And look at my watch!
It's pink.
It's running backwards.

Tuesday, November 18

Geek

4K@0.6K

Dell's new 4K monitors are out.  24" for $600 and 27" for $700.

They already had a $600 28" 4K monitor, but it uses a cheap TN panel (the type where the display colours shift when you look at it from an angle) and is limited to 30Hz refresh.  And they have a 24" 4K model, but it's a professional version and costs $1000 even after a year of price cuts.

These new models are IPS and support 60Hz refresh from DisplayPort signals; they also have HDMI input but I think it's only version 1.4, which would limit it to 30Hz.  They're not wide-gamut and don't support colour calibration hardware (as far as I can tell), so they're not intended for professional video editing or design work, but for the typical web developer they're absolutely perfect.  They completely remove the year-long tradeoff between the beautiful but super-expensive 4K IGZO monitors and the cheap but colour-shifting 4K TN models.

So the plan for the new year at PixyLabs is to clear off my desk (who needs a printer any more?) and install a new Retina iMac and two of these 27" 4K monitors.  Each monitor has three inputs - two DisplayPort and one HDMI - so I can plug them into the Mac and my Windows PC and my Linux box.  The Mac will thus have three screens and Windows and Linux two each.  I can either switch screens or run Synergy and have a multi-OS multi-monitor desktop.

And when my credit card recovers from that surprise, I'm hoping to get that Philips 4K 40" monitor to use as a TV, and run HDMI from my PC to it.  (Or maybe DisplayPort, but that would require a new graphics card.)

Oh, and of course my brand new notebook has neither DisplayPort nor HDMI 2.0, and can't drive one of these displays without reducing either the refresh rate or colour depth.  (Or a little of each.)  But then, to make the most of a 4K external display, you really want a laptop with a good mid-range or better dedicated graphics chip and an operating system and software that handles retina resolutions well.  Currently, the number of laptops that fit all those requirements is zero.

Edit: Hmm, HDMI 1.3/1.4 has a usable bandwidth of just over 8Gb/second.  You could do 18-bit colour at 50Hz, or 24-bit at 40Hz.  Or use YCrCb 4:2:0 sub-sampling, which will give you 24-bit colour at 60Hz, just not for every pixel...

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 05:17 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Sunday, November 16

Geek

LG 13Z940 - The Great, The Good, The Meh, The Bad, And The Ugly

Great
  • Amazingly light without sacrificing build quality.
Good
  • The Core i5-4200U together with the SSD deliver zippy performance.  Not the right system for gaming or video editing, but for general computing tasks it's a very capable combination.
  • The 1920x1080 IPS display is bright, sharp, clear, and colourful, and fills the lid almost edge-to-edge.
  • The keyboard and trackpad both do their jobs well.  The only minor issues are that the power button is where the Delete key should be (the Delete key squeezes in to its left) and there are no dedicated Page Up/Down/Home/End keys.
  • The retail price, 35% off LG's RRP on this model, undercutting all the competition.  In Australia, November 2014 anyway, YMMV.
  • Sleek and stylish design.
  • No fripperies - no fancy four-dimensional hinges, no detachable touchscreen, no 48-hour battery.  Just a notebook.
  • As far as I can tell, it's completely silent.
  • Free of third-party crapware.
/images/Chika13.jpg?size=720x&q=95

Meh
  • The complement of ports is adequate, but not outstanding.  Two USB 3, one micro USB 2, one micro SD, one HDMI, and a headphone socket.  The notebook comes with a micro USB to ethernet adaptor, but it only does 10/100 speeds.  I'd love to see Dockport implemented on next year's model.  Last year's model had dual micro SD slots, and it would be nice if that returned too.
  • Reportedly, battery life is only middling, but I haven't tested that myself yet.
  • Speakers are about what you'd expect from a compact notebook PC, not awful, but not great.
Bad
  • Only 4GB of RAM, supposedly non-upgradeable, though I'm not sure of that, because -
  • The manual is remarkably non-specific about the hardware.  It could be powered by magic smoke for all it tells you.
Ugly
  • Taking that literally, Windows 8.  It works just fine, once you banish the Start Screen and Modern UI to the Howling Wastes, but compared to Aero Glass it is ugly.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 04:36 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Saturday, November 15

Geek

Chikafied

So, setting up Chika today, my new LG 13Z940 UltraPC.  Not an Ultrabook, because this model doesn't have a touch screen, a feature I'd just as soon avoid anyway.

I got the entry-level Core i5 model, because it cost $929 vs. $1599 for the Core i7.  That means I've only got 4GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD to work with.

Of the 4GB of memory, 1.4GB is used by the time you boot into Windows 8.1, and of the 128GB of disk, 85GB is available.  That's after about 9GB for the decimal to binary conversion (128GB ~ 119GiB), 12GB for the system recovery volume, 15GB for Windows, and 3GB each for the pagefile and hibernation file.

The more expensive model has 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD, making those issues much less of an...  Issue...  But it costs nearly twice as much.

So the question is, is 4GB of RAM and 85GB of SSD enough?

/images/HidamariGroup.jpg?size=720x&q=95

Yes.

I deliberately used up all the memory by loading up multiple tabs with my anime category page, which has about fifty Youtube videos on it and uses about 500MB of RAM in Chrome on this notebook.*  I opened another tab, and Chika took a couple of seconds to respond and load the page, but after that the new tab ran quite smoothly.

That's a completely different story to doing the same thing on a disk-based system, where you'd likely be waiting a couple of minutes for the browser to respond again.

/images/ChikaLeap.jpg?size=720x&q=95

I installed Virtualbox and a CentOS 7 virtual machine, and that ran smoothly as well, and it's only using about 70MB of memory following the install process.  Admittedly it's not actually doing anything right now. but that at least means that the baseline requirements are low enough that I won't have any problems from Linux itself.

Also installed Firefox and Firefox's new Developer Edition, PyCharm and RubyMine (and Python and Ruby), Notepad++, MySQL and MongoDB.  Oh, and Start8 / ModernMix of course, banishing the Start Screen and its crapware minions back to where they belong.

I would have installed Office 365 too, except that Microsoft don't want to sell it to me. I enter all the payment details, tick the yes-I-have-read-the-fine-print box, click Confirm, and it goes bloop and sends me back to try again. Just hope I don't end up with three subscriptions.

I installed the 128GB microSD card to give me some extra room, and that works fine too, though much slower than the SSD.  I get about 12MB/s on writes and 25MB/s on reads on the SD card, and about 100MB/s on file copies on the SSD.  (I haven't done a full test yet.)

The 1920x1080 13" IPS screen is very good; bright, sharp, and clear, with good but not over-saturated colour.  It's not-quite-retina, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, because Windows 8.1 is not-quite-retina-ready.  Also, I've discovered that Chrome's memory use is proportional to the display resolution, so you wouldn't really want a higher resolution unless you also had more memory.

CPU is positively zippy (helped by the SSD, since my old notebook had a disk drive and I'm used to waiting for things to happen).  Build quality seems solid, despite the fact that it weighs only a little more than my 3rd-gen iPad.

/images/ChikaBubbles.jpg?size=720x&q=95

I think there's a fan in there somewhere; there are a couple of small openings that might be vents.  As far as I can tell, it's not making any sound at all.

So all in all a purchase I'm pretty happy with.  I'd have willingly spent a couple of hundred dollars more for a little more memory and disk space, but it looks like Chika can handle most tasks I'm likely to throw at her.

* About 1GB on my desktop, due to the higher-resolution display.  It looks like Chrome's memory use is largely dependent on display resolution.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 05:51 PM | No Comments | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Tuesday, November 11

Geek

Chika

My notebook, Sae has been plugging away for more than four years.  She still works just fine for most tasks, but running the heavyweight IDE I use these days (IntelliJ IDEA) is a bit painful on a 1.3GHz Core 2 Duo.

I've been looking for a replacement for the past year, but every notebook either has something seriously wrong with it, or is overpriced.  Or simply isn't available in Australia.  Or all three.  

It's maddening.  Inexpensive models have either Intel's Atom, which has inadequate single-threaded performance, or the slowest of AMD's Bobcat chips.  The higher-end Bobcat descendants aren't too bad (they run both the PS4 and the Xbox One), but the common version seen is a 1GHz dual-core, which is pathetic.

1366x768 TN displays are still the norm, even on systems costing over $1000.  Hard disks where you'd expect an SSD.  No expansion or even build-to-order options.  DVD drives.  Why would I want one?  On a big desktop replacement machine, a Blu-Ray drive, sure.  But DVD on a compact 14" laptop?

Shopping for a new notebook makes me want to scream.  I can see why discerning buyers would end up with Apple, simply out of disgust at the maze of incompetent design and marketing decisions made by their competitors.*

I finally settled on LG's 13Z940.  It's a 13" model, like Sae, but with four years worth of updates.  It has an SSD (Sae has an old-fashioned spinning disk), a 1920x1080 IPS screen (Sae has a 1366x768 TN panel - a fairly good one, but still TN), a 4th-generation Core i5, and...  4GB of RAM, which is exactly what I have in Sae (after adding a 2GB module to the 2GB it came with).

This is what drives me mad: The RAM is not upgradeable.  (Probably; the manual is extremely vague about this.)  I managed to find the 4GB model for $929.  There's an 8GB model, but the cheapest price I could find for that was $1599.  At that price I might as well just go to Apple, who still do build-to-order.  (One of the last remaining companies to do so.)

http://ai.mee.nu/images/13Z940.jpg?size=720x&q=95
I chose the silver model, at left.  Also available in white and... Pink?

So I went for the 4GB model, and it's going to have to do.  I think it will do, because one of the things that has changed in the last four years is that I can now spin up a cloud server to handle development and testing in under a minute and for a couple of bucks a month.  Or if I only need it for a few hours, for a couple of cents an hour.  I used to run a Linux virtual server right on the notebook; I no longer need to do that.

On the plus side, the LZ940 is nearly three times as fast as Sae for single-threaded workloads, slightly more than three times as fast for multi-threaded work, and boots from standby in two seconds.

And weighs about half as much.  I thought Sae was remarkably light back in 2010, and it was - 1.77 kg (just under 4 lb) vs. 2.8 kg for my previous HP (about 6 lb).

The LZ940 weighs just 980 grams.  That's only a little more than Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 tablet - and lighter than the Surface with its keyboard attached.  It's lighter than the 11" Macbook Air, never mind the 13" model.  To do that they did trim the battery life, down to a quoted seven hours, and a more realistic five, but that's fine for my use.  When I'm using a computer, 99% of the time I'll be either at home (where I have a plenitude of other computers) or at work, where I keep a universal laptop charger.  For people who need to work on the go a lot, a 13" Macbook Air would be a better choice - but it's more expensive and has only a 1440x900 display.

I also ordered another 128GB microSD card to give it a bit of extra storage, and a 2TB portable fileserver to give it a whole bunch of extra storage.  I remember when that would have required an entire rack full of drives and servers and cost a large part of a million dollars; now its a couple of hundred bucks, weighs half a pound, and has a ten-hour battery life.

Any time you feel depressed about the state of the world nowadays, think about computers for a bit.  Given what we had to work with in the old days, it's amazing we even survived this long.

Update: Chika-chan arrived today!  The 2TB portable fileserver is on back-order (should arrive at the store Monday, so I'll get it Tuesday), but I have the notebook and the SD card to play with this weekend.

/images/SaeChika.jpg?size=720x&q=95

* Then again, Apple and the 2014 Mac Mini.  Zero user upgrade options.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 10:33 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Wednesday, November 05

Geek

Yeah, Uh, Well, I Guess That Will Do

Signed up for a $5/month virtual server to test a new provider.

Ran a disk speed test.
[root@chiriri install]# hdparm -t /dev/vda1
/dev/vda1:
Timing buffered disk reads: 4994 MB in 3.00 seconds = 1664.55 MB/sec
1.6GB per second on a budget virtual server.  Yes, I think I can find a use for this.

Update: Caching disk controller.  Tried it again, and I got ~200MB/s on the first run, but it ramped up quickly to nearly 1.8GB/s on subsequent runs.

CPU performance seems good too; a little slower than my VPS at Vultr, but about in line with our physical servers (which are slightly older, E3 Xeon V1/V2 chips).  RAM is a very healthy 4GB.

The reason it's so cheap is that there's no SLA or redundancy; it's a virtual server on a single physical server, and if it goes down, it goes down.  Also, it "only" comes with 1TB of bandwidth.  An equivalent VM on their redundant hardware is $18/month, but that comes with 5TB of bandwidth - and they charge $10/TB, so if you need the bandwidth, it's still a bargain.

Same provider does Amazon S3-compatible file storage at 2.1¢ per GB per month for storage plus 1¢ per GB for bandwidth.  That's 30% cheaper than Amazon on the storage side, and 90% cheaper on bandwidth.

They also offer a 176-core IBM Power 8 server, but that's a little on the expensive side.  I did run up a 6-core Intel-based VM with 24GB RAM and 240GB SSD for half an hour of testing, and that worked just fine.

