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Personal Blog

I have noticed this time and time again, but for all you people who have never experienced the Mac experience, this is how your PC looks from a Mac's Finder:

This is how Macs see PCs

Posted by J B Balfour in Tech talk
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As much as one of my YouTube videos states that Windows 8 is in my opinion a recommendation, I will not be purchasing it. Sure DirectX 12 will not function on Windows 7 and that means I cannot take advantage of this great new API. Unfortunately, that is not enough to make me give up features that I use and need on a regular basis.

Windows 8

For a start, I do not think I could give up the Aero glass theme as I am and have always been a fan of the theme. I could live without it but I would rather not have to trade in something I love for something that I may prefer for features like DirectX 12. There's no real games for DX12 at present anyway.

The next reason is because I have bought loads of software for Windows 7 (much more than before) and a lot of this is now incompatible with Windows 8, for example Stardock Windows Blinds 7. Even if it is compatible, most of it loses its novelty. Additionally, my Logitech QuickCam Sphere is supposedly incompatible with Windows 8.

I will not be upgrading my desktop, MacBook Pro or netbook to Windows 8. In fact, this business is pushes me to love Mac OS X more and more by the day.

Finally, I have heard that because of the fact that it is a new design of the Windows operating system, it is glitchy from the kernel upwards. I am not going too much into this but I have discovered that a lot of drivers that I used on 7 do not work with 8. Therefore, compatibility is something that I would lose with a lot of hardware. I just could not use 8 without full compatibility.

Since I now own Stardock WindowBlinds 8 for Windows 8 after the recent release, I have since transferred over to Windows 8 and I am loving it. I have the Start8 from Stardock to bring back the Start button and I have a Dell S2340T touchscreen display.

Also, my Gigabyte board has since had drivers released for Windows 8, meaning I can use it together with Windows 8.

Posted by J B Balfour in Tech talk
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Firewire has suddenly become an obsolete connector in many areas of computing. When I build my previous computer in 2011(named the Zebra) it had a Firewire header and Firewire on the back (actually 2) and now when I'm building my new computer (due to a fault with the board) I've come across a huge problem when looking for boards that feature this connection.

It's becoming increasingly difficult to find the IEEE1394 standard anywhere now. Macs are starting to phase out a connector which they backed so hard and definitively for years until Thunderbolt came out. But Firewire still offers an excellent, CPU-free connector which is great for people who cannot afford a new hard drive with Thunderbolt (I wouldn't recommend USB because of it's topology and lack of daisy chaining).

To put Firewire into a PC is also getting more difficult as PCI is getting more and more obsolete by the day. Most Haswell boards do not feature PCI but feature PCIe x1 instead. Firewire cards in the form of x1 tend not to be hard to find, especially with an internal header.

I guess I better learn to embrace the future better...

Also, someone who agrees with my statement:

http://www.hispanicbusiness.com/2013/9/20/they_are_on_their_way_out.htm

Posted by J B Balfour in Tech talk
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Nokia's new advert suggests that "every day, more photos are taken on the iPhone, than any other phone". Nokia's Lumia camera may be better, but does that mean more people will change to Nokia's phones? Well clearly not as Windows Phone only has around 2-3% of the market share. I'm not criticizing Windows Phones themselves, but the operating system they run on.

For now my point is that if Microsoft don't do something with Windows Phone 8 and indeed Windows 8, then they will see the market slip out of their hands to both Google and Apple as BlackBerry did.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqfEE_X5cpQ

Posted by J B Balfour in Tech talk
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I'd like to mention my new software which is under development:

Hyper WEB

Hyper WEB (Hyper Wonderword-Extends-BlackRabbit) is a web editor. It is based on the same distinct feature set of the BlackRabbit Editor in that it uses a function machine editor where inputs are given and the editor produces the output based on those inputs. The editor uses the Internet Explorer's Trident engine with full support for Internet Explorer 10. Future plans are to bring WebKit to it. Pictures will be posted soon as progress begins to show. Currently the browser engine provided is based on Cobweb version 2.0, and it features the same page blocking technologies integrated into it. There are some very clever features being produced for it that will make creating sites easier.

BlackRabbit 2.0

Although I did announce this in the blog for BlackRabbit, version 2.0 is a total redesign on the scripting language. Integration in Cobweb will be much deeper, Hyper WEB will include ways to include sandboxed scripts into websites and Painter Pro and Wonderword will have better support. The current version of Elements will support version 2.0.

Cobweb

Recently, I stopped working on Cobweb because of a limitation of Windows preventing the use of the rendering engine of Internet Explorer 8 and above as part of any application apart from Internet Explorer itself. Due to a new feature brought to Cobweb, it is now possible to ensure that all versions of Trident can be used in Cobweb Internet Browser, and so version 2.0.1.319 has this feature. I will soon put the latest version up on the web. As Cobweb is my currently only finished product, feedback would be much appreciated.

Wonderword

The future for Wonderword stopped back in October 2012 because it was taking the place of nothing more than a web editor, script editor and more other things. Due to the fact that Hyper WEB and BlackRabbit do both of these, I have decided to revamp Wonderword. There is now the possibility of a full WYSIWYG word processing package, but this will need some investment. It cannot happen without support.

Painter Pro

Current betas on Painter Pro have expired. To obtain another beta, please contact me. Painter Pro 1.2.1.6000 was the latest release and the next release will be 1.2.2.0, currently known as it's codename Aberdeen.

VUEBB

Work on VUEBB has also been slowed, but it will resume as soon as the next file extension library is complete.

Posted by J B Balfour in Tech talk
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One of the most upsetting things that can happen with any technology is that it starts to die, or die prematurely. This is exactly what has happened with my Nexus 7.

Many others have complained as well. Here is a list of issues:

  1. When I rotate it from vertical to horizontal it takes about 7 seconds to flip.
  2. Music can't play in the background most of the time because it can't cope. It pauses the music and I have to resume it.
  3. Chrome takes about 15 seconds to create a tab, even if there are no other tabs
  4. Occasionally, going home makes the system crash and it takes me back to the login screen.
  5. Changing users takes about 10-15 seconds to change between two users on the login screen. I even decided to remove every other user on the tablet in the hope that it would make it faster.
  6. The battery life is subsequently wasted by all of this, and system restarts are frequently required. It also heats up considerably.
  7. Scrolling is never fluid - it just jumps.

This is a Nexus 7 32GB with 15GB of data. By the way, I have an iPad 16GB as well and have it almost full (11GB of data on it) and it still runs fine.

Here's the proof it happens to others.

Nexus 7

The 2012 Nexus 7 is a cheap tablet that seems to have problems

Posted by J B Balfour in Tech talk
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A recent survey of 150,000 PCs shows that Apple computers are the best at running Windows. Not surprisingly I have Windows 7 on my MacBook Pro. Unlike any of my other three current computers which are a custom PC, Fujitsu Lifebook T4410 tablet and an Asus Eee PC 1020, the MacBook Pro has never met any errors - despite the fact that it is used more than the latter two. After one and a half years running smoothly on Windows 7, it still outperforms my desktop getting to the Windows Desktop even after a reformat. My MacBook Pro has an i5 2.3GHz whereas my desktop has an i7 3.4GHz and double the RAM.

Anyway, here is the link for the information:

http://www.techweekeurope.co.uk/news/apple-mac-best-windows-114620?utm_source=outbrain&utm_medium=widget&utm_campaign=obclick&obref=obinsource

Posted by J B Balfour in Tech talk
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Simply, I have upgraded my desktop to Windows 8 now. My post back in October 2012 is now absolutely out of date because I now actually want to use Windows 8.

I have been looking for the ideal monitor solution too and came up with the Dell S2340T monitor which I will be getting at the same time as my next PC which probably will come around about November this year (will not be a gaming built machine this time, as I will be keeping The Zebra to serve that purpose). It's funny I had a Dell monitor previously and loved it, traded it for a much better IPS Asus monitor, loved it too and here I am looking at another Dell monitor. That also means that the Asus PA238q will be for sale, so if you are interested in a 23" IPS LED backlit display which has absolutely remarkable picture quality and is only 2 years old, you can email me through my website to show your interest.

I am probably looking at a low-powered Mini ITX form factor based PC or, to most people who read this blog's shock, a Mac Mini when they get the 2013 model released. Whatever computer I get next as my primary computer, it will be running Windows 8 without a doubt. I am much the fan of the touch technology built into Windows and have been using it for about 4 years now (with my Fujitsu).

What I now love about Redmond's Windows 8 is still unclear to me, but things like the newly designed Windows Explorer, the new touch keyboard (which will work well with the Dell S2340T), the Start screen on touch, support for USB 3.0 and perhaps the fact that there is now an app store (but it probably should not be referred to as the 'app' store considering that is the first three letters of Apple, hence why they called applications 'apps').

Posted by J B Balfour in Tech talk
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Uh oh! I cannot believe I am writing another of these "Why I will not be going..." posts on my blog and again this one points at another Microsoft product. This is the third product line that I have now ditched. Back in October 2012 I mentioned my dislike for Windows 8 after running the beta for months and experiencing the release candidate and then I mentioned my hatred for Windows Phone which I had been using for 18 dreadful months too long.

I was a Microsoft fan boy throughout later primary school and all throughout secondary school. Since about 2011, I have started to completely change that, now following companies like Google and Apple a lot more. Today, nothing has changed, well actually, it has. Microsoft has pushed me further away from themselves.

I am not going to start saying that I was going to purchase myself an Xbox One any time in the near future, but I had been planning on it when it had saturated it a bit. So today, I started to think to myself, is it really that bad? Well the answer is actually a lovely great big yes. Which now officially confirms that I have ditched Microsoft. Even after family members were Microsoft employed for a while, receiving invitations for events, mainly whilst I was in hospital (yea thanks for that Microsoft, you know when to fire out the events!) and all the rest, I hate how Microsoft are now. That company has ruined itself.

In my opinion all of it went downhill when we lost Bill Gates. Nobody can deny that his last release of operating system, Windows Vista, was a software bloat and in turn a huge mistake, but it cannot be said that it was down to his work that it failed. I'm sure that under Gates' management skills we could have seen a similar operating system to Windows 7, which remedied all of the problems created by Vista. But Gates also maintained a stronger position for the company as a whole. The Xbox 360 had some real games on it and had a decent user interface (I dislike the constantly new updated dashboards on the Xbox 360 because I feel that they get worse and worse), the PC still ran on a desktop operating system, not one designed for both tablets and sort of on desktops, and they had Windows Mobile, which ran on PDAs and SmartPhones but felt like a basic version of Windows, not Windows Phone.

Looking at Microsoft's current Windows 8 market share of 4.27% as of June 2013 and Windows Phone market share of 2.0% as of May 2013 people clearly do not care for Microsoft products the way they used to. I am within that group now.

The main point of this post was to describe the Xbox One and its pros and cons. Somehow the Xbox One has been another one of these disasters in my view. It seems like Microsoft wants rid of their company in my eyes.

