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frank zappa: “The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.”

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

World's smallest computer is no bigger than a grain of salt + MicroSD Card Buying Guide: classes, speeds, what to buy + more - TechSpot newsletter 20/03/18

IBM's "world's smallest computer" is the size of a grain of salt

With the power of a 90's PC

By  17 comments

We’ve seen companies boasting that they’ve created incredibly small computers in the past, but most of these are still massive compared to IBM’s latest effort. Measuring just 1mm x 1mm, its device is the size of a grain of sand.
The company is unveiling the computer at its IBM Think 2018 conference, which starts today. You might imagine that it won’t be able to do much, but it has the compute power of an x86 machine from the 1990s. Not very impressive compared to today’s PCs, true, but then you do need a microscope to see it clearly—check out the picture of one placed on a pile of salt.
The tiny computer costs under ten cents to manufacture and contains up to one million transistors, according to IBM. The company said this “crypto-anchor” could be embedded in everyday items to improve shipment tracking and processing, acting as a data source of blockchain applications.
"Within the next five years, cryptographic anchors — such as ink dots or tiny computers smaller than a grain of salt — will be embedded in everyday objects and devices," said Arvind Krishna, IBM's head of research.
The tiny computer costs under ten cents to manufacture and contains up to one million transistors, according to IBM.
"They'll be used in tandem with blockchain's distributed ledger technology to ensure an object's authenticity from its point of origin to when it reaches the hands of the customer.”
"These technologies pave the way for new solutions that tackle food safety, authenticity of manufactured components, genetically modified products, identification of counterfeit objects and provenance of luxury goods."
Mashable reports that the computer even has enough power to perform basic AI functions, such as sorting the data it's been given. In addition to all those transistors, it includes some static random-access memory (SRAM), a light-emitting diode (LED) and photo-detector for communicating, and a photo-voltaic cell for power.
IBM’s researchers are still testing the prototype model, so don’t expect them to hit the market anytime soon. But it’s amazing to think the same power we saw in PCs from the 1990s is now available in something the size of a grain of salt.

If it's been a while since you've bought portable flash memory, you might be surprised by the broad availability and affordability of high speed, high capacity microSD cards. Commonly used to expand the storage in devices ranging from smartphones to drones, microSD cards are becoming more frequently purchased than any other SD form factors, although full sized cards remain popular among digital camera owners.
Here's a quick overview of the different SD card sizes:
  • Standard SD cards: SD (SDSC), SDHC, SDXC, SDIO -- 32 x 24 x 2.1-1.4mm
  • miniSD cards: miniSD, miniSDHC, miniSDIO -- 21.5 x 20 x 1.4mm
  • microSD cards: microSD, microSDHC, microSDXC -- 15 x 11 x 1mm
To be clear, this guide will specifically be recommending microSD cards, but much of the information leading up to that will apply to the other form factors if that's what you're interested in.
The SD Association approved the final microSD spec in July 2005 and those early cards only supported up to 128MB of storage -- an early limit that was expanded later by the SDHC and SDXC specifications.
  • microSD: Max storage of 2GB, transfer rate of 25MB/s, uses FAT12, FAT16 or FAT16B file systems
  • microSDHC: 4GB to 32GB of storage, transfer rates from 50MB/s to 150MB/s, typically FAT32 file system
  • microSDXC: 32GB to 200GB of storage, transfer rates from 50MB/s to 312MB/s, uses exFAT file system
As noted, a significant portion of the SD cards available today are of the microSD form factor, and a great majority of those are of the microSDXC specification, which is to say that this is more than likely what you're looking for or will probably wind up purchasing. MicroSDXC cards can be further broken down into various different speed classifications, which ultimately apply to all of the SD card families mentioned above.
Speed ClassMin. Seq. WritesUHS Speed ClassVideo Speed ClassIdeal Workload
Class 2 (C2)2MB/sSD recording and playback
Class 4 (C4)4MB/s720p/1080p video
Class 6 (C6)6MB/sVideo Class 6 (V6)720p/1080p, some 4K video
Class 10 (C10)10MB/sUHS Class 1 (U1)Video Class 10 (V10)720p/1080p/4K video
30MB/sUHS Class 3 (U3)Video Class 30 (V30)1080p/4K video @ 60/120fps
60MB/sVideo Class 60 (V60)8K video @ 60/120fps
90MB/sVideo Class 90 (V90)8K video @ 60/120fps
The SD Association has come up with several different speed classification systems to help differentiate what cards are best suited to what purposes. The plainly stated "Class" number is the most immediate indicator to the speed of an SD card, with "Class 2" (2MB/s) cards being toward the bottom of the barrel and best geared toward standard definition video work or less demanding loads, and "Class 10" (10MB/s) cards being capable of recording or playing up to 4K video.
Further, some SDHC and SDXC cards tout the Ultra High Speed (UHS) classification, indicating support for one of three UHS specifications (UHS-I, UHS-II and UHS-III), which offer improved data transfer rates by various advancements. UHS-III v6.0 for instance was released in February 2017 and added two new full-duplex specifications to the standard.
The organization's "Video Speed" classification is more succinct in conveying its information, with "Video Class 10" for instance applying to cards that have a minimum sequential write speed of 10MB/s, and these go up to Video Class 90 (V90 -- 90MB/s) which can handle 8K video at 60 or 120fps. Excluded from the table above, there is also relatively new "Application Class" for SD cards -- Class 1 and 2 (A1, A2) -- which outline minimum IOP performance.
Of course, the faster the card, the more you can expect to pay, so it makes sense to know what your needs are and buy accordingly. Pro photographers will inevitably want the quickest card they can buy, but there's little justification for that when expanding the storage of a budget smartphone for example.
Although our guide should have equipped you with the information you need to pick your own microSD card (or standard SD card for that matter), we went ahead and chose three that stood out as good all-around choices for a few different shopping categories:

Best Overall microSD Card

Samsung Evo Select 64GB MB-ME64GA/AM - $23 on Amazon
You may have noticed Samsung's dominance in the flash drive sector if you've upgraded your desktop with solid state drives over the years and there's a good chance that the company's memory chips are in your smartphone. That being the case, it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise to see a Samsung-branded microSD card listed here.
For only $20, the 64GB Evo Select offers 100MB/s reads and 60MB/s writes, ships with an SD card adapter and has become the best-selling microSD card on Amazon over the last year. The 64GB SanDisk Ultra advertises the same read speeds for the same price on Amazon, but its write speed isn't readily available (even on the company's website). Assuming it provides the same specs, choosing between the two (Evo and Ultra) would come down to pricing and availability, and Samsung seems to have an overall edge there.

Best High Performance microSD Card

Samsung Evo Select 128GB MB-ME128GA/AM - $45 on Amazon
Without running any benchmarks and judging today's cards purely on paper, this category also seems to be cinched up by the Samsung Evo Select. The 128GB Evo Select touts read speeds of up to 100MB/s and write speeds of 90MB/s (60MB/s for the 64GB model), and that lines up with the fastest competition we could find -- namely the SanDisk Extreme 128GB, which lists the same read and write rates.
However, even if the SanDisk Extreme has an edge on the Evo Select in performance, the latter would still likely come out ahead in terms of value when accounting for cost seeing as the 128GB Evo Select is only $40, while a SanDisk Extreme of the same capacity is going for $65. Of note, there is also a non-Select Samsung Evo available that touts 100MB/s transfer speeds and UHS-III compliance but has lesser write speeds and isn't any more affordable than the Evo Select.

Best High Capacity microSD Card

SanDisk Ultra 400GB SDSQUAR-400G-GN6MA - $200 on Amazon
SanDisk takes the prize if you simply want all the gigabytes you can get in a microSD card. The company's Ultra series offers seven different capacities and stretches on up to 400GB, which is well beyond what you'd find from any other flash card provider, which typically top out at 256GB, as is the case for Samsung's Evo Select for instance.
Priced at $200, the 400GB SanDisk Ultra touts similarly speedy read rates as the other cards (95/100MB/s) but as already mentioned, we haven't been able to nail down the card's write performance. Fortunately, it's not being chosen here for its speed so we can look passed the missing specification. For what it's worth, you aren't paying much of a premium per gigabyte for jumping from the ~200GB drives to the 400GB Ultra, which is going for about $0.49/GB, around the same price per gig as the lower capacity microSD cards.
more from the Techspot newsletter 20/03/18:


In 2012 I wrote an article about leaving Facebook. I've kept this stance for about five years now, but an accumulation of several small things during this time have had me questioning whether or not abandoning the social network was the brilliant idea I once thought it was.


Talk to most people about servers and their eyes start to glaze over. After all, if you’re not an IT professional, it’s not exactly a great dinner party conversation.

Next-Gen Graphics

Video game graphics have advanced quite a bit over the past decade or so but developers have never been able to reach true photorealism. Games like Crysis and The Order: 1886 come close but they're far from perfect.

PC Gaming

It's been nearly 14 years since Blizzard launched the world's most popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game. You've had plenty of time to get your affairs in order before finally taking the plunge into Azeroth. Don't worry, the World of Warcraft hasn't passed you by. You just might need a little help getting started. We got you.
Following earlier confirmation that the company was working on the project, Atari revealed the first images of its Ataribox console in July last year. Now, at San Francisco’s Game Developer Conference (GDC), the legendary games firm has revealed more info…
Samsung’s new Galaxy S9 was found to be reasonably durable by JerryRigEverything last week although critically, the YouTube channel didn’t perform any drop testing. For that, we turn to consumer electronics warranty provider SquareTrade who on Monday, published the results…


It’s fair to say that the last few days haven’t been Facebook’s best, but things could get even worse. Following news of the Cambridge Analytica controversy, former federal officials say the company may have violated the FTC's consent decree. If…
HTC at CES in January announced an upgraded version of its Vive virtual reality headset. The new Vive Pro features an array of improvements including higher-resolution OLED displays and integrated headphones and soon, you’ll be able to get your mitts…
Warner Bros. is re-releasing The Matrix in 4K. The offering, a 4K Ultra HD / Blu-ray / digital combo, is set to arrive on May 22 and is priced at $41.99.
Ever since the case of the San Bernadino shooter pitted Apple against the FBI over the unlocking of an iPhone, opinions have been split on providing backdoor access to the iPhone for law enforcement. Some felt that Apple was aiding…
Outside Phoenix, Arizona, in a suburb called Tempe, a self-driving Uber SUV struck a woman around 10 PM on Sunday night. The vehicle was confirmed to be operating in self-driving mode at the time of the collision. There was an…
The mobile gaming industry might be best known for being home to numerous microtransaction-laden, Clash of Clans-like titles but that seems to be changing lately. This week, popular battle royale title Player Unknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) made a surprise appearance on…
LG in 2013 purchased webOS and its related patents from HP to use in its upcoming smart televisions. The South Korean electronics maker wasted little time in doing so, unveiling its first webOS-powered smart TVs at CES 2014. Within six…
It seems that multiplayer online PC games are finding a place in the mobile market. Following news that Ark: Survival Evolved and Fortnite Battle Royale are heading to (or are already available on) Android and iOS, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has now…
When the PlayStation 3 was released back in 2006, Sony boasted that it wasn’t just a video games console, but that it was also a “computer.” The Japanese firm backed up these claims by allowing users to install Linux on…







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