Curiosity Has Landed: First Photos from Mars

Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2012 - 01:47 AM |
Tagged: space, rover, photos, nasa, mars rover, mars, curiosity

NASA’s latest rover, named Curiosity has successfully landed on Mars a few minutes ago. The NASA team members were understandably ecstatic and gleeful as their hard work paid off. The first fruits of their labor arrived in the form of images from Mars.

Mars Curiosity Rover.jpg

An artist's depiction of the Curiosity rover on Mars

Using a rocket-powered skycrane, the one-ton rover was lowered onto the Martian surface to begin its two year mission collecting data for research into everything from water on Mars to the planets past life forms.

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The NASA employees in the control room celebrate a successful landing.

Doug McCuistion, Director of the Mars Exploration Program for NASA’s Washington Headquarters stated in a recent press release:

 “Curiosity is a bold step forward in learning about our neighboring planet, but this mission does not stand alone. It is part of a sustained, coordinated program of Mars exploration. This mission transitions the program's science emphasis from the planet's water history to its potential for past or present life."

It is an exciting time for NASA, and I’m interested to see what comes out of the Curiosity-aided research! The first images from Mars started arriving soon after the Curiosity rover landed, and more should be coming soon. You can find a collection of images from the Curiosity landing on the NASA website.

Photos From Mars.png

One of the first images from Mars

PS While the Xbox 360 gamers got a Mars rover landing game for Kinect, PC users can now play around with their own skycrane-delivered rovers in Kerbal Space Program.

UPDATE: Several low resolution images have been posted to the NASA site and can be seen below. Higher resolution images should become available later.

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Images courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

Source: NASA

Seagate Acquires Majority of Shares in LaCie

Subject: General Tech | August 5, 2012 - 10:23 PM |
Tagged: ssd, Seagate, LaCie, Hard Drive, controlling interest

Earlier this year, it was revealed that hard drive manufacturer was interested in acquiring a controlling interest in LaCie. LaCie is a manufacturer of high-end desktop drive and NAS enclosures. The company announced that it planned to purchase shares from LaCie CEO and Chairman Philippe Spruch and an unnamed partner. Doing so would give Seagate 64.5% of outstanding shares. It is further offering shareholders as much as $5.09 USD for their shares should Seagate acquire 95% of outstanding shares and voting rights within six months of the deal closing.

After getting the necessary go ahead from various governmental anti-trust bodies, Seagate is ready to move forward with the acquisition. Both Seagate Technology PLC (public limited company) and LaCie S.A. (annonymous society) have announced the buyout is official. Seagate has indeed purchased all shares owned by Philippe Spruch and his partner for €4.05 (approximately $5.01) per share, giving Seagate 64.5% of outstanding shares and a majority interest in the company and more votes than the remaining investors combined. Should Seagate acquire 95% of shares within six months, the check made out to the LaCie chairman and his unnamed affiliate would increase 3% due to the price per share paid increasing to €4.17/share (approximately $5.16).

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The merging of Seagate and LaCie logos (hehe).

Beyond that, Seagate wants to completely buy out all outstanding shares of the company. It will offer an all cash offer to the remaining shareholders. While Ricol Lasteyrie & Associes is still the independent expert that was announced previously, Seagate has increased the price per share that they are willing to offer shareholders. Should the independent experts okay the offer (by making sure that LaCie shareholders would be getting an appropriate amount of money per share based on an independent valuation), Seagate is prepared to pay up to €4.50 per share, or approximately $5.57. With the new offer, there is no contingency offer like the 3% increase to Spruch should Seagate get 95% of shares. The €4.50 is as much as Seagate is looking to pay.

With all the talk lately of Seagate acquiring an SSD manufacturer, the official acquisition of LaCie is interesting. Seagate may well still be looking for an SSD manufacturer, because although LaCie does have some flash USB key storage experience and products, they do not have SSD experience. Also, the intention to buy LaCie has been known for much longer than the rumor that Seagate would acquire OCZ has been making the rounds on the web. As far as the combination of Seagate and LaCie goes, Seagate is getting a high-end enclosure product lineup that the company can then integrate its own drives into.

