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Jun 13, 2012

Dell Budget Vostro Laptops Get Ivy Bridge

The Ivy Bridge adoption trend continues as Dell has upgraded even its cheapest mobile personal computers. And by that we mean the Vostro series of notebooks.

Vostro is a brand that Dell utilizes for both desktop and laptops. It identifies the systems that Dell sells to the common man. Sure, the media may go crazy about stuff like the Alienware, but it's affordable products that ultimately steal the hearts of most customers. The Vostro laptops aren't really all that incredible in terms of looks, thinness and weight, but they will get the job done and will do it for a decent sum of money. As such, people who look for a notebook that won't destroy their finances might want to take a look at them. The sizes available to choose from are 13 inches (Vostro 3360), 14 inches (Vostro 3460) and 15 inches (Vostro 3560). Speaking of which, the LCDs (liquid crystal displays) have LED backlighting and a native resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels (720p), with one exception: the Vostro 3560 can get a Full HD panel instead (1,920 x 1,080 pixels / 1080p).

Also, the Ivy Bridge CPUs don't necessarily have to be installed. Second-generation, Sandy Bridge CPUs can be put in instead. Other specs include up to 8 GB of RAM, a hard disk drive of 320 GB or 500 GB, all the standard connectivity and I/O (Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi, audio, USB 3.0, etc.) and optional 4G LTE broadband. Finally, the AMD Radeon HD 7670M 1 GB discrete graphics card can be tossed into the mix if that HD 4000 from Intel isn't good enough.

Check with your local retailer or Dell's website for orders. The prices can be of $599 to $1,000. That's 400 to 800 Euro, according to exchange rates, but it's more likely that European providers will want 599-1000 Euro instead (prices rarely reflect exchange rates).

Google Wants Over 100 Top Level Domains Including .love and .lol

ICANN has finally revealed the full list of new generic top level domain applications. Over 500 companies are trying to get a new TLD, but one of the most interested is Google.

The company applied for more than 100 domains. There are some obvious choices in there, .google. .goo, .youtube, .docs but also a couple of oddball ones like .lol or .love. Google should have no trouble getting plenty if not most of the domains it's looking for, but it's going to fight for several of them. .app is coveted by 13 companies and organizations, including Amazon though, surprisingly, not Apple. Only five other companies are fighting Google over the .baby domain, but eight other want .blog. .book is equally coveted, besides Google, Amazon and seven other groups are interested in it. 

Interestingly, Google didn't apply for the domains in its own name. It makes sense perhaps since it wants so many of them, so the company created the Charleston Road Registry to apply for all of them. That said, given that the applications are all linked to an @google.com email address, the fact that Google is behind them isn't much of a secret.

Here's the full list of domains Google is hoping to get: ads, and, android, app, are, baby, baby, blog, boo, book, buy, cal, car, channel, chrome, cloud, corp, cpa, dad, day, dclk, dds, dev, di, docs, dog, dot, drive, earth, eat, esq, est, family, film, fly, foo, free, fun, fyi, game, gbiz, gle, gmail, gmbh, goo, goog, google, guge, hangout, here, home, how, inc,ing, kid, live, llc, llp, lol, love, mail, gmail, map, mba, med, meme, mom, moto, mov, movie, music, new, nexus, page, pet, phd, play, plus, prod, prof, rsvp, search, shop, show, site, soy, spot, srl, store, talk, team, tech, tour, tube, vip, web, wow, you, youtube, zip, みんな, グーグル, 谷歌.

Fujitsu Launches NVIDIA-Based Primergy CX400 Server

Fujitsu's Series of Primergy servers has been updated. A new machine is now part of it, dubbed Primergy CX400 and equipped with both Intel Xeon processors and NVIDIA Tesla GPU compute accelerators.

There are two ways in which the CX400 can be configured. One: with four 1U hot-plug PRIMERGY CX250 S1 server nodes (two CPUs per node). Two: with two 2U hot-plug CX270 S1 server nodes with two CPUs and one NVIDIA Tesla GPU per node. As in all other servers with graphics processor accelerators, the GPUs are used for parallel computing, unloading the strain form the CPU cores and allowing the latter to handle other tasks.

Improved power efficiency is just a side-benefit of the deal, but a highly relevant one. Fujitsu should already be shipping PRIMERGY CX400 S1 Multi-Node systems through its channel partners. Go here for more info and here for orders.

ADATA Releases Ultra High Speed I SDHC/SDXC Memory Cards

The market for memory cards isn't getting any smaller, not by too large a margin anyhow, so ADATA has made a bunch of Secure Digital High Capacity and Secure Digital Extended Capacity models.

For those who don't know or remember, Secure Digital High Capacity is what SDHC stands for, while Secure Digital Extended Capacity is usually written as SDXC. SDHC is the most common memory card format used in digital cameras, while SDXC is the highest-capacity one. ADATA dubbed its newest creation Premier Pro SDHC and SDXC. All of them comply with the UHS-I specification, which is short for Ultra High Speed I. “The faster transfer speeds of these Premier Pro cards will optimize performance for photography professionals, especially in continuous burst mode shooting and high dynamic range (HDR) imaging capture,” said Ray Chu, product manager at ADATA.

“Furthermore, they are designed and engineered to ensure reliability and durability of captured images in a variety of digital formats.” The cards have capacities of 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB, while the transfer speeds can go as high as 95 MB/s when reading and 45 MB/s when writing. Moreover, they are designed in such a way that they are protected against X-ray radiation and extreme temperatures. Furthermore, the error correcting code (ECC) ensures data integrity, while the write-switch protection prevents accidental data overwrite.

For those who don't know, write-switch protection means just that: the cards have a switch built into them, one that users can flip with their thumb. We don't have the prices, since ADATA's press release did not include them. The announcement only said that multiple distributors and resellers would offer the cards at some point in the future. At least the product page exists. Those who feel they might be interested in one of these things can and take a look at all the relevant facts here.

13 Companies Want .app Domain - Top Most Coveted New TLDs

The top level domain gold rush is in full swing. ICANN has revealed the full list of applications for new TLDs. Over 500 companies and organizations are fighting for the chance to get their hands on one or, in the case of Google, 100 new domains.

Anyone, provided it could pay the upfront and non-returnable fee, could have applied for any domain out there at this stage and plenty of companies did. In fact, some top-level domains have proved quite coveted.  .app is wanted by 13 companies including Amazon and Google, though not Apple. In fact, Apple only wants .apple.

.home is the second most wanted TLD tied with .inc, each with 11 applications. .art is surprisingly desired, 10 different organizations would want to get their hands on it. From there, a number of generic terms have proven the most alluring, .blog, .book, .shop, .music, .love, .web and so on.

Bodhi Linux For Raspberry Pi Available for Testing

A few days ago, we've reported about the release of a new Debian testing version for the Raspberry mini-pc, but now a version of Bodhi Linux is also available for the rapacious platorm.

According to the developer, Jeff Hoogland, users will get access to a fully functional Enlightenment desktop on top of a Debian Wheezy ARMEL base. The default login information for the release images that are made available to public is:

User: bodhi
Password: bodhi

Raspberry Pi relies on an ARM processor with a clock speed of 700 MHz, 256 MB of RAM, an SD card slot and a 5V Micro USB connector that supplies the power. It also features RCA and HDMI ports. More details about the distribution can be found in the official announcement. Remember that this is a testing release and it's not ready for production.

The “Fully Assembled iPhone 5 Leak” Was a Fake – 3D Renderings

3D design expert Martin uit Utrecht used his talent to trick tech publications around the world that the iPhone 5 had finally been leaked, fully assembled, complete with iOS 6 loaded on it.

It had occurred to us that an AT&T logo had no place in a Chinese leak, but we went along and did the reporting, since it’s in our job description (and in our blood). Yet we couldn’t let our readers go on faith, so we told them to ingest those images with a fairly-sized grain of salt. We specifically noted that this was a “potential” leak. And we were right to do so, because the photos we thought depicted a fully assembled iPhone 5 were actually highly-elaborated computer-generated renderings based on the various leaked photos and videos these past few weeks. Utrecht modeled his “leak” in Rhinoceros 3D. “I even managed to fool Gizmodo!” he wrote on his Flickr photostream. “You would think Gizmodo of all blogs would be able to tell a leaked prototype from a leaked rendering! After I pointed it out to Gizmodo the post disappeared faster than Steve Jobs could say 'one more thing.’”

The leak was particularly convincing because of the clever lighting techniques used by Utrecht during rendition. Light seemed to naturally bounce off the (fake) device’s shiny Gorilla glass display, as well as off the back stripes that have a sleek finish. Had we not been so mesmerized by the quality of the images, the matte back plate could have acted as a giveaway, since it seemed a lot darker than what we’d seen in the actual hardware leaks. We might as well congratulate Utrecht for his elaborated scam, but we’d appreciate it if he directed his talent towards more useful activities in the future. You got us, Martin.

AMD Outs First FirePro Card with Graphics Core Next Support

There has been a lot of news coverage for the Radeon graphics card line from Advanced Micro Devices, but the FirePro series wants some attention too, so AMD arranged for some.

The company has launched a new product, one described as the first AMD professional graphics adapter that utilizes the Graphics Core Next architecture and 28nm production technology. It is the sort of item that will let system integrators and display installation builders upgrade their display output solutions. Buying new displays is easy enough, but not all graphics cards can connect to more of them at once. Likewise, video boards may not necessarily be able to cope with high-resolution panels. AMD's FirePro W600 has no problem with LED-backlit LCDs, nor with plasma panels or any other technologies that can spawn large, high-resolution screens.

In fact, it can drive up to six of them at once, via mini DislayPort connectors. The number jumps to 12 when two W600 are set up in CrossFire. 2 GB of GDDR5 VRAM are present, along with the AMD Unified Video Decoder (UVD), for two HD video streams. What's more, the company implemented projection overlap capability (for creating one, seamless image), AMD PowerTune (optimizes power draw, dynamically) and ZeroCore power (cuts power usage during idle periods). That said, buyers will get to set up video feeds at 4096 x 2304 pixels resolution, at 30 bits per pixel and 60Hz refresh rate.

Strangely, AMD did not give all the specifications of the product in its press release, but we were able to find out, after some web snooping, that FirePro W600 is a variation of the Radeon HD 7750, powered by Cape Verde. The stream processor count is probably at 512, while the power consumption is of 75W (no PCI Express connectors are needed). The price is $599 / 477 Euro. No clue on the frequencies, though.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted Reboot Gets PC System Requirements

Even if the new Need for Speed: Most Wanted Reboot is set to launch in October, Electronic Arts and Criterion Games have already posted the minimum and recommended PC system requirements for the new racing title.

The last entry in the Need for Speed series, The Run, hasn’t impressed fans all that much, but EA hopes to draw them back with this year’s Most Wanted, a reimagining of the classic experience from 2005, coming from veteran developer Criterion Games. We already saw the game in action thanks to two impressive videos last week as well as a series of screenshots that showed off all sorts of supercars engaged in high speed pursuits against cops. Now, EA has set up a page for the game on its Origin digital distribution platform for the PC, complete with the minimum and recommended system requirements.

As you can see below, a computer capable of the new racing game doesn’t need to be that powerful, but you do need a hefty 20GB of hard drive space in order to install the title, as well as at least 2GB of RAM, not to mention Windows Vista or 7 operating systems. Check out the minimum and recommended PC system requirements for Need for Speed: Most Wanted below.

Minimum Specifications
OS: Windows Vista (Service Pack 2) 32-Bit
Processor: 2 GHz Dual Core (Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHZ or Althon X2 2.7 GHz)
Memory: 2 GB
Hard Drive: 20 GB
Graphics Card (AMD): DirectX 10.1 compatible with 512 MB RAM (ATI RADEON 3000, 4000, 5000 OR 6000 series, with ATI RADEON 3870 or higher performance)
Graphics Card (NVIDIA): DirectX 10.0 compatible with 512 MB RAM (NVIDIA GEFORCE 8, 9, 200, 300, 400 OR 500 series with NVIDIA GEFORCE 8800 GT or higher performance)
Sound card: DirectX compatible

Recommended Specifications
OS: Windows 7 64-Bit
Processor: Quad-Core CPU
Memory: 4 GB
Hard Drive: 20 GB
Graphics Card: DirectX 11 compatible with 1024 MB RAM (NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 560 or ATI RADEON 6950)
Sound Card: DirectX compatible

Need for Speed: Most Wanted is out later this year, on October 30 in North America, and November 2 in Europe, for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.

Acer Iconia Tab A700: Tegra 3 and 1,920 x 1,200 LCD for Just $450

We can safely say that tablets have finally become affordable consumer electronics devices, and we have Acer to thank for that.

Sure, we aren't looking at one of the fabled $199 NVIDIA Kai slates here, but having to pay $450 for Tegra 3 and a 10-inch Full HD LCD is actually quite a good deal. Shipments aren't being carried out yet, but pre-orders should become possible shortly, assuming online stores haven't already added the page. The tablet is called Iconia Tab A700 and, in addition to an LCD resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 pixels and NVIDIA's Tegra 3 platform, boasts 32 GB of NAND Flash storage, an HDMI output and 5.1-channel audio with Dolby Mobile 3+ technology.

Pre-orders in Europe have been possible since Early May. The price tag is 479 Euro instead of the $359 implied by exchange rates. The first sightings of the product date even further back. We actually had some hands-on experience with it at CES 2012, in January, 2012.

AMD Partners with ARM, Safeguards Its Chips Better

Analysts and common people alike have been speculating on, even hoping for, a partnership between Advanced Micro Devices and ARM, and now they've got it.

The announcement made by Advanced Micro Devices during AFDS (AMD Fusion Developer Summit) isn't quite what everyone may have had in mind though. That is to say AMD did not suddenly announce plans for ARM-based accelerated processing units. Instead, it has signed an agreement with ARM for the integration of the latter's TrustZone technology in its future APUs. In fact, the Sunnyvale, California-based company hopes to have TrustZone-enabled APUs out and about by next year (2013). Thus, consumers and businesses should enjoy a more secure access to their content and safer online transactions.

To cram TrustZone features into x86 APUs, AMD will develop a tiny platform security processor based on an ARM Cortex-A5 CPU (TrustZone is integrated into all Cortex-A CPUs). This small chip will be included in the APU itself, somehow. Software-based antivirus is all well and good, but it is much harder for malicious programs to access sensitive data when security is available at hardware level. “As technology becomes more important to our everyday lives, security needs to be present in every single device. The challenge that the industry faces is how to make this a reality,” said Ian Drew, executive vice president, strategy, ARM. “Through this technology partnership with AMD, and the broadening of the ARM TrustZone technology ecosystem, we’re making another important step towards a solution. The aim is to make security accessible and consistent for consumers and business users across all computing devices.”

This is just one of the recent deals that Advanced Micro Devices scored with ARM Holdings. The two companies have also teamed up with MediaTek, Imagination and Texas Instruments (the Heterogeneous System Architecture / HSA Foundation) for creating a single architecture specification and a simpler programming model for heterogeneous computing software.

New Photo Taken with DROID RAZR HD’s 13MP Camera Emerges

Motorola and Verizon have been long rumored to plan the release of a new handset in the DROID series sometime this summer, namely the DROID RAZR HD, though no official confirmation on it has emerged.

However, following leaked photos with the device and its presence on a benchmarking website, we have now more proof that it exists. A photo taken with the device has been published on Picasa, and the EXIF data hints at DROID RAZR HD (it has been removed since, but Droid-Life had a look at it).

Moreover, the image unveiled that Motorola has packed the smartphone with a 13-megapixel photo snapper on the back, with an aperture of f2.4. In addition to the high-quality camera, the phone should also pack a dual-core, 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S4 processor, along with a 1196×720 display, and a 3,300 mAh battery. DROID RAZR HD should run under Ice Cream Sandwich at launch.

Alleged Windows Phone 8 Screenshots Leak

While eagerly waiting for Microsoft to make an official announcement on the upcoming Windows Phone 8 platform, enthusiasts can now feast their eye with what allegedly represent leaked screenshots with the upcoming platform.

Most probably, Microsoft is planning the official unveiling of Windows Phone 8 on June 20th during the Dev Summit in San Francisco, CA, but all we have until then involves only rumors and leaks. The latest of these arrives via Nokia Innovation, which received what are said to be leaked screenshots with the next-generation Windows Phone 8 platform from Microsoft. Among the features that these images bring to the spotlight, we can count Skype integration in the platform, something that was also rumored not too long ago. Windows Phone 8 will have Skype integrated in Peoples Hub, and users will be able to place voice or video Skype calls right from a contact’s profile page.

Moreover, it appears that the camera app in the upcoming OS release will be redesigned, most probably getting some features from Nokia’s PureView technology, at least on Lumia devices if not on all new Windows Phone handsets. The camera UI will offer fast zoom in and zoom out features, a 3dots button, and a button to swap between the back and forth cameras at ease. The upcoming platform flavor should also arrive on devices with new options related to data usage monitoring, including a view of data left, or the possibility to adjust settings based on data reports.

Moreover, the leaked screenshots show that Nokia Drive 3.0 will also be available in the platform, with updated traffic report and re-routing. Previous rumors suggested Nokia's Maps app with 3D navigation would also be included in the equation. There’s no telling whether the shots are the real deal or the product of a user’s imagination, so we’ll take them with a grain of salt for the time being.

AMD Kaveri GPU Has True Shared Memory, Follows Trinity

It was just yesterday that we reported on the AMD Kaveri appearing in the company's beta driver device ID list, and now we get to write about that accelerated processing unit again.

Kaveri is the chip that will follow in the footsteps of Trinity, the APU that currently represents AMD's heterogeneous computing technology. It will be launched next year (2013) and, naturally, is expected to be superior to Trinity in every way, shape and form. Granted, superior in shape and form would translate into a smaller processor package. But we digress. The AMD Fusion Developer Summit is currently on in Bellevue, Washington. There, the Sunnyvale, California-based company is sharing info on past, present and future endeavors. Kaveri happens to be one of them. The company did not say if the APU would have its own FPU and instruction scheduler, or if a more common solution, like L3 cache, would be implemented.

The corporation did clearly say one thing though: Kaveri will be the first APU with true shared, unified address space between the CPU and GPU. The x86 cores and the GCN (Graphics Core Next) graphics processing unit (GPU) will share data between them, eliminating all data copying and wasted bandwidth. All tasks, be they computations or 3D rendering, will run better. This is the next logical step towards a true unified processor architecture, where the x86 and GPU are no longer separate entities. Speaking of which, the GPUs will be part of the Radeon HD 8000 series, which showed up in the same device ID list  we mentioned above.

Looking at the whole situation, we have to give AMD credit for managing to compete fine with Intel's 22nm Ivy Bridge, in power and performance, and even beat it in graphics, while lagging one manufacturing process behind (Trinity is 32nm-based). Now APUs just need quad-channel memory support and a similar, if not better, showing on the 28nm technology.

Fully Assembled iPhone 5 Potentially Leaked

Following the iPhone 5 case unveiling, it was only a matter of time before a fully assembled unit got leaked. It seems the phone is everything we’ve come to expect, though the images remain to be confirmed as 100 percent genuine.

A Chinese website named iPhone-something has been sent a bunch of photos that seem to depict the next-generation iPhone from Apple.  All the photos are taken at an angle, making it hard to determine whether or not this unit is longer than the current generation model. However, the two units showing up in the photos do appear to be longer, and thinner, at least in one instance (above). It is interesting to note that the device is not only fully assembled, but also seems to be powered on. iOS shows that this unit has an AT&T SIM card inside, suggesting the leak comes from the United States. Which begs the question: why does this leak arrive via some obscure Chinese site, rather than a well-established American technology blog or news outlet? And why are there two iPhones in this leak?

While the photos do justice to previous leaks from a design standpoint, the colors seem a lot stronger on this unit. The case leak weeks ago showed a dark gray metallic plate for the black model, whereas this one looks to be completely black top to bottom. The only difference in hue is given by the difference in material finish. Reports say the iOS showing up on-screen could be fake, as in photoshopped. While that’s always a possibility with such leaks, the images look quite convincing to at least rule out any image manipulation.

A safer bet would be a fake device altogether. The lighting and the shadows seem too natural to even take into account not one, but four separate highly-doctored images. We’re handing it to you from here. Think this is the real deal?

AMD, ARM, TI, MediaTek and Imagination Combine Hybrid Processor Expertise

For many years, the x86 and ARM processor architectures have been the masters of the electronics industry, but a totally new architecture might appear soon.

Like many IT press releases, the one issued jointly by AMD, ARM, Texas Instruments and Imagination Technologies during AFDS (AMD Fusion Developer Summit) used a lot of technical jargon, as if deliberately trying to be vague. There isn't much room for interpretation though, even after that. Not when all the relevant names on the microprocessor market, minus Intel, come together. The five IT players have created the Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) Foundation, meant to “drive a single architecture specification and simplify the programming model.” The press release emphasizes “research, development, production, manufacture, use, and the sale of HSA and heterogeneous computing software.” This would suggest that they will try to make their software cross-platform compatible.

Sure enough, they will start off with enabling OpenCL, Renderscript Compute and Direct Compute on all their chips. They will also provide independent software vendors with tools that exploit these standards. But there is another way to interpret the fact that HSA will create and develop an open, standards-based approach to heterogeneous computing. It might be wishful thinking, but not completely out of the realm of probability. Basically, a new processor architecture could appear, one that can be used in everything from PCs, smartphones, tablets, notebooks and even supercomputers and the cloud. Currently, “hybrid CPU” means a processing unit with integrated graphics processor (IGP). AMD's APUs (accelerated processing unit) are one example, and pretty much every one of the other founding HSA companies have SoCs with IGPs too.

If a new architecture really appears, software makers will be able to come up with new applications. In fact, whatever programs they create will work across all the device types mentioned above. That is a major step forward from today, when programmers still have to make custom versions of their apps if they want more than one platform to support them. This, of course, comes in addition to the new levels of energy efficiency and performance that true heterogeneous platforms will permit. We don't think the HSA non-profit foundation will fail to draw in more members, not in this context. Thus, we'll probably see many platform and OS vendors, independent software vendors, semiconductor companies, device manufacturers, academia and open source developers chipping in. “HSA moves the industry beyond the constraints of the legacy system architecture of the past 25-plus years that is now stifling software innovations,” said Phil Rogers, HSA Foundation president and AMD corporate fellow.

“By aiming HSA squarely at the needs of the software developer, we have designed a common hardware platform for high performance, energy efficient solutions. HSA is unlocking a new realm of possibilities across PCs, smartphones, tablets and ultrathin notebooks, as well as the innovative supercomputers and cloud services that define the modern computing experience.” New processor architectures appear quite rarely. The only truly new one to emerge in the past few decades is UPU. We can only hope this latest alliance will lead to another, eventually.

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