This accidentally fell out of her pocket when I bumped into her. Took me four goes.

Saturday, February 11


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.

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Saturday, January 14


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



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.


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Sunday, January 08


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.

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:
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.

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Monday, November 07


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.

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Sunday, October 30


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.

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Friday, October 28


Apple Takes Away, And Apple Takes Away

But mostly, they take away.

Samsung has been in the news recently for inadvertently setting fire to their customers, but Apple has its share of screwups as well.

With their new iPhone 7, Apple did away with the perfectly functional 1/8" headphone jack, and instead announced a proprietary Lightning adaptor and brand new bluetooth ear buds called AirPods.

Which are (a) ludicrously expensive and (b) quote not ready for customers unquote.

And their long awaited new Mac announcement consisted of two new Macbook Pro models, where the signature feature is that there are no function keys.  There's a touch strip instead.  And...  Nope, that's about it.

No, wait, they have DCI-P3 wide gamut displays.  That's a great feature; my iMac has the same and it looks amazing.  You don't realise what you're missing (unless you're looking at a screen with a severely restricted gamut, like the 2012 Nexus 7) until you see one in person, and realise that you're seeing colours that you've never seen on an LCD display before.  And if you work with video it's fast becoming an absolute necessity.

(And also Thunderbolt 3 - a year after everyone else.)

But it's a pretty underwhelming release overall.

Meanwhile, Microsoft, stodgy old Microsoft, has released their first desktop computer, and it's a thing of beauty.

The Surface Studio is the best desktop computer available today and you shouldn't buy one.  If you work in digital design your company should probably buy one for you, but that stunning screen is attached to hardware that is slightly dated and already needs a refresh.

Critically, it lacks Thunderbolt 3 or USB 3.1 support.  In an expensive all-in-one system you need the best connectivity you can possibly get to make sure that it lasts, because the alternative is buying a whole new machine.  Which, starting at $2999, is not an option for most of us.

My iMac lacks Thunderbolt 3, but it came out almost exactly a year ago, when Thunderbolt 3 was brand new.  The Surface Studio is a niche product that has obviously been in the works for some time - and it fills that niche beautifully - but if you're not in that niche yourself you're best off waiting for the Studio 2 or even 3.

Well, I'm hoping there's going to be a Studio 2 and 3.  Because I want one, even if there's no chance I'm going to buy one just yet.

(Back during the .com bubble days I would have pre-ordered mine buy now; expensive as it is, the sticker shock pales in comparison to the Sun Ultra 5 or the SGI O2 that now occupy the top shelf in my closet.  But unfortunately, fiscal sanity has taken its toll since then.)

I think this is one of the counter-intuitive benefits of the end of Moore's Law (or rather the end of Dennard Scaling; Moore's Law will survive for a few years yet).  When processor speeds where doubling every couple of years, you just shoved the parts in a plastic box and shipped it out.  It made no sense to carefully refine the industrial design and mechanical components of something that would only be around for a limited time.

Now that it takes five years for the core components of a desktop computer to start getting dated, it makes sense to make everything around those components beautiful.  The iMac is a very nice piece of engineering, and the Studio is even better.  I'm hoping to see this trend trickle downwards, because I want these things, but I'm not made of money any more.

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Sunday, October 09



Easiest thing to do turned out to be reset Windows entirely.  Azusa is working now.  And also suddenly has lots of free disk space.  

So, yay.

I'm not getting a signal on the HDMI port, but I'll wait for the post-install stuff to finish before I worry about that too much.

Edit: After poking around in the Intel drivers, I found the setting to re-enable the HDMI output.  This model  - a Dell Inspiron 15 7000, model 7548 - has dual graphics, integrated and dedicated, and switches between them dynamically.  It seems that resetting Windows caused it to forget how to do that.  Still better than the Black Screen of Death, but hardly ideal.

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Git The Princess

This is 110% accurate.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 12:30 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Saturday, October 08


CursorSense + BetterSnapTool

And Apple, if you would kindly stop breaking essential functionality, I would appreciate it.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 07:12 PM | No Comments | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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