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To Core i7 or Not? Just Go for a Core2 Quad Q9550 April 29, 2009

Posted by fvter in Hardware, Technology.
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Today, I started to notice some weird fan noises coming from my Home PC that we use for general all around work and also for playing PC based games. So it made me realize that my want to move to better hardware may just have to be done sooner rather than later. Now as much as I would prefer to move to something like a MacBook Pro, I don’ t have the budget to undertake that kind of move.

Thus I started to investigate the possibilities of upgrading the Hardware to move to either a Core2 Quad platform or even a Core i7 platform. To be honest, the upgrade which ever way I go would require a motherboard and RAM upgrade on top of the CPU. Also I more interested in going the Quad way to be able to better multitask :- i want to be able to watch or even edit multimedai all the while playing World of Warcraft.

Visting my favorit parts supplier in France, I noticed that the price of the Core2 Quad vs. Core i7 was not that much different (around €50 to 75) but the killer price impact is the motherboard and the need to use DDR3 RAM. The comparison that was done involved trying to get the same basic hardware infrastructre with only the CPU changing. That means that whichever direction was taken, the number of ports, memory (going for 8Gb), I/O support, audio, etc would be an almost 1:1 comparison. References to the different parts are attached in the links section of this article.

Truth be told, I would much rather go with the Core i7 option as it would have a longer life span. Unfortunately it’s still an expensive option to go for and for the same price or less even, I could essentially walk away with not only the CPU/motherboard upgrade but also a brand new ATI 4890 graphics card. There is a whopping €225 to €275 difference which is not negligible an can’ t be ignored.

You got to hate having to make these kinds of decisions! Seriously, I wish that I had cash to spare…

Let me know you thoughts and/or comments through this article or via my Seesmic Profile

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To Vista or Not? Need a 64bit OS but Linux not an Option – Your Thoughts April 7, 2009

Posted by fvter in Hardware, OS, Rants.
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So I am planning on moving my home PC to a 6Gb memory base (and also moving to a Core i7). Because of limitations in a 32bit system for supporting memory over 4Gb, I am going to have to move to a 64bit platform. So the question becomes which OS should I use on this new hardware configuration?
The machine in question is used extensively for gaming and other «productivity» usages by all the members of my family. Let’s just say that Linux is not an option on this machine for many different reasons including the fact that a lot of games and apps that I use just don’t work properly…

So I need advice on which way to take the platform:

  • Should I move to Vista Home Premium? or,
  • Should I stick with Windows XP 64bit?

Your thoughts and opinions very much appreciate, please don’t hesitate to comment on this post or video replies to this Seesmic thread!

OnLive :- Thoughts and Ramblings April 4, 2009

Posted by fvter in Gaming, Hardware, Networks, Technology.
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During this weeks GDC’09, the OnLive service was announced and demoed. I can only really comment on this service based on the reviews and reports coming out of Joystiq, Gamespot, Engadget & others… The idea behind OnLive is to marry cloud computing with high end PC gaming. It is best described on the OnLive website How OnLive Works. Personally, I find this service intriguing and potentially a mini-revolution (might be a bit strong but that’s why the mini prefix) in PC gaming. It also has the potential to open the availability and introduce gaming to a much globaller audience who don’t have the buy-in power. It could also be a simple and interesting entry level platform for testing games before purchasing.

Much of the initial commentary coming out goes from amazement and how incredible a service like this would be to a yes but attitude and sceptism on the actually possibility and ability of the service to work. The main concern in current commentaries is the ability of the service to perform as stated due to a lack of network bandwidth and responsiveness. While I do agree that there a lot of challenges for this service to be able to get thinks working as smoothly as possible, my humble belief is that this service will get kicked off and have more than acceptable performance capabilities. One fo the reason I feel strongly is due to some of the minds behind OnLive. Steve Perlman, being on of those minds and one of the original technological minds behind Quicktime, has done a lot for streaming and has already provided some amazing solutions to optimize the interaction of the user and media across the Intranets [ed. note: I’ve had the chance to see Perlman talk in an Apple Dev. Conference and he knows what he is doing to be quite honest].

However, I need to disagree with the main focal points that a lot of commentary has taken. Much of the commentary has centered on the fact that they don’t believe the service will work because of the network performance. My rant here has a lot to do with the fact that most of these reviewers are making assumptions based on their current network experience which is mostly USA, Canada or UK centric. These assumptions are based on areas where ISP performance is average and not fantastic or where there are known (or suspect) ISP network controls and restrictions. Nigel Cooke on his recent Monkyenuts podcast (episode 7) bought about similar comments but with a touch of his own experience on optimizing and managing corporate networks. While I respect his knowledge on the subject, you can’t compare an Internet based service and network optimization approach to that of a corporation. Most coporate networks are based on a hub & spoke model which tends to lead to fixed route paths and a series of bottlenecks that hamper performance. The Internet being a much more meshed environment is constrained in this manner at least not until the last leg between the user and the ISP.

