Archive for Hardware

If you use Flash Storage, do NOT miss this Storage Unpacked Podcast!

Silicon Wafer

Just a very quick post today…

I don’t often write blog posts either responding to, or recommending things, as I usually just fire them out on Twitter or LinkedIn.

That said, I enjoyed this particular podcast episode so much, I felt I needed to share it with my [two] subscribers via a post!

 

Storage Unpacked

I have been listing with great interest to Chris Evans and Martin Glassborow’s new Storage Unpacked podcast for the past couple of months. If you are either a storage afficionado, or even a generalist, i highly recommend it.

The particular episode I am referring to is Talking NAND Flash with Jim Handy, specifically Part One, released 6th Jan this year.

As someone who follows the storage industry with interest, this episode was a great insight as to the history and decisions which have led us to where we are with flash storage today, as well as some fascinating facts and figures.

I don’t want to preempt or spoil the episode, but for example did you know:

  • Nanometer scale productions actually mean working at the scale of millionths of a millimeter
  • Fabrication plants cost around $8 Billion each to make, and the machines involved in creating the chips cost about $100 million each!
  • It takes 3 months to create a single chip from the raw materials!

These, and other interesting things can be found on the episode, below – I highly recommend you check it out (and dont forget to subscribe to their podcast)!

Talking NAND Flash with Jim Handy – Part One

Further Info

I listen to about 20+ podcasts on a regular basis (the one and only good thing about commuting every day to the office!). I need to do an updated article on them, but in the mean time, here is a list of some of my recommendations:

The Tekhead Top 10 Tech Podcast Perfect Playlist Picks

It’s a Geek Life! HDD Watch Review

So, why an HDD watch review on a tech blog?

Well, I’m not a “watch guy”, meaning I don’t have a collection of 50 varying and expensive watches, however, I do consider myself as someone who appreciates the skill which goes into producing a timepiece. Regardless of what many millennials will tell you, I also believe you should never be without one, and a mobile phone simply will not do… 🙂

It was my birthday recently, and based on a none-too-subtle hint from me, my wife very kindly gave me the gift of an HDD watch! Needless to say, I was extremely chuffed with it, so thought I would provide a mini review here.

I originally heard about these very funky (yes, read: nerdy) watches via the biggest watch aficionado I know IRL, Stephen Foskett, who has an extensive collection and loves anything which goes tick-tock! He even runs his own watch blog, Grail Watch, which I recommend for any horologists (if that is the correct term?).

The original run of 500 watches came from an IndieGoGo campaign in 2014. In March this year, Jean Jerome, the creator of the HDD Watch, has opened up his own website for anyone who missed out the first time.

HDD Watch Review - It's more than 8-bits!

It’s more than 8-bits!

The watch itself is of a very decent build quality. The HDD Microdrive (Hitachi 4GB to be precise) has been encased in a custom (very shiny!) stainless steel enclosure, which provides both shock and water protection. A Miyota GL20 quartz movement is added, which provides accuracy to +/- 20 seconds per month. Mine seems to be achieving something within this window but with no second hand, it’s hard to tell! I’ve also caught it once or twice on hard objects and ne’er a scratch has been seen, so I would definitely attest to the build quality.

HDD Watch Review Waterproof

When did you last stick an HDD in a glass of water and expect it to keep working?!

Most of my life I have been used to wearing segmented metal watch straps with butterfly clasps, which I find to be most comfortable and secure. When I originally received the watch I did consider replacing the strap, which is rubberised (neoprene) and modeled on a PCB, with a segmented metal strap. Replacement straps are available from the vendor, including a metal expansion strap, but it turns out that this is one of the features which most draws the eye, and people often comment on this first! It even drew the eye of one of my interviewers when I was interviewing for my recent change of role, which I don’t think harmed my chances! 🙂

HDD Watch Review Closeup

There were only two negatives I would highlight about the watch, one is a “bug” and the other is a “missing” feature!

