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One of the world’s largest storage companies is investing into processing, here’s why

One of the world’s largest storage companies is investing into processing, here’s why

Western Digital sent shockwaves around the hardware world last year when it announced support for the open-source RISC-V platform.Although still an upstart in the market, RISC-V has been quickly gaining momentum as an alternative to hardware from the likes of AMD or Intel, leading many firms to sign up.So why is WD throwing its weight behind RISC-V? We spoke to company CTO Martin Fink to find out more.
The 10 best NAS devicesWhy did WD, a storage company, decide to actively back the RISC-V architecture?
The primary reason Western Digital is migrating to RISC-V is to expedite the ability to innovate.  As data workloads are evolving, new requirements surrounding data are generated.  We not only need to store data, we need to extract value from the data as quickly as possible. The “general-purpose” architectures that have been in use for decades are just that, general purpose. These legacy general-purpose built architectures are not conducive for supporting the needs of these dynamic workloads. Due to the proprietary nature of these general-purpose architectures, we cannot easily make the changes needed to optimize for these new workloads.  Today’s new Big Data and Fast Data workloads require a more specialized purpose-built architecture so that we are able to add value as close to the data source as possible. RISC-V gives us the flexibility and power to freely innovate and develop products that optimally support the new workloads of today and in the future. 
By bringing compute closer to data, what is WD trying to achieve?
The number of deployed devices capturing data in the world is growing at a staggering rate. The sheer volume of this data is requiring efficient and meaningful processing. As we bring compute power closer to data, customers will be able to minimize data movement at the edge and within their data centers, optimizing processing that is based on location, workload or a time-value need. 
WD has announced that it will be doubling the number of cores sold (up to 2bn), how do you plan to achieve that?
We currently consume over one billion processor cores on an annual basis across our product portfolio. The number of cores consumed is expected to grow over time. This will be a result of growth in the amount of specialized compute being done closer to the edge where the data lives. As we develop new products going forward, we will be using RISC-V based cores. 

Compared to ARM and x86, do you see RISC-V as the Linux equivalent of ISAs?
Yes, RISC-V is much like Linux as they both create an open source solution to proprietary legacy solutions. Both have evolved in an effort to provide the freedom to innovate and lower costs.  
What needs to be done, in your opinion, to grow RISC-V as a viable alternative to the two other ISAs?
The key to growing RISC-V lies in the development of the ecosystem. We are seeing a significant growth in the ecosystem in the last year, but we need to accelerate the pace of this growth. We are happy to see other companies, like SiFive, jumping in to also drive expansion and awareness. 
Who do you see as being the most important audiences addressed by RISC-V as a platform?
This is difficult, there are so many areas that will benefit from the use of RISC-V.  One of the main areas that we are seeing get significant traction is in the area of edge computing. Other areas include, but are not limited to autonomous cars, surveillance, and artificial intelligence/machine learning. There are more and more specialized applications popping up every day that are requiring purpose-built architectures. These new applications would be constrained by the legacy proprietary general-purpose architectures. The processing needs of these applications need to be fine-tuned. RISC-V eliminates the proprietary constraints and enables the freedom to innovate to maximize efficiencies as close to the source of the data as possible. Big data applications such as analytics and machine learning require petabytes of storage and operates in a more batch style processing environment.  Conversely, fast data applications like security, event correlation, and block chain tend to require large memory and specialized compute. Again, the RISC-V ISA provides the flexibility to enable the development of solutions to optimize for these applications. Martin Fink is CTO of Western Digital
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Hack-happy Aussie teen cracks Apple’s vault, steals 90GB of confidential files

Hack-happy Aussie teen cracks Apple’s vault, steals 90GB of confidential files

An Australian private schoolboy from Melbourne has pleaded guilty to charges of repeatedly hacking into Apple’s main computer network, The Age has reported. Over the span of a year, the then 16-year-old was able to download 90GB of sensitive files before he was caught.The young hacker, who can’t be named for legal reasons, managed to crack into Apple’s secure mainframe from his home in a Melbourne suburb because, his lawyer said, he was a big fan of the tech giant and dreamed of working there some day.When Apple became aware of the unauthorized logins, the company called in the FBI who, in turn, referred the matter to the Australian Federal Police (AFP).
Finding “Hacky hack hack”
Although there is no official word on the matter from either Apple or the AFP, a report claims that the AFP raided the teenager’s family home and retrieved two laptops, a smartphone and a hard drive. The serial numbers on the laptop matched those of the devices used to access Apple’s systems.The AFP also found the software the young hacker had used to gain access to the Cupertino firm’s secure network and a little more digging proved that he then boasted about his hacking exploits to others via WhatsApp.The stolen documents were found in a folder very imaginatively named “Hacky hack hack”.
Guilty as charged
The teenager pleaded guilty to a Children’s Court, but the magistrate has put off sentencing till next month.According to the defense lawyer, the teen is well known in the global hacking community and exposing details of the case could put the young man in harm’s way. The Crown prosecutor was willing to keep matters under wraps as well, citing that Apple is “very sensitive about publicity”.
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Could a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 actually replace your computer?

Could a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 actually replace your computer?

During its reveal of the Galaxy Note 9, Samsung focused quite heavily on a particularly interesting new feature: a brand new take on DeX. Samsung’s phone-based computing solution now works over a simple USB-C-to-HDMI adaptor, which dramatically boosts the value proposition.But, does it actually have the capability to replace your computer? Samsung is claiming that the Galaxy Note 9 could become your new laptop and desktop with Samsung DeX – but who is it aimed at?For the power users, this isn’t the true portable computer replacement you’re looking for – if you’re even looking for one. But, for the average user, DeX could very well make Galaxy Note 9 an all-in-one device for you.

What is DeX and what does it do?
DeX is a virtualized software overlay for Android that Samsung developed for its smartphones to be used more like computers with supporting accessories. The software presents desktop-oriented versions of various Samsung apps, including Mail and Calendar.Previous versions of the DeX solution required specific pieces of docking hardware to help drive the experience, but now it’s all accessible with a simple cable.The Samsung DeX interface isn’t otherwise particularly better or more advanced with the Galaxy Note 9 than it was before. Though, now the phone can be used as a mouse and keyboard when DeX is activated as well as a secondary display.
It’s purely how simple Samsung has made activating and accessing the software that’s inspiring the question of whether it can replace your computer. In fact, we’re not even sure how the Galaxy Note 9 is creating this second computing environment over a simple HDMI connection – Samsung representatives weren’t at liberty to discuss it during a briefing event.

For the average home user, meet your new PC
Thinking about the Galaxy Note 9 as a computer becomes particularly interesting when you consider the absolute mainstream user. For the person who doesn’t use a computer for more than checking email, shopping online, watching movies and TV as well as social media, this phone could essentially handle all those tasks as well as dedicated hardware. At that point, the Note 9 could become their media streaming device and their gaming console, too – that’s quite a lot of use out of a phone at $999/£899 to start. It’s way more so than you can get out of an iPhone X for the same price.Because the Galaxy Note 9 can stand in for both the mouse and keyboard in the DeX computing experience, it can function without any extra hardware beyond the cable and a monitor (or even a TV if you want to sit really close up).Yes, you can use the keyboard on the screen, or use the handset as a trackpad, but you almost certainly need a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard to really make this whole setup work – and there’s no way to charge the phone with a cable in DeX mode, meaning you’ll also need a wireless charging pad.

What about the power users?
Of course, the power user is going to want full keyboard and mouse support, and as mentioned Samsung DeX offers that over Bluetooth connection. The wireless charging pad might be less of a heavy investment if this is going to be a constant-use device.However, a Galaxy Note 9 with Samsung DeX isn’t going to replace your laptop or desktop for work or for hardcore gaming. The Snapdragon processor inside may be powerful, but it’s simply not enough to drive intense spreadsheet management, video rendering or animating.For those folks as well as the PC gamers, the Note 9 could become a companion device in this situation. But the phone will likely never replace your laptop or desktop, as it simply isn’t designed with those needs in mind.But, if your laptop has all but become just an email or web-browsing machine, this phone could easily upgrade your current one and make that heap of metal obsolete – as long as you’re willing to make some adjustments to your computing experience.It would be great if Samsung launched a ‘shell’ to pop the phone in, giving you an instant DeX laptop – that would be a great Chromebook alternative, and would definitely offer an interesting extra dimension to Samsung’s phones.
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The best 2-in-1 laptop in Australia: find the best convertible for your needs

