Hardware Archive

Amazon virtually kills efforts to develop Alexa Skills, disappointing dozens

There was a time when it thought that Alexa would yield a robust ecosystem of apps, or Alexa Skills, that would make the voice assistant an integral part of users’ lives. Amazon envisioned tens of thousands of software developers building valued abilities for Alexa that would grow the voice assistant’s popularity—and help Amazon make some money. But about seven years after launching a rewards program to encourage developers to build Skills, Alexa’s most preferred abilities are the basic ones, like checking the weather. And on June 30, Amazon will stop giving out the monthly Amazon Web Services credits that have made it free for third-party developers to build and host Alexa Skills. The company also recently told devs that its Alexa Developer Rewards program was ending, virtually disincentivizing third-party devs to build for Alexa. ↫ Scharon Harding at Ars Technica I’ve never used Alexa – Amazon doesn’t really have a footprint in either The Netherlands or Sweden, so I never really had to care – but I always thought the Skills were the reason it was so loved. It seemingly makes no sense to me to start killing off this feature, but then, I’m assuming Amazon has the data to back up the fact people aren’t using them. It sucks, I guess? Can someone who uses Alexa fill in the blanks for me here?

HP 200LX and related palmtops

The HP 200 LX was a successful palmtop computer introduced in 1994. HP continued to sell it through 1999, an unusually long run for a 1990s computer model. In this blog post, we’ll dig into this largely forgotten form factor and why it became such a quiet success. ↫ Dave Farquhar These devices are incredibly cool, but I disagree that they disappeared, as the blog post states. Just recently I reviewed my main laptop, a very small Chuwi MiniBook (2023) with the N100, and in that article I also listed some other similar options that are still being made and sold today, from companies like GPD and OneNetbook.

PCIe 7.0 draft 0.5 spec available: 512 GB/s over PCIe x16 on track for 2025

PCIe 7.0 is is the next generation interconnect technology for computers that is set to increase data transfer speeds to 128 GT/s per pin, doubling the 64 GT/s of PCIe 6.0 and quadrupling the 32 GT/s of PCIe 5.0. This would allow a 16-lane (x16) connection to support 256 GB/sec of bandwidth in each direction simultaneously, excluding encoding overhead. Such speeds will be handy for future datacenters as well as artificial intelligence and high-performance computing applications that will need even faster data transfer rates, including network data transfer rates. ↫ Anton Shilov at AnandTech PCIe 7.0 won’t hit devices until late 2020s.

The rise and fall of 3M’s floppy disk

Even with that said, those gray-hairs will frequently claim that of the many makers of floppies out there, 3M made the best ones. Given that, I was curious to figure out exactly why 3M became the most memorable brand in data storage during the formative days of computing, and why it abandoned the product. ↫ Ernie Smith I do not remember if I ever held any particular views on which brand of floppy disk (or diskettes, as we called them) was the best. We had a wide variety of brands, and I can’t recall any one of them being better than the other, but then, I’m sure people in professional settings had more experience with the little black squares and thus developed all kinds of feelings about them.

