The Server Gets More Efficient, but The Dream is Over

The NAS Gets a New PSU

In March of last year I wrote about replacing the home NAS with a custom-built Linux box

Almost a year in and the device has served the purpose well,providing a solid foundation for a connected home. I’ve been verysatisfied with the change.

The only downsides of the unit are the higher power consumption(averaging around 38W), and the groan of the two fans inside: thepower supply and chipset fans. The audible part isn’t really anissue given that it’s stashed away, but considering that a probablefailure point on most new electronics is the fans, it becomes areliability concern.

I junked a laptop because of an impossible to repair broken fan.I’ve lost several video cards for the same reason.

I can even hear the irritating whirring of my blu-ray player’sfan (do not buy the Samsung BDP1600. The thing is complete junkeven without factoring in the noisy fan trying to upstage the evennoisier optical unit. Speaking of junk, the Sony alpha-200 isanother garbage product that made me regret ever turning my back onCanon).

As promised in the original entry, I got around to replacing thepower supply with a PicoPSU 90W unit, whichwas basically a plug and play swap.

In my original entry I estimated a 4-8W power reduction, whichturned out to be an underestimation. With this PSU the powerconsumption dropped a whole 10W, going down to a constant 28W (onlyslightly spiking under load), making me feel a little lessenviro-guilt. There’s still the noisy chipset fan, but that’ll beanother project.

The case was built around the expectation of a power supply fanexhausting heat, so some extra natural ventilation was required.With that the sensor readings now hover at low operating levels.

Economically this is a change that will not pay off. From NCIXthe new PSU cost me $73.49 all in. Given a savings of 0.01kWh perhour, and a fully loaded electric cost around $0.16/kWh, it wouldtake 5 years for the 10W to pay for the change.

It would be nice if all power supplies were mandated to beefficient (they aren’t for most devices because they know it playszero part in your purchasing criteria. It’s unfortunately one ofthose areas where legislation is really the only effectivesolution), because right now inefficiency isthe standard. Of course environmental choices don’t always yield the expected results.

The Dream is Over…Wake Up With New Phone

In July of last year I wrote about choosinga new smartphone to replace the MotoQ that I had been using.While the MotoQ served a good tour of duty, it was seriouslyshowing its age and was falling behind in the empowering mobilerevolution.

While I’d been using variants of Windows CE since before theturn of the century, Windows Mobile was obviously lost in thewilderness. Not only was each equipped device essentially abandonedright after being released, the clearest sign that Microsoft lostthe plot could be seen in PocketIE, where the preloaded bookmarksto various Microsoft Mobile pages led to 404 errors.

The team moved onto something new and shiny and had no concernat all for the existing base. Microsoft has a very short attentionspan to products that don’t earn them Windows Office type revenuenumbers, so it wasn’t a surprise.

For various reasons I did not want an iPhone (we don’t needanother restrictive and innovation crushing Microsoft scenarioplaying out, and I want to develop for the device without embracingthe whole cult), despite it being the easy choice. I opined in thefirst entry that Android seemed to have a very bright future ahead,which is a prediction that seems quite obvious now given that it isthe platform of so many incredible devices recently released or onthe horizon.

The future is so bright for Android that the robots have to wearshades.

The options in Canada were (and remain) limited, so I went withan HTC Dream (G1) given that it had a keyboard and otherwise hadlargely the same specs as the newer HTC Magic, aside from whatseemed like a minor difference in memory capacity.

 I have to confess to being disappointed with thedevice.

Functionally it is amazing, and even with Android 1.5 theplatform is simply brilliant. When everything operates correctly Iam over the moon with the device.

The problem is that everything didn’t operate correctly. Forwhatever reason the device seems to be horrendously overloaded, soeven with virtually no apps installed and nothing beyond the basesystem running, most actions are plagued by obnoxious pauses, evenon a fresh start-up.

Ihate pauses.

I stopped using brilliant apps like Weatherbug because theyseemed to make the situation worse.

Alas, my long term plan was always that I would buy one of thenewer, faster phones when they came to market, while using thestarter device for development purposes until that time. If anunlocked Nexus One or Droid/Milestone worked on Rogers’ wirelessband, I’d grab one of those when it was a possibility.

Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised recently to find thatRogers was offering all HTC Dream owners a free HTC Magic for $0, with the caveat that your term lengthpushes out. Given that Dream owners can only possibly be 6 or 7months into their term, that isn’t that tough of a demand. I am ona very reasonable family plan that allows me 5GB / month (which Iseldom use more than 1% of), so I feel fairly future-proofed withthat foundation and for me it was all win.

So the next day a Magic arrived in the mail and moments later Iwas up and running with it. With the SIM card removed my existingDream still works on wifi, where it can browse the web and playmedia and respond to emails and take pictures, and I can of courseput another card in it and continue using it online. I’ll likelyinstall Cyanogen on itnow.

Quite pleased about that.

The most shocking thing, though, is that this Magic is much moreresponsive. It has the same processor as the Dream, so that doesn’texplain the difference. If I had to guess, I’d point to RAM, whichon this device comes in at 288MB, compared to the 192MB in theDream. For comparison both the Droid and the iPhone 3GS feature256MB of RAM.

The extra headroom over the base OS seems to make all thedifference in the world. On the Magic I can see that the freememory is usually less than 90MB, even on a fresh start-up, whichnotably would put it over the limits of the Dream.

HTC and Rogers claim that they’ll release Android 2.1 for thisdevice in the near future, which makes me especially pleased.

Great move, Rogers. The new HTC Sense update and free month ofdata is icing on the cupcake.

Firefox 3.6 Released – Web Worker Performance Remains theSame

Back in June I wrote about Web Workers, a fantastic new method to move processing out of theUI thread. To support the entry I posted a variation of the SunSpider benchmark I named Moonbat.

Safari kicked Firefox around in this benchmark. I just tried itwith the just released 3.6, and it doesn’t look like much haschanged: FF 3.6 does 10 iterations with 4 threads in ~11 seconds,Chrome does it in 2.6 seconds, while Safari leads the pack at 2.3seconds.

Alas, web worker performance isn’t a critical factor in choosinga browser (my favourite browser remains Firefox), but it would benice to see it moving in the right direction.

Celebrating My First Home High Speed Overage

Got the cable bill — a bill that pushes into the $250 range permonth these days — to find a surprising $11.25 “internet overagefee”. Apparently I used 67.5GB last month, while my limit is 60GB.The Steam sales, several purchased HD movies and a couple ofon-demand games for the kids on the 360, added to the normalinternet usage apparently really added up to a very atypicallythroughput-intensive month.

I’m not going to cry many tears about it, even though I do think$1.50 a GB is a bit absurd (in an average month I doubt I use 10GB,so now I almost feel obligated to max it out), given that I thinkby usage pricing would lead to a far better, more open, more honestsystem for everyone.