For years, I maintained a Skype number that’d forward to whatever phone number I happened to be using at the time. It was the only way to make myself reachable on the phone, despite my switching to a new mobile number every time I moved to a different region. It worked well enough—until last year when Microsoft redesigned the iOS version of their app to make it damn near unusable as a phone forwarding service. I hated Skype’s mobile makeover so much that I decided not to renew my annual plan with the service. If you want to find me, these days, it has to happen via Twitter or email. It seems that users of Microsoft’s desktop version of the app have all sorts of loathing for its recent redesign as well. According to The Verge, the backlash against version 8.0 of the app has been so widespread that it’s put Microsoft back on its heels.
From The Verge:
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Last month, Microsoft announced it would be shutting down the desktop version of Skype 7.0, otherwise known as classic Skype, in September and transitioning users and businesses to the redesigned Skype 8.0. Following what the company describes as “customer feedback,” classic Skype will be sticking around for “some time” to “bring all the features you’ve asked for into Skype 8,” per Windows blog Thurrott. Skype 8 was first unveiled as a mobile redesign last year, inspired by trends set by Facebook and Snapchat, and it was widely disliked at the time as well.
I'm writing this on a 2015 MacBook Pro. It's an i5 with 8GB of RAM. It's adequate for most of what I do, but, as I've mentioned in the past, it's been kind of a lemon since I picked it up. It's out of Apple Care now, and that's a concern. I am not made of money. Sooner or later, I'll wind up buying a new laptop.
For the past year, I've been considering moving entirely over to Windows as Apple's been doing some weird stuff: keyboards that break down if you get dust in them, processors that are antiques even when the Macs they're in are brand new. Oh, and dongles, so many dongles.
When I saw that they were doing something about the keyboards baked into their MacBooks and have begun to spring hardware with the latest chip sets in them, I was hopeful: I've used Macs for close to two decades. I have so much cash sunk into software, I don't want to switch platforms if I can help it. Then I saw that the high end iterations of this year's MacBooks are being throttled--slowed down--because they can't handle the heat generated by their gloriously speedy internals.
From Apple Insider:
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Technology-centric YouTuber Dave Lee claims the thermal design of Apple's latest 15-inch MacBook Pro does not provide sufficient cooling for Intel's Core i9 processor, causing the chip to throttle down performance to prevent serious damage.
Intel's 2.9GHz six-core Core i9 processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 4.8GHz is offered as a premium $300 option on Apple's 2018 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, but according to Lee, the chip is unable to reach its full potential due to the laptop's design.
Commodore made the world's most successful 8-bit personal computer, the C64, and its most iconic 16-bit one, the Commodore Amiga. But the latter was a weird, complicated, two-faced beast, dooming a badly-managed company to a dead end of its own making. What if it had instead made a simple but powerful monster machine more like its earler models? Meet the C256.
Stefany Allaire is building the Commodore 256, what she believes should have been the successor to the Commodore 64 and 128, the best-selling computer line in history. Stefany – who has designed hardware for $60 billion companies, startups, and everything in between – also shared insights into her design process, including the PCB design tools she uses, and how she integrates electronics and mechanical design.
It has a 65C816 Western Digital CPU, 256 colors and up to a megabyte of RAM. And SID chips, supply permitting. The project's homepage is c256foenix.com.
I believe that restriction is the mother of creativity, so I’m trying to restrict myself to keep it limited to what would have been available back then.
Commodore did attempt something vaguely similar to this, the Commodore 65, but they waited until the 1990s, pitching it as budget upgrade for C64 users, and it was so obviously late to the party it never got past prototyping. A more relevant comparison might be the Sinclair QL, a poor mangled beast (albeit a 16-bit one) rushed out in 1984 to beat Apple, Atari and Commodore to the shelf. Read the rest
Available free on Archive.org, the 1985 Electronic Engineers Master Vol 2 contains page after page of excellent technology company logos, many of which have been lost to the obsolescence of hardware and business plans. Marcin Wichary the designer/typographer/writer behind the Segmented Type Playground and the Pac-Man Google Doodle, turned the logos into a beautifully haunting slideshow.
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Accidentally stumbled upon this amazing treasure trove of hundreds of beautiful/awful 80s tech logos. It sort of feels like a version of that “Bobson Dugnutt” screen, but those are all real.https://t.co/0eOSTTLZYS pic.twitter.com/nzrajNstcD— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) May 28, 2018
This clip, posted by David Hoffman a few years ago, is going viral this fine Wednesday morning: "I was shooting a documentary called “The Information Society” in 1979 and filmed this in Cedar Rapids Iowa. Compushop had just begun selling the Apple II and this guy had a keen sense of what was coming." Read the rest
There's an art and craft to building fanless computers that can do fancy things (like play games), but the one Tim made is housed in the attractive Streacom DB4 and makes no noise at all. Zero decibels. Tim had to research motherboard clearances to the fraction of a millimeter to make sure he picked the right one to work with its heatpipe kit.
This computer makes no noise when it starts up. It makes no noise when it shuts down. It makes no noise when it idles. It makes no noise when it’s under heavy load. It makes no noise when it’s reading or writing data. It can’t be heard in a regular room during the day. It can’t be heard in a completely quiet house in the middle of the night. It can’t be heard from 1m away. It can’t be heard from 1cm away. It can’t be heard — period. It’s taken nearly 30 years to reach this point, but I’ve finally arrived. The journey is over and it feels great.
Regular readers will know I'm fond of tiny computers. During my search for one powerful enough to play games on, I found several beautiful and well-made options. But none were so wee as the Zotac Zbox EN1070K [Amazon], which is roughly the size of a Sega Dreamcast. I've had it for six months, now, and can report that it's great: easily the most enjoyable, compact, no-nonsense game-ready PC I've ever owned.
Miniaturization is accomplished by using the MXM video card form factor originally devised for laptops. In the past, this would have resulted in a severe performance compromise. But current Nvidia models hit close to the numbers posted by full-size counterparts. Even with Zotac slightly underclocking the GTX 1070 (presumably for heat reasons), it benchmarks close enough to the full-size model that I doubt I could tell the difference side-by-side.
There's even a model with the GTX 1080 [Amazon] in it, but it's twice the size of this one and I wanted small, and it turns out the 1070 is more than enough for every game I've tried, outpacing the GTX 970-equipped PC I upgraded from. The latest games on the highest settings on 4k monitors would be pushing it, I'm sure, but if you need that, maybe a PC the size of a hardback novel isn't in your future.
There are compromises to bear in mind. Upgrading the i5 Kaby Lake CPU is possible, but I won't be chancing it for a long time -- it voids the warranty and requires almost complete disassembly. Read the rest
TechCrunch's Veanne Cao reviews Apple's iMac Pro. It's a beautiful, powerful machine, Veanne writes, but when it comes to high-end video work the price premium over a similarly-specced Windows box makes it a hard sell.
There’s a period of zen we reach as editors when we’re plowing through an edit, when we’re so consumed by whatever project we’re working on that hours will pass before we realize we’ve forgotten to eat, sleep, pee. ... With the iMac Pro, I’m reminded of how enjoyable video editing can be.
I definitely can’t justify its price tag to my corporate overlords. My two friends who run production companies with teams of 14 and 28 echoed the same sentiment: “It doesn’t make sense, business-wise, with that many employees.” And my freelance colleagues, even the ones consistently landing high-paying gigs, all but one said it wasn’t worth the price, “I’d rather spend the extra few thou on lenses or a new body.”
I would still buy it if I were doing lots of high-end pro work. Why? Because Windows is hinky.
It's not a platform for taking pleasure in one's work, unless you're lucky enough to be working in a field that requires only one particular well-made app to get it done. Windows is a platform for disinterested drudgery and games. Just last week, Microsoft pushed out a "Windows Ink" update that broke my Wacom gear, with no obvious or easy workaround until Wacom published a hacky command-line fix. Mac OS is far from perfect, but at least it doesn't force on me Microsoft's drivers for its own comically low-end tablet PCs. Read the rest
There's still plenty of life left in my 2015 MacBook Pro. But sooner or later, I'll ditch my computer in favor something new.
The nerd in me is wicked excited with the notion of using an ultra light laptop with an external graphics processor, for several reasons. I've always wanted to own a gaming laptop, but I could never justify the price, or the weight of one in my bag. Going with a computer that can connect to an external GPU means that I could invest in the laptop first, and then the GPU when I could afford it. And since the GPU for the rig is external, I wouldn't be forced to carry around a heavy bastard of a computer with me every time I needed to take off on assignment. That said, I was hesitant to buy one without seeing how it'd perform, first and foremost, as a work machine. I really like the look of the Razer Blade Stealth: the laptop's industrial design is what Apple might have come up with if their design department had a shred of edge or attitude. So, relying on the privilege of my position as a tech journalist, I asked Razer if I could borrow one.
They said yes.
I spent the past month working on Razer's insanely well-built ultrabook. It was pimped out with 16GB of dual channel RAM, and an Intel Core i7 2.70Ghz processor. It's zippy! But then, that's in comparison to my daily driver: a three year old Core i5 with 8GB of RAM. Read the rest
Landslides are bad news. In parts of the world where heavy, sustained rains can rapidly give way to flash flooding, they're responsible for tragic loses of life, property and transportation infrastructure. That the latter can wind up under hundreds of tons of mud and debris makes it far more difficult for first responders to do anything about the former--if you can get to people, you can't save them. Since we can't change the weather, we can't stop landslides. But NASA's churned out new tech that could make the difference between an evacuation and a recovery effort.
According to Space.com, NASA's got a hot new computer model designed to identify landslide hazards around the world, every 30 minutes:
Heavy, sustained rainfall is a key trigger of landslides around the globe. So Kirschbaum and co-author Thomas Stanley, a landslide expert with the Universities Space Research Association at NASA Goddard, built the new model using rainfall data gathered by the Global Precipitation Measurement satellite mission, which is run jointly by NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
The model also employs a "susceptibility map" to determine if areas getting hammered by rain are particularly landslide-prone — for example, if they lie on or near steep slopes and/or tectonic-plate boundaries, or have been subject to significant deforestation.
High-risk areas are identified in "nowcasts," which the new open-source model produces every 30 minutes.
Given the number of lives per year that this computer model's predictions could save, to call this news huge would be an understatement. Read the rest
Back in 2012, we published a feature about Frank Cifaldi, one of the world's leading collectors of rare vintage videogames and related ephemera. Since then, Cifaldi founded the Video Game History Foundation, dedicated to preserving this vibrant art form's history and culture for the ages.