Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mobile OS duopoly, just say no to iOS and Android.

As difficult as this may sound, just say no to iOS and Android.

At first glance, iOS is a nicely designed OS. It has elegant chiclet style buttons everywhere, it has a nice touch interface, and for phones I think the execution is just fine. That being said, this OS starts to become part of the problem as you scale it up for bigger devices. To access anything externally, you have to go through iTunes which has become a huge piece of bloatware on its own. A program that was originally designed for music playback has morphed into an entire business model for Apple.

The problem with iOS is that it is not on your side. It is designed in a way that forces you to do one thing at a time. watch a movie, browse the internet, play a game. The only way to make this OS work for you, is if you feed it more money. Buy a movie, buy an app, buy an ebook. I laugh at people that try to use this OS for anything other than consuming or making calls. Typing a paper on an iPad? Good Luck. Editing a movie? Please just say no. This OS is just useless for any interaction that requires more than two swipes of a finger. For an example, install Angry Birds and you will see two swipes of a finger in action and why that app has become the bestselling app ever.

While Google's Android might seem like its on the opposite side of iOS, It too is a problem. The design is fairly similar to iOS and while the Android OS itself runs on many different devices, its not on your side. Try using an Android device that doesn’t have the Google Marketplace and see how much fun you can really have with it. Google Marketplace is the #1 feature going for Android, and its not even as good as Apple's App store implementation. Whats worse is that Google plays lip service to the Open Source community by saying, “Oh we are for open standards because we are based on Linux.” but can one really tinker with an Android device? The answer is no, because Android devices are also pretty locked down. HTC is making strides towards a more open platform by keeping the bootloader on its devices unlocked. A welcome move for sure, but it will have little impact on Android itself.

MeeGo looked like it was the promising OS for Tablets and Phones. It had a unique UI with its “at a glance panels” and it could run a lot of existing programs that you would see on an OS like Ubuntu. Unfortunately this option has been deemed nonviable thanks to Nokia and Microsoft. Nokia announced a partnership with Microsoft to exclusively sell hardware that runs Windows Mobile. And as a result, all plans to develop MeeGo have been killed. They will release one MeeGo based phone and I am sure it will do very well. However Nokia has decided not to introduce that particular phone in the USA, Canada and most of Europe. It is being launched in Mexico, a market where Microsoft has little interest in at this time. The move to stick with Microsoft will probably doom Nokia to being a budget handset manufacturer for the foreseeable future and that’s if they even survive. Maybe if the Microsoft friendly Nokia CEO, Stephen Elop (last name backwards is Pole) ends up getting tossed out, we may see a Nokia revival. I am not counting on that anytime soon so good luck to Nokia.

Realistically we have no viable mobile platform at this time now that MeeGo seems to have been killed in the cradle. MeeGo and WebOS are dead while Windows Mobile and BlackBerry OS are jokes. Rather than falsely hoping for Microsoft and RIM to develop a better OS, I would like to see greater strides towards the development of Ubuntu Mobile to address the iOS/Android duopoly. Until then, I will probably stick with my cheap flip phone since even in 2011, all I realistically want to do with my phone is call people (and even that is something I tend to avoid).

Sunday, February 27, 2011

It's Over, Mac OS X is dead

It disappoints me to say this, but I've come to the conclusion that Mac OS X as an operating system is dead. Now before anyone panics, rejoices or denies it, I'm sure it will continue to sell very well, and yes it will probably always be better than Windows, but I'm talking from an evolutionary perspective. This post is designed to serve as a history to Mac OS X as I see it, and a rally cry for change before its too late.

Note: I would like to emphasize that this isn't a rally cry to save Apple or anything of the sort. This is more of a shout to get people to realize that the Apple that once cared about its users is long gone and how we as users need something else to depend on.

Since Mac OS X first came out in 2001, it has been on a steady growth path in terms of features, stability, speed, ease of use, and install base. I remember when I tried out OS X  back when it was 10.0 and it was a pretty horrible experience. It broke software compatibility with OS 9 to no end, and if you tried running it on a G3 it would take forever to load anything. Because of these problems, the loading ball became notoriously known as the spinning beach ball of death. Things were so bad that Apple decided to distribute the version that followed as an upgrade free of charge.

Mac OS X 10.1 “Puma” fixed some the speed issues on G4's, but by this point it was clear that it would never be fast enough on a G3. As an OS it was still very buggy, the UI still needed some tweaking, and more features needed to be added. It was also around this time where I gave up using Mac OS 9 as a daily driver, and I jumped ship and went on to use Windows for awhile.

Mac OS X 10.2 "Jaguar" became the first tolerable Mac OS X release. Speed was improved once again and a lot of the bugs were beginning to disappear. This was also the release that got rid of the happy Mac logo which used to greet users. From this point forward, Mac OS X became its own beast and you could start to forget about Mac OS 9 and older.

If Jaguar was the first tolerable version of OS X, then Mac OS X 10.3 "Panther" was the first good one. This OS added the Exposé feature which other than the dock, defines OS X. It was stable, the hardware had caught up to the OS, and the UI had been fixed with an elegant brushed metal look. Safari was introduced which ended the need for Internet Explorer and as an entire package, it was nice. This was the release that got me excited about using and advocating Macs once again.

Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" was the release that really put Apple into the mainstream. By this time, the iPod had become such a success that people were switching to OS X in really large numbers. This release added two more features that define OS X and those were Dashboard and Spotlight. I loved playing with the widgets in dashboard and being able to search for anything at a fairly quick speed was priceless. Mac OS 10.4 was the first release that was ported to Intel based Macs and the transition was fairly seamless. The switch from PPC to Intel was nothing like OS 9 to OS X. While some PPC based applications did slow down a bit, in general speed actually increased by a large margin particularly when it came to boot time.

Mac OS X 10.5 “Leopard” which was released in 2007, was the peak. This was the greatest release Apple had. They got the features spot on, stability was perfected, and the UI was gorgeous. The defining features were Time Machine and Boot Camp. Time Machine became a very nice way of backing up your system and Boot Camp allowed you to run non Mac OS's on Apple hardware for the first time. The competition from Microsoft was a joke since the switch from XP to Vista left behind a lot of pissed off users. This period was truly a good time to be a Mac advocate. The switch from XP to Vista reminded me a lot of OS 9 to OS X. Based on that knowledge, I knew that it would take three years for Windows to recover. Apple was now free to coast on their successes and they had earned it. 2007 was also an important year for Apple because of the huge iPhone release. It was at this time when I said goodbye to being a Mac advocate because going forward I knew that Apple would start to neglect Mac OS X in favor of its iOS. Not wanting to go back to Windows, I began to use Ubuntu 7.10 and have continued to use every version since.

Mac OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard” was a non release. Apple basically took the code from 10.5 and just stripped all PPC related bits of it and dumped it in the bin. For new Intel Mac users, this would be a good thing since speed was dramatically improved. For those users that have been around for awhile and have watched the OS get to this stage, it introduced some incompatibilities and forced PPC users to upgrade or die. Apple acknowledged that this was a non release and charged very little for the upgrade. A cheap enough investment for most people to say, “Oh may as well upgrade.” Apple did some tweaks here and there but for the most part, you would notice very little between this release and the previous 10.5 Leopard.

At this stage it is clear that Apple is just coasting and with good reasons. Mac OS X is considered a viable alternative to Windows, iOS based devices are selling like crazy, and Apple as a company is dough rolling in cash. However going forward, I see very little hope for Mac OS X.

Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion” while not released yet, appears to be a joke. I'm using Apple's page as my reference point since the features listed on that page is obviously what Apple wants us to care about. Feel free to visit there and follow along with my commentary.

Feature #1 is the all new Mac App store which Apple claims is just like shopping the App Store on iPad. This feature has been available since 10.6 so I hardly see how its a new feature. On a side note, Ubuntu has had it's own software center for free software since version 9.10 (released in October 2009), and a section for paid programs which was added in the 10.04 release just six months later. Because of these things, Apple isn’t even ahead of the competition here.

Feature #2 is Launchpad which at a click of a button, shows you all your applications that are on your computer. While technically a new feature, I don’t see how this is any different than opening a maximized version of your Applications folder and viewing it as icons.

Feature #3 is Full-screen apps which lets you use your application in full screen. I don’t even know what to say about this. Most games have had this since the beginning of time by just being a full screen experience. All this feature does is hide the menu bar and hide the dock, hardly groundbreaking.

Feature #4 is Mission Control which Apple claims “is a powerful and handy new feature that provides you with a comprehensive look at what’s running on your Mac.” I don't see how this is a new feature as this is more of a consolidation of Dashboard, “Full-screen apps”, and Exposé.

Feature #5 is Gestures and animations which is just new ways of using your track pad. Hardly a feature since Mac OS 10.6 had this already in the track pad preferences.

Feature #6 is Auto Save which saves changes in the working document instead of creating additional copies. I don’t even know what to say about this since Auto Save has been a feature that word processor applications have had for about a decade now.

Feature #7 is Versions which Apple claims “records the evolution of a document as you create it. Mac OS X Lion automatically creates a version of the document each time you open it and every hour while you’re working on it.” I don't see how this is a feature since I thought that is what Time Machine did and that was introduced in 2007.

Feature #8 is Resume which Apple claims “lets you restart your Mac — after a software update, for example — and return to what you were doing. With all your apps back in the exact places you left them.” Now this might be a genuine feature, but I think it is pants on head retarded. One of the largest complaints I've heard about Windows is that when you start the OS, a bunch of stuff starts launching in the background and that really bogs down the system. I remember when I was using my grandma's computer that ran Windows XP it would take 6 minutes for all the applications to stop launching. Why Apple would want to take something that bad and port it over to the Mac is beyond me. My guess is they they think when SSD's become standard, computers will be able to handle this kind of behavior. That may be a fair point but until then, they should shelve this feature.

Feature #9 is Mail 5 and is barely a feature. All they have managed to do is to rework the UI, but that doesn’t equate to new features. They claim Mail 5 “also introduces Conversations, a natural new way to read and manage email that automatically groups messages from the same conversation” Perhaps this is a new feature to the Mac OS but if you run Gmail on Safari (which has conversation grouping), shouldn't that count?

Feature #10 is Airdrop and is basically file sharing via a temporary public folder. Hardly a feature...

Feature #11 is FileVault which encrypts your data on the go. This is a feature but not an innovation. Ubuntu has the ability to encrypt your home folder, and file encryption software like TrueCrypt has been around for years.

Feature #12 is Lion Server and it helps you configure your Mac as a server. A genuine feature, but the mainstream user has no use for this. A lip service to administrators.

It is now 2011 and Apple has problems. It looks like Steve Jobs isn’t coming back anytime soon and I’m sure people worry about this a lot. They can be in denial about it for the time being, but sooner or later somethings gonna give. There are also rumors that Jonathan Ive will quit after being at Apple and designing pretty much every product launched since the second coming of Steve Jobs. Windows 7 now has the media on its side and is now considered in the mainstream a viable upgrade for those users that stuck with XP for so long. (I disagree with the premise that Windows 7 is viable at any task except launching games, but that's a fight for a different day.) Even in the iOS field, it looks like Android will eclipse iOS usage as its adoption continues to roll forward. We can't expect Apple to improve their Mac OS in a way that suits its users. Apple will continue to tweak Mac OS X for as long as it makes business sense to the company. This isn't bad or anything, its just how corporations operate. Apple used to be the exception to this rule to some extent, but it looks like greed has finally gotten to them. If Windows sucks and Mac OS X is dead, where do we go from here? We as users need an OS that will suite our needs and I have a few ideas.

