Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for April 4th, 2017

From an article on FastCompany: Intel hasn’t lost its zeal for big leaps in computing, even as it changes the way it introduces new chips, and branches beyond the PC processor into other areas like computer vision and the internet of things. “Number one, too many people have been writing about the end of Moore’s law, and we have to correct that misimpression, ” Mark Bohr, Intel’s technology and manufacturing group senior fellow and director of process architecture and integration, says in an interview. “And number two, Intel has developed some pretty compelling technologies … that not only prove that Moore’s law is still alive, but that it’s going to continue to provide the best benefits of density, cost performance, and power.” But while Moore’s law soldiers on, it’s no longer associated with the types of performance gains Intel was making 10 to 20 years ago. The practical benefits of Moore’s law are not what they used to be. For each new generation of microprocessor, Intel used to adhere to a two-step cycle, called the “tick-tock.” The “tick” is where Moore’s law takes effect, using a new manufacturing process to shrink the size of each transistor and pack more of them onto a chip. The subsequent “tock” introduces a new microarchitecture, which yields further performance improvements by optimizing how the chip carries out instructions. Intel would typically go through this cycle once every two years. But in recent years, shrinking the size of transistors has become more challenging, and in 2016, Intel made a major change. The latest 14 nm process added a third “optimization” step after the architectural change, with modest performance improvements and new features such as 4K HDR video support. And in January, Intel said it would add a fourth optimization step, stretching the cycle out even further. The move to a 10 nm process won’t happen until the second half of 2017, three years after the last “tick, ” and Intel expects the new four-step process to repeat itself. This “hyper scaling” allows computing power to continue to increase while needing fewer changes in the manufacturing process. If you divide the number of transistors in Intel’s current tick by the surface area of two common logic cells, the rate of improvement still equals out to more than double every two years, keeping Moore’s law on track. “Yes, they’ve taken longer, but we’ve taken bigger steps, ” Bohr said during his three-hour presentation. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Denis Grisak, the man behind the Internet-connected garage opener Garadget, is having a very bad week. Grisak and his Colorado-based company SoftComplex launched Garadget, a device built using Wi-Fi-based cloud connectivity from Particle, on Indiegogo earlier this year, hitting 209 percent of his launch goal in February. But this week, his response to an unhappy customer has gotten Garadget a totally different sort of attention. On April 1, a customer who purchased Garadget on Amazon using the name R. Martin reported problems with the iPhone application that controls Garadget. He left an angry comment on the Garadget community board: “Just installed and attempting to register a door when the app started doing this. Have uninstalled and reinstalled iPhone app, powered phone off/on – wondering what kind of piece of shit I just purchased here…” Shortly afterward, not having gotten a response, Martin left a 1-star review of Garadget on Amazon: “Junk – DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY – iPhone app is a piece of junk, crashes constantly, start-up company that obviously has not performed proper quality assurance tests on their products.” Grisak then responded by bricking Martin’s product remotely, posting on the support forum: “Martin, The abusive language here and in your negative Amazon review, submitted minutes after experiencing a technical difficulty, only demonstrates your poor impulse control. I’m happy to provide the technical support to the customers on my Saturday night but I’m not going to tolerate any tantrums. At this time your only option is return Garadget to Amazon for refund. Your unit ID 2f0036… will be denied server connection.” Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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After a lengthy beta period that began in January, Google released Android Nougat 7.1.2 on Monday. Images and OTAs  are up on Google’s factory image page , and a rollout has started to creep across the Google device landscape. Google is releasing the update for the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel C, Nexus 6P, 5X, and Nexus Player. As we reported during the beta release, 7.1.2 marks the end of the line for the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9, Google’s flagship devices from 2014. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Anthony Levandowski giving a presentation in Japan in 2011, when he worked for Google. (credit: shinnygogo ) New legal filings in the Waymo v. Uber litigation lay out more of Google’s allegations against ex-Googler Anthony Levandowski, who now heads up Uber’s self-driving car unit. According to a Google document filed in court yesterday, Levandowski created “competing side businesses” as early as 2012 while he was still working for Google. That’s when Levandowski is said to have incorporated a company called Odin Wave LLC, with a physical address at a building he owned in Berkeley, California. Odin Wave submitted an order to a hardware maker asking for a “customer-fabricated part” similar to what Google used in its self-driving cars. Google employees investigated Odin Wave, noted the connections to Levandowski, and questioned the engineer about it, but Levandowski denied having any ownership, according to Google lawyers. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A Swedish start-up called Epicenter is offering to implant its employees and start-up members with microchips that function as swipe cards, allowing them to open doors, operate equipment or buy food and drinks with a wave of the hand. While these microchips have been available for decades, the technology has never been implanted in humans on such a broad scale. “Epicenter and a handful of other companies are the first to make chip implants broadly available, ” reports Associated Press. From the report: [A]s with most new technologies, it raises security and privacy issues. Although the chips are biologically safe, the data they generate can show how often employees come to work or what they buy. Unlike company swipe cards or smartphones, which can generate the same data, people cannot easily separate themselves from the chips. Epicenter, which is home to more than 100 companies and roughly 2, 000 workers, began implanting workers in January 2015. Now, about 150 workers have the chips. A company based in Belgium also offers its employees such implants, and there are isolated cases around the world in which tech enthusiasts have tried them out in recent years. The small implants use near-field communication technology, or NFC, the same as in contactless credit cards or mobile payments. When activated by a reader a few inches away, a small amount of data flows between the two devices via electromagnetic waves. The implants are “passive, ” meaning they contain information that other devices can read, but cannot read information themselves. Ben Libberton, a microbiologist at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute, says hackers could conceivably gain huge swaths of information from embedded microchips. The ethical dilemmas will become bigger the more sophisticated the microchips become. Epicenter workers stage monthly events where attendees can receive the implant. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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