Corsair K65 and K70 Keyboards

When my old CM Storm mechanical gaming keyboard stopped working a while ago, I looked around for replacement alternatives. I ended up getting the new Corsair K65 RGB LUX narrow keyboard. A while earlier this year, I got a Corsair K70 at work. Thus, I can do a double review on a pair of closely related keyboards, but with different key switches, sizes, and backlighting systems.

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Electric Bikes – Useful Alternative

trekicon

Electric bikes have started to become common,in Sweden in recent years. It’s been a big thing in other countries for a while, so I guess they have finally matured to the point that they can stand our climate. To be honest, I never quite saw the point of such a vehicle, until my wife took a job that perfectly fit their sweet spot, and I got to try hers. It was quite a revelation. I am usually rather hesitant to believe hype, but in this case, I think we do have the making of a really useful type of vehicle that offers a useful alternative for a particular niche in the transportation continuum.

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Google ”IoT” Testing for Chromecast: Cloud Emulation + Physical Gear

Thanks to the good folks at Vector Software, I was pointed to a conference recording on Youtube, from the Google Test Automation Conference (GTAC) 2015 (Youtube video). The recording covers quite a few talks, but at around 4 hours 38 minutes, Brian Gogan describes the testing used for the Chromecast product. This offers a very cool insight into how networked consumer systems are being tested at Google. Brian labels the Chromecast as an “Internet of Things” device*, and pitches his talk as being about IoT testing. While I might disagree about his definition of IoT, he is definitely right that the techniques presented are applicable to IoT systems, or at least individual devices.

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The Matias Less Noisy Keyboard (Matias Quiet Pro)

matias-quiet-iconI am a big fan of proper real decent mechanical tactile clickety-clack keyboards. Writing is my means of communication, creation, and commercial contribution to the world. I write a lot of text – both code and normal language, and I feel that I type faster, more accurately, and produce better text when using a tactile keyboard. I cannot understand how anyone cannot love them once they have their fingers on them. However, mechanical keyboards have a bad reputation for being NOISY. The rest of my family thinks my CoolerMaster Trigger Cherry MX Brown is a bit too noisy when I use it at home. Thus, when I read about the Matias Quiet Pro keyboard, I spent the money and gave it a try.  If I could have the feeling of a tactile keyboard without the noise, it would be a wonderful compromise!

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Thin Phone, Fat Core

nvidia_logoWhen mobile phones first appeared, they were powered by very simple cores like the venerable ARM7 and later the ARM9. Low clock frequencies, zero microarchitectural sophistication, sufficient for the job. In recent years, as smartphones have come into their own as the most important computing device for most people, the processor performance of mobile phones have increased tremendously. Today, cutting-edge phones and tablets contain four or eight cores, running at clock frequencies well above 2 gigahertz. The performance race for most of the market (more about that in a moment) was mostly about pushing higher clock frequencies and more cores, even while microarchitecture was left comparatively simple. Mobile meant “fairly simple”, and IPC was nowhere near what you would get with a typical Intel processor for a laptop or desktop.

Today, that seems to be changing, as the Nvidia Denver core and Apple’s Cyclone core both go the route of a few fat cores rather than many thin cores.

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Off-topic: Review: Apple iPod Nano 7th Gen

ipodnano7 icon Last week, my iPod Nano (6th generation) stopped working since its power button got stuck and failed to do anything to activate the machine. I rushed out, and got myself a replacement player in the form of an Apple iPod Nano 7th generation. I must admit that I have not found any alternative to an iPod paired with iTunes when it comes to a plain stand-alone audio player. After the utter disappointment that the 6th gen nano was, the 7th gen turned out to be surprisingly good and might even be almost up to the standards of the near-perfect 3rd generation.

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The First 64-bit Phone

apple_A7_image

Apple just released their new iPhone 5s, where the biggest news is really the 64-bit processor core inside the new A7 SoC. Sixty four bits in a phone is a first, and it immediately raises the old question of just what 64 bits gives you. We saw this when AMD launched the Opteron and 64-bit x86 PC computing back in the early 2000’s, and in a less public market the same question was asked as 64-bit MIPS took huge chunks out of the networking processor market in the mid-2000s. It was never questioned in servers, however.

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Qualcomm’s Batteryguru – and Branding

It is quite interesting to see how Qualcomm has emerged as a major player in the “processor market” and is trying to build themselves into a serious consumer brand. I used to think of them as a company doing modems and other chips that made phones talk wirelessly, known to insiders in the business but not anything a user cared about. Today, however, they are working hard on building themselves into a brand to rival Intel and AMD. At the center of this is their own line of ARM-based application processors, the Snapdragon. I can see some thinking quite similar to the old “Intel Inside” classic, and I would not be surprised to see the box or even body of a phone carrying a Snapdragon logo at some point in the future. A part of this branding exercise is the Snapdragon Batteryguru, an application I recently stumbled on in the Google Play store.

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Buying High Technology

Selling and marketing high technology is what I do for a living. My counterpart is the customer or buyer, and I help design, build, explain, an market these products.  In this role, I am most usually the expert on the domain, helping potential customers understand what we sell and why it will help them.  Both at the high-level value proposition and the details behind it.  Some people focus most of the their energy on the high-level value proposition, but I feel that youoften need a bit detail backing that as well.

I recently had the enlightening experience of being on the buying side instead, experiencing the transition from high-level value proposition to low-level details.  It struck me as being quite similar to what the customers for our virtual platforms would experience when coming in new to the field.

I bought a camera.

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Touch the Screen vs Press a Button

Is the touchscreen the end-all of user interfaces for mobile devices? There were rumors in early 2011 that the iPad2 would lose all physical buttons (which did not come true, obviously).  To me, that sounds like a really good and bad idea. Good, in the sense that a device that is all a big screen certainly looks nice. Bad, since it would be much less user-friendly than a device with some real physical buttons to press.

I have been thinking about this subject lately, after using a BlackBerry Torch 9800 as my work phone for a few months.  I like the device a lot, but there are certainly some rough edges and some places where there is a UI conflict between touching the screen and pressing the buttons. At the same time, I am using both an iPod Nano 3G, and a couple of iPod Touches. I used to have SonyEricsson Symbian-based P900, P990i, and G900 smart phones which also were combined touch/press devices with a stylus.

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Off-Topic: Set Own Number on BlackBerry

Ever since I got my BlackBerry smartphone, I was annoyed that the display said “My Number: Unknown number” in a number of places. I assumed that this would be automatic, just like everything else information-related on this device. However, I finally worked out how to “fix” the problem by manually setting my phone number.

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Product Holes: Greatest Hits break iPod Cover Flow

Following on my previous posts about broken phone browsers, phones, and cars, here is another case of “why didn’t they catch this in testing?”

We recently got ourselves an iPod Touch, to entertain our oldest child on long trips. It is a brilliant device in many ways, I can understand why people love their iPhones (even though I am very happy with the very different style of the Blackberry phone that I was given by my employer). However, I have found one weird behavior in the music player that leaves me wondering how it got through into the shipping product.

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Product Holes: Tesla Roadster & iPhone 4

Continuing on the thread from my previous post about the testing of products that fail to find problems that become obvious to (some) users after a very short time, I just read an article (in Swedish) about how the famed Tesla roadster cars behaved when they were confronted with Scandinavian winters.

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Off-Topic: Old and New Lego

During the Christmas holidays, I got the chance to compare my oldest child’s brand new Lego set with some from the mid-1980s. It is quite striking how much larger the things in the sets have become, and how much more affordable (in relative terms) Lego has become since then.

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A Toast to Abstraction Layers

toasterI just found “The Toaster Project“, a Royal College of Art project where Thomas Twaites built a simple toaster from scratch. Really from scratch, going all they way back to iron ore and raw petroleum. In the process, he had to smelt ore, create plastic from petroleum, etc. It is a very interesting observation about the immense industrial complexity behind the very simple everyday items of our lives. I also think it has something to tell us computer scientists about abstraction.

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Off-Topic: My Phone wants a vacation in Greece

maps-48x48I have installed Google Maps on my trusty SonyEricsson G900 (last of its kind, unfortunately, as UIQ is shut down and SE is moving to Nokia S60 etc.), and I find it an almost too fun and useful toy-tool. However, today, something really funny happened. For some reason, when asked to display my current location, it decided that I was in Northern Greece — to within 5000 m.

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Biking Topic: Chariot Carrier Baby Seat

corsaire-smallThis is a follow-up to last year’s post on the Chariot Corsaire XL bike trailer we have. Now that we have a baby girl as well as our older boy, we have upgraded the trailer with a baby seat. Works very well, even though it was quite a bit of work to install it.

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I Got a Yubikey!

yubico-imageI been listening to the SecurityNow! podcast raving about the coolness of the Yubikey, created by Swedish startup Yubico. It seems like the device has captured the imagination of quite a few people, and I have been kind of curious about it. So I was quite pleasantly surprised when I got one a few days ago, since we are testing it as a new way to authenticate to our VPN at work.

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Off-Topic: Moving an iTunes Library to a New Machine

ituneslogoI just got myself a new home PC, to replace my no longer very trusty five-year old Athlon-based PC. In the process, I realized I had to move my iTunes library from the old machine to the new. Reading on the web and the Apple support area made me somewhat skeptical as to the feasibility of this operation… would all my cover art, podcast subscriptions, playlists and ratings survive the move? There are many stories of failed moves and lost data out there… and moving from Windows XP to Vista 64-bit did not make the dread less.

In the end, it turned out it was really dead easy!

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Off-Topic: Custom RSS Feed Icon

flowerI don’t know if anyone has noticed, but I have finally managed to put a custom icon on the RSS feed for this blog. It is a larger version of the icon used as “favicon” for this blog and www.engbloms.se. I got the idea from the RSS feeds reader on my SonyEricsson G900 phone, which showed a few feeds with icons, but most with a generic icon.

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In Defence of MMS

I just read Stephen Fry’s latest blog post about smartphones in general and the Apple iPhone in particular. He really loves the iPhone, but the interesting thing to me was the wish list of future improvements to the device. In particular, support for MMS. That was one of the things that made the iPhone unacceptable to me and not really to be considered a serious mobile phone (along with no bluetooth modem).

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Some surprisingly good embedded systems

I am a skeptic when it comes to technology. Despite working in the tech field — or maybe because I am — I always expect technology to fail or at least disappoint. But sometimes that instinct is actually wrong! Here are two recent examples when I felt “wow, that was pretty good” about some fairly mundane pieces of computerized equipment.

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SonyEricsson G900 ActiveSync and PCSuite – Solved!

I should have known to expect trouble when I tried out DataViz ActiveSync on my new G900… the first thing it said was that “in order to avoid problems, we will deactivate the synchronization towards PC Suite”. Ah well. I assumed you could get it back…

But that was not so easy. I quickly realized that ActiveSync was pointless for me, since the setup I have for my data is not “everything on the corporate server, period”, which is the usecase ActiveSync is built for. But when I told ActiveSync to stop synchronizing certain categories of data, that lock it had put up still applied it turned out. With no way I could find to turn it off. So suddenly my phone just did not want to synchronize with my PC.

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SonyEricsson G900 – My New Phone, a Review (updated)

I just got myself a new phone, having tired of my old P990i getting a bit unreliable. It was only about two years old, but I guess I was pretty rough on it. My new phone a the SonyEricsson G900, and I am actually very happy about it.

Edit: inserted a couple of updates after a couple of more days of use.

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Off-topic: The Pause Generation

I am a skeptic in many ways, especially considering talk on how things are “different” now compared to some “then” (that often happen to be my own generation’s frame of reference). In particular, I react quite skeptically to news that the “kids of today” are completely different from their parents in how they use communications devices and their expectations of work and how the world works. For some reason, I just think “ah well, in the end people tend to be pretty much alike”. Also, I would like to believe that I also use modern communications devices just like the kids do (but looking closely, obviously I do not).

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Off-Topic: Colder Weather and (Consumer) Electronics

The colder season is coming fast here in Uppsala, and it is time to bring out gloves and warmer jackets. Even if we have had some nice sunny pretty warm days (up to 15 degrees Celsius!), we are getting into October soon, a month where there is usually some day of freak snow fall.

Another sign that it is getting colder is the reaction of consumer electronics.

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Biking topic 2: Bike mounts for cars with no towbar!

One thing that has always annoyed me is that you seemed to have to have a tow bar (dragkrok in Swedish) on your car to be able to fit a bike mount. And tow bars are not that common, there are several good reasons not to get one, like added cost, not usually available on used cars, and that they compromise crash safety to some extent. But to put my bike on a car it seemed that I had to get one. I was thinking about how to build a bike mount that could actually work on a regular station wagon by making use of the cargo rails, in some clever way.

But it seems I do not have to invent and build and market this thing myself: it is already available! I found a whole set of varieties from a company called Thule when I browsed a biking catalogue recently. Seems to fit quite a few varieties of cars including even the odd sedan! Good to know that they exist if I ever need to carry bikes regularly.

Biking topic 1: I should have a commission on these!

Last year, we got ourselves one of the best child-related products we have ever seen: a Chariot Carriers Corsaire XL bike carriers. This might sound like marketing hype from their marketing department, but it really is a brilliantly designed product (mostly). At core, it is a carrier with two wheels, seating two children, and which can be quickly turned from a bike carrier into a regular city stroller. For us, this really means freedom! In particular, the freedom to quickly pop down town using the bike, and then not have to carry our son but rather have a decent stroller to push him around in (and to load up with shopped stuff).

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Off-topic: P990i Sync Working at Last

At long last, the sync software for my SonyEricsson P990i mobile phone has started to work as it should. I have had an issue with synching of contacts since back in the days of my P900, where for some reason it would delete most of the contacts from my phone when synchronizing. I never managed to quite work out why, but I suspect it had something to do with a combination of contacts being in an unusual place in Outlook, and there being some 1600 of them when I was also synchronizing Outlook with a Salesforce install we used to have.

There were workarounds like forced sync in place that kept the phone very useful. But now, with version 1.5.8 of the PCSuite for Smartphones, it has started to work as it should have all along. Nice. Too bad this is coming pretty late in the life of this phone, got it almost two years ago and after the summer it is time to see what they have got to replace it. The P1i is too similar to the P990i to be worthwhile, waiting for the next-gen UIQ phone after that.

And yes, I do like the UIQ phones. They have their quirks, sure, but they also have lots of nice features. And for me, they tend to just work as you expect. Since I have learnt to use them, I guess. But in any case, next phone is likely also a SonyEricsson P-something.