Saturday
Jan212012

AT&T Warns Data Usage Below 2 GB

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is what we were up in arms about when AT&T said they will be warning, then throttling the "top 5%" of high data users.  It's a floating number, not a hard one.  AT&T can claim that most people in your area are only using, oh lets say 1GB of data.  It's a flawed curve.

It just happened to me.  I got a text warning me that I am one of the top 5% of data users.  I checked the myAT&T app, and even online, and it says I used 1.5 GB of Unlimited.  So why did I get warned?

I pay $30 a month for the unlimited plan I was grandfathered in since I bought the iPhone 3GS on launch day.  I even "re-upped" by contract when I heard I can keep the same plan when I bought the iPhone 4 on launch day.  And now they are changing the terms?

That's not the only issue I have.  The other is that I'm paying $30 a month and getting warned at usage that is 500 MB below what a 2 GB capped plan costs ($25 a month).  Why?  That doesn't make any sense!

I called their customer service rep, and while she was friendly, all she can do is appologize and informed me it was a flawed system.  She said it was set at corporate, and she cannot do anything about it.  I understand the situation, and appearently, I wasn't the only person who called.  As she put it, she "tries to be honest and notblow smoke".  I guess you can get some honest reaction when you're super nice to them.  However, it didn't solve my issue.

I always figured a reasonable self-imposed cap would be 5 GB, which was the unspoken limit when AT&T didn't have any asterisks on their "Unlimited" data plan.  Even so, I try to keep around 3-4 GB of use, which is what I expect paying the extra $5 a month should afford me.

Anyone else getting warned below or at the 2 GB mark?  Hit me back here in the comments section.

Saturday
Jan142012

Dear Microsoft, Please Rename Windows Phone 7 to Microsoft Tiles

When Windows debut, it was called that because applications ran in different window panes. You can move them around and have multiple windows on one screen.

So now that Microsoft is using tiles, I don't see any reason why they want to call it Windows. Brand recognition is not a good reason as the reputation of Windows is Luke warm at best.

Time for some thing new. The OS is new, and Microsoft wanted a fresh new start for Windows Phone 7. It's a radical departure from Windows Mobile of the past. So why saddle it with an old name that doesn't invoke excitement?

Microsoft Tiles. I think it has a nice ring to it.

Friday
Jan132012

Truly Stock Android 4.0.3 from Source Code

When people say "stock Android experience", they usually think of the Google Nexus phones.  Believe it, if you download the source code from Google and compile it yourself, you don't get any of the nice Google apps, such as Android Market, Maps, Gmail, and even Google Search.  Even the boot animation isn't the same flashy ones found on the Nexus phones.  In fact, it's just a boring green Android logo, which is the same found on the Android SDK Virtual Machine (pictured here).

I was curious about compiling the code myself, since Android is open source.  If you're curious of what it looks like, make sure you root and backup your current phone, then flash the correct ROM image.

These are only for the GSM versions of Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus.  Crespo is the codename for the GSM Nexus S, and Maguro is the codename for the GSM Galaxy Nexus.

Enjoy!

Download link here.

 

 

Notes:  I included Google Apps and Face Unlock as separate download.  You will have to disable the built-in Search by going to Manage Apps to enable Google Search.

Warning: Root is not included.  Please obtain root from Wug.  This will also restore your recovery back to stock.  Again, this is a straight AOSP ROM compiled from Google's source.

Friday
Jan132012

Why Isn't Google Full Throttle With Nexus?


HTC Nexus One

Google's first foray with their own phone was a spectacular thing.  It offered hardware no other Android phone manufacturers were doing.  A gigahertz Snapdragon processor, 3.7" display large for it's time), 800x480 resolution (high resolution for it's time), and excellent material choice (thanks, HTC!).  However, their next two Nexuses (Nexi?) weren't ground breaking.  They just tacked on a few experimental features.

Specs and feature-wise, it didn't feel like it was missing anything.  Of course, it did have a problem with multi-touch, which was never fixed because it was a hardware limitation.  Here are some sites that reported on this.  You can also search for videos demonstrating this problem on YouTube.  Oh, and lets not forget issue with the constant switching between Edge and 3G reported at places like here and followed up at places like here.  Spoiler alert: Google just gave up.

 

Samsung Nexus S

The Nexus S was a single core Hummingbird SoC, which is fast, but it came at a time where dual-core SoCs already exists.  They took away expandable storage.  The other stuff (Super AMOLED display, 5 MP camera) were considered standard fare, since the Galaxy S was already on the market.

Of course, Google added NFC, which is the experimental sauce I was talking about earlier.  The curved glass was more of a gimmick, though.  It's a nice touch, but it doesn't really add any new functions.

 

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Next was the Galaxy Nexus.  First off, the name is dumb.  Because Samsung already has a line of Galaxy phones, this just causes confusion.  Every time I hear "Galaxy Nexus", I keep thinking "Galaxy S" or "Galaxy S II".  Every time I want to say "Galaxy Nexus" I end up saying "Galaxy S" which confuses people and myself.

