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Oct 18, 2011

New System Turns Any Surface Into a Touchscreen

A certain PhD student called Chris Harrison, and others, just invented a new technology that can allow for “graphical, interactive, multitouch input on arbitrary, everyday surfaces.” 

The idea Chris Harrison had is not so much a touch interface as it is a gesture recognition technology, since it isn't actually the touched surface that picks up the signals. 

Instead, the system relies on a depth camera with a short range, not an infrared sensor, in order to gauge the viewing angle and other characteristics of surfaces. 

Once that is done, the OmiTouch system, as it is called, can interpret the touch inputs, even pinch-to-zoom, regardless of what the surface is like (uneven, hairy, etc.) 

Check out the video above for a demonstration while we start imagining how this thing could be combined with the transparent window displays Samsung promised.


AMD Bulldozer B3 Revision Is in the Works

After many were left disappointed by the performance of AMD's FX-Series processors based on the Bulldozer architecture, the chip maker is now working on a new revision of its CPUs that will carry the B3 stepping.

This information was uncovered by Hardcore-Hardware in a public AMD document entitled “BIOS and Kernel’s Developers Guide (BKDG) for AMD Family 15h Models 00h-0Fh Processors.”

The document included a table that mentioned the current stepping of AMD's Bulldozer processors, but also a new revision of the architecture that was referred to as B3.

Sadly, the report doesn't detail the changes that AMD wants to bring to its chips with the introduction of this new stepping, but users should expect the usual tweaks that deliver slightly improved performance and better energy-efficiency. 

This is not the first time that AMD is having troubles with a new processors architecture.

Shortly after the company launched it first quad-core CPUs from the Phenom line, it has been discovered that the chips suffered from a TLB (translation lookaside buffer) flaw which incurred a performance penalty of at least 10%.

These design problems required AMD to build a new chip stepping, known as B3, which arrived about four months after the initial Phenom release.

AMD launched the first FX-Series processors based on the Bulldozer architecture the last week, on October 12, but despite being eagerly awaited by many PC enthusiasts the performance of the chips has disappointed.

In most tests that were run by reviewers, AMD's flagship CPU from the FX-Series lineup, the FX-8150, lagged behind the Intel's Core i5-2500K, a few tests even showing it coming behind a last-gen Phenom II X6 1100T processor.

Right now, no information regarding the release date of the B3 stepping is available, but considering AMD's current position in the CPU market it makes sense for this revision to be placed on top of the company's priority list.

Intel's First Ivy Bridge Pentium CPUs Will Arrive in Q3 2012

In the third quarter of 2012, Intel will reportedly update its processor lineup to feature a new series of Pentium chips based on the company's upcoming Ivy Bridge architecture that will bring a number of improvements over the current SNB core.

Details about these processors are scarce at this moment, but a previous report has revealed that for the upcoming iteration of the Pentium line, Intel will use a new naming scheme that moves from three to a four digit designation.

As a results, the new CPUs will be released into the Pentium G2000-series, but few other specs have changed from their Sandy Bridge counterparts, apart from the TDP that will be rated at 55W, compared to the 65W of the current Pentium CPUs.

What this means is that Pentium processors will still include two computing cores and 3MB of Level 3 cache, while lacking support for more advanced features such as Hyper-Threading or Turbo Boost.

Support for the AES-NI and AVX instructions sets aren't included, as is also the case with the QuickSync video transcoding technology that is limited to the more expensive Intel Core parts.

We also don't know if the Pentium G2000 processors will get the new GPU improvements that Intel is expected to bring with Ivy Bridge, but there is a strong chance that DirectX 11 support will make its way to the Pentium CPU line.

According to Fudzilla, the upcoming Ivy Bridge Pentium processors will inherit the price tags of the current G860 and G850 CPUs, but are going to deliver better performance.

Ivy Bridge is the code name used for the 22nm die shrink of the current Sandy Bridge chips and features basically the same architecture, but with a few minor tweaks and improvements, including an updated PCI Express 3.0 controller and DirectX 11 support.

RIM Goes Official with the New BlackBerry BBX Platform

Today, Canadian mobile phone maker Research In Motion announced the availability of a new mobile operating system aimed at its mobile devices, namely the BlackBerry BBX platform. 

The new OS is based on the BlackBerry platform and also takes advantage of the QNX OS to keep people, devices, content and services connected.

BBX represents the next generation mobile platform, set to run on the company's new BlackBerry smartphones, as well as on its tablet PCs. 

RIM claims that the new OS flavor will be capable to provide users with a great mobile experience, since it brings along the best in two platforms, namely BlackBerry OS and QNX. 

“With nearly 5 million BlackBerry apps downloaded daily, our customers have made BlackBerry one of the most profitable platforms for developers,” said Mike Lazaridis, President and Co-CEO at RIM. 

“At DevCon today, we’re giving developers the tools they need to build richer applications and we’re providing direction on how to best develop their smartphone and tablet apps as the BlackBerry and QNX platforms converge into our next generation BBX platform.”

The new BBX platform will include the BBX-OS, and will also offer support for BlackBerry cloud services, as well as for the building of both native applications and HTML5-based ones. 

Moreover, the new OS flavor will arrive with support for the applications built using tools available for the BlackBerry PlayBook, such as Native SDK, Adobe AIR/Flash and WebWorks/HTML5, or the BlackBerry Runtime for Android Apps.

