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AMD Radeon HD 6950 Can Be Unlocked To HD 6970

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the what-market-will-bear dept.

Graphics 191

An anonymous reader writes "AMD's new Radeon HD 6950 can be unlocked to a HD 6970 via BIOS mod. Performance of the unlocked card is identical to the full blown HD 6970!"

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It is still different HW (5, Informative)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674896)

A lot of manufacturers will do this, actually. Their first device will contain very high quality, standard HW that is somewhat overspec for what they intend, but due to driver support and ease of implementation they can get it out the door in a reasonable amount of time. Then for their successor device they will take the lessons learned, use cheaper parts, use better optimized software, and sell it as the "cheaper" version.

You are getting lousier HW, but arguably better SW, so the performance gap isn't as big as their marketing lit will let on. On paper, the expensive first gen device looks better, but when the rubber hits the anus it's pretty much a wash.

Re:It is still different HW (1)

Lt.Hawkins (17467) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674914)

Except that all the drivers are pretty much unified, so it comes down to detuned hardware... and I suspect manufacturing tolerances these days is such that the detuned hardware isn't as out of spec as it might once have been.

I'll tell you what, though (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34674946)

69 and blown for $50 is a damn good deal.

Re:It is still different HW (2)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675008)

Considering I've got a AMD X3 and Linux is reporting 4 cores, I'd agree with you.

They do bin the chips based on performance, but that doesnt guarantee that you dont get a higher performance chip, nor does it mean you cannot use the additional hardware assuming its not completely dead.
In my example, I've obviously gotten a chip that was binned as a AMD X4 but they needed more X3's so they just turned a working core off.

Re:It is still different HW (4, Informative)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675030)

Or perhaps they turned it off because, while it works almost all the time, it'll fail one in ten million floating point operations at random, or is prone to fail at moderatly high temperatures or workloads. If you want to use the 'disabled' core, I suggest you run your own tests to determine if there is some minor fault. Slow the fans so it runs hot and calculate pi. If it can run for 24 hours and produce the right result, it's probably good.

Re:It is still different HW (2)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675050)

Its been running for 18 months. I'm quite confident what I got was indeed a X4 or at least any problem with it is so minor it can not occur with my usage patterns. :)

Re:It is still different HW (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675128)

I ran for maybe a year overclocked and then one day while playing Alpha Centauri and watching a video at the same time my system became unstable... back to stock speed, no more problems. Good luck! Silicon DOES degrade over time.

Re:It is still different HW (5, Insightful)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675974)

Just to reply to the parents: -Just because you run the system for 6/12/18 months without a crash does not mean its stable. Most apps won't crash if 1+1=1.9999. You're not likely to notice if a single pixel in a single frame in a YouTube video is the wrong color. -Just because your system is stable, then has a crash doesn't mean that the silicon is degrading. Even a "perfect" chip will have a fault or two every few 10^x calculations (where x is some large number).

Re:It is still different HW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34676358)

So does thermal transfer compound. It dries up and shrinks, making air pockets/fissures.

If you were me, or I was you, ... I'd have checked the heatsink before blaming the silicon. Then, I'd have blamed the ram, the motherboard capacitors or electromigration (if redoing the heatsink made no difference).

In the unlikely event the processor truely degraded from electromigration, I'd suspect the internal solder joints first. Simple solution for that is put the processor in an oven until the internal solder joints reliquify, then allow it to cool slowly.

Re:It is still different HW (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#34676468)

I don't think I degraded my silicon, I think I finally stressed the CPU enough to overheat and fail. No problems now, running the same stuff.

I only mention it because running the hardware past spec increases wear and decreases lifetime. If you're running nominal hardware past spec the odds of failure are high.

Re:It is still different HW (1)

dns_server (696283) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675588)

It's a feature of some amd motherboards bios to unlock extra cores if they exist.

It seems to be a feature to allow you to use the extra cores if they exist but amd is probably only certifying that the cores you pay for work.
if you use the bios setting the extra cores may or may not work so you could be lucky or unlucky.

It also allows amd to make 6 core cpu in bulk with a low yield rate and sell it as a 4 core cpu if one of the cores does not work.

Re:It is still different HW (4, Funny)

ZDRuX (1010435) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674918)

"...but when the rubber hits the anus it's pretty much a wash."

I was like whaa....? But then I looked at your name and all was set right in the universe.

Re:It is still different HW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34676488)

Also, this is an old Fark reference (maybe not that old... but old enough).

I got my 8800GT 2-3 years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34674942)

for about $200. You know what I mean.

Re:It is still different HW (1)

santax (1541065) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675060)

"when rubber hit the anus", I see a titl

Re:It is still different HW (1)

Suki I (1546431) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675294)

"when rubber hit the anus", I see a titl

that made me lol too. Now, how to fit one of these cards in my iPhone . . .

Re:It is still different HW (0)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675938)

If you have an iPhone you do not care about performance/price. You care about iShit and puppies. You are also more than willing to over pay for stuff that Steve may have wiped his balls across.

Re:It is still different HW (4, Funny)

Kreigaffe (765218) | more than 3 years ago | (#34676046)

An image of Steve Jobs hovering precariously atop the production line, straddling the birth tube of his empire, a smile on his face as he hunkers down and lets the conveyor belt drag each and every item ever so gently under his balls for the Reality-Distortion-Teabag.

Re:It is still different HW (1)

Stele (9443) | more than 3 years ago | (#34676258)

"when rubber hit the anus", I just see a back

Re:It is still different HW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34675166)

Bullshit! They've been doing this for more than 15 years now. Is it supposed to be different now just because you say so?

They grow a crop of chips, they test the chips, the ones that pass higher test specs get branded as 'high end' and the others....well you know.

It all comes down to crop yields, and if the whole crop performs as expected.......what do you think 'they' do? That's right, they cripple their shit on purpose....wow that was hard.

Re:It is still different HW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34675500)

Agreed..
Back in the mid 90's, I converted my Yahama 200T SCSI 2x CD burner to a 400T 4x burner with nothing more than removing a surface mount resistor and reflashing the bios. Saved myself over $200 and burned another 1000 or so discs until I retired it.

Re:It is still different HW (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675210)

Except in this case it looks like either there is the same quality hardware (at least as far as chips goes) where all of them are 100% working but one is slightly disabled and sold for less.

Or there is a differences in over-clocking ability/stability but in _THEIR_ cases not enough to make a difference at stock speed, or some chips may be slightly faulty and they just got lucky with theirs.

Re:It is still different HW (0)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675232)

What do you mean by quality?

Re:It is still different HW (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675258)

Perfect sample?

Working when not pushed too hard vs working even under evil conditions?

Or in the case of somewhat broken GPU actual non-functioning parts but disabled so you won't notice (or you enforce usage of them and eventually notice.)

Re:It is still different HW (2)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675252)

That actually does make sense from a fabricating standpoint... crippleware, that is. It's a lot cheaper to just have one product line to manufacture, which would allow them to take advantage of economies of scale. They can then split it into two product lines by disabling certain features, or lowering some of the spec in software. I'd wager it's a *lot* cheaper than building/operating a separate fab, and separate supply line for the other product line. :)

They wouldn't be the first company to do that, not by any stretch of the imagination. It's actually pretty common in home electronics... Who here doesn't know somebody who's got some stereo or DVD player that has a USB port it can't use? Or a camera that looks identical to the top-of-the-line version, but is lacking that fine-grained white balance tuning?

Re: Crippleware (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675940)

My guess is that it only makes sense for batches that have failed Quality Control. No one ever has a legal problem with back ordering and supply shortages. Then per comments elsewhere, if someone overclocks and wins, great, it just becomes an urban anecdote to be shared around pizza.

But to purposely wreck a QC-certified higher grade item purely for marketing positioning is a much uglier math problem.

Re: Crippleware (2)

Kreigaffe (765218) | more than 3 years ago | (#34676188)

nah you're looking at it wrong.

graphics card makers have been doing this for many many years.

so you get a new card design. the biggest cost is going to be setting up production for it. once everything's all tooled up and ready to go, your biggest expense is out of the way.

then you get a better design. you tool up for it, but you still want to sell the older design at a lower cost -- not everyone wants to drop bank for top of the line. except, dang. you're not making those cards any more. well, rather than go through the expense of re-tooling everything and doing limited runs of an inferior product... it's a much better decision to just take what you are producing and cripple a certain number to meet the specs for the old card and sell them. Sure, profit margins might be more slim than had you stuck with the original tooling, but it's important for your production to be of the most advanced card possible -- so you won't need to redesign and retool everything for the longest time possible.

basically, it's probably quite a bit cheaper for them to sell a higher-tier card for a lower price with some features disabled than it would be for them to take production offline and retool for an already-obsolete design

Re:It is still different HW (1)

Low Ranked Craig (1327799) | more than 3 years ago | (#34676068)

Engadget points out that the power connecters have different numbers of pins. I'd post a link if the fucked up javascript on this site would let me...

