Thursday, 22 February 2018

Upcoming reviews

Two reviews will be posted soon. The first review is for the Tolino Page – the Tolino Page is Tolino’s entry level e-reader. In comparison to the Kindle Basic, the Tolino Page has an E-Ink Carta screen. Officially Tolino does not sell its e-readers in the UK, so the review will focus on the usability of the device outside Tolino’s supported countries (the supported countries are Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands and France).

The second review is for the Teclast F7. The Teclast F7 is a budget laptop that is comparable to the Jumper EZBook 3 Pro. This is the first laptop I’ve used that hasn’t been made by a major vendor. So far, I am impressed; the F7’S screen is one of the best I’ve used on a laptop in this price category.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Fire HD 8's grainy screen

I've noticed that the 7th generation Fire HD 8 has a grainy coating on its glossy screen. Usually this graininess is a feature of matte displays, but I've seen it before on low-cost glossy screens. It is likely Amazon bulk ordered these low-cost IPS screens to further cut down the price. It is a not a major issue and considering the up-shot in specifications compared to the 5th generation (the 6th and 7th generation Fire HD 8 are near identical) the compromise in display quality is worth it. There is little difference between the 6th and 7th generation display but the 6th generation didn't have the coating.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Kindle firmware update (5.9.4)

Amazon just released a firmware update for their Kindle devices (5.9.4) - the update is for 6th generation devices and up. Unfortunately, the update doesn't include font bolding for MOBI e-books. According to Amazon, the updates are minor and include:
Expanded Search: In-book search now includes results from your notes and highlights.
Clock: Now you can check the current time without leaving the page you're reading. Use the option in Display Settings (Aa) menu to display the clock. 
Usually it can take up to a few weeks for the update to download via WiFi. However, it is possible to download and install the update manually (instructions available here).

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Amazon Go & automation

The Amazon Go store concept is an interesting innovation in retail. Following the opening of Amazon's Seattle store, I noticed some websites stating their fear for the future of retail in the loss of human interaction and more importantly jobs. The latter issue of job loss is common sense, in market economies, as wage labour is ascribed ultimate value as a means to a living and social standing - it doesn't matter if many jobs are actually needed.

In my view, automated technologies are just material means that make adaptation to our natural order less dependent on direct human activity. Thus technologies offer positive possibilities in freeing human activity and resources in other directions. The real issue is the value orientation that informs how these technologies are used. In the case of Amazon Go, these technologies operate in a market economy centered on exponential growth. In contrast, in the context of mutual alternatives the use of these technologies could mean a positive re-thinking of social goals in ways that are responsive to more human possibilities of living.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

The Always Connected PC

The 'Always Connected PC' (ACPC) is Microsoft's attempt, in collaboration with major vendors, to innovate in the laptop market. Microsoft market the ACPC as a 'technology shift':
We are again at the beginning of another major technology shift: the ability to be connected anytime, anywhere with Always Connected PCs that are instantly on, always connected with incredible battery life.
Below is a summary of the ACPC's differentiating characteristics according to Windows Central:
  1. Instant on: Similar to smartphones and tablets, the ACPC doesn't hibernate and receives instant notifications.  
  2. Always connected: The laptop supports LTE and is always connected to the internet. 
  3. Long battery life: So far, the announced devices advertise a battery life between 20 - 22 hours. In addition, standby mode should last for weeks. 
The default operating system is Windows 10 S but there is the option to change to Windows 10 Home/Pro. It is not clear if all ACPC laptops are intended to run on ARM processors but, so far, the announced devices ship with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835. The Snapdragon 835 is specifically optimised for Windows 10 S, so it is not clear how the processor will work with Windows 10 Home/Pro. Will performance/battery life take a hit? Different ACPC laptops will be available soon so we will have a better picture after their release. I expect disadvantages early on before Microsoft and Qualcomm (or others) work on solutions that improve performance and battery life.

The ACPC is here to stay

I believe Microsoft takes the ACPC seriously. This marketed "technology shift" reminds me of Microsoft's previous collaboration with Intel to release the Ultrabook. Similar to the Ultrabook, Microsoft has set minimum requirements for an ACPC device:
It needs to have 13-plus hours of battery life in use, and "weeks" of battery life when it's in sleep or standby mode. It needs to have an LTE cellular modem. It has to be thin and light. And it needs to run Windows 10 S by default, a version of the operating system released last year that maximizes battery life and performance
Right now, there are three officially announced ACPC laptops: Asus NovaGoHP Envy x2, and the Lenovo Miix 630 (a preview of the Asus NovoGo is available here). The Asus NovaGo starts at $599, the Lenovo Miix 630 at $799.99 and the pricing for the HP Envy x2 is yet to be announced. The pricing is high considering hardware specifications and I expect prices to go down as more vendors release their own versions of the ACPC.