Print 56 comment(s) - last by mindless1.. on Jan 13 at 7:28 AM

If the claims are to be believed, the B-2 stealth bomber has a connection with Thermaltake power supplies

Is Amazon becoming the "new" Newegg? Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos pictured.

AMD Fusion, power sipper
A look inside the wild world of the Consumer Electronics Show

On Thursday at CES, we had one-on-one sessions with numerous computer hardware manufacturers and a couple gadget and peripheral companies to boot.  We definitely received some interesting insight from these chats.

i. USB 3.0 v. Intel

One thing we heard across the board was frustration at Intel's laggard response regarding USB 3.0.  Everyone is pretty much going ahead without Intel, but in order to do that, companies like MSI had to pay for third-party controllers from a chipmaker like NEC.  

ii. AMD Tops Intel in Battery Life

Speaking of Intel, Microsoft's keynote last night contained another subtle dig at the long time partner, aside from the announcement of a coming full-fledged ARM-supporting upcoming version of Windows.

Speaking about soon-to-be-released models, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer showed off an HP running Sandy Bridge.  He bragged that with the tweaks, consumers could get a whopping 5+ hours of battery life.  Then he turned to an awfully similar looking notebook powered by an AMD Fusion SoC.  Without pausing he stated that the AMD notebook gave 8+ hours on the charge.

Now Sandy Bridge is certainly powerful.  But for the entry-level consumer, it's really not that power efficient.  If consumers can pick an equally priced offering from AMD and get 3+ more hours of battery life, why world would they pick Sandy Bridge?  

Sure the story is very different for gaming notebooks, which value battery life and performance.  But the market for average consumer notebooks is a much bigger volume business.

iii. Thermaltake: Powering B-2 Bombers?

In the more interesting department, a representative for Thermaltake, an enthusiast brand known for its impressive coolers made a rather unusual claim to us.  They commented that an unnamed buyer in Washington D.C. placed a large order of the company's gold series power supplies.

The Thermaltake employee claimed that the supplies were delivered to an Air Force address, and told us that they believed the supplies were (literally) being used with "B-2 bomber mainframes".  This was a pretty unusual claim, so Air Force types, feel free to chime in and clear up whether this claim sounds plausible or not.

iv. Imation: Dual Security is a Win

Don't want your data becoming the next big Wikileaks post?  Well Imation's Defender 200 USB drive seems like a pretty solid solution.  No degree of security refinements can totally counter user incompetence, but a dual biometric scan and AES-256 encryption system seems a pretty solid step in the right direction.

The hardy drive also comes with software to set advanced permissions to control access.  

v. Amazon is Brutally Outpricing Newegg

Not exactly a new development, but a lot of the hardware suppliers we spoke to expressed to us that with every passing year, an increasing percentage of their business was running through, rather than traditional enthusiast hardware sellers like TigerDirect or Newegg.

Now Newegg is a solid e-tailer with good customer service, but it just can't seem to keep up with Amazon in terms of prices.  Amazon appears to be giving retailers the full amount they would get from Newegg, but taking a loss to knock tens, hundreds, or even thousands (in the case of LCD TVs) off item prices.

It makes one wonder how Amazon is even managing to turn a profit, but the company indeed has been solidly profitable.  Amazon sure seems to have the online market flawlessly figured out, much to its competitors’ dismay.  For customers, though, the end result is great -- low prices.  But Amazon better watch out for those pesky antitrust regulators at the EU if it keeps up it campaign of aggressive price cuts.

(Edit: As some pointed out, Amazon's lack of sales taxes may have something to do about this, though in some states this situation is reversed and Amazon buyers pay taxes, while Newegg ones do not.)

vi. Archos -- Still no Honeycomb or Gingerbread Love

Archos is a step ahead of the game, being one of the few to offer an Android tablet.  In fact it offers both 5-inch7-inch, and 10-inch form factors now (plus a 3.2-inch, which stretches what we'd call a "tablet", despite the company's marketing labeling it as such).  

Now some of these tablets have absolutely huge storage capacities, thanks to their onboard hard-drives, a definite plus.  But it was a bit disappointing to know that the tablets are running Android 2.2 Froyo and not the latest and greatest Gingerbread.  Hopefully they'll at least make the sweet Android 3.0 Honeycomb bus that should soon be pulling in to the world of smart phones and tablets.

vii. Maingear Unveils New Carbon

Enthusiast PC builder Maingear showed off their latest edition of the shift case, which comes with a full carbon fiber case.  That, along with new perks like triple GeForce 580 cards and laser etching makes the company "the Ferrari of the computer world" its customers said.

Ferrari or not, the Shift is a pretty interesting case design.  Released last year, it flipped the motherboard, so that the exhaust from the GPU cards is funneled upwards out the top (the premise being, hot air rises, so give it the most direct path).  From a pure physics perspective this seems like a clever idea, though it would have to be seen how well it translates in terms of real world performance boosts.

Maingear is apparently very eager to protect this technology and has filed for intellectual property rights to it.  So don't count on seeing other vertical outlet cases in the near future.

viii. Coda

We had an interesting conversation with Coda, an enterprising electric vehicle firm.  They just closed a major round of venture capital funding, in which they collected $76M USD.  They plan to bring a sleek EV with a 90-120 mile range to market this year with a price tag of around $35K USD.  

We hope to find out more about this upcoming EV from the company shortly.  They aren't going to be at the Detroit North America International Auto Show 2011 next week, so hopefully we catch them before our CES adventures are over.

ix. OCZ Claims it Will Nearly Double Competitors SSD Drives

OCZ showed off its new Vertex Pro 3 series to us on Thursday.  The company claims the drive will provide 500MB/s sequential reads and writes (for highly compressible data), and up to 60K IOPS for 4KB random reads and writes.  

AnandTech has a more detailed article here.  According to their expert analysis, those numbers do amount to practically doubling the competition's current generation offerings -- if OCZ can deliver the on the goods.  Needless to say, they might be able to sell a few of these if the performance is as good as they say.

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Used in an actual bomber? No
By nafhan on 1/7/2011 10:06:23 AM , Rating: 3
Here we go... Most aircraft use 400 Hz electrical systems. This doesn't make it impossible for a standard PS to be used just unlikely. The AC power would need to be converted to 60 Hz before being used, and 400 Hz allows for more efficient PS's. Also, most electronics used in weapons systems are hardened. Desktop PS's generally aren't.
Those are technical reasons. There's also nice common sense logic like: "would anyone really use a $100 PS on a billion dollar aircraft?"

My guess is that these power supplies are being used on some non-essential ground based system associated with the B2. I'd say Thermaltake was being vague on purpose to make it sound like their PS's were being used on the B2.

Disclaimer: I did satcomm, not aircraft, so, please, correct me if I'm wrong on any of that...

RE: Used in an actual bomber? No
By tk427 on 1/7/2011 10:29:18 AM , Rating: 2
I'd probably agree with you. Although we'll probably not know, these were probably ordered for desktop computers used at the base. Aircraft equipment usually has to be of a certain level of reliability/performance etc. that I highly doubt that they are used on actual B2 bomber computer systems.

RE: Used in an actual bomber? No
By cfaalm on 1/7/2011 1:01:19 PM , Rating: 2
Much like no actual AMD chips in a Ferrari.

RE: Used in an actual bomber? No
By knutjb on 1/9/2011 9:11:23 PM , Rating: 2
FAA certification required, even for military aircraft. Who gave the marketing guys that pizza with the really good mushrooms on it...

RE: Used in an actual bomber? No
By weskurtz0081 on 1/7/2011 11:14:05 AM , Rating: 2
I worked in Avionics on C-5's (2003-2007), but I had training in bomber systems as well as Helicopters.

I concur, no way they would use a consumer PSU on a bomber, much less any other aircraft for anything that could be considered mission critical. And, honestly, I couldn't see them using it for ANYTHING on ANY aircraft to be honest. The USAF likes to have identical replacement parts for a VERY long time, and at some point in the time in the near future, Thermaltake will probably stop making that EXACT model.

Now, there are buses on aircraft that run consumer electronics, but there's just no way any officer that wants to keep his job would agree to using off the shelf PSU's to power anything on an aircraft that is related to the function or mission readiness.

More than likely, there might be some existing unit they have that uses a similar PSU that they had a hard time getting exact replacement parts for. It's possible, some piece of AGE (aircraft ground equipment) or test equipment used on the plain uses something VERY similar to this PSU, and maybe they can't get them anymore so they found something off the shelf that will work. Maintainers are responsible working on their own equipment (in most cases) and have been known to fix problems in shop when that's the only option.

So, like you said, VERY unlikely that it will be used ON a B-2.

By weskurtz0081 on 1/7/2011 11:15:42 AM , Rating: 2
Or, like the other guy said, could be ordered by the computer guys to be used as replacement parts, probably the most likely scenario.

RE: Used in an actual bomber? No
By jabber on 1/8/2011 9:22:46 AM , Rating: 2
Or they get bought in for $100, get re-tested/adjusted, re-labled/re-branded as mil-spec and then sold for $2000 a go for you the tax payer.

RE: Used in an actual bomber? No
By rcc on 1/7/2011 12:26:42 PM , Rating: 2
In general, you can use a 60 Hz PS on 400 Hz. What you can't do is use a 400 Hz PS at 60 HZ. It's a power disapation issue.

The exceptions would be a supply that uses an AC fan, which I don't believe is common anymore, or a supply that uses the input frequency for timing of anything.

And I agree, it's unlikely that this is B2 flight hardware.

RE: Used in an actual bomber? No
By mindless1 on 1/13/2011 7:18:43 AM , Rating: 2
That is not quite accurate. A typical passive PFC PSU has one, of not two in series, capacitors right after the bridge rectifier. Providing their impedance is not unreasonably high, either frequency will charge up those fine at which point AC line frequency is no longer relevant to the remaining subcircuits.

Technically speaking such a design built able to run off 400Hz will not be unable to run off 60Hz, providing the capacitor is amply sized for the required output current.

RE: Used in an actual bomber? No
By mitchebk on 1/7/2011 12:27:31 PM , Rating: 2
What about reducing the overall heat signature. This a stealth platform. Reductions in all energy signatures is a priority.

RE: Used in an actual bomber? No
By mindless1 on 1/13/2011 7:28:30 AM , Rating: 2
A PSU in the plane would be a trivial difference in heat signature, remembering that IF they chose these, it's because they need a PSU and another alternative PSU won't be substantially different in efficiency. A dozen watts one way or the other inside a jet?!?

By rgsaunders on 1/8/2011 12:15:34 PM , Rating: 2
Valid observations, I retired after 37 years as an Avionics Tech, and all our systems worked off 400Hz supply voltage. The subject PS would not come close to meeting the standards required for military aviation.

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates

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