Friday, February 05, 2016

0xB Technical Conundrums

11 debates / rants / exchanges put down here for posterity.   Later  Marcus can look back and say,  Ah, right [or wrong] again ....

00  Where art thou Thunderbolt?

It started off as an excellent Intel idea.  Lightpeak was a nextgen ultra fast inter device interface using optical or lesser copper connectors.  Since its inception in 2011 many things have gone wrong, leaving the interface, well to all intents and purposes as dead as a dodo.

Some of the milestones
- Originally developed as Intel Lightpeak using optical
- Apple gets involved (uh oh), and decides to use this as a Firewire replacement
- Precious little, technical, integrator information available,  I'm guessing that it all got accidentally given to Apple :-)
- At the same time Intel show almost total disregard for USB 3.0 and 3.1, the chipsets just not appearing.  I Wonder why?
- And then sneaky old USB 3.1 finds a way to actually incorporate Thunderbolt inside of it's interface.  So daddy, why don't we just use USB 3.1 native?  Shut up!

Today Thunderbolt peripherals are expensive and don't offer worthy advantages over USB3x counterparts.  (Or more traditional Display interfaces).  Thunderbolt hardware motherboards outside of Apple are correspondingly rare.

Overall IMHO you'd have to both be wealthy and an idiot to go down this avenue as your peripheral interface of choice.

Wikipedia Thunderbolt
Biggest Thunderbolt list ever
Thunderbolt3 and USBC
Thunderbolt at TI

01  The Rise of the Renderer

I winged about this earlier in 2015.   Essentially the technosphere is in danger of being polluted to an unnecessary degree by speculators who merely pedal their own fantasies  e.g  basement kid mocking up a render of their future fantasy phone,  or re-broadcasted (as fact) news articles from questionable sources.    The fusion just produces drivel.

LG G5 rumour

02 2 year Mobile Phone contracts

In many territories mobile providers are still living in their own dreamy world.   Years ago the secret agenda was:   How can we con convince the idiot customer to spend a small fortune on a mobile phone, in particular the youth market, who do not have so much disposable income.  Today in 2016 circumstances have changed but Mobile providers, not so much.  In 2016, smartphones are not just status symbols.   They are truly useful products, and for the youth or 3rd world market the focus of their entire digital experience  (over say a desktop PC or even tablet).  And the manufacturing upgrade cycle is now 6 months and not 24.  So telecom providers:

- Stop even offering 24 month contracts: They are actually expensive and lock customers into obsolescence.
- In general, just promote phones without contracts
- Stop fleecing your customers.  I cannot imagine what sort of buffoon would pay the kind of monthly fee some carriers are proposing.
- Provide fair use contracts, but do understand that in 2016 even an average mobile user might like:  to hotspot, or use tens of GB per month data, or want to use VOIP or encryption or other value add services.

03 Still no decent fast quality Chromebooks

Years ago Google launched the Pixel  (now Pixel 2) as a grossly overpriced Chromebook but with great facilities.  Instead of copying Google; the marketplace rushed, and continues to rush to manufacture the worst sort of cheapo, under-powered, low featured trash.  There is a place for entry level and inexpensive, but if Google is the only manufacturer of a business level Chromebook then it's a sad story.

Desired Specs: Large High resolution screen, say 15", decent keyboard with backlight, fast processor, decent RAM.  Not much to ask for?

In fact today, I can't even find the Pixel2 for sale on the Play store merely the Pixel C tablet, but wait, that is running Android and not Chrome OS.  

To me Chromebooks, and Chrome OS is doomed. Leave the party now.

04  Where the hell is USB 3.1 type C

Here is a challenge.  With unlimited budget find me a motherboard with 4 USB 3.1 Type C ports.  Yes, thought so.  Still looking.  But if I wanted say 14 (!!)  USB 3 or lower ports it would be easy right?

I still study eBay and trade sources for USB 3.1 cards and motherboards and at best I can find a dual port, type C card.  Conspiracy theory?   Yes, I think so.  It's almost as though Intel was hardly interested in producing silicon that would kick it Thunderbolt interface into the dust.  Hmm.

05 How do you connect multiple 4K screens to a PC

2016 is already the year of the reasonably priced 3840x2160 or higher pixel resolution monitor.  But how can you drive several of them concurrently.

