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Intel Xeon ‘Nehalem-EX’ Processor Presented by Intel

August 19, 2009 Leave a comment

A new Intel® Xeon® processor codenamed “Nehalem-EX” has been revealed by Intel. Being able to deliver a number of new technical advancements and boost enterprise computing performance, the processor will be running the next generation of intelligent and expandable high-end Intel server platforms.

The Nehalem-EX processor, being ready to enter production later this year, will feature up to eight cores inside a single chip supporting 16 threads and 24MB of cache. Offering the highest-ever jump from a previous generation processor, its performance increase will be dramatic.

New reliability, availability and serviceability (RAS) features usually found in the company’s Intel® Itanium processor family, such as Machine Check Architecture (MCA) Recovery will be available with Nehalem-EX.

the new Nehalem-EX processor, being ideal for virtualized applications, server consolidation, data demanding enterprise applications and technical computing environments, will be able to boost up to nine times the memory bandwidth of the previous-generation Intel Xeon 7400 platform, also doubling the memory capacity with up to 16 memory slots per processor socket, and offering four high-bandwidth QuickPath Interconnect links. Without the need for third-party chips to “glue” the platform together, Nehalem-EX will provide tremendous scalability, from large-memory two-socket systems through eight-socket systems capable of processing 128 threads simultaneously, while, with third-party solutions, additional scalability options including greater sockets counts will also be possible.

Some of the main advantages of Nehalem-EX are:

* Intel Nehalem Architecture built on Intel’s unique 45nm high-k metal gate technology process
* Up to 8 cores per processor
* Up to 16 threads per processor with Intel® Hyper-threading
* Scalability up to eight sockets via Quick Path Interconnects and greater with third-party node controllers
* QuickPath Architecture with four high-bandwidth links
* Integrated memory controllers
* 24MB of shared cache
* Intel Turbo Boost Technology
* Intel scalable memory buffer and scalable memory interconnects
* Support for up to 16 memory slots per processor socket
* Up to 9x the memory bandwidth of previous generation
* 2.3 billion transistors
* Advanced RAS capabilities including MCA Recovery

Nehalem-EX, having new RAS capabilities for high-end enterprises, will be able to accelerate IT adoption of Intel-based platforms over RISC-based platforms by delivering a lower total cost of ownership, higher performance, lower electricity bills and the ability to standardize on a flexible IT environment.

Guitar Hero 5 gets ready to rock

August 11, 2009 Leave a comment

SAN FRANCISCO–The first couple of weeks of September are going to be a banner time for music video games. On September 9 (09/09/09), the much-anticipated The Beatles: Rock Band will hit store shelves, just eight days after Guitar Hero 5 gets its chance to rock living rooms everywhere.

With the Beatles game, it’s easy to imagine long lines and huge sales figures. After all, this will be the first time that any of the recent slew of music-oriented video games will feature any Beatles songs, let alone dozens of them.

But with Guitar Hero 5 (see video below)–has so much time gone by already that there could even be five Guitar Hero releases?–one has to work just a little bit harder to envision the big bucks that its publisher, Activision Blizzard, surely is hoping to bring in.

Still, the guys at Neversoft, the game’s developer, have proven time and again that they know what they’re doing. The Guitar Hero franchise has produced hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and created a dynamic in which people everywhere are now comfortable picking up and jamming away on a guitar, albeit a plastic one with buttons instead of strings.

And with that in mind, one has to give the Neversoft team the benefit of the doubt for their new game, which will be released for all the major video game platforms.

On Thursday, I stopped in at a Guitar Hero press event here and had the chance to speak with two of the executives most responsible for the new game: Brian Bright, the project director at Neversoft for Guitar Hero 5, and Tim Riley, who oversees the Guitar Hero franchise’s music licensing.

One of the things I was most interested in was the rationale for a new Guitar Hero game. To be sure, game companies like Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, and Take-Two have a mandate to generate massive revenues, and so franchises like Guitar Hero are tried and true in that regard. But in spite of that, each new edition of a franchise game has to have something significant to offer to entice enough customers to earn its keep.

To hear Bright tell it, the best rationale for Guitar Hero–besides its 85 new songs by 83 artists–is its “Party Play” mode in which players can jump in or out of songs any time they please, all with the click of a single button.

What that means, Bright added, is that Guitar Hero 5 will offer a potentially broad new audience an entirely new level of “accessibility,” in particular because in the previous versions, many people playing for the first time would have found themselves needing a little hand-holding to get started. Now, he said, that’s no longer the case, and players new and old will be able to easily and quickly go right into rocking out.

