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Stanford & Berkeley Announce Tiny, Signal-Powered Radios

Subject: General Tech, Networking, Mobile | September 14, 2014 - 11:24 PM |
Tagged: radio-on-a-chip, iot, internet of things

Tiny and passively-powered radios would make for some interesting applications. One major issue is that you cannot shrink an antenna down infinitely; its size is dependent upon the wavelength of EM radiation that it is trying to detect. Researchers at Stanford and Berkeley have announced "ant-sized" radio-on-a-chip devices, fabricated at 65nm, which are powered by the signal that they gather.

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The catch is that, because their antenna is on the order of a few millimeters, it is tuned for ~60 GHz. There are reasons why you do not see too many devices operate at this frequency. First, processing that signal with transistors is basically a non-starter, so they apparently designed a standard integrated circuit for the task.

The other problem is that 60 GHz is an Extremely High Frequency (EHF) and, with its high frequency, is very difficult to transmit over long ranges. The 57-64 GHz region, in particular, is a range which oxygen resonates at. While it is possible to brute-force a powerful signal through a sensitive antenna, that defeats the above purpose. Of course, the researchers have been honest about this. Right in their IEEE abstract, they claim a current, measured range of 50cm. In their Stanford press release, they state that this is designed to be part of a network with units every meter (or so). Current bandwidth is a little over 12 megabit.

Simply put, this will not become your new WiFi hotspot. However, for small and connected devices that are in close proximity, this could provide an interesting communication method for when size, cost, and power efficiency trump speed and range.

Source: Stanford

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Is Selling Out?

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 14, 2014 - 10:31 PM |
Tagged: surface 3, surface, microsoft

Through their blog, Microsoft claims that their Surface Pro 3 devices are selling out in their recently added, overseas markets. In parts of Australia, all models were sold out early in the first day (we can of course question how many is "some retailers" and how much stock each had). The company expects to have appropriate stock levels in a week or two.

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Honestly, I never quite get these announcements of low stock. While it is better than having too much stock, and these releases might ease the nerves of shy investors, having too low stock is a problem, too. It is often a sign of something lacking: production, confidence, market insight, distribution, and so forth. It can tell an interesting story if these sales figures are immense, see the Nintendo Wii, but often it just raises a critical eyebrow. This is especially true if concrete figures are danced around.

I mean, if someone is at a store and looking for a Surface but none is available, do you really need to let them know that you intend to make more?

Source: Microsoft

Engadget and Ars Technica Reviews Moto 360

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 14, 2014 - 07:11 PM |
Tagged: motorola, moto 360, smartwatch

When I covered the announcement of the Apple Watch, one of our readers pointed out that we had very little smart watch coverage. That is fair critique, and I can see how it appeared to give Apple an unfair slant. As far as I know, we will not be reviewing any smart watch, of any sort, for the foreseeable future (my phone still runs Froyo). Engadget and Ars Technica did, though.

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Android Wear launched with three smart watches: the LG G Watch, the Samsung Gear Live, and (after a little delay) the Motorola Moto 360. The third one is a bit different from the other two in that it features a round screen. Both sites like the design but complain about its use of a TI OMAP3 SoC and its limited battery life. The OMAP3630 is manufactured at 45nm, which is a few process shrinks behind today's 28nm products and soon-to-be-released devices with 20nm and 14nm processors. With a 300mAh battery, a little less than a half or a third of a typical AAA battery, this leads to frequent charging. The question is whether this will be the same for all smart watches, and we don't know that yet. The Samsung and the LG smart watches, under Ars Technica's custom benchmark, vastly outperform it, though.

Engadget also complained about its price, at $250 and $299, which is actually $100 and $50 less than Apple's starting price. Ars Technica neither praised nor complained about the price.

Source: Engadget

Intex Cloud Fx Is a $35 Firefox OS Phone (not for USA)

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 13, 2014 - 07:12 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, intex, Firefox OS, firefox, cloud fx

If you were on a mission to make the cheapest possible mobile phone, you would probably not do much better than Intex Cloud Fx. Running Firefox OS, it will cost users about $35 to purchase it outright. Its goal is to bring the internet to places which would otherwise have nothing.