  • The bug is that there is a tiny piece of dust on the inside of the glass on my particular watch, which is then reflected in the surface of the platter as well. It’s just a bit of an annoyance, and I am hoping I will be able to clean it out whenever I eventually have to replace the battery.
  • The feature I wish the watch had, is a date window. I didn’t realise how often I actually use this feature of my current watch until I’ve had to go without it! I fully understand why one isn’t included however, as it would spoil the look of the platter, and there is nowhere else on the watch for a date to comfortably sit, even if a mechanism could be found which would allow for remote placement of this element.
Closing the Wrist Strap

I hope this HDD watch review has been of some interest!

Overall, if you want the ultimate in Geek Chic, I highly recommend the HDD watch from http://hddwatches.com. A brilliant purchase and a unique piece of history, which at only €150, is well worth the purchase price IMHO!

HDD Watch Review Geek Fashion

Dell finds $67Bn down the back of the sofa – what to do with it? Buy EMC of course!

Dell Acquires EMC

This is just a quick post as I should be concentrating on VMworld right now, but (obviously) all everyone is talking about at the event is the momentous news that Dell are to acquire EMC for a record $67 Billion! There are so many possible implications from this event, so many questions which arise immediately and probably many more as the dust starts to settle. For example:

  • Dell have a very strong relationship with Microsoft, not only providing large quantities of infrastructure into MS corporate and Azure, but collaborating closely on products like the Microsoft Azure Pack etc. How do MS feel about a key partner buying one of their biggest competitors (VMware) and how will they react?
  • How many EMC and Dell products will be dead in the water within 6-12 months? If you are in the middle of your buying cycle right now, would you want to actually make a long term investment into either? This could be a great time for some of the other major players and startups to expand their market shares.
  • What is the future of VMware? They are still technically independent, though 80% owned by EMC. Would Dell want to maintain that position, buy up the remaining stock, or perhaps even sell off VMware to pay off a good chunk of the EMC purchase price? The market certainly didn’t seem too impressed as the VMware stock price dropped over 10% after the deal become public!
  • What will the likes of HP do now that their biggest competitor has just bought one of their biggest partners?
  • Will the SEC approve the merger (I am certainly no expert on US financial law, but I assume they will have some sort of say over this due to the scale of the deal)?
  • Maybe all of the above are moot, and everyone will continue to get along as Frenemies / Co-petitors (©2015 Jane Rimmer)… then again, maybe not?

People have been talking about Joe Tucci’s retirement for years now; I doubt anyone imagined it would end with this!

And now for something completely different… British Gas Hive Smart Thermostat Review

Having recently had the Hive smart thermostat system installed in our house by British Gas, I’ve been asked by a handful of people subsequently as to whether it is any good, so here are a few notes to that end… being a thermostat review of course, it does have the potential to be the most boring blog post ever! With that in mind, if you have narcoleptic tenancies or have pretty much anything else to do, I suggest you stop reading now!

Installation
We didn’t get off to a great start as there were some scheduling issues with BG getting the right engineer to come and complete the fitting (not all of their engineers are currently trained to do so). That aside, the actual install was relatively quick and simple, with a minor niggle when the engineer had to contact the Hive team to reset the device and get it to make its original connection “back to base”.

The thermostat is also completely wireless (using standard AA batteries), so we we’re able to relocate it as part of the installation, into our living room. Point to note, it is ideally meant to be installed at a height of 1.5m from the floor, something which our engineer didn’t actually mention when fitting it below this height. The wireless feature is very handy though, as the location of our old wired thermostat was not ideal and this will now more accurately allow us to control the temperatures based on where we spend the most time.

Functionality
Ultimately it’s a thermostat, so functionally it simply:

  • Turns our upstairs hot water on and off on a schedule (downstairs is on demand already).
  • Turns the heating on until it reaches the defined temperature.

But, compared to a standard on/off thermostat, it also:

  • Allows different temperatures at different times of day, instead of just being based on whatever temperature your legacy thermostat is currently set to.
  • Has built in freeze protection, so even if you turn it off when you leave the house, if the temperature drops below 5 degrees, it will automatically turn on your heating; very useful indeed!
  • Geolocation – Can use your current location (via the smart phone app) to turn your heating on / off depending on whether you are in the house, or within a specified distance of it.

Usability
Between myself using the app and my wife using the wall unit for the past week I can confirm that it is fine, but the wall unit UI is not quite as intuitive as it perhaps could be. For example changing the current scheduled temp will temporarily show the desired temp, then switch back to showing the current temp. This led my wife to believing that it had not accepted her new temp! Perhaps a better UI would have been to show both temps (current and target) on the same screen in different size fonts…

I have not yet tested the Geolocation feature so won’t comment on that yet, other than that I hope Hive are not keeping a track of your location history on their systems – this is not made clear on their FAQ website and would be a bit creepy if they were!

Configurability
Temperature on the thermostat can be set to the nearest 0.5 degrees, which is granular enough for us.

The only minor bugbear I found was that the original firmware delivered was based on a 4-slot schedule. For example:

  • 0600-0900
  • 0900-1600
  • 1600-2300
  • 2300-0600

That’s all very well if you are out during the day every day or want the same temperature most of the time, but what about weekends, or even if you have young children at home during the day. The recently added functionality to the system is a 6-slot schedule. So now you can have (for example):

  • 0600-0900
  • 0900-1200
  • 1200-1400
  • 1400-1600
  • 1600-2300
  • 2300-0600

This is much more useful, particularly for heating. I have found the 4-slot schedule perfectly adequate for the hot water schedule.

Customer Service
So far my only interaction with customer services was when I posted a tweet that I could really do with the 6-slot schedule (not rolled out to everyone at this point). A very polite customer agent at Hive picked up on my tweet:

He got my account details via DM, pushed out a firmware update to my device to add the functionality, and DM’d me again to let me know when it was updated a couple of hours later. How about that for customer service?!

Performance
The app can be a little slow refreshing your current heating status and temperature at times, even on a decent 3G connection and occasionally even on wifi. Other than that it’s pretty quick and easy to use. Telling the thermostat to increase the temperature usually results in the boiler kicking in 5-30 seconds later.

Security
As I understand it, Hive uses the fast growing industry standard ZigBee protocol, which uses 128-bit AES encryption for its communication between devices.

The hub itself is apparently an AlertMe SmartHub Nano, which runs a variant of Linux. This should be reasonably secure assuming it has been locked down, and that BG provide regular security patching to the device, especially in light of recent major security issues such ShellShock. Ultimately the device does not require you to open inbound ports on your router, so assuming all comms between hub and central system are SSL encrypted as they are with the apps, then it’s no less secure than your laptop accessing a secure website over wifi.

Money Saving & Costs
It’s too soon to tell whether it has saved any real money, but I do know that with the more specific schedules than we could achieve with our old thermostat I think it is likely that it will save money. Whether we get close to the claimed £150 pa on the website, I’m not convinced, but even if it only achieves a third of that, then it should pay for itself within 3 years.

The system comes with a one year warranty. Beyond that we use British Gas HomeCare, so any issues are covered by BG as part of our service plan. If you are not using BG HomeCare, then your mileage and potential costs may vary!

Moving House
Interestingly, if you move house or move into a house which has a hub, you can still use the standard thermostat functionality and configure it using the wall unit, but you would need to buy a new hub to get the online and app features, which seems somewhat unreasonable and wasteful to me!

Conclusion
Overall I’m pretty happy with the system and I think it will likely save some money in the long run, whilst providing a more convenient experience and comfortable home. My wife is less so, but then again, she still uses a BlackBerry!

Fingers crossed it lives up to expectations and that reliability proves good over the coming months and years!

%d bloggers like this: