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Original author: 
Peter Bright

AMD

AMD wants to talk about HSA, Heterogeneous Systems Architecture (HSA), its vision for the future of system architectures. To that end, it held a press conference last week to discuss what it's calling "heterogeneous Uniform Memory Access" (hUMA). The company outlined what it was doing, and why, both confirming and reaffirming the things it has been saying for the last couple of years.

The central HSA concept is that systems will have multiple different kinds of processors, connected together and operating as peers. The two main kinds of processors are conventional: versatile CPUs and the more specialized GPUs.

Modern GPUs have enormous parallel arithmetic power, especially floating point arithmetic, but are poorly-suited to single-threaded code with lots of branches. Modern CPUs are well-suited to single-threaded code with lots of branches, but less well-suited to massively parallel number crunching. Splitting workloads between a CPU and a GPU, using each for the workloads it's good at, has driven the development of general purpose GPU (GPGPU) software and development.

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Original author: 
Andrew Cunningham

Andrew Cunningham / Aurich Lawson

A desktop PC used to need a lot of different chips to make it work. You had the big parts: the CPU that executed most of your code and the GPU that rendered your pretty 3D graphics. But there were a lot of smaller bits too: a chip called the northbridge handled all communication between the CPU, GPU, and RAM, while the southbridge handled communication between the northbridge and other interfaces like USB or SATA. Separate controller chips for things like USB ports, Ethernet ports, and audio were also often required if this functionality wasn't already integrated into the southbridge itself.

As chip manufacturing processes have improved, it's now possible to cram more and more of these previously separate components into a single chip. This not only reduces system complexity, cost, and power consumption, but it also saves space, making it possible to fit a high-end computer from yesteryear into a smartphone that can fit in your pocket. It's these technological advancements that have given rise to the system-on-a-chip (SoC), one monolithic chip that's home to all of the major components that make these devices tick.

The fact that every one of these chips includes what is essentially an entire computer can make keeping track of an individual chip's features and performance quite time-consuming. To help you keep things straight, we've assembled this handy guide that will walk you through the basics of how an SoC is put together. It will also serve as a guide to most of the current (and future, where applicable) chips available from the big players making SoCs today: Apple, Qualcomm, Samsung, Nvidia, Texas Instruments, Intel, and AMD. There's simply too much to talk about to fit everything into one article of reasonable length, but if you've been wondering what makes a Snapdragon different from a Tegra, here's a start.

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Japan's National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) has developed a real-time network monitoring system called Daedalus that looks like it could have come out of Hollywood sci-fi movie. The system monitors computers in a network for any suspicious activity and can visualize the progression of an attack as it moves through the network.

The Daedalus system works by watching how data flows through a network and looks for any inconsistencies. If a USB flash drive with a virus infects a machine, Daedalus can identify and isolate its malignant traffic on-screen, sending an email to support staff and displaying a bright red alert through its 3D user interface. Network attacks, like the famous denial of service attack,...

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Intel has been working on its "Many Integrated Core" architecture for a quite some time, but the chipmaker has finally taken the code-name gloves off and announced that Knights Corner will be the first in a new family of Xeon processors — the Xeon Phi. These co-processors will debut later this year (Intel says "by the end of 2012"), and will come in the form of a 50-core PCIe card that includes at least 8GB of GDDR5 RAM. The card runs an independent Linux operating system that manages each x86 core, and Intel is hoping that giving developers a familiar architecture to program for will make the Xeon Phi a much more attractive platform than Nvidia's Tesla.

The Phi is part of Intel's High Performance Computing (HPC) program, where the...

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Face.com logo

It's been rumored for quite some time, and now it's official: Facebook has swooped in and purchased Face.com. The company's facial-recognition technology is already used to offer auto-tag suggestions when users upload photos to Facebook, and now the social network owns every bit of it. In a statement to AllThingsD, Facebook said that "this transaction simply brings a world-class team and a long-time technology vendor in house." It's believed that the move (in addition to its acquisition of Instragram for $1 billion in April) is Facebook's attempt to strengthen its mobile offerings. No official word on how much the company (and its desirable domain) cost Facebook, but "multiple sources" tell TechCrunch that it's about $100 million. The...

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X37-B OTV-2 space plane

The US Air Force’s top-secret, unmanned X37-B space plane successfully touched down at Vanderberg Air Force Base in California on Saturday (video below), ending a 469-day marathon mission. The flight was nearly 200 days longer than originally planned, and more than twice as long as the inaugural mission in 2010, which lasted a mere 224 days.

NASA originally started the X-37B project in 1999, but the jet it envisioned was never built, and control transferred to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in 2004. Since so little is known about the plane, speculation about its design runs the gamut from a simple transport vehicle to possible military applications. Whatever the case, we're just hoping the development of smaller,...

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Security Key (SHUTTERSTOCK)

Given how long 64-bit processors have been on the market, it's a bit surprising to see a vulnerability that takes advantage of AMD's x86-64 instruction set on Intel processors surface this late in the game. The vulnerability was originally thought to be Linux-specific, but was only recently found to be exploitable in Windows, BSD, and potentially OS X.

Originally discovered by CERT, the vulnerability takes advantage of the intricate mechanics of how memory is copied from one security level to another. In a nutshell, when AMD was creating its x86-64 instruction set, it opted to restrict the addressable memory space to 48-bits, leaving bits 48 through 64 unused. In order to prevent hackers from putting malicious data in this out-of-bounds...

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If you haven't seen Prometheus, don't worry, Inventing Interactive's interview with designer Ash Thorp won't spoil very much at all. If you have, you'll be familiar with the movies futuristic computer user interface design that Thorp helped to create. In Inventing Interactive's interview, Thorp discusses his creative technique and the importance of harmonizing design work with the themes of the film. Thorp has worked on a number of other notable projects, like Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and The Tourist, as well a several high-profile video games.

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fax machine

It only takes a matter of days for one's illusions of Japan as a technological utopia to be shattered — probably on their first day at a Japanese company, when they'll have to submit a document to HR using a fax machine. The country's anachronistic reliance on the fax, according to the Washington Post, dates back to the slow adoption of the personal computer due to high broadband costs and difficulties in typing the language.

Many Japanese people eschewed PCs in favor of browsing the web on their phones, which were advanced compared to the rest of the world. While these barriers don't exist today, 59 percent of Japanese households still keep fax machines around, and the Post questions whether the outmoded technology is emblematic of...

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