Microblogging

Diablo3.
My updates about e.g. Diablo3, or Pokémon GO, will go into https://frans.game.blog/.

I decided to experiment with microblogging, and set up three new sites: https://frans.photo.blog/https://frans.tech.blog/ and https://frans.game.blog/. All these “dot-blog” subdomains are now offered free by WordPress.com (see: https://en.blog.wordpress.com/2018/11/28/announcing-free-dotblog-subdomains/). The idea is to post my photos, game and tech updates into these sites, for fast updates and for better organisation, than in a “general” blog site, and also to avoid spamming those in social media, who are not interested in these topics. Feel free to subscribe – or, set up your own blog.

Personal Computers as Multistratal Technology

HP-Sure-Run-Error
HP “Sure Run” technology here getting into conflicts with the OS and/or computer BIOS itself.

As I was struggling through some operating system updates and other installs (and uninstalls) this week, I was again reminded about the history of personal computers, and about their (fascinating, yet often also frustrating) character as multistratal technology. By this I mean their historically, commercially and pragmatically multi-layered nature. A typical contemporary personal computer is a laptop more often than a desktop computer (this has been the situation for numerous years already, see e.g. https://www.statista.com/statistics/272595/global-shipments-forecast-for-tablets-laptops-and-desktop-pcs/). Whereas a personal computer in a desktop format is still something that one can realistically consider to construct by combining various standards-following parts and modules, and expect to start operating after installation of an operating system (plus typically some device drivers), the laptop computer is always configured and tweaked into particular interpretation of what a personal computing device should be – for this price group, for this usage category, with these special, differentiating features. The keyboard is typically customised to fit into the (metal and/or plastic) body so that the functions of a standard 101/102-key PC keyboard layout (originally by Mark Tiddens of Key Tronic, 1982, then adopted by IBM) are fitted into e.g. c. 80 physical keys of a laptop computer. As the portable computers have become smaller, there has been increased need to do various customised solutions, and a keyboard is a good example of this, as different manufacturers appear to resort each into their own style of fitting e.g. function keys, volume up/down, brightness controls and other special keys into same physical keys, using various keyboard press combinations. While this means that it is hard to be a complete touch-typist if one is changing from one brand of laptops to another one (as the special keys will be in different places), one should still remember that in the early days of computers, and even in the era of early home and personal computers, the keyboards were even much more different from each other, than they are in today’s personal computers. (See e.g. Wikipedia articles for: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_keyboard and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Function_key).

The heritage of IBM personal computers (the “original PCs”) coupled with the Microsoft operating systems, (first DOS, then various Windows versions) has meant that there is much shared DNA in how the hardware and software of contemporary personal computers is designed. And even Apple Macintosh computers share much of similar roots with those of IBM PC heritage – most importantly due to the influential role that the graphical user interface and with its (keyboard and mouse accessed) windows, menus and other graphical elements originating in Douglas Engelbart’s On-Line System, then in Xerox PARC and Alto computers had for both Apple’s macOS and Microsoft Windows. All these historical elements, influences and (industry) standards are nevertheless layered in complex manner in today’s computing systems. It is not feasible to “start from an empty table”, as the software that organisations and individuals have invested in using needs to be accessible in the new systems, as also the skill sets of human users themselves are based on similarity and compatibility with the old ways of operating computers.

Today Apple with its Mac computers and Google with the Chromebook computers that it specifies (and sometimes also designs to the hardware level) are most optimally positioned to produce a harmonious and unified whole, out of these disjointed origins. And the reliability and generally positive user experiences provided both by Macs and Chromebooks indeed bears witness to the strength of unified hardware-software design and production. On the other hand, the most popular platform – that of a personal computer running a Microsoft Windows operating system – is the most challenging from the unity, coherence and reliability perspectives. (According to reports, the market share of Windows is above 75 %, macOS at c. 20 %, Google’s ChromeOS at c. 5 % and Linux at c. 2 % in most markets of desktop and laptop computers.)

