Monday, August 24, 2009

Snow Leopard may be coming on August 28 after all

Just yesterday, we noted a number of details that suggested Snow Leopard would land earlier than expected, beating the announced September timeframe by a few days. After Apple's US online store briefly (and erroneously) listed the Snow Leopard version of the Mac Box Set for sale, late last night the UK Apple Store listed August 28 as the shipping date for Snow Leopard Up To Date discs.

The information spread to other online Apple Stores, including the US and Canada, before quickly being revised back to "September." Along with the other rumors and leaks, its seems as though this early ship date for Snow Leopard is either one of the worst-kept secrets at Apple (except possibly the long-rumored Apple tablet), or it's a series of deliberate leaks to generate buzz about Snow Leopard. We tend to think its the latter, but it wouldn't be the first time a few kinks appeared in Apple's well-oiled PR machine.

Either way, Snow Leopard is coming soon. With anticipation increasing, we would just like Apple to quit jerking us around already and let us know when it will be available. M'kay, Apple?

Use Windows 7 (for Free) for 120 Days, Legally

It is possible to rearm Windows 7’s 30 day activation period up to three times (without violating the EULA), giving the user a maximum of 120 days before needing to activate Windows 7. With this tactic, users of Windows 7 can legally use any version until the RTM hits the stores in October.

To view how many days you have left in your grace period, simply go to the System Information page (right click “My Computer” and click Properties). When that number gets close to zero, go to your accessories and right click “Command Prompt” and click “Run as Administrator.”

Afterwards, type in “slmgr -rearm” without quotes. Then hit enter and restart Windows 7. You will now have 30 more days left, and it can be used twice more before you need to active your Windows 7.

However, beware. Install the version of Windows 7 that you are planning to buy. On Windows Secrets, the post explains that if you install Ultimate and re-arm it three times, you will need to activate it with an Ultimate key. You cannot use a Home Premium key to activate Ultimate, so unless you want to shell out for Ultimate, install the version that are planning to buy.

Now, enjoy your Windows 7 for 120 days. ;)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Windows 7 RTM Available To Download On MSDN

Windows 7 RTM is now available on the Technet and MSDN download sites. All versions of Windows 7 are available for download, including Premium, Professional and Ultimate.

Software Assurance subscribers will be able to download Windows 7 RTM from Friday from the Volume Licence Software Centre website. Other large businesses will be able to get access to the final version on 1 September.

Windows 7 Upgrade Chart

Microsoft has released an official Windows 7 Upgrade chart that explains the upgrade paths from both Windows XP and Windows Vista to Windows 7. The chart basically tells users if they need to do a clean install of the operating system or can upgrade the operating system directly. Ed Bott already mentioned that the chart is way to confusing for the average user and that it does contain at least one product that does not exist at all. Most of the information displayed in the chart are redundant.

Microsoft probably tried to be thorough by including 32-bit and 64-bit editions in separate rows. It would however been much easier to read by combining these two rows in one as the upgrade paths are the same for both the 32-bit and 64-bit editions. That with the removal of the non-existent Vista Starter 64-bit edition would turn the chart in a readable easy to grasp format.

To sum it up. Windows XP and Windows Vista Starter users need to do a clean Windows 7 install. Windows Vista Home Basic and Home Premium users can upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium or Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows Vista Business users can upgrade to Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate and Windows Vista Ultimate users can upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate. Every other combination can only be achieved with a clean install.

It is interesting to note that it is not possible to upgrade from Windows Vista Home editions to Windows 7 Professional directly. There is however another way to tackle the problem than to perform a clean Windows 7 Professional installation. Users could upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium and use the Anytime Upgrade option to upgrade Home Premium to Windows 7 Professional. This at least would save them the hassle of having to install the system from ground up.

Windows 7 Ultimate released to Beta testers on Connect

Microsoft has now released final RTM builds of 32 and 64 bit Windows 7 to technical beta-testers, with them each getting a free copy of Windows 7 Ultimate. This is exclusively for the 5,000 or so technical testers who received invitations onto the program from Microsoft, and not the people who downloaded the public beta.

Later, volume licencees and Software Assurance customers will be able to download it followed by Action Pack subscribers on August 23rd.

This marks a sad day for technical testers and those who downloaded the public beta. We’ll have to wait another two and half years to get something flaky that’ll crash our systems and cause driver errors. What’s more if Windows 8, and I predict that will be its name as 8 is a lucky number in the far east, is anything like Windows 7 in the beta, we won’t even get that luxury. Ho hum.

There are reports of slow downloads from some quarters but that’s only to be expected at this stage. Things will no doubt improve within a couple of days and Microsoft’s servers seem to be holding steady.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Windows 7 finally goes to RTM

Microsoft have finally announed that at 4pm today E.T. (which I’m assuming is Seattle time and not the arrival time for an alien spacecraft) Windows 7 went to RTM.

You can read the official announcement on the Windows team blog here.

This marks a significant milestone in the development of what was a very short beta and testing process. The decision to RTM has been eagerly anticipated for weeks by the very same people who were saying the beta’s not been long enough. Well, you can’t have everything I suppose!

The RTM build number is 7600.16385

ATI Expects DirectX 11 Graphics Lineup to Ramp Up Fast

ATI, graphics business unit of Advanced Micro Devices, confirmed that it is on-track to launch its first lineup of DirectX 11 graphics processing units (GPUs) “in the back half of the year” and that the product family will ramp up very quickly in the channel market. In addition, AMD promised DirectX 11 graphics chips for mobile computers to arrive in the first half of 2010.

“What I do expect to be an opportunity for AMD in the second half of the year is our introduction of DirectX 11-compatible products, in effect, a new product stack. We expect to be out ahead of our competition and we think that it will have a positive effect on our mix and hence our ASPs in the back half of the year,” said Dirk Meyer, chief executive officer of Advanced Micro Devices.

ATI demonstrated its first DirectX 11 graphics processors at Computex Taipei 2009 in early June, however, it did not outline any actual timeframes for introduction. This time the company revealed several important things: there will be a lineup of DX11-compatible products unveiled this year, ATI’s graphics cards partners will ramp up production of appropriate graphics cards quickly and that mobile DirectX 11-class solutions will be available in the first half of 2010.

“I expect that to be a very quick ramp in the desktop AIB channel, as we refer to it, and expect DirectX 11 to start to showing up in notebooks more like in the first half of next year,” said Mr. Meyer.

If AMD’s ATI unit really manages to be the first company to announce DirectX 11 GPUs, it will be able to enjoy rather high profit margins due to the lack of competition from Nvidia Corp. or Intel Corp.

“The new DirectX 11 stack I referenced will be in 40nm, and clearly that will give us an opportunity to kind of regain the high ground even more substantially and hence improve our mix in ASP and hence margins,” the head of AMD claimed.

There are unofficial reports over the Internet that ATI may release its chip known under “RV870” and “Evergreen” code-names in September or October. However, there are also claims that ATI Radeon HD 5000-series is only due in November.

Kingston Unveils Enormous Capacity USB Flash Drive: 256GB

Kingston Technology, a leading maker of flash and dynamic random access memory products, has unveiled yet another USB flash drive with incredible capacity of 256GB. The drive is currently the industry’s highest capacity USB stick available.

Kingston DataTraveler 300/256GB does not provide high transfer speeds: it can be read at 20MB/s and recorded at 10MB/s, which means that recording 256GB of data onto the flash drive will take approximately 7.1 hours. By contrast, Kingston DataTraveler HyperX supports a read speed of 25MB/s and write speed of 16MB/s, however, its capacities are “only” up to 32GB.

Kingston positions ultra-high capacity USB flash drives for those, who need rapid access to large collections of music and video or commercial databases while on the go. However, the price tag of roughly $1000 means that very few consumers or business users will be able to afford the device. Moreover, for even higher performance, it makes sense to install a solid-state drive into a notebook or desktop: it will be even faster and will cost a lot less.

AMD Phenom II X4 42 TWKR Microprocessor Sold for $11 600 at Auction

The exclusive microprocessor by Advanced Micro Devices aimed strictly at hardcore overclockers and very experienced performance enthusiasts has been sold at an Ebay auction. The final price of the AMD Phenom II X4 42 TWKR chip was whopping $11 600 and it is probably the highest price for any desktop microprocessor ever.

For the gigantic price the buyer will get one of 100 AMD Phenom II X4 42 TWKR processors ever made and one of the two such chips that will be available on the public market. The pleasure of owning such a rare item and pay $11 600 for it is somewhat questionable: it will be at least scary to experiment with a central processing unit that costs like a small vehicle.

AMD Phenom II X4 42 Black Edition TWKR microprocessor is designed to be extreme overclocker, which is why its "default" settings are not important at all: even though the nominal frequency of the chip is just 2.0GHz with 1.440V voltage, the chip will never be utilized at this clock-speed. Instead, professional overclockers will use extreme cooling methods, e.g., liquid nitrogen, dry ice, liquid helium, cascade, etc. Nevertheless, "TWKR" processors will not provide truly unbeatable overclocking results: AMD only expects maximum clock-speed to be in the range between 100MHz and 200MHz higher compared to maximum overclocking result of the Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition (3.20GHz nominal frequency) that costs $245.

