CompuLab fit-PC4 Includes AMD SoC/APU... But Not Fans

Subject: General Tech, Systems | March 2, 2014 - 02:29 AM |
Tagged: Tamesh, Kabini, fit-PC4, compulab, amd

Passively cooled PCs are an interesting niche, often associated with the need for silence. Be it audio recording or home theater appliances, some situations are just not well suited to having a whirring fan.

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Recently announced is the fit-PC4 is a fanless system, fourth in its lineage. This time the system is using AMD for its CPU and GPU. Two models are available, separated into "Pro" and "Value". Its specifications are broken down into the table below.

  fit-PC4 Pro fit-PC4 Value
Processor AMD GX-420CA (25W TDP, Kabini) AMD A4-1250 APU (8W TDP, Temash)
-    CPU Quad-core (Jaguar-based) @ 2.0 GHz Dual-core (Jaguar-based) @ 1.0 GHz
-    GPU Radeon HD 8400E Radeon HD 8210
RAM Up to 16GB (2 DIMM)
Storage 2.5" HDD/SSD + mSATA + microSD
I/O
2x HDMI 1.4a (1920x1200 max) with CEC support
S/PDIF, line-out, mic-in (I assume 3.5mm)
2x Gigabit Ethernet
mini-PCIe slot for cellular modem
2x USB 3.0 and 6x USB 2.0
WiFi 802.11ac 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0 3.0 + HS
Dimensions 16cm x 19cm x 3.7cm 16cm x 16cm x 2.5cm
Price $380 $299

Interestingly, the company considers these devices "ruggedized" as well as fanless. As such, they have a 5-year warranty. It seems to be quite the feature-packed device with two HDMI 1.4 outlets, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, and an available slot for a cellular modem. The Pro even has 802.11ac WiFi. I am not entirely sure the intended purpose of this device, but the company claims that the previous generation product was often purchased by video surveillance and digital signage customers. Interestingly, Windows 7 and Linux are the two choices for operating systems.

The fit-PC4 is available now in either a $299 (Value-Barebone) or $380 (Pro-Barebone) model.

Source: CompuLab

Raspberry Pi Foundation: $10,000 Reward for Quake III

Subject: General Tech, Systems | March 1, 2014 - 03:51 AM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is a tiny and cheap (as in a starting price of ~$28) computer that was originally intended for educational purposes. It is built around a Broadcom BCM2835 SoC which itself is based on the ARM architecture. Its VideoCore IV 3D graphics processor relies upon a closed-source driver because, until yesterday, Broadcom had not provided documentation or code. Technically, the code they released is for a different SoC but both Broadcomm and the Raspberry Pi Foundation believe the tools are there to port it over.

And the foundation wants to drum up interest by offering a $10,000 bounty for Quake III running acceptably on the Pi with the ported open source drivers.

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If interested, you can look at Broadcom for the documentation and 3-clause BSD-licensed source code. You can also check out the Raspberry Pi Foundation for a blog post which mentions the competition (as well as their 2-year anniversary). GPU drivers are a good thing to be open-sourced. As I have been saying, the further "upstream" a piece of code is, the more it trickles down as a dependency for other software. The vocabulary that software needs to communicate with a hardware platform is quite high up there. Leaving those tools to society is a good thing for society.

Granted, it will probably not have a meaningful impact in this case... but there is a chance.

MWC 2014: Lenovo YOGA Tablet 10HD+ Announced

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 23, 2014 - 01:01 PM |
Tagged: tablet, MWC 14, MWC, lenovo yoga, Lenovo

At Mobile World Congress 2014, Lenovo has announced the YOGA Tablet 10 HD+. Just last month, we discussed the Yoga Tablet 8 and Yoga Tablet 10 which were presented in October. Those tablets each had a 1280x800 display (even the 10-inch model), both sizes use the same MediaTek MT8125 SoC (Wi-Fi, MT8389 for 3G), and it is 1GB of RAM all-around. Performance was expected to be in the ballpark of a Tegra 3 device.

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These are all areas which are bumped for the new YOGA Tablet 10 HD+. The 10.1-inch screen is now at 1080p quality, the SoC is a Qualcomm Snapdragon Quad running at 1.8 GHz, and the RAM is doubled to 2GB. It will running Android 4.3 with an alleged over-the-air (OTA) update to 4.4 KitKat, at some point.

android-yoga.png

Make sure to bend at the knee and put your hands toge... oh right.

Comparing between the Yoga Ultrabooks, running Windows, and the YOGA Tablets, running Android, would probably not be wise. They are very different designs. The Ultrabooks hinge with an always-attached keyboard while the tablets have a keyboard-less stand. Rather than the Ultrabooks trying to make a keyboard comfortable in tablet usage, the tablets use the small metal hinge to prop up the screen. They key aspect of the cylindrical hinge is its usage as a handle and the volume it provides as battery storage. Ryan found the old versions' 18-hour rated battery life to be fairly accurate, and the new 10 HD+ is rated for the same duration (actually, with a bonus 1000 mAh over the original Tablet 10). Another benefit of its battery location is that, if you are holding the tablet by its hinge, the battery's weight will not have much torque on your fingers.

Of course, now comes the all-important pricing and availability. The Lenovo YOGA Tablet 10 HD+ will be released in April starting at $349. This is higher than the prices of the Tablet 8 and Tablet 10, $199 and $274 respectively, but you also get more for it.

Lenovo Press Release after the break.

Source: Lenovo
Author:
Manufacturer: Various

An Upgrade Project

When NVIDIA started talking to us about the new GeForce GTX 750 Ti graphics card, one of the key points they emphasized was the potential use for this first-generation Maxwell GPU to be used in the upgrade process of smaller form factor or OEM PCs. Without the need for an external power connector, the GTX 750 Ti provided a clear performance delta from integrated graphics with minimal cost and minimal power consumption, so the story went.

Eager to put this theory to the test, we decided to put together a project looking at the upgrade potential of off the shelf OEM computers purchased locally.  A quick trip down the road to Best Buy revealed a PC sales section that was dominated by laptops and all-in-ones, but with quite a few "tower" style desktop computers available as well.  We purchased three different machines, each at a different price point, and with different primary processor configurations.

The lucky winners included a Gateway DX4885, an ASUS M11BB, and a Lenovo H520.

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Continue reading An Upgrade Story: Can the GTX 750 Ti Convert OEMs PCs to Gaming PCs?

Linux powered NUC

Subject: Systems | February 14, 2014 - 06:20 PM |
Tagged: linux, nuc, Bay Trail

If you are thinking of saving some money when picking up a NUC by skipping Windows and using Linux instead then Phoronix has two articles you should be reading before you order.  The initial testing on the Bay Trail processor did not go as well as hoped even if the architecture is based on Haswell but now that they have been on the market for a bit it is time to revisit them.  If you are just concerned about the performance then quickly pop over and read this article.  On the other hand if you want the full story then not only should you read that article but make sure to catch their full review here.

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"With the early Atom "Bay Trail" hardware being disastrous for Linux, when Intel recently announced their Bay Trail based NUC Kit we were anxious and decided to give this unit a go. The Intel NUC Kit DN2820FYK packs an Intel Celeron N2820 Bay Trail CPU and motherboard supporting up to 8GB of DDR3L system memory and 2.5-inch HDD/SSD in a 116 x 112 x 51 mm form-factor. In this article is a rundown of the Phoronix experience so far for this Atom NUC Kit and how well it's running with Ubuntu Linux."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

Source: Phoronix

Google & VMware Partner for Windows Apps in Chrome OS

Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 13, 2014 - 10:18 PM |
Tagged: Chromebook, google, vmware

Google has just announced a partnership with VMware for "cloud access" to virtualized Windows desktops through Chrome OS. The Verge takes the narrative that Google is looking to hurt Microsoft via their enterprise market. Honestly, I think it just makes sense as a business.

12-failslow-Chrome.png

As time passes, the list of tasks which require native applications is diminishing. Legacy applications, which cannot be reprogrammed for copyright or development reasons, are still on a leash to their intended platform, however. Google knows that their customers want access to those programs and utilities. Virtualization is one of the easiest ways, especially since it is already happening.

Some will prefer native apps on a dedicated machine (and that is okay).

Google also notes that Windows XP is nearing its end of life. They claim that Chromebooks and virtualized Windows instances nullifies security vulnerabilities and compatibility woes. Of course, you are never perfectly secure but at least Google puts their money where their mouth is.

VMware Horizon View 5.3 is currently available "as an on-premise service".

Source: Google

Oh PCMag, Console vs PC

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | February 12, 2014 - 10:45 PM |
Tagged: xbox, xbone, ps4, Playstation, pc gaming

PCMag, your source for Apple and gaming console coverage (I joke), wrote up an editorial about purchasing a gaming console. Honestly, they should have titled it, "How to Buy a Game Device" since they also cover the NVIDIA SHIELD and other options.

The entire Console vs PC debate bothers me, though. Neither side handles it well.

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I will start by highlighting problems with the PC side, before you stop reading. Everyone says you can assemble your own gaming PC to save a little money. Yes, that is true and it is unique to the platform. The problem is that the public vision then becomes, "You must assemble and maintain your own gaming PC".

No.

No. No. No.

Some people prefer the support system provided by the gaming consoles. If it bricks, which some of them do a lot, you can call up the manufacturer for a replacement in a few weeks. The same could be absolutely true for a gaming PC. There is nothing wrong with purchasing a computer from a system builder, ranging from Dell to Puget Systems.

