A*STAR is making a name for themselves in storage

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2011 - 01:02 PM |
Tagged: A*STAR, hdd, STT-MRAM

A*STAR Data Storage Institute was in the news two weeks ago with the results of their experiment of doping hard drive storage medium with salt allows a 6 fold increase in storage density thanks to much tighter sputtering of magnetic grains on the platter.  They are back in the news with another development in a different kind of storage medium altogether.  With Micron partnering in the development they are working on a new type of resistive RAM, which will bring speeds better than you can get with flash and in a non-volatile form.  The technology is referred to as spin transfer torque magnetic random access memory or STT-MRAM.  Drop by The Register for a look at what they are up to, as well as what the competition is working on to bring us the next generation of NAND.

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"NAND suppliers and technology developers are anticipating this by developing follow-on technologies centred around the idea of non-volatile, resistive RAM (RRAM), which is faster to access than flash and has a longer working life. There are a variety of ways of altering the resistance of a memory cell and Micron is entering into a joint research and development agreement with Singapore's A*STAR Data Storage Institute (DSI) to develop spin transfer torque magnetic random access memory or STT-MRAM."

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Source: The Register

Bulletproof earbuds, really?

Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2011 - 01:16 PM |
Tagged: audio, earbuds, v-moda, vibrato remote headphones

It is hard to imagine just why you would need Kevlar reinforced cords on a pair of earphones, but that is exactly what V-MODA did with their Vibrato Remote Earphones.  There is also no indication what is remote about the headphones, but that is enough attention paid to the marketing.  Think Computers wanted to know how they sounded, not what the package said which is why the earphones were quickly out of the package and into their ear canals.  One of the more noticeable features was the length of the cable, at a total of 45" you won't feel restricted while wearing the headphones.  Another nice touch was the inclusion of a microphone on the volume control so that you can use the Vibratos with a cell phone or digital recorder.  You'll have to read the full review to see if as much thought went into the audio quality.

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"I only started using earphones or earbuds as many people call them a few years ago. So many people think that all earphones are the same and will use the ones that come with their device. I did that for quite some time before I tried a different set of earphones and since then I’ve been trying all different types of earphones. Today we have a set of earphones on the more expensive end coming in at $130. These zinc-alloy earphones feature 8mm V-MASQUE drivers, BLISS 3.0 (Bass Level Isolating Soft Silicone) hybrid silicone fittings, Kevlar reinforced cables and a 24K gold plated plug. Le t’s check them out and see if they will be the next earphones you own."

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ASUS may be out of HDDs but they are not out of tablets

Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2011 - 12:11 PM |
Tagged: asus, netbook, tablet, ultrabook

ASUS seems to be sitting in a very nice place in the market, with several flavours of 'killer' products, so that which ever ends up winning the form factor battle ASUS will come out with a profit.  In this high tech game of rock, paper, scissors we have The Ultrabook, with their newly released Zenbook, The Netbook, their Eee series being the best known and The Tablet, being that nice looking Eee Pad Transformer.  They even still sell laptops for those who prefer to exercise their arms and core.  Which ever form factor becomes dominant ASUS already has a model out now, with new ones on the way, which explains the 11% growth in profit they recorded this quarter.

One major benefit ASUS has with these smaller form factors is that they all use flash memory for long term storage.  With the devastation hitting Thailand as flood waters cover homes and businesses, the tech world also watches the stocks of platter based HDDs plummet.  In fact ASUS reported to The Inquirer that they expect to be out of hard drives by the end of the month.  That will only effect the larger form factors, ASUS may still hit the 1.8 million tablets shipped target that they are aiming for by the end of 2011.

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"ASUS managed a slight increase in profit for the third quarter of this year, despite the global slowdown in PC sales.

ASUS is still shipping notebooks, but has also been strong in netbooks and has launched its own fondleslab range, all siblings to its popular Eee PC netbook, led by the Eee Pad Transformer, but to eventually include the Eee Memo, Slider and Slate."

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Source: The Register

Asus Releasing Two Windows 8, Two Android Tablets Next Year

Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2011 - 08:25 AM |
Tagged: windows 8, tablet, software, kal-el, hardware, Android

With Asus’ previous tablets being a success, the company has decided to push forward with four new tablets that are slated to debut next year. The new tablets will join the ranks of the Transformer and soon to be released Transformer Prime tablets under the Asus Eee Pad lineup. Of the four new devices, two tablets will be running Google’s Android OS (Operating System) while the remaining two tablets will run Microsoft’s Windows 8 OS.

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The two tablets running Android are slated for release in the first quarter of 2012. While Asus has not released any specific hardware specifications, they will likely be powered by the quad core Nvidia Kal-El ARM processor like the upcoming Asus Transformer Prime (or the Kal-El’s successor).

On the other hand, quarter 3 of 2012 will see the release of two tablets running Windows 8. Interestingly, Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors are also supposed to launch in 2012, which would make for a nice match of technology.  Whether we'll see Ivy Bridge powered tablets; however, will depend on how soon Ivy Bridge launches and how quickly Asus can turn around and roll out a product designed around it.

The marketing speak in the above slides indicates that at least the marketing department is excited about the prospect of what they have dubbed hero products. They are striving to win mind share and achieve a “perfect” product. Whether they will achieve that or not remains to be seen; however, having more Windows 8 tablets isn’t a bad thing! More information can be had here.

Are you still holding out for your “perfect” tablet, and if so what are you looking/waiting to see from a tablet?

Source: Softpedia

Battlefield 3 Sells 5 Million Copies

Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2011 - 04:15 AM |
Tagged: PC, gaming, fps, ea, bf3, battlefield 3

As many readers of the site will know, the PC Perspective guys have been a “bit” interested in EA’s latest multiplayer first person shooter (FPS) Battlefield 3. Ryan for one has been “testing” Battlefield 3 extensively since the game’s release as he admitted on the latest TWICH podcast.

According to EA, the PC Per staff are not the only ones to enjoy the game (despite some game issues; I’m looking at you Origin) as Battlefield 3 has sold a whopping 5 million copies. It seems as though Battlefield 3 has emerged from the battle against stability issues to win the war and be a successful release. Battlefield 3’s sales have also impressed Electronic Arts who claimed the 5 million copies have surpassed their “best expectations.” Unfortunately, they have yet to release the numbers (that I want to see) concerning the percentage of sales of the PC versus the consoles.

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Another bit of positive BF3 news is that almost 99 % of the game stability issues have been fixed. M ore information on the game issues can be found here. Until next time, feel free to hit up the PCPER BF3 platoon and play with some fun people!

Source: Ars Technica

HP Not Able to Its Make Up Mind, WebOS Sticking Around After All

Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2011 - 03:58 AM |
Tagged: webOS, software, hp, hardware, computers

In a move by HP that is becoming less surprising by the day, the company has reconsidered (yet again) its position on WebOS and will be keeping WebOS hardware and software around for the foreseeable future (or at least until their next announcement).

Although several tech sites reported last week that WebOS would soon be getting a final nail in the coffin and abandoned by HP, Vice President (for the Personal Systems Group) Todd Bradley stated the exact opposite sentiment in an interview recently.

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3 heads of a dragon all going different directions... sound familiar HP?

Specifically, Mr. Bradley appeared on the television show Bloomberg West to talk about the company’s plans to keep the PSG (Personal Systems Group) part of the company. When questioned about WebOS, he stated that the various reports on HP shutting down the WebOS division were “unfounded rumor(s).” He further stated that HP is in fact continuing to invest in WebOS software and WebOS hardware. You can see a video of the full interview here (fair warning: the video is set to auto-play on the site).

Speaking of WebOS, Best Buy has recently snagged Touchpads while HP itself has depleted its inventory. Unfortunately, Best Buy is only willing to sell the HP Touchpads to customers who also purchase a HP or Compaq laptop or All-In-One computer, at least if you want a reasonable price on the units. More information on that can be found over at Maximum PC.

Any bets on how soon it will be before HP changes directions yet again and I have to eat my words?

An actual ASUS Ultrabook review

Subject: General Tech | October 31, 2011 - 06:27 PM |
Tagged: zenbook, ux31, ultrabook, asus

Finally a reviewer has managed to get their hands on an Ultrabook; The Tech Report gives the low down on ASUS' Zenbook UX31 in their lateset article.  It is every bit as pretty as the pictures implied and is not too bad looking on the inside with a Core i5-2557M, 4GB DDR3-1333 on Intel's QS67 chipset with a 128GB Adata XM11 SSD for storage with the 1600x900 TN display powered by the SandyBridge processors onboard graphics engine.  Interestingly, The Tech Report finds its physical characteristics to match or beat the 13" Macbook Air, which costs $200 more so perhaps there is hope for this form factor.  Throughout the review are the inevitable comparisons to Apple, who have already mastered this form factor, as well as mention of the soon to be available IvyBridge books which should be about half the price.

