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Hackathon This Weekend at Wearable World Invents the Connected Traveler

Hackathon This Weekend at Wearable World Invents the Connected Traveler

Posted by on Jun 7, 2014 in Hardware, Mobile, News, Software | 0 comments

This weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in “Wearable Worlds Invents the Connected Traveler” two-day hackathon event, fully sponsored by American Airlines. It was an amazing event, as there were many groups of developers creating unique, exciting travel-related applications. There were a lot of sponsors like GoGo, Pebble, IBM, MasterCard and tech partners like Concur, VoicePark, LocationSmart, etc. present, providing developers with unique technologies and APIs to help out with their hackathon projects.

This was the longest hackathon event I have ever attended, as it spanned two full days! With the goal of making life easier for the mobile traveler, developers worked passionately to produce a working application that airline (like American Airlines) could potentially utilize in the future. I had the fortune to work with an extremely talented group of people, which included: David Lee, Ibrahim Kabil, Andy Kwan of GPOP and Lance Nanek, a veteran Android/Glass developer. Together, over the course of two laborious days, we churned out a Google Glass/Android & web application called FLUX, an application designed to provide a convenient travel experience for VIP travelers with American Airlines. I have to admit, I was intidated first, as I have never participated in a hackathon of this scope, as well as working with seasoned web/mobile developers & UX designers that have been in the field far longer than I. However, I soon found my role in the project and am glad that I was able to assist with the Android development portion of the project. I was also humbled to see my team members’ expertise.
Our team, working away at the Wearable Worlds Invents "The Connected Traveler" hackathon.

Our team, working away at the Wearable Worlds Invents “The Connected Traveler” hackathon.

During development of FLUX, I was quite intrigued with the Google Glass, as my team members were skillfully adept with using and developing applications for it. While I have never had experience with Google Glass or working with the GDK, it was impressive to see that we were able to produce both FLEX versions of Android and Google Glass from the same codebase with little issue, especially with Lance’s expertise.

By the end of the hackathon event, our team was able to produce FLUX for three platforms, which included an Google Glass and Android application for the American Airlines’ VIPs and a web-based client/server setup for American Airlines’ employees. The FLUX Android & Glass application for VIPs displays data such as flight departure time, gate information, current weather settings, etc. It also uses the iBeacon Bluetooth modules to detect where the VIP is currently located in the airport and displays relevant data based on the area. For example, if the VIP was at the security checkpoint, FLUX would inform the user to prepare for security and display their digital boarding pass automatically. At the sametime, the FLUX transmits that data to American Airlines’ employees, giving them the ability to prepare and know about the VIPs specific needs and provide premium services that would be expected by VIPs. Such a service would minimize chaos and confusion and make the travel experience for VIPs a better experience.
David Kim of GPOP giving the pitch for FLUX.

David Kim of GPOP giving the pitch for FLUX.

During the pitch session, there were quite a few incredible projects displayed, including an in-flight social app, sophisticated mobile and Pebble flight notifications, etc. Unfortunately, our team was not one of the five teams that were chosen to advance to the next round. However, I am proud that our team was able to produce a functional prototype in a short period of time, not to mention working with a talented group of people! I’m definitely looking forward to attending more hackathons in the future! Read More

Game Developers Conference 2014 (GDC 2014) – Wrap Up

Game Developers Conference 2014 (GDC 2014) – Wrap Up

Posted by on Mar 18, 2014 in Gaming, General, Hardware, Mobile, News, Software | 0 comments

GDC '14 - Bustling with activity at the Career Center.

GDC ’14 – Bustling with activity at the Career Center.


This past week, I had a chance to attend the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, a huge annual conference for game producers & developers. As this was my first GDC, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet professionals in the gaming industry, attend seminars on game development, as well as seeing the latest games and technology on display. 

GDC '14 - GDC attendees getting an opportunity to try out Oculus Rift.

GDC ’14 – GDC attendees getting an opportunity to try out Oculus Rift.

