Archive for the ‘Computers’ Category

I replaced my old Toshiba with an HP when the Toshiba broke, and it was only after a couple of days that I realized how much I relied on the Toshiba’s illuminated keyboard to see the keys in the rather dim lighting of our living room (I’ve no idea what idiot decided to not put any lights on the ceiling there when they built the house).

Other than that, the laptop is fine, but being unable to see the keys properly has noticeably reduced my productivity. And I wouldn’t need to see them that much, except the keyboard is positioned differently on the laptop, so my fingers automatically go to the wrong place.

Most people have no idea how much spying is going on, and are absolutely shocked when they find out how much information about them is available, not just to companies they gave it to, but to organizations they may actively dislike.

They haven’t even realized yet that, when they talk to that handy little Alex or Siri device, everything they say is sent over the Internet. Or that, when they use an app to control their stove or door locks, that app and those devices are talking to an Amazon server.

Most people do not like being spied on. Especially when you point them to a page which shows them exactly how much information the spies have collected.

Frankly, I’m quite shocked that any company lets employees carry around cellphones with apps that are constantly listening to the microphone. Just think of what those phones could be collecting and sending to competitors.

IT companies are building an ever-more-complex web of systems that have absolutely no redundancy and all fail at the same time.. Just so managers can get a bonus for reducing short-term costs.

If there ever is a war with Russia or China, they’ll just have to bomb Amazon,and the Western economies will grind to a halt.

I mean, seriously, who in the world ever imagined that Amazon having IT problems would stop their ‘smart’ oven turning off?

On other forums, people were complaining about not being able to accept credit cards in stores, and that their ‘Internet of Things’ devices were no longer working.

This whole thing is insane. One day, ‘The Cloud’ is going to go down for a week, and people will die as a result.

I guess this is what you get for running Windows on computers that control a lot of money:

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-38063142

Running Windows on ATMs was always an insane decision, but the manager who made it probably retired long ago.

My Windows PC locked up again at the weekend. Followed by another 12+ hour RAID rebuild. So I’m done with it.

I waited for the rebuild, split the mirror, then installed SyncToy, some little Microsoft program that will automatically sync directories, like rsync on Linux, but with a GUI. It has to be run manually (or scheduled to run periodically in the background), but it seems far more robust than Windows RAID. And, even if one disk dies, at least I have a recent backup on the second, rather than an unreadable broken RAID.

I’m just appalled to see that a bloated multi-billion-dollar corporation can’t even get something as simple as RAID mirroring to work competently.

When I ran out of space on the main drive of my Windows video editing machine, I thought it was probably time I should install a RAID to put the video files on, so I wouldn’t lose them if the disk failed. I bought two 4TB drives, set them up as software RAID, and off it went.

Problem is, Windows software RAID is absolutely worthless.

In Linux, if there’s a power failure, or the machine locks up, or something that requires the machine to shut down unexpectedly, the RAID is usually OK. If the OS was actively writing to the disk, it will probably have to resync, but otherwise it’s already synced and continues as normal.

But not in Windows.

Microsoft decided that any kind of unexpected shutdown would make the RAID resync. Doesn’t matter that nothing has written to it for six hours, if it wasn’t cleanly shut down, you’re SOL.

And, no, when it starts resyncing, it won’t remember where it got to last time and continue after you reboot. Every single time you boot with an unsynced RAID, it starts over from scratch, even though it can’t possibly complete unless you’re going to leave the machine on all day.

So, any kind of power outage… and it’s nine hours waiting for the RAID to resync. Any kind of OS lockup… and it’s nine hours waiting for the RAID to resync. Given we don’t have the best power here, and Windows locks up now and again, the RAID in my machine has been unsynced far more often than it’s been synced. I get a power outage on Wednesday, and I have to leave it to the weekend

So that’s it for RAID on Windows. I’m scrapping the whole idea and buying a NAS running a real OS that I can just back everything up to manually.

WTF were Microsoft thinking when they designed this piece of crap?

Finally arrived only a bit over a month late. So far, it looks just like Android 5.1, except for a minimal set of permissions options for each app.

And the apps still seem to ask for just about every permission available.

So, rumour has it that anyone who installed the 5.1.1 update on their Nexus 7 is now unable to install Android 6.0, because Google pushed it without considering that they hadn’t pushed a version of Android 6.0 that was compatible with the updated 5.1.1. Now we have to wait for one that is.

If true… good one, guys. Very smart.

‘Out’ for three weeks… and still no sign of it on my Nexus 7.

Currently getting 400ms ping times to my wi-fi access point, and about 16k/second to my file server over my ‘150Mbps’ wi-fi connection. Plug in an Ethernet cable, and the ping is down to 0.25ms.

