Lephone leaked by Lenovo

Subject: General Tech | December 1, 2011 - 02:23 PM |
Tagged: Lenovo, lephone, Android, windows phone

Lenovo is moving into BlackBerry's territory with several new mobile products, two phones and a tablet that can act as as phone.  The first phone will be running an older version of Android and bears the unfortunate name of Lephone K2.  The Inquirer reports that the other will be running Windows Phone OS though it would not be at all surprising if it ends up based on Win8.  This may really hurt RIM as they are currently the choice of smartphone for enterprise users; these same users are likely using a Lenovo as their PC.  With the already established place that Lenovo bears in the office, if they can create a decent phone that interacts with their Lenovo laptop or desktop, they could push RIM right out of the office.

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"CHINESE HARDWARE VENDOR Lenovo has unveiled not one but two smartphones, the Lephone K2 and an unnamed Windows Phone 7.5 Mango device.

The Lephone K2 is the Android device and will come with Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread, not Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Details are very light on Windows alternative, apart from that it will run Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system and tip up in the second half of next year, according to PC Mag."

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Source: The Inquirer

Need style in your portable speakers?

Subject: General Tech | November 30, 2011 - 03:39 PM |
Tagged: audio, portable speakers, krator, N4-20U05 Neso 04

If you are on the road doing a presentation for clients or even just stuck playing DJ from a laptop with no real sound system it can help to have a nice looking set of speakers.  Pulling out a pair of old cream coloured boxes you've been dragging around for the past 5+ years just doesn't make the best of impressions.  Krator and their N4-20U05 Neso 04 stereo speakers on the other hand have a shape that is likely to bring positive comments from those who see them.  As an added bonus, apart from weak bass performance, XSReviews found these speakers to be quite good for the low cost.  Shame that you need to power them but at least it is over USB and not mains.

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"Krator are a Taiwanese company who are “on a mission to transform the landscape of consumer audio and computer gaming” and have recently released a stylish new range of speakers, including a new set in the Neso 04 range, inspired by raindrops."

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Source: XSReviews

So you want to play Batman? Dump the DX11!

Subject: General Tech | November 30, 2011 - 12:51 PM |
Tagged: gaming, batman arkham city, dx11, oops, consolitis

Just in case you were under the impression that Ryan was the only one having issues with DirectX 11 in Batman Arkham City, check out the problems [H]ard|OCP had.  DX11 was essentially unplayable even on multi-GPU systems, with NVIDIA handling the game a little better than AMD.  Using DX 11 in the game enables HBAO and tessellation as well as something new for NVIDIA users called Multi-View Soft Shadows, which do add to the visual quality of the game, if you are willing to live with an average 30fps or so ... with bonus stuttering.  Even better, this is yet another example of a game with its frames capped by default, not quite as bad as Need For Speed The Run but it is still limited to 24-62fps until an .ini file tweak is performed.

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"Batman: Arkham City is upon us, and we wanted to give you a preliminary look at how performance is stacking up. We've found some issues running in DX11 that seem to be a detriment to gameplay. DX11 may not be the best option, at this time, for this game, our performance data and feedback explain why."

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Gaming

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Two families of lower power Intel chips arriving soon

Subject: General Tech | November 30, 2011 - 12:24 PM |
Tagged: cedar trail m, atom, 32nm, sandybridge DT, Pentium 350, socket 1155

There are two very different families of low power chips from Intel; one of which is available now and the other will be shipping in December after a 2 month delay.  First off are the new Atom chips which DigiTimes mentions, both dual core 32nm Cedar Trail-M parts.  Neither chip represent any major changes to the Atom lineup apart from a die shrink which allows higher frequencies at lower power.  The original delay was reported to be because of issues with 64-bit support as well as DX10 support but there has been no definitive news either way about if those problems will exist on release.   The graphics core does jump from 400MHz to 640MHz which may help Atom compete with Llano but it is still not going to be a fair competition.

The Register reports on a completely different low power chip which may find its way into some server applications.  Don't let the name fool you, the Pentium 350 is a Sandy Bridge-DT chip based on the same core you find in the Xeon E3 chips that are already on the market.  They support Turbo Boost, Trusted Execution Technology, Hyperthreading and virtualization optimization as well as all the other improvements in the Sandy Bridge lineup.  The 32nm chip has two cores running at 1.2GHz, sports a TDP of 20W and is expected to sell for around $150.  At that price and TDP it is unlikely to be a good answer to the smaller chips that ARM is now trying to sneak into the server room but at least Intel now has a low power chip for the server room.

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"Intel will launch its Cedar Trail-M platform for netbooks including 32nm-based Atom N2800 and N2600 processors in December, according to industry sources.

Because of shrinking demand for Atom processors and chipsets due to competition from tablet PCs, Intel's third-quarter 2011 revenues of US$269 million from related products dropped 32% on year, the sources indicated. Due to weak demand, Intel has delayed Cedar Trail-M from September to December, the sources noted."

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Source: DigiTimes

Gear Up with MSI: Win Intel Motherboards, GeForce Graphics Cards

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Motherboards | November 30, 2011 - 11:13 AM |
Tagged: z68, x79, sandy bridge-e, msi, GTX 580, GTX 560, giveaway, contest

This is a pretty big week here at PC Perspective as we released our highly anticipated review of the Intel Sandy Bridge-E and X79 platform.  If you haven't read that over, you need to do so, right away!!  But we also have some impressive gear to giveaway thanks to our friends at MSI and their "Gear Up with MSI" campaign!

What are the prizes?  I know that's what you want to know first...

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Wow, these are some stellar prizes!  First prize basically gets the components required for one of the fastest gaming rigs on the planet while the 2nd prize will be able to play Batman: Arkham City with all the top settings! 

So what do you have to do to win these prizes?  The steps are simple:

  1. Make a comment on this post thanking MSI for this kick ass contest!!  That's pretty simple right?  You don't have to register, though we would appreciate it!
  2. Like MSI on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MSI.ComputerUS
    1. (Just a hint, they have a lot of Facebook-specific contests throughout the year!)
  3. Like PC Perspective on Facebook: http://facebook.com/pcper
  4. Follow PC Perspective on Twitter: http://twitter.com/pcper
  5. Circle PC Perspective on Google+: http://gplus.to/pcper
    1. (Another hint, comments on our G+ post about this contest get another entry!)

We will pick random winners in our pool of entries on Wednesday, the 7th of December!  Sorry, US and Canada residents only for this one!  If you don't have a Facebook/Twitter/Google+ account commenting here will still enter you.

Oh, and if you haven't seen the other contest MSI is running around the release of Batman: Arkham City, you should check out this page on their site.  Posting a photo of yourself dressed up like Batman has never been so lucrative! 

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The Grand Prize for MSI's Batman Photo Contest!!

Winners Announced!!  Sorry about the late update, but we did pick our winners!  The first prize went to use "Equinox2355" and the second prize went to "Deman".  Thanks to everyone for participating and we'll have more contests very soon!!!

Too good to be true? Truth goggles for your browser

Subject: General Tech | November 29, 2011 - 01:14 PM |
Tagged: Internet, fact check

Definately falling into the "I'll beleive it when I see it" category is an extension developed by an MIT student for his Masters thesis which is intended to check the accuracy of information on the web.  Specifically, with the help of Politifact it will be checking the accuracy of political statements.  The big problem is going to be the quality of the facts database it checks against, as you can only be as good as the database so if it gets out of date or starts to lean one way or the other it might do more harm than good.  On the other hand we can hope that this might make people a little more leery of getting their information from only one source and not doing even a bit of fact checking on their own.  Take a look at the full story over at The Register.

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Thanks Neiman Journalism Lab!

"A student at MIT’s Media Lab is developing a browser plug-in that can check the accuracy of information posted online, and may use it to monitor political speeches for untruths.

For his master’s thesis, Dan Schultz – who was recently named a 2011 Knight-Mozilla Fellow – came up with the idea for “truth goggles” while talking to a fact checker at Truthsquad, who was explaining that the principle problem with fact checking was getting people access to the skinny. Schultz then came up with the idea as a way to correct incorrect information, but more importantly to get people to think critically about what they are reading."

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Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

Seagate Technology Provides Updated Financial Outlook

Subject: General Tech | November 29, 2011 - 12:23 PM |
Tagged: Seagate, hdd, earnings

It seems very interesting that Seagate is so upbeat about their earnings with the flooding in Thailand causing huge supply shortages of HDD world wide.  Last year at this time they were expecting 170 million units move, whereas this year is is 110-120 million units with demand outstripping supply.  That number does reflect some supply issues but perhaps not as bad as the issues faced by Western Digital and other manufacturers with a large presence in Thailand.  The profit being higher does show what happens when you have a product people want but cannot find; the price per unit quickly goes up and the business can still make a profit.  We can only hope that as supply returns to the chain that the price drops at the same speed it has risen.  We still do not have final word on Seagate's absorption of Samsung's HDD business, that will likely be in January.

CUPERTINO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Seagate Technology plc (NASDAQ:STX) today updated its financial outlook for the December 2011 and March 2012 quarters.

The company continues to believe that, due to the industry impacts caused by the extensive flooding in Thailand, hard disk drive supply will be significantly constrained for several quarters. For the December 2011 quarter, the company believes the industry will ship between 110-120 million units.

The company believes the industry’s ability to manufacture and ship hard disks drives will gradually improve throughout calendar 2012. While this may alleviate some of the unit demand shortfall, it is expected that some companies will optimize unit shipments by manufacturing lower component count/lower capacity hard disk drives; thereby, only modestly offsetting the growing petabyte shortage. Because demand is estimated to significantly exceed supply during this time, pricing is expected to remain stable.

Financial Outlook
The company’s component and disk drive factories in Thailand have not been directly affected by the flood; however, the company’s ability to manufacture hard disk drives has been impacted due to external component supply constraints as first disclosed on October 12, 2011.

For the December 2011 quarter, the company now expects unit shipments of approximately 43 million units and revenue of approximately $2.8 billion. Gross margin as a percent of revenue is expected to be 150-300 basis points above the high-end of the company’s long-term, targeted gross margin range of 22-26%. Operating expenses (R&D and SG&A) are expected to be approximately $400 million. Expenses related to the acquisition of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd’s (“Samsung”) hard disk drive business and any revenue or operating expenses of the acquired business following the closing date cannot be estimated at this time and are therefore excluded from this outlook. The company continues to expect to close the acquisition of Samsung’s hard disk drive business by the end of December 2011.

The company’s outlook for the March 2012 quarter assumes requisite regulatory approvals are received and the Samsung acquisition closes in December of 2011. The company also continues to work with its external suppliers to restore the component supply chain, and now expects that in the March quarter it will be capable of shipping a mix of products in terms of capacity per drive and expected market similar to pre-flood levels. Currently, for the March 2012 quarter, the company expects unit shipments to increase sequentially. Revenue is expected to be at least $3.75 billion and gross margin as a percent of revenue is expected to be at least 300 basis points above the aforementioned targeted range of 22-26%. The outlook for the March 2012 quarter excludes certain costs related to the integration of the acquired Samsung hard disk drive operations which cannot be estimated at this time.

The financial outlook provided today does not include the arbitration award previously disclosed on November 21, 2011.

Just Delivered: Corsair Vengeance Gaming Headsets

Subject: General Tech | November 28, 2011 - 10:47 AM |
Tagged: vengeance, corsair

Just Delivered is a new section of PC Perspective where we share some of the goodies that pass through our labs that may or may not see a review, but are pretty cool none the less.

Arriving just in time for my Thanksgiving break is a rather large but light box. Nestled inside lots of air bags are two boxes from popular computer case and peripheral maker Corsair. Specifically, the boxes include two pairs of Corsair's Vengeance series headsets, the Vengeance 1300 and 1500.

corsair_headset_box.jpg

Both of the Corsair Vengeance headsets are gaming headsets with full closed ear or circumaural headphones and noise canceling unidirectional condenser microphones. The 1300 is an analog headset with two 3.5 mm jacks for the headphones and microphone while the 1500 is a USB powered 7.1 channel headset. The 1500 uses a single USB connection to deliver both headphone audio and the microphone audio and is stated to draw up to 250 mW from the USB port.

corsair_headsets.jpg

Both the Vengeance 1300 and 1500 have rotating ear cups that are also able to angle slightly up and down to fit comfortably in addition to the headband being able to extend or contract. The outside of the 1500 sports metal accents whereas the 1300 is plastic, making it a bit lighter, but they are both much lighter than they look to be. Further, both the 1300 and 1500 headsets have (non-removable) control pods on the 3 meter long cable to mute/un-mute the microphone and increase or decrease the volume level.

