Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Intel is going to suffer

Images from

Ooooh! I love competition. AMD is finally back in the running (not the lead) with the Phenom and the new ATI cards are head-to-head with NVidia.

The real news is that VIA has released the Nano reference board, and it's being compared to Atom boards across the net. The conclusion? VIA is definitely winning the comparison with a 20-30% lead in performance. The power usage probably favors the Atom, but some tests of total power usage per task fall to the Nano.

The real news, though, isn't about cycles: it's about marketing. Intel has artificially segmented its market to keep Atom from eating into the low-end desktop CPU sales. How do they accomplish this? Well ... by limiting choice of course. Board manufacturers are limited in what extra goodies they can put on: no second RAM slot, no digital video, and no PCI-e. Just look at the boards in the pictures above.

  • Memory slots: 2 vs. 1

  • Network ports: 2 vs. 1

  • SATA channels: 4 vs. 2

  • Expansion slots:

    • PCI-e vs. PCI

    • Compact flash slot vs. nothing

    • MiniPCI vs. nothing

For a price difference of about 10% for the better CPU and a much more capable board, i know which one I would choose.

Intel has a choice of letting go of the reins and losing money to itself in the low-end desktop market or giving large portions of that market to VIA.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Not Trying to Harp on Ubuntu Too Much

Some time ago, I changed my Slashdot signature to
Ubuntu is now a "wait for SP1" distribution.
Mark Shuttleworth seems to have come to the same conclusion, though he says it like this:
... there are some questions whether or not very large scale infrastructures should immediately jump on the new release...
The article is a good read and goes in depth into the questions surrounding Hardy

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Six Things You Didn't Know You Could Do With Deskbar

Deskbar is often associated with search and only search. Sure, you can search you files, search Yahoo!, search, or even search for a word in a dictionary, but did you know that you could DO stuff, too?

1. Create a New Tomboy Note: If you have the Tomboy Notes plugin enabled, you will have the choice to create a new note with the Deskbar text. It's a lot easier than creating a new note, selecting the default "New Note 145" and renaming it.

2. Create a New Document From a Template: If you have documents that you often use as templates, put them in your "Template" directory and name them something descriptive. If you enable the Templates plugin for Deskbar, you'll be given the option to create a new file from them, and you'll even be asked the location for the new file. After that, the file will be opened for editing automatically.

3. Shutdown or Reboot Your Computer: Enable the "Computer Actions" plug-in and you'll be able to log out, reboot, or shut down your computer. You will need the permissions to do these actions for them to appear, of course.

4. Switch to a Running Program: Enable the "Window Switcher" plug-in, and you can find a running program just by typing in its name.

5. Launch a Program: Enable the "Programs" plug-in, and you will be able to launch that program. It operates like the very popular program Gnome Do.

6. Send Mail: If you enable "Mail (Address Book)" then you can start typing in a friend or colleague's name or e-mail address and be able to send a message to him or her. This appears to only work with the Evolution address book.

Plug-ins I'd like to see:
1. Pidgin and Telepathy plug-ins so that you could type a contact's name to send an IM.

2. A Rhythmbox plug-in to search for an artist or album and being playing it.

3. A F-Spot plug-in to search for tags and bring up the related photos.

4. An Ekiga plug-in similar to the IM ones in order to initiate a call.

Ten Things You Didn't Know You Could Do With Rhythmbox(RB)

1. Adding Album Art the Easy Way: You can drag and drop album art from Firefox or any other application over the album art area to add it to RB.

2. Scanning Removable Media: You can use File > Scan Removable Media to find songs on external drives.

3. Using a USB Mass Storage MP3 player: Add a file called .is_audio_player to the root of your device and RB will identify it and scan it automatically. The contents of the file should look something like this:
Make changes as necessary.

4. Adding Music to Your Collection: You can drag music on removable drives from the song list area onto the "Music" in the library section and it will be copied over to your collection automatically, organized the way you specify in Preferences.

5. Adding Music to Your MP3 Player: You can drag music from your collection and drop it onto the icon for your player to add it to the player. If you have the .is_audio_player file mentioned above with the proper contents, you can even have RB place and transcode the file correctly for you.

6. Ripping CDs: You can rip CD to your collection by right-clicking on the CD and choosing "Add to Library." It will be organized and encoded according to your Prefences.

7. Writing CDs: You can write any playlist to an audio CD by right-clicking on it. Of course, that means you need to create a playlist first.

8. Edit Tags: You can edit tags on a file by right-clicking the song, choosing "Properties," and editing the information there. You can edit multiple files at one time by selecting many songs using either CTRL-click or SHIFT-click.

9. Share Music: You can share your collection with others on the network by enabling the DAAP and uPnP plugins.

10. Control RB Remotely: You can use the uPnP plugin to control RB from another computer. You can also use rhythmbox-client on the command line (locally or through SSH) -- read the fine manual on how to do that.

Friday, July 4, 2008

ATI Radeon HD 4870 with Linux Driver

I root for ATI. They are doing a lot of good stuff for the OSS communinty right now, and AMD.ATI can be a really good combination if ATI doesn't shoot itself in the foot. I read the review of the new ATI card (with a Linux driver shipped on the CD) over at Phoronix (linked in the title, above) and was discouraged for the first few pages of the benchmarks, but then ... well ... I think Phoronix says it best:
When using anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering, the Radeon HD 4850 and 4870 had an immediate and significant advantage over the NVIDIA GeForce 9800GTX competition and the earlier Radeon HD 3870. Like the Radeon HD 4850, when the HD 4870 wasn't using advanced rendering techniques, it had fallen behind the 9800GTX. With id Software's Doom 3 with 8x AA, the Radeon HD 4850 was almost 30% faster than the GeForce 9800GTX. When it came time to test the Radeon HD 4870 in the same configuration, it was over 50% faster than the GeForce 9800GTX. The biggest performance delta was with Enemy Territory: Quake Wars where the Radeon HD 4870 was 68% faster than the 9800GTX and 25% faster than its Radeon HD 4850 sibling. In the open-source Nexuiz game even, the Radeon HD 4870 was 32% faster than the 9800GTX. When turning on both 8x AA and 16x AF, the Radeon HD 4870 remained on top in every test with a striking lead.
Wow. We'll wait for the new NVidias to arrive, but I certainly like a market of multiple, linux-compatible cards with great performance.

And I don't even game!
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