Transistors and Thier Modern Application

transistor-belt

Photo Credit Xeusy

Have you ever wondered how your scale acquired its magic number? Or why it always seems to be three pounds off? It is all because of a special electronic device called a transistor.  Transistors are the main building block of all computer processors and are used in almost all electronic devices.  A modern computer processor can contain billions of transistors. So you might ask what is a transistor and how do they measure your weight?

A transistor is made of silicon because silicon has four valence electrons and does not conduct electricity when it is pure.  The silicon is doped with phosphorus to give it a negative charge because phosphorus has five valence electrons allowing for the movement of extra electrons throughout the silicon. The silicon can also be doped with boron to give it a positive charge because boron has only three electrons and causes there to be an electron hole.  When silicon has a positive charge it is called P-type and when it has a negative charge it is called N-type.  The combination of N-type and P-type silicon make up a transistor.

When a silicon wafer is doped with half being P-type and half N-type the wafer becomes a diode.  In the center of the diode, some of the electrons from the negative side will flow across the middle to fill the holes in the positive side making part of the N-type side positively charged and part of the P-type negatively charged. The resulting neutral space in the center of the diode creates a boundary keeping any more electrons from flowing across the middle until an electric charge is applied. When a battery is hooked up with the positive side to the P-type and the negative side to the N-type then electricity can flow if there is enough energy to overcome the depletion barrier. If the connections are switched the electrons will flow to either end of the silicon wafer, away from the middle, so no electricity can pass through and makes the depletion layer much bigger. Transistors use this basic principle to function.

A transistor consists of a two N-types that sandwich a narrow P-type. No matter how the main power source is connected to either side of the wafer the electricity cannot flow because of there would be a depletion layer on one of the two sides. When a power supply is
added to the top of the P-type wafer that is correctly configured to match the positive side with transistor-2the P-type and the negative side with the N-type then there will be a weak flow of electricity. The small trickle of electrons crossing the depletion barrier allows for the main power source’s electrons to pass through the entire depletion layer and becomes amplified.

A series of transistors connected together are called cells or logic gates depending on the function. A cell normally has a practical purpose, like a load cell that measures weight or pressure. Then there are gates that control the flow of signals such as, AND gates or OR gates. A AND gate lets a signal pass if both gates are powered and an OR works only when both signals do not match.  Common cells that many people use on a daily basis are load cells that are found in electronic scales.

 

Photo Credit: Michele M. F.

The Left and right pins are N-types and the middle pin a is P-type.

 

A load cell has a straight rod with transistors on either side of the rod.  Pressure is then applied to the end of the rod causing the rod and the transistors to flex.  The top transistor stretches while the bottom transistor compresses. The stretching and compressing of the transistors cause the voltage passing through them to change which is then sent to a basic computer that calculates weight based on the change in voltage. Over time after many uses, the scale can slowly become uncalibrated or have varying weights because the battery is dying. The differences in voltage from the battery skew the computer’s algorithm in the scale and can cause a high variation in the weight shown on the scale’s LED even if the weight being applied remains the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit:

Michele M. F. “2N2222a – Small Signal Switching Transistor” Flickr.com, June 29 2014. https://goo.gl/R8za6b

Xeusy “Transistors.” Flicker.com, December 19 2012. https://goo.gl/A5yEo6

 

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Do You Need A RAID?

serverrackNot the sudden attack of enemy troops, but the Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) is a group of methods for storing large amounts of data redundantly and can make accessing the data very quick. Raid is a fancy term of linking a bunch of computer storage devices to form one big storage array and effectively combines all the disks into one big disk depending on the RAID configuration. The basic RAID configurations are 0, 1, 5, 6, and 10, Each RAID configuration storing data between the hard drives differently. RAID was originally developed when hard drives were much smaller with drives the size of a room only storing four Gigabytes. Over the years hard drives have gotten as big as 20 Terabytes and RAID has slowly trickled down to the consumers, but is RAID really necessary with all extra size of the newest drives? In the end, the biggest factor is the purpose of the data and the type of storage devices used.
When I refer to storage devices or hard drives, I mean any device that stores bits/bytes and is compatible with RAID configurations. In most cases, it is an HDD (Hard Disk Drive) or SSD (Solid State Drive), rarely both at one time. Both do not work well together because in order for most RAID configurations to work all of the hard drives have to be exactly the same in terms of speed and size for optimum efficiency. In more complex RAID configurations, such as RAID 5 and 6, I recommended using the same drives for the whole array. The only exception is RAID 0.
The first two types of RAID configurations are simple and straight forward. RAID 0 requires only two storage devices and links them together to form one big storage device, but if either one of the drives fail all of the information on the drive is lost and is impossible to recover, greatly increasing the read and write speeds and both disks can be utilized by storing all of the information in stripes of blocks on each hard drive. In addition, RAID 1 also only requires two storage devices and mirrors one of the drives to the other one, so if one drive were to fail the other could copy the information. The downside of RAID 1 is that half of the total storage capacity is lost because all of the data is copied twice, and the read and write speeds are not as fast as RAID 0 because it does not use the block technique.
Raid 5 and 6 are a little more complicated and harder to explain. They involve more striping of information and the use of parities. Similar to how RAID 0 stored lots of small blocks on each hard drive so it can utilize all hard drives when the processor requests it, RAID 5 does the same thing across all of the drives but also contains parities on each drive, so if one drive were to fail, it could be replaced. A parity is a datum that detects errors in drives and is used to restore the data along with data currently on the drives. The process of restoring any lost information takes hours and is not as fast as adding a new hard drive to RAID 1, but the parities take up less space than completely mirroring all of the data. RAID 5 also requires a minimum of 3 hard drives. Raid 6 is very similar to RAID 5 but has twice the amount of parity and requires a minimum of 4 hard drives, So RAID 6 can compensate for the loss of two drives but has the same long drive replacement time. When more drives are added to RAID 5 and 6 the drives speed up because the data can be spread into more stripes and the parity can be better spread out, slightly shortening the time it takes to recover a lost drive. Ultimately RAID 5 and 6 are the best compromise between speed and data safety minus the long drive recovery time.
Raid 10 is the addition of RAID 0 and 1. They require a minimum of 4 storage devices and stripes the data together across 2 of the drives as RAID 0 does. Then mirrors the first two drives to the other two hard drives, so if one of the drives failed then the information could be recovered. RAID 10 has very close read and write speeds as RAID 0, but the max potential storage is halved because half of the drives act like mirror for the other two in case one of the drives were to fail, for example four hard drives that each contain one terabyte of information named drive A, B, C and D are in a RAID, Even though the drives total capacity is four terabytes, the array could only store up to two terabytes of information, because drive A would be mirrored to C and drive B would be mirrored to D. Therefore, all of the information on any given drive would have a redundant backup on another drive, so if one were to fail it could be replaced. The drive recovery time is relatively low because all of the information is mirrored and not parodied.
Now the question of do you need a RAID? And for most people, the answer is no, unless you have lots and lots of really important data that you need saved or need access to mass amounts of data quickly. Many video editors use RAID 0 for editing because if a drive failed then the data they needed can be replicated relatively easily but may take some time due to the large files. The good thing is that most motherboards now support raid 0 and 1, and can be useful if you have a bunch of drives sitting around with no use for them, but they do not normally support RAID 5 and 6. In order to configure your disks in these RAID configuration, you would have to buy a RAID card which can cost anywhere from $500 to $1000 or more depending on the card and number of hard drives you want to connect to the card.

Bibliography:
Lloyd, Chris. “This Is a RAID.” MaximumPC Dream Machine 2016 27 July 2010: 50-55. Print.

Photo Credit:
Sparling, Erin. “Monolith from the Front” Flickr.com, August 19 2007. https://www.flickr.com/photos/everyplace/1174159797/in/photolist-4EXu7K-chUiP-NhE1s-6NAXg-Je5v9-Js7Lf-4tfnPj-eKApQ-6tGg8S-2MKSNr-7ivDFx-5Sn3Tk-7ivEpv-buEgA3/

Buyers Guide to Buying A New Computer

desktop

I have been buying, studying and browsing computers all my life, yet you never see me at a Best Buy or Costco. I browse and do my research all online. When I walk into many popular Technology Stores, except for local computer shops and Microcenters, the computers are aimed to seem to be fast so they can get people to spend more money on the computer than its actual value.

What many companies want is for you to be satisfied with your computer, but not too satisfied.   What they want is for you to spend the maximum amount of money for what you think will be a large upgrade and have you come back and do the process all over again the next year.  They do this by making you think what you are buying is a big upgrade, but in actuality, it is not.

When most people look at a computer the first thing they do is look at the little stickers as soon as you open it that says something flashy like I7 or I5 and assume since I7 is a higher number it must be better or it is the newest generation so it must be faster than the previous. Most people go into the store with these basic assumptions.  I am here to tell you how you should buy a PCproccessor-intel.

Photo Credit: Walknboston

When looking at a processor pay little attention to the front number I7, I5, I3, instead, look at the numbers that follow it. For example, I7-6700, or I7-4720HQ. The first digit stands for the generation. The bigger it is the newer it is; in this case, the 6000 series is newer that 4000 series by 2 years or generations. The following number indicates the processors family and speed. In general, the higher the number the faster family it is. In this case, the 7’s in 6700 and 4720 represent its family. The number following this is how fast the processor is compared to the rest of its family. In this case, the 0 just means it is the basic processor and often the most common and the 2 from the second example means it is a little faster than the 0 of its family. The letters after can represent if it is the laptop version (represented by HQ in the example) if it is a special edition (normally represented as an E or X for extreme), or unlocked edition (often represented with a K) and most desktop processors do not have letters after the numbers.  You cannot really compare these two processors just by looking at the numbers because they are from two different generations. From one generation to the next there can be significant technological advances in the architecture that allow for certain aspects of computing to be utilized or more efficient. The dies also tend to shrink from one generation to the next, but that is another topic in itself.

I find the best way to compare two processors is to look up the full ID of the processor. From the previous example, they would be I7-6700 or I7-4700HQ.  There are many websites that will do a side by side comparison of both parts, including many benchmarks for the processors that test its individual aspects. A few examples are, cpu.userbenchmark.com, CpuBoss.com or GpuBoss.com for Graphics cards. You can also search them individually and make sure to note the speed the processor runs at (normally measured in GHz), the number of cores it has if it is hyperthreaded (which is almost always the case). Sometimes the Company will say the number of cores it has then the amount after it is hyperthreaded so it would look something like “Cores 4/8”.  The actual processor contains 4 physical cores but can handle 8 threads at once due to hyper threading and the more threads the better performance your computer will have.  The speed will also be listed in base and turbo.  It is most important to focus on the base speed unless you plan on overclocking.   The faster the clock speed of a computer the more times the processor does an operation, so the faster your computer.  The only issue is that the more cores a processor has the lower the clock speeds get, so which should you have Clock speed or threads?

This is when you need to consider the purpose of the computer you are using.  If you are running lots of programs at once or the program is designed to run on multiple threads, then more cores/threads are the better option. If you are not running many at once and the program runs on a single thread, such as many video game, then the clock speed will be more important.  It is also important to note that most people will note need over 8 threads and there is a noticeable clock speed drop off when you go over 8 threads.

gpu

Photo Credit: Sinchen Lin

Next is the graphics card, which is much simpler than the processor or Storage. If you all you plan on doing on your computer is browsing the internet and answering emails, then most integrated graphics cards that are built into many processors will meet all your needs as long as your display is not at 4k resolution and you can skip to the next section. If not and your purpose is very graphics intensive such as CAD programs, gaming, or UHD, then you will want to get a graphics card that excels at the programs you will be running. Nvidia designs two types of cards to fit the work and gaming environment called Quadro and GTX respectively. However, the gaming cards seem to be pulling ahead when it comes to performance per dollar ratio. Comparing graphics cards is very similar to comparing processors.

Graphics cards are similar to processors on how you can differentiate between cards.  The first number stands for the generation. The second the family and its speed corresponding to how big the number is and the third digit being how fast it is compared to the rest of its family.  An example would be AMDS R9-290, in this case, R9 would stand for the same thing as I7 would and has little relevance compared to the numbers that follow it. The 2 stands for its generation. The 90 stands for its family and in most cases the last digit is always a zero. This also goes for processors.  Graphics cards do not have as much distinction in its family as processors and will sometimes add letters at the end to differentiate cards of different speeds in the same family, for instance, the r9 290 vs the slightly faster r9290X.  Recently, Nvidia has moved onto the 4 number combo with its new 1000 series of cards, which will allow them to make more distinction in the families of each card.hardrive

Photo Credit:    Joel Cotto

Another aspect you will have to look for is Storage.  The nice thing about storage is that many PCs, including some laptops, can have multiple storage devices, so you can mix and match to the combination that fits your purpose best.  Storage is broken down into two main current categories: Solid State Drive (SSD) and Hard Disk Drive (HDD).  SSDs are much faster that HDDs, but cost more per gigabyte of storage and have a short lifespan.  HDD are cheaper and tend to be more reliable, but are very slow.   What I do and suggest is getting two storage devices. One SSD for your operating system and important/daily programs and one HDD to back up your SSD and to store any non-crucial information.  It may also be wise to get some cloud storage as well as an extra precaution for your data but often comes at a flat monthly rate.lotsofram

Photo Credit: Blake Patterson

Some additional components to look at would be aesthetics such as the appearance and size depending if you will be carrying it with you or using it in public spaces as well as add some style to your work.  The display is important as well but for me, any display that is 1080p and runs above or at 60Hz is more than satisfactory, but you should also consider if it LCD, LED, OLED, UHD. The farther right you go the better picture you will have. LCD-OLED improves the color saturation and UHD is the technology commonly used in 4k monitors.  If you are buying a laptop, then it is important to make sure you like your screen because they are difficult to replace and check to see how long the battery lasts between charges. Some people don’t have to worry since a majority of the time they will be able to plug in while others find themselves working on the go and do not get the same opportunities to plug in and charge their laptop.  Make sure your battery fits the purpose you are using your computer for. The last component, but equally important to check is Random Access Memory (RAM) because it is important that you don’t run out of it.  8Gb should be plenty for most people, but to be on the safe side I would suggest 16Gb and if you are doing some crazy intensive video editing you can need anywhere from 32Gb-64Gb. I have seen some crazy servers that had 256 GBs.

Buying a computer is similar to buying a car and it is important to be educated in the parts of the car in order to get the best car for your money.  Sometimes a brand new car is not always faster than the previous generations but tends to have a few cooler gadgets and luxuries that the previous generation did not. Computer parts act in a very similar manner. Next time you buy a computer make sure you are actually getting you money’s worth and not being scammed by the latest flashy equipment and features.

 

Photo Credit:    Blake Patterson

 

Photo Credit:

Blake Patterson, “A Pileof Ram” Flicker.com, September 22 2011, https://www.flickr.com/photos/blakespot/6173837649/in/photolist-apywQH-qeoz5S-5PF4fn-cphpmo-5GWQZu-2Rkyj3-87AcDe-bWcNRW-fu2XpQ-9NC5eF-pzhDHZ-fFUCvv-dib9MC-x6ANR-6MP4Y8-GfYf1-aeMaVN-ysRx-pzhDE2-pzjHkN-2K74dg-7LMbnH-gygFWg-6Tn9Fb-5cnXjL-pzhDBM-9BxLcc-bUVbt7-bAhEoy-pzjHqC-2Rg7S8-bAXv9q-CFeiFs-mM1D5B-2fZiGk-9gGLnU-7r155Z-bv1Ag2-FCg35d-r8Bex6-eSY7hE-ht5Wqt-bsz5f-8THwyS-4T9P6f-9cfXiC-91hRs9-69w749-pPCdNJ-iUNQeb

Joel Cotto, “HDD-SSD” Flicker.com, September 14 2012, https://www.flickr.com/photos/infotosuccess/7983744132/in/photolist-dauLYU-5hgYht-a4qhEB-wy3CnL-a4qhp2-8T1rqf-cLLSMo-keBYCn-8T1qRb-cZ2eMJ-pVNujP-aECEWe-keC3Ac-B1sRqf-69qaHW-69kYki-a4qhJD-8SXmsM-keBkZz-a4qhPv-a4t9cw-69q9Qw-69kZh2-69q981-a4t8E1-69q8WE-69kX4T-5GaGUi-69q9o1-69kWSR-8SXkVT-cLMkiL-keBrwM-a4t931-69kWBK-a4t9eb-a4t92f-keBrWz-a4t8Gy-a4t96Q-fESmuf-fEAw8c-69kXRT-6EHpeN-a4qi12-GKrP1X-GH7AKA-rTmq8w-keBqUz-a4t9fo

Pablo Bigatti, “Escritorio 8Kx8Zc-aaFRA7-8KzTyA-8KzUMd-F9ruy-DGAQm-91XaHY-4r7gtZ-81SMC7-3T4uA5-bHnKqF-6Rs19-9hereP-abL8sg-hjAQLP-uuFEE-8LCSGs-56qkZh-8KA8n9-hjBfH5-7GgGnN-2H1tG-663PTu-8Wc6NB-8KzXPY-8Wc6Q4-8Kx3UV-8KwSr2-6fNEGM-8KzWRA-8KwMdF-8Kwqxc-55cYDf-55cXLj-8KzZu7Sinchen Lin, “ASUS

Senchin Lin, “Strix GTX 1080” Flicker.com, June 14 2016, https://www.flickr.com/photos/linsinchen/27745651773/in/photolist-HECaCk-HECbTM-GRharH-GRa1pu-GRa1EE-HECbuF-HLWdKe-HLWduz-GRa1zj-GRa1vb-HECbax-HECaa6-GRa1Z7-HCfqn7-GRhafv-GRha2V-HECbme-HLWcZM-GRhap8-HLWd9p-HHVSiG-HECatT-HECaUH-GRhaB2-GRhaui-GRhaaa-HECaLX-GRha7K-Js2ggc-MYzqrq-MnddQf-LN2k5W-LN2jJA-LQwLF4-L1oHLU-L1oHjG-LQwLae-LUAbbq-L1oGQq-LXBMX4-LUAarQ-KA9uTN-JgMHCr

Walknboston, “Processor” Flicker.com, October 9 2010, https://www.flickr.com/photos/walkn/5066576096/in/photolist-8HHwyh-5KgC2R-5PZQEZ-dzE9o1-65ZLRz-4uqd7h-9ZvTwH-4nG6ci-6j1zSt-adH5Lk-gjT4Jj-gjT5gb-gjT1Um-gjT3uf-oswZ1s-dSspXi-7xbpVv-gjSFt5-gjSUzg-4baS65-dwFQ27-7g1cP-gjTiap-gjSLsU-5kZBjN-2JSSpz-dsthsR-7RBSUq-pxrpbU-2tstFd-9JXp8H-qunonW-bwFtL7-gjT4nN-gjSSSP-vzXP8-gjSNpF-gjSZRj-8WkjR9-gjSEB5-gjSUtp-bxdRxN-dzVGWE-5Y3bhT-57zrVt-zFx4u-dWS2ti-hef9f-quqYUZ-bwFqPyot

 

Nividia GTX 1080 Graphics Card Review

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Photo Credit: Manifest Interactive, “geforce_gtx_fe_18,” photo.

The GTX 1080 is the new top of the line, flagship graphics card (at the time of this article) offered by Nividia with its primary use for gaming. This beast of a card blows most of its opponents out of the water, including the Titan X, with its price range coming in at around the $650 this card is enthusiast grade for people trying to get the best performance available and at half the cost of previous generation cards.

