Are you part of the 5% ... that won't be able to find a hard drive?

Subject: General Tech | December 13, 2011 - 12:40 PM |
Tagged: hdd, shortage, thailand

DigiTimes has been doing some good old fashioned investigative journalism and has come up with some (almost) good news about HDD shortages.  With the news coming out of Western Digital that they are set to resume HDD manufacturing sooner than was originally projected, along with the factories that produce parts for other hard drive manufacturers, DigiTimes predicts a 5% supply gap by Q2 2012.  This significant improvement will come too late for the Christmas season, which is why companies like Intel are lowering their economic outlook for this and the next quarter.  With a shortage of hard drives to put in machines comes a lowered demand for all other system components, the exception being machines utilizing only SSDs which do not make up a significant portion of the market.  By the third quarter of 2012, DigiTimes predicts a return to normalcy in the global supply of hard drives.  By that point we should also have a good idea how hard motherboard, CPU, GPU and other companies have been affected by the flooding in Thailand and subsequent shortages.

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"Thailand's floods in early October, have created strong impact toward the hard disk drive (HDD) supply chain, causing many PC brand vendors to miss business opportunities in the fourth quarter, the traditional peak season, but Digitimes Research senior analyst Joanne Chien believes hard drive capacity will see an obvious improvement starting February 2012 after experiencing the most serious shortages in December 2011 and January 2012.

Because brand vendors are already out of HDD inventory, shipment volumes of devices with HDDs in the first quarter of 2012 will remain at a similar level as in the fourth quarter of 2011, with the HDD supply gap to remain at about four million units. In the fourth quarter, brand vendors together have a total inventory volume of about 20 million units.

Benefiting from their crisis management capabilities, Western Digital and affected upstream HDD component makers are expected to restore 70% of their total capacity by March 2012, three months earlier than their original forecast."

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Source: DigiTimes

How much of PCI-E 3.0 is just marketing speak right now

Subject: General Tech | December 12, 2011 - 12:15 PM |
Tagged: PCI-E 3.0

You have likely noticed motherboards arriving on the market which claim to support PCI-E 3.0, doubling the bandwidth to 8 giga-transfers and bringing an end to the PCI-E 2.x we all know and love.  The problem lies in the lack of any add in cards which are also PCI-E 3.0 compliant; current generation cards will work in the slot but they will not see the full speed of the new standard.  Does this mean that buying a motherboard with the new standard is an investment for the future when an SSD or graphics card arrives on the market or would you just be wasting money on a marketing ploy?  That is the question Hardware Secrets asks in their recent article.

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"Recently, motherboard manufacturers have been fighting their hardest to differentiate their products from one another in an effort to re-invigorate the stagnant PC business. A lot of this messaging has taken a very aggressive turn, where companies have blatantly called out or attacked competing products for not being the real deal or being up-to-speed."

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HP bled some money, so they open sores their Palms.

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | December 11, 2011 - 03:52 AM |
Tagged: webOS, open source, hp

Sure, this title is little more than a series of bad puns. That said, HP’s situation has recently seems like little more than a series of bad jokes itself. Over the last year, HP appears to have been their own biggest public image disaster: they purchased Palm to release a tablet without much platform support; they shut down and liquidate the tablet after seven weeks; they flirt with disbanding their entire profitable division and draw intense media discussion over the death of the entire PC industry; and they sharply change their mind and keep their division long after the media damage ends. Despite that spiraling-out-of-control story, HP has just recently made a surprisingly sensible decision: Open Source WebOS.

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WebOS… Web Open Source… I get it now!

Obviously, we cannot tell exactly how good of a long-term decision it is for HP to support WebOS as an open project with the details we have now. A number of questions, not the least of which being about what open source license HP will use for their operating system, shroud the fate of WebOS as an open source platform. While I will not get excited yet, as I will not assume sensibility on the part of HP, it is entirely possible that HP can displace Android and Meego as the open mobile operating systems. Then again, it is entirely possible that HP can just crumble under Android and its other competitors and go back to cramming drops of ink into plastic containers and building large servers for corporate clients.

Depending on the license, as well as other factors, what do you think of WebOS as the open platform of choice?

Source: HP

SETI@Home rises again with the reopening of the Allen Telescope Array

Subject: General Tech | December 9, 2011 - 11:57 AM |
Tagged: seti, boinc

Last Spring U.C. Berkeley pulled their funding from the SETI Institute which lead to the closure of the Allen Telescope Array, part of the Hat Creek Observatory.  It has finally reopened and is once again searching the stars for a variety of objects thanks to public donations and interest by the US Air Force.  SETI is not just about searching for radio signals from the stars, it has discovered pulsars and exoplanets as well as contributing to the search for water on other planets. 

