Archive for July, 2010

Panasonic announces a 3D camcorder

July 28th, 2010 No comments

JAPANESE MANUFACTURER Panasonic has unveiled a camcorder that captures full HD 3D videos.

It seems that consumer electronics makers have gone into depth perception overdrive. Panasonic already has 3D plasma TVs and 3D Blu-ray players and now it is adding the HDC-SDT750 camcorder to its list.


Panasonic’s magic trick is pretty simple. In essence, the HDC-SDT750 is a 2D camcorder but its 3D capability comes courtesy of a conversion lens. It allows anyone to create 3D images by attaching the conversion lens that comes with the camcorder.

The camcorder has an effective motion image pixel count of 7,590,000 pixels and it records in 1080p at 60Hz for NTSC or 50Hz for PAL5 for US and European punters.

It has noise reduction technology to enhance dim images in low-light conditions and an optical image stabiliser. The HDC-SDT750 also has a ring for manual shooting options.

There’s no price listed yet but Panasonic suggests combining the 3D camcorder with its 3D TV and 3D Blu-ray player so you can have all of your entertainment as well as family memories in 3D. By our calculations that’s going to be expensive.

The HDC-SDT750 camcorder is coming out on 20 August in Japan first and will be rolled out to other countries this autumn. µ

Intel announces a photonics breakthrough

July 27th, 2010 No comments

CHIPMAKER Intel has announced a breakthrough in optical communications in the form of the first silicon based 50Gbps laser transmitter and receiver parts produced in its labs.

The company said that within five years this milestone development will lead to low-cost optical links inside computers that might scale to speeds up to 8Tbps or higher.

Chipzilla’s silicon photonics data link is still being developed in the lab, but the firm predicts it will deliver semiconductor chip manufacturing economies of scale to realise low-cost optical communications in PCs, consumer electronics and datacentres.

Dr Mario Paniccia, the director of Intel’s photonics technology lab said that the industry is reaching the limits of copper wiring, with speeds above 10Gbps requiring more energy to transmit beyond short distances. Using photonic communications over optical fibre solves the problem, but existing technology is too expensive.

“Because of the cost, because of the bulkiness, the costs are still limiting use only for telecoms. It is very difficult to drive use of optical in the PC or in and around everyday devices,” said Paniccia.

Intel’s technology uses a hybrid silicon laser integrated into the transmitter chip along with other components such as the modulator and multiplexer to combine several laser beams as separate channels for transmission over optical fibre. The design enables Intel to fabricate the transmitter and receiver using processes similar to those it uses to manufacture CPU chips.

“What could happen if we take the benefits of silicon manufacturing, the ability to do high-volume low-cost, highly-integrated silicon processing, and combine that with the laser? We can now start driving optical communications anywhere, everywhere, to any place,” Paniccia said.

The transmitter and receiver can also be integrated into equipment using standard circuit board assembly methods. Intel said it has developed a low-cost passive connector to attach the fibre optic cable.

The photonic data link prototype Chipzilla has developed uses four 12.5Gbps channels, multiplexed to create a 50Gbit/s link, but Paniccia claimed it can scale up to 25, 40 or 100Gbps channels and scale out to eight or more laser channels on a chip. He said this means that 1TBps optical links are easily within reach.

Paniccia speculated that high-speed photonic data links will revolutionise high-performance and cloud computing. Compute and storage elements will not need to be located close together, for example, but could be far apart. “This is just the beginning,” Paniccia predicted.

Intel said products based on this revolutionary technology might be produced within three to five years. µ

Virtualization – Ask the Experts #2

July 27th, 2010 No comments

Our Ask the Experts series continues with another round of questions.

A couple of months ago we ran a webcast with Intel Fellow, Rich Uhlig, VMware Chief Platform Architect, Rich Brunner and myself. The goal was to talk about the past, present and future of virtualization. In preparation for the webcast we solicited questions from all of you, unfortunately we only had an hour during the webcast to address them. Rich Uhlig from Intel, Rich Brunner from VMware and our own Johan de Gelas all agreed to answer some of your questions in a 6 part series we're calling Ask the Experts. Each week we'll showcase three questions you guys asked about virtualization and provide answers from our panel of three experts. These responses haven't been edited and come straight from the experts.

If you'd like to see your question answered here leave it in the comments. While we can't guarantee we'll get to everything, we'll try to pick a few from the comments to answer as the weeks go on.

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Apple releases Mac Pro and Imac hardware refresh

July 27th, 2010 No comments

CREATOR OF FASHIONABLE GADGETS Apple has graced its fanbois with an update to its range of desktop computers and the release of a pointing device.

Earlier today the firm shuttered its online store to prepare for the update, which had been rumoured for some time. Many of the rumours dreamt up by over-eager fanbois were incorrect, however Apple did announce that its Imac range will feature Intel’s Core i3 processors. There is also a quad-core Core i5 model for those not happy about spending a grand on a desktop machine that has a chip intended for bargain basement tin boxes.

The overpriced Mac Pro, often the butt of Apple jokes, received major surgery with hexa-core Intel Xeon chips mated with an AMD Radeon HD 5770 graphics card as standard. Take a moment to realise that a £2,000 machine that is pitched as a workstation doesn’t even have a workstation graphics card, nor is the ‘consumer grade’ Radeon HD 5770 graphics card the top of AMD’s graphics card range.

Apple has saved that as an optional extra, with the Radeon HD 5870 available at added cost. Still, at least it’s an option. Nvidia Fermi based GTX 4XX graphics cards are nowhere to be found on the Mac Pros.

For those feeling particularly flush, Apple announced the availability of a 512GB solid state drive (SSD) with the option of specifying up to four in a single Mac Pro. The firm claims that the SSDs provide up to “Two times faster than the average performance of a standard disk drive.” That’s absolutely great, if you happen to have your own gold mine.

Finally, Apple released the Magic Trackpad, a stand-alone trackpad control device. Akin to a laptop’s trackpad, the device will bring multi-touch interaction to desktop users. Clearly the firm realised it could not milk any more money out of redesigning its minimalist single button mouse over and over again. The slab of metal allows the firm to peddle it’s own battery charger, which no doubt will be snapped up by eager fanbois who want the toymaker’s label on every single object they own.

Those thinking of buying Apple’s latest products might want to hold off for a little while, as its online store hasn’t been updated yet to reflect all of the changes in its product line. µ

HTC looks to trump the Iphone 4 with Super LCD

July 26th, 2010 No comments

SMARTPHONE MAKER and Apple rival HTC has released a statement on Super LCD (SLCD) in what might be either a reaction to hype over the Iphone 4 ‘retina’ display or simply a way to meet demand.

HTC said that it will introduce Super LCD for the HTC Desire and Google Nexus One later this summer, with previous reports having claimed that Samsung isn’t keeping up with HTC’s demand for AMOLED displays.

The SLCD technology is better performing than earlier LCD panels such as the advanced technology AMLCD adopted by the Iphone 4, with around five times better power management.

Samsung has been supplying HTC with AMOLED panels for the devices, which do not use backlights, and are thinner and better performing than previous LCD panels. But as the Inquirer reported earlier this month, the Korean firms are struggling to meet demand.

Android-based smartphones were aggressively adopting AMOLED as opposed to AMLCD. But because of supply problems HTC is now turning to SLCD.

“The new SLCD display technology enables us to ramp up our production capabilities quickly to meet the high-demand,” said Peter Chou, CEO of HTC.

“The SLCD displays provide consumers with a comparable visual experience to HTC’s current 3.7 inch displays with some additional benefits including battery performance.”

Last week LG Display confirmed that it was having problems keeping up with LED screen demand for the Ipad. µ


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AMD releases OpenGL ES 2 drivers

July 26th, 2010 No comments

GRAPHICS CHIP DESIGNER AMD has released a beta driver that offers support for the OpenGL ES standard used in HTML5 for in-browser graphics rendering.

The Catalyst 10.7 beta driver supports AMD’s Radeon 2xxx/3xxx/4xxx/5xxx desktop graphics boards along with its Firepro workstation boards on Microsoft’s Windows XP, Vista and 7 operating systems. However the company is crystal clear that it is not supporting the release as it has yet to “complete full AMD testing”. As for WHQL certification, forget it.

Nevertheless, frivolities such as support and WHQL compliance have never stopped anyone from installing a set of video card drivers, but given that OpenGL ES 2 support is the only feature that AMD is trumpeting with this release it might not be worth the effort. We were unable to find an Nvidia driver that supports the OpenGL ES 2 specification but at present it’s a bit of a moot point.

Though OpenGL ES 2 has been around for a few years now, HTML5 has yet to be ratified. With Apple in particular using the software to fight its war against Adobe, one can expect HTML5 to be ready for action soon.

With AMD offering up OpenGL ES 2 drivers in the near future and Nvidia likely to follow suit, web developers can start to grow in confidence that when HTML5 finally does arrive, users will be able to consume rich content without having to download plugins or bog down their CPUs. µ

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Another 17 countries get the Iphone 4

July 26th, 2010 No comments

DESPITE ALL ITS PROBLEMS, Apple is pushing ahead with the roll out of its Iphone 4, with another 17 countries set to be blessed by the arrival of Steve Jobs’ latest creation.

The cappuccino firm, instead of dealing with the fundamental problems with its Iphone 4, has decided it’s time to entice even more fanbois to part with their hard-earned cash. Given that Apple can’t even manufacture half of its Iphone models, perhaps it decided to offset that loss of sales by flogging its shiny toy elsewhere.

By Friday, the lucky residents of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland can queue up for hours, spend huge wads of their local currency and walk away with a shiny toy. While that list may sound impressive, it comes over a month after the original launch and in that time, the Iphone has averaged more than one new fault every week.

Reports of a dodgy proximity sensor, iffy Microsoft Exchange support, Bluetooth connection woes, screen discolouration and duff movie software have all been trumped by the fact that the Iphone 4’s antenna doesn’t work. This last problem led the firm to wheel out spinmeister Jobs to offer free rubber bands and accuse every other smartphone for having similar problems.

Clearly suffering a huge bout of insecurity owing to the fact it has designed a duff phone, Apple is loading videos on its website claiming to replicate the Iphone 4’s antenna problem on other devices. Not surprisingly users of those devices are unable to reproduce the same characteristics. But then again, unlike Steve Jobs, they do not possess the hand of god.

While Jobs decides to advertise competitors’ devices as equals to what he claimed was the “best smartphone in the world”, even more fanbois can experience the trials and tribulations of owning a shiny brick that needs a rubber band wrapped around it just to work. µ

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Google speeds up Chrome updates

July 25th, 2010 No comments

THE CHROME BROWSER is getting a new accelerated release roll out process says Google.

According to the search outfit, and probably under ideal conditions, there will be a new stable version of Chrome about once every six weeks. This is twice as often as it used to be.

Google’s cunning plan is to shorten the release cycle while still getting new features, make the update more predictable and reduce the pressure on engineering to “make” a release. We wonder how long it will be before the six weeks becomes seven or eight or ten even.

We’re certainly not sure how the reducing pressure will work given that the schedule will be tighter. Google said that under the old model, when it faced a deadline with an incomplete feature, engineers had to rush or work overtime to complete the feature by the deadline. And that will change now how? Otherwise the release was delayed or the feature was disabled for three months. How disappointing.

“With the new schedule, if a given feature is not complete, it will simply ride on the the next release train when it’s ready,” Google said. So the release will be delayed then, just like the search outfit did before anyway. µ


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LG Display can’t keep up with iPad demand

July 25th, 2010 No comments

THE INSATIABLE demand for the Ipad sees no sign of stopping with LG Display’s boss stating it could not keep up with Apple’s LCD panel requirements.

According to reports, chief executive Kwon Young-soo said that LG Display was running at full capacity. But this was only due to the tablet rush – LCD display demand for TVs was weak meaning that the company was planning to scale back its production.

He did suggest that there would also be problems in providing other companies with similar displays for their own tablet creations, and believed it was going to be the second quarter of 2011 before it could supply all the panels Apple were looking for.

Reuters quoted him as saying, “Demand (from Apple) keeps growing and we can’t meet it all. Apple may have to delay launches of the Ipad for some countries due to tight component supplies and strong demand.”

“We are considering increasing production lines for Ipad products but overall supply is likely to remain tight until early next year.”

LG Display along with Samsung are the big players in the LCD panel making market, and supplies Iphone screens as well. 

Research firm iSuppli raised its forecast for iPad sales by 82 per cent, a staggering 13 million units by the end of the year. Today it is available in nine more countries, making the total 19. µ


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Red Faced Dell fined for cooking the books

July 24th, 2010 No comments

TINMAN MICHAEL DELL and his glorious outfit of box shifters have had to pay huge wodges of cash to the financial watchdog US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for letting down Mrs Beeton, his friends, his employees and him self with his company’s accounts.

Under the settlement, which does not require Dell to admit that he “dun nuttin” his company has to pay 0 million and he has to pay million.

If you read the financial press, Dell’s recipe for financial success was to take a company which was doing okish, take a large amount of Intel money to stay away from AMD and stuff it in until investors can’t see where your real profits are coming from.

Unfortunately for Dell it is not exactly legal as you have to tell investors where the cash is coming from, otherwise they will think you are doing it by selling computers.

It all started in 2001 when Intel began to provide additional ‘rebates’ to Dell and other personal computer makers that were not related to the contractual marketing program and that were different in character from ordinary course price discounts. No one disclosed these payments to the market, the SEC said.

“Disclosures omitted material facts relating to Intel’s payments to Dell, which…soared from million in 2003, which was 10 percent of operating income, to more than 0 million in 2007 which was 76 percent of operating income.

“The increase in Intel payments to Dell coincided almost exactly with AMD’s introduction of its Opteron CPU that was, in the view of many, technologically superior to Intel’s competing CPU,” the SEC says.

The SEC said the dodgy payments enabled Dell to meet its quarterly earnings targets. Everything was going swimmingly until Intel decided that it would not pay more than 70 per cent of Dell’s earnings and more. Dell said that profits had dropped but again protected Intel by not saying the real reason why.

Dell said that in addition to the fine the company also has agreed to, “perform certain undertakings, including retaining an independent consultant, to enhance its disclosure processes, practices and controls.”

It points out that Michael’s settlement is limited to “negligence” rather than “fraud” and as such can continue to be a director of the company. If only everyone whose actions are deemed negligent could continue in their job.

Sam Nunn, presiding director of the Dell board, said, “The board believes that this settlement is in the best interest of the company, its customers and its shareholders, as it brings a five-year SEC investigation to closure.

Nunn added that Dell’s board reaffirms its unanimous support for Michael Dell’s continued leadership and the management team in its, “ongoing commitment to transparent accounting, integrity in financial reporting and strong corporate governance.” In other words it is jolly good that the stable door is firmly bolted now it is a matter of finding that horse.

Dell said he was pleased to see the back of the case and added “We are committed to maintaining clear and accurate reporting of our periodic results, supporting our customers, and executing our growth strategy.”

Of course he does not have to admit doing anything wrong.  Often people write cheques to regulatory authorities when they have not done anything.  We expect all readers will have written the odd million dollar cheque for something they have not done. µ



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