Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ordered the DELL Latitude 10 Essentials 64GB Windows 8 tablet running Atom Clovertrail

Looks like its finally happening. I'm getting a tablet after all. Last night I pulled the trigger and ordered the Latitude 10 Essentials (with kakaku.com free inner case deal) from Dell's online shop. It cost me ¥49,980 for the entire thing. I was looking around for any discounts but didn't manage to find any such promotions for tablets. There was a coupon code for desktops and laptops which would drop the price by ¥10,000 unfortunately it wasn't applicable to tablets. I felt bad when I found out that there was such an offer last year around about the time the tablet was launched. Too bad!

I only made one change to the stock configuration. I wanted the English version of the OS installed on it. TBH, there wasn't anything else to change other than the services and accessories. I didn't buy any accessory other than the free case I was entitled to. I didn't want to go beyond the ¥50,000 mark after all.

I reconsidered getting the standard version of the tablet because of the removable battery but in the end I felt that it wasn't required. I can live with 8hr or so battery life. I would still be using the desktop primarily at home. Not sure if I will carry the tablet with me whenever I go out of the house, knowing that we become human sandwiches inside the trains at rush hour. Eventually I won't care, but at first I will be reluctant to carry the tablet In my backpack.

That inner case that I'm getting extra with the tablet is billed separately so I wonder if it would be shipped separately. Dell being all professional and such, sent me lots of receipts regarding the order. They also sent me how to track the order. That's what I'm gonna do in the next couple of days: track track and track!

It's a small post but just wanted give you all a heads-up about the current situation.

Dell Latitude  10 Essentials 64GB

Edit:
Just checked the ETA and it's gonna be 9th of March!!! WTF!!! On their site they are saying that if you are not customizing it, it should be shipped in 1-2 days. The only thing that changed was the language of the OS. That's taking them 10 days??? This is infuriating. I'm already disappointed in Dell. :(

Both the inner case and the tablet are ETAed for 9th of March. :((((((((

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

[Article] There's a third option too: DELL Latitude 10 Essentials

Update: I have since then bought the Dell Latitude 10 Essentials tablet and read here to find out what I have to say about it. (It’s a 5 part review)

In the previous post I told you that I had my eyes on two Intel Clovertrail based tablets, namely the Asus Vivo Tab Smart and the Acer Iconia W510. Both were around the ¥50,000 mark, Asus being cheaper. When I checked kakaku.com for other available options I found out that there was a 3rd contender, attacking the same price point, made by DELL. It's called the Latitude 10 Essentials and now you must be wondering why there's an "Essentials" part in the name. That's because there is a "Standard" version of the same tablet that comes with a few more options. We'll discuss about what's missing in the Essentials later. First lets see if it has anything more to offer than the other two.

Differences between the DELL and the other two

This does not come as an advantage, but it packs some muscles it seems. It's about 70g heavier than the other two. I don't know how much of it will be felt, but it surely is getting into that uncomfortable region. The DELL Latitude Essentials weighs 650g which is exactly what the iPad Retina weighs. So it is not THAT uncomfortable to hold, but it isn't light.

I don't know if the weight and the feature that I'm going to talk about next are related, but I read in a review - but the review was about he Standard Edition - that this tablet ran significantly cooler than the Acer Iconia W510. The difference was about 15-20F. That's pretty noticeable to me. Maybe being a business grade tablet, the DELL packs more material just for insulation. Who knows, right?

There is a deal currently floating around that if you go to the product purchase page via kakaku.com, you get a free inner case. That case is worth ¥2,980. None of the other two tablets are getting anything like that.

Since I'm buying straight from DELL's online store, I am able to customize the tablet. The customization options are pretty limited though. But you can choose to get the English language version of the OS. The other two are getting the Japanese version but it seems that Windows 8 non-Pro allows you to change the display language without paying any extra fees. If you didn’t know, Windows 7 Home Premium did not allow you to change the display language. Only the Professional and Ultimate editions did. (But there is a hack which allows you to install language packs onto Home Premium.)

You get better warranty because the warranty is provided by the manufacturer himself. I don't know what will happen with the other two tablets if something goes wrong, since they are sold by some seller who might even go out of business before the warranty period expires. I can ask for extended warranty service as well, but I don't think that it is worth the price premium.

DELL says that the tablet comes with 64GB SSD, but it seems that the speed matches eMMc's performance. Technically, eMMc is solid state storage but that's not what the consumer expects when you say it has an SSD. For some reason, the DELL seems to boot into Windows about 5 seconds faster than the Acer. Since both are using the same CPU and RAM, it has to be the difference in performance of the storage subsystem. It is not as fast as Surface Pro, but it is inconclusive – don’t know because it has a faster CPU or faster storage subsystem or both. (The Surface is miles ahead of all of these 3 tablets anyways.)

Price

Finally, the price. It's ¥49,980. So it sits right in the middle of the Asus and the Acer.

From what I can see, the Acer has already lost the battle. The battle is between the Asus and the DELL.

  • The Asus is ¥2,000 cheaper and 70g lighter;
  • The DELL comes with an inner case, English version of the OS, runs cooler and comes with better warranty. It's 2 vs. 4 which means the DELL is the winner. Hmmm... I just hope the weight is not a deal breaker.

So what's the difference between the Latitude 10 Essentials and the Latitude 10 Standard?

The Standard comes with a removable battery (also double capacity battery if required, but part of the battery will be protruding out of the body!), comes with support for Wacom pen device, doesn't come with the inner case and is ¥5,000 more expensive. It comes with extra security with a TPM modules and such – I don’t really care much about that. Doesn't sound like a good buy in my book. It would have been awesome if the battery in the Essentials was removable. I don't want the pen.

