REVIEW – AMAZON FIRE 10 HD (7TH GENERATION)

The Fire 10 HD is a tablet computer developed by Android. The one we are looking at today is the most recent iteration of this tablet, the 7th generation which was released in 2017.

The Fire 10 HD is a 10.1-inch tablet with a screen to body ration of approximately 71%. The screen is a 1920 x 1200 IPS LCD panel with a 16:10 screen ration and a screen density of 224 ppi. The screen is by far the best part of this tablet, it is bright, crisp and has a very large viewing angle.

 The Fire 10 HD has a Quad-core processor consisting of two 1.8GHz Cortex-A72 cores and two 1.4 GHz Cortex-A53 cores, making the tablet feel snappy and responsive. For a GPU the tablet uses the PowerVR G6250. The Fire 10 has 2 GB of RAM and comes in two variations for storage 32 and 64 GB but both can accept SD cards of up to 256GB.

The tablet has a VGA front-facing camera and a 2MP rear-facing camera which is capable of 720p video recording. The cameras are definitely the weak point of this tablet and to be frank they terrible to the point of being unusable. However, I have never actually used the camera functionality on any tablet I have owned so this does not really bother me.

The Fire 10 has a 3.5 mm stereo jack and the integrated dual stereo speakers implement Dolby Atmos Audio and they sound great, you can comfortably watch a movie without using headphones.

From a connectivity perspective the Fire 10 has dual-band Wi-Fi and built-in Bluetooth. The tablet has a micro USB connector used for charging the battery and data transfer.

The battery is advertised to last up to 10 hours and after 4 months of daily use I typically get 7-8 hours of usage between charges.

The tablet comes in three color options, red, blue and black and weighs in at around 500 grams.

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A customized version of Android, called Fire OS, is used by Amazon on the Fire product range. This means that the default App store for the device is the Amazon App Store, however the Google Play Store can be easily installed to get access to the entire Android app library.

This device is great for content consumption, and this is predominantly what I use it for. From Amazon Prime video, to Kindle Books and Comic books, to Audible Audio Books, to Magazines, to Podcasts this tablet does an exceptional job at offering a convenient way to get access to a vast variety of content.

Since acquiring this tablet, I read significantly more comic books and magazines as I can easily and relatively inexpensively get access to them.

Now given all this, the real surprise of the Fire 10 HD is the price, coming in at $150(USD) if you opt for the Special Offer option, which means ads will be displayed on the lock screen of the device, or alternatively $15(USD) more to remove the ads. And given that the cheapest variation of the latest iPad is over $300 at present, this tablet offers exceptional value.

From a content consumption perspective, the Fire 10 HD is faultless. With access to the entire Amazon library of content, the selection is endless. So, if you are looking for a cheaper alternative to the iPad with a well-established ecosystem, or you are just looking for a convenient way to read your electronic books, comics and magazine the Amazon Fire 10 HD is a perfect choice.

REVIEW – AMAZON FIRE 10 HD (7TH GENERATION)

REVIEW – ADATA SD600 EXTERNAL SSD (256GB)

I recently found myself in the market for a high-capacity high-speed external storage solution and after shopping around I decided to pick up the ADATA SD600 External Solid State Drive as it provided 256GB of storage at a very reasonable price of just under $75 (USD).

The SD600 is a USB 3.1 compatible device, advertising read speeds of up to 440MB/s, very fast compared to more traditional external USB hard drives.

The SD600 utilizes 3D NAND technology, thus offering better performance compared to Solid State Drives that does not.

Below is a performance comparison, using Crystal Disk Mark, of the ADATA SD600, a Samsung EVO 850 500GB internal SSD running on SATA III and a SanDisk Ultra Flair 16GB USB 3.0 Thumb Drive:

ADATA

ADATA SD600 Results

 

Samsung evo 850 Crystal Disk

Samsung EVO 850 Results (SATA III)

 

USB3 Crystal Disk

SanDisk Ultra Flair 16GB USB 3.0 Thumb Drive Results

As can be seen the ADATA SD600 performs much better than the USB 3.0 thumb drive, but does not quite match the results of the Samsung drive running on SATA III. However, for an external storage solution these results are great.

From a size perspective the SD600 is much smaller than a traditional 2.5-inch external Hard Drive and the image below shows the size compared to two USB thumb drives.

ADATA Size

The SD600, however slightly larger than the thumb drives, is really compact and is definitely small enough to be comfortably carried around in your pocket. It is also very durably built and offers a very convenient solution for portable storage.  Thus far, after over a months’ worth of usage the SD600 has given me no problems and serves its purpose exceptionally well. So, if you are in the market for an external storage solution the SD600 offers a great solution at a very reasonable price.

REVIEW – ADATA SD600 EXTERNAL SSD (256GB)

WIND POWER BEAST MODEL KIT

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I picked up this model kit from AMAZON when I was in the United States recently. It is an inexpensive kit, priced under $10.

I have always been interested in the works of Dutch Artist Theo Jansen, especially his StrandBeest moving sculptures, and this model is a great way of gaining understanding of how the mechanics of the legs function.

The model is easy to assemble, taking me under 40 minutes to complete, requiring no tools or glue and once assembled the model functions surprisingly well. The one complaint I do have about the kit is that the provided instructions are not always easy to follow, this is in part due to the very poor English translation.

Even given this fact, I would still recommend this kit, not only because of the learnings it provides in walking mechanics, but also as it looks really cool when completed and to top that off it is really inexpensive as well.

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WIND POWER BEAST MODEL KIT

Nintendo World New York and A Quick Update

I recently had the privilege of a two-week holiday in New York City. During this time I visited Nintendo World (located in the Rockefeller Center) and it was a great experience. There were a lot of amazing displays, showing examples of every Nintendo console ever made and even a Gameboy that was damaged in a bombing during the Gulf war that was still functioning. Here are some photos:

If you are ever in New York, I would recommend going to have a look.

Here are some other photos from the trip:

While there I also picked up a few things that I will be covering on the blog over the next few months:

Nintendo World New York and A Quick Update

What is the Cloud? A Layman’s Guide

The Cloud

Wikipedia defines the Cloud as “Cloud computing is a kind of Internet-based computing that provides shared processing resources and data to computers and other devices on demand”. This is a great and concise definition, but what does it really mean and how would you explain it to someone with minimal technological knowledge?

So, let us try to break it down in a way in which you can explain it to the more technologically challenged in your life.

In reality most households own multiple computers, and by computers I mean any device capable of a fair amount of processing power, this includes laptops, desktop PCs, gaming consoles, tablets and even smart phones. This is a sign of the times and it is great to have all this computing power and the potential it holds available to us, but in reality it is not very cost efficient. We all spend a lot of money on all these devices (and inherently the computing power they hold) but we only use them a fraction of the time. I know I am lucky if I get to turn on my game console for 4 hours a week, which means it sits idle and unused the remaining 164 hours of the week, resulting in a utilisation rate of just over 2%. Would it not be much more economical for a group of people to buy and share these devices thus ensuring their usage is as close to 100% as possible? This sounds like an easy question to answer, but in reality the practicalities thereof are a bit more difficult to address, issues arise regarding things like everyone getting access to the device, what happens if more than one person wants to use the device at the same time, etc. This fundamental reasoning is where the concept of the Cloud comes in.

The Cloud is a way of sharing computing power and data storage remotely over the Internet, thus resolving the issues related to physical access to the device in question. Now how does this work? Let us take data storage as an example. In the past if you wanted to store files (such as music, picture, documents or anything else really) you had to go to a shop and purchase some form of storage device, be that a USB memory stick, a hard drive, etc. You had to carry the cost of purchasing the item, but also the risk that you could lose it or it could break, which would result in the loss of your data. So you also had to get some additional storage to create a second copy, i.e. a backup, which increased the cost even more. But these days Cloud Storage solutions like Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive and iCloud offer a way of storing your files at a low cost and with backups and other maintenance activities and costs being taken care of by the provider, all for a small subscription fee (although all the above mentioned offer a free entry-level package and you only pay if you require additional capacity). The purchase of an ‘asset’ is thus replaced by a paid-for service. And because many people use these services, economies of scale come into play, thus everyone ends up paying less that they would have if they had gone and purchased the storage devices themselves.

Another example is the concept of Cloud Gaming. In the past if you wanted to play video games you either had to buy a gaming console or invest a fair amount of money into a gaming PC. There are now however quite a few Cloud Gaming companies (such as UGameNow, GameFly and Nvidia GeForce Now) that allow you to play video games on nothing more than a Smart TV or entry-level PC. How this is achieved is that the device used by the player simply acts as a mechanism to receive and send user input and render a video stream to display, with all the processing and intensive tasks being performed remotely on servers in the service providers’ data centres. These Cloud Gaming Companies also operate on a subscription bases, and although this industry is still in its infancy and is still experiencing numerous growing pains, it is not unreasonable to think that in the future we will no longer have to purchase specialised hardware to play video games, but will simply pay a monthly subscription fee, knowing we will never have the pains of upgrading hardware to play the latest games again.

Obviously the Cloud goes further than just individual consumer uses and spans into the space of revolutionising business information systems as well. No longer will businesses have to spend millions on buying expensive servers and building data center in isolation of one another, with enough computational and storage capacity to cater for peak usage which only occurs a fraction of the time and the majority of these computational and storage resources sitting idle the majority of the time. An example of this is a company’s payroll system which gets used 1 or 2 days a month when the employee payroll is processed and sits idle for the remainder of the month. Businesses can reap the same rewards that individual consumers can by utilising a Cloud Service, with economies of scale once again resulting in cost savings and less maintenance for the businesses who are the clients of these Cloud Services. The Cloud also offers businesses a great deal of agility in adjusting to changes in demand for processing and storage resources by providing on-demand access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources. The two main players in this space are Microsoft and Amazon, with their Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services offerings.

These Cloud Offerings are broken down into 3 main categories, namely Infrastructure As A Service (IaaS), Platform As A Service (PaaS) and Software As A Service (SaaS). Let us briefly have a look at each of these:

Infrastructure As A Service (IaaS) – This model involves only paying for the hardware, i.e. processing and storage utilised. All software related installations, licensing costs and maintenance remains the responsibility of the client. This process typically involves businesses migrating Virtual Machines from their on premise servers to the cloud.

Platform As A Service (PaaS) – Similarly to IaaS the client still pays for the processing and storage utilised, but now additionally for the provider to maintain all system software. This means that the client is no longer responsible for the installations, licensing costs and maintenance of system software, and these become the responsibility of the Cloud provider.

Software As A Service (SaaS) – In this case the business simply rents an application from a vendor. The maintenance and backup activities thus are the responsibility of the Cloud provider. Great examples of this is Microsoft Office 365, OneDrive, Dropbox and iCloud. Even Netflix operates on this model.

Businesses can choose one of the following options for their Cloud configuration:

Public Cloud – In this configuration the business will utilise computer resources and storage shared in the public cloud, by multiple companies and individuals.

Private Cloud – This is when the business makes use of cloud infrastructure operated only for them and the computer resources and storage are only shared by divisions from within the business itself. This cloud Infrastructure can be managed internally by the company or externally by a service provider.

Hybrid Cloud – When utilising a combination of the Cloud and traditionally on premise data center it is referred to as a hybrid cloud configuration.

One major requirement for the utilisation of the Cloud and reaping the benefits thereof by either businesses or by individual consumers is the presence of a reliable high-speed internet connection, which is not a problem in most first world countries, however in the developing world this is not always available. This can result in a compounded negative economic impact on these countries who then become even more uncompetitive compared to their first world counterparts.

One question I get asked more than any other is whether the Cloud is secure? And the answer is, as long as good security practices are followed (like not sticking your password on a post-it note on your screen etc.), that it is as secure as any other computer resource and quite often due to the increased focus on security in the cloud it might even be more secure. I also get asked whether other people will be able to see your files as the files are stored on shared resources, the answer to this is no. Although the files might be stored on a shared storage resource there are various layers of security technologies in play to prevent unauthorised access to individuals and companies’ files in the cloud.

This concept of sharing the cost of an underlying infrastructure so that everyone can benefit from the service thereof is not a new concept (think of public libraries, gyms or even the electricity generation and distribution infrastructure) but it is becoming ever more prevalent as an increased emphasis is being placed on the service being rendered as opposed to owning the item that renders that service. Even companies like Uber are built on this model as well as the planned Tesla car share initiative, and in the future we will see many more companies and offerings that follow this mindset.

What is the Cloud? A Layman’s Guide

Quick Update

Just a quick update on what I have been up to and what upcoming posts are coming in the future.

In the later haf of last year I decided to commit myself to some serious strength and fitness goals in-order to push and motivate myself more in training. I decided to compete in a few events, including a few runs in 2017, including a full marathon, and a full iron man in 2018.

My training had been going well and in early december I went to an organised run. In the first 300 meters of the run another runner fell and I stumbled to not step on him. When this happened I felt a sharp pain in my right leg, but pushed through and finished the run. The following week the leg was still sore and I assumed I pulled a ligament or a muscle.

For the next month I kept training; running, cycling and doing Crossfit. In early January the pain had not gone away and I went to a physiotherapist to have it looked at. Long story short, I eventually went for x-rays and it turns out I broke my Fibula that day on the run. So I am now in an air-cast and recovering.

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So Given the situation above I have had a bit more time to play a few games. I finished Sherlock Holmes and the Devils Daughter and really enjoyed it. I also enjoyed the previous game in the series Crimes and Punishment and feel that these games are a little under-appreciated. They really remind me of the old Lucas Art or Sierra Adventure Games.

I also played the new DOOM which I loved, Watch Dogs 2 which was ok, a lot better than the original Watch Dogs but I fell that once you’ve played GTA V all other similar games struggle to measure up, so Watch Dogs 2 didn’t really hook me.

I am currently playing Yakuza 0 and it is amazing. It is the first game in the Yakuza series I have played and I am coming to the realisation that I have been missing out.

Now for some upcoming posts. I am working on a few posts and have quite a few more planned on a wide variety of subject. I am currently working on a 2 part post on DIY VR. The first part will look at smart phone based options, using specialised software to stream from a pc to a smart phone and the second part will look at a full custom build I am working on, this will utilise a 5 inch LCD display, an Arduino Nano 3 with a MPU6050 Triple Axis Accelerometer and Gyro (6DOF). The first part of this Article will be landing soon. I am also working on a few gaming based posts, some book reviews and so posts on ROBOTICS. So watch this space for more posts coming soon.

Quick Update

Dev Day 2016

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On the Tuesday 27 September 2016 the first Dev Day occurred in Johannesburg South Africa. Dev Day is best described on their twitter page as “A community-owned and driven gathering of technologists, investors, hobbyists, engineers, artists, students and anyone with a strong sense of curiosity”. And I was invited to showcase some of the robots I have been working on. The event was extremely well organised with various people and Maker groups showcasing what they were working on as well as numerous speakers including Uncle Bob (Robert C. Martin). I really enjoyed the event and the experience of showing some of my work and the feedback and questions I received were amazing. It really was a great experience getting to talk and interact with similarly minded people. Many thanks to the organisers for a great event, hopefully one of many to come.

Here are some photos of my stand and the event.

Dev Day 2016