(Not) The End of DirectX

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Systems, Mobile | April 7, 2013 - 10:21 PM |
Tagged: DirectX, DirectX 12

Microsoft DirectX is a series of interfaces for programmers to utilize typically when designing gaming or entertainment applications. Over time it became synonymous with Direct3D, the portion which mostly handles graphics processing by offloading those tasks to the video card. At one point, DirectX even handled networking through DirectPlay although that has been handled by Games for Windows Live or other APIs since Vista.

AMD Corporate Vice President Roy Taylor was recently interviewed by the German press, "c't magazin". When asked about the future of "Never Settle" bundles, Taylor claimed that games such as Crysis 3 and Bioshock: Infinite keep their consumers happy and also keep the industry innovating.

gfwl.png

Keep in mind, the article was translated from German so I might not be entirely accurate with my understanding of his argument.

In a slight tangent, he discussed how new versions of DirectX tends to spur demand for new graphics processors with more processing power and more RAM. He has not heard anything about DirectX 12 and, in fact, he does not believe there will be one. As such, he is turning to bundled games to keep the industry moving forward.

Neowin, upon seeing this interview, reached out to Microsoft who committed to future "innovation with DirectX".

This exchange has obviously sparked a lot of... polarized... online discussion. One claimed that Microsoft is abandoning the PC to gain a foothold in the mobile market which it has practically zero share of. That is why they are dropping DirectX.

Unfortunately this does not make sense: DirectX would be one of the main advantages which Microsoft has in the mobile market. Mobile devices have access to fairly decent GPUs which can use DirectX to draw web pages and applications much smoother and much more power efficiently than their CPU counterparts. If anything, DirectX would be increased in relevance if Microsoft was blindly making a play for mobile.

The major threat to DirectX is still quite off in the horizon. At some point we might begin to see C++Amp or OpenCL nibble away at what DirectX does best: offload highly-parallel tasks to specialized processing units.

Still, releases such as DirectX 11.1 are quite focused on back-end tweaks and adjustments. What do you think a DirectX 12 API would even do, that would not already be possible with DirectX 11?

Source: c't magazin

Boxx Launches 3DBoxx 8950 Workstation

Subject: General Tech, Systems | March 26, 2013 - 06:18 PM |
Tagged: workstation, nvidia, GTC 2013, BOXX, 3dboxx 8950

Boxx Technologies recently launched a new multi-GPU workstation called the 3DBoxx 8950. It is aimed at professionals that need a fast system with beefy GPU accelerator cards that they can design and render at the same time. The 8950 is intended to be used with applications like Autodesk, Dassault, NVIDIA iray, and V-Ray (et al).

8950 front.jpg

The Boxx 3DBoxx 8950 features two liquid cooled Intel Xeon Ed-2600 processors (2GHz, 16 cores, 32 threads), up to 512GB of system memory (16 DIMM slots), and seven PCI-E slots (four of which accept dual slot GPUs, the remaining three are spaced for single slot cards). A 1250W power suppy (80 PLUS Gold) powers the workstation. An example configuration would include three Tesla K20 cards and one Quadro K5000. The Tesla cards would handle the computation while the Quadro can power the multi-display ouput. The chassis has room for eight 3.5" hard drives and a single externally-accessible 5.25" drive. The 8950 workstation can be loaded with either the Windows or Linux operating system.

Rear IO on the 8950 workstation includes:

  • 5 x audio jacks
  • 1 x optical in/out
  • 4 x USB 2.0 ports
  • 1 x serial port
  • 2 x RJ45 jacks, backed by Intel Gigabit NICs

The system is available now, with pricing available upon request. You can find the full list of specifications and supported hardware configurations in this spec sheet (PDF).

Source: Boxx

Will ARMing your server room with Calxeda put you at a disadvantage?

