If Game Of Thrones Houses Were Tech Companies Or Something

We get it, HBO’s Game of Thrones ended with a distinct dragon-lady-bad note. Ham-fisted symbolism and rationalizing plot points that don’t make sense aside, we still have undying admiration for the world-building of George RR Martin. Straight up, we love the world of Westeros and with our love of technology and an editor’s deadline looming, we thought this was a great idea. 

So in recognition of the world of Westeros and the larger Planetos* (*NOT the last few seasons of the show, geezuskrist) and in preparation for next year’s release of Winds of Winter (yeah, right) we’d like to share this stupid ongoing-nerd-tastic-debate in our office break room.

So we give you: If Game of Thrones houses were tech companies, the Game of Tech Thrones

Microsoft – House Lannister

House words: Hear me roar 

House motto: A Lannister always pays his debts (except when they don’t)

House sigil: Golden lion on a field of crimson

Good or bad, Microsoft is big enough and rich enough to attack any endeavor the tech-world throws at it. Just like Lan the Clever somehow finagle Casterly Rock, Bill Gates somehow finagled an operating system from Xerox (just like Steve Jobs) and has been enjoying sitting on the gold mine that is the most dominant consumer operating system in the world. They also have a AAA bond rating, just to round this metaphor out here. 

Twitter – House Stark 

House words: Winter is coming

House motto: Kings of the Norf!

House sigil: A running grey direwolf on an ice-white field

For anyone or entity with Twitter, it’s only a matter of time till something or some tweet sets off an onslaught of harsh attacks onto your account. It’s known as the catch Twitter2. You have to have a Twitter account, but you’ll inevitably get embroiled in a Twitter-avalanche burying you in metaphorical snow. Winter is always coming for you twitterers, it’s not a warning, it’s a battle cry. Be like the Starks and the dumpster fire of Twitter and just embrace the cold. 

Google – House Martell 

House words: Unbowed, unbent, unbroken

House mottos: It’s always sunny in sunspear

House sigil: A gold spear piercing a red sun on an orange field

While other houses were forced under Targaryan rule, house Martell joined through marriage. Google could have just stuck to search ads and still be one of the richest companies in the world, but like the Dornish they chose to participate in the Game of Tech Thrones. And also like the Dornish, they have a master plan that is somewhat convoluted and the execution is questionable. You have Quintyn in Essos who may or may not be dragon BBQ (#QuintynLives), the Brave Companions in Westeros who may or may not be double agents for/against the Lannisters, and Oberon who may or may not have an open casket (probably not). We’re sure Google and the Dornish have a master plan cooking, sometimes it’s just hard to see what the hell it is. 

Apple – Targaryens 

House words: Fire and Blood

House motto: The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire

House sigil: A three-headed red dragon breathing flames on a black field

Once the mighty rulers of Westeros (the consumer tech industry), the Targarians (Apple) were unseated from their throne and banished across the narrow sea. But just as they once rose to power with fire and blood on the backs of their 3 dragons (stealing Xerox’s UI, superior marketing, and Steve Jobs), they have returned to prominence with a vengeance with 3 new dragons (services revenue, Apple Silicon, & the ghost of Steve Jobs).

Mozilla/Firefox – House Tully 

House words: Family, duty, honor

House motto: A river runs through it

House sigil: A leaping silver trout on a field of blue and mud red

Mozilla, it could be argued (look, I’m doing so right now), is perhaps the only major web player that isn’t explicitly trying to wring its users for every cent and usable/sellable datapoint. From its open-sourced beginnings to its non-profit Mozilla organization, like house Tully, Firefox hasn’t lost sight of some of the high-minded foundations of the internet. And while we have nothing but admiration for them for that, we don’t see house Tully or Firefox as the likely winner of the Game of Tech Thrones.   

Facebook/Instagram/WhatsApp – House Tyrell 

House words: Growing strong

House motto: Green is the new black

House sigil: A golden rose, on a green field

Just like the rich farmlands of Reach is for Westeros, Facebook is the breadbasket for advertisers. Sure Google has the search ads on lock, but if you’re looking for juicy intrusive data points to sculpt ads around, Facebook is the place. With the #1 and #2 social network, it’s hard to match the bounty of unscrupulous data collection from the Zuckster and co. The Reach feeds people’s bellies, Facebook feeds people’s neuroticism – both needs we all have. 

Amazon/Twitch – Greyjoy 

House words: We do not sow

House motto: Wet hair, don’t care 

House sigil: A golden Kraken on a black field

Money, please!!!!!!?!! Combine where you spend all your money with where you watch all your videos with where you give subs to streamers for being good or cute at begging – and you have the odd marriage of Amazon and Twitch. From Amazon’s monopolistic and tax-avoiding tactics to the sick sad world of Twitch-simping, they do not sow but they sure as heck do reap. 

YouTube – House Baratheon

House words: Ours is the fury


House sigil: A black-crowned stag on a gold field

Visit the comment section of a YouTube video on a controversial topic (or non-controversial topic) and witness the fury. Basic things like whether the earth is flat or a sphere become comment shitstorms of epic proportions. If you ever need to get riled up, go to the news section on YouTube and read the comments for 20 minutes. By the end of that, you’ll be so amped up and angry at the stupidity of people you’ll be ready to swim all the way to Sothoryos just to get away from them.