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"The first 13" ultrabook from Asus looks extremely tantalizing on paper—not to mention visually. Is it as good as it seems, and is it worth the $1,099 asking price?"

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ARM follows Intel and AMD's 64 bit lead

Subject: General Tech | October 31, 2011 - 11:57 AM |
Tagged: cortex, ARMv8, arm, 64bit

We've now some more detailed information on ARMs new 64 bit ARMv8 processor and its strengths and weaknesses.  For the most part it resembles the 64 bit architecture that Intel and AMD use, an extended 32 bit architecture with several hold overs.  Perhaps the most disappointing is that ARM has the same 48 bit limit to virtual address space that the competition has.  If ARM had managed to overcome the limitations of canonical form addresses, they would have something that neither Intel nor AMD could bring to the server room. ARM desperately needs somthing to offer that the competition cannot if they are to convince admins to move from a familiar architecture to a brand new ARM architecture; power savings probably won't be enough.  Drop by The Inquirer to read up on the improved exception levels and encryption acceleration of the new ARMv8 architecture.

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"At the ARM TechCon conference in Santa Clara on Thursday, the top brass at ARM Holdings, the company that controls the core designs and licenses them to a slew of chip makers for modification in smartphones, tablets, and other embedded devices, showed off the new ARMv8 architecture. It's an incremental improvement over the current v7 architecture, just like the 64-bit extensions to the original 32-bit x86 processors from Intel and AMD were."

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Source: The Register

Now you’re thinking with Portals not cumbersome mod tools

Subject: General Tech | October 30, 2011 - 02:32 PM |
Tagged: valve, Portal 2, editor

Now do not get me wrong, I have no problems with complicated modding tools that give you nearly endless power over your creations: I just think this is cool. Valve has announced on their official Portal blog that they are soon releasing a simplified puzzle creator for their popular crate dating sim, “Portal 2”. Along with the new editor for the mod creators themselves, mod consumers will have an easier time acquiring the puzzles they desire through Valve’s Steam Cloud service. According to the screenshots released by Valve, the puzzle creator looks startlingly like something out of the Sims -- potentially introducing more people into videogame modifications as a whole.

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Be honest… how many of you will search the item repository for cake?

Image from Valve Software

This news comes on the heels of free DLC released for Portal 2’s co-op mode earlier this month. As a part of the Steam Cloud integration, community features will allow you to follow certain mod developers that you find make levels that speak to you (like the companion cube) and keep up to date with their works. Unfortunately, with Valve, the duration between announcement and release could be Half of your Life so there is no guarantee when we will see the tools and features. If only they could give us our personal Jonathan Coulton bundled with the editor.

Source: Valve

Firefox PDF Reader Nearing Completion, Optional Extension Available Now

Subject: General Tech | October 29, 2011 - 05:56 AM |
Tagged: software, pdf, open source, mozilla, firefox, browser

One of the most useful features in Google’s Chrome web browser is the built in PDF reader. It is a feature that I use almost every day, and although I keep an install of Firefox’s Aurora browser as a backup I have yet to return to using Firefox as my main browser since first checking out Chrome.

I’ve been wanting an integrated PDF reader in Firefox for some time now, and if this story is correct, Mozilla may be one step closer to delivering just that. According to the article, Mozilla has been developing a PDF viewer built using HTML 5 and Javascript technologies. Currently the open source project is called PDF.js, and the development team is working on integrating it into Firefox.

For now though, the team has released PDF.js as a browser extension for the open source browser. In addition to the extension download, the source code is available on GitHub for anyone to view and edit.

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PDF.js displaying a Dell service manual in PDF format.

As it is now, the PDF.js add-on rather basic, but is definitely off to a good start. You are able to navigate by sections or page thumbnails accessible by a mouse-over pop-up menu on the left of the window. Along the top are buttons for previous and next page, navigating to a specific page, zooming in and out, downloading, printing, and searching the PDF document.

During some informal testing using a 94 page Dell service manual in PDF form, scrolling was smooth enough until hitting a new page upon which there was a bit of lag. Navigating to specific pages was rather quick, however.

The PDF reader is off to a good start and I may have one more reason to switch back to Mozilla’s browser soon enough. What do you guys and gals think about built in PDF support, is it something you find useful during your daily browsing?  If you're interested in checking it out for yourself, the extension is available for download here.  Simply download this "pdf.js.xpi" file and install it (choose the Firefox or Aurora executable for installation if Windows does not assign the .xpi extension to Firefox automatically) using Firefox.  Now navigate to a PDF file on any webpage to have it automatically open using PDF.js.

Source: Geek.com