DailyTech – Intel, AMD Talk USB 3.0 Chipset Support

Intel support coming next year, AMD support much sooner

19479_usb3-sg
There are a number of notebooks on the market today that have USB 3.0 ports onboard. HP unveiled several new notebooks this week that that have USB 3.0 for example. However, all of the notebooks and desktops on the market today have to use a third-party USB 3.0 controller because AMD and Intel don’t support the standard natively. That is all about to change though.

AMD has announced that it has new chipsets that will be the first to integrated USB 3.0 support. AMD’s Phil Hughes told CNET News,“With [today’s] announcement AMD is…disclosing our support for SuperSpeed USB 3.0 in upcoming AMD A75 and A70M Fusion [chipsets]. Both chipsets are shipping today.”

It has taken long enough for major chipmakers to support USB 3.0 and with this announcement perhaps more companies will start to offer peripherals and gear that takes advantage of the port. There are some products on the market already that support USB 3.0, but nowhere near the vast and varied product types that use USB 2.0.

Analyst Brian O’Rourke from In-Stat said, “In order for the rippling effect to happen with USB 3.0 it has to hit in PCs and for it to hit in PCs it has to be integrated into the chipset. AMD is not Intel, but it’s probably the next best thing in chipsets.”  He continued saying, “The only peripheral devices with USB 3.0 out there right now are external hard drives and a few flash drives. Why? There aren’t any peripheral controllers for USB 3.0 in general release yet. Not any out there on the market yet.”

While AMD has its chipsets shipping already with support for USB 3.0, support from AMD rival Intel is still a ways off. Intel has been pushing support for Thunderbolt along with Apple and a few other companies. Thunderbolt is positioned by Intel as a complement to USB 3.0; not a replacement.

Intel has now announced that support for both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt will come in the same chipsets sometime in 2012. Native support for Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 will land in the Intel Ivy Bridge chipset.

Intel currently offers support for USB 3.0 in some of its desktop mainboards, but that support comes by way of the NEC USB 3.0 chips.
Source: DailyTech.

DailyTech – REVOLT! NC Towns Take Up Legal Arms Against Anti-Municipal Internet Bill

Seven towns pass measures condemning Republican proposal which could rob them of the right to self-governance


We’ve extensively discussed the controversy and conflict surrounding Bill H.129 [PDF].  In the face of legislation that could cripple their locally funded, voter-approved services, seven towns in North Carolina are striking back, publishing resolutions that condemn the effort.

The towns are urging state Republicans to reconsider the effort they are pushing, which looks to give the State government “blank check” authority to kill decisions made by the local government — essentially robbing municipalities of their right to self governance.

I. Buying a Bill — Did Time Warner “Purchase” Legislation?

The local resolutions label the pending legislation a “Time Warner” bill.  Time Warner Cable Inc. (TWC) enjoys a monopoly on high speed cable internet across much of the state.  So is the company responsible for the bill?

Well, it certainly seems that way.

As early as 2008 towns in North Carolina devised the idea of bucking Time Warner’s monopoly by creating local services.  They discussed the idea with residents and received enthusiastic endorsement.  Communities including Wilson, North Carolina (Greenlight, Inc.), Salisbury (Fibrant), Davidson (MI-Connection), and Morganton (CoMPAS Cable TV & Internet) launched projects.

Getting loans from the private sector and hiring private contractors the cities set out to create viable services, which eschewed the price gouging of local internet, phone, and cable TV providers.

Time Warner and other local monopolies like landline service provider CenturyLink were bitterly opposed to the plans.  They funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations and lobbying money to try to “convince” politicians that the services should be banned.

Initially their argument was that local governments were too incompetent to implement a cash-flow positive service and that the services would go under, saddling locals with huge debts.  That didn’t happen.  The services were incredibly popular and quickly approached a positive cash flow.  Time Warner and others saw their monopoly grip locally dissolving.

In response Time Warner switched tactics and began to attack the “fairness” of the service.  They argued that was unfair for local citizens to be able to vote to use local taxes or revenue from other services (e.g. water, etc.) to fund the internet project.  They also questioned whether municipalities should be allowed to seek loans from the private sector.

