Solid-state fan trumps mechanical

Engineers from Thorrn Micro Technologies have developed a solid-state fan that exploits corona wind to move more air than a traditional fan 35 times its size. Corona wind is a physical phenomenon that is produced by strong electric fields. Such electric fields are commonly found on sharp conductive points with a very concentrated electrical charge, which generates a strong electric field. When this electric field reaches a certain strength, known as the corona discharge inception voltage gradient, the surrounding medium (in this case air) is ionized (charged) with the same polarity as the sharp conductive point. The point then repels the like-charged air molecules surrounding it, creating what is called corona wind.

This concept is very similar to the one used on a large scale in-home air purifiers. The RSD5 solid-state fan developed by Thorrn Micro Technologies implements the technology in such a way that the resulting air flow, which is apparently tremendous, is produced far more efficiently than a normal mechanical fan. One of the engineers from Thorn involved with the project, Dan Schlitz, stated that, “The technology has the power to cool a 25-watt chip with a device smaller than 1 cubic-cm and can someday be integrated into silicon to make self-cooling chips.”

Obviously the technology will need to be scaled up a bit if cooling of traditional desktop processors is the desired application, but even in its current state, it seems that an incredibly small version of the device can be used to effectively cool a majority of the processors found in typical mobile devices, including moderately powerful notebook PCs. More details about this technology are explained very well on Solid State Electronics android app which can be easily downloaded from any APK downloader site.

The technology could also be used in tandem with current convection heatsinks in desktop PCs to provide extra cooling performance, perhaps by causing more turbulence in the air flow across large cooling fins. Also, it is reasonable to think that further development of the technology could result in more efficient fans that really could be used on the silicon level to actively cool chips “before they get hot”.

Charts detailing technical data and a picture of the device can be found on DailyTech or on the company’s website.

As an engineer and technology enthusiast, this is the kind of stuff that genuinely interests me the most. Good to see.

Source: DailyTech

Blu-Ray adoption slows down, Can you tell HD from SD?

n the wake of the HD format wars we now have one conclusive victor standing tall a top the hillside. Blu-Ray may have beat out HD DVD but it has a long way to go to overthrow DVD and recent sales are showing just that.

The NPD, (those same cats who track video game console sales), noted that sales of standalone players dropped 40% between Jan. and Feb. The have taken a slight upswing since buy no where near the level the Blu-Ray consortium has hopped. I have to imagine that the PS3 is not included in those standalone numbers as it’s sales have risen almost every month.

The big winner is still DVD and upconverting DVD players. Sales of the later are rising and DVDs still sell like hot cocoa in the Arctic circle.

Some people aparrently cannot tell the difference between between DVD and HD content. I think they must be blind, or some of those tards who buy HD players and play them on SDTVs and wonder why they don’t look amazing. If you can’t see a difference between a Spiderman 3 DVD on my 27″ SDTV vs. Spiderman 3 on Blu-Ray on my 42″ 1080p you have to be nearly blind. Now if the justification was the added resolution isn’t needed, so be it. But saying they can’t see it is absurd.

As the NY times notes Blu-Ray has a lot of ground to cover to reach mass adoption in the marketplace. A $200 price point come the holiday season, with internet connectivity, profile 2.0, would surely help.

Revived GPU war hurting bottom line

As a consumer it might be a bit difficult to even consider that perhaps this new graphics war might have some negative connotations for the future. Low prices, high performance, and a wide array of options are all mashed together into a puree of gaming bliss for those of us looking to buy. However, the routine price drops and new product launches at ultra-affordable price points might be hurting the bottom line of both combatants. If this is indeed the case, there could be some adverse consequences on the graphics market in general.

report on Fudzilla last week claims that NVIDIA’s “average selling prices are destroyed”. This article basically just points out the obvious consequences of the price drops over the past month, which have become more aggressive and frequent since the launch of the GeForce GTX280. NVIDIA, selling video cards at price points nearly $200 cheaper than the intended launch MSRP, are obviously not going to have the kind of margins that the company is used to achieving after the two-year unbridled success of the 8800 series.

