Wednesday, October 14


Daily News Stuff 14 October 2020

Prime Time Edition

Tech News

  • Well, I guess I have Amazon Prime now.  The only thing I bought was three of those 400GB Sandisk microSD cards.  Come to think of it, that's basically all I ever buy during these big Amazon sales.

    I would still like to get some of Sandisk's 1TB microSD cards, to pair with the 1TB SSDs in my two laptops, but they still cost a fortune. The 400GB model at $60 is far better value.

    They did have a sale on the Western Digital Blue SN550 1TB model, but it was only about 10% off and shipped from Amazon UK, so I passed on that.

  • I really wanted the 2TB model, but I couldn't find any sales on that one.

    Turns out that's because there is no Western Digital Blue SN550 2TB model.  What I was looking at before was the older Western Digital Blue, which was an M.2 SATA drive.  Which would probably work fine but I'm going to pass on that too.

  • I looked at some phones as well, but there weren't any amazing specials to be had.  The Oppo A52 looked good, but when I checked it was basically at retail price.

  • Apple announced the iPhone 12, now available in sizes.  (AnandTech)

    All four of the new models now has at least a 1080p screen.  Since Apple has been retinising everything for years, it surprised me that this was supposed to be new, but I checked and the regular iPhone 11 had a display resolution of 1792x828.

  • A full review of the Surface Laptop Go.  (Tom's Hardware)

    Quick precis: Meh.

  • Krita 4.4 is out.  (Krita)

    I saw the announcement and realised that I once knew what Krita was but that knowledge had gone to Tumbolia.  So I checked and it's an open source paint program for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

  • PC sales rose 8% in Q3.  (

    People keep saying that you can do everything you need on an iPad or even a phone, but those people don't have jobs.  When work-from-home kicked in and people needed to work from home, they bought PCs.

  • Speaking of imaginary early 80's computers, I previously said that there was no way to feed pixel data from the cartridge port to the video processor fast enough to put a graphics upgrade into a cartridge.

    I was wrong.

    I was looking at this because some NES and SNES cartridges had hardware on them - not just ROM chips - to provide new game features, and wanted to make that possible in the emulator.

    Now, the hardware as specified can't write a video stream to RAM in real time, but if we allow for the shared memory bus to be configured as a streaming pixel input, it can work as just another playfield that appears out of nowhere, and the graphics from the regular video controller can be an overlay or a backdrop to whatever the cartridge is doing.

    That would even (in theory) extend to a second-generation graphics card with faster nibble-mode memory.

    All it needs is one or two more of those 74LS861 bus transceivers to isolate the CPU with shared memory, where before I had only specified them to isolate the CPU from shared memory.  (One or two depending on whether we need the cartridge hardware to be able to drive the address bus as well.)

    I originally considered adding a dedicated pixel port to the imaginary video chip, but that felt like I was adding too much stuff in.  This version has appropriate tradeoffs; while the video controller is receiving the pixel stream from the cartridge, it is unable to access shared memory at all.

  • Let's see what's on Prime Video.  Movies we think you'll like....  Those are all garbage, Amazon.  TV....  Well, you have all twelve seasons of Bones.  That might be worth a look.  And all one season of The Dresden Files.

    How about anime?  Uh.  Okay, that's clearly a question I should not have asked.  The list is short and mostly third-rate, though they have The Great Passage which I rather like and no-one watched.

  • Netflix is run by morons.  (Wired)

    "Second-order effects?  What are those?"

    It's the Google Graveyard of television.

  • There are basically no good laptops under A$1000.  There are plenty of laptops under A$1000, but they all have major issues - either they're crippled with Atom processors and soldered-in memory and storage, or they have 720p TN displays.

    My current spare laptop ticks all those boxes with regards to flaws, but I paid about A$230 for it so I don't care too much.  Except when I want to run Idle Champions on it and it gets overloaded to a point that the trackpad stops working.  (It's an Atom, and not one of the good Atoms.  Technetium or something problematic like that.)

    This Acer Aspire A5 appears to be an exception.  (AmazonAU)

    It's not all that cheap, and it's last year's Ryzen and the low-end model at that, but it is still a Ryzen.  1080p IPS display, check.  Upgradeable memory and storage, check.  It includes 128GB of NVMe storage and an empty 2.5" bay, and one 4GB DIMM installed, meaning you can upgrade it without throwing anything away, which is great when you already have spare memory modules and 2.5" drives just lying around.

    HDMI, USB 3, wired Ethernet, micro....  No microSD?  Poo.

    The current model is better in almost every way - it has a Ryzen 4700U, close to the top of the line, 8GB RAM, 512GB of NVMe SSD - but it also costs twice as much.  Which isn't ideal when your list of requirements is basically "1080p and can run Idle Champions without freezing up".

  • Apropos of nothing, Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms is really, really badly optimised.  The gameplay shouldn't overstress a C64.

Torchlight 3 Trailer Videos of the Day

This one had fallen off my radar.  After the runaway success of Torchlight 1 and 2, the creators decided to build an MMO and a mobile game rather than enjoy rolling in the cash that Torchlight 3 was guaranteed to bring.

Their plans for those games....  Did not go according to, um, plan.

So they took what they'd built and reworked it and now it's Torchlight 3.  While this is not unwelcome, the reviews are - let's just say mixed - and the price is higher than the previous instalments too.

Disclaimer: 1.2TB of microSD storage should be enough for anybody.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 10:21 PM | Comments (9) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
Post contains 1082 words, total size 9 kb.

1 "People keep saying that you can do everything you need on an iPad or even a phone, but those people don't have jobs."
Or they're journalists or the like and they CAN do their jobs on a tablet, because all they do all day is use Slack, email and a CMS.

Posted by: Rick C at Wednesday, October 14 2020 11:24 PM (eqaFC)

2 I got almost all the pieces of my prototype together--a 48MHz ARM M0 with 32K flash and 4K SRAM, and it's on a breadboard with a crystal and all the capacitors necessary to power it on.  Still waiting on a USB port breakout board--I tried cutting up a cable yesterday and soldering jumper wires on the end of it, but when I plugged it in, Windows wouldn't recognize it.  On the other hand, when I used an ARM Arduino to program the bootloader, that seemed to work properly.  Oh, also, I forgot to get an LED, so running the standard "Hello, world!" LED blink won't work.  On the other hand I have a 128x32 pixel display I can use. smile

I've got several higher-end copies of the MCU--more pins and more flash & RAM, mainly--and breakout boards, but TQPF-64 is tough to hand-solder, so I ordered some solder paste and I'm going to try reflowing it with a heat gun.  That should be interesting.  (I wanted more pins, because the Arduino Pro Mini most people use for custom keyboards have a relatively limited number of IO pins and don't have as many as I want.)

Posted by: Rick C at Thursday, October 15 2020 12:15 AM (eqaFC)

3 Idle Champions is actually quite zippy compared to the CPU/GPU requirements for the new Fantasy Grounds client. All it does is display 2D maps and brief dice-rolling animations, and yet it's barely functional unless you have at least an i5 and a dedicated graphics card. And the clumsy layout requires at least 1080p, and multiple monitors if you're the DM.

Like many games that should run fast on far more primitive hardware, the culprit is licensing a 3D engine and using it poorly. I imagine the Idle Champions folks are having great fun trying to optimize for four platforms at once.

When we started our 2020-lockdown virtual D&D campaign, I tried running Fantasy Grounds on my 12-inch MacBook (which handles Idle Champions just fine). It burned down, fell over, and sank into the swamp. I haven't even tried it on my new Air; I dug my old 17-inch Asus ROG gaming laptop out of the closet, reinstalled Win10, fired up FG, and watched the GPU go to 25% utilization just sitting at the main menu, with no game loaded.


Posted by: J Greely at Thursday, October 15 2020 01:43 AM (ZlYZd)

4 That Acer is almost exactly what I bought back in February to replace an old x120e that I spilt gin on.  It was around $270(US).  When I bought my wife's laptop, I bought 32G of ram to go in it, so the existing module just went into the Acer.  I mean, it's not all that fast compared to the 4800H laptop that I bought in June, but compiling llvm/clang11 still only takes a couple of hours.  And yes, dual memory slots, nvme, and a 2.5" bay are pretty nice to have.

Posted by: normal at Thursday, October 15 2020 03:18 AM (LADmw)

5 Rick C - sounds awesome.  Good luck and keep us posted!

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Thursday, October 15 2020 10:29 AM (PiXy!)

6 Normal - yeah, it's weird.  Expensive laptops are competitively priced here, but cheap ones are either garbage, overpriced, or not available at all.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Thursday, October 15 2020 01:05 PM (PiXy!)

7 Rick C: a know all this stuff is way beyond my 1980s brain, but a keyboard with an OS . . . yeah, it's beyond me.

Posted by: normal at Thursday, October 15 2020 02:29 PM (obo9H)

8 Also, I use newegg a bit, but amazon shows the same pathological stupidity:  When I search for "2tb" perhaps, it knows (and oh! it fucking knows) that I'm looking for solid-state drives, so it shows me a ton of "definitely-not-2tb-but-definitely-solid-state-drives".  Naturally, this pisses me off!  If you can make a search function smart enough to figure out what category of item I want, maybe you can not be so stupid as to think that I don't want what I'm searching for.

Posted by: normal at Thursday, October 15 2020 02:37 PM (obo9H)

9 Normal--yeah, that's REALLY annoying, especially when there aren't any useful filter checkboxes on the left side like (for example) Newegg has so you can exclude all the non-2tb drives.

Posted by: Rick C at Friday, October 16 2020 06:24 AM (eqaFC)

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Apple pies are delicious. But never mind apple pies. What colour is a green orange?

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