You talk! ... Kind of.

Monday, July 21

Geek

Stepwise Towards Perfection

I resisted getting a tablet for a long time, because, frankly, in the early days they all sucked.  Then the Nexus 7 came out in 2012, and it didn't suck (much), and didn't cost a whole lot, and I bought one.  And I found I used it constantly.

I followed that with the purchase of an original retina iPad (i.e. the iPad 3) which is a very nice device that I never use.  And a Nexus 10, which is a very nice device that I almost never use.  And then the 2013 model of the Nexus 7, which was better than the original in every way and which I used constantly until last week when it died.

Boo.

Double and triple boo, because firstly I'm taking some time off work and have a chance to catch up on my reading, and I used my Nexus 7 for reading, and secondly, Google Australia are completely out of stock and I can't replace it.

I do have the two other tablets and a very very large phone, so I'll survive just fine, but it's quite noticeable how well the Nexus 7 fills its niche when you're looking to replace it with something else.  There simply isn't anything, from any provider, for any price, that can fill its role as well.

But we're getting there, slowly.

When the original Nexus 7 came out I made a wishlist of seven points I wanted to see corrected in a newer version:
  1. 32GB or more of flash storage.
  2. A micro SD slot.
  3. Fix the colour levels.  (Colours on the original Nexus 7 were not exactly vibrant.)
  4. Make the screen even sharper - go to 1920x1200.
  5. Micro-HDMI out.
  6. Stylus.
  7. Help Kairosoft get Game Dev Story fixed on Jelly Bean.
The 2013 model fixed 1, 3, 4, and essentially 5; Kairosoft fixed 7.  That leaves 2 - micro SD support - and 6 - a stylus - outstanding.  And Google have issued a big fuck you to those looking for micro SD support.

I have a 128GB micro SD card in my Xperia Z Ultra, and the difference it makes is amazing.  I can just shovel music, audiobooks, and podcasts onto it without worrying about running out of space.  But I don't have that in a full-sized tablet...  Yet.

Looks like the new Nvidia Shield tablet might be what I've been waiting for.  It has a Tegra K1 quad-core 2.2GHz Arm A15 processor, so it's a lot faster than the Nexus 7;* 2GB memory, 32GB flash, a micro SD slot, and LTE.  8" 1920x1200 IPS display, and even a stylus.

The only downside is that it weighs in at 390 grams, against the Nexus 7's 290, making it definitely on the chunky side.  But as I've found with the Z Ultra, weight isn't everything; the Z Ultra is only about 210 grams, but owing to its metal and glass construction is less comfortable to use for long periods than the Nexus 7 with its soft-feel plastic back.

We shall see.

* These benchmarks show the K1 outrunning the Nexus 7's Snapdragon S4 Pro by a consistent 2:1.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 07:18 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Wednesday, July 16

Geek

Principessa

A story of fairies, princesses, fairy princesses, and murder.

Coming soon.

Maybe.

http://ai.mee.nu/images/PrincipessaOrigins.jpg
more...

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 10:02 PM | No Comments | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Thursday, June 26

Geek

Public Service Announcement


Posted by: Pixy Misa at 12:33 AM | Comments (10) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Tuesday, June 03

Geek

RPG Mkr

The latest Hmbl Wkly Bndl features RPG Maker VX Ace and a bunch of RPGs and RPG-making goodies.

The complete bundle is only $12, and you can start with a full version of RPG Maker VX Ace (which retails for $69.99) and some games and DLC for as little as $1.  The bundle has two days to go.

I have a couple of spare keys for RPG Maker on Steam, and for some of the DLC as well, so if you miss the sale but are still interested, let me know and I'll send you a key.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 08:44 PM | Comments (8) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Geek

From The Toybox

I've been tied up with work (and trying to catch up on sleep) the last couple of weeks, hence the recent lack of posts.

But I have picked up a few new toys.  Mostly they're just sitting here until I have a chance to play with them, but I do have some first impressions.

