When history books are written a few years from now, they’ll probably mention 1336x768 as the number that killed Dell and the rest of the PC industry.
Well, other guys do it too, but Dell is probably egregious among the PC makers in selling $1000+ core-i7 laptops with 1336x768 resolution at a time when 1920x1080 Nook HD sells for about $100.
Really, the job of the PC vendor should be to figure out what customers want and try to provide it at the best price point. On the other hand, what Dell does is to complicate the process of buying a PC by a factor of 10 by adding a gazillion irrelevant options and bloatware. Then they pay the bargain shopping websites to push this to their customers: 2.5 hour battery life, batteries that last 6 months, bad resolution, cheap plastic, extra thick form factor, power hungry CPU - pick any two and you’ll find it in a Dell laptop.
They do make nice aluminum ultrabooks which are free of all the hassle you say? Just check the price. It ends up being more expensive than a Macbook Air. Given that Apple is the #1 brand in the world now, do they have any hope of selling any serious volume of those?
It’s not that hard to figure out. Take a Dell 14z ($499) or HP Chromebook ($300?) and spend $50 on the high-res panel. Add some nicer materials and a mainstream PC vendor should be able to sell for $750 something with:
* 14 inch body
* 1080p resolution
* 128 GB SSD
* Decent webcam
* Under 3.5 lbs
* Nice materials (glass or aluminum)
* 8-9 hours of battery
But no, everyone is happy selling junk at $400 or poor Macbook Air clones at $1200. What’s wrong with these people?
Dirt roads and expensive cars
[ There are two photos in the slideshow above ]
One of the many contradictions in Bangalore that puzzle me. I’ve seen an Audi Q5, A Jaguar and several other really nice cars, certainly not built for rough terrain like this on this 100 ft stretch of unpaved road. It’s doubly anomalous when you consider the fact that these cars/SUVs cost twice as much in India due to taxation.
There are at least two phenomena to explore. I’m sure there are other explanations.
- Temples and roads have a relationship that’s not exactly friendly in India.
It’s not very uncommon to build a temple right in the middle of a busy road. The reasoning could range from an attempt to get hold of some government land, an expression of political power or something else. There was allegedly a temple covering the entire stretch, but parts of the structure have been demolished and limited to a smaller piece of land under the tree you see in the first photo.
- Procedure, paperwork and rules always trump common sense.
The land of course is disputed and given the pace at which courts move, is likely to remain that way for years. But given the amount of traffic that passes on these roads, it makes no sense to leave it this way (the actual condition of the road is much worse than I could capture in this photo taken on my phone).
Other examples of this kind of obsession with paper/signature/red-tapism: the principal of a college locked up the question papers for an exam in his cabinet and went on vacation. Some other dude had a copy of the papers and could’ve let the exams proceed on schedule. But he’ll do it only if the principal gives him the instruction “in writing”. A rubber stamp would add extra authenticity of course.
In the meanwhile, I have to put up with this bumpy dirt road in a small hatchback every time I visit my mom and dad.
India and Inefficiency
You want a new landline? Someone will come over to your house and collect the documents, get an account opened and have your phone/DSL ready in a couple of days. Sounds great? Not so fast.
Here is how it works in the real world: after collecting the docs, the guy asks for a Rs 200 “service fee”. I understood it was a bribe, but told him I’ll pay a tip after the line ready. But the guy insists on getting paid upfront. Since I badly wanted it done this week, I pay him. The guy takes the money and runs away in 20 seconds leaving nothing but a cell number.
I get a bit suspicious, call the phone provider the next day and tell them what happened. Someone threatens this guy with a complaint and the guy is hugely upset. He threatens to return the Rs 200 and the application form and tells me to go to a different ISP (knowing there is only one).
I pacify him into coming over, he throws his weight around a bit by making us wait and making 3 different trips to get the wiring right. On his 4th trip, he finally gets my landline + DSL working, but doesn’t want to tell me the password! If I get a new router, he wants to be invited over.
He made sure that phone connection doesn’t work in the bedrooms, so we invite him over at least one more time.
Suddenly things clicked into place. I understand why the roads are bad, why they get cut, why they need to be replaced every 12 months.
There is a huge disparity in income between the “privileged” class and the average technician. So they probably see their behavior morally justified in some twisted sense.
From my point of view, if he just quotes a price for getting everything done without this insane/dishonest dance, I’d probably pay it as a tip.
Bangalore cab drivers about women
I was sitting in a 25 min traffic jam just to make it past one signal light for dinner with friends. As the conversation with the cab driver went from the hindi speaker invasion of old bangalore and the foolishness of his dad for not buying some land, he peers out of the window, sees a woman driver and immediately goes:
The traffic jam is caused by women drivers. They’re everywhere and doing everything - which is the root of many problems!
I was taken aback for a moment, but realized that this is not an isolated opinion and probably not very useful to get into an argument with.
I felt bad about not having made my opinion known. May be next time.
Free software activist Bradley Kuhn wrote that “I’m not against the closing of this bug; however, the closed status should be something like ‘Can’t Fix.’” (The actual status is “fix released.”) Kuhn went on to note that the original bug report stated that “[a] majority of the PCs for sale should include only free software,” and that even Android devices tend to include proprietary software.
In the book the authors happily take up the white geek’s burden. A liberal sprinkling of convenient, hypothetical dark-skinned worthies appear: Congolese fisherwomen, graphic designers in Botswana, anticorruption activists in San Salvador and illiterate Masai cattle herders in the Serengeti are all obediently summoned to demonstrate the progressive properties of Google phones jacked into the informational supply chain of the Western empire.
Google phones use mostly free software and Julian Assange is not exactly a shy freedom of information activist. But getting into international politics has a cost.
Samsung Chromebox Review
I bought a Samsung Chromebox (core i5 based) recently with the expectation that this would be a quiet, general purpose small form factor PC that I’ve been trying to build for years. Turns out that it’s more complicated than that.
Turning off verified boot and enabling the dev BIOS doesn’t necessarily give you the ability to plug in a external USB drive with a bootable MBR like a traditional PC BIOS would. Scripts like the one from ChrUbuntu partition the already meager 16GB drive. What I’m looking for is the ability to keep the ChromeOS partition as pristine as possible, while retaining the ability to boot something else.
What has been demonstrated so far is the ability to boot a ChromeOS kernel on a Ubuntu partition. Anything else requires some time commitment and hacking on your part (which is probably going to cost you more in terms of time than the cost of the hardware).
Ability to kexec a non-chromeos kernel (or grub) on an external device in the dev mode would be nice.
Bluetooth: don’t expect to be able to connect to your audio system and stream music. Only bluetooth keyboard, mouse are supported.
Lack of hardware settings: either things work or they don’t. No ability to configure anything. Don’t like 1024x768? Get a new cable. Don’t get audio from the builtin speakers when display port/HDMI is plugged in? Get a new headphone. Don’t like headphones? Sorry. Reduced complexity is good, but this one goes a bit too far.
In spite of all the limitations, the device delivers on the promise of a fast, quiet, general purpose x86 box. Sometimes I don’t like mobile computing (= devices that I have to go looking for around the house). This one makes a great immobile computer that stays in one place.
Too much coffee
This is what happens when I drink too much coffee on a Saturday night: