252 posts • joined Saturday 25th November 2006 21:55 GMT
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 email@example.com - 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.
Strange that the article made no mention of the anti-malware apps already on Google Play (e.g. AVG, Avast etc.), since aren't they already doing what this new Google feature will do at some undetermined point in the future?
One thing I'd like to see is the ability to individually deny permissions to an app (and hopefully the app will gracefully handle issues arising from not having those permissions, rather than just crash or quit) - ideally both at install time and let them be changed at any time after that. At the moment, we're presented with the list of perms when installing the app with just two choices - install it with all the permissions or don't install it, which isn't granular enough, IMHO.
It surprises me how many apps request needless permissions, though you suspect a lot are for banner ads which may be the reason Google won't let users turn off permissions.
It's 10 years of updates now, not 4 or 5
Red Hat recently increased the lifespan of both RHEL 5 and 6 updates to 10 years, which is pretty impressive for a Linux distro (not the "4 or 5 years" mentioned in the article).
Oracle Linux to me seems a weird half-way house - it has to follow RHEL updates/releases as a base, so it's already dependent on a rival vendor for its core OS. We then get some extra stuff thrown in on top (some of it paid stuff) which I can't comment on the quality of since I don't run Oracle Linux anywhere. Sprinkle in a lower cost updates/support contract (which Red Hat could kill in one fell swoop if they offered an updates-only contract with no support) and apparently that's attracted a grant total of, er, 10,000 customers in the space of 6 years?
Interesting, but has limitations
Although AMD do indeed sponsor this, it's not made very clear that it runs fine on Intel CPU chips as well. It's quite a clever idea should there be an app on Android that doesn't have a close equivalent on WIndows (for serious stuff, I doubt that, but I bet there's some mobile-exclusive games out there).
I'm probably a little more impressed with the Cloud Connect stuff that lets you sync across (i.e. probably copy the apk) your Android apps from another device into the Bluestack environment - a lot easier that some manual side-loading you'd otherwise do. It should probably also sync your app data too, but I don't know how easy that is to find where it is on Android.
As ever, there are a load of downsides that make it sadly less than useful, such as only running on Windows (c'mon, surely it can be out for Mac OS X and Linux too?), can't emulate a lot of tablet/phone hardware so a large chunk of apps become less than useful, doesn't run Android 4 (which has been out long enough surely for Bluestack to have ported their code to it by now?) and the Settings screen seems woefully short of options.
I might have missed it, but I didn't see a way to rotate the window between landscape and portrait, which seems an obvious piece of functionality to include.
So a B+ for getting the ARM virtualisation and app syncing working, but it needs more improvements to make it behave much closer to a phone/tablet (i.e. like the Android SDK phone emulator),
There should be more dual sim phones out there
I suspect the Telcos don't like dual sim phones because most of them probably won't have two full-contract SIMs in them (i.e. work sim will be contract, home sim will be PAYG), which might explain why dual SIM phones are pretty thin on the ground. Sadly, this phone is a bit too low spec to be a good all-rounder.
I also wonder how clever dual SIM phones are about separating functionality depending on which SIM is active. Contacts should have the option of being per SIM or combined and it would be nice if other elements of the UI switched depending on the SIM (e.g. separate wallpapers and even app icons).
VirtualBox is pretty good, but RPM packaging needs a fix
I do quite like VirtualBox (though I think it needs a Web front-end rather than a graphical GUI, because it makes things easier to admin remotely), but I wish they wouldn't do what some Linux RPM-packaged software does (I'm looking at you, LibreOffice) and put the version number in the package field.
For example, the RPM for RHEL/CentOS 6 has a name of "VirtualBox-4.2" and a version number of "4.2.0_80737_el6". This is quite frankly dumb because you have to use "VirtualBox-4.2" as the package name in various RPM commands (e.g. "rpm -qi VirtualBox-4.2"), you can't just do "yum update VirtualBox" or "yum update VirtualBox-4.1" (the previous release) and you can't "rpm -Uvh" to upgrade either.
Nope, you've got to manually remove the old version ("rpm -e" or "yum remove") and then install the new one instead. This is dismal - no-one but a few VirtualBox developers will ever need two versions simultaneously installed (that's the lame excuse LibreOffice gives too and it's wrong because there's a separate LibreOffice dev set of RPMs!). Fix it Oracle - it's not as bad as LibreOffice's dismal packaging (over 50 RPMs, WTFs all that about?) - but it makes updates to VirtualBox a real pain.
I'll put in a mention for the Icy Box too
I recently bought an Icy Box (yes, around 24-25 quid from Amazon) and put a 3TB Seagate in it. Got 180 Mbytes/sec read from them (beating all the benchmarks shown here!). It should be noted that although the Icy Box is fanless, it isn't silent because you'll hear the disk itself spinning/working.
Yes, the Icy Box has a bright blue light (cover it with something if it worries you that much!), but it's a good enclosure that does the job well and is half the price of the enclsoures here. So why wasn't it included?!
Not sure this will cause too much of an issue
I know that the default for OpenSSL-created self-signed certs has been 1024 bits for years now, though there's always a chance someone created one on an intranet years ago with a 512 bits and a long expiry date I guess, but I suspect that's fairly rare.
As people have been saying, 1024 bits has been the minimum key size for years on paid SSL certs and in the last 1-2 years, there's been a switch to 2048 bits as the minimum for most SSL vendors (I know Symantec/Verisign and RapidSSL have insisted on 2048 bits for at least a year now).
I'm a bit surprised the article made no mention that the default/minimum has been at least 1024 bits for a long time now and 2048 bits recently for paid certs, so the impact of this change shouldn't be too great.
Media centre software is the way to go
I used to believe that dedicated set-top boxes (or built-in recording facilities on recent TVs) were the way to go, but when you look at it, they're quite limited:
* Firmware is often buggy and eventually abandoned not long after a newer model comes out.
* If you don't like the firmware (e.g. the UI is annoying or missing important features), then you're stuffed - there's no way to change it usually.
* If you're on the Freeview HD platform, then good luck trying to export HD recordings unencrypted. Ludicrously, the Freeview HD specs don't allow you to do that (even though Freeview HD channels are actually broadcast unencrypted), yet they do allow SD recordings to be exported unencrypted. 100% inconsistent, IMHO.
* A fair chunk of recorders don't bother allowing you to record multiple channels (e.g. 3 or 4) from the same multiplex/transponder simultaneously - it doesn't help that none of them seem to come with SSDs either to alleviate access times when recording multiple programmes.
* Very few recorders come with a Web interface to mirror what they do on the TV's UI (i.e. a full Web EPG, recordings list etc) - the ability to set recordings, stream them to another machine etc. without turning the TV on is a very useful feature.
Once I realised the above issues, it was a no-brainer for the Olympics to set up media centre software with sat+terrestrial TV tuner cards, SSDs, large hard drives and I got an extremely flexible setup that could do far more than any set-top box currently does (yes, including a full desktop with browser etc. using a wireless keytboard and mouse). For the record, it was Ubuntu+XBMC+tvheadend that did the trick for me - no-cost for the software too! I think tvheadend's backend Web interface is nothing short of super impressive - I doubt any other media centre Web interface comes close (most media centre software seems to think Web access is a minor feature: I think it's massively important myself).
Too expensive and too slow
This is an utterly pointless release from Crucial - a relatively slow SATA 2 SSD for a price barely less than SATA 3 SSDs that perform about 50% better. Even if you were going to put it in an old laptop that only had SATA 2, it's still not worth it because SATA 3 SSDs will perform better than this SATA 2 SSD.
Basically, Crucial are fools for releasing this - I can't see anyone with any sense at all buying it instead of a SATA 3 SSD for fractionally more. I'm just surprised El Reg gave it such a high rating of 75% when it's clearly a dead drive on release.
As for Grayrunner, you do know that any 300 Mbytes/sec+ SATA 3 SSD will go faster than this SATA 2 drive in a SATA 2 system? Please do your research first! You do realise that the "3G" users can use "6G" drives on their "3G" systems - you don't seem to have grasped this! It's *not* a "smart move" because the price/performance is hopeless compared to the slightly more expensive SATA 3 SSDs out there.
Having said all that, I have SATA 3 SSDs on a SATA 3 desktop and get 550 Mbytes/sec read and write :-)
Confused why you'd ever want 3G on a tablet
So let me see:
* The 3G version will cost a lot more than the non-3G.
* 3G data limits are chronically low - a typical monthly quota of 1GB can be used in under 2 hours, especially if you stream video. Once you exceed your limit, you'll either get cut off, throttled massively down or have to pay a fortune for exceeding the limits - none of which are desirable.
* If you really must use 3G, it's possible you can tether it to your mobile anyway.
So, really, 3G on a tablet makes no sense especially if you have a mobile phone already (two SIMs, two contracts or PAYGs, two data plans to potentially exceed), so I'll stick with my SIM-less N7 plus an HTC mobile should I need to tether to 3G in emergencies.
I've got the Amazon Appstore app on my UK Nexus 7, but I was unimpressed. Firstly, it doesn't detect which apps are already installed, which is basic functionality surely? So stuff like Temple Run - a free game I installed via Google Play - just appears as a game you can "purchase" for 0.00 quid (since when is a zero-cost item a "purchase"?).
What's also bad is that if you download a free app, it'll not only try to overwrite the already existing (probably identical) one, but also e-mail you a receipt for 0.00 quid by default - how double dumb is that?
I also don't like that any free downloads (including app of the day) insist that you tie a credit/debit card to your Amazon Appstore setup - a sneaky trick to make sure that you go for impulse paid purchases later on and have your card info there ready to be debited.
Still, I've installed a free app of the day notifier free app (confused? :-) ) that whilst US-only at the moment (I've e-mailed the dev cos it needs to support other countries including the UK now), will notify you each day about the US free app, but show the UK one when you click on the notification, which is good enough for now. Won't be using the Amazon appstore for anything other than the free app though, especially since I've still got most of my 15 quid Nexus 7 credit left on Google Play that the Amazon Appstore doesn't accept of course.
Still using my Dell Mini 9
I still use my Dell Mini 9 - 149 quid, Linux (Fedora 14, not the original Ubuntu), SSD (replaced with a larger/faster one admittedly), 3 USB ports, 2GB RAM, wired and wireless - much of that is beyond the spec of most tablets out there. One of the best portable machines Dell ever made, so they promptly discontinued it and brought out more expensive, bigger and heavier versions (with Windows and a hard disk - big no no on both counts) that didn't float my boat at all.
Yes, I've now got cheap tablets in addition to the Mini 9, but the Dell machine is the only one I do anything "serious" on.
Would have liked to have seen some 'normal' inkjet all-in-ones as a comparison
Apart from the fancy pop-up LCD displays (are they needed when you've probably previewed the pic on a phone/camera/tablet/desktop already?), what's the difference between an colour inkjet photo printer and a "normal" colour inkjet printer?
It might have been nice to incude a few "non-photo" colour inkjets in the review, load them up with photo paper and see what sort of job they do. With the price of photo paper and inkjet cartridges already very high, I've got to question spending anything more than 100 quid on any sort of inkjet printer.
Me? I've got an HP colour all-in-one inkjet printer, but no somewhat pointless colour pop-up LCD on it. Price? 25 quid directly from hp.com - throw in some photo paper and it does a good enough job at printing photos. No printer here costs under 80 quid, the difference of which could go on buying a reasonable number of cartridges and photo paper.
First stuff I installed on my Nexus 7
* Flash - had to side-load as an apk, but it's still needed on Android, no matter what Adobe say.
* Firefox Beta + Adblock Plus + Phony - stomps mightily on Chrome on the Nexus 7. Set Phony extension to desktop version to avoid getting those daft mobile versions on a tablet, plus it then lets you go to www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/ and view BBC progs just like you do on the desktop (yes, in HD too).
* Astro File Manager. I've been familiar with this one the longest, but no doubt other FM's mentioned are equally as good.
* MX Player. This is my favourite video player on the HP Touchpad (CM9) and it's just as good on the Nexus 7.
* Winamp. Trhey may have moved some features to the Pro version after offering them in the free version (which I think is a really bad PR move), but even the free version is pretty good.
* Camera Launcher for Nexus 7. In a moment of madness, Asus/Google decided not to present the built-in camera app to the end-user. This app basically makes it "visible" again.
* FBReader. Best Android e-book reader out there (much better than the Kindle app for example).
* Cover Art Downloader. Put in on my Nexus 7 out of habit - nice to have artwork with your MP3s.
* Advanced Task Killer. I put the widget on my home screen and press it when I'm about to play a game.
