Monthly Archives: February 2017

Motherboards Racing 200-Series Biostars Get Support from Intel Optane

Biostar has released several new BIOS updates to bring Intel Optane support to its its Racing 200-series motherboards.

Optane is Intel’s marketing name for the 3D XPoint technology it co-developed with Micron tp serve as a middle ground between an SSD and DRAM. By storing your computer’s most frequently used data, an Optane memory stick allows your system to make less trips between the processor and the much slower mechanical spinning-disk hard drive for data access.

Intel’s Optane memory looks like your average M.2 drive and fits into any M.2 slot on Intel 200-series chipset motherboards. The benefit of Optane memory is that it is much faster and more durable than NAND while also being cheaper and denser than DRAM.

During our initial evaluation of Intel’s Optane memory, we explained the benefits of upgrading as such:

Optane Memory can quickly and easily boost performance at a low price point. Intel designed the technology to speed up hard disk drives, but you can use RST to accelerate solid-state drives as well (more on the following page). You can only accelerate one drive at a time, and even though Intel doesn’t officially support it, it can be a secondary drive. This is good news for gamers who already use an SSD for the boot drive and a hard drive for game installations.

Biostar assured us these BIOS updates will make your current system feel a little snappier by reducing boot times and providing faster load times for your favorite games and applications.

Although updating your BIOS is a fairly straight-forward process, the company provided a step-by-step guide to getting the job done:

  1. Download the BIOS file from: http://www.biostar.com.tw/
  2. Copy the BIOS file onto a USB storage device (not NTFS format)
  3. Power on the motherboard and press ‘F12’ during POST (power-on self-test) screen.
  4. After POST screen, a menu for BIOS update will appear.
  5. Select USB device and press ‘Enter’, it will go into the BIOS update screen.
  6. Use the BIOS file listed on the left to update.
  7. Wait for the system to load the BIOS file.
  8. Press ‘Y’ to flash the BIOS and erase DMI data. The system will update the BIOS automatically.
  9. After reboot, the system will run with new BIOS. Turn-off the computer and install Optane Memory on M.2 slot to enjoy the performance upgrade.

Basic Computer Hardware Components

Basic Hardware Components

  Arithmetic/logic unit

Contains the electronic circuitry necessary to perform arithmetic and logical operations on data.

  Communications Devices

Enable a computer to connect to other computers. Devices that enable a computer to connect to other components; includes modems and network interface cards.

  Control Unit

The component in any computing system that works in coordinatin with the central processing unit to instruct, maintain and control the flow of information.

  Central Processing Unit (CPU)

The component in any computing system that represents the circuitry necessary to interpret and execute program instructions, it consists of the Control Unit, arithmetic/logic unit and the controller..  It is the corollary to the brain in organic systems.

  Hardware

Equipment that inputs, processes, outputs, and stores data.  It consists of input devices, a system unit, output devices, storage devices, and communication devices.

  Input Devices

Any computer peripheral used to enter data and/or control signals into a computer system. Some devices, such as modems, are capabile of both input as well as output.

  Examples of Input Devices

Biofeedback Input Devices—special equipment like gloves, body suits, and eyeglasses to translate movements, temperature, or skin-based electrical signals

Digital Camera—record photographs in the form of digital data that can be stored on a computer.

Digitizer—converts points, lines, and curves from a sketch, drawing, or photograph to digital impulses and transmits them to a computer

Electronic Whiteboard—captures anything drawn on special whiteboard

Joystick—uses the movement of a vertical stem to direct the pointer.  These are often used with computer games and have buttons you can press to activate events, depending upon the software.

Graphics Tablet—similar to a digitizer, but it also contains unique characters and commands that can be generated automatically by the person using the tablet

Image Scanner (page scanner)– an input device that can electronically capture an entire page of text or images such as photographs or art work.

Keyboard—most commonly used input device.  You enter data by pressing keys on the keyboard

Light Pen—used by touching it on the display to create or modify graphics

Microphone—used to record sound.

Modem—a device that converts data into a form suitable for both receipt and transmission by wire or radio such that it can be reconstructed at the destination point.

