The Sizzle

Issue 3 - Wednesday 7th October, 2015 - Nice Crackle

I've received some very kind feedback from the past two issues, thanks to those who replied back and took the time to let me know what they think! I'll be looking in to fixing the legibility of the text for desktop readers. I optimised it for those reading on mobile devices first and forgot all about those who would read it in an old school mail client. I'll tinker with the CSS over the next few days and see if I can get something looking nice on desktop and mobile.

Microsoft's big shindig in New York went down this morning and some very interesting devices were launched for those who like Windows. They kicked off with the announcement that a HoloLens dev kit will be sent out in early 2016. It'll cost US$3,000 and only go to devs in Canada and the US. HoloLens is supposed to be a holographic headset that you wear and things just pop out in front of you in full 3D glory. Full on future-tech right there. The Microsoft Band got a new design (more curvy, better screen, improved sensors) and Cortana (Microsoft's Siri) built in. The Microsoft Band is really focussed on health, with lots of integrations with Microsoft's Health Dashboard. It's also got notifications from your phone and stuff like that. No AU dates or pricing for the band, but it's US$250 (so roughly A$389 inc. GST) and will be on American customers wrists by October 30.

The Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL are the new flagship Windows Phones. They run Windows 10 and have a 5.2" and 5.7" screen respectively. Both have 32GB of on-board storage and MicroSD card slots. The 950 uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 platform, the 950XL the Snapdragon 810. By far the most interesting feature of these Lumias is Windows Continuum - use the Microsoft Display Dock and you can plug the phone into an external keyboard, monitor and mouse, to use the apps on your phone on a big screen. It won't run your PC's Windows apps, but the apps on your phone can be designed for use on a large display and your phone will keep working as normal. It's like a secondary monitor for your phone. Really interesting concept I am kinda looking forward to trying out, even if I'm not really sure where it would be useful (why would you plug your phone into a keyboard, monitor and moues when you can just like, use your computer?). Windows Hello is another feature I've never seen on a smartphone. Stare directly at your phone and using "infra-red camera technology" the phone will be unlocked, instead of entering a PIN or password. Again, no AU pricing or dates, but in the US it'll set you back US$550 for the 950 and US$649 for the 950 XL, out in November.

Saving the best for last I assume, the Microsoft Surface range was updated. The Pro 4 got the bump we all expected - it's got the new Core m3 CPU on the low end and Skylake based i5 and i7 CPUs on the more expensive models. There's now a 16GB RAM option (yessss) and overall the unit is a bit lighter (786g vs 800g). The new Surface Pen has more pressure sensitivity than the previous model and the keyboard case is apparently much improved. Microsoft surprised a few people with the Surface Book - a full on laptop, Microsoft's first, with a detachable screen that acts as a tablet. 13.5" high-res screen, an optional discrete GPU (something nVidia - exact GPU we don't know yet), more powerful Skylake i5 and i7 CPUs and a 12 hour battery. The Surface Book has a weird hinge that folds around like a piece of paper so you can use the screen on its own with detaching it from the keyboard. No AU dates *again*, but pricing is out with a vague "starts at" $1349 for the Surface Pro 4 and $2299 for the Surface Book.

The entire event (almost 2hrs long) can be watched on the Microsoft website. All the new Microsoft stuff sounds really promising, but it's easy to be fooled by shiny marketing and specs lists. Gotta use it all hands on to see if it's any good as Microsoft's reputation for refinement and polish isn't exactly stellar.

Reddit has had some tough times lately, particularly acting as the Internet's public cesspool with some disgusting stuff bubbling to the surface and nothing done about it in the name of some weird Internet free speech ideology held by a certain type of nerd. They've got a new CEO now (who just like Twitter, brought back one of the co-founders to try get the ship back on course) and Wired has a piece about the "new" management's plan to make Reddit more friendly and drive growth. The story of the shitstorm that caused Reddit's current situation is amazing too. How a group of supposedly intelligent people could become so out of touch with their community is astounding. Money does weird things to people, man. I think of Reddit like Twitter - the basic premise of it is great and I enjoy it. If I stay ignorant to how the sausage is made and contain myself to my nice bubble the things other people do and think on and of Reddit and Twitter don't matter. It's when the crap leaks into my bubble that trouble starts and I get upset.

And speaking of Reddit, they've launched a new site called Upvoted, which aggregates the popular stuff on Reddit onto a site that isn't Reddit. Twitter has done something similar today too, launching Moments, which takes the popular news items from Twitter and condenses it into a single area in the official mobile app or Twitter. Oh and Twitter launched big emoji for use in direct messages. Yep.

Cool Stuff
Canadians are gonna get 4K live sport shot at 60fps and in high dynamic range colour depth. Rogers (Canada's equivalent of Optus) is bringing all the 2016 Toronto Blue Jays baseball games and a couple of NHL games to customers of their gigabit fibre service. Lucky bastards. I'd give my left nut to watch AFL in 4K 60fps HDR. I doubt we will see the AFL in that quality this decade. Gigabit fibre would be nice too - I have the fibre bit, just bring me gigabit!

This video produced by the CSIRO and made available on the National Film and Sound Archive's YouTube channel is a beautiful piece of 80s Australia retro tech. 18 minutes of how computers are going to change our lives. The themes and concepts are the exact same as now - communication is changing! Entertainment is changing! Information is the most valuable resource we have! - but 33 years later it's just shinier, a bit faster and more colourful. Some themes didn't quite work out though - particularly telecommuting and working from home. The bit about teletex is fantastic, so many memories.

One of the few pieces of knowledge I have (and you may have too) that most people don't, is how the Internet and computers works. Not every single minute detail in depth, but relatively technical and off the top of my head. I can explain more or less how when you press a key on your keyboard to enter a search query into Google, what the hell is going on when a website appears on your computer and the crazy amount of steps and things that happen for it to all work. Or so I thought. This GitHub repo (weird spot for it, but whatever you weird programming nerds) goes into extraordinary detail as to the process of visiting Starts off with what's electro-mechanically going on when you smoosh the g key for google, then to what the software running on your computer does, then the whole networking process and what happens when data is returned back and drawn on the box of light sitting on your desk. It's a magnificent piece of text, you'll bar up.

Here endeth the sizzle (until tomorrow!)