We can make it cheaper! Intel's new Ultrabook SSD

Subject: General Tech | August 3, 2012 - 05:26 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook, Intel, ssd, msata

Many avenues have been explored in an attempt to reduce the price of Ultrabooks, from lower cost CPUs to changes in the materials used in the construction of the chassis and Intel is now attempting to lower the cost of the SSD required to meet Ultrabook standards.  DigiTimes reports that Intel is partnering with Micron, Samsung and other flash memory manufacturers to create a new mSATA specification that they are calling the Next Generation Form Factor.  Hopefully with a new unified standard, the production costs of these mSATA SSDs will drop in price over time, as standards do tend to lower manufacturing costs.  That is not the only reason that they are looking for a new standard, they are also looking towards the future storage needs of users that want more than 512GB of storage space.  The current standard can have a maximum of 5 flash chips, which makes scaling to larger sized SSDs very difficult.  Keep your eye out for more discussions on this new standard as they finalize the new specifications.

msata.jpg

"Intel is looking to unify specifications for mSATA SSDs targeted at ultrabook applications, and is seeking cooperation with PC vendors and NAND flash companies. Details regarding the new SSD specs for ultrabooks will likely be finalized in September, according to sources at memory makers.

The new SSD specification is expected to be fully adopted into ultrabooks in 2013, but whether it will become a standard specification for traditional notebooks will depend on PC brand vendors' attitudes."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

Developer Working On Porting Android 4.0 ICS to Raspberry Pi

Subject: General Tech | August 2, 2012 - 11:33 PM |
Tagged: sff hardware, Raspberry Pi, android 4.0, Android, $35 game console

The $35 Raspberry Pi computer has received a great deal of attention from enthusiasts and support from developers. In fact, it has a number of Linux-based distributions available, and even more planned or already in development. One of the more recent reveals is that developer Naren has been working hard on porting the Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” mobile operating system to the small ARM computer.

Raspberry Pi Running Android 4_0.jpg

According to the Raspberry Pi blog, the Android 4.0 build is going fairly well and it is currently running on the Raspberry Pi hardware, with some caveats. Also, Naren has been able to get hardware-accelerated graphics and video playback running on the Raspberry Pi. Reportedly, the final major hurdle is getting AudioFlinger support working. The other caveat is that the Android 4.0 build has been compiled using a different kernel and VideoCore (the GPU in the Raspberry Pi) binary than the GitHub hosted files that are publicly available.

Because Naren is working with different code, the Raspberry Pi is not willing to release the source code at this time as they fear severe forking in the code. They have stated that “we’re investigating the feasibility of converging the two code lines to produce a single common platform as soon as we can.” Once they figure that out, the Raspberry Pi Foundation hopes to be able to present the source code to the public so that enthusiasts can play around with Android 4.0 on their Raspberry Pis.

While it is no version 4.1 “Jelly Bean,” bringing Android of any variety is a positive step for the Raspberry Pi. It allows access to a large library of applications and games. Also, the Raspberry Pi becomes a super-cheap board to use for developing Android apps.

For now, the Raspberry Pi Foundation suggests users check out the Razdroid project to play around with Android on the Pi. Alternatively, you can try testing one of the CyanogenMOD images on the Raspberry Pi.

Are you excited about Ice Cream Sandwich on your Raspberry Pi?

You can find more of our Raspberry Pi coverage by following our Raspberry Pi tag.

Image courtesy salmon92 via Flickr Creative Commons

Source: Raspberry Pi

Seagate lets you guess the SSD manufacturer it wants to buy

Subject: General Tech, Storage | August 1, 2012 - 10:01 PM |
Tagged:

CFO of Seagate, Pat O’Malley, is looking to purchase a solid state drive manufacturer but will not confirm rumors that OCZ is who they have in mind. They then acknowledge that there is only one company who would make sense for them to acquire.

It is kind-of like you are trying to be stealthy with your interest in a girl in your classes – but it is all throughout the gossip circles. Also, you say you like tall blonde women and there is only two in your program; the other is Intel, nothing more needs to be said.

oczorly.jpg

Ya CZ.

Reuters arranged a discussion with Pat O’Malley, the Chief financial officer (CFO) of Seagate. During the interview, O’Malley announced that Seagate would be interested in purchasing an SSD manufacturer with a strong presence in the enterprise market. O’Malley was further questioned about rumors of Seagate purchasing OCZ. The response was about as thinly veiled as a non-answer could be before it would be considered a confirmation.

“We look at all technology product providers but what I would say is that on the enterprise SSDs, there’s probably only one of them that really makes and significant money.”

And they certainly will make significant money now – as investors binge a little to own a few extra shares.

“We don’t do any comments on official policy on M&A ((Mergers and Acquisitions)) until it’s done.”

Directly.

Update: As commentors and coworkers have mentioned -- it would not be too far fetched for Seagate to be talking about companies such as FusionIO. Still -- OCZ feels most likely to me.

Source: Reuters

Who would have thought? Consoles nickel-and-dime.

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | August 1, 2012 - 03:30 PM |
Tagged: xbox 360, consolitis, consoles, console

Polytron and Trapdoor, together responsible for the indie title “Fez”, have decided to not release an update to their software due to certification fees. Microsoft released a public statement to assert that they would be willing to work out arrangements if fees solely prevent the patch from being released. Either way it reiterates serious concerns about content dependent upon proprietary platforms and how that conflicts with art.

Long-time readers of my editorials have probably figured out that I have not been a fan of consoles, anti-piracy, and several other issues for at least quite some time. Humorously it is almost universally assumed that a PC gamer who bashes his head against his desk whenever he hears an anti-piracy organization open their mouths must be a perpetual cheapskate worried about losing his free ride.

I mean, clearly there is no reason for someone who has an education in higher-level math with a fairly strong sense in basic statistics to argue with the ESA, BSA, RIAA, or MPAA. I clearly just prefer the PC to rip off game publishers.

headdesk.png

Measure your dependent variables, control your independent variables.

So then, why do I care?

I have been growing increasingly concerned for art over the past several years. The most effective way to help art flourish is to enable as many creators to express themselves as possible and keep those creations indefinitely for archival and study. Proprietary platforms are designed to hide their cost as effectively as possible and become instantly disposable as they cease becoming effective for future content.

Console platforms appear to be the cheapest access to content by having a low upfront cost to the end user. To keep those numbers low they are often sold at under the cost of production with the intent of reclaiming that loss; the research, development and marketing losses; and other operating costs over the lifespan of the console. Profit is also intended at some point as well.

As Polytron and Trapdoor have experienced: one way to recover your costs is to drench your developers and publishers in fees for their loyalty to your platform – of course doing the same to your loyal customers is most of the rest. This cost progressively adds up atop the other expenses that increasingly small developers must face.

The two main developers for the PC, Blizzard and Valve, understand the main value of their platform: markedly long shelf lives for content. Consoles are designed to be disposable along with the content which is dependent on them. DRM likewise adds an expiration on otherwise good content if it becomes unsupported or the servers in charge of validating legitimate customers cease to exist in the name of preventing casual piracy.

For non-differentiable entertainment that is not a tragic loss as there will always be another first person shooter. Content with intrinsic value, on the other hand, cannot simply be exchanged for equivalent media.

For all the debate about whether videogames could be considered art – you would think it would be treated as such.

Source: Ars Technica

A mech game for those who really like mech modification

Subject: General Tech | August 1, 2012 - 12:07 PM |
Tagged: gaming, mech

If heatsink placement and weapon load balancing is up your alley then the pre-alpha of M.A.V. should be on your watch list.  At heart it is a mech combat game but one built with micromanagers at heart as you can design your mechs from scratch, balancing weapons with recoil and heat to make the best mech you can imagine.  Even better, you can alter your mech in-game to allow you to modify your mech to best met the current conditions on the map.  Currently the game is far more about mech design than game play, which should hopefully change over time as the developer works on the game.  There will be credits you can earn during a match to add better armament to your mech or to purchase defence and repair buildings.  In the meantime you can download the demo and play with mech design, though perhaps you should not use Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN's mohawk of doom as your starting point.

RPS_mav3.jpg

"Do you enjoy meticulously tweaking the most microscopically tiny details of giant robots? If I cut you, will you bleed gears and heat sinks and perfectly balanced 47-ton rocket pods? Then perhaps M.A.V. – a customization-centric game of mechanized madness from one-man show Bombdog Studios – will strike your fancy. Its creator notes that he’s worked on both Borderlands games and cites Armored Core and the tragically under-appreciated Chromehounds as longtime favorites. Unsurprisingly, the current (read: pre-alpha) result wears its influences on its semi-cel-shaded sleeve."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Five way Linux distro roundup

Subject: General Tech | August 1, 2012 - 11:37 AM |
Tagged: linux, Arch Linux, Slackware, ubuntu, Fedora

Phoronix just loves Linux benchmarking and have been very busy this year with not only the new Linux distros and kernels which have arrived this year but also testing Ivy Bridge's CPU and GPU performance on the open source OS.  With the arrival of an updated Arch Linux they once again find themselves at the test bench, in this particular case a Sandy Bridge based system with an AMD GPU.  Take a read through the five pages of benchmarks covering a wide variety of performance measurements and see if you might want to think about upgrading or switching your current version of Linux.

