing inventions is obvious. From there, he suggests recognizing how many patents stack up into an existing innovation — and what that means. So, using the 250,000 patents in a smartphone as an example, he notes that it's ridiculous for any one patent to hold up innovation in such a scenario, pointing to the MercExchange ruling (again, not named) that said the courts shouldn't issue automatic injunctions for infringement. In other words, when you have 250,000 patents in a smartphone, infringing on one shouldn't hold up the entire device."
concealment writes: "I recently started studying a company called Gnodal, which creates a new kind of Ethernet-based, ASIC-accelerated switch that can dynamically optimize the flow of network traffic. Learning about this technology has convinced me that more and more companies are going to face a large bump in the road as their infrastructure becomes more virtual.
Remember, no matter what, at some point, all computing becomes physical. For anything to happen, at some point, a CPU has to load instructions and process data. That data has to arrive at the computer containing the CPU, be processed, and then be sent somewhere, often to another computer. A physical network that connects many computers together must come into play. It is in the switching layer that the bump in the road will appear as the world becomes more virtual."
concealment writes: "Here I am, in a huge white building in Lenoir, standing near a reinforced door with a party of Googlers, ready to become that rarest of species: an outsider who has been inside one of the company’s data centers and seen the legendary server floor, referred to simply as “the floor.” My visit is the latest evidence that Google is relaxing its black-box policy. My hosts include Joe Kava, who’s in charge of building and maintaining Google’s data centers, and his colleague Vitaly Gudanets, who populates the facilities with computers and makes sure they run smoothly."