The Failure of Politics (updated)

In Finland we now have a record six party rainbow coalition government. I wish rainbow would imply certain things, but alas, it does not. I basically had three points that were very important to me during the last parliamentary election:

  1. We don’t stop building nuclear power (if needed), but also don’t stop developing alternative energy.
  2. Women retain the right to abortion
  3. Same sex couples allowed to marry and adopt children if they want to

And let’s see, yes, all of these are now scrapped and fucked over. Basically, during the negotiations that took place in order to form the new government, the Christian Democratic party imposed some terms, that needed to be accepted for them to enter into the new coalition. Now, as a reminder to my esteemed readers, the Christian Democratic party (henceforth CD) has a 4.03% share of the votes (6 representatives in the parliament, out of a total of 200), which is the lowest they have had since the 1995 elections (when they had 2.96% of the votes). This is pretty much one of the smallest parties in the entire parliament, which is how it should be in my opinion. So how come they get to make demands? Basically they said that they will enter the coalition as long as discussion on same-sex adoption rights and marriage rights are put on hold at least for the next four years, and that abortion-laws are reinspected (and supposedly made stricter).

Yes, welcome to the 1950’s.

I wonder what kind of deals were made behind closed doors that made the other five coalition parties agree to these draconian deals. I am amazed that anyone could feel these issues are unimportant or minor! They are, in my opinion, some of the defining points of a modern, western society. And since do minority beliefs dictate majority rules? I am just shocked.

I honestly wonder, if the had of the CD party wasn’t a woman (Päivi Räsänen), would they want to remove women’s right to vote? Or maybe they could try to get stoning as a valid legal punishment?

And what is the problem with gay people? People, this is the 21st century! Honestly, Räsänen, IIRC, pulled the “i have a lot of gay friends”-card when the issue was brought up, which of course makes her exempt from critique. After all, how can a person who has gay friends have anything against them! I have a black friend, therefore i can’t be racist no matter what i do! What a can of worms. As an aside, a poll conducted last year shows a majority of us Finns support same rights for same-sex couples. So i stress again, when the majority of the people are of a certain opinion, how do the opinions of 4% factor in?

So until this government is dissolved (fingers crossed), or four years passes, we’re stuck with these fucking 19th century views of the world. It never seizes to amaze me how in 2011, we’re still making government policy based on ~1800 year old writings that have been redacted, translated, re-translated, re-redacted, and ultimately, probably written by a bunch of goat-herders who just enjoyed a really good batch of mushrooms, or a nice big spliff.

I wish Räsänen would just sit down and take a nice big hit, and stop being dumb.

Edit Seems like, after the negotiations were done, the adults stayed in the room and made a deal of their own, ignoring the views of the CD. Of course, not long after, CD chairperson Räsänen came out saying “No, we were not duped”. Whatever dudes, whatever.

Edit 2 – Added the poll about same-sex rights.

I don’t like Estonia – My review of our trip to Saaremaa

Last week the company went out for a small kickback session to Saaremaa, which is an island north of the Estonian coast. “Small” is a bit of a misnomer, because we were away for three days. As with any trip with Finns, the trip involved copious amounts of alcohol and shenanigans.

So a short background blurb here: The last time i was in Estonia was .. 10 or more years ago. And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

The trip started on Wednesday morning with me waking up at seven, returning the keys to the old apartment, then rushing back home to leave the car at the parking lot, then taking the train downtown, then the bus to the terminal. Luckily i made it with time to spare. Board the ship, which left at.. 10? Anyway. The trip’s to Tallinn have been getting shorter and shorter, but none the less, the ride felt agonizingly extended. We were seated in the Business Lounge, which is *barely* ..bearable. With bears. The ship was a Superstar by Tallink. A fairly decent sized boat for such a short trip. The Business Lounge consisted of rather comfortable booths, Satellite Internet-access (which resulted in a funny message that was like from a movie. get to that later), and an open bar + buffet (with a decent selection of spirits, i might add!). So if you do find yourself traveling to Tallinn (too bad for you), at least book in the Business Lounge. It’s not that much more expensive and worth the money.

The shitty part about traveling by ship to Tallinn, is that you have to sit in line and deal with the drunk schmucks that make up most of the traveling populace. See, in Finland, alcohol is by alcoholic-standards rather expensive. If you were to work a regular job, and not spend all your money on drugs, alcohol and tobacco, you could maybe afford to buy your drinks here. “Booze-tourism” is what drives the Helsinki-Estonia “tourism”, for the most part. The other part is, i guess, business men of all sorts and your occasional recreational (*cough* whores *cough* ) traveler. These people are in addition to drunk, rude, inconsiderate and in my fucking way. They act like traditional Finnish travelers in that they block all corridors, talk loudly and act like a general nuisance to the rest of us. And if you have the audacity to question or oppose them, you will get your head smashed in or a knife in your neck.

Once in Tallinn, we had a chartered bus take us to Saaremaa; a four hour drive. We arrived at a very nice looking manor in a rural area. Cows and sheep in the backyard, all very nice and calming. The following days included lots of drinking, some recreational games, lots of drinking and a 8 km walk to the coast where we had some salmon soup on the beach.

The way back felt even longer. I slept part of it on the bus floor. We got back and hit a spa to chill until the ship leaved. This was probably the best part of the trip. There was a bar that served drinks straight to the jacuzzi. This was pure win, and it cost next to nothing. The best part of Tallinn seems to be that the prices are consistently cheap (although rising all the time, since Estonia joined the EU).

Back at the terminal i am once again confronted with typical Finnish stupidity. The boat leaves in over an hour, and there are 200 idiots standing in line. THE BOAT IS NOT LEAVING WITHOUT YOU UNLESS YOU ARE CONSIDERABLY LATE!

This same fucking phenomena repeats at airports as well. As soon as there is even a whiff of  a plane closing in on the terminal (even if it’s still two hours away), these stupid fucks will line up even when they have a numbered seat and a guarantee that the plane is not leaving without them.

FUCK.

While this kind of behavior is nothing unexpected from this idiot population who votes for a populist right-wing POS party, i’m still annoyed. I mean.. i can understand if you have a train or something to catch. But half the boat can’t be late for public transport. And on top of that, who among these has anywhere important to be anyway. Oh yeah, i guess they have to sample the forty gallons of booze they are carting home. Time is of the essence!

I bloody overheard conversations of how to get the maximum amount to fit in a certain model of car, or how many cents they could save by getting this brand as opposed to that brand of some liquor. Two hints: Cut your hair, and get a god damn job.

Ok so rant mode is almost over. There are a few essential details which annoy me (tongue-in-cheek):

1) The country is still a disorganized mess, trying to find some direction to go to. They now have the Euro, which is nice and all, but it is not a saving argument. The general attitude is “eh, let things roll and don’t bother with details”. While this may suit some people, it doesn’t suit me.

2) The language is an incomprehensible mess (like Finnish), and i’m not sure who copies who, since the two languages are very close

3) They have the same national anthem as we do (why?)

4) Finnish people go there en massé to get booze, which annoys me to no end, and makes me not want to go there

So in conclusion, i don’t like Estonia, and i won’t be going there any time soon again.

Pseudo-Review of “Zero Day” by Mark Russinovich and other stuff

I’m currently reading “Zero Day” by Mark Russinovich, and to sum things up: for the first time in a very very long time i’m actually considering abandoning the book before reaching the end. I’ll try to explain here what i mean by this. Even though i have not reached the end, i can safely say that i can’t recommend this book to anyone interested in a *solid* techno-thriller. But anyway, spoilers ahead.

I bought the book based on..what? Maybe a tweet? Maybe it was Amazon who recommended it to me or something. I’m not entirely sure. But i had just finished Bret Easton Ellis’ latest book “Imperial Bedrooms” which was.. well rather bland as well, and i was looking for a good read.

Zero Day starts out fast, exciting, like a real techno-thriller. But very soon, the reader will become aware that the book is written with a very very specific audience in mind: A person who is male, young and unaware of the ways of “hackers” and computer crime. Reading this book i feel almost insulted at times. I could for instance not recommend this to anyone who is easily offended by the objectification (is that even a word?) of women. The book reads like something written by and/or for horny teenage boys. Almost every (it may even be every) female character in the book is portrayed in a flirtatious manner. Like all women are raucious perverts, just looking to be fucked. Almost every “scene” describing a female character, no matter how minor, includes descriptions of things like men oogling the woman’s ass, breasts, how she looks, or she may talk in a flirtatious manner, proposing sex or just generally acting like sluts.

I thought it’d apply to just one or two characters, but this has to be a god damn joke, because i have never seen such horniness in any description of the IT industry. Where are all these big-breasted, ample-assed always-horny IT-expert women? I need to know, now.

Seriously.

Another annoying thing, that drives me mad, is the chapters where the protagonists are discussing on instant messenger, irc or whatever. The language is silly, and made up and not how people talk, anywhere! Christ! Do you have to put up a big sign saying “this is how hackers talk!!” by making the characters talk like fucking language-impared imbecilles? Sure, sometimes people talk in leet-speek, but this has become kind of an in-joke at this point. I’ve seen 14 year-olds express themselves quite clearly, and i find it very difficult to believe that 30-something IT-industry experts would sit in a chatroom writing sentences that lack most vowels or are otherwise compressed to the point of utter annoyance. It would actually take a concentrated effort to write like the characters in this book.

I have about 70 pages to go, and i’m so tired of these repeating themes. Oh and one can’t forget the continuous references to 9/11 (that’s September the 11th for people who write dates in a way that makes sense). I get that it’s a central plot point, and Al Qaeda is the pseudo-boogey-man, and how arabs are evil and the towers fell and the planes hit and oh the humanity. I don’t think it’s a very effective plot point at this point anymore, but then again, i’m not a US citizen. I don’t have the lifelong emotional scars.

This just.. doesn’t work for me. I might recommend this to someone who is entirely outside this industry, this scene  if you may. But under no circumstances would i recommend this to anyone who has spent more time in front of a computer, or who would like to read something about like cool cyber hackers (the word cyber also appears on nearly every page, which means, if you’re playing the Pauldotcom drinking game, you’d be dead by page 100), about criminals and terrorists and Osama Dead Laden, and how horny the girls are in the IT industry (not). But if you for some reason wish to read about this stuff, by all means, pick it up. A casual reader looking for a sure-flowing thriller might enjoy this book. I’m not sure i can finish it, because i find it so insulting to my intellect. And i write this without even a hint of arrogance, trust me.

The other stuff

Another chapter of miscellania. Most of the stuff is now in boxes or bags. Keys will be picked up on Friday. We’re on the waiting list to buy Assembly 2011 tickets  (me and H, P, M and O, at least). The other people, well.. they don’t seem too interested, as nobody has contacted anyone about tickets. But i guess that’s for the better.

This will probably be my last year. It’s a fitting end too. It’s the 20th aniversary Assembly, and i’ll get to show H what the fuzz is about. I also realize i’ve said this for the past three years. But you can’t trust me!

We’re rewatching Twin Peaks, and we just saw the episode with David Duchovny as Dennis, sorry, Denise. A brilliant episode, and a brilliant portrayal by Duchovny, keeping in mind that this was before The X-files started. Wonderful.

With B, we’ve discussed multi-dimensional objects, probabilities of intersection in finite and infinite spaces. Standard stuff.

Also wrapping up Mad Men Season 3, which is a great series to watch. Looking forward to the 4th season on DVD, whenever i can get that for a reasonable price. Also, Flash Forward, though i have only seen the first half of the series. The box is a bit pricey in Finland at the moment, so maybe i’ll wait to get it. I’m not sure they showed the entire thing on TV, and considering the fact that i don’t watch TV anymore  (haven’t watched more than an hour a week for the past two years), it’s unlikely i’ll see the remaining episodes there.

Brand Bias

This is by no means a new phenomena or anything, but it caught my eye.. or ear i should say, when i was listening to the latest episode of the Linux Action Show (Season 15, episode 3). There was a mention of the curious Apple-bias that many tech sites seem to have; the one mentioned was Tech Crunch. They recently made an article on how many percent of smartphone users are using the latest version of their software. For apple, the number was ~90%, and for android this was 0.4%. Yes. But see for Android the rules were not the same, no. IOS, the apple smartphone OS, has had numerous versions of the 4.x series (which were all included in the 90%), and android has had many under 2.x. But Tech Crunch (which, i know, is a group edited site, so content is perhaps not always of the highest quality) decided that they would compare to Android phones using 2.3 Gingerbread. Which isn’t really fair, if apple gets an entire whole series of releases under 4.x and Android gets one specific version with no variance. Oh well, i guess apple just rules because their users are almost all on the latest version then.

This is a widespread phenomena. Anything Apple does is toted as revolutionary, even if it has been done and re-done thousands of times before. They release the iPad which is a crippled piece of shit, and then wait a year and soon they will release the iPad2, to the amazement of all, and it will be the best thing out there because they added an SD card slot and the ability to make video phone calls or something. That’s some dank shit right there guys. Apple also called out Android tablets as being nothing but oversized smartphones (this was during CES, which saw the release of multiple Android-tablets), and that their OS is not designed for tablet use. Sure, Android tablets have so far been mostly crap and slow, but then, at least we have choice, and hardware that isn’t locked down. Android 3.0 will be geared towards tablets, so there is development here too. And if the iPad isn’t a crippled oversized iPhone then i don’t know what is.

Engadget has been pretty good at not freaking out about apple stuff, but they do their share too. Gizmodo obviously is another one who just licks the honey-dew sweat off the balls of Apple. There are too many sites to mention that ride that ugly train.

It should be noted that i am typing this on a MacBook Pro, which my employer got for me, at my request. I also had an iPhone 3GS, which i swapped out after about 6 months of use, because i thought it did not deliver what i wanted. I picked the Galaxy S simply because of its features, not because it has a shiny apple on the back of it.The main reasons for choosing an Android phone today is that you get an exchangeable battery, SD card slot, the freedom to choose what applications and most importantly, what carrier you use. Carrier lock-in is perhaps the stupidest invention of the 21st century, and it should be fought whereever it appears. When you buy a device, make sure you own it, and not the manufacturer or carrier.

Yes, the iPhone is exceedingly easy to use, and if you live in a country that has working cellular networks (unlike the US), it’ll work great for the basic user. But i can’t imagine any advanced user wanting to use an iPhone, simply because the platform is controlled by Apple so tightly. Apple recently even went as far as to change the screws on their flagship hardware (like the iPhone 4), so that you couldn’t open the phone as easily as before. Ofcourse, Ifixit now sells the screwdriver and kit to change the mangled freedom-hating screws to regular philips head screws for 9.95. If you still own an iPhone, and you want to keep owning the hardware you paid for, and for instance, change the battery (which is not possible without opening up the device entirely), get that kit from ifixit. The same goes for the Macbook Air, and i think the newer Macbook Pro’s. This is just rude behavior, and they had to know that people would open the phones anyway. So why go through the trouble? I wonder how many millions it cost to replace the screws, and what benefit they thought they got out of it?