* Box (or Dropbox etc.). Useful app to mess around with your cloud storage (I've got 50GB, but I don't use it much because I don't have Net access on the move with the Nexus 7 except via expensive/data limited 3G tethering with my Android phone).
Of course, once I'd done the above, the next step was unlocking, rooting and putting on a Modaco ROM (yay for landscape rotation on home screens), but that's a bit off-topic I guess.
Some games not mentioned that I have on my Nexus 7
Suprised you missed some of these games - they're all on my Nexus 7:
* Riptide GP. A paid game, but one actually used at Google I/O on a Nexus 7 to show off the Tegra 3 graphics.
* Droidfish. Super strong chess program that can use multiple cores on the Nexus 7 and it's free too.
* Beebdroid. An excellent free BBC Micro emulator with access to dozens of classic BBC games.
* MAME4Droid. Difficult to get the ROMs legally, but a brilliant free arcade machine emulator nevertheless.
* Osmos HD. The classic PC game turns up on Android and it's just as ambient as ever. Paid, but a demo version available too.
* PewPew - vector graphics used to their utmost in a great little free shoot-em-up.
Late, expensive and missing features - YouView flops on day one
After an eternity waiting for this, we get a 300 quid box (50-100 quid too expensive to get mass adoption) that actually seems to have less features than the old 200 quid Technika 8320HD box I retired a few months ago (to be replaced with a PC-based media centre setup, which is way more flexible than any set top box). What seems to be missing from this Humax are:
* Wireless connectivity - not everyone keeps the TV and their router close together (they're often in different rooms). The 8320HD had both wired and wireless in case you're wondering.
* Only a 500GB hard drive on launch - with the ability to record two HD channels simultaneously, that won't last long.
* No way to save streamed recordings, which is utter pants.
* No way to play anything from USB or the network, which is a total joke in this day and age (even smart TVs can do this!). Again, the 8320HD could do both. Any new net-enabled media box like this should really be able to be a DNLA server to stream its content to other devices in the house - not providing this on a 2012-launched box is almost criminal.
I'm sorry, but this is a hugely damp squib of a launch. Maybe in a year or two, there'll be enough well-spec'ed models and firmware updates to make it more atractive, but at the moment, it's a big letdown. It's doing very little new that various PVRs and smart TVs haven't already been doing for years (and does less in some cases).
US dramas are better simply because they make more of them
US TV companies make shed-loads of dramas (and comedies in particular) - they even cram in "mid-season replacements" where they can too. And, yes, things seem to be go in 2 extreme directions - either they get yanked off after a handful of episodes (a massive waste - the unaired episodes may appear months later on the Web or DVD, but sometimes don't appear at all!) or they run far too long (The Simpsons is now so poor - it died after about the 8th of its trillion seasons - and has no reason being on air when the same team are still producing the much funnier Futurama).
It was a bit bizarre that "once was the most popular TV show in the world" CSI Miami got killed off after its 10th season (when CSI:NY is kept on despite having lower viewing figures), though you wonder if it was a contract renegotiation year and no-one could agree. Mind you, the original CSI needs desperately to be killed too now the two main leads (Petersen and Helgenberger) have finally left (Petersen years ago and Helgenberger just recently).
As people have said, the more "stuff" you produce, the more likely that something good will emerge, providing you do have an outlet for it (i.e. premium cable channels). Anything edgy in the US (particularly nudity which is pretty well banned on US network channels) is shown on premium cable and we've seen stuff in recent years like Game Of Thrones, Dexter, True Blood (sorry, it's much better than Being Human), The Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy really leading the way with drama, IMHO. I'm sure for every good UK drama, I could name 5 US dramas equally as good or - often - better.
What we really need is a good "adult" sci-fi drama (the BBC still considers Dr. Who a kids programme, so it doesn't air after the watershed or have any equivalent adult themes). ITV do the dismal Primeval (also not after the watershed) and we have Being Human which I really didn't like, especially since True Blood was waaay better.
I want something like the BSG remake, but the last time we saw sci-fi like that on BBC TV was Blake's 7 (dodgy sets and special effects, but the characters and storylines were often every good) or even Star Cops.
BTW, a recent comment mentioned the 24 Olympics channels - they are paid for by Sky :-) Even the host broadcaster isn't the BBC - it's a Spanish company! That's what you get with the overdone BBC cuts we've had since the licence fee was frozen (shouldn't that mean inflation-sized cuts per year and not the massacre we've seen?).
Ordered mine and will root it soon afterwards
I ordered mine this morning from Tesco for 179 quid and am planning to root it and flash the Modaco ROM fairly shortly after it comes - see:
The flashed ROM gives you Flash (and therefore iPlayer), a launcher that actually bleeding rotates the home screen when you rotate the tablet, a camera app, Amazon (is that working in the UK yet?) and Getjar app stores and several other useful enhancements. Heck, I root Android on tablets just so that the Clocksync app can keep the time correct (without 3G, you need to time sync your clock regularly).
I don't hold out much hope for a good deal
For *years* people have been regularly posting to www.ideastorm.com, begging Dell to put Linux on their machines, but whenever Dell does it, it sets out to deliberately make the Linux purchasing experience hard and often more expensive:
* They don't Linux as an OS choice for any of the models that they sell with Windows - this would be the easiest way for Linux to get some sales, but Dell are too scared of MS (e.g. losing volume discounts) to do this.
* They put the Linux machine well out of the way of the normal model list. Instead of just being another model in the appropriate section, they put it as a well of out of the way link called something like "Open Source Desktops" or some such vague description.
* They don't do an identically spec'ed Linux machine to the equivalent that comes with Windows. The reason for this one is obvious - users will be able to deduct the price of one from the other and work out how much Windows costs to the end user.
* Because of the difference in specs, you'll often find worse specs on Linux machines despite the selling price being roughly the same as Windows machines.
* All the endless short-term offers (50 quid off, extra RAM, bigger hard drive etc. etc.) seem to only every apply to Windows machines and never to Linux ones.
It's now wonder that previous Dell attempts at selling machines with Linux have failed - they've deliberately designed to fail from day one. I hope that these XPS machines buck that trend, but I don't hold out much hope to be honest. Any bets that it'll be more cost effective to buy the Windows XPS 13 and dual boot it to Linux instead? All I'm asking is that the Linux version costs the same as the Windows (doesn't have to be cheaper, though that would be nice) one and has the same hardware spec too - is that too hard to ask?
As usual, underspec'ed and overpriced
It stuns me that this barely revised MBP machine is actually the cheapest laptop Apple UK sell at 999 quid! it is Apple's entry-level laptop and yet is so expensive that its price would be considered almost top-end for any other manufacturer. Am I the only one worried about taking a grand's worth of kit outside the house...ever?
Several months ago, I advised my sister to get an i3 15.6" Samsung laptop from Sainsbury's. It's inevitably thicker, heavier and less "pretty" than an MBP, but after discounts and cashbacks, it cost 285 quid - less than a third of this MBP, but actually with a bigger screen! I know I'd rather have 3 of those Samsungs than one MBP any day of the week.
HP 3050A no longer available?
I have the HP 3050A (bought for 25 quid from hp.com - was as low as 20 quid until its seeming discontinuation), but it seems to be superseded by the very similar HP 3055A now at 54 quid RRP:
Tesco do some "compatible" XL cartridges for the HP 3050A that I bought in a 3 for 2 offer (so I got 3 black and 3 colour) and worked at just under 9 quid each, which isn't bad at all. For Linux users, HPLIP works great and is pretty well standard on most distros.
I'll stick with an HTPC+XBMC+tvheadend
I suspect a lot more flexibility can be had from a small HTPC (Revo or whatever) plus a couple of USB Freeview HD tuner sticks (which can allow you to record a lot of simultaneous channels if they're on the same multiplex - can the YouView box do this? A shame there aren't any twin tuner variants of the stick though!) for the same price as this initial YouView unit.
With an HTPC, you get a fully fledged computer with wireless keyboard and mouse, choice of OS (Linux with XBMC+tvheadend is the cheapest, but you could go Windows+Mediaportal instead) and a lot more control over what you view (e.g. any available video on the Net, whether it's downloaded or streamed) and run (anything you care to install in the OS).
Epic fails on 3 fronts gets 85%?!
Let me see:
Epic fail #1: A mid-2012 phone shipping with Android 2.3, which I have on my 2-year-old HTC Desire. Only a promise of any later Android release, so my advice would be to wait until the upgrade is available and *then* consider the phone. Make this a standard lesson for any phone maker releasing an Android phone in mid-to-late 2012 that doesn't run 4.X.