Name aside, it also wasn't very ground breaking compared to other phones in the market (especially when compared to the Galaxy S II).  It's got a better screen (720p 16:9 display), even though it's a PenTile matrix.  They also did away with buttons on the front, instead putting them on the screen itself.  Other than that, nothing else is really new to us.  And yes, NFC decided to stick around on the Nexus Galaxy.

It's now a dual-core SoC, but quad-cores are coming now (they should have waited to add this in, honestly).  The camera is still 5MP, but what's worse is that it's not as good as the 5MP sensor Apple used on their iPhone 4.  To add insult to injury, Samsung already has an excellent 8MP sensor that's used by their 2nd gen Galaxy phones (Galaxy S II, Inspire, Galaxy Note, etc).  Of course it can capture 1080p video now - that's just a matter of processing power, not the camera sensor.

There's still no expandable storage, which is a bummer.  You're stuck with the 16 GB internal storage that isn't even accessable on a computer or car stereo as a USB mass storage device.

 

So What's Missing Now?

The Galaxy Nexus is the first Nexus I actually bought.  After using it for some time now, I have to say I like it.  However, I still LOVE LOVE LOVE my Galaxy S II.  Aside from display, NFC, and stock Android ICS envy, the Galaxy S II has everything the Galaxy Nexus have and more!

To round out the Galaxy Nexus, I would have liked to see expandable storage (micro SD, please!) and better camera (use the Galaxy S II's sensor, please!).

I find those as major parts of today's smartphone experience!  The storage issue is a huge part of Android experience especially (Titanium Backup and ROM flashing addicts).

Of course, the Galaxy S II has it's list of shortcomings as well, but it's mostly software-related (things that stock Android ICS won't have).

The search for the 100% perfect phone still eludes me.  I guess it would only be perfect if I made one myself.  And even then, it'd only be "perfect" for me, myself, and I.

Thursday
Dec292011

Join me in Turntable.fm!

After using turntable.fm for a while, I decided to start my own room!  Join me in the New Alternative room!

If you haven't heard of Turntable.fm, it's a site where you can be one of five DJs.  You add music to your playlist (there are already lots of songs to choose from within Turntable's own library!).  Each DJ gets to play a song, then it goes to the next, so each DJ will get a turn to play.

You can be a DJ to play your music, or just be part of the audience and leave your browser up just to listen to the crowd-sourced playlist!  It's an interesting idea - people created playlist instead of an algorithm such as Pandora and Slacker.

I've been listening and DJing in the 90s Alternative room for a while now, but have decided I want to listen to more than just 90s.

For now, I don't have any hard-set rules, but please be curtious.  For example, please don't be away from the keyboard if you're DJing for long periods of time.  You're taking up a seat in the DJ booth that others can use, and to do this just to listen to your own playlist is plain selfish.  Also, please stick to the genre (no rap, country, or R&B).  I left it pretty wide open for you.  "New Alternative" is just a name.  My favorite radio station in my city before it shut down was called "The New Rock Alternative".  So I decided to just go with "New Alternative" for mine.  This means from 80s to today, Alternative Rock, Industrial, and Indie Rock.

Let me know what you think!  And also, start DJing or listen in!

Friday
Dec232011

Go Daddy Supports SOPA - I'm Joining the Boycott

I was a Go Daddy customer, but not anymore.  Why? Because Go Daddy is a strong supporter for SOPA.  In a nutshell, SOPA will allow both the RIAA and MPAA take down a site by messing with the DNS if it even suspect there is pirated or copyright infringing content on the site without due process.  SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) may sound good for the non-techies because they don't realize how it would actually work.

The problem is that we've seen instances where takedown notices were given and executed even when there were no infringing content at all!  Without due process (actually needing to take you to court to prove you were in the wrong), your website can get canned, which means you're out of business, just like THAT.

Either way, you can read more about SOPA at Wikipedia.

Of course, just a mere 30 minutes ago as of this writing, Go Daddy decided to back away from their stance.  Unfortunately, their previously strongly worded statement about why they supported SOPA leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  Apparently, Wikipedia, who used Go Daddy, already switched.  So have I.

The way I see it, the only reason why Go Daddy changed stance is because of the boycott.  I'm sure they still feel strongly about SOPA.  What does this mean?  It means they're collective mentality is still not in the right place.

If you are using Go Daddy for your domains, consider Go Daddy's stance on SOPA.

Tuesday
Dec132011

Download Adobe Flash and Reader Standalone Installers

Are you sick of having to install Adobe's DLM (Download Manager) just to install their free viewers?  Why do we need a download manager for small applets and plugins?  Worse yet, if you are behind a firewall or proxy, you the Adobe DLM may not even download the actual installation files you need!

Here are direct links to the full standalone installation files for Adobe Flash and Reader.

 

Adobe Flash Player

Link seems to point to latest version no matter the updates.  Currently at version 11 as of this writing.

Adobe Reader

Link is hard-coded to link to newest version as of this writing (Adobe Reader X v10.1.1).

Here is Adobe's FTP folder that contains ALL versions of Adobe Reader for all platforms.  Just navigate to the version you want to download.

 

Hope this is helpful to someone out there.