Initially Time Warner and others divided their lobbying efforts between both the Democratic and Republican parties on a state level.  While their supported politicians tried to drum up support for the measure in 2009, but saw the effort stall.

So in 2010 they focused their efforts to almost exclusively lobbying the Republicans.

The effort paid off.  One of the representatives that Time Warner and its allies (Century Link, AT&T) paid $6,250 to in campaign donations — Rep. Julia Howard (R-Davie, Iredell) — proposed H.129.  And it passed in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives by a healthy margin.

Time Warner, in statements to the media lavished praise on the legislation passed by its fundees.  In a company statement it wrote, “The bill is intended to create a level playing field so, If local governments want to provide commercial retail services in direct competition with private business, they can’t use their considerable advantages unfairly.”

II. Citizens Fight Back

Even as the Senate equivalent of H.129, Bill 87, sits in the Judiciary Committee 1, the measure is seeing active debate.  An U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner recently condemned the bill and similar propositions in Arizona and South Carolina.

Faced with the possibility of state government choking their services, local municipalities are also fighting back.  Chapel HillGreensboroRaleighMomeyerAshevilleRockingham, and Bladenville have all passed resolutions condemning H.129 and Bill 87.

The proposals argue that the proposition does anything but create a “level” playing field, instead handing Time Warner unique advantages.  Writes the Raleigh town officials:

If enacted the proposed legislation would not have leveled the playing field but instead would have hindered local governments from providing needed communications services, especially advanced high-speed broadband, in underserved areas and imposed burdensome obligations on local governments that private broadband providers would not have to meet.

And Greensboro argues:

North Carolina law has long permitted local governments to engage in public enterprises, and there is no justification for treating communications enterprises differently from other public enterprises that are essential for healthy local economies. Historically it was government that funded much of the current corporate telecommunications infrastructure in the United States and government paid for and developed the Internet on which these providers depend for their profit.

III. What are the Cities so Upset About?

Clearly from the tersely worded rebuttals from local governments, the state legislature’s proposals are tremendously unpopular in the communities they would affect.  Some of the resolutions are outright accusative, saying Time Warner essentially created and promoted the bill.

The bill offers several provisions that the local governments find outrageous.

Most notably it would create a state panel that any municipal project would have to be approved by.  No provisions of oversight or objectivity are mentioned for the panel.  And no specific restrictions or disapproval are mentioned.

In short, the measure gives this state panel a blank check to kill voter-approved municipal service projects.

The legislation also includes strict new restrictions on funding.  Under the plan local governments could not use their profits from water or other services to fund expansion of their municipal networks.

It also makes it difficult for them to obtain loans (even if the project and its funding were voter approved, municipalities would have to hold special elections every time they wanted to take out a loan.

As state and federal governments freely spent and loaned money to telecoms like Time Warner and AT&T to help them expand their networks over the course of the twentieth century, the local governments are upset that they do not have the same privileges.

Likewise, they are upset that the bill forbids them from offering promotional pricing beneath the cost of service.  This is a common practice about telecoms, who later jack up the subscription fees to much higher rates.  It is unclear why the proposition to “level” the field would forbid municipal service from having the same sales rights as a commercial service.

IV. What’s Next?

The bill looks likely to be approved by the Senate Judiciary committee.  The committee is led by Sen. Peter S. Brunstetter (R-Winston-Salem), who has worked as a corporate lawyer with the Womble Carlyle investment group.  Mr. Brunstetter seems very supportive of the measure, which is somewhat unsurprising given his background.

About the only real challenge on the committee might come from its Vice Chair, Senator Thom Goolsby (R-New Hanover), a criminal defense and injury attorney who also teaches law, given how the bill seemingly sets up mechanism which could rob municipalities of their self-governance rights.  But given his party’s strong support of the measure, it’s likely he too will cave and support its passage.

The real battle lies in the state senate.  If the bill can pass the senate, it will be nearly home free.  But Democrats in the senate plan on fighting the measure.

V. A National Precedent

North Carolina is far from the only state whose telecoms enjoy local monopolies or oligarchical controls on high-speed service (in these regions alternatives like tethering or DSL offer dramatically slower speeds).  Telecoms gain much of their revenue from these monopoly regions.  Studies have shown that in regions with only one or two service options, prices unsurprisingly are the highest.

