Review

Oculus Quest Review – Standalone VR Unit

It’s been two and a half years since I tried the Google Daydream, which I felt was a disappointment. Since then, there had been nothing that sounded like it was much better. Everything was either wired into a PC, or just an incredibly entry level experience with very little reason to bother.

That was, until I heard about the Oculus Quest. A standalone device, but with ‘proper’ controls like the PC connected Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or any of the various Microsoft Mixed Reality headsets. I started to read up on it, and the more I read – the more it sounded like a winner. It had only just launched in the US, and people were raving about it online.

After a lot of consideration, I decided to order the 64gb Oculus Quest unit for $649AU (there’s a 128GB version for $799 which has no difference beyond the amount of storage doubled). That price point was probably the top I was willing to pay – $700+ just felt too expensive. There was also nowhere in Australia I could go to buy this device or check it out – Oculus has an online store, or via Amazon AU – I had to make the call to buy it unseen and untested.

I am really glad that I did. There’s not much to this – a headset, two controllers, 2 AA batteries and a very long USB-C cable for charging the headset.

What’s in the Oculus Quest box?

This is the first ‘proper’ VR device that really is consumer friendly to the masses. You take the headset and controllers out, put the batteries in, turn on the headset and you’re ready to start setting it up.

The quick tutorials shown are easy to understand – you’ll need to use your phone to set up the Oculus Quest once (like pointing it to a wifi network) but after that, you never have to use your phone again.

Like older VR units, you’ll need to set up your ‘boundary’ – that is, the area you map out in your physical space where you’ll use VR without hitting anything. Older headsets needed you to walk a controller around the room, but the Quest (and I believe the new Oculus Rift S) improves on this greatly.

First, you’re able to see the outside world with the headset on, when it’s in passthrough mode. It will show a black and white live footage of what you’re looking at/ In this passthrough mode, you can draw on the ground where your play area is, which then creates a grid wall. The wall only shows up when you get too close to it, and the closer you are, the thicker the grids are.

You can also just set a boundary for sitting experiences, which just creates a circle around you.

Passthrough also kicks in if you go outside the boundary you’ve set up which I think is a great safety feature (or if you just want to go get a drink and can’t be bothered taking the headset off, either way).

Setting up your Oculus Quest

Once set up, there’s the ‘First Steps’ tutorial for using your device. It teaches you how to use the controls, while giving you a sandbox to play around and experiment with what’s possible. This is the app to show anyone who hasn’t used VR properly before – it’s immersive, easy, and actually fun.

The graphics on the Oculus Quest are not going to match what’s possible from a PC, but they are good enough to be immersed and not think the visuals are lacking. If you came from PC VR you’d notice the downgrade in quality of course, but that’s the cost of portability.

Check out this comparison of Robo Recall as an example. It’s quite a fun game and I was more than happy with the graphics:

Most games also support streaming via Chromecast to a TV, so others can see what the headset wearer is doing – I can see this as a great small party device where people take turns, especially with a game like Beat Saber:

The controller quality in my opinion, is great. I’ve seen some online discussion around the magnet-secured battery clips falling off, but I’ve experienced no issues at all. They’re the same controllers that come with the PC powered Oculus Rift S, and have touch-sensitive controllers to know when you’re pressing certain buttons or not – allowing your virtual hand to move around a bit.

The tracking is also great – the 4 cameras on the device are enough to work out where your controllers are and what they’re doing, with a very high level of accuracy and low latency. I don’t notice any lag at all when moving my hands around in a virtual world – it’s as good as instant, while being incredibly smooth.

The biggest negative is the cost. The headset isn’t crazy expensive, but the games are. They’re generally between $20AU and $50AU per game, which is going to make you think long and hard about what you buy. It might not sound that bad, but a lot of the games don’t have huge replayability – you’ll finish once after 1-2 hours then move on. Beat Saber for example is $46.99, but at least that’s the sort of game you’ll want to play again and again while improving. There are some free games, and the store is highly curated so there’s no rubbish apps, but it’s worth being aware of.

Being the tinkerer that I am, I wanted to see what else was possible for free on the Oculus Quest, and wrote up a separate post around some utilities I’ve been using – check it out if you want to sideload apps (including custom Beat Saber songs), stream PC games to the Oculus Quest via Wifi and making Steam think it’s a supported plugged in device, or mirror everything you do on the Quest to a computer, rather than just certain in-game support.

With all of the above in mind, I still strongly recommend the Oculus Quest, as long as you don’t have a PC powered VR unit already. It’s a great all-round experience, with good-enough graphics and a lot of fun to be had. It’s the sort of thing I want to go back and play again and again because it is so different to other gaming experiences. Playing in a virtual world where you need to actually look around and react will both give you a bit of a workout, and make you forget where you are in the real world.

Lenovo Yoga 910 Review

Just over a year ago, I received the Lenovo Yoga 900 laptop to review. Since then, an unfortunate accident occurred when I closed the laptop onto the end of a USB cable, creating a horrible crunching sound and cracking the screen.

Lenovo Australia have come to the rescue and provided me a newer Yoga 910 to review instead! How does it compare to the Yoga 900?

 

The new boxed Lenovo Yoga 910

For starters, here’s the specs with the red options matching what my laptop has:

Processor
• 7th Gen Intel® Core™ i5-7200U Processor (3 MB Cache, 2.5 GHz, 3.1 GHz max)
• 7th Gen Intel Core i7-7500U Processor (4 MB Cache, 2.7 GHz, 3.5 GHz max)

Operating system Windows 10 Home 64-bit Display
13.9″ FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS
• 13.9″ UHD (3840 x 2160) IPS

Graphics
Intel HD Graphics 620 in processor

Memory
8 / 16 GB DDR4 2133MHz

Webcam
Integrated 720p HD Camera

Storage Solid State Drive (SSD), via PCIe NVME:
256GB / 512 GB / 1TB

Dimensions (W x D x H)
323 x 224.5 x 14.3 mm

Weight
Starting at 1.38 kg

Case colour
• Champagne Gold
• Gunmetal Grey
• Platinum Silver

Case material
Aluminium

Battery life
• FHD model: 15.5 hours

Keyboard
Full-size keyboard, backlight, 6-row, multimedia Fn keys

Touchpad
One-piece multi-touch touchpad

Fingerprint reader
Yes, Hello support

Audio
HD audio, 2 x JBL® stereo speaker with Dolby® Audio Premium certification dual array microphone combo audio/microphone jack

Wireless LAN
11ac, 2×2, Wi-Fi + Bluetooth® 4.1

Ports
• 2 x USB 3.0 (1 x Type-C with video-out, 1 x Type-A)
• 1 x USB 2.0 (support DC-in function)
• Combo audio/microphone jack

Specs on the box

The Yoga 910 is another high end consumer laptop, following in the steps of laptops such as the Yoga 900S, 900, 3 Pro and 2 Pro. It feels very solid, and is slightly heavier than the Yoga 900, probably due to the aluminium chassis. Eric Xu did a great writeup comparing the two which is worth reading if you’re deciding which one to get.

Lenovo Yoga 910 Ready to go

While looking incredibly sleek and professional (especially in this gunmetal grey version, which to me is just black), it is a fingerprint magnet. That’s the price you pay to look this nice it seems. Another point that stands out is the bezel around the screen – very thin on all edges apart fro the bottom. At first this looks a little strange, but I quickly got used to it.

I’m happy with the 1920 x 1080 screen resolution this particular laptop has, and the screen quality itself was high with great viewing angles – so don’t feel that you have to go for the 4K res option unless you really want it.

The watch hinges are back again, and they seem even sturdier than previous models. They allow the laptop to bend all the way around (as all Yogas do), and I didn’t experience any screen wobble at all when typing.

Lenovo Yoga 910 Keyboard and Trackpad

The keyboard buttons are nicely laid out, with full size arrow keys. Home and End require the Fn button, but they’re easy to reach. The trackpad itself is quite large, with the single clicky style rather than being a solid no-click style that’s found on most of the X1 series, such as the X1 Yoga. The backlit keys also work well to see in the dark, and the addition of the fingerprint reader combined with Windows Hello allows for a very quick and effortless login.

Test

Lenovo Yoga 910 Right Side

Lenovo Yoga 910 Left Side

As you can see in the above side shots, there’s very few ports. Power is provided by the new standard USB-C which was also on the X1 Tablet, and will probably be standard on all laptops eventually. Beyond that, there’s one USB-C out and one USB 3.0 port. Of course a USB hub will give you more ports if you need it, or you can look into a USB-C dock that will provide a bunch of connection types. Yes, we still call them ‘docks’ even though we don’t dock them anymore.

