Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Blogger's Diary

After being absent for some time, I'm back to blogging. Don't ask what I was doing in this time as the ready made answer will have artifacts in it and may not satisfy you. I sometime pretend to have a real life, so lets just leave it at that ;) Although not blogging, I wasn't sitting idle and kept a tab on the recent developments in the world of computing and communication. As any enthusiast would know- this is a very happening zone; every now and then boatload of new devices and technologies are coming out of the framework, triggering endless threads in the forums and starting new controversies! The seer number of such news and events can be overwhelming for most of the end-user community. Thankfully, not all of those are of any significant interest to the end-user. Here at TechnoProzium we try to focus our efforts on hardware and technologies that have a considerable impact on the mainstream and value oriented user. Speaking of which, there are some very interesting things we would like to talk about. First among those will be Intel's IvyBridge processors and the latest Z77 chipset based motherboards and then we'll take a look at AMD's upcoming Trinity desktop parts. Then there is the Kepler aftermath in GPU side of the things, specially the shiny new GTX 660-Ti! Meanwhile I made myself a new desktop build for office use which also should serve as a file server and if time permits I'll share my experience. We've some exciting time ahead of us, no doubt :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Netbook market crumbles: Big OEMs are getting out

Last year, we asked the question! Earlier this year we were disappointed at what was going on! The clues were there and we anticipated bad things looking into the future. We told you 2012 wasn't going to be a good year for the Netbook segment, now it turns out to be the worst ever! In some very recent developments, it seems that ASUS, Acer and MSI are all set to pull out of the Netbook arena once and for all. According to news reports from DailyTech and Techreport, which seems to have originally generated from Digitimes, these manufacturers are about to resolve their existing inventory with no further plans to continue on future products!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

End draws near for Windows Vista: No more mainstream support

It is easy to forget about Vista - the not so glorious predecessor of Windows 7, in midst of all the hype surrounding the upcoming release of Win-8. But there is still a considerable number of PC users out there who, for various reasons, are still hooked on to this operating system. If you belong to this category then the latest announcement from Microsoft is of significant importance to you. As of April 10, 2012 - Microsoft no longer will provide mainstream support for Vista. Mainstream support includes technical and security updates, automatic fix and patches and other operational supports. But this is not necessarily EOL (End of Life) for Vista as Microsoft offers an extended support for those in need. However, this applies only to the commercial/enterprise customers - not to the retail consumers. This extended support itself will be terminated in 2017 according to Microsoft, making Vista truly a thing of the past (If it's not already for most PC users!).

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lucid's new DynamiX software: Striking a balance on the fly?

LucidLogix may not be one of those household names in the industry, but for those among us with a keen interest in computer graphics and gaming, it certainly has earned a reputation of being an innovative and improvising entity. It's not like that there is any shortage in the numbers of companies or outfits providing graphics solutions, on the contrary - it's a very competitive market. There is a good number of graphics chip designers and manufacturers, AIB partners, OEMs and system builders competing for market share; Lucid, however, doesn't fit to any of these categories and yet delivers novel and elegant (at least theoretically) solutions for practical problems. So, when I read about Lucid laying its Hydra engine to an untimely rest - it felt kind of disappointing and anticlimactic since the concept behind Hydra was quite revolutionary. But it seems like Lucid is back once again with another impressive concept, which, just like Hydra, has the potential to shake things up quite a bit. Lucid calls it DynamiX!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Intel's IGP evolution: Ticking and tocking its way to the mainstream

I can still remember the day when I came across the term "bottleneck" for the first time! It was not that long ago- I was stuck with my Pentium IV powered PC which won't run most of my favourite games of that time. Back then I was just a clueless student and thought my CPU was the culprit. But that was not the case as one of my better 'informed' friends rightfully indicated toward my iGPU (Integrated Graphics Processing Unit) which happened to be the lackluster (even by the standards of that time) Intel Extreme graphics. Even though my CPU wasn't the best in class, it still could run those games but my inbuilt graphics was the limiting factor or "bottleneck" as the term implies. Of-course I could've bypassed the whole scenario by simply switching to a separate video card or dGPU (Discrete Graphics Processing Unit) but that would require more space, more power, more hustle and surely more spending which I couldn't afford. This pretty much was the story with most systems back then and while the integrated graphics parts were sufficient to drive the 2D desktop components and images, 3D workloads were beyond both their purpose and capacity. Since then a lot of things have changed in the world of personal computing, but it is only recently that the IGP performance of mainstream PC's has reached a level which is more or less acceptable not only in terms of general computing but also gaming. Today, we'll have a quick look at how Intel's graphics solutions have evolved over time.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

New Cedar Trail Netbooks: Not quite the upgrade you wanted


After Intel announced the Cedar Trail line-up as a much needed update to its low power Atom CPU back in 2011, it was just a matter of time before the OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer) started to ship new Netbooks and Nettops based on these new chips. And that's exactly the case as there are reports of new Netbooks/Eee PCs from around the web. ASUS has always been among the forerunners when it comes to this segment with its fast product launch and consistent updates, so no wonder there to see them offering some of these Netbooks. We also expect the other usual suspects like Acer, MSI and Samsung to follow soon. These look like fine little PCs and I'm sure the OEMs will do their part to make these even more attractive. But what intrigues me is the new Cedar Trail Atom CPU that seats right in the heart of these Netbooks. Let's take a closer look.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Microsoft offers coloful redesigns: (and) It's not Win8 we're talking about!

Keeping up with the spirit of Holi, I was looking for something that has, well, lots of vibrant color and a bit of grandeur to it. Luckily enough the tech-world is ripe with such devices and it only took a little bit of searching to discover that it's not just the Windows 8 developer team from Microsoft that has been working hard recently! Yes, Microsoft has a hardware team too and those guys are equally competent when it comes to delivering quality products, namely Mice, Keyboards and Webcams. These peripherals from MS tend to have good build quality and ergonomics and also represent good value for money. Actually its Arc and Touch

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Radeon HD 7870 and 7850: Pitcairn is the new performance-mainstream GPU

As you've already guessed, AMD's graphics division wasn't going to sit idly with just its flagship Radeons (HD 7970/HD 7950) being released. In order to capture the whole market one needs cater a full range of products. That's exactly what AMD has done this time around with a flurry of new product launches. First out was the Cape Verde based Radeon HD 7770, followed by HD 7750. These two GPUs are targeted toward the mid range-performance segment with a focus on power and thermal efficiency. Reviews have already shown that Cape-Verde based GPUs are, while built on the same efficient and powerful GCN (Graphics Core Next) architecture, not a direct successor to the existing Radeon HD 6870/6850 line-up. Mainly in terms of shader performance and memory bandwidth as the Cape-Verde design only gets 10 GCN CUs (Computing Units) which equates to 640 SPs (Stream Processors) and a 128-bit memory interface. So it was clear that AMD needs to address the apparent performance gap between its flagship Tahiti based GPUs (HD 79xx) and Cape Verde (HD 77xx) based ones. So enters Pitcairn with 1280 SPs and a 256 bit wide memory bus- to claim the performance-mainstream crown. We'll try to analyze how this new GPU from AMD fares in its endeavor.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Skyrim creation kit: Modders' delight

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim needs no introduction to the computer gamers as by now it's considered to be one of the best RPGs ever made. Many avid followers of this genre have been waiting for a long time, 5 years to be more precise, to relive the magic created by Bethesda Studios. The developers had a very difficult task in their hands- to make a worthy sequel of what many regard to be the most popular action RPG franchise of all times. But when Skyrim launched in November, 2011, it not only met the expectation of gamers worldwide but for many also set the bar for free-flowing RPG excellence, just like its acclaimed predecessors. The internet is flooded with reviews (like this one) that can't praise the game enough and would've given a feel of being biased if not for the seer number of such reviews!

Friday, February 24, 2012

VIA EPIA motherboards: Quad-core solution in mini-ITX form factor

Remember VIA? The only other company that provides x86-compatible microprocessors and platforms except Intel and AMD? Yes, although VIA is no longer considered to be a force in the mainstream PC (desktop/laptop) arena, it has managed to survive in other market segments like the embedded devices. Many tend to forget that the viability of x86 based solutions extends beyond performance computing and that there is large market of industry specific devices, namely- digital signage, kiosk, sales automation and media application devices etc. VIA is a major player in this market and delivers efficient, affordable products. VIA technology's latest offerings are two new mini-ITX mainboards, named EPIA-M900 and EPIA-M910 respectively, which are additions to the already existing EPIA series of mainboards. Mini-ITX is an Interesting choice for form factor as this is not your usual ATX or micro-ATX motherboard, but looking at the targeted market of embedded sectors- this pretty much makes sense. More interestingly VIA offers a choice of combining its own quad-core E-series processors, which scale up to 1.46+ GHz and have 4MB L2 cache, with these boards.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Microsoft India store got hacked: Bad news for many reasons

In a somewhat bizarre and embarrassing turn of events, it is reported that the Microsoft Online Store in India got hacked by a group of Hackers with its online users database in jeopardy. On 12th of Feb, visitors to that site was for a shock when they saw the main page was displaying a masked face (Anonymous style!) on a dark background, instead of the usual weekly offers! The hacker group responsible for this calls itself "Evil shadow Team", an outfit we haven't very much heard of before. It seems like the owners of the website have regained control since but the site itself is still out of service as at the time of this writing. Anyway, what is of greater concern is that the whole user database including e-mail addresses, user names, pass-words or even physical addresses got compromised in the process. The hacker group claimed that the user database was in form of plain text (!!), not encrypted or secured by other security measures thus making it an easy prey. This is not only embarrassing for Microsoft but also asks questions about methods deployed in maintaining and safekeeping of the site.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

AMD's plans for future: A new AMD? (Part 2)

So now that we've a overview of the current scenario, it's time we delve deeper into the matter. The challenges that AMD faces right now are different in nature as some are related to its own technical capacity and execution, while others are more generic. We should not expect any revolutionary solution for these generic ones as AMD is not the only company facing them. The recent growth in mobile computing industry is a good example, as many believe it to be a threat to personal computing as we know it.Gone are the days

Monday, February 13, 2012

AMD's plans for future: A new AMD? (Part 1)

Last week AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) held its Financial Analyst Day (FAD) which is basically an annual event to assess, analyze and provide information about the company and its strategy in various market sectors. Generally there are lots of financial tidbits presented and discussed in such an event which are of no concern to the common user, unless of-course one is a stockholder or investor. It's the technical side that attracts people like us because this is where we get glimpses of future products and technologies. Lots of eyes were on this year's FAD and how AMD tackles issues like desktop performance, graphics integration and mobile computing. Finally we've got some very interesting information in our hands and we'll try to analyze those.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Windows XP: Still an OS to recon with

Things are always in a constant state of evolution in the world of personal computing and the speed at which every piece of software, hardware and device evolves is simply mind numbing. Very few can withstand the test of time here and those which can, become milestones of the industry. Microsoft's Windows XP is definitely one of those iconic figures. Earlier we told you about Internet Explorer 6 and how it still endures in many computers world wide and now some latest reports show that Windows XP is still a dominating force in the desktops. According to the numbers shown by this market analyst firm, Win XP enjoys a healthy 47.19% of the total desktop market as of January, 2012. Surprisingly enough, Microsoft's latest and greatest Windows 7 follows behind with a total of 36.40% of the market share while Widows Vista trails even further behind with only 8.22%. We've got another statistics in our hand though which shows Win 7 and Win XP to have 46.1% and 32.6% of the market share respectively, however it's unclear whether this stat consists only of the desktop market or the entire PC market. Whatever the case may be, one thing is clear- Windows XP is still considered as one of the mainstream operating systems by many users across the globe and with good reasons. Unlike IE 6, Win XP still gets official support from Microsoft and will continue to do so until April 14, 2014- a rather long support streak for a decade old operating system. This support includes security updates and patches. Thanks to that, Win XP is not as vulnerable to modern threats as it should be considering its age. Reliability is another plus for XP, built on Windows NT kernel this this venerable OS is considered as one of the most stable version of windows till date. In fact a desktop PC with Win XP can perform most of the everyday tasks we expect from our PC and also it is less demanding on the hardware. One can boot into XP with something like a low power Atom CPU and only 1GB of RAM without any problem and still have all the Windows functionality. XP also has a 64 bit version which can accommodate for more than 4GB of physical memory. If you can manage without advanced features like Aero and WEI, you will be fine with XP. Gamers on the other hand are better served by Win 7 or Vista simply because of Direct-X support. While you can still play Direct-X 9 titles without any issue in an XP machine, if you're looking for DX 10/10.1/11 features you have no way but to upgrade your OS.

Overall Windows XP had a great run and we expect this to continue even further as many users worldwide are simply hardware limited. Many organizations and institutions, that still run XP in their systems, might be concerned with the cost of necessary system upgrade that comes with an OS upgrade. Compatibility of some legacy software might be an issue with some users though there is the "Windows XP mode" feature present in Win 7 for those kind of scenarios. With said that many users are already migrating to a newer version of Windows as we speak and with Microsoft dropping support for XP in 2014, this trend will become more prominent in future. But for now Windows XP is still Good Enough!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Looking back @CES 2012 - The interesting bits

CES (Consumer Electronic Show) 2012 has reached its conclusion yet there are lots of things left over to speculate on. There have been many exciting technologies and gadgets shown in this years event and some of them were truly amazing, others not so much! AnandTech made a full list of things and events that took place over in CES. You can find it here. Check it out, we have some very interesting techs and products ahead of us in 2012. Here is some of my personal favorites among those -

  • AMD Trinity APU - An APU built on Pile-driver cores and 2nd generation DX11 graphics which could very well be the next big thing in integrated graphics. Trinity would be made available by 2nd half of 2012 and should have enough graphics horsepower to make IGP gaming a reality. But a lot depends on how much improvement Piledriver cores/modules bring over Bulldozer cores. Trinty will be an update of the existing Llano line up.
  • Intel IvyBridge CPU and Ultrabooks built on it - IvyBridge will be a die-shrink of the existing SandyBridge CPU architecture from Intel and the first one to utilize a 22nm processing node. This is a very promising chip because the smaller process will allow for better power and thermal efficiency, more headroom for higher frequencies and better graphics. Intel has confirmed now that IB will have DX11 functionality, so no worries there. One thing to note here, while Intel will reuse its existing graphics architecture found in SandyBridge i3/i5/i7 CPUs, the die shrink would make it possible for IB to fit in more graphics execution units than its predecessors thus providing more 3D-gaming power. For a completely new architecture we've to wait for Haswell. Meanwhile Intel has been very active with their big Ultrabook push recently and IB CPUs are a big part of the plan. Intel and its OEM partners has shown off quite a few attractive Ultrabook models based on this new chop in this years CES. The target is to have longer battery life and better graphics.
  • Nokia's new breed of Windows Smartphones - This is a very interesting development that many of us have a keen eye on. It came as a surprise to many when Nokia announced it'll ditch Meego for WP(Windows Phone) and make Smartphones based on Microsoft's Operating System. MS has been hard on work to enter the smartphone business for long but without much success so this collaboration was a very important one for them. Intel seemed to be the biggest loser, Microsoft the prime gainer and Nokia...well only time will tell! Nokia Lumia 800 was the first to show up with WP7 this year and is the best Windows based Smartphone to have. It goes to show Nokia still has what it takes to make great Phones. In CES this year, Nokia has announced Lumia 900 which will be a very interesting upgrade to their Lumia line-up with features like a 4.3" Super AMOLED screen! 
  • Sapphire Edge-HD3 - We all know Sapphire to be a top tier Graphics card manufacturer but did you know that it also makes some of the smallest PCs around? Yes, that's true. Sapphire's Edge-HD series of mini PC/Nettops have been great products. I have one Edge HD2 in my possession for sometime now and love this little PC (yes I call it a PC because it does all the basic tasks a Personal Computer is supposed to do and more) for its style, portability and functionality. It works as fall back device for me aside from being a great HTPC replacement. My only gripe about this little beauty is that it runs on an Intel Atom D525, which is quite underpowered and sluggish in today's standard. Nvidia's ION is what makes my HD2 unique. I was looking for an upgrade and it seems I'll get it soon in form of Sapphire Edge-HD3! This iteration of Edge-HD is built on a very capable AMD E-450 dual-core Bobcat APU with integrated Radeon HD6320 graphics- which should be the perfect upgrade for anyone using an ION based device like myself. E-450 is clocked at 1.65GHz compared to E-350's 1.6GHz , has better graphics to offer and definitely will make a great little PC considering E-350 is already a very good option for building Media Servers, HTPCs, Nettops and Bare-bone PCs.
CES 2012 promised us a great number of enticing technologies and products that will arrive very soon. Actually there are many fantastic tech and gadgets (like Android Icecream Sandwich or those huge Amoled displays!) I would've liked to focus on but being limited of both time and scope, can't right now. But rest assured we, who like to keep a tab of new and exciting technologies, will have our hands full in upcoming months!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A dark day @ Wikipedia to prevent a dark future

