Posts Tagged ‘hardware’

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).

Xiaomi selfies beautify you

I’ve not gotten my hands on any Xiaomi kit (yet; I’ve wanted to grab a Mi4 for quite some time now, and the Mi3 before that), but this piece in the WSJ about the Mi4i (india edition) being available caught my eye (China’s Xiaomi Unveils Mi 4i Smartphone in India):

…its automatic photo-retouching setting for selfies, called beautify, does not enlarge eyes the way it does for the Chinese market, where that feature is popular. The beautify feature will smooth wrinkles and lighten skin tone, as it does in other markets

For one, I had no idea that all Chinese selfies from a Xiaomi phone have enlarged eyes. Or elsewhere, wrinkles are smoothened out and the skin tones are lightened. So you’re not capturing the image as is, but some sort of automatic software edited version. Hmm. Read more on beautify at their page (guesses age, gender, then applies one of 36 beauty profiles — smoothens skin, brightens eyes, slims the jaw and more). Apparently, photography was optimised for lightened skin tones.

I’m glad the Mi4i is tailored to have a really long battery life as well. It’s 1/4 the price of a 16GB iPhone in that market (and most; good luck Samsung). 

MacBook::Impressions

The other day I was musing about how I’d buy a Mac, just to use Skitch, to Cris Pearson, on Twitter. Today, I did just that.

I woke up in the morning, seeing an SMS from Giuseppe, informing me that it would be ideal if I had bought a laptop. So I proceeded to calling up a store located a few blocks down (I’m lazy to drive into the city, its F1 weekend), and asked if there was a black MacBook in stock, and if I could get 4GB of RAM rather than the standard 2. Turns out, this was available, but there was only one unit left, so I asked for it to be held (this was at 10.40am). By 2pm, I had walked to the Apple store, and picked up my new, black Macbook.

What’s in it?
It sports a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, with 4GB of RAM, a 250GB hard drive, and the SuperDrive. Its black (there’s a AUD$150 premium added just for colour), but in the long run, I think it will prove worthy, as I won’t have to see the palm-rests looking nasty. That, and I chose to buy it in-store, rather than online, so it would have been harder to get the larger hard disk option.

I’m disappointed that the Apple Remote does not come with it (an extra $29), and there is no Mini-DVI to VGA/DVI adapter included (an extra $35). There was a time, we got everything we needed, in the box – now the MacBook by default, is useless for presentations.

What about the software?
I have been using OS X on and off for many years, and back in the day, if you had picked up an iBook, you’d have found useful software, like an encyclopedia, and games. If you grabbed a PowerBook, you’d have seen cool items like OmniGraffle, OmniOutliner (useful, as), and so on. MacBook Pro’s came with Comic Life. Nowadays, you get no additional 3rd party software.

I am pleased however, that X11 is installed by default in Leopard (this means that OpenOffice.org, will just work nowadays). To get the development tools though (XCode and friends), you still have to install it from the disc.

First Impressions
The keyboard is not hard to type with. In fact, it doesn’t take any getting used to, so I’m wondering why people are complaining. I don’t know if this is a change that has come about with Leopard and new laptops, but the F3 key now brings up the Expose, and the F4 key brings up the Dashboard Widgets. In fact, they even print it on the keyboard – highly nifty.

It weighs much lighter than my Dell 14″ Inspiron 640m. In fact, its a lot smaller, so once you’re used to carrying the tome, the MacBook seems really light.

What software is on it?
What I consider, essential software:

  • AppZapper – removes unwanted tools, like GarageBand, and probably soon iPhoto. Free for 5 removals, so use it wisely
  • Skitch – I’ve had a beta for a long time, and this software is just simply amazing. I cannot say enough things about it.
  • Firefox – because I need to browse the web, sensibly
  • XCode – I need my development tools
  • XChat Aqua – to get on internal, and community based IRC channels
  • Apple Mail – I’m trying this out, instead of Thunderbird, to see what all the hype is with this software. Current verdict is I’m hating it, but let me spend a bit more time with it (another post on Apple Mail sure to come soon)
  • Skype – because VOIP and chat with that, is just so handy

What else will go on it, soon? OpenOffice.org, NetBeans, VirtualBox (I tried downloading it, but the Sun sanctioned download site, tells me “File Not Found” – disappointing, and no one on #vbox could help), and probably lots more.

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