Podcast #154 - Intel Z68 Chipset release, Intel SRT SSD caching technogy, OCZ Agility 3 and Solid 3 and more!

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | May 12, 2011 - 02:30 PM |
Tagged: z68, ssd, srt, solid, smart response technology, smart response, podcast, ocz, Intel, agility

PC Perspective Podcast #154 - 5/12/2011

This week we talk about the Intel Z68 Chipset release, Intel SRT SSD caching technogy, the OCZ Agility 3 and Solid 3, Viewer Questions 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!

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Hosts: 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: 1:15:39

Program Schedule:

Source:

Google Announces the Chromebook, Students To Receive $20 Per Month Subscription

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 12, 2011 - 01:52 PM |
Tagged: mobile, laptop, Chromebook

First there was the laptop. Then the notebook. The netbook is the most recent addition to mobile devices with hardware keyboards. That is, until today. Google has officially launched a new cloud OS based mobile device dubbed the ChromeBook.

Samsung_Chromebook.jpg

As a netbook with an operating system that amounts to little more than a web browser, the device purports to not only match the functionality of a "normal" netbook, but surpass it thanks to file storage residing in the cloud, automatic updates to the OS, virtually unlimited applications, and an eight second boot time.

Google further states that the device is capable of all the promises feats while remaining secure. Security is accomplished by several independent strategies. The OS splits up system settings and user settings, and each ChromeBook allows only one "owner" per device. The owner is able to allow other users to log in to the device as well, whether it is with their Google account or as a guest. Guest Mode does not sync or cache data, and all system settings are kept out of the session, including network configuration. Each process is sandboxed in an effort to reduce the likely hood of cross-process attacks. Further, the browser and plugin processes are not given direct kernel interface access. Toolchain hardening seeks to limit exploit reliability and success. The file system has several restrictions, including a read-only root partition, tmpfs-based /tmp, and User home directories that can not have executable files.

Further, ChromeBooks utilize a secure automatic update system and Verified Boot that seeks to eliminate attacks tampering with the underlying code. All updates are downloaded over SSL, and are required to pass various integrity checks. The version number of updates is not allowed to regress, meaning that only updates with a version number higher than those already installed on the system are allowed to install. Further, on the next boot-up, the updates undergo a further integrity check in the form of what Google calls "Verified Boot."

According to Google, Verified Boot "provides a means of getting cryptographic assurances that the Linux kernel, non-volatile system memory, and the partition table are untampered with when the system starts up." The process depends on a "chain of trust" which is created using custom read-only firmware rather than a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) device. The read-only firmware checks the integrity of the writable firmware, and if it passes then the writable firmware is used to check the integrity of the next component in the boot up process. While Verified Boot does not protect against dedicated attackers, it does allow a safe recovery option when re-installing as well as detecting changes made by a successful run-time attack and files or write-able firmware changes made by an attacker with a bootable USB drive.

In future iterations of the OS, Google is pursuing driver sandboxing as well as implementing a secure method for auto-logins. Further, Google states that they are interested in pursuing biometric security if they are able to ensure their authentication software is secure when using low cost hardware. Also on the agenda is implementing a "single signon" system that would allow users to log into third party sites using credentials generated by their Google account.

Acer_ChromeBook.jpg

Hardware running Chrome OS is not new, however. Google's CR-48 notebook has been in the wild for months, allowing thousands of users the chance to try out the new operating system and its accompanying hardware. Both Acer (11.6", $349) and Samsung (12.1", $429 wifi only) have stepped up to the plate and are offering ChromeBooks at launch. What is new; however, is the way in which users are able to purchase the hardware. While consumers will still be able to purchase a ChromeBook from retailers, Google has announced a new subscription option for school and business users. The new subscription service would allow students to receive a ChromeBook for $20 a month, while business users would pay $28 a month.  In order to get the subscription price schools and businesses must enter into a three year contract.  The subscription price includes the "hardware, operating system, updates and cloud-based management" along with online, email, and telephone support directly from Google. The monthly subscription further includes regular hardware refreshes.

It is apparent that Google sees its largest market for ChromeBooks as being large businesses and schools, which can then manage a fleet of ChromeBooks for their users for a much lower cost versus maintaining hundreds of traditional computers. While large IT departments are likely to see the cost benefits, It remains to be seen how consumers will react to this subscription based model. Subscriptions have become more prevalent, with the majority of the US using cell phones with monthly contracts. On the other hand, users --students especially-- are used to buying a computer outright. Will the lure of low cost subscription ChromeBooks be enough to break consumers' traditional thoughts on purchasing computers?  Will students accept remotely administrated computers in exchange for a low cost subscription?

Source: Google

Are you nuts to switch to the Narwhal? Check out Ubuntu 11.04

Subject: General Tech | May 12, 2011 - 11:54 AM |
Tagged: Unity, Ubuntu 11.04, ubuntu, OS, natty narwhal, linux, gnome

Natty Narwhal, officially called Ubuntu 11.04, has arrived on the scene and it brings some changes to the way you will look at Linux.  It was designed to be the first desktop version to dump the Gnome GUI in favour of the Unity interface that has been previously used on netbook and other lower powered machines.  The design its self is fairly minimalistic as you would expect from what it was first implemented as, but not to the point where you won't recognize the familiar dock style interface common to OS X and Win 7.  Ars Technica takes you through a thorough look at the newest Linux and the pluses and minuses of the new GUI.

 

"Ubuntu 11.04, codenamed Natty Narwhal, rose from the depths last week. The update brings a number of significant new features to the Linux-based operating system. It includes a much-improved refresh of the Unity shell and a number of other significant improvements throughout the application stack.

This is the first version of Ubuntu to ship with Unity on the desktop. Due to the far-reaching nature of the changes that accompany the transition to a new desktop shell, this review will focus almost entirely on Unity and how it impacts the Ubuntu user experience. We will also look at how Unity compares with GNOME 3.0 and the classic GNOME experience."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Ars Technica

Sandy B's Little Sister: New Celeron Details

Subject: General Tech, Processors | May 12, 2011 - 12:34 AM |
Tagged: sandy bridge, celeron

Intel has made a splash with their Sandy Bridge parts; for being in the middle-range they keep up with the higher end of the prior generation in many applications. We have heard rumors of new Atom-level parts from Intel deviating from their on-chip GPU structure that Sandy Bridge promotes. What about the next level? What about Celeron.

11-intel.png

I'm guessing less than an i7.

Details were posted to CPU-World about Intel’s upcoming Sandy Bridge-based Celeron processors. There are three variants listed each supporting Intel’s on-chip GPU. The G440 is a single core part clocked at 1.6 GHz with a 650 MHz GPU where the G530 and G540 are both dual core parts clocked at 2.4 GHz and 2.5 GHz respectively and both with an 850 MHz GPU. The dual core parts have a 2MB L3 cache though the article is inconsistent on whether the single core part has 1 or 2 MB of L3 cache though we will assume 1 MB due to the wording of the article. While the GPU performance differs between the single core and dual core parts both will Turbo Boost to a maximum of 1GHz as need arises.

Functionally the chips will only contain the bare minimum of Sandy Bridge core features like 64-bit and virtualization support. There are still currently no further details on launch date and pricing. But if you are waiting to upgrade your lower end devices rest assured that Sandy B is there for you; at some point, at least.
 

Source: CPU-World

Alenka: The SQL, starring CUDA!

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Storage | May 11, 2011 - 07:58 PM |
Tagged: SQL, developer, CUDA

Programmers are beginning to understand and be ever more comfortable with the uses of GPUs in their applications. Late last week we explored the KGPU project. KGPU is designed to allow the Linux kernel to offload massively parallel processes to the GPU to offload the CPU as well as directly increase performance. KGPU showed that in terms of an encrypted file system you can see whole multiple increases in read and write bandwidth on an SSD. Perhaps this little GPU thing can be useful for more? Alenka Project thinks so: they are currently working on a CUDA-based SQL-like language for data processing.

10-nv_logo.png

CUDA woulda shoulda... and did.

SQL databases are some of the most common methods to store and manipulate larger sets of data. If you have a blog it almost definitely is storing its information in a SQL database. If you play an MMO your data is almost definitely stored and accessed on a SQL server. As your data size expands and your number of concurrent accesses increases you can see why using a GPU could keep your application running much smoother.

Alenka in its current release supports large data sets exceeding both GPU and system RAM via streaming chunks, processing, and moving on. Its supported primitive types are doubles, longs, and varchars. It is open source under the Apache license V2.0. Developers interested in using or assisting with the project can check out their Sourceforge. We should continue to see more and more GPU-based applications appear in the near future as problems such as these are finally lifted from the CPU and given to someone more suitable to bear.

