I'm about to buy my first car, and instead of feeling excited, I'm absolutely terrified. Tentative steps into showrooms and flicking through magazines boast exciting images on the surface, but scratch it and you'll find the motoring industry is packed full of impenetrable jargon and tough buying decisions. Sound like anything else we know? Perhaps specialist subjects are made deliberately difficult to confuse poor buyers into spending out of desperation, and of course to keep writers such as myself in work trying to explain the stuff. But I reckon the component manufacturers are often to blame. Now I don't want to come across as an Intel-basher, as I believe it does genuinely good innovative work, but recent developments have confused the hell out of me. Anyone into microprocessors knows firms such as Intel and AMD make their chips on plate-sized silicon wafers. The more transistors in the chip, the bigger it is, and the fewer you get on a wafer. But refinement makes it possible to employ a finer manufacturing process. Up until recently, Intel employed a 0.25 micron production process, but it has just begun using 0.18 micron technology. This number defines the closest distance between adjacent components on the wafer, and hence a finer process means physically smaller chips, and higher yields. The chips will also go faster, run cooler and consume less power. Intel's codename for 0.18 micron is Coppermine, and Pentium III chips using this are fitted with 256Kb of on-die full-speed Level 2 cache as opposed to the 512Kb of external half-speed Level 2 cache of older PIIIs. The Celeron had just 128Kb of on-die cache and it ran surprisingly well, so it's safe to say the cache on the new PIIIs is preferable to the old ones. But how do you know you're getting a Coppermine chips? The problem is the Coppermine chips don't just come in and replace the ones beyond a certain speed. Above 650MHz, all announced PIIIs may be Coppermine, but lower in the range you'll find 500, 533, 550, and 600MHz processors available in both Coppermine and old 0.25 micron processes. To further confuse, some are running with external front side buses of 100MHz, while others nip along at 133MHz. The worst culprit is the PIII 600MHz, available in no less than four versions. Intel says the Coppermine processors will be labelled with an E suffix - for enhanced process - while those chips running with a 133MHz FSB will have a B, for bus. System integrators and PC buyers will have to choose from a 600, 600B, 600E or my favourite, the 600BE, when all they thought they wanted was a 600MHz PIII processor. I'm not even going to mention the fact Intel is discontinuing Slot-1 PIIIs in favour of a socketed system, and chips using both interfaces are currently on sale. Now I don't begrudge Intel, as it can't shift entirely to Coppermine overnight, and I like the opportunity of sampling developments on cheaper chips such as the 533BE. The problem is how we get this message across to the buyers. Intel has chosen its suffixes and now it is up to us and you dealers to make sure everyone knows what they're getting. I wish us all the best of luck.
Finding refutes many earlier studies that suggest that galaxies don't have much dark matter at the time of their birth
Boris the robot outed as man in rented robot suit
Mission will provide vital data about the performance of rocket, spacecraft, autonomous docking system and the landing system
The flight will take off from California's Mojave Air and Space Port and could happen as soon as 13th December