By launching a full line of music-streaming products, including the Director DMC250 reviewed here, Cisco clearly has the Sonos Digital Music System in its sights; unfortunately, it’s fallen well short of the target.
Our biggest complaint has to do with the convoluted setup process, which includes installing Cisco’s LELA (Linksys EasyLink Advisor) on at least one PC. LELA isn’t a bad utility—if you’re completely terrified by the prospect of setting up a home network. If you’re an old hand, it’s a waste of computer resources.
The default installation also forces you to set up a user account on Cisco’s website. A spokesperson tells us this is because Cisco needs to act as an intermediary between you and Rhapsody. Really? What if you already have an account with Rhapsody? What if you decide you don’t want anything to do with it? There’s apparently some way of installing the Cisco media server software without LELA or divulging your email address to Cisco, but the documentation doesn’t mention it.
Whether it's your smartphone, e-book reader, or portable media player, the multi-touch trend is taking over just about every possible segment, and that now includes the computer mouse. Not surprisingly, it's Apple -- not Logitech or Microsoft -- who's able to lay claim to the world's first multi-touch mouse.
Dubbed the Magic Mouse, Apple's latest rodent comes with a single button and sports a hard acrylic multi-touch surface on the top. It also boasts wireless connectivity, a low profile design, Bluetooth, and a claimed four-month battery life.
Those who have ever navigated a Mac trackpad will feel right at home with the ability to perform two-finger swipes, but the Magic Mouse also allows single-finger horizontal and vertical scrolling and software-based inertia. What you won't find, however, is pinch-zoom support.
The Magic Mouse goes on sale today for $69 and comes standard with every new iMac.
Acer has already been working with Far EasTone Telecommunications in Taiwan. Agreements have also been reached with Bouygues of France, Wind of Italy, and CSL of Hong Kong. Acer expects to begin working with North American telecoms in 2010. Could this mean that the Acer A1, with its Snapdragon CPU, will grace American shores in 2010? By then, it might be just another Android phone.
After a flurry of activity in the solid state drive market, it's been comparatively quiet the past few weeks, but we finally have some new developments to report. As you may recall, the controllers used in SSDs can have a significant impact on performance, and Micron thinks it has a winner on its hands with its just-developed JFM612 NAND flash controller chip.
Micron's first controller ran into some pesky performance problems, some of which they fixed with the JMF602B controller. But the initial hiccups left the door open for competitors to step in, like Indilinx did with its Barefoot controller. Like Barefoot, Micron's new chip is able to use 32nm flash chips, which helps lower the cost of SSDs.
After a few initial issues with the new controller, DailyTech reports that Micron has finally begun mass producing JFM612 chips. The first SSDs to utilize them will be Active Media with the launch of their Predator-X7 series. Along with Micron's new controller, the Predator-X7 will come with 128MB of DRAM cache to eliminate any chance of stuttering, and boast sequential read and write speeds of up to 230MB/s and 180MB/s, respectively.
Six months ago, the the Predator-X7 would have been a real barn burner, but it's tough to get too excited over 180MB/s writes anymore. However, more SSDs built around Micron's new controller are on the way, and you can probably expect these to give today's offerings a run for their money.
AMD has bumped up it’s line of desktop microprocessors with the introduction of a new set of Athlon II processors, including the first Athlon triple-cores. Triple-core processors, obviously, fill the gap between dual-core and quad-core versions, and, according to Nathan Brookwood of the market research firm Insight 64, offer more power than dual-cores while costing less than quad-cores, making them attractive choices for desktop makers.
The new processors include Athlon II X2s in 2.7GHz and 2.8 GHz, four Athlon II X3s ranging from 2.2 GHz up to 2.9 GHz, and Athlon II X4s at 2.2 GHz and 2.3 GHz. All of the processors pull 45 watts, except for the 2.7 GHz and 2.9 GHz X3s which draw 95 watts. All of the new Athlon IIs are manufactured using 45-nanometer dies.
AMD claims the 2.8 GHz X2 will perform up to 70 percent better on media and entertainment benchmarks than an Intel Core 2 Duo E7400, while the 2.9 GHz X3 shows a 75 percent performance jump over the Intel Core 2 Duo E8500. Overall, AMD says these new processors will offer “superior competitive value for mainstream consumers in productivity, HD video, and 3D gaming.”
The e-book reader market is fast becoming a crowded niche, so in order to stand out from the competition, some manufacturers are taking liberties with the basic design. Take Spring Design, for example, who on Monday announced a dual-screen e-book reader built around Google's Android platform.
