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Information about Intel's next-generation processor architecture, codenamed Haswell, has been leaking steadily for some time, but presentations at today's Intel Developer Forum (IDF) are finally giving us details on what to expect from the fourth-generation Core processors when they launch in 2013.

Haswell is a "tock", in Intel parlance—a completely new processor architecture manufactured using the same 22nm process and "3D" tri-gate transistors as Ivy Bridge. As with Ivy Bridge, the bulk of Intel's attentions are focused on improving graphics performance and reducing power consumption—while Haswell's optimizations will definitely make it faster than Ivy Bridge at the same clock speeds, CPU performance definitely took a back seat during Intel's Haswell-oriented keynote today.

The CPU: modest improvements in a power-efficient package

Much about Haswell's architecture is similar to Ivy Bridge in many ways: key technologies like Turbo Boost and Hyperthreading are still in play, and the instruction pipeline and L1 and L2 cache sizes remain the same.

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Intel has been working on its "Many Integrated Core" architecture for a quite some time, but the chipmaker has finally taken the code-name gloves off and announced that Knights Corner will be the first in a new family of Xeon processors — the Xeon Phi. These co-processors will debut later this year (Intel says "by the end of 2012"), and will come in the form of a 50-core PCIe card that includes at least 8GB of GDDR5 RAM. The card runs an independent Linux operating system that manages each x86 core, and Intel is hoping that giving developers a familiar architecture to program for will make the Xeon Phi a much more attractive platform than Nvidia's Tesla.

The Phi is part of Intel's High Performance Computing (HPC) program, where the...

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Last week, Linux creator Linus Torvalds was in Finland giving a talk when a woman in the crowd asked why chip maker Nvidia refused to support Linux on a brand new machine she had bought.

Torvalds had some choice words -- and gestures -- about it.  Torvalds declared Nvidia as “the single worst company we’ve ever dealt with” and says that it's "really sad" because Nvidia wants to sell a lot of chips into the Android market. (Android is based on Linux).

And then he turned to the camera and flipped Nvidia off.

Skip ahead to 49:25 to see the action.

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Epic Games

"I light my level by dropping a sun in."

That statement from Epic Games' Senior Technical Artist and Level Designer Alan Willard doesn't seem like such a big deal on the surface. To a non-programmer, it probably sounds like the blindingly simple and obvious way to add light to a three-dimensional environment ("Computer, drop in a sun, please. And make me some tea, Earl Grey, hot.") But to anyone who has worked with an existing game engine, including Epic's incredibly popular but six-year-old Unreal Engine 3, the ability to simply "drop in a sun" using the upcoming Unreal Engine 4 is a major improvement over the current status quo.

"I don't have to go through and place a ton of lights and process those down into light maps, so just from an iteration standpoint, the engine is able to be worked with at a much higher speed," Willard continues. "I can just begin placing things and they look like I spent three days tweaking the lighting to make it look like that."

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Photo illustration by Aurich Lawson

Microsoft wants Windows developers to write Windows 8-specific, Metro-style, touch-friendly applications, and to make sure that they crank these apps out, the company has decided that Visual Studio 11 Express, the free-to-use version of its integrated development environment, can produce nothing else.

If you want to develop desktop applications—anything that runs at the command line or on the conventional Windows desktop that remains a fully supported, integral, essential part of Windows 8—you'll have two options: stick with the current Visual C++ 2010 Express and Visual C# 2010 Express products, or pay about $400-500 for Visual Studio 11 Professional. A second version, Visual Studio 11 Express for Web, will be able to produce HTML and JavaScript websites, and nothing more.

Visual Studio 11 is an improvement in many ways over Visual Studio 2010. Its C++ compiler, for example, is a great deal more standards-compliant, especially with the new C++ 11 specification. It has powerful new optimization features, such as the ability to automatically use CPU features like SSE2 to accelerate mathematically intensive programs, and new language features to allow programs to be executed on the GPU. The new version of the C# language makes it easier to write programs that do their work on background threads and avoid making user interfaces unresponsive. The .NET Framework, updated to version 4.5, includes new capabilities for desktop applications, such as a ribbon control for Microsoft's WPF GUI framework.

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The AllWinner A10 Android 4.0 mini PC

CNX Software

Chinese retailers have started selling a miniature Linux computer that is housed in a 3.5-inch plastic case slightly larger than a USB thumb drive. Individual units are available online for $74.

The small computer has an AllWinner A10 single-core 1.5GHz ARM CPU, a Mali 400 GPU, and 512MB of RAM. An HDMI port on the exterior allows users to plug the computer into a television. It outputs at 1080p and is said to be capable of playing high-definition video.

The device also has a full-sized USB port with host support for input devices, a conventional micro-USB port, a microSD slot, and an internal 802.11 b/g WiFi antenna. The computer can boot from a microSD card and is capable of running Android 4.0 and other ARM-compatible Linux platforms.

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GeForce Grid Nvidia stock 1024

Nvidia just finishing telling us about how it's going to stick a Kepler GPU in the cloud: now, CEO Jen-Hsun Huang is telling us how it will use distributed graphics to stream low-latency video games from the internet to computers that don't have one themselves. Nvidia's partnered with cloud gaming provider Gaikai, and claims that the GeForce Grid GPU has reduced latency of streaming games to just ten milliseconds by capturing and encoding game frames rapidly, and in a single pass, and promises that the enhanced Gaikai service will be available on TVs, tablets and smartphones running Android and iOS.

David Perry from streaming game company Gaikai is on stage to discuss and demo the technology now; Gaikai also announced that it's working...

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