I've seen some stuff that would really make you say "like what?"

Monday, September 08

Geek

Sixes

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 10:51 PM | Comments (12) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Friday, September 05

Geek

Special K

I haven't bought a 4K monitor yet, and Dell just announced a 5K monitor.

The existence of 5K panels also suggests that Apple will release a retina iMac sooner rather than later.  Apple like to exactly double the display resolution for retina models, and this 27" 5K panel does just that.

5K doesn't sound like a lot more than 4K, but that's 5120x2880, up from 3840x2160, so about 70% more pixels.  To put it another way, it's exactly the same ration as the jump from 1920x1080 to 2560x1440.

One caveat: You'll need two DisplayPort 1.2 (or Thunderbolt) outputs to drive this thing at 60Hz.  DisplayPort 1.3 can't arrive too soon!

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 06:25 PM | No Comments | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Saturday, August 30

Geek

The Lane At The End Of The Ocean

Digital Ocean are a rather neat VPS provider.  The fatal flaw with VPSes has always been I/O performance: You can't virtualise IOPS.

Couldn't.

SSDs.

To unpack that a little, an expensive top-of-the-line enterprise disk drive can deliver about 250 I/O operations per second (IOPS).  Any SSD can handle tens of thousands.*

So if you throw away the spinning rust and use nothing but SSDs, VPSes actually work.  And since all the complexity and expense came from trying to make the spinning rust work, rather than the VPSes themselves, this is actually a very cost-effective approach.

Case in point: A Digital Ocean "droplet" with one virtual CPU, 512MB of RAM, 20GB of storage, and 1TB of bandwidth costs just $5 per month.

My physical servers cost rather more than that - but then again, they have 32GB of RAM, 2TB of disk, and 240GB of SSD (all RAID-1) each.  If you need 32GB of RAM, 2TB of disk, and 240GB of SSD, a physical server from a mid-tier provider is still going to be cheaper than Digital Ocean.  But if you want to quickly pop a server into existence to try out, say, CentOS 7, a Digital Ocean droplet is hard to beat.  Not only is it set up to your specifications in under a minute, but you're billed by the hour, up to a monthly cap - so if you only need something for a few hours, you only need to pay a few cents.**

Except that they are not - at least yet - in Australia.  San Francisco, New York, London, Amsterdam, Singapore.  Singapore isn't a terrible location to reach from Sydney, but it's not great either.

If only there were a provider in Australia that offered similar SSD-based VPSes -

Oh.

That were priced as low as -

Oh.

That was run by someone I'm familiar with, like the people behind Mammoth - 

Oh.

Binary Lane isn't as polished as Digital Ocean (yet), but they're a lot more flexible; you can select the number of CPUs, amount of memory, disk, and bandwidth all independently, and you can adjust them at will after the fact as well.  

The one downside is that this being Australia, bandwidth is STILL FUCKING NIGHTMARE EXPENSIVE with the basic $5 plan with 200GB of bundled bandwidth turning into an $85 monster if you want the 1TB that Digital Ocean offer.  Though it wasn't that long ago that I was paying that much for bandwidth out of a second-tier provider in the US.***

Oh, and they're in Brisbane, which means a 30ms ping instead of 15ms I got for my old Sydney-based VPS.

Edit: Vultr provide a similar service at a similar price with nodes in Seattle, Los Angeles, Dallas (where we are currently located), Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, New Jersey (where our backup server lives), London, Amsterdam, Paris, Frankfurt (currently sold out), Tokyo, and Sydney.  (Yay!)  Their configurations aren't as flexible as Binary Lane, but their worldwide scope is a big plus.  Going to give them a try as well.

Update: I've now tried out Digital Ocean, Binary Lane, and Vultr.  Digital Ocean is the most polished; Binary Lane the most flexible; Vultr the fastest and the best for global distribution.  So far all of them have worked flawlessly, and they all offer amazing value for money.

Linode have also jumped into the SSD VPS market, with competitive pricing to the three mentioned above.

Then there's Amazon and Google, with page after page of pricing tables.  Meh.

* Sustained random write performance is a fraction of the burst speed, but over the past five years that's improved from "a small fraction" to "a substantial fraction" and is no longer a problem for 99% of users.

** Literally - their VPSes start at 0.7c per hour.

*** Never mind that, I can remember when bandwidth cost me $30 per gigabyte, which rather puts $100 per terabyte in perspective.  Come to think of it, excess bandwidth on my mobile phone still costs $30 per gigabyte.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 02:49 AM | Comments (8) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Thursday, August 28

Geek

Meanwhiles And Never-weres

more...

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 11:27 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Friday, August 01

Geek

Your MongoDB Has Evolved!

So, I got an email in my inbox about the MongoDB World conference and new features in MongoDB 2.8, and I'm like, yawn, wake me up when you have document-level locking and pluggable storage engines.