"This is the start of a whole new experience of reading content on e-books, potentially igniting a whole new industry in multimedia e-book publishing for secondary authors to create supplementary content that is hyper linked to the text," said Dr. Priscilla Lu, CEO of Spring Design. "We are bringing life to books with audio, video, and annotations. This gives readers the ability to fully leverage the resources on the Web, and the tools available in search engines to augment the reading experience."
Called 'Alex,' the new e-book readers sport a 6-inch e-ink EPD display on the top portion and a 3.5-inch color LCD on the bottom. Spring Design says Android has been optimized to support integration between the two displays to prolong battery life. But what exactly is the point of the color display?
Apparently Alex owners are able to capture and cache Web content on the color display and toggle to view it on the EPD screen without taxing the battery. Users can also create their own images and notes to augment the original text.
Spring Design says it is still talking with "major content partners" and hopes to release Alex into the wild by the end of the year.
With Windows 7 right around the corner, let the marketing frenzy begin. Case in point: According to AMD spokesman Brent Barry, all those Athlon II chips that recently rolled off AMD's assembly line are "fully optimized" for the upcoming OS.
"It was important for AMD to get in front of the pack for the release of Windows 7," Barry told TGDaily. "We are well positioned for it, with acceleration and virtualization support. Our drivers are all ready to go. From a CPU and graphics standpoint, we have a better start than Intel does."
Oh snap! But not worry if you've already invested in a Core i7 or i5 platform, it's not as if Windows 7 will suddenly refuse to boot i if it detects Intel inside. The point Barry is trying to drive home is that AMD owns the value market. By Barry's numbers, the AMD Athlon II X2 240e, for example, performs "up to 70 percent better" then similarly priced Intel silicon. Or take the Athlon II X3 435 chip, which AMD says offers a 75 percent boost in media and entertainment apps when compared to Intel's Core 2 Duo E8500.
On a less controversial note, Barry also said Windows 7 will likely help drive PC sales growth, whereas that wasn't necessarily the case with Vista.
Gateway has announced a new thin-and-light notebook lineup for the release of Windows 7 on the 22nd. The series is comprised of the EC58, EC54, and EC14. All will run Windows Home Premium, and will have multitouch trackpads. Gateway is also claiming that all the notebooks are capable of 8 hours of battery life.
The EC58 and EC54 are 15.6 inch laptops with high definition, LED-backlit screens. They run Pentium Dual Core SU4100 series CPUs, offering very low power consumption. They are, however, running an Intel integrated graphics solution. The units will have 4GB of DDR3 RAM loaded as well. The EC14 has a smaller 11.6 inch HD display, LED-backlit, and weighs in at a bit over 3 pounds. Otherwise, the specs are very similar. The EC58/54 will start at $649.99 and the EC14 will go for $549.99.
In a statement, Acer (who owns Gateway) Senior Manager of Product Marketing, Ray Sawall, said, “The new Gateway EC Series product lines were designed for the many PC users that have embraced the fun and productivity of being able to compute and stay in touch while away from their home or office.” We’ll have to wait and see if consumers agree, but at least this is yet another interesting product offering coinciding with the Windows 7 launch.
Spring Design unveiled an Android power eReader device dubbed “Alex,” today. The new eReader is powered by Google’s Android OS, features dual screens (!), SD card reader and a Wifi/3G network connection.
There is no question the most unique feature of “Alex” is its multiple screens. It features a 6 inch monochrome display optimized for reading text. However, it also features a color 3.5 inch display allowing the user to simultaneously browse other content. The two screens have been optimized to work together.
"Users can capture and cache web content from their online experience on the LCD screen, and toggle to view it on the EPD screen without taxing the battery life," explained Spring Design CEO Dr. Priscilla Lu. "Browser features such as bookmarking, history, and security settings are built in, and the device with full Android browsing capability, is mobile enabled with smart phones capabilities."
Spring Design is currently shopping for content providers and hopes to be shipping the device before the end of 2009.
The most obvious and common reason to avoid any SSD solution presently is certainly price. Compared to rotational-magnetic state drives, solid states offer far better performance for most server environments, but prices were keeping them out of the server closet.
However, as datacenters continue to find the need to grow (due to the software-as-a-service movement, cloud server environments, etc) they are finding that the overall power consumption and thermal capabilities of SSDs may be worth the cost.
MySpace recently revamped their server outfit with SSD technology and managed to cut hardware costs by 60 percent simply by using SSDs. It was undoubtedly an expensive move, but what they spent in hardware they’ll make up for in infrastructure savings. The SSD units they used will save them 50 percent on power, and 80 percent in cooling.