Netflix – House Arryn

House words: Higher than honor

House motto: I can fly twice as high

House sigil: A sky-blue falcon soaring against a white moon on a sky-blue field

Sure, this works – they both sit atop mountains looking down on everyone else. With house Arryn it’s a literal mountain, with Netflix it’s a metaphorical mountain made up of money and development deals that come out of vending machines. At this point, if you’re still reading, we’ve underestimated your attention span and willingness to read these specious parallels. Let’s face it, you’re just a nerd who is into consumer tech and loves the creative world of George RR Martin. That’s cool because we are too! 

3 Smart Clothes & E-Textiles That Improve Your Look & Life

Our clothes are getting smarter and are increasingly helping to improve our lives. It’s a small but growing area of the wearable market. Garments can leverage technology to enhance the wearer’s experience across a range of scenarios.

However, for many people, smart clothes and e-textiles may be completely new. That’s why we are here to break down this bold new technology and highlight some of the core benefits of smart clothes.

Climate Comfort Clothes

Perhaps the core function of any garment is to provide a layer of protection against the environment. Whether it’s keeping dry during rain, keeping us warm in the cold, or clothes that forgo sleeves and legs during the summer. Wearable tech is moving clothes into a new era where they can have a more direct impact on temperature and climate control.

One example is air-conditioned clothes, which are really garments that have fans built-in. I have previously written about these smart clothes and truthfully, I am largely unimpressed. Simply put, cooling clothes will make you look decidedly uncool because they are bulky and have fans hanging off them.

That said, there’s no doubt air-conditioned garments can play an important role in industries such as construction. There are already signs of improvement, with consumer-focused air-conditioned clothes becoming more fashion-conscious. Wait a few years and I expect the integration of fans will be seamless enough to wear these clothes without looking strange.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of climate comfort within the wearable market is a more subtle implementation of technology. Specifically, the pursuit of improved moisture-wicking and waterproofing.

Tech Integration

Building subtle tech tools into clothes is easier than adding large components like fans. That’s why the tech integration area of smart clothing is becoming extremely exciting. Garments can charge devices on the move, provide NFC and Bluetooth, and offer connectivity to apps and services.

Google’s Project Jacquard is arguably the leader in this area, driven by the Levi Commuter Trucker Jacket. Including gesture and touch areas on the sleeve, this denim jacket allows users to tap into numerous services, such as maps and music. Furthermore, you can take and dismiss calls with simple taps, swipes, and gestures.

Yes, this is an extension of what your smartwatch can do so you may only need one, a watch, or a jacket. It will be interesting in the coming years to see how tech companies differentiate smart clothes from smartwatches, allowing customers to have both and for both to be functional in their own ways.

Body Data

The fitness market has exploded with the popularity of smartwatches and fitness trackers. However, the concept behind these devices maybe even better if it’s directly integrated and woven into our clothes.

Tech companies agree and an increasing number of garments are available that bring fitness tracking to your clothes. What functions are available depends on the product, but below are some of my favorites:

Nadi X Yoga Pants: Much more than a fitness tracker, the Nadi X will actively help you during yoga sessions. Leveraging built-in haptic vibrations, the pants put slight pressure on hips, ankles, and knees to encourage you to move and hold positions.

Ambiotex Smart Shirt: Ambiotex takes basic fitness tracking to the next level by developing a smart shirt that is truly for those who spend a lot of time in the gym. It provides real-time feedback on heart rate variability, your anaerobic threshold, and stress.

Looking Ahead

Smart clothes are becoming more common and this allows tech companies to expand the capabilities of garments. Again, it will be interesting to see how developers differentiate the functions from products that already deliver similar features.

Perhaps the most exciting thing about smart clothes and e-textiles is that the market is still new. In fact, it is nowhere near mainstream, allowing developers to hone their products. In the coming years, expect vast improvements in what smart clothes can do and what they look like.


AR/VR Project T288 & Why It Will Shape Apple the Next Decade

Virtual reality and augmented reality is a technology that truly has the potential to change our lives across a range of scenarios. It can be transformative in how we consume media, but also in how we conduct day-to-day tasks in the workplace and at home. Because of this potential, Apple’s absence from the VR market is puzzling.

Major tech rivals like Microsoft, Sony, Samsung, Google, and others are already in full swing behind their own VR/AR hardware and software. So, where is Apple, the great innovator of the tech world? Well, I will get to that because the idea of Apple as an innovator is not necessarily true. But first, why has Apple been so silent in the world of virtual reality and why is 2021 set to be a breakthrough year for the company?

Apple Has Been Missing From the VR Realm

On the surface and certainly in terms of consumer products, Apple has been conspicuous by its absence as other companies have taken the lead in VR. However, those that say Apple has done nothing in for the development of VR and AR technologies are incorrect.

Sure, the company has not produced a VR headset or even a platform for the tech. However, behind the scenes, Apple has been working furiously on the development of its virtual reality products and services. In fact, the company is arguably more advanced than some rivals who are already on the market.

We will have to wait to see if the company’s all-in approach to research and development will translate to market-busting hardware and software. The signs, or more accurately the rumors, are good. Apple is said to be operating a covert research unit behind closed doors with the sole purpose of creating VR products and platforms.

Known as Project T288, the research unit has hundreds of employees working on both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality projects. After years of operating behind the scenes, Project T288 is ready to break into the mainstream. Reports suggest Apple is targeting 2021 as the year it makes its entrance into the mixed reality market.

