Saturday, August 25



I now have subscriptions to Analog, Asimov's, and F&SF.*

I used to buy Analog and Asimov's at the newsagent when I commuted to work on a daily basis, since they were very convenient reading material.  I've been working from home much of the time since early 2010 and so fell out of the habit.

So what changed?  The Nexus 7.  It's small enough to be comfortable to hold, large enough to read easily, and the display has enough pixels to render text almost adequately.**  I have about 150 books and 150 apps on it already*** and find myself using it for a couple of hours a day - sometimes four or five.

The subscription process couldn't have been easier: One-click on Amazon gives you a 14-day trial period, and you have access to the past three issues for download (just one for the bimonthly F&SF).

Most ebooks are sorry affairs, with low-resolution covers, 1995-era blue underlined chapter links, and very often, no page numbers.

All three of the magazines do a better job at presentation, with full-screen cover art, styled, hyperlinked content pages, and some (not much, but some) internal artwork.  There are a few glitchy bits - try, for example, to flip back to the cover from the contents page - but on the whole they show a clear progression to what ebooks (and emagazines) should be - without becoming irritating interactive multimedia monstrosities.

$2.99 per month for Analog and Asimov's, and $0.99 per month for F&SF.  That's a little cheaper than the cover price, but it's only one third what I was paying for the paper edition here in Australia.

They're DRM'd, unfortunately, such that you can only access them on a mobile device.  I wouldn't accept that for my books, but it's something I can live with for a periodical.

What I want now is the entire back-issue catalogues of Byte, Dragon, and Scientific American to land on the Kindle store.  Oh, and Unix Review.  I used to buy it every month just to drool over the workstation reviews.  Eventually, I got myself a Silicon Graphics O2.  Oh, and a Sun Ultra 5, but the O2 was my true love.****  Of course, these days the O2, even the R10000 version I had, is outclassed in every way by the entry-level AMD Bobcat, but I can assure you that in 1996, it was shiny as all get-out.

Aside: I don't recall the exact power consumption of the R10000, but it was somewhere in the vicinity of 20 to 25W, low by modern standards, about mid-range for even a laptop CPU.

That was for a 150MHz 4-issue out-of-order (OoO) CPU.

AMD's current A10-4655M also uses 25W.  It offers two 2GHz CPU modules, again 4-issue OoO, each with two sets of integer execution units and two 128-bit floating point vector units.  (But with a shared instruction decode unit, which limits the throughput.)

The O2 had a single 128-bit vector chip called the CRM, running at 66MHz.

The AMD chip has a built-in GPU with 384 shader units (each a 32-bit FPU with MADD) running at 360MHz.  That's 96 times the width of the CRM at 5 times the speed.

The O2 was fast and elegant.  That AMD chip is considered slow.

* Yes, they're all still alive.
** I'm fussy about typography.
*** Google, get a 32GB model out STAT!  Better yet, a 32GB model with a micro-SD slot.
**** I seem to recall they were named Akane and Kodachi.  Haven't booted either one up in years.

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