Sunday, December 13, 2009

Every one apart me is a bloke

And you can't argue with it!
No! You can't argue with me about it and even if you want to try, and the only reason why you would want to do such a thing is that you don't have a clue what a bloke is, then first go to this link to learn what it really means.

Now more seriously. Here's the little backstory about it. I own a company based in Québec named "Centre de Solutions Informatiques Inc." or C.S.I. for short. Our team is based on developers and hardware crack that follows 63 technology related RSS feeds that publish around 1 280 news a day. We are basically pure and polished specialist in computers and we're endlessly learning and improving ourselves. Technology is everything we like, everything we do and everything we live for. We're so enthusiast that, as I said, we've started a company. Yes! That's how bad we are infected.

We've taken a big time looking at the market and I can assure you that in our current service zone, there is just no one that will do a better job than us for better pricing and better time. To do this analysis, we used the latest technology in marketing which is... ours beloved clients! We actually used feedbacks from our clients to build our price tags. Anyway, enough advertising and here comes the story.

One bloke in the see
I (not we) currently deserve personalized services to 2 company and around 25 persons. That's in fact rather good. But in the end, every single one of my clients keep on... deserting me! Yes! I have absolutely no idea why, but every time they've got a problem, they first call me, I then friendly give them consulting and they finally go off like they suddenly knows anything about the computer world, which they obviously don't, and make an ash of it.

This annoy me so much that it made me write this post just so that I could cool down instead of bashing through the head of one of them that did it an other time just a day before I'm writing this. I will not go into the details to respect his privacy but, he actually made Windows XP installed on an Intel Core i7 computer! Now, if you're a bloke about computers, which I'm not, you'll already scream at him because you know that Windows XP just can't handle a dual core correctly. And this is not a dual core, it's a quad with hyper-threading which make it even more difficult. You need at least Windows Vista or Windows 7 to handle all of that power correctly but WAIT! Their's more! This computer is actually... the latest iMac.

I'm not joking. This is true, I swear that this is true! Now I'll show you an other time that I'm not a bloke in this kind of stuff. You see, Windows XP has horrible power saving features. In fact, it doesn't support half the the power saving features that are on that brand new computer. Now you're probably already laughing at me saying that this is a desktop computer and that it doesn't need power saving features! WRONG! Let me show you my point with a simple table:

ComponentAvg. consumption
CPU85 watt
Memory25 watt
Motherboard15 watt
Graphic card135 watt
Hard drive5 watt
Monitor50 watt
Total315 watt

Now that look pretty normal, isn't it? Nop; This is enormous! I have a server which has a very similar configuration to that and it's doing 80. My Mac Pro is averaging 145 watts and it has 10 GB or HUNGRY fully buffered DDR2 memory and two old and not very economical Xeon 5400 series CPUs. That's without counting the supercharged 8800 GT that benchmark like a 9800 GTX!

So, not only does he's iMac now require a nuclear power plant to run, it also require an earth-sized power supply; which it hasn't. The 2009 iMac has only a 365 watt power supply. Now you're still laughing at me saying that 315 is smaller that 365. Well... Yes it is... But, this PSU only has 85% efficiency which move its maximum output to 5 watt less that the average needed. This could cause a problem.

Windows XP will basically kills my client's computer. That's how simple it is. By the way, if you're interested, putting Windows Vista in it would decrease the consumption to 175 watt which is 45% less. That's without saying that the performance would increase as Windows Vista is much better at handling multiple CPU cores.

The result
Not only this guy had an horrible services that will rot is computer on the mid/long run. It will also cost him 100 $ more to run his computer at the end of the year that it costed him if he installed Windows Vista in the first place. And here's the interesting part: I didn't even mentioned OS X yet. And here's why: I'm not talking about dual booting or anything. The guy actually removed OS X 10.6 and put Windows XP in place claiming that it was a much lighter and faster operating system!

That basically means that my client, who decided to bought a Mac to give it a try, will not even see what OS X look like. Not to mention that OS X has even better power management capabilities than even Windows 7. Running Slow Leopard, that computer actually get down to 95 watt on average use which would save him 160 $ a year just in electricity.

The point
Every single one of my clients do that every single time. They always end up in my office begging for help to solve the issues that caused the idiot that they went to in the first place. And they do that, even when they are old friend of mine. I have absolutely nothing agains competition, in fact I even found it sporty, but when all the competition there is is that... I'd prefer to kick them in the face with a very, very big hammer.

Conclusion
That's exactly why me and two of my friends started this company. We are so sure about this that we're planing, building... no... it became hand-crafting, swinging and then throwing that hammer to their faces ourselves the best we can possibly do. We believe that average computer knowledge here in Québec sucks and we think we might just be what the province need to get up on its feet an finally learn how to appreciate that latest gadget that came out without having to ask the vendor how to turn it on.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Getting back... In force!

SSD Benchmarks
I have a surprise for you. Ho well... It's not really a surprise since I've put that in the title and google analytics told me that there is about 91.89% of chances that you got here by googling "Apple SSD Benchmark". Anyway, I've run a couples of test and the results are just astonishing. Here they are:

And that's it, they're already gone! That's just how fast it is. I think the only way it could get faster is to boot directly from RAM! (Ho! That's giving me an idea...) No seriously here is some figures:

Boot time is just under 17 seconds on OS X 10.6.2 and under 25 for Windows 7. This is blazing fast. But that's just uninteresting suff. You see, when you boot your computer, you can go get a coffee or anything while it work. So this is hardly a time saver. On the other side, that next one is going to be of big help.

Safari's startup time is so small that you don't even care. In fact, I couldn't time it by hand. So, I went lazy and just didn't done it. You'll have to do with some words. There is simply no differences between opening Safari 4 and opening a new tab. That's how fast it is.

Photoshop CS 4, on the other side, is a bit slow. You have to count up to 4 before you can work in it. In fact, this is the slowest application that I've tested. There is just nothing slower than that. I think it pretty much guarantee a 4 seconds or less for just about anything.

Conclusion
If you can, get one... don't. As fast as it look, the Apple SSD cost a lot and has not much to offer. It doesn't support TRIM nor does it have a garbage collector. That means that it will keep on slowing as you use it down to half it's original speed. That's very bad for a $ 600 option (MacBook Pro 13") or even a $ 200 one (MacBook Pro 17").

By now, you've also realized that there is no way to get one in the Mac Pro without getting it out from a MacBook which mean it is now a $ 2000 upgrade. This is extremely costly, specially when you can get the Vertex for around $ 350.

That's it! See you next week for some other great news.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I saw a snow flake

And it's bad new
I have three very big project going on at school and the only thing I want to do next is kill myself. The bad new is not that I'll die, it's that I will not be able to write on my blog! I already switched to a 1-time-per-2-week schedule but it's still not enough. So, don't be surprised if you don't hear about me for a while.

On the bright side
Do you remember, about 4 months ago I did some benchmarks of the samsung in my MacBook Pro? If you don't, take a look here as it is like seeing the god of awesomeness. Anyway, here's the big new: In that post, I said that I'd try to move the SSD in my Mac Pro to see how it stand aside the RAID. Well... It's not going to happen today BUT... The SSD is now securely plugged in the Mac Pro with a handmade adapter built from the original Apple 320 GB HDD.

So as everything couldn't get better, I'll give you some early eyes-taken results that will make you lick your floor: safari open in half the time it was doing on the laptop and iTunes even faster. But wait! There's more! My iTunes library is stored on my server which leverage the old RAID array and is connected using a gigabit link and it is STILL faster than the RAID alone!

Anyway, I'll give some results when I'll have some time to do the benchmarks. Now, I've go to go coding...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Snow Leopard, yes but...

.. it's not that good
Hi everyone, I'm sorry if I let you in the dark for two weeks but I had a lot to do recently and didn't had much time write. Who knows, it might even get worse as time goes on. Anyway, I'm here to talk about Apple recently released operating system. Snow Leopard, as it is called, is a very nice OS. It does have a lot more punch than his predecessor 10.5 but I'm not here to talk about stuff that you already know.

Core upgrade
Apple rewrote a very big part of the os with snow leopard and that's nice for performances but, they also introduced an incalculable number of bugs. Nothing major but all of those things just keep on bothering you until you want to kill yourself. That's what I'm going to talk about. The way Apple bunched 10.6 to release it before Windows 7.

First, Exposé. They did a lot with it and the new version is gorgeous; if you don't have a MacBook. If, like me, you do, well, you'll want to punch yourself in the face each time you use those wonderful 4 finger gestures. There's a glitch with them that cause Exposé to stick and render it unproductive. If you bring Exposé and close it using your trackpad without lifting your hand of it first, shit will happen. It will get stuck in the mode you activated and the only way to get your windows back is to do the inverse gesture! It's a very easy thing to solve and could take about ten minutes to fix but it look like it didn't make it in 10.6.1 released just one week after the official release.

Next, Stacks. Finally, we can walkthrough a folder hierarchy without open a finder window. This was a long awaited feature but... It's buggy too! It work very well until you have a stack of a network volume. Here's what happen. First if the volume is not available and you click on it, it will display a transparent interrogation mark which is great but, if you click on it a second time, they stack up! Indefinitely! If the volume finally came online, they'll stick there! They don't even go away! Well that's most of a graphical problem and is indeed pretty minor. But still, it's just the start. As you'll use this stack, you'll realize that some obvious feature doesn't work. Deleting a file for instance. Yup, you can't delete a file from a network volume stack. Don't ask me why but dropping them in the Trash Can does nothing.

Finally, Upgrade. OS X was always stated for it's upgrade capability. I decided to test it, just for fun. I installed 10.5 and then upgraded to 10.6. No change in the settings, no app installed. And guess what. After one week, half of my icons doesn't appear, VMware fusion icon display as 512x512 pixel of garbage, spotlight sometimes refuse to listen to my keyboard, and I'll pass over random freeze (not kernel panic, just complete computer lockup) and random application crash.

Ho, I just forgot! There's also a keychain issue with the clean install that can get you locked up from your own computer. The only solution, if it is a solution, is to make your way to the keychain application and reset your keychain password.

Moral
OS X 10.6 is a great operating system. It does work faster and has some new interesting stuff. On the other side, don't, ABSOLUTELY DON'T try to install it as an upgrade. You'll want to punch yourself so bad that you'll actually do it before doing a clean install.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I'm sorry but we have to ban money. That's just the way it is.

A call for help
I decided to wrote this post, even if it goes out of the range of what this blog should talk about, after reading the enclosed article (click on the title) which propose a "poor" solution about the problem that appeared recently with 30 sec music preview that are on various online music store. Everyone talk about it since one week and I think it's the perfect time to reply.

The "poor" solution
The solution proposed by CrunchGeer is to simply ban music. As it is a solution, it is more temporary and risky than anything else. But still, Nickolas Deleon did risked to propose a solution and that's what important. Unfortunately, this ban would only cause the same thing to happen with the movie industry where previews would need to be bought. I don't even want to talk about software demos and other kind of consumable that could be "previewed".

One people did offered a more realistic solution. You can see his comment on the same post under the name "Mika" where he say: "[...] promotion of music for commercial purposes by anyone other than the performers themselves is banned [...]". It is a better solution than the total ban as it will not create what I call the "Fahrenheit 451 Effect". If you know the book, you know what I'm talking about. You can resume it by "banning any form of expression is bad and might get the humanity to it's end".

The good solution
What can be banned to solve this problem that is not considered as a form of expression? To answer this question, you must know why you need to banish something. It's not the fact that people want stuff that cause this issue. It's not the fact that people want it to be free. It's not the fact that creators want a reward for their product that cause the issue. It's the fact that people NEED a reward to live.

In this case, the reward is money but it could be anything else. I'd like to quote a talk between two fictional characters that live in a world where this issue doesn't exist :

- How much does this thing cost?
- The economic of the future is somewhat different. You see, money doesn't exist in the 24th century.
- No money? You meen you don't get paid?
- The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in ours live. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity.

You might have recognized Lili and Jean-Luc Picard from the "Star Trek - First Contact" movie that was released about 13 years ago. Believe it or not, this is the only solution to those issues. It will not only solve music issues but poverty and starvation too. That's without saying that it would rectify our justice system and could prevent many wars.

I know, I know, everyone can dream but. Isn't there a saying that if many people have the same dream, it will come true? Well if there is, that make at least two: Me and Gene Roddenberry.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Long silence, a lot of good stuff

News
Sorry for the long silence. You might have been wondering what where happening here since the release of Snow Leopard. If you where, the answer is "A LOT". If you weren't, the answer is still the same! Take a look at what is coming and you'll certainly like it.

Snow Leopard
I'm pretty sure that you can't take anything more about this new release of OS X but still, I want to add my word to it. I'll try to work out a new screen-cast to compare Windows 7 and OS X 10.6 file management systems. I think it will be a nice follow up to the last one which was about networking. It should be on YouTube in about one or two weeks.

Server
As some of you might have heard, I decided to build a nice file server for my home. But, if you follow this blog since its beginning, you know that I can't stand cheep stuff. So... I might have overkilled it a bit. Look forward to a little how to build your own core i7 based enterprise class server! I'll also stitch to that my little 4 days adventure to build mine.

School
I hear you already. YES! I'm STILL going to school. College to be exact. My 5th session in software development started about a month ago and I'm starting to have less and less time so you should expect that the 1-week-1-post formula could be a bit... stretched?

For those interested, my current classes are "Advance C++ Programming", "Software Testing Basics", "Advance Database Programming" and "Advance Computer Network". If you ever have questions about any computer subject, I should be able to answer them.

Company
That one is a bigger subject. It's been about two years that the idea first popup with my friends. We finally decided to go on with it and it's now official: We're working for an early 2010 opening. We are posted in Québec/Canada, more precisely in the Saint-Jérôme City, and we're aiming big. The company is named "Centre de Solutions Informatiques" (or "Computer Solution Center" for all of you non-french reader) and we're doing exactly what the name says. We're building all-in-one solutions for people and enterprises from low end hardware running Windows up to custom made high end hardware running custom made softwares.

More to come
I know that this is more of a teaser than a real post but, it's not like I have much time to write right now. You should expect the server story in about a week if nothing goes into my plans.

See you next week!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Flash News: Snow Leopard shipped!

Did you received your copy yet?
I did not... But hey, the package got shipped yesterday (August 27) and with express shipping, I might even get it today! If I do, count on me to do a review of it this weekend. So for those of you how where unsure about if it will ship ON August 28 or FOR August 28, I think you have an answer and it's the one you where dreaming for :D

As a side note, the screen cast series will now be about windows 7 vs OS X Snow Leopard since I wont have 10.5 anymore. I'm not sure I'll have the time to make a new screen cast this weekend but if I do, I'll keep you posted.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Screen Cast the first

I've started a series of screen-cast on youtube that compare some basic features of Windows 7 and OS X Leopard from an end-user point of view. I try to keep a humoristic tone (specially when something goes wrong like in this first video :P). I do one take per OS unless something preventing me from publishing the video happen. The idea is to show how each OS react on a first try. The settings related to the tests where also rested to assure the authenticity of the video.

For the editing part, I try to keep it very close to the original. I will never cut a shot unless it's preventing me from publishing the video. In that case, there will be a notice in the video. Everything is shot in HD to help you see what I'm doing during the screen-cast.

You can take a look on Youtube if you're interested. The first part is about some basic file and screen sharing over different network type. Which one is easier to use and what kind of features are to be expected with the DEFAULT OS configuration.

Flash News: Apple released Snow Leopard

Apple unleashed the beast... not quite...
You can already pre-order your copy of snow leopard from the Apple web site. It cost $29 for one license and $59 for the family pack (3 licenses). There's also a version sold for $169 that include iLife '09 and iWork '09, if you want them. It will be shipped on August 28. If you want to be the first to get your hands on it, you might want to say good by to free shipping and pay for the express shipping option.

Get your copy now at www.apple.com and have a good day!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

IPREDator

A TPB company
The Pirate Bay announced a while ago a new service called IPREDator. It's a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service for the rest of us. VPN's are generally used by big company to help away workers keep in touch with their work documents. By using a VPN connection, they can have the same access as they normally have in house but kilometers away. IPREDator is the same kind of service but not for managing your home documents. It was designed to give you an private and 100% secure internet access. It uses industry-grade 128bit encryption to assure you that no one, not even your IPS, will be able to peek in your data transfers.

This is specially useful if your ISP is using a proxy or if it's limiting peer to peer transfer speed. The idea is to tunnel every internet communication through the VPN and access the internet from a unlimited internet access in Sweden. And it work quite well actually! I've been beta testing the IPREDator service for three days now and I think this service as a great potential.

What does beta means?
It means that if you try IPREDator, you'll experiment everything that a beta is. Slow, buggy and somewhat limited. I had a lot of issue accessing some websites and very slow speed. In fact, it literally split my internet access in half. But, on the other side, I can't complain since it do it's job. My IPS normally limit P2P traffic at 25 KBps between 18h and 2h30. When I enabled the IPREDator service, I got a lot of speed back. I jump from 25 KB to 250 KB witch is pretty good.

As I said, this service is currently in private beta and with reasons, I doubt that it wouldn't blow up if everybody could try test it right now. If it don't it will just be slower and slower. Let's give TPB some time to make it work well before starting to use it every day.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

iPhone 3G S Review - Software

When 1 + 1 = 3
Many people think that software is not that important. Well, on the iPhone, it is so important that it would probably never had shined as much as it did. iPhone OS 3.0 is what every iPhone users consider the first feature complete iPhone operating system. It bring to the end user every thing that they need and was long promise. Seriously, all that I can think of now is minors upgrades. If Apple release iPhone OS 4, it will be as long standing as OS X which will celebrate it's 9th year of existence soon.

