When It Comes to Smartphones, Thin Being “In” Seems Not So “Smart”

People have said it many times. When you had a cellphone about 10 to 15 years ago, the battery lasted for days. Now, you can barely go a few hours before you find yourself needing to juice up your smartphone.

Granted that technology has progressed from just making phone calls and sending text messages, it’s that small supercomputer in your pocket that kills that juice.

But I was looking at my phone the other day and had the realization that there is this undying need to make a device thinner almost feels like an obsession.

What would happen if you added 5 to 10 millimeters of thickness to the latest iPhone? What else could you fit in there? What could you enhance?

A slightly larger battery would certainly be a bonus. Right now, I can usually get through one whole day on a single charge, depending on how heavy I’m using my iPhone at work. But if I don’t charge it when I go to bed at night, it’s game over by the morning.

And that’s just the start.

Storage. I feel like storage in iPhones is still in those phases of when USB thumbdrives first starting popping up. I got a 1GB drive for my birthday once and thought that was the most amazing thing. Now I scoff at anything that is less than 8GB and only use 32GB on a day to day basis.

In this modern day, why should any smartphone be limited to 16 or 32 gigabytes of storage? With a slightly thicker smartphone, you could start everyone out at 128GB of space. Argue all of the price point bull crap you want because you and I both know that’s just some forced limitation designed by a boardroom trying to maximize its profits.

And then what about digital broadcast transmissions like DTV and HD Radio? Suddenly you have a little more space for those processors so you can process the one and zeros already flowing through the air, not biting into your data limits.

Certainly we need to make battery technology better, but the first company that takes a step in the direction of making their phones thicker for the sake of enhanced technology will get my attention. It’s just a matter of someone having the guts to do it.

How to create a bootable USB installer for OS X Yosemite

It’s great that Apple releases new versions of Mac OS X for free, but there the problem becomes when you have to do a fresh install. You can’t go into their stores to buy a copy or do the same thing online. Upgrading is a breeze through their online App Store, but there is still a “glitch” when it comes to installing their OS onto a blank hard drive.

It’s gotten to the point where I have had to do a number of these installs, so I’m reposting the directions for how I prefer to do this process for my own records.

These directions come from Macworld.com:

Starting with Mavericks, hidden inside the OS X installer is a Unix program called createinstallmedia, provided by Apple specifically for creating a bootable installer drive. If you’re comfortable using Terminal, createinstallmedia is a relatively simple tool to use.

As mentioned above, the createinstallmedia tool works only in Lion, Mountain Lion, Mavericks, or Yosemite—you can’t create an installer drive this way while booted into Snow Leopard. If you need to create a Yosemite beta install drive while booted into Snow Leopard, you should use the Disk Utility instructions, below.

Here are the required steps:

  1. Connect to your Mac a properly formatted 8GB (or larger) drive, and rename the drive Untitled. (The Terminal command used here assumes the drive is named Untitled.) Also, make sure the Yosemite installer, called Install OS X Yosemite.app, is in its default location in your main Applications folder (/Applications). This means that if you moved it before installing Yosemite, you need to move it back before making your installer disk.
  2. Select the text of this Terminal command and copy it:
    sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ Yosemite.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/Untitled --applicationpath /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ Yosemite.app --nointeraction
  3. Launch Terminal (in /Applications/Utilities).
  4. Warning: This step will erase the destination drive or partition, so make sure that it doesn’t contain any valuable data. Paste the copied command into Terminal and press Return.
  5. Type your admin-level account password when prompted, and then press Return.
  6. The Terminal window displays the progress of the process, in a very Terminal sort of way, by displaying a textual representation of a progress bar: Erasing Disk: 0%… 10 percent…20 percent… and so on. The program then tells you it’s copying the installer files, making the disk bootable, and copying boot files. Wait until you see the text “Copy Complete. Done.”, which could take as long as 20 or 30 minutes, depending on how fast your Mac can copy data to your destination drive.

You now have a bootable Yosemite install drive. If you like, you can rename the drive from its default name of Install OS X Yosemite, though I think it’s kind of a catchy name.

