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Sep 23, 2011

Asus UX31 Ultrabook Also Gets Priced

Together with the UX21 that we reported about a bit earlier today, Asus has also released some information regarding the pricing of its 13.3-inch Ultrabook, dubbed the UX31, which is also expected to be launched by the end of this year.

The UX31 notebook features the same sleek styling as its smaller brother since it uses a similar anodized aluminum uni-body chassis paired with an aluminum keyboard and glass touchpad.

The mere 17mm depth of the Asus UX31 also adds to the overall style of the device, making it one of the nicest looking Ultrabooks to be revealed until now.

Moving past its style and construction, we find that the UX31 also features some impressive hardware, to the heart of it standing an Intel Core i5-2557M processor.

Apart from its 1.7GHz base clock, this Intel CPU also includes Hyper-Threading support, for processing up to four threads simultaneously, 3MB of Level 3 cache memory, and 2.7GHz maximum Turbo speed, all packed inside a 17W TDP.

The fast Intel processor found in the UX31 is seconded by an 128GB or 256Gb solid state drive, which enables the system to resume from sleep in just a few seconds.

Around the edges of the UX31, users will find one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 port, an SD card reader, a mini-DisplayPort as well as a mini-HDMI connector. The 13.3-inch screen has a resolution of 1600x900 and is LED backlit.

The base version of the Asus UX31, which comes with the Core i5-2557M processor described above and with an 128GB SSD, will retail for 999 Euros, which translates into about $1341 US.

The upgraded version, featuring an Core i7-2677M (1.8GHz) CPU and a 256GB SSD will be priced at 1199 Euros ($1610 US). (via Laptop Spirit)

BlackBerry Torch 9860 Arrives in India at $577

A new mobile phone from Canadian handset vendor Research In Motion is now available for purchase in India, namely the BlackBerry Torch 9860, a Blackberry 7 OS-powered device. 

The new smartphone went for sale in the country only a few days ago, with a price tag of Rs. 28,490 attached to it (around $590 / 430 Euros), a recent article on timesofindia reads.

This is the direct successor of RIM's Storm series, packing an touch only design, unlike the newly released Torch 9810, which also offers a sliding QWERTY keyboard. 

The new mobile phone offers one of the largest touchscreen displays that a BlackBerry smartphone packs, namely a 3.7-inch screen, which can deliver a 480 x 800 pixel resolution. 

Moreover, the same as other new BlackBerry 7 OS-based smartphones from RIM, the new mobile phone includes a 1.2GHz application processor inside, capable of offering increased performance capabilities when compared to its predecessors. 

The specifications list of the new mobile phone also includes 4GB of internal memory, which can be expanded by up to 32GB of external storage space via a microSD memory card slot. 

Also, users will enjoy 768 MB of RAM inside the BlackBerry Torch 9860, which should go along pretty nicely with the fast application processor. 

On the back, the new device sports a 5-megapixel photo snapper, with auto focus and support for 720p HD video recording. 

Also, it arrives on shelves with 14.4 Mbps HSDPA / 5.76 Mbps HSUPA connectivity capabilities, as well as with WiFi and Bluetooth, and built-in GPS receiver. The BlackBerry Torch 9860 is powered by a 1,230 mAh battery.

The BlackBerry 7 OS that the new smartphone runs under also provides users with a series of new features and enhancements, including faster Internet browsing, better Universal search, and more. 

It also offers BlackBerry Torch 9860 users the possibility to easily access and doawnload various applications and games from the BlackBerry App world.

Chemistry 101 1.00

The study of chemical elements can be a pleasant activity, especially when the teacher is fun to work with. Chemistry 101 is the software that can guide you through the basics and explain everything along the way. 

Whether it is a school task or a simple curiosity, getting acquainted with the periodic table of the chemical elements can be done at home, nowadays, thanks to the Internet and offline resources we can access. If going through books and using cardboard graphs is not your game, perhaps specialized software can save the day.

In this respect, Chemistry 101 is a program that will surely fit the bill for most users, first of all because it comes free of cost. It also has many other benefits like its rather small size, friendly interface and decent feature pack it comes with. Installation is a breeze so you’ll be able to bring it into play in no time.

The GUI is less shiny and more practical; however the colors used to highlight the different classes of elements in the table are well chosen and quite pleasant to look at. To help users quickly understand what the symbols and numbers on the tiles representing each element are, an explanatory sample is provided in the upper part of the main window.

Interacting with the items in order to view the information for every one of them can be done in a simple and very effective manner: you click the element and instantly gain access to all the available details. This means that you will access the other tab of the main window and there you will find yet another way of reading the data for metals or gases or anything you’re interested in. There is a vertical slider that enables you to browse the entire roster without going back to the table.

The element section of Chemistry 101 offers a plethora of information and even animations to illustrate the activity of the constituents. The level of data presented for each item is rather high. The utility shows you the period and group the element belongs to, its classification and state in which it is found in the nature or in the lab for artificial ones.

The description adds info on atomic weight, volume and radius, as well as density, boiling and melting points. Exact values are given for properties that are of interest for more specialized users, but there are also some interesting facts and figures included here. They consist of the year of the discovery and the person who made it, the element's appearance and name origin.

At a certain point, after reading all the technical details you may feel the need to get some explanations about all the numbers and symbols that are included in the list. Unfortunately, there is no help file or some other type of documentation available so you'll have to do this research on your own.

Insofar as the animations are concerned, they take up the left side of this window and can be easily controlled with the 4 buttons and 2 sliders in the lower part. The application will enable you to see in action all the protons, electrons and neutrons that every chemical element is built from. To better differentiate the moving particles, they are placed on levels with assorted colors. However, with a simple click you can forfeit these options and get instead a bunch of small gray spheres orbiting the core on paths known only to them.

Another setting you can tinker with is the trajectory followed by the subatomic particle. You can switch between circular or elliptic to have a perspective that better suits your needs. The two sliders mentioned above give you full control over the speed of the rotating spheres and also help you pick the grayness of the background they move against.

When it comes to the system resources used by this utility, the figures are low and this means good news. The memory usage seemed to be set in stone at an almost insignificant value of 2.3 MB out of the available 4GB, whereas some stress on the CPU becomes noticeable only when the animation was turned on. Being in close relation to the speed at which the particles move, the quad-core 3.0 GHz AMD Athlon II 640 processor peaked at 9% when the spheres where running full throttle.

Download here

Microsoft Thinks They Got Windows 8 Right

Windows 8 Developer Preview Build 8102 Milestone 3 (M3) has been available for download for more than a week now, and news of the upcoming Windows client from Microsoft is bound to have reverberated around the world. 

The first taste of Windows 8, offered at BUILD, was certainly met with a great deal of enthusiasm from those attending the conference, as well as for early adopters waiting for the bits with bated breath. 

The reimagined Windows has also managed to spark some positive feedback from those that got to play with the early development milestone of the operating system, just a pre-Beta M3 release at this point in time. 

Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer underlined the good reception that the Windows Developer Preview received during the company’s Financial Analyst Meeting 2011. 

“Certainly the release of the developer preview of Windows 8 is just that, it's a developer preview. We've got a lot of work to do between here and there, but at least we get a chance to get some early sense of kind of how people react,” he said. 

“What do they think about the path we've taken? Gratifying, 9:30 this morning somebody came and grabbed me before I went on stage to tell me we'd had our 500,000th download, and we are seeing at least from people who are playing and looking very early, we're seeing some positive reaction. And I think that's extremely important.”

I need to underline that there’s still much work to be done on Windows 8. M3 will be followed by the Beta Build, then the Release Candidate (RC). Microsoft has yet to reveal availability deadlines for Windows 8’s upcoming development milestones. 

Personally, I think that only with the advent of the Beta will the world be able to truly anticipate what the RTM Build of Windows 8 will bring to the table. 

