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Is Oculus Going Cheap With VR?

September 29, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Oculus and Samsung had a few milestone announcements to make at yesterday’s keynote for the Connect 2 developer event. Gear VR got an update and halved in price. Oculus signed a few important content partnerships.

Samsung Gear VR, the wearable accessory that allows you to strap a compatible Samsung phone to your face and see the virtual worlds within, got a new version that now costs only $99. That’s without the phone of course, so you will have to BYOD.

Oculus, on the other hand, is bringing some much needed expansion to the content side of the equation. There’s games, movies, TV shows, streaming video, all becoming available in the next few months. This is widely expected by our tech journalist colleagues to finally bring VR into many more homes. We tend to agree that that’s a very real possibility.

Among the more important content partnerships are that with Fox, who’s bringing over 100 of its movies to the Oculus VR Cinema, and Lionsgate. But what’s really expected to bring VR into your average Internet-connected living room is the fact that Netflix follows suit, as will vimeo and Hulu in the fall.

Kids will be able to stare like zombies for hours on end into a VR version of their favourite gamers’ video feeds via Twitch. Hooray!

Facebook also announced 360 degree videos that will become available on the news feed. Disney, Vice, GoPro, Saturday Night Live and others have already been signed up to produce content.

We expect a version of VR goggles to come out soon enough with an Intel Realsense or similar technology, so we’ll be able to tune into someone’s surroundings in realtime. Microsoft’s Hololens seems like a perfect tool for such scenarios.

It’s without a doubt exciting times in the area of VR. Now, whether it will falter like 3D TV has, or live on to see another “day”, it’s too soon to tell. We will be following the developments closely.



Red Hat Releases Fedora 23 To Address Security Issues

September 25, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Red Hat has torn the roof off the sucker once again with the release of Fedora 23 in beta form.

Coming in three incredible versions, Fedora 23 Cloud, Fedora 23 Server and Fedora 23 Workstation, this new edition picks up where the old one left off and runs with it.

The biggest news for fans is the use of compiler flags to help improve security. These are designed to help protect Fedora 23 beta binaries against memory corruption vulnerabilities, buffer overflows and similar issues.

This is the latest iteration of Red Hat’s Linux-based operating system that likes to think of itself as the leading-edge open source operating system across all use cases. It’s hard to believe, but absolutely true.

The dazzling array of updates starts with Red Hat Fedora Server Beta, which offers a new role through the rolekit service in the form of a cache server for web applications, with the underlying functionality delivered by memcached.

Also new is the fact that rolekit can now be triggered by anaconda kickstart to determine what function should be started with the next reboot, and I think we can all agree that’s been a long time coming.

Cockpit also sees some big changes, including a basic cluster dashboard for Kubernetes, Support for SSH key authentication and support for configuring user accounts with their authorised keys and compatibility with multipath disks.

Meanwhile in Fedora 23 Workstation Beta, the fun keeps coming with a preview of GNOME 3.18. Changes to the software application will allow it to offer firmware updates and access to Libreoffice 5. Improvements have also been made to Wayland, with the ultimate aim being to make it the default graphic server in a future release.

Sadly, that’s where the thrillride ends as Cloud Beta contains very little new of note – but we are warned to stay tuned for news of Fedora 23 Atomic Host, said to be coming soon. We’re literally on the edge of our seats and will bring you the news as soon as we get it.


Microsoft Offering Office 365 For Half Price

September 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

One of the obstacles Microsoft is presented with is that some users haven’t upgraded their Office suite for several years, despite the company’s releasing new versions.

Customers pay a relatively large sum for access to apps like Word and Excel, and once they have the functionality they need, there’s little incentive to upgrade. It makes sense from a consumer standpoint, but it means Microsoft isn’t making as much money as it could from the widespread use of Office.

That could be the impetus behind a promotion Microsoft announced Tuesday: Customers who have Windows 10 on their computer but are still running Office 2010 or earlier can now get a one-year Office 365 Personal subscription for $35. That’s half the price Microsoft usually charges for the Personal package, which lets users install its productivity suite on one tablet, one computer and one phone.

It comes the same day that Microsoft launched Office 2016, the latest update to its productivity suite. The update includes a variety of new features, such as integration with Bing search and a “Tell Me” search box that helps users find functionality inside the Office apps without having to comb through a maze of menus.

What’s more, the update enhances collaboration between Office users. One of the marquee features is real-time co-authoring in Word’s desktop app, which lets multiple people work on the same document at the same time and see the edits of other users in real time. The success of that feature relies on the use of Office 2016, which means it’s in Microsoft’s interest to get more people onto Office 365.

Of course, the promotion is only good for a year — users have to pay the full $70 for an Office 365 Personal subscription once their promotional period is up. It’s not clear when the deal will end, either, though it seems unlikely that Microsoft will keep it around forever.





Microsoft Admits To Secret Windows 10 Upgrades

September 15, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft has acknowledged that it has been pre-loading the Windows 10 installation bits onto devices whose owners have not “reserved” a copy or expressed interest in the new OS.

The move has upset some users of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, who have complained that the unsolicited downloads have caused them to exceed their Internet providers’ data caps or seized storage space without their consent.

In a statement, Microsoft  confirmed the practice, which was first reported by The Inquirer last week.

“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,” a company spokeswoman said in an email. “This results in a better upgrade experience and ensures the customer’s device has the latest software. This is an industry practice that reduces time for installation and ensures device readiness.”

If Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 device owners have Windows Update set to the default — and Microsoft-recommended — option that lets the operating system download and install security and other bug fixes automatically in the background, Microsoft will push the Windows 10 upgrade files to the drive.

The upgrade, which can range in size from more than 3GB to nearly 6GB, is placed in the hidden “$Windows.~BT” folder, a long-used destination for Windows upgrades. It will sit there, presumably until the user expresses some kind of desire to install Windows 10.

Microsoft has been pre-loading the Windows 10 upgrade on systems since late July, but it was thought that the practice had been limited to PCs whose owners had accepted Microsoft’s free offer and “reserved” a copy through an app the Redmond, Wash. company automatically installed this spring and early summer on virtual all consumer PCs running Windows 7 Home and 8.1 Home, and on many machines powered by Windows 7 Professional and Windows 8.1 Pro.



Microsoft’s Edge Browser Not Winning Over Windows 10 Users

August 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft’s new Edge browser is being used by a small percentage of those running Windows 10 — between one-sixth and one-third — according to data from a pair of analytics vendors.

The early returns on Edge not only hint at Microsoft’s failure to get the earliest adopters to rely on the new browser, but also question Mozilla’s contention that Windows 10′s setup will result in defections from its own Firefox, or by association, other non-Microsoft browsers.

During July, Edge accounted for just 0.14% of all browsers tracked by California-based Net Applications. With Windows 10′s user share standing at 0.39% for July — and because Edge works only on Windows 10 — the browser was run by about 36% of its potential users (0.14% divided by 0.39%).

Net Applications measures user share using visitor tallies to its customers’ websites. The result is a rough estimate of the percentage of the world’s online users who run a specific browser.

Data from StatCounter, an Irish metrics vendor, also showed that Edge was far from the universal browser of choice among people who have upgraded to Windows 10.

Over the first 16 days of August, Edge’s global average daily usage share was 0.7%, far below the 4.4% average daily share of Windows 10. In other words, StatCounter pegged Edge as accounting for about 16% of the online activity of all Windows 10 owners.

The low percentages of Windows 10 users currently running Edge signaled that Microsoft has not made its case for the new browser, at least among those who have jumped on the OS and its free upgrade. That’s troubling, since Microsoft has positioned Edge as its browser of the future, and put in considerable effort to making it more compliant with standards, while relegating Internet Explorer (IE) in general, IE11 specifically, to a legacy support position.




Windows 10 Growing Faster Than Windows 8

August 12, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Windows 10 has grown faster in two weeks than its predecessor managed in its first six months.

In the two weeks since release, the new ‘Windows-as-a-service’ has been installed on an estimated 27 million machines, or 3.78 of the market, according to analysts at StatCounter. This is up from 0.39 percent from the beginning of the month. In the UK, the uptake is even speedier, with 7.56 percent of machines updated.

That means that Windows 10 is already beating Windows 8 (not including 8.1).

Digging back into the INQ archives we can see that it took until April 2013 – a full six months after release to hit this saturation, according to Netmarketshare.

As the great hope for a Microsoft revival, following the lukewarm reception for the tile-clad predecessor, this bodes well. With another three weeks before the next Netmarketshare figures, there is a realistic chance that Windows 10 will overtake Windows 8 marketshare within the first month.

The combined Windows 8.x marketshare for July was just 15.86 percent, and with so many users still waiting for their upgrade, there is every chance that Windows 8.x will be annihilated by its successor within months, leaving it as a footnote in history like Vista before it.

Windows 10 has achieved near universal acclaim for its blending of familiar and new elements. Demand for the new OS is such that Microsoft servers have been, at times, overwhelmed. Users have been advised that their upgrade request could take “weeks” and even once installed, it could take time to activate the free upgrade licence.

Mozilla, makers of the popular open source Firefox browser, isn’t so impressed, and has already made it clear that it is not amused by Windows 10 with an open letter to CEO Satya Nadella criticising the company’s move to a process of silent, background security updates.

Microsoft has described the enormity of the task of offering free updates to Windows 10 as akin to “buying pizza for 1.5 billion people”.


AMD To Use Superfast Fabric

August 5, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMD has come up with a new interface, interconnect technology it calls coherent fabric.

It is a new inter-chip connection that will be used in the Exascale Heterogeneous Processor (EHP). Coherent fabric is primary interconnect for IP on AMD SOCs, APUs, CPUs and GPUs beginning with the next generation CPU SOC and followed by the Greenland GPU ASIC. Incoherant fabric, on the other hand, is something worn by loud American tourists and is sometimes called a Hawaiian shirt.

AMD’s GMI – Global Memory Interconnect, extends the coherent fabric between chips on the same multi-chip module (MCM) package. The coherent fabric extends between packages using combo phys which also support PCIe interconnection.

All this sounds rather complicated, but is basically a faster way for Zen SoC to talk to the Greenland Die on future processors.

Coherent fabric will speed up the communication in Zen CPUs between the cores and cache, host controllers, eg. USB, SATA or GbE, memory controllers, PSP, timer, counter, ACPI or legacy interface, combo phys and GMI layers. GMI phys of Zen die will talk directly with GMI phys of Greenland HBM 2.0 graphics die and uses coherent fabric too.

Our industry sources did not want to go into the specifics of achievable speeds of this interconnect, but the promise of a significant improvement is there. And of course the upcoming AMD’s 16 core Heterogenous EHP Processor will benefit from the fast coherent fabric interconnect.

AMD’s coherent fabric is the direct competitor to Nvidia’s NVlink interconnection that is expected in 2016 with the Pascal GPUs.


Microsoft’s Windows 10 Usage Off To An Impressive Start

August 4, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft’s Windows 10 got off to a roaring start in its first few days, with early usage share handily surpassing that of the firm’s last free upgrade, Windows 8.1, data from a Web analytics vendor showed.

Worldwide, Windows 10′s usage share — a measure of how active users of the OS were on the Internet, not the number of users or PCs running the operating system — doubled from 0.3% to 0.6% on the official launch day of July 29, according to Irish metrics company StatCounter.

By the end of Saturday, Aug. 1, Windows 10′s global usage share had climbed to 2.5%.

In the United States, the surge of Windows 10 — which was offered as a free upgrade to most consumers and small businesses running either Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 — was even more impressive. By Saturday, the U.S.-only usage share of Windows 10 stood at 3.7%.

Windows 10′s usage share jump, both worldwide and in the U.S., was dramatically larger than the increase posted by Windows 8.1 in mid-October 2013, when Microsoft offered the revised OS as a free upgrade to those then running Windows 8.

Windows 8.1′s usage share topped out at 0.6% — both globally and in the U.S. — on the third day after its debut, a fourth (worldwide) and a sixth (U.S.) of Windows 10.

The larger increases were expected: Windows 10′s pool of potential upgraders was massive compared to Windows 8.1′s, because Windows 7, the dominant operating system both worldwide and in the U.S., was included. And the fact that Windows 10 is, unlike 8.1, a major upgrade — the latter was a minor refresh — with a restored Start menu, integrated Cortana and loads of other new features, plays in 10′s favor.

Microsoft has only said that there are were 14 million devices running Windows 10 within the first day of issuing the final code, a number that presumably included the approximately 5 million it previously said were using the OS’s preview provided to members of its Insider program.



Mozilla Complains Publicly About Windows 10 Default Browser Setting

August 4, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Mozilla has gone public with its complaint about Windows 10 resetting the default browser, calling it “disturbing” and demanding that it “undo its aggressive move to override user choice.”

Microsoft defended the practice of making its Edge browser the default in Windows 10, but left open the possibility of a future change. “As with all aspects of the product, we have designed Windows 10 as a service; if we learn from user experience that there are ways to make improvements, we will do so,” a company spokeswoman said in an email reply to a request for comment.

In a letter from Mozilla CEO Chris Beard to Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella, Beard slammed the way Windows 10 setup changed the default browser on a Windows 7 or 8.1 PC upgraded to Windows 10.

“I am writing to you about a very disturbing aspect of Windows 10,” Beard said in the letter, which Mozilla posted publicly. “Specifically, that the update experience appears to have been designed to throw away the choice your customers have made about the Internet experience they want, and replace it with the Internet experience Microsoft wants them to have.”

Beard was referring to the Windows 10 upgrade setup process, which in “Express Settings” assigns the new Microsoft browser, Edge, as the default, even if users had previously specified a rival like Mozilla’s Firefox or Google’s Chrome. Most users will simply click “Next” in the Express Setup without diving into the details.

Users who accept that setting for Edge must later — the first time they click on a link — confirm Edge as the default.

Windows 10 users can later re-assign Firefox or another browser as the default, but doing so requires work on the part of the user, many of whom will be unlikely to bother.

In a blog post, Beard elaborated on Mozilla’s displeasure with Windows 10′s upgrade behavior, and resurrected antitrust actions Microsoft’s faced, perhaps hinting at new complaints to regulators, if not in the U.S., then in the European Union (EU). “It is bewildering to see, after almost 15 years of progress bolstered by significant government intervention, that with Windows 10 user choice has now been all but removed,” Beard alleged.




AMD Misses Again

July 20, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Fabless chipmaker AMD has come up with a mixed set of results for the second quarter. The company managed to make as much cash as the cocaine nose jobs of Wall Street expected, but missed revenue expectations.

In fact its revenues were below the psychologically important billion figure at $942 million.

We knew it was going to be bad. Last week we were warned that the results would be flat. The actual figure was $942m, an 8.5 per cent sequential decline and a 34.6 per cent drop from the same period a year ago.

As you might expect, there are some measures of this not being AMD’s fault. The company is almost entirely dependent on PC sales. Not only have these fallen but don’t look like they are going to pick up for a while.

AMD’s Computing and Graphics division reported revenue of $379m, which was down 54.2 per cent, year-on-year. Its operating loss was $147m, compared to a $6m operating loss for last year’s quarter.

Lisa Su, AMD president and CEO, in a statement said that strong sequential revenue growth in AMD’s enterprise, embedded, and semi-custom segment and channel business was not enough to offset near-term problems in its PC processor business.  This was  due to lower than expected consumer demand that impacted sales to OEMs, she said.

“We continue to execute our long-term strategy while we navigate the current market environment. Our focus is on developing leadership computing and graphics products capable of driving profitable share growth across our target markets,” she added.

In the semi-custom segment, AMD makes chips for video game consoles such as the Nintendo Wii U, Microsoft Xbox One, and Sony PlayStation 4 consoles. That segment did reasonably well, up 13 percent from the previous quarter but down 8 percent from a year ago.

But AMD’s core business of processors and graphics chips fell 29 percent from the previous quarter and 54 percent from a year ago. AMD said it had decreased sales to manufacturers of laptop computers.

Figures like this strap a large target on AMD’s back with a sign saying “take me over” but AMD is not predicting total doom yet.

For the third quarter, AMD expects revenue to increase 6 percent, plus or minus 3 percent, sequentially, which is a fairly conservative outlook given the fact that Windows 10 is expected to push a few sales its way.

AMD supplies chips to the Nintendo Wii U, Microsoft Xbox One, and Sony PlayStation 4 consoles and these seem to be going rather well.


Did Microsoft Drop DVD Support In Windows 10?

July 20, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft has decided that there is no point putting Windows 10 on a DVD and insisting that people install from a Flash drive.

Windows 10 will be shipped on USB drives rather than traditional DVDs, although you might be able to find one on DVD if you ask Microsoft very nicely.

USB versions of Windows 10 Home and 10 Pro are listed for pre-order on Amazon already, running $120 and $200 respectively.

It is all fairly obvious. Most cheap PCs ship without a drive these days which has made home-made USB installation drives the only option. We can still remember the outcry when people complained about the number of floppy disks it took to install Windows 95.

Windows 98 came out on a CD drive to cut down the numbers. Now it seems that DVDs are now going the way of the dodo too.


SanDisk Debuts New Wireless Streaming Thumb Drive

July 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

SanDisk has released the newest addition to its wireless storage line – the SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick.

The Connect Wireless Stick ranges in capacity from 16GB to 128GB and in price from $30 to $100.

SanDisk’s first Wireless Stick, the Connect Wireless Flash Drive, was released two years ago and it came in 16GB and 32GB capacities and was priced at $49.99 and $59.99, respectively.

As its predecessor did, the new wireless thumb drive also uses a USB 2.0 (480Mbps) connection to upload content before being able to stream it over Wi-Fi. SanDisk claims the Connect Wireless Stick has enough bandwidth to stream high-definition movies and music to up to three devices at the same time.

The drive is capable of supporting a single video stream for up to 4.5 hours on a single charge, SanDisk said.

The new flash drive is controlled via the SanDisk Connect app, which is free and downloadable from SanDisk’s or or’s website.

The Connect Wireless Stick is compatible with iPad, iPhone, Kindle Fire, Android devices, Windows PCs and Apple computers. It works with iOS version 8.0 or higher, Android 4.2 or higher, Windows Vista/7/8, Mac OS 10.6 or higher, and via web browser for other Wi-Fi enabled devices, according to SanDisk.

The thumb drive is 3.03-in x 0.75-in x 0.43 in. in size and comes with a one-year warranty.



PC Sales Continue The Downward Trend

July 13, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Gartner is reporting the biggest slump in PC sales for almost two years. The second quarter report saw 68.4 million units shifted in the three-month period, a year-on-year reduction of 9.4 percent, and the steepest drop in seven quarters.

What’s more, the prediction is that the next quarter will see a further reduction of 4.4 percent.

It seems that the dislike of Windows 8, coupled with the impending arrival of Windows 10, has battered the sales of new PCs.

The fact that most PC users will be entitled to a free upgrade, coupled with the fact that chip and RAM technology haven’t moved on at a spectacular pace this year, has created a perfect storm among consumers who are waiting it out for their machines to be born again on 29 July (or 30, or 31, or possibly 1 August).

If you’re reading this and thinking ‘It’s just a dying market’ you’re not wrong, but you have only to look at today’s IDC figures to see that this really is made of Microsoft.

IDC is even more pessimistic than Gartner, quoting 66.1 million units, down 11.8 percent year on year.

But more importantly, when drilled down to the OEMs, you can see where the real problem lies. Apple is the only company in the top five not rooted in the Windows ecosystem.

It is also the only manufacturer to see a rise in its market share, and is now the fourth biggest vendor in the world, up 16.1 percent. Acer at number five has seen its share plummet by 25.9 percent.

Things were a bit rosier this time last year, because businesses were migrating away from Windows XP (not all of them, mind). This year, there’s no ballast and a lot of hesitation to see exactly how Windows 10 does before big orders start being deployed in enterprises.

“The price hike of PCs became more apparent in some regions due to a sharp appreciation of the US dollar against local currencies,” said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner.

“The worldwide PC market experienced unusually positive desk-based growth last year due to the end of Windows XP support. After the XP impact was phased out, there have not been any major growth drivers to stimulate a PC refresh.”

IDC’s Loren Loverde, VP of worldwide PC trackers and forecasting, said: “We’re expecting the Windows 10 launch to go relatively well, though many users will opt for a free OS upgrade rather than buying a new PC.

“Competition from 2-in-1 devices and phones remains an issue, but the economic environment has had a larger impact lately, and that should stabilize or improve going forward.”

Meanwhile, Apple, despite having a tiny market share for its OS X operating system at just 7.5 percent, according to this month’s Netmarketshare figures, has managed to avoid being the winner or loser OEM by being the referee, which is a nice trick if you can do it.

Both analyst firms see the top three remaining as Lenovo, HP and Dell. Nothing to see there.



Microsoft Will Provide Windows 10 Updates For 2-4 Years

July 10, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft has provided more information about how long it will provide updates for Windows 10, saying in a PowerPoint presentation that free refreshes will last between two and four years.

The Redmond, Wash. company revealed the timeline in a slide deck it posted on its investors website June 26. The presentation offered up additional information about Microsoft’s planned revenue deferrals for Windows 10, which the company first talked about in May.

“Revenue allocated is deferred and recognized on a straight-line basis over the estimated period the software upgrades are expected to be provided by estimated device life,” the most pertinent slide stated. “[The estimated device life] can range from two to four years.”

Microsoft will determine the device lifetime — and thus the support stretch — by “customer type.”

Although details remain skimpy on the upgrade lifetimes Microsoft plans for Windows 10, the two-to-four-year span was the first time the firm named their lengths.

Microsoft has repeatedly said that the free updates and upgrades for Windows 10 would be tied to what it has called the “supported lifetime of the device.” It debuted that phrase in January, when it announced Windows 10′s name and afree upgrade for consumers and some businesses from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 for one year following the new OS’s official release.

The free post-launch updates and upgrades, which will include new features and changes to the user interface (UI), are key to Microsoft’s strategy to transform the operating system into a service.

“With the launch of Windows 10, Microsoft will provide new features and functionality over time,” another slide in the short PowerPoint presentation said. “We will continue to keep it current for the supported lifetime of the device. We think of Windows as a Service – continuous updates over time.”



Will Microsoft’s HaloLens Make It To The Enterprise Space?

July 9, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft Halolens, the Judge Dredd virtual reality (VR) helmet, of which there are two fewer in the world after a recent Space X crash, has its first dedicated software house.

Object Theory, based in Portland, Oregon, was founded by Michael Hoffman, one of the lead engineers from the HoloLens project in development, alongside Raven Zachery, a mobile entrepreneur whose credits include the official Obama 08 app, as well as apps for Amazon, Zipcar and Starbucks.

The company plans to work on what it calls ‘mixed reality’ applications for business use, keeping away from the more obvious gaming and entertainment markets in favour of more practical applications.

Mixed reality refers to apps that can go from simple augmented reality right through to totally immersive VR worlds.

“The company was created on the shared belief of the founders that Microsoft HoloLens will have a transformative impact on the way we work, live and play,” said Hoffman.

“With this new platform, our digital life will become more integrated into our physical world than ever before.”

Object Theory believes that the market for VR apps is the first big shift in opportunity focus since the rise of the mobile app in the late noughties.

“We believe that the launch of our company signals the beginning of a shift from augmented reality being focused almost exclusively on hardware innovation to a broader view of the emerging ecosystem,” added Zachary.

Details of products are still at the early stages, but expect a company that offers software development, user experience, design, quality assurance, training, deployment, maintenance and support for the HoloLens when it launches this summer, hot on the heels of Windows 10.