Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 12, 2011 - 01:52 PM | Tim Verry
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.
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.
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?
Subject: Processors, Chipsets, Mobile | May 9, 2011 - 09:07 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: PowerVR, Intel, gpu, atom
In a surprising move, Intel plans to move away from using it's own graphics processors with the next "full fat" Atom processors. Intel has traditionally favored its own graphics chipsets; however, VR-Zone reports that Intel has extended it's licensing agreements with PowerVR to include certain GPU architectures.
These GPU licenses will allow Intel to implement a PowerVR SGX545 equivalent graphics core with its Cedarview Atom chips. While the PowerVR graphics core is no match for dedicated GPUs or likely that found in Intel's own Sandy Bridge "HD 3000" series, the hardware will allow Atom powered systems to play video with ease thanks to hardware accelerated decodding of "MPEG-2, MPEG-4 part 2, VC1, WMV9 and the all-important H.264 codec." VR-Zone details the SGX545 GPU as being capable of "40 million triangles/s and 1Gpixles/s using a 64-bit bus" at the chips original 200mhz.
Intel plans to clock the mobile chips at 400mhz and the desktop graphics cores at 640mhz. The graphics cores will be capable of resolutions up to 1440x900 and supports VGA, HDMI 1.3a and Display Port 1.1 connections for video output. DirectX 10.1 support is also stated by VR-Zone to be supported by the SGX545, which means that the net-top versions of Atom may be capable of running the Aero desktop smoothly.
This integration by Intel of a GPU capable of hardware video acceleration will certainly make Nvidia's ION chipsets harder to justify for HTPC usage. ION chipsets will likely reliquish marketshare to cheaper stock Intel Atom platforms for basic home theater computers, but will still remain viable in the more specific market using ION + Atom chips as light gaming platforms in the living room.
Subject: Mobile | May 9, 2011 - 02:19 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: gma 3150, netbook, hp, atom, single core
The demise of netbooks has been greatly exaggerated, with a $400-ish price tag and at least as much power as a tablet but without the added costs or contracts, there is still a large market for these devices. The incredible sales figures we saw when this form factor originally came out will never be reached again but there still are a lot of people buying netbooks. Up for review by Matt is the HP Mini 210 with a Atom N455 and Intel's older GMA 3150 graphics inside. Is it worth saving $100 by choosing a single core netbook instead of a dual core? Read on to find out.
"This praise aside, the HP Mini 210, like most traditional single-core netbooks, sits in a market position that is increasingly awkward. The problem is the lower prices of dual-core netbooks and budget ultraportables. The HP dm1z has now been reduced to an MSRP of $449.99, and the Eee PC 1215B’s initial price of $450 has already been knocked down to about $435 on Amazon. These dual-core AMD Fusion powered netbooks are substantially quicker than the HP Mini 210, but only $100 more."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
- Samsung Sens R540: First Encounter @ InsideHW
- Sony VAIO Y Series 11.6-inch Notebook Review @ Legit Reviews
- HP Pavilion dv6 (Sandy Bridge) Review @ t-break
- CyberPower Xplorer X6-9100: Gamers Need Not Apply @ AnandTech
- ASUS K53E 15.6-inch Notebook Review @ Legit Reviews
- Toshiba Satellite L655-S5161 Review @ TechReviewSource
- Coolink Lapchilla Super-Quiet Laptop Cooler Review @ eTeknix
- Cooler Master NotePal Infinite Evo Duo Silent Fan Notebook Cooler Review @Hi Tech Legion
- Cooler Master NotePal Infinite EVO Laptop Cooler @ Pro-Clockers
- CoolerMaster NotePal LapAir Notebook Cooler Review @ eTeknix
- Arctic C1 Portable Universal Charger @ Overclockers Onlin
- Choiix Power Fort C-2006 Power Backup Review @ BayReviews
- Targus Mini Stand Video Review @ Tech-Reviews.co.uk
- Mobile GPU Comparison Guide Rev. 11.3 @ TechARP
- Hands-on with the BlackBerry Bold 9900 @ t-break
- LG Optimus 2X review @ The Inquirer
- Control your BlackBerry from your Jaguar's screen @ t-break
- HTC Droid Incredible 2 (Verizon Wireless) Review @ TechReviewSource
Subject: General Tech, Chipsets, Mobile | May 9, 2011 - 10:56 AM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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.
HP Mini 210 Review: Introduction
With all of the talk about tablets and smartphones it’s easy to forget just how popular netbooks are and remain. The days of absurd 800% market share growth numbers are over, but netbooks remain a part of the mobile computing market and are not likely to disappear any time soon.
That may mean the end of excitement over netbook, but it also means the opportunity for refinement. New, revolutionary products often have rough edges. Many older netbooks had poor keyboards and so-so build quality. My old Samsung N10, which was considered the cream of the crop in its day, looks cheap compared to today’s models – and I paid just over $400 for it.
Subject: Mobile | May 9, 2011 - 08:26 AM | Matt Smith
Tagged: probook, pavilion, mini, hp, envy, elitebook
Ever had the urge to get down at work? HP’s newly announced ProBook 5330m might be just the thing for you. This new 13.3” business ultraportable will be hitting retailers today with optional Beats Audio and an MSRP of $799. The funky audio aside, this is still a ProBook, so it has high-end features like an aluminum chassis and backlit keyboard. Slap another dress on it and you could call this the HP Envy 13.
Subject: Mobile | May 7, 2011 - 08:37 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Transformer, tablet, asus
Many people were left without a shiny Asus Eee Pad Transformer upon launch day as Amazon and various online retailers' stocks were voraciously depleted. Even going so far as to being unable to fulfill some pre-orders for customers who wanted both the tablet and keyboard dock.
There have been many theories across the Internet regarding the reason for the tablet's supply shortage, ranging from simple unprecedented consumer demand to more complex component shortage and manufacturing quality control issues. Fortunately, Netbook News was able to get a statement from Asus' Headquarters in Taipei on the exact reason for the Transformer's low stock. They quote ASUSTek's spokesperson David Chang in stating "It really depends on the demand. The current demand surpasses our expectations by far."
The company is currently ramping up production of the hot tablet, and expects 300,000 units to be made available for purchase at the end of June this year. Rumors of component shortages and quality control issues were not confirmed by the spokesperson. The Asus spokesperson did; however, state that "If the demand continues to increase substantially then we will have to continue to ramp up production in order to fulfill our customers’ demand."
As more units start to hit the streets, will you be picking up your Asus Transformer?
Subject: Processors, Mobile | May 6, 2011 - 07:11 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: project denver, nvidia, macbook, Intel, arm, apple
A very interesting story over at AppleInsider has put the rumor out there that Apple may choose to ditch the Intel/x86 architecture all together with some future upcoming notebooks. Instead, Apple may choose to go the route of the ARM-based processor, likely similar to the A4 that Apple built for the iPhone and iPad.
What is holding back the move right now? Well for one, the 64-bit versions of these processors aren't available yet and Apple's software infrastructure is definitely dependent on that. By the end of 2012 or early in 2013 those ARM-based designs should be ready for the market and very little would stop Apple from making the move. Again, this is if the rumors are correct.
Another obstacle is performance - even the best ARM CPUs on the market fall woefully behind the performance of Intel's current crop of Sandy Bridge processors or even their Core 2 Duo options.
In addition to laptops, the report said that Apple would "presumably" be looking to move its desktop Macs to ARM architecture as well. It characterized the transition to Apple-made chips for its line of computers as a "done deal."
"Now you realize why Apple is desperately searching for fab capacity from Samsung, Global Foundries, and TSMC," the report said. "Intel doesn't know about this particular change of heart yet, which is why they are dropping all the hints about wanting Apple as a foundry customer. Once they realize Apple will be fabbing ARM chips at the expense of x86 parts, they may not be so eager to provide them wafers on advanced processes."
Even though Apple is already specing its own processors like the A4 there is the possibility that they could go with another ARM partner for higher performance designs. NVIDIA's push into the ARM market with Project Denver could be a potential option as they are working very closely with ARM on those design and performance improvements. Apple might just "borrow" those changes however at NVIDIA's expense and build its own option that would satisify its needs exactly without the dependence on third-parties.
Migrating the notebook (and maybe desktop markets) to ARM processors would allow the company to unify their operating system across the classic "computer" designs and the newer computer models like iPads and iPhones. The idea of all of our computers turning into oversized iPhones doesn't sound appealing to me (nor I imagine, many of you) but with some changes in the interface it could become a workable option for many consumers.
With even Microsoft planning for an ARM-based version of Windows, it seems that x86 dominance in the processor market is being threatened without a doubt.
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | May 5, 2011 - 10:37 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: usb computer, Education
In case you did not get enough solder for one day: you are in luck! David Braben, previously known for his work developing such games as Rollercoaster Tycoon, Thrillville, and Kinectimals, created an extremely low cost PC for educational use. His goal is ultimately to have computers like the one he created be accessible such that there would be functionally zero barriers to entry for students to pursue studying computing. A charity was created, the Raspberry Pi Foundation, under these beliefs to distribute this device hopefully sometime within the next 12 months.
Am I the only one who finds it weird that an affordable PC uses HDMI?
Introduction, Design and Ergonomics
Watching today’s smartphone market brings back memories. Right now the transition from single-core to dual-core products is being made, as is a transition from older 3G networks to the latest 4G technology. I’m reminded of the excitement of the first dual-core x86 processors, as well as the rabid arguments surrounding them.
Many dual-core phone are still “coming soon”, however, which means that single-core flagships like the HTC Thunderbolt are still able to impress. This 4.3” smartphone is everything you’d expect a premier high-end Android handset to be. As I’ll explain, that has its positive and negatives, but the specifications look great on paper.