Storage Technology update

Samsung 16TB proof of concept

The last week gave us a couple of interesting news items that have to do with storage technology.

The first is as shown in the photo above – a prototype Samsung shown of a 2.5″ SSD drive that holds a massive 16TB of storage. Nowadays, even 2TB in SSD drives are not common (to say the least), and 16TB seems like something from a sci-fi future (not that far in the future, but still) – when even good old magneto-mechanical drives have not achieved this feat as yet. The prototype uses stacked v-nand memory chips in a large die, which means they’re two sided chips with 3 bits per cell. This allowed Samsung to cram that much storage into a 2.5″ drive. No pricing is available as yet, but it will be made commercial in the future. Presumable, the price will run in the high thousands and is not for the average joe just yet.

Western Digital Red Pro & Black 6TB

6TB is not new to us. HGST (Hitachi) and Seagate have both introduced such high capacity models over the last year or so. Western digital has been slower to join the party, especially with it’s faster, higher end selection. But not anymore. With a model from the Black series (7200rpm, and a massive 128MB cache) that offers upto 29% performance increase over it’s previous, 4TB model, WD is showing it’s prowess and reminds that it is still the biggest lion in the storage drives jungle. The company also shown (other than a slightly smaller black 5TB drive) 5TB and 6TB red pro models. The red series is targeted at NAS devices – file servers that requires work horses that can perform continuously and reliably in a server enterprise environment.

The MSRP prices stand between 264$-299$ for the 5TB and 6 TB models.

It’s definitely not too expensive, but in light of the coming SSD (and maybe SSHD?) giants, 6TB doesn’t look as good as it used to.

Would you buy it?





Forkstrade - 2.3% Daily for 10 Days!
Macro Holding - 2% daily for 7 days. Principal returned
Grand Rialto Limited - We Give Prosperity for You!.
Easy. Safe. No risk.

Posted in PC, Storage, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[3-Piece] Microsoft Windows 10 Release, S6 Price cut, Angry Birds 2

This is a new and (hopefully) recurring type of article, named aptly “3-Piece” as it will have 3 pieces of tech related news. Aside from the news themselves, I will try and add some useful and helpful tidbits as well. So here goes:

1

Windows 10 is here!

Microsoft officially released their latest and greatest (thus far) Operating system. In a repeated attempt to give better cohesion to it’s software ecosphere, the new Windows 10 will offer cross platform synchronicity, as well as the return of the long lost start menu. Microsoft is also offering limited time free upgrades for Windows 7/8/8.1 users in an attempt to lure more users to move to the new iteration. Will this be enough to turn Windows 10 into a success story, or will it be another windows 8 fiasco? So far the reviews of the new system are pretty good, but.. why fix it when it’s ain’t broken? Windows 7 was and is a known good product, and Windows 10 does not offer any real advantages over it, aside for things like DirectX 12 and the new Edge browser. But are they enough? I have already installed Windows 10 on one of my PCs, and although it’s performing adequately I could already find issues related to the new browser, as well as the HEVC video codec support which supposedly comes built-in out of the box, but failed to show any picture once attempted.

Here are a few things that will help the early adopters of the final version:

2

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

Seems like Samsung did not do as well as it was hoping this year, in the wake of the new fangled S6 and S6 Edge release, The giant south Korean corporation experienced some unfortunate delay and lack of components for the manufacturing of the curvy Edge version of their new flagship smartphone, and the numbers cannot lie – the profits are way below what the bigheads planned for and anticipated. In fact, the only big revenue Samsung seen was from their chip manufacturing branch and that was due to the manufacturing deal signed with their arch-nemesis – Apple – for their new and successful phone. It is kind of an ironic twist that the first Samsung model which takes the most after Apple’s designs and methods, with a unibody style, use of aluminium and glass, and the lack of both memory expansion slot or the ability to replace the battery, fails to outsell it’s main rival. In the wake of these reports, Samsung is set to take some drastic measures in the form of a price cut of the brand new flagship phone. In fact, they already did so with the South Korean KT telco cutting the S6 and S6 Edge prices by about 100 USD, with a possible domino effect to follow globally.

