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Friday, 14 January 2011 13:37

Android a flop?

I've had my Samsung Intercept for a week now and my first impression is that Android is a beta project that's not ready for production. This might be a bold statement since it's had 7 major updates since inception and phones manufactured by many different companies are being sold on all four networks in the states but it's true. I don't think Google has spent 5 minutes on usability testing. I'm a huge Linux fan and 100% of my income comes from Linux and open source so I'm really stepping out saying this but the fastest growing Cell Phone OS is a bit of a pile. It's not that I think the underlying OS is bad it's just that the interface leaves a lot to be desired. Since this is my first Android phone I also need to separate what may be Samsung Intercept issues, MY Samsung Intercept issues and Android issues.  I've reset my phone to defaults twice in 4 days because after installing a few apps it just stops installing them. You'd think that I'm out of space for apps but I get no error message and even after uninstalling all the apps I still can't install apps. Other Android users are not experiencing this and I don't yet know if it's a Samsung Intercept problem or MY phone is bad or Android is shite.

Without considering this I have to say the notification system on Android is a pile of cow dung and the installed apps remind me a bit of Linux in the early days where multiple apps of the same type would install in the hopes that ONE of them worked. I have by default an email app and a gmail app. I use a standard gmail account and then I have accounts on two google apps for domains accounts. The email app I like a lot and it makes it easy to look at my labels but I can't get the google apps for domains accounts to work. The gmail app however, picks them right up and they work perfectly. Why have two apps that do the same thing? Because you need both of them because neither are that great.  The settings are all over the place too, to reset your phone you will probably have to google it - seriously. I found the reset to settings to default under Settings -> Privacy. Privacy? Why in the world would it be under privacy? Notification is another story. If you have multiple email accounts and you click on a notification that says you have email on one of them it clears the notifications for all of the others.  I could go on for hours but I'll end here. I used to thrash on Maemo 4 saying it was old, slow, buggy and disorganised. In comparison to Android Maemo 4 is a wonderful OS. It makes me very interested in MeeGo on a Nokia n900 replacement.

Thinking of the n900 brings me to the topic of finger friendly interfaces too - they suck. I spent 10 minutes trying to make a lesson in Moodle visible using Android, had I had the nokia n810 on me (and Internet) I would have been done in 30 seconds because you can just click links - no reason to zoom, zoom, zoom, click on the wrong one, go back, scroll down, zoom, zoom, zoom and then repeat as needed. Thats enough for now but so far I'm fairly disappointed in Android to be honest.

 

 

 

 

Published in Android
Sunday, 10 January 2010 20:26

Another Linux Cell Phone OS?

LG unveiled their new GW990 Smartphone and guess what OS their using - Intel's Moblin! As if my articles about Nokia going Linux, the flood of Android phones, Palms WebOS and the Access Limited wasn't enough LG which is a very large manufacturor of phones is going to be selling a phone using Moblin - a Linux OS. This phone will use Intel's Moorestown chipset which basically means it has an Atom CPU not unlike what's in my Netbook. It has a 4.8 inch, 1024x480 display, and boasts about 4 hours of talk-time and 300 hours of standby period. A 4.8 inch screen and a netbook cpu in a phone? After Google released the 1Ghz Nexus One phone I thought we'd plateau for a while. I don't know how big this thing is but it would seem that having a screen 1/2 inch bigger than my Nokia n800 (and 1.3 inches bigger than an iphone screen) would make for a phone that's quite large.

I don't have a lot of information but they've not said whether they're bringing the phone to the US or not. Does ANYONE (and I mean anyone including Microsoft and Apple execs!) have any doubts that Linux will dominate the future smartphone market?

Published in Gadget Blog
Sunday, 14 January 2007 16:00

Epson borderless printing in Linux

I got a wonderful new Epson Stylus Photo R300 so I could start experimenting with printing my photos. As most of you know I use Linux for everything and normally it works great but there are areas in which it's behind, mostly Desktop stuff. Well, printing photos is largely a desktop thing. To make matters worse I wanted the printer to be available across the network but since it's a low end photo printer it doesn't have a network port like my color laser so I plugged it into my CentOS server via USB. Problem is CentOS is a server OS meaning the lackluster Linux printer drivers are even older. It does work pretty good however and I can print in 2880x1440 dpi and the output looks great. The problem came when I bought some  8.5 x 11 inch frames  (for $5 at Michaels) for framing printer art. My "borderless" printing in Gimp-print 4.2.7 leaves a 1/4 inch border on one side which could be matted over but these frames are made for a picture exactly 8.5 x 11.

