Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Mobile | December 30, 2012 - 04:48 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: webgl, w3c, html5
I use that title in quite a broad sense.
I ran across an article on The Verge which highlighted the work of a couple of programmers to port classic Realtime Strategy games to the web browser. Command and Conquer along with Dune II, two classics of PC Gaming, are now available online for anyone with a properly standards-compliant browser.
These games, along with the Sierra classics I wrote about last February, are not just a renaissance of classic PC games: they preserve them. It is up to the implementer to follow the standard, not the standards body to approve implementations. So long as someone still makes a browser which can access a standards-based game, the game can continue to be supported.
A sharp turn from what we are used to with console platforms, right?
I have been saying this for quite some time now: Blizzard and Valve tend to support their games much longer than console manufacturers support their whole platforms. You can still purchase at retail, and they still manufacture, the original StarCraft. The big fear over “modern Windows” is that backwards compatibility will be ended and all applications would need to be certified by the Windows Store.
When programmed for the browser -- yes, even hosted offline on local storage -- those worries disappear. Exceptions for iOS and Windows RT where they only allow you to use Safari or Trident (IE10+) which still leaves you solely at their mercy to follow standards.
Still, as standards get closer to native applications in features and performance, we will have a venue for artists to create and preserve their work for later generations to experience. The current examples might be 2D and of the pre-Pentium era but even now there are 3D-based shooters developed from websites. There is even a ray tracing application built on WebGL (although that technically is reliant on both the W3C and Khronos standards bodies) that just runs in a decent computer with plain-old Firefox or Google Chrome.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | December 29, 2012 - 05:38 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Windows Store
I think we all know my opinion on the Windows Store by now. I have been pretty vocal about the severe consequences inherent to requiring certification for applications to exist. Like it or not, it exists, and has recently reached a new milestone in terms of app count.
Paul Thurrott of Supersite for Windows collected a bit from information from various sources about status of the Windows Store. MetroStore Scanner reported that the store surpassed the 35,000 mark on December 27th with apps being added at an intense rate of a several hundred apps per day.
The rapid inclusion of apps has been a trend throughout its life. The Next Web noted a fairly constant increase of 10000 apps per month. This meant that across the month of November, the Store more than doubled its catalog.
Just a couple of days earlier, Paul also reported that the Windows Store for Windows Phone passed 150,000 apps although it looks like a math error. The blog post claims Microsoft certified 75,000 apps which “more than doubled the catalog” which suggests that the catalog has some amount less than 150,000 apps.
But that is neither here nor there: the Windows Store is getting a bunch of SKUs.
Introduction and Technical Specifications
Courtesy of Lenovo
As one of the newest members of Lenovo's Thinkpad line, the Lenovo Thinkpad Twist attempts to bridge the gap between laptops and tablets in a convertible Ultrabook format. We decided to put the Twist through the normal suite of benchmark and functional tests, along with some tests specifically geared towards laptops, to gage how well it performs. At a starting MSRP of $829.00 for the base model, the Lenovo Thinkpad Twist offers an intriguing price to feature proposition with its ability to convert from a fully functional laptop into a tablet almost seamlessly.
Courtesy of Lenovo
The Thinkpad Twist offers an innovative take for the user that wants the best of both worlds - the portability and usability of a laptop with the ease of use of a tablet. Featuring the Windows 8 OS, the Twist comes with a 5-point touchscreen usable in all modes of operation. Lenovo designed in support for the following features: USB 2.0 and 3.0 type devices; three networking types including a Realtek-based GigE NIC, a Broadcom-based 802.11n Wi-Fi adapter, and a Broadcom-based Bluetooth adapter; 4-in-1 media card reader port; mini-HDMI and mini-Display Port video output ports; a dual-purpose audio port; and a 720p HD-capable integrated webcam.
Courtesy of Lenovo
In designing the Twist, Lenovo decided to use a center hinge on which the screen pivots to support its four modes of operation: laptop mode, presentation mode where the screen can be rotated to face the audience, tent mode which allows the system to stand upright for movie or other media viewing, and tablet mode where the screen folds down to cover the keyboard entirely.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | December 19, 2012 - 01:44 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: ultrabook, nec, lavie x, Japan, Intel
NEC, a Japanese PC vendor has unveiled a new LaVie ultrabook–called the LaVie X–that is one of the thinnest on the market. The LaVie X measures 12.8mm thick and weighs 3.5 lbs. It will come pre-loaded with the full version of Windows 8 x64. On the outside, the LaVie X features an IPS display with a resolution of 1920x1080, a thin island-style keyboard, and a number of IO ports. Around the edges, the LaVie X has two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI video output, and a SD card reader. Above the display is a 2MP camera for video conferencing. Interestingly, while the LaVie Y has a touchscreen, NEC decided to not include a touchscreen on the LaVie X ultrabook in order to maintain its thin form factor. Reportedly, the ultrabook will run for up to 7 hours on battery power.
Internal specifications include an Intel Core i7 3517U dual core processor running at 1.9GHz with HyperThreading support, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, and either a 128GB or 256GB solid state drive (SSD). It further has 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless radios.
While you will not be able to get this ultrabook stateside without importing it, it will be available in Japan on December 27th. The LaVie X with a 128GB SSD will cost 129,780 Yen, and the version with a 256GB SSD will cost 175,000 Yen. Not including any import fees, you are looking at approximately $1539.89 USD and $2076.41 USD respectively.
Read more about ultrabooks running Windows 8 at PC Perspective.
Subject: Processors, Mobile | December 19, 2012 - 03:26 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: wayne, tegra 4, SoC, nvidia, cortex a15, arm
Earlier this year, NVIDIA showed off a roadmap for its Tegra line of mobile system on a chip (SoC) processors. Namely, the next generation Tegra 4 mobile chip is codenamed Wayne and will be the successor to the Tegra 3.
Tegra 4 will use a 28nm manufacturing process and feature improvements to the CPU, GPU, and IO components. Thanks to a leaked slide that appeared on Chip Hell, we now have more details on Tegra 4.
The 28nm Tegra 4 SoC will keep the same 4+1 CPU design* as the Tegra 3, but it will use ARM Cortex A15 CPU cores instead of the Cortex A9 cores used in the current generation chips. NVIDIA is also improving the GPU portion, and Tegra 4 will reportedly feature a 72 core GPU based on a new architecture. Unfortunately, we do not have specifics on how that GPU is set up architecturally, but the leaked slide indicates that the GPU will be as much as 6x faster than NVIDIA’s own Tegra 3. It will allegedly be fast enough to power displays with resolutions from 1080p @ 120Hz to 4K (refresh rate unknown). Don’t expect to drive games at native 4K resolution, however it should run a tablet OS fine. Interestingly, NVIDIA has included hardware to hardware accelerate VP8 and H.264 video at up to 2560x1440 resolutions.
Additionally, Tegra 4 will feature support for dual channel DDR3L memory, USB 3.0 and hardware accelerated secuity options including HDCP, Secure Boot, and DRM which may make Tegra 4 an attractive option for Windows RT tablets.
The leaked slide has revealed several interesting details on Tegra 4, but it has also raised some questions on the nitty-gritty details. Also, there is no mention of the dual core variant of Tegra 4 – codenamed Grey – that is said to include an integrated Icera 4G LTE cellular modem. Here’s hoping more details surface at CES next month!
* NVIDIA's name for a CPU that features four ARM CPU cores and one lower power ARM companion core.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | December 19, 2012 - 02:56 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: w3c, html5
Open Web Standards has reached a new milestone on Monday when the W3C published their completed definitions for HTML5 and Canvas 2D. There is still a long and hard road until the specification becomes an official standard although the organization is finally comfortable classifying this description as feature complete.
HTML5 allows for much more media, interactivity, and device-optimization than its 1999 predecessor. This standard, particularly once finalized and recommended by the W3C, can be part of the basis for fully featured programs which function as expected where the standard does.
This is an important milestone but one by no means the final destination of the standard.
The biggest sticking point in the HTML5 specification is still over video tag behavior. The W3C pushes for standards it recommends to comply with its royalty-free patent policy. Implementation of video has been pretty heavily locked down by various industry bodies, most noticeably MPEG-LA, which is most concerning for open source implementations which might not be able to include H.264. There still does not appear to be a firm resolution with this recent draft.
Still, once the patent issues have been settled, video will not just be accessible in static ways. Tutorials exist to show you how to manipulate the direct image data resulting from the video to do post-processing effects and other calculations. It should be an interesting abstraction for those who wish to implement video assets in applications such as for a texture in a game.
HTML5 is expected to be fully baked sometime in mid-2014. It would be around that time where HTML5.1 would mature to the state HTML5 celebrates today.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | December 17, 2012 - 03:08 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: radeon, mobility, amd, 8800m, 8700m, 8600m, 8500m, 8000m
AMD appears to be jumping the gun a bit here but has decided to announce the Radeon 8000M-series of mobile GPUs prior to CES. Before you get all riled up about the next generation of graphics technology, you should know that the new parts we are showing here are still built on the same 28nm Graphics Core Now (GCN) architecture that you'll find in the Radeon HD 7000 series of desktop graphics cards and even some already-existing Radeon mobility parts like the HD 7970M. We were told there are "some changes" but details were minimal.
Radeon HD 8500M and 8600M GPUs will both feature 384 stream processors with the variance related to the maximum clock speed. The 8600M will hit 775 MHz core clock while the 8500M will cap out at 650 MHz. Memory speeds are identical. Keep in mind that the desktop Radeon HD 7750 card has 512 stream processors and it runs at up to 900 MHz so you that can put the performance of these mainstream GPUs in perspective.
The 8700M uses the same 384 stream processor GPU though it gets a bit higher clock speed at 850 MHz. The 8800M is the only GPU announced today to increase the core count to 640 stream processors and a clock speed of 700 MHz for a total compute capability of 992 GFLOPs. Though the specifications are nearly equivalent to the build of the desktop Radeon HD 7770 part it is worth mentioning that the theoretical peak performance of that GPU is 1.28 TFLOPs; nearly 30% higher than the 8800M.
AMD was coy but hinted that this mainstream product announcement will be added to later in Q1 with higher end enthusiast-level SKUs. No 8900s yet guys, check back later.
When asked about the changes in this mobility GPU release compared to the 7000M series already available today, we only know that this is built on the same 28nm process but that the "architecture is slightly different and more efficient" than the 7000 chips. These are NEW chips and are NOT rebrands of currently available products. We don't have die sizes, transistor counts or TDPs until further notice.
AMD did provide a couple of quick graphs comparing the performance of the Radeon HD 8870M against the GeForce 650M G5 and The 8770M against its own previously releaesd 7670M part. Take all of this with a grain of salt until we can do our own testing, as per usual.
For now, I would say our readers should be very timid about the idea of a new series of GPUs from AMD without more information on the actual changes in performance will be compared to Souther Islands. Based on what we are hearing the changes are very minor.
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | December 13, 2012 - 04:37 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: asus, VIA
We have not heard too much about VIA Technologies developing CPUs in recent history. They still hold an x86 license until at least some time in 2013. VIA also develops ARM SoCs, apparently, and have recently struck a deal to get in multiple 7-inch tablets by Asustek. These models will be exclusively sold to China.
ASUS set a goal of 12 million sales for tablet PCs for 2013 and one way to accomplish that milestone is to provide cheap but decent devices. This goal is firmly in the same order of magnitude as iPad sales. Still, ASUS already has a fairly big presence in the tablet market with its strong Transformer line and more notably Google’s Nexus 7.
VIA will provide ARM Cortex A9 processors for the lower end of ASUS’ product line. The model which they will be embedded in will retail for somewhere between $99-$149 USD. These devices will be available in China for the Lunar New Year season of 2013.
Interestingly Asustek has not contracted out Pegatron to manufacture the device, opting instead for Wistron Corp. to fulfill the order. The two companies, Pegatron and Asustek, were once one-in-the-same; founded by a businessman with a fascination for the Greek mythological Pegasus. The company changed with the climate like any other and Pegatron was spun off into its own independent entity. Since then, Pegatron has been hard at work developing laptops and tablets for ASUS as well as picking up orders from Apple and others.
The first shipment of 2-3 million manufactured devices is rumored to be delivered to Asus by the end of December. Perhaps these sales can help bolster VIA and their ability to develop CPUs once more?
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | December 4, 2012 - 07:28 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Intel, arm, apple
Hopefully I did not make your head hurt too much with that title.
Intel announced early in the year the opening of their fabrication labs to certain other developers, none of which competing with anything Intel does. We joked about how this is the end of the world as we know it although we feel fine. As it turns out, the world might end December 2012: RBC rumors that Intel might fulfill orders of ARM processors taking away that responsibility from Samsung.
Of course, there will always be a catch. It is possible that Intel will allow Apple to manufacture their ARM-based processors at Intel if Apple switches their tablets to x86-based products. No-one said the apocalypse must be an irrational event.
When pigs fly? Challenge accepted.
If this rumor comes to fruition - and that is a mighty large if - we finally know that a line of apathy exists within Intel. Intel fabricating an architecture that they directly compete with is a big deal, ignore their motive.
Intel has allegedly made a compromise, definitively this time. We debated fairly heavily whether Intel made a compromise when they allowed FBGAs to be manufactured at their facilities. This time there is no question about whether Intel will make a concession to better its company as a whole.
I have no doubt that Intel desires to stomp competing platforms but we should all doubt that Intel would never step into some middle ground. After all, Intel is not even suffering at this point by any measure. Imagine if the situation actually begins to look dire.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | December 4, 2012 - 01:28 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: XPS 13, ultrabook, ubuntu 12.04, ubuntu, sputnik, linux, dell
Dell's XPS 13 Developer Edition is branded as an Ultrabook but it has two significant differences; a custom built Ubuntu distro and a price $250 higher than Dell's other Ultrabook offering. Those two points are somewhat interrelated as Dell will be offering support equivalent to Windows powered machines which means new training, procedures and staffing which can be expensive to set up. There is another reason the price is so high which is the hardware as, even the base model comes with a 256GB SSD; the rest of the hardware is pretty standard, an i7-3517U, 8GB DDR3 and no discrete video card. It is hard to say if sticking the Developer Edition moniker on the machine will encourage people to purchase this ultrabook, if you are curious check out more at The Inquirer.
"TIN BOX FLOGGER Dell's decision to put arguably its best laptop on sale preloaded with Ubuntu Linux shows not only how far desktop Linux has come but how far Microsoft has fallen.
Dell announced its Project Sputnik earlier this year to a warm if not ecstatic reception. The firm had preloaded Linux onto its consumer machines before but they were hard to find and on forgettable machines. However with the XPS 13 the firm is not only loading Linux on its most high profile laptop but showing that Microsoft's operating system isn't the only choice in town for OEMs and consumers alike."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Office 2013 now on sale for business customers @ The Register
- Li-ion batteries benefit from hierarchical LiFePO4/C @ NanotechWeb
- Intel will issue bonds to buy back its own shares @ The Inquirer
- Microsoft, RIM to keep existing platforms operating after releasing new ones @ DigiTimes