Gigabyte Launches World's First Z68 Motherboards With Support for mSATA Intel SLC SSDs and Smart Response Tech

Subject: General Tech, Motherboards | May 11, 2011 - 05:23 PM |
Tagged: z68, srt, motherboard, gigabyte

Popular enthusiast motherboard maker Gigabyte has today announced 4 additional motherboards to their already expansive Z68 chipset based lineup at launch.

4277.jpg

In addition to the features discussed in the previous announcement, including Lucid Virtu technology, the four new models feature a mSATA connection for onboard Intel SLC SSDs such as the new Intel 311 20GB SLC SSD. The 20GB drive can be used in conjunction with the Intel Smart Response Technology to boost system performance.

While Intel's SRT technology is also included in the other Gigabyte Z68 Motherboards, these 4 specific models differ in the implementation. Specifically, they allow consumers to attach the small solid state drive directly onto the motherboard. This will free the standard SATA ports of a SRT SSD for another hard drive or optical drive.

news10.jpg

Gigabyte has found as much as a 471% improvement in PC Mark Vantage scores in using a 20GB Intel 311 SLC SSD and a SATA 2 hard drive versus solely a SATA 2 hard drive. PC Perspective also examined Intel's Smart Response Technology and found that in trace based testing, the SLC SSD greatly improved performance once the data had been cached to the SSD. As for improvements in boot performance, PC Perspective found that:

"Boot times were just 3 seconds shy of those achieved with the OS cached on the SSD entirely. Of significant note here is that the SSD 310 was able to edge out (0.5 secs) faster boot times than the SSD 320 *and* the SSD 510, which we tossed in for an additional point of comparison."

Intel's SRT technology can definitely improve performance in the right situations, and Gigabyte is offering even more options to implement it in their newly announced models; the Z68XP-UD3, Z68XP-D3, Z68AP-D3, and Z68P-DS3. The new models are due to be released in June 2011.

Source: Gigabyte

Why does he get to play Deus Ex 3 already!?!

Subject: General Tech | May 11, 2011 - 03:57 PM |
Tagged: revolution, human, gaming, deus ex, Adam Jensen, 3

As further proof that no fairness exists in the universe, a lucky member of Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN has played the first 10 hours of Deus Ex:Human Revolution; not just once, but twice.  If you played the first incarnation then you are probably terrified that it will follow the awful path of the sequel; unless you've taken the Highlander fan stance and pretend that it never happened.  If you've only played the second ...

Anyways, head over as the news is not all bad, though the rampant cut scenes made the (p)reviewer want to do something that would effect his ability to reproduce rather than watch another one played.

dx3.jpg

"Because I am the luckiest man alive, I spent this weekend playing the first ten hours of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which is starting to look like it’ll be the biggest release of 2011. When I finished those ten hours, I went back and played them again, and have finally managed to compress my thoughts into a handy list of thoughts that’ll occur to you, too, as you play. Five reasons to be hugely excited Deus Ex 3 and five reasons to be knuckle-chewingly nervous await you below."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

News from the honeycomb hideout, Google's I/O

Subject: General Tech | May 11, 2011 - 01:42 PM |
Tagged: youtube, sandwich, music, ice cream, honeycomb, google, cloud, Android

The fourth Google I/O took place over the past two days and AnandTech was there to bear witness on the keynote speech and other presentations.  As you might well expect Android was the most talked about, the new Honeycomb update was discussed in great detail and with good reason.  The update allows Android powered devices to use USB peripherals in the same way as a PC, powering mice, keyboards and even XBox controllers which is a big change from only being able to be used as a USB device and offers even more for those interested in the Open Accessory Library. 

Others will be more interested in Google's Music Beta which will let you upload your music collection to the web and includes the ability to make playlists and albums as well as gatherig meta artist information.  You can think of it like Amazon's Cloud service, though hopefully more reliable, but as Google seems not to have got the permission of the record companies it may not be.

fry2.jpg

"Google’s I/O 2011 keynote may have suffered from a few choice leaks, namely the new Music service and Ice Cream Sandwich announcement, but Google still managed to include some surprises. Android 3.1, the update to Honeycomb, was announced along with a slew of development platforms, including one committed to bringing better introduction of accessories to Android devices of all types, and a home integration platform based on Android."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: AnandTech

Samaritan Demo Showcases New Unreal Engine 3 Graphical Effects

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | May 11, 2011 - 12:36 AM |
Tagged: UE3, graphics engine, gaming

Since 2006'a Gears of War, Epic Games' Unreal Engine 3 has provided both console and PC gamers hours of game play packed with graphical prowess. The now 5 year old graphics engine has enjoyed constant evolution to remain viable. At 2011's Games Developers Conference, Epic Games unvieled its Samaritan demo, proving to the world that not only could Unreal Engine 3 deliver graphics capable of fully utilizing current gen hardware but a huge evolution in graphical prowess that would require next gen hardware to in order to utilize all of it's features.

