Whether you love it or hate it, the technology behind it all is here to stay
Poor Edward Snowden. The former NSA subcontractor has sacrificed his career to expose US government surveillance programs that were revealed years ago. Except for minor details, data-mining operations like “PRISM” were outed in 2006, and have been underway since at least 2003. Newspapers may be dinosaurs, but they beat the Internet to this story by seven years.
Note: This article originally appeared in the September 2013 issue of the magazine.
You gotta love technology. Every solution seems to cause a new problem, which then inspires another solution, which causes yet another problem. I’d conclude that engineers are as skillful as lawyers at perpetuating their own profession, except I don’t want to insult the engineers.
What’s a watt? Depends how you measure it. Electrical engineers agree that watts equals volts times amps, but they start disagreeing when measuring the power dissipation of a microprocessor. Power consumption varies with the software workload, which can be anything from a program’s idle loop to a high-frame-rate videogame.
Note: This article was taken from the April issue of the magazine.
Supposedly, the wild popularity of smartphones, tablets, e-readers, smart TVs, and hand-held videogames has brought us the “post-PC era.” To hear some folks talk, PCs are not only in decline, but are almost as doomed as dinosaurs. For proof, they point to slipping PC sales and to troubled PC vendors like Hewlett-Packard.
Note: This column originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of the magazine.
Every girl crazy about a sharp dressed...computer chip
Long ago, all men’s suits were handmade by tailors. Then mass production made off-the-rack garments more affordable, and now only the wealthy or fastidious buy fully tailored suits. A similar trend has transformed the semiconductor industry, making custom microprocessors a luxury only for well-heeled companies.
It’s been about 10 years since multicore processors burst on the scene, and we’re now seeing several innovative variations. At first, chip designers simply replicated CPU cores, filling their silicon with copies of the same brain. Now they are exploring alternatives—and these variations will change the way we benchmark performance and compare processors.
It was the best-known secret of the year: ARM was prepping its first 64-bit CPU architecture to bash head-on with Intel in the low-power server market. ARM's official announcement finally came in October, and AppliedMicro revealed bold plans for the first 64-bit processor based on the new architecture.
With Microsoft readying its first ARM-compatible version of desktop/server Windows, PCs may flirt with ARM, too, although notebooks are more likely candidates than desktops. It's the first serious challenge from a non-x86 architecture that Intel has faced in 20 years.
Not many of us could convince our bosses that we’re most efficient when working slowly. But then, we aren’t microprocessors. For decades, researchers have known that processors achieve peak energy efficiency when their transistors operate at very low voltages near the threshold between their on and off states.
The technology is called near-threshold voltage (NTV) computing and it could be Intel's trump card in the power saving game.
Steve Jobs’s recent passing provoked not just a personal response, but widespread moaning about Apple’s future. Conspicuously missing, however, was speculation about the ways in which Jobs’s diminished role might improve Apple.
To some, any such speculation is heresy. Like everyone, however, Jobs was flawed. One flaw was well known but was mainly an internal company matter. Another was less recognized but may eventually harm Apple’s competitiveness.