ARM follows Intel and AMD's 64 bit lead

Subject: General Tech | October 31, 2011 - 03:57 PM |
Tagged: cortex, ARMv8, arm, 64bit

We've now some more detailed information on ARMs new 64 bit ARMv8 processor and its strengths and weaknesses.  For the most part it resembles the 64 bit architecture that Intel and AMD use, an extended 32 bit architecture with several hold overs.  Perhaps the most disappointing is that ARM has the same 48 bit limit to virtual address space that the competition has.  If ARM had managed to overcome the limitations of canonical form addresses, they would have something that neither Intel nor AMD could bring to the server room. ARM desperately needs somthing to offer that the competition cannot if they are to convince admins to move from a familiar architecture to a brand new ARM architecture; power savings probably won't be enough.  Drop by The Inquirer to read up on the improved exception levels and encryption acceleration of the new ARMv8 architecture.

arm_holdings_arm_v8.jpg

"At the ARM TechCon conference in Santa Clara on Thursday, the top brass at ARM Holdings, the company that controls the core designs and licenses them to a slew of chip makers for modification in smartphones, tablets, and other embedded devices, showed off the new ARMv8 architecture. It's an incremental improvement over the current v7 architecture, just like the 64-bit extensions to the original 32-bit x86 processors from Intel and AMD were."

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Source: The Register

Now you’re thinking with Portals not cumbersome mod tools

Subject: General Tech | October 30, 2011 - 06:32 PM |
Tagged: valve, Portal 2, editor

Now do not get me wrong, I have no problems with complicated modding tools that give you nearly endless power over your creations: I just think this is cool. Valve has announced on their official Portal blog that they are soon releasing a simplified puzzle creator for their popular crate dating sim, “Portal 2”. Along with the new editor for the mod creators themselves, mod consumers will have an easier time acquiring the puzzles they desire through Valve’s Steam Cloud service. According to the screenshots released by Valve, the puzzle creator looks startlingly like something out of the Sims -- potentially introducing more people into videogame modifications as a whole.

map_editor_01.jpg

Be honest… how many of you will search the item repository for cake?

Image from Valve Software

This news comes on the heels of free DLC released for Portal 2’s co-op mode earlier this month. As a part of the Steam Cloud integration, community features will allow you to follow certain mod developers that you find make levels that speak to you (like the companion cube) and keep up to date with their works. Unfortunately, with Valve, the duration between announcement and release could be Half of your Life so there is no guarantee when we will see the tools and features. If only they could give us our personal Jonathan Coulton bundled with the editor.

Source: Valve

Firefox PDF Reader Nearing Completion, Optional Extension Available Now

Subject: General Tech | October 29, 2011 - 09:56 AM |
Tagged: software, pdf, open source, mozilla, firefox, browser

One of the most useful features in Google’s Chrome web browser is the built in PDF reader. It is a feature that I use almost every day, and although I keep an install of Firefox’s Aurora browser as a backup I have yet to return to using Firefox as my main browser since first checking out Chrome.

I’ve been wanting an integrated PDF reader in Firefox for some time now, and if this story is correct, Mozilla may be one step closer to delivering just that. According to the article, Mozilla has been developing a PDF viewer built using HTML 5 and Javascript technologies. Currently the open source project is called PDF.js, and the development team is working on integrating it into Firefox.

For now though, the team has released PDF.js as a browser extension for the open source browser. In addition to the extension download, the source code is available on GitHub for anyone to view and edit.

PDFjs.png

PDF.js displaying a Dell service manual in PDF format.

As it is now, the PDF.js add-on rather basic, but is definitely off to a good start. You are able to navigate by sections or page thumbnails accessible by a mouse-over pop-up menu on the left of the window. Along the top are buttons for previous and next page, navigating to a specific page, zooming in and out, downloading, printing, and searching the PDF document.

During some informal testing using a 94 page Dell service manual in PDF form, scrolling was smooth enough until hitting a new page upon which there was a bit of lag. Navigating to specific pages was rather quick, however.

The PDF reader is off to a good start and I may have one more reason to switch back to Mozilla’s browser soon enough. What do you guys and gals think about built in PDF support, is it something you find useful during your daily browsing?  If you're interested in checking it out for yourself, the extension is available for download here.  Simply download this "pdf.js.xpi" file and install it (choose the Firefox or Aurora executable for installation if Windows does not assign the .xpi extension to Firefox automatically) using Firefox.  Now navigate to a PDF file on any webpage to have it automatically open using PDF.js.

Source: Geek.com

I heard you like Starcraft? Yeah, it Hyrules!

Subject: General Tech | October 29, 2011 - 06:33 AM |
Tagged: zelda, starcraft 2, starcraft, mod

So you may be aware by now that PC gamers often like to mess with their game and customize it as they desire. Sometimes you even see the magical situation where one game gets grafted into another like a turducken you can play with. You do not play with your food, do you? Regardless of your eating habits it is perfectly reasonable to play with a videogame in your videogame and could be reasonable in the near future to play some Zelda in your Starcraft.

Technically a turducken would be a Portal Gun inside Link to the Past inside Starcraft…

The mod appears to have made quite a bit of progress judging by three of their released videos. According to what I can tell: multiplayer is being worked upon, soldiers are related to zerglings by death, and chickens are no longer the most deadly beings of the land. Unfortunately, being that Link and the soldiers are the only units with attacks right now (so it would seem) it suffers from classic Starcraft 2 issues: Terran imba.

What do you think?

Source: Youtube

HP Reverses Plans to Spin Off Personal Systems Group

Subject: General Tech | October 28, 2011 - 09:58 PM |
Tagged: psg, PC, hp, business

A few months ago, there was talk coming from Hewlett-Packard regarding their Personal Systems Group, which is the OEM/PC Manufacturing aspect of the company. Management talked and seemed to decide that they would pull and IBM and sell off their PC division to become a services company. This plan was pushed by the (now) former CEO Leo Apotheker who came from a services background. The company stopped rolling out WebOS devices including the HP Touchpad, and was further considering getting rid of the whole PC division.

A surprising "whoops" emanated from HP today as the new CEO Meg Whitman reversed the previous plans to spin off the PC or Personal Systems Group division. According to Ars Technica, HP’s PSG isn’t going anywhere any time soon. The site quoted the new HP CEO in stating “it’s clear after our analysis that keeping PSG within HP is right for customers, and partners, right for shareholders, and right for employees.” She believes keeping the Personal Systems Group makes HP stronger.

HP Logo.png

Not only is HP keeping the OEM aspects of the company alive, they are planning on expanding their current lineup in the mobile space with, and you guessed it, an ultrabook of all things! While this is likely much to the chagrin of our own Jeremy Hellstrom who would rather have 2 X79 motherboards duct taped together than an ultrabook, consumers and fans of a certain other fruit flavored slim form factor computer will likely appreciate some more competition in the ultrabook space to bring down prices a bit.

HP’s Executive Vice President over the PSG, Todd Bradley, has been quoted by several sites in a conference call yesterday as saying an HP Ultrabook is coming very soon. 

"We’re very focused on having a suite in that ultramobile space. And you’ll see that very soon."

-via Maximum PC

What do you think of this move? Does HP need a lesson in moderation in a time when they are either all on or all off on decisions (that are further flip flopping back and forth), or will jumping into the Ultrabook game be a good thing for the company?

Source: Ars Technica

Ultrabooks taking 1/4 of the mobile market? That's a lot of kool-aid to swallow

Subject: General Tech | October 28, 2011 - 05:39 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook, Intel, market share

Everyone's current favourite kicking horse, the ultrabook, is poised to take over almost half of all consumer notebook sales by the end of 2012 ... at least according to what DigiTimes heard from Intel.  Even stranger is that instead of breaking out into laughter, the manufactures peg the likely market penetration at about 25%.   Currently there are models from Acer and ASUS which you can purchase for your very own, but don't go out looking for reviews of them.  You can find some quick previews and overviews but as far as performance testing you are not going to find the same information as is available for every other mobile form factor; take that as you will.

The Ultrabook is expensive, as SemiAccurate recently pointed out you can get better performance from a notebook half the price and almost the same size.  It also seems odd that a form factor specifically limited to only 50,000 units produced in the first run is going to take over the market.  Even with broader adoption from companies like Lenovo or Dell, the math does not seem to support a 25% share of the market, let alone 40% and requires you to completely ignore the willingness of the consumer to pay $1000+ for a mediocre laptop.  It is small and shiny though; never underestimate the draw of shinies!

NIMH_shiny.jpg

"While Intel aims to increase the proportion of ultrabooks among global shipments of consumer notebooks to 40% by fourth-quarter 2012, the proportion is estimated to only reach 20-25% based on current market conditions, according to sources from Taiwan-based notebook supply chain makers.

The sources pointed out that most suppliers are aggressively developing components for ultrabooks, but actual order volumes have so far been below their expectations. Although the suppliers all understand that ultrabook are still testing the water, weakening growth of the traditional notebook market and dropping profits have prompted them to put great hopes on the success of ultrabooks.

As for Intel's 40% goal, the sources pointed out that Apple's MacBook Air will become a strong threshold for ultrabooks since there is not yet a single product can outmatch the MacBook Air in terms of performance and price."

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Source: DigiTimes

Podcast #176 - X79 Motherboard Leaks, the Arrival of Ultrabooks, Lots of Gaming Talk, Viewer Questions and more!

Subject: General Tech | October 27, 2011 - 10:08 PM |
Tagged: x79, podcast, Intel, gaming, bf3

PC Perspective Podcast #176 - 10/27/2011

Join us this week as we talk about X79 Motherboard Leaks, the Arrival of Ultrabooks, Lots of Gaming Talk, Viewer Questions 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, and sometimes Ryan Shrout

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their all new Sandy Bridge Motherboards!

Program length: 0:54:50

Program Schedule:

  1. 0:00:40 Introduction
  2. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  3. http://pcper.com/podcast
  4. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  5. 0:01:52 X79's from EVGA, four from Gigabyte and three from ASUS with Ivy Bridge still on time
  6. 0:08:00 Ultrabooks arrive to great indifference
  7. 0:13:01 ASUS N55 Core i7 15.6-in Notebook Review: Can One Laptop Do It All?
  8. 0:18:50 1050W Corsair HX1050 
  9. 0:23:20 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their all new Sandy Bridge Motherboards!
  10. 0:24:30 Bite me console boy
  11. 0:29:00 (Now playing live on) Arkham System Limits
  12. 0:31:48 BF3 system info and Fraggin' Frogs platoon with our own server
  13. 0:34:04 Skyrim system recommendations too ... please note DX9
  14. 0:35:30 Email from Corey about safe GPU temps
  15. 0:38:45 Email from Jon about what he NEEDS to play
  16. 0:44:05 Email from Thane from South Africa
  17. http://pcper.com/podcast   
  18. 0:44:30 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
      1. Ryan: Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Upgrade Cable USB 3.0 - STAE104
      2. Jeremy: Ha! Someone else's Ipad 2
      3. Josh: Since BD sorta fell down... Phenom II X6 1090T- watch for the sales
      4. Allyn: Ryan
  19. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  20. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  21. Closing

Source:

Hard Drive Prices Spike on Thailand Flooding

Subject: General Tech, Storage | October 27, 2011 - 08:00 PM |
Tagged: wdc, shortage, Seagate, Samsung, hitachi, hdd, Hard Drive

Chances are good you have heard about the recent flooding in Thailand - as Yahoo puts it: "The country's worst flooding in half a century, caused in part by unusually heavy monsoon rain, has killed 373 people since mid-July and disrupted the lives of nearly 2.5 million."  Obviously this is a horrific disaster and we feel for the people affected by it.

But there is a tech angle to the story that has been showing up in many of our discussions as late and is the impact this disaster has had on the production of spindle-based hard drives.  Looking for a 2TB hard drive today on Newegg.com this is what I found:

price01.png

Prices for hard drives have sky rocketed in the last week or so due to the pending shortage of them across the world.  Many of the top manufacturers have facilities based in Thailand for production as well as partners that are responsible for supplying companies like Western Digital, Seagate, Samsung and Hitachi with the parts they need to produce platter-based drives. 

While we used to talk about finding 2TB hard drives in the $89 price range, the best prices we could find on comparable units today start at $129; and this is for the slower units.  Western Digital Caviar Black drives are starting at unit prices of $229 now!

price02.png

Pricing graph from Pricegrabber.com for Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB

If you are careful and shop around, you can still find drives like this for the $149 price point at sellers like Amazon are bit slower to update their prices.  (Scratch that, after publication this was already at $199!)  But don't just blindly purchase drives at this point - do your research!

WD drives aren't the only ones affected.  When doing a search for a Seagate 2TB drive, these were our results:

price03.png

When asked for comment, a representative of one of the affected manufacturers expressed concern for the people of Thailand first, but when pressed, said:

"The entire hard drive business is affected. Two of our factories are inundated with water, which supports 60% of our output. But a ton of suppliers that the entire industry uses are also flooded so we are all impacted."

While looking over at WD's press center we found this comment from John Coyne, President and CEO:

In mid-October, to protect our employees and our equipment and facilities, we temporarily suspended production at our two factories in Thailand, which have been inundated by floodwater. In addition, many of our component suppliers have been impacted, leaving material for hard drive production considerably constrained. We are working with suppliers to assess the extent of their impact and help devise short- and long-term solutions. This is a complex and dynamic challenge that will require extensive rebuilding for the Thai people and government, and present unprecedented obstacles to the hard drive industry for multiple quarters.

Obviously with a majority of the facilities affected we can only expect these prices hikes to increase and to linger.  That fact that Coyne specifically notes "multiple quarters" indicates that users likely won't see a return to the pricing we were used to until at least mid-2012.  With competition from solid-state drives heating up, this could be bad timing for companies dependent on spindle drives as the driving revenue source: comparing a $300 SSD to a $90 standard drive is a much different decision than that same $300 SSD and a $240 standard drive of high capacity. 

According to this report from Xbit labs, the industry has "two to four weeks" of hard drive inventory available.  The author claims that this points to the situation not being so dire, but with the WD's CEO stating the effects will be seen for "multiple quarters", I am guessing we will see a major buy-up of inventory from system builders like HP and Dell that will cause drive shortages much more quickly than anticipated.  

PC Perspective will keep tracking the effects on driving pricing and if any player in the business has other input they want to offer us.  Stay tuned!

A tiny little wireless keyboard and trackpad for your Bluetooth devices

Subject: General Tech | October 27, 2011 - 04:57 PM |
Tagged: input, keyboard, mobile, touchpad, chill innovation

The tiny Chill Innovation KB-1BT Bluetooth Micro Keyboard is 155mm x 61mm x 12mm (6.1" x 2.4" x 0.5") so you obviously can't expect full sized keys especially with the 31mm2 (1.2"2) trackpad on the side.  What you can expect is to hook up the keyboard wirelessly to any device that can manage Bluetooth, the USB connection is to recharge the keyboard. MektuMods enjoyed using the device but question its value, the model they reviewed was 70 Euros (~$100USD) to purchase.

MM_bundle.jpg

"There are several keyboard/mouse bundles available these days. The new KB-1BT combines these two items into a single package. This is something that one could imagine using while watching movies via HTPC or writing a document with an iPad. So, is it worth your money? Let us find out..."

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Source: MektuMods

Intel watches sadly from a window as HP goes out ARM in ARM with Caxeda

Subject: General Tech | October 27, 2011 - 04:44 PM |
Tagged: arm, hp, servers, Calexda, MIPS, Godson

There have been many discussions as of late on the eventual arrival of ARM in the server room, with AMD and Intel suffering the losses.  A company called Calexda has made the possibility into reality with their own custom designed ARM chips. They figure on cramming 120 of the processors into a 2U box with incredibly low power draw; in the neighbourhood of a 90% reduction.  AMD's customers may stay with an architecture that they know, however Intel stands to lose power conscious customers if Calexda can provide performance and compatibility.  SemiAccurate also touches on Lenovo's investigation of building servers based on a MIPS design called Godson.

CalxedaX2.jpg

"According to a report from Bloomberg News Service HP (NYSE:HPQ) will start manufacturing servers based on the ARM architecture in a sharp departure from its previous Intel-only design philosophy.

The processors for the HP servers will come from the startup Caxeda, which is partly owned by ARM. Caxeda is planning a quadcore processor based on the ARM Cortex-A9 design."

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Source: SemiAccurate