Posts Tagged ‘the race’

Windows 8.1 Update 1 installation problems continue

Windows 8.1 Update 1 installation problems continue

Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 Update 1, a mandatory patch for future security updates, is proving a pain for some users who are unable to install it on their systems despite recent patches.

Microsoft is continuing to address problems with Windows 8.1 Update 1, its first major update to the operating system formerly known as Windows Blue and a mandatory install for anyone who wants to continue to receive security updates in the future.

Released earlier this month, Windows 8.1 Update 1 introduces a number of tweaks and improvements to Microsoft’s flagship OS including user experience enhancements for those who eschew touch-screen interfaces in favour of the traditional keyboard and mouse. While the biggest of these improvements, the reintroduction of the Start Menu which was removed in Windows 7 after its introduction way back in Windows NT 4.0, has been held back for a future release the mandatory nature of Windows 8.1 Update 1 makes it quite literally a must-install for Windows 8.1 users.

Sadly, all is not well with the update. Last week Microsoft was forced to pull the update from WSUS following reports that it would prevent the installation of future updates for corporate users. Now, the company is working to patch additional issues with the update – some of which prevent its installation altogether.

One bug, which presents the error code 0x800f081f during installation, has already seen a patch released on Windows Update; a second patch has been provided for users who are finding that installing Windows 8.1 Update 1 prevents Internet Information Services (IIS), Microsoft’s web server package, from being uninstalled at any time.

Despite these patches, problems with the update still remain. Many users are taking to the Microsoft support forums to claim that, despite the updated patch being released to Windows Update, Windows 8.1 Update 1 still fails to install. A work-around suggested in the forums has been noted by some to improve matters, removing a damaged version of the package so a fresh copy can be downloaded, but others report that the process makes no difference to their systems.

With Microsoft planning on enforcing installation of Windows 8.1 Update 1 by refusing security updates to anyone still on plain old Windows 8.1 starting on the next Patch Tuesday in May, the race is on for the company to fix the flaws and get the update rolled out to all its customers.

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Valve shows off latest Steam Controller design

Valve shows off latest Steam Controller design

Valve’s latest Steam Machine controller design ditches the innovative central touch area, previously downgraded from a display, altogether in favour of traditional button layouts.

Valve has once again redesigned its innovative Steam Machine controller, designed as the first gamepad suitable for playing titles more readily associated with a keyboard and mouse, but in doing so has arguably lost much of what made it unique.

When Valve first announced its Steam Machine plans, it did so with the promise of a dramatically different controller. While its twin concave touch surfaces, in place of analogue thumbsticks, were the main talking point, the company also promised a central touch-sensitive display which would be split into four controllable areas. Later, likely once Valve saw how much it would have to charge for such a controller, this was revised to a quadrant-based touch pad with no display functionality – the same design as enjoyed by the lucky few hundred Steam Machine beta testers since late last year.

Now, however, Valve has redesigned the controller once again – and the central surface has gone for good. In its place is a layout far more in keeping with something Sony or Microsoft would come out with: four face buttons in a diamond configuration at the right, and four direction buttons in the same configuration on the left. Start and Select buttons are also included, along with a glowing Steam logo which likely acts as a hot-button for the Steam overlay while paying a game – similar, fans may note, to the logo button featured on Microsoft’s Xbox controllers.

According to Valve’s statement on the redesign, the new face buttons feature analogue pressure sensitivity – something the original Xbox controllers had, but that was ditched due to a lack of interest from developers for the Xbox 360 and its successor the Xbox One. The two track-pad areas – designed to offer a similar velocity-sensitive control system to a mouse – remain present on the left and right sides of the pad.

As with its previous redesigns, Valve has shown no indication that the new pad exists outside computer-generated renders. With the first Steam Machine consoles due to go on sale later this year, however, the race is on for the company to finalise its design and begin mass production.