The best 2-in-1 laptop in Australia: find the best convertible for your needs

The world of portable computing has expanded rapidly in recent years, both in terms of popularity and viability. The growing 2-in-1 category offers up some of the best features of the notebook and the tablet in the one schmick package, but it can be hard to compare them when the category is so fresh.What defines a 2-in-1 is its ability to morph from a notebook as you know it – complete with keyboard and trackpad – to a tablet with a touch interface. Some products, like Microsoft’s Surface Book range, allow for the keybed to detach completely, while others simply flip it around the back of the device.Generally, a device in this category will have compatibility with a stylus, making it an ideal companion for creatives and professionals on-the-go, although not all of them will include a stylus by default.Here, we’ve gathered all our knowledge from extensive reviews, benchmarks and field tests, and put together a list of the most worthwhile 2-in-1s on the Australian market today.
Looking for a more conventional laptop? Check out our guide on the best notebooks in Australia.Maybe you’re after the other extreme in a tablet? We’ve got a best tablets guide as well.Can’t decide what type of laptop to get? Watch our buying guide below:

After Intel released its new Kaby Lake R 8th-generation processors late last year, Taiwanese laptop-maker Asus felt the need to squeeze them into its product lines. And we’re glad it did, as the ZenBook Flip S UX370 is a machine that has plenty of performance to spare, packing ultrabook specs into a 2-in-1 form factor without letting the price skyrocket out of control.Read the full review: Asus ZenBook Flip S UX370

Already established as a fantastic gaming-capable laptop, the Dell XPS 15 has been transformed into a very capable 2-in-1 with a discrete-class Radeon RX Vega GPU. What this means is that you can get a beautiful convertible laptop, but you don’t have to give up any power. And, while that means that it’s a little more expensive than some others (and the fans get a bit loud at times), it’s worth it in our book.Read the full review: Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 

Having introduced a touchscreen and convertible design to Google’s cloud-based Chrome OS, the Asus Chromebook Flip C302 is made better by its compatibility with Android apps. That’s right, just like the Pixelbook (which unfortunately, you can’t officially get your mitts on Down Under), you can use the Asus Chromebook Flip for Google Play apps, albeit only after installing an out-of-the-box update.Read the full review: Asus Chromebook Flip

We already loved the 13-inch Surface Book, so when we first heard that a 13-inch Surface Book 2 was on the way, our expectations shot into the sky. Microsoft’s second 2-in-1 laptop isn’t perfect, but it’s an impressive device held back by a handful of concessions. The Surface Book 2 does feature both a cutting-edge 8th-generation Intel processor and an Nvidia 10-series graphics chip, making it suitable for gamers and creative types alike. When you take that power and pair it with its nifty convertibility, it’s easy to see why it’s a winner.  Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Book 2 (13-inch)

While it doesn’t offer the same level of graphics performance, the Lenovo Yoga 920 is a much more affordable alternative to the Surface Book 2. For anyone who’s looking for value rather than a fully-detachable screen, the Lenovo Yoga 920 has a lot to offer. The design, for example, is less pronounced and has the subtlety of a more traditional Ultrabook, and that slighter figure doesn’t come with too much of a power sacrifice, either.Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga 920

The inclusion of AMD’s new Ryzen mobile processors and integrated Radeon graphics make for an improvement over HP’s previous Envy x360 efforts and even bring it closer to a gaming-capable unit. While the battery life could be better and the chassis is a little on the bulkier side, the performance is just as sturdy as the stylish enclosure and presents a decent option for those looking for a powerful, portable solution.

To be fair, we loved the 13-inch Surface Book 2 already, so when we first caught word that a 15-inch Surface Book 2 was in the works, our expectations were amplified. In the end, Microsoft’s second 2-in-1 laptop isn’t perfect, but it is an impressive feat held back by a handful of (frankly necessary) concessions. For starters, this machine features cutting-edge 8th-generation Intel processors and Nvidia 10-series graphics, making it a neat option for gamers and creatives. Pair that with its nifty convertibility, and we have ourselves a winner.Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Book 2 (15-inch)

Although the Acer Spin 5 doesn’t opt for a 4K screen, 16GB of RAM, a bigger SSD or other upper tier specs, its middling innards actually make for a surprisingly good-value 2-in-1. The combination of its well-optimised Core i5 CPU with 8GB RAM and a 1080p display make for a machine that handles its power efficiently, lasting longer on battery and not causing excess heat or noise. Throw in the affordable price tag and the Acer Spin 5 is definitely worth considering.

