Archive for the ‘Tech’ Category

Sony could make a smarter charger?

I’ve been using the Sony DSC-RX100M III for over a year, despite thinking that my iPhone will be my primary pocket camera. I have to say that the iPhone 6 Plus 64GB is a fine phone, and it has an amazing camera and I don’t have plans to get the iPhone 6s Plus (see: not a worthy upgrade for photographers and is it worse?).

So generally the iPhone suffices for lots of snaps, Instagram/Facebook pics, etc. But when it comes to taking a family vacation, I whip out the Sony RX100 III. From comparisons, it doesn’t seem like I would benefit too much from the RX100 IV, since a lot of the improvements seem to be around video which I tend not to take.

The battery is rated at about 320 shots, and I think I get about there but some days are special and I exhaust the NP-BX1. Couple that with misplacing my battery charger which also has a USB cable so you can transfer images easily, I decided to grab the Sony ACC-TRBX. This package comes with an additional battery, a charger with USB pass thru so you can charge the camera directly, and of course there’s the brick that allows you to charge the additional battery.

Smart solution? You should be able to charge the battery within the camera as well as the battery in the charger, right? Wrong. They build a silly button that either allows you to charge via USB the battery within the camera OR the battery in the dock. Why?!? 

Well, that was RM300 spent on the ability to get more pictures. However one wonders what the designers at Sony were thinking? I guess there also exists the idea of a hardware misfocus.

Software misfocus

It looks like the result of a company that is focused on adding features, not focused on creating something well-designed. – John Gruber

He was referring to Evernote. We talk regularly about feature creep, don’t we? How many pieces of software have you seen that is basically mis-focused? 

Trying out the Intel NUC

I was thinking about buying a Mac Mini, but the Apple Store in Malaysia has over-priced it, due to the crazy Malaysian Ringgit (prices don’t reflect current realities; custom Mac Mini with all things thrown in is USD$1,499 vs RM6,899, today’s rate being RM6,435).

So I decided to buy an Intel NUC and go the Linux route. I picked up the Intel NUC NUC5i5RYH from CZone for RM1,643 which has an Intel Core i5-5250U processor, WiFi, Ethernet but requires you to provide some RAM, storage and you’re good to go. This is the model that allows an M.2 SSD and another regular 2.5” disk, so I chose to get the Transcend M.2 256GB SATA III 6Gb/s MTS800 to be the disk I’ll used to install an OS on for RM477 and decided that I’ll get another disk for storage/Dropbox purposes — HGST 7000rpm 2.5-Inch 1TB SATA III. RAM was easy – just make sure to get low power DDR3 RAM (DDR3L), and its easy enough to pick up 2*8GB sticks for a total of 16GB of RAM.

All in, I paid RM2,713 for this, and I provided by own MiniDisplayPort to VGA adapter. I see this as a huge savings over the Mac Mini. Sure, I can get a 2TB spinning disk on the Mac Mini (it seems that OEM folk can’t get these fusion drives at that size), but if I really wanted to go all out, I could have gotten a larger M.2 SSD and also went all in with SSD instead of spinning disk. Maybe when the 6th generation NUC comes out.

Configuring Ubuntu was relatively easy. Ubuntu 15.10 did require me to boot with the nomodeset option (so immediately after the visual BIOS splash screen, hit the Shift key, press e to edit the displayed kernel, and when it says ro quiet splash, edit it to say ro nomodeset quiet splash. You install Ubuntu via a USB thumb drive as well.

This is basically a server with X for me. It’s doing tasks like syncing Dropbox, backing up with CrashPlan, and it will allow me to use Docker containers, compile software, etc. while I’m sitting at my desk. It makes for a pretty mean desktop, all packed in a tiny little package. 

Why didn’t I go with the current i7? Seems like there wasn’t too much of a performance boost (good reading: Intel NUC Mini PC Review: Core i5 and i7 Benchmarked). The 6th Gen is also coming, so it will be a much more interesting platform for me (see the NUC6i5SYH; here’s hoping they also have i7 versions).

Learnings from Swift becoming opensource

Swift is now opensource, and it’s interesting to see Craig Federighi talk about it. This is Apple doing right, considering FaceTime is long overdue to being an open standard. People are nitpicking on Apple’s Open Source tagline, but really, this is akin to nitpicking on Mark Zuckerberg donating 99% of his Facebook stock to his new limited liability corporation charity (key: don’t look a gift horse in the mouth).

Apple has chosen to put Swift on Github, and they’ve ensured that it wasn’t just an initial commit, but you’re seeing a lot of history. And it’s the right choice clearly, for engagement — 1,275 watching, 18,884 stars, 2,139 forks, 51 pull requests currently, but most interestingly a lot of accepted code. Even simple things along the lines of “fixing typos” (see commits, eg. d029f7e5ae84cf8f6c12907f9ed0ac0a694881aa, e8b06575d26a684f415af95143ec576a6aa5168d, etc.). 

Swift has open source documentation — like all good open source projects are supposed to have. They use Sphinx and its in the source tree. This is something I’d wish to see from MySQL (docs copyright Oracle, online, but you can take it offline too via PDF) or MariaDB (friendly licensed Knowledge Base), but so far only Percona Server has gotten this right.

What else did Swift do right? Focus on user contributions — the Contributing page is a breath of fresh air. And don’t forget the code of conduct for participating in the project.

But besides just the documentation and contribution pages, I learned something new from one commit in particular — the existence of nproc, part of coreutils. I immediately hopped onto IRC to chat with Nirbhay (our resident MariaDB Galera Cluster expert), because in scripts/, we do this via a get_proc() function. We should be focusing on modernising/standardising our codebase, shouldn’t we?

There is a lot we at MariaDB Corporation and the MariaDB Foundation can learn from Swift being opensource and how Apple deals with the community at large. Here’s hoping we get the best practices from it and implement it in due time.

OmniFocus Clip-o-Tron

I use OmniFocus and Apple Mail quite religiously. Sure there’s the wonders of GMail, but I’m an offline email kind of guy. What is not immediately obvious is how one can make a task from an email message in OmniFocus.

You want the OmniFocus Clip-o-Tron. I only recently just discovered it, and its one of those things you wonder why The Omni Group did not just install by default. It makes so much sense. It helps with GTD, after all, isn’t Mail the app where a lot of people spend their times and lives in?

Makes me wonder what else I’ve been missing out from using. This alongside MsgFiler are great tools to improve your Mail productivity.

Telekom Malaysia outage, no incident report

Telekom Malaysia “broke the Internet” for a few hours on June 12. I recall I was stuck in an airport lounge in London wondering why my daily diet, bar one loaded — FT/NYT on the iPad had no issue but I couldn’t get the WSJ for offline reading. 

It was a route leak. For reference, the Hacker News thread is well worth a read (comments are particularly why you’d go there). Cloudflare had an incident report. Discussions on the nanog list. Telekoms was pretty happy with their tweet. DigitalNewsAsia reports that MCMC (SKMM) was looking into the TM outage behind the global Internet slowdown. BGPMon has pretty graphs to accompany the massive route leak.

Telekom posted a pretty quick apology. But over 2 weeks later, and there is no incident report as to what happened. When this happened in Australia, the turnaround time was 10 days – see APNIC: Leaking routes.

Will anyone be held accountable?