Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Fastest Desktop PC Ever

In the words of LT Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, "I feel the need....the need for speed!" Well, at least that's what Intel is feeling as it just announced that it will be putting its absurd 72-core Knight's Landing supercomputer chip into production. However, that isn't even the most exciting part. The most exciting part is that the Knight's Landing, which is Intel's fastest chip to date, will be going into desktop workstations that will contain enough computational power to make Doc Brown's overloaded speakers look like a kids karaoke machine.

PC World recently reported that the company is planning on shipping a "limited number of workstations" that will come equipped with the super-fast supercomputer chip in the first half of 2016. As a result PC makers will have the ability to adopt Intel's supercomputer silicon in desktop models on a greater scale, according to Intel's Charles Wuischpard. I don't know about you, but I'm not sure I can handle a chip like this being in something that is sitting in my room or my office. But then again the power is very alluring.

The main question that is going to be on everyone's mind is, of course, what kind of specs we can expect from the Knight's Landing chip. This chip differs from the ones currently in your desktop in the fact that this supercomputer processor puts all of its cores onto a single piece of silicon. Then, all of these processors are bundled up with 16GB of on-package MCDRAM memory into a PCI-E add-in card. This is very similar to the ridiculous Nvidia GPUs that are currently being installed on supercomputers around the world.

Once you have all of this packed together and installed inside your computer you are left with a piece of hardware that is capable of computing single-precision calculations at a rate of 8 teraflops, or double-precision calculations at over 3 teraflops. PC World also noted that this chip will be used by the United States Department of Energy inside of its 9,300-core Cori supercomputer and, in addition to that, Intel has also claimed that 50 different manufacturers will ship systems that use this chip in time.

In the meantime the desktop workstations, which are essentially jacked up versions of the CAD, graphics and film editing computers that are used in offices where money is as abundant as air, will be made available to researchers who are interested in using a supercomputer but are otherwise unable to gain access to one. The idea is that these individuals will be able to develop and test code on the workstation before shipping it out, error-free, to a supercomputer somewhere in the future. I highly doubt that you will be getting something like this in your iMac anytime soon, though Intel is, at the very least, attempting to put this chip into the hands of people that would otherwise have no access to such a device.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Microsoft Reveals End-Of-Sales Date For Windows 7 And Windows 8.1 Devices

By now most Windows users have upgraded to Windows 10. However, some people are still using Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 while others are looking to buy a new laptop, desktop or tablet with Windows 8.1 or 7 pre-installed. If you are one of these people then you have less than a year to do so as Microsoft has just announced that it will be discontinuing both Windows 8.1 and Windows 7.

According to the Microsoft Windows Lifecycle Fact Sheet, October 31st, 2016 is marked as the "end of sales for PCs with Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 pre-installed. After October 31st, 2016 the only option for customers will be to purchase new computers with Windows 10 installed. The only exception to this will be businesses with license agreements that entitle them to choose which version of Windows they wish to have pre-installed.

This deadline will be putting a lot of pressure on consumers who have become quite attached to Windows 7 and may be very apprehensive to upgrading to Windows 10 if they buy a new computer. However, this is a logical and necessary step for Microsoft in its goal of having more than 1 billion Windows 10 devices powered up. This also goes along with the company's message that Windows 10 is capable of bringing together desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones with apps that can run across every platform.

What Windows 7 users don't really realize is that this is actually really good for them. Microsoft usually sets the end-of-date for each version of Windows two years after the release of a new operating system. This means that the cutoff date for Windows 7 should have been October of 2014, which was two years after the launch of Windows 8. However, the severe lack of consumer demand for Windows 8 insisted that Microsoft keep the operating system around a while longer. Windows 8, if you remember, was Microsoft's attempt at making a touch-friendly operating system, though it transitioned horribly onto non-touch devices and was highly panned by users.

If you want to continue using Windows 7 on your existing PC or laptop then you don't have to worry. Microsoft has announced that extended technical support will be available until January 14, 2020, meaning that you will be able to continue receiving patches, bug fixes, and other updates. This support is also offered to Windows 8.1 users, though it is extended to January 23rd, 2023.

Despite these deadlines, Microsoft is still heavily pushing Windows 10 to users. The new operating system, which came to users at the end of July of this year, is available as a free upgrade to users of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 for the first year of its existence. Microsoft keeps sneaking in pop-ups on the regular to remind users that Windows 10 is available. Microsoft also classified Windows 10 as an "optional update" and, as early as next year, expects to change that to a "recommended update" according to Windows and Devices Group Executive Vice President terry Myerson.

I have been using Windows 10 since it launched and it's really good. It takes the best things from Windows 7 and puts them in a modern format with new features and apps that really do bring all of your devices together. In addition to that, non-touchscreen users don't feel like they've been given second billing to touchscreen users, something that Windows 8 seemed to do. If you are looking for a Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 computer or laptop, you better move quick because this time next year that won't be an option.

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Monday, November 2, 2015

Western Digital Is Buying SanDisk For $19 Billion

Western Digital recently announced that it is buying up data storage vendor SanDisk for $19 billion in cash and stocks. This merger is coming at a time when the IT industry is evolving at breakneck speeds and companies are looking for new ways to get in on trends like wearable tech, the Internet of Things, and cloud computing. As a result, there has been a wave of mergers and acquisitions along with an increase of investment activity in the data storage market.

Western Digital's acquisition of SanDisk comes right after the market's biggest acquisition ever, when Dell purchased EMC for $67 billion. That deal hit news outlets last week and, in addition, storage semiconductor maker PMC-Sierra has also received a number of bids to take it over while Unisplendor, who is owned by China's Tsinghua, agreed to buy 15% of Western Digital for $3.78 billion. Western Digital focuses mainly on hard disk drives (HDD) though it is facing an evolution in IT that is pushing companies towards addressing a changing set of requirements for both client and enterprise end customers.

Enterprises no longer have to rely entirely on tape drives for backups and hard drives for primary data. However, the do have to deal with higher speed requirements that come with applications like online transaction processing and big data analytics. Solid-state drives (SSD) are a vital piece of multi-faceted storage infrastructures whereas flash memory devices simply sit under DRAM as top-tier storage. Western Digital and SanDisk are both based in California and they are both heavily involved in different segments of the consumer data storage market. Western Digital offers desktop NAS drives while SanDisk operates as a leader in flash-based thumb drives and memory expansion cards.

Earlier in the year, SanDisk, which is also known for its SSDs for desktops and laptops, announced its very first lineup of pocket-sized, high-capacity external drives. This buyout of SanDisk gives Western Digital an instant position in the global, non-volatile NAND flash memory market, according to Research Vice President of IDC Jeff Janukowicz. "Additionally, the NAND industry is at an infection point as it transitions from planar to 3D technology and access to that technology was a key piece of the deal," Janukowicz stated. "Now, WD is positioned to address a much larger footprint in the storage industry."

Western Digital noted during its announcement of the deal that the combination will "enable it to vertically integrate into NAND, securing long-term access to solid state technology at lower cost." SanDisk as 27 years of experience in the NAND flash memory industry and recently announced a deal with Toshiba to manufacture the world's densest 3D NAND, which is a 48-layer, 32GB chip that offers twice the capacity of the next densest memory. Also during the announcement Western Digital also noted the 15-year partnership between SanDisk and Toshiba and stated that it expects that relationship to be "ongoing". According to the company, "The joint venture provides stable NAND supply at scale through a time-tested business model and extends across NVM technologies such as 3D NAND."

According to Gregory Wong, an Analyst with Forward Insights, this deal between Western Digital and SanDisk will allow WD to enter the consumer SSD and enterprise SATA SSD market. "WD wants SanDisk for the access to the flash. Their PC HDD business is declining due to the weak PC market but also because SSDs are encroaching that space," Wong added. "Without access to NAND flash at cost, it would've increasingly been difficult to compete with NAND players in the enterprise space."

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Did You Know About These Built-In Battery Saving Modes In Windows 10?

In case you didn't know, Windows 10 has a lot of neat little things built-in that allow you to save your battery life for longer. Sure there is the traditional power options menu that allows you to pick how long your computer should stay awake when you're not using it, but that's boring. What's cool is the new battery saver feature that switches off things like push notifications (Yes we know, your PC operating system has push notifications because Windows 10 was designed with mobile devices in mind too, get over it). So what do you need to know about these new battery settings?

The Power & Sleep menu, which can be accessed by going to Settings > System > Power > Sleep, isn't anything new. From this menu, you can choose how long your computer can be idle before it automatically shuts off the screen or goes into Sleep Mode. In addition to that, you can also customize it to do so when your computer is plugged in or running solely on battery power. There are also Additional Power Settings that you can click on, which opens up the Power Options menu in the Control Panel. From here you can edit your power plans, choose what happens when you close your laptop lid, or decide whether or not you need a password to unlock your computer when it wakes up from Sleep Mode.

A new feature with Windows 10 is Batter Saver. This is a battery-saving power mode that has been specifically optimized for Windows 10. This means that it can do things like limit background app activity and push notifications. This mode is very similar to ones that you would find on mobile devices, like smartphones or tablets. In addition to this, Batter Saver will automatically turn on when your laptop drops below 20% battery life though you can turn that off manually by going to Settings > System > Battery Saver and turning it off.

You can also tinker with Battery Saver mode. By going to the Battery Saver menu, click Battery Saver Settings to bring up the settings menu. From here you can adjust the point at which Batter Saver mode automatically kicks on from a range of 5% to 100% battery life. You can also choose whether or not to allow push notifications or lower screen brightness in Battery Saver mode or add app exceptions. Apps that you want to exclude from Battery Saver mode will be able to run in the background and send push notifications at all times.

The main Battery Saver menu allows you to see how much of your battery life is being used by different apps, simply click Battery Use to see. This will help you determine which apps to disable in Battery Saver mode, which is extremely useful. You can turn off the apps that drain the most battery life and not even worry about the ones that don't use any at all.

If you find yourself always needing to be connected when you're using your laptop and you can't figure out why your Windows 10 device is using so much power, consider going into some of these settings and tinkering around with things. You might be surprised at how much more efficient your battery usage will become and how much longer your laptop will last without having to be plugged in.

Content originally published here

Monday, October 12, 2015

HP Envy 34 All-In-One Has Brilliant 34-Inch Curved Display

HP has just released its newest all-in-one PC, the beautiful Enfy 34. This computer offers something unique, however, that other all-in-ones do not and that is a 34-inch curved panel. This is definitely a fancy computer to look at and, as a result, isn't cheap.

HP has added Intel's latest 6th-generation Skylake CPU and the screen itself is an IPS display, allowing for wide viewing angles. The screen also comes with a 3440 x 1440 resolution as well as 4.9 million pixels and a 21:9 aspect ratio. According to HP, the Envy 34's display offers 99% of the sRGB color gamut and also has Technicolor certification.

As far as CPU options are concerned, the Envy 34 comes with a Core i5 or Core i7 Skylake dual-core with integrated graphics standard. If this isn't quite good enough for you then you can always opt for the GeFOrce GTX 960A. Nvidia typically special OEM versions of its GPUs, which generally means that this version will be a bit slower than the consumer model.

In terms of RAM storage there is included 8GB or 16GB of DDR4 with storage options ranging from 128GB SSDs to as much as 2TB hard drives and hybrid drives. Naturally, the lower specs come with the base priced model of the Envy 34, which in this case will run you $1,800 USD.

If the Envy 34 seems a bit too big for you liking, the you will be happy to know that HP is also offering 27-inch and 24-inch models, known as the Envy 27 and Envy 24, respectively. Both of these versions mirror the internal hardware of the Envy 34, with the Skylake Core i5 and Core i7 chips as well as similar RAM and storage options. However, on these devices HP is giving consumers the option of AMD Radeon R7 or Radeon R9 graphics.

In addition to that, the panels on the Envy 27 and Envy 24 are flat, instead of curved. Both are Technicolor certified and have resolutions from standard 1080x1920 HD up to Ultra HD 4K. The Envy 24 starts at $1,000 with the Envy 27 starting at $1,200.

As far as all-in-ones are concerned, the Envy 34 from HP is definitely one of the best looking. What it's got underneath the hood is nothing to shake a stick at either. Solid RAM, solid storage space, solid processor, and a solid graphics card(s) are sure to make this all-in-one be at the top of many a computer lover's list.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Amazon Looking To Cut Prices And Launch A High-Speed Database

Amazon is getting ready to host its annual AWS re:Invent tech conference next week in Las Vegas, with plans of talking to customers about its popular Amazon Web Services, the cloud computing that the online retailer provides. However, there is one product rumored to be announced at the event and that is a new, super-fast "in-memory" database, according to Merrill Lynch's Justin Post. According to Post, "Amazon may announce new database products like in-memory databases or higher performance database services like Aurora (MySQL)."

An in-memory database runs in your computer's memory instead of using computer storage. In addition to that, it is also capable of processing unspeakable amounts of data at nearly instantaneous speeds, according to the description from Oracle chairman Larry Ellison on Oracle's version of this very same product. the in-memory option is one of the key ways that Oracle is convincing its customers to upgrade to its latest database, Oracle 12c.

Another big name in this industry is SAP. SAP is trying to slowly wean its business software customers off of Oracle's database and onto its own in-memory alternative, known as Hana. SAP has wagered its entire company on the Hana database, according to SAP's chairman. In addition to that, Amazon already offers a plethora of ways to run in-memory databases on its cloud as well as a variety of its own databases.

Amazon has stated that it is working on more databases. In a job listing for a database developer the company said, "These are exciting times in our space - we are growing fast, but still at an early stage and working on ambitious new initiatives where an engineer at any level can have significant technical and business impact." Should Amazon introduce a new in-memory database, it won't be good news for either Oracle or SAP.

Databases are what an entire company's operations depend on. As a result, companies don't switch them out very often or very easily. However, database vendors are also known for some pretty wicked measures to get money out of their customers. As more and more businesses jump into cloud computing, a lot of them wouldn't mind finding less-expensive database alternatives. What are these less-expensive alternatives? Amazon.

Amazon is constantly cutting prices and, as of July, it has cut AWS prices 49 times and just announced another price cut for its storage service. Amazon is also due for even more cost cuts as rumors are circulating that the company will announce them at the AWS re:Invent tech conference.

This race to cut costs has generated a pretty catchy name: The Race to Zero. This means that, at some point, some cloud providers will cut prices so low that they will be giving them away for free. Google, earlier this year, actually went ahead and did that with its free Photo app and even threw in free unlimited storage too.

While Amazon delves deeper into database services and continues to cut costs along the way, enterprises may be very happy to give this new database a try.

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Monday, September 14, 2015

Microsoft Gives You The Windows 10 Upgrade Whether You Want It Or Not!

Microsoft recently confirmed that it has been pre-loading Windows 10 installation bits onto devices whose owners have not "reserved" a copy of the operating system, let alone showed any interest in it at all. Naturally, this has upset some users of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 with many complaining that the unsolicited downloads have caused them to exceed data caps from their internet service providers or seized storage space without their consent.

Microsoft released a statement acknowledging the downloads stating, "For those who have chosen to receive automatic updates through Windows Update, we help customers prepare their devices for Windows 10 by downloading the files necessary for future installation. This results in a better upgrade experience and ensures the customer's device has the latest software. This is an industry practice that reduces the time for installation and ensures device readiness."

If a Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 user has Windows Update set to the default option, which was recommended by Microsoft, that allows the operating system to download and install security and other bug patches automatically in the background then Microsoft will push the Windows 10 upgrade files to the drive.

This upgrade can range from over 3GB to almost 6GB and is placed in the hidden "$Windows.~BT" folder. This folder has long been a destination for Windows upgrades and the Windows 10 upgrade will remain here until the user expresses an interest in installing the operating least that's what we hope.

Microsoft has been pre-loading the Windows 10 upgrade on systems since the end of July, though it was believed that the practice was limited to PCs whose users had accepted Microsoft's free offer and reserved a copy of the operating system through an app the company automatically installed back in the spring and early summer on nearly every single PC running Windows 7 Home and Windows 8.1 Home, and on many PCs running Windows 7 Professional and Windows 8.1 Professional.

Once the Windows 10 upgrade was downloaded to the device, the user was notified via the app that installation was ready. But this new scheme is completely different in the fact that the bits are downloaded to the PC, regardless of the fact that the user has not asked for the upgrade whatsoever. What's not surprising is the people who noticed this first were the ones with data caps mandated by their internet service providers, especially those who relied on cellular connection to the internet.

There is a particularly long thread on Slashdot that has several commenters claiming that they had exceeded their caps because Microsoft downloaded this massive update to their devices without their approval. One comment reads, "I had to travel recently, so I took a laptop with clean Windows 8.1 Pro install. At my destination, I purchased a SIM (they only had 1GB data packages) and put it into the 3G/Wi-Fi router I carry. I powered the laptop, connected to Internet via said router, checked a few things, then went away for a few hours. When I got back to the apartment, my data package (and Internet connectivity) was killed because Microsoft idiots decided to start downloading Windows 10 even though I have explicitly closed/rejected all the offers."

Other users did not appreciate the unwanted upgrade that landed on their limited storage space. Anyone with a 128GB SSD would be very unhappy if 5% of their storage capacity was suddenly occupied without their approval. Others wondered whether Microsoft would take the next logical step by either giving users notifications telling them to apply the installed upgrade or make the move of triggering the download automatically.

If they triggered the download automatically it wouldn't be much different from what they've already done with those users who accepted the free upgrade and reserved a copy. It is also possible that a lot of users on the receiving end of the notifications would approve of the upgrade or even appreciate the fact they didn't have to wait a long time for the download to complete. However, if Microsoft downloaded the update without consent (again) then the people may very well grab their torches and pitchforks.

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