Subject: General Tech | October 4, 2012 - 01:49 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: microsoft, win8, surface, google, Android, nexus 7, Samsung, Pegatron
Two companies which for the most part sold software only are making a name for themselves in the hardware sector, in two very different ways. Google's Android has become quite a player and the upcoming release of the Nexus 7 platform is anticipated by many mobile players because Google has no intentions of making its own phones. Instead they will make their money licensing the platform to a variety of established cellphone and tablet manufacturers, as they have in the past. According to what DigiTimes has heard, Microsoft is going in the exact opposite direction with Surface and will be continuing with the same plan as their tablet, which has already caused negative backlash from many of the major player in the market such as Acer. Designers of Microsoft Win8 based phones are required to use the same platform and interface in order to meet the requirements of Microsoft's licensing agreement which will make phones difficult to differentiate as competitors are very limited in the customization they can offer, at least on the software side. To make the market even more confusing, Microsoft is reaching out to Pegatron to manufacture their own branded Surface phone, which will find its self in direct competition with the phones from established players, the ones Microsoft is count on to license the portable version of Win8. It would be hard to come up with another way that Microsoft could make licensing their new OS even less attractive for OEMs and ODMs.
"Google and Microsoft both reportedly plan to extend the Nexus 7 and Surface tablet lineups to include smartphones as a means to further increase the penetration of their own platforms, but the two companies will implement the strategies in a different tune, according to industry sources.
Google aims to launch smartphones based on its Nexus 7 platform in cooperation with a number of smartphone branded vendors with Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Sony Mobile Communications and HTC likely to be potential partners, said the sources.
On the other hand, Microsoft is reportedly tapping ODM maker Pegatron for the production of WP8-based smartphones slated for launch in the first half of 2013, the sources indicated."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- How To Make Movies in Linux With OpenShot @ Linux.com
- Refined hack opens locked hotel rooms… with a magic marker @ ExtremeTech
- Home Automation and the 'Internet of Things' @ AnandTech
- ASUS RT-N66U Dual-Band Wireless-N900 Gigabit Router Review @ Legit Reviews
- Will Elpida be gobbled by a rival or get a multi-billion cash jab? @ The Register
- Red Dwarf Series 10 on Dave @ 9PM BST today
Subject: Mobile | August 30, 2012 - 04:18 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Samsung, galaxy s III, Android
Android 4.1, aka Jellybean, is not yet available for the Samsung Galaxy S III, so The Tech Report tested out Samsung's existing TouchWiz software and UI tweaks to the current Android OS present on the phone. They liked that a lot of the special functions available on the phone were controlled with the body as opposed to swiping motions on the screen, as you wouldn't want to smear that 720p screen. They did run into some quirks with the phone which they were less than impressed with as well as the history Samsung has of delaying the release of updated operating systems. That is probably why they ended up getting a Samsung Galaxy Nexus.
"Samsung's Galaxy S III is the hottest Android handset on the market right now. We spent a few weeks with one to see what it's like."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
- Nokia Lumia 710 Cell Phone Review @ Hardware Secrets
- LG Optimus 4X HD: Tegra 3 Handsets Stay Global @ AnandTech
- Sony Xperia P @ Hardware.info
- Cygnett Form, Frost & TubeMap Samsung Galaxy S III Case Reviews @ Legit Reviews
- Toshiba Excite 7.7 Tablet Review: AMOLED in a Fun Size @ AnandTech
- Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Android Tablet Review @ HardwareHeaven
- Google Nexus 7 Indepth @ Kitguru
- The Archos 101 XS Review: Prettier, Faster, So Much Better @ AnandTech
- Archos 101 XS Android Tablet Review @ HardwareHeaven
- Lenovo IdeaPad U410 Ultrabook Review @ HardwareHeaven
- Fujitsu Stylistic Q702 preview: Windows 8 tablet/notebook @ Hardware.info
- Acer Aspire TimelineX 4830TG-6808 Review @ TechReviewSource
- Acer Aspire V5-171-6605 Review @ TechReviewSource
- HP Envy 14 Spectre Ultrabook Review: Something More Than Envy @ AnandTech
- ASUS UX31A: Putting the Ultra in Ultrabooks @ AnandTech
- Apple MacBook Air 11-inch (Mid-2012) Review @ TechReviewSource
Subject: General Tech | August 2, 2012 - 11:33 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: sff hardware, Raspberry Pi, android 4.0, Android, $35 game console
The $35 Raspberry Pi computer has received a great deal of attention from enthusiasts and support from developers. In fact, it has a number of Linux-based distributions available, and even more planned or already in development. One of the more recent reveals is that developer Naren has been working hard on porting the Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” mobile operating system to the small ARM computer.
