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The King is freaking Naked! – Debunking the Retina Hype

Configuring Retina – Courtesy The Verge

I have decided to stick my neck out here and swim against the tide. Yesterday, Apple released another “Retina” device and of course the usual pandemonium in the tech world as expected.

Since Retina made its debut I have been watching the Tech blogosphere go gaga with ooo’s and aaa’s but I haven’t seen anyone compare the advantage of Retina to its disadvantage. The only advantage is the DPI density, that you can look at you pixel to so called “infinity” and still not notice any jaggedness of fonts and pictures etc. You know what, I am writing this on standard resolution screen, I don’t notice any jaggedness in this Word document. I haven’t noticed jaggedness since ClearType technology and its variations in other OSes.

So what’s the point? Looking with naked eyes (or with four eyes it you wear glasses) you can’t see jaggedness on anything above 100DPI. You will have to do your best at that level to see anything wrong with the screen, and by the time you reach 150DPI its just a waste of pixel density. I know some of you will crucify me, and cite headaches and all at anything below 200DPI, you know what, it’s just an excuse to your partner to buy yet another addictive device. Yes, you can’t see any difference anymore with naked eyes after 150DPI. Do you know how they show the difference between normal DPIs and Retina display on all Tech sites? They show the difference under a microscope. Yes, under a freaking microscope. Tell me, which of you do your day-job under a microscope looking at your computer display. It’s plain nuts!

Which brings me to Retina’s disadvantages:

  1. Like almost all Apple’s products, it is a brag right! Yes, there is nothing to Retina than to brag my d@#ck is bigger than yours. Anyone who has a need to brag as such should see a shrink because you are compensating for a need in your life.
  2. It is inefficient. Because of increased resolution, there are more wasted pixels on the screen. These pixels have to be powered, supplying power to something you don’t need is inefficient, it’s a waste of resource, and environmentally irresponsible. The power you supply to these pixels have to be generated which impacts the environment. By the time you take the energy to power those extra pixels and multiply it by the number of Retina devices, you begin to realize we are talking of serious impact on our planet. Like they say, “if you don’t do it for your money, do it for your grand-children”. The next generation bears the brunt of our current obsessions with devices. Retina is so inefficient that it requires more battery on the “New iPad” than iPad2, grows hotter than iPad2, has less battery-life than iPad2, etc etc.
  3. Requires Apps Re-Writes. It is a normal cry now, anything that sports “Retina” display has to have the “right” apps for it. Sad that none of the Tech blogs are calling Apple to this inefficiency: Apple creates a problem where none exists, and therefore has to be fixed by devs. The following logic hold if you can figure it out:
    1. When you put high resolution on a small screen, your screen elements suffer if it doesn’t scale. It’s a simple question of proportions. The screen elements are made to a certain specifications, especially on a Touch device. A button in an App need to be a certain size to accommodate an average finger size. Certain font sizes are chosen for readability per DPI. So what happens when you increase resolution and your elements are fixed, they seem tiny and unreadable on the small screen. Therefore elements have to be made bigger. For example, a 320×240 standard graphic element now has to be made 640×480 to be made usable on a retina screen and so on and so forth. You get the picture. A size 10 font has to be made size 20 font to be readable. All for nothing, just because someone convinced you higher resolution on a small screen is better.
    2. App devs need to drive more pixels for games on a small screen. Can you imagine, you are playing an HD, Xbox level resolution game on one third or fourth of the screen estate. It’s a waste. Its lots efforts to make the elements visible on the screen. The game still looks small despite the fact that it’s a large resolution game.
    3. I can’t think of any more disadvantages off the top my head at the moment, but I am sure you will think up of other. If you comment, I’ll add them here.
    4. [Update] Someone pointed out another disadvantage offline: The manufacturing cost, not in terms of price, but in terms resources needed to produce it. All the energy waste during production, and the waste materials and chemicals from the production that will probably end up dumped in the ocean somewhere.

So please stop this Retina screen madness and see Retina for what it is: A sales gimmick. Nothing more, nothing less. There are people clamoring now for Retina Windows 8 devices, believe me, you don’t need them. If Apple has succeeded in pocketing every blogger out there (I know most of them are pushing their Apple stock), then let it be that this “little fella” here have the nerve to shout it out loud: “The King is freaking Naked!” Save our environment, stop inefficient use of Technology.

[Update: 2012-07-09] For those of you bashing me on my stand on Retina, you’d better read this from the CIO Journal! “Apple withdraw from Green Electronics initiative”  Apple has just removed itself from the Green Electronics initiatives as none of its current devices meets the goal of energy efficiencies. And before it is hit by class action suits, Apple has decided to withdraw itself there losing permanently the Good for Green logo right.

[Update: 2012-08-04] Engadget carried a piece about Retina and Windows Desktop that I think confirmed my assertion in this post. What really got my attention is the following quote:

Windows on Retina display
Making full use of the Retina display’s 2,880 x 1,880 resolution, the Windows desktop is startlingly huge with tiny text and dwarfed navigation buttons lost within it. Pegging the dpi at 200 percent, however, strikes a balance between readability and definition. System text, icons and windows are easy on the eyes, but third-party apps are hit-or-miss, as they require developer support for large, crisp and readable visuals. With a bit of tweaking, the oversized-desktop is useable, but a 1,920 x 1,080 experience is a bit easier on the eyes, and is more forgiving of apps that lack support for the extra pixels.

As you can read, the large Desktop on a small screen is a waste, the editors had to increase the fonts DPI to 200 to be able to read anything on the screen. Navigation buttons were “dwarfed” making them un-usable. So you tell me what is the efficiency of a large Desktop on a small screen in which you have to increase the screen elements to be able to see anything. I think its stupid.

[Update: 2012-08-11] A guy just published the complete maths of 20/20 Vision and Retina proving my point. Read it and convince yourself Retina is just a gimmick to sell you expensive devices.

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The Bane of Fast and Fluid in Windows 8

Microsoft just published on its Building Windows 8 Blog a treatise about realizing Fast and Fluid applications deployments for the platform. Fast and Fluid is the mantra that Microsoft adopted these days to describe responsive, naturally interactive applications designed for its Metro environment on Windows 8. They call them applications that “Sticks to your finger” while using touch. To realize this feat, Windows 8 was tuned for performance from ground up. We all cheered the responsiveness of Windows 8 and its speed. But there is a condition for this responsiveness that a lot of people are overlooking. The intensive use of Windows 8 of the GPU! Yes, your GPU will determine your experience on Windows 8. The combination of hardware GPU and its Win8 Certified Driver will result in experience that is equal or greater than you have now on the competing Apple platform.

So if you are having poor performance on Windows 8, with all things being equal, you should verify if you have a good GPU power to boot, and that you have the latest Win8 Compatible Driver for it. It is still an early days for Win8 Certified drivers, but you get the general picture. Troll your Graphic Card manufacturer site, hopefully you’ll get lucky with your existing hardware, that the OEM will release a Win8 Driver for it. The future Graphic Cards will of course come with Win8 Drivers, so we are covered there.

But the real kill-joy I have noticed at the moment is that MS is not making full use of the GPU capacity. A lot of Win8 activities are Calculations intensive, fast and fluid means a lot of number-crunching for the GPU. But what if you have GPU power to boot , but only a small portion of its capacity is being used, while the CPU is being peaked like we see here below:

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You can see from above all my 4 logical CPUs are being tasked. I am simply writing this blog entry and at the same time running a 720p video with Media Player Classic (MPC-HC). A player that I know makes good use of the GPU. Below shows the use of the GPUs for the built-in Metro video player, Windows Media Player and the ubiquitous WMP-HC:

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You can see only about 40% of GPU is being used. The following drill-down on GPU use showed only about one GPU cell being used out of 8 cells!

image

The same is seen for Media Player Classic that uses a little bit more of the GPU:

image

As you can see also about a single cell is being used for a third party player.

Now for those of you that don’t get my frustration. I am running this on my ASUS EP121 Tablet with Intel Graphic unit. It is not the best GPU but hey, it comes with the device. On a tablet device, battery life is paramount. You can extend battery life by offloading calculation intensive cycles to the GPU which is able to complete the task faster, which leads to less battery use.

So my question then to Microsoft is why the full capacity of the GPU is not being used by Windows 8. Why not go the full length and make efficient use of the GPU? 8 cores will finish video calculations faster than an single core if I am not mistaken.

