What happened? Twelve years! You hit me with a cricket bat! Ha! Twelve years!
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.
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.)
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.
Easiest thing to do turned out to be reset Windows entirely. Azusa is working now. And also suddenly has lots of free disk space.
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.
I managed to get the Xperia tablet to move apps to the SD card again. The problem was not the size of the card, or the amount of free space, but the partition table. The Android disk partitioning utility creates disk partitions that are incompatible with Android.
I partitioned it on my Mac (you can't partition SD cards on Windows (because fuck you, that's why) and the Mac Disk Utility doesn't work either, but you can do it from the command line.
Meanwhile, my Dell notebook got the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. And now it doesn't work any more. The Black Screen of Death - where the update kills both your display driver and your network driver.
And of course, updates are mandatory.
It should be straightforward enough to fix once I find the right drivers, work out how the hell you get Windows 10 into safe mode (shift-click the restart button, yeah, very intutitive that), and install them and reboot a few more times.
But seriously, Microsoft, you've bricked two of my Windows 10 systems with your crappy updates already. If you're going to make updates mandatory, they have to work every single time. Otherwise you can just piss off.
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Tuesday, October 04 2016 03:30 PM (PiXy!)
Pixy, obviously you need a different edition.
Out of curiosity, did you get errors or just not have the options?
There's a command-line tool, diskpart, that you could try and see if it works. I used it recently to clean partitions off a thumb drive that, IIRC, Disk Management couldn't/wouldn't.
Posted by: RickC at Wednesday, October 05 2016 08:06 AM (ECH2/)
That'll be it; I used Disk Manager, not the command line. That means that Windows and Mac have exactly the same limitation in their disk management UI.
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Wednesday, October 05 2016 09:58 AM (PiXy!)
Hah. I suppose I should clarify that I was able to split a 1GB SD card into two ~487GB partitions with Disk Management. I used diskpart to redo a flash drive that had been previously used as Windows install media and had something like 6 partitions on it; I needed to roll that back down to one, and Disk Management couldn't handle that drive.
I have no idea why one type of flash media would work with DM and the other wouldn't.
Posted by: RickC at Wednesday, October 05 2016 11:27 AM (ITnFO)
BTW, Googling found a page on superuser.com where someone claims that "You can't delete a partition while it contains a filesystem that is currently set to be always mounted. Remove the drive letter (From the Change Drive Letter and Paths option) and then you should be able to delete the partition." Although I think the SD card I modified did actually have a drive letter, so who knows.
Posted by: RickC at Wednesday, October 05 2016 11:32 AM (ITnFO)
Thanks for the info. Maybe it was a partition table problem from formatting it with the Android debugger earlier. There was no error or other indication of a problem, I just couldn't do anything.
I took a quick look online and was told you can't partition an SD card under Windows and assumed this was in fact true.
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Wednesday, October 05 2016 02:52 PM (PiXy!)
Update: Most of the problems detailed below seem to be Sony's fault. I've been testing with my Moto G4, and the problems for the most part simply don't arise. So I'm back to blaming Sony again.
It's a complete fucking mess.
To update the earlier updates:
I criticised Sony for disabling adoptable storage on their devices. Having used it, I now agree with them; the user experience is awful:
Some apps refuse to install to adoptable storage, and there's no practical way to know which ones this will affect.
Some apps install to adoptable storage, but won't run from it.
Some apps show that they are using adoptable storage, but when you check the details they are actually still on internal storage.
Some apps show that they are using adoptable storage even when you check the details, but when you add the numbers up, you find that they are still using internal storage.
Some apps that support storing data on normal (portable) SD cards don't work with adoptable storage.
If you format your card as a mix of portable and adoptable storage, you end up with two storage devices named "SD Card".
Plus (and this one is Sony's fault - it doesn't happen on my G4) the used storage numbers go negative.
There were three goals I wanted to achieve:
Store my SF magazine subscription on SD card instead of scarce internal storage. I've had a digital subscription to Analog and Asimov's since shortly after I got my first tablet, and have 39 issues of each. They weigh in at 60-115MB per issue.
This doesn't work. The Kindle app shows that it's storing them on the adoptable storage, but this is a lie.
Move large games like Final Fantasy to SD card. This doesn't work at all. In one case I had Final Fantasy VI not showing up on either the adoptable storage or the internal storage. It was actually on internal storage, and stays there no matter what.
Move many small games and apps to SD card. This is mostly a failure. All the Kairosoft games (I have 35 of them, everything they've translated into English) install on the adoptable storage, but only about a third of them will run that way. They others either crash or request storage permissions that you can't grant.
And even when it does work, the Android storage functions are completely inadequate for working out what has been put where.
This is all on Android 6.01; maybe some of this has been fixed on the recently released Android 7, but I don't have access to Android 7 on any of my devices yet.
And finally, for some bizarre reason, even after reformatting the card back to portable storage, I can't use Sony's home-grown function to move apps to SD cards, because my card is bigger than 32GB. I tried reformatting it down smaller than 32GB and it started working again. So now I've reformatted back to normal and I'm filling it with my PDF archive.
I have a Nexus 5X with Nougat, but of course Google doesn't believe in putting SD cards on Nexus devices so I can't tell you whether it works or not.
Posted by: RickC at Monday, October 03 2016 05:15 AM (ITnFO)
Ugh. I just found out that my Zenpad (Z508C) has a Marshmallow update. Overall it looks good, except for "Android Marshmallow won't support APP2SD. Please move apps to internal storage before system upgrade".
Posted by: RickC at Tuesday, October 11 2016 07:11 AM (ECH2/)
I passed on the Zenpad because it looked like it had been orphaned, but now that it's got Marshmallow I'm giving it another look. (Also because it was never released in Australia.)
I love the Xperia tablet, but with only 16GB storage (~9GB available) it's not a device for a packrat. My Kindle library alone is about 9GB.
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Tuesday, October 11 2016 10:38 AM (PiXy!)
If I had to do it again I would've gotten something with a more powerful GPU. I play a couple 3D games that can slightly bog the Zenpad down.
Other than that, though, I really like it. It's quite powerful, and the two speakers are great for watching video.
 and the fact that it has only 2GB of RAM, which actually isn't too much of a big deal, except that it's overly aggressive about killing apps. Leave a game to check FB and come back, and the game has to reload.
Posted by: RickC at Wednesday, October 12 2016 12:37 PM (ITnFO)
The 580CA has 4GB of RAM, but I think the GPU is identical. The Xperia tab has 3GB and is noticeably better than my old Nexus 7 at leaving apps alive.
Posted by: Pixy Misa at Wednesday, October 12 2016 02:04 PM (PiXy!)
Having to have apps restart isn't that big a deal; it's just annoying, as they don't actually take all that long--this thing has good flash.
Marshmallow killed one of my games--it crashes on startup every time. Am going to reboot and see if that magically fixes it.
Posted by: RickC at Wednesday, October 12 2016 03:23 PM (ITnFO)
I think I need to consider backing off Marshmallow on my ZenPad. It's showing all the classic signs of not liking an upgrade: laggy input, apps taking a long time to start, and so on.
Posted by: RickC at Saturday, October 22 2016 05:28 AM (ECH2/)
Went to the Asus support site yesterday to get the last pre-Marshmallow build, and discovered a new Marshmallow one. Interesting. I installed it and the game I play that used to crash on startup after the upgrade works again! Tablet's still a little laggy so I may still revert but it's more usable now.
Posted by: RickC at Monday, October 24 2016 04:09 AM (ITnFO)