Sony Xperia Z Ultra + Sandisk 128GB microSD Card

I was intrigued by the Z Ultra when it first appeared, but it was a bit expensive for what it offered.  And at the time I'd recently bought a Nexus 7 and a Nexus 5.  Sony recently cut the price by 25%, and I've managed to scratch up my Nexus 5 somehow, so I decided to take the leap.

This is the first Android device I've bought not sold by Google, so (a) it's the first to support microSD cards and (b) it has Sony's UI overlay on top of stock Android.  I picked up Sandisk's brand new 128GB microSD card to go with it.  Sony only lists support for cards up to 64GB, but the card works perfectly.

It's a huge phone, with a 6.4" 1080p screen, but my real use for it is as a mini-tablet.  For that purpose it's almost perfect.  The screen is bright and sharp, performance of the Snapdragon 800 CPU is all I could ask, and Sony's UI is unobtrusive.  I loaded Nova Launcher on it anyway, and that was quick and painless.

It's easier to list the handful of flaws than the catalogue of things Sony got right:
  1. There's no camera flash.
  2. The headphone jack is at the top right rather than the top of the device.
  3. Sound is a bit tinny - but then, it's waterproof, which makes things tricky.
  4. It only has 16GB of onboard storage.
Of those, only the storage bothers me.  Android's support for removable storage is...  Limited.  Frankly, broken.  There's no general way to store apps or arbitrary app data on an SD card.  But the big three eaters of space on my other devices are BeyondPod, Audible, and Google Play Music, and all of those support SD cards.  (Play Music requires Android 4.4 for this; fortunately, Sony have been good about updates, and after a few reboots I had the Z Ultra running the latest KitKat release.)

With those taken care of, the 16GB - about 11 real GB available after the operating system, restore partition, and stock apps - is just enough.  I installed all the critical stuff, like Final Fantasy I through VI, every Kairosoft game so far translated into English, and the thousand-odd books in my Kindle library.  Turns out that the biggest remaining space eaters are my subscriptions to Analog, Asimov's, and F&SF.  For some reason - apparently unmitigated incompetence - the average issue, while being almost pure text, takes up 80MB.

Physically, the device looks and feels like a small slab of dark glass; it's very thin, only about a quarter of an inch, which contributes to this impression.  Very solidly constructed and designed with a certain minimalist elegance.

If you're in the market for a huge phone or a tiny tablet, the Z Ultra is going to be hard to beat.


Western Digital My Book Live 8TB

I have a couple of LaCie 5big NASes.  I bought one with 10TB of disk included, and while it was expensive, it worked very nicely except for a certain lack of performance - which turned out eventually to be a problem with my network switch, and not am issue with the NAS at all.

I bought another 5big NAS without disks, and it sucks.  The physical UI of the 5big consists of a glowy blue button on the front, which flashes red when it breaks.  You manage the device through a web interface.

If you buy a diskless 5big NAS, this doesn't work.  In any way whatsoever.  It's a $350 sculpted aluminium paperweight.  One of the most useless and worst-designed devices I've ever bought.

The Western Digital MBL8TB isn't anything special; it's similar to WD's other two-disk external storage widgets, whether USB or networked.

But it distinguishes itself from the 5big in two important ways: First, it was on sale and cost only a little more than the disks it contained, and second, it actually works.

It took a few minutes to set up - it picked up an IP address from DHCP, and the web UI worked fine.  It does about 30MB per second reading or writing.

That said, unless you also find it on sale I wouldn't recommend it. WD's newer My Cloud Mirror and My Cloud EX2 - apparently the same updated hardware but targeted at home and business users respectively - are faster and only a little more expensive at list price.


Crucial M500 960GB

It's a 960GB SSD.  It's not made by OCZ.  It was, by strange coincidence, on sale.  (It's just been replaced by the M550, which is slightly improved but also more expensive.)  It wasn't cheap, but it means I don't have to fuss about with a small C drive on my Windows system.


