A wee little Linux bug

Subject: General Tech | March 5, 2014 - 02:47 PM |
Tagged: linux, security

It would seem that there is a fairly problematic bug in the way that GnuTLS library applies encryption for many Linux users.  According to the story on The Inquirer this bug could allow an improperly setup certificate to be reported as valid and while your connection states it is secure it will not in fact be encrypted.  Red Hat has already issued a patch to solve this problem but the vulnerability would apply to any distro which uses the GnuTLS library.  It would be wise to follow the link from the story to locate a patch for your system before attackers start using it in the wild.

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"THOUSANDS OF LINUX USERS might be vulnerable to hackers after it emerged that a significant certificate checking bug exists in a low level library.

The problem stems from the GnuTLS library that provides an API to enable SSL, TLS and DTLS encryption protocols, as used particularly by web servers."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

AMD Radeon R9 290X shows up for $549 on Newegg. Is the worst behind us?

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 4, 2014 - 03:38 PM |
Tagged: radeon, R9 290X, hawaii, amd, 290x

Yes, I know it is only one card.  And yes I know that this could sell out in the next 10 minutes and be nothing, but I was so interested, excited and curious about this that I wanted to put together a news post.  I just found a Radeon R9 290X card selling for $549 on Newegg.com.  That is the normal, regular, non-inflated, expected retail price.

WAT.

290xwat.jpg

You can get a Powercolor AXR9 290X with 4GB of memory for $549 right now, likely only if you hurry.  That same GPU on Amazon.com will cost you $676.  This same card at Newegg.com has been as high as $699:

290xwat2.jpg

Again - this is only one card on one site, but the implications are positive.  This is also a reference design card, rather than one of the superior offerings with a custom cooler.  After that single card, the next lowest price is $629, followed by a couple at $649 and then more at $699.  We are still waiting to hear from AMD on the issue, what its response is and if it can actually even do anything to fix it.  It seems plausible, but maybe not likely, that the draw of coin mining is reached a peak (and who can blame them) and the pricing of AMD GPUs could stabilize.  Maybe.  It's classified.

But for now, if you want an R9 290X, Newegg.com has at least one option that makes sense.

Microsoft wants you to browse the web ... on your walls

Subject: General Tech | March 4, 2014 - 03:34 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, surroundweb

Microsoft is working on a new way to display the web to you, projecting it onto your walls. They make use of Kinect to map your walls so that they can pick where to beam your content.  According to what Microsoft told The Inquirer, they can manage to project sites at 30 frames per second with up to 25 screens and up to a 1440x720 resolution.  They make a nod to security concerns, it seems that the information about what your room contains will not be sent back to the website you are viewing.

microsoft-surroundweb-research-540x334.jpg

"Called Surroundweb, the software is peddled by Microsoft as an "immersive room experience". However, as far as we can see, it's simply a means of projecting different parts of a web page on different surfaces around a room."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

OCZ launches Z-Drive 4500, now with Toshiba 19nm flash

Subject: Storage | March 4, 2014 - 09:51 AM |
Tagged: z-drive, toshiba, ocz

OCZ launched the original Z-Drive R4 back in 2011 (reviewed here). That unit proved OCZ's VCA 2.0 architecture could scale to very high IOPS under extremely heavy loads. With the recent changes, OCZ has been revamping their existing lines to include Toshiba flash - first with the Vector, then the Vertex, and today with the Z-Drive:

z-drive 4500-2.png

OCZ's VCA tech yields some impressive results. Here's some details:

z-drive 4500-4.png

...and here is where the Z-Drive falls in OCZ's enterprise lineup:

z-drive 4500-3.png

Pricing is as follows. Remember, these are enterprise units:

  • 800GB = $2944
  • 1.6TB = $4757
  • 3.2TB = $8166

Full press blast after the break:

Source: OCZ

AMD Launches Another Graphics Card: Radeon R9 280

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 4, 2014 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: radeon, r9 280, R9, hd 7950, amd

AMD continues to churn out its Radeon graphics card line. Out today, or so we are told, is the brand new Radeon R9 280! That's right kids, it's kind of like the R9 280X, but without the letter at the end.  In fact, do you know what it happens to be very similar to? The Radeon HD 7950. Check out the testing card we got in.

