Sunday, September 29, 2013

[Article] iPhone 5S LTE vs WiFi performance

The best thing about the iPhone 5S is LTE. It’s a massive upgrade from the crappy 3G speeds of SoftBank. Even though it is still SoftBank, maybe because the LTE user base is low, the speeds are very good. When iPhone 5 was released, I’ve heard some people in the US say that their LTE performance was better than their Wi-Fi performance. That could be because I they have shabby internet at home. I wanted to see if this is true with me as well.

But I’m in Japan, hence I get very fast internet at home. 100~200Mbps both ways, provided by OCN via NTT’s fiber network. I have a NEC Aterm 8370N Wireless router at home. Unfortunately, my router only supports single band Wi-Fi. That means, only 2.4GHz spectrum. It does not support 5GHz spectrum. With dual band support you would get much better speeds in the short distances.

So the Wi-Fi speeds are not optimal. Here are my results.

Wi-Fi

2013-09-29_10-28-38

4G LTE

2013-09-29_10-28-16

Even with single band Wi-Fi, the LTE performance is lower when checked from my apartment. LTE performance would definitely differ from place to place.

Unfortunately, because it would cost me a lot of money to check the 3G speeds of my iPhone 4S, I cannot provide them for comparison. But I measured them a year ago, and they were pathetic.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

[Rant] No Broadwell for desktops?

Intel-Broadwell

Intel released the preliminary information about the upcoming Broadwell CPUs at IDF (Intel Developer Forum). They promised that the successor to Haswell is on track for the original schedule – that is in 2014. There were rumors few months ago that Intel had into trouble with the new 14nm process technology and Broadwell will be delayed into 2015. But all assured that there are no such delays.

Broadwell is going to incorporate further power efficiency enhancements from Haswell micro architecture. Performance figures weren’t released at IDC, but power efficiency has been improved by 30%. Haswell’s power efficiency is only at idle states. At full load, the power efficiency was on par with the IvyBridge, if you ignore the iGPU’s performance enhancements. (because if you consider that, then the Haswell has noticeably better power efficiency in games).

Since I lost the silicon lottery with my Haswell Core i7 4770K which can only do 4.3GHz without catching fire, I was hoping to sell it and upgrade to Broadwell as soon as it came out. But few days ago a rumor came up saying that the desktop PCs, at least the DIY PCs, won’t get Broadwell. Broadwell seems to be an embedded CPU; not a socketed CPU. DIY community will not be able to get a CPU and install it in their favorite motherboard. That sucks!

But don’t be discouraged as socketed CPUs are not dead. Skylake will be the next generation aimed at desktops. Well, Haswell-E is coming out next year, with 8-cores on the high-end, but very few people will get their feet wet with that behemoth. However, Intel will still launch new CPUs next year to the mainstream. That will be called Haswell Refresh. Don’t expect miracles. Maybe it will clock better, with better thermals.I’m sure it will get a speed bump as well. Perhaps the Iris Pro graphics on the top end models. Perhaps the disabled features on the K models will be enabled. That sort of “minor” improvements.

I’ll wait for it and see how things go. Probably it will be best to hold off till Skylake is released. The name “Haswell” (refresh or E model) gives me Goosebumps.

[Article] Time to cover up the iPhone 5S with a case and protective film

Yesterday I bought my iPhone 5S 16GB Space Grey model. Since I didn't buy a case with the phone or had ordered one before, I was extra careful with it. The iPhone 5/5S's aluminum parts easily get scratched and scuffed. So I had to order a case ASAP. 

Plus, I didn't sign up for the Apple Care+ Plan this time around. That's another ¥7,800 which can be used for something useful. So that means, if I dropped the phone, that would be the end. So the case had to be able to protect the phone well if I drop it by accident. My friend was using a brand called iFace and it is a big case. But it had a big bumper around the edges. It was a bit expensive and it didn't even come with then protective film. So you had to order them separately. Those two items would have totalled up to ¥3,000. Yikes!

So I searched around and found a newer, slightly smaller model to what my friend was using on his iPhone 5. The bumper was thinner but it still looked sporty. I was specifically looking for the Black and Yellow model as it would blend in with the color of my iPhone, plus, would make it even more sporty. Like a Ferrari. This is what I ordered. It was fairly cheaper at around ¥800.  

Then for the protective film, I bought ones called ProGuard. That's the same brand I was using on my iPhone 4S. They served me well for a long time. But I didn't want just protection. I wanted to kill the glare effect. I really hate glare. The one I had on my 4S was the anti-glare edition. However there was one issue with It. The texture on the film would kind of kill the retina effect and takeaway the sharpness. There are many variants of ProGuard shield to choose from and back then I had chosen the high quality anti-glare shield. But there is a super fine quality anti-glare shield as well. It is much more expensive though. But this time I ordered that

I ordered them from Amazon and they were delivered to me on the next day. 

The case was flawless and beautiful looking. When I showed it to my wife, she asked me who on their right mind would get a yellow case. But after I put it on, she changed her mind. But she still seemed to prefer the white one. But my friend had the white one and I wanted something else. The other colors were too girlish. 


