For a long time already, pretty much the only comments that my blog sites receive are coming from spammers. I have the setting that all new commenters’ comments go for moderation, and I manually delete them all, so they do not serve any purpose for a spammer, either. The original character of blogs as social sites of discussion have long been replaced by social network services, most notably by Facebook, Twitter and Google+. These days, the comments that a note like this one receives, take place in these various services, where original content is being linked to, “liked” and circulated. This is not a particularly good thing if you consider gathering together the various discussion threads, or would like to return to those comments at some point in the future. All those comments will be lost in the constant status update stream of social media, unfortunately. I am now seriously considering closing the comment function altogether from my blogs, and will most likely implement this change in the near future. It will be possible to send me comments via email, of course, and my preferred social network site for public discussion today is Google+ (there are links to my profile in this blog), but any comments, in any platform, are really welcome.
Category Archives: personal diary
I have been testing two very good tablets recently: iPad Mini with Retina Display (Cellular) and Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition, LTE). In principle I would say that if you already are using a large-screen, phablet-style smartphone (like the Samsung Galaxy S4 I am using daily), and also carry around a powerful and light-weight laptop for the serious work stuff, tablet has a rather tight spot to cover. It is mostly too large to fit into your pocket (maybe a 7″ model like Nexus 7 can do that, however) so it not always available in the same way your smartphone is. And since the tablet does not have a full, dedicated keyboard and multitasking-oriented OS like your laptop has, it is not as efficient in the actual work, either. What to think about the continuing success of tablets, then?
When Apple introduced the original iPad, there were many who were sceptical about the actual benefits of again introducing the third, “middle category”, and there had been previous attempts to implement and market tablet computers and those had not been particularly successful. Apple’s virtue has been in the combination of extremely polished user experience with straightforward access to the key contents that most people actually care about. iPad proved that music, movies, photos, web and email can be rather well be handled also with a responsive, nicely designed tablet device.
iPad Mini with Retina Display continues the tradition of design excellence in Apple products. It is absolutely one of the most beautiful products of industrial design I have ever beheld. The care to the detail is admirable, and it is pleasure to touch and study this mini marvel. I have also been testing the new iPad Air and the new Mini has all the bells and whistles like its bigger brother, and it also boasts the same display resolution, just squeezed into significantly smaller frame. (There are some rather minor differences in processor power and in colour accuracy, in addition to size, to iPad Air’s benefit.) The iOS app ecosystem is the best in the mobile universe, and this concerns particularly the quality of applications. Many of the best iOS apps are just pleasure to use, so most games, lifestyle and productivity apps work best in the iOS environment. The main limitations, however, are at the growingly clear lack of innovation: iOS7, the newest version of Apple’s mobile operating system is prettier and in some areas clearly better than older versions of iOS. But the live titles and more flexible control scheme of Windows Phone provide more information at a glance, and Android is much more flexible and comes in myriad variations, with tools that a power user in particular can appreciate.
Google’s Nexus line of “stock Android” tablets and phones is perhaps the best example of the benefits that a modern mobile OS can provide, but there were important reasons why I wanted to turn my attention to a Galaxy Note this time. Most important of them was the “S Pen” stylus and its associated operating system enhancements.
Samsung’s S Pen is equipped with the state-of-the-art technology by Wacom, long-time leader in stylus and digitizing solutions. It is fascinating to see the fast reaction of tablet to the approacing tip of the small stylus, and writing and controlling of the tablet is effortless with the S Pen. It feels nice to be able to scribble handwritten text into a search box or straight into a document, and see the software automatically recognise and transform it into text. With Galaxy Note 10.1, I can take a PDF contract document, sent my a publisher, for example, and simply sign it with the S Pen, and email it back. This kind of common task has involved frustratingly complex negotiations between the hybrid worlds of print and digital documents, and now, with the help of S Pen and the magic of Evernote Skitch (a premium, paid feature), annotating PDFs is finally made natural and easy.