A beautiful 2-in-1 with a strikingly thin frame, the HP Spectre x360 now brandishes the sheer power that Intel’s 8th-generation Kaby Lake R processors allow. So, despite its slim chassis and weighing only 1.26kg, this version of the Hewlett-Packard flagship is ready not just to stream 4K video, but to run your favourite games at 720p using integrated graphics tech. And, if you’re a creative, it comes with the HP Pen, unlike some stylus-less hybrids. Read the full review: HP Spectre x360

For years, HP’s Spectre line of Ultrabooks and 2-in-1s has been all about elegance and performance, and the 2018 HP Spectre x360 15 is no different. Packed with an 8th-generation Intel Core i7 CPU, Nvidia MX 150 graphics and 16GB of RAM, you’re going to be able to do anything your work day throws at you – even up to some light gaming. However, the Spectre x360 is a bit heavy for a 2-in-1, so you likely won’t be using it in tablet mode very often, instead putting it in tent mode to watch some movies on its gorgeous 4K panel.Read the full review: HP Spectre x360 15 2018 

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Curved gaming monitor wows with ‘UWHD’ LCD at 200Hz refresh rate

Curved gaming monitor wows with ‘UWHD’ LCD at 200Hz refresh rate

Curved gaming monitors have become the pinnacle of PC gaming visual hardware, but their curvature has usually limited them from fitting in the most extreme specs.JapanNext has all but ended that with the lengthily-titled JN-35VCG200UWHD, boasting a curved screen with ‘UWHD’ resolution and blazing fast refresh rate.This screen is a 35-inch monster sporting at 2,560 x 1,080 (UWHD) resolution with a 21:9 aspect ratio at an 1800R curvature. The display shines at 300 nits and refreshes at 200Hz, whereas few curved gaming screens have capped out at 144Hz.
The best gaming monitors 2018Rounding out the screen’s capabilities, gamers will enjoy a 3-millisecond response time and AMD’s FreeSync dynamic refresh rate technology to make full use of that fast refresh rate cap. Of course, gamers will need either DisplayPort 1.2 or HDMI 2.0 to take full advantage of this 200Hz refresh rate, though the monitor also includes a legacy DVI-D port.
One for the players
Everything about this monitor screams ‘gamer’, with capabilities to match and razor-thin bezels. JapanNext is selling the monitor in its hometown for ¥89,980 (about $808, £612, AU$1,087), while international availability isn’t yet known.That said, importing the screen will be about as expensive as buying one of the next best curved gaming monitors, the AOC Agon AG352UCG6. For the right kind of gamer, that’s but a minor setback toward a potential competitive edge.
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The Google Camera app is coming to some Chromebooks

The Google Camera app is coming to some Chromebooks

The camera app that Google puts on its Pixel phones is one of the best in the business, and now it looks like that same Google camera app is heading to Chrome OS too – it’s appeared in the developer channel of the software for the Pixelbook and may well start showing up on other Chromebooks as well.That would significantly improve the photo-taking capabilities of supported Chrome OS devices, and maybe even introduce extra features like a slow-motion video mode and the ability to launch the smart Google Lens mode from within the camera app.Now you probably don’t want to be taking too many photos with your laptop, but as Chrome OS starts showing up on more tablets and 2-in-1 devices, a decent camera app becomes more important. Most new Chromebooks include support for Android apps too, which is another reason to roll out the Google Camera app.
New app, better photos
A shortcut to the new camera app was spotted alongside the old camera app by some users running the dev channel of Chrome OS on their devices. For the time being, the new app only seems to launch properly on the Pixelbook, so there’s still work to do.Among the features available in the Google Camera app are support for HDR images, a portrait mode, and Motion Photos (where a little snippet of video is taken with each picture). Whether or not some or all of these features will make it over remains to be seen, but better photos should be the end result.Based on some digging into the Chrome OS code, it looks as though the new camera will eventually show up for all Chromebooks that can run Android apps. At the time of writing though, Google hasn’t said anything officially about the switch.
These are the best Chromebooks that money can buyVia Android Police

The best cheap MacBook deals in August 2018

The best cheap MacBook deals in August 2018

If you’re looking for the best cheap MacBook deals, you’ve come to the right place, as we’ve just updated our guide with the very latest 2018 models. The decision of whether or not you should pick up a new MacBook is an easy one: does it play to your strengths? Maybe you need the lightest and most portable macOS machine out there today, one with good battery life. Perhaps you want an iMac with a beautiful, vibrant display that’s or rendering your crisp documents and gorgeous media. Or, maybe you just don’t like Windows? Whatever your reason, there are plenty of deals out there to help you save on a Mac.Our exclusive price comparison tool will check the price of every readily available model of MacBook on all major retail websites, so you can be sure you’re always getting the best MacBook deal. We’ve stopped comparing prices on some older models if they’re not widely available or if they generally cost more than newer versions despite the dated tech inside. All you need to do now is work out whether it’s a MacBook, a MacBook Pro or a MacBook Air that you want. We’ll help though.If you’re not quite set on a Macbook (they are rather pricey), then we have some alternative options for you, along with the best prices. Take a look at our selection of best laptops for other top performing machines or our cheap laptop deals for solid buys that won’t break the bank as we search for great prices all year round. 

