Microsoft is going out of their way to make Office 365 more attractive than its boxed cousin

Subject: General Tech | September 18, 2012 - 01:24 PM |
Tagged: SaaS, office 365, office 2013, microsoft, cloud

Today The Register posted the pricing Microsoft plans for their two new office suites, the familiar semi-yearly upgrade that is Office 2013 and the brand new, yearly licensed cloud dwelling Office 365.  They are two very distinct products in many ways even if they both encompass the same software suite.  The boxed Office 2013 will come it the three flavours we are familiar with as well as pricing that remains in line with previous releases, though the licensing terms of one copy of Office per machine seem to be more strict and you may not be able to transfer a license to a new PC if your old one is forcibly retired.

Office-2013-Logo.jpg

Office 365 on the other hand is a very different beast and it seems that Microsoft is offering a few carrots to tempt the home and small office users who didn't really jump onto the beta release of this new online version of Office.  Pricing is much less especially considering you get the same suite of programs as the most expensive boxed edition, though it is of course a  yearly fee. However at the cost of $100/yr a home user would only start paying more than the Professional Edition of the boxed set after the fourth year and you can bet that Microsoft would have released a newer version in the interim. 

Ofice365.jpg

The other edition of Office 365 is intended for small to medium companies and as even the basic edition of 365 comes with Outlook, Access and Publisher, Microsoft needed to find another hook to attract customers.  That hook is a hosted Exchange server with a 25GB Outlook mailbox for each user, 10GB of online storage plus another 500MB per user, and HD Video conferencing which will more than likely use Skype.  The pricing isn't bad either, at $150 per license you do pay a bit for the extras but each Small Business Premium license allows the user to install Office 365 on five different machines, though only under their user and obviously nobody would ever share users to overcome that hurdle. 

This is a very different Office, which will have to compete with Open Office and Google's new offering as well.  It is hard to predict if small companies will jump on this new way of licensing Office but the lack of an announcement about an Enterprise Edition is very telling.

"Redmond is still offering shrink-wrapped versions of Office 2013 for those who prefer the old model. The suite will be available in three configurations: Home & Student for $139.99, Home & Business for $219.99, and Professional for $399.99.

All three bundle the same core components, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. The Home & Business edition adds Outlook, and the Professional edition throws in Publisher and Access."

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Source: The Register

Surprise! The Microsoft Surface won't be $200

Subject: General Tech | September 17, 2012 - 12:36 PM |
Tagged: surface, microsoft, obvious, ballmer

While Steve Ballmer did not give a firm price for his companies Surface Tablet, The Inquirer was given a range that starts well above the original $200 price tag.  The range he gave stretches from just over $300 to just over $800, fairly similar to the iPad range of pricing from the base 16GB WiFi only to the full 64GB WiFi and cellular.  The hardware of Surface tablet is going to have to shine in order to compete in the tablet market, as simply running Windows 8 will probably not be enough to make it stand out, if sales of Win7 based phones and tablets are any indicator.  The pricing may appease some of Microsoft's clients such as Acer, who were more than a little upset at Microsoft's announcement that they were getting into hardware instead of simply licensing manufacturers to use the Win8 OS and branding.

Apparently there is a way to get both a Surface Tablet and a Win8 phone on the cheap, Microsoft will be handing out one of each to all of its full time employees.

af26f631_Steve-Ballmer.jpg

"200 Microsoft dollars"

"BOUNCY MICROSOFT CEO Steve Ballmer has refused to put a price on the Windows Surface tablet and has only given a ballpark figure of somewhere between £200 and £500.

What this means is that a Windows Surface tablet will cost more than an Android tablet, such as the Asus Nexus 7 for example, but less than an Ipad."

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Source: The Inquirer

Small Form Factor Intel NUC PCs coming in October for under $400

Subject: General Tech | September 16, 2012 - 12:16 AM |
Tagged: ssd, small form factor, SFF, nuc, Ivy Bridge, Intel, htpc

Earlier this year, Intel showed off a small motherboard and processor combination that piqued the interest of many enthusiasts and attendees. The rather oddly named Next Unit of Computing (NUC) PC was originally intended to power digital signage, kiosks, and embedded systems (car PC anyone?). However, in response to the interest shown by enthusiasts, the x86 chip giant has decided to bring the super-small form factor computers to retail.  

The Next Unit of Computing PC’s main attraction is its small size: the motherboard is tiny, measuring a mere 4” x 4.” For reference, the mini-ITX standard is a 6.7” x 6.7” motherboard, and VIA’s Pico-ITX form factor boards measure 3.9” x 2.7.” In that respect, the NUC is not the smallest PC that you can build, but it will be the fastest – and by a significant margin thanks to the bundled Ivy Bridge CPU.