NB: Any serious workstation user has more than one monitor, come on!

The current answer it seems is to invest in an AMD Radeon graphics card.  As yet not available in Switzerland at sensible prices I am afraid.

06 Over Pixelated and Under Camered
Is it just me or what is up with Smartphone feature design.  The latest OnePlus phone as example: we forgot about fast charging and ditched NFC.  Come on!   But my main beef is with cameras.  Most of us take vast amounts of pictures daily and having the best quality camera inside the smartphone will obviate the need to carry around the DSLR except on specific non weight critical occasions.  So that's a priority for me, but a 4K or QHD display on a 5 inch or smaller screen.  Come on!  Are you just stupido?   Full HD is quite good enough for even those with excellent vision.

Right now the Sony Z5 is about as good as it gets for a Smartphone camera, (with a functioning OS, thus ruling out the Lumia 950* ), a 20MP+ sensor with size  6.17 x 4.55 mm sensor.

It will be interesting to see if MWC in Barcelona will restore my faith in Smartphone designer sanity.

07 The State of Linux

Distrowatch maintains a chart of highest ranked Linux and to make a point I listed the top 20 'distributions'.  Whilst they all tend to use the same Linux 3.x kernel there are many differences

- Differences in Installation
- Different Commands
- Different Look and Feel
- Different Update mechanisms
- Different Configuration programs

To the Linux purist this is freedom of choice.  But to Marcus as somebody who worked in Unix since about 1979 (is that long enough?) I find it all very confusing.  UNIX used to promise me the ability to use the same commands on varied hardware.  When the reverse becomes true, i.e. different commands on the same hardware, well it is all messed up.  When every [new smart kid] can create their own Linux Distribution, sure it could in principle lead to a breakthrough, but in practise it's usually confusion and wasted effort.

Linux (under the covers) already powers nearly all the worlds Smartphones  (Apple though using their own Mach 3.0 Unix kernel I'm afraid), and almost 100% of the Business grade Intel Computers to Supercomputers.  But on the desktop, it is almost nowhere.

So I'm looking forward to the thinning out and eradication / slow / fast death of some of the less well known Linux.

Weirdo Linux Distributions

08 Where is Xeon Dual Processor refresh?

This graphic shows the likely new E5-2xxx-V4 Xeon chips that OEM's have been waiting for.  This was originally promised late 2015 but it's Feb 2016 and currently nothing.

The new chips are significant because they allow for dual processor motherboards and hence upto 36 cores of processing.   Intel, what exactly are we waiting for?

09 Chromekey 2  & 4K

Google Chromecast or Chromekey is almost magic.  But it has been here since 2013.  Late in 2015 Google got their act together and gave us the second iteration.

I like the second iteration which at last supports 5Ghz Wireless networking.

BUT,  with 2 years in the planning and design,  what happened to 4K video?  Yes, sorry we forgot about that!

Now, in 2016 practically the only 4K content available freely is Youtube, a company owned by ... yes Google.  But providing us with a device to actually display that on our 4K TV's.  No, not this time.  Maybe ChromeKey 3?   Hmmm.

0A <Still> no GPS on the Apple Watch

2014 Watch reveal

I've written and am still a great fan of the Apple Watch.  To Marcus it was an opportunity for Apple to force the rest of the Smartwatch sports segment to finally pull their finger out and improve their product set.   The likes of Garmin, TomTom, Polar.

But unfortunately the Apple Watch from day-1 has been a j-o-k-e to Athletes.  No GPS!  I mean, no GPS!   What could you possibly have been thinking?   Shame on you.  Aside from an Ultra sports event, where Smartphones (say on a 16 hour plus endurance event) are mandatory, you won't necessarily be carrying one on serious training.  Certainly not whilst swimming!

I was buoyed up with rumours of a spring 2016 refresh, but talk (the accuracy of course which is doubtful) says it's a cosmetic refresh, not a spec update.

So it's still a fashion watch foremost and sales opportunity second, and sport useful well, a distant third.  Perhaps in 2017?

And finally
If all this technical talk has left you dizzy. Now, just relax to these skilled athletes dancing to Sigala, and making it look so easy.

Sigala: Sweet Lovin