CompuLab Launches SFF Utilite PC Powered By Quad Core ARM Processor

Subject: General Tech, Systems | July 14, 2013 - 08:51 PM |
Tagged: utilite, ubuntu, silent, SFF, linux, fanless, cortex-a9, compulab, arm, Android

CompuLab has announced a new fanless, small form factor PC called the Utilite. This new PC comes from the same company that engineered the MintBox, MintBox 2, and Fit PC series. The Utilite is a low-power desktop PC powered by a quad core ARM Cortex A9 processor and runs either Ubuntu Linux or Google’s Android operating system.

The upcoming Utilite measures 5.3” x 3.9” x 0.8”(135 x 100 x 21mm) and consumes anywhere between 3W and 8W of power depending on the particular hardware configuration. It is designed to be a quiet desktop replacement with plenty of IO.

Compulabs Utilite ARM Desktop PC.jpg

CompuLab will provide single core, dual core, and quad core CPU SKUs. Specifically, the Utilite is powered by a Freescale i.MX6 ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor that is clocked at up to 1.2 GHz. Users will be able to further configure the system with up to 4GB of DDR3 1066 MHz memory and a 512GB mSATA SSD. Storage can be further expanded using Micro SD-XC cards (maximum of 128GB per card). The GPU in the SoC is compatible with OpenGL ES 1.1 and 2.0 as well as OpenVG 1.1 and OpenCL EP. It is capable of hardware decoding multi-stream 1080p video in a variety of common formats.

Wireless functionality includes an 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi card and Bluetooth 3.0.

Compulabs Utilite ARM Desktop PC Cortex-A9 MPCore.jpg

The Utilite has a dark gray case with silver front and rear bezels.

The front of the Utilite PC features the following IO options in addition to the power button and indicator LEDs.

  • 1 x USB OTG (Micro USB)
  • 1 x RS232 (ultra mini serial connector)
  • 1 x Micro SD card slot
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x 3.5mm audio jacks (line in, line out)

The rear of the PC hosts:

  • 1 x DC power input
  • 1 x Wi-Fi antenna
  • 1 x RS232 (ultra mini serial connector)
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 jacks
  • 2 x HDMI video outputs

According to fanless PC guru FanlessTech, CompuLab will be releasing the ARM-powered Utilite mini PC next month with a starting price of $99 and a variety of SKUs with varying amounts of CPU cores, memory, and storage. The Utilite PC is a bit on the expensive side, but this is a system for industrial and enterprise use as well as consumers, and Olivier from FanlessTech notes that build quality should be on par with those goals/industry aims.

Source: Utilite

Linux Kernel 3.10 Adds New Drivers, SSD Caching Framework, Networking Improvements, and More

Subject: General Tech | July 2, 2013 - 01:47 PM |
Tagged: linux, linux kernel, kernel 3.10, linus, bcache, TLP, btrfs, XFS, UVD

Earlier this week, Linus Torvalds officially released an updated Linux kernel with version 3.10. The new kernel bakes in a number of tweaks and new features, including a new SSD caching framework, new drivers and hardware support, networking improvements, and experimental file system tweaks.

Kernel 3.10 features quite a few improvements to storage. The big new feature is bcache, or Black Layer Cache, which is a framework that allows an SSD to acts as a read and write cache for a slower mechanical hard drive. The SSD will cache frequently accessed data to improve read times as well as act as a write cache that will write data bound for the hard drive to the SSD temporarily until a low usage point when the data will finally be written out to the mechanical hard drive.

Additionally, the kernel developers have made tweaks to the btrfs and XFS file systems. For example, XFS can create and store checksums of metadata to reduce errors and verify data integrity. Performance when using btrfs has also been slightly improved.

Driver and hardware support added to kernel 3.10 includes support for the UVD hardware found in AMD Radeon graphics cards from the 4000 series and beyond, and allows for hardware accelerated video decoding. The kernel also supports the GPU in Richland APUs and the acceleration hardware in NVIDIA's Tegra 2 and 3 SoCs. For Intel systems that use HD processor graphics, PCs will be able to wake from standby faster using the 3.10 kernel. There is also support for ARM's big.LITTLE processors, the IR receiver that Apple uses in its Mac computers, and other new and improved drivers with the latest kernel. 

