Amazon Takes On Apple TV, Roku, and Ouya With $99 Fire TV Streaming Box

Subject: General Tech | April 8, 2014 - 01:01 PM |
Tagged: streaming box, Netflix, media streaming, html, fire tv, Android, amazon

Amazon is making a play for the living room with its new Fire TV. The tiny box offers up mobile gaming along with movie and music streaming. Users will be able to tap into Amazon’s own Prime Instant Video collection in addition to various streaming video and music services from partners (see below). The box runs an operating system based on Android and HTML and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 SoC which makes it about as powerful as today’s mid-range smartphones. At $99, the Fire TV is, ahem, a shot across the bow of devices from Apple, Roku, and Ouya.

Amazon Fire TV.jpg

The box measures 4.5" x 4.5" x 0.7" and comes bundled with a remote small remote control. Amazon provides hardware ports for HDMI, optical audio output, Ethernet, and USB. The remote has basic playback controls along with a microphone used for the voice search functionality. The Fire TV is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 SoC with four Krait 300 CPU cores clocked at 1.7 GHz and an Adreno 320 GPU, 2GB of DDR2 memory at 533 MHz, and 8GB of internal flash memory. Networking includes wired Ethernet and a 802.11n + Bluetooth 4.0 radio. A large heatsink is used to passively cool all of the components.

The Fire TV is launching with a number of applications from partners. Users can stream video from Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vimeo, Vudu, Flixter, NBA, and YouTube among others. Music apps include Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Vevo. Finally, users can play back music and photos from their Amazon Cloud Drive storage. Amazon further offers up an app store for free and paid games. For example, users will be able to play Minecraft Pocket Edition, The Walking Dead, or Sev Zero using the included remote or optional $39.99 game pad.

Amazon Fire TV Game Controller 1.jpg

For media junkies with children Amazon has added the FreeTime functionality from its Kindle tablets to the Fire TV. FreeTime restricts the device to kid-friendly programming and a new optional $2.99 per month FreeTime Unlimited subscription offers up a catalog of kid-friendly media for streaming. Other software features include X-Ray (in-media information, such as identifying an actor) and ASAP which attempts to determine what programs you are likely to stream next and begin caching it in the background. For example, it will begin to cache the next episode of a TV series so that when you go to watch the next episode you will not see any loading screens.

The FireTV is a compelling alternative to the Roku (latest being the $50 Streaming Stick) and Apple TV (so long as you are not already invested in the Apple / iTunes ecosystem) while also offering up mobile gaming on the living room TV in a more-polished way that the Ouya ever did. The $99 Fire TV is available from Amazon immediately.

I think the Fire TV has real potential to catch on with most consumers, though the real test for enthusiasts and readers of PC Per will be to see if the extra features and Amazon polish will be worth the price premium over cheaper options like the Chromecast and Raspberry Pi setups.

Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more information and hands-on experience with Amazon's latest bit of hardware.

Source: Amazon

Microsoft's customers are not always right

Subject: General Tech | April 8, 2014 - 12:53 PM |
Tagged: winxp, microsoft, dumb

With around 95% of the world's ATMs and over 27% of PCs still running WinXP, not counting the ones hiding behind enterprise firewalls, it is rather ironic to refer to XP as dead.  Referring to it as unsupported is certainly more accurate though considering the number of governments and banks around the world which have paid Microsoft to extend support that is not completely factual either.  After 13 years of service, perhaps Microsoft has found a new business model to squeeze a bit more profit from WinXP by charging for updates; if they don't take advantage of it then there are third parties which would be more than happy to profit from those who plan to continue to use WinXP.

This forced upgrade makes some sense for Microsoft as it will lower the legacy workload that XP has caused over 3 new generations of OS but at the same time there is obviously money to be made from supporting large corporations, governments and institutions.  This will also cause a bit of a backlash in the boardroom as the lofty minds in upper management dig their heels in about having to learn a new interface and begin to question what happens when support for the version of Windows they chose to replace WinXP expires and they are again forced to spend huge amounts of money upgrading again.  It is unlikely that a large majority of these companies will make the move to Linux but they may well hear about that OS for the first time and consider testing it in limited fashion.  Two things are for certain; Microsoft has at the least annoyed some very powerful corporate heads and that no one will care when support for Vista ends in 2017.

microsoft-windows-xp-sp3-office-2003-end-of-support_thumb.png

"Introduced by Microsoft in 2001, Windows "eXPerience" was the seventh version of Windows released by Microsoft as a convergent replacement for the short lived Windows 2000 and Windows ME, becoming Microsoft's first consumer PC operating system based on the Windows NT code base."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

SK Hynix Develops 128GB Stick of DDR4 RAM

Subject: General Tech, Memory | April 8, 2014 - 02:03 AM |
Tagged: Hynix, ddr4

... I'll take two.

