Archive for October, 2012

Valve PenguinThe talking heads at Valve continue to downplay the importance Windows plays in the future of PC gaming, pointing instead to Linux as an alternative in progress that’s gaining steam (and Steam, for that matter). Serving as the latest indication that Valve has a growing affinity for Linux, software engineer Drew Bliss talked up the open source platform during a presentation at the Ubuntu Developer Summit.

It’s not clear if Bliss used these exact words or not, but according to Ubuntu Vibes, he made it known that Valve believes Linux is a “more viable” gaming platform than Windows 8, the latter of which ships with its own app store. It’s a message that’s starting to come through loud and clear from Valve.

Previous to this, Valve’s Gabe Newell famously called Windows 8 a “catastrophe for everyone in the PC space,” referring to the walled garden approach Microsoft seems to be taking with its newest OS. Not leaving anything to chance, Valve has increased its efforts on porting Steam over to Linux and has even begun accepting applications for a limited beta run.

According to Bliss, Ubuntu is the preferred platform on the open source side of the fence, both because it has a large user base with good community support, and because it has a strong company like Canonical behind it, Ubuntu Vibes says.

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AMD ARMAfter years of designing chips exclusively around x86 architecture, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) is now waving around an ARM license that it intends to use to build 64-bit ARM-based processors for the server market, the Sunnyvale chip designer announced. The first of these will be 64-bit multi-core System-on-a-Chip (SoC) parts optimized for energy efficient servers found in large data centers.

“AMD led the data center transition to mainstream 64-bit computing with AMD64, and with our ambidextrous strategy we will again lead the next major industry inflection point by driving the widespread adoption of energy-efficient 64-bit server processors based on both the x86 and ARM architectures,” said Rory Read, president and chief executive officer, AMD. “Through our collaboration with ARM, we are building on AMD’s rich IP portfolio, including our deep 64-bit processor knowledge and industry-leading AMD SeaMicro Freedom supercompute fabric, to offer the most flexible and complete processing solutions for the modern data center.

This collaboration will make AMD the only one offering both x86 and 64-bit ARM-based solutions. It’s a bold move, and one that AMD hopes will give it a leg up on Intel in the server space. As part of its partnership with ARM, AMD intends to weave upcoming ARM-based Opteron chips with its Freedom Fabric interconnect technology that it acquired when it purchased SeaMicro for $334 million earlier this year.

AMD Slide

The first ARM-based Opteron chips for servers are expected to debut sometime in 2014. AMD said it will continue to design x86 CPUs and APUs for client and server markets.

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Forget the CD and install Windows 8 with your flash drive 

A guide? To install Windows? Slapping a new operating system on your desktop or laptop PC should be old hat by now, right? This is Windows 8, after all: Odds are pretty good that you, an astute and well-travelled Maximum PC reader, have been around the ol’ Windows installation block a few times before.

And unlike previous versions of the operating system, Windows 8 doesn’t even need that much babysitting. Once you’ve set the installer application running, it’s off to the races: You can sit back, enjoy a nice beverage or a fun sitcom, and let Microsoft’s fantastically efficient OS installation routine do all the work. By the time your Windows 8 OS needs your input, you’re practically finished – but a few short steps, if not minutes, away from the tiled joy that is Windows 8 proper.

So, er, what does that leave us to talk about?

Plenty. Ditch your discs; we’re going to show you how to install Windows 8 from a USB key. 

Installing Windows 8 from a USB key

If you shun DVDs, love speedier installations, have a digital download of Windows 8, or just plain don’t have an optical drive – or are too lazy to hook one up – then it’s going to be a USB-based installation for you. And that’s just fine; it’s a great, quick way to get an operating system onto your hard drive and extremely useful if you, say, keep your Windows installation disc tucked away as an .iso on your network drive instead of thrown in one of your desk drawers.

The easiest way to accomplish this process is to already have your hands on a copy of Windows 8’s downloadable .iso file – acquirable by purchasing it from Microsoft itself. If you have a flash drive of the appropriate size (at least four gigabytes or greater, depending on whatever file Microsoft lets you grab), you’re golden. Insert your flash drive into a USB slot on your system, and then go grab Microsoft’s Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool – don’t let the name dissuade you.

Install the app and run it. It’ll ask you to select an .iso file to be “burnt” onto your USB key. Go ahead and select your Windows 8 .iso file – the fact that it’s not the right operating system as the tool’s name has absolutely no bearing on what you’re doing. 

Yes, we know, it says “Windows 7” download tool, but you can just ignore that part.

On the next screen, you’ll be asked whether you’d like to create a “Windows 7 backup” – again, ignore the name – on a USB device or DVD. Pick the obvious answer, select your USB key from the drop-down menu.

Select your USB device

When you’re ready to let ‘er rip, click on “Begin copying!”  If the tool needs to format your USB key first, it’ll let you know.

Couldn’t be easier, right?

Sometimes, however, the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool mucks up – it might tell you that the .iso file you’re looking to “burn” isn’t actually a recognizable .iso file. You know it is; the Windows tool disagrees. Problem.

While some have been able to get around this issue by changing the actual filesystem of the .iso file itself – to UDF, for example – you’re going to need a tool like PowerISO to do so. And that’s not freeware. The last thing you should have to do is pay for the right to get a working, bootable Windows 8 installation on your flash drive.

Our solution? Do what the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool is doing… by yourself.

Manually Installing Windows 8 from a USB key

Start by using a freeware app like Virtual CloneDrive to mount your downloaded Windows 8 installation .iso to a virtual drive within your current Windows OS. You can also use the technique we’re about to describe to create a USB-based Windows 8 installation flash drive from a Windows 8 DVD – just pop it in your actual optical drive.

Insert your USB key. Fire up a Command Prompt as an Administrator. Within the Command Prompt, load Windows’ built-in Disk Partition utility by typing in “diskpart” and hitting Enter.

Within the Disk Partition utility, you’ll want to start out by typing in “list disk” and hitting Enter. From there, note the drive number that corresponds to your flash drive – you’ll be able to tell, as the capacity of the listed drive should match the capacity of your USB key. It’s that easy.

Next, type in “select disk #,” where the pound sign is the drive number of your USB key that you just took note of. Hit Enter; DiskPart will select the aforementioned drive. Now, type in “clean” and hit Enter to remove any existing partitions that might already be on your flash drive. Once the cleaning process is done, type in “create partition primary” and hit Enter to do just that. Type in “select partition 1” and hit Enter to select your new partition, type in “active” and hit Enter, and then then type in “format FS=NTFS quick” to quickly reformat your partition with the NTFS filesystem. Type “assign” and hit Enter, and you’ll have finished making your USB key bootable!

Now, it’s time to copy your Windows 8 installation files from their drive – virtual or real – to your USB key. Close diskpart by typing in “exit” and hitting Enter. From the Command Prompt, type this in (minus the quotes and the final period): “xcopy x:\*.* y:\ /e /f /h.” In our example, however, the “x:\” designation should actually represent the drive letter of your mounted Windows 8 installation .iso file or physical DVD. The “y:\” should be the actual drive letter of your USB key. Once you’ve made those subtle alterations, hit Enter and let ‘er rip — all of the Windows 8 files will start transferring over to your USB key.

Installing Windows 8 — Upgrade or Clean?

Once you’re ready to install Windows 8 from your USB key, you’ll want to restart your computer and either boot into your motherboard’s BIOS or hit the associated hotkey that allows you to access the “Boot Menu” during POST. Regardless of which way you go about it, you’ll want to make sure that your system is set to first boot off of your USB key instead of your existing hard drive. To note: If you’re ever thinking of installing Windows 8 from its DVD, you’ll also go about this process to select your optical drive as the primary boot device.

Be on the lookout if your motherboard requires you to actually hit a key – any key on your keyboard – to confirm that you want to boot to your USB drive. From there, the actual Windows 8 installation process should look a lot like that which you’re already used to, if you’ve previously had to install Windows 7 or Windows Vista.

And now’s as good a time as any to talk about upgrading versus starting from scratch, since you’re likely to be presented with both of these options at the very beginning of the Windows 8 installation process.

Simply put, upgrading will allow you to keep a large chunk of your existing Windows 7 settings, files, and applications — or for Windows XP or Windows Vista users, just your files. If you’re coming from Windows 7, you can even select whether you want the entire process previously described, or if you’d rather Windows 8 just keep your personal files intact during the upgrade (essentially, anything in your Windows 7 user folder).

The Windows 8 installation process will alert you to any compatibility issues between existing programs or drivers you might have installed within your current operating system and Windows 8 – like additional USB 3.0 drivers, for example, since Microsoft’s already baked these into Windows 8 proper. Once the Windows 8 installation finishes, you’ll be treated to a Start Screen that should be full of the programs you were used to seeing on (for example) good ol’ Windows 7. The drivers? Migrated. Most of your settings? Still set.

Still, resist the urge to do it.

By that, we mean – a clean install of an operating system is always the best way to go for a very specific reason. Right now, your computer is likely full of crap. Applications you once installed and left behind, an old driver version or two that you’ve forgotten about, and just general OS bloat that can hit a variety of points around your operating system (from your start menu to your registry). Consider the installation of a new operating system to be kind of like the equivalent of spring cleaning in the real world. It gives you, and your poor PC, a chance to start anew.

Just think of the space you’ll have saved on your hard drive! The speeds you’ll achieve with a clutter-free operating system! You might lose a little sanity with your driver installations and application reinstallations — which, really, isn’t all that bad of a process if you make use of a little tool called Ninite — but you’ll be able to experience Microsoft’s brand-new OS completely unblemished. At least, unblemished until you start filling it up with all kinds of apps.

Goodbye, pretty Start Screen. We hardly knew thee.

David Murphy has played around with Windows 8 more than he’s played with his cat, Colbert, over the last month or so. Poor guy.

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A Linux port of Steam has been on the cards for a while now. Back in July, the Valve Linux team revealed in its inaugural blog post that it was working on getting a fully-featured Steam client up and running on Ubuntu 12.04. Apparently, that project has made enough progress for Valve to start looking for beta testers.

But before you get too excited about the prospect of putting the Linux Steam client through its paces, please bear in mind that this is a limited beta and Valve is only looking for 1,000 testers at this stage. In order to be considered, all aspiring beta testers are required to answer a short survey, the aim of which is to ensure that only “experienced” Linux users get through.

According to the Valve Linux team, the decision to initially restrict the Steam for Linux client to just one distro was made in a bid to reduce “the variability of the testing space and makes early iteration easier and faster.” As to why it chose Ubuntu, Valve cited the distro’s overall popularity and “recognition with the general gaming and developer communities” as the main reasons for doing so in its maiden blog post.

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Nexus 10 TabletTalk about a busy month. Microsoft last week launched its Windows 8 operating system and Surface RT tablet to the general public, Apple released an iPad mini just a few days ago, and now Google is getting in on the media frenzy by announcing new and improved Nexus devices. Probably the biggest news of the day from Google is the introduction of the Nexus 10, a 10-inch Android tablet that might finally be able to supplant the iPad in popularity.

In this economy, price rules the day, and the new Nexus 10 debuts at $399 for 16GB and $499 for 32GB. That’s $100 cheaper than the 3rd/4th generation iPad at both storage tiers. Google didn’t gimp the display to get at that price point, either. In fact, the Nexus 10 boasts the highest resolution of any tablet at 2560×1600 (300ppi), which works out to over 4 million pixels. That’s more dense than the iPad’s Retina Display, which features a 2048×1536 resolution (264ppi).

Other features include a dual-core A15 processor, Mali T604 GPU, 2GB of RAM, 5MP rear-facing camera, 1.9MP front-facing camera, micro USB port, and micro HDMI port. All this comes topped with the newest flavor of Jelly Bean, Android 4.2, which supports multiple users that you can switch between on the lock screen.

Also new to the Nexus line is the Nexus 4 smartphone built by LG. The Nexus 4 sports a 4.7-inch 1280×768 display (320ppi) with a quad-core Snapdragon S4 processor, 2GB of RAM, 8GB or 16GB of internal storage, micro USB port, SlimPort HDMI, wireless charging, 8MP front-facing camera, 1.3MP rear-facing camera, and Android 4.2. It will be available in November for $299 for the 8GB model and $349 for the 16GB SKU.

Finally, Google confirmed a new 32GB Nexus 7 model that replaces the 16GB version at the $249 price point and is available immediately. The 8GB SKU disappears entirely, while the 16GB Nexus 7 gets knocked down to the $199 spot. Google also announced a 32GB Mobile version for $299, which comes with HSPA+ baked in. It will be available on November 13.

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