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Microsoft CEO Nadella begins executive shake-up

Microsoft CEO Nadella begins executive shake-up

Microsoft’s new chief executive Satya Nadella is reportedly sweeping clean at the top, with two long-time favourites of former CEO Steve Ballmer for the chop.

Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella, is shaking things up at the company with a major reorganisation at the top, with Tami Reller and Tony Bates both reportedly leaving the company.

Named as the new CEO early last month, Nadella inherited the aftermath of a serious reorganisation by former chief executive Steve Ballmer. Not content with merely following his predecessors legacy, Nadella is reported to be making his own mark at the top – beginning with the departure of two big names at the company.

According to ‘people with knowledge of the matter‘ speaking to Bloomberg, Nadella’s new strategy sees Tony Bates – who was considered in the running for the post of CEO until Nadella’s appointment – and Tami Reller leaving the company. Their respective posts will be taken over by internal candidates Eric Rudder and Chris Capossela.

Reller, Microsoft’s marketing vice president, is perhaps best known for having been the public face of Windows 8 and 8.1 following the departure of Steven Sinofsky in November 2012. Her departure marks the end of a 13-year stint at the company. Bates, meanwhile, was considered at the front of the race for the position of chief executive until Nadella’s appointment. Both received vice presidency positions in July of last year, under Ballmer’s auspice.

Microsoft has not commented on the reports, nor has it provided guidance for investors on Nadella’s supposed executive reorganisation.

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Scalextric RCS lets you monitor slot cars with your phone

January 17th, 2014 No comments

Scalextric RCS lets you monitor slot cars with your phone

Scaletrix RCS

Scalextric has introduced the Scalextric RCS (Race Control System), a new addition to its slot car system that allows for the digital management of races via your smartphone.

Scalextric RCS allows users to choose the race type, driver names and number of laps, to give an easy digital readout of the race’s progress and conclusion. Other features can also be toggled on or off, such as Yellow Flag mode, Fuel, Tyre Wear and in-race damage.

Included in the system is the PowerBase, which is a digital interface attached to small section of standard Scalextric track, along with a number of Hand Throttles. With the digital throttle users can also customise throttle mappings and car handling characteristic, adding extra depth to the art of slot car racing.

Three different versions of Scextric RCS will be available, starting with the RCS One that uses wired throttles and has limited race controlfeatures and retails for £39.99. Topping the range is the RCS Pro, which costs a hefty £99.99 but includes two wireless controllers and has a comprehensive list of race control features.

Scalextric Marketing Manager Dale Luckhurst said: “We are very excited to showcase Scalextric RCS™ for the first time at the 2014 London Toy Fair. Scalextric RCS™ revolutionises the way consumers interact with their sets at home, a combination of the physical elements of Scalextric with the intuitive digital world of Smart devices. We are looking forward to releasing the first batch of products to contain RCS™ later this year.”

Scalextric RCS will be available in Q3 2014 and can be bought direct from the Scalextric site.

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TSMC launches 16nm FinFET line

December 13th, 2013 No comments

TSMC launches 16nm FinFET line

TSMC claims it will begin small-scale production on its newest 16nm node, the first to offer 3D FinFET technology, before the year is out.

Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) has announced that it will begin manufacturing of FinFET-based 3D chips using a 16nm process before the year is out – albeit only for small quantities of specific parts.

The race to the next process node, where the size of and distance between components on a semiconductor shrink, is a key part of Moore’s Law – but something companies have been struggling with of late. Intel has publicly admitted that a delay to its next-generation chips is a direct result of the difficulties in shrinking process nodes much further, and that’s a company not-inconsiderably ahead of its competitors: Intel’s next-generation Broadwell chips will be based on a 14nm process with three-dimensional Tri-Gate Transistor technology.

TSMC, meanwhile, claims to have completed prototype work on its own next-generation process node with a view to starting small-scale production before the year is out. Like Intel, TSMC is boasting of three-dimensional components – fin-based field-effect transistors, or FinFETS, which drop the voltage required by the transistor while reducing current leakage compared to traditional planar transistors – but at a larger 16nm node.

The new process node marks the first time TSMC has offered FinFET to its customers, which industry group Common Platform has previously targeted solely for the 14nm process node – but it does so significantly after competitor and AMD spin-off GlobalFoundries, which announced a FinFET-based hybrid process back in September 2012 using 14nm transistors on a 20nm interconnect base – a hybrid model it dubbed 14XM, or Extreme Mobility.

TSMC made its announcement at the International Electron Devices Meeting earlier this week. According to coverage of the meeting by Nikkei, the move to a 16nm process means a drop in power consumption of 55 per cent or a boost to performance of 35 per cent compared to the company’s existing 28nm product line. The first 16nm FinFET-based products will, unsurprisingly, be system-on-chip (SoC) components destined for mobile devices.

Like the company’s existing 20nm line, however, production is going to be sorely limited with only small quantities of parts being produced at 16nm going into 2014. When the node will be ready for wider adoption, TSMC isn’t saying – but the company has had previous issues with manufacturing difficulties and a lack of capacity at its 40nm and 28nm process nodes which resulted in customer complaints – meaning that it will have to balance hitting mass production soon enough to be relevant with getting the manufacturing process stable if it wants to avoid a repeat of past mistakes.

So far, TSMC has not released the names of any customers signed up to the first 16nm production runs.

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How to send greeting cards right from your iPhone

November 13th, 2013 No comments

CleverCards integrates with Facebook so you can quickly see whose birthdays are approaching -- and send them cards, of course.

CleverCards integrates with Facebook so you can quickly see whose birthdays are approaching — and send them cards, of course.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET)

Until recently, I was a fairly regular customer of Apple’s Cards app, which allowed me to choose any photo in my Camera Roll, add it to a greeting card for just about any occasion, write a personalized message, and get it printed and mailed to the recipient(s) of my choice — all for just a few bucks.

Convenience, thy name is Cards.

Or so it was, until Apple quietly and unceremoniously pulled the plug back in September. I’m bummed, because the app helped me out of many a last-minute oh-crap-I-forgot-so-and-so’s-birthday jam.

Thankfully, there are alternatives. Apps like CleverCards, Ink Cards, and JustWink Greeting Cards give you Cards-like options for creating and mailing real-world greetings, and often with a lot more selection than Apple’s app ever offered. Here’s a rundown of worthwhile picks:

CleverCards: Designed to send both real and digital cards, CleverCards requires you to sign in via Facebook or create an account before you can even use it. If that’s a turn-off, read on — the other two apps don’t force you through that hoop.

However, if you’re willing to link CleverCards with your Facebook account, you’ll find it clever indeed: The app shows your friends’ upcoming birthdays, complete with profile photos of each person for easy perusal. Tap a person, choose a card, and you’re off to the races.

Ink Cards.

Ink Cards.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET)

You can also create a new card for any of the usual occasions (graduation, inspiration, and so on) and send cards to people who aren’t Facebook friends. CleverCards charges $2.99 and up for printed, mailed cards, but also allows you to send unlimited digital versions free of charge.

Ink Cards: This app offers a fairly mammoth selection of cards across a wide range of categories, but they’re not greeting cards in the traditional sense. Rather, they’re customized postcards, with a message and/or photo on the front side and optional secondary message (and mailing address, natch) on the back.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and indeed Ink Cards is the cheapskate’s choice at just $1.99 per printed, mailed card. (I suppose it’s also the environmentalist’s choice, as there’s no envelope headed to a landfill.) Each one comes on heavy, glossy, 5×7-inch stock. And after you send your first card, your second one is free.

JustWink Greeting Cards: Here’s an app for customizing actual greeting cards from the folks at American Greetings. Interestingly, the selection is somewhat seasonal: right now you can order Thanksgiving and Hanukkah cards, but there’s nothing yet for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc.