Lenovo PX6-300D

This is another NAS.  It's diskless, like the LaCie Paperweight, with six hot-swap bays.  But it has a little LCD screen and buttons you can push instead of a big blue light of uselessness.  It runs Linux, and has management software by EMC.  

It cost over $1000 when it first came out; it's currently on sale for $550 on Amazon, and I picked it up for A$419 including sales tax and delivery.  Benchmarks put it at around 95MB/second, which is close to saturating a gigabit ethernet link (of which it has two).

I don't have it set up yet, but should have it working in the next couple of days unless it turns out to be another expensive paperweight.

Update: And now it's gone back up to $900.


Steelseries Apex Gaming

Just a keyboard, albeit one with colour-controlled backlighting and an extra 26 function keys.  I spilled a drink on my old keyboard and the Z, 8, and 9 keys stopped working, which was kind of awkward.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 07:12 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Friday, May 16

Geek

Lessons

You don't truly appreciate how complex a machine is until someone hands you a pile of parts and a spanner and tells you to put it back together.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 12:07 AM | Comments (6) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Wednesday, May 14

Geek

So, Pixy, How's Your Month Been?

Which is worse, kidney stones or Adaptec RAID controllers?

Hard to say.  Both lead to sleep deprivation and intense pain, but Adaptec RAID controllers do not literally cause...  Uh, I'll just cut of the metaphor at that point if it's all the same to you.

Let's just say it could have been better.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 10:31 PM | Comments (13) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Thursday, May 01

Geek

Indecision

That Dell 24" 4K monitor is currently on sale for $1019.  But the sale ends today.  But I've just been paid, so today is actually a good time for me to buy it.  But I still haven't decided whether I'd prefer the Dell or the (lower quality but more versatile) Samsung.

On the fifth hand, the last couple of times Dell have had this monitor on sale, the end of the sale was followed soon after by a permanent price cut.  (From $1699 to $1499 to $1199.)  So it may be selling for $999 soon anyway.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 08:06 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Friday, April 18

Geek

Choices...

The contenders to replace my old Dell 27" monitor:

Samsung 28" 3840x2160 TN display for $749.
Dell 24" 3840x2160 IPS display for $1199.*
LG 34" 3440x1440 IPS display for $1299.

The Samsung is cheapest by a good margin, but it's a TN panel, and I've been using IPS screens on my desktop since I first moved away from CRTs.

The Dell is a very high-quality screen, but it's the smallest, and runs exclusively at 3840x2160.  So it's not great for gaming unless you have something like the new Radeon 295X2, a $1500 500W liquid-cooled monster.

The LG is actually lower resolution than the others, but it's huge and wide enough for three workable documents side-by-side.

I think there's no bad choice here; they all look like excellent monitors.  Unfortunately, I don't really have the money or space to buy one of each.

* It was A$1699 at the start of the year.  That price is coming down fast.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 03:09 PM | Comments (10) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Wednesday, April 09

Geek

Dodging Bullets

First Apple's SSL library had a serious security flaw, but that's okay because I don't use Apple's SSL.  (I have an iPad, but it mostly just sits there.)

Then GnuTLS had a worse security flaw, but that's okay because I use OpenSSL.

Then OpenSSL had the worst security flaw of them all...  But that's okay because the version of OpenSSL we're using here is older than the bug.

I will wipe and reinstall a couple of virtual machines that don't have user data on them yet, just in case.

Of course, while mee.nu was secure* Amazon, Google, and any number of other providers have been exposed to this bug to varying degrees for two years.**  And the nature of the bug is such that attacks would not show up in normal server logs; it's a silent, pseudo-random data leak.

* Entirely because I've been too busy to migrate to a newer version of Linux and install proper certificates, not because of any specific virtue.

** It's been a busy two years.  Seriously.  I don't want to talk about it.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 02:50 PM | Comments (14) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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