There was a slight issue with the screen protector though. I'm not a patient guy. I always screw up when I have to apply a screen protector. Either some dust particles sneak in or I misalign it or I let air bubbles show up. This time I was extra careful not to screw it up. The filter comes with a sticker on the side that touches the screen, and you have to  remove it before applying. The sticker is cut into two parts. First you remove the small part and let it rest on the screen. After that, you slowly remove the large part while letting it kiss the screen gradually. But at the border of the two stickers, the separating line in imprinted to the filter.


I have contacted the seller about this and am waiting for a reply. I hope they will replace it free of charge. Or otherwise I will have to evaluate it as "bad".

[Article] iPhone 5S is awesome.

Well, at least compared to my old iPhone it is million times better. I'm sure people with the iPhone 5 won't notice the difference.  Or the hardcore Android guys or Windows Phone guys. I love Windows Phone, but I cannot get one in Japan, so I have no choice.

The biggest improvements I see are in the areas of UI fluidity, app launch speeds, network speed and battery life. Screen is largeer but it is not that noticeable. 

The A7 processor in the iPhone 5S is almost 4 times faster than the iPhone 4S's A5 processor. I'm sure the improved GPU is helping with the fluidity of the UI animations  I thought the animations of iOS 7 were so slow but I don't feel that with the iPhone 5S. I don't play games on the phone so I really cannot comment on the gaming performance. However, I'm sure I will get used to the speed and start feeling that this is no big deal after all. That happened with the iPhone 4S as well.

The biggest difference I see is with network speeds. LTE is way better than 3G - especially 3G on SoftBank because it SUCKED. With LTE, now I can stream YouTube, webpages open super fast and download apps quickly. For example, the Coursera courses page took ages to open on my 4S, but it opens within a couple of seconds on the 5S. On the day that I bought the 5S, I downloaded almost 700MB of apps on the way home from work, on the train. I wonder if that 7.5GB limit won't be sufficient for a month. It's possible that the amazing LTE speeds that I see are because most people are still on 3G and that the network is not congested. Or it could be a feature of LTE. I have not looked into LTE, not even a bit. (I should!) The quality/speed might change in the near future though because of all the people upgrading from their iPhone 4S to iPhone 5S.

Then the battery life - it's way better than I expected. If I leave home with a 100% charge, I can return with a 25-30% charge remaining. On the 4S, maybe because of the terrible 3G speeds, I couldn't get by a day with a full charge. Because of that, I had to charge the phone at work almost every day. It could be because its battery was worn out. But it could also be because LTE is so fast that it can go into idle state quickly. Besides, the iPhone 5S has a much bigger battery that the iPhone 4S. However, if I drain the battery, I won't have a charging cable with me. I wonder if the cheap Chinese rip-offs can at least charge the phone. I don't want to access the content of the phone from the PC.

Other than that, the finger print reader works really quickly. I thought you would get a lot of false positives with it but that is not the case. But I'm still not used to the whole idea of it, and I only remember I can use the finger almost half way through to entering the passcode lock. 

I haven't had time to use the camera yet. Hey, I am not a photo guy. I don't think it will be as good as the PureView camera in the Nokia Lumia 1020, but since they say it is better than the previous generation, which was even better than the 4S's, I'd take that as a "vastly improved camera". Hehe.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

[Rant] Got my iPhone 5S - the 16GB Space Grey model that is

Yesterday they asked me to bring the passport if I wanted to use the installment based subscription. Today I took my passport. As soon as the bell indicating the start of the lunch break rang, I was off to SoftBank store on the first floor. I didn't even have my lunch. 

I had to wait like 20 minutes before my turn. Then it was time. It took longer than I expected. The processing is very slow. They had a lot of explaining to do as well. There were few campaigns and some of it was not what I was expecting. 

For example, if they were to waive off the remaining installments, I had to give them my iPhone 4S. That's not going to happen. I am hoping to sell the phone. I wouldn't give them the phone for a mere ¥5,760. 

Then there was the "shitadori" campaign. This means, they take the phone and pay us money for it. I only qualify for ¥10,000 and out of that, I have to pay ¥5,760. The hell! We'll, it is better than the first option because I get something out of the phone. 

Then there was the option to put a new SIM in the phone and get charged for it only if you use it. It's called the Family Discount campaign. No fixed charges (for two years). If you don't use internet, and only call/SMS between SoftBank numbers - which are the majority of our friends - you won't have to pay a dime. At first I thought that would be another way of them to steal our hard earned money. So I said no. 

So she brought the new phone and put it on the table. I checked the time and it was 12:50PM already. And I have to be at the office by 1:00PM. Plus, I haven't had my lunch!! I asked them how long would it take. They said they sure cannot complete it by 1:00 M. I asked them if I could come back later. The girl went and asked some guy and she said OK. Since I had signed many papers already, it wouldn't take that long if we resume the whole procedure from that point. I told them I would come after 5:00PM.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

[Rant] They asked me to bring the passport

Today I went to SoftBank store on the way back home. I made up my mind I get any iPhone 5S available. I don't want the gold one if that makes me have to wait for a month in a queue. Apparently they still had the Space Grey model and I thought, ok my luck isn't that bad. 

Either way you have to cover it up in a case which might even hide the gold color. No point making the purchase based on color when everything else is identical. Anyways, I don't know why the gold model is not widely available.

So I waited until my chance came, playing with the showcased iPhones. A few minutes later, a store girl came and asked me if I have the necessary documents with me to do the swap. I told her that I had the Resident card with me and she checked it. They were looking for the remaining period of stay. She wanted to check if I qualify for the installment based payment or full payment upfront for the phone. It's as if she didn't want to sell me the iPhone!

Then she asked me if I had the passport with me. This nonsense wasn't there the last time, and the last time I didn't even have two years left with my VISA. Of course I didn't  have it with me. Am I that stupid to take my passport everywhere I went? She then told me that the passport is required if I wanted to pay using the monthly installments. With iPhone 4S, this upfront payment was only JPY46,800 for the 16GB model. For the iPhone 5S, it is JPY 68,040. The huge price hike is mostly due to devaluation of the currency. (But if you look at the total cost incurred within the two years, it is still same as the iPhone 5)

I wasn't sure if I wanted to pay that kind of a huge price up front. So I said I would return with the passport. I wonder if there actually is a difference between paying the amount upfront or not. There has to be. I will have to do some digging.

The following campaigns are available for people who currently own an iPhone 4 or a 4S.





Monday, September 23, 2013

[Rant] Happy about performance - not so about pricing: Radeon R9-290X

The naming has changed after all. They are not even calling it Radeon 9000 series. Doesn't matter. Who cares about the name anyways?
 
The leaked performance figures indicate the new flagship graphics card from AMD is giving the NVIDIA Titan a run for its money. It is definitely faster than the GTX780 across the board. When you ramp up the Anti-aliasing settings, it leaves the GK110 based cards in the dust. (However, the rumor is that NVIDIA is preparing a card based on the full blown GK 110 chip to counter this new threat.)
 
Ok, now even you should be happy about the performance. The million dollar question is, how much would it cost? Reports suggest that it would be priced at $649, just as the GTX780. Ouch! Well, from the company's point of view, it is unfair to ask them to price it any lower because it is outperforming the $1000 card from the rival company at 2/3 the cost. But if the history has anything to tell us, the retail pricing would be lower than that.
 


But I don't like the way things are going. The enthusiast card based on a single GPU should be priced at $500. At which price are they going to sell the dual GPU flagship model? $1,300? That's outrageous.

Looks like my dreams of getting this card is over before it already came out. Maybe I'm better off getting a second GTX 670 when the prices come down. A brand new GTX 670 is still too expensive here in Japan. Maybe I can buy a used card. But if there are used cards a available for sale, there is a 50% chance that the card is having some sort of an issue.

[Rant] Couldn't get the new iPhone yet

My iPhone 4S contact expires this December. I will have to upgrade the phone because if I don't upgrade I would still have to pay the same monthly subscription fee. That's how things work here. 

I have two options. iPhone 5C or 5S. Since the 5C is same as yesteryear's flagship model, if you know me, I wouldn't set my eyes on that old outdated electronics. So iPhone 5S it is. But I cannot update yet, otherwise I will have to pay the potion of the original price of the phone for the remaining months (you don't pay that if you are using the phone for whole 26 months of the contract period). That's about ¥1,920 x 3 moths if I upgrade the phone now. 


But good news is, just like when I upgraded to iPhone 4S from iPhone 5S, they are waiving off the remainder if we upgrade now. This probably is to keep the existing customers with them. With Docomo getting the iPhone 5S from this year, these definitely is a lot of competition. So if they didn't let the existing iPhone 4S users switch, there is a good chance that once their contract expires, they would switch to Docomo. Docomo is the biggest mobile carrier in Japan with the widest coverage. 

The big issue is that they are asking the same ¥1,000 hiked fixed monthly subscription fee as the previously year's iPhone 5 for the iPhone 5S. So even if I upgraded today, I would pay ¥1,000 more than what I pay for my iPhone 4S. However, for upgraders, they are going to charge the same iPhone 4S for the first year. Paying ¥14,000 is better than paying ¥26,000. (Not sure about the exact figures - it could be ¥12,000 vs ¥24,000 if they don't charge for the first two months)

Plus, I can sell my iPhone 4S as well. 

Anyways, I went to the SoftBank shop in the office building during the lunch break on the iPhone 5am launch day. I asked for the Gold model. They said I had to reserve it because only the Space Grey model was available for purchase on that day. I didn't ask whether they didn't have them right from the beginning or whether the stock ran out. So I had to reserve the phone and come back. Sucks! When I asked how long the ETA is, they had no clue. I hope they will get the new stock back in a week or so. Otherwise you will have one pissed off Sri Lankan riding the train from Nakanoshima to Kosugi in the next few days. Sometimes I wonder if I should have bought the black model because you have to cover it up in a case anyways. Now I have to find a case that can show off the new color. At least I can order it early do that I have the case by the time  the phone is my possession.

At least I got a chance to play with the new iPhone 5S at the SoftBank store. It's so fast compared to my iPhone 4S - there's no doubt about it. I just want LTE and at least stable coverage around the places I commute often. And Touch ID worked perfectly as well. I was skeptical about it at first. Not anymore. 


Saturday, September 21, 2013

[Article] Haswell, VDroop and Load Line Calibration

When Intel CPUs are stressed with heavy load, the Core voltage (Vcore) drooped slightly to relieve the voltage controller on the motherboard. We call this VDroop. It is not a sudden drop, but it is maintained throughout the period the CPU is stressed, hence is was not called a VDrop.