And the email is like:
... two new features available in MongoDB 2.8: Document-Level Locking and the Pluggable Storage Engine.
Oh.

Well, then.

ACID transactions too, maybe?  Hmm?

TokuMX is a fork of MongoDB that provides document-level locking and a new storage engine with very effective compression (typically 5:1 vs. standard MongoDB), and ACID transactions on top of that.  It's great.  But it does drop a couple of features from MongoDB (full-text and geospatial indexes), and it turns certain common operations in MongoDB into anti-patterns.  For example, explicit read-modify-write transactions work better on a busy database than MongoDB's built-in atomic operations.*

If MongoDB continue to improve their game and Tokutek improve theirs as well, it's a win-win, because it provides two viable open-source NoSQL databases with a common API.  You can choose one or the other for your implementation-specific requirements, rather than having to deploy multiple databases to fit the needs of one application.  Polyglot storage is red flag that your database isn't there yet.

* Or at least they did, I should take another look with TokuMX 1.5.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 05:28 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Thursday, July 31

Geek

Sweet(ish) Clementine

So my installation of iTunes 11.3 was, um, less than entirely successful.  (Three days later the program still hasn't finished loading).

After looking around a bit I installed Clementine.  The user interface is really awkward - the whole assumption is that you want to build playlists, and I simply never do that - and it's missing some features (like multi-threaded podcast downloads, or even a download queue).

But it works.  I installed it, told it to import my 2TB of iTunes content, and a couple of hours later everything was there and playable (except, I'm assuming, for my DRMed audiobooks).  All completed while iTunes itself was still struggling to load.

It uses 1/4 the memory of iTunes, and works about 20x faster.  Even searching for podcasts on the iTunes store is 20x faster in Clementine than it is in iTunes.

I have to assume that iTunes works for someone, but when you've collected a couple of decades worth of music and seven years of podcasts under it, it becomes an exercise in futility, and it's been getting worse with each new release, until with 11.3 it became entirely unworkable.

Clementine may be something of an ugly duckling, but I'll take an ugly duckling over a turkey any day.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 02:04 AM | Comments (10) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Monday, July 28

Geek

unTies

With every release of iTunes the application has become slower and less functional, until, with 11.3, Apple have apparently reached perfection, in that it does nothing at all.

Well, it uses up 600MB of memory and a CPU core, which might be considered something.  So let us say, it does nothing useful.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 12:53 AM | Comments (5) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Friday, July 25

Geek

So I Figure...

The way out of my Android mess is to spend more money.  Fortunately, not a lot of it.

My Nexus 7 suits my needs perfectly for reading and playing Kairosoft games at home, and when I take one of my (rare) trips to see my family, it can come along with me.  Not a problem.  Which reminds me: I need to buy a new backpack before October; the old one got left outside and died.

My Xperia Z Ultra is fine as a take-anywhere mini tablet with plenty of room for music, videos, files, and stuff.  Not quite right for reading entire novels, but far better than the typical 4-5" phone for checking email and browsing the web.

My Nexus 5, though, isn't quite right.  It's too big to sit comfortably in my shirt pocket, too small to do anything complex (it looks tiny next to the Z Ultra), and doesn't have enough storage to make a good media player.

I think the right thing to do is to replace it with something like the Xperia Z1 Compact, which is a good bit smaller and will work with a 128GB micro SD card just like the Z Ultra.  I haven't filled up the first card yet, after days of determined downloading.  With two, I can put my audiobooks on the Ultra and music and podcasts on the Compact and get twice as much of everything and still have room left over.

The Z1 Compact is a mid-range device at a mid-range price (albeit with a high-end CPU and camera) so it won't break the bank, and I'll avoid ever suffering a repeat of yesterday's fiasco.*

And that means I can finally leave my 160GB iPod to rest.  It still works fine; that thing is built like a brick.  But it's kind of clunky by 2014 standards.

* Over four hours to download a one-hour podcast episode.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 09:41 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Geek

More What It's Like

What It's Like Upgrading From iOS 6 To iOS 7*

Remember the time your favourite teddy bear got a bit on the grubby side so mum put it through the wash and all the stuffing came out and all you got back was a sad pile of damp fur?  With eyes?

Yeah, that.

But at least it was clean!


* I'd left my iPad on iOS 6 until now because the original screenshots of iOS 7 looked eye-meltingly horrible.  Anyway, I was testing a new web site design for mee.nu and on Safari on the iPad the menus blinked if there was any animated content on the screen - which they were definitely not supposed to do.  Before reporting this to the designer, I updated to iOS 7 in case it was a bug in the old version of Safari I was running. 

It was.

And iOS 7 looks like crap.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 03:19 PM | No Comments | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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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 (4) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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