CAN I BE OF ASSISTANCE?

Tuesday, May 23

Geek

The Other Akko

The other Akko arrived - my shiny new Huawei Mediapad M3.  Two weeks in transit, two weeks sitting on my desk at the office because my office days got rescheduled, then a week when I was too busy to do much with it.

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Artist's impression of Pixy's week.

I'm planning to do a full review, but first some quick reactions and test results:

It's basically the same size as my Sony Z3 Tablet, which I would have been happy with except for the constant irritation of only having 16GB of storage.  The Mediapad has 64GB of storage (52GB free out of the box), a 2560x1600 screen (vs. 1920x1200), and 4GB RAM (vs 3GB).

I added a 200GB Sandisk SD card for $70; larger cards are available but at a significant premium; the 256GB model is $150.  Huawei only advertise support for 128GB cards, but the 200GB card works perfectly.  

Like Sony and Samsung, they've disabled Android 6's adoptable storage, which is a jerk move, but doesn't cause too much harm when the device itself has so much space.  I installed everything, and I still have 26GB free.

The screen is excellent.  It comes set to "vivid" mode, with over-saturated colours, but you can easily disable that, as well as setting the colour temperature to one of three pre-sets or use a colour wheel to adjust it to anything you want.

The fingerprint scanner takes a little while to set up, but once that's done it's fast and accurate.  It also has some clever tricks that I'll discuss in the review.

Performance is very good - not astounding, but very good.  I'm running Antutu and Geekbench  on all my devices and I'll fill in the scores as I go.

Antutu*


Device Total 3D UX CPU RAM
Mediapad M3 83,894 15,731 30,387 30,549 7,227
Xperia Z3 Tablet 63,379 9,911 22,255 21,952 9,261
Xperia Z Ultra 55,815 8,833 19,521 19,635 7,776
Nexus 7 40,583 4,453 15,189 14,785 6,156







It feels quite noticeably zippier than my Nexus 7 (as you'd expect when comparing with a device from 2013); the various minor delays and UX hiccups of that tablet are nowhere to be seen.

Huawei's EMUI Android skin is...  Not all bad.  I installed Nova Launcher, of course, so the only changes I still see are the notifications and the settings panel.  The changes to the settings panel are kind of dumb; storage and battery-related settings are hidden away under "Advanced", for example, and it's hard to find things generally.  The changes to the notifications panel are mixed, though I'll be happier if I can find a way to use a light background.

Overall I'm quite happy with it, and would likely recommend it to anyone looking for a small 16:10 tablet.  It is still running Android 6.0, and the oft-rumoured Android 7 update is nowhere to be found, so if that's an issue for you you'd best look elsewhere.

Full review will probably land next weekend, as I expect another busy week before then.

* I tested all devices with the latest version of Antutu.  If you look up the score for the Nexus 7 online, you will likely find a much lower number - around 20,000 - because the Antutu benchmark has changed since 2013.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 06:32 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Friday, April 14

Geek

Celebration Of Spring

This weekend we gather together in celebration as the last of the patents on MP3 finally expires.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 01:26 PM | No Comments | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Thursday, April 13

Geek

New Toy: Ruri

New server for the mee.nu empire!

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more...

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 01:03 PM | No Comments | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Wednesday, April 05

Geek

Nexus 7 2017, Or Near Enough

I just broke down and ordered one of these:

/images/Pupipad.jpg?size=720x&q=95
Huawei Mediapad M3, available in Luna Nova Silver and Shiny Chariot Gold

8-core CPU (4xA72 + 4xA53), 4GB RAM, 64GB Flash, 8.4" 2560x1600 screen, Android 6 with 7 apparently in closed beta and due out soon.  And a micro-SD card slot that I ordered a 200GB card for.  (The 256GB cards are still kind of expensive.)

I couldn't find the LTE version for sale anywhere reasonable, so I got the wifi-only model.  $339 on Amazon for the 64GB version (or $279 $299* for the 32GB model), plus $77 for the 200GB card.

It's about four times as fast as the Nexus 7, has twice the memory, twice the storage, a much larger, higher-resolution display (8.4" vs 7"), and an SD slot.  And despite the size increase, it's within a few grams of the Nexus 7's weight.

I still use my Nexus 7 constantly, but it's finicky about charging and is starting to act a bit flaky - screen and buttons not registering touches, that sort of thing.  And it's not really big enough to browse the web easily.

This should do nicely for the next three or four years.