While critics tend to point to a couple of unpopular, unsuccessful, or overpriced municipal offerings there’s been far more success stories — which is the driving force behind the N.C. protest.

At the end of the day, the beauty of municipal projects is that at any time the citizens can vote the politicians supporting them out of office and install new officials who will scrap the project and sell any infrastructure to recoup loans.  At the end of the day, the projects are entirely dependent on public support.

Given the services’ general success and popularity it is likely that telecoms will fight hard in other states to stomp out this growing movement before it spreads further and threatens their bottom line.

The battle in N.C., in this regard, is a precedent setter than may dictate the tone in other states.  At the end of the day the question boils down to:

  1. Should local citizens have the right to self governance?
  2. Should local services enjoy the same privileges as corporate services?

Local citizens in N.C. argue that the answer to both questions is a resounding “yes”, but Time Warner and their sponsored Republican legislators argue the answer should be “no”.
Source: DailyTech.

DailyTech – Windows 8 Appears to be Running Happily on ARM CPUs

Watch out Intel and AMD, power efficient ARM processors will soon be able to run Windows

19469_IE10_Runs_on_ARMAt CES 2011, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer showed off an early build of a next generation Windows operating systemrunning on an ARM architecture CPU.  This week at Microsoft’s MIX Developer Conference in Las Vegas, the company gave developers a surprise Easter egg — apreview build of Internet Explorer 10 and its underlying version of Windows were running on a 1 GHz ARM processor.

Samsung Electronics (005930), Texas Instruments Inc. (TXN), Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM), NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA), and other ARM chipmakers have all been hard at work cooking up power savvy multicore offerings, which would be perfect for a netbook or notebook.

Versus similarly clocked x86 processors from Intel or AMD, ARM processors would likely squeeze out an hour or two of extra battery life.  While die shrinks and the ever-rising leakage current may eventually largely negate this advantage, in the short term ARM presents the first compelling consumer alternative to x86 in decades.

Windows 8 is expected to insert Microsoft’s Ribbon UI element into more locations, including Windows Explorer.  It is also expected to have deeper touch integration and tie together the PC version of Windows with the Metro UI that Microsoft developed for the defunct Zune and Windows Phone 7.

But the addition of ARM support is perhaps the most anticipated feature.

While ARM currently offers power advantages, how compelling a buy Windows ARM portables will be still remains to be seen.  By offering base Windows support, including access to its Office suite and other enterprise tools, Microsoft makes ARM accessible to the everyday consumer.

But exactly how far Microsoft is able to go with its compatibility efforts remains to be seen.  If Microsoft can add ARM support for the Direct X and sound libraries, for example, it would be a relatively trivial exercise for developers to recompile their executables for ARM-architecture Windows 8 computers.

Microsoft makes the world’s most used development environment, Microsoft Visual Studio.  By adding tools to make it quick and easy to switch from x86 to ARM builds, Microsoft could make applications compatibility complaints largely a moot point.

Likewise, if Microsoft can embed an ARM-specific virtual machine in the OS with an x86 emulation layer, it might be possible to run native x86 apps, as is, without recompilation.  This would be helpful in cases where a company didn’t have the source and the application developer was unresponsive or unwilling to make the change.  Implementing the same sort of system to provide ARM emulation in x86 Windows would be even more helpful to ARM, because it would allow developers to effectively target the more efficient ARM architecture, while ignoring x86.

Ultimately the question also still remains how low Intel can price its options and how big the true gap in power efficiency will be.  Unlike in the past, Intel may now find its pricing ability hindered by new international scrutiny that prevents it from resorting to anti-competitive arrangements to try to stomp out pesky rivals like ARM. But the exact picture is unclear.

Even more unclear is the fate of Microsoft tablets.  Even if ARM takes off in the notebook space, it may do little to help Microsoft sell Windows tablets, with Apple and Android so deeply entrenched.  In that regard, Microsoft may find that it’s just given ARM a free ride to major expansion.  If that’s the case Microsoft’s customers should still reap minor gains — a positive for the company — but Microsoft itself may not make significant in-roads in its market expansion hopes.
Source: DailyTech.

