Add-ons Might Be Included in IE "Spartan"

Subject: General Tech | September 15, 2014 - 01:49 PM |
Tagged: spartan, microsoft, internet explorer 12, internet explorer, ie12, extension

The next version of Internet Explorer is said to be codenamed "Spartan". The allusions to Halo from internal Microsoft names are strong this year. One exciting rumor is the ability to run native, x86 code as a browser extension. This is expected to be built upon the Xax browser plugin model, published as a white paper by Microsoft Research six years ago. Its age should be noted when reading how it discusses JavaScript compatibility and performance. A lot has happened since then.

ie11.png

But why would Internet Explorer need extensions? The first, and most obvious, answer is that Microsoft is trying to win back some enthusiasts to their browser (and its platforms). If Microsoft relaxes certification requirements for extensions, compared to Windows Store, it could also bridge the gap between native app and web app for enterprises, especially smaller businesses, a give them a platform without the burden of sideloading.

We might also see this being used by third parties to contribute to Internet Explorer development. In much the same way as Nokia experiments with WebCL by a Firefox extension, others could use Internet Explorer add-ons as a testing ground. In fact, according to their aforementioned 2008 paper, Microsoft Research already tested an OpenGL rendering stack in Xax.

We will probably find out more about the next IE soon.

Source: ZDNet

VESA Releases DisplayPort 1.3 Standard

Subject: General Tech, Displays | September 15, 2014 - 01:05 PM |
Tagged: displayport 1.3, freesync, 5k, vesa, dockport

It is official, DisplayPort 1.3 has finished VESA approval and should be hitting the streets in the near future.  Freesync support came with 1.2a which is why it was not mentioned, however DockPort has been enhanced with the higher 8.1 Gbps link rate for each of the four lanes present which means you can support a 4k monitor using two of those lanes, leaving the other two available for USB, audio or even power.

This also means that 4k and even 5k monitors can function over a single DisplayPort 1.3 cable without any compression and with the use of VESA's Coordinated Video Timing you can have a pair of 4k monitors function in multi-monitor mode ... assuming you have the graphical horsepower to run 7680 x 2160.  It is rather impressive to see this jump to 32.4 Gbps combined link rate that can deliver 25.92 Gbps of uncompressed video data.

dp2.jpg

Newark, CA (15 September 2014) The Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) announced the release of the DisplayPort 1.3 audio / video (A/V) standard. An update to the widely used DisplayPort 1.2a standard, this latest version increases the maximum link bandwidth to 32.4 Gbps, with each of four lanes running at a link rate of 8.1 Gbps/lane a 50% increase from the previous version of the DisplayPort standard. Allowing for transport overhead, DisplayPort's 32.4 Gbps combined link rate delivers 25.92 Gbps of uncompressed video data.

The increased bandwidth enables higher resolution monitors, including recently announced 5K monitors (with pixel resolutions of 5120 x 2880) using a single DisplayPort cable without the use of compression. It will also enable higher resolutions when driving multiple monitors through a single connection using DisplayPort's Multi-Stream feature, such as the use of two 4K UHD monitors, each with a pixel resolution of 3840 x 2160, when using VESA Coordinated Video Timing.

DisplayPort 1.3 continues to support video conversion to VGA, DVI and HDMI. DisplayPort 1.3 adds support for HDCP 2.2 and HDMI 2.0 with CEC (Consumer Electronics Control), which enhances DisplayPort's utility for television applications, including 4K video with copy protection. The new standard adds support for the 4:2:0 pixel structure, a video format commonly used on consumer digital television interfaces, which enables support for future 8K x 4K displays.

dp1.jpg

DisplayPort 1.3 also enhances DisplayPort's value for multi-function interfaces that combine data transport, A/V transport and other capabilities on a single cable. It further refines protocols that enable DisplayPort to share a single cable with other data types. With its higher 8.1 Gbps per-lane link rate, DisplayPort 1.3 can support a single UHD monitor with 60Hz refresh and 24-bit color over two lanes, while assigning the remaining two lanes to increase capacity for alternate data types, such as SuperSpeed USB data, as allowed in DockPort. DisplayPort is the A/V transport standard used by DockPort, Thunderbolt and other wired and wireless multi-function interface standards.

While becoming a mainstream video standard, DisplayPort continues to be at the cutting edge of A/V transport, said VESA Board of Directors Chair Alan Kobayashi, Fellow & Executive R&D Management for DisplayPort Group at MegaChips Technology America. These new enhancements to DisplayPort will facilitate both higher resolution displays, as well as easier integration of DisplayPort into multi-protocol data transports, which will satisfy consumer's desire for simplicity and ease-of-use.

The DisplayPort standard is offered to VESA members without any license fee. For more information about DisplayPort, please visit http://www.displayport.org or connect with us on YouTube.

Source: VESA

Mojang Sells to Microsoft for $2.5 Billion. Founders Leave.

Subject: General Tech | September 15, 2014 - 12:23 PM |
Tagged: Mojang, Minecraft, microsoft

Mojang AB, a company with about 22 employees, has been sold to Microsoft for $2.5 billion. Being that the studio is based in Sweden, I would expect that it was purchased with funds that would be taxed heavily if brought back into the States, so the large sum might not feel as large to Microsoft as if they were purchasing an American company. It should be noted that they did not require that the founders, Notch, Carl, and Jakob, stay on as employees -- and they aren't.

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This, of course, leads to many concerns for die-hard Minecraft fans. First of all, what platforms (if any) will be deprecated? PlayStation? Mac? Linux? Java itself? Second, how will Microsoft change the franchise? Will they remain faithful? Will they reduce or remove third party content?

As for the founders? Only Notch seems to have commented on his next plans: participating in game making competitions and creating "small web experiments". Additionally, he says, "If I ever accidentally make something that seems to gain traction, I'll probably abandon it immediately." Most of his blog post references issues between Mojang and its community, regarding the EULA, server and mod monetization, possibly the CraftBucket GPL issue, and so forth. Honestly, I like the idea that Notch would spend a significant amount of free time developing web demos. I think he would contribute a lot to Web standards, especially if he is happy doing it.

As for Microsoft? Clearly they are buying Minecraft because they are running out of Halo codenames.

Source: Mojang

Upgrade your selfies to the next level with these new products announced at IDF

Subject: General Tech | September 15, 2014 - 12:00 PM |
Tagged: idf 2014, sony, Panasonic, Samsung, cameras

At IDF there were a few new cameras on display which caught The Register's attention in amongst the smart appliances and other gadgets.  For the highest quality selfies try the Panasonic HX-500 4K activity cam which is good at depths of up to 3 metres for up to 30 minutes.  Perhaps you would prefer to pair your Galaxy Note 4 with the Samsung Galaxy VR headset to give you an Occulus like look at the world; a 96-degree view which is intended to look like a 175-inch screen seen from 2 metres away.   Samsung users could also pick up the Olloclip for Android, giving you fisheye and wide angle lenses for your Galaxy S4 or S5.  There is more in the article, check them all out here.

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"Image is everything - or so it has been said, and if the gadgets at the recent IFA techfest in Berlin are anything to go by then manufacturers certainly seem to think we’re image obsessed. With selfies being a global compulsion, perhaps they know us better than we know ourselves."

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Source: The Register

Stanford & Berkeley Announce Tiny, Signal-Powered Radios

Subject: General Tech, Networking, Mobile | September 14, 2014 - 11:24 PM |
Tagged: radio-on-a-chip, iot, internet of things

Tiny and passively-powered radios would make for some interesting applications. One major issue is that you cannot shrink an antenna down infinitely; its size is dependent upon the wavelength of EM radiation that it is trying to detect. Researchers at Stanford and Berkeley have announced "ant-sized" radio-on-a-chip devices, fabricated at 65nm, which are powered by the signal that they gather.

stanford-antenna.jpg

The catch is that, because their antenna is on the order of a few millimeters, it is tuned for ~60 GHz. There are reasons why you do not see too many devices operate at this frequency. First, processing that signal with transistors is basically a non-starter, so they apparently designed a standard integrated circuit for the task.

The other problem is that 60 GHz is an Extremely High Frequency (EHF) and, with its high frequency, is very difficult to transmit over long ranges. The 57-64 GHz region, in particular, is a range which oxygen resonates at. While it is possible to brute-force a powerful signal through a sensitive antenna, that defeats the above purpose. Of course, the researchers have been honest about this. Right in their IEEE abstract, they claim a current, measured range of 50cm. In their Stanford press release, they state that this is designed to be part of a network with units every meter (or so). Current bandwidth is a little over 12 megabit.

Simply put, this will not become your new WiFi hotspot. However, for small and connected devices that are in close proximity, this could provide an interesting communication method for when size, cost, and power efficiency trump speed and range.

Source: Stanford

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Is Selling Out?

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 14, 2014 - 10:31 PM |
Tagged: surface 3, surface, microsoft

Through their blog, Microsoft claims that their Surface Pro 3 devices are selling out in their recently added, overseas markets. In parts of Australia, all models were sold out early in the first day (we can of course question how many is "some retailers" and how much stock each had). The company expects to have appropriate stock levels in a week or two.

microsoft-surface-pro-3.jpg

Honestly, I never quite get these announcements of low stock. While it is better than having too much stock, and these releases might ease the nerves of shy investors, having too low stock is a problem, too. It is often a sign of something lacking: production, confidence, market insight, distribution, and so forth. It can tell an interesting story if these sales figures are immense, see the Nintendo Wii, but often it just raises a critical eyebrow. This is especially true if concrete figures are danced around.

I mean, if someone is at a store and looking for a Surface but none is available, do you really need to let them know that you intend to make more?