Another important Guitar Hero 5 innovation, Bright said, is an “any instrument” selection that will, for the first time, allow more than two people to play guitar at the same time rather than someone in a foursome having to play drums and someone having to sing. And even if there isn’t a mad rush to grab a guitar, this features means that any combination of instruments is, for the first time, possible, whether a group is playing cooperatively or competitively.

Downloadable content
Given that many players of the game’s previous iteration–Guitar Hero: World Tour–likely paid to download songs, Activision is making it possible to port most of those songs to Guitar Hero 5. The company said 152 of the 158 downloadable songs from the earlier game will be compatible with the new one, though users will have to pay a “nominal re-licensing fee,” the amount of which the company hasn’t publicly spelled out yet.

And that means that with the 85 songs Guitar Hero 5 comes with, plus new downloadable songs, the new game’s players can have set lists of potentially hundreds of songs, Bright said.

I wanted to know a little bit more about how Activision persuades musicians to allow their songs to be included in Guitar Hero, especially after learning how the Beatles were won over for the forthcoming Rock Band game.

Riley, the publisher’s music licensing specialist, said that as the Guitar Hero franchise becomes better-known, he and his team have an easier time of it. In part, that’s because “the larger the game gets, the more known it gets within the (music) industry (and) with the artists themselves.”

And that means that Riley and his team have now had the chance to get musicians like Arctic Monkeys and Elliott Smith–whom they’ve never worked with before–to contribute songs to the game. Indeed, he said Guitar Hero 5 features songs from nearly 20 artists who have never allowed their music to be in a video game before.

Of course, it doesn’t happen overnight. In the case of Arctic Monkeys, Riley explained, it took multiple visits with the band to show them demos and explain what the Guitar Hero franchise is all about to get permission.

One big factor, Riley added, was being able to assure artists that their music is “safe” in Guitar Hero, meaning that users won’t be able to easily pirate the songs from the game.

At the same time, he explained that for a lot of musicians, games like this are now seen as an attractive way to get their music in front of large audiences, particularly because the record industry is becoming more and more notorious for doing a poor job of helping distribute new music.

“Just by having a song in the game,” Riley said, “kids become familiar with the song, or the artist, and will go out and buy (it) or go out and purchase more music from that artist.”

10 reasons Vista haters will love Windows 7

May 25, 2009 1 comment

Many of my friends and readers adamantly refused to make the switch to Windows Vista when it came out. Some who bought new machines with Vista installed immediately “downgraded” the OS. A few proclaimed that they would give up XP only when you pried it from their cold, dead hands. But even in the last category, many of them are impressed with what they’ve seen in the Windows 7 beta.

While some tech pundits are saying 7 isn’t really all that different from Vista — and indeed, one of the attractions for Vista users is that 7 can generally use the same drivers and run the same apps as Vista — the consensus among anti-Vista folks I know who’ve tried the 7 beta seems to be that the new operating system is “Vista done right.”

1: UAC has mellowed out

User Account Control in Vista is like living with an overprotective mother — when you’re 30. It’s constantly popping up to warn you of impending danger, even when you’re just trying to take a look at Device Manager or perform some other innocent task. It hovers over you and nags you constantly: “Are you sure you want to do that?” Like Mom, UAC has our best interests in mind, but it can drive you nuts in the name of “security” — especially when you consider that it doesn’t really define a security boundary.

2: Explorer is no longer a pane in the behind

In a misguided attempt to alleviate the need for horizontal scrolling, Vista made the left navigation pane in Windows Explorer a constantly moving target. As you move your mouse, it will automatically scroll back and forth. My husband calls this auto-scrolling feature the “whack a mole” phenomenon because of the way the contents of the pane seem to dodge back and forth.

You can avoid the auto-scrolling by dragging the pane to make it wide enough to accommodate the entire tree, but that isn’t a good option on a small screen, such as the one on my compact VAIO notebook.

In Windows 7, the navigation pane stays still, so you no longer risk getting seasick from all the swaying back and forth.

3: Graphics cards coexist peacefully once more

In XP, we could use pretty much whatever graphics cards we wanted for multiple monitors. I had a machine with three cards installed: an NVidia, an ATI, and a Matrox. XP would stretch my desktop across all three monitors attached to those cards. When I upgraded that machine to Vista, I found that I no longer had multiple monitors. Some research revealed that to use multiple graphics cards, they would have to all use the same driver. That meant I couldn’t use cards from different vendors together. I had to shell out a few bucks to get more ATI cards before I could use all my monitors again.

According to reports, Windows 7 has added support for multiple heterogeneous graphics cards from different vendors. Now this probably doesn’t mean you can combine ATI and NVIDIA cards in an SLI-configuration, but it sounds as if we can have our multi-vendor multi-monitor setups back.

4: Clutter and bloat are reduced

Vista was perhaps the culmination of Microsoft’s efforts to be all things to all users. Along with the built-in applications we got with XP, Vista added a contacts program, a calendaring program, a photo editing program, and so forth. While some users appreciate all these free applications, many others have been annoyed by the “extras” they don’t need or use. If you’re planning to install Office with Outlook, there’s no need for Contacts and Calendar. And if you have your own favorite and more powerful graphics applications, such as PhotoShop, there’s no need for Photo Gallery. The extras just clutter up your Programs menu and take up space on the hard disk.

With Windows 7, Microsoft has removed a number of the extra programs and now offers them as free downloads from the Windows Live Web site. This way, those who want them can have them, and those who don’t won’t have to deal with removing them.

5: Boot performance is better

Another common complaint about Vista has been the inordinate amount of time it can take to boot up. This might not be an issue for those who leave their systems on all the time, but if you turn off your computer every night, waiting around forever for it to get started in the morning can turn into a major annoyance.

A Microsoft spokesperson indicated that the company’s goal for Windows 7 is a 15-second boot time, whereas three quarters of Vista users report boot times of more than 30 seconds. Although the beta of Win7 may not have achieved that 15-second mark yet for most users, the majority of beta testers I’m hearing from say it’s substantially quicker than Vista on the same hardware. That’s been my personal experience, as well. Since it is still a beta, it’s not unrealistic to hope that continued tweaking will get that time down further before the final release.

6: Notifications can be fine-tuned

In XP and Vista, you can disable the balloon notifications in the system tray, but what if you’d like to continue to get notifications from some applications but not from others? Windows 7 allows you to customize the behavior by simply clicking the little arrow next to the tray and selecting Customize. In the dialog box, choose which icons you want to appear in the tray.For each application, you can select whether you want to display notifications or hide them, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Windows 7 gives you much more control over those notifications in the system tray.

7: Security messages are consolidated

In Vista, you have several security-related icons in the system tray, and you might have notifications popping up from each one. To make changes to security settings, you may have to open several applications. In Windows 7, all the security messages have been consolidated into one icon. When you click it, you’ll see all messages related to firewall, Windows Defender, Windows Update settings, and so forth, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Windows 7 consolidates all security-related messages in one system tray icon.

By clicking the Open Action Center link in the message box, you can make the changes that are recommended or (for example, in the case where you have an antivirus program installed but Windows doesn’t recognize it), you can select the option to turn off messages regarding that application, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

8: Side-by-side windows auto-size

Most of the monitors sold today come in a wide aspect ratio that’s better for watching movies, which is also handy for displaying two documents side by side on the screen. With Vista, though, you have to manually size those docs. Windows 7 has a cool new feature by which you can drag windows to each side of the screen and they will automatically size themselves to each take up half the screen when you let go of the cursor.

Even better, if you drag the window back away from the edge, it goes back to the size it was before. How cool is that?

9: Home networking gets simple

For home users without a lot technical know-how, networking has been made simpler in Windows 7. A new feature called HomeGroup allows all Windows 7 computers on a network to share files, printers, and other resources more easily. Thanks to Libraries (collections of certain types of files, such as music, photos, or documents), you can access files anywhere on the HomeGroup network as if they were stored locally, and you can search across the whole HomeGroup.

Windows Media Player in Windows 7 can stream the music and videos on one PC in the network to another, and even play back songs from iTunes libraries on other computers.

Connecting to a wireless network is also easier; now you can click the wi-fi icon in the system tray and select a network from the list, instead of opening up a separate dialog box to make the connection.

10: Taskbar preview really works

In Vista, you can hover over a taskbar button — for Internet Explorer, for example — and see that three instances of IE are open. You see the open pages stacked as shown in Figure D, but they’re so small that it’s difficult to really tell which page is which.

Figure D

The Vista taskbar preview gives you an idea of what your running application windows contain.

In Windows 7, the preview feature has been enhanced so that it becomes an extremely useful function. Now when you hover over a taskbar icon, you get actual previews that are placed side by side and are large enough for you to identify (Figure E).

Figure E

In Windows 7, you can actually tell what’s in each of those preview windows.

And that’s not all. If you’re playing a video in one of the windows, that video plays in the preview window, too. And if you right-click the IE icon in the taskbar, you get a list of your IE history files, as shown in Figure F. You can just click any of those and go immediately to that page.

Figure F

Right-clicking the taskbar icon gives you more options; in the case of IE, you can select from the history files, open a new instance of the browser, unpin the program, or close the window.