Intel and Google Host Chrome OS Event, Announce New Products With Haswell i3 and Bay Trail SoCs

Subject: General Tech | May 6, 2014 - 03:01 PM |
Tagged: Intel, haswell, Chromebox, Chromebook, Chromebase, chrome os, Bay Trail

Intel hosted an event on Chrome OS today where the company discussed its partnership with Google and announced new Chrome devices based on the company's latest generation Haswell and Bay Trail processors.

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Intel continues to work with Google to develop the Chromebook and the company sees potential for Chrome OS devices to expand to additional markets outside of consumer and education. Specifically, Intel and Google are pushing into the commercial markets by working with OEMs to put together devices aimed at corporate customers as productivity machines, video conferencing boxes, and drivers of customer kiosks and digital signage.

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In addition to the expansion to new markets, the existing consumer and education markets continue to grow with the use of Chromebooks in schools doubling versus last quarter with 10,000 schools now employing the Google-powered hardware. Consumers have also pushed Chromebooks to the top six of Amazon charts with the Acer C720 having 4.4 out of five stars and over a thousand customer reviews.

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Chrome OS is not only expanding into other markets but to additional form factors in the form of Chrome Boxes and Chrome Bases which are small form factor desktop systems and All-In-One devices powered by Chrome OS respectively. The second half of this year will see the number of Chrome OS devices expand from four design choices by four OEMs to twenty design choices from at least nine OEMs.

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The upcoming Chrome OS devices will be powered by new processor options from Intel in the form of conflict-free Intel Haswell Core i3 CPUs and Intel Bay Trail SoCs. The Haswell Core i3 option is an upgrade over the Pentium and Celeron "Entry Level Haswell" parts and offer increased performance in offline computing tasks, app switching, and multi-tasking. The Bay Trail parts will enable passively cooled (fan-less) Chromebooks with around 8 hours (up to 11 hours+) of battery life while still offering up acceptable performance for watching videos or working with documents. Intel further claims that the Bay Trail powered Chromebooks will be thinner at less than 18mm and up to 15% lighter than existing models.

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An 11.6" Chromebook powered by an Intel Haswell Core i3 processor coming later this year.

Intel showed off several new Chrome OS products that will be coming later this year. The new Chromebooks include Haswell i3-powered laptops from Acer and Dell for $349, the Lenovo N20 Chrome and N20p Chrome powered by an Intel Celeron (Bay Trail) SoC, and the Intel Education Chromebook Reference Design which CTL will bring to market later this year. It was also revealed that the already-announced Lenovo ThinkPad Chromebook with its Yoga-style hinge will actually use a Bay Trail SoC.

The Intel Education Chromebook Reference Design is a platform designed by Intel that other OEMs can take, tweak, and bring to market. It is a clamshell-style laptop with a rotating camera and ruggedized chassis aimed at students.

Intel Education Chromebook Reference Design.jpg

Intel's reference platform is a ruggedized clamshell laptop aimed at students.

Laptops and tablets dominated the show, but the company did unveil a tiny new Chrome Box from HP (slated for availability in June) that can sit behind a computer display or be used to drive digital signage and customer kiosks.

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Further, Intel demonstrated a new Chrome OS form factor with what it calls a "Chrome Base." The first Chrome Base is coming from LG later this month as a 21" All In One computer running Chrome OS for $349.

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Chrome OS in general is expanding from traditional clamshell laptops to larger screens and alternative form factors (desktop, tablet, convertible, et al), and when asked about the future of touch on Chrome OS and the overlap between Android and Chrome OS Caesar Sengupta, VP of Product Management at Google, explained that the company feels that touch is a key aspect in the computing experience and that Google is interested in supporting and improving touch on Chrome OS and evaluating customer use on alternative form factors. Further, Mr Sengupta stated that Google is focusing on Chromebooks, Chrome Boxes, and the new All In One Chrome Bases with physical keyboards for Chrome OS while Android is focused on mobile phones and touch-based tablets. As OEMs introduce more touch-friendly and acrobatic hinged Chrome devices, there is likely to be some overlap, but ultimately decisions affecting the directions of the two OSes will be based on customer demand.

Google also used the event to announce that within the next few weeks users will be able to play movies and TV shows offline using the Google Play Movies Chrome app.

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Overall, the event demonstrated that Chrome OS is growing at a healthy pace. Devices using the cloud-friendly operating system will be in 20 countries by the end of this year (versus 9 currently), and the new x86 processor options will enable a smoother user experience and faster application performance. I am genuinely interested to see where OEMs are able to take Chrome OS and what it is able to do as Google continues development of the software.

If you are interested, you can watch a recorded version of the live stream on the Intel website.

Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more Chrome device news as the hardware gets closer to release.

Source: Intel

Building a SkyBridge in 64 bits, between ARM and x86

Subject: General Tech | May 6, 2014 - 02:31 PM |
Tagged: amd, arm, project skybridge, k12

The Register has put together an overview of what AMD discussed yesterday about the K12 processor and Project Skybridge.  The most impressive feat is Project SkyBridge; with the license AMD now has to develop ARMv8 architecture they will be creating pin compatible ARM and x86 SoCs, so you can choose which you want to drop in your server and can easily change your mind any time in the future.  The more traditional 64-bit x86 processors will be "Puma+" cores while the ARM SoCs will be 64-bit A57s, and will not only be fully HSA compliant but will be able to run Android.  They also delve into AMD's upcoming strategy to remain a valid contender in the silicon ring, read on to get a glimpse into Papermaster's brain.

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"AMD has announced that it will create pin-compatible 64-bit x86 and ARM SoCs in an effort it's calling "Project SkyBridge", and that it has licensed the ARMv8 architecture and will design its own home-grown ARM-based processors."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register
Author:
Manufacturer: Anker

Upgrades from Anker

Last year we started to have a large amount of mobile devices around the office including smartphones, tablets and even convertibles like the ASUS T100, all of which were charged with USB connections. While not a hassle when you are charging one or two units at time, having 6+ on our desks on any day started to become a problem for our less numerous wall outlets. Our solution last year was Anker's E150 25 watt wall charger that we did a short video overview on.

It was great but had limitations including different charging rates depending on the port you connected it to, limited output of 5 Amps total for all five ports and fixed outputs per port. Today we are taking a look at a pair of new Anker devices that implement smart ports called PowerIQ that enable the battery and wall charger to send as much power to the charging device as it requests, regardless of what physical port it is attached to.

We'll start with the updated Anker 40 watt 5-port wall charger and then move on to discuss the 3-port mobile battery charger, both of which share the PowerIQ feature.

Anker 40 watt 5-Port Wall Charger

The new Anker 5-port wall charger is actually smaller than the previous generation but offers superior specifications at all feature points. This unit can push out more than 40 watts total combined through all five USB ports, 5 volts at as much as 8 amps. All 8 amps can in fact go through a single USB charging port we are told if there was a device that would request that much - we don't have anything going above 2.3A it seems in our offices.

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Any USB port can be used for any device on this new model, it doesn't matter where it plugs in. This great simplifies things from a user experience point of view as you don't have to hold the unit up to your face to read the tiny text that existed on the E150. With 8 amps spread across all five ports you should have more than enough power to charge all your devices at full speed. If you happen to have five iPads charging at the same time, that would exceed 8A and all the devices charge rates would be a bit lower.

Continue reading our review of the Anker 40 watt 5-port Wall Charger and 2nd Gen Astro3 12000 mAh Battery!!

Internet Explorer 11 Is a Good Browser

Subject: General Tech | May 6, 2014 - 04:16 AM |
Tagged: Internet Explorer 11, IE11

According to Peter Bright of Ars Technica and their source, NetMarketshare, Internet Explorer 11 is steadily increasing in popularity. The browser is, now, more popular than both IE10 and IE9, combined. To put that into perspective, IE11, alone, is just a few percent shy of their entire Firefox usage numbers.

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Of course, these figures change wildly depending on who performs the measurement. Wikimedia, for instance, claims that only 18% of their users are browsing with IE (NetMarketshare says 58%). W3Counter also has a significantly higher volume of Safari users, almost triple, than anyone else. (Update: 5/6/2014 @ 1:18pm EDT -- That 18% figure probably does not include IE11. Actual IE figure, including IE11, is probably ~25%)

Still, Internet Explorer 11 is Microsoft doing things right. They are embracing web standards, including ones which are outside the realm of the W3C. Because of WebGL's potential impact for web apps, they have even accepted it, a Khronos Group standard, into their ecosystem. IE11 shows what Microsoft can do when they need to. They were being pushed around by Google Chrome and mobile app platforms and, in response, they made a really good browser. Hopefully its adoption weeds out old Internet Explorer versions and give us a healthy mix of truly standards-compliant browsers.

Maybe then, we can truly write just one frickin' website.

Source: Ars Technica

SanDisk Unveils 4TB SSDs... Because.

Subject: General Tech, Storage | May 6, 2014 - 03:46 AM |
Tagged: toshiba, ssd, sandisk, 4TB SSD

If you are an enterprise, SanDisk is getting a bit SAS-y with some pretty large SSDs. How large? 4TB. Not large enough? Why are you the way you are. Also, according to VR-Zone, 6TB and 8TB versions will follow, in 2015 (Update: 5/6/2014 @ 5:56pm EST -- VR-Zone might have meant "16TB"... as Tom's IT Pro claims to have heard from SanDisk). These drives will be produced with 19nm NAND, not utilizing the 15nm cells from their partnership with Toshiba. SanDisk claims their choice of 19nm was for reliability. Also, clearly, they are not suffering with density.

Speaking of reliability, the SanDisk warranty is rated in both time as well as the supported number of full drive writes per day. The Optimus MAX SSD is rated at one-to-three drive writes per day, or 4-12TB per day, over the course of its 5-year warranty.

4TB Optimus MAX SSDs are expected to launch "to select OEMs and through the channel" in Q3.

Source: SanDisk

Intel Leaks: Skylake and 100-Series Chipsets Expected 2015

Subject: General Tech, Processors | May 6, 2014 - 03:19 AM |
Tagged: Skylake, Intel, Broadwell

VR-Zone is returning to their "leak everything Intel has" gig with a few light details about Skylake, the architecture after Broadwell, and its accompanying 100-Series chipset. The main detail is that Skylake, despite Broadwell and its delays, is still expected for 2015. This sort of makes sense, because this architecture runs on the same 14nm fabrication process as Broadwell, but it is surprising nonetheless. Intel could have slowed down its entire release cycle to compensate for how difficult it is to make smaller transistors and keep a steady "Tick-Tock".

Or maybe they hope that the process shrink after Skylake, Cannonlake at 10nm, will be on schedule?

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Image Credit: VR-Zone

The second major detail is the available sockets. A couple of years ago, there was a fear that Intel would drop LGA sockets, starting with Broadwell, and switch entirely to the non-replaceable BGA soldered-to-the-motherboard format. Intel has later decided to support LGA with Broadwell and that will continue with Skylake.

This leads us to the third major detail - product categories. There will be four of them in the consumer range: H (BGA) for regular notebooks, Y (BGA) for desktops and all-in-ones, U (BGA) for ultrabooks, and S (LGA) for standard desktop computers. The slide lists a few more details which I believe signify core count and GPU version. If so, the lineup of Skylake processors would be the following:

  • (BGA) Quad Core Skylake-H with GT2 Graphics
  • (BGA) Quad Core Skylake-H with GT4e Graphics, the successor to Iris Pro.
  • (BGA) Dual Core Skylake-Y with GT2 Graphics
  • (BGA) Dual Core Skylake-U with GT2 Graphics
  • (BGA) Dual Core Skylake-U with GT3e Iris Pro Graphics
  • (LGA) Quad Core Skylake-S with GT2 Graphics
  • (LGA) Dual Core Skylake-S with GT2 Graphics
  • (LGA) Quad Core Skylake-S with GT4e Graphics, the successor to Iris Pro.

The inclusion of an enthusiast, LGA SKU with GT4e graphics is promising, especially for us. We, of course, continue to want products that we can, you know, buy and put into our desktops at will. It will certainly be interesting to see how these GPUs perform and it could lead to some healthy SteamOS builds.

There's a lot of information here. Expect us to chew on this over the next little while.

Source: VR-Zone

Lenovo Launches Two New 11-Inch Chromebooks

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 6, 2014 - 02:48 AM |
Tagged: Lenovo, Chromebook, celeron, Intel

Today, Lenovo announced its first set of Chromebooks aimed at consumers. The N20 Chrome and N20p Chrome Chromebooks join the existing ThinkPad branded Chromebooks which targeted the education sector. The new N20 series devices are 11.6” laptops weighing less than 3.1 pounds powered by an Intel Celeron chip and running Google’s Chrome OS.

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The base N20 Chrome is a traditional laptop sans touchscreen or Yoga-style acrobatics.

Both the N20 Chrome and N20p Chrome sport an 11.6” display with a resolution of 1366x768, a 1 megapixel webcam, stereo speakers, AccuType keyboards, and large trackpads. Further, the Chromebooks have two USB ports, one HDMI output, a SD card slot, and an audio mic/headphone combo jack. Wireless connectivity includes 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.2.

The N20 Chrome has a traditional laptop clamshell design while the N20p Chrome features a 300° hinge that allows the display to flip around into tent mode as well as the traditional laptop mode. Further, the N20p Chrome adds a 10-point multi-touch digitizer to the 11.6” display. The N20 Chrome weighs 2.8 lbs (1.3 kg) whereas the N20p Chrome weighs 3.1 lbs (1.4 kg) because of the added hinge and digitizer. Both models come in Graphite Grey with silver accents.

Internally, Lenovo has gone with an unspecified Intel Celeron processor (with Intel integrated graphics), up to 4GB of DDR3L memory, and up to 16GB of eMMC storage (expandable via SD card). Lenovo is pairing the device with up to 100GB of Google Drive cloud storage as well. Lenovo claims up to 8 hours of battery life which bodes well for students and office workers on the go.

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The N20p Chrome with its 11.6" 10-point multi-touch display and 300° hinge.

The N20 Chrome will be available in July for $279 while the N20p Chrome is coming in August with an MSRP of $329. Lenovo’s first take at consumer Chromebooks looks to have all the right pieces. The company should have a very successful product on its hands so long as the keyboards and overall build quality hold up to reviews.

Read more about Chromebooks @ PC Perspective!

Source: Lenovo

Mozilla Makes Suggestions to the FCC about Net Neutrality

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | May 5, 2014 - 08:08 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, net neutrality

Recently, the FCC has been moving to give up Net Neutrality. Mozilla, being dedicated to the free (as in speech) and open internet, has offered a simple compromise. Their proposal is that the FCC classifies internet service providers (ISPs) as common carriers on the server side, forcing restrictions on them to prevent discrimination of traffic to customers, while allowing them to be "information services" to consumers.

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In other words, force ISPs to allow services to have unrestricted access to consumers, without flipping unnecessary tables with content distribution (TV, etc.) services. Like all possibilities so far, it could have some consequences, however.

"Net Neutrality" is a hot issue lately. Simply put, the internet gives society an affordable method of sharing information. How much is "just information" is catching numerous industries off guard, including ones which Internet Service Providers (ISPs) participate in (such as TV and Movie distribution), and that leads to serious tensions.

On the one hand, these companies want to protect their existing business models. They want consumers to continue to select their cable and satellite TV packages, on-demand videos, and other services at controlled profit margins and without the stress and uncertainty of competing.

On the other hand, if the world changes, they want to be the winner in that new reality. Yikes.

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A... bad... photograph of Mozilla's "UP" anti-datamining proposal.

Mozilla's proposal is very typical of them. They tend to propose compromises which divides an issue such that both sides get the majority of their needs. Another good example is "UP", or User Personalization, which tries to cut down on data mining by giving a method for the browser to tell websites what they actually want to know (and let the user tell the browser how much to tell them). The user would compromise, giving the amount of information they find acceptable, so the website would compromise and take only what they need (rather than developing methods to grab anything and everything they can). It feels like a similar thing is happening here. This proposal gives users what they want, freedom to choose services without restriction, without tossing ISPs into "Title II" common carrier altogether.

Of course, this probably comes with a few caveats...

The first issue that pops in my mind is, "What is a service?". I see this causing problems for peer-to-peer applications (including BitTorrent Sync and Crashplan, excluding Crashplan Central). Neither endpoint would necessarily be classified as "a server", or at least convince a non-technical lawmaker that is the case, and thus ISPs would not need to apply common carrier restrictions to them. This could be a serious issue for WebRTC. Even worse, companies like Google and Netflix would have no incentive to help fight those battles -- they're legally protected. It would have to be defined, very clearly, what makes "a server".

Every method will get messy for someone. Still, the discussion is being made.

Source: Mozilla

The sweet sound of Silverstone's Op-Amps

Subject: General Tech | May 5, 2014 - 06:45 PM |
Tagged: DAC, op-amps, Silverstone, EB01–E DAC, audio

If you go out and buy a high end pair of headphones and plug them into your onboard audio you are essentially doing the same thing as buying a 4K monitor and plugging it into onboard video; sure it will work but you certainly won't get the full experience.  For audiophiles a Digital Analog Converter, specifically a headphone amp is required to actually hear what your earphones are capable of.  Using the XMOS XS1 TQ128 USB decoder, a TI PCM1798 Digital/Analog Converter and the famous TI NE5532 Op-Amps the specifications of this headphone amp are quite impressive as is output impedence of less than 1 ohm on a connection rated to handle up to a 600 ohm load.  If you recognize any of those components then head to Benchmark Reviews for the full article.

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"The Silverstone EB01–E DAC is the companion product in both form and function to the SilverStone EB-03 headphone amplifier. Together, these two components make up the current SilverStone Ensemble Series audiophile grade audio components."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

GeForce Experience 2.0.1 Update Released

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | May 5, 2014 - 05:03 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, geforce experience, shield

NVIDIA has released version 2.0.1 of GeForce Experience. This update does not bring many new features, hence why it is a third-level increment to the version number, but is probably worthwhile to download regardless. Its headlining feature is security enhancements with OpenSSL under remote GameStream on SHIELD. The update also claims to improve streaming quality and reduce audio latency.

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While they do not seem to elaborate, I assume this is meant to fix Heartbleed, which is an exploit that allows an attacker to receive a small snapshot of active memory. If that is that case, it is unclear whether the SHIELD, the host PC during a game session, or both endpoints are affected.

The new GeForce Experience is available at the NVIDIA website. If it is running, it will also ask you to update it, of course.

Source: NVIDIA