A used ThinkPad is a better deal than a new cheap laptop

Since the technology industry and associated media outlets tend to focus primarily on the latest and greatest technology and what’s right around the corner, it sometimes seems as if the only valid option when you need a new laptop, phone, desktop, or whatever is to spend top euro on the newest, most expensive incarnations of those. But what if you need, say, a new laptop, but you’re not swimming in excess disposable income? Or you just don’t want to spend 1000-2000 euro on a new laptop? The tech media tends to have an answer for this: buy something like a cheap Chromebook or an e-waste €350 Windows laptop and call it a day – you don’t deserve a nice experience. However, there’s a far better option than spending money on a shackled Chromebook or an underpowered bottom-of-the-barrel Windows laptop: buy used. Recently, I decided to buy a used laptop, and I set it up how I would set up any new laptop, to get an idea of what’s out there. Here’s how it went. For this little experiment, I first had to settle on a brand, and to be brutally honest, that was an easy choice. ThinkPads seems to be universally regarded as excellent choices for a used laptop for a variety of reasons which I’ll get to later. After weighing some of the various models, options, and my budget, I decided to go for a Lenovo ThinkPad T450s for about €150, and about a week later, the device arrived at my local supermarket for pickup. Before I settled on this specific ThinkPad, I had a few demands and requirements. First and foremost, since I don’t like large laptops, I didn’t want anything bigger than roughly 14″, and since I’m a bit of a pixel count snob, 1920×1080 was non-negotiable. Since I already have a Dell XPS 13 with an 8th Gen Core i7, I figured going 3-4 generations older seemed like it would give me at least somewhat of a generational performance difference. An SSD was obviously a must, and as long as there were expansion options, RAM did not matter to me. The T450s delivered on all of these. It’s got the 1920×1080 14″ IPS panel (there’s also a lower resolution panel, so be sure to check you’re getting the right one), a Core i5-5300U with 2 cores and 4 threads with a base frequency of 2.30GHz and a maximum boost frequency of 2.90GHz, Intel HD 5500 graphics, a 128GB SATA SSD, and 4GB of RAM. Since 4GB is a bit on the low side for me, I ordered an additional 8GB SO-DIMM right away for €35. This brought the total price for this machine to €185, which I considered acceptable. For that price, it also came with its Windows license, for whatever that’s worth. I don’t want to turn this into a detailed review of a laptop from 2015, but let’s go over what it’s like to use this machine today. The display cover is made of carbon-reinforced plastic, and the rest of magnesium. You can clearly feel this laptop is of a slightly older vintage, as it feels a bit more dinkey than I’m used to from my XPS 13 9370 and my tiny Chuwi MiniBook X (2023). It doesn’t feel crappy or cheap or anything – just not as solid as you might expect from a modern machine. It’s got a whole load of ports to work with, though, which is refreshing compared to the trend of today. On the left side, there’s a smartcard slot, USB 3.0, mini DisplayPort, another USB 3.0, and the power connector. On the right side, there’s a headphone jack, an SD card slot, another USB 3.0 port, an Ethernet jack, and a VGA port. On the bottom of the laptop is a docking port to plug it into various docking stations with additional ports and connectors. On the inside, there’s a free M.2 slot (a small 2242 one). First, I eradicated Windows from the SSD because while I’m okay with an outdated laptop, I’m not okay with an outdated operating system (subscribe to our Patreon to ensure more of these top-quality jokes). After messing around with various operating systems and distributions for a while, I got back to business and installed my distribution of choice, Fedora, but I did opt for the Xfce version instead of my usual KDE one just for variety’s sake. ThinkPads tend to be well-supported by Linux, and the T450s is no exception. Everything I could test – save for the smartcard reader, since I don’t have a smartcard to test it with – works out of the box, and nothing required any manual configuration or tweaking to work properly. Everything from trackpad gestures to the little ThinkLight on the lid worked perfectly, without having to deal with hunting for drivers and that sort of nonsense Windows users have to deal with. This is normal for most laptops and Linux now, but it’s nice to see it applies to this model as well. Using the T450s was… Uneventful. Applications open fast, there’s no stutter or lag, and despite having just 2 cores and 4 threads, and a very outdated integrated GPU, I didn’t really feel like I was missing out when browsing, doing some writing and translating (before I quit and made OSNews my sole job), watching video, those sorts of tasks. This isn’t a powerhouse laptop for video editing, gaming, or compiling code or whatever, but for everything else, it works great. After I had set everything up the way I like, software-wise, I did do some work to make the machine a bit more pleasant to use. First and foremost, as with any laptop or PC that’s a little older, I removed the heatsink assembly, cleaned off the crusty old thermal paste, and added some new, fresh paste. I then dove into the fan management, and installed zcfan, a Linux fan control daemon for ThinkPads, using its default settings, and created a systemd

Qualcomm quietly demos Baldur’s Gate 3 and Control on Snapdragon X Elite laptops

If you read my scoop last week, I bet you’ve been wondering — how well could a Snapdragon chip actually run Windows games? At the 2024 Game Developers Conference, the company claimed Arm could run those titles at close to x86/64 speed, but how fast is fast? With medium-weight games like Control and Baldur’s Gate 3, it looks like the target might be: 30 frames per second at 1080p screen resolution, medium settings, possibly with AMD’s FSR 1.0 spatial upscaling enabled. ↫ Sean Hollister at The Verge Those are some rough numbers for machines Qualcomm claims can run x86 games at “close to full speed“.

Why x86 doesn’t need to die

Hackaday recently published an article titled “Why x86 Needs to Die” – the latest addition in a long-running RISC vs CISC debate. Rather than x86 needing to die, I believe the RISC vs CISC debate needs to die. It should’ve died a long time ago. And by long, I mean really long. About a decade ago, a college professor asked if I knew about the RISC vs CISC debate. I did not. When I asked further, he said RISC aimed for simpler instructions in the hope that simpler hardware implementations would run faster. While my memory of this short, ancient conversation is not perfect, I do recall that he also mentioned the whole debate had already become irrelevant by then: ISA differences were swept aside by the resources a company could put behind designing a chip. This is the fundamental reason why the RISC vs CISC debate remains irrelevant today. Architecture design and implementation matter so much more than the instruction set in play. ↫ Chips and Cheese The number of instruction sets killed by x86 is high, and the number of times people have wrongly predicted the death of x86 – most recently, after Apple announced its first ARM processors – is even higher. It seems people are still holding on to what x86 was like in the ’80s and early ’90s, completely forgetting that the x86 we have today is a very, very different beast. As Chips and Cheese details in this article, the differences between x86 and, say, ARM, aren’t nearly as big and fundamental as people think they are. I’m a huge fan of computers running anything other than x86, not because I hate or dislike the architecture, but because I like things that are different, and the competition they bring. That’s why I love POWER9 machines, and can’t wait for competitive non-Apple ARM machines to come along. If you try to promote non-x86 ISAs out of hatred or dislike of x86, history shows you’ll eventually lose.

The Mind Khadas: a modular PC

I saw this on a Linus Tech Tips video today, and it’s pretty neat: the Khadas Mind is a tiny computer powered by an Intel Core i5-1340P or Core i7-1360P, but it has a souped-up PCIe connector at the bottom that allows you to hook it up to all kinds of other devices, like a graphics card, a dock, and so on. It looks slick and quite user-friendly, and according to the LTT video, the company intends to release the specs for the connector so that third parties can hook into it as well, but a promise is just that – a promise. It’s way too early to tell if this will go anywhere – past attempts would suggest that sadly, it won’t – but that doesn’t mean it’s not an incredibly awesome and seemingly workable implementation of the modular PC idea.

Qualcomm says most Windows games should ‘just work’ on its unannounced Arm laptops

In a 2024 Game Developers Conference session titled “Windows on Snapdragon, a Platform Ready for your PC Games,” Qualcomm engineer Issam Khalil drove home that the unannounced laptops will use emulation to run x86/64 games at close to full speed. Those laptops may be coming fast. Qualcomm has confirmed it will launch Snapdragon X Elite systems this summer, and unannounced consumer versions of the Surface Pro 10 and Surface Laptop 6 are expected in May with those chips, sources told The Verge. ↫ Sean Hollister at The Verge I’m genuinely curious to see if they can fulfill this promise. I really want widespread availability of ARM laptops. My hope is that we end up with a more standardised ARM landscape, making it easier for operating systems to support these new machines.