3

Angry Birds 2 - what about the pigs?

Angry Birds are back! Even though it’s named “Angry Birds 2“, the new installment is actually the 13th game in the series – if you count all the expansions and franchised versions that Rovio, Angry birds developers came up with. Yes, it’s generally more of the same bird at pigs flinging action, but the new game contains multi stage levels as well as Boss fights and spells (?!). Here’s a Video clip:
Angry Birds 2 Android download Angry Birds 2 Apple download

 

 

I hope you enjoyed this first 3-Piece! See you on the next article!





Forkstrade - 2.3% Daily for 10 Days!
Macro Holding - 2% daily for 7 days. Principal returned
Grand Rialto Limited - We Give Prosperity for You!.
Easy. Safe. No risk.

Posted in Android, Games, Internet, PC, Software, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Got a new-ish car? Be concerned..

cherokee[1]

White hat hackers working for a cyber security firm based in the U.S. found a vulnerability in cars made by Fiat-Chrysler that allows them to hack into most of the car’s systems, including Steering and engine control and tamper with them. Even during driving.

This affects cars made by Fiat-Chrysler since late 2013, and has been reported to the manufacturer in order to have the vulnerability corrected.


This amounts to almost half a million (around 470,000) cars. And this is not the first time cars were hacked. Other car models show similar vulnerabilities related to their network connected systems. Here is a chart published last year:

Screen-Shot-2014-08-05-at-10.08.53-AM[1]This shows that modern cars are quite susceptible to remote hacking and that may prove to be a growing issue in the coming years. How are we going to deal with this threat? Modern cars are a hybrid of electronics and mechanics, fusing old technology with this new network connected world. Electronics are much more fragile than nuts and bolts. And the bad guys are getting more sophisticated than ever before.

Will the good guys keep prevailing, or are we already losing this battle without even knowing?





Forkstrade - 2.3% Daily for 10 Days!
Macro Holding - 2% daily for 7 days. Principal returned
Grand Rialto Limited - We Give Prosperity for You!.
Easy. Safe. No risk.

Posted in Hacking, Internet, News, Software, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Humanoid Robots.. How far are we and do we really want them?

Lieutenant Commander Data

In the past 10-20 years, and beyond the portrayal of Human-like or Humanoid robots in Film, Television and elsewhere, the advancement in robotics did not seem to catch up with the ability to mimic the look of humans.

The ability to stand up and keep balanced for instance, seemed to be a major obstacle, not to mention keeping in motion without falling, or performing more complex tasks.

Mimicking the looks of humans has been achieved in the digital arts and even before, with wax, puppetry and later with electronic puppetry. Even the illusion of natural-like motion has been reached by using motion capture, or even behind-the-scenes puppeteer.

But that’s not the holy grail for robotics. For robotics scientists as well as those who study artificial intelligence, the final destination is producing a convincing copy of a human – made of wires, motors and chips.

How far are we? Hard to say. A bulk of the money that goes into robotics these days is government owned. So naturally the focus is military application.

The military does not have any urgent or burning  need to make a robot that looks like a person. They have a need for things such as exoskeletons, unmanned vehicles, and more practical types of robots such as search and rescue, or many different kinds of drones.

But, the technological development, and the race between countries for prestige and knowledge, is bound to produce results.

Here are a couple of examples:

this-humanoid-robot-can-recognize-and-interact-with-people[1]

At Global Sources Hong Kong Electronics fair, a robot head was introduced by Hanson Robotics that can mimic human expressions using about 40 motors that move its specially designed face-mask into live. The robot can also interact with visitors thanks to A.I. software and via chats as well as visual contact (achieved through two cameras installed in its front). It’s nothing like an actual humanoid robot (like Data from Star Trek the Next Generation), but its an impressive step.

google_patent_1-1428466711137[1]

And at the end of March this year, Good ol’ google filed a patent relating to robots that can change their behavior and personality according to the situation and/or person in front of them. This is not so good, as it may block further development in this branch of robotic behaviorism from fear of patent breach.