JustWink Greeting Cards.

JustWink Greeting Cards.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET)

JustWink also has traditional categories like Birthday, Thanks, and Congrats, along with some nontraditional ones: LGBT; Thnx, Soldier!; and Sh*t Got Real.

Whatever category you choose, browsing is admirably simple: Just tap a card, then swipe it open to read the inside. Once you’ve made your selection, you can add a photo, a personalized message, and even a handwritten signature — a great touch. Physical cards cost $2.99 to print and mail. You can also send digital cards via e-mail, Facebook, or even text message if you’re really trying to get in under the wire.

Of course, you can always take a more creative approach to your mailed greetings. For example, I recently sent someone a batch of Polaroid-style snapshots courtesy of Printic, with a birthday greeting portioned out across the caption area of each picture. The total cost was about the same as a card, and the photos are better suited to refrigerator mounting and other more permanent homes.

If you’ve found a greeting-card app or solution you like better, talk it up in the comments.

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‘Safer alcohol’: No hangovers, plus an antidote to sober you up

November 12th, 2013 No comments

Soon, shots might not leave you feeling like you’ve just been shot the next day.

Video screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET)

Imagine having a few drinks to ease your nerves before a key meeting or a big date. Maybe you even get a little tipsy, but right before show time you take a special antidote, and within minutes all traces of impairment are gone and you’re fully sober and good to go.

That’s similar to the experience that leading British neuro-psychopharmacologist David Nutt claims to have had after sampling from an “alcohol surrogate” compound — one of five Nutt has identified as a possible “safer version of alcohol.”

Writing in The Guardian on Monday, Nutt explains:

After exploring one possible compound I was quite relaxed and sleepily inebriated for an hour or so, then within minutes of taking the antidote I was up giving a lecture with no impairment whatsoever.

Nutt says the new as-of-yet-undetailed booze compounds work by more specifically targeting subsystems of the neurotransmitter system that produces the familiar relaxing feeling in response to taking in a few cocktails: “So in theory we can make an alcohol surrogate that makes people feel relaxed and sociable and remove the unwanted effects, such as aggression and addictiveness.”

Also, no hangovers, and less quality time spent with your face in a toilet, though Nutt’s extensive past work with the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines (found in prescription doses in drugs like Valium and Xanax) makes us worry that no hangovers could also mean no ability to stand up after drinking.

“I have carried out research on replacing ethanol in ‘alcoholic’ drinks with a safer alternative, such as a benzodiazepine; ideally these drinks would be impossible to get drunk on, producing a moderate buzz with no increase in effects at higher doses, and could be switched off at the end of the night with a ‘sober pill,’” Nutt has said.

I’m having a hard time deciding if this is the most notable scientific breakthrough since this micro-drunkenness-inducing spray, or the beginning of an apocalyptic new society.

Imagine a world in which everyone is secretly buzzed all the time, or at least up until two minutes before getting behind the wheel of a bus or starting some sort of important meeting. There’s so much potential for both hilarity and tragedy in that vision that I almost want to move to Paris and become an existentialist — but I’d want to be able to bring some traditional booze along for that journey, too, so now I’m really confused.

Regardless, it’s going to be a while before this new magical hooch is available in a psuedo-liquor store near you. Nutt’s experimental stash seems to be all that’s available right now. Nutt is a bit of a controversial figure who was fired from an influential government position as chair of Britain’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, in part for his outspoken views that legal drugs including alcohol are more dangerous than many illegal ones like cannabis.

With funding for his safer alcohol project not immediately forthcoming from government or alcohol-industry sources, Nutt has taken his pitch for investors to the public.

So now, in my mind, the race is on. Which will become reality first: a supersonic hyperloop or super-awesome hangover-free margaritas?

I, for one, raise a glass of traditional poison distilled from the finest Russian wheat in the hope that it’s a tie. I’m going to need a little something to ease my nerves before my first hyperloop ride.

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The Martini Hourglasses keep track of drinking time

November 7th, 2013 No comments

Hammacher Schlemmer martini hourglass.

An hourglass in a martini glass doesn’t mean you should rush things.

Hammacher Schlemmer)

Drinking games are kind of silly. Drinking with games however, is great (well, depending on what game one might be playing, that is). But every game, great or not, depends on a set of rules, quite often game pieces, and something to dictate how they are used. It could be dice, a spinner, a deck of cards or some combination of all that sets the action in motion and from that point forward the race is on. At least until time runs out. Oh, did I mention the timer?

The Martini Hourglasses available at Hammacher Schlemmer ($74.95) combine drinking and games, without the need for a drinking game. The odd combination is a martini glass with sand in each stem. Featuring the familiar bulbous hourglass shape, the martini glasses are really 10 minute timers. After time is up, the glass can be flipped over like any other hourglass to start again.

With only a 10-minute countdown, perhaps it’s not such a good idea to try to keep pace with your glass. Luckily, it can be said that the hourglass is an effective commentary on the fleeting nature of time. Which is something barroom philosophers and game players alike might agree upon — if only to keep track of happy hour.

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See a speed test between every iPhone model ever made

September 30th, 2013 No comments

Ready, set, shut down! You might be surprised which one wins the race.

Screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET)

Logic and Moore’s Law would seem to dictate that the newly released iPhone 5S should blow the original iPhone from seven years ago out of the water when it comes to which runs the fastest. But as the video below illustrates with an 8-way speed test between all of the publicly-released iPhone models since 2007, the truth is a little more nuanced.

Earlier generation models, led by the
iPhone 3GS and followed by the 3G, 3 and original iPhone turned out to be the quickest to shut down. As EverythingApplePro observes in the video, it seems that something in
iOS 7 leads devices running it to take longer to shut down.

Another surprise comes when all 8 models race to boot up. Predictably, the meatier hardware in the four newest models allows them to reach a home screen first, but interestingly the original iPhone is quicker to boot than the
iPhone 4, 3GS and 3G. All the models shown have the latest updates, so it makes sense that the iPhone 4 might struggle to run iOS 7 quickly. Apparently differences in the earlier version of iOS run on the original iPhone makes up for its hardware deficiencies when compared to its successors.

The conclusion reached in the video is that it’s not worth upgrading to the iPhone 5S for its marginal speed improvement over the 5 alone. But to me it seems the real issue revealed (or reinforced) here is that you might want to think twice before upgrading to iOS 7 on your iPhone 4.

Did anything in this test surprise you? Let us know in the comments.

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Niki Lauda: Lazarus of Formula One

September 27th, 2013 No comments

The Circuit is CNN’s F1 series. Click here for showtimes, videos, news and features.

(CNN) — Niki Lauda is the Lazarus of Formula One.

Having risen in triumph from the brink of death, his tale of almost biblical proportions was given the Hollywood treatment in recently-released blockbuster “Rush.”

But the straight-talking triple world champion does not believe in miracles or the sentiment of the silver screen.

The Austrian has built his own legacy by defying not only death, but also his family, employers and arch rivals along the way.

“I go my own way,” the 64-year-old, whose fightback from life-threatening injuries in 1976 to win two more world titles ranks as one of sport’s greatest comebacks, told CNN’s The Circuit.

“Thank god, I learned in sport, that there is no excuse. It’s very simple, if you’re first, second or third there’s no discussion.

“If something goes wrong, look into yourself first — what did I do wrong?

“I only see black and white, I have no gray areas and I hate them.

“I try to analyze, take the decision, even if it’s the wrong one, it’s better than making no decision because if you take no decision you never find out what you have to do. “

Maverick racer

Lauda was born into a wealthy Austrian family four years after the end of World War II, but despite growing up with privilege he learned quickly that he would have to make his own way in the world.

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His family disapproved of their teenage son’s racing ambitions. When Lauda found an Austrian bank to sponsor his debut with the March F1 team, his grandfather — who happened to sit on the board of the bank — scotched the deal.

“He said, ‘No way! If this is my grandson, you will not sponsor him,’ ” Lauda says.

“I really got upset with him and said, ‘Leave me alone, it is my own business.’ Then I started racing my own way.”

Lauda bankrolled his own way on to the F1 grid, making his debut in the 1971 Austrian Grand Prix for the uncompetitive March team.

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His decision to take out further bank loans to finance his F1 career paid off at the end of 1973 when he was signed by Ferrari — but even this new era with the sport’s most iconic team saw Lauda continue to do things his way.

“I remember my first test in Fiorano,” he recalls. “I drove the first couple of laps and (team founder) Enzo Ferrari was there and Piero his son to translate.

“Ferrari said, ‘So kid what do you think of this car?’

“I said the car was s**t. And Piero said, ‘You cannot say this. You cannot tell my father that the car is s**t because he will throw you out. Tell him it’s no good, it sounds a little better.’

“He told him and the old man really got upset because I criticized a Ferrari.”

Lucky to be alive

Lauda soon earned the respect of “Il Commendatore,” a proponent of tough love who the Austrian still describes as “the most charismatic guy I have ever met in my whole life.”

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In 1975 he stormed to five wins to capture his first world title with the Italian powerhouse — but the following season fate cruelly intervened.

Going into the German Grand Prix at the notorious Nurburgring circuit, which he had asked his fellow drivers to boycott due to its poor safety setup, Lauda was leading the 1976 title hunt.

He came out of the race fighting for his life.

Lauda’s Ferrari burst into a fireball after a crash on the second lap. He was pulled from the flames with severe burns and lung damage. Lying in hospital later that night, he was administered the last rites by a priest.

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Typically for Lauda, he saw things differently. At the age of 27, he summoned his will of iron to find a way back — calling it the most courageous decision in his F1 career.

“First, I knew about the danger,” says Lauda, who wears a baseball cap to hide the scars left by his fiery crash.

“I went to every accident, even if I was not involved or didn’t see it, to understand what happened.

“The accident did not surprise me because I knew it was dangerous. I told myself, ‘I was lucky, I’m still alive so why not as I’m alive, God help me, let’s try.’

“This was the big challenge … a comeback. For me it was clear, that the longer I wait, the more difficult it’s going to be because the more worries you start building up.

“I had to do it as quick as possible to overcome these problems and to keep racing as before.”

Defining moments

Just 42 days after his crash in Germany, Lauda was back in the cockpit of a Ferrari and racing to defend his title at the Italian Grand Prix.

It was a comeback that defied the medics and his rivals, but it was another brave decision that decided the title.

Lauda refused to race in the torrential rain in the title-deciding Japanese Grand Prix, a decision that saw the title swing into the hands of his rival James Hunt.

“I would take the same decision today,” Lauda says. “It was stupid to race.”

The story of those defining points has been turned into “Rush,” a movie by F1 fan and director Ron Howard.

For Lauda, his self determination has continued to guide him to this day.

After winning a second title with Ferrari and moving to the Brabham team, he quit F1 with two races still to run in the 1979 season.

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Lauda said he “tired of driving round in circles,” and a new career as an airline boss beckoned.

However, a second coming for McLaren brought his third and final world title in 1984, before an inevitable second retirement followed.

Lauda is now an opinionated but respected voice in the inner circle of F1′s paddock, where he patrols as a non-executive chairman of the Mercedes team and a TV analyst.

If “Rush” is the movie of his life then the soundtrack has to be Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”

“I do not want to change,” Lauda insists. “I will continue all the way through to the end of my life in this way.”

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