GDC ' 14 - Unity promoting the Unity gaming engine to game developers.

GDC ‘ 14 – Unity promoting the Unity gaming engine to game developers.


While the first two days of GDC came and gone with little fanfare, things became a bit more interesting when the Career Center and the Expo Floor opened up on Wednesday. Companies like Oculus and Unity were in full force on the floor. Oculus, riding on the growing interest into virtual reality technology, were demonstrating the full capabilities of what the Oculus Rift VR headset had to offer for the next generation of games. As for Unity, they were heavily touting it’s capabilities as a versatile gaming engine that supports most (if not all) current gaming platforms, as well as high-profile games that were developed with Unity.

GDC '14 - The Sony PlayStation exhibit at GDC.

GDC ’14 – The Sony PlayStation exhibit at GDC.

GDC '14 - Valve's exhibit at the GDC.

GDC ’14 – Valve’s exhibit at the GDC.

GDC '14 - Valve's SteamBox, a PC running SteamOS.

GDC ’14 – Valve’s SteamBox, a PC running SteamOS.

GDC '14 - The controversial SteamOS controller.

GDC ’14 – The controversial SteamOS controller.


Some of the biggest announcements at GDC included Sony’s Project Morpheus, a VR headset similar to the Oculus’ Rift headset.  Another large announcement was Valve’s unveiling of the latest version of the SteamOS controller, considered to be controversial due to it’s unorthodox game controller layout. Along with the new controller, Valve was also demonstrating the SteamOS and the SteamBox PCs over at it’s booth.

GDC '14 - Intel at GDC, promoting it's Iris Pro GPU's abilities.

GDC ’14 – Intel at GDC, promoting it’s Iris Pro GPU’s abilities.


Hardware companies like Intel, AMD, and nVIDIA were also at GDC, demonstrating what their hardware can do for game developers. With Intel, they were promoting Iris Pro (Haswell’s integrated GPU) and it’s gaming performance. The message that they wanted to deliver was that the Iris Pro was capable of running the latest games (albeit at lower settings compared to nVIDIA & AMD’s GPU solutions).

GDC '14 - AMD demonstrating EyeInfinity with Battlefield 4.

GDC ’14 – AMD demonstrating EyeInfinity with Battlefield 4.

As for AMD, they were focused on promoting EyeInfinity, their triple monitor solution for gaming, as well as Mantle, an AMD API that allows developers greater access to AMD’s GPU capabilities on a lower level.

GDC '14 - nVIDIA's exhibit at GDC.

GDC ’14 – nVIDIA’s exhibit at GDC.

GDC '14 - nVIDIA's GRID rack server on display.

GDC ’14 – nVIDIA’s GRID rack server on display.


Over at nVIDIA’s booth, they were promoting their latest Tegra 4 SOC solution, as well as nVIDIA GRID, a cloud game streaming service that nVIDIA is currently promoting.

GDC '14 - A GDC attendee playing Crypt of the Necrodancer with a DDR mat.

GDC ’14 – A GDC attendee playing Crypt of the Necrodancer with a DDR mat.

GDC '14 - Bit Bros., a 2D fighting game that plays similarly to Nintendo's Smash Bros. series.

GDC ’14 – Bit Bros., a 2D fighting game that plays similarly to Nintendo’s Smash Bros. series.

de with the large game & hardware companies, part of the Expo Floor was dedicated to Independent Game Developers, where the latest and greatest indie games like “Papers, Please”, “Crypt of the Necrodancer”, “The Stanley Parable”, and many others were on display. GDC has always had a large focus on independent game developers, but this year, indie game developers were definitely in force, as many of the indie games on display were quite intuitive and most importantly, fun to play.

GDC '14 - The Videogame History Museum Exhibit at GDC.

GDC ’14 – The Videogame History Museum Exhibit at GDC.


Outside of the Expo Floor, I encountered an interesting exhibit, the Videogames History Museum. It was an exhibit dedicated to the history of arcade and console gaming, with classic consoles like the NES, SNES, Atari, N64, Genesis, GameCube, Game Boy, Virtual Boy, etc. on display. There were several stations where gamers could reminisce and play these classic consoles; I was able to get a chance to play E.T.: Phone Home (a game that was largely responsible for the 1983 video game crash), as well as a few rounds of Super Smash Bros. Melee. The exhibit was definitely a trip down nostalgic road for me.

GDC '14 - Game Developer's Choice Awards

GDC ’14 – Game Developer’s Choice Awards


On Wednesday night, the Game Developer’s Choice Awards 2014 was held. It’s similar to the People’s Choice Awards, except that the winners here are games and their developers. A significant portion of the GDC Awards were dedicated to indie games, showcasing how far indie games have come in recent years. What I found surprising is that a large amount of the awards were given to the indie game “Papers, Please”, winning five awards for categories such as Best Narrative, Visual Art, etc. Another big winner was Naughty Dog’s “The Last of Us”, a great game that rocked the gaming world last year.

With GDC ’14 concluded, I am still in awe over all the announcements, games/tech that were on display, and more importantly, the advice I received from game designers and professionals. As I have started the journey back into software development in the past year, I was initially overwhelmed, as I felt at times if I could ever get back to speed with what game companies are looking for in developers these days. However, I also gained insight and a better direction of where I should focus my software development skills on.

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Google Launches Android Wear

Posted by on Mar 18, 2014 in Hardware, Mobile, News | 0 comments



Today, Google has unveiled Android Wear, it’s take on the smartwatch concept. With Android Wear and like Google Glass, Google brings the Android infrastructure to the smartwatch form factor. Google is also making the Android Wear SDK available today to developers, making it possible to add Android Wear support to existing Android apps.

Source: http://venturebeat.com/2014/03/18/google-launches-android-wear-a-new-project-to-bring-android-to-wearables-like-smartwatches/

Read More

AMD Unveils the Radeon R9/R7 Radeon Series

AMD Unveils the Radeon R9/R7 Radeon Series

Posted by on Sep 26, 2013 in Hardware, News | 0 comments

At the GPU 14 Tech Day Event in Hawaii, AMD officially unveiled the their next generation Radeon GPU series, the Radeon R9 2xx and R7 2xx series, codenamed “Volcanic Islands.” 

The new Radeon R9/R7 GPU family uses an enhanced GCN architecture (initially introduced in the Radeon HD 7000 series), is DirectX 11.2 compliant, and was produced on the 28 nm process. Some earlier speculations had suggested that the Volcanic Islands family would be on the 20 nm process, but it appears that AMD was able to yield more performance out of the 28 nm process, as the AMD wasn’t ready to transition to 20 nm just yet.

One of the most exciting news about the new Radeon R9/R7 GPU family is the top of the line GPU, the Radeon R9 290X. The Radeon R9 290X is a 512-bit single GPU card, with a transistor count of 6 billion, equipped with 4 GB GDDR5, capable of 5 teraflops, with a total bandwidth of 300 GB/s. These are beastly specs for a GPU, especially in the compute power, transistor count, and the memory bandwidth. Earlier benchmark leaks indicate that the R9 290X beats out the $1,000 GeForce GTX Titan. Even more interesting to hear is that AMD is hoping to price the R9 290X at $600.00 USD, which would seriously undercut nVIDIA’s high-end GTX GPUs.

Another interesting new feature about the Radeon R9/R7 GPU family is “TrueAudio”, a fully programmable audio engine. With TrueAudio, AMD hopes to revolutionize 3D audio engines found in games, as current 3D sound technologies seem to be quite lacking.

With the introduction of the Radeon R9/R7 GPU family, AMD is looking at an October 2013 ETA, with the aims of retaking the GPU market back from nVIDIA.

Sources:
DailyTech – AMD Soft Launches “Volcanic Islands” GPUs With Programmable Audio in Hawaii
Radeon R9-290X: Hardware specs and benchmarks of AMD’s Titan killer
TechReport – AMD reveals Radeon R9 290X with TrueAudio, Battlefield 4 bundle
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Fake Death of a Crucial M4 SSD

Posted by on Sep 19, 2013 in General, Hardware | 0 comments

While making some Hyper-V configuration changes on my home server, my Windows Server 2012-based server suddenly went BSOD and immediately restarted. On reboot, I found that the motherboard could no longer detect the boot drive (a Crucial M4 512 GB SSD) BIOS.

The M4 contained the OS partition for Server 2012, as well as several Hyper-V virtual disk files for several VMs that I was using for testing purposes. My primary data files were unaffected, as those files are stored on a 6-drive RAID 10 array configuration. As I maintained an OS daily snapshot image on an external 3 TB drive, I wasn’t too concerned about the loss of OS data. What was annoying was that I was facing the ordeal of having to send in the M4 back to Crucial for an RMA, wait for a replacement to arrive, and spending quite some time to restore the OS partition configuration on the replacement SSD drive.

As the sudden BSOD and non-detection of the M4 was very unusual, I did some research on what could cause this issue. Apparently, the problem was a bit more common than initially thought, as there were several other M4 owners that encountered the same issue. It seems that there is a rare intermittent power loss bug that affects M4s with firmware version 040H. I guess I was the lucky one, as my M4 was on firmware version 040H and encountered that “rare” bug.

To address the issue, Crucial released firmware 070H (latest firmware as of this post) earlier this year. However, I was still faced with the problem with reviving my M4, as the server could not detect the drive, let alone update the firmware on it. After speaking with Crucial tech support, they assured me that the data was highly likely to be fully intact and suggested that I power cycle my M4 a few times to revive the M4. Apparently, Crucial implemented a built-in fail-safe recovery mechanism in the M4 drives for such issues.

Power-cycling the M4 involves hooking it up to a PC or laptop with an available SATA power connector (with no SATA cable attached) and leaving it on for approximately 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, power down the PC/laptop and disconnect the M4 for approximately 30 seconds. After power-cycling my M4 a few times, my server was able to detect the M4 again and was able to boot into Windows Server 2012 without any issues.

I immediately performed a data integrity check on the M4 and surprisingly everything was intact. Running CrystalDiskInfo on the M4 512 GB SSD indicated it was in “Good” condition, running at 98% life. After running a few more drive integrity tests, I flashed the M4 to firmware 070H, as it fixes this power loss issue.

To summerize, if you suddenly find that your Crucial M4 is no longer being detected, make sure to power-cycle your drive a few times before shipping the SSD back to Crucial for an RMA; chances are that your M4 is not truly dead. Also, with issues like this and the 5200 hour bug, it is very important to keep your Crucial M4 SSD(s) updated on the latest available firmware. Either way, it’ll save you a lot of time, not to mention keeping your files. It certainly saved me quite the hassle. Read More

Gigabyte BRIX: A Miniscule Gaming PC

Posted by on Sep 13, 2013 in Hardware | 0 comments

The Engadget staff recently had the opportunity to check out one of Gigabyte’s newest product at the Intel Developer’s Conference, the BRIX, a mini-form factor PC.

Similar in size to the NUC units that Intel introduced last year, Gigabyte is introducing both AMD Kabini and Intel Haswell based solutions with BRIX, and marketing them as mini gaming PCs. While the integrated GPUs found in the BRIX units are hardly worthy of being able to provide a killer gaming experience, the small form factor of the units does offer the potential for simplicity and ease of mobility. What’s interesting is that the Haswell-based BRIX will be equipped with the Iris Pro graphics.

If priced decently, I can see BRIX being potentially useful in certain scenarios. Especially in home theater PC market, where a energy-efficient, mini-form factor PC with video hardware acceleration highly sought by many HTPC enthusiasts.

Source: Engadget – Gigabyte shows off tiny BRIX gaming PC with Haswell and Iris Pro graphics (hands-on) Read More

Storage Spaces on Windows Server 2012: Great in Theory, Terrible in Practice

Posted by on Sep 5, 2013 in Hardware | 0 comments

Recently, I had the opportunity to test out the new Storage Spaces feature on Windows Server 2012. With a bunch of spare hard drives and parts sitting around, I figure I’d put them to some use by testing out the functionality of Windows Server 2012.

Storage Spaces (also available on Windows 8) is a feature that bears a striking similarity to the Drive Extender feature found on the original Windows Home Server (which reached end-of-life status earlier this year). While the death of DE in WHS 2011 was lamented by many in the tech community, there was excitement when the DE-like Storage Space was introduced with Windows 8 & Server 2012. Like DE, Storage Spaces is a JBOD-like implementation at the OS-level in which you can combine several storage devices of different sizes and interfaces into a single storage pool.

While DE utilized a crude file duplication as a means to protect against data loss from failed hard drives, Storage Spaces offers a few different RAID-like options of protecting data at the OS-level. When setting up a storage pool with Storage Spaces, you are given a choice to select from two-way mirror (RAID 1-like implementation), three-way mirror (RAID 10-like implementation), and parity (RAID 5-like implementation). I set up a storage pool with the two-way mirror option with the following drives I had sitting around.

  • Hitachi 2 TB Deskstar 7K2000 7200 RPM HDD
  • Western Digital 2 TB Green 5400 RPM HDD
  • Western Digital 1 TB Caviar Black 7200 RPM HDD
  • Seagate Barracuda 1 TB 7200 RPM HDD
  • Western Digital 500 GB Caviar Blue 7200 RPM HDD
  • Western Digital 500 GB Caviar Blue 7200 RPM HDD
  • Samsung 500 GB Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ 7200 RPM HDD
  • Hitachi 400 GB Deskstar 7200 RPM HDD
The two WD 2 TB HDDs and 1 TB HDDs were running off the onboard SATA connectors of a Socket AM2 ECS GeForce 7050M-M motherboard. The rest of the drives were running off a 4-port HighPoint RocketRAID 2304 PCIe RAID controller card in non-RAID mode. Granted, these aren’t the best performing parts to test out Server 2012, but I wanted to make use of what was sitting around.

Anyhow, after setting up the storage pool, the total storage size ended up being around 3.37 TB of usable space. With the pool setup, I created a single partition to make use of the entire pool. Curious about read and write speeds, I decided to copy 3 TB worth of data onto the test server. Throughout the data transfer process, the write speeds fluxuated quite a bit, varying from 70 MB/s to 15 MB/s. As the drives filled up, the write speeds diminished significantly, to about 15 MB/s to a paltry 1 MB/s. Read speeds were even worse, as I saw speeds varying from 10 MB/s to 250 KB/s (yep, you read that right). As the storage pool filled to capacity, it came to a point where the storage pool volume became nearly inaccessible, due to the massive I/O bottleneck going on.

While I didn’t expect optimal write and read speeds with the mix of random hard drives, I had at least expected speeds that were equivalent to the old DE, where read and write speeds were acceptable. With write and read speeds being dismal, along with several big limitations (brought up by this blogger), Storage Spaces is best to be avoided for now, especially when third-party DE-like solutions (DriveBender, DrivePool, FlexRAID) are available and offer more options and better performance than Storage Spaces at this point. Read More

Have a Crucial M4 SSD and Seeing the 0x000000F4 Bug? Update the Firmware!

Posted by on Sep 4, 2013 in Hardware | 0 comments

Recently, one of my clients were reporting that they were suddenly getting frequent BSODs on one of their laptops, with the error code 0x000000F4.  The client’s laptop would run normally, but suddenly would BSOD and reboot after about an hour or so of use.
The notorious 0x000000F4 BSOD.

The notorious 0x000000F4 BSOD.

The laptop in question was upgraded with a Crucial M4 128 GB SSD over a year ago. Being an owner of a few Crucial M4 SSD drives, I remembered that year ago, Crucial released a firmware update for the M4 series that addressed a critical bug that would cause BSODs after 5200 hours of usage. As there were no other obvious issues with the laptop, I suspected that this was the case. Running CrystalDiskInfo, I confirmed my suspicions, as the Crucial M4 firmware version was 0001 (never updated) and had 5500 hours of usage, well past the 5200 hour mark.

Stats of a Crucial M4 128 GB SSD with over 5500 hours of usage.

Stats of a Crucial M4 128 GB SSD with over 5500 hours of usage.

I grabbed the latest firmware for the Crucial M4 (070H as of this post) and updated the firmware on the Crucial M4 without any data loss or other issues. After completing the firmware update, the client’s laptop has been running  smoothly, with no sign of any 0x000000F4 BSODs. If you are a owner of a Crucial M4, make sure that you are running at least firmware version 0309; the 5200 hour bug WILL occur on any Crucial M4 SSDs running on firmware versions prior to 0309. Read More

Galaxy Note II Quick Impressions and Tidbits

Posted by on Jun 28, 2013 in Hardware, Mobile | 0 comments

It’s been a month since I switched to a Galaxy Note II from a Galaxy Nexus and I couldn’t be any happier. Compared to the Nexus, the Note II is a huge upgrade in nearly every way, and I’m not just talking about the Note II’s massive screen.

PROS

The Galaxy Note II has a speedy quad-core processor, along with a capable GPU, extremely long battery life, the S-Pen functionality, and best of all, a MicroSDXC slot for additional storage capacity. While the Galaxy Nexus is still a great phone, it was starting to show it’s age as a smartphone, as it is fast approaching the two-year mark. The one thing I will miss is the huge selection of custom ROMs and the strong developer support of the Galaxy Nexus, as the development scene for the Galaxy Note II seriously pales in comparison.

BUGS & CONS

With a limited choice of ROMs available for the Verizon Galaxy Note II, I’ve have been experimenting with several ROMs, including ROMs based on 4.1.2 TouchWiz and 4.2.2 AOSP. Having come from the Galaxy Nexus, my heart was already set on using a AOSP-based ROM, such as AOKP and ParanoidAndroid. While AOSP ROMs run extremely fast on the Note II, I found that many of them had some serious bugs & limitations that really dampen the functionality of the Note II, particularly the S-Pen functionality. Another major issue I found was that the battery life on AOSP ROMs was significantly reduced in comparison to TouchWiz ROMs.

While I am not a big fan of TouchWiz, I have decided to settle on CleanROM 4.9 by Scott’s ROMs, as it seems that AOSP ROMs are not quite up to par with TouchWiz ROMs on the Note II.

BUGS

I’m still experimenting with I recently flashed a new ROM on my Verizon Galaxy Note II.  However, I noticed that I lost USB connectivity with the phone, as my computer would not detect the Note II. Interestingly, the Note II would still charge. Thanks to a post by Jack Mai over at the Android Central forums, I was able to restore USB PC detection by accessing one of the Note II’s hidden menus and resetting the USB configuration of the phone. To gain access to this menu, dial in the following code: *#7284#

Here, you will see options for UART and USB, as well as a button that says “Qualcomm USB Settings.” Make sure both of the UART and USB settings are set to PDA. Click on “Qualcomm USB Settings” and select the MTP + ADB option. Once set, press the “SAVE and RESET” button and your Note II will reboot. Once rebooted, USB functionality should be restored to your Note II. Kudos goes to Jack Mai over at the Android Central forums for posting this solution.

CONCLUSION

The Galaxy Note II is easily one of the best smartphones I have ever owned. While the 5.5″ screen was initially intimidating, I now find it to be just perfect for my use; I actually have to squint when using phones with smaller screen sizes. The performance, battery life, audio & screen quality, the capabilities of the S-Pen, have all been nothing but excellent. If you’re considering a reliable Android-powered smartphone and don’t mind the screen size, the Galaxy Note II may be just the right phone for you. Read More