The point of gaming PC is that you do not need to. You can also deal with a small business. For Canadians, if you purchase all of your hardware through NCIX, you can add $50 to your order for them to ship your parts as a fully assembled PC, with Windows installed (if purchased). You also get a one-year warranty. The downside is that you lose your ability to pick-and-choose components from other retailers and you cannot reuse your old stuff. Unfortunately, I do not believe NCIX USA offers this. Some local stores may offer similar benefits, though. One around my area assembled for free.

The benefits of the PC is always choice. You can assemble it yourself (or with a friend). You can have a console-like experience with a system builder. You can also have something in-between with small businesses. It is your choice.

Most importantly, your choice of manufacturer does not restrict your choice in content.

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As for the consoles, I cannot find a rock-solid argument that will always be better on them. If you are thinking about purchasing one, the available content should sway your decision. Microsoft will be the place to get "Halo". Sony will be the place to get "The Last of Us". Nintendo will be the place to get "Mario". Your money should go where the content you want is. That, and wherever your friends play.

But, of course, then you are what made the content exclusive.

Note: Obviously the PC has issues with proprietary platforms, too. Unlike the consoles, it could also be a temporary issue. The PC business model does not depend upon Windows. If it remains a sufficient platform? Great. If not, we have multiple options which range from Linux/SteamOS to Web Standards for someone to develop a timeless classic on.

Source: PCMag

Intel NUC BIOS Update Fixes Debian Booting

Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 12, 2014 - 08:25 PM |
Tagged: ubuntu, SteamOS, nuc, Intel, debian

Two days ago, Intel added a new BIOS for the NUC to their download center. Its main update addresses a problem with booting some operating systems, such as SteamOS. Ars Technica published an editorial a couple of weeks ago about using the Haswell-based NUC with four Linux distributions. It basically comes down to the NUC not seeing a bootloader file that Debian-based OSes leave in their own branded folder. The BIOS was available less than two weeks later.

intel-nuc.jpg

The update also addresses (PDF) fan speed control, a bug with disk encryption passwords, a couple of BIOS settings, and a system hang with certain USB thumb drives.

If you have a NUC and want to make it a SteamOS (or Ubuntu, etc.) device, this should fix your woes. I mean, there was already a workaround involving four terminal commands but it is that much easier nonetheless. It is available now at Intel's store.

Source: Intel

Kindle Instinct. Amazon Game Consoles Rumors.

Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 7, 2014 - 01:30 AM |
Tagged: amazon

There is actually a bit more to the title's pun than meets the eye. Amazon has just purchased Double Helix Games, the video game company which resulted from a merger between The Collective and Shiny Entertainment (or whatever was left of them). Their most recent title was Killer Instinct for the Xbox One.

Amazon-extrashiny.png

The Amazon Cauldron gag, now extra Shiny.

Snarkiness aside, the obvious question is: "Amazon, why are you purchasing a game developer?"

While Amazon is stating that they are simply building innovative games for customers, the rumor mill believes it is more than that. Beyond having an Android-based marketplace, various sources are reporting that Amazon is expecting to develop a sub-$300 gaming console based on that platform. It certainly sounds reasonable. It would give Amazon's video and audio services a controlled set-top box as well as a portal to their Android Appstore. Beyond that, it would not require much extra research and development. It would be a sensible next step.

That said, Amazon has already been developing games for a little while. Their current portfolio could easily be classified as, "2D". The acquisition of Double Helix could simply be a play for games with a little more... depth. Yes, I should feel bad for that pun. No, I do not.

Finally, all 75 of the employees will keep their jobs, according to TechCrunch. Their paychecks will now have an Amazon logo on them, and that is about it. Don't you love it when you can report on a merger or acquisition and not feel bad about it?

Source: TechCrunch

Sony Sells VAIO to Japan Industrial Partners (JIP)

Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 6, 2014 - 03:26 AM |
Tagged: sony vaio, sony

Oh look, something that was not purchased by Lenovo.

Sony has decided to sell its VAIO brand to Japanese Industrial Partners (JIP). Sony has been developing computers under thO brand since the mid 90's. While never a top-five player in the industry, they had a significant presence in stores and in the possession of people I bumped into on a day-to-day basis. The division was apparently in the red. It currently employs 1,000 people, of which 250-300 are expected to be hired with this deal.

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Whether the rest will be laid off or reshuffled within Sony remains to be seen.

As for Sony, they hope to focus on smartphones and tablets. They had a significant presence at last month's CES where they brought multiple Xperia models. VAIO also had its share of the attention though, so I guess that really does not mean much.

The acquisition is expected to complete near the end of July.

Source: The Verge