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I believe the largest concession made by this phone is its RAM -- 128 MB. Yes, I had a computer with 32 MB of RAM and it browsed the internet just fine (on Netscape Navigator 2 through 4). I also had a computer before that (which was too slow to run Windows 3.1 but hey it had a turbo button). This is also the amount of RAM on the first and second generation iPod Touches. Nowadays, it is very little. Ars Technica allegedly made it crash by scrolling too fast and attempting to run benchmarks on it. This leads into its other, major compromise: its wireless connectivity. It does not support 3G. Edge is the best that you will get.

Other than those two points: it has a 1 GHz Spreadtrum SoC, 46MB of storage, a 2MP camera, and a 1250mAh battery. You do get WiFi, Bluetooth, and a microSD card slot. It also supports two SIM cards if necessary.

Again, at $35, this is not designed for America or Western Europe. This is for the areas of the world that will probably not experience the internet at all unless it is through a mobile phone. For people in India and Asia, it is about the lowest barrier to entry of the internet that is possible. You can also check out phones from other partners of Mozilla.

Source: Ars Technica

ChromeOS Gets Android "App Runtime for Chrome (Beta)"

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 13, 2014 - 02:52 PM |
Tagged: google, chrome os, Android

To some extent...

This is not the entire Google Play Store; in fact, it is just four Android apps at launch: Duolingo, Evernote, Sight Words, and Vine. According to a Google spokesperson, via Ars Technica, the company built an Android platform on top of Native Client, which is their way of sandboxing (a subset of) native code for use in applications which require strict security (such as a web browser). Android apps can then see and use those platform-dependent Android APIs, but be kept at two arms-lengths away from the host system.

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From the app's standpoint, code will not need to be changed or ported. Of course, this is sound in theory, but little bugs can surface in actual practice. In fact, Flipboard was demonstrated at Google I/O under this initiative but is curiously absent from launch. To me, it seems like a few bugs need to be resolved before it is deemed compatible (it is dubbed "Beta" after all). Another possibility is that the app was not yet optimized for a Chromebook's user experience. Claiming either would be pure speculation, so who knows?

Android apps using App Runtime for Chrome (Beta) are available now at the Chrome Web Store.

Source: Google

Apotop S3C SSD, Silicon Motion's new controller for less than $0.50/GB

Subject: Storage | September 12, 2014 - 02:30 PM |
Tagged: SM2246EN, S3C, mlc, Apotop

The Apotop S3C SSD uses the same controller as the Angelbird drive Al reviewed recently.  It uses synchronous MLC NAND with the 4 channel present on the Silicon Motion controller and is able to provide more than the specified 490 MB/s read and 275 MB/s write in some benchmarks.  It can often read faster than the wrk SSD but the writes cannot always keep up though it is not something likely to be noticeable in real usage scenarios.  The MSRP is very attractive with the 512GB model expected to be released at $200.  Silicon Motion is likely to start appearing in a lot more SSDs in the near future with this mix of price and performance.  Read the full review at Kitguru.

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"The new Apotop S3C SSD features the Silicon Motion 2246EN controller which we first reviewed in the Angelbird 512GB wrk SSD back in August this year. The controller impressed us, so we have already high hopes for the Apotop S3C."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: KitGuru

Corsair's big and beautiful Graphite Series 780T

Subject: Cases and Cooling | September 12, 2014 - 02:10 PM |
Tagged: xl atx, Graphite Series 780T, corsair

Corsair's Graphite Series 780T is a large case at 602 x 288 x 637mm (23.7 x 11.3 x 25.1") capable of fitting even XL ATX boards.  That gives you a total of 9 drive bays though only 6 can support a full sized 3.5" drive.  It comes with three 140mm fans but is also capable of fitting several radiators of up to 360mm in some positions.  While the size makes it appropriate for use as a small server the looks and layout also make it perfect for a high end enthusiast system with multiple GPUs.  [H]ard|OCP were so impressed with the performance and feature set of this case that they gave it a Gold Award so you know this case is worthy of the Graphite name.

