Interesting Things – End of (Unix)Time

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Stallman rages on Canonical

I hate the new unity UI for the more recent Ubuntu Versions. It’s confusing, it has an undeniable gimmicky feel to it and the web enabled search feature is just adding to it’s ugliness . That dashboard has to go.  It was something PC manufactures did and have been doing so (bloatware). When we have a one of the most popular distros of Linux doing something equally bad (or perhaps even worse in this light), you know that they are doing it wrong. And that too coming from a distro that is favourable among new users of Linux.  It just leaves those users with a bad impression. If I wanted to do a web search, I will do a web search (on a web browser, where it should be).   I’m okay with a web browser collecting all the information it needs, because it is more of a conscious decision.  I stand firmly with rms on this rant.

More at arstechnica

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Webcam Proctors Watch Students in Online Courses | MIT Technology Review

It’s not everyday that MIT’s Technology Review has a decent article. Online education in recent times (Khan Academy) has become a force to be dealt with. It offers some benefits that traditional education can never offer. However, it can’t do away with one of the biggest features of a traditional education system, exams . ProcturU has found itself an excellent opportunity in this market, more at Tech Review.

Many of the proctors hired by ProctorU are college students themselves. They get 75 cents per hour above minimum wage (which means they make $8.75 an hour in California and $8 an hour in Alabama) and get a raise of $1 per hour after a 90-day evaluation period.  

Webcam Proctors Watch Students in Online Courses | MIT Technology Review.

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Why 5 GHz is Cool [Video]

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Interesting Things- (Warchalking)

If you use WEP security, for your WiFi your going to have a bad time. Warchalking is the practice of drawing symbols to indicate the presence of an available WiFi network. So you can never go thirsty of wireless bandwidth.  

Read more at Wikipedia

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Haswell and Power Savings (maybe?)

Intel’s next micro-architecture (‘Haswell’) has a new feature that can possibly result in a significant reduction in power consumption. They have added a power save mode that will essentially put the current view on the desktop to a static image that will be placed in a display’s DRAM. During which, the processor can go to sleep and consequently all the attached peripherals. Currently, your display is refreshed upto 60 times a second, and this is unnecessary in some situations. Say for example you are reading a lenghty document on a single page that is visible in it’s entirety on your display. Your CPU doesn’t really need to access to refresh your monitor 60 times a second, because the image is essentially static. Thus the CPU can remain off during that time, as long as the buffered screen is on the DRAM of your monitor.  This use case in my opinion is rarely encountered, people are likely to disturb the screen with their mouse and frequently toggle between screens. It can however be used for screensaver mode, where the system needs to update the pictures on the screensaver every few seconds. Here’s a nice demo.


Personally, I have a few concerns.

  1. How often are these usage scenario’s encountered in reality, where PSR (Panel Self Refresh) can be used.
  2. Will display manufacturers welcome this change? (They need to add the DRAM to their BOM, and how is the DRAM sized?)
  3. And does this feature really justify it’s purpose, I mean the display is in itself the largest source of power. Even if it is not being driven by the CPU as frequently, I’m thinking that since the back-light is still on. The power savings is minimal.

Still, beyond these shortcomings I see that there might be some impact overall, especially in the notebook segment. More at AnandTech

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Motorola: the most disappointing android manufacturer in the world

  1. NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual core processor (1 GHz)
  2. 1 GB of LP-DDR2 RAM
  3. FingerPrint scanner (possibly the only smartphone with one, and it’s quite functional too unlike the face unlock gimmick)
  4. Laptop/HD multimedia/Vehicle docks, they had an accessory eco-system
  5. Won nine awards at CES 2011
  6. OS: Android 2.3.6 Gingerbread

This is quite possibly one of the worst decisions they have made, not having to be able to upgrade Motorola’s seemingly flagship phone, the Atrix 4G to Ice Cream Sandwich let alone JellyBean. The hardware on this phone is more than capable of handling the new OS. It’s barely been a year since I have bought it, and seems like I have to lay this powerful beast of a phone to rest, or possibly root it.

The HTC One X looks all shiny suddenly, hmm.

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Interesting Things – (Linux Kernel Names)

I’d like to turn this post as a template for future one’s on similar lines. About the little things in technology make the geek in me chuckle once in a while, when I’m fighting deadlines and general annoyances.

I recently found out that Linux has quirky names for their Kernel Version. Started with Greased Weasel (1.3.51) and the most recent one with Saber-toothed Squirrel (3.2-rc1-). The more interesting ones I found were:

  • Sheep on Meth
  • Jeff Thinks I Should Change This, But To What?
  • Man-Eating Seals of Antiquity


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Intel does something cool (with WiFi)

So far, WiFi can be integrated into embedded devices either through a module with a SoC, or a stand-alone WiFi chip with supporting analog radio components for the antenna path and this is interfaced with a processor. Intel seems to have gone a step ahead and reduced the analog components to digital and have a processor built-in! Very neat.

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Can Sci-Fi be happy?

Neal Stephenson is one author I really admire, simply for his accuracy and the immense detail  that he puts into his work, some might say that he caters only to a nice tech-friendly crowd. In 2011, he conceived Project Hieroglyph with the aim to give science-fiction writers a serious dose of optimism. I found the idea a little utopic (pun intended), although I agree that there is a general lack of optimism with advances in technology. But science fiction is not completely out to destroy society. Arthur C. Clarke, an author familiar to most sci-fi readers, once brought up the idea for a means of communication. This gave birth to the modern geo-stationary satellite.  Even though the idea stemmed from a fiction author, unfortunately it wasn’t in any sci-fi novel or short story. It was an article printed in Wireless World magazine in 1945. Consequently, I feel that a novel can maybe hold ideas for the greater good, but ultimately it will lack character if the conclusion puts science or technology in the good guy’s role. It will be difficult for the story to ring true. The reality is that big brother is winning in many ways and sustainability is still at it’s infancy to have hard implications.  Also, this debate is largely philosophical. Perhaps one can argue that technology has always been disruptive at it’s roots and for science-fiction to be truly optimistic then it would have to plan for a future were technology wanes. Or that technology can be fall into ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ hands. Still, I’d be interested to see examples of Project Hieroglyph.

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