AMD Releases 2014 Mobile APU Details: Beema and Mullins Cut TDPs

Subject: Processors | November 13, 2013 - 05:35 PM |
Tagged: Puma, Mullins, mobile, Jaguar, GCN, beema, apu13, APU, amd, 2014

AMD’s APU13 is all about APUs and their programming, but the hardware we have seen so far has been dominated by the upcoming Kaveri products for FM2+.  It seems that AMD has more up their sleeves for release this next year, and it has somewhat caught me off guard.  The Beema and Mullins based products are being announced today, but we do not have exact details on these products.  The codenames have been around for some time now, but interest has been minimal since they are evolutionary products based on Kabini and Temash APUs that have been available this year.  Little did I know that things would be far more interesting than that.

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The basis for Beema and Mullins is the Puma core.  This is a highly optimized revision of Jaguar, and in some ways can be considered a new design.  All of the basics in terms of execution units, caches, and memory controllers are the same.  What AMD has done is go through the design with a fine toothed comb and make it far more efficient per clock than what we have seen previously.  This is still a 28 nm part, but the extra attention and love lavished upon it by AMD has resulted in a much more efficient system architecture for the CPU and GPU portions.

The parts will be offered in two and four core configurations.  Beema will span from 10W to 25W configurations.  Mullins will go all the way down to “2W SDP”.  SDP essentially means that while the chip can be theoretically rated higher, it will rarely go above that 2W envelope in the vast majority of situations.  These chips are expected to be around 2X more efficient per clock than the previous Jaguar based products.  This means that at similar clock speeds, Beema and Mullins will pull far less power than that previous gen.  It should also allow some higher clockspeeds at the top end 25W area.

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These will be some of the first fanless quad cores that AMD will introduce for the tablet market.  Previously we have seen tablets utilize the cut down versions of Temash to hit power targets, but with this redesign it is entirely possible to utilize the fully enabled quad core Mullins.  AMD has not given us specific speeds for these products, but we can guess that they will be around what we see currently, but the chip will just have a lower TDP rating.

AMD is introducing their new security platform based on the ARM Trustzone.  Essentially a small ARM Cortex A5 is integrated in the design and handles the security aspects of this feature.  We were not briefed on how this achieves security, but the slide below gives some of the bullet points of the technology.

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Since the pure-play foundries will not have a workable 20 nm process for AMD to jump to in a timely manner, AMD had no other choice but to really optimize the Jaguar core to make it more competitive with products from Intel and the ARM partners.  At 28 nm the ARM ecosystem has a power advantage over AMD, while at 22 nm Intel offers similar performance to AMD but with greater power efficiency.

This is a necessary update for AMD as the competition has certainly not slowed down.  AMD is more constrained obviously by the lack of a next-generation process node available for 1H 2014, so a redesign of this magnitude was needed.  The performance per watt metric is very important here, as it promises longer battery life without giving up the performance people received from the previous Kabini/Temash family of APUs.  This design work could be carried over to the next generation of APUs using 20 nm and below, which hopefully will keep AMD competitive with the rest of the market.  Beema and Mullins are interesting looking products that will be shown off at CES 2014.

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Source: AMD

LucidLogix Goes Mobile with GameXtend

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | November 12, 2013 - 07:24 PM |
Tagged: Lucidlogix, GameXtend

I can smell a Post-PC joke waiting to pounce (and that smells like Starbucks).

LucidLogix has, for desktops and laptops, used its research into GPU virtualization to accomplish a large number of interesting tasks. With Hydra, they allowed separate GPUs to load balance in a single game; with Virtu, fast (and high wattage) graphics can be used only when necessary leaving the rest for the integrated or on-processor offering; one unnamed project even allowed external graphics over Thunderbolt. Many more products (like Virtual VSync) were displayed and often packaged with motherboards.

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Now they are dipping their toe into the mobile space. The Samsung GALAXY Note 3 has licensed their technology, GameXtend, to increase battery life. While concrete details are sparse, they claim to add two to three hours of battery life by tweaking power settings according to the actual game workload.

The unsung news is that, now, LucidLogix has a few mobile contacts in their address book (although a lot of that is probably due to the merger with CellGuide). Knowing Lucid, this could be the beginning of many products addressing an array of small problems typically centered around utilizing one or more GPUs.

Press blast after the break.

(WinSupersite) Surface 2 Reviewed

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | November 1, 2013 - 04:49 PM |
Tagged: windows rt, Surface 2

The Surface 2 is what happened to the Surface RT. Microsoft decided that "RT" has no place on this product except, of course, its software ("Windows RT") because they painted themselves into a corner on that one. The message is something like, "It's Windows RT 8.1 but not Windows 8.1; in fact, you cannot run that software on it". I expect, and you probably know I have voiced, that this all is a moot point in the semi-near future (and that sucks).

Microsoft's "Official" Surface 2 overviews.

Paul Thurrott down at his Supersite for Windows reviewed Surface 2 in terms of the original Surface RT. The inclusion of Tegra 4 was a major plus for him yielding "night and day" improvement over the previous Tegra 3. In fact, he thinks that everything is at least as good as the original. There is not a single point on his rubric where the Surface RT beats its successor.

Of course there is a single section where the Surface 2 lacks (it is shared with the Surface RT and I think you can guess what it is). The ecosystem, apps for Windows RT, is the platform's "Achilles Heel". It is better than it once was, with the inclusion of apps like Facebook, but glaring omissions will drive people away. He makes this point almost in passing but I, of course, believe this is a key issue.

It is absolutely lacking in key apps, and you will most likely never see such crucial solutions as full Photoshop, iTunes, or Google Chrome on this platform. But if we're being honest with ourselves here, as we must, these apps are, for better or worse, important. (The addition of Chrome alone would be a huge win for both Windows RT and Surface 2.)

I agree that this is the problem with the Windows RT platform and, in Google Chrome's case, the blame belongs to no-one but Microsoft. They will explicitly deny any web browser unless it is a reskin of Internet Explorer (using the "Trident" rendering system and their Javascript engine). You will not see full Firefox or full Google Chrome because Gecko, Servo, Webkit, and Blink are not allowed to be installed on end-user machines.

You are paying Microsoft to not let you install third party browsers. Literally.

Not only does this limit its usefulness but it also reduces the pressure to continue innovation. Why add developer features to Internet Explorer when you can control their use with Windows Store? Sure, Internet Explorer has been on a great trajectory since IE9. I would say that versions 10 and especially 11 could be considered "top 3" contenders as app platforms.

The other alternative is the web, and this is where Internet Explorer 11 plays such a crucial role. While many tier-one online services—Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Cloud Player and Prime Video, and so on—are lacking native Windows RT aps, the web interfaces (should) work fine, and IE 11 is evolving into a full-featured web app platform that should present a reasonable compromise for those users.

Only if Microsoft continues their effort. No-one else is allowed to.

Now that I expanded that point, be sure to check out the rest of Paul Thurrott's review. He broke his review down into sections, big and small, and stuck his opinion wherever he could. Also check out his preview of the Nokia Lumia 2520 to see whether that (if either device) is worth waiting for.

Transformers finally vanquished the Ultrabook

Subject: Mobile | October 29, 2013 - 01:21 PM |
Tagged: asus, transformer t100, transformer book

The ASUS Transformer Book T100 is two devices, a 10.1" 1366 x 768 tablet powered by a quad-core BayTrail based Atom Z3740 @ 1.33GHz base speed and Intel's HD graphics and 2GB of RAM.  Storage is dependent on the model, both 32GB and 64GB models are available and you can expand that with up to another 64GB with an additional SD Card.  The dock adds a keyboard as well as more connectivity options such as USB 3.0.  If you want to see how it performs you can see The Tech Report's full review here.

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"Despite its low $350 starting price, the Transformer Book T100 offers a quad-core Bay Trail SoC, a 10" IPS touchscreen, 10+ hours of battery life, a USB 3.0-equipped keyboard dock, and the full-fat version of Windows 8.1. We take a closer look at the most uniquely compelling notebook/tablet hybrid to date."

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ARM TechCon 2013: Altera To Produce ARMv8 Chips on Intel 14nm Fabs

Subject: Processors, Mobile | October 29, 2013 - 12:24 PM |
Tagged: techcon, Intel, arm techcon, arm, Altera, 14nm

In February of this year Intel and Altera announced that they would be partnering to build Altera FPGAs using the upcoming Intel 14nm tri-gate process technology.  The deal was important for the industry as it marked one of the first times Intel has shared its process technology with another processor company.  Seen as the company's most valuable asset, the decision to outsource work in the Intel fabrication facilities could have drastic ramifications for Intel's computing divisions and the industry as a whole.  This seems to back up the speculation that Intel is having a hard time keeping their Fabs at anywhere near 100% utilization with only in-house designs.

Today though, news is coming out that Altera is going to be included ARM-based processing cores, specifically those based on the ARMv8 64-bit architecture.  Starting in 2014 Altera's high-end Stratix 10 FPGA that uses four ARM Cortex-A53 cores will be produced by Intel fabs.

The deal may give Intel pause about its outsourcing strategy. To date the chip giant has experimented with offering its leading-edge fab processes as foundry services to a handful of chip designers, Altera being one of its largest planned customers to date.

Altera believes that by combing the ARMv8 A53 cores and Intel's 14nm tri-gate transistors they will be able to provide FPGA performance that is "two times the core performance" of current high-end 28nm options.

alteraarm.JPG

While this news might upset some people internally at Intel's architecture divisions, the news couldn't be better for ARM.  Intel is universally recognized as being the process technology leader, generally a full process node ahead of the competition from TSMC and GlobalFoundries.  I already learned yesterday that many of ARM's partners are skipping the 20nm technology from non-Intel foundries and instead are looking towards the 14/16nm FinFET transitions coming in late 2014. 

ARM has been working with essentially every major foundry in the business EXCEPT Intel and many viewed Intel's chances of taking over the mobile/tablet/phone space as dependent on its process technology advantage.  But if Intel continues to open up its facilities to the highest bidders, even if those customers are building ARM-based designs, then it could drastically improve the outlook for ARM's many partners.

UPDATE (7:57pm): After further talks with various parties there are a few clarifications that I wanted to make sure were added to our story.  First, Altera's FPGAs are primarly focused on the markets of communication, industrial, military, etc.  They are not really used as application processors and thus are not going to directly compete with Intel's processors in the phone/tablet space.  It remains to be seen if Intel will open its foundries to a directly competing product but for now this announcement regarding the upcoming Stratix 10 FPGA on Intel's 14nm tri-gate is an interesting progression.

