Hardware

Nice and Quiet

Sometimes a quiet day or two is just fine. No bad storms, no asteroid collision, no interesting tech news, just dull mediocrity. Yes, there’s been some Linux Distro releases, and Apple product announcements, but nothing to lose any sleep over. There’s no real reason to upgrade to a new laptop, no real need to update my iPhone, there’s really nothing going on to get all worked up about, and that’s not so bad. I can hold onto my wallet for a while, because I can’t think of anything new recently announced that I really feel like I’m missing out on. That’s good for me, but probably no so great for the industry.

Too much excitement can sometimes cause real interesting news to get lost in a wave of noise. It’s all perception. If you’re actively looking and waiting for a particular hardware or software development, than maybe all other events are just distractions you can disregard. I’m not waiting for any particular sign that would cause me to change anything I’m using or working with. I’m always interested in any type of application or device improvement, but I also try to resist the impulse to chase after the latest fad or something I really don’t need. If you’re happy with what you have, than you’re probably in a good place.

Now is a good time to get things done without wasting too much energy chasing after the next great thing. I am looking forward to the next Ubuntu 19.10 release “Eoan Ermine” slated for October 17th 2019, and will start playing with the beta release – hopefully on September 26th.

The Latest MX 19 beta (2.1) is really solid, so I’m also looking forward to the Official release (traditionally released in December) It might be a toss up between the two distro releases for me. I expect both to be worth the wait. For now I will continue to use the latest beta, but as far as new hardware I’m actually keeping my eye on Chromebooks. I don’t see any reason to pick up a new iPad, PC Laptop, or Macbook, but the iPhone 11 Pro is interesting.

Interesting doesn’t necessarily translate into exciting. More and more it looks like laptops are easily replaced by smart phones, and even tablets seem to be less of a primary computer platform for many users and more of a compliment to a smartphone. I still use laptops, but I’m not so sure I will continue to use any for a daily driver. It’s the iPhone for me, and yes I do think about moving to the new Note 10.

I expect things to get more exciting in the next few weeks as everyone starts preparing for the Holidays. This temporary lull wont last long.

Turing In-Complete (part 1)

Before man-built machines that could be used to manually calculate all the same mathematical problems we now regard as computation, we – humans were regarded as the “computers”, not the artificial machines. This explains the label “manually” calculated. Man built the machines. This has only been true for a relatively short period of time when compared to the timeline man has existed in the current evolutionary state.

This technology goes back much farther than the existence of our most popular desktop pc, laptops, tablets, or smartphones. Major developments in the twentieth century progressed at a very rapid pace, not with the help of Extraterrestrial beings, but by some very brilliant humans. Maybe you could make a case for “math” from outer space in ancient history, and you’d be technically close when you factor in the influence of the orbit of planets and positions of stars that inspired the desire to figure out what was seen in the skies.

The abacus was the first device currently known for crunching numbers. The Sumerian abacus is thousands of years old and noted throughout ancient history. This isn’t what I would regard as an early computer, but it was and still is an impressive design.

The Analytical Engine an improvement over the Difference Engine – both designed by Charles Babbage in the early 1800s could be considered the foundation of modern computing. Ada King, countess of Lovelace created the first computer program for the Analytical Engine – if it had been completed. The design was, but not the fully functional machine. So the idea or design for the device came before the actual machine – as did a program that could have run on the machine.

I always felt that this part of history was a bit murky, but within the fog, there was a spark. The point is that this was a starting point that others could build upon.

Could the Analytical Engine be categorized as the first Turing Complete machine?

If we consider all modern programming languages Turing-compatible, then could it have run a program that would solve any calculation initially performed manually? In theory – possibly, in practical application, I am skeptical.

To consider the current concern about Artificial Intelligence taking over every aspect of man’s future in both positive and negative light, you should look back through its short history of advancements. Computers have come a long way not fully envisioned by the early creators, but it is still a very short time compared to man’s intellectual development.

Turing Completeness requires a system to make a decision based on data manipulated by rule sets. Remember those “If”, “and”, “goto” statements from BASIC (Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code). Maybe you remember (90s version) QBasic. If you don’t, no problem. Just know that there was some amazing progress in computer development from the 1950s and 1960s that used instructions which could be considered Turing-Complete -theoretically – not always in practice. This may not be the best way to explain this, but I think I’m in the ballpark.

I’m not disregarding Turing’s calculating machine design of from the ’30s, but things started to ramp up in the ’50s.

Consider the fact that we still use Fortran and LISP programming, both from the 1950s. Yes, I should mention assembly language which dates back to the late ’40s.

You can look back at the Rand Corporation’s Math-Matic AT-3 from 1957 used as a compiler and programming language for the Univac 1. Charles Katz led a team tasked with developing “Math-Matic” programming language under the direction of Grace Hopper who was notable in the movement towards “machine-independent” programming languages which helped lead to the development of high-level programming languages.

This was all done in the 1950-1960s. This is the era of Big computers like the DATATRON 200 series weighing in at over 3000 lbs. Big computers working with word size 10 decimal digits. All this incredibly amazing computer development which would later lead to the machines we now fear. It’s amazing to think we would later spin up the development of AI – which initially required the development of sophisticated computer code which came from these early systems. The history of computers and programming languages is very interesting and usually not referenced enough when we look at our current state of affairs with how much we depend on them. Man built these with the intent to improve his condition, and in most cases they have. What may be getting lost through time is the appreciation of all those who contributed over the last two centuries to the existence and development of all this amazing technology. It continues today, and it still requires some very brilliant minds to continue the advancement for the good of man. This is just the beginning. We are still in the early stages of computing, and we are still the computers.

Too Much Heat!

A lot of weather alerts and advisories today. Global warming slowly cooks the North Eastern states. Really?.

CPU temperatures push past recommended operating limits. Now that seems plausible, or does it?

Regardless of what you believe to be the cause of our current weather, we all agree……It’s hot!

The power grid continues to provide air conditioners precious energy to cool all those lucky enough to avoid the heat and humidity. If you work outside in the heat, you know bitter cold is just a few months away and you’re probably thinking about it. Keep hydrated, and remember that the ice age we were all warned about doesn’t sound so bad now.

This weather brews thunderstorms, and thunderstorms have a tendency to knock out power. When the lights go out on hot summer nights, the heat can really make things uncomfortable.
If the power is out, then maybe your computer is off, or maybe it isn’t.
So you run on emergency back up power sources, but do they provide enough juice to cool components that don’t like to run hot? Maybe they do, maybe they don’t.
Whatever your backup solution is, hopefully it can maintain the correct temperature regardless of the season. You definitely want to prevent heat overload, and limit humidity in the air around your computer hardware.
Fans are better than nothing, but sometimes they are not practical.
Mobile air chillers can put heat back into the same area if their ventilation medium isn’t insulated properly. (that hose that looks like it hooks up to a dryer vent)
Sometimes it makes more sense to shut all non critical equipment down on hot days.
Nobody likes to do that. Shut stuff down? That means, at some time everything you shut down needs to power back up, and that’s where you can run into all kinds of problems.
I’m pretty sure there are some devices you really don’t want to shutdown without a backup option handy, and yet there are devices that tend to run much better after a reboot. Can you say memory leak? That’s an old problem that shouldn’t be a factor with today’s “improved” application architecture. (yeah sure)
Even today’s smartphones don’t like too much heat. Try to avoid leaving your phone in the sun or in a hot car too long.
If ever I start thinking about moving too far south, it’s days like this that remind me that I can handle the cold a lot better than the heat. My laptop works just fine on cold days. The Arctic circle is a bit too far north, but the north east part of North America is not too bad.
I’m surprised by how many people I meet that are fascinated with snow.
Snow does make commuting somewhat of a challenge, but that’s what snow tires and four wheel drives are for.
You learn that pretty quick up here.
Telecommuting is even better if you can do that. That’s why you need a reliable computer and Internet connection.
If you love the heat and humidity, great.
I like the sun too, but not the humidity.
Keep an eye on your support system’s temperatures on hot days, and compare the performance to a much cooler operating time. Remember to clean any parts that can get loaded with dust including any fans or ventilation ports.
Heat’s great for cooking, you just don’t want to cook your computer equipment.
This includes any switches, routers, or firewall hardware. Keep it cool if you can. That goes for humans too. Don’t get overheated.
I like visiting warmer climates sometimes. The people are great, the southern hospitality is amazing, it’s beautiful, and I love the food. It’s just too hot for me. I can visit, but I don’t know if I could handle the summers if I were to relocate.
I think I’d miss the snow too. (I’ll have to remember this in January when I’m shoveling it.)
Oh yeah, listen to that thunder!
The storms are rolling through now, they won’t cool it down much, but we could use the rain. Hard to believe after all the rain we’ve had earlier this summer.
It’s been weird weather for the past couple of years. Weird weather can cause weird problems, but there are many you can avoid if you know how to keep your computer and yourself cool and dry. Know you’re equipment’s environmental limits for operating under normal conditions. Avoid overheating and ensure proper ventilation if it’s required. Don’t let anything run to fault.
It’s usually not a good idea.