It is important to note that this really does not mean that NVIDIA is no longer going to be profitable. However, huge pressure from AMD on two fronts is definitely causing their average selling prices to drop. The performance of the Radeon HD4800 series has launched AMD onto the graphics leaderboard for really the first time since the ATI acquisition, and NVIDIA’s counter to this product line was by most accounts lacklustre. Consequently, NVIDIA has had to engage in aggressive price cuts to remain competitive with the much lower-priced cards from AMD.

We have to ask at what point will these price drops begin to have the negative effect on both companies. If this trend of constant one-upsmanship continues unchecked, both companies can end up in what we would probably call a precarious financial situation. At this point, we would expect the cost of video cards to jump through the roof as a means for loss prevention.

Seagate Brings Down The Gavel On SSD Manufacturers

In what is brewing to be another one of the endless patent disputes we hear about in the tech world Seagate is planning on bringing SSD manufacturers to court, starting with STEC. Solid-state drives sales are slowly but surely picking up sales and before they reach a critical juncture Seagate has planned to jump in and protect their patents.

Their are four patents that Seagate feels STEC has violated: memory-backup systems, error correction, and storage interfaces with computers. We can presume these patents would also be used in pursuit of other SSD builders if Seagate continues down this path. They had apparently tried to work with STEC in licensing the patents though STEC denies such claims.

Will other manufacturers be on the way? Will Seagate’s patent give them a victory and a nearly exclusive claim to the SSD market? Stay tuned for a later edition of “As the Patent Turns”.

Toshiba’s SpursEngine SE1000 brings Cell to the PC

It is no secret that the chip inside the Sony’s Playstation 3 holds enormous potential for gaming applications. Less known is the fact that the architecture of the Cell Broadband Engine – the product of a joint effort by Sony, IBM, and Toshiba- facilitates massive parallel computing power that can be used in all sorts of compute intensive tasks. Cell/B.E. is already being used on the enterprise level to great effect. The processor has also proven itself on the distributed computing front, as Playstation 3 consoles are second only to ATI’s R5XX-based GPUs in TFLOP performance in Stanford’s [email protected] operation. However, since the Cell/B.E. works optimally in tandem with the not-so-standard XDR memory interface from Rambus, nobody really expects to see mainstream PCs based on the processor anytime soon.

For consumers who find themselves twiddling their thumbs while processing full-quality HD video on modern computer hardware, Toshiba brings a reprieve. The SpursEngine SE1000 is the first commercially available implementation of the Cell/B.E. technology, and will allow for greatly enhanced performance through the use of four Synergistic Processing Elements (SPEs). The slightly dumbed-down version of the processor found in the Playstation 3 has been placed on a PCB with a PCI-Express edge connector that is compatible with PCI-E x1 slots on current mainboards. The add-in card also features 128MB of its own XDR DRAM, with a physical bandwidth of 12.8GB/s. Toshiba reports that the processing performance of this card maxes out at 48GFlops, which is just a tiny bit less than even the most powerful quad-core x86 CPUs. Although realized performance will undoubtedly be quite different from the listed value, the advantage of the SpursEngine SE1000 co-processor will lie in its parallel architecture.

As we see it, the SpursEngine SE1000 has two really big things going for it: compatibility with existing Cell/B.E. development environments, and assumed low price. Toshiba is reporting that since the co-processor is derived from the same technology as the Cell/B.E., programs can be written for it based on the existing and somewhat-understood develop environment. Also, since this expansion card is effectively a nerfed Playstation 3 Cell/B.E. without NVIDIA’s RSX, I/O resources, significant heat concerns, and provisions for external appearance, we expect it to be rather inexpensive. Toshiba expects to move 6 million SpursEngine SE1000 parts in its first three years, which also leads us to believe it will be priced right.

Though its initial usage intent is for video processing, we can definitely see this technology get put to use in all sorts of general computing tasks. Since a [email protected] client already exists for the Cell/B.E., we don’t think it is too unreasonable to expect a tweaked version for the SE1000 once the user base reaches a relevant size. The card has already entered the sampling phase and is expected to be commercially available in the coming months.