The 2018 version of the 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro is the best yet, comes with the Touch Bar as standard and features a range of improvements over the older models. The screen resolution may be the same with the excellent Retina display, but now there’s True Tone technology inside that senses ambient lighting in the room or outdoors to adjust the brightness of the screen for the best possible picture. The keyboard is quieter and less ‘clicky’ too. You’re getting the brand new 8th-gen Coffee Lake core processor and the quad-core CPUs have doubled the performance of the 2017 models. With more options for larger RAM too, options really open up for creatives and professionals with the MacBook Pro 2018.

The larger 15-inch version of the 2018 MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar is generally going to cost a fair bit more than the 13-inch model, but that’s not just because of the larger screen. This model packs a lot more under the hood too, with Apple providing multiple options with increased RAM, extra processing power with a six core Coffee Lake processor and larger SSD storage options. Naturally, you’re getting the same improvements over the 2017 version too like the True Tone screen technology and quieter keyboard. This really is a powerhouse laptop for designers and industry creatives. If you don’t need all the power though, we’d consider the cheaper 13-inch model, or maybe even one of the older versions found below if the prices are right for you.

MacBook Air (2017) deals
The MacBook Air series is making a comebackWe have to admit, we thought Apple was done with the MacBook Air line after the new Pro lineup was just as compact and almost as light. Apple has given the 13-inch MacBook Air its first update since 2015 though. This means you can now get a much healthier 8GB of RAM instead of 4GB along with a processor upgrade to 1.8GHz (over 1.6GHz) making it much better at multi-tasking. Older MacBook Air stock is gradually disappearing from retailers now although prices have been stubbornly high even on refurbs. In all honesty, you’re getting much better value by opting for this modern version instead.

Macbook (2017) deals
The Kaby Lake upgrade you’ve been waiting for?The screen and compact dimensions on the 2017 MacBook are the same as the 2016 edition. But if you’re weighing up the actual differences between the new 2017 and 2016 MacBooks, here are some key points to consider. You’re now getting the 7th-gen Kaby Lake processors with i5 and i7 options now available. 2015 MacBook owners are more likely to appreciate the improvements really. The prices we’re seeing lately though aren’t that much more expensive than the 2016 models.

MacBook Pro (2017) 13 and 15-inch deals (with Touch Bar)  
A touch above the rest?The 2017 updates to the MacBook Pro lineup didn’t change an awful lot in all honesty. The main improvement was the upgrade to Kaby Lake processors. The 7th-gen chips offer increased performance for 4K streaming and media editing. Eventually the 2016 versions will disappear at most retailers, but it’s worth keeping an eye on the comparison chart below to see if there any are discounted models lingering around.

MacBook Pro (2016) 13 and 15-inch deals (with Touch Bar) 
2016 was crying out for a refresh of the MacBook Pro and Apple once again came up with something rather special. In addition to the internal spec getting a long awaited upgrade and that gorgeous Retina display (available in 13-inch and 15-inch flavours), Apple introduced its long-rumoured Touch Bar technology. This mini-LED display replaces the Function keys and comes up with different touch display controls for loads of different programs. Uses so far include safari bookmarks, predictive text, search field, emojis, photo galleries or even more intensive actions like photo editing or mixing records. Simple, yet innovative.

2017/2016 MacBook Pro 13-inch deals (no Touch Bar)
The 2016 and 2017 models are MacBook Air rivals with Pro specThe older 13-inch MacBook Pros are amongst the cheaper options if you want to go Pro. These versions don’t come with a Touch Bar which is something to factor in when comparing how much you’ll save versus the added functionality the new tech could add to your work and computing life in general.These are incredibly light for MacBook Pros, but they still pack an incredible punch with 2.3GHz (2.0GHz on the 2016 model) and dual core processors ranging from i5 to i7. The trackpads are larger than older MacBook Pros too and you’re getting fantastic Retina displays which still look stunning today.

Macbook (2016) deals
If you decide that Apple’s mini marvel is for you, you’re getting one of the best Macbooks Apple’s ever made. With faster internals than the outdated 2015 model , it’s capable of zipping through lesser-demanding tasks without complaining and leaves you with more confidence to get the job done. Plus, well, look at it.

MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display (2015) deals
The older and smaller MacBook Pro is still a force of natureThe 2015 MacBook Pro didn’t undergo a dramatic reimagining, but then there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with it in the first place. Improvements to its performance meant it was better value than before, and the noticeably improved battery life makes it even more of a mobile workhorse.
MacBook Pro 15-inch with Retina display (2015) deals
Looking for something a bit bigger?If you’re looking for the larger-sized laptop experience in the MacBook range, the 2015 model 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is still an impressive piece of kit and arguably worth a shout even today if you can get a good price. The Intel Core i7 2.5 GHz processor combined with 16GB of RAM will make light work of anything you can throw at it. 512GB of super fast flash storage, a new Force Touch trackpad and that incredible four million pixel-packing display make this a fantastic laptop.
Why not upgrade your storage with a cheap hard drive or SSD? See the best hard drive and SSD deals.

Apple rumored to launch 2018 MacBook Air with 8th-gen Intel processor

Apple rumored to launch 2018 MacBook Air with 8th-gen Intel processor

Whether it’s going to keep the MacBook Air moniker or amalgamate into the MacBook 12-inch line, rumors are mounting for a 2018 refresh of an affordable, lightweight notebook from Apple.The MacBook Air’s current model is sports a relatively archaic 5th-generation Intel processor, but reports from Taiwanese publication Economic Daily News, suggest that a new model is due later in 2018 and will use 8th-generation Kaby Lake Refresh processors.These i5 and i7 quad-core CPUs were released late in 2017 and have base clock speeds ranging from 1.6GHz to 1.9GHz, with Turbo Boost speeds between 3.4GHz and 4.2GHz. This is obviously faster than the chipsets from 2015, but is it enough of an upgrade?
About timing
According to Economic Daily News, Apple isn’t keen on waiting until 2019 for Intel’s Cannon Lake chips (which use a 10nm process rather 14nm, greatly improving power, performance, and heat efficiency).Apparently, Apple isn’t even willing to wait for Intel’s Whiskey Lake processors either, which should be replacing the Kaby Lake Refresh line in the coming months, pointing to an impending release date for the MacBook Air successor.If this rumor is true, then the news is bittersweet – we will be seeing a MacBook Air launch sooner rather than later, but it’ll sport the previous generation of CPU.
About time
The MacBook Air was one of the Apple’s most popular releases, but the most recent model is three years old at this point, and it hasn’t had a design refresh since 2010, so the growing rumors for a 2018 model would certainly be timely if true.Instead, the 12-inch notebook that Apple just calls the MacBook started to take over this space from 2015 onwards, sharing many of the same design principles by offering a more affordable and lightweight alternative to the powerful MacBook Pro, albeit with weaker specs to start with.As such, there’s still discussion as to whether or not the MacBook will well-and-truly replace the MacBook Air line, but no matter what form Apple’s latest affordable entry will take, we’re likely to hear more about it soon.
MacBook Air 2018: what we want to see

