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Are You Vista Ready? ATI To Provide Online Benchmark

Quad-core Opteron Faster At Virtualization, AMD Says

Nokia Expects To Sell WiMAX Cell Phones In 2008

Intel Readies Merom-Based Celeron Ms For Q1'07?

Thomson Rolls 30GB iPod Competitor

Google To Offer Free Spreadsheet, Word Processing Software

Microsoft Patches Critical Windows and Office Flaws

Sweden Makes Plans To Build A Little Red Cottage... On The Moon

Sony Headphones Close the Window on Noise

Are You Vista Ready? ATI To Provide Online Benchmark

For the first time in the history of the PC, Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Vista operating system requires a dedicated graphics processor to exploit its full potential. So are you Vista ready?

In fact, Vista has already included a tool called Windows Experience index scaling from 1 to 5 to help users evaluating the overall system performance. But it’s not designed for users who are deciding whether to upgrade its system to Vista or not.

Recently, ATI has released an online benchmark powered by System Requirements Lab which looks at your computer's hardware and system software to determine whether or not your current system can run Windows Vista. Each of your computer's components is evaluated to see how well it meets the minimum, recommended and optimal requirements for Microsoft's new operating system. If needed, recommendations are made on how to update or upgrade your computer.

Source: HKEPC

Quad-core Opteron Faster At Virtualization, AMD Says

AMD's quad-core Opteron processor, code-named Barcelona and due in mid-2007, includes features to speed up virtualization.

Virtualization, a hot subject today as companies try to make servers more efficient, lets a single server run multiple operating systems. But virtualization software called a hypervisor, which oversees the operating system access to the hardware, poses performance problems compared to operating systems running on their own.

Barcelona has specific features to deal with some of those performance issues, Ben Sander, a principal member of AMD's technical design staff, said in a speech Tuesday at the Fall Processor Forum here.

AMD and Intel are vying for share in the x86 server market. Intel's Xeon chips were the first to provide some hardware support of virtualization, but AMD's newest processors now also support it.

But virtualization is just one arena; the companies also are racing to add more processor cores. Intel's "Clovertown" version of Xeon houses two dual-core Xeon 5100 "Woodcrest" processors into a single package to reach the quad-core goal this November. AMD's Barcelona puts all four cores on a single slice of silicon.

One performance problem comes because operating systems are accustomed to handling a part of the chip called the translation lookaside buffer, or TLB, which converts an operating system's relative memory addresses into the actual addresses used by the hardware. But with a hypervisor actually in charge of memory, virtualization adds a second level of translation to the task.

To deal with the situation, hypervisors use software called shadow paging. "It's complex to implement and can be fairly slow," Sander said. Barcelona technologies, including "nested page tables" and the caching of memory addresses, speeds up the memory issue.

That's significant, given that such memory issues can occupy as much as 75 percent of the hypervisor's time, he said.

In addition, Barcelona has new instructions that shorten the chip's "world switch time," when it switches from guest operating system mode to hypervisor mode and back. Such a switch typically takes about 1,000 to 2,000 processor cycles, but the new instructions shorten that by about 25 percent, Sander said.

Sander described other features of Barcelona, as well. For example, each processing core will have a 64KB level-one cache and 512KB level-two cache. All four cores share a 2MB level-three cache, but that can be made larger, he said.

Barcelona can handle a larger amount of physical memory than current Opterons. Today's a maximum is 1 terabyte--which the lower-end AMD-based servers don't reach--but Barcelona will stretch that to 256 terabytes, he said.

Intel has switched its current generation of dual-processor servers to a new memory technology called FB-DIMM (fully buffered dual inline memory modules), but AMD is passing on the technology for the time being, Sander said. Barcelona has FB-DIMM abilities built in, but they won't be used because it draws more power and has longer communication delays than standard DDR2 (double data rate 2) memory.

AMD will make the transition to FB-DIMM "at the appropriate time," but apparently that will be at least with a second generation called FB-DIMM 2, Sander said. "With FB-DIMM generation one, we decided it is not an appropriate time to transition. It is still supported by the memory controller," he added.

In addition, he said Barcelona has dual memory controllers to read and write data from memory. That's the same number as current Opterons, but with Barcelona, the memory controllers will be able to operate independently, he said.

Source: CNET News

Nokia Expects To Sell WiMAX Cell Phones In 2008

Nokia expects to start selling cell phones using the new WiMAX Internet technology in 2008, the world's top handset maker said on Wednesday while unveiling network technology for WiMAX.

For now, a computer can connect to a WiMAX fast wireless Internet connection only when it is stationary, but a new mobile version of WiMAX will be available this year, which is expected to be a breakthrough for the technology.

Intel, Nokia, Samsung and Motorola all support the open-standard WiMAX as an alternative wireless broadband Internet connection alongside third generation mobile telephony networks, on which Internet access can get squeezed if networks fill up with voice callers.

"WiMAX-capable Nokia mobile devices are expected to be available in 2008," Nokia said in a statement.

Nokia said its WiMAX base stations will be commercially available for broadband operators in the 2.5 gigahertz band at the end of 2007 and for 3.5 gigahertz in the first quarter of 2008.

Source: Reuters

Intel Readies Merom-Based Celeron Ms For Q1'07?

Expect to see the first Core 2 Duo-derived Celeron M processors in Q1 2007, the same timeframe Intel has assigned to the release of low-voltage Core 2 Duo CPUs, it has been claimed by folk who've had a look at the chip giant's latest mobile roadmap.

Next year will see the arrival of the Celeron M 520, a 1.60GHz part containing a single processing core. It will be joined in Q2 2007 by the 530, which will be clocked to 1.73GHz, according to a report at Japanese-language site PCWatch.

A pair of LV Core 2 Duos will appear in Q1 2007: the 1.33GHz L7200 and the 1.50GHz L7400. Both will run over a 667MHz frontside bus, which will be raised to 800MHz the following quarter with two further LV Core 2 Duos: the 1.6GHz L7500 and the 1.4GHz L7300.

Q2 2007 will mark the arrival of the ultra-low voltage Core 2 Duo U7500, a 1.06GHz part again running on a 667MHz FSB, the report indicates. The same part will be upgraded to an 800MHz FSB in Q3 2007, though it will retain the same model number.

Past mobile roadmaps have pointed to the Q2 2007 debut of the Core 2 Duo T7700, the 2.4GHz, 800MHz FSB laptop processor that should debut alongside 'Santa Rosa', the next incarnation of Intel's Centrino platform.

Source: RegHardware

Thomson Rolls 30GB iPod Competitor

Becoming the latest to challenge the Apple iPod stranghold on the market for personal multimedia players, French consumer electronics specialist Thomson Tuesday (Oct. 10) announced retail availability in the U.S. of the Lyra X3030 pocket-sized 30-gigabyte personal multimedia recorder from the company's RCA brand. According to Thomson (Paris), the Lyra X3030 enables direct recording of audio and video content from multiple sources and is capable of storing dozens of movies, hundreds of hours of music and thousands of photos.

The new Lyra unit utilizes secure Windows Media and can hold more than 120 hours of DVD-quality music videos, TV shows and movies, according to Thomson. Lyra X3030 features a 3.6-inch color LCD screen with 320 by 240 resolution, Thomson said. The product also includes Divx transcoder software, which enables conversion of video files to Divx format for playback of any video, the company said. Using a removable lithium ion battery, the Lyra X3030 provides up to four hours of video playback, Thomson said.

A spokesperson for Thomson said the Lyra X3030 utilizes unspecified multimedia chips from Texas Instruments Inc. The device weighs less than eight ounces and is less than an inch thick, Thomson said.

"This player brings together numerous popular entertainment products into one portable, high quality device," said Dan Collishaw, chief operating officer of Thomson's Americas audio/video and accessory business, in a statement.

The Lyra X3030 carries suggested retail price of $399, Thomson said.

Source: EETimes

Google To Offer Free Spreadsheet, Word Processing Software

Google is making its word processing and spreadsheet programs available for free to all comers on its Web site, marking the Internet search leader's latest effort to provide an alternative to Microsoft's dominant software applications.

The software package, expected to be available Wednesday, combines a spreadsheet application that Google introduced in June with a word processing program called Writely that the Mountain View, Calif.-based company bought for an undisclosed amount in March.

As part of the expansion, the Writely name will disappear. The new package will be called Google Docs & Spreadsheets.

Google also had been limiting usage of both the word processing and spreadsheet programs, but the company now expects to be able to accommodate anyone who signs up, said product manager Jonathan Rochelle.

Wednesday's move continues Google's attempt to assemble a suite of software applications that are tethered to an Internet connection instead of a single computer's hard drive. That makes it easier for people to work on the same document from different locations, a convenience that is also meant to encourage more sharing among users with common interests or goals.

Source: TechNewsWorld

Microsoft Patches Critical Windows and Office Flaws

Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday released six patches to fix software flaws that carry its highest threat rating, including three for defects that attackers were already trying to exploit. The company said all six of the critical flaws could allow an attacker to obtain some access to other people's computers. The Redmond software maker also released four other patches to fix vulnerabilities that the company deemed less severe.

Customers can download all the patches for free on Microsoft's security Web site. But the company's recommended method - setting computers to automatically download such fixes - wasn't working Tuesday. Microsoft said the problem was with the automated update system itself, rather than the security fixes, and that it hoped to have it fixed by the end of the day.

Microsoft said last month that it knew attackers were already trying to take advantage of defects in its Windows operating system, Microsoft Word software and PowerPoint presentation program.

Christopher Budd, a program manager with the Microsoft Security Resource Center, said that the company had seen limited attacks exploiting the flaws, but were nevertheless recommending that users apply those and other patches immediately.

Such vulnerabilities are rare. In most cases, security experts quietly provide Microsoft evidence of a security flaw, allowing the company to fix the problem in secret and release a patch before attackers can take advantage of it.

But recently, the company has been hit with a number of so-called "zero-day" attacks, in which flaws are targeted before Microsoft is aware of them or can release patches.

Such attacks have prompted some security researchers to release their own interim fixes. Microsoft also has occasionally taken the unusual step of releasing patches outside of its normal monthly fix schedule, so users can be safeguarded more quickly.

Budd said Microsoft isn't seeing any specific pattern to the burst of zero-day attacks. But he said the company is seeing more focus on attackers trying to infiltrate computers through applications - such as Word or PowerPoint - rather than the Windows operating system.

Microsoft software is a constant target of Internet attackers, in part because the company's products are so widely used.

Microsoft has yet to release a patch for one other publicly known flaw - one affecting the Internet Explorer browser that is part of its Windows operating system. Budd said the company was seeing very few attacks as a result of the flaw.

Source: NewsFactor

Sweden Makes Plans To Build A Little Red Cottage... On The Moon

About seven years ago, a Swedish artist proposed a plan to build one of the country's iconic red cottages on the moon. Now, believe it or not, the Swedish Space Corporation is interested. A study has revealed that, yes, it's possible to put a little red cottage on the moon, and it will apparently cost about 500 million Swedish krona. If the project goes as planned, the cottage could be up some time in 2011.

Google's trusty currency converter says that 500 million krona equals about $68 million, which puts the lunar cottage in approximately the same real estate category as a two-bedroom apartment on Central Park West in Manhattan.

Source: CNET News

Sony Headphones Close the Window on Noise

On Wednesday, Sony introduced a new line of full-size stereo headphones dubbed Altus, which allows outside noise to be passively controlled.

Sony claims the headphones have an 80-kHz frequency response, which simply means that they extend far down into the bass region and far up into the highs. The Altus have brushed-aluminum earcups and a single cord coming out of the bottom of one earcup.

The most interesting thing about these headphones is that they have a diaphragm that can be opened or closed via an "ambient-in" switch, so a user can let in outside noise when he or she wants to, such as on the street, or block it out in the office or on a train. This is simple passive noise blocking—as opposed to active cancellation, which requires special circuitry and a power source—but this can be quite effective at blocking out ambient sounds.

Another design aspect of the Altus headphones that Sony touts is that the drivers are positioned parallel to the ear rather than perpendicular, which the company claims will reduce pressure and increase comfort. The Sony Altus headphones will sell for approximately $150 and will be available in November.

Source: ABC News

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