In an unique attempt to register its protest against the draconian and short-sighted SOPA, Wikipedia, the largest and widely used free online encyclopedia, has blacked and stalled their Wikipedia website. This is not permanent but could very well be the case in future if the USA congress passes the act that is SOPA! In a way Wikipedia is showing us glimpses of that dark future. This is a very serious matter and one that relates to our freedom and integrity. There are some serious flaws in the design and proposal of SOPA/PIPA, which could in effect toll the death bell of a free and boundless internet. The likes of Google,Yahoo, Facebook and PayPal have already raised their voices against this draconian act officially and many more are joining them everyday. You can find a full list of the names protesting SOPA here. But Wikipedia has taken the protest to a new level after today's event. We would like to congratulate them for their efforts as this is not just a concern of USA anymore and everyone from every country in the world should raise their voices about how they want their internet to be in upcoming days. A free and expressive internet is what we all strive for and it is our responsibility to protect the very essence of the internet as we know it. In this small personal blog of mine I try to concentrate on PC technologies surrounding us but under these circumstances I believe we all should learn about the potential threats from SOPA/PIPA and raise our voices against it.

I also found some good articles on this concerning matter, read them to have a better understanding.
http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/246516/stop_sopa_a_plea_from_the_inventors_of_the_internet.html, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/jan/17/stop-sopa-or-web-will-go-dark

Update: Many others including Craiglist, Reddit and Electronic Frontier Foundation also decided to black-out their respective sites. Here is more.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Intel shows DX11 graphics in VLC media player!

