Intel re-hires retired CPU Architect

Former Intel Senior Fellow Glenn Hinton, who lists being the lead architect of Intel’s Nehalem CPU core in his list of achievements, is coming out of retirement to re-join the company. (The other lead architect of Nehalem, Ronak Singhal, is still with Intel working on next-gen processors)

One of the critical elements listed by a number of analysts on the announcement of Gelsinger’s arrival was that he wouldn’t have much of an effect until 3+ years down the line, because of how product cycles work. Dr. Ian Cutress @ AnandTech states: "I rejected that premise outright, stating that Pat can come in and change elements of Intel’s culture immediately, and could sit in the room with the relevant engineers and discuss product design on a level that Bob Swan cannot. Pat has the opportunity to arrange the leadership structure and instill new confidence in those structures, some of which may have caused key architects in the past to retire, instead of build on exciting projects".

Intel's new CEO and Q4 2020 Earnings: A Preview [Updated]

Against the backdrop of Intel's (NASDAQ:INTC) newly announced CEO, the company is scheduled to announce Q4 earnings results on Thursday, January 21st, after market close.

Over the last 2 years, INTC has beaten EPS estimates 100% of the time and has beaten revenue estimates 88% of the time.
The company's fourth-quarter performance is expected to have benefited from strength in its client computing business, courtesy of growing PC demand amid the coronavirus crisis-induced work-from-home wave. Analysts say key questions about Intel's long-term strategy are unlikely to be answered ahead of the company's new CEO transition next month.

Intel Appoints new CEO - Pat Gelsinger

In a Jan. 13 announcement about the upcoming departure of Intel CEO Bob Swan, the company said it expected to exceed its fourth-quarter 2020 guidance, which predicted revenue of $17.4 billion and non-GAAP EPS of $1.10. It also promised an update Jan. 21 on its progress in developing a 7-nanometer chip. Delays in releasing the new chip have weighed on Intel's competitive position as rivals move ahead on 7-nm and smaller processors.


AMD Launches Threadripper Pro CPU To Counter Intel Xeon

AMD is finally bringing a workstation-class processor to challenge Intel Xeon with its Ryzen Threadripper Pro. The pro version of AMD's multicore powerhouse Threadripper processors with up to 64 cores incorporates essentials like support for massive amounts of memory and board-level security, critical for uses which move loads of sensitive data, ranging from aerospace visualization to Hollywood video editing and CGI rendering. More here.

Functional Verification Interview Question

One day at the lunch table in the cafeteria, your manager says that she recently learned that X-SIM, the VHDL simulator that you have been using, has split their simulator into two products: one for functional simulation and one for timing simulation. She is considering buying either just the functional simulator or just the timing simulator, and using the money that she saves to buy more compute to speed up simulation.

Your current functional verification methodology uses a mixture of functional simulation, timing simulation, and running on an FPGA board. Your manager describes three options: “FTB”, “FCB”, and “TCB”; where “F” means functional simulation, “T” means “timing simulation”, “C” means new computers, and “B” means FPGA board. All three options cost the same.

FTB Buy both the functional simulator and timing simulator, and continue with the current methodology.

FCB Don’t buy the timing simulator; use functional simulation and FPGA boards for functional verification. Use the money saved by not buying the timing simulator to buy more computers, which will allow you to run functional simulation 10-times faster than you do now.

TCB Don’t buy the functional simulator; use timing simulation and FPGA boards for functional verification. Use the money saved by not buying the functional simulator to buy more computers, which will allow you to run timing simulation at the same speed as you currently run functional simulation.

For each option, answer whether you think it should be chosen as the best option, considered as a possibility, or rejected. If you recommend that an option be chosen, then you must reject the other two options. For each option, briefly justify your recommendation in terms of its advantages and/or disadvantages.

Hint: There is no single right or wrong answer. Please try to argue through analysis.

Try to think through these ...

  • FTB allows current methodology to be continued: methodology is trusted andreliable, no need for additional training.
  • Functional simulation is insufficient; need timing simulation or running on board to detect timing errors
  • Running functional simulation faster provides a minimal increase in actual coverage, because functional coverage is so low
  • Debugging is much easier with functional simulation than with timing simulation, and debugging with timing simulation is much easier than debugging on the board.
  • Could use the board as an alternative to timing simulation.
  • Without functional simulation, the design would need to be synthesizable before it could be simulated.

Samsung targets server CPUs with its new SSD

At this week's OCP Global Summit, Samsung disclosed details about a new type of solid-state drive (SSD), E-SSD drive that will achieve PCIe Gen4x4 performance, or about 1500K IOPS at 4K random read. They claim that these drives scale in a linear fashion. In the event, Samsung also revealed that it is currently in development and in the datacenter context.

When it is about flash memory, the most simple and common configuration of data centers is JBOF (just a bunch of files), which uses NVMe (Non-volatile memory express) SSD storage which is attached with processors, PCIe switches, and a NIC (Network Interface Cards). Such a system has some significant problems which are a classic case of a middleman, those issues include the lack of scalability of the storage controller or limited bandwidth. Based on the chart provided by the company, 24 NVMe drives will be about 7.5x faster than a single NVMe drive, whereas the same number of NVMe-oF SSDs will be about 23x faster than a single drive. Removing the CPU, networking and other bottlenecks means lower latency, higher bandwidth, lower cost, better performance, and potentially big TCO savings. Great news for data center operators, but not so great for everyone else in hardware procurement.

The Most Powerful Raspberry Pi Now Gives you 2/4/8GB of RAM

The Raspberry Pi Foundation recently doubled the amount of RAM available in Raspberry Pi 4 to 8GB with a device selling for $75

You can find the Tech Specs here
In order to take advantage of the RAM increase, the Raspberry PI foundation is in the early stages of releasing a new 64-bit version of its operating system in early beta. The new Raspberry Pi 4 is otherwise identical to the device that was announced in June last yearwith the same ARM-based CPU, and HDMI, USB 3, and Ethernet ports. The Raspberry Pi Foundation says the additional memory should be useful for compiling large pieces of software, running heavy server workloads, or maybe just having more browser tabs open at once.

8K Holographic display from Looking Glass is shipping now

Looking Glass is now shipping its 8K holographic display, which utilizes 33.2 million pixels and 45-element light field to provide a 3D effect. TechCrunch reports

The target markets here are medical imaging, mapping, automotive, architecture, and engineering. A press release tied to the announcement features a handful of folks in these categories who are excited at what such technology could mean, going forward. Here's Epic Games CTO Kim Libreri: "Having access to a glasses-free holographic display is a massive breakthrough, and presents an exciting prospect for teams working in immersive computer graphics, visualization, and content creation. The Looking Glass holographic display provides a stunning level of realism, and we look forward to seeing the innovations that emerge with the support of Unreal Engine generated content." The company is only offering pricing quotes by request through its site -- which means it's pretty likely to be cost-prohibitive for those just looking to augment a remote working setup. As noted in the earlier piece, the company is targeting enterprise users with early applications -- organizations that generally have money to spend on the state of the art hardware. More consumer-focused applications, including gaming, could be coming to ways down the road.
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Amazon In Advanced Talks To Buy Self-Driving-Car Tech Company Zoox

Amazon is in advanced talks to buy Zoox in a move that would expand the e-commerce giant's reach in autonomous-vehicle technology. The Wall Street Journal reports:

The companies are discussing a deal that would value Zoox at less than the $3.2 billion it achieved in a funding round in 2018, according to people familiar with the matter. An agreement may be weeks away, one of the people cautioned, and the discussions could still fall apart. Zoox, founded in 2014, has been working to develop the hardware and software needed to create electric-powered, robot taxis that would be summoned by smartphone app starting this year. A successful deal could give new life to a once-high-profile startup that has seen its fortunes dim as it struggled to raise money.
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Linus Torvalds Dumps Intel For 32-core AMD Ryzen On His Personal PC

Linus Torvalds released Linux 5.7 rc7 today, saying it "looks very normal... none of the fixes look like there's anything particularly scary going on."

But then he added something else:  The biggest excitement this week for me was just that I upgraded my main machine, and for the first time in about 15 years, my desktop isn't Intel-based. No, I didn't switch to ARM yet, but I'm now rocking an AMD Threadripper 3970x. My 'allmodconfig' test builds are now three times faster than they used to be, which doesn't matter so much right now during the calming down period, but I will most definitely notice the upgrade during the next merge window.
Torvalds didn't divulge any further details about his new rig, but the 3970x is quite the beast, boasting 32 cores and 64 threads at 3.7GHz with the ability to burst up to 4.5GHz, all built on TSMC's 7nm FinFET process... Torvalds has probably acquired a whole new PC, as the Threadripper range requires a sTRX4 socket and those debuted on motherboards from late 2019.

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Texas Instruments Makes It Harder to Run Programs on its Calculators

Texas Instruments' graphing calculators have a reputation as hobbyist devices given their program support, but they just lost some of their appeal. Cemetech has learned (via Linus Tech Tips) that Texas Instruments is pulling support for assembly- and C-based programs on the TI-84 Plus CE and its French counterpart, the TI-83 Premium CE. Install the latest firmware for both (OS 5.6 and OS 5.5 respectively) and you'll not only lose access to those apps, but won't have a way to roll back.

The company explained the move as an effort to "prioritize learning and minimize any security risks." It's to reduce cheating, to put it another way... While this could please teachers worried that students will use apps to cheat during exams, enthusiasts are unsurprisingly mad. This reduces the amount of control programmers have over their calculator apps.

There has been some brainstorming in the past few days among community members about (for lack of a better name) the TI-84 Plus CE Developer Edition. If we were to float that idea to TI, perhaps a calculator clearly and visibly distinguished from the TI-84 Plus CE that could be used on tests, what would you want from it? Opened up for ASM, C, and Python programming? Having the same specs as the usual TI-84 Plus CE, or something else? Having more features to help you connect hardware to it? And considering that TI is (after all) a business, would you buy one, and how many others do you think would? Beyond the community, who else could it be marketed to? Why would someone choose to buy the Developer Edition over a standard TI-84 Plus CE? Why would TI benefit by having it? 
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China Injects $2.2 Billion Into Local Chip Firm

China's state-backed funds pumped $2.25 billion into a Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. wafer plant to support advanced-chip making as Washington tightens technology restrictions on the Asian nation. From a report:

The Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. plant's registered capital jumps from $3.5 billion to $6.5 billion after the investment, the company said in an announcement on Friday. The chipmaker's stake in the Shanghai facility will drop from 50.1% to 38.5%, it said. The plant has capacity to produce 6,000 14-nanometer wafers a month and plans to boost that to 35,000. The new investment came as Washington moved to prevent sales to Huawei by chipmakers using U.S. technology. The Commerce Department on Friday said it would require licenses before allowing U.S. technology to be used by the Chinese company or its 114 subsidiaries, including its chip-design unit HiSilicon

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Permanently Working From Home Can Be Damaging For Mental Health

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella warns that making remote work permanent could have serious consequences for workers' social interaction and mental health.

Times of India reports:N adella said that an all-remote setup would be "replacing one dogma with another dogma." "What does burnout look like? What does mental health look like? What does that connectivity and the community building look like? One of the things I feel is, hey, maybe we are burning some of the social capital we built up in this phase where we are all working remote. What's the measure for that?" Nadella was quoted as saying.

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Workplace FSM design challenge

You are part of the ""Chakra" design team, a combined smart-watch and goggles. A senior manager is coming for a design review in the afternoon. Your project leader has to go out to lunch with the manager, and has left you to design the last state machine in the system before the design review

The functional requirements of the state machine are given below, where “a” means that a is true (in VHDL: equal to ’1’) and “!a” means that a is false (in VHDL: not equal to ’1’): Functional requirements:
1. The inputs are: a, b, j, k, m, and n.
2. The outputs are: y and z.
3. The initial state is S0.
4. If (the current state is S0) and a, then in the current clock cycle assign j to y.
5. If (the current state is S0) and !a, then in the current clock cycle assign k to y.
6. If (the current state is S0) and b, then in the next clock cycle assign m to z.
7. If (the current state is S0) and !b, then in the next clock cycle assign n to z.
8. If (the current state is S0) and b, then the next state shall be S1.
9. If (the current state is S0) and !b, then the next state shall be S2.
10. If the current state is S1, then the next state shall be S2.
11. If the current state is S2, then the next state shall be S0.

1. You may choose y and z to be either registered or combinational. Both may be combinational, both registered, or one combinational and one registered. One of the optimization goals below is to minimize the number of registers.
2. Your design shall satisfy the functional requirements
3. Your goals, in order of decreasing importance are
(a) minimum number of clocked (i.e., real) states
(b) minimum number of edges
(c) minimum number of transient states
(d) minimum number of registers

TSMC To Build Advanced Semiconductor Factory In Arizona

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), the world's largest contract manufacturer of silicon chips, is set to announce plans to build an advanced chip factory in Arizona (Warning: source paywalled; alternative source) as U.S. concerns grow about dependence on Asia for the critical technology. The plans come as the Trump administration has sought to jump-start development of new chip factories in the U.S. due to rising fears about the U.S.'s heavy reliance on Taiwan, China and South Korea to produce microelectronics and other key technologies.

TSMC is expected to announce the plans as soon as Friday after making the decision at a board meeting on Tuesday in Taiwan, according to people familiar with the matter. The factory could be producing chips by the end of 2023 at the earliest, they said, adding that both the State and Commerce Departments are involved in the plans. TSMC's new plant would make chips branded as having 5-nanometer transistors, the tiniest, fastest and most power-efficient ones manufactured today, according to a person familiar with the plans. TSMC just started rolling out 5-nanometer chips for customers to test at a factory in Taiwan in recent months. It is unclear how much TSMC has budgeted or if it would get financial incentives from the U.S. to build. A factory capable of making the most advanced chips would almost certainly cost more than $10 billion, according to industry executives.

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FCC opened up 6GHz band for next-gen Wi-Fi devices

The unanimous decision opens 1,200MHz of new bandwidth for Wi-Fi 6E devices that are expected to begin arriving this year. In a unanimous vote on April 23, the Federal Communications Commission adopted a proposal that opens the 6GHz band for unlicensed Wi-Fi use. Doing so frees up more than 1,200MHz of additional bandwidth for next-gen Wi-Fi 6E devices with antennas and chipsets capable of tapping into the extra spectrum. The FCC went on to call the move a benefit to consumers, and one that will "further our leadership in next-generation wireless technologies, including 5G." An industry-funded study by Columbia professor Raul Katz backs that claim up, and suggests that the move could generate more than $180 billion in US revenue by 2025.

This also comes with a set of rules for the unlicensed use of this spectrum. Two types of unlicensed operations are allowed: Low Power Indoor and Standard Power Indoor/Outdoor. Here is a summary of the key regulatory requirements. Read on for more details here..

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Intel CEO Bob Swan: Bad Companies Are Destroyed by Crises

Intel CEO Bob Swan cited this quote from former CEO Andy Grove during a call with analysts. Intel has pledged $100 million in funding to support its 110,000 employees worldwide. It has also pledged $50 million in resources and cash to fight Covid-19. The company has paused a few construction projects at smaller sites, but Swan foresees no impact on process technology or upcoming product launches.

Swan said “I want to thank and commend all the Intel employees and supply chain partners who have helped keep our business operating during this unprecedented challenge,” Swan said. “I want to give special praise to those working in our factories and labs and other on-site personnel who have role-modeled the values of our company every day and every shift — I am so incredibly proud of your effort and commitment.” He also said Intel continues its strategy of widening its market opportunity by making more kinds of chips that go into electronic systems and computing products, such as graphics chips and Optane memory.

Intel said its gross profit margins would likely be lower in the second quarter which in part because the company is recording higher expenses as it prequalifies the manufacturing of its second generation of 10-nanometer products — which is considered a normal expense in a process technology transition. Intel is accelerating its “Tiger Lake” 10-nanometer processors at a faster rate than it was previously planned. Intel grew its datacenter business 34% in Q1, and data-centric revenues are now 51% of total revenues, while PC revenues grew at 14%. The company’s factories are operating at more than 90% when it comes to on-time deliveries. Only essential personnel are going into those factories, but Swan said the facilities — because of requirements for purity in manufacturing — are among the cleanest places in the world.

When it comes to fighting the current crisis and any future pandemics, “COVID-19 has only reinforced how important it is for Intel and our customers to accelerate the power of data,” Swan said. He also said that strong demand for laptops in Q1 — for working from home and learning from home — was offset by the pandemic’s impact on global gross domestic product (GDP). Swan added that government and enterprise spending is likely to be weaker in the second half of the year. At some point, Intel expects the pandemic to affect global demand for PCs during the remainder of the year.

“We recognize that our local and global communities need us to continue delivering technology to help overcome this COVID-19 challenge, and we’re fully focused on that task,” Swan said.

He closed by saying, “Our purpose is to create world-changing technology that enriches the lives of every person on Earth. That’s never been more important than now … We will emerge from this global crisis even stronger.”

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Apple will likely begin selling Macs with its own processors in 2021

This news report from Bloomberg cites sources close to Apple who say that Apple is on track to introduce Macs running in-house CPUs and GPUs in 2021. The chips the company is developing are codenamed Kalamata.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Apple’s partner for iPhone and iPad processors, will build the new Mac chips, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private product plans. The components will be based on a 5-nanometer production technique, the same size Apple will use in the next iPhones and iPad Pros, one of the people said. An Apple spokesman declined to comment, as did Intel and TSMC.

Apple developing multiple Mac chips may be a clue that Apple may not just be thinking about a single new Mac laptop based on in-house silicon but an entire line. It's not clear from this whether these will be additive to the current, Intel-based lineup or whether Apple will began replacing Macs in its current lineup with computers built with these chips in mind. The report does say that one of the chips Apple is developing will be "much faster" than those used in the iPhone or iPad, though they will not yet be sufficient to replace the fastest Intel chips in the MacBook Pro or Mac Pro. Like those iPhone and iPad chips, though, these Mac chips would be built using a 5-nanometer production technique, and they would be made by TSMC.

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RIPE opposes China and Huawei's "New IP" internet upgrade plan

Réseaux IP Européens French for "European IP Networks" or in short RIPE is a forum with an interest in the technical development of the Internet. RIPE is opposing a proposal to remodel core internet protocols, a proposal backed by the Chinese government, Chinese telecoms, and Chinese networking equipment vendor Huawei.

From the report: "Named "New IP," this proposal consists of a revamped version of the TCP/IP standards to accommodate new technologies, a "shutoff protocol" to cut off misbehaving parts of the internet, and a new "top-to-bottom" governance model that decentralizes the internet and puts it into the hands of a few crucial node operators. The New IP proposal was submitted last year to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and brought to the public's attention following a Financial Times report last month. The proposal received immediate criticism from the general public and privacy advocates due to its obvious attempt to hide internet censorship features behind a technical redesign of the TCP/IP protocol stack.

The New IP proposal was described as the Chinese government's attempt to export and impose its autocratic views onto the rest of the internet and its infrastructure. Millions of eyebrows were raised when authoritarian countries like Iran, Russia, and Saudi Arabia expressed support for the proposal. In a blog post this week, RIPE NCC, the regional Internet registry for Europe, West Asia, and the former USSR, formally expressed a public opinion against China New IP proposal. "Do we need New IP? I don't think we do," said Marco Hogewoning, the current acting Manager Public Policy, and Internet Governance at the RIPE NCC. "Although certain technical challenges exist with the current Internet model, I do not believe that we need a whole new architecture to address them."

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Motorola unveils $179 budget smartphone Moto G

The phone starts at $179 in the US without a contract. Contract-free prices for leading phones in the US typically exceed $600. The starting price is for a phone with 8 gigabytes of storage.

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Android 4.4 KitKat update is heading to Nexus 7 and 10 starting today

Google has announced that the newest Android update, KitKat is being rolled out to Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 devices starting today.

This update can be done using OTA. From the official Google+ page though, the roll out is happening first only to the Wi-Fi devices. Nexus 4 and Nexus 7 versions with mobile data will be getting the update soon, but no dates are defined.

Top 10 features of this update:

1. Just say “Ok Google”
You don’t need to touch the screen to get things done. When on your home screen* or in Google Now, just say “Ok Google” to launch voice search, send a text, get directions or even play a song.

2. A work of art
While listening to music on your device, or while projecting movies to Chromecast, you’ll see beautiful full-screen album and movie art when your device is locked. You can play, pause, or seek to a specific moment.

3. Immerse yourself
The book you're reading, the game you're playing, or the movie you're watching — now all of these take center stage with the new immersive mode, which automatically hides everything except what you really want to see. Just swipe the edge of the screen to bring back your status bar and navigation buttons.

4. Faster multitasking
Android 4.4 takes system performance to an all-time high by optimizing memory and improving your touchscreen so that it responds faster and more accurately than ever before. This means that you can listen to music while browsing the web, or race down the highway with the latest hit game, all without a hitch.

5. The future is calling
The new phone app automatically prioritizes your contacts based on the people you talk to the most. You can also search for nearby places and businesses, your contacts, or people in your Google Apps domain.

6. A smarter caller ID
Whenever you get a call from a phone number not in your contacts, your phone will look for matches from businesses with a local listing on Google Maps.

7. All your messages in the same place
Never miss a message, no matter how your friend sends it. With the new Hangouts app, all of your SMS and MMS messages are together in the same app, alongside your other conversations and video calls. And with the new Hangouts, you can even share your location and send animated GIFs.

8. Emoji everywhere
Sometimes words can’t express how you feel. For that, there’s Emoji, the colorful Japanese characters, now available on Google Keyboard.

9. Print wherever, whenever
Now you can print photos, documents, and web pages from your phone or tablet. You can print to any printer connected to Google Cloud Print, to HP ePrint printers, and to other printers that have apps in the Google Play Store.

10. Pick a file, any file
From apps like Quickoffice, you can open and save files on Google Drive, other cloud storage services, or your device. And with quick access to recently used files, it's easier than ever to send the file you were just working on.

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