280-5.jpg

It's okay AMD, it's just a bit of humor...

Okay, let's put the jokes aside and talk about what we are really seeing here.  

The new Radeon R9 280 is the latest in the line of rebranding and reorganizing steps made by AMD with the move from the "HD" moniker to "R9/R7". As the image above would indicate, the specifications of the R9 280 are nearly 1:1 with that of the Radeon HD 7950 released in August of 2012 with Boost. We built a specification table below.

  Radeon R9 280X Radeon R9 280 Radeon R9 270X Radeon R9 270 Radeon R7 265
GPU Code name Tahiti Tahiti Pitcairn Pitcairn Pitcairn
GPU Cores 2048 1792 1280 1280 1024
Rated Clock 1000 MHz 933 MHz 1050 MHz 925 MHz 925 MHz
Texture Units 128 112 80 80 64
ROP Units 32 32 32 32 32
Memory 3GB 3GB 2GB 2GB 2GB
Memory Clock 6000 MHz 6000 MHz 5600 MHz 5600 MHz 5600 MHz
Memory Interface 384-bit 384-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit
Memory Bandwidth 288 GB/s 288 GB/s 179 GB/s 179 GB/s 179 GB/s
TDP 250 watts 250 watts 180 watts 150 watts 150 watts
Peak Compute 4.10 TFLOPS 3.34 TFLOPS 2.69 TFLOPS 2.37 TFLOPS 1.89 TFLOPS
MSRP $299 $279 $199 $179 $149
Current Pricing $420 - Amazon ??? $259 - Amazon $229 - Amazon ???

If you are keeping track, AMD should just about be out of cards to drag over to the new naming scheme. The R9 280 has a slightly higher top boost clock than the Radeon HD 7950 did (933 MHz vs. 925 MHz) but otherwise looks very similar. Oh, and apparently the R9 280 will require a 6+8 pin PCIe power combination while the HD 7950 was only 6+6 pin. Despite that change, it is still built on the same Tahiti GPU that has been chugging long for years now.  

The Radeon R9 280 continues to support an assortment of AMD's graphics technologies including Mantle, PowerTune, CrossFire, Eyefinity, and included support for DX11.2. Note that because we are looking at an ASIC that has been around for a while, you will not find XDMA or TrueAudio support.

280-3.jpg

The estimated MSRP of $279 is only $20 lower than the MSRP of the R9 280X, but you should take all pricing estimates from AMD with a grain of salt. The prices listed in the table above from Amazon.com were current as of March 3rd, and of course, we did see Newegg attempt get people to buy R9 290X cards for $900 recently. AMD did use some interesting language on the availability of the R9 280 in its emails to me.

The AMD Radeon R9 280 will become available at a starting SEP of $279USD the first week of March, with wider availability the second week of March. Following the exceptional demand for the entire R9 Series, we believe the introduction of the R9 280 will help ensure that every gamer who plans to purchase an R9 Series graphics card has an opportunity to do so.

I like what the intent is from AMD with this release - get more physical product in the channel to hopefully lower prices and enable more gamers to purchase the Radeon card they really want. However, until I see a swarm of parts on Newegg.com or Amazon.com at, or very close to, the MSRPs listed on the table above for an extended period, I think the effects of coin mining (and the rumors of GPU shortages) will continue to plague us. No one wants to see competition in the market and great options at reasonable prices for gamers more than us!

280-1.jpg

AMD hasn't sent out any samples of the R9 280 as far as I know (at least we didn't get any) but the performance should be predictable based on its specifications relative to the R9 280X and the HD 7950 before it.  

Do you think the R9 280 will fix the pricing predicament that AMD finds itself in today, and if it does, are you going to buy one?

Verizon ALLSET Pre-Paid Plans Offer Rollover Mobile Data

Subject: Mobile | March 4, 2014 - 01:33 AM |
Tagged: verizon, rollover data, mobile data, data caps, allset

Verizon has taken the wraps off of a new pre-paid cell phone plan called “ALLSET.” The plans offer unlimited calling, unlimited texting, and 500MB of base data for $35/month for feature phones and $45 a month for smartphones. At first glance, they are pretty standard fare, and not the cheapest pre-paid option either. However, Verizon has added a bit of a twist to the pre-paid equation by allowing ALLSET users to add “Bridge Data” on top of the base plan’s 500MB cap that can be rolled over to future months if not used right away.

Verizon AllSet Plans.jpg

The ALLSET plans come with a 500MB (or 1GB if enrolled in Auto Pay) of cellular data each month that cannot be saved. From there, users can purchase up to two data packages that can be saved or rolled over to future months if not used right away. The Bridge Data packs work out to $5 for 500MB, $10 for 1GB, or $20 for 3GB. Users can save the $5 (500MB) pack for a month while the $10 (1GB) and $20 (3GB) packs can be saved or have the remaining bits rolled over for up to three months after purchase. The base data is used first, after which the first package is used completely before dipping into the second package (if purchased at all), which is important to consider in relation to the expiration dates.

In another bit of good news for ALLSET users, Verizon allows the mobile hotspot feature which is extremely rare for the cellphone industry (without charging an additional fee).

The system is not perfect due to the short expiration dates (at most 90 days) for rollover and the fact that base data cannot be saved (only the additional bridge data packs), but it is definitely a step in the right direction and a feature I have been wanting to see for years now. Hopefully this encourages other providers to consider rollover data plans, and the competition forces relaxed restrictions on the expiry of rollover data.

EVGA Launches GTX 750 and GTX 750 SC With 2GB GDDR5

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 3, 2014 - 10:33 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, maxwell, gtx 750, evga

EVGA recently launched two new GTX 750 graphics cards with 2GB of GDDR5 memory. The new cards include a reference clocked GTX 750 2GB and a factory overclocked GTX 750 2GB SC (Super Clocked).

EVGA GTX 750 2GB GDDR5 GPU.jpg

The new graphics cards are based around NVIDIA’s GTX 750 GPU with 512 Maxwell architecture CUDA cores. The GTX 750 is the little brother to the GTX 750 Ti we recently reviewed which has 640 cores. EVGA has clocked the GTX 750 2GB card’s GPU at reference clockspeeds of 1020 MHz base and 1085 MHz boost and memory at a reference speed of 1253 MHz. The “Super Clocked” GTX 750 2GB SC card keeps the memory at reference speeds but overclocks the GPU quite a bit to 1215 MHz base and 1294 MHz boost.

  EVGA GTX 750 2GB EVGA GTX 750 2GB Super Clocked
GPU 512 CUDA Cores (Maxwell) 512 CUDA Cores (Maxwell)
-    GPU Base 1020 MHz 1215 MHz
-    GPU Boost 1085 MHz 1294 MHz
Memory 2 GB GDDR5 @ 1253 MHz on 128-bit bus
I/O
1 x DVI, 1 x HDMI, 1 x DP
TDP 55W 55W
Price $129.99 $139.99

Both cards have a 55W TDP sans any PCI-E power connector and utilize a single shrouded fan heatsink. The cards are short but occupy two PCI slots. The rear panel hosts one DVI, one HDMI, and one DisplayPort video output along with ventilation slots for the HSF. Further, the cards both support NVIDIA’s G-Sync technology.

EVGA GTX 750 2GB GDDR5 SC.jpg

The reference clocked GTX 750 2GB is $129.99 while the factory overclocked model is $139.99. Both cards are similar to their respective predecessors except for the additional 1GB of GDDR5 memory which comes at a $10 premium and should will help a bit at high resolutions.

