Friday Tech Roundup (05 April 2013): AMD calls NVIDIA “bitter”, and how vulnerable our undersea Internet cables really are

Map of Internet in Egypt

By on April 5, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Welcome to the Friday Tech Roundup! Contained herein is a weekly dose of some of the best tech news from across the internet, rounded up for your edification and entertainment. Read on for all the details of AMD’s response to Nvidia’s “bitter” PS4 put-downs, possible Internet sabotage attempts, the lifting of electronics use during take-off and landing, and yet another amazing discovery that could change the way we make and use electronics.

AMD calls NVIDIA “bitter” in response to recent lashing out

After NVIDIA’s recent dismissal of the PS4 and its technical specifications, AMD’s director of ISV relations Neal Robinson has flippantly responded in an interview with TechRadar. When asked about NVIDIA’s summary of the PS4 as running on “a low-end CPU, and a low- to mid-range GPU”, Robinson laughed and said “”Well, of course they’re going to do that, they’re a little bitter.” He then went on to clarify, “For us, really by looking at that APU that we designed, you can’t pull out individual components off it and hold it up and say, ‘Yeah, this compares to X or Y.’ It’s that integration of the two, and especially with the amount of shared memory that Sony has chosen to put on that machine, then you’re going to be able to do so much more moving and sharing that data that you can address by both sides.”

It sounds as though the primary advantage is the APU’s ability to share data. “It’s more than just a CPU doing all these amazing calculations and a GPU doing calculations. We are now going to be able to move certain tasks between the two.” When asked about AMD’s involvement with Microsoft and the next Xbox, Robinson deftly dodged the question, but made a point of mentioning the “tremendous success” they enjoy in their partnership with Microsoft for the Xbox 360. “It was a great partnership and we enjoy working with them,” he said, clearly inviting speculation.

Undersea cables damaged in possible Internet sabotage attempt

It can be easy to forget just how tenuous our access to Internet really is. The Washington Post recently reported on allegations from Egypt’s naval forces that three scuba divers were arrested during an attempt at “cutting an undersea cable” in the Meditteranean, and that the week-long Internet slowdown experienced in Egypt since March 22 was due to cable damage caused by either a speeding fishing boat, or a ship’s anchor. This kind of cable damage causes slowdowns because Internet traffic needs to be rerouted around the damaged cable, taking the long way around. In a piece over at Wired, Alexandra Chang highlights the fragility of our international network by pointing out that “Nearly 200 undersea fiber optic cables link the world’s telecommunications, and they are for the most part poorly armored, rarely patrolled and only occasionally monitored.”

She goes on to quote Andrew Blum, author of Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet, “Other than obscurity and a few feet of sand, [the cables] are just there,” he says. “The staff at a cable landing station might patrol the path to the beach landing once or twice a day, but otherwise I’ve never heard of or seen any constant security.”

Unreal Engine 3 ported to Firefox

Via the use of a newly updated ASM.js optimisation module for Firefox’s JavaScript engine, Mozilla claims that they are able to deliver incredible performance ability to C applications compiled to ASM.js. They believe that these applications can function in the browser at only twice as slow as natively executed code. In English, this means that it will be possible for browser applications to make better use of physical system hardware to allow for much more intensive applications to function in-browser. By way of example, Mozilla showed off this technology at their GDC session by running a web-based version of Epic’s Unreal Engine 3 via ASM.js. This differs from Google’s Native Client solution, which allows a browser to run native code within a sandbox.

Mozilla believe that the major advantage of ASM.js is that it works now. “The principal benefit of ASM.js over whole new technologies like NaCl and PNaCl is that it works today: existing JavaScript engines already optimize this style of code quite well. This means that developers can ship ASM.js today and it’ll simply get faster over time. Another important benefit is that it’s far simpler to implement, requiring very little additional machinery on top of existing JavaScript engines and no API compatibility layer.”

Electronic devices may soon be allowed to remain powered on during take-off and landing

An investigation is underway to finally decide whether or not it is okay for personal electronics to remain in use by aircraft passengers during take-off and landing. An industry group made up of representatives from Amazon, Boeing and other aircraft manufacturers, the CEA, FCC and elsewhere are working together on the investigation, and hope to present their findings on July 31. Tom’s Hardware’s Kevin Parrish has anecdotal evidence that seems to imply that the rules are unnecessary in their current state. Apparently, one of the pilots of his flight home from CES 2013 told him that “there’s no real reason why passengers must turn off their devices.

The only valid reason he could think of was the amount of incoming and outgoing transmissions per plane that could possibly interfere with the tower.” Parrish then quotes Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, “So it’s O.K. to have iPads in the cockpit; it’s O.K. for flight attendants —and they are not in a panic —yet it’s not O.K. for the traveling public.” The industry group hopes to find that the takeoff/landing electronics rule, as established by the Federal Aviation Administration, was put in place without real evidence.

Will graphene become the new direction for electronics, or will it go the way of carbon nanotubes?

The same University of Manchester scientists that brought you the levitating frog, Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov, may be on the cusp of an incredibly important scientific discovery. They have found that an isolated single-atom-thin layer of graphite has properties that makes it a serious contender to become the next foundational technology to propel electronics into the future. With “electrical conductivity 100 times faster than silicon; strength 200 times greater than steel; [and] astounding optical and thermal characteristics,” it is easy to imagine a wide range of potentially exciting applications for graphene. It is worth remembering, however, that this isn’t the first time that such astounding technological breakthroughs have been reported, we must remember the excitement at the discovery of carbon nanotubes, and the subsequent failure to find a commercially viable use for the technology.

That said, according to Novoselov’s roadmap for graphene, the next most viable commercial outcome will be in flexible displays. He and his colleagues believe that the hurdles that stopped carbon nanotubes from making it to mass scale production simply do not exist for graphene, and that commercialisation will come.

9 comments (Leave your own)

“Will graphene become the new direction for electronics?”

This is precisely why the two guys that discovered it won the Nobel prize.


I wouldn’t mind toying around with the unreal engine and firefox. It would be a great idea for devs to whack a small level up and allow it to be played via the browser before people purchase a game.

Sort of a try before you buy thing.

Should bluddy copyright that idea.


I wouldn’t mind toying around with the unreal engine and firefox. It would be a great idea for devs to whack a small level up and allow it to be played via the browser before people purchase a game.

Sort of a try before you buy thing.

Should bluddy copyright that idea.

Too bad you can’t copyright ideas….



I know!



The word you’re looking for is “patent”.


The following thread on Whirlpool makes for some interesting reading on the Perth-Singapore undersea cable cut that has been affecting Australia for the past several months.

An article summarising the issue. Note it’s a few weeks out of date now with permits apparently granted and repairs scheduled in the coming 1-2 weeks.



quite sure that Unity and the devs using it have beaten this idea to the punch anyway.



quite sure that Unity and the devs using it have beaten this idea to the punch anyway.

Unity does it with a small plugin but only for chrome I’m pretty sure, and cryengine 3 can run in chrome and I think firefox.


“Will graphene become the new direction for electronics?”

This is precisely why the two guys that discovered it won the Nobel prize.

Slightly over-simplified. They didn’t ‘discover’ graphene, but they were the first to be able to manipulate single layers of it. Still not sure why it’s called 2-dimensional graphene either…. that would make it massless, surely.

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