Sunday, April 22, 2007

Tired of that big bulky computer? Buy one the size of your wallet!

Via details credit-card-size motherboard

Taiwan's Via Technologies Inc. on Thursday released details of its upcoming Pico-ITX motherboard, which is roughly the same size as a credit card and opens the door to very small PC designs.

Measuring just 10 centimeters (cm) by 7.2 cm -- or about 4 in. by 3 in. -- the Pico-ITX is designed for Via's C-7 and Eden microprocessor families. It uses chip sets like Via's VX700, which packs the memory controller, integrated graphics and I/O hub into a single chip instead of two. The motherboard has a single memory slot that can hold up to 1GB of DDR2 (double data rate 2) memory.

Via hasn't announced precisely when the new boards will be available but said it plans to release its first Pico-ITX product "shortly."

In the meantime, Via has published a detailed overview of the motherboard's specifications (download PDF), hoping to win device makers over to the new motherboard form factor.

Via is the third-largest supplier of x86 processors, trailing far behind Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. But the Taiwanese chip company has blazed a trail to PCs that are smaller and consume less power than anything seen before.

Five years ago, Via began shipping the first Mini-ITX motherboards, designed for embedded applications, which caught on with enthusiasts interested in making smaller PCs. Measuring 17 cm by 17 cm, or roughly 6.5 in. square, the Mini-ITX is significantly larger than the Pico-ITX.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

How to Speed Up Movie Downloads

Researchers have designed a new way to get the most out of peer-to-peer file-sharing networks, decreasing the time it takes to download movies and music.

By Brendan Borrell

Let's face it: peer-to-peer file transfers on the Internet are slow. More than half of all downloads fail, and the average transfer time for a 100-megabyte file is more than 24 hours. But now, a team of computer scientists led by Himabindu Pucha at Purdue University, in Indiana, say that they can double the speed of these transfers by taking advantage of overlap in data chunks contained within nonidentical multimedia files posted on peer-to-peer distribution networks. This would improve the likelihood of success of these transfers.
Locating that file with just 10 percent similarity could speed up downloads by 8 percent. For music files with greater than 90 percent similarity, a five-minute download on BitTorrent would take just over two minutes with SET.

Peer-to-peer distribution networks such as BitTorrent and Kazaa allow people to download individual files from others' computers. These systems first locate the copies of the requested file in the network's global lookup table using its "hash"--a unique identifier computed from the file's data sequence. Then, the file is divided into chunks so that each user's computer only has to upload a small piece of it. This technique speeds up file transfers because home users typically have greater bandwidth allocated to downloads compared with uploads. Of course, the overall speed of the transfer will depend on the number of file sources and how much spare upload capacity they have. The more popular a file is, the faster it is to download and the greater the chance of success.

Computer scientist David Andersen, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, worked with the Purdue group to develop a way to increase the size of the pool of uploaders called similarity-enhanced transfer (SET). The approach takes advantage of multiple variants of the same music files, video clips, and software, which are often floating around file-distribution networks. "We hope that SET gives you access to a larger pool of people to download from," says Andersen. "And by doing so, we think you're more likely to find one of these people who have more spare capacity."

Before Andersen and his colleagues conducted their study, it was not at all clear how much redundancy existed in file-sharing networks and whether it could be exploited, says Cornell University computer scientist Emin Gün Sirer, who was not involved in the study. The SET team analyzed almost two terabytes of music and video files from file-sharing networks, and it discovered that similar files typically shared anywhere between 20 and 99 percent of their content. With music files, even misspellings in user-defined header labels that identify artist and song titles are enough to throw off BitTorrent, despite the fact that 99 percent of the file is the same. Similarly, multiple versions of the same video are often available with different language tracks.
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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Windows Xp and Vista Tips for Everyone

Whether you've jumped to Vista or are sticking with XP, our tips will make your computing faster and safer--and even a little more stylish.
Preston Gralla, PC World

Right out of the box, Windows is just a so-so operating system. It doesn't really reach its potential until you've cracked it, hacked it, and otherwise bent it to your will.

Whether you want to speed up XP, customize Vista's Aero interface, manage your disk partitions, or do quick-and-dirty photo editing, our Windows projects will show you how. We start off with some performance boosters, and then move on to cover file management, interface tweaks, network and browser options, and Windows Media Player.

The work isn't done until you plug Windows' many holes, which we cover in "Tweak Security Settings in XP and Vista." If you're switching over to the new OS, see our tips in "Make the Move to Vista," and then try our Vista alterations in "Change Vista's Defaults."

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

AMD lowers desktop-chip prices

Monday April 9th AMD announced further price reductions on some of its best desktop processors, a sign there is still no end in sight to its price war with rival Intel Corp. With Intel slated to lower prices at the end of April this ss great news for users. We have been treated to improved microprocessor technology and better deals over the past year as the two giants slug it out.

AMD slashed prices on its top-of-the-line desktop PC microprocessors to US$799 per pair for the 3GHz version and US$599 for a pair for the 2.8GHz version, from US$999 and US$799, respectively, in its previous price list issued on Jan. 22. The company also reduced the price of some of its best dual-core processors, the Athlon 64 X2 5600+, which runs at 2.8GHz, to $241 each, from $505, and the Athlon 64 X2 5200+, to $188 from $295.

In addition, AMD lowered three of its dual-core offerings for the desktop to below $100 each. The new price list shows AMD isn't about to back down in this price war despite the obvious impact on its finances.

With Intel slated to make a 20-40% cut in prices of the popular core 2 duo core 2 extreme and core 2 quad processors as well as the recent fall in Memory prices May looks to be a great month for upgrading your current rig to something top notch.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Joost Is Ready To Go Live

TV, the way you want it

The magic of television, with the power of the internet built right in. Joost puts you in control, and TV will never be the same again. Currently, the software is in beta-testing stage. A beta invite is required to join the Joost community however it should be available to the public soon.

Joost (pronounced 'juiced') is an interactive software for distributing TV shows and other forms of video over the Web using peer-to-peer tv technology, created by Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis (founders of Skype and Kazaa).

Joost began development in 2006. Working under the code name "The Venice Project," Zennstrom and Friis have assembled teams of some 150 software developers in about a half-dozen cities around the world, including New York, London, Leiden and Toulouse. Joost's CTO is Dirk-Willem van Gulik.[1]

The teams are currently in negotiations with TV networks. It has signed up with Warner Music, Ministry of Sound TV and production company Endemol for the beta.[2] In February 2007, Viacom entered into a deal with the company to distribute content from its media properties, including MTV Networks, BET and film studio Paramount Pictures.

Company representatives have gone on record as saying the name should be pronounced as "juiced"[3]. This differs from the pronunciation of the Dutch first name Joost, which is pronounced 'Yohst.'

The program is based on P2PTV technology and is expected to deliver near-TV resolution images. It turns a PC into an instant on-demand TV without any need for additional set top box. News updates, discussion forums, show ratings, and multi-user chat sessions (often linked to the active stream/channel) are made possible through the use of semi-transparent widget overlays.

The current version of the software is based on XULRunner and the audio management re-uses the ZAP Media Kit. The peer to peer layer comes from the Joltid company, which also provided the peer to peer layer of Skype. The video playback utilizes the CoreCodec, CoreAVC H.264 video decoder.

Operating system support

Currently, Joost beta/alpha software supports:

* Windows XP Home/Professional with SP2
* Windows Vista
* Mac OS X 10.4.6 and above

This support is limited to computers running with x86 processors (Intel, AMD, etc.).

A PowerPC version is planned to open support for Mac users without Intel processors. Linux versions are also reportedly in development, and the port to "Linux and PowerPC" is in the midst of development.

As opposed to streaming technology in which all clients get the feed from the server, P2P TV technology differs in the sense that the servers serve only a handful of clients; each of the clients in turn propagate the stream to more downstream clients and so on. This moves the distribution costs from the channel owner to the internet service providers.

The Joost service will be ad-supported, with advertising analogous to that shown on traditional TV, according to CEO Fredrik de Wahl.

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