Chuwi MiniBook X (2023): a lot of laptop for very little money

What if the kind of laptop you’re looking for just isn’t available from any of the major or even minor manufacturers? You know exactly what you want out of a laptop, and while quite a few fulfill many of your requirements, the requirement that matters most just isn’t being made. It’s not a case of “too expensive” or “too cheap” – simply nobody will sell it to you. From HP, Dell, Apple, down to smaller and local OEMs, none of them can serve your particular set of needs. For me, that particular requirement, that particular need is that of the laptop with an 8″ to 10″ screen size. Even the most portable laptops sold by well-known brands today stop at 13″, often even 14″, with nowhere to go but up. I currently have a 13.3″ laptop – an otherwise excellent XPS 13 9370 with a gorgeous 4K display – but as much as I love it, it’s just too big and heavy for me. I want something smaller, no bigger than roughly 10″. Why? Well, I use my laptop in exactly two locations: on the couch in one of our two living rooms, or in bed (okay that’s technically three locations). That’s it. I work from home on my workstation, I play games on my gaming PC, so I don’t need big performance on the road, nor do I need a big portable display to make working on the go bearable. On top of all this, I have two small kids running around the house, so a laptop that is easier to quickly close and put out of harm’s way is very welcome. And considering the most intensive workload it’ll ever have to contend with is playing YouTube video, I don’t need the latest Core i7 or Apple M3 either. Why not a tablet, then? First and foremost, I want to use a desktop operating system, not Android or iOS, since writing OSNews posts or doing a quick translation for my job are not fun experiences on mobile operating systems. On top of that, a tablet with a keyboard accessory often makes use of a kickstand and flappy keyboard, which are cumbersome to use on the couch, in bed, or on your lap. The exception here would be the iPad with a Magic Keyboard, but that’s an incredibly expensive affair and an Apple product, so obviously a no-go. Luckily, while the kind of small laptop I’m looking for is not available from one of the major OEMs, there are a small number of specialised OEMs that do focus on making small laptops. Roughly, the devices they make fall into one of three pricing categories. First, there’s the high-end – these usually start at around €800 or so and get well over €1000, and have a decent set of specs, often focused on gaming by opting for AMD APUs. A major player in this market is GPD, who’ve been offering products in this segment for years, and are actually a decently well-known brand at this point, even being featured on major YouTube channels like Linus Tech Tips. Then there’s the very low end, a market segment drowning in the exact same 7″ laptop priced at €250 or so, sold under a variety of brand names, sporting the same low-end Celeron chip and rather crappy display. It’s also quite thick, made out of cheap plastic, and every review I’ve seen of these are not particularly positive. Unless you know what you’re getting into, do not buy these. They’re e-waste trash. In recent times, however, a middle segment has slowly started to take shape, coming in price points in between the low and high end, with reasonable specifications and build quality, without going overboard. This was exactly what I was looking for. Aside from price and specifications, mini-laptops also come in a variety of different input layouts. Being smaller than other laptops, some compromises will have to be made, and it’s this particular aspect that will most likely play a major role in which models appeal to you. The gaming-focused mini laptops will often come with dual joysticks and face buttons, while other models will come with a more traditional keyboard and trackpad, and the smallest laptops in this category ditch the trackpad in favour of a little sensor pad in the top-right of the keyboard, or a ThinkPad-style nipple. Having kept and eye on this market for years now, I knew exactly what I was looking for: I wanted a traditional keyboard and touchpad layout, with medium specifications, a capable display, and all-metal construction, for no more than roughly €400-500. Clearly, the time to strike was now, as the small, budget-oriented OEM Chuwi had just updated its 10″ mini laptop with Intel’s latest low-power processor, the N100. The Chuwi Minibook X (2023), as it’s called, has an all-aluminium construction, and comes with quite decent specifications, and I managed to snag a new model through their eBay store for a mere €320 (I asked them for a discount down from €400 , and they gave it; I did not mention who I was or that I run OSNews). It has the aforementioned Alder Lake Intel N100 – released earlier this year, it’s an Intel 7 processor with 4 cores and 4 threads (so no hyperthreading) with a maximum turbo frequency of 3.4 Ghz, with a TDP of just 6 W. It’s not going to compare well to the various Core i3/i5/i7 processors, of course, but considering the type of device, it makes perfect sense to opt for something like the N100. Furthermore, this device is packing 12 GB of LPDDR5 RAM running at 4800 Mhz, and my model comes with a 512 GB SSD. The display is a 10.3″ panel with a native resolution of 1920×1200, with a refresh rate of only 50Hz (although some people managed to reach 60Hz and even 90Hz), and support for touch. Ports-wise, it has two USB-C ports (one marked as compatible with charging – I haven’t dared

