Archive for the ‘Tech’ Category

First slice of Pi

April 29, 2012 Leave a comment

I have had a chance to do some power draw monitoring of my Raspberry Pi and to compare with other low power ARM devices devices such as the SheevaPlug. The Raspberry Pi is really hard to beat – pulling roughly 2.0w when idle (with nothing plugged in to the USB or A/V outputs) to 3.2-3.3w at load (with HDMI output and USB keyboard and mouse) when using a standard Amazon Kindle charger as the power source. Something I’ve not had a moment to try is decoding HD video as I’d imagine that would load both the CPU and GPU but I can’t see the load being much higher given the combined CPU and GPU part (I’ll update this post when I confirm this).

Contrast these figures against 4.0w idle to 4.9-5.2w load for the SheevaPlug (also without any USB attachments). Admittedly the SheevaPlug has a slightly faster (1.2Ghz vs 700Mhz) ARM processor than the Raspberry Pi, but it also lacks the RCA/HDMI video output circuitry and has a wonky integrated PSU.

Probably the biggest difference between power consumption of the two devices will be related to power supply efficiency. As I already mentioned, the SheevaPlugs are renowned for being let down by cheap and inadequate integrated power supplies. In fact, I’m on my second Plug for that very reason. Since there is no (easy) way to test both devices with the same power supply, any comparison should probably be taken with a grain of salt.

Beta fish is back

February 29, 2012 Leave a comment

The Windows 8 Consumer Preview is now available to download and try out for free. This is a great opportunity to take the latest public cut of Windows 8 for a spin. Whether to dabble with HTML5 to create Metro apps or just explore the radical UI changes, trying out Windows 8 in a VM couldn’t be simpler. If you haven’t used virtual machines before Lifehacker has a great guide to get you started and Ars Technical have a nice series of screen grabs of the process.


I do like the cute little touches like the Beta Fish shown during OS boot and on the default wallpaper. This, albeit cosmetic point, shows the painstaking attention the whole user experience has received. I’m sure cracks in the façade will emerge, but everything that I have experimented with so far and in the earlier developer preview has been very encouraging. Using Windows 8 does seem to require a fair amount of self-recalibration and I found it a little tricky initially figuring out how everything worked coming from the Win95-7 world. Luckily, Ars have an excellent orientation article if you find yourself floundering a little.

It’s a shame that virtual machines (and most current physical hardware) won’t allow experimenting with the full tablet experience on offer owing to a lack of appropriate touch interfaces. That said, it is still very possible to get a good feel for Windows 8 using the familiar keyboard and mouse. Despite my early misgivings about the Metro UX I am quite excited about where Microsoft are heading with their attempted transition to the post-PC era. Time and user adoption will tell whether their gamble has paid off.

If by a man’s works ye shall know him..

February 18, 2012 2 comments

I love this business card idea – simple but creative. That and it features a text editor I couldn’t do without :-)

(Raspberry) pie good, you like shirt?

February 10, 2012 Leave a comment

Exciting news! According to a blog post made a couple of days ago, the Raspberry Pi team expects the first boards to be available for purchase before the end of Feb! But a little background, the Raspberry Pi project is the brainchild of Eben Upton, formerly a lecture at Cambridge who set out with a simple goal – to try to reignite British educational system passion for by recapturing the programming frontier spirit of the BBC Micros of old. Seven years later and the boards are ready, compact and bristling with ports and potential.

Despite the original focus, the project has been blessed by a huge amount of interest and I for one am excited to get my hands on a board (or possibly several) to see what I can make them do. The boards have already been shown to run XBMC, Quake3 and have the approximate graphical capabilities of the original XBOX – I can’t wait to see what will happen in the coming weeks.

Mediaportal 1.1 is Final(ly released)

August 15, 2010 2 comments

I think I am going to give Mediaportal another go, now that 1.1 final has been finally (after so much time and so many release candidates) released. I had been using Mediaportal as my media center software of choice since about 2007 (back in the 0.2.x days) but recently I had been lured away with some of the shinier features of Windows 7 Media Center.

Although overall I have enjoyed the user experience and polish of 7MC, the frustrations and limitations (lack of good plug-ins, local content, themes etc..) continue to mount. There are a lot of things 7MC is simply great at (series record, intelligently recording at another time to deal with timing clashes, Windows integration, four-foot configuration and so on..) but I think I am ready for a bit more freedom again from my media center.

AVG CTF problems

December 27, 2008 2 comments

avgctffilesA few days ago AVG, which is a nice lightweight and free anti virus program, started giving me strange error messages when I tried to update my AV definitions. It was complaining that the “CTF control files” had been corrupted somehow, but offered neither explanation nor remedy. After realising it wasn’t going to go away by itself :P, I did some digging and found the “ctf” files it was complaining about. To save you time looking, the files can be found in :

C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Avg8\update\download

Luckily this problem is very easy to fix, just delete the ctf files in that directory (but don’t touch the bin files as I believe these are the incremental AV definitions) and run a manual update.

I hope that helps anyone in a similar position. :)

Categories: Security, Software Tags: , , ,

Spore Awarded Dubious Honour

December 10, 2008 Leave a comment

sporecover I am sure EA will be squirming as they are given the dubious honour of having the most pirate game ever. According to torrentfreak, Spore has been pirated 17 million times since it’s release in September, that is a staggering amount of lost revenue. Spore is currently selling on Amazon for £29.99, that equates to nearly £51,000,0000 of lost revenue for the company. Now I am no huge fan of EA, but that amount has to hurt especially in the current financial climate.

One has to wonder however, what percentage of that 17 million were gamers who simply rebelled against Spore’s draconian DRM which I ranted about previously? Moreover, how many people just skipped buying Spore altogether? There will always be piracy, but by making it harder for ordinary users (and not affecting pirates at all) EA and other companies are merely shooting themselves in the foot. I don’t blame them for trying to protect their interests, however I think they have things sadly backwards.

I neither pirated nor bought the game out of protest and, a few months on, I don’t feel a need or desire to reverse my decision. Which is a shame and a lost opportunity for EA and a waste as I think I probably have enjoyed it.

Up in the cloud

October 1, 2008 Leave a comment

Microsoft has a number of core business revenue streams – otherwise known as cash cows. Despite strong indications that regardless of the recent lightweight application paradigm shift to the ‘cloud’ Microsoft have remained staunchly of the view that the operating system, as we know it today, will still be present in the future. So todays announcement indicating a potential branching from the desktop application centric philosophy is quite astonishing. According to ComputerWorld, Microsoft are looking to unveil a version of Windows codenamed  ‘Windows Clouds’ within a month. It will be very interesting to see the approach Mircosoft take with this project considering they are were quite keen to emphasise this will not detract from the ongoing Windows 7 work which is the planned successor to Windows Vista.

I previously weighed in on my opinion on cloud computing and very little has emerged to change my mind so far. I recently tried gOS v3 codename Gadgets which is the lightweight Linux distribution formally its own flavour based on the Enlightenment DR13 window manager and I am not that impressed. I found the integration between Google services (presented via barely concealed HTML widgets) and the operating system felt very amateurish. This coupled with the fact that version 3 is based on the more feature rich Gnome window manager, any assertion of this being a ‘stripped down’, light weight operating system for ‘netbooks’ sounds rather strained.

I do not doubt that one day, a certain percentage of desktops and laptops will be light weight (or thin client) systems accessing storage, applications and processing power from a ‘mothership’ in much the way cloud computing is evolving now. However it seems to make much more sense for a family or household or even a group of people to buy a central ‘home server’. This will however be very different to Windows Home Server and will resemble more the old style dumb terminals where multiple clients connect to one central machine.

Well that is my prediction, we will talk in ten years! For now, long live monster power rigs! :) As a final note, it will be interesting to see where Apple fit into this in the coming years. iSlim? iWeb? iJot?

Spore Spurrned

September 25, 2008 3 comments

Way back in 2005, Will Wright got on a stage and proclaimed the future of gaming did not have to include ultra high resolution graphic, overly flashy animations and scripted environments. He described his vision of a game which was by its very nature, procedurally generated from the textures to the very mechanics themselves.

