Tag Archives: ‘Aurora’

The Aurora 7 Is an Amazing 26-Pound Laptop With 7 Displays, Zero Purpose

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Different laptops are designed to cater to the needs of different folks. Some laptops are tiny. Some are ruggedized. Some are chonky, so-called ‘desktop replacements.’ And some laptops, Dear Reader — some laptops look the benighted fusion of a late-90s Thinkpad and a Swiss Army knife.

Behold the prototype Aurora 7, as built by Expanscape (best check with Alienware about that name, guys):

I’m not sure there’s an angle to shoot this laptop at that doesn’t make you want to crane your neck. Image by Expanscape.

According to the company, the Aurora 7 is a laptop “built without compromises.” For once, this kind of vague promise may actually hold marketing water, and I have to give the company some kind of credit, here. Plenty of companies are willing to shove ridiculously hot components into a tiny chassis, but not many companies are willing to create laptops with arbitrarily absurd specifications and then publicly grade themselves on their own failure to ship you hardware you don’t need. Observe:

It’s actually a little refreshing to see self-graded scores in the 60-80 percent range compared with how most laptop OEMs market their product, even if the categories are weird.

This list of features and capabilities mixes the prosaic with the peculiar. Pascal-era graphics and a six-core CPU aren’t noteworthy features in a laptop these days, but four NICs and two wireless cards? A full “NO NONSENSE” 104-key keyboard? What does a nonsensical keyboard even look like? And why are concepts like “Structural Rigidity” listed at just 80 percent? What does it mean to have a 70 percent score in the “ability to swap wiring with easily attainable parts,” or “easily replaceable batteries?”

It Gets More Interesting, the Deeper You Go

The system itself is built around a desktop Core i9-9900K plugged into a Z170 motherboard. No, the Z170 chipset does not normally support the Core i9-9900K, but the folks at Expanscape weren’t going to sweat a little thing like normal hardware support.

There are a total of seven screens, including two 17.3-inch 4K panels in portrait mode and two 17.4-inch 4K panels in landscape mode. Panels 2 and 3 have different contrast ratios and maximum brightness levels from Panels 1 and 4, which is going to make the machine tough to use in a true multi-panel mode. Discerning enthusiasts know that when you go multi-monitor, you always use matched panels whenever possible. I demand that my Swiss Army Laptop use matched panels.

Initial product concept.

Displays 5, 6, and 7 are all 7-inch 1920×1200 panels in 16:10 mode. I am charmed by the decision to deploy 16:10 on a 7-inch panel, ensuring that while I won’t be able to read the text, I’ll love the aspect ratio.

There are two batteries, one for the laptop parts, and one for the displays alone. The internal battery capacity is 82Wh, while the screen battery is a 148Whr pack. Battery life is for the whole system is somewhere between 28 minutes and an hour, though you can get 2 hrs 20 minutes if you only power the displays. Why you’d be able to power the primary PC off AC but not the screens is unexplained.

This laptop is the most glorious trainwreck I’ve ever seen. Why are there four NICs? Why are there two different wireless radios? Why is it based around a desktop CPU and GPU? What’s the point of the integrated Arduino? Why the modded Z170? I have so many questions.

ExtremeTech does not have an award category for “Best Worst Laptop,” but if we did, we’d award it to the Aurora 7, hands down. This is the type of machine phrases like “impressively bad” were coined to describe. This is a laptop that can do everything except function as a laptop without causing pelvis fractures. The creators note, a tad apologetically, that it’s not yet legal to carry on a plane due to the size of the second battery. And again — gloriously — it weighs twenty-six pounds.

The Aurora 7 succeeds beautifully as some kind of postmodern commentary on the difficulties of balancing work and home life in our Zoom-blighted age. As far as laptop designs go, however, you’ll probably want to give it a pass.

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Aurora Games on CBC: Tennis – The World Team vs The Americas Team


Tennis kicks off the inaugual Aurora Games. Team Americas led by Olympic Champion Monica Puig takes on the World Team headed by French Open Champion Garbine Muguruza. Competition will feature three singles and two doubles matches utilizing fast paced “no ad” scoring.

Tennis kicks off the inaugual Aurora Games. Team Americas led by Olympic Champion Monica Puig takes on the World Team headed by French Open Champion Garbine Muguruza. Competition will feature three singles and two doubles matches utilizing fast paced “no ad” scoring. 0:00

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Intel, DOE Announce First-Ever Exascale Supercomputer ‘Aurora’

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Intel and the Department of Energy have announced plans to deploy the first supercomputer with a sustained performance of one exaflop by 2021. That’s a bit of a slip compared to previous milestones — in fact, that 2021 delivery date means Horst Simon should win the bet he made in 2013 that supercomputers wouldn’t hit exascale performance until after 2020.

“Today is an important day not only for the team of technologists and scientists who have come together to build our first exascale computer – but also for all of us who are committed to American innovation and manufacturing,” said Bob Swan, Intel CEO. “The convergence of AI and high-performance computing is an enormous opportunity to address some of the world’s biggest challenges and an important catalyst for economic opportunity.”

Aurora will deploy a future Intel Xeon CPU, Intel’s Optane DC Persistent Memory (we’ve covered how DC PM could change the high performance computing market before), Intel’s Xe compute architecture, and Intel’s One API software. In short, this is an Intel win, top-to-bottom, back to front. That’s actually fairly surprising — in the last few years, we’ve seen a lot more companies opting for hybrid Intel-Nvidia deployments rather than going all-in with just Intel. Taking a bet on Intel Xe before consumer or HPC hardware is even in-market implies Intel showed off some impressive expected performance figures. A video about the project is available below:

Aurora is intended to push the envelope in a number of fields, including simulation-based computational science, machine learning, cosmological simulation, and other emerging fields. The system will be built in partnership with Cray, using that company’s next-generation supercomputing hardware platform, codenamed Shasta, and its high-performance scalable interconnect, codenamed Slingshot.

Exascale has more than symbolic importance. The level of compute capability in the human brain at the neural level has been estimated to be in the ballpark of exascale computing, though I can’t say strongly enough that such estimates are an incredible simplification of the differences between how the human brain performs computations versus how computers do. And simply hitting exascale (that’s 1018 FLOPS) doesn’t actually help us use those transistors to build a working model of a human brain. Having the theoretical computational capability of a brain doesn’t actually equal a working whole-brain computer model, any more than having a huge heap of concrete, steel, and enriched uranium is equivalent to a functional nuclear reactor. It’s how you put the thing together that dictates its function, and we’re a long way from that.

But hitting exascale computing levels is one critical component to how we get to the point of running those simulations and running them at scale. This is not to downplay the difficulty of simulating a human brain — open source projects like OpenWorm are working on a worm, C. elegans, with only a thousand cells in its entire body. Booting up a digital human consciousness is quite some ways away. But with exascale computers, we’re moving into new frontiers of complexity — and new discoveries undoubtedly await.

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