obo-logo-header.png

"At the request of many Phoronix readers following the release of updated Arch Linux media, here are some new Arch Linux benchmarks. However, this is not just Arch vs. Ubuntu, but rather a larger Linux distribution performance comparison. In this article are benchmark results from Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, CentOS 6.2, Fedora 17, Slackware 14.0 Beta, and Arch Linux."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: Phoronix

Microsoft Revamps its Webmail with Metro-Inspired Design, Rebrands It Outlook.com

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | August 1, 2012 - 09:11 AM |
Tagged: webmail, outlook, microsoft, metro ui, hotmail, email

Hotmail, the latest iteration of Microsoft's web-based email service will soon be getting a user interface overhaul that takes many cues from the company's upcoming metro-ized Windows 8 operating system. In fact, it very closely resembles the new Mail client in Windows 8 as well as the new Outlook client in the Customer Preview of Office 2013 that I have been using for a a couple of weeks now.

new_outlook_message.jpg

Along with the (in my opinion, much needed) user interface updates comes yet another rebranding. Microsoft is ditching the "Hotmail" name in favor of the more professional-sounding "Outlook.com" webmail name. Now in public beta, users can switch over to the new Outlook.com webmail if they want, but it is not yet mandatory. Reportedly, all Hotmail users will eventually be moved over the new Outlook webmail once the service is in final stages of development. As Ars Technica points out, this is not Microsoft's first rebranding. In fact, it is somewhere around the fifth rebranding/iteration. Here's hoping that it is the last and that they manage to successfully brand the service–and do not tarnish the Outlook name.

old_hotmail_options.jpg

I decided to take a look at the new Outlook.com interface for myself, and you can too. To switch over, log into your current Hotmail account, click on the "Options" link in the upper-right-hand side of the window and choose "Upgrade to Outlook.com." 

The new interface is very flat, and much more simplified versus the old Hotmail. The current Hotmail UI leaves a lot to be desired. It has a rather large advertising panel on the right, rather unattractive scroll bars that do not really fit in with the design's color scheme, and links along the top for other Microsoft services and email functions (like reply, junk, and categories) that can be difficult to read and find. It is a rather dated design by today's standards, especially considering Microsoft's hard push for updated UIs on other platforms–hence the Outlook.com refresh.

old_hotmail.jpg

As mentioned before, the Outlook.com webmail UI is very similar to the Metro Mail application that comes with Windows 8. It is broken into a four panel design. The folders and quick views links from Hotmail and the email header list is carried over and given a flat Metro design with stylized scroll bars and a folder list with a light gray background. The third panel serves as the reading pane and sits in between the email list and advertising panel–which thankfully moves to text-based ads only. The contents of your emails are displayed in this panel. It is not a fully responsive HTML design, but it does scale fairly well as the browser window is resized.

Along the top of the screen is a blue bar that holds links for email actions (reply, junk, delete, ect), an Outlook button, Messenger button, Settings button, and account settings (when clicking on your name in the upper-right). The white text on the blue background is much easier to read than the current Hotmail design thanks to the slightly larger text and the better contrast.

When hovering over the Outlook button, a small arrow appears. If you click on that arrow, you get a pop up menu with tiles much like Windows 8's Metro UI for Mail, People, Calendar, and SkyDrive. Unfortunately, the Calendar and SkyDrive links simply go to the respective web sites. And those web sites have not been updated with the new Outlook design.

new_outlook_skydrive_integration.jpg

The following screenshot shows the interface used for creating a new email. Again, you get a flat two panel design with a top navigation bar. On the left, you can add recipients from your contacts or by typing them in manually, while on the right you can use the text editor to add rich text and HTML or compose plain text emails.

new_outlook_new_message.jpg

Outlook.com has a new People tab as well, where you can manage contacts and chat using the built-in messenger client. It is the only other tile that has received a facelift, the calendar and SkyDrive pages are still using the old/current design. It forgoes the blue and white theme for an orange and white color scheme, but maintains the paneled design. On the left you have a list of contacts, and in the middle it lists details the selected contacts. The right-most panel does away with advertisement in favor of a web-based messaging client.

new_outlook_people_1.jpg

One nice new feature is further integration with the various social networks (if you are into that sort of thing, of course). You can now add contacts from your Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and Twitter profile(s). Further, the messenger client support talking with Windows Messenger, Facebook Chat, and Skype (coming in a future update) contacts.

new_outlook_people.jpg

In short, the new Microsoft webmail interface is a much welcomed update. Scrolling and navigation is noticeably smoother than the current Hotmail UI. Opening messages feels quicker as well. Opening the Messaging tab actually replaces the advertising panel completely, which is a nice touch. As mentioned above, the scroll bars are different. They appear to be a bit wider, and very much two dimensional, but the bars actually look much better than the current Hotmail design as they fit nicely into the aesthetic and color scheme.

new_outlook_no_ads.jpg

The only (rather minor) issue is that, because of the larger text, I cannot, at a glance, check for new messages in the various folders I use. On the other hand, the text is easier to read and the scrolling is fast enough that it's only a minor thing. Further, despite the new Outlook.com name Microsoft's webmail does not support IMAP protocols. And being web-based, if your internet connection goes down you lose access to your email–there is no Google Gears support here.

While the new interface is not enough to bring me away from using a desktop client (which funnily enough is Outlook 2013), it is vastly improved versus the current Hotmail website and is worth switching over to. For being a webmail client, it is a very smooth, and dare I say slick, experience.

More information on Outlook 2013 desktop client–which Outlook 2013 seems to take inspiration from design-wise– I mentioned can be found using the outlook and office 2013 tags. Stay tuned for more Outlook.com information as the beta progresses. What features would you like to see? (I'd like to see the new UI carried over to the SkyDrive site!) Once you have gotten a chance to try the new Outlook.com beta, let us know what you think of it in the comments below (no registration required).

Google Nexus Q Delayed, But Free For Those That Pre-ordered

Subject: General Tech | August 1, 2012 - 02:42 AM |
Tagged: streaming media, nexus q, google io, google

Google’s Nexus Q was launched at this year’s Google I/O developer conference. The US-assembled streaming media box sphere was given out to developers and journalists attending the event to play around with, with general consumer availability set for mid-July. The device is quite the feat of engineering, and packs some high-end hardware. Aside from being built in the US, a good portion of the $299 cost comes from the inclusion of a 25 watt amplifier that is reportedly of “audiophile quality.”

The hardware is all well and good, but the software component of the Nexus Q currently leaves a lot to be desired. It is heavily dependent on Google’s Play services. In fact, without hacking the device it can only play media streamed from Google Play’s cloud server.

As a result, many speculated (as did I) that, while an interesting bit of hardware, the lack of support for playing your other media would severely detract from its desirability. The multi-room functionality, group playlists, and amplifier are neat, but the Nexus Q would be worth much more if it could play back media from other sources–especially with a $299 asking price.

According to Wired, Google has taken the feedback to heart. It has announced that it is delaying the launch in order to add new functionality to the device. In an email to those that pre-ordered, the company stated that:

“In response, we have decided to postpone the consumer launch of Nexus Q while we work on making it even better.”

The company has pulled the pre-order option from the Google Play page, but those that have existing pre-orders will still be getting the device. Within the next few weeks, people that pre-ordered will be getting a Nexus Q–and here’s the best part–at no cost (I really wish I would have gone through with that pre-order now hehe). Google has decided to extend the Google Preview program to everyone that pre-ordered the device. As such, people will be getting free Nexus Q devices to play around with.

NexusQ.jpg

Unfortunately, Google has not stated exactly what new functionality they will be adding to the final Nexus Q devices. Also, there is no word on exactly when they will start to go on sale again.

As it is packing similar hardware to the Galaxy Nexus, it is capable of running the full Android OS and its related applications. It does seem likely that Google is working on adding the ability to run other Android applications besides the existing Play Music and Play Movies & TV apps. Considering Android already supports VLC, Spotify, Netflix, Remote Potato and other media applications, they would add considerable value to the Nexus Q should Google allow such apps to be installed.

Source: Wired

Thermaltake Shows Off Black Element Cyclone Edition Mouse With Bundled Fan

Subject: General Tech | August 1, 2012 - 12:57 AM |
Tagged: thermaltake, laser mouse, gaming mouse, fan mouse, black element cyclone edition

There has been quite a bit of mouse news this week. Jeremy posted some information on Corsair’s Vengeance mice, Microsoft announced new touch-sensitive mice, Razer launched its high-end Ouroboros gaming mouse, and now it is HSF and peripheral manufacturer Thermaltake’s turn. The company is launching a new Black Element Cyclone Edition under its eSports brand that should be available later this month.

Thermaltake Cyclone Edition.jpg

Packing a laser and a 6,200dpi sensor, the Thermaltake Black Element Cyclone Edition resembles most gaming mice, with LED lighting, dedicated DPI buttons, side buttons, scroll wheel (also LED-lit), and left and right mouse buttons. The LED lights can be changed between one of five colors, and up to five individual 4.5 gram weights can be added to the base to adjust the weight–and feel–of the mouse. It further has 128kb of onboard memory storage for up to 45 macro keys in 5 game profiles.

All standard stuff there, as far as gaming mice go.

Where the Thermaltake mouse stands out is a micro USB port on the front right side of the mouse and its accompanying peripheral. A small fan attachment plugs into the mouse to cool your hand during long gaming sessions. The 30mm (30x30x10mm) fan sports a claimed 2.7 CFM at 6,000 RPM. According to the specifications, it is not very loud at 21.7 dB. For those that get sweaty palms during long work hours or gaming sessions, this looks like an interesting design. The fan is removable as well, making it portable and the mouse is suitable for use without the fan.

Thermaltake Black Element Cyclone Edition.jpg

According to UK site Bit-Tech, the Thermaltake Cyclone Edition mouse will be available later this month for $80 in the US. Would you find the fan useful, or do you think it’s just a gimmick? You can find more photos and information on the mouse over at the Thermaltake 

Source: TT eSports

Dango Durango -- Next-Gen Xbox developer kit in the wild.

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Systems | July 31, 2012 - 08:35 PM |
Tagged:

Eurogamer and Digital Foundry believe that a next-generation Xbox developer kit somehow got into the hands of an internet user looking to fence it for $10,000. If the rumors are true, a few interesting features are included in the kit: an Intel CPU and an NVIDIA graphics processor.

A little PC perspective on console gaming news…

If the source and people who corroborate it are telling the truth: somehow Microsoft lost control of a single developer’s kit for their upcoming Xbox platform. Much like their Cupertino frenemies who lost an iPhone 4 in a bar which was taken and sold for $5000 to a tech blog, the current owner of the Durango devkit is looking for a buyer for a mere $10000. It is unlikely he found it on a bar stool.

Durango0.jpg.jpg

One further level of irony, the Xbox 360 alpha devkit were repurposed Apple Mac Pros.

Image source: DaE as per its own in-image caption.

Alpha developer kits will change substantially externally but often do give clues to what to expect internally.

The first Xbox 360 software demonstrations were performed on slightly altered Apple Mac Pros. At that time, Apple was built on a foundation of PowerPC by IBM while the original Xbox ran Intel hardware. As it turned out, the Xbox 360 was based on the PowerPC architecture.

Durango2.jpg.jpg

Huh, looks like a PC.

The leaked developer kit for the next Xbox is said to be running X86 hardware and an NVIDIA graphics processor. 8GB of RAM is said to be present on the leaked kit albeit that only suggests that the next Xbox will have less than 8GB of RAM. With as cheap as RAM is these days -- a great concern for PC gamers would be that Microsoft would load the console to the brim with memory and remove the main technical advantage of our platform. Our PCs will still have that advantage once our gamers stop being scared of 64-bit compatibility issues. As a side note, those specifications are fairly identical to the equally nebulous specs rumored for Valve’s Steam Box demo kit.

The big story is the return to x86 and NVIDIA.

AMD is not fully ruled out of the equation if they manage to provide Microsoft with a bid they cannot refuse. Of course practically speaking AMD only has an iceball’s chance in Hell of have a CPU presence in the upcoming Xbox – upgraded from snowball. More likely than not Intel will pick up the torch that IBM kept warm for them with their superior manufacturing.

PC gamers might want to pay close attention from this point on…

Contrast the switch for Xbox from PowerPC to X86 with the recent commentary from Gabe Newell and Rob Pardo of Blizzard. As Mike Capps has allured to – prior to the launch of Unreal Tournament 3 – Epic is concerned about the console mindset coming to the PC. It is entirely possible that Microsoft could be positioning the Xbox platform closer to the PC. Perhaps there are plans for cross-compatibility in exchange for closing the platform around certification and licensing fees?

Moving the Xbox platform closer to the PC in hardware specifications could renew their attempts to close the platform as has failed with their Games for Windows Live initiative. What makes the PC platform great is the lack of oversight about what can be created for it and the ridiculous time span for compatibility for what has been produced for it.

It might be no coincidence that the two companies who are complaining about Windows 8 are the two companies who design their games to be sold and supported for decades after launch.

And if the worst does happen, PC gaming has been a stable platform despite repetitive claims of its death – but could the user base be stable enough to handle a shift to Linux? I doubt that most would even understand the implications of proprietary platforms on art to even consider it. What about Adobe and the other software and hardware tool companies who have yet to even consider Linux as a viable platform?

The dark tunnel might have just gotten longer.

Source: Eurogamer