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"Today we review a case from Corsair that will fit many more enthusiasts' needs, the Graphite Series 780T chassis with room for huge motherboards. This full tower comes with lots and lots of water cooling in mind, a built in fan controller, smartly designed hard drive and solid state drive housing, and has a Companion Cube-ish look."

Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:

CASES & COOLING

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Skip tailoring your suit, scan yourself for the perfect fit

Subject: General Tech | September 12, 2014 - 01:41 PM |
Tagged: Realsense 3D, idf 2014, 3D rendering, 3d printing

There was an interesting use of Intel's Realsense 3D technology displayed at IDF by a company called Volumental.  By using a new product with the new style of camera it would be possible to make a 3D map of your body accurate enough to make clothing patterns from.  The example offered were a pair shoes that could be ordered online with no concerns about the fit as the shoes would be perfect for you.  That is just the beginning though, you would also be able to order a perfectly tailored suit online without ever needing to appear in person for a fitting.  It could also lead to an even worse Fappening in the future; choose your online clothing supplier carefully.  There is more here at The Inquirer.

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"The proof of concept software, called Volume Voice[sic], accurately scans parts of the human body with Intel's Realsense 3D depth cameras, which will soon feature on Intel-powered laptops and tablets. Volumental's cloud-based platform will then allow individuals to create products that are tailored to their own bodies, for example, shoes that fit perfectly without the need to try them on before buying."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

SanDisk Launches 512GB SDXC Card for $799.99

Subject: General Tech, Storage | September 12, 2014 - 01:08 PM |
Tagged: sandisk, sdxc, sdhc, sd card, 512GB

Assuming your camera, card reader, or other device fully conforms to the SDXC standard, Sandisk has developed a half-terabyte (512GB) memory card. Beyond being gigantic, it can be read at up to 95 MB/s and written at up to 90 MB/s, which should be enough to stream 4K video. Sandisk claims that it is temperature proof, shock proof, water proof, and x-ray proof. It also comes with a lifetime warranty and "RescuePRO Deluxe" recovery software but, honestly, I expect people would just use PhotoRec or something.

It should be noted that the SDXC standard covers memory cards up to 2TB so it will probably not be too long before we see another standard get ratified. What is next? SDUC? SDYC? SDALLTHEC? Blah! This is why IEEE assigns names sequentially.

The SanDisk Extreme PRO UHS-I SDHC/SDXC 512GB memory card should be available now, although I cannot yet find them online, for $799.99 MSRP.

Source: SanDisk

Grand Theft Auto V PC Delayed Until January 27th, 2015

Subject: General Tech | September 12, 2014 - 12:10 PM |
Tagged: gta5 gta online, delayed, delay, consolitis

We finally got the release date for Grand Theft Auto V PC... and it's delayed. But Scott, how can it be delayed if we just now have a firm date? Well, apart from Rockstar claiming that it will be available in the Autumn of 2014, which January 27th, 2015 is not, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions will be arriving on November 18th, 2014 (which is technically before December 21st). To this I say...

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... I hear it's lovely in the winter...

... meh. It's fine. Unless something comes up, or I find out that the port is awful and broken, I will still buy it. As always, delaying the release of your game risks potential customers growing disinterested in the product. Perhaps they had the plot spoiled by a friend or a Let's Play. Alternatively, perhaps they gained interest in it because of a friend or a Let's Play before it was available for their platform, and forgot about it before it could be purchased.

Hopefully the extra time is put to good use.

Source: engadget

Intel Loves Exponential Trends: Shrinking Mini-PCs

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling, Systems, Shows and Expos | September 12, 2014 - 11:20 AM |
Tagged: idf, idf 2014, nuc, Intel, SFF, small form factor

A few years ago, Intel introduced the NUC line of small form factor PCs. At this year's IDF, they have announced plans to make even smaller, and cheaper, specifications that are intended for OEMs to install Windows, Linux, Android, and Chrome OS on. This initiative is not yet named, but will consist of mostly soldered components, leaving basically just the wireless adapters user-replaceable, rather than the more user-serviceable NUC.

intel-idf-mini-pc.jpg

Image Credit: Liliputing

Being the owner of Moore's Law, they just couldn't help but fit it to some type of exponential curve. While it is with respect to generation, not time, Intel expects the new, currently unnamed form factor to halve both the volume (size) and bill of material (BOM) cost of the NUC. They then said that another generation after ("Future SFF") will halve the BOM cost again, to a quarter of the NUC.

What do our readers think? Would you be willing to give up socketed components for smaller and cheaper devices in this category or does this just become indistinguishable from mobile devices (which we already know can be cheap and packed into small spaces)?

Source: Liliputing

Fanless Noctua NH-D15 Keeps 150W Xeon E5-2687W Cool

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | September 12, 2014 - 10:56 AM |
Tagged: fanless, passive cooling, noctua, NH-D15

Sure, humans may disagree that 67C (153F) is cool, but it is for a semiconductor. More impressive, it was the temperature recorded on a CPU with a 150W TDP attached to a fanless Noctua NH-D15. Does that mean it was noiseless? Nope. The test kept each of the case fans maxed out at 12V input DC (100%).

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This, without the fans.

Hardwareluxx does not specify how much air gets blown across the passive cooler. Their claim is that the case fans just ensure that the ambient temperature is as low as possible. That seems fair, but I could also, for instance, blow cool air through a 3-inch drier hose attached to a bathroom suction fan stuck out the window. That would certainly keep passive coolers chilled while only being technically fanless.

Theoretically, of course. I'm not saying it's something I did in high school or anything...

Depending on how long of a hose is used, it could even be noise in a different location (rather than case fans in the same PC). Still, cooling 150W is a feat in itself. Then again, with over two pounds of heat fins, it makes sense.

Source: Hardwareluxx

First Apple A8 Benchmarks Show... "Modest" Increase

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 12, 2014 - 10:30 AM |
Tagged: apple, apple a8, SoC, iphone 6, iphone 6 plus

So one of the first benchmarks for Apple's A8 SoC has been published to Rightware, and it is not very different from its predecessor. The Apple A7 GPU of last year's iPhone 5S received a score of 20,253.80 on the Basemark X synthetic benchmark. The updated Apple A8 GPU, found on the iPhone 6, saw a 4.7% increase, to 21204.26, on the same test.

apple-a8-rightware.png

Again, this is a synthetic benchmark and not necessarily representative of real-world performance. To me, though, it wouldn't surprise me if the GPU is identical, and the increase corresponds mostly to the increase in CPU performance. That said, it still does not explain the lack of increase that we see, despite Apple's switch to TSMC's 20nm process. Perhaps it matters more in power consumption and non-gaming performance? That does not align well with their 20% faster CPU and 50% faster GPU claims...

Speaking of gaming performance, iOS 8 introduces the Metal API, which is Apple's response to Mantle, DirectX 12, and OpenGL Next Initiative. Maybe that boost will give Apple a pass for a generation? Perhaps we will see the two GPUs (A7 and A8) start to diverge in the Metal API? We shall see when more benchmarks and reviews get published.

Source: Rightware
Manufacturer: ECS

Introduction

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ECS hosted a press event in the third week of August to unveil its new product lineup and corporate direction. The press event, named "Live, Liva, Lead, L337", lays out the important aspects of the "new ECS" and its intended market direction. They introduced the LIVA mini computer with integrated 32GB and 64GB integrated SSDs, their Z97-based product line-up, and the North America LIVA design contest.

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Their naming of the event was apropos to their renewed corporate vision with the first two terms, Live and LIVA, referencing their LIVA mini-PC platform. ECS developed the name LIVA by combining the words Live and Viva (Life in Spanish), signifying the LIVA line's aim at integrating itself into your daily routine and providing the ability to live a better life. Lead signifies ECS' desire to become a market leader in the Mini-PC space with their LIVA platform as well as become a more dominant player in the PC space. The last term, L337, is a reference to their L337 Gaming line of motherboards, a clear reminder of their Z97 offerings to be unveiled.