According to the Raspberry Pi blog, the Android 4.0 build is going fairly well and it is currently running on the Raspberry Pi hardware, with some caveats. Also, Naren has been able to get hardware-accelerated graphics and video playback running on the Raspberry Pi. Reportedly, the final major hurdle is getting AudioFlinger support working. The other caveat is that the Android 4.0 build has been compiled using a different kernel and VideoCore (the GPU in the Raspberry Pi) binary than the GitHub hosted files that are publicly available.
Because Naren is working with different code, the Raspberry Pi is not willing to release the source code at this time as they fear severe forking in the code. They have stated that “we’re investigating the feasibility of converging the two code lines to produce a single common platform as soon as we can.” Once they figure that out, the Raspberry Pi Foundation hopes to be able to present the source code to the public so that enthusiasts can play around with Android 4.0 on their Raspberry Pis.
While it is no version 4.1 “Jelly Bean,” bringing Android of any variety is a positive step for the Raspberry Pi. It allows access to a large library of applications and games. Also, the Raspberry Pi becomes a super-cheap board to use for developing Android apps.
For now, the Raspberry Pi Foundation suggests users check out the Razdroid project to play around with Android on the Pi. Alternatively, you can try testing one of the CyanogenMOD images on the Raspberry Pi.
Are you excited about Ice Cream Sandwich on your Raspberry Pi?
You can find more of our Raspberry Pi coverage by following our Raspberry Pi tag.
Image courtesy salmon92 via Flickr Creative Commons
Introduction, Design and Connectivity
Subject: General Tech | July 14, 2012 - 02:39 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: quad core, arm, SoC, Android, xbmc, htpc, mini-itx
This week has been rife with ARM computers. The latest ARM system comes in the form of a mini-ITX form factor motherboard and quad core ARM processor combination from embedded system manufacturer Kontron. Named the KTT30/mITX, it measures 17 cm x 17 cm, the little motherboard provides a plethora of IO ports and the relatively short (depth-wise) motherboard would be great in a HTPC box, assuming the software is there (an XBMC release ported over from the Raspberry Pi build would be nice to see, for example).
The motherboard is paired with a quad core ARM Cortex A9 processor running at 900 MHz, video hardware acceleration coprocessor, and up to 2GB of DDR3L memory. It is reportedly capable of playing back 1080p H.264 videos. Internal connectors include two SD card clots, a SIM card socket, and two mPCIe connectors. Rear board IO includes three USB 2.0 ports (one micro, two regular-sized type A), an HDMI port, Gigabit Ethernet NIC, S/PDIF audio, two RS232 serial ports, and three analog audio output jacks.
It looks like a neat little board, though only if the price is right. If it is prohibitively expensive, it may be bumping up against AMD’s APU and accompanying motherboards. And because the APUs can utilize x86-64 software, that is a big positive in its favor. With that said, if this board is cheap enough, it could make sense as the base of a cheap HTPC.
Read more about the Mini-ITX ARM-powered system over at Fanless Tech.
Subject: Mobile | July 7, 2012 - 07:44 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: universal search, patents, injunction, google, galaxy nexus, apple, Android
Over the past couple of weeks, Apple and Samsung have been battling it out in court as Apple tries to get US sales of the Galaxy Nexus banned over an Apple universal search patent. We are not much for patent news here, but this has been one case that everyone seems to be following. Samsung has managed to get a stay on the injunction against its Galaxy Nexus smartphone – at least until Apple formally responds to Samsung. From there, a judge will need to make the final call on whether the injunction will remain in effect during the trial or not. That should give the company a few days, at least.
Interestingly, Samsung also seems to be planning for the worst with an Over the Air (OTA) update planned that will prevent the search bar in Android from searching for files stored on the phone itself – you will still be able to search the Internet from it however. I’m rather surprised that Apple is going after Samsung so aggressively to begin with since it is one of the company’s major hardware partners (ie for iPad components). At this point, it’s a toss up as to who will win out in court, but I’m hoping that the user experience for mobile Android users will not have to suffer as a result of this bickering over a search box.
What do you think about the court battle? Who do you think is in the right? For reference, the Apple patent that the case centers around seems to be US 8,086,604.
Check out our Google I/O coverage for more photos of the new Nexus branded hardware!
Subject: General Tech | July 4, 2012 - 11:39 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: streaming, Raspberry Pi, nexus q, media, google, android transporter, Android
Last week at Google I/O 2012, the company announced a new high-end media streaming device that taps into the Google Play cloud to bring music, movies, and TV shows to your living room television. Launched as the Nexus Q, the Android-powered sphere connects to the internet and multiple Android phones to bring a social media sharing aspect to the big screen, for a hefty $299 price tag (available from the Google Play Store).