On the networking side of things, kernel 3.10 implements the Tail Loss Probe algorithm which makes improvements to the TCP networking stack and how it deals with lost packets. The new kernel networking stack tweaks reportedly result in up to a 15% reduction in packet retransmission timeouts and 6% shorter HTTP response times.

Aside from these larger changes, kernel 3.10 has a great deal of under-the-hood fixes. For all the nitty-gritty geeky details, the H-Online has put together a detailed breakdown of all the tweaks and new features baked into the latest 3.10 Linux kernel.

For a comparison / breakdown of what the previous 3.9 kernel brought to the table, see this post.

Linux-Powered SFF MintBox 2 Coming Soon for $600

Subject: General Tech | June 29, 2013 - 11:22 AM |
Tagged: SFF, mintbox 2, mintbox, linux mint, linux

Last year, CompuLabs and the developers behind the Linux Mint operating system put together a small form factor PC called the MintBox. It seems that the project was successful enough to warrant a updated offering, because specifications were recently posted online for the MintBox 2. The MintBox 2 is a router sized, passively cooled PC that will be available later this year for $600.

MintBox 2 Mini SFF PC With Linux Mint 15 Olivia.jpg

The new MintBox 2 reportedly offers up to four-times the performance of the original MintBox Pro. Internal specifications will include an Intel Core i5 3337U processor clocked at 1.8GHz base (2.7GHz max turbo), 4GB of RAM (8GB max), a 500GB mechanical hard drive, and a NIC with two Gigabit Ethernet ports. The fan-less system is tiny, at 7.5" x 6.3 " x 1.57" (19 x 16 x 4cm). It will be available on Amazon for $599.

Where the original MintBox Basic and MintBox Pro scored 1,077 and 1,615 in the Geekbench benchmark, the upcoming MintBox 2 scored 7,541. In addition to the extra performance, CompuLabs is also extending the warranty period from 1 year on the original MintBox PCs to 5 years for the MintBox 2.

The MintBox 2 will come pre-installed with the latest Linux Mint 15 "Olivia" operating system.

A small Linux Mint logo is surrounded by four USB 2.0 ports on the front of the device. Exact rear IO specificaitons has not yet been released, but if last year's model is any indication, users can expect more USB 2.0 ports, a couple of USB 3.0 ports, eSATA, digital display outputs, and an eSATA port.

More information can be found on the Linux Mint blog.

Source: Linux Mint

Haswell on Linux is off to a great start

Subject: General Tech | June 24, 2013 - 09:57 AM |
Tagged: haswell, linux

With the initial difficulties seen with Linux crossing Intel's Bridges it is nice to see decent compatibility from Haswell at launch.  While the GPU side does lag somewhat behind the performance offered by the Windows driver it is nowhere near as far behind as in the previous architectures.  For raw CPU calculations it is running at peak performance on newer Linux kernels, offering not only a decent upgrade but significantly improved power efficiency.  Phoronix have gathered their various reviews to give you a look at the current overall compatibility of Haswell as well as performance results in their latest post.

ph_haswell.jpg

"Since the Computex launch of Intel's much anticipated Haswell processors at the beginning of the month, there's been much Linux coverage on Phoronix concerning the compatibility and performance of these new Intel processors from both the processing and graphics sides. Here's a summary of all of our discoveries and findings over the past few weeks."

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Source: Phoronix

How well does Haswell do Ubuntu?

