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Mar 8, 2012

Samsung Confirms Android 4.0 ICS for GALAXY S II for March 10

Rumors on the long-awaited Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update for Samsung Galaxy S II have come and gone, but the Korean handset maker did not confirm any release dates.

It was originally believed that Samsung will deploy an Ice Cream Sandwich update for the Galaxy Note on March 1, followed by an update for the Galaxy S II within the next few days.

It appears that the information wasn't that accurate, as Galaxy Note is still stuck on Android 2.3 Gingerbread. However, Samsung Galaxy S II has just been confirmed for an ICS update on March 10.

According to Samsung Philippines, Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 upgrade for Galaxy S II will be available on March 10. 

The update can be downloaded via Kies 2.0, but users are recommended to download and install the latest version of Samsung's desktop sync software.

Keep in mind that Samsung Kies 1.5 does not supports upgrading to Ice Cream Sandwich. There's a chance that the update will be delivered FOTA in some regions, but that will require users to connect to a high-speed, reliable Wi-Fi network.

Although the information comes through official channels, it's unusual that the announcement was published solely by Samsung Philippines. 

In fact, they already pulled it from their site, but the folks over at Engadget managed to get a screenshot which confirms the intel.

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich will bring Samsung Galaxy S II several new features, including Face Unlock and Android Beam. In addition, the Mobile Network Data usage function has been added as well.

Curiously, the update's changelog states that “because of ICS OS feature, Adobe flash and Bluetooth 3.0 HS” will not be supported (Bluetooth 3.0 will work).

The update requires at least 60MB through Kies, and 250MB if the update is made FOTA. This Ice Cream Sandwich update will only be available for Samsung GT-I9100, which means that carrier-bounded models will receive the update in the following weeks.

UPDATE: It appears that Samsung has come forward with an official statement, which denies the above info. The company says that Samsung Philippines made a mistake by posting the March 10 release date for Android 4.0 ICS for Galaxy S II.

Moreover, Samsung confirmed  that more details on the upcoming ICS update will be available through its Twitter account. Stay tuned for more updates on the matter.

CeBIT 2012: Caterpillar Showcases CAT B10 Indestructible Android Phone

Caterpillar, yes you got that right, has just announced the upcoming availability of its rugged Android phone called CAT B10. The smartphone will be released on the market at the end of May.

Potential customers who want to purchase the device would have to shell out no less than 380 EUR (about 500 USD). The folks at The Verge had the chance to play with the phone at the CEBIT 2012 exhibition, in Hannover, Germany.

According to them, CAT B10 runs Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread operating system and sports a 3.2 capacitive touchscreen display that features Asahi coating, which protects it against scratches and scrapes.

It has all sorts of rugged certifications and is powered by an 800 Mhz single core processor. It also sports a 5-megapixel rear photo snapper and a VGA front-facing camera. 

The good news is that it will receive an Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade by the end of the year. For more pictures check out The Verge's gallery.

Toshiba’s Tegra 3 Powered 13.3-Inch Tablet Pictured

With the AT200 now successfully launched, Toshiba is looking to expand its tablet range with several new devices this year, including a 13.3-inch slate that will be powered by Nvidia’s quad-core Tegra 3 chipset.

The 13.3-inch monster was showcased by the company during a press conference held recently in the UK.

Despite its impressive screen size, Pocket Lint reports that the tablet seemed extremely light when held in hand without being as cumbersome as one might expect.

Along the sides of the tablet, Toshiba placed the usual USB and HDMI ports, as well as an SD card slot. Rear and front cameras were also present.

The 13.3-inch Toshiba tablet presented during the event was just an early concept, but a company spokesperson told Pocket Lint that if the consumer reaction was good, the slate could go into production.

"We’re just gauging customer feedback at the moment. We can’t comment on whether we’ll actually launch this size of product, but it’s an idea of what we’re currently considering," said Paul Hicks, Toshiba’s product manager for the company’s tablet business.

In addition to the 13.3-inch Tegra 3 powered tablet concept, Toshiba also showcased during the event a 7.7-inch slate prototype that was running the same Nvidia quad-core processors.

However, the Japanese company doesn’t plan to stop here and is looking beyond these two models, even considering multiple operating systems for its future products.

"We are looking at variable sizes of tablets and various operating systems," said Hicks.

"It’s a very interesting market for Toshiba. We will be launching further models throughout 2012, and it’s a market that we’re very much investing in.

"The tablet concepts that we’re showing here today just show what we’re potentially looking at launching in the future, or products that we’re considering and gauging feedback from customers."

CeBIT 2012: Budget Friendly ECS Z77H2-A3 Ivy Bridge Motherboard Detailed

Together with the company’s Black Series of high-end Intel Z77 motherboards we detailed previously, ECS will also introduce a more budget friendly LGA 1155 solution based on the same chipset, dubbed the Z77H2-A3.

Compared to its more powerful siblings, the Z77H2-A3 is designed for single-GPU systems, which means that it comes featuring a single PCI Express x16 add-on slot.

This is however PCI Express Gen 3.0 compliant, so when the ECS motherboard is paired with an Intel Ivy Bridge processor, it will provide a full 16GB/s of bandwidth to the graphics card installed.

Other add-on cards can be installed in the four PCI Express x1 slots available in the Z77H2-A3 or in the two 32-bit legacy PCI slots provided.

As far as storage is concerned, the Z77H2-A3 features a total of six SATA ports, all of these driven by the Intel Z77 chipset, two of which are working at 6Gbps speeds.

Moving to the back of the board, we get to see the usual assortment of ports and connectors, which includes Gigabit Ethernet, 7.1-channel audio, as well as the mandatory D-Sub, DVI and HDMI video outputs.

Two SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports are also provided, along with a slew of regular USB 2.0 connectors.

A motherboard on-board header provides two additional USB 3.0 ports to the Z77H2-A3, which can be easily routed to the front of the case.

According to TechPowerUp, power to the CPU is provided via a simple 6-phase VRM, which, all things considered, should be enough for most Ivy Bridge processors.

No information regarding the launch date of the Z77H2-A3 has been provided by ECS, but the motherboard seems to be targeting the sub-$150 (113 EUR) market.

CeBIT 2012: AMD Socket FM2 Motherboards with A85 FCH to Arrive in June

Together with the launch of its next-gen Trinity APUs, AMD also plans to release a new chipset for these processors called the A85 FCH (Fusion Controller Hub), which support the company’s new FM2 socket.

The first motherboards based on this chipset will arrive in June 2012, according to the ComputerBase website, which has received this information from industry sources present at the CeBIT fair.

Little is known about the A85 FCH as far as its specifications are concerned, but USB-IF revealed late last year that native USB 3.0 support was to be expected.

Starting with the summer of 2012, consumers will be able to pair motherboards powered by the AMD A85 Fusion Controller Hub with A10- or A8-Series desktop APUs.

The most advanced of these APUs will be launched in the A10-Series, which previous reports suggest includes the A10-5800K and the A10-5700 processors.

Both of these chips pack four processing cores, 4MB of Level 2 cache memory, support for AMD’s Turbo Core technology and DDR3-1866 memory, as well as an on-board Radeon HD 7660D GPU with 384 shaders.

In the case of the A10-5800K the operating speed of the CPU is set at 3.8GHz (4.2GHz max Turbo), while its smaller brother has a base clock of 3.4GHz and 4GHz maximum Turbo.

In the A8-Series, AMD will release the A8-5600K and A8-5500 APUs, both of these chips featuring pretty much the same specs as the A8-Series Trinity processors, but coming with the slower HD 7560D GPU which packs 256 Radeon cores.

The base clock speed of the A8-5500 is set at 3.2GHz (3.7GHz max Turbo), while the A8-6500K works at 3.6GHz with a 3.9GHz maximum Turbo speed.

More details regarding the specifications of the AMD A85 chipset are expected to arrive in the next couple of months, as we get nearer to Trinity’s launch.

Nokia Lumia 610 Spotted at FCC, Possibly Headed to AT&T

The cheapest Lumia series smartphone is about to make its debut in the United States. Nokia Lumia 610 has yet to be confirmed in North America by the Finnish company.

However, it looks like the Windows Phone device has just been spotted at the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) by the folks over at Engadget

There’s no telling if the phone will be available in the United States through official channels, but the FCC documents indicate that the smartphone received approval for GSM 850 / 1900 radios, which makes it compatible with AT&T’s network.

Even if the Lumia 610 won’t be launched through any US-based carriers, there’s a chance that owners will be able to use it with AT&T.

Nokia officially confirmed that Lumia 610 would be available in Q2 2012 for a suggested retail price 250 US dollars (189 Euro) outright. The phone might be offered for free on select plans via different carriers in the United States.

Given the fact that this is the most affordable Windows Phone device launched by Nokia, customers should not expect any impressive technical specs, on the contrary.

The Lumia 610 is equipped with an 800 MHz single-core processor and packs 8GB of internal memory and only 256 MB of RAM. Obviously, there’s no microSD card slot for memory expansion.

Furthermore, the smartphone sports a decent 3.7-inch capacitive touchscreen display (480 x 800 pixels) that features Corning Gorilla Glass coating. There’s also a 5-megapixel rear camera with autofocus, LED flash and HD (720p) video recording. 

Currently, Nokia is already selling the Lumia 710 in the United States through T-Mobile. In addition, the company is close to releasing the Lumia 900 via AT&T. That would make the Lumia 610 the third Nokia smartphone to be released in the United States through various major carriers.

Add Start Button to Windows 8

As Windows 8 no longer features the iconic “Start” button it fell into the hands of third-party developers to come up with a substitute.

Stardock seems to be the first company to tackle the problem as they released Start8, an application specially designed to bring back the Start orb from Windows Vista and 7. However, its functionality is not the same, as it does not provide the menu you’re accustomed to in previous versions of Windows.

That is not to deny its benefits altogether because Start8 enables quick access to installed programs and search function. Additionally, it can help you turn off the computer in fewer clicks by making the Shutdown option available in the context menu of the button.

The program is free of charge and it is in beta stage of development at the moment, so some quirks may still be present.

Official: HTC Sensation XE Receiving Android 4.0 Update Now

HTC has just started to deploy the Ice Cream Sandwich update for the Sensation XE devices. So far, it appears that the update is only pushed OTA (over the air) in Nordic countries, and probably in Germany as well.

Those who live in one of the Nordic countries or Germany will receive an update notification soon, but they can also check for it manually. The update is close to 300MB in size and requires a stable Wi-Fi connection.

Keep in mind that this Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich update will also upgrade the smartphone’s HTC Sense UI to version 3.6.

The folks over at XDA Developers have also uploaded the file, so those who have yet to receive the file OTA can download and install it manually. For more details on where to download Android 4.0.3 head over to the original thread.

The New iPad Will Not Support European LTE Networks

The new iPad recently announced by Apple seems to be mostly targeting the North American market. Although the slate is advertised as a 4G LTE device, the feature is only available in some regions.

Obviously, this is not entirely Apple’s fault, as both international and AT&T variants have been confirmed to support 700MHz and 2100MHz LTE bands, which are fully compatible with the US-based carrier’s network.

According to Slashgear, even though LTE network is almost inexistent in Europe, as soon as the new technology is deployed, it will only support devices that work on 800MHz, 1800MHz and 2600MHz bands.

This basically makes the new iPad useless in Europe when it comes to 4G LTE data speeds. European customers who decide to purchase this model and plan to use it in their region will be limited to DC-HSDPA data speeds.

CeBIT 2012: ASRock Intros the First AMD Board Supporting Lucid Virtu MVP Technology

ASRock gives us a break from all the Intel Z77 powered motherboard present at this year’s CeBIT 2012 fair with the introduction of the A75 Pro4/MVP, the first AMD Llano board out there to support the Lucid Virtu Universal MVP technology.

The LucidLogix technology embedded in ASRock’s motherboard was specially designed to allow for on-die GPUs to be used together with discrete graphics cards.

Unlike AMD’s Hybrid graphics implementation found in the A-Series chipsets, the Lucid Virtu Universal MVP technology has the benefit of being vendor agnostic. 

This means that it allows users to install discrete graphics cards built by either Nvidia or AMD and use them together with their on-board Radeon GPU in order to improve the overall performance of the system.

According to ASRock’s internal tests, when pairing the Radeon HD 6550D GPU found in the A8-3870 APU with a discrete Nvidia GTX 560 graphics card, this technology provides a 41.12% performance boost in 3DMark 11 (Extreme mode) benchmark.

Besides the inclusion of the Lucid Virtu Universal MVP technology and the new all-black paint scheme, the A75 Pro4/MVP seems to resemble the company’s previous A75 Pro4 motherboard to a great extent.

For those of you in need of a quick reminder, ASRock’s FM1 solution features dual PCI Express x16 slots (the second one is x4 electronically), five SATA 6Gbps ports and 7.1-channel audio with THX TruStudio certification. 

The sixth SATA port available in the AMD A75 FCH is routed to the back of the board as an eSATA connector where is joined by four USB 3.0 ports, as well as by various video outputs including DVI-D and HDMI.

 ASRock hasn’t provided any details regarding the availability of the A75 Pro4/MVP, but we expect the motherboard to arrive in the coming weeks. Pricing hasn't been disclosed either.

CeBIT 2012: Gigabyte Displays Its First LGA 2011 Workstation Board

Better known in the industry for its consumer products than professional motherboards, at this year’s CeBIT fair Gigabyte has presented the company’s first LGA 2011 solution designed specifically for workstation use, the GA-X79S-UD5.

Despite its model name, the motherboard isn’t actually built around Intel’s consumer X79 PCH, but is rather based on the chip maker’s C606 controller.

While at the silicon level these chipsets are basically identical, the C606 does provide users with some extra features that weren’t enabled in the consumer version of the PCH.

The most important of these is the SAS support, which provides Gigabyte’s motherboard with six SAS 6Gbps connectors to complement the usual two SATA 6Gbps and four SATA 3Gbps ports found in the X79.

Furthermore, the SAS controller embedded in the C606 silicon also adds RAID support and includes a hardware XOR processing engine.

The rest of the motherboard expansion options include five PCI Express x16 slots, two of these working at full x16 speed according to VR-Zone, a single 32-bit legacy PCI port as well as eight DIMM sockets.

Three more eSATA ports are available on the rear I/O bracket, where they are accompanied by four USB 3.0 and four USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port, a Gigabit Ethernet jack, and 7.1-channel audio with S/PDIF out.

A BIOS chip switch and an OC button are also strangely present, although we don’t know if the latter has any effect when Gigabyte’s motherboard is paired with Xeon E5 CPUs. 

The X79S-UD5 will also ship with Gigabyte's 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 combo card, while an on-board header can provide users with two additional USB 3.0 ports.

Gigabyte hasn’t revealed any information regarding the release date or the pricing of the X79S-UD5, but Intel C606-based boards are expected to carry a significant price premium over their consumer-oriented X79 counterparts.

Apple Confirms Chip Rumors - A5X Powers the New iPad

A rumor that few granted as much credit as they should have, talk of the A5X chip was confirmed during Apple’s special event yesterday at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, in San Francisco, California.

The silicon is not exactly the minor incremental bump we were led to believe. According to Phil Schiller, the chip has quad-core graphics, which allows it to output some amazing visuals on the 3.1 million pixels boasted by the new iPad’s display.

The tech-specs page for the new iPad describes the chip as follows: “Dual-core Apple A5X custom-designed, high-performance, low-power system-on-a-chip with quad-core graphics.”

The news actually corroborates another rumor as well - that the iPhone 5 is expected to be the first device to pack the next-generation A6 chip which, in all senses, should be quad-core.

Asus Dual-Socket Z9PE-D8-WS LGA 2011 Motherboard Now Official

Shortly after the introduction of Intel’s LGA 2011 Xeon E5 processor family, Asus has made the company’s Z9PE-D8 WS motherboard for dual-socket Sandy Bridge-EP high-end workstations official .

As some of you may remember, the board was unveiled in January of this year, during the CES 2012 fair, and comes as a direct competitor for the EVGA Classified SR-X introduced just yesterday.

Just like its EVGA-built counterpart, the Z9PE-D8-WS features dual LGA 2011 sockets which, in this case, are paired together with four DIMM slots each, in order to enable the motherboard to hold up to 256GB of RAM.

Seven PCI Express x16 slots are also available, driven by the 80 PCIe lanes available in the Xeon E5-series processors.

Of course, such a high-end setup forced Asus to go with a larger form factor than usual, so the company utilized the SSI CEB standard (30.5x33cm), which is usually reserved for servers.

On the storage side, Asus has placed 10 SATA ports, six of which appear to be 6Gbps capable, while two additional USB 3.0 ports placed in the back of the motherboard round up the Z9PE-D8 WS’ expansion capabilities.

Dual Ethernet ports are also present, but only one of these is actually a Gigabit network jack, as the other is linked to an ASPEED AST2300 2D VGA controller that also brings remote management capabilities to the Asus board.

At CES 2012, Asus’ booth featured the Z9PE-D8 WS running dual Xeon E5 CPUs and four Nvidia graphics cards linked in SLI, a configuration that will definitely capture the interest of many companies wanting to build high-performance rendering workstations on the cheap. 

Asus hasn’t revealed any info regarding the pricing of its motherboard, but NCIX has the Z9PE-D8 WS in stock listed at $592 US (about 450 EUR).

Intel Xeon E5 CPUs Get Five New LGA 2011 Motherboards from Tyan

Tyan, a company well known for its server platforms, has just unveiled five new LGA 2011 dual-socket motherboard models for the recently announced Xeon E5 processors based on Intel’s Sandy Bridge-EP architecture.

The motherboards were designed to fulfill various roles in the enterprise, ranging from small business computing to mission-critical virtualization or datacenter applications.

All of these boards feature dual LGA 2011 sockets, but the rest of their specifications vary depending on the type of application they are meant for.

This means that motherboards built for virtualization or for being used in rack servers, such as the S7050, support an impressive 16 DDR3 memory slots (8 for each CPU). The S7055, which are optimized for datacenter or HPC applications, pack just 8 DDR3 sockets, but offer up to 4 PCI Express x16 Gen 3 slots.

Users who require even larger memory footprints, have the option of going for the Tyan S7052 motherboard, which includes no less than 24 DDR3 memory slots (12 for each CPU).

All of Tyan’s Intel Xeon E5 motherboards include Gigabit Ethernet connectivity, while the S7055 and S7056 also offer 10G GbE networking. 

“Our goal is to be a reliable partner by offering broad, up-to-date, and flexible solutions that assist customers to build IT infrastructure in an effective, efficient, and easy way,” said Albert Mu, Vice President of MiTAC International Corporation’s Tyan Business Unit. 

“By adopting Intel’s latest technology, Tyan’s customers have a broad range of options that allow them to deploy a flexible and intelligent IT environment. 

“Customers are assured that Tyan’s wide product portfolio offers scalability, flexibility, high performance and outstanding energy efficiency,” concluded the company’s rep.

The Tyan S7050, S7052, S7053, S7055, S7056 motherboards will begin shipping in the first half of 2012, but no info regarding their prices has been provided.

CeBIT 2012: Nvidia GTX 680 Kepler GPU Packs Dynamic Overclocking, Arrives This Month

By the end of this month, Nvidia plans to update its product portfolio with the company’s first 28nm graphics card based on the Kepler architecture, the GeForce GTX 680, which sources seem to imply will feature a new dynamic overclocking technology.

German website Heise.de learned about this new feature from several Nvidia add-in board partners, who were present at this year’s CeBIT fair.

The technology, which is called “Dynamic Clock Adjustment,” works in a similar manner with Intel’s Turbo Boost tech introduced by the chip makers with the Nehalem processor architecture.

Just like Intel’s CPUs, Nvidia’s GK104 graphics core constantly monitors the power consumption of the card and compares it against its factory TDP limit.

If this technology detects that the graphics card works bellow its maximum TDP in a certain 3D application, it automatically overclocks the GPU clock in order to boost its performance. 

Typically, Dynamic Clock Adjustment can increase the graphics core frequency with between 5 and 7 percent.

According to the same sources, the first GeForce GTX 680 graphics cards will make their appearance in late March.

Initially, graphics card makers expect Nvidia to ship only limited quantities of GK104 chips which means that widespread availability isn’t expected before Q2 2012.

As far as the specs of the GK104 Kepler GPU are concerned, Nvidia’s AIB partners can only confirm that the card will feature a 256-bit memory bus connected to 2GB of GDDR5 video buffer memory, but later versions will also be available with 4GB of VRAM.

Pricing is also unknown, but the card is said to be about 10% faster than the Radeon HD 7970 in Battlefield 3, while in 3DMark 11 it falls behind AMD’s creation.

Roughly one month after the release of the GTX 680, Nvidia plans to introduce the mid-range GK107 graphics core, while during the May 14-17 GPU Technology Conference, the company will unveil a dual-GPU GK104 video card.

The GK110, Nvidia’s most powerful graphics core in the Kepler family, isn’t expected to arrive earlier than Q3 2012, and will first make its debut in the Tesla product line of general purpose GPUs.

Duqu Framework Coded in Unknown Programming Language

F Sharp, Iron Python, CPLEX LIB, High-Level Assembly, LISP, Erlang are just a few of the names of programming languages in which Duqu’s framework could be written. It’s uncertain yet which one it is, but one thing is clear, the malware’s framework looks different from anything else previously analyzed by Kaspersky experts.

The researchers determined that Duqu’s Payload library (DLL) looks like a common Windows PE DLL compiled in Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2008. 

“The entry point code is absolutely standard, and there is one function exported by ordinal number 1 that also looks like MSVC++,” Kaspersky Lab Expert Igor Soumenkov said. 

“This function is called from the PNF DLL and it is actually the 'main' function that implements all the logics of contacting C&C servers, receiving additional payload modules and executing them.”

However, the way this logic was programmed and the tools that were utilized are mindboggling. The only certain thing is that it's an object-oriented programming language.

Most of the code sections that compose the Payload DLL seem to have been compiled in C++, but the command and control (C&C) interaction code, which represents the largest part, is different.

In the code of the Duqu Framework, as experts call it, everything is wrapped into objects and there is no distinction between code written by the programmer and the utility classes. Also, native Windows APi is used instead of references to run-time library functions.

The objects, each an instance of one of the 60 classes, are constructed using the “constructor” functions and destroyed using “destructor” functions, but the layout of each object depends on its class.

“Some classes appear to have binary compatible function tables but there is no indication that they have any common parent classes (like in other OO languages). Furthermore, the location of the function table is not fixed: some classes have it at offset 0 of the instance, but some does not,” Soumenkov explained.

When compared with the framework of its predecessor, Stuxnet, Duqu is different and Kaspersky even hints that a separate team may be responsible for creating this part of the project.

Those who want to take a better look at the code and maybe even help Kaspersky identify the programming language the Duqu Framework was written in can visit Securelist.

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