Weekend tech reading: Chips after Moore's law, tech companies nearing death, CES highlights

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ces, cpu, silicon, moore, ces 2014

Designing the next wave of computer chips Not long after Gordon E. Moore proposed in 1965 that the number of transistors that could be etched on a silicon chip would continue to double approximately every 18 months, critics began predicting that the era of "Moore's Law" would draw to a close. More than ever recently, industry pundits have been warning that the progress of the semiconductor industry is grinding to a halt -- and that the theory of Dr. Moore, an Intel co-founder, has run its course. The NY Times

At long last, new lithium battery tech actually arrives on the market (and might already be in your smartphone) Amprius, a battery startup based in Silicon Valley, is making waves with a new kind of lithium-ion battery that stores around 20% more energy than batteries currently on the market. Unlike most battery breakthroughs that we write about on ExtremeTech, this one is actually here today: Amprius is already shipping its batteries to some smartphone makers, and has recently secured $30 million in funding to develop next-generation batteries that will store 50% or more energy than the current Li-ion batteries. ExtremeTech

The Bitcoin-mining arms race heats up Joel Flickinger's two-bedroom home in the hills above Oakland, Calif., hums with custom-built computing gear. Just inside the front door, in a room anyone else might use as a den, he’s placed a desk next to a fireplace that supports a massive monitor, with cables snaking right and left toward two computers, each about the size of a case of beer. Flickinger has spent more than $20,000 on these rigs and on a slower model that runs from the basement. They operate continuously, cranking out enough heat to warm the house and racking up $400 a month in electric bills. Businessweek

Gabe Newell on what makes Valve tick Valve is one of the most successful video game companies in the world. The firm's online game distribution and multi-player platform Steam has 65 million users. At next week's CES conference, the company will announce hardware partners for one of its most ambitious undertakings so far: a line of gaming console alternatives running on the company's linux-based Steam OS. What makes Valve so successful? In November, I sat down with Valve CEO and co-founder Gabe Newell in the gaming company's Bellevue office for a feature story. The Washington Post

The SSD Endurance Experiment: 500TB update I am running out of ways to introduce our SSD Endurance Experiment. This long-term write endurance test began in August, and we've published numerous updates since. Now that our subjects have crossed the 500TB mark, it's time for another checkup. The rationale for our endurance test hasn't changed, which is why these intros tend to channel the same theme. Solid-state drives use flash memory that has limited write endurance. Every time data is written, the physical structure of the NAND cells degrades. The Tech Report

Ars deathwatch 2014: Companies on the edge of relevance With all of the holiday cheer now behind us, it's time to take stock of the year ahead. And while 2013 was a good year for the stock market and a somewhat better-than-recessionary year for the economy as a whole, the ravages of the past twelve months have placed a handful of technology-related companies at a crossroads -- one that could lead to a miraculous recovery, an acquisition, or the sort of corporate undeath that turns them into intellectual property zombies that feed on other companies' brains for survival. Ars Technica (also its summary of CES 2014)

CES 2014 keynotes and highlights are on YouTube, here's Sony's:

What it's like when the FBI asks you to backdoor your software At a recent RSA Security Conference, Nico Sell was on stage announcing that her company -- Wickr -- was making drastic changes to ensure its users' security. She said that the company would switch from RSA encryption to elliptic curve encryption, and that the service wouldn't have a backdoor for anyone. As she left the stage, before she'd even had a chance to take her microphone off, a man approached her and introduced himself as an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. SecurityWatch

The robots are coming. Will they bring wealth or a divided society? Whether it's our humdrum reliance on supermarket self-service tills, Siri on our iPhones, the emergence of the drone as a weapon of choice or the impending arrival of the driverless car, intelligent machines are woven into our lives as never before. It's increasingly common, a cliche even, for us to read about the inexorable rise of the robot as the fundamental shift in advanced economies that will transform the nature of work and opportunity within society. The Guardian

Silicon Valley's new spy satellites Imagine an energy company which manages a pipeline through Canada's taiga. The company's charged with maintaining that pipeline, with making sure it isn't leaking and hasn't been compromised. So, every day, the company pays a local to get in a plane and fly over the otherwise inert, massive metal tube, looking for objects, organic or otherwise, that shouldn't be there. Or that's what they've done for many years. Five years from now, that pilot might be out of a job. The Atlantic

Valve plays the long game again So then, we finally have eyes on Steam Machines at CES 2014 in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, those eyes have come away unimpressed. Valve has announced 13 hardware partners who are making Steam Machines -- PCs using a variety of different components, form factors and pricing models that are united by their use of the Steam licence for marketing, SteamOS as their default operating system and the Steam Controller as their preferred input method. Eurogamer

Losing Aaron There was a point, during the two years of legal proceedings that would overtake, and then shatter, both of their lives, when Bob Swartz and his son Aaron found themselves with a bit of free time. They had arrived at the Federal Reserve building, in Boston, to meet Aaron's lawyer -- one of dozens of meetings Bob would arrange in hopes of fending off the 13 felony counts against his son. But they were early, so they took a walk. Boston Magazine

Will commercial space travel blast off in 2014? Bags packed. Ticket in hand. Reserved seating and your rocket ship waits. The longed-for dawn of private manned space travel appears near at hand. Virgin Galactic's suborbital SpaceShipTwo, for example, aced its third supersonic test flight on Friday (Jan. 10), and company officials say they remain on track to begin commercial service later this year. Space.com

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