Temperature Rising

It’s days like these that make me appreciate the cold winds of November. July is hot and muggy, and if it’s not humid, it’s raining but not cooling down. Air conditioning is nice if you have it, but not so great if your power is out. Everybody running their AC puts a strain on the power grid, and sometimes the grid struggles to keep up with the demand. Brown outs and black outs aren’t uncommon in some places. Your power goes out and eventually you begin to feel the heat. Computer equipment, servers, and network devices don’t like heat. They also don’t like power interruptions. UPS doesn’t last very long, and some generator backups don’t always work as hoped. The old joke that air conditioning only fails when it’s needed is based in reality. It’s a good idea to be proactive for power outages and heat related problems. Generators, fans, and backup equipment – referring to replacement parts and devices – make good sense. You don’t need a storm to start seeing failures. Things break on blue sky days. Things happen, and it’s a good idea to be prepared. If Internet connectivity is important to you, than maybe you need an alternative network path out of your location. Fiber and copper can break, maybe a cell modem (hot spot) can carry you through a land line outage, but maybe the same outage that affects your land line is impacting your local cell tower. Satellite may be a logical primary or logical backup route to look into.
I’ve had to rely on my phone’s “Hot Spot”, but that’s not something I’d want to do for very long. It could get expensive and you might find out it’s not that great.
Have a plan, and think it through on days that you don’t need it, because someday you may. Don’t just wait for bad things to happen, because when the storm clouds gather you might not have time to react fast enough. Some problems are unavoidable, but doing nothing to prevent or at least mitigate problems is usually not good.

 

Cloud Gaming Streaming Services

Cloud Gaming?

In the past week, both Google and Microsoft have announced there cloud gaming projects. Google announced Project Stream, a game streaming service to play games via Chrome. Microsoft announced Project xCloud,  a cloud platform that will allow gamers to play from anywhere they choose. Which will let gamers use their mobile phones to play. 

Project Stream

Project Stream became available to test on October 5th 2018, with the first game on trial being Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. In order to sign up you must be residing in the US and have a 25 Mbps connection, along with either Windows, Chrome OS, macOS, or Linux for the operating system. 

Common issues Reported from public testing:

– Not getting 60fps
– Minor lag/latency
– Difficult to use touch interface controls, using a controller gives a higher quality experience.
– Unable to adjust graphical settings


Overall

project stream has surpassed a lot of expectations. The real question will be how it holds up to a fps multiplayer game.

Project xCloud

Microsoft is already testing and is expecting to begin public trials in 2019. Currently, the test experience is running at 10 Mbps and using a 4G network. As the introduction of 5G networks continues across the US, they expect will help provide a better quality experience. Project xCloud is expected to work across most phones and tablets. 

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