The downsides of Android’s increased capabilities include that often there is higher threshold of learning all the various features that manufacturers have made available to the user. iPad and its apps usually do less, but do it better. When I want to play games or consume content, I definitely lean more towards iPad Mini or iPad Air than an Android device. But when I today consider which device to pack with me for that next work trip, the choice is much harder. There is much B-quality bloatware and superfluous stuff in Samsung’s tablet, but also some really unique and genuinely useful features that make the life of a power user much easier. It is difficult to say what will be the outcome of the mobile competition in the long run, but the latest generation of tablets provide delightful and great user experiences, making a compelling case for the continuous existence of tablets as a device category.
The battery life of the new, Haswell+Retina display version of MacBook Pro is pretty wonderful. The Engadget tests marked it at 11 hours 18 minutes run life, and while I was today working in the airplane with Wi-Fi turned off, it promised to deliver even more.
Mac is not a perfect thing, of course. I have got my share of kernel panic/crashed apps (Steam, for example), and the first thing when out of box, this thing had was to completely hang up the touchpad and keyboard (there was a fix by Apple for that particular bug). But there are clear benefits of manufacturing hardware in intimate connection with the software, like this battery example proves. In the Windows ecosystem it is difficult to achieve anything similar, since no one one party controls the hardware, applications and drivers that make all of them come together. There is much less choice, and OS X is very much a “walled garden”, but if you are willing to take the leap, there are clear benefits to reap. Now, if I only could re-educate the 20 years of muscle memory to reprogram new keyboard shortcuts to come automatically from my fingers…
My ASUS Vivobook X202E is an excellent little machine – I really appreciate it’s compact form factor, good keyboard and bright multitouch screen. However, with the slow HDD, display driver and processor it has also its clear limitations. There is not much I can do with the processor or display driver – the reality is that as more and more of people will adopt laptop computers as their primary home PCs, rather than desktop ones, the fixability and maintainability of ICT keeps going down. However, I wanted to try upgrading the HDD into a SSD, since there was evidence online that this could be done.
The first choice concerned identifying the right Solid State Drive to fit the purpose. Samsung’s 840 EVO series was finally an obvious choice, since it was 7 mm thin, so it did fit physically, it was rather fast, and also optimized in terms of power efficiency, so that it did suit the purpose as a laptop upgrade. I picked the 250 GB version, while being tempted also with the 500 GB one; I did consider the cost, however, still being prohibitive in the larger model. Smaller than 250 GB on the other hand did not make sense in terms of fitting in my OS, applications and the necessary working documents.
The first steps involved re-partitioning the original HDD so that it could be cloned to the SSD. I removed all data that I could later sync from our home server or from the cloud services, deleted the data partition entirely, and tried moving the recovery partition to the middle of the disk. I installed and used the free version of “EaseUS Partition Master” (be careful to deselect all freebie crapware options during its installation, though). As to the actual data or disk cloning, Samsung EVO SSD comes with the necessary SATA-USB3 adapter cable and “Samsung Data Migration” software that seemed to do it job (I have not yet tested the recovery partition, though, so I am not sure whether it made through the cloning). But the new SSD disk boots, it is recognized automatically by the UEFI (Windows 8 BIOS system), and the Windows as well as Office 2013 installations still authenticate as legitimate.
If your goal is not to clone the old system with its Windows 8 Starter Edition, but rather to install another, more featured OS, Linux, OS X or some multiboot setup, then I recommend doing some further research before going ahead with the SSD operation. People have had mixed success and you need to start by disabling UEFI, disabling “Secure Boot”, then enabling “Legacy Boot” in the BIOS. I am also not sure whether e.g. Linux will have all the drivers to get the touchscreen, touchpad, hotkeys and all the other features working as intented – but I am interested to hear about the experiments in those directions.
