Saturday, July 24, 2004

"The all-new iMac"

Apple has no iMac to sell at the moment, but you can give Apple your email address and they'll email you as soon as more information is available on the new iMac G5.

This iMac email notification page is linked from their main iMac page. I guess it's better to link to this than to the Apple Store, which only has this to say:
Apple has stopped taking orders for the current iMac as we begin the transition from the current iMac line to an all-new iMac line which will be announced and available in September. We had planned to have our next generation iMac ready by the time the inventory of current iMacs runs out, but our planning was obviously less than perfect. We apologize for any inconvenience to our customers.
It's likely we'll hear more about the iMac G5 on August 31.

1500 lineup for iPod mini in Tokyo

The introduction of the iPod mini worldwide was today, and 1500 of those crazy Japanese lined up in front of the Ginza Apple Store to get theirs. One man even braved the streets from 8:30 the night before, a wait of more than 12 hours. When the store finally opened the lineup was several hundred metres long.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Antares PowerPC G5 970MP dual-core?

Think Secret has posted an article outlining a rumoured IBM "Antares" processor. It is reported to be a dual-core version of the 970FX, with 1 MB L2 cache per core (versus 512 KB on the 970FX), as well as Altivec. The rumoured time frame for its rollout is sometime in 2005, with a clock speed of 3 GHz.

The original discussion is here, and the description of the rumoured chip is as follows:
The IBM PowerPC 970MP RISC Microprocessor is a dual-core, 64-bit implementation of the IBM PowerPC ® family of reduced instruction set computer (RISC) microprocessors that are based on the PowerPC
Architecture. This dual microprocessor, also called the PowerPC 970MP, includes a Vector/SIMD facility which supports high-bandwidth data processing and compute-intensive operations. The 970MP is also designed to support multiple system organizations, including desktop and low-end server applications, up through 4-way SMP configurations.
Note: The IBM PowerPC 970MP incorporates two complete microprocessors on a single chip, along with some common logic to connect these microprocessors to a system.
No mention is made of an integrated memory controller. An integrated memory controller is something many have been predicting for the next generation G5, but for a desktop it may not really be necessary. It may be more desirable for laptops however, to reduce overall power consumption.

And so it begins again for Virginia Tech

Benchmarking has begun on the new and improved 2200 CPU G5 Xserve based System X supercomputer at the Terascale Computing Facility at Virginia Tech. From their webpage:
System X Upgrade In Progress:

* Assembly - Completed!
* System Stablization - In Process
* Benchmarking - In Process
We can follow the progress of the benchmarking in this PDF (Table 3: Highly Parallel Computing), which is frequently updated by Dr. Jack Dongarra, one of the authors of the Top 500 Supercomputer Sites list. Public tours of the Terascale Computing Facility also begin today.

For those of you interested in the history of System X, there is a good article about it by Virginia Tech here (in which ironically they credit Dell for planting the idea in their heads), and a video by Apple here.

Virtual PC 7 details?

Scott asks, "Any news to what VP7 might include besides G5 support?"

Microsoft has not released full details about the upcoming 7th version of Virtual PC. However, besides the G5 compatibility, it reportedly will also feature increase overall speed compared to Virtual PC 6, as well as improved usability.

One rumour site claims that VPC7 will also include full native 3D graphic card support, but I will be very surprised if this turns out to be true. We'll see in a few months, but I definitely wouldn't count on it.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

IBM measures power use of the Power Mac G5

IBM does provide some new G5 power data in a recent research article, titled Power Measurement on the Apple Power Mac G5.

Using a series of different benchmarks with a dual G5 970 2.0 Power Mac, the article provides various power usage ratings at different levels of CPU utilization. We see a maximum power dissipation of 79 Watts, with the MS_hot benchmark, which "executes exclusively out of the L1 cache, performing a tight loop of square root instructions".

As I mentioned in a previous article, the published typical power utilization of the G5 970 1.8 GHz (130 nm) is 51 Watts, and the maximum power has been estimated by some at 90+ Watts. (IBM doesn't usually publish maximum power ratings for the G5 for public consumption.) Given that the G5 970 2.0 GHz has a maximum power of 66 Watts, one might estimate the maximum power at well over 100 Watts. However, this IBM research article disputes those estimates, and measures the maximum power dissipation of the G5 970 2.0 at 79 Watts.

The truth may lie somewhere in between. The benchmark likely does not maximize power utilization completely, but it is possible the estimates of 100+ Watts for the G5 970 2.0 and 90+ Watts for the G5 970 1.8 may be too high. However, even if we were to assume the effective maximum power of the G5 970 1.8 is say 85 Watts (which is higher than the measured 79 Watts for the faster 2.0 GHz CPU), then we might guess that the effective maximum power of the G5 970FX 2.5 is also close to 85 Watts (since the typical power of the 970FX 2.5 is almost identical to the 970 1.8).

Extrapolating, one might guess that the G5 970FX 3.0 at the same voltage (as the 970FX 2.5) might come in at just over 100 Watts. And even if the voltage for the 3.0 needed to be boosted, it still could come in at the 110 Watt range, which although hot, is still quite acceptable for a desktop CPU.

Virtual PC 7 available in October

As previously mentioned, Windows XP Service Pack 2 has been delayed until at least August. Today, Microsoft confirmed the consequent delay of Virtual PC 7. The Microsoft Macintosh Business Unit states that if SP2 does ship in August, Virtual PC 7 with Windows XP SP2 will be available in October. However, other versions of Virtual PC 7 (with Windows 2000, or without Windows) will not be available until several months later.

Virtual PC 7 is necessary for those running G5 machines. Virtual PC 6 is incompatible with the Power Mac G5, and will also be incompatible with the upcoming iMac G5.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Virginia Tech calls original Power Mac Supercomputer Proof of Concept

In an earlier article about G5 supercomputers, I mentioned that the original Virginia Tech supercomputer, System X, had to be removed from the Top 500 list because it had been dismantled, to make way for a G5 Xserve based system.

It turns out that in addition to the issues of power consumption and hardware monitoring, the main issue was indeed the lack of ECC memory. Virginia Tech itself states:
On September 23, 2003 we turned it all on and began the arduous process of stabilizing and benchmarking this machine. After many more sleepless nights and countless grams of caffeine we finally reached our 10 teraflop goal.

Well with the concept proven we now had to make sure we had a system capable of conducting scientific computation. We needed to upgrade the system to something with error correcting code (ECC) RAM. The Power Macs did not support it and the XServes were coming. So in January we tore the system down and started prepping for the XServes. And now they're here and we have our final system. The best is yet to come.
It seems rather odd that VT would build a 2200 CPU cluster merely as proof of concept and to hit 10 Tflops/s (and make the top ten list). One may wonder if they built it thinking it may have been suitable for certain short-term usage even without ECC, but then later realized the lack of ECC memory was more problematic than they predicted.

My guess however is that Apple had told them that the G5 Xserves were coming, and Virginia Tech indeed built the first System X mainly for benchmarking, expecting the G5 Xserves to appear just a few months later. Furthermore, the project's leader, Dr. Srinidhi Varadarajan, had stated early on that they would be moving to an ECC-capable system later. We just didn't realize how soon that would be. Unfortunately for Virginia Tech (and Apple), the new machines were delayed 6 months because of IBM's problems with their 90 nm process shrink.

However, it's all history now, since the new System X is finally up and running.

The Birth of the iPod Revealed

Wired News has published an article about the development of the original iPod.

It quotes Ben Knauss, a former senior manager at PortalPlayer Inc., the company which developed the first iPod prototypes. According to Knauss, once Apple bought into PortalPlayer's idea, Steve Jobs was intimately involved every step of the way, and largely shaped the look-and-feel of the unit.

Interestingly, the original iPods were built specifically with no digital rights management in mind, because they thought it would hurt sales from the iTunes Music Store.

Ironically, Knauss quit PortalPlayer before the iPod was released, because he thought it wouldn't fly, and now works on contract with Microsoft.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Details about the Duke University iPod deal

Details have emerged about Duke University's pilot project to distribute iPods to its students.

1650 first-year students will receive a 20 GB 4G iPod. Each iPod will be preloaded with school materials, and there will be downloads available on an ongoing basis of lectures, music, and audio books, among other things.

The cost to the university is $500000, but that includes not just the iPods, but also support costs, faculty grants, and analysis of the project. It is unclear as to how much of that $500000 represents hardware costs. (The usual educational price for the 20 GB iPod is $269, and thus the full non-discounted price for 1650 of them would be $443850. However, we can be sure that Duke didn't pay this price.)

Monday, July 19, 2004

Freescale to introduce dual-core PowerPC in October

Freescale Semiconductor (formerly Motorola Semiconductor) will be introducing a dual-core PowerPC chip in October, at the In-Stat/MDR Fall Processor Forum in October. Freescale's First Dual-Core PowerPC Processor will be presented by Toby Foster, System Architect at Freescale.

No specifics are given, but such a chip might be the e600, a next generation 2+ GHz chip based off the G4 core. This chip is known to have a multicore option.

It's unlikely that such a dual-core chip would be used in Macs however. The iMac and eventually the PowerBook will be going with the G5 970FX, the former in a couple of months, and the latter in 2005. There's also the iBook and eMac, but if they don't go G5 and end up using the e600, it would likely be a single-core version.

New iPods released today

Apple officially announced the new 4th generation iPods today.

Key points include the adoption of the iPod mini's interface, increased battery life, changes in the menu, and lower pricing. Pricing is now US$299 for the 20 GB iPod, and $399 for the 40 GB, down $100 each (although the dock is no longer included with the 20 GB model, and neither includes a carrying case now). It's also very slightly thinner, at 0.69" (vs. 0.73") and 0.57" (vs. 0.62") for the 40 GB and 20 GB models respectively. The iPod mini remains unchanged, but will be available worldwide this week.

What we didn't get was the 60 GB model iPod, despite Toshiba's statement last month that Apple has signed on as a customer for their 60 GB 1.8" drives. Some might guess that the rumoured brouhaha over Toshiba's premature announcement might have something to do with the missing 60 GB model, but it's more likely that Toshiba simply has not yet supplied Apple with sufficient numbers of 60 GB drives. Expect to see the 60 GB iPod in the next few months, probably filling that $499 price slot that used to be filled by the previous generation 40 GB iPod.

In addition, HP announced today that it will begin selling the HP-branded iPod in September, and it will use the updated 4G iPod design.

[Update 3:44 pm]

Apple VP Greg Joswiak states in this Reuters article:
"We have no plans in regard to announcing 60-gigabyte models... We are trying to create a much more compelling lineup with two models for 20 and 40 gigabytes at extremely compelling prices."
The wording is interesting. He doesn't come right out and say that there won't be a 60 GB iPod, which suggests the claims by Toshiba that Apple will be using their 60 GB drives are accurate.

Also announced was that Duke University plans to give an iPod to each of its 1800 incoming first-year students. The iPods will be preloaded with various school related material.

One wonders how much the Duke iPod program is going to cost the university. Undoubtedly most of the students will be happy with their new toys, but I'm sure that some of the departments who didn't get as much funding as they might have liked and some of those paying the students' tuitions might not be as impressed.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

iPod, Therefore i Am

The new iPod & Steve Jobs on the cover of Newsweek.