Silicon chips are reaching their limit. Here’s the future

Silicon chips are reaching their limit. Here’s the future

Main image credit: IntelWe live in a world powered by computer circuits. Modern life depends on semiconductor chips and transistors on silicon-based integrated circuits, which switch electronic signals on and off. Most use the abundant and cheap element silicon because it can be used to both prevent and allow the flow of electricity; it both insulates and semiconducts.Until recently, the microscopic transistors squeezed onto silicon chips have been getting half the size each year. It’s what’s produced the modern digital age, but that era is coming to a close. With the internet of Things (IoT), AI, robotics, self-driving cars, 5G and 6G phones all computing-intensive endeavors, the future of tech is at stake. So what comes next? 
What is Moore’s Law?
That would be the exponential growth of computing power. Back in 1965, Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, observed that the number of transistors on a one-inch computer chip double every year, while the costs halve. Now that period is 18 months, and it’s getting longer. In truth, Moore’s Law isn’t a law, merely an observation by someone who worked for a chip-maker, but the increased timescales mean intensive computing applications of the future could be under threat.
A smartphone contains over 200 billion transistors. Credit: CC0 Creative CommonsIs Moore’s Law dead?
No, but it’s slowing so much that silicon needs help. ”Silicon is reaching the limit of its performance in a growing number of applications that require increased speed, reduced latency and light detection,” says Stephen Doran, CEO of the UK’s Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult.However, he thinks it’s premature to be talking about a successor to silicon. ”That suggests silicon will be completely replaced, which is unlikely to happen any time soon, and may well never happen,” he adds.David Harold, VP of Marketing Communications, Imagination Technologies, says: ”There is still potential in a Moore’s Law-style performance escalation until at least 2025. Silicon will dominate the chip market until the 2040s.”
Computing’s second era is coming
It’s important to get the silicon transistor issue in perspective; it’s not ‘dead’ as a concept, but it is past its peak. ”Moore’s Law specifically refers to the performance of integrated circuits made from semiconductors, and only captures the last 50-plus years of computation,” says Craig Hampel, Chief Scientist, Memory and Interface Division at Rambus.
The race is on to move beyond silicon. Credit: Intel”The longer trend of humanity’s need for computation reaches back to the abacus, mechanical calculators and vacuum tubes, and will likely extend well beyond semiconductors [like silicon] to include superconductors and quantum mechanics.”The topping-out of silicon is a problem because computing devices of the future will need to be both more powerful and more agile. ”Increasingly the problem of computing is that future systems will need to learn and adapt to new information,” says Harold, who adds that they will have to be ‘brain-like’. ”That, in combination with chip manufacturing technology transition, is going to create a revolutionary second era for computing.”
What is cold computing?
Some researchers are looking into new ways of getting higher-performance computers that use less power. ”Cold operation of data centers or supercomputers can have significant performance, power and cost advantage,” says Hampel.An example is Microsoft’s Project Natick, as part of which an enormous data center was sunk off the coast of Scotland’s Orkney Islands, but it’s only a small step. Taking the temperature down further means less leakage of current and reducing the threshold voltage at which transistors switch.
Microsoft sank a data center in the Atlantic as part of its Project Natick. Credit: Microsoft”It reduces some of the challenges to extending Moore’s Law,” says Hampel, who adds that a natural operating temperature for these types of systems is that of liquid nitrogen at 77K (-270C). ”Nitrogen is abundant in the atmosphere, relatively inexpensive to capture in liquid form and an efficient cooling medium,” he adds. ”We hope to get perhaps four to 10 additional years of scaling in memory performance and power.”
What are compound semiconductors?
Next-gen semiconductors made from two or more elements whose properties make them faster and more efficient than silicon. This is ‘the big one’; they’re already being used, and will help create 5G and 6G phones.”Compound semiconductors combine two or more elements from the periodic table, for example gallium and nitrogen, to form gallium nitride,” says Doran. He explains that these materials outperform silicon in the areas of speed, latency, light detection and emission, which will help make possible applications like 5G and autonomous vehicles.
Compound semiconductors will find their way into 5G phones. Credit: AT&TAlthough they may be used alongside regular silicon chips, compound semiconductors will find their way into 5G and 6G phones, essentially making them fast enough and small enough while also having a decent battery life. ”The advent of compound semiconductors is a game-changer that has the potential to be as transformational as the internet has been for communications,” says Doran. That’s because compound semiconductors could be as much as 100 times faster than silicon, so could power the explosion of devices expected with the growth of the IoT. 
What is quantum computing?
Who needs the on-off states of a classical computer system when you can have the quantum world’s superposition and entanglement phenomena? IBM, Google, Intel and others are in a race to create quantum computers with enormous processing power, way more than silicon transistors, using quantum bits, aka ‘qubits’. The problem is that quantum physicists and computer architects have many breakthroughs to make before the potential of quantum computing can be realized, and there’s a simple test that some in the quantum computing community think needs to be met before a quantum computer can be said to exist: ‘quantum supremacy’.”It means simply showing that a quantum machine is better at a specific task than a conventional semiconductor processor on the path of Moore’s Law,” says Hampel. So far, achieving this has remained just out of reach. 
What is Intel doing?
Since it pioneered the manufacturing of silicon transistors, it should come as no surprise that Intel is heavily invested in research into silicon-based quantum computing.”As well as investing in scaling-up superconducting qubits that need to be stored at extremely low temperatures, Intel is also investigating an alternative method,” says Adrian Criddle, Vice President Sales and Marketing Group and UK General Manager at Intel. ”The alternative architecture is based on ‘spin qubits’, which operate in silicon.”A spin qubit uses microwave pulses to control the spin of a single electron on a silicon-based device, and Intel recently utilized them on its recent ‘world’s smallest quantum chip’. Crucially, it uses silicon and existing commercial manufacturing methods.
Intel’s spin qubit. Credit: Walden Kirsch/Intel Corporation”Spin qubits could overcome some of the challenges presented by the superconducting method as they are smaller in physical size, making them easier to scale, and they can operate at higher temperatures,” explains Criddle. ”What’s more, the design of spin qubit processors resembles traditional silicon transistor technologies.”However, Intel’s spin qubit system still only works close to absolute zero; cold computing will go hand in hand with the development of quantum computers. Meanwhile, IBM has its Q, a 50-qubit processor, and the Google Quantum AI Lab has its 72-qubit Bristlecone processor.
What about graphene and carbon nanotubes?
These so-called miracle materials could one day replace silicon. ”They have existing electrical, mechanical and thermal properties that go much beyond what can be done with silicon-based devices,” says Doran. However, he warns that it may take many years before they’re ready for prime time.”Silicon-based devices have been through many decades of refinement and have developed along with associated manufacturing technology,” he says. ”Graphene and carbon nanotubes are still at the beginning of this journey, and if they are to replace silicon in the future the manufacturing tools required to achieve this still need to be developed.”
Graphene inks could one day replace silicon. Credit: Jamie CarterThe atomic era
Whatever the prospects for other materials, we’re now in an atomic era. ”Everyone is thinking about atoms,” says Harold. ”Our progress has now reached the point where individual atoms count, (and) even storage is finding ways to work at the atomic level – IBM has demonstrated a possible route for storing data on a single atom.” Today, creating a 1 or a 0, the binary digits used to store data, takes 100,000 atoms. However, there is a problem. “Atoms are inherently less stable as a means of storing or transmitting information, which means more logic for things like error correction is needed,” adds Harold. So computer systems of the future will probably be layers of various technologies, each one there to counteract the disadvantage of another.So there’s no one answer to extending the life of silicon into the next computing era. Compound semiconductors, quantum computing and cold computing are all likely to play a major role in research and development. It’s likely that the future of computing will see a hierarchy of machines, but as of now, nobody knows what tomorrow’s computers will look like.”While Moore’s Law will end,” says Hampel, ”the secular and lasting trend of exponential computing capacity will likely not.”
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Nvidia Turing graphics card leak suggests September release and high prices