Re:It is still different HW (1)

UninformedCoward (1738488) | more than 3 years ago | (#34676482)

Its 6 vs 8 pin. The 8 pin has +2 grounds. The advertised power consumption is a difference of 25w between the cards w/ the 6970 being the higher draw.

Price Difference (1)

Hynee (774168) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674904)

I just checked a price list, the price difference is about AU$80-100, ~$390 compared to $480. I wonder how long that difference will stay.

Re:Price Difference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34674928)

I'm pretty sure modding the BIOS on a graphics card ruins the warranty somehow.

Re:Price Difference (1)

Xugumad (39311) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675036)

I was about to point that out; this is fairly clearly modifying the hardware outwith the manufacturer's intention. Maybe it works, maybe it turns out 2 months down the line that the chip overheats when run at a 6970 and burns itself out.

If you like meddling with hardware, this is going to be brilliant for you. Personally, I find myself just wanting it to work, these days....

Stealing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34675868)

So... if you buy the cheaper unit and hack it, you're effectively stealing $100 from AMD.

Shame on you. /sarcasm

Quick! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34674906)

DMCA to the rescue! Of profits.

If this (4, Interesting)

velja27 (1427879) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674930)

If people start to buy this kind of "locked" graphic cards and unlock them then the manufacturers will start to cripple the cards for good. Or simply make truly weaker graphic cards instead of limited ones with the same chipset.

O! the Humanity! (5, Insightful)

jabberw0k (62554) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674960)

If people start buying underclocked CPUs and overclocking them, the manufacturers will start to cripple the CPUs for good, or make weaker CPUs... Wait, haven't we been down that road before?

Nothing to see here, move along (1)

WaroDaBeast (1211048) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674986)

Another instance of history repeating itself here. Some people just don't listen during history class, that's all.

Re:Nothing to see here, move along (2)

JustOK (667959) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675236)

Some people just don't listen during history class, that's all.

That's certainly something we've learned from history...over and over and over again.

Re:O! the Humanity! (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675192)

Worse yet, people will start buying the cards en-mass, bios modding them and then selling them on ebay.

Re:O! the Lawyers! (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675892)

I'm pretty sure Overclocking voids the warranty, so if someone manages to make it work, yay for him, but officially disabling the core if it came from a suspect batch is how to avoid company-destroying lawsuits.

Re:If this (4, Insightful)

hellop2 (1271166) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674966)

So, what's your point? Don't hack hardware?

We can't control what they do. Luckily, they can't control what we do.

Re:If this (3, Interesting)

Zakabog (603757) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674994)

Luckily, they can't control what we do.

That's his point, they can control what we do. If we hack their hardware to run better with simple software solutions then they'll just redesign the hardware so there's a physical restriction on how well the card will perform. Though there would be no point in being able to hack the device if you're too afraid to do it for fear that they might cripple future devices.

Re:If this (4, Insightful)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675086)

Ultimately it depends on how much they actually (think) they end up losing. The reason they ship the same hardware to begin with is because it obviously costs them more to set up separate lines for the two cards than it does for them to put the extra bit unused hardware in the lower spec'd card. If ultimately they think that doing this will cost them more in lost sales than they gain in increased manufacturing efficiency then they will start shipping divergent hardware, but if only a tiny portion of their customer base mods their cards then they will probably just consider it collateral damage and maybe up the difficulty of modding the software in the next version.

Re:If this (2)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675156)

That's his point, they can control what we do. If we hack their hardware to run better with simple software solutions then they'll just redesign the hardware so there's a physical restriction on how well the card will perform.

Why presume that these hacks arent just a profit-motived feature?

What incentive do they have not to do things like they are now? or more to the point, if they did "permanent" disabling, what would be their incentive not to change to a disable method with an easy workaround?

I think that you people are forgetting your history. Both AMD and Intel used to always do real physical disabling. Now they don't always do that.

THEN ill use other hardware (1)

chronoss2010 (1825454) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675634)

End of stupid

Re:If this (2)

larppaxyz (1333319) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674982)

Long time ago, i was using a tool that let's you modify any NVidia card BIOS. I very soon had dirty words appearing when BIOS POST was running. It also made it possible to change stock GPU and memory clock frequencies.

Re:If this (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675042)

I think I used the clock-modifying tool too... on my old FX5200. I got Half Life 2 to play on that card with a bit of overclocking.

Re:If this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34674984)

Maybe, maybe not.

They'll certainly TRY to cripple the cards for good. If they had figured out how they would probably be doing it right now; what's their incentive not to if they know how? And ultimately, it's not a big deal if they succeed. People will just have to buy the proper card for the level of performance they want, just like most people who don't know about these sorts of things do right now.

As far as making truly weaker graphics cards, that's a lot less likely. The entire reason that they do this in the first place, with the obvious potential for people to find a way to unlock faster hardware while paying prices for slower, is because it's far cheaper to fabricate one model and then lock it down than it is to re-tool to produce multiple, truly distinct models. Either the market realities or the number of people unlocking would need to change significantly.

3 words for you (4, Insightful)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675612)

I got 3 words for you. Economies of scale.

It underpins the manufacturing of all processors currently out there. What is being done here is nothing new. It's as old as overclocking. Some manufactures tried various ways of locking them. Ultimately though once you customise a chip enough it adds to the bottom line production cost. That's why AMD's version of hardware locking at the time included setting 5 jumpers external to the CPU die and then laser cutting them. Remember the pencil trick to get Athlons unlocked?

Creating a truly weaker card means customised production runs, which means setup costs for the batch. Not something you want when margins are next to nothing.

Re:If this (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675830)

Then their competitors will leave the unlocking "easter egg" to gain sales and win anyway.

"Limited" "protection" has its advantages, like the favorable publicity it creates through stories on /. :)

Re:If this (1)

Bengie (1121981) | more than 3 years ago | (#34676132)

Then I'll whip out my mechanical pencil and connect the traces... oh wait, wrong chip.

Come on, raise of hands on how many people "modded" their AMD chips to have unlocked multipliers?

My Celeron 300a->450 overclock was the best though.
P3-700 -> 933 wasn't bad either.

Re:If this (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 3 years ago | (#34676374)

So?
Don't hack it now so that you could hack it later? But don't hack it later so that you could hack it even later?

If we don't hack it, there's no practical difference whether it's locked out or not.

Besides, how many cards was that tested on? How reliably can the hack be replicated across different batches of cards?

Thing is, often the "disabled" part is one that didn't pass tests. So, they get 60% yield of the chip with all the features, the remaining 40% have the extra parts faulty. But the market demands a 40% more expensive - 60% less expensive production split, so on top of the batch of 40% with faulty, disabled features, 20% of production that is all good gets this part disabled. So, you have 1/3 chance the card you bought can be "unlocked" and run the extra stuff, and 2 in 3 cheaper cards will overhear, throw random errors or not run at all with the extra parts enabled.

Overclocking guide (5, Informative)

nicholas22 (1945330) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674978)

An overclocking guide can be found here [techpowerup.com] . You *might* get problems under extreme load, because the 6950 uses the 6-pin power connector, whereas the 6970 can draw more power, because it uses the 9-pin connector.

Re:Overclocking guide (0)

chichilalescu (1647065) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675028)

are you saying that the differently named hardware is actually different hardware? I think the crowd here will hate you for siding with the big bad corporation.

Re:Overclocking guide (1)

contabil (1966016) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675178)

You are right. It can do the same things, but... because of the power consumption the inferior device is not good enough. Contabilitate Ploiesti [contabilit...loiesti.ro]

Re:Overclocking guide (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34675332)

uh, the guide in the original says there are no issues - the power draw under extreme load here is negligible.

Re:Overclocking guide (1)

dunezone (899268) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675760)

You *might* get problems under extreme load, because the 6950 uses the 6-pin power connector, whereas the 6970 can draw more power, because it uses the 9-pin connector.

This is the problem to take into account. Even if you run this card for 24 hours straight doing calculations and nothing "appears" to go wrong it just might take 72 hours of processing to do it, and not necessarily 72 hours straight just 72 hours all together. This is the risk because you might think your saving $80 or whatever but in reality you're destroying a good chunk of the cards life which will cost you more in the end when you replace it prematurely.

Re:Overclocking guide (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 3 years ago | (#34676002)

An unmodified stock top-of-the-line card could also be 24 hours away from failure. I've RMA'd enough video cards to know that stock or OC'd, it's a crapshoot. The power design issue is really the only one which would give me pause.

As to replacing the card "prematurely", LOL. This is an enthusiast card. The customer demographic replaces their video HW more often than they change underwear! Long-term survival is a non-issue. If unlocking shaves two years off a three -year life expectancy, that still leaves several months of viable service life before it's ripped out and binned as "obsolete ".

Re:Overclocking guide (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34676224)

see below from elledan. you are wrong. the card will function the same as it would otherwise. both 6950 and 6970 use the same power draw, and have the same capability.

so it will cut zero hours off of the card. when it's unlocked the function the exact same. not similar, exact same. this is like having a 20hp limiter on your car vs the model for 50 bucks more than has the 20hp. you're simply enabling what is disabled, not "for stability reasons" or any of that hype/jazz/bullshit.

Re:Overclocking guide (4, Informative)

Elledan (582730) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675824)

That's not correct. The 6 and 8-pin PCIe connectors are identical. They have the same number of ground and 12V wires between the GPU and the PSU, the same wire gauge and can carry the same amount of power. The 8-pin connector exists because in the PCIe spec they had a sense wire for the 12V line specified on this connector, which would then allow the connector to carry more current as the PSU would be able to better regulate the voltage. In practice this is much more easily done at the PSU side, making the 8-pin connector useless and allows the 6-pin connector to carry the same 150 Watt as the 8-pin one.

Want to check this? Just use a 6-pin connector and short the remaining two pins on the GPU to ground to satisfy the GPU if it checks for a connection there and everything will work just peachy fine. If you check 8-pin PCIe connectors you'll see that this is all they do: short the two extra pins to ground.

9500/9700 all over again (3, Informative)

lostmongoose (1094523) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675034)

same thing was possible with the 9550 Pro -> 9700 and with the 9700 -> 9700 Pro both were done with BIOS flashing

Re:9500/9700 all over again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34675218)

Same with the 9800se and the 9800pro

Re:9500/9700 all over again (1)

bami (1376931) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675226)

And radeon 9800 LE (4 pixel pipelines) to the radeon 9800 pro (8 pixel pipelines).
I softmodded it with no problems, got quite the performance gain. A friend with an identical card (same brand/same chipset and bought within a month of eachother) got artifacts from about half his pixels being garbage.

That same softmodded card still works today (I gave it to another friend so that he could play BF2), while the crippled card of my friend is long dead.

Sure you can 'upgrade' it that way, but unless you stress test it first and make sure it works properly, will seriously shorten it's life by putting a heavy load on components that were already declared dead.

Re:9500/9700 all over again (1)

cbope (130292) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675238)

I think you meant 9500 Pro > 9700. The 9550 was handicapped even more compared to the 9500 Pro (one of ATI's great naming disasters, and don't get me started on the 9600 Pro that had only 4 pipes). On the 9500 Pro all the mod did was remove the clock lock that ATI had put on it. Both the 9500 Pro and 9700 had 8 pixel pipes, but the 9700 had a wider memory interface, 256-bit if I remember correctly, compared to the 128-bit interface on the 9500 Pro. So while you could get the pipes on a 9500 Pro clocked up to 9700-levels you were still handicapped by the 128-bit memory interface compared to a real 9700. I know all this because I had a 9500 Pro that I bios modded to remove the clock lock. In many games that did not stress the memory interface it was close to 9700 speed (the fillrate was very close), but across the board it did not match a real 9700 due to lack of memory bandwidth. I actually still have this modded 9500 Pro in a box of old boards.

In this case, it appears that you are actually unlocking the disabled shader cores, but as I'm not familiar with the memory interface on these new boards it could be similar to 9500 Pro / 9700 from years ago. I have never seen a board that could have the memory interface unlocked/widened, because this is usually a hardware decision on the PCB and memory chips installed. A wider interface leads to a more expensive PCB design due to the number of additional traces required. You can't unlock traces that don't exist in the first place.

6950 -- 6970 (4, Funny)

dangitman (862676) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675058)

So, that's 20 faster?

Re:6950 -- 6970 MODDER UPPERS! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34675090)

I LOL'd PERTY HARD!

Re:6950 -- 6970 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34675098)

yep, 20 bitflopsahertz faster to be exact

Re:6950 -- 6970 (3, Funny)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675152)

It's only 0.29 % faster, probably not worth it.

Re:6950 -- 6970 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34675398)

It's a $100 price difference at my local store, I have to assume the performance difference is greater then that.

AC because I'm too lazy to log in.

Re:6950 -- 6970 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34675558)

So we're talking about a whopping $100 performance difference? That's amazing!

Re:6950 -- 6970 (1)

machine321 (458769) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675240)

Obviously a number means nothing without a unit of measure. Do you think it's 20 Libraries of Congress or football fields?

3.5" floppies (4, Interesting)

bonniot (633930) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675084)

Reminds me how the way drives recognized 1.44MB floppies (3.5") from 720KB ones was by checking if there was a hole in the bottom-right corner (the bottom-left corner being for write protection). And sure enough, if you made a hole in a 720KB floppy it would be possible to format it as 1.44. There might have been a few more errors, but I remember when HD floppies were 3-4 times more expensive, so it was definitely worth it. At least for a teenager with only pocket money. Ah, those floppy drilling afternoons... Mais où sont les neiges d'antan?

5.25" floppies: instant 2x space (2)

whovian (107062) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675164)

It was possible to use the flip side of 5.25" floppies by notching the other edge of the disk. Specialized cutters were sold for making square notches, but round-hole paper punchers worked too. Manufacturers certified, of course, only the original side of the disk, but I never had a problem using the flip side.

Re:5.25" floppies: instant 2x space (1)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675272)

I used to do this also (had a dedicated hole puncher made for the purpose - it was blue, as I recall.) I hypothesized that the problems (rare, but not unheard of) weren't from the media not being good enough, but because running the disk backwards gave all the grit and crap that got caught in the white soft layers of the cover a chance to come loose and get back onto the media, and occasionally onto the drive head.

But yea, given that a new ST 251-1 (40 meg hard drive) was $300~$400 at the time, being able to store 2.4 megabytes of data on a single $1 floppy disk seemed worth the risk.

Re:5.25" floppies: instant 2x space (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675280)

I actually remember a couple of games I had back on the IBM XT that used the flip side of the disk, so they could be distributed on a single floppy.

Re:5.25" floppies: instant 2x space (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34676126)

The IBM XT used 360K double sided drives. There was no need to flip the disk to read the reverse side as it could read both sides at the same time. (Also, flipped disks wouldn't work)

Question... (1)

Ecuador (740021) | more than 3 years ago | (#34676294)

During that era I had an IBM PS/2 386SX, and I could not figure out why I was hearing the stories about the hole in 720KB floppies, when I could simply take said floppies, put them in my drive and format them using the appropriate switch (was it something like /F:1.44?) at the 1.44MB capacity. They would then work (unreliably) as high density diskettes. So why the hole? Was it a different OS version that did not let you format at will? The PS/2 came with IBM DOS 4 originally IIRC but I had upgraded later (eventually to 6.22).

bad for the environment (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34675092)

Welcome to the world of "economy of scale". You may also be interested to see how routers are sold/marketed. (see: dlink, linksys and motorola, etc)

The interesting part is NOT why this can be, but rather whether it is legal and also how the bios code was extracted. This is why consumers should demand more "open hardware". Because consumers are consistently paying for the manufacturing of quality hardware only to have the manufacturer bundle crap software (cripple ware) onto it. And for what? so they can target various price points within their target markets.

Question: do you think this is an environmentally sound practice? It isn't very "green" to sell a physical product to the consumer only to restrict its usage to some lesser subset of its full potential. I don't understand why the geeky tree huggers among us don't get on this and start demanding more and longer functionality out of the products we consume. ex: I have access to 4 cannon cameras that look much the same, are the same age and yet all the batteries and chargers are incompatible. Why? so i cannot reuse batteries or charges and must trash and re-buy each individually. With other products I cannot charge everything thru USB even when it is possible. Why? for additional after market adapter sales. I have routers that are exact same hardware yet function and priced quite differently. why? do i have to tell you. I have portable devices that have rechargable AA batteries taped into a pack with a unique plug, instead of just using a regular AA slot. Why? i think you know. Cell phone pricing/plans/contracts/packages are designed to encourage me to "revolve" phones every year or so... why? its too obvious to say.