Initial impressions are positive, but it will certainly be interesting to see how they sound compared to other budget headsets, and whether or not they will live up to the same success that the HS1 and HS1A Corsair headsets held.  Read on to see more photos of the Corsair gear!

The Vengeance 1500 headset and control pod.

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corsair_headset_control_pod.jpg

Linux Mint Rising In Popularity And Surpassing Ubuntu For Top Spot

Subject: General Tech | November 26, 2011 - 04:53 AM |
Tagged: Unity, ubuntu, mint, linux, katya

Linux Mint Is On The Rise

Ubuntu has long been the popular choice when it comes to Linux distributions. The open source operating system even managed to be picked by large computer OEM Dell for the company’s netbooks and select desktop computers at one time. As far as free alternative operating systems go, Ubuntu was the top choice of many Linux users. Lately; however, the distro seems to be declining in popularity. According to ZDNet, Pingdom has gathered Linux market share data from the past few years and found that the once popular Ubuntu OS has given up a great deal of ground to competing distributions. In particular, Linux Mint has risen to the 11% usage level that Ubuntu held at its prime versus Ubuntu’s current 4% market usage in 2011.

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Linux Mint 11's desktop.

Interestingly, Linux mint started at 0% adoption in 2005 versus Ubuntu’s 11% in that same year where it would grow to 4% in 2007 and grow slowly to 5% in 2010. From there, the adoption grows rapidly to it’s current 11% market usage as of November 23rd 2011 (based on DistroWatch ranking data).

Linux Mint 11 is a very respectable and speedy distribution and is comparatively very media friendly and easy to use out of the box for newcomers. These qualities likely have contributed to the operating system’s place on the Top 5 Linux Distribution list.

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Wait- What Happened To Ubuntu?

Ubuntu gained fame due to its friendliness to newcomers, casual users, and enthusiasts/power users alike. Adrian Kingsley-Hughes over at ZDnet notes that the operating system’s popularity is wavering. Linux Fans have cited Ubuntu’s recent interface overhaul-dubbed Unity- as a possible source of the decline in popularity. Kingsley-Hughes believes; however, that in the latest iteration(s) Ubuntu has spread itself too thin by attempting to appeal to too many people at once.

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The Ubuntu 11.10 installation.  One of several slides on everything that is packed in tight in Ubuntu.

On that point I think he is correct. Ubuntu has been attempting to become the Windows equivalent of the Linux space. This goal in and of itself is a noble one; however, it also goes against the grain of the “ideal Linux OS” (meaning the OS that users want to use). Linux itself is (by comparison) a niche operating system, and within that general term spawns numerous Linux distributions that are even further niche and highly specialized products and user experiences.

I have to concur with Mr. Kingsley-Hughes on this one, even with my own personal lackluster (or “meh” in less technical terms ;) ) opinion of Ubuntu’s Unity it’s not bad or difficult enough to get rid of to cause such a drop in usage. The inherent purpose and goal of a Linux distro is to be a highly specialized and customizable user experience that is easily tailored to a specific users’ wants and needs. Ubuntu is falling out of favor with many Linux fans due to it trying too hard to appeal to everyone in a “jack of all trades, master of none” method instead of the perfect distribution for each individual aspect that makes Linux so appealing to users to begin with. Many design and under the hood changes have taken place in Ubuntu to accommodate the mainstream Linux goal(s) and in doing so a lot of users and configurations aren’t as easily obtained with Ubuntu anymore. There’s now more programs included by default and more programs running to maintain the something for everyone system, and that is not what many Linux fans want out of their distributions. They want a distro that only does what they want with as minimal of resources as possible while still being productive for example.