With the release of Ubuntu 10.04 in 2010, Ubuntu became a truly rocking OS and I consider it a serious alternative to the Mac OS and Windows OS. Media coverage may be next to non existent, but remember Mac OS X in 2002?  That is where Ubuntu is today. Give it three years and everyone is going to want a piece of it. Windows will never be secure, and Mac OS X is dead. My advice is learn how to use Ubuntu today, and beat the rush before the snow falls. The good news is Ubuntu is free of charge and free to distribute which should be a cheap enough investment for most people to say, “Oh may as well upgrade.” The bad news is, you will have to learn new things, and learning is scary. If you expect Ubuntu to be a drop in replacement for Windows or Mac OS X, you will fail. Go in with an open mind and you will one day have that aha moment that makes you realize that Ubuntu really is the way forward.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Configure an awesome custom PC for 1000 dollars or less.

Every three months or so, people I know will ask me, "Hey what computer should I get?" and every three months I recommend that they build their own, but warn them not to go crazy. Of course everyone wants the latest and greatest, but often it is just a waste of money to have all that power today. Remember it's a computer, not a personal arms race. From the top of the line PCs that cost 3000 USD to the bottom of the barrel that cost 300 USD, I can almost guarantee that you will want to start upgrading something three years from the date of purchase. I feel that a three year upgrade path makes a lot of sense for gamers since I have noticed that every three to four years there is a defining title that pushes computer hardware. Examples include Quake 3 just before 2000, Doom 3 in mid 2004, Crysis in 2007, and Metro 2033 in 2010. 

For everyone else, one would expect the top of the line three years ago to be today's midrange and the past midrange to be today's low end. 

Well, not exactly. 

For the rest of us there is usually some technology that comes along and changes the way we work. The explosion of Flash back in 2006 thanks to sites like Youtube, and HD video which started getting pushed in 2007 have made video cards and CPU's from three years ago inefficient by today's standards. Dual core CPU's that were a luxury in 2006 are now almost a requirement. 1 GB of RAM was good enough as well, but it is now on its last legs.

Starting today, I will post every build that I configure online and try to justify it. The target is to build an awesome computer for less than 1000 dollars. It must also have some degree of future proofing so that in three years you can use some of the parts from this build. It must also play all of today's games at a reasonable resolution and detail with out slowdown. Today's build is going to be an AMD based system due to a motherboard recall that has significantly hurt availability of Intel Sandy Bridge based motherboards. At this rate, I expect it to be April until I can recommend building an Intel based PC.

Since this is the first build that I am posting, and since the date is February 21st, 2011, I will call it Version 1.022111. (Build #.mmddyy)

AMD System Build Version 1.022111

CPU: AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition Six-Core Processor 3.2 GHz Socket AM3 (200 USD)
Motherboard: ASUS M4A87TD EVO Socket AM3 (110 USD)
RAM: Any (2x4GB) DDR3-1600 for a total of 8 GB (100 USD)
Video Card: ASUS ENGTS450 or any Nvidia GTS 450 based card (125 USD)
Hard Drive: 1Tb Hitachi Deskstar 7200 RPM drive (59 USD)
Optical Drive: Anything with 24X DVD-R and Lightscribe (20 USD)
Power Supply: Antec TruePower New TP-550 550W (70 USD)
Total Base System Cost: 734 USD

Additional Items:
Keyboard: Any (30 USD and up) otherwise Razer BlackWidow Mechanical Keyboard (80 USD)
Mouse: Any (10 USD and up)
Speakers: Built into the Display listed below, otherwise M-Audio Studiophile AV 40 (130 USD)
Display: ASUS VW242H 23.6-Inch Widescreen LCD Monitor (180 USD)
Operating System: Ubuntu 10.10 or Win 7 Home Premium 64bit (Free or 100 USD)
Complete System Cost: 959-1234 USD


CPU: This 200 dollar Phenom II X6 1090T has six cores so in certain applications it can be pretty competitive with entry level Intel Core i7's, but it is significantly cheaper. Think of it as a top of the line Core i5 and you get the idea. Only with this you get six cores instead of four. This 1090T I recommend is pretty much the top of the line from AMD except for the newer Phenom II X6 1100T. However I can't recommend that version since it carries a 40 USD price premium over the 1090T and the main difference is a 0.1 Ghz clock speed bump. As for future proofing, this processor can be overclocked since it is the unlocked Black Edition. If its gaming, image editing or video encoding you do, the Phenom II X6 1090T has you covered.