SK Hynix, one of the leading producers of RAM modules, announced a single stick of DDR4 with 128GB capacity. While this is intended for the server room, I hope that we will see workstation components attempt to be compatible in the near future. It is difficult to find a board that can support more than 64GB at all, let alone twice that, per stick.

ram.jpg

As for the typical desktop users? Let's face it, this is overkill, eight times over, generously, per stick. Web browsers are beginning to ring up the memory usage as more and more tabs are loaded simultaneously but, otherwise, there is little use for it for them.

But for those of us who are not them, this could be awesome. It is still unclear how much memory a Haswell-EX motherboard, running on an Intel X99 chipset, will support. I can assume that this stick will not be compatible... but we can always hope, right?

Source: SK Hynix

BUILD 2014: Windows Sideloading Changes Announced

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | April 8, 2014 - 01:11 AM |
Tagged: BUILD 2014, microsoft, windows, winRT

A few days ago, I reported on the news from BUILD 2014 that Windows would see the return of the Start Menu and windowed apps. These features, which are not included with today's Windows 8.1 Update 1, will come in a later version. While I found these interface changes interesting, I reiterated that the user interface was not my concern: Windows Store certification was. I did leave room for a little hope, however, because Microsoft scheduled an announcement of changes. It was focused on enterprise customers, so I did not hold my breath.

And some things did change... but not enough for the non-enterprise user.

tiles2.jpg

Microsoft is still hanging on to the curation of apps, except for "domain-joined" x86 Enterprise and x86 Pro PCs; RT devices and "not domain-joined" computers will only allow sideloaded apps with a key. This certificate (key) is not free for everyone. Of course, this does not have anything to do with native x86 applications. Thankfully, the prospect of WinRT APIs eventually replacing Win32, completely, seems less likely now. It could still be possible if Windows Store has a major surge in popularity but, as it stands right now, Microsoft seems to be spending less effort containing x86 for an eventual lobotomy.

If it does happen, it would be a concern for a variety of reasons:

  1. Governments, foreign or domestic, who pressure Microsoft to ban encryption software.

  2. Internet Explorer's Trident would have no competition to adopt new web standards.

  3. Cannot create an app for just a friend or family member (unless it's a web app in IE).

  4. When you build censorship, the crazies will come with demands to abuse it.

So I am still concerned about the future of Windows. I am still not willing to believe that Microsoft will support x86-exclusive applications until the end of time. If that happens, and sideloading is not publicly available, and web standards are forced into stagnation by a lack of alternative web browsers, then I can see bad times ahead. I will not really feel comfortable until a definitive pledge to allow users to control what can go on their device, even if Microsoft (or people with some form of authority over them) dislikes it, is made.

But I know that many disagree with me. What are your thoughts? Comment away!

Source: ZDNet

Recommendations from outside the case

Subject: General Tech | April 7, 2014 - 05:23 PM |
Tagged: input, peripherals

The PC Perspective HWLB and The Tech Report's System Guide focus on the best internal components for your computer with the goal of guiding you to the best value for your dollar when you are constructing a new PC.  Keyboards, mice and other peripherals are left out of our recommendations as for most people it is a personal decision as to whether they prefer expensive ergonomic devices or just a basic model.  The Tech Report have changed that with their recent article which features their Staff Picks for the best peripherals of 2014.  If you are having difficulty deciding which peripherals to attach to that new PC, why not drop by and check out their favourites?

blacx-5g.jpg

"When we introduced our new System Guide format in February, we cut out peripherals in order to focus more closely on internal PC components. Our plan was to revisit keyboards, mice, displays, and such things in a separate guide, which we would be free to flesh out a little more and update as needed, independently of the already lengthy System Guide."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

NVIDIA 337.50 Driver and GeForce Experience 2.0 Released

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | April 7, 2014 - 09:01 AM |
Tagged: nvidia, geforce experience, directx 11

We knew that NVIDIA had an impending driver update providing DirectX 11 performance improvements. Launched today, 337.50 still claims significant performance increases over the previous 335.23 version. What was a surprise is GeForce Experience 2.0. This version allows both ShadowPlay and GameStream to operate on notebooks. It also allows ShadowPlay to record, and apparently stream to Twitch, your Windows desktop (but not on notebooks). It also enables Battery Boost, discussed previously.

nvidia-shadowplay-desktop.png

Personally, I find desktop streaming is the headlining feature, although I rarely use laptops (and much less for gaming). This is especially useful for OpenGL, games which run in windowed mode, and if you want to occasionally screencast without paying for Camtasia or tinkering with CamStudio. If I were to make a critique, and of course I will, I would like the option to select which monitor gets recorded. Its current behavior records the primary monitor as far as I can tell.

I should also mention that, in my testing, "shadow recording" is not supported when not recording a fullscreen game. I'm guessing that NVIDIA believes their users would prefer to not record their desktops until manually started and likewise stopped. It seems like it had to have been a conscious decision. It does limit its usefulness in OpenGL or windowed games, however.

This driver also introduces GameStream for devices out of your home discussed in the SHIELD update.

nvidia-337-sli.png

This slide is SLi improvements, driver-to driver, for the GTX 770 and the 780 Ti.

As for the performance boost, NVIDIA claims up to 64% faster performance in configurations with one active GPU and up to 71% faster in SLI. It will obviously vary on a game-by-game and GPU-by-GPU basis. I do not have any benchmarks, besides a few examples provided by NVIDIA, to share. That said, it is a free driver. If you have a GeForce GPU, download it. It does complicate matters if you are deciding between AMD and NVIDIA, however.

Source: NVIDIA

Rumor: VESA Might Have Accepted AMD's FreeSync

Subject: General Tech, Displays | April 6, 2014 - 02:41 AM |
Tagged: vesa, freesync, DisplayPort, amd

According to French website, hardware.fr, the VESA standards body has accepted AMD's proposal for FreeSync into an extension of the DisplayPort 1.2a standard. FreeSync is the standards-based answer to NVIDIA's G-Sync, a process for allowing the monitor to time itself according to its driving GPU. At CES 2014, AMD claimed that the technology was already in development to be used for mobile devices to save power (less frequent monitor refreshes).

vesa-logoBlack.png

By presenting image to the user only when the work is complete, you can avoid "tearing" and latency. The tearing will be eliminated because the graphics card does not change the image being drawn by the monitor as it is trying to display it. The latency is eliminated because it does not need to wait until the monitor is ready (up to one-over-the maximum refresh rate of the monitor). It should also save power by reducing its refresh rate on slower scenes, such as an idle desktop, but that is less of a concern when you are plugged into a wall.

What does this mean? Nothing yet, really, except that a gigantic standards body seems to approve.

Source: Hardware.fr

HCW Reviews Vortex KBT Race II Mechanical Keyboard

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | April 4, 2014 - 06:59 PM |
Tagged: vortex, mechanical keyboard

Carl Nelson of hardCOREware published a review of the Vortex KBT Race II mechanical keyboard. The quick summary is that he was impressed by several of its features but found that it was not as pleasant to type on, compared to other keyboards that he used - even with the same switch. It is a compact keyboard, slightly smaller than a Tenkeyless layout. The keycaps are laser-etched (which should give decent durability) with the same font as Windows 8. It is also backlit, the black model glows white and the white model glows green.

hcw-kbt-race-2-keycaps-620x394.jpg

H...C...W... how subtle, Carl.

They keyboard itself is about $130 USD and comes in Cherry MX Red, Brown, or Blue. It supports 6-key rollover but he does not mention whether there are any other limitations. For instance, does the interface allow for 6 buttons to be pressed, but you are screwed if press shift, up, and right together? This was the case with my old Logitech G15v1 and it made for an impossible task to play The Scout with the arrow keys in TF2. On the other hand, if it was based on an NKRO keyboard with the limitations of the USB interface, that is not so bad. I just do not know.

To see a little more, check out the review at HCW.