 

UPDATE 3/9/2012:

Adobe has a page that's specifically for distributing Adobe Flash.  They are standalone installers, as well as MSI packages for those who would like to deploy Flash in their organization via SCCM or WSUS.

http://www.adobe.com/products/flashplayer/distribution3.html

 

If you would like an MSI file for Adobe Reader, you can follow this blog by MooreMN to extract the MSI package from the EXE installer.

http://mooremn.wordpress.com/2011/02/18/adobe-reader-x-%E2%80%93-extracting-the-msi/

 

Thursday
Nov102011

Apple, Please Don't Forget the Mac

Apple has prided itself in making things easy to use, wonderful, and magical.  The Macintosh was herald as their first.  After all, before the Macintosh, there was no graphical user interface or a mouse (at least not something you can buy at the store - just for those who will cry "Xerox").  It lost to Microsoft and their Windows 3.0, and then Windows 95 since it was left to languish without Jobs at the helm.

In the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Issacson, Steve had asked Mark Markkula for advice on to make Apple a company that will endure the test of time.  Mark told Steve that it would have to be able to reinvent itself.  He gave Hewlett Packard as an example, where it started as an electronics instrument company, then a calculator company, and now they are in personal computers.  (I should also mention Nintendo used to make playing cards.  Look at them now!).  Mark said Steve should reinvent Apple as a consumer product company.

Steve took his advice.  Where Apple used to be just a computer company, they broke out of this mold by making the now iconic iPod.  From there, they went on to make other things that were decidedly not traditional PCs and laptops, such as the iPhone and iPad.

They are wonderful and delightful to use.  There is still one product line that Apple need to pay more attention and that is their Macs.

 

What's Wrong with The Mac? 

"What?" you say?  Hear me out.

Apple, after you create and market the next best thing in television (oh, we're already anticipating this), maybe you should start focusing on the Mac.  Specifically the OS.

Don't get me wrong.  Lion is a good step up from Snow Leopard.  What I like is how they implemented the multitouch trackpad in a way that it feels natural and iOS-like.  It's hard to make a desktop-based OS feel that personal, responsive, and agile.  I still don't get the iOS home screen launcher, though.  But I do love after getting used to it) how the "realistic" scrolling gesture feels (after getting used to it), as well as the way Safari now takes multitouch gestures further.  The way you can use two fingers and flip pages back and forward (I wish they would implement this in iOS's Safari).  The scrolling of pages has a bounce when you reach the top or bottom, and zooming in with pinch is smooth like on the iOS.

I like the way they implemented Spaces, too.  Not many people used Spaces before.  I sure didn't.  But now, with simple gestures to flip between the different Spaces paired with Mission Control, I use Spaces every chance I get.  It's like having multiple monitors without actual physical monitors!

But that's just adding spit and polish to an old interface.  It needs to be revived.  Rejuiced.  Renovated.  It needs to be reinvented.

 

I'll Tell You What's Wrong

"What so wrong?" you ask?  I hate Finder.  I also hate windows management.  I hate their network resource management, namely accessing shared folders and printers.  I hate that there is no central application management for uninstalling apps that insist on actually "installing" itself instead of just being content with being dragged and dropped into the Applications folder.

I've given the Mac OS a chance to convince me, but it still hasn't.  How much of a commitment did I give?  I spent $1000 for a late 2009 13" white MacBook (without the multitouch) as a toy.  iMovie sucked me in, but I hated the trackpad.  Seeing that the trackpad was a huge experience I was missing out, I sold the MacBook a little over year later for a real one - an early 2011 15" MacBook Pro.  The one with Thunderbolt.  The one that's been spec'd out to cost over $3000 with Apple Care.  Don't tell me I didn't give them a chance.  With that kind of commitment, I was ready to give myself completely to Mac OS X like I already did with iOS.

As stated before, there is a lot to love about Mac OS X, especially Lion.  However, there are still things I just hate.

 

Finder

File management is horrendous.  Finding out file details in one view shouldn't be this difficult!  Windows Explorer allows a view where you can see the full filename, file size, date created and modified, and other necessary info all in one shot without needing to view them in Properties window.  Why can't Finder?

After spending so much time with Mac OS X, I fell in love with the quick preview (hit space key on a file).  It's not perfect (hit space key on a folder and I would expect to see a sample list of files in that folder), and a bit quirky, but it's effective and productive.  However, hitting the enter key and not actually opening the file or app seems unintuitive.  Instead it allows you to rename the file!  Windows, Ubuntu, and other OSes have trained users to expect the Enter key to open or run whatever is highlighted.  Not with Mac.  After a year, I'm still not used to this.

Being different for the sake of being different isn't the way to go.  If they can add a simple double pane view with a folder tree on the left, and a files/folders list on the right, I'd be happy.  But as they have it now, I find it hard to browser files and folders quickly.

Multiple Finder windows are also hard to manage, especially when they aren't minimized.  That leads me to...

 

Windows Management 

When there are multiple windows open and on screen somewhere, it's hard to switch between the two easily.  It's not just switching between the two, but interacting with the two, such as dragging and dropping items from one window to another.