Epic fail #2: Can shoot video in 1080p and the reviewer benchmarked with a 720p looping video and yet the screen only has 600 pixels vertically and cannot view 720p+ videos without dropping whole chunks of lines. Scooby says huh?
Epic fail #3: No SD card slot. Want to carry a load of videos and install a bunch of games (which can reach 1GB downloads of data per game) - sorry, no can do. And don't talk about cloud nonsense when one video can use up your entire month's mobile data quota.
These three reasons alone should make a potential buyer wary, but none of them were particularly considered relevant if you read the article.
Get a dumb TV and then add an HTPC
I remain somewhat unconvinced by smart TVs myself - you're basically limited to whatever the TV manufacturer decides you should have and it isn't always the best. Witness my Panasonic Viera smart plasma TV - yes, it has iPlayer as an app, but only a week max to view anything (even BBC Click, which has 365 days to watch on any other platform). Bizarrely, wireless Net is optional (they want a fortune for the dongle), which is another no-no.
Instead, I got a 200 quid Acer Revo (other HTPC-suitable nettops exist), installed Ubuntu + XBMC (using tvheadend as a backend on another PC that has TV tuner cards) and it's a pretty sweet combo, which also includes full screen Web surfing with a wireless keyboard/mouse that's included.
Need the same functionality to TVs in other rooms? Just add a Revo per room and you're done - central recording/videos/music/pictures is the way to go and it's something Smart TVs have yet to offer.
What's the maximum size of a DDR 4 module?
Paragraph after paragraph about DDR 4, but not a single word about the maximum memory size of a DDR 4 module! The photo in the article shows only a 2GB DDR 4 (not exactly impressive, since 4GB DDR 3 sticks have been around for ages) and I was hoping that we'd see 8GB DDR 4 modules as common as 4GB DDR 3 (yes, there are 8GB DDR 3 modules, but they're actually moderately rare) and maybe even 16GB DDR 4 modules?
It seems bizarre to me to raise the specs of everything in DDR 4 compared to DDR 3 and yet we're completely in the dark as to the maximum size of DDR 4 modules.
By the time this is won, SATA 4 will be out
Can't believe that the closing date for this compy is 30th September - over 3 months away! By then, a new Samsung model will be out, this 830 model will be half the price it is now and finally someone will draft a spec for SATA 4 (we can hope), making all current SSDs obsolete :-)
Still, I entered it anyway - can't have enough SSDs in your drive bays if you ask me. Next time, set a closing date in terms of weeks and not months, especially for rapidly changing tech.
ICS essential for corporate use
Staggeringly, Android phones prior to 4.0 cannot add a proxy server to particular wi-fi connections (at least not without rooting and a special app), making them fairly useless for corporate environments (yes, you could NAT through and avoid a proxy, but that's not clever [e.g. would bypass any corproate proxy logging/filtering]). Hence, if for that one reason alone, releasing a new Android phone in mid-2012 with Android 2.3.X when several other older phones in your range already have 4.X is puzzling beyond belief.
Yes, the 4.X upgrade will hopefully eventually come to this phone (and if Samsung had any pride, they'd announce exactly when 4.X will be available), but is that 100% guaranteed to a) actually turn up and b) turn up in a timely manner? It does surprise me that this review made no big deal out of this phone coming with Android 2.3.X - heck, even my ancient HTC Desire runs that!
I have a Corsair and Intel...
I have 240GB versions of the Corsair Force GT (not sure what performance benefits the "Performance Pro" version gives you) and the Intel 520. Both are stonkingly fast drives and have enough capacity to use them for than just a boot drive + common apps/games. My use will be to record 30 simultaneous TV streams to 200GB of SSD temp area, that is then copied/deleted to fast HDD's (Seagate 3TB's) serially as each recording finishes.
I'm not sure why my previous SSD, the Corsair Force 3, was completely ignored. It's as good as performer as m4 (in some circumstances, it's actually a *much* better performer) and is now about 175 quid for 256GB. They had some dodgy batches early on, but the hardware and firmware have been solid for ages now and it still, IMHO, remains a better buy than the m4 - I guess the reviewer was sticking to one drive per manufacturer, but that means missing out on some models that could be the best in their class/price range?
