Chromecast

Example of Chromecast mirroring.

Of course I couldn’t pass up a $35 gadget that plugs into my TV and connects to the internet. This is my weakness.

Installation was painless, plugged right into my receiver and the client app you install on your computer found it ASAP. A few minutes (I use WPA2 + MAC filtering) and it was connected to my network and I was streaming video. It looks like it has too main operating modes: mirroring (Hulu seems to use this), and playing from the cloud (which is how YouTube seems to work).

There is a noticeable lag between the video on my laptop and the video on the TV, however the video on the TV is rather good. Sound quality is also pretty good. I went into the options and choose the higher bitrate. So far it’s smooth and runs well.

Thinkpad Decline

There is an interesting piece by Cyrus Sanati on the Lenovo (previously IBM) Thinkpad.

In my opinion, Lenovo already damaged the Thinkpad reputation. It’s build quality dropped almost immediately. The T43 wasn’t nearly as well built as the extremely T42. The T42 was a work of art with properly fitting everything. My T43 had been reliable, it still works, however it was never of the same quality as the T42 or A31. The plastic never perfectly aligned, slight gap between the optical media bay, the optical media drive tray flexes way more than it should. The T50 series was even worse and flexed despite “improvements”. Small things, but they matter.

The reason why Thinkpads still have a reputation is because they have no real competition. Apple has top notch build quality, but it’s not a PC. Sony is the nearest competitor, and it’s not really in the enterprise space, and isn’t quite up to par with the Thinkpad still. The Thinkpad wins just by beating it’s notably poor competition.

If someone figures out how to reproduce Apple’s build quality, Lenovo is in deep trouble. Until then, they will continue to do just fine. If Lenovo wants to protect itself, they should start competing with Apple in terms of quality, not aesthetics or consumer features.

Microsoft’s R&D

PCWorld has a pretty interesting story on Microsoft’s R&D efforts. While Microsoft is viewed as an old technology company they aren’t done innovating. In many ways they remind me of AT&T in the Bell Labs days. It’s very possible some of the best research of the day is being done there, and we quite possibly won’t realize it for years to come, and will do so in some derived way.

The research and innovation methods of companies is always interesting. Big companies who invest big bucks with little guarantee of a payoff are the most interesting. We rarely hear/see much about them though.

How To Improve The PC As A Gaming Platform

Bruno Ferreira wrote a good article on how to improve the PC as a gaming platform. As someone who is a PC gamer, I couldn’t agree more with what he says. It’s extremely difficult to build a system for PC gaming, and very difficult to buy games since the metrics used are so difficult to work with.

In my opinion once every 12-18 months the platform should create a new standard based on the latest and greatest. It’s assigned a number, likely the year. A software profiler would then establish what standard your computer meets. Don’t buy any game that exceeds that number. A game can support “minimum” and “optimal” but would just put the number below vs. spelling out all the specs. Profiler could then advise on how to upgrade. For example if you upgrade you’re weak GPU and add more RAM you’d meet the requirements for 2013. Or just leave it at 2012 standards if that’s good enough for your needs.

Raspberry Pi Base Station

Several months ago when I first received my Raspberry Pi boards I said these tiny ARM boards could potentially change the world. Now I feel this is even more likely to be the case, and here’s some evidence.

Researchers put together a mobile phone base station running off a Raspberry Pi. This is a very low cost way of putting together something like this. It’s also just a prototype showing what this generic hardware is capable of. As time goes on specs will improve and costs will drop. What these little boards can do for us will become even more impressive.

Small capable computers in/around our environment could revolutionize the way we live, work and interact. These are low power, low cost, and highly flexible machines in a very small package.

When Is It Really “Open Source”

From Phoronix:

Up to this point the graphics driver for the BCM2835 and its VideoCore processor found in the Raspberry Pi was backed by an open-source kernel driver but a closed-source user-space. Today — through cooperation with Broadcom — the Raspberry Pi Foundation was able to release the user-space bits to to this driver. Therefore there was then a full open-source ARM graphics driver with OpenGL ES 2.0, EGL, OpenMAX IL, etc. The one caveat though was that a firmware blob must be loaded at boot.
..
It turns out that Broadcom shoved much more into their firmware binary blob than just some basic setup routines and other non-critical tasks. Broadcom’s OpenGL ES (GLES) implementation is even lodged within this GPU driver firmware.