Mouse—a small palm-sized input device that you move across a flat surface to control the movement of the pointer on the screen

Pen Input—used to  (1) input data using hand-written characters and shapes that the computer can recognize (2) as a pointing device like a mouse to select items on the screen, and (3) to gesture (special symbols made with the pen that issue a command)

Optical Recognition Devices—use a light source to read codes, marks, and characters and convert them into digital data that can be processed by a computer

Pointing Stick (trackpoint or isometric pointing device)—a small device shaped like a pencil eraser that moves the insertion point as pressure is applied to the device

Terminals—consist of a keyboard and a screen – commonly used for special purpose input such as POS (Point-of Sale) information entry.

Touchpad (trackpad)—a flat rectangular surface that senses the movement of a finger on its surface to control the movement of the insertion point

Touch Screen—allows you to touch areas of the screen with your fingers to enter data.

Trackball—A pointing device like a mouse only with the ball on the top of the device instead of the bottom

  Laptop or Notebook or Netbook

A portable, integrated device in which the central processing unit (CPU), storage (hard disk and/or memory), input system (keyboard, trackpad, etc.), display and various data input and output channels (USB, Firewire, Ethernet, WiFi, etc.) are combined in a self-contained unit. Laptop or Notebook or Netbook computers are generally smaller than desktop computers, lending to their portability.

  Machine cycle

Machine Cycle or Processor Cycle or Instruction Cycle: the most basic logical mode of operation in a central processing unit (CPU). It consists of four steps that are “executed” continuously at a very high rate of speed: fetch, decode, execute and store. Only one execution cycle per machine cycle may be performed.

  Memory

Integrated circuits that temporarily store program instructions and data that can be retrieved.  Basic unit of memory is a byte.

  RAM (Random Access Memory) – a volatile form of memory, RAM generally functions as a computers “desktop” – the space in which data that is actively under review and/or manipulation can be processed.  As a result and as a general rule, the more RAM with which a computer is fitted, the more and faster data can be viewed and manipulated.  RAM needs to be cyclically “refreshed” from an outside power source in order to maintain the information contained therein.  When external power is removed, the data contents held in RAM disappears.  For this reason, RAM is sometimes referred to as short term memory.

  ROM (Read Only Memory) – a non-volatile form of memory, ROM stores data that does not commonly change, like startup instructions and data used when a computer if first turned on.

  CMOS –used to store information about the computer system, such as the amount of memory, the type of keyboard and monitors, and the type and capacity of disk drives.

  Output Devices

Devices that convert the results of processed data into a form that can be used and understood by the user.  A computer display is an example of an output device, as is a printer.  Whereas a computer display uses a screen to present visual information in virtual form, a printer produces hardcopy – a tangible form of the data or information. Audio speakers are another form of output device, converting electronic programming into human-audible sound.  Some devices are capable of being output as well as input devices.

  Examples of Output Devices

Computer display or monitor

Plotter- Designed for line drawing; often used for computer-aided design; some units can handle large paper sizes

Modem—a device that converts data into a form suitable for both receipt and transmission by wire or radio such that it can be reconstructed at the destination point.

Multifunction Devices—Combines printer, fax, scanner, and copier

Printers

Projectors

  Palmtop, PDA or PIM

Commonly the smallest of computing platforms, these are highly portable computing devices used primarily to organize task, contact, communications and other personally oriented information and data. These systems often have many of the same resources as a Laptop or Netbook computer: a CPU, storage, input system, display and one or more data input/output (I/O) channels. These devices can be purpose-built, or can have other primary functions, with smartphones being a good example of such a multifunction device.

  Peripheral Devices

A general term for any device connected to the system unit .

  Storage Devices

Store instructions and data when they are not being used by the system unit.

  Examples of Storage Devices

CD-ROM (compact disk read-only) — a smaller optical disk that can store about 450 times the data on a floppy

Data Cartridges—removable hard disk drives that provide both the storage capacity and fast access

Floppy disk/drive—a flexible platter coated with material that allows data to be recorded magnetically on the surface of the platters.

Hard Disk—one or more rigid platters coated with material that allows data to be recorded magnetically on the surface of the platters.

Smart Cards—size of credit card and contain a thin microprocessor capable of storing data. They are used as attendance tracking cards, identification cards, telephone cards, etc

Tape Cartidges—containing a long ribbon of plastic, one side of which is coated with a material that can be magnetized to record the binary codes that represent data.

  System Unit

Box-like case that contains the electronic circuits that cause the processing of data to occur. Part of the computer system where the computing is done.  This is where the computer programs are executed and the data is manipulated.  It consists of the Central Processing Unit (CPU), memory (Random Access Memory-RAM), and other electronics.

