AMD and INTEL: The battle of the Quad Core CPUs

amd quad core barcelona

Continuing in their battle for supremacy, both Intel and AMD announced their new Quad CPU processors this month. A quantum jump from the dual processors, the new chips place 4 x86 cores on to a single die.

AMD’s Opteron 8000 series named “Barcelona”, hailed by AMD as the “world’s most advanced x86 processor ever designed and manufactured” is aimed towards the server market, and is positioned as having superior “performance per watt”. AMD also points out the fact it is a true native quad processor, which might be a bit of a dig at Intel’s “Tigertron” Xeon 7300 processor which is is a packaged combo of two dual processors.

intel opteron quad core cpu

Intel has released its quad core Xeon 7300 (”Clovertown”) series. Intel also claims better energy efficiency as well as enhanced virtualization capabilities.

So how do these two CPUs stack up?

The battle lines in the CPU market are generally drawn around the speed of the processors in handling computations, and in the power efficiency of the chips (power consumptions is not as much as an issue, as is the waste heat which limits the performance of the chips).

AMD claims that Barcelona will exceed the performance of Clovertown, by 40% at any clock speed. AMD has not released the clock speed of Barcelona but Intel’s Xeon clocks in at 2.66 GHz, although the company is also releasing 3.0 GHz processors.

Both companies claim lower power consumption, although no figures have been released.

Barcelona and Clovertown will both be aimed towards the high end commercial servers with an emphasis towards the speed gains in database applications.

While side by side comparisons of the two CPUs have not been published yet, there are some leaked reports of tests done by IBM (pdf here), for the two processors. According to some analysis by George Ou, a blogger at ZDnet, AMD’s Barcelona might indeed be behind at this point, and might not be able to catch up in performance to the Intel Opteron until they get to the 3.0 GHz clock speed (Intel already has a 3.0 GHz quad processor).

As with the dual processor race between AMD and Intel, this one promises to get pretty exciting!

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Solar startup raises $21 million


A company that caught our eye recently is SolarCity, which just received $21 million during a third round of funding, bringing its total to just over $31M.

SolarCity, based in Foster City, CA near the Bay Area, provides solar power to homes and small-to-medium businesses at reduced prices compared to competitors. They do it by signing up a large number of residents at once and then contracting out the actual installation of the panels. VentureBeat calls them the “Swiss arms dealer” of the solar industry, in that they essentially take advantage of economies of scale.

The recent green movement has brought a lot of attention to energy-saving products. Solar power has been around for decades, and while it has yet to really take off, its usage numbers have been steadily rising: the demand for solar power has risen around 20-25% annually over the last 20 years. Much of this growth has been due to dropping technology costs and improvement in manufacturing methods. Perhaps this latest push to go green will be what causes solar power to become more popular. Regardless, startups like SolarCity are definitely helping the cause.


Science Sunday : “Lucky Imaging” - Sharpest pictures of Stars ever - even better than Hubble

Feast your eyes on this Cat’s Eye: Look at the clarity of the image!

Images from ground-based telescopes are generally blurred. There are techniques to reduce the blur (adaptive optics is one of them); now add another smart processing to the list.

The technique works by recording partially corrected adaptive optics images at high speed (20 frames per second or more). Software then checks each image to sort out which are the sharpest. Many are still significantly smeared by the atmosphere, but a small percentage of them are unaffected (sometimes a portion of the image might be unaffected).

These are combined to produce the final high-resolution image that astronomers want. The technique is called “Lucky Imaging” because it depends on the chance fluctuations in the atmosphere sorting themselves out and providing a set of images that is easier for the adaptive optics system to correct.

This work was carried out on the 200-inch (5.1 meter) Hale Telescope on Palomar Mountain. Like all other ground-based telescopes, the images it normally produces are typically 10 times less detailed than those of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Palomar’s adaptive-optics system produces superb images in the infrared, but until now, its images in visible light have remained markedly poorer than Hubble images. With the new Lucky Camera, astronomers were able to obtain images that are twice as sharp as those produced by the Hubble Space Telescope—a remarkable achievement.

The images produced in the study are the sharpest direct images ever taken in visible light either from the ground or from space.

