IBM’s “Watson” computer wiped out the human competition in the first match of Jeopardy (aired on Tuesday, Feb. 14th). Watson scored $35,734 compared to Ken Jennings at $4,800 and Brad Rutter at $10,400. Keep in mind that Jennings won the most consecutive games, staying in for 74 matches, and Rutter is the all-time money winner at more than $3 million. Long the stuff of science fiction, Watson is a significant step on the road to computers that can respond to natural speech.
Archive for the 'Other Hardware' Category
If you’ve recently purchased a computer or motherboard that uses an Intel Sandy Bridge processor, your system may have been recalled. The problem is not with the CPU; rather, it’s with the motherboard chipset that provides connectivity to the CPU. The chipset in question is the 6 Series, also known as Cougar Point. The recalled chipset will cause SATA performance to degrade over time.
Back in November, Microsoft filed a patent for touch screen technology that creates texture. From the linked article: “a display that uses technical tricks to convince users they are actually touching the ridges, bumps and textures of a displayed image.” Other companies are trying to do something similar, but the difference with Microsoft’s system is that the bumps are real, whereas their competitors only create an illusion of texture. This could be big, really big, if they manage to make it cost-effective.
Lenovo has released a new Thinkpad, the W701ds, which has a retractable, 10.6″ display augmenting the main 17″ screen. It’s good to see that the Thinkpad line is still a source of innovation after the move from IBM to Lenovo, and I can envision this feature becoming popular.
Thanks to Josh for this topic.
Modern-day BIOS, the computer code allowing low-level access to your PC’s hardware, is architecturally quite similar to the original BIOS created 25 years ago for the first IBM Personal Computer. But 25 years is a long time in the technology world, and the inadequacies of BIOS are becoming significant enough that it’s time for a replacement. The heir apparent is Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI). With the exception of a faster boot time, most of the benefits are technical in nature and should be invisible to the standard user. In fact, you may already have a UEFI system and not know it. Another advantage is that system administrators will find it easier to remotely manage large computer networks. I think the real benefit, however, will come in the future when new interfaces (think USB) or hardware types become available and PC designers won’t have to jump through hoops to get them to work.
Given the massive parallel processing power available in today’s video cards, a 7-character password is “hopelessly inadequate,” and even an 8-character password can be cracked in a couple hours. This is regardless of the the mix of letters, numbers, symbols, upper/lower case, etc. So the recommended minimum length for passwords is now 12 characters. But don’t think you’re completely safe with a longer password—you also need to make sure it’s not susceptible to a dictionary attack.
Back in 1962, researchers at Corning developed a very strong glass that’s hard to break, scratch, or dent. The product didn’t gain acceptance, and Corning gave up trying to sell it—until recently, that is. “Gorilla Glass” is now being used for consumer electronics such as smartphones and netbooks, and is poised to enter the television market. Corning is making some serious money from this invention that couldn’t find a buyer 50 years ago.
Apparently, vibrations can have a significant effect on hard drive performance, even if you just shout at the drive. In one study, the researcher found that “Performance improvements for random reads ranged from 56% to 246% while improvements for random writes ranged from 34% to 88% for a defined set of industry benchmarks.”
Sony has announced its intentions to stop producing 3½” floppy disks, effectively putting an end to the medium. I remember how large the 1.44MB capacity was, when they first came out, and how much more rugged they were than the 5¼” disks (that were actually “floppy” disks).
Seagate is coming out with a 3TB hard drive later this year, but don’t rush out to buy one, because it won’t work on your existing computer. The current hard drive addressing standard was developed back in 1980 and only allows for a maximum of 2.1TB. Back then, that was considered to be an absurdly high number that would never be reached.
Despite my college classes in electrical engineering, I’d never heard of memristance. First theorized in 1971 and only recently actualized, a memristor essentially has a variable resistance dependent upon the amount of charge that has passed through it.
At this point you may be asking, “And how does this relate to me?” Scientists at Hewlett-Packard have created memristors that act as persistent memory, much like the flash memory used in USB drives, iPods, smart phones, etc., but with improvements. The memristors created by HP match the speed of flash but can pack more memory into the same space. So depending on how this technology is marketed and licensed, we may actually see a successor to flash.
Another feature of HP’s memristors is that it’s possible to juxtapose the CPU and memory, where they use the same memristors for both functions. In addition, memristor-based logic circuits are capable of reprogramming themselves in a way that’s reminiscent of the human brain. These abilities don’t have an immediate market but are full of potential. And we all know that real programmers write self-modifying code.