The Sharkoon glides again

Subject: General Tech | August 23, 2011 - 12:56 PM |
Tagged: mouse, sharkoon, input, fireglider

Once you get over the name, the Sharkoon Fireglider turns out to be a decent mouse.  7 buttons of which 6 are programmable, 6 DPI settings with a colour indicator and weight which is adjustable all put it in the same league as other gaming mice.  XS Reviews found the mouse comfortable to use and the software to be easy to figure out as well.  See the review in full here.

XS_sharkoon.jpg

"The Sharkoon Fireglider is the most tragically whimsical name I’ve ever heard a mouse being given. When your friends ask you, “So, what mouse are you using?”, the answer “Sharkoon Fireglider” is not one you can give with a straight face. Don’t bring up its slogan either, “Procure the best advantage possible with the SHARKOON FireGlider!” That’s right, “procure” it."

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Source: XSReviews

Be careful the next time you hit Download.com

Subject: General Tech | August 23, 2011 - 11:28 AM |
Tagged: freeware, bloatware, download

In a move similar to the one that made Adobe so popular, Download.com no longer lets you just download your desired file, instead you must first install their downloader software.  Download.com and Cnet are no longer as popular as they once were, but were still a good repository for freeware and trialware.  Now you need to install their software to get at the programs you want and it is even better than you might think, you will get the software you want as well as a brand new toolbar and changes to your home page and default search engine.  Thankfully it is opt out, but for many people who are not paying attention, installing the next piece of software from Cnet will also involve uninstalling a toolbar and switching your browsers defaults back to what you chose for yourself.  The only good news is that programs won't get the wrapper until the next time the version is updated.  Catch the reaction at Slashdot.

rage-face.jpg

"At Download.com, page designs have been repeatedly tweaked over the years to push its updater software (now called TechTracker), TrialPay offers, and the site's mailing list. Bothersome, perhaps, but certainly not inexcusable. They've got to make money off the site somehow, after all, and banner ads don't always do the job. Now, things have taken a turn for the worse: Cnet has begun wrapping downloads in its own proprietary installer. Not only will this cause the reputation of free, legitimate software to be tarred by Cnet's bloatware toolbars, homepage changes, and new default search engines — but Cnet is even claiming that their installer wrapping is 'for the users.'"

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Source: Slashdot

Will Windows 8 be for the tablet or the ultrabook?

Subject: General Tech | August 22, 2011 - 11:56 AM |
Tagged: ultrabook, tablet, windows 8, microsoft, Intel

Two contrasting opinions appeared this morning on the internet, concerned with not only the future of mobile computing in a possibly post-PC market but also touching on the impact Microsoft's Windows 8 could have on that choice.  DigiTimes has a report from Wistron, an original design manufacturer based in Taiwan, which is concerned with the ultrabook.  They see the coming year as dominated by the contentious ultrabook platform which Intel has been talking up recently.  The company managed US$21.1B in revenue last year, so they are neither a small player nor uninformed about the industry.  That does leave one wondering how they plan on making a profit if the bill of materials is as high as some manufacturers have claimed.  Still, that is where the manufacturer sees Windows 8 making the most difference to the market.

Ars Technica sees a different path for Microsoft to take, one that would be very different from the theory discussed by DigiTimes and very different from anything Microsoft has previously done.  In this article, Ars suggests that the PC market is at a standstill because we have hit a post-PC market thanks to the tablet.  While Microsoft has always considered the tablet to be a PC in a different form factor, Apple and other successful tablet marketers have visualized a completely different model.  While Apple may have taken it to the most extreme, with no visible OS nor even a USB connector so you can transfer files directly from a camera or thumbdrive, nor hook up a wired peripheral.  Other manufacturers have taken a less extreme approach but still hide the OS and have removed associated tasks like driver installation.  That is very different from Microsoft's version of a tablet or phone which runs a trimmed down but still very recognizable OS and tends not to sell very well.

The question becomes one of design incompatibility; if Microsoft wants to release a Windows 8 which emulates the successful tablet OSes of the competition it will have to design something so different from their past OSes that it would be unrecognizable as a PC.  In order to hide the OS and offload applications onto the cloud to make a perfect tablet the design choices would limit the effectiveness of Win8 as a PC OS.  On the flip side, if they choose to design for the Ultrabook, risky in that we still have yet to hear the end of the pricing issues, the OS will be much lighter than previous versions but will still have a recognizable file system, the ability to update or customize drivers and all the other features common to netbooks through laptops.  It will however not be a successful tablet OS, as history has shown with the failures of Microsoft's tablets and phones, some of which died before every being released.