Cut-copy-paste, undo-redo, push notifications, accessibility features, spotlight, youtube uploading, compass, full-fledged AGPS. What would you want more? Space to store your medias? Is 32GB enough? Space to store you documents? Is 20 GB enough? What do you really need more?

The iPhone as a PDA
Apple want you to see the iPhone as a simple yet powerful PDA. The software was also made accordingly. The first version had only simple and yet very useful features that about every phone has today, unless you found a phone that can't call, off-course. The second revision showed how much it can really do, by letting third parties play with it. Finally, the third and current revision was designed in response to the users and developers who wanted Apple to let them do more.

Apple want you to see the iPhone as a PDA; With powerful calendar, contacts, media and internet capability. Under this perspective, you will always get limited potential. Even then, this limited potential is still very far away.

What it can do
In OS 3.0, Apple added support for more than 1 000 APIs which bring many more possibilities with them. Right now, you can see augmented reality app emerging, ways to know what's going on instantly on the world with push notifications, record wonderful videos and publish them directly to youtube and that's over the already possible stuff. I must say, those features work very well and are functional up to the very detail. Just try to tap the microphone in the Voice Memos app and you'll see the VU meters peek. Even if it's not very useful, it show you that it work so well that those who created it even think it's time to relax and have some fun!

What you can't do
The limited vision of PDA's give the iPhone a great knock-back. There's so much it can do and so little that it does. Ho yes, the app store is full of surprise but no one ever released an app that's on every single iPhone. An app that could really make that 800$ device do something other than enjoyable. That's something that would certainly interest business which is not the iPhone's specialty right now. That something is a fully fledged iWork or Office for the iPhone. There is very much you can do right now with web apps like Google Docs and Office 2010 web services but they where not designed for this. We need a real, official, office suite for the iPhone. We also need it to be used like a USB drive. And I'm not talking about getting root access to everything. Even if it's just a sandboxed app that work like the iDisk or Air Sharing, it would be perfect. It will let you use those 32 GB of space. And with this come the ability to download any file to the phone, directly to the storage app if there's no other application that can do something with the file.

Review
There's not really something to review about the iPhone OS that wasn't already discussed. The only thing I can add is that the iPhone is now very mature, people and business ready and just wait for a user to download some apps and get it to do it's job; As the best smartphone on the market yet.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

iPhone 3G S review - Hardware

Does it really need one?
No not really, the iPhone is a proven device since the start but, there has been some little changes since the release of the first iPhone 2 years ago. It is the first time two iPhones generation live together in the stores. You now not only have to choose how much space you want. If you're planing on getting an iPhone and you're not sure which one you want, this review is for you.

Decisions, decisions, decisions...
First of all, the 3G S is not only about having a compass in a phone. Even if many people only see that in the 3G S, there's so much more. In fact, it was enough for me to get one at full price! Yup, no one is sending me hardware for review. I do this all on my own! At least, for now... Anyway, back to the iPhone. Well go through some specs comparisons and well talk about software features after that.

Component
iPhone 3G
iPhone 3G S
Core
CPUARM 1176JS(F)-S v1.0 @ 412 MHzARM Cortex-A8 @ 600 MHz
RAMDRAM, 128 MBDRAM 256 MB
GPUPowerVR MBX Lite 3DPowerVR SGX
StorageNAND Flash, 8 or 16 GBNAND Flash, 16 or 32 GB
Connectivity
Wifi802.11 b/g802.11 b/g
Bluetooth2.0+EDR2.1+EDR
CellularGSM 850 900 1800 1900
GPRS/EDGE
UMST/HSDPA 850 1900 2100
GSM 850 900 1800 1900
GPRS/EDGE
UMST/HSDPA 850 1900 2100
7.2 Mbps HSDPA
Navigation
GPSA-GPSA-GPS
CompassNoYes
Others
Ear-PhoneStereo ear-phone
Microphone
Basic remote
Stereo ear-phone
Microphone
Advanced remote with volume control
Voice ControlNoYes
Screen3.5"
320x480 px
18 bit colors
Scratch resistant glass
Two fingers touch-screen1
3.5"
320x480 px
18 bit colors
Scratch resistant glass
Three fingers touch-screen
Oilophobic coating1
Camera2 megapixel still3 megapixel still
640x480 30 fps video
Auto-focus
Automatic macro mode

Majors changes
The iPhone 3G S was advertised as a very fast iPhone and there is specs to back those claim up. The Cortex-A8 is between 2 and 4 times faster than the older one. This make your web-browsing faster, your games smoother, and since the CPU is the bottle neck of that device, even data transfer is getting faster. Believe it or not but the iPhone 3G S sync 80% faster than the iPhone 3G.

With more memory, you can now run bigger and more complex applications without continuously getting interrupted by low memory warnings. With the iPhone 3G, applications had about 40 MB of free memory to run2. This is not very much when the interface itself is using a lot of graphical elements. OS 3.0 doesn't eat very much RAM than OS 2.2.1 so if you choose the 3G S, you will literally get 128 MB of unused memory over what there already is. This is a real plus since, even with all that RAM, you'll often run around 25% of free memory. But this time, no app will fill it up. At least, none that I know of!

The GPU also got a bit refit. The SGX is up to 4 times faster than the MBX Lite. This means better frame rates in games, smaller CPU usage when playing videos because of it's wider support for hardware decoding codecs and more complex animations with support for Open GL ES 2.0.

Limited world
If you're beginning to see my point you've probably stop reading here and got the iPhone 3G S. It's not like the iPhone was a closed platform with very little developers. They will use those new technologies at their full potential. They will not cut features just to support the old 3G. If you don't upgrade to the 3G S, you will see more and more of those low memory warnings and softwares that can't keep up with the old CPU and GPU.

If you are using the iPhone solely for business purpose and can wait 2 or 3 seconds for your apps to load then the 3G is for you. On the other side, if you PLAN on using the iPhone only with business software, then there's 90% you're wrong and you'll want to try that last game. If that happen, you might suffer a big deception.

Minor changes
The rest is pretty much minor. They are just add-ons that might be nice to have. First there is that support for 7.2 MB HSDPA which is nice but the iPhone can't process data at that kind of speed anyway and there is no support for HSUPA which limit the 3G upload speed to 384 kbps. The new ear-phone are nice, specially if you own an iSkin Revo for the iSkin Solo. As this belt clip block the volume control, it's nice to still have them on the ear-phone. There's also a pretty nice new camera (which I use a lot by the way) which is nice addition and already well implemented. On the other side, there's been report of issues with the oilophobic coating which loose grip with time and let marks on the screen under very high température.

Conclusion
That's it! If you already own a 3G and feel that the app you use are a bit slow, you might love the speed boost the 3G S can give you as it make it feel just like if you had multi-tasking. See you next week with the iPhone OS 3.0 software review!


1:This data is not official but it would match the accessibility feature set, only available in the iPhone 3G S.
2:This is a best case scenario. There's about 44 MB of available RAM when the device is rebooted. After 3 days, there's generally less than 20 MB of free RAM remaining.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Windows 7 just hit RTM... and P2P

Not even one day after Windows 7 was officially released as RTM with build 7600 , it is now easier to find on P2P network than Windows Vista. Many people already installed it and every one, and I mean every one, can't be more happy with this release. It seams that Windows 7 will be a very big seller on October 22th when it will get in store. Who knows, it might even be a bigger release than the iPhone 3G S gave us not even two months ago.

For the record, RTM stand for Release To Manufacturing which means that the actual version is the one who is currently being burned to disks. This version is 100% identical to the one you'll get on the official release. You might wonder why they are waiting so long for this? Well it is because hardware makers are slow to react and need time to write drivers because they generally ignore the time where given on the beta version.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Little found that you might LOVE!

iPhone/iPod goes well with MacBook's
Today, I just discovered something very interesting about the MacBook Pro I used in the recent benchmarks I did. Every one that use an iPod or specially an iPhone knows how well it goes with a Mac. It would seem that the match is even more interesting since the release of the iPHone 3G S, the iPod classic 7G, the iPod nano 4G and the iPod shuffle 3G. What do they all have in common is the new ear-phone set which come with remote and microphone that work with all those devices. And I mean ALL of them, including the late 2008 MacBook Pro!

There is absolutely no trace of that feature in any document apple provide for the MacBook Pro nor any iPhone or iPod but it work; And not just the play/pause button, all of it. You've got volume control, play/pause next/previous track working AND the mic! Just plug it in your MacBook, play a track in iTunes and you'll see. For the microphone part, open "System Preferences", go to the Sounds panel and then in the Input tab, watch for the "External Microphone" source and rub the microphone with your fingers. You'll see the VU meter responding instantly, confirming my saying.

Now, if you have a MacBook with an iPhone 3G S or recent iPod, you can have a private conversation, on the go, with iChat using those favorite ear-phone of yours.

Have a good week!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

MSN is CRAP

Windows Live Messenger is CRAP!
You got it? Ok here's why.

