Subject: General Tech, Systems | April 22, 2013 - 06:16 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Kickstarter, oculus rift, Virtuix Omni
Even if you no-one watches you game, this device would probably be difficult to store in a closet.
Team Fortress 2 is a fun game and one of the first with support for the Oculus Rift VR headset. But why stop there? The Omni is an omnidirectional treadmill which allows users to move within the device and have that motion translate into computer input. This means that running, strafing, and apparently jumping in your containing vessel will control a videogame character.
How the heck they expect to Scout double-jump? Beats me.
The company is currently in preparation for a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign. Under the assumption that no trickery is going on, this could be a leap forward for VR.
Perhaps a small-business arcade might like to get a few gaming PCs set up? To me, it sounds like an interesting novelty previously reserved for theme parks and traveling mall demonstrations. If it works as planned, it might even be a better technology.
Still no word on price or predicted availability, but I expect that will come soon.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | April 20, 2013 - 07:36 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows, start button, Metro
The latest rumors, based on registry digging and off-the-record testimony, claims that Windows 8.1 will including the option of booting directly into the desktop. A bold claim such as this requires some due diligence. Comically, the attempts to confirm this rumor has unearthed another: the start button, but not necessarily the start menu, could return. On the record, Microsoft also wants to be more open to customer feedback. Despite these recent insights into the future of Windows, all's quiet with the worst aspect of modernization.
Mary Jo Foley, contributor to ZDNet and very reliable bullcrap filter for Microsoft rumors, learned from a reliable source that the Start Button might have a place in the modern Windows. Quite the catch while fishing to validate a different rumor; she was originally investigating whether Microsoft would consider allowing users to boot direct to desktop via recently unearthed registry keys. Allegedly both are being planned for at least some SKUs of Windows 8.1, namely the Professional and Enterprise editions.
But, as usual for Microsoft, the source emphasized, "Until it ships, anything can change." No-one was clear about the Start Button from a functional standpoint: would it be bound to display the Start Screen? Would it be something more?
Personally, I liked the modern Windows interface. Sure, it is messed up on the modern-side when it comes to multiple monitor support, but that can easily be fixed. As you will note, I am still actively boycotting everything beyond Windows 7 and this news will not change my mind. We are bickering over interface elements when the real concern is the deprecation of user control. Outside of the desktop: the only applications you can use are from the Windows Store or Windows Update; the only websites you can browse are ones which Internet Explorer can render; and the only administrator is Microsoft.
Imagine if Microsoft is told by a government that its citizens are not allowed encryption applications.
The Windows Store is clearly modeled by, and about as messed up as, the Xbox Marketplace. Even if your application gets certified, would Microsoft eventually determine that certification fees should be the burden of the developer? That is how it is on the Xbox with each patch demanding a price tag of about $40,000 after the first-one-free promotion. That would be pretty hard to swallow for an open-source application or a cute game that a teenage woman makes for her significant other as a Valentine's gift.
Microsoft's current Chief Financial Officer, Peter Klein, stated in his third quarter earnings release that Windows Blue, "Further advances the vision of Windows 8 as well as responds to customer feedback." Despite how abrupt this change would seem, the recent twitchy nature should not come as a surprise; Microsoft has had a tendency to completely change course on products for quite some time now. Mary Jo mentioned how Microsoft changed course on UAC but even that is a bad example; a better one is how Microsoft changed from its initial assertions that Windows 8 Developer Preview would not be shaped by customer feedback.
A lot has changed between Developer Preview and RTM.
Then again, we can hope that Microsoft associates this pain with love for the desktop. I would be comfortable with the modern Windows if we were given a guarantee that desktop x86 applications would forever be supported. I might even reconsider using and developing applications if they allow loading uncertified metro-style applications and commit to never removing that functionality.
I can get used to a new method of accessing my applications. I can never get used to a middle-man who only says "no". If Microsoft is all ears, I hope we make this point loud and clear.
Subject: Systems | April 19, 2013 - 03:56 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: servers, project moonshot, microserver, hp, arm, Applied Micro Circuits, 64-bit
A recent press release from AppliedMicro (Applied Micro Circuits Corporation) announced that the company’s X-Gene server on a chip technology would be used in an upcoming HP Project Moonshot server.
An HP Moonshot server (expect the X-Gene version to be at least slightly different).
The X-Gene is a 64-bit ARM SoC that combines ARM processing cores with networking and storage offload engines as well as a high-speed interconnect networking fabric. AppliedMicro designed the chip to provide ARM-powered servers that will reportedly reduce the Total Cost of Ownership of running webservers in a data center by reducing upfront hardware and ongoing electrical costs.
The X-Gene chips that will appear in HP’s Project Moonshot servers feature a SoC with eight AppliedMicro-designed 64-bit ARMv8 cores clocked at 2.4GHz, four ARM Cortex A5 cores for running the Software Defined Network (SDN) controller, and support for storage IO, PCI-E IO, and integrated Ethernet (four 10Gb Ethernet links). The X-Gene chips are located on card-like daughter cards that slot into a carrier board that has networking fabric to connect all the X-Gene cards (and the SoCs on those cards). Currently, servers using X-Gene SoCs require a hardware switch to connect all of the X-Gene cards in a rack. However, the next-generation 28nm X-Gene chips will eliminate the need for a rack-level hardware switch as well as featuring 100Gb networking links).
The X-Gene chips in HP Project Moonshot will use relatively little power compared to Xeon-based solutions. AppliedMicro has stated that eh X-Gene chips will be at least two-times as power efficient, but has not officially release power consumption numbers for the X-Gene chips under load. However, at idle the X-Gene SoCs will use as little as 500mW and 300mW of power at idle and standby (sleep mode) respectively. The 64-bit quad issue, Out of Order Execution chips are some of the most-powerful ARM processors to date, though they will soon be joined by ARM’s own 64-bit design(s). I think the X-Gene chips are intriquing, and I am excited to see how well they fare in the data center environment running server applications. ARM has handily taken over the mobile space, but it is still relatively new in the server world. Even so, the 64-bit ARM chips by AppliedMicro (X-Gene) and others are the first step towards ARM being a viable option for servers.
According to AppliedMicro, HP Project Moonshot servers with X-Gene SoCs will be available later this year. You can find the press blast below.
The WindForce 450W GPU cooler was not the only piece of hardware Gigabyte showed off at its New Idea Tech Tour event in Berlin, Germany. The company also detailed a new small form factor PC called BRIX. The Gigabyte BRIX computer is set to compete with Zotac's Nano and Intel's Next Unit of Computing (NUC) PCs. There is no word on pricing or availability, but GIgabyte did delve into specifications of the tiny desktop PCs.
Computerbase.de was on hand at the New Idea event in Berlin.
The Gigabyte BRIX PC is similar to Intel's NUC with a small motherboard, Intel CPU, mSATA connector for storage, Mini PCI-E slot for a Wi-Fi card, and a small case. The BRIX system is slightly smaller than both the NUC and Zotac's Nano systems, though the BRIX motherboard itself is a bit larger than the NUC's. The BRIX motherboard measures 100 x 105mm and the case with internals measures 114.8 x 108 x 29.5mm and weighs 404 grams.
Internal specifications on the BRIX include an Intel ultrabook-class processor with sub-17W TDPs, two SO-DIMM slots (a maximum of 16GB at 1600MHz), one mSATA port, and one Mini PCI-E slot. The BRIX further comes with a Wi-Fi card and VESA mount. Processor options include:
- Intel Celeron 1007U
- Intel Core i3-3227U
- Intel Core i5-3337U
- Intel Core i7-3537U
The top-end Core i7-3537U gives you a dual core processor with hyper-threading clocked at 2GHz and 3.1GHz max turbo and 4MB cache. Pretty impressive for such a tiny PC!
The Gigabyte BRIX features a single USB 3.0 port on the front of the glossy black case. Rear IO includes an additional USB 3.0 port, one HDMI port, one DisplayPort video output, and a single Gigabit LAN port.
The Gigabyte BRIX looks to be a decent system that will give Zotac and Intel some needed small form factor competition. Here's hoping Gigabyte will allow custom cases, as I would love to see a passively-cooled option!
Computerbase.de has further details on the Gigabyte BRIX PC as well as a gallery of photos from the event.
Subject: Systems | April 9, 2013 - 03:37 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: ubuntu 12.04 lts, ubuntu, linux, dell, alienware x51
Dell has been one of the biggest (major OEM) supporter of the open source Ubuntu Linux operating system, and it seems the Linux love is trickling down to the company's boutique Alienware PC lineup as well. A new version of the Alienware X51, a small form factor gaming PC, is now available with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS pre-installed. Quite possibly the closest thing (so far) to a Steam Box, the Alienware X51 can run the Steam for Linux client along with all of the Linux games available on Valve's digital distribution service. Granted, the Ubuntu version cannot tap into the relatively-massive Windows game library out of the box, but it is also $100 cheaper than the X51 pre-installed with Windows due to Linux being free, and thus costing Dell less.
The Alienware X51 hardware is decent for a small form factor system, though it maxes out at a NVIDIA GTX 660 in the highest-end SKU. For $600, you can get an X51 will a dual-core Intel Core i3-3220 processor clocked at 3.3GHz, a NVIDIA GTX 645 1GB graphics card, 6GB of DDR3 1600MHz RAM, and a 1TB 7200RPM hard drive. On the other end fo the part configuration is the highest-end $1049 option, with a quad-core Core i7-3770 CPU clocked at 3.4GHz, a NVIDIA GTX 660 1.5GB GPU, 8GB of DDR3 1600MHz memory, and a 1TB 7200RPM hard drive.
The Alienware X51 chassis measures 12.5" x 12.5" x 3.74" and should fit into most entertainment centers (if you can get past the significant-other approval factor, that is). The PC comes equipped with Dell's 1506 802.11g/n Wi-Fi card as well, for situations where Ethernet or Powerline Ethernet is not an option.
It is nice to see Dell continuing to support Linux in some small way. Hopefully as Valve pushes for further Steam for Linux adoption, we will see more Linux-compatible games and OEMs will take notice and support the open source OS more openly in consumer lineups (a geek can dream...)!
You can find more information on the Alienware X51 at alienware.com/ubuntu/.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Systems, Mobile | April 7, 2013 - 10:21 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: DirectX, DirectX 12
Microsoft DirectX is a series of interfaces for programmers to utilize typically when designing gaming or entertainment applications. Over time it became synonymous with Direct3D, the portion which mostly handles graphics processing by offloading those tasks to the video card. At one point, DirectX even handled networking through DirectPlay although that has been handled by Games for Windows Live or other APIs since Vista.
AMD Corporate Vice President Roy Taylor was recently interviewed by the German press, "c't magazin". When asked about the future of "Never Settle" bundles, Taylor claimed that games such as Crysis 3 and Bioshock: Infinite keep their consumers happy and also keep the industry innovating.
Keep in mind, the article was translated from German so I might not be entirely accurate with my understanding of his argument.
In a slight tangent, he discussed how new versions of DirectX tends to spur demand for new graphics processors with more processing power and more RAM. He has not heard anything about DirectX 12 and, in fact, he does not believe there will be one. As such, he is turning to bundled games to keep the industry moving forward.
Neowin, upon seeing this interview, reached out to Microsoft who committed to future "innovation with DirectX".
This exchange has obviously sparked a lot of... polarized... online discussion. One claimed that Microsoft is abandoning the PC to gain a foothold in the mobile market which it has practically zero share of. That is why they are dropping DirectX.
Unfortunately this does not make sense: DirectX would be one of the main advantages which Microsoft has in the mobile market. Mobile devices have access to fairly decent GPUs which can use DirectX to draw web pages and applications much smoother and much more power efficiently than their CPU counterparts. If anything, DirectX would be increased in relevance if Microsoft was blindly making a play for mobile.
The major threat to DirectX is still quite off in the horizon. At some point we might begin to see C++Amp or OpenCL nibble away at what DirectX does best: offload highly-parallel tasks to specialized processing units.
Still, releases such as DirectX 11.1 are quite focused on back-end tweaks and adjustments. What do you think a DirectX 12 API would even do, that would not already be possible with DirectX 11?
Subject: General Tech, Systems | March 26, 2013 - 06:18 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: workstation, nvidia, GTC 2013, BOXX, 3dboxx 8950
Boxx Technologies recently launched a new multi-GPU workstation called the 3DBoxx 8950. It is aimed at professionals that need a fast system with beefy GPU accelerator cards that they can design and render at the same time. The 8950 is intended to be used with applications like Autodesk, Dassault, NVIDIA iray, and V-Ray (et al).
The Boxx 3DBoxx 8950 features two liquid cooled Intel Xeon Ed-2600 processors (2GHz, 16 cores, 32 threads), up to 512GB of system memory (16 DIMM slots), and seven PCI-E slots (four of which accept dual slot GPUs, the remaining three are spaced for single slot cards). A 1250W power suppy (80 PLUS Gold) powers the workstation. An example configuration would include three Tesla K20 cards and one Quadro K5000. The Tesla cards would handle the computation while the Quadro can power the multi-display ouput. The chassis has room for eight 3.5" hard drives and a single externally-accessible 5.25" drive. The 8950 workstation can be loaded with either the Windows or Linux operating system.
Rear IO on the 8950 workstation includes:
- 5 x audio jacks
- 1 x optical in/out
- 4 x USB 2.0 ports
- 1 x serial port
- 2 x RJ45 jacks, backed by Intel Gigabit NICs
The system is available now, with pricing available upon request. You can find the full list of specifications and supported hardware configurations in this spec sheet (PDF).
Subject: Systems | March 25, 2013 - 01:14 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: arm, calxeda, Boston Viridis
Perhaps the most telling part of AnandTech's review of the Calxeda Boston Viridis server was the statement that "It's a Cluster, Not a Server" as that paints a different picture of the appliance in many tech's heads. When you first open the chassis you are greeted by 24 2.5” SATA drive bays and a very non-standard looking motherboard full of PCIe slots, each of which can hold a EnergyCard which consists of four quad-core ARM SoCs, each with one DIMM slot and 4 SATA ports with the theoretical limit being 4096 nodes interconnected by physical, distributed layer-2 switches not virtualized switches which use CPU cycles. Check out the results of AnandTech's virtual machine testing and a deeper look at the architecture of the cluster in the full article.
"ARM based servers hold the promise of extremely low power and excellent performance per Watt ratios. It's theoretically possible to place an incredible number of servers into a single rack; there are already implementations with as many as 1000 ARM servers in one rack (48 server nodes in a 2U chassis). What's more, all of those nodes consume less than 5KW combined (or around 5W per quad-core ARM node). But whenever a new technology is hyped, it's important to remain objective. The media loves to rave about new trends and people like reading about "some new thing"; however, at the end of the day the system administrator has to keep his IT services working and convince his boss to invest in new technologies."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- MESH Slayer 3770K OC System @ Kitguru
- Apple iMac 27 inch 2012 review: Core i7, GTX 680MX and Fusion Drive @ Hardware.info
- ARIA Gladiator Warbird 660 i5-3570K GTX660 SLI OC @ Kitguru
- Digital Storm Bolt Desktop Gaming PC @ Tweaktown
- Gateway One ZX4970G-UW308 Review @ TechReviewSource
Subject: General Tech, Systems | March 24, 2013 - 03:56 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows 8, Blue, windows blue
It was only a matter of time before Windows Blue was leaked, like just about every other version of the operating system in recent memory. Internally, Blue is a transition for Microsoft into an annual release schedule for Windows products; externally, Blue is the first feature-release for Windows.
Yes, Sean Bean, win'ders has come.
Zac from WinBeta, embed above, got hold of the operating system, apparently leaked today, and played around with the changes for all of YouTube to see.
New split-screen App options. (Unclear whether multi-monitor app support is fixed)
- Minor clarifications for user instruction.
- New tile sizes.
- Swipe up from Start Screen to access list of apps.
- More personalization options.
- Picture frame mode.
- New App: Calculator.
- New App: Alarm.
- New App: Sound Recorder.
- New App: Movie Moments... apparently a new, confidential, video editing application.
- Internet Explorer updated to version 11.
Personally, despite sticking with Windows 7 for political reasons, the new App options seem like they would be the most engaging feature for Windows Blue. For being such a core segment of the "modern" Windows experience, apps are surprisingly annoying to manage as they currently exist on Windows 8. If you have two or more monitors then you are probably having a nightmare with anything outside of Windows 8's desktop mode.
We now know that app support is being looked at, so there is some hope that multiple monitor users will be considered too.
Subject: Systems | March 15, 2013 - 04:37 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: htpc, PIVOS, XIOS DS Media Play, android 4.0, xmbc
The XIOS DS Media Play is an Android 4.0 device powered by a Cortex-A9 and Mali-400 graphics, capable of streaming local and online media content including HTML5 and Flash to a TV. Not quite a full HTPC in some ways but certainly more than a cable box at only 4" square and 0.6" tall it can be hidden in plain sight. Overclockers Club tried out the functionality of both the native OS and the XBMC as well as using a variety of apps from the Google Play store, all with great success. For a mere $110 they feel it is a great value; check out the full review for a longer list of compatible media and tricks you can do with local storage.
"The XIOS DS Media Play looks sleek and has a very small footprint but packs some interesting features. The Android OS will bring new life to your TV and the thousands available apps in the Google Play Store translate into an impressive potential of fun, productivity, and entertainment. The box provides a great experience as is but PIVOS went the extra mile and collaborated with the XBMC Media Center development team to bring the software with hardware decoding to the Android OS. Add the connectivity capabilities of the unit and we have a serious threat to those fancy HTPC systems at a mere asking price of $115. Built around the ARM CORTEX-A9 CPU and a MALI-400 MP GPU, the XIOS DS Media Play has what it takes to satisfy the needs of the majority of media lovers."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Sapphire EDGE VS8 @ techPowerUp
- Sapphire Mini Edge HD4 review: mini Celeron PC
- Western Digital WD TV Play Media Player Review @ Legit Reviews
- HDPLEX H5.TODD Fanless HTPC Case @ SPCR
- Antec ISK 110 VESA Case @ Kitguru
- Rosewill Ultra-Slim "RedMere" HDMI Cables Review @ Hi Tech Legion
- How To Update The Firmware Of Your Astro Byond Decoder @ TechARP