In this image of the Cat’s Eye Nebula, one can resolve filaments that are only a few light-hours across! This is so amazing, we can see 3000 light years away and resolve things that are few light hours apart!

The full adaptive system will be ready in 2010 and I can’t wait to see some spectacular pictures.

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Facebook: A model for Web 2.0

Logo FacebookWired posted an article yesterday titled “How Mark Zuckerberg Turned Facebook Into the Web’s Hottest Platform.” Author Fred Vogelstein does a great job pointing out some of the key factors that turned Facebook into the Web 2.0 superstar it is today. And it’s still growing. These principles can be applied to any web startup that’s aimed at virtually any flavor of social interaction. Here are the elements that made it happen.

  • Real-world identity. At the start of the web, it was the companies you heard about. The AOLs, the Compuserves, the Netscapes. As the web has evolved, its no longer the companies that are the stars; now its the people: Robert Scoble, Michael Arrington, Mark Cuban, even Zuckerberg himself. With AOL, you were a screen name. Everyone was anonymous. Now, everyone wants to be themselves. Web 2.0 has people publicizing their thoughts on blogs, their photo albums on Flickr, and their bookmarks on Facebook has capitalized and taken this a step further; now even your relationships between friends and significant others have their public place online. With people putting so much of their personal life onto the internet, its no wonder they want credit for it. Zuckerberg recognized that the value of internet socializing is not restricted to exchanges between faceless screen names in foreign chat rooms, but that people actually want to assume their own identity. Vogelstein writes, “Sites like MySpace practically encouraged users to create new identities and meet and link to people they barely knew. Zuckerberg didn’t care about using the Internet to make new friends. ‘People already have their friends, acquaintances, and business connections,” he explains. “So rather than building new connections, what we are doing is just mapping them out.‘”
  • The beauty of broadcasting. Although the web has always been a collection of information that perpetually updates itself, the way those updates are distributed to users is one of the major changes that Web 2.0 has brought about. Applications like Twitter allow you to notify your network of friends of exactly what you’re doing, thinking or feeling at the press of a button. RSS feeds mean you no longer have to tediously go down your list of bookmarks one by one to see what new information has been posted on your favorite sites; simply sit back and let it all come to you in one easily-managable stream. Facebook adopted this principle the day that they unveiled the “news feed”: now, every time you login to Facebook the first screen you are greeted with tells you all about what your friends have been up to. If they post new photo albums, send each other public comments or join a new group, the news feed will let you know about it by way of an easy to read list that comes off as surprisingly uncluttered. The feed is the key feature that allows anything interesting put on Facebook to do what interesting things in Web 2.0 do best: go viral. So, what’s the most interesting thing on Facebook right now? Actually, there are 3,200 of them with 180 being added per week. Which takes us to…
  • Unlimited functionality. On May 24th, Facebook unveiled their open development system to the rest of the world. This allows anyone to develop applications, or widgets, that can run right out of peoples’ profile. Best of all, as soon as a member adds an application to their page, it gets broadcast to all of their friends via the news feed. Its no wonder that developers have jumped at this opportunity; everyone from independent one man teams to companies with established revenue like LastFM are writing for Zuckerberg’s platform. Basically, if you can think of something you’d like to be able to do on Facebook, it can probably be done… if it isn’t already. Vogelstein writes, “more than 3,200 new applications have sprung up on the site, a number that is growing by about 180 a week. Those offerings have made Facebook a fully functioning social hub, where users can keep track of one another’s favorite music and videos, share and compare movie reviews, and hit one another up for contributions to pet causes.” This doesn’t even include the professional side of Facebook that is growing at a rapid pace: before the app platform, businesses were already sifting through Facebook’s broad member base to find potential applicants and recruit employees (both Microsoft and the CIA have a Facebook presence). Now, companies can use applications to actually generate cash flow from ads or otherwise, with Zuckerberg letting them keep 100% of the revenue (for the moment). With such a flexible platform, literally almost anything is possible.

Regardless of where Facebook and Zuckerberg’s future lead, right now Facebook is a living example of what it means to be at the edge of Web 2.0. And I wouldn’t expect that to change anytime soon.

    But hey, if it does, I’m sure my news feed will let me know.

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