At first, I just didn't get it--the Chumby, that is. This little LCD display wrapped in a hug of padding looked like a bizarre cross between my car's antiquated GPS device, the throw-up of an OSX dashboard, and a big plushy hunk of love. To its genius, that's exactly what the Chumby is... and so much more. And did I mention that it's open-source as well?
Contrary to most of the open-source hardware projects I've mentioned on Maximum PC, the Chumby is ready for your attention the moment you pop it out of the box. But that doesn't mean that you can't tweak and tinker beyond its simplistic exterior. Although cracking open the soft, loveable digital toy will violate your warranty, the official Chumby site is more than happy to give you a listing of the device's full hardware--schematics as well. From there, only your conscience toward ripping open friendly, plush, communication devices stands in your way of complete hardware transcendence.
If hardware hacking isn't your thing, however, the second best part of the Chumby is the comprehensive list of software widgets that you can display and interact with on the device. To find these, you can go the official route and download apps directly off of Chumby's main site or you can scour the internet for custom, USB-deployable software to stick into your device.
Just what do these tweaks entail? Click the jump and find out--featuring examples you can play with too!
Hiper may not be well-known in the States, but in Europe it’s big in the power supply and chassis markets. Now, Hiper is branching into the American market and has brought at least one solid contender to the great case race.
The Hiper Osiris is a midtower ATX case constructed of 6063-T5 aluminum alloy, which makes it very sturdy. The top, clip-on front panel, and side panels are all finished in black brushed aluminum, which looks quite fine. Frankly, we’d expect a little less heft from an all-aluminum chassis, but the beast clocks in at more than 18 pounds. On the other hand, it’s certainly not going to break on you.
Inside, the Osiris is finished in black, except for the unpainted motherboard backplate, which takes up only the space required for an ATX motherboard, leaving plenty of room for cable routing and tie-downs (with the included Velcro straps). The Osiris includes three 12cm fans—front, top, and rear. PCI slot covers are of the flimsy snap-off variety, but Hiper includes several ventilated replacement covers—a nice touch.
Adding to its EX power supply line, BFG this week launched its new EX-1000, a 1000 watt modular power supply that you will only be able to purchase at Best Buy stores or through BestBuy.com.
The modular unit boasts 80 Plus Bronze certification, which calls for PSUs to retain 85 percent power at a 50 percent load, and never drop below 82 percent at any load level. According to BFG, out of the 1,627 power supplies certified to be 80 Plus efficient, only 175, or less than 10 percent, are 1000W or greater.
Connectors consist of 12x SATA, 2x 4-pin floppy, 9x 4-pin Molex, 3x 8-pin (6+2) PCI-E, 3x 6-pin PCI-E, 1x 8-pin CPU 12V, 1x 4-pin CPU 12V, and 1x 24-pin (20+4-pin) motherboard. Other features include quad +12V rails, a "silent" 135mm intake fan, a handful of Velcro straps, and a lifetime warranty (when registered within 30 days of purchase date).
The EX-1000 is available now from Best Buy / BestBuy.com for $200.
A password bug forced Intel to halt shipments of its new 34nm X25-M G2 SSDs after some customers -- including OEM builder Puget Systems -- complained of data corruption if a password is set on the drive in the system BIOS and then is changed or disabled later. Intel was able to hammer out a firmware update that squashes the bug and resume shipments of the new drives.
For those who purchased one of the potentially faulty drives before they were pulled, Intel has posted the firmware update to its website. The firmware applies to both the X25-M and X18-M SSDs on 50nm (black case, G1) and 34nm (silver case, G2), however there are some issues with the latest firmware.
According to Intel, some Nvidia chipset-based systems, including Macs, will not recognize an Intel SSD. The solution? Install the SSD in a different system to update the firmware and then reinstall in the Nvidia rig. Other potential roadblocks include a "known website compatibility" issue with Apple Safari (Intel recommends running Firefox to download the update), and the Firmware update Tool does not support updating SSDs in systems running RAID.
Sony on Tuesday announced it has launched a new type of lithium ion secondary battery using olivine-type lithium iron phosphate as the cathode material.
What exactly does that mean? According to Sony, both high-power and long-life performance in a single package. The company claims olivine's robust crystal structure and stable performance make the material an ideal fit for use as a cathode material. In addition, Sony says its new battery technology is able to charge rapidly.
Sony has already started shipping the first battery to use the olivine material, which the company sells under its Fortelion series branding. It holds a capacity of 1.1Ah with 80 percent capacity retention after 2,000 charge-discharge cycles, and is able to recharge to 99 percent of its full capacity in 30 minutes, Sony says.
Intel and Micron have developed a new 34nm NAND flash memory technology that is capable of 3 bits per cell, which allows for greater density than the standard 2 bits per cell technology currently in use, the two companies announced this week.. According to Micron, this will pave the way for high-capacity USB flash drives.
Micron also said the technology isn't yet as reliable as flash memory based on 2 bits per cell technology. Because of this, the 3 bits per cell chips will only be used in the manufacturer of flash drives that don't require the data storage reliability of an SSD.
"The chip is not for all markets," claims Jim Handy of semiconductor market researcher Objective Analysis. "The companies explained that they need more experience in production volumes before they will be confident to position it as a chip suitable for the high-write environment of the SSD."
Micron said the chips will be in mass production in the fourth quarter.
While Amazon's Kindle seems to receive most of the attention surrounding e-book readers, don't count Sony out of the running. On the contrary, Sony has started tweaking its marketing strategy to better compete with the Kindle.
Last week, Sony introduced two new e-book readers at comparatively affordable price points of $200 and $300, with the higher priced model sporting a touchscreen interface. In addition, Sony reduced prices at its online e-book store for new releases and New York Times best sellers by $2 a pop. And finally, Sony has also started offering a handful of newer titles for free from authors such as Brenda Jackson, James Patterson, and others.
"I think the trend toward lower-priced devices will help to encourage adoptions, and it also helps that Sony's best sellers will now be priced at $9.99 -- down from $11.99," said Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst for Forrester Research. "Even though there are many books priced lower than $9.99 in their online store, just being able to add this price point has psychological appeal."
Epps went to say that while Sony is moving in the right direction, it still needs to do more to make it easier for consumers to find the e-book content they're looking for through its online stores.
Solid state drives show immense promise with regards to reliability and read speeds, but current-generation models are rife with drawbacks. Due to NAND flash memory’s architecture, writing data to a block (after the first time) requires copying the entire contents of that block to cache, erasing it, and rewriting it with the added data. Large numbers of small writes run the risk of overloading the SSD’s disk cache, causing high latency. Multi Layer Cell (MLC) solid state drives, especially those utilizing JMicron’s JM602 controller, are particularly susceptible.
Fortunately, Samsung’s SSDs, like Intel’s (whose X25-M is the gold standard for solid state drives), use their own controllers, and the results are impressive. This 256GB SSD reached sustained average read speeds of 175MB/s, just 12 percent slower than the Intel drive and 75 percent faster than a Western Digital VelociRaptor. Better still, the Samsung drive’s average sustained write speeds topped 150MB/s, much faster than the 64.3MB/s average offered by the Intel drive. Oddly, Intel’s X25-M still reigns supreme in our Premiere Pro encoding test, beating the Samsung drive by nearly two minutes. The Samsung’s random access times, while slightly slower than the X25-M’s, still average at under .2ms for read and write.
The Samsung drive’s PCMark Vantage score, at 14,088, is less than half that of the Intel drive’s, but still double that of any standard hard drive.
Nvidia on Monday announced that Intel and leading motherboard manufacturers have licensed the graphic chip maker's SLI technology for use in Intel's P55 Express chipset. This will include boards from Asus, EVGA, Gigabyte, and MSI.
"Nvidia technology is a perfect complement to the processing prowess of our new Core i7 and Intel DP55KG desktop brand," said Clem Russo, VP and General Manager of Intel Client Board Division. "Nvidia and Intel share a combined passion for furthering the PC as the definitive platform for gaming, and this combination will surely be attractive to anyone building or purchasing a brand new PC this fall."
By adding the P55 chipset under SLI's licensing umbrella, SLI is now available for all consumer PC platforms, including the Intel Core i7, Core i5, Core 2 Quad, and Core 2 Duo processor, in addition to those based on the AMD Phenom II CPU, Nvidia points out.
We don't often get excited over integrated graphics chipsets, but as far as that segment goes, AMD's new 785G chipset looks awfully enticing, at least on paper.
Whereas the older 780G was built around the Radeon HD 3200 GPU, the 785G bumps up graphics duties to the HD 4200, and with it support for DirectX 10.1. The new chipset also updates the HDMI 1.2 port to HDMI 1.3. Other goodies include support for PCI-E 2.0 graphics and ATI's Hybrid Graphics mode, 3Gbps SATA connectors, USB 2.0, and HD audio.
Moving away from the hardware, AMD apparently is putting extra effort into building support for Windows 7.
"We recognized that inflection point and realized we needed a product for that timeline," Adam Kozak, Desktop Marketing Manager for AMD, told ExtremeTech. "One of the things with AMD, there's a lot around this, and our driver schedules and everything are part of the proof that we value this transition. That's why you'll get the WHQL drivers way ahead of launch. We've worked hard with Microsoft to ensure that all these features work. It's been a long process to get to where we are now."
While hardcore gamers probably need not apply, AMD says that an Athlon II X2 CPu and 785G-based mobo combo should run under 200 clams.