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Ars Staff

This week at Ars Technica we saw the rise of Bitcoin in the popular consciousness and the unraveling of Prenda Law, the infamous porn-trolling firm that is battling possible sanctions against its lawyers. We looked at modeling tectonic plates in sugar water and we reviewed the HTC First—the phone that will carry Facebook's latest foray into the mobile world. Think you missed something important? Take a look at the list below and see if you need to catch up on anything before the next week.

Plant Technica bonus round: How to create near-infinite clones of your favorite tomato (or any) plant

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Original author: 
Sean Gallagher


The ArxCis-NV DIMM combines DDR3 dynamic memory with a flash memory backup.

Viking Technology

The server world still waits for DDR4, the next generation of dynamic memory, to be ready for prime time. In the meantime, a new set of memory boards from Viking is looking to squeeze more performance out of servers not by providing faster memory, but by making it safer to keep more in memory and less on disk or SSD. Viking Technology has begun supplying dual in-line memory modules that combine DDR3 dynamic memory with NAND flash memory to create non-volatile RAM for servers and storage arrays—modules that don't lose their memory when the systems they're in lose power or shut down.

The ArxCis-NV DIMM, which Viking demonstrated at the Storage Networking Industry Association's SNW Spring conference in Orlando this week, plugs into standard DIMM memory slots in servers and RAID controller cards.  Viking isn't the only player in the non-volatile DIMM game—Micron Technology and AgigA Tech announced their own NVDIMM effort in November—but they're first to market. The modules shipping now to a select group of server manufacturers have 4GB of dynamic RAM and 8GB of NAND memory. Modules with double those figures are planned for later in the year, and modules with 16GB of DRAM and 32GB of NAND are in the works for next year.

The ArxCis can be plugged into existing servers and RAID controllers today as a substitute for battery backed-up (BBU) memory modules. They are even equipped with batteries to power a last-gasp write to NAND memory in the event of a power outage. But the ArxCis is more than a better backup in the event of system failure. Viking's non-volatile DIMMs are primarily aimed at big in-memory computing tasks, such as high-speed in-memory transactional database systems and indices such as those used in search engines and other "hyper-scale" computing applications.  Facebook's "Unicorn" search engine system, for example, keeps massive indices in memory to allow for real-time response to user queries, as does the "type-ahead" feature in Google's search.

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waderoush writes "The venture backers behind Lytro, the Silicon Valley startup that just released its new light field camera, say the device will upend consumer photography the way the iPhone upended the mobile business. This review takes that assertion at face value, enumerating the features that made the iPhone an overnight success and asking whether the Lytro camera and its refocusable 'living pictures' offer consumers an equivalent set of advantages. The verdict: not yet. But while the first Lytro model may not an overnight success, light field cameras and refocusable images are just the first taste of a revolution in computational photography that's going to change the way consumers think about pictures."


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Lucas123 writes "New research shows that far more than wireless network or CPUs, the NAND flash memory in cell phones, and in particular smartphones, affects the device's performance when it comes to loading apps, surfing the web and loading and reading documents. In tests with top-selling 16GB smartphones, NAND flash memory slowed mobile app performance from two to three times with one exception, Kingston's embedded memory card; that card slowed app performance 20X. At the bottom of the bottleneck is the fact that while network and CPUs speeds have kept pace with mobile app development, flash throughput hasn't. The researchers from Georgia Tech and NEC Corp. are working on methods to improve flash performance (PDF), including using a PRAM buffer to stage writes or be used as the final location for the SQLite databases."


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About a year ago I created the DKART system, a universal criteria for describing the various types of skills that are stressed from any activity. But perhaps the most mysterious and most glossed over term is "channels."

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Now that the final space shuttle has landed, many thousands involved with it have lost their jobs, and budget cuts loom, I thought it would be interesting to have a look at the other projects NASA has been working on recently, and what will be keeping the agency busy in the coming years. There has been a flurry of discoveries and firsts just this year alone, as scientists have discovered a fourth moon around Pluto, and a spacecraft has entered orbit around the asteroid Vesta for the first time. Earlier this month the spacecraft Juno launched toward Jupiter, while workers prepared the next Mars rover, Curiosity, for launch by the end of this year. All of this on top of supporting existing missions to the sun, Mercury, Earth, Mars, Saturn and more. Collected here is just a small recent sampling of NASA's far-reaching projects and missions. [33 photos]

Rising from fire and smoke, NASA's Juno planetary probe, enclosed in its payload fairing, launches atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Leaving from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, on August 5, 2011, the spacecraft will embark on a five-year journey to Jupiter. The solar-powered spacecraft will orbit Jupiter's poles 33 times to find out more about the gas giant's origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere and investigate the existence of a solid planetary core. (NASA/Scott Andrews)

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