While i3 and i5 editions were allegedly designed, currently Intel is only bringing the i3 to the retail market. Specifically, the CPU powering the NUC will be an Intel Core i3-3217U Ivy Bridge processor, and it will be soldered onto the motherboard. That particular CPU is a 1.8GHz dual core/four thread part with 3MB cache, and Intel HD 4000 graphics (there is no Turbo Boost functionality). Not bad for a small form factor PC!

Intel SFF NUC Computer.jpg

Image credit: PC Pro.

The boards will have two SO-DIMM slots for RAM, an mSATA port for an SSD, and a mini-PCIe slot for a Wi-FI card. Intel is making two versions of the NUC motherboard that will differ only in IO. One motherboard will have 3 USB 2.0 ports, 1 HDMI output, and 1 Thunderbolt port. The other board will have 3 USB 2.0 ports, 2 HDMI outputs, and one Gigabit Ethernet jack. Intel believes that the Thunderbolt-equipped model will be more popular with consumers while the Gigabit-Ethernet and dual HDMI model will be used more by businesses.

Intel is reportedly sourcing several chassis designs for its custom form factor motherboard (there are at least two cases at present), and you will be able to build out a barebones system with one of the custom cases, integrated heatsink, and power supply. Additionally, when spec'ed out with the Intel i3-3217U CPU, 4GB of RAM, Wi-Fi card, and a 40GB Intel SSD, the company expects the entire NUC computer to cost around $399 in the US. The parts will be available for purchase in October, according to Engadget.

Hopefully, we will see OEMs take this form factor and make something cool with it. It's not clear which specific OEMs will be first to bring pre-built systems to market but they should be coming in the future.

Personally, I’m a big fan of small form factor computers, and despite the odd “NUC” name I’m excited to see where Intel takes this platform. If you were looking for a small but powerful computer to drive your next project, it might be worth keeping an eye on the NUC. What do you think of this sub $400, approximately 5” (with case) PC?

Read more about SFF and HTPC components at PC Perspective.

Source: Engadget

ASUS Hosting Skills Challenge Contest, Prizes Include ASUS hardware and Newegg Gift Cards

Subject: General Tech | September 14, 2012 - 06:48 PM |
Tagged: Z77, Sabertooth, hardware, contest, asus, 660ti

Today ASUS kicked off a new PC building contest where they are offering up hardware and gift cards to winners. Called the ASUS Skills Challenge, the hardware company is challenging enthusiasts to time themselves building a computer, and the three fastest times will get Newegg cards and hardware grab bags. In addition, the PC builder that puts their computer together faster than JJ from ASUS will win a grand prize.

Asus Skills Challenge_1.jpg

Prizes for the Skill Challenge include:

Grand Prize:

  • The enthusiast that builds their PC faster than JJ wins a grand prize that includes all of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes as well as a "top of the line" ASUS grab bag.

The fastest build time of all entrants, 1st place prize:

  • ASUS Sabertooth Z77 Motherboard, ASUS GTX 660Ti, and a $500 Newegg gift card. 

The second fastest build time, 2nd place prize:

  • ASUS grab bag and a $250 Newegg gift card.

The third fastest build time, 3rd place prize:

  • ASUS grab bag and a $100 Newegg gift card.

Alternatively, ASUS is offering up a random prize draw as well for those that want a chance to win without entering the speed building contest. In the random prize draw, one entrant will be chosen, and ASUS will award the winner with a $100 Newegg gift card and an ASUS grab bag.

The contest begins today and will end on October 14th, 2012 at 5:00 PM PDT. To enter, you will need to "Like" this ASUS Skills Challenge contest page, and then provide the company with your name, birthday, and email. If you are doing the building challenge, you will further need to provide an unedited video of yourself assembling a PC with a timer of some sort in the foreground. 

Basic contest rules are that you be at least 18 years old, and live within the United States or Canada. If you do not use Facebook, you can also enter the contest on this webpage. The winner list will be posted on the app on (or before) October 19, 2012.

You can find the official rules on the contest page. Best of luck in winning some ASUS hardware!

Source: ASUS

Got moss growing on your keyboard? Logitech can fix that!

Subject: General Tech | September 14, 2012 - 04:19 PM |
Tagged: input, logitech, keyboard, washable, K310

Some of you may remember keyboard covers, similar to the plastic covers that batty old relatives place on their couches and chairs and every bit as attractive.  They've gone out of style which is part of the reason why there are keyboards out there growing moss and with enough crumbs inside for a decent emergency snack during a MMORPG raid if you flip it upside down.  Logitech realized that not everyone wants goop, crud and worse hiding below their keys and so they've released a washable keyboard called the K310. Legit Reviews tried it out and liked it, as far as they could like a membrane keyboard with just the basics but they are hoping for a model targeted at gamers in the near future.

LR_k310-front.jpg

"Most of us spend many hours every week typing at a computer, but when was the last time you cleaned it? How dirty and nasty is your keyboard that you are using right now? Last month, Logitech unveiled the Washable Keyboard K310 that grabbed our attention as you could easily was it and the keyboard costs just $39.99 shipped. Using disinfectant wipes gets expensive over the years, so a washable keyboard like the Logitech K310 could make life easier for germaphobes or anyone that hates dirty keyboards..."

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Of course you know, this means war. Clover Trail supposedly can't run Linux

Subject: General Tech | September 14, 2012 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: Medfield, linux, Intel, fud, clover trail

Clover Trail is Intel's next Atom, the chip which refuses to die, representing an evolution of Medfield and the x86 instruction set.  That didn't stop Intel from making a bizarre statement that Linux will not run on Clover Trail, even though it ran fine on Medfield and is an OS for x86 architecture chips.  It is more accurate to say that some features of Clover Trail will not currently work under Linux, specifically the new power states introduced in the new Atom. Until the Linux kernel catches up to the new technology the new C and P states which can turn off the clock on the chip while still enabling 'instant on' will be unavailable which is a far cry from not being able to run on the chip at all.  Thanks to The Register for immediately stomping on that FUD.

installing-linux-on-a-dead-badger-by-lucy-a-snyder.jpg

"SAN FRANCISCO: CHIPMAKER Intel has confirmed that it will not provide support for Linux on its Clover Trail Atom chip.

Intel's Clover Trail Atom processor can be seen in various nondescript laptops around IDF and the firm provided a lot of architectural details on the chip, confirming details such as dual-core and a number of power states. However Intel said Clover Trail "is a Windows 8 chip" and that "the chip cannot run Linux"."

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Source: The Register

Podcast #218 - Gigabyte Z77X-UD7, Apple A6 SoC, Thunderbolt GPU Tech from Lucid, and more!

Subject: General Tech | September 13, 2012 - 04:53 PM |
Tagged: z77x-ud7, z77n-wifi, WD, thunderbolt, SoC, podcast, lucid, idf 2012, Hybrid Drive, haswell, gpu, gigabyte, arm, a6

PC Perspective Podcast #218 - 09/13/2012

Join us this week as we talk about the Gigabyte Z77X-UD7, Apple A6 SoC, Thunderbolt GPU Tech from Lucid, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, Allyn Malvantano and Scott Michaud

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!

Program length: 1:01:33

Podcast topics of discussion:

  1. Week in Reviews:
    1. 0:02:50 Live Recap: Gigabyte Z77X-UP7 & Z77N-Wifi Preview
    2. 0:11:11 Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Review
    3. 0:16:20 Apple A6 SOC: Cortex A15 Hits the Market
    4. 0:21:30 IDF 2012: Intel Haswell Architecture Revealed
      1. Intel Haswell CPUs as low as 10W TDP
  2. 0:28:05 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!
  3. News items of interest:
    1. 0:28:45 IDF 2012: Lucid External GPUs?
    2. 0:32:05 IDF 2012: Intel Dives in to Oil!
    3. 0:35:45 IDF 2012: Western Digital Hybrid Hard Drives - 5mm 500GB
    4. 0:38:00 AMD Steamroller -- Shrunk Die Without a Die Shrink?
    5. 0:39:50 Firefox OS Interface: Sept 6, 2012.
    6. 0:42:30 CiiNow Sounds Like Wii... also AMD Investment.
    7. 0:47:15 Valve Big Picture Mode for Steam
  4. Closing:
    1. 0:50:36 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
      1. Jeremy: SLI\CrossFire PSU for dirt cheap, NewEgg not quite so good
      2. Josh: Not terrible. Hopefully it actually works for the S3
      3. Allyn: WD MyBook VelociRaptor Duo
      4. Scott: Back to school? For the love of God, laser printers.
  1. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  2. http://pcper.com/podcast
  3. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  4. Closing/outro

 

Windows 8 can go diskless

Subject: General Tech | September 13, 2012 - 01:53 PM |
Tagged: win8, cloud, microsoft, Windows to Go, kingston, super talent

Installing Windows from a USB drive is old hat to many, both consumers and professionals, but booting to Windows from an external drive would be a new trick.  Windows 8 has been designed with this type of usage in mind, which is unsurprising considering how much talk there is about the cloud.  A proper implementation of this would mean that low cost computers, shipped without a hard drive, could be readily sold.  Both Kingston and Super Talent have designed USB 3.0 devices which will have "Windows to Go" on them; fully able to boot to a full installation of Win8 on Intel powered machines.  Unfortunately there is a problem with WinPE installations on ARM based devices, as that method requires a wired network connection which may mean ARM devices would have to be sold with a USB to ethernet dongle in order to allow for booting.  Once the machine is booted and the wireless drivers load then the ARM devices could be unplugged.  Check out the hurdles Microsoft had to pass in order to make this work at The Register.

WINPE.JPG

"Such devices, Niehaus said, will have to be certified to run Windows to Go for two reasons, one of which is that in Microsoft's tests external storage ran dangerously hot.

The second reason is that external drives can't be partitioned in the ways Windows 8 requires, thanks to its use of BIOS-replacement Unified Extensible Firmware Interface(UEFI) that is an important contributor to the new OS' faster boot times. Niehaus explained that UEFI means Windows 8 needs four partitions in a disk. One is for recovery purposes, a second for the system, while UEFI uses a third invisible partition of 128MB to help it go about its work. The fourth partition holds the OS and user data."

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Source: The Register

Intel Dives in to Oil!

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling, Processors, Systems, Shows and Expos | September 12, 2012 - 09:34 PM |
Tagged: mineral oil, Intel

Intel has been dunking servers in oil for the last year and found the practice to be both safe and effective. Ironically it has been almost a year since we played around with mineral oil cooling – and when we did – we did not want to upgrade or fix anything. Intel agrees.

Intel inside, slick mess outside.

Often cooling a computer with a radiant that is not air focuses on cooling a handful of specific components and leaving the rest exposed to air. Gigabyte in their recent live presentation showed how the company reduced waste heat on the motherboard as it delivers power to the CPU as the latter likely receives more cooling than the former. With mineral oil you are able to more efficiently cool the entire system by immersing it in a better coolant than air.

aquarium.jpg

This still makes Ken wake up in a cold sweat… is what we convince ourselves.

After a full year of testing servers, Intel has decided that oil immersion cooling should be utilized by more server hosts to cut costs over traditional air conditioning. In their test they used heat sinks which were designed for air and dunked them pretty much unmodified into the mineral oil dielectric. Apart from the mess of it – Intel engineers always carried cleaning cloths just in case – Intel seems to only sing praise for results of their study.

Of course Intel could not help but promote their upcoming Phi platform which you may know as the ancestor of Larabee.

Now the real question is whether Intel just wanted to shamelessly plug themselves – or whether they are looking so closely at alternative cooling solutions as a result of their upcoming Phi platform. Will we eventually see heat dissipation concerns rear their heads with the new platform? Could Intel either be sitting on or throttling Phi because they are waiting for a new heat dissipation paradigm?

Could be interesting.

Lucid to Let You Plug in to Boost Your Laptop GPU?

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile | September 12, 2012 - 07:20 PM |
Tagged: lucid, external graphics

Lucid looks to utilize Thunderbolt and its PCIe-format interface with external video cards. Their ideal future would allow for customers to purchase Ultrabook or other laptop device to bring around town. Upon reaching home the user could sit the laptop on their desk; plug in a high-end video card for performance; and surround their Ultrabook in other monitors.

While there are situations for acceleration hardware to be inside the device that is not necessary.

There have been numerous attempts in the past to provide a dockable graphics accelerator. ASUS, AMD, Vidock, as well as many others have attempted this feat but all had drawbacks and/or difficulty getting to market. Just prior to Intel Developer Forum, Laptop Magazine was given a demonstration from Lucid with their own attempt.

How about some Thunderbolt?

Mobile GPUs are really the only thing keeping a good laptop from being a gaming machine.

There’s good need for desktop CPUs with lots of RAM – but these days, not to game.

I have been excited each time a product manufacturer claims to have a non-proprietary method to accelerate laptop graphics. Laptops are appealing for so many purposes and it is frustrating to have devices come so close but fall so short of being a reasonable gaming machine.

The demo that Lucid showed off ran 3DMark 06 on an Intel HD 4000 with an external AMD Radeon HD 6700. On integrated graphics the gaming performance hovered just south of 30 FPS. With the Radeon HD 6700 – as expected – performance greatly increased to almost 90 FPS.

It should be much more compelling for a PC store to say “For somewhere near the price of a console, you could dock your laptop which you already own into this box when you want to game and instantly have all PC gaming and Home Theatre PC benefits.”

And it should have happened a long time ago.