Source: EETimes

ARM TechCon 2013 Will Showcase the Internet of Things

Subject: Processors, Mobile, Shows and Expos | October 26, 2013 - 11:13 AM |
Tagged: techcon, iot, internet of things, arm

This year at the Santa Clara Convention Center ARM will host TechCon, a gathering of partners, customers, and engineers with the goal of collaboration and connection.  While I will attending as an outside observer to see what this collection of innovators is creating, there will be sessions and tracks for chip designers, system implementation engineers and software developers.

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Areas of interest will include consumer products, enterprise products and of course, the Internet of Things, the latest terminology for a completely connected infrastructure of devices.  ARM has designed tracks for interested parties in chip design, data security, mobile, networking, server, software and quite a few more. 

Of direct interest to PC Perspective and our readers will be the continued release of information about the Cortex-A12, the upcoming mainstream processor core from ARM that will address the smartphone and tablet markets.  We will also get some time with ARM engineers to talk about the coming migration of the market to 64-bit.  Because of the release of the Apple A7 SoC that integrated 64-bit and ARMv8 architecture earlier this year, it is definitely going to be the most extensively discussed topic. If you have specific questions you'd like us to bring to the folks at ARM, as well as its partners, please leave me a note in the comments below and I'll be sure it is addressed!

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I am also hearing some rumblings of a new ARM developed Mali graphics product that will increase efficiency and support newer graphics APIs as well. 

Even if you cannot attend the event in Santa Clara, you should definitely pay attention for the news and products that are announced and shown at ARM TechCon as they are going to be a critical part of the mobile ecosystem in the near, and distant, future.  As a first time attendee myself, I am incredibly excited about what we'll find and learn next week!

Imagination Technologies Unleashes Warrior MIPS P5600 CPU Core Aimed at Embedded and Mobile Devices

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Networking, Processors, Mobile | October 19, 2013 - 01:45 AM |
Tagged: SoC, p5600, MIPS, imagination

Imagination Technologies, a company known for its PowerVR graphics IP, has unleashed its first Warrior P-series MIPS CPU core. The new MIPS core is called the P5600 and is a 32-bit core based on the MIPS Release 5 ISA (Instruction Set Architecture).

The P5600 CPU core can perform 128-bit SIMD computations, provide hardware accelerated virtualization, and access up to a 1TB of memory via virtual addressing. While the MIPS 5 ISA provides for 64-bit calculations, the P5600 core is 32-bit only and does not include the extra 64-bit portions of the ISA.

Imagination Technologies Warrior MIPS P5600 CPU Core.png

The MIPS P5600 core can scale up to 2GHz in clockspeed when used in chips built on TSMC's 28nm HPM manufacturing process (according to Imagination Technologies). Further, the Warrior P5600  core can be used in processors and SoCs. As many as six CPU cores can be combined and managed by a coherence manager and given access to up to 8MB of shared L2 cache. Imagination Technologies is aiming processors containing the P5600 cores at mobile devices, networking appliances (routers, hardware firewalls, switches, et al), and micro-servers.

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A configuration of multiple P5600 cores with L2 cache.

I first saw a story on the P5600 over at the Tech Report, and found it interesting that Imagination Technologies was developing a MIPS processor aimed at mobile devices. It does make sense to see a MIPS CPU from the company as it owns the MIPS intellectual property. Also, a CPU core is a logical step for a company with a large graphics IP and GPU portfolio. Developing its own MIPS CPU core would allow it to put together an SoC with its own CPU and GPU components. With that said, I found it interesting that the P5600 CPU core was being aimed at the mobile space, where ARM processors currently dominate. ARM is working to increase performance while Intel is working to bring its powerhouse x86 architecture to the ultra low power mobile space. Needless to say, it is a highly competitive market and Imagination Technologies new CPU core is sure to have a difficult time establishing itself in that space of consumer smartphone and tablet SoCs. Fortunately, mobile chips are not the only processors Imagination Technologies is aiming the P5600 at. It is also offering up the MIPS Series 5 compatible core for use in processors powering networking equipment and very low power servers and business appliances where the MIPS architecture is more commonplace.

In any event, I'm interested to see what else IT has in store for its MIPS IP and where the Warrior series goes from here!

More information on the MIPS 5600 core can be found here.

Lenovo Launches Miix2 Windows 8.1 Tablet Powered By Bay Trail-T SoC

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | October 16, 2013 - 05:26 PM |
Tagged: Windows 8.1, tablet, miix2, Lenovo, Bay Trail-T

Today, Lenovo launched a new tablet called the Miix2. The successor to the original Miix, the Miix2 is an 8-inch Windows 8.1 tablet powered by Intel's new “Bay Trail-T” Atom processor. The tablet measures 8.5” x 5.2” x 0.32” and weighs 350 grams (~12 ounces).

The Lenovo Mix 2 has an 8-inch 1280x800 IPS display that supports 10-point capacitive multi-touch. There is a 2MP front webcam and a 5MP rear camera. A Windows button sits below the display when in portrait mode. A detachable cover can be fitted to the side of the tablet and act as a stand when in landscape mode. The $20 cover also comes with a capacitive stylus.

Lenovo Miix2 8-inch Windows 8.1 tablet_Bay Trail-T.jpg

Internally, the Miix2 features a quad-core Intel Bay Trail-T processor, 2GB of RAM, up to 128GB eMMC storage, support for up to 32GB of micro SD external storage, Wi-Fi, and 3G in select countries. The eMMC storage options include 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB. The company claims up to 7 hours of battery life for the Miix2.

The new Bay Trail-T powered tablet will come pre-loaded with Microsoft's Windows 8.1 operating system (the full x86 version) and a full license of Office Home and Student 2013 productivity suite.

The specifications are not amazing, but serviceable. Hopefully Lenovo introduces an alternative SKU with an active digitizer, a higher resolution display, and physical keyboard for business users. For now though, Lenovo has a decent consumer-level Windows 8.1 tablet for $299 that will be available at the end of October.

What do you think about the Miix2? 

Source: Lenovo

A tablet of a different colour, the Thor Quad FHD

Subject: Mobile | October 15, 2013 - 03:38 PM |
Tagged: iconbit, tablet, Thor Quad FHD, android 4.1

iconBIT is certainly not a brand that most people would recognize but they might be worth checking out when you are sourcing a new tablet.  It is run by a Cortex A9 @ 1.6GHz with the usual Mali MP400 GPU and comes with 16GB of storage with the older Android 4.1 OS installed.  The 10.1" screen is 1920x1080 allowing for proper HD playback and at 630g it is a little heavier than some tablets but also has sturdier construction.  MadShrimps liked the tablet overall and are glad to see some competition for the big names but perhaps their favourite part was that it ships with a matching leatherette cover.

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"The Thor Quad FHD tablet from iconBIT is quite balanced, featuring a Rockchip RK3188 Quad Core CPU at 1.6GHz, Mali MP-400 MP4 GPU, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of NAND Flash. Of course, we also have a microSDHC card slot for expanding the storage (supports up to 32GB cards). Besides those mentioned, it is also notable the inclusion of the 5MP camera with flash on the back, which provides better quality shots compared to lower specced models."

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Source: MadShrimps

PC Shipments Fell Less Than Expected. Tablets Grew Less

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | October 14, 2013 - 09:27 PM |
Tagged: Lenovo, hp, dell, tablets

About 81 million PCs were sold in the third quarter of this year; a decline of 8 percent from the same quarter of last year. This is according to reports from Windows IT Pro who averaged figures from IDC and Gartner.

The firms, however, were expecting somewhere between a 9 and 10 percent drop.

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A further decline (in global shipments) is still expected to occur next year. Tablet sales have slowed from projections, albeit still on a growing trend, due to emerging markets and the simplification of generic content consumption. Our viewers probably extend beyond the generic but many others do not, for whatever number of reasons, use their devices except for media and text-based web browsing; as such, customers are more hesitant to replace their PCs.

Lenovo, HP, and Dell were 1-2-3 in terms of worldwide PC sales with each experiencing slight growth. HP is very near to Lenovo in terms of unit sales, less than a quarter million units separating the two, although I would expect Lenovo would have wider margins on each unit sold. HP extends further into the low value segments. Acer and ASUS had a sharp decline in sales.

Unfortunately, the article does not give any specific details on the tablet side. They did not reach their projections.

Mozilla Summit 2013, Day 3: Toronto Office Tour and Games!

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | October 7, 2013 - 11:55 PM |
Tagged: Mozilla Summit 2013, mozilla

Summit 2013 came to an end on Sunday after a few closing keynotes, breakout sessions, a tour of the Mozilla Toronto campus, and interpretive dancing of what the fox says. Do not worry, Mozillians in our audience, I will only interpretively illustrate the interpretive dance with a totally unironic Shockwave Flash screenshot.

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Real smooth moves, indeed.

On the topic of Flash demos, the first session I attended included an extended preview of Shumway. As discussed in Day 2, the project intends to keep Flash content alive after the platform fades. A few demos were shown to attendees including a signification portion of the HomestarRunner email, "Your Friends", where Strong Bad harms the entire cast except himself and The Poopsmith (and other off-cast or yet-to-be-introduced characters, of course). The video played just about perfectly.

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BananaBread OF DOOM!

"Bananabread" was also modified into a special demo showing live textures from video elements. The game even projected a separate game of Doom against the wall of the level. This can, of course, be used for non-gaming projects as well; projects have been developed to use shader effects on web camera video for GPU-accelerated post-processing tasks.

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The closing ceremonies followed the breakout sessions and mostly thanked their community. A few "Mozillians" were voted by their peers for their popular influence and were recognized with signed posters and, in one case, a paid trip to any Mozilla campus in the world. Plus, people were hugged by a fox; a picture is worth a thousand words.

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The last event of the day, at least the last one relevant to a computer hardware website, was a tour of the Mozilla Toronto campus. The office is structured in departments around a central kitchen, restroom, and discussion area. They attempt to have a sort-of Canadian cottage feel with a couple of Adirondack chairs and a wood-beam ceiling. There is also a group of desks called "Benoits St." because, well, it just so happens everyone who works in that section is named Benoit.

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Community Room with its reconfigurable tables and musical corner.

Thus ends the coverage of Mozilla Summit 2013, Toronto.

Source: Mozilla

Mozilla Summit 2013, Day 2: APCs and Servos in a Flash

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | October 6, 2013 - 01:14 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, Mozilla Summit 2013

The second day of Mozilla Summit 2013 kicked off with three more keynote speeches, a technology fair, and two blocks of panels. After two days and about two dozen demos, several extremely experimental, I am surprised to only see one legitimate demo fail attempting to connect two 3D browser games in multiplayer over WebRTC… and that seemed to be the fault of a stray automatic Windows Update on the host PC.

Okay technically another demo “failed” because an audience member asked, from the crowd, to browse a Mozilla Labs browser prototype, Servo, to an arbitrary website which required HTTPS and causing the engine to nope. I do not count that one.

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Speaking of Servo, the HTML rendering engine ended the “Near Term Strategy and the Products we Build” keynote with an announcement of its full score to ACID1. The engine, developed in Mozilla’s own RUST language, is a sandbox for crazy ideas such as, “What would happen if you allow Javascript to execute in its own thread when it would normally be blocked by Gecko?” Basically any promising task to parallelize is being explored (they openly solicit community insights) in making the web browser better suited for the current and upcoming multi- and many-core devices out there. Samsung is also involved on the project, which makes sense for their mobile products.

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Also discussed is Shumway, a Javascript rendering engine for Flash content. Candy Crush Saga was presented as an example of a game, entirely reliant on Flash, playing without the plugin installed in a similar way to how WINE allows Windows applications within Linux. Shumway has been known for a while but is becoming quite effective in its performance. What happens to content after Flash becomes deprecated (be it 3 years, 10 years, or 100 years) has been a concern of mine with videos such as HomestarRunner holding cultural relevance despite not updating in almost 3 years.

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Lastly, we saw a demo of the APC Paper which is expected to lead Firefox OS into the desktop market. It is actually a little smaller than I expected from the pictures.

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One more day before everyone heads home. So far not much has happened but I will keep you updated as things occur.

Source: Mozilla

Mozilla Summit 2013, Day 1: Unreal Engine and UP

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | October 5, 2013 - 03:58 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, Mozilla Summit 2013

I have volunteered with Mozilla starting about a month after I read the Windows Store certification requirements (prior to that I was ramping up development of modern apps). I am currently attending, due to that volunteer work, Mozilla Summit in Toronto. The first day, Friday, has been filled with keynotes including some partially-new announcements.

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Mozilla has a number of branded elevator doors, signs, and carpets covering the hotel to promote the event for the attendees. Unfortunately, my hotel room was not in the tower this elevator serviced. Also unfortunate, I did not realize that until I was on said elevator at in the 27th floor. Moving between the first and 27th floors took all of about 5 seconds; popping my ears took longer. To be fair I was given correct directions by the hotel staff I just did not realize that the building was, in fact, multiple buildings and so my interpretation was off.

On to the important stuff: explosions! The second keynote contained high performance 3D browser games and, albeit less kablooieie, site personalization.

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The latter we have talked about before. Mozilla is implementing interface elements in the browser for users to share demographic information with websites. They understand that advertising is how the web works and does not want it outright dead. They do believe (at least some) advertisers mine too much data from their users because they need to mine some data from their users. One-on-one conversation with a couple Mozilla staff somewhat confirms my suspicions that the initiative is to remove the temptation for just a little more data with homegrown solutions. This seems to be their last idea, however, given the discussion at the panel.

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The former was an Unreal Engine demo on stage during the “Envisioned Future State” keynote. The presenter had several multi-kills with a rocket launcher. I should note the entire demo ran off of the file protocol so no internet connection was required. This was quite literally Unreal Tournament 3 running native to Firefox.

Well, I think that is it for today! A lot of information was released but I believe these were the top-two most interesting points.

Source: Mozilla

Basemark X Creator Comments on Benchmark Cheating

Subject: Mobile | October 4, 2013 - 12:27 AM |
Tagged: Android, cheating, basemark x

Even if you haven't been paying attention to the world of mobile benchmarking over the past week you have likely heard about the now rampant cheating that is going on with Android testing.  Device makers are doing simple detection for benchmark applications and unrealistically changing the performance attributes of the SoC (CPU and GPU) to improve benchmark scores.  This does not represent the behavior that an end user would see in real-world usage but is intended only to move the device up to the top of benchmark graphs to gain attention and drive sales.

Long time PC enthusiasts will recognize this problem though thanks to the openness of the PC ecosystem that issue is largely removed as there are independent press and researchers keeping all parties honest. 

Anandtech (and many other outlets) are again discussing the issue of cheating in mobile testing, even going as far as creating a chart titled "I Can't Believe I Have to Make This Table" that shows which benchmarks are being compromised by which devices and OS configurations.  I highly suggest you check out the story by Anand and Brian to get more details on the state of cheating in mobile benchmarks. 

The creator of one of the affected benchmarks, Basemark X, contacted the media with some interesting comments I wanted share. 

It has come to our attention that Galaxy Note 3 may be targeting our benchmark, Basemark X.

Rightware’s mission is to provide trusted performance evaluation tools you can depend on. Therefore, we have produced an updated version of Basemark X that solves this issue.

basemarkx.png

I asked Tero Sarkkinen, founder of Rightware, what could be done to prevent this type of unfair performance skewing going forward. 

Basically every benchmark and application out there can be targeted by a new handset or tablet and no one can really prevent it. What makes a difference is will the benchmark vendor do something about it when this is recognized.

At Rightware, we take our mission seriously and we monitor day in and day out what is going on. As in this case, we noticed that Note 3 is targeting Basemark X, we immediately provided the press with a version that the handset is not able to detect.

We get thousands of benchmark results in every day to our Power Board http://results.rightware.com and therefore we have a pretty good idea of what's going on.

In other words, we are not sticking our heads into the sand.

While the sentiment that "no one can really prevent it" is disappointing to hear, it is what we expected and what we are planning for.  Sarkkinen is confident that Rightware is able to stay up on the situation and is going to keep pace with online media and analysts to make sure these hardware vendors are staying honest. 

It's the best news we have seen in a sea of disappointing information on mobility benchmarking this week.

MSI Launches New GP Series Business Notebooks With Dedicated Graphics

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 30, 2013 - 10:30 AM |
Tagged: msi, gp70, gp60, gaming notebook

Today, MSI unveiled its new GP series of notebooks aimed at business professionals that want a work machine that can also handle multimedia and gaming workloads. Specifically, MSI is launching one 17" GP70 and two 16" GP60 notebook SKUs which vary slightly in terms of storage, screen resolution, and processor (and the GP70 being physically larger). The new GP series notebooks are available now at various online and brick-and-mortar retailers with a starting MSRP of $899.99.

MSI-GP70.jpg

MSI's GP70 gaming/professional laptop.

The GP series laptops have Intel Haswell processors, NVIDIA GT740M graphics, 8GB of DDR3 memory, and up to 750GB (GP60) or 1TB (GP70) of mechanical hard drive storage options. Further, all GP series notebooks are equipped with 720p webcams, SteelSeries gaming keyboards, multi-touch trackpads, and gold plated audio jacks backed by a headphone amplifier. IO on the various GP SKUs includes two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, two audio jacks, one Gigabit Ethernet LAN jack, one SD (XC/HC) card slot, and HDMI video outputs. The laptops all have 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless radios.

MSI-GP60.jpg

The MSI GP60 laptop.

At the low end is the MSI GP60 2OD-052US which includes an Intel i5-4200M CPU, up to 750GB of HDD storage, and a 15.6" display with a resolution of 1366x768. The MSI GP60 2OD-072US bumps the specifications up a bit to an Intel i7-4700MQ processor and a non reflective 1080p 15.6" display. Meanwhile, the MSI GP70 offers up to 1TB of HDD storage but has a 17.3" anti-glare display with a resolution of 1600x900. The laptops range from 5.29 to 5.95 pounds.

The following chart (courtesy of MSI) breaks down the individual SKUs in more detail.

MSI GP Series Notebooks.png

The MSI GP series is available now with starting MSRPs of $899.99 (GP60 with i5), $1,049.99 (GP60 with i7), and $949.99 (GP70) respectively. It is nice to see more notebooks coming out with dedicated graphics, especially in the business sector where laptops tend to be less 'flashy'.

Source: MSI

APC Plays Rock, Paper, Firefox OS. Fix Bug? Free Device!

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 26, 2013 - 05:25 PM |
Tagged: Rock, Paper, Firefox OS, APC

Update: (9/28/2013) APC responded to my email and confirmed all models support up to 32GB microSD cards (so, microSD or microSDHC).

Firefox OS is an operating system which boots into a web standards rendering engine. All applications and user interface elements are essentially web sites, often hosted by the device but could obviously have online components as the creator desires, web standards making it easier to port and manage code.

Hardware designers are continuing to adopt the platform.

apc-paper-angle.jpg

APC Paper

APC, an initiative of VIA Technologies, got our attention over a year ago when they launched their smaller-than-a-banana Android desktop. It was an interesting design which came out at roughly the same time as the Raspberry Pi. I cannot tell whether that boost or harmed consumer interest.

apc-paper-io.jpg

From behind

Either way, the APC has announced two successors: The APC Paper and the APC Rock. Both devices dropped Android (side note: the $50 APC 8750 based on Android 2.3 is apparently still available) replacing it, instead, with Firefox OS. Both devices are in the Neo-ITX form factor although that should not matter too much, for Paper, as it includes a case.

apc-product-rock.jpg.png

APC Rock

Paper covers Rock, get it?

The raw specifications are as follows:

  • SoC: VIA ARM Cortex-A9 @ 800 MHz
  • GPU: Built in 2D/3D up to 720p
  • Memory: 512MB DDR3
  • Storage: 4GB NAND Flash
  • Expandable Storage: microSD (maximum 32GB)
    • Update: APC confirmed all models support up to 32GB, which is microSDHC
  • I/O: HDMI, VGA (Rock-only), 2x USB 2.0, MicroUSB, 3.5mm Headphone/Mic

This build of Firefox OS contains mouse and keyboard support. If you wish to install your own operating system, while you are on your own, the kernel and bootloader are available on the APC website and the hardware is unlocked. They also provide access to the ARM debug headers for the real developer types.

If you are one of these developer types, would you consider fixing a known issue? APC will donate free devices to users who submit fixes for specially tagged bugs on their Github repo. Think of it like investing time fixing a product which, if you would have bought it, probably would have crushed the bug anyway.

apc-ffos-apps.jpg

It would have been nice to see a bump in processor performance and graphics functionality, and perhaps more than 512 MB of RAM, although it should be sufficient for light web browsing. As a developer of GPU-intensive web applications, which I expect to have an article on soon, I am not sure how much that colors my view of these devices. Then again, we are also talking about devices in the Roku price-point, so (apart from sticking with 720p... come on now) I may not have a valid complaint.

Both devices are available now, in limited quantities, through the manufacturer website. The Paper carries a price tag of $99 USD while the Rock is slightly cheaper at $79 USD.

Source: APC

Fun facts about your new fruity phone

Subject: Mobile | September 20, 2013 - 02:26 PM |
Tagged: jailbreak, iphone 5s, iphone 5c, iphone, ios 7

The Tech Report loves a good Apple release, even if things didn't go as smoothly on the supply side as many had hoped.  They haven't had time to do a full review of either the iPhone 5C or 5S but they did put together an overview of the two devices which you can read here.  The new phones were not the only new release from Apple, iOS7 became available for iPhone and iPad users and it has failed to impress them.  While it is certainly usable and not unattractive The Tech Report feels that some of the elegance of design has faded and the special feeling they had because they owned an iThing is no longer there.  If you haven't upgraded because you have jailbroken your iPhone they won't judge you too harshly and have put together a post describing how to un-jailbreak that phone so you can join with the cool kids of iOS7 and wait for the chance to unlock the new OS when the steps for that are posted; likely in the very near future.

ios7-blog.jpg

"Today, it's the turn of our resident Mac blogger, Jason Fox, to blog about his upgrade to iOS 7. Fox also recounts the process of un-jailbreaking his iPhone to accommodate the new software update."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

Mobile

NVIDIA Tegra Note Tablet Platform Launches - $199 from EVGA, PNY

Subject: Mobile | September 18, 2013 - 12:04 PM |
Tagged: tegra note, tegra 4, tegra, tablet, pny, nvidia, evga

Over the past couple of months there have been several leaks about a potential NVIDIA-branded tablet based on the Tegra 4 SoC.  Most speculated that NVIDIA had decided to enter into the hardware market directly with a "Tegra Tab" in a similar vein to the release of NVIDIA SHIELD.  As it turns out though NVIDIA has created a platform for which other companies can rebrand and resell an Android tablet.

TegraNote_front_c.jpg

According to NVIDIA, the Tegra Note platform will enable partners to bring 7-in tablets to market packed with the feature set NVIDIA has been promising since the launch of the Tegra 4 SoC.  Those include stylus support, high quality audio, HDR camera capabilities and 100% native Android operating systems.

Maybe more interesting are the partners that NVIDIA is teaming with for this launch.  While companies like ASUS have already done the development work to prepare various size tablets based on Tegra chips in the past, NVIDIA is going to introduce a couple of its graphics cards partners to the mobility ecosystem: EVGA and PNY in North America.

TegraNote_back.jpg

While we have questions about the capability for either of these companies to truly support a tabletin today's market but the truth is likely that NVIDIA is handling most if not all of the logistics on this project.  What is not in question is the potential for high value: these tablets will start with a suggested retail price of $199.

tegraplatform.png

We already know most of the technical details about the Tegra 4 SoC including the 4+1 Cortex A15 CPU cores and the 72-core GPU.  NVIDIA claims they will get 10 hours of video playback with this platform but I would like to get data on the weight and battery size before calling that a win.  The display resolution is a bit lower than other competing high-end options in the market today but the sub-$200 price point does mean there had to be some corners cut.

UPDATE: I asked NVIDIA for more information on the size, weight and battery capacity and got a quick answer.  The battery capacity is 4100 mAh and the entire device weighs 320g.  Compared to the Google Nexus 7, the current strongest 7-in tablet in my opinion, that is a 4% larger battery (vs 3950 mAh) and 10% heavier device (vs 290g).  The Tegra Note reference is also a bit thicker at 9.6mm compared to the 8.65mm of the Nexus 7.

There are more details on the official NVIDIA blog post making the announcement this morning including direct OTA Android updates so check that out if you think you might be interested in one of these tablets in the coming months!

Source: NVIDIA

Gabe Newell LinuxCon Keynote. Announcement Next Week.

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Mobile, Shows and Expos | September 16, 2013 - 09:15 PM |
Tagged: Steam Box, LinuxCon, Gabe Newell

Valve Software, as demonstrated a couple of days ago, still believe in Linux as the future of gaming platforms. Gabe Newell discussed this situation at LinuxCon, this morning, which was streamed live over the internet (and I transcribed after the teaser break at the bottom of the article). Someone decided to rip the stream, not the best quality but good enough, and put it on Youtube. I found it and embed it below. Enjoy!

Gabe Newell highlights, from the seventh minute straight through to the end, why proprietary platforms look successful and how they (sooner-or-later) fail by their own design. Simply put, you can control what is on it. Software you do not like, or even their updates, can be stuck in certification or even excluded from the platform entirely. You can limit malicious software, at least to some extent, or even competing products.

Ultimately, however, you limit yourself by not feeding in to the competition of the crowd.

If you wanted to get your cartridge made you bought it, you know, FOB in Tokyo. If you had a competitive product, miraculously, your ROMs didn't show up until, you know, 3 months after the platform holder's product had entered market and stuff like that. And that was really where the dominant models for what was happening in gaming ((came from)).

But, not too surprisingly, open systems were advancing faster than the proprietary systems had. There used to be these completely de novo graphics solutions for gaming consoles and they've all been replaced by PC-derived hardware. The openness of the PC as a hardware standard meant that the rate of innovation was way faster. So even though, you would think, that the console guys would have a huge incentive to invest in it, they were unable to be competitive.

Microsoft attempts to exert control over their platform with modern Windows which is met by a year-over-year regression in PC sales; at the same time, PC gaming is the industry hotbed of innovation and it is booming as a result. In a time of declining sales in PC hardware, Steam saw a 76% growth (unclear but it sounds like revenue) from last year.

Valve really believes the industry will shift toward a model with little divide between creator and consumer. The community has been "an order of magnitude" more productive than the actual staff of Team Fortress 2.

Does Valve want to compete with that?

This will only happen with open platforms. Even the consoles, with systems sold under parts and labor costs to exert control, have learned to embrace the indie developer. The next gen consoles market indie developers, prior to launch, seemingly more than the industry behemoths and that includes their own titles. They open their platforms a little bit but it might still not be enough to hold off the slow and steady advance of PC gaming be it through Windows, Linux, or even web standards.

Speaking of which, Linux and web standards are oft criticized because they are fragmented. Gabe Newell, intentionally or unintentionally, claimed proprietary platforms are more fragmented. Open platforms have multiple bodies push and pull the blob but it all tends to flow in the same direction. Proprietary platforms have lean bodies with control over where they can go, just many of them. You have a dominant and a few competing platforms for each sector: phones and tablets, consoles, desktops, and so forth.

He noted each has a web browser and, because the web is an open standard, is the most unified experience across devices of multiple sectors. Open fragmentation is small compared to the gaps between proprietary silos across sectors. ((As a side note: Windows RT is also designed to be one platform for all platforms but, as we have been saying for a while, you would prefer an open alternative to all RT all the time... and, according to the second and third paragraphs of this editorial, it will probably suffer from all of the same problems inherent to proprietary platforms anyway.))

Everybody just sort of automatically assumes that the internet is going to work regardless of wherever they are. There may be pluses or minuses of their specific environment but nobody says, "Oh I'm in an airplane now, I'm going to use a completely different method of accessing data across a network". We think that should be more broadly true as well. That you don't think of touch input or game controllers or living rooms as being things which require a completely different way for users to interact or acquire assets or developers to program or deliver to those targets.

Obviously if that is the direction you are going in, Linux is the most obvious basis for that and none of the proprietary, closed platforms are going to be able to provide that form of grand unification between mobile, living room, and desktop.

Next week we're going to be rolling out more information about how we get there and what are the hardware opportunities that we see for bringing Linux into the living room and potentially pointing further down the road to how we can get it even more unified in mobile.

Well, we will certainly be looking forward to next week.

Personally, for almost two years I found it weird how Google, Valve, and Apple (if the longstanding rumors were true) were each pushing for wearable computing, Steam Box/Apple TV/Google TV, and content distribution at the same time. I would not be surprised, in the slightest, for Valve to add media functionality to Steam and Big Picture and secure a spot in the iTunes and Play Store market.

As for how wearables fit in? I could never quite figure that out but it always felt suspicious.

Read on for our transcript of the keynote speech. Bare with us, it is a little bit rough.

Source: LinuxCon

IDF 2013: Intel and Google Announce New Haswell-Powered Chromebooks

Subject: Mobile | September 13, 2013 - 06:32 PM |
Tagged: Intel, haswell, google, Chromebook

At IDF this week Intel and Google announced new Chromebooks running Google's cloud friendly operating system. The new machines will be built by a number of PC laptop manufacturers and will be available later this year.

Notably, the new Chromebooks will feature Intel Haswell processors, which Google claims will result in increased performance along with up to 2-times the battery life of previous generation Chromebooks. In fact, several manufacturers are rating the battery life between 8 and 9.5 hours, which would be quite the feat if the number hold up to actual usage!

New Haswell-Powered Google Chromebooks.png

Acer, HP, and Toshiba will be releasing updated Chromebooks with Haswell CPUs and new laptop designs "over the coming months" for as-yet-unannounced prices. ASUS is also joining the Chromebook fray with a mini desktop PC running Chrome OS and requiring a monitor or TV for video output. Specifically, Acer will be putting out an 11.6" laptop that is 0.75" thick and weighs 2.76 pounds. HP is offering a larger display and more battery lfie with its 14" Chromebook measuing 0.81" thick and 4.08 pounds. You trade a bit of portability, but you get a larger display, keyboard, and battery. Toshiba will be unveiling a laptop form factor Chromebook as well, but specs on that particular system have not been revealed yet. As mentioned above, pricing has not been released, but expect the systems to be under $300.

Interestingly, Google claims that six of the leading PC laptop manufacturers are now offering their own spin on Google's Chromebook. Further, the Chromebooks account for around 20-percent of the sub-$300 PC market, according to Google. It seems that Chromebooks are slowly gaining traction though it remains to be seen if they will continue to be successful as Windows and Android budget ultraportable competition heats up and consumers become wary of "the cloud" and Internet applications in light of the various leaks concerning the NSA spying programs. (As Darren Kitchen of Hak5 would say, "encrypt all the things!")

Will you be picking up a Haswell-powered Chromebook?

Source: Google