Speaking about the main pillars of Windows 8, Ballmer is convinced that Microsoft is on the right track. 

“We think we've got it right. We think the formula that says that you bring the best of the tablets and the best of the PC together, that you embrace the cloud, you embrace emerging HTML standards, is exactly right,” Microsoft’s CEO stated. 

“But if you look at some of the quotes that we've seen in the Twitter feeds and in the blogosphere, and I went through most of these over the course of my discussion this morning, but the initial reaction has been all we would have hoped for in terms of being positive, both on Windows 8 and frankly probably even more positive than we might have expected on Windows 8 Server, which has been quite remarkable. The importance of Azure and Windows 8 Server for private cloud is important.”

As far as I’m concerned, Windows 8 certainly has immense potential, but I’m curious about what you think? Is Ballmer right in boasting that Microsoft got Windows 8 right this early in the development process? 

Windows 8 Developer Preview Build 8102 Milestone 3 (M3) is available for download here.

Windows 8 PCs with UEFI Secure Boot Won’t Lock Out Other Platforms

Users will be in full control of their PCs and will be able to install any operating system they want, Microsoft stressed, ending the controversy over the possibility that Windows 8 machines with UEFI Secure Boot could lock out third-party platforms. Not the case, the software giant says. 

Tony Mangefeste, from Microsoft’s Ecosystem team set the record straight in a post on the ‘Building Windows 8’ blog, noting that customers will have the possibility of disabling UEFI secure boot, to install even older operating systems, including Linux, on their PC. 

Windows 8, in combination with UEFI 2.3.1 addresses a security hole in the current design of BIOS which lets any loader, including for malicious code such as rootkits, start ahead of the operating system. 

In contrast to BIOS, the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface will only allow verified OS loaders to start, as long as UEFI secure boot is enabled. This means that malware can no longer switch the boot loader.

“For Windows customers, Microsoft is using the Windows Certification program to ensure that systems shipping with Windows 8 have secure boot enabled by default, that firmware not allow programmatic control of secure boot (to prevent malware from disabling security policies in firmware), and that OEMs prevent unauthorized attempts at updating firmware that could compromise system integrity,” Mangefeste explained. 

What this means is that while a rootkit or any other piece of malware using a boot loader won’t be able to run during startup on a Windows 8 machine with Windows 8 PCs with UEFI Secure Boot, customers would still have the option of disabling the security mitigation and run other legitimate software, including non-Windows operating system loaders. 

Mangefeste provided some highlights about what protecting the pre-OS environment with UEFI means for Windows 8 customers:
  •  UEFI allows firmware to implement a security policy 
  •  Secure boot is a UEFI protocol not a Windows 8 feature
  •  UEFI secure boot is part of Windows 8 secured boot architecture 
  •  Windows 8 utilizes secure boot to ensure that the pre-OS environment is secure 
  •  Secure boot doesn’t “lock out” operating system loaders, but is is a policy that allows firmware to validate authenticity of components 
  •  OEMs have the ability to customize their firmware to meet the needs of their customers by customizing the level of certificate and policy management on their platform 
  •  Microsoft does not mandate or control the settings on PC firmware that control or enable secured boot from any operating system other than Windows.

DoTA 2 Open Beta Coming Soon, Valve Says

After the recent leak of the Dota 2 closed beta, Valve, the developer and publisher of the new strategy title, has revealed that it's changed its own plans for the pre-release version of the game, and that it's going to open the beta stage to everyone in the near future.

Valve's current big project is Dota 2, with the company working hard to launch a proper follow-up to the extremely popular Defense of the Ancients mod that appear for Blizzard's WarCraft III real time strategy title.

Its plans were spoiled a bit, as the files from the current Dota 2 closed beta stage were leaked at the beginning of the week.

Now, after seeing the results of the reveal, Valve has confessed that it's changed its strategy for the Dota 2 beta, and that it's going to release it for everyone to enjoy soon enough.

"Our original plan was to spend the next year or so in beta, adding new features and slowly growing the number of heroes until we reached a level of parity with Dota 1, at which point we’d release Dota 2 to the world," Valve revealed.

The company has now changed this outlook, thanks to the positive hype from the beta leak and the impressive reception it had with current closed beta testers.

"We’re going to take the current version of Dota 2, which has The International set of heroes, and get it out there as fast as we can. We’ve still got some work to do in a couple of areas, so we’ll be keeping it invite-only for a (hopefully short) period of time."

There won't be any restrictions in regards to the new beta, as players can capture screenshots, record videos and share their thoughts about it. During this testing stage, Valve is going to deploy regular updates, introducing new heroes or features, as well as improvements to the actual gameplay.

Until the closed beta is opened to all, Valve advises gamers to sign up to participate in it (which you can do at this link), so that they'll get their invitation once it's opened or perhaps a bit earlier than that.

HP CEO Sacked Because of Disappointing Decisions

All those who believed HP's recent business decisions weren't going to come across well have gotten their confirmation in how HP sacked its CEO and chose someone in his stead, not even bothering with an interim.

Meg Whitman, former eBay chief executive officer (CEO) and one time candidate for the position of California Governor has become the new CEO of HP.

With this move, Leo Apotheker is stepping down after only serving for several months.

The press release outlining this decision did not go into details about why this sudden move was taken, though it is true that there was forewarning.

Yesterday, the rumor had already leaked that HP is considering something of this sort, after the board of directors got disappointed in his decisions.

The list includes the choice to spin off the PC business, giving up on webOS (though this doesn't seem to have worked out very well) and buying Autonomy. The stock price also plummeted 47 percent.

“We very much appreciate Leo’s efforts and his service to HP since his appointment last year,” Ray Lane, former non-executive chairman and new executive chairman said on behalf of the board.

“The board believes that the job of the HP CEO now requires additional attributes to successfully execute on the company’s strategy. Meg Whitman has the right operational and communication skills and leadership abilities to deliver improved execution and financial performance.” 

So far, it is unclear what Whitman will do as CEO, since no real decisions can be taken, or old ones overturned, until everyone finishes getting set up. Whitman, at least, seems enthusiastic.

“I am honored and excited to lead HP. I believe HP matters – it matters to Silicon Valley, California, the country and the world,” she said.

HP decided not to go through the Interim CEO stage and just give Whitman the full-time mantle after Leo Apotheker was CEO for less than a year.

“We are fortunate to have someone of Meg Whitman’s caliber and experience step up to lead HP,” said Lane. 

“We are at a critical moment and we need renewed leadership to successfully implement our strategy and take advantage of the market opportunities ahead. Meg is a technology visionary with a proven track record of execution. She is a strong communicator who is customer focused with deep leadership capabilities. Furthermore, as a member of HP’s board of directors for the past eight months, Meg has a solid understanding of our products and markets.”

Bing HTML5 Video Homepage Makes Its Debut

A new, amazing Bing homepage experience is now live, pushing user experience to an entirely new level, certainly well beyond anything else that search rivals have to offer. 

The first ever Bing HTML5 video homepage has just made its debut today, making Microsoft’s search / decision engine come alive in a spectacular way. 

Users visiting Bing.com using Internet Explorer 9, IE10, or any another browser that supports HTML5 are now welcomed not by a static background image, but by a video wallpaper. 

The Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, Bob Glusic / Wilderness video is the background of the Bing homepage, according to information supplied by the Redmond company. 

“Today we’re really excited to announce the first ever video homepage,” revealed Stephanie Horstmanshof, from the Bing Homepage team.

“If you have an HTML-5 enabled browser, you now get all the beauty and intrigue of the Bing homepage with a little breath of life added. Users without a modern browser will continue to see the gorgeous still photography that we’re known for.”

With the addition of HTML5 video backgrounds, the Bing homepage becomes a jaw-dropping and addictive spectacle which is bound to strike a chord with users and have them come back again. 

