Thursday, May 8, 2014

Net Neutrality

It's been a long time since my last post, life has been busy, school has been difficult financially, and the world keeps on turning as it always will :)

But that's neither here nor there of course, as that only affects my personal life and is pretty meaningless to your life.

But there is a new horror rising up around us all, one that does affect us all, primarily in the USA, but in other countries as well. The issue of net neutrality.

Imagine an internet where you, the consumer, pays for access to this network of websites, services, and entertainment. Your plan's contract says you get an open doorway with the only restriction being that what you do must be legal. This is great, no problem here.

Now imagine on the other side of that doorway thousands of others paying for that same privilege, unrestricted access to the contents within.

Except there's a catch, you can't see each other. In order for the person at the other end to see you, you have to pay another fee. And in order for you to be able to see the person at the other end, they have to pay to be seen as well.

This is the internet without net neutrality. Your ISP can choose who's allowed to be seen, and charge extra fees for the privilege of being seen.

Now, it won't start this way. No, it will start smaller. And it's already happening. Netflix for instance is already being forced to pay extra fees to ComCast for the privilege of sharing their content with you. That's right, they have to pay twice, once for the bandwidth, and a second time for the fast lane on that connection.

Fast lane... what does that really mean here? In this case, it means the highway is too small, so instead of making the lanes bigger, ComCast kicks everyone off of one lane and reserves it for NetFlix only, reducing the number of lanes available for the rest of the internet traffic.

So now you, the consumer, gets great access to NetFlix, but anything else you do is just a tiny bit slower. It's no longer the 20mbit you're paying for gives you 20mbit to anything you want. No, now that 20mbit gets you 20mbit to NetFlix, but maybe 18mbit everywhere else (for example).

This is the real problem with losing net neutrality and why it's so important to not lose it. If we lose net neutrality, then eventually the only things you'll get to see, are the ones who pay for a fast lane.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Windows 8 Consumer Preview – First Impressions




From the “origami” goldfish, to the DOS-like sliders and toggles during the install, Windows 8 took everything good about Windows design and took a massive, fuming dump on it.

After installing, it appears to run ok, although the ugly continues in its poorly executed Xbox style touch menu. Unlike the Xbox tile menu however, the Windows 8 version is cold and rigid, lacking personality.

After flipping to Aero, there was no discernable way to return to the new tiled UI, and no Start Menu with which to find any apps or return to the UI for further testing. So I reboot the machine, at which point it breaks and goes into a screen (again with the ugly goldfish) “Attempting repairs”.

This is from a clean install on a virtual machine with nothing else installed yet. That’s right, it broke itself straight out of the box. What are we Windows 98 again?

At this point, the repair has taken significantly longer than the install, which clocked less than 15min (very nice). There’s no indication of what’s going on, just the ugly origami fish and the ugly bubbles spinner that has replaced the blue ring spinner.

Eventually it dies and says it couldn’t fix the problem.

Congrats Microsoft, you’ve successfully become Apple. WORTHLESS FLUFF.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tablets Devices

Years ago, back in the early days of Windows XP, the PC and Notebook market attempted to introduce us to the concept of Tablet PCs. It was an idea that simply proved to be too early for the technology. It was simply too expensive to be practical.

Today, with the advent of iOS and Android, Tablets have reappeared, bigger, better, faster and more well rounded than ever and—now that the technology has caught up—with reasonable prices.

But a new problem has appeared. Where Tablet PCs in the past combined digitizer and touchscreen technology, this new age of the Tablet PC has done away with the digitizer.

While touchscreen is great for basic navigation, typing, and finger painting blurry smears, it completely lacks the precision needed for writing and drawing. Now, the majority of people will probably never need a digitizer, but for the market where tablets become most useful the digitizer is a key element.

Tablets are the ideal design for artists, but without the digitizer they’re useless. For non-artists, a tablets vs a notebook computer isn’t as large difference. There’s certainly improved portability with a tablet regardless of the user, but the very name tablet speaks of artists.

I can only hope with the renewed vigor in the Tablet PC market that companies will bring back the digitizer. Until they do, I don’t see myself bothering with replacing my laptop.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

...Kinect (XBox 360)

Kinect - XBox 360
Quality: 5 of 5
Usability: 4 of 5
Overall: 4 of 5
This was honestly a hard product to review.

The Kinect is of course Microsoft's attempt to compete with the Wii and Playstation Move systems. And If one were to limit it to that kind of thinking, it could almost be considered a failure. With no buttons to click, your actions are limited solely to what your body can do.

So, it's a good thing we're not going to do that. The Kinect has advantages in gameplay that the Wii and Playstation Move just can't accomplish in their current states.

We'll start with a few of the cons.
Menu navigation is a bit awkward at first, but gets easier with practice. Repeated use of the Kinect ID feature under different lighting conditions and with different clothing on helps considerably.

