Subject: General Tech | July 4, 2012 - 02:31 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: vlc, videolan, media player, free, app, Android
VideoLAN, the developers behind the popular free and open source media player VLC have crafted an Android version that has recently reached beta status. For everyone not in North America, you can grab the free VLC application from the Google Play Store. The restriction is reportedly a result of the developers not having access to American versions of the smartphones in question. If you are in North America and would still like to test out the app, you will need to grab it from either the VideoLAN nightly build server or the Jenkins server which both compile and store the latest builds on a daily basis. Once you’ve downloaded that app, navigate to it on your Android phone and choose to open it with the Package Installer.
The build is a bit rough around the edges, and performance leaves a lot to be desired, but it is still early in the development cycle. Especially if you are running an older single core phone (or even one that has no NEON hardware acceleration), VLC will struggle with even 720p content. The team is asking everyone to run a few tests for them and to report back using this form to help them gather needed performance data and to identify bugs.
As far as what phones will be compatible, Jenkins has complied daily builds that will work with phones using hardware as old as ARMv5 and as new as ARMv7 with NEON. VLC for Android is also compatible with Tegra 2 and Tegra 3 SoCs using the nightly builds. ExtremeTech notes that the chips with the NEON SIMD hardware includes Qualcomm Snapdragon S2/3/4, Samsung Exynos, TI OMAP 4/5, and Tegra 3 processors. If your phone does not have one of those SoCs, you should download one of the non-NEON nightly builds depending on which version of ARM it is based on. VideoLAN recommends using gsmarena.com as a reference for which chipset your phone uses but I did not have success if using it to track down the specific chipset in my Samsung Infuse. I had to turn to the search engines for help there. If you aren’t able to find the information, feel free to tell us your phone model in the comments and I’ll try to help you figure out the SoC it uses.
Below you will find a video showing off the latest VLC for Android build as we install it and test it with a variety of video and audio files. From my testing, the performance has gotten slightly better with the latest nightly build (#123), but the video and audio drift out of sync very quickly and the video frame rate is nowhere near as smooth as the built in Videos application. The performance /should/ improve as the app gets closer to final release, however. I’m hoping that VLC for Android will become an even better, and free, alternative to the paid-for VPlayer application that I also have on my phone for the files that the Videos app struggles with.
VLC for Android playing back a DVD of Live Free or Die Hard (480p, H.264 MP4)
Anyway, without further adieu, let’s take a look at the latest Android VLC app.
As a reminder, here are some useful links to getting the VLC app and assisting with the development process:
- VideoLAN Forums
- VideoLAN for Android Homepage
Download VLC for Android
Subject: General Tech | July 4, 2012 - 10:22 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: tablet, nexus 7, jelly bean, google io, google, Android
The Nexus 7 is not even shipping yet, and it has already been torn apart to see what it is made of. The folks over at the ifixit website have managed to get their hands on the newly-announced 7" tablet. After breaking open the outer case and dismantling it far past what I would be comfortable doing to my own tablet, they found that it is relatively easy to take apart and repair. The tablet is a single millimeter thicker than the iPad, but that extra bit of space allowed Google and ASUS to use retaining clips to hold the back and front outer panels together instead of the glue used in the iPad. Using glue made for a slightly thinner tablet but it is much harder to take apart and put back together correctly, as Will and Norm of Tested discovered.
From the ifixit teardown. The battery is easily replaceable.
Inside the tablet is a large batter, “L” shaped motherboard, front facing camera, two speaker drivers, microphone, and display. The battery looks to be very easy to replace as it is not soldered onto any other hardware and is only secured by a bit of glue. Unfortunately, the display is another story. It is reportedly fused to the Gorilla Glass covering, which means that if the screen cracks – even the display itself is not damaged (only the Gorilla Glass) – users will have to replace the entire screen assembly. There is a small bit of recompense in that the tablet does not utilize any proprietary or security screws, it uses Philips #00 throughout.
For more details on the exact hardware chips used, and to see the new 7” tablet taken apart to see what makes it tick (or not, rather) head on over to the iFixIt tear down guide.
