AMD's second quarter is more than a little off target

Subject: General Tech | July 10, 2012 - 02:18 PM |
Tagged: amd, quarterly earnings

While AMD predicted the second quarter of 2012 to be up 3 per cent, plus or minus 3 per cent compared to last quarter, total revenue instead fell by 11%.  This is blamed on the slowed global economy, not just in North America but in other major markets like China and Europe, as opposed to a loss in market share to competitors.  This is not the news AMD was hoping for but because at least some of the loss is due to a reduction in sales volume across the marketplace there is still hope for AMD to turn a profit because the gross margins may remain the same.  Heavy cost reduction at AMD could make the difference in profitability in this economic downturn but that is not really a long term solution if they want to remain innovative and profitable.  The Register has the acutal numbers handy here.

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"The bean counters at AMD have done a first pass on the company's second quarter, and it is not looking so good.

The company said in a statement after Wall Street called it a day on Monday that revenues in the second quarter ended in June would fall by approximately 11 per cent sequentially from the first quarter."

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Source: The Register

AMD and NVIDIA are sticking with TSMC

Subject: General Tech | July 9, 2012 - 04:32 PM |
Tagged: TSMC, Samsung, amd, nvidia, 28nm, rumour

All of the speculation about the problems TSMC has had with their 28nm process and the possible issues they might have producing enough wafers to meet their clients demands.  Today we hear from DigiTimes that Qualcomm is going to switch to Samsung, possibly because TSMC was focusing on AMD and NVIDIA, but this is pure speculation at the moment.  What seems more reliable is that GPU vendors are stating that both AMD and NVIDIA are sticking with TSMC which makes a lot of sense, even if TSMC has problems delivering it is a better alternative than AMD or NVIDIA redesigning their graphics processors to be compatible with Samsung's process.  The story also mentions that in 2013 Brazos 2.0 and Hondo will be moved to a 28nm design, again likely sourced at TSMC.

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"While Qualcomm has reportedly switched foundry orders for its 28nm-based Snapdragon S4 processors from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to Samsung Electronics because TSMC's 28nm capacity has failed to meet its needs, Nvidia and AMD may not follow suit, according to graphics card makers.

TSMC has the upper hand over Samsung in 28nm technology, yield rate and price and therefore changing foundry partnership involves high risks, the sources said. In addition, Nvidia is expected to consider Samsung's ARM-based processors in competition with its Tegra 3 processors, the sources indicated."

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Source: DigiTimes

Gigabyte Running Hidden Gems Competition, Win Hardware

Subject: General Tech | July 7, 2012 - 05:32 AM |
Tagged: motherboard, hidden gems, hardware, gigabyte, contest

Motherboard manufacturer Gigabyte is currently running its Hidden Gems contest asking for users to submit photos of their old and trusty Gigabyte-based computers. On August 10th, they will pick three winners who will receive brand new Gigabyte motherboards. The contest ends July 31st, 2012 and winners will be chosen on August 10th. For those curious it does involve “liking” Gigabyte on Facebook, and you must be at least 17 years old. It is unclear but does indeed seem to be open to those outside the United States.

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According to Gigabyte, it is running the contest to celebrate “our illustrious history as the leading motherboard manufacturer.” The company wants its users and fans to dig up old photos or videos of their old Gigabyte motherboards and computers. Those photos will then be shared with other contest entrants where they can be talked about and voted on.

After liking the Gigabyte Motherboard Tech Column Facebook page, you can navigate to its website and upload a photo or video of your Gigabyte PC. The Grand Prize will be awarded to the submission that gets the most votes while the “Team Gigabyte” prize will be given to the users chosen by the Gigabyte team. Finally, the “Most Deserving of an Upgrade” prize will be awarded to the entry that shows off the oldest motherboard.

The Grand Prize winner will receive a G1.Sniper M3 motherboard – which we recently reviewed. It is a micro ATX socket 1155 motherboard that features Intel’s Z77 Express chipset and support for its Ivy Bridge processors. It has four DDR3 DIMM slots, one PCI-E x1 and three PCI-E x16 slots. Rear IO includes four USB 2.0, two USB 3.0, a PS/2 port, and VGA, DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort video outputs. The G1.Sniper M3 also features eSATA, Gigabit Ethernet, optical audio output, and 5 channel analog audio output.

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For the Team Gigabyte prize, the winner will receive the Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H motherboard which is an Ivy Bridge compatible board that supports up to 32GB (4x8GB) of DDR3 memory, two PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots, Gigabit Ethernet, 7.1 channel analog audio output, 8 USB 3.0 ports, and six USB 2.0 ports. This board is regular ATX sized which accounts for the increased expandability.

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Last but not least is the “Most Deserving of an Upgrade” prize. The winner will be given a Gigabyte B75M-D3H motherboard. This motherboard is powered by the B75 chipset and features an LGA 1155 socket, four DDR3 DIMM slots, two PCI-E x16 slots, two PCI slots, one SATA 6Gbps port, and five SATA 3Gbps ports. Rear IO includes a PS/2 port, four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, VGA port, HDMI port, Gigabit Ethernet, and three analog audio jacks.

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If you aren’t against using Facebook and have some Gigabyte motherboards around, it might be worth checking out. Just remember to get your entries in before July 31, 2012 if you do want a chance to win. More information can be found on the Hidden Gems contest page at event.gigabyte.com/hidden_gems/.

Source: Gigabyte

Microsoft Releases Windows Server 2012 Pricing

Subject: General Tech | July 7, 2012 - 01:12 AM |
Tagged: windows server, windows pricing, windows, virtual machines, software, server, operating system, enterprise

Earlier this week we covered the pricing for Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 consumer-grade operating system. Now, the company has released pricing information for the enterprise side of things, mainly for its non-OEM SKUs of Windows Server 2012. With Server 2012, Microsoft has simplified its lineup with four versions – one of which is only for OEMs.

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Live Migration will allow virtualized storage to be moved in and out of server instances in real time without restarts.

The three versions that businesses can purchase and install themselves includes Datacenter, Standard, and Essentials. The lowest-tier version is called Foundation and will the version that comes pre-installed from OEMs. The Datacenter version has the most features and is the most lenient on the licensing by allowing businesses the full Windows Server 2012 functionality as well as unlimited virtual server instances. You’ll have to pay for those features, however as the Datacenter SKU is priced at $4,809. On the low end is Essentials which strips out licensed use of virtual instances of Server 2012 and also limites the number of user accounts that can access the server to 25. It will cost $425, which isn’t terribly expensive but is obviously aimed at small businesses. Interestingly, Microsoft states that Essentials has a simplified interface that is “pre-configured” for running cloud services. In the middle of those two extremes is Windows Server 2012 Standard which will run $882 USD and allows two virtualized instances as well as the full Windows Server functionality.

While Microsoft has not released pricing for its OEM-only Foundation version, they have announced that it will be limited to a max of 15 user accounts and no virtualization rights. The table below details the above information in a simplified table, courtesy Microsoft.

Edition Feature Comparison Licensing Model Pricing (USD)
Datacenter Unlimited virtual instances, full Windows functionality Processor + CAL $4,809
Standard Two virtual instances, full Windows functionality Processor + CAL $882
Essentials No virtualization rights, Simple interface pre-configured for cloud services Server (25 user account limit) $425
Foundation No virtualization rights, general purpose server functionality Server (15 user account limit) Not Listed

As Martin Brinkman explains, the top-two tiers are based on a processor licensing model which means that each version is allowed to run on up to two physical processors. The Datacenter version takes that a step further by allowing an unlimited number of virtual machines on those two physical processors while Standard allows two virtual machines on a system with up to two physical processors. To figure out how many licenses you will need to purchase, you can get by with half the number of physical processors. At around five Windows Server 2012 Standard licenses, it starts to become more economical to go with the Datacenter version if you will mostly be spinning up virtualized servers.

Interestingly, Windows Home Server is missing from the above list, and it looks like that is not a mistake. Microsoft has stated in its licensing FAQ (PDF) that it expects home and small business users to move to the Essentials ($425) version for their home server needs. Not exactly the answer that many users are going to want to hear. For those not wanting to spend that much, Microsoft is keeping Windows Home Server 2011 alive until the end of next year (12-31-13), and you will be able to buy Home Server 2011 in an OEM machine until 2025. Fortunately, a system builder version of Windows Home Server 2011 can be found for around $50 and it can support up to 10 users. On the other hand, it won’t have the neat Windows 8-based server features. It will be up to you to decide whether the $400+ price for Essentials is worth it for you home/small business needs.