The problem with this overall line of thought is that it doesn’t reflect a reality of what the network can actual do (where I live, my two ISPs provide me with amazing performance with average latency of @400ms, @1100 kb/s down & @350kb/s up) and the potential that a service like this can do with a proper network environment, network optimization and more importantly the optimization of the compression & handling software. The comments also don’t take into account on the amount of advances that have been made in data center hardware and network advancements that have been made over the years especially by companies like Google that have learned how to make small footprint high-performance hardware and optimize the placement of that hardware to better serve the Internet.

Finally, some of my beliefs are founded on the fact that I have been involved over the years in projects where bringing distributed high-end pc computing over a network was successful. In a similar case, all graphics and manipulation was to be done on core centralized machines while the user would be provided with a web interface to manipulate the data and visualize the graphics models and displays.

So definitely a gaming technology to keep an eye on and potentially something bound for success. I for one would use this type of service to avoid the heart break of having to own multiple PCs or to continuously upgrade those machines!

Discuss this with me via my Seesmic Profile on this thread.

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Why Can’t the HDD Industry Publish True Size of Disk? September 22, 2008

Posted by fvter in Hardware, Laptops, Rants, Technology.
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Why can’t the Hard Disk industry publish the true size of the disks they are selling? This is the big question! I recently purchased two drives from Seagate from their Momentus series of laptop 2.5 7200 rpm line. To be specific, I have the Momentus 7200.2 in 160Gb and the Momentus 7200.3 in 320Gb. From the product title you would expect to be getting 160Gb and 320Gb respectively from the drives.

However this isn’t exactly true. I don’t know what the number represents but it’s not the size of the drive once you plug it into your machine. I only get 149Gb from the former and 298Gb from the latter, which on the latter is a significant loss of space (close to 10% but more like 8%). It goes to say that this is beyond annoying! When you buy a hard disk, you buy it based on advertised size (hoping to get that maximum space possible) at least that’s the general idea. If you advertise the size of something it should be the real size you will see when you start to use it! Not the theoretical size based on platters and cluster sizes!! BTW this is true for almost every hard disk vendor not just the one mentioned here.

Don’t get me wrong the drives are fantastic. I bought them for that reason, they perform extremely well and have some interesting laptop usage safe guards. I am just feed up of expecting something and getting a different value in return… For crying out loud! Change your attitude, the industry needs to change its methodology and start giving us the real sizes – didn’t this happen with TV to!

So HDD Industry wake-up, smell the coffee and stop lying to us about the size of your products! Gives us the real size…

Yet Another HDD Bites the Bucket May 13, 2008

Posted by fvter in Hardware, Technology.
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One of my drives (a 500gb USB WD Book less than 2 years old) just kicked the bucket! Unfortunately (or fortunately) it was the drive that only held videos and podcasts and open-source torrent downloads. So I am not losing much – except that I just lost a shit load of crap that took quite some time to download.

What gets me and continues to get me is that the drive in question was working very well until I rebooted the system it was on. This continues to be, IMHO, the plight of the HDD in today’s day environment. Don’t get me wrong I know why a working drive suddenly stops working on a reboot, but I just don’t understand why we in the industry have not figured out how to combat this situation!

Why can’t the drives detect they are failing and warn you before you reboot? Why should a stop/start command force the platters to stop and re-rev hence creating a die situation? Why? Why?

Oh, well! I know what the gadget purchase will be this month: new drive!

Finally Installed the QNAP TS209 April 14, 2008

Posted by fvter in Hardware, Networks, Technology.
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Back in February, I bough a QNAP TS209 NAS for my home network while in Houston. Since I came back, I have not had time to sit down buy drives for it (I got 2 1TB Samsung drives for >€400) and install it. I bought the QNAP because it gave me the most options! Seriously, you would be surprised; from backup software to web server to database server to download station to torrent client!

Installation at least for me was quite simple and reminded me to a certain extent of hooking up a small server. This may be a bit of a challenge for everyday user! The drives are hot-pluggable and install on drive bay trays loaded via the front and then covered up with a nice face plate; both drive trays & face plate are held on with thumb screws. This is good in case you need to open the sucker and replace a drive.

The system automatically picks up a DHCP address if you have available but you still need to do the first configuration with desktop client which auto-locates available devices and allows you to set the IP address and other minimal settings. Configuration [selection of pics and screen shots here] then switches to a web browser based interface. The set-up was quite easy and for your average joe there is a wizard type system.