Granted, it does contain a high end built-in amplifier for connecting to bookshelf speakers – at 12.5 watts per channel – and is made in the United States. Even so, that’s a high price to pay for a media streaming box, and especially one that can only play media from Google Play and not any locally stored content.
Enter the Raspberry Pi, the small Linux-powered $35 computer that is still not easy to get a hold of (at least not with my luck!). Coupled with a piece of new software developed by E.S.R. Labs called Android Transporter, the Raspberry Pi can wirelessly stream media and more from your Android devices to your TV screen for a much lower price.
There are some caveats, however if you are just after the wireless streaming aspects the Raspberry Pi has you covered. The Nexus Q, on the other hand, further brings in a social interface that allows friends to pool their Google Play content and build a playlist. It also has a very nice case with touchscreen controls and LEDs. The Nexus Q also offers an analog amplifier for speakers and optical audio outputs as well as regular HDMI. The Raspberry Pi only has HDMI for high-quality digital audio. Neither device supports HDMI pass through for connecting it between your audio kit and/or HDMI switcher and the TV though.
The Android Transporter software also has a noticeable bit of lag, which isn't really a problem for watching movies or streaming music but may make using the phone as a gaming controller as E.S.R proposed difficult. According to Bit-Tech, the developers are working on reducing latency from the current 150ms to less than 100ms.
To me, this seems like a good compromise between the cool wireless streaming technology (I can never find that darn MHL adapter when I need it!) and the $299 Nexus Q hardware. For the cost of a Raspberry Pi, you can get wireless streaming and screen sharing as well as the ability to stream local content as well as streamed-from-the-internet media. That gets you most of the way to the Nexus Q (while adding local content!) for about an eighth of the cost! I will concede that the Nexus Q's hardware is a lot sleeker looking that that of the Raspberry Pi!
As soon as I get my Pi, I'm definitely going to try this out! Have you gotten your hands on a Raspberry Pi yet? Are you using it as a cheap HTPC/streaming box?
You can find all of our Raspberry Pi coverage on the site by searching for the "Raspberry Pi" tag.
Subject: General Tech | July 4, 2012 - 02:31 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: vlc, videolan, media player, free, app, Android
VideoLAN, the developers behind the popular free and open source media player VLC have crafted an Android version that has recently reached beta status. For everyone not in North America, you can grab the free VLC application from the Google Play Store. The restriction is reportedly a result of the developers not having access to American versions of the smartphones in question. If you are in North America and would still like to test out the app, you will need to grab it from either the VideoLAN nightly build server or the Jenkins server which both compile and store the latest builds on a daily basis. Once you’ve downloaded that app, navigate to it on your Android phone and choose to open it with the Package Installer.
The build is a bit rough around the edges, and performance leaves a lot to be desired, but it is still early in the development cycle. Especially if you are running an older single core phone (or even one that has no NEON hardware acceleration), VLC will struggle with even 720p content. The team is asking everyone to run a few tests for them and to report back using this form to help them gather needed performance data and to identify bugs.
As far as what phones will be compatible, Jenkins has complied daily builds that will work with phones using hardware as old as ARMv5 and as new as ARMv7 with NEON. VLC for Android is also compatible with Tegra 2 and Tegra 3 SoCs using the nightly builds. ExtremeTech notes that the chips with the NEON SIMD hardware includes Qualcomm Snapdragon S2/3/4, Samsung Exynos, TI OMAP 4/5, and Tegra 3 processors. If your phone does not have one of those SoCs, you should download one of the non-NEON nightly builds depending on which version of ARM it is based on. VideoLAN recommends using gsmarena.com as a reference for which chipset your phone uses but I did not have success if using it to track down the specific chipset in my Samsung Infuse. I had to turn to the search engines for help there. If you aren’t able to find the information, feel free to tell us your phone model in the comments and I’ll try to help you figure out the SoC it uses.
Below you will find a video showing off the latest VLC for Android build as we install it and test it with a variety of video and audio files. From my testing, the performance has gotten slightly better with the latest nightly build (#123), but the video and audio drift out of sync very quickly and the video frame rate is nowhere near as smooth as the built in Videos application. The performance /should/ improve as the app gets closer to final release, however. I’m hoping that VLC for Android will become an even better, and free, alternative to the paid-for VPlayer application that I also have on my phone for the files that the Videos app struggles with.
VLC for Android playing back a DVD of Live Free or Die Hard (480p, H.264 MP4)
Anyway, without further adieu, let’s take a look at the latest Android VLC app.
