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Oct 20, 2011

Yeston Works on Dual-GPU Radeon HD 6850 Graphics Card

Chinese graphics card maker Yeston, has already accustomed us to its highly customized graphics cards, so it comes as no surprise that the company is now working on developing a new Radeon HD 6950 dual-GPU solution.

The card in question is still a prototype, but judging by the pictures provided by Expreview website this appears to be in the latest stages of design as the PCB layout seems to be complete and ready to enter mass production.

In order to pack two Cayman Pro cores on the same printed circuit board, Yeston had to redesign its graphics card from scratch and it decided to go with a total of 12 phases for powering the components installed on the card.

Each one of the two Radeon HD 6950 cores installed get their own 6-stage VRM, which should be more than enough for providing enough power to the CPUs.

Yeston's creation gets all the juice that it requires to feed these VRMs through two PCI Express 8-pin connectors and a single 6-pin PCIe connector, which are placed in the back of the PCB.

Sadly, these are all the features that can be spotted right now, but it's safe to assume that Yeston will also include a series of more advanced features in its dual-GPU HD 6950, such as dual-BIOS support.

The Radeon HD 6950 based on the Cayman Pro core that includes 1408 streaming processors, 88 texture units, 32 ROP units and a 256-bit wide memory bus that is connected to 2GB of video buffer.

Since two such GPUs are installed in Yeston's Radeon HD 6950 X2, the card comes with a total of 4GB of memory.

Right now, we don't know when this dual-GPU graphics card is supposed to come out, or for how much it will retail.

AMD Invests in BlueStack to Bring Android Apps to Windows Devices

AMD announced just earlier today that it has invested in BlueStack, a company that builds a special software which enables Windows-based devices to run applications designed for Android in a full-screen mode.

The Sunnyvale chip maker said that the two companies will collaborate to optimize the BlueStacks App Player for Windows to run on tablet and notebook PCs powered by AMD accelerated processing units (APUs).

None of the two companies have said if these optimizations also rely on the compute possibilities of the integrated Radeon graphics core used in AMD's APUs, but they did mention that the player will be able to run more than 200,000 apps currently available in the Android Market.

“Bluestacks is a visionary software company that is, seamlessly, making the emerging Android mobile apps market part of the broader computing ecosystem and enhancing such experiences on our award-winning APU platforms,” said Manju Hegde, corporate vice president, AMD Fusion Experience Program. 

“AMD is committed to support such game changing innovators through investment and other activity as we work together to usher in new experiences that allow consumers to enjoy the full capabilities of the brilliant graphics and computing performance enabled by AMD.”

AMD has been pushing quite hard lately to promote its Fusion accelerated processing units that combine the traditional CPU cores with an on-die graphics core based on the Radeon architecture.

Just two days ago, an AMD representative has revealed that the company plans to help game developers to optimize their titles for its APUs, so that integrated graphics would become a "compelling option" for video games.

“AMD’s investment in BlueStacks will help us to create an environment where your favorite apps can be accessed regardless of platform technology, providing greater entertainment and productivity value,” said Rosen Sharma, president and chief executive officer of BlueStacks.

Asus Transformer Tablet Will Receive Ice Cream Sandwich Update

Asus' original Eee Pad Transformer Android tablet will receive an official update to the fourth iteration of Google's mobile operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich, confirmed an Asus official a short while ago.

"Transformer will be getting update to ICS - but we can’t provide a schedule at this stage," told Pocket Lint an Asus employee who wanted to remain anonymous.

From what we know at this point in time, Ice Cream Sandwich is expected to arrive in a couple of weeks after the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone, which seems to be scheduled for the start of November.

If Google sticks up to its schedule, this could mean that the update should go live by the end of the year.

Asus' Chairman, Jonney Shih, revealed just recently that the Android ICS update for the upcoming Transformer 2 is also expected to arrive until the end of 2011. 

Abee Acubic M20 PC Case Is a Small Aluminum Cube

People who were wondering how long they'd have to wait before a new HTPC case showed up need wait no longer, as Abee Corp. has stepped forth to assuage that need.

The new case that Abee, a company based in Japan, put together is called acubic M20 and will start shipping soon, if it hasn't already, in Europe.

The price of the product is 239.90 Euro, which is more or less the same as $328.71, according to exchange rates.

Then again, when, if ever, the item makes it to the US, the chance isn't very high that the price will reflect this.

Regardless, the acubic M20 has quite a few things to justify the price, even though, in the end, it is still a fairly high-end product.

After all, not many people are willing to pay that much for a case of any sort, especially a non-gaming one.

The HTPC case measures 229 x 229 x 249 mm, which corresponds to 9 x 9 x 9.8 inches, respectively. It other words, it is almost cubic, hence the name.

Abee chose to build the whole thing out of aluminum instead of using any mesh or plastic parts.

This led to a weight of 3.4 kilograms but a higher durability than one would expect from an HTPC enclosure.

The inside is only spacious enough for mini-ITX motherboards, but this was in no way unexpected, given the specialized role it is meant to play.

Other specifications include a 5.25-inch ODD (optical disk drive) bay, a 3.5-inch and a 2.5-inch bay on the inside (for HDDs and SSDs) and a 120mm fan (1,000 RPM speed). Finally, the front panel offers a pair of USB 3.0 connectors.

Users can go here for the white version of the HPTC case and here for the black Abee acubic M20.

Intel Says Both Dell and HP are Working on Ultrabook Designs

Dell and HP are some of the few major notebook makers that haven't announced any plans to introduce ultra-thin notebook following Intel's specifications for Ultrabooks, but both of these companies are currently working on such designs which will be ready the next year.

"All the major brands. Going into next year, you'll see new designs come out from Dell and HP," said Intel's CEO Paul Otellini in an interview cited by Cnet.

"And then when we introduce Ivy Bridge, our next processor, there's 60 more designs [that] are coming out," continued the company's CEO. 

Rumors regarding Dell and HP's plans to introduce Ultrabooks have been circulating around the Web for quite some time now, but this is the first time that these have been confirmed by a company involved in the design of the ultra-thin laptops.

Intel defined the Ultrabook as a laptop that combines high performance, excellent responsiveness and security in a slim and elegant chassis, all for sub $1000 US (although manufacturer have troubles reaching this last target).

Until now, such designs have been announced by Asus, with the Zenbook UX-series, Acer, with the Aspire S3, as well as by Lenovo and Toshiba.

In addition, both the Acer and Asus models are already available for purchase with prices starting at $899 (651 Euros) and $999 (723 Euros), respectively.

Right now, Dell relies on the XPS 14z notebook, that features an ultra-thin aluminum chassis with a height of 0.9 inches (about 22.8mm), to counter these designs, while HP has only the Pavilion dm1 powered by AMD APUs..

Right now we don't know when Dell's and HP's ultra-thins will come into the market, but most probably they will arrive until the launch of Ivy Bridge, probably at next year's CES fair.

Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Goals

Mark Shuttleworth wrote today, October 20th, on his blog, about the impending new Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise Pangolin) that will be launched next spring, April 26th.

As Mark has already said, Linux distributions have tried to prioritize items to backport, but that puts the stability of known-good configurations very much at risk.

Rick Spencer and his team from Canonical are working hard to prepare the new Ubuntu 12.04 LTS release for hardware challenges of the next few years. 

Mark Shuttleworth also pointed out what goals the new Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (Precise Pangolin) need to be: 
  • Adjusting the cycle to allocate more time for resolving issues;
  • Introducing minimal new infrastructure or platform-visible change;
  • Goal-driven and continuously benchmarked programs of action around performance;
  • First-class accessibility for those with special interaction needs;
  • Enablement and certification of the sorts of hardware people will deploy at scale and in the datacenter.
Until then, you can download Ubuntu 11.10 right now on these following links:

RIM Sued Over BBX Trademark

Research in Motion future appears gloomier than ever, as the company is hit with legal actions against the BBX trademark and possibly for the last week's BlackBerry outage.

More and more disgruntled enterprise customers are determined to take legal actions against RIM, unhappy by the company's compensations, which were announced a few days ago.

If that wasn't enough, BASIS International, a company that claims the ownership of the BBx trademark is now suing RIM to protect its trademark.

Unveiled two days ago, RIM's BlackBerry BBX is based on the QNX OS and aims to unify smartphones and tablets platforms in a single universal operating system.

However, according to BASIS International, the company has loads of product licenses installed worldwide with the “BBX” prefix that run on Windows, Linux, Max OS X, as well as on other proprietary UNIX OSs from many companies, including IBM, HP and SUN.

Furthermore, the company states that its BBX trademark is now part of many mobile clients running Apple iOS, Google Android, and Windows Mobile. 

Those who are unfamiliar with BASIS' line of businesses should know that one of its main products, the BBx is an OS-agnostic language that currently runs on multiple operating system, Java platforms, as well as JavaScript-enabled browsers.

According to BASIS, BBx is not limited to just BlackBerry phones and tablets powered by RIM’s “BBX.”

“Ironically, BASIS’ BBx may aid RIM in its quest to grab a share of the application market for mobile devices in that any application created with BASIS’ BBx for the Android or iOS mobile devices will also run on BlackBerry products,” said BASIS Chairman and CEO, Nico Spence.

Surprisingly for a company that issues a statement two-three days after its services are down, RIM has already addressed the claims from BASIS:

“RIM has not yet received a copy of the legal complaint described in Basis International’s press release, but we do not believe the marks are confusing, particularly since our respective companies are in different lines of business.”

Flashback C Trojan Goes for Mac OS X Defense Mechanism

Security researchers at F-Secure have found a new variant of the Flashback Trojan masquerading as an Adobe Flash installer package, this time its purpose being to disable the actual XProtect  defense mechanism in Mac OS X tasked with stopping such attacks.

“There's something new brewing in Mac malware development (again),” say the people at F-Secure in a blog post.

“Recent analysis has revealed to us that Trojan-Downloader:OSX/Flashback.C disables the automatic updater component of XProtect, Apple's built-in OS X anti-malware application,” the company writes.

The original variant of Flashback was discovered by Austin, Texas-based Intego in September. Intego deals exclusively with Mac malware.

The team of researchers at F-Secure has found that Flashback C prevents XProtect from automatically receiving future updates, therefore leaving Mac OS X vulnerable to similar attacks, as well as this one.

F-Secure acknowledges that “Attempting to disable system defenses is a very common tactic for malware — and built-in defenses are naturally going to be the first target on any computing platform.”

According to Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, “XProtect isn't really comparable to a real anti-virus product on your Mac, but it does provide a limited amount of protection.”

“The fact that Mac malware is now being written to prevent XProtect from updating itself with new security definitions underlines that cybercriminals are keen to infect Apple computers because of the potential financial rewards,” explains Mr. Cluley.

Apple will be updating its malware definitions soon. In the meanwhile, you can use Sophos's Mac anti-virus products, such as the company’s free anti-virus for Mac home users. The program has been detecting the malware as a member of the OSX/FlshPlyr malware family since October 12th, according to Sophos.

HIS Unveils Limited Edition 6950 IceQ with Deus Ex & Dirt3 Bundle

Almost two months after Eidos officially unveiled Deus Ex: Human Revolution, HIS has announced a special version of its 6950 IceQ graphics card that comes bundled with the game as well as with the Dirt 3 rally racer.

The limited edition 6950 IceQ is available exclusively through Overclockers UK and carries a retail price of £229.99 (263 Euros or $361 US).

Outside of the special bundle, the card doesn't differ in any way from the non-limited edition counterpart as it employs the same IceQ custom cooling solution that relies on four heatpipes for drawing the heat away from the core and into an aluminum heatsink.

This covers most of the printed circuit board (PCB) of the Radeon HD 6950 and HIS claims it can deliver both improved cooling performance and reduced noise (18db lower) compared with AMD's reference cooler.

In addition to better overall performance, the IceQ cooling solution also improves the overclocking of the card.

Despite this, HIS' solution follows to the letter AMD's instructions for both the GPU and the memory frequencies as these come clocked at 800MHz and 1.25GHz (5GHz data rate), respectively.

The rest of the graphics card's configuration also doesn't differ too much from that of AMD's reference design as it comes fitted with dual DVI ports, an HDMI video output as well as a pair of mini-DP connectors.

The 6950 IceQ is of course compatible with AMD's EyeFinity technology for multi-monitor gaming and supports up to four displays.

AMD's Radeon HD 6950 is based on the Cayman Pro core and it packs 1408 streaming processors, 88 texture units, 32 ROP units and a 256-bit wide memory bus. This is usually connected to 2GB of fast GDDR5 memory, and HIS also went this route when it designed its Radeon 6950 IceQ.

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