Alas poor Win7, I knew him ...

Subject: General Tech | January 13, 2015 - 12:59 PM |
Tagged: win7, extended support, the cycle of life, inevitable

Sigh, the end draws nigh for that most common of desktop operating systems, Windows 7, has moved into Extended Support.  This follows the move at Halloween from an active product to one no longer available but is not the final straw for the OS which is currently scheduled for 2020.  The Inquirer quotes a source which places the current market share of Win7 at just over 56% globally, far above the currently selling Win8.1 but this number will slowly begin to fall, likely at a quicker pace than did WinXP's share.  When a Windows product reaches Extended Support it still receives security patches and serious bug fixes, albeit at a slower pace than when it is current so don't worry that your Win7 boxen will be dying any time soon but it does make it even more worthwhile to familiarize yourself with Windows 10 as new machines will be running that OS very soon.  Drop by The Inquirer for other upcoming dates, such as the final nail in Vista's coffin.

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"WINDOWS 7 has reached an important milestone that begins its long, slow descent into obscurity and eventually end of life, where it will doubtless continue to command more market share than its successor."

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Source: The Inquirer

Using the embedded HD7850 to spot the next generation of gamers in the womb

Subject: General Tech | January 12, 2015 - 01:29 PM |
Tagged: ultrasound, opencl, hd 7850

The new bk3000 Ultrasound System from Analogic will use an embedded HD7850 and OpenCL to triple the quality of the information the ultrasound reveals.  This will allow ultrasounds to reveal anatomical detail and micro-vascularization that was not available with previous ultrasound technology and could even enable Gamegaters to locate their own heads with the use of the E14C4t transducer.  The most familiar usage of ultrasound is for displaying a fetus in utero but there are far more medical uses for this type of (mostly) non-invasive scan and the increase in detail and the transformation abilities that Open CL brings will not only make it more effective but could expand the usefulness of ultrasounds as a diagnostic tool.  As we at PC Perspective continue to age we are very appreciative of advances such as this, especially if we can get a split screen that allows us to do a little light gaming while the doctors poke and prod!

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SUNNYVALE, Calif. — Jan. 12, 2015 — AMD (NASDAQ:AMD) today announced that the AMD Embedded Radeon HD 7850 GPU is enabling cutting-edge application performance for the BK Ultrasound, powered by Analogic, bk3000 ultrasound system. Analogic is a leader in developing healthcare and security technology solutions to advance the practice of medicine to save lives.

“The AMD Embedded Radeon HD 7850 GPU with OpenCL provides a powerful and efficient pairing,” said Cameron Swen, segment marketing manager, medical applications, AMD Embedded Solutions. “This product is yet another proof point to AMD’s dedication to the healthcare segment through its technology, which helps facilitate crisp, detailed medical image visualization and other advanced graphics-driven capabilities, helping doctors provide improved care for patients.”

Analogic used OpenCL standard to gain access to the GPU for general-purpose computing, referred to as “GPGPU,” delivering exceptional performance and offering system and development cost reduction through cross-platform portability. As a result of using AMD GPU technology, Analogic achieved a 3x improvement in the amount of information in each ultrasound image and reduced time from capture to presentation. Traditional FPGAs and DSPs create a fixed, inflexible implementation that requires custom software targeted at specific hardware. Going to a software-based solution using OpenCL helps to further lower the development cost and provides improved long term value since the software can be used across product lines and through generation shifts.

“It was a critical design goal for us to implement a platform that delivered exceptional performance,” said Jacques Coumans, chief marketing and scientific officer, Analogic. “After reviewing the options available, we chose the AMD Embedded Radeon HD 7850 GPU for its excellent quality and scalability. The bk3000 ultrasound system, powered by AMD embedded graphics technology, delivers exceptional speed and image fidelity, which allows clinicians to identify anatomy and flow dynamics deeper in challenging patients.”

The AMD Embedded Radeon HD 7850 is based on AMD’s award-winning Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture to advance the visual growth and parallel processing capabilities of embedded applications. In addition to ultrasound, other applications for GPGPU include some of the most complex parallel applications such as terrain and weather mapping, facial and gesture recognition, and biometric and DNA analysis.

The new Analogic bk3000 ultrasound system is targeted for urology, surgery, general imaging, and procedure guidance applications and is commercially available in key markets worldwide.

Source: AMD

Still wondering about adaptive refresh and why it matters to more than the 144Hz crowd?

