Rage3D Kombuting // February 15th edition

Author: Pete Vagiakos
Date: February 15th, 2013

Apple vs the world, the new GTX Titan, next-gen batteries and Android apps on Windows 8!

Is it a blog? Is it my rumblings with a spice of memes? Is it Stuff That Are Entirely My Opinion And Do Not Reflect That of Rage3D? Guilty as charged on all accounts. Enjoy and comment away :)

Apple vs. the world: not cutting it anymore

Apple is constantly on the news, for one reason or the other; whether it's the new iPhone 5S rumours floating, the cheaper iPhone, the phablet iPhone, the new iWatch rumour or whatnot, we certainly have a lot to talk about and speculate. But, one thing is for certain. The Apple of today is starting to evolve away from the Jobs-era Apple, which, depending on your viewpoint, can be either a good thing, or a very bad thing. So, being the nice guys we are, we will focus on one of the most positive news we heard lately about the company, and it's not about upcoming products. It's about strategy, and about moving its battles away from courts.

The late Steve Jobs had an iconic effect on Apple, and he single-handedly brought the company to the stardom it enjoys today. But nobody is perfect; and the "thermonuclear war" he declared on Android, Samsung and other competitors has hurt Apple's status more than it helped it. Yes, it won a historic $1bn court win last year; but the court battles are far from over. But Samsung is still strong, putting out one successful product after another, and these days Apple looks like a follower rather than a pioneer. Thankfully Tim Cook is a different man than his predecessor, and he seems to have the common sense to know that hurting his No.1 part supplier and putting the emphasis on courts rather than technology will hurt Apple in the long term. So according to a report by Reuters, back then Tim Cook was opposed to the said legal battle, due to the complex relationship Apple has with Samsung, being its main parts supplier for the iPhone. Current talks between the two companies are calmer than most people think they would be, even though every company has a Plan B of its own in case talks fall apart.

Could Apple's policy of patenting virtually everything it releases, suing everyone in the process finally be dwindling down? Patents can be abused and are abused all the time, and we saw that loud and clear lately with the decision of a Brazilian court, giving the iPhone trademark to someone else. This will definitely be a good thing for the industry; after all the late Steve Jobs himself, in one of his most famous quotes, said "Good artists copy, great artists steal. We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas" - and rightfully so. Apple was successful in the smartphone and music player business because it was allowed to enter an already established market, and turn it upside down by stirring the pot and presenting old ideas in a new and exciting package. And it worked wonders for them. Maybe it's time to let other companies do the same.

Geforce GTX Titan - will it matter?

So our friends at NVidia are not content with all those Tegra announcements, project Shield etc etc, but they decided, just for the fun of it, to release a new graphics card to the world. Don’t get too excited though, since this won’t be the successor to the GTX6xx series of cards – more like a card aimed to best the GTX680 without being the Next Big Thing™. Imaginatively called Geforce GTX Titan, it is set to be released on February 18th, and will sport the following specifications:

  • 7.080 million transistors
  • 875MHz CPU clock / 1502MHz – 6008MHz effective memory clock
  • 6GB GDDR5 with a 384bit bus
  • 2688 shading units
  • 224 TMUs / 48 ROPs / 14 SMX
  • 49 Gpixels/s Pixel Rate / 196 GTexels/s Texture Rate
Overall the card seems to be a very nice upgrade from the GTX680 – not quite reaching GTX690 territory of course, but three of those in SLI should produce new records in performance.

But, as always, it seems there’s a catch. Rumour has it that this is an extremely limited release from NVidia, so you should have some trouble getting a card. How limited? Various reports claim availability of just 10.000 cards, which means this is a card not many people are going to see in stores. Given the current state of the graphics card market, I really don’t see why NVidia even bothers releasing a card like that in such small quantities. Bragging rights? Claiming the No.1 single-GPU crown again after AMD’s imaginatively called 7970 GHz edition last year? What’s the point in releasing a card nobody will be able to buy? By the way, if despite all that you still plan on getting such a card, bear in mind that it should be 10% cheaper than a GTX690. Yup, definitely not on the cheap side.

Should you even bother with it? Is AMD going to release its 8000 series of cards in the summer, despite the latest rumours which claimed no new cards from them in 2013? All I know, after all these years in the industry, is that these Ultra/GHz edition/XTX etc. cards bore me. Yes, I agree that this new card will actually give a substantial performance increase rather than the usual 5% but, please, give me a new architecture - now there’s an exciting thing. Don’t rehash same old just for the sake of bragging rights... It’s been done to death all these years, especially with cards that people are NOT able to buy in the first place. Hopefully the availability part of these rumours is wrong and this card won’t be another “Reviewer’s edition” part.

Next-gen Li-Ion batteries to triple capacity

Let’s get away from the graphics card industry, and head to smartphone land. We’ve covered many developments the past few months about operating systems, new devices, better graphics, faster, bigger mobile phones... but one of the most underappreciated part of the mobile phone is the battery. It’s the one you should care about the most too, since most modern mobile phones these days don’t even make it through the day without a recharge.

Since fuel cell technology has several years before it reaches maturity for the mass market, it was with great interest that I found a story run on Gizmondo about a breakthrough in Li-Ion battery technology, made recently by researchers in the Southern California University. Conventional batteries have thin sheets of carbon graphite located at each electrode – positive Lithium ions travel between them and create the current we need to power up all our modern mobile electronic devices. Unfortunately these carbon sheets crack over time, since the constant charging and discharging degrades them. So these researchers managed to replace those carbon graphite sheets with porous silicon nano-wires that are less than 100nm across and just a few microns long. Previous tries to use silicon (a cheap and high capacity material) in anodes was not very successful since it wore down quickly due to the swelling/shrinking during the charging/discharging process. But due to the pores in this new material, it allows the silicon to expand and contract without breaking, thus the Lithium ions can diffuse in and out of the battery more quickly. This tech is said to triple capacities compared to current-gen batteries, whereas it takes only 10 minutes for a full charge. It should be with us in the next two or three years, so those of you planning to get a Galaxy S6 or an iPhone 8 are probably in luck :)

First mention of Tegra 4

Speaking of graphics cards and capabilities, I saw the very first mention of NVidia's Tegra4 the other day over at VR-Zone; it seems HTC wants to use the successor to the extremely popular Tegra3 for an upcoming 5" phablet (and in case you are wondering, yes, this word comes from the words "phone" and "tablet") they are planning, which will have a 1920x1080 resolution. So rumour has it that it will be based on A15 architecture, with a 1.8-2.0GHz clock speed and almost twice the performance of its predecessor. Which is not too bad, actually. Not much is known apart from that (like battery life, for instance), but NVidia has been delivering the goods on the mobile front for quite some time (with most of the tablets sporting their chipsets) so they should have a winner in their hands again.

Run your Android apps in Windows 8!

We have talked a lot about Windows 8 and Surface here on Kombuting, discussing the fact that the new operating system by Microsoft is lacking in applications at the moment. No Metro Facebook app, no Twitter, no Flipboard, no Instagram, all the heavy hitters in iOS and Android are not there yet for the new OS. We are sure the situation will improve eventually, but what happens until then? Bluestacks seems to have the answer, and it’s not what you’d expect.

So they recently released their “App Player” for Windows 8, giving you the chance to run Android apps to your Windows 8 device, let it be a desktop computer, a Surface (the company says it is optimised for the said tablet) or another tablet. Here is the press release:

BlueStacks Releases Surface Pro-Optimized Version of “App Player”

Announces GetYourAppsBack.com to fill widening Win8 App Gap

Campbell, CA February 12, 2013 – Mobile company BlueStacks today released a Surface Pro-optimized, officially supported Windows 8 version of its popular App Player software. The program is free to download and can run any Android app on the new Surface Pro. BlueStacks also announced a new site: GetYourAppsBack.com where new Windows 8 and Surface Pro users can download BlueStacks’ software and bring any mobile apps to their device. Recently, Google launched a Get Your Google Back video campaign that BlueStacks is paying homage to.

“We’ve had our users asking for a Win8 version for a long time,” said BlueStacks CEO Rosen Sharma. “Now that it’s finally available on our website we’re looking forward to getting feedback and building on the experience. The number of mobile apps being written overall is expanding exponentially and Microsoft has not added apps to the handful it has. Our goal is to get people more value out of their Surface Pro and Win8 devices.”

Having announced several OEM partnerships in recent months, BlueStacks also recently passed 5 million downloads of its mobile software across Mac and PC. The downloads all came from the company’s homepage, BlueStacks.com. Additional download numbers via OEM partnerships have not been released, though the company says they are healthy.

“The response in the OEM community has been as strong or stronger than the surprising numbers we’ve been seeing from organic downloads,” said BlueStacks head of Global Sales and Strategic Alliances, Apu Kumar. “We seem to have reached a tipping point where we’ve brought mobile apps to so many computers worldwide, the remaining OEM’s customers are asking for these apps also. We’re the perfect conduit to get popular programs back on the PC.”

The company’s site at GetYourAppsBack.com allows new Surface Pro and Win8 PC owners to get apps from their phone and any additional apps they want into their Win8 PC, running them fullscreen and touch-enabled. The site went live today.

This is a very interesting development; so I proceeded to install it. Even though the software is still in beta status (it even crashed on me once) it works pretty well – you have access to the Android Market and other markets, you download Android apps, and they just work. So if you have a new shiny Windows 8 tablet, take this software for a ride!

Tune in next time; same Komb-time, same Komb-site.