Closed
MSN is a closed and proprietary protocol. As a result, you can't use an other client than the official one without getting various issue. For instance, no third-party client will offer audio or video chat. They can also experience "network outage" because of an update on the servers that render them incompatible.

Official is bad
Even the Windows Live Messenger client is badly done. It can eat up 80 MB or memory without any reasons, it's full of ads and worst than all, is not even cross-platform yet! Ho yes, there is a Messenger:mac client which doesn't support audio and video chat and use a incredible 250 MB or RAM! An other thing, since it's widely use, there's viruses for it. Did you never received strange message from an other contact? Now you're starting to see the wide picture.

Privacy free
Most people believe that the MSN network is secure and censor free. This is a very wrong belief. First of all, if you want to talk securely you need encryption which is only supported on third-party MSN client. Since over 80% of the MSN users depend on the official client, they simply can't use encryption. And to add up to the so called privacy, every thing is monitored. Yes it is just software but we don't know if the servers write communications logs. And one this is certain: there is a software that read every message sent since they are censored! Try to send a link with download.php in it. You'll find it very difficult. did you ever saw something like "There was a problem in delivering the last message."? That's probably our censor friend working.

Never trust those who you don't know
Here's a little solution, if you can live without audio chat and video chat then third-party clients is the way to go. If you miss them too much, then be prepared to live with a RAM eater, a privacy sniffer and a virus friend. Or not? There is other solutions out there. MSN is not the only IM network out there. I'd recommend AIM since it's probably the only one which is at complete opposite from MSN. It is an open source 100% cross-platform protocol with very light weight clients which doesn't censor its users. And an other time, there's nothing that force you to use the official client.

I hope some people will do the switch for their own benefit. Have a nice week.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Blog template update

Long live Google Analytics
For those how didn't know, I use Google Analytics to keep track of the popularity of this blog but, sometime, it pay off directly to you; just like this time. When I first started this blog, I decided to use the most compatible layout possible specially when talking about screen resolution. With the help of Google Analytics, I discovered that 99% of the visits are done on a 1024+ horizontal resolution monitor. That mean that I can update the layout to use that space. So I did! This is my first post on a 904 px large text area! This benefit many post like this one which use big tables. I hope you like the new layout. I might do some change again if it better suit the audience.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

MacBook Pro 15" with SSD - Benchmarks

Updated 30 June 2009 13:20
Benchmarking of the MacBook Pro 15"
Last time we talked about virtual performances. Now, it's time to talk about the real stuff. Let's do some real world benchmarks! I'll start with a basic boot time comparison between the Mac Pro, the MacBook Pro 13" with standard HDD and the MacBook Pro 15" with SSD. I'll then test multiple applications startup at the same time and the lunch time of some major applications like Photoshop. The specs of both every computers are supposed to be on my blog.

MacBook Pro 15"
Apple SSD
MacBook 13" Alu
5400 RPM HDD
Mac Pro 2008
4x Seagate 7200.11 HDDs
Boot time
Fastest30.624 sec.48.121 sec.73.806 sec.
Slowest30.989 sec.52.506 sec.82.113 sec.
Average of 330.825 sec.50.07 sec.77.467 sec.
Application startup
Safari 4.0.10.678 sec.2.231 sec.2.124 sec.
iPhoto 8.0.31.864 sec.7.238 sec.9.877 sec.
iTunes 8.21.315 sec.7.192 sec.5.322 sec.
iMovie 8.0.33.391 sec.11.538 sec.6.394 sec.
Photoshop 10.0.13.732 sec.12.372 sec.6.64 sec.
Pages 4.0.21.023 sec.9.715 sec.3.25 sec.
All of the above
(Simultaneous)
6.238 sec.64.245 sec.24.116 sec.

Analysis
Wow! I'd like to add that the boot time is the physical boot time. It combine EFI and OS X boot time. The system was considered booted when the desktop, dock and menu bar was visible and accepting interactions. The time for the EFI to startup is about 12 seconds. It should remain the same for whatever MacBook Pro you have. On the other side, OS X 10.5.7 did boot in 18 seconds which is blazing fast! The Mac Pro EFI needed about 40 seconds to power up since the RAID card start evey disk one after the other to reduce power stress on the power supply. Even with this 28 seconds gap, the MacBook Pro surpassed the Mac Pro by 18.642 seconds.

An other interesting fact is that it take half the time to start every applications at the same time compared to starting them individually. This fact point that the mass storage device (Apple SSD in this case) is not the bottle-neck of this computer. The fact that it is exactly half the time shows us that the CPU is the one slowing everything. When I started multiple applications at once, I took advantage of it's multi-core architecture thus executing 2x more information at the same time.

Conclusion
The SSD option is definitely worth it. If you want a fast, silent and tough computer, it's the first thing to get. I can't imagine what one of those SSDs can do in the Mac Pro. It would surely be a screamer! Let's say that it's defenitly in my plan to do so. I will probably post a follow up when it will happen. In the mean time, let's wait for the videos of those benchmarks and the review of my new iPhone 3G S. See you next week.

Update 30 June 2009 11:52
Those benchmarks might appear incomplete to you so, if you are interested in a specific value that is not present in the list, just ask using whatever means of communication you'd prefer. I'm also open to suggestions about hardware comparison.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

iPhone 3GS upgrade in Canada

The iPhone 3GS pricing just went live
Today, Rogers and Fido announced their pricing for the new iPhone 3GS. They will cost 199 CAD for the 16 GB version and 299 CAD for the 32 GB version. Or, are they? That's if you're ready to get involved in a pretty big adventure since those come not with 2 years contract but 3 years contract! Well... Ok... It's not that bad if you really think about it since you'll obviously be able to upgrade next year to the newer version. Well... Kinda... What they don't tell you is that it's not because you pay 125 CAD a month to get a basic plan that they will do you some favors.

This is the exact situation I am with my iPhone 3G right now. I have a plan that I consider basic when compared to our USA counterpart (details follow) and they are asking me to pay the full price to get a 3GS! What does that tell? Well it make me feel just as someone who didn't gave them just about 1 500 bucks during the last and want an iPhone. That's it! I have to pay the same price as someone who want an iPhone 3GS without any plan, no 3 years engagement, ANYTHING!

This is just outrageous!
Why the heck would I have to pay 800 CAD for an iPhone 3GS where you can get the same damn thing for 500 USD just 200 km south! It just doesn't make sense. And on top of that, Canadian buyers need to endure a three year contract with a company that will do anything to suck up you money. We already have to pay close to 3 times more than in the US to get a plan that is close to interesting. This is just outrageous!

My iPhone 3G
This is my actual situation. I'm stuck in a 3 year engagement (about 1 year done) and paying roughly 124.67 CAD each month for this plan :
Call time (day)300 minutes45.00 $
Call time (evening)unlimited
Call time (weekend)unlimited
Call time (incoming)unlimited
Call time (waiting)2 000 minutes
Data Plan6 GB*30.00 $
Visual Voicemailyes8.00 $
SMS2 50020.00 $
Show called IDyes
MMSnone1.50 $ per messages
Network Access feeyes6.95 $

*: This plan was only available for 3 month after the release of the iPhone 3G.

What do you think?
Do you think, just like me, than Rogers and Fido should not have to right to do this kind of thing? That what they are doing is just like big gas companies? I want to hear you opinion and even more if you think you might have a solution to this plague we are suffering.

Update 2009-06-17 20:43
I just talked to a fido representative and she said that even if Fido's offer look final, it is not. They still haven decided on an upgrade pricing so they prefer to do not talk about it right now. She also said to ask an other time next week for further information.

Update 2009-06-27 14:21
Well, Rogers are offering them at the same price I stated earlier but Fido stuck with a very uninteresting pricing. They give us a 100 CAD rebate which is nice but still pretty low. Anyway, I decided to get my hand on an iPhone 3G S 32GB for review on this blog. It should get here in about 1-2 weeks.

Monday, June 15, 2009

CSS3, the Internet Explorer way

I just finished reading a very nice blog post about features that can give CSS3 to a web site and I stumbled upon a never ending bunch of comment about how Internet Explorer was forcing web developers to stick with the old CSS2.1. I couldn't resist and I made a post about it myself. But where the majority of people would only yell at IE, I proposed a possible solution that would unfortunately not solve but help solving the issue. I find it important for people tho know about this so I decided to post it on my blog :

It seems many people hate Internet Explorer and this is good but, why is there so much hate and so less changes? Believe it or not, this is all caused by Windows Vista! Let me explain : Can any one tell me what is the version of IE shipped with Windows XP? Yes! IE 6.

Many people used the “Vista is slow” excuse to not upgrade because they where not able to get a good working copy of it on p2p networks. So they’ve kept their good old cracked XP. Then, here’s the problem. Microsoft prohibit the use of Windows update AND Microsoft update for non genuine WINDOWS users. As a result, these users can’t even install IE 7. Ho yes, they could install an other browser but the fact is that most of them don’t even know what is a web browser, they just use The Internet Explorer.