Source: Microsoft

Engadget and Ars Technica Reviews Moto 360

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 14, 2014 - 07:11 PM |
Tagged: motorola, moto 360, smartwatch

When I covered the announcement of the Apple Watch, one of our readers pointed out that we had very little smart watch coverage. That is fair critique, and I can see how it appeared to give Apple an unfair slant. As far as I know, we will not be reviewing any smart watch, of any sort, for the foreseeable future (my phone still runs Froyo). Engadget and Ars Technica did, though.

motorola-360.jpg

Android Wear launched with three smart watches: the LG G Watch, the Samsung Gear Live, and (after a little delay) the Motorola Moto 360. The third one is a bit different from the other two in that it features a round screen. Both sites like the design but complain about its use of a TI OMAP3 SoC and its limited battery life. The OMAP3630 is manufactured at 45nm, which is a few process shrinks behind today's 28nm products and soon-to-be-released devices with 20nm and 14nm processors. With a 300mAh battery, a little less than a half or a third of a typical AAA battery, this leads to frequent charging. The question is whether this will be the same for all smart watches, and we don't know that yet. The Samsung and the LG smart watches, under Ars Technica's custom benchmark, vastly outperform it, though.

Engadget also complained about its price, at $250 and $299, which is actually $100 and $50 less than Apple's starting price. Ars Technica neither praised nor complained about the price.

Source: Engadget

Intex Cloud Fx Is a $35 Firefox OS Phone (not for USA)

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 13, 2014 - 07:12 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, intex, Firefox OS, firefox, cloud fx

If you were on a mission to make the cheapest possible mobile phone, you would probably not do much better than Intex Cloud Fx. Running Firefox OS, it will cost users about $35 to purchase it outright. Its goal is to bring the internet to places which would otherwise have nothing.

Intex-Cloud-FX-2.jpg

I believe the largest concession made by this phone is its RAM -- 128 MB. Yes, I had a computer with 32 MB of RAM and it browsed the internet just fine (on Netscape Navigator 2 through 4). I also had a computer before that (which was too slow to run Windows 3.1 but hey it had a turbo button). This is also the amount of RAM on the first and second generation iPod Touches. Nowadays, it is very little. Ars Technica allegedly made it crash by scrolling too fast and attempting to run benchmarks on it. This leads into its other, major compromise: its wireless connectivity. It does not support 3G. Edge is the best that you will get.

Other than those two points: it has a 1 GHz Spreadtrum SoC, 46MB of storage, a 2MP camera, and a 1250mAh battery. You do get WiFi, Bluetooth, and a microSD card slot. It also supports two SIM cards if necessary.

Again, at $35, this is not designed for America or Western Europe. This is for the areas of the world that will probably not experience the internet at all unless it is through a mobile phone. For people in India and Asia, it is about the lowest barrier to entry of the internet that is possible. You can also check out phones from other partners of Mozilla.

Source: Ars Technica

ChromeOS Gets Android "App Runtime for Chrome (Beta)"

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 13, 2014 - 02:52 PM |
Tagged: google, chrome os, Android

To some extent...

This is not the entire Google Play Store; in fact, it is just four Android apps at launch: Duolingo, Evernote, Sight Words, and Vine. According to a Google spokesperson, via Ars Technica, the company built an Android platform on top of Native Client, which is their way of sandboxing (a subset of) native code for use in applications which require strict security (such as a web browser). Android apps can then see and use those platform-dependent Android APIs, but be kept at two arms-lengths away from the host system.

chrome-os-android.png

From the app's standpoint, code will not need to be changed or ported. Of course, this is sound in theory, but little bugs can surface in actual practice. In fact, Flipboard was demonstrated at Google I/O under this initiative but is curiously absent from launch. To me, it seems like a few bugs need to be resolved before it is deemed compatible (it is dubbed "Beta" after all). Another possibility is that the app was not yet optimized for a Chromebook's user experience. Claiming either would be pure speculation, so who knows?

Android apps using App Runtime for Chrome (Beta) are available now at the Chrome Web Store.

Source: Google

Skip tailoring your suit, scan yourself for the perfect fit

Subject: General Tech | September 12, 2014 - 01:41 PM |
Tagged: Realsense 3D, idf 2014, 3D rendering, 3d printing

There was an interesting use of Intel's Realsense 3D technology displayed at IDF by a company called Volumental.  By using a new product with the new style of camera it would be possible to make a 3D map of your body accurate enough to make clothing patterns from.  The example offered were a pair shoes that could be ordered online with no concerns about the fit as the shoes would be perfect for you.  That is just the beginning though, you would also be able to order a perfectly tailored suit online without ever needing to appear in person for a fitting.  It could also lead to an even worse Fappening in the future; choose your online clothing supplier carefully.  There is more here at The Inquirer.

idf-intel-volumental-shoes-3d-scanning-demoed-540x334.JPG

"The proof of concept software, called Volume Voice[sic], accurately scans parts of the human body with Intel's Realsense 3D depth cameras, which will soon feature on Intel-powered laptops and tablets. Volumental's cloud-based platform will then allow individuals to create products that are tailored to their own bodies, for example, shoes that fit perfectly without the need to try them on before buying."

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Source: The Inquirer