Subject: General Tech | January 12, 2015 - 12:42 PM |
Tagged: freesync, amd

The Tech Report published a video of Freesync in action using a camera which records at 240 fps.  The subject material is running at less than the 60Hz that most of our monitors use which means that you can actually see what it does for you.  Watching the video at 60Hz you can see the tearing on the blades of the windmill as the actual frame rate of the render is 44 - 45Hz while when Freesync is active the matched frequencies do not cause any tearing.  The demonstration shows how Freesync can benefit lower end systems that are not going to push a 144Hz monitor to the limits, if you can only manage 40-50 fps in a game Freesync is going to make it much easier on your eyes.  You can catch our latest coverage of Freesync here.

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"We've been hearing about FreeSync, AMD's answer to Nvidia's G-Sync variable refresh display tech, for just over a year now. This week at CES, we finally got a chance to see FreeSync in action, and we used that opportunity to shoot some enlightening 240-FPS footage. We were able to find out some new specifics from AMD, as well."

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Two of Intel's CES Wearables Powered by ARM Processors

Subject: General Tech | January 11, 2015 - 03:08 PM |
Tagged: wearables, SoC, smartwatch, Intel, ces 2015, CES, arm

Wearable tech shown at this year's CES by Intel included the Intel MICA and Basis PEAK wearables, but a blog post from ARM is reporting that a pair of these devices are powered by an ARM SoC.

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The Intel MICA (Image credit: Intel)

ARM has posted pictures of teardowns from different wearable products, highlighting their presence in these new devices. The pictures we have taken from ARM's blog post show that it is not Intel at the heart of the two particular models we have listed below.

First is the Basis PEAK, and it actually makes a lot of sense that this product would have an ARM SoC considering Intel's aquisition of Basis occurred late in 2014, likely after the development of the PEAK had been completed.

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The Basis PEAK (Image credits: Basis, ARM)

Of course it is likely that Intel has plans to integrate their own mobile chips into future versions of wearable products like the PEAK.

Of some interest however is the SoC within their own MICA luxury wearable.

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The Intel MICA (Image credits: Intel, ARM)

For now, ARM is the industry standard for mobile devices and they are quick to point this out in their their blog post, writing "it’s important to remember that only ARM and its partners can meet the diversity requirements and fuel innovation in this space". Intel seems to be playing the "partner" role for now, though not exclusively as the company's mobile technology is powering the newest ASUS ZenFone, for instance.

Source: ARM IoT Blog

CES 2015: Samsung Monitors and ATIV Computers

Subject: General Tech | January 10, 2015 - 04:52 PM |
Tagged: UD970, Samsung, S34E790C, ces 2015, ATIV One 7 Curved, ATIV Book 9, ativ

I was invited to a meeting with Samsung on my last day at CES.  The Samsung Pavilion was absolutely packed, but I was able to see a handful of products that should pique the interest of people that are passionate about their monitor technology.  I was led around by Sara and we checked out not only a few monitors, but the latest ATIV PC products.

Up until this point, I thought curved TVs were a gimmick.  I still think curved TVs are a gimmick.  For a living room seating multiple people that will have a different angle to the TV, I believe a flat screen is still the best overall experience.  When it comes to PC usage, my mind has been thoroughly changed.

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Samsung has forged ahead with a curved 21:9 panel that they give the very unwieldy product name of S34E790C.  This is a 34” VA based panel that features a resolution of 3440x1440.  This is not quite 4K resolution, and of course it features the ultra-wide 21:9 aspect ratio.  This means that it is a bit easier on a video card than a full 4K monitor.  This is simply a stunning looking unit.  The design features a thin bezel and a really solid looking base that adds to the aesthetic rather than detracts.  The rear ports include two HDMI, DisplayPort 1.2, 3.5 mm audio output, power, and a 4 port USB 3.0 hub.

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The base is a solid, curved unit that allows users to raise and lower the panel.  The bezels are again relatively thing so that multiple monitors can be placed together without the bezels becoming distracting.  The unit also features a 100x100 mm VESA mount so that other stands can be used with this monitor.

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Three of these monitors together would make for a tremendous Surround or Eyefinity setup.  There would have to be some serious horsepower in terms of graphics to push that many pixels though.  The curve is not extreme in the least, and the monitors curve around the user in a subtle way.  This would be outstanding for flight sims, racing, and pretty much any game that can utilize a wide FOV.  Samsung showed five of these together, and they blend nearly seamlessly together.  This monitor currently retails around $1400, but MSRP is supposed to be $1,199 US.

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On the professional side they were showing the UD970.  This monitor was released around mid-year in 2014, but they were happy to put it on exhibit at CES.  This is a 3840x2160 (4K) monitor that is aimed directly at professionals with color calibration done at the factory.  When this comes out of the box, it should be in good enough shape to start working directly on professional applications which require a nicely calibrated monitor.  This monitor is the typical flat style rather than the curved unit described above.

 

The ATIVs

Away from the monitors Samsung was showing off their latest all-in-one.  The ATIV One 7 Curved is a 27” AIO that features the latest Intel i5 processor (Broadwell) with the HD 5500 graphics option.  It has 8 GB of memory and a 1 TB hybrid HD (flash and spinning 5400 RPM drive) and runs Windows 8.1.  The screen is a 1080P unit, which is a little disappointing considering the availability of fairly affordable 1440P panels, but that extra cost would drive up price from the very reasonable $1,299 MSRP.

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The machine seemed very snappy and the curved screen again seems very appropriate for PC usage.  Since the user is fairly close, the curve does allow better use of peripheral vision.  The unit is only about 1.5” deep, so we can see exactly why they are using a Broadwell based chip which does not require a tremendous amount of cooling.  It features HDMI in and out ports for use with consoles and other display options.  There are also two 10 watt speakers integrated into the machine which will provide for some pretty impressive integrated sound.  Most speakers in this class are around 2 to 4 watts, so by putting in a couple of 10 watt units there will not be a need by most people to utilize other speaker peripherals.

Probably the most interesting aspect of this product is the SideSync 3.0 software platform.  This application allows users to control their Samsung based Android device.  The demonstration I was given used the Galaxy S5.  The user will see a representation of the phone on their screen and they have access to all of the applications installed on the phone.  Here is what Samsung has to say about SideSync 3.0:

“Through SideSync 3.0, ATIV One 7 Curved users can receive phone calls and text messages forwarded from their Samsung smartphone right to their PC. Users can also control their smartphone from their PC screen, mouse and keyboard through SideSync 3.0’s sharing mode, as well as share content between devices with Samsung Link 2.0. This means that users can save all of their photos, videos, music and more in the ATIV One 7 Curved’s ample 1TB flash drive, and then easily access it from other devices from anywhere in the home.”

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The demonstration was actually pretty slick and it is useful.  It was really funny to see the cursor go from the screen and over to the smartphone and be able to click on the programs icons.

The final product shown to me was the ATIV Book 9.  This is a 12.2” laptop that weighs in at a pretty light 2.09 lbs.  It has a very dense screen that is 2560x1600.  Samsung is bringing back the 16:10 aspect ratio as they found it more useful for productivity work on this particular laptop.  The laptop features the new Broadwell based Intel Core M 5Y70 processor with 8 GB of RAM, a 256 GB SSD, and around 10.5 hours of battery life.  This particular configuration goes for around $1,400 US when it is released this quarter.

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This probably would have been a much more impressive looking laptop if I had not seen the Dell XPS 13 with an edge to edge display.  That model is around 11” wide and weighs slightly more at 2.6 pounds (2.8 pounds with the touchscreen version).  Still, the ATIV Book 9 is an impressive performer with its 2560x1600 screen and half pound less weight.

After all is said and done, I really want 3 x S34E790Cs.  Now if I can only get more desk space and a couple graphics cards that can push that resolution.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Samsung

Steelseries colourful Siberia Elite Prism headset

Subject: General Tech | January 9, 2015 - 02:27 PM |
Tagged: audio, gaming headset, Siberia Elite Prism, steelseries

Don't worry if the orange ring on the Steelseries Siberia Elite Prism headset turns you off as that is an LED which can be changed to one of 16.8 million colours which will shift or breath in time to your music.  The headset has a frequency response of 16-28000 Hz and the unidirectional microphone is retractable for when it is not in use.  The headset uses 3.5mm jacks and comes with adapters to allow you to plug it into a variety of mobile devices or into the USB soundcards which ships with the device when you are using it on a PC.  The soundcard is not as good as a dedicated DAC but does add functionality to the headset as well.  The noise cancellation will be appreciated in noisy environments but the headset is not for the completely antisocial as there is a 3.5mm jack on one earcup to allow a friend to plug in and share your music if you so desire.  You can see MadShrimps full review here.

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"Siberia Elite Prism is a slight improvement over the original Elite version which features better comfort for the ear-cups, a new, more flexible microphone, a slightly different color scheme for the white version but also a better design of the top frame. The bundled sound card can be used with PCs and laptops via USB, but the Elite Prism also comes with the necessary cables in order to connect the headset on analog to sound cards and mobile gadgets. SteelSeries Engine 3 makes configuration possible with a custom equalizer and many more…"

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Source: MadShrimps

There's one born every minute; the sound quality of different storage medium

Subject: General Tech | January 9, 2015 - 01:22 PM |
Tagged: monster, idiots, audiophile

Believe it or not there is a review out on the interwebs claiming that "'bit-identical' computer audio may well be just as inexplicably inconsistent as analogue."  In other words some hard drives and SSDs will produce better quality audio than others using the exact same audio file.  Two different QNAP NAS devices apparently produced differing audio signals which the writer claims to be able to discern.  Not only that but apparently different HDDs or SSDs inside the NAS also has an effect on the audio flavinoids and topology.  If that is not enough for you then keep reading the link from The Register as they also propose the theory that different types of RAID will change the cromulence of the audio signal as well and while they stop short of describing the audio cables which were used they did stoop so low as to use Belkin CAT6 instead of a product from Monster.  If you believe this and own a mains conditioner for your audio you should definitely let The Register know you are interested in their proposed AudioNAS kickstarter.

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"Is it April already? I really cannot tell from this post, which poses the question: "Is it really possible that the sound quality of bit-identical audio files is influenced by their storage medium before being delivered to the hi-fi system's DAC?"

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Source: The Register

CES 2015: Mycestro Gesture Controller

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | January 9, 2015 - 12:01 PM |
Tagged: mycestro, ces 2015, CES

I just saw a video for the “Mycestro”, pronounced somewhat like maestro, on IGN and it looks interesting. Basically, the device clings to your index finger and lets you use it as a pointer wand. Movement engages when the thumb touches the thumbpad, and it has three buttons below for click events (which apparently allows click and drag). Dragging your thumb against the thumbpad acts as scroll events.

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Seeing the reporter, Alaina Yee, attempting to use it makes it look a bit more precise than a Wii remote, but a definite step down from a mouse or even a trackpad. It looks like it could be annoying, or at least take some practice, to use in a desktop environment, but a home theater PC with a “20-foot UI” might benefit from the convenience (if it can be taken on and off easily).

On the other hand, it has the capability of tracking in 3D space, despite its current role as a mouse. An SDK is not yet available, but the company says that it is in development. Of course, if future applications is what you are interested in, you may want to wait until after the development kit is released to see what it actually supports.

The Mycestro is available now (and has been since November) at their website for $149.

Source: Mycestro

CES 2015: Audi & LG Partner on Smartwatch Running webOS

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2015 - 03:26 AM |
Tagged: smartwatch, LG, ces 2015, CES, audi

There is a unique smartwatch at CES this year, which unfolds to become a camera quadcopter. I guess surprisingly, for some people, a selfie stick is not offbeat enough. And that's fine, more power to them.

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Image Credit: Android Central

There is also a second, unique smart watch at CES this year because it does not run Android (or iOS). The unnamed device, which is a collaboration between LG and Audi, is powered by webOS. In case you missed it, LG has licensed webOS from HP for use in its smart TVs. The operating system is open source under the permissive Apache license.

When Android Central was playing around with the watch, they noticed the listing of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 SoC (MSM8626). The 8626 is a quad-core, ARM Cortex A7-based processor (up to 1.2 GHz) with a Qualcomm Adreno 305 GPU. This is a fair amount of power for a smartwatch, although core count and frequency could be reduced for battery life.

With Mobile World Congress coming up in February (update Jan 9th @ 11:30am: sorry for the mistake... it's the first week of March), we might see more details soon.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

CES 2015: MediaTek MT2601 Low-Power SoC for Wearables

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2015 - 08:04 PM |
Tagged: smartwatch, mt2601, mediatek, ces 2015, CES

When you start getting into the wearables market, even mobile SoCs can be somewhat big and power-hungry. As such, we are seeing more innovation in processors that satisfy these lower classes (which could just be us paying more attention). The MediaTek MT2601 is one such device, which combines a pair of ARM Cortex-A7 cores (1.2 GHz) with an ARM Mali 400MP GPU (intended frequency unknown) on a package PCB that is less than 480mm2. (Edit @ 9:48PM -- they seem to mean the SoC and other chips, like the Bluetooth module)

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MediaTek's release does not list fab nodes, but PDAdb.net claims that it is designed for 28nm.

Of course, these chips are designed to be low cost, low power, and whatever performance can be squeezed out of those two requirements, so it might not be the most interesting SoC that we can talk about. Still, battery life has been a major hindrance to smart watches and other small, niche devices. It will be interesting to see new-generation devices that use these components.

Heck, if I had more time, I might even want to hack around with these directly.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!