Combined with the chromeless experience delivered by Internet Explorer 10, the new HTML5 video homepage has the potential to immerse users completely into Bing. 

“We won’t be programming a video every day, just when the mood strikes us. While this first video is US-only, we’ll begin rolling the video homepage out to international markets in the next few months – so stay tuned,” Horstmanshof added.

“If you’re interested in learning more about the evolution of the homepage and how the team chooses content, check out the following video.”

It’s certainly mesmerizing enough to watch, just visit Bing.com and see for yourselves.

AMD to Refresh Its A-Series APU Lineup in Q1 2012

In the first quarter of 2012, AMD plans to refresh its A-Series APU lineup to include three new chips based on the Llano architecture that will slightly improve on the specifications of their predecessors.

The new APUs will be call the A8-3820, A6-3620 and the A4-3420, and the first two feature a quad-core design while the latter is a dual-core part.

Making our way from top to bottom, the first chip that we encounter is the A8-3820 which is set to replace the similar A8-3800. 

AMD has kept the modifications brought to this SKU to a minimum as it settled for increasing its operating frequency from 2.4GHz to 2.5GHz, while the maximum Turbo speed was also increased to reach 2.8GHz.

The graphics core also remained unchanged as it features the same 400 shader units run at 600MHz.

The other quad-core part to be released by AMD in Q1 2011, the A6-3620 also won't bring any major features when compared to the A6-3600 is meant to replace, but it will receive a slight speed bump, enabling it to reach a 2.2GHz base clock with 2.5GHz Turbo.

Finally, the last APU that AMD plans to introduce, the A4-3420 will be clocked at 2.8GHz and integrates the HD 6530D graphics core.

While the GPU wasn't changed from the one used in the A4-3400, this new APU is 100MHz faster than its predecessor.

All three parts detailed will have the same 65W TDP, but no information regarding their pricing is available at this point in time.

In related news, the A6-3670K unlocked Llano APU that we detailed yesterday will also arrive in Q1 2012, and not in 2011 as we previously reported. Its older brother, however, the A8-3870K, is still scheduled for a Q4 2011 release. (via Fudzilla)

iPhone 5 Coming to New Carrier in Japan, Report Says

KDDI Corporation, a Japanese telecommunications operator, has reportedly secured its rights to carry the next-generation iPhone 5, effectively stealing away Softbank’s exclusive grip on Apple’s elusive handset in the country.

The news comes via a Nikkei publication quoted by Marketwatch, according to whom KDDI Corp. has entered an agreement with Apple Inc. to sell the fifth-generation iPhone in the country.

Citing sources close to the matter, Nikkei Business noted that KDDI’s move impacted Softbank’s stock, which is only natural since there will now be two iPhone carriers in Japan, instead of just one.

Should KDDI eventually sell the iPhone 5, analysts say Softbank will post far less profits.

The Tokyo Stock Exchange lists KDDI's shares higher in today’s trading, whereas Softbank shares are falling.

Softbank's shares dropped 7.3% to Y2,413 with KDDI's going up by 2.1% at Y642,000, according to Marketwatch.

"Softbank's recent solid performance in earnings has been supported mainly by the iPhone. It will be tough if the company loses the (sales) exclusivity," said Naoki Yokota, an analyst at SMBC Friend Research Center.

"It's also undeniable that Softbank's telecommunications quality lags other carriers," he adds.

Yokota says KDDI’s deal with Apple will allow the operator to extend its offerings beyond those of Android-based devices, in the smartphone segment.

The analyst also sees the iPhone’s strong brand as a way to attract more customers.

It remains to be seen whether KDDI will indeed carry the phone, as there is no confirmation from an actual company spokesperson.

Also debatable is whether there will actually be an iPhone 5, or an iPhone 4S to sell. Should Apple confirm the latest analyst estimates, there will be far less orders for the next iPhone, both in the United States, and overseas.

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