I also have to hand it to Apple. They have the best marketing team ever. Never fire those guys, they are pure gold. No other company in the history of man has such overhyped crap that everyone seems to want. On top of that, they cost a shit-ton, are completely locked down and behind the curve in features. And again i stress that i picked an iPhone out of my free will, i just didn’t like the way it made me feel locked down. You can argue all you like about jailbreaks and unlocks, but the fact is, it’s your phone. But with Apple, that’s just not the case. You don’t own your own phone.

Sandisk Sansa Clipp+ Review

I recently decided to start hating freedom less, and ordered a 4GB Sandisk Sansa Clipp+ portable audio player. This player costs around 50€ depending on where you order. The main interesting features are:

  • Small size (pictures later)
  • Fairly cheap
  • Expandable memory (MicroSD slot, with SDHC support)
  • Ogg support

Of those, i actually concentrated on the ogg support. Very few players have .ogg support nowadays, it’s all mp3 drm mumbo-jumbo. There is a list of known Ogg players on the xiph site, which can be found here. I basically wanted a smaller device, which plays a multitude of formats. My previous player is the iPod Video (5th Generation). While the screen and user-interface is nice, I didn’t really use the screen for anything. I mostly listen to podcasts, and some music. In this sense, the Clip+ is ideal. The microSD slot means you can just pop in an up to 16GB card, and presto, you have tons of space with no moving parts.

So on to the actual review.

What’s in the box?

The box is, as the device, small. Contents are: the player, headphones (the cheap earplug style), 20cm mini-usb cable and assorted paper manuals. To start using the Sansa, connect it to a USB port on any computer, and let it charge until full (didn’t take long, i had maybe a 70% charge out of the box). Charge meter shows how much charge is in the device while charging, so you can follow the charging more closely. The power button on top of the device takes  a short press to turn the device on. First you’re greeted with a Sandisk logo, and then it tells you the database is updating. What it probably does is indexes the contents.

First sign of trouble!

First problem struck right here. It got stuck in the indexing phase, and it was unable to continue. To turn the device off if it’s crashed: press the power button for 10-15 seconds. This, however, did not help. Every time the device booted it stuck in the same spot.

So, off to google and did a little browsing. Turns out you can use a Windows machine to re-format the drive. When the Clip+ starts, it checks the storage, and creates necessary files/folders if they are missing. So apparently (and in my case) you can just format the entire thing without doing any damage to it.

After the re-format, the device started fine, and i haven’t had similar problems since.

Usage

To use the device, connect to your computer, and copy over some music. I tried a bunch of ogg files, copied them to the Music folder on the Sansa, and ejected the player. Started up… updating database…. And soon i was given the main menu. The main items are: Music, SlotRadio, FM-radio, Voice and Settings. All of those are self-explanatory, except the SlotRadio, which is apparently some kind of pre-loaded MicroSD card, containing..something. I haven’t seen these in Finland, so i’ll just skip that part.

Music, obviously contains your music. There is playlist support, but you can also use functions such as shuffle, on-the-go lists (ad-hoc playlists), or just browse all the songs in one large list. There’s also a simple EQ with a few presets and a custom setting, with 5 bands.

Navigation happens with the four “arrow” keys, and you can return to the main menu by pressing the “home” button. The home button also functions as keylock when pressed for a few seconds. Do it again to deactivate.

As the name indicates, the rear end of the Clip+ is a giant clip, which makes it easy to clip on anywhere. The 28 gram weight means you can put it anywhere and hardly notice it.

Conclusions

So far i’ve been pleased, except for the out-of-the-box error i had. The firmware is easily updated, and can be done either manually, or using a windows utility which detects the player and automatically downloads the correct version for you. The device seems very open, and there was talk of a rockbox firmware available for the device. The expandability means you can probably use this device for a very long time, if your needs don’t change. You could potentially get the 2GB version for like 30-40€ and then use a pre-existing memory card to expand it further, keeping the price very low.

It’s not user friendly like an iPod, nor will the battery last for longer than about 8 hours, but i still like it. I like devices that can be expanded and are not artificially constricted by laws or stupid corporate creeps. I like to choose my format, and not need any kind of special software to copy it onto the device. This is just like any memory stick that plays your music.

Overall, i’d maybe give it 8/10, with a Stallman badge for good measure.

HTPC 2010 – The Build

The build

I got word from Jimm’s Pc-Store that half of my parts had arived. The rest i would buy from Verkkokauppa.com because they had it in stock. I ended up getting a 250 gig hard drive for 39 bucks, simply because the cf solution was not immediately available (not in stock), and it would have cost nearly three times as much. Otherwise the parts list in the first post holds true.

I started by skimming the manuals of the case and the motherboard, and then started taking the case apart to prepare for installation. I had to remove the top cover, obviously, and also add and remove some of the internal cables according to my needs.

All the parts in one pile!

This is what the case looks like on the inside. Note the power supply, or actually just the distribution-point. The powersupply is actually that transformer-brick next to the case there. There is a 24-pin atx, 4pin 12v extra power, cables for floppy, molex, and sata, which are fairly modular, i.e. you can chose not to connect the molex cables if you don’t need them, like me. The case has a rubber-padded spot for the hard drive, on the bottom left in the picture. This should (and did) eliminate most of the vibration caused by the movement. The case also has front panel audio, usb and firewire, as well as a memory card reader. Sadly, the motherboard i got only had one internal usb, so it was a choice between the two front panel usb ports, or the memory card reader. I chose the usb ports, because it’s a handy way to hook up external hard drives and media players. Ofcourse, one can just switch the cable, and use one of the external usb ports to hook up the memory-card reader.

Cables for power and hdd led, as well as the power-switch are also included. Cable management turned out to be a bit hard: the 24-pin atx power cable is very very thick and stiff and needs to be forced down quite a lot to get the top cover back on.

The case, opened
power supply
The "Power Supply"

After this, it was time to put in the Asus motherboard, the hard drive, and hook up all the necessary cables. I forgot to take a pic of the innards with all the parts connected, but i’ll do that today. Here’s a picture of the motherboard, pretty handy-looking huh?

motherboard
The Asus Motherboard

So when everything was connected, it was time to put the case back together, and prepare for installation. The plan is to install Ubuntu 9.10, with XBMC 9.11.  A few more pics of the ready build. Note the fucking awesome blue led, without which, this build would be like, less cool.

Done!
Done!
A view from the top

HTPC 2010

I finally got off my lazy ass and ordered the parts for my HTPC. The build itself, is inspired by Anteuz’ build, which i had the pleasure of fiddling with last weekend. The build was very convincing visually, as well as performance-wise.

I’ll document the entire process of building, installing and configuring on this blog. The first part: The Buy

The Buy

The first task in any computer project is deciding what you want the build to do. I set some goals for this build:

  • Has to be visually appealing, and suitable for my livingroom (that means, slim, silent and black)
  • Has to be able to play 1080p media (and anything below that of course)
  • Has to be usable with a cordless keyboard & mouse and/or remote control
  • Has to be able to run Linux
  • Has to not cost me an arm and a leg!
  • Hast to have some form of expandability, say if i want a Bluray drive later!

Setting out with these goals in mind, the only reasonably priced hardware that does all this is based on the Nvidia ION chipset. The build Anteuz has is a:

  • Asus AT3N7A-I Motherboard
    • Atom 330 dual core processor
    • Nvidia ION chipset
    • Gbit Ethernet
    • 8GB RAM (DDR2) max.
    • DVI/VGA/HDMI/SPDIF etc. outputs
  • 2 x 1GB DDR2 RAM
  • Hard drive
  • Silverstone Lascala SST-LC19S-R with 120W passively cooled powersupply

I ended up ordering pretty much the same set:

  • Asus AT3N7A-I Motherboard (126€ @ Jimm’s Pc-Store)
  • 2 x 1GB DDR2 (800MHZ) (44€ @ Verkkokauppa)
  • Silverstone Lascala SST-LC19S-R (160€ @ Jimm’s Pc-Store)

But as for storage i ended up with a slightly different solution:

  • SATA -> Compact Flash adapter (22€ @ Verkkokauppa)
  • 4 or 8 GB Compact Flash card from Sandisk, the Extreme III model (with ~30MB/s read and write) (34 – 51 € @ Verkkokauppa and elsewhere)

What i’m going to be doing is, putting Ubuntu on the Compact Flash card (which is completely quiet, low power, and physically small). I don’t need a lot of space for Ubuntu, since it’ll be a barebones install, with the XBMC media center application on top, it’ll hardly take more than 2 GB.

I’m not going to store any media on the HTPC, but instead, stream it over the network from my fileserver. With Gbit Ethernet, i’ll be able to stream 1080p content with no problems. The network “backbone” is an HP Procurve 1400-8G, which has more than enough throughput and oomph for my small network.

The total price for the build is 386€ with the 4GB Sandisk Extreme III (add 20 bucks for the 8GB version). For less than 400€, i will therefore have a build that can stream HD media from my network.

A future expansion will be a slim blu-ray drive, which runs at around 150€ right now, which is not a bad price. The hardware is more than capable of playing blu-ray discs in their full 1080p,  surround sound glory. And that’s cheaper than a Playstation 3, which has no games anyway 🙂

Next up, when i get the parts: Pictures and The Build. After that, it’s time for The Install and then The Conclusion.

What’s the deal with the iPad?

Clever readers will notice the Seinfeld reference. Anyway, on to the topic.

Everyone is writing about the iPad, so as not to arouse suspicion, so will I. The iPad was released a while (a week? two?) back by Apple. Using the standard hypewords “awesome”, “fantastic”, “amazing”, “fabulous” etc. Jobs hailed the device as a whole new class of devices (which it is, more on this later), and quote: “The best web browsing experience you’ve ever had!”.

Let’s first look at the specs. The device has an Apple designed A4 processor (though rumors are, they bought the silicon from some other company), 9.7″ multi touch screen (with IPS panel), 16 -> 64 gigs SSD storage. What it does not have is:

  • Exchangeable battery
  • No expandable memory (no sd slot, no usb slot, no nothing)
  • No usb ports (use apples propietary 30 pin cable, with adapters)
  • No multitasking in the OS
  • No phone functionality
  • No 3g in the standard version (pay $130 extra for that in any size class)
  • No camera
  • No flash!

That seems like a long list. Which is probably because it is. There are a number of shortcomings in the iPad, and with a 499 pricetag, that’s pretty unacceptable. To my eyes, this is a total fucking rip-off product, with no real killer app or usage scenarios. I’m thinking this could be used by say, medical institutions or perhaps, as a device for visitors to a museum or something. But multitasking becomes an issue here as well.

Who is going to use an office suite, without multitasking? Enjoy writing your diary, without surfing or doing anything else at the same time. Enjoy not being able to surf the web while taking notes.

This is a deliberately defective product. According to sources, the parts in the iPad cost apple 300 dollars. Which means, for the cheapest shit-ass model, they are raking in a huge 200 dollar profit. Even if they just sell one for each apple fanatic, they’ll still make enough money to be happy.

Again, this isn’t that they couldn’t have included all of those things, they did so because they decided. This way, they can make the 2nd generation iPad, which has all of the clearly missing features, and everyone will go fucking apeshit about their genious device. But let’s get real here. A device with more features existed 7 years ago, in the form of an HP tablet computer. This is just highway robbery on Apple’s part, and i don’t like it.

Why did Jobs call this the best web browsing experience you’ve ever had? I wonder why their product pages had blatant lies on them at the time of the release? They showed video and images of iPads visiting Flash based websites, until some keen-eyed humans found the lie, and Apple had to quietly take it down. The fact of the matter is, it does not run flash, and probably never will. Jobs says it’s because “Adobe could be making an awesome product, but they choose not to.”

Why not stop lying and tell them the real reason, huh? The real reason is: through flash, people could be watching online video and skipping quicktime. Through flash, people could start creating and distributing games and applications that would circumvent the Apple store, which they want to keep strictly controlled. We all remember the dictionary app that wasn’t allowed because it allowed translation of naughty words. Sure, flash is not perfect, but devices since Symbian S60 have had flash. This is the year 2010 and Apple comes out with a product without Flash? Get with the program! Through process separation, flash could be made perfectly safe, so i’m not seeing the problem. Jobs keeps talking about HTML5 which brings video support (can be tried out on youtube, with certain browsers), but let’s get real. 70% of all online video and most modern sites and portals use Flash. Without it, you’ll get a lesser experience, or miss out on some content altogether.

What is the use for this thing, seriously? What could you possibly want to do with this iPhone XL? Give me some suggestions. Meanwhile, i’ll keep thinking, and i’d rather spend my money on the 58 tons of sand i could buy with the 499 i saved by not getting the maxiPad.

Don’t buy the iPad. It’s a complete fucking ripoff, and you’ll regret it in a year when they come out with a revolutionary product that has a camera *and* 3G built in!!!1one.

Samsung N140 review

So here’s my uh.. long-awaited review of the Samsung N140 netbook. This is a fairly recent model that was released i think some time late last year (and early this year in Finland). It’s basically an upgraded model of the acclaimed N120 (won tests in both Mikrobitti and MikroPC magazines here in Finland).

Let’s get a few things straight right off the bat. This is a netbook. Don’t come crying to me that it’s low powered, because i know. That’s why i got it. Yes, your calculator may have more power than this, but i don’t give a shit. Anyway, on to the review.

What’s in the box

The laptop costs somewhere below 400 euro in Finland. I bought mine from Anttila for 399 + shipping. The box is a very minimalistic (ecological, i suppose) box, with very little graphics or glossy print. Inside the box you’ll find the netbook inside it’s protective bag and set in some foam. An accessory box is next to that, which contain the installation guide, warranty information, declaration of ROHS compliance, and other assorted papers. Also included is a black samsung “second skin”, with zipper for the laptop.

I wasn’t aware of this, so i went out and bought a Tucano Second Skin from Verkkokauppa for 12 euro, but in hindsight, this was a good idea. The included black case is very very thin, and because of this the quality feels a bit cheap. I guess it protects from scratches and such, but i’d prefer something thicker, like the Tucano.

Also included of course, is the power brick, which is very small. Like a small mobile phone, only a bit thicker. A 2 meter power cable is included. Note well that this laptop can also work as a usb charger for a device such as a mobile phone, ipod etc, even when the laptop is powered off!

Specifications

The specifications of the netbook are as follows:

Processor: Intel Atom N270 (1.6ghz, hyperthreading)
Memory: 1 GB 533 MHz DDR2 (upgradable to 2GB, trying this later)
Hard-drive: 250 GB (2.5″, 5400RPM)
Graphics: Chipset is an Intel 945, with Intel GMA950 graphics that uses shared memory from the RAM.
Screen: 10.1″ LED backlit, resolution 1024×600 pixels
Optical drive: NO
USB: 3xUSB 2.0
SD-memory card reader (supports SDHC)
VGA out, Audio in/out, Ethernet, Wireless and Bluetooth 2.1EDR

Physique

The laptop itself is a very solid build, which was a great surprise after having tried some other netbooks, such as early Eee-pc’s. (701 i believe?). It does not flex at all when holding it from a corner, and there are no uncomfortable squeaks or inconsistencies.

The top of the laptop is very shiny glossy plastic, that will retain any memory of any physical object (may apply also to ghosts and spectres) touching it. This means fingerprints, scratches and other scuffs will be visible for all eternity. It’s also easy to clean because it’s so slick, but bear in mind: any rough cloth or dirt on it will leave scratches if you wipe with it. This applies to most samsung products, TV’s etc.

Inside it’s matte, but with a shiny chrome border circling around the keyboard. I’m not sure what the function is of this, i think it just looks cheap.

The touchpad is a decent size for a netbook, and very comfortable to use. The button is a one-piece, two-button affair, which feels a bit fidgetty, but you learn to use it pretty quick. Just hit the left or the right side for the desired button.

I would call the keyboard Thinkpad-esque. It’s bloody awesome. The size takes up the whole width of the netbook, and has very nice feedback and a generally i give it high marks. Includes function and windows button. Functions behind the fn key are: sleep, battery, the euro sign, external/internal screen, brightness, mute, volume+ and -, “turbo mode”, wireless, touchpad on/off, home, end and num- and scroll lock.

Memory is easily accessible under a one-screw hatch in the bottom. This is also a feature that most netbooks don’t have. There is a single slot, that is occupied by a Samsung brand 1GB stick, 533mhz.

Battery is removable, and there are rumors of a new more powerful battery, but i haven’t seen it yet.

Software

Comes bundled with Windows 7 Starter (32-bit). The bundle is quite horrible, as it includes every damn thing under the sun, most of which are limited time trials, offer very limited benefits for the user. Some of the “highlights” are:

  • Office 2007 (1 year trial)
  • McAfee Anti Virus + Firewall + Doohickies
  • Samsung Backup solution (only thing i’ve actually liked, more on this later)
  • Various small farming-related games, such as Dairy Dash.. (wtf?)

The Office 2007 trial didn’t work, as it just offered a 60 day trial, or an option to buy it for a very affordable 600 euro (more than the machine).  Uninstalled that fucker right off the bat. McAfee, slow as molasses, and didn’t activate. Uninstalled. Games. Uninstalled.

The Samsung backup utility makes a full disk restore image when you first start the netbook, and it’s apparently stored on the 15 GB recovery partition that’s configured on the drive. This came in very handy, as i was able to bluescreen the bitch right away, after installing newer drivers for the touchpad. So uh, don’t do that. I booted the thing, and hit F4 to access the recovery image. Full restore (10GB) took about 20 minutes. After that i had to re-uninstall everything, but now i’m cool.After this, i created another backup image, this time of the customized operating system, so i wouldn’t have to do this all over again.

Updated the BIOS to the latest version, dated 10.1.2010. Nothing notable, no changelog on Samsung’s site. There’s a program called Samsung  Update which takes care of updating the drivers (however messing up with the touchpad driver). Drivers can ofcourse be downloaded manually too.

Performance

I did some simple tests to compare the performance of the Samsung N140, with my previous “netbook”, the IBM Thinkpad X41. Specs of the thinkpad are: 1.6GHz single core Centrino, 2GB DDR2, 1.8″ 40GB Hard Drive, Intel 845 chipset.

Here are the results, which i won’t analyze other than to say that the results were largely expected. The Atom is low powered, but the hard drive kicks ass.

  • HyperPI (calculates decimals of PI):

1 million digits:

Thinkpad: 48 seconds
Samsung: 1 minute 57 seconds (running 2 threads), 1 minute 36 seconds (running 1 thread)

2 million digits:

Thinkpad: 1 minute 57 seconds
Samsung: 4 minutes 22 seconds (2 threads), 3 minutes 37 seconds (1 thread)

  • HDTach 3 (measures hard drive performance)

Thinkpad: Burst 90,2 MB/s, Random Access 19.7ms, Average Read: 17.2 MB/s, Sequential reads: 20 -> 14 MB/s
Samsung: Burst 118.2 MB/s, Random Access 19.6ms, Average Read 71.4 MB/s, Sequential reads 89-43 MB/s

I was unable to run PCMark05 due to (maybe?) the resolution of the Samsung (below the required 1024×768).

Windows Experience Index scores are: 2.1 for the Samsung, and 1 for the Thinkpad. Biggest differences were CPU (thinkpad wins hands down), and HD (Samsung wipes the floor). I’m not sure what the net difference is, when you account for all the differences in performance, but the Samsung is a netbook.

Overall impressions

So far, i’ve had it for about 24 hours, and i’m very happy with it, despite the small hickup with Windows 7.

Pro’s

  • Good bang for the buck
  • Build quality
  • Visually appealing (mostly)
  • At least some upgradability

Con’s

  • Bundled software doesn’t work or sucks
  • Windows 7 starter…
  • Glossy edge around the keyboard

I purposefully left out performance from the con’s section, because you can’t expect performance from a sub 400 e netbook. You get it for the battery life and the portability. If you’re looking to do more than surf the web, read your mails or sit on IRC, i recommend a computer.

Future projects

I have this idea of putting a Sandisk Extreme III SD card in to the SD slot, and installing some netbook linux, and seeing if that is any faster. The 8GB variant of this card comes at around 40 € here in Finland, which isn’t all that bad. The question remains, what bus is the SD card hooked to?

The memory will also be upgraded to 2GB, though i’m not expecting much difference in performance here.

Recent Developments

So it’s been a long while since i last wrote anything. So what’s been happening lately. Well, a few things.

Dorsia has been replaced by a “slightly” less powerful machine, namely an old P3 rig. Dorsia is my shell machine that i’ve used to hand out shells to people i know. Nothing really special here, it does the same job as before, but with less overhead. The previous Dorsia machine was a G4p HP Proliant, with dual Xeon’s, so it’s best off doing something else. In this case, something else is installing VMware ESXi on it, and using it as a test bench for numerous virtual machines. It’s better suited for that task. This project is stil pending, but, the server hardware is compatible with ESXi, and i should get on that with P at some point. Our plan is to build a kind of virtual lab environment, where we can have different server operating systems, such as Windows 2003 and 2008, among others, and then run a hostile machine,perhaps with the recently released Backtrack 4 final. As soon as we have time..

I’ve ordered a netbook. So yeah, i became yet another sheep and got myself a netbook. Yes, i’m aware they are very slow etc. etc, but i’m just interested in surfing the web and writing stuff down, and for that, i think it’ll be just fine. The one i got was a Samsung N140, which is a 10″ netbook, with a 1.6GHz Atom 270 processor, 2 gigs of memory, a 320 gig hard drive (5400rpm), and various other parts of lesser interest. There are a few things that are of concern. 1) Is the machine powerful enough to run some flash content? I’m not talking about some multimedia extravaganza, but simply youtube and such? 2) The resolution is small, and i know this. But, it has a VGA out, and where i’ll be using it “proper”, i’ll have an external screen to hook up to it.

Basically, i’m not expecting much, but it’ll be interesting to see how it compares with my previous “netbook”, my Thinkpad X41, which has developed some problems with the battery and charging. This puppy has a 1.6 GHz Centrino,  with 2 gigs of memory. I’ll be running some benchmarks to see how the Atom fares against this 5 year old machine. Should be interesting, as there aren’t a lot of benchmarks that compare older hardware with netbooks, and as M pointed out, there are so many different architechtures; comparison becomes difficult on a larger scale. I’ll be reporting on this as soon as i get the machine, which should be next week.

I’m also trying to find out what the perfect linux distro would be to install on this. I’m taking suggestions, if you have them.

Adobe presented me with an interesting perdicamen this week at work. I was fiddling around with trying to get the Adobe PDF printer working under Windows 7. This proved to be a bitch. After countless hours of testing, i found out that Adobe Acrobat version 7, works just fine under windows 7. This is an old old version, from like 2003, which doesn’t even have support for Vista, let alone Windows 7. Adobe 8, which was used in this particular case, just didn’t work, not even with the latest patches. It installed the printer, but you were unable to use it, as Acrobat claimed the product was unactivated (it worked otherwise just fine, so i think that’s just a bogus error message). Again, version 9, the latest version (patch 9.3 released 14th of January) has official Windows 7 support as of 9.2, and that worked fine from the get go.

So Adobe, why doesn’t version 8 work, when the older technology of version 7 works just fine? You wouldn’t be out to get Windows 7 users to buy Acrobat 9 now would you? Tsk tsk.

Glamorama, the recent book by author Bret Easton Ellis (notably of American Psycho-fame), is what i’m reading next. Hopefully, even today. It was shipped out from Jersey, at play.com last week, so i should be getting it either today or tomorrow.I hope it’s as good as American Psycho! I think i’ll be reading his entire bibliography, since i very much like his topics (glamour,  yuppies, decadence and horror), and his writing style.

Ham radio. Me and B decided we were going to become ham radio operators during the year of 2010. We haven’t started yet, but i’m definately going through with this. I have a few ham friends who i’ll be talking to about where to take the exam and so on. The basic level exam isn’t too hard, plus i was in the signals battalion during my one-year army stint, so this shouldn’t really be a problem by any stretch of the imagination.

http://www.hilavitkutin.com/2010/01/20/muistutus-ala-laita-foliota-mikroon/