The amount of VDroop depended on how much Voltage the CPU was using up. Thus, when the CPU was overclocked - meaning, the Vcore was higher than nominal figure, you could see a bigger VDroop. While this was according to Intel's design specification, it was not a good thing for overclockers.

The CPU becomes unstable when the Vcore drops, especially when it is under load. Besides, all these overclocking boards had way better voltage regulating circuitry and the sudden increase in power draw from the CPU was nothing they couldn't handle. Thus, motherboard manufacturers did something to counter the VDroop. The common term they use is Load Line Calibration. I'm not sure how it works exactly, but it seems to add up more volts when the Vcore droops. Usually we can decide how much voltage the motherboard should counter apply by selecting the level of LLC, so it is not really "intelligent". Further, I'm sure the other voltages drooped a bit as well, but not in significant amounts. It was the Vcore that everyone was concerned about.



1st of June, 2013 arrived and came Haswell. Haswell brought a lot of new things to the table. Voltage regulation was one of that. Instead of depending on the motherboard's voltage regulator to split the +12V into individual component voltages such as Vcore, Vmem, VCCIO, VCCSA, Uncore voltage etc and input them separately, Haswell asked for only one specific voltage from the motherboard. It's called the VRIN or VCCIN or Input Voltage. (It's about time they all agreed on a common term!). In Haswell, there is a voltage regulator inside the CPU (called FIVR) and that's what takes care of splitting this input voltage to different individual component voltages. They have done this to improve the idle power consumption. Dropping 12V down to 0.xxxV is difficult for any voltage regulator. But it is much easier when you drop it from about 1.8V. The default VCCIN is 1.8V. 

VDroop is still there with Haswell. But it doesn't apply to Vcore like previous generations. It applies to the Input Voltage - the only voltage inputted to the CPU from by the motherboard. The default Input Voltage is high enough so that for a casual overclock, you don't have to worry about VDroop. But at high overclocks (which means, many component voltages will be running above stock voltages) you will run into issues. I think, you will see two phenomena caused by lack of Input Voltage.
  • First one is, that the FIVR will not have enough juice to do its magic. This will cause a dip in any of the volts that would result in instability of the CPU. You will almost always get a BSOD with 0x124 stop code. This is probably why most people say that increasing the Input Voltage allowed them to use a less Vcore to stabilize the CPU.
  • Second phenomenon is that the FIVR will completely shutdown. This will cause the PC to reboot out of nowhere. You won't see a BSOD or any warning. It will be as if the power went off and came back on.
I've seen some reviewers say that you don't see VDroop on certain motherboards even though there is no LLC setting. They say by looking at the Vcore droop. But Vcore doesn't droop with Haswell. They are looking at the wrong voltage. You have to monitor the Input Voltage. Then you will see that LLC still is required. But since it doesn't affect the Vcore directly, if the Input Voltage is high enough, you will be able to get away without fiddling with the LLC.

[Guide] Installing Windows 8.1 from MSDN on DELL Latitude 10 Essentials tablet

The biggest changes in Windows 8.1 are coming to Metro interface and that is a notable upgrade for tablet users. But since Microsoft isn't releasing the update for another month, I was desperate. I wanted to try out the one available on MSDN.

I talked about how you can activate Windows 8.1 using your Windows 8 key in this post. But I didn't know what the key that DELL used in my tablet. They usually paste a sticker with the key on the body of the PC. But they didn't do that for my tablet. That's a good thing actually. That would have looked horrible. So I had to find a way to extract the key that they have used in the installation that shipped with the tablet.

The OEM key was easy to find. I used this VB Script. It saved a text file with the key and product ID in the same folder as the folder you ran the script from. (like below)
Product Name: Windows 8.1 Pro
Product ID: xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx
Installed Key: xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx
The other issue with the tablet was that I didn't want to break the recovery functionality. So I decided to install it as an update - "keep all my files and settings" option. Since I didn't have any applications installed (not apps), I wouldn't have any dangling folders in Program Files. Windows folder will be backed up as Windows.old though. You cannot delete it the normal way. You have to use Disk Cleanup to get rid of Windows.old and other setup related file.


Remember, you still cannot install Windows 8.1 with your Windows 8 key. So you have to use the method 1 of this post to install with the default Windows 8.1 key, then change the key to the one you extracted from the VB Script (i.e. the Windows 8.1 key).

That worked really well!

In case you forgot to extract the OEM key before upgrading, you might still be able to find the OEM key. The key is usually embedded in BIOS, and you "should be able to" read it using this application, but it didn't work for me on my tablet. (Go to this link and read the part from "But if not". I could not get it to read the ACPI tables. So in that case, you can use Recovery or Refresh to go back to the original state, and use the VB Script to extract the OEM key.

[Guide] Installing and activating Windows 8.1 on the desktop with the original Windows 8 key

Even though Windows 8.1 has RTMed, Microsoft isn't releasing it to public until 18th of October. However, they have made it possible for the MSDN/TechNet Subscribers to download it. They are not releasing it as an individual update though. They are releasing Windows 8.1 as a whole.

Since I have MSDN at work, I could download it. It seems that you cannot install it using the Windows 8 key you own. You need to get a key for Windows 8.1. But as far as we all know, it would be a free update. It seems that is the case only if you download the update via Windows Store.

But, I wanted to use the original Windows 8 key that I own. Of course I won't be "stealing" a key from the office. The issue is, the setup would prompt you to enter the key at the beginning of the install process, and unlike Windows Vista and Windows 7, you cannot skip it.

However, there are a couple of workarounds.

1. Use the default key at the time of install and change to the original key after the setup is done.

Use the corresponding key from below. It will let you install Windows 8.1, but you cannot activate. It's a good thing that the installer doesn't try to activate at the time of install.
Windows 8: 334NH-RXG76-64THK-C7CKG-D3VPT
Windows 8 Pro: XHQ8N-C3MCJ-RQXB6-WCHYG-C9WKB
After you are done, you can go to PC Settings and change the key to your original Windows 8 key. Then you can activate. If it fails to activate, reboot and try. Else, you can activate via phone. (Skype too).

2. Edit the ISO file so that the installer doesn't ask for a key and input the original key after the setup is done.

Open the ISO file in UltraISO (download trial) or any other ISO editing software. Download this file (file name: ei.cfg), and copy it to the Sources folder. Save the ISO file.

The contents of the file is as follows.
[Channel]
_Default
[VL]
0

Now you can use this ISO file as you would use the original ISO file: burn a DVD, mount and run setup then and there, make a bootable USB flash drive etc etc. Afterwards, install Windows and you won't be prompted to enter a key.

After you are done, you can go to PC Settings and change the key to your original Windows 8 key. (Online or Phone)

That's all. Enjoy Windows 8.1.



Edit:
Even if you are not a MSDN/TechNet subscriber, you can find a leaked ISO file "if you know where to look". Make sure it is an untouched ISO file though, because otherwise there could be (most definitely would be) malware embedded on it. Compare the hash codes (MD5) with an original ISO from MSDN and you are good.

[Guide] Opening two excel workbooks in two different windows

Looks like it cannot get any more trivial than this. Wouldn't just double clicking two workbooks (xls, xls files) work? Apparently, with all their wisdom, Microsoft have decided that people don't wanna see multiple Excel sheets. By default, all the workbooks will open in the same Window. This is applicable to Office  2007, 2010 and 2013 all it seems. 

But especially when you have multiple monitors, you want to load them up in separate displays to make use of all the screen real estate you have. An ugly way of doing that is resizing the Excel window to span across both displays (you cannot Maximize it though) and then vertically splitting the workbooks so that one stays on the left hand side display and the other stays on then right hand side display. 

But there is a better way to do it. 
  • First, open one of the workbooks by double clicking the file. An Excel windows will be launched and the file will be opened in it.
  • Now, you should see the Excel window on the Taskbar. Right click on it and click "Microsoft Excel". That will open up a new window. 
  • Now all you have to do it to either drag and drop the other workbook on to this new window or open that workbook via File -> Open. 


That's it. Now you have the workbooks opened up in separate windows. You can extend the same method to open up many excel files in separate windows.

[Article] Is it time for me to upgrade to Wireless 802.11 ac?

The answer is a big NO.

I was hoping that Apple would bring 802.11ac support to iPhone 5S, but that didn't happen. I currently don't have any devices that use 802.11 ac. I have four wireless devices by the way - the two iPhone 4S's, the 2011 MacBook Air and the Dell Latitude 10 Essentials tablet. All of them are 802.11n devices.

Even if the iPhone 5S supported 802.11ac, I would have to do a lot of thinking before upgrading my router to 802.11ac. It's quite a new technology and the prices of the routers are sky high (at least the prices of routers made by good manufacturer. They are all well over $100. Not worth it, IMO. I mean, the 802.11n speeds are quite enough for what I do with those devices. For downloading and heavy duty stuff, I have the Desktop which has a much more reliable 1Gbps connection as it is wired.

802.11ac would reach and even exceed those 1Gbps speeds attainable with my wireless LAN connection. That's quite an amazing feat actually. But still, it is wireless, which means it will still have a high latency. For downloading and surfing the internet, and even streaming video (except when jumping here and there in time) it would be fine. Well, more than fine, in fact. But the current prices negate the advantages. Besides, the current devices are all first generation devices and they will inadvertently have issues.

However, I should note that my current 802.11n router doesn't support dual band (2.4GHz/5GHz) so it is not running at 802.11n's peek bandwidth. I was a fool a not check if it supported dual band at the time of purchase. Plus, the USB port only let me connect a disk formatted as FAT32. That functionality is also not useful to me anymore. Maybe by "fixing" those issues I would get a better experience than switching to a 802.11ac supported router.

I'll probably switch to 802.11 ac in December 2014. You'll know what's so important about that day in a year or so.

Edit:
Just for fun and giggles, I checked out the prices of 802.11ac routers on Amazon (JPN) and came across a cheap router made by Planex. That is not a very good brand so you don't know how soon that will crap up on you. Besides, it is only designed according to the 802.11 ac (draft) spec.



Well, I'll stick to my original plan.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

[Article] Finally we have the perfect wireless mouse - Logitech G602

Wireless keyboards and mice are not on the top of the list in any gamer's buying list, because they don't work well with competitive Multi-player gaming. The biggest issue is the input lag that they produce, but additionally there is the risk of running out of juice (battery I mean) when you are in the middle of a gaming session without even knowing. Hey, who has time to monitor the battery status when you are glued to the screen, right? Besides, frequently needing to charge the wireless products is a pain in the arse. The chances of you forgetting to do it in the night and finding out that you are almost out of juice is common place. 

