Archive for May 2011

HP Veer 4G

It's going to be a busy week for smartphones. We've got Google I/O, a bunch of finishing touches on the Droid Charge review, the Infuse 4G on its way, and early this morning yet another new device hit the doorstep. This time it's the HP Veer 4G which is slated to launch on AT&T May 15th.
We've been WebOS fans for a while now and are looking forward to HP's refresh of the entire WebOS lineup. Previous hardware was getting long in the tooth and unfortunately we haven't been able to take a look at WebOS 2.x until now. We're used to seeing flagship devices launch first and then smaller, thinner, lighter versions come later, but it appears HP wants to get new hardware out there as fast as possible, and is starting things with the Veer 4G.

The Veer is tiny, the device's outline is about the size of a credit card. Next to the AT&T Palm Pre Plus, the Veer looks very small. Compared to the 4.3-inch devices I've been carrying and reviewing for so long now, its size is positively mind-blowing.


Left to right: HTC EVO 4G, AT&T Palm Pre Plus, HP Veer 4G

The Veer is essentially a ground-up refresh of the Palm Pixi. The two share the exact same 2.63 inch diagonal 320x400 sub HVGA LCD display and button-less gesture area. Where the two differ is surrounding form factor - the Veer abandons the candybar format in favor of the portrait slider carried by the original Pre, and as a result has a much smaller outline. The Veer will come in both black and white.

In addition the Veer is built around a much speedier SoC, Qualcomm's 800 MHz MSM7230 with Adreno 205 graphics, same as we first saw in the T-Mobile G2. It isn't quite as fast as this generation's 1 GHz frontrunners like Hummingbird or even MSM8x55, but MSM7230 makes the device substantially faster than the Palm Pre Plus I carried around for a while. On paper the Veer should perform better than the Pre Plus and Pixi, but behind the Palm Pre 2 and HP Pre 3. My mental comparison point is the Palm Pre Plus, and compared to it, everything on the Veer is smoother and faster.

The other big differentiator is the move from a 2 MP to 5 MP camera, though the optical system is still fixed focus. Thankfully capture is still incredibly speedy - you can still mash the capture button and snap a bunch of pictures in rapid succession.

We've run a few of our web benchmark tests from the usual suite and have results, but expect to see a lot more in the full review.

Flash Performance

Rightware BrowserMark

SunSpider Javascript Benchmark 0.9

First impressions with the HP Veer are overall very good. Build quality is solid, as the Veer has a very sturdy feeling slider with none of the "oreo effect" that plagued the original Palm Pre for so long. In addition, the Veer also lacks the LCD pressure distortion that used to occur when the slider was closed sharply. The entire mechanism feels snappy and precise with absolutely no play. Buttons are clicky and responsive, nothing suffers from miniaturization thankfully. I've been using the Veer all day today with my own SIM inside (just like I do for every phone when appropriate) and thus far am impressed with how useable the whole thing is despite the miniaturized keyboard and relatively small display.

The only compromises the Veer does make as a result of its miniscule size are lack of a microUSB port and 3.5 mm audio jack, and a non-replaceable 910 mAh (3.3 Whr) battery. For USB connectivity and audio out, there are two proprietary magnetic adapters very reminiscent of Apple's MagSafe. We'll subject the Veer to our suite of battery life tests immediately and find out how much stamina the Veer has with such a small battery.

Building PC
When building a new machine, it's often easy to pass by certain manufacturers in favor of old standbys like Antec, Cooler Master, SilverStone, or Thermaltake.
Whenever another company becomes a contender it's usually because they made a big splash at the top of the market and let the halo effect strike the way Corsair did. However, there's great engineering going on with smaller firms, and in the case of IN-WIN and their new BUC enclosure, you'd be surprised at just how much actual value can be crammed into what seems at first glance like a mid-range enclosure. If you're the type to tinker religiously with your desktop, the BUC may just be the case for you.

I'll admit I was a bit skeptical when the BUC arrived. Good enclosures can be difficult to find, and my initial perspective was that the BUC was going to be "just another gaming case". Thankfully my job requires more than snap judgments: I have to actually use the case, build a computer with it, and really get a feel for it. In the process, I found a lot of very pleasant surprises.

Keeping things moving with our new set of case reviews, the BUC is our first full-sized ATX case and as such it's the first case to take advantage of our full-sized ATX testbed, which I'll talk more about when we get to the thermal and acoustic testing. Once again I ask that if you have any suggestions for how we handle future case reviews, please feel free to let us know. Now, on with the show!
IN-WIN BUC Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor ATX, Micro ATX, Mini ITX
Drive Bays External 3x 5.25", 1x 3.5"
Internal 5x 3.5"/2.5" (three hotswap)
Cooling Front 1x 120mm intake fan
Rear 1x 120mm exhaust fan
Top 1x 120mm fan mount
Side 2x 120mm fan mount (tested with extra included fan mounted)
Bottom -
Expansion Slots 7
Front I/O Port 2x USB 2.0, headphone and mic jacks, eSATA
Top I/O Port 1x USB 3.0 (with routing cable)
Power Supply Size Standard ATX
Clearance 250mm (PSU), 12" (Expansion Cards), 170mm (CPU HSF)
Weight 14.77 lbs.
Dimensions 19.9" x 8.3" x 19.1"
Price $99

I whipped out the tape measure to give more exact figures of just what you can expect to fit in this enclosure, but generally speaking just about any standard CPU cooler or power supply should fit. As far as video cards are concerned, fitting anything the size of a Radeon HD 5970/6990 is going to be a tight squeeze, but other than that you should be good to go. Our GeForce GTX 580 was able to fit comfortably and easily with room to breathe.

Dell Logo
Shares of Dell got a boost after the computer maker reported an unexpectedly strong quarter despite concerns about a PC market slowdown. By product category, the company saw the biggest gain in servers and networking, where revenue rose 11 percent to $2 billion. Dell is focusing on more profitable areas of its business.
Dell Inc. said Tuesday that its net income for the latest quarter nearly tripled as the personal computer Relevant Products/Services maker benefited from lower computer component costs and growth in some of its more profitable product lines.

Shares of Dell, which beat analysts' adjusted net income estimates but came in a bit below revenue estimates, rose 5 percent in extended trading.

For the three months that ended April 29, Dell earned $945 million, or 49 cents per share Relevant Products/Services, compared with $341 million, or 17 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, Dell earned 55 cents per share, easily beating what Wall Street expected. Analysts polled by FactSet forecast adjusted earnings of 43 cents per share.

Revenue rose just 1 percent to $15.02 billion from $14.9 billion last year, missing analyst estimates for $15.4 billion. Product revenue remained flat at $12.1 billion, while services revenue climbed 6 percent to $3.0 billion.

In Dell's consumer segment, which makes up about 20 percent of its revenue and so is much smaller than the portion of its revenue that comes from sales to businesses, dropped 7 percent to $3.0 billion.

Consumer demand fell more than Dell anticipated and, in an interview, Chief Financial Officer Brian Gladden attributed some of this to the market for consumer PCs being saturated in developed countries. He added that while tablet Relevant Products/Services computers are still a small portion of the PC Relevant Products/Services market, there's "clearly an impact" from them on consumer demand for traditional PCs.

Revenue from large enterprises climbed 5 percent to $4.5 billion, while revenue from small and medium-size businesses increased 7 percent to $3.8 billion. Public sector revenue declined 2 percent to $3.8 billion.

By product category, the company saw the biggest gain in servers and networking, where revenue rose 11 percent to $2.0 billion. Sales of desktop Relevant Products/Services PCs fell 8 percent to $3.3 billion, while mobile Relevant Products/Services PCs rose 3 percent to $4.7 billion.

Dell has been working to increase the proportion of server computers, data Relevant Products/Services storage Relevant Products/Services devices and technology Relevant Products/Services consulting services it sells, because those areas are more profitable than the company's basic PC business Relevant Products/Services. Compared with a year ago, however, most of Dell's product categories accounted for about the same percentage of revenue, and computers for consumers and businesses continued to make up more than half of Dell's revenue.

Still, Dell's gross margin, an indicator of how efficient Dell's business is, came in at 22.9 percent, higher than the 20.4 percent that analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were expecting.

Dell's strategy of focusing on more profitable areas of its business and pruning lower-margin offerings "is working well," Gladden said.

Pacific Crest analyst Andy Hargreaves called the company's gross margin "impressive" and said Dell should be able to keep it up for now.

"They do have the potential to sustain margins long term, but in order to do so they have to drive toward more services-oriented businesses," he said.

Looking at the current quarter, Dell predicted revenue will rise by a percentage in the mid-single digits over the first quarter, slightly faster than its seasonal 2 percent to 3 percent growth. Analysts are expecting $16.0 billion.

For the full fiscal year, the company continues to expect revenue to grow 5 percent to 9 percent, implying a total of $64.6 billion to $67.0 billion. Analysts expect annual revenue of $64.4 billion.

Dell shares rose 86 cents, or 5.4 percent, to $16.76 in extended trading. The stock finished regular trading down 10 cents at $15.90.

Computer Desk

Remember the totally kick-ass, Light Cycle-inspired scratch PC mod by veteran modder Boddaker (aka Brian Carter) Called TRON Lightcycle PC, Boddaker’s entry for Cooler Master’s annual case mod competition (scratch build category) is currently the third most voted case mod in contention.


As of now, the top spot belongs to the L3p D3sk by a 30-year-old Dutch guy named Peter. The rig is housed inside a desk, effectively making it an “all-in-one desk”, as Peter likes to call it.

Completely made of aluminium and glass, the water-cooled L3p D3sk boasts the following specs:

* Intel Core i7 980X @ 4.5 Ghz
* Corsair Dominator GT 6GB DDR3-2000 CL7 (Elpida) @ 2000 7-7-7-20-1T
* ASUS Rampage III Extreme
* ASUS GTX580 SLI
* ASUS Xense + Sennheiser Xense
* Highpoint RocketRAID 3560 24x SATA-300 2 GB
* Bigfoot Networks™ Killer™ 2100 Gaming Network Card
* 1x Intel 510 120Gb
* 3x Corsair F60 raid0
* 6x Hitachi Deskstar 7K2000 12TB raid5
* 2x Optiarc AD-7241S-0B
* Cooler Master Silent Pro Gold 800W
* Cooler Master Silent Pro Gold 700W
* Dell U2711 27″ IPS
* 2 x Dell 1703 17″ portrait
* Logitech Illuminated keyboard
* Mionix Naos 5000
* Mionix Alioth 400

Even though it took Peter the best part of an year to put everything together, he completed most of the work during a three-week vacation. For someone avowedly new to the case modding scene, it's a tremenedous achievement.

Lenovo

Not that this will make any difference whatsoever to conspiracy theorists, but by this time next year, you won't hardly be able to find a new PC without a USB 3.0 port. Yes, we've heard all about how Intel is intentionally delaying adding native USB 3.0 support in its chipsets in order to promote its own Light Peak/Thunderbolt interface, but if even if that were true, it doesn't matter because as of right now, OEMs are content with USB.


In a phone interview with CNet, Lenovo talked up the USB 3.0 standard and how it's going to invade homes en masse next year.

"In 2012 USB 3.0 will a mainstream technology," said Jason Parrish, worldwide product manager for Lenovo ThinkPad. "And we see 2011 as the transition year for USB 3.0, as it starts to come into more and more products."

We're already seeing a number of PCs sporting SuperSpeed USB ports, and outside of select Macs, Thunderbolt is nowhere to be seen. That might not change in the near future. HP recently stated that, while it's looking at Thunderbolt, it isn't convinced it's needed and hasn't been able to find a value proposition for Intel's spec just yet.

Lenovo wasn't willing to go as far as HP, but did say it will ultimately be up to the customers to decide if they want Thunderbolt.

"[Thunderbolt] is definitely an interesting technology. It's clever to use the same connector as Mini DisplayPort," Parrish told CNet. "There's certainly not a desire to add more ports to a notebook, because it takes up space... We're talking to our customers... And assessing if Thunderbolt is the technology" they need.

Samsung designs AMOLED

Samsung researchers in South Korea have designed and built a prototype of a seamless foldable Active-matrix organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED) display. The display's mechanical and optical robustness were tested by performing 100,000 folding-unfolding cycles. The relative brightness at the junction decreased by just 6 percent, which is hardly recognizable by the human eye and so the deterioration can be considered negligible. The findings have been published in a recent issue of Applied Physics Letters.


The display consists of two AMOLED panels, silicone rubber (a hyperelastic material), a module case, and a protective glass cover (which not only prevents scratches but can also serve as a touch screen). The display has a very small folding radius of just 1 mm, so that one panel lies almost completely on top of the other when the display is folded at a 180° angle. "All the materials in a foldable window unit (glasses and silicone rubber) must have almost the same optical properties and attach to each other strongly without any optical property change," coauthor HongShik Shim of the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology.

In their study, the researchers explain that most flexible displays, which are becoming increasingly more viable and interesting to mobile companies, are bendable or rollable to avoid the creases that occur from folding a material completely in half. The researchers have overcome this problem by creating an AMOLED display with no visible crease: the key to pulling this off is to control the optical properties of the materials.

Some believe that foldable displays could be the future of mobile devices as they solve the problem of minimizing the size of the device while simultaneously maximizing the size of the display. A display that can fold completely in half is the best way to achieve this goal, but so far it has been a challenge to eliminate the visible crease between panels. Now that obstacle has been surmounted, at least in the prototype phase.

Kaspersky Icon

Yevgeny Kaspersky recently spoke at the Australian Computer Emergency Response Team (AusCERT) 2011 conference, which takes place between May 15, 2011 and May 20, 2011. He said the last five years were the "Golden Age" of cybercrime, with the criminal activity now ranking second only to drug trafficking as the most significant criminal activity. As a result, Kaspersky argues we need an "Internet Interpol" and better cooperation between international law enforcement agencies.


"Cybercrime is integrated into the computer world," Kaspersky said according to CIO. "It's like if you are in Australia, sharks are integrated into the beautiful ocean. Some cybercriminals from non English-speaking countries don't release malware in their own country because they don't want police to connect them to it."

Kaspersky believes one of the biggest reasons that cybercrime was proving difficult to fight is because there is a lack of cooperation between international anti-cybercriminal police forces. In addition to having police agencies investigate cybercrime, an Internet Interpol should be established. This is not a new idea, but Kaspersky noted that almost nothing has happened in the last decade since it was first suggested.

He also mentioned that "Internet passports" and having an "online ID" would help fight cybercrime. An online identification could help stop criminals engaging in identity theft by searching online for scanned passport documents.

Yevgeny co-founded the Kaspersky Lab, a privately held international company that produces antivirus and other computer security products, in 1997. Excluding the energy sector, Kaspersky Lab is considered one of Russia's few international business success stories. The company makes excellent security software and I have personally recommended some of its products a few times.

Last month, Kaspersky was personally affected by the criminal activity his company helps fight. His son, Ivan Kaspersky, was kidnapped and the abductors demanded a ransom. Ivan was released three days later.

ChromiumPC

At Google I/O earlier this month, Google introduced (briefly) a Samsung-labeled Chrome desktop box. But while it looked a lot like the Mac Mini, there still aren't any true details to show people what it may be capable of. Google also stated that they'd continue to push Chromium for those who want a taste of Chrome on a non-sanctioned machine, and it looks like Xi3 is jumping on that notion to make a timely announcement.


The Xi3 Computer isn't new; those following desktops will likely recognize the form factor here. But there's a new twist to this -- the ChromiumPC computer is a cube-like, small form factor, low-power (20Watts) dual-core modular computer that can be adapted to run other operating systems or to perform specialized functions. In other words, this is just an x86 system, but they'll happily support Chromium if you'd like a Chrome OS-like experience on a small, mobile desktop. It's a strange way to market this, but probably a smart one.

The Xi3 Computer Architecture is designed to support any x86-based operating system, including Windows, Linux, Unix, and other open source-based operating systems. In other words, if someone chooses to switch their ChromiumPC to run a different operating system, it’s as easy as swapping out one of the three boards inside the computer. The company's expected to make these available in early July, but there's no mention yet of a price.

Unlike traditional computers, however, the Xi3 Computer Architecture makes it possible to change the so-called personality and/or functionality of an Xi3 Modular Computer, including the ChromiumPC. This is done in eight easy steps:

1. Power down and disconnect the Modular Computer from all external connections
2. Remove the four screws from one of the honeycomb-shaped and chrome-plated sideplates
3. Remove the sideplate from the Modular Computer chassis
4. Slide the three interconnected modules out of the chassis
5. Remove one of the I/O Modules and replace it with a new I/O Module
6. Reinsert the three interconnected modules back inside the chassis
7. Reattach the sideplate to the chassis
8. Reconnect all external connections and power-up the Modular Computer

Intel SSD
Picked up a new Intel SSD lately? If it's the SSD 320, you're in for some good news. While solid state drives are best known for being more reliable and durable than HDDs, there have been some fragmenting issues and performance-related issues along the way. Now, those who purchase an SSD 320 will have a little less to worry over. Intel has just revealed that they will be extending their limited warranty for the SSD 320 Series from three years to five years. That's a pretty significant increase, and the extended warranty term will apply to all Intel SSD 320 Series drives, including those already purchased.


Of course, this only applies to consumer-level disks; enterprise usage levels will have other strings attached. Now, how long before every Intel SSD matches this?

3D Notebook

Most powerful? Most amazing? We hear it all the time, but what does it really mean? In the case of Maingear's newest machine, it means that the mega gaming laptop makers of the world have even more competition. The company has just announced that they're launching the "most powerful 17" 3D gaming notebook" on the market, with their machine have a 4.8GHz overclocked CPU (similar to the EON-17S) and NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 485M.


The upgrades are hitting the eX-L 17 3D, providing 3D Vision support, 2nd-gen Intel Core processors, 2.5GHz - 4.8GHz chipc, 2GB of GDDR5 memory, DirectX 11 support and a 120Hz-enabled 3D panel. It also ships with a built-in 3D emitter, two HDD bays, integrated Bigfoot Networks Killer Wireless-N, and a pair of NVIDIA 3D Glasses. The pain, however, is great. It starts at $2659 in a "well equipped" configuration, so you best start saving up.

Technical Specification:

* Video Card: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 485M with 2GB
* Display: 17.3" (16:9) 120Hz 3D-enabled Full HD (1920x1080) LED-Backlit Display with Matte Finish screen and Nvidia 3D vision Glasses
* Processor: Up to Intel® Core™ i7-2920XM Processor Extreme Edition, 8MB L3 Cache Overclocked up to 4.8Ghz
* Memory: Up to Patriot 16GB Dual Channel DDR3 - 1600Mhz
* Optical Drive: Up to 2X Blu-ray reader/8x Multi Combo (BD-R, DVD+-RW, CD-RW)
* Hard Drive: Up to two 600GB Solid State Drives, 500GB Hybrid SSDs, or 750GB 7200RPM SATA 2.5 drives
* Network Adapter: Bigfoot Networks Killer™ Wireless-N
* Audio: HDMI Out; Optical Digital Out, up to 7.1 HD Audio with THX TruStudio support
* Media Card Reader: Built in 7-in-1 Media Card Reader (MMC/RSMMC/MS/MS Pro/MS Duo/SD/Mini-SD)
* Operating System: Genuine Windows® 7 Home, Professional or Ultimate 64-Bit
* Battery: 8-cell Removable Li-Polymer Lithium-Ion
* I/O Ports: 1 HDMI out, 1 DVI-I out, 2 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, 1 eSATA, 1 IEEE-1394 Fire Wire, 1 S/PDIF out, 1 RJ-45 LAN, 1 RJ-11
* Dimensions: (W)16.22" x (H)1.75" x (D)10.87" – 8.6LB with battery
* Price: Starts at $2,659 well-equipped

Piraten Partei

German police seized several servers belonging to Germany's Pirate Party Friday morning as part of an investigation into a cyberattack on the French energy group EDF, the party said in a statement.


The political party itself was not the target of the 9:15 a.m. raid of a hosting site in Offenbach, Germany, according to the Pirate Party. Instead, the confiscation of servers hosted by AixIT was part of an investigation in conjunction with French authorities into denial-of-service attacks that bear the hallmarks of the loose hacking organization calling itself "Anonymous."

Police, armed with a warrant, seized computers used for the Pirate Party's collaborative document drafting service, Piratepad, according the party's German-language statement, as translated by the TorrentFreak blog.

Investigators believe Piratepad was employed by unnamed users of the service to plan DDoS attacks on EDF. The Pirate Party's board of directors said it was cooperating with investigators and was not the subject of the investigation.

"At the moment, the Board does not expect delinquency on behalf of the Pirate Party. The investigation is not directed against the party or any of its subsidiaries, they are only involved as the server's operators. The results are awaited with curiosity," the Party said in Friday's statement.

After news of the raid broke, servers belonging to German police were also attacked, according to TorrentFreak. The Pirate Party, in a follow-up statement, also denied any involvement in those attacks.

The party complained about the timing of the raid, as it is contesting an election in Bremen this Sunday.

Android

Does Google's mobile Android 2.3 operating system, aka Gingerbread, lie beneath its tablet-only Android 3.0 os, aka Honeycomb?


A modder by the name of Graffix0214 has discovered a way to unlock the Gingerbread user interface on his Dell Streak 7 tablet, which runs Honeycomb, by simply changing the system's pixel settings.

Using the app "LCDDensity for Root," he changed the LCD pixel density setting from 160 to above 170, then rebooted. The tablet then displayed a Gingerbread login interface. You can revert back to Honeycomb by simply changing the pixel density back to 160, he said. Check out his demonstration in the video below.

"It's safe to say that Honeycomb wasn't built from the ground up. Looks like it was taken from Gingerbread," Graphix0214 concluded.

Perhaps Android 4.0, codenamed "Ice Cream Sandwich," which isn't expected until the fourth quarter, is already in place. At Mobile World Congress in February, Google CEO Eric Schmidt suggested that Ice Cream Sandwich will combine elements of Gingerbread and Honeycomb:

"The two of them – notice that starts with a G and the next one starts with an H. You can imagine the follow-on will start with an I and it will be named after a dessert and it will combine capabilities of both the G and the H release," Schmidt said.

Watch Graphix0214 unlock Gingerbread on a Honeycomb-based Dell Streak 7:

HP TouchPad

We still don't know when Hewlett-Packard's TouchPad media tablet will arrive this summer, but a little bird has given PreCentral.net an inkling of what the pricing will be like.


A source tells the site that Wal-Mart will be carrying a 32GB version of the 9.5-inch tablet running HP's own in-house webOS, for the Apple iPad-like price of $599.

A Wal-Mart listing presumably passed along by the tipster doesn't contain a lot of detail, though it does list the $599 TouchPad as Wi-Fi-enabled. Other connectivity options weren't indicated.

The source must have passed on other details, because PreCentral.net reports that the TouchPad will be 9.5x10x1.78 inches, weigh in at 3 pounds, and that a number of TouchPad accessories will also be available from Wal-Mart.

The listed dimensions do seem to conflict with earlier reports that the TouchPad is 9.7 inches across. Whether that's just reflects a shorthand rounding of dimensions that often occurs in reporting on mobile devices remains to be seen.

These include the Touchstone Dock/Stand for the TouchPad, priced at $79.88 and capable of docking the upcoming tablet in both its portrait and landscape orientations. Other accessories include a webOS Bluetooth keyboard for $69.88, the first-party TouchPad case for $49.88, and an AC charger priced at $29.88.

Dates for pre-orders and official release were unavailable, but PreCentral.net did say its tipster believed that Wal-Mart could have the TouchPad in its retail stores as early as June 1.

An earlier report in March indicated that the TouchPad would not be available until September, and that different versions would be priced from $499 to $599.


Following the deadly explosions at Apple assembly plant Foxconn on Friday, an analyst has predicted that iPad production could drop as much as 36 percent in the third quarter.


Analyst Mike Abramsky of RBC Capital wrote that iPad production could drop 1.8-2.8 million units, against an estimated third quarter (June-September) production run of 8 million units, or 22-36 percent. This would impact Apple revenue by $1.1-1.7 billion, Abramsky noted, according to CNN.

A less grave scenario, Abramsky said, was that the Chengdu plant would only be down for a month, decreasing iPad supplies by about 1.3 million units in the third quarter.

Foxconn's Chengdu factory reportedly has 52 iPad production lines and is said to be able to produce more than 40 million units a year. But yesterday an explosion ripped through the facility's "polishing plant" at around 7 p.m. local time, killing two people and injuring 16.

Foxconn's troubles are well-documented, ranging from a string of factory worker suicides in 2010 to charges against three employees for allegedly leaking iPad 2 designs to third-party accessory suppliers. In May, Taiwanese newspaper DigiTimes reported that labor and part shortages at the Chengdu factor could lead to shipment delays for the iPhone 4 and iPad 2.

Since its launch, Apple hasn't been able to keep up with demand for the iPad 2. In its first quarter earnings call Apple reported a sharp decline in iPad, down 4.69 million units from 7.33 million the quarter before. Chief operating officer Tim Cook called it "the mother of all backlogs."

Hacking

When it rains for Sony, it pours for Sony. According to reports from the Wall Street Journal, hackers have managed to infiltrate Sony's subsidiary ISP, So-net Entertainment Corp., and make off with around $1,225 in redeemable gift points.


According to So-net, the company discovered the breach after receiving customer complaints on May 18. A subsequent investigation concluded that hackers were able to tap into approximately 128 different accounts across May 16 and May 17, stealing around 100,000 yen (or $1,225) worth of points from the account holders. An additional 73 accounts were also accessed, their points left unredeemed, and around 90 So-net email accounts were compromised in the attack.

"Although we can't completely rule out the possibility that there is a connection with the PSN issue, the likelihood is low," So-net Entertainment spokesperson Keisuke Watabe said.

To So-net's credit, whatever security system the company employs for its point system did manage to hold for quite a bit of time. That, or the hackers really had no other strategies other than what appears to be a brute-force attack on accounts. It allegedly took the attackers more than 10,000 different attempts before they were finally successful in accessing So-net's system.

Following the attack, So-net has alerted its customers and asked them to change their passwords on their accounts. The company has also stopped point exchanges across its network for the time being.

"At this point in our investigations, we have not confirmed any data leakage," said Watabe, offering up a bit of a silver lining for the attack. "We have not found any sign of a possibility that a third party has obtained members' names, address, birth dates and phone numbers."

The timing of the So-net attack couldn't be worst for Sony. An unrelated Sony attack was also discovered earlier this week, in which hackers managed to penetrate Sony's Thailand site and publish a phishing page on the company's servers. The page was dolled up to look as if it was for the Italian CartaSi credit card, and it asked users to submit all of their specific credit card information before redirecting them over to the official CartaSi site.

Once contacted by F-Secure's Mikko Hypponen, who discovered the phishing attempt, Sony removed the offending page.

Firefox Logo

Mozilla has released the first Firefox beta under its new rapid-release model: a program designed to ensure more frequent updates to the browser at the expense of huge, sweeping changes between new Firefox versions.


Case in point—the company just sent Firefox 5 from the newly designed Aurora development channel to the public-facing Beta channel. That means that it's available for public consumption and feedback. However, the list of new features might seem a bit scant at first, especially if one takes into account the historical jumps that have previously occurred between Firefox version numbers.

"The shift to a rapid release development cycle delivers cutting edge Firefox features, performance enhancements, security updates and stability improvements to users faster," reads the blog post announcing the Firefox 5 beta release.

The Firefox 5 beta builds a few new updates into the browser, but nothing especially monumental or Earth-shattering. Aside from the standard bevvy of enhancements to the browser's performance and standards support, Firefox 5 only really comes with two additional features of note. The first, support for CSS animations, gives web developers the ability to add a little extra flair to their pages. This could include making text slide into place across the browser or having different elements of text magically appear as different parts of an animation hit, to name a few examples.

The second big feature found in Firefox 5 specifically relates to Mozilla's rapid-release model. In this case, Mozilla's added an option to allow users to more quickly switch between one of the three main development channels in the rapid-release cycle: Aurora, a version of the browser where most proposed features are introduced (and an iteration that's much more stable than Mozilla's nightly Firefox builds); Beta, a more stable test build of the browser for public consumption; and Release, the standard iteration of Firefox designed for all users to download.

To access the feature, one need only pull up the "About" screen under Firefox's Help menu. Clicking on the "Change" link allows a user to switch to the Release, Aurora, or Beta channel—after clicking "Apply and Update," the browser automatically downloads the requested version.

So what do you, Firefox fan, need to know? Firefox 5 beta is up and ready: Although its new features might not make huge changes in your standard browsing experience, the browser beta will at least allow you to switch between Firefox variants depending on your need to have more features, or more stability, at a moment's notice

ICERA

Late last year Intel announced the intention to acquire Infineon’s Wireless Solutions business, highlighting an important trend in the application processor space: those determined to lead in the smartphone/tablet SoC market have an intense desire to control as much IP as possible. It’s not enough to simply bundle licensed IP blocks, acquiring the IP is the first step towards consolidating the market.
It started years ago with the acquisition of companies that made audio and video decoders. Qualcomm even purchased ATI’s Imageon GPU business, again with the mindset that if you don’t own your IP, you’re no different than just another competitor who licenses it.

Qualcomm itself has done very well as it has a rare combination of owning a considerable amount of IP within its application processor but also having a successful cellular baseband business. Qualcomm designs its own CPU cores (based on ARM instruction sets), its own GPU cores and likely controls much of the other IP going into its SoCs. On top of all of that, Qualcomm designs its own modems which can be both integrated into its application processors or used externally as a separate chip.

Qualcomm modems have been used in many of the smartphones we’ve played with lately including the HTC Thunderbolt and the Droid Charge.

Having an extensive baseband portfolio is no different for a player in the app processor space as owning your own chipset business was for Intel in the early 2000s. If you can provide your customers (smartphone/tablet vendors) with a platform rather than individual chips there’s the potential to market synergies between your offerings and then of course you can sell more chips to the same customer rather than sending that business elsewhere. Eventually this approach drives the individual vendors of various IP out of business as power is consolidated in the hands of the strongest SoC players.

Today NVIDIA announced that it too is going to play in this game with the acquisition of Icera. The acquisition is expected to close in 30 days and is worth $367 million in cash.

Icera’s modems aren’t too common in high end smartphones. A quick look through its product offering shows a strong focus on mobile broadband devices (e.g. USB modems), however it’s possible that Icera simply could never break into the handset market - something NVIDIA can help address with its recent success on the back of Tegra 2. It’s clear that eventually integrating Icera’s technology into Tegra SoCs now becomes an option which, assuming there are no fundamental issues with Icera’s baseband designs, would obviously increase its presence in the handset space.

What Icera offers that’s unique is what it calls a software baseband. All cellular baseband processors require some sort of on-board processing, which is usually handled by a licensed ARM core, fixed function logic or combination of the two. Icera’s baseband chips feature its own custom designed microprocessor (something Icera calls its DXP - Deep Execution Processor) that can be upgraded, through software, to support a wide range of wireless standards.

The Icera Livanto ICE8060 baseband for example supports HSPA category 8 (7.2Mbps) all the way up through category 24 HSPA+ (42Mbps) and 50Mbps multimode LTE. Presumably Icera charges more for the faster software packages, but it does allow its customers to build a single design that’s quickly adaptable to other networks.

Icera argues that its software baseband architecture results in a smaller overall die size and lower power consumption than the competition. If true, this would mean better levels of integration both in an SoC and in a handset as well as longer battery life. That being said, we all know better than to trust a vendor’s claims without hard evidence.

Icera did publish this diagram which shows the size of its baseband IC compared to solutions from Qualcomm and ST-E:

It’s unclear how similar Icera’s approach is to what companies like Qualcomm already do. Given that there’s only a single baseband listed on Icera’s product pages I suspect it’s at least a bit more configurable than the competition. NVIDIA’s press release makes mention of Icera’s patent portfolio, which is likely a big part of what NVIDIA is after in this acquisition.

Today’s announcement is mostly about NVIDIA continuing to take the SoC market seriously. If you believe that those who will ultimately succeed here will own as much of their own IP as possible, then NVIDIA is on the right path.

HP EliteBook

Every time I feel like I'm done posting about HP's hardware refreshes, they have another press conference and another announcement. Typically a constant stream of releases and conferences is indicative of a back and forth between competing vendors, trying to steal thunder, but Dell, Acer, and Toshiba have all been strangely silent.
Today is at least a little different, though; HP is fleshing out their refreshed business lines a little more, but they're also updating two of their consumer notebooks.

First on the block is HP's ProBook 5330m. If you've been following our coverage of HP's business notebook announcements (and we have a review of the EliteBook 8460p en route as well), the 5330m is going to seem a little old hat at first: it has a Sandy Bridge processor (no dedicated graphics options) and 13.3" screen inside a sleek brushed aluminum shell. The difference here is that the ProBook is the first business-class notebook in HP's stable to feature their much-ballyhooed Beats Audio. In our experience with the HP Envy 17, we found Beats Audio to be at least a moderate improvement over the typical notebook audio (though it still trailed in comparison to the sound systems on Dell's XPS laptops). The ProBook 5330m also has an optional backlit keyboard. HP expects it to be available today starting at $799.

HP is also introducing two new EliteBooks, the 2560p and 2760p. From the model numbers one might suspect these are larger desktop replacement notebooks, but actually they're both 12-inch machines. The EliteBook 2560p is typical of HP's new line of business notebooks, just fun sized, with a 12.5" 1366x768 matte screen and the usual Sandy Bridge trimmings. The EliteBook 2560p is expected to be available on May 23rd starting at $1,099.

The 2760p on the other hand is a new tablet PC, proving this form factor just refuses to die. It has some of the same brushed aluminum style of its kin, but has a keyboard that hearkens back to HP's last generation. HP offers it with a 1280x800 "ultra-wide-viewing-angle" multi-touch screen standard with optional "Outdoor View" version. Odds are good this is packing an IPS panel, so individuals looking for an alternative to Lenovo's IPS 12" notebook might want to check it out. Interestingly, HP says they're keeping the 16:10 aspect ratio on the 2760p because of customer demand; we're not sure why no one demands the same on other laptop LCDs, as 16:9 generally isn't looked on favorably by most of our readers. The EliteBook 2760p is expected to be available today starting at $1,499.

Finally, HP is refreshing their Mini 210, dv4, and ENVY 14 notebooks, making this a good day for fans of more portable machines.

Since we know you're champing at the bit for another Atom-based netbook and you can hardly contain yourselves, we'll start with the Mini 210. It comes with an Intel Atom N455, 1GB of DDR3, Beats Audio, and a 10.1" glossy, LED-backlit 1024x600 screen. The shell has seen a slight redesign to bring the Mini 210 in line with HP's other consumer notebooks, but the insides are the same stuff you've been suffering through for the past couple of years. It's expected to be available on June 15th for $299, but if you're in the market for a netbook you may want to save yourself some time and energy and just pony up for the Bronze Editor's Choice award-winning dm1z with AMD's E-350 Fusion processor. It's $100 more, but it has a higher-resolution screen, full-sized keyboard, and usable internal hardware.

The dv4 and ENVY 14 are much less changed. Each has been updated to Intel's Sandy Bridge, and features Beats Audio and HP's CoolSense technology to keep the notebook running frosty and quiet, depending on the workload. The ENVY 14 also sees an upgrade to USB 3.0. The updated dv4 starts at $599 and is expected to be available on May 18th; the updated ENVY 14 starts at $999 and is expected to be available June 15th.

SAP Global Partner


New enterprise mobility solutions will be offered by SAP AG and Accenture, as announced at the Sapphire Now event for SAP customers. Sybase said the solutions will let companies implement a mobility strategy quickly. Included in the rollout is the Sybase Unwired Platform 2.0, and a new app that accesses SAP's CRM application.
SAP AG and Accenture are joining forces to create new enterprise Relevant Products/Services mobility Relevant Products/Services solutions, using the next generation of the Sybase Unwired Platform, new mobile Relevant Products/Services apps Relevant Products/Services from SAP, and new solutions developed with Accenture Mobility Services. The initial targets will be the oil and gas, utilities and consumer-products industries.

The announcement was made at the Sapphire Now event for SAP customers, currently taking place in Orlando, Fla. Dr. Raj Nathan, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of SAP-owned Sybase, said the new mobile solutions "will drastically reduce the costs and time needed for organizations to implement a mobility strategy."

Making Mobile a Priority

The companies cited a 2010 Forrester Relevant Products/Services Research survey which found that more than 60 percent of companies are making mobile applications a priority.

Included in the rollout are the release of the Sybase Unwired Platform 2.0 and an updated version of the software Relevant Products/Services development kit (SDK). Upgrades to the platform include native app development, a hybrid web container for customized application Relevant Products/Services development, cross-platform support Relevant Products/Services, a single sign-on for SAP systems, and encrypted web storage Relevant Products/Services and data Relevant Products/Services transmission.

The new mobile apps build on the updated Unwired Platform. One of the new products is a SAP Field Service mobile app designed to provide access Relevant Products/Services to assignments, service Relevant Products/Services orders, and service confirmation, in the field. It also provides out-of-the-box access to the SAP customer-relationship-management application, with instant field assignment alerts, enhanced service-order management, integration with a mapping service, and service order debriefs.

Features in a new SAP Retail Execution mobile app include retail visit management and scheduling, survey and auditing tools, customer account management, and product management. A Work Order mobile app provides work orders, technical object management, inventory information, and business Relevant Products/Services partner information.

Other mobile apps in development are ones for human resources, procurement, finance and sales.

Accenture's Services

The companies said their solutions include an "actionable plan and road map" to use Accenture's mobility consulting services to increase productivity Relevant Products/Services, reduce costs, and increase revenues, as well as software services for application development that utilize the Unwired Platform to deploy Relevant Products/Services mobile functionality.

Existing Accenture Mobility Services will be offered, as well as Mobility Consulting Services for Enterprise Strategy, Mobility Software Services for Application Development, Mobility Business Integration Services for Field Force Transformation, and Mobility Managed Services for Mobile Application and Device Management.

Integration Services for Field Force Transformation is designed to bring "technician-focused" tools to the field and reengineer front-office practices. Managed Services for Mobile Application and Device Management offers a company-specific application catalog, device Relevant Products/Services security Relevant Products/Services, and remote, over-the-air mobile-device management capabilities.

Accenture is a global Relevant Products/Services management consulting, technology Relevant Products/Services services, and outsourcing company with a workforce of more than 215,000 in more than 120 countries. SAP's enterprise application software products and services have more than 170,000 customers worldwide.

3D Games

Origin's EON line of gaming PCs was never a slow one. In fact, it was one of the most blazing lines around, with wicked customization options and a sky-is-the-limit vibe to it. Now, there's even more wow-factor packed in. The company has just upgraded the EON17-S with a 1080p 3D panel and overclocking options that push the CPU to 4.8GHz! Yes, that's from Origin, and yes, they'll honor their own warranty even with a chip pushed to the extreme.


Furthermore, the company's tossing in a built-in 3D emitter. So, let's recap: a near-5GHz CPU, 1080p 3D and a massive 17" shell. Shame the starting tag is still $1759, but you obviously get what you pay for.

MacAntiVirus

For years, Mac owners have laughed at the frantic efforts of their PC neighbors to fend off attack by viruses, Trojans, rootkits, and other malware. Given that PCs are a vastly greater segment of the market, it's cost-effective for the bad guys to concentrate on PC attacks. And yes, it's true that Apple's operating system is tougher to crack than Windows. But the days of Mac complacency may be ending. First, some threats are completely platform-independent. If a phishing email can fool you into entering your credit card data on a fraudulent site, it doesn't matter if you're running Windows, Mac OS, Linux, or DR-DOS. You're hosed.


In addition, some of the bad guys have ventured into the Mac realm, creating Mac-specific attacks like the recent MAC Defender. Delivered via poisoned search engine results, this bogus application claims to protect users, but actually harms them. It opens porn Web pages at intervals and convinces gullible users that they're infected. Naturally the only "cure" is to register MAC Defender.

In addition, some Macs run Windows as well as Mac OS X, a volatile combination. A Mac running Windows is vulnerable to the innumerable Windows-based attacks already swarming the Web.

We haven't yet observed any true surge in viruses, Trojans, or other active malware targeting the Mac, but it couldn't hurt to be prepared. Many of the major security vendors offer Mac products; some offer combined protection for Mac OS X and Windows running on the Mac. And a few will scan the URLs you visit to help fend off phishing attacks.

You don't even have to pay for Mac antivirus protection. Sophos offers a fully functional home edition of its Mac antivirus for free. If you'd rather go with a different vendor, or if you need features Sophos doesn't offer, consider one of the choices from the chart below.

Apple TV

Apple TV continues to dominate the market for media-streaming devices, although the total market is small enough to put the entire category's future in doubt.


Apple TV - both the first and second-generation models - together control about 55 percent of the media streamer market, according to a report by In-Stat this week that tracks the number of units sold during 2010.

Just over 3.5 million media streaming devices, also known as over-the-top (OTT) set-tops, were sold in all of 2010. By contrast, Apple sold 4.69 million iPads in the last quarter alone; in April, Netflix added support for the iPad via an app.

A separate In-Stat report found that about four times as many respondents said that they watched video content on a TV via a PC as a separate set-top box like an Apple TV or a Roku box. Mike Paxton, the In-Stat analyst who authored of the media-streamer report, said the sales figures led him to suspect that the dedicated media streaming set-top box might not be around in a few years, or relegated to just a services play.

"None of these are shipping in any large volumes - a couple thousand here, a couple thousand there," he said, speaking of the smaller players. "It just doesn't make sense when there are so many other devices in the home that do it already."

Apple TV shipped 1.95 million units, or about 55 percent, In-Stat found. In second came Roku, which notched sales of 450,000 units, or just under 13 percent. TiVo only sold 175,000 units, In-Stat said, or about 5 percent. Many more, including Logitech's Google TV, plus products from Iomega, Boxee, Western Digital, Sony, and Seagate sold under 100,000 units, Paxton said. However, several of those, including the Logitech Revue, Boxee Box, and others, began selling late in the year. In-Stat didn't release the entire report, reserving it for its clients.

In 2007, Apple dubbed the Apple TV a "hobby," and rarely broke out sales figures for the product up until the launch of a smaller, $99 Apple TV last September. In the week before Christmas, Apple said that it had sold a million units.

The problem, Paxton and In-Stat's research said, is that so many other devices offer the same services - Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and Vudu, among others - that the dedicated streaming devices do.

A small In-Stat survey of 393 users found that 41.0 percent of those that view video content on the TV use a PC. About 25.7 percent use video game consoles like the Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3, which also offer the media streaming services. And a surprisingly large number - 34.6 percent - accessed those services from a connected television, more so than the 22.4 percent that used a connected Blu-ray player. The only device category to report fewer users than the video streamer/OTT box, at 11.2 percent, were those that used a PC's software in conjunction with another device to watch video, at 6.4 percent.

Rumors have surfaced that Apple might launch its own dedicated connected television, bringing the Apple TV inside it as a platform, rather than as a dedicated box. "If that product [the Apple TV] goes away, this market goes down to nothing," Paxton said.

Facebook

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg this week said that younger children should be allowed on the site—for education purposes. "In the future, software and technology will enable people to learn a lot from their fellow students," Zuckerberg said at the NewSchools Summit in California, according to Fortune.


Currently, Facebook only allows people 13 and older to sign up for the site. It's easy to get around that, however, and Consumer Reports recently reported that there are approximately 7.5 million underage kids on Facebook.

"That will be a fight we take on at some point," Zuckerberg said in regards to allowing younger kids on the site. "My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age."

Hampering that effort is the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which bans Web sites from collecting information from users under 13. As a result, "we haven't even begun this learning process," Zuckerberg said. "If they're lifted then we'd start to learn what works. We'd take a lot of precautions to make sure that they [younger kids] are safe."

It could be an uphill battle. Facebook chief technology officer Bret Taylor appeared on Capitol Hill Thursday, where Sen. John Rockefeller grilled him about underage kids on the site.

"I want you to defend your company here because I don't know how you can," Rockefeller said.

Taylor insisted that "whenever we find out that someone has misrepresented their age on Facebook, we shut down that account. We don't allow people to misrepresent their age."

In March, Facebook said that it removes about 20,000 profiles from the site per day for various infractions, including users who are underage.

In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said the site is currently designed for two age groups: 13 to 18 and 18 and up.

"However, recent reports have highlighted just how difficult it is to implement age restrictions on the Internet and that there is no single solution to ensuring younger children don't circumvent a system or lie about their age," the spokesperson continued. "As Mark noted, education is critical to ensuring that people of all ages use the Internet safely and responsibly. We agree with safety experts that communication between parents or guardians and kids about their use of the Internet is vital. We believe that services such as Facebook have a role to play in encouraging this."

The Foundation Cracks: Intel, Microsoft At Odds Over Windows 8 The nascent tablet market segment has already strained the Wintel alliance; both Microsoft and Intel have made marketing/strategic decisions that the other isn't fond of. Intel's recent financial analyst day has only made things worse; Microsoft is quite unhappy with the CPU manufacturer's remarks regarding Windows 8. Microsoft's declaration that Windows 8 would run on ARM processors was one of the most talked about announcements of last January's CES, but Intel's remarks this week cast doubt on the usefulness of the ARM-flavored version of that operating system. Renée James, Intel's general manager of the software & services group, claimed in his presentation that Microsoft's Windows for ARM would never offer any degree of legacy compatibility with x86 software. "On ARM, there'll be the new experience, which is very specifically around the mobile experience, specifically around tablet and some limited clamshell, with no legacy OS, James told The Register. "Our competitors will not be running legacy applications. Not now. Not ever." Microsoft's response to James' statements snarled its way across the wire in a matter of hours. Intel's statements during yesterday's Intel Investor Meeting about Microsoft's plans for the next version of Windows were factually inaccurate and unfortunately misleading. From the first demonstrations of Windows on SoC, we have been clear about our goals and have emphasized that we are at the technology demonstration stage. As such, we have no further details or information at this time. Intel is plenty interested in Windows 8, but is simultaneously trying to sell the market on the idea that Atom, not ARM, is the ideal ultra-mobile processor of the future. Microsoft is perfectly willing to support x86 ultra-mobile hardware, but wants to develop an operating system it can deploy on as many architectures as possible. Given that MS has already promised a version of Office that's ARM-compatible, Intel's declaration that there will be no legacy support is far from accurate. Legacy app support isn't the only point James raised; Ars Technica reports that the VP also implied only x86 versions of Windows would be able to switch from a tablet-friendly GUI to a standard desktop GUI—ARM systems would allegedly be stuck with only the new touch interface. The overall point of James' argument is that Intel doesn't just provide a CPU—it offers development tools, decades of experience, thorough documentation, and full legacy compatibility with virtually any app a person might install. Microsoft's Terrible Touch Undoes Intel's Argument. There's a gaping flaw in Intel's logic. "Full x86 legacy application support" makes for a great bullet point, but it's of dubious benefit in the real world. The overwhelming majority of x86 software created in the past 30 years was designed for a keyboard+mouse. The problems this creates are instantly apparent to anyone who tries to use a Windows 7 touch-enabled system. Unless the display uses a much lower resolution than normal, it can be insanely difficult to select options from the menu bar, navigate file trees, or seamlessly copy-paste content from one article to another. There are very, very few games that would translate well; those that did would still require updates to enable touchscreen support. Intel does have something of an argument, insomuch as software vendors whose products translated well to touchscreens would have an easier time of porting their applications. We suspect, however, that future applications will fail or succeed based on their GUI design as much as their performance. This may be part of why Intel is trying so hard to redefine the PC and reassert its importance in the face of new products. Intel's development ecosystem and decades of expertise are unmatched, but in this instance, not particularly useful. Despite the company's bold words, we suspect ARM presents a stiffer challenge than Santa Clara is currently willing to admit.


The nascent tablet market segment has already strained the Wintel alliance; both Microsoft and Intel have made marketing/strategic decisions that the other isn't fond of. Intel's recent financial analyst day has only made things worse; Microsoft is quite unhappy with the CPU manufacturer's remarks regarding Windows 8. Microsoft's declaration that Windows 8 would run on ARM processors was one of the most talked about announcements of last January's CES, but Intel's remarks this week cast doubt on the usefulness of the ARM-flavored version of that operating system.


Renée James, Intel's general manager of the software & services group, claimed in his presentation that Microsoft's Windows for ARM would never offer any degree of legacy compatibility with x86 software. "On ARM, there'll be the new experience, which is very specifically around the mobile experience, specifically around tablet and some limited clamshell, with no legacy OS, James told The Register. "Our competitors will not be running legacy applications. Not now. Not ever."

Microsoft's response to James' statements snarled its way across the wire in a matter of hours.

Intel's statements during yesterday's Intel Investor Meeting about Microsoft's plans for the next version of Windows were factually inaccurate and unfortunately misleading. From the first demonstrations of Windows on SoC, we have been clear about our goals and have emphasized that we are at the technology demonstration stage. As such, we have no further details or information at this time.

Intel is plenty interested in Windows 8, but is simultaneously trying to sell the market on the idea that Atom, not ARM, is the ideal ultra-mobile processor of the future. Microsoft is perfectly willing to support x86 ultra-mobile hardware, but wants to develop an operating system it can deploy on as many architectures as possible. Given that MS has already promised a version of Office that's ARM-compatible, Intel's declaration that there will be no legacy support is far from accurate.

Legacy app support isn't the only point James raised; Ars Technica reports that the VP also implied only x86 versions of Windows would be able to switch from a tablet-friendly GUI to a standard desktop GUI—ARM systems would allegedly be stuck with only the new touch interface. The overall point of James' argument is that Intel doesn't just provide a CPU—it offers development tools, decades of experience, thorough documentation, and full legacy compatibility with virtually any app a person might install.

Microsoft's Terrible Touch Undoes Intel's Argument.

There's a gaping flaw in Intel's logic. "Full x86 legacy application support" makes for a great bullet point, but it's of dubious benefit in the real world. The overwhelming majority of x86 software created in the past 30 years was designed for a keyboard+mouse. The problems this creates are instantly apparent to anyone who tries to use a Windows 7 touch-enabled system. Unless the display uses a much lower resolution than normal, it can be insanely difficult to select options from the menu bar, navigate file trees, or seamlessly copy-paste content from one article to another.




There are very, very few games that would translate well; those that did would still require updates to enable touchscreen support. Intel does have something of an argument, insomuch as software vendors whose products translated well to touchscreens would have an easier time of porting their applications. We suspect, however, that future applications will fail or succeed based on their GUI design as much as their performance.

This may be part of why Intel is trying so hard to redefine the PC and reassert its importance in the face of new products. Intel's development ecosystem and decades of expertise are unmatched, but in this instance, not particularly useful. Despite the company's bold words, we suspect ARM presents a stiffer challenge than Santa Clara is currently willing to admit.

Phishing Site on Sony Server

Oh, Sony. Capping off a week that saw Sony disable logins across some of its PlayStation Network properties thanks to a password exploit, F-Secure identified a phishing site running on one of Sony's servers.


Today's incident, however, "has nothing to do with the Sony PSN hack," F-Secure's Mikko Hypponen wrote in a blog post.

"We know you're not supposed to kick somebody when they're already down ... but we just found a live phishing site running on one of Sony's servers," Hypponen said. "Basically this means that Sony has been hacked, again. Although in this case the server is probably not very important."

Hypponen posted screen shots of the official homepage of Sony Thailand, as well as a phishing site using the URL hdworld.sony.co.th (above), which appears to target an Italian credit card company.

He notified Sony of the problem and later tweeted that "I can confirm that Sony has just minutes ago cleaned their site and removed the phishing site from hdworld.sony co.th."

When asked via Twitter if the site was hosted on Sony's servers or just a DNS hijack, Hypponen said it was hosted on Sony's servers.

This latest problem comes days after Sony started putting its PlayStation network back online after an extended downtime. It hasn't been completely smooth sailing; an influx of users trying to change their passwords prompted Sony to temporarily halt the process earlier this week; the password exploit later took down log-ins, but Sony denied it was a new hack.

OCZ Vertex 3


Three months ago we previewed the first client focused SF-2200 SSD: OCZ's Vertex 3. The 240GB sample OCZ sent for the preview was four firmware revisions older than what ended up shipping to retail last month, but we hoped that the preview numbers were indicative of final performance.
The first drives off the line when OCZ went to production were 120GB capacity models. These drives have 128GiB of NAND on board and 111GiB of user accessible space, the remaining 12.7% is used for redundancy in the event of NAND failure and spare area for bad block allocation and block recycling.

Unfortunately the 120GB models didn't perform as well as the 240GB sample we previewed. To understand why, we need to understand a bit about basic SSD architecture. SandForce's SF-2200 controller has 8 channels that it can access concurrently, it looks sort of like this:

Each arrowed line represents a single 8-byte channel. In reality, SF's NAND channels are routed from one side of the chip so you'll actually see all NAND devices to the right of the controller on actual shipping hardware.

Even though there are 8 NAND channels on the controller, you can put multiple NAND devices on a single channel. Two NAND devices can't be actively transferring data at the same time. Instead what happens is one chip is accessed while another is either idle or busy with internal operations.

When you read from or write to NAND you don't write directly to the pages, you instead deal with an intermediate register that holds the data as it comes from or goes to a page in NAND. The process of reading/programming is a multi-step endeavor that doesn't complete in a single cycle. Thus you can hand off a read request to one NAND device and then while it's fetching the data from an internal page, you can go off and program a separate NAND device on the same channel.

Because of this parallelism that's akin to pipelining, with the right workload and a controller that's smart enough to interleave operations across NAND devices, an 8-channel drive with 16 NAND devices can outperform the same drive with 8 NAND devices. Note that the advantage can't be double since ultimately you can only transfer data to/from one device at a time, but there's room for non-insignificant improvement. Confused?

Let's look at a hypothetical SSD where a read operation takes 5 cycles. With a single die per channel, 8-byte wide data bus and no interleaving that gives us peak bandwidth of 8 bytes every 5 clocks. With a large workload, after 15 clock cycles at most we could get 24 bytes of data from this NAND device.


Hypothetical single channel SSD, 1 read can be issued every 5 clocks, data is received on the 5th clock

Let's take the same SSD, with the same latency but double the number of NAND devices per channel and enable interleaving. Assuming we have the same large workload, after 15 clock cycles we would've read 40 bytes, an increase of 66%.


Hypothetical single channel SSD, 1 read can be issued every 5 clocks, data is received on the 5th clock, interleaved operation

This example is overly simplified and it makes a lot of assumptions, but it shows you how you can make better use of a single channel through interleaving requests across multiple NAND die.

The same sort of parallelism applies within a single NAND device. The whole point of the move to 25nm was to increase NAND density, thus you can now get a 64Gbit NAND device with only a single 64Gbit die inside. If you need more than 64Gbit per device however you have to bundle multiple die in a single package. Just as we saw at the 34nm node, it's possible to offer configurations with 1, 2 and 4 die in a single NAND package. With multiple die in a package, it's possible to interleave read/program requests within the individual package as well. Again you don't get 2 or 4x performance improvements since only one die can be transferring data at a time, but interleaving requests across multiple die does help fill any bubbles in the pipeline resulting in higher overall throughput.


Intel's 128Gbit 25nm MLC NAND features two 64Gbit die in a single package

Now that we understand the basics of interleaving, let's look at the configurations of a couple of Vertex 3s.

The 120GB Vertex 3 we reviewed a while back has sixteen NAND devices, eight on each side of the PCB:


OCZ Vertex 3 120GB - front

These are Intel 25nm NAND devices, looking at the part number tells us a little bit about them.

You can ignore the first three characters in the part number, they tell you that you're looking at Intel NAND. Characters 4 - 6 (if you sin and count at 1) indicate the density of the package, in this case 64G means 64Gbits or 8GB. The next two characters indicate the device bus width (8-bytes). Now the ninth character is the important one - it tells you the number of die inside the package. These parts are marked A, which corresponds to one die per device. The second to last character is also important, here E stands for 25nm.

Now let's look at the 240GB model:


OCZ Vertex 3 240GB - Front


OCZ Vertex 3 240GB - Back

Once again we have sixteen NAND devices, eight on each side. OCZ standardized on Intel 25nm NAND for both capacities initially. The density string on the 240GB drive is 16B for 16Gbytes (128 Gbit), which makes sense given the drive has twice the capacity.

A look at the ninth character on these chips and you see the letter C, which in Intel NAND nomenclature stands for 2 die per package (J is for 4 die per package if you were wondering).

While OCZ's 120GB drive can interleave read/program operations across two NAND die per channel, the 240GB drive can interleave across a total of four NAND die per channel. The end result is a significant improvement in performance as we noticed in our review of the 120GB drive.


OCZ Vertex 3 Lineup

Specs (6Gbps)120GB240GB480GB
Raw NAND Capacity128GB256GB512GB
Spare Area ~12.7% ~12.7%~12.7%
User Capacity 111.8GB 223.5GB447.0GB
Number of NAND Devices 16 16 16 
Number of die per Device 124
Max Read Up to 550MB/sUp to 550MB/sUp to 530MB/s
Max WriteUp to 500MB/sUp to 520MB/s Up to 450MB/s 
4KB Random Read 20K IOPS40K IOPS 50K IOPS 
4KB Random Write 60K IOPS 60K IOPS 40K IOPS 
MSRP$249.99$499.99$1799.99


The big question we had back then was how much of the 120/240GB performance delta was due to a reduction in performance due to final firmware vs. a lack of physical die. With a final, shipping 240GB Vertex 3 in hand I can say that the performance is identical to our preview sample - in other words the performance advantage is purely due to the benefits of intra-device die interleaving.

If you want to skip ahead to the conclusion feel free to, the results on the following pages are near identical to what we saw in our preview of the 240GB drive. I won't be offended :)
The Test
CPU

Intel Core i7 965 running at 3.2GHz (Turbo & EIST Disabled)

Intel Core i7 2600K running at 3.4GHz (Turbo & EIST Disabled) - for AT SB 2011, AS SSD & ATTO
Motherboard:

Intel DX58SO (Intel X58)

Intel H67 Motherboard
Chipset:

Intel X58 + Marvell SATA 6Gbps PCIe
Intel H67
Chipset Drivers:

Intel 9.1.1.1015 + Intel IMSM 8.9

Intel 9.1.1.1015 + Intel RST 10.2
Memory: Qimonda DDR3-1333 4 x 1GB (7-7-7-20)
Video Card: eVGA GeForce GTX 285
Video Drivers: NVIDIA ForceWare 190.38 64-bit
Desktop Resolution: 1920 x 1200
OS: Windows 7 x64

Android eat Apple

Piper Jaffray believes that Apple won't ship its fifth generation-iPhone until late in the September-ending quarter. "We recently spoke with an iPhone manufacturing equipment supplier who indicated that orders for new equipment are several months later than usual," Munster and Murphy wrote.
Apple shipped an impressive 16.9 million iPhones in the first three months of this year, according to Gartner Relevant Products/Services. The downside for Apple, however, is that 36.2 million Android-based smartphones shipped in the first quarter -- up from 8.36 million units one year earlier.

Android's steep rise suggests that Apple's hold on the leadership position in the smartphone Relevant Products/Services application Relevant Products/Services space is slipping. If past history is any indication, however, Apple may begin offering the iPhone 4 at a reduced price after the new iPhone 5 launches later this year, noted Gartner Research Vice President Carolina Milanesi.

"Apple has been decreasing the price of the previous generation device Relevant Products/Services when the new one launched so I would expect a similar trend this time around," Milanesi said in an email Friday. "It will depend what kind of [iPhone 5] improvements we will see as to how much discount we will see on the iPhone 4 and indeed if the 3GS will continue to ship."

LTE On The Backburner

Still, Apple will need to do more to keep from eventually being overwhelmed by Android's startling growth, which rose 36 percent year-over-year in the March ending quarter. By contrast, Apple's iPhone shipments grew 16.8 percent growth during the same period, according to Gartner.

Earlier this month, Google Relevant Products/Services said it was activating over 400,000 Android-based handsets on a daily basis, and with more than 100 million devices based on Google's mobile Relevant Products/Services platform already in play. Android Market is also growing rapidly. Over 200,000 free and paid applications were available in Android Market as of May 10, with more than 4.5 billion applications already installed on handsets worldwide.

One looming issue that gives Android-based handset makers a potential edge is the wireless Relevant Products/Services industry's ongoing transition to LTE. According to Piper Jaffray, LTE modems currently consume too much power Relevant Products/Services to meet Apple's battery Relevant Products/Services life requirements, and hence are "not likely be in the next iPhone," noted the firm's analysts Gene Munster and Andrew Murphy in a note released Thursday.

Still, Apple expressed no sense Relevant Products/Services of urgency when the topic came up during the company's conference Relevant Products/Services call with investors last month. "The first generation of LTE chipsets force a lot of design compromises with the handset, and some of those, we are just not willing to make," Apple CEO Tim Cook said.

Delayed iPhone 5 Launch

Apple's postponement of its iPhone 5 launch from the usual early June release date gives Android-based handset makers an opportunity to make short-term market-share Relevant Products/Services gains at Apple's expense. Piper Jaffray expects Apple to sell 16 million iPhones in the June ending quarter, versus the 16.9 million iPhones Apple in prior quarter, according to Gartner.

Piper Jaffray believes that Apple won't ship its fifth generation-iPhone until late in the September-ending quarter. "We recently spoke with an iPhone manufacturing equipment supplier who indicated that orders for new equipment are several months later than usual," Munster and Murphy wrote.

Earlier this week, Gartner noted that a 13 million unit bump in global Relevant Products/Services handset inventories occurred in April due to an overstocking of the channel in response to the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan, which "caused an initial panic over shortages," Milanesi observed. However, what happened in "Japan does not seem to have impacted Apple," Milanesi said.

Still, Piper Jaffray thinks it's possible that supply Relevant Products/Services issues related to Japan's earthquake and tsunami had affected Apple's hardware Relevant Products/Services ramp for the iPhone 5. Alternatively, dithering over whether to support Relevant Products/Services LTE or add an audio codec socket might have contributed to the delay as well as having to deal with software Relevant Products/Services-driven features not "fully-baked" in time to permit a normal June release. On the other hand, the analysts added, "we have no tangible insight as to which one or group of these reasons caused the slip."

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