Bodhi Linux

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Bodhi Linux is a lightweight Ubuntu-based distro that appeared on the scene back in 2011. Its system requirements are among the lowest out there for any desktop Linux flavour. It can even run on a non-PAE CPU with 128MB of RAM and a 300MHz processor.

We didn’t have one of those lying around, but we did have a pretty old and dusty PC which we could test it on. The OS boasts a simple Ubiquity install process (just like you get on Ubuntu) and it’s a thoroughly usable, and not at all bad-looking, distro.

Bodhi is based on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, so we get Kernel 4.4 and all the stability of that system. Unlike Ubuntu though, a fresh install occupies a mere 2.5GB. The space savings come from eschewing Unity in favour of the Moksha (which means ‘release’) desktop and bundling only the essentials: terminal, text editor, file manager, photo viewer, and web browser.

A larger AppPack ISO is available which includes LibreOffice, VLC and Pinta etc. Moksha uses a forked version of Enlightenment E17 (current version is E21), which has an illustrious history among desktop hackers. All the bundled apps use the Enlightenment Foundation Libraries (EFL) rather than GTK or Qt etc, so they have a unique yet consistent look.

Traditionally, lightweight has meant sacrifices in usability, functionality or desktop niceness. Not so for Bodhi. There are no mandatory keyboard shortcuts to learn, USB drives don’t need manual mounting and a fair few campers would claim Moksha looks much better than Unity.

The Midori browser (of Raspbian fame) may not be to everyone’s tastes, but it is one of the best light browsers around. Likewise PCManFM – borrowed from LXDE – might be too simple for some people’s file managing requirements. The Ubuntu repos are, of course, full of chunkier alternatives, but these will take their toll on older hardware.

Light and joyful

We were particularly fond of Terminology. The default set up with the Terminus font and pulsing cursor looks modern, plus there’s the awesome visual terminal bell effect. But wait, there’s more – terminals are all the rage, but have you seen one that can divide horizontally and vertically? [Yes, it’s called Terminator – Ed]. There are also some feedback effects when mouse buttons are pressed or when moving or resizing windows.

Bodhi retains some nice features from the previous release too: the polite reminder that Presentation Mode exists when the screensaver is disarmed quickly, and support for apturl:// URIs (so that packages can be installed from the web browser).

The Moksha desktop environment can also be thoroughly customised through the addition of Modules. These are little gadgets that provide application launchers, volume and backlight controls, and a system tray. Modules live in containers called Shelves, and the default setup comprises a single shelf at the bottom with a menu, desktop pager, application list and other things we’d expect to find there. Additional shelves with more widgetry can be added around the edges of the screen. This makes extensive personalisation possible, but can seem clunky at times.

Final verdict

It perhaps isn’t quite suitable for beginners, but Bodhi Linux is one of the nicest gifts you could give your old hardware.

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NEC EA245WMi 24-inch 16:10 IPS Monitor Review

In the land of cubicles, 24″ monitors are probably among the most common panels gracing the average desktop. They have enough pixel density, even at FHD resolution, to provide a sharp image capable of resolving fine detail and small fonts. And IPS panels in this form factor don’t cost an arm and a leg. At the premium level, we have screens like today’s review subject, the NEC EA245WMi. In addition to unmatched build quality and precise engineering, you get a comprehensive set of enterprise features like ControlSync, SpectraView II calibration software, and solid, reliable video performance.

Specifications

To gamers and enthusiasts, NEC monitors may not inspire excitement, but to IT managers responsible for supporting thousands of workstations, there are few better displays. EA-series screens combine rugged build quality with features that make them super easy to install, configure, and manage.

In our recent review of the EA275WMi, we took an in-depth look at ControlSync and SpectraView II. The former is a simple cable that connects up to five NEC displays and allows them to share menu settings in real time. You can literally adjust brightness on the primary panel and watch the changes happen on the subordinate monitors.

SpectraView II is NEC’s proprietary calibration software that ships with either a Spyder or X-rite-sourced color meter. It’s an extra-cost option but we still like it better than any other manufacturer’s solution. Outside a universal package like CalMAN, SpectraView is easily the best way to ensure color accuracy for most models in NEC’s line.

The EA245WMi also has something few other displays can boast – a 16:10 aspect ratio. That extra height makes this 24″ monitor a lot more useful, especially in the portrait mode. 1200 pixels is a little greater than the sizing of typical websites. And document editing is a task this format was born for. These days, it’s harder to find this ratio in rank-and-file products, but NEC has kept the flame burning with this and the jumbo EA305WMi and PA302W monitors. Is the EA245WMi a worthy stablemate to these two titans? Let’s take a look.

Packaging, Physical Layout & Accessories

The carton is as solid and secure as its contents. Thick double-corrugate cardboard protects a panel that already has the upright installed. All you need to do is attach the base with a captive bolt. The cable bundle includes DisplayPort, USB 3.0, and ControlSync. An IEC cord supplies current to the internal power supply. If you purchase the SV version of the monitor, you get a copy of SpectraView II on a neat USB drive shaped like a credit card with the license number printed on it. The software is available with either an i1 Display Pro or a Spyder5 colorimeter. Our review package included two monitors along with the i1/SpectraView II bundle.

Product 360

NEC is known for its chunky, industrial styling, but the EA245WMi is a departure from that. The chassis is sleek and thin with a miniscule 6mm flush-mounted bezel. The frame disappears when the power’s off but it’s visible during use. Across the bottom, the trim is wider at 16mm and on the right are the expected touch-sensitive controls. We prefer the joystick method of OSD navigation, but NEC has the best touch keys in the business. They respond to moderate pressure and never miss or repeat commands unintentionally. Small icons appear on the screen to let you know their functions. Also on the bottom trim strip are room-light and user-presence sensors. They work with auto-brightness and auto-off features. The anti-glare layer is aggressive in use but it doesn’t compromise image clarity.

The stand is a heavily-built upright with a round base. Its movements are firm and completely free of play. You won’t find a mount like this on most other 24″ screens. It feels as though it could support a much larger panel. The height adjustment is 100mm or just under 4”. Swivel is 45° in either direction and you get 30° backward and 5° forward tilt. Topping it off is a portrait mode which we suspect many users will take advantage of.

The side profile could be called NEC-light. The shape is unmistakable, but instead of the usual heavy and thick panel, everything is scaled down to a trim 48mm (less than 2”). On the left side is a USB 3.0 hub with one upstream port and three downstream ones. We’d prefer to see the upstream port on the bottom since you need it to run SpectraView II. Having a cable run out the side and under your desk is a bit awkward. Also, there’s a headphone jack, which we appreciate.

Around back is a 100mm VESA mount and generous ventilation for the internal components. Everything is heavily shielded so there should be no EM interference with any nearby electronics. Speakers are small and relatively weak, but they are adequate for business use.

The input panel includes DisplayPort in and out connectors plus HDMI 2.0, DVI, and VGA. Analog audio is supported with a single 3.5mm jack. The small black and white plugs are for ControlSync. One monitor is designated as the primary. The cable runs from its output to the next panel’s input, and so on, up to five screens total.

MORE: Best Computer Monitors

MORE: How To Choose A Monitor

MORE: Display Calibration 101

MORE: The Science Behind Tuning Your Monitor

MORE: All Monitor Content

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Note to self: Stop taking notes!

I talk to myself sometimes. (Don’t judge me!)

Specifically, I like to capture ideas about things I’d like to remember, do or write. And I’m sure you do, too.

If I’m sitting in front of my laptop, I’ll just type these notes into Google Keep. Otherwise, I use my phone. (I told you in November why Google Keep is a great way to remember everything. One great feature is that on the iPhone 6S or later, you can use 3D Touch by pressing hard on the icon and choose “New Audio Note,” which enables you to capture a voice note instantly, which Keep converts to text.)

Is there an even better way to take notes? Two new products reveal the potential for combining voice and artificial intelligence to capture and format notes — so you don’t have to.

Where you wear a wearable everywhere

The Senstone is a wearable voice recorder about the size of a bottle cap.

You can wear it as a necklace, bracelet or clip-on pendant. When you want to record, tap the top (or snap your fingers) and start talking. Tap (or snap) to stop.

senstone pendantSenstone

The Senstone A.I.-enhanced voice recorder will look beautiful enough to wear every day, unless the company ruins it with the irritating blinking light that blights the beta version.

After you record, Senstone immediately begins transferring the recording via Bluetooth to the Senstone app on your smartphone, from which it’s then uploaded to the cloud for processing. (Senstone supports the iPhone 5S and higher on iOS 9 and up, and Android 5.0 or higher.) In a few seconds, the transcribed text appears in the app, where it can be edited, searched for or forwarded to social media or content storage sites like Evernote and Google Drive.

Flashing lights on the front indicate status — whether the device is recording, for example.

I’ve been wearing a beta version of the Senstone around my neck for the past week. I love the idea. And I might love the product, depending on what happens between now the end of the year. (The company raised more than $158,000 on Kickstarter with 20 days to go.)

Ideas are fleeting. They arise, then vanish before you can pull out your smartphone, unlock it, find an app and type your reminder. Senstone is instantaneous and easy, so you can quickly and easily capture all your ideas and reminders before they vanish into the ether.

(Note that the hardware, functionality, appearance, operation and software options on the unit I’m using will change before the product ships in July, according to the company. So my description is based on what’s promised, not on what I tested.)

The Senstone comes with a charging dock, which plugs into an outlet or laptop via USB. The unit will run for at least five days of mostly standby, or three hours of recording, whichever comes first.

The length of recordings is limited, but it’s not exactly clear how limited. Co-founder and Chief Product Officer Markiyan Matsekh told me “the speech-to-text functionality has limitations,” so it’s possible to record something that’s too long to process. Also: When you’re not connected to the phone, the Senstone can hold a maximum of about 2.5 hours of recording.

The software is potentially powerful. Voice recognition uses Nuance technology and is supported in English, Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Polish, Russian, Spanish and Ukrainian languages.

You can even say “hashtag” before the keyword of your choice while recording, then later search according to your hashtags. For example, you can say “hashtag followup,” then later view all of your follow-up items by searching the app for “followup.” The app will optionally capture your location, so you can view the notes captured while at work, for example. You also can download the recordings.

In the cloud, A.I. identifies keywords and takes action on your text. For example, it can identify and make a shopping list, or send a note to someone in your contacts.

Senstone promises additional third-party integrations. These would enable notes to automatically appear in your favorite note-taking service or to post on social sites, such as Twitter. (I asked Matsekh whether Google Keep would be supported, and he said, “maybe.”)

A paid premium app subscription will give you additional features, such as automated punctuation, noise analysis for better recognition and additional cloud storage. The amounts of storage for free and paid subscription have not been decided, but Matsekh said they’re currently thinking that the free version gives you 50 hours of recordings per month. . The Kickstarter page suggests a mood detection feature that “gives you insights about yourself and your daily life.”

I’m abstaining from recommending Senstone until I’ve tried the final version. So far, so good, but there are two potential problems.

The first is the lights. Too many startups make the mistake of putting bright or flashing lights on their products. I assume they want their product to look active and be noticed. It’s a fatal error.

When the Senstone is in record mode, the lights go nuts and flash fast and furious. This is good, because it informs the user and alerts people nearby that something is going on. I like the record-indicator lights.

But in normal mode, the beta version has a light that flashes once every two seconds to indicate that it’s connected to your smartphone. That’s a deal breaker.

Flashing lights on one’s person is not acceptable in polite society, let alone business settings. Worse, it may be misunderstood by others to mean that it’s actively recording, creating needless anxiety and suspicion. Senstone advertises the appealing use case of placing the device next to your bed while sleeping, in case you get a brilliant idea in the middle of the night. But that would mean your room lights up every two seconds, which is unhealthy and unacceptable.

Matsekh told me “the lighting scheme will likely change” and that they haven’t decided on how the final product will blink and under what circumstances. If the light blinks during normal use, I will not recommend this product.

The second potential “gotcha” is price. Senstone will cost $145. The prices for future optional accessories, such as fancy or rugged bracelets, have not been set. The monthly or annual fee for advanced cloud features has also not been decided, according to Matsekh. It could theoretically cost a few hundred dollars to use a full-featured Senstone for, say, three years. If the price were $99 and all bonus features included, Senstone would be a slam-dunk. But current plans may price Senstone out of the market.

I’m cautiously excited about the Senstone in particular, and unabashedly excited about the future of instant, A.I.-enhanced note-taking, which I expect will show up on every kind of wearable device some day.

The A.I. that takes meeting notes for you

Another enticing glimpse at the future of A.I.-augmented note-taking is a service called Clarke.

The service dials into your conference calls and takes notes for you.

After signing up, simply CC Clarke’s email address.

Clarke uses the information in the meeting invite to dial into the call, record the meeting, then use A.I. to format the conversation into organized notes, which are emailed to you as an attachment or added into systems like Basecamp, Salesforce, Slack, Trello and others.

CEO and Co-founder Shishir Bankapur told me that Clarke’s A.I. was developed in-house, and that the A.I. itself does all or nearly all of the actual listening, transcribing and formatting. Humans perform quality assurance, he said, to “validate the notes rather than generate them.”

Clarke understands a few commands, too, so you can make specific requests during meetings. The trigger word is “Clarke,” and this can be followed by “remind me to,” “note this down,” “schedule followup,” “reschedule,” “send” and “find out.”

You can also send instructions to Clarke via email, asking for additional information on specific parts of a meeting, for the distribution of notes to additional people, to add users and get information about your account and billing.

Best of all, the A.I. can label and list next steps, to-do items and other note-taking conventions, according to the company.

Clarke works with regular phones, as well as Skype for Business, but not regular Skype.

The service works only with the English language and U.S. and Canadian phone numbers.

The company’s customers include SAP, Deloitte, AT&T, the Department of Defense and Tinder, according to Bankapur.

The company says all user data, including notes, are stored in physically secure locations and encrypted. It also says that technicians “may go over your notes to make sure Clarke.ai is learning and improving,” but that these “employees, contractors and agents… are subjected to strict confidentiality obligations and may be disciplined or terminated if they fail to meet these standards.” The company also gives customers the option to remove all data from its servers.

Clarke costs $15 per month for up to five hours of calls, plus $10 for each additional 5 hours. You can try it free for a week.

A future where note-taking is automatic

Senstone and Clarke may be great products worth paying for. More importantly, they represent the beginning of something great, namely the end of note-taking and the beginning of better notes.

Thanks to voice recognition and A.I., we’re heading for a world in which random thoughts, ideas and tasks can be captured the instant we think of them, and information-dense encounters such as meetings will involve actionable data captured without any human effort.

It’s a prospect that’s beyond exciting. It’s noteworthy!

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Gigabyte's AM4 Flagship: The Aorus GA-AX370-Gaming K7 Motherboard

In preparation for Ryzen’s impending launch, OEMs have placed several AM4 motherboards up for pre-order. We now get a look at Gigabyte’s Aorus GA-AX370-Gaming K7 AM4 flagship, but you may not be able to pre-order it in your area.

They “neatest” feature of the Aorus AX370-Gaming K7 is its use of interchangeable RGB LED overlays that give additional customization options. The board also has RGB LEDs located around the RAM slots, PCI-E slots, audio hardware, and heatsinks. If you feel the need for more RGB LED lights, there are also two light strip headers on board.

As a flagship motherboard, AX370-Gaming K7 also boasts the best overclocking features out of Gigabyte’s AM4 product line up. It has numerous power phases covered by large heatsinks, and it supports two BIOS chips to ease recovery from a bad overclock. Gigabyte also equipped its Aorus GA-AX370-Gaming K7 with a third-party clock generator. Although most people will prefer to OC by raising the CPU multiplier, the added clock generator will make BCLK overclocking easier and more stable.