BBX also comes with the new BlackBerry Cascades UI Framework that enables advanced graphics, which is also meant at offering “Super App” capabilities that translate into deep integration between apps, support for the BBM Social Platform, always-on Push services, and more. 

RIM also announced the release of a new version of the BlackBerry WebWorks for BlackBerry smartphones and tablets, as well as of additional developer tools. 

Among them, we can count the Native SDK for the BlackBerry PlayBook, or the new developer beta of BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0, which offers support for applications developed for the Android operating system.

iOS 5.1 May be Required to Fix Battery Drain Issues

iDevice owners are taking to the Apple Support Communities forum to complain about a chronic battery drain issue seemingly caused by inferior power management in iOS 5.

Whether they installed the software on a first-gen iPad or on the iPhone 4, many seem certain that iOS 5 is to blame for their battery drain woes.

Some even say their brand new iPhone 4S is exhibiting the same behavior, which should almost certainly be tied to software, rather than hardware.

A simple search on the Apple Support Communities forum will churn up titles like “Iphone 4S / iOS 5 Battery Drain” and “Please fix batery [sic] drainage with IOS 5. I need those 10 promissed [sic] hours on iPad 2.”

For example, this iPad owner (identified as CaMoBaPuK on Apple’s forum) said: “Disabled everything. iCloud, notifications, location, bluetooth, ping, reset all setings [sic], brightness as I used before 45 %. All aps are closed. Still batery level disapears so fast! I have iPad 2. A friend of mine has same problem with iPhone 4.”

He adds: “4.3.5 was perfect,” which indicates this user has seen a dramatic decrease in battery life since applying the latest software update from Apple.

Another user, Sam, writes: “I am having massive problems using the iphone 4s, it doesn't last a day. I have followed all steps on the forum but it doesn't change the drain rate … Is my phone faulty? Should I take it back? I can't carry on using it if it won't last a day!”

There are many factors that can contribute to the battery drain issue from processes running in the background, to the radio chips working overtime, even the apps one uses.

But clearly these people are seeing a significant change in the behavior of their devices after installing iOS 5.

Apple has traditionally released incremental software updates to fix such problems (by the way, this is not the first time a major iOS update drains batteries), so I’ll be keeping my ear to the ground for any sign of Apple seeding iOS 5.1 betas to developers.

In the meanwhile, use the comments to tell us what your experience has been with iOS 5.

Nokia Rolls Out Symbian Anna Software Update

Most Nokia users who own Symbian Anna smartphone, such as the N8, C7, C6-01 or X7, are waiting for the Symbian Belle upgrade that the Finnish company promised to deliver.

However, this is not the highly-anticipated Symbian Belle, but merely a minor software update that fixes several bugs and improves the platform's stability.

Software version 025.007 has a only 1MB size and is delivered OTA (over the air) to compatible Nokia devices.

Unfortunately, no change log for the update has been published yet, but it integrates the new version of Nokia Store 3.16 and corrects some bugs in v22, reports claim.

It appears that the update is not available in North America, but users from various European countries already reported they updated smoothly.

According to several reports from users who got the update, their phones are more fluid when changing screens, and the browser is a bit faster.

HP Confirms Opteron 6200 Bulldozer CPU Specs

While we are still waiting for AMD to make official its Opteron processors based on the Bulldozer architecture, HP has listed a new server on its website that comes to confirm the specifications of the Opteron 6200 series CPUs we have reported about at the beginning of this month.

The AMD Bulldozer processors were spotted by CPU-World in the configurations list of the HP ProLiant DL165 G7 server.

The document contains partial specifications for seven CPUs from the Opteron 6200 series based on the Interlagos core and with a TDP of 115W.

The specs provided by HP match pretty closely the ones detailed in our previous report, except for some base clock frequencies for the Opteron 6212, 6234 and 6238 models, which HP states they work at of 2.6GHz, 2.4GHz and 2.6GHz, respectively.

All of the chips mentioned by HP were available for pre-order since the beginning of the month in the US with prices ranging between $303 and $588 (225-438 Euros) for parts including 8 or 12 computing cores.

As expected, the 16-core processors feature premium prices, ranging from $588 (438 Euros) for the AMD Opteron 6262 HE and 6272, and up to $1135 (845 Euros) for the high-power Opteron 6282 SE.

AMD's Interlagos processors are based on the company's high-performance Bulldozer architecture and are built by joining together two CPU dies on the same packaging. The chips use the same G34 socket as their Opteron 6100 predecessors.

No information regarding the official release date of these Opteron 6200-series server CPUs is available at this time, but they should arrive in Q4 of 2011 (as early as this or next week according to CPU-World)

Together with the first Opteron 6200-series processors, AMD is expected to also launch Opteron 3200 and Opteron 4200 parts.

Nokia Windows Phones Said Again to Arrive in November

Finnish mobile phone maker Nokia is expected to unveil to the world their first smartphone powered by Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system before the end of October, which being set to make them available for purchase next month. 

For the time being, no specific details on the handsets that should arrive on the market at that time have been unveiled, but leaked documents that emerged over at iPhoneItalia show that November is the lucky time frame for enthusiasts. 

At least Italian carrier TIM will have the new devices available for its customers next month, though info on the exact release date and on the pricing of these devices did not emerge for the time being. 

One thing that is certain is that November is indeed shaping up as the launch window for Nokia's first Mango devices, as reports on these phones being launched in other European countries next month also emerged


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