Best Tips for Maintaining Your Windows PC

When working (or playing) on your computer, you probably don’t think much about how you are going to clean up your files, backup your data, keep your system virus free, etc. However, these are tasks that need attention.

We’ve published useful article about different aspects of maintaining your computer. Below is a list our most useful articles about maintaining your computer, operating system, software, and data.

Organize and Manage Your Data

Before considering how you will regularly backup your data, it’s a good idea to organize your files and folders first so they are easier to backup. The following articles show you ways to organize your files, removing duplicate and old files, and securely delete files no longer needed.

Clean Up and Optimize Your System

Once you have organized your files and folders, it’s time to perform some basic cleanup tasks to optimize your system. The articles below discuss using CCleaner to cleanup temp files, cookies, and internet history, manage startup programs, and even how to whitelist important cookies. We also show you how to schedule disk cleanup and disk defragmentation in Windows, use Check Disk, clean up old downloads automatically, and the best tips for speeding up your PC. These tips could help improve the performance of your PC, as well.

Disinfect Your System

Before backing up your data (discussed later in this article), you should make sure your files are virus-free. We’ve covered various ways of disinfecting your PC, such as tools to clean your infected PC, how to scan files for viruses before using downloading and using them, and a simple trick to defeat fake anti-virus malware.

Analyze and Reduce Your Disk Usage

If, in the process of organizing your many files, you’ve discovered that you’re running low on disk space, there are easy ways to determine what is taking up the most space on your hard drive. The following articles show you 10 free tools for analyzing your hard drive space in Windows and some simple tips on reducing disk usage in Windows.

Tweak Windows to Improve Performance

Another way to improve your PC’s performance is to tweak Windows. The following articles show you how to disable startup programs and built-in Windows features you don’t use and make system restore use less hard drive space. We also list the 20 best registry hacks to improve Windows and even how to delete user accounts in Windows 7 so your system isn’t cluttered with user accounts you don’t use.

Keep Windows and Software Up-to-Date

Part of computer maintenance includes keeping Windows and your software programs up-to-date. The following articles show you how to force Windows to find update for more than just itself, such as for Microsoft Office and an easy method of checking for updates to your software programs. We also explain when you need to update your drivers and how to do so safely.

Back Up Your Data, Software Keys, and Drivers

Now that you’ve organized your files and folders and cleaned up, optimized your system, you need to consider your backup plan. Normally, when we think of backups, we think of backing up our data files. However, to make it easier to set up your system again, should the need arise, you should backup your software keys and drivers. This makes the process of re-installing software in a fresh install of Windows quicker and easier. The articles below show you how to recover keys for Windows and software programs and how to backup and restore hardware drivers. We also have collected the best articles we have published about backing up and syncing your data into one article.

Besides maintaining your Windows system and your data, we recommend cleaning the inside of your computer on a regular basis to prevent overheating and dust build up.

New 3D chip combines computing and data storage

As embedded intelligence is finding its way into ever more areas of our lives, fields ranging from autonomous driving to personalized medicine are generating huge amounts of data. But just as the flood of data is reaching massive proportions, the ability of computer chips to process it into useful information is stalling.

Now, researchers at Stanford University and MIT have built a new chip to overcome this hurdle. The results are published today in the journal Nature, by lead author Max Shulaker, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT. Shulaker began the work as a PhD student alongside H.-S. Philip Wong and his advisor Subhasish Mitra, professors of electrical engineering and computer science at Stanford. The team also included professors Roger Howe and Krishna Saraswat, also from Stanford.

Computers today comprise different chips cobbled together. There is a chip for computing and a separate chip for data storage, and the connections between the two are limited. As applications analyze increasingly massive volumes of data, the limited rate at which data can be moved between different chips is creating a critical communication “bottleneck.” And with limited real estate on the chip, there is not enough room to place them side-by-side, even as they have been miniaturized (a phenomenon known as Moore’s Law).

To make matters worse, the underlying devices, transistors made from silicon, are no longer improving at the historic rate that they have for decades.

The new prototype chip is a radical change from today’s chips. It uses multiple nanotechnologies, together with a new computer architecture, to reverse both of these trends.

