You too can Buy a Nano!

13 01 2009


Josh Walrath | Source: newegg | Subject: Processor
The CPU has been out for 9+ months now, and the promise and potential of these products was nearly unlimited considering how netbooks and low power/inexpensive PCs are some of the fastest growing markets in the PC industry.  While a few manufacturers have adopted the VIA Nano, it has been pretty unspectacular when considering uptake and media coverage.  

While browsing through Newegg today, I did happen to spot a brand new item.  JetWay has released a VIA Nano based Mini-ITX motherboard using the VIA VX800 chipset.  While certainly this will not power through the latest 3D games, the performance of the combination supposedly can decode HD content.  The VIA Nano is running at 1.6 GHz and its performance is widely compared to a single core Core 2 product in terms of IPC (though it is overall slower per clock, its power consumption is lower).  The VX800 chipset is based on the S3 Chrome9 graphics, and it has the ability to offload and decode H.264 and VC-1 content.  While it is a DX9 compliant part, it is certified as Vista Basic, so I am guessing it just doesn’t have the horsepower to handle Vista Aero very well. 

A couple of interesting observations… I thought the VX800 chipset was a two chip affair, but it appears to only have one actual chip.  There are two heatsinks, and looking at the back of the PCB I am seeing only two areas where two large chips are mounted.  These chips are obviously the VX800 and the Nano.  Again, I was unaware that the VX800 was a “all-in-one” type product.  The Parallel port seems somewhat odd, especially considering how much space is available on the Mini-ITX backplane.  One would have assumed that they would have put some kind of DVI or HDMI output instead of just VGA.  It does not appear as though the VX800 is HDCP compliant, which explains the lack of a DVI or HDMI port for protected content.  It also features a single DDR-2 667 DIMM slot, with a maximum allowed density of 2 GB.  So, hopping up to 4 GB or higher is not going to happen with this product. 

Overall this looks like it would be a nice product as a basic home server for files and digital media.  It could also do very well as the basis for a simple productivity machine for email and office work.  I’m guessing the power consumption on this board is going to be very similar to what Ryan saw last year when he tested the Nano, so it is going to be quite low.  Considering how many uses imaginative users have found for the earlier VIA CPUs and chipsets in the Mini-ITX form facto, this could be a very popular product for modders everywhere.  The additional performance that the Nano brings to the table will also be quite welcome in many of these imaginative applications. 

It is very good to see Nano products available to end users, and hopefully this means we will start to see more Nano based products hitting the scene.  The Intel Atom needs some competition, and now that AMD has also announced their single core Athlon 64 derivative for the lower power market, we should see some nice products coming out from a variety of sources.  Another good aspect about this is hopefully it will put more pressure on Intel to open up their Atom infrastructure more than what they have now.  We all were hoping that NVIDIA would partner with VIA for an Ion-like product based around the Nano, and hopefully that will still come to fruition.  Unfortunately, my gut feeling is that NVIDIA will stick primarily with Atom.  Which is obviously disappointing.  The Nano does not pull all that much more power than the Atom, and it certainly performs better in the vast majority of applications and benchmarks.  As per usual, only time will tell. 


Seagate’s Cheetah adds new spots

13 01 2009

By Chris Mellor 

While coping with the executive disarray of changing its CEO and COO, Seagate has also found time to announce a couple of new disk drives – an 800GB Cheetah 15K drive along with a new 10K rpm version.

Cheetah drives are Seagate’s mainstream 3.5-inch business drives, spinning at 10,000 and 15,000 rpm [10K, 15K] compared to the more capacious Barracudas spinning at 7,200rpm.

Seagate is engaged in a bit of across-the-board capacity upgrading as the Barracuda has just received a capacity boost with a 500GB 2-platter model announced and an implied 2TM model on the way to replace the existing 1.5TB product.

The Cheetah 15K.6 is the 6th generation Cheetah, spinning at 15K and offering 147, 300 or 450GB capacity accessed through 4Gbit/s Fibre Channel (FC) or 3Gbit/s SAS. It also has a full disk encryption (FDE) option. The Cheetah NS spins at 10K, offers the same interfaces and capacities of 300 or 400GB. This product is optimised for lower power-consumption. Seagate punts it for NAS and direct-attached strage needs with the 15K positioned for NAS and SAn use.

