Fixing a broken Grub2 Bootloader after hard drive upgrade

13 11 2010

I recently replaced the hard drive in my laptop. I used Acronis True Image Home 2011 to clone the old hard drive to the new one. It increased the sizes of the partitions proportionatly and made the drive bootable. So far so good.

In addition to Windows 7 I have Ubuntu 10.10 dual booted using Grub2.

Windows 7 booted just fine after the upgrade but Ubuntu would not boot and dropped into busybox with the following error

/dev/disk/by-uuid/xxxx does not exist
dropping to shell

Where xxxx is a long number called a UUID

Because the Linux partition was now 20GB larger than before it had a new UUID which did not match what Ubuntu expected.  Since the introduction of Grub2 Ubuntu boots using Read the rest of this entry »

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Pre-Release version of Kindle 3 software available

21 09 2010

Amazon have posted a preview version of a software update for the Kindle latest