As to the actual physical part of opening the Vivobook, removing the old HDD and installing the SSD, there is a good visual guide by Neil Berman here: http://www.durhamcomputerservices.com/theonbutton-blog/asus-vivobook-x202e-s200e-q200e-ssd-hard-drive-upgrade.html
After putting everything back in, the reboot will kick Windows into a prolonged startup phase during which it will apparently install some SSD related drivers or settings. I did also install and run the “Samsung Magician” tool, which claims to provide various optimization options for running the Windows OS over a SSD.
The actual speed gain is noticeable, and the relevant figure in the Windows experience index showed the rise from c. 5 to over 8 when tests were re-run after the SSD installation. But this will not of course magically trasform the 500 euro budget laptop into a 1500 euro ultrabook. The slow processor, bit clumsy form factor, lack of keyboard backlight – all those issues still remain. But the upgrade will definitely make the Vivobook more usable and responsive, which was the main goal at least in my case.
I did the Windows 8 upgrade to my workhorse Vaio Z3 (short for Vaio, Z Series, 3rd Generation) today. My experiences from testing with the Asus Vivobook had been mostly positive, and as I had started getting bluescreens to Windows 7 in Vaio, it crashed if it went to sleep mode, the PMD discrete Radeon card was no longer recognised, etc., it would had been necessary to reinstall its OS in any case.
It was necessary to unplug the PMD during the installation, as that peripheral meant that Windows 8 would get stuck into the adding devices phase. And that meant borrowing another external DVD drive to access the installation media from, but otherwise the process was pretty straightforward. Some drivers had to be removed prior to installation and loads of drivers for Windows 8 were available from the Sony support page for Windows 8 upgrade. The only thing missing was the display driver for the hybrid Radeon/Intel display system Vaio Z3 is using. I try to post the link for that later, it is an unofficial beta thing, but seems to work fine with the PMD.
I just placed an order for Asus Vivobook X202E – a small and affordable, touchscreen-enabled Windows 8 mini-laptop. This will be an upgrade to the Samsung N220 netbook I got in March 2010. Windows 8 does not make much sense without touchscreen, and it’s success will be related to how fast people will move to hybrid, touch-enabled paradigm. Working (at home) with the Vivobook should provide opportunity for some experimentation. Its battery is not good enough for serious on-the-road use, but for home it should be ok, we will see…
X202E is not a high-end device, but if you update the touchpad driver and do a few other tweaks, it should be enough for most things. There are good tips in the Amazon.com reviews: http://www.amazon.com/VivoBook-X202E-DH31T-11-6-Inch-Touch-Laptop/product-reviews/B009F1I1C4/
Having spent some time travelling to the other side of the world recently, I have come to think about the role of Internet, content and technology a bit differently than before. The key lesson has been how useless the promises of various media and service ecosystems are, if you cannot access them. You might have bought access to a streaming media service that would be really useful for you and your family while you are away from your friends and family, but you cannot use it, since streaming media is just extremely expensive. Or you might go out and buy a DVD or Blu-ray, but you cannot play it on your device, since it is coming from another “Area” than that of the content you just bought. It is no matter if you try using your iTunes content, something that you could buy from Google Play, or from Microsoft – all those shiny devices and smart services are inherently fragile, dependent on whether there is an open Wi-Fi hotspot somewhere (probably with a 50 megabyte/30 minutes download cap), where you could try to make them run for a moment.
Having to admit that living with unlimited Internet broadband in a well-connected Western country definitely frames this issue as a “First World Problem”, but the lack of a global, pervasive Internet backbone is an issue larger than that. As long as our network technologies are based on high-speed access that is restricted to few urban centres, the true usefulness and radically democratizing potential of Internet and connected services remains limited at best. We need much more ambitious endeavours to get the entire planed connected: this is an issue that can be backed up by commercial, political and even ecological reasons. Establishing solid, reliable links between people living in their villages in the South and the North as well as in the East and the West, can promote local empowerment as well as global collaboration and exchange that is qualitative leap over the current situation.
Satellite data is prohibitively expensive today, but if the initiatives in this area would be given a high enough priority, there is no stopping us having a truly networked world where the global “infosphere” of sharing and communication would be available on equal basis, regardless of the geographical location.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all readers of this blog!
Our visit in New Zealand is soon over; after Christmas we will start packing and then return to the land of snow.
The visit has been an inspiring and memorable experience. Many thanks to Gareth Schott and his colleagues in the department of Screen and Media Studies of the University of Waikato for hosting the visit. Thanks also to the Nokia Visiting Professor grant and the Marsden Fund for making the visit possible.
In addition to Hamilton we have visited several other places in New Zealand, particularly in the North Island. Volcanoes, hot springs, geysers, waterfalls, kiwi birds and kiwi fruits – we have seen it all.
There has been a couple of special visits: I gave a talk about the game research in the Classification Office and we took the opportunity to do sight-seeing in Wellington for a couple of days. Another major trip was to the South Island: we flew to Queenstown via Christchurch, with the aim to do a day-trip and cruise to Milford Sound. Unfortunately the road to Milford was closed and our day-trip cancelled. We spent two days in Queenstown instead. Finally, there was kind invitation to come and see the work of game art and programming students in Media Design School in Auckland. Interesting demonstrations and a lively, interesting city.
There is much to write from all kinds of interesting experiences in New Zealand, but since I am typing this with the small iPhone keyboard, I have to stop now. (Good and affordable Internet connections are not among the strengths of this country.)
Merry Christmas – Meri Kirihimete ki a koe me te whānau!
On the road again. This time I will speak first in Lastensuojelupäivät (The Finnish child welfare professionals’ conference, taking place in Finlandia Hall in Helsinki) with Juho Karvonen about Player Barometer and how game playing is a part (in good as well as in bad) of adult as well as children’s lives today, and how we should respond to games’ many potentials responsibly. Then, also in Helsinki, speaking in the executive strategy seminar of YLE, the public broadcasting company about playfulness and gamification in a transmedial, increasingly play-literate culture. Finally, tomorrow I will head to Oulainen for Ilona Seminar (the Southern Oulu region librarians’ seminar) where I will speak about games as culture and the relation of game play and libraries. And then back to home for some busy days there.
My new workhorse, Vaio Z (3rd generation), arrived today. It is bit early to say anything conclusive yet, but mostly my first impressions are positive. The overall build quality is better than in the first generation “Z” that I have been using so far. The Full HD screen is very sharp and colours are vivid. The laptop is very light, even while after the long-duration sheet battery has been added the weight goes up a bit. The keyboard feel is pretty good even while the key travel is so short it takes some time getting used to. But luckily the “click” (tactile-auditive feedback) you get from the keys is ok.
My main concerns right now relate to the touchpad. On the other hand it is a clear upgrade from 1st generation Vaio Z’s touchpad that did not properly support multitouch. Here you can do all the scrolling and rotating gestures you most usually need. But touchpad is rather small, and most serious thing is the nonreponsive left mouse button. There must be something wrong with its mechanical construction – getting it to register button clicks is pretty frustrating hit and miss thing. Really unacceptable from a laptop of this caliber. I still need to check whether this could be something that a driver upgrade could fix.
Things that I have not yet got any chance to test include the discrete graphics chip in the Power Media Dock, in Blu-ray as well as gaming modes. It is also interesting to see how long the battery will actually last: since the sheet battery is installed on top of the regular one, there is two of them, and it seems that when the power brick is not plugged in, Z3/Win7 first starts draining the long-life battery and the regular one will stay in 100%. Sony promises 14 hours of usage, but I will see this in the real life later.
Also, I have not found yet where to insert SIM card (this thing should come with 4G/LTE mobile data module). Maybe it is buried underneath the battery compartment like in the old Z1.