Face it, tape backups aren't going anywhere anytime soon

Subject: General Tech | May 1, 2014 - 03:18 PM |
Tagged: tape, backup, sony

Sony has just raised the bar on tape backup after creating a new process which can create strings of uniformly orientated nanocrystals in a layer less than five micrometers thick, giving the tape a storage density of 148 Gb per square inch.  Compare that to the current market standard of 2Gb per square inch on LTO-6 high-end LTO Ultrium tapes.  Unfortunately there are two questions left unanswered by the statement that The Register linked to; what I/O speeds can this media maintain and what its expected lifetime is.

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"Researchers at Sony have developed a new kind of magnetic tape that can store 74 times the data of current designs, dramatically cutting the amount of room needed for backup libraries."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Non-Replaceable, Defective Batteries in Sony VAIO Fit 11A

Subject: General Tech, Systems | April 15, 2014 - 08:48 PM |
Tagged: vaio, sony, battery issue

So it turns out that Sony, after releasing their last VAIO PC refresh before the division is sold to Japan Industrial Partners, have found an issue with Panasonic's custom lithium battery packs. The VAIO Fit 11A models, released February 2014, have the potential to overheat and catch fire, burning itself and the PC. They are in the process of creating a refund, repair, or exchange program but, in the mean time, request users stop using the devices for their safety.

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In head-crushing formation. #HandsCheck

The affected products fall under the model number, "SVF11N1XXXX", where Xs are, of course, some random letter or number. This information is printed underneath the display, accessible using the "release-lock" latch when the laptop is open.

Of course, this is all just unfortunate for Sony. The last product they create under their VAIO brand requires what basically amounts to a safety recall -- for a third-party component. Beyond that, Panasonic asserts that the flaw only seems to exist in the batteries that were customized for Sony. Panasonic, like many manufacturers, introduces slight modifications to existing products for a specific customer's needs. They do not believe that their other batteries, even of the same model, is defective outside of the shipment that Sony received.

At some point, you just need to feel bad for them...

Source: Sony

Sony Sells VAIO to Japan Industrial Partners (JIP)

Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 6, 2014 - 03:26 AM |
Tagged: sony vaio, sony

Oh look, something that was not purchased by Lenovo.

Sony has decided to sell its VAIO brand to Japanese Industrial Partners (JIP). Sony has been developing computers under thO brand since the mid 90's. While never a top-five player in the industry, they had a significant presence in stores and in the possession of people I bumped into on a day-to-day basis. The division was apparently in the red. It currently employs 1,000 people, of which 250-300 are expected to be hired with this deal.

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Whether the rest will be laid off or reshuffled within Sony remains to be seen.

As for Sony, they hope to focus on smartphones and tablets. They had a significant presence at last month's CES where they brought multiple Xperia models. VAIO also had its share of the attention though, so I guess that really does not mean much.

The acquisition is expected to complete near the end of July.

Source: The Verge

Sony Password Reset: Problem or Caution?

Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2013 - 07:33 PM |
Tagged: sony, Data Breach

Sony has detected "irregular activity" on their network and, as a precaution, have initiated password resets for several of their customers. Of course the great PlayStation hack is still fresh in our memory. Beyond the potential reference jokes, this time could be a sign that they learned their lesson.

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My hands are still in head-crushing formation.

My gut feeling is that Sony has noticed odd traffic from attackers trying to use break into accounts using information compromised from other sources (such as the recent Adobe hack). I actually received a similar email from Blizzard, just a couple of weeks after the Adobe hack, urging me to reset my password. It does not surprise me that whoever has access to the blob (heck it is probably public by now) would be poking gaming services to extort or troll.

I will give Sony the benefit of the doubt (especially considering how probable it is) and say they have learned from their lesson. This is the same practice used by to good security firms: push the big red reset button whenever something looks fishy and keeps your affected customers informed.

Of course I could eat my words if it is found out that Sony knows of a gigantic problem behind the scenes -- but I doubt it. Congratulations on handling the situation properly, Sony, even if it does open you up to misinformed trolls.

Source: The Verge
Author:
Subject: Systems
Manufacturer:

The 7 Year Console Refresh

Be sure you jump to the second page to see our recommendations for gaming PC builds that are inexpensive yet compete well with the capabilities and performance of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One!!

The consoles are coming!  The consoles are coming!  Ok, that is not necessarily true.  One is already here and the second essentially is too.  This of course brings up the great debate between PCs and consoles.  The past has been interesting when it comes to console gaming, as often the consoles would be around a year ahead of PCs in terms of gaming power and prowess.  This is no longer the case with this generation of consoles.  Cutting edge is now considered mainstream when it comes to processing and graphics.  The real incentive to buy this generation of consoles is a lot harder to pin down as compared to years past.

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The PS4 retails for $399 US and the upcoming Xbox One is $499.  The PS4’s price includes a single controller, while the Xbox’s package includes not just a controller, but also the next generation Kinect device.  These prices would be comparable to some low end PCs which include keyboard, mouse, and a monitor that could be purchased from large brick and mortar stores like Walmart and Best Buy.  Happily for most of us, we can build our machines to our own specifications and budgets.

As a directive from on high (the boss), we were given the task of building our own low-end gaming and productivity machines at a price as close to that of the consoles and explaining which solution would be superior at the price points given.  The goal was to get as close to $500 as possible and still have a machine that would be able to play most recent games at reasonable resolutions and quality levels.

Continue reading our comparison of PC vs. PS4 vs. Xbox One Hardware Comparison: Building a Competing Gaming PC!!

Author:
Manufacturer: Sony

Does downloading make a difference?

This is PART 2 of our testing on the PlayStation 4 storage systems, with the stock hard drive, an SSHD hybrid and an SSD.  Previously, we compared performance based on Blu-ray based installations though today we add downloaded titles from PSN to the mix.  Be sure you read PART 1, PlayStation 4 (PS4) HDD, SSHD and SSD Performance Testing.

I posted a story earlier this week that looked at the performance of the new PS4 when used with three different 2.5-in storage options: the stock 500GB hard drive, a 1TB hybrid SSHD and a 240GB SSD.  The results were fairly interesting (and got a good bit of attention) but some readers wanted more data.  In particular, many asked how things might change if you went the full digital route and purchased games straight from the Sony's PlayStation Network.  I also will compare boot times for each of the tested storage devices.

You should definitely check out the previous article if you missed it. It not only goes through the performance comparison but also details how to change the hard drive on the PS4 from the physical procedure to the software steps necessary. The article also details the options we selected for our benchmarking.

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Today I purchased a copy of Assassin's Creed IV from the PSN store (you're welcome Ubisoft) and got to testing.  The process was the same: start the game then load the first save spot.  Again, each test was run three times and the averages were reported. The PS4 was restarted between each run.

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The top section of results is the same that was presented earlier - average load times for AC IV when the game is installed from the Blu-ray.  The second set is new and includes average load times fro AC IV after the installation from the PlayStation Network; no disc was in the drive during testing.

Continue reading our story on the performance testing of HDD, SSD and SSHD with downloaded and Blu-ray installed games on PS4!!

Author:
Manufacturer: Sony

Load time improvements

This is PART 1 of our testing on the PlayStation 4 storage systems, with the stock hard drive, an SSHD hybrid and an SSD.  In PART 2 we take a look at the changes introduced with PSN downloaded games versus Blu-ray installed games as well as show boot time differences.  Be sure you read PART 2, PlayStation 4 (PS4) Blu-ray and Download Storage Performance, Boot Times.

On Friday Sony released the PlayStation 4 onto the world.  The first new console launch in 7 years, the PS4 has a lot to live up to, but our story today isn't going to attempt to weigh the value of the hardware or software ecosystem.  Instead, after our PS4 teardown video from last week, we got quite a few requests for information on storage performance with the PS4 and what replacement hardware might offer gamers.

Hard Drive Replacement Process

Changing the hard drive in your PlayStation 4 is quite simple, a continuation of a policy Sony's policy with the PS3.

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Installation starts with the one semi-transparent panel on the top of the unit, to the left of the light bar.  Obviously make sure your PS4 is completely turned off and unplugged.

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Simply slide it to the outside of the chassis and wiggle it up to release.  There are no screws or anything to deal with yet.

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Once inside you'll find a screw with the PS4 shapes logos on them; that is screw you need to remove to pull out the hard drive cage. 

Continue reading our analysis of PS4 HDD, SSHD and SSD Performance!!

Sony PS Vita TV Supports Vita Games, Online Services, and PS4 Remote Play for $100

Subject: General Tech | September 9, 2013 - 05:07 AM |
Tagged: sony, remote play, ps vita, playstation 4, gaming

Today, Sony announced a new Vita-branded product called the PlayStation Vita TV. The small 60mm x 100mm box connects to televisions over HDMI and is able to play Vita games using a while PS3-style controller or a touchpad-equipped PS4 game controller.

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The PS Vita TV also connects to your home network over Ethernet and is able to pull down content from various Sony online services including Music Unlimited, Video Unlimited, and Karaoke according to Engadget.

Those features alone make it an interesting product, but the PS Vita TV will also be able to connect to the PlayStation 4 over your home network and remote play PS4 games. Users will be able to play PS4 games on a second TV using a PS4 controller and network-connected PS Vita TV.

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The PS Vita TV will be available in Japan in November for 9,954 Yen ($100 USD). Alternatively, a bundle that includes the PS Vita TV, controller, and memory card can be purchased for 14,995 Yen ($150 USD).

If it works as advertised, the PS Vita TV looks to be an excellent companion product to the PS4 which will allow users to play their PS4 and PS Vita library and access streaming content in multiple rooms without needing to pony up for multiple PlayStation 4 consoles.

I hope that the PS Vita TV comes to the US as it should shake up the decision of Xbox One or PS4 in favor of the latter, as the $100 Vita TV will bring the two consoles to the same price, but with the PS4 having remote play and more powerful hardware. In short, I believe the PS Vita TV to be a much more desirable add-on over Microsoft's bundled Kinect.

Does the announcement of the PS Vita TV affect your pre-order decisions at all?

Source: Engadget

Sony PlayStation 4 (PS4) will NOT utilize AMD hUMA with Kabini-based SoC

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | August 22, 2013 - 01:39 PM |
Tagged: sony, ps4, playstation 4, Kabini, hUMA, amd

UPDATE: I have added new info at the bottom of this post with more commentary from AMD (kind of).

You might have seen some reports in the last couple of days claiming that the upcoming Sony PlayStation 4 (PS4) will have a big advantage over the Xbox One thanks to its unique ability to support AMD's hUMA memory architecture.  hUMA, heterogeneous unified memory architecture, is an exciting new memory technology that AMD has built into upcoming APUs.

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Josh published a story on hUMA that sums it as so:

The idea behind hUMA is quite simple; the CPU and GPU share memory resources, they are able to use pointers to access data that has been processed by either one or the other, and the GPU can take page faults and not rely only on page locked memory.  Memory in this case is bi-directionally coherent, so coherency issues with data in caches which are later written to main memory will not cause excessive waits for either the CPU or GPU to utilize data that has been changed in cache, but not yet written to main memory.

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There's just one problem with these various reports (VR-Zone, ExtremeTech): they're incorrect.  After sending some emails to our representatives at AMD I was told that "Kabini doesn't support hUMA" which is the APU that both the PS4 and Xbox One processors are based on.  AMD further clarified with us:

Our spokesperson made inaccurate statements about our semi-custom APU architectures and does not speak for Microsoft, Sony or the AMD semi-custom business unit responsible for co-developing the next generation console APUs.

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So while the PS4 will still be a faster system thanks to its higher SIMD processor (GPU core) count, there is no support for a true heterogeneous unified memory architecture in either upcoming console platform.

NOTE: I have had several people point out that it's possible Sony and Microsoft worked on their own custom memory architectures that will perform similar functionally to hUMA.  That is entirely possible but means that official hUMA support isn't on the SoCs.

UPDATE: AMD contacted me again to make another comment.  Essentially, they said that the correction statement to the original statement claiming hUMA was part PS4 was "inaccurrate" but that this correction does NOT mean the opposite claim is true.  Even when pressed for a more specific and debate-ending comment, AMD wouldn't give us any more information. 

So does the PS4 have support for some type of heterogeneous unified memory?  Maybe.  And the Xbox One?  Maybe.  At this point, I'd stop listening to anything AMD has to say on the subject as they are likely to recant it shortly thereafter.  Many readers have emailed me with their thoughts and I personally feel that its more likely the original statement from AMD (that the PS4 will have the edge with a hUMA design) will turn out to be the truth in the long run...

Sony Xperia Z Ultra 6.4" Smartphone Coming Later This Year

Subject: General Tech | June 26, 2013 - 11:52 AM |
Tagged: xperia z, xperia, triluminos, sony, Android

Sony has a new smartphone on the way called the Xperia Z Ultra. This 6.4” tablet-sized smartphone uses high end hardware and will be available in Q3 2013.

The Xperia Z Ultra measures 17.9 cm x 9.2 cm x 0.65 cm and weighs in at 212 grams (approximately 0.47 lbs). The front of the device is dominated by a large 6.4” Triluminos display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080p (342 PPI). Users will be able to use touch or a capacitive stylus to interact with the screen. The back of the smartphone includes an 8MP camera (no flash). The chassis is IP55 and IP58 rated as being dust resistant and waterproof.

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Hardware.info was able to get some hands-on time with the upcoming Sony phablet.

Internally, the Xperia Z Ultra features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC clocked at 2.2 GHz along with Adreno 330 graphics, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, and support for microSD cards. Wireless radios include 4G, NFC, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. A 3,000 mAh battery provides power to the smartphone, which Sony rates at 14 hours of usage per full charge. It will run Google's Android operating system.

Hardware.info managed to get some hands on time with the Xperia Z Ultra, and it looks like a promising device. The crew stated that the display had some of the best viewing angles they have seen on Sony devices, for example. According to the site, Sony will be releasing the Xperia Z Ultra in the third quarter of this year for 719 Euros, which works out to about $940 USD. However, keep in mind that if/when the smartphone does come to the US, it will likely be subsidized to a much lower price point.