So it seems that the DELL is the way to go. There aren't many reviews about these tablets out there unfortunately. On a plus side, it's my chance to write one. Hehe. Should get a tablet just for that. :P

Monday, February 25, 2013

Thinking of getting a Clovertrail based Windows 8 tablet

Yesterday I dragged my wife down to Kawasaki to check up on Windows 8 tablets. I would not usually go check stuck up; instead I would simply order stuff online. Heck, shipping is free most of the times. Why spend money for the train when I can get it delivered to home. *To self* I'm digressing. Back on track buddy.

There weren't many tablets available. I was specifically looking at the Atom Clovertrail based tablets. I found only 2 actually. The Asus Vivo Tab Smart and Acer Iconia W510D. Both of them were pretty expensive but that is usually the case at these retail outlets. You can find them for much cheaper if you buy them online. I was going to order one online anyways, but there were few things I wanted to check. That’s the purpose of this visit. I wanted to know how they felt hands-on.

1. Was it light enough?

Yes they both weigh 580g which is slightly lighter than the IPad Retina model (which is about 650g). iPad mini is much lighter though.

I tried out an Acer W700 few months ago and felt that it was too difficult to hold because of the weight. Unfortunately, the Surface Pro weighs pretty much the same. :/

2. Is the screen resolution suitable?

I was specifically looking for a low resolution screen because otherwise the desktop components will be very small to touch. 1366x768 it Is. Both tablets were giving great viewing angles since both of them have IPS displays. Besides, I don't think Atom SOCs can support any larger a screens.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Just started playing Crysis 3

Finally, Friday, the 22nd of February arrived and I was waiting for this day for months. It was the day that I could start playing Crysis 3, which I bought couple of days ago. BTW, I bought the Hunter Edition, not the Deluxe Edition. It’s not as if I had a choice. AMD Never Settle Bundle Reloaded was only giving away the Hunter Edition.

But a lot of unfortunate incidents happened. I actually got caught up at work and I couldn’t come home early. And I had 3 quizzes and 1 program to finish (I’m taking few online courses). Just cannot believe I let everything pile up on me just when I needed to be free to play the game. I have to tell though, I cannot play a lot of games like I used to. My wife would go crazy if I play games all the time when I come home from work. So I couldn’t play the game on Friday. But before going to sleep that night, I tried a couple of multiplayer games. The maps were new and I had no clue where to run to. But I managed to get a decent score for a first timer. Wait!!! Didn’t I say I couldn’t play the game on Friday? I did. Technically, it was already Saturday when I started playing the game. I played for about 15 minutes just to see how it was. Hehe.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Got my self-gifted birthday present 3 weeks later - Crysis 3

I loved every Crysis title ever released but it was Crysis 2 that really made the difference. That's when I started playing multiplayer mode. Me and my buddy Suresh used to play the game a lot back in the day. I managed to get into the top 200 ranked players back then but then I stopped. It was time to move to another game: namely Battlefield 3. I wasn't that good in BF3 but I enjoyed the game a lot. It was completely the opposite kind of game play for me. Crysis 2 was a about carrying a shotgun and blasting someone's head open and most of the action was head-to-head. It was a lot more adrenaline boosting than playing BF3. Most of the times I played BF3 as a sniper. Nothing left to say.

I bought (actually preordered) Crysis 2 when I was visiting back home in December 2010 I think. So I managed to grab it dirt cheap because prices in the Indian EA Store are usually much cheaper than USA and especially Japan. Japanese prices are too much. And they come dubbed in Japanese I think (not completely sure though). Just imagine playing Crysis 3 dubbed in Japanese!!

Crysis-3-Hunter-Edition-N2098_XLAnyways, I went back to Sri Lanka last December and the top item in my to-do list was to preorder Crysis 3. But unfortunately EA have decided not to let us preorder AAA titles (Crysis 3 is definitely one of them) from that store. In fact, it doesn't even come up in search results. This is because people were exploiting the fact that the games are cheaper in the Indian EA store (or Origin Store), hence they don't want to show the price that they are going to sell beforehand. People will use proxies to connect to Indian store and get the game cheaply. In addition to not allowing preordering, they are also delaying the game a few days compared to the North American release date. People who really want to get the game ASAP will then buy from their respective store, paying the correct amount of money. I wonder why Japanese version is delayed then. The darn thing costs about $85 here. It is coming out almost 3 weeks after the North American release.

iOS 6.1.2 released and can be jailbroken using evasi0n 1.4

Apple released iOS 6.1.1 just a week or do ago to fix 3G connectivity related issues specifically on the iPhone 4S, but it did fix the Exchange bug nor the battery drain issue that iOS 6.1 introduced. Instead, 6.1.1 brought back a serious flaw that was present in the old days that allowed anyone to bypass the password lock screen without entering the password. 

The trick is a bit hard to do, and I haven't tried it. But here's how you do it.


Today Apple released iOS 6.1.2 which fixes all these 3 issues. That's all good and all, but what about the state of jail breaking? Does 6.1.2 patch the vulnerability that allowed evasi0n jailbreak to pwn iOS 6.1?

Not so. The evasi0n jailbreak tool has been already upgraded to version 1.4 which allows you to jailbreak 6.1.2. Head to this link if you already don't know the procedure.



Edit:
Some say the password bypass bug is fixed, some say it is not. I hope it is fixed because I don't want Apple to release updates every week which might eventually block evasi0n tool. :/

Go the "A disk read error occurred" error at Windows startup!!!

As usual, I turned on my PC today when I woke up. Went to the kitchen and came back to the PC to find out that the PC hasn't booted into Windows yet. In fact, it was halted at the boot loader saying that it cannot find the boot loader.

I hit the reset button but there was no change. So I went into the BIOS and checked what's up with the boot drives. For some reason, the boot drive was changed to my Toshiba data drive from my usual Samsung SSD drive. I set it back to my SSD and the I got the following screen.


A disk read error occurred


I panicked. This SSD is a new drive and it only has TLC flash. This is the first of its kind so naturally there should be unforeseen issues. I thought this was one of it. The mind runs too fast. I was already thinking about how I'm gonna RMA the drive and how I'm gonna use the PC without the SSD. I thought I would have o install Windows onto the data drive and etc. etc. Then I snapped out of that thought and came back to the real world.

I don't have to think about RMAing anything just yet. There are so many things that I can do before getting there. First I checked if there was a loose connection between the SSD and the motherboard. Didn't appear to be so, but I unplugged and replugged the cable. That allowed me to load the Windows boot screen but even after a minute, Widows didn't fully boot into the desktop. I knew something was up. It should have booted within 10 seconds. I was still scared.

I had a spare SATA cable lying around. So I replaced the old one with this one and guess what happened? Everything was back to normal. Phew! Why do all these cables go kaput?

Note: 
Because of the problems with the SATA cable, the SSD had not been detected the first time thus BIOS had automatically changed the default boot drive from the SSD to the next drive in the order of the SATA port.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mobile Internet usage is growing fast, or is it?

ArsTechnica has published this new article about increase in cellular internet usage and I just remembered what Anand and the guys discussed in episode 16 of Anandtech podcast.

"Cellular data traffic keeps doubling every year"

Or is it really? Maybe it is not the actual case.

We all know that the iPhone is on top of that list, right? But, how many of you that use an iPhone have noticed this "driving me nuts" kinda thing that happens when to try to switch to a tab that currently has a webpage loaded but wasn't accessed in a while? Safari would try to load the webpage from the scratch. It would fetch the data "completely" from the web server. This not only increases web traffic which would actually put iPhone at a wrongfully top position. This is same with Chrome browser on iOS as well. Funny thing is, the tab might be only about 5 minutes old!!!! It's not as if it has been left open for hours and hours without touching. Seems to me it is related to the amount of free RAM left.

If this is a memory related, what about the iPhone 5, which has double the amount of RAM any previous iPhone had? Does it not have this issue? Feel free to post what you know in the comments section.

Is it same on Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry? I hope not. This is utter nonsense. If there isn't enough memory, cache the darn webpages in the main flash storage.

This never happens on a PC. Shame!

Nvidia posts 314.07 WHQL drivers just in time for Crysis 3

Crysis 3, the latest iteration to the well known Crysis moniker, is scheduled to come out today for North America. I don't know why they don't do a world wide launch as most people are buying it as a digital copy via Origin, but apparently that's the way it is. Just like NVidia released beta drivers for Crysis 3 MP beta that was released last month, they are following suit with the retail game. NVidia has released the version 314.07 of drivers for their Geforce family of cards just in time for this AAA-grade title. It's not even a beta driver. It is the real thing - the WHQL certified driver.

I don't believe it will give better performance over the previous beta drivers as the version number hasn't gone up significantly. The last beta driver was 313.96. So a minuscule increase in version numbering, but I bet it would be much more stable. There was a hint of micro-stuttering when I played the beta, although I am not sure whom to blame there, so either way I hope the experience in the full retail version of the game couple with the WHQL driver would give a much better experience. (In fact, they still say 65% increase in performance over the last WHQL driver, the 310.90 so performance should be the same as with the beta.)

You can download these drivers from here .
Download 314.07 driver for Windows Vista, 7, 8 64bit

As usual, AMD is late to the party.

I am hoping to do a comparison between the performance of between the drivers and the game itself, but there is one little problem. I don't have the game with me yet. Japan is getting it next month. I can buy from the Indian Origin Store so I hope it will be available there soon. Perhaps there are other ways to get it, so I'll make sure that I search around when I get back home.

For the rest of you, happy gaming with the new driver.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Send as SMS if you know iMessage is going to fail.

I love iMessage on the iPhone. I get instant delivery notifications, not as a new SMS alert but right besides the message. I can see if the person I sent the message has started replying to the message. An above all, it is free is you are sending messages to iPhones - since your data bill is - well, generally - fixed.

But there is one problem. If I got a message from a contact that uses an iPhone (i.e. the phone associated with that number is set as an "iPhone" instead of generic "mobile") it would always try to send the message as an iMessage. The recipient might not have data connectivity (there are people who buy iPhones without unlimited fixed data plan to save big bucks on their monthly subscription fee) and iMessage might not actually work. There is a timeout period in iMessage, after which the message will be sent as a regular SMS. The timeout period can be too long.

If you know that the recipient doesn't have Internet connectivity, you can simply send the message as a regular message by tapping and holding the message and selecting "Send as SMS".

It's such a small thing, but I didn't know you could do this until recently. Shame on me. But shame on you if you say that didn't know about this after reading this post. ;)

AMD HD7970 vs. NVidia GTX680: FPS vs. Frame Latency

Until a year or so ago, all the graphics card reviewers were going by the conclusion: more FPS ⇒ smoother gameplay. Sure, there isn’t anything wrong with that conclusion, if you keep rest of the parameters the same. But that actually is not the case.

People who have bought AMD’s HD7900 series high-end cards have been really pissed to find out that their gameplay is not actually as smooth as those reviewers suggest. 60FPS means pretty smooth gameplay. You might not see any difference between 60FPS and anything higher. Funny thing is that, people are actually getting the FPS that the reviewers claim – there is no mistake there. But for some reason, gameplay isn’t smooth. You would see pauses every few seconds. If you run a frame rate counter, such as FRAPS or MSI Afterburner, you would not notice any glitches. But you are NOT feeling that the gameplay corresponds to which the FPS counter is showing.

Guess what? That’s because of “micro-stuttering”. The phenomenon called micro-stuttering happens when a certain frame takes abnormally longer to render than the previous subsequent frames did, and his being repeated over and over the entire time. (That last part is important to create the illusion of stutter.) If you plot the frame times in a graph, you would see spikes appearing roughly in similar gaps. Funny thing is, if you average out the FPS, you would not see a drop. That’s why you cannot go with just the FPS.