Motherboard: GIGABYTE or ASUS tends to make top tier boards these days, but in terms of future upgrades, this 110 dollar ASUS M4A87TD EVO caught my eye. It supports a max of 16 GB of ram which will probably never be necessary within this computer's life expectancy of three years. It's got a couple USB 3.0 ports that will probably start to become necessary two years from now. Until then, it has an eSATA port, a bunch of USB 2.0 and a IEEE 1394a port to keep you going. It has SATA III 6.0Gbs/sec support which will be useful for when SSD's start to mature within three years. This board even has IDE and standard PCI slots just in case you brought some parts from three years ago to today. All in all, a well balanced board that will easily last three years.

RAM: The motherboard has 4 slots and supports up to 16GB of RAM. This means that we want a 4GB stick in each slot to prevent future waste. Ever since operating systems have gone 64bit, I have noticed a significant increase in the amount of RAM necessary to be comfortable. So get 2x4GB of DDR3-1600 sticks for now and enjoy your 8Gb today. A few years down, buy a second set to fill all four slots. the 8GB kit should cost around 100 dollars no matter what brand you go with, just try to get sticks with a heat spreader on them

Video Card: An Nvidia GeForce GTS 450 is good for playing today's game titles at 1080p without hassle. These cards should cost no more than 130 dollars no matter what brand you end up getting. Try finding a card that has HDMI, DVI, and VGA ports. This ASUS ENGTS450 that I have pictured has those ports. If you need a new video card in the future, there will be plenty of options then to swap for.

Hard Drive: Hitachi's used to be more expensive than the competition, but recently I have been seeing a 1 Tb Hitachi Deskstar 7200 RPM for less than 60 dollars which makes it an attractive deal. If you need more space, I feel that a hard drive is one of the easiest things to upgrade in a desktop PC so this is one of the few items that is okay to cut back on today. In the future, we can expect 3Tb hard drives, and really high quality SSD's to be the norm, so I would wait for that train to come. In general, any 7200 RPM will do, but try to avoid Seagate since they seem to have a ridiculously high failure rate these days.


 Optical Drive: Any drive with 24X DVD-R and Lightscribe will be excellent and these can be found for around 20 dollars. You still need the occasional CD for installing programs and a lot of movies are still on DVD's. I would avoid Blu-Ray entirely because of its crazy DRM schemes, and high cost. To watch movies, its best to just get a dedicated Blu-Ray player or a PS3 and be done with it. That way you can avoid loading the terrible playback software Blu-Rays require. As a storage medium, I just don't see Blu-Rays taking off. SD cards and USB flashdrives are getting very big, and various online storage programs seems to be growing faster than the use of Blu-Ray discs.

Power Supply: Even with the most beefy video card and processor, you hardly ever need more than 450W on a power supply. The exceptions would be if you were building for a computer that had multiple CPU's or Video Cards. For today, I am recommending the 70 dollar Antec TruePower New TP-550 550W. It has enough wattage to get through any task even if you add several hard drives. It is rated with an 80+ Bronze Certification which means that it will always run at at least 80% efficiency. In general, you can't go wrong with any PSU that has a 80+ certification, but this one had the best balance of power, design and price.


Case: The case can be either the most important part or the least important one depending on how you look at it. Cases are completely personal so choose whatever one you like. I chose the 50 dollar NZXT GAMMA because it was cheap but also included an eSATA port on the front panel. It has holes in the back in case you upgrade to a water cooled system It also has lots of space for fans so the airflow should be good. In general, cases over 100 dollars are showy and cases cheaper than 30 dollars are just lacking in features or quality.

This should bring our total base system cost to 734 USD. If you take advantages of rebates and sales, I bet you could get that down to 700 dollars. This will leave around 300 dollars for the rest of the system. If you already have your own keyboard, mouse, speakers, OS, and display you are done. Otherwise continue reading.

Keyboard: You can find these from 30 dollars and up. Ultimately they should all work, but for a sturdy peripheral, I recommend the Razer BlackWidow Mechanical Keyboard. It's good for gamers because it has a lot of possible macros you can set. It's good for everyone because of its mechanical Cherry MX Blue keyswitch, which makes it a joy to type on.

Mouse: I have no specific mouse to recommend, but mice start at 10 dollars and just go up from there. You don't need to get a mouse with insane DPI unless if you play first person shooters on ultra sensitivity or something. Anything Logitech or Razer makes should be fine for a mouse.

Speakers: The display I listed below has built in speakers that should be fine for every day use, but if you want a quality setup get the M-Audio Studiophile AV 40 pictured above for around 130 USD. Don't worry about the fact that it doesn't have a subwoofer since these speakers are quite beefy on their own.


Display: The ASUS VW242H 23.6-Inch Widescreen LCD Monitor (180 USD) seems to be ideal for the job. It has three of the most common ports which are VGA, DVI, and HDMI. It does 1080p so you could even plug in a Playstation 3 or something to this monitor. it is pretty much 24 inches, and has built in speakers as well. For less than 200 dollars, I think it's a great value.

OS: I recommend Ubuntu 10.10 over any other OS. It is very easy to use as long as you don't expect it to be a drop in replacement for Windows and its free price is also attractive. There are new things you may have to learn, but if my grandma can do it, so can you! However for gamers it may be easier to stick to Windows. If you go the Ubuntu route, I have found that a lot of Windows games do work in Ubuntu using free software called Wine, but you would have to look into that more closely to see if the game you want to play will work. If you must, get Windows 7 64bit Home Premium since it will be supported for another three years and it also supports 16GB of RAM, which this build could eventually use.

That's it for now. If you stuck with Ubuntu, a cheap keyboard, mouse, and speakers this should bring the total to 959. Which is just below our magic 1000 dollars. If you went all out, expect to pay around 1234 USD. I'm guessing most people have at least a keyboard and mouse lying around, so even if you just got the monitor and the Windows license, you are looking at spending around 1054 USD. Taking advantage of rebates and sales and I bet this drops to 1000 dollars as well. Once the new Sandy Bridge motherboards come back to stores, I will be configuring an Intel CPU based PC and posting that build.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Banshee Pre-Alpha on Windows

Note: This version is in pre-alpha stages, things just don't work and I can't recommend it to anyone except developers and truly dedicated fans.

Banshee is possibly the best piece of media player software around. It is set to become the default media player in Ubuntu 11.04 and it even has a development version for Windows. It's like iTunes, but without the bloat and Apple proprietary garbage. When I heard that it was coming to Windows, I was excited. Not because I like Windows or anything, but because I believe that the best software should be cross platform.

It takes some work to build for Windows since it requires things like .NET 3.5 SP1, msysgit ,and the WiX toolset. The directions can be found here:

UPDATE: The new prebuilt .msi file based on version 1.9.4 is now available for download. Find it at

It even has an interesting version number:

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tracking (my) Ubuntu boot speed.

Measuring ones boot speed may just be another benchmark, but for mobile users it is particularly useful to have a fast boot for a truly mobile experience. When one turns on a cell phone or a portable music player, we expect it to be up and running within 5 seconds before we get frustrated. Computers running a “full OS” like Ubuntu, Windows, or Mac, have never come close to the 5 second mark. The only way they have come close is by putting the computers in hibernation or standby which drains the battery.

DISCLAIMER: The results shown below represents my personal experience and do not speak for all Ubuntu users. Based on your hardware, system setup, and benchmarking method, your experience may differ from mine. Please note that your mileage may vary. For those people coming to this post from a non Ubuntu OS, welcome and thank you for your interest. Now without further delay, here are the results with additional commentary below (Click the chart for a larger version):

Results for Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex:
There was no announced goal for boot time in this release. I used a stopwatch on several occasions to record my time. On my hardware, Ubuntu 8.10 was the slowest booting version I had ever used with times often reaching two minutes.

Boot Speed in Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope:
Beginning in the Ubuntu 9.04 development cycle, Ubuntu had declared a war against slow boot times. The official goal was to decrease boot times to 25 seconds.
I tracked my boot speed by installing a program called bootchart and saved my best time of 70 seconds. A far cry from the 25 second goal, but a significant improvement over the previous release.

Boot Speed in Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala:
Despite the official claim that boot time had decreased to less than 25 seconds, 9.10 did not improve boot speed over 9.04. I was getting boot times in the 100 second range for 9.10 Karmic compared to 75 seconds for 9.04 Jaunty. After using 9.10 for just 3 months, boot time had got even longer to just under the two minute mark. At this point I got frustrated and decided to join the 10.04 development cycle to track boot progress more seriously...

Measuring Boot Speed in Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx (development release):
While not yet released, a 10 second boot is the goal for this version and we will see if this comes true. I joined the 10.04 at alpha 2 beginning in January 2010. Since then, I would reboot at least 2 times a day and record the average times. On some occasions, rather nasty bugs were introduced which forced me to reboot many times leading to some really strange boot readings. On those occasions, I trashed the best and worst times before recording the average (Winter Olympics style). My time for January averaged 65 seconds which is already the best I have ever seen on my computer. In February my times got even better and I averaged 45 seconds. The results for March were even better at 39 seconds.

Final Thoughts:
Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx is shaping up to be a fast booting OS. While I'm not certain that I will hit the 10 second target, I am quite confidant that my average will drop to 25 seconds for April. Ubuntu 10.04 officially comes out in 21 days and I will most likely have a follow up post (and possibly a full review) to my results here.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Best Eee PC - Past, Present, and Future

As a Eee PC owner and enthusiast, I feel the need to keep up with the netbook market. I tend to keep an eye out for whatever I feel is the best Eee PC that is currently available. This post is mostly a timeline for the good 10 inch Eee PC’s that have been released.

The Early days:
I wanted an Eee PC since the 701 first came out in 2007. I did recognize that it was still largely a toy but that didn't bother me. When the Eee PC 900 was launched in May 2008, I rushed to my local electronics store to see it first hand. The screen size and resolution had improved from 7 inch 800×480 to 9 inch 1024 x 600, the trackpad was larger, and the Intel Celeron processor was faster. I was convinced that this was the one I wanted until one month later.

The rise of the 10 Inch Netbook:

      When ASUS moved into the 10' inch market, it was a revolution. We now had a brand new Intel Atom N270 processor, keyboards 92% the size of laptop ones, readable screens and battery life which out performed many laptops. The best Eee PC became the Eee PC 1000/H. The 1000 model got bonus points for running an alternative OS, 7 hour battery life, and having 2 SSD's. The 1000H model got points for transforming the netbook from a toy, into a cheap laptop. I ended up getting the 1000 model as a gift in August 2008 and I use it to this day.

      After the release of the Eee PC 1000/H in May 2008, it would take ASUS nearly a year to top their efforts. The rest of the industry was getting busy coming up with their own netbooks and it was during this gap that the 9 inch Acer Aspire One emerged as one of the most popular netbooks. However in February 2009 ASUS did it again with the release of the Eee PC 1000HE. It had a slightly faster N280 Intel Atom processor and an improved keyboard. Battery life was improved to a claimed 9.5 hours. Although the 1000HE was the best at the time, the overall size and weight of the device was quite bulky making it not quite the same mobility device the Eee PC used to be.

      Sometime after the release of the 1000HE, ASUS began experimenting with a new form factor. It was still a 10 inch chassis but the new design meant smaller and lighter than before. They released the 1008HA but it lacked a decent battery and it was expensive. In May 2009 they perfected it and the best Eee PC became the 1005HA with the Intel Atom N280. Weight was down to 2.8 Ibs, battery life became claimed at 10.5 hours. The keyboard was changed again and the touchpad was tweaked.

