Technology analysis of the latest gadgets, consoles, and computer architectures.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I have I few things I'd like to ramble about in this post, but I'm also kinda lazy, having returned from another long day at work and enjoying a beer, so we'll see.

First, I'd like to cover Microsoft a little bit based on current events. Windows Vista is poised for release by the end of January. I have tried the operating system in beta form about a year ago and, although I did find that the focus on security and a complete rehaul of the network stack would be reason enough to switch (I hate Windows networking in its current form, so slow...), I was not happy with how much more bloated Windows had become (I believe it was using close to 512MB RAM at boot-up) and with further changes of the graphical interface and control structure I did not want to deal with frustrations as a results of finding settings I wanted to change. With more recent developments that I am about to list, I am highly unlikely to upgrade.

1. Vista Home Basic, a crippled version of Vista with no Aero enhanced graphical interface, will come standard with new PCs and even cost more than XP for OEMs.
2. Vista Ultimate, the version of Windows anyone would want to have if they had to upgrade to XP, is projected to cost $450...why would I ever pay $450 for Windows?!?!
3. The educational license isn't going to be as flexible as in the past, potentially requiring servers functioning essentially as license servers.
4. The 64-bit version will only allow Signed Applications and Drivers to run, which means Microsoft has to approve any software package that is allowed to run on Windows.

I will admit that I would love to run a stable and reliable 64-bit operating system, but after my experience with XP-64 (the operating system used more RAM than the 32-bit version, thus bringing out a bad memory management and process scheduling system, and many of the drivers I needed I didn't have access to) and Vista Beta 2 64-bit (which did not successfully install on my PC, after I tried for many hours to get it to work), I think I'll stick with linux and OS X for 64-bit.

Other Microsoft developments I need to rant about:
1. Although I like the color choice of brown with the Zune, why the hell did they have to drop support for Plays for Sure? It doesn't make any sense to create a whole new proprietary media marketplace. And yes, I like the sharing feature, but honestly, I would rather have limited access to another's music library only when in range rather than have a copy on my device that would render itself useless after 3 listens or 3 days, but I guess I've always been an advocate for streaming services vs. subscription download services (why waste your own hard drive space on media files that will expire if you unsubscribe from the service?).
2. This deal with Novell is weird. Although Novell has been working with Windows for a long time, recently there have been many disputes between the two companies...they suffered a lawsuit phase, Novell bought Suse and started pushing for Linux, etc. And this deal has made people worry about what Microsoft might do against the open source community, since this deal exemplifies Novell from any patent disputes. Here is a good article explaining why Microsoft would probably not go after the open source / Linux community. And here is an article poking fun on a time in the future when Windows becomes open source.

Alright, enough about Microsoft. Since Intel's been getting so much attention lately, and my next computer (soon to arrive) will include the Core 2 Duo (more later), and since I've always had a great deal of interest in Nvidia in the chipset market, I'm going to briefly cover their latest chipset, the 680i. Anandtech does a great job covering this chip, but I wanted to quickly summarize it and bring up points that really excite me. First of all, Nvidia has finally created a 3rd party chipset that can compete with and, in some cases, perform better than an Intel chipset. This is a noteworthy feat, as Nvidia can now remain in enthusiasts' hearts for both camps, as both AMD and Intel continue to out-do one another in the performance championships. This is almost a role reversal for Nvidia, for as being a graphics chip maker that regularly jumps back and forth with ATI in regards to performance, now they can sit back and take advantage of the CPU market.

One of the coolest features Nvidia added to their chipset was the firewall; although I was never able to play around with it, it seemed to have a lot of potential, especially compared to other software-based solutions. They do expand these networking features in the new chipset, which is really exciting. Some of the most interesting features in this new chipset include:

1. FirstPacket - "FirstPacket is a packet prioritization technology that allows latency-sensitive applications and games to effectively share the upstream bandwidth of their broadband connection." This greatly expands the functionality of the use of one's machine as a router; not only can a firewall be utilized, but FirstPacket will allow low latency for the applications that need it, a plus especially in environments where multiple people are using computers over the same internet conncetion and gobble up all the upstream bandwidth, making it impossible for anyone on that same connection to do anything (believe me, I've had experience with it).
2. DualNet and Teaming - These features pertain to the addition of a second gigabit ethernet port, which, through the use of teaming, can function as a 2 gigabit connection to the network. Yes, I know it's not likely one will fully utilize the capabilities of this chipset, unless...
3. TCP/IP Acceleration - hardware acceleration of more networking stuff, self-explanatory, but also very cool for a heavily utilized machine on the network...hmm, there must be another name for this, just not coming to mind...
4. RAID-5 - yes, you read that right, RAID-5 support. So sweet...now one would be able to setup a reliable "backup" solution as well, for providing media to other computers on a network...dammit, i'm so close

Oh, I've got it now...this would function as a great SERVER!!! Yes, that's right, with the addition of these network accelerator functions as well as RAID-5 and using a dual or quad core CPU and with enough RAM, one could easily setup a machine that can do it all. All I would need to get is a gigabit switch and I can allow this computer to function as a router, serve files, play and serve games.

As you can see, I definately think Nvidia is still the way to go in regards to chipsets, and I can't wait until Nvidia releases this chipset for AM2 as well.

Let's see here...I do want to talk about AMD's forthcoming quad-core CPUs, to be released mid next year, and which will be compatible with AM2 (thus my interest in getting a cheap AM2 dual core processor in the near future and upgrading later on, although now I'd have to wait for the 680a), but I will just provide a link to this Extremetech article until Anandtech comes out with a review of the processor in the coming months. It's more exciting to see with some benchmarks, anyhow, so we'll just have to wait and see.

Lastly, I did want to mention that, yes you guessed it, I bought a Macbook Pro with a Core 2 Duo. I received the 0% interest credit card that I applied for and thought that a laptop would be appropriate, and still had access to the educational license, so I figured why not. It'd be useful for when I went home or even at work, considering it would be really easy to pull up a console and ssh into a server. To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about using Mac OS again. My first computer was a Mac LC2 with OS6 or 7 (I forget, but I hated it, just didn't feel like I could do much). Now that the operating system is based on Unix, I've been itching to try it, but it still has that old mac look, with the menu bar permanentally fixed at the top of the screen (that's probably going to be the first thing I try to get rid of). And my most powerful computer will be Intel for once, and I'll probably want to use it often since it will have 2GB RAM and will be dual-core, but we'll see. I just can't wait to play with it, honestly, but I am afraid. Ah well, it's time for change...I've been sick of Windows since, well, forever, and I haven't had the nerve to use Linux as my main operating system, but now I will be able to play around with Unix and either use Windows on my main computer or finally switch to Linux; either way I'll have a functional computer, which is good.

Alright, one more thing: when it becomes time to upgrade to AM2 or whatever my new desktop system will be based on, I plan to reuse my current PC (the one that gave me a reason to start this blog) as a powerful mediapc. I'm going to convert it into a SFF (Small Form Factor) machine using the Biostar iDEQ 210P (read review here). I just like the idea of taking the CPU, graphics card, and memory from my current PC and plopping it into this new case and motherboard, and along with an HDTV card in the PCI slot, I'd be set for the living room. I'm really excited about the prospects of my computing environment this next year...my plans are to get an LCD TV and put together my new mediapc (aka old computer) and buy a new uber computer that will do anything I want. I'm so excited...which means the Tech Ramble isn't going anywhere...I'm even thinking about moving it to Digg or something so that I can start hearing more voices and less .

OK, I'm done...later dudes.

1 comment:

  1. WAAAYY too lonng.... you have 2-3 months worth of blog here (at the rate you go) all in one post. my short attention span only got me through the first few paragraphs. :/

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