Nvidia Turing graphics card leak suggests September release and high prices

Following an earlier report regarding the pricing and release timing of the upcoming 2018 editions of Nvidia’s GeForce GTX graphics cards, WccfTech claims to have learned even more information from sources connected to one of Nvidia’s manufacturing partners – some of which is contradictory.In short, according to WccfTech’s sources, expect these cards to be expensive and arrive in September – not over a course of months as per the previous report – but there’s so much more than that to dig through. While the outlet is supposedly privy to specifications for three new graphics cards, namely their power draw (measured in watts) and video memory capacity, apparently not even Nvidia’s manufacturing partners know what this generation’s naming convention will be, whether that’s 11xx, 20xx or something else entirely.Here’s a bulleted breakdown of the three Nvidia graphics cards coming soon which are expected to run on Nvidia’s new Turing graphics architecture, including power draw, vRAM amounts, US manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) and release timing. Since the model numbers are unknown, let the wattage be your guide as to where each fits within the hierarchy – the 120W card will likely fill the role of today’s GTX 1060, the 150W in the role of the GTX 1070 and so on.
180W GPU (11GB vRAM): $699 – $749 in first week of September150W GPU (8GB vRAM): $599 by the second week of September120W GPU (8GB vRAM): $499 by end of SeptemberNow, what you’ll immediately notice is that, according to WccfTech’s sources, Nvidia plans to charge nearly twice as much for the next-generation 120W graphics card than it currently does for the GTX 1060 Founders Edition at $299 (about £225, AU$400). This is likely for two reasons: first off, this version ups the video memory by 2GB, which should improve performance considerably.Secondly, WccfTech suspects that Nvidia is not going to stop selling the 10 series graphics cards, but rather sell them at a discount in the face of these new cards to build a larger family of products to hit more price points. Let’s hope this checks out, and that the upcoming 120W card is substantially more powerful than today’s.Remember, these pricing details are all according to MSRP in the US. Nvidia’s partners can price their versions of Nvidia’s GPU hardware however they wish, but don’t expect prices much lower than what’s seen here, as they too have to make a living. In fact, WccfTech’s sources claims Nvidia won’t have enough stock to meet initial demand, and to expect demand-related price tomfoolery to take place on retailers like Amazon and eBay.No matter what, TechRadar will have a laser focus on IFA as well as Gamescom for Turing’s debut.
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