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Running computers came a long way since their introduction as “integrated” sports telemetry equipment comprising of strap-on chest heart rate (HR) monitors and accelerometer footpods which you have to strap onto your running shoes. Polar Electro, the finish company who ruled the market with their running computers then, are notorious for such multi-device setups. However, such devices then are often expensive and reserved only for serious competitive runners looking to improve their training performance. My biggest gripe then was the hassle of managing separate devices for speed/distance and HR monitors- each with their own set of batteries, connectivity and issues. Today, the introduction and mass produced all-in-one fitness trackers simplifies this greatly, and brought costs down considerably (I purchased mine at $268 SGD), bringing fitness tracking to the mainstream and fueling new demand and era of fitness junkies.
Design, Apps and User Interface
The Garmin Vivoactive HR is one such device conceived through the miniaturization of handheld wrist GPS units for speed, distance and pace measurement and costs on average a third of the price of an equivalent running computers easily 10 years ago. The Vivoactive HR is the successor to the first “square screened” Garmin Vivoactive (the newer one distinguished by the “HR” name), it spots a refreshed inconspicuous design with a clean larger rectangular front face with no visible front branding, which can be often mistaken as a Fitbit fitness tracker. The Vivoactive HR does fair very well as a dedicated sports activity tracker and as a daily activity tracker too, tracking daily step count, stairs ascended, active time, calories burned for the day and last exercise for the day too, with an impressive battery life to boot.
The watch combines both a touchscreen and 2 front-facing physical buttons input, which compliments each other and gives the device a contemporary feel. The screen is a 4 colour OLED (ultra-low power), but at times appear rather washed out in sunlight. Swiping the screen up and down from the time standby screen scrolls you across the watch various apps, with the app menu order customisable in the app setting menu. The right hard buttons allow you to quickly start a physical activity while holding the left button acts as a menu function for locking, silent mode and power cycle. There is no ambient light sensor on the watch, meaning brightness has to be manually invoked. The watch backlight will come on automatically each time when the watch menus are being navigated, with the backlight going off after 10 seconds of inactivity.
Microsoft Singapore, together with local device distributor E-Huge Technology hosted a launch event at Hungry Heroes café Singapore tonight to release 3 new Windows 10 devices with licensed Marvel Avengers paint jobs. The choice of venue is rather fitting for the event and product line, comprising of three low-priced devices comprising of two 2-in-1 tablets of different screen sizes and one touch-enabled 14” notebook.
All devices are made by Hong Kong based WMP, and comes specified with last-generation (2015 release) Intel Atom x5 series processors, which till today, have a good track record of power efficiency and price-point. It however, has very limited horsepower use as a daily driver compared to other more capable processor options such as the Intel Core-M or i3/i5 U series commonly found in Ultrabooks. Here is what in-store:
The AVR10T 2-in-1 10.1” Windows 10 Tablet
The smallest device of the trio with a 10.1” screen, this model takes off the detachable keyboard tablet series we first saw in the Asus (Android/Windows) transformer line- where the device can be used as a traditional slate tablet and input enhanced with the attachment of an additional accessory docking keyboard with “converts” it into a clamshell laptop. The tablet itself is pretty well built and feels solid for a budget Chinese tablet and sits smaller than an A4 writing pad at 258x 172.6x 10.3mm and weighing in a 581g (add about 150g extra for the add-on keyboard). The footprint makes it ideal for students who only demand only light word-processing and internet-surfing on a budget and pretty much nothing else.
The tablet is clad in sliver painted plastic with an arc-reactor paint job and electro-luminescent backlight lighting which gives the arc reactor cut out at a back a rather good neatly cool glow. Even the keyboard accents have fine detailing. But don’t expect to be blasting any baddies with this tablet’s rather weak Atom processor coupled with 4GB of un-expandable soldered-on DDR3 RAM.
Alienware was at Club Millian this evening to celebrate 20 years in providing high-performance PC gaming to the masses. The club grounds were decked out with food and a variety of tech booths offering VR (virtual reality) tryouts and activity areas to demonstrate their VR-capable product line. Regional and product managers from Dell and Intel were present onstage too to give introductory welcome and presentation of their new product line, including 2 new notebooks and 1 desktop from the Alienware range.
The main partners in crime here will be the new Alienware 15 and 17 notebooks, both VR-ready notebooks not only spotting the new Intel Kaby Lake (7th gen) processor refresh in a new chassis, but boasting too the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 10- Series family of GPUs, with claimed 85% improved performance over previous generation Alienware notebooks. There is no word on the Alienware 13 model as of yet as current models still can only be equipped with Skylake CPUs and a GTX 960M.
The $3,999 SGD Alienware 17 is the flagship model of the Alienware laptop range, with an emphasis on screen size, gaming performance and overall immersion. Powering this large desktop-replacement laptop is an overclocked Intel Core i7 k-series CPU coupled with DDR4 memory (overclocked to 2667Mhz). The introduction of an optional IR Tobii eye-tracker was the 17” laptop main selling point- which adds an IR and camera tracker bar at the bottom of the screen, just above the hinge which constantly scans your eye movements.
Alienware has put together a few nice tech demo software included with the Alienware 17 to showcase its eye tracking capabilities. We had seen this technology a couple of years back, but never had it been integrated into a laptop chassis to enhance efficiency in gameplay, power use and security. When looking at the screen, it first detects your gaze, and if you software/game supports it, allow you to record and export your gaze pattern as an improvement tool to help improve your productivity. It can also sense your presence and attention to lock your system when you are away. You can technically use the eye tracking to command hands-free use of the computer with your eyes, but it will definitely give you eye fatigue after 10 minutes of continued use, as such I can see it primarily being useful for apps requiring user presence for eye tracking and accommodating for better user-accessibility (e.g enhancing areas of the screen the user is looking).
Microsoft hosted a gaming reception and showcase of their limited edition Xbox One S this evening at their Singapore headquarters in downtown Singapore. The presentation saw the introduction of the new white Xbox One S we last saw first released last June at E3. This revised version of Xbox One console, which was released last month, features new faster hardware with a streamlined form factor. The new casing is white-colored, 40% smaller than the original design, allowing it to be easily transported in a back bag for console game parties. Like the PS4, it can be placed in either a horizontal or vertical orientation with a stand.
Going in spirit of console gaming, Microsoft opened up gaming try-outs with a buffet spread in their office for gamers to have a go at full versions of various unreleased games due to be out in stores during the coming months. Such as Gears of War 4, Killer instinct, Dead Rising 4, Forza Horizon 3, Encore, and pre-production versions of Final Fantasy 15 and NBA live 2k17. The new console handles the games well, even on pre-production versions of Final Fantasy 15 and NBA 2k17, with visuals and frame rates being consistently high even in large 3D environment with far draw distances.
Xbox One S Gears of War 4 Limited Edition 2TB Bundle
In addition to the white Xbox One S, Microsoft announced the availability of the exclusive Xbox One S Gears of War 4 (2TB) Limited Edition in Singapore for pre-orders, which was available at the event to be viewed in the flesh. The $699 SGD painted Xbox One S console features a battle-weathered custom crimson paint job, complete with Swarm damage slashes detailing eating into the console plastic body itself. This is the first custom-designed Xbox One S bundle made in collaboration by Xbox design team and The Coalition (The studio developing Gears of War 4).
Hystou PCs is not really a brand most people are familiar with. They are an original equipment manufacturer and international distributor based in Shenzhen, China offering really good value-for-money barebone (no ram and disks) mini-PCs selling their products through Alibaba, Ebay and their website. I had never bought from them before, but Chinese electronics, especially those from Shenzhen have an increasing reputation of delivering quality electronics. So I figured I gave them a try, also considering they are offering proper full genuine Intel-based Mini-PCs at half the price of branded barebone PC equivalents. Hystou direct competitor includes the Intel NUC line of mini PCs, Zotac, Gigabyte Brix, Asus VivoPC, MSI Cubi and Acer Revo series.
Hystou prides themselves into offering Ultrabook-level desktop computing performance through a fanless all-aluminium chassis design. Their line-up usually feature Intel U-type low-voltage processors typically found on Ultrabooks with a TDU of 15-25W. If you don’t mind buying into last year’s intel processors as a bargain, the company has an extensive line-up of Haswell and Broadwell mini-PCs in i3, i5 and i7 flavours, with the i7 with Iris-Pro graphics being the highest performing, but most costly in the segment. They also do mini-PCs in form-factors for digital signage and ruggedized bodies for industrial use. There are no Skylake models at this point of writing.
A bargain Mini PC
The OEM retails through Alibaba, as well as on their main website offering cheaper prices (where I bought mine). I got myself a barebone Broadwell i3-5010U unit which costs me $160 USD (~ $224 SGD) including tracked EMS shipping to Singapore. A similar speced same generation i3 Intel NUC PC will set you back about twice as much $290 USD (~$400 SGD) from Amazon with free-ship or a rip-off $500 SGD from stores in Rochor Sim Lim square. Both Intel and Hystou offers a manufacturer-direct 3 year warranty on their Mini-PCs.
First impressions are pretty good, I am a big fan of mini PCs, particularly the Intel NUC. Despite the bland packaging, the mini PC comes in a solid machine-milled aluminium body, which is solid and feels really well finished. It is rather heavy too, weighing in at just under 2kg without RAM and Disks installed, which make it feel a little bit over-engineered for a PC case. You get an auto-sensing power brick with a removable plug cable to suit your region, a bag of screws, dual wi-fi antennas and a driver CD. The mini PC is square shaped with a flat top and bottom, besides looking great, the top fins are functional and acts as a large heatsink to dissipate processor heat and can get rather hot in operation, I feel could do better with a fan added. You also get a white plastic stand if you wish to have your PC mounted in a vertical standing position.
The Huawei watch will be sold in Singapore, that is the latest release I was informed by Huawei Singapore last month. The watch is possibly the best-looking Android wear watch you can buy today, even surpassing the likes of the LG Urbane and Moto 360 2nd Gen. Huawei has invited me to have a try out of their watches, following a rather excited call from their staff on the launch of their much-anticipated Huawei watch in Singapore- A tad late as the Americas already have the watch on sale for the past 2 months. Better late than never nonetheless.
If you want to have a go at trying out the watch, do check out their flagship store at Plaza Singapura level 3. The watches are not ready for sale yet, but in the likes of Apple store style exclusivity, there are sample watches in store for try outs and fitting where you can pre-order your watch configuration of choice.
The Huawei watch will come in 3 main flavors, you essentially get the same watch unit with the gorgeous 1.4-inch, 400 x 400 full circle screen (286ppi) and compatible with iOS 8.2 or Android 4.3. It is differentiated in an array of body colours and interchangeable watch bands.
Retail prices are in Singapore dollars.
- Silver face in leather strap- $549 (There is a rose gold in brown strap variant too)
- Silver face stainless steel link strap- $649 (Fine bracelet links and traditional chunky links)
- Black in black leather strap- $649
- Black in black stainless steel link strap- $749
- Rose gold body and leather strap- $899
- Rose gold body and metal gold-link strap- $999
You do pay a premium for the watches and it comes in a pretty box as well which seems to hold it’s age with time. Huawei is marketing the watch as a premium product, contrary to their array of low-priced/affordable phones synonymous to the Chinese OEM. Only the Rose gold option is unique in terms of it’s body and strap colour combination. The first two variants are just mix-and-match variants of the same silver or matte black body paired with permutations of different watch straps material and colour.
One of the frustrating things about Window server backup is the inflexibility and inability to specify a backup frequency other than daily backups and nothing less than once a day. Especially if you are coming from a Linux cron-job background, it simply just frustrates power users on the inability to even customise even basic backup frequency to your needs.
This opens up only two options- use third party automated backup software (which in-turn too, opens up a whole market of opportunities for overpriced third party backup software), or manually create a scheduled backup yourself using available Windows tools like command prompt/powershell. I tend to prefer the latter, as I am not a fan of third party software clogging up my servers, and I feel that Microsoft has let down Windows Server Backup, which is actually a rather powerful backup software, particularly for Hyper-V with the inclusion of Volume Snapshot Service, Volume Shadow Copy at your disposal.
Having said that, you could easily enter a new scheduled task through the command prompt by invoking the SCHTASKS command, (e.g. “SCHTASKS /create /SC /WEEKLY…”) or you can do it using my “Lazy man” method using a GUI by following the screenshots below.
Phones with built-in hardware keyboards will always have a place in my heart and really are nostalgic. It reminds me greatly of the old O2 XDA series of Windows phones I used to own. If such hardware keyboard phones are to your liking, Blackberry’s new QWERTY slider, the Blackberry Venice is one phone worth getting excited about. Initially leaked back in June of a phone with the codename Venice, it is Blackberry’s first mobile handset running Android and is slated to arrive in November 2015.
It had been sometime since we’ve seen an Android phone with a slide out keyboard, I had been a long user of the HTC Desire Z, the Moto Droids were head to beat on the slide out keyboard front. It’s nice to see and no other better way for Blackberry to make a comeback with a device people would actually buy this time. Sources are pointing to a near-finished prototype with nearly confirmed specs which are decent for a flagship phone in this era. Blackberrys had always been notorious for being too dated in hardware on their release, which did not stand a chance on their past few launches. We shouldn’t see the phone specs straying far off the following:
- 5.4-inch Quad-HD curved glass screen (2560 x 1440 solution)
- 1.8GHz 64-bit hexa-core Snapdragon 808 processor
- 3GB RAM
- 18-megapixel rear camera with fast focus
- Twin LED rear camera flash
- 5-megapixel front-facing camera.
- Android 5.0 Lollipop (Nothing on 6.0 Marshmallow for the moment)
- Slide-out physical hardware keyboard
Ports, layout and accessibility:
- SIM and micro SD card tray slots are pin-accessible from top of phone
- BlackBerry’s signature QWERTY keyboard (No trackpad or arrow buttons)
- Side power button and volume rockers (right)
- Side camera aux/button (left)
- Single center MicroUSB port at the bottom
- 3.5mm headphone audio jack at the bottom right
- Non-user removable battery (Capacity not known yet)
My only gripe is there seem to be alot of wasted space on the keyboard though, which could be better off with larger keys or even a D-pad/track-pad as similarly found on the 9000 series Blackberrys. The keyboard does look well depressed into main body of the phone, where the lower microphone lip of the phone may get into the way of your thumbs while typing. Otherwise, the phone does look very promising despite it’s increased thickness given it’s two-body slide-out design. Looks like we will be able to welcome Blackberrys back into our local telco shops in time for Christmas, it had been sometime since I’ve seen a blackberry on sale here in Singapore.
Available Singapore virtualised server space for rent!
I’ve improving my virtualisation techniques lately and I am glad to say that I’ve created much free capacities on my servers from these optimisations. As such I will be opening up a few limited virtualised and dedicated slots on my cluster.
If you are looking for dedicated developmental server space in Singapore, or simply looking to run your own web/email or cloud server, feel free to drop me a note via email or on my contact form for more details. As a supporter of developers as a developer myself, I generally maintain a happy laid back developmental background, and not getting bogged down by restrictions. So if you need a VPS or a dedicated setup, just let me know! My setup is optimised for web-services, let be databases or serving webpages. Here are the rates I am offering with the rough specs:
- $39 SGD/month: 60GB disk space, 2GB RAM
- $59 SGD/month: 120GB disk space, 4GB RAM
- $89 SGD/month: 250GB disk space, 8GB RAM
All plans come with Quad core Xeon (4 cores), 1x Static IP on unmetered 100Mbps connection, with fully-managed hardware firewall. You are free to run any Linux distro or closed-sourced operating system of choice, as long you have a valid license. All your data stored on my servers belongs to you and will not be used for any other purposes. If you have any customised needs other than the plans above, feel free to drop me a note via email or on my contact form indicating your needs.
Cheers and start developing!
The TomTom multi sport cardio watch is one of the few advanced all-in-one running computers available in the market today. The brand we come to know synonymous in in-car GPS navigation systems had expanded their product line into the now-hugely popular fitness tracker market. The device comprises of an integrated heart rate (HR) monitor together with GPS tracking all in a handy watch package on your wrist. With the miniaturization of handheld wrist GPS units for speed, distance and pace measurement, gone are the days of accelerometer based foot-pods typical seen on running computers of the yesteryear.
Being an avid Polar user for a good 10 years, my biggest gripe of the past having separate devices for speed/distance and HR is the hassle of managing these individual devices- batteries and the all-often disconnection during your activities. Having all the devices in one small compact handy package was a great welcome and jumping ship with my purchase of the TomTom (Retails at $449- $499 SGD) was quite a no-brainer.
The closet competition to the Multi-sport cardio will be the Polar M400, Soleus GPS Pulse and the more expensive Garmin 920XT. All similarly offer GPS tracking, but requires an external heart rate monitor strap. The Garmin 920XT does cost more of a premium and Soleus is a brand largely unheard to many if you compare to the likes of Polar, Timex or even Sunomo, but had been in the running for a number of years.
A Multi-sport jack of all trades
Calling these running computers does not seem to bring justice to the myriad of features offered by the device. These integrated devices are triathlon-capable devices, allowing for the measurement of sports telemetry for both swim and cycling activities. The TomTom multi-sport is no different. The watch is clad in sporty-looking shock-resistant gel wrist strap which is user-replaceable in a variety of colours.
The multi-sport does not have a touchscreen and all controls are accessible via a front-facing D-pad which is rather intuitive with well-labelled menus. In standby mode, the watch displays current day of the month, month and time either in 12hr or 24hr mode, the layout is simplistic, and lacks display of a second counter or even the day of the week. There are no options in the settings menu to customize the layout interface, though I wish it could be possible for TomTom to rectify this and allow layout customisations and additional clock layouts (digital or analog layouts will be nice) on subsequent firmware updates.
Outdoor running and Treadmill activities
Running is what the TomTom multi-sport excels as a sports watch, it can track concurrently not only your GPS coordinates but your HR too. The wrist HR sensor is self-illuminated by a green LED and stays on when you start your activity. The watch gives you prompters based on your workout intensity (current HR), for example, recommending you to warm up if it detects a low HR or measuring how fast your HR drops on cool down after a run to gauge the quality of your exercise recovery. GPS lock-on however, when with quick-GPS enabled takes a rather long time- up to 15 minutes. At times I start my watch running activity way before my pre-run warm up, and I will still be waiting after thereafter for the watch to get a lock-on before I can start running.
Duration your run activity, it can show you total GPS elapsed distance, as well as instantaneous speed and pace, which is good if you are planning to keep a minimum workout intensity of race pace and still works fairly well even when you go indoors after eventually getting a GPS lock. When indoors, the watch will revert to its internal accelerometers to gauge your pace and traveled distances. GPS tracking is good in covered and forested areas. You can also set the watch to vibrate/warn if your HR or speed drops below a certain set level. One of the cool but rather gimmicky features is the “Race” (Race shadow) function where you can race a shadow of yourself using any of your saved historical running data. The GPS distance tracking is fairly accurate and falls within 5% of my calibrated known distance on my usual running routes and using Satellite imagery, it tracks the altitude of your runs too, which I tested by bringing the watch up on my mountain climb in Taiwan.
The watch has a treadmill mode which uses accelerometers to determine your current speed distance and pace; it is not really accurate given greater tendency for drift, falling within 80% of the distance measured on the treadmill itself.
In swim mode, the Multi-sport cardio provides lap count and speed telemetry data in-activity. You need to specify your pool length (25/50m), goals intervals and target laps based on time, distance, average speed before starting out. Many features available in running mode are disabled in swim mode. For instance, the Multi-sport does not utilise its GPS or HR monitor in swim mode, but instead uses a set of integrated accelerometers to detect swim strokes count, and your turns in the pool. As said, the watch does a lap increment each time its accelerometers detect a sudden change in swim direction. The lap counts in my test are has varying accuracy based on the type of swimming strokes. It is 90% accurate for free style, but tends to double count breast stroke laps. Sometimes you also get a double lap count if you touch the pool wall at the end of the lap, just be sure not to use your watch-bearing hand for it.
However, the Multi-sport does not offer an open water swim mode, a feature you will have to give the Garmin forerunner 920XT for, but if you are doing most of your swims in a pool, the watch is more than adequate for your needs. There is no option to have HR monitoring in swim mode, a workaround for this now is to swim in the “Treadmill activity”, it’s accurate, but you forgo SWOLF, laps, etc. The watch is also waterproof to 50m, something I verified scuba diving with it up to 30m surviving without any problems. The TomTom is no scuba diving watch and when tracking my dive activity, was unable to get any GPS lock on the moment you go beyond 1m underwater.
Another area where the watch shines is its cycling mode. The watch comes with removable strap which can be bike-handlebar mountable, though I tend to prefer having the watch worn on my wrist so I can get vibration distance alerts as well as HR monitoring. The multi-sport in cycle-mode provides the usual full suite of information at your disposal which you can display over the watch 3 field areas, such as instantaneous speed, cadence and calories. The watch also tracks your entire cycle route which you can download and review later. There are options to pair a TomTom cadence + speed sensor via the watch integrated Bluetooth, forgoing the need for installing and wiring up sensors up to the handlebar, the watch however, does not support ANT+ sensors, which is a shame. Like having to enter pool length parameters for the swim activity, you need to specify your bicycle wheel diameter manually in the watch cycle parameters to get speed from the sensor, though I personally recommend just using the GPS speed, forgoing the need to calibrate your sensors over a range of bicycle sizes.
Though the multi-sport has easily navigable menus, there are very limited information/race metrics which can be displayed in-activity. Only 3 types of information can be displayed at any one time, with the option to emphasize one data type at the centre of the display and others rotatable via the d-pad. I found myself putting Clock, distance/swim laps and speed/pace (main) as my main data, though it will be good to have an option for an additional 4th line for HR display especially in running mode: e.g. Speed, HR, Distance and Time providing all info on one screen at one glance on your run.
There is also no triathlon race mode in the Multi-sport, like that on the Garmin 920XT, as such getting to each of these modes require you to manually exit the current mode and start the next mode through the menus- not something you have the luxury of doing in a race. Though Garmin is a far superior watch with its 4 colour screen, far more advanced triathlon watch, but is priced about $200 SGD more.
Fair Battery life
From a full overnight charge, a 120 min hour run with GPS and HRM on and a 90 min swim brought the battery down to about a 50% charge, where, left on standby on my non-training days for the rest of the week lasts a full week before going flat . As such, I can say the watch is good for a single marathon event, or even a standard Triathlon with the HR monitoring on throughout. Based on the watch update rate in-run, pace and HRM is updated every second on the screen, which I assume is the default telemetry poll rate of the watch. It will be good to allow the user to specify the refresh intervals (e.g. 1s, 5s, 10s) depending on the activity sport type for battery endurance and longer runs. I reckon the watch may just have enough battery charge for a full Ironman.
Bluetooth, sync and Gripes
The multisport is well supported by a mobile app and website allowing you to review your exercises. All information stored on the watch can be synced via Bluetooth direct to your phone instead of a computer. There are however, few glaring features which are lacking in the Cardio watch, considering how feature packed and capable the watch is. Despite having Bluetooth connectivity to your phone, the multi-sport does not feature phone Bluetooth message notifications, neither does it has activity day tracker functionality (steps/distance) function.
It is also exceptionally easy to accidentally set the watch backlight ON, even a simple brush on the side of the watch turns the backlight on. You can activate the but since the watch runs off there is not much a worry of draining expensive cell batteries typically found on legacy running computers . It might be good for TomTom to set a capacitive screen hold period of maybe 1-2 seconds instead of the current <0.5s to turn it on.
You can store a limited amount of activities (depending on duration of data collected) before having to sync to clear the internal memory. I will need to sync every 2 months at a time with about 2000 minutes of activities before running out of storage space for new activities, data space is limited not by number of activities, but rather the duration of the activity, where more telemetry data needs to be stored. Syncing your exercises will remove the stored activities on your watch. The proprietary USB dock also does data sync (faster than Bluetooth) and charging which is convenient for travel instead of having to lug a proprietary power brick around.
In addition to accessing your running data on the mobile app, you can review them too on Tomtom website after logging in using your MySports account, allowing you to review your activities in more detail. Here get telemetry graphs with respect to time of all your saved activities, as well as GPS plots on google maps which I found really good in summarizing and planning your future activities.
In all, the Tomtom multi-sport is a very well featured watch delivered in a trendy contemporary package. It has its flaws, but is still otherwise very well priced for what it can offer. The watch is one of the best integrated fitness watches you can buy now.
- Good 1 week battery life
- Full multi-sport functions
- Excellent 50m water resistance
- Well supported by mobile and web-apps
- Accurate real-time GPS tracking
- Trendy replaceable straps with variety of colour choices
- No day and second hand timer on watch
- Limited screen display fields
- Long GPS lock duration
- Slow Bluetooth connectivity
- No daily activity tracker
- Hyper-active backlight
Passed my radio exams today and I am on the way into obtaining my official callsign from Ofcom in a few days time!
Ham radio is something greatly enjoyed by both the young and old here in the UK. In other to operate radio equipment legally here, you have to pass the first of 3 exams (foundation, intermediate and advanced), with each increasing level of difficulty giving you access to more bands as well as increased transmission power. The foundation level was written in a way so that people across all ages can get started on amateur radio, whether they are young school children/outdoor boy scouts to retirees looking to start a new hobby.
The radio exam set by Ofcom themselves, which is the wireless regulation authority Office of Communications here in the UK (which is synonymous to the FCC in the US and IDA in Singapore). Anyone can get on air with a radio, but it’s the education and understanding that comes with the license that makes our airwaves a more friendly place to be in.
I took both the foundation and intermediate level exams back-to-back in one sitting which I passed reasonably well despite not actually being able to seriously spend time studying for it, given my hectic college term-time schedule. But my exam was actually pretty easy- completing the exam in less than a third of the allocated exam time. Even the examiner (who is also a Cambridge alumni) jokingly remarked that the Ofcom should set much harder questions specifically for Cambridge students as we always take it too easy. Now, I am certified to the intermediate level at 50W Tx!
On top of your written exam, the foundation (beginner) and intermediate radio certification levels requires a practical assessments, which are usually conducted by your local radio club. In my case I was assessed by the Wireless society senior, Mr Martin, we saw me through both my foundation and intermediate practicals in one afternoon sitting. On the foundation level, topics of proper radio use were taught on a more hands-on level, specifically making local and overseas UHF/VHF/HF contacts using the club call-sign while supervised. Here you are taught to do Morse codes, explain antenna theory, propagation and troubleshoot electromagnetic compatibility. Key things taught are the proper band-plans, power levels for transmission as well as appropriate discipline on the air.
Going in addition to my previous blog post of installing and running Android 4.0 (Ice cream sandwich) on your x86 based system. I encountered an interesting infinite boot loader loop problem evident only if you install your Linux distribution (and GRUB) on top of a Windows 8 system using the new Windows 8 radical boot loader. This problem could be a nagging issue for users due to the annoyances caused by the Windows8 UEFI-ready new double-boot boot menu, and could be more prevalent when Windows 8 become mainstream, especially if you are setup to tri-boot Windows 8, Windows 7 and Linux on the same machine.
The cool but rather annoying thing about Windows 8 the Microsoft new boot menu which appears to act like a new boot loader interface, but is actually in-fact a mini operating system itself sitting in the MBR (root) partition which functions like a gatekeeper to boot into Windows 8, it even has it’s own optimized video and touch-friendly mouse drivers pre-loaded. I previously had Windows 8 and 7 installed on my machine. If multiple instances of Windows are detected on your partitions, it will invoke the boot menu and list all the available compatible Windows OS and reboots the PC again after your selection.
This has major issues with pre-existent boot loaders, especially if you are looking to boot into an Linux environment or similar ext3 partition using GRUB for instance. The problem here is that you will get infinite restart loops. GRUB will catch the reboot again, terminating the Windows boot cycle, bringing you back to square one into the irritating Windows 8 boot menu. It simply just makes you wonder what Microsoft is intending to get out of this, by implementing this together with their notorious Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI).
Though boot loader signing and certification for UEFI is not evident here, we could see this being a major problem given the controversy Microsoft new UEFI BIOS will have against Linux platforms (or other platforms not signed by the manufacturers to work with the UEFI BIOS), especially in securing the BIOS and making the boot procedure largely closed-source.