There is a second generation NS product coming, the NS.2, and a seventh generation Cheetah 15K.7. Both will offer increased capacity, up to 600GB. Both get a faster SAS II interface running at 6Gbit/s. The NS.2 gets PowerTrim technology from the Cheetah 15K line which is claimed to reduce the power draw by up to 20 per cent compared to the previous NS product. It also gets the encryption option as Seagate tries to maximise its sales appeal.

Seagate expects 3.5-inch enterprise drives to have roughly 45 per cent of the enterprise market in 2009, down from the slightly more than half they claimed in 2008. There will be a fairly steep decline in 3.5-inch enterprise shipments in 2010 as customers adopt smaller 2.5-inch drives which offer more IOPS from a drive shelf. Seagate thinks this will be the year that enterprises take more 2.5-inch than 3.5-inch drives.

This is consequent on storage array vendors adopting them. It seems likely that they will be offering roughly equivalent capacities per drive to today’s 3.5-inch drives by then which would help.

The 3.5-inch drive enterprise market will then continue to decline in 2011 and 2012 after which it may well disappear.

Will we see short-stroked 2.5-inch drives? That’s a tactic used to speed disk I/O by only putting data on the fastest-accessed tracks. If it is done then it drives up the cost/GB and narrows the price gap between 2.5-inch HDDs and 2.5-inch solid state drives (SSDs).

The Cheetah NS.2 is said to be becoming available this week with the 15K.7 shipping to the channel next quarter. Seagate has not released any pricing information.

Look Stupid: Cell Mate Hands-Free Cellphone Holder

11 01 2009

I could only think of one thing when I saw this hands-free cellphone holder called Cell Mate: Ahahaha haha HA! Apparently, they have a booth at CES—worth a Giz visit, methinks. [Craziest Gadgets]

Dell Mini 10 Has a 10-inch 720p Screen, TV Tuner

11 01 2009

The Dell Mini 10 was the other announcement at today’s Dell event that wasn’t the Adamo, and it actually has some decent features, which include a 720p screen with end-to-end glass and a TV Tuner.

The Mini 10 has a Z530 1.6 GHz Atom processor, and a smattering of relatively pedestrian features like 3G WWAN, GPS, 802.11n wi-fi, and a multitouch trackpad. Dell had no further info to provide, so price and release date is still a mystery.

Eee Keyboard: An Entire Touchscreen Home Theater PC

11 01 2009

By Mark Wilson7:33 PM on Tue Jan 6 2009

We spotted some Asus keyboards last week, but none were nearly as potentially awesome as the official Eee Keyboard. Featuring wireless HDMI, it’s a “fully functional PC” with full QWERTY and a mini secondary touchscreen.

Asus was vague as to if/when we’ll actually see the Eee Keyboard come to market (though we’re pretty sure it’s a semi-real product), but it’s a fantastic concept for a home theater PC if we’ve ever seen one. Through wireless HDMI you could potentially make any television into your monitor (complete with audio playback) without having some huge PC taking up space.

The keyboard is packing a 5-inch built-in display, a 1.6 GHz Atom proc, 1 GB of RAM, 16/32 GB SSD, WiFi, and Bluetooth. As far as ports, it’s got wireless HDMI, 2 USB 2.0, VGA, HDMI, and audio in/out. It’s running Windows XP home, which is an odd choice for something that’s asking, nay, begging to be a home theater PC, although it’s not packing a TV tuner either. No word on price or release date, but the Asus CEO claims it’ll be available 

Pirates Say They Freed Saudi Tanker for $3 Million

11 01 2009

Associated Press

A U.S. Navy photo shows a parachute, possibly containing a ransom payment, dropped by a small aircraft on Friday onto the Sirius Star, a Saudi-owned supertanker.

Published: January 9, 2009

MOGADISHU, Somalia — A Saudi-owned supertanker held by piratesoff the coast of Somalia for two months has been released for a ransom of $3 million, according to one of the pirates and residents of Xarardheere, a pirate town on the Somali coast near where the tanker was being held.

The tanker, about the length of an American Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, is the largest ship known to have been seized by pirates, and it was fully loaded with two million barrels of oil.

The pirates were due to leave the ship after they received the money, paid by the ship’s owners, on Friday, according to the pirates and residents, who later said the ship had moved away from the coast where it had been anchored since November.