Look at the following example.

Say, you are getting 50fps in your game. It could either be that all of your frames took 20ms each to render (1000ms per second/20ms per frame = 50fps), or it could be that the first 49frames took 19 seconds each (931ms total), and the last one took 69ms to render. 50 frames, 1000ms ⇒ 50fps It would still give the 50FPS, but you would be seeing terrible micro-stuttering in the latter case.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

How to plot the graph of FRAPS frame times easily

If your gameplay isn’t smooth or is laggy even with a reasonably high FPS (above 40fps), chances are that your PC setup is causing micro-stuttering. You cannot do much about it other than try a different driver or hope that AMD/NVidia will fix it in the next driver update or play with the graphics settings.

If you want to make sure that it indeed is micro-stuttering, you can activate the “benchmark mode” in FRAPS (free version is limited in functionality), which creates few files in the benchmark folder that you specify, one of which cane be used to plot a graph of frame times. The file that we are interested in is the one that ends with “frametimes.csv”. (For example, farcry3_d3d11 2013-02-16 13-16-37-40 frametimes.csv).

You can either use Excel to plot the graph but it requires a bit of work first. The easy way to do is by using the small tool called FRAFS Bench Viewer.

2013-02-17_19-06-11

You can download it from HERE.

What you do is, you install FRAFS Bench Viewer and drag and drop the **** frametimes.csv file to the main window. Then, voila, the frame time graph would be plotted. Easy stuff.

iPad is out. Windows 8 is in. Get Clovertrail now or wait for Haswell? What about Windows codenamed “Blue”?

Surface Pro came out a few days ago but just like the Surface RT, the availability is limited! And above all, the Japanese currency has depreciated against US$, which would raise the price of the already expensive tablet to a whole new level when/if they become available in Japan. I would look to buy the 128GB model and it is a whopping $999 without the keyboard. I want the keyboard, so it’s an additional $130. Microsoft doesn't have any retail outlets in Japan thus there won't be any price controlling like Apple. The usual retail stores will sell them at a pretty high price. (They’ll probably give us back some points, but that’s just a big lie. I would expect the 128GB model to go on sale for no less than ¥120,000 here. Darn! Dreams shattered; time to move on.

Few days ago I did a final evaluation on the current gen iPads, which are, in fact, attractively priced in Japan. Just ¥28,800 for the iPad Mini (I am not interested in the Retina model) but the next model will probably see a price hike because of the depreciation of the currency. But, there isn't much it can do for me that the iPhone already isn't doing. The iPad is a just a “bigger” iPhone; and it even has a lot of disadvantages. Typing is hard, portability is crippled, it's heavy and the camera is useless. I hardly game on these mobile devices because I have a proper gaming PC at home. Then there are other constraints inherent to iOS. You cannot stream movies without using iTunes (nobody likes iTunes on Windows), cannot access photos and files that are in your PC etc. etc. It's only good for reading, and even then, the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is much soother on your eyes. So it is a pretty crippled product in every way. So, I have made up my mind not to for got an iPad.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

[Guide] Launching iTunes minimized in Windows

I use the Home Sharing feature of iTunes to watch movies and TV shows I’ve added to the media library. Thus it is important for me to have iTunes running in the background all the time. You can add iTunes to your Windows startup, but it is better to have iTunes start minimized.

So how do you normally add an application to Windows startup and launch it minimized? You create a shortcut to the application you want and set the startup mode (or “Run” mode) to “Minimized”. Then you copy the shortcut to the Startup folder in your user profile and boom.

I have to agree that Microsoft is dumb when it comes to certain things. They have made it so hard to access this Startup folder in Windows 8. With previous OSes, you can simply access it from the Start Menu. But that’s not the case anymore. Your Startup folder is located here:

%userprofile%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup

 2013-02-15_23-09-32

But we all know that iTunes sucks on Windows. It is darn slow and bloated, and in this case, it wouldn’t launch minimized by using the above trick. In fact, it doesn’t launch at all! You cannot even open it by double clicking the icon, until you kill the process from Task Manager.

But there is a trick. Using the following VB Script, you can open iTunes Minimized. Actually, it launches iTunes maximized or to whatever size it opens by default, and then minimize it momentarily. You just copy it to the Startup folder and boom.

MinimiTunes

Yes, it is not an elegant workaround (I mean, it opens and then minimizes, instead of starting minimized). But it works.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

How to improve/restore your Samsung 840 Series SSD’s performance

Remember that I bought a Samsung 840 series 250GB SSD about a month ago? Remember also that I told you I would be closely monitoring the degradation? This is the report after a month of moderate use.
 
On a fresh Windows 8 Pro x64 installation, the Windows Experience Index rated the SSD at a score of 8.1. But over the past month, I installed a lot of applications and huge games and now the SSD is 30% full. (Yeah, just 30%!) Once even I mistakenly copied my entire iTunes music collection to the SSD. Then I downloaded a whole 10GB file to the SSD without knowing that it was being downloaded into the SSD. I also did not do any of the space-saving tricks discussed here either. I'm using the default temporary folders. However, I do not let those temporary folders to fill up. Everyday at 10PM, a scheduled CCleaner cleanup job gets executed and all the temporary files get purged.
 
2013-02-13_23-37-41

The Windows Experience Index score for the SSD quickly dropped to 7.9 after a couple of weeks. I wasn't happy about it because that's what I got with my old SSD as well. I waited a week or so hoping that the original performance would be automatically restored, but it didn't happen. I felt as if I was cheated.
 
The SSD comes with a maintenance / management tool called the Samsung SSD Magician.
 
2013-02-13_23-35-08
 
You can perform various tasks in it.
  • Benchmarking (Sequential read/write speeds + IOPS)
  • Performance Optimization (garbage collection?)
  • Data migrating (cloning from a old drive)
  • Secure erasing (resetting the bits either to start fresh - kinda like a manual trim, if you are going to sell the drive.)
  • Changing the amount of default over provisioning (how much space is reserved for wear leveling)
  • Optimizing the OS settings to get the best out of the SSD (things like disabling indexing service and hibernation)
  • Firmware update

I'm not actually sure what Performance Optimization does, perhaps some sort of garbage collection, but that is what we are interested in. Last night I ran it to see if I can get back the score of 8.1 in Windows Experience Index. It didn't take long. It originally predicted a running time of 6 minutes, but it actually finished within a minute. Thus I wasn't expecting any miracles. But that's what I got. A miracle.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Upgraded to iOS 6.1.1 which fixed 3G connectivity issues (and already jail-broken)

We all knew that iOS 6.1.1 was just around the corner as Apple released a beta version to the developers few days ago. Yesterday, all of a sudden, the final version of iOS 6.1.1 came out - just for the iPhone 4S. I didn't expect it to come out this soon but it seems like there was a major problem with the iPhone 4S. Even Vodafone in the UK told people not to upgrade to 6.1.

Looks like the problem was with 3G connectivity. I too had problems where the webpages would take forever to load and calls taking a long time to connect. But I never suspected the problem was with the OS. I blamed SoftBank for their ever-so-worsening quality of connectivity.

OK, so this sounds like a critical update, but what about jailbreaking? Will it break the evasi0n jailbreak? Will I not be able to jailbreak again? Haha! Apparently there was nothing to worry about. Evasi0n jailbreak tool had been upgraded to version 1.3 which can be used with iOS 6.1.1. How awesome is that?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The 3 Musketeers: G500, G500 and G500!

Finally the replacement for the DOA (dead on arrival) replacement of the left button broken Logitech G500 mouse arrived. I have already sent the DOA mouse back to Logicool as per their request. However they were kind enough to send me the packaging material and the printed recipient address along with the mouse. So all I had to do was put the mouse in the box, paste the address on the box and order Kuroneko courier service to come and take away the package.

The new mouse is working fine. But for some weird reason, the mouse wheel is tilted slightly to the left as well. Very slightly, but it's noticeable to the eye. The feedbacks you get from tilting left and right are not the same either, but that's not a big deal anyways. It would perhaps become seasoned in no time. Heck, I still have more than a year full of warranty left. I can always replace the mouse again if something goes wrong.

The Logitech Gaming Software sucks as usual. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Time to read the threads at Logitech forums or ask my own question. I really wish I could get a mouse with much stable software. But I don't know who makes such mice nor don't wanna change the mouse to a new one, especially in these desperate times

 The new one on the left, the DOA one in the middle and the left button broken one on the right.

G500s

Friday, February 8, 2013

The iOS 6.1 upgrade afterthoughts

So, it's been a week since I upgraded to iOS 6.1 and I have few things to share. Thus this is the part 2 of the article.
 
Apple can come up with 200 new features, but I had trouble finding even 10 things that I might call a new "feature".
 

Maps

The biggest change that came with the upgrade was the new maps app from Apple. But like most people, I don't use it. In fact, I didn't have to use the maps app the whole week. But if I want to use maps in the future, I will use Google Maps. Basically, I wish I could simply get rid of the Apple Maps app and replace it with the Google Maps app. Apple Maps look prettier though.

Apple maps app
 
 iOS Apple's Maps SearchiOS Apple's Maps DirectionsiOS Apple's Maps Turn by Turn Navigation
 
Google maps app
 
iOS new Google's own Google Maps appiOS new Google's own Google Maps app - DirectionsiOS new Google's own Google Maps app - Turn by Turn Navigation

 

No YouTube?

 
Just like the old maps app, they also removed the old YouTube app. But they didn’t substitute it with a new app of their own. Instead, now you have to download and use Google’s newly designed “full-featured “ YouTube app, which is more functional anyways. So this is really a non-issue.
 
iOS new Google YouTube appiOS new Google YouTube appiOS new Google YouTube app

Is Google Chrome having memory leaks? It becomes really sluggish at times.

I’ve an avid Google Chrome user. I love its simple and sleek UI. I like how it syncs all the bookmarks, extensions and everything with my Google Account. Even though Chrome still sucks on my iPhone (it’s slower than Safari even with the Nitro JavaScript engine is enabled for it), I still like how it syncs everything from my PC to the phone…and to my laptop as well.

Quite recently, I have come to notice that the browser become very sluggish after browsing for few minutes. When I quite Chrome, I see Task Manager dropping the RAM usage by about 2GB. That’s insane – a browser using up 2GB RAM?? Looks like there is a memory leak somewhere. I’m currently using the latest release version – 24.0.1312.57m as of 2013/02/07. It’s not easy to reproduce though.

I don’t use a lot of extensions. Only a handful of them. Namely, Lastpass, Rikaikun and AdBlock Plus. Internet Download Manager extension is automatically installed as well. There were few more extensions, but I removed the ones that I don’t use much the last time this happened. Today it happened again, and obviously it was not caused by those extensions that I removed. I cannot uninstall the extensions that I have installed at the moment.

One thing was in common between last two times this happened. Facebook page was opened and I had checked my feed a bit deep. Could Facebook page be the culprit? I’ll post back if I find the cause. Maybe I should try the latest developer release.

Anyone else having the same problems as I’m having? Let me know if you have a fix or an idea for me to try.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Best Jailbreak Tweaks for iOS 6.1

Now that Cydia has become almost fully functional after the issues it faced thanks to overloaded servers caused by surge of usage after the evasi0n jailbreak was released, I have managed to get my phone back to where it was. (That was along sentence to start with!) I guess you all are waiting for me to keep my promise. I should reveal my list of best jailbreak tweaks.

1. Zephyr (Repo: BigBoss)


This nifty tool adds gesture based multitasking to your iPhone. You hardly need to use the home button on your iPhone anymore. I wrote about Zephyr few months back. The only caveat is that this is not free.
 
Zephyr in action

 

2. Accelerate (Repo: BigBoss)


Bored of how slow and womanly the animations of stock iOS is? Wanna give it some adrenaline boost? This is the tool for the job. Compared to the apps such as fakeclockup, you can enable speed boost part wise. For example, if you don't want to speed up the busy animation (because it looks stupid), you can keep it at its regular speed.
 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

3DMARK (2013) benchmark scores: Palit GTX670 JetStream with R313.96 beta drivers

Futuremark released their latest version of 3DMARK suite, called just “3DMARK”, to the public. Just like before, it comes with a free version, which you can download from here. (it’s 970MB though.)

This one is kind of different to the old versions in that it comes with three different tests aimed at different platforms, namely mobile (I guess what they mean by this is “tablets”), laptops/home PCs and high-end gaming PCs. The latter is what we all gamers are interested in. Who cares about gaming on mobile platforms. You need the muscles of a full fledged to desktop to play the games with any sort of satisfaction. (Do you know that consoles are an order (i.e. >10x) of times slower than a modern gaming PC? OK OK, this is not a PC vs. console war. We know who has won it and I don’t like the jury!)

This is what the main application window looks like.

3DMark 2013 Main Screen

Too simple for ya? Learn to live with it!

The replacement G500 mouse is also broken (DOA)???

A week ago, the left button of my Logitech G500 mouse stopped working. Logicool (the name under which Logitech is registered in Japan) replaced the mouse with a brand new one. I got the replacement mouse yesterday and I even wrote a blog post about it because I was so happy that I could replace the worn out old mouse with a new one.

But after using the new mouse for a few minutes, I felt that the left tilt function of the scroll wheel was not working properly. I had to tilt is with all my might to get it to respond. Right tilting was fine. I use the tilt function to switch tabs in the browser and to change firemode/reload in games.

If you look at the photo below, you'll see that the gap between the wall and the scroll wheel is very small on the left side and big on the right side. This is kind similar to what happened with the first time I replaced the mouse about a year and half ago. But at that time, the middle press was entirely not working. But then it was all due to battering the middle button trying throw grenades => the mouse wasn't durable. But this time, it is a DOA. Oh well!!!

I contacted Logicool about this and they agreed to send me a new mouse. But I have to send back the broken one. Not the first one, but the replacement. I hope this will be end of it. I already hate Logicool/Logitech as a brand. :(

What's going on with the Japanese Yen? Why is it dropping?

The new Japanese government is trying very hard to drop the value of the currency so that the export industries can become strong once again. What? Doesn't everybody think that increasing the value of the currency is the way to go? No. Here is how it works.

The inflation inside Japan is non-existent. That means, the salaries don't go up just because the cost of living went up. Cost of living doesn't go up here. (Well, it is pretty steep alright, but that's because the value of the currency has risen, not because the prices of the actual products have risen.) So, people living within the country don't really have a problem with the devaluation of the currency. You got your meal for JPY500 before. You get it for JPY500 now. You got your camera for JPY 50,000 before. You get the current model for JPY 50,000 as well.

Also note that the amount salaries paid cannot be reduced just because the JPY got stronger. It can only go up.

Now let's look at this from industries' point of view. Say, Toyota for example, prices their latest sedan at JPY 1million. This amount doesn't change depending on whether USD1.00 is at JPY 100 (now) or at JPY 80 (few months back). Why? If they kept the price in USD fixed, they will get less JPY when they made a sale, and profits will drop because the salary is fixed in JPY. If they kept the price in JPY fixed, the price of the car in the US market will arise (in USD) and the resulting number of sales will drop, again causing less profits.

So the only way they can go back to the old profit margins is by dropping the JPY to the old value. Now, this won't happen naturally because Japan has a very strong economy. The government has to force it. What they do is print new notes and throw them into the market. The value of in total doesn't change because of this. The total value is fixed. So since there are now more money for the same total value, the value of money drops.

Like I said, if you are an individual who only buys Japanese products, you won't even notice this as a problem. But if you frequently buy stuff from eBay or use foreign services or buy foreign products (most computer parts!), you'll be pretty angry by now. For example, the Intel Core i7 3770K was at around JPY 26,000, but now it has increased past JPY 30,000. It's a good thing that Intel isn't bringing anything to the market that I wanna upgrade to. (Apparently, Haswell won't see much of a speed boost compared to IvyBridge.)

Auto End Tasks Windows 8 at shutdown

iTunes is such a badly designed app for Windows. Whenever you use the Home Sharing feature of it, you cannot shut down the PC without listening to its whine. There have been times when I have simply pressed the power button of the PC and went away, only to find out that the PC has not been shutdown. The shutdown process has been interrupted by iTunes. It drives me insane just to wait and see if the PC has been properly shutdown when I am in a hurry (that happens always) to go to work.

But there is always one thing you can turn to in situations like this: Windows Registry. There is a setting in the Windows Registry where once you enable it, the blocking tasks will be automatically terminated when you send the shutdown signal, after a specific time. It is not enabled by default because Microsoft doesn't know what your use-case is. You might actually need the PC not to be able to be turned off if you are running a certain looong task in the background like a video encode job or a rendering job which you might have forgotten that it is running - especially with these multicore CPUs. (Remember how it was like when you had single-core CPU doing video encode jobs? It would bog down the PC so much that it will never go unnoticed.)

IMG_1283

The easiest thing to do is to copy the following code to notepad, save as a .reg file and run it. You can experiment with the timeout threshold. I have set 2500ms. A shorter timeout delay will shutdown the PC faster but the apps that are properly being terminated might crash and corrupt its files and longer timeout such as 5000ms will obviously slow down the shutdown.


Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_USERS\.DEFAULT\Control Panel\Desktop]
"AutoEndTasks"="1"

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control]
"WaitToKillServiceTimeout"="2500"


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Cydia is finally alive…sort of…

If you are interested about Jailbreaking, you should already know that evasi0n Jailbreak Tool was released less than 24 hours ago which could Jailbreak every handset running iOS 6 up to 6.1. There was a massive surge in accesses to Cydia servers soon after the Jailbreak was released which caused Cydia and its repositories to go down.

I tried to access Cydia for many hours but failed. Well, it is somewhat accessible now. Some repositories still don’t work at all. they give errors when you try to install apps from them. But most of the problems will be automatically fixed it you give them some time. Either way, you cannot buy any new stuff. You can still download the free stuff, but they are telling you to wait another day till you make payments.

IMG_1281

Right now, I am unable to install Zephyr, the best Jailbreak tweak that I have ever used, which I have actually bought as well. I’ll try it tomorrow. I have been able to download almost everything else, but I will write a proper blog post when everything is running smoothly.

Oh btw, WS Wallpaper made the Springboard to crash so I had to remove it. Perhaps a working tweak will come out soon. It’s not big deal anyways – just some fancy eye candy.

Finally got the replacement for my Logitech G500 gaming mouse

Remember that my Logitech (well, Logicool, because it was bought from Japan) G500 gaming mouse’s left button stopped working just before Crysis 3 MP Beta came out? Thanks to the awesome Logitech customer support, I was going to receive a brand new mouse as the replacement even without them checking what is wrong with the mouse. (I could have simply told them that the left click was not working and got a replacement, because I don’t even have to send back the broken mouse!!! But I am supposed to throw it away. I’ll hold onto it a bit until I’m sure this mouse isn’t going to break in a few days.)

Even though the customer support person told me that it would take about 5 days, it actually took 8 days. I was going to ask them about this yesterday, but they beat me to it. I saw a response from them telling me that the mouse was shipped that I would get it by today. They (Kuroneko) delivered it alright – but I wasn’t home. Luckily I have an account with them, so they sent me an email saying that they delivered it but nobody was home. The email contained instructions on how to get it delivered and all could be done via the internet. It’s very simple.

So, here we have it. The old mouse and the new mouse.

 IMG_1278

Evasi0n Jailbreak is now available and Cydia is heavily loaded

When I woke up in the morning, the first thing I did was to turn on the PC and see if the evasi0n jailbreak was out. It was, and I straight away downloaded (you can download it from here.) the tool and started the jailbreak process. But right at the beginning, it gave me an error. I was supposed to turn off the password lock just for now and I had done so. But I also had to disable encryption in iTunes backups. I used a password to see what it does. It seems to just encrypt the backup and also include the passwords to accounts in the backup because it is now safe to include them. (I didn't know that the passwords weren't included in the unencrypted backup.)
 
Anyways, once I disabled the password, I relaunched the evasi0n tool and started the jailbreak process. It was almost automatic. Once you press the button to start the jailbreak, it restarted the phone once or twice (I don't know because, like always, I went away and did some morning chores.) and when I came back, it was halted at one point. I was supposed to hit the new icon that was freshly installed to the iPhone, named Jailbreak, to proceed. I did so, and the process continued and it was done. It did one final reboot to put things in order.
 
iOS 6.1 Jailbroken using evasi0n
 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Aimbots and Crysis 3 MP Beta

The most irritating about multiplayer online gaming is that you will always run into people that hack the game and ruin others’ pleasure. They don’t even want to play the game in the first place. They just wanna make others wanna hate them. Crytek isn’t the most experienced company when it comes to making multiplayer games – unlike Infinity Ward that makes Call of Duty. Crytek is new to the arena. We could see that in their previous flagship moniker, Crysis 2.

You could not only find people using the “usual” aimbots, but people using speed hacks, power hacks and even teleport hacks. It’s was so unbelievable how far some people would go to ruin others’ joy. When I played the game, we (Suresh and I) would always sign out of that server and join another. But the chances of finding a hacker in the new server was very high. But let me tell you one thing: it was very, VERY satisfying to kill a hacker. But I didn’t want to avenge them too much. It would only ruin my K/Ds (kills to deaths ratio). So, yes, signing out of that server and testing my luck with another server – that’s what I did back then.

Crysis 3 multiplayer beta was just released ahead of the launch of the full game this month and guess what? There are already aimbots. Apparently, you could simply modify the hacks you used in Crysis 2 and use them in Crysis 3. Oh dear! I was looking forward to play this game a lot. Well, TBH, I cannot play that hardcore now that I am married. So maybe that is not the end of the world. But I don’t want to catch a hacker during the few minutes that I get to play the game. I hope Crytek has a solution to tighten the security in this game.

Hacking is everywhere, but being able to modify the hacks for the previous game and reuse in the new one? That’s intolerable.

Here are two instances of aimbot hacking in the current Crysis 3 Multiplayer demo.

To Catch A Hacker

Crysis 3 Aimbots already available

Jailbreak for iOS 6.1 is almost here

Edit:

OK, it’s now available for iOS 6.1 as well as iOS 6.1.1 (version 1.3 onwards). Grab it soon. =)

To the original story…

I’ve been monitoring evasi0n’s website since yesterday and as I write this post, 96% of work is finished. Today’s (in the USA) release is imminent. Unfortunately I might not be able to get it before going to bed. Hopefully it will be available by the time I wake up tomorrow. Oh well, I can live without the Jailbreaks one more day.

I am wondering, should I get the iPhone 5 now? I mean, the chances are that the iPhone 5S or the next model will take ages to see a working Jailbreak. I will be hesitant to buy the new phone without a working Jailbreak. The devs took more than 5 months to bring this upcoming Jailbreak. But it could be that they waited till Apple released 6.1. Remember how some guy posted a photo of a Jailbroken iPhone5 in Twitter just days after it was released?