A contemporary Windows laptop is set up in a complex network of collaborative, competitive and parallel operations networks of multiple operators. There is the actual manufacturer and packager of computers that markets and delivers certain, branded products to users: Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and numerous others. Then there is Microsoft who develops and licences the Windows operating system to these OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers), collaborating to various degrees with them, and with the developers of PC components and other device makers. For example, a “peripheral” manufacturer like Logitech develops computer mice, keyboards and other devices that should install and run in a seamless manner when connected to desktop or laptop computer that has been put together by some OEM, which, in turn, has been combining hardware and software elements coming from e.g. Intel (which develops and manufactures the CPUs, Central Processing Units, but also affiliated motherboard “chipsets”, integrated graphics processing units and such), Samsung (which develops and manufactures e.g. memory chips, solid state drives and display components) or Qualcomm (which is best known for their wireless components, such as cellular modems, Bluetooth products and Wi-Fi chipsets). In order for the new personal computer to run smoothly after it has been turned on for the first time, the operating system should have right updates and drivers for all such components. As new technologies are constantly introduced, and the laptop computer in particular follows the evolution of smartphones in sensor technologies (e.g. in using fingerprint readers or multiple camera systems to do biometric authentication of the user), there are constant needs for updates that involve both the operating system itself, and the firmware (deep, hardware-close level software) as well as operating system level drivers and utility programs, that are provided by the component, device, or computer manufacturers.

The sad truth is, that often these updates do not work out that fine. There are endless stories in the user discussion and support forums in the Internet, where unhappy customers describe their frustrations while attempting to update Windows (as Microsoft advices them), the drivers and utility programs (as the computer manufacturer instructs them), and/or the device drivers (that are directly provided by the component manufacturers, such as Intel or Qualcomm). There is just so much opportunity for conflicts and errors, even while the big companies of course try to test their software before it is released to customers. The Windows PC ecosystem is just so messy, heterogeneous and historically layered, that it is impossible to test beforehand every possible combination of hardware and software that the user might be having on their devices.

Adobe-Update-Issue
Adobe Acrobat Reader update error.

In practice there are just few common rules of thumb. E.g. it is a good idea to postpone installing the most recent version of the operating system as long as possible, since the new one will always have more compatibility issues until it has been tested in “real world”, and updated a few times. Secondly, while the most recent and advanced functionalities are something that are used in marketing and in differentiation of the laptop from the competing models, it is in these new features where most of the problems will probably appear. One could play safe, and wipe out all software and drivers that the OEM had installed into their computer, and reinstall a “pure” Windows OS into the new computer instead. But this can mean that some of the new components do not operate in advertised ways. Myself, I usually test the OEM recommended setup and software (and all recommended updates) for a while, but also do regular backups, restore points, and keep a reinstall media available, just in case something goes wrong. And unfortunately, quite often this happens, and returning to the original state, or even doing a full, clean reinstall is needed. In a more “typical” or average combination of hardware and software such issues are not so common, but if one works with new technologies and features, then such consequences of complexity, heterogeneity and multistratal character of personal computers can indeed be expected. Sometimes, only trial and error helps: the most recent software and drivers might be needed to solve issues, but sometimes it is precisely the new software that produces the problems, and the solution is going back to some older versions. Sometimes disabling some function helps, sometimes only way into proper reliability is just completely uninstalling an entire software suite by a certain manufacturer, even if it means giving up some promised, advanced functionalities. Life might just be simpler that way.

Zombies and the Shared Sensorium

I have studied immersive phenomena over the years, and still am fascinated by what Finnish language so aptly catches with the idiom “Muissa maailmoissa” (literally: “in other worlds” – my dictionary suggests as an English translation “away with the fairies”, but I am not sure about that).

There is a growing concern with the effects of digital technologies, social media, and with games and smartphones in particular, as they appear to be capable of transporting increasing numbers of people into other worlds. It is unnerving to be living surrounded by zombies, we are told: people who stare into other realities, and do not respond to our words, need for eye contact or physical touch. Zombies are everywhere: sitting in cafeterias and shopping centres, sometimes slowly walking, with their eyes focused in gleaming screens, or listening some invisible sounds. Zombies have left their bodies here, in our material world, but their minds and mental focus has left this world, and is instead transported somewhere else.

The problem with the capacity to construct mental models and living the life as semiotic life-forms has always included somewhat troublesome existential polyphony – or, as Bakhtin wrote, it is impossible for the self to completely coincide with itself. We are inaccessible to ourselves, as much as we are to others. Our technologies have not historically remedied this condition. The storytelling technologies made our universes polyphonic with myths and mythical beings; our electronic communication technologies made our mental ecosystems polyphonic with channels, windows, and (non-material) rooms; and our computing technologies made our distributed cognition polyphonic with polyphonic memory and intelligence that does not coincide with our person, even when designed to be personalized.