Other tablet news:
- More iPad Mini rumors at Tom's Hardware
- Amazon prepping Kindle Fire 2 for August launch? at Tablet-News
- Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 ban upheld by US District Court at ArsTechnica
- Google I/O at PC Perspective
Subject: General Tech | July 4, 2012 - 12:15 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: onlive competitor, gaming, gaikai, cloud gaming
At AFDS, David Perry showed off the cloud gaming service Gaikai running on Samsung's Smart Televisions where he hinted that a closed beta might become available soon. Despite my concerns following the acquisition of Gaikai by Sony, the beta application showed up today as being available for download. We managed to snag a few photos of the app and the setup process, as seen below.
The Gaikai application tile in the Samsung Smart Hub
After upgrading to the latest (just released) firmware, which is version 1023.0 at time of writing, the application tile for Gaikai becomes available. The easiest way to upgrade the TV’s firmware is to force an update by navigating to the TV's menu, then clicking on "Support," and finally selecting the Software Update option. Alternatively, users can download the firmware from the Samsung website and place it on a USB flash drive.
After clicking on the app tile (which is only shown for a few seconds at a time) in the Samsung Smart Hub, you can download it to your TV. After the application runs through a few tests, you are presented with an access code to use on the Gaikai.com website. After obtaining the access code, you will need to go to the Gaikai website and enter it. From there, you will need to go through a couple of steps and enter a few bits of personal information to sign up for the beta program. Right now, they are running a promotion where the first 150 people that sign up for (and are accepted into) the beta will receive a Logitech game pad. We understand the input requirement will be with any Xinput compatible controller, but Gaikai seems to favor the Logitech 310, 510, and 710 controllers, as seen when they gave a live demo to Engadget last month.
The Samsung Cloud Gaming application is currently at version 9.1121 and is a 20.4MB download. You can obtain the app from the Smart Hub, as mentioned above. If you don't see this firmware and/or the app, your set might not yet be supported or simply be too old to support the beta. The service is expected to require a 7000 Series or higher Samsung Smart TV. Initial support is for 2012 models, but that support may be rolled back to earlier units as the beta progresses.
Interestingly, this beta application and its accompanying firmware have both gone live with little fanfare from either company. If you own a Samsung TV and want a chance to get in on the beta, be sure to update your TV’s firmware and sign up for the Gaikai beta as soon as possible. If you have managed to get into the beta, we encourage you to test out the service and join the discussion in the comments section below (no registration required).
Stay tuned for more information on the Gaikai Samsung Smart TV beta as we get it! As soon as we are accepted into the beta, we will try to test the service out and report back.
Subject: General Tech | July 3, 2012 - 02:07 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: purchase, billions, micron, Elpida, rexchip, powerchip, DRAM, flash
Micron has been very busy lately, spending $2.5 billion USD to purchase Elpida and another $334 million USD to purchase another 24% of DRAM maker Rexchip from Powerchip. The latter of those purchases gives Micron a total of 89% of the existing shares of Rexchip which may not give them outright ownership of Rexchip but gives them such a huge majority that they can determine the outcome of any vote which is presented to shareholders. Rexchip brings a single 300mm Fab working on 30nm process to the table, which gives Micron a bit more manufacturing capability to utilize for what is likely to be a busy season for them.
The Elpida purchase is much bigger for both the industry and Micron, especially as they decided to buy the company outright instead of purchasing a subsidiary or only the IP of Elpida. Instead the company will remain intact for the near future though there will likely be changes to the executive structure as they are integrated with Micron. Not only does this purchase give them access to all property, intellectual or physical, that Elpida currently possesses it give Micron an in at Apple as it was Elpida that supplied much of the chips used by Apple. That would put Micron in the enviable position of supplying both PC and Apple products. DigiTimes breaks down the deal here.
"Micron Technology and Elpida Memory's trustees have signed a definitive sponsor agreement for Micron to acquire Elpida, according to the US memory chipmaker. The agreement has been entered into in connection with Elpida's corporate reorganization proceedings conducted under the jurisdiction of the Tokyo District Court.
Micron revealed that under the agreement, JPY200 billion (US$2.5 billion) total consideration and less certain reorganization proceeding expenses will be used to satisfy the reorganization claims of Elpida's secured and unsecured creditors. Micron will acquire 100% of the equity of Elpida for JPY60 billion to be paid in cash at closing."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Users enraged by Cisco's cloudy 'upgrade' to Linksys routers @ The Register
- Mozilla's 'Boot to Gecko' morphs into Firefox OS @ The Register
- The impact of Ivy Bridge on current processor pricing @ eTeknix
- Creating a Bootable DOS Flash Drive the Easy Way @ Techgage
- Kensington Absolute Power Dual USB Wall Charger Review @ NikKTech
- The TR Podcast 114: Gigahertz graphics and high-def tablets
Subject: General Tech | July 2, 2012 - 11:22 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, microsoft, software, operating system
A few days ago we covered the Windows 8 upgrade process, and specifically what Microsoft will allow you to bring with you into a Windows 8 install from a previous version of the operating system. At the time of writing, we did not know the pricing for upgrade editions. However, today Microsoft released pricing information for upgrade licenses of the Windows 8 OS.
Through January 31, 2013, you will be able to purchase an upgrade version of Windows 8 Pro for $39.99 in 131 markets. Even better, you will further be able to add Windows Media Center for free via the “add features” option in Windows 8 after you have performed the update. The forty dollar price only includes the digital download version of the operating system. Using it, you will be able to either create your own media (USB or DVD) or purchase a physical installation DVD from Microsoft for an additional $15 plus shipping and handling.
The Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant is Microsoft’s recommended vehicle for installing Windows 8 over a previous version, but they are also allowing clean installs. The upgrade process is very similar to past transitions (say, from Vista to 7). The difference is that you do not need to have the media downloaded to begin the upgrade. After purchasing, it has a built-in downloader that will download the required files and verify them (you can further pause and resume the download).
If you prefer to buy locally, you will be able to purchase a retail-packaged version of Windows 8 Pro Upgrade for $69.99 until January 31, 2013. Beyond the upgrade versions, Microsoft has announced that System Builder versions of Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro will be available, though they did not state a specific price for the DIY-friendly versions.
You can find more information over at the Windows 8 blog, but I have to admit that it is a much more attractive price than I expected for the Pro version (much less free WMC!). Is this a price that might convince you to upgrade, or will you be sticking with a previous Windows version regardless?
Subject: General Tech | July 2, 2012 - 02:03 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: sony, ps4, Internet, gaming, gaikai, cloud gaming
Gaikai, the streaming cloud gaming service was bought today by Sony Computer Entertainment. At this year’s Fusion Developer Summit, Gaikai stated its goal to be the gaming service on all of your devices, from your cell phone to Smart TV. Interestingly, the recent buyout from Sony raises questions about the future openness of the platform.
Purchased for $380 million, Sony plans to combine its game catalog with Gaikai’s streaming technology to provide cloud entertainment services. Gaikai CEO David Perry was quoted by The Verge as saying:
“We're honored to be able to help SCE rapidly harness the power of the interactive cloud and to continue to grow their ecosystem, to empower developers with new capabilities, to dramatically improve the reach of exciting content and to bring breathtaking new experiences to users worldwide.”
The biggest question I have about the future of Gaikai is whether not not it will now be a Sony-only technology. At AFDS, Gaikai showed off the technology running on Samsung Smart TVs, though it remains to be seen whether Sony will continue to license the technology to other companies. Should it remain Sony-only, the company could use that exclusivity as a feature-add for its consoles, Google TVs, blu ray players, and televisions. They could further use Gaikai to power its future consoles or to bring its entire library of console games to the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita gaming platforms. The Verge speculates that Sony could be using the technology to bring its back-catalog of PS1 and PS2 games to the current generation console, now that it is otherwise no longer backwards compatible with the older hardware. That sounds like a very plausible plan of action for Sony.
Will Sony bring Gaikai-powered cloud gaming to the PS3?
You can find more additional quotes and speculation over at The Verge. What do you think will happen to Gaikai’s technology? Will Sony put it to good use or did they only buy it now to keep others from using it?
Subject: General Tech, Storage | June 29, 2012 - 03:25 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: hdd, Futuremark, thailand
While it is easy to understand why the destruction of a good portion of the HDD industries manufacturing capabilities caused by the flooding in Thailand would effect both the availability and pricing of HDDs it is not so easy to explain what those manufacturers are doing now. It is not just the reduction in warranty to 1 year which we previously informed you about, it is the bizarre pricing which adds to the confusion. This is an industry which has collapsed into two major players, with two others appearing to compete but in reality are working with or outright owned by the two major players. They are under siege from the SSD industry which offers longer warranty, better performance and prices which are falling quickly; making the high prices and lousy warranty offered by HDD manufactures quite unattractive. The Tech Report assembled an array of graphs which display the state of the hard drive companies as well as some suggestions on the best current deals in HDDs if you are inclined to pick one up.
"Mechanical hard drive prices rose sharply after last year's Thailand flooding. Prices have fallen since, but their decline has slowed in recent months. We take a closer look at the numbers."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Fiberglass-reinforced cases expected to be adopted for ultrabooks in 2H12 @ DigiTimes
- Adobe Stops Flash Player Support For Android @ Slashdot
- Techies evac'd as raging wildfire menaces $100m Colorado data centre @ The Register
- Raspberry Pi enclosure turns it into a desktop PC @ Hack a Day
- Netgear WNDR4500 Dual Band Gigabit Router @ X-bit Labs
- I, Cyborg @ The Tech Report
- Win the KFA2 GeForce GTX 680 LTD OC 2048MB @ Kitguru
Subject: General Tech | June 29, 2012 - 10:17 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: sony, smart tv, htpc, google tv, google, Android
Yes, it does appear that Google TV is still a “thing” – though I am only reminded because Sony has not stoppsed releasing new boxes running Android. The NSZ-GS7 is a small box designed to sit between your TV and cable box to add additional smart TV-like functionality. It is running a dual core Marvell ARM processor, and has 8GB of storage space, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth radios. Rear IO on the device includes two HDMI ports (for HDMI passthrough of your cable box or other media device), optical audio output, an IR blaster port, Ethernet, two USB ports, and a power input port.
The interesting thing about these Google TV products has always been the remotes. There have been some strange designs in the past, but the Sony NSZ-GS7’s remote actually looks nice and comfortable. The front of the remote resembles any standard TV remote with a track pad added to it while the back of the remote features a full QWERTY keyboard. It also has an accelerometer and is allegedly capable of detecting which side of the remote you are using – and will turn off the buttons on the underside to avoid accidental key-presses.
I really like this remote. Image credit goes to Tom's Hardware.
Beyond the hardware itself, the Google TV box is running Android 3.2 Honeycomb. It is able to acts as an enhanced TV guide as well as providing web access and Google App functionality (for the few apps that have been modified to work specifically with Google TVs anyway). One of the cool apps available is one that can control a Parrot AR.Drone on the big screen with the TV remote, which sounds like fun (my dog would go nuts!). It is also capable of doing picture-in-picture where users can browse the web while also watching the TV in a smaller window.
Tom’s Hardware managed to gets a hands-on demo with the new device courtesy of Sony Canada. They managed to snag several good photos of the hardware and interface. They note that the NSZ-GS7 Google TV box will be coming out next month for those in the US and UK – a Canadian launch is following in August – for $199. You can find more photos at the link above.
Especially with the release of the Nexus Q, I have to wonder if Google is even aware that Google TV is still around, because it really feels like they launched it and then walked away from it. Now that they are focusing on “the cloud” for media playback, the Google TV has even less relevance to the company. On the other hand, I could see an perspective where both devices are able to coexist and flesh out total living room media functionality with the Nexus Q handling the social and cloud media playback and Google TV acting as a better cable box for “offline” media. I am curious though, what you think of Google TV. Do you like it, or would you rather have a beefier HTPC running Windows or Linux on x86/64 hardware? Where do you think the Google TV fits into the living room?
Other Google I/O News:
- Google I/O: Day One Announcements
- Google Glasses
- Google Selling Nexus 7 At Cost, Pushing Its Google Play Store
- The ASUS tablet that became the Nexus 7
- Google I/O talk on the PC Perspective Podcast
Subject: General Tech | June 29, 2012 - 09:30 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: silent pro m2, PSU, power supply, cooler master
Cooler Master, a company known for its computer cases and heat sinks has announced an update to its Silent Pro M-series power supplies with the Silent Pro M2 line. Coming in 620 watt, 720 watt, and 1500 watt models, the company has reportedly implemented improvements in every aspects of the PSUs. The 620W and 720W power supplies utilize a single 12V rail capable of delivering 50A and 58A respectively. The 1500W PSU further implements dual 12V rails pushing 70A on one rail and an additional 55A on the other.
All three power supplies are modular, minus the ATX power cable which is permanent. The 620W and 720W models are 80 PLUS Bronze certified while the 1500W model is rated at 80 PLUS Silver. The Silent Pro M2 line is RoHS and ERP 2010 compliant, as well. Further, they have an improved 3.3V DC-to-DC converter and larger capacitors that enable hold-up times greater than 17ms. A 135mm fan with hydraulic bearing aims to keep the power supplies cool.
While Cooler Master has not announced pricing, they are set to be available for purchase sometime in June 2012. You can find more information on the Silent Pro M2 PSUs on the company's product pages.
Subject: General Tech | June 29, 2012 - 06:47 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: tablet, Nexus, jelly bean, google io, google, Android
We first saw an ASUS 7” tablet at CES 2012. That tablet would quickly drop off the radar only to emerge again at this year’s Google I/O developer conference as the Google Nexus 7. The Nexus 7 is a 7” tablet that closely resembles the original ASUS model but tweaks the case and knocks the price down to $199.
Specifications include a quad core Tegra 3 processor with 12-core GPU component, 8GB or 16GB of storage space, and 1GB of RAM. Other features include WiFi, NFC, and Bluetooth. Further, Google announced during its Day 1 keynote that the Nexus 7 weighs in at 340 grams and offers up to 9 hours of video playback time. All that hardware drives Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and an IPS display with resolution of 1280x800 resolution.
All Things D talked with both ASUS CEO Jonney Shih and Google’s Andy Rubin about the new Google Nexus 7 tablet and how it came to be. Reportedly, ASUS had just four months to come up with a 7” tablet for Google that they could sell at cost for $200. Both of those added up to a tight time schedule with 24-hour development cycle and a tablet that was mostly similar to its CES tablet but at the lower Google price point. Dubbed Project A Team internally, ASUS added a number of new people to the tablet project and moved engineers around the work – including some postings in Silicon Valley so that they could work closely with Google. It also enabled ASUS to work around the clock on the hardware (albeit by different workers). Google has stated that ASUS was one of the few companies that could have pulled off the tablet in the short time frame given. AllThingsD quoted Google’s Andy Rubin as saying “We went from zero to working product in four months.”
On the ASUS side of things, Jonney Shih told the site that “our engineers told me it is like torture” regarding working with Google to develop the tablet. Also, he stated that Google can be a demanding company to work with. “They ask a lot.”
Granted, ASUS had a good starting point with its 370T tablet that it showed off at CES, but the difficult part was taking that same tablet and making it cost less than $200. Google’s goal with that price point was to attempt to capture the mainstream market – a market that is currently buying into the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet tablets (and accompanying ecosystems). Despite being based on Android, both Barnes and Noble and Amazon have heavily tweaked the interface and heavily tied the hardware into their content ecosystems. Google wants to do the same with its Play Store by releasing a tablet at cost on its Google Play Store that will run the latest – and bloatware-free – version of Android. The company is trying to position the Nexus 7 as the perfect tablet to consumer Play Music, Play Books, and Play Movies on. The hardware inside and out along with the latest Android OS do make it a very compelling option for people wanting a tablet with the form factor of the Kindle Fire but the full (and latest) stock version of Android. Both companies seemed to run into the Nexus 7, but in the end the pressure ASUS was under may have resulted in a "diamond in the (Android tablet) rough."
What do you think of the Nexus 7? Is it the Kindle Fire for the more tech savvy (and/or those not already heavilly invested in a competing media catalog like Itunes, Amazon Kindle, et al)?