New Intel® Atom™ Processor for Tablets Spurs Companion Computing Device Innovation

Company Outlines Plans to Accelerate Intel Manufacturing Lead with Intel® Atom™ Processor Family and Move Faster than Moore’s Law

NEWS HIGHLIGHTS

  • Over 35 innovative “Oak Trail” design wins from customers including Evolve III*, Fujitsu Limited*, Lenovo*, Motion Computing*, Razer*, and Viliv* available starting in May and throughout 2011.
  • “Cedar Trail,” Intel’s upcoming netbook and entry-level desktop platform, will deliver features including Intel® Wireless Music, Intel® Wireless Display, PC Synch and Fast Boot, as well as improvements in media, graphics and power consumption.
  • Innovation beyond the PC: Embedded Intel® Atom™ Z670 creates smaller, thinner, fanless devices for mobile clinical assistants, industrial tablets and portable point-of-sales devices.
  • Intel is accelerating its Atom product line to move faster than Moore’s law, bringing new products to market on three process technologies in the next 3 years.
  • Atom platforms harness Intel’s unique “operating system of choice” strategy for Google* Chrome* and Android*, MeeGo* and Windows*, delivering personalized experiences.

SANTA CLARA, Calif., April 11, 2011 – Intel Corporation today announced that the Intel® Atom™ platform, formerly codenamed “Oak Trail,” is now available and will be in devices starting in May and throughout 2011. Over 35 innovative tablet and hybrid designs from companies including Evolve III*, Fujitsu Limited*, Lenovo*, Motion Computing*, Razer*, and Viliv* are based on “Oak Trail” and running a variety of operating systems.
In addition, at the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing, the company will give a sneak peak of its next-generation, 32nm Intel Atom platform, currently codenamed “Cedar Trail.” This solution will help to enable a new wave of fanless, cool and quiet, sleek and innovative netbooks, entry-level desktops and all-in-one designs.
“The new Intel Atom ‘Oak Trail’ platform, with ‘Cedar Trail’ to follow, are examples of our continued commitment to bring amazing personal and mobile experiences to netbook and tablet devices, delivering architectural enhancements for longer battery life and greater performance,” said Doug Davis, vice president and general manager of the Netbook and Tablet Group at Intel. “We are accelerating the Intel Atom product line to now move faster than Moore’s law, bringing new products to market on three process technologies in the next 3 years.”
The new Intel® Atom™ processor Z670, part of the “Oak Trail” platform, delivers improved video playback, fast Internet browsing and longer battery life, without sacrificing performance. The rich media experience available with “Oak Trail” includes support for 1080p video decode, as well as HDMI. The platform also supports Adobe* Flash, enabling rich content and Flash-based gaming.
With these significant improvements in power-efficient performance, the Intel Atom processor Z670 allows applications to run on various operating systems, including Google* Android*, MeeGo* and Windows*. This unique flexibility delivers both new experiences and more choice when it comes to tablets and hybrid designs that combine the best features of the netbook and tablet together.
The platform also helps deliver smaller, thinner and more efficient devices by packing integrated graphics and the memory controller directly onto the processor die. The processor is 60 percent smaller than previous generations with a lower-power design for fanless devices as well as up to all-day battery life1. Additional features include Intel® Enhanced Deeper Sleep that saves more power during periods of inactivity as well as optimized Intel SpeedStep® technology. An integrated HD decode engine enables smooth 1080p HD video playback at a fraction of the power consumption.
In addition, Intel Atom Z670 processors come with the Intel® SM35 Express Chipset, delivering a lead-free2, halogen-free3 design with high-speed USB 2.0 for greater performance and Intel® High-Definition Audio to enable premium home theater sound.
Also ideal for small form-factor and portable embedded designs, the platform provides an excellent solution for a range of tablets in retail, medical and industrial applications. Solutions such as mobile clinical assistants allow medical staff to directly input data into patients’ electronic files and avoid paper charting. This can result in a reduction in errors, better workflow, higher productivity and reduced paper handling and overhead costs. In addition to the Intel Atom Z670, Intel is offering the Intel® Atom™ processor Z650 for embedded devices with 7-year lifecycle support on Windows and MeeGo operating systems.
Based on Intel’s leading-edge 32nm process technology, the next-generation “Cedar Trail” platform will feature improvements in graphics capabilities including Blu-ray 2.0 support, a dedicated media engine for full 1080p playback and additional digital display options including HDMI output and DisplayPort. New features will include Intel® Wireless Music, Intel® Wireless Display, PC Synch and Fast Boot. In addition, the enhancements made in power consumption and TDP will enable fanless designs with longer battery life. This means great acoustics without the hum of a fan and improved ruggedness and aesthetics of the design. Intel is currently sampling “Cedar Trail” to all major OEMs and ODMs. Users can look forward to a new generation of innovative mobile and desktop designs based on the “Cedar Trail” platform in the second half of 2011.
Source: Intel Newsroom.