Using a three-way SLI GTX 580 powered gaming system, Epic Games was able to showcase some of the engine's newest features.  Taking eight months of development, the engine contains a slew of lighting, reflection, and shadow improvements as well as realistic hair and cloth physics.

Bokeh Depth of Field has been a popular artistic choice in Hollywood Films for many years.  Seen as out of focus but identifiable colored shapes in the background, bokeh objects serve to enhance a scene and influence viewers' moods.  Epic was able to improve upon earlier methods of rendering bokeh objects, though they admit that real time rendering of bokeh objects as seen in Hollywood films will necessitate next gen hardware.  Currently, the bokeh effects will be best used in cutscenes where developers can control and pre-render the objects to the best storytelling effect.

SamaritanPLRIE.png

Epic has also greatly enhanced the ways that light and reflections are handled.  Collectively called Image Based Reflections, Epic has implemented Point Light and Billboard Reflections.  These are then coupled with both static and dynamic Reflection Shadows to achieve a look resembling the real world.  While the graphics horsepower is not available today to allow Epic to mirror the way light works in the real world exactly, they are able to achieve a very close representation.  For example, they are not able to render the road to be as detailed as real life.  The road shown in their Samaritin demo was much less un-uniform.  This is so because the hardware required to calculate reflections on a road as un-uniform as in real life (in real time) is simply not available today.

Read on for more details...

Source: GeForce

Discrete Graphics Card Shipments See Slight Increase Versus Previous Quarter

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | May 10, 2011 - 08:52 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, jpr, gpu, amd

The last quarter of 2010 saw shipments totalling 18.84 million units. In 2011, shipments rose slightly by 2% to 19.03 million add-in cards. According to JPR (Jon Peddie Research), while Q1 of 2011 behaved similarly to past years seasonally, it did not fair as well overall as shipments did not exceed those of Q1 2010. Where AMD increased units shipped by 5.7% versus the previous quarter (Q4 2010), NVIDIA saw a 2% decrease.

JPR notes that while increase in units shipped versus Q4 2010 was rather slight, it remains a positive change due to Q4 2010 behaving irregularly regarding the seasonal cycle.

The increased units shipped further reflect changes in market share for the two largest discrete graphics card makers. Versus last quarter, NVIDIA lost 2.7% of the market while AMD gained 4.4%. JPR states that AMD has gained 16.6% market share while rival NVIDIA lost 8.4 on a year-to-year basis.

 

Q1 2011

Market Share

Q4 2010

Market Share

Market Share

Change Qtr-Qtr

Previous Year

Market Share

Market Share

Change Yr-Yr

AMD 40.46% 38.77% 4.37% 34.65% 16.79%
NVIDIA 59.12% 60.77% -2.71% 64.50% -8.35%
Others 0.42% 0.47% -9.99% 0.85% -50.62%

JRP's reported market shares over time.

John Peddie Research notes that of the 19.03 million discrete graphics cards shipped, NVIDIA was the clear market leader, thanks in part to sales of CUDA and GPU-Compute cards used in scientific and data research.  The add-in board market is further composed of three main segments that amount to the 19.03 million boards shipped.  On the high end rests the enthusiast gamer (approx. 9 million sold per year) and GPU-compute markets which exists as lower volume of sales but higher price per card.  The majority of graphics card shipments come from the mainstream market which is a balance of price and volume.  Finally, the workstation segment which is smaller than even the enthusiast gaming market but traditionally sees higher average asking prices for the hardware that is shipped.

JPR estimates that the add-in market will fall 4.5% to $19.8 billion USD despite positive increases in the number of cards shipped due to "a gradual decline in the ASP."

As the chart illustrates, NVIDIA still remains the market juggernaut, shipping 11.25 million cards; however, AMD has made a lot of headway in the past year.  With both the AMD 6950 and Nvidia 560ti proving to be the cards of choice by many gamers worldwide competition is healthy and enthusiasts have only to benefit from the market's positive increases.

Source: