Microsoft Drops Drive Extender from Windows Home Server

By now, you may have heard that Microsoft has decided to pull Drive Extender from it’s upcoming Windows Home Server V2 (codenamed ‘Vail’). Keep in mind that we are eight months into the beta of Vail. This is not some alpha product and this is not the start of the beta cycle. While WHS V2 was supposed to be out this year, that’s not going to happen at this point, but it’s still significant that we are eight months into the beta, and Microsoft is deciding to remove a key component.

Windows Home Server has a very dedicated following, and manufacturers such as Acer and HP have put a lot of effort and resources into supporting this market with appropriate hardware. Windows Home Server is aptly named – it’s a product targeted towards consumers, and it allows you to put together a small home server using either your own components or buying servers such as HP’s MediaSmart line, that allow you to add up to 4 hard drives. What attracts so many to Drive Extender is that it allows you to see all of those drives as one drive or one storage pool, while duplicating your files and providing some redundancy/backup capabilities that you wouldn’t have with just a single backup or a single drive (such as a USB drive). It also allows you to grow your storage as you need to. One of the really nice things, in addition to not losing data if one disk goes bad, is the ability to pull any of the disks out and read them in another system. It should be noted that that ability unfortunately was going to be removed with Vail, due to changes with Drive Extender, however the changes that necessitate the removal of that ability might have offset that decision. DE was going to become more robust with Vail.

With Windows Home Server, it’s easy to back up your laptops or netbooks or PCs to a central location, as well as provide an easy way to share files between systems. For those who make frequent use of laptops/netbooks, it is very handy to have a place to back your system up to over the network, and it provided some redundancy since the data was duplicated across two drives.

While there are other features that make Windows Home Server attractive, Drive Extender was a major selling point to many people – you didn’t have to be a server expert to put together a large mass storage system to back up your media, your laptops, etc. and it could easily be expanded in the future as you needed more space. Given the high resolution digital cameras and the move to HD video in the consumer market these days, space was becoming a lot more important than in times past. All of it was “out of sight, out of mind” so to speak – you didn’t have to be an expert to setup WHS, expand the storage, and make sure everything was backed up. While WHS had a rough start, it matured quickly into a great solution to a problem that wasn’t being adequately addressed in the past.

I’ve had a few days to digest the news, and it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. After giving up on a similar solution from Apple, WHS was very attractive to me, and HP even supported Apple’s Time Machine solution, which was the best of both worlds – backing up Macs and Windows systems. I’ve used WHS in the past and currently have a WHS system I built that I’m using, but was looking forward to seeing what happened with V2/Vail and perhaps buying a pre-built WHS system, probably from HP due to the Time Machine support.

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Dell Inspiron Duo: The First Week of December

Remember the Dell Inspiron Duo video from a few weeks ago?

Well the 10.1-inch multi-touch Dell Inspiron Duo is on track to be in the hands of customers within a month.

It should be available the first week of December, and pre-orders will start soon. We’ve also now got more details. We already knew about the dual-core Intel Atom N550 CPU, but now we have a starting/base price ($549), and information on the display’s resolution – 1366×768.

Speaking of the display, that’s one of the main selling points, if not the main selling point. The way the Duo is constructed, the display can be easily rotated and then laid down over the keyboard, forming a typical Tablet PC. In fact, the “Duo” in the name refers to the convertible dual-nature of the device – either a netbook or a small tablet.

The price? Starting at $549, which will get you:
– Intel Atom N550 dual-core CPU
– 2GB of RAM
– 10.1-inch 1366×768
– 250GB HDD
– Windows 7 Home Premium
– Broadcom Crystal HD accelerato

$649 will add:
– Larger HDD
– JBL speaker dock

Read: Engadget

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Adobe Working on a MacBook Air-Specific Version of Flash

This is an interesting development.

It appears that Adobe is working on a version of Flash that is optimized for Apple’s 13.3-inch and 11.6-inch MacBook Air series.

Adobe’s Flash platform had been left out of Apple’s new MacBook Air line that was launched a few weeks ago at the end of October. By ditching Flash during web browsing, it was discovered that a few hours of battery life could be added. One reason Apple gave for leaving out Flash was that by forcing customers to download it if they needed it, they would be updated to the latest version of Flash. Usually when a laptop ships, the software is fairly out of date by the time it gets into the hands of customers. This became an issue given the number of security issues that have cropped up with Adobe’s Flash platform. The reality is that this is a tug-of-war that has been going on for quite a while now, going back to Apple’s iPad and iPhone 4, when Apple barred Flash from iOS devices, due to power/CPU and battery performance issues.

Adobe’s CEO responded to Engadget’s question about the issue of Flash on ultraportable devices, saying that Flash performance and battery life comes down to hardware acceleration and that they currently have a beta of Flash that is optimized for the 2010 MacBook Air that they are working on.

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AMD Brazos / Fusion – Benchmarks

Last week, I mentioned that AMD Fusion APUs are shipping and that some sites already had previews of what to expect.

Over the past few days, we now have a very good idea of what to expect out of AMD’s new platform that merges the CPU and GPU into what AMD calls an APU (Accelerated Processing Unit). The Tech Report and Anandtech, along with other sites, have published benchmark sand more information.

The system tested by Anandtech was based around the AMD E-350 APU, which is the highest-end APU available on the Brazos platform. That doesn’t equate to expensive though – Anandtech mentions it’ll be in nettops and notebooks in the $400 – $500 range. It’s got an 18W TDP, but the article mentions the TDP should drop on production systems. Part of the goal is to match up well (or exceed) Intel’s Atom line. The E-350 (Bobcat) has 2 cores and runs at 1.6GHz, with the GPU being a Radeon HD 6310 and running at 500MHz. The Brazos test system had 4GB of DDR3 memory. In a Photoshop CS4 test, it did well, beating out a dual-core Intel Atom D510 and a couple of AMD Athlon CPUs. On some video-intensive applications, such as some game testing, thanks to the GPU/APU system, it did very well, handily beating an Intel Core i3-350M. While it beat out the Atom and some of the i3s, it’s not going to end up in a netbook unfortunately – there are lower-power APUs destined for the netbooks.

The Tech Report benchmarked the same test system and found similar results, although they made the comparison against a lot of netbooks and high-end netbooks or other ultraportables, and felt it was very comparable:

If Zacate manages to match or exceed current solutions in terms of run time, which seems entirely possible considering the Brazos platform’s very spartan power draw, then AMD might just end up with the most attractive ultraportable platform on the market early next year.

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Intel to Introduce Sandy-Bridge Processors at CES 2011

Intel has sent out invitations stating that it would be officially launching the Sandy Bridge CPUs during its keynote at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which is the largest consumer technology tradeshow (official site). Intel’s keynote will be on January 5, 2011.

Sandy Bridge is the next, or second, generation of Intel’s Core CPUs, and will be manufactured using a 32nm process, and was formally discussed at the Intel Developer Forum back in September. Part of that process with the Sandy Bridge CPUs involves the graphics processing being fully on the processor and sharing cache with the cores in a much closer manner. It will bring the graphics processing much closer to dedicated video chipsets or cards, which might eventually shake up the gaming/accessory market.

Speculation is that it will be higher-end Core cpus, including both dual-core and quad-core versions, that will be introduced at the CES keynote. The mobile/laptop versions start at 2.2GHz (dual-core), and there are two lines. Unfortunately we probably won’t see any netbook CPUs just yet.

The thing that interests a lot of us (and a lot of manufacturers) is that there will be a solid performance increase without increasing the size of the CPU and related chipset. 1080p video playback maybe available on lower-power systems as well.

Sandy Bridge processors should be available almost immediately from some manufacturers. It’s a follow-up to the Nehalem architecture, and uses the same process as Westmere (Nehalem-C). One new feature is “Advanced Vector Extensions” (AVX) which are a sequel/addition to SSE. I don’t know if it will be discussed, but there is a feature in Sandy Bridge that allows for remote disabling and/or wiping of information for a hard drive if a PC or notebook should be stolen or lost. It can be done through a 3G signal or internet connection.

Intel’s “Oak Trail” platform for tablets, including the Intel Atom Z600 series, could also be discussed/launched.

Sandy Bridge will be going head-to-head with AMD’s Fusion Platform later in 2011. PC Magazine published an article discussing the competition.

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