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Jun 18, 2012

Google Nexus 7 Camera Photo Emerges Online, EXIF Data Shows

Google and Asus have been long rumored to plan the release of an appealing yet affordable tablet PC in the popular Nexus line, and some more proof on the matter has emerged.

The EXIF data of a photo that was spotted recently on Picasa Web Albums shows that the Nexus tablet PC would be real, and that it was also packed with imaging capabilities. Of course, EXIF data can be manipulated, and we’ll have to take this info with a grain of salt until proved to be real.

The device, supposedly called Nexus 7, is expected to become official this month at Google I/O. Rumor has it that, although it would pack the tablet with appealing hardware inside, Google would have it priced in the $150 - $200 (approx. €120 - €160) range, to help it grab market share fast.

RED Camera Users Might Want to Look at HP's 820 Tower

Sometimes, it takes special equipment to perform certain tasks, equipment that a PC builder might not have. HP decided to make up for the problem by teaming up with another.

The partnership we are going to show you today is one that Hewlett-Packard made with RED, for the use of the latter's optical drives and video accelerators. For those that aren't familiar with the hardware, the RED Rocket “provides real time, full quality playback, onto a 1080/2K/4K monitor or projector via DVI and HD-SDI through REDCINE-X.” Basically, it is a PCI Express add-in board that accelerates transcoding and playback of R3D files, in real-time. HP's 820 Tower RED edition will have one or more such adapters inside, right off the bat, in addition to a pair of REDMag readers.

That means that the machine will cost more than most people can afford. A high-end PC is already expensive, but the figures are guaranteed to go off the charts after the upgrades, considering that a single Red Rocket costs $4,750 / 3 764.76 Euro. HP and RED will showcase the HP 820 Tower RED edition at the Adobe CS6 roadshow, touring the US until June 30th. The starting price will be $10,000 / 7925 Euro (selling through ProMax and Tekserve, among others). For those who want an example configuration, the workstation has two liquid-cooler Intel Xeon processors, making the maximum possible core number 16. Memory-wise, up to 32 GB of DDR3 RAM (random access memory) are available.

What's more, an NVIDIA Quadro 5000 graphics card was chosen (this is, after all, a professional system for image and video editing). Other features include a 2.5-inch 10K SAS boot drive, a 300 GB primary storage unit and every other component and port people expect to see. All the hardware will be crammed inside a black tower case. As for software, RED promises that a “tuned” version of Adobe's Creative Suite 6 will be installed on the system.

AMD Powers 24 of the Top 100 Supercomputers

Today, June 18, 2012, is the day when the Top500 list is updated, so, naturally, every company with a stake in that segment will have its say. Thus, it comes as no surprise that AMD issued an announcement.

This once, the company doesn't have anything massive to gush over, unlike in 2009, when the Jaguar, built by Cray, soared to the top. That very Jaguar now holds the sixth spot, which isn't really bad for a worldwide ranking, especially considering how old it is compared to the ones above it. Fifth place Tianhe-1A, from the National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin, China, entered use in 2010, while Sequoia (number 1) and K (number 2) both got launched in 2011. As for Mira (third spot) and SuperMUC (4th), they began work this very year. That said, if Intel's new partnership with Cray doesn't lead to the latter abandoning Opteron chips, AMD might power another high-end supercomputer by the end of this or the following year.

That's neither here nor there though. Today, AMD stepped up to say what its contribution to the Top500 list was, or should we say Top 100. Long story short, 24 of the best 100 utilize AMD processing cores. "AMD is fully committed to extending its offerings for the HPC market and ensuring that leading solution providers will continue to turn to AMD for a superior supercomputing experience," said Margaret Lewis, director, Server Software Planning, AMD. "Our latest engagements with industry-leading applications, developer tools, and high performance interconnect technology demonstrate the capabilities of AMD's innovative architecture. As well, our commitment to drive the industry shift to heterogeneous computing puts AMD in a prime position to strengthen our HPC leadership position well into the future." We're curious to see what approach Advanced Micro Devices will take now that the supercomputing industry is nearing petabyte and exascale levels.

NFS: Most Wanted Will Deliver a Much Better Experience Than The Run, EA Says

Electronic Arts has talked about its long running Need for Speed series and admitted that last year's iteration, The Run, wasn't as good as it could have been. The publisher does admit that this year's upcoming Most Wanted reboot will make things better and once again bring the franchise into the spotlight.

The Need for Speed franchise has seen a few ups and downs in recent years as quite a few developers have had a go at the racing series, from action-oriented installments like Undercover or The Run by Black Box, to simulators like Shift 1 and 2 from Slightly Mad Studios, to more arcade experiences like Hot Pursuit from Criterion Games. While last year's The Run marked a return to story-based experiences by Black Box studios, the game didn't do so well, a fact admitted by EA Labels President, Frank Gibeau. "We're not happy with the reception that we got on Need for Speed: The Run. We tried a lot of new things; we added linear moments and action scenes between level to try and spice it up... but frankly it just didn't come together to the level of quality that I wanted or that the Need for Speed team wanted," he told CVG

"So we're going to try something different and Criterion is going to take a shot at innovating in that category." The feedback and the lackluster reception has motivated EA to continue building the franchise, and the results will be evident in this year's Most Wanted. "The Run did well and there's a lot about it that we really liked and were impressed with, but ultimately we want to make 80-90 rated games and it was a bit of a shock to see how poorly received it was with some editorial groups and customers. "We don't ignore that feedback, but we don't curl up into a ball and cry either. We try to do something about it. Criterion were always planned to be on this next one. Now it's the time to dial it up and go even bigger." Need for Speed: Most Wanted is out this October on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.

Intel's MIC Launch Part II: Cray's Cascade Xeon Phi Supercomputer

We have just brought you the launch of the Knights Corner many integrated core PCI Express compute accelerator and now we will cover the first (as far as we know) HPC application it will be used in.

Intel and Cray signed a collaboration about two months ago. The time may not have been enough to affect the newest Top500 list much, but the companies will no doubt rock the next one. Speaking of which, Cray's CEO Peter Ungaro was present at the product briefing in which Intel revealed the Xeon Phi brand. There, he revealed the Cascade supercomputer, which takes the concept of adaptive supercomputing and runs with it. Essentially, adaptive supercomputers are energy-efficient and scalable HPC installations that can add new CPUs on top of the ones they were initially designed with. Cascade, running Linux, is starting out with Xeon E5, but will add Xeon Phi coprocessors when Intel is finally ready to mass produce them.

As we said before on previous stories, Intel hasn't actually launched a product per se. It has only launched the Xeon Phi brand, since the renewal of the Top500 list was the ripest occasion possible for such a thing. Knights Corner PCI Express cards will come out by the end of the year (and, thus, earlier than previously suspected). “Cascade will contain very significant advancements in both hardware and software technology, and when combined with industry-leading processors like Intel Xeon and coprocessors like the Xeon phi, [it] will provide our HPC customers with a system unmatched for balance, scalability, reliability and price-performance on real-world application,” Ungaro said during the briefing on Thursday, June 14, 2012 (last week).

HLRS, the University of Stuttgart Germany, and Kyoto University, Japan, have already placed orders with Cray for the use of Cascade.  Unfortunately, we haven’t been told what the performance is or will be, so we'll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, the Sequoia and its runners-up will be suitable causes for awe.

Lenovo LePad A2107, the First Dual-SIM Android Tablet

Lenovo has made official another highly interesting tablet PC powered by Google’s Android operating system, namely the Lenovo LePad A2107, the first dual-SIM slate.

The device should make an official appearance on shelves in the coming weeks, featuring a 7-inch touchscreen display capable of delivering a 1024 x 600 pixels resolution. The tablet PC also sports a 1GHz Cortex A8 application processor complemented by 1GB of RAM. It is powered by a 3550mAh battery and sports a 3-megapixel photo snapper on the back, along with a 2MP camera on the front.

Moreover, Lenovo packed the new LePad A2107with 16GB of internal memory, and with a microSD memory card slot with support for additional storage space. The tablet runs under Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, GSMInsider reports. The device is meant for the Chinese market, where handsets featuring support for two SIM cards are quite popular.

Intel's MIC Launch Part I: Xeon Phi Many Core Architecture Product Family

After months and months of information leaks, vague promises and deliberate hints, Intel has finally launched the Knights Corner many integrated core coprocessor, as well as a new brand.

Many Integrated Core (MIC) is a multi-core computer architecture developed by Intel, based on the Teraflops Research Chip multicore research project, the Intel Single-chip Cloud Computer multicore microprocessor and, last but not least, the Larrabee graphics computing accelerator that never was. Larrabee was supposed to be a discrete graphics adapter based on the x86 architecture. Unfortunately, whether because of flawed design philosophy or other reasons, the whole project crumbled before anything became of it. The work was shelved though, not scrapped. In fact, Intel applied the lessons learned from it while creating the many-core architecture. Up until last week, we, like most everyone else, expected Intel to employ “MIC” (Many Integrated Core) as the name of the brand.

During the press briefing regarding the new Top500 list though, Chipzilla surprised us by announcing a new brand: Xeon Phi. It will be used for all Intel MIC products, present and future. Knights Corner is the first product in the line, but we should say right now that it hasn't truly been released yet. Intel has only launched the brand. Even though KC is real and working and ready for HPC implementation, the product release, and a tried and true supercomputer, will only come later in the year (2012). However, the Santa Clara, California-based company did provide us with the general specifications. One standard PCI Express card will have over 50 cores with 3D tri-gate transistors, built on the 22nm manufacturing process. 8 GB of GDDR5 or more will assist said cores.

The company claims a 1 TFLOP double precision performance, which is a lot but not really that close to the 4.58 teraflops that NVIDIA is bragging about (although, admittedly, that's the single-precision rating). Then again, while GPUs have always had a higher parallel computing prowess than x86, they are only useful when programs know how to use them. Many don't. Thus, users of Intel MIC products can merrily skip the tedious process of learning new programming languages like OpenCL or CUDA, thus reducing the time it takes to build and launch a new HPC solution / supercomputer.

All in all, Intel claims to have made a product that can ensure the best price-performance ratio, simplicity of application and time to market, if not the absolute best data processing capability. Cray argued in favor of that claim, and even announced a supercomputer that they were building and had already received orders for. Wait for part II of story to read what we found out about it.

iOS 6 Features: the New Siri on iPhone and iPad

Siri is coming to additional iDevices this fall, and it brings along new abilities and language support, Apple has confirmed. Best of all, it even launches apps when you tell it to.

Siri is shaping up to become the real personal assistant Apple envisioned last year with the debut of the iPhone 4S. In iOS 6, the digital assistant understands more languages, works in more countries, and is available on the new iPad with Retina display, “so you can get more things done in more places around the world.” It’ll do things like tell you what movies are playing at the cinema, or who won the football game last night, or even book you a table for two. “Want to know the latest scores and stats for your favorite teams and players? Thanks to iOS 6, Siri knows the answers. Or maybe it’s movie night. Siri can show you the latest reviews and showtimes. Find the best restaurants in town and make reservations,” Apple states. It’ll be a blast to open applications with Siri, especially when you’re driving. According to reports, several car manufacturers have already agreed to install a Siri button on their car’s steering wheels. Mind-bending stuff!

“With iOS 6, you can ask Siri to open apps for you. If you arrive early at the cafe Siri helped you find, just ask to play Angry Birds so you can kill time while you wait. Or ask Siri to launch Facebook and see what your friends are up to, or take a look at the latest posts on your Wall,” according to the Cupertino giant. Apple says Siri will be available only on iPhone 4S and iPad (3rd generation) this fall, but we have a feeling there will be a third device supporting the personal assistant – the iPhone 5.

Dev-Team Releases Redsn0w 0.9.14b1 for OS X and Windows

A new version of the redsn0w jailbreak utility is available from the iPhone Dev Team, according to MuscleNerd, the leader of the hacking pack. The new release includes a handy baseband downgrade option for those who are using the iPad’s 06.15 baseband on iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS handsets.

MuscleNerd explains that people who unlocked with ultrasn0w and updated their iPhone baseband past 05.13.04 will “typically” have the 06.15 baseband. Even if the user never had 05.13.04 on their device before, redsn0w now makes it possible to downgrade specifically from 06.15 to 05.13.04. “This gives you the best of both worlds: ultrasn0w compatibility and a normal iPhone baseband with full GPS and the ability to use stock IPSWs again,” according to the iPhone Dev Team leader. MuscleNerd then proceeds to outline the steps users must take to leverage this functionality in the new redsn0w 0.9.14 beta 1.

Here are the steps:

  1. Use the “Extras->Select IPSW” button in redsn0w to tell it which firmware version you have installed (new-bootrom 3GS users can usually skip this step but it doesn’t hurt for them to do it too).
  2. Do a controlled shutdown of your iPhone (“slide to power off”). This step is very important to avoid mount problems when the ramdisk is running!
  3. Go back to the first screen and click “Jailbreak”. Enable the “Downgrade from iPad baseband” checkbox, disable Cydia if you already have it installed, and click Next to proceed through the normal DFU ramdisk steps.

Users are warned that they’ll encounter a screen that takes a very long time, and MuscleNerd urges them to “just let it be for the next 3-8 minutes!  When the ramdisk has done its job it will reboot the phone on its own,” he writes. iPhone 3G owners looking to update to 06.15 in order to downgrade to 05.13.04 will be able to do so unconditionally. For 3GS owners, the answer is “maybe.” MuscleNerd has a few more notes on this on the Dev Team blog.

AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition Graphics Card Detailed

The AMD Radeon HD 7970 was a strong enough video card when it first emerged, but then NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 680 appeared, with a better performance and lower price to boot.

The Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition is AMD's response to that perceived challenge, and now we know exactly what the specs are. It so happens that the “GHz Edition” moniker is not perfectly representative of the card's performance. What we mean to say is that, instead of running at 1 GHz like the name would suggest, the board does even better, pushing the GPU to 1,100 MHz. Speaking of which, the graphics processing unit is called Tahiti XT2 and based on a refined design from TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company). For those who don't remember, the original Radeon HD 7970 operates at 925 MHz, 175 MHz less than this newcomer.

Things get even more interesting when one realizes that the Tahiti XT2 manages the performance while using a lower core voltage: 1,020V instead of 1,175 V. All this information reached the Internet thanks to the folks over at Ocaholic.ch, but there was one detail they didn't provide: memory speed. The normal HD 7970 has 3 GB of GDDR5 at 1,375 MHz (5.5 GHz Effective). This, along with the interface of 384 bits, leads to a bandwidth of 264 GB/s. Advanced Micro Devices probably won't change the setting on the GHz Edition. That number is already high enough.

The report says that mass production of the AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition will commence in about a week or so. That would put sales in the last week of June or early July. Now we just have to wait for those dual-GPU HD 7970 X2 to populate stores around the world and AMD has its full deck complete and ready for action again (August was the ETA, last we heard).

IBM Powers Fastest Supercomputer Ever, Sequoia

The grand day is finally here: Hans Meuer, Jack Dongarra and Erich Strohmaier have compiled the latest Top500 supercomputer list.

The Top500 list is updated twice a year by Hans Meuer of the University of Mannheim, Germany, Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon of NERSC/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Previously, the K supercomputer, based in Japan and built by Fujitsu, was the world leader, with a performance of 10.51 petaflops (quadrillion floating-point calculations per second). It has 705,024 Sparc64 processing cores and scored number 1 both times the top500 list was updated in 2011. Now, though, the top spot belongs to the Sequoia, whose 1.57 million processor cores clearly trounce even K with their combined prowess of 16.32 petaflops.

Sequoia is based in DOE/NNSA/LLNL, United States, and was built by IBM. The third spot went to a totally new system, Mira, also located in the US (DOE/SC/Argonne National Laboratory). Its performance is 8.16 petaflops (max), brought about by 786,432 cores. The performance difference between third and fourth places is quite large, and that goes to the number of processor cores too. The Leibniz Rechenzentrum, Germany-based SuperMUC, with its 147,456 cores, only manages 28.97 petaflops. After that, the number dwindle somewhat more gradually, with a few exceptions. Speaking of SuperMUC, it is the strongest Intel-based supercomputer to make the list (Xeon E5-2680 processors). Looks like Chipzilla can't evenly compete with the veterans just yet. MIC should make a difference, but we'll get to that later.

On the other hand, a simple browser search function for the word “Xeon” will show that many of the supercomputers on the list use them. It might not be the best sort of milestone, but quantity has its merits too. Finally, we found it curious that Cray only made sixth place. Then again, the AMD Opteron-powered Jaguar, was the leader back in 2009, so it's probably just owed to Cray not having had enough time to build a new one. We'll tell you all about its latest project later today.

EA to Continue Dual Studio Strategy for Need for Speed

Electronic Arts will continue to have two studios working on its Need for Speed franchise, alternating between Black Box and Criterion Games every year.

The NFS series was originally worked upon by a single studio, Black Box, but EA mixed things up in recent years, bringing in Criterion Games, the developer of the Burnout franchise, and Slightly Mad Studios, which specialized in simulators. Seeing as how this led to a resurgence in popularity for the racing series, EA has confirmed that it will continue alternating between studios, namely Black Box and Criterion Games, for all upcoming releases.

"We're going to continue to pursue the dual strategy of alternating studios and that will always be the strategy, but we will optimize the business to maximize quality and to maximize what we need to do," EA Labels president Frank Gibeau told CVGThis year's NFS game - Most Wanted - is coming from Criterion, so the 2013 iteration will no doubt arrive from Black Box.

Nokia Almost Confirms 808 PureView Event for Today

Finnish mobile phone maker Nokia announced late last week that it planned on holding an event in the United States today, without offering info on what it would be all about.

However, the company offered a series of hints on its Facebook page, suggesting that the event might have something to do with its 808 PureView behemoth, and the latest of them comes as a confirmation on the matter. On Sunday, the handset vendor posted on Facebook that there are “808 reasons to be excited about Monday.”

Previously, the company confirmed that the 41MP camera phone would make an appearance on shelves in the US before the end of this year, and today’s event might represent the official launch of this smartphone in the country. Running under Symbian, the handset also features a 1.3 GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, 16GB of internal memory (microSD expandable), and a 4.0-inch touchscreen display.

Galaxy S III Tastes CyanogenMod 9 Nightly Builds

Galaxy S III, the latest Android-based flagship device from Samsung, can now be customized with CyanogenMod 9 nightly builds.

The CyanogenMod 9 ROMs are based on Google’s Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system, but they do not feature the same TouchWiz UI that Samsung packed the device with. Through downloading and installing said nightly builds for the Galaxy S III, users will enjoy the vanilla flavor of Android, with a series of other improvements and optimizations throughout the platform. These are official CyanogenMod 9 releases for the smartphone, but they represent only early development stages of custom ROMs for the handsets, which means that users are certain to bump into various issues when running them. At the moment, the team behind CyanogenMod 9 for Galaxy S III notes that the FM Radio does not work on the handset, and that users should get Spirit FM from the Google Play Store to substitute it. Another issue is related to the phone’s camera, which force closes on some mobile phones when using LED flash.

Those who try to wake the phone up using the volume keys will not be able to do so sometimes, the team notes. The phone won’t recognize key presses when in sleep mode. Additional info on the new CyanogenMod 9 nightlies for Galaxy S III can be found on this forum thread on XDA-Developers. Just keep in mind that this is not official software for the mobile phone, and that installing it will void your warranty. As the CyanogenMod team notes, users are the only ones to be held responsible in the event that anything happens with the phone while installing these builds or while using them. Galaxy S III owners who would still want to get these new builds on their devices should head over to the aforementioned forum thread to learn more on how to download and install them.

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