Sunday, November 24, 2019

Some quick improvements needed to Xiaomi Mi security camera to make it much more useful [RAWDUMP]

It's when you start using a product that you quickly begin to see its shortcomings / areas of improvement:
  • Camera can be rotated along 2 axes, but you can't create a bookmark of select positions. Each time you want to see something to, say, top-right, you have to repeatedly press the movement buttons to get there. Should be possible to create bookmarks that record positions of each axis.
  • To scare those being observed [e.g., factory workers], that you're being watched, camera should sometimes randomly rotate, giving the appearance that 'something is going on'.
  • Similarly, the various colored LED lights on the camera should sometimes blink in random ways to give the appearance that 'your boss is watching'.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Improvements needed in Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K which will make it a much more useful device [RAWDUMP]

    • Anywhere where you can / have to type, should be possible to voice dictate it using Alexa, the way one can voice dictate anywhere in Android using Google. At times you need to type a lot and it's very difficult using the supplied remote controller.
    • If you speak "Baghdad 1968", Alexa types that as "Baghdad nineteen sixty eight". Not right. Search results in both YouTube and the browser go bad as a result.
    • When you do an Alexa search, it should return results from inside the respective content libraries of all the apps that you've installed. For example, when I do a search for some movies, those aren't returned in the results even if an app, say JioCinema, has those for free viewing. Each app's database needs to be indexed.
      • Of course, Amazon probably wants you to view stuff only on its own Prime app.
    • Not possible to pass on the spoken search query to the installed Mozilla Firefox browser - can pass it only to YouTube, Amazon Silk, or Amazon Music. Probably a deliberate choice to cripple Firefox and to direct users to Silk.
    • Some queries that you speak to Alexa, you intend to search for those on the Web, by passing the query text to Silk's default search engine. But many times, Alexa gives a sort of "answer" to that query. For example, if you speak "latest news", Alexa starts the NDTV latest news video, but there's no way to pass the text "latest news" as a text search query to Silk's default browser. Another similar query is "Disha Patani age", for which Alexa forcibly gives you a direct answer without converting the voice query to text.
    • Several voice searches Alexa just doesn't transcribe to text form, no matter how clearly/slowly you speak, and even if those queries seem pretty simple [Alexa just says "sorry...", and doesn't even provide any sort of 'instant answer' to that query]. For example, as of Nov'19, if you speak "Hyundai Venue", intending to pass on the transcribed text as a Web search to Silk, Alexa simply returns a 'sorry' message and doesn't transcribe it. Quite frustrating, since this happens with several queries.
    • Silk is a good browser, but having to move the on-screen cursor / pointer all the way up or down in order to scroll a webpage up or down is tiresome. Dedicated scroll-up and scroll-down buttons needed on the remote, and this'll make Web browsing much better.
    • Allow inserting a microSD card, say a cheap 128 GB card, to act like a disposable cache. Songs that you frequently play, movies / videos that you watch repeatedly, etc., will be cached locally to reduce server load, to save user's data usage, and to increase responsiveness. Even an ongoing movie should be fully cached to the extent it has been played, so that if you go back to any previous scene, it plays instantly.
    • Processor should be faster. Compared to contemporary mid-range smartphones, even the latest 4K model of Fire TV Stick feels just a bit sluggish and jerky at times [this is more pronounced in the inbuilt Firefox, but also with Silk when the webpage in question is complex/heavy].
    • Firefox-specific
      • Default up-down scrolling speed in the inbuilt Firefox browser should be faster.
  • Q

Friday, November 15, 2019

ActiveX plugin - Java applets and JavaFX - Flash Player and ActionScript - Silverlight .NET - Native Client NaCl and PNaCl - asm.js - WebAssembly Wasm - Bytecode Alliance

What the hell is going on here? So many technologies over the years but still no widespread use of native code / binary code / bytecode in Web browsers in 2019? It seems like the situation was much better several years ago, when, despite security issues, the use of ActiveX, Java / JRE and Flash Player plugins was widespread. In particular, the latter two had near ubiquitous penetration on desktop systems. And it wasn't just the install base of these browser plugins - you would routinely come across tiny applications, games, puzzles, riddles, animations, and other useful stuff within webpages, executed using these platforms. Not any more. In a way, despite us having rich Internet applications [RIAs] such as Gmail, that run inside a Web browser, we've lost out on those tiny little applets which used to run within Web pages and were a lot of fun [not to mention useful].

