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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.

The Pi has landed

April 16, 2012 Leave a comment

So my Raspberry Pi finally arrived today! Despite the launch morning kerfuffle I somehow (it’s still a mystery to me exactly how) managed to bag one from the first batch.

Here it is pictured alongside an Arduino for size reference – it’s slightly bigger but not by much. When I’ve had time to really explore what it is capable of I’ll write some more on the subject.

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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.

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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.

(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.

Serious Android Flaw

November 10, 2008 2 comments

Just a brief post to direct anyone who has or is considering buying an Android device to an article detailing a rather shocking security glitch. It turns out, probably due to a botched debug code cleanup, that the devices run with a terminal in the background capturing any and all keystrokes!

When the phone booted it started up a command shell as root and sent every keystroke you ever typed on the keyboard from then on to that shell. Thus every word you typed, in addition to going to the foreground application would be silently and invisibly interpreted as a command and executed with superuser privileges. Wow!

Be careful what you type in your text messages or URLs otherwise you might end up with a trashed software stack…

Call of Duty 5: World at War Beta

November 2, 2008 1 comment

Just a brief post to tell everyone that the PC beta for Call of Duty 5: WaW has started. You have to register with CallofDuty.com who will email you a beta key and then download a ~866Mb client. I have only played it for about a couple of hours so far but I am quite impressed. The engine feels very CoD4-like but the maps and game-play are very different to reflect the World War 2 setting. Lots of new options and weapons so plenty to check out, including the fantasitcally sadistic inclusion of a pack of dogs as the 7-kill perk. Not sure whether or not it is quite up to Call of Duty 4 grade or not yet though….

Android G1 : Hands on review

November 2, 2008 Leave a comment

Since the first mobile running on Google’s Android software platform was announced, I have been eagerly awaiting it’s release here in the UK. Well this week it finally happened, so yesterday I went into a T Mobile shop to have a play with one. Unfortunately it is a bit of a mixed bag, whilst looking quite stylish (it looked a bit ugly from the photos) there are a number of bad points about the G1 which unfortunately terminally let it down.

First off, the slide. I actually rather like this part, despite being highly dubious about overly elaborate mechanisms, the G1 screen slides up and to the right cleanly and locks into place with a fairly reassuring click. The problem is the G1 is not comfortable to hold in the horizontal position, and I found the keyboard buttons to be inadequate for any serious use. However the most serious problem with this was that the screen was not fully locked into place. Given that it is a touch screen the fact that the whole screen section flexes backwards and strains against the sliding mechanism, even the smallest amount of force is exerted against it, is very worrying.

The touchscreen itself worked quite well and Android has definitely incorporated several design elements that Apple initially came up with. However it feels like Google were as eager to incorporate finger swiping functions as they were not to look like they were copying Apple and as such there are two different ways of scrolling through icon menus like the ‘desktop’ and the application menu which just feels silly and inconsistent. The overall layout and design of the menus and functionality felt poor and counter intuitive. This was felt especially in the web-browser which, whilst working well ( and really showing how nice the screen was) felt clunky and unfriendly to navigate and use. There was also an issue with flash plugins but I am assuming that would be fixed by an update.

Overall, the G1 very much feels like the unfinished article. The black one looks surprisingly nice in the person, but an inconsistent GUI / navigation system lets it down as well as the quality of the screen sliding retention mechanism. Still, thankfully this is not the Android phone, but the first version running the software platform. I have high expectations of future phones and can only hope that meager sales will not put off other companies from adopting this platform.

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