Before continuing, it’s probably better to describe the fundamental difference between virtual reality and augmented reality:

  • Virtual Reality (VR): Devices and content for VR place the user/player within a completely virtual world. All visual and audio information is digital and virtual.
  • Augmented Reality (AR): With AR technology, you can see virtual elements blended with a real-world environment.

Apple As An Innovator

For fans of Apple, the company readying itself for a push in the mixed reality space is excellent news. Indeed, the idea of Apple arriving late to a party but becoming the star guest is not uncommon. One of the misconceptions about the Cupertino company is that it is a great innovator in the hardware space.

Let’s be clear, over its 45-year history Apple has innovated as much as any other tech giant. However, the concept of Apple as a hardware inventor is not accurate. Instead, what Apple has been amazing at doing is taking a nascent hardware idea, refining it, finding ways to make it usable, and selling it in a package that drives the masses to frenzy.

The iPod was not the first MP3 player, but it became the most famous digital music player ever. The iPhone was not the first smartphone, but it shaped our understanding of the hardware and defined the movement. The iPad was not the first tablet but it showed how a touch screen device could replace a laptop for casual users.

So, when Apple enters the VR/AR space, it won’t be as an inventor. Instead, I fully expect the company to deliver products that help to define how VR and AR will be for the next decade. I expect a game-changing group of products and platforms. I expect Apple to show the true potential of this technology in a way no other company has.

That is what Apple is really special at doing.


So, what are the products Apple will reportedly release? Notable leaker Jon Prosser says Project T288 will release a set of augmented reality glasses, known as “Apple Glass.”

Apple Glass will be the company’s entry into the AR realm. Reportedly costing $499, the AR headset is said to be extremely ergonomic and look like regular glasses. This may be a major breakthrough, allowing wearable AR to blend in with regular fashion choices. Importantly, Apple Glass will also be available in a variant for prescriptions.

Prosser suggests Apple Glass will look like Ray Ban’s ever-popular Wayfarer sunglasses. Apple is said to be working with touch, voice, and head gestures to control the product.

Considering Apple’s history for turning general consumers onto a new tech idea, it’s exciting to see what the company develops in the AR space.

Air-Conditioned Jackets & Clothes: Keep Cool & Look Cool?

Air-conditioned jackets are a thing. Yes, if you want a coat with a couple of fans and vents built-in, there is a market for that. Clothes that make you cool, that’s interesting. Although, in this article, we will tell you why the average person should run a mile from these air-conditioned garments. Here’s a spoiler… they make you really uncool!

Sci-fi has told us that the future brings clothes that are multi-functional. Whether it’s Marty McFly’s insta-dry jacket in Back to the Future: Part II or Tom Cruise wearing gloves that allow him to climb the world’s tallest building in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Movies have been telling us for years our clothes will eventually become much more useful.

As wearables increasingly influence our day-to-day lives, we are constantly exploring a human/tech integrated experience. At the moment, most consumers associate wearables with smartwatches and fitness bands. However, the nascent market is exploding with products, including embedded implants and yes, smart clothing.

The question is, how smart do you really want your clothing to be, and would you sacrifice fashion to get it?

And that leads to air-conditioned clothes, a sector of the wearable market that is finding traction in recent years. On the surface, the idea of an air-cooled item of clothing is nice, but in practice, it is a failed concept, at least if you care about looking cool and not just feeling cool.

Not the Real Deal

Perhaps the most important thing to know about air-conditioned clothing is that the term itself is a marketing tool. Real air-conditioned clothes do not exist, at least not yet. Without turning this into a technical article, an air conditioner works by taking warm inside air, circulates it, and moves it through a refrigeration process, and blows it back out cool.

No item of clothing has this technology unless you want to carry around a bottle of air conditioner coolant with you. Instead, air-conditioned clothing items simply have fans built into them, allowing the outside air to blow onto your body under the garment.

On paper that sounds nice, some nice air blasting on your back. However, there’s a couple of things about air-conditioned jackets that don’t make sense:

1)      The first problem is the jacket itself. Most people if they find they are too hot in their jacket will simply take it off. Ok, I get it, there may be some scenarios where this is not possible. When it is raining would be an example, but…

2)      … Fans as a cooling system only work to a certain degree. Have you ever been to an extremely hot place and put a fan on yourself? Sure, it helps but what the fan does is essential blows that hot air into your face. It works more by the air drying your sweat more than cooling your core temperature.



Making a Fashion Blunder

While I can nitpick the true technology behind the air-conditioned jackets currently available, there is a bigger problem. Specifically, cooling wearables look decidedly uncool. There is not a single jacket available that one could say looks properly cool, a true fashion statement. Instead, they are all functional at best and outright embarrassing at worst.

Jackets have large fans hanging off them and in many cases, the manufacturer has done little to make the garment look elegant. Hey, if you like to look ridiculous when you walk down the street on your next beach vacation, go for it. Or just take your jacket off!



So, Who Are These Jackets For?

That’s the real question. Its clear manufacturers are developing air-cooling wearables because they see a market for it. What is that market?

Well, it is certainly not normal consumers because of the reasons noted above. Instead, air-conditioned jackets are an option across industries. For workers who operate in situations where clothing is necessary, but there is no air-conditioning. Construction is a prime example of an industry where air cooling clothes may become a functional tool.

And that’s why so many current air-conditioned clothes are designed with construction and other similar trades in mind. Yes, there are some changes happening and garments are starting to look better, but in the meantime, air-conditioned jackets will remain a niche product for a specific type of wearer. 

Fitness Trackers: Fitness Junkie Wearable or As Seen on TV Junk?

During the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, many millions of people have seen their bank accounts shrink and their waistlines grow. Isn’t it surprising how being stuck at home almost always results in eating more? You are probably now setting yourself some fitness goals and are looking at a cool new fitness tracker to help you shed the pounds and put the junk food behind you.

Speaking of junk, I cannot escape this nagging feeling that fitness trackers really are not very good! I know, that’s a controversial opinion considering how popular these little wearable devices are. In fact, I am still not sure of my thoughts because, like many people, I have become attached to my fitness tracker.

I have fallen into the trap of believing without my tracker, my whole exercise and diet regimen will fall apart. However, when I stop to think about it, I realize that’s nonsense. Trying to sort through my own confusion on fitness trackers, I have decided to take a close look to see if they are helpful or just pointless.

What Do Fitness Trackers Do?

As the name suggests, a fitness tracker will, well, track your fitness. Across a range of metrics, the wearable sits on your wrist and charts your exercise based on your customized goals. Trackers leverage GPS to understand distances you are walking, running, or swimming, and at what speeds. They can also track static workouts, such as yoga and weightlifting.

With the tracking data, the wearable passes the information to an accompanying smartphone application where you can see calorie counters, health data like heart rate and stress levels, and see maps of your workouts. Furthermore, a fitness tracker will usually allow you to monitor your sleep patterns.

So, Do They Really Do All That?

Those features sound amazing, and yes, fitness trackers do all those things… to varying degrees of success. Let’s take GPS, something that is lacking in most standard fitness trackers. This means to track your runs or walks; your fitness tracker needs to be tethered to your phone through Bluetooth so it can mooch off your handset’s GPS.

The good news is, when working through your phone to track workouts, fitness trackers are solid at accurately charting your distances, speed, and in many cases automatically knowing what activity you were doing.

Then there’s the sleep tracking, something that is so wildly inaccurate that when someone says they use this feature effectively, I think they must be lying.

Who Are Fitness Trackers For?

Tech companies would have you believe they are for everyone, but the reality is they may be for no-one. Think of it like this, if you are trying to shed a few pounds or get into shape before that party next month, what does tracking your fitness actually achieve? One of the most interesting things about fitness trackers is people start to believe the device is playing an active role in their fitness successes.

That’s just not true. You don’t need a fitness tracker to get fit… how did people 10 years ago manage?

Maybe there is an argument that fitness trackers are for the mega-fit, the athletes of the world. Again, that does not work because the general accuracy of cheap fitness trackers is not enough for athletes. These are people who need to monitor themselves on a granular level that fitness trackers cannot provide.

Could I Just Use My Phone?

Yes, you could. And that’s one of the reasons why fitness trackers are pointless. Everything your fitness tracker does, your phone will also do, including tracking workouts, sleep, weight loss, etc. When you consider you also need to connect a wearable to your phone, it seems the fitness tracker is adding an unnecessary link in the chain.

Smartwatch vs. Fitness Tracker

Smartwatch devices are different. Firstly, they do a lot more besides fitness tracking such as allow you to have quick access to your phone without needing to remove it from a pocket or bag. Secondly, many of the best smartwatches are available with GPS built-in. Yes, that means when you head out for a workout, you can leave your phone at home. Only a few fitness trackers have this ability.

Should I Avoid Buying A Fitness Tracker?

I want to lay it on the line… I think fitness trackers are pointless. At the same time, I can still understand why people buy them. There are two clear reasons I see that you could use for getting a fitness tracker:

  • They are affordable, mostly work, and sometimes it’s nice to have some cool tech.
  • For the under-motivated, having something tracking you and visible on your wrist could get you off the couch and into the gym.

Still, my advice would be to avoid fitness trackers. They are not junk, but they are also not worthwhile devices. If you like wearables and want to track your fitness, buy a smartwatch instead.


Dual-Screen Phones: Evolution or Destined for the Junk Pile?

Something is happening in the world of mobile phones. You can choose to dismiss it, or you can see it as a bold new era, but you cannot ignore it. We are entering the generation of the dual-screen smartphone, which is driving a major change in the way in which we view and use mobile devices.

In fact, dual-screen and folding phones are pushing mobile technology through its biggest evolution since dumb feature phones became smart over a decade ago. In this article, I am going to explain why dual-screen phones are the future of the smartphone world, but why those who say the tech is “right here and right now” are wrong.  

Yes, dual-screen tech is the change the mobile market needed, but now is not the time to buy into the revolution!

What Is a Dual-Screen Phone?

As the name suggests, any device that has two screens is essentially a dual-screen phone. Perhaps the best current example of a true twin-display smartphone is Microsoft’s new Surface Duo. It is designed to look like a book, with a completely bare outer shell and two separate screens inside.

However, there are also some variations on the dual-screen theme. Folding phones are also classed as dual-screen, despite a handset like the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip or the Motorola Razr 5G only having a single display. These devices use folding screen tech to deliver a twin-display experience, even if there is only one panel.

Then there is the Samsung Galaxy Fold 2, a smartphone that is something different. It too has a folding screen, allowing it to be used like a single display tablet or a dual-screen unit. It also has a screen on the outer shell. Does that make it a three-display smartphone? I am not sure, but Samsung classes it as a dual-screen device.

What are the Best Features of Dual-Screen Phones?

Here’s where it gets a little tricky. All the dual-screen smartphones look fantastic, with the Surface Duo and Galaxy Fold 2 especially standing out. However, when we scratch below the surface of these devices, there is a clear problem. Specifically, many of the benefits of what dual-screen tech can bring are not mature enough yet.

Because of their very nature, dual-screen phones provide a boost in productivity. For example, you can sit a device in a laptop-like position and use one display for the content and the other as a keyboard. Multi-tasking is the biggest change dual-screens promise, allowing you to have multiple apps and connected services open.

Sounds good, right? Well, all that is on paper because in many instances the app ecosystem has not caught up to the idea of dual screens. Until apps optimize, the multitasking and productivity promised by these products remain niche.

That means the best features on dual-screen phones remain the screen quality, camera, and UI. Yes, the very same features you would look for on a regular smartphone. And here’s the uncomfortable truth, standard smartphone flagships from Apple, Samsung, Google, and others, still deliver better displays, better cameras, and better overall experiences.

What Are the Price Points of Dual-Screen Phones? 

Dual-screen phones represent a juxtaposition in the smartphone market. They are bleeding edge technology from a hardware perspective, so their price reflects that. However, they are also simply not as good all-round products as a standard smartphone flagship. As such, the price point of dual and folding screen devices is hard to take.

For example, Microsoft’s Surface Duo costs $1,399, more than flagships from Apple, Samsung, Sony, LG, Huawei, or any other brand. Yes, the Duo is a sumptuous piece of design, but it is also in some respects a failure. Certainly, it has a “first-generation product” written all over it. Whether it’s the frankly embarrassing camera or the shaky software and gesture controls, the Surface Duo needs more years to become a refined experience.

And then there’s the Samsung Galaxy Fold 2, a device that has had the benefit of a first-gen attempt and looks better for it. This second iteration is a good smartphone with plenty of quality. However, I would say its hinge technology still looks ugly and the crease in the screen is still too distracting. Oh yes, the Galaxy Fold 2 costs around $2,000!

Spoiler alert: it is not worth it.

How Do Dual-Screen Phones Compare to Traditional Smartphones? 

Not very well is the real answer. There is not a single dual-screen or folding phone that is “better” than a standard flagship. Samsung’s Galaxy Fold 2 is perhaps the closest, but it is not even near the quality, usability, and design of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

Microsoft would have you believe its Surface brand is a rival to Apple, and in the PC realm, it probably is. However, the admittedly stunning Surface Duo is a lame competitor next to the iPhone 12.

What I ask myself when reviewing any dual-screen smartphone is how would the product hold up if it only had a single screen? The answer is whether it’s the Galaxy Fold 2, Galaxy Z Flip, Motorola Razr, or the Surface Duo, all these handsets would be firmly in the mid-range if they have a single display. Yet, as consumers, we must pay above flagship costs for them!

If you want to be on the curve of bleeding edge, that’s the compromise you need to make. For the average consumer, it is not worth it.

So, We Should Ignore Dual-Screen Phones?

This is where I am going to send some mixed messages. You probably should ignore dual-screen phones, at least for the time being. However, that does not mean this form factor or type of phone is going away. In fact, it is the future.

But that’s part of the problem, it is not worth paying thousands of dollars for the future. You want a device that works seamlessly now and not one that promises to be good in 2023. Of course, there are some people who love to have the latest and greatest. Fine, but most consumers want a smartphone that looks good, works, and without compromises. At the moment, dual-screen handsets are full of compromises.

This form factor is not ready to take over the smartphone world just yet, so wait two or three years for improvements across software, hardware, and price before buying. 


The Best Laptops That Ship with Linux

There are billions of PCs in the world but strangely there are only a few major operating systems powering them. Of course, there’s the dominant shadow of Microsoft’s Windows, followed by Apple’s MacOS, and then Google’s upstart Chrome OS. However, there is also Linux, the open-source computing platform.

Laptop manufacturers are increasingly waking up to the growing demand amongst users for a Linux OS. More companies are launching Linux laptops each year, signaling a major shift in how the platform is used.

In this article, we’ll recommend some of the best Linux laptops currently available.

A Changing Landscape

For years, Linux viewed as a platform for the PC expert. Microsoft did an excellent job at waging war on Linux and the open-source concept in general, selling users on the fact Linux was hard to use and insecure.

In terms of hard to use, Microsoft’s attacks were partly true. Thanks to the complexity of its structure, there was a time when Linux was an OS for the enthusiast. That is changing as more people are embracing the idea of open source and its benefits. Heck, even Microsoft is on board and has baked Linux into Windows 10.

So, it makes sense laptop manufacturers have woken up and more are building Linux machines. Even the giants like Lenovo, Dell, and HP are pre-installing Linux these days. Here are some of the best:

Dell XPS 13

If you read best-of lists for Windows laptops, the Dell XPS 13 always scores highly as one of the best Ultrabooks. Luckily, its quality also extends to the Linux variant, which runs the Ubuntu distro. There are several configuration options depending on how much performance you need. At the entry-level, the Dell XPS 13 comes with 8GB of RAM, but you can add up to 16GB if you need. In terms of screen, there is a 4K version available, but I think this is overkill (and expensive). If you want to conserve power and maintain excellent performance, the 1080p Full HD InfinityEdge is the best option.

Star Lite 11-Inch Mini Laptop

Star Labs Systems is leading the way in delivering laptops with Linux distributions on board. With the company Star Lite Mini, users can choose between Linux Mint or Ubuntu distros. This is a day-to-day laptop for personal use, featuring Intel’s Pentium N4200 quad-core CPU with a clock speed of 1.1GHz (turbo to 2.5GHz). Elsewhere, 8GB of RAM means you will chew through most types of everyday multitasking scenarios. For storage, the Star Lite has a 240GB SSD, rounding out what is a solid set of specifications. Yes, the screen is small, but the 11.6-inch 1080p display makes it ideal for people who are on the move.

System76 Serval WS

System76 is arguably the leader in the Linux laptop market, building several machines for the open-source platform. Leading the bunch is the Serval WS, which is perhaps the most powerful dedicated Linux laptop on the market. This is a workstation at heart, available in either 15-inch or 17-inch configurations (at either 4K or 1080p). Thanks to the power of this machine, this is a laptop I would advise pushing for the 4K option. Elsewhere, you can configure up to 64GB of RAM, up to 12TB of storage, and choose Nvidia GeForce RTX GPUs. It doesn’t look good and it is expensive, but the System76 Serval WS is ideal for the Linux users who need big performance.

Why Choose Linux?

You may be asking why you would choose a Linux laptop in the first place? After-all, Windows 10 is more available, has a wider choice of devices, and more resources. Apple has that gorgeous design and seamless software integration, while Google provides an affordable always-connected experience.

Of course, it is all subjective, but these days Linux is no longer the realm of the PC technician. It is now for everyone, and here are some of the reasons why it is a good alternative to Windows 10:

  •         Open source is more secure (I’ll let you come at me with this one, Windows fans)
  •         More granular software updates
  •         Unbelievable customization options
  •         Completely free to use
  •         Just about any program or service is available
  •         Hugely reliable
  •         Strong community support
  •         Privacy


Ring Security Drone: In-Home Security Threat or Peace of Mind?

Earlier this month, smart home giant Ring introduced a product called the Always Home Cam, one of those rare devices that instantly make you go wow! It is also something of a contradiction. On the one hand, it is an extremely cool piece of hardware that most tech fans will love. On the other hand, it is a definite WTF product if you stop to think about it.

If the Ring Always Home Cam has flown under your radar, here’s what you need to know. It is an autonomous “security” drone that functions in the interior of the home. It is designed to make automatic flying sweeps of the inside of your property to check for security holes and other potential risks. Importantly, the drone has a camera that users can tap into when they are away from their property.

And it’s this camera that presents the real problem with the Always Home Cam. Specifically, who in their right mind will want to put a camera in their home? Who in their right mind would want to put a camera that can fly around from room to room?

In a world where people are increasingly concerned about their privacy and how companies access personal data, the Always Home Cam seems to be a terrible idea. At best it is a misguided product from Ring, and at worst it is a nefarious attempt to gather information from customers.

For what it’s worth, Ring says there is no way for the drone to spy on people. According to the company, when the UAV lands in its dock, the camera is obscured. In other words, it will not be filming you when you sit on your sofa watching Netflix every night. Despite this promise, Ring is less forthcoming about what happens to the data the camera gathers when it is in flight.

Something interesting is happening with how consumers view drones. Many of the risks regarding privacy are largely forgotten. Amazon is continuing to push drone technology as a way to deliver goods, but Ring is bringing that same tech into the realm of home surveillance.

So, what does the Ring Always Home Cam mean?

Before continuing and ripping the Always Home Cam apart, I want to say it is both a mega-cool product and a feat of tech engineering. Ring admits it was hard to build because creating an autonomous vehicle to fly around the confines of a home and miss objects is not easy. So, on a technical level, the product is amazing.

However, in terms of what it brings to the home surveillance party, it is much more worrying. For a start, what does the Always Home Cam do that a regular security camera cannot? Sure, it flies from room to room when you’re out, but that seems more gimmicky than a genuinely useful tool. Why would someone breaking into a home be more worried about a drone than they would a standard camera? If the drone had guns or a giant net, maybe.

In fact, it may be much easier for a burglar to remove the Always Home Cam from the equation. It is much easier to simply swat it out of the air and destroy it. That small hidden boring security cam is looking better by the minute, right?

Ring also says the drone can navigate your home through the user pre-installing a map of the interior. That sounds good, and with lidar and probably a downward camera as well, the device should move around without bumping into things. However, what about if you leave that vacuum cleaner pole against the wall, or move furniture, or close a door? Ring has not explained what happens in these situations… does the user have to generate another map?

Here’s the thing about drone tech, and indeed any AI-driven robotic device. On the surface, all these products will look amazing. They dazzle us by taking something mundane and making it look cool. Ring’s Always Home Cam does that. However, with any of these technologies, it is always worth considering whether the product is more useful than what it wants to replace. Early impressions suggest the Always Home Cam simply won’t be and is probably doomed to fail.

Drones are interesting and will influence our changing lives in the coming years and decades. That said, I am still not sold on them ever becoming functional within a home. Where does it end? We now have a drone for interior security… will we also get one for heading to the kitchen to get a beer from the fridge? Perhaps one day our homes will be full of mini flying drones buzzing around making easy tasks more complicated than they need to be.

Sorry Ring, this is a cool idea and looks good, but cool is sometimes not enough.

AMD vs Nvidia Smackdown

AMD vs Nvidia. Just the thought of these chipmakers side-by-side can trigger battles and flame wars between PC gamers around the world. Here’s the deal… if you’re a proper hardcore gamer then you must pick a side. Do you like your gaming PCs to run a GPU from Nvidia or one from AMD? If you don’t have a preference, now is the time to get one.

When it comes time to build your gaming rig, you will be faced with this classic dilemma. Do you jump on board with Nvidia or do you cozy up to AMD? It’s worth noting which GPU you use won’t be your only concern when building a PC, but it will have a major influence on the quality of your gameplay performance.

So, with that in mind, which GPU should you be buying, one from Nvidia or one from AMD? In this article, we will aim to separate the two chip giants to find out which one is best. While you may assume these are both easily matched, here’s a quick spoiler: We have come up with a clear winner.

AMD vs Nvidia: The History

Both companies have been in battle for decades, dividing the PC gaming community on which is best. In terms of popularity, Nvidia is the clear winner and is roughly twice as rich as AMD in terms of market value. However, AMD has been around since the 1950s and has the pedigree of being amongst the first gaming-focused chipmakers through its now defunct ATI brand.

Remember, whereas Nvidia’s sole focus lies in the gaming realm (at least on the consumer side), AMD is an all-round chip manufacturer that also specializes in CPUs.

AMD vs Nvidia: How We Compare the Two

History lessons are nice, but what we really want to know is whether Nvidia or AMD is best for your gaming PC. We want a winner, so the only way to do it is to have a bona fide smackdown between the two GPU giants.

However, we also want to approach our analysis with the big picture in mind. There’s no point just discussing which is the more efficient, which provides more power, which is best for certain budgets, etc. Instead, we need to look at all those factors and more. The good news is, you will see a definitive look at Nvidia and AMD and how they compare with each other.

With all the housekeeping out of the way, let the battle commence.

Gaming Performance 

If you are building a gaming rig, it stands to reason your chief goal will probably be gaming performance. You don’t want to drop hundreds or thousands of dollars on a gaming machine only for it to not run your favorite games at a high framerate.

In recent years, as Nvidia has cemented its position as the dominant GPU manufacturer, the company has widened the gap in terms of performance. These days, Nvidia has a clear advantage over its rivals across most of its graphics cards. Yes, in the mid-range price bracket, AMD chips are more competitive, but still, Nvidia remains the leader in performance.

Nvidia will win in terms of performance across most GPU categories, games, and price points. AMD can keep pace in some areas, but mostly the company is playing catch up. This is even true in the budget end of the market, where AMD has traditionally been better. Winner: Nvidia

Power Consumption and Efficiency

GPU power efficiency is important for delivering smooth performance and over the years Nvidia has been the runaway leader. More recently, AMD has started to claw its way back into contention with its Navi line of cards. Built on a 7nm FinFET process and completely new architecture, Navi GPUs provide 50% more performance per watt.

This is a big step for AMD, but it is probably not enough. The company neglected efficiency so much that even closing the gap by 50% is not enough to surpass Nvidia. In fact, you can take an older Nvidia chip and compare it to a new Navi GPU and it will still be better than the newer rival.

Nvidia’s current generation Turing GPUs provide the best power efficiency on the market. This is especially true at both the budget and high-end levels. In the mid-range, AMDs work with Navi has paid off and the results are much closer. It’s worth remembering that Nvidia’s current-gen GPUs are still using older architecture, with the company moving to its Ampere line soon. When that happens, all bets are off. Winner: Nvidia

Underpinning Technology 

Features and technology are a strange beast. Companies will dazzle PC gamers with a bunch of tech jargon that make features sound indispensable. In most cases, these features are merely nice additions and should not be a defining factor why you buy one GPU over another. Never has this been truer than with ray tracing.

Ok, that’s not to say you should ignore and dismiss something like ray tracing. All you aficionados stop typing your comments, we are not saying ray tracing is unimportant! That said, ask yourself is it currently necessary to have ray tracing to get good gaming PC performance? The answer is no, even if it could become increasingly important in the coming years.

We mentioned ray tracing because this is currently the biggest feature difference between Nvidia and AMD. Elsewhere, both companies provide similar features, such as AMD Radeon Anti-Lag compared to Nvidia Ultra-low Latency Mode, AMD FreeSync against Nvidia G-Sync, and so on.

At the time of writing, Nvidia currently wins the feature shootout simply because it offers ray tracing and AMD does not. “At the time of writing” is an important caveat to add because the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are about to arrive with ray tracing supplied by an AMD GPU (Big Navi). AMD is soon to close this door, but not in time to influence this verdict. Winner: Nvidia, on a technicality


As Nvidia has soared to the top of the gaming PC market, AMD has been able to keep pace mostly on one clear metric… price. The company’s silicon is known for delivering value for money over its great rival. Sometimes, budget dictates the gaming rig you want to build, and AMDs prices are a potent equalizer.

The company allows you to get similar performance to Nvidia for less money. What’s not to like? While there may be some exceptions, AMD GPUs are more affordable than Nvidia products almost across the board, no matter what budget you have. Winner: AMD

AMD vs Nvidia: Conclusion and Winner

If you are building a gaming PC and have an open budget across all price points, Nvidia is the clear winner. The company delivers the most powerful, efficient, and feature-rich GPUs. Sure, AMD can entice you with lower prices, but even then, we would suggest stretching your finances a bit or finding a deal on a Nvidia product.

That’s not to say AMD builds terrible GPUs. That’s simply not the case. If you do opt for an AMD card, you can get stunning performance provided other areas of your rig are also up to scratch. Still, with Nvidia about to update its architecture, it seems the gap between the two companies will increase.

Overall Winner: Nvidia


Apple Watch Series 6: Cool AF or WTF?

Is the Apple Watch the hardest tech product in the world to review? The answer is yes, and with the Apple Watch Series 6, the difficulty is amplified because there has been no major leap forward. Instead, think of this as Apple Watch Series 5.1. With this new wearable, Apple takes its incremental approach to device upgrades to the extreme, and for some users, there’s no point buying the Apple Watch Series 6.

Before getting to the features we’re excited by and those that are a joke, let’s be clear on one thing. With the Series 6, there is no doubt that Apple remains at the top of the smartwatch/fitness wearable pile. Certainly, if you own an iPhone the watch is a stunning accessory that will expand your phone’s functionality to your wrist.

Still, how much longer can Apple keep getting away with upgrading devices on such a basic level? It has become laughable that the company can move through product generations while barely changing how the device looks.

Look at the upcoming iPhone 12, which seems like it will have mostly the same design language debuted on the iPhone X three years ago. No Apple product is a worse offender than the Watch. So, looking at the Apple Watch Series 6, here’s what’s new this year.

Design – WTF! But Cool AF

As noted, the Apple Watch Series 5 and Series 6 are all but identical. In fact, you could trace the design lineage of the new wearable right back to the first-ever Apple Watch from 2015. Sure, there have been refinements and size changes along the way, but the basic concept remains the same. So, in 2020, the Series 6 looks like last year’s model, which looked like the year before, and so on.

For many users, that may be ok. The smartwatch is again available in 40mm and 44mm variations, while materials available are titanium, stainless steel, and aluminum. Yes, Apple has ditched the ceramic model from a year ago.

What Apple is selling as the big design change is hilarious. According to the company, new color options equate to a newly designed product. It’s laughable that Apple is billing this as the all-new Watch based on some additional hues. As for those colors, they are PRODUCT RED and blue, and yes, they look nice.

Additionally, the Apple Watch, in the tradition of Apple, feels premium and looks sleek. But let’s not pretend this brand-new expensive tech product is rocking a revolutionary design.

Display – Cool AF!

Screen technology is an area where incremental upgrades can make a difference. Thanks to the ongoing development of display tech, the quality of the panel on the Apple Watch Series 6 is notable.

One of the most interesting aspects of the display is it is the same as the Series 5 in terms of hardware. That means we get the same 368 x 448 panel that remains the runaway leader in the wearable market. It’s crisp, clear, and responsive. It also gets the same 1000 nits brightness as last year’s model, making the Apple Watch still the best smartwatch for outdoor use.

What’s different here is an “always-on” mode. As the name suggests, this feature means the screen remains on if you want it to. It also provides 2.5 higher brightness despite producing the same nits. If you thought the previous generation Apple Watches were good in sunlight, wait until you get eyes on with the Series 6.

Performance and Battery – WTF!

Yeah, I get it, this is probably harsh. However, what Apple tries to do each year is dazzle us with numbers regarding device performance. In fairness, the company is not alone because this is a tiresome practice used by most tech companies.

You see, by telling customers something is X percent faster than before, people automatically think “cool, a faster device”. What companies don’t tell you is that these extra gains are mostly unnoticeable in day-to-day use. To see the better performance, you’ll need to benchmark the device. Who from the casual consumer-base cares about benchmarks? No-one, that’s who.

So, Apple’s promise of 20% better performance courtesy of the S5 processor on the Watch Series 6 is nice on paper, but meaningless in application.

Battery life remains a constant WTF! The Apple Watch Series 6 is rated for 18-hour battery life, which is just not good enough. People want to be able to wear their watch for more than half a day. Apple sweetens the deal by boosting charging times by 20%, meaning a full charge takes 1.5 hours. But come on, 18 hours… really?

This battery life is embarrassing in an era where rivals like Samsung are looking to boost battery life on their wearables to multiple days.


Health – WTF!

Do you know what is the biggest new feature Apple is pushing for the Watch Series 6? Take a minute to think about it, I’ll wait.

Did you get it? I thought not. That’s because it is an oxygen sensor. I have read reviews that say this is the star of the show. Really? With the new monitor, users can track their oxygen saturation (SpO2) on the Apple Watch. If you’re unfamiliar with SpO2, it is the percentage of oxygen that is carried through blood cells.

The closer to 100% the better, while the Series 6 will only measure between 70% and 100%. Honestly, if it is reading as going under 70%, you’re probably in trouble anyway.

Look, this is a cutting-edge feature for a wearable, but I’m sorry, this is not a breakthrough fitness tool. Unless you plan to climb Kilimanjaro or are particularly granular about your body’s response to exercise, the oxygen sensor is a toy and nothing more.

If you doubt that, think how many times in your life you’ve asked yourself this, “I wonder what my current oxygen levels are?” Admit it, you’ve never asked that.

Verdict – Almost WTF!

Time to put the cards on the table. I have been dismissive of the Apple Watch Series 6 in this article, but that doesn’t mean it is a bad device. In fact, it is an awesome wearable in the same way all previous Watch generations have been. The problem is, I currently have a Series 5 on my wrist.

For anybody who bought last year’s generation, upgrading to the Series 6 is a waste of time and money. None of the new features are must-haves, unless you really love red or blue, or you demand the latest and greatest tech. I repeat, if you already have the Series 5, ignore the Series 6 and wait for the next model in 2021.

If you do not have last year’s Apple Watch Series 5, then the Series 6 becomes an easier sell. If you have an iPhone and want a wearable, it is simply a no brainer. Apple’s device remains the best smartwatch on the market, and by some distance.