Subject: Systems | March 25, 2013 - 01:14 PM |
Tagged: arm, calxeda, Boston Viridis

Perhaps the most telling part of AnandTech's review of the Calxeda Boston Viridis server was the statement that "It's a Cluster, Not a Server" as that paints a different picture of the appliance in many tech's heads.  When you first open the chassis you are greeted by 24 2.5” SATA drive bays and a very non-standard looking motherboard full of PCIe slots, each of which can hold a EnergyCard which consists of four quad-core ARM SoCs, each with one DIMM slot and 4 SATA ports with the theoretical limit being 4096 nodes interconnected by physical, distributed layer-2 switches not virtualized switches which use CPU cycles.  Check out the results of AnandTech's virtual machine testing and a deeper look at the architecture of the cluster in the full article.

AAT_CalxedaServerClose-front_678x452.jpg

"ARM based servers hold the promise of extremely low power and excellent performance per Watt ratios. It's theoretically possible to place an incredible number of servers into a single rack; there are already implementations with as many as 1000 ARM servers in one rack (48 server nodes in a 2U chassis). What's more, all of those nodes consume less than 5KW combined (or around 5W per quad-core ARM node). But whenever a new technology is hyped, it's important to remain objective. The media loves to rave about new trends and people like reading about "some new thing"; however, at the end of the day the system administrator has to keep his IT services working and convince his boss to invest in new technologies."

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Source: AnandTech

Blue His Build with Leaked Blue Little Windows...

Subject: General Tech, Systems | March 24, 2013 - 03:56 PM |
Tagged: windows 8, Blue, windows blue

It was only a matter of time before Windows Blue was leaked, like just about every other version of the operating system in recent memory. Internally, Blue is a transition for Microsoft into an annual release schedule for Windows products; externally, Blue is the first feature-release for Windows.

Yes, Sean Bean, win'ders has come.

Zac from WinBeta, embed above, got hold of the operating system, apparently leaked today, and played around with the changes for all of YouTube to see.

Notable changes, as of build 9364, are:
  • New split-screen App options. (Unclear whether multi-monitor app support is fixed)
  • Minor clarifications for user instruction.
  • New tile sizes.
  • Swipe up from Start Screen to access list of apps.
  • More personalization options.
  • Picture frame mode.
  • New App: Calculator.
  • New App: Alarm.
  • New App: Sound Recorder.
  • New App: Movie Moments... apparently a new, confidential, video editing application.
  • Internet Explorer updated to version 11.

Personally, despite sticking with Windows 7 for political reasons, the new App options seem like they would be the most engaging feature for Windows Blue. For being such a core segment of the "modern" Windows experience, apps are surprisingly annoying to manage as they currently exist on Windows 8. If you have two or more monitors then you are probably having a nightmare with anything outside of Windows 8's desktop mode.

We now know that app support is being looked at, so there is some hope that multiple monitor users will be considered too.

Source: WinBeta

Value priced, Android powered media streamer from PIVOS

Subject: Systems | March 15, 2013 - 04:37 PM |
Tagged: htpc, PIVOS, XIOS DS Media Play, android 4.0, xmbc

The XIOS DS Media Play is an Android 4.0 device powered by a Cortex-A9 and Mali-400 graphics, capable of streaming local and online media content including HTML5 and Flash to a TV.  Not quite a full HTPC in some ways but certainly more than a cable box at only 4" square and 0.6" tall it can be hidden in plain sight.  Overclockers Club tried out the functionality of both the native OS and the XBMC as well as using a variety of apps from the Google Play store, all with great success.  For a mere $110 they feel it is a great value; check out the full review for a longer list of compatible media and tricks you can do with local storage.

OCC_xios.jpg

"The XIOS DS Media Play looks sleek and has a very small footprint but packs some interesting features. The Android OS will bring new life to your TV and the thousands available apps in the Google Play Store translate into an impressive potential of fun, productivity, and entertainment. The box provides a great experience as is but PIVOS went the extra mile and collaborated with the XBMC Media Center development team to bring the software with hardware decoding to the Android OS. Add the connectivity capabilities of the unit and we have a serious threat to those fancy HTPC systems at a mere asking price of $115. Built around the ARM CORTEX-A9 CPU and a MALI-400 MP GPU, the XIOS DS Media Play has what it takes to satisfy the needs of the majority of media lovers."