Source: EVGA

Asus Releases Passively Cooled J1800I-C Bay Trail Motherboard

Subject: Motherboards | March 3, 2014 - 09:31 PM |
Tagged: asus, J1800I, Bay Trail, mini ITX

Asus has launched a new motherboard that comes equipped with Intel’s latest Bay Trail processor. The new Asus J1800I-C is a mini ITX motherboard with a passively-cooled (soldered on) Intel Celeron J1800I prcoessor.

ASUS J1800I-C Motherboard.png

In addition to the included Bay Trail processor, the Asus J1800I-C motherboard has two DDR3L SODIMM slots (8GB 1333MHz max), two SATA II 3Gbps ports, a PCI-E x1 slot, and a single Mini PCI-E connector. The Celeron J1800I is a 10W TDP chip with two cores clocked at 2.41 GHz base and 2.58 GHz boost paired with an Intel HD Graphics GPU and 1MB CPU cache.

External I/O on the J1800I-C includes:

  • 1 x PS/2
  • 4 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x USB 3.0
  • 1 x COM
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet (Realtek RTL8111G NIC)
  • 3 x Audio
  • 2 x Video outputs
    • 1 x HDMI
    • 1 x VGA

Pricing and availability have not yet been announced, but the board and CPU combo should retail for around $65 USD. This system could be used as a development board for mobile Bay Trail systems or a low cost driver of digital signage and kiosks. It could also make for a low power desktop if the pricing works out right compared to other SFF systems.

Also read: MSI Launching J1800I Mini ITX Motherboard With Intel Bay Trail-D Processor @ PC Perspective.

Source: Asus

Samsung Launching 11-Inch and 13-Inch Chromebook 2s

Subject: Mobile | March 3, 2014 - 05:58 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, exynos 5, chromebook 2, Chromebook, chrome os, arm

Samsung is bringing a new Chromebook to market next month. Coming in 11-inch and 13-inch form factors the new Samsung Chromebook 2 offers updated hardware and more than eight hours of battery life.

The Chromebook 2 will be available in 11.6” and 13.3” models. The smaller variant will come in white or black while the larger SKU is only available in gray. The lids use a soft touch plastic that resembles stitched leather like that found on some Samsung smartphones. The 11.6” is 0.66-inches thick and weighs 2.43 pounds. The 13.3” model is 0.65-inches thick and weighs 3.09 pounds. The 11.6” Chromebook 2 has a 1366x768 display while the 13.3” Chromebook uses a 1920 x 1080 resolution display.

Samsung Chromebook 2 11-Inch In Black.jpg

Internally, the Chromebook 2 is powered by an unspecified Exynos 5 Octa SoC at either 1.9GHz (11.6”) or 2.1GHz (13.3”), 4GB of DDR3L memory, and 16GB internal SSD storage. Internal radios include 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. Samsung rates the battery life at 8 hours for the 11.6” Chromebook and 8.5 hours for the 13.3” Chromebook.

Beyond the wireless tech, I/O includes one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0 port, one HDMI, one headphone output, and one micro SD card slot. This port configuration is available on both Chromebook 2 sizes.

Samsung Chromebook 2 13-Inch In Gray.jpg

Samsung is launching its Chromebook 2 in April at $319.99 and $399.99 for the 11.6” and 13.3” respectively. This new Chromebook is coming to a competitive market that is increasingly packed with Bay Trail-powered Windows 8.1 notebooks (and tablets) that are getting cheaper and Android tablets that are getting more features and more powerful thanks to new ARM-based SoCs. I'm interested to see what platform users start gravitating towards, is the cloud-connected Chrome OS good enough when paired with good battery life and a physical keyboard?

Are you looking forward to Samsung's new Chromebook 2?

Source: Ars Technica

The Reorganization After Microsoft's Reorganization

Subject: General Tech | March 2, 2014 - 10:34 PM |
Tagged: microsoft

According to Kara Swisher at Re/code, two of Microsoft's Executive Vice Presidents are leaving the company. Tony Bates, EVP of Business Development and Evangelism, and Tami Reller, EVP of Marketing, are expected to have their departure announced to the public on Tuesday. Tony Bates joined the company during the Skype acquisition in 2011, while Tami Reller has been with Microsoft since it acquired Great Plains Software in 2001. While Bates is expected to depart immediately, Reller is expected to remain for a while and "help with the transition".

Video Credit: Dilbert Youtube Channel

Seeing the Microsoft reorganization, it should be quite obvious how expensive they can become. They are struggling to find a path for their products that their customers actually want to go down. At the same time, people seem to be flying in every direction. I just wonder if these are the final movements.

Source: Re/code

Speaking of Passive Cooling: Tom's Hardware's GTX 750 Ti

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | March 2, 2014 - 05:20 PM |
Tagged: passive cooling, maxwell, gtx 750 ti

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti is fast but also power efficient, enough-so that Ryan found it a worthwhile upgrade for cheap desktops with cheap power supplies that were never intended for discrete graphics. Of course, this recommendation is about making the best of what you got; better options probably exist if you are building a PC (or getting one built by a friend or a computer store).

toms-passive-geforce-gtx-750-ti-cooling,O-U-423390-22.jpg

Image Credit: Tom's Hardware

Tom's Hardware went another route: make it fanless.

After wrecking a passively-cooled Radeon HD 7750, which is probably a crime in Texas, they clamped it on to the Maxwell-based GTX 750 Ti. While the cooler was designed for good airflow, they decided to leave it in a completely-enclosed case without fans. Under load, the card reached 80 C within about twenty minutes. The driver backed off performance slightly, 1-3% depending on your frame of reference, but was able to maintain that target temperature.

Now, if only it accepted SLi, this person might be happy.

Sapphire Launches Low Profile R7 240 GPU For HTPCs

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 2, 2014 - 03:14 AM |
Tagged: sapphire, R7 240, htpc, SFF, low profile, steam os

Sapphire is preparing a new low profile Radeon R7 240 graphics card for home theater PCs and small form factor desktop builds. The new graphics card is a single slot design that uses a small heatsink with fan cooler that is shorter than the low profile PCI bracket for assured compatibility with even extremely cramped cases.

The Sapphire R7 240 card pairs a 28nm AMD GCN-based GPU with 2GB of DDR3 memory. There are two HDMI 1.4a display outputs that each support 4K 4096 x 2160 resolutions. Specifically, this particular iteration of the Radeon R7 240 has 320 stream processors clocked at 730 MHz base and 780 MHz boost along with 2GB DDR3 memory clocked at 900 MHz on a 128-bit bus. The card further has 20 TMUs and 8 ROPs. The card has a power sipping 30W TDP.

Sapphire Radeon R7 240 Low Profile Graphics Card for SFF Desktops and HTPCs.jpg

This low profile R7 240 is a sub-$100 part that can easily power a home theater PC or Steam OS streaming endpoint. Actually, the R7 240 itself can deliver playable gaming frame rates with low quality settings and lowered resolutions delivering at least 30 average FPS in modern titles like Bioshock Infinite and BF4 according to this review. Another use case would be to add the card to an existing AMD APU-based system in Hybrid CrossFire (which has seen Frame Pacing fixes!) for a bit more gaming horsepower under a strict budget.

The card occupies a tight space where it is only viable in specific situations constrained by a tight budget, physical size, and the requirement to buy a card new and not an older (single and faster, not Hybrid CrossFire) generation card on the used market. Still, it is nice to have options and this will be one such new budget alternative. Exact pricing is not yet available, but it should be hitting store shelves soon. For an idea on pricing, the full height Sapphire R7 240 retails for around $70, so expect the new low profile variant to be around that price if at a slight premium.

