CES 2014: Lenovo Smartphones - Vibe Z, A859, S930, S650

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 2, 2014 - 08:01 AM |
Tagged: Vibe Z, S930, S650, Lenovo, CES 2014, CES, A859

Lenovo is the leading PC manufacturer worldwide. They have been doing things consistently right in that industry and it shows with year-over-year growth in an otherwise global decline. At the same time, they have been attempting to carve their segment in the smartphone industry. They will bring four models to this year's CES ranging in price from $200 up to $550. Each phone is expected to be available this year.

The Vibe Z is their first LTE phone and the highest performance of all the models the will bring to CES this year. The phone itself weights slightly less than a third of a pound and is also slightly less than a third of an inch thick. The 5.5-inch full HD screen (400 PPI) is, of course, based on IPS technology which is common to phones because of the wide viewing angles they encourage.

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Lenovo Vibe Z

Lenovo calls a 5.5-inch 400 PPI screen, "20/20 Vision Display". Of course that overlooks several assumptions and unknown variables in much the same way as Apple's "Retina" moniker does. 400 PPI is great but does not directly relate to human vision.

The Vibe Z (starting at $549) will be powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC backed with 2 GB of RAM. Up to 16 GB of persistent storage will be included. It will include two cameras: a wide-angle 5 MP front camera and a 13 MP rear camera with a maximum aperture of f1.8. This is a wide ratio which should significantly assist low light performance when depth of field blur is not a problem (or when it is desired for a soft background effect). The phone will use Android 4.3 and Google Play.

Interestingly, the phone will also integrate 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0. There should be plenty of bandwidth to stream HD videos from media servers around the house.

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Lenovo S930

The S930 (starting at $319) and the S650 (starting at $229) will be based on Android 4.2 and feature a quad core 1.3 GHz SoC from MediaTek (likely MT6582) backed by 1 GB of RAM. Both will contain dual SIM card slots and an 8 MP rear camera. They are less than a millimeter more thick than the Vibe Z. Both contain 8 GB of storage.

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Lenovo S650

The S930 and S650 diverge from there. The S930 has a 6-inch 720p screen and two speakers with Dolby Digital Plus. The S650 has a 4.7-inch screen at a resolution of 960x540 and no mention of speakers (although it probably has one). The S650 also has a microSDHC storage slot allowing for up to 32 GB of expansion.

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Lenovo A859

The last phone is the A859 (starting at $219). This 5-inch 720p phone is a slightly larger than the others. It also contains a 1.3 GHz SoC from MediaTek and 1 GB of RAM. It has 8 GB of internal storage which can be expanded by up to 32 GB with a microSDHC card. It will be powered by Android 4.2.2.

Expect to see more from Lenovo as CES coverage continues.

Coverage of CES 2014 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2014 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Lenovo

It's Internet Explorer Tan (Not Ten) & I Don't Understand It.

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | November 7, 2013 - 03:56 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, IE11, AFA 2013

Marketing decisions at Microsoft can be... different. If you include internal videos, you might see Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer in a Volkswagon parody ad. They abandon a Sun workstation on the side of a road with trash. I guess electronics recycling was not a thing back then.

The large white characters over the big monster at the end, "つづく", means "[to] be continued".

Expect more of these (perhaps at Anime Festival Asia?)

Internet Explorer Tan mixes the weirdness of Microsoft with the peculiarity of Anime culture. Inori Aizawa (藍澤 祈) is the semi-personification of Internet Explorer. The character describes herself as slow, clumsy, and awkward when she was younger. She stars in a two-minute cartoon created, apparently internally, by Microsoft Singapore. They snuck in more than a few subtle references.

For a bit of humor, her first name (, given names follow family names in Japanese) is romanized to Inori (祈り) as above. That word means "prayer" (and without the suffix, "praying" apparently). Again, this was created internally by Microsoft.

And, you know what? I believe that a well maintained Internet Explorer, if Microsoft can successfully focus on devices and services, will be their grace. Trident (IE's rendering engine) caught up to the standards-compliant ones and, if they continue to push the pack forward, can sell devices on its great experience. The other browsers need Internet Explorer to keep them innovating just as much as IE needs them.