* Not sure why the prices bounce around like that.  The last time I decided to buy it was out of stock, then when it came back in it went from $349 up to $399.  Then I saw today that it was down to $339 and at the same time the Aussie dollar was up a few cents, so it was better than 20% off.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 03:31 PM | Comments (12) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Saturday, February 11

Geek

A Moment Of Zen

Back in 2011, AMD released Bulldozer, the follow-up to their well-regarded Athlon and Phenom processors which were getting a bit long in the tooth.  Bulldozer changed the traditional design AMD had used, of four or six independent cores, two four modules containing two cores each, with some shared resources like caches and schedulers.

This was not a roaring success, for a number of reasons:
  • AMD could not hit their frequency targets within their power targets.  They've had a 5GHz chip for years, but it's a 220W monster, and they've had low-power chips, but they're slow.
  • Although the shared resources made for smaller cores and good multi-threaded throughput, single-threaded performance was significantly behind Intel's chips, and that matters both for common business applications and for gaming.
  • AMD's plans were to use future process improvements - 20nm planar and then 14nm FinFET - to increase the number of cores and reduce power consumption.  But the 20nm planar process was an industry-wide failure, and AMD's high-end CPUs have been stuck at 32nm for five years.  Intel alone escaped this because they spent the extra money to go to FinFET in their 22nm process.
AMD quickly realised that they had a non-flying turkey on their hands and they needed to do something about it.  In fact, they did two things: A series of updates to Bulldozer that gradually improved performance (though never quite enough), and at the same time, a crash project to build an all-new no-compromise CPU with none of Bulldozer's limitations.

That new processor was called Zen - now branded Ryzen - and it's about to hit the computer market like a brick through a fish tank.

It's eight cores again, but unlike Bulldozer, Zen cores don't share resources.  Instead, each Zen core can run two threads, the same Intel's hyperthreading, so the eight-core chip looks to your operating system like sixteen cores.

It will compete with Intel's $1099 eight-core i7 6900K, and it will cost around $319, and use half the power of the Intel chip.

They'll also be shipping six-core and four-core chips to compete with Intel's Core i5 and i3, and a 32-core monster called Naples for servers, and a mid-range 16-core version called Snowy Owl.

Later this year they'll add a desktop chip with integrated graphics faster than the Playstation 4 (though not as fast as the Playstation Pro).

They have a new socket for these chips, AM4, which supports all versions of their desktop CPUs, from 4 to 8 cores, with or without integrated graphics.

Official launch is expected at GDC 2017, which starts February 27.  Since that's very soon now, it means devices must already be shipping to distributors, and that means that AMD's previously tight control over detailed specs and prices has sprung a thousand leaks in the past week.

On other thing to note: The R7 1700 model  - the $320 8-core version, running at around 3.1GHz with a 3.7GHz turbo clock - is a 65W part, where Intel's 6900K is a 140W part.  What's more, it ships with AMD's excellent Wraith cooler, designed for their existing 125W chips, and its clock speeds are completely unlocked for overclocking.  That should make it a very popular part for enthusiasts.

It also means that AMD could plausibly ship even more cores if they want to.  Even with 8 cores, the chip is estimated to only be around 220mm2; 12 cores would be less than 300mm2 and run at less than 95W at the same clock speeds, and would completely obliterate Intel's mainstream desktop parts in any multi-threaded workload.

Intel has had the desktop CPU market to itself for five years and progress has slowed to a crawl, but it looks like we're about to get five Christmases all at once.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 11:31 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Saturday, January 14

Geek

How Many Characters Does It Take To Convey A Single, Cogent, Moderately Complex Point?

More than 140, certainly.  300 is a lot better, but still not always adequate.

Asking for a friend.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 08:30 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Friday, January 13

Geek

Request

Could someone please produce a 37.5" 5760x2400 ultra-wide curved IPS monitor.  With DCI P3 support or at least 100% Adobe RGB, and at least two DisplayPort inputs.

Under A$1500.

Thanks.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 01:00 PM | No Comments | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Sunday, January 08

Geek

New Toys From Dell

The first one is an 8K monitor.  Yes, it's only three years since Dell released their first 4K monitor, but what the hell, here's 8K for you.

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Dell UP3218K.  Just $4999.

At $4999 this is not for everyone - or, really, anyone, if you're spending your own money.  The reason it's interesting is that 8K is the last resolution we'll realistically need.  Once you're at 8K, the only reason to replace your monitor will be physical failure.

And it only took 18 months for 4K monitors to fall from $3299 to $499, so this may be affordable sooner than you'd expect.

The other notable release from Dell is a new all-in-one desktop to compete with the iMac, the XPS 27:

http://ai.mee.nu/images/Dell-XPS-27-Image-760x500.jpg?size=720x&q=95
The 2017 XPS 27, from $1499.

This is a different proposition.  It has a 4K IPS display with 100% Adobe RGB coverage (so it's just fine for print work, if possibly still limited for the latest video standards).  CPU is a Skylake i5 or i7 quad-core, memory up to 64GB, storage up to 1TB PCIe SSD or 2TB conventional disk drive.  

There's a basic non-touch model or a touchscreen model with a hinged mount that lets it drop down to about a 20ยบ angle for....  What, exactly?  There's no mention of pen support, and it's much bulkier than the sleek Surface Studio from Microsoft.  Also, the touch model is ten pounds heavier than the non-touch.

That aside, it has AMD M470X or M485X graphics with 4GB DDR5 video RAM (except on the cheapest models).  Unfortunately, these are not the new 14nm Polaris like the desktop 470 and 480, but older 28nm chips.  The M485X is perfectly capable for gaming at 1080p.  The M470X is a much slower part, equivalent to the Xbox One's GPU, so it won't maintain consistent frame rates even at 1080p.

(And irritatingly, the M485X seems to only be available if you buy the touchscreen model, an instant $500 price increase.)

I/O consists of two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one HDMI, one DisplayPort, five USB 3.0, gigabit ethernet, 802.11AC wifi, and an SD card reader.

Also, ten (count them) speakers.

The big thing, though, is that very much unlike the iMac, almost everything can be accessed and replaced by a technically competent end user.  Not just memory, but storage (one M.2 card and two 2.5" bays, another pleasant change from the iMac), CPU, fans, power supply, even the motherboard.  In theory, the display as well, though that requires disassembling the entire machine.

The one real drawback is the four-year-old graphics.  This would be an absolute standout system if it had the new Polaris graphics, but I don't think AMD have shipped the mobile version yet.

Oh, and the cameras are at the bottom, because Dell are retarded.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 06:22 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Monday, November 07

Geek

Dammit, Scientists!

I always wondered why certain trans-Neptunian objects were classified as "cubewanos".  Where did that name come from?  There are plutinos (makes sense, planetoids similar to Pluto), classic and resonant Scattered Disk Objects (SDOs), Kuiper Belt Objects, and so on, which are mostly self-explanatory.  But cubewanos?

Turns out the first example found was classified as (15760) 1992 QB1.  Other similar objects were named QB1-os - as in spaghettios.  And that ended up being spelled cubewanos.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 11:39 AM | No Comments | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Sunday, October 30

Geek

An Awesome Kickstarter

Font Awesome is an icon font - that is, it's a font full of icons (kind of like Zapf Dingbats) specifically targeted for web and user interface design. Rather than uploading images or using vector graphics for your icons, you can just use text in a different font. Which is great.

Font Awesome is free and used by millions of websites. The current version is 4.7.

The Kickstarter in question is to fund the development of Font Awesome 5. The lead designer is planning to go back and re-create all the icons on a clean grid, to bring everything up to date and fix all the little inconsistencies that have crept in over the years.



(One significant problem I've run into with the current version is that the icons don't all line up - think of what it would be like if the text you're reading now looked more like this. Not as bad as that, but when you're trying to get a web page look just right, you don't want to have to stop and adjust the position of a single character. They're specifically addressing this in version 5.)

They're also adding a paid version called Font Awesome Pro. Right now, until noon EDT on Monday 31st, that's just $20. Through November 30, it will be $40 just $20. And after that, it will be at least $210 $250 and probably $300 or more.

I say that because one thing they've done to promote the Kickstarter is offer expansion packs of extra icons if they exceed their funding goal. Each extra increment will add a new themed pack (holiday icons, for example, or food icons), 10 to the free version and 40 to the Pro version. If you back the Kickstarter for the Pro version, you get those included; afterwards they'll be $10 each.

And they're now 1200% funded, and have unlocked 17 expansion packs. So the full collection post-Kickstarter will be $40 plus $170. Given that the project has a month yet to run (it's only been going five days so far), it could well double that total, pushing the price to around the $400 mark.

So, if you do anything web-ish, professional or just for fun, now is a good time to jump in; $20 will get you a license for at least 2000 icons whether you're an individual or a company with up to 100 employees.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 11:47 AM | No Comments | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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