Sunday, April 12, 2020

Desperately hoping to see world's fastest supercomputer coming out from China based on Huawei's flagship Kirin or Kunpeng processors [COMPACTIDEA]

America is creating way too many hurdles for Huawei. Way too many. A tight slap on the face of America is warranted. What better way than to support Huawei by using its flagship Kunpeng and/or Kirin microprocessors to build China's next supercomputer, and build it such that it's all of these - the most powerful in the world, easy to program, highly energy efficient, having no American hardware, and heavily advertise it as having been put to use for nuclear weapons simulations + medical research + weather modelling [to tease/threaten/unsettle the Americans]. That would be a lesson that America won't forget.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Dedicated monochrome cameras and air purifiers - unnecessarily exorbitantly priced products that can be implemented for much lower price

Particularly true for dedicated black-and-white [grayscale] cameras. Despite the basic premise being so simple - the use of a monochrome sensor rather than a color sensor - the models available on the market are all horribly expensive, whereas the regular, colored cameras start at throwaway prices. It isn't like monochrome sensors are costly - several Huawei / Honor smartphones over the years have incorporated a monochrome sensor as part of the multi-camera setup. The real reason seems to be companies' desire to milk people as much as they can. Same with dedicated air-purifiers. Regular ACs installed in homes already have almost all the components that comprise an air-purifier - motors, casing / housing, control board, wiring, fans, etc. The only thing that needs adding is fortification of the dust filter inbuilt into the air conditioners. The basic point here is that at least for some products, prices are unnecessarily high, when the core feature / functionality of those products can be implemented for a much cheaper price.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

What will happen to Huawei, MediaTek, Samsung, etc., if Qualcomm acquires Arm Holdings [COMPACTIDEA]

The ARM-based chip businesses of these Qualcomm rivals could get in jeopardy overnight if Qualcomm one day acquires Arm Holdings. This is not a small risk. License fees could go up dramatically. Latest designs could be given late. And so on. This is a threat that the likes of Huawei must not forget - not now after all that's being done to Huawei these days. Makes it all the more vital that Huawei and others start nurturing RISC-V chips immediately, as a solid future hedge against any kind of sanctions, blacklisting, takeover or other political restrictions. Owning the complete stack, and especially those vital parts which are ultimately under the control/ownership of hostile nations such as US and UK is critical for survival and growth.

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.

Update [28-Dec-19]: Looks like there is a hurricane of funding coming to this program from wealthy Sikhs all over the world. Peter Virdee is just one example. The impact, thus, will be much larger now.

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.