We consumers are being forced to make additional garbage for the landfills and discouraged from thinking about the consequences when we really could squeeze much more life from our existing electronics. We should be outraged (those that care for the future). But instead we are lulled into the belief that our existing equipment is crap and that getting something new benefits us. We are convinced that we are the ones demanding this from the manufactures. I tell you it is the other way. In reality this only benefits the manufacturer... who is actively limiting the functionality of our beloved products to further this fallacy to maximise their profits.

What you can do when possible (if you care): Buy generic brand electronics, use open source and demand refunds for bundled software when possible. Note that Windows is always refundable when sold with a computer... read the contract... if you care to read contracts before accepting them. ie: keep the quality computer hardware, but drop the cripple wear (windows 7 starter).d

Re:bad for the environment (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675116)

what you speak of, is capitalism. as long as profit maximization is the goal, and businesses are allowed unregulated freedom, they will do these.

Re:bad for the environment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34675158)

you guys are amazing... who is supposed to take their freedom away? the all-wise government?

Re:bad for the environment (1)

slaingod (1076625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34676442)

Profit maximization isn't necessarily the problem IMO. One issue is that there are externalities that are not factored into the cost of production, such as the impact of pollution or disposal. Say you had two LCD monitors, one using a lot of arsenic and mercury that cost $100, and another that used less damaging materials for $200. If the externalities were factored in, then true cost of the monitors that the consumer might pay could be $300 for the first, and $250 for the second.

The other main issue, somewhat releated to externalities, I would call 'incomplete information for the imperfect consumers'. If the consumer can't know the mercury/arsenic content in an LCD, then they can't make a real choice. If they don't have the education to even understand why mercury/arsenic would be bad, that is another problem. Or if they don't have the ability to know the technical aspects of why one heart strent is better/more expensive than another, they can't make an optimal decision.

But our lives are littered with these non-optimal decisions. And that is why the government has stepped in to force certain industries/products to incorporate those externalities, or established standards and testing to ensure that the quality of the product is as described when the consumer is unable to determine this themselves.

If you can think of some other way besides government to include these obvious economic factors into the actual costs of products, then feel free to pass that along. Though I would guess it would end up looking like government in the end.

Re:bad for the environment (1)

Elbereth (58257) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675190)

Wow. That's some entitlement complex you've got there.

Re:bad for the environment (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34675560)

I don't think "doing what I want with stuff I bought and own" to be much of an entitlement, personally. :-P

Re:bad for the environment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34675324)

Question: do you think this is an environmentally sound practice?

Answer: Running hardware at lower speeds is generally more energy efficient.

Re:bad for the environment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34676036)

Which is better for the environment - an underclocked video card or a full powered previous generation video card? Unless the power requirements dramatically jumped (does happen, but usually means dramatic jump in performance as well, negating the alternative) the underclocked newer generation card will probably take less power. It also requires fewer production lines, etc, so you save on tool production as well. That "crippled" card is more green than the alternative card at that price point and likely more powerful too. I'll grant that the camera market's unique battery craze is stupid, (the memory incompatibilities are worse, if anything). I've never understood the desire to recharge things through USB and all such cameras I've seen have had a battery charger included, so I don't think it is so much the gouging as a lack of universal demand pushing it to after market rather than default. I think I remember a similar complaint with one of the consoles and a lack of HD cables being included - they had found most customers didn't care about it even if the geeks did.

Re:bad for the environment (1)

fostware (551290) | more than 3 years ago | (#34676162)

This is capitalism.

If you went into a BestBuy and saw the 6970's and one marked "6970 but slightly dodgey" you'd ask for a cash discount.
They've just made it easier for some peoples sub-par IQs and marked it 6950 to save everyones time.

Hey, AMD could have binned the whole "faulty" chip - so where's your tree-hugging mentality now?

Re:bad for the environment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34676428)

What do you suggest they do?

To make the HD video card, it costs $X for research and development and $Y per video card ( for the actual hardware ). From previous experience they know that at a price point of x1 they'll sell y1 cards, and at price point x2 they'll sell y2 cards. They then modify the best HD card they come up with to sell some of them at the lower price point x2. What would you rather happen? Would you rather they didn't develop the graphics card to begin with?

The fallacy of maximizing profits? The only reason anyone makes these video cards to begin with is to maximize profits. What do you want them to do, just give it away for free without trying to make a profit? Why would any investor risk their capital then? For altruism?

"We consumers are being forced to make additional garbage". No one is forcing you to do anything. If you don't like the products they are making, don't buy them.

It's about manufacturing yield... (4, Informative)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675104)

So if I am a graphics chip manufacturer, I know that the fewer unique designs I have, the cheaper it will be to manufacture my product line. If I make both chips and boards, the same economy of scale applies to both the chips themselves and the assembled boards.

If I can determine both my chip and board yield at in-circuit test, and configure each manufactured device to its maximum possible stable capability, then my manufacturing product yield is maximized.

This type of yield binning is nothing new.

Re:It's about manufacturing yield... (1)

Splab (574204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675148)

Also, this will definitely pump the sales of the 6950 board. When precious little snowflake needs a new GFX to run the new game given for Christmas, there is definitely going to be some pushing for the "cheap" 6950 with upgrade in mind.

Re:It's about manufacturing yield... (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675184)

That's entirely possible, but one must consider that they may run into stability issues in unlocking the masked processors. They don't create a cheaper card because they want to. They create it because it allows them to make money selling "defective" product as a simply lesser-capable product.

Re:It's about manufacturing yield... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34676116)

Sometimes the natural yields and market demands don't align and they have to cripple good hardware, but your cautionary note is a good one.

Re:It's about manufacturing yield... (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675286)

The overwhelming majority of consumers will likely never hear about this mod even being possible. They'll buy the 6950 for an entirely different reason: it's cheaper, and it's good enough for most gaming content.

Re:It's about manufacturing yield... (1)

msauve (701917) | more than 3 years ago | (#34676214)

The overwhelming majority of consumers wouldn't even think buying a separate graphics card, let alone paying $300 for one. The overwhelming majority of consumers will just go out to Big Box Store and buy whatever prepackaged PC appeals to their wallet.

Re:It's about manufacturing yield... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34675276)

Except you're wrong about how parts are binned. It's generally not so much about yield binning, and more about market segments, 10% of the market will buy the best part for twice the price, 80% will buy whatever is best value for money, and the last 10% will buy whatever is cheapest (percentages made up), the trouble is when you are in the business of semiconductor manufacture, and you have tweaked your process to 99.98% yield with 0.02% tolerances, over 80% of the parts coming off the line are topend parts, just about your entire cost of manufacture is in plant capital, and 90% of your profit comes from the top 10% units. You basically have to create an artificial lowend to create a highend market. Generally it makes more sense to fuse parts to lower spec, as softmods basically ruin sales of topend devices.

Environmentally friendly, fuck no. Required business practise, almost certainly.

It also doesn't make a lot of environmental sense to mass-produce parts which are obsolete in 6 months, it would be better from that perspective to develop semiconductor fabs until they reached their natural atomic-resolution limits, and then produce parts that are as good as they practically can be. But that would again completely canabalise their business and they'd go bust. It would also be a disaster for everyone who needs more computing power right now, and the results of that would probably be much worse than the silicon waste we have now (which is mostly energy and gold, as silicon, copper and boron are abundant and cheap).

Re:It's about manufacturing yield... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34676304)

Copper is not that cheap. However, I see nowhere in your post the incredible suggestion that maybe, just maybe, a quad core 3GHz CPU is not necessary to run most software, yet software manages to find a way to expand to use all that hardware and give the same result back...

The real harm to the environment is bloated software.

Grab it while it's hot (1)

Artem Tashkinov (764309) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675200)

AMD has already got to know about this mischief and I bet new revisions of HD6850 will have a hardware protection against unlocking into HD6970. So, grab it while it's hot.

Thanks for the link - psst, don' tell anyone else (2)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675216)

Thanks for the link - psst, don' tell anyone else or else AMD will stop it

Anyway to unlock it to NVIDIA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34675670)

Radeon blows goats, despite what people pretend!

Re:Anyway to unlock it to NVIDIA? (1)

fostware (551290) | more than 3 years ago | (#34676184)

I read that as "blows goatse"

But that image is the hole left by a nVidia card melting through the laptop base and into their lap...

Do they go to 11? (1)

MtlDty (711230) | more than 3 years ago | (#34676438)

Why don't they just make the 6970 better and make 6970 be the top number, and make that a little better?

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