Once you’ve made the USB installer, reboot your Mac with just the USB drive, keyboard, and mouse connected while holding down the Option-key to choose the USB installer from the Startup Manager when it launches.

I prefer to work in Terminal for functions like this. If you go to the linked article on MacWorld, there are some GUI friendly ways to do the same thing.

Spending a month with the Motorola Milestone phone and Android OS

Motorola Milestone home screen

Rebecca was offered to review a Motorola Milestone for a month, but I thought that I would take on the task to put it through some motions, try it out, and give my thoughts on the phone. Being a Blackberry user myself (due to necessity of my day job), I thought I would take the opportunity to try this device out from my perspective while Rebecca already enjoys the touch screen world of the iPhone.
Continue reading “Spending a month with the Motorola Milestone phone and Android OS”

A futuristic view of the Internet from 1969

I picked up on this video from the Apple Gazette today and found it fascinating. It was a view of what computer networks, and the Internet, would be like in the future, all in that lovable style of informational movies from that era.

The best part is the way the husband looks when he has to deal with the bills that the wife is spending money on. Obviously they saw the future of the Internet, but there was a lack of innovation for gender roles.

Not too bad. The technology is off a little bit, but the concept is there.

July 11th is the day for the iPhone 3G in Canada

The day has finally been set, so we can finally stop all the complaining about how the neighbors closest to the country who originated the iPhone can finally get the same ability to use and abuse Apple’s latest got-to-have-it. We can also stop our whining and pining for an Apple Store of our own in Vancouver so we can be sure that we don’t have to go all the way to Toronto to buy it from one of the three locations there.

Alright, so I’m still complaining, but at least I can say that it’s about time.

For those not in the know, the 2008 Apple World Wide Developers Conference kicked off today with the traditional keynote address. In all actuality, this is more like a sold out rock show that all the cool kids wanna be at. Difference is that all these “cool kids” are major tech heads that get some major kicks out of seeing what Apple has hiding up their sleeve, and you know that I’m a sucker just like the rest of them.

Before any talk of the new iPhone, I thought it was interesting that the next version of the Mac OS, 10.6, is being previewed at this conference. That’s basically all we really know, other than the rumors that the next release will be less cosmetic and more of a back end strengthening of the OS. More details in time, I’m sure.

So the iPhone 3G, on the other hand, is the huge news. So what makes it better than the original iPhone? Lots, and John Biehler has a lot more details on today’s events, even taking in the coverage as it happened at the Vancouver Apple Store.

This new iPhone is wicked, but why does the “3G” tag on the end mean anything? No, it’s not a throw back to the G3, G4, or G5 processor mumbo-jumbo of Mac days past[wiki]. This is 3G in terms of mobile phone standards[wiki]. It just means faster methods of data transfer beyond simple voice send and receive of a normal phone call.

But that’s not all. At my day job, I get a Blackberry. It’s… ok, but there are so many things about it that frustrate me. However, it’s tied to an Exchange Server, so I get all company email to it as well as contacts, appointments, tasks, etc. The new version of the iPhone operating system, “2.0”, promises to work with Exchange Servers. Combine that with a 3G network in terms of speed and the ease of use of the iPhone interface, because the limited experience I have with Rebecca’s, would make me happy not only as a consumer, but as a network administrator as well.

Of course, out of the gate, there are going to be serious elements to look at before any enterprise use is widespread, but that’s the nature of the beast. Even if Apple hits it on the head, you still have to convince the skeptics at the top of the I.T. food chain. That can be challenging, to say the least.

But there’s still more. The iPhone App Store is going to open up a whole new world in terms of what you can actually do with your iPhone 3G. Applications that you can buy to monitor network traffic, get baseball updates, or the Plum Record app that caught my eye, which is software to record audio on your iPhone. Who needs adapters when the hardware is there to record the audio and someone just needs to write the app for it to work? Potentially very cool for the podcast recording needs.

There is going to be more over the coming month to see how this all pans out. First thing to figure out is how Rogers and Fido will price the data plans for these suckers in Canada. After that, it’s just a matter of how you want to position yourself in line. Elbows out on July 11th or wait till Christmas?

DVD player from RCA that keeps on giving

Last Christmas, I decided to help upgrade Rebecca’s aged DVD player by getting something that would help us enjoy home time together. Her old player would get picky about what it would or would not play from time to time, especially any burned media that we would throw into it. So this is what I ended up getting her.

RCA DRC285 DVD Player The RCA DRC285. Our hope is to do the HD upgrade in the future, so that was my main reason for choosing this model due to the HDMI[wiki] outputs. That way when we make that jump, she can watch her “Sex in the City” DVD’s in all their 1080p glory. Plus there is the ongoing education of sharing movies with each other form respective “must see” libraries. The price for this was a great buy, so it was a good situation.

Now here’s the kicker. This little puppy has a USB 2.0 port on the front of it. On a whim, I took a 350MB AVI and put it on a 1GB thumb drive. The remote has a “DVD/USB” button on it, so after plugging it into the USB port, I hit the button, the little LED flickered like it would when being accessed by a computer, and there was the file listed on the screen. I selected it, hit the “OK” button, and the video file loaded.

What we normally did before this was run about a twelve foot A/V cable with RCA connectors[wiki] from the back of the TV to our iMac. The TV then became a second monitor with audio running to it from the computer, giving us the option of watching downloaded video files on our TV. None of that sitting in front of the computer monitor for us.

So with this USB discovery, it was an amazing moment. The video looks superb compared to the output generated from the iMac to standard NTSC video quality. There was a lot of pixelation from fast video movement, but that has changed since we’ve gone to viewing programs off of the thumb drives. I say drives because you can put about two episodes of a program per one, 1GB thumb drive. With two, we cycle through the pair.

Additionally, the DVD player flows right through the list of files. Start with the first one and it plays the next one in order. Oh, and you can also pause and fast forward like a standard DVD.

With our hectic lives, it’s safe to say that this has been a very cool addition to our arsenal of things to disconnect with.

Launch Party Vancouver 3

I had the opportunity to hang out at Launch Party Vancouver 3 on January 25th at the Lamplighter in Gastown. It was chalk full of all sorts of people in the ever so progressing Vancouver tech scene. Even though that is a geeky thing to say, good and interesting things are happening in the Vancouver tech community.

Kdon taunting Duane

As the wine seemed to be never ending, I took my camera around and took some various shots. Taking photos with flash is never to my liking, but I’m adjusting more and more to how my new toy works. See all of my photos from the night here, but ace photographer Duane was officially on the prowl with his gear here.

Photo by Duane Storey
Photo credit: duanestorey on Flickr

Speaking of photos, one of the reasons we were there is that Rebecca was invited for a photo shoot as being one of the top women in tech here in Vancouver. Can she code in C+? Probably not, but as fast as she has taken to learning PHP and becoming a crack WordPress ninja tells me that she could learn it pretty quick if she wanted to. She also kicks some butt at her day job, so you could say that she’s really on top of her game.

Probably the coolest thing that I can’t stop talking about from that night is the free, 1GB thumb drive that were given away courtesy of Sun. Yes, the same Sun that you are thinking of, and they were there for the official launch of a software platform specifically aimed at helping tech startups be tech startups with their Startup Essentials program. Notice a theme there?

I didn’t take nearly enough time to explore the other folks who were demoing their products at the event as much as I took the opportunity to get caught up with some faces that I haven’t seen in quite sometime. Life has become too hectic to see everyone that I’d like, so it’s good to get a chance to get reacquainted.

Dave and Jordan

If you’d like to see more details on the various folks demoing their latest and greatest, check out launchpartyhq.com.

Looking forward to the next edition of the Launch Party Vancouver. It’s a great way to keep the community in Vancouver familiar with each other. Otherwise, it’d just be a bunch of faceless people with products and URL’s. Gathering for good drink and food is a nice touch, geeking out optional.

Using my Brother Printer to send a letter to Grandma

My grandmother has been asking me to write her for a while now. I think it’s strange how the internet culture makes sending a letter so foreign, if not almost difficult to do. With the advent of email, blogging, instant messaging, and so on, sending mail just seems… strange.

Brother Printer letter to Grandma test The tough thing about sending a letter is that it’s still tough to convey everything you want to, especially to my 89 year old grandmother who doesn’t really do email, even though video conversations through iChat is something she’s familiar with. So with this monster of a printer that we have in the apartment right now, I thought I would put something together to send her.

The print quality of all the pictures really turned out well. I didn’t think that it would be too much of a problem, but it still surprised me. Using Google Docs, I can write something and then wait to get home to print it on our sweet Brother Printer.

Setting up our Brother MFC-9440CN printer

Had to put Brother in the corner I’ve finally gotten around to getting our Brother MFC-9440CN printer setup. As you may or may not know, we’ve been given the opportunity to test drive this sucker out. And let me tell you, this puppy is a honking piece of machinery. By that, I mean that it’s large and heavy. We don’t have much room to spare in the apartment, so it’s on the floor in the corner of the dinning room/area. It’s secure and slightly raised off the floor, but generally in a good space.

Setting up the printer to work with our iMac was a bit tricky, but that was only because I thought the printer was supposed to have wireless capabilities. The single ethernet port on the back should have been a clue, but I swear someone told me it had wireless. No big deal as I had a spare cable to run from our router to the printer. Once I downloaded the driver for it, we were in business.

My first impression is that it takes a little long to start the actual print out. The data gets zipped straight over, but the time it takes to actually start printing is a bit lagging by about five to ten seconds. Perhaps adding more memory to it would help, but with its size and weight, you think it’d be a tad faster.

Also, the printer tends to make the paper curl just slightly after it’s done with the final product. That could be a symptom of the type of paper, but it’s interesting to note nonetheless. It’s nothing that can be dealt with, but just addressing things that I’ve noticed at first pass.

Printing out something with color in it has been impressive. The resolution is fairly good, and I’m sure I could set the printer to be even better. I just haven’t got that far. On top of that, I tested out the copying capabilities with the same printout. That’s considerably quick with matching quality. Having a printer is one thing, but the fact that you basically have a copy machine is pretty cool. That alone makes me pretty impressed with this unit.

The one thing about having this printer is we weren’t looking to buy one, and that was mainly because we didn’t have a need or a purpose to really use one. We already have a desk jet and scanner, separately, in the house, but it’s a painful process to get it all to work together in a roundabout, ten step process. Now that we have this Brother, all-in-one center, there might be more uses that we can find for it. I know that we were looking to do some photocopying some time back, and it does get a little annoying when you have to go to the post office to get it done. The quality this machine has is very comparable that you would get a five cents per copy at a store.

This is just the first foray into this printer, but at first attempt, I’m pretty impressed. Now we just need a better place we could put this thing. Would love it if someone gave us a nice set of workspace furniture to “try out” that could make the space in our apartment more efficient, wink wink nudge nudge.

Doing the I.T. thing at the South Pole

Here is something completely geeky, but I find it incredibly fascinating. Slashdot had a link to this article with Henry Malmgren, the I.T. manager to the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station[wiki]. It’s a long read, but worth it to see how things operate down there, especially on a much heavier, tech level than most people probably think.

And truth be told, yours truly is working in this realm of responsibility with my day job, so I guess that’s why I find it even more intriguing. Most of the time, the biggest concern is making sure that equipment doesn’t over heat, resulting in failure. This guy, on the other hand, has to make sure everything stays warm enough so things don’t seize up from the -25F temps.

It’s also satisfying to know that the same crap happens no matter where you are in the world.

What takes up most of your time?

Information security has really come to the forefront in our priorities. Right now keeping up with security vulnerabilities and patches and things like that is taking a good third of our time. That’s a change from even two years ago. [computerworld]

It takes a strong person to want to do this type of job that essentially experiences nine months of “winter”, slightly less amount of time seeing the sun rise, and works six days a week, a minimum nine hours a day. Granted that there isn’t a lot of other things to do at the bottom of the world, but you really have to be a solitary individual that enjoys fixing people’s network problems while constantly trying to keep your toes warm.