275 posts • joined 25 Nov 2006
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.
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?).
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