Microsoft to sell XP until 2010

With the launch of Windows Vista at the beginning of 2007, Microsoft forced a changing of the guards in the operating system world. While the company was gung-ho about their new version of Windows, millions of XP users were not ready to let go of their tried and true OS for one that was shown to decrease performance and increase blood pressure. Perhaps even more frustrating for XP users was the announcement that Microsoft would cease to sell the aging operating system in January of 2008. Hesitation eventually turned into the realization that Windows Vista simply would not run on a large percentage of PCs due to its heavy resource demands. This severely limited Vista’s audience and was probably one of the issues that caused Microsoft to push back XP’s end of sale date to June 30, 2008.

Now, with low-cost, low-performance portable PCs like the ASUS Eee PC selling thousands of units all over the world, Microsoft has been faced with quite a dilemma: extend the life of Windows XP, or miss out on the vast low-cost PC market. DailyTech is reporting that Microsoft has chosen option number one, and will continue selling Windows XP Home into 2010. Microsoft is not the only company that will benefit from this decision; the manufacturers of these ultra-low-cost PCs will likely reach a broader audience thanks to the familiarity and compatibility that Windows XP will bring to their products.

Other than the ASUS Eee PC, which just saw its most recent incarnation become available at Best Buy stores nationwide, there are several other tiny notebooks currently breaking into the market, including the Everex CloudBook Max, ECS G10IL, and Intel’s 2nd generation Classmate PC. The Windows XP sales extension will not include Windows XP Professional, 64-bit, or Media Center Edition.

NVIDIA GeForce 9800GTX on April 1st

While nobody was surprised that NVIDIA’s GeForce 9800GX2 launch was delayed several weeks due to the complexity of the design and getting full software support out the door, a few people were surprised when news came that their 9800GTX would be launching in March. The card, which retains the suffix of its outstandingly successful predecessor, was initially slated for an April launch. Many analysts expected that reports detailing AMD’s aggressive launch schedule for R700-based graphics cards were behind the accelerated release date.

Now it would appear that the card is not going to launch in March after all. VR-Zone is reporting today that the 9800GTX will not launch March 25th, as previously reported, and will instead be release on the first day of April. This will be a full two weeks after yesterday’s launch of the 9800GX2 and 790i chipsets, and one week after the upcoming release of QuadSLI-enabling Forceware. It is kind of funny that NVIDIA will be launching a product on April 1st, as many people recognize “April Fool’s Day” as a day filled with practical jokes and other shenanigans.

Our review of NVIDIA’s recently-released GeForce 9800GX2 is essentially done, but we have been unable to publish the article due to some problems that occurred as a result of our recent website redesign. We apologize for not getting the review out to you on launch day, but you can rest assured that it will be coming to you pretty soon!

NVIDIA software proclaims GPU superiority

Apparently after NVIDIA launches its GeForce 9800GX2 and 9800GTX video cards and nForce 780a, 790i and Ultra motherboards, it will launch a piece of software designed to show why GPUs are more important than CPUs. Of course this is bound to ruffle feathers with CPU manufacturers like Intel. To us, a proclamation like this seems pretty obvious. To the typical consumer bombarded with all kinds of crazy technology ads on a daily basis, it will probably be a surprise.

This software is supposed to show that a low-end CPU paired with a powerful GPU will perform better than a high-end CPU paired with a budget GPU. Of course if we are talking about games then this is a no-brainer, but certainly a faster CPU is more beneficial to everyday computing than a faster GPU. And, while recent games are becoming more graphically intense, a good deal of the really popular games out there do not require that much GPU. In fact, these games are often considered ‘CPU limited’, meaning the frame rate will only be as good as the CPU allows. In such cases, and they are many, a powerful CPU will be far more beneficial than a powerful GPU.

Clearly this software will be a good marketing tool for NVIDIA, and for now it holds true for newer games. Consumers would be better off getting a “high-end” GPU for $200-300 and a relatively low-end CPU in the $150 range than a high-end CPU for $400+ and a low-end GPU in the $100 range. We maintain that quad-core processing is quite nice, but for gaming, dual-core is still nearly as good. Until games are coded to work on more than 2 threads with any kind of performance benefit, NVIDIA’s message with this software will be a good one to listen to.

Source: Fudzilla

FPSLabs Interviews Robert Krakoff, aka RazerGuy

I recently got a chance to chat with the President of Razer, Robert Krakoff (aka RazerGuy) this week about some things the company is doing right now, including the release of some of their new products. He explains some of the challenges engineers had with designing the company’s first wireless mouse aimed at gamers, some of the upcoming product possibilities the company has, and how the company has become such a dominant force in gaming.

Let’s start with the new Mamba wireless mouse that Razer will be release later this quarter; what finally made Razer start looking at a wireless mouse made for gamers? And what sets this wireless mouse apart from others that have been released by companies such as Logitech or Microsoft?

Four major features establish the Mamba as the first true wireless gaming grade mouse. They are latency (only 1ms of latency in the wireless mode), lightweight (only 129g with the battery in place), battery life (72 hours in normal use and 14 hours continuous gaming) and limited signal conflict (I’ll talk more about this later).

The Mamba carries an almost identical design to personally my favorite mouse of all-time, The Deathadder; what made you stick with this shape for the Mamba? Besides the wireless function, What are some of the features that will set these two apart?

You are correct, the DeathAdder was the inspiration for the Mamba; however this is actually an improved design over the DA. There is more palm area on top and the side (thumb) buttons are designed for better feel and access.

Do you think gamers will be a bit timid to shell out $130 on a mouse?

The one thing that we have learned over the years is to never assume what gamers are willing to pay for great technology. If a product can give them a notable edge in their skills the price is usually not a huge factor.

Razer seldom sets out to make a product to fit a certain retail price. We design and develop products that offer the gamer an edge in technology so they can gain better enjoyment in their game of choice. Ten years ago we introduced the Boomslang 2000, the first gaming grade mouse at a retail of $99.99. Ten years later we introduce the first gaming grade wireless mouse for $30 more. If you put it into that perspective the price isn’t that inflammatory.

The mouse runs on the 2.4ghz range; what safe-guards have been put in place to prevent interference with other common devices on the same band, such as wireless routers or wireless home phones?

Transmission interference which may cause cursor unresponsiveness does not occur in wired
Mode; however, it can occur in wireless mode due to the inherent nature of wireless communications when there is an inevitable risk of interference. The engineers at Razer are well aware of the possibility of such wireless interference affecting quality of game play. In order to prevent degradation of performance, the Razer Mamba hardware-assisted interference avoidance automatically switches channels if it detects strong signal interference. Switching of channels serves as an extra protection to ensure optimum game play and is only necessary when the wireless environment can be extremely noisy.

In rare situations whereby there is too much transmission interference, the Razer Mamba will perform channel switching which could possibly cause the cursor to not respond for a split second. This prevents longer downtimes or freezes of the cursor such as with other wireless mice and is essential to ensure optimal gaming performance.

We have tested the Razer Mamba extensively in multiple stimulated gaming environments and determined that this channel switching only occurs when there is significant interference affecting the gaming performance of the Razer Mamba.

Other wireless mice and wireless gaming mice have similar issues whereby the cursor may appear not to be responding once every two to three hours of game play. We have equipped the Razer Mamba with an inbuilt DSSS (Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum) technology in combination with an interference detection technology which enables the Razer Mamba to detect and avoid noisy channels. As such, the cursor error response rate is minimized on the Razer Mamba to once every five hours or more depending on how noisy the environment is.

To minimize interference in the wireless mode, reduce the distance between Razer Mamba and the charging dock.

Lately, mice manufacturers have been in an almost endless race to claim the highest DPI device on the market. The Mamba features an engine capable of an astornomical 5600 DPI; what is the advantage to gamers from having a high DPI setting that high?

Mamba is actually a 48 MHz processor but with a 12 MIPS rating and while the DPI is the highest of any mouse on the market, the inches per second (IPS) rating is really the most important metric. That represents the speed your hand can reach without skipping or loss of data. The IPS of the Mamba ranges from 60 to 200 inches per second depending on your sensitivity setting.