Gigabyte opted to use a unique audio configuration that consists of two Realtek ALC1220 audio codecs. One codec is devoted to the front audio ports, whereas the other one is used for the rear audio jacks. These codecs are also equipped with AMPs, relatively high-end capacitors, and various types of protection against EMI. Gigabyte also licensed Creative’s Sound Blaster X-Fi MB5 software to further enhance the performance of these chips.

The Aorus GA-AX370-Gaming K7 has a total of four USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports. Two USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A ports are connected to the X370 chipset, while a third is powered by an ASMedia controller. The ASMedia controller also supports a USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port located on the rear I/O panel.

For storage connections, Gigabyte offers a total of eight SATA-III ports, an M.2 Key M slot, and a U.2 connector. The board also has two SATA-Express connectors, but these will almost certainly go unused, as virtually no SATA-Express devices exist.

There is currently no word on pricing or availability for the Aorus GA-AX370-Gaming K7 in the United States. It’s available for pre-order in Canada for $219.99 CAD on Newegg, however, and if it’s priced comparably stateside, it should be around $168 USD when it is released.

Gigabyte Aorus GA-AX370-Gaming K7
Chipset X370
Memory Support 4 x DDR4-3200MHz
Onboard Graphics HDMI1.4
Audio 2 x Realtek ALC1220
Sound Blaster X-Fi MB5
LAN Intel Gigabyte
Killer E2500
Storage M.2 Key M
U.2
2 x Sata Express
8 x Sata-III
USB USB 3.1 Gen.2 Type-C
3 x USB 3.1 Gen.2-Type-A
7 x USB 3.1 Gen.1 Type-A
4 x USB 2.0

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Get Ready For 'Mass Effect: Andromeda' With The PC Requirements

A day after Bioware showed off more gameplay from Mass Effect: Andromeda, EA published the hardware requirements for the game.

In terms of storage, you’ll need about 55GB, which is par for the course in terms of today’s AAA games. Graphics-wise, you’ll need an Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 or an AMD Radeon HD 7850 to meet the minimum requirements. For memory, you’ll need a minimum of 8GB. Check out the rest of the specs below.

Mass Effect: Andromeda Minimum Recommended
CPU
  • Intel Core i5-3570 (Ivy Bridge, 3.4GHz)
  • AMD FX-6350 (Vishera, 3.9GHz)
  • Intel Core i7-4790 (Haswell, 3.6GHz)
  • AMD FX-8350 (Vishera, 4.0GHz)
GPU
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 660
  • AMD Radeon HD 7850
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060
  • AMD Radeon RX 480
RAM 8GB 16GB
Storage 55GB 55GB
OS Windows 7, 8.1, 10 (64-bit) Windows 7, 8.1, 10 (64-bit)
DirectX Version 11 11

If you’re curious on where your CPU or GPU stands against the two categories, you can take a look at our hierarchy charts for processors and graphics cards. In the meantime, you can watch some recent gameplay footage, which showed off combat and skills, or play through the original trilogy to reacquaint yourself with the universe.

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Ignore That Fishy Email From Razer

Consider this a PSA: Razer issued a press release warning that it’s been the victim of scammers, and malicious emails that purport to be from the are circulating. Specifically, it targets streamers, purporting to offer a free sponsorship.

The warning reads in part:

A fake email offering a free streamer sponsorship from Razer hit the Internet last week. This email is a scam and recipients should not click on any of the links within the email as it will launch a malware application.

Razer noted some clues that the email you received is a fake (stop us if this is all obvious):

  • The email is from a Gmail account, not a Razer address
  • The email address has a misspelling: “Razorzonesponsorship”
  • The body of the email is rife with grammar and spelling errors

Razer further stated it “does not send out sponsorship deals via email. Interested streamers are encouraged to sign up at Razer’s bona fide site.” The company did not suggest any particular recourse for affected users, but if you clicked the links in the email, you probably have malware now. You should scan your system with your malware detector of choice.

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