I got 2 Panasonic plasmas recently :-)
Picked up a "dumb" 42" (720p) Panasonic Viera plasma for 399 quid and a "smart" 50" version (1080p) for 599 quid - John Lewis with 5 year guarantee and free Saturday delivery. Both stay in standby until I use them because you're talking around 300W each with the screen active (though both can have audio only at much lower power usage if you're listening to digital/Net radio). Both are sweet sets, though suffer from the glossy screen effect if it's a bright day.
I remain fairly unconvinced about "smart TVs" - you're better off getting a dumb one and sticking a 200 quid media centre PC (with a couple of Freeview HD or Freesat tuners), which will give you a lot more than whatever the manufacture thinks you deserve on the set's Net connection.
Mind you, Panasonic are offering Eurosport Player for free for a month on their smart TVs - now I wonder if that'll hold out until late July, so I can see their Olympics coverage in addition the BBC's? :-)
Loved my Archimedes
Just like the BBC Micro was the world's best 8-bit micro, the Archimedes - for about a year - was actually the best PC full stop. It wasn't until Intel brought out later generations of its chips in the late 80's that they finally overtook the Archimedes. I never bought a second Archimedes model because I felt that the performance difference wasn't good enough and the gap just widened over time.
Again, like the BBC Micro, Acorn's developers did a fantastic job with the OS - a great (and extendible OS), a much enhanced BBC BASIC and keeping a built-in assembler meant that serious development was possible on the machine you bought. Although paying 50-odd quid to upgrade your ROM set was a stinger back then, it meant that boot time remained 2 seconds, which trounced every other IBM PC clone out there.
Arm (!) yourself with the multi-volume programmers reference manuals and you'd have years of quite fun programming ahead. My greatest efforts were:
* A VT100 terminal emulator written in 100% ARM code that identically matched the behaviour of a DEC VT100 I had access to (including smooth scrolling [in software!], double width/height, flashing etc.). It's extremely rare for anyone even back then to write a terminal emulator entirely in assembly, but I did it.
* Hacks for various games, including completely reverse engineering the codes generated for the Zarch competition that I think was announced in Acorn User. I'd already generated the codes for a massively high scoring game but didn't submit it for fear of being found out. I wonder if the winner did the same thing as me!
* Writing a Scrabble game in a mixture of BASIC and ARM so I could enter the 100 quid Daily Telegraph game (it always found the correct answer). Couldn't release the game because of the terrible copyright hounds of Spears/Hasbro.
* Removing copy protection from games, though I got bored when Magnetic Scrolls The Pawn decided to use a "page 7, line 14, word 2" type protection and also released their game compiled in C (possibly one of the first ever in C?!), which produced such awful ARM code, it became its own form of copy protection :-)
I did eventually tire of the Archimedes though, but I clung onto it for so long that my next machine was an HP PA-RISC Unix workstation followed by an Intel PC with Linux a few years later. I'm still proud today - running CentOS 6.2 on my desktop at work and home - that I can say that my primary desktop OS has *never* been Windows on any machine I've owned.
Why such expensive accessories?
I have an HP TouchPad and here's what I've bought for it:
* Most expensive is a 27 quid Touchstone charger (that pricey because the 15 quid order I put into the HP official store was rejected - yes, after HP had taken my money and then put it back again!). A nice inductive charger and also a stand - a better purchase than the equivalent stand in the article.
* 3 screen protectors for a fiver in total - still haven't taken the first one off yet!
* Two different cases - a 5 quid official HP one (but a bit rubbery and the front sleeve doesn't close - duh!) and 3 quid fancy one that was for an iPad but works perfectly for an HP Touchpad.
* 69p micro-USB charger/data cables in case I need to charge the TouchPad without the Touchstone charger being around.
I don't need anything else with the TouchPad and I doubt other tablet users need much more either (and certainly not most of the 10 accessories here).
Fedora on servers? Hmmm...
An interesting article, but I've got to quibble about how many servers will have Fedora installed them, especially when updates stop just over a year after a release (unlike 10 years of updates for CentOS and RHEL).
As another comment said, we can't actually know how many Linux server installs there are (and hence we can't even be sure that Windows servers have >50% of installs now!), because all the surveys I've ever seen only list paid OS'es that are shipped with the servers.
At work, most of our Linux installs are CentOS, but they never get counted because we buy the server with no OS and install CentOS ourselves, which I suspect everyone who doesn't buy RHEL does exactly the same as us (maybe with Debian or Ubuntu Server instead of CentOS in some cases).
So any article that starts quoting market share of Linux installs is basically talking out of its backside I'm afraid. The most accurate figures I've seen are the Netcraft Web surveys and they have Apache (mostly Linux/Unix surely?) at 60-65% most months.
Some obvious ones not mentioned
Apart from the article dubiously recommending OpenOffice instead of the more featureful LibreOffice (does anyone with a new PC bother installing OpenOffice any more?!), here's some "obvious" ones left out:
* Microsoft Security Essentials - a free download (even SMEs can use it on up to 10 PCs for free) and actually does its job quite unobtrusively and is lightweight too.
* Daemon Tools Lite - useful for mounting ISOs as a drive (amongst other features). Bizarre that Windows 7 *still* can't do this, ho hum.
* Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome - anything but IE, surely?!
* ImgBurn - again, does a lot more than the standard CD/DVD burning stuff baked into Win 7.
* puTTY and/or FileZilla - essential tools if you ever have to transfer files or login remotely to another machine that isn't running Windows (yes, shock, there are non-Windows machines out there).
* VirtualBox - so you play with VMs (often running Linux) to see what "real" operating systems are like :-)
Why would you carry around a one grand laptop?
Ultrabooks are just ludicrously priced - no-one in their right mind would carry around an easily stealable/breakable one grand bit of kit, no matter how light or thin it is.
Whatever happened to good old 9/10" netbooks with an SSD and running Linux for around 200-250 quid? Looks like these massively overpriced ultrabooks took their place - a bad, bad market move IMHO.
I picked up a Dell Mini 9 for 149 quid a few years back and it's still going strong as a great little portable netbook. Sure, I boosted the RAM, the SSD and put a better Linux on it, but it's still one of the best purchases I've ever made and gets more use than my 116 quid HP Touchpad with CM9 does (though tablet browsing in bed is actually the only thing a tablet is good for, IMHO).
IdeaStorm not up to much then?
Strange how Dell IdeaStorm covered the idea of Linux support for Dell products for many years with bazillions of suggestions - see www.ideastorm.com - only for Dell to basically fob users off because they couldn't be bothered supporting Linux (except on servers, where they do see potential revenue there).
My suggestion was that Dell certify all their laptops/desktops/etc for Linux (pointing out what bits don't work yet - if it all works, give it a 100% Linux compatible penguin logo) perhaps using the latest Ubuntu LTS as the distro tested against, but don't actually ship Linux with it initially to avoid support costs. Also offer a "no OS" option with all their equipment like they do with servers. Neither suggestion has ever been taken up by Dell for fear of loss of their Windows volume licensing I reckon.
After a trial of this, then consider adding Ubuntu LTS as an option right next to Windows *at the same price and hardware spec* (use the Windows OEM licensing saving to fund support staff to deal with Linux enquiries or use the money to strike a deal with Canonical for support).
Linux has had a flash repo for ages
Er, there's been a yum repo for Linux Flash for a couple of years now! Add it in and you get updates as part of your standard "yum update". Makes this article seem quite crusty if you ask me....
License fee number = 12 free archive shows
Here's a simple solution - your license fee number (and maybe postcode) entitles you to 12 free archive shows a year. Anything more has to be paid for via a monthly fee. Problem solved - casual viewers pay nothing extra, those after lots of old shows pay for viewing them. Or is this far too blindingly obvious?
What about servers shipped with no OS?
Unfortunately, these surveys where only hardware shipped with a pre-installed OS are consdered do leave out a *huge* chunk of the servers sold (i.e. ones with no OS, which you can get from all the major OEMs).
I'm certain that a lot of Linux server installs are done on server hardware that didn't ship with any OS, but these machines just fall down the cracks - we can "guess" that they will mostly have a non-Windows OS on them (mainly because OEM Windows is cheaper than retail Windows, even in the server market), but we have no idea what flavours of OS are actually installed on them.
It's a shame these surveys don't actually include a "shipped with no OS" category - at the very least, we should know the size of that category compared to all the ones with OS'es pre-installed.
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