Transfer Contacts from Blackberry to Droid

31 12 2009

The easiest way to transfer contacts from a blackberry to a Motorola Droid phone is via the GMail contact import feature using a CSV file exported from the Blackberry Desktop Manager. There is one gotcha though; Google does not give you a preview of how the contact data will map, which can have undesirable results!!

Here is the procedure.

  1. Backup your Blackberry data using the BB Desktop Manager.
  2. Export BB contacts to an Excel compatible CSV File. Follow the procedure found here.
  3. Open CSV file in Excel. Read the rest of this entry »




Ubuntu SMART disk analysis is slick!

26 12 2009

As soon as Ubuntu detects problems with a hard drive that reports S.M.A.R.T. diagnostics it pops up a warning and the depth of information is impressive. Speedfan has a nice enough analysis of hard drive health, but it is a little arcane. The Ubuntu utility really explains what is going on. It also shows historical ‘watermarks’ where a characteristic went over threshold in the past.

Here are some screen shots of what one can find about a hard drives health status.

Not surprisingly the failing hard drive was replaced and data backed up. Not one piece of user data was lost, as is often the case with failing hard drives, files affected are mostly system/program files. Recovery of data is typically very successful. In this case the user had only 700MB of data on a 500GB drive.

To look at the SMART characteristics of drives attached to an Ubuntu system start the Disk Utility which is located under
System -> Administration -> Disk Utility. This disk utility is a Gnome desktop tool, for those with other variants of linux or Ubuntu with different desktops it can be added to your distribution by installing the application gnome-disk-utility using synaptic package manager or the command line

sudo apt-get install gnome-disk-utility

Update 2010-11-14: Since the introduction of Ubuntu 10.4 the disk utility included in Ubuntu has changed. Screen shots of the new disk utility are included below. The utility provides more information, especially about how the disk partitions are organized. However I have found that once in a while the new utility reports that SMART disk statistics are unavailable for a disk, using Ubuntu 9.10 Live Disk reveals that the SMART statistics are available after all. This is an unfortunate problem with what is a great diagnostic tool, hopefully the drive compatibility will be improved back to its former glory.

Click to enlarge image

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To read more about Ubuntu visit





Netbook Use Case #42 – Green Cooking

24 12 2009

No trees were killed in the cooking of this Pecan Pie!!

Click on image to Enlarge

No need to print out a recipe, just walk the netbook into the kitchen and start cooking. Netbooks don’t take up half of your contertop like large cook books do either!!





Wordpad on Windows 7 reads docx files!!

22 12 2009

If you were needing another reason to switch to Windows 7, here is another. Wordpad on Windows 7 *can* read and modify MS Word 2007/2010 docx files.

Click on image to enlarge

I found this out when using my Netbook that does not have Office installed (frankly it’s not capable of running Office). I opened a docx file without thinking and saw a warning that all document features may not be supported. On the screen I notice that the top margin was absent, but when I printed the document it came out looking great. Wordpad does use a ribbon interface and appears to support the basic features one would expect from a word processor.

If you are using a budget computer or are operating on a small budget then Wordpad can work as your wordprocesor. It is the poor man’s word processor!!





Laptop running slow? Check temperature with Speedfan!

19 12 2009

Computers typically run just fine when you first get them but then slowly degrade. Even after loading Windows 7 as a clean install I was still experiencing a slower laptop than I remembered when I purchased it 2 years ago. Windows startup/login time was just too slow.

Click on image to enlarge

Using Speedfan (download here) I noticed the laptop was running a little hot, about 140°F and the cooling fan was operating all of the time. Speedfan also measures the actual CPU speed and my dual core cpu’s were running at only 900Mhz. The Intel T2080 Dual-Core CPU installed in the laptop is rated at 1.73 Mhz, so I was losing almost 50% of the rated speed.  This additional CPU information is on the new ‘exotics’ tab of Speedfan (see graphic). I replaced the cooling fan with a brand new one I got off eBay for $20 and the laptop is running at full speed now!! (Speedfan CPU numbers are not dynamic like the temperature and other numbers, the speed reported is at the time Speedfan was started. To get a good sample exit and restart Speedfan several times).

Read the rest of this entry »





Fixing a failed update to Firefox in Ubuntu

19 12 2009

The problem

I did a routine update to one of my Ubuntu installations this morning, and lo and behold it failed during the Firefox update. Even after a cold reboot I was unable to start Firefox, it was broken.

Not able to browse the internet from Ubuntu to research the problem and never having had a problem like this before I was left with a conundrum. The update manager didn’t show Firefox as needing an update anymore. Eventually I stumbled on the fix, here it is.

The Fix

Launch Synaptic package manager and type in Firefox in the Quick search box. Find Firefox which should have a green check-box indicating it is installed. Right click the green Read the rest of this entry »





Best driver for Canon i475D on Ubuntu 9.10

18 12 2009

Ubuntu does not have a driver for the Canon i475D printer. I experimented with several and found that the ‘i450D foomatic/bjc800’ driver provided the best test page.

Some web resources (like this) suggest using the BJC800 driver, however I found it printed the test page very small on the page. I notice the i450 driver mentions the bjc800. Be sure to chose the i450/bjc800 and NOT the bjc800 only and the prints will be just fine.





Will litigation neuter the internet?

16 12 2009

A free internet is under threat on several fronts, several proposed laws may severely limit the internet and cripple innovation. Large corporations and organizations would like to control the internet and they may well do so if the following laws come to pass.

ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement).

Anti-counterfeiting, who could be against that? This proposed treaty may get international ratification, we could have our freedoms encroached without a US law ever having to be passed! See this webpage.

Three strikes is at the core of this agreement. If an internet user is accused three times (note not convicted, just accused by anyone reporting them to their ISP), then the internet user gets booted off the internet by their ISP. No due process, no appeal process. Guilt is assumed not proven. In France they have already passed similar legislation. Bans for life could be dished out, even the infamous hacker Kevin Mitnick got his internet privileges back. You and I may not.

Some of the organizations supporting this treaty are Read the rest of this entry »





I’m ‘this’ close to switching from Firefox to Chrome

14 12 2009

Firefox is a great browesr, the extensions available make life on the internet so much more convenient and productive. I have *never* used Internet Explorer as my primary browser, prior to Firefox I used Netscape and SeaMonkey. When I see others using IE or Firefox without extensions I cringe. All those ads (Yuk!), no easy way to navigate through page history without moving the mouse plus a click or three. Consider having bookmark syncing across browser types /operating systems. Auto tab opening. We get so spoiled so easily.

Click on image to see larger view

Click on image for larger view.

As great as it is, Firefox is no longer the fastest browser available, it is almost as slow as Internet Explorer IMHO. Google Chrome browser is so much faster, but extensions are not available with Chrome 3 or earlier. Despite the raw speed, the lack of the extra functions I’ve grown accustomed to were missing.Enter Chrome 4.0 Beta with extensions. I checked out the extension capability and lo and behold there are a ton available!! In fact I have found equivalent extensions to my Firefox extensions, minus one I like a lot (Tab Mix Plus). Chrome has some great extensions that are NOT available for Firefox, all the latest extension writing talent appears to have migrated to Chrome. I found a great Twitter client called Metrist, clean easy interface with a count for unread tweets, re-tweet ad replies all in a small package. I also found a Facebook extension called Facebook Cleanup, which allows one to get more space for posts, it changes the page from the default 3 column layout to two column, much neater and more readable!! Oh and Facebook ads are history. I haven’t found a similar cleanup add-on for Firefox.

Chrome is so much faster, both to load initially and render web pages. I can’t find an extension in Chrome that replaces Tab Mix Plus. The feature I love is the automatic opening of tabs when clicking on favorites or URL’s entered into the address bar (once you get used to it, you can’t go back).

Above and to the left are the extensions I use in Firefox 3.5.5, and below to the right those I have installed in Chrome 4 Beta. Once I can find an extension that will open tabs automatically by clicking on favorites or when I manually enter a URL, I’m sold and will most likely switch. The extension ‘action’ appears to be with Google right now.





How Accurate is Google Latitude?

10 12 2009

Google latitude is a service Google offer to its mobile Google Maps customers. Latitude is able to optionally transmit and/or track a cell phones(and hence the owners) location.

It’s accuracy depends directly on how accurate the phones location tracking is. Some phones have fairly accurate GPS systems allowing for turn by turn applications, others are ‘approximations’ based upon triangulation of the adjacent cell phone towers. Nothing surprising or earth shattering here, however I was interested how far off the triangulation location is on the Blackberry 8830.  Even if you have very accurate GPS, how much can you depend on the present location of contacts you share location data with?

If your contacts don’t have accurate GPS on their phones, their location is very approximate. In addition to preciseness of GPS functionality of the phone itself, Google Maps/Latitude drops into low precision mode when you are running it as a background application. See here. So even if you do have great GPS,  results may not be that accurate.

Density of cell towers where you are located appears to have the greatest impact on accuracy if your phone uses triangulation. At home it is accurate within 1/2 mile most of the time. At work near the airport at  Gallatin TN, I found it can be off by as much as 10 Miles!! Latitude History maps are shown below.

Poor accuracy when in low density cell tower zone

Reasonable accuracy with a higher density of cell towers

In the map on the left I was stationary for several hours at a location with a poor signal. The map on the right has a tighter cluster of points close to my home and the route to work, where I had a stronger signal and was closer to more cell towers. Google’s website indicates that it will typically default to the local cell tower location when you run it as  a background application. If that were true I’d expect a  cluster of points at the same spot while I was present at work and not that mobile. Clearly that did not happen.

Latitude will be of more value when all cell phones have true GPS. That day hopefully is not too far away. My next phone from Verizon maybe the Droid, I’d hope it to be more accurate than the 2+ year old Blackberry 8830 I currently have.

Update:2010-01-23 – I got the Droid.

On the Motorola Droid the GPS while Google Maps is running in foreground is wonderfully accurate, and even has the ability for a digital compass pointer. The problem comes when it runs in background, as I described earlier Google Maps drops into low precision mode, so I found my location could be off by several miles. No better than the Blackberry 8830 without GPS. The features on the Droid are superior however. Better map resolution, better traffic data, more map layers. I found the GPS Status App for the droid to be a nice app for troubleshooting GPS issues and it doubles as a compass and altimeter. The droid is accurate to 6 feet according to the GPS Status app.