Perhaps some parallels can be drawn between this, and the Russian approach to their rockets - Proton and Soyuz. The Russian approach has been to continue to evolve and refine the same basic decades-old designs - adding new technologies, optimizing components, making refinements, and so on. No doubt this approach eliminates the possibility of a fundamentally new design from scratch, but it does have the benefits of a product whose troubles have been sorted out, which has been optimized to its theoretical limits, and which has superb reliability and availability, backed by decades of practical experience. In any case, having something that works nicely - even if somewhat inefficiently - is better than having nothing at all. The point here is what's the use of creating technology after technology for native code inside browsers if you aren't going to commit to any one and bring useful products to the users? ActiveX, for example, could've been and should've been evolved and refined to solve its security issues [sandboxing, for example], instead of abandoning it altogether.

Related blog posts by me:

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Kartarpur Corridor will probably be misused by Pakistan to fuel Sikh separatism in Punjab - specifically the creation of Khalistan

It's no secret that a section of Sikhs has been trying for decades to carve out the so-called Khalistan from the Punjab state of India. Despite violent events lasting years, this sentiment hasn't died down fully, and continues to smolder, and take form and shape in both India and abroad. It has been said that Pakistan has been providing help to these separatists both to harm India in general, and specifically as a payback for India's carving out Bangladesh from East Pakistan. In this context, opening of the Kartarpur Corridor should be a serious cause of concern for India's sovereignty - not for the visa-free pilgrimage itself, but for how under the guise of a holy visit, the separatist elements can secretly meet with and conspire with Pakistani agents, the ISI, Pakistani government, etc., completely out of the watch of Indian government and Indian intelligence. Free from the Indian scanner, conspiracies can be made regarding provision of funds, weapons, etc., and strategic long-term plans can be made regarding how to convert the prosperous Punjab state into a new Sikh nation - Khalistan. What stops the separatist folks visiting Pakistan as pilgrims from venturing out of the holy sites and on to the streets of Pakistan, to conduct secret meetings with anti-India elements there?

One quick though partial solution to this issue can be this - contractually require that any convoy of pilgrims visiting the shrine be accompanied by a handful of Indian security personnel. Package/sell this as needed for the safety/security of the visitors themselves, but the private Indian motive should be to keep a watch for any suspicious activities by Pakistan, such as contacting any of the pilgrims, or passing of any type of information or packages, etc.

OTHER TAGS= Referendum 2020; Militancy; Terrorism; Hindus; Sikhism

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Microsoft's new Edge - Chromium based - is finally and quickly turning out to be the fastest, most slick Web browser [COMPACTIDEA]

Been using both Beta and Dev channels for many months now [ever since these landed on Windows 8.1], and finally, it's not difficult to say that this new Edge is turning out to be faster and slicker than even Chrome. Perhaps the fastest Internet browser out there. Mozilla still hasn't fully solved the slow-speed issues of Firefox [though latest versions are improving in this regard, albeit slowly], but this new Edge is a speed demon - especially the latest 80.something series. It's slick, it's fluid, the scrolling is just amazing and smooth and way ahead of Google Chrome's. Also, it's different, it's exotic, it has that psychological assurance of having everything Google ripped out of its innards [Bing as the default search engine hardly hurts now - since Bing itself has now come dangerously close to Google], and so on. The 'Immersive Reader' is a meaningful improvement over the clean / readable modes in other browsers. Microsoft is showing its programming and user-interface prowess with Edge - and it's showing that it can make a better browser than Google. The goal, it seems, is to be the best out there.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Heterogeneity in any industry is important - Samsung's decision to close its custom CPU research division is sad

Number of silicon fab operators is reducing. A lot. Mobile operating systems have narrowed down to Android and iOS [excellent OSes such as the BlackBerry 10 and Windows 10 Mobile have also died]. LCD/OLED panel manufacturers have reduced in number. Mobile CPU designers have reduced in number as well. FB is practically the only social networking website. ISAs such as SPARC and Power are dying, in favor of industry consolidation towards x86 and ARM. And so on. Of course, network effect has a role to play here.

In light of this, it's sad that Samsung is closing down development of its custom CPUs - probably referring to the 'M' series of its flagship cores within Exynos [such as Mongoose]. Not only does the scenario become less exciting - with everyone referring to the same boring A76, A77, A55, etc. - this closure also reduces the heterogeneity in the market. Kind of sad.

Of course, re-allocation of the same/existing set of resources towards higher priorities / higher returns isn't bad usually. For example, if Samsung is thinking of laying off these 300 chip engineers and instead hiring 300 engineers for some kind of future RISC-V chips, that could overall be a better thing for Samsung. Or perhaps hiring 300 engineers for Samsung's currently-crude Cloud services, to better compete with the likes of Google, Amazon and Microsoft.

There's another thing to think about. Suppose Samsung's custom CPU core efforts cost it X million USD per year on an ongoing basis currently, and licensing CPU cores directly from ARM is going to cost Y million USD per year, where Y << X, then it doesn't make sense to spend a higher amount of money.

"A few years ago, Samsung had told us that custom CPU development was significantly more expensive than licensing Arm’s CPU IP."

"On the other hand, it means there’s one less custom CPU development team in the industry which is unfortunate."

TAGS= Heterogeneous; Industrial base; Multiple suppliers

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Matchbox is one of the cheapest things available today [COMPACTIDEA]

Bought 5 packs of ITC's Homelites / Home lites matchboxes today, each having 50 sticks. For just 10 rupees total, or INR 2 per pack, or INR 0.04 per matchstick. Considering the utility that a single matchstick gives, the price is very, very low, making a matchbox one of the lowest priced items available today. And ITC isn't manufacturing it itself, so there's manufacturer margin also involved.


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

After 4-to-1 Quad Bayer technology in cameras, it's only natural that 9-to-1 pixel binning will also arrive in smartphones [COMPACTIDEA]

From my perspective, Quad Bayer technology's benefits come into play only when taking HDR images - zero-delay HDR images, that is ["simultaneous", rather than "sequential"]. For regular, non-HDR images, the binning doesn't do anything extra compared to what a same-sized non-binned sensor with fewer [but larger] pixels would accomplish. Of course, one other thing that such binned sensors do accomplish is easier marketing - Chinese companies such as Xiaomi, Realme, etc., proudly tout "64 MP" images without telling the public that the images captured and actually stored in their cameras are only 16 MP.

Anyway, it's my feeling that after this hoopla around 4-to-1 becomes boring, camera/phone companies will bring in 9-to-1 pixel binning, because it'll allow them to market small-sized sensors with huge megapixel numbers [imagine a 270 MP 9-to-1 sensor that outputs a 30 MP image]. Of course, 9-to-1 binning will be great for HDR images. It might capture 3 shots at once and then merge those into a single HDR image with lovely colors. Who knows, we might get to 16-to-1 binning, etc.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Dump of thoughts related to BlackBerry Priv - a better Priv, designing a new Priv, etc. [RAWDUMP]

  • Improving the existing Priv without making any drastic changes.
    • [15-May-18]: Since processor is quite slow [unacceptable many times], allow disabling the mandatory inbuilt encryption in order to speed up the device, even if a little bit.
    • [12-May-18]: When in pocket, accidental touches happen all the time. Screen turns on without you being aware, and icons and buttons get pressed. Unacceptable, of course.
      • Even when Priv is in your hands, screen turns on by itself many times, even though you didn't intend to. Especially with the double-tap-to-wake setting on.
    • [30-Apr-18]: Shortcut for screenshot sort of clashes with developer shortcut for collecting a sort of bug report [only duration varies]. Quite troubling. During data collection, Priv freezes badly, especially with that slow CPU. You don't even realize what's happening.
    • [30-Apr-18]: With such a slow CPU [that too for a phone priced at flagship levels], BlackBerry shouldn't have given [or turned on by default] heavy features such as BlackBerry Hub. These make the already-slow Priv even slower. This is just one heavy feature and there are several more, and disabling/uninstalling these improves the experience.
  • General smartphone improvement thoughts for the next Priv or more generally for any phone.
    • [4-May-18]: Speakers should be on both sides, so that if one side is by chance pressed towards the bed, for example, you still hear the ringer properly from the other speaker.
      • [30-Apr-18]: Similarly, the multicolor LED notification light too should be on both front and back sides, so that if your phone has been placed with its display facing towards the table surface on your work table, you still get to see the notification light alerts.
  • Q

Monday, May 20, 2019

Western news media outlets merrily publish photos of Asian or African dead bodies, crying or wailing women, and so on, but "out of respect" don't do the same for Westerners

Seen numerous examples of this blatant bias in the last few years. Happens on every major American or European news website - NYT, FT, BBC, etc. The underlying, subconscious bias inside the heads of Western journalists / reporters is that Asian / African / Latin / Arab / South American / Black / Indian people aren't really proper humans - they're nearer to animals or subhumans in front of the superior White race, and as such showing the former in dead or mutilated form, or showing their women screaming in mental agony is fine. The same obviously doesn't apply for Westerners, where "out of respect for the deceased and their relatives", dead faces aren't shown, crying women aren't shown, and so on.