The solution:


Everytime I buy a digital camera it comes with a pathetically small flash card around 32 MB. I inserted one of these otherwise worthless flash cards in my camera, formatted it and took one picture. This was vital to set up the directory structure etc.. for the printer. I then inserted it into the printer permanently and mounted it as /media/printerflash in Linux. Now whenever I want to print true borderless prints I just save the photo over top the one on the memory card and print it from the LCD screen on the printer. A hack I know, but it works.

Published in Photography Blog
Friday, 18 September 2009 00:24

Facebook CentOS Mirror

I was updating a CentOS OS and I noticed that one of the mirrors it chose was mirror.facebook.net so out of curiousity I put that into my browser and this came up. Does Facebook have extra bandwidth and storage they don't know what to do with?

Published in Tech Blog
Friday, 20 November 2009 03:05

Google Android and Palm WebOS - mobile Linux

Linux has taken the mobile world by storm. About 5 yearas ago I mentioned in one of my classes that at some point Linux would dominate the entire embedded devices world. A student (who was an ameteur embedded developer) laughed out loud and when I asked him if he didn't believe me he replied "It's not that, I'm a realist and this is never going to happen".  I'd like to dedicate this post to that student and I hope wherever he is he's decided to join my reality.

Years ago there was a group of Cell phone manufacturors that joined to make the LiMo foundation - an organization for a unified Linux OS used for mobile applications. Members of LiMo include NEC, DOMOCO, Orange, Panasonic, Vodophone, Samsung, LG and Ericson. With a member list like that you'd think they would take over the world. Palm at the time was making their ancient 16 bit OS still but had decided to spin the OS portion of Palm into another company to focus on making a replacement for the PalmOS. That company, ACCESS announced that it's replacement would be based on Linux and they in turn joined LiMo. Intel on the other hand decided to go it's own way and created a Mobile OS called Moblin. The Moblin project is now under the Umbrella of the Linux Foundation which has members from all over the world. I'm not going to list the Linux Foundation members because that list includes virtually every major Tech company that you've ever heard of.

Nokia is missing from all of these lists because they had invested heavily in their own mobile OS - Symbian which came from the EPOC os of the 90s. Nokia dominated the smart phone market with about 80% saturation so they had no intentions of changing OSs just yet. About a year ago Nokia was down to about 35% saturation and released Symbian to the open source world thinking this was going to help developement. They also started working on Maemo a Linux based Mobile platform for Mobile Internet Devices (not phones).

Palm in the meantime was getting tired of waiting for ACCESS to create their new Linux based OS so they created their own - WebOS. At about the same time ACCESS announced they had finished their Linux based mobile OS but apparently nobody cares.

The big announcement was when Google decided to enter the Mobile Phone OS market with their Android. There was much fanfare and HTC released an Android phone then things got quiet again.

Windows Mobile continued to suck, Symbian continued to lose marketshare and the iphone continued to take that share because it was just awesome (even though it couldn't do copy and paste or multi-task, two features of just about every other OS out there).

Enter fall 2009. Palms new WebOS is amazing but unfortunately saddled to a lackluster phone. Nokia decideds that they will afterall release a Linux phone using Maemo 5. Verizon decides to sell a phone that someone actually wants and goes with the Motorola Droid - the first Android 2 device.

To summarize. The market leader in smart phones uses nothing but open source operating systems (Symbian and Maemo), the second place finisher that's eating up the market is using an mobile OS based on BSD (iphone), Google's Android is a steam roller destroying everything in it's path and will probably be number 2 in as many years and Palm will probably survive thanks to WebOS.

In 5 years I see all Smart Phones having a BSD or Linux OS. Who would have every thought that a 40 year old mainframe OS would become the market leader Cell Phone OS?

I'm currently running Android and WebOS in virtual machines on my desktop. I'll say it again, I love WebOS, they just need to put it on a phone I want.

 

 

 

 

 

Published in Gadget Blog

I've been harping on how I predicted that traditional desktop (Windows dominance) would shrink while mobile marketshare (Linux dominance) would go up and that this is important for us to know so we can focus our education better. 

So far this has been me watching the industry and doing a little hocus pocus foretelling of the future based on a lot of data in a lot of areas. Now other analysts are putting the real numbers down. Businessinsider wrote an article about Apple being impacted by Android but there's an interesting graphic in the middle. As you see over the years the Windows/Intel monopoly has had the mass majority marketshare for quite some time but look what it's done in the last couple of years - halved. Also look at the amount Android has made in the exact same time. 

At this rate Android may be the majority OS in a couple of years. I don't know if I like that or not since I'm not really an Android fan but it shows that Linux is making massive progress in marketshare because the MARKET is changing. This year will be an interesting one as more mobile Operating Systems enter the fray. With Samsung (who makes 25% of all smartphones) is investing heavily in Tizen, Firefox releases Firefox Mobile, Ubuntu releases Ubuntu Mobile and Jolla brings out SailfishOS (outgrowth of Nokia's Meego) it will be an interesting year. All of these operating systems are Linux. If Android loses marketshare it will be to other versions of Linux.

Published in Tech Blog
Saturday, 08 January 2011 03:16

Maemo to Android

After using a nokia n800 then an n810 for the last few years I've wanted a couple of things, more speed, more applications and internet everywhere. The n810 Wimax would have given me at least one of those things but they pulled it after Clear/Sprint took too long to roll out Wimax. Maybe the handwriting was on the wall for Wimax anyway since it's pretty clear now that it will probably be steamrolled by LTE. Nokia released the n900 which is a very interesting device and I considered it but at $400 and requiring a $60-$100 a month cell phone contract it's a big decision. Since I really only want to call once in a while I really need cell phone access that gives me unlimited data, some call minutes and as low of a price as possible - enter Virgin Mobil. The Virgin brand has been very disruptive overall especially in airlines. Virgin Mobile USA is a contract free cell phone service which is a boon to the cell phone industry. I really really hate the idea that my cell phone provider can lock me in for two years. We used to do this with dial up internet and thankfully that practice has gone away. I can remember having to sign a 2 year contract for modem access to the internet. Crazy. So if you buy an iphone/n900/droid etc and you add up the costs of the service for 2 years you're looking at somewhere between $2000 and $2500 just to have internet on a bus.. This to me is a bit steep but until recently Virgin Mobile wasn't a good choice because they just had crap phones. Recently they added the Samsung Intercept, an entry level Android phone so I bought one.  It's not a high end phone but it does have an 800 mhz cpu, 3.2 inch screen, up to 32 GB of flash storage, Android 2.1, 3.2 MP camera and can record video. A year ago this would be a kick butt phone, now it's entry level. It's good enough for what I want and the cost of entry was $219 at Best Buy plus $25 for a month of service. Yes, $25 a month for unlimited data with limited minutes. I get 300 minutes of call time which isn't much but I hate phones anyway so for me it's fine. For an extra $15 a month that goes up to 1300 minutes and add another $15 again and it's unlimited everything. For $60/month you get unlimited calling and Internet with NO contract and a fairly decent phone.

So far so good. Later I'll do a review of the phone and service.

 

 

Published in Gadget Blog
Tuesday, 17 January 2012 02:39

My take on Linux Distribution choices

 

You might say I have a long distro history so I'll add my 1.7 cents (it was 2 cents before the recession).

 
Loved Mandrake until it got buggy. 
Mandriva came from Mandrake but never recaptured the glory.
  1. Both had very easy to use but powerful administration tools. 
  2. Wonderful menu structure
  3. Looked good
  4. Excellent hardware discovery. It could load the drivers for your blender if you could plug it in.
  5. Package management from the Gods when mortal man was painting on cave walls.
Why I stopped using them
  1. unstable repositories. Software was constantly broken. 
 
CentOS for servers - it's just the most stable feature rich distro for servers (from the commandline). 
 
SuSe for servers if you insist on using a GUI to manage it. Has the best GUI Server admin tools.
 
Ubuntu 8.04 - 10.10
  1. Tons of software packages
  2. Gnome2 became usable for bipedal primates with large frontal lobes.
  3. Install process so easy a baby stuck in a mineshaft could do it. 
  4. Everything just works and when it stops shaking a rubber chicken seems to help. If it doesn't work on Ubuntu it probably doesn't work on anything that runs Linux including orbiting brain lasers and fembots with a penchant for evil.
Why I'm looking for a replacement
  1. Software packages broken.... sounds familiar.
  2. Got tired of looking at desktop color themes best reserved for a 1970s kitchen with accompanying man cave with wall to wall shag carpet.
  3. Moved to the Unity desktop which is targeted at a branch of hominids possessing much smaller brain functionality that have been extinct for roughly 4 million years. Possibly as a result of a poor market study with limited subject availability to question and those who they could dig up didn't have much to say.
  4. Including the word Ubuntu in my online dating profile has not improved love matches. In addition translating the original Swahili meaning to English only leaves me looking a bit creepy.
  5. Ubuntu sounds like something my kids used to say when they were a year old and needed changed. Looks like it too.
 
Distributions I'm interested in but haven't made a decision about
 
Linux Mint DE
  1. Based on Debian so the software packages may actually work
  2. Uses the XFCE desktop so any sane human should feel comfortable with it.
Possible downfalls:
  1. A bit rough
  2. A bit ugly
  3. Linux Mint DE with a port scanner vs. Clint Eastwood with a Bowie knife would be a good fight.
  4. Having the same name as another distribution that has broken packages gives me the shivers.
 
Mageia

  1. So far every single package in the repository works. Ex Mandrake developers who must have learned their lesson.
  2. Doesn't talk to me like I'm a baby   

Possible downfalls:
  1. Only two packages in the repository.
  2. Just when I learned to pronounce Ubuntu this comes along.

 
The nice thing about Linux is you can try them all for zero dollars. I think a good practice though is to have a shared network drive where you put all of your stuff so if you choose to wipe out your machine you don't lose anything. Actually this is a good practice on any OS.
 

 

Published in Tech Blog
Saturday, 20 October 2007 18:00

New Linux Router

As some of you know I moved this year to a new house. I now have plenty of room in the garage for the servers which means my heating bill will go up now that they won't be contributing. Frown

Anyway I'd been using Powerline networking for some time and it's worked wonderfully because you never need drivers for the network. How it works is you plug your network cable into a powerline bridge and then plug the bridge into the electrical wall socket. Do this for each location and you have an instant network! It's completely painless. Only problem is your electrical wiring needs to be perfect and mine to the garage in the new place isn't. My print speeds were so horrible that I was copying data to my laptop and carrying it down there to print. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that isn't the solution. I've always shied away from wireless outside of occasional use on the road because of the security implementations but it appears I have no choice short of rewiring my house.

The new 802.11n stuff is tempting but without more testing I'm not going to bite. I already have a Linux powered Linksys WRT-54g which has served me well. My plan was not to add wireless cards to all the machines in the garage but rather set up a wireless bridge and plug a Gig switch into it so the servers could talk to each other at 1000Gbits and the rest of the world at 54Mbits. My biggest requirementis the router has to support the Linux DD-WRT software. After some looking I settled on the Buffalo WHR-G125  available for $29 at Circuit City with rebate...

The Buffalo WHR-G125 does not come with Linux installed and from what I saw on the review forums doesn't come with much functionality in the stock firmware either. I honestly didn't even log into the stock firmware or use it in it's stock form. The first time it was ever powered on I nailed it with a tftp upload with new Linux DD-WRT firmware and it's been running Linux ever since.

The Buffalo WRT-G125 is a 240 mhz mips processor (Broadcom BCM5354) embedded device with a 5 port switch and uplink. It has 16 megs of ram and with Linux running there's about 14 free. The antennae is fixed but I found one guy solder a connection on so he could connect any external antennae.



If you don't know what dd-wrt is you're in for a treat. It's a replacement firmware operating system for many consumer based routers. It gained it's fame on the Linksys WRT-54 series and that's where I came into contact with it. The Linksys WRT-54g was a Linux router and several firmware replacement projects stemmed from it. I started using a paid for replacement called Talisman. The firmware was encoded and I lost the original file once and didn't want to go through the hassle of getting the author to give me another so I decided to look around and see what else was out there. Well, that and there was a lot of controversy about the developer's practice of stealing other people's code and then acting like a copywrite Nazi when anyone else wanted his code. I don't like supporting people like that so I switched to dd-wrt. DD-WRT adds many features to your router like ssh access, QOS, wireless bridging etc.. There really isn't any reason that I can think of for not using it.

Published in Tech Blog
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 03:59

Nokia n900 live

I've been a maemo MID user for several years and when I bought my Nokia n800 I was amazed at how easy wireless networking and bluetooth were. At the time Linux was very difficult to setup in this area. Times have changed and the Maemo OS has pretty much stood still. Each successive release we got a new set of bugs and not much else. Things have gotten slightly more stable but for the most part the n800 is underpowered and the UI is aimed at desktop users but with a 4 inch screen. The new Freemantle is supposed to be a drastic change from the past and by this video it looks like it. From the beginning Nokia wasn't committed to the Linux based mobile Internet devices and put all of their resources behind the Symbian OS they own and the Linux OS always seemed more like an experiment than anything. I guess the experiment is over because they've done a ton of work on Freemantle. I've read that it's the first of the next gen Linux MID OSes but it isn't the final one. Freemantle will have a GTK gui and the next one after that will be QT which Nokia now owns. The one improvement that I think they need is to stabalize the software. I don't know if a Communist/Apple approach is best but you have to admit that iphone apps generally work and maemo apps don't. Anyway check out the video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZrYqemylpIo
Published in Gadget Blog
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