Of course, we need science fiction for our redemption, like it has always been. There are multiple storyworlds with predictive power that forecast the coming of shared sensorium: seeing what you see, with your eyes, hearing your hearings. We’ll inevitably also ask: how about memory, cognition, emotion – cannot we also remember your remembering, and feel your thinking? Perhaps. Yet, the effect will no doubt fail to remedy our condition, once more. There can be interesting variations of mise-en-abyme: shared embeddedness into each other’s feeds, layers, windows and whispers. Yet, all that sharing can still contain only moments of clear togetherness, or desolate loneliness. But the polyphony of it all will be again an order of magnitude more complex than the previous polyphonies we have inhabited.

#Tampere3, luottamus ja tieteen selkäranka

Viime aikoina on levinnyt hälyttäviä uutisia: Tampereen uuden yliopiston johtosäännössä on uutisoitu olevan lainvastaisuuksia, ja yliopistoyhteisön keskeiset ryhmät ovat jättäneet kantelun eduskunnan oikeusasiamiehelle. Siirtymävaiheen hallituksen menettelyjen ja sen laatiman johtosäännön kirjausten on uutisissa kerrottu vaarantavan perustuslaissa turvatun yliopistojen hallinnollisen autonomian ja tieteellisen riippumattomuuden. Suomen Kuvalehti julkaisi äskettäin johtavan suomalaisen sosiologin, akatemiaprofessori Pertti Alasuutarin kirjoituksen, missä hän katsoo, että Teknologiateollisuus haluaa sanella, millaista uuden yliopiston tutkimus ja opetus ovat, ja vakavasti harkitsee, haluaako enää jatkaa uuden yliopiston palveluksessa. Akateemisen maailman ulkopuolisille voi helposti olla epäselvää, mistä on kysymys. Eivätkö yliopistot halua olla vuorovaikutuksessa ympäröivän yhteiskunnan kanssa? Eikö yliopistoyhteisön mielestä tieteellä pitäisi olla positiivisia vaikutuksia yhteiskuntaan?

Olen itse toiminut Tampereen yliopistossa vuodesta 1985, jolloin aloitin siellä opintoni. Toimin tällä hetkellä professorina, viestintätieteiden tiedekunnan varadekaanina ja Suomen Akatemian tieteen huippuyksikön johtajana. Toimin aiemmin myös OKM:n asettaman Tampere3-ohjausryhmän professorikuntaa edustavana jäsenenä. Olen johtanut kymmeniä ulkopuolisella, kilpailulla rahoituksella toteutettuja tutkimushankkeita, ja monissa niissä meillä on ollut kumppanina yrityksiä, yhteisöjä tai muita, akateemisen maailman ulkopuolisia tahoja. Pääsääntöisesti olen kokenut tämän yhteistyön ja vuorovaikutuksen rikastuttavana, ja pidän kannatettavana sitä perustavaa visiota, että uusi Tampere3-korkeakoulu on tiiviisti kiinni ympäröivässä maailmassa, ja hyödyntää esimerkiksi Tampereen kaupunkia laajana ”koelaboratoriona”, missä erilaisia monimutkaisia todellisen maailman ongelmia voidaan yhteistyössä pyrkiä niin tutkimaan kuin ehkä myös osin ratkaisemaan. Minusta on myös hyvä asia, että osana yliopisto-opintoja on monitieteisiä projektiopintoja, missä erilaisten yhteistyökumppanien kanssa tartutaan myös käytännöllisiin haasteisiin, tutkitaan, kokeillaan ja kehitetään käytännössä korkeakoulutetulta asiantuntijalta tulevaisuudessa edellytettäviä taitoja. Tällaiset elementit on sisällytetty tiedekuntamme tutkinto-ohjelmien tuleviin opetussuunnitelmiin.