Anyways, here’s the status on evasi0n’s website as of now.

2013-02-04_19-22-19

Anyways, just cannot wait to make my phone personal once again. Not personal to Steve Jobs. :/

I’ll post back about how things go with the Jailbreak and about the tweaks that I am gonna use.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

An update on Carbonite Backup status

About 2 months ago, I signed up for Carbonite. I got an extra 2 months of free subscription thanks to the offer code from Leo’s TWIT network. So, 14 months, plus the 14 days trial period. Unfortunately, I had to break the backing up spree after about 10 days into the trial period because I visited Sri Lanka. Even though it was originally supposed to be a 2 week break, it ended up being 3 weeks.

The price being reasonably cheap for unlimited size of storage, the only problem that remained was how long it would take to backup all of my data to the Carbonite servers. The speeds seemed to be good for the initial few gigabytes of data but it would slowly crawl down to 2Mbps. (With a capacity of 200Mbps in my internet connection, that’s so much wastage.) Given that I have over 1TB of data to be backed up, it would take a couple of years until all of that data was safely stored in the cloud. I won’t be running my PC 24/7 just for Carbonite.

Accurately speaking, I first subscribed to Carbonite on 2012/12/11. We left for Sri Lanka on 2012/12/23. So I ran Carbonite till 2012/12/22 evening. That’s 12 days. Then we arrived back in Japan on 2012/01/13 and I actually forgot to install Carbonite straight away. So the backup resumed from 2012/01/15. That’s another 18 days. So, in total, it’s been only 30 days - a full month – of backing up time.

So after 30 full days of uploading, this is the state of my Carbonite backup.

Carbonite Backup Status - Anusha

Note: I have no idea what that file it is uploading in the above screenshot.

113GB of my data has been uploaded. That’s actually better that I imagined. That means, after full 10 months of use, I might be able to upload all of my data to the Carbonite servers. It states that I only have 616GB remaining – I probably have to add more files to the backup queue manually. It doesn’t add those clunky files such as huge video files and ISO files to the backup by default. I just have to force it.

Finally upgraded to iOS 6 (iOS 6.1 in fact)

It's completely unnatural of me to hold on to an old version of any OS, but no thanks to Softbank's arrogance, Apple's stupidity and added security, I was stuck in iOS 5.1.1.

Softbank's arrogance was that the phone is SIM locked. You could unlock the iPhone 4S using GeveySIM Ultra S up to iOS 5.1.1 (that was then, now it supports up to 6.0.1 even without a jailbreak) Remember, I went back to SL last December and I wanted to use this phone with my Mobitel SIM. (But I ended up not unlocking the phone in the end. I could do fine with my dad's iPhone 3GS.) Either way, by the time I visit Sri Lanka again, I would have a new phone - or a proper unlock will be available for the iPhone 4S...hopefully.

Apple's stupidity was that their Apple Maps debacle. You know, they removed Google maps from OS and they added their own freshly designed maps app to iOS 6.0. It came with added functionality such as turn by turn navigation and flyover view, but their rendering was not accurate - not by a few meters, but a few 10's of kilometers and even farther. Most of us, the iPhone users, depend on the Google Maps to travel around Japan. Google Maps are very precise and detailed for Japan. So, NO, I could not possibly make up my mind to upgrade to iOS 6.0 with the maps app being in that disastrous state. (Few months after iOS 6.0 was released, Google released their all new maps app to the AppStore, so now this problem is no more.)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The impact of Antialiasing (AA) mode on Crysis 3 MP Beta’s performance with Geforce GTX670

I had a little spare time today and managed to measure how antialiasing affects Crysis 3 Multi Player Beta’s performance on my GTX670.

Please note that this is not very accurate because the game play is not identical between each. That’s impossible right now. Hopefully there will be a benchmarking mode in the full game. Then it would be easier to compare the performance with others.

Test Configuration

  • CPU: Intel Core i7 2600k @ 4.5GHz
  • RAM: 16GB DDR3 9/9/9/24/1T
  • Motherboard: ASRock Z68 Extreme4
  • Video Card: Palit Jetstream GTX670 @ 1176MHz (313.96 beta drivers)
  • Audio Card: Creative X-Fi Titanium
  • Disk Drive: Samsung 840 250GB (rest is not important)

Frame rate was measured by FRAPS for more than 2500 frames. Some even more than 5000 frames, but as the performance got worse with stronger AA, I didn’t want to play long enough.

Results

image

There isn’t really a point in comparing the min and max frame rates because it is not the same gameplay. But you should be comparing the average frame rate.

Obviously, running with no AA is the fastest, but it seems SMAA 2TX gives you the best experience overall. I hope the performance would only go up from here. The game will be hopefully optimized a bit and the drivers improved a bit. If we can hit 60fps on average with SMAA 2TX, then it would be a awesome.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Peerblock blocking you from logging into Crysis 3 servers?

Now that Crysis 3 MP beta is out to the public, people using Peerblock to block unwanted peers/IPs connecting to your PC must be having a little problem. With the default block lists downloaded by Peerblock, the IP address of EA servers that you need to connect to play the game are also blocked.

Peerblock's main window will show what IPs were blocked by Peerblock. See it blocks IPs from EA servers.

2013-02-02_00-12-17

You can disable Peerblock when playing Crysis 3 beta, but that is not a good solution. Luckily, you can create your own list of allowed IP addresses. Peerblock won't block these IP addresses.   

You can find the tutorial posted on Peerblock's website on how to make your own block-list, by clicking the following link.
image

Add the following addresses to the block-list and make them as "allowed" and you should be able to connect to the servers without disabling Peerblock.

2013-02-02_00-17-46

You can add the individual IP Addresses too. But I figured all of the IPs in the range should belong to EA so I added the whole range.

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