August 22, 2009

Windows 7 vs Vista VGA game performance

Windows 7 (Final) vs Windows Vista VGA game performance analysis
ATI and NVIDIA -- Single versus Multi-GPU.

Last week Microsoft released the final build (RTM) version of Windows 7 to MSDN members, yes Windows 7 has gone gold, though you as a consumer might have to wait a while longer (October) for you to be able to upgrade to Windows 7. MSDN members already have access to the final build and as such can prepare and migrate to the new Operating system.

Guru3D received a couple of licenses and as such we started to install our test systems with Windows 7 Professional edition, and we were curious. See, when Windows Vista was released we consumers ran into a stack load of driver issues. I remember Catalysts received WHQL status, yet the drivers secretly missed out on half of their functionality.

But it wasn't as bad as NVIDIA, no Sir. NVIDIA arrived on the scene with their Windows Vista driver massively late and under-developed. In fact "VISTA GEFORCE CRASH" was one of the most popular Google search combos at that time.

Credit where credit is due, once the press started to really tackle the issues NVIDIA and ATI were both nearly ready with some proper drivers. Initially though, overall game performance was still lacking opposed to Windows XP with a 10~15% performance differential. The bugs and negative performance impact was one of the many things that made Windows Vista spin into a negative spiral, from which for the bigger part, Microsoft never recovered. It's a branding stigma similar to say the TLB bug that haunted AMD with the first Phenom release.

Fact remains that over time all these issues ironed themselves out, and to date I consider Windows Vista to be a lovely platform to work and game with. But now there is the pending release of Windows 7; roughly two months ago I had already been contacted by parties like NVIDIA and AMD asking if we wanted to test their drivers with the Windows 7 Beta. I refrained form that offer as I strongly felt it makes no sense whatsoever to publish results based on a beta driver with a beta operating system. Last week Microsoft released the RTM build of Windows 7, this is the final build that is going gold. With ATI and NVIDIA releasing Windows 7 compatible drivers for a while now, we figured now's a good time to see how well game graphics performance is on Windows 7 and how stable the platform actually is.

The good news is that both ATI and NVIDIA for the Windows 7 release did their homework this time around. As such in this article we will check out the current Windows 7 drivers, look at performance in-between Windows Vista and Windows 7 and look at stability.

We can already say that not only do we like Windows 7 very much, but also the VGA drivers are extremely mature and performance is actually right on par with the latest Vista drivers.

Let's start off this article, with a VGA performance overview in-between Windows Vista 64-bit and Windows 7 64-Bit.
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August 19, 2009

PlayStation 3 Gets 3.00 Firmware on September 1

The new firmware will be launched with the PS3 Slim

The PlayStation 3 is one of the most important consoles on the market being the most powerful one in terms of hardware. As you all know by now, Sony officially confirmed that a new version of the platform, the PlayStation 3 Slim, would be released on September 1.

Also at that time, a new version of the PS3 firmware, the 3.00, will be released for all of the devices out there. It will incorporate some pretty big changes and will bring new features. First of all, the navigation on the platform will be improved thanks to some design changes to the XMB (Xross Media Bar). The system is now even easier and more intuitive to use, according to Sony.

You will now have a new “What's New” option when you will start the PS3 system, which will keep you up to date with everything regarding the console and the PlayStation Network. The section will display the latest and greatest games, videos or other news, as well as recently played titles in an animated format.

A new status indicator will be displayed in the top right corner alongside your user icon, friend icon, number of friends you have online and any other small icons that will let you know if you have any new messages. A scrolling ticker will also be displayed, containing the latest news from the PSN.

The Friends List feature will also receive an upgrade with the 3.00 firmware, as a redesign was implemented. The messages received from your friends will be viewable under each of their profiles, making it much easier to interact with them. Custom themes and avatars will also be supported, which will be free or premium, all available through the PlayStation Store.

Upcoming games will also support a new feature for the Trophy system, which will reveal just how much of a game you went through and what other trophies you unlocked in any additional content for that game.
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AdSense to Deploy Improved Contextual Targeted Ads

The enhancements will be rolled out this week

Google may be a sprawling giant with interests in many different areas but it still makes the overwhelming majority of its revenue from advertising. So, while it may not get much of the spotlight, it takes its advertising products very seriously. The company is now announcing that its affiliate advertising program AdSense is getting some important improvements to be rolled out this week.

“I'm excited to let you know that this week, we'll be rolling out a series of enhancements to AdSense's contextual targeting capabilities, which will more accurately match relevant ads to webpages. You won't need to update your AdSense account or ad code, as these changes will be applied automatically. In many ways these types of improvements are par for the course at Google - but I wanted to let you know about the kinds of improvements we've been focusing on,” Woojin Kim, AdSense product manager, wrote on the AdSense blog.

The contextual targeting technology powering AdSense ads is one of the most important components of the product. It scans and analyzes the pages where the ads are deployed to find which of these are more suitable for the content and thus more likely to be interesting to the users. Interested users means more clicks on the ads, which in turn means happier advertisers and wealthier web site owners. After AdSense determines the type of content on the site it does an automated auction to decide which of the ads that match it to display.

The system, though, isn't perfect, as with all machines trying to understand human behavior, so it may end up serving a less relevant ad, thus not helping anyone involved in the process. The improvements Google will be unveiling this week should help with the relevancy of the ads and the changes should be, more or less, visible as soon as they are implemented. Google also assures its users that the changes are strictly specific to the contextual targeted ads and won't affect other ad types.
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August 16, 2009

New Stem Cell Gene Splicing Method Created

The field of stem cell gene splicing is now about to really take off, experts at the Whitehead Insitute say

Experts from the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research have recently managed to overcome a major obstacle in human embryonic stem cell (ESC) and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell research, when they devised a new method of introducing or modifying genes inside them. While this has been relatively easy to do in mice, altering the human genome proved to be infinitely more complicated, and no technique available until now had such a high success rate as the new one. The experts also authored a new paper detailing the find, published in the August 13th issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology.

“It's not clear where this hurdle of genetic manipulation lies; it could be purely technical, but it could also be an inherent difference between human and mouse cells. Other people have genetically manipulated these human cells, but the process has been extremely laborious and extremely time consuming. Using the zinc finger nucleases makes the process very easy,” explains Whitehead postdoctoral researcher Dirk Hockemeyer, who is also a first author of the Nature paper.

Zinc finger nucleases, the authors say, are a relatively unknown class of proteins, which have the ability to facilitate tempering with, or replacement, of existing genes in the human genome. The new study “is a proof of principle that zinc finger nucleases can be used to swap out many, many additional genes in human ESCs and iPS cells. Now human ESC and iPS cell genetics can catch up to mouse genetics, which has had a 20-year headstart,” adds Rudolf Jaensich, a Whitehead member, and a professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

According to Whitehead postdoctoral researcher Frank Soldner, also a first author of the new paper, the proteins can be used to alter just about any gene researchers want. “We can produce zinc finger nucleases that out of about three billion DNA base pairs can identify one specific site. We also spent quite a bit of energy to see if the zinc finger nucleases cut somewhere other than the intended target site, and it was very unlikely,” he says.

The new study, entitled “Efficient targeting of expressed and silent genes in human ESCs and iPSCs using zinc-finger nucleases”, was funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Life Sciences Research Foundation, ScienceDaily reports.
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China Unicom says it hasn't bought 5 million iPhones from Apple

Cupertino-based Apple and Chinese mobile phone carrier China Unicom have been recently rumored to plan on launching Apple's iPhone on the Chinese market as soon as September, yet it seems that the rumors are now proved false. While previous reports pointed towards the fact that a deal between the two had already been inked, the carrier denied them, though confirming that it was in talks with Apple.

State-owned China Unicom also denied reports pointing towards the fact that it already bought 5 million iPhones from Apple. “Talks between us and Apple have been going on for some time, but no agreement has been reached yet,” said Unicom spokesman Yi Difei, cellular-news reports. “There are all kinds of possibilities. There is no particular timetable for the talks.”

The rumor about the closed deal between the two came from the newspaper China Business News, which stated recently that a three-year exclusive iPhone deal between Apple and China Unicom had already been signed, and that the carrier had agreed to pay 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) for a number of 5 million iPhones. “The report is not true,” Yi said, yet declined to provide further details on the talks between the two parties.

Apple seems to have denied the rumors as well, through Tiffany Yang, a Beijing spokeswoman with the company. Even so, the newspaper claims that the information came from a sales manager for Unicom's subsidiary in the southern province of Guangdong, Yu Zhaonan, while also stating that the iPhone is set to become available in the country in September.

For what it's worth, the deal between the two companies will be a win-win, as both of them are trying to rise their profits, and a partnership for the introduction of one of the most popular devices on the market in a country with the largest number of mobile phone users might be just the thing. China Unicom, the second largest carrier in the country, has accounted for a number of 133 million users as of December 31, 2008.
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