This is why Windows 7 was the first OS that I actually had personal connection to.  Yes, I'll say it.  I fell in love with Windows 7.  I haven't said anything like that about software!  Apple made me feel that way with the iPod Touch (my first Apple product), which was both hardware and software.  But Windows 7 was the first software that made me feel that way.  And it was a Microsoft product.  On a PC.

The Aero Snap feature is simply awesome. You move the window to the left, and another to the right, and they snap into place and give you side-by-side view of two apps.  Double-click on the top of the window, and it will expand vertically, but leave the horizontal alone.  And of course, double-click on the title bar itself, and the window will just maximize and take up the entire desktop.  You rarely have to resize the window manually.

And that's the problem.  In Mac OS X, I constantly have to fiddle with the window size manually.  I need the edge snap feature badly, at LEAST.  Traditional "full screen" (maximizing) isn't there.  Instead, Apple decided to go full bore and make "full screen" truly full screen, ala iOS style.  That's a nice option, but can you make it just that?  An option.  Sometimes I want an app to take up the full space of the desktop, but leave the essentials alone.  By essentials, I mean access to the Dock and menu bars.

The old Expose on Snow Leopard was decent.  I actually liked it.  I wish Windows had it.  But the new Mission Control was supposed to be better.  It grouped similar windows together.  I hate that.  It actually made finding a single window harder when that window is a part of a group.

Windows has a taskbar that shows icons for every application that is running.  This makes it easy to switch windows, even if it's hiding behind another window.  On Mac OS X, only minimized windows show up on the Dock.  Opened apps that aren't minimized only show up as an icon with a dot under it.  What's worse?  If you think you closed an app, you didn't.  It will still be on the Dock with a dot underneath it.

The Dock itself is a problem.  Because it's just floating there, I find that it gets in the way when I resize the app window to take up most of the desktop space.  In Windows, when I maximize, it takes up the entire desktop space, but leaves the taskbar anchored at the bottom.  The Dock needs this as well.

For now, I made the Dock auto-hide.  However, it's still annoying when I move my mouse close to the bottom, and it pops up, even though all I wanted to do was to access buttons or items at the bottom of the app window, not the Dock.

It's a visual cluster F***.  There is no simplicity.  There is no elegance.  I actually find Windows 7's taskbar more elegant and simple.  And useful.

Oh, and that menu bar that keeps changing depending on the window in focus.  That's annoying, too.  Again, I've dedicated myself more than a year to the Mac OS X, so it's not just me getting used to the ways of Windows.

Although that thought entered my mind, too.  If Apple wanted to gain market share, they need to steer existing Windows users to them.  The population of computer virgins (that is, people who never used a computer before, not nerds who never scored) is shrinking.  To gain market share, you now have to steal users away from other platforms!  So don't design an OS that alienate Windows users!

Which leads me to...

 

Windows Network Resource Management 

Face it.  Most networks are dominated by Windows computers.  My main file server at home is Windows-based.  Even Linux-based shares like NAS boxes use Samba (a way to allow Linux to share files and folders that emulates Windows shares).

The Mac does too.  However, it's not very elegant.  I had to drop down a menu to type in "smb://fileserver" and add it to a list.  Every time I want to access any shared folders and files, I have to navigate to that list.  "Go, Connect to server" is the path you'd have to take.

Windows has a place for servers with shared resources just show up!  Why can't we have that?  Even Ubuntu is easier to browse the network.

And shared printers?  Even following the steps provided by Apple's own web page, I can't get it to work.

 

Why Don't You Go Back to Windows? 

The Mac faithful will probably tell me to just go back to Windows, or that I don't get it.  To those blind to their faith, I say "it's you who don't get it".  Adding those features to make Mac OS X more complete and more usable for Windows-oriented users won't make Mac less Mac-like.  As some of my friends would say, "it won't bother you none!”

The truth is, Mac OS X is very flashy, and I like that.  It panders to the normal users with great fan service.  The overscroll bounce, the zooming, the multitouch gestures.  They're great!  But doing anything more than just surfing the net, or more than one thing at a time, and I find it frustrating.

There are other oddities, too.  The reliance on iPhotos and iTunes for photo and music management is one of them.  There are photos and other JPGs I want to incorporate into my movie, but iMovie seem to only want to see resources available only if they were imported to one of its media cataloging siblings.  What if I don't want to import the picture assets into my own personal photo album?  What if I don't want these sound effect files mixed in with my music collection?

I can drag and drop them from folders, but they aren't really integrated into iMovie.

The largest barrier for me is the windows management and file management.  They are preventing me from doing things I need to do.  I do like the fan service. I really like the spit and polish.  Now, I want substance behind it all.

Thursday
Aug182011

New Comments System by Disqus

After using Disqus on other people's blogs, I was impressed enough to try it myself! Let me know what you think by breaking it in here.
Tuesday
Aug162011

Intel HD 3000/2000 Graphics Problems?

I haven't built any computers based on the Sandy Bridge core, which of course includes the integrated GPU Intel calls the "Intel HD 3000" in some of their mid to high end CPUs (Core i5 and i7).  The "Intel HD 2000" are found on some of the low end CPUs such as Core i3.  Besides the difference in GPU performance, they are basically the same in terms of architecture.

Fry's Electronics had an amazing sale on some Patriot 16GB DDR3 memory ($59.99 after mail-in rebate), but none of my computers uses DDR3.  The memory sparked a whole new computer build, which led to my experience with the Intel HD 3000 and Sandy Bridge.

 

Some Background

Currently, I have a PC serving as my virtual machine farm and file/print server (a Drobo is attached to it).  It's a Core 2 Quad Q6600 (2.4 GHz) and has 8 GB of DDR2 RAM.  There is no onboard video, so I picked the slowest, fanless ATI PCI-E video card at the time.  It is running a RAID 0 of 500GB laptop HDDs to further save on power while allowing for some protection.  The computer itself sucks down 70 to 100 W depending on load.  Of course, that doesn't take the power consumption of the external Drobo unit into account.

My HTPC runs Windows Media Center, streams from my server, and is a Core 2 Duo E7200 (2.53 GHz) and also has 8 GB of DDR2 RAM.  When I chose the video card at the time, only the high end ATI cards had bitstreaming audio, so I went for a budget and fanless nVidia GeForce 8500GT.  It had an HDMI jack and a SPIDF passthru, so that was the best choice at the time.  I have a single 1TB HDD because it was on sale for $99 (which was cheap at the time) and because I didn't feel my HTPC was all that critical.  It sucked down about the same amount of power as my server.

So I figured if I could build a single powerful but green PC based on the quad-core Core i5 2500K (3.3 GHz) and have it do the job of both of my PCs that run 24 hours a day, I would be doing the planet a favor.  Indeed, as I was putting it together, I measured a low idle of 38 W, while peaking to 100 W on load.  This would be awesome!

 

The Build

Besides the Patriot 16 GB of DDR3 memory and the Intel Core i5 2500K CPU, I also bought Gigabyte's Z68MA-D2H-B3 motherboard.  It uses the new Z68 chipset for the LGA 1155 CPUs and allows for both integrated GPU and discrete GPU to function simultaneously, while still allowing the CPU to be overclocked (which I didn't plan on doing anyways).  I would be reusing the RAID 0 setup from my server, and the HTPC case, Blu-Ray drive, and PSU from my current HTPC, all in the name of saving a few bucks.

Of course, I would not dare to take down the server and HTPC until I was good and ready, otherwise my household occupants would revolt.  Instead, I put everything together in a barebones way.  No case. Just a PSU, a hard drive, and a USB DVD-ROM drive for installing Windows 7.  My plan was to install Windows and all drivers to get the OS and software down properly, migrate my Windows Media Center settings and schedules to the new PC, then finally bring down the server and HTPC to harvest their parts.  I would then transfer the new PC's image to the RAID 0 drives.  Minimal downtime was the goal.

 

The Head-Scratcher

I thought I was home free after Windows 7 was done installing.  I installed all the drivers, rebooted, and then was staring at a black screen with a mouse cursor that I could move.  Unfortunately, that's all I could do with the mouse.  When out of frustration, I would sometimes leave it in that state, only to come back to find different behviors.  One time, I would see a grabled desktop, but it was a hard freeze.  Other times, it would reboot on it's own, where Windows would boot into it's own recovery partition to repair or do a System Restore.

I was going nuts!  I reinstalled Windows from scratch, played with BIOS settings (maybe I accidently overclocked it?), updated the firmware, replaced memory, stomped my feet... same results.

 

The Revelation

After much troubleshooting, I found that if I were to install the driver for the Intel HD 3000 video, Windows would bomb on the next reboot.  It didn't matter if it was the included driver on the CD, Gigabyte's website, or the ones found on Intel's own website.

Some say it was bad drivers, and that getting the oldest version would work.  The oldest version available on Intel's website did not work for me.  Gigabyte's site actually had something newer than Intel's own site!  And the CD?  Forget it.

Their stories were similar - BSODs, hard crashes, or sometimes just random pausing.

There were others that told stories of motherboard RMAs, memory RMAs, and eventually after 3 CPU RMAs, one person found that it worked without changing anything else!

Was that it?  The GPU core on the Core i5 that is bad?  That's odd.  CPUs rarely comes out bad from the factory.  But all signs point to either a bad GPU core on the CPU or just bad drivers.

People who have Z68, H67, and H61 chipsets (not P67s because they do not even use the integreated GPUs) are reporting the same thing, from all different motherboard manufacturers.

Intel hasn't responded to the complaints.  It may not be happening to everyone, but there seem to enough people experiencing this to warrent some kind of response.

 

So the lesson here?  Wait for a response from Intel before buying your next Sandy Bridge CPU, especially if you plan on using the integrated graphics.  Or hedge your bets and go for it anyways.  After all, not everyone got bad GPU cores, right?

Your's truly returned everything and just gave up on the project.  I'll just wait.

 

Related links (including Intel's own forums):

http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/308429-33-intel-hd3000-graphics-driver-causing-system-freeze

http://communities.intel.com/thread/21932

http://communities.intel.com/thread/20439

http://communities.intel.com/message/135995

http://communities.intel.com/message/135937 (me)

Tuesday
Aug092011

Sandy Bridge Overclocking - A Window Closed, But a Door Opens

Remember back in the days of the original Pentium and K6 CPUs?  It's been a while, hasn't it?  There were many ways to overclock.  You could overclock the front side bus (FSB) and basically overclock the system as a whole (CPU, memory, PCI slots, etc), or you could play with the multiplier of the CPU and not mess with anything else that may be critical.

