Your company lost $7 million last year? Can we buy it for $8.5 billion? Microsoft buys Skype.

Subject: General Tech | May 10, 2011 - 12:51 PM |
Tagged: ballmer, microsoft, boomtown, skype, purchase, billion

The rumour mill really dropped the ball on this one, as just a few hours ago it was Facebook that everyone was muttering would one day buy Skype.  Turns out that in just a few hours the new rumour that Microsoft was going to buy Skype for $7 billion became a reality at an $8.5 billion price tag. 

Skype lost $7 million dollars last year, though that number seems rather small compared to their overall balance sheet to date which puts them $686 million in the hole.  As All Things Digital is quick to point out, that is slightly less than what Microsoft Online Services Division lost last Quarter, proving all things are relative even at very high amounts of dollars.

On the plus side, Microsoft gets its hands on Skype's 763 million registered users, about twice as many as there are MSN users and significantly more that there are XBox Live users.  Toss in the TechNet people and you still have nowhere near the user pool that Skype brings.  That huge increase in the number of people Microsoft can reach possibly gives them the ability to recoup the money they spent to buy them.  Consider that 8 million users pay actual money for their Skype account, which Wired considers as at least a hint of Microsoft's strategy.

Most PC users who already use Windows, such as those at Ars Technica, are scratching their heads over the purchase while Linux users at Slashdot are very concerned about continuing support for the Skype Linux Client.


"The Wall Street Journal reported earlier tonight that Microsoft–in what would be its most aggressive acquisition in the digital space–was zeroing in on buying Skype for $8.5 billion all in with an assumption of the Luxembourg-based company’s debt.

Sources told BoomTown tonight that the deal for the online telephony and video communications giant is actually done and will be announced early tomorrow morning."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

The Unity Linux GUI Controversy and Linux Mint's Decision to Stick With Gnome 2

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | May 9, 2011 - 09:06 PM |
Tagged: OS, linux, GUI

With the release of Ubuntu 11.04, a new desktop environment called Unity was released. Unity promised to revamp the Linux operating system’s desktop GUI to be more user friendly and intuitive. There are a multitude of noticeable changes that Unity brings to Ubuntu’s GUI compared to the classic Gnome environment. A new Windows 7 like task bar stretches along the left side of the screen where small icons of running and pinned applications reside. This new application dock is used instead of the traditional Gnome task bar that ran along the bottom of the screen. Also present is a new Ubuntu button that acts as an application launcher where installed programs can be sorted and searched for. Further, there are improvements to the workspace switcher and changes in window management with new hover-to-reveal scroll bars and each application’s (context sensitive) file menus being relocated to the top of the screen. These and other minor changes in the latest Ubuntu release have caused a flood of controversy among both reviewers and users alike.

Pictured:  Unity GUI (Insert:  Ubuntu Classic GUI)

On the positive side of the issue, there are a number of new and long time users of Ubuntu that have embraced the new GUI for it’s new features and design. Many people migrating from Windows 7 or Mac OS will become accustomed to the interface quickly as it works in much the same manner. Further, users of convertible tablet PCs have an easier time of navigating to applications and windows thanks to the larger icons. Touch and digitizer controls on the Dell Latitude XT worked well out of the box without a need to much with drivers, for example.

In contrast, as a newly developed desktop environment, it is less customizable from a user standpoint than the traditional Gnome GUI. Because of this (at the time of writing) restriction on customizability, many self-proclaimed power users have called Unity a step backwards in the aspects that make Linux a desirable OS--the ability to customize. Mainly, they dislike the constraints that Unity places on their ability to customize the operating system to their liking.

Read on for more...

IEEE seeks to increase Ethernet bandwidth, but to what?

Subject: General Tech | May 9, 2011 - 08:31 PM |
Tagged: IEEE, Ethernet

IEEE is a professional association known for creating technology standards, producing publications, and hosting activities both for educational and professional development. If you are browsing this website on a high speed connection you are almost definitely using IEEE 802.3 or IEEE 802.11 which are more commonly known as Ethernet and WIFI, respectively. IEEE constantly evolves their standards: speeds get faster, WIFI-n allowed you to leave 2.4 GHz, and other changes as needs progress over time.


Change for the future.

IEEE recently appointed John D’Ambrosia to chair a group to determine how much demand will be required from Ethernet in the future. This committee could potentially end up producing a standard for Terabit network connections should demand deem it necessary.

The committee is being very cautious this time around with respect to how much speed is required for their next standard. The prior standard, 802.3ab, was discussed in 2005 and determined that 100 Gbps was a necessary advancement. Later it was discovered that many vendors did not require more than 40 Gbps and would delay adoption for several years. Regardless of whether they settle on Terabit or 400 Gigabit, this standard will take years to develop with Terabit taking even longer. Their findings about demand will be published early next year.