Price

Xbox One: £429

Wii U: £299 - £349

PS4: £349

Winner: Wii U, lowest price

Disc format

Xbox One: Blu-Ray disc

Wii U: Proprietary Wii U Optical Disc (based on Blu-Ray), Wii Optical Disc

PS4: Blu-Ray disc

Winner: Xbox One and PS4 as they can also play Blu-Ray and DVD films

CPU

Xbox One: Octa core (8 cores) AMD

Wii U: Tri-core PowerPC

PS4: Octa-core AMD with two quad core dies -

Winner: Xbox One, a single octa-core almost always performs better than a dual die system

GPU

Xbox One: AMD 768 shader modules at 800MHz

Wii U: AMD 320 shader modules at 550MHz

PS4: AMD 1152 shader modules at 800MHz

Winner: PS4, most shaders at the same clock frequency

RAM

Xbox One: 8GB DDR3 2133MHz RAM (5GB for games) giving a system bandwidth of (8 x 2.133) x 2 lines per clock x 2 modules = 68.256GB/s

Wii U: 2GB DDR3 1600MHz RAM (1GB for games) giving a system bandwidth of (2 x 1.6) x 2 lines per clock x 2 modules = 12.8GB/s

PS4: 8GB GDDR5 5500MHz RAM (7GB for games) giving a system bandwidth of (8 x 5.5) x 2 lines per clock x 2 modules = 176GB/s

Winner: PS4, highest RAM frequency due to GDDR5's higher bandwidth (GDDR5 also is better dealing with larger requests than DDR3 which copes better with small requests) and also has the most free memory for games and the highest memory bandwidth.

Storage

Xbox One: 500GB hard drive which is non-replaceable

Wii U: up to 32GB of non-replaceable flash storage

PS4: 500GB hard drive which is upgradeable

Winner: PS4, 500GB hard disk which can be upgraded against the Xbox

Output resolution

Xbox One: 4K

Wii U: 1080p or 2K

PS4: 4K

Winner: Xbox One and PS4, they both support 4K resolution (3840 x 2160 or 2160p) whereas the Wii U supports just 1080p

Input methods

Xbox One: Xbox One Wireless Controller, motion controls with Kinect, voice commands with Kinect, SmartGlass app for iOS and Android

Wii U: Wii U GamePad, Wii Remotes, Wii U Pro Controller, Wii Classic Controller, Wii Nunchuk, Wii Balance Board

PS4: DualShock 4, motion controls with PlayStation Move, PlayStation Vita and the PlayStation app for iOS and Android

Winner: Wii U, there is no app for tablets, but it makes up for it by supporting 5 players on the one console with a variety of different inputs that mostly come from existing Wii hardware.

Constant online connection required

Xbox One: required to be connected to the internet every 24 hours on the primary console and every hour on a secondary console

Wii U: none

PS4: none

Winner: Wii U and PS4, you do not need a constant internet connection

Region locks

Xbox One: region locked

Wii U: region locked

PS4: no region lock

Winner: PS4, there is no region lock

Backward compatibility

Xbox One: none

Wii U: NES, SNES, N64, GameCube, Commodore 64, MegaDrive, TurboGrafx, NeoGeo, Master System through Virtual Console and Wii Optical Disc support

PS4: an online service will permit the streaming of previous generation games

Winner: Wii U, the most varieties of games

Connectivity

Xbox One:

  • 2x HDMI (one in and one out)
  • 3x USB 3.0 ports
  • Wi-Fi
  • Kinect port
  • b/g/n wireless

Wii U:

  • HDMI port
  • 4x USB 2.0 ports
  • SD memory card
  • Bluetooth
  • Near Field Communication (NFC)
  • AV Multi Out (composite, VGA, component, SCART support)
  • Sensor bar port
  • a/b/g/n wireless

PS4:

  • HDMI port
  • 2x USB 3.0 ports
  • Bluetooth
  • PS4 Camera port
  • b/g/n wireless

Winner: Xbox One or Wii U, the Wii U features an extra USB 2.0 port which means you can plug in more devices but at the cost of speed (480Mbps vs 5Gbps). No matter what, the PS4 is the loser here.

 

One more thing...

I have actually begun to get even more annoyed because I read that at E3 Microsoft did not even demonstrate the games they were showing on an Xbox One. In fact, they were shown on a PC. Read this.