While not the announcement that people were hoping for, it is likely a positive move to Seagate to acquire LaCie. Is it OCZ or Fusion IO’s turn next?

Here, you can find more information on the deal.

Microsoft Shelves Metro UI Brand Name In Favor of "Windows 8-style UI"

Subject: General Tech | August 5, 2012 - 05:02 AM |
Tagged: windows 8, microsoft, metro ui

Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 operating system has reached Release To Manufacturing (RTM) status, and it further has ditched the Metro UI name. Instead, the company has decided to use the term “Windows 8-style UI” to refer to the new interface and applications.

While the actual tile-based interface itself is still part of the OS, several factors seem to have caused Microsoft to rebrand it. A Microsoft representative was quoted by ZDNet in stating that Metro UI was simply an internal code name never intended to be used as the final brand name. Specifically:

“We have used Metro style as a code name during the product development cycle across many of our product lines. As we get closer to launch and transition from industry dialog to a broad consumer dialog we will use our commercial names.”

That’s all well and good–the company has used many codenames for in-development products in the past. However, it does seem to be a bit late in the game to announce that the Metro UI name is suddenly dead, especially considering the public development cycle with two public betas so far and numerous articles using the Metro name to refer to the new Windows 8 interface and apps.

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Another possible reason for the change to “Windows 8-style UI” lies in alleged legal threats by German retailer Metro AG. According to The Verge, sources have indicated that Microsoft backed off from using the Metro name in order to avoid a legal dispute with the retailer. As far as trademarks go, Microsoft could have fought them in court with a chance of being allowed to continue using Metro as the companies and the products referred to by their “Metro” brand names are in different industries. Metro AG is a huge company, however. It would have the money and resources to give Microsoft a good court battle for the name.

In an interesting move, it seems that Microsoft and Metro AG have backed away from a court battle by agreeing to disagree. The Verge quotes an internal Microsoft memo as stating that due to talks with “an important European partner,” (possibly Metro AG) the company is discontinuing its usage of the Metro term/brand. Until a more permanent and official brand name is released, Microsoft has decided to go with “Windows 8-style UI,” and is instructing everyone else to as well.

Whatever the real reason for the change, the Metro UI is gone, at least in name. Will you miss the Metro term?

Source: Maximum PC

Podcast #212 - Live from QuakeCon 2012!

Subject: General Tech | August 4, 2012 - 12:54 PM |
Tagged: VR, ssd, Seagate, quakecon, podcast, ocz, oculus rift, nvidia, Intel, carmack, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #212 - 08/03/2012

In this special live edition of the PC Perspective Podcast, we discuss QuakeCon 2012 and other news of the week!

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: Ryan Shrout Josh Walrath, Allyn Malvantano and Steve Grever

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!

Program length: 49:04

Program Schedule:

In this special live edition of the PC Perspective Podcast, we discuss QuakeCon 2012 and other news of the week!

 

 

Windows 8 Reaches RTM Status, Almost Immediately Leaked

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | August 4, 2012 - 06:29 AM |
Tagged: windows 8 rtm, windows 8, video, start screen, microsoft, Metro

Preface: If you prefer a video version, you can check out a video walkthrough of Windows 8 RTM with commentary. For those that want a written preview, I have attempted to break the article up into sizeable chunks. The first part is the introduction and "what's new" regarding getting it set up versus our guide for installing the Consumer Preview. The following sections are for showing off desktop applications and metro/Windows 8 Style UI apps. Finally, a short conclusion and general impressions section as well as some questions for you to answer should you want to join the discussion. Once again, I've gone with a more informal voice for the preview as there is a lot of opinion in here, this is by no means a full review!

Please note that unless otherwise stated, these opinions are my own, and not PC Perspective's. I am interested in hearing your opinions on the RTM build as well, and you can participate in the comments below without registration (though you get some nice benefits–like an avatar and ability to edit posts–if you decide to).

Windows 8 RTM has leaked to the Internet, here's what's new and what I think of it

Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 operating system is well on its way for the final public release on October 26, 2012—in fact OEMs are starting to get their hands on the code, and it is officially in Release To Manufacturing (RTM) status. While Microsoft TechNet subscribers will be able to download the Windows 8 RTM build on August 15, 2012, it has already been leaked to the Internet as is available on various file-sharing websites.

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To be more specific, the leaked build is a volume license version of Windows 8 Enterprise (N) RTM. It is further an “N” edition, which means that it is aimed at the European market and has Windows Media Player and Windows Media Center stripped out. The "N" editions are the result of an EU case relating to alleged anti-competitive actions. From that leaked build, people have managed to create a bootable ISO version for clean installs where there is no existing OS on the machine as well as a zipped folder that can be used for upgrade installations.

Needless to say, the news that the RTM had leaked piqued my interest, so I set out to get my hands on it (and report my findings). I managed to find a non-bootable image called "MICROSOFT.WINDOWS.8.ENTERPRISE-N.RTM.X64.VOLUME.ENGLISH.NON_BOOT_DVD-SAMOVARWZT" (wow that's a long file name) that seemed to check out as being legitimate. I then took that 6.05 GB folder and used the files to do a clean install from a Windows 7 x64 virtual machine I had around for testing just this sort of thing.

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Unlike our previous Windows 8 Consumer Preview installation guide, this RTM build does not require a key to be entered in order to complete the install. As a volume license version, you are allowed a 30-day grace period to activate (I have not tested if the Windows 7 -rearm trick works to extend that yet). Other than the key issue, the clean install procedure is the same as the steps we covered previously. Aesthetically, Microsoft has changed to a purple background and the beta fish logo at boot-up (when the installer restarts the system) is gone. It is replaced by a small light-blue Windows 8 logo.

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Once the installer has finished, it will restart the computer and, upon boot will present a nice graphical OS selection list which appears to be a new addition to the RTM build. After choose Windows 8, you enter the Windows setup wizard which guides you through setting computer options and configuring your user account.

Nice GUI bootloader OS Selection screen (new to RTM).jpg

The setup process in Windows 8 RTM appears to be identical to that of the Consumer Preview version that I installed a couple of months ago (how time has flown!). Below is an animated .gif of the setup screens, which appears to be the same as the Consumer Preview except using a slightly different background color.

After that finished though, I was pleasantly surprised with what came next. After asking for some sort of tutorial ever since the Developer Preview, Microsoft has finally provided one–sort of. Basically, after setup finishes, the screen goes dark and then an animation pops up that briefly shows you how to access the Windows 8 Charms bar by moving your mouse to any corner of the screen. Then it dumps you out to the desktop.

Not exactly what I was hoping for, especially considering I was only able to find out how to actually close a Metro "Windows 8 style UI" application without going to the task manager from a forum post of all things. Needless to say, some of the mouse gestures are not obvious, and I do consider myself to be at least somewhat technically savvy. Therefore, I can only imagine how lost some people might be when presented with Windows 8. When I had the Developer and Consumer Preview(s) installed on my Dell XT convertible tablet, the touch and gesture stuff was easier to discover but it is still not apparent. I was really hoping for a tutorial similar to what Microsoft did for Windows XP that introduces the interface and all the new features on the first setup (and accessible later if needed).

Still, it is a step in the right direction, and the tutorial at least points out one of the new mouse/touch navigation features. Here's hoping that MS adds more to that start-up tutorial by the time final code is out and it is for sale. Below is an animated .gif image of the brief tutorial. Note that the actual tutorial has some fading transitions between scenes. The last two images are two clips from a constantly changing background color as the OS loads the desktop and Windows 8 Start Screen for the first time. It cycles through all the colors available to choose from in the Personalize setting during account creation.

Once Windows has finished setting up your user account, you will be presented with the Windows 8 Start Screen for the first time. In my case, it was an array of "Metro" Windows 8 Style UI live tiles on a dark blue background with my name and photo in the top-right-corner. You can see what my Start Screen looks like in the image below. Yours will look similar but the photos and location information will be different. So you'll have the same stock apps, but the information on the tiles will not be the same. The information in question will be pulled from the Microsoft/Windows Live account that you signed into during the initial setup process.

Start_Screen_First_Boot.jpg

Continue reading to see the new "Metro" apps, desktop UI, and my final thoughts

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.

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"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.

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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.

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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.

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"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