He got a standing ovation – not just from the crowd, but from me as well which probably looked a bit peculiar to those around me, seeing as I was watching this on youtube. As time went on, gamers were tantalised further and further from videos of Robin Williams creating his own creature to more recently the Spore Creature Creator. All was not well however, unknown to the larger gaming community, storm clouds were forming behind the scenes, the weather system was called EA.

Fast forward to today, the game has been released and for the most part it lives up to Will’s original promises. It is fun, imaginative, very configurable and different. So why have I and many others not bought it?! Why is the rating for the game on Amazon so low? DRM has hit land.

DRM, or digital rights management, is a mechanism or system by which control and access to something (MP3s, DVD / Blueray video, Games etc) is restricted to predefined parameters. Despite countless examples of DRM not working companies still convinced it is their only method of protecting their products press forward with more and more limiting restrictions. Whilst I can understand a system which stops someone buying a game and then installing on ten computers belonging to their friends DRM has gone a lot further. Depending on implementation, it can install hidden software on computer systems, deny owners of legally purchased content (e.g. music) to play it on all their devices and generally inconveniences loyal, legal customers.

But thats all well I good, I hear you say, these companies are stopping people from stealing their work which they are perfectly entitled to. If that were the case, I would agree (despite my reservations.) However such is not the case, you see DRM doesn’t work. Copy protections are circumvented typically quicker than they make it to market. With a bit of know-how, anyone with a reasonable internet connection can illegally download copyrighted music, videos or games which have this copy protection entirely removed. Even more absurdly, in some cases, at a better quality than could be purchased legally! I could go on and on for a while backing up my claims, presenting examples but I am getting off topic.

So why have I yet to buy Spore? Simple, its not that I don’t want it, the converse is true, Spore uses SecureRom coupled with an activation system that allows the game to be installed three times. No more. So if you need to rebuild / reinstall your system or you buy another computer, that’s another install gone. After three installs, the game will no longer work.. that is until you buy another copy. Ludicrous huh? And Spore is not the only game to have such a draconian system, Bioshock and Mass Effect had similar ‘controls’ bundled with them. I did not buy Mass Effect for that reason, luckily I managed to buy Bioshock on steam without such restrictions.

So what is the point of all of this, have EA saved money from people not pirating their game? Quite the contrary, you see, this copy protection system EA seem to be dry humping was cracked and a completely unprotected version of Spore was released to P2P sites before the game was officially released. Turning legitimate users who paid money to buy a game, only to find they were just leasing it, are being driven to piracy sites just to install a game they legally own and others are simply not bothering to buy it, or worst still for EA and Will Wright, pirating it. DRM does not work, certainly in this case EA have lost money than they would have had they released the game with no copy protection. In fact, it made me smile today to read on slashdot that they are being sued because of this tomfoolery.

EDIT: Just found an article with EA relaxing the restrictions slightly. Now you can install the game five times and ‘deactivate’ installed copies. I know someone who installed the game on three PCs when it came out. He is still waiting on EA to de-authorise two of the copies. I will buy the game but only if I can get it without SecureRom and this activation nonsense.

EDIT 2: Ars technica as a great article on this topic, claiming that, despite EA’s stupid DRM Spore has been downloaded more than half a million times. I wonder what percentage were protest downloads?

Leaked iPod preview on the money

September 10, 2008 Leave a comment

I found on the BBC today a video preview of the next generation of iPod nanos and iPod touch. It seems the leaked images I posted a little while back were spot on, for a less blurry version, check out BBC’s website.

Not sure whether I like these new designs much, but credit to Apple for constantly refreshing (or just changing slightly to encourage people to buy new iPods every year) their range. When I get a chance, I will have a play with one of these ‘in the flash’ and report back.

UPDATE : I am starting to get the impression this market has matured drastically in the last few months. Apple have been making iPods for 7 years now, improving on the design and functionality as they go along, but is there any real selling point to these new iPods apart from the fact they are new? Sure the screen is slightly better, sure they have a motion sensor… but so what? When it is in my pocket, am I really going to care enough about how different it is to my 3rd gen nano?

Categories: Apple, News Tags: , , , , , ,

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