And then totally lose my marbles.

Tuesday, October 21


Meanwhile, Back At The Android Farm...

They dropped the brilliant Nexus 7, when they could have easily upgraded it from last year's best small tablet to this year's best small tablet,*  and brought out the Nexus 9.

Which is...   Eh.

It's the first 64-bit Android device that I know of.  I'm not sure if the Intel-based tablets support 64-bit Android.

It has a 4:3 screen (like the iPad) rather than the more usual 16:10 on other Android tablets.  It has...  Nothing else special.  64-bit, 4:3.

And the 32GB version sells for $589, where a 32GB iPad Mini 2 costs $429, and is a lot lighter - 330g for the iPad Mini vs. 425g for the Nexus 9.

They'll sell a few to Android developers, but beyond that, I'm not sure who it's for.  The Galaxy Tab S 10.5 32GB is $649, but it has a larger, higher-resolution, AMOLED screen, and MicroSD for extra storage.

* Just swap the Snapdragon 600 CPU for an 800 and bump storage from 16/32GB to 32/64GB and you're done.  Add a MicroSD slot if you really want to hit it out of the park.  Everything else about the device is great.

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And Then There Were Two

A few months ago my Nexus 7 died.  I have a couple of other tablets, but the Nexus 7 is the one I use every day for reading and checking email.  My iPad mostly just sits there.

It was a bad time for it to happen, because the Nexus 7 was out of stock at Google and all the local shops.  I managed to find one online, though it was a Wifi-only model, not 4G like the dead one, but that would do.

Fast forward to now, and Google have officially dropped the Nexus 7, ignoring the fact that it is the best 7" tablet in existence.  What you've got now is all you're ever going to get.  So I took another run at restoring my old Nexus 7.

It doesn't seem to charge from the USB port any more.  I got a Qi wireless charger at the time it died, and succeeded in charging it, but then it wouldn't boot.

I left it on the charger again overnight, and this morning it booted as far as "Bad command" screen with the little deceased Android mascot. 

And while I was trying to get it to reset (hold down the power button and volume-up controls until it responds) it apparently succeeded with some self-repair operation and booted all the way into Android, with all my apps and data intact.

So, yay for that!  I expected at the very least to have to do a factory reset, but it came up fine and I was able to update it to Android 4.4.4.

Probably if I'd persisted with it some more last time I wouldn't have had to buy the new one, but then I wouldn't be able to buy a spare now.

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Saturday, October 18


And We're Back (Again)

Server move complete.  There was a problem with one of the database indexes, which is why it took rather longer than the expected 10-15 minutes.  Everything got transferred across just fine, the services came up, and the past month of posts was MIA.

Fixed now.

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Friday, October 17


Retina iMac

Retina iMac!

5120x2880 display.  

Mostly it's the same as last year's model, with the rest of the hardware getting minor upgrades - Thunderbolt 2, and up to the Core i7 4790K processor and Radeon R9 M295X graphics.  Which is the fastest 4-core desktop CPU you can get, and one of the fastest mobile graphics chips.*

So the new 14 megapixel display is the one standout feature.  Is it worth the price increase?

In a word, hell yeah.  Comparing equivalent models, retina and non-retina, the difference is only $300 - $2499 vs. $2199 in the US, or $2999 vs $2689 in Australia.

Given that Dell's 5K monitor is expected to sell for $2499 by itself, $2499 for a fairly well-configured** 5K iMac is a bargain.

Am I getting one here at PixyLab?  Yes.  No question, this is going to be my new primary computer.  I'm going to go for a system with a 1TB SSD, so my config will be a little more expensive, but I was planning to get a 4K display and some sort of Mac in any case.

Update: Just saw a review of the latest version of MacOS X 10.10.  Like iOS 7 and Windows 8 before it, it looks like a cheap cartoon version of itself.  You have 14 million pixels to work with and you give us this?!

* Faster than my desktop Radeon 7950.
** That includes a 3.5GHz quad-core CPU, Radeon R9 M290 graphics, a 1TB fusion drive, and 8GB of RAM.  That's a little light on the RAM, which is user-upgradeable and so not a problem, and probably also on the storage, which isn't.

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Tuesday, October 14



So, we had a big storm roll through Sydney yesterday.  Well, medium-sized storm, anyway.

And we had a blackout where I live in the northern suburbs.  Four hours after the storm had passed.  Don't know what the story was with that.

Anyway, 11:30 at night, I was in the shower, lights go off, water goes cold, kind of annoying.  I found my notebook (sitting by the bed) and opened the lid, which provided enough light to find some clothes and then my phone and my tablet, check Twitter (Hey, the power just went out!) and go to bed.

Around 2AM everything came back on and woke me up, and I checked my computers and got them rebooting before heading back to bed.

I was worried about the Linux box because it had a degraded RAID array that I hadn't got to fixing (though I do have a full backup).  So I checked on that this afternoon...  And it's no longer degraded.  It's working perfectly.


Also, server move next weekend.  Details to follow, expect 30 minutes or so of downtime.

Update: It's doing this.  It's not meant to do that.

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Sunday, October 05


They Took My Hour!

Daylight savings.  Just say bah.

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Friday, October 03


And We're Back

Sorry, Ebola.

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Friday, September 26



Ugh.  Another one?

We dodged Heartbleed because our SSL libraries were older than the bug, but this bug - dubbed Shellshock - is old enough to vote, and the affected program is Bash, the default shell on hundreds of millions of Linux and MacOS X systems all over the world.

Fortunately CPanel updated Bash to the patch release automatically, and Minx itself is designed not to use the shell, ever.  I went so far as to write my own file management library because the default Python library uses the shell to do its work.  I didn't know of this bug at the time, obviously, but passing data from the web to a shell script is fraught with fraughtness and I wanted no part in it.

I think we're safe.  But while this is quick and easy to patch, there are a huge number of potentially affected servers and some of them have reportedly already been hacked.  Be extra cautious for the next few days if anything looks out of place on the sites you visit.  Big names like Amazon are almost certainly safe; it's the little guys who don't have a full-time IT staff who need to scramble.

Well, and the IT guys themselves, which is why I'm up at 3AM.

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Tuesday, September 23


Did USB Just Kill Thunderbolt?

Not quite.

USB 3.0 is pretty neat.  If you're used to USB 2, the performance jump (from 480Mbps half-duplex to 5Gbps full-duplex) can be startling.  And it's cheap and if not ubiquitous, then at least widespread.

The connectors, though, are crap.  One end exists in a weird subspace with 720Ā° rotational symmetry; the other is just plain ugly.

USB Type C fixes that, with a single, simple, compact, reversible connector.  The cable is the same at both ends and works either way up.

Also, it supports USB 3.1, bumping the speed to 10Gbps.

And it supports up to 100W of power, up from 7.5W.

And now it supports DisplayPort.  You can have a 4K monitor at 60Hz plus USB 3.1 over a single USB cable.  Or you can have a 5K monitor at 60Hz, but only with USB 2.0, because it needs all the wires for video data.

There's just one fly in the ointment: At full speed, it's only specified to work over a 1 metre cable.  At half speed, you get 2 metres.  So perfect for docking your laptop or tablet (because you get 100W of power at the same time) but kind of iffy for the desktop.

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Saturday, September 20


Giveaway Bits

I have a few extra game keys to give away thanks to the generosity of Steam, Humble Bundle, and Kickstarter.

So if anyone would like free keys for any of the following, let me know in the comments or drop me an email.
  • Civilization V
  • Wasteland 2 (Steam or GOG) -> RickC
  • Torchlight
  • Batman Arkham Asylum -> Mauser
  • Batman Arkham City -> Wonderduck
  • Batman Arkham Origins -> Gothmog
  • Divine Divinity -> Hypozeuxis
  • Divinity 2
  • Beyond Divinity
  • Divinity: Dragon Commander
  • RPG Maker VX Ace -> Andrew G
  • Scribblenauts
  • Stacking
  • Stonehearth (not Hearthstone, which is a different thing).  This is still in alpha, but I have an alpha gift key. -> Avatar
  • Faerie Solitaire
  • Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams
  • Dust: An Elysian Tale -> RickC
  • Ittle Dew
  • Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine (couple of these)
Couple more I forgot about:
  • Shadowrun Returns (two of these)
  • Shadowrun: Dragonfall (two of these too)
  • Cities in Motion 2 (one)
Mostly they're giftable Steam keys, so you'll need a Steam account.

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