I’m not really sure it’s “open source” when you cram all the good parts into a binary blob. Essentially what they did was make the API slightly more open. I’m a bit disappointed at Broadcom. I’m a big fan of the Raspberry Pi, I own 2 already. However I’d like to see it open enough that it can improve and grow software wise.

Where Amazon Will Go Next

The other day Amazon’s Jeff Bezos admitted Amazon makes no money from the Kindle itself. That’s not as bad as it sounds. Jeff Bezos is referring to the hardware. Amazon sells content for the Kindle and that can make money. This is akin to shipping at cost and making money off the product you sell.

The Kindle isn’t a product, it’s a delivery method.

This however has me thinking. Jeff Bezos is a bright guy, and Amazon is a clever company who is constantly innovating. It’s pretty clear Amazon is looking to expand its warehouses to more locations to cut down on delivery time and perhaps even offer same day delivery in many places. It seems quite possible however that Amazon’s Lab 126 may have another trick up it’s sleeve for the (substantially) longer term: 3D printing. If Amazon can manage to create an ecosystem where products can be printed on demand, it can turn anything into eBook. Sold and delivered through their ecosystem. Simplistic items first and perhaps eventually more complicated items.

That’s not to say expect Amazon to sell 3D printers tomorrow. We’re talking years most likely. However it would be the ultimate delivery method for applicable goods.

iPhone 5 Teardown

iFixit posted their teardown and as always it’s fascinating to look at. Chipworks did some analysis as well. Some observations:

  • Easier to repair – Looks to be substantially easier to repair than previous iPhones. Major win.
  • Broadcom nearly expunged? – Apple looks to be moving away from using Broadcom chips. The Broadcom BCM5976 touchscreen controller looks like all that’s left. I’m surprised as the iPad 3 included the Broadcom BCM4330 wireless chip. I assumed that would be in there.
  • New WiFi Chip – Interestingly Apple instead of a Broadcom BCM4330 went with a Murata 339S0171. Murata is apparently based on a Broadcom BCM4334 + Skyworks frontend chips according to Chipworks. Guessing this saves at the very least space. Possibly also power. Apple must be serious about cutting size/weight.
  • Lots of Qualcomm inside – Not a shocker for an LTE device.
  • Got rid of the linear oscillating vibrator – I wonder why this is. It seems in every way superior to keep the linear oscillating vibrator vs the rotational motor with counterweight. No idea why they would have done that. Cost?
  • Easier to repair home button? – The home button is the weak point of the iPhone hardware wise. It inevitably becomes less sensitive, and for some will just die. This appears to be stronger and easier to repair.
  • Sony based image sensor – Chipworks identified the rear camera as a Sony design, but not much than that. The Galaxy SIII uses the Sony IMX145, which the iPhone 4S also used. Presumably this is the next generation based on the specs.

MakerBot Replicator 2

MakerBot Replicator™ 2

The MakerBot Replicator™ 2 is pretty amazing when you think about it. I’m pretty certain there is a future in 3D printing. It may eventually even be the successor to physical mail in many cases. Simply order and print out your product. Perhaps the order will reimburse you the material used to output your product. Instant delivery not even Amazon could beat with the warehouse model.

It’s hard to justify the purchase of one today, but make no mistake, these things have a future somewhere.

Kindle Fire HD Is Ad Supported

PCMag quotes an Amazon spokesperson:

“[W]ith Kindle Fire HD there will be a special offers opt-out option for $15. We know from our Kindle reader line that customers love our special offers and very few people choose to opt out. We’re happy to offer customers the choice.”

Apple may have a reputation for gouging customers on things like $19 cables, but $15 to turn off ads on a new $499 device is a little absurd. Not to mention just outright tacky.

You’d think Amazon would want to make their higher end devices viewed as polished and having a great experience to compete with the iPad. If price was the deciding factor the iPad would have already lost out to the plethora of Android tablets out there. The reason it hasn’t is because the experience on Android tablets is miserable.