Instead of relying on silicon-based devices, the chip uses carbon nanotubes, which are sheets of 2-D graphene formed into nanocylinders, and resistive random-access memory (RRAM) cells, a type of nonvolatile memory that operates by changing the resistance of a solid dielectric material. The researchers integrated over 1 million RRAM cells and 2 million carbon nanotube field-effect transistors, making the most complex nanoelectronic system ever made with emerging nanotechnologies.

The RRAM and carbon nanotubes are built vertically over one another, making a new, dense 3-D computer architecture with interleaving layers of logic and memory. By inserting ultradense wires between these layers, this 3-D architecture promises to address the communication bottleneck.

However, such an architecture is not possible with existing silicon-based technology, according to the paper’s lead author, Max Shulaker, who is a core member of MIT’s Microsystems Technology Laboratories. “Circuits today are 2-D, since building conventional silicon transistors involves extremely high temperatures of over 1,000 degrees Celsius,” says Shulaker. “If you then build a second layer of silicon circuits on top, that high temperature will damage the bottom layer of circuits.”

The key in this work is that carbon nanotube circuits and RRAM memory can be fabricated at much lower temperatures, below 200 C. “This means they can be built up in layers without harming the circuits beneath,” Shulaker says.

This provides several simultaneous benefits for future computing systems. “The devices are better: Logic made from carbon nanotubes can be an order of magnitude more energy-efficient compared to today’s logic made from silicon, and similarly, RRAM can be denser, faster, and more energy-efficient compared to DRAM,” Wong says, referring to a conventional memory known as dynamic random-access memory.

“In addition to improved devices, 3-D integration can address another key consideration in systems: the interconnects within and between chips,” Saraswat adds.

“The new 3-D computer architecture provides dense and fine-grained integration of computating and data storage, drastically overcoming the bottleneck from moving data between chips,” Mitra says. “As a result, the chip is able to store massive amounts of data and perform on-chip processing to transform a data deluge into useful information.”

To demonstrate the potential of the technology, the researchers took advantage of the ability of carbon nanotubes to also act as sensors. On the top layer of the chip they placed over 1 million carbon nanotube-based sensors, which they used to detect and classify ambient gases.

Due to the layering of sensing, data storage, and computing, the chip was able to measure each of the sensors in parallel, and then write directly into its memory, generating huge bandwidth, Shulaker says.

Three-dimensional integration is the most promising approach to continue the technology scaling path set forth by Moore’s laws, allowing an increasing number of devices to be integrated per unit volume, according to Jan Rabaey, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California at Berkeley, who was not involved in the research.

“It leads to a fundamentally different perspective on computing architectures, enabling an intimate interweaving of memory and logic,” Rabaey says. “These structures may be particularly suited for alternative learning-based computational paradigms such as brain-inspired systems and deep neural nets, and the approach presented by the authors is definitely a great first step in that direction.”

“One big advantage of our demonstration is that it is compatible with today’s silicon infrastructure, both in terms of fabrication and design,” says Howe.

“The fact that this strategy is both CMOS [complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor] compatible and viable for a variety of applications suggests that it is a significant step in the continued advancement of Moore’s Law,” says Ken Hansen, president and CEO of the Semiconductor Research Corporation, which supported the research. “To sustain the promise of Moore’s Law economics, innovative heterogeneous approaches are required as dimensional scaling is no longer sufficient. This pioneering work embodies that philosophy.”

The team is working to improve the underlying nanotechnologies, while exploring the new 3-D computer architecture. For Shulaker, the next step is working with Massachusetts-based semiconductor company Analog Devices to develop new versions of the system that take advantage of its ability to carry out sensing and data processing on the same chip.

So, for example, the devices could be used to detect signs of disease by sensing particular compounds in a patient’s breath, says Shulaker.

“The technology could not only improve traditional computing, but it also opens up a whole new range of applications that we can target,” he says. “My students are now investigating how we can produce chips that do more than just computing.”

“This demonstration of the 3-D integration of sensors, memory, and logic is an exceptionally innovative development that leverages current CMOS technology with the new capabilities of carbon nanotube field–effect transistors,” says Sam Fuller, CTO emeritus of Analog Devices, who was not involved in the research. “This has the potential to be the platform for many revolutionary applications in the future.”

This work was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the National Science Foundation, Semiconductor Research Corporation, STARnet SONIC, and member companies of the Stanford SystemX Alliance.