Friday, January 03, 2014

Technological in 2013

Kraftwerk:Minimum/ Maximum

Caution: The following words are based on our own, actual experience.  Over a whole year.  Not just a review unit, or a 10 minute Google.

Now, if you are Browsing comfortably, let us begin.

A review of some technologies that impressed us during 2013.  Maybe you too are using them already ...

Fast Mobile Internet
At home in Lausanne I can always guarantee at least a 20Mbps download signal rising to over 50Mbps as shown above (in bed!).  Via my mobile phone! It means, I can have SIP based Internet telephony, video calls, or Internet Sharing (to my laptop etc) seamlessly whilst out of the house.  I never have to say,  I'm sorry my mobile Internet bandwidth won't allow that, I will do that at home

As a test over the Christmas period we repointed our Laptops and tablets to my phone (!!) for internet access.  It worked just fine. We didn't even sweat the connection.  Looks like Agata and Marcus consume about 2GB mobile data daily,  (and a lot more for our servers of course)

Google Drive .. Good .. useless .. Good
To cut to the chase if you are a small Google Drive user, and I mean less than 100K files and less then 40GB, you should not have any issues.  For me however using my 200GB Cloud storage began running into serious issues. And more issues.  Eventually I bought Insync and now everything works perfectly again.  Shame on you Google for not caring enough to fix it yourselves  (despite countless requests in Google Drive forums).

Windows 8.1 and Touchscreens
The initial release/ upgrade of Microsoft Windows from 7 to 8 hit a stumbling block:  Microsoft stupidity. Microsoft chose to remove the Start button and applications menu the users were familiar with, replacing it with the tiled desktop and [optional] touchscreen control.   But there is no reason why you can't have a touchscreen, start button and metro interface.

The touchscreen interface is not only brilliant but for marketing gives Microsoft et al a USP  (unique selling point) against Apple.  Apple would like you to buy a touchscreen tablet AND a laptop. You see, it is more money for them but more inconvenience for you, even if you have the money.

Now in late 2013 energy saving Haswell Intel chips means that 

Surface Pro2 laptops start to offer both entry level and power users real choices

SmartPhones became really useful

As a user of a SmartPhone for more than a decade I can now say that it's use is genuinely useful, something we owe Apple credit for (in the same way that we owe Xerox the credit for the mouse based Graphical User Interface). I'm still a modest user but rely on the Nexus5 for

  • Runkeeper - fitness tracking running/cycling etc
  • Maps and directions, on foot, cycling, public transport or by road.  Just incredible!
  • Looking up shops and opening hours
  • Backup MP3 player
  • Flashlight
  • RSS reader  (via Feedly)
  • Google Plus, messaging and Social Networking
  • WeatherPro, weather forecasts
  • Sleepy, Withings and other Health trackers for Blood Pressure, Heart Rate, Sleep and activity

What is more, the Google Nexus 5 is so powerful, with Android so reliable,  and priced so low that it is practically a no brainer to get one.

Our Internet Got Fast

Swisscom now even offers us 1Gbps Internet, but it is too rich for us.  After 2 years plus of struggle we are on an Optical Fibre connection, so the upgrade from 100Mbps to 300Mbps was pretty easy.

This level of uncapped speed allows our household to support multiple video streams, downloads, Webservers,  cloud storage all with consummate ease.   We never have to think is our bandwidth sufficient,  we know it absolutely is.

ChromeCast Key .. Your content on your TV
From Google, a small (cigarette lighter sized), inexpensive (50 USD) android computer that plugs into the HDMI socket of, typically your TV

Now any YouTube video I watch can be instantly transported to my TV, or when I visit a friends house, after getting their router WiFi password I can sit down with my Chromebook and display my YouTube videos or Picassa photographs straight to their Television. Incredible.

Fitness Measurement
Monitor Me

The Quantified Self  is a movement I find myself slipping into. Namely self monitoring of basic body statistics daily such as heart rate, blood pressure, steps walked etcetera.

The tools that I'm currently using include Android Runkeeper, Withings Blood pressure and Weight Scales.  Withings Pulse for activity and TomTom Multisports for Swimming

I sincerely believe that this Industry segment has enormous application in the First world. Enabling us to live longer, diagnose medical issues ahead of time, and for Corporations a new and currently untapped lucrative marketplace.

A Chromebook is a black box Linux computer conceived by Google running first and foremost the Chrome Browser.  Google would like to convince you that 100% of your activities can be performed on the web and your data stored in the cloud.   It's close but not yet there.  Whilst I love my Samsung Chromebook

  • It is still grossly underpowered and I still can't reliably play .avi movie rips without stutter
  • It really is a Black-box linux.  The command line is not available
  • Web apps and storage can get you 99% there, but in the 1%
  • No iTunes support
  • No support for Bittorrent !!! :-(
  • Because of the Inherent unreliablility of Google Drive over 100GB / 100K+ files, storage from to Drive from the Chromebook is erratic.
  • Even Google Music  has some web restrictions, and itself recommends you download the desktop version.  Which does not exist for Chrome.  Doh!

A word to Chromebook manufacturers: Stop with the race to the bottom.  Chromebook customers need fast Internet access, so providing a higher spec Chromebook with a) Highres screen b) backlit keyboard c) fast CPU  d) decent storage.  Well, is it so much to ask for?

Finally, the Personal Disappointments
Contrary to popular belief our funds are not infinite so in 2013 we only wish that

McLaren had called us to offer us that MP4-12C on indefinite loan

Google had called with a Pixel Laptop for testing

Google had called with a complimentary his and her's pair of Glass

Ah well, perhaps in 2014, if you are listening McLaren; Google :-)