October 16th, 2010

world within

microUSB earrings: here come my tweets to LJ

Obligatory apology; It's not ideal to drag tweets over to LJ like this, because my LJ posts echo to Twitter so there are going to be some endless loops (one for every post here, one for this daily update on Twitter - does anyone have a way of doing this that avoids it?) but as I was reading back through sbisson's archive it was really handy to see the tweets in context and I'd like that for myself). They'll go behind a cut on LJ so you can scroll past quickly if you also follow me on Twitter and on Twitter I hope it won't be more irritating that those daily 'newspapers' some people do...

why microUSB? well, this blog is actually called The Girl With USB Earring and one day I'll have time to take a photo that illustrates that properly, and one day after that I might even get on with making and selling them too

BlackBerry voice search and why I'm a PlayBook believer

Universal search is still pretty new on the Blackberry, as you only get it with BlackBerry Search; in a session about how apps can work with it, I also caught some advance news: universal search will get voice search soon

Looking back at the PlayBook announcement, I continue to be impressed by what RIM is promising - and yes, this is hugely ambitious and RIM has to deliver it. The reason I'm not more sceptical is that QNX is already out there as an OS running on constrained hardware - that and the fact that Dan Dodge is (and I mean this as a compliment) a serious geek who loves his architecture. If he's this enthusiastic about the project, it makes me expect that he's seeing good results from the early builds. If RIM can deliver and developers can deliver, next year gets even more exciting than this one; serious tablets in the summer and Windows 8 (in some shape or form) in the autumn.

What am I actually excited about in the PlayBook? It's not the shiny prototypes, it's the architecture - a versatile OS that offers AIR, Flash, BlackBerry apps, POSIX apps, HTML 5, OpenGL games and true multi-tasking. 


Controversial headline, controversial subject

It's hard to get people on the record about things that are controversial to customers and sound business sense to vendors; dubious labour practices in the developing world, the tensions of partnering with competitors, where search engines make their money, bundled applications...

We call it crapware, PC makers call it differentiation, value add and an alternative revenue stream. PC buyers get free, discount or at least pre-installed software, vendors get money; what's not to like? Slowing down your PC, clogging up Windows and requiring you to know what's worth keeping and what you should delete on sight (and how to get rid of the most persistent offenders), that's what's not to like. Crapware makes Windows look bad - and it makes PC makers look bad when grindingly slow security software grinds older PCs to a literal halt. I don't want it on phones either, which is why I'm delighted that all network and OEM apps can be installed in Windows Phone 7 (the HTC Evo I brought back from the US is forever cursed with Sprint sports apps and I used to resent getting out-of-date Yahoo! mobile tools on Windows Mobile, all taking up precious space). Microsoft can't tell PC makers what to put in their copies of Windows (that's one of the results of the DoJ case against Microsoft) but I still expect them to be naming and shaming apps, device drivers and OEM crapware setups that make Windows look bad.

When I praised the Internet Explorer team for doing just that with add-ins, I was delighted to get some hard figures from  Mike Angiulo, the corporate vice president of the Microsoft Planning and PC Ecosystem team on where the decisions to do that kind of thing come from. He talked about how things were much worse in the Vista days, calling it "kind of the worst era of PCs when nobody was thinking about the final PC as an end-to-end system" and he's right - but crapware is still endemic. Every new machine we've seen recently apart from the Sony VAIO P has been loaded with a mix of useful tools and performance-killing crapware. Microsoft needs to keep applying pressure, which is what I say in the piece...

I've had some feedback about the headline the piece was published under ('Microsoft slams OEM crapware') being, shall we say, on the negative side. All headlines are there to grab your attention, and I think this is a topic that needs to get some attention. I expect a headline that like will cause some headaches in Redmond if the OEM partners take it personally, but I also know that every time I write a piece on this topic I get feedack from readers that they want the PC makers to hear the pain crapware causes them and the mistakently-bad impression of Windows it gives people. I'm going to keep saying that Microsoft has a hard job to do here, but it has to keep the pressure on.

Windows Phone 7 is doing the right thing here. When I asked Oded Ran about removing network or OEM apps from devices, he gave exactly the right answer. The phone buyer is the customer, it's their phone and they can do what they want; any app can be hidden - or uninstalled really easily. It takes seconds. Getting unwanted extras off a PC should be just as easy and fast. If PC makers want to add value and get their software bounty, create a Device Stage that offers the apps and lets me install them if I want - don't pre-install them, have them all start up and make it hard to unweave add-ins, plugins, toolbars, updaters and the rest just to get back to the Windows should have been when I first turned it on. Or as Mike Angiulo put it, bundled software is great "if it's executed well and it makes sense and it doesn't degrade the core performance of the PC". Maybe a few controversial headlines will make sure the PC makers keep listening to him...

AMD: I'm looking forward to Zacate

I like Nvidia's Optimus technology: a full GPU when you need it, running through the PCI bus for speed, the battery-saving Intel integrated graphics when you don't. But with IE9 and Chrome 9 and all those other tools for doing GPU acceleration, you're going to need a decent GPU more often than that. And while the GPU AMD is packing into its Bobcat CPUs won't be state of the art by the time it arrives, it will be considerably ahead of what you get in a Core i5. When AMD showed us the Zacate chip recently, it smoked the Core i5 system running next to it - delivering the same result on the IE9 Psychedelic browsing test as the ATI graphics card in Simon's desktop. Detailed tech specs and prices in the link...

Nvidia's next-generation GPU architecture

Talking of state-of-the-art GPUs, here's everything you need to know about Kepler and Maxwell - plus how CUDA integrates better with Windows, what's happening with Tegra 3 and why Fermi had to be rebuilt from scratch.

Coming in the second half of 2011, Kepler is the replacement for the current 40nm Fermi GPU... The next architecture will be based on the 22nm Maxwell GPU, coming in 2013

One thing I couldn't fit into that piece: the reason Kepler is called Kepler. Kepler was the assistant/colleague of Tycho Brahe. The astronomer kept detailed notes, but Kepler was the one who collated the data and made the calculations that produced discoveries from them... very appropriate for GPU computing.

9 reasons you want IE 9

Well, all the Windows Phone 7 '7 things' features are flying about this week..

If you’ve always used Internet Explorer simply because you've always liked its Web slices and accelerators, or have been fond of the fact that it was the first browser to run in protected mode for security, or because in IE your online banking site reliably works; whether you’ve stuck with it from inertia, or because you need it for a work site – whether you love or tolerate IE today, we think you’re going to love IE 9 beta. Here's my nine reasons

Intel gets experienced

Why Intel wants to create platforms and services, not just chips - and how it's depending on Genevieve Bell's Interaction and Experience Research Lab to make them right, using the lessons of electric fairies and princess phones...

I rarely get the headlines I write into print (it's a specialist skill) and I might quibble with the quote used as the actual headline; I wanted my Rolling Stones reference! I've been watching Genevieve Bell slip more and more of an anthropological, user-centric view into Intel for at least seven years; it was great to see her get more of a presence at IDF this year.

Top ten gadgets from CTIA

Is the Samsung Galaxy Tab a nicer tablet than the Archos 10? (no, but it has better accessories)
Can taking most of the copper out and messing up the impedence on purpose make a cable work better? (yes, with this lovely piece of design and I can't wait to get some SmartCables)
Is the Lenovo wireless USB remote control an admission of guilt? (if this is what you need to navigate a UI remotely, heaven help us)

There's more details and another seven really cool things in my CTIA roundup on Tom's Guide; what's your favourite?