Saturday, February 14, 2015

Why I wish Firewire had caught fire - USB Bus saturation

Many moons ago, I tried to make sure that any external drives I got used Firewire either as their primary interface, or as an interface option. When I last replaced drives about two years ago, that became next to impossible, and so now I go with USB 3.

The problem with using USB 3 is that you are sharing a bus among all the devices. There is plenty of headroom for your network adapter, wireless keyboard and mouse, and an external drive to all coexist happily. The problem comes in when you need a bit more.

Today started out with me opening two new Tripp Lite Two-Bay RAID devices. Was very impressed with the toolless tray setup, and soon they each were configured with two 6TB drives each in a RAID-0 configuration. I attached the first drive, and watched Windows freeze for about 15 seconds as the drive was announcing itself to the Disk Configuration utility. But then everything was back to ok, and I soon had started up a copy of all the files from my older array to the new one. Windows estimated a time of about 6 hours - not bad.

I then started getting ready to add the other drive, and noticed that my mouse was all wonky, and keyboard input was hit and miss. It took me twenty minutes of stubbornness to get everything setup (a lot of right clicking rather than trying to double-clicked helped), and as the copy to the second drive started, the estimate for the first drive changed to 13 hours, and the second one showed 14 hours.

With both going it is next to impossible to do anything else on the machine. This is a core i7 with 9 gigs of RAM and a GTX 770 video card - a pretty decent machine - and yet when the USB bus gets busy you'd be almost as well off with a core i3.

Of course Firewire was more expensive because you aren't sharing a channel, and so more chips and wire meant a lot more expense even though most folks don't do this sort of thing very often. Still, the price premium you would have to pay for a Firewire card (since many motherboards no longer have native support) and a Firewire enclosure makes it even less likely that an occasional user could justify the expense.

Still, it is kind of sad to think of all that horsepower being blocked by this one narrow bus...

For your consideration.

Coleman 1080p Video Glasses - Example and some thoughts

Have been doing the occasional flight with my Parrot Bebop, and it has been interesting to see how well it is able to stabilize video through software. Borrowed a GoPro and did not have quite as much success, and then ran into a site talking about various video glasses.

Ended up with a pair of Coleman 1080p glasses. Chose that over the other models mainly because the lenses are designed to be removable - so I can use clear for indoors and polarized for outside.

Below is a lightly edited video - basically just stabilization - that came from the glasses.


As you can see, this isn't half bad for something that you wear on your head. Detail is decent, and stabilization produces a watchable (if not award winning) product.

My main reason for doing this is wanting to record some video of hikes along the Riverwalk, and hopefully at Rocky Mountain National Park later this summer. In addition to the national park restrictions on drones, the flight time of only about 11 minutes makes that an impractical solution. I had looked at getting a GoPro and a Feiyu electronic stabilizer, but you are looking at over $1K for something that I would use only occasionally.

Glasses and a 32 gig Micro SD card were under $200. I won't try to argue that the video is as good, but it's not that bad, and the money saved will make it easier to afford a backup charger or two to allow me to shoot a complete hike.

Just in case you're looking for something like this yourself...

Monday, February 09, 2015

Preparing for our AI Overlords

If you somehow haven't already read "Wait But What's" discussion of the future of AI and what that says about OUR future, you should probably take a few minutes to check it out now. Make sure to read the second part as well. Kind of puts it all in perspective.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

AMD vs nVidia - Results of a six year experiment

Back in 2009, I custom built two machines using what were, at the time, high end components. It has been interesting to see how well the memory and the CPUs have held up (one of the advantages of going with Core i7 processors and DDR3), and both machines are still up and running.

The biggest difference, however, and the one that is requiring me to finally replace one of the machines is the video cards. The one machine has an AMD Radeon HD 4800, and the other has an nVidia GTX 260. For the first couple of years the machines were pretty much neck and neck in terms of support and performance. After that, nVidia seemed to do a slightly better job of keeping their drivers getting the most out of the GTX, while the Radeon could still do everything - just a bit slower.

In the last year, however, a number of programs have come out that require support for more modern versions of OpenCL and OpenGL. While the nVidia card is now noticeably slower than my main desktop (which has a GTX 770), the Radeon drivers have no support whatsoever for these. At first it was just a couple games, and that wasn't a big deal. But now programs as diverse as Mixamo Fuse, Blender, Sweet Home 3D, and makeHuman all require this support, and I can't really put off replacing the machine any longer.

My original plan a couple months back was to get a new desktop with a Radeon just to make sure I had access to both types of technology. But given this, I am now planning to get a system with an nVidia card as I can't take the chance that in another 2-3 years AMD might not give full support to an older card. I understand planner obsolescence, and that many tech business models don't hold up if you don't replace things every 2-3 years. But nVidia shows a commitment to make sure that you do that when the performance lags, not just when it's "easy" to stop supporting something.

Given that I don't see too many longitudinal studies of technology, I thought I would share this to help anyone else who has purchase horizons in the near future, but doesn't have plans to upgrade as frequently as some of the manufacturers might like :-)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Microsoft HoloLens - Transform your world with holograms

This seems more than a little bit like what we've heard would be coming from a couple different sources for the last year. I'd feel better about it if they announced a ship date, and if the ad didn't seem an awful lot like most of the ones that were produced for "Better Off Ted". Intro in particular had me just waiting to find out this was really a second season announcement.

I am excited to see what Microsoft or Magic Leap have to offer once either one is actually available, but in the meantime we seem to be smack dab in the middle of what Gartner would call the "Hype" phase of the product cycle.