Which brings up another con. The Kinect doesn't track well initially, it needs to be trained for each person several times using Kinect ID. Once it's been trained enough, however, it's able to track with pretty decent precision.

The Kinect uses quite a bit of floor space. It says it can work with just 6ft of space, but it had trouble in our living room with this much space. I had to move things around until I had about 8ft just to get it working. I would recommend having about 10ft, especially if you want to use any of the fitness games. The problem is, it needs to be able to see your entire face and your feet in-frame at all times to work properly.

And on to the pros!
With the Kinect, I've found that I'm actually interested in my exercise routines now. I get good, immediate feedback on both my current activity as well as my overall progress. I don't have to find and drive to a gym or pay the high monthly fees just for cardio and toning. I still recommend a gym and professional trainer for strength training, because the equipment needed for that takes up considerably more space and is quite a bit more expensive as well.

While the menu systems aren't always very intuitive, game play itself is very natural in most cases. If you want to jump, you jump. If you want to lean, you lean. And so on.

The Kinect Adventures that comes with the Kinect is mediocre, but most of the other mini game packs are fun, especially with friends or family. EA Sports Active 2 and Your Shape are both well made, although each has its own quirks, but they keep things interesting and are designed by people who know fitness.

Surprisingly, considering it's a Microsoft hardware product, the Kinect (and the new XBox 360s [s is for slim I assume, but it's not really slimmer, just smaller]) are extremely well built. They're sturdy and have a solid feel, the Kinect moves smoothly and silently, and the new XBox 360 has a much improved disc drive and cooling system.

All told, I definitely think the Kinect is a worthwhile purchase. It seems a bit gimmicky at first glance, but it works, and that's what really matters.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

...Barnes & Noble Nook

B&N Nook
Quality: 4 of 5
Usability: 5 of 5
Features: 5 of 5
Battery: 3 of 5
Overall: 4 of 5
Buy Now from
WiFi + 3G | WiFi only
I read a fair number of books, so when the eBook readers started coming out some years back, I started watching them. They were all rather expensive at first, and most of them used black and white or greyscale LCD/LED displays which at the time resulted in extremely short battery lives. On top of these hardware limitation, was a lack of content. EBooks were common, but they weren't easy to purchase or move around and required various methods to utilize their DRM that made them difficult to use on eReaders. They just weren't a practical solution yet.

Then along came eInk. This new display technology is a bit like a digital Etch-a-Sketch, it moves pigment on and off a visible surface, only in this case each pixel is self contained rather than being a big box of metallic dust. The first few eReaders to use eInk were of course black and white, or limited greyscale, and there was still no solid source of reading material to put on them yet.

Then came the Kindle. started off as a book source, so they already had a huge library of books to work with, and by creating their own eReader they were able to get past the limitations of other readers and combine their resources with the eReader technology. Unfortunately, they were still expensive, and worse yet, the first few Kindle versions either couldn't handle public formats like PDF, or required conversion that often broke the formatting, jumbling the content.

But, the Kindle was a good device, and it became enough of a hit to cause a stir.

A few years and a few Kindle versions later, after seeing the success and potential in the market, a competitor steps forward. Barnes and Noble launches their Nook, an eReader utilizing their already massive library of books on top of Google's open platform, Android.

The Nook solved the remaining problems still suffered by the Kindle. Native PDF support, as well as support of various other open formats, without conversion, and without destroying the layout. The Nook features the same wifi and AT&T cellular capabilities as the Kindle, but also added a wifi-only web-browser and the ability to share books with friends. has recently added a 3G enabled web-browser to the Kindle as well. B&N's service also includes the ability to read books free of charge, provided you're connected to a B&N hotspot inside their stores, something is unable to offer currently. With a little work, you can even load custom Android builds into the Nook to add even more features (although doing so voids your warranty).

Unlike the Kindle, the Nook features a second display that grants it touchscreen capability, although I find their utilization of it to be minimal and not a significant gain over the Kindle's keyboard. One feature of the touchscreen I do like, however, is the ability to swipe my finger across the blacked out touchscreen to flip pages similar to a paper book.

The Nook's eInk display is nearly identical to the Kindle, with similar performance and battery life, although the touchscreen LCD does cause the overall battery life to suffer slightly by comparison. Setting a shorter screen timeout helps this.

B&N's book library has been fairly good for the material I read, although older books in certain genres (Fantasy for instance) are difficult if not impossible to find.

The PDF support is reasonably solid, allowing you to use the original PDF layout, or switch to an unformatted layout using larger, more readable, font sizes. I would like to see a true page zoom feature though, as currently the only way to "zoom" is to increase the font size, which turns off the original formatted layout and switches to the unformatted layout. Kindle has since improved its PDF support as well, although I have no first-hand experience with its functionality.

B&N has been really good about updating the Nook, and it's already on its fifth software revision. Each revision has improved performance, stability, and has fixed bugs and added additional features and support.

The cellular connection works fairly well, although I've run into many places, even inside larger cities, where AT&T's coverage is lacking and the Nook is unable to connect as a result. The wifi is handy in these instances.

