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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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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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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PC: for all your Xbox gaming needs

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | July 11, 2011 - 05:57 PM |
Tagged: xbox, pc gaming

Last week we reported on Microsoft rolling their Games for Windows initiative into Xbox.com and I essentially said that unless Microsoft is trying to roll their now established Xbox brand into Windows that they are missing the point of PC gaming. This week we hear rumors that, in fact, Microsoft may be trying to roll their now established Xbox brand into Windows. According to Insideris, Windows 8 will allow you to play Xbox 360 games on your PC. That said, despite speculation as a result of this news, it does not state whether it will be the complete catalog or a subset of 360 games that are compatible with the PC.

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Which came first? The console or the Newegg?

What does this mean for PC gaming? I am unsure at this point. A reasonable outcome would be that Xbox becomes a user-friendly brand for Microsoft’s home theatre PC initiatives which adds a whole lot more sense to the Windows 8 interface outside of the tablet PC space. This is a very positive outcome for the videogame industry as a whole since it offers the best of Xbox for those who desire it and the choice of the PC platform.

This however opposes Microsoft’s excessively strict stance on closed and proprietary video gaming platforms. Could Microsoft have been pushing their proprietary platform to gut the industry norms knowing that at some point they would roll back into their long-standing more-open nature of Windows? Could Microsoft be attempting to lock down PCs, meeting somewhere in the middle? We will see, but my hopes are that proprietary industry will finally move away from art. After all, why have a timeless classic if your platform will end-of-life in a half-dozen years at best?

Source: Insideris

A PC Macbook Air: Can Intel has?

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Systems | July 10, 2011 - 02:45 AM |
Tagged: Intel, ultrabook

Intel has been trying to push for a new classification of high-end, thin, and portable notebooks to offset the netbook flare-up of recent memory. Intel hopes that by the end of 2012, these “Ultrabooks” will comprise 40% of consumer notebook sales. What is the issue? They are expected to retail in the 1000$ range which is enough for consumers to buy a dual-core laptop with 4 GB of RAM and a tablet. Intel is not fazed by this and has even gone to the effort of offering money to companies wishing to develop these Ultrabooks; the OEMs are fazed, however, and even with Intel’s pressing there is only one, the ASUS UX21, slated to be released in September.

Asus sticking its neck out. (Video by Engadget)

For the launch, Intel created three processors based on the Sandy Bridge architecture: the i5-2557M, the i7-2637M, and the i7-2677M. At just 17 watts of power, these processors should do a lot on Intel’s end to support the branding of Ultrabooks having long battery life and an ultra-thin case given the lessened need for heat dissipation. Intel also has two upcoming Celeron processors which are likely the same ones we reported on two months ago. Intel has a lot to worry about when it comes to competition with their Ultrabook platform though; AMD will have products that appeal to a similar demographic for half the price and tablets might just eat up much of the rest of the market.

Do you have a need for a thousand dollar ultraportable laptop? Will a tablet not satisfy that need?

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Source: ZDNet

Step into the HTPC arena to witness the battle for iGPU dominance

Subject: Systems | July 5, 2011 - 05:33 PM |
Tagged: htpc, llano, sandybridge; a3850; i3 2100, amd, Intel, APU

In one corner is the $140 AMD A8-3850 and in the other is the $135 Intel Core i3-2100T, with matching motherboards both about $100.  We have seen how the new Llano chips stack up in computation and gaming but their use in HTPC systems is also important and requires different benchmarks.  Bjorn3D takes a look at the two chips ability to properly render Blu-ray at the proper 23.976 fps naturally as well as taking advantage of Direct X Video Acceleration.  Take a look to see how AMD's new APU can handle a role as an HTPC.

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"In addition to being a capable mainstream APU, the Llano and the new Lynx platform have the potential to be a perfect match for a more capable HTPC system. In this article we are taking a look at the HTPC capabilities of the A3850 and a Gigabyte A75 motherboard, and contrasting it to a comparable Intel system with a Core i3-2100T and an ASRock H67 motherboard."

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Source: Bjorn3D

Putting together a silent and powerful mATX system

Subject: Systems | July 5, 2011 - 12:52 PM |
Tagged: Silverstone, Fortress FT03S, zotac, Z68-ITX Wi-Fi, mATX

Using the Silverstone Fortress FT03S, an mATX case measuring 235mm x 284mm x 487mm (9.25" x 11.18" x 19.17") Hardware Heaven crafted a great machine for HTPC use or for those wanting a quiet and diminutive work station.  Inside is a Zotac Z68 board, a Core i3 2100, an Intel 80GB X25-M SSD, two 4GB Corsair Vengenace DDR3 DIMMs, a Sony Blu-Ray drive, an Asus Essence STX Sound Card and the Sapphire Ultimate HD6670 as a discrete GPU.  All of that seems a fairly tight fit, but Hardware Heaven shows that even more powerful parts could be contained within.  Check out the full build process here.

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"Last month we took a look at building a Fusion based HTPC which was based around an m-ITX motherboard and silent case. This system offered good media playback and decent general computing however there are consumers who require more performance from a compact system. Therefore today we are going to look at building a compact, stylish system based on Intel's Z68 chipset in ITX form (The Zotac Z68-ITX) and the Core i3-2100."

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It's not a fan controller, it's an Antec Veris multimedia controller that sits in your 5.25" bays

Subject: Systems | June 29, 2011 - 03:11 PM |
Tagged: Veris Multimedia Station Premier, htpc, antec

Antec has released a product which can help turn a PC in to an HTPC.  It sits in the same place a fan controller would, taking over two 5.25" bays and looking a bit like a high end car stereo.  The Veris Multimedia Station Premier comes with a remote as well as the main unit which allows you control over the machine while you are sitting on the couch, including being able to turn the machine off.  After eTechnix downloaded the latest version of the software they delved into the many features and settings that are available which they found a little overwhelming initially.  Check out their full review here.

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"Antec Inc was founded 25 years ago. They aimed their high-performance computer components and accessories products at the gaming, PC upgrade and DIY markets. Over the last 25 years Antec has built up a very good reputation and are now best known for their PC cases and power supplies. As they have moved into the HTPC case market it makes sense to expand on that segment to release other products which might give them an advantage in the market over their competitors.

They now produce a range of media component products from hard drive enclosures to multimedia stations. Today we take a look at the Antec Veris Multimedia Station Premier which is designed to be a complete solution for home theatre PC builders or those users looking to enhance the media experience of their PC.

The Antec Veris Multimedia Station Premier fits into two 5.25" drive bays and provides access to your PC using the supplied remote control as well as providing information on its inbuilt LCD display."

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Source: eTechnix

Pick up the Habey EMC-600B HTPC case for under $100

Subject: Systems | June 24, 2011 - 02:08 PM |
Tagged: SFF, mITX, htpc, case

One challenge when building an HTPC is finding an enclosure that won't end up being half of the cost of building the machine.  You could use a cheap SFF case but it will look a little gauche when sitting beside your other home theatre equipment.  Habey now offers a choice with a $70 case and 120W PSU combo that would blend seamlessly into a living room with the new EMC-600B.  There were compromises made in the design to keep the costs low, the most important of which is the lack of anywhere to put an optical drive which is exacerbated by the lack of any extra USB ports on the case.  If that doesn't completely deter you then check out Missing Remote's full review.

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"The Wesena ITX7, HDPlex H10.ODD and Vidabox vCase3 are all great cases with a direct focus on HTPC aesthetics and each has their pros and cons. The one con almost always present when discussing HTPC chassis is PRICE--SFF chassis with home theater A/V focused designs are frequently over the $100 price range, not including the power supply. What Habey is offering in their EMC-600B enclosure is a stylish aluminum SFF chassis for mini-ITX only that occupies a tiny footprint with a nice appearance to fit just as appropriately in your A/V stack as in your bedroom--and it includes a power supply, all for under $70."

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Intel Hopes For Exaflop Capable Supercomputers Within 10 Years

Subject: Systems | June 21, 2011 - 03:52 AM |
Tagged: supercomputing, mic, larrabee, knights corner, Intel

Silicon Graphics International and Intel recently announced plans to reach exascale levels of computational power within ten years. Exascale computing amounts to computers that are capable of delivering 1,000+ petaflops (One exaflop is 1000 petaflops) of computational horsepower to process quintillions of calculations. To put that in perspective, today’s supercomputers are just now breaking into the level of single-digit petaflop performance, with the fastest supercomputer delivering 8.16 petaflops. It is capable of this thanks to many thousands of eight core CPUs, whereas other top 500 supercomputers are starting to utilize a CPU and GPU combination in order to achieve petaflop performance.

The Aubrey Isle Silicon Inside Knights Corner

This partnering of Central Processing Unit (CPU) and GPU (or other accelerator) allows high performance supercomputers to achieve much higher performance than with CPUs alone. Intel CPUs power close to 80% of the top 500 Supercomputers; however, they have begun to realize that specialized accelerators are able to speed up highly parallel computing tasks. Specifically, Intel plans to combine Xeon processors with successors to their Knights Corner Many Integrated Core accelerator to reach exascale performance levels when combined with other data transfer and inter-core communication advancements. Knights Corner is an upcoming successor to the Knights Ferry and Larrabee processors.

Computer World quotes Eng Lim Goh, the CTO of SGI, in stating that “Accelerators such as graphics processors (GPUs) are currently being used with CPUs to execute more calculations per second. While some accelerators achieve desired results, many are not satisfied with the performance related to the time and cost spent porting applications to work with accelerators.”

Knights corner will be able to run x86 based software and features 50 cores based on a 22nm manufacturing process.  Each core will run four threads at 1.2 GHz, have 8 MB of cache, and will be supported by 512 bit vector processing units.  It’s predecessor, Knights Ferry is based on 32 45nm cores and eight contained in a Xeon server and are capable of 7.4 teraflops. Their MIC chip is aimed directly at NVIDIA’s CUDA and AMD’s OpenCL graphics processors, and is claimed to offer performance in addition to ease of use as they are capable of running traditional x86 based software.

It looks like the CPU-only supercomputers will be seeing more competition from GPU and MIC accelerated supercomputers, and will eventually be replaced at the exascale level. AMD and NVIDIA are betting heavily on their OpenCL and CUDA programmable graphics cards while Intel is going with a chip capable of running less specialized but widely used x86 programmable chips.  It remains to be seen which platform will be victorious; however, the increased competition should hasten the advancement of high performance computing power.  You can read more about Intel’s plan for Many Integrated Core accelerated supercomputing here.