See? A mix of file sharing, security protections and lack of knowlege cause this masive user base of Internet Explorer. I propose two solutions :

First, forcing Microsoft to remove Internet Explorer from Windows. This is probably not a very good solution. It would indeed force people to learn what is a web browser but then, how would they get one? You can’t just open IE and then go to the Firefox/Apple/Google/Opera/etc. website since you don’t have a web browser. The only solution would be to provide users with an in-store CD version of the browser that would cost a fortune to produce. Removing IE form Windows would also require an extensive rewrite of the OS since it is using IE’s engine about everywhere. And worse, to keep the market fair, Apple who’s shipping Safari with is OS would have to remove it and the same with Linux/Firefox too!

Second, removing the need for a genuine version of Windows to upgrade to newer version of Internet Explorer, forcing the browser to look for update each week and installing those silently without anyway to abort the installation. This solution is much more simpler, doesn’t require a big bunch a money and would help killing old web browser like IE 6.

Since many companie still require IE 6 (like every medical facility in the Quebec province that, beileve it or not, still use Windows XP SP0!) there sould be a way using Group Policy to disable or limit the updating process to let’s say version x and less.

Now you’re thinking : “Why provide a bypass solution when you just said that there souldn’t have anyway to abord the process? Instead, souldn’t we force those company to upgrade their web-software?” NO! The idea is to provide the big majority of people with no way to bypass the update process and provide a way to the IT administrators, who know what they are doing, to keep things working in their Intranet if needed.

It’s all about making money here and I think the second solution is the best to expect.

You might have recognize the first solution. It's what the European Union expected from Microsoft to do with the release of Windows 7. as you can see, they obviously didn't took the time to think about the repercussions before putting their demands on the public place.

I hope my solution could solve this problem in a more simple way. In the mean time, I'll use a little custom, very clever, solution to make people upgrade to the latest version of Internet Explorer. My goal is not to make you switch on an other web browser. It's just to make you realize how much stuck in the past some of you can be. From now on, any one who's going to any one of my website will see a little popup "à la active-x plugin installer" at the top of the screen if they are not using the latest version of Internet Explorer. More information can be found here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

MacBook Pro 15" with SSD

Comming back
I finaly get the time to write this review. For those how might want to know, all my exams went very well and I have only one session left to do. Anyway, enough small talk and let’s get started! I’m sure can’t can’t stand the wait.

CPU for Pro needs
If it's games, converting a bunch of video files or running VMware, you'll find the T9550 very responsive. It should not be a very big bottle neck in that system. I often run many softwares at the same time (including Windows in a VM) and it generally don't go over 80%.

I would not recommend the 2.4 in anycase. There is good chances that you'll find the 2.4 MacBook Pro barelly enough for what you need. After all, we are in the Pro line here. Those are designed to do hard work. If you want a MacBook, the 2.4 model is probably the one that will give you the most for your money.

I'd say that the 2.93 gHz might be a bit overkill for this kind of computer. Even if you're working with videos, You will proably lack of memory way before you'll need a bigger processor.

Forgetting the lack of memory
The basic configuration come with 2 GB of blazing fast DDR3 memory which is nice but barelly enough to see how OS X can work at peek efficiency. If you get the small model, at least, take the 4 GB of memory option; Specialy if you plan on running VMs on your computer. On the other side, if you are very... hardcore at multi-tasking, you'll want 8 GB of ram.

Many people will stop at the Apple website and take the 17" just for that. WRONG! Never, absolutely never trust Apple specs! The 2.4 gHz is limitted to 4 GB of memory but the 2.66 does support 8 GB. You will find the memory kit on third parties websites and it generally cost 640 CAD. See? Always double check; Never trust Apple specs.

SSD for Super Storage Device
The MacBook Pro come with a 250 GB or 320 GB depending of your configuration choise. But as every Mac, there is a way to suck up evey bit of power you can get from the machine and replace it by an SSD. If the majority of people is still not convinced by SSD's life time or prices, I am. It's this kind of thing you don't know how you manage to live whitout it before have one in your hands.

Apple use Samsung SSD's which are in the world fastest and more robust ones. You have the choice between two options: the 128 GB and the 256 GB. For the first one, even if it look small, you will find it more than enough as long as you don't intend to use boot camp. If you do, you should take the 256 GB one.

There is an other reason why you should try to priorise the 256 GB SSD. Here's a rumor many people have heard: SSD do not slow down even if they are full. That's not true. Well, at least, not completely true. Yes, read speed will never go down even if there is 1 byte of free space lest on the drive. Write speed, on the contrary will be affected. To prevent SSD's from fast degradation, every sector is written on a random place in the drive. The more used sector there is, the more time it will take to find a free spot. SSD's seek time are less than a tenth of a mili-second when empty but this process can make it go as slow as an HDD when full.

The best balance of used/free space would be about 1:1. That means that if you care about your write speed, you'll need to keep about 55 GB free on the 128 GB SSD and 110 GB free on the 256 GB model. If you need more, you should check on what is really important and but the rest of you data on an external hard drive.

Two graphic cards?
Yes, many people think the second graphic processor is optional but it's not the case. NVidia developped a technology called hybrid SLI which was designed to boost battery life on laptop that use powerfull GPU. It work by switching from one GPU to an other when needed. In the MacBook Pro's case, it can give you 2 hours more of battery when doing casual work. Unfortunatly, because of software limitations in OS X, you need to do the change manually and to logoff after that. But rest assured, the 9400M is strong enough to handle most of your HD video playback and small games. Since I bought it, I didn't needed to switch to the 9600M more than two times (one to be sure that it work, a second one to do the benchmakrs).

Our config
Do you like specs? Everybody like specs! Let’s have specs!
CPUIntel T9550
Frequency2.66 gHz
FSB1066 mHz
Cache6 MB
Memory4 GB
Storage128 GB Solid State Drive
Graphics (1)NVidia 9400M with 256 MB of shared system memory
Graphics (2)NVidia 9600M with 512 MB of dedicated GDDR3 memory

Benchmarks
Here come a little surprise. As I didn't have any old MacBook Pro close to me, I had to find a replacement. I knew that this MacBook Pro was a killer but... I have to say... I didn't even see that one coming. Here we are, MacBook Pro vs Mac Pro. Yes, you didn't hallucinated, I did say that I will compare this little laptop to a monster and I have to say, they fit pretty well with the other.


Here's a resume of the results with a little explanation from myself. I will take the result from the 9400M since they are more accurate.
ComponentMacBook ProMac ProDetails
CPU179.47188.34This one is a bit tricky. It doesn't test the real computational power of the processor. It test how it handle it in a single threaded environment. It gives a pretty good way to show how architecture difference can influence the result.
Thread317.13831.36This test look at how much power it can get from a multi-threaded environment. Here, you can see the big difference between the two computers. I never saw a benchmark that give valid result on the first shot. Here, the results should be much higher on the Mac Pro side since the xBench is limited to 4 thread.
Memory186.12202.00The result is a direct comparison of DDR3 dual channel vs DDR2 quad channel. You can see that the DDR3 at 1066 gHz is a very good gain over the old MacBook Pro's that used about the same memory as the Mac Pro but with only two channels. In fact, you can see that the new MacBook Pro's memory is close to twice as fast.
Graphic suite--
- Quartz219.06278.33This test is about the same as a Direct2D test. It represent how the graphic card will render basic images, text and shape on the screen. The results are just as expected. The 8800 GT and the 9800 GT have the same overall performance so there's nothing strange at seeing a 9400M GT under a 8000 GT.
- Open GL174.20181.60This is an other strange result. How come a little 9400M GT is running as fast as a 8800 GT. I really have no clue. There is no reason for this result to be so close on both sides.
Storage suite--Ah! The interesting part.
- Sequential73.80275.81As I say earlier, SSD's benchmarks are very tricky to read. Here, we see that the Sequential read/write of the disk is way slower than the one from the Mac Pro. Here's the little surprise. The Mac Pro use a Caldigit RAID card with 4 Seagate 7200.11 500 GB HDD in a RAID 5 setup. It can read an write about 270 MB/s but remember there is FOUR HDD here not just one. The details of this test show that in average, the MacBook Pro SSD is about the same speed as one Seagate 7200.11 HDD.
- Random108.0540.95That's where we can really the SSD shine. See? Not even 4 of the faster HDD's in the world (actually in the top 10) can come close to one single SSD. The read and write speed are up to 16x faster than only one of the HDD.

Analysis
There is no way a simple laptop cpu could compare to the dual Xeon on the Mac Pro so what went wrong? In fact it seams xBench has a little trouble with newer computer. This little guy could not even peek both machine CPU's for a tenth of a second. I don't know how it test CPU speed but it's probably not a good way and there might be some serious issues in the other tests too. So How do you have to interpret those results. Just say that everywhere you could do more if you do it more time simultaneously, the result will double on the Mac Pro's side but should stay quite the same on the MacBook Pro.

Now let's talk a bit more about the storage test suites. The Apple SSD is as fast as one of the best HDD in sequential access and is up to 16x faster than the same HDD in random access. An other important detail, the default 320 GB HDD in the MacBook Pro has about half the speed than the other HDD's used in this test. That means that by adding a little $300 to your budget, you'll get a 32x speed boost in your every day use. You should then choose this option over 8 GB of ram or a faster processor since it has a better value.

Conclusion
If you plan on getting a MacBook Pro, take the SSD. This is final. It's not even a choice, it's a necessity. Next week, I'll add some other benchmarks in this review. They are real life example so they take more time to plan and process than any other benchmarks. Those tests will include a boot time comparison with the Mac Pro and it's monstrous RAID array and a laptop that use a HDD from the same series as the standard MacBook Pro.

Update 30 June 2009 11:47
I finally posted some benchmark results. If you are interested in a specific value that is not present in the list, just ask using whatever means of communication you'd prefer. I'm also open to suggestions about hardware comparison.

See you next week

Friday, May 29, 2009

Good news!

I now have three months of free time! That means I will release, as promised, my first hardware review next week! I'll do a checkup with benchmarks on my newest MacBook Pro. I've searched the web and no one tested the 15" MBP with a SSD so it will be a first.

See you next week

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Burning school

Reviews will be suspended until the end of the month. College take too much time so I don't have free time to write anything. See you next month, when I'll be in vacation!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

New arrival, First hardware review

I did it...
Last week, while doing my college homework's, Windows 7 crashed on me... for the 100th time since my last post (and I'm not exaggerating). I do have patience but I didn't take that it took my work with him. So, I've bought an other computer. That old laptop was very nice but it had a little problem with sleep making it ... not that school friendly.

As a result, I decided to go with the best line of laptop for students. Well, at least, that's what students say. Yes, it's an Apple computer and it will go well side by side with my Mac Pro. That's an other review coming... when I'll have less school work to do. I might also review my last laptop and one from the Sony Vaio line.

Stay tuned for more details

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Windows 7 build 7100

Hands-on!
I just got my hands on a copy of Windows 7 build 7100. I'll try to install it this weekend and have it ready for monday. I intend to use the information I'll collect during my testing for my Windows vs Windows vs Windows series of posts. Maybe I'll post some hi-res screenshots! Who knows :D

In the meantime, I'm still working on the second post of the series. I'm not sure I'll have the time to release it this week. I'm beginning my final exams at my college and it take a lot of time and with Windows 7 to test, there is a good chance that it will be too much.

See you in a week


UPDATE : Test is in progress...
and look promising! There is no that much of new major things (as expected) but there is plenty of bug fixes and optimization to try. Expect a good note on that one.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Windows evolution, Part 1 - History class

Windows, Windows and ... Windows?
This post is dedicated to one person whom I talked with on YouTube for about a month. We were arguing about why Windows Vista might or might not be better than windows XP. I finally had to settle the discussion since the 500 character limit was making it go nowhere. My goal here is to expose an objective and detailed comparison between Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. I feel the necessity to include both Vista and 7 since more than 50% may skip Windows Vista and go strait to Windows 7. See this post as a continuation to this conversation. If you want to bring new fact from the dark, fell free to use the comment feature to do so. I'm pretty sure that this post will start a big fight so I'd like to make it clear : "My friend here tried it and said it was crap" is not a fact. It's an observation and might be based on influenced perception and modified facts.

As an OS X, Windows, ex-OS 9 and ex-linux user, I'm one of the rare person who really are objective from an OS point of view. The fact that I tried and explored nearly every major OS that are and was in use during the last decade in a home user and business user way will serve as a basis on this review. With those knowledge, I'm able to show you who created what, why they did it and how it work under the hood. I will say it right now : Windows XP is definitely not the winner of this fight. That's why I hope to bring you proves of that.

Before saying anything more, I want you to keep two things in mind : 1. What I just said about facts and perceptions is based on the Mojave experiment and was verified and proven many times; Google for more information. 2. If you don't already remember them by heart, the release date of every Windows version since 3.1; Wikipedia for more information.

The old days
The first iteration of Windows prior to Windows 95, the OS was just a MS-DOS application with every limitation that it might have. It was a 16bit OS with very limited window management and capability. Then came Windows 95. The major difference was 32 bit support and the arrival the taskbar. Those two features make him a big boy and enabled new software possibilities. Windows 98 added Internet Explorer, some other features and bug fixes but was basically the same "kernel-wise". At the same time, Windows NT 4 appeared. It used the same GUI but a different, more stable kernel created specially for enterprise. NT 4 was designed to run as a client OS requiring a Windows NT 4 Server somewhere on the network.

The less old days
Many people then upgraded their computer to Windows 2000 thinking it was the new iteration of Windows 98 but in those days, Microsoft had a three years release date time frame. You have to look deeper to discover that Windows 2000 is Windows NT 5. That's why people found out it was god-like stable. It was an enterprise OS. There never was a Windows 2000 "Home Edition". You had the choice between Professional, Server, Advanced server and Datacenter server. The major new feature it had which made people think that it was a personal OS was that it supported to run without a domain controller server. Windows NT could now run in stand-alone.

Then, later in the year 2000, Windows ME went out. Microsoft tried to integrate part of the NT kernel in the Windows 98 code base and it didn't went well. Because of that, drivers had to be rewritten from scratch and hardware vendor generally botched them to release in time for the new OS. This caused a lot of headache and made the OS nearly unusable.

The still not quite current days
October 25, 2001... Windows XP hit the store. This iteration of windows is numbered Windows NT 5.1. Microsoft dropped the Windows 9x kernel and decide to make the NT one available to every one. They merged the end users feature from Windows ME with the enterprise features of 2000, updated the driver models, added a skin and that's about it. For more than 60% of the Windows XP user pool, there was nothing new in XP aside from a skin and... YES! A lots of headache too! Nearly 90% of the drivers needed to be rewritten, an other time, from scratch because of the new driver models. The first year was a big no-no for XP. A lots of people like me who had a pretty fast and stable Windows 2000 configuration where forced to keep it for an other 6 month. Installing XP on my computer took about 8 hours and in the end, I didn't even had all the driver I needed. Microsoft broke their 3 years time frame by releasing an early version Windows XP to recover from the Windows ME's disaster. End result : XP is not that much better!

During the first XP years, Microsoft finalized the product and released Windows XP SP1 one year and a half later... During this time, hardware vendors had the time to make new drivers that competed NT 4 quality and rumors that Microsoft would stop making operating system had the time to spread. SP1 was quickly adopted by all the unlucky enterprise who bought an original Windows XP version. The update made Windows XP work like it always have should and people was happy with it. Just the support for USB 2.0 (released 2 years before) was worth it.

Then, something went wrong. Microsoft decided to add a new feature to the Windows Vista build which required to rewrite the whole OS from the ground up. It's a well used feature that was, at the time, in every other OS : A Desktop Windows Manager (or DWM). OS X, that was first released on 24 of march 2001, 5 months before Windows XP, even had a DWM called Quartz. Linux had one since before Windows 98! Windows was way behind and some visual glitches that those kind of component solved years ago.

This feature was necessary to make Windows Vista a success so they put it in thus breaking the the 3 years time frame. This is the first reason why Windows Vista was badly accepted by the end users. Since a computer generally have a life span of 4 years, it was the first time people had to buy a new computer without new features excepted from performance gain. From this time, XP was now stated as the fastest OS in the world. On the other side, OS X 10.3 which had plenty of new features, just got out and was the last version before Apple dropped support for older and slower Macintosh G3 computers. Linux started to add memory/cpu intensive visual effects. And Windows was still the same... Same features with the same system requirement as in 2001 but ... hey! We are in 2004 now! Computers are about 16 times faster that they where! No doubt XP is running fast on this good old Pentium 4 HT or AMD Athlon XP barton.

Windows Vista build 3790 code-name Longhorn D1
Here we are. A brand new Windows with... brand new driver models! Indeed, to support the new DWM, the video driver model need to be updated. The old audio driver model doesn't even support more than a 44.1 kHz sampling rate at 16 bit which is CD quality (very bad for DVD or HD movie playback) so it need an update too. The new network stack need a compatible driver model to support network locations, new security features and protocols. The disk controller driver model doesn't even support the AHCI standard so that's an other one who need to be updated.

Bottom line, The final version of Windows Vista will be a new Windows ME. Or will it? To prevent this to happen, Microsoft planned a very big promotional event (the bigger ever at that time) and decided to roll out beta version publicly and even encouraged people to try it. That way, bugs that could occurred at release would be remove and requested features and modifications could be added. Indeed, it was the fist Windows where the end user actively participated its development. This was the second reason why Windows Vista failed at gaining market share. Hardware vendors, fearing of all the new features of those driver models, didn’t started to work before Windows was released. This caused the same problem that XP had before SP1 : Bad hardware support. It also cause an other unanticipated repercussion. Yes, people whom tried it was starving to have more. But the others who just tested the beta for a minute, without even knowing the meaning of the word beta, said it was slow and buggy. In one word : crap.

Windows Vista beta 2 build 5600
The beta rolled out for a while and a lot of new features where added to the OS. A great bunch of those features where directly aimed at the home user, copying the Apple’s iLife suite. It was the first Microsoft OS that enabled you to really do something with you computer without buying or installing additional softwares. This was, strangely enough, the fourth reason why Vista was badly accepted. There was an ENORMUS number of new stuff in it compared to any other Windows OS. Still, people expected it to be as small as XP or 2000.

I want to point that OS X is even bigger than Vista requiring at least 2 GB of ram (recommended 4 GB) and eating up to 16 GB of disk space where Vista need 10 GB. In comparison, XP used 800mb when installed from scratch and less than 3 GB with SP3. So if you decided to move to Macintosh because of that, you where mistaken. It’s not how much memory you have, it’s how you manage it and that’s where OS X is better than Windows. Simple applications can take up to 400mb of ram! Safari, for instance, was taking 344mb of ram when I wrote this post and still, everything is fluid.

Windows Vista SP1
Windows Vista, as Windows XP, had bad driver support until SP1. At that time, about 98% of the hardware had Windows Vista’s driver which is 20 % more than XP SP3 actually has. Hardware vendor started to use more and more of Vista’s new capability and began to develop Vista only stuff. Some times, they manage to make it work on XP using custom softwares and a lots of hacking everywhere but those aren’t needed on Vista. You just plug in the device and it work. A good example is Turbo-Memory imbedded in many laptop. Just like Hybrid-Drive, they can’t work on XP since they rely on a Vista technology called Ready-Boost.

Here we are
That’s the end of my history class. I hope you’ve learned something; Maybe like, lets try it with an open mind and then we’ll see. Next time, I’ll continue to go on in time and will talk about some future stuff (aka Windows 7 and OS X Snow Leopard) and will show you some numbers in the last part. Keep in mind that this is not a side by side comparison of OS X and Windows. I just talk about it because I want to show you stuff that you might not have think of before. After this series of post about Windows, I’ll get into the details of why OS X is generally a better operating system than Windows.

See you next week!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Flawed Microsoft ads

And this made it's way on TV...
I'm a mac user and I love Apple product but I'm not a fanboy. When I buy a computer, I look everywhere at everything and keep objective. It just happened that the latest ad from Microsoft suggest a HP HDX cost under 1 500$ when compared to an Apple computer. I made my way on to the HP and Apple web site and tried to customize the HDX so that it cost under 1 500$ and that it still offer every feature that a MacBook will. I couldn't done it. The less I came up was close to 2 700$! It look like this ad is just a magnificent error. Here's why...

A little comparison
Of course, they compare the HP HDX to a macbook and both computer doesn't even have the same specs. The Macbook Pro is way more powerful at equivalent price and it don't take 30 minutes just to customize your notebook.

Here is a list of some major differences between the basic HDX that was suggested during the ad and a Basic MacBook Pro :

DifferenceHPApple
ProcessorI honnestly don't know where the 2.4 gHz came from. They probably took the T6600 which is not even on the Intel processor finder (Wow! Inexistent, old CPU)Intel core 2 duo
2.66gHz, 3mb cache
45nm architechture
Video cardUse system memoryUse it's own memory
MemoryNeed DDR2 with the 9600gtUse DDR3 as system memory
SoftwareNeed to buy everything (add close to 500$)
Need Vista ultimate to compete OS X features (add 150$)
iLife built-in, need iWork (add 80$)
KeyboardStandardbacklit
MouseBasic Touch-padMulti-touch track-pad
WarantyVery basic support (must add a 150$ waranty to compete Apple Care)Basic waranty include advanced support
SetupWhat? They charge an extra to install your software? (add up 200$)
(Note : end-up reformating the laptop to remove HP crap from it)
Ready to go
CaseMulti-part platic/metal
16" display, 8lb
Aluminium unibody
15.5" display, 5.5lb

At the end, you have to pay 2 662$ to have a 2 500$ MacBook Pro (lite of course since even with the gt130m 1gb they can't compete with a 9600gt with built-in memory and much of the components are slower).

Bottom line? That's exactly what you get with a HDX....

By the way, I'm not an Apple fanboy. It just happend that I took the time to compare both system and there is just no way a 1 500$ or less laptop can compare with a 2000$ laptop. With the info I have, I'd say that even the 9400m would be faster than the 9600 which is in the HDX. In the end, I could get an equal-performance laptop for 1800 where the HDX still cost more than 2600. The only plus of having an HDX is the blue-ray which not that use full. For instance, I never used the DVD drive on my laptop in one year excepted to install Windows on it. When every thing is on HDDs, there is just no need for it. HD movies? There's iTunes store for that.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Internet Explorer 8 and Visual Studio Wizards

It happened to one of my friend today. He was trying to add a class in an MFC application and got stuck when an error message came out. This error is caused by a change in the security policies of Internet Explorer 8 and is documented by a blogger on MSDN (click on title for original post).

A fix
  • Open regedit (on a 64-bit OS, open the 32-bit regedit)
  • Under “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet
    Settings\Zones”, create a new key called 1000 (if it isn't already there)
  • Under 1000, create a DWORD entry with:
    • Name = 1207
    • Type = REG_DWORD
    • Data = 0x000000

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Breaking News - Intel vs AMD

Intel got over its rival
I just got my hands on a very ... let's say surprising benchmark about the latest Xeon X7460 Nahelem processor. This CPU is in the same line as the Core i7 but are on the server side so we mean business here; and big ones. I will resume my analyze as this even if it might offense AMD fans here (just face it, it is called reality) :

Pick yours : Less than half the price or more than five times faster.

Indeed! Intel regain the first place in the PassMark benchmark with an outstanding score of 25 881 (as of 24 of march 2009) which is 1.9 times faster than the fastest AMD system available on the market who score only 13 600. What is really special here is that where AMD need's 8 quad core processors to achieve this score, Intel only need 3. Long way to go AMD.

Update (25 of march 2009)
A bug seem to have appeard in the benchmarks and the score for the Intel X7460 was replaced by a AMD Sempron 1100 LE which should be in the Mid-End list.

Update (26 of march 2009)
The mark had been silently removed from the web site.

Update (1 of april 2009)
Apparently, the web site was updated and they removed all 2+ processors system from the list and moved them to a separated list named "multi-cpu system". Still, the X7460 is not back on the list but X7350 (in a quad processor system) score 16 715 which is at least 3 000 better than the fastest AMD with half the number of CPU.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Intel Core i7, Part 3 : Power management

As the title of this post said, I will not talk about required electrical power to sue the processor nor what kind of power management feature it has since there is not much new except in the Turboboost technology. Instead, I'll talk about calculation power. What make those CPUs as fast as they are. You know... processing power management.

Super powers
Yes, those new processors are really fast but what about their super powers? You didn't know, didn't you? Intel made a deal with some super heros to provide the new Core i7 with super powers like :
  • Turboboost Technology - A real-time dynamic, per core, overlocking technology.
  • Wide Dynamic Execution - A technology that enable to dispatch up to 4 instructions per clock cycle per processing unit.
  • Hyperthreading - An other technology that enable the system to fetch up to two times more instruction in the processor.
  • Integrated memory controller - Help pushing data real fast into the processor.
  • Advanced Smart Cache - Cutting in fourth the time it take to do about every memory access.

Power at work
Those technologies give a big boost at speed make the processor way more powerful than before. Let's start with the first one, Turboboost. It analyze, in real time, which core is idle and which are overloaded. It then cut off power to those who doesn't need it and reroute it to the one that are struggling by overclocking them for up to 30% of their original speed. This technology gives a big performance boost for single threaded application that does not benefit from additional core's presence. The second one, Wide Dynamic Execution, is a technology that will peek at your processor activities using techniques like data flow analysis, speculative execution, out of order execution, and super scalars to execute up to 33% more instructions per clock cycle on each core than before. On older Intel architecture and AMD Phenom architecture, the processor could only handle 3 instructions in the same clock cycle. This technology push that to four and will help on getting more data processed at faster rate in the CPU. Finaly, hyperthreading, which was on the older Pentium 4 HT processors, is coming back with some enhancements. It can now double the amount of data to process in the clock cycle in one core. For those who don't know/remember how it work, we can say that it try to fill blank and thus unused quarter of CPU clock by filling them with an other thread.

Power to fill
While all those technologies get super processing power to the CPU they made it harder to fill with data. That's where the new Integrated memory controller and Advanced Smart Cache technology come in place. Those two little guy help at fetching data in the processor up to three times faster than on the previous processors by using a faster connection to memory and three channel instead of two and the second one make data closer to every core of every processors thus nearly dividing by four the latency needed to check if a core is working on the same data as an other. Those little thing contribute on the 45% performance improvement over the older Penryn generation.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Intel Core i7, Part 2 : QPI

Northbridge, Southbridge, Socket, FSB and ... QPI?
In the early 90's, AMD was making top notch CPU and, in some cases, they were up to two times faster than the Pentium 2 and Pentium 3 processors. While years went up, AMD went down when intel announced the Pentium 4 with breakthrough technologies like hyper-threading and SSE2 support. We are now in year 2003. Intel business is going very well and they are dominating the market. AMD was falling down so they needed a solution or they where to die. That's when they introduced two new technologies to the consumers, 64 bits architectures and HyperTransport. The first one should have been enough to put AMD back into the course but, even today, only 1/8 of our computers use a 64bit operating system so that wasn't the solution. HyperTransport, on the other side, did a very good job at reviving them. This technology aimed at replacing the FSB that was in our computers since the Intel 8088, released in 1979. The motive is simple : "A 25 years old technology does not have place in a 2003 computer."

HyperTransport is a ultra-fast link between the CPU and the computer's memory. AMD's solution is to move the memory controller form the northbridge to the processor. While they didn't completely removed the FSB, this initiative was frightening 6 years ago. When the Athlon 64 3200+ got into the market, they managed to produce a CPU that was on par with the Intel 3.2gHz Pentium 4 but was half the price and used a 2gHz clock instead of a 3.2gHz one. Those little details made computers more power efficient and reduced the amount of emitted heat.

A urge breakthrough indeed and AMD went even further in 2005 when they released the first dual core desktop CPU on the market. When Intel users needed to pay for a dual socket machine which cost a lot, AMD users could get better performances for half and even quarter of the price.

Now Intel was in trouble. They were in the same position that AMD was two years before. They rushed to provide 64 bit architecture, dual-core and even quad-core processor but something... yes... something was missing. Even if Intel quad-core processors were better than any AMD's in 2006, they wanted to show their superiority. They got trough every technology wall by creating 45 nm processors but still... something was missing.

In the last 4 months, Intel started to produce the Core i7. The fastest processors on the planet and what make it so fast is the QPI; Intel 5 years late response to AMD's HyperTransport. Instead of simply taking the memory controller into the CPU, Intel completely removed the now 30 years old FSB and replaced it by a brand new technology : the Quick Path Interconnect.

Not just a FSB replacement
What make the QPI so spacial is that's it's not just a very effective FSB replacement. It is a very fast (Quick) way (Path) to connect internal computer component (Interconnect). Who talked about CPU, nothbridge or memory here? It can connect everything that need a lot of bandwidth. For now, the base line Core i7 only have one QPI that is used to make a direct link between the CPU and the X58 chipset but hi-end Xeon processors have two of them.

Those processors are on dual socket motherboard and the northbridge always was a massive bottleneck on this kind of architecture. They needed snoop-filter caches and a very complicated routing system to ensure that multi-threaded application worked correctly. Worse, those problem even were in quad core systems since they were using the same routing as dual socket system.

With the QPI, there is no need to go though the FSB to the chipset and back on the FSB to the second processor just to know if he is working on the data the first one needed. They now have a direct inter-processor link to do those operations minimizing cost by simplified routing and making dual socket system as fast as multi core system.

Specs time!
AMD's current implementation of HyperTransport use revision 3.0, up to 2.6gHz, 16bit link in every processors thus providing 20.8 GB/s of bandwidth. Intel, on the other side is using it's first revision of the QPI which is 16bit links at 3.2gHz. This little difference is enough to make a big jump in performances and provide 25.6 GB/s (23% more bandwidth). They basically double the bandwidth of a traditional 1600mHz FSB like the one used in the previous Intel x48 chipset.

Part 2, Conclusion
With the arrival of this new point-to-point link technology, Intel is pushing our computers to extreme performances for a very good price and enable a new era of HPC, server, workstation and desktop class computers. In the end, by using the new QuickPath technology, we are not only using faster bus but also using more of them and using them more wisely. It definitely mark the end of a 30 years old era.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Intel Core i7, Part 1 : First look

Core i7 Logo
Core i7 Extreme Logo

After a lots of thinking about what might be the best subject for the first real review, I decided to take suggestions from people I know and they asked : "Talk about the new i7!". But this is hell of a subject with a lots of things and data to put out on the blackboard. So, I decided that the best way to talk about that subject is to make a series of blog post about it. Fortunately, You don't have to overlock your computer to take a look at those review; even if they describe in every little detail, the spectacular and brand new Intel Core i7 processors series.

Overview
Intel did a strange choice this time by releasing low end processors before the high end one. Or not? Those CPUs are, in reality, the high end ones and they are impressively cheap! The thing is that this time, Intel put the accent on desktop chips instead of the higher and more pricy Xeons. You have to take a look at the socket to realize that those are monsters, and not smalls one. They use the same socket than their Xeon counter-parts and they are nearly identical to the Bloomfield's Xeons batch of processor. Even more; they have the same price! Only the processor model and release date are different. Officially, there is only 5 desktop computer class chips and 13 server class. Some of them are not even on the market yet and some of them are just the same. This post will concentrate on the desktop class processors since they might be of interest for more people. I will give more details about the Xeons and how they compare the the Core i7 in a later part.

The series
The Core i7 brand consist of 3 available CPUs and 2 ones that will not hit the store before Q2 2009. The 920, 940 and 9501 are the standard processor that about every OEM will put in their PCs. The 965 and 9751 are part of the Extreme series and will be reserved for high-end computers. They all use the new LGA-1366 socket that provide extended functionality and more bandwidth over it's older brother, the LGA-775.

Some numbers
General specs :
  • Quad-Core design
  • 64bit, 45nm architecture
  • 8MiB L3 shared cache
  • A TPD of 130 watt
  • Support for Intel Hyper-Threading Technology
  • Support for SSE 4.2 instruction set
  • Support for Intel Turbo Boost Technology
  • Support for Intel Virtualization Technology
Intel Core i7 920 :
  • 2.66 gHz
  • 1x 4.8 GT/s QPI
  • 3 way DDR3 1066mHz memory support
Intel Core i7 940 :
  • 2.93 gHz
  • 1x 4.8 GT/s QPI
  • 3 way DDR3 1066mHz memory support
Intel Core i7 965 :
  • 3.2 gHz
  • 1x 6.4 GT/s QPI
  • 3 way DDR3 1600mHz memory support

Nice! Now, what does that mean?
Basically, it means that the only difference between every processors in the series is clock speed except for the Extreme one which has a faster QPI and a better memory bus to push more data in the processor. They all have the exact same core with the same stepping, caches and technologies.

What difference them is quality. When Intel design a processor, they design the higher end first. After some test on those, they can find a way to produce lower quality chip for lower price. Here, lower quality doesn't mean that they will break faster. It means that the 920 didn't passed the heat, stability and power usage tests to run at 2.93 gHz like the 940. That's the primary reason why over-clocking is a bad idea with low end CPUs. They will get very hot faster and might not be as stable as a higher end processor.

Benchmarks
All the benchmarks that I post on hardware that I do not own is publicly available on the internet and I will try to give links to them but most of the time, they come from PassMark software.
CPU Mark (11th March 2009 average)
Model no.Absolute MarkRelative MarkAbsolute Price2Relative Price 
i7-9205 410+ 0%$ 284+ 0%
i7-9406 071+ 12.22%$ 562+ 197.89%
i7-9656 562+ 21.29%$ 999+ 351.76%

For those of you who have a good computer and who use benchmarking software like 3D/PC Mark those scores might seem very low. Don't worry, those are in fact very good. For those of you who lasyness is taking over and who don't want to check on the original web site. Here's the score of some processor in comparison (11th of March 2009 average)
  1. [Quad CPU] Dual-Core AMD Opteron 8218 - 5 082
  2. [Dual CPU] Intel Xeon E5335 - 5 103
  3. [Dual CPU] Intel Xeon X5272 - 5 879
  4. [Dual CPU] Intel Xeon X5355 - 6 315
  5. [Dual CPU] Quad-Core AMD Opteron 2380 - 6 531
As you might have notice, there is no AMD Phenom II X4 nor Intel Core 2 Quad processors in this list. Those are all server class, multi-socket, quad-core and dual-core processors.

Part 1 : Conclusion
Those are not little toys that you can carry around like your credit card and you might need more than one if you choose to get a system with the i7-965. They are Monsters and deserve to be respected as such. The Core i7 line is a very powerful and impressive series of CPUs which will blow away any kind of computer might have in the same category ($2 000 and less).

On the other side, don't expect that much from the i7-940 or i7-965 if the price is a prime directive for you. They cost up to 350% more than the i7-920 but offer only 21.3% more performance. And since other components that handle those beast cost a LOT, you will destroy your budget in a flash. Instead, you should consider getting an older and cheaper workstation class computer. I never tough I'd said that but a computer like the 2008 Mac Pro which has two Penryn Xeons processors is, of course, faster but cost less than a single socket i7-965 machine.

In the end, the i7-920 is without a doubt the best processor you can get today in the $250-350 price range on the market. Do not let you deceived by the fact that he is the slower of it's line. This guy will still deliver awesome performances in everyday computing, games, video and photo editing, 3d modeling and digitally assisted music creation.

1 Release date : Q2 2009
2 Official release price