Starting with the slot-based CPUs (Pentium II and Athlon), multipliers on the CPU were locked, so we were left only with overclocking FSB to get the desired results.  Memory multipliers helped us overclock the FSB without pushing the memory out of spec, while the expansion bus were ran asyncronis from the FSB.  And that was how the way things were.

Then Intel introduced the Sandy Bridge "2nd Generation Core processor family".  With many things being highly integreated for the sake of cost and power consumption, it can become a double-edge sword.  Sure there are up sides to the integration, but there are also down sides.  Here, there is no longer a FSB to play with.  The clock is not on the motherboard, so you cannot really play with it any more.  It is now integrated on the CPU itself.  You can overclock it by a little, but it doesn't make much difference.  Everything is now based off this clock, so even a small change can throw something out of spec.

However, Intel did something unexpected.  For decades, their stance on overclocking was "hell no".  They have a few CPUs that had fully unlocked multipliers for enthusiasts to overclock, but they were always at the very high end CPUs that cost a grand or so.  Intel now brought unlocked versions of Sandy Bridge CPUs to the more affordable ones that cost $200 (Core i5 2500K) and $300 (Core i7 2600K).  The "K" is the only designation that clues you in that they are unlocked versions, and the best part is that they only cost a bit more than the locked (non-K) versions ($10 and $20 more respectively).

Oh what a great move on Intel's part, especially since these CPUs can reach up to 4.4GHz on the uber small stock cooler!

I'm still trying to justify buying a Sandy Bridge-based system since my current Core 2 Quad Q9550 at 2.8 GHz is still no slouch.  It used to be overclocked to 3.8 GHz, but over time, it started giving me stability issues, so I went back down to stock speeds.  Even so, I didn't miss the overclock at all, so all that CPU horsepower isn't as important as it used to be.  I haven't had anything that would stress the CPU enough to make it worth while like I used to.  It's all about the GPU now.

If you're looking to upgrade from dual-core CPU, this is a great time to do it!  With what I have now, I think I will see what the next "tick" or "tock" Intel has in store for us.

Thursday
Jul282011

Samsung Galaxy S II - Things I'd Like to Change.

After using the Samsung Galaxy S II for a month, I have to say I absolutely love it!  The TouchWiz 4 UI is also winning me over.  The darn thing is fast and light, but I found a few things I'd like Samsung to address.

 

  • Notification of battery fully charged.  Why do we need this?  It would wake me up in the middle of the night to let me know it's done charging!  No other phone does this.

 

  • Camera noises can't be turned off.  When you touch the screen to focus, when you take a photo, and when you start a video, it makes a noise.  Even if you put the phone to no sound!

 

  • No green icons in notification bar.  In stock Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), the WIFI and/or 3G signal bars would turn green when it is able to sync to Google.  It's actually pretty useful in finding out if you're actually connected and syncing.

 

  • Sleep/Wake button in the wrong place!  I used to think it was a good idea to put it on the right side, but I found myself accidentally hitting the button when I use the volume rocker on the other side.  Or vice versa (hitting the volume rocker when trying to use the sleep/wake button).


I haven't found anything else wrong, actually.  If Samsung would address these issues in the next update (or with the hardware button placement in the next Galaxy S phone), it would make their Galaxy S line of phones perfect in my eyes.

Thursday
Jul212011

Creating a Bootable Mac OS X Lion DVD

Thursday
Jul072011

Selling my Apple iPhone 4 32GB - Black, Jailbroken, & Unlocked!

That's right!  I'm selling my Apple iPhone 4!  It's the 32GB Black GSM model.  I take good care of my stuff, and this was no exception.  I'm kind of pissed that I even have 2 small nicks on it, but the glass and everything else is perfect.  I had the Ghost Armor full body skin installed since day one.  It's still the original 01.59.00 baseband for easy unlocking with ultrasn0w.  In fact, this is why I didn't consider bringing it to the Apple store to see if they would replace the phone because the new basebands still haven't been unlocked yet.

Check out my eBay auction here!  It's almost like-new (box, headphones, charger, plastic glass covers).  The only thing I used from the box is the sync cable.  I am super anal with my stuff!

 

So why am I selling my iPhone 4?  Well, I am now a proud owner of a Samsung Galaxy S II!  Yep, I'm jumping into Android feet first!  So far so good.  I'll write about what it's like to switch away from my iOS phone.  Don't get me wrong, I won't be completely iOS-free.  After all, i still have my iPad 2.  But I'll be honest - the iPad 2 is not the same as using the iPhone.  It's a totally different experience.

Also, there is always that iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPhone Mini, or iPhone Unicorn that's coming this fall.  Will it sway me from my 1.2 GHz dual-core Exynos beast?  We'll see.

In the mean time, my iPhone 4 is up for grabs!  Happy bidding! 

PHOTOS

(PS: The photos were taken with the Samsung Galaxy S II.) 

 


Wednesday
Jun152011

Where are the Universal GSM Smartphones?

Besides the Nokia N8, there isn't a smartphone that has UTMS (3G/HSPA+) support for all carriers.  It's hard to design a radio that can handle five different bands, I know, but if Apple can pull it off on it's next iPhone, I'll be glaring at HTC and Samsung.

The Samsung Vibrant on T-Mobile has support for 1700, 2100, and 1900 MHz, which allowed 3G even on AT&T's network.  It's missing AT&T's other 3G band, 850 MHz, but if you're in a city where you have good 1900 MHz coverage, then you're good.

My frustration now is that I am on AT&T, but I want to go to T-Mobile because of the cheaper plan.  I'm grandfathered in the unlimited data, but T-Mobile's 5 GB soft cap is enough for me.  Some may say "who cares about T-Mobile.  They will be bought out soon".  I'm still hopeful that the deal will fall through, and T-Mobile continues its existence.  They are certainly carrying on like the buyout isn't coming true.  They've released the awesome HTC Sensation 4G, and what is suppose to be awesome LG G2x (which, as we found out, is plauged with issues).  They restructured their plans, and even upgraded their network (HSPA+ 42 Mbps, which is up from 21 Mbps).

I like having two phones - one from the iOS camp, the other on Android.  The choice is easy on the iOS side - there is only Apple.  But on the Android camp, there's two phones that is driving me crazy.  The HTC Sensation (and the US version, Sensation 4G on T-Mobile) only has support for 900, 1700, and 2100 MHz - perfect for T-Mobile, Wind, and overseas use (which most countries use only 2100 MHz).  Then there is the Samsung Galaxy S II, which isn't even here in the US yet.  The European version only has support for 850, 1900, and 2100 MHz.  It's perfect for AT&T, Rogers, and overseas use.

For a quad-band UTMS phone, I'd like to see one that supports 850, 1700, 1900, and 2100 MHz.  Or maybe jam 5 bands like the Nokia N8 and add 900 Mhz to the mix.

Is that so hard to ask?

Tuesday
Jun142011

Unlocked iPhone 4 Now Available at Apple Stores

Well, well, well... what do we have here?  Apple is finally selling unlocked iPhone 4s as part of their standard inventory.  Boy Genius Report suspected this would happen after a tweet from @chronicwire.

The 16 GB iPhone 4 is going for $649, while the 32 GB version is going for $749.  These are not bad prices, actually.  The Samsung Galaxy S II 16 GB is going for $749 at Expansys-USA.  I would expect that the next iPhone would be sold at the same price as well, so it will be very competitive with other unlocked phones.

Here in the US, we don't really get to see phones sold this way.  However, if Apple can buck the trend, we should start seeing this more often.  So while there isn't much "other unlocked phones" to compare with, the Samsung Galaxy S II is a good start, since it's the newest and hottest Android phone right now (which isn't even released in the US in any way, shape, or form).

What else?  This actually gives me hope that the next iPhone will be the one that will work on all carriers in the US without the need of seperate SKUs.  A single iPhone that works with both CDMA and GSM.  The Verizon iPhone 4 already have the baseband that does it, but for whatever reason, Apple only utilized the CDMA portion of it.  Just take the same baseband, add AWS frequency support (1700 MHz for T-Mobile US , Wind CDN, etc.), and call it a day.

If Apple sold the next iPhone unlocked and completely carrier agnostic in the US (nay, the WORLD!), it will be one of my favorite phones.

And another thing: for those who jailbreak, you won't have to worry about preserving the baseband anymore!  It was always dicey to update iOS and keeping the old baseband so that ultrasn0w can unlock the phone.  Now, it's one less worry.

Of course, the new hurdle won't be the baseband if everything falls into place.  Oh now.  The new hurdle will be the live OTA updates on iOS 5 and beyond.  But jailbreaking a new version of the iOS was never a real problem - it was always that darn baseband (for the unlock).

With what is basically an international iPhone model for sale in the US, does this also mean that we won't have to heed AT&T's tethering plan just to tether occasionally?  We'll see.

Sunday
May012011

Apple 15" MacBook Pro (2011 Model) Unboxing

This is my unboxing video on the Apple 15.4" MacBook Pro.  It's the 2011 model which the Thunderbolt port debut on.  It's the highest end you can get at the Apple Store (they only stock certain configurations).

Highlight specs include Intel's newest Sandy Bridge CPU, the Core i7 quad core running at 2.3 GHz.  It's also has 4GB of DDR3 memory, and AMD's Radeon HD 6750M GPU with 1 GB of dedicated GDDR5 memory.  This is the fastest mobile GPU Apple offers.

I did a quick unboxing because I couldn't wait to get it up and running so I could play with it!  After having some experience with it, I've also written a review at ePinions.  Check it out!

 

Sunday
Apr242011

Apple Smart Cover Unboxing

I know it's a bit late.  Sorry, I totally forgot I didn't upload this video until now.  Better late than never!  Some of you are still probably waiting for your iPad 2 to come in, so it may not be too late for you. :)

 

Saturday
Apr162011

T-Mobile First Walk-Thru and Benchmark Outside of CTIA

I can't believe my local favorite T-Mobile store (actually a kiosk at a mall) has the T-Mobile G2x!  It's the final production model, and will be available April 20, 2011 (Wednesday).  The people working at the store are also enthusiests like me, so it was awesome talking to them.

Here it is!

 

Wednesday
Apr132011

Upgrade to RAID Without Reinstalling Windows

About a couple months ago, I found out my SSD drive had 13% life left. It's been used for a year as the system drive of my file server. I also have a Hyper-V virtual machine, which virtual hard drive (VHD) is on the same SSD on a different partition.

In hindsight, that was a very bad idea. The guest OS does not know the VHD is an SSD, and thus does not make any provisions such as using TRIM on it. It led to a very short life. I new the risks, but I didn't think it would shorten its life that bad!

So a few days ago, I finally decided to move over to a mirrored RAID of two 500 GB laptop drives. The reason I went with a SSD was for power consumption and performance, so I decided laptop drives would help on power consumption side, and RAID 0 (mirror) will help with read performance while maintaining some kind of failsafe redundancy.

How it Works
Moving Windows to a drive on a different disk controller is like replacing the very floor you're standing on. It's doable, but very tricky.

It doesn't matter if you're moving from a single drive to RAID, or if you're simply moving from a Silicon SATA controller to an Intel controller. The concept is the same. Windows is standing on the controller driver from when it was first installed.

Unlike other hardware, where you can change the driver at will, the drive controller is what holding up your hard drive. And from there, your hard drive is holding up Windows. When you just move your hard drive to a new controller, Windows will not recognize it, and therefore won't boot. You might go into a rebooting cycle of doom.

So how do we get around this?

In my case, my RAID controller wasn't another physical controller. That would be too simple. No. My current SATA controller can be set as a RAID controller, and Windows sees it as two completely different controllers! Like Superman, Clark Kent can't exist in the same room.

The Solution
You need to have a driver installed for the new controller. In my case, I had to install the RAID driver first. This is also tricky. You cannot install a driver for a hardware that does not exist. After all, if Clark Kent was here, I couldn't fit a suit for Superman. Okay, well, you get the idea.

If you were simply moving from one controller to another on the same PC, it's easier. The other controller is already installed on the same PC, and therefore, if you install the correct driver for it, you can simply move the drive over to the new controller.

In my case, I was on the Intel controller that's built into the 965 Express chipset (ICH8R). Depending on how you set it in your BIOS, it can act as a standard SATA AHCI controller, a legacy EIDE controller, or a RAID controller. Even though it is the same hardware, each of those controller settings require a different driver. Ouch!

Here's the solution. First, a list of what we need:

 

  • Intel RST driver (download from Intel's site)
  • 2nd disk controller (I used a Silicon Image controller)
  • 2nd disk controller driver (download from Silicon Image's site)
  • Hard drives for the RAID volume (buy from NewEgg or Amazon)
  • Disk cloning software (Symantec Ghost, TrueImage, etc)

 

 

Here's what I did:

 

  1. Download the Intel Rapid Storage Technology (RST) driver/software (formerly known as Intel Matrix Storage Manager).
  2. Install a 2nd drive controller (my motherboard had a Silicon Image controller built-in).
  3. Install the driver for the 2nd drive controller. Make sure it shows up in Device Manager.
  4. Shut down Windows, move the hard drive to the 2nd controller.
  5. Go into BIOS and change the Intel Controller type to RAID.
  6. Boot into Windows that's now on the 2nd controller.
  7. Windows will detect a new RAID controller. Install driver (RST in my case). Make sure it shows up in Device Manager. Shut down Windows.
  8. Install your new hard drives for the RAID volume on the Intel controller.
  9. Boot up your PC, and get into the Intel RAID configuration (for me, I had to hit CTRL-I when prompted).
  10. Set up your RAID volume. For me, I wanted a RAID 0 mirror volume.
  11. Use your disk cloning software to clone the single drive on your 2nd controller to your new RAID volume on your 1st controller (which is now a RAID controller - YEAH!)
  12. When done, remove the single hard drive and see if your PC will boot from the RAID volume.

 

You might need to repair the boot partition or sector using the Windows install CD (repair the start up, but do not do a repair install!).

I was able to move Windows from a single failing SSD to a RAID 0 mirrored volume on the same Intel controller that's built into the chipset of my motherboard.

Mission complete!

Now some may ask why would you want to go through all this trouble if you had to buy a 2nd controller that probably has RAID functionality. I guess you can do that, too. However, I didn't want any extra hardware (I could remove the 2nd controller after I'm done), and I wanted the built-in Intel controller as my RAID controller for my system drive.

If you don't already have a 2nd controller, you can buy one for around $20 or less (heck, check out eBay and Craigslist for even less). You can also try to put the single hard drive on a SATA-to-USB device, but I'm not sure if Windows would boot from a USB controller, but you'd have to buy THAT if you didn't have one laying around (or maybe use an external drive enclosure).

Again, there is simply no way of replacing the floor you're standing on without a temporary platform to stand on while you work.