Loongson 3A6000: a star among Chinese CPUs

Computing power has emerged as a vital resource for economies around the world. China is no exception, and the country has invested heavily into domestic CPU capabilities. Loongson is at the forefront of that effort. We previously covered the company’s 3A5000 CPU, a quad core processor that delivered reasonable performance per clock, but clocked too low to be competitive. Now, we’re going to look at Loongson’s newer 3A6000 CPU. The 3A6000 is also a quad core 2.5 GHz part, but uses the newer LA664 core. Compared to the 3A5000’s LA464 cores, LA664 is a major and ambitious evolution. While Loongson has kept the same general architecture, LA664 has a larger and deeper pipeline with more execution units. To sweeten the pie, LA664 gets SMT support. When properly implemented, SMT can increase multithreaded performance with minimal die area overhead. But SMT can be challenging to get right. ↫ Chips and Cheese I’m always fascinated by China’s attempts at catching up to Intel and AMD, but at the same time, there’s no chance in hell I’d ever use any of it.

MNT Reform review: brutalist hardware, familiar software

There’s a channel on YouTube called The Proper People. It’s two guys who travel all over the United States (and in a few cases, elsewhere too) exploring abandoned buildings, and recording both the exteriors and interiors for posterity, since many of these buildings suffer from massive decay and are often slated for demolition. These buildings have histories and stories that otherwise would be lost to time. They are incredibly respectful of the buildings they explore, and they will not break open locked doors or windows, and only traverse open and unlocked doors or openings borne out of natural decay. They never take anything from the sites they visit, and abhor what urban explorers call “staging”, where you move furniture and objects around to invoke or imply stories and things that aren’t there. Their videos are also very calm, muted, quiet, and only occasionally use atmospheric music for some of the more artistic shots. As a sidenote, they also happen to have the absolute best intro music of all time. One of the things you quickly notice as you see these buildings, and explore their interiors, is just how solidly made and beautifully detailed they were. Whether they’re exploring an 19th century Kirkbride mental asylum, an early 19th century power plant, or a mid-20th century hospital – they all tend to be made not just to serve a function, but also to be beautiful and solid, both inside and out. Walls, ceilings, and doorways are beautifully detailed in masonry or woodwork, light fittings are solid and ornate, and even access corridors or storage basements have gorgeous vaulted ceilings, decorated walls, and ornate pillars. The contrast to modern buildings couldn’t be starker. Buildings and workplaces of today are littered with drop ceilings, flimsy dividers, open plans, endless amounts of glass, all in styles so minimalist it just makes spaces feel cold, uninviting, and lacking in human scale. Modern buildings and interiors are temporary, ephemeral, built not for humans, but to a bottom line and some designer’s fancy – these old hospitals, factories, and even power plants are permanent, enduring, and made to human scale. They served as much as a status symbol for whatever ruthless capitalist owned the building as they did as a place for that same ruthless capitalist to extract wealth from mistreated workers. This juxtaposition, of the minimalist, soulless, flimsy and cheap-looking exteriors and interiors of modern buildings on the one hand, and the beautifully detailed, skillfully crafted, and human-scale exteriors and interiors from these older buildings on the other, is something that kept creeping back into my mind during my use of the MNT Reform. This is a device built by people who deeply care, who are very opinionated, and know exactly what they want to make – very much the opposite of the cookie-cutter dime-a-dozen laptops that flood the market today. MNT was so kind as to send me a Reform, at some risk to them because I am definitely not the kind of customer the Reform is typically aimed at. Yet, after a few months of use, I can confidently say this is one of the most unique devices I’ve ever used, and one that’s worth every cent. Let’s explore why. Brutalist hardware Let’s first dive into what, exactly, the Reform is. At its core, it’s an ARM-based laptop designed to run Linux, developed and built by a small team of people in Berlin. The Reform is unique in that it is designed to be open hardware, fully repairable and highly modular and upgradeable. It consists of a mainboard with an mPCIe slot, an M.2 slot for NVME SSDs, 16GB eMMC storage, and uniquely, a slot for a System-on-Chip module roughly the size of an SO-DIMM module that contains the processor and RAM. The keyboard and pointing device are internally connected through USB 2.0 and easily replaceable, too. The Reform is defined as much by what it does not have as by what it does have. You won’t find any surveillance devices inside the Reform – no webcam, no microphones, nothing. There have been laptops with little privacy switches or sliding covers for the webcam, but I don’t think I’ve seen a modern laptop that eschews cameras and microphones since the late ’90s. It’s one of the many examples of the Reform’s opinionated design choices. The configuration MNT sent me consists of the aforementioned mainboard, coupled with one of the processor modules they offer – in my case, the RCM4 A311D, which sports four 2.2GHz Cortex-A73 cores and two 1.8GHz Cortex-A53 cores, 4GB of LP-DDR4 RAM, and an ARM Mali G52 MP4 GPU that supports OpenGL/ES 3.1 through Panfrost. This module also supports Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 5.0 through the integrated RTL8822CS. The A311D is just one of many modules available for purchase for the Reform, and during the writing of this review, MNT also added a brand new SoC module to its lineup – the RK3588, the most powerful option available for the Reform. It packs 4 ARM Cortex-A76 cores (up to 2.4GHz) and 4 ARM Cortex-A55 cores (up to 2.2GHz), 16GB or 32GB of RAM, and 128GB or 256GB of eMMC storage. It also sports an ARM Mali-G610 MP4 4-core GPU. Like with all other modules, the drivers for the A311D in my model are completely open source. When it comes to firmware, however, the A311D is not fully open source; there’s closed-source code in the Wi-Fi firmware and the boot/TF-A firmware. The other modules all also have various bits of closed firmware, except for the RKX7 module that uses a Kintex-7 FPGA and hence comes with a hefty price tag. Using the RKX7 module, you can have a fully open source laptop, from operating system down to the firmware, which is, as far as I can tell, unique. However, the amount of closed firmware code for each of the other boards is relatively small, and in some cases – such as with the LS1028A – can be avoided, too. If you care about

HP wants you to pay up to $36/month to rent a printer that it monitors

HP launched a subscription service today that rents people a printer, allots them a specific amount of printed pages, and sends them ink for a monthly fee. HP is framing its service as a way to simplify printing for families and small businesses, but the deal also comes with monitoring and a years-long commitment. Prices range from $6.99 per month for a plan that includes an HP Envy printer (the current model is the 6020e) and 20 printed pages. The priciest plan includes an HP OfficeJet Pro rental and 700 printed pages for $35.99 per month. ↫ Scharon Harding at Ars Technica Can I pay them not to put a printer in my house?

A history of the tty

It’s one of those anachronisms that is deeply embedded in modern technology. From cloud operator servers to embedded controllers in appliances, there must be uncountable devices that think they are connected to a TTY. I will omit the many interesting details of the Linux terminal infrastructure here, as it could easily fill its own article. But most Linux users are at least peripherally aware that the kernel tends to identify both serial devices and terminals as TTYs, assigning them filesystem names in the form of /dev/tty*. Probably a lot of those people remember that this stands for teletype or perhaps teletypewriter, although in practice the term teleprinter is more common. ↫ J. B. Crawford I remember first using Linux in like 2000 or 2001, and running into the abbreviation tty, and not having a single clue what that meant since I came from a DOS and Windows background. Over time I gained a lot more understanding of the structure of modern UNIX-like systems, but it’s still great to read such a detailed history of the concept.

Raspberry Pi is planning a London IPO, but its CEO expects “no change” in focus

The business arm of Raspberry Pi is preparing to make an initial public offering (IPO) in London. CEO Eben Upton tells Ars that should the IPO happen, it will let Raspberry Pi’s not-for-profit side expand by “at least a factor of 2X.” And while it’s “an understandable thing” that Raspberry Pi enthusiasts could be concerned, “while I’m involved in running the thing, I don’t expect people to see any change in how we do things.” ↫ Kevin Purdy at Ars Technica Expect changes in how they do things.

Reversing the Web-@nywhere Watch: browse fragments of the web on your wrist

Smartwatches at the turn of the century were a more motley assortment than today’s, with an even wilder range of functionality. If you had a few hundred dollars or so, there were some interesting options, even back then. But if all you had was $85 (in 2024 dollars about $150), you still weren’t left out, because in 2001 you could get the Web-@nywhere (the “Worldwide Web Watch”). Load up the software on your PC and slap it in its little docking station, and you could slurp down about 93K of precious Web data to scroll on the 59×16 screen — 10 characters by 2 characters — to read any time you wanted! That is, of course, if the remote host the watch’s Windows 9x-based client accessed were still up, on which it depended for virtually anything to download and install. Well, I want 95,488 bytes of old smartwatch tiny screen Web on my wrist, darn it. We’re going to reverse-engineer this sucker and write our own system using real live modern Web data. So there! ↫ Old Vintage Computing Research Y’all know the drill by now – I’m a sucker for these kinds of stories. What a great, extremely detailed read, with code to boot.

What’s that touchscreen in my room?

Roughly a year ago I moved into my new apartment. One of the reasons I picked this apartment was age of the building. The construction was finished in 2015, which ensured pretty good thermal isolation for winters as well as small nice things like Ethernet ports in each room. However, there was one part of my apartment that was too new and too smart for me. It is obviously a touchscreen of some sort, but there was zero indication as to what it controls. The landlord had no idea what this is. There are no buttons or labels on the thing, just a tiny yellow light to let you know it has the power. ↫ Nikita Lapkov What follows is an investigation into what it is, how to get it working, and, of course, how to hack it and make it more useful.

Lichee Console 4A, RISC-V mini laptop: review, benchmarks and early issues

I always liked small laptops and phones – but for some reason they fell out of favor of manufacturers (“bigger is more better”). Now if one wanted to get tiny laptop – one of the few opportunities would have been to fight for old Sony UMPC’s on ebay which are somewhat expensive even today. Recently Raspberry Pi/CM4-based tiny laptops started to appear – especially clockwork products are neat, but they are not foldable like a laptop. When in summer of 2023 Sipeed announced Lichee Console 4A based on RISC-V SoC – I preordered it immediately and in early January I finally received it. Results of my testing, currently uncovered issues are below. ↫ Mikhail Svarichevsky I want one of these.

ASUS’ new graphics cards and motherboards replace 12VHPWR connector with a 600W PCIe

At CES 2024, ASUS unveiled a new standard for motherboards, graphics cards, and cases. Called BTF (short for Back-to-The-Future), it offers much cleaner cable management with power connectors at the back of a motherboard. More importantly, it fully ditches the ill-fated 12VHPWR plug in favor of a much tidier (and probably safer) 600W PCIe connector. ASUS claims computers with BTF components are easier to assemble since all plugs and connectors are located at the back side of the motherboard tray without other components obstructing access to power, SATA, USB, IO, and other connectors. Therefore, “you won’t have to reach as far into the depth of your chassis to plug things in.” BTF should also make cable management much more elegant, resulting in a tidy, showcase-ready build. ↫ Taras Buria at NeoWin The interior of PCs effectively hasn’t changed since the ’80s, and it feels like it, too. Many of the connectors and plugs are unwieldy, in terrible places, hard to connect/disconnect, difficult to route, and so on. A lot more needs to be done than putting the connectors on the back of the motherboard and integrating GPU power delivery into the PCIe slot, but even baby steps like these are downright revolutionary in the conservative, change-averse, anti-user world of PC building. I don’t say this very often, but basically, look at the last Intel Mac Pro. That’s what a modern PC should look and work like inside.

The Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 5 Hybrid combines a Windows 11 PC with an Android tablet

Confirming a previous leak, Lenovo officially announced the ThinkBook Plus Gen 5 Hybrid during its CES 2024 product reveals. It combines a Windows 11 notebook with a 14-inch OLED 2.8K touchscreen display that can detach from the keyboard and be used as an stand-alone Android 13 tablet. ↫ John Callaham I’m not even sure why I’m posting this, other than that it perfectly illustrates the problems Windows on one side, and Android on the other, face in providing the full device spectrum to users. Windows only really works on desktops and laptops, while Android only really works on smartphones and tablet. As such, Frankenstein devices like these have to be made to cover the entire spectrum. I kind of want one.