The battery life is impressive – 15.5 hours. It’s hard to test and keep track of that time to see how accurate it is. Windows 10 thinks there’s still over 10 hours left on 50% remaining, and I’ve been using it sporadically in the last few days next to me.

Performance wise, there is nothing lacking in what you’d expect from this laptop. High end gaming or running several virtual machines isn’t what this laptop (nor most laptops) can do, but it’ll serve most purposes for years.

The Yoga 910 contains some small benefits and improvements over the Yoga 900 – price being equal, the 910 is the laptop to pick. There’s no reason to upgrade from a 900 to a 910 though, and anything older is a decision you’ll need to make for yourself. If you have a laptop that works for you and isn’t slow, then stick with what you have.

JB Hifi’s display on the flagship Dell, HP and Lenovo consumer laptops

If you’re looking to compare similar laptops, Dell and HP have their own offerings. Dell has the XPS 13 while HP has the Spectre x360. As I haven’t used either, I can’t comment on which I think is better, so check them out for yourself.

For myself, the Yoga 910 will be my new main laptop for personal use. It’s powerful, sleek and really nice to use. I can’t really fault anything about it – maybe more USB ports would be nice but I’m generally only going to use one for a USB memory stick occasionally, so that doesn’t bother me.  While on a recent cruise, the laptop was used in tent mode to watch some movies – the long battery life meant I didn’t need to worry about having it plugged in while watching. Warning: If you do go on a cruise, watch out for those towel animals. They get up to a lot of mischief!

Quick Review – Convertpdftoword.org

Hi,

I was sent an email asking to review this by someone at CometDocs, and it’s free, so I figured why not. It’s called Convertpdftoword.org which is also the website it’s hosted at, by no amazing coincidence. What is it? An online PDF to Word converter. Owned by Cometdocs.com who do a lot of different online file conversions.

PDF to Word? I know I get a lot of requests for this sort of thing, but historically the answer is either getting expensive software to convert, or ask the originator for a non-PDF version of the document.

This is cloud based, which always rings alarm bells for me. Do you want to send your documents to an unknown 3rd party, just because they’re offering a free service? That’s what you’ll need to decide, but this company resides in Canada and the servers for holding your files are located in the United States which matters to some people (the more security minded just won’t use this service).

So, how does it work? You just go to http://www.convertpdftoword.org/ , browse and upload your PDF, put in your email address and wait for the resulting Word document to arrive.

A few minutes later, and I’ve got emails for the two test PDFs I uploaded. They take you back to the site to download them, where they’re hosted for 24 hours. I don’t believe there’s any security behind this, apart from a unique URL – so again, you’d only do this with data you don’t care about others having.

Once you get back to their webpage to download, it sits ‘Processing’ for a few seconds and then starts downloading. It might be buggy with Internet Explorer 10, as it didn’t stop the ‘Processing’ dialogue even after the file had downloaded. This happened on both files.

The results were very impressive. They looked identical to the PDFs I had uploaded, with coloured pictures and all in the exact same positions. The file size blew out from 131kb to 2787kb on one of the examples, but probably expected with Word vs PDF compressions.

In summary, it seems to work really well in my random sample size of 2 documents. Handy if you want to edit a publicly available PDF, but I’m not sure how much demand there is for this.

As pointed out by the person who emailed me, the site gets it’s revenue from adverts. I didn’t get paid anything to write this, so I must have been in a good mood.

HP Cloud Day – Part 2

13th April
I had to rush off to the airport and crashed out, back home in Adelaide now. It was a very interesting event, and was great to get the opportunity to talk to some key HP staff. I’ll summarise the whole event in a few days once I’ve absorbed it all.

3:30pm
Bit of a gap as this section was particularly technical around layers, zones, repositorys, pools, catalogues – you get the idea :)

3:00pm
Architecture Deep Dive for HP Cloud:
IT becomes the service broker, and also needs to choose where to put what. It should also be designed to be able to be moved from one environment to the next.
This requires a common foundation. There are three layers for an Integrated cloud platform to cover all IaaS, PaaS and SaaS (hmm most things seem to be in threes today) – Demand – User Interraction, Deliver – Service Orchestration and Supply – Resource Operation.

2:25pm
If someone uses your hosted severs for an attack, who is at fault? The provider or the consumer? I’m not sure this one was actually answered (please correct me if I’m wrong!) but regardless it’s a good question, and there are a lot of grey areas because laws never keep up with new technologies.
Consumer responsibility vs Provider responsibility in order: IaaS, PaaS and SaaS. So if you want the least responsibility, SaaS is the way to go.

