Saturday, February 24, 2024

Exciting decade for computer chips

In the 2010s computers advanced at a snail's pace. Sometimes people got excited when chips were 10% faster from one year to the next.

However, this decade has been dramatically different and it has everything to do with the circuit sizes on those chips. My 2009 iMac that died had a 42-nanometer chip. My 2017 iMac has a 14-nanometer chip. My new mini-computer has a 4-nanometer chip and it is very powerful for something not much bigger than a Whopper sandwich.

In late 2019 both Microsoft and Sony released their latest generation of video game consoles using 7-nanometer chips. Since these have APUs with the graphics "card" built into the main processor, I wanted something like this in a computer.  I waited almost 4 years to be able to get something similar in a mini-desktop PC.

These smaller circuits are not cheap to make The equipment to make them can cost billions. This is why Taiwan Semiconductor, which made the investment, is the number one manufacturer of these chips.

But it has resulted in a paradigm shift where people realize that they don't have to spend a fortune on graphics cards to play games. The APUs are not as good as a $1200 gaming PC, but they are good enough.

This also has resulted in hand-held gaming systems that are as powerful as a computer and can also be used as a computer when hooked up to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

Even the most recent iPhone can double as a gaming system.

Reportedly, Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft are all coming out with more powerful gaming systems in the coming year. This has been an exciting decade for computer chips.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Who The Hell Asked For A PS5 Pro?

I've been saying the same thing.  I also bought a powerful mini-PC that can play games.  All of this change, including the consoles and the handhelds, has happened because of AMD's new powerful energy-efficient chips.  Intel has chips too, but they are not quite as good.

The PS5 and the XBox Series X consoles are 10.28 and 12 teraflop machines respectively.  That is still a great deal of performance and you would have to spend a lot on a PC to match that.

Apple is also starting to push gaming on the most expensive iPhones.

I have no faith in Cloud Gaming, but this may eventually be the future where you can run triple-A games on any device with a screen.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Why Everyone is Wrong about the Apple Vision Pro (including me)

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I don't need to wear a heavy screen on my head when I have a house full of more screens than I actually use.  Two desktops and an iPhone are enough, but I also have a TV and a laptop that I rarely use, and two tablets I don't use.  I also have a handheld game system that doesn't get much use.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

USB-C Tutorial for Everybody

The bottom line is that when buying a USB-C cable, make sure that it supports the data speed that you want.  The same thing applies to power delivery for fast charging.

Friday, February 2, 2024

Using Apple Vision Pro: What It’s Actually Like!

I find this interesting. I can't imagine it being more than a novelty for now. For it to be anything more than a novelty, it is going to have to immerse you into another world.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

34 *AWESOME* Atari 2600 Homebrews! Episode 1!

It is hard to believe that these are games for the 2600, which only had 160 bytes of RAM.

A few 2600 games had extra RAM or other chips to give better graphics or sound. I suspect that the emulators can handle the extra hardware.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

WARNING: ChatGPT Could Be The Start Of The End! Sam Harris

Sam Harris spends 30 minutes talking about the dangers of AI.

He makes assumptions about the future. I think that he underestimates the difficulty of building a general AI.  

I think that ChatGPT is overhyped.  It is like a Wikipedia that can talk.  It has no understanding except to predict what words should follow other words based on statistical information.  This is why it gets so much wrong.  I asked it to write some computer code and the answer wasn't even remotely correct.  

We will inevitably develop general AI, but AI is a tool to solve specific problems.  We don't have to make an AI that matches human intelligence when it is more efficient to have problem-specific AI.  Calculators can do math far better than I can, and even the best 8-bit chess computers can outplay me at chess.  It would be like saying that when we developed mechanical locomotion, we needed to make a machine that functioned exactly like a horse.  We found better ways to do locomotion.

This means that AI will be solving problems long before we have a general AI, but more importantly, we will be treating it as a tool, just like any other tool.  For example, twenty years ago I was annoyed when Microsoft Word automatically corrected my spelling without asking me.  It felt like the machines were already becoming smarter than us.  Although that was a novel experience twenty years ago, we wouldn't think twice about it today.

Friday, November 24, 2023

The M3 iMac Isn't for me (or you...)

Apple's iMac strategy doesn't make sense.  The iMac used to be a top-of-the-line computer, but now they want you to buy a Mac Studio with a separate display that costs as much as an iMac.

As far as the iMac is concerned, there is no way I would go from a gorgeous 27-inch 5K display to a 24-inch 4K display.  The smaller iMac is not intended for pro users.  It would make a good family computer, but the lack of x86 compatibility is a serious drawback.

The M3 Pro chip benchmarks almost the same as the Ryzen 9 7940hs computer I paid just $640 for.  The base model M3 iMac starts at $1299.

Apple can only charge so much because, for some unfathomable reason, people are still buying their products.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

People Are Doing Something Very Dark With AI-Generated Jesus, Expert Warns

To be clear, the various talking Jesuses posted by the Daily Believer account don't seem to be asking people for money in the vein of its evangelical predecessors, but the videos do ask viewers for something almost as good and well within TikTok's rules: comments, subscriptions, and shares, a sort of unholy trinity [!!!] for the streaming set.

Those who believe in God, the robotized white Jesus tells viewers, will get everything their heart desires — as long as they comment "I believe" and send videos to friends.

And if they don't, they may be subject to God's wrath, because one of the Daily Believer's animated Jesuses reminds viewers in its most popular video — "Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."

I don't think that many religious people would take this seriously.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Apple versus AMD

Apple's top of the line phone is twice as powerful as my 2017 iMac. It also costs more. That seems like overkill, although I'm kind of impressed.

My new AMD Ryzen 9 7940hs mini-computer is five times faster than the 2017 iMac. According to Geekbench, the new Apple M3 chip is 1% slower than the AMD chip, although that doesn't compare the extra functionality on both chips, like graphics and AI.

Apple has more powerful versions of the M3. However, the base model M3 laptop starts at $1600. Apple products are not cost effective, at least not compared to AMD. If you want Apple products then you pay more.

It was just 10 months ago that everyone went orgasmic over the new M2 Mac Mini. However, you couldn't upgrade the computers once you bought them, and the $600 base model came with inadequate memory and storage. Apple charged a fortune to get better specs. This looked like a scam to me.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Minisforum UM790 Pro 7940HS Mini PC

My new (mini) computer has impressed me so far. On paper, it runs five times faster than my 2017 iMac. Although certain apps, like chess-playing programs, don't run five times faster (because adding more cores does not produce a linear improvement), the computer is a multitasking beast. Not only does it have 8 processor cores, but hyperthreading gives it 16 logical cores. I have tried to slow it down by having 14 cores doing computationally intensive tasks, and the computer handles it with no problem.

This is a different experience than my 2017 iMac which would slow to a crawl if I tried to do something computationally intensive on all four cores. (I'm not sure if some of this improvement is due to Windows 11. I noticed that Windows 10 uses a lot of CPU power just for the Operating System and so far that is not the case with Windows 11.)

I've seen some evidence of thermal throttling if I push the processor, but it is not bad. The fan can get a little noisy. Hypothetically, if the same processor were in a bigger case it could have a better cooling system and maybe be overclocked.

It might be a different experience if I were gaming which is one of the features of the Ryzen 9 7940hs processor, because it has the graphics cores built into it. There is no need for a separate graphics card, which makes the computer cheaper, but it will not be as good as a $1200 to $1500 gaming computer.

I saved $60 by ordering it from Ali Express (in China), but then I had to wait five weeks for it to get here. Now the manufacturer has a Halloween sale with $60 off, but the company is also in China. However, Amazon also has it listed for $60 off.

Friday, October 27, 2023


The end of Apple Silicon’s reign

Back in January 2023, people went orgasmic over the "inexpensive" M2 Mac Mini.  However, this seems like a scam because the computer is not upgradeable, and you have to pay dearly to get decent specs.

I just bought a UM790 Pro with the Ryzen 9 7940hs processor.  Not only does the chip trounce the M2, but the computer has four times the memory and storage and is upgradeable.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Slow Windows 10/Minisforum UM790 Pro

Has Windows 10 gotten slower lately? I noticed the same thing with Mac OS. This could be due to security updates, which put more burden on the computer. In addition, Windows Defender sometimes runs in the background making the computer slower.

In late May I had problems with my 2017 iMac and had to reinstall MacOS and Windows 10. During the repair process, I used my somewhat slow laptop as my main computer, but I was impressed at how well it ran Windows. However, I tried the laptop the other day, and it seemed sluggish. I also noticed that the iMac was sluggish.

Fortunately, I recently bought a new mini-computer. It uses the recently released 4-nanometer AMD 7940hs processor with a whopping 8 cores and 16 threads. Compared to my other computers, it is ridiculously fast. This is also my first computer that uses SSD for storage. SSDs are very fast and have been around for a while, but they became much more affordable this year.

I waited for the computer to go on sale and ordered it from China to save money. However, I had to wait 6 weeks for it to ship from China. I just noticed that it is on sale on Amazon.


Friday, October 20, 2023

HP is scraping the bottom of the barrel

Re: One day, a computer will fit on a desk (1974) | RetroFocus

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Albert

It's interesting how he thought we would have a workstation at home that would connect to the mainframe. A desktop/laptop PC can do this using the internet, but operate independently using software. Imagine if someone told him, the workstation idea would fit in your pocket and be taken for granted as your phone because it would be part of your mobile smartphone.

It was a good statement about the future. Are we better off as a society? We should be, but are we?

On Thu, Oct 19, 2023 at 8:48 PM John wrote:

Monday, September 25, 2023

Diamond Mike – Timex/Sinclair Computers

This is a videogame I wrote in 1985.  I thought that it was lost forever.  I had given away my Timex Sinclair stuff to my cousin when I moved to Utah in 1993.  I wish that I had kept it.  She said that eventually the computer died.

I contacted the website manager and asked him to look out for the game. He not only found a copy but sent me the tape from 38 years ago!

He made a downloadable online version.  I tried to run it using an emulator.  With the emulator, I was having trouble getting the controls to work.

The Atari ST version I wrote in 1986 looks better but is essentially the same game.  I have a copy of this, but no hardware to run it on.

I made money on this stuff in the mid-1980s but eventually had to get a real job.