Money down the drain?

How long will Microsoft continue to dig itself in the hole with the Surface tablets? According to this article from citeworld, Microsoft has lost approximately 1.7 billion USD in the last two years since the Surface launched. I do sympathize with Microsoft, they are in a bad position regarding the tablet market. They need to do something to get in the market, but their OEM’s aren’t doing a good job of it. The Surface has been something new for Microsoft, as they decided to go it alone and develop the whole hardware/software package, just like Apple with the iPad. Of course, this alienated their OEM partners who were not used to having to compete with Microsoft in the hardware market, and many of the OEMs went Android for a tablet OS.

Most of what I read about the Surface tablets is positive, but usually with the caveat regarding the fact that the Surface is not really sure what it wants to be, a tablet or a laptop. It seems that the people who like the Surface the most use it as a laptop replacement, and for that it looks like a viable product. However the pricing at that point becomes an issue. For a laptop replacement, the price seems to be around $1000. That seems to be a major issue for the Surface. For less then that, you can get a nice laptop with a touchscreen, and have some money left over, which usually means that the Surface is going to be a niche product, not mainstream. For people who want to go cheap, there are dozens of capable Android tablets that would work. Of course, many people will go with the iPad with its huge ecosystem of apps and accessories.

So where does that leave Microsoft with its Surface? Apparently in the red for 1.7 billion.

Mac Pro CPU update.

Apparently I can’t leave well enough alone. After upgrading my Mac Pro 4.1 to a 3.2GHz quad core Xeon from the originally installed 2.66GHz quad core Xeon, I read about some who had upgraded their Mac Pros to the six core W3680 Xeon CPU. I did some checking on Ebay and the time, these CPU’s were going for around five to six hundred dollars. Doing some more research, I found out about the slightly faster version of that CPU series, the Xeon W3690, a speed bumped version of the W3680. This CPU can be found on Ebay for much less, and they are clocked about 200MHz faster. So, I picked one up off of Ebay and installed it into my Mac Pro. Overall, the system seems faster, and considering its a five year old machine, it’s a good investment. I frequently use Handbrake to encode ripped Blu-Rays and it does work well for this task. Handbrake makes use of all the cores for encoding and this CPU with hyperthreading displays as 12 threads. All in all, this Mac Pro is running smoothly now, and should be usable for a few more years. I considered installing a PCI express based SSD from Macsales, but for the time being I settled on a standard Samsung SSD. Even thought the Mac Pro is limited to a 3GB/second SATA interface, it’s still much faster than a spinning platter disk.


Screen Shot 2014 08 05 at 9 37 22 PM


Looking at the article from Jean Louis Gasseé regarding the Apple is going to move to ARM for laptops scenario, I think we can be certain that Apple has to be preparing for this as a contingency. As Matt Ritchman noted in 2011, Intel currently charges a premium price for the CPU’s that power todays Macs. We can also probably figure that the delays in releasing new Macbook Pro’s is due to the issues Intel is having with its die shrinking process from 22nm to 14nm. This causes problems for Apple, problems which are out of their control, and we know that Apple likes to be in control of its destiny with its core products. Having to depend on another vendor for CPU’s is not something Apple enjoys. We have seen the lengths Apple will go to in order to escape from dependence on Samsung for parts, and I’d imagine the scenario with Intel is no different. I have no doubt that Apple internally has a version of Mac OS that runs on the ARM architecture. Intel as we know, are probably a couple of generations ahead with its chip fabrication technology compared to its rivals. Intel probably also has spare capacity now since PC sales have been declining the past few years. If only Apple could convince Intel to fabricate a newer line of the A series processors for it, it would benefit both parties. Apple would get the chips it needs, at lower die sizes than it can currently get, allowing for a better power savings. Intel would get some serious revenue, as Apple could certainly deliver some gigantic orders. Would ARM processors work in a Macbook? Certainly. Would they be any better than an Intel chip? I don’t know, but Apple does have the talent that could design the chips for that very purpose. I’d imagine if Apple does not have to work in the thermal restrictions of a tablet or phone, they could probably make an A(x) chip that would run OSX well. 


Synology vulnerability

Some users have apparently been reporting that their Synology NAS’s have been hacked into, and taken over for ransom. This is similar to the cryptolocker virus that had been making rounds recently and is very nasty. Some people have been reporting it in the Synology forums, but as of now, there is no patch for the Synology software. In the meantime there are a couple of things you can do to help prevent this from happening. First, pick really good, secure passwords, in fact, I’d take a look at the XKCD comic that may be useful when picking a strong password. Secondly, don’t connect yours directly to the internet. That means if you are connecting one from home, put it behind your router, which usually have a basic firewall set up. If you have any port forwarding set up, I’d disable that too until we hear from Synology. As always, if you have data on your Synology that you consider irreplaceable, make sure that you have it backed up too. I’d recommend using the built in Amazon S3 client. It’s cheap and fairly easy to set up, and should help you in case of a disaster. 

Link to discussion on Hacker News:

CPU upgrade for a Mac Pro

I picked up a used Mac Pro (2009) model, (4,1) off of Ebay for fairly cheap. ($600). It’s been a good machine, and for the price, quite a bargain. The stock CPU (2.66 Ghz) has been decent. After doing some research, I found out you can replace the CPU’s quite easily. Once again, I went back to Ebay and found a 3.2Ghz Xeon that should work. Sure enough, if you have ever installed a CPU on a regular PC then you know it’s not that difficult. The only issue I had was with finding a 3mm Allen wrench that would fit down the narrow channel in the heat sink. Luckily, I have some wrenches that I purchased for working on my Mountain Bike, and it worked perfectly. You can see the gigantic heatsink placed upside down and the daughterboard that holds the CPU. Note in the background the really long Allen wrench.



Here is a screenie of MacCPU ID for the newer processor after it’s been installed. So far so good. I replaced the thermal paste with some Antec Arctic Ice. The CPU has only peaked at 40˚C. Screenshot 2013-11-22 22.38.37