It might not be well publicized, but there's a major war brewing between Microsoft and Adobe, and they're fighting for you. Each one of them wants to be your provider for rich media content, a task that has traditionally been served by Adobe with its Flash player, but one Olympic sized loss could change the game in Microsoft's favor.
It was Microsoft who won the deal to supply NBC with video-viewing technology via Silverlight for the Olympics in Beijing, and while Microsoft and NBC have ties that go back to their collaboration building MSNBC, Adobe could have been considered a favorite to the win the account based the mature nature of Flash technology. So how did Microsoft secure the gold?
"We talked about features like adaptive streaming, the ability to automatically keep checking how much bandwidth you have and deliver the appropriate quality stream and how to be smart about knowing what's coming up in the stream," said Rob Bennett, the general manager of sports for MSN.
In other words, Microsoft won the account on a combination of Silverlight's feature-set, and convincing NBC that Flash's scalability had never been put to an Olympic-size test, unlike Silverlight's underlying technology which is based on Windows Media technologies.
Of course, it's only one account, but it's not so much what Adobe lost, but what Microsoft gained. While download specifics have not been disclosed, we do know that it's registering 1.5 million downloads a day, and according to a spokeswoman for Microsoft, "in the last several days, more than 50 percent of the visitors to NBCOlympics.com on MSN already have Silverlight 2 installed."
We are consuming huge amounts of bandwidth daily. Just 10 years ago I would have been thrilled with a 4Mb down 512Kb up connection. Today that’s just so-so when it comes to broadband. Downloading video, music, or whatever, is consuming massive amounts of bandwidth and communications companies are working hard to keep up. It’s only going to get more crowded on our current system.
Fiber optics is the big thing for moving large amounts of data around. After all, there isn’t anything that is faster than light (without getting into Quantum physics…). The internet’s current speed woes comes from routing information to its various destinations, not transporting it.
Fiber optics still relies on regular routers to relay information to its correct destination. Where fiber optics can handle frequencies in the terahertz range, electronics work on the gigahertz range. Those pulses of light have to be converted into electrical signals, which are stored, routed, and turned back into optical signals with lasers to be transmitted on. The conversion, besides adding significant cost and complexity, it slows down the data transmission.
So the simple thing to do is to slow light down and remove the needed conversion process. I can hear Han Solo now, “Slow down light speed? Not on this ship brother.”
That is just what researchers are trying to do using "metamaterials". If they can slow down light during the switching process, there would be no need for the electrical conversion step. It could be a first step into building a light based computer.
You can catch the whole article on the BBC website here.
Each Surface computer is reported to have cost Starwood around $10,000. As the machine is made to order, there is always a possibility for change and evolution. Perhaps they can include games to keep the guests riveted. Also lending individuality – or a personality – to the table using interactive 3D characters might be a wonderful business idea as guests might even leave a tip for the table then - not really.
If solid state drives (SSDs) ultimately fail to curry favor among enthusiasts, it won't be from lack of effort in OCZ's headquarters. OCZ, who once sold only DRAM products and now offers everything from DIY notebooks to mind-controlled input devices, has been one of SSDs most aggressive pushers, first with its Core Series SSDs, and now with a second revision dubbed V2.
Whereas the original Core Series come in 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB flavors, the new V2 will be available in 30GB, 60GB, 120GB, and 250GB. By offering a 250GB model, a case could be made for going HDD-less in that new build.
Storage space isn't the only feature getting a boost and the V2 series will offer read and write speeds up to 170 MB/s and 98 MB/s respectively. By comparison, the previous Core Series top out at 143 MB/s and 93 MB/s respective read and write speeds. The V2 also touts improved seek times of less than 0.2-0.3ms as part of the new architecture.
One of the more interesting features OCZ brings to the table with the V2 is the ability to update the SSDs' firmware.The drives will come equipped with a mini-USB port, which paves the way for consumers to cash in on speed bumps and other future enhancements simply by installing new firmware.
Of course, the big concern with all SSDs continues to be the long term reliability, and OCZ rates its 2-year warrantied V2 series with a 1.5 million hour mean time before failure (MTBF). No word yet on pricing or availability.
Two years ago, Nvidia unveiled its Quadro Plex range of visual computing systems at SIGGRAPH 2006. Now, at this year’s SIGGRPAH, it has announced desk-mounted visual supercomputers in the Quadro Plex range. The D series of Quadro Plex visual computer systems is claimed to have leapfrogged previous versions by over a 100% in terms of performance. The NVIDIA Quadro Plex 2200 D2 VCS has two Quadro FX 5800 GPUs, 4 dual-link DVI channels, and 8 GB of frame buffer memory. Whereas its sibling the NVIDIA Quadro Plex 2100 D4 VCS has four GPUs, 8 dual-link DVI channels and a 4 GB frame buffer.
The D series visual supercomputers are ideal for highly taxing 3D models, engineering designs and other scientific visualizations. The hundred of Nvidia CUDA Parallel Processing Cores pack copious parallel computing capabilities and the visual supercomputers can be easily hooked to workstations or servers using PCI Express adapter cards. The D series is due in September with prices starting at $10,750.
The ink was hardly dry on the Khronos Group's August 11th announcement that they released the OpenGL 3.0 API specification, when Nvidia releases beta drivers supporting the standard. These new drivers implement the OpenGL 3.0 API and the GLSL 1.30 shading language for both Windows XP and Vista on selected GeForce and Quadro videocards. This isn’t totally unexpected since Nvidia is a member of the Khronos Group
“OpenGL 3.0 is a significant advance for graphics standard and we’re proud that NVIDIA has played a major role in developing it,” said Barthold Lichtenbelt, Manager, Core OpenGL Software at NVIDIA and chair of the OpenGL working group at Khronos. “OpenGL 3.0 will be a first-class API on both GeForce and Quadro boards. Shipping drivers two days after this new specification is released demonstrates our strong commitment to the OpenGL developer community and our partners who rely on the standard.”
There has been much speculation on how the OpenGL 3.0 API will compete with DirectX 10. Some truly great games were made with previous OpenGL API specs like Far Cry, any of the Quake series, Starsiege: Tribes, and the original Half-Life. These games are pretty long in tooth, and newer games have been made with Direct X, including the engine that drives Valve's Source engine.
We can look forward to developers putting out some new games in the future using this standard. With all they accomplished with OpenGL 2.1, I am pretty excited about what’s coming.
eWeekbrings two pieces of sobering news on the broadband front to our attention this week: much slower median speeds than other advanced nations, and a big shortfall in new customers.
The US may think of itself as a broadband leader, but that's a perception that doesn't fit the facts, suggests a new report from the Communication Workers of America (link in PDF format). Their SpeedMatters.org website offers a free upload/download test, and the data from that test was used to compare US broadband speeds with typical speeds for other countries. According to SpeedMatters, the US is 15th in the world in broadband speed, with a median speed of 2.3Mbps, compared to world leader Japan at 63Mbps, South Korea at 49Mbps, Finland at 21Mbps, France at 17Mbps, and even Canada at 7.6Mbps. Median upload speed in the US is just 435Kbps (corrected 8-15-08).
Don't blame me, by the way. I use Insight's 10.0 (10Mbps) broadband service, and the SpeedMatters test clocked my download speed at 9347Kbps, and my upload speed at 952Kbps, both very close to the rated maximum. The problem is that 10Mbps or faster speeds (Insight also offers 20Mbps service at an extra charge) are not typical in today's marketplace.
To learn more about why the US is sucking wind in the Broadband Olympics, and what's happening to new broadband customer demand, catch us after the break.
Recently, I was flipping through the latest Electronic Gaming Monthly when I came across an ad for Too Human. The ad itself was nicely produced, essentially screaming "This game is about killing robots," with hero Baldur standing confidently before a heap of his slain foes. The plethora of robo corpses that cluttered the page wasn't what interested me, though. Instead, it was a small quote by Friedrich Nietzsche that drew my focus. After that, my first thought was, "Well, now I need to read up on Nietzsche to fully understand the point that Dyack and co. are trying to make with their game. Cool!"
But, by that same token, I've met and spoken with plenty of people who, after a long, exhausting day at the office, want nothing more than a little catharsis. With their brain already floating in a hazy cloud of near-unconsciousness, they don't want to think. Games as art? Who needs 'em? Some people just want to have fun.
So, which side of the line do you call home? Do you F5 Brainy Gamer all day long while extolling the virtues of story in games? Or did you think Metal Gear Solid 4 was a pretentious pile of crap -- treading on territory reserved for literature and film? Thought-provoking or mindless fun? Which do you prefer?
Today's Roundup has a little something for everyone. With a story about one of the artsiest designers out there packing up shop and heading for the PC, some big news concerning the most cathartic series in all of gaming, and a use for games that's neither art nor entertainment, no one will walk out of this theater with a dissatisfied frown. Jump past the break for the full thing.
Programs like LogMeIn and other similar remote access software can be a boon when you need to access a file on your home machine while you're at work, but happens if there's a temporary power outage? You could drive back home to turn on your PC and grab the file while you're there, but according to a report in The Wall Street Journal, Intel's developing a better solution that will allow people to power up their computers and retrieve files over the internet.
Called Remote Wake, the technology will reportedly work only on PCs using a "recently introduced chipset from Intel" and require a software install on the remote system. The technology is said to enable home computers to wake up from sleep mode for incoming VoIP calls and allow users to remotely access live TV shows, webcam feeds, photos, videos, and music.
"This is an extension of a technology that's been around in the server world for several years," said Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group Inc. "On servers, you have something that's called a service processor that's always awake and can do things like monitor the system, do reboots, and run diagnostics. You'd have complete remote access to your home PC. You could do that now, but the computer has to be turned on all the time, and sleep mode can interfere with remote operations."
The technology is expected to become available as early as next week.
Rambus hoped to make strides with its RDRAM technology, and while it never did take off, it's only a matter of time before a new technology shakes up the random access memory market. Engineers and physicists from Germany think they'll be the ones to do it and have demonstrated what looks to be the quickest prototype yet of an advanced form of RAM, one which challenges the fundamental speed-limit for the process.
Called magnetoresistive random access memory, MRAM uses a faster and more energy efficient version of today's modules, which store a digital 1 or 0 as the level of charge in the capacitor. By comparison, MRAM stores the same information by changing the north-south direction of a tiny magnet's magnetic field, with each variable magnet positioned next to one with a fixed field. To read the stored value, a current runs through the pair to discover the direction of the variable magnet's field.
There are different types of MRAM technologies, and the one most manufacturers are hedging their bets on is called spin-torque MRAM, which involves spinning electrons to flip the magnetic fields. In what could see the technology emerge in as little as just a few years, German researchers have now built a spin-torque system from tiny pillars just 165nm tall that looks to be dramatically faster than any other. The top of the pillar acts as a variable magnet that stores the data, with fixed magnets occupying the bottom. When a current passes through, the electrons reach the pillars' other end and flip the variable magnet region's field to match.
NewScientistTech has much more on the topic, and we want to hear what you think about the emerging RAM technology by posting below.