261 posts • joined 25 Nov 2006
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.
Find the apk source, Luke
The Onlive Desktop seems to be blocked for my HP TouchPad running CyanogenMod 9, so a quick Google trip for "onlive desktop apk" found the .apk file and a bit of playing with SSHdroid (why oh why has Android 4 ditched mass storage USB?!) and Astro File Manager and I was up and running...or not.
Was downloading something else when I fired up the Onlive Desktop app and it claimed my bandwidth wasn't good enough and refused to start! Even worse, when the download finished and all my capacity was available (about 8Mbit/sec), it started up the desktop, then after 1 min or playing around, promptly chucked me off again for no reason. Total pants for even the free version - Onlive desktop, you're useless.
Get a PVR and use iPlayer to watch stuff you forgot to record
For around 200-250 quid, you can get a Freeview HD PVR that has the following advantages over iPlayer (this is to counter people who think iPlayer is viable to watch all BBC TV on, of which there are a fair number it seems):
1. You get to keep the recording to watch forever.
2. You don't require a Net connection to view the recording (important if something else is using most of your connection - iPlayer buffers badly when that happens).
3. You get to watch *all* BBC programmes, not just the limited set that's on iPlayer. Live rights (e.g. for sports) often prevent iPlayer from having certain content.,
4. You can export recordings (e.g. via the Net to another machine or save a copy on USB) and give them to friends, though Freeview HD recordings are infuriatingly blocked on most PVRs from doing this.
5. The quality of the picture is generally better on Freeview when you compare Freeview SD/HD vs. iPlayer SD/HD.
I use my PVR's EPG to whizz through the week marking shows (note that BBC red button channel 301 never seems to have its content on iPlayer and there's a lot of live sport and other stuff on there) and then I use iPlayer to pick up anything I missed, but I have to remember to do so within a ludicrously short time (1 week unless it's a stacked series).
The only exception to tis is "Click", which is actually better on iPlayer than BBC News because it doesn't have the incredibly distracting scrolling BBC News headlines on the iPlayer version. Plus for some unknown reason, iPlayer keeps Click episodes for a full year, which is how all shows should be.,
Oh and, yes, I'm on Be and had a bit of trouble with iPlayer a few weeks back, but I tried later in the day and it was OK.
No love for emulators?
It's not "one game", but emulators can run potentially hundreds of games (though the legality of ROMs/downloads of the actual games is another issue altogether). Can I suggest MAMEdroid with some classic 80's arcade ROMs (Mr. Do!, Phoenix, Galaxians etc.) or perhaps Beebdroid with all those BBC Micro classics?
Season 1 of original was great, season 2 not so much
The first season of the original Space: 1999 has the better theme tune and was also quite dark (and therefore more thoughtful in general). Season 2 had mostly "monsters of the week" and quite a jokey tone (especially Tony's bad homebrew beer efforts), but did have Catherine Schell as eye candy to compensate.
A mix of the two seasons would have been ideal, but I fear the remake might go the way of The Bionic Woman remake (poor writing and do everything in the pilot episode leaving not much for later episodes). You've also got to remember that at the time, Space:1999 was one of the most expensive TV shows to make and its special effects - considering there were was no CGI at the time - were on a par with the Star Wars movie. Even with CGI today, you're not going to break any new ground with them (Babylon 5 and the BG remake have pretty well done it all w.r.t. TV CGI).
The Space:1999 remake could survive if they go the BG remake route - turn it into a gritty space thriller and perhaps concentrate on relationships a bit more than the original Space:1999 did, However, BG was one of the few TV sci-fi remakes to actually be better than the original and I don't think the Space:1999 remake will be because - unlike the original BG - the original Space:1999 was actually pretty good sci-fi TV.
Kindle Fire - vapourware in the UK
It's very puzzling that Amazon haven't even bothered to set either a UK price or UK release date for Kindle Fire yet. If it sold for 127 quid in the UK ($199 after currency conversion), it would sell like hot cakes here too, but I'm afraid it won't. The likely price is 199 quid and that would be a bit steep for a 7" tablet, IMHO (though a good price for a 10" one).
I think the first thing I'd do with a Kindle Fire would be put CyanogenMod 9 on it to get the full Android 4 experience on it - why you'd want to crippled by Amazon's UI/market is anyone's guess. Sadly, at its likely 199 quid price, I'll be sticking with my HP TouchPad (116 quid, 8.9" display, dual boots webOS and Android 4).
It's interesting that the Tilera CPUs will run a CentOS-based distro, because CentOS itself has never actually supported the Tilera processor architecture of course. I'm not sure I'd want to run a server OS that was a fork of a clone with only Tilera's engineers to run to if there were any issues.
So will Tilera try to push their ports upstream to RHEL and/or CentOS? Perhaps they would willing to becoming the official maintainers of CentOS on Tilera chips (CentOS has actually lost platforms over time, so it's ripe for a new platform to be added)? If neither is true, then I think we're talking about an OS dead-end here.
8320HD is good, but it's buggy
The Smartbox 8320HD I have is good, but despite some 30-odd firmware releases (I kid you not), it's still quite buggy. They've been promising the mentioned new UI since March 2010, but haven't released any firmware updates of any sort for 6 months. It may be that the recent deals to put Fetch TV in Panasonic and Samsung smart TVs might get them to look at finally releasing the new UI, but I wouldn't hold my breath...
Wordwise? Pah! Disc Doctor for the win...
Anyone doing serious programming on the BBC Micro would reckon that the Disc Doctor ROM was Computer Concepts' finest moment. Memory monitoring (endless hours of fun looking at the memory mapped I/O changing 50-odd times a second!), disk sector editing and a 6502 disassembler were hugely useful - way more so than a rather restricted word processor ROM.
How is it not clear which Firefox will be an ESR?
I'm perplexed here - the article seems to make out that no-one will know ahead of time which Firefox release will become an ESR, but then also says that Firefox 10 will be an ESR and there will be a new ESR every 54 weeks (which would be every 9 Firefox releases roughly - so Firefox 19 would be the following ESR and so on).
I'm also confused by the first commenter here who implies that Firefox ESR won't get bugs fixed quickly. The ESR releases will get incremental updates (e.g. 10.0.1 or whatever) which will be pushed out quickly if it's a critical fix.
Having said all that, I suspect only corporations will want the Firefox ESR release (because any non-security-related improvements - especially speed/snappiness - will be spaced a year apart) and those corps running Windows on their intranet are also going to want Group Policy options and MSI installers - 7 year old bugs in Mozilla's bugzilla that still have no resolution in sight...
Dell business desktops did it right
I bought a Dell Vostro desktop years ago that I was actually quite impressed with the installation and recovery media. It was Vista Business and came with *no* crudware pre-installed, plus the Vista DVD was actually a full OEM install DVD (not just a piddling recovery disc) that you could actually use on any of your Dell machines!
Of course, they did have to screw up a near perfect situation by only shipping 32-bit Vista on a 64-bit capable machine. Many e-mails and phone calls later, I actually persuaded Dell UK to ship me the 64-bit Vista DVD at no charge (they did say I could only install it on one machine and had to remove the 32-bit version, which is fair enough).
I'm not a fan of recovery partitions at all - what you need is something that will burn a recovery (or preferably full OEM install) ISO and will nag you at every boot up until you do (with the option to run at it any time in the future to burn additional personal copies). If they did that, you could indeed dispense with having to ship optical media.
I think the issue here is that the contents of any Windows DVD is copyrighted and if you burn copies of it - even if they're useless withtout an activation key - you are infringing that copyright, so technically Microsoft is (for once) right here.
Personally, I usually just end up wiping off Windows and putting Linux on - and, yes, I object that no major OEM will ship an OS-less machine (white box shifters do, so why can't the big brand names do the same?).
Good luck calling it iTV in the UK
I somehow doubt that Apple will get away with calling it "iTV" in the UK, since a certain national UK TV broadcaster might have something to say about that. Apart from naming issues, I think Apple will struggle in the UK - not only will whatever they launch in the UK cost at least pounds-to-dollars, any paid content will be hugely expensive and DRM'ed to the hilt too.
Prices of TVs and set-top boxes in the UK are fairly low - large LCD sets can be found for 300 quid or less and set-top boxes vary from 20 to 250 quid depending on their functionality (many of which are already wired or wireless and can do Net stuff). Apple would be entering quite a mature market, a large chunk of which don't pay anything above the equipment and the TV licence fee and never intend to either. Yep, that pesky licence fee is another dampener to any new entrant to the UK market that wants to charge for content. Apple will fail, IMHO, if they launch Apple TV in the UK - and YouView finally launches soon to do pretty well something similar to Apple TV don't forget (with a lot of free content I suspect too).
GNOME 3 will eventually get it right, but providing no easy transition to it was a mistake
I'm sure that, after several iterations, GNOME 3 will eventually get it right. However, for both Ubuntu and Fedora to dive straight into it after many years with a mature GNOME 2 was a clear mistake. It was such a jarring change that the distros should have provided a decent fallback for a couple of releases (i.e. the old GNOME 2, not some half-baked "GNOME 3 made to look a bit like GNOME 2" effort that they dished out).
During the transition period, they could then develop a *proper* GNOME 2-lookalike to sit on top of GNOME 3 (like the Linux Mint effort), which could be been provided for a couple of more releases at least (during which time, some of the "missing" GNOME 2 stuff could re-appear in core GNOME 3 hopefully).
I don't have time to wait for all of that, so I'm trying out XFCE in Fedora 16 and have got it pretty close to my preferred GNOME 2 setup that I used in Fedora 14 (the last Fedora with GNOME 2). I'll keep trying out new Fedora and Ubuntu releases in the hope that GNOME 3 becomes usable, but to me, the current GNOME 3 looks like it's designed exclusively for a touchscreen (huge icons, lots of scrolling) which makes it an epic fail for desktops at the moment.
Commodore 64 - some nice hardware, but OS and BASIC were terrible
The Commodore 64 had a nice keyboard, nice sound and a fairly decent sprite system. It was such a shame that the rest of the machine was a huge let-down. The operating system was pretty dismal (not much of an API, so most developers had to restort to direct hardware access) and the BASIC was even worse (slow and lacking so many features compared the best BASIC at the time [BBC BASIC]).
The tape system was a complete joke - many software companies were so appalled by it, they ended up writing their own "turbo loaders" to gain half-decent loading time. As for the disk system, "a disgrace" would have been kind to it. It was so slow that the tape turbo loaders were actually quicker than it!
I had the misfortune to experience some assembler development on the Commodore 64 and even with an assembler cartridge to avoid tape/disk loading times, it was still tortuously painful to develop on. I still say that the BBC Micro was the best 8-bit micro ever to develop code on and Commodore's machines weren't in the same league for that.
No dent in argument detected...
> This puts a dent in my "Android versus iPhone - Look what Android can do that iPhone can't" argument!
One word: MAME4droid
Been in the Android Market since early September and not under any threat of being pulled, unlike iMAME. Be careful about the ROMs you download (apart from their legality of course) - you'll often find a dozen or more versions of an arcade classic and many of them don't seem to work with MAME4droid (and since the core code is the same, iMAME probably would have the same issue).
I've been running MAME4droid on my HP TouchPad with Cyanogenmod 7 and it's a sweet little time-waster! My fave is Phoenix, but I'm sure everyone's got their own fave from 80's arcade machines.
Oh, for futher emulation joy, try Beebdroid - now that's an emulator I suspect you won't ever see on iOS devices...
Simple solutions (that will never happen)
Three simple things the media companies could do, but never will because they're greedy:
1. Don't use DRM - it inconveniences legitimate customers more than the pirates (who get the DRM-free version inevitably). Sadly, even today, DRM is still widely used and the media companies are losing sales because of it.
2. Release worldwide simultaneously and "region-free". Having any significant delay between country releases can be damaging - it still happens to this day (witness some movies getting US DVD releases before their UK theatrical release). Region protection for media or downloads is an equally poor move that encourages piracy.
3. Charge significantly less for digital downloads than the physical media. Pure greed has meant that a significant percentage of digital downloads cost the same or sometimes *more* than the physical equivalent. Witness the scandal of Amazon's #1 book of 2011 - the Steve Jobs biography - which costs *more* for its Kindle edition than the hardback (both Amazon US and UK are guilty of this atrocious pricing).
I would pay for a subscription service (e.g. 10-15 quid a month - something around the cost of the UK TV licence) that offered me, say, all US TV shows for DRM-free hi-def downloads (not streaming - I want to watch them whenever I want) within a week of their US TV airing. It'll never happen because there's multiple greedy US media conglomorates involved and they can't see that selling their TV shows to a non-US audience that way could gain them tens of millions of subscribers. Because such a service doesn't exist, people outside the US find other ways to get their US TV shows within a week of US airing (hint: it's not by subscribing to Sky to get Sky Atlantic!).
Channel 5+1 anyone?
I'm surprised neither the article nor any of the comments so far have mentiond the utterly pointless Channel 5+1 channel that launched a few week ago. When many DVRs have twin tuners, the usefulness of any +1 channel rapidly heads towards zero. So that's *two* SD Channel 5's and *zero* HD Channel 5's then. Mind you, with Channel 5 having virtually nothing worth watching, even zero Channel 5's overall wouldn't upset me too much.
App 2 SD Free - doesn't that do what App Cache Cleaner does and more?
It's quite bemusing that each app has an "App2SD" indicator, but the first app - App Cache Cleaner - seems to do the same thing that the App 2 SD Free app can (I usually get prompted to "clean the app cache" when I run App 2 SD Free). Seems to me that App 2 SD Free is the one to go for here rather than App Cache Cleaner.
3.5" drives - what about them?
No mention of 3.5" drives, which most desktops use nowadays - or are desktop PCs so out of fashion now that Seagate/Samsung don't make them any more? Not a single 2TB drive listed in the article, never mind the 4TB SATA drives that have turned up recently (in Japan, though I believe that wasn't Seagate/Samsung). I guess those two Samsung F4 2TB 3.5" drives in my desktop PC are a mirage then? :-)
Adobe Reader and Linux...sigh
Is it just me or has Adobe Reader on Linux lagged behind the Mac and Windows versions for a year now? The "X" version isn't available on Linux (is there any technical reason why?) and they don't even bother updating the Linux 9.4.6 release for a month after the Windows one, despite it having the same security issue as the Windows 9.4.6 release!
Sadly, for some PDF documents, Linux alternatives like evince, xpdf and so on aren't good enough (evince in particular is prone to crashes with certain PDFs, which load fine in Adobe's wretched reader).
I've even been desperate enough to try Firefox's pdf.js extension, but it unfortunately honours the browser's font settings (which I set to 16 point - pdf.js should either have its own font settings or ignore the browser's, IMHO), leaving each page a mush of overlarge black text.
BTW, on a slightly different topic, has anyone seen a true 64-bit PDF reader on Windows (i.e. a 64-bit binary)? Nitro PDF "64-bit" version isn't 64-bit - the process is 32-bit. I'm trying to keep Windows 7 "64-bit pure", but bizarrely a 64-bit PDF reader binary doesn't seem to exist!
Mini 9 - I still use mine!
Picked up a new Dell Mini 9 from Dell's website when it was on offer (149 quid) a few years back and I'm still using it today. I used the money I saved on the offer to boost it with 2GB RAM, 32GB Runcore SSD and a 32GB SDHC card - that's probably a higher spec than most tablets and I topped it off with Fedora Linux for maximum usability.
It's the right form factor for a mixture of both serious and fun stuff, unlike tablets which are strictly for media consumption/games, IMHO. Sadly, most people don't do serious stuff with their computers beyond managing photos and doing some word processing, so I guess that's why netbooks are so out of fashion now.
BTW, can you actually buy a netbook with an SSD any more? That was the saddest thing to disappear from them in the last year or two - why would I want a hard drive in a primarily portable device?
TouchPad + CyanogenMod 7 = best VFM tablet of 2011
If you could actually get a firesale TouchPad (I did), the fact that you could put CyanogenMod 7 (Android 2.3.7) with CM9 due next year too (Android 4) and dual boot between webOS and Android was pretty unique amongst phones/tablets. For the first few months, I tweaked my TouchPad on the webOS side enormously (Preware, Uberkernel, Govnah, patches to speed it up), but it got less and less use over time!
Why? Well, it's the holes in the webOS app catalogue that bothered me the most. Some of those holes were due to HP refusing to release UK versions of US webOS apps such as Amazon Kindle [I had to fake my registration country to US to get it] or the HP Movie Store [I peeked at it and was appalled as the prices mind you!]). Having region-specific stores and promo apps codes is horrendous, especially when you can't see any "rights" reasons for many of the differences.
Also, crowing when you had 1,000 apps on the webOS platform that were TouchPad compatible (and many thousands more that provided a phone-emulated dismal experience) was not a good PR move when Android and iOS tablets have an order of magnitude more.
So when CyanogenMod came along, I jumped ship to Android on the TouchPad and have been a happy bunny ever since. Games are way better on Android and there's even MAMEdroid and Beebdroid for emulation of 80's classics. Loads of free high quality chess and Sudoku programs on Android (the few on Android either aren't TouchPad compatible or you have to pay for them) are also available if you're into more cerebral puzzles.
I couldn't find a decent free video player that would play all the common formats on webOS at all (which you'd think was a critical app for webOS on tablets, but nope), but there's a couple of dozen free ones to choose from on Android. Heck, early webOS releases didn't even come with a free proper camera app that could take photos and videos, FFS!
Ultimately, a vibrant app store can take a year or so to build up a critical app. HP pulling the rug uder webOS hardware less than 50 days after release has meant that no-one can buy a brand new webOS device and this in turn will inevitably lead to developers gradually leaving the platform for iOS or Android. HP or another OEM needs to get more webOS-using hardware out there or its future remains grim.
Yes, the TouchPad was the best bargain tablet of the year (totally ignored by El Reg's year-end review of 2011 tablets, which was a ludicrous omission - at one point it was world's #2 best-selling tablet!), but unless someone follows up with a TouchPad/Pre successor, it'll be the swansong for webOS.
I'll stick with my TouchPad...
Although you do allude to the TouchPad not being purchasable any more (Sunday sees a US-only HP eBay sale of refurb'ed TouchPads, so it's not 100% true), the title says "2011's best...Premium Tablets" and doesn't say whether or not they can bought any more. Hands down best value for such a tablet in 2011 was indeed the HP TouchPad.
Not only that, but the TouchPad can dual boot between webOS and Android (2.3.7), with Android 4.0 likely to turn up some time early next year. All for 89 quid (16GB) or 115 quid (32GB)...but El Reg ignores it because it's now discontinued (hint: some of the tablets listed here will be discontinued in 12-18 months time I suspect, if not even sooner).
Having said all that, my Dell Mini 9 still gets far more use than any tablet would - it runs Fedora Linux which already makes it massively more scriptable/programmable (far more than any iOS or Android device) and it has an actual hardware keyboard to, you know, type on. In fact, one of my Xmas presents is a replacement battery for the Mini 9 - it's a shame that the 9"/10" netbook has gone out of fashion because they're so much more useful than the equivalently-sized tablet. I just made sure my netbook was 100% solid state like tablets are - again, SSDs on netbooks seems to have vanished completely :-(
CyanogenMod 7 makes webOS updates on tablet pointless
I have a firesale TouchPad and the release of CyanogenMod 7 (now in alpha 3 status) - based on Android 2.3.7 - has most of the hardware working correctly and it's basically kept me off webOS almost since it was installed and after I'd tweaked the CM 7 setup to my liking. There's even the promise of CM 9 (aka Android 4) next year for the TouchPad, which will make webOS look even more stale.
Sure, I'll apply the forthcoming webOS 3.0.5 update (usually needed for Preware kernels and hacks because they update them to match the latest kernel), but it won't keep me away from Android, which has so many apps that work on the TouchPad that the paucity of those in the webOS app store is frankly embarrassing. Heck, they couldn't even put the Kindle app in the UK store (I have it on the Android side, but not in webOS), despite having it at launch on the US webOS store!
Including the TiVo was a joke - not only can't be it used in half the country, but it comes with an expensive subscription too, whacking its "actual" price way beyond the 199/50 quoted. The real question is - if you unsubscribe to Virgin do they take it back or - equally annoyingly - cripple it like the Sky+ HD box so you can't record on it any more (and maybe not even watch existing recordings?).
I guess this is a list of the "best of 2011", but what if something was launched in 2010 and is better than some or all of the ones in this article? As people have said, the Humax hasn't suddenly vanished and even the Smartbox 8320HD I have (released June 2010) has still had several firmware updates this year. Can't say that the TVionics with a 75% rating in your April review is better than some of the Freeview HD DVR kit released in 2010.
In fact, if you look at it, the mad scramble to get kit out in mid-2010 for the World Cup in HD has really left a lull in 2011 - there's been nothing released in the DVR arena, IMHO, that's a significant jump from what we saw last year. I guess manufacturers are holding back for YouView's much-delayed launch next year (Feb 2012 is the latest rumour)?
Here's 3 examples...
BlinkenLights, I'll mention Knight Lore (6512 VIA anyone? Though Sabre Wulf made it too easy by using the same protection software!), Zalaga (Captain Pugwash anyone?) and Revs (*SAVE not blocked - fatal flaw) as probably the 3 "most interesting" copy protection systems used on the BBC Micro.
BBC Micro - best 8-bit computer of all time
Although Apple set the standard years earlier with the Apple II, the BBC Micro trumped it and all other 8-bit computers ever made by having the best hardware, OS and BASIC interpreter of its class. Sort of a "UK Mac" for the early 80's if you will and it wasn't until the Archimedes came out in 1987 that the technical prowess of the BBC Micro was finally beaten (yes, I tried an early Mac, but it felt quite straitjacketed even back then).
I helped out in a computer store in the early 80's and saw pretty well every type of 8-bit micro that was going then. Spectrum had the most games obviously, but its keyboard, graphics and sound were so poor as to be actually embarrassing to use. The Commodore 64 probably came closest in terms of hardware to the BBC, but was hugely let down by its poor OS, BASIC and utterly dismal disk system (so slow, that it was beaten by turbo tape loaders!).
I think that the BBC Micro was a perfect design for going into schools to replacing fairly doddering RM 380Z's and the like - its strength was indeed the OS and BASIC - the built-in assembler was a stroke of genius and you could actually develop commercial code on the same machine you ran it on (note that many Spectrum programmers - think Manic Miner and the like - used TRS-80's to code Spectrum games (downloaded via some clever add-ons) on because the Spectrum itself was a disaster to code commercially on.
The crying shame that was overpriced and never actually came down in price during any time in its production run, which ultimately was fatal to it. A drop of 100 quid would have probably doubled its sales. The Electron was horrendous - who wants a machine with no Mode 7 and half the speed of the BBC, especially when it was launched when pretty well everyone who wanted something in the BBC Micro range already had one.
I also felt Acorn were terrible at marketing - you'd hardly ever see ads on TV or print media for it, whereas Spectrum ads seemed to be everywhere. The Spectrum may have been significantly worse in almost all respects except the amount of RAM (the hardware was shoddy, it was slower, the OS and BASIC were simply dreadful), but Sinclair knew that once he got game developers on board, the cheaper machine would win out, even if it was basically a piece of junk.
My path went BBC Micro A, added RAM, added disk interface and disk drive, added speech chip, added sideways RAM (very handy for, er, running ROMs from disk)...then about 5 years later, jumped to the Archimedes A310, which I never bothered with a hard disk because it booted from ROM and 3.5" floppies were quick enough for me at the time.
Loved the Archimedes hardware, OS and BASIC again - a tour de force of engineering, the ghost of which lives on in most mobile phones as the ARM chip of course. Built-in assembler and a module loading system to add functionality, plus a reasonable WIMP for the time (perhaps not as good as the Mac's, but certainly better than GEM and Workbench) combined to make it a dream ARM development system.
It took many years of Archimedes use before a generic PC with Linux finally overtook it both in terms of speed and functionality - yes, I've never used Windows as a primary OS in all that time, though I do it run it via dual boot or VMs occasionally.
The 80's were the golden age of choice in the UK, but the 90's brought us the "one PC fits all" of Windows 95, the "nice but overpriced" of Macs and very little else (Linux really did take a long time to get the distros to be easy to install and use, but now they are technically by far the best OS to use, particularly if you are a developer).
As long as a distro gives a choice of WM's, then at least we can switch
I recently installed Fedora 16 on a netbook, but chose all available window managers to be installed so that it was easy to use the gdm pre-login options to switch WMs if I didn't like GNOME 3. Sure enough, GNOME 3 was appalling, so I easily switched to XFCE and managed to get it close to the look of my typical GNOME 2 session.
As long as we have an easily installable and switchable set of WMs provided with Linux distros, then I don't mind if the default one sucks donkey's naughty bits. It also gives us a distinct advantage over Windows if we really don't like the default desktop (Windows handling of scrollbar jumps if you drag a scrollbar button and drift left or right is appalling, as is maximising a window if you drag the top of it to the top of the screen - who thought either of those were sensible faults?).
Network needed during install / Broadcom wireless
Whilst they have finally sorted out their kernel mode setting failures with ATI cards (only took about 2 years/4 releases to do so), they seem to insist - for me at least - that a network connection is present during the Fedora 16 installation. This requirement forced up a dialogue box to choose between my network interfaces - and this was even before the repository/package choice was made! I've installed all previous 15 Fedora releases and have *never* required a net connection during any previous Fedora install - this is an extremely poor move on the part of the Fedora installer, IMHO.
What's worse is that the Fedora geniuses have shipped the Broadcom wireless drivers (I was installing on a Dell Mini 9 that has Broadcom) without any firmware, so they are utterly useless in the Anaconda installer - well done, boys! Even when I got the b43 firmware on a USB stick, Fedora's installer provided no easy way to install them (a la "press F6 for driver disk" that the Windows installer uses - I even used one of the virtual terminals to unpack the firmware files, but it still didn't help).
I could only get past the network prompt by wiring up the Mini 9's ethernet interface - once installed, I completed the b43 wireless driver install only to find I was getting 1Mbit/sec speeds and the connection dropping every 30 seconds. In other words, the open source driver for Broadcom wireless on Fedora 16 is shipped totally unusable without ninja skills to enable it and when it is enabled, it's utterly useless. I switched to the closed source "wl" driver from rpmfusion.org, which worked perfectly. I can't believe that in 2011, we've *still* got wireless problems with a major Linux distro.
As for the GNOME 3/Shell interface, it was such a bad user experience, I switched to XFCE and made it look fairly close to a GNOME 2 with a single panel at the bottom - a much more productive setup, IMHO. And, yes, there's a right-click on the background available to bring up "obvious" actions in XFCE, unlike GNOME 3's decision to ludicrously disable such right-clicks.
Not bad, but Sainsbury's did it already...
After checking out various Web sites for my sister a month or so ago, I eventually found a Samsung 15.6" i3 laptop for 285 quid on Sainsbury's Web site. Admittedly, this included 50 quid off the RRP, 50 quid cashback (though done easily all online) and a 15 quid checkout discount code, but it was pretty unbeatable. Told my sis to get 8GB of RAM from Amazon (just over 30 quid!) which is now fitted and the machine really is nice and fast. Probably the best laptop bargain of the year I reckon and clearly beating Asda's price too (even with the extra RAM)...
Still well overpriced
Most of these Blu-ray players seem to be high-end models that only audiophiles would chase it seems, making it not particularly relevant to 95%+ of the people reading this article.
I bought an LG combo drive for my PC in September 2008 for 67 quid that can read and write CDs and DVDs plus read HD-DVDs and Blu-Rays. Where's the equivalent 67 quid standalone Blu-Ray player over 3 years later? Whilst there have been a few special offers (HotUKDeals is your friend) in the interim, most Blu-ray players are still well above 100 quid! Why?
Blu-ray is doomed to fail long term on pricing alone (after over 5 years from launch, sub 100 quid players are still a rarity rather than the norm they should be - plus shouldn't Blu-ray movie discs cost the same as DVD discs by now too?), never mind that movie streaming via a net connection is slowly closing the viability window for Blu-ray too.
Basically, Blu-ray is an epic price fail and unless the prices fall soon, it'll be dodo time for the format.
Epic fail on many fronts
I'm really surprised about this "shoot-out", especially when it's conveniently taken place just after iOS5 comes out, but before Android 4 (ICS) does! Also, as people have pointed out, this was a test of HTC's Sense UI (and possibly some of the apps they add/modify), which is different to Samsung's Android UI for example.
I know the shoot-out was supposed to be about the out-of-the-box experience, but apparently this doesn't include the various app stores/Markets (even if the review would be limited to ease of use of said stores/Markets, rather than mentioning the quality or quantity of downloadable apps), which almost *all* smartphone users would use whereas there's stuff in the review that I've never used on my HTC Desire (e.g. the e-mail app, Facebook or Twitter are three to mention).
BTW, the ratings sections claim there are two sets of "Instant Messaging" ratings (the second one is for the e-mail review - dugh!). Talking of ratings, I'm totally incredulous that the ratings totals weren't provided at the end, so for those who want to know (marks out of 35):
Windows Phone 25.0
So is the reviewer going to have anohter shootout in a month with Symbian and Android 4 included then? Maybe not, because iOS 6 won't be out until next year and we've got to make sure Apple wins...
It'll be as half-hearted by Dell as before...
When Dell was selling Ubuntu machines in the UK a few years back, you had a hard job finding them (a single link something like "Open Source Desktops" - no way was Ubuntu a config option on the same customisation page as Windows).
When you did eventually discover them on Dell's UK site, they were very deliberately never exactly the same hardware (maybe under instruction from MS?), making like-for-like comparisons extremely difficult. In fact, the Linux hardware seemed to be slightly worse, never customisable and in many cases actually more expensive than the closest equivalent Windows machine.
In the end, when looking for a new Dell PC, I ended up with a quad core Vostro 400 business machine, wiped 32-bit Vista Business off and put 64-bit Fedora Linux on instead and it worked well (no, there was no quad core Linux Dell desktop available at all at the time!).
Dell's Linux desktop efforts were deliberately disgraceful for fear of offending MS (and losing their precious volume Windows discount) and then used to justify removing the Linux boxes from the Dell UK site entirely (I believe you could phone Dell UK up to order them after that, but I wouldn't be surprised if that option has gone now too).
If Dell were at all serious about Linux on the desktop, they could at least try this model:
* Certify that all the components work with Linux on a Dell machine (this could almost be automated with a boot CD producing a summary report - would be nice if the CD was made available to the general public too).
* Have a link on their product page to summarise what does/doesn't work in Linux (perhaps getting a Dell penguin "certified for Linux" logo if it fully passes).
* Make it *extremely clear* that installing Linux is not directly supported by Dell and they will only deal with OS/software queries about the pre-installed OS (i.e. Windows). Hardware, however, should not have its warranty invalidated if Linux is installed.
* If they want to put a bit more work into it, they could sponsor OSS developers or third-party manufacturers to write Linux drivers for any hardware components they are shipping that aren't supported by Linux.
If they did all of the above, then the final step would be to re-introduce Dell Linux desktops/netbooks/laptops *properly* this time. Ubuntu should be a pre-install option right next to the Windows OS options and ideally with a cost of 0.00 (no support) or some fixed support fee (e.g. 10% of the hardware cost per year or maybe 25% of the hardware cost for a "lifetime support").
It should be made clear to the purchaser that Ubuntu will not run most Windows programs (yes, Wine could be set up in a nice way by Dell/Canonical, but it's still only a partial solution, particularly for games). Needless to say, MS would go ballistic at the idea of Ubuntu being offered right next to Windows and threaten Dell to scupper their Windows discount I bet...
Use the (ISP) force, Nuke
I, too, made 6 seconds of phone calls on my BT landline in the last 3 months (yes, to ring my mobile phone to locate it!), but if you use broadband on your BT line, they refuse to give you a light user rebate!
By default, they also force you on a useless plan and it wasn't until I phoned them up (from work :-) ) that they actually admitted that you can pay a year's worth of line rental up front for 120 quid a year (10 quid a month) - I've never had any letter about that deal - but they didn't say anything about not being on any pointless plan though.
In the end, I switched to my ISP's 10 quid a month plan for a landline and I suspect that'll save at least 5-10 quid a month compared to BT.
Doesn't work on my (CyanogenMod 7) HP TouchPad
I don't know about other Android tablets, but this app is marked as "not compatible" in the Android Market with my HP TouchPad+CyanogenMod 7 setup. If this applies to other Android tablets too, then perhaps it deserves an "epic fail" rating? I find it a bit difficult to believe that a government app on Android would only work on mobile phones and not tablets, so maybe it's something specific to the TouchPad (e.g. screen res etc.)?
HP TouchPad browser? Why Firefox of course...
phcahill, the decent browser for the HP TouchPad is, of course, Firefox. This assumes you've installed CyanogenMod 7 on your TouchPad first - I did and it's my first experience of Android on a tablet. I'm loving it and live wallpapers actually start to make sense on a tablet too.
A bit of overclocking love via "CPU Master" and my HP TouchPad is flying with pretty well any app, Firefox Beta included. I've barely booted back to webOS, which did indeed have a virtually unconfigurable and therefore unusable browser (proxies? Font size? Cert management? Extensions? Themes? View Source? You're out of luck).
Don't use Fedora at work...
Captain Thyratron, I suspect whoever decided to install Fedora 15 on your work desktop is a pretty clueless admin. Not only is Fedora considered relatively bleeding edge, F15 in particular sucked spherical objects very hard indeed, which a few hours of testing would have shown. It's got a Frankenstein mix of systemd and Sys V init, GNOME 3 that works dismally on many ATI cards (It was only until Ubuntu 11.10 beta that I finally found a GNOME 3 distro that actually works with my ATI card) and even me, as a regular Fedora upgrader, decided to skip F15 due to its quite astonishing suckiness (they may have fixed issues with updates, but since F14 is still getting updates, I stayed with something that worked from day one).
What your IT people should have done was look at CentOS 6 - a free clone of RHEL 6 with 7 years of updates (F15 stops updates after about 14 months of life), GNOME 2 and 100% Sys V init. A much more suitable choice for a corporate Linux desktop than F15, IMHO.
UEFI spec needs to insist on user being able disable secure boot
Wouldn't the furore go away if the UEFI spec insisted that secure boot must always be able to be disabled by the end-user? Without that insistence in the spec, then Microsoft do indeed have a way to leverage their OEM clout to lock out any non-MS OS from being booted.
Also, won't it mean that only MS-signed rescue disks can be used to recover Windows (bang goes all those third-party rescue disks that are generally better than anything MS provides)?
Of course, Microsoft are being quite clever at using the Windows 8 logo cert programme to dangle a carrot at the OEMs to only ship Win 8 keys, whilst using a stick to beat away any other OS from being installed. This way, MS can try to get away with finger-pointing at OEMs from not providing the ability to disable secure boot.
ProxMox VE is good, but could be better
ProxMox VE is a reasonably good way to set up a single server hosting VMs, but it needs some work to make it easy to turn that into a multiple server cluster (which at least gives you live migration, needed for long term admin really). The Proxmox VE Cluster wiki pages are scary reading (but they do ultimate work if you're careful) - they seem to have "forgotten" to extend the ProxMox Web interface for converting two or more Proxmox VE standalone instances into an equivalent cluster.
Another defiency of ProxMox VE's Web admin is that some operations can only be done by hand-editing VM conf files in /etc/qemu-server - i.e. "modify" options are often missing from the Web interface.
Another Web "gotcha" is that the set of buttons to do something with a VM are missing obvious option, namely "Suspend" (and "Resume" when it's suspended). It seems crazy to me that a Web interface to manage VMs can't actually suspend any of them. Also be careful that some changes to VMs require a Shutdown and then a Start (Restart doesn't apply the changes) and the Proxmox VM Web interface doesn't warn you about that. Still, it's free and it generally works, so we shouldn't complain too much :-)
Load times dismal
Whilst they've done a revamp for the 2011 season, is it just me or are the load times when visiting each track even longer than F1 2010 (which was already bad)? I have 12GB RAM, but it doesn't seem to have the concept of caching data for tracks already visited in this session. Perhaps the fact it's a 32-bit app (why? Aren't there loads of 64-bit Windows 7 users out there now?) doesn't help, but the loading times are so appalling that it detracts significantly from gameplay, IMHO.
Here's what they need to do w.r.t. HD channels
1. Change "BBC HD" to "BBC 2 HD". OK, this will mean no BBC 3 or 4 programmes in HD, but surely BBC 2 gets more viewers than BBC 3 and 4 combined?
2. Scrap S4C HD in Welsh regions and replace it with Channel 4 HD. How come Welsh regions get Channel 4 (England) in SD, but not in HD? I suspect the number of viewers of Channel 4 SD in Wales massively exceeds the number of viewers of S4C SD.
3. Even though there's virtually no decent programmes (apart from the odd US import) on Channel 5, it seems bizarre that it's now the only one of the "original" 5 terrestrial channels without some sort of output in HD (OK, BBC 2 only gets some stuff via BBC HD, but my suggestion 1 would fix that). Hence, just for consistency, I would allocate the HD channel to C5.
4. When the final region switches over to digital in 2012, do a massive channel renumbering to shift the HD channels to 1-5 instead of 50-54 like they currently are. Yes, I have a Freeview HD box that shamefully can't renumber the channels...
Is it channel 112 or 120?
Logically, it would suggest that the third channel involved is 112, but you mention channel 120 at the start and 112 in the middle - so which is it? I hope my 8320HD (which has Freeview HD, wired and wireless connections) will see this stuff - I presume no firmware update would be needed? I bet most of the free content is going to be rubbish though...