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Extremely Durable Computer Chips Bring Cybersecurity to Harsh …

Tough to Crack

As technology advances, so does cybercrime. In 2017 alone, a number of cybersecurity breaches have caused problems for individual companies and even whole industries, but when militaries are hacked, the leaking of information could be a matter of life and death.

A team of Korean researchers, led by Yang-Kyu Choi from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) School of Electrical Engineering, came up with a potential solution that could work extremely well in the harshest of environments, such as those where the armed services operate.

In a study published in the journal ACS Nano, the researchers detail a new kind of physical unclonable function (PUF) device that’s potentially unhackable and extremely durable.

PUFs have become a popular hardware solution to security hacks, especially since software checks are often not enough to prevent breaches. Each PUF is fabricated with random physical variations that function like fingerprints — no two PUFs are identical.

 Extremely Durable Computer Chips Bring Cybersecurity to Harsh ...
Click to View Full Infographic

The problem with today’s PUFs, however, is that they aren’t robust enough for harsh environments, which is particularly an issue for military or outdoor use.

The researchers developed what they call a nano-electromechanical PUF (NEM-PUF). It is made up of a small silicon-nanowire kept suspended in a liquid between two gates, which represent either a zero or a one.

During manufacturing, the liquid in the NEM-PUF evaporates, and the nanowire sticks to one of the gates in a random fashion. When grouped together, the NEM-PUFs create a complex security code that’s nearly impossible to break.

According to the study, the NEM-PUF is also extremely durable, standing up to tests under high temperatures, high-dose radiation, and microwaves. The chip was even designed with the ability to self-destruct in the event of a breach.

Better Security

The military is an obvious application for Choi’s NEM-PUF. Not only are military electronics often subjected to harsh environments that typical hardware can’t withstand, security is also of the utmost importance.

However, it’s not difficult to imagine these NEM-PUF devices eventually finding their way into civilian use. After all, GPS, drones, and wristwatches all have military origins.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) latest internet crime report, Americans lost more than $1.3 billion due to cyber crime in 2016, so anything that could make smartphones, personal computers, and other everyday devices more secure would likely be welcomed by the public.

 Extremely Durable Computer Chips Bring Cybersecurity to Harsh ... Extremely Durable Computer Chips Bring Cybersecurity to Harsh ...
Image Credit: Yang-Kyu Choi, et al./American Chemical Society

Beyond the financial implications, security breaches are simply a hassle. Millions of people will be dealing with the fallout of the recent Equifax hack for years to come. Then there’s the WannaCry security breach in May that rendered some 200,000 computers inaccessible, crippling hospitals, businesses, and governments in more than 150 countries.

Any way to minimize or altogether prevent security hacks from occurring is valuable, and eventually, improved encryption methods, such as those that quantum computers are expected to provide, could be enough.

Still, hack-proofing hardware is worth serious consideration, and the NEM-PUF may be the device we need to protect our data in this era of cyber warfare.

Extremely Durable Computer Chips Bring Cybersecurity to Harsh Environments

Tough to Crack

As technology advances, so does cybercrime. In 2017 alone, a number of cybersecurity breaches have caused problems for individual companies and even whole industries, but when militaries are hacked, the leaking of information could be a matter of life and death.

A team of Korean researchers, led by Yang-Kyu Choi from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) School of Electrical Engineering, came up with a potential solution that could work extremely well in the harshest of environments, such as those where the armed services operate.

In a study published in the journal ACS Nano, the researchers detail a new kind of physical unclonable function (PUF) device that’s potentially unhackable and extremely durable.

PUFs have become a popular hardware solution to security hacks, especially since software checks are often not enough to prevent breaches. Each PUF is fabricated with random physical variations that function like fingerprints — no two PUFs are identical.

 Extremely Durable Computer Chips Bring Cybersecurity to Harsh Environments
Click to View Full Infographic

The problem with today’s PUFs, however, is that they aren’t robust enough for harsh environments, which is particularly an issue for military or outdoor use.

The researchers developed what they call a nano-electromechanical PUF (NEM-PUF). It is made up of a small silicon-nanowire kept suspended in a liquid between two gates, which represent either a zero or a one.

During manufacturing, the liquid in the NEM-PUF evaporates, and the nanowire sticks to one of the gates in a random fashion. When grouped together, the NEM-PUFs create a complex security code that’s nearly impossible to break.

According to the study, the NEM-PUF is also extremely durable, standing up to tests under high temperatures, high-dose radiation, and microwaves. The chip was even designed with the ability to self-destruct in the event of a breach.

Better Security

The military is an obvious application for Choi’s NEM-PUF. Not only are military electronics often subjected to harsh environments that typical hardware can’t withstand, security is also of the utmost importance.

However, it’s not difficult to imagine these NEM-PUF devices eventually finding their way into civilian use. After all, GPS, drones, and wristwatches all have military origins.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) latest internet crime report, Americans lost more than $1.3 billion due to cyber crime in 2016, so anything that could make smartphones, personal computers, and other everyday devices more secure would likely be welcomed by the public.

 Extremely Durable Computer Chips Bring Cybersecurity to Harsh Environments Extremely Durable Computer Chips Bring Cybersecurity to Harsh Environments
Image Credit: Yang-Kyu Choi, et al./American Chemical Society

Beyond the financial implications, security breaches are simply a hassle. Millions of people will be dealing with the fallout of the recent Equifax hack for years to come. Then there’s the WannaCry security breach in May that rendered some 200,000 computers inaccessible, crippling hospitals, businesses, and governments in more than 150 countries.

Any way to minimize or altogether prevent security hacks from occurring is valuable, and eventually, improved encryption methods, such as those that quantum computers are expected to provide, could be enough.

Still, hack-proofing hardware is worth serious consideration, and the NEM-PUF may be the device we need to protect our data in this era of cyber warfare.

LattePanda Delta and Alpha boards with Intel chips, Windows and Linux support hit Kickstarter

As expected, LattePanda is launching a Kickstarter campaign for its new single-board computers.

The little boards look like a cross between a Raspberry Pi and an Arduino (which makes sense, since it’s an Arduino-compatible device with Leonardo coprocessor and 80 GPIO connectors). But the LattePanda Alpha are Windows and Linux compatible PCs with Intel processors and significantly more RAM than you get with most tiny computers in this category.

2c694_1x1.trans LattePanda Delta and Alpha boards with Intel chips, Windows and Linux support hit Kickstarter

2c694_1x1.trans LattePanda Delta and Alpha boards with Intel chips, Windows and Linux support hit Kickstarter

The LattePanda Delta features an Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of LPDR4-2400 RAM, and 32GB of eMMC 5.0 storage, 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2, three USB 3.0 Type-A ports, a USB 3.0 Type-C port, microSD card slot, Ethernet, and audio jacks.

LattePanda is offering up this model for a pledge of $129 or more, and says the board should begin shipping to backers in May, 2018.

2c694_1x1.trans LattePanda Delta and Alpha boards with Intel chips, Windows and Linux support hit Kickstarter2c694_1x1.trans LattePanda Delta and Alpha boards with Intel chips, Windows and Linux support hit Kickstarter

If you need more power, there’s the LattePanda Alpha, a $289 model with an Intel Core M3-7Y30 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 64GB of eMMC 5.0. The other specs are pretty much the same as those for the smaller model, but this model should offer close to twice the performance of the version with an Apollo Lake processor.

LattePanda says the Alpha should ship in June, 2018.

The new boards come about two years after LattePanda introduced its first device, a single board computer with an Intel Atom X5-Z8300 Cherry Trail processor and Windows 10 support.

2c694_1x1.trans LattePanda Delta and Alpha boards with Intel chips, Windows and Linux support hit Kickstarter2c694_1x1.trans LattePanda Delta and Alpha boards with Intel chips, Windows and Linux support hit Kickstarter

2c694_1x1.trans LattePanda Delta and Alpha boards with Intel chips, Windows and Linux support hit Kickstarter2c694_1x1.trans LattePanda Delta and Alpha boards with Intel chips, Windows and Linux support hit Kickstarter

2c694_1x1.trans LattePanda Delta and Alpha boards with Intel chips, Windows and Linux support hit Kickstarter2c694_1x1.trans LattePanda Delta and Alpha boards with Intel chips, Windows and Linux support hit Kickstarter

2c694_1x1.trans LattePanda Delta and Alpha boards with Intel chips, Windows and Linux support hit Kickstarter2c694_1x1.trans LattePanda Delta and Alpha boards with Intel chips, Windows and Linux support hit Kickstarter

2c694_1x1.trans LattePanda Delta and Alpha boards with Intel chips, Windows and Linux support hit Kickstarter2c694_1x1.trans LattePanda Delta and Alpha boards with Intel chips, Windows and Linux support hit Kickstarter

2c694_1x1.trans LattePanda Delta and Alpha boards with Intel chips, Windows and Linux support hit Kickstarter2c694_1x1.trans LattePanda Delta and Alpha boards with Intel chips, Windows and Linux support hit Kickstarter

 

Vivaldi now supports Linux on ARM chips, including Raspberry Pi 3

Vivaldi said on Tuesday, December 5,  that it released an optimized version of its web browser for Linux distributions running on devices with ARM-based processors, such as the Raspberry Pi 3, the Raspberry Pi Zero, and the Asus Tinker board. The browser joins Vivaldi’s other builds for Windows, MacOS, and Linux installed on machines with x86-based chips manufactured by Intel and AMD.

“Vivaldi is a web surfer’s complete toolbox that you can personalize and make your own. We strive to add more flexibility for the thriving culture of computer hobbyists and hope that every owner of Raspberry Pi will have fun using Vivaldi,” says Jon von Tetzchner.

The browser is served up as a DEB file, and requires a superuser account to unpack and install. It’s optimized for small devices relying on single-core ARM-based processors, but users can tweak the browser’s settings to get even better performance. These include the ability to disable animated images, and setting the default viewing mode to filter out everything but text (aka Reader Mode).

Vivaldi users shouldn’t experience a “watered-down” version of the browser on ARM-based devices, though. According to Vivaldi, everything offered in the other versions are completely intact, such as cramming multiple pages under a single tab, capturing screenshots, and using the in-browser note-taking component. We took the Windows 10-based version for a spin earlier this year right here.

Vivaldi is the brainchild of former Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner. He parted ways with the company and browser he helped create in 2013 to continue his vision of a solution built for power users. By then, the Opera browser was on a different path than what he originally envisioned, so he set out to pick up where Opera 14 left off with a completely new solution called Vivaldi.

The name stems from Italian Baroque composer and virtuoso violinist Antonio Lucio Vivaldi. Tetzchner wanted web surfers to be “composers,” enabling them to customize the web browsing experience in every way possible. The browser’s palate of editing tools span from customizing the interface colors to rearranging its components to viewing detailed statistics of where the user goes online.

Vivaldi officially hit the scene for Windows, MacOS, and Linux in 2016, and is now finally available for Linux machines running on ARM-based chips. For users running Raspbian, Vivaldi says all that’s needed to install the browser is to double-click on the downloaded installer. Instructions for all other Linux-based distributions will depend on the platform and user permissions.

“Enthusiastic Raspberry Pi users who are looking for a more feature-rich and flexible browser, will find Vivaldi a thrilling experience,” Tetzchner said.

To download Vivaldi for Linux running on ARM-based devices, head to Vivaldi.com.




The company that makes chips for top Android phones announced its new model – here’s what it means for Android …

Qualcomm announced details of its new Snapdragon 845 mobile chip on Wednesday during its event in Hawaii, and it offers a good idea of what improvements and features we can expect from phones that will run on the new chips.

Timing-wise, Qualcomm expects the chip’s release as soon as 2018, so we could potentially see the next generation of top Android devices from Samsung, Google, LG, HTC, and others running on the new Snapdragon 845 next year.

As expected, the chip should bring general improvements to performance and battery life. It’ll also allow Android phone makers to improve photo and video capture quality, as well as improving the functionality of AR, VR, and mixed-reality applications. Smart AI assistants, like Google’s Assistant, will also get an intelligence boost.

Check out what we can expect from Snapdragon 845-powered Android phones:


Android phones will be more power efficient for even better battery life.

245a6_c2675867896ad5f5261e9a29f9bc1dda7c0fe4c8-800x600 The company that makes chips for top Android phones announced its new model – here's what it means for Android ...

Battery life on many of the top Android phones is very good, especially on the Pixel 2 phones. That’s partly due to the current power-efficient Snapdragon 835 processor running many top Android phones today.

We can expect even better battery life, with 2018-2019 Android phones as Qualcomm claims the Snapdragon 845 will be 30% more power efficient than the 835.


Photos will be even sharper and clearer, especially in low light.

245a6_c2675867896ad5f5261e9a29f9bc1dda7c0fe4c8-800x600 The company that makes chips for top Android phones announced its new model – here's what it means for Android ...

The Snapdragon 845 chip will let Android phones take advantage of a photography technology called “multi-frame noise reduction” for images up to 16 megapixels. It’ll allow 2018-2019 Android phones to take up to 60 photos per second and combine them into one photo to reduce “noise,” which is that grainy look you most often see in low-light photos.


It’ll add a feature to video recording that will make videos look amazing.

245a6_c2675867896ad5f5261e9a29f9bc1dda7c0fe4c8-800x600 The company that makes chips for top Android phones announced its new model – here's what it means for Android ...

Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 845 chip will allow Android phones to record 4K video in HDR (high dynamic range) at a smooth 60 frames per second (fps). Videos recorded in 4K HDR from smartphones will look fantastic on 4K HDR TVs.

HDR is a feature that enhances contrast ratio. That’s to say it enhances colors, especially those the brighter and darker ends of the spectrum. As my former colleague Jeff Dunn put it: “The result is a picture that is more vivid, and more importantly, noticeably more life-like. Colors are less muted, and objects appear to have more depth. It’s not a gimmick so much as a straight improvement.”

It’ll also allow 2018-2019 Android phone cameras to take videos with a wider color gamut, which could bring even more fine color shades to videos.

So far, no smartphone can record video in HDR, despite the fact that several phones from 2017 have HDR-capable displays.

The Snapdragon 845 will also let Android phones record 720p video at a whopping 480 fps, which is twice as many frames per second as current smartphones that can record in 240 fps for slow-motion. It should make for ultra-smooth slow-motion that can slow down extremely fast movement.


It’ll be faster and more powerful than current 2017 Android phones.

245a6_c2675867896ad5f5261e9a29f9bc1dda7c0fe4c8-800x600 The company that makes chips for top Android phones announced its new model – here's what it means for Android ...

Qualcomm claims the new Snapdragon 845 will be 25% more powerful than the current Snapdragon 835, and 30% more powerful for games.


It’ll bring great improvements to AR, VR, and mixed-reality applications.

245a6_c2675867896ad5f5261e9a29f9bc1dda7c0fe4c8-800x600 The company that makes chips for top Android phones announced its new model – here's what it means for Android ...

The Snapdragon 845 will allow you to physically move in AR, VR, and mixed-reality applications, much like you can with HTC/Valve’s Vive VR headset. When you physically move forward, you’ll move forwards in a VR game, for example. The feature is called “6DoF,” which stands for 6 degrees of freedom.

Qualcomm’s new chip will also come with features that help VR, AR, and mixed-reality apps prevent you from colliding into walls and objects while you move around.

We’ll also see an overall improvement in AR, VR, and mixed reality visual quality, performance, and power consumption.


2018-2019 smartphones will be even smarter.

245a6_c2675867896ad5f5261e9a29f9bc1dda7c0fe4c8-800x600 The company that makes chips for top Android phones announced its new model – here's what it means for Android ...

AI performance on 2018-2019 Android phones running on the Snapdragon 845 will be tripled, which will help voice assistants better understand more natural ways of speaking.

Better AI will also make it easier to take good photos and videos, according to Qualcomm. Camera features like Portrait Mode, which use AI to identify the subject in the frame, will also get performance boosts.

Vivaldi now supports Linux running on ARM-based chips, including Raspberry Pi 3

Vivaldi said on Tuesday, December 5,  that it released an optimized version of its web browser for Linux distributions running on devices with ARM-based processors, such as the Raspberry Pi 3, the Raspberry Pi Zero, and the Asus Tinker board. The browser joins Vivaldi’s other builds for Windows, MacOS, and Linux installed on machines with x86-based chips manufactured by Intel and AMD.

“Vivaldi is a web surfer’s complete toolbox that you can personalize and make your own. We strive to add more flexibility for the thriving culture of computer hobbyists and hope that every owner of Raspberry Pi will have fun using Vivaldi,” says Jon von Tetzchner.

The browser is served up as a DEB file, and requires a superuser account to unpack and install. It’s optimized for small devices relying on single-core ARM-based processors, but users can tweak the browser’s settings to get even better performance. These include the ability to disable animated images, and setting the default viewing mode to filter out everything but text (aka Reader Mode).

Vivaldi users shouldn’t experience a “watered-down” version of the browser on ARM-based devices, though. According to Vivaldi, everything offered in the other versions are completely intact, such as cramming multiple pages under a single tab, capturing screenshots, and using the in-browser note-taking component. We took the Windows 10-based version for a spin earlier this year right here.

Vivaldi is the brainchild of former Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner. He parted ways with the company and browser he helped create in 2013 to continue his vision of a solution built for power users. By then, the Opera browser was on a different path than what he originally envisioned, so he set out to pick up where Opera 14 left off with a completely new solution called Vivaldi.

The name stems from Italian Baroque composer and virtuoso violinist Antonio Lucio Vivaldi. Tetzchner wanted web surfers to be “composers,” enabling them to customize the web browsing experience in every way possible. The browser’s palate of editing tools span from customizing the interface colors to rearranging its components to viewing detailed statistics of where the user goes online.

Vivaldi officially hit the scene for Windows, MacOS, and Linux in 2016, and is now finally available for Linux machines running on ARM-based chips. For users running Raspbian, Vivaldi says all that’s needed to install the browser is to double-click on the downloaded installer. Instructions for all other Linux-based distributions will depend on the platform and user permissions.

“Enthusiastic Raspberry Pi users who are looking for a more feature-rich and flexible browser, will find Vivaldi a thrilling experience,” Tetzchner said.

To download Vivaldi for Linux running on ARM-based devices, head to Vivaldi.com.




Apple may make its own iPhone power management chips in 2018

cefee_apple-wwdc-2013-keynote-0513-2 Apple may make its own iPhone power management chips in 2018

The move to make more chips on its own reduces Apple’s reliance on suppliers and helps it control costs.   


James Martin/CNET

Apple may be getting into semiconductors in an even bigger way. 

The company may make its own iPhone power management chips as soon as 2018, according to a report from Nikkei. Currently, Apple relies on supplier Dialog Semiconductor for those processors, which are important for making sure an iPhone charges correctly and doesn’t consume too much energy. 

One of Nikkei’s unnamed sources said Apple could replace about half of its chips next year, while another source said the change could be delayed to 2019. The potential processors from Apple “would be the most advanced in the industry,” the publication said, and would give Apple devices better performance while consuming less power. 

Power management chips are one of the priciest components after the main application processors that act as the brains of a device, modems and memory chips, the publication said. Apple already makes its own application processor, but it relies on suppliers like Qualcomm and Intel for its modems and Samsung for its memory chips. 

Shares of Dialog, which derives the majority of its revenue from Apple, tumbled 18 percent to €30.46 in Europe after the report. 

Dialog said in a statement that “the level of visibility into the design cycle of our leading customers remains unchanged, and the business relationships are in line with the normal course of business.”

Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Apple, which has designed the brains for its iPhones and iPads for years, has made moves to make even more of its components on its own. The Apple-designed W1 Bluetooth chip pairs its AirPods to an iPhone, while the A11 Bionic processor boosts the iPhone’s artificial intelligence capabilities. Apple is believed to be working on a chip for Mac laptops that would take on the functionality handled now by Intel chips. And it’s also reportedly working on its own graphics processors. 

The move to make more chips on its own reduces Apple’s reliance on suppliers and helps it control costs. By designing its own processors, Apple also has more say over features and can set its own timeline. And it can find ways to further differentiate itself from other smartphone makers. Samsung and Huawei are two other companies who design their own chips, as well as their phones. 

Update at 3:15 p.m. PT with Dialog comment.

The Smartest Stuff: Innovators are thinking up new ways to make you, and the things around you, smarter.

iHate: CNET looks at how intolerance is taking over the internet.

Apple may make its own iPhone power management chips in 2018

cefee_apple-wwdc-2013-keynote-0513-2 Apple may make its own iPhone power management chips in 2018

The move to make more chips on its own reduces Apple’s reliance on suppliers and helps it control costs.   


James Martin/CNET

Apple may be getting into semiconductors in an even bigger way. 

The company may make its own iPhone power management chips as soon as 2018, according to a report from Nikkei. Currently, Apple relies on supplier Dialog Semiconductor for those processors, which are important for making sure an iPhone charges correctly and doesn’t consume too much energy. 

One of Nikkei’s unnamed sources said Apple could replace about half of its chips next year, while another source said the change could be delayed to 2019. The potential processors from Apple “would be the most advanced in the industry,” the publication said, and would give Apple devices better performance while consuming less power. 

Power management chips are one of the priciest components after the main application processors that act as the brains of a device, modems and memory chips, the publication said. Apple already makes its own application processor, but it relies on suppliers like Qualcomm and Intel for its modems and Samsung for its memory chips. 

Shares of Dialog, which derives the majority of its revenue from Apple, tumbled 18 percent to €30.46 in Europe after the report. 

Dialog said in a statement that “the level of visibility into the design cycle of our leading customers remains unchanged, and the business relationships are in line with the normal course of business.”

Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Apple, which has designed the brains for its iPhones and iPads for years, has made moves to make even more of its components on its own. The Apple-designed W1 Bluetooth chip pairs its AirPods to an iPhone, while the A11 Bionic processor boosts the iPhone’s artificial intelligence capabilities. Apple is believed to be working on a chip for Mac laptops that would take on the functionality handled now by Intel chips. And it’s also reportedly working on its own graphics processors. 

The move to make more chips on its own reduces Apple’s reliance on suppliers and helps it control costs. By designing its own processors, Apple also has more say over features and can set its own timeline. And it can find ways to further differentiate itself from other smartphone makers. Samsung and Huawei are two other companies who design their own chips, as well as their phones. 

Update at 3:15 p.m. PT with Dialog comment.

The Smartest Stuff: Innovators are thinking up new ways to make you, and the things around you, smarter.

iHate: CNET looks at how intolerance is taking over the internet.

Apple iPhones could run on the company’s own chips as soon as next year: Report

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88ff2_104819340-GettyImages-869816014.530x298 Apple iPhones could run on the company's own chips as soon as next year: Report

Apple is designing its own main power management chips for use in iPhones as early as in 2018, the Nikkei business daily reported on Thursday citing sources.

Apple’s move would reduce its dependence on Dialog Semiconductor, that makes power-management chips for smartphone makers.

“Based on Apple’s current plan, they are set to replace partially, or around half of its power management chips to go into iPhones by itself starting next year,” a source said, according to the Nikkei report.

Shares of the Anglo-German chipmaker fell 7.2 percent, while Apple’s shares were up marginally in premarket trading.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Dialog could not immediately be reached for comment.



Apple iPhones could run on the company’s own chips as soon as next year: Report

<!– –>


81c8a_104819340-GettyImages-869816014.530x298 Apple iPhones could run on the company's own chips as soon as next year: Report

Apple is designing its own main power management chips for use in iPhones as early as in 2018, the Nikkei business daily reported on Thursday citing sources.

Apple’s move would reduce its dependence on Dialog Semiconductor, that makes power-management chips for smartphone makers.

“Based on Apple’s current plan, they are set to replace partially, or around half of its power management chips to go into iPhones by itself starting next year,” a source said, according to the Nikkei report.

Shares of the Anglo-German chipmaker fell 7.2 percent, while Apple’s shares were up marginally in premarket trading.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Dialog could not immediately be reached for comment.



Armed with tough computer chips, scientists are ready to return to …

CLEVELAND, OHIO—In an underdog city, at an underdog NASA lab, researchers are thinking hard about an undeservedly neglected planet. Venus is Earth’s cousin, closest in composition and size, but for decades it has remained veiled. NASA hasn’t sent a mission there since 1989; more recent European and Japanese orbiters have made halting progress that stops largely at the planet’s thick sulfur clouds. No craft has touched down since 1985, when the last of a series of advanced Soviet landers clad in armored pressure vessels endured a couple hours before succumbing to the deep-ocean pressure and furnacelike temperature of the planet’s surface. The baleful conditions and lack of funding have made Venus, Earth’s closest neighbor, feel more distant than ever. That is, except here.

3ff12_Alamy%2520H3F2DR%2520Venus_350px Armed with tough computer chips, scientists are ready to return to ...

In the 1990s, NASA’s Magellan spacecraft used radar to penetrate Venus’s thick clouds and map its surface.

In September, Phil Neudeck, an electrical engineer at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, a complex abutting the main airport in this Rust Belt city, sat watching purple and turquoise waveforms on a display. It was his window into the Venus next door. Behind sealed doors stood a 14-ton stainless steel tank, its massive ports sealed to hold pressures so high that the screws to secure its nuts have their own nuts. For 33 days, the Glenn Extreme Environments Rig (GEER) had run nonstop, simulating an atmosphere at 460°C and flooded with carbon dioxide at pressures that render it supercritical, both liquid and gas. Inside sat two microchips, pulsing with metronomic accuracy. Neudeck was running a clock on Venus, and it was keeping perfect time.

Neudeck and his Glenn colleagues are helping drive a technological leap that could transform the exploration of Venus, making it almost as accessible as Mars. Rather than barricading electronics within pressure vessels, by early next decade NASA may be able to land simple unprotected robots on Venus that can measure wind, temperature, chemistry, pressure, and seismic waves. And instead of running for a few hours, the landers could last for months. “We don’t have the world’s fastest chips,” Neudeck says. “We don’t have the world’s most complex chips. But in terms of Venus environment durability—that’s what we got.”

If the chips live up to their potential, scientists’ elusive dream of extended stays on Venus may at last be within reach. “The paradigm has been that long-term surface stuff is way down the road,” says Tibor Kremic, the scientist who has launched a push toward Venus at Glenn, a little-known NASA lab that has specialized in aviation. But early this decade, engineers here began to build heat-resistant electronics out of a new type of semiconductor, with an eye to placing sensors inside jet engines. Neudeck kept adding transistors to build more complex circuits. Meanwhile, at meetings, Russian researchers told Kremic they were seeking U.S. help in creating a pressure-vessel probe for a possible return-to-Venus mission called Venera-D. Kremic recalled Neudeck’s work and thought, “Maybe there’s another way to do this?”

Glenn’s campaign, if successful, could help revive interest in the planet. Once a primary target of planetary exploration, thanks especially to the brute-force Soviet campaign to land on its surface, Venus has long been overshadowed by missions to Mars, asteroids, and the outer planets and their moons. Early this year, missions to orbit Venus or dive into its atmosphere made up two of the five finalists for NASA’s latest Discovery mission—its line of $500 million planetary probes. The odds seemed good, but neither made the final cut.

3ff12_Alamy%2520H3F2DR%2520Venus_350px Armed with tough computer chips, scientists are ready to return to ...

The only close-ups of Venus’s crushing inferno come from Soviet Venera and Vega landers, such as the one captured by Venera-13 in 1982.

Later this year, the agency will announce finalists in the competition for its next billion-dollar New Frontiers mission; among the dozen candidates, three target Venus. But they face stiff competition—including a return to the saturnian moons Enceladus and Titan, which the Cassini mission showed have the potential for harboring life.

If Venus loses out again, Glenn’s innovations could be the best route back—not just to venusian orbit, but all the way to the surface. “The pie is finite,” says Bob Grimm, a geophysicist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and chairman of NASA’s Venus Exploration Analysis Group. “If we want to improve Venus’s share, we have to have some kind of initial mission to get people excited again.” Ralph Harvey, a planetary scientist at Case Western Reserve University here, agrees: “This is the kind of technology development that could take a flagship kind of planetary mission and suddenly allow it to deliver a hell of a lot more.”

The scientific case for Venus is strong. No planet has more to say about how Earth came to be. Mars is tiny and frozen, its heat and atmosphere largely lost to space long ago. “In terms of Earth-sized terrestrial planets, it’s really Venus,” says Colin Wilson, a planetary scientist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. “Venus is all we got.” The planet could host active volcanoes, and it may have once featured oceans and continents, which are critical to the evolution of life. Plate tectonics roughly like Earth’s might have held sway there, or might be starting today, hidden under the clouds. Venus also proves by example that orbiting within a star’s “habitable zone” doesn’t guarantee that a planet is suitable for life. Understanding how Venus’s atmosphere went bad and turned into a runaway greenhouse, boiling away any oceans and baking the surface, could help astronomers studying other solar systems distinguish truly Earth-like exoplanets from our evil twins.

Being able to rove or explore the surface of Venus is within the future horizon.

Lori Glaze, Goddard Space Flight Center

When Neudeck joined Glenn in the early 1990s, Venus was far from his mind. He was chasing an earthly quarry: new semiconductors, materials that can deliver finely controlled doses of electric current. Under extreme heat, silicon, the backbone of modern electronics, becomes a pure conductor. That makes it useless for computing, because stopping and starting the flow of electricity is how zeroes turn into ones.

Neudeck had his eye on silicon carbide, a hybrid of silicon and carbon commonly used as an abrasive in sandpaper and for growing fake diamonds. Silicon carbide has a bigger bandgap than silicon, which means its electrons can absorb much more energy before it becomes a conductor. As a result, it functions as a semiconductor at much higher temperatures. But it is difficult to work with. Because silicon carbide doesn’t melt, the techniques used to produce large silicon wafers break down. When researchers managed to grow wafers by vaporizing the material and depositing it on a seed crystal, the resulting films were riddled with impurities that made them unreliable.

The allure of high-temperature electronics was too great to ignore, however. Slowly, with the support of NASA and the Office of Naval Research, researchers, led especially by Cree, an upstart electronics company, devised ways to grow usable silicon carbide crystals more than 150 millimeters in diameter. The power industry is now harnessing the material to build smaller transformers and more efficient power plants, Neudeck says.

He and his colleagues set out to turn the material into full-fledged computer circuits, assembling more and more complex chips in their clean room. The biggest breakthrough came 4 years ago, when they figured out how to create layered chips that allow electrical signals to crisscross, rapidly increasing potential complexity. “We’re really trying to recreate Moore’s law, but to do it for high temperature,” Neudeck says. In 1 year, they increased the number of transistors on their silicon carbide chips 10-fold.

Pentiums these are not. A modern silicon chip can contain 7 billion transistors; each of the chips running in the Venus chamber has 175. Neudeck also uses an old-school transistor design, long since abandoned in conventional microelectronics. It’s basically a hyperexpensive, obtuse pocket calculator. But a pocket calculator running on Venus could be valuable indeed. “This is already the complexity of many of the early scientific missions flown back in the ’60s and ’70s,” Neudeck says, and more powerful than the chips on Apollo flight computers. “You really can do science.”

Still, Neudeck’s team’s work would have been a sideshow unless he had a way to prove his chips’ endurance. Last year, that’s exactly what the team did.

You could be forgiven for not knowing that Glenn even exists. It has never become a scientific hotbed like the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, the leader in robotic space exploration. Several times, past NASA administrators or Congress have considered closing it.

The Venus chamber started as another failed dream. NASA planned to test efficient nuclear-fueled engines called Stirling generators that could have driven refrigerators to keep traditional silicon-based electronics cool. Glenn’s experience in simulating the extreme environments inside jet and rocket engines made it a natural home for the chamber. “The mantra of our branch is small, smart, and rugged,” says Glenn engineer Gary Hunter, who had developed basic chemical sensors for the Venus environment. But the agency canceled the program in 2013, leaving the stainless steel vessel and its gas-mixing apparatus gathering dust.

Kremic, who had spent some time at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., in planetary science before returning to Glenn, saw an opportunity. In fits and starts, he cobbled together money to create the largest and most advanced facility for simulating the surface of Venus. The minivan-size chamber was rebuilt and upgraded last year. Now, besides simply running large volumes of gas at high temperature and pressures of 90 bars or more, the GEER can mix eight different gases to create a Venus-like atmosphere, and it can inject water and other liquids into the cauldron. “The end result is we’re much more likely to understand more fully what Venus will be like when we get there,” Harvey says.

The chamber quickly proved its worth both for stress tests and for basic science. “It was kind of heaven,” says Harvey, who has pushed the GEER to run for a record 80 days in two “cook and look” experiments to see how different volcanic rocks would react with the venusian atmosphere—long a matter of debate among planetary scientists.

3ff12_Alamy%2520H3F2DR%2520Venus_350px Armed with tough computer chips, scientists are ready to return to ...

Computer chips tested at high temperatures and pressures in NASA’s Glenn Extreme Environments Rig could enable long-lived Venus landers.

The chamber’s marquee moment came last year, when the previous, 24-transitor generation of Neudeck’s chip survived 21 days in the GEER—an ordeal that may have changed the course of Venus exploration. Since then, NASA has funded Kremic’s team to explore three different concepts for longlived landers. Across the country, a team at JPL, led by mechatronics engineer Jonathan Sauder, had been exploring a clockwork rover, virtually free of electronics, that could explore the surface of Venus. When they caught wind of the developments at Glenn, they began to think about how their mechanical designs could supplement the high-temperature chips. “We’re starting to get into a different realm,” says Lori Glaze, who is based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and is leading one of the proposed billion-dollar New Frontiers missions to Venus (all of which rely on conventional silicon chips). “I definitely think that being able to rove or explore the surface of Venus is within the future horizon.”

That surface could prove a lot more active than planetary scientists thought just a few years ago. In the 1990s, cloud-penetrating radar aboard NASA’s Magellan orbiter showed relatively few craters, distributed seemingly at random. Some 500 million years ago, researchers theorized, a catastrophic event—perhaps a vast flood of magma—wiped the surface clean, like a planet-size slate, smothering any possibility of volcanoes or plate tectonics beneath a thick, cold crust. And Venus has been pretty much dead ever since.

In the late 2000s, however, the European Venus Express orbiter began to sketch a much livelier picture. Tracking the atmosphere, it saw what appeared to be a fourfold spike in sulfur dioxide that lasted about a year—perhaps the sign of a large, Mount Pinatubo-style volcanic eruption. Peering through the clouds in specific wavelengths of light, Venus Express seemed to discern unusually dark terrain near volcanic features—what fresh lava might look like on Earth. And near the end of its mission, in a rift on the side of a volcano, it saw what seemed to be a spike in temperatures of several hundred degrees. “This really makes us think Venus should be active,” Wilson says.

3ff12_Alamy%2520H3F2DR%2520Venus_350px Armed with tough computer chips, scientists are ready to return to ...

Heat measured from orbit suggests some of Venus’s volcanoes (vertically exaggerated) may be active.

Scientists would love to find out. Missions such as NASA’s three New Frontiers candidates, however, focus more on the planet’s distant past. Two of them—one led by Glaze, the other by Larry Esposito, a planetary scientist at the University of Colorado in Boulder—would be short-lived. Each would drop a pressure vessel into the atmosphere, which would measure atmospheric chemistry on the way down and spend its few hours of life on the surface sampling rocks with either lasers or a drill. Analyzing isotopes of nonreactive noble gases in the atmosphere could give scientists a window into whether Venus started with as much water as Earth did—and whether it might still be hiding water, the lubricant of plate tectonics, deep in its interior. Probing the rock composition could reveal whether, as some researchers suspect, the slightly elevated regions called tesserae are remnants of continents.

The third New Frontiers mission, proposed by JPL research scientist Suzanne Smrekar, would take a more unconventional approach: using orbiting radar and spectrometers to probe the surface’s composition while a small probe swoops in and out of the atmosphere to capture air for isotope analysis. The high-resolution radar could reveal surface features lost in the noise of old measurements, Smrekar says: perhaps chasms that resemble Earth’s midocean ridges, or the details of mysterious oval-shaped features called coronae, which could mark where plumes of hot material from Venus’s mantle are causing parts of the crust to sink under others. Smrekar suspects Venus is a good analog for the time when plate tectonics began on Earth. Its greenhouse-heated surface is cooling much more slowly than Earth’s, and may only now be starting to crack into plates. “We may be seeing evidence for the process of subduction starting on Venus today,” she says.

To know for sure, however, researchers need to measure what’s happening in Venus’s interior today. That information can come only with sustained listening—exactly what Glenn’s landers propose to provide.

3ff12_Alamy%2520H3F2DR%2520Venus_350px Armed with tough computer chips, scientists are ready to return to ...

Electronic components, including a silicon carbide computer chip, withstood 2 months of Venus-like conditions in the Glenn Extreme Environments Rig in Cleveland, Ohio.

Each of them, Kremic says, was designed to be small enough to hitch a ride on other missions—either one of the New Frontiers spacecraft, Venera-D, or spacecraft that could swoop by Venus en route to other destinations. The first proposal, called the Long-Life In-Situ Solar System Explorer (LLISSE), was modest: a glorified cube the size of a car battery that would drop from a balloon or larger probe and record temperature, pressure, wind speed, and a few specific chemicals for 60 Earth days. Because silicon carbide isn’t good for storing data, the LLISSE would stream its observations either up to an orbiter or straight to Earth. The readings would provide ground truth for circulation models of the planet’s atmosphere, and they would help researchers estimate how mass is distributed throughout the planet—one fundamental mystery that a short-term mission could not answer.

A slightly larger design, the Seismic and Atmospheric Exploration of Venus, unveiled this month at a Venus meeting at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, could add a seismometer, a heat flux gauge, possibly even a camera, all for $100 million. Such a seismometer would be the killer app for long-lived landers. “The ultimate goal is to have seismometers on Venus,” Smrekar says. Nothing can tell you more about the interior structure of a planet. By listening to the ground over a long span of time, Wilson says, you might hear the crust stretching or cracking from tectonic processes, including “Venusquakes,” or hear the rumbling of distant volcanoes. Such a mission could quickly answer the fundamental question: Is Venus dead or alive?

Another test of Glenn’s silicon carbide electronics could potentially come quite soon: a proposal called Venus Bridge Orbiter and Surface Science (V-BOSS), one of two candidates for a quick-to-fly, low-cost (less than $200 million) “Venus Bridge” mission that NASA’s associate administrator for science, Thomas Zurbuchen, asked Venus scientists to prepare in the wake of the failed Discovery round. While details of the V-BOSS won’t be set until early next year, it would build off of the LLISSE and add an orbiter to relay lander data back to Earth.

Some researchers, blindsided by the brisk progress in high-temperature electronics, worry that the Glenn and Venus Bridge landers could outcompete more conventional missions such as New Frontiers. That would be a loss to science, Esposito says, because the cut-rate landers can’t match sophisticated sensors, such as mass spectrometers and radar, for answering key questions. “There’s not a cheap way to find out the dominant mineral on the surface of Venus,” he says. But Harvey says Glenn-style electronics could make even more ambitious future Venus probes—such as a long-delayed potential multibillion-dollar flagship mission—vastly more productive.

Meanwhile, back here in Cleveland, the latest endurance test has wound up. Neudeck reports that his microchips worked the whole way through, and could have run longer. One day, he is confident, devices like these will brave the hellish surface of Venus. Until they are ready, he will keep putting them through their paces, marking time in the little hell next door.

Armed with tough computer chips, scientists are ready to return to the hell of Venus

CLEVELAND, OHIO—In an underdog city, at an underdog NASA lab, researchers are thinking hard about an undeservedly neglected planet. Venus is Earth’s cousin, closest in composition and size, but for decades it has remained veiled. NASA hasn’t sent a mission there since 1989; more recent European and Japanese orbiters have made halting progress that stops largely at the planet’s thick sulfur clouds. No craft has touched down since 1985, when the last of a series of advanced Soviet landers clad in armored pressure vessels endured a couple hours before succumbing to the deep-ocean pressure and furnacelike temperature of the planet’s surface. The baleful conditions and lack of funding have made Venus, Earth’s closest neighbor, feel more distant than ever. That is, except here.

2c2e4_Alamy%2520H3F2DR%2520Venus_350px Armed with tough computer chips, scientists are ready to return to the hell of Venus

In the 1990s, NASA’s Magellan spacecraft used radar to penetrate Venus’s thick clouds and map its surface.

In September, Phil Neudeck, an electrical engineer at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, a complex abutting the main airport in this Rust Belt city, sat watching purple and turquoise waveforms on a display. It was his window into the Venus next door. Behind sealed doors stood a 14-ton stainless steel tank, its massive ports sealed to hold pressures so high that the screws to secure its nuts have their own nuts. For 33 days, the Glenn Extreme Environments Rig (GEER) had run nonstop, simulating an atmosphere at 460°C and flooded with carbon dioxide at pressures that render it supercritical, both liquid and gas. Inside sat two microchips, pulsing with metronomic accuracy. Neudeck was running a clock on Venus, and it was keeping perfect time.

Neudeck and his Glenn colleagues are helping drive a technological leap that could transform the exploration of Venus, making it almost as accessible as Mars. Rather than barricading electronics within pressure vessels, by early next decade NASA may be able to land simple unprotected robots on Venus that can measure wind, temperature, chemistry, pressure, and seismic waves. And instead of running for a few hours, the landers could last for months. “We don’t have the world’s fastest chips,” Neudeck says. “We don’t have the world’s most complex chips. But in terms of Venus environment durability—that’s what we got.”

If the chips live up to their potential, scientists’ elusive dream of extended stays on Venus may at last be within reach. “The paradigm has been that long-term surface stuff is way down the road,” says Tibor Kremic, the scientist who has launched a push toward Venus at Glenn, a little-known NASA lab that has specialized in aviation. But early this decade, engineers here began to build heat-resistant electronics out of a new type of semiconductor, with an eye to placing sensors inside jet engines. Neudeck kept adding transistors to build more complex circuits. Meanwhile, at meetings, Russian researchers told Kremic they were seeking U.S. help in creating a pressure-vessel probe for a possible return-to-Venus mission called Venera-D. Kremic recalled Neudeck’s work and thought, “Maybe there’s another way to do this?”

Glenn’s campaign, if successful, could help revive interest in the planet. Once a primary target of planetary exploration, thanks especially to the brute-force Soviet campaign to land on its surface, Venus has long been overshadowed by missions to Mars, asteroids, and the outer planets and their moons. Early this year, missions to orbit Venus or dive into its atmosphere made up two of the five finalists for NASA’s latest Discovery mission—its line of $500 million planetary probes. The odds seemed good, but neither made the final cut.

2c2e4_Alamy%2520H3F2DR%2520Venus_350px Armed with tough computer chips, scientists are ready to return to the hell of Venus

The only close-ups of Venus’s crushing inferno come from Soviet Venera and Vega landers, such as the one captured by Venera-13 in 1982.

Later this year, the agency will announce finalists in the competition for its next billion-dollar New Frontiers mission; among the dozen candidates, three target Venus. But they face stiff competition—including a return to the saturnian moons Enceladus and Titan, which the Cassini mission showed have the potential for harboring life.

If Venus loses out again, Glenn’s innovations could be the best route back—not just to venusian orbit, but all the way to the surface. “The pie is finite,” says Bob Grimm, a geophysicist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and chairman of NASA’s Venus Exploration Analysis Group. “If we want to improve Venus’s share, we have to have some kind of initial mission to get people excited again.” Ralph Harvey, a planetary scientist at Case Western Reserve University here, agrees: “This is the kind of technology development that could take a flagship kind of planetary mission and suddenly allow it to deliver a hell of a lot more.”

The scientific case for Venus is strong. No planet has more to say about how Earth came to be. Mars is tiny and frozen, its heat and atmosphere largely lost to space long ago. “In terms of Earth-sized terrestrial planets, it’s really Venus,” says Colin Wilson, a planetary scientist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. “Venus is all we got.” The planet could host active volcanoes, and it may have once featured oceans and continents, which are critical to the evolution of life. Plate tectonics roughly like Earth’s might have held sway there, or might be starting today, hidden under the clouds. Venus also proves by example that orbiting within a star’s “habitable zone” doesn’t guarantee that a planet is suitable for life. Understanding how Venus’s atmosphere went bad and turned into a runaway greenhouse, boiling away any oceans and baking the surface, could help astronomers studying other solar systems distinguish truly Earth-like exoplanets from our evil twins.

Being able to rove or explore the surface of Venus is within the future horizon.

Lori Glaze, Goddard Space Flight Center

When Neudeck joined Glenn in the early 1990s, Venus was far from his mind. He was chasing an earthly quarry: new semiconductors, materials that can deliver finely controlled doses of electric current. Under extreme heat, silicon, the backbone of modern electronics, becomes a pure conductor. That makes it useless for computing, because stopping and starting the flow of electricity is how zeroes turn into ones.

Neudeck had his eye on silicon carbide, a hybrid of silicon and carbon commonly used as an abrasive in sandpaper and for growing fake diamonds. Silicon carbide has a bigger bandgap than silicon, which means its electrons can absorb much more energy before it becomes a conductor. As a result, it functions as a semiconductor at much higher temperatures. But it is difficult to work with. Because silicon carbide doesn’t melt, the techniques used to produce large silicon wafers break down. When researchers managed to grow wafers by vaporizing the material and depositing it on a seed crystal, the resulting films were riddled with impurities that made them unreliable.

The allure of high-temperature electronics was too great to ignore, however. Slowly, with the support of NASA and the Office of Naval Research, researchers, led especially by Cree, an upstart electronics company, devised ways to grow usable silicon carbide crystals more than 150 millimeters in diameter. The power industry is now harnessing the material to build smaller transformers and more efficient power plants, Neudeck says.

He and his colleagues set out to turn the material into full-fledged computer circuits, assembling more and more complex chips in their clean room. The biggest breakthrough came 4 years ago, when they figured out how to create layered chips that allow electrical signals to crisscross, rapidly increasing potential complexity. “We’re really trying to recreate Moore’s law, but to do it for high temperature,” Neudeck says. In 1 year, they increased the number of transistors on their silicon carbide chips 10-fold.

Pentiums these are not. A modern silicon chip can contain 7 billion transistors; each of the chips running in the Venus chamber has 175. Neudeck also uses an old-school transistor design, long since abandoned in conventional microelectronics. It’s basically a hyperexpensive, obtuse pocket calculator. But a pocket calculator running on Venus could be valuable indeed. “This is already the complexity of many of the early scientific missions flown back in the ’60s and ’70s,” Neudeck says, and more powerful than the chips on Apollo flight computers. “You really can do science.”

Still, Neudeck’s team’s work would have been a sideshow unless he had a way to prove his chips’ endurance. Last year, that’s exactly what the team did.

You could be forgiven for not knowing that Glenn even exists. It has never become a scientific hotbed like the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, the leader in robotic space exploration. Several times, past NASA administrators or Congress have considered closing it.

The Venus chamber started as another failed dream. NASA planned to test efficient nuclear-fueled engines called Stirling generators that could have driven refrigerators to keep traditional silicon-based electronics cool. Glenn’s experience in simulating the extreme environments inside jet and rocket engines made it a natural home for the chamber. “The mantra of our branch is small, smart, and rugged,” says Glenn engineer Gary Hunter, who had developed basic chemical sensors for the Venus environment. But the agency canceled the program in 2013, leaving the stainless steel vessel and its gas-mixing apparatus gathering dust.

Kremic, who had spent some time at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., in planetary science before returning to Glenn, saw an opportunity. In fits and starts, he cobbled together money to create the largest and most advanced facility for simulating the surface of Venus. The minivan-size chamber was rebuilt and upgraded last year. Now, besides simply running large volumes of gas at high temperature and pressures of 90 bars or more, the GEER can mix eight different gases to create a Venus-like atmosphere, and it can inject water and other liquids into the cauldron. “The end result is we’re much more likely to understand more fully what Venus will be like when we get there,” Harvey says.

The chamber quickly proved its worth both for stress tests and for basic science. “It was kind of heaven,” says Harvey, who has pushed the GEER to run for a record 80 days in two “cook and look” experiments to see how different volcanic rocks would react with the venusian atmosphere—long a matter of debate among planetary scientists.

2c2e4_Alamy%2520H3F2DR%2520Venus_350px Armed with tough computer chips, scientists are ready to return to the hell of Venus

Computer chips tested at high temperatures and pressures in NASA’s Glenn Extreme Environments Rig could enable long-lived Venus landers.

The chamber’s marquee moment came last year, when the previous, 24-transitor generation of Neudeck’s chip survived 21 days in the GEER—an ordeal that may have changed the course of Venus exploration. Since then, NASA has funded Kremic’s team to explore three different concepts for longlived landers. Across the country, a team at JPL, led by mechatronics engineer Jonathan Sauder, had been exploring a clockwork rover, virtually free of electronics, that could explore the surface of Venus. When they caught wind of the developments at Glenn, they began to think about how their mechanical designs could supplement the high-temperature chips. “We’re starting to get into a different realm,” says Lori Glaze, who is based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and is leading one of the proposed billion-dollar New Frontiers missions to Venus (all of which rely on conventional silicon chips). “I definitely think that being able to rove or explore the surface of Venus is within the future horizon.”

That surface could prove a lot more active than planetary scientists thought just a few years ago. In the 1990s, cloud-penetrating radar aboard NASA’s Magellan orbiter showed relatively few craters, distributed seemingly at random. Some 500 million years ago, researchers theorized, a catastrophic event—perhaps a vast flood of magma—wiped the surface clean, like a planet-size slate, smothering any possibility of volcanoes or plate tectonics beneath a thick, cold crust. And Venus has been pretty much dead ever since.

In the late 2000s, however, the European Venus Express orbiter began to sketch a much livelier picture. Tracking the atmosphere, it saw what appeared to be a fourfold spike in sulfur dioxide that lasted about a year—perhaps the sign of a large, Mount Pinatubo-style volcanic eruption. Peering through the clouds in specific wavelengths of light, Venus Express seemed to discern unusually dark terrain near volcanic features—what fresh lava might look like on Earth. And near the end of its mission, in a rift on the side of a volcano, it saw what seemed to be a spike in temperatures of several hundred degrees. “This really makes us think Venus should be active,” Wilson says.

2c2e4_Alamy%2520H3F2DR%2520Venus_350px Armed with tough computer chips, scientists are ready to return to the hell of Venus

Heat measured from orbit suggests some of Venus’s volcanoes (vertically exaggerated) may be active.

Scientists would love to find out. Missions such as NASA’s three New Frontiers candidates, however, focus more on the planet’s distant past. Two of them—one led by Glaze, the other by Larry Esposito, a planetary scientist at the University of Colorado in Boulder—would be short-lived. Each would drop a pressure vessel into the atmosphere, which would measure atmospheric chemistry on the way down and spend its few hours of life on the surface sampling rocks with either lasers or a drill. Analyzing isotopes of nonreactive noble gases in the atmosphere could give scientists a window into whether Venus started with as much water as Earth did—and whether it might still be hiding water, the lubricant of plate tectonics, deep in its interior. Probing the rock composition could reveal whether, as some researchers suspect, the slightly elevated regions called tesserae are remnants of continents.

The third New Frontiers mission, proposed by JPL research scientist Suzanne Smrekar, would take a more unconventional approach: using orbiting radar and spectrometers to probe the surface’s composition while a small probe swoops in and out of the atmosphere to capture air for isotope analysis. The high-resolution radar could reveal surface features lost in the noise of old measurements, Smrekar says: perhaps chasms that resemble Earth’s midocean ridges, or the details of mysterious oval-shaped features called coronae, which could mark where plumes of hot material from Venus’s mantle are causing parts of the crust to sink under others. Smrekar suspects Venus is a good analog for the time when plate tectonics began on Earth. Its greenhouse-heated surface is cooling much more slowly than Earth’s, and may only now be starting to crack into plates. “We may be seeing evidence for the process of subduction starting on Venus today,” she says.

To know for sure, however, researchers need to measure what’s happening in Venus’s interior today. That information can come only with sustained listening—exactly what Glenn’s landers propose to provide.

2c2e4_Alamy%2520H3F2DR%2520Venus_350px Armed with tough computer chips, scientists are ready to return to the hell of Venus

Electronic components, including a silicon carbide computer chip, withstood 2 months of Venus-like conditions in the Glenn Extreme Environments Rig in Cleveland, Ohio.

Each of them, Kremic says, was designed to be small enough to hitch a ride on other missions—either one of the New Frontiers spacecraft, Venera-D, or spacecraft that could swoop by Venus en route to other destinations. The first proposal, called the Long-Life In-Situ Solar System Explorer (LLISSE), was modest: a glorified cube the size of a car battery that would drop from a balloon or larger probe and record temperature, pressure, wind speed, and a few specific chemicals for 60 Earth days. Because silicon carbide isn’t good for storing data, the LLISSE would stream its observations either up to an orbiter or straight to Earth. The readings would provide ground truth for circulation models of the planet’s atmosphere, and they would help researchers estimate how mass is distributed throughout the planet—one fundamental mystery that a short-term mission could not answer.

A slightly larger design, the Seismic and Atmospheric Exploration of Venus, unveiled this month at a Venus meeting at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, could add a seismometer, a heat flux gauge, possibly even a camera, all for $100 million. Such a seismometer would be the killer app for long-lived landers. “The ultimate goal is to have seismometers on Venus,” Smrekar says. Nothing can tell you more about the interior structure of a planet. By listening to the ground over a long span of time, Wilson says, you might hear the crust stretching or cracking from tectonic processes, including “Venusquakes,” or hear the rumbling of distant volcanoes. Such a mission could quickly answer the fundamental question: Is Venus dead or alive?

Another test of Glenn’s silicon carbide electronics could potentially come quite soon: a proposal called Venus Bridge Orbiter and Surface Science (V-BOSS), one of two candidates for a quick-to-fly, low-cost (less than $200 million) “Venus Bridge” mission that NASA’s associate administrator for science, Thomas Zurbuchen, asked Venus scientists to prepare in the wake of the failed Discovery round. While details of the V-BOSS won’t be set until early next year, it would build off of the LLISSE and add an orbiter to relay lander data back to Earth.

Some researchers, blindsided by the brisk progress in high-temperature electronics, worry that the Glenn and Venus Bridge landers could outcompete more conventional missions such as New Frontiers. That would be a loss to science, Esposito says, because the cut-rate landers can’t match sophisticated sensors, such as mass spectrometers and radar, for answering key questions. “There’s not a cheap way to find out the dominant mineral on the surface of Venus,” he says. But Harvey says Glenn-style electronics could make even more ambitious future Venus probes—such as a long-delayed potential multibillion-dollar flagship mission—vastly more productive.

Meanwhile, back here in Cleveland, the latest endurance test has wound up. Neudeck reports that his microchips worked the whole way through, and could have run longer. One day, he is confident, devices like these will brave the hellish surface of Venus. Until they are ready, he will keep putting them through their paces, marking time in the little hell next door.

US government warns businesses about cyber bug in Intel chips

(Reuters) – The U.S. government on Tuesday urged businesses to act on an Intel Corp alert about security flaws in widely used computer chips as industry researchers scrambled to understand the impact of the newly disclosed vulnerability.

The Department of Homeland Security gave the guidance a day after Intel said it had identified security vulnerabilities in remote-management software known as “Management Engine” that shipped with eight types of processors used in business computers sold by Dell Technologies Inc, Lenovo Group Ltd, HP Inc, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co and other manufacturers.

Security experts said that it was not clear how difficult it would be to exploit the vulnerabilities to launch attacks, though they found the disclosure troubling because the affected chips were widely used.

“These vulnerabilities affect essentially every business computer and server with an Intel processor released in the last two years,” said Jay Little, a security engineer with cyber consulting firm Trail of Bits.

For a remote attack to succeed, a vulnerable machine would need to be configured to allow remote access, and a hacker would need to know the administrator’s user name and password, Little said. Attackers could break in without those credentials if they have physical access to the computer, he said.

Intel said that it knew of no cases where hackers had exploited the vulnerability in a cyber attack.

The Department of Homeland Security advised computer users to review the warning from Intel, which includes a software tool that checks whether a computer has a vulnerable chip. It also urged them to contact computer makers to obtain software updates and advice on strategies for mitigating the threat. (bit.ly/2zqhccw)

Intel spokeswoman Agnes Kwan said the company had provided software patches to fix the issue to all major computer manufacturers, though it was up to them to distribute patches to computers users.

Dell’s support website offered patches for servers, but not laptop or desktop computers, as of midday Tuesday. Lenovo offered fixes for some servers, laptops and tablets and said more updates would be available Friday. HP posted patches to its website on Tuesday evening.

Security experts noted that it could take time to fix vulnerable systems because installing patches on computer chips is a difficult process.

“Patching software is hard. Patching hardware is even harder,” said Ben Johnson, co-founder of cyber startup Obsidian Security.

Reporting by Stephen Nellis; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Grant McCool

iPhone 11: Apple’s 2018 iPhones will pack ‘significantly faster’ baseband chips

KGI SECURITIES is predicting that Apple’s 2018 iPhone line-up will include ‘significantly faster’ baseband chips, with Intel set to be the main supplier.

KGI says that Intel will provide 70 to 80 per cent of the improved chips, which will pack 4×4 MIMO technology compared to the current 2×2 MIMO chips currently used in Apple smartphones.

The remaining chips are set to come from Qualcomm, according to the research note, despite previous speculation that Apple was set to cut ties with the American chipmaker due to escalating legal tensions between the two firms.

While Qualcomm will still have a hand in next year’s iPhones, KGI notes that Apple is working on building its own baseband chips, in a bid to help it reduce costs in the future. 

14/11/17: Apple will reportedly release three new iPhones next year and all of them will come with a notched display, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. 

Kuo expects Apple to release three iPhones in 2018, including 5.8in and 6.5in models with OLED displays and a cheaper 6.1in handset with an LCD display, according to a research note seen by MacRumours.

“Two new OLED models target high-end market; new TFT-LCD model aims at low-end midrange markets,” Kuo said.

“The new TFT-LCD model will differ significantly from the OLED models in hardware and design specs (for instance, the PPI will be lower). The primary selling points of the TFT-LCD model may be the innovative user experience of an integrated full-screen design and 3D sensing with a lower price tag (we expect it will likely be US$649-749).”

Kuo goes on to say that all three models will likely come equipped with a full-screen notched design and TrueDepth camera system like that seen on the iPhone X, with all three handsets tipped to dump Touch ID in favour of Apple’s new, crackable Face ID system

Earlier rumours also claimed that next year’s iPhone(s) could ship without modem chips from Qualcomm, with Apple said to be testing modem chips from Intel and MediaTek to potentially include in its 2018 hardware line-up. There’s also talk of the so-called iPhone 11 packing a Samsung-built A12 chip

Kuo also suggested that Apple will have a lot more of the ‘new’ iPhones available at launch when compared to the 80 million iPhone units shipped in the second half of this year.

While Kuo predicts the cheaper LCD model to fetch around $700, there’s no word yet as to how much Apple’s next-gen OLED models are likely to cost.

We’re going to go out on a whim and predict that the new iPhones will probably be announced in September next year. µ

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Apple’s Silicon Chief Talks About iPhone Chips, Face ID, and More in Israeli Interview [Updated]

(‘//www.macrumors.com/2017/11/14/johny-srouji-talks-israel-face-id-and-more/’)


Johny Srouji (‘https://www.apple.com/leadership/johny-srouji/’), Senior Vice President of Hardware Technologies at Apple, recently talked about Israel’s contributions to Apple products, Face ID security, augmented reality, and more in a wide-ranging interview with Calcalist (‘https://www.calcalist.co.il/internet/articles/0,7340,L-3724966,00.html’).

For context, Srouji leads the team responsible for custom silicon and hardware technologies like batteries, storage controllers, and application processors, including the new A11 Bionic chip in the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X.

The interview was published in Hebrew, so the quotes herein are loosely translated to English and may not be perfectly word for word.

Srouji started by complimenting Israel, where he was born and raised, for its significant contributions to Apple products. He said Apple now employs over 900 engineers in Israel, up from a reported 700 or so in 2015.

A few years ago, Apple opened research and development offices in Haifa, north of Tel Aviv, with the facilities serving as the iPhone maker’s second-largest RD operations outside of the United States at the time.

There, a team of engineers are focused on chip design (‘//www.macrumors.com/2015/02/26/apple-israel-chip-design/’), testing, and engineering, according to Apple’s job listings over the years.

“The things we do in Israel are a significant part of every Apple device in the world,” said Srouji. He went on to say “the team in Israel is part of this long-term vision of excellence and perfection, so we’re here for the long term.”

Apple has also acquired several Israeli companies over the years, including PrimeSense (‘//www.macrumors.com/2013/11/24/apple-confirms-acquisition-of-israeli-3d-body-sensing-firm-primesense/’), which developed the original Kinect sensor for Xbox. PrimeSense’s 3D sensing tech is believed to be at the core of Face ID (‘//www.macrumors.com/2017/03/07/apple-face-detection-patent-iphone-8/’) on the iPhone X.

Apple later scooped up Israeli startup LinX (‘//www.macrumors.com/2015/04/14/apple-acquires-linx-imaging/’), whose dual-lens camera technologies are likely used in the latest iPhone models. It also bought Israeli flash memory firm Anobit Technologies (‘//www.macrumors.com/2012/01/25/apple-ramping-up-operations-in-israel-with-anobit-acquisition-and-new-research-center/’) and facial recognition startup RealFace (‘//www.macrumors.com/2017/02/19/apple-buys-facial-recognition-firm-realface/’).

The interview later shifted to Face ID, which Srouji said is “the fastest and most secure” facial recognition system in the industry.

“Take the subject of user attention for identification,” said Srouji. “If I am not fully aware of the device–i.e. looking at it with my face directly–there is no detection.” He told the interviewer “you have to be happy about it because imagine you have the phone and I go aside and I can create a fake of it.”

Srouji also reflected on Apple’s new augmented reality platform ARKit. He said Apple is always looking far ahead with its chip designs, with a three-year roadmap leading into 2020. Read the full interview (‘https://www.calcalist.co.il/internet/articles/0,7340,L-3724966,00.html’) for his complete vision.


Article Link: Apple’s Head of Chip Design Talks About Face ID Security and More in Israeli Interview (‘//www.macrumors.com/2017/11/14/johny-srouji-talks-israel-face-id-and-more/’)

This guy is a brilliant mind and, he’s an Arab Christian which goes to show that, contrary to popular beliefs, opportunities in Israel are not limited by race and/ or religion.
[doublepost=1510673708][/doublepost]

It’s “Johny Speak.”

He didn’t say “Aluminium”.

Factbox-Kobe Steel’s Affected Customers: From Computer Chips to Space Ships

Railways

Railway operators across Japan including Central Japan Railway Company Co (JR Tokai), East Japan Railway Co (JR East), West Japan Railway Co (JR West), Tokyo Metro Co Ltd and Hankyu Hanshin Holdings Inc.

Utilities

Chugoku Electric Power Co Inc, Hokuriku Electric Power Co, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd, Kansai Electric Power Co Inc, Kyushu Electric Power Co Inc and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc (Tepco).

Other products using affected metals include:

Air conditioners from Mitsubishi Electric Corp.

Aircraft parts and engine components from Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd.

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Blu-ray discs from Panasonic Corp.

Cooling equipment from Toshiba Corp.

Defence equipment from makers MHI, IHI, Kawasaki Heavy and Komatsu Ltd.

Gearboxes for aircraft and vacuum pumps from Shimadzu Corp.

Heat exchangers from Toyota-affiliated parts manufacturer Denso Corp.

Motorcycles from Suzuki Motor Corp.

Ship engines from Mitsui Engineering Shipbuilding Co Ltd.

Kobe Steel is integrated into global supply chains, supplying metals to companies including Bosch Ltd, Hyundai Motor Co, Kia Motors Corp (000270.KS), Ford Motor Co and Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC.

The steelmaker makes wire rod for engine valve springs found in half the world’s cars, aluminium discs for half of the world’s hard drives and 40 percent of the engine crankshafts used in large ships.

Kobe Steel is Asia’s No.1 manufacturer of semiconductor leadframes, the base material for chips, and one the world’s top makers of the large forged casks used to store spent nuclear fuel.

(Reporting by Sam Nussey, Yuka Obayashi, Osamu Tsukimori, Joe White, and Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Continue reading the main story

Factbox: Kobe Steel’s affected customers – from computer chips to space ships

(Reuters) – Kobe Steel Ltd’s (5406.T) tampering with specifications has led to a scramble among the 525 customers currently affected to check the safety of their cars, planes, trains and other products.

The metals from Kobe Steel whose specifications have been falsified have been used in a dizzying array of products including air conditioners, Blu-ray discs, car doors, computer chips, copper pipes, heat exchangers, gear boxes, nuclear power plant parts, ship engines and space ships.

No safety issues have been reported.

Customers that have received falsely certified parts include:

Automakers

Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), Nissan Motor Co (7201.T), Honda Motor Co (7267.T), Mazda Motor Corp (7261.T), Subaru Corp (7270.T), Mitsubishi Motors Corp (7211.T) and Daihatsu Motor Co Ltd (7267.T).

Aerospace

Honda said affected products have been used in its HondaJet, the first aircraft developed by an automaker since World War Two.

Other affected manufacturers include the world’s biggest maker of passenger jets Boeing Co (BA.N), Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd (7011.T) and IHI Corp (7013.T).

Railways

Railway operators across Japan including Central Japan Railway Company Co (9022.T) (JR Tokai), East Japan Railway Co (9020.T) (JR East), West Japan Railway Co (9021.T) (JR West), Tokyo Metro Co Ltd and Hankyu Hanshin Holdings Inc (9042.T).

Utilities

Chugoku Electric Power Co Inc (9504.T), Hokuriku Eletric Power Co (9505.T), Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd, Kansai Electric Power Co Inc (9503.T), Kyushu Electric Power Co Inc (9508.T) and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc (9501.T) (Tepco).

Other products using affected metals include:

Air conditioners from Mitsubishi Electric Corp (6503.T).

Aircraft parts and engine components from Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd (7012.T).

Blu-ray discs from Panasonic Corp (6752.T).

Cooling equipment from Toshiba Corp (6502.T).

Defense equipment from makers MHI, IHI, Kawasaki Heavy and Komatsu Ltd (6301.T).

Gearboxes for aircraft and vacuum pumps from Shimadzu Corp (7701.T).

Heat exchangers from Toyota-affiliated parts manufacturer Denso Corp (6902.T).

Motorcycles from Suzuki Motor Corp (7269.T).

Ship engines from Mitsui Engineering Shipbuilding Co Ltd (7003.T).

Kobe Steel is integrated into global supply chains, supplying metals to companies including Bosch Ltd (BOSH.NS), Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS), Kia Motors Corp (000270.KS), Ford Motor Co (F.N) and Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC (RR.L).

The steelmaker makes wire rod for engine valve springs found in half the world’s cars, aluminum discs for half of the world’s hard drives and 40 percent of the engine crankshafts used in large ships.

Kobe Steel is Asia’s No.1 manufacturer of semiconductor leadframes, the base material for chips, and one the world’s top makers of the large forged casks used to store spent nuclear fuel.

Reporting by Sam Nussey, Yuka Obayashi, Osamu Tsukimori, Joe White, and Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

Apple might build its next iPhone without Qualcomm chips

After years of using Qualcomm’s chips in its hardware, Apple began embracing Intel in the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. And, both companies’ components again made the cut on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. Yet, there’s still time for Apple to change its mind and make amends with Qualcomm — it has until until three months prior to the expected September launch of next year’s iPhone to switch suppliers. The release of the next iPad Pro, on the other hand, could be as soon as mid-year 2018.

For its part, Qualcomm said that its modem for the next-gen iPhone has “already been fully tested and released to Apple.” It added that it’s “committed to supporting Apple’s new devices.” But, the reassuring words don’t match the company’s actions.

The spat between the tech titans has been escalating since the onset of 2017. Back then, Apple kicked things off by filing a $1 billion lawsuit claiming Qualcomm ordered it to pay unfair licensing royalties for tech “they have nothing to do with.” Things turned nastier still when Apple stopped making payments to the chipmaker — the fallout from which saw Qualcomm drop its Q3 2017 revenue estimate by half a billion dollars.

Qualcomm responded with its own suit, and several patent infringements that essentially sought to block sales of select iPhone models in the US. The latest chapter in the legal feud saw the battleground switch to China, with Qualcomm requesting a ban on iPhones in the country.

System76 and ZaReason both sell Linux laptops with Kaby Lake Refresh chips

A few months after Intel launched its 8th-gen Core processors for laptops, there are still only a handful of Windows PCs shipping with the new quad-core processors.

But what about non-Windows PCs? It turns out Linux laptop makers are already starting offer Kaby Lake Refresh CPU options.

Both System76 and ZaReason are now selling some notebooks with the new chips.

e225a_1x1.trans System76 and ZaReason both sell Linux laptops with Kaby Lake Refresh chipse225a_1x1.trans System76 and ZaReason both sell Linux laptops with Kaby Lake Refresh chips

System76 Galago Pro

These aren’t entirely new computers. Instead, you can now configure the laptops with either 7th-gen or 8th-gen Intel Core processor options.

For example, the ZaReason UltraLap 5440 is a 3.6 pound notebook with a 14 inch full HD display, a choice of GNU/Linux-based operating systems, and a starting price of $799. But that price only gets you a Core i3-7100U dual-core CPU. A Core i7-8550U quad-core chip will cost you $200 more.

e225a_1x1.trans System76 and ZaReason both sell Linux laptops with Kaby Lake Refresh chips

e225a_1x1.trans System76 and ZaReason both sell Linux laptops with Kaby Lake Refresh chips

You’ll probably want to upgrade some of the other specs too, since the base model has just 4GB of RAM and 120GB of storage.

The System76 Lemur is another 14 inch laptop with 7th-gen Core i3 dual-core or 8th-gen Core i7 quad-core CPU options. Prices start at $749 for the ore i3 model, but the upgrade to a Core i7 chip will set you back $179.

e225a_1x1.trans System76 and ZaReason both sell Linux laptops with Kaby Lake Refresh chips

e225a_1x1.trans System76 and ZaReason both sell Linux laptops with Kaby Lake Refresh chips

System76 sells the laptop with a choice of Ubuntu 16.04 LTS or the company’s own Pop!_OS 17.10 operating system. It’s another reasonably thin and light machine, weighing 3.6 pounds and measuring about 0.9 inches thick.

The most portable Linux laptop with a Kaby Lake Refresh chip that I’ve found so far is the System76 Galago Pro, which weighs 2.9 pounds, measures about 0.6 inches thick, and has a 13.3 inch, 3200 x 1800 pixel display.

e225a_1x1.trans System76 and ZaReason both sell Linux laptops with Kaby Lake Refresh chips

e225a_1x1.trans System76 and ZaReason both sell Linux laptops with Kaby Lake Refresh chips

Prices start at $959 for a model with a Core i508250U quad-core processor, 8GB of RAM, and 120GB of storage. You can opt for a Core i7-8550U processor instead, but the upgrade costs $219.

via Linux.com and BetaNews

Why Apple should make Mac chips: Windows 10 ARM laptops will …

Industry players, such as Microsoft, have arrived in Hong Kong this week for Qualcomm’s 4G/5G Summit, an annual event to strategize and discuss trends and technology developments.

One of the topics of surefire interest revolves around Microsoft’s upcoming ARM-powered Windows 10 laptop. In a glimpse into its battery life potential, Microsoft’s Principal Group Program Manager for Connectivity Partners, Pete Bernard, told Trusted Reviews that he only needs to “charge it every couple of days or so.”

Having multi-day battery life on a real, full-featured laptop would indeed, as Bernard puts it, be a game-changing innovation. Yet, when you consider how much better Apple’s custom-designed silicon is compared to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips, the possibilities for an ARM-powered Mac become all the more desirable.

5ebc9_matias-wireless-aluminum-keyboard-hands-on Why Apple should make Mac chips: Windows 10 ARM laptops will ...

The best wireless keyboard for the Mac?

In my opinion, there’s no doubt that Apple has been working on MacBooks powered by A-Series silicon. The company has already begun testing the waters, so to speak, by driving the MacBook Pro Touch Bar using an independent ARM processor.

But producing a MacBook powered by a chip like Apple’s A11 Bionic would be a whole different story. That A11 has already shown via benchmarks to be more than capable of both single and multi-threaded operations, and Apple has only improved its efficiency when it comes to battery life.

Now imagine for a second Apple’s A11, a chip that handily beats several recently-released full-sized laptops, powering a MacBook. Not only would the device have the potential to produce ridiculously long battery life as mentioned by Bernard, but it would also have a lot more juice at its disposal to avoid throttling when necessary.

With Microsoft’s first real foray into ARM-powered laptops (for its lack of usability, the Surface RT doesn’t count), it may very well force Apple’s hand, at least in the area of public opinion, to come up with a machine with similar battery life.

Geekbench 4 score for 2017 MacBook (Intel m3)

As improved as Intel’s low-power silicon has become over the last few years, it’s still a far cry from the power to efficiency ratio presented by ARM CPUs. For example, my iPhone 8 runs absolute circles around my 2017 MacBook. Granted, the MacBook features a larger screen with higher resolution, but it also features a much larger battery. It’s not a complete apples to apples comparison, but it’s close enough.

On that same note, as well as a Snapdragon-powered Microsoft laptop may perform, it’s still a far cry from the type of performance that Apple is getting from its own custom fabrication.

Geekbench 4 score for iPhone 8 (A11 Bionic)

If it ever does decide to test the waters, Apple will release ARM-powered Macs on its own time-table, and won’t be dictated by the activities of its competitors.

Yet, Microsoft is said to be currently testing hundreds of Snapdragon-powered Windows 10 devices. One would imagine that Apple has to be looking at the prototype MacBooks within the confines of its Infinite Loop walls, and is, at the very least, taking the idea more seriously as of late.

What do you think?


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