Subject: General Tech | June 5, 2013 - 10:45 AM |
Tagged: linux, haswell, ubuntu 13.04, i7-4770k

The story is familiar as you can quickly see from this quote in Phoronix's review of Haswell on Linux, "Polished Haswell support coming to an "out of the box" Linux desktop won't really be there until later in H2'2013."  However that does not mean it does not work at all, they tested several kernels and versions to find the most stable way to run Haswell and to take advantage of the internal GPU.  They successfully tested with Linux 3.10 kernel, Mesa 9.2, GCC 4.8.1, and LLVM 3.3 and found performance improvements across the board when compared to Ivy Bridge processors which could be a good reason to consider holding out on an Ivy Bridge CPU as an upgrade choice, as Intel is working to improve Haswell support and it is a much improved CPU compared to previous generations.

phoronixhaswell.jpg

"This past weekend I shared the first experiences of running Intel's new Haswell CPU on Linux. While Intel Haswell is a beast and brings many new features and innovations to the new Core CPUs succeeding Ivy Bridge, there were a few shortcomings with the initial Linux support. It still appears that the Core i7 4770K is still being finicky at times for both the processor and graphics, but in this article are the first benchmarks. Up today are benchmarks of the Intel Core i7 4770K when running Ubuntu 13.04 with the Linux 3.10 kernel."

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Source: Phoronix

Revisting support the HD4000 graphics core on Ubuntu

Subject: General Tech | June 3, 2013 - 11:51 AM |
Tagged: sandy bridge, Ivy Bridge, linux, ubuntu 13.04

The news might be heavily slanted towards Haswell right now but for Linux users improvements to Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge GPU drivers are still a major focus.  As there have been updates to the drivers as well as to Ubuntu, Phoronix felt it was time to revisit the performance metrics of the graphics on a Core i3 3217U.  While they did see improvements when you compare it to previous driver versions it seems that there is still some work to do as the performance still lags behind the Win7 driver.

phoronix_sbib.jpg

"After yesterday's Intel Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge Linux graphics comparison using the very latest Intel Linux graphics driver, here are new benchmarks using the latest Windows and Linux Intel OpenGL graphics driver. Facing competition this morning is Microsoft Windows 7 Pro x64 and Ubuntu 13.04 with its updated open-source stack."

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Source: Phoronix

Ubuntu bug #1 closed with a sense of humour

Subject: General Tech | May 30, 2013 - 11:34 AM |
Tagged: ubuntu, linux, microsoft

The first bug reported about Ubuntu has been closed, it was titled "Microsoft has a majority market share" and could be easily reproduced.

"1. Visit a local PC store
2. Attempt to buy a machine without any proprietary software"

The bug has now been updated to "Fix Released", thanks to the fact that the definition of computer has greatly increased in breadth over the past few years.  Smartphones are running predominantly non-Microsoft OSes and the availability of iOS and Android tablets have really turned the market in a new direction.  Now it is possible to pick up a computer that is good enough for casual usage which has no Microsoft software installed whatsoever.  Finding white box laptops with no installed OS is still uncommon but nowhere near as rare as it once was.  Slashdot links to his full post here.

ubiuntu.jpg

"Mark Shuttleworth of Ubuntu fame has closed the primal bug on Launchpad, standing since 2004 and titled 'Microsoft has a majority market share,' due to the 'changing realities' of tablets, smartphones, and wearable computing."

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Source: Slashdot

Raspberry Pi Replacing X11 With Wayland/Weston To Get GPU Acceleration

Subject: General Tech | May 29, 2013 - 02:20 PM |
Tagged: x11, weston, wayland, videocore iv, Raspberry Pi, linux, bcm2835, arm

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has been working with Collabora to fund development of a Wayland display server that is compatible with the Raspberry Pi and also allows the continued use of legacy X applications.

So far, operating systems that run on the Raspberry Pi have used X as the display server and window compositor. The Raspberry Pi Foundation wants to move to a window compositor that will take advantage of the Raspberry Pi's Hardware Video Scaler (HVS) and take the burden of window composition off of the relatively much slower ARM CPU. The Raspberry Pi Foundation has chosen Wayland as the display server for the task.

The Raspberry Pi Model A.

Taking advantage of the HVS and OpenGL ES compatible GPU will make the system feel much more responsive and allow for advanced effects (fading, Expose'-like window browsers, et al) for those that like a little more bling with their OS.