The interest shown by the Air Force has less to do with space aliens and more to do with the awareness of near earth objects such as satellites and orbiting ships.  In among the data that would be collected by the array would be positional information of these orbital objects. The extra accuracy would hopefully allow much better predictions as to the time and location that objects falling from orbit will arrive on Earth, such as happened recently

Consider helping out by dropping by the BOINC Forum and joining the PC Perspective SETI@Home team.

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"MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – The Allen Telescope Array (ATA) is once again searching planetary systems for signals that would be evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence. Among its first targets are some of the exoplanet candidates recently discovered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope.

“This is a superb opportunity for SETI observations,” said Jill Tarter, the Director of the Center for SETI Research at the SETI Institute. “For the first time, we can point our telescopes at stars, and know that those stars actually host planetary systems – including at least one that begins to approximate an Earth analog in the habitable zone around its host star. That’s the type of world that might be home to a civilization capable of building radio transmitters.”"

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Source: SETI

Gaming earbuds from Thermaltake for those who don't want to muss their hair

Subject: General Tech | December 8, 2011 - 05:08 PM |
Tagged: audio, in-ear, gaming headset, thermaltake, esports

For some people having a band across the top of the head to keep their headphones on can be a problem, being uncomfortable or too distracting when making videos or any other reason.  Thermaltake have come up with a solution for anyone who wants unobtrusive earphones and microphone with their eSPORTS Isurus.  It features in-ear headphones and an inline microphone as well as a carrying pouch and several in-ear plastic moulds.  XS Reviews was a little disappointed that they needed to play with their equalizer when switching from gaming to music and between different styles of music, but after the adjustment the sound was quite good.  For under $30 the Isurus seems like a good deal for those searching for this type of product.

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"Similar to the recently reviewed Azurues mouse, the Isurus gaming headset is part of the Tt eSPORTS lineup, the range announced by Thermaltake at CES in 2010 to provide additional gaming peripherals for the “world e-sport gaming area” due to “constant request” from distributors and end users."

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Source: XSReviews

Intel won't be the only one with 3D transistors for long

Subject: General Tech | December 8, 2011 - 12:24 PM |
Tagged: fujitsu, suvolta, Intel, transistor, tri-gate, ddc, deeply depleted channel

Fujitsu and SuVolta, a designer of custom CMOS chips, have announced the fruits of a recent joint project aimed at developing a 3-dimensional transistor to match Intel's FinFET.  As we have seen with Ivy Bridge, this advancement in transistor technology significantly reduces the power needs of a chip which utilizes them.  The current prototypes utilize a 65nm process but the companies claim it will easily scale to 32nm.  SemiAccurate also reports that the Deeply Depleted Channel shows an advantage over Intel's Tri-gate transistor design  as DDC is capable of handling variable threshold voltages; Intel's requires that all threshold voltages match.  It will be a while before we see these implemented at Fabs but it is nice to see competition in the next generation of transistor technology.

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"During the IEDM conference in Los Altos earlier today Fujitsu presented a paper jointly authored by SuVolta. The paper describes how a newly developed transistor with a deeply depleted channel can achieve the same power savings as those announced by Intel that has launched a FinFET-transistor, which the company calls a 3D transistor."

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Source: SemiAccurate

The NVIDIA Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Tweak Guide Is Now Live

Subject: General Tech | December 8, 2011 - 11:45 AM |
Tagged: tweaks, skyrim, nvidia, gaming, elder scrolls V

NVIDIA has put together a comprehensive tweak guide for getting the most from Skyrim. The tweaks themselves also apply to AMD GPUs so just because you aren't running an NVIDIA GPU right now doesn't mean you should skip checking out the information they've posted. Much of the information deals with the settings you find under the options menu, from choosing how you want autosaves to work to how far you should set your draw distance to.

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They focus on the effects of the graphical settings for the majority of the article as it will be there that most of the tweaking will be done. Results of combining FXAA and MSAA are covered, both in terms of visual quality and performance impact at several different resolutions. As well, textures and shadow quality are examined in depth, including object detail. There are settings which seem to give you improved visual quality with little to no impact on your frame rate, options such as reflections, anisotropic filtering and actor fade can be turned up without crippling your system.

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From there they get into the real tweaks, requiring you to edit .ini files (make a copy first) and become acquainted with the console. The steps to disable V-Sync to uncap your frame rates and ditch the annoying mouse stuttering, increase your field of view and fine tune the shadows of Skyrim are revealed. They also cover the console commands in the game, not just how to turn god mode on and off but also how to teleport, turn off grass and other effects for troubleshooting, setting up batch files that can be run during the game and even the 'triple q' quick quit to desktop.