CompuLab fit-PC4 Includes AMD SoC/APU... But Not Fans

Subject: General Tech, Systems | March 2, 2014 - 02:29 AM |
Tagged: Tamesh, Kabini, fit-PC4, compulab, amd

Passively cooled PCs are an interesting niche, often associated with the need for silence. Be it audio recording or home theater appliances, some situations are just not well suited to having a whirring fan.

fit-pc4-poster-900px.jpg

Recently announced is the fit-PC4 is a fanless system, fourth in its lineage. This time the system is using AMD for its CPU and GPU. Two models are available, separated into "Pro" and "Value". Its specifications are broken down into the table below.

  fit-PC4 Pro fit-PC4 Value
Processor AMD GX-420CA (25W TDP, Kabini) AMD A4-1250 APU (8W TDP, Temash)
-    CPU Quad-core (Jaguar-based) @ 2.0 GHz Dual-core (Jaguar-based) @ 1.0 GHz
-    GPU Radeon HD 8400E Radeon HD 8210
RAM Up to 16GB (2 DIMM)
Storage 2.5" HDD/SSD + mSATA + microSD
I/O
2x HDMI 1.4a (1920x1200 max) with CEC support
S/PDIF, line-out, mic-in (I assume 3.5mm)
2x Gigabit Ethernet
mini-PCIe slot for cellular modem
2x USB 3.0 and 6x USB 2.0
WiFi 802.11ac 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0 3.0 + HS
Dimensions 16cm x 19cm x 3.7cm 16cm x 16cm x 2.5cm
Price $380 $299

Interestingly, the company considers these devices "ruggedized" as well as fanless. As such, they have a 5-year warranty. It seems to be quite the feature-packed device with two HDMI 1.4 outlets, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, and an available slot for a cellular modem. The Pro even has 802.11ac WiFi. I am not entirely sure the intended purpose of this device, but the company claims that the previous generation product was often purchased by video surveillance and digital signage customers. Interestingly, Windows 7 and Linux are the two choices for operating systems.

The fit-PC4 is available now in either a $299 (Value-Barebone) or $380 (Pro-Barebone) model.

Source: CompuLab

Samsung Galaxy S5 Coming To Sprint MVNOs In Q2 2014

Subject: Mobile | March 2, 2014 - 12:21 AM |
Tagged: virgin mobile, Sprint, Samsung, mvno, galaxy s5, boost mobile

Samsung officially launched the Galaxy S5 at MWC last month, with tweaked software and slightly improved hardware specifications. The new smartphone will launch in 150 countries, including the US, on April 11th. Unfortunately, Samsung did not disclose the exact pricing and carriers that will offer the device at launch. Naturally, the big US carriers will all get the latest flagship at some point this year, but beyond that it is hard to say who will pick it up and who will pass. With that said, at least two MVNOs are confirmed to be offering up the Galaxy S5 later this year.

Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile are MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) that run pre-paid cell phone plans without contracts that run hardware on Sprint's cellular network. The two carriers announced on their respective Facebook pages that the Galaxy S5 is officially coming to their network in the second quarter of this year. Both companies are remaining silent on the pricing of the smartphone though, with a Virgin Mobile representative stating that the company did not have pricing information yet.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Coming to Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile Sprint MVNOs.jpg

Users can expect to pay nearly full price for the Galaxy S5 as the pre-paid carriers do not subsidize the price over a multi-year contract. I would expect the phone to go for around $800, however. While it may seem counter-intuitive to pay upwards of $800 out of pocket only to run it on a cheap MVNO, there are still cost savings to be realized so long as you are not upgrading every year. More options are always nice, and seeing a flagship smartphone coming to MVNOs so soon after launch is a welcome change. Here's hoping more MVNOs jump on board, especially those using alternative networks for pre-paid customers living in areas with poor Sprint coverage.

Source: Engadget

Corsair Blogs About... Oh Come On!

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | March 1, 2014 - 09:51 PM |
Tagged: corsair, mining

When mining some form of cryptographic coin, very few components in the system are utilized. A GPU is basically a self-contained massively parallel cruncher with its own memory and logic. The host system just needs to batch the tasks which leads to PCs with dirt-cheap CPUs, a very modest amount of RAM, and quite literally a half-dozen high-end graphics cards.

If you thought that gaming machines skew a little too much towards GPUs, you should see a mining rig with five R9 290X cards fed by a Sempron.

corsair-extender.jpg

As you can guess, since many GPUs are double-slot, it might be difficult to fit seven of them in a seven-slot motherboard with a limited number PCIe lanes. To get around this limitation, miners attach their graphics cards to extension cables. Thankfully (for them), mining does not pass a lot of data across the bus to the host system. Even a single PCIe fails to be a bottleneck, apparently.

Anyway, the Corsair blog created an open-air rack which hangs six graphics cards (five HD 7970s and a R9 290X) above a motherboard housing an Intel Celeron G1830. For air, a quartet of Corsair fans suck air upwards and around the graphics cards. For power, of course they use the Corsair AX1500i because why not mine with an arc welding torch. It apparently had more power capacity than the breaker they originally hooked it up to. Whoops.

corsair-side-fans.jpg

While ridiculous, I do hope to see systems with multiple (even mismatched) graphics processors as we move toward batches of general mathematics. PhysX was not entirely successful in teaching users that GPUs do not need to be in SLi or Crossfire configurations to load balance. It is just finding an appropriate way to split tasks without requiring a lot of bottlenecks in setting it up.

I might not mine coins, but I could see some benefit to having 35 TeraFLOPs across seven compute devices. I could also see Corsair wanting to sell me a power supply for said PC.

Source: Corsair

Raspberry Pi Foundation: $10,000 Reward for Quake III

Subject: General Tech, Systems | March 1, 2014 - 03:51 AM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is a tiny and cheap (as in a starting price of ~$28) computer that was originally intended for educational purposes. It is built around a Broadcom BCM2835 SoC which itself is based on the ARM architecture. Its VideoCore IV 3D graphics processor relies upon a closed-source driver because, until yesterday, Broadcom had not provided documentation or code. Technically, the code they released is for a different SoC but both Broadcomm and the Raspberry Pi Foundation believe the tools are there to port it over.

And the foundation wants to drum up interest by offering a $10,000 bounty for Quake III running acceptably on the Pi with the ported open source drivers.

rasppie.jpg

If interested, you can look at Broadcom for the documentation and 3-clause BSD-licensed source code. You can also check out the Raspberry Pi Foundation for a blog post which mentions the competition (as well as their 2-year anniversary). GPU drivers are a good thing to be open-sourced. As I have been saying, the further "upstream" a piece of code is, the more it trickles down as a dependency for other software. The vocabulary that software needs to communicate with a hardware platform is quite high up there. Leaving those tools to society is a good thing for society.

Granted, it will probably not have a meaningful impact in this case... but there is a chance.

Amazon May Integrate Music Streaming Into Prime Subscription Service

Subject: General Tech | March 1, 2014 - 02:59 AM |
Tagged: prime instant video, prime, music streaming, amazon

Amazon has been exploring changes to its Prime subscription service, and while drone air delivery may be years out, a music streaming service is a realistic possibility. The company already offers video streaming via its Prime service in the form of a limited selection of its total Instant Video library that can be streamed for free with a yearly Prime subscription. on the music side of things specifically, Amazon already has a massive downloadable paid-for MP3 library with a browser-based (and a new PC application) digital locker and media player. 

Amazon Cloud Player.jpg

Amazon Cloud Player, a browser-based media player for purchased MP3 files.

In short, all of the pieces for a music streaming service are in place. Amazon has the e-commerce and programing experience, distribution medium, and gobs of cloud storage and processing power. Amazon simply needs the go-ahead from the labels in the form of licensing agreements which appear to be in progress according to Recode.

Amazon Prime Streaming.jpg

An Amazon-run music streaming service would face stiff competition from existing competitors such as Spotify, but if any company can come in and make it work at scale in a competitive market it is Amazon. Especially if Amazon is able to replicate music streaming and offline caching using mobile apps like Spotify offers without charging extra for the privilege. Music streaming seems to be a natural addition to its Prime Instant offering, and may just be the spoonful of sugar that makes a possible Prime subscription price increase easier to swallow.

Should Amazon and the music labels nail down a pricing agreement, I am interested to see what Amazon is able to offer in terms of user experience, applications, and library size.

Source: The Verge

Microsoft's Windows Store Growing Rapidly, Now At 4 Million Downloads Per Day

Subject: General Tech | March 1, 2014 - 02:16 AM |
Tagged: microsoft, Windows Store, appstore

Microsoft introduced its own application download repository with Windows 8 along with an SDK for developers to put together touch friendly applications around the formerly-Metro-No-Longer-Modern-Whatever-It-Is-Called-This-Month user interface. Dubbed the Windows Store, it would be the source of applications for Windows RT, Windows Phone, and Windows x86/64 alike.

Since the release of Windows 8 Consumer Preview in February 2012, users have been able to use the Windows Store application to search for and download both free and paid-for apps. The Windows Store is a curated marketplace with applications that must be certified for compatibility by Microsoft who takes a percentage of sale price (30% or less depending on number of downloads).

Microsoft Windows Store.png

At the end of last year, Microsoft had approximately 142,000 apps listed in the Store. Further, the company is seeing as many as 4 million application downloads per day from the Store. The 4 million downloads per day number was uncovered by Alex Wilhelm at TechCrunch, and is a 134.6% increase over the downloads/day number from October 2013. The breakdown of application type is pre-dominately free with paid applications acconting for less than half of the daily downloads (which makes sense).

At the current download rate, Microsoft could push as many as 1.46 billion app downloads a year. All things considered, the Windows Store is still dwarfed in downloads, number of apps, and popularity by the iOS, Google, and Mac app stores, but it is showing a surprising amount of growth lately. Hopefully this rise in popularity will beget more popularity from the cycle of developers getting interested in the Store and users getting new applications. (Ideally, as the Windows Store userbase grows, developers will have increased incentive to program new, or port existing, apps to Metro which should further bring in new users and so on).

Have you used the Windows Store to find new Start Screen apps?

Source: TechCrunch

Steam Family Sharing Is Now Available For All Users

Subject: General Tech | February 28, 2014 - 06:36 PM |
Tagged: steam, valve

Today, Valve announced that its Steam Family Sharing program is available for all users. This initiative allows Steam accounts to authorize devices to access their library on other accounts. The intention is for each family member to have their own account while being able to borrow games from one another. This can also extend to "their guests". It does not include titles which use third-party DRM, accounts, or subscriptions - Valve obviously does not have direct control over them.

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There are other rules and restrictions, of course, but the account and device limits are quite high: 5 accounts across 10 devices. This does not get around region locks and a game which is VAC-banned cannot be shared. Ultimately, be careful sharing your games with your kids if they are jerks.

To setup Family Library Sharing in the Steam Client, go to View > Settings > Family and start to authorize and manage other computers. Just do not allow Cheating Charlie. For more information, check out Valve's promotional site and FAQ.

Source: Valve

Supercharge your Chromebook

Subject: General Tech | February 28, 2014 - 02:39 PM |
Tagged: linux, Chromebook

If you have purchased the Acer C720 Chromebook because it was relatively quick and very inexpensive you have probably been happy with it but maybe you wish it could do more.  To do so you could follow these instructions to install either Ubuntu or Bohdi Linux.  The process is a little more complicated than installing the OS from a CD but they have provided step by step instructions on how to accomplish this process.  Bring new life to your Chromebook with just a bit of work.

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"Chromebooks are amazing little machines. They are a marvel of speed and simplicity. The Acer C720 Chromebook is certainly near the top of the list of Chromebooks to be purchased (next to the Chromebook Pixel, of course). It's speedy and it's inexpensive. But for some, the simplistic nature of the devices doesn't offer enough power or flexibility. For those who need more from this Acer platform, I have the answer – in fact, I have two answers."

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Source: Linux.com