It makes me smile. That could be my brain stuck in a bootloop, but it makes me smile. Almost every frame I look at has a reference to something. Still don't really understand it though.

Source: Microsoft

(The Verge) Valve's Steam Machine and Steam Controller

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | November 4, 2013 - 03:36 PM |
Tagged: valve, Steam Machine, steam os, CES 2014

I guess The Verge, with its Steam Machine photos, prove all three next-gen consoles (trollolol) are designed to look like home theater devices. Of course you will never be able to purchase a Steam Machine from Valve but, since they are releasing their CAD files, I am sure at least one Steam Machine will be exactly to reference spec.

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Image Source: The Verge

And, for the record, I think the reference enclosure is classy. Living room appliances suit a lot better than kitchen ones.

On a serious note: pictures of the internals. The beta Steam Machines will contain full desktop components aligned in such a way that each has its own sector to breathe from. The hottest parts intake and exhaust as far away from one another as possible. This makes the chassis relatively wide and short: a video card's length, in depth; about 3 expansion slots, tall; and about 3 PCIe cards height, wide. The actual measurements are 12" x 12" x 3" (W x D x H).

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Photo Credit: The Verge

This is mostly possible because the GeForce Titan GPU is mounted upside-down and parallel with the motherboard. I have never experienced a 90-degree PCIe extension slot but, according to Josh Walrath, this is a common accessory in servers (especially 1U and 2U racks). The Titan intakes downward into a relatively unoccupied section of the case and exhausts out the back.

The Verge also had some things to say about the Steam Controller. The design motivations are interesting but I will leave that discussion to the original article (this news post will be long enough when I'm done with it). There are two points that I would like to bring up, though:

The first is a clarification of the original Steam Controller announcement: Valve will produce and sell Steam Controller on its own. This was originally a big question mark as it could water down how "reference" Valve's controller actually is. With Valve taking all-the-reins, the hardware looks more set in stone.

Will Valve still allow OEMs to learn from their design? Who knows.

The second is also interesting.

What Valve left out of the Steam Controller is almost as intriguing as what went in. Though Valve co-founder Gabe Newell told us that the company wanted to put biometric sensors into game controllers, the team discovered that hands weren't a good source of biofeedback since they were always moving around. However, the team hinted to me — strongly — that an unannounced future VR headset might measure your body's reaction to games at the earlobe. Such a device could know when you’re scared or excited, for instance, and adjust the experience to match.

Seeing Google, Valve, and possibly Apple all approach content delivery, mobile, home theater, and wearable computing... simultaneously... felt like there was a heavy link between them. This only supports that gut feeling. I believe this is the first step in a long portfolio integrating each of these seemingly unrelated technologies together. We should really watch how these companies develop these technologies: especially in relation to their other products.

Stay tuned for CES 2014 in early January. This will be the stage for Valve's hardware and software partners to unbutton their lips and spill their guts. I'm sure Josh and Ryan will have no problems cleaning it all up.

Source: The Verge

ARM TechCon 2013 Will Showcase the Internet of Things

Subject: Processors, Mobile, Shows and Expos | October 26, 2013 - 11:13 AM |
Tagged: techcon, iot, internet of things, arm

This year at the Santa Clara Convention Center ARM will host TechCon, a gathering of partners, customers, and engineers with the goal of collaboration and connection.  While I will attending as an outside observer to see what this collection of innovators is creating, there will be sessions and tracks for chip designers, system implementation engineers and software developers.

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Areas of interest will include consumer products, enterprise products and of course, the Internet of Things, the latest terminology for a completely connected infrastructure of devices.  ARM has designed tracks for interested parties in chip design, data security, mobile, networking, server, software and quite a few more. 

Of direct interest to PC Perspective and our readers will be the continued release of information about the Cortex-A12, the upcoming mainstream processor core from ARM that will address the smartphone and tablet markets.  We will also get some time with ARM engineers to talk about the coming migration of the market to 64-bit.  Because of the release of the Apple A7 SoC that integrated 64-bit and ARMv8 architecture earlier this year, it is definitely going to be the most extensively discussed topic. If you have specific questions you'd like us to bring to the folks at ARM, as well as its partners, please leave me a note in the comments below and I'll be sure it is addressed!

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I am also hearing some rumblings of a new ARM developed Mali graphics product that will increase efficiency and support newer graphics APIs as well. 

Even if you cannot attend the event in Santa Clara, you should definitely pay attention for the news and products that are announced and shown at ARM TechCon as they are going to be a critical part of the mobile ecosystem in the near, and distant, future.  As a first time attendee myself, I am incredibly excited about what we'll find and learn next week!

Mozilla Summit 2013, Day 3: Toronto Office Tour and Games!

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | October 7, 2013 - 11:55 PM |
Tagged: Mozilla Summit 2013, mozilla

Summit 2013 came to an end on Sunday after a few closing keynotes, breakout sessions, a tour of the Mozilla Toronto campus, and interpretive dancing of what the fox says. Do not worry, Mozillians in our audience, I will only interpretively illustrate the interpretive dance with a totally unironic Shockwave Flash screenshot.

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Real smooth moves, indeed.

On the topic of Flash demos, the first session I attended included an extended preview of Shumway. As discussed in Day 2, the project intends to keep Flash content alive after the platform fades. A few demos were shown to attendees including a signification portion of the HomestarRunner email, "Your Friends", where Strong Bad harms the entire cast except himself and The Poopsmith (and other off-cast or yet-to-be-introduced characters, of course). The video played just about perfectly.

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BananaBread OF DOOM!

"Bananabread" was also modified into a special demo showing live textures from video elements. The game even projected a separate game of Doom against the wall of the level. This can, of course, be used for non-gaming projects as well; projects have been developed to use shader effects on web camera video for GPU-accelerated post-processing tasks.

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The closing ceremonies followed the breakout sessions and mostly thanked their community. A few "Mozillians" were voted by their peers for their popular influence and were recognized with signed posters and, in one case, a paid trip to any Mozilla campus in the world. Plus, people were hugged by a fox; a picture is worth a thousand words.

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The last event of the day, at least the last one relevant to a computer hardware website, was a tour of the Mozilla Toronto campus. The office is structured in departments around a central kitchen, restroom, and discussion area. They attempt to have a sort-of Canadian cottage feel with a couple of Adirondack chairs and a wood-beam ceiling. There is also a group of desks called "Benoits St." because, well, it just so happens everyone who works in that section is named Benoit.

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Community Room with its reconfigurable tables and musical corner.

Thus ends the coverage of Mozilla Summit 2013, Toronto.

Source: Mozilla

Mozilla Summit 2013, Day 2: APCs and Servos in a Flash

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | October 6, 2013 - 01:14 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, Mozilla Summit 2013

The second day of Mozilla Summit 2013 kicked off with three more keynote speeches, a technology fair, and two blocks of panels. After two days and about two dozen demos, several extremely experimental, I am surprised to only see one legitimate demo fail attempting to connect two 3D browser games in multiplayer over WebRTC… and that seemed to be the fault of a stray automatic Windows Update on the host PC.

Okay technically another demo “failed” because an audience member asked, from the crowd, to browse a Mozilla Labs browser prototype, Servo, to an arbitrary website which required HTTPS and causing the engine to nope. I do not count that one.

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Speaking of Servo, the HTML rendering engine ended the “Near Term Strategy and the Products we Build” keynote with an announcement of its full score to ACID1. The engine, developed in Mozilla’s own RUST language, is a sandbox for crazy ideas such as, “What would happen if you allow Javascript to execute in its own thread when it would normally be blocked by Gecko?” Basically any promising task to parallelize is being explored (they openly solicit community insights) in making the web browser better suited for the current and upcoming multi- and many-core devices out there. Samsung is also involved on the project, which makes sense for their mobile products.

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Also discussed is Shumway, a Javascript rendering engine for Flash content. Candy Crush Saga was presented as an example of a game, entirely reliant on Flash, playing without the plugin installed in a similar way to how WINE allows Windows applications within Linux. Shumway has been known for a while but is becoming quite effective in its performance. What happens to content after Flash becomes deprecated (be it 3 years, 10 years, or 100 years) has been a concern of mine with videos such as HomestarRunner holding cultural relevance despite not updating in almost 3 years.

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Lastly, we saw a demo of the APC Paper which is expected to lead Firefox OS into the desktop market. It is actually a little smaller than I expected from the pictures.

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One more day before everyone heads home. So far not much has happened but I will keep you updated as things occur.

Source: Mozilla

Mozilla Summit 2013, Day 1: Unreal Engine and UP

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | October 5, 2013 - 03:58 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, Mozilla Summit 2013

I have volunteered with Mozilla starting about a month after I read the Windows Store certification requirements (prior to that I was ramping up development of modern apps). I am currently attending, due to that volunteer work, Mozilla Summit in Toronto. The first day, Friday, has been filled with keynotes including some partially-new announcements.

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Mozilla has a number of branded elevator doors, signs, and carpets covering the hotel to promote the event for the attendees. Unfortunately, my hotel room was not in the tower this elevator serviced. Also unfortunate, I did not realize that until I was on said elevator at in the 27th floor. Moving between the first and 27th floors took all of about 5 seconds; popping my ears took longer. To be fair I was given correct directions by the hotel staff I just did not realize that the building was, in fact, multiple buildings and so my interpretation was off.

On to the important stuff: explosions! The second keynote contained high performance 3D browser games and, albeit less kablooieie, site personalization.

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The latter we have talked about before. Mozilla is implementing interface elements in the browser for users to share demographic information with websites. They understand that advertising is how the web works and does not want it outright dead. They do believe (at least some) advertisers mine too much data from their users because they need to mine some data from their users. One-on-one conversation with a couple Mozilla staff somewhat confirms my suspicions that the initiative is to remove the temptation for just a little more data with homegrown solutions. This seems to be their last idea, however, given the discussion at the panel.

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The former was an Unreal Engine demo on stage during the “Envisioned Future State” keynote. The presenter had several multi-kills with a rocket launcher. I should note the entire demo ran off of the file protocol so no internet connection was required. This was quite literally Unreal Tournament 3 running native to Firefox.

Well, I think that is it for today! A lot of information was released but I believe these were the top-two most interesting points.

Source: Mozilla

Kingston HyperX Holds Global DotA 2, Overclocking Competitions Leading Up to CES 2014

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | October 3, 2013 - 01:41 PM |
Tagged: kingston hyper x, kingston, DOTA 2, competition

Fountain Valley, CA – October 3, 2013 − Kingston Technology Company Inc., the independent world leader in memory products, will soon begin two global competitions to further show its support and commitment to the eSports and the enthusiast community. The HyperX DotA 2 League features 16 of the world’s top professional DotA 2 gaming teams battling for a large cash prize. On October 7, HyperX will begin an open global overclocking competition. The finals for both competitions will be held during 2014 International CES® in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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The HyperX DotA 2 League tournament begins later this month with 16 teams competing for a total of $50,000 (USD) in prize money. An additional $40,000 will be offered to cover flight and hotel for the top four teams that advance to battle each other in Las Vegas for the championship. Each match is a best-of-three maps and all matches will be broadcast live so fans can follow the progress of their favorite team. The format and complete competition details can be found here.

Working together with HWBOT, the premier informational website for overclockers and performance enthusiasts, contestants will compete to post the highest benchmarks for Maximum Memory Frequency, Super PI and Intel® XTU. Beginning October 7, there will be an open online qualifying competition lasting four weeks. Winners will be determined weekly with the five final contestants competing in January 2014 during CES. For the finals, components will be supplied by Kingston and its partners: ASUS, Cooler Master and Intel®. Complete rules can be found here.

“The HyperX 2013 DotA 2 tournament will be epic as the best professional gaming teams in the world battle each other and fans will be able to watch every minute live online,” said Annie Leung, HyperX global strategic marketing manager, Kingston. “We are also very excited to hold an overclocking competition globally to see how far HyperX memory can be pushed. Both events will be fun and exciting for gamers and enthusiasts.”

Please visit the Kingston HyperX Website for more information.

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Kingston is celebrating 25 years in the memory industry. The company was founded on October 17, 1987, and has grown to become the largest third-party memory manufacturer in the world. The 25th anniversary video can be found here along with more information, including a timeline of Kingston's history. In addition, HyperX memory is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The first HyperX high-performance memory module was released in November 2002.

Source: Kingston

AMD GPU Lineup Announced: R9 and R7 Series

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | September 25, 2013 - 05:23 PM |
Tagged: radeon, R9 290X, R9, R7, GPU14, amd

The next generation of AMD graphics processors are being announced this afternoon. They carefully mentioned this event is not a launch. We do not yet know, although I hope we will learn today, when you can give them your money.

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When you can, you will have five products to choose from:

  • R7 250
  • R7 260X
  • R9 270X
  • R9 280X
  • R9 290X

AMD only provides 3D Mark Fire Strike scores for performance. I assume they are using the final score, and not the "graphics score" although they were unclear.

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The R7 250 is the low end card of the group with 1GB of GDDR5. Performance, according to 3DMark scores (>2000 on Fire Strike), is expected to be about two-thirds of what an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti can deliver. Then again, that card retails for about ~$130 USD. The R7 250 has an expected retail value of less than < $89 USD. This is a pretty decent offering which can probably play Battlefield 3 at 1080p if you play with the graphics quality settings somewhere around "medium". This is just my estimate, of course.

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The R7 260X is the next level up. The RAM has been double over the R7 250 to 2GB of GDDR5 and its 3DMark score almost doubled, too (> 3700 on Fire Strike). This puts it almost smack dab atop the Radeon HD 6970. The R7 260X is about $20-30 USD cheaper than the HD 6970. The R7 is expected to retail for $139. Good price cut while keeping up to date on architecture.

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The R9 270X is the low end of the high end parts. With 2GB of GDDR5 and a 3DMark Fire Strike score of >5500, this is aimed at the GeForce 670. The R7 270X will retail for around ~$199 which is about $120 USD cheaper than NVIDIA's offering.

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The R9 280X should be pretty close to the 7970 GHz Edition. It will be about ~$90 cheaper with an expected retail value of $299. It also has a bump in frame buffer over the lower-tier R9 270X, containing 3GB of GDDR5.

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Not a lot is known about the top end, R9 290X, except that it will be the first gaming GPU to cross 5 TeraFLOPs of compute performance. To put that into comparison, the GeForce Titan has a theoretical maximum of 4.5 TeraFLOPs.

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If you are interested in the R9 290X and Battlefield 4, you will be able to pre-order a limited edition package containing both products. Pre-orders open "from select partners" October 3rd. For how much? Who knows.

We will keep you informed as we are informed. Also, the announcement is still going on, so tune in!

Source: AMD

JavaOne 2013: GPU Is Coming Whether You Know It or Not

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | September 23, 2013 - 09:38 PM |
Tagged: JavaOne, JavaOne 2013, gpgpu

Are the enterprise users still here? Oh, hey!

GPU acceleration throws a group of many similar calculations at thousands of simple cores. Their architecture makes it very cheap and power efficient for the amount of work they achieve. Gamers, obviously, enjoy the efficiency at tasks such as calculating pixels on a screen or modifying thousands of vertex positions. This technology has evolved more generally than graphics. Enterprise and research applications have been taking notice over the years.

GPU discussion, specifically, starts around 16 minutes.

Java, a friend of scientific and "big-data" developers, is also evolving in a few directions including "offload".

IBM's CTO of Java, John Duimovich, discussed a few experiments they created when optimizing the platform to use new hardware. Sorting arrays, a common task, saw between a 2-fold and 48-fold increase of performance. Including the latency of moving data and initializing GPU code, a 32,000-entry array took less than 1.5ms to sort, compared to about 3ms on the CPU. The sample code was programmed in CUDA.

The goal of these tests is, as far as I can tell, to (eventually) automatically use specialized hardware for Java's many built-in libraries. The pitch is free performance. Of course there is only so much you can get for free. Still, optimizing the few usual suspects is an obvious advantage, especially if it just translates average calls to existing better-suited libraries.

Hopefully they choose to support more than just CUDA whenever they take it beyond experimentation. The OpenPOWER Consortium, responsible for many of these changes, currently consists of IBM, Mellanox, TYAN, Google, and NVIDIA.

Source: JavaOne