These are all nice and good. But what about preparing for the future? Have we not seen apocalyptic visions of robot/A.I. controlled futures where Robots with no conscience or compassion act against their human creators? We have the solution (or at least the basis for it) at ready with Isaac Asimov’s Laws of robotics:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.[1]

Smart people already voiced concerns as to the possibility of computer smarts that may decide that its superior intellect puts it above humans. Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Stephen Hawking voiced their concerns as to the day when artificial intelligence may put humans down as inferior and decide to stop obeying them.

Should we be worried? or do we just need to be better prepared?





Forkstrade - 2.3% Daily for 10 Days!
Macro Holding - 2% daily for 7 days. Principal returned
Grand Rialto Limited - We Give Prosperity for You!.
Easy. Safe. No risk.

Posted in Robotics, Software, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dying Light – PC Game Review – Part 3/3

dyinglight14

We have arrived at the conclusion, the third and final part of this lengthy review of the Zombie survival open-world sandbox game: Dying Light!

Let’s see what we got:

Summary, Grading and More

The polish game developer Techland, who’s responsible for the Dead Island franchise, managed to take that formula and give it an accurate kick in the pants. Zombies in this game don’t just waddle around and rely on sheer numbers. There are multiple types of zombies and each got their own strengths and weaknesses – making them a seriously formidable enemy.

The lush graphics mesh well with the gripping (though unoriginal) plot and sub-stories to give you an intense feeling of being a part of the post-apocalyptic game world. No one is safe, and any character might succumb to the virus, zombie attack, or simply be killed by the opposing faction forces. However, the game is quite linear for an open-world game, and that means auto-saves that bring you to the closest safe house and thus having to cover plenty of ground to return to your mission each time.

But in the end, I give this Zombie fest Dead Island young and muscle-y brother a grade of

8/10

Why? You can see many games of different genres these days and most of them show no or little originality just as Dying Light. But Dying Light takes elements we’ve seen in plenty previous games, and bakes them into a well oiled gaming experience that sucks you in.

Dying Light Minimum System Requirements

INTEL CPU

Core i5-2500 3.3GHz

AMD CPU

FX-8320

Nvidia GPU

GeForce GTX 560

AMD GPU

Radeon HD 6870

RAM

4 GB
OS
Win 7 64Bit
Direct X
DX 11
HDD Space
40 GB

Yes, the system requirements are steep, and I wasn’t even sure my aging rig can actually run it, especially as my CPU wasn’t up to snuff, and my GPU is one generation behind the required AMD GPU.

But it seems that the requirements were an indication, not a “set in stone” kind of deal. My PC runs the game pretty decently, although I (naturally) have to set the Nvidia specific settings off, and the other settings to Medium instead of High to get an acceptable frame rate. The most important setting for game performance is view (or draw) distance. By default it will be set to maximum, but the lower you set it, the more responsive your game will get.

Here’s some freebies:

1. A nice juicy collection of Dying Light wallpapers – ranging up to and including the UltraHD level (2160p) – and thanks to Wallpaper Abyss By Alpha Coders!

Wallpaper sample. Be careful of Grandma!

Wallpaper sample. Be careful of Grandma!

2. Destiny style Loot Cave – and thanks to VG247.com for the helpful video:


Lastly, Here’s the official Dying Light Launch Trailer:

Now you can make your own educated decision as to whether you would like to acquire this game, or skip it!

I hope you had fun reading the lengthy review!





Forkstrade - 2.3% Daily for 10 Days!
Macro Holding - 2% daily for 7 days. Principal returned
Grand Rialto Limited - We Give Prosperity for You!.
Easy. Safe. No risk.

Posted in Games, PC, Software, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dying Light – PC Game Review – Part 2/3

So, in the first part of this Review, I wrote about the game’s plot and gameplay, but what about the game’s graphics and sound? I know it’s a bit superficial but it’s what people look for first and see when they play a trailer, or hear about a game from one of their friends.

Let look at:

Graphics and Sound

As I mentioned in the first part, Dying Light is a new-gen (or Next Generation) title, and also a AAA title – which means that millions were poured into the production and it took several years and a big team to accomplish.

Airdrop Flyby

The game uses a proprietary 3d game engine called “Chrome Engine 6” which is tuned especially for Nvidia geforce graphic cards. That’s not to say it does work with the competition (AMD/ATI) but it does mean you won’t get the full effect with them. There have been some reports that the game suffers from a few noticeable bugs that hinder the game’s performance, but aside from the high requirements that are quite understandable, I haven’t encountered these issues myself. Previous versions of the game engine were used in games like:

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood (2009), Sniper: Ghost Warrior (2010), Nail’d (2010), Mad Riders (2012)

and more recently in:

Call of Juarez: The Cartel (2011)[1], Dead Island (2011) [2],  Dead Island: Riptide (2013) and Call of Juarez: Gunslinger (2013)

The graphics are on par or even better than recent titles like “Far Cry 4”, “Alien Isolation” and “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare”.

Sound is nothing to knock off either, with many scary sound effects and good use of audio spatial location to make the sounds seem to come from all around you as you roam around the streets, buildings, open areas and tunnels. The Music by the polish composer Pawel Blaszczak does a good job of both pulling you in as well as changing the tempo to match your changing circumstances.

Harran from above

One beef I have with the graphics is that the general look is a little grey and dull in its whole. I believe it was done to accentuate the dire situation of a zombie infected city but it makes for a bit of a drab surroundings. Also, I would have loved to have more interaction with the environment – the ability to push, pull, and destroy objects as well as doors and windows in the style of Red Faction destructible environments. There is some measure of possible destruction as some wooden crates and certain objects in the game are allowed to be destroyed, but mostly its a very standard mostly indestructible affair which makes for a poorer game experience.

The gang is all here

With that in mind, the graphics are quite detailed and elaborate, with many objects lying around, dirt and neglect showing at every corner, fog and rain weather effects, flocks of birds from above, and blood & guts spatter affecting both humans and zombies alike, as well as injuries showing after you hit the zombies hard enough and/or often enough.

You can see a lot during the day

You can see a lot during the day

The night visuals are quite on the spot as well, with the dark volatiles showing on the in-game map as they prowl the streets looking for their next live victim, and the darkness making the lighted areas as islands of safety inside a living nightmare.

But at night its a game of shadows and monsters. Keep a flare at the ready!

But at night its a game of shadows and monsters. Keep a flare at the ready!

The game does not really cross the uncanny valley when it comes to the humans in the game. Having the Zombies look like ravaged versions of their former selves is quite acceptable, although they all look kind of plastic-y and too shiny, but having the human be a mere step behind photo-realism and never quite get there, even with the obvious effort put into motion capture (mo-cap) to get the movements right, is a shame. The biggest issue for me was less the almost realistic graphics and more the lack of facial movements that make all the difference.

The bad guy, Kadir "Rais" Suleiman, is a really bad guy

The bad guy, Kadir “Rais” Suleiman, is a really bad guy

However, as I said before, there is always a balance to keep when designing a (any) game. And twice as much when doing an open world/sandbox type of game. If you put too much into the graphics, the gameplay and AI will suffer and your investment is toast. If you put much more into AI and gameplay, the game will look like something out of the beginning of the century and the audience that’s been accustomed to polished graphic marvels will not touch it with a stick – unless its an indie game with an indie price to match.

So, game developers have to walk a fine line between looks and brains. And as they do, they will forever produce imperfect creations – because something got to give.

Multiple zombies inbound!

Multiple zombies inbound!

In Dying light, it’s the plot elasticity that gave – no decision trees, no multiple possible outcomes. Less of a truly physical engine with a match to real world destructibility. But, they invested into the look and graphics of the game – up to a point. Even with the most powerful machines, there is a physical limit to the number of polygons, and number of moving animations on the screen at the same time. You can see that in many games, but the last one in the Hitman Series (2012’s Hitman: Absolution) shows it quite well – the crowed model there allows for tens and sometimes hundreds of people moving at the same time – and as the numbers grow, the game performance takes a hit, and you can really see how the frames per second (FPS) rate goes down in massive crowd scenes.

The live ones are more dangerous than the undead...

The live ones are more dangerous than the undead…

The same happens in Dying light with animation heavy scenes, but I’m also referring to kinematics – the building of the human models from the skeleton out, means that if you want to get a real sense of facial animations, you’ll need to build a face with moving muscles. Each one of those will tax the gaming system considerably, so most games simply skip it and use pre-fabricated animations to pull off facial animations, or do a very limited scope of facial kinematics – meaning the range of impressions is quite short – unless it’s one of the main characters which quite visibly have a higher range of expressions.

To sum things up: As a whole, Dying light is a balancing act of graphic prowess, game mechanics and AI, with some cutting back on the edges to accommodate most of us mortals who don’t have a super-computer at the ready. However, as we seen in the past, you can make a beautiful large scale game and still have some of the elements they missed – my example is Far Cry – the 3rd and 4th installations both looked gorgeous but allowed for more freedom of choice, and multiple endings. However, they also did not allow for truly destructible environments which I suspect take a heavy tall on any game performance and even more so on an open world type of game.

I hope you enjoyed this part of the review, and next, will be the third and final part, with summary, grading, and some freebies!





Forkstrade - 2.3% Daily for 10 Days!
Macro Holding - 2% daily for 7 days. Principal returned
Grand Rialto Limited - We Give Prosperity for You!.
Easy. Safe. No risk.

Posted in Games, PC, Software, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dying Light – PC Game Review – Part 1/3

Dying Light

Dying Light is a brand new, sandbox type, zombie/apocalyptic first person shooter. It came out for Microsoft Windows, Linux, SteamOS, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One platforms on 27 January 2015 in North America and 28 January 2015 in Europe and Australia.

In this 3-part review I will give a good look at the game from different perspectives, but If you want the gist of it, here it is: The game is fun, scary and very entertaining, but it’s very far from original. Aspects of it are “borrowed” from games like Far Cry (the whole franchise and especially from the last one, Far Cry 4), Thief, Assassin’s Creed, Mirror’s Edge and a few others I can’t recall at the moment, as well as popular zombie TV shows such as “The Walking Dead”.

Dying Light is also one of the new-gen games. By that I mean that it is tailored for the new consoles (Xbox 1, PlayStation 4) and for powerful PCs. My own rig (Quad Q6700, 8GB DDR2, Radeon HD5850) can still run it, but definitely shows a strain.

So let’s begin:

Plot & Gameplay

Dying Light game mechanics will be familiar for anyone who ever played any kind of first person shooter. The default ASDW keys are in play, as well as F (for action), Tab (or mouse wheel) for weapon change, I for inventory, and so on.

Kyle Crane

Hanging for dear life is a day to day affair in Dying Light

The game itself revolves around Kyle Crane (played by you), a GRE undercover agent who’s deployed into the infected city of Harran in order to cease classified documents from the hands of a dangerous fugitive, Kadir Suleiman (aka Rais) who made the city his home. The city holds two factions that fight each other for food, medicine and safe locations. One is “The Tower” who are the good guys, and the ones who saves you after almost being mauled by zombies upon landing, and the other is Rais’s gang – a vicious group of outlaws ruling by power and intimidation.

Volatiles

Say hello to mister Volatile!

Time is quite important in Dying light as there’s a day/night cycle where the day is relatively safe with slow “normal” zombies roaming the streets alleys and buildings. However, the night is a whole new ballgame, with Volatiles roaming the streets. Volatiles are “Super Zombies”, they are smarter, faster, and when they find you they will converge in a pack to hunt you down. However, they only come out at night, so if you want to play it safe (er) you can duck into a safe house and spend your night there.

But safe is not a word you can use regarding the gameplay. You will die many times over. If not for zombies, than for unfortunate accidents – such as falling from building and towers, or failing to correctly estimate the distance required for a jump from one spot to the next.

A look at Harran

Another day at Harran

The game is very much Parkour friendly. That’s the part that was borrowed from games like Assassin’s Creed in which you leap from building to building, jumping while running and perform acrobatics on the go.

As in games like Far Cry 4, Dying light offers towers to activate (quite more difficult than FC4 to my taste), safe houses to clear from zombies and make usable, and a vast area with different environments (although mostly urban) to explore.

Degradation is another aspect of the gameplay. Your weapons are degraded with each and every use (makes sense since they’re mostly makeshift pieces of metal and wood), and the number of times you are allowed to fix them is limited, so you must keep your eye on your current weapon usability and cycle between them so as not the remain virtually defenseless against the hordes of living dead. You can also use your environment to some degree – spiked fences to kill zombies fast by pushing them onto it is one good option, while another is to electrocute a pool of water and let zombies step inside it.

Aside from the Main plot of accomplishing your task and helping the good guys (not always the same thing), you will find plenty of side quests to enjoy, and those will bring you to new areas of the city, with new terrors and plenty of zombies to go around.

Fun on the Tower

Towers are not always safer than the ground

The protagonist (AKA you, Kyle Crane) battles with orders from his superiors as well as tasks he is made to do by the evil Rais in order to keep the Tower people alive. He’s a good man in an impossible situation, but the game does not allow for decision making as the choices are made for you, unlike games like Far Cry 4, and others with decision trees that allow the plot to be changed by the player’s decisions. My guess is that using decision trees would have made a heavy game even heavier and the developers chose to pay the price of a more linear game for a bigger player target audience.

The game also allows you to tinker with crafting. You start the game with pretty much nothing, and collect makeshift weapons off the street and from shops and traders as you gather funds from bodies, boxes and containers. But it will take a long time till you get an actual gun. However, till then, you can combine different artifacts to give your makeshift sticks and knifes a little more oomph – such as fire, electricity, and even throwing stars that can freeze, burn or explode upon contact.

To sum up (this part): Gameplay is a standard funfare of first person shooters, with some twists taken from other games – like parkour, crafting, and day/night cycle to name a few. It doesn’t subtract from the game experience, and the visuals are quite impressive, but it does feel like the developers sacrificed a bit much of the gameplay to achieve the graphic fidelity of the game.

See you in the next part of the review!





Forkstrade - 2.3% Daily for 10 Days!
Macro Holding - 2% daily for 7 days. Principal returned
Grand Rialto Limited - We Give Prosperity for You!.
Easy. Safe. No risk.

Posted in Games, PC, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mind helping drugs

Brain on Ritalin

Most people have already heard about Ritalin. For those who haven’t, here’s a recap from Wikipedia:

Methylphenidate (trade names Concerta, Methylin, Ritalin, Equasym XL, Quillivant XR) is a substituted phenethylamine and psychostimulant drug used for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome and narcolepsy. Methylphenidate has been studied and researched for over 50 years and has a very good efficacy and safety record for the treatment of ADHD.[3] The original patent was owned by CIBA, now Novartis Corporation. It was first licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1955 for treating what was then known as hyperactivity. Prescribed to patients beginning in 1960, the drug became heavily prescribed in the 1990s, when the diagnosis of ADHD itself became more widely accepted.

The noise surrounding Ritalin, which has been around since the 1957, mostly pertains to the use of it as a sort of “magic-cure” for children who are diagnosed as being hyperactive. The effects are mostly undeniable and allow those kids to be able to sit down, experience better concentration and perform better socially and academically.

However, the possible side effects as well as behavioral changes detected in some of these kids worry many parents. The usage of a powerful psychiatric drug on undeveloped brains is sometimes worrisome.

Personally, as an adult who had experience in using this medicine for my own ADD (attention deficit disorder), I can say for myself that the benefits vastly outweigh the issues. Those mostly manifest themselves as side-effects – in my case dehydration, reduced appetite and sometimes headaches.

I only use the medicine selectively and when I feel it is needed – not too frequently. It may be that the daily usage with ADHD kids makes a significant difference that may do more harm than good.

However, for adults I believe that this is a powerful tool that should be used. I sometimes think back and wish I had the knowledge and access to it back in my school day. My life may have turned out quite differently.

What is your take on Ritalin? Do you support its use, or see it as the “Big Bad Wolf” in children medication?





Forkstrade - 2.3% Daily for 10 Days!
Macro Holding - 2% daily for 7 days. Principal returned
Grand Rialto Limited - We Give Prosperity for You!.
Easy. Safe. No risk.

Posted in Biology, Health, Mind & Body, Psychiatry, Psychology, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Updated] Review: Minix Neo X8-H 4K Media streamer/TV Box

Minix Neo X8-H

[Update at end of article]

Tech Specs:

  • Minix Neo X8-H Android TV Box
  • CPU: Amlogic S802-H Quad Core 2.0Ghz (Cortex-A9)
  • GPU: Mali-450
  • RAM: 2 GigaByte DDR3
  • Storage: 16 GigaByte Nand Flash
  • Expansion: SD Card Slot, support max 64 GigaByte (reported to support up to 128 GigaByte)
  • Wireless Communication: 802.11n Dual Band Wi-Fi (2.4GHz/5.8GHz), Bluetooth 4.0
  • Dimensions: 135*125*25mm
  • Weight: 292 Grams

Packaging & Content

  • 1 x TV Box
  • 1 x OTG Cable
  • 1 x Power Adapter
  • 1 x USB Cable
  • 1 x HDMI Cable
  • 1 x IR-Remote Control
  • 1 x User Manual
  • 1 x Antenna
  • M1 Air Mouse
  • 1 x USB Receiver
  • 1 x User Manual for M1 Gyromouse Remote

Package contents

Setup and impressions

The Minix X8-H comes pre-loaded with Android 4.4 and a few apps, including XBMC media center ver. 13.2 (codename “Gotham”).

At first use, you boot in like any android phone or tablet, and go through the google sign-in/sign-on process, with one main difference – you are required to set-up the minix-specific configuration. It mostly pertains to Audio, Video and network settings – as the device supports wired LAN connections where tablets and smartphones do not.

The main screen can be either the basic google launcher, or a metro (tiles based) launcher. I found that it’s a matter of preference rather than one over the other.

After setting up the device, and adding any wanted apps via the google play store or manually, it’s time to set up XBMC which is the main attraction of the Minix.

The version included is specifically made for Minix devices, and that’s the main reason why the newer “Kodi” (version 14 alpha) is not included, though it is expected to arrive in a future update. It’s a powerful free media player that can handle multimedia of many types including Photos, Music, Video (both film and TV) and also provide access to specific resources via the web, and even Live TV channels through DVB adapters (not a possibility in Minix products as confirmed by Minix support) or IPTV access.

However.. It requires quite a bit of work to set it all up. If you like to access NAS or simply your PC/Mac hard drive via the home network, you’ll need to set up the path to it, and define what kind of content is available and where. Afterwards, the content may be updated on regular intervals automatically, but it doesn’t mean there won’t be mistakes.

The Minix allows for either wireless Wifi connection (2.4GHz or 5GHz) or 100Mbit LAN wired connection and both works very well.

It’s size is quite small and comparable to two average smartphones side by side. The bulky antenna adds some height but it’s still a relatively small device.

The package I got included a Gyromouse remote, which contains a gyroscope and allows to use the said remote as a pointer to control the screen in a similar fashion to that of a touch screen. It’s not quite there as the response time is not as fast or as accurate as that of a touch screen, but it’s a step-up from a standard remote for the same purpose.

Performance

I found that XBMC is less accurate with the identification of films and TV series than the older generation NMTs (popcorn hour devices are a good example in conjunction with a jukebox plugin). If the name of the show or film is not clear enough it might give an incorrect title, poster and description,  or even skip it all together.

Overall however, the device played locally and over the network any content I threw at it, and aside for some hiccups with live channels content (which is to be expected as the sources are unreliable to say the least) it performs admirably.

I still find that file/directory copying and moving between the Minix and my PC is cumbersome to say the least. I cannot access the device via SMB (windows network access) the same way I could with my old NMT streamer, even after performing ROOT on the device. I need to use ftp server program, or the internal file manager program to achieve the same goal. But that might be simply lack of knowledge of the Minix possibilities on my part.

All in all, the device is a very capable media streamer which is future proof for the next 2-3 years.

I recommend it.

[Update]

Just 5 days ago, a new updated version of the player named “Minix NEO X8-H Plus” was released. The changes are significant as the CPU is replaced from S802 to S812 which allows for HEVC (or x265) encoding in hardware – allowing for highly compressed 4K content to be played properly. In the model reviewed it can only be played in software mode up to 720p due to the heavy processing required for the codec. The new CPU also includes a more advanced WiFi communications supporting the AC protocol, and a 1000Mbit instead of the 100Mbit LAN connection.





Forkstrade - 2.3% Daily for 10 Days!
Macro Holding - 2% daily for 7 days. Principal returned
Grand Rialto Limited - We Give Prosperity for You!.
Easy. Safe. No risk.

Posted in Android, PC, Streaming, Ultra-HD, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why do games still fail to show realistic graphics?

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s Kevin Spacey. Courtesy of Forbes.com

It may seem like a strange statement, accompanied by a screenshot from one of the latest and greatest hits on PC and consoles – “Call of duty: Advanced warfare” which features the digitized image of Kevin Spacey in quite a massive amount of detail.

But that comes to show the point: graphics in video games can achieve photo-realism these days, but they don’t. The people in them still seem like moving wax figures, even with perfect hair, dirt, and 12 o’clock shadow. Of course you’ll need a monster gaming PC to see the graphics in the top form they appear in this game’s cut-scenes (or you’ll get a very watered down version that doesn’t come close to the fidelity you see in this or other PR shots from the game).

But it is possible to make people look more… like people with today’s technology. I believe that the answer to why it’s mostly not done lies in the fear of the production companies from the possible connection between real-life violence and violent video games.

I’ll give a clear example: The known 2K’s NBA franchise, with it’s latest reiteration – NBA2K15, as well as Electronic Arts competitor NBA Live (15 being the current version) depicts quite realistic human graphics, as can be seen in the following two videos:

Seeing that these are sport simulation games, without gore blood or violence, they are “allowed” to push the the limits more than the gory games.

The gaming companies line of defense remains that video games are make-believe, exaggerated and comic-book-like creations and as such do not pose a threat to society. But advancing technology as well as demand from gamers does not make life easier for them as they are expected to show a rise in the level of graphics as well as game experience with every passing year.

So they use the technology to their advantage, and I suspect they actually over-do themselves in order to keep the characters just a bit unrealistic. Keeping the skin a bit too glossy, the eyes somewhat deem/overly sparkly or the movement a bit less or a little overly fluid.

They walk a fine line, and I’m sure others notice it as well. But how long can they keep walking between the rain drops? Consumers want what they pay for, and plonking a few thousands of dollars on a monster gaming machine makes no sense when the resulting experience is lackluster.

The possible solution? enforcing a more strict age policy, or adding a specific warning to realistic looking gory games that states “May contain photo-realistic violence, Beware!”. It may seems silly, but technology cannot be stopped, and if they big companies won’t catch up to the level that already exists today, the indie game developers will as soon as the technology becomes cheap enough for them to exploit.





Forkstrade - 2.3% Daily for 10 Days!
Macro Holding - 2% daily for 7 days. Principal returned
Grand Rialto Limited - We Give Prosperity for You!.
Easy. Safe. No risk.

Posted in Games, PC, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment