January 2007


Ever since AMD announced its AM2 socket processors last year, the industry has gradually shifted away from DDR towards DDR2 , DDR2 memory doubles the bus frequency at the same clock rate as DDR which effectively doubles the data rate , or simply put a DDR2 module is faster than DDR module .Nvidia is using the free space on SPD ROM chip on memory to store different performance profiles ( SPD stands for serial presence detect which is a chip inside the memory module which tells the PC what size and type and make it is and also holds some other information) , I guess these memory modules will replace the current generation of SLI ready memory , most probably it would hold different overclocking profiles which can be easily altered using a front-end application.
Intel recently announced that the next generation of chips on their core micro-architecture will support DDR3 memory , but for that we ll probably have to wait till Q3 2007 .So folks this is the time to start saving up for that upgrade to a monster R600 card from ATI and some super fast DDR3 memory .

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I was asked by a friend recently about converting a two channel stereo output to a surround sound output , I recently retired my old SB live 4.1 card so i thought this could be an interesting build , there are a few reference designs available notably on esp , just finished laying out the PCB and looks something like this.

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I will be starting on it this weekend and will put up a post very soon outlining its performance.

From the day i have had a PC , i also have data which i just cannot dispose off , a very large collection of MP3’s and a humongous collection of movies and videos , which i have painstakingly organised and then burned on to CD’s and DVD,s . No matter how much disk space you have you always manage to fill it up , installation of a new game always results in some reorganisation , moving files around and deleting a few files to free up some space.

40 or 60 GB especially SCSI drives are now obsolete , no one buys them and they are available for throw away rates at sites like e-Bay etc , so the cheapest viable option for mass storage could be maybe an array  14 of such disks in a RAID configuration, this is an interesting project by Inventgeek which I happened to  stumble upon , for those of you who want to ramp up your storage for a low cost,  it makes an immensely interesting project , Yes I know RAID is slow and RAID is old , but it does’nt really matter with all those video and audio files which are are rarely used but we just cant part with them plus it has the WOW factor

Recently Hitachi announced their 1TB hard drive which is now on top of my must have’s list , but the product will be available only around 2nd quarter 2007 . I don’t see the trend slowing down anytime in the future and Storage technology pioneers like Hitachi , Seagate and Samsung have all had some exiting new announcements . The most impressive of them being PMR and Hybrid storage technology

All HDD’s store data in form of tiny areas of either positive or negative magnetization on the disk surface each of these areas represents a ‘bit’ which is the most elemental form of information, these bits are written as circular ‘tracks’ on the surface in a longitudinal fashion , one could visualise it as how bricks are laid for construction, but in a circular fashion .There are millions of bits on a single track and there are thousands of such concentric circular tracks on a hard disk surface. The amount of data that can be stored depends on the Areal density per square inch of the disk. Areal density is defined as the number of bits/ inch (along the track) * tracks/ inch (radially on the disk) , the data capacity of a HDD is directly proportional to the areal density, advancements in storage technology have till now been primarily focused on increasing this parameter, but in recent times it has become exceedingly difficult to increase areal density by conventional methods because the magnetic material on the disk surface is composed of small grains, each bit written on the disk must cover about 100 grains to ensure that the information is reliably stored, the catch is that there is a lower limit to the size of these grains, below this limit data integrity is compromised in normal working conditions.
In perpendicular recording, the ‘bits’ point up or down perpendicular to the disk surface as opposed to the conventional method of bits being aligned longitudinally, visualize this as a lot of bricks placed on their smaller ends one atop another to form a tower of bricks , these images from Hitachi illustrate this better

this allows more bits to be squeezed in the same amount of space , PMR disks offer higher data capacities at increased speeds and are inherently more robust than their traditional counterparts.
Hitachi GST is the intellectual property leader in PMR and their website has more detailed information about PMR and other research projects, for a fun and interesting look at PMR click here. I ll be writing about hybrid storage as soon as i get some more insight about it , for some basic information visit the hybridstorage forum

On Jan 5th nvidia completed its acquisition of PortalPlayer inc, for the uninitiated Portalplayer is a leading supplier of semiconductors and firmware for personal media players , thier personal media player platforms power some of the best high end audio solutions and portable music players , The apple iPod 30GB user the PortalPlayer PP5002 SOC (System on chip) platform which controls its UI and also performs the Audio decoding

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The acquisition further strengthens nvidia’s handheld products stratergy and their GoForce technology will integrate with PortalPlayer’s audio expertise to power the next generation of solutions for portable media devices and mobile phones.

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The first Pentium processor’s spec sheet looked like this

Core Frequency: 75 MHz
Board Frequency: 50 MHz
Clock Multiplier: 1.5
Data bus (ext.): 64 Bit
Address bus: 32 Bit
Transistors: 3,300,000
Circuit Size: 0.60 µ
Voltage: 3.3 V
   

The Pentium series was largely fabricated on the then cutting edge 350nm technology, silicon fabrication technology has come a long way since then, the latest Core 2 Duo line of Intel Microprocessors are fabricated on the 65nm process and have more than 150 times the number of transistors than the first Pentium chip. Intel has produced the first ever fully functional SRAM chip based on the 45nm process technology, and is on track to start large scale manufacture by 2nd half of 2007.
Increasing transistor density and decreasing the amount of power used are the two greatest challenges which drive Silicon technology today , 45nm chips will have a greater performance/Watt advantage and will enable engineers to squeeze in twice the number of transistors in the same given area, this will enable smaller chip sizes and more number of transistors per chip which are very important for mobile devices . The new technology also promises a significant increase in transistor switching speeds and decreased transistor leakage which will eventually lead to smaller low power – high performance devices. TI has also made remarkable progress on this front and they plan to use their 45nm process to make memory chips, while we’ll have to wait a little longer before AMD announces their 45nm process .