SteamOS – A detailed look

Valve’s very own linux fork for the upcoming Steam console has been released to the general public and we take a good look at the inner workings of the operating system.
SteamOS - A detailed look
Steam is pretty big in itself. It’s the most popular game distribution platform and has close to 6.3 million concurrent users at peak hours but the overall accounts on steam far outnumber all other platforms combined. The client works on Windows, Mac and Linux. However, the games supported in Mac and Linux aren’t that many but with the standardisation that steam brings to the picture we’ll be seeing the change happening soon and hopefully AAA titles will start making Linux ports as well.

What is SteamOS
So with all the hullabaloo around the introduction of the eighth generation consoles by Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo there was a little announcement by Valve in september this year. The first was about SteamOS then came the one about Steam Machines and finally about the Steam Controller. The three are obviously linked together and here’s how.

The Steam Machine is Valve’s answer to consoles except for the fact that anyone can make a Steam Machine. You don’t have to go out of your way and buy a console all you need to worry is about getting the configuration high enough for playing whatever game you want to.

SteamOS is simply the operating system which is designed to run on Steam Machines. It is a Linux fork so pretty much every device under the sun will be supported without the need for fussing over driver issues. However, the only place where there is a slight drawback is that the drivers for Graphics cards have been a persistent issue as far as Linux is concerned. But Valve has been working with NVIDIA to get that sorted at currently only NVIDIA cards are said to run the games but since it is Linux we’re talking about we don’t need to worry since third party drivers exist.

The Steam Controller is one that has been built for Steam Machines. Normal controllers will still continue to work but these are what Valve hopes will be used by game developers and offers a little extra compared to other consoles.

Make your own Steam Machine

The simplicity of making a Steam Machine is the pivotal argument. Since these are basically assembled computers you don’t need to worry about sending the Steam Machine to Valve for warranty claims. Not to mention most products that come together to form a personal computer carry anything from three to ten years whereas all generation eight consoles only come with one year warranty with paid extended warranty programmes. So every major city and every little town with a computer shop sells the components needed for your Steam Machine.
Valve has shared what it believes should be the ideal configuration for the Steam Machine, however, the base requirement for installing SteamOS is much lower. Some 300 prototypes of the Steam Machine have been shipped out with the following configuration:

  • GPU: NVidia Titan / GTX780 / GTX760 / GTX660
  • CPU:    Intel i7-4770 / i5-4570 / i3-3xxx
  • RAM: 16GB DDR3-1600
  • Storage: 1TB/8GB Hybrid SSHD
  • Power Supply: 450W 80Plus Gold

This is where some of you have had their eyeballs pop out of their sockets. This configuration can cost over Rs.1,25,000/- (GPU:75000 + CPU:23000 + RAM:8000 + SSHD:6000 + MOBO:8250 + SMPS:5000). One needs to realise that this configuration is more powerful than every console out there and should be more than sufficient for roughly five years. And if graphics are scaled down to what consoles usually depict then bump the time period(that the device can play games at 1080p) to over a decade.

SteamOS – A repackaged deal
The OS is basically the Steam client installed on a Linux distribution. More specifically, the distro is Wheezy based on Debian. It’s lightweight and Debian is one of the most stable Linux distros out there. The account on which you’ll be primarily login to has been configured to open into “Big Picture Mode” by default. Only logging into the “Desktop” account will allow you to fiddle around with the Linux distro underneath it all.

The requirements needed to run the operating system is fairly lean and is as follows:

  • Processor: Intel or AMD 64-bit capable processor
  • Memory: 4GB or more RAM
  • Hard Drive: 500GB or larger disk
  • Video Card: NVIDIA graphics card (AMD and Intel graphics support coming soon!)Additional:UEFI boot support, USB port for installation

Take a look at the SteamOS slideshow in which we look at the installation process here.

Source: Thinkdigit


Windows 8.1 now available, brings many new features to the table

Windows updates have so far only been the kind that fix “security holes”, but Windows 8.1 branches away from the usual way MS does things and adds a whole lot of new features to the OS.

Windows 8.1 now available, brings many new features to the table

Windows 8.1 now available, brings many new features to the table

Microsoft Windows 8 gets a new lease of life, with the Windows 8.1 update that went live last night across Microsoft servers. The update should show up in the Windows Marketplace and if it doesn’t, we suggest some patience as the rollout is happening sequentially.

Windows 8.1, just like Windows 8, is a fresh departure from what we have come to think and see of Microsoft Windows. Windows 8 in of itself was radically different in terms of user interface and user experience, but Microsoft takes it up a notch with this new update, which is less “service pack” and more of a powerful boost of features. Windows 8.1 is a downloadable update that add a host of new features to the operating system, something that’s a long departure from the updates we’ve seen in the past. Earlier, all Microsoft dished out was updates that fixed things in the “back,”Windows 8.1 brings a lot of new things you can actually see.

We’ve been using Windows 8.1 from the day the Preview Build was released, and while it was somewhat buggy (especially the search), it seems that Microsoft has ironed out many of these gaping issues. In case you’re wondering what exactly is new, well, here are five new features of the update that we feel you might like instantly

The Start Button is Back!
First, it’s called the Start Tip. It’s a neat little Windows logo at the bottom left of the screen (where the Start orb used to be) that takes the user between the native desktop and the Start screen. While this is one of the most common uses of the Start Tip, what is little known is that right-clicking on it shows up a menu with the most useful set of options that were often accessed from the old Start Menu.

Snap View
Earlier in Windows 8, you could only Snap two applications side by side, but Windows 8.1 beefs up this feature significantly. Now, You can Snap as many windows together as you want, but in order to maintain the right visual aesthetic, there is a minimum requirement of 500 pixels (width) per snapped window. A full HD monitor will easily snap 3 windows while a monitor with a horizontal resolution of 2560 could snap up to 5. If you use a dual (or triple) screen setup, then the number rises even further! Perfect for an over-caffeinated junky like yourself no?

Bing Search Search Bing Bing Bing Search Search
The search feature in Windows 8 was alright, but what wasn’t so great was how the results were populated. You had to select what type of search result you wanted and that was rather annoying. With Windows 8.1, search gets a major upgrade, with all the results being shown in one place (with the possibility to segregate by type). However, search isn’t just scanning through your system for files, but also the web for any relevant information. For example, if you search for anything that’s Emma Stone on your PC (let’s say you had a few images you can’t find) and hit search, hitting the return key would bring up a new window that will not only show results from your system in one column, but also neatly populated web pages, and any media results you could need. The power to search for anything and everything from your desktop? Yes please!

SkyDrive and Skype
Windows 8.1, unlike its predecessor, comes pre-loaded with SkyDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage solution and Skype, the popular VoIP program. Earlier, the two programs had to be individually downloaded and then configured, but now with them being built into Windows 8.1, they both work off the single Windows ID you use to log in. While this is great for those who’ve been using a unified ID across the various MS services, it can be a little troublesome for those who have SkyDrive signed up on a different account and use a different account to sign into their PC.

Boot to Desktop
During the build-up to the launch of Windows 8, many a times this feature popped up. It first popped up something that will be a part of Windows 8, then as a feature that was being dropped from Windows 8. This back and forth continued for quite some time, until the launch of the OS and boot to desktop was NOT an option. Disappointment ensued, but Microsoft wants you to turn that frown upside down. Windows 8.1 brings Boot to Desktop as a feature. All you have to do is right click on the Navigation bar at the bottom of the screen (in desktop mode) and click on Properties. Then you choose the “Navigation” tab and click on the first option under the Start Screen section.

Windows 8.1 is a free upgrade for those who are already on Windows 8 (or the Windows 8.1 Preview Build), but will cost money for anyone upgrading from an older OS. The good thing about purchasing Windows 8.1 outright is that it is a full license, unlike the “Upgrade” license that was introduced with Windows 8. IF you are unable to see the update in the Windows Store, you can click here to go directly to the download. Just a word of caution though, installing the update will erase all your programs and will require you to re-install everything, but your files WILL remain intact.



Benchmark performance: iOS 6 vs iOS 7 on the iPhone 5

With iOS 7 now available for iPhone users, we have been getting queries asking if there has been any performance impact, negative or positive, after the upgrade to the latest OS. We attempt to answer those questions with the help of benchmarks.

Benchmark performance: iOS 6 vs iOS 7 on the iPhone 5

Benchmark performance: iOS 6 vs iOS 7 on the iPhone 5

Apple has made iOS 7 officially available now for the iPhones, the iPad and the latest generation iPod Touch. There are the fans, and there are those criticizing it, but one thing cannot be disputed – this is the biggest iOS upgrade in years. The changes are significant, with the most visible one being the new UI. Hence, the inevitable question – how is the performance of the new OS?

Users have been asking us this query for quite some time now, but we refrained from pronouncing any judgement on iOS 7’s performance while it was in the various pre-launch stages. However, now that the final version is out, we have run a series of benchmark tests on the iPhone 5 running the iOS 6.1.4 version, before upgrading OTA to iOS 7 and running the same benchmarks again, after checking for any updates for them, individually.

To ensure that no benchmark run had any advantage or disadvantage, all the tests across both OSes were run on the same device, with the exact same settings. We even ensured that something like Bluetooth was switched off at all times. The applications installed remained consistent across all benchmark runs, on both iOS versions. We manually closed all apps that were running in the background, so that the app load didn’t have a bearing on the performance and the resources. For the browser benchmark tests, we hooked up the phone to the same Wi-Fi network, with no other device connected to the hotspot at that time.


To break it down even further, we have subdivided the tests into categories – system performance, graphics performance and web browser performance.

System Performance: Better memory handling makes the difference
The Passmark Mobile Performance Test registers a lower system score in iOS 7, but critically, better read and write scores for both the internal storage as well as the memory. This is critical, because for most tasks that don’t need raw processor power, the read and write speeds make all the difference between smooth performance and a sluggish setup. The CPU score also goes up with iOS 7, showing that the new OS is ever so slightly better optimized. We mention that the overall system score goes down, but that could be a factor of the graphics tests that the benchmark runs, which we will not pay much attention to since we have dedicated graphics benchmark tests coming up.

Passmark Performance Test Mobile
iOS 6.1.4 iOS 7 % Difference
System Score 3932 3603 -8
CPU Score 24922 25418 2
Disk Score 13154 13480 2
Read (in Mbyte/s) 44.9 44 -2
Write (in Mbyte/s) 157 164 4
Memory Score 2998 3295 10
Read (in Mbyte/s) 517 566 9
Write (in Mbyte/s) 509 569 12
2D Score 1641 1250 24
3D Score 1756 1762 -0.34

The second system test, GeekBench, also verifies what PassMark says about the better processor performance, with the multi-core utilization tests showing up a higher score than on iOS 6.

iOS 6.1.4 iOS 7 % Difference
Single Core Score 722 722 0.00
Multi-Core Score 1298 1302 -0.31

Graphics Performance: Improves slightly 
While not everyone likes to game on their iPhone, there are those who do. And they were served rather well by the very smooth performance and experience that iOS 6 offered with this particular hardware. After the iOS 7 upgrade, the 3D Mark Ice Storm and the 3D Mark Ice Storm Ultimate benchmark tests register slightly better scores, while the Ice Storm Extreme score remains the same. Simply put, the excellent exiting performance via iOS 6 improves even further with the new operating system.

3D Mark
iOS 6.1.4 iOS 7 % Difference
Ice Storm 5418 6011 11
Ice Storm Extreme 3351 3351 0.00
Ice Storm Ultimate 5516 5711 4

GFX Benchmark did give a slightly different analysis, with one test registering pretty much the same frames and fps scores, while the the second test saw a drop in both frames and fps.

GFX Bench
iOS 6.1.4 iOS 7 % Difference
Egypt HD (Offscreen) – Frames 3357 3358 0.3
Egypt HD (Offscreen) – fps 30 30 0.00
Egypt HD (Onscreen) – Frames 4572 4185 -8
Egypt HD (Onscreen) – fps 40 37 -8

Browser Test: Safari sees an improvement, mostly visual elements
The SunSpider 1.01 browser benchmark shows slightly better performance, in terms of Java performance. And for a web browser, even negligible differences can sometimes make lot of difference, and in this case, it seems to be working.

Sunspider 1.01 
Safari on iOS 6.1.4 Safari on iOS 7
Score (lower is better) 729.1ms 707.7ms

From the scores, it is clear that the performance difference between iOS 6 and iOS 7, at least on the iPhone 5 hardware, is not much. Critically, it shows a very slight improvement in areas like memory and storage access speeds, which make for an improvement in the overall speed and experience. All in all, you can safely upgrade your iPhone to the latest OS, with no fear of a performance drop, at least on the iPhone 5.

Have you updated you iPhone or iPad or the latest iPod Touch with iOS 7? We would like to hear your experience.



Woah! iOS 7 adoption just beat iOS 6, report shows

Woah! iOS 7 adoption just beat iOS 6, report shows

Woah! iOS 7 adoption just beat iOS 6, report shows

Apple’s new mobile operating system launched this week to highly mixed reviews. VentureBeat’s John Koetsier found much to dislike about iOS 7, but adoption rates are skyrocketing.

An analytics startup called Mixpanel has been tracking iOS 7 adoption and usage, in comparison to iOS 6. Apple fans have remained loyal to iOS6, but an increasing number are giving the newer operating system a shot.

Mixpanel’s chief executive Suhail Doshi just alerted us to the fact that iOS 7 just eclipsed iOS 6 for the first time.

Check out the full trend report here. 

iOS 7 beat iOS 6 at around 3.30pm PT.


iOS 7 beat iOS 6 at around 3.30pm PT.

Mixpanel is tracking global mobile usage — Doshi said the data is based on 2.8 billion actions of people using thousands of mobile applications.

It’s also worth noting that there are discrepancies in different markets. In China, for instance, the new operating system has struggled to take off. But adoption has been far quicker in the United States.

The new operating system appears to have inspired a bit of a love/hate response from consumers and the press. It’s the largest visual overhaul since Apple first introduced the iPhone in 2007. The updates include a personable male voice from Siri, icon tweaking and polishing, and a new built-in flashlight.

“It looks like Apple proved its design won over its customers,” he said. “That’s surprising given how drastic it was.”

Have you switched over to the new operating system? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.


iOS 7 release date confirmed by company behind Siri

Nuance, the company behind Siri, confirms iOS 7 release date in an email sent out to developers.

iOS 7 release date confirmed by company behind Siri

iOS 7 release date confirmed by company behind Siri

After a couple of months of heated conversations and adrenaline fueled debates on its looks and design, the seventh version of iOS, Apple’s venerable mobile operating system, will, in all probability, be made available for general consumption on September 10. The date was leaked online through an email sent by Nuance, the company responsible for Siri, the voice assistant on iPhones and iPads, to Owen Williams, a developer. In the email, Nuance informs developers, “As you are probably aware, iOS 7 GA (which stands for General Availability) will be released on September 10th.” The email which was live on Nuance’s servers has now been taken down but it’s highly unlikely that it contained incorrect information considering the fact that Nuance works very closely with Apple.

iOS 7 will mark the biggest change for the mobile operating systemin terms of looks and design. Under the direction of Jony Ive, the Senior Vice President of Design at Apple, iOS will forsake skeuomorphism (design that emulates real-world objects, for e.g. textures that resemble wood or metal) and go for a flatter, cleaner design. The response from the public and the media since the new design was unveiled at WWDC 2013 has been polarizing, to put it mildly. We’ve seen quite a bit of criticism towards iOS 7 with many calling it too colourful and visually inconsistent while others have praised Apple for taking a risk in changing up the look of an OS that had started to look staid.

When all is said and done, it doesn’t really matter what the media or commenters say until the final product is out there and in the hands of consumers. That’s why, September 10 can’t come soon enough.

Source: Owen Williams’ Blog via The Verge

Lenovo ties up with SweetLabs to bring Start Menu back to Windows 8

Clearly, the World’s No.1 laptop manufacturer has decided not to wait for Windows 8.1 update that is due for release on October 17.
Lenovo ties up with SweetLabs to bring Start Menu back to Windows 8
A lot of Windows 8 users had complained about the lack of the Start Menu in Windows 8, but till now, no one really had done anything about it. At least as far as OEMs were concerned. Now, Lenovo has decided to tie up with SweetLabs, a startup that has made the Pokki software for Windows 8. Pokki brings the Start Menu back to the Windows 8 desktop, in a similar layout to what users have seen in Windows 7 and earlier OS versions.

Lenovo, at the moment, is the world’s no.1 laptop manufacturer, having overtaken HP in the second quarter of 2013.

In a blog post, SweetLabs’ delight at the deal is clear, “We’re excited to announce that the #1 PC maker in the world, Lenovo, will be shipping Pokki on new Windows 8 devices worldwide! In other words, you’ll soon be able to buy a brand new Lenovo laptop or desktop with our full Pokki software suite integrated and ready to use out-of-the-box!Everything our hard working Pokki squirrel creates – from the Start menu to the modern desktop apps, to the app store and the new game arcade – is all about making the PC experience better for users, as well as helping developers get their apps in front of the right users.”

Lenovo will first install Pokki computers that will have English language set as default, but will eventually be installed on all Lenovo machines globally. SweetLabs is currently working on adding more languages to the Pokki software. The blog post says, “Even though Pokki has only known one language (English) up until now, we know that for the majority of our loyal fans and users, English isn’t your first language so we’re adding additional language support as quickly as we can.”

SweetLabs Pokki software brings the Start Menu back to the Windows 8 desktop

After receiving much criticism and feedback from users regarding the different desktop experience on Windows 8, Microsoft recently announced that the 8.1 update will bring back the start menu. This update will be available free to all Windows 8 users, from 17th October 2013.