Source: HCW

Build 2014: .NET Foundation Announced with Open Source

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | April 4, 2014 - 03:42 AM |
Tagged: BUILD 2014, microsoft, .net

Microsoft has announced the creation of the .NET Foundation along with the open source release of several .NET frameworks and languages. This comes a day after the simultaneous unveiling and open sourcing of WinJS, a JavaScript library which brings "Modern"-like interface elements to websites (and web apps). While building block APIs are common, this could help Microsoft's design paradigms gain traction with apps from other platforms.

microsoft-dotnet-foundation.png

.NET has been very popular since its initial release. I saw it used frequently in applications, particularly when a simple form-like interface is required. It was easy to develop and accessible from several languages, such as C++, C#, and VB.NET. Enterprise application developers were particularly interested in it, especially with its managed security.

The framework drove an open source movement to write their own version, Mono, spearheaded by Novell. Some time later, the company Xamarin was created from the original Mono development team and maintains the project to this day. In fact, Miguel de Icaza was at Build 2014 discussing the initiative. He seems content with Microsoft's new Roslyn compiler and the working relationship between the two companies as a whole.

WinJS is released under the very permissive Apache 2.0 license. Other code, such as Windows Phone Toolkit, are released under other licenses, such as the Microsoft Public License (Ms-PL). Pay attention to any given project's license. It would not be wise to assume. Still, it sounds like a good step.

Source: ZDNet

Simon Hall Awarded $10K Raspberry Pi Quake III Bounty With His Open Source Graphics Driver Work

Subject: General Tech | April 3, 2014 - 11:23 PM |
Tagged: videocore iv, Raspberry Pi, open source, graphics drivers, bcm2835

The Raspberry Pi recently passed its second anniversary, but until now the open source software friendly hardware has had to rely on closed source drivers for graphics processing on the SoC's VideoCore IV GPU.This has now changed thanks to work by Raspberry Pi hacker Simon Hall who has ported over the open source graphics stack from Broadcom's recently open sourced BCM21553 SoC for cell phones to the BCM2835 SoC that powers the Raspberry Pi. In doing so, Mr. Hall has claimed the Raspberry Pi Foundation's $10,000 bounty by using the newly ported open source graphics driver to run Quake III Arena at 1080p (minimum of 20 FPS according to contest rules).

Quake III Arena.png

The ported open source driver is not quite as optimized as the closed source version that the Pi currently uses (which allegedly runs Quake III twice as fast), but it is an encouraging start and the base from which the community can flesh out and optimize. The open source graphics driver is likely to be rolled into future OS releases, but for adventurous users that want the open source driver now, Simon Hall has provided step-by-step instructions for getting the driver and using it to run Quake III on the Raspberry Pi blog. Be warned, it is an involved and time consuming process at the moment.

I would like to say congratulations to Simon Hall for the bounty award and thank him for his work in porting the driver to the Raspberry Pi's SoC!

Hopefully this graphics stack breathes new life into the Raspberry Pi and the community takes up the development mantle to improve upon the codebase and pursue new opportunities that the open source nature enables such as a port of Android running on the Pi.

Read more about the Raspberry Pi at PC Perspective.

More Intel Inside Chromebooks

Subject: General Tech | April 3, 2014 - 03:19 PM |
Tagged: Braswell, Bay Trail, Intel, SoC, 14nm, idf

Intel's Atom has finally shaken the bad name that its progenitors have born as Bay Trail proves to be a great implementation of an SoC.  At IDF we received a tantalizing glimpse at the next generation of SoC from Intel, the 14nm Braswell chip though little was said of their ultra low powered Cherry Trail SoC for tablets.   Braswell is more than just a process shrink, Intel is working to increase their support of Chromebooks and Android by creating a 64-bit Android kernel that supports Android 4.4.  This seems to have paid off as Kirk Skaugen mentioned to The Inquirer that Intel chips will be present in 20 soon to be released models, up from 4 currently.

intelbroadwell.jpg

"INTEL HAS REVEALED PLANS to launch Braswell, a more powerful successor to the Bay Trail system on a chip (SoC) line used in low-cost devices like Chromebooks and budget PCs."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

ADATA Moves Quickly on New DDR4 Specification

Subject: General Tech | April 3, 2014 - 03:00 PM |
Tagged: adata, ddr4, xeon

ADATA has been rather busy lately, the release of the brand new Premiere Pro SSD family and now the launch of DDR4 modules for the next generation of Xeon processors.  These new DIMMs follow the current trend of energy efficiency in the server room by dropping the required voltage to 1.2V which can add up to quite a bit in a large server farm.  The specified speed of 2133MHz is attractive for a first gen server RDIMM though there does not seem to be much information available on the timings.

Taipei, Taiwan – April 3, 2014 - ADATA Technology, a leading manufacturer of high-performance DRAM modules and NAND Flash application products, has announced the launch of new DDR4 modules. Working in close cooperation with Intel, ADATA has successfully developed and launched DDR4 RDIMM (ECC Registered DIMM) that are fully compatible with the newly announced, next generation platform of Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 v3 product family.

Coming in densities of 4, 8 & 16 gigabytes, the new modules run at 1.2 volts, and at a frequency of 2133MHz. The higher clock frequencies, faster data transfer rates, and low voltage operation of DDR4 memory make it especially suited for use in the growing cloud server, storage and networking application fields.

adata.png

According to Jacky Yang, Product Manager at ADATA: “We are enthusiastic about the great potential of this new DDR4 specification, and we will move quickly to bring this new technology to our customers. Currently in development are DDR4 versions of ECC SO-DIMM, VLP RDIMM, & LRDIMM, so we look forward to providing the stability and reliability that ADATA is known for in a low voltage and high performance package.”

Source: ADATA

Podcast #294 - Frame Rating Mantle in BF4, DirectX 12, Sub-$700 4K Monitors and more!

Subject: General Tech | April 3, 2014 - 01:30 PM |
Tagged: video, Samsung, podcast, Mantle, Glacer 240L, GDC 2014, frame rating, dx12, cooler master, BUILD 2014, BF4, amd, adata, 4k

PC Perspective Podcast #294 - 04/03/2014

Join us this week as we discuss Frame Rating Mantle in BF4, DirectX 12, Sub-$700 4K Monitors and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath and Allyn Malventano

 
This podcast is brought to you by Coolermaster, and the CM Storm Pulse-R Gaming Headset!
 
Program length: 1:12:29
 
  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:43:40 This podcast is brought to you by Coolermaster, and the CM Storm Pulse-R Gaming Headset
  3. News items of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
    1. Allyn: Like MAME? Try MESS, and further - UME (systems list)
  5. Closing/outro

Be sure to subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube channel!!

 

Build 2014: Microsoft Presents New Start Menu

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | April 2, 2014 - 09:53 PM |
Tagged: BUILD 2014, microsoft, windows, start menu

Microsoft had numerous announcements during their Build 2014 opening keynote, which makes sense as they needed to fill the three hours that they assigned for it. In this post, I will focus on the upcoming changes to the Windows desktop experience. Two, albeit related, features were highlighted: the ability to run Modern Apps in a desktop window, and the corresponding return of the Start Menu.

I must say, the way that they grafted Start Screen tiles on the Start Menu is pretty slick. The Start Menu, since Windows Vista, has felt awkward with its split between recently used applications and common shortcuts in a breakout on the right with an expanded "All Programs" submenu handle on the bottom. It is functional, and it works perfectly fine, but something just felt weird about it. This looks a lot cleaner, in my opinion, especially since its width is variable according to how many applications are pinned.

Of course, my major complaint with Windows 8.x has nothing to do with the interface. There has not been any discussion around sideloading applications to get around Windows Store certification requirements. This is a major concern for browser vendors and should be one for many others, from hobbyists who might want to share their creations with one or two friends or family members, rather than everyone in an entire Windows Store region, or citizens of countries whose governments might pressure Microsoft to ban encryption or security applications.

That said, there is a session tomorrow called "Deploying and Managing Enterprise Apps", discussing changes app sideloading in Windows 8.1. Enterprise users are already allowed sideloading certificates from Microsoft. Maybe it will be expanded? I am not holding my breath.

Keep an eye out, because there should be a lot of news over the next couple of days.

Source: ZDNet

Cooler Master Introduces QuickFire Rapid-i Mechanical Keyboard For Gamers

Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2014 - 09:49 PM |
Tagged: quickfire rapid, NKRO, mechanical keyboard, gaming, cooler master

Cooler Master has introduced a new mechanical keyboard to the QuickFire Rapid family. The upcoming QuckFire Rapid-i is a fully backlit mechanical keybard that offers up gaming-friendly features.

Cooler Master is keeping many of the detailed specifications under wraps, but we do know that it supports both PS/2 and USB, uses laser etched matte keycaps along with mechanical switches, and uses a 32-bit ARM processor to drive the various back-lighting profiles (a technology Cooler Master calls ActivLite).

Cooler Master QuickFire Rapid-i Mechanical Keyboard.jpg

The keyboard supports 1ms response times in USB mode along with NKRO (N Key Roll Over) which allows simultaneous pressing of multiple keys which can come in handy when using the keyboard for gaming. The ActivLite technology supports five key backlighting modes with an additional five brightness levels in each mode. Cooler Master demonstrates one mode on their website where the keys being pressed light up and slowly fade in a trailing lighting effect as you continue typing. The keyboard has on board memory capable of storing four saved lighting profiles (users can program the backlighting of individual keys).

Unfortunately, Cooler Master has not stated which mechanical switches it is using in this keyboard beyond saying that they are both "tactile" and "quiet." Considering its predecessor used Cherry MX switches, those are a good bet though.

If you are interested in Cooler Master's latest mechanical keyboard, keep an eye on the product page the company set up for further information as it gets closer to a physical launch date.

As Irrational swims with the fishes, so can you

Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2014 - 06:27 PM |
Tagged: bioshock infinite, burial at sea, irrational

One hopes that by now you have managed to free the 40-some gigabytes of storage required to install Bioshock Infinite so that you can play the recently released second Episode of Burial at Sea.  Many have chose to wait to touch Episode 1 until the second instalment was released as Valve has developed a tendency to wait a bit between their releases.  If you have been too busy playing Goat Simulator and have not yet played through the release you can tease yourself with the trailer below.  If you have played it, Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN's recent Wot I Think is worth reading through as they give a well thought out look at Irrational's last product.

"You’ll hear no politics from me, though by God it’s tempting to correlate Burial At Sea Part 2′s status as a swansong for two BioShock universes with the recent, shock closure of Irrational. Whatever else there is to both tales, at least this concluding DLC for BioShock Infinite reverses the sense of decline we’ve seen since the original BioShock."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Erosion is inevitable, even in Redmond

Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2014 - 06:11 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, Build Conference, win 8.1

What was once called a Service Pack and is now referred to as 'Update 1' will be arriving soon for those few who currently run Windows 8.1.  The feature with the biggest potential to gain this OS market share is Enterprise mode with legacy support for IE11; allowing large corporations to chose Win 8.1 without having to redesign legacy applications and global intranets from scratch.  It's ability to run on 1GB of memory is also attractive to large industries who have no desire to upgrade the hardware on custom DOM machines nor legacy task specific servers.  The Inquirer also mentioned an intriguing feature referred to as a Start Menu and enhanced support for arcane peripherals such the keyboard and mouse.

images.jpg

"MICROSOFT PREVIEWED the long awaited return of the Start Menu in Windows 8.1 during a surprise announcement on Wednesday, alongside a major update for the software."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Canonical To Shut Down Ubuntu One Cloud Storage Service

Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2014 - 03:05 PM |
Tagged:

Canonical has announced that it is shutting down its Ubuntu One cloud storage service. Users will no longer be able to upload files to the cloud storage or purchase music from the Ubuntu One store. The service, which included both free and paid storage tiers, personal music streaming, and paid music downloads, will be formally shut down on June 1, 2014.

Ubuntu One is a cloud storage service that came bundled with the Ubuntu operating system starting with 10.04. Though there were clients for Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows, the service was primarily marketed to Ubuntu users and had the best client. Users could upload up to 5GB of personal files for free to the service, and a music streaming add-on allowed users to stream their uploaded music to other devices. Ubuntu One also offered up additional paid storage tiers and downloadable music in a paid store.

Ubuntu One.jpg

Canonical stated that the decision to shut down came from pressure from competing cloud storage providers that offer up more free storage and a desire to create a lean Canonical/Ubuntu that is focused on creating their idea of a convergent operating system that spans from mobile to desktops to servers. On the former, Canonical specifically stated that “if we offer a service, we want it to compete on a global scale, and for Ubuntu One to continue to do that would require more investment than we are willing to make.”

Ubuntu One will not be included in the upcoming Ubuntu 14.04 LTS operating system and the existing Ubuntu clients on older OS versions will be updated to reflect the shutdown. Users will not be able to add new files to the cloud service or purchase music from the store starting today.

Customers with active paid storage subscriptions will be issued refunds, and all users will have until July 31, 2014 to download their data. After July 31, all user data will be deleted, so if you have any important files stored there be sure to back them up as soon as possible.

Fortunately, it is not all bad news. Canonical will be open sourcing the Ubuntu One code. Note that the Ubuntu One Single Sign On and U1DB database services will continue to be maintained and are not part of the file services shutdown.

It is sad to see Ubuntu One being shuttered, but there are numerous (and better cross-platform) alternatives and I think the shutdown is ultimately the best course of action for a service that Canonical was not willing or able to fully invest attention and money into. Perhaps the open source community will find the code base useful for other projects.

Did you use the Ubuntu One cloud storage service?

Faster MinnowBoard Max With Lower $99 Price Coming In June 2014

Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2014 - 10:53 AM |
Tagged: minnowboard, linux, embedded, development, Bay Trail, atom e3825, atom e3815

MinnowBoard.org recently announced the MinnowBoard Max which is a new Intel-powered development board with improved specifications and a $100 lower price versus the original MinnowBoard. The MinnowBoard Max is an open source hardware and software development platform designed and built by CircuitCo with guidance from Intel. The MinnowBoard Max is intended to be used to develop new Bay Trail-powered products or as the brain of embedded equipment that interacts with custom I/O such as FGPAs and specialized sensors.

MinnowBoard Max.jpg

The MinnowBoard Max is slightly smaller than the original at 2.9” x 3.9” and features an improved Intel Atom processor. Rather than the single core Atom E640 at 1 GHz the original MinnowBoard used, the MinnowBoard Max uses one of two Bay Trail Atom E3800-series SoCs. The base $99 model uses a single core Atom E3815 clocked at 1.46GHz while the $129 model uses a dual core Atom E3825 clocked at 1.33 GHz. The SoC is paired with either 1GB or 2GB of system RAM on the $99 or $129 model respectively.

The MinnowBoard Max supports a wide range of I/O including:

  • 26-pin low speed expansion port
    • SPI, I2C, I2S Audio, 2 x UARTs (TTL-level), 8 x buffered GPIO (two supporting PWM), +5V, Ground
  • 60-pin high speed expansion port
    • 1 x PCI-E 2.0 (one lane), 1 x SATA 3Gbps, 1 x USB 2.0 host, I2C, GPIO, JTAG, +5V, Ground
  • 1 x USB 3.0 port
  • 1 x USB 2.0 port
  • 1 x HDMI port
  • 1 x Micro SD
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 1 x Serial Debug (via separately sold cable)
  • 1 x Micro USB 2.0

The small form factor board supports Linux and Android operating systems with pending support for the Yocto Project (which helps developers create their own Linux distribution). Intel’s Bay Trail is not open source, but the company has reportedly provided open source drivers for the HD Graphics processor-integrated GPU.

The MinnowBoard Max starts at $99 and is slated to start shipping towards the end of June 2014. MinnowBoar.org will also be releasing the hardware design files under a Creative Commons license shortly after that launch point. More information can be found on the MinnowBoard Max FAQ.

The open source MinnowBoard Max looks to be a respectable upgrade over the original, and the lower price should help to make the x86 architecture more attractive to developers of embedded systems especially in the wake of the proliferation of ARM-powered alternatives.

NitroWare Reviews Seagate Business 4-Bay NAS (16TB)

Subject: General Tech, Storage | April 2, 2014 - 02:27 AM |
Tagged: Seagate, NAS

Seagate released a network-attached storage (NAS) device intended for businesses with "up to 50 employees", called the Seagate Business 4-Bay 16TB NAS. Dominic Sharoo of NitroWare reviewed one and, obviously/hopefully, gave his opinion in the process. In short, while he liked the connectivity options, he shies away from a recommendation without a price cut and a firmware update (its built-in software is not compatible with Windows 8).

seagate_nas_box_angle.jpg

As for what it did well, he was pleased by its relatively compact chassis, USB 3.0 support, and the inclusion of dual gigabit Ethernet LAN ports. It is configurable in RAID 0, 1, 5, 10, or "JBOD" (just a bunch of drives). He also liked that, in his testing, the unit did not seem to require drives from a specific vendor. If you buy the unit already loaded with drives, they are formatted in RAID 5. For a four-bay NAS, that seems like a good default. It also uses a standard laptop power supply, which should make finding a replacement (or a spare) easy.

While the device is a mixed bag, check out his review if you are interested.

Source: NitroWare