Microsoft Details Four Windows 8 SKUs, Seems Reasonable

Subject: General Tech | April 17, 2012 - 07:04 AM |
Tagged: winRT, windows 8 on arm, windows 8, Metro

So Microsoft has officially stated in a blog post that their upcoming Windows 8 operating system will indeed be called “Windows 8” upon release and will come in four SKUs, three of which normal people will have use for and care about.

The three consumer oriented distributions or SKUs will be Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, and Windows RT [previously Windows On Arm]. The fourth SKU will be Windows 8 Enterprise and it will take all the features of Windows 8 Pro and then sprinkle in some IT management and volume licensing goodies to keep the majority of their customers (businesses) happy.

Windows 8 (1).png

Windows 8 (non Pro) is essentially the same feature level of operating system that Windows 7 Home Premium is now. On the other hand, Windows 8 Pro is what Windows 7 Ultimate is today. Both new Win 8 OSes are x86 and x64 based and will be the two consumer options available to upgrade to from Windows 7. Windows 8 delivers about what one would expect, media and general desktop features, multi-monitor support, media player, media center, Windows Defender, the Metro UI, Storage Spaces, and the updated Internet Explorer (among others). One interesting addition to Windows 8 (and Windows 8 Pro for that matter) is the ability to switch languages on the fly -- a feature that was previously reserved for the Ultimate edition of Windows.

Windows 8 Pro then incorporates all the features of Windows 8 and adds some important tools for worker bees and students including Group Policy, being a Remote Desktop host, BitLocker (and Bitlocker To Go) encryption, and the ability to join a domain (necessary for some students, depending on university). There are a few other goodies in the Pro version, but one nice touch is that the Pro version will be able to include Windows Media Center with an additional “media pack” download.

Windows RT is the third important SKU, despite the odd name. This new entrant is the official name for the ARM version of Windows 8. This version will only come pre-installed on certain computer systems (who have partnered with MS) meaning that Raspberry Pi users are out of luck and consumers will not be able to purchase Windows RT separately and install it on their own. This version will include the Windows desktop, language switching, multiple monitors, a VPN client, Windows Defender, device encryption (but no BitLocker), and a slew of Microsoft Office apps with updated touch-oriented interfaces. Windows RT takes many of the features of Windows 8 Pro but strips out a few things here and there to trim down the OS.

I’m glad that the previous rumors of approximately eight separate Windows 8 SKUs turned out to be false! Beyond that, I’m still absorbing the announcement and trying to figure out why they are calling it Windows RT (why not keep it simple and call it Windows On Arm). What are your thoughts on the announcement? Are you ready for Windows 8?  A Microsoft chart with more information on the feature differences between the various SKUs can be found here.

Source: Microsoft

Raspberry Pi Deliveries Starting Now

Subject: General Tech | April 16, 2012 - 11:27 PM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi, htpc

The UK charity behind the little computer that could -- The Raspberry Pi Foundation -- announced on Sunday that their Raspberry Pi computers are [finally!] shipping out to customers that pre-ordered the Model B boards. Creator Eben Upton hand delivered the first batch of Raspberry Pi computers to distributor RS Components in Corby which you can see in the video embedded below.

Some users have already reported receiving their boards, and the charity is starting to hold lectures and classes for students in the UK using the Raspberry Pi computers. In other good news, serial production of the Raspberry Pi computers has begun at the factories which means that the backlog of pre-orders should now be taken care of faster than previously estimated by RS and Farnell. More specific estimates on when you should be getting your Raspberry Pi should be provided to you later int he week from the distributor you ordered from.

I have yet to receive any e-mail from Farnell on the status of my Raspberry Pi since the first order verification email so I have a feeling I’m at the end of the line but at least they are shipping now and I’ll have some testing to do shorty!

Have you ever wanted an audio codec decoder?

Subject: General Tech | April 16, 2012 - 02:45 PM |
Tagged: VIA, Realtec, decoder, codec, C-Media, audio, Analog Devices

There are a wide range of audio coder/decoders on the market, from a variety of vendors providing codecs for both onboard audio as well as for discrete cards which can prove confusing to even veteran PC builders.  With Analog Devices, Realtec, C-Media, VIA and several other smaller vendors providing a wide range of codecs and controllers you can easily be lost in the alphabet soup of model names.  Perhaps you wish there was a handy reference that would give you a list of the basic capabilities of these codecs, like the Channels available, input and output resolution, the maximum sampling rates and the signal to noise ratio?  Hardware Secrets has heard your plea and assembled a list of the more common codecs on the market today which you can refer to here.

HS_coderdecoder.jpg

"Audio codec is a small chip measuring 0.25 sq. in. (7 mm2) located on the motherboard in charge of the analog audio functions. Knowing the specs of a codec will permit you to compare the audio quality of different motherboards, allowing you to choose the right product for your needs."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

 

ARM aims to make TSMC the Fab of choice for their customers

Subject: General Tech | April 16, 2012 - 01:47 PM |
Tagged: arm, TSMC, fab, cortex a15, cortex-a9, 28nm, 40nm

ARM has developed some optimizations for their chips, provided that the customer purchasing them uses TSMC to fabricate them.  ARM has licensed a large variety of fabrication companies to produce their chips but with their familiarity with TSMC's 28nm and 40nm processes they have been able to introduce performance enhancing optimizations specific to TSMC.  It could taste a bit like favouritism but is much more likely to stem from the volume of TSMC's production as well as the maturity of the 40nm process node.  The 28nm node could be a bit of a problem for ARM as we have seen that TSMC is not having an easy time producing enough good dies for their customers; this is why you cannot buy a GTX 680.  As The Inquirer points out, if ARM wants to make sure their customers can get their hands on reasonable volumes of chips, they will want to create optimizations specific to other manufacturers sooner rather than later.

arm-cortex-a15.jpg

"CHIP DESIGNER ARM has released a slew of optimisation packs for Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company's (TSMC) 28nm and 40nm process nodes.

ARM, which licenses designs to many chip designers, including Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, Nvidia and Samsung, has given TSMC a boost by offering processor optimisation packs for the firm's 28nm and 40nm process nodes. ARM claims the optimisation packs for its Cortex-A5, Cortex-A7, Cortex-A9 and Cortex-A15 processor cores help designers make use of TSMC's process node nuances to get the most out of their designs."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Inquirer

Minecraft DOTA: Because FP DOTA needs more awesome?

Subject: General Tech | April 16, 2012 - 12:49 AM |
Tagged: Minecraft, DOTA

Defense of the Ancients, originally a mod for Blizzard-based games which inspired games like League of Legends and DOTA2, comes to Minecraft. Unlike other variants, it is from a first-person perspective rather than top-down -- and it’s in Minecraft without needing client-side mods.

If you are a PC gamer -- firstly, welcome home -- but also you are probably will aware of something called a “mod community”.

Minecraft lends itself well to mod developers. Minecraft for the PC allows for their community to edit much of the game to customize it to their likings. Even without editing the core game client itself, there is a large amount of customization possible from within the game -- including, apparently, developing a fully functional DOTA game type.

I cannot possibly describe how epic this is…

The game type of DOTA is quite simple in concept: kill AI to get money, use money to buy items, use items to kill the enemy team and their base.

Normally played from a top-down perspective, Minecraft DOTA is played from a first person perspective. One or two towers are placed in each of your team’s three lanes out to the jungle. In order to kill an enemy, you must destroy all five of their towers which is a feat requiring at least two people to accomplish. Once all five towers are destroyed, you can destroy their nexus (which requires three attackers) and win.

Check out the latest build at MineCraftForum.net.

AMD Three for Free promo: HD 7900 Price drop & free games

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | April 16, 2012 - 12:25 AM |
Tagged: southern islands, price cut, amd

AMD, for a limited time and while supplies last, will bundle three games with the purchase of a Radeon HD 7900 Series graphics card. The qualifying cards, the Radeon HD 7950 (now $399) and 7970 (now $479), will be bundled with DiRT Showdown, Nexuiz, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution with The Missing Link DLC.

Getting a game bundled with your GPU is not the most unheard-of practice, but could still be a good deal regardless. Bundling three high-profile games and an expansion DLC for one of them is very likely to be a good deal however you look at it.

AMD will soon launch their “Three for Free” promotion for qualifying Radeon HD 7950 and 7970 video cards from participating resellers. With this program, AMD will throw in DiRT Showdown, Nexuiz, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution with The Missing Link DLC with their video card.

AMDThreeForFree.png

AMD’s throwing DiRT in a Showdown?

The selection of games is quite impressive but they only serve as BBQ sauce for the promotion: the HD 7000 series are receiving price cuts.

AMD is lowering the price of the Radeon HD 7970 to $479 and the HD 7950 to $399 along with the three-and-a-bit free games. Also cut in price, although not qualifying for the free games, is the Radeon HD7770 which loses $20 off of its price tag with an expected price of $139. Check out Ryan’s review for the performance of that card.

You can keep a lookout for these updated prices here on Newegg.com!

Source: PCPer

MUXing around in an aMUSEing search engine

Subject: General Tech | April 15, 2012 - 08:53 PM |
Tagged: Google BBS

Google BBS Terminal is an art project, not endorsed by Google, which imagines what Google would have looked like if there were around a decade earlier.

Be honest, who here at one point used a telnet client recreationally?

If you feel lucky, there is an interesting art project which has recently been released called Google BBS Terminal. Developed in web standards, the site performs Google search and news queries in a colorful text-only application. The site, as well as being functional, overlays annoying modem and keyboard squeals and clicks to really drill a hole through your nostalgia.

Google.png

Don't be Eeeeeevvveeeeeee-dun-dung-greeeeeeeeh

The author has a number of projects on his site including Javascript-based emulators, assemblers, and text-to-speech engines. While I doubt that it will become your dominant search engine, it should be fun to mess around with on a hazy Monday break. Gopher it!

Source: mass:werk

Valve, tired of rumors, announces wearable computing

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | April 14, 2012 - 04:09 PM |
Tagged: valve, wearable computers

Valve has been under the public eye since rumors of The Steam Box broke. To put out the rumors, Michael Abrash -- now at Valve -- announced their mystery project investigates computing devices that you can wear.

Great, that is just what we need, more Steam punks and their costumes.

Valve has traditionally been somewhat of a quiet company accustomed to public speculation. In a change of pace from the typical cries to release Half Life 2: Episode 3, Valve has recently been subject to rumors about breaking into the hardware business. In another change of pace, Valve has announced their hardware project is wearable computers and publicly solicited for job applicants to join in the research.

Gaben.jpg

Want me to show you my knife collection?

(Photo Credit, Giant Bomb)

Michael Abrash wrote in his blog on Valve’s website what his work is based on and it is quite similar to what Google is looking at with their augmented reality glasses.

By “wearable computing” I mean mobile computing where both computer-generated graphics and the real world are seamlessly overlaid in your view; there is no separate display that you hold in your hands (think Terminator vision).

While this is very interesting, it still remains to be seen where Valve intends to be involved with this project. Steam is pushing out from the desktop PC to the home theatre with their Big Picture UI and what that could potentially spread out into.

It is entirely possible that Google and Valve both see some link between Steam/Google TV and Wearable Computers/Augmented Reality glasses that we are just unable to perceive yet and are lunging for the same target. While the blog posting is very interesting, it still reveals little about the technology itself.

Also, this announcement does not mean that Valve is not working on a hardware platform to accompany The Big Picture, it just says more about what Valve is currently working on in secret. The previous rumors could still have some shred of truth in them.

As for when we will see wearable computing? It’s still a long ways out in Valve time.

To be clear, this is R&D – it doesn’t in any way involve a product at this point, and won’t for a long while, if ever – so please, no rumors about Steam glasses being announced at E3. It’s an initial investigation into a very interesting and promising space, and falls more under the heading of research than development.

So, which will we see first? Valve augmented reality devices, or the stunning conclusion to Gordon Freeman’s story-arc? That is a bet that will require one heck of a patient bookie to make.
Source: Valve

Valve denies Steam Box, posts job for Hardware Engineer

Subject: General Tech, Systems | April 13, 2012 - 01:58 PM |
Tagged: valve, Steam Box

Doug Lombardi of Valve denied rumors of the Steam Box console last month, but fell short of denying future possibilities and so forth. Recently, Valve has posted a job opening on their website for an electronics engineer.

When Valve’s Doug Lombardi responded to rumors of a “Steam Box” console, he used the following words which were posted all over the internet as Valve denies Steam Box console rumors:

We're prepping the Steam Big Picture Mode UI and getting ready to ship that, so we're building boxes to test that on. We're also doing a bunch of different experiments with biometric feedback and stuff like that, which we've talked about a fair amount, […] All of that is stuff that we're working on, but it's a long way from Valve shipping any sort of hardware.

GabeNewellTrollFalse.png

That is not a denial!
(Image created with Memegenerator.net)
(And yes, I know that's Gabe Newell, not Doug Lombardi)

 

As it turns out Valve has just recently posted a job position for a Hardware Engineer with the following duties:

Work with the hardware team to conceive, design, evaluate, and produce new types of input, output, and platform hardware

Join our highly motivated team that’s doing hardware design, prototyping, testing, and production across a wide range of platforms. We’re not talking about me-too mice and gamepads here – help us invent whole new gaming experiences.

While that hardware engineer position could be any number of things including peripheral development, it is clear that Valve wants to get into hardware more than they let on. This looks to be more than just development hardware.

Source: Valve

Microsoft's product leak - it's not wrong, just don't trust it

Subject: General Tech | April 13, 2012 - 11:57 AM |
Tagged: microsoft, leak, office 15, internet explorer 10

Microsoft had a very atypical reaction to the leak of slides which you can catch at The Register this morning.  While most companies disavow any knowledge of leaks and refuse to either confirm or deny the veracity of the leaks, Microsoft came out and confirmed that the plans and dates are correct but that no one should bank on them actually meeting those deadlines.  March of next year is when Office 15 is slated to arrive, along with Exchange, SharePoint, Visio and Project updates.  Office 360 should continue to receive updates every quarter, so users of that SaaS may be the first to encounter any changes that will be incorporated into Office 15.  Any users of IE should expect a new version this summer, but after that it will be two years before the next major rehaul of the browser occurs.

MSLeak.png

"Maarten Visser, CEO of Dutch cloud developer consultancy Meetroo, posted the plans, which were issued by Redmond at the end of last year, on his Twitter stream and they include launch dates for product as Office 15, Windows Phone and IE 10. Microsoft has confirmed the veracity of the images, but warns you shouldn't bet the bank on them."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register