Tag Archive: PC


Retail outlets looking for new, innovative ways to get hands-on with their customers will soon have a new tool – the Samsung SUR40.

Companies are already using Microsoft Surface to give potential customers virtual tours of plane interiors, help them plan flights, provide them with the ability to create immersive photo books, and entice bank customers into brick and mortar branches. Those experiences only hint at how the new Surface device will be able to help businesses engage with customers, said Somanna Palacanda, director of Microsoft Surface.

“With what’s happening in the world of touch and the fact that touch is becoming ubiquitous, people are looking for more immersive relationships with screens,” he said. “The new Surface takes technology that’s always existed in the backs of stores and brings it front and center. So now customers and retailers can interact together, a doctor and a patient can have a more immersive consulting experience, and a banker and a customer can sit together and work on a simulation where in past the banker would be the only one in control.”

Samsung and Microsoft announced today that a new, more versatile Microsoft Surface device is now available for pre-order, the near final stop on its journey from lab to marketplace. Now, businesses in 23 countries can visit the Samsung website to find a local reseller and place an order for the Samsung SUR40. Shipments are expected to start early next year.

The Samsung SUR40 was just named a2011 “Best of What’s New” award winnerby Popular Science magazine and is featured in a special awards issue currently on newsstands. Corinne Iozzio, senior associate editor at Popular Science, said the magazine’s editors were impressed with the update to the original Surface, a 2008 “Best of What’s New” winner.

“We very much liked the idea of the package of the Surface, which had packed so much computing intelligence and so much sensor technology into such a thin package,” she said. “It’s a tabletop that can be put anywhere without harming the functionality and in fact makes a system like the Surface much more accessible.”

The Samsung SUR40 also earned strong praise by the likes of Forbes and Gizmodo when released at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year.

Palacanda said the new Surface device incorporates all the key features of the original – a massive multi-touch screen, the ability to recognize fingers, blobs, and objects – as well as PixelSense, a new technology that lets LCD panels “see” without the use of actual cameras. The technology has helped slim down the second version of the Surface device and enables a new form factor – one that can be turned on its side. With a screen that’s only four inches thin, customers will have the option to use the Samsung SUR40 horizontally as a table, hang it on a wall, or embed it into furniture, Palacanda said.

“We listened to our partners and customers’ requests for a lighter and thinner form factor that gives them flexibility because there’s no one-size-fits-all in the retail space,” he said.

Several existing Surface customers, including Dassault Aviation, Fujifilm Corp. and the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), plan to use the Samsung SUR40 in locations around the globe early next year. RBC is already using the first version of Surface as a new medium to engage with its customers, Palacanda said.

He explained that RBC is redesigning their stores to offer customers a new retail experience, where Surface is playing an important part. For example, RBC launched a direct mail campaign to invite their customers into their stores through a sweepstakes. When customers visit, they drop their brochure onto the Surface machine to find out if they’ve won a prize. At the same time, RBC employees can use Surface to highlight the bank’s products and services.

The results encouraged RBC, Palacanda said. A typical direct mail response rate is less than 1 percent; RBC is seeing a conversion of above 10 percent.

“We’ve always spoken about collaboration from a computing standpoint, but before Microsoft Surface we truly did not have a device where two or more people could actually engage together with the same piece of digital content,” Palacanda said. “I think this announcement is the first step in delivering a next generation device that improves even further on the original Surface experience, which enables two or more people to collaborate in a very meaningful way.”

The new device is also popular with developers, said Luis Cabrera-Cordón, senior program manager for Microsoft Surface. The Surface 2.0 software developer kit (SDK) was released at MIX11 in April, and already it’s been downloaded more than 7,000 times.

The SDK features an input simulator that enables developers to write Surface applications on any Windows 7 PC, an approach Cabrera-Cordón called “Write once, touch anywhere.”

“The SDK allows developers to write a single application that can adapt to all sorts of types of hardware,” he said. “That makes for a great investment: they can target Microsoft Surface hardware as well as any Windows 7 touch-enabled PC. This is a flexible platform so developers can create the best user interface for the person actually using the computer.”

Cabrera-Cordón encouraged developers to download the SDK and start building apps as the Samsung SUR40’s release date draws near.

“Touch apps are an area that is new. There is a lot to discover and innovate on,” Cabrera-Cordón said. “And I hope that by playing with the Surface 2.0 SDK, they’ll discover they can innovate and create things that we don’t have today.”

Thanks: Microsoft

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If you want to build a desktop PC that has super fast performance for, say, playing Battlefield 3, you will almost certainly want to include a solid state drive as your Windows boot drive. Are they still much more expensive to purchase than your normal mechanical platter-based hard drive? Yep. Will they continue to be more expensive for some time to come? Most likely.

However, the benefits of getting even a small 256 GB SSD inside your gaming PC rig in terms of overall performance makes a lot of sense if you have a few hundred dollars to spend.

But what if money was truly no object and you wanted to get a SSD drive that had the storage space of a top of the line mechanical hard drive? Then OCZ Technology is coming out with a product that might be to your liking. The company announced a few days ago it will release a new SSD product line called Octane. OCZ says the Octane is “the world’s first SSD to achieve up to a 1 TB capacity in a compact 2.5 inch format.”

Let that sink in for a moment. A 2.5″ 1 TB SDD. Wow.

With that kind of storage space with a SDD solution you really don’t need to have a regular hard drive anymore for storage of video and music files, like many people do when they get a smaller SSD for their PC combined with a much larger hard drive.

OCZ says that the Octane will be available starting November 1. Pricing has yet to be announced for the 1 TB version but we suspect that it won’t sell for less than $2,000 considering 512 GB ones go for >$800 currently. You could easily buy an entire PC with that kind of money. However, if Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg is reading this article and wanting a new storage drive for their own PC, we would say, “go for it”.

Thanks: Neowin

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iLuv has announced a new WorkStation line of products for iPads, Galaxy Tabs and other devices. The focus of the collection is the iMM737, a dock supporting iPads, iPhones and iPods. A wired keyboard in the dock includes iOS-specific functions, and can be stored in the base to save room. Devices are attached to a bracket, which can be tilted and rotated for different viewing angles.

Another planned iOS dock is the iMM517 WorkStation Pro, which will make the switch to a Bluetooth keyboard, and boost audio output using jAura technology. People only needing a Bluetooth keyboard will be able to pick up the iBTKB20, which is designed for portability.

Yet another approach is being taken with the iCK826/iSK912 Professional WorkStation Portfolio. The case is available for either the iPad or the Galaxy Tab, and includes a detachable Bluetooth keyboard. Choosing the right version of the case is essential, as some keys trigger device-specific commands.

Most WorkStation gear should ship to stores by the end of the month. The iMM737, however, is not set to arrive until November. iLuv will only list prices as ranging between $50 and $180.

Thanks: Electronista

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Microsoft’s Tony Mangefeste in a response to early adopters tried to calm down fears that Windows 8 might be used to shut out Linux or competing operating systems. After Red Hat engineer Matt Garrett worried that the UEFI firmware’s secure boot feature could be used to exclude non-official operating systems, Sinofsky stepped in to clarify that it was part of the spec and not Microsoft’s policy. The code is also an optional policy that, even when active, could still let someone install another OS without a flag preventing the new OS from running.

PC builders can both set which party has control over the security certificates used to greenlight an OS as well as letting customers load certificates themselves.

Secure booting is designed to prevent against viruses and other rogue code that would execute before the OS itself has actually started, compromising Windows or any other platform before it has had a chance to raise defenses. Traditional BIOSes, such as those still used on many Windows PCs, aren’t complex enough to check for a certificate on startup and can easily let through such attacks. In addition to white lists of known good operating systems, they can also watch for blacklisted code and stop it from loading.

Microsoft’s policies on UEFI still leave concerns. As the company requires UEFI to get a Windows 8 certification sticker but doesn’t have a rule mandating support for other operating systems, officially approved PCs could be limited to running Windows only if the PC builder doesn’t want or care about the policy.

Pushing UEFI is a form of catch-up for Windows. Apple has had regular EFI since 2006 so that it could recreate and move beyond the features of PowerPC’s Open Firmware when it switched to Intel. The Mac producer has accommodated loading Windows from EFI since the outset through Boot Camp.

Thanks: Electronista

Google to shut down 10 of its products

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Google has been shutting down some some of its products and divisions over the past few months, including most recently the Slide social apps division. Today the company announced plans to shut down 10 more of its products over the coming weeks and months. Some of these products will be merged with other existing Google divisions. Google’s Senior Vice President Alan Eustace writes, “This will make things much simpler for our users, improving the overall Google experience. It will also mean we can devote more resources to high impact products —the ones that improve the lives of billions of people.” The people who worked on the 10 discontinued products will be transferred to other divisions at the company.

One of the more well known products that will soon be shut down is Google Desktop, which launched in a beta version in 2004. The application allows users to search for items inside a person’s PC. Google has chosen to discontinue Google Desktop on September 14 “including all the associated APIs, services, plugins, gadgets and support.” A product on the list that has already shut down is Google Pack, which offered a collection of first and third party downloadable software tools in one package. Google said today that with the move to have applications offered online via cloud-based technology there was also a “declining interest in downloadable software.”

Other projects that Google will shut down or merge will other projects include the social search program Aardvark, Google Web Security, Google Notebook, Fast Flip, Sidewiki, Subscribed Links, Image Labeler, and Google Maps API for Flash.

Thanks: Neowin

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A data repository almost 10 times bigger than any made before is being built by researchers at IBM’s Almaden, California, research lab. The 120 petabyte “drive”—that’s 120 million gigabytes—is made up of 200,000 conventional hard disk drives working together. The giant data container is expected to store around one trillion files and should provide the space needed to allow more powerful simulations of complex systems, like those used to model weather and climate.

A 120 petabyte drive could hold 24 billion typical five-megabyte MP3 files or comfortably swallow 60 copies of the biggest backup of the Web, the 150 billion pages that make up the Internet Archive’s WayBack Machine.

The data storage group at IBM Almaden is developing the record-breaking storage system for an unnamed client that needs a new supercomputer for detailed simulations of real-world phenomena. However, the new technologies developed to build such a large repository could enable similar systems for more conventional commercial computing, says Bruce Hillsberg, director of storage research at IBM and leader of the project.

“This 120 petabyte system is on the lunatic fringe now, but in a few years it may be that all cloud computing systems are like it,” Hillsberg says. Just keeping track of the names, types, and other attributes of the files stored in the system will consume around two petabytes of its capacity.

Steve Conway, a vice president of research with the analyst firm IDC who specializes in high-performance computing (HPC), says IBM’s repository is significantly bigger than previous storage systems. “A 120-petabye storage array would easily be the largest I’ve encountered,” he says. The largest arrays available today are about 15 petabytes in size. Supercomputing problems that could benefit from more data storage include weather forecasts, seismic processing in the petroleum industry, and molecular studies of genomes or proteins, says Conway.

IBM’s engineers developed a series of new hardware and software techniques to enable such a large hike in data-storage capacity. Finding a way to efficiently combine the thousands of hard drives that the system is built from was one challenge. As in most data centers, the drives sit in horizontal drawers stacked inside tall racks. Yet IBM’s researchers had to make those significantly wider than usual to fit more disks into a smaller area. The disks must be cooled with circulating water rather than standard fans.

The inevitable failures that occur regularly in such a large collection of disks present another major challenge, says Hillsberg. IBM uses the standard tactic of storing multiple copies of data on different disks, but it employs new refinements that allow a supercomputer to keep working at almost full speed even when a drive breaks down.

When a lone disk dies, the system pulls data from other drives and writes it to the disk’s replacement slowly, so the supercomputer can continue working. If more failures occur among nearby drives, the rebuilding process speeds up to avoid the possibility that yet another failure occurs and wipes out some data permanently. Hillsberg says that the result is a system that should not lose any data for a million years without making any compromises on performance.

The new system also benefits from a file system known as GPFS that was developed at IBM Almaden to enable supercomputers faster data access. It spreads individual files across multiple disks so that many parts of a file can be read or written at the same time. GPFS also enables a large system to keep track of its many files without laboriously scanning through every one. Last month a team from IBM used GPFS to index 10 billion files in 43 minutes, effortlessly breaking the previous record of one billion files scanned in three hours.

Software improvements like those being developed for GPFS and disk recovery are crucial to enabling such giant data drives, says Hillsberg, because in order to be practical, they must become not only bigger, but also faster. Hard disks are not becoming faster or more reliable in proportion to the demands for more storage, so software must make up the difference.

IDC’s Conway agrees that faster access to larger data storage systems is becoming crucial to supercomputing—even though supercomputers are most often publicly compared on their processor speeds, as is the case with the global TOP500 list used to determine international bragging rights. Big drives are becoming important because simulations are getting larger and many problems are tackled using so-called iterative methods, where a simulation is run thousands of times and the results compared, says Conway. “Checkpointing,” a technique in which a supercomputer saves snapshots of its work in case the job doesn’t complete successfully, is also common. “These trends have produced a data explosion in the HPC community,” says Conway.

Thanks: Tecnology Review.

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Microsoft has filed a patent application titled “Fast Machine Booting Through Streaming Storage.” The application describes a series of local and networked storage systems that Microsoft calls “layers” that would be used to boot tablets, personal computers, set top boxes and other devices. The operating system would be cloud-based and constitute a virtual environment that would prioritize resources as needed to run different applications. Microsoft claims the new system would mean faster startup, since the layers containing the OS would be available immediately rather than being downloaded and saved as a local image before execution.

Almost any networked device could use the proposed system. Microsoft specifies “personal computers, server computers, hand-held or laptop devices, tablet devices, multiprocessor systems, microprocessor-based systems, set top boxes, programmable consumer electronics, network PCs, minicomputers, mainframe computers, distributed computing environments” in the application. Hardware requirements could be minimized, since storage and processing would be managed in locally networked (“near backing”) and remote (“far backing”) components of the virtual environment.

The streaming system would also give enterprise system administrators greater flexibility to configure only necessary components of the OS. A similar per-feature licensing function was found buried in a recent build of Windows 8.

Thanks: Electronista