ECS seeks to consolidate its product lines, re-focusing its energy on what it excels at - offering quality products at reasonable prices. ECS seeks to leverage its corporate partnerships and design experience to build products equivalent to competitor lines at a much reduced cost to the end user. This renewed focus on quality and the end user led to a much revised Z97 board lineup in comparison to its Z87-based offerings. Additionally, their newly introduced mini-PC line, branded LIVA, seeks to offer a cheaper all-in-one alternative to the Intel NUC and GIGABYTE BRIX systems.

Contine reading our overview of the ECS press event!!

StarCraft II WCS is Changing for 2015

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 11:39 PM |
Tagged: Starcraft II, WCS, blizzard, blizzcon, esports

The StarCraft II World Championship Series is Blizzard's official method of conglomerating numerous tournaments, including their own, into a canonized ranking system. Players get points for winning various Intel Extreme Masters, Red Bull Battle Grounds, DreamHack events, GSL seasons, and so forth. Beyond the prize money of each event, points are awarded to sort a global standings list. These points, beyond bragging rights, lead to an invitation to the year's final tournament at BlizzCon.

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The system has drawn some criticism, however. One specific complaint is that players are allowed to partake in any region of their choosing. This seems to lead to tactical placement of players relative to other ones, rather than actual geography. Moreover, this allows players to join in servers that they are not anywhere near to, introducing lag in the online components. If I remember correctly, the rules stated that, unless both players chose to play on a server that was outside the region (ex: a South Korean server for two competitors in WCS America), the server would default to the region (America in the previous example). For 2015, Blizzard is requiring that all players must be legal residents of the region they choose to play in. The reasons for this decision do not seem to be publicly explained, but it should discourage the shuffling of players for logistical advantages.

The other, major change is that all participants of WCS 2015 need to qualify. Previously, if I (again) remember correctly, while points were reset, some placements in leagues carried over. This time, if a player is in any given league, they fought to get there from the very bottom. If anything, I expect this became necessary when the decision was made to change residency requirements.

WCS 2014 isn't over yet, though. It will close with BlizzCon on November 8th.

Alleged Windows 9 Screenshots Leaked

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 07:38 PM |
Tagged: windows 9, windows, threshold, microsoft, leaked build, leak

Update: September 12th @ 12:08pm EDT

A short video has just leaked online. The screenshots cover more, but obviously as still images. It's a good idea to check out both.

Can you read German? Yes. No.

Computerbase.de (linked above in "yes") claims to have access to Windows 9 Technical Preview Build 9834. This should be close to the pre-release that is rumored to be public later this month (again, if rumors are accurate). It seems to be focused on desktop usage, as rumored, but still is uncomfortably close to Windows Store and its certification requirements.

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Image Credit: Computerbase.de

There are some significant changes over previous versions, from virtual desktops to a nearly borderless window look and feel, seemingly be default (saving probably about 8-10 pixels per window in width and just as much eyesore). This makes me wonder how true borderless apps (RDIO, GitHub for Windows, and Blizzard's Battle.net Launcher are examples) will play with these new styles. One of the main glitches that I have with Windows 7 is when something kicks me out of Aero and most of the non-standard styled windows freak out in one way or another (Trillian and Firefox being the most obvious offenders).

Maybe, just maybe, we will be able to get our hands on it later this month or early next month.

NCIX and LinusTech Does Four Single GPUs... Twice

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 11, 2014 - 04:46 PM |
Tagged: quad sli, quad crossfire, nvidia, amd

Psst. AMD fans. Don't tell "Team Green" but Linus decided to take four R9 290X graphics cards and configure them in Quad Crossfire formation. They did not seem to have too much difficulty setting it up, although they did have trouble with throttling and setting up Crossfire profiles. When they finally were able to test it, they got a 3D Mark Fire Strike Extreme score of 14979.

