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Product Review: Eken 7″ Android MID Tablet M009F

The Eken 7″ Android MID M009F tablet is powered by an InfoTMIC 800MHz CPU, 186 MB Ram, 2 0r 4 GB of storage space (Upgradeable to 16GB via an SD memory card), a 7″ 800×480 resistive screen, WiFi (802.11 a/b/g/n)

Beware of this and other copycat tablets like it. If you are in the market for a tablet, do your homework first. These tablets do run Android, and the one I tested was quite compatible with most Android apps. However, these tablets do not perform anything like an iPAD. It has a “resistive” touch screen that requires a stylus, or fingernail, to operate. Using the tip of your finger just will not work, which makes this tablet hard to use. You need to look for a “capacitive” touch screen, which you can use your fingertips for navigating. It’s InfoTMIC 800MHz CPU is very slow in handling the software. It also says it has 186 MB of ram, but in reality, you end up with at most 25 MB of ram to run your programs with.

The tablet I tested included Ethernet, WIFI and 3G for networking. Ethernet worked flawlessly using the supplied dongle, but that is where the fun ended. Wifi signals were very weak, and dropped in and out unless you are right next to the router. There are modifications on the internet that remedy this problem however, and 3G was non-existent.

Other problems with this tablet include the built-in stereo speakers. The speakers in the tablet I tested were barely audible with the volume turned all the way up. It also included a set of “ear-bud” headphones that did not help any as they were barely audible also. Another issue I had was the screen cover was very cheap, and within one week of moderate use, the screen had very visible scratches on it from the stylus.

This tablet is cheap (about 50-80 USD), but is not worth the trouble. It is too slow and with the weak Wifi, almost useless. So be careful about what tablet to buy. Get a quality tablet, it may cost more, but it will be worth it in the long run.

The INs and OUTs of Windows 8 Consumer Preview

After using Windows 8 Consumer Preview since the release date there are certain issues that should be addressed. Not only does Windows 8 have a new “Metro” interface that many people are still adapting to, but there are several changes to how software will behave while running Windows 8 CP.

The first and possibly the most important one is Windows 8 does NOT support the Microsoft Visual C++ 2005 Redistributable Package. This means that if your software requires this package, you will have to buy new software that has a later version of the package or one that does not use it at all.

Another issue with Windows 8 is browsing the web with Firefox on a computer with an NVIDIA GPU. Firefox seems to have a hard time keeping its graphics straight. A lot of anomalies on the screen as you move through tabs and pages, but other than that it works fine.

Sometimes Metro apps do not start on first click (or touch). Every once in a while, they will start as usual and then go straight back to the Start Screen. On the second click they will start normally. I am sure that this will be fixed by the time RTM comes out.

These are only some of the issues found in Windows 8 thus far. Windows 8 seems quite stable and once you get used to how things work, and seems easy to use. A lot of people have voiced their concern about the Start Button being removed. With a software package called ViStart by Lee-Soft which will put a start button on the taskbar.

As I am still testing Windows 8, that is all I have for now. Check back often to get more of the inside scoop on Windows 8.

 

Correction: If you are using Windows 8 and Firefox as your browser, then Firefox has an option to turn off “Hardware Acceleration” This will fix your problem.

Go to tools-options-click on the advanced tab- and un-check “use hardware acceleration when available”, and your golden…

UEFI, Secure Boot and what it means to you

With the advent of UEFI and Windows 8 comes some security and usability issues. When Windows 8 is released, UEFI’s “Secure Boot” will be required to be turned on by default and it will be left to the OEM’s on how to implement it. What does this mean to you? Maybe nothing.

Windows is still the most popular PC Operating System in the world. As such, it is highly likely that the computer you are reading this article on is running some version of Microsoft Windows. If you are running Windows 7 and up, your OS is compliant to UEFI specifications. But what if you want to run a different OS, like Linux, older versions of Windows? You could be out of luck.

What is Secure Boot?

Secure Boot is a UEFI 2.3.1 specification that during the boot process verifies certificates (or keys) held in the firmware, and compares them to other Option Roms and OS boot loaders. If the correct key is not in the firmware, or is in the “Blacklist”, Secure Boot will prevent the OS from loading or could prevent you from upgrading to certain manufacturers option cards. Since it will be up to the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) to implement the Secure Boot feature, it is also up to them whether or not to add an option in the set-up to disable it, or to be able to update the “Allowed” OS list. So, if you were to buy a Windows 8 PC and want to install a new version of Linux, and there is no option to disable Secure Boot, and the key for the version of Linux you are installing is not found in the firmware, the OS will fail to load. This feature is intended to prevent malware such as “rootkits” and “bootkits” to install themselves and run when booting your OS. According to Microsoft, the Windows 8 implementation of Secure Boot, programs will not be able to change Secure Boot security settings to prevent malware from gaining access through reprogramming the firmware.

Are you losing control?

Because it’s the OEM’s decision to make a choice whether to include a disable feature for Secure Boot, or a way to update keys, PC’s can effectively be “locked” to one certain OS without the option to install a different OS. This would not affect usability for most people, but for “techies” and “geeks” (such as myself) this poses a very real problem. Canonical and Red Hat wrote a white paper addressing these issues. Microsoft wrote an article in their blog that clarifies Microsoft’s requirements regarding Secure Boot. Microsoft insures that an option to turn off Secure Boot in x86 PC’s setup must be present to be Windows 8 certified. However, that option will not be present in ARM processors (as of this writing). Meaning that, if the specifications are not changed, equipment that use ARM processors, i.e. Netbooks, will be “locked” to using Windows 8 if it was installed at the time of purchase.

This could be a very real threat for those who choose to run an alternate OS, and could be difficult for those who are not technically inclined.

 

Image: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Out with BIOS, in with UEFI.

Ever since the computer was born, there needed to be a program to tell the CPU where things are and how to use them. In 1981 the IBM 5150 introduced the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) to the IBM-PC market. The IBM 5150 had an 8088 16bit (16bit internal bus, 8bit external bus) processor, so the BIOS chip was limited to 16 bits and 1MB of memory space. Years went by and the CPU became more powerful, with a wider bus and more memory access. However, the BIOS remained the same, and retained it’s 16bit bus and 1MB memory limit, depending on the PC-AT hardware platform.

Enter EFI/UEFI (Extensible Firmware Interface/Unified Extensible Firmware Interface respectively). EFI was introduced in the mid-1990′s with the Intel-HP Itanium processor systems as the older BIOS was considered too limited for large server systems. In 2005 Intel dropped the EFI platform and handed it over to the Unified EFI Forum, which then became the UEFI.

There are several advantages to UEFI over the BIOS. UEFI boots faster, has the ability to boot from very large hard disks over 2TB, drops the MBR (master boot record) for the GUID Partition table, architecture and drivers are CPU-independent, an extensive GUI with mouse and network capabilities are possible, and ACPI and SMBIOS are also included as these are not dependent on the 16bit limitations of the older BIOS.

UEFI requires the Operating System and the Firmware to be matched. Therefore, 64bit UEFI can only run a 64bit Operating System. Microsoft Windows started support for UEFI beginning with 64bit Windows Vista Service Pack 1 and Windows 7 64bit versions support UEFI, as does Linux and Intel Mac’s OSX.

UEFI does not boot the same as a BIOS does. It requires a special partition table that points to a partition that has a special file that UEFI can load rather than just relying on the boot sector. Since the UEFI boot loader is a kind of UEFI application, it can be used to add extra functionality, such as choosing which Operating System to boot from. It can also auto-detect the boot loader so that it can be used to boot from removable media.

Several Virtualization platforms have implemented  UEFI. Virtualbox 3.1+, VMware Fusion 3+,  and QEMU can be used with UEFI. Virtualbox with UEFI will only work with Linux/Unix Operating Systems, so Windows will not work on Virtualbox using UEFI.

No overclock option in your BIOS? No Problem.

Overclocking your CPU can be risky business, however if done properly and with the proper amount of care, it can improve system performance anywhere from 5% to 50% depending on the CPU and how it is overclocked. In this article, I am going to discuss the various methods, benefits and downfalls of overclocking. Remember, ALL forms of overclocking beyond the manufacturers specifications voids the warranty and has the potential of “bricking” your CPU, Motherboard, or both. Therefore I take no responsibility what happens to your CPU/Motherboard if you attempt an overclock. If you are not technically inclined, or feel uncomfortable changing these settings, please give it to someone who is or just don’t try it.

Overclocking creates  extra heat, so it is a good idea to buy a good heat sink to dissipate the extra heat.

The safest and perhaps the easiest way to overclock your CPU is if you have that option in your BIOS’s setup. There are often times the BIOS will contain options to change the FSB (Front Side Bus) frequency or CPU clock multiplier. However, as this article is about overclocking without this feature, I will skip this step.

If your motherboard’s BIOS does not have an overclocking feature, do not worry, there are other options. The first option you have is to overclock using overclocking software. overclocking via software basically changes your FSB frequency or the clock multiplier in your CPU. In order for this method to work, you must have one of two things:

1. A PLL clock chip that can be adjusted via software, or
2. An “unlocked” CPU (AMD is called a Black Edition CPU)

There are several freeware programs out there that work quite well. Some of which are “SetFSB” or “CPUCool” . These programs set the clock rate of a variety of PLL clock chips. You will have to know what kind of chip your motherboard has on board. There are tutorials around the web that show how to find what kind of chip you have. Some PLL’s have the ability to be changed and some do not. The SetFSB website has a list of PLL’s that SetFSB supports, and are adding new ones frequently.

This method is quite easy to do. All you have to do is download the application, install it, select your PLL chip in the Clock Generator drop down menu, and change the settings. I highly recommend that you raise the clock by 100 or 200 MHZ at a time. If you raise the clock speed too much at once, you run the risk of burning out your CPU or other chips on the board. Also, setting the FSB raises other clocks on the motherboard such as PCI clock and memory clock. Some PCI cards handle overclocking better than others, so that is a factor on how fast you can go. If your computer starts to lock-up, back off the speed about 200MHZ, or until lock-ups cease then that would be your maximum overclock.

If you have a PLL chip that is not adjustable, and your CPU is a Core2Duo or greater, there is still hope for you. There is a mod called a “BSEL mod” which requires shorting certain pins on your CPU that modifies the connection between your CPU and motherboard. You can find a tutorial (here). It fools the motherboard into thinking the CPU has a faster bus. However, this mod is for experienced persons only. If you have never done anything electronic, I would recommend to not attempt this mod as a mistake could be disastrous.

I understand there are some BIOSes that check the CPUID and configure speed from that. In that case a BSEL mod would not work and you would have to buy a new CPU to get any faster.

Lastly, Some CPUs overclock much better than others, and Motherboards vary in performance also, so the amount of overclocking you can do depends entirely on what you are working with.

Windows-on-ARM: Hot Topic at CES 2012

WoA: Windows8 on ARM

Courtesy of windows8geek.com

Windows on ARM (WoA), a combination of Windows 8 and ARM-based processors, is expected to make an official appearance at the end of 2012 and will try to compete in the notebook market as soon as June 2013, according to sources from notebook vendors.

Since players such as Nvidia and Qualcomm have been enhancing their ARM-based processors’ power consumption and performance, if their processors can successfully pair up with Windows 8 and receive Windows software support, the WoA platform may soon be able to compete against Intel and AMD.

The sources pointed out that players with ARM-based processors are aggressive about WoA platform and are hoping that the platform will be able to raise their share in the tablet PC market as well as help them enter the notebook industry that has been dominated by Wintel.

The ARM CPU players are already aggressively cooperating with notebook players such as Asustek Computer and Lenovo and are set to launch WoA-based notebooks to test the water in mid-2013 with expectations to see the platform take off in 2014 and further grab share from Wintel in 2015 to become the second platform of the notebook market

The sources believe that WoA platform’s advantages over low power consumption and price will provide strong competitiveness, but its biggest problems will be software support and cooperation with notebook vendors. If both problems can be resolved, the platform is expected to received strong attention from notebook players, especially second-tier and white-box players.

However, since Intel will also launch its 22nm Ivy Bridge processors that consume less power than previous generation CPUs, have quick response and stronger security and will launch Haswell-based processors in 2013 with even more advanced designs, competition between the two camps will become the main focuses of the Windows 8 generation.