Designing and manufacturing a modern CPU is a huge project. It requires both backward compatibility and an understanding of where PC workloads are going in the future—a delicate balancing act made more difficult by the huge engineering staffs and massive dollar outlays involved. Let’s take a look at the steps needed to build a Core i7 or AMD Phenom II processor.
Before the manufacturing plant starts churning out chips, there are a few critical preliminary steps. Prior to the first circuit being laid out or the first simulation run, the designers need to know exactly what it is they’re designing. This phase takes input from many sources. Marketing gets involved, with predictions of what users will need when the CPU actually ships, usually two to four years in the future. Engineering and performance teams feed in billions of traces of actual applications being run on current-gen CPUs, so the designers can see how existing CPUs perform under real-world conditions.
Continue reading about the CPU production process after the jump.
Welcome to the wonderful world of URL shorteners, where internet links hide behind abridged monikers to sheath their unwieldy length. You may have seen them fluttering about on the Internet; they’re currently infesting Twitter feeds, blog posts, Facebook status updates, and yes, even in print publications. Long winded web addresses, with tracking codes and web stats, have become so passé. Linking to one will make you seem like a Jurassic entity, which is why URL shorteners have shot up in popularity. The first of these services, TinyURL began rapidly proliferating when social networking and blogging stormed the web scene. Users everywhere needed a simple way to share their favorite links and ensure that their web friends and followers had an accessible way to navigate their content. With the advent of microblogging sites where every character counts, more of these services have emerged to become an essential part of internet life.
We take a look five popular URL shorteners, evaluate the merits of each, and ponder on the future of this link shrinking technology.
Your PC’s hard drive is probably packed to the platter’s edge with hundreds of ripped DVD videos, gigabytes of digital photos from your camera, and tens of thousands of songs. And that’s not even counting the high-definition digital video from your last family vacation that you’re still planning to unload. But with terabytes of media just gathering dust on your desktop PC, you risk losing years of aggregated files when your hard drive inevitably gives out (don’t even think about backing it all up to the cloud). Our solution: Keep all your data backed up on a Windows Home Sever. More than just a generic NAS box, Windows Home Server maintains backups, streams media files, and works as a file share across your home network. And the best part is that you can build one yourself—we’ll show you how!
From the first time we saw Borderlands, we were intrigued. By mixing a fast-paced first-person shooter with the procedurally generated weapon system of a loot-hoarding RPG like Diablo, and letting you play the game cooperatively with three of your pals, the kids at Gearbox have made a game we simply can’t wait to play. We went down to Plano, Texas to play the first three hours of the game and to chat with Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford about what the future holds for PC gaming, why Steam is not an ideal method of distribution, and why Randy loves Wal-Mart.
Home broadband routers are remarkably complex devices that few ever take the time to truly understand. As long as the lights are blinking, and webpages load, most people are inclined to leave them be. The few brave souls who venture into the firmware are often rewarded with a maze of menus that betray the true complexity of these underappreciated appliances. Wireless channels, security modes, and even port forwarding can be frustrating concepts for those without a networking background, but are absolutely critical to understanding how to optimize your home network.
In this guide we will teach you the finer points of security, as well as give you surefire ways to boost your router's performance. Topics covered include:
How to Safely Secure and Isolate a Network
How to Maximize Your Route's Broadcast Strength
How to Make Your Router Play Nice with Skype and BitTorrent
Although many graphics professionals turn to Windows or Mac OS to execute their designs, Linux is far from helpless in this area. While it helps that Adobe Photoshop, the undisputed gold-standard program that most professionals use for raster graphics, runs on Linux through Wine, there are several native Linux programs that offer some of the same functionality. Furthermore, there are many free vector graphics programs that can produce infinitely scalable graphics much like what Adobe Illustrator can do. Aside from the software situation, there is no reason why Linux could not be just as effective with graphics applications as OS X and Windows, since Linux supports many peripherals like tablets out of the box with full plug-and-play support.
Are the Linux programs drop-in replacements for Photoshop and Illustrator? The answer could be either yes and no, depending on the way you look at it and what your needs are. If you compare the Linux alternatives to Photoshop/Illustrator feature-by-feature, the free open source tools will come up short by a significant margin and there is simply no way to get around that fact. If you actually need those features on a day-to-day basis, then you should get your wallet out and purchase Photoshop and/or Illustrator. However, if you can get by with less, the free open source software tools may be enough to get the job done and save you considerable money in the process.
With the imminent launch of Windows 7 and its much-hyped Windows XP mode, the word "virtualization" is going to be everyone's lips throughout the month of October. Never one to let a fad slide on by, I'm jumping on the bandwagon in this week's freeware and open-source application roundup. I'll be taking a look at five different programs that enrich your computing experience with some kind of virtual add-on.