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Shuttle Will Launch Celeron-Powered DS47 SFF PC in April

Subject: Systems | March 5, 2013 - 04:16 AM |
Tagged: shuttle, SFF, PC, Intel, ds47, celeron

If various sources are to be believed, Shuttle will be launching a new small form factor PC in April called the DS47. The new PC will be powered by an Intel Celeron 847 processor and features a fan-less design.

 

shuttle_logo.jpg

The Shuttle DS47 measures 200mm x 29.5mm x 165mm and weighs in at 2.05 kg. The internals include a motherboard with UEFI BIOS, dual core Intel Celeron 847 processor clocked at 1.1 GHz (2MB cache, 18W TDP), HD 2000 processor graphics, up to 16GB of RAM via two DDR3 SO-DIMM slots, and a 2.5” HDD or SSD. The motherboard supports SATA 3 6Gbps, and there is space for a single laptop-sized internal drive. The system also includes a Mini-PCI-E slot for half-size cards and a mSATA port for an SSD.

For such a small PC, it packs quite a bit of port options. The Shuttle DS47 includes the following external IO:

  • 1 x SD card reader
  • 4 x USB 2.0 ports
  • 2 x USB 3.0 ports
  • 2 x Gigabit Ethernet jacks
  • 2 x RS232 connections
  • 1 x DVI
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 2.1 channel analog audio output

The DS47 has a nice feature set, and the dual Ethernet ports opens up the possible applications. Thanks to the DS47 opting for the Celeron over an Atom processor, it could easily operate as a file server, NAS, firewall, router, HTPC, or simply a low power desktop computer for example.

Pricing will be where the DS47 succeeds or fails as it aims to strike a balance between the Intel NUC and Atom-powered PCs. Unfortunately, there is no word on just how much this SFF PC will cost. It is rumored for an April launch, however so expect to see official pricing announced shortly.

Read more about small form factor systems at PC Perspective!

Source: FanlessTech

Brazos 2.0 powered ZBOX AD06 Plus

Subject: Systems | March 4, 2013 - 04:19 PM |
Tagged: SFF, htpc, zotac, zbox ad06 plus, E2-1800

Zotac's ZBOX AD06 plus puts some graphical zip into a tiny package using an AMD E2-1800 1.7GHz and 2GB MHz DDR3-1333 with 320GB of local storage on a 5400RPM HDD.  They've included a VESA mount so it is quite possible to attach this device to the back of a display and control most functions with the included remote control.  Heat should not be an issue, when displaying 1080P clips it only pulls 16.8W, 27.7W when under full loads such as transcoding.  The benchmark results that TechPowerUp saw might not measure up to a full desktop system but they are certainly at the top of the pile when it comes to similar systems.  You can expect to pay just under $300 for the full system when it becomes available, or about $200 without RAM or HDD if you happen to have some handy.

TPU_inner.jpg

"The Zotac ZBOX AD06 utilizes the newest generation of AMD APUs, while the Plus model comes fully configured with a 320 GB hard drive and pre-installed memory."

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Source: TechPowerUp

Unreal Engine 4 Demo for PS4, Reduced Quality?

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | February 26, 2013 - 08:07 PM |
Tagged: ps4, unreal engine 4

Unreal Engine 4 was present at Sony's Playstation 4 press conference, but that is no surprise. Epic Games has been present at several keynotes for new console launches. Last generation, Unreal Engine 3 kicked off both Xbox 360 and PS3 with demos of Gears of War and Unreal Tournament 2007, respectively. The PS4 received a continuation of the Elemental Demo first released at the end of E3 last June.

All I could think about when I watched the was, “This looks pretty bad. What happened?”

If you would like to follow along at home, both demos are available on Youtube:

As you can see from the animated GIF above, particle count appears to have been struck the worst. The eyes contain none of the particle effects in the PS4 version. There appears to be an order of magnitude or two more particles on the PC version than the PS4. There are no particle effects around the eyes of the statue. Whole segments of particles are not even rendered.

UE4_2_PCvPS4.jpg

In this screenshot, downsampled to 660x355, the loss of physical detail is even more apparent. The big cluster of particles near the leg are not present in the PS4 version and the regular cluster is nowhere near as densely packed.

And the lighting, oh the lighting.

On the PS4 everything looks a lot higher contrast without a lot of the subtle lighting information. This loss of detail is most apparent with the volcano smoke and the glow of the hammer but are also obvious in the character model when viewed in the video.

Despite the 8GB of RAM, some of the textures also seem down-resolution. Everything appears to have much more of a plastic look to it.

Still, while computers still look better, at least high-end PC gaming will still be within the realm of scalability for quite some time. We have been hampered by being so far ahead of consoles that it was just not feasible to make full use of the extra power. At least that is looking to change.

Happy 0th Birthday Firefox OS

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 26, 2013 - 04:19 AM |
Tagged: Firefox OS, mozilla, firefox, MWC, MWC 13

Mobile World Congress is going on at Barcelona and this year sees the official entry of a new contender: Firefox OS.

Mozilla held their keynote speech the day before the official start to the trade show. If there is anything to be learned from CES, it would be that there is an arms race to announce your product before everyone else steals media attention while still being considered a part of the trade show. By the time the trade show starts, most of the big players have already said all that they need to say.

firefoxos.jpg

If you have an hour to spare, you should check it out for yourself. The whole session was broadcast and recorded on Air Mozilla.

The whole concept of Firefox OS as I understand it is to open up web standards such that it is possible to create a completely functional mobile operating system from it. Specific platforms do not matter, the content will all conform to a platform of standards which anyone would be able to adopt.

I grin for a different reason: should some content exist in the future that is intrinsically valuable to society, its reliance on an open-based platform will allow future platforms to carry it.

Not a lot of people realize that iOS and Windows RT disallow alternative web browsers. Sure, Google Chrome the app exists for iOS, but it is really a re-skinned Safari. Any web browser in the Windows Store will use Trident as its rendering engine by mandate of their certification rules. This allows the platform developer to be choosey with whichever standards they wish to support. Microsoft has been very vocally against any web standard backed by Khronos. You cannot install another browser if you run across a web application requiring one of those packages.

When you have alternatives, such as Firefox OS, developers are promoted to try new things. The alternative platforms promote standards which generate these new applications and push the leaders to implement those standards too.

And so we creep ever-closer to total content separation from platform.

Source: Mozilla

Chromebook Pixel Not a Joke, Just Its Price.

Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 25, 2013 - 02:18 AM |
Tagged: Chromebook Pixel, Chromebook

We have covered many Chrome OS-based devices, even a pair of reviews, but we have never seen the platform attempt to target the higher-end of the price spectrum. As you could guess by my ominous writing tone, that has changed.

The Chromebook Pixel.

The development commentary video could have been an Apple advertisement. We will embed it below, but it definitely had that whimsical tone we all know and groan. The Pixel was heavily focused on design and screen quality.

The display is quite small, just under 13”, but it has a higher resolution than professional-grade 30” monitors. It leapfrogs Catleap. When trying to visualize the use case, the first thought which comes to mind is a second PC for someone to take with them. If you can get a really high resolution experience with that, then bonus. Right?

The specifications, according to their Best Buy product page, are actually quite decent for a web browser-focused device.

  • Ivy Bridge Core i5
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 32GB SSD
  • Intel HD 4000 Graphics
  • With the low cost of RAM

The downside? The price starts at $1299 USD and goes up from there. You can get a larger SSD and LTE for just 150$ more, at the $1449 price point if you can wait until April.

Once you factor in the price, and a mighty big factor that is too, it makes it really difficult to figure out who Google is targeting. The only explanation which makes sense to me is a high-end laptop which is easy for IT departments to manage for executives and students.

Lastly, 4GB of RAM is ridiculously cheap nowadays. Could it have killed them to add in a little extra RAM to get more headroom? Also, what about the lack of connectivity to external displays? (Update: Sorry, just found mini displayport on the product tech specs.)

Source: Google Blogs

Sony's Fourth Playstation (PS4) Specs Revealed

Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 20, 2013 - 06:53 PM |
Tagged: sony, ps4

We're currently in the middle of Sony's Playstation announcement and right off the bat they discussed system specifications.

(Update 2: Press conference was over a few hours ago, and we now have an official press release.)

PS4-01.png

The Playstation 4, as it will be titled, is very similar to a mid-range gaming PC. When discussing with developers, they requested for Sony to stick with a typical x86-based architecture. Of course that does not stop Sony from describing it as a “Supercharged PC architecture”. Still, they do seem to have quite a decent amount of hardware in this box.

  • 8-core x86 CPU
  • 2 Teraflops GPU integrated on same die (update: chip).
  • I did not hear AMD mentioned, but it totally is.
  • 8GB GDDR5 RAM (shared)
  • Stereo Camera on the controller with a light bar, like the Wii, to judge distance to TV.
  • Also touch sensor in the controller.
  • (Update/correction: At least a ...) Spindle-based Hard Drive

While these specifications have been sufficiently leaked in the recent past, we have not been able to pin down exactly how much RAM is provided. We found the development kit contained 8GB of system memory. The problem is that development kits require more RAM than the system it pretends to be to account for development tools and unoptimized assets.

As it turns out, the system itself will contain 8GB of GDDR5 shared between the CPU and GPU, which is quite a lot. Developers will need to finally push the PC platform past the 4GB RAM+VRAM 32-bit barrier in order to keep up with the next generation consoles.

Most of our gaming limitations were due to art assets being limited by memory constraints. Thanks to the new Sony console, PC releases could finally be taken off the 512MB-long leash of Sony and Microsoft.

(Update 2, cont.: The press release has official tech specs as below but are "subject to change")

 

Main Processor
Single-Chip Custom Processor
CPU: x86-64 AMD "Jaguar", 8 cores
GPU: 1.84 Teraflops, AMD next-generation Radeon(tm)-based graphics engine
Memory GDDR5 8GB
Hard Disk Drive Built-in
Optical Drive (Read-Only)
BD 6x CAV
DVD 8x CAV
I/O Ports Super-Speed USB (USB3.0), AUX
Communication
Ethernet (10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T)
IEE 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 2.1 (EDR)
AV output
HDMI
Analog-AV out
Digital Out

So clearly Sony was slightly rounding up when they claimed it was a 2 Teraflop GPU. Still, this looks to be a healthy computer.

We now have the official confirmation we needed that AMD Jaguar cores will power the PS4. Given AMD's big wins in the console platforms, I would wonder if game developers would be able to take some of the tricks they will learn in a few years and be able to start optimizing PC gamers for AMD CPUs.

GPUs too for that matter... this could mean a lot for AMD's PC gamers.

Beat SAD with a new system build

Subject: Systems | February 13, 2013 - 02:49 PM |
Tagged: DIY, econobox, sweet spot, double stuff

The Tech Report has updated their System Guide for February and added in a new SFF build as well as instructional videos on building a PC for those just joining the enthusiast crowd.  The four price points that they aim for are $600, $1,000, $1,500, and $3,000 and range from an EconoBox for basic usage up to the Double Stuff workstation and of course the new Mighty Mite system.  Head on over to see what they've assembled and feel free to contrast it with our own Hardware Leaderboard.

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"In the latest edition of the TR System Guide, we've tweaked our usual builds to incorporate newer components and price changes, making our recommended systems better than ever. We've also included a small-form-factor gaming build priced just under $1,000."

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Now console gamers can share with YouTube too

Subject: Systems | February 12, 2013 - 02:57 PM |
Tagged: htpc, Hauppauge, HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition

Now that capturing PC gaming is so easy to do, through either software or hardware, game walkthroughs and trick videos are commonplace on YouTube but the console gamers have not had that ability until recently.  XSReviews recently took a look at the Hauppage HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition which is a device that sits on an HDMI connection between your console or PC and your display and is capable of either passing through or recording a 1080p signal.  Unfortunately their testing did not go smoothly and even after updating the software they had issues recording or even playing at 1080p, however at 720p the device worked as advertised.  If you are needing to record at full resolution you might want to wait for another patch as you might run into some of the same issues.

XSR_10-front.jpg

"On PC, it’s pretty easy to record footage of your games. Whether you’re using streaming software like XSplit or recording directly to your hard drive with Fraps, getting your gameplay out there is fairly well understood.

For consoles, it’s much harder – with a locked down environment devoid of third party applications, you can’t just download a program off the ‘net and start recording. Instead, you’ll need some physical hardware to do the job.

Enter the Hauppage HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition. This small cuboid is designed to make recording and even streaming your gameplay incredibly simple – just hook up a few wires and, if the back of the box is to be believed, you’ll be away.

In this review, we’ll put that to the test as we enter the exciting world of console recording and streaming!"

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Source: XSReviews

NVDIMM: Nonvolatile... Not NVIDIA

Subject: General Tech, Memory, Systems | February 10, 2013 - 03:44 AM |
Tagged: NVDIMM, micron, IMFT NAND, imft

So a RAM chip, a NAND module, and an “ultracapacitor” walk into stick...

This week Micron released a press blast for technology called, “NVDIMM”. The goal is to create memory modules which perform as quickly as DRAM but can persist without power. At this point you could probably guess the acronym: Nonvolatile Dual In-line Memory Module. It has been around for a few years now, but it is in the news now so let's chat about it.

I often like to play the game, “Was this named by an engineer or a marketer?” You can typically tell who was responsible for naming something by gauging how literally it breaks down into a simple meaning versus not having any apparent meaning at all. A good example of an engineer name is UHF, which breaks down into ultra-high frequency because it's higher than VHF, very-high frequency. A good example of a marketing name would be something like “Centrino”, which sounds like the biggest little penny-slot machine in the world. I would quite comfortable guessing that NVDIMM was named by an engineer.

NVDIMM.jpg

This is AgigA Tech's module, who provides the capacitors for Micron and their NVDIMMs.

The actual makeup of NVDIMMs is quite sensible: DIMMs are fast but die when the power goes out. You could prevent the power from going out but it takes quite a lot of battery life to keep a computer online for extended periods of time. NAND Flash is quite slow, relative to DIMMs, in normal operation but can persist without power for very long periods of time. Also, modern-day capacitors are efficient and durable enough to keep DIMMs powered for long enough to be copied to flash memory.

As such, if the power goes out: memory is dumped to flash on the same chip. When power is restored, DIMMs get reloaded and continue on their merry way.

According to the Micron press release, the first NVDIMM was demonstrated last November at SC12. That module contained twice as much NAND as it did DIMM memory: 8GB of Flash for 4GB of RAM. Micron did not specify why they required having that much extra Flash memory although my gut instinct is to compensate for write wearing problems. A two-fold increase to offset NAND that had just one too many write operations seems like quite a lot compared to consumer drives. That said, SSDs do not have to weather half of their whole capacity being written to each time the computer shuts down.

Who knows, double-provisioning might even be too little in practice.

Source: Micron

Arctic Releases MC001-XBMC HTPC Running XBMC 12

Subject: Systems | February 6, 2013 - 10:55 AM |
Tagged: xbmc 12, SFF, openelec 3.0, htpc, arctic

Arctic has released a small form factor PC that comes pre-installed with the recently-released XBMC 12 media center software. The Arctic MC001-XBMC is available in the United States and Europe. It measures 161 x 40 x 266mm with the PC attached to the stand. The MC001-XBMC comes in black or white and should fit easily into your AV rack.

The HTPC can be used to playback a variety of music and video file formats and can also be used as a network attached storage (NAS) device. On the software side of things, it comes pre-loaded with XBMC 12 “Frodo” and Openelec 3.0. It can act as a media center and television PVR.

MC001-XBMC(US) SFF HTPC (2).png

The HTPC is powered by a dual core Intel Atom D525 processor clocked at 1.8GHz, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5430 with 512MB of GDDR3 memory, 2GB DDR3 1333MHz system memory, and a 1TB laptop hard drive (5400 RPM). Networking is handled by a Gigabit Ethernet controller and a 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi radio.

MC001-XBMC(US) SFF HTPC (3).png

The front of the system includes an IR receiver, two USB 3.0 ports, two audio jacks (headphone/mic), and a card reader. The back of the MC001-XBMC features the following IO options.

  • 6 x analog audio jacks
  • 1 x S/PDIF optical audio output
  • 1 x VGA
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x RJ45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 5 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x DVB-T connector for the ATSC tuner
  • 1 x DC power jack (19V, 60W)

The XBMC 12 UI is a Windows Media Center alternative, and while setting up TV recording features requires additional software and is more difficult to setup it is otherwise a decent media center experience. Users can control the HTPC using the included infrared remote or via apps on Android or iOS smartphones.

MC001-XBMC(US) SFF HTPC (1).png

The MC001-XBMC comes with a two year warranty and has an MSRP of $229 US or EUR 199. It is no speed demon by any means, but the SFF system is plenty of hardware to playback up to 1080p video files.

Source: Arctic

Dell Goes Private, Microsoft Loans Some Help

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Mobile | February 5, 2013 - 05:10 PM |
Tagged: dell

Dell, dude, you're getting a Dell!

So it is official that Dell is going private. Michael Dell, CEO, as well as: Silver Lake, MSD Capital, several banks, and Dell itself will buy back stocks from investors 25% above the January 11th trading price. The whole deal would be worth $24.4 billion USD.

dell.jpg

Going private allows the company to make big shifts in their business without answering to investors on a quarterly basis. We can see how being a publicly traded company seems to hinder businesses after they grow beyond what a cash infusion can assist. Even Apple finds it necessary to keep an absolutely gigantic pile of cash to play with, only recently paying dividends to investors.

Also contributing to the buyback, as heavily reported, is a $2 billion USD loan from Microsoft. While it sounds like a lot in isolation, it is only just over 8% of the whole deal. All you really can pull is that it seems like Microsoft supports Dell in their decision and is putting their money where their intentions are.

Source: The Verge

Fanless MintBox PC Receives Price Cut, Makes It More-Competitive Intel NUC Alternative

Subject: Systems | February 3, 2013 - 09:32 AM |
Tagged: mintbox, mint, linux, fitpc3, compulab

The MintBox is a small form factor, fanless computer released in summer 2012. It was developed in collaboration between CompuLab and the Linux Mint project. At launch, the base model retailed for $476, but CompuLab has cut the price by almost $100 to kick off 2013.

 

mintbox_front.png

The MintBox basic is powered by a dual core AMD G-T40N APU clocked at 1.0 GHz, 4GB of RAM, an APU-integrated Radeon G290 GPU, and 250GB hard drive. The system has a aluminum chassis that acts as a heatsink. It is essentially CompuLab’s fitPC3 case with a few custom tweaks to add the Linux Mint logo. Further, it comes pre-loaded with the Linux Mint 13 operating system. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0 radios are included as well as two mini-PCIe cards and one mSATA connector (for an SSD).

mintbox.png

The front of the MintBox has four USB 2.0 ports surrounding the Mint logo. The rear of the MintBox includes the following connectivity options:

  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x DisplayPort
  • 1 x S/PDIF
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x eSATA
  • 1 x RS232 serial port
  • 2 x external Wi-Fi antennas .

 

In many respects, the MintBox resembles a typical home wireless router, but it is actually a full PC. Before shipping and any applicatable taxes, the MintBox Basic is $379. Reportedly, 10% of the proceeds will go towards the Linux Mint project to assist with development of the open source operating system. While the hardware itself is not new, Mint and CompuLab are offering up a healthy discount which may bring it more in line with Intel’s NUC systems. It may not be as fast, but it will cost less and is pre-configured unlike the DIY NUC.

Have you been looking to get a small form factor system? What do you think about a fanless box running Linux Mint for your next PC?

Intel really needs help with the name of their new NUC, DC3217IYE just doesn't roll off the tongue

Subject: Systems | January 28, 2013 - 07:20 PM |
Tagged: nuc, Intel, DC3217IYE

The new Intel NUC DC3217IYE is a tiny little system with a Core i3-3217U on a QS77 Express chipset with a pair of HDMI ports, three USB 2.0 ports, WiFi, ethernet and a mini PCIe slot that can handle mSATA, which is good as there is no internal storage apart from that.  Once you have purchased the NUC, all you need to do is install an mSATA drive and RAM and you have a fully functional system.  The inclusion of a Core i3 processor helps make the performance of the NUC significantly better than what it would be with an Atom and while the HD4000 is good for some applications it is not a strong gamer.  X-bit Labs likes the idea of the NUC but questions the $300 price it will command.

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"Intel decided to give it a shot in the ultra-compact desktop systems market. And they immediately came up with a unique product: a miniature system case only 12x11x4 cm in size based on Core i3 processor. It boasts a truly impressive combination of features, but does it make practical sense to give us a large desktop box in favor of a tiny guy like that?"

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Source: X-bit Labs

Ceton's My Media Center goes Metro

Subject: Systems | January 23, 2013 - 05:48 PM |
Tagged: htpc, ceton, my media center, win8, Metro

Ceton's My Media Center is a replacement interface for Windows Media Center's UI, allowing you to control functions on a device separate from the display which is connected to your WMC.  That means that any device running the Metro interface of Win8, which is any flavour of Win8, can be set up to connect to your HTPC and allow you to control WMC even if you are out of the house and it won't interfere with anyone who happens to be using it at the time.  The Companion software is loaded onto both the HTPC and the secondary device and with a little configuration, which Missing Remote details here, you will be in full control of WMC from anywhere.

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"Earlier today a new Windows 8 "Metro" version of Ceton's suite of applications for managing Windows Media Center joined the existing lineup of Andriod, Windows Phone and iOS companion apps priced at $4.99. As part of this effort they were rebranded from "Ceton Companion Apps" to "My Media Center". All the great functionality for browsing recordings, managing series and scheduling, and browsing the guide is still there, but this time Windows 8 tablet and desktop "Metro" users can also join the party. We had a chance to take an early spin through the updated UI, let's dig in."

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VIA Launches ARMOS-800 Embedded PC

Subject: Systems | January 16, 2013 - 12:30 PM |
Tagged: VIA, pico-itx, embedded system, cortex a8, arm

VIA has launched a new small form factor PC for embedded applications and powered by ARM hardware. The ARMOS-800 is ruggedized and low power. It features a fanless design with an aluminum chassis that can operate between -40 and 80 degrees Celsius.

Internal hardware includes a pico-ITX motherboard, and Freescale ARM Cortex A8 processor clocked at 800MHz. It also has two integrated GPUs capable of dual display outputs. Other specifications include 1GB DDR3 SDRAM, 4GB eMMC internal storage, and a microSD card slot.

 

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IO options on the ARMOS-800 include a COM port, DIO port, CAN port, and three audio jacks (line in, line out, and mic in). Rear IO includes one VGA, one HDMI, one Ethernet jack (10/100), three USB 2.0 ports, and an optional VNT9271 Wi-Fi card attached via an internal USB header.

The ARMOS-800 PC uses an average of 3.14W during normal operation. It can officially support Android 2.3 or Embedded Linux 2.6. The PC measures 15 x 4.6 x 10.8 centimeters. The ARMOS-800 is available now. You can find more information on the VIA product page.

Source: Via