Archive for August, 2008

Aug 28 2008

Intel Developer Forum 2008

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The Intel Developer Forum was extremely well attended, an increased had several themes this year. The press day focused on Intel R&D. The R&D directions included medical visualization, digital monetary systems based on compute technology, and sensing systems to connect the physical world to the digital world. The sensing systems included digital representations of all the senses under the modes of touch (pressure), vision, sound, temperature, The demos went well and the technology looked promising until the internet connection at the hotel stopped and all the demos froze. The assurance was givin, in real life, using wimax, the data would not interrupted. The goal of the program would be 90% aware, 90% of the time.

IDF kicked off by a well attended keynote by Craig Barrett. Rather than just talk about new process clock rates and how many cores can you hang on a single bus, he discussed the societal aspects of the technology and the deployment of technology with some livefeeds of distance medical diagnostics. In addition to the overview of the technical architecture of the new quad core chip, There were demonstrations of the new Nehalem included computer intensive CAD modeling, high throughput video, multiple data stream processing and high memory capacity systems (128GB+ RAM) configurations on a dual processor board. Although the processors were being shown, the staff in the demo booths, indicated the Core I7 ™ would not be available until late Q4’08 to early Q1’09 timeframe.

In addition to the high performance platforms, Intel introduced a number of chipsets/board level products for other markets. In the multimedia space, there were two system combos introduced (1) the DG45ID board which supports the Core(tm) 2 processors and Dolby Home Theater ™ processing; and (2) the DG43NB which uses the dual and quad core Core(tm) 2 chips.

They also introduced low power chipsets and re-introduced the Centrino 2 ™ platform. These were shown in new notebook products, netbooks (internet targeted thin client notebooks) and MID (mobile internet devices). A note of particular interest, of the 19 MIDs on display at the show, 17 were running Linux as thier only or primary OS, 2 were exclusively Windows on Win XP, and a total of 7 would also operate with WinXP or Vista.

Following the trend of several other companies, Intel introduced an Nand Flash based SSD. They have both product types SLC and MLC ranging in capacity from 32GB to 160GB drives. The drive family supports SATA and ONFI 1.0 as interfaces. In the 2.5″ form factor, they introduced and extreme SATA SSD with SLC Flash in 32 and 64Gb capacities. These server targed SLC drives (such as the X25e) feature 70us latency, Read data rates of 250MB/s, and Write data rates of 170MB/s. In the more mainstream products they introduced both 1.8″ and 2.5″ form fact with an 85us latency. The products are spec’d at a 5ye useful life in client PC application and are using 50nm Flash memory.

The drives were also presented in a smaller form factor as an OEM drive for MID, UMPCs, automotive and other space critical applications. These products utilize the same technology as the 1.8″ and 2.5″ products. The demonstrations at the product announcement were shown with a proprietary controller using the ONFI 1.0 interface and presented a 175X improvement in performance when compared to a traditional 2.5″ notebook computer drive. On the exhibit floor, the SSDs were being demonstrated with a streaming video application which did not exhibit the bit error rate problems of multiple streams of 720p data on a std HDD. The drives on the exhibit floor were all being demonstrated with SATA interfaces, so the performance was not on the same level as the product introduction demo.

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Aug 28 2008

Synaptics Sensing Technology Update

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Synaptics has long been known as a leader in touchpads for the laptop marketplace as an alternative method of cursor control. Their new generation of sensors opens up dramatic new marketplaces that currently are not being addressed by other technologies at the same price point.

Synaptics has a number of new products and technology solutions that address far more than the PC pointer market. Most of these new products leverage the Synaptic’s proprietary IP for support and recognition of chiral motion. As a result, the new products support advanced gesturing, scrolling & sliders in a humidity and temperature variation stable solution.

Their new technologies support a dual mode which is a two dimensional (2D) touch pad supporting cursor motion and a second mode can fixed location for “tap? buttons on the same touch pad surface. To simplify the user interface for the two modes, the button mode can be back lit to display icons for the button locations, and then toggle the icons off to restore the pad to standard mode.

These advancements have also lead to the development of 1 dimensional (1D) and 2D clear touch pads that can also support external single touch traditional buttons. These clear products are being used in cell phones, and other mobile devices. The simpler 1D products support software driven icons that can be displayed under the button which change with the function mode. This is a preferred solution over printing multiple labels (e.g. a number, an arrow, an option string, a letter) all on a single button.

The clear touch pads are also being integrated into monitors and PC products to produce an improved level of industrial design. The clear touch pads are part of a “hidden? button design that have the back lighting on the sensors “black out? when not needed, leaving the end product with a very clean look. Additionally, these new sensors work on a proximity basis in addition to traditional touch. This allows the buttons to be illuminated and displayed only when the user gets near the buttons but before you contact them. This similar technology can be used in remote controls and other “open display? products.

The touch pads are also energy efficient. A large 2D touchpad which might be used for a full screen MID would utilize only 600uA in active mode, and then power down to about 10% or 60uA for standby mode.

At this time, the Synaptics products are being sold into the consumer, PC, and mobile telecommunications market and activiy is continuing to review possible expansion to the medical and industrial application space.
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Aug 28 2008

SanDisk Portable Media – SSDs

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SanDisk’s primary retail business has been in portable shareable media. This has included many formats of removable computer storage as well as media storage for cameras, video, music players and phones. This marketplace has shown strong growth in the past and is targeted for sustained strong growth in the near future.

SanDisk is introducing an additional marketing direction which to PC OEMs and VARs only. The product they are targeting is Solid State Disks (SSDs). The adoption is being driven by hardware requirements for low power, low weight, high reliability & high performance storage for the Ultra-Mobile Personal Computer (UMPC), Mobile Internet Devices (MID), and Netbook markets.

SanDisk is helping create an ecosystem that is solidified for SSDs based on application software and standard hardware interfaces such SATA and PATA. Part of this ecosystem is the creation of optimized chipsets for SSDs. The value proposition for SSDs in a netbook are different from those of a laptop. A netbook is optimized for web surfing, email communication and viewing posted documents. Laptops are optimized for content creation (documents, web, video, photo processing) in addition to these tasks. The use of Nand Flash technology for these SSD is well targeted to these applications as they are read many, write few applications. In some of the applications, based on size, power requirements, cooling and data performance the SSDs can be more cost effective than traditional Hard Disk Drives (HDDs).

The SanDisk SSDs are designed for internal applications at this time. Future products will target the secondary replacement and upgrade market. In the primary marketplace, SanDisk has developed a PSSD device that is 1/5th the size of a 2.5″ HDD and is built using MLC flash. These products are using SATA and PATA interfaces rather than the Intel lead ONFI format for controllers.

Currently, 1st generation products are shipping, 2nd generation are due in the production ramp, and 3rd generation are completing design and will be available soon. The pedigree of the reliability of the product in the commercial space has been addressed by having the flash cells and technology being from the Mil/Aero qualified product space.

The advanced SSD applications include high speed capture for pro-video that is being jointly developed between Sony and SanDisk.

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