Professional overclockers can make AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition processor work at about 7.0GHz, therefore, at least some TWKR processors will be able to work even faster than that.

There is another AMD Phenom II X4 42 TWKR available at Ebay at the moment.

Release Date of ATI’s DirectX 11 Chip Still Unclear

Even though ATI, graphics business unit of Advanced Micro Devices, demonstrated the planet’s first DirectX 11 graphics processing unit (GPU) back at Computex Taipei trade-show in early June, 2009, actual launch date of the processor is still unclear, at least, based on unofficial information.

There are reports over the Internet that ATI may release its chip known under “RV870” and “Evergreen” code-names in September or October. However, web-site claims that the first DirectX 11 chip from ATI is only due in November. It is rather clear that ATI will do its best to deliver DirectX 11 hardware inline with the launch of Windows 7 and DirectX 11 in late October, 2009, however, it uncertain whether the company manages to ensure high enough supply of the processor at launch.

Earlier this year, due to low yields at 40nm node of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, AMD could not obtain enough chips to fulfill the demand towards its ATI RV740 (ATI Radeon HD 4770) chip aimed at volume entry-level market segment. In fact, ATI and TSMC were running test manufacturing of RV740 for many months ahead of launch: one the first samples were made back in October, 2008, a long time before the launch in April ’09.

The key new innovations of DirectX 11 are Compute Shaders, Tessellation, Multi-Threaded Rendering, HDR Compression, Dynamic Shader Linkage and numerous others. The new capabilities will enable richer graphics experience as well as standardized approach for using GPUs for general-purpose computing (GPGPU), which will allow game developers to use graphics chips for computing of artificial intelligence, physics effects and so on.

Despite rumoured issues with the yield of the next-gen chip that has high chances to carry Radeon HD 5000-series name, ATI/AMD is confident that it will be the first company on the market with the DirectX 11-supporting hardware.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wireless Charging Comes to iPhone

In less than three weeks, the iPhone has caught up with the Palm Pre in the one area where the Pre held an undisputed lead: wireless charging. The ability to charge without wires is an idea that's been teasing us for a long time, with Palm the first company (I am aware of) to take it mainstream. The feature will soon be available for iPhone users, too.

The iPhone solution, from WildCharge, requires placing the iPhone or iPod touch into a gel skin inductor that looks pretty much like any other form-fitting other case. It includes a small connector that plugs into the iPhone. Once installed, the user places the iPhone onto any WildCharge charger pad and the phone starts charging.

The iPhone charging skin and charger pad combination costs $80, while the Pre wireless charger is a $70 add-on from Palm. One important difference: The WildCharge pad and skin are part of a system that works with other devices, such as the BlackBerry Curve and Pearl as well as the Motorola RAZR phone.

The iPod touch skin is available now, with the iPhone version available "in early July," WildCharge officials said.

The company also recently introduced a "universal" swing-arm adaptor that looks a tad clunky, but extends wire-free charging to an additional 150 devices. How many users have multiple phones and would benefit from such compatibility is questionable.

The Palm Pre "TouchStone" charger only works with that device.

Wireless charging is an idea that has been tossed around for years and, I seem to remember, has been introduced in several add-on products that failed to excite the market. The lack of a widely supported standard--so one charging pad can work with many devices--has kept the feature from going mainstream.

The ideal solution would charge not just phones but also laptops, netbooks, and all the other mobile devices a user owns. WildCharge says its technology is capable of these things, but has yet to find its way into products beyond add-ons for some handsets.

Is this the future of mobile phones? Is wireless charging a real feature that matters--or may someday--or just another semi-useless accessory? It's a feature many would appreciate, but becomes useful only if manufacturers adopt a common standard and implement it widely.

Microsoft to Sell Windows 7 on USB Drives (And A HOWTO: Do It Yourself)

According to a source which was not revealed by CNET, Microsoft could end up selling Windows 7 on a USB drive, whereas right now the only way that a user can obtain a retail copy (legally) of Windows 7 is via retail or by download. This would be a good move for Microsoft as they had announced that any edition of Windows 7 will be able to run on a netbook; however, the trick would be getting it installed.

According to CNET, not selling Windows 7 on USB drives would be detrimental to Windows 7’s success:

The challenge of getting Windows 7 on to older Netbooks threatens to cast a shadow over the technical work Microsoft did to get Windows 7 running on Netbooks. Its predecessor, Windows Vista, proved ill-suited to Netbooks forcing Microsoft to continue selling Windows XP as its answer to the low-cost notebook phenomenon.

Complicating matters further is the fact that most Netbooks are running Windows XP. Those moving from Windows XP can buy an upgrade version of the software, but must back up their data, do a clean installation of the operating system and then reload their applications.

Most users do not know how to place Windows 7 onto a USB drive for install, and some do not even know that it’s possible. Even though I’ve always found it easier to just copy an image of the disc to my netbook, extract it, and run setup.exe, here is a short tutorial on how to put it on a USB drive yourself, just in case:

You will need an image or a DVD of a Windows 7 build (any should do) and a 4GB flash drive.

This will erase your drive, so make sure that there’s nothing important on it or back it up.

1. Plug in your USB drive and run CMD as administrator (right click it in accessories or run it as normal and hit CTRL+Shift+Enter). To run CMD, simply open a run box and type “CMD” and click OK.

2. Type DISKPART and hit enter.

3. Type LIST DISK and hit enter. Then write down the disk number (for example, Disk 2)of your USB drive (match up the disk sizes).

4. Then type each command hit enter, substituting the number in the first command with the number of your USB drive:


5. Insert your DVD or mount your image and check the drive letters of both your USB drive and the DVD drive (I am going to pretend that my USB drive is U and my DVD drive is D).

6. Run the following commands (substituting D in the first command with the drive letter of your DVD drive):


7. Then run the following command, replacing U with the drive letter of your USB drive:


8. Now just copy and paste everything over from your DVD to your USB drive, then set your BIOS to boot from USB.


With No Phenom II FX in Sight, Does AMD Need Six-Core Microprocessors for Desktops?

AMD does not seem to be planning to release ultra-fast quad-core processors to compete against Intel Core i7. But the world's second largest maker of x86 chips does have six-core microprocessors that are capable of operating on rather high frequencies and that can be strong competitors on the high-end desktops/workstations markets.

Back last year sources familiar with the plans of Advanced Micro Devices said that the company would release AMD Phenom II FX microprocessors with increased clock-speeds targeting performance-demanding customers in mid-2009. AMD still has not launched such chips, but decided to handpick several AMD Phenom II Black Edition TWKR microprocessors for “professional” overclockers so to let them set records in order to improve AMD Phenom branding in general. As reported previously, there will be no TWKR processors released commercially. But maybe there is no need to release a fast quad-core chip, but to roll-out a six-core central processing unit (CPU)?

Although the improvements of AMD Phenom II X4 microprocessors allowed AMD to compete more or less successfully against Intel Corp.’s previous-generation Intel Core 2 Quad processors, the latest Intel Core i7 is still unbeatable in the vast majority of cases. Once Microsoft Corp. launches its Windows 7 with DirectX 11 application programming interface, the gap between Core i7 and Phenom II X4 will start to get even wider due to more efficient usage of multi-threading capabilities of microprocessors by the next-gen software. Thanks to HyperThreading technology Intel’s Core i7 can process eight threads at once using four physical cores, whereas quad-core AMD’s Phenom can process only four. If currently the advantages of HyperThreading can be observed in select cases, with the release of new software it will become more obvious.

With six physical cores AMD will be able to demonstrate rather high performance in multi-tasking and applications that need to execute numerous threads at once. Moreover, as future video games that rely on DirectX 11 start to arrive, the advantages provided by six-core Istanbul processors, which AMD currently ships onto server markets, will be even more apparent, even despite of the fact that current six-core chips do not officially support DDR3 memory (it does not mean there is no controller inside, it may be disabled since there is no infrastructure for multi-socket AMD servers that supports DDR3) and have to rely on DDR2. At present AMD only ships six-core Opteron chips at 2.20GHz, 2.40GHz and 2.40GHz clock-speeds, but it should not be that hard to pick up chips that can function at 2.80GHz or 3.0GHz.

In fact, AMD will have to release its own six-core processor for desktops and workstations early next year anyway to compete against Intel’s code-named Gulftown chip that will not only have six processing engines, but will also be based on the improved code-named Westmere micro-architecture. It will be very hard for AMD to compete against both quad-core and six-core Core i7 processors with just quad-core AMD Phenom II X4.

If AMD launches its Istanbul chips onto the high-end desktop/workstation market now, Intel will not be able to respond quickly: although the giant chipmaker has six-core Intel Xeon "Dunnington" chip for multi-processor servers, it does not have built-in memory controller and is absolutely incompatible with the Core i7 infrastructure.

So, what will AMD do? Handpick fast AMD Phenom II FX processors for commercial launch to compete against high-end Intel Core i7 offerings, introduce six-core AMD Phenom II X6 chips or just wait till the larger rival makes its move?

AMD's official position is that it does not plan to offer six-core microprocessors for single-socket systems at the moment.


Nvidia to Update Desktop Graphics Lineup in October – Rumours

Even though Nvidia Corp. has formally announced its new mobile discrete graphics lineup, the company yet has to reveal when it plans to update its desktop graphics family. According to unofficial report, the company only plans to release its desktop DirectX 10.1-supporting chips in October.

The new graphics cards will be called Nvidia GeForce G210 and GeForce GT 220 and will be aimed at the entry-level market segments. The GeForce G210 (GT218 chip) graphics processing unit will have only 24 stream processors and will target $30 - $35 price-range. The GeForce GT220 (GT215 chip) graphics cards will sport 48 stream processors and will be priced between $55 and $60.

Both code-named GT215 and GT218 graphics chips will be produced using 40nm process technology at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company. The novelties will boast with support of DirectX 10.1 application programming interface.

New Candidates Assembled in RTM builds

Two new candidate builds, 6.1.7264.0.win7_rtm.090622-1900 and 6.1.7265.0.win7_rtm.090624-1905, have been assembled in the RTM branch (win7_rtm), according to WZor. Therefore, the current builds in the RTM branch are:

* 6.1.7260.0.win7_rtm.090612-2110
* 6.1.7261.0.win7_rtm.090615-1900
* 6.1.7262.0.win7_rtm.090617-1900
* 6.1.7263.0.win7_rtm.090619-1900
* 6.1.7264.0.win7_rtm.090622-1900
* 6.1.7265.0.win7_rtm.090624-1905

The build with the name “6.1.7264.0.win7_rtm.090620-1900” is a fake as the build 7264 was assembled on 22nd of June and not 20th. More candidate builds may appear in the forthcoming weeks; however no leaks are expected until the signing of an RTM release (on 13th of July, according to the RTM schedule).

The RTM stands for “Release to Manufacturing” or “Ready to Market” and is sometimes referred to as “going gold”. It’s the last step before general appearance where Windows 7 will be available to marketing on 22nd of October of this year. This will only take place after the signing of the final RTM release that meets the defined quality level set by Microsoft.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Best mobile phones in the market today - Blackberry or Iphone or Android?

Like many sectors of business, the mobile phone industry has had to adjust and adapt to the recession and the changes in production that have been forced upon it. Against this a background, the mobile phone industry is continuing to try to attract customers with upgrades and application launches which it is hoped will keep the market as buoyant as possible. Smart phone sales continue to do well, and there has been fierce competition between manufacturers. The Blackberry Storm has been a huge success since its launch. Delivering the excellent e-mail facilities that the Blackberry brand are known for, they also manage to include Microsoft Office packages which allow users to continue to carry out business on the move. The package contains Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and the blackberry Storm enables cut and paste to make editing extremely easy. Other functions include an excellent media player, and as you would expect of a unit that is intended for business use, it has fast 3G connectivity, which allows users to surf the web at the same speed as they would on their home or office equipment. Built in GPS, combines with Blackberry maps allow easy route finding. Additionally, there is an excellent 3.2 megapixels camera, which includes autofocus, a touch screen, and a QWERTY keyboard which allows the user to input large amounts of information and store it on the 1GB of internal memory. There have one or two negative comments about the size of the unit which is larger and heavier than previous Blackberries, but the overall view has been extremely positive.

The Apple iPhone was one of the first smart phones on the market, and the new Apple iPhone 3G fills in some of the gaps that were missing in the original phone. It obviously has 3G connectivity, which was lacking in the original. This does mean that it is possible to surf the web on the large screen, which gives it the edge over other phones. The camera is very basic compared to other phones with no auto focus or zoom. It does have excellent satellite navigation, which includes pedestrian navigation, if you are looking for bars and cafes etc. There is also the huge range of applications available from the on line store, and the superb media player. The negatives of the iPhone need to be weighed up against the positives. The phone is still the most expensive on the market, and build quality is not as good as was hoped.

Similar to the iPhone, the Google Android uses a similar technology which allows the user to flick the screen to get to where they want to be. You can also hold your finger on a particular icon and a menu will pop up to allow you to fine tune your choice. In the browser window, you can drag a window around the screen to position it where it is best for you. The content behind is then shown in a smaller box which is magnified to allow easier viewing. There is also a dedicated search button. As you would expect, the Google Android comes with many Google applications including YouTube, Google Maps and G-Mail. There are huge numbers of applications to choose from, and the phone is fully integrated with Amazon allowing easy purchasing of digital music. The Google Android has the potential to be a major competitor in the market. Build quality again is an issue, but it may be that the Android, as it progresses may be the one to look out for. For more phone news, try cheap phones

Friday, June 12, 2009

Microsoft To Release Free Anti-Virus Software Morro Soon

Microsoft is about to release a first public beta version of their new free anti-virus software program Morro which is supposed to fill the gap left by the Microsoft One Care demise. Morro seems to be concentrating on being an anti-virus software program without additional modules that allow a user to create backups or use a firewall for extra protection. Those extra modules are on the other hand already available in the Windows 7 operating system which makes Morro the ideal candidate to fill the one layer of protection that is not already shipping with Windows 7: Anti-virus protection.

Microsoft has said it will provide protection from several types of malicious software including viruses, spyware, rootkits and trojans.

It is not yet clear how Morro will run along with Windows Defender. It basically seems that Morro will be Windows Defender with added capabilities to detect and remove viruses, rootkits and trojans as well as spyware. The anti-virus software is expected to enter public beta stage in the coming months with no exact date given yet.

Which leads to the closing question: Which (if any) anti-virus software programs are you using on Windows 7?

Archos Launch 9″ Windows 7 Tablet UMPC

Archos launched yesterday in France a very sexy looking 9″ Windows 7 Tablet UMPC.

For 500 Euros you will get:

Windows 7 with the Intel Atom Z515 (800/1200Mz CPU)
Expected to be multi-touch
Update: 1GB (DDR2 400/533)
1024×600 screen
800gm, 256mm x 134mm x 16mm
Bluetooth 2.1
1.3MP webcam
3G Tuner Diversity (dual) tuner. 3G Option, 9″
ethernet 10/100
external mic, stereo speakers, vga out, 1.3mp webcam

That should be more than match the min spec to run Windows 7.

Microsoft Set to Release Windows 7 without Internet Explorer in Europe

Microsoft Corp. plans to remove Internet Explorer browser from the versions of Windows 7 operating system that will be sold in the European Union. The company reportedly said that the move is set to be made in order to remain “compliant” with the laws of the EU. Microsoft reportedly offers PC makers to install Internet Explorer (IE) onto the PCs themselves.

“To ensure that Microsoft is in compliance with European law, Microsoft will be releasing a separate version of Windows 7 for distribution in Europe that will not include Windows Internet Explorer. Microsoft will offer IE8 separately and free of charge and will make it easy and convenient for PC manufacturers to preinstall IE 8 on Windows 7 machines in Europe if they so choose. PC manufacturers may choose to install an alternative browser instead of IE 8, and has always been the case, they may install multiple browsers if they wish,” a memo to PC makers sent by Microsoft reads, claims Cnet web-site. 

Microsoft reportedly confirmed the authenticity of the document, but declined to comment further.

Developers of “alternative” browsers, such as Mozilla Firefox or Opera, have been complaining for many years that integration of Internet Explorer into dominant Microsoft Windows operating system also ensures leadership position of the browser. Several courts backed allegations of Mozilla and others against Microsoft.

It is not clear why manufacturers of pocket calculators do not sue Microsoft and cell phone manufacturers for integrating calculator software into their products.

It is interesting to note that Microsoft has always claimed that Internet browser is an integral part of its operating systems and cannot be removed easily. However, the company claims it was virtually forced by preliminary decision of the European Commission, which found that integration of own Internet browser into Windows operating system is against antitrust laws.

“Microsoft will not offer for distribution in the European territory the Windows 7 product versions that contain IE, which are intended for distribution in the rest of the world. This will apply to both OEM and Retail versions of Windows 7 products,” the memory reads.

It is not exactly clear how end-users should download Internet Explorer, or Mozilla Firefox, without an Internet browser available in the operating system during the age of the World Wide Web. But Microsoft claims that the solution should be found with the European Commission.

“Our decision to only offer IE separately from Windows 7 in Europe cannot, of course, preclude the possibility of alternative approaches emerging through Commission processes. Other alternatives have been raised in the Commission proceedings, including possible inclusion in Windows 7 of alternative browsers or a “ballot screen” that would prompt users to choose from a specific set of Web browsers. Important details of these approaches would need to be worked out in coordination with the Commission, since they would have a significant impact on computer manufacturers and Web browser vendors, whose interests may differ. Given the complexity and competing interests, we don’t believe it would be best for us to adopt such an approach unilaterally,” commented Dave Heiner, vice president and deputy general counsel at Microsoft. 

ATI to Boost Efficiency of Multi-GPU Operation in OpenGL

Graphics sub-systems with numerous graphics processing units (GPUs) have existed for more than one decade and in the recent years leading developers of graphics processing units – ATI, graphics business group of Advanced Micro Devices, and Nvidia Corp. – resurrected graphics boards with two chips. So far multi-GPU operation relied mostly on drivers from ATI or Nvidia. But the recent OpenGL extension from ATI allows game developers to optimize their titles for multi-chip rendering.

There is currently no way for applications to efficiently use GPU resources in systems that contain more than one GPU. Hardware developers have provided methods that attempt to split the workload for an application among the available GPU resources, but this has proven to be rather inefficient since most applications were never written with these sorts of optimizations in mind, e.g. alternate frame rendering, split frame rendering or tiled rendering.

The new “WGL_AMD_gpu_association” provides a mechanism for applications to explicitly use the GPU resources on a given system individually. By providing this functionality, a driver allows applications to make appropriate decisions regarding where and when to distribute rendering tasks. In particular, when multiple GPUs are present, a context can be created for off-screen rendering that is associated with a specific GPU. This will allow applications to achieve an app-specific distributed GPU utilization.

An interesting thing that web-site pointed out is that a similar OpenGL extension (NVIDIA’s WGL_NV_gpu_affinity) is also offered by Nvidia: an application can bind an OpenGL render context to a specific GPU once several graphics chips are. However, Nvidia only offers this extension for its Nvidia Quadro professional graphics cards, whereas ATI provides its extension both for Fire-series professional cards as well as for Radeon-series consumer graphics boards.

WGL_AMD_gpu_association is currently supported by ATI Catalyst 9.6 beta drivers. Applications have to support the extension to gain performance benefit out of multi-GPU configurations.

It is interesting to note that the forthcoming Microsoft DirectX 11 application programming interface (API) does not have any multi-GPU specific optimizations.

Corsair Memory Updates Cooling Systems of Memory Modules

Corsair Memory, a leading producer of superior memory products, on Wednesday unveiled an update for cooling solution for its premium memory modules that it has been using for three years. The company hopes that improved coolers will help to further boost performance of memory modules.

From now on, Corsair’s Dominator and Dominator GT memory modules may be optionally equipped with DHX+ (dual-path heat eXchange) coolers featuring extended cooling fins. The DHX technology allows to cool down memory chips from the back and from the front, like any conventional heat-spreaders, as well as take the heat away from print-circuit board (PCB), which incorporates some additional elements to remove heat from BGA memory chips.

The extended cooling fins are engineered using high-grade aluminum that is extruded and machined, and have more than double the surface area of the standard Dominator and Dominator GT fins. In addition, the racing-inspired red Dominator GT fins are coated with a phase –change thermally conductive polymer that expels air pockets in the micropores of the heatsink surface, optimizing overall thermal resistance.

At present the extended fins are exclusively available from Corsair’s online store and are priced at $19.99 for the black fins and $24.99 for the racing-red GT fins. They are sold in packs of three, which include extended fan brackets to maintain compatibility with the Corsair Airflow and Airflow 2 memory coolers. Considering that hardly a lot of enthusiasts are going to upgrade coolers on memory modules, it is very likely that shortly Dominator and Dominator GT products will come with extended fins by default.

“The extended cooling fins for Dominator and Dominator GT memory kits have been designed with an aggressive, high-performance look for enthusiasts and gamers who want to upgrade their memory to stand out from the crowd. By choosing Corsair Dominator or Dominator GT, you not only get the highest-performing memory in the world, but also the most distinctive and customizable memory too,” said Jim Carlton, vice president of marketing for Corsair.

ATI Drops the Price of ATI Radeon HD 4800 For the Third Time This Year

ATI, graphics business unit of Advanced Micro Devices, on Thursday announced third price-cut on its flagship ATI Radeon HD 4800-series graphics cards this year. The price drop is not really dramatic, but the company hopes that it will be enough to improve competitive position of the product family.

“ATI partners are offering fantastic deals on ATI Radeon HD 4800-class GPUs. This is great news for gamers contemplating upgrading their current graphics card,” said, Jay Marsden, a spokesperson for ATI/AMD.

From now on, official price of the ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB will be $109, ATI Radeon HD 4850 1GB will be priced at $119, the price of the ATI Radeon HD 4870 512MB will vary between $125 and $175, ATI Radeon HD 4870 1GB will be available for $159 and the ATI Radeon HD 4790 1GB will be sold for around $200 and upwards. New recommended pricing was not announced for ATI Radeon HD 4830, 4870 X2 as well as proprietary graphics cards now available widely, such as ATI Radeon HD 4850 X2.

At present U.S. online stores, such as, are beginning to offer the aforementioned graphics cards at the prices noted above. Traditionally, price-cuts will take effect in Europe and Asia several weeks later.

ATI cuts prices on its mainstream lineup in order to respond to the global economic recession as well as to better compete against arch-rival Nvidia Corp. and its mainstream GeForce line.

Apple Updates iPhone Family with iPhone 3G S Model

Apple this week updated its iPhone lineup with new models that the company calls 3G S. The two new phones feature similar design with the previous generations of iPhones, but add missed capabilities, performance and battery life. The iPhone 3G S models will hardly become a new revolution, but will allow certain users to obtain better experience with the device. In addition, Apple lowered the price for the iPhone 3G.

“iPhone 3G S is the fastest, most powerful iPhone yet and we think people will love the incredible new features including autofocus camera, video recording and the freedom of voice control,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide product marketing.

Apple iPhone 3G S is very similar to the 3G model and features almost the same 3.5” touch-screen with 480x320 resolution, which now comes with special covering that should mask fingerprints. The main differences compared to the existing models is 600MHz ARM Cortex A8 microprocessor that enables higher performance of applications, PowerVR SGX graphics core that provide better performance of graphics as well as 256MB of random access memory (vs. 128MB of earlier models). Besides, Apple promises longer battery life for the new iPhone 3G S as compared to predecessors.

Less important differences are 3.0MP camera with autofocus and macro shooting support, a new built-in digital compass for instant navigation, voice control support and some other improvements. The iPhone 3G S also includes support for quad-band GSM, EDGE, UMTS, 7.2Mb/s HSDPA, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1 wireless technologies. Traditionally, the 3G S model sports audio and video playback capabilities, assisted GPS function and so on.

Apple iPhone 3G S will be available in the US on June 19 for a suggested retail price of $199 for the 16GB model and just $299 for the new 32GB model in both Apple and AT&T’s retail and online stores, Best Buy and Wal-Mart stores. iPhone 3G S requires a new two year contract with AT&T for qualifying customers.

A lot of new features of the iPhone 3G S are enabled by iPhone 3.0 software platform, which will be available for owners of existing iPhones as well. iPhone OS 3.0 software will be available on June 17 as a free software update via iTunes 8.2 or later for all iPhone customers.

Beginning June 8, iPhone 3G will be available for $99 for the 8GB model provided that a user signs a contract with AT&T in the U.S.

“With a breakthrough price of $99, we are thrilled to get iPhone 3G into the hands of even more users who want them,” said Mr. Schiller.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

How To Download Windows 7. Step by Step Guide

The following is a step by step guide on how to download the Windows 7 Release Candidate efficiently without slowdowns or page errors. The normal process is currently under heavy load and it is not a real pleasure to try to log complete the procedure over and over again. Here is what you need to know to speed up this process:

1. Open the Microsoft Windows 7 website.
2. Instead of scrolling down to pick the Windows 7 Release Candidate you click on the IT pros: Get the RC plus expert advice link in the right sidebar. (direct links: MSDN, Technet)

3. Click on Sign In in the upper right corner, this should be very fast. The sign in opens in a new window. You need a Windows Live account to sign in.

4. Scroll down and pick your edition of the Windows 7 RC that you want to download.

5. The process will be much faster since you are already logged in. Microsoft will display a small form. Fill out the information and continue. The next page should display the Windows 7 Release Candidate product key plus the download link.

6. Keep the download window open until it finishes downloading

No Next-Gen Video Game Consoles Till 2013 – Analyst

This year Microsoft Xbox 360 becomes four years old game console and Nintendo Wii and Sony PlayStation 3 turn three years old, about time to think, or at least begin thinking, about next-generation video game systems. However, Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter believes that there will be no new game consoles until the year 2013.

“We note that video game software sales typically peak in the year prior to the introduction of a new generation console, as many consumers begin to slow purchases in anticipation of purchasing a new console the next year. We do not expect a “new” console in 2010 (other than the long-rumored high definition Wii, which is likely to upgrade the Wii to current console technology). We do not expect the “next” generation to begin before 2013, if at all,” said Mr. Pachter in a note.

It is unclear what the analyst wanted to say by “if at all”, but an anticipation that the video game consoles will cease to evolve with the current generation means rather dramatic change for the industry.

In fact, Michael Pachter is not the only one who expects the present generation of consoles to have a very long lifespan. In fact, even some game developers expected the next generation to arrive in 2012 or even in 2018. Nevertheless, there are those, who have already started to develop 3D rendering engines for PlayStation 4 and Xbox 3.

While from some point of view it may be comfortable for Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony to sell existing hardware and make profits on software for it, they all realize that at some point demands of end-users will become higher and sales of both software and hardware will collapse. Even Sony, which claims that its consoles have ten years lifecycles introduced its PlayStation 2 five years after the PlayStation, whereas the PlayStation 3 was brought to market about six years after the PS2.

Intel Invests into Manufacturer of Semiconductor Equipment

Intel Capital, Intel Corp,'s global investment organization, on Tuesday announced an investment in ASM International (ASMI), one of the world’s leading producers of equipment used to manufacture semiconductors. The company said that the investment will help ASMI to “support semiconductor manufacturing innovation for advanced process technology”.

“Equipment and materials innovation is critical to enabling new capabilities in semiconductor device manufacturing. Our investment in ASMI is part of Intel Capital's strategy to foster innovation that aligns with Intel's manufacturing technology roadmap,” said Arvind Sodhani, Intel executive vice president and president of Intel Capital.

Intel Capital's investment through open market stock purchases is 4% of ASMI's total common share capital, based on approximately 54 million common shares outstanding. Earlier this year Tokyo Electron, a competitor of ASMI, acquired 4.9% stake in ASMI also through a purchase on the open market.

ASMI has been at the forefront of delivering materials and equipment innovation to integrated circuit manufacturers worldwide. ASMI’s equipment and materials are used in wafer processing, assembly and packaging of semiconductor devices. Its advanced technologies, which meet key International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors criteria, are important to extending Moore's law.

Microsoft Releases Windows 7 Release Candidate, Finalizes Requirements

Microsoft Corp. this week makes available the release candidate of Windows 7 operating system and also revealed finalized minimum system requirements for the forthcoming OS. According to the software giant, Windows 7 will be able to operate even on rather outdated systems, such as those equipped with 1GHz central processing unit and 1GB of memory.

“Listening to our partners and customers has been fundamental to the development of Windows 7. We heard them and worked hard to deliver the highest quality Release Candidate in the history of Windows. We have more partner support than we’ve ever had for an RC and are pleased to say that the Windows 7 RC has hit the quality and compatibility bar for enterprises to start putting it through its paces and testing in earnest,” said Bill Veghte, senior vice president for the Windows business at Microsoft.

With the release candidate, Microsoft is also providing guidance on the minimum system requirements for Windows 7. According to the company, Windows 7 will work on a broader array of hardware than any other release of Windows at launch. The official minimum system requirements are as follows:

* 1GHz or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
* 1GB of RAM (32-bit)/2GB of RAM (64-bit)
* 16GB of available disk space (32-bit)/20GB (64-bit)
* DirectX 9 graphics device with Windows Display Driver Model 1.0 or higher driver

Microsoft Windows 7 is projected to be officially released on the 23rd of October, 2009.

It is widely known that Microsoft has been working hard to improve user interface as well as performance in Windows 7 and make the new OS much more user friendly overall. Many reviewers and early adopters agree that Microsoft has succeeded in improving its desktop OS dramatically. Microsoft Windows 7 will also bring numerous further improvements, including DirectX 11 application programming interface, as well as support for touch-based input.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

AMD Demonstrates Twelve-Core Microprocessors

Advanced Micro Devices has demonstrated its twelve-core microprocessors operating in a 4-way server just days after it said it would start selling six-core chips in May, 2008. Thanks to multi-chip-module nature of the code-named Magny-Cours processor, creation of such chip was a relatively easy challenge.

AMD Opteron 6000-series code-named Magny-Cours with twelve processing engines will be released in the first quarter of 2010, according to some reports. However, already now AMD can demonstrate the chip to public and customers to show off its benefits compared to competing platforms and technologies.

This week AMD demonstrated a 4-way server featuring four Magny-Cours processors. While AMD did not demonstrate any real-world performance numbers, the system with 48 cores looked impressive by itself.

AMD Magny-Cours processor will be the first chip for the AMD G34 “Maranello” platform designed for Opteron processors 6000-series with up to 16 cores, quad-channel memory interface, 2 or 4 sockets, up to 12 memory modules per socket and some server and enterprise-specific functionality.

In 2011 AMD plans to release a successor for Magny-Cours code-named Interlagos, which will be based on Bulldozer micro-architecture, built using 32nm process technology and contain up to 16 cores.

Official Windows 7 Release Candidate Information

Users who decided to wait for the official release candidate are probably delighted to hear that Microsoft is still aiming for a public release on May 5. Technet and MSDN subscribers can start downloading the release candidate on April 30 which is less than a week from now. Waiting another five or eleven days should not be that of a problem for most users as there are not a lot of obvious changes to previous builds in the release candidate. Stay tuned, we will let you know as soon as the official download links begin to appear on Microsoft websites.

OCZ Officially Reveals 1TB Solid-State Drive for PCI Express Bus

OCZ Technology Group this week officially launched its premium line of solid-state drives with unbeatable performance and designed for installation into PCI Express x4 slot. The incredible performance also means incredible price and in order to make Z-Drive products slightly more popular, OCZ released 250GB and 500GB versions in addition to 1TB demonstrated earlier this year.

“Designed for ultra high performance consumers, the Z-Drive takes the SATA bottleneck out of the equation by employing the ultra fast PCI-Express architecture with a RAID controller and four Vertex controllers configured in four-way RAID 0 within an all-in-one product, making this solution ideal for applications that put a premium on both storage performance and maximum capacity,” said Eugene Chang, vice president of product management at OCZ Technology Group.

OCZ Technology released four versions of its Z-Drive with different capacities – 250GB, 500GB and 1TB – and different levels of performan

ce due to peculiarities of RAID 0 operation. Maximum speed is offered by 500MB version that delivers up to 510MB/s read speed and up to 480MB/s write speed. Z-Drive is based on multi-level cell flash memory chips.

PCI Express x4 interface with 1GB/s bandwidth should provide speed for one of the industry’s first PCIe-based SSDs.

Based on preliminary estimates, OCZ 1TB Z Drive should cost $1500 - $2000. Actual pricing will be announced at a later date and will depend on the region.

With a price-point like that, it is hard to expect OCZ’s new product to become a bestseller, still, it is possible to expect the novelty inside premium-class gaming machines that may retail for $10 000 without monitor.

Patriot Joins the 2GHz “Core i7” Memory Club

Patriot Memory, a popular supplier of high-performance DRAM- and flash-based products, this week unveiled its new Viper-series memory modules aimed at performance enthusiasts. The new modules designed for Intel Core i7 processors will further broaden Patriot’s extensive lineup of triple-channel memory kits for the latest Intel desktop platform.

“At these speeds, your system is just missing wings to fly. If you are a gaming enthusiast, the 2000MHz Viper will be a perfect compliment to your Intel Core i7,” said Saeed Arash Far, technical engineering manager at Patriot Memory.

Patriot Viper 2000MHz 6GB memory module kit is capable of operating at 2.0GHz with CL8 8-8-24 latency settings. The new Viper memory modules feature Patriot's own cooling system to ensure additional reliability and further overclocking potential.

Patriot is not the first company on the market to unveil 2000MHz memory modules, however, since 2GHz kits for Intel Core i7 are not brand new for the market, the firm is likely to offer relatively very competitive pricing on such products in order to attract attention of enthusiasts.

Patriot Viper memory modules are backed by lifetime warranty.

Seagate Begins to Ship 2TB Hard Drives with 5900rpm Spindle Speed

Seagate Technology, the world’s largest maker of hard disk drives, this week started to ship its new Barracuda LP series of hard disk drives that feature up to 2TB capacity, non-standard 5900rpm spindle speed as well as low power consumption, something that becomes rather important nowadays.

“Growing demand for power-efficient computing systems is not just a data center phenomenon as more builders of external storage devices, desktop PCs and home networking systems work to provide customers with products that combine power-efficiency with rock-solid performance,” said Joan Motsinger, Seagate vice president of personals systems marketing and strategy.

Barracuda LP hard drives are just what the doctor ordered for those, who want low-power storage. For example, Barracuda LP 1TB consumes 5.7W in operating mode and 3.0W in idle mode; by contrast, Barracuda 7200.12 1TB consumes 9.4W and 5.0W in operating and idle modes, respectively. More capacious Barracuda LP 1.5TB and 2TB consume 6.8W in operating mode and 5.5W in idle mode.

“Seagate is pleased to deliver a new low-power product line in our Barracuda family that enables system builders and end users alike to attain a higher level of environmental friendliness while cutting costs,” Mr. Motsinger said.

But very large capacities along with trimmed power consumption come at a price: performance of the new Barracuda LP drives with 5900rpm spindle speed is well below that of hard drives with 7200rpm motor. Seagate declares 5.1ms average latency and random read/write seek time of 16ms for Barracuda LP, whereas the Barracuda 7200.12 can boast with 4.16ms average seek time as well as 8.5ms random read seek time and 9.5ms random write seek time.

Barracuda LP family of hard drives presently includes 1TB, 1.5TB and 2TB models with 32MB of cache and Serial ATA-300 interface. Manufacturer suggested retail price for 2TB model is $358, 1.5TB flavour should cost $156, whereas 1TB version is supposed to be priced at $118.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Microsoft Claim Windows 7 Will Be More Secure Than Linux And Leopard

Will Windows 7 be the most secure operating system ever? Microsoft seem to think so. Microsoft’s Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner made the following bold statement yesterday:

"Vista today, post-Service Pack 2, which is now in the marketplace, is the safest, most reliable OS we’ve ever built. It’s also the most secure OS on the planet, including Linux and open source and Apple Leopard. It’s the safest and most secure OS on the planet today. Everything that we’ve learned in Vista will be leveraged in Windows 7, but certainly when we broke a lot of the compatibility issues to lock down user account controls, to lock do

wn the ability to manipulate states and all the things, that was a very painful process for us to grow through, but we had to do it. And the reason that Windows 7 will be successful is because of the pain we took on Vista. Because from a compatibility standpoint, if it works on Vista, it will work on Windows 7. If it doesn’t work on Vista, it won’t work on Windows 7."

I’m glad he stopped short of saying that Windows 7 will be the most secure operating system in the universe!

I have to say that I tend to agree with Kevin Turner. No OS is probed and attacked as often as Windows, yet it manages to keep its users safe. Yes there are always stories in the press about individuals and users who have been infected…but in the majority of cases these users haven’t taken the necessary steps to protect themselves i.e. downloading the latest virus definitions or running a decent firewall.

Gone are the days of 15 year old hackers thinking it was funny to send porn links via viruses. Most hackers now operate purely for commercial gain, and one of the reasons why hackers don’t probe Linux or Leopard as thoroughly as Windows is because even if they were successful the potential returns would be less because there are fewer users.

Producing Windows 7 has been a major undertaking for Microsoft and so far the signs are that it’s going to be major success, and it is unlikely that users will be as reluctant to Buy Windows 7 as they were with Windows Vista. Microsoft should be applauded for making an OS that can work with the millions of different hardware combinations that are possible with PCs, that provides a stable platform for developers, and that is also very safe.

With Windows 7, Microsoft finally might become cool.

Microsoft Zune HD, Zune Cell Phone May Be Coming

Microsoft Corp. may be preparing a rather significant launch of new Zune multimedia devices. The timeline is rather suitable for big product launches as during holidays a lot of people make more impulsive purchases. Currently there are rumours about portable digital media player with high-definition video playback capability as well as Zune mobile phone.

There is information that Microsoft is currently considering one of the three ad companies for a launch campaign of its project code-named Pink [and Purple], which is believed to be Zune software and services for mobile phones running Windows Mobile operating system. That said, Pink and Purple can easily be a Zune-branded cell phone, or an environment allowing Windows Mobile-based phones to listen, purchase, share and manage music files. The market, however, is not full of multimedia-oriented Windows handsets , hence, a Zune-branded cell phone is still a possibility.

Meanwhile, a web-site has published photos of what is claimed to be Zune HD portable digital media player. There are no technical specs and the pictures in general hardly give a lot of details even about the look. However, since many manufacturers now have music players with touch-sensitive screens, it would be logical for Microsoft to have one as well.

Earlier this year Microsoft confirmed intention to release “new Zunes before the 2009 holiday season” and that those music players would “be a surprising step up from the current models”, hence, a new Zune-branded music player is completely possible. On the other hand, a “surprising step” from the available models would be an introduction of a Zune phone.

Kingston Releases “Extremely Profiled” DDR3 Modules for Notebooks

Kingston Technology, the world’s largest producer of memory modules, has unveiled memory modules that enable higher performance of notebooks based on Intel’s latest Centrino 2 platform with DDR3 memory thanks to extreme memory profiles (XMP) technology.

Kingston HyperX DDR3 XMP SO-DIMM 4GB kit (two modules per 2GBs) can operate at 1066MHz with CL5 5-5-15 latency settings and 1.5V voltage. Since they come pre-programmed with JEDEC and XMP profiles, such speed and timings may be set on virtually any notebook.

“The HyperX DDR3 XMP SO-DIMMs were tested on the Flextronics W840 DI notebook PCs with great success. DDR3 notebook users can now enjoy the same benefits such as lower latencies and voltages that enthusiasts and gamers have had for years with HyperX memory for desktop computers,” said Mark Tekunoff, senior technology manager at Kingston.

It remains to be seen whether the market of SO-DIMMs with XMP is actually large. So far, OCZ Technology and Kingston have announced appropriate memory modules, but other makers yet have to follow. Still, only the market will prove whether the idea of improved laptop memory sub-systems performance is a popular idea among notebook users.

Intel Ships One Millionth Nehalem Family Microprocessor

Despite of tough economic environment, sales of expensive desktops as well as workstations remain on high level, according to Intel Corp., whose chief executive officer said that shipments of central processing units (CPUs) featuring Nehalem micro-architecture have almost reached a milestone of one million units shipped.

“If you combine Intel Core i7 and Intel Xeon 5500-series processors, this week Intel expects to ship its one millionth Nehalem-based microprocessor, demonstrating that the market still responds to the best performing products. […] It’s in very good volume now for that segment of the market, although it is a fairly high-end segment of the market,” said Paul Otellini, chief executive officer and president of Intel, during a conference call with financial analysts.

Intel Nehalem processors bring a number of important innovations to the company’s desktop and server platforms. The new chips sport built-in memory controllers, utilize new processor bus, new cache sub-system, SSE4.2 instructions, new micro-architecture and so on. It is also important that the Nehalem processors’ design allows integration of both general-purpose x86 cores as well as graphics processing engines.

According to Mr. Otellini, Intel is already shipping its next-generation code-named Westmere processors to its customers. Westmere chips are the second iteration of Nehalem micro-architecture.

“We have shipped thousands of Westmere samples to over 30 OEM customers already,” the head of Intel told analysts.

On the 19th of April Intel reported first-quarter revenue of $7.1 billion, down 26% annually and 13% sequentially; operating income of $670 million; net income of $647 million, a 55% decrease year-over-year, but a 176% increase quarter over quarter and earnings per share (EPS) of 11 cents.

“We believe PC sales bottomed out during the first quarter and that the industry is returning to normal seasonal patterns. Intel has adapted well to the current economic environment and we're benefiting from disciplined execution and agility.We're delivering a product portfolio that meets the needs of the changing market, spanning affordable computing to high-performance, energy-efficient computing,” said Paul Otellini.

DirectX 11 Set to Enable Standardized GPGPU on Existing Hardware

In spite an old saying, sometimes you can teach an old dog new tricks. Microsoft DirectX 11 application program interface (API) due later this year will enable support of compute shaders 4.0 version on DirectX 10-class graphics chips, giving them additional programmability and simplifying implementation of the new technology.

General-purpose processing on graphics processing units (GPGPU) is gaining popularity slowly, but surely. Unfortunately, at present there is only one standard application programming interface – OpenCL - that supports all graphics chips available today. But apparently, DirectX 11, which will enable GPGPU, physics, artificial intelligence, etc. programming via compute shaders, will also be able to take advantage of present GPUs, albeit with some limitations.

In order to popularize compute shaders (CS) among developers, the DirectX 11 includes not only compute shaders 5.0, but also compute shaders 4.0 (for Direct X10 hardware) and 4.1 (for DirectX 10.1 hardware), which are not supported by DirectX 10. Compute shaders 4.0/4.x have a number of limitations compared to version 5.0, including maximum number of threads per group (768), thread group shared memory (16KB vs. 32KB in CS 5.0), absence of atomic operations or append/consume and so on. CS 5.0 will also offer better interaction with graphics pipeline (e.g., it can output to textures), double precision and so on.

The main aim of compute shaders 4.x is to allow game developers to practice with compute shaders technology, enable GPGPU via DirectX as well as let game developers to use CS for complex rendering-related tasks instead of pixel shaders so to gain performance.

Beta version of DirectX 11 as well as drivers that support compute shaders 4.x are available from Microsoft, ATI/AMD as well as Nvidia.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Windows 7 Build 7077 64-bit Leaked

That did not take long. Windows 7 build 7077 64-bit has been leaked only days after the initial appearance of the 32-bit edition of Windows 7 Build 7077 on P2P networks all over the globe. Thousands of users started downloading and spreading it immediately and the release is now well seeded on several sites with thousands of users distributing and downloading it.

The leaked version of Windows 7 Build 7077 64-bit has a size of 3.05 Gigabytes and the following filename: 077.0.090404-1255_x64fre_client_en-us_Retail_Ultimate-GRC1CULXFRER_EN_DVD.iso. The initial seeders were once again Russian users who always seem to be at the forefront when it comes to Windows 7 leaks.

Windows 7 Build 7077 Leaks

The number of leaks of the upcoming Windows 7 operating system is increasing by the week. The latest confirmed leak is build 7077 which appeared on various Bittorrent websites on April 7 and has quickly reached seeders and leechers in the thousands. The full build string of this release is: 7077.0.090404-1255_x86fre_client_en-us_Retail_Ultimate-GRC1CULFRER_EN_DVD.iso which means that it was build on April 4, 2009. The release is the 32-bit edition of Windows 7 Build 7077.

The first seeder of the Windows 7 build states that this is the release candidate build. While this information is not confirmed yet the about page shows no build string like the other leaked builds of Windows 7 did. The only other build that did not contain a build string was the Windows 7 Beta build.

AMD’s Microprocessors with Integrated Graphics Cores to Support DirectX 11 – Slides

The first microprocessor with built-in graphics processing unit from Advanced Micro Devices will not only feature up to four general purpose x86 cores, but will have DirectX 11-compatible graphics engine and will also be made using 32nm process technology, which should ensure relatively low power consumption.

AMD’s first accelerated processing unit (APU), according to slides published by Expreview web-site that resemble AMD’s official notes, will be code-named Llano chip with “up to” four cores, DirectX 11 graphics processor, built-in DDR3 memory controller and so on. The new code-named Sabine platform processor infrastructure will feature FS1, BGA1 form-factors.

According to slides published by Expreview web-site, code-named Sabine platform with Llano APU will support 900-series chipset family, along with USB 3.0, USB, Serial ATA, etc.

Microsoft: Windows Powers 96% of Netbooks As Consumers Want Them to Be on Par with Larger PCs

According to a Microsoft Corp.’s official, Windows operating system poweres the vast majority of netbooks sold in the U.S. since many customers want their ultra low cost mobile devices powered by Intel Atom processors that by no mean are supposed to handle serious tasks to work the same way as larger desktops or notebooks.

“Customers really do want netbook PCs to work like their larger brethren – and that the way the vast majority of consumers make that happen is by buying a netbook PC with Windows. As a result, the growth of Windows on netbook PCs over the last year has been phenomenal. We’ve seen Windows share on these PCs in the U.S. go from under 10% of unit sales during the first half of 2008 to 96% as of February 2009,” said Brandon LeBlanc from Microsoft citing latest NPD Retail Tracking Service data.

While the news that a lot of people are insisting on Windows is good for Microsoft, it may not be exactly positive for notebook makers as they face the trend when consumers who need a Windows-based laptop are getting a low-cost netbook instead. Citing Microstar International – a leading netbook vendor – and Canonical – the vendor supporting the commercial distribution of Ubuntu Linux – Mr. LeBlanc said that Linux-based netbooks’ return rate is four times higher than Windows-based.

“Why such a disparity? Because users simply expect the Windows experience. When they realize their Linux-based netbook PC doesn’t deliver that same quality of experience, they get frustrated and take it back,” Mr. LeBlanc said.

Looking forward, Microsoft claims that no matter how netbook PC hardware evolves, the software giant is gearing up to ensure that Windows 7 will run normally on them since it is a huge chunk of Windows business.

“As we mentioned at PDC, we’ve been testing Windows 7 on netbook PCs since before Windows 7 was feature complete, and our plan is to enable these small notebook PCs to run any edition of Windows 7. From what we’re hearing, our partners are excited to get Windows 7 on these PCs as well,” concluded the Microsoft blogger.

ATI Has No Immediate Plans for New Dual-Chip Flagship Graphics Card

ATI, graphics products group of Advanced Micro Devices, has no immediate plans to release a new dual-chip flagship graphics card based on the recently launched ATI Radeon HD 4890 (RV790) graphics processing units (GPUs) to address the market of performance-hungry customers as there are graphics cards that could satisfy their needs in the company’s product family.

In the recent years ATI decided to concentrate on development of very competitive performance-mainstream graphics chips that would be not very expensive in manufacturing, but which could still offer leading-edge performance when working in tandem. As a result, both previous-gen performance mainstream ATI Radeon processors – models 3870 (RV670) and 4870 (RV770) – powered dual-chip “X2” graphics cards. However, the company does not want to release ATI Radeon HD 4890 X2 now since the Radeon HD 4870 X2 is still competitive and price-points of the single-chip HD 4890 boards will not allow the company to sell HD 4890 X2 at price-point beyond $500.

ATI Radeon HD 4890 1GB graphics cards have recommended price between $229 and $249 in the USA. Two of such graphics cards would cost around $500, whereas for AMD it would make sense to introduce a flagship board at $549 price-point so to differ substantially from ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 that has recommended price-tag of $399.

“The single-GPU ATI Radeon HD 4890 makes sense because it fills an important price band within the market and a gap within our product line. With respect to an X2 variant, as you know, the ATI Radeon X2 products are specifically designed for the ultra-enthusiast. We continue to sell well into this small, but important part of the graphics market with the ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 as well as CrossFireX configurations of our single-GPU performance products and feel an additional product addressing the ultra high-end is not warranted at this time,” explained David Cummings, director of product marketing of discrete desktop graphics at AMD’s graphics products group, AMD.

There is no surprise that the price-war between ATI and Nvidia Corp. in the mainstream and performance-mainstream product segments popularized multi-GPU configurations consisting of two now-inexpensive graphics cards and slightly decreased popularity of dual-chip flagship offerings.

Since ATI RV790 graphics processor is not pin-to-pin compatible with ATI RV770, add-in-card manufacturers will not be able to just install new chips onto print circuit boards of ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 cards. Moreover, Simon Vivera, another spokesperson for AMD’s graphics products group, said that the company for now forbids its partners to create Radeon HD 4890 X2 graphics cards.

Intel Xeon “Nehalem” Processor Available on the Market

Intel Corp., the world’s largest maker of microprocessors, has announced its new breed of processors aimed at dual-processor servers and workstations. The new Xeon chips powered by Nehalem micro-architecture feature integrated memory controller, high-speed Quick Path Interconnect point-to-point bus and sport other technology advantages. Intel considers new Xeon processor as its most important chip since Pentium Pro.

“The Intel Xeon processor 5500 series is the foundation for the next decade of innovation. These chips showcase groundbreaking advances in performance, virtualization and workload management, which will create opportunities to solve the world's most complex challenges and push the limits of science and technology,” said Patrick Gelsinger, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's digital enterprise group.

The new enterprise-class chips can automatically adjust to specified energy usage levels, and speed data center transactions and customer database queries. The Intel Xeon processor 5500 series, previously codenamed "Nehalem-EP," offers several breakthrough technologies that radically improve system speed and versatility. Technologies such as Intel Turbo Boost Technology, Intel Hyper-Threading Technology, integrated power gates, and Next-Generation Intel Virtualization Technology (VT) improved through extended page tables, allow the system to adapt to a broad range of workloads.

The main architectural enhancements for Intel Xeon 5500 are triple-channel DDR3 memory controller and the Quick Path Interconnect (QPI) bus, which improves scalability of multi-processor systems. The new Xeon also support multi-threading technology similar with Intel Hyper-Threading that was first unveiled back in 2002 as well as SSE4.2 instructions.

“Nehalem is a game changer in just about every way, especially performance. It overcomes most, if not all, the potential performance roadblocks associated with multi-core configurations. It creates a foundation for future processors, and it resets performance expectations, especially for applications requiring high I/O or memory bandwidth,” said Jim McGregor, industry analyst from InStat.

Another key enhancement of Intel Nehalem is completely redesigned cache sub-system. The new chips will feature 2nd level 512 entry translation look-aside buffer (in addition to 1st level TLB) in order to further reduce the so-called TLB miss rate, a completely new feature on x86 microprocessors. In addition, Intel Xeon 5500 processors (at least, in certain implementations) will have three-level cache hierarchy: 64KB L1 (32KB for data, 32KB for instructions), 256KB L2 cache per core, 8MB L3 cache per processor.

Besides, the new processors can execute 33% more concurrent micro-ops at the same time. Additional improvements include faster unaligned cache accesses and faster synchronization primitives. In order to exclude situations when execution units stand idle, Intel also implemented new 2nd level branch predictor.

The family of Intel Xeon processors on Nehalem micro-architecture is pretty broad – 15 different models – and aimed at different markets. Pricing of the new chips varies from $188 to $1600, depending on aim, performance, power consumption and other qualities of the chip. All the chips in the initial lineup contain four processing engines, except one, which is a dual-core offering. Besides, the majority have simultaneous multi-threading technology enabled.

More than 230 unique systems based on the Intel Xeon processor 5500 series are expected to be announced by more than 70 system manufacturers around the world – including a new Intel customer, Cisco, along with Dell, Fujitsu, HP, IBM, Sun Microsystems and others.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Last-minute Conficker survival guide

Tomorrow -- April 1 -- is D-Day for Conficker, as whatever nasty payload it's packing is currently set to activate. What happens come midnight is a mystery: Will it turn the millions of infected computers into spam-sending zombie robots? Or will it start capturing everything you type -- passwords, credit card numbers, etc. -- and send that information back to its masters?

No one knows, but we'll probably find out soon.

Or not. As Slate notes, Conficker is scheduled to go "live" on April 1, but whoever's controlling it could choose not to wreak havoc but instead do absolutely nothing, waiting for a time when there's less heat. They can do this because the way Conficker is designed is extremely clever: Rather than containing a list of specific, static instructions, Conficker reaches out to the web to receive updated marching orders via a huge list of websites it creates. Conficker.C -- the latest bad boy -- will start checking 50,000 different semi-randomly-generated sites a day looking for instructions, so there's no way to shut down all of them. If just one of those sites goes live with legitimate instructions, Conficker keeps on trucking.

Conficker's a nasty little worm that takes serious efforts to bypass your security defenses, but you aren't without some tools in your arsenal to protect yourself.

Your first step should be the tools you already have: Windows Update, to make sure your computer is fully patched, and your current antivirus software, to make sure anything that slips through the cracks is caught.

But if Conficker's already on your machine, it may bypass certain subsystems and updating Windows and your antivirus at this point may not work. If you are worried about anything being amiss -- try booting into Safe Mode, which Conficker prevents, to check -- you should run a specialized tool to get rid of Conficker.

Microsoft offers a web-based scanner (note that some users have reported it crashed their machines; I had no trouble with it), so you might try one of these downloadable options instead: Symantec's Conficker (aka Downadup) tool, Trend Micro's Cleanup Engine, or Malwarebytes. Conficker may prevent your machine from accessing any of these websites, so you may have to download these tools from a known non-infected computer if you need them. Follow the instructions given on each site to run them successfully. (Also note: None of these tools should harm your computer if you don't have Conficker.)

As a final safety note, all users -- whether they're worried about an infection or know for sure they're clean -- are also wise to make a full data backup today.

What won't work? Turning your PC off tonight and back on on April 2 will not protect you from the worm (sorry to the dozens of people who wrote me asking if this would do the trick). Temporarily disconnecting your computer from the web won't help if the malware is already on your machine -- it will simply activate once you connect again. Changing the date on your PC will likely have no helpful effect, either. And yes, Macs are immune this time out. Follow the above instructions to detect and remove the worm.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Nvidia Readies New Version of Dual-Chip Flagship Product

Nvidia Corp. is reportedly designing a new version of its dual-chip GeForce GTX 295 graphics card that features only one print circuit board (PCB). While redesigning a flagship offering with short life-cycle is a questionable tactics, the new PCB may be used not only for the current high-end offering but for future dual-chip products as well.

Currently Nvidia GeForce GTX 295 graphics card is based on two graphics processing units (GPUs) with 448-bit memory bus located on individual PCBs. This transforms into less complex print circuit boards, but the fact that there are two of them makes the solution rather expensive to make.

In order to make the GeForce GTX 295 less expensive, Nvidia is reportedly designing a new version of the product with two GPUs with 448-bit memory buses located on a single print circuit board. Potentially, such graphics card should be cheaper to manufacture, but the complexity of a PCB with two 448-bit buses and complex power supply circuitry should be much higher than that of ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 graphics card that carries two chips with 256-bit memory buses.

According to a news-story from Expreview web-site, the new GeForce GTX 295 will retain its clock-speeds, 6-pin + 8-pin power connectors, 266.7mm length and so on.

In case the information that Nvidia is developing a new version of its premium-class graphics card is correct, then it may mean that the dual-chip flagship offering will have a rather long life. However, if the information is not accurate, then the new P658 PCB may be designed for future graphics processors by Nvidia are scheduled to emerge within several months from now and which will power Nvidia’s new dual-chip flagship graphics board.

Intel: We Do Not Prevent Nvidia from Developing x86 Microprocessor

Intel Corp. does not prohibit Nvidia Corp. to develop x86-compatible microprocessors, but as soon as the latter launches its product, the chip giant will definitely discuss whether such a chip infringes its patents and whether Nvidia has rights to sell it.

“We’re not going to react to anything until there’s a real product. [Nvidia has] a cross-license from us. It has certain exclusions in it. It has a certain period in terms of when it runs, when it’s valid. When and if they have a real product, we’ll have a discussion of whether it violates it or not. That’s a TBD situation,” said Paul Otellini, chief executive officer of Intel Corp., during a meeting with employees.

For a while Nvidia has been claiming that performance and capabilities of central processing units (CPUs) are losing their importance for end-users, whereas the significance of graphics processing units (GPUs) is on the rise. However, Nvidia fully understands that without microprocessors actual devices will not be able to run operating systems and productivity applications and recently the company went on saying that in several years time it may release an system-on-chip (SoC) featuring x86 processing core.

Nvidia has already developed its Tegra SoC that combines its DirectX 9-class graphics core as well as ARM8 microprocessor. The product has chances to become rather popular among handset and multimedia devices manufacturers thanks to rich feature-set as well as minimal power consumption, however, it lacks performance to become competitive on the market of mobile personal computers, where performance matters a lot. But Nvidia believes that in several years time it will be possible and will make sense to integrate x86 architecture-based microprocessor into SoCs like Tegra.

Early on March Intel signed a pact with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) under which the latter would be able to build SoCs featuring Intel Atom processors for its clients. Theoretically, Nvidia could work with Intel and TSMC to create an SoC featuring its GeForce 9400M core-logic with built-in graphics core and Intel Atom processing engine. Obviously, such SoC will be able to target only very cost-efficient applications these days, but it will not violate any of Intel’s patents.

Intel Rumoured to Have Aggressive Plans for Low-Cost Ultra-Thin Notebooks

Intel Corp., the world’s largest maker of microprocessors, seems to have rather serious intentions for the market of consumer-oriented thin-and-light notebooks and will provide massive discounts on low-voltage Core 2 mobile processors to large suppliers of personal computers.

Intel reportedly plans to launch its Core 2 mobile processors in 22mm x 22mm packaging and with around 10W thermal design power on the 19th of April, 2009. According to a news-story by DigiTimes web-site, low-end Core 2 mobile processors for thin-and-light notebooks will cost about $152 in 1000-unit quantities, whereas higher-performance models will cost $315 - $342.

Nevertheless, the world’s top three notebook makers – Acer, Dell, and HP – will get huge discounts on microprocessors and will get the low-voltage chips starting at $65, meanwhile smaller vendors – Asustek Computer and Microstar International – will be able to buy such chips for $75, according the media report.

Intel Corp. released its code-named Montevina SFF platform for ultra-portable notebooks, such as Dell Adamo, Lenovo ThinkPad X300/X301, Voodoo Envy 133, with reduced packaging area back in 2008. Intel used advanced packaging technologies for Montevina SFF chips, which reduced the package area of Intel Penryn SFF processor, Cantiga GS GMCH as well ICH9M SFF chips to 1415mm², down more than 100% from, 3342mm², the package area of Montevina. It is expected that consumer-oriented ultra low voltage (CULV) platform will also feature chips with smaller packaging.

Advanced Micro Devices early in 2009 launched its code-named Yukon platform that employs AMD Athlon Neo microprocessors in smaller packaging as well as supporting core-logic set. The Yukon also enables smaller and thinner notebooks, but, unlike Montevina SFF, AMD’s platform is aimed at consumers in budget, a more than strange positioning. Considering the current economic climate, Intel decided to respond AMD with its own initiative that enables small notebooks for consumers.

Traditionally ultra low-voltage processors were used for ultra-portable notebooks aimed at business users who need long battery life amid sufficient performance and functionality. Many of such ultra-portable computers are state-of-the-art pieces of engineering and employ the latest technologies to provide excellent reliability, stability, battery life, security and other qualities that have tremendous value for those on the road.

The vast majority of consumers value performance and portability and consumer-oriented low-voltage notebook platforms provide neither: they will not be able to match typical notebooks in terms of performance and they will be considerably larger than netbooks based on Intel Atom. Moreover, since consumer-oriented platforms have to be affordable, system makers will not implement their state-of-the-art technologies, such as active hard disk drive protection, powerful yet light batteries and so on, to keep the costs down, which will make the notebooks somewhat less attractive in general.

Still, both AMD and Intel believe in the success of ultra-portable notebooks on the consumer markets and are ready to fight for it.

Intel Releases Set of Tools to Help Game Developers to Optimize Titles for Integrated Graphics

Intel Corp. is the world’s largest provider of graphics adapters thanks to its chipsets with built-in graphics cores, however, a lot of gamers are complaining about poor graphics performance as well as image artifacts on Intel integrated platforms. However, Intel wants to change that and on Monday announced the release of Intel Graphics Performance Analyzers (GPA), a suite of software tools created in support of the Visual Adrenaline developer program.

“The Intel Graphics Performance Analyzers suite is the only software development toolkit that provides a holistic view of system performance for games running on Intel Integrated Graphics. Solving performance bottlenecks with GPA ensures developers are delivering the best gaming experience,” said Elliot Garbus, vice president and general manager of Intel's visual computing software division.

GPA provides in-depth application analysis and customization so developers can pinpoint performance bottlenecks and optimize games for Intel-based desktop PCs and laptops that use Intel's chipsets. GPA consists of three components:

* System Analyzer – delivers high-level views of overall software performance;
* Frame Analyzer – offers in-depth frame-by-frame performance analysis;
* Software Development Kit (SDK) – enables developers to customize the suite according to their needs.

Developers have the choice to run the tools locally or remotely through a network connection.

GPA offers the ability to analyze graphics performance on current Intel integrated graphics chipsets and processors, including the Intel Core i7 Processor. In the future, GPA will also support upcoming Intel graphics and many-core related products. GPA is available free of charge to Visual Adrenaline members and can be purchased by non-members for $299 through the Intel Business Exchange.

Visual Adrenaline is Intel's worldwide program for game and graphics developers. It is a one-stop shop for Intel offerings that help maximize visual computing software for better performance and faster time to market. To date, more than 800 independent software vendor members have joined, including Activision, SEGA and Ubisoft.