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Alienware’s new gaming desktop and 13-inch laptop.

If you liked the looks of Alienware’s new thin-and-light 13-inch laptop or its bigass, futuristic-looking Area-51 desktop, then listen up: Both are on sale beginning tomorrow, with shipments starting in November, and we finally know the full specs. Starting with the Alienware 13, it goes from $999 (£949 in the UK) with a dual-core Core i5-4210U processor, 8GB of RAM, a 2GB NVIDIA GeForce 860M GPU, 1TB 5,400RPM disk and a fairly low-res 1,366 x 768, non-touch matte display. If you like, you can step up to 16GB of RAM, either a hybrid hard drive or up to a 512GB SSD, and either a 1080p non-touch display or a 2,560 x 1,440 touchscreen. It would seem, though, that despite those various upgrade options, there’s only one choice for the CPU and graphics card. Regardless of the configuration you get, the whole thing comes wrapped in a slimmed-down package that weighs about four and a half pounds and measures an inch thick.

Meanwhile, the Area-51 starts at $1,699 (£1,299 in the UK) with a six-core Intel Core i7-5820K processor, a 2GB AMD RadeonTM R9 270 GPU, 8GB of RAM, a 2TB 7,200RPM hard drive and a slot-loading DVD burner. From there, you’ve got lots of upgrade options — way more than on the Alienware 13 laptop. On the CPU side, there’s a slightly faster six-core Intel Core i7-5930K processor (clocked at 3.5GHz instead of 3.3GHz), as well as an eight-core Intel Core i7-5960X chip. In total, there are four memory slots; Dell will ship the machine with eight, 16 or 32GB. When it comes to storage, you can step up to a 128GB SSD plus a 2TB 7,200RPM drive; a 256GB SSD with a 4TB HDD; or a 512GB solid-state drive, also with a 4TB disk.

As for graphics, well, this might take a few sentences: The Area-51 is available in single-, double- and triple-GPU configs. If all you can afford is one graphics card, your upgrade options include a 2GB NVIDIA GTX 770, a 3GB GTX 780, a 4GB GTX 980 or the GTX Titan Z with 12GB of GDDR5 VRAM. Ready to hear the dual-card options? You can get the GTX 770 with 4GB (2 x 2GB), the GTX 780 with 6GB (2 x 3GB), the GTX 980 with 8GB (2 x 4GB) or the Titan Z with 24GB (2 x 12GB). Across the board, NVIDIA’s SLI technology is enabled. Finally, the three-GPU options include a mix of both NVIDIA and AMD cards (but mostly NVIDIA). There’s the GTX 770 with 6GB (3 x 2GB), the GTX 780 with 9GB (3 x 3GB) and the GTX 980 with 12GB (3 x 4GB). If you’re an AMD fan, meanwhile, you an score the Radeon R9 290X with 12 gigs (again, 3 x 4GB). Depending on which brand of graphics card you choose, you’ll get either NVIDIA’s SLI technology or AMD Crossfire. Lastly, there’s a Blu-ray drive option, in case you haven’t quite ditched physical media.

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Microsoft Xbox One Digital TV Tuner

Microsoft pitches the Xbox One not as a run-of-the-mill games console, but as a fully fledged home entertainment hub. For most Americans, making use of the One’s TV integration features is as simple as plugging the HDMI output from their set-top box straight into the console. Europeans don’t have it quite as easy. With old-school coaxial cables still in common use, Microsoft cooked up the Xbox One Digital TV Tuner: a small USB peripheral that turns coaxial outputs into something the console can understand. Today, the TV Tuner has finally gone on sale in the UK for £25, and in France, Germany, Italy and Spain for €30. Once set up, you can start watching TV through your Xbox One, using the console’s OneGuide EPG to browse channel listings with a controller, or with voice commands if you have a Kinect camera. The Xbox also becomes a make-shift DVR, allowing you to pause and rewind live TV. And when you absolutely have to spend time in another room, you can continue to watch live TV on mobile devices by streaming it through the Xbox One SmartGlass app.

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Fastest Wi-Fi ever from Samsung, coming in 2015

We’re all aware of how actual Wi-Fi speeds fall short of what’s promised, but Samsung may have just cracked the case with its latest breakthrough.

The company says it’s developed a 60GHz Wi-Fi technology that will offer data speeds of up to 4.6Gbps, or 575 MB per second, which is about five times faster than what current consumer devices offer.

Theoretically, Samsung points out, a 1GB movie would take “less than three seconds” to transfer between devices. That’s assuming a best case scenario where everything else is working perfectly, but even so, it’s pretty awesome.

Max Power

Even better, Samsung says that devices with its new 60GHz Wi-Fi band could start appearing as early as next year. The plan is to apply the new tech to a “wide range” of products, including audio and visual medical devices, phones, and devices related to the Internet of Things.

That last one is particularly significant, as the new tech will be able to maintain its top speed no matter how many other devices are using the network.

“Unlike the existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi technologies, Samsung’s 802.11ad standard 60GHz Wi-Fi technology maintains maximum speeds by eliminating co-channel interference, regardless of the number of devices using the same network,” said the statement from Samsung.

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UHD to the Home – Ultra HD over the Internet

As part of its presence at the Commonwealth Games, BBC Research & Development currently has a number of ultra high definition (UHD) television screens at both the Science Centre in Glasgow and New Broadcasting House in London showing live coverage of the games. These screens are open to the public for the duration of the Commonwealth Games and free to view for visitors between 10am and 5pm in Glasgow and 12 midday to 3.30pm in London.

The pictures and sound for these screens is being delivered over the internet – from capture, through the full production chain, and finally to decoders and displays in the demonstration areas. This entire process normally requires very specialised and expensive television broadcast equipment but in this case it is all being handled using normal IP networks and commercially available computing equipment. Below you can see a short video produced by R&D engineer Alia Sheikh which explains the work the department has been engaged with in this area and the reasons why BBC R&D thinks IP delivery is the future for TV delivery.

For the Commonwealth Games BBC R&D’s IP TV delivery infrastructure is spread over a number of different locations to demonstrate the flexibility that an IP based production system brings. While pictures and sound are being captured in the venues, the audio gallery providing the commentary is in London and the television production gallery is located in Glasgow. Below you can see how our IP based end to end infrastructure is spread across the UK to deliver UHD TV to our public demonstration areas.

While delivery of television by IP is on the increase, a lot of people still receive their television using traditional transmitters and receivers and will do so for some time to come. Not all of the UK has reliable high speed internet connections so alongside IP delivery, the department is also demonstrating the transmission of UHD content over the existing Digital Television Transmission (DTT) network. BBC R&D are working with the rest of the broadcasting industry to ensure that the standards exist to distribute UHD content to as many people as possible no matter the delivery method.

Motion Blur – The Challenges of UHD

Beyond the challenges of delivering UHD content to people’s homes there’s also the issue of how to get it working properly once it gets there. One challenge is that with higher visual definitions motion blur becomes more of a problem for video images, especially with fast moving subjects like the athletes at the Commonwealth Games.

One solution is to increase the frame rate of the television (the rate at which the image on screen is refreshed) from 50fps to 100fps. To sharpen motion, you can also shorten the camera shutter speed, but at conventional frame rates this leads to judder. A frame rate of 100 fps enables the eye to fuse motion in a realistic manner, even with a short shutter opening and is also high enough to avoid visible flicker. BBC R&D is involved in ongoing discussions with other European broadcasters to create standards for UHD frame rates. The image below shows a comparison of shutter speeds of 1/100 and 1/300 of a second.

Exciting New Opportunities

Along with the technical challenges IP-delivered UHD TV presents to the engineers at BBC R&D, it also provides a host of new production and editorial opportunities. One major advantage of building an IP based system is how configurable it is.

A television studio is a collection of very specialised pieces of equipment, very often with only one purpose each – a vision mixing desk for example or a preview monitor. Moving from a hardware to a software based system means that devices can be reconfigured to the needs of different production teams quickly and at little expense. The gallery production equipment in R&D’s experimental IP based television production gallery uses consumer computing hardware so a tablet can be a production schedule one day and a sound mixing desk the next. Or both. This reconfigurable nature of IP based production drastically reduces cost and increases working flexibility.

The BBC has always delivered high quality crafted television, first in black and white, then colour, using both analogue then digital delivery methods and most recently moving from standard definition to HD. UHD TV and IP based production are another evolution of the art form that provides the organisation with yet more exciting opportunities to make the best television we can and deliver it to audiences in increasingly cost effective ways. BBC Research & Development’s work ensures that when the UK is ready to switch to UHD, the BBC will be as well.

To take a look behind the scenes at a working IP television production gallery please visit us at the Glasgow Science Centre between 10am & 5pm for the duration of the Commonwealth Games. You can also watch live UHD coverage of the Commonwealth Games delivered both over IP and using digital television transmitters. Finally you can get hands on with some of the exciting new experiences that UHD video and IP delivered TV make possible including a chance to look around a 3D live video of the Hydro Stadium using the Oculus Rift headset.

 

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Matchstick’s Firefox OS adapter – Media to your TV for $25

Looking for a streaming media stick that’s more accessible than Google’s Chromecast? You might have found it. After a few teasers, Matchstick has revealed the first Firefox OS-based media sharing adapter. The self-titled gadget lets you “fling” video, websites and other content from Firefox (naturally), Chrome and supporting apps to your TV. While the hardware should be a bit more powerful than Chromecast, the real allure is a completely open platform — you can tinker with the software and even build your own hardware if you’re the entreprenurial sort. A low price will help, too. Matchstick hopes to sell its stick for $25 this February, and that’s assuming you don’t back the upcoming Kickstarter project — get in early and it will cost $18. Even if Matchstick doesn’t get as much app support as Google’s device, it may be worth a look.

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