The GTX 1080 is running Nividia’s latest Pascel architecture which is the driving force for this cards striking speed, relatively cool temperatures, and power efficiency.  Now most people do not have the dough required for this card, but if you do, it is highly recommended as this card has a whopping 8 GB GDDR5X Ram and a memory speed of 10 Gbps. This is twice as much memory as the Maxwell based GTX 980 and has a transistor Count of 7.2 Billion, which is 2 Billion more than last year’s flagship card.  On top of that it has a 500MHz increase Core Clock speed of 1607MHz and only consuming 15 Watts more power at 180W TDP.  Every part of this card is a full upgraded to the 980.

The 1080 also has a sister card- a slightly less powerful cheaper card- for people who are not willing to dish out $600+. The 1070 came out along with the 1080 and barely out performs the 980.  The 1070 can outperform the 980 mostly because of its new GPU architecture that it has in common with the 1080, as well as being cheaper than the 980 and runs more efficiently.  The individual benchmarks are very similar for both cards, but the 1070 has a significant lead in spatter tests, which tests the GPU’s ability to render hordes of objects.  This is very applicable in the gaming community because many games have some sort of platter effect; it can be artificial intelligence in Skyrim, or lots of little alien spaceships in Galaga.  This also has a significant effect when it comes to rendering particle effects seen on screen that gives the illusion of wind or the finer details in the trees when they sway all put load on the splatter ability of a graphics card and is why the 1070 is so much better for the everyday gamer besides the price gap.

The difference between the 1080 and the 1070 is that the 1070 has 25% of its die disabled this is why it is cheaper than the 1080, however, this does not relate to a 25% difference in performance it is closer to a 16% difference and very hard to notice for the everyday user who is not staring at the FPS counter at the top of the screen. Most Importantly both cards can handle just about any current game on ultra-settings on a 1080p monitor and average 60+ FPS, higher than human eyes can notice.

Both Cards have a new feature that is soon to be taken advantage of in new games. These cards have increased efficiency in rendering 360 degree images for virtual reality headset.  This new ability of the graphics card will allow the further immersion of the gamer in the game, something that has been slowly progressing over the last few years might have taken a new leap into integrating the gamer. One step closer to the full immersion between reality and game.

My opinion for people who can afford the 1080 is to wait a month, no more, and buy this card when ASUS and other companies get their hands on it and its price goes down. If you are looking for a slightly smaller upgrade for two thirds the cost. The 1070 is sure to not disappoint anytime soon.  In the near future is a really great time to buy sense they have moved to smaller 16nm nodes.  In other words, I suspect they will not have as big of a performance increase in the following generations to come, so now is a good time to upgrade.image

 

Bibliography:
“GeForce GTX TITAN X Graphics Card.” GeForce GTX TITAN X. Nividia Coporation, 2016. Web. 25 Sept. 2016.Bibliography :

“GeForce GTX 980 Desktop Graphics Card.” GeForce GTX 980. Nividia Coporation, 2016. Web. 25 Sept. 2016.

“GeForce GTX 1080 Graphics Card.” GTX 1080 Graphics Card. Nividia Coporation, 2016. Web. 03 Oct. 2016.

Manifest Interactive, “geforce_gtx_1080_fe_18” Flicker, June 2 2016, http://www.flickr.com/photos/manifestinteractive/27347710751/in/photolist-HECaCk-HECbTM-GRharH-HVcrDF-HVdVGJ-JRzztc-HCyjL4-GQeeLJ-HdUPSE-HEq8AC-gvyYdh-JtEaXc-HGDD7r-HEgEda-HNArEw-Jgub9r-HEmxjS-JRzuhk-JqLKaj-GvxUSs-GRa1pu-GRa1EE-HECbuF-HLWdKe-HLWduz-GRa1zj-GRa1vb-HECbax-HECaa6-GRa1Z7-G1fZMi-HCfqn7-JtDQnR-pTKhN7-pMZb9C-gXNa9p-GRhafv-GRha2V-HECbme-HLWcZM-GRhap8-HLWd9p-HHVSiG-HECatT-HECaUH-GRhaB2-GRhaui-GRhaaa-HECaLX-GRha7K.