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Feb 12, 2012

ACTA Protests a Success, Germany Takes a Step Back

The global protests against the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Act (ACTA) seem to have left their mark on state leaders, the latest country to pull back being Germany.

While they didn’t clearly state that they were against ACTA, German officials decided to postpone their decision on whether or not the agreement would be signed, waiting for the European Parliament to make the first move, ZDNet UK reports.

At the end of January, 22 states part of the European Union signed ACTA, but since none of them ratified the act they can proceed with caution, many of them being highly influenced by the mass protests that take place worldwide.

In the case of Germany, three political parties, the Pirate Party, the Left Party and the Greens, showed their disapproval towards ACTA, RT informs.

Even though 31 countries have already signed the agreement, none of them ratified it yet and without being ratified, the convention cannot come into force.

In Europe, Poland, the Czech Republic, Latvia and Slovakia have also delayed the ratification process and considering that street protests are scheduled to take place all over the world, it can be expected that other countries will soon follow their lead.

Since it was first proposed, ACTA has gone through a lot of changes, many parts being considerably modified to make it sound less draconian. 

Although this don’t do much good for ACTA defenders, US President Barack Obama and the EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht are still trying to convince everyone that by enforcing the rights of copyright holders, the pact may be helpful to global economies. 

Considering the fact that Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was indefinitely postponed after massive protests, it’s very likely that ACTA will have the same fate. If world leaders haven’t noticed by now that the citizens in their countries are displeased with the pact, today they’ll surely find out.

No 15-Inch HP Envy Spectre Ultrabook for Now, Just a Mistake

Yesterday, many websites reported that HP unveiled a 15-inch version of the Envy Spectre Ultrabook in Taiwan, after citing an article published by DigiTimes.

The news however seems to be wrong as Laptoping has recently uncovered that the notebook everybody thought to be a larger 15-inch Envy Ultrabook was actually the standard Envy 15, which is already available in the US. 

Although these two laptops have similar names, they’re entirely different beasts, the Spectre coming as a thin and light Ultrabook, while the Envy uses the regular notebook form factor.

So far, Samsung is the only company that has announced the launch of a 15-inch notebook, which will take the form of a Series 9 model. 

This will include a 1600x900 resolution screen and should hit the US market on February 27th.

Sara, a Siri Alternative for All iPhones and iPads

A company called iSoft JSC has released an alternative to Siri, the digital assistant that does things just by asking on your iPhone 4S. Sara works on older-generation devices, starting at iPhone 2G, and allegedly does even more than Apple’s Siri.

The Vietnamese group at iSoft JSC says Sara is actually an advanced alternative to Siri. In addition to offering regular Siri capabilities, Sara accepts custom commands via plug-ins.

Don’t worry about having to code your own because if this thing takes off, programmers will be flocking to get their plug-ins out so everyone can enjoy them. Sara also works in many countries. In fact, it supports 37 languages. Beat that Siri!

Unfortunately, Sara does come with a small caveat - you need a jailbroken device to access Cydia to download it. For those who are interested, it’s located at http://isoftjsc.com.

Intel 2012 Haswell CPUs Will Feature Improved Multi-Core Support

Intel has recently announced that its next-generation 22nm processors based on the Haswell architecture will support Transactional Synchronization Extensions (TSX), a new instruction set designed to allow cores to work more efficiently together.

These new synchronization extensions (Intel TSX) are useful in shared-memory multithreaded applications that employ lock-based synchronization mechanisms.

In a nutshell, Intel TSX provides a set of instruction set extensions that allow programmers to specify regions of code for transactional synchronization.

According to Intel, with transactional synchronization, the hardware can determine dynamically whether threads need to serialize through lock-protected critical sections, and perform serialization only when required. 

From what we know at this point in time, the new TSX instruction set will be supported by all processors based on the Haswell architecture.

Haswell is the code name used by Intel for Ivy Bridge's successor and this is expected to be launched in March-June 2013.

Compared to their predecessors, the chips will feature higher IPC performance, support for the AVX2 instruction set, and will also receive DirectX 11.1 support. 

With the introduction of Haswell, Intel plans to split its product range into two distinct groups. 

The first group includes the company's desktop and notebook processors, while the latter is specially designed for Ultrabooks, and drops the usual 2-chip platform approach that Intel has been using for quite some time in favor of a system-on-a-chip (SoC) design.

Desktop CPUs will feature either two of four processing cores with TDPs of 35, 45, 65 or 95 Watt, and will include a dual-channel DDR3/DDR3L memory controller, as well as GT2 or GT1 integrated graphics cores.