Source: NVIDIA

Batman can clean up everything in Arkham City except for the new villain that goes by the name of DX11

Subject: General Tech | December 7, 2011 - 12:57 PM |
Tagged: dx11, batman arkham city, gaming

We have seen previously that at the time of release, Batman Arkham City was not really a DX11 game.  Sure you could enable DX11 but it would make the game unplayable.  [H]ard|OCP were one of the first to complain about the performance and recently they revisited the game now that we have some new drivers ... and were disappointed again.  Right now the best experience you can have is with a GTX580 and with DX11 effects disabled.  [H] feels this is truly sad as tessellation would bring a lot to the atmosphere of the game but until DX11 is fixed you simply won't be able to see the game as it should be.  Their recommendation is to hold off on purchasing this game until they have fixed it.

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"The Caped Crusader has returned to crack more skulls on the streets of Arkham City. Rocksteady has enhanced the venerable UE3 engine with DirectX 11 and PhysX support, but can this aging graphics engine really handle such large, richly detailed outdoor areas? You might be surprised."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Mobile madness minus benchmarks; new mobile GPUs from AMD & NVIDIA

Subject: General Tech | December 7, 2011 - 12:25 PM |
Tagged: amd, mobile gpu, 7400M, 7500M, 7600M, nvidia, GT635M, GT630M, 610M, turks, Caicos, GF106, GF108, GF119

Before you start to get too excited when you read about the AMD Radeon 7000M announcement today; realize this is a rebranding of Turks and Caicos, not the arrival of Southern Islands.   While AMD might disappoint, at least the performance of the chips has been increased; NVIDIA went for a straight rebadge.  Even if you squint, the stats for the GT630M are the same as the GT540M and same with the 610M and 520MX.  There looks to be a slight difference in memory bandwidth between the 635M and 555M but AnandTech is doubtful that it is truly the case.

While we still don't know the exact frequencies that the so called 7000M chips will have in the end, they will be higher than the parts that they replace and will come in two flavours.  The less expensive part will be DDR3, with a DDR5 alternative for those who want a bit more performance.  Read on for all the gritty details or just look at the tables below.

AMD

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NVIDIA

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"We just covered the AMD side of things, but yesterday NVIDIA quietly refreshed their entry-level and midrange mobile GPUs in a similar manner. We weren’t briefed on the updates, most likely because there’s not much to say. Like AMD there are three "new" 600M parts. Here’s the overview of what NVIDIA is offering, with the previous generation equivalents listed for reference."

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Source: AnandTech

Just Delivered: Eaton 3S 750VA / 450 watt Battery Backup UPS

Subject: General Tech | December 6, 2011 - 01:37 PM |
Tagged: battery, ups, eaton, 3s, just delivered

Just Delivered is a new section of PC Perspective where we share some of the goodies that pass through our labs that may or may not see a review, but are pretty cool none the less.

Sometimes computer technology isn't sexy - but you need it anyway.  Just look at items like optical drives (debatable), floppy discs and ZIP drives?  Amiright?  An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is just one of those items.  You might not want to think about it, but you should have one, even for gamers and general PC users.

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Ever been working on a school document or maybe even a really detailed rage post on your favorite forum and had the power flicker and your PC reset, losing hours and hours of work you put into telling that moron why your GPU was better?  If so, or if you can imagine the frustration, then you know why having even just a few minutes of battery time on a desktop computer can be critical. 

We recently picked up the Eaton 3S battery backup which you can find online for as little as $70 - quite a steal for the peace of mind you'll get for having it.  Yes, if you are gaming on a PC using more than 450 watts when the power outage occurs, you are probably screwed.  If you are doing basically anything else, almost any desktop configuration should be good to go.

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The Eaton 3S 750VA model includes 5 outlets for battery backup and 5 more that are surge protection only.  The power button light changes colors depending on the units status and is a very basic indicator of your current power situation.

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The 3S has network surge protection as well as a USB port to connect tor your PC should you wish to use the Eaton Intelligent Power Protector software that enables features like graceful shutdown (if you are away from your PC when the power outage occurs).   You don't have to use that software though, and the unit will operate on a completely plug-and-play fashion using Windows, Mac or Linux integrated power management software.

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The unit can be wall mounted which is nice if you have limited floor space.

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The battery in the unit is user replaceable which is a nice change of pace and could lower your maintenance costs down the road for this UPS.  Eaton actually offers a 3-year warranty on both the unit AND THE BATTERY; something that other companies like APC do not (as I have first had experience with). 

The amount of runtime you will get with a UPS like this will obviously vary based on your hardware setup and while Eaton estimates "between 10 and 30 minutes" I would wager it would be slightly less than that for our readers.  Still, a few minutes is better than NO minutes so consider this Just Delivered to double as a PC Perspective PSA.