Monthly Archives: February 2008
In the INQUIRER article “Intel pushes Raytracing again“, they have an example of an application with almost insatiable appetite for processor cycles and processor cores. Real-time raytracing. With 16 full-size x86 cores, they can match the framerate of a regular mid-range GPU — but with picture quality of raytracing rather than the approximations of rasterizers. So, better quality, using something like 5 to 10 times as many transistors as the GPU would. This application can certainly use almost any amount of hardware, good for Intel
CNET (of all places) have a short article on what Montalvo Systems are up to: Secret recipe inside Intel’s latest competitor | CNET News.com. The article is a bit short on details, but it sounds like it is finally an example of a same-ISA, different-powered-cores heterogeneous multicore device in the mainstream. The idea has a lot of merit, and it will be very interesting to see the final results once silicon ships. I really believe is heterogeneous designs.
To be critical, trying to compete with Intel might not be the best idea around… but it never hurts to try. Also, the name is not unique, there is already a montalvo.com that is not montalvosystems.com. I think the old name “Memorylogix” was more interesting and less prone to website name collisions (yes, it seems to be the same company that briefly surfaced with some stripped-down x86 processor back in 2002 — I have an MPR article to prove it).
A review of the book “Fruits of War” by Michael White. The book discusses how war has accelerated technological progress and provided unexpected benefits to society. The author is a bit defensive about not professing that war is good in any way, which is pretty obvious and does not really need to be an issue in reading the book. It is a fairly straight reporting of facts, rather than any attempt to editorialize or present radical opinions.
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Scott Wasson at the techreport.com has a short but fairly good write-up on the microarchitecture of VIAs new ‘Isaiah’ processor core, developed by their subsidiary Centaur technology. What is interesting is the part on multicore processing. Scott is quoting Glenn Henry from Centaur:
He points out that most people don’t and shouldn’t care what type of CPU they have in their PCs, so long as it gets the job done. When Centaur started, Henry says, they had to develop engineers with a different mindset, not “faster is better.” He set a series of targets involving die size limits and a ship date, and then directed his people to make the processor fast enough within those constraints that people would want to buy it.
Indeed, once you’ve absorbed the Centaur mindset, Henry’s answers to questions become somewhat predictable. Will Isaiah go multi-core? It can; it’s built that way, and Henry thinks Intel’s approach of a shared L2 cache makes sense. But he scoffs at the notion that people need multiple cores in basic computing devices right now. Henry says Centaur will go to multiple cores if it needs that level of performance or if Intel convinces people they have to have it.
It is a very interesting and different way to go about processor design. Aiming for “good enough for what people do now”. A Skoda, not a BMW, to use an old automotive analogy. But note that while in some markets “good enough” also means “bleak and boring”. But this is not necessarily the case in personal computing.
In computers, the software and system construction is what makes a PC stand out from another, not the raw performance of the processor. And as good enough in the Via case also means fairly radically low-power, you can build some cool and cool compact solutions from something like the Isaiah, provided that you absolutely want it to run a commodity OS like Windows or x86 standard Linux (which makes sense for a home machine).
If you care to do a bit more customization and create true consumer electronics, you can easily get the same features at half the power budget using an ARM, MIPS, or embedded POWER core.
The only bit that strikes me as interesting is that Henry thinks of multicore as a way to increase performance, rather than as a way to decrease power. Maybe the additional size of a second core has something do with this, but other players in the market, most notably ARM, is using multicore as a way to reduce the power consumption at a given level of performance. Could be that in the x86 world, anything slower than the current Isaiah design will just be too single-threaded slow to be viable running Windows.
Seems like my blog has been picked up by some spamming machine — at least I hope it is a machine, what a waste of manpower to manually send in spam since I am filtering all comments and not letting anything remotely spam-like through. Anyway, it is kind of interesting to see what kinds of things are being pushed using blog spam. Read on for more, but suffice to say that porn is dominant… Read More →
The F-Secure weblog is one of my regular reads, and today they presented one of the coolest industry-academia items for a long time: F-Secure are teaching an entire course at the Helsinki University of Technology, called “Malware Analysis and Antivirus Technologies”. Kudos to F-Secure for the time and money that must have gone into doing that!