Back to school with a new system

Subject: Systems | August 22, 2011 - 12:55 PM |
Tagged: system build, back to school

The Tech Report thought it would be nice to remind everyone that the beginning of the school year is imminent, by updating their system guide and including a new Dorm PC.  The Dorm PC is focused on saving space as opposed to saving every possible dollar, so that you end up with a usable PC that easily fits into even the most cramped dorm room.  At an estimated $647 the build won't destroy your bank account and the Core i3-2100 will ensure you have more power than a netbook at your fingers.  They also updated their other builds, the Double Stuff workstation, the Econobox, the Utility Player and the Sweet Spot.

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"The back-to-school season is upon us, and we've cooked up a new system guide for the occasion. Read on for the details on the Dorm PC, a small-form-factor rig perfect for students, in addition to updates to our usual system configurations."

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Systems

HP conference call this afternoon, could a major division drop?

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | August 18, 2011 - 03:55 PM |
Tagged: webOS, hp, Compaq

HP’s third fiscal quarter has entered on the last day of July and today HP will hold their conference call to announce the state of their company in the present as well as some of their plans for the future. We typically do not report on HP’s earnings as they tend to be uninteresting. This quarter is slightly different; HP has announced that they are considering spinning or selling off their PC hardware division. Along with the potential of seeing HP and Compaq computers no longer be HP one thing we do know for sure is that webOS, including Touchpads, will not be their saving grace as they are definitely dead.

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At least we know they’re not betting their future in Palm.

It certainly seems a little brash for HP to all-of-a-sudden pull out of PCs altogether and I do not expect such a harsh event to occur. While it is possible that at some point HP might stretch and ultimately break ties with their PC division I do not see them just changing the locks on the doors and sending in the repo men. As for webOS it was pretty easy to see that there was not enough room in the market for them as an actual contender in the mobile space. We shall see if HP is capable of reusing their technology in another application or simply selling off webOS, potentially in pieces, to other players.

Update, Aug 18/2011 @ 6:28PM: The conference call has now ended and we have a little bit more information about the process. HP made it clear that for now PSG, the division responsible for HP and Compaq computers, tablets, and other consumer but non-printer devices, is still an operating division and will be for the forseeable future. However, over the next 12-18 months they have been authorized by the board to explore their options with spinning off or selling the division. The conference call also seemed to heavily emphasize their desire to shut down or spin off low margin divisions. To me, that sounds akin to a parent telling their misbehaving kid that someone's going to get a slap when they get home -- it is pretty clearly not the neighbors. One or two years down the road, we still may very well see HP do what IBM did with Lenovo.

In other news: WebOS' hardware division is dead and buried but they are still looking to utilize the software either internally, by licensing it to third parties, or selling it.

Source: HP

When small is better, Wesena's ITX2 Mini-ITX HTPC Chassis

Subject: Systems | August 16, 2011 - 07:02 PM |
Tagged: Wesena, ITX2 Mini-ITX, SFF, htpc

The Wesena ITX2 Mini-ITX chassis is only 197x197×75mm (7.8"x7.8"x3") and is bundled with a small Media Center remote but no power supply, unfortunately.  Missing Remote loved the brushed aluminium look and were very impressed with the compact interior, there is no wasted space at all.  That does make things a little toasty inside during the burn in test using a Core i3-540, so be warned that a lower power chip is a good idea and makes sense for a machine that will strictly be used as an HTPC.  Take a look at the full review.

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"The quest for the perfect and smallest home theater PC (HTPC) is one that has gained momentum over the last few years. We have seen the proliferation of these small form factor (SFF) Mini-ITX cases first hand in our reviews of the Habey EMC-600B and another offering from Wesena, the ITX7 chassis. The Wesena ITX2 is essentially the little brother of the ITX7, sharing many similarities to it but in an even smaller enclosure. As with any device there are compromises made when making something small even smaller, but do the benefits along with the lower cost make the ITX2 the best option."

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HTPC

Zotac has zee box for SFF fans

Subject: Systems | August 11, 2011 - 11:47 AM |
Tagged: htpc, zotac, zbox, SFF

For those looking for a new nettop, the ZBOX HD-AD02 Plus is a new choice on the market. At a mere 7.4" x 7.4" x 1.7", it is easily hidden in any surroundings and with a list of connections including analog and optical audio out, HDMI, DVI, two USB 2.0 ports, ethernet, and most importantly two USB 3.0 and a single eSATA port.  With a 250GB HDD installed, that means you can have access to high speed external storage.  The system uses an AMD E-350 which means that not only will you be able to play HD video without worry you will be able to get some light gaming in as well.  Head on over to ThinkComputers to see the new ZBOX in action.

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"All-in-One PC’s have been getting quite popular over the past few years. When Intel released the Atom processor we really saw All-in-One PC’s become affordable. One of the most popular All-in-One series of PC’s is Zotac’s ZBOX. These really appealed to the SFF (Small Form Factor) and HTPC (Home Theater PC) crowd. Now Zotac is bringing AMD’s Fusion E-350 APU in to the ZBOX’s series. Today we will be taking a look at the ZBOX HD-AD02 Plus that packs the E-350 1.6GHz APU as well as integrated Radeon HD 6310 graphics, 2GB of DDR3, 250GB hard drive and WiFi. Let's take a look and see if it is the perfect SFF system for you!"

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Systems

Intel bets $300m on their Ultrabook-ie. Next step: broken leg

Subject: General Tech, Systems | August 10, 2011 - 10:23 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook, Intel

Intel has this little platform that they are attempting to push against the world known as the Ultrabook, a category of ultra-thin and light laptops that range 11-inch to 17-inch screens with high performance and high price. The actual cost of an Ultrabook is somewhat hotly debated between Intel and others. On the Intel side of the fence, the claim for the cost of parts in an Ultrabook range between $475 and $710; this bill of materials comes days after manufacturers discussed component costs around the $1000 mark. To further push the Ultrabook platform, Intel just released a statement announcing a $300 million fund to invest in technologies that further the Ultrabook platform.

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Is Intel getting themselves into a jackpot?

Intel described their intents with the fund in this snippet from their press release:

Ultrabooks will deliver a highly responsive and secure experience in a thin, light and elegant design and at mainstream prices. To help realize that vision, the Intel Capital Ultrabook Fund aims to invest in companies building hardware and software technologies focused on enhancing how people interact with Ultrabooks such as through sensors and touch, achieving all day usage through longer battery life, enabling innovative physical designs and improved storage capacity. The overall goal of the fund, which will be invested over the next 3-4 years, is to create a cycle of innovation and system capabilities for this new and growing category of mobile devices.

It looks as though Intel is putting their money where their mouth is. While $300 million is not exactly huge in the scale of Intel revenue it is a substantial sum and equal (less inflation) to what they used to back Centrino over eight years ago. While their last investment went to subsidizing wireless access points, marketing, and similar programs this investment should be mostly focused on the technology itself -- both hardware and software -- with battery, input, and interface specifically mentioned. Part of me muses about Meego in terms of the Ultrabook platform potentially even as a supplement to Windows. We shall see what Intel has in store for the platform that could, and bludgeoned forward with heaps of raw cash when it could not.

Read on for the press release in full.

ASRock's small unassuming HTPC hides real power

Subject: Systems | August 2, 2011 - 03:23 PM |
Tagged: asrock, CoreHT-252B, htpc

Inside the 195mm (7.6") x 70mm (2.8") x 186mm (7.2")  ASRock CoreHT-252B HTPC you will find a Core i5 2520m, 8GB DDR3-1333, a Lite-ON Blu-ray combodrive and a 500GB Western Digital Scorpio Black HDD.  Pretty much all that you would need to run a proper HTPC and in a form that will look fine sitting under a TV.  For input and output you have S/PDIF, mic-in, headphone-out, HDMI 4.1a and VGA as well as 2 USB 3.0, 4 USB 2.0 and an eSATA3 port for data transfer if you don't want to use the wired or wireless NICs.  They sell it without an OS, which can be welcome for those wanting to build a MythTV or other non-Windows MCE HTPC and Overclockers Club were also glad of the upgrade options that this HTPC offers.  Head to their full review here.
 

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"If, on the other hand, you want an HTPC that can also act as a desktop replacement, look no further. There's adequate power for rendering of all sorts and the included RAM ought to cover most non-professional needs, but, if more is required, the board does support 8GB. Storage can be upgraded to include another 2.5" storage drive, and the included WD Scorpio Black could easily be replaced with an SSD. If more power is needed, the board will support the Core i7 2720m for more processing power (two more cores and threads!). A Blu-ray drive and wireless 802.11n wireless are included as standard."

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HTPC

Seconds of Raspberry Pi: $25 a slice, $35 with whip cream

Subject: General Tech, Systems | July 30, 2011 - 03:53 AM |
Tagged: usb computer, Raspberry Pi

I must say, that unlike cake: pie is the foundation of everlasting relationships – like circumference and diameter! That, and cake always seems to end up in lies (yes, that horse is still twitchin’). While my personal favorite flavor is blueberry I might just become fond of Raspberry Pi in the near future. We originally reported on the organization dedicated to providing computing technology to the masses a few months ago when they showed off their prototype computer-in-a-usb-stick. More progress on the logistics as well as a firm specification on the PCB have occurred since then and it aligns nearly perfectly with original predictions.

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That… doesn’t really look edible…

(Picture from Raspberry Pi)

The original prediction was a $25 device 700 MHz device backed by 128MB of RAM and an OpenGL ES 2.0 1080p-capable GPU. While that is still true, a second model will be released for $35 with double the RAM and an extra USB port for peripheral connectivity due to the addition of the SMSC LAN9512 two-device USB hub. The alpha board is slightly larger than the final design due to the ports required for debugging purposes and contains an extra couple layers on the PCB that will not be present in the final version. It is still expected to ship within the next 9 months (12 from original post) with the target narrowed slightly to likely sometime in 2011.

Source: Raspberry Pi

Western Digital offers a great way to store and stream your media

Subject: Systems | July 25, 2011 - 02:28 PM |
Tagged: htpc, western digital

The Western Digital TV Live Hub is a 1TB external HDD with some extra tricks up its plastic sleeve.  It's outputs include ethernet, USB 2.0, HDMI, Composite A/V, Component video and optical out, with support for an even wider variety of audio and video codecs but not for some premium services like iTunes and Amazon.  Think Computers loved the onscreen interface controlled by the remote as well as the fact that it comes with a 1TB HDD so that you don't have to spend more money to get the full functionality of the media device, they would have loved to see some video cables included as well.

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“For most people their TV is the center of entertainment in the living room. You watch cable television on it, you play your video game consoles on it and you watch DVD and Blu-ray movies on it. We all know there are devices for that, but what about all of the media you have on your PC? All the videos you have taken, shows you have downloaded and even the photos you have. No one wants to sit around a small computer screen and watch these. This is where the Western Digital TV Live Hub comes in. It is a HD media player that supports pretty much any file type and has a 1TB hard drive for all of your media. Let’s take a look an see what Western Digital has brought to the table in the HD media player market!"

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HTPC

Server building and U

Subject: Systems | July 20, 2011 - 01:18 PM |
Tagged: rack mount, server, 3U

If you read PC Perspective on a regular basis the chances are very good that you have purchased individual components and assembled yourself a PC from them.  There is a lesser chance that you have built a server, especially one using a rack mountable casing.  The terminology is different, less about ATX and more about rack unit or U.  U is a measurement of size, with a 1U case bearing a remarkable resemblance to a pizza box, with a height of 1.75 inches (44.45 mm) with a width depending on the style of racks you are installing into, with 19" and 23" being the standard.  OCC takes you through the assembly of both an ATX case as well as a 3U case and recommendations of OS and software based on the intended use of your new server in this article.

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"Hardware is one of the most important items in building a server, regardless of its overall purpose. Without enough power or memory to run the necessary applications, the server would subsequently be useless. Depending on its intended usage, however, the hardware may vary slightly. It is often a good idea to sit down and create a plan beforehand. Personally, I live by a rule of thumb that purchasing more than needed is better than having the server become congested or even fail when it is needed the most. For this guide, I will be putting together two different types of servers. The first will be a gaming server, designed to host multiple instances of LAN-based games. The second will be a file/web server, intended to back up data and make items accessible from any computer in a network. As always, hardware can vary depending on your needs; this is just a general overview of a configuration that I would use, based on the available hardware that I have on hand. Keep in mind that any computer can function as a server as long as the necessary software is installed. Therefore, you may even have old parts that can be reused for your server."

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Systems

Can you go with wireless HDMI over USB 2.0 with VStream?

Subject: Systems | July 13, 2011 - 12:55 PM |
Tagged: wireless, htpc, hdmi

At its heart the VStream WPCTV1080H is comprised of an L-shaped USB 2.0 dongle for your PC and a second dongle which plugs into the base station which also has a  power cord and HDMI plug.  This setup, along with a 2.4GHz dual core processor, is intended to transmit up to a 1080p signal wirelessly from the computer with the dongle to the base station and on to your TV.  The Tech Report gave the $120 VStream a try and found that the bandwidth available over USB 2.0 caused some problems, ranging from dropped frames and colour banding when watching movies to nasty aliasing on 2D application, especially when they tried using it to connect to a 24 " monitor and used it to browse the web.  Lets hope there is a USB 3.0 version in the works, or even a wireless DisplayPort model.

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"This $120 adapter promises to output 1080p video wirelessly via nothing more than a USB dongle. Does it fulfill its promise, and is it worth the money?"

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