Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tin foil hats and what they say about us.

The modern tin foil hat is on Kickstarter because: of course it is:

Contrary to their marketing I suspect this hat sends stronger, and more harmful, signals then those which it blocks.  

According to the video you should wear it on a first date.  It's kind of a messed up metaphor for our times:  Be open and honest about your inner crazy; while pampering and protecting it.

That was sarcasm by the way.  Please be uncomfortable with your inner crazy.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Intel you've failed us.

As a computer enthusiast I've got a rockin' desktop, and to keep it " rockin' " I have to upgrade it about every three to five years, depending on how much disposable income I've got at the time.  Well my current desktop is from late 2011 and I'm itching for an upgrade.

Intel makes the best desktop CPU's because they have the best/smallest process technology.  However market forces dictate that they cater to the very low power segments of the CPU markets.  With the Desktop and Laptop markets being eclipsed by cellphone's and tablets Intel has to dramatically shift focus from making the fastest chips, to making the best low power chips.  So Intel is throwing all it's giant manufacturing muscle and CPU know-how into making tiny low power CPU's.  A difficult transition to be sure.

This is great news!  I would love to replace my power hungry server CPU with something very low power so I can leave it running without having a huge electric bill!  Also I'd love for my massive water cooled desktop to be even more overclock-able, and to be able to cram more cores into the same thermal load!!

Intel's newest CPU architecture is called Skylake.  The following Wikipedia article lays out all the different code names in case you are curious.  (My current chip is a middle of the road Sandy Bridge):

I realize that the enthusiast CPU market is a much smaller part of the computing landscape today; I know that all their efforts are going towards finding that special sauce for a low power blockbuster chip.  Surely though with Intel making SEVENTY, yes -7-, -0-, seventy different Skylake CPU's there should be a few to choose from for desktop lovers like myself.


Wait what?


What do you mean...  nope?

You get nothing!


Look at that Wikipedia article up there, the column titled "enthusiast".

INTELLLL!!!!! No enthusiast class chips in (core) generations 5 or 6.  The 4th generation enthusiast chips, Haswell-E were only like 10% better than the 3rd generation chips. No one is going to spend ~$2,000 to upgrade from a three year old enthusiast chip to a two year old enthusiast chip for only a 10% improvement.

Nothing in that list of seventy Skylake chips has a core count above 4.  Some of them are quite fast, the i7-6700K is actually a sweet little chip.   The integrated graphics are annoyingly eating up a large chunk of die space.  Sure it has a mere 20 PCI-e lanes; at least they are flexible.  While the high base clock, and high IPC, mean that this CPU is quite a mover.  If you can find one....  Right now, if you can find one, your going to pay 150%  list for it; there aren't enough to go around.

Alright, so no enthusiast chips worth paying for, and one upgrade candidate with the same 4 cores and limited PCI-E that I already have.  YAWN! [ Seriously!!!  My cell phone has 8 cores!!! - Hello!] 

Alright forget the desktop.  Surely there is something for my server in that list.  Hmm, again, nothing with a core count above 4...  doesn't look good.  Hey the m7-6Y75 only uses 4.5 watts!  Amazing! Can I buy one, nope.  It's a FCBGA1515 chip.  Only way to get one is to become an amazing electrical engineer, design and fabricate your own motherboard, buy an expensive ultra book (or someday a compute stick??), and transplant the CPU. - Not going to happen.. Yet.   :-{ 

Ok how about the E3-1280 V5 - Really excellent chip!  I'd love to have one, in a workstation....   Not a server.  Server CPU's usually aren't doing much. I don't need a barn burner with only 4 cores.  Doesn't matter though, can't get that chip yet, not available.  I could get it's slightly slower cousin the E3-1275 V5, at a premium.  But I want something really low wattage for energy savings; and/or something with lots of cores for virtulization - which also gets me energy savings, and is fun!  -  In the previous generation of Intel chips called Broadwell: Intel make a 8 core hyper-threading monster called the Xeon D-1540.  I'm willing to buy previous generation tech: I could get one of those.  Just one problem.  It's a soldered on chip ( FCBGA 1667 ), and there is only one motherboard you can buy it on, the Mini-ITX X10SDV-TLN4F from Supermicro.  It only has one PCI-e express slot; and I have two hardware RAID cards that I need in my server. So as much as I want one: it doesn't work for me.  

Ok, keep looking, how about the 'L'  suffix chips like the Xeon E3-1260L V5 or the even lower power 1240L => Not available (Yet...  Soon?  [...please?...]).

What about the 'M' series those look...  strange.  I think they are purpose built for semi-powerful gaming laptops.  The integrated graphics on those things are fairly intense; and completely unnecessary for a mostly headless server. Also another unique soldered socket ( FCBGA 1440 ).  

Why does one generation of chips need so many soldered sockets!  Can't I get anything for my server or my desktop!!!

[Several Deep Breaths Later...]

Pentium 4405U - FCBGA 1515 - Not available on desktop boards.
Pentium 4405Y - Same as above but completely unavailable so far.
Pentium G4400T - Amazing all-in-one chip with very low TDP.  35W!  2 cores at 2.9Ghz with fairly powerful HD510 graphics.  Wonderful for an affordable SFF desktop, not great for a server; but OK; but not available and it has another(!!!) socket type: FCLGA1151 - So finding a good motherboard for it even when it becomes available will probably be impossible.
Core i3-6167U - FCBGA1356 (How many more socket types are there! - I imagine motherboard company engineers toiling away 60+ hours a week, in incredible pain from carpel tunnel, desperately trying to make motherboards for all these different sockets..)

There are a ton of processors in the i3-6000 series.  I believe these are all for mainstream laptops, so far I haven't seen anything remotely close to something I could re-build my server around.

Failure.  Complete and utter failure.  I guess I'm going to have to wait until ARM chips become good enough to rival Intel's desktop chips.  It seems like AMD's abandonment of the desktop market (honestly a good idea on their part) has made Intel loose all interest.  I wonder if I could pick up a cheap 16 core Abu Dhabi.  Not sure I could stand to have a 32nm chip though; not when the current state of the art is down to 14nm.  

Intel just refuses to make any decent chips for people looking to upgrade.
What choice do I have?
I guess I'll just save my money, and hope that "Kaby Lake" includes some love for users like me.

PS: My I do tend to rant a lot on this blog, my apologies...  All is well :-)