DailyTech – Microsoft Outs Internet Explorer 10 Platform Preview

Microsoft looks ahead to Internet Explorer 10

Microsoft just got Internet Explorer 9 out the door, but that doesn’t meant that the boys from Redmond are taking a break — they are already gearing up for Internet Explorer 10.

Microsoft dipped its toes in the HTML5 waters with IE9, but it is doing a full-blown cannonball with IE10, which it unveiled at MIX11. In its press statement announcing the availability of the IE10 Platform Preview, Microsoft claims that it “is leading the adoption of HTML5 with a long-term commitment to the standards process.”

“The only native experience of HTML5 on the Web today is on Windows 7 with Internet Explorer 9,” said Dean Hachamovitch, Corporate VP for Internet Explorer. “Internet Explorer 10 will push the boundaries of what developers can do on the Web even further.”

Microsoft states that more and more consumers are carrying around multiple devices with them (notebooks, tablets, smartphones), while many others still rely on stationary computing devices like desktops PCs. Microsoft wants to ensure that consumers have a consistent web experience across all of these platforms and HTML5 is the web standard that will make this happen.

Here’s a blurb from the IE Blog on what the team is doing to further expand its HTML5 compatibility/capabilities with IE10:

We’re about three weeks into development of IE10, and based on the progress we’ve made, we want to start engaging the development community now. At the MIX conference today, we showed the new browsing engine along with several new browser test drives that anyone on the Web can try out. You can run these at www.ietestdrive.com to see emerging standards like CSS3 Multi-column Layout (link), CSS3 Grid Layout (link) and CSS3 Flexible Box Layout (link), CSS3 Gradients (link), and ES5 Strict Mode in action. We also demonstrated additional standards support (like CSS3 Transitions (link) and CSS3 3D Transforms (link)) that will be available in subsequent platform previews of IE10, which we will update every 8-12 weeks.

If you’d like to take a look at what Microsoft has in store for IE10, you can check out the Internet Explorer 10 Platform Preview here.
Source: DailyTech.

DailyTech – Germans Create Self Healing Rubbers, Plastics Inspired by Nature

Science distill the genius of millions of years of evolution into products with great commercial potential

19352_Rubber_Tree
Dr. Anke Nellesen [profile], a scientist at the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology in Germany, was fascinated by caoutchouc tree hevea brasiliensis and plants that conduct latex, such as the Weeping Benjamin.
Millions of years of evolution yielded a highly specialized response to wounding in these trees.  When attacked by insects or suffering other mechanical damage, the trees emitted a thick mess of latex particles.  Mixed in with those particles were capsules of the protein hevein.  When the latex reached the wound, the hevein broke and was released.  Active, it links the latex, closing the wound.  In short, the mixture acted as a self-forming plastic.
In manmade plastics such as car parts, seats, tires, and more plastics can “break” after being overstressed and developing micro-cracks.  So Dr. Nellesen led a team that looked to create a self-healing rubbers and plastics inspired by nature’s evolved mechanisms.
In Dr. Nellesen’s lab, elastomers, the general term for rubbers and plastics, were strengthened by the addition of adhesive filled microcapsules that could plug minor cracks before they caused catastrophic failure [press release] [newsletter; PDF].
19353_Microcrack_Healing
States the researcher, “We loaded microcapsules with a one-component adhesive (polyisobutylene) and put it in elastomers made of synthetic caoutchouc to stimulate a self-healing process in plastics. If pressure is put on the capsules, they break open and separate this viscous material. Then this mixes with the polymer chains of the elastomers and closes the cracks. We were successful at making capsules stable to production, although they did not provide the self-healing effect we wanted.”

