Sunday, March 30, 2008

Intel Not Killing VPU After All

Looks like Intel isn't killing the VPU after all, but instead birthing it. Larrabee, their GPU/HPC processor, is supposedly an add-in proc slated for 2009/2010. Although I'm going to put myself out on a limb and say it will probably become part-and-parcel of their mainline CPU and, instead of being a discrete co-processor, will quickly be absorbed as additional cores of their consumer processor line. But I digress.

Additional information about Larrabee continues to trickle out, but it definitely seems to introduce vector processing instruction sets to be used by general computing, not just as a GPU.

Even if this comes out as a daughterboard or discrete chipset, it should be a compelling reason to pick up a good assembly programming book and start hacking again. How long will it take (non-Intel) compilers to optimize for the vector instruction sets?

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Nifty Nokia

I'm really enjoying the n770. I'm definitely putting an n810 on my wishlist for the end of this year.

First thing I did was re-flash the device with OS 2007 Hacker Edition, an OS intended for the n800 but crammed into n770 hardware. It works rather well, only occasional reboots, but then again I'm working with a heavily used and refurbished unit. Who knows if it's the OS or the device. Google Talk, contacts, Bluetooth, 802.11b/g, a stripped-down mozilla engine and MPEG4 playback all works well.

I turned my lil' Nokia into a pocket translator with the Google Talk translator bot - the streamlined chat interface of OS 2007 turned the Nokia into a very handy (and quick) translation service.

Also tried to crack a test WRT54G router I have laying around using Aircrack, but I couldn't inject wifi packets using the OS 2007 wireless drivers so had to resort to the slower WEP cracking that needs a fair amount of seed traffic. It was still neat to browse all surrounding AP's on a full-screen xterm. With the n770's fantastic resolution, even the small typeface was definitely readable.

Also been mowing through a number of third-party apps. There is a fantastic developer community around the device - their Sourceforge-like approach to the Maemo Garage and the extensbility of the platform has served the developer and user community well.

It took me a while to find out what type of video the n770 will natively accept. There are several good resources out there, such as Andrew Flegg's Perl script that easily transcodes video into a n770-digestible format. The wide screen and nice resolution make mobile video much more palatable. The only caveat was that newer releases of MPlayer tag video with a newer but much less understood "FMP4" codec tag which OS2007HE doesn't understand. I had to tweak the script to pass the value "DX50" to the ffourcc option in order for the built-in media player to recognize the MPEG4 codec used. I also had to make sure encoding only happens at 15 frames per second, otherwise audio quickly gets out of sync.

When I get a free second I'm going to try getting some OpenVPN binaries to work as well. Would be very nifty to have an SSH stack and VPN access wherever I go.

Got Flash 9 somewhat working, although sound doesn't appear to work. Not a deal breaker tho, considering I'm working on a refurbished device running an unsupported OS meant for an entirely different hardware platform.

All in all, I'm a pretty happy gopher. Not sure what that means, but I am.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

When $300 Is More Popular than Free

For the past two years digital delivery has supplanted shelf space, but those attached to selling physical inventory have poo-poo'ed the viability of such consumerism. But good ole' Trent may be proving that the merch sells itself once and for all.

The Reg puts it well when it says "Nine Inch Nails cracks net distribution" - their latest album has gone up for sale in several interesting ways on their site: get the first volume (nine tracks) for free. If you like it, you can buy all the volumes lossless (36 tracks) including a 40 page PDF booklet for a measly $5. For only ten stinkin' bucks you can get the whole thing as a two disc CD set with a printed booklet. For $75 you can get the audiophile version, digital versions, Red Book CD versions, hardcover slip case and more. Or you can pay $300 and get a super-mega-uber-limited-edition-collectors pack.

Or at least you could before all 2,500 sold out.

At a time when people keep claiming that pirated music is killing the industry and no one will pay for music anymore, it seems awful incongruous that 2,500 units at $300 a pop sold out in almost a day.

Same thing happened back in the day when I bought a copy of Uplink. I could buy it cheaply on its own or shell out some extra bucks and get the signed "limited edition." Of course I now have a proudly signed copy of Uplink on my shelf.

It's not hard to upsell customers, even (or especially) with digital distribution. Give them schwag and they will come.

Monday, March 03, 2008

A Rite of Passage

I purchased a well used Nokia n770 Web tablet from a friend last month and, as tradition dictates, I must christen the device by authoring an entire blog post using only said device.
It really is a sweet little device... and since it runs a Debian-derived distro I can do pretty much anything I want with it. From checking e-mail to WEP cracking it runs the gambit.
The screen is positively beautiful. Video on this thing makes me giddy. Plus I have more connectivity options than I can shake a stick at.
I can totally understand why the n800 has the following it does now.