Mobile chips will be available in the same dual or quad-core configurations, but pack the more powerful Intel GT3 GPU, while the memory controller only supports DDR3L DIMMs. More info about the TSX instruction set is available here.

iPad 3 Developers May Be Required to Own Retina Macs Soon

There’s a pretty good chance Apple will introduce an all-Retina Mac lineup this year, one programmer theorizes. If anything, at least development machines will sport double the pixel count, he suggests.

iOS developer David Smith has created a chart to demonstrate that coders who use Macs to craft the apps for Apple’s tablet computers may require Retina-grade graphics, should the Cupertino giant indeed release a Retina-display iPad 3.

“It is now widely accepted that Apple will be releasing a new iPad early in March. It is expected this will include a Retina display like the iPhone,” Smith writes. “This would have a resolution of 2048x1536 (double its current resolution of 1024x768).”

“I find numbers like that often hard to visualize so I did a quick graph comparing that to current Apple displays. A screen that size would be 96 pixels taller than a 27” iMac or Thunderbolt Display in landscape and 608 pixels taller in portrait,” he explains.

Therefore Smith believes “this will present problems for developers and designers of iPad apps unless Apple also releases a new display with either a higher resolution or a HiDPI mode.”

He stresses that, should Apple not release Retina-capable Macs for development, programmers “will no longer be able to view 1:1 mockups or run the simulator at full size without clipping part of the view.” His chart is pictured above (click to enlarge).

A plausible solution would be a 3840×2160 pixel display, Smith says. This would “over double the pixels, have plenty of room for a 2048×1526 app mockup image and be easier to pack into a MacBook sized screen.”

Smith believes that all signs are pointing to the fact that “Apple might begin offering Retina display equipped Macs soon […] in order to offer developers the ability to craft pixel-perfect apps for the iPad 3.”

First Official RUU Based on HTC Endeavor Leaks

Shortly after HTC Endeavor's specs sheet leaked online, along with the approximate release date, one of the test ROMs for the quad-core smartphone appeared in the wild as well.

The folks over at XDA Developers are “guilty” for this new leak, which has yet to be tested and ported to other HTC devices. 

Thanks to XDA forum user capychimp who got his hands on this test RUU for the HTC Endeavor and was willing to share it with the community, we will hopefully see more ROMs based on this leak.

According to capychimp this RUU also includes the latest HTC Sense 4.0, but details on other featurs of the leaked RUU are a bit scarce for the moment. 

Head over to the original thread on XDA Developers forums for more details on the latest leaked RUU based on the upcoming HTC Endeavor quad-core smartphone.

Jetway JNF9C-2600 Is a Low-Profile Intel Cedar Trail Motherboard

Intel’s Atom processors definitely aren’t as popular as just a few years back, but this hasn’t stopped Jetway from developing a new mini-ITX thin-profile motherboard based on the chip maker’s latest Atom Cedar Trail platform.

Jetway’s motherboard is called the JNF9C-2600 and just as its name implies this is based on an Intel Atom N2600 processor.

This chip was built by Intel in order to be used in netbooks and other mobile devices and sports dual computing cores clocked at 1.6GHz, with Hyper-Threading support and 1MB of shared L2 cache memory.

In Jetway’s creation, both this CPU and the NM10 chipset accompanying it are cooled by low-profile aluminum heatsinks. 

In order to save up space, Jetway decided to drop the regular DIMM memory and instead go with a smaller SO-DIMM memory socket.

This can be populated with up to 2GB of DDR3 memory, while the rest of the expansion options include two SATA 3Gbps ports and a mini PCI Express x1 slot.

This is placed to the right of the motherboard’s heatsink and can be used to install an 802.11 b/g/n module, in order to provide WiFi support to Jetway’s creation.

An additional mini PCIe slot is available on the opposite side of the board, which seems destined to be used for adding an mSATA solid state drive.

To the rear of the JNF9C-2600, Jetway installed all the usual I/O ports found in low-profile boards, also including an HDMI video output.

Furthermore, the motherboard comes equipped with three USB 2.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, a serial port, a speakers output, as well as with a 12V DC input jack that connects to an external power brick. 

The Jetway JNF9C-2600 has already reached retail, liliputing spotting it at Newegg where it’s priced at $160 US (about 121.5 EUR).

DROID XYBOARD 8.2 and DROID XYBOARD 10.1 Taste Software Updates

Motorola and Verizon Wireless are gearing up for the release of a new software update for the DROID XYBOARD 8.2 and DROID XYBOARD 10.1 tablet PCs on the carrier’s network. 

The new software will arrive as version 1.6.0M_279-MZ609 on the DROID XYBOARD 8.2 and will be pushed as version 1.6.0M_279-MZ617 on the larger DROID XYBOARD 10.1. 

The new software update is meant to bring along a nice range of enhancements on the two devices, including support for global GSM networks, a nice addition to their set of features, that’s for sure. 

Following the installation of this new software update, DROID XYBOARD owners will be able to enjoy data connectivity on their devices in 25 countries around the world.

At the same time, they will get a series of other improvements related to the way in which their devices handle WiFi and broadband connections (3G and 4G included). 

The full release notes for the new software update include:

Device Features

  • Enhanced browser performance to improve scrolling.
  • Improved Touch Response (“Improved Touch Response that includes Stylus enhancements” in the case of DROID XYBOARD 10.1)
  • Maintain data connection when switching between Wi-Fi and the Verizon 3G and 4G LTE networks.
  • Successfully connect to 4G LTE network and see the 4G LTE indicator.
  • The Daily application now comes preloaded.
  • Device is now capable of GSM Global Roaming:

    • Visit verizonwireless.com/global for more information and to find a Global Data feature that fits your travel needs.
    • By adding a Global Data feature, this software update enables you to use your tablet in more than 25 countries, such as Canada and Mexico (CDMA only).
    • Additional GSM Global roaming capabilities will be enabled by an automatic over-the-air update within two weeks of activation. You will be notified via email once this update has been sent.

Email & Messaging
Successfully open links in email messages without device needing to reboot.

Keyboard function supported in docking station.

You can learn more on the new software update for the two devices on the wireless carrier’s support pages for DROID XYBOARD 8.2 and DROID XYBOARD 10.1, respectively. Details instructions on how to perform the update can be found there as well.

Thermalright Releases Silver Arrow SB-E Cooler

Thermalright decided this was a good time for a new CPU cooler to grace the consumer market, so it has released the Silver Arrow SB-E.

This thing is one large beast with two fin towers and just as many fans.

It supports AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+ and FMI CPUs from AMD, as well as LGA 2011, 1366, 1156, 1155 and 775 chips from Intel.

That said, it comes with no less than eight nickel-plated copper heatpipes, whose thickness is of 6mm.

Furthermore, the two TY PWM fans measure 140 mm and 150 mm in diameter, as opposed to the original Silver Arrow model that has two 140 mm fans.

Unfortunately, no price tag was announced, but that didn't stop online vendors from putting the thing up for order at 78 Euro/ $103. Just know that shipments won't begin until the end of the month.

Siri's Rival Speaktoit Is Now Available on iOS

One of iPhone 4S' selling points should have been Siri, the intelligent software assistant, which allows users to do certain things, like text or call someone, as well as opening an application, by simply talking to the phone.

Unfortunately, the application was nowhere near completion, as many iPhone 4S complain that it does not recognizes all voice commands or interprets them wrong. Apple claims that one of the strong points of Siri is the ability to learn and adapt to the user's preferences.

The longer it used the more accurate it should be. It is also worth mentioning that based on user's preferences, Siri can make recommendations and preform various actions such as finding nearby restaurants or getting directions via GPS.

Shortly after iPhone 4S' launch numerous Android developers tried to bring Siri's capabilities to Google's platform. Some succeeded, while others were very close or simply failed.

One of the most successful port of Siri features on the Android platform is called "Speaktoit.” Even the developers just wanted to bring some of Siri's capabilities to Android enthusiasts and improve on it as much as possible, the result was astounding.

Officially launched in the Android Market last year in October, “Speaktoit” has had 1.4 million downloads and has a 4.5 out of 5.0 rating. And this hasn't stopped the team behind “Speaktoit” as they decided to bring the application to iOS platform.

However, while Siri is only available on iPhone 4S, “Speaktoit” is fully compatible with iPhone 3GS and 4 smartphones as well. 

According to users feedback, this application is much more accurate than Apple's Siri, which is probably the main reason the devs decided to launch an iOS version.

Aside from the fact that “Speaktoit” can do everything that Siri can, it has been improved with addition features that makes it much better. Firstly, it works on older iPhones, not just 4S, as we already mentioned above.

Secondly, the application allows users to customize their avatar. Furthermore, “Speaktoit” is fully capable of searching maps outside the united States and can update Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare accounts.

Last but not least, the application frequently receives updates which usually bring new functions, while Siri hasn’t updated since launching. 

“Speaktoit” for iOS is now available for download via App Store for $1.99 (1.59 EUR) and is fully compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad that run iOS 4.0 or later. It is also worth mentioning that the developers will offer the application for free to the first 100,000 on Valentine's Day.

All MacBook Pros Getting Air-Like Design in 2012 - Report

A report citing people familiar with Apple’s roadmap is reiterating an old rumor saying the company will revamp its entire MacBook Pro line, both inside and out, giving the laptops a design akin to that of the popular MacBook Air.

The news is exactly breaking, since there has been a lot of talk about the Air-like design in the past.

People who are close to the Cupertino-based Mac maker are now telling AppleInsider that “Apple plans to exit 2012 having completed a top-to-bottom revamp of its notebooks lineup that will see new MacBook Pros adopt the same design traits that have made its MacBook Airs an increasingly popular choice among mobile consumers.”

As for the existing lineup, it will be entirely phased out over the course of this year, the same people said.

The MacBook Air has proved to be quite popular among consumers, not only because of its diminutive form factor, but also for its overall attractiveness. Even objectively speaking the Air is arguably one of the most beautiful laptops ever created.

The original MacBook Air was a 13.3-inch model. It was marketed as the World's Thinnest Notebook when Steve Jobs himself introduced it at the Macworld Conference & Expo on January 15, 2008.

In late 2008, Apple updated the Air’s CPU to a faster one and added integrated Nvidia GeForce graphics. The hard drive capacity was also increased and the micro-DVI video port was replaced by the Mini DisplayPort.

In mid-2009, the Air got another refresh consisting of a slightly higher-capacity battery, and a faster Penryn CPU.

On October 20, 2010, Apple issued a complete redesign of the laptop, with a more attractive, edgy appearance.

In addition to the improved enclosure, screen resolution, battery, and flash storage replacing the traditional hard drive, the Air gained a split personality through the introduction of a new 11-inch model.

The 11-incher became an instant hit as it offered better performance than typical netbooks of the time.

The last MacBook Air update was on July 20, 2011, when Apple released an enhanced version with the same deign.

It’s currently the model on sale on Apple’s web site with new dual-core Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, a backlit keyboard, a Thunderbolt port instead of Mini DisplayPort and Bluetooth 4.0.

The MacBook Air starts at $999 and is now being offered to education facilities at a discount.

PowerColor Radeon HD 7970 Packs Custom Dual-Fan Cooler

More than a month after AMD’s Radeon HD 7970 reached retail, add-in board makers still come out with new solutions based on this graphics card design, the latest to do so being PowerColor which just launched the HD7970 Dual Fan. 

The card is based on a proprietary PowerColor design and includes two large fans (presumably 92mm), backed by some pretty thick copper heatpipes, for dissipating the heat produced by the card while running.

Despite the improved cooling system, PowerColor chose not to overclock the card past AMD’s reference frequencies thus the HD 7970 Tahiti XT GPU is run at 925MHz, while the video buffer is clocked at the usual 1,375MHz (5.5GHz).

The video output configuration was also left unaltered, so this latest PowerColor creation packs a DVI port, an HDMI output as well as two miniDP connectors. 

AMD’s Radeon HD 7970 is based on the Tahiti XT core, which includes 32 Compute Units for a total of 2048 stream processors that are joined by 128 texture units, 32 ROP units and a 384-bit wide memory bus.

This is linked to 3GB of GDDR5 video buffer memory and the GPU is manufactured using the 28nm fabrication process which enables the Radeon HD 7970 to be one of the coolest and most energy efficient high-end graphics card around.

Performance wise, tests have shown that the stock HD 7970 is on average 15-25% faster than Nvidia's GTX 580, this difference growing at high resolutions. Through overclocking however the gap between these two solutions can become even larger.

PowerColor hasn’t released any details regarding the pricing or availability of the HD7970 Dual Fan.

However, given its custom cooler, we expect this graphics card to surpass AMD’s recommended $449 US (roughly 340 EUR) price tag.

Motorola DROID 4 Has 16GB Memory, Shows only 8GB

Motorola DROID 4, the latest addition to Verizon’s popular DROID lineup, comes to the market with 16GB of internal memory, yet users won’t see in it more than 8GB. 

The handset went for sale at Verizon yesterday, featuring a price tag of $199 on contract (though some retailers have it available for much less than that), and users have already started complaining regarding the promised internal memory and the actual available storage. 

Apparently, there’s a simple explanation for this state of facts. Motorola did put 16GB of storage space inside Motorola DROID 4, but split it in three, the same as inside the DROID RAZR.

Thus, 8GB of this storage space is available for the user, 3GB is meant for applications, and the other 5GB for the OS and for the upgrades that are planned for it.

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