We told earlier that CES 2012 is going to be very interesting and so far it is turning out to be very much so. But at the same time there have been some controversies floating around. Intel's recent Ivy Bridge Ultrabook demonstration being the latest one to spark some conspiracy theories. Funny thing is this whole debacle was pretty much avoidable as we'll see in the end. Things started with Intel showing off their latest gizmos that is the Ultrabooks. For those who are not familiar with the term Ultrabook, it's a new form factor introduced by Intel and its partners recently. The idea is not a new one though as Ultrabooks are basically ultra-portable and compact Notebooks in an attractive envelope - much like the popular Macbook Air from Apple. The demo was about the upcoming Ultrabooks which would feature the much anticipated Ivy Bridge CPUs from Intel. Ivy Bridge CPU is supposed to be the first chip made in 22nm process and should have better graphics capability compared to its previous generation of chips as promised by the giant chipmaker. As we all know graphics performance is the Achilles-hill of Intel's CPU line, Ivy Bridge would be a very important step-up for Intel's integrated graphics road map. Ivy Bridge will also be the first Intel chip to feature DirectX 11 which in process would help them to restore the parity with the offerings from Nvidia and AMD as both of them already have DX11 in their products. So in this particular demo, everyone's eye was fixed on how Ivy Bridge IGP (Integrated Graphics Processor) performs. Things started well as Intel's Mooly Eden, VP, PC Client Group, presented a real time havok physics rendering demonstration of a troll, which is impressive. Next up was a DX11 racing demo, where Mr. Eden was supposed to play a live game on one of the Ultrabooks shown off. But as soon as he started the game playing session - VLC control panel popped up!! It was a clear indication of the fact that it was not a real time graphics rendering rather a per-recorded video clip running on VLC media player. We all are fans of VLC player, which is one of the best media player out there. But surely there is a dimensional gap between running a recorded game session and playing a game live on a PC! It was hilarious and embarrassing at the same time because it was supposed to be a LIVE demo of Ivy Bridge's graphics prowess and nothing in Mr. Eden's talks earlier suggested otherwise. See the video linked above for yourself to be the judge. Afterwards Mr. Eden tried to rectify the situation by saying "they're running it from backstage" but it was a little too late for that. Rumors started to fly and forums became full of conspiracy theories suggesting Ivy's IGP is not performing up to the expected level. Some even went a bit further by claiming that Ivy bridge DX11 functionality is broken! Later though Intel came out with an acceptable clarification and assured that Ivy Bridge IGP is capable of running real time games and that it was mere lack of time and space which caused the confusion. If that is the case then I feel it's safe to say that it was a stupid PR stunt that went wrong and the situation was avoidable. When you have nothing to hide why would you run a recorded video instead of a live demo without disclosing the facts first? In the end IB (Ivy Bridge) might just be fine and performs as expected (we'll see it soon enough as IB is due to launch in March/April, 2012) but this kind of deception only adds to confusion and controversy. Intel is a market leader in many ways and has a very high stature, I hope they'll learn their lessons from this kind of mistakes.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

CES 2012

So the CES (Consumer Electronic Show) has started in Las Vegas and some very interesting things going on there. The CES is very big an event nowadays with many vendors and manufacturer trying to showcase the very best of their products. The PC enthusiast community generally keeps an eager eye over these events since many upcoming products are first shown here and new technology arrives with new announcements. Apart from these CES also serves as a platform where the manufacturers get to interact with the consumers directly. Also this is great opportunity for them to know what the market wants from them. This year we're waiting for some great news from the major players like Intel, AMD, Google, MS, Apple and others and we'll look froward to that. Meanwhile this is what I found on YouTube, a casual interview with the CES Boss Gary Shapiro himself, who has been behind the success of this show for many years now. Also we would like congratulate him for opposing the draconian SOPA in his opening address, which earned a good deal of appreciation from the tech community.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

MS celebrates as IE-6 loses market share

For once Microsoft is happy that its prominent browser- Internet Explorer is losing its grip on the market! Well we're not talking about the latest iterations of IE but the venerable IE6. It's no secret that MS is keen on retiring the iconic web browser for sometime now. The recent statistics show that the use of IE6 is in decline and the number of its users is less than 1% of the total market in the US and several other countries with most users already upgraded to a newer edition or a different browser altogether. So Microsoft's IE team is having a party and a cake. But the celebration might seem a bit premature as there is still a considerable number of users worldwide using this year old browser. China for one has a huge number, a whooping 25% of its internet users are still using IE6! There are two questions here, why MS wants to retire IE6 and why people still use it? The answer of the first one is simple, there are numerous security loopholes in IE6 which makes it pretty vulnerable to threats like malwares and hackers. It is very important to use a secure web browser nowadays considering the overgrowing threats in the internet and because the browser is the primary tool for net activity it becomes the target of choice for cyber criminals. The reason to why IE6 still is so much popular among users can be attributed to its long history and success. Just like the Windows XP, IE6 has become almost a legend in its category and had a long reign. Many of those who are still using it also have Win-XP in their machines. Also there may be some enterprise or corporate clients using it under old contracts. But like all good things it has to come to an end and according to MS, it's about time.

News source -http://www.techpowerup.com/157983/MSIE-6-Usage-Drops-Below-1-in-The-US-Microsoft-Celebrates.html, http://windowsteamblog.com/ie/b/ie/archive/2012/01/03/the-us-says-goodbye-to-ie6.aspx

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy new year

A very happy new year to all our readers, we are looking forward to keep you updated with the most interesting aspects of the modern tech world throughout 2012. So don't forget to check back!