The one thing that they can't do is try to make Windows 8 do both service as a laptop and a tablet OS.  If they go that way, users on both sides of the divide will likely lose as you end up with an OS not customizable enough to do duty on a more powerful notebook or desktop.  As well, it will have an interface which is similar to previous attempts by Microsoft to sell tablets which to this date have all failed against the competition.

windows-8-start-screen.jpg

"The launch of ultrabooks and Microsoft's Windows 8 OS will serve as growth drivers for the notebook industry in 2012, according to Simon Lin, chairman of Taiwan-based notebook ODM Wistron.

Shipments of ultrabooks will account for 10-20% of Wistron's total notebook shipments in 2012, Lin estimated.

 

Despite current economic turbulence touched off by debt issues in Europe and the US, Wistron's target to ship 30 million notebooks in 2011 remains unchanged, said Lin, who added that notebook Wistron's shipments will grow by a single-digit rate sequentially in the third and fourth quarters.

However, the company has slashed its LCD TV shipment target for the year to 8.5 million units, from 10 million units projected previously, while also scaling down the target for mobile devices from 10-12 million units to nine million.

Wistron has reported net profits of NT$4.5 billion (US$154.77 million) for the first half of 2011, down 20.44% from a year earlier. The earnings translated into an EPS of NT$2.28 for the six-month period."

 

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Source: DigiTimes

Intel returns to upgrade cards for more of their crippled parts

Subject: General Tech, Processors | August 20, 2011 - 02:34 PM |
Tagged: upgrade, Intel

It has almost been a complete year since Intel decided to sell $50 upgrade cards for their processors. Ryan noted that the cost of upgrade between the two processors was just $15 (at the time) which made the $35 premium over just outright purchasing the higher-end CPU seem quite ludicrous. Whether or not you agree with Intel’s methodology is somewhat irrelevant to Intel however as they have relaunched and expanded their initiative to include three SKUs.

intelupgrade.jpg

DLCpu: Cash for cache!

Ryan was deliberately trying to pose the issue in question-form because it really is business as usual when it comes to hardware companies to artificially lock down higher SKUs for a lower price-point. The one thing he did not mention was that this upgrade seems to be designed primarily for processors included in the purchase of a retail PC where the user might not have had the choice of which processor to include.

As for this upgrade cycle there are three processors that qualify for the upgrade: the Pentium G622 can be upgraded to the Pentium G693, receiving a clock-rate boost; the Core i3-2102 can be upgraded to the Core i3-2153, receiving a clock-rate boost; the Core i3-2312M can be upgraded to the Core i3-2393M, receiving both a clock-rate boost as well as extra unlocked cache. There is no word on if each SKU would have its own upgrade card or even the cost of upgrading apart from the nebulous “affordable”. Performance is expected to increase approximately 10-25% depending on which part you upgrade and what task is being pushed upon it, the Pentium seeing the largest boost due to this unlock.

Do you agree with this initiative?

Source: Intel

Battlefield 3: This is what the PC players will be enjoying

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Shows and Expos | August 19, 2011 - 09:06 PM |
Tagged: gamescom, battlefield 3

DICE was at Gamescom in Germany showing off an assortment of new Battlefield 3 details through their booth and a short keynote speech. The vast majority of the keynote consisted of the two speakers playing Battlefield 3 co-op on the console. Aside from the live co-op demo there was a trailer from a more classic Battlefield map inhabited with 64 players and fighter aircraft. Check it out below, preferably in high resolution and fullscreen. You can then check out the unofficial BF3Blog for the complete weapon list with claymores and mortar launchers.

So Call of Duty was leaving a bar and the pub server asked, “Gotta jet?”