The Wayland/Weston display server allows for GPU acceleration and window composition using the Pi's VideoCore IV GPU and HVS (which is independent of the hardware units that run OpenGL code). The display server will feed the entire set of windows along with how they should be laid out on screen (stacking order, transparency, 2D transform, ect.) to the HVS which will hardware accelerate the process and free the ARM CPU up for other tasks.
According to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, the Raspberry Pi's HVS is fairly powerful for a mobile-class SoC with 500 Megapixel/s scaling throughput and 1 Gigapixel per second blending throughput.

Wayland running on Raspberry Pi.jpg

In addition to GPU acceleration, Wayland will allow non-rectangular windows, fading and other effects, support for legacy X applications with Xwayland, and a scaled window browser.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has been working with developers since late last year and is nearly ready to roll a technology preview into the next Raspian operating system release. The developers are still working on improving the performance and  reducing memory usage. As a result, the new Wayland/Weston display server is not expected to become the new default in the various Raspberry Pi operating systems until late 2013 at the earliest.

This is a project that is really nice to see, especially since at least a small part of the development work going into supporting the ARM-based Raspberry Pi on Wayland will help other ARM devices and Wayland in general which is becoming an increasingly popular choice in new Linux distributions and the best X alternative so far. Of course, this is primarily going to be a useful update for those Raspberry Pi users that run OSes with GUIs as the responsiveness should be a lot snappier!

If you simply can't wait until later this year, it is possible to install the technology preview (beta) of Wayland/Weston onto the current version of Raspbian Linux by cloning the git project or installing a Raspbian package of Weston 1.0. Blogger Daniel Stone has all the details for installing the display server onto your Pi under the section titled "sounds great; how do i get it?" on this post.

See a video of Wayland technology preview in action on the Raspberry Pi on the Raspberry Pi Foundation's blog.

Read more about the Raspberry Pi at PC Perspective.

Insync Releases 1.0 RC for Linux

Subject: General Tech | May 29, 2013 - 12:19 PM |
Tagged: insync, google drive, cloud storage, linux

Insyc has released a new release candidate for its Google Drive companion software that adds a few new features and bug fixes to the Linux client.

According to Insync, the 1.0 RC implements an improved syncing core build from scratch. It also allows users to selectively sync files and folders between local storage and their Google Drive cloud storage. It is no longer all or nothing, and you can choose to only store what you need locally rather than the entire document archive now. The release candidate software also allows customized account folders that can be renamed and moved to other locations on the drive. Symlink support, headless installs, and a CLI (command line interface) client are also included in the Insync 1.0 RC.

Insync has also made changes to the management user interface to make configuring the syncing options easier. Finally, Insync has also coded in a notification function that will notify users of changes to files on Google Drive which will be handy for collaborative documents and spreadsheets.

Insync has put together Debian packages for OSes like Ubuntu (Nautilus) and Mint (Cinnamon, MATE, Xfce desktop environments). Additionally, support for KDE and RPM packages is “coming soon.” You can grab the new beta 1.0 RC client here.

Source: Insync

Mageia 3, a new flavour of Linux to try

Subject: General Tech | May 28, 2013 - 10:13 AM |
Tagged: linux, mageia

If you've been looking around for a different OS for a laptop or PC that doesn't spend all of its time gaming you have probably taken a look at some of the more famous Linux distros but one may have escaped your attention.  Mageia 3 has just arrived, the successor to the Mandriva project and as it offers both Gnome and KDE desktop versions you can chose the interface which you are most comfortable with.  As it comes as a Live DVD you can boot to  it on a current machine without having to go through the process of a full install and can leave your current OS intact.  Perhaps you have a family member or friend that spends their time browsing that you support and are looking for an alternative to Microsoft or are even just looking to avoid the cost of a new license on an inexpensive mobile device; if so drop by The Inquirer for the links to download Mageia 3.

mageia.jpg

"LINUX DISTRIBUTION Mageia launched its third and latest release Mageia 3 a few days ago, and that's now available to download directly from the Mageia website and many of the well known mirrors like kernel.org and many university supported mirrors via either Bittorrent, http or ftp."

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Source: The Inquirer