Tieteellisen toiminnan riippumattomuus ja autonomia on kuitenkin periaatteellisesti erittäin tärkeä; kyseessä on luovuttamaton osa yliopistojen perusolemusta. Kun siitä aletaan tinkiä, ei kohta enää olla aidossa tiedeyliopistossa. Tietyillä aloilla tämä on erittäin paljaassa muodossa näkyvissä: jos lääketieteellisen tutkijan havaitaan ottaneen rahaa vastaan tupakkateollisuudelta, herää välittömästi epäilys hänen tupakan terveysvaikutuksia koskevan tutkimuksensa riippumattomuudesta. Tutkimusta lukevan mielessä voi herätä kysymys, onko taustayhteisö jotenkin ohjaillut kysymyksenasettelua, tutkimukseen valittua näkökulmaa, tai suoraan pyrkinyt estämään ei-toivottujen tutkimustulosten päätymistä julkisuuteen. Jonkin intressiryhmän ”omistuksessa” (ja omistajaohjauksessa) oleva yliopisto tuskin kokonaisuudessaan helposti joutuu yhtä radikaalien epäluulojen alle, mutta kysymyksiä voi nousta siitä, onko tällaisissa puitteissa tehtävä tutkimustyö näkökulmiltaan kapea-alaisempaa, tai jossain määrin älyllisesti epärehellistä, verrattuna toisella tavalla profiloituneessa yliopistossa tehtävään.

Tieteen autonomia ja yliopistojen itsehallinto on kirjattu perustuslakiin juuri sen takia, että tällaisia epäilyksiä ei voisi laajamittaisesti syntyä, ja että meillä olisi riippumattomia tiedeinstituutioita, jotka puolueettomasti, kansainvälisten käytänteiden mukaisesti vertaisarvioivat toinen toistensa toimintaa. Jos yliopiston perustamiseen ja sen strategian määrittämiseen alkaa keskeisesti sekaantua vaikkapa erilaisia kaupallisia intressejä, ei tällainen yliopisto pian enää näyttäydy kansainvälisten kumppaniensa rinnalla uskottavana, puolueetonta tiedonintressiä ja kriittistä ajattelua tinkimättömästi edistävänä toimijana. Valitettavasti tällaisia epäilyksiä alkaa jo ilmeisesti nousta varjostamaan uuden Tampereen yliopiston syntyä. Sen sijaan, että julkisuuteen olisi välittynyt vahva kuva siitä kuinka siirtymävaiheen hallitus ja sen piirissä vaikuttavat tietyt perustajatahot pyrkisivät pyyteettömästi edistämään tiedettä, ja työskentelisivät aidosti tiedettä vaalivana, yleishyödyllisenä säätiönä, onkin jouduttu seuraamaan monivaiheista näytelmää, missä kulissien takainen painostus on lopulta noussut myös julkisuuteen: uutisten mukaan OKM oli uhkaillut TaYn hallitusta ja rehtoria rahoituksen vähenemisellä ja hallituksen jäsenten henkilökohtaisella korvausvastuulla, ellei ulkopuolisten perustajien valitsemaa siirtymävaiheen säätiöhallitusta hyväksytä esitetyssä kokoonpanossaan; samoin on kerrottu siitä kuinka siirtymävaiheen hallitus olisi puolestaan mm. pantannut valmistelemaansa uuden yliopiston johtosääntöluonnosta valintansa vahvistamiseen saakka, mikä jälkeen on paljastettu johtosääntö, joka siirtäisi yliopiston ylimmän päätösvallan täysin yliopistoyhteisön ulkopuolisille tahoille; ja kun vaaleilla (asetettujen kiintiösääntöjen puitteissa) valittu konsistori on ryhtynyt toteuttamaan laissa taattua tehtäväänsä uuden hallituksen valinnassa, muuttaakin siirtymävaiheen hallitus kesken kaiken johtosääntöä, siten että siirtymävaiheen hallituksen omaa valtaa vahvistetaan kautta linjan (ks. linkit alla). Tällainen menettely ei täytä hyvän hallintotavan kriteerejä, ja siirtymävaiheen hallituksen toiminnasta onkin jätetty valitus myös hallinto-oikeuteen.

Harmillista on, että vaikka kuuluisi siihenkin yliopistoyhteisön ryhmään (kuten itse kuulun), jonka mielestä tietyt siirtymävaiheen hallituksen tavoittelemat uudistukset ovat sinänsä oikean suuntaisia, on niitä vaikea puolustaa, kun valittu toimintamalli vie jatkuvasti pohjaa luottamukselta. Jo yksinomaan jatkuva salailu asioiden valmistelussa on täysin kestämätöntä – ja suorastaan sen julkisuuslain vastaista joka ohjaa yliopistojen kaltaisia, julkista valtaa käyttäviä toimijoita. Julkisuuslain rikkomuksista uutisoitiin laajasti mm. uuden rehtorin valintaprosessin yhteydessä (ks. alla).

Vielä kertauksena: lainsäädännön ylin tulkitsija, eduskunnan perustuslakivaliokunta on siis Tampereen yliopiston perustamista koskevassa lausunnossaan korostanut, että ”myös säätiöyliopiston hallituksen kokoonpanon on määräydyttävä yliopistoyhteisön itsensä päätöksin ja vastaavia periaatteita noudattaen kuin julkisoikeudellisissa yliopistoissa” (PeVL 11/2009 vp, s. 4/II: https://www.eduskunta.fi/FI/vaski/Lausunto/Documents/pevl_11+2009.pdf ). Lisäksi valiokunta on säätiöyliopistojen osalta painottanut, että ”sikäli kuin tällaisia laitoksia pidetään yliopistoina, niiden tulee toiminnassaan pystyä tarjoamaan takeet perustuslain 16 §:n 3 momentin täyttämisestä ja olla hallinnollisesti niin järjestettyjä, että tiede ja tutkimusyhteisön itsehallinto tulee niissä turvatuksi perustuslain 123 §:ssä tarkoitetulla tavalla ’sen mukaan kuin lailla tarkemmin säädetään’ (PeVL 11/2009 vp, s. 4/I). Näillä vaatimuksilla turvataan yliopiston toiminnan perustuslain 16 §:n 3 momentissa mainittua ydintä, joka on vapaa tiede, taide ja ylin opetus.” (Ks. https://www.eduskunta.fi/FI/vaski/Lausunto/Sivut/PeVL_43+2017.aspx )
Uuden yliopistolain käsittelyn yhteydessä perustuslakivaliokunta puolestaan lausui mm. näin: ”Näin ollen mikään lainsäätäjän valitsema sääntelyvaihtoehto ei saa johtaa siihen, että yliopistoyhteisö ei voi valita hallituksen enemmistöä yliopiston sisäisistä ryhmistä. Säätiöyliopistojen erityiseen rakenteeseen ja organisoitumismuotoon viitaten valiokunta ei kuitenkaan nähnyt perustuslain 123 §:n 1 momentista johtuvaa estettä sille, että säätiön perustaneille tahoille jo lailla turvataan tietty vähemmistöedustus hallituksessa, esimerkiksi kaksi paikkaa seitsemästä. Näidenkin hallituksen jäsenten tuli kuitenkin olla yliopistoyhteisön aidosti valittavissa.” (PeVL 18/2009 vp) Siirtymäkauden hallituksen ajama linja sulkea tamperelainen tiedeyhteisö ulos yliopiston hallinnosta on siis useassa suhteessa perustuslain vastainen. (Ks. lausunto: https://www.eduskunta.fi/FI/vaski/Lausunto/Documents/pevl_18+2009.pdf )

Henkilökohtaisena kommenttina todettakoon, että ymmärrän täysin professori Alasuutarin syvän turhautumisen, eikä kyseessä ole tutkijoiden, tai ylimmän tutkimusjohdon parissa mikään yksittäistapaus. Olen ulkomailla joskus törmännyt yliopiston nimeä käyttävään opinahjoon, missä professori kertoi katkerana, että hänen täytyy jopa keskiajan historiaa käsittelevää kurssiehdotusta tehdessään aina lomakkeella perustella, miten tämä kurssi edistää yritysten työvoimatarpeita, kansallista kilpailukykyä tai muuta yhteiskunnallista menestystä. Muistan silloisen syvän säälin ja myötähäpeän tunteet; kohtaaminen jäi mieleen varoittavana esimerkkinä siitä viestistä, mitä perustava kyvyttömyys ymmärtää tieteellisen toiminnan perusluonnetta välitti siitä kulttuurista, millä tuota laitosta yritettiin johtaa. Voi olla, että tieteellisen perustutkimuksen synnyttämä ymmärrys auttaa pitkällä tähtäimellä jonkin merkittävän ongelman ratkaisemisessa, mutta tällaisen välineellisen ajattelun pakottaminen kaikkea tiedettä johtavaksi strategiseksi pääperiaatteeksi on hyvin vaarallista, ainakin jos halutaan luoda uskottava tiedeyliopisto. Jos sen sijaan tavoitteena on luoda jotain aivan muuta, se on toinen asia. Silloin kannattaa tuo toinen tavoite lausua ääneen, jotta osaamme tehdä siitä oikeat päätelmät. Selvää on, että nyt valitut toimintalinjat ovat jo vaikuttaneet demoralisoivasti moniin tieteentekijöihin. Prosessi on myös aiheuttanut yliopistolle mahdollisesti vielä pitkään vaikuttavaa mainehaittaa ainakin tiedeyhteisön parissa. On selkeän korjausliikkeen paikka.

Lisäluettavaa aiheesta, ks. esimerkiksi:

(Edit 10.6.2018: korjattu typo: Latvapuro > Lavapuro.)

Professorial Fellow (tutkijaprofessori), starting in August

img_8012I was happy to note the news today that I had been selected as the Professorial Fellow (tutkijaprofessori) into the Institute for Advanced Social Research (IASR) in the research collegium of the University of Tampere. This will be for a fixed term of one year, and I will also remain in the role of director of Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies. But my job description will change for the coming academic year, so that I will leave most (the idea is: ALL) teaching and administration, and just focus on doing research for one year.

I have done long days in the service of multiple departments, schools and faculties, since 2006 in the administrative roles of Deputy Director, and then as the Vice Dean, so after those 12 years, it feels great to be able to clean the calendar a bit, expand the horizons, and just focus on actual research work for a full year.

My research plan for this year is titled “Empowerment and exclusion – Meaning and agency in contemporary game cultures”, and you can also go and read about all the other new collegium research fellows (in Finnish) from here: http://www.uta.fi/ajankohtaista/uutinen/uudet-kollegiumtutkijat-valittiin-0.

Summer Computing

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Working with my Toshiba Chromebook 2, in a sunny day.

I am not sure whether this is true for other countries, but after a long, dark and cold winter, Finns want to be outdoors, when it is finally warm and sunny. Sometimes one might even do remote work outdoors, from a park, cafe or bar terrace, and that is when things can get interesting – with that “nightless night” (the sun shining even at midnight), and all.

Surely, for most aims and purposes, summer is for relaxing and dragging your work and laptop always with you to your summer cottage or beach is not a good idea. This is definitely precious time, and you should spend it to with your family and friends, and rewind from the hurries of work. But, if you would prefer (or, even need to, for a reason or another) take some of your work outdoors, the standard work laptop computer is not usually optimal tool for that.

It is interesting to note, that your standard computer screens even today are optimised for a different style of use, as compared to the screens of today’s mobile devices. While the brightest smartphone screens today – e.g. the excellent OLED screen used in Samsung Galaxy S9 – exceed 1000 nits (units of luminance: candela per square meter; the S9 screen is reported to produce max 1130 nits), your typical laptop computer screens max out around measly 200 nits (see e.g. this Laptop Mag test table: https://www.laptopmag.com/benchmarks/display-brightness ). While this is perfectly good while working in a typical indoor, office environment, it is very hard to make out any details of such screens in bright sunlight. You will just squint, get a headache, and hurt your eyes, in the long run. Also, many typical laptop screens today are highly reflective, glossy glass screens, and the matte surfaces, which help against reflections, have been getting very rare.

It is as the “mobile work” that is one of the key puzzwords and trends today, means in practice only indoor-to-indoor style of mobility, rather than implying development of tools for truly mobile work, that would also make it possible to work from a park bench in a sunny day, or from that classical location: dock, next to your trusty rowing boat?

I have been hunting for business oriented laptops that would also have enough maximum screen brightness to scale up to comfortable levels in brighly lit environments, and there are not really that many. Even if you go for tablet computers, which should be optimised for mobile work, the brightness is not really at level with the best smartphone screens. Some of the best figures come from Samsung Galaxy Tab S3, which is 441 nits, iPad Pro 10.5 inch model is reportedly 600 nits, and Google Pixel C has 509 nits maximum. And a tablet devices – even the best of them – do not really work well for all work tasks.

HP ZBook Studio x360 G5
HP ZBook Studio x360 G5 (photo © HP)

HP has recently introduced some interesting devices, that go beyond the dim screens that most other manufacturers are happy with. For example, HP ZBook Studio x360 G5 supposedly comes with a 4k, high resolution anti-glare touch display that supports 100 percent Adobe RPG and which has 600 nits of brightness, which is “20 percent brighter than the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch Retina display and 50 percent brighter than the Dell XPS UltraSharp 4K display”, according to HP. With its 8th generation Xeon processors (pro-equivalent to the hexacore Core i9), this is a powerful, and expensive device, but I am glad someone is showing the way.

EliteBook-X360-2018
HP advertising their new bright laptop display (image © HP)

Even better, the upcoming, updated HP EliteBook x360 G3 convertible should come with a touchscreen that has maximum brightness of 700 nits. HP is advertising this as the “world’s first outdoor viewable display” for a business laptop, which at least sounds very promising. Note though, that this 700 nits can be achieved with only the 1920 x 1080 resolution model; the 4K touch display option has 500 nits, which is not that bad, either. The EliteBooks I have tested also have excellent keyboards, good quality construction and some productivity oriented enhancements that make them an interesting option for any “truly mobile” worker. One of such enhancement is a 4G/LTE data connectivity option, which is a real bless, if one moves fast, opening and closing the laptop in different environments, so that there is no reliable Wi-Fi connection available all the time. (More on HP EliteBook models at: http://www8.hp.com/us/en/elite-family/elitebook-x360-1030-1020.html.)

HP-EliteBook-x360-1030-G3_Tablet
EliteBook x360 G3 in tablet mode (photo © HP)

Apart from the challenges related to reliable data connectivity, a cloud-based file system is something that should be default for any mobile worker. This is related to data security: in mobile work contexts, it is much easier to lose one’s laptop, or get it robbed. Having a fast and reliable (biometric) authentication, encrypted local file system, and instantaneous syncronisation/backup to the cloud, would minimise the risk of critical loss of work, or important data, even if the mobile workstation would drop into a lake, or get lost. In this regard, Google’s Chromebooks are superior, but they typically lack the LTE connectivity, and other similar business essentials, that e.g. the above EliteBook model features. Using a Windows 10 laptop with either full Dropbox synchronisation enabled, or with Microsoft OneDrive as the default save location will come rather close, even if the Google Drive/Docs ecosystem in Chromebooks is the only one that is truly “cloud-native”, in the sense that all applications, settings and everything else also lives in the cloud. Getting back to where you left your work in the Chrome OS means that one just picks up any Chromebook, logs in, and starts with a full access to one’s files, folders, browser addons, bookmarks, etc. Starting to use a new PC is a much less frictionless process (with multiple software installations, add-ons, service account logins, the setup can easily take full working days).

20180519_083722.jpgIf I’d have my ideal, mobile work oriented tool from today’s tech world, I’d pick the business-enhanced hardware of HP EliteBook, with it’s bright display and LTE connectivity, and couple those with a Chrome OS, with it’s reliability and seamless online synchronisation. But I doubt that such a combo can be achieved – or, not yet, at least. Meanwhile, we can try to enjoy the summer, and some summer work, in bit more sheltered, shady locations.

Chili season 2018, pt. 2

Since mid-January, when I did my chili planting this year, there has been some nice progress. All five varieties that focused on have made it to the stage where they are soon ready to move into bigger, mid-sized pots. Particularly when the small seedlings were moved from the tiny, Ikea cultivation pots into larger ones, and provided some fresh soil for their roots, they really started growing. (I think that I have been using both “Biolan Kylvö- ja Taimimulta” and “Kekkilä Taimimulta” this year.) The hydroponics is no doubt better for larger, production oriented growing of chilies, but for me at least the traditional soil-based growing has proved much easier to handle.

Here are a couple of photos from this stage. The bigger of two Naga Morich plants is already over 15 cm mark, and has been moved into a bigger pot: this one is one from Finnish Orthex, and is called “Eden bioplastic herb pot” (there is a small water storage at the bottom, and the pot also comes with a felt mat, that can be used if this pot is applied to keep store-bought herbs alive).

Naga Morich (C. chinense), mid-April 2018
Naga Morich (C. chinense), mid-April 2018

Most of the other plants are in the c. 10 cm range, below is pictured 7pot Primo Orange:

7pot Primo Orange (C. chinense), mid-April 2018
7pot Primo Orange (C. chinense), mid-April 2018

It will be interesting to see how the plants take the change, first into the windowsill with bright sunlight (they have grown under the Ikea Växer led lights), then into the greenhouse. The spring has been very late this year, and there is still snow and ice everywhere, and nights go well below freezing. But I’d think in May, latest, these will move into the greenhouse.