What are your thoughts? Is there a reason for Ubuntu’s decline or is the distro’s time in the spotlight simply over (for now at least)? Have you moved on from Ubuntu? You can read more about the Linux usage data here.

Source: ZDnet

Intel Processors Power The Majority of Top 500 Supercomputers, Looking to Expand With MIC Solutions

Subject: General Tech, Processors | November 25, 2011 - 08:45 PM |
Tagged: xeon, SC11, mic, many integrated core, knights corner, Intel

This year saw the 40th anniversary of (the availability of) the world’s first microprocessor- the Intel 4004 processor- and Intel is as strong as ever. On the supercomputing and HPC (High Performance Computing) front, Intel processors are powering the majority of the Top 500 supercomputers, and at this years supercomputing conference (SC11) the company talked about their current and future high performance silicon. Mainly, Intel talked about its new Intel Xeon E5 family of processors and the new Many Integrated Cores Knights Corner Larrabee successor.

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The Intel Xeon E5 is available now.

The new Xeon chips are launching now and should be widely available within the first half of 2012. Several (lucky) supercomputing centers have already gotten their hands on the new chips and are now powering 10 systems on the Top 500 list where the 20,000 Xeon E5 CPUs are delivering a combined 3.4 Petaflops.

According to benchmarks, Intel is expecting a respectable 70% performance increase on HPC workloads versus the previous generation Xeon 5600 CPUs. Further Intel stated that the new E5 silicon is capable of as much as a 2x increase in raw FLOPS performance, according to Linpack benchmarks.

Intel is reporting that demand for the initial production run chips is “approximately 20 times greater than previous generation processors.” Rajeeb Hazra, the General Manager of Technical Computing of Intel’s Datacenenter and Connected Systems Group, stated that “customer acceptance of the Intel Xeon E5 processor has exceeded our expectations and is driving the fastest debut on the TOP 500 list of any processor in Intel’s history.” The company further reiterated several supercomputers that are set to go online son and will be powered by the new E5 CPUs including the 10 Petaflops Stampede computer at the Texas Advanced Computing Center and the 1 Petaflops Pleiades expansion for NASA.

Intel Xeon Top 500.png

While Intel processors are powering the majority of the world’s fastest supercomputers, graphics card hardware and GPGPU software has started to make its way into quite a few supercomputers as powerful companion processors that can greatly outperform a similar number of traditional CPUs (assuming the software can take advantage of the GPU hardware of course). In response to this, Intel has been working on it’s own MIC (Many Integrated Core) solution for a few years now. Starting with Larrabee, then Knights Ferry, and now Knights Corner, Intel has been working on silicon that using numerous small processing cores that can use the X86 instruction set to power highly parallel applications. Examples given by Intel as useful applications for their Many Integrated Core hardware includes weather modeling, tomography, and protein folding.

Intel Many Integrated Core.png

Knights Corner is the company’s latest iteration of MIC hardware, and is the first hardware that is commercially available. Knights Corner is capable of delivering more than 1 Teraflops of double precision floating point performance. Hazra stated that “having this performance now in a single chip based on Intel MIC architecture is a milestone that will once again be etched into HPC history” much like Intel’s first Teraflop supercomputer that utilized 9,680 Pentium Pro CPUs in 1997.

What’s interesting about Knights Corner lies in the ability of the hardware to run existing applications without porting to alternative programing languages like Nvidia’s CUDA or AMD’s Stream GPU languages. That is not to say that the hardware itself is not interesting, however. Knights Corner will be produced using Intel’s Tri-Gate transistors on a 22nm manufacturing process, and will feature “more than 50 cores.” Unlike current GPGPU solutions, the Knights Corner hardware is fully accessible and can be programmed as if the card is it’s own HPC node running a Linux based operating system.

More information on the Knights Corner architecture can be found here. I think it will be interesting to see how well Knights Corner will be adopted for high performance workloads versus graphics cards from Nvidia and AMD, especially now that the industry has already begun adapting GPGPU solutions using such programming technologies like CUDA, and graphics cards are becoming more general purpose (or at least less specialized) in hardware design. Is Intel too late for the (supercomputing market adoption) party, or just in time? What do you think?

Source: Intel