Psst. NVIDIA fans. Don't tell "Team Red" but Linus decided to take four GeForce Titan Black graphics cards and configure them in Quad SLI formation. He had a bit of a difficult time setting up the machine at first, requiring a reshuffle of the cards (how would reordering PCIe slots for identical cards do anything?) and a few driver crashes, but it worked. Eventually, they got a 3D Mark Fire Strike Extreme score of around 13,300 (give or take a couple hundred).

Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 Has LTE for Sub-$100 Devices

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 11, 2014 - 03:27 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, snapdragon 210, snapdragon, LTE, cheap tablet

The Snapdragon 210 was recently announced by Qualcomm to be an SoC for cheap, sub-$100 tablets and mobile phones. With it, the company aims to bring LTE connectivity to that market segment, including Dual SIM support. It will be manufactured on the 28nm process, with up to four ARM CPU cores and a Qualcomm Adreno 304 GPU.

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According to Qualcomm, the SoC can decode 1080p video. It will also be able to manage cameras with up to 8 megapixels of resolution, including HDR, autofocus, auto white balance, and auto exposure. Let's be honest, you will not really get much more than that for a sub-$100 device.

The Snapdragon 210 has been given Quick Charge 2.0, normally reserved for the 400-line and up, refill the battery quickly when connected to a Quick Charge 2.0-supporting charger (ex: the Motorola Turbo Charger). Quick Charge 1.0 worked by optimizing how energy was delivered to the battery through a specification. Quick Charge 2.0 does the same, just with 60 watts of power (!!). For reference, the USB standard defines 2.5W, which is 5V at 0.5A, although the specification is regularly extended to 5 or 10 watts.

Devices featuring the Snapdragon 210 are expected for the first half of 2015.

Source: Qualcomm

The highs and lows of doing motherboard reviews

Subject: Motherboards | September 11, 2014 - 01:50 PM |
Tagged: magic smoke, linux, Intel X99, MSI X99S SLI Plus

It is inevitable that one will eventually come across hardware with a defect, either a flaw during its manufacture or because of shipping or user damage and when you do reviews the increased sample size pits the odds against you.  This is why Phoronix has not been able to publish results of the i7 5960X on an MSI X99S SLI Plus motherboard as magic smoke was released upon initial boot up.  The board has been RMA'd to NewEgg and MSI has contacted Phoronix directly to let them know they will be sending it off for analysis; a new motherboard and review should be up shortly.  It just goes to show you that this sort of thing can happen to anyone but if you keep your temper in check all it is is a small hurdle not a huge obstruction and you will get to where you wanted to go eventually.  Similar events involving mysterious smells and old UPSes have never occurred here at PC Perspective; especially not today.

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I feel fine!

"This weekend I was planning to publish the first Linux benchmarks for Intel's incredibly powerful Core i7 5960X Haswell-E processor with X99 motherboard and DDR4 system memory. Unfortunately, all I can tell you now is that it's smoking, quite literally!"

Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:

Motherboards

Source: Phoronix

Firefox Developer Tools Can Debug Non-Mozilla Browsers

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 01:22 PM |
Tagged: firefox, mozilla, web browser, web development

Well this is an interesting feature. Mozilla, like all browser vendors, has been constantly enhancing their web development tools. They are quite impressive, allowing anyone to debug any page, including WebGL shader replacement, audio network manipulation, and injecting Javascript, HTML, and CSS at run time. Firefox OS and Firefox for Android developers were even able to remotely connect to a desktop Firefox browser as if it were an IDE (which it really is these days). Today, Mozilla announced (via their Hacks blog) early support for remote debugging Safari on iOS and Google Chrome on Android.

The currently supported tools are: "Inspector", which allows searching, modifying, and injecting HTML and CSS; "Debugger", which debugs and injects Javascript; and "Console", which displays console output from the open tab and executes individual Javascript statements (which can be multi-line with shift + enter). You cannot, for instance, modify individual draw calls on a running 3D game, like you can with the same tools when manipulating a Firefox tab, but this is still pretty impressive for cross-vendor.

Remote Debugging for Safari on iOS and Chrome on Android is available in early development on Firefox Nightly with an optional extension.

Source: Mozilla