It was also recently revealed that Battlefield 3 would be locked to 30 frames per second on the consoles which drew fire from Activision who runs their game at 60 FPS. Their claim was that the added framerate is required to have a more responsive experience. Unfortunately as our previous article reporting on Mozilla’s stance on responsiveness shows: it is not as simple as 33.3ms versus 16.7ms latencies. Even under the assumption that the framerate is at its maximum you cannot tell the exact duration between input and TV draw without the use of a high-speed camera looking at both player-controller and monitor. Many frames could go by without even looking at the input loop and all the other dependent code on parallel out-of-sync threads that finally alter the state of the threads that draws what you should see. Be careful what you read folks; while yes, higher framerate gives the higher potential for lower latency between press and draw it is not necessarily the case. All of that said we will be on the PC which has its own set of methodologies for how to handle multi-process (there are still latencies inherent with any multiprocess game, but with different limits) and thus this is entirely irrelevant to us, but still a good learning experience regardless.

Thermaltake expands their headset lineup with the affordable Shock Spin

Subject: General Tech | August 19, 2011 - 03:39 PM |
Tagged: headset, 2.1 headset

Thermaltake decided to think big with their new Shock Spin headphones, increasing the size of the drivers from 40mm to 50mm, which should help the quality of the low end.  It connects via 3.5mm plugs as opposed to USB and sports an in-line volume controller as well as microphone which is separate from the headset, it is intended to clip onto your shirt.  The audio quality did indeed benefit from the larger drivers but Bjorn3D felt that more effort could have gone into the physical design of the headset.

bj3d_spin.gif

"The Thermaltake Spin currently is the only headset in the Tt eSport line with 50mm Neodymium drivers and comes in three colors: shining white, diamond black, and royal red. All three headsets come at a rather affordable price of $64.99 on Newegg.com, with the red one costing as low as $60.99. The cushioning around the drivers is made from velvet, as was previously observed in Shock One, and is designed to provide comfortable experience even after hours of gameplay. While our expectations of the headset are rather high, let's take a closer look in order to see if this headset is truly worth the price."

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Source: Bjorn3D

Intel steps out of line to show off 3D transistors

Subject: General Tech | August 19, 2011 - 11:40 AM |
Tagged: Intel, transistor, tri-gate, Ivy Bridge

Back in May Intel released an interesting video showing off Tri-Gate technology, which brings a third dimension to transistors.  That will allow transitions to happen with much less voltage, reducing power requirements and heat generation and allowing for increases in transistor density.  Ivy Bridge was suggested as the likely suspect for Intel to first utilize Tri-Gates and over at SemiAccurate you can see the proof as well as the process.  Intel is claiming a 37% performance increase at low voltages or about half the power usage if you keep the same performance.  Read on to see the difference between FINFets that will be in the competitions chips and the Intel-only three dimensional transistors.

Planar_vs_Tri-Gate.jpg

"Intel is set to become the first company to mass produce non-planar transistors with their upcoming 22nm process. Others are talking about FD-SOI, FINFets, and several related structures, but only Intel is set to produce anything in the near future.

There has been a lot of talk about what Intel is doing, and a lot of incomplete or incorrect information put forward from many different sources. What Intel is making is called Tri-Gate transistors, something that is a radical departure from planar ’2D’ transistors, and distinct from FINFets in a very important way."

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Source: SemiAccurate

Podcast #166 - John Carmack interview, Crysis 2 DX11, Samsung SSD announcements, and more!

Subject: General Tech | August 18, 2011 - 08:32 PM |
Tagged: ssd, podcast, nvidia, Intel, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #166 - 8/18/2011

This week we talk about our John Carmack interview, Crysis 2 DX11, Samsung SSD announcements, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath and Allyn Malventano

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their all new Sandy Bridge Motherboards!

Program length: 1:04:28

Program Schedule:

  1. 0:00:37 Introduction
  2. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  3. http://pcper.com/podcast
  4. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  5. 0:01:35 John Carmack Interview: GPU Race, Intel Graphics, Ray Tracing, Voxels and more!
  6. 0:14:43 NVIDIA Releases Q2 FY 2012 Results
  7. 0:23:17 Acer AC700-1099 Chromebook Review: Cut to the Bone
  8. 0:24:05 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their all new Sandy Bridge Motherboards!
  9. 0:25:20 Never mind the barrier, we even tessellated the water table !
  10. 0:31:00 SSD News
    1. Samsung Announces New High Performance SSDs for Mobile
    2. Samsung Announces New 830 SATA 3 SSDs for Consumers
    3. Intel Releasing Firmware Fix For 8MB SSD Bug In Two Weeks (correction: NOW)
    4. The Good, the bad and the ugly of SSDs
  11. 0:41:32 AMD Announces New Sub-$100 Triple Core A6-3500 APU
  12. 0:43:11 Intel ultra-balks at Ultrabook manufacturers requests
  13. 0:47:50 Sandy Bridge-E Processors: Cooler Sold Separately                                       AMD Considers Bundling FX Processors With Sealed Loop Water Coolers (LCS)
  14. 0:52:20 Bitcoin Trojan Stuff
  15. 0:55:08 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
    1. Ryan: Tripit.com and apps
    2. Jeremy: Antikeylogger01-USB @ $49 or Brain experimentation 
    3. Josh: AMD A-3850... same price, but DiRT 3 for FREE!
    4. Allyn: Anti-pick: McAfee iOS app fail
  16. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  17. http://pcper.com/podcast   
  18. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  19. 1:03:28 Closing
Source:

HP conference call this afternoon, could a major division drop?

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | August 18, 2011 - 03:55 PM |
Tagged: webOS, hp, Compaq

HP’s third fiscal quarter has entered on the last day of July and today HP will hold their conference call to announce the state of their company in the present as well as some of their plans for the future. We typically do not report on HP’s earnings as they tend to be uninteresting. This quarter is slightly different; HP has announced that they are considering spinning or selling off their PC hardware division. Along with the potential of seeing HP and Compaq computers no longer be HP one thing we do know for sure is that webOS, including Touchpads, will not be their saving grace as they are definitely dead.

Touchpad.png

At least we know they’re not betting their future in Palm.

It certainly seems a little brash for HP to all-of-a-sudden pull out of PCs altogether and I do not expect such a harsh event to occur. While it is possible that at some point HP might stretch and ultimately break ties with their PC division I do not see them just changing the locks on the doors and sending in the repo men. As for webOS it was pretty easy to see that there was not enough room in the market for them as an actual contender in the mobile space. We shall see if HP is capable of reusing their technology in another application or simply selling off webOS, potentially in pieces, to other players.

Update, Aug 18/2011 @ 6:28PM: The conference call has now ended and we have a little bit more information about the process. HP made it clear that for now PSG, the division responsible for HP and Compaq computers, tablets, and other consumer but non-printer devices, is still an operating division and will be for the forseeable future. However, over the next 12-18 months they have been authorized by the board to explore their options with spinning off or selling the division. The conference call also seemed to heavily emphasize their desire to shut down or spin off low margin divisions. To me, that sounds akin to a parent telling their misbehaving kid that someone's going to get a slap when they get home -- it is pretty clearly not the neighbors. One or two years down the road, we still may very well see HP do what IBM did with Lenovo.

In other news: WebOS' hardware division is dead and buried but they are still looking to utilize the software either internally, by licensing it to third parties, or selling it.

Source: HP

Llano is running short

Subject: General Tech | August 18, 2011 - 10:43 AM |
Tagged: shortage, llano, amd

Not all is well with AMD and GLOBALFOUNDRIES 32nm process as the yields have been so low as to effect the supply of Llano chips.  Currently only two chips, the A8-3850 and A6-3650 are on the market, with three more models expected fairly soon.  Since AMD beleives that there supply difficulties will be overcome by September the shortages should not delay the release of the new lower power chips.  DigiTimes also mentioned some news about NVIDIA's 28nm products that makes the outlook for this time next year a little bleak.

llano-roadmap.jpg

"AMD's latest Llano-based processors are currently suffering from shortages due to the weaker-than-expected yield rates of the related 32nm process; however, AMD has already notified its partners that the shortage should be resolved by early September, according to sources from motherboard makers.

Due to the new platform's strong performance/price ratio, market demand for Llano APUs is rising gradually with sales of the compatible A75-based motherboards also expected to increase, the sources noted. However, because the supply of Llano APUs in July started turn tight because of weak 32nm yields, AMD currently has a lot of orders from the retail channel, but is unable to fulfill the shipments.

With AMD set to resolve its APU shortages in early September, many motherboard makers are already starting to increase their A75-based motherboard shipments.

In addition to the existing Llano CPUs, A8-3850 and A6-3650, AMD will launch three more 65W APUs, A8-3800, A6-3600 and A6-3500 at the end of the third quarter.

In additional news, although AMD, Nvidia and Qualcomm's 28nm chips finished tape-outs in June, and the companies are all ready to place orders in the second half, as demand from the retail channel remains weak, it is likely that the players will delay their orders to a later time, the sources added."

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Source: DigiTimes