Just as Microsoft has released a Consumer Preview version of Windows 8, you can download a Release Candidate of Windows Server 2012 to see what the new features are and if they are worth the money. More information on the pricing and various versions can be found here. What do you think of the new Windows Server SKUs?

Source: Microsoft

Want to see a four socket ARM server on dual PCIe slots?

Subject: General Tech | July 6, 2012 - 02:22 PM |
Tagged: Calexda, arm, cortex-a9, ECX-1000

Looking at the picture below you can see what Calxeda's ARM based server node will look like, an add-in card which requires two PCIe 2.0 slots to communicate with the mainboard.  On the node are four Cortex A9 CPUs, each with two PCI-Express 2.0 controllers, a DDR3 memory controller, and a SATA 2.0 disk controller, as well as an integrated Layer 2 distributed fabric switch for ethernet connectivity.  The mainboard these are connected to does very little, this server will depend on ethernet for its interconnect for now but it is likely that they will find something else to use though they may end up needing to license from AMD or Intel. 

The Register took a look at the comparative benchmarks which came with this release, an Intel Xeon E3-1240 with one Ethernet port and 16GB of DDR3 which should be roughly equivalent to the new HP Redstone servers.  They had some questions about the methodology used for the power usage on the Intel system as it was not describing the most power efficient usage of the Intel system and perhaps was not representative of the Intel system they actually benchmarked at all.  Check out the benchmark as well as Calxeda's response in the full article.

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"Calxeda, the ARM server-chip upstart that HP tapped for its "Redstone" hyperscale servers last November, is getting ready to ramp up production on the server cards that use its quad-core EnergyCore ARM processors, and is making waves with benchmarks while promising to do a better job with comparative testing against x86 architectures."

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Source: The Register

Some good warranty news for a change; ASUS and Gigabyte's new competition

Subject: General Tech, Motherboards | July 5, 2012 - 12:53 PM |
Tagged: Warranty, asus, gigabyte

Neither ASUS nor Gigabyte have released an official press release on this topic but the news coming out of DigiTimes this morning will make many users smile if it is wholly accurate.  This story claims that both companies will offer free repairs on motherboards which are still under warranty for user damage in addition to the current warranty which covers factory defects.  Gigabyte will attempt to repair any such user caused damage, which should cover damage caused by overclocking or overvolting and ASUS will replace an unusable motherboard for free, including free shipping and delivery.

This may reassure many who have had bad RMA experiences, as the process is not enjoyable at the best of times.   The previous standard RMA process usually offered two alternatives, the first would be for the user to pay to ship the motherboard to the manufacturer who is often located overseas and if the problem with the motherboard was discovered to be a defect then that company would reimburse the shipping as well as ship out a replacement for free.  Otherwise you were often stuck paying the return shipping on a component that was in the same state as when you first gave up on it, as well as being without that part for the duration of the RMA process.  The second option involved cross-shipping but was only available to those willing to put the cost of the replacement motherboard and shipping on their credit card, to be returned if the motherboard was defective and again, if the board was not defective you ended up footing the bill.

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If these changes to the RMA procedure are indeed accurate then the worry of a faulty board being sent back to you if the damage was judged not to be a factory defect need no longer prevent you from sending a buggy or even non-functional board back to the manufacturer.  There are likely to be some limits on these new policies, keep your eye out for updates as the arrive.

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"Due to the weak global economy, in addition to dropping their motherboard prices, Asustek Computer and Gigabyte Technology have both expanded their motherboard warranty services hoping to attract consumer demand, according to sources from motherboard players."

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Source: DigiTimes

ESR Labs Crafts Cheap Nexus Q Competitor With Raspberry Pi

Subject: General Tech | July 4, 2012 - 11:39 PM |
Tagged: streaming, Raspberry Pi, nexus q, media, google, android transporter, Android

Last week at Google I/O 2012, the company announced a new high-end media streaming device that taps into the Google Play cloud to bring music, movies, and TV shows to your living room television. Launched as the Nexus Q, the Android-powered sphere connects to the internet and multiple Android phones to bring a social media sharing aspect to the big screen, for a hefty $299 price tag (available from the Google Play Store).

Granted, it does contain a high end built-in amplifier for connecting to bookshelf speakers – at 12.5 watts per channel – and is made in the United States. Even so, that’s a high price to pay for a media streaming box, and especially one that can only play media from Google Play and not any locally stored content.

Enter the Raspberry Pi, the small Linux-powered $35 computer that is still not easy to get a hold of (at least not with my luck!). Coupled with a piece of new software developed by E.S.R. Labs called Android Transporter, the Raspberry Pi can wirelessly stream media and more from your Android devices to your TV screen for a much lower price.

There are some caveats, however if you are just after the wireless streaming aspects the Raspberry Pi has you covered. The Nexus Q, on the other hand, further brings in a social interface that allows friends to pool their Google Play content and build a playlist. It also has a very nice case with touchscreen controls and LEDs. The Nexus Q also offers an analog amplifier for speakers and optical audio outputs as well as regular HDMI. The Raspberry Pi only has HDMI for high-quality digital audio. Neither device supports HDMI pass through for connecting it between your audio kit and/or HDMI switcher and the TV though.

The Android Transporter software also has a noticeable bit of lag, which isn't really a problem for watching movies or streaming music but may make using the phone as a gaming controller as E.S.R proposed difficult. According to Bit-Tech, the developers are working on reducing latency from the current 150ms to less than 100ms.

To me, this seems like a good compromise between the cool wireless streaming technology (I can never find that darn MHL adapter when I need it!) and the $299 Nexus Q hardware. For the cost of a Raspberry Pi, you can get wireless streaming and screen sharing as well as the ability to stream local content as well as streamed-from-the-internet media. That gets you most of the way to the Nexus Q (while adding local content!) for about an eighth of the cost! I will concede that the Nexus Q's hardware is a lot sleeker looking that that of the Raspberry Pi!

As soon as I get my Pi, I'm definitely going to try this out! Have you gotten your hands on a Raspberry Pi yet? Are you using it as a cheap HTPC/streaming box?

You can find all of our Raspberry Pi coverage on the site by searching for the "Raspberry Pi" tag.

Source: Bit-Tech

Some internal Windows 8 dates were sort-of released.

Subject: General Tech, Systems | July 4, 2012 - 05:53 PM |
Tagged: windows 8

Expect Windows 8 to RTM between July 12th and July 21st.Of course the one date missing is the actual general availability release date which is still expected for the October timeframe. Certain developers have received builds early to help prepare their apps for RTM.

Windows 8 almost entirely relies on its Metro initiative.

The success or failure of the Windows 8 app marketplace will be the deciding factor in the future of the Windows platform. Whichever markets see success with Windows 8 will likely be the focus of future versions of the operating system. If it is all-around unsuccessful then you can probably expect Microsoft to go into a fit of anxiety and do something even more drastic for the future -- if Windows would even have one.

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You know the theory about broken Windows…

Paul Thurrott on his Supersite for Windows reported on a Building Windows 8 blog post from Steven Sinofsky. As long time viewers of this site might remember: we have experienced three public releases of Windows 8 to help developers make Metro style apps. Microsoft has also stated that a few high profile developers have received Windows RT tablets to help ensure compatibility on the new platform.

It turns out that they have also received several extra builds. Developers close to Microsoft have just received their 8th build -- if you include the three public ones -- to help developers prepare their applications for RTM sometime between July 12th and July 21st.

At least developers will have a few months to put some polish on their applications before the actual Windows 8 release still expected sometime in October.

Hands On: VideoLAN Releases VLC Beta for Android App

Subject: General Tech | July 4, 2012 - 02:31 PM |
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.

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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.

Hands On:

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.

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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:

Useful Links

More screenshots and details after the break.

 

Source: VideoLAN

Nexus 7 Teardown Reveals Easy User Serviceability

Subject: General Tech | July 4, 2012 - 10:22 AM |
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.

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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:

Source: ifixit