As a reminder, here are some useful links to getting the VLC app and assisting with the development process:
- VideoLAN Forums
- VideoLAN for Android Homepage
Download VLC for Android
Subject: General Tech | July 4, 2012 - 10:22 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: tablet, nexus 7, jelly bean, google io, google, Android
The Nexus 7 is not even shipping yet, and it has already been torn apart to see what it is made of. The folks over at the ifixit website have managed to get their hands on the newly-announced 7" tablet. After breaking open the outer case and dismantling it far past what I would be comfortable doing to my own tablet, they found that it is relatively easy to take apart and repair. The tablet is a single millimeter thicker than the iPad, but that extra bit of space allowed Google and ASUS to use retaining clips to hold the back and front outer panels together instead of the glue used in the iPad. Using glue made for a slightly thinner tablet but it is much harder to take apart and put back together correctly, as Will and Norm of Tested discovered.
From the ifixit teardown. The battery is easily replaceable.
Inside the tablet is a large batter, “L” shaped motherboard, front facing camera, two speaker drivers, microphone, and display. The battery looks to be very easy to replace as it is not soldered onto any other hardware and is only secured by a bit of glue. Unfortunately, the display is another story. It is reportedly fused to the Gorilla Glass covering, which means that if the screen cracks – even the display itself is not damaged (only the Gorilla Glass) – users will have to replace the entire screen assembly. There is a small bit of recompense in that the tablet does not utilize any proprietary or security screws, it uses Philips #00 throughout.
For more details on the exact hardware chips used, and to see the new 7” tablet taken apart to see what makes it tick (or not, rather) head on over to the iFixIt tear down guide.
Other tablet news:
- More iPad Mini rumors at Tom's Hardware
- Amazon prepping Kindle Fire 2 for August launch? at Tablet-News
- Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 ban upheld by US District Court at ArsTechnica
- Google I/O at PC Perspective
Subject: General Tech | June 29, 2012 - 10:17 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: sony, smart tv, htpc, google tv, google, Android
Yes, it does appear that Google TV is still a “thing” – though I am only reminded because Sony has not stoppsed releasing new boxes running Android. The NSZ-GS7 is a small box designed to sit between your TV and cable box to add additional smart TV-like functionality. It is running a dual core Marvell ARM processor, and has 8GB of storage space, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth radios. Rear IO on the device includes two HDMI ports (for HDMI passthrough of your cable box or other media device), optical audio output, an IR blaster port, Ethernet, two USB ports, and a power input port.
The interesting thing about these Google TV products has always been the remotes. There have been some strange designs in the past, but the Sony NSZ-GS7’s remote actually looks nice and comfortable. The front of the remote resembles any standard TV remote with a track pad added to it while the back of the remote features a full QWERTY keyboard. It also has an accelerometer and is allegedly capable of detecting which side of the remote you are using – and will turn off the buttons on the underside to avoid accidental key-presses.
I really like this remote. Image credit goes to Tom's Hardware.
Beyond the hardware itself, the Google TV box is running Android 3.2 Honeycomb. It is able to acts as an enhanced TV guide as well as providing web access and Google App functionality (for the few apps that have been modified to work specifically with Google TVs anyway). One of the cool apps available is one that can control a Parrot AR.Drone on the big screen with the TV remote, which sounds like fun (my dog would go nuts!). It is also capable of doing picture-in-picture where users can browse the web while also watching the TV in a smaller window.
Tom’s Hardware managed to gets a hands-on demo with the new device courtesy of Sony Canada. They managed to snag several good photos of the hardware and interface. They note that the NSZ-GS7 Google TV box will be coming out next month for those in the US and UK – a Canadian launch is following in August – for $199. You can find more photos at the link above.
Especially with the release of the Nexus Q, I have to wonder if Google is even aware that Google TV is still around, because it really feels like they launched it and then walked away from it. Now that they are focusing on “the cloud” for media playback, the Google TV has even less relevance to the company. On the other hand, I could see an perspective where both devices are able to coexist and flesh out total living room media functionality with the Nexus Q handling the social and cloud media playback and Google TV acting as a better cable box for “offline” media. I am curious though, what you think of Google TV. Do you like it, or would you rather have a beefier HTPC running Windows or Linux on x86/64 hardware? Where do you think the Google TV fits into the living room?
Other Google I/O News:
- Google I/O: Day One Announcements
- Google Glasses
- Google Selling Nexus 7 At Cost, Pushing Its Google Play Store
- The ASUS tablet that became the Nexus 7
- Google I/O talk on the PC Perspective Podcast