2:10pm
Cloud Security is about perspective. HP have a lot of considerations and understanding of this, read some cloudy stuff here:
http://www8.hp.com/us/en/business-solutions/solution.html?compURI=1079449#tab=TAB2

2:00pm
Had a walkthrough of HP’s Comms Room Showcase Extravaganza, check my twitter feed @AdamFowler_IT for the pics (later because all forms of internet are now crawling here).

12:53pm
HP Networking – When you’ve got a single network switch that has 100’s of blades connected to it with 1000’s of VM’s, the MAC table is going to grow huge, and there are limits. HP manage the networking for your cloud to make sure these issues don’t occur… plus it’s their own switches and routers in use!
HP will support VMWare, Microsoft, Citrix and HP ux virtualisation technologies.

12:30pm EST
Welcome to part two, and I’ve now converted to local Sydney time to keep things confusing.

The building blocks that HP has to make your cloud: Private, Managed and Public all used converged infrastructure. The three key steps are: Standardize, Virtualise and finally Automate.

HP CloudSystem is 45% cheaper than Amazon EC2 as long as you buy enough. Based on 4 Chassis, 64 blades with 768 VM’s etc – that’s a rather decent deployment!

There are two stages to cloud; Step-by-step and fast track.

Step-by-step includes Standardize and consolidate, then Virtualise and automate.

Fast Track is then Self service infrastructure, self service applications with full lifecycle management and finally becoming a service broken in a hybrid environment.

The above is a bit deeper defining what I was talking about in Part 1. You’re smart, you’ll find where that is if you need to.

HP Cloud Day – Part 1

11:10am
I have just realised that the times are Adelaide times, not local :) Lunch time, so after that I’ll continue with Part 2.

10:44am
HP Enterprise Cloud Services: Global Availability, Communications & Collaboration, Enterprise and SaaS Applications. One of the bigger benefits is Testing as a Service which should dramatically decrease configuration and setup times. The big goal is to doing the right scale for the right cost. HP do end to end migrations.

10:33am
The current evolving state of hybrid delivery is a mix of traditional, private, managed and public. The future envisioned will be using common architecture, coverged management & security, open & standards based, develop once – run anywhere, and flexibility & portability. This is needed to reduce complexity of managing too many different evironments by too many different methods.

9:49am
HP Converged Cloud is built on OpenStack technology, and works on a hybrid delivery. Choice, Confidence and Consistency are the 3 main aspects of this. HP’s public Cloud services have now gone beta. The great challenge for clients is ‘how do I get started?’. Start with the ‘low hanging fruit’ (for those playing management buzzword bingo, that should help). Start with Dev/Test for the private cloud as there is little to no impact to end users. Then, in managed cloud there is the application transformation, including enabling the management of apps and servers in different ways. Most applications aren’t ready or aren’t designed for Cloud yet. Third is public cloud, which includes SaaS applications and Application Transformation.

9:31am
If you believe that services can be anywhere, the role of the IT Leader becomes ‘builder/broker’ which changes the competencies of IT. Moving from building to buying, when most IT staff were originally only trained in building. The IT Imperatives in a hybrid cloud delivery are:

– Build & consume right mix of services based on service requirements
– Leverage best of traditional IT, private, managed & public cloud
– Manage & secure hybrid environment to reap value & mitigate risk

9:18am
New technology access methods. The barrier to innovation has been lowered, particularly due to cloud technologies. Blogging back in the old days meant you had to build your own website from scratch, or use poor limiting services such as geocities (sorry to bring that one up). Bottom up adoption and CIO’s spending most of their time fighting fires are the more troublesome outcomes of this (in my opionion) but at the same time, a lot of people have some great ideas, but because the switch to turn it on is so easily accessible, people do it without proper thought or analysis of the business.

9:05am
Top level view of HP Cloud and the announcements from yesterday is what we’re about to discuss… many model changes around the world. A shift from West to East culture for business models. There is a higher demand for more agility and change, and working in an uncertain market and be flexible.

8:44am
Introductios from everyone involved, there are some key HP staff here and the general focus is private/public/hybrid cloud.

8:31am ACST
Hi,
I’ll be live blogging this tech day as much as possible here on AUTechHeads, as well as smaller comments on twitter at @AdamFowler_IT. You can also follow the hashtag #HPTechDay.

Make sure you refresh the page for the latest updates.

12th April 2012