So far my testing has cost me 7¢.  Except that they gave me a $5 credit for signing up, so it hasn't cost me anything at all.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 09:37 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Tuesday, November 04

Geek

The Dam Breaks

Computer monitors have been stuck at around 100 dpi for the past twenty years.  There have been a few exceptions like IBM's legendary T220, but that cost $10,000, so not something likely to show up on the average desktop.

The new wave of ultra-high-definition (3840x2160) monitors started showing up last year, beginning with Sharp's $3500 32" model, and Asus and Dell's versions, then followed by a range of cheap 28" TN panels and the occasional 24" IPS model.  LG showed up with an ultrawide format 3440x1440 34" screen.

And then, just in the past few weeks:
  • Dell teased a 27" 5K monitor for around $2500.
  • Apple shipped a 27" 5K iMac for around $2500.
  • Dell leaked new 24" and 27" 4K IPS monitors, and a 25" 2560x1440 monitor.
  • Acer also have a 27" 4K monitor and a 25" 2560x1440 monitor.
  • LG, Dell, and Samsung all announced curved 34" 3440x1440 displays.  If you remember CRTs, these are curved the other way.
  • LG have a 31" 4096x2160 (Digital Cinema 4K) IPS monitor going for about half the price of the various 31" 3840x2160 monitors based on Sharp's IGZO panel.
  • And Philips called all the others a bunch of pikers and announced a 40" 4K monitor for under $1000.  (With DisplayPort, 60Hz refresh, and a good quality VA panel with 176° viewing angles, so a big step up from the Seiki 4K TVs that have been popular in this size.)
I was saving for something new, and the Retina iMac looked perfect for my needs.*  But I could get three of those Philips 40" 4K monitors for that price, and plug them straight into my existing PC.  Or I could get the 5K iMac and a Dell 4K 27" monitor; with Apple's auto-scaling on high-definition displays, there would be little apparent difference between the two screens.  Or the iMac and the 27" Dell and a 40" Philips, and watch my credit card curl up in a little crispy ball of pain...

* Programming, web design, documentation, and the occasional bit of gaming.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 07:47 PM | No Comments | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Tuesday, October 28

Geek

The NSA Deleted My Post!!!!!

So I was writing a detailed post dissecting the Sharyl Attkinson story, which is either the biggest political scandal in US history or nothing at all, or possibly somewhere in between, and I hit control-T to open a new tab to get a link, except I hit control-R instead, and pfft, no post.

I have only myself to blame.  Literally, since (a) I made the mistake and (b) I wrote this software.

Long story short: I suspect that Sharyl Attkinson probably has a habit of clicking on links in email and her computer was just a virus soup by the time she left CBS.  Was one of those viruses sent by a three-letter agency rather than a Belarusian botherder?  I wouldn't put it past the present administration to try something as stupid and criminal as that, but we certainly don't have compelling evidence that this is the case.  Attkinson's reporting of the technical details is incoherent.  

Which makes me wonder about the quality of her reporting previously. It's the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect all over again.
Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”

— Michael Crichton

Even well-intended experts can screw up, like the security researcher who was convinced that he'd found viruses updating themselves using the computer's audio channels to communicate, or those researchers who thought they'd found neutrinos traveling faster than light, when all they had was a faulty cable.  Attkinson is no expert, and her description of the security incidents is sensationalised to such a degree that it's impossible to tell if anything untoward happened at all.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 06:20 PM | No Comments | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Geek

World Domination


Posted by: Pixy Misa at 12:28 PM | Comments (15) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Saturday, October 25

Geek

OpenVZ Notes

If you're moving existing OpenVZ containers to a newer OpenVZ server, here are a couple of tips for things that might otherwise drive you insane:

Ploop


OpenVZ now defaults to using Ploop rather than SimFS for storage. That means each container gets its own dedicated filesystem rather than being mapped directly onto the existing /vz filesystem. That's not a problem in itself, but if your management process (backups and migration) relies on the old SimFS behaviour, that will all break.

To fix this, just change this line in /etc/vz/vz.conf:
## Filesystem layout for new CTs: either simfs or ploop
# VE_LAYOUT=ploop
VE_LAYOUT=simfs

IPTables


The other issue relates to firewalls. You may not need per-container firewalls, but if you do, the new default iptables configuration means that the default iptables configuration file will not load. That's less than ideal, but it's easily fixed.

In the container config file you're using, just change the line
NETFILTER="stateless"
To:
NETFILTER="stateful"
If you also need NAT, use:
NETFILTER="full"
Then things will work just like they used to.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 09:53 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Rant

Dear Spammers

Go away somewhere and die, you lying sacks of shit.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 09:42 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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