The drives are configurable in RAID or as a  whole set. I decided to go for a continuous 2TB drive format instead of RAID to get the most of storage space. I will get an external HD to do backups to; yes, the system supports a plug and backup option via an external drive.

As for the different server options, for the moment, I have only configured:

  • the DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) with the Twonkyserver so that I can now play videos and music from things like my xBox360;
  • the iTunes server for access to all my digital music;
  • file server which is accessible from either the windows machines or the MacOS X machines on my network & there is a web version as well
  • media server for web sharing of pictures (this will be useful once I get a WiFi enabled digital picture frame)

The next steps will be to look into the web server options and backup options of which the first step will be to hook up to TimeMachine on the Mac.

The device is responding as I wanted, except for one or two important points of which the most important is the lack of a more intelligent BitTorrent client. The download station on the system is in fact quite simple. It is missing a number of things like an RSS reader or a monitor folder option. I now need to figure out a work around to be able to get the system to auto-download bittorrents! Might need to do some fancy scripting.

I posted some of my wish list on the qnap forum.

HTC UMPC February 13, 2008

Posted by fvter in Hardware, Mobility, Technology.
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The French distributor of HTC, Brightstore, was present at MS TechDays 2008. One of the devices presented was the UMPC. I won’t discuss the UI as this is pretty standard as they are all based on Vista.HTC Display Cabinet
The hardware however is one of the best I have seen in this category. The overall frame is slightly bigger than the screen and has a nice rubbed plastic grip feel (easy to hold & feels right). The 7″ screen is a good size, full tactil and good on the eyes. Keyboard is a slide under like the TyTN2 and it provides a full keyboard the length & width of the device. Best part however is the good tactile respons it provides.
This is definitely the best UMPC out there (I have tested the Samsung & Toshiba) so far!

Apple! Oh How Ye Doth Disappoint… February 3, 2008

Posted by fvter in Hardware, Technology.
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The title says it all… I am currently in Houston, TX and as previously posted was thinking about buying a new MacBook even possibly the Air. The reason behind this is that one of my home laptops is dying its slow death!

Now, I visited the Apple store yesterday and decided to give the Air a rundown and I also took the opportunity to play some more with the iPod Touch and iPhone. Now I left the story disappointed and still hesitant (even more so when you see rumor articles like this) which is kind of a shame considering Apple’s innovative approach and track history.  Here is my problem, within a small 30minute period, I managed to find quirks and interface issues in all the new products.

First on the Air: I tried to use the multi-touch trackpad (which is only activated when you hold a key down) and found that in fact the applications don’t respond very well. I couldn’t even get it to work in iPhoto. When I did manage to get it to work, the zoom pinch function to reduce (after I had enlarged) was impossible to get working! I just could not reshrink the image. Could it be my fingers, maybe but…

Second on the Air: I heard some of the reports concerning the slow speeds but was thinking maybe it was just the reviewers. In the store, the Air was side by side with a pretty standard Macbook. I rebooted both at the same time… and the Macbook was up and running at the same-time if not faster than the Air! Ouch  I was also very surprised that after only a few days of exposure, the unit was already showing signs of scratching and wear on the alu frame…

Third concerning the Touch & iPhone, I won’t go back on some of previous comments regarding the missing features in some applications (like video, mms support, etc). To start, the display units are used by many people so they get quite dirty, believe it or not this makes it quite hard to get the multi-touch interface to respond properly. Your probably thinking, yeah so, a single person wouldn’t dirt it up that much! But are you sure… my feeling on display units is that the passage of many people gives you a good impression of how resistant the device will be to prolonged usage and wear and tear.

Then I was playing with basic features like the music player and video player. During that time I also switched out to Home interface (tried to be a normal user). Then I ran into a problem, the audio got really loud (I think the following song was boosted)… It is there that I struggled, I couldn’t for the world of me get a quick access to the audio controls and even in the player interface I struggled!

Believe it or not I left the store really stunned, in shock! Not the feeling I would have expected from visiting the Apple store hence my disappointment. I am still considering getting the iPod Touch though…

New Logitech G15 Gaming Keyboard September 14, 2007

Posted by fvter in Hardware, Technology.
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I’ve been thinking of getting the Logitech G15 for a number of years now. However, I have been hesitant due to the large size and potentially not sure what to do with all the Macro keys they put on the thing.
Apparently the new version addresses some of these issues according to this ExtremeTech article. The article discuss some of the applications that use the LCD screen and I have to admit I was drawn to the WoW interface as well as others…
Definitely worth some further investigation and potential addition to the home hardware.