Present Day:

      Since the release of the 1005HA, the netbook market has become largely stale. 9 inch offerings are now scarce and all of the netbooks from the various manufacturers have the same features and specifications. The only real battles left are between pricing, battery size, and looks. The Intel Atom has received a much needed upgrade from the N280 Atom Diamondville to the new N450 Atom Pineview. Rather than focus on performance, the new processor adds even more battery life by being power efficient. The best Eee PC you can get today is the 1005PE. It is very similar to the 1005HA, but uses the newer N450 chip and has the 1000HE keyboard has made a comeback. 

The Future:

Some interesting developments include Nvidia’s ION graphics for netbooks which greatly improves performance for gaming and HD video playback. I think it is a much needed addition to the netbook market but too costly for most. The Eee PC 1201N has the ION graphics and it considered a netbook, but at 12 inches, I disagree. In general, I feel that good netbooks need to be 10 inches and anything over that is just a laptop. Another development has been the release of something called the Broadcom Crystal HD graphics accelerator. It's a chip designed for netbooks and it allows the user to play 1080p HD content using the standard Intel graphics. It is much cheaper than getting an ION based device but it won't improve gaming performance. 
In a few months, The Eee PC 1005PR will be released and it will come with a HD Display (1366x768) as well as a Broadcom Crystal HD graphics accelerator. which means that this 10 inch Eee PC can smoothly play HD video. No word on pricing yet, but I feel that it will be around $449 USD.

Eee PC 1005PR Specs:

10.1" LED Backlit WXGA Screen (1366x768)
1.66 Ghz Intel Atom Pineview N450 CPU
1GB of RAM
250GB Hard Disk
Broadcom Crystal HD graphics accelerator 70015
WLAN 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth 2.1
6-cell battery with a claimed 11.5 hours of battery life


Netbooks have come a long way since the original Eee PC. Going forward, I would like to see some improvements in the default operating system choice. Many users are dissatisfied with the Windows 7 Starter experience and I would like to see ASUS address this more seriously. 3G as standard would also be welcome, but 3G plans will need to get alot cheaper first.

Monday, March 1, 2010

New Archos Home Tablets

A new 7-inch device called the Archos 7 Home Tablet was announced today (Mar 1, 2010) at CeBIT. It will run Google's Android mobile OS using a 600MHz ARM9 CPU. It features a 7-inch 800×480 resistive touch-screen and weighs about 350 grams. it will have Wi-Fi, a mini USB port and battery life of 7 hours for video playback and 44 hours of music playback. It is set for launch sometime in April 2010 and will have a 2GB or 8 GB capacity + Micro SD Slot. Suggested retail price is reported at around 179 US dollars.

Compared to the Archos 5 Internet Tablet:

Similarities include the Android OS, 720p video playback, and support for many audio codecs including FLAC.

Where the Archos 7 Home Tablet is better: 44 hr music playback (compare with 22hrs), cheaper(compared with 250-500$),

Where it is worse: slower processor (ARM9 vs ARM Cortex-A8), less ram (128MB vs 256MB), no accelerometer

Other Thoughts:
This is a really good value considering the prices of all the other tablet devices out there. This is like an iPad but expandable, cheaper, and smaller. If we take a closer look at the weight, the iPad is just too big at 680 grams.This Archos device is half that. From what I have seen, this is just a very capable device overall. If you don't need the fastest tablet or on a tight budget, this may be the tablet for you. I myself am interested in this sort of stuff. I'm sure there will be more exciting announcements from CeBIT as the week progresses, but so far, this device looks like a winner.

Also announced was the ARCHOS 8 home tablet which has the same tech as the 7, but it is more like a digital picture frame.

For More Information:
ARCHOS 7 Home Tablet hands on
Hands on Video at CeBIT 2010
Official ARCHOS 7 and 8 Home Tablet link