I thought OK, maybe the video players are not yet optimized for GPU usage, below is the GPU usage for the Start Screen flipping; just panning the Start Screen right and left the full length:

image

As you can see, only one cell is still being used for Start Screen manipulation. What’s with MS and my Cell4?!

With this I can only reach two conclusions:

1. Either my Graphic driver is not Win8 Certified (But it was installed by Windows 8 itself! ASUS doesn’t provide any Graphic driver for Win8 like Samsung is doing. Shame on you ASUS!), and therefore not being used efficiently, or

2. Windows 8 is not yet optimized for full GPU usage. If this last is true, then I think I do the community a service by pointing this out now early in the game so that MS can get this fixed before Win8 goes gold. We are all enthusiastic about Windows 8, we believe MS has now something in-house to compete with Apple. We do not want MS to deliver a half-baked OS to the world if they can do better. Its time they wrest the crown of leadership again from Apple. We need to get off the image that Windows devices don’t have long battery life if wastage can be prevented.

Hopefully some you nerds out there will check your own devices and report back to me how Windows 8 is making use of your Graphic Driver. See this post on how to check your own GPU usage by Win8.

I welcome your comments below. Thanks.

McAkins

The Start Menu Wars: In defense of Windows 8 Start Menu


Welcome to Windows 8 Serenity

OK picture this, you got a call from a friend or family that they are fed-up with the slow performance of their PC. Its been acting up lately. Its thoroughly messed up! You made an appointment to take a look for them in the weekend. You went there, you start-up the darn thing, and the first thing that confronts you is the Start Menu, with never-ending lists of folders, stacked or in perpetual scroll mode. You just wanna puke. How do you tell these people they’ve turned their system into a dumping ground, now they have to live with it. Most of you reading this know what I am talking about. You’ve found yourselves time and again in the same situation as me. The start menu is a mess. You can’t find anything in it in 2 seconds. You just want to avoid it.

Yeah, life is a bitch. The computers then were supposed to make life easier, we’ve discovered, nothing is less than the truth. The weakest link in the chain is the carbon-entity behind the monitor. “Garbage in, is garbage out” is a universal law that has to be obeyed time and time again. So how do we fix this mess? What is a Start Menu actually?

A Start Menu is just a collection of shortcuts to your programs. Period. Does it matter how you access it? In Windows 8, the Star Menu has transformed from the static repository of shortcut folders to dynamic, informative place where you can interact with you programs without even having to open them.

Yes, it is true. Change bites real hard. We all resist change. It is the inertia built into our biological systems. Newton law of motion applies also to human nature. It is Deja-vu all over again. We had it transiting from DOS to Windows 3.1 to WinNT to Windows 95 to WinXP to Vista, now to Windows 8. We the geeks are always the first to try to restore the old shell, old menu etc. Look at the furore over the Ribbon, now that you’re getting touch devices, you’ll know why the Ribbon is a life-saver. Now some folks are hacking their win8 install to disable the new start menu and bring back old start menu. Why not stay with Win7? Why bother?

Which brings me back to the topic in Question. Where do I start my programs in Windows 8, the new Start Menu is a weird place. No it is not weird, you just need to get used to it. Before, the Start Menu opens in the same screen as pop-up, now it opens as a pop-out. It still contains you good-old icons, albeit in a peculiar way, in large blocks called Tiles, but shortcuts they are, and as usual, organizable they are.

Of all the zillion shortcuts folders you have in your current old style Start Menu, tell yourself honestly, how many of those do you really launch per day; per month. Your frequently used applications sit directly in your start menu root, the most used in the Taskbar since Windows7. The same will hold true in Windows 8. Installed apps will dump their icons in the new Start Menu, it is now left for you to you to decide if you want it there or not. Your Start Menu is now a complete reflection of yourself.

I have heard people complain it takes more effort now to start a program, so be it if that’s what it takes to use touch on our devices. Personally I don’t agree with that notion, it depends on where you put your shortcut. You can’t have your cake and eat it. Touch is the future whether you like it or not. It’s a paradigm shift. This is Microsoft implementation. Better get used to it or jump ship.


Search is the future

Which brings me to the conclusion: App Search. Remember my opening with zillions of shortcut folders in that messed up PC? Yes the one you’ll rather throw out of the window. How do you find anything on that one. I’ll bet you, you’ll find things faster in that Start Menu with search than looking for it yourself. Since Vista Start Menu search, I seldom see my installed apps folders. We are approaching a time of casual games and applications. Remember how many apps are in Apple’s App Store? Yes, we are getting something like that on Microsoft platform, it will drown out Apple’s store. Yes, all the millions of existing Win32 apps, and now zillion of casual free Metro games and apps, and a lot premium paid Metro apps, easily available in the Marketplace at the touch of you finger.

There is going to be an explosion of installed apps, especially Metro apps in Windows 8. The time you have an average of 30 apps on a machine is coming to an end. You can’t manage that anymore with shortcut folders. It doesn’t make sense. App Search makes sense in a case like this. Folders are for categorization. To organize. But psychology has taught that the ability to remember categories after 8 unique categories breaks down very quickly. How many of you have used SAP or any LOB Applications. You know its no use trying to remember in which menu hides what module. That is why all these apps have search functions in their Menu. To easily find what you are looking for, and to discover what you didn’t know exist. Discoverability it is called. Don’t even get me started on using folders to organize your mail in Outlook. If you’re like me, getting an average of 250 mails a day at work, I have given up trying to organize. Everything lives now in my Inbox, even wrote script to move items from my Sent Items to my Inbox so I can view by conversation. All archived per month. Windows Search is my saviour. I’ll bet in 5 year’s time we’ll all be wondering how we put up with the old Start Menu for so long. Time will tell.

In the meantime, enjoy your Windows 8 Developer Preview, the most stable pre-beta OS I have ever seen in my lifetime, and believe me, I have been around a long time in the tech industry. I know MS has got a winner in Windows 8 with Metro.

Congratulations, yours truly goes to Mars

Well I am one of the lucky ones whose names will be sent to Mars as permanent emblem to humanity on NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover. If you can’t be there physically, be there virtually. Something of yours truly will live forever on Mars!

McAkins on Mars

And of course, the Certification of Authenticity!

McAkins on Mars - certificate_left

That is a genuine Certificate number, right there for you.

[Update: 2012-08-05]
NASA did the impossible today! They landed the most complex, the most heavy probe on Mars. Today, we have a touchdown of MSL, or Curiosity if you will on Mars, in what has been called a textbook EDL. With such a gigantic odd, a million things that could go wrong and 500,000 lines of code, the impossible became possible today. This is the stuffs movies are made of really. Like the EDL team said, “humanity has raised the bar today of Space Exploration” we can only be better off for it.
For me, I am just thoroughly humbled by the fact that my name will be emblazoned for life on Mars. With a Chip carrying my name on MSL sitting there for ever. When I think about it, when our grandchildren reach Mars one day, they’ll setup an emblem with our names on it as permanent testimony to humanity’s curiosity and exploration drive.

Go Team NASA. Go Curiosity! May your sojourn on Mars bring us more answers to our insatiable Quests.

Google Owns You!

Android is #1 in US, Eric confirms its a Trojan

 

Today, news broke that Google’s Android OS phones has overtaken Apple’s iPhone as number one selling phones. Of course Eric Schmidt deserves the commendation, but his reaction to  the story is what got me foaming. If you read the following excerpt and still can’t see Android as Google’s trojan into your life, then you deserved to be milked as a cow.

Here is the excerpt:
“It may not exactly be a huge surprise given the recent market share numbers, but Google CEO Eric Schmidt has recently confirmed that Android is, in fact, profitable for the company. Of course, it doesn’t make all that money from Android directly, but Schmidt says that Android-based phones are already generating enough advertising revenue to cover the cost of development. What’s more, while he doesn’t provide any current specific numbers, Schmidt did say that he expects there to someday be one billion Android phones in the world, and that if each one generated just $10 per user per year it would be a $10 billion business…” (Source: http://www.engadget.com/2010/10/05/googles-eric-schmidt-says-android-is-profitable-could-eventual/)

This begs the question how can Android be so profitable without selling out on the users. It has already been shown that most of Android apps all send users’ data. Google keeps a tight control on the location based services; knowing where you are at any time in the world, and knows what and where you surf. A tag is being kept of your life. Hopefully it wont turn to bite you in the future.