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.