Because software analyst Michael Muchmore is on vacation, I volunteered to write the news story covering the new Windows 7 versions, as well as a followup FAQ presenting as many details as possible that should be up later on Wednesday.

I think what we have so far is pretty comprehensive. However, I'm writing this blog post to highlight what I consider to be the newsiest, most interesting, and unexpected tidbits of information I found while researching both stories.

1.) Netbooks will run any flavor of Windows 7. Any flavor, including Ultimate.
Yes, it's hard to conceive of an Atom-based netbook running Windows 7 Ultimate. The key caveat, however, is that Microsoft says that those Windows 7 netbooks need to run on "sufficient hardware". Microsoft doesn't say exactly what that is, unfortunately. However, given that they've thrown that out there, look for this feature to be one of the most closely examined of any Windows 7 offers.

2.) Remember Windows Ultimate Extras? They're gone.
Does anyone actually remember why they paid extra for the Windows Vista Ultimate Extras? Was it DreamScene? Windows Sound Schemes? Tinker? Yeah, me either.

"Our new approach to planning and building Windows doesn't have the capacity to continue to deliver features outside the regular release cycle," a Microsoft document provided to PCMag and AppScout says. "While our core development team is focused on building the next release, our sustained engineering team is focused on updates to existing features. As a result we don't plan to create Ultimate Extras."

Perhaps, although I wonder why Microsoft never thought about creating a Windows 7 (or Vista) apps store?

3.) Windows 7 will run DVDs natively -- but is there Blu-ray support?
Windows 7 won't add the a la carte DVD support Vista included. Instead, "for Windows7, we will now offer DVD playback natively in Home Premium, Pro, and Ultimate, and will no longer offer Home Basic and Starter with the 'with DVD' option," Microsoft says.

But wait -- will Windows 7 support Blu-ray straight out of the box? We don't know that as yet, unfortunately.

4.) Downgrade rights are actually mentioned.
Downgrading Windows wasn't even part of the tech lexicon until Vista, when people suddenly backpedaled and realized that Windows XP might actually do the job better than Microsoft's latest operating system. With Microsoft's Steve Ballmer claiming that Windows 7 is Vista, but better, I'm surprised that the topic was even mentioned in the document I saw.

"Final decisions are still being made on details like End User downgrade rights outlined in the applicable product License Terms," Microsoft says. "We will be in touch when we have more to share."

Incidentally, there will be a Windows XP-to-Windows 7 upgrade available, Microsoft says. (full Story)       

PMC-Sierra's 6Gbps SAS RAID-on-chip  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in , ,

HONG KONG: PMC-Sierra Inc. has announced that its PM8011 SRC 8x6G 6Gbps SAS RAID-on-Chip (RoC) is shipping on the new high-performance Smart Array RAID controller cards from HP. The superior performance and flexibility of PMC-Sierra's SRC RoC enables the next-generation 6Gbps SAS RAID platform to more than double the performance of existing RAID solutions.

The new HP P212, P410, and P411 Smart Array RAID cards harness the full throughput of 6Gbps SAS and 5Gbps PCI Express 2.0 using PMC-Sierra's innovative RoCstar Contention-Free Architecture to maximize performance in equipment such as the HP ProLiant DL385 G5p and HP ProLiant DL580 G5 servers.

"IT professionals will see dramatically improved performance with the new HP Smart Array cards, enabling them to address their immediate storage needs, while future-proofing their data centers for emerging requirements," said Greg Lang, president and chief executive officer, PMC-Sierra. "Providing industry-leading performance and being first to market with end-to-end 6Gbps SAS chipsets solidifies PMC-Sierra's position as a technology leader and strengthens our relationship with HP."

According to IDC, a global provider of market intelligence, server shipments are expected to continue to grow above the 10-million-units-per-year mark by 2011. HP is the recognized server market leader by volume with market share of more than 30 per cent.

"Customers need improved RAID performance because of data center demands for higher computing power, storage throughput, and support for virtualization," said Mike Gill, vice president of Industry Standard Servers, HP. "PMC-Sierra's advanced RoC architecture integrated into the HP Smart Array RAID stack enables us to offer the industry's highest performance server and storage solutions." 

Data center demands for higher computing power, networking bandwidth and support for virtualization applications are driving system requirements for improved host bus interface, input-output, and RAID performance. PMC-Sierra's RoC device is SAS-2 compliant, doubling the storage throughput to 6Gbps and enabling a new level of system reliability, availability and scalability.  (full Story)

Norton Utilities  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in , ,

Legend has it that in 1982 Peter Norton accidentally deleted an important file and wrote the pivotal UNERASE utility to get it back. UNERASE became the centerpiece of the wildly popular Norton Utilities collection. Peter Norton Computing merged with Symantec in 1990 and Norton Utilities continued to grow and evolve until 2005, when it was absorbed by Norton System Works. Norton Utilities 14 ($49.99 list) marks the return of the Norton Utilities name, but the product itself is completely different, a clean break with the old version. It's built almost entirely on technology obtained by Symantec with its acquisition of PC Tools last year, and it's highly focused on fixing and optimizing your system. I was troubled to find that, while I only had a day or so to test the code before its release, I couldn't measure any significant performance benefit.

Optimizing the System

The product's many features are organized into four main panels: Optimize, Monitor, Windows Tools, and Administer. I ran every single feature on the Optimize panel and let them do their good work. To start I launched "Clean Your Registry", which found almost 200 distinct errors (erroneous or useless data) in the Registry. I let it fix all the errors knowing that if by some mischance this cleanup caused a problem another of the tools would let me roll back those changes.

Windows and programs are constantly adding, changing, and deleting items in the Registry. Like the file system on disk the Registry can get fragmented, possibly making for slower Registry access. I ran the Defragment Your Registry tool, which said it could shrink the Registry by eight percent while defragmenting it. I let it do the job.

Unnecessary Windows services running in the background can slow system performance, but most users have no idea what is and isn't necessary. Turning off the wrong service can bring Windows to a crashing halt, so in general only experts should consider making changes in this area. Norton Utilities offers to manage your services by turning off all but a carefully selected set of recommended ones. It can also cut back to a minimal set of services for raw speed, possibly at the expense of some functionality. And of course you can undo either change. I chose the recommended services option.

You also take a performance hit when too many programs launch at startup and keep running in the background. Norton Utilities offers to manage your startup, but it doesn't offer any particular advice the way it did for services. I left the startup items alone. (full Story)

Nortel Cancels WiMAX Plans  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in ,

A few weeks after Nokia canceled its high-profile, WiMAX-capable N810 tablet, Nortel has announced that it is canning its mobile WiMAX business, ending a joint venture with the Israel-based Alvarion, according to Silicon Alley Insider.

The report said that WiMAX, a next-generation mobile Internet technology we profiled several months ago during its rollout in Baltimore, hasn't taken off the way some of its backers had hoped. Sprint is behind the technology, but the three major competing carriers in the U.S.—AT&T Wireless, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless—are all betting on LTE instead.

At the same time, Nortel isn't doing all that well lately as a whole, so this may or may not mean anything about the future of WiMAX. (story Link)

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