When can we expect the Mamba available for sale?

Very soon.

Now onto the Carcharias, the new headset that was recently debuted at CES. The set is obviously similar to the Megaladon; what sets the newer Carcharias apart from it’s not so distant relative, the Megaladon?

The only difference is that the Carcharias is a standalone headset while the Megalodon is a headset designed specifically to incorporate the Razer Maelstrom Audio Engine, making it the definitive directional audio headset for gamers. The Carcharias is ready to ship now while the Megalodon is due in the second quarter of the year.

The Razer Lycosa was a huge hit among fans of the slim-key design and you’re put out variations of the same board; are there any plans for another keyboard with the same low profile keys in the near future?

We are pretty tight lipped about products in development; however you can bet the farm that there will be new Razer keyboards in the future.

Logitech began putting LCD screens in their keyboards, like the G15 and G19, to convey various information the user might need at quick-glance; does Razer have any plans to introduce this same kind of feature into any devices in the future?

While I would never say never to any good feature nor badmouth a great competitor’s product, I must say that Razer does not make products in a vacuum. Before we begin the developmental process we engage a dialog with top gamers around the world. When the subject of keyboard features has come up over the past few years our gamer friends, fans and employees have told us that they are not interested in this particular feature. What they say is that they see little to no benefit from taking their eyes away from the monitor to look at a screen on their keyboard.

Last year, you released a Cypher/ESWC 08 Commemorative Editon Deathadder; any plans to do this any other eSports Stars?

We are always open to either licensing our technology to other hardware makers or offering our Powered by Razer products to leagues, brands and even teams (if you remember the SK Copperhead).

A couple years back, Razer released their own soundcard, the Barracuda AC-1; given the recent innovations in HD video and audioand the increase in people using their computer as the main multimedia device in their homes, are there any plans for a followup? Does the company plan to get involved with other kinds of techology; video cards? Mother boards?

This is the really cool thing about Razer … we develop all of our own technologies. We have a team of engineers, industrial designers and firmware and software mavens in house, 24/7/360. Almost no other gaming hardware company can make this statement honestly and their development model forces then to go outside their company to seek OEM or other consultants to complete their products. This in house edge provides Razer the luxury of assigning a team to core products and other teams to advanced or skunk works projects. These new projects can be nearly anything our imagination can provide.

Recently, Razer sponsored an online gaming tournament for Quake 3; will there be any more of these in the future, and does the company plan on sponsoring any major LAN events in the future?

In 2001 Razer pioneered eSports sponsorships by offering the first big cash award of $100,000 at CPL Summer Quake event. Back in 1999 we began contributing to local, online, live, LAN and other sponsorship programs.

Since then, other companies have come in and pushed eSports sponsorships to ludicrous amounts, many just trading cash for endorsements. Now the money has all but vanished as sponsors are running away from gamers as fast as their bottom line is evaporating. Stalwarts like the CPL, WSG and CGS have all been forced to pull the plug due to big ticket sponsors dropping out. This all started before the current recession and IMHO will only continue to hurt our community for some time to come.

Despite all of this doom and gloom, Razer continues to sponsor gamers and events in a low-key fashion, supporting gamers, the community, and validating hardware.

With the current financial crisis, many of the companies have and will pull out of sponsorships. While Razer has also been affected by the economic downturn, we will continue to sponsor gamers and events as we believe in the mantra for gamers by gamers. While our marketing budgets have also been scaled back, we intend to continue sponsoring LAN events and have no intentions of ever pulling out.

So Robert, what is your favorite Razer product and why?

I have a few favorites. My favorite mouse has been the DeathAdder due to its comfort; however I have been using a test Mamba without drivers for a couple of months and it simply rocks. My favorite performance product has to be the Mako speaker system though. This product is the perfect example and response to your question, “Does the company plan to get involved with other kinds of technology”

So what does Razer have in store for fans in the coming year?

I hate to be evasive about what we’re working on but Razer is no longer small enough to sneak below the radar of our competitors. My best response is that you can expect more of the same cool, smart, advanced technology products that have been our legacy over the past ten years.