News agencies had reported that the pirates originally asked for $25 million for the oil tanker, the Sirius Star, but a pirate in Xarardheere who gave his name as Jama said, “They have agreed on $3 million.” He said he had spoken to pirates who had gone to the ship for the payment.

The International Maritime Bureau in London, a clearinghouse for piracy information and maritime safety issues, said it could not yet confirm that the pirates had freed the tanker.

“The information that we have from the owner is that the vessel is not yet released,” said Cyrus Mody, a spokesman for the organization. The owner, Vela International Ltd., could not be immediately reached for comment.

But a maritime group based in Kenya confirmed the release. Andrew Mwangura of the East African Seafarers Assistance program was quoted by Reuters as saying: “The last batch of gunmen have disembarked from the Sirius Star. She is now steaming out to safe waters.”

The Sirius Star was seized in November off the coast of Somalia, in seas where pirates have struck with increasing audacity in recent months, hijacking vessels including a Ukrainian freighter laden with armaments that is still being held.

China said last month that it would send naval ships to the Gulf of Aden. And on Thursday, the United States Navy said a new international force under American command would begin patrols to confront pirates off the Horn of Africa.

As for the supertanker, Abdi Ahmed of Xarardheere said, “The big fishes left Xarardheere on Thursday afternoon to the Sirius Star ship to get the ransom money and to set free the ship.”

The pirate named Jama said he was waiting for his share of the ransom. “When the pirates receive the money, they will divide in shares on the spot, so that they will disembark tonight from the ship with everyone’s share in pocket,” he said.

Mohammed Ibrahim reported from Mogadishu, and Graham Bowley from New York.

Getting a view of atoms in a crystal

11 01 2009

By Chris Lee

One of my pet topics here on Ars is microscopy. This may be a case of objective envy, but I like to think that it is just a case of admiring work in a related field. In any case, what I often forget is that when it comes to resolution, various forms of electron microscopy have us optics dudes beaten, hands down. That situation has become even worse, thanks to a new method that can reconstruct images from electron diffraction patterns.

An electron diffraction pattern is formed by electrons scattering off the atoms that make up a material. The electrons that happen to scatter in the same direction will interfere with each other, leading to bright spots, dim spots, and completely dark regions. Using this diffraction pattern, an image of the object that created the diffraction pattern can be reconstructed. In principle, the smallest feature that can be seen in the image is limited by how coherent the electrons are and the spatial resolution of the detector.

So, why don’t we have grainy pictures of a proton waving at us? The problem is that principles of the technique have been let down by our instrumentation. In reality, the sheer size of the contrast between really bright spots in the image compared to dim spots is about 7 orders of magnitude, while detectors have a dynamic range considerably smaller. The missing information corrupts a key step in the image reconstruction process, called phase reconstruction. The detectors only record the intensity of the light field (in this case electrons), which destroys all knowledge of the phase.

This is why a coherent source of electrons is important. A coherent source allows scientists to reconstruct the phase from the intensity pattern by requiring a self-consistency between recorded and simulated patterns. You might think that many different phase patterns could generate an observed intensity pattern, and you would be right if this were a one-dimensional system. Luckily for us, higher dimensional systems almost always—you can expect the universe to expire before the “almost” bites you in this case—converges on the right phase pattern. With the phase known, the full field is known and the image can be reconstructed. Well, poorly reconstructed.

The problem is that the limited dynamic range of the detector reduces the difference between the bright spots and the dim spots, which, in turn, increases the tolerances on phases that fit the image. This cascades through to reduce the resolution of the image. What we need is an additional constraint to shore up the phase retrieval.

The researchers achieved this by taking a “low” resolution picture of the image (resolution ~0.3nm). They then use this image to further constrain the phase retrieval process. The result is an image with about four times the resolution of the original picture (0.08nm). The researchers demonstrated that this allowed them to resolve the individual atoms in quantum dots, where the separation between pairs of atoms was just over 0.08nm.

Apart from the intrinsic coolness of seeing pictures of atoms in a crystal, this method has other nice properties. It works with any diffractive imaging system, as long as you can get an ordinary image to constrain the phase retrieval. I am now wondering how this would work in highly disordered systems like cells at optical frequencies… /me wanders into the boss’ office.