Also unlike the Kindle, the Nook has a removable back cover with a user replaceable battery and a MicroSD slot for expanding its storage.

Aside from the slightly short battery life, the page turning buttons on the side of the Nook feel slightly flimsy and sometime have an audible snap sound as they catch the edge of the backing. The device is also prone to appearing to lock up when the battery is too low to operate; fully charging it before powering it back on resolves this issue however.

All told, both the Nook and the Kindle are very solid eReaders, and I would recommend either one to avid readers.

Friday, November 19, 2010

...Kodak "Fair Priced Ink" Printers (ESP series printers)

Kodak ESP Printers
Quality: 5 of 5
Value: 5 of 5
Features: 5 of 5
Overall: 5 of 5
Buy Now from
ESP 5250 | ESP 7250 | Black Ink 10XL | Color Ink 10c
Anyone who owns an inkjet knows how terrible ink costs can get. Kodak attempts to solve this issue with their "fair priced ink" printers, the ESP series of printers. The problem is, often times with cheap ink, you get cheap results, and noone wants to spend a hundred dollars or more on a printer to find out the print quality is trash.

I purchased a Kodak ESP 7250 at the beginning of the year for school, hoping it performed at least as well as my Canon and Epson printers previously.

I was very surprised, because it not only met, but exceeded my expectations of a photo printer. One of the common problems with printers that include the print head directly on the ink cartridge (as HP printers) is that the print quality for every printer in the series is identical, and often times lower than the quality of printers that the print head is part of the printer itself (Canon, Epson) but the Kodak ESP printers do a really excellent job with the print head on their ink cartridges. The advantage to this, is that you get a new, clean print head with every ink cartridge, helping prevent long term issues like clogging.

This particular model also features a built in scanner and wifi connectivity, as well as a color display and several memory slots. The printer handles the memory slots very well, and has nice direct printing options if you own a camera but not a computer (rare as that is these days).

It has two paper trays, one for small photo sheets, and a full size tray for regular or photo paper. It also sports a built in duplexer for double-sided printing, very handy for reducing paper. Another neat feature is the printer's ability to detect specially coded Kodak papers and adjust the ink flow, drying time, and color correction to get the best results. This works with any Kodak papers that have the grey or yellow bars on the back.

The print quality on draft is as good as I've seen on normal with all of my previous printers. The printer comes with economy cartridges which didn't last very long, but for replacement ink cartridges I recommend buying the large size instead of the economy size, they'll last a good deal longer and are quite affordable, in the $10-$20 range for each black and color cartridges.

The wifi was fairly easy to set up, although putting in a wifi key takes a bit of time, and both the printer and scanner work well over wifi or USB. The only downside I found was that the scanner over wifi requires using Kodak's utility, while over USB any scanning software works fine.

All in all, I'm very happy with these new printers. While the ink isn't lasting quite as long as the pricier inks, they're much more affordable even after considering the couple extra cartridges a year you may need.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

...Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (2010)

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (2010)
Visual: 5 of 5
Custom: 2 of 5
Realism: 5 of 5
Controls: 5 of 5
Overall: 4 of 5
Buy Now from
XBox 360 | PS3 | PC | Wii
Received my pre-order of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (2010) today, and spent the entire morning and afternoon playing. This game lives up to the Need for Speed name and then some.

Although this is another game review, you'll notice that I'm using a different rating system. This is because I believe people look for different things in different game types.

I've been playing the Need for Speed games for a couple generations now, and this is definitely a rival for the most visually stunning, realistic and fastest I've played. The cars and terrain are rendered beautifully in photo-realistic detail with excellent visual effects and physics that match up well to everything that's going on.

The game truly feels fast, and while the ability to play as either the racers or the cops is inherent to the entire Hot Pursuit line, it really shines in this continuation of the series.

My only real complaint is the lack of vehicle customization. I understand it on the cops side, although I believe that could be done as well by allowing various styles to the paint jobs and various undercoats such as the Viper's dark green haze, but even the racers get almost no customization at all, a huge departure from other Need for Speed games. Basically, as a racer each vehicle has a set of factory colors to choose from and that's it. A few of the cars, like the Evo, are even missing a factory color or two.

The gamepad controls are solid, following the configuration of most other racer games and works well. The cars each handle uniquely and that translates into the gamepad feel as well. I really wish I could track down the official XBox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel since I play so many racers, but it seems Microsoft has discontinues it. Other 3rd party wheels have also been discontinued and are extremely difficult to hunt down, but I'd really like the official wheel due to various bugs reported in the 3rd party wheels.

The online Autolog feature is really nice for comparing stats and achievements with friends, as well as challenging them when you don't necessarily have time to be online at the same time. I didn't get to try the live multiplayer racing, so I'll end it here until I can find some more racers to join.

Overall, this game is a winner for racing fans. Both sides, cops and racers, have interesting and fun challenges.