Looks like wireless input devices are not practical. So why am I even writing this topic? Simply because, THERE ARE advantages of using wireless input devices (not so much with keyboards though). There is no wire drag with wireless mice. Wire drag is where the wire of the mouse gives a resistance against freely moving the mouse because it drags along the surface (i.e. desk). Most mice these days are braided and that adds more resistance. There are products like Roccat Apuri that tries to bring zero drag resistance to wired mice, but not everybody can get one in their country nor have the space on the desk to keep it. But indeed it is a cheaper fix to the solution. 

But if you are a minimalist like me (news flash!), you'd want to go for the real thing. Meaning, a proper wireless mouse. Additionally, it gets you one step closer to getting rid of that wire mess. But does a proper wireless mouse exist? 

The answer is PROBABLY. The Logitech G602 comes almost close to that throne. The biggest difference with this mouse is that it allows you to use the mouse for 250hrs non-stop compared to most gaming wireless mice that need charging everyday. That's a high speed mode which is suitable for gaming. If you put it to endurance mode, which is good enough for everything else, you get over 1000hrs of non-stop battery life! Holy McDonald!The batteries inside the mouse are standard AA sized batteries; not anything proprietory. Looks like you don't get any charging mechanism built in to the mouse. You have to charge your own batteries or put new AA batteries every now and then. Costly, unless you have a few Sanyo Eneloop batteries lying around. I do, because I bought 8 batteries for my old Canon SX1-IS camera. The mouse even works with a single battery, so you don't lose the connection if you change one battery at a time.

 

Just like all other Logitech's modern gaming mice, this also comes with a million buttons that you can assign macros or custom keystrokes which comes real handy in games. I cannot believe how you can play games with a generic 3 button mouse these days. However, when it comes to marketing, the high DPI is not a marketing point with this mouse. The max DPI (or CPI) is limited to 2500, which actually makes sense. Even that is too high. Most people are fine at around 1000 DPI or even less.  Maybe that helps save battery life. (Means, it is a technical compromise). However, the mouse comes with a new sensor, called Delta Zero. Maybe saving battery life is the main feature of it rather than performance.

The wireless link is between a dedicated nano receiver that plugs into your USB port. it operates at 2.4GHz spectrum and the mouse works up to 3m away. That's good enough for me. It's not Bluetooth, so you will have to carry that nano receiver wherever you go. But remember, wireless is still laggier than wired. That cannot be fixed. They can make the difference smaller, but it will always lag behind wired mice. Most people won't notice it, but some gamers might.

The only issue this mouse has is the Logitech's Gaming Software. With version 8.50, they have improved it a lot, but it still misses the active application every now and then and uses wrong settings for the application you want to use. Minimizing the application and bringing it back might work. Or maybe you'll have to open the Gaming Software window from system tray. Worse case would be to kill it from Task Manager and relaunch. But that's a lot of hard work. I also set the default configuration for games. So if I close all the programs running while gaming, I won't have an issue. It's the application switching that doesn't work well.

The suggested price is $80 for the mouse. That is a lot of money for a mouse. I checked the prices in Japan, and the lowest I could find was JPY8,440. That's too much. I hope the prices will drop by my next birthday. 4.5 months to go. :) Maybe this will be my first step towards going wireless.

[Article] Say hi to the new iPhone 5S

Yesterday (10th of September) Apple had their new high-end iPhone unveiling - the iPhone 5S. We all knew what it would look like - simply like the iPhone 5. But there are a couple of difference that makes it shine apart from the iPhone 5. They also had the iPhone 5C unveiling, but I don't give a damn about that cheap phone.

There are three different colors to choose from - Gold, Silver and Space Grey. Then, there is a dual LED flash, but contrary to what others use dual LEDs for (i.e. increased intensity), these are used to generate different flash colors to match the scene. Maybe intensity is also increased, but they are two different colors. The other notable difference is the  ring surrounding the traditional home button. There is finger print detection technology built into iPhone 5S and that ring is to detect that you've placed the finger on the sensor. The sensor is underneath the home button. 

That's all the external differences but there are a couple of speed enhancements too. The new A7 SOC is much faster than the A6 chip in the iPhone 5S. CPU supports 64bit. Graphics is two times faster. Now there is a co-processor to process all the signals from the sensors. That saves the CPU cycles for much more useful work. I was hoping to see the amount of RAM increased too, but looks like that is not there. It's alright. 1GB is still double the amount of RAM I have in this iPhone 4S. 

So what do I think about it? It's a sweet upgrade. I really wanna see how well the finger print reader works. I hate typing passwords on my phone. And I'm a speedaholic. I would be in heaven with the A7 chip. But usually once I get used to the speed, I feel the need for more speed. That's what happened with the 4S. I am not much of a photographer, but if this gets me one step closer to not needing to carry my rather light point and shoot Canon S95, I'm happy with that.

You can watch yesterday's Apple Event from this link.

Apple Special Event - September 10, 2013

I'm thinking about going for the Silver for myself and Gold for my wife. He upgrade is due in February. Unless there is an offer that we cannot say no to, she'll be upgrading to the iPhone 5S too. 

Now the question is, will I be able to get one for me on launch? My contract is only coming to a conclusion in December I think. We have to keep it for 26 months contrary to the popular period of 24 months. When I upgraded to the iPhone 4S, they simply allowed me to upgrade from 3GS without paying any additional charges. I'm hoping that they do the same this time around as well.

iPhone 5S is coming to Docomo as well, so it increases competition. Docomo is Japan's largest carrier and I am expecting to see a lot of people switching from SoftBank to Docomo using MNP (Mobile Number Portability). SoftBank better come up with some amazing campaigns to keep their subscribers in their pocket. Previously, they wanted to make new customers. Now they have to do a lot more to keep them from switching. Good times for us, I hope.

September 20th is the day that we can all buy the iPhone 5S. Looking forward to that day. Weeee!

Monday, September 9, 2013

[Article] The ultimate stress test for Haswell CPUs - Prime 95 with AVX2/FMA3 support

Overclocking Haswell CPUs is a lot of work. Checking whether the overclock is stable or not is very time consuming. Some people go for a couple of hours of stress testing because most of the times that is enough to ensure that the CPU will run stably in every real world situation. But there are some people who cannot sleep if they know that one of their favorite stress testing apps didn't pass.

When it comes to stress testing applications, we are hearing a whole new story with Haswell. "This stress testing application is not certified for Haswell." Basically, that's what people say when they hear that you are using Prime 95 or LinX or OCCT. If by that they mean is that these applications don't  test every part of the CPU, the fine. But ironically, these apps can crash the CPU way quicker than those Certified applications. It makes one wonder, if Intel's CPUs don't work as they should. I mean, why cannot you simply run anything? Applications don't have to be certified for a CPU.

If it was the former, that is the application doesn't stress all the parts of the CPU, then the developers of Prime95 is finally fixing that. The current stable version, 27.9, supports up to AVX instructions. But no AVX 2 or FMA3 instructions. The developers have released an evaluation version of the upcoming version 28 which supports all these new instructions in Haswell. You can download it from THIS LINK.

Result?

Simply don't run the Small FFT test! On most setups, if you are above 1.20V, you'll be at instant throttling state. With 4.3GHz/1.24V, it would go to 97C within a couple of seconds. Well, I have my CPU fans at 1000RPM instead of the max 2400RPM, so it takes a couple of seconds to ramp up the fan speed. Maybe if I started at full fan speed, it might not hit that high. But still it will definitely be in the 90's,

But I don't stress test using Small FFT. I've found that almost always it is the in-place large FFT test that fails with my CPU. I ran it for a couple of hours, with each test running for only 3 minutes. The temps weren't that bad, however yesterday's weather was a tad cooler. 


Note: The Vcore written in the notepad is wrong. It should read 1.250V (1.264V in CPU-Z).

If you are running this, just be aware of the temps. There is no other stress test that can heat up the Haswell CPUs this much.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

[Article] Intel releases IvyBridge-E CPUs. Better late than never?

In English language, there is an idiom called "better late than never", but I'm not sure if you can call it relevant when it comes to the latest CPU release from Intel - the IvyBridge-E. There are few issues with this release which make it very unexciting.

Firstly, the IvyBridge-E is based on the IvyBridge architecture, which is not what the current generation of mainstream CPUs are based on. The current generation is Haswell and Intel's enthusiast CPU is one generation older than it. When Intel released the SandyBridge-E CPUs, the current generation was SandyBridge. Thus, this enthusiast CPU did not fall behind the mainstream CPUs in any test. It at least performed as fast as the top of mainstream CPUs. (Core i7 2600K back them). But now, the top of the line mainstream CPU is the Haswell Core i7 4770K which is faster than the fastest Enthusiast CPU in certain test - tests that don't make use of all 6 cores. That should not be the case.

Secondly, this is not a new platform. This is just a new CPU, which makes use of the previous X79 platform. That platform was already aging at its launch, and after two years, it is completely outdated. You only get two native SATA III ports, no native USB3.0 ports and the chipset is very power hungry. Of course the motherboard manufacturers are putting out refreshed boards, but they have to make use of the 3rd party controllers to at come close to what the current generation mainstream boards are offering feature wise. How hard was it for them to simply release an updated chipset for IB-E? One might be thankful that they don't have to change the motherboard, but the platform is missing a lot of oomph that came with Haswell, that number (of people) will be very low.

Thirdly, the CPUs don't overclock as well as we expected. IvyBridge didn't overclock well as well, but that because the die wasn't soldered to heatspreader. When delidded, they overclocked as well as SandyBridge. But IB-E's die is soldered. So it doesn't face the heat problem. But for some weird reason, it doesn't overclock as well as we expected. It's definitely not a temperature issue. That 22nm tech is giving any advantage over SandyBridge-E CPUs. However, the power consumption is less than the predecessor. Who cares, right? The second you say that you are going to overclock the CPU, you are giving up the privilege to whine about the power consumption.

Fourthly, you are not getting noticeable performance increase from upgrading to IB-E from SB-E. IB-E's advantage is only about 2-5%, which is even less than what Haswell has yielded. But if you are upgrading from a Nehalem 6-core CPU (such as the Core i7 970, 980x or 990x), then the performance increase is worth it, IMO. It's definitely not worth it for SB-E users, especially without any improvement in the platform. Haswell at least gave a new, better platform.

If you want to read an unbiased review, read the PC Perspective's review over here.

IMHO, Intel should have skipped IvyBridge-E and went for Haswell-E straight away. Or, they should have released it at least at the beginning of this year. It looks like Intel doesn't really care. I'm sure their biggest profits (total profits) come from the mainstream CPUs. While these Extreme Edition CPUs are quick lucrative, the number of enthusiasts living in this world is too few.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

[Article] BSODs can corrupt your Windows installation and run System File Check to fix them

Most people who h e been using Windows operating system in their PCs have experienced at least one blue screen. Once that happened, you can do none other than press the reset button. Because of that, people started calling it Blue Screen of Death (a.k.a BSOD). In the early days, a blue screen could come up even by running software that acted erroneously. But nowadays, you hardly see them and almost always it is the 3rd party drivers that can give you a BSOD.
 
That, is only if you are not an overclocker.  BSOD is the most common way of identifying instability when you are overclocking your CPU. You might get a BSOD while booting Windows up, or idling on the desktop, light loads or when stress testing heavily. If you are getting BSODs while stress testing heavily, at least you can be happy that you are almost there. If you are getting BSODs while loading Windows, then you are a long way away from your stable settings.
 
BSODs can be a minor hassle. But it can corrupt Windows which might make is completely unbootable. Or, the BSODs that you get afterwards can be actually caused by the corruption. Fortunately, there is a way to check if the Windows system files are corrupted or not. Up to Windows 7, there was this small utility called System File Checker, which is launched from the command prompt (in admin mode.) But in Windows 8, there is another "better" way to do it. The System File Checker is still there, but people say that there are times that you might not be able to fix all issues with it.
 
I'll list them both for you.
 
System File Checker method.
 
Run the following command from command prompt that was launched as Admin.
sfc /SCANNOW
It will show you the following screen and run for few minutes. If it finds errors, it will try to auto repait them and it will tell you where the log is saved so that you can check what was wrong and if it was successfully fixed or not.
 
2013-09-03_23-24-14
2013-09-03_23-23-48
 
The new method.
 
Again, run the following command in a command prompt launched as Admin.
DISM /Online /Cleanup-image /Scanhealth
You will see the following screen and just like SFC, it will run for few minutes checking if there are any issues. It will automatically correct the files.
 
2013-09-03_23-29-42
 
I suggest that you run these system file checks if you ever get any BSODs. I’d actually run both of them.
 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

[Article] Asus’ misleading marketing about ROG Z87 boards and OC Tuner

Everyone on the Internet must already be knowing that I've upgraded to Haswell because I've written a ton of articles. When I was deciding on which motherboard to get, the capabilities of the AISuite software that comes bundled with the Asus motherboard played a big part. JJ of Asus marketing had posted a video showing the auto-overclocking features of the software some time back and I referred it before buying my Maximus VI Hero motherboard. Everything looked nice and functional. The auto-overclocking feature would test the maximum CPU clock speed you can achieve by running a stress test with every step of increase in multiplier. It would even try to overclock depending on the number of cores used. Please watch the video for all the details. It looks fascinating.

1-Click Overclock to 4.8Ghz - 4-Way Optimization on ASUS Z87

But after I bought the motherboard and decided to try it out, it wasn’t available in the AISuite III software that comes for this particular motherboard. It only had 3 predetermined overclocking profiles called CPU Level Up; not the intelligent auto-overclocking feature (OC Tuner) described in the above video. (This page explains the 3 CPU Level Up values).

image

When I asked around, the answer I got was that the target audience of ROG boards is different and ROG motherboards don’t support it. That’s total BS. I mean, ROG is their high-end motherboard series, but they would put a crippled software and charge more because the audience of the motherboard is more “geeky”? You are paying more to get less? Looks to me their target audience is “idiots”.

I’ve seen many people complain about this in the forums and the comments section of the above YouTube video. I hope Asus will release an updated AISuite/BIOS to bring that functionality to the ROG motherboards. If they don’t, I’m quite disappointed in Asus. It’s not that it is the end of the world. You have to use the BIOS anyways. Those auto-overclocking settings are almost always not stable when stressed out. But at least you get a starting point to build your overclock on top of. I paid for that feature; I want that feature. Besides, Asus doesn’t state anywhere that the ROG boards don’t come with that feature. JJ doesn’t say that in his video.

[Article] Windows 8.1 has RTMed but Microsoft isn’t releasing it till October

Another nonsense move by Microsoft. Windows 8.1 has reported been RTMed (heck, even a leaked RTM build is out there, if you know where to look) but Microsoft is waiting another month and a half till it is offered to the public. And if the rumors are true, the MSDN/TechNet subscribers won’t be getting it any earlier.

Why do they have to delay it? It’s just an update like a service pack. Just put it out the Windows Store already, for crying out loud. They released a preview and the hardware manufacturers should have got their stuff working by RTM, right? Why wait? Must be a shady deal with the OEM partners. Waiting is not going to help especially when Mac OSX Mavericks is right around the corner.

Anyways, on the other hand, you can get the leaked RTM version from the “internet” and activate using your own Windows 8 legit key. It works just fine. I’m not sure if this is illegal, because you’ve already paid for it and the update itself is free. However, the leaked copy is not just the update alone, but the fully updated Windows 8 installation. You can simply do a clean installation.

The build number of the RTM is 9600.

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