Interestingly, even without the encapsulation, researchers found the polyisobutylene self-healed.  The trees also used ion-bonding to speed the formation of new bonds and self-healing, so the team also looked to dope the plastics with ions to make for speeder crack filling.  The results were an even greater success than the previous work with unencapsulated polyisobutylene alone.

The resulting self-healing material is a landmark discovery, according to Dr. Nellesen.  He states, “[T]here are already duromers with self-healing functions in the form of self-repairing paints in cars. We still haven’t developed elastomers that can close their cracks without interference from outside.”

The current material cannot self-heal entirely independently, like natural systems, as it currently requires an injection of ions to be effective.  Of course this could be done via an automated process.  Such automated systems could eventually be worked into sensor feedback loops to create the manmade equivalent of nature’s healing process.

While there’s a multitude of possible industrial applications for the technology, the team is looking to initially target the automobile industry, given Germany’s active role in it.  They are showing off a self-repairing muffler suspension at the Hannover Fair in Hannover, Germany from April 4-8 at the joint Biokon stand in Hall 2.

Self-healing materials are a topic of very active research, with scientists exploring other forms of materials like self-healing fabrics or concrete, as well.  U.S. researchers have been working on self-healing in composite materials, targeted at military aircraft.  Europe is currently working on developing a self-healing spacecraft.
Source: DailyTech.

DailyTech – Follow-up: Top Gear Executive Producer Responds to Tesla’s EV Lawsuit

Top Gear Executive Producer fires back at Tesla Motors

19290_19225_topgear_0

In the eyes of many parents, their children can do no wrong. Efforts by others to point out any wrongdoings can be met with contempt or denial by parents. Like a parent scorned by a watchful school teacher, Tesla Motors lashed out at the BBC’s popular Top Gear program after its battery of tests showed that the all-electric Roadster was anything but perfect.

Tesla filed a lawsuit against the BBC last week, citing numerous errors in Jeremy Clarkson’s review of the Roadster and basically called the Top Gear crew a bunch of liars. Tesla went on to say that even though the original episode featuring the roadster aired over two years ago, the fact that the episode is still rebroadcast and available freely over the internet means that potential customers are not getting the “real” story on its “baby”.

While the BBC issues a brief statement following the announcement of the lawsuit last week stating that it would “vigorously defend” Top Gear, the show’s executive producer is firing back with full force now.

“The normal procedure for the BBC in a legal case is to acknowledge receipt of the other party’s claim, and then say no more and get on with preparing its [defense] for court,” said Top Gear Executive Producer Andy Wilman. “Tesla, however, doesn’t seem content to wait for the legal eagles to settle matters. On the contrary, it’s been very busy promoting its side of the argument through the media.”

Wilman goes on to counter three of Tesla’s sticking points in a blog post:

  1. We never said that the Tesla’s true range is only 55 miles, as opposed to their own claim of 211, or that it had actually ran out of charge. In the film our actual words were: “We calculated that on our track it would run out after 55 miles”… The figure of 55 miles came not from our heads, but from Tesla’s boffins in California. They looked at the data from that car and calculated that, driven hard on our track, it would have a range of 55 miles.
  2. We never said that the Tesla was completely immobilized as a result of the motor overheating. We said the car had “reduced power”. This was true.
  3. Tesla claims we were lying when we said the brakes were “broken”. They now say that all that had happened was that the fuse to the vacuum pump had failed, which meant that the brake just had to be pushed down much harder than usual. Well – to my mind, if the brakes are broken, then they’re broken, and if this happened to your car, you’d take it to the garage to get it fixed.

We’ll keep you posted on how this legal dustup progresses, but it appears that Tesla may be biting off more than it can chew in this case.
Source: DailyTech.