Tag: AMD Zacate

HomeNetworking01.info Annual Summary

Another year has passed for HomeNetworking01.info and a lot has happened over the past year, both with technology and with the content that has been written on this site.


Major “under-the-hood” changes to the laptop computer

One major computing technology that has been influential over the past year are the combination CPU/GPU processors from Intel, with the Sandy Bridge and AMD with the Zacate APU. These processors have yielded a major energy-saving benefit without much significant tradeoff in graphics performance. This has allowed for most graphic-intensive tasks like modest gaming or multimedia playback to be performed on laptop computers without the fear of the battery running out very quickly. Here, the battery runtimes are approaching real-world requirements especially where one intends to consider video playback on the plane or train journey for example.Fujitsu Lifebook TH550M convertible notebook at a Wi-Fi hotspot

This has also led to the increased arrival of “dual-mode” graphics where a laptop computer can work either with a high-performance discrete graphics chipset or the integrated graphics system. It is more like operating a vehicle which has an overdrive or a transmission system that supports a “performance” operating mode alongside a “standard” or “economy” operating mode and being able to change between these modes by operating a switch of some form.

I have reviewed some laptops which have these new functions at their heart. These are in the form of two “desktop-replacement” units — Dell XPS L702x which has NVIDIA graphics and the HP Pavillion DV7-6013TX which has ATI graphics.

Toshiba Tecra R850 business laptopBut I have reviewed some laptops that use single-mode graphics such as a mainstream 15” business laptop in the form of the Toshiba Tecra R850 which has single-mode ATI discrete graphics as well as an ultraportable in the form of the Toshiba Portege R830. This notebook is an example of what an ultraportable notebook can achieve on this technology, especially when it comes to extended battery life.

Notebook design approaching the “King of Cool”

This year, some computer manufacturers are designing notebook and laptop computer that have a lot of design similarities to Apple’s MacBook range of notebooks. This is an attempt to show up which computers can trump the Apple computers as far as having the coolest laptop computer at the Wi-Fi-equipped cafe is concerned.

This year, Dell has come up with a 15” laptop which answers the Apple MacBook Pro range of laptops in aesthetics and functionality. There is a lot about this computer in the way it makes you think of the MacBook Pro, such as the speaker grilles flanking the keyboard and the similarly-styled trackpad. As well, Acer have lined up a 13” ultraportable that looks just like the Apple MacBook Air series of ultraportables.

Activity on the Apple Macintosh front

Rotel RCX-1500 CD receiver

Rotel RCX-1500 CD receiver

Even so, the Apple Macintosh platform is not asleep as far as innovations go. They have launched the MacOS App Store which is based on the successful iTunes App Store for the iOS devices. Here, one can buy and download Macintosh applications through this storefront rather than buying physical media for the programs or downloading from the developer’s Web site.

A fear that I find with this trend is that it won’t be feasible for developers to supply Macintosh software through their own storefront. This would include hardware manufacturers who need to provide software sets for their own devices. Nor would it be feasible for system integrators to pre-load software on to a Macintosh computer as part of setting up a standard operating environment for this platform.

It is also worth knowing that Apple has released the MacOS X “Lion” operating system which offers a lot more visible improvement than what “Snow Leopard” offered. “Snow Leopard” was primarily all about “under-the-hood” improvements for the Macintosh operating system, especially tuning it for the multicore Intel microarchitecture. Here, Lion has offered a user experience that, in a lot of ways, approaches the Apple iOS platform as experienced on the Apple iPad. This includes applications delivered via the aforementioned App Store, “full screen” user interfaces without the customary top-of-screen menu bar, as well as iOS-style icon grids.

The tablet and smartphone cause a major seachange in mobile computing

Acer Iconia Tab A500 tablet computerOne major change that has come about for mobile computing is the arrival of many smartphones and tablet computers. Infact the smartphone or tablet computer doesn’t have to be an Apple device anymore. This is due to an increased range of smartphones powered by Android or Windows Phone 7 smartphones and tablets powered by Android, especially the 3.0 “Gingerbread” version. I have reviewed an example of one of these tablets in the form of the Acer Iconia Tab A500.

Apple has answered this trend by releasing the iPad 2, a 10” tablet that is slimmer and lighter than the original iPad. It still runs their iOS operating system which has been upgraded to 5.0. Here, existing iPads and other iOS devices will have the benefit of having system updates done without the need to tether the device to a computer.

As well, the tablets are placing the netbook “on notice” because they could do the same job as these computers yet run on batteries for a long time.

Smart TV gains momentum

Another major connected-lifestyle change has been the arrival of Internet-enabled television experiences. Most of the TV industry have been focusing on the 3D viewing experience but there has been increased action on the connected TV front.

At the moment, it has been driven by manufacturers building up their own application platforms for their product lines. This is primarily in the form of user interfaces for the popular Internet video services that are optimised for “lean-back” enjoyment on larger screens. It is also including the integration of the social-networking sites in a manner that can be enjoyed that way, such as through “Twitter / Facebook tickers” or the ability to “page through” Facebook Photo Albums that you have access to.

It is also worth noting that most of these platforms are offering a Skype client which works with a camera that plugs in to these TVs. This is to allow the smart TV to provide corporate-style videoconferencing to small businesses and households.

Sony BDP-S380 Network-enabled Blu-Ray playerAn example device that I have just reviewed is the Sony BDP-S380 Blu-Ray player which offers the Internet video functionality in a form that I prefer. This is a video peripheral that can endow existing televisions with the new trend of the “smart TV” and is more relevant as TV sets are known to last a very long time.

IPv6 and Next-Generation Broadband

I have written a basic primer about IPv6 and how it will affect the home and small-business computer user. This is because of the recent World IPv6 Day where web sites were encouraged to engage in “dual-stack” IPv6 hosting and there was all the talk about the Internet running out of IPv4 addresses. It is also a reality as the next-generation broadband networks that are based on fibre-optic technology come about ad they may want to work towards IPv6 as a symbol of being a “cutting edge” service.

Speaking of which, I have been covering the issue of next-generation broadband, especially as Australia and other countries are rolling out or planning these kind of Internet services. Typically these services are based on fibre-optic technology, with most of the desired setups centred around “fibre-to-the-home” / “fibre-to-the-premises” technology where the fibre-optic cable is run to the customer’s premises. There are other “part-fibre part-copper” services that are in deployment with copper-cable runs to the customer, usually from the street or the building. This technology is based typically on VDSL which is a short-run DSL system that uses telephone lines or Ethernet twisted-pair cabling.

Website Content

Industry Interviews

Brother HL-4150CDN colour laser printer

Brother HL-4150CDN colour laser printer

During the last week of October and the first week of November last year, I had visited Sydney. One of the main points of the trip was to engage further with the industry. Here, I had done interviews with two staff from Brother, a staff member from Bush Australia and a staff member from Sony’s public-relations agent, Hausmann Communications. This allowed me to gain better insight in to what is going on with the industry and I will be making a point to work further with the companies and their PR firms when it comes to doing industry interviews.

Product Reviews

As I have mentioned earlier, I have reviewed some of the Sandy-Bridge-powered laptops and these have lived up to the promise for Intel’s new chipset architecture.

I have also improved my review strategy by seeking out equipment from different manufacturers that serves a similar purposes. Examples of this are the 17” desktop-replacement multimedia laptop computers as well as “small-business-grade” monochrome laser multifunction printers. This allows me to compare equipment offered by different manufacturers in a better manner.

Western Digital LiveWire HomePlug AV Ethernet switch

Western Digital LiveWire HomePlug AV Ethernet switch

Another review milestones that I have achieved over the past year include the first HomePlug product review for this site. My chance to review the WD LiveWire HomePlug AV Ethernet switch has allowed me to affirm support for the HomePlug AV technology as a flexible reliable no-new-wires network technology.

I am increasing the number of network-enabled media devices and am looking for devices beyond the tabletop Internet radio class. One of these is the Rotel RCX-1500 stereo CD receiver which represents an attempt to get more of the network-capable “big stereo” equipment for review. These are the stereo systems and components thar are intended to stay in the same position, serving as a household’s main music systems rather than as an auxiliary music system.

Other activity

As far as printing goes, I have been exposing printing technologies that allow most small organisations to be able to promote themselves more effectively. The technologies are the high-speed colour laser printer and the A3-capable colour inkjet printer.

I have established a “Small Business Technology” page which is a landing page for technology articles that will appeal to the small-business. This has included the abovementioned printing technologies, setting up public-access wireless networks as part of giving your cafe, bar or similar business “the edge”, business-optimised laptop computers amongst other things.Small businesses - Belgrave shopping strip

I still cover issues that will pertain to home and small-business computing technology such as the recent crop of phone calls that people have received from companies purporting to be genuine IT firms. As well I have prepared a quick-reference page for Twitter in the same vein to what I have done for Facebook. This is so that people can know who will see what they post when they Tweet or direct-message a person, especially as Twitter is becoming Facebook’s sidekick.


Expect to see a lot more coming through HomeNetworking01.info as different technologies start to appear. There will be equal focus on home-based “lifestyle” computing as well as computing for the small business owner who has to call the shots about their organisation’s information technology.

The new CPU/GPU processor platforms–what change would there be for computing?


Sony Unveils its new premium VAIO S Series laptops

My comments about the new trend

Cost-effective system design

Due to the integration of the CPU and the graphics processor in the one chip, we will find that most computer systems will become cheaper to purchase. This will also mean that graphics performance for most multimedia and games activity will start to come at a cheaper price and be available in product classes that wouldn’t otherwise have it like mainstream-priced computers and the subnotebook / ultraportable class of portable computer.

Dual-mode graphics

There will also be an increased use of dual-mode graphics technology as a product differentiator for midrange and high-end machines. This is where a computer is equipped with integrated graphics as well as a discrete graphics chipset and the computer uses integrated graphics for most tasks but uses the discrete graphics for video editing and intense gameplay.

This could be seen like the computer-graphics equivalent of the “overdrive” or “sports mode” switch used on some cars as a way of allowing the car to work in a performance-enhanced way. Here, the user benefits from reduced energy needs and reduced battery consumption when they use the integrated graphics but can use the discrete graphics chipset when they need the extra graphics performance.

Could this change the positioning and pricing of computers?

This may have some some effect on the prices for most of the mainstream computer ranges especially if the equipment in question is to be sold with “single-mode” graphics. Of course, the “dual-mode” graphics will still be pitched at the market who place heavy importance on graphics performance like line-of-profession imaging (CAD/ CAM, graphic arts, medical imaging, etc) and “LAN-party” hardcore gamers and will still command the price premium. Here, the manufacturers can still work on performance-optimised discrete GPUs for this market and offer them in the “dual-mode” computers.

Some people may also reckon that the ability for computers based on these chipsets to perform to mainstream expectations for multimedia and gaming may allow people who value these functions to spend less on the equipment that they want. They can also place importance on “size and style” without sacrificing graphics performance.

It can therefore lead to ultra-compact computer types like 12”-14” subnotebook / ultraportable computers and small-form-factor desktop computers being offered with decent rather than second-rate graphics performance. This could, for example, make the subnotebook more appealing as a “travel workstation” for a photo journalist or other professional photographer to use when editing or previewing photographs and video footage in the field.

How to factor this in when buying a computer through this year

What I would reckon that you should do is determine what class of computer that suits your needs, including your minimum specifications for functionality. This includes hard disk capacity, RAM memory capacity, screen size, user interface, operating-system and other factors. Then look for the good deals where you can save money on the prospective computer purchase.

It may also affect the pricing and positioning of computers based on existing “separate-GPU” graphics technology especially as manufacturers move towards the new combined CPU/GPU technologies. Here, they will be wanting to clear the warehouses of these machines and you may find that the deals are favourable to you with these computers. As I said before, work out your system needs and shop around for the cheapest and best one that will suit these needs. Also take advantage of “deal-makers” that will be offered like applications software, higher-tier operating systems (Windows 7 Professional at Windows 7 Home Premium price), and extra RAM and hard-disk capacity.


Once the new CPU/GPU chipsets become the mainstream for desktop and portable computers, this could bring about a subtle but real change affecting the design, product-positioning and pricing of these devices.

Consumer Electronics Show 2011–Part 3

Now we come to the issue of network-infrastructure equipment that will need to support the increasing demands placed on the home network by the previously-mentioned smartphones, tablet computers and Internet-enabled TVs.

Network Infrastructure

Network Connectivity

Some newer chipsets have appeared which will increase network bandwidth for the 802.11n Wi-Fi segment and the HomePlug AV segment. The current implementations may use manufacturer-specific implementations which won’t bode well with the standards.

The first new “call” is the 450Mbps 802.11n WPA2 WPS Wi-Fi segment which is being provided by most network makes for their midrange routers and access points. Access points and routers that work with this specification use three 802.11n radio streams to maintain the high throughput. The full bandwidth may be achieved if the client device is equipped with an 802.11n wireless network adaptor that supports the three streams but your existing devices may benefit due to reduced contention for the wireless bandwidth due to the access point / router offering three streams.

Most of the routers shown at the Consumer Electronics Show this year that support the 3-stream 450Mbps level for the 802.11n wireless network functionality also offered dual-band dual-radio operation to the same specification. Here, these devices could work on both the 2.4GHz band and the 5GHz band at this level of performance.

Some manufacturers were trying out the idea of a 60GHz high-bandwidth media network which may be based on a Wi-Fi (802.11 technology) or other proprietary scheme. This could lead to three-band multimedia routers and access points that use 2.4GHz and 5GHz for regular whole-home wireless networking and 60GHz for same-room wireless networking.

The second new “call” is the 500Mbps throughput being made available on high-end HomePlug AV devices. These powerline network devices may only achieve the high bandwidth on a segment consisting of the high-bandwidth devices that are based on the same chipset. Here, I would wait for the HomePlug AV2 standard to be fully ratified before you chase the 500Mbps bandwidth on your HomePlug segment. Of course, these devices can work with HomePlug AV segments.

The third new call is for midrange high-throughput routers to have Gigabit on the WAN (Internet) port as well as the LAN ports. This is more relevant nowadays as fibre-based next-generation broadband services are rolled out in most countries.

Everyone who exhibited network-infrastructure equipment offered at least one 450Mbps dual-band dual-radio router with Gigabit Ethernet on the WAN (Internet) connection as well as the wired-LAN connection. As well, most of these routers are equipped with circuitry that supports QoS when streaming media and some of them have a USB file-server function which can also provide media files to the DLNA Home Media Network.

Trendnet also offered an access point and a wireless client bridge that worked to this new level of 802.11n performance. They also demonstrated power-saving circuitry for Wi-Fi client devices which throttles back transmission power if the device is in the presence of a strong access point signal for their network. This was ostensibly to be “green” when it comes to AC-powered devices but would yield more real benefit for devices that have to run on battery power.

They also ran with the TPL-410AP which is a HomePlug AV Wireless-N multi-function access point. Another of those HomePlug access points that can “fill in the gap” on a wireless network or extend the Wi-Fi network out to the garage, barn or old caravan.

They also issued the TEW-656BRG 3G Mobile Wireless N Router, which is an 802.11n “MiFi router” that is powered by USB and works with most 3G / 4G modem sticks available in the USA. It is of a small design that allows it to be clipped on to a laptop’s lid or a small LCD monitor.

TP-Link had their 450Mbps three-stream dual-band dual-radio router with Gigabit on bot WAN and LAN Ethernet connections. As well they fielded a single-stream 150Mbps USB stick as the TL-WNT23N.

They also tried their hand with IP surveillance with the TL-SC4171G camera . This camera can do remote pan-tilt, and 10x digital zoom. It connects to the network via Ethernet or 802.11g Wi-Fi (not that much chop nowadays) and is equipped with an IR ring for night capture, as well as a microphone and speaker.

Netgear were more active with the 450Mbps three-stream routers with Gigabit LAN. Two of the models are broadband routers with Gigabit WAN, while one is an ADSL2 modem router which I think would serve the European and Australian markets more easily. The top-end model of the series has a USB file server function which works with the DLNA Home Media Network and also with Tivo “personal-TV devices”.

They also released the XAV5004 HomePlug AV switch which is the 500Mbps version of the their earlier “home-theatre” four-port HomePlug switch. Of course, they released the XAV2001 which is a compact “homeplug” adaptor which connects to the regular standards-based HomePlug AV segment.

They also have released the MBR1000 Mobile Broadband Router which works with 3G/4G wireless broadband or  Ethernet broadband. This unit is being provided “tuNrnkey” for Verizon’s new 4G LTE service.

Netgear have also fielded the VEVG3700 VDSL2/Gigabit Ethernet dual-WAN router with Gigabit Ethernet LAN, Cat-IQ DECT VoIP phone base station. This device, which is pitched at triple-play service providers also supports DLNA server functionality. As well, they also had a DECT VoIP kit available for these providers

As well, Netgear have tried their footsteps in to IP-surveillance for home and small business with a camera and an Android-driven screen for this purpose.

D-Link’s network hardware range include the three-stream 450Mbps routers with Gigabit WAN/LAN, a multifunction access point / repeater for the 802.11n network as well as a new DLNA-enabled network-attached storage range

As far as the MoCA TV-coaxial-cable network is concerned, Channel Master is the only company to release any network hardware for this “no-new-wires” network. It is in the form of a MoCA-Ethernet 4-port switch for the home theatre.

“Mi-Fi” wireless-broadband routers

Every one of the US cellular-telecommunications carriers are catching on to the 4G bandwagon not just with the smartphones and tablets but with the wireless-broadband routers.

Sprint have a unit for their WiMAX service while Verizon are fielding a Samsung LTE “Mi-Fi” as well as the aforementioned Netgear MBR1000 router.

Computer hardware and software


Some of the companies who manufacture monitors are looking at the idea of “Internet-connected” monitors which have a basic Web browser in them so you don’t have to fire up a computer to view the Web.

CPU/GPU combo chips

These new processor chips combine a CPU which is a computer’s “brain” as well as the graphics processor which “draws” the user interface on to the screen. AMD and Intel were premiering the “Accelerated Processor Units” and the Core “Sandy Bridge” prcessors respectively at the CES this year.

Intel were trumpeting the fact that this technology could make it harder to pirate movie content but this is more about mainstream computing and small-form-factor hardware being behind this space and power saving processor hardware.

Sony had lodged a commitment to AMD to use the Zacate “Accelerated Processor Unit” in some of their VAIO laptops.

Other hardware

AMD haven’t forgotten the “performance computing” segment when it comes to processor chips and released the quad-core and 6-core “Phenom” desktop and gaming-rig CPUs.

Seagate have also made the “GoFlex” removable / dockable hard disks a standard by building alliances with third-parties to make hardware that works to this standard. Could this be another “VHS-style” alliance for dockable hard disks?

Microsoft also used this show to premiere their Touch Mouse which uses that same touch operation method as Apple’s Magic Mouse. Do I see an attempt for them to “snap at” Apple when it comes to “cool hardware” as well as software?

The Microsoft Platform

There has been some activity with the Microsoft Windows platforms now that set-top boxes and tablet computers are becoming the “order of the day”

One direction Microsoft is taking is to port the Windows Platform, which was primarily written for Intel-Architecture processors, to the Acorn ARM-architecture processors. The reason that this port is taking place is due to these energy-efficient RISC processors being commonly used in battery-driven applications like tablet computers. They are also popular with other dedicated multimedia devices like set-top boxes and TV applications.

As well, Microsoft will be working on a lightweight Windows build for TV applications like set-top boxes. This is although they have previously written Windows-CE builds for this class of device.

Microsoft also want to make a variant of the Windows Phone 7 for tablet computers and are starting work on the Windows 8 project.

Similarly, Somsung has demonstrated the second incarnation of the Microsoft Surface platform This one comes in a slimmer table-based form rather than a unit that is as thick as the 1980s-style “cocktail-table” arcade game machine.


The Consumer Electronics Show 2011 has certainly put the connected home on the map. This is due to affordable smartphones and tablet computers becoming more ubiquitous and Internet-provided video services becoming an increasing part of American home life.

It will be interesting to see what will happen for the other “pillar” of the consumer-electronics trade fair cycle – the Internationaler Funkaustellung; and how more prevalent the Internet TV, smartphone and tablet computer lifestyle will be in Europe and Asia.

Processor Chipsets with built-in Graphics


BBC News – Intel to launch chipsets with built-in graphics

My comments

With Intel now showing interest in supplying a processor chip with an integrated graphics processor, this will raise the stakes when it comes to supplying single-chip CPU / GPU solutions.

Why supply a single-chip CPU/GPU solution

There is the obvious benefit in design size that it would yield. This would of course allow for more compact applications and, of course, the bill-of-materials costs would be reduced thus allowing for cheaper devices. Another key benefit would be that the single-chip solution would have reduced power needs, which is important for battery-operated devices like laptops, tablet computers and, especially, smartphones.

There is also the reality that most consumer electronics devices like electronic picture frames, digital cameras, TVs / video peripherals and hi-fi equipment are being designed like the general-purpose computers and most of them will also benefit from these CPU/GPU chips. This has become evident with most of these devices offering network and Internet connectivity in a way to augment their primary function or beyond that primary function.  They will also yield the reduced “bill-of-materials” costs and the reduced power demands for this class of device which will become a market requirement.

Similarly, an increasing number of office equipment / computer peripherals, home appliances and “backbone” devices (HVAC / domestic-hot-water, building safety / security, etc) are becoming increasingly sophisticated and offering a huge plethora of functions. I had noticed this more so with the multifunction printers that I have reviewed on this site where most of them use a colour bitmap LCD display and a D-toggle control as part of their user interfaces.

Therefore manufacturers who design these devices can benefit from these single-chip CPU/graphics solutions in order to support these requirements through reduced supporting-power requirements or design costs. In the case of “backbone” devices which typically require the uses to operate them from remotely-located user-interface panels i.e. programmable thermostats or codepads, there isn’t the need to require too much power from the host device to support one or more of these panels even if the panel is to provide access to extended functions.

The market situation

The Intel Sandy Bridge which is just about to be launched at the time of publication, would provide improved graphics. This is in a market which AMD has just entered with their Zacate CPU / graphics chip and been dominated by ARM who have been involved in the smartphone scene. This firm’s design was infact used as part of the Apple A4 chip used in the iPhone 4 and iPad.

With three companies in the market, this could yield a highly-competitive environment with a run for high-quality quickly-drawn graphics, quick CPU response, power conservation / long battery runtime and small circuit size / reduced bill-of-materials. This may also yield a “run for the best” which also yields desirable functionality being available at prices that most people can afford.

The only limitation with this concept is that the single-chip design may make the market for discrete graphics chipsets and cards only for people who value extreme-performance graphics.


The reduced size of these new single-chip CPU/GPU setups could replicate the success of what has happened with the arrival of the 80486 processor with its integrated floating-point coprocessor. It could then make for a longer battery runtime for portable applications and lead to smaller cooler-running computers for most applications.