Remind me never to buy another laptop with Realtek wi-fi.

Bought one of these to get faster wi-fi, as the ISP wi-fi is only 2.4GHz 54Mbps (and rarely gets close to it). This means I can now use the ISP wi-fi as a ‘guest’ network that can’t access the other computers in the house, while the rest of us connect to the new router.

To avoid problems, I decided to use the same IP subnets on both routers. I assumed the router wouldn’t have any problem handling that, since it does NAT and both subnets are private. Oh, dear.

First time I plugged the Archer C7 into the ISP router, it went and got a DHCP address from the ISP router… and stopped working. No routing, no web page.

Turns out that it can’t handle having both WAN and LAN on overlapping subnets. Worse, when it does that, it resets its own IP address to the default 192.168.0.1, anyone using static IP configuration suddenly finds their gateway has vanished, and anyone trying to connect to the configured IP address finds it’s not there.

But it gets worse. You can’t even disconnect the WAN cable and reboot the router, because it PERMANENTLY changes the IP address back to the default. Before I realized what it was doing, I ended up resetting it to defaults and restoring the configuration backup I’d previously made (you did make a backup, right?)

Other than this peculiarity, which required me to change the IP address of pretty much every device on the LAN, and the fact that it routes private IP addresses in the first place, it seems to be working fine so far.

So, I gave in a while ago, and replaced my Nexus 7 with an iPad Air 2. The Nexus was the second Android tablet, and the fourth Android device in the house, and it was pretty good while I used it. But I finally got fed up with a number of things.

1. Android’s security nightmare. The Nexus isn’t so bad, since Google ship updates themselves, but my Android phone had several security holes, and I’ve no idea which may or may not have been fixed, or which will ever be fixed, since they have to go through the manufacturer and phone company before they get to me. It’s still on Android 5.0, so who knows if there’ll be any more updates or whether it’s just been abandoned.
2. Android permissions. The ‘install or don’t’ permission model is completely and utterly broken, unless your goal is to let apps spy on your users. I’m heartily sick of every piece-of-crap app wanting every permission under the sun. Google even provided a more sensible permission model a few revisions back, then removed it. Maybe the next release will have one, maybe not. Google would rather rewrite the UI than implement one.
3. Rapid obsolescence. The Nexus was still on sale a year ago, and some sites are still selling it today. But seems like Google are going to abandon it with 5.1. Apple keep supporting old hardware until it’s no longer capable of running the latest OS.
4. Performance. The Nexus has several times the RAM and more CPU power than my girlfriend’s old iPad, yet it feels clunky in comparison. Java may have seemed a good idea for supporting lots of different devices, but it comes with some horrible performance problems.
5. Bugs. Some of the apps I use on a regular basis have become less and less usable with new Android releases, and one hasn’t even been updated since February. Those apps work fine on the iPad.
6. Storage. The Nexus has no SD card slot, and Google has made them useless, anyway. The apps I run that use a lot of space refuse to install on an SD card, and some that do allow you to install them there just crash if you try to run them. That’s not a great reason to switch to an iPad, because they don’t support SD cards at all, but I needed a device with more storage, so I’d have bought something else soon anyway.

So, I’ll keep the Nexus as a throwaway device when I’m travelling, when it won’t have anything particularly important on it. But, at home, I’ll be doing most tablety things on the iPad, instead.

Unless Google get their act together soon, they’re going to throw the mid-range of the mobile market to Microsoft, while Apple keep the high end.

How is it that I can install Linux from scratch faster than I can install Windows drivers for a new scanner?

Turned up on my Nexus 7 today. No idea what’s changed, but it was a pretty small update.

Neat video from NVIDIA, showing how they can reproduce some famous Apollo 11 images from first principles with computer models and modern GPU power.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9y_AVYMEUs

Android 5.0.1 just turned up on my Nexus 7. No idea what’s changed, just some bug-fixes, from the look of it.

I did finally get this update on my Nexus 7 a week or two back. Overall, there aren’t that many differences, and it’s still missing real, useful permission controls.

Pros:

Smoother. Kindle app, in particular, doesn’t seem to chug as much when reading books or scrolling through the list of books.

Cons:

Many things now take longer. For example, getting to the settings requires two screen touches instead of one, and logging in requires swiping the screen before you can type the password. The animations are kind of useful, but time consuming.

Ambivalent:

The new look is flatter than the old one. I honestly don’t see why anyone thought it was worth investing all the time to develop, and some apps look much worse with the new look. Seems like change for change’s sake.

So, despite the rumours, seems like Android 5 still isn’t out yet. I’ve been checking the Nexus 7 a couple of times a day, and nothing has shown up. Guess we’ll be waiting a few weeks longer before it’s available to upgrade.