What does that even mean? A number of things. Windows XP mode is a great example of the common definition of virtualization--running a second operating system inside your primary operating system in a way that typically allows you to quickly switch between the two and access the contents of your primary machine's hard drives from the virtualized environment. Virtual desktops are a lesser derivative of this concept. Instead of running a separate operating system, you're merely extending the size of your workspace by stacking on additional desktop layers that you can swap back-and-forth. You can also install a virtual keyboard that sits overtop your programs--analogous to what Windows offers for tablet PCs--if you're concerned about keyloggers somehow getting their hands on your mission-critical information.
I won't go on, as that might spoil some of the fun applications you'll find after the jump. The virtual world, er, world of virtualized software is vast and interesting, featuring many applications that can expand your computer's functionality without adding a crazy amount of complexity. The coolness of these apps is only rivaled by their ability to save you precious time and headaches from doing things the old-fashioned way.
These days, netbooks have become a very popular alternative to conventional notebooks for mobile computing. Netbooks are lightweight, have great battery life, and are relatively inexpensive compared to full-sized notebooks. This makes them ideal for students or people on a budget. Of course, the lower cost and extended battery life does not come without a trade-off—many netbooks have lower system specs as well, which means that they are not designed for heavy-computing applications.
Although many netbooks now run Windows XP because of Microsoft's hurried entry into that market, many earlier models were built to run Linux. (For instance, the Asus Eee 700 Series ran Xandros, and the current models are offered with either Linux or Windows) And although most current netbooks are x86-based (running the Intel Atom CPU), the usage of ARM-based CPU chips is likely to increase in the future since ARM offers far superior energy efficiency over x86 and battery life has always been a major factor in mobile computing. ARM chips have been used successfully for some time in smartphones and music players, including the newest Zune HD. Since ARM is a different CPU architecture than x86, Windows will not work on ARM. Earlier this year, Microsoft's Steve Guggenheim said that the company currently has no plans to port Windows 7 to the ARM architecture. Therefore, any new wave of ARM-based netbooks will run Linux once again. Unlike Windows, most Linux distros can be compiled for ARM if you have the requisite skills for doing so.
Linux is an ideal choice for netbooks for multiple reasons in addition to CPU architecture. Netbooks generally have lower specs than most full-size notebooks (not to mention desktops) so they are ideal for lightweight applications like web browsing, document preparation, etc. Linux does these tasks very well without the bloat that Windows systems have to deal with from anti-malware utilities. This primer will help you set up and optimize Linux for your netbook.
DirectX 10 marked a radical departure from DirectX 9: In order to be compatible, a graphics processor must feature a unified architecture in which each shader unit is capable of executing pixel-, vertex-, and geometry-shader instructions. The changes in DirectX 11 aren’t quite as fundamental, but they could have just as big an impact—and not only with games.
DirectX 11 is a superset of DirectX 10, so everything in DirectX 10 is included in the new collection of APIs. In addition, DX11 offers several new features and three additional stages to the Direct3D rendering pipeline: the Hull Shader, the Tessellator, and the Domain Shader. And in an effort to deliver cross-hardware support for general-purpose computing on graphics processors, Microsoft has come up with a new Compute Shader.
DirectX 11 will be compatible with both Vista and Windows 7, but many of its graphics features will be available on GPUs designed for previous iterations of Direct3D. Tapping into the Tessellator’s power, however, will require a GPU with transistors dedicated to the task (in this sense, DX11 marks a slight departure from DX10’s vision of a unified architecture). Let’s explore the concept of tessellation now.
What's the first I did upon hearing the numbers for ATI's new HD Radeon 5870 graphics card? I scrambled for benchmarks, because that's the one thing an announcement and subsequent review of a smokin' new piece of hardware can do for a rabid enthusiast: inspire.
It's been a while since I've actually sat down and crunched the numbers for my killer custom PC (that's killer as in legendary, not NICs). I'm not lazy. Rather, I don't have access to the expensive system benchmarks that magazines and Web sites typically use to analyze the all the new hardware that comes out. I don't have all-in-one benchmarks like PCMark Vantage, GPU-punishing titles like Crysis, and--worst of all--preconfigured demo runs for any number of titles that would help ensure the validity and repeatability of the delivered scores.
In short, I have nothing. You might not have nothing, but odds are good that you are similarly ill-equipped to benchmark your graphics card (and any tweaks or modifications you make) in the style of a professional review. Nothing... until now.
This week's freeware roundup will show you five different games that you can use to punish your poor graphics card into frames-per-second submission. They might cost a grand total of zero dollars, but these tests are repeatable and easy to use--the perfect combination of characteristics for aspiring benchmarkers who might not want to get their hands dirty, but still want some kind of way to determine exactly how powerful their graphics card really is.