Tuesday, October 23, 2012

iPad Mini: finally a tablet done right!

The iPad is too large to be portable. Anything larger than 7" is transportable, not portable. I always say: 7 is the golden size for anything portable.

All 7" Android tablets have copied the thick bezels from iPad, which is totally unnecessary and stupid, defeating all the virtues of 7". 16:9 or even 16:10 ratio simply suck: way too few lines to display in landscape mode and way too tall to hold nicely in portrait mode.

Look at the thin bezels and the 16:12 screen, this iPad Mini is finally the one that I have been suggesting for years:

As always, Apple's stuff are not my cup of tea - too crippled, too closed, too selfish and too greedy. However, this iPad Mini is revolutionary (iPad was not) and soon we'll see some Android tablets in this great form (thin frames, 7" and 16:12).

Now it can be hold in one hand, why not make it a big iPhone that does voice? Then it'll be the milestone in wireless history.

Total wireless

Our era can be defined as wireless, after the eras of automation, communication and digitization. My last wired device was headphones, because I'm an audiophile and I used to think wireless might sound not good enough.

Finally, I moved on to Sennheiser RS160 and cannot be happier.

The sound was initially thin and dry for the first 3 days, but after that, the sound has become sweet and rich. Bass could be a little more strong, but we pay that for extremely high resolution: each and every note is presented precisely and lively. I have no reason to use my Sennheiser HD-580 again.

As always, I pulled out some polyester fiber from a pillow and insert them into the back chambers:

Once you have wireless cans, you never go back to wired. For example, it is now so relaxing to listen to my favorite tunes while washing dishes - no more fear of wire hooked up to the door knobs!

The transmitter is portable, powered by either 5V DC or two AA batteries. Note the AA batteries can be rechargeable but the transmitter won't charge them. They last for 150 hours. The headphones use two AAA batteries and can be charged in them. They last for 24 hours.

The ear pads are around-the-ear type, so they won't sit on my ears to add pressure to my ears. The cups are large enough to cover and not touch my ears; so they are extremely comfortable to wear 16 hours a day and 7 days a week.

RS160 is closed type, can provide quite good noise isolation. When you wear them in a library, your music won't bother others nearby (no audio leak like open type cans) and their talks cannot annoy you. They are great to use on a bus, train or airplane.

RS170 is also closed type, but the transmitter (base) is not portable. You can simply hang the headphones on the base and the base will charge them. The base also offers bass boost.

RS180 is open type, I might get a pair of its headphones (HDR-180) to use with my RS160's portable transmitter. Open style cans always sound better than closed type, but only the RS160 comes with a portable transmitter that Sennheiser does not sell separately. So, I have no choice but to buy the RS160 first.

RS120 is the analog version with lower dynamic range, 65dB vs. 85. The sound is even more musical and lovable than RS160, because the cans are open type and the transmitting is FM not digital. However, its ear pads are on-the-ear type. These pads are still very comfortable, but I can only wear them for 1 hour or 2, then my ears hurt. The old model, RS130, has around-the-ear pads like the RS160, 170 and 180, but they are discontinued and very hard to find these days.

MM 500-X is for Bluetooth. Unfortunately, it does not use AA or AAA batteries like above models. It is closed type.

As you see in above photo, I connect the transmitter to my portable HD radio, making it a portable wireless music system. This is the 3rd version from Insignia, the perfect version. The 1st version was almost perfect except that the firmware had a serious bug that freezes the radio frequently. Yes, all firmware versions had the crash problem, see my other article for details. The 2nd version was a total failure - crappy touch screen, short battery life and poor reception. It is nice that Insignia listened to us and made the 3rd version back to the 1st version and fixed the crash problem.

From left to right is the 1st (NS-HD01), 2nd (NS-HD02) and 3rd (NS-HD01A) versions. The left two are going to ebay soon.

This new version comes with a matte and more durable case, and a hostler too. Now, Insignia: if you're still listening, add a microSD slot for MP3, then you have a killer portable audio device! Even better, if you can work with Sennheiser to build in a KLEER chip, then we no longer need the transmitter. How nice that would be?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Saw Lenovo Yoga in BestBuy for $999.99

Lenovo is doing a fantastic job for Windows 8 with upcoming Twist and Yoga. The Twist comes from a failed old idea from Microsoft 10 years ago due to bulkiness and crappy digital pen. The success of iPhone and iPad was mostly due to the finger-operated touchscreen that Steve Jobs got done right. But this time Lenovo seems have implemented the old idea correctly with a finger-operated IPS touchscreen (350 nit) and a slim body of 3.5 lb.

Of the two, the Yoga is neater to me. I saw it in BestBuy today for $999.99, to be delivered on Oct. 26. The screen is warm and vivid like Macbooks, unlike those from Korean and Japanese manufacturers that are always too cold and blue (hurt eyes). SKU: 6634279.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Hyper-V sucks, especially on Windows 8

Hyper-V is useless crap

On Windows 8, no more XP-Mode - one of the things that made Win7 successful. Although Win8 comes with Hyper-V, it has two many troubles and limitations. If you're migrating from XP or Win7 with XP-Mode to Win8, this is the most painful part.

For example, Hyper-V does not support USB; thus I cannot install the driver for HP C4280 printer. The stupid HP driver refuses to install if it does not see any USB on the machine. I use printer servers for my old USB multiple function printers. I don't need to plug them into my computers and I can print and scan wirelessly.

I use Airlink101 multifunction printer servers for my HP and Canon USB printers. It lacks of 64-bit support but worked like a charm in XP-Mode on 64-bit Windows 7. I also loved the seamless integration of Start menu, almost never realize the XP apps are running in a virtual machine. Very convenient.

Now with Hyper-V, the Airlink101 driver, the (virtual) remote USB bus (BusRMUSB.sys), no longer work. I lost all my faith in this Hyper-V. If a driver that has always worked in XP, physically and virtually, but won't load in Hyper-V, something must be seriously wrong in this virtual engine.

Another stupid thing with Hyper-V: no NAT for internal network.

Even stupider: no any kind of share or integration between the host (Win8) and guest (XP), other than ordinary networking facilities through bridged network. For example, if you want to let XP access your USB drives, remote desktop is pretty much your only choice.

VirtualBox is still not in its primary time

So I went to VirtualBox. It had no above problems but it had its own. It does not take the advantage of Intel VT-X hardware acceleration for virtualization. It uses at least 5% CPU even during idle.  These shortcomings are not acceptable for an Intel 2nd gen i5 laptop. Furthermore, its USB implementation is still a PIA.

VMWare is the pioneer and still the king of virtualizaion

Finally I installed VMWare Player, everything is now perfect and cannot be any more ideal. Airlink101 PS works, CPU usage stays at 0% most of the time and only 5% or so when I'm actively using XP. The Unity feature is as convenient as what XP-Mode offers on Windows 7, as showing in the photo below.

The best thing about VMWare: you can make changes such as network type on the fly, no need to restart or shutdown the VM.

The bottom line: if you need "XP-Mode" in Windows 8, don't waste your time, go straight to VMWare Player.