Asus T102 – first impressions – Review

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As one of the first budget ‘Surface Pro lookalikes’ the ASUS has the dubious honour of being directly compared to a product costing over twice as much – so how does it measure up?

First impressions are good, the keyboard action is pleasing with solid feedback on every keyboard touch.  Likewise, attaching and detaching the ‘surface like’ keyboard is reminiscent of the confidence inspiring ‘clunk’ of a car door.  The overall feel of the product is reminiscent to that of the Surface itself – it feels like a well crafted product, perhaps a little thicker than Surface but with the same overall solidly made feel to it – at least at this early stage it doesn’t feel like it is something that will begin to fall apart after six months of use!

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Sideways on the ‘surface look’ continues – happily ASUS have benefited from a few generations of improvements of the Surface design itself and the T102 adopts both the more solid ‘folding back lip’ for the keyboard and the ‘any angle you like’ positioning of the stand – nice!  (As such it will feel like an upgrade to owners of the earlier Surface units that do not posses these features).  And the addition of multiple choices of colour for the keyboards will please those who want to match it with their décor (I am assured such people exist!)

So are there any downsides?  Well I can overlook the lack of Windows hello integration at this price point (and the fingerprint scanner tucked away on the reverse of the device does a similar job).  The device is also a little heavier than I would like, though not so much as would prevent the average person from using it.  It also “maxes out” at 4GB RAM so this is never going to be a power users or developers device (and why would it be – this isn’t the market that Asus is aiming at)

When I looked at this device it struck me as the perfect replacement for my wife’s’ now aging first generation Surface RT device, the price is good, the specifications quite generous for an entry level device and the style draws strongly on the hard work done in the Microsoft camp over the preceding years.

Intel Real Sense (“Realsense”) SDK

So while there is not yet any availability of Realsense 3D cameras Intel have chosen to make the Realsense SDK available:

http://newsroom.intel.com/community/intel_newsroom/blog/2014/01/06/intel-brings-immersive-human-interaction-to-devices-in-2014

So I downloaded the SDK and fired up some of the sample applications, many of which failed to run without the requisite hardware, however the emotion recognition sample recognised the camera attached to my device and allowed me to have a quick ‘play’. 

The app is capable of recognising the following facial expressions (and by and large does a pretty good job)

  • “ANGER”,
  • “CONTEMPT”,
  • “DISGUST”,
  • “FEAR”,
  • “JOY”,
  • “SADNESS”,
  • “SURPRISE”;

In addition it attempts to interpret the sentiment behind these expressions as one of:

  • “NEGATIVE”,
  • “POSITIVE”,
  • “NEUTRAL”

 

(with apologies for my face – it’s the only one I have)

It is a relatively simple sample with all the smarts being handled via a call to the CreateSenseManager() function within the SDK.  A loop then constantly reporting back a value relating to the emotion being displayed.  (To get my own involvement off the ground I modified the sample to return an emoticon instead of the text shown by default.)

NB All the samples are available in both C++ and C#

I look forward to having the opportunity to expl;ore this interesting SDK further!

IMAX 3D “Edge of Tomorrow”

One of the benefits of not working (or“resting” as I like to call it),  is the opportunity to spend some time with the kids while they are on their half term holidays.  Of course they are both working hard at the moment, Emily for her GCSE’s  and Daisy for her end of year exams… but ….

So we were very excited to have been invited by Stuff magazine to attend the premiere of ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ at the BFI IMAX  (For my part, anyone who knows me will appreciate that I am excited by all things stereoscopic/ 3d and this will be the first opportunity I have had to see a film at “the largest 3D IMAX in Europe”!)

I am doubly excited to be going with my eldest daughter, Emily, who is a massive fan of Emily Blunt who is planning to attend  the premiere. with her co-star.

So Is there a down side to this trip? Well, we are getting the 1:30am coach from Gloucester to get in to London at 5am …  (Red Carpet at 7am, Premiere at 9am – all over in time for brunch!)

As the opening scenes of the film take place in Trafalgar Square and Waterloo Bridge I thought we should walk from Victoria, past Buckingham palace, down the Mall, across Trafalgar Square and over the Hungerford bridge – offering us a great view of Waterloo bridge, before heading over to the BFI a short walk past the site of my first ever workplace (in Chicheley Street – ironically now a bar!).  Of course I have pointed out this particular site many times before so have an idea what I can expect – but I guess that is all part of the fun!

The Film

I might as well start by telling you to go and see this film on the largest 3D screen you can find.  It’s just simply an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours!  Better than Godzilla (which I enjoyed) and probably my favourite film of the year so far (and I wouldn’t be surprised if it stayed that way).  Don’t expect surprises (there are some), don’t expect romance (there is some), don’t expect a comedy (but expect to laugh a bit). Do expect action (lots of it), do expect suspense (buckets) and perhaps most of all, expect to be thrilled!

The Experience

I have never attended a film premiere but when I mentioned to the girls that I had tickets to the new Emily Blunt film they nearly wet themselves, and so the date was on!.    We arrived early and were escorted to our spots on the red carpet and shortly after a limousine pulled up in front of us and out stepped Tom Cruise.  I have to say I came away loving Tom (not in the biblical sense you understand).  He spent hours outside with the crowd and while all other stars were gracious with the fans, signing autographs and smiling for the cameras, they couldn’t match his commitment.  A quick breakfast inside and we took our seats, a quick introduction from Tom and the crew and the film kicked off!

What a great experience!  Thank you Stuff magazine and Warner for looking after us!

Thor: The Dark World. (Spoiler Free Review)

Apologies for the short digresion from development technology but …

.. with the luck of the devil I managed to snag a plus one for my daughter Daisy and I to a private screening of "Thor:The Dark Army" at the Cineworld/IMAX in Birmingham last night.  After being treated to a red carpet and champagne reception we duly sat down in the elevated comfort of screen 8 and, a pleasant change, we were straight into the film with no previews or ads.  One thing I would say is that the film has quite a few potential spoilers so be careful what you read before going out to the film yourself, Oh, and be sure not to leave during the closing credits! (The closing credits are some of the most incredible 3D cartoon graphics that I have seen, so you are not going to want to leave without seeing them all!)

First the cast, a well chosen ensemble, reprising their roles from the first film with Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston and (of course) Anthony Hopkins providing the gravitas that allows you to absolutely believe in the Norse / Viking-esk world of the film (notwithstanding that much action takes place in London!).  For this film the primary bad guy isn’t Loki (yes, he is bad) but the leader of an elf army, played menacingly well by Christopher Ecclestone.

What made the film that little bit more enjoyable for me was the odd interjection of humour.  Loki’s humour was delivered with deadpan confidence that had the audience laughing out loud in several places.  But Thor also gets a look in – again, deadpan and raising a good few laughs that provide a welcome, if short relief to the tension and action of the film itself.

Now perhaps it was just me but I felt that there was definitely a nod to some sci-fi classics in this film.  First the elf army – reminded me of an enemy of the Dr himself:the Pertwee-era “Autons” (though, looking at them now, perhaps that is a stretch).  Did did I also detect some Star Wars like sound effects?  (An echo of a tie fighter engines mixed in with a smattering of the Phantom Menace racing pods perhaps?) Not to diminish the sound and visual effects of the film – which were Epic (3D was awesome too – effective, without being too ‘in your face’)

So no spoilers but how well does this trailer reflect the film itself?  Well it does manage to purvey the mood and excitement of the film without giving too much away, but the film itself is EPIC in 3D! So, don’t be mean to yourself, go out and find the biggest 3D screen cinema you can  – you are not going to be disappointed!

Sweet “Auto Collage” feature

Looks like MS have integrated the previous ‘labs only’ feature into (Windows Live) Photo Gallery.

Makes a very presentable collage of different photos with minimal fuss:

Collage

(Collage built for ‘Live Tile Sport’ Windows 8 App)

“Trying to create a collage of photos on your own is hard and usually requires expensive and complex software. With Auto Collage in Photo Gallery you just select seven or more photos and we’ll arrange them in a collage for you. Making a new photo our of existing photos has never been easier. Whether you want to make a special print of a collection of photos or you want a nice start or ending to a movie highlight with some of your favorite scenes.”

Give it a try: http://g.live.com/1rewlive5-all/en/wlsetup-all.exe