Once again, ubiquitous computing spells the end of Wintel

Subject: General Tech | March 29, 2012 - 12:30 PM |
Tagged: arm, Intel, windows, Android, embedded systems

A story at The Register spells out the end of Windows, this time by 2016.  The growth of cellphones with enough processing power to be more than just glorified telephones is going to change the market, of that there can be no doubt.  On the other hand without some serious upgrades to the interface it seems very unlikely that a cellphone will be sitting on a desk with a mouse, keyboard and monitor connected to it.  In fact the very idea that ARM will one day outsell x86 processors is absurd, last year 2.2 billion ARM processors were sold, that number may be higher than all the processors AMD and Intel ever fabbed.  Keep that in mind when someone tells you that ARM may one day outsell CPUs intended for use in Windows machines.  

Android outselling Windows could be a reasonable prediction for the near future, but again it is hard to imagine Android replacing Windows Server or business oriented Linux distros, even if they are running on an ARM processor.  Then again, stranger things have happened.

skyisfalling.jpg

"Windows might be on the rise in the world of embedded systems, but if IDC's prognostications are right, then Windows is about to get its kernel handed to it with the rise of Android on what the market researcher dubs "smart connected devices."

By IDC's reckoning, makers of PCs, tablets, and smartphones shipped some 916 million units of machinery in 2012, raking in an astounding $489bn in moolah."

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Source: The Register

Adobe Releases Free Photoshop CS6 Beta With New Features

Subject: General Tech | March 26, 2012 - 08:55 AM |
Tagged: windows, software, photoshop, mac, editing

Adobe, the company best known for its popular prosumer photo and video editing suites and Flash player recently released a free beta version of its upcoming Photoshop CS6 photo editing software. Available for both Macintosh and Windows, the downloads are now up for grabs and should be good until the final version of Photoshop CS6 is released (later this year). The company also released a video demonstration of Senior Creative Director Russel Brown showing off several of the new features in CS6. The big new features of CS6 include the new Content Aware Move (and Fill), improved crop, new blurs, RAW 7.0 support, and adaptive wide angle lens correction. The video below shows how the new features work to enhance photos.

PhotoshopCS6.PNG

The Photoshop CS6 Interface

I downloaded the 64-bit version for Windows and tried out the new features. The first thing I noticed is that the tool tips seem a big buggy and can take a few tries to get them to show up. Also, in the Video Mr. Brown clicks on the Content Aware Move tool on the left but in order to actually get to it, you need to right click on the move icon as the default left click action is not for the Content Aware option. After I figured that out -- and this may indeed be common knowledge for Photoshop users, but was not for someone used to GIMP and Paint.net -- I found that the new features were pretty cool and it ran fairly quickly on my system. I would like to see the icons be a bit larger but otherwise the interface was snappy and while I stumbled at some points I think it has more to do with being used to how my usual photo editors work rather than an inherent problem with Photoshop’s interface.

I have to say that the Content Aware tools are pretty neat, and in no time I had a fleet of Corgi puppies running around the yard!  And the Content Aware Move tool allowed me to move the corgis around without needing to go back and try to clone the grass back in (which I've never been too good at, heh).  Granted this is something that was do-able in the past but it required quite a bit more work!  It is not perfect, but it is pretty darn good for an automatic process.  I was not able to test out the improved RAW support, however. The video demo made the feature look cool and I’m sure people will find it very useful. The adaptive wide angle feature further will be very useful for correcting the fish eye effect and other distortions with minimal effort. The ability for it to pull lens profiles from metadata to assist in correcting the distortion is pretty neat.

The downloads weigh in at 1.7 GB for the Windows .zip and 984 MB for the Mac .dmg file respectively. The Windows download also includes both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Both downloads are available here.  The beta further includes both CS6 and CS6 Extended features, though the extra features will only be included in the Extended version when the retail version is released.

Russel Brown shows off new features in Adobe's Photoshop CS6.

Source: Adobe

Microsoft Allegedly Changing Windows Logo To Minimalist Green Tile Design

Subject: General Tech | February 13, 2012 - 01:18 PM |
Tagged: windows 8, windows, OS, microsoft, logo

That fluttering window containing flag that would carry Microsoft into Operating System dominance on the, er, wind of success debuted with Windows 3.0 in 1990. As the years have passed, the company has made alterations and updates to keep the design modern. After 22 years of ingraining into people's minds that the flag logo is Windows, Microsoft may be ditching it in favor of a new minimalistic monochromatic affair. According to Chinese site cnBeta.com, Microsoft will roll out the new Windows logo with the launch of Windows 8. Allegedly, the new logo will be four turquoise panels with a shifted perspective and separated by interior white borders. The site claims that the evidence lies in a logo photo and a photograph of a physical "Windows" button on a tablet.

Win8.jpg

Personally, I think Microsoft would be crazy to change their logo, and especially insane to switch to this particular alleged new logo. Minimalist designs certainly have their place, but the colorful Windows logo that we are all used to has always done a good job of catching the eye (and four blue-green rectangles just don't do it for me). Not to mention that the company has had 22 years to burn into the minds of consumers that the logo is Windows, and it will be difficult for people to accept the new logo. There is definitely a certain amount of nostalgia and consumer confidence associated with the "old" logo, and it seems odd that Microsoft would be so cavalier to throw it away just to make their logo look better on the Metro desktop. Perhaps if they were changing direction and entering a different market or if they had a line of crappy products they would want a new logo, but that really does not seem to be the case. Here's hoping the photos are just fake. On the other hand, if Microsoft does end up taking out the start button it's not like people will be seeing the new logo anyway (heh).

What are your thoughts on the new logo?  Am I off base in thinking that the current logo has a lot of "mindshare" built up and it would be crazy to just leave it behind?

Source: CN Beta

WOA! We wanted Windows 8 on ARM details. We got them.

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | February 9, 2012 - 09:36 PM |
Tagged: WOA, windows, arm

Microsoft has been ridiculously cagey about the discussion of Windows 8 on ARM. At last month’s CES trade show there was a disturbingly low amount of information. Available information about Windows on ARM was in abrupt demonstrations performed by Microsoft spokespeople or behind glass display cases.

Today Steven Sinofsky of Microsoft released quite a bit of information -- over 8500 words even if you exclude image captions and section titles -- about Windows on ARM (officially named “WOA”). Feel free to read for yourself at MSDN’s blog, or keep on reading for our brief summary.

WinARM.png

Actually most of the blog post is about building Windows 8 on ARM.

We reported that Windows on ARM has been classified as stable for approximately two weeks at this point.  Our questions about WOA availability were answered, and more: WOA is intended to be released simultaneously as Windows 8 for x86-64. WOA will also not be available standalone and you must purchase a device with it pre-installed.

From the chipset through the firmware and drivers, the work is optimized to be great for WOA. Partners are working hard on creative industrial designs and form factors that will include more than tablets. These are all under development today.

[…]

The PC will come with the OS preinstalled, and all drivers and supporting software. WOA will not be available as a software-only distribution, so you never have to worry about which DVD to install and if it will work on a particular PC.

Applications written for Windows on ARM can only be distributed through Windows Update or the Windows Store. Being an advocate of the open PC I find this quite unnerving as it quickly creates situations where art becomes at the mercy of the platform owner similar to what is seen on the consoles. That said, it also seems to suggest that Microsoft is not intending WOA to be fill all the roles of a typical PC.

Win8office.png

Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and OneNote will be available for WOA as Office 15. The typical file explorer and desktop will also be available for WOA. Mouse and keyboard support is also available for Windows on ARM. These will all be available within Office so the user can control there their files will be stored.

Windows 8 for x86-64 will be released as an open Beta at the end of the month. Microsoft will also release, by invite only, devices for developers. The intent of course is to give developers time to create applications for WOA. You should not expect those devices to be any more than development tools designed to prevent day-one apps from being developed in a single day.

Source: MSDN Blogs

Microsoft Removing Start Orb Button In Windows 8

Subject: General Tech | February 6, 2012 - 11:19 AM |
Tagged: windows 8, windows, start orb, start button, microsoft, crazy

Microsoft is continuing full steam ahead with Windows 8 development where they axe many of the familiar features of previous Windows iterations. According to a post over at The Verge, the latest feature to get removed is the start button of all things. In the "Consumer Preview" version of the upcoming operating system, users will be greeted with a desktop that shows application icons and the Super Bar, but no start button in sight.

no_start_button.png

Oddly enough, they are removing the Start button in favor of a small area in the lower left of the screen that, when hovered over with a mouse or swiped over on a touchscreen, a Windows 8 charm (small menu) will appear along with a thumbnail preview of the mode that will be switched to upon clicking the element. For example, when you are in the Metro Start Screen mode, hovering over this area would show a small preview of the full Windows desktop and vice versa.

I'm a bit confused by this move as it doesn't really add anything to the experience, and makes the start "button" hover area harder to hit and find. Tech support people are likely crying now, as it is difficult enough to get people to click on the start button much less have the patience to hover over an area or perform a swipe action in the lower left of the screen! Not to mention that the start button has been a signature of the Microsoft operating system since Windows 95.  At least the Windows key (i hope) still works as expected, but it seems like a non sensical move.  How do you guys feel about the change?  Will you be keeping your relatives and/or employees on Windows 7 (heh)?

Source: The Verge

Microsoft Releasing Kinect for Windows And SDK On February 1st, 2012

Subject: General Tech | January 12, 2012 - 11:18 AM |
Tagged: xbox, windows, voice, software, PC, microsoft, kinect, gestures

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced at the Consumer Electronics Show that on February 1st, the new Kinect sensor for Windows would become available for purchase. In addition to the new Kinect for Windows sensor hardware, Microsoft is releasing an official SDk or Software Development Kit. Having the SDK installed on a Windows operating system will be required in order to use Kinect software applications. Currently, there are no (Microsoft official) consumer applications using Kinect; however, official hardware and an official SDK will surely spur software development.

Kinect_for_Windows.jpg

Microsoft is confident that the launch of the SDK and specially tuned hardware will spur development of software. According to MSNBC, the company is working with over 200 companies to develop software applications for Windows using Kinect. Microsoft's partners include Toyota, Mattel, American Express, and United Health Group. These corporate partners seem to indicate that initial Kinect applications will be designed for consumers to use in a business setting, say on a sales floor of car dealerships, at hospitals, or point of sale devices (maybe American Express is planning a "card swipe" application where holding the card up to the Kinect can be used to purchase items. Software for consumers to use at home is also likely in the pipeline and users will see them in the future.

Due to the Microsoft Kinect for Windows sensor not being subsidized by Xbox 360 games and accessories, the PC version is $100 more than the Xbox 360 version, and will retail for $250 USD. Amazon currently has the device (for pre-order) here for a whole penny less at $249.99.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: MSNBC

Microsoft Rereleases Update to Improve Bulldozer... yeah.

Subject: General Tech, Processors | January 11, 2012 - 06:21 PM |
Tagged: windows, processor, microsoft, cpu, bulldozer, amd

Let us take a little break from the CES news with a load of bull -- a download of Bulldozer. If you have an eerie sense of being in this situation before then you may in fact have a bad memory as it did in fact happen and it was only about a month ago. Microsoft released an update in mid-December to optimize their operating systems for AMD Bulldozer technology; that patch disappeared without any listed reason. As of today, we have access to both the patch as well as most of the reason for the delay in the first place.

amd_bulldozer_performance boost.jpg

You know: part of me wants to see a Bulldozer go 100MPH, and another part of me fears greatly.

The first order of business is to explain to those who have an AMD FX series, Opteron 4200 series, and/or an Opteron 6200 series processor how to increase their potential performance: KB 2646060 and KB 2645594 each contain a patch which will optimize Windows to the Bulldozer architecture for most users when both are applied.

It turns out that Microsoft pulled the Bulldozer update last month when discussions with AMD revealed that the patch would not provide the promised performance increases for most users. The problem specifically centers on the Core Parking feature within Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2: after the hotfix in December was applied, Core Parking would still interfere with Bulldozer’s design by attempting to save power and sleep cores that were unused without understanding that Bulldozer cores are not typical cores. With Core Parking disabled for Bulldozer-based CPUs either through this hotfix or by changing your performance profiles to “High Performance” from the often default “Balanced” you would allow Bulldozer to run as it actually desires to run. According to how these bulletins are worded, should you have been on “High Performance” profile back in December before the hotfix was pulled you would have experienced what should only have been available starting today.

These performance increases are not for every application, however. AMD has stated that applications which are more sparsely multithreaded would benefit most from the update.

Workloads that are moderately threaded have the potential for uplift. This could include virtualization, database, or transactional environments that are “bursty” – a mixture of light and heavy transactions, or legacy applications that are by nature not very threaded. The more heavily threaded the application, the less the likely the uplift.

My intuition knowing this as well as the Core Parking issue is that once Windows finally wakes the Bulldozer core, your experience is maximal with the December patch; applications which only temporarily become multithreaded either do not wake the proper portions of the processor or wake the processor in time to be of maximum benefit.

It appears as if the removal of the hotfix last month was simply because AMD believed that while the patch was effective, it would not be correctly applied to the vast majority of customers without a second hotfix and thus give the appearance of little to no real benefits.

Source: AMD Blogs

Microsoft Releases Update to Improve Bulldozer... I thought?

Subject: Processors | December 16, 2011 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: amd, bulldozer, cpu, processor, windows, microsoft

Intel was far from demolished when AMD's Bulldozer came to town. Users still clung to hope that Microsoft's Windows 7 was not optimized to take advantage of Bulldozer's multi-core environment. Vindication came sweetly with a knowledge base article and a patch from Microsoft confirming the issue and offering a solution. While they can still feel comfortable knowing they were right, the solution has been pulled from Microsoft's website without any announced reason. Who should we feel sorry for: those who didn't download it yet, or those who did?

amd_bulldozer_performance boost.jpg

This picture is more meme-worthy than we realized...
99 hotfix and ah this ain't one? If you're having kernel problems I feel bad for you son.

 

To be entirely fair, Microsoft's knowledge base article was quite clear in its instruction to users regarding this hotfix.

A supported hotfix is available from Microsoft. However, this hotfix is intended to correct only the problem that is described in this article. Apply this hotfix only to systems that are experiencing the problem described in this article. This hotfix might receive additional testing. Therefore, if you are not severely affected by this problem, we recommend that you wait for the next software update that contains this hotfix.

Still, AMD users have another reason to be upset as if they needed one. The hotfix will come, and will come in completely stable form; it just looks like today is not that day. If you already received this update and have experienced technical difficulties, the comment form awaits.

Source: VR-Zone

Microsoft Releases Update To Improve Bulldozer Performance

Subject: Processors | December 16, 2011 - 01:56 AM |
Tagged: amd, bulldozer, cpu, processor, windows, microsoft

When AMD’s Bulldozer processors arrived, they were unable to best Intel’s fastest at most tasks. A number of users held out hope for Bulldozer; however, as it was discovered that Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system was not optimized to take advantage of the multi-threaded execution scheduling engine. While MS has implemented this optimization in the Windows 8 kernel, the current stable release has been without a fix until recently. The fix in question is available for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 and can be downloaded here. It should be noted that service pack 1 is a pre-requisite to this hot-fix.

amd_bulldozer_performance boost.jpg

Conservatively, previous indications suggested such a fix would add a 5 % to 10 % performance boost in multi-threaded applications. That number is based on the estimates from around the web from people comparing benchmarks between Windows 7 and Windows 8 Developer Preview. If you are running a Bulldozer processor in your machine, be sure to apply this update and let us know how performance improves.

Source: Microsoft

Java JRE, Adobe Acrobat and Flash; the triumvirate of malware evil

Subject: General Tech | October 5, 2011 - 12:19 PM |
Tagged: fud, security, microsoft, windows

An interesting study that Slashdot has linked to today breaks down three months of infection data and crunched the numbers to see how the infections made it onto systems and which systems are the most vulnerable.  Fully two thirds of the infections happened to users browsing with Internet Explorer, but you must keep in mind IE's market share.  At this time last year half of all users browsed the internet with some version of IE and while that has fallen to around 40% this year it is still the most commonly used browser and will therefore have a greater representation in the sample of PC s tested.  As long as you keep that in mind, you can then move onto disparaging the average IE user ... especially if it is still IE6.

As well, you can see that Vista has something to be proud of.  Even with the lack of PCs using the OS it has almost as many infections as WinXP machines.  As to the programs most likely to be used as an attack ... Java JRE sits at 37% with Acrobat just behind at 32%, leaving the much maligned Flash responsible for only 16%. 

net-security_research.jpg

"Since Up to 85 % of all virus infections occur as a result of drive-by attacks automated via commercial exploit kits, CSIS has actively collected real time data from them for a period of three months. The purpose of their study is to reveal precisely how Microsoft Windows machines are infected with malware and which browsers, versions of Windows and third party software that are at risk. They monitored more than 50 different exploit kits on 44 unique servers / IP addresses. The statistical material covers all in all more than half a million user exposures out of which as many as 31.3 % were infected with the virus/malware due to missing security updates."

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Source: Slashdot