240 posts • joined Saturday 25th November 2006 21:55 GMT
Vanilla Android is probably the best mobile OS out there at the moment
As far as i'm concerned, vanilla Android (i.e. a Nexus device or a rooted ROM like CyanogenMod) is the best mobile OS on the market at the moment. You can run it well with all the defaults, it has a ton of customisations (even more on CM) and you don't have to give all your money to Samsung either :-)
I now have 5 Android-running devices and all of them have been rooting/ROMmed (yes, even my Nexus devices) and they provide an excellent user experience. Sadly, only a few percent of the market go the Nexus and/or rooted ROM route - the 90%+ of the rest are suffering from carrier bloatware that I really wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.
Even the very nice HTC One has bloaty rubbish on it that you can't uninstall (why not - bloatware is 50% more tolerable if you can uninstall it). Even Windows bloatware can be removed with some effort, so this is utterly appalling behaviour from the carriers/manufacturers.
It's laptops that need the capacity
Desktops don't really need a high capacity SSD because they have at least 2 drive bays - the economics of that are that you buy a small/fast SSD for your boot drive and the largest (still fast) HDD that works out the best bang for buck (probably 3TB Seagates at the moment).
However - and it's surprising the article didn't mention this - almost all laptops only have one drive bay, so if it's your only machine and you don't have a desktop or NAS back at home, then you're going to want to max out the size of the SSD in your laptop.
I'm now quite excited that a) we finally have HDD-sized consumer SSDs and b) they cost under 500 quid. Inevitably, other vendors will release 960GB consumer SSDs, so let the price wars begin! In the meantime, HDDs are actually stalled around the 4TB point and have plateaued their prices too. Now if only OEMs would include SSDs in all their desktops now - it's staggering that this still isn't the case in 2013.
"Something similar to Ubuntu's LTS but for Fedora"? Er, it's called CentOS :-) I use it on my home and work desktops and it's rock solid. Like Debian, don't expect to run the latest and greatest of anything unless you manually install it (e.g. Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, Oracle Java, Flash etc.).
Big advantages of CentOS are: 10 years of updates, GNOME 2, Grub 1 and System V init scripts - none of which you get with the latest Fedora or Ubuntu. The downer is that the forthcoming CentOS 7 will ditch the latter 3 and I suspect will be inferior to CentOS 6 because of that.
OK, so how is this rolled out?
The Google Play store app isn't listed on Google Play, so presumably the store app does a periodic check for an update (no idea if it notifies you or not if there's an update).
What about custom ROM users (e.g. CyanogenMod) ? I'm guessing they'll have to wait for a new gapps apk to turn up at some point.
To be honest, I've always found every incarnation of the store app to be hard to navigate - if you know the name of the app, then the search is fine. Otherwise, it's a complete pain. It needs Appbrain-style ways of sorting the apps, IMHO.
Fails for Commore and Sinclair machines
Most of these look reasonably well designed, but the Commodore 128 looks like a clackety old IBM PC keyboard with a case attached and the less said about the Sinclair machines the better (neither of them look good and the less said about the quality of the build materials, the better).
A bit surprised the fruitily coloured iMacs didn't make it in here - the all-in-ones with the striking colours is probably the sexiest design Apple have come up with (I'd have dropped the Cube myself).
Having said all that, I've never really cared about how my computers looked - for desktop PCs it's totally irrelevant to me because they spend their time on the floor under a computer desk!
Re: Androids are Instantly Obsolete
I think this argument fails if you do a bit of market research on Android updates before you splurge your cash. It's hopefully common knowledge (not seemingly in your case because you never mention it) that Nexus phones are the ones to buy if you never intend to root/ROM your phone. They get the latest Android release first and are indeed "non-obsolete". I think conveniently forgetting to mention Nexus phones does indeed mark you out as a bit of an iPhone fanbois!
Where Android scores heavily, IMHO, is its choice - you do indeed have the Nexus phones if you never want to hack anything, but then a myriad of alternatives if you do (though I'd steer clear of the Samsung Galaxy S3/S4's in this case). Most popular models of Android phones have custom ROMs and this is where, again, you do a bit of research.
http://wiki.cyanogenmod.org/ is a nice place to start - it has official and unofficial device ports sections so you can see which phone models can run CyanogenMod. Heck, I have Nexus 7 and 10 tablets which can run the very latest official JellyBean 4.2.2, but I still rooted/ROM'ed them to CyanogenMod because it gives me even more config options than the stock Android does.
iPhones are fine if you're not technically savvy, like being locked into Apple's ecosystem and have enough dosh to afford one, but there's a fair number of people who don't feel that way. Note that even C|Net (Apple fans the lot of them) has a new "prizefight" video between iOS 6 and Android Jellybean and, qute shockingly, Android actually (narrowly) wins!
Bit of a non-story this
The smartphone market in particular is like Wacky Races - Apple releases something and there's a very predictable sales bump and then Samsumg release their latest Galaxy phone and that does the same too.
The reason Samsung is slightly tailing off is that people are waiting for the S4 (and similarly a rise in Apple can be attributed to people being too impatient and wanting the shiny NOW and switching to the iPhone 5 - plus all the locked-in folk with Apple who are stuck on an upgrade treadmill that has no hardware competitors to tempt them away whilst being able to stay with iOS).
This has been happening for years, but the difference recently is that it's *Apple* playing catch up to Android (and yes, because of the single-vendor hardware for iOS, it is Apple vs. Android just as much as iOS vs. Android).
Chrome starting to fall behind
So the rendering engine Chrome will be using is changing - but what about their JS engine (V8)? I don't know if anyone's noticed recently, but Mozilla's latest JS efforts shown at http://www.arewefastyet.com/ are starting to get perilously close to the speed of V8 (and in some sub-tests, actually now beating it).
In fact, after a couple of years of having a lead in both speed and memory usage, Chrome is now starting to lose out to Firefox in both respects. Ironically, the most noticeable platform where this is happening is on Google's Android itself, where Firefox is now clearly superior to Chrome.
And I'll throw in a barb about Chrome 26+ dropping support for the world's #1 commercial Linux (RHEL - and by interfence its clones) as another reason to re-consider using Chrome.
Was doing OK until 'nsfw daemon'
A nice try, but spoiled half way through with the "nsfw daemon" - leave that out and the date-based company name was a lot more subtle.
The reason UEFI can be disabled for WIndows 8 and not for RT
I'm surprised no-one's mentioned the real reason Microsoft still allow secure boot to be turned off for Windows 8 Intel machines - it's *not* to allow Linux to be installed, it's to allow Windows 7 to be installed should the end-user "shockingly" decide that 7 is better than 8.
Proof of this? The ARM-based Windows RT has no predecessor to it in the Windows family, so that *does not* allow secure boot to be turned off. One suspects that once the supported Windows Intel family has all its keys available (by Windows 9?), then they will stop allowing secure boot to be turned off in future UEFI setups.
Nexus 10 32GB price jump is insane
We all know that Google like to subsidise the price of base devices and then make their profit on the larger storage sized versions of the devices and the Nexus 7 for example (40 pounds extra for 16GB more?) followed this trend.
The Nexus 10 is even worse - for some magical reason, the price of 16GB of extra storage is now an Apple-sized 70 pounds. Hence, you are not "clever" if you are going to spend that much on extra storage - I got a 16GB Nexus 10 and bought a USB OTG cable for under a quid for external USB storage. Mind you, I also have rooted it and put CM 10.1 on it, so that an app like Stickmount comes into play.
My option is to have a 10" tablet for use in the home and a 7" tablet when you're on the move. If you want a decent Android experience on a 10" tablet, especially if you haven't got a Nexus model, CyanogenMod 10.1 is the only way to go, IMHO of course. This particularly applies to any Nook or Amazon tablet (and yes, the 8.9 Fire HD has just launched in the UK - a day after this article came out!).
I mentioned a Windows installer because they do it for desktop Ubuntu
The reason I mentioned a Windows installer for Ubuntu Tablet was several-fold. Firstly, there's probably just as many Windows users curious about Ubuntu Tablet than there are Ubuntu desktop users. Secondly, Ubuntu desktop already has an installer that can be run from Windows, so why on earth isn't there one for installing Ubuntu Tablet from Windows? Thirdly, a relatively idiot-proof Windows installer for Ubuntu Tablet would knock out almost all of those multi-step bits you mentioned.
I know it's very early days, but if you want to bring in as many testers as possible, you really do need a Windows installer for Ubuntu Tablet, IMHO. Plus the multiboot stuff I mentioned, since *everyone* is going back to Android after trying the current preview release. Without those two, Canonical won't get many "free" testers for their pre-releases, but it appears they've not even thought about either issue yet :-(
Early days...they need to do a few things soon though
It's very early days for this, so I think it's better to wait until they actually have some functionality in their releases. However, here's some early stuff they really should have done already:
1. Provide installation via Linuxes *other* than Ubuntu. Yes, I know they'd love you to install Ubuntu on your desktop, but I run CentOS 6 (the world's #1 commercial Linux desktop no less) and I don't see why I should switch to Ubuntu. On a similar note, provide an official installer for Windows too - a very obvious move missed there!
2. Once installed, this page is useful: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Touch/ReleaseNotes
However, they really do make it harder by saying "the recommended way to get shell access to the device is through SSH" and then promptly *not* including openssh-server in the tablet image!
3. The biggest omission of the whole thing, though, is the lack of a bootloader to provide multiboot, so that you can retain your Android install and boot between it and Ubuntu Tablet. With the release being in chocolate fireguard mode at the moment, there's no way people will want to keep backing up and restoring Android countless times. This issue was solved quite a while ago (e.g. moboot on HP TouchPads to go between webOS and CM9 and there's a dual boot Ubuntu/Android tablet actually on sale - http://www.androidauthority.com/android-4-0-ubuntu-12-04-kite-nibbio-tablet-features-exynos-chip-costs-e309-147513/ ).
Cron job needed and, er, why didn't they renew the cert for longer?
OK, so this happened last year, presumably on the annual renewal date. It begs how incompetent Microsoft is:
1. Most secure cert registrars send out e-mail reminders (mine does with 90, 30 and 7 days to go) - did whoever they registered with not send such e-mails or did Microsoft just ignore them?
2. A simple cron job to check the cert and e-mail (to more than one person!) every day at least 7 days before expiry would have saved their bacon.
3. When they messed up last year, why didn't they renew the cert for more than one year? Surely Microsoft can afford a multi-year cert?!
Multiple levels of incompetence there - that's Microsoft for you.
Multi boot please
I personally think that Tablet Ubuntu needs a mult-boot setup as standard (not some third party hacky instructions that I've seen for the Nexus 7 + desktop Ubuntu). Until then, it'll be a real pain for anyone who wants to keep using Android whilst tinkering with Tablet Ubuntu.
This problem was solved way back on the HP TouichPad - add a recovery image, moboot and Cyanagenmod 9 and you can merrily boot between Android and webOS.
Some of the stuff I find handy...
* When ordering a Dell PowerEdge server, don't forget to buy the Enterprise DRAC and get it wired up. Provides a Web interface for the status of the machine, virtual media (yes, another way to install the OS without needing PXE boot) and, most importantly, a VNC terminal session to the main hardware (right from power up, BIOS, grub and the OS!).
* Install OMSA on PowerEdges, just for their "reboot recovery" option (if the kernel hangs, you can set it to wait so many seconds and then cold reboot the server).
* I like using rdist to keep customised system files synchronised across Linux servers and desktops. Think of it as a "networked make" utility and it's extremely handy once your server count gets into double figures.
* I use rsync to sync the system disk partition to another identical partition once a week via cron. In fact, it's a bit trickier than that (you have to change grub.conf and the copied /etc/fstab) so I've got a script to do it, but basically if I mess up the original system partition, I can boot into the second partition as an immediate rescue. Most useful if you run the sync script just before doing "yum update" (it allows you to roll back the update by rebooting into the pre-update partition).
* nagios for monitoring of course - install nrpe on the clients (yep, we rdist our custom config for nrpe) and then add the clients to the nagios server setup (we wrote a script for this part). With Dells that have OMSA installed, there's nagios modules to check OMSA info (e.g. temperature) and even some disk controller statuses.
* LDAP for authentication - quite tricky to setup, but useful when it's working properly. Don't forget to leave root as a local user in case the LDAP server goes titsup!
* amanda 3.X for tape (or even disk) backups. Amanda 2.X was dumb about autoloaders so we had to write a lot of custom wrapper scripts to check tape barcodes, load from autoloader, put back etc, but 3.X is actually good with autoloaders at long last. Now has (mostly) working Windows Amanda clients so we've even started backing up Windows clients too. Server-side encryption and compression are bonuses too (replace gzip with pigz in the Amanda server config if your tape server has many CPU cores).
* For VMs, we mostly use Proxmox VE in a clustered setup with KVM-based VMs (a mix of Windows and Linux clients). It's probably not as slick as VMware, but it's a *lot* cheaper! To be honest, I tried VMware a few years ago and couldn't believe it prompted you to rebuild kernel modules interactively as part of the boot sequence if you updated your kernel RPM and rebooted your VMware server. What if you didn't have console access at the time?! They've probably fixed this awfulness by now, but I couldn't believe how naff that was at the time.
IE10 scores much higher than IE9 on html5test.com
Maybe feature-wise, the end-user doesn't see much difference between IE9 and IE10, but at least Microsoft have finally broken the 300-point barrier (out of 500!) at html5test.com for the first time with IE10.
IE9 scores a wretched 138 out of 500 which is why many web developers still hate IE - at least IE10 manages a mildly respectable 320. It should be remembered, however, that most recent browsers have already exceeded or are about to exceed *400* points, so even IE10 has a lot of work to do to catch up.
We might see Windows 9 and IE11 catch up to where other browsers are now, but that's probably almost 3 years away! Essentially, IE remains the least HTML 5 compliant browser of all the major browsers and it's probably going to be that way for a very long time. It's still going to be cursed at by the vast majority of Web developers!
Now if you could replace the onboard OS on a Chromebook...
With netbooks pretty well dead, the closest cousin we have left is actually the horrible crippled Chromebook. Now if they did a high-end version of that with an OS that could be completely replaced internally (i.e. not booted off a slow SD card like the current Chromebook Linux hacks do), I'd be in the market for one. No way would I want to run Chrome OS though.
I guess one advantage of a Google bricks and mortar store - assuming they stick to the same prices as their Google Play store - is that you can pick a Nexus device up without paying the hefty 10 quid postage charge. Plus they might actually *have* stock unlike their online store (Nexus 4 only came in stock a few weeks ago after months of no stock and the 32GB Nexus 10 has been out of stock for a long time now).
Not a single mention of Linux anywhere
Sad to see that Linux isn't mentioned (or indeed benchmarked) here, even if it's just to suggest what the equivalent of Intel's SRT is for Linux. If you're building a new machine, I'd expect it to have SATA 3 because SATA 3 SSD prices are continuing to fall.
The only sensible combo, IMHO, is a Sata 3 SSD with 500MB+/sec read/write and a fast multi-terabyte HDD (I use Seagate 3TB's myself at 225Mbytes/sec read). Throw in a fast multi-core CPU and you're not far off 10 seconds boot time, meaning that multi-boot isn't tiresome any more.
I read the earlier (well off-topic) discussion about CMYK and Gimp a few pages ago - has anyone tried Separate+ as a plug-in:
Seems to offer at least basic CMYK capabilities, though for some reason the only binaries available are for Windows!
As for MS Office and its ribbon, am I the only one who couldn't find the basic File functions? It took me an age to realise that the ribbon itself didn't have any! The round Windows logo in the top left - that looks neither like the ribbon nor a menu - is actually clickable (I had no idea - there is no visual clue for this) and contains the File operations in there. Massively unintuitive and I defy anyone to claim it's obvious for a first-time user.
One thing that perplexes me is why people/organisations can't install both (LO and MS Office) and use whichever one works the best for them (which might vary between document types or even individual documents). The only argument I can see is support - having to handle issues from two Office suites rather than one. However, if either can be used to fix issues with documents, wouldn't the combination work correctly more often and result in *less* overall problems?
It's like Web browsers - one browser doesn't work with *all* sites...you usually have to have one or two backup browsers (plus it's nice for multiple sessions to the same site to run 2 or 3 different browsers at once).
I think one problem LO has is that it existed in many old versions (both OO and LO) that were not stellar at handling the common MS file formats. It's only since LibreOffice has picked up the dev pace and improved compatibility in the last 1-2 years that you can now be reasonably confident (not 100% yet sadly) that you can load in an MS Office document and it'll pretty true to the original.
Sadly, there's massive resistance from MS Office "lovers" until LO is 100% compatible with every MS Office document format produced from any version of MS Office since it existed. The likelihood of that being the case is very slim even 5 years from now - of course, such MS Office fans won't even acknowledge that compatibility between MS Office releases themselves falls short of 100% in quite a few cases, so any pleases to install LO alongside MS Office tend to fall on deaf ears :-(
Re: Idiots who pay for RHEL
It should be noted here that you don't need an RHEL subscription to lodge bug reports with RHEL. Just register on bugzilla.redhat.com and post up your bug. I've done it a few times myself, even though I run CentOS. Obviously, if it's not an RHEL issue but a CentOS one, you should post up to bugs.centos.org instead. And, yes, you can use the same Red Hat Bugzilla system to report bugs in Fedora too.
Well, that's Anaconda worse then
Just put F18 in a VirtualBox VM to try it out and it's still seems a bit half-baked to me.
Anaconda is *terrible* now. I mean seriously bad. It was buggy in F18 Alpha and those issues seemed to have been ironed out, but none of the usability problems have:
* EVERYTHING IS IN CAPITALS FOR NO GOOD REASON. As the El Reg screenshot shows, they title everything in shouty capitals rather than bolding it or something not so horrible.
* The review mentions MATE and Cinnamon, yet neither of these are offered as desktop options in Anaconda at all. Considering MATE is officially supported and installable via yum, this is quite a poor move.
* Talking of customising the package installs, any chance to refine it above some broad categories doesn't exist (probably hasn't for several Fedora releases anyway).
* The disk partitioning section is now actually far worse than the old (and not very good) Disk Druid-type section we've seen in earlier Fedoras. I always do custom partitioning and can't say I like the default of LVM, but at least I worked out how to change that to a standard partition. Units are mixed with abandon (XX.YY GB and XXX.YY Kbytes right next to each other!), it took me an age to work out how to add swap space and also how to allocate the rest of the remaining space on the device to a partition (answer: leave the size field blank).
* You start the installation only to be told you haven't set the root password (shouldn't that have been asked for *before* you clicked "start install"?).
* No ETA for installation completion during install and don't believe it displayed either the version numbers or sizes of the packages it was installing either.
After installation (I chose GNOME), you're presented with a blank desktop, an Activities menu, a few icons in the top right and that's it. Quite a poor first impression from GNOME 3 immediately there - having to click on Activities to make icons visible is simply a ludicrous default. The thing is, at this point, you have been given no alternative clues about MATE or Cinnamon - neither are offered to you either before login or afterwards.
Every release of Fedora seems to make it harder and harder to bring up a terminal window, which isn't good considering that people think of it as one of the better distros for developers. It's Activities -> Some non-obvious dotted grid (hover to find it's "show all apps" apparently) -> System Tools -> Terminal. Yes, that's two clicks on the left, two on the right - *4* clicks to bring up a terminal window :-( Yes, I know there are other ways, but they involve keyboard *and* mouse, which is even worse.
So I get the terminal up, complete with stupidly tall title bar/menu (no divider between the title bar and menu doesn't help!) and a yum grouplist as root finally shows what was stupidly hidden by Anaconda - all the alternative desktops! So it's time for yum groupinstall "MATE Desktop" and 108 (!) package downloads/installs later, I have MATE installed (it installed Thunderbird which surprisingly doesn't seem to be in the default GNOME install!). It's here I see something that I raised a feature request about - it looks like RPMs are downloaded in parallel, which is nice. It does lead to a bit of confusing cycling of the parallel download names as they are in progress though.
I might be too frustrated at this point, because I can't find the logout option in the menus (only restart/shutdown), so it's a restart then. A new "Session..." option appears pre-login and I can choose MATE now. Still the stupid 2-panel that later GNOME 2 desktops have (you only need one panel otherwise you are mousing up and down like a mad person), but it does look like MATE is customisable in a very similar manner to GNOME 2 e.g. the right button is used, there's a panel and desktop icons, all of which are improvements on GNOME 3 :-)
Conclusion - if you can struggle past the awfulness of Anaconda and install MATE using yum, this might be a half-decent environment - the first Fedora since F14 that hasn't massively disappointed me.
Try this Nexus availability checker app
Yes, Google Play is almost permanently out of stock, but for the few hours it isn't, may I recommend this checker app:
Yes, a bit chicken and egg, but you've surely got another Android device somewhere? :-)
Don't see the point of naming USB 3.1 as anything, but since it can go 10 Gigabit/sec, "Decaspeed" might be one possibility.
Of more importance though: having started to shift USB 3.0 in decent numbers at long last, will existing USB 3.0 setups see any speed improvement anywhere in the chain (assuming drivers have been updated to 3.1)? Or will everything (motherboard included) have to be replaced with 3.1 equivalents?
Tried WMC, really didn't like the startup time or UI
I did try WMC a while back (yes, on WIndows 7) and thought it took a long time to start up and seemed to have a UI that favoured looking pretty whilst taking an actual age to navigate around.
As I said in the previous WMC article about their EPG cockup, WMC is by no means the best media centre platform, even on WIndows itself.
The best combo for ease of setup and flexibility is Linux+tvheadend+XBMC. I'm using TBS PCIe cards for my sat and terrestrial digital viewing and their Linux support is very good. tvheadend is such a good and easy to use Web-based backend that I don't know people put up with anything else :-) And as for XBMC, well it just is super-configurable too (a dozen or more skins if you don't like the very pretty default Confluence skin) and has virtually every feature you'll need under the sun.
I'm not sure how else XBMC could work to avoid this "nightmare" you mentioned. Remember, that's it's purely a client that doesn't do any recording or EPG downloads or TV tuner config itself. That way, it can work on many, many different platforms, including Android. Want Windows Media Center on your phone or tablet - sorry, no can do. XBMC 12 is due out shortly and it runs virtually identically on Android as it does on Windows, Mac and Linux. Oh yeah, want WMC on Mac or Linux too? Sorry, no can do.
The backend and client *can* be run on the same machine if you only have one computing device and only one TV in the house and WMC does score on initial configuration if that's you're tech-poor setup. For all other situations, XBMC plus your favourite backend (yes, you choose between half a dozen - amazing...you've got a *choice*) is far more flexible and convenient. Whilst Windows remains popular on desktops/laptops, media centre client-side it doesn't (think watching on phones and tablets that aren't running Windows), which is what lets WMC down.
For backends, I personally think a good Web interface to set up your TV tuners, auto-downloading your EPG data and schedule/check recordings is the way to go. That means *any* device can access it and you can even (carefully!) open it up to the outside world so you can view it whilst out of the house, again on any device.
This is why I prefer tvheadend on Linux - it really is a very easy to use (but still very configurable) Web interface that beats stuff like MythTV's equivalent. Yes, I tried MythTV as a backend and being a tech person, I still really did not like MythTV's interface at all. I also was surprised that MythTV's developers don't think you'd ever want to record more than 5 channels on a single TV tuner (yes, that's a hard-coded limit in their backend that I tried to get them to increase, but they refused).
Customisation is the key
For me, the ability to customise the look and feel of the way my phone or tablet operates is key. I don't even feel that stock Android 4.2.1 has quite enough config options (even though it still has far more than iOS *ever* will). My particular customisation needs are:
* If I want pattern locking, maximise the number of dots in the grid to make the pattern more complex.
* Battery percentage remaining figure - i.e. as an actual number - in the status bar (crucial IMHO - I will reject any custom ROM that doesn't allow this and it really should be an option in stock Android)
* Two home screens with the ability to maximise the number of home screen grid icons (hence the need for only 2 screens). I have 49 icons per home screen on my Nexus 7 for instance.
* Possibility to change the DPI either globally or per-app basis (this isn't crucial - the media's claim that many Android apps aren't "tablet-optimised" is utter guff because of the way Android scales its layout)
* Root-style apps (e.g. sshdroid can then run on port 22, Goomanager to put new ROMs on etc.).
* Ability to change scheduler performance (e.g. ondemand vs. powersave vs. performance vs. interactive) and the scheduler too.
* Soft keyboard with long hold for numbers on the top row (which is infinitely easier/quicker than faffing with the awkward ?123 key then the number then the ABC key). I haven't run stock Android 4 for so long that maybe Google make this the default now?
I've settled on "stock" CyanogenMod 10.1 nightlies for the moment and they give me pretty well all the configuration options I'll regularly use. Oh, I turn off all keyboard sounds, vibrations, auto-correct (or any spelling suggestions) and never use Google Now at all myself (yes, that annoying Google bar was removed as fast as I could manage when I first got my Nexus 7 :-) ).
Does anyone use Windows Media Center any more?
I'm surprising anyone's using WMC when there are better alternatives if you really must use Windows for TV recording e.g. Mediaportal for one.
The best setup is surely a Linux nettop (e.g. Acer Revo) or even a Raspberry Pi plus tvheadend (the best media centre Web configuration interface bar none, IMHO) and XBMC as a front-end (possibly on the same device as the tvheadend server if you only have one box).
With XBMC available on far more platforms than WMC (including Android now), it's a no-brainer to ditch WMC completely.
Fedora 14, then CentOS 6
After trying out Gnome 3 in both Fedora and Ubuntu, I came to the conclusion that their default interfaces were just plain awful compared to Gnome 2 equivalents. Hence, I stuck with Fedora 14 for quite a while and then jumped to the "obvious" long-term haven for Gnome 2 users - one sadly not mentioned in the article or comments - namely CentOS 6.
For those not in the know, CentOS is a free clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and, like its RHEL parent, has 10 years of free updates! Yep, that means GNOME 2 (and the OS itself) will be supported until an astonishing 30th Nov 2020, which for unheard of for any free OS.
CentOS 6.3 gives you a mature Gnome 2.28 experience, Grub 1 (far easier to use then Grub 2, IMHO), good old System 5 init scripts (which are being phased out in Fedora) and a rock solid kernel that has had a lot of Red Hat testing. As a "serious" free desktop, it's easily the best out there.
Yes, I've installed Firefox beta (that can be updated within the browser's About box) and also occasionally download an update to LibreOffice (I hate their packaging - over 50 RPMs and you often have to uninstall the old version first manually because of stupid package naming!), but there's very little maintenance otherwise (a yum update from time to time, but even that can be automated). It is literally a desktop that "just works".
Would be nice if the Nexus 10 was actually purchasable
I have a Nexus 7 already and am quite happy with it - this rumour of a new one isn't the end of the world and will be 9-12 months after the original one, which is the sort of time period you expect a successor model to come out in.
What is upsetting though, is the complete balls-up Google have done with the Nexus 10 launch. Unlike the Nexus 7 (which was available from many online retailers - I got mine from Tesco Direct in the first week of its launch), Google are *only* selling the Nexus 10 on their Play store (and throwing in a dubious 10 quid delivery charge to boot).
Now this would be OK if you could order or pre-order but you can't - the Nexus 10 is almost permanently sold out with tiny periods (less than a few hours) where it re-emerges on sale, only for the Play store to be crushed by the wait of people ordering it.
I can't understand why IT sites aren't screaming blue murder about this every day - the most desirable Android tablet on the market has been basically unorderable since its launch over a month ago. It's a sorry state of affairs and one Google should hang their heads in shame about.
RAID and TRIM?
When I was doing a bit of research earlier this year on SSDs, I noted that you could RAID them, you could have TRIM on them (which is important to stop performance falling off over time), but you couldn't have both RAID and TRIM. Has this situation finally been fixed?
You might like to know that I used a (non-RAIDed) Intel 520 and a Corsair Force 3 GT (both 240GB) in separate PCs to record all of the Olympics channels (had 8 sat tuners, 4 terrestrial tuners and 24TB of HDD). At one point, I'd be recording 20+ channels at once on a PC! Almost all the hard drives were Seagate 3TB's, which are still the only brand of HDD worth buying at the moment.
I even had to write my own C software to handle the transfer of completed recordings from SSD to HDD (no, rsync wouldn't be suitable) because I couldn't find something that did exactly what I wanted. I really should release that as open source because it's pretty nfty and worked very well on the multiple parallel recordings I was doing to SSD.
Mini 9 - one of the best netbooks
I picked up a brand new Dell Mini 9 - with Ubuntu pre-installed no less - for 149 quid a few years ago (not long after their launch in fact). Wireless, wired, touchpad , 3 USB ports (external keyboard and mouse therefore should I want to), VGA, reasonable keyboard, runs any Intel OS (I've ended up with Fedora and Windows dual booting on it) for a pretty cheap price.
Of course, I upped the RAM and swapped out the SSD for a bigger/faster one over time to give it longevity, but it served me well and was probably the best portable device I'd bought over the years. Nowadays, I'm on a Nexus 7 which is great as a media/entertainment device, but nowhere near as productive as the Mini 9 was.
The closest you get to a Mini 9 nowadays are the Transformer series, but they are much more expensive and come with Android as default, which isn't really conducive for productivity/development work.
Nook HD and HD+ already on sale in the UK
It seems stunning that this article almost makes it sound like it could be months or years before we get the Nook e-readers in the UK and yet the IT press (except El Reg who seem to have ignored them completely) was full of the Nook HD(+) launch almost a week ago. Example:
As for the Nook app on Android, here's how to get a list of the free e-books:
1. Download the app (it's free on Google Play).
2. Register a Nook account (doesn't seem to have any e-mail verification).
3. Register a dummy method of payment in the settings (any old info, 4 and then fifteen 1's is a well-known test Visa credit card number (no verification of this)).
4. Go to the store via what looks like a broken padlock (or house?) icon in the top right.
5. Select the search icon and search for "0.00", which will display the free e-books, which you can download (no doubt in DRM-infested form even for a free book, ho hum).
When I did this a day ago, a lot of mummy pr0n e-books turned up, but repeating it today, they seem to have a wider range now (not that any of the free ones are any good of course).
80% for the best 10" tablet on the market?
Let me see:
* It has a better screen than the iPad 4
* It's lighter than the iPad 4
* It has better speakers than the iPad 4
* It is cheaper than the iPad 4
* It has more RAM than the iPad 4
* It has a faster CPU than the iPad 4
* It has a faster GPU than the iPad 4
* It has multiple user accounts (iPad 4 doesn't)
* It has working Maps (iPad 4 doesn't)
* It can sideload apps out of the box not tying you a store (iPad 4 can't)
* It can handle mulitple "official" stores e.g. Amazon + Play and no doubt others (iPad 4 can't)
* It can be rooted and then run unofficial ROMs (iPad 4 can't)
* It can run non-Webkit-based browsers (iPad 4 can't - if Webkit has a bug, you're screwed)
* It can run emulators from official stores (iPad 4 can't)
* It has a GPS on its wi-fi only model (iPad 4 doesn't)
So despite all these obvious advantages, the review decides it's worse than iPad 4 and is only worth 80%? Something wrong surely?!
Identifying the exact Linux OS isn't that easy
Whilst techniques like TCP fingerprinting can determine, say, a Linux kernel is being run, it only takes "ServerTokens Apache" in the site's Apache config to effectively hide exactly which Linux distro is used.
In fact, typical penetration test software actually recommends that you *do* hide the Apache and OS versions, so it's likely a fair number of sysadmins do this as standard policy (and maybe some distros ship a config with this done too?).
Personally, I'm a fan of CentOS - tools like Open Manage Server Administrator on Dell kit is fully supported (though their dumb DSET tool forces you to fake /etc/issue and /etc/redhat-release with RHEL strings, just like the way Oracle's DB installer has to be fooled), plus you get 10 years of updates (more than any other Linux server distro).
It really doesn't matter how bad or good any particular release of WIndows is because the vice-like grip MS has on OEMs (the threat of losing their volume license discounts) means that MS can release any old rubbish and people are effectively forced to buy PCs with Windows on - the OEMs are just too scared to offer PCs with no OS or any alternative OS on them.
So it's either Windows or the overpriced hardware+software combo that is Mac OS X (or iOS) - not much a choice for the consumer buying off the shelf really!
Hence, it's absolutely no shocker that Windows 8 is selling well - it was always going to, even if people don't like it! The only thing I expect not to sell well is upgrades from pre-Windows 8 - which is why MS is pricing them at rock bottom levels for a short period because once those upgrades go back to full price, they'll not sell at all, IMHO.
The situation has become so bad that my latest two PCs are now custom-built by white box makers (I get to choose the components I want and even bought one with no hard or SSD drivers :-) ) - and no Windows included too! Needless to say, they're dual booting into CentOS 6 for serious stuff and Ubuntu for media duties.
Overpriced and why haven't Apple released a widescreen tablet yet?
I think Apple thought "we've overcharged in the 10" tablet arena for years now, let's do the same with a smaller version". The problem is that the 7" tablet market is pretty cut-throat - you've got cheap Chinese imports (some of which are starting get decent specs) and major players like Amazon, Google and B&N spec/price-fighting each other regularly (often subsidising the hardware price to get the money back on content, whereas Apple never do the former!).
Apple walk in with a 4:3 tablet with a relatively low PPI that can't play HD movies and will show big black bars at the top and bottom if you try to do so. So that's HD video struck off the list already (apart from running apps/playing games, this is one of the major reasons to use a tablet over a phone).
I worry about the width of the iPad Mini - it could be a bit of a tight fit in some coat pockets (I can just about get my Nexus 7 in my coat pocket). And finally, they launch it a stupendously high price (that gets even more astonishingly wallet-draining as you add 3G or extra storage). Let me see - 32GB Nexus 7 = 199 quid, 32GB iPad Mini = 349 quid (!! And that's with no 3G or GPS either...). Are you *seriously* telling me that an iPad Mini is 75% better than an N7 when it can't even play HD video?!
One mystery that still confuses me - Apple finally realised that widescreen is the way to go with phones (years after all their competitors had released widescreen phones) and they finally got it right with the iPhone 5. So why have we had five 4:3 tablets from Apple - several of them useless for playing HD video - and not one widescreen tablet yet? I guess we'll have to wait until next year to see if Apple "innovate" and go widescreen for tablets at long last.
Decent specs...except the screen/resolution
When I first saw the cashback deal on this on HotUKDeals, I was quite impressed for 130 quid. Sadly, the OP on the HUKD posting didn't mention the screen resolution, which is really quite poor (especially with a Tegra 3 onboard). As soon as I saw the 1024x600 figure, I realised that in no way is this a Nexus 7 competitor. A pity really because a better screen would indeed have challenged the N7, which still remains clearly the best 7" tablet, especially after the recent price drop.
The 7" tablet market, to be honest, seems oversaturated now - I'm still looking for a 9 or 10" replacement for my HP ToiuchPad (i.e. vanilla Android, decent screen res/CPU/GPU). I thought the Nexus 10 was going to be it until I was gobsmacked by the ludicrous UK pricing of it. Since when does 16GB of flash cost 70 quid and why would Samsung make a tablet that prices far too closely to the iPad 4 (32GB Nexus 10 = 389 quid, 16GB iPad 4 = 399 quid)?
I also thought the Nook HD+ (rooted/ROM'ed of course) might be a contender, until I saw it had a stupid proprietary connector for charging (hence requiring *2* mains adapters - one for home, one for work). No Micro USB charging, which is surely a dealbreaker since every other phone/tablet I have uses Micro USB for charging now (I have no Apple kit, so don't live in the land of 35 quid charging cables).
Fire HD - decent hardware, but really needs to be rooted/ROM'ed...Amazon App Store is awful
I'm sorry, but if you see a colour 7" tablet nowadays (and the Fire HD is exclusively marketed as a tablet by Amazon UK - the word "tablet" is mentioned 7 times in its product description and not once is the word "e-reader" used - so anyone claiming otherwise...as a few have here...is simply wrong), you expect to be able to run a load of apps on it.
Sadly, this is where the Fire HD falls crippingly down - the Amazon App Store is nothing short of a disgusting experience if the Fire HD store experience is anything like the dreadful Amazon App Store app I've run on my Nexus 7. It's got horrible navigation, it's extremely slow to update any pages, on the Nexus 7 it has no soft menu button (bizarrely it does on my HP TouchPad) so I can't actually use the My Apps feature to list the bleeding apps I've installed (or have in the "Cloud") and I probably can't update them on the N7 because of that too.
The App Store also infuriatingly sends me a "purchase" e-mail with every free download I do in the app store - no idea if that stupid e-mail can be disabled (I only need purchase e-mails for downloads that actually cost me money). And of course, don't forget that there's a fraction of the apps compared to the full Google Play store, which further darkens my mood about Amazon's App Store. I only keep the app on for the Free App of the Day stuff, only to find that a) most of them are awful and b) you can't run them without having the Amazon App Store app installed!
So the solution is an obvious one - at the very least root your Fire HD and put the Google Apps on (including Google Play). Personally, I'd go one step further and install CyanogenMod 10 (gets you a better launcher, loads of config options and Jelly Bean smoothness). Without the Google Apps (and preferably CM10), the Fire HD is a total non-starter, IMHO. Heck, I even put CM10 on my N7, I like it that much.
No idea why the proof of purchase wasn't an upload to your Asus account
Instead of full mailboxes and the added difficulty of tying in proof of purchases to the registered Nexus 7's in people's Asus accounts, why didn't they just let you upload the proof of purchase from within your Asus account? I guess this would have required some coding/validation, which they decided they couldn't do in a timely manner.
I did eventually send off my proof of purchase this evening (and it didn't bounce - yay!), but I'm not hugely optimistic about the whole thing - it seems to have been a shambles throughout:
* No obvious indication that it's for 16GB Nexus 7 owners only (which happens to also rule out the Google Play 8GB purchasers).
* Incorrect screenshot w.r.t. the serial number - the 16-digit one (that's in the Settings page) is the wrong one. It's the 12-digit one on the cardboard box and it *is* hard to distinguish 0, O and D's before you ask!
* After putting in the serial number, date of purchase and the retailer you got it from, you've still got to e-mail proof of purchase, even though they've probably already got enough info to verify your purchase.
* E-mailing the purchase proof to Asus was bouncing back throughout the weekend, which was simply poor planning on their part.Iit was deadly obvious that you'd have PDF/screenshots/HTML flying into their inbox at a rate of knots, so to not prepare for this was a double facepalm moment.
Despite a long analysis, nothing much said about the OS'es running on them
I'm not sure we needed all that stuff carved up every which way when a simple link to the "select your Top 500 filters" form here (where no doubt the author got his stats from) would do:
Also, the lack of discussion of OS'es in the article was surprising - here's some fascinating OS stats left out:
* The top 36 supercomputers in the world all run Linux. The shameful first non-Linux entry at number 37 is from the UK :-( Mind you, it was IBM's AIX, so it's not all so bad.
* Linux has 469 of the top 500 spots - a massive 93.8%!
* Windows has 3 spots (0.6%), which either it can't scale to very high numbers of cores or that the licensing is expensive. Ine of those is Microsoft's Azure so that's free to MS :-) No idea why the article highlighted this one when it's in 165th place. The lowly position - 63 places behind Amazon's rival AWS - bizarrely wasn't mentioned in the article!
* BSD has one solitary entry...so it is dying after all :-)
Fedora should go to 9-monthly schedules
Ever since Fedora tried to switch a 6-monthly schedule (either because Ubuntu does or, more likely, they want to release just after each GNOME release - well, the GNOME 3 UI disaster has put paid to that reason, IMHO), they have utterly failed to release *any* alpha, beta, RC or final Fedora on time.
The main schedule pressure for Fedora shouldn't come from Ubuntu or GNOME, but actually from RHEL of course. Considering they release RHEL every 3 years, that would still leave 4 * 9-monthly Fedora releases, so I think Fedora should move to a 9-month release cycle instead of 6.
BTW, am I the only one worried that F18 RC has actually been cancelled?! Cue loads of panicky post-F18 final fixes being released...
It can be done, but it's painful
I eventually registered my N7 after about the 10th attempt. You need the 12-digit SSN serial number beginning with a "C" from the N7 cardboard box (the 16-digit hex serial number displayed in the Settings and on the cardbioard box as "SSSN" - which the Asus site stupidly actually tells you use - is *not* the serial number they're after). Folks on the HUKD forum cleverly suggested installing a barcode reader app and using that to scan the barcode below the SSN on the cardboard box.
The latest snag is that I never got the e-mail instructions for sending the proof of purchase, but apparently you send it to firstname.lastname@example.org - or, actually, you don't until at least Monday, because the buffoons at Asus now have a full inbox and all e-mails to that address are bouncing!
Looking at the Asus store, you get 19 quid to spend (postage is a minimum of 6 quid), so that rules out getting the charger/cable for free, so I guess it's one of the cases then. The store is so expensive (typically twice the price of anywhere else), that there's very little you can get for 19 quid that's worthwhile and the aggro I've had with this has probably exceeded 19 quid's worth of my time!
Costs more than $99
If it's shpping internationally, the Ouya costs $20 shipping, bringing it to $119. If it's being shipped from outside the EU (quite possible - does anyone know where EU orders are shipped from?), then there is the spectre of import duty/VAT being involved as well (could be another $30 or so). So that's basically close to 100 quid, not 64 like the article said.
Still, even at that price, it's cheap enough to do an annual replacement for a hardware upgrade should new games come out that need the updated kit.
Speeds no better than Sandforce
I've got 240GB Corsair and Intel SSDs using Sandforce controllers that actually post slightly higher read speeds and much higher write speeds than this Plextor, so where's the excitement about this release (especially since it's nowhere near the 50p per GB that entry-level SSDs are now at)?
What I'm concerned about is: where is SATA 4? I can't find a word about it on the Web and the SSD speeds are almost at the limits of SATA 3 (a fact that's seemingly lost on all the journos out there). Yes, if they were cheap enough, you'd be RAIDing them for more speed (but you lose TRIM then, hmmmm...), but I want a single decent capacity drive to exceed 600 Mbytes/sec in the next 1-2 years otherwise I won't be buying any more SSDs for quite a while. I guess PCI express cards would be the way to go, but they seem to have a massive price premium over SATA 3 SSDs at the moment.
Mac Mini - what's its main purpose?
I've always wondered exactly what a Mac Mini's target market was. Apple now say it's the only server offering they have, but it's not really up to snuff for that surely (e.g. RAID 5 anyone?). Does it work as a media centre server? Well, yes, that would seem an obvious use, but there are cheaper nettop boxes to do that (you don't need an i5 - you want GPU acceleration primarily plus lots of connectivity/disk space) such as the Acer Revo, Lenovo or Shuttle.
So at its price point, I see it as small form factor desktop PC, but yet again, there are cheaper alternatives (including all-in-ones) at the Mac Mini's price point. I'm completely baffled why you'd buy this rather than a cheaper rival machine + replace its HDD for an SSD for faster boot/app performance + and buy a big NAS for media storage for the same price as just a Mac Mini!
Classic Shell anyone?
I'm surprised that in an article about the "oddness" of Windows 8, no mention was made of things that could make the transition from Windows 7 easier, with Classic Shell - see http://classicshell.sourceforge.net/ - being the most obvious one. I suspect Windows 8+Classic Shell+booting straight into desktop mode could actually be a decently similar experience for ex-Windows 7 users...unless you're running Windows RT, in which case you're royally stuffed.
Re: Learning from XP
> If there was ever an opportunity for another O/S to find itself a unique selling proposition, long term support for (say) a 10 year lifespan would be a very tempting idea. Presuming the O/S in question wasn't so buggy it needed patching every month.
CentOS 6 anyone? It's free (or you can go the RHEL 6 route for paid support), has updates for 10 years, point releases a few times a year (think service packs) and the occasional updates inbetween for critical security/bug fixes. In other words, much like Windows, except with more regular service packs.
I use the same CentOS 6 ISO on both desktops and servers (no need for the desktop vs. server distinction Windows releases have) and it's a very stable platform to do serious stuff on. GNOME 2, GRUB 1 and Sys V Init make system admin and the desktop experience so much nicer than any other distro, IMHO.
Newer Ultrium versions and autoloaders...
The reasons that tape still dominates most backup scenarios:
* The drives and autoloaders aren't that expensive really - about the cost of a typical low-end server (2-3 grand), despite what one poster said. The cost of tapes is perhaps actually a little high (especially when you have to buy 30+ of them in one go).
* The Ultrium standard has been getting faster and higher capacity with each generation, so we're getting to the point where you can backup quite a lot of servers across the network on just one tape (though you still want an autoloader if you want weekend backups or your backups use 2 tapes a day).
* You can physically take the completed backup tapes to an offsite safe in case disaster recovery is needed (main machine room explodes or whatever).
For me, backups to disks *only* work sensibly if you have a high speed (gigabit preferably) Net link to another location where you actually keep the servers with those disks (i.e. a DR location). You can't just backup to a big-disk server that's in the same machine room as the one the servers are in because your backups will be non-existent if the machine room explodes and there's your business dead in the water.
I think it's the cost for an SME of setting up a DR location with a server and a load of big disks is why tapes still rule the roost. And if you want to be really safe, you'd need at least dual-homing too between your main site and the DR so that you can always get at your backups at the remote location. All of this costs time and money to set up.
Wake me up when they go below 140 quid
4TB drives are massively overpriced compared to 3TB at the moment. The 3TB Seagate internal drives I have are now 100 quid and yet the cheapest 4TB internal drive anywhere is 185 quid - 85% more expensive for 33% more filestore. In other words, you'll have to wait 12-18 months before 4TB actually becomes the sweet spot that the 3TB currently is.
Also don't forget that 3TB drives have a little further to fall to get to pre-Thailand flood prices, so that sweet spot for 4TB might even be 2 years away.
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