Posted by J B Balfour in Tech talk
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SSD

For many long years, we have used hard disk drives as the primary storage medium, whilst solid state drives have been trying to catch up with their capacities and low prices. For the first time solid state drives are actually beginning to be appealing to the average user as prices tumble down and capacities keep on increasing. I have been constantly bombarded with emails saying how you can get one today for as little as £34 and a 480GB SATA II for as little as £150. This is why I have decided to post about this.

The benefits of solid state storage drives have increased as they drop in price and become more readily available. The price has gone down for SSDs and up for hard drives since I got my first one in November 2010 (in my LifeBook T4410 and still runs blazingly fast). I would say I was quite an early adopter of solid state, so when I bought my drive it cost me £200 for a 120GB drive which was a huge gamble considering it had a 500GB hard disk in it. Nowadays the price per gigabyte for solid state storage has gone as low as 60 cents (about 40p) according to one source. This is an incredible breakthrough and very important step for SSDs as the average price per gigabyte for a hard drive was previously as low as 10p before the floods that pretty much doomed the hard drive market the week before I ordered a new 2TB hard disk.

My first concern with SSDs at first was the reliability issues. When an SSD comes to the end of it's life, it can still function as a read only drive. Data can still be read from the disk (if you are using it to store data) but it cannot be written (operating systems need read/write access to the disk and cannot be one or the other, so it will probably not be able to load the operating system). I had originally presumed that this is what happens when the cells lose their functionality, but some articles had shown me otherwise. I now decided that as I have 4 solid state machines (2 for my desktop (the first had a fault in the first 5 months), MacBook Pro and Fujitsu Lifebook T4410 convertible tablet) that I needed to check up on this and find out if what I originally thought was true or not. Indeed I was actually correct about what I had though - once a solid state drive reaches the end of it's life, the cells become read only. You can still recover data from them. To me this was very good news, and single handedly this defeats the hard drive here as when a hard drive randomly decides to die, all the data goes with it.

The major benefit of SSDs that I am always enforcing into people's decisions when their hard drive fails and needs replaced is that of speed. Hard disks can only achieve a maximum/peak speed of around 125MB/s (1000Mbps) at 7,200 revelations per minute. Even with SATA III (better known as SATA6 because it operates at 6Gb/s) they can only achieve a maximum of 300MB/s so they cannot actually saturate SATA current maximum speed which is where the solid state can show its true colours. Most SSDs are rated at around 300MB/s to 500MB/s as a sustained read speed which put into context is 8 x 500 = 4000Mbps or 4Gbps, 2Gbps short of the SATA III peak speed. So SSDs are catching up on the maximum speed of SATA III. Less waiting. More doing. My first ever test with two drives was applied on my 7,200 RPM 500GB 2.5" drive which I used back in July 2010 in my Fujitsu LifeBook T4410 and the OCZ Vertex 2 120GB 2.5" drive that replaced it in November 2010. For the test I cleared everything off the 500GB and moved it to my desktop, formatted the drive and reinstalled Windows x64 on to it. I then formatted the OCZ Vertex 2 and installed Windows 7 x64 on it. On both occasions the PC was plugged in. I started the Fujitsu up with each drive recording the following durations for start up: with the 500GB HDD at 7,200 RPM it took 54 seconds to start up and with the 120GB SSD it took 34 seconds to start up. After tweaking the system a bit, I managed to break the 30 second barrier and get it starting up quicker than ever.

I am actually considering adding a new array of 2x 480GB SSDs (SATA III) to my RAID array of 2x 2TB hard disks (SATA II) as they have dropped so far in price, but offer much better performance with probably better reliability - although I do want to replace this soon with a Thunderbolt enclosure, so the disks may have to wait. My general conclusion is that solid state drives now offer more benefits than hard disk drives do, and although they are still more expensive than hard disks, they show their true colours when you want speed.

Posted by J B Balfour in Tech talk
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