Source: IT World

Beauty is in the ears of the beholder; a second opinion on Corsair's SP2500 2.1 speakers

Subject: General Tech | May 9, 2011 - 06:05 PM |
Tagged: tweeter, subwoofer, speakers, sp2500, satellite, corsair, bass, audio, 2.1

Not too long ago Josh reviewed Corsair's 2.1 speaker set which goes by the name of SP2500 and then later Ryan gave it away to a reader.  He was very happy with the way that they performed, but seeing as how judging audio quality can be quite subjective and as most of our readers did not get a set of speakers perhaps a second opinion is a good idea.  To that end you can read about the same set of speakers as they were reviewed over at The Tech Report


"Corsair has supplemented its line of audio products with a premium 2.1 speaker set. Is it worth the $250 asking price?"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

AMD's new and improved minimalist BIOS replacement, Coreboot

Subject: General Tech | May 9, 2011 - 11:51 AM |
Tagged: amd, coreboot, uefi, bios, embedded, llano, opteron, s3

A lot of attention is being paid to UEFI, the new graphical BIOS replacement that not only lets you utilize 2TB+ drives as a boot device but will give you mouse control over the games that come integrated with your settings.  It does offer quite a few advantages over the old BIOS but adds complexity as well.  AMD has gone a different route with their Opteron series with Coreboot (aka LinuxBIOS) a different way of initializing a computer.  It does a very minimal hardware initialization and then moves into what is called a payload, which contains the familiar abilities of the BIOS but not integrated directly into the hardware initialization in any way.  This is far more useful for server and embedded applications than the latest ROG board, which is why embedded Llano will be receiving support and why Opteron already does.  Follow the links from The Inquirer for more.


"CHIP DESIGNER AMD has announced that its upcoming Llano accelerated processing unit (APU) will support Coreboot.

AMD has been pushing development the BIOS replacement initiative Coreboot for many years but has focused on getting support for its embedded and server processors. Now the company has come out and said that all of its future processors will support Coreboot, from Llano onwards."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

NVIDIA acquires baseband and RF technology maker Icera

Subject: General Tech, Chipsets, Mobile | May 9, 2011 - 10:56 AM |

NVIDIA is really making moves towards providing the mobile industry with the computing power to bring on better and faster phones.  They took a big hit losing the DMI/QPI license from Intel, though the $1.5 billion court settlement took some of the sting from that loss, the battle essentially spelled the end for NVIDIA's motherboard chipset line.  Only being able to make motherboard chipsets for their main GPU competitor, AMD, might be amusing in an ironic sense but not an economically sound decision. 


Tegra saw a change in NVIDIA's target market, suddenly they provided a mobile chip that provided very impressive computing power and did not absorb a huge amount of power.  With the acquistion of Icera they now have a team designing the chips most necessary for a phone to have, RF and baseband transmission.  Perhaps they've a big enough foot in the door of the mobile market that they won't be going anywhere soon.

Icera’s baseband and RF technologies span 2G, 3G and 4G networks. Joining them with our Tegra mobile super chip will result in a powerful combination. Tegra has secured a number of design wins across the mobile device spectrum, and we have extensive relationships across the industry, from device manufacturers to carriers. In short, we can scale Icera’s great innovation. For additional context on Icera’s industry-leading technology, check out this report from Strategy Analytics.

Our OEM partners will reap the benefits of faster time-to-market, better integration and enhanced performance. The deal will also open up a new market to NVIDIA. The $15 billion global market for baseband processors is one of the fastest-growing areas in the industry.

Looking ahead, Icera’s programmable baseband processor architecture will allow NVIDIA and its OEM customers to innovate and adapt signaling algorithms in the rapidly evolving mobile telecommunications market — network responsiveness is critical to delivering on the promise of untethered wireless visual computing. Icera’s highly efficient architecture makes it possible to cleanly integrate their baseband processor into system and software platforms rapidly and, ultimately, into the super chip itself, if that’s the best product approach.

Source: NVIDIA

AMD commits support to coreboot for the foreseeable future

Subject: General Tech, Motherboards | May 7, 2011 - 10:51 PM |
Tagged: coreboot, amd

When you boot your computer, you probably see a splash screen from whatever motherboard manufacturer or system builder you purchased from. Under that splash screen your computer is busily preparing itself to accept your operating system of choice with a lot of proprietary code. coreboot, formerly LinuxBIOS, is an Free Software project first released over a decade ago designed to replace your aforementioned proprietary BIOS with their own lightweight code. They claim boot times to a Linux console of just 3 seconds.


AMD Embedded: In this article.

Thursday, AMD announced on their blog that they have committed to supporting coreboot for all future products starting with Llano APU. They claim that support will continue for the foreseeable future for both features and products.

We are not expecting our readers to replace their BIOSes with coreboot except for a small segment of hardcore enthusiasts with a decent understanding of C. That said, the motivation of coreboot is not currently in the consumer market: the embedded market is the focus and AMD’s pledge of continued support should mean that cash registers, kiosks, and set-top boxes will have a little more AMD inside driving them.

Source: AMD Blog

KGPU lets the Linux kernel harness your GPU's power

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | May 6, 2011 - 05:25 PM |
Tagged: linux, kgpu, gpgpu

PC Per has discussed using the GPU as a massively-parallel augment to the CPU for a very long time to allow the latter to focus on the branching logic (“if/then/else”) and other processes it is good at that GPUs are not. AMD and Intel both have their attempts to bundle the benefits of a GPU on to their CPU parts with their respective technologies. Currently most of the applications outside of the scientific community are gaming and multimedia; however, as the presence of stronger GPUs saturates, we are seeing more and more functions relegate to the GPU.


So happy together!

KGPU is an attempt to bring the horsepower of the GPU to the fingertips of the Linux kernel. While the kernel itself will remain a CPU function, the attempt allows the kernel to offload the parallel stuff to the GPU for large speed-ups and keep the CPU free for more. Their current version shows whole multiple speedups of eCryptfs, an encrypted filesystem, in terms of maximum read and write bandwidth by allowing the GPU to deal with the AES cipher.

We should continue to see speedups as tasks that would be perfect for the GPU are finally allowed to be with their true love. Furthermore, as the number of tasks relegated to the GPU increases we should continue to see more and stronger GPUs embedded in PCs which should decrease the fears for PC game developers worried about the number of PCs capable of running their applications. I am sure that is great news to many of our frequent readers.

Source: KGPU Project

Good news from TSMC, their new 12 inch Fab is ahead of the game

Subject: General Tech | May 6, 2011 - 12:35 PM |
Tagged: fab, TSMC, 12, inch

At 10 million 8-inch equivalent wafers produced in 2010 and an expected 20 million by 2015 it is a good thing that not only is TSMC not having major production issues anymore but it also ahead schedule with the setup of Fab 15, which will be producing 28nm chips on 12 inch wafers.  Moving from 8 to 12 inches should also mean less cost per chip, though whether the savings will be absorbed by the costs of the new fab or if they will be passed straight on to the consumer is a question that cannot be answered until summer next year when they expect to get production capacity up to full speed.  DigiTimes has the scoop here.


"Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) has begun equipment move-in for the phase 1 facility of a new 12-inch fab (Fab 15) with volume production of 28nm technology products slated for the fourth quarter of 2011, according to the foundry.

TSMC previously said it would begin moving equipment into the facility in June, and expected volume production to kick off in the first quarter of 2012.

Pilot runs at the phase 1 facility of Fab 15 are expected to start in the third quarter of 2011, following by volume production in the fourth quarter, said Jason Chen, senior VP of worldwide sales and marketing for TSMC, at a company event held on May 5. With new capacity coming online, TSMC will see its combined 12-inch capacity top 300,000 units a month."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

Anonymous Denies Responsibility For Sony PSN Attack

Subject: General Tech | May 6, 2011 - 09:20 AM |
Tagged: sony, Internet, Data Breach, Anonymous

As Sony analyzed the forensic data of the recent PSN/SOE attack, they discovered a text file named "Anonymous" and containing the phrase "We are legion," according to Network World. As a result of this, Sony even went so far as to accuse the hacker group as the responsible party in hacking the Playstation Network (and stealing customers' information) in a letter to the U.S. congress.

Anonymous responded to the implications brought by Sony today. Network World reports that Anonymous has stated they were not involved in the attack and that "others performed the attack with the intent of making Anonymous look bad." Based on a press release by the hacker group, it's prior victims had motive to irreparably defame the group in the public eye.  Anonymous stated that they have never been involved in credit card theft.  Further, they claim to be an "ironically transparent movement," and had they truly been behind the attack they would have claimed responsibility for their actions.

The press release goes on to state that "no one who is actually associated with our movement would do something that would prompt a massive law enforcement response."  They further claim that the world's standard fare of Internet thieves would have invested interest in making Sony and law enforcement agencies believe it was Anonymous to throw police off of their trail.

The hacker group names such former victims as Palantir, HBGary, and the U.S. Chamber Of Commerce of being organizations that would like to discredit Anonymous.  "Anonymous will continue its work in support of transparency and individual liberty; our adversaries will continue their work in support of secrecy and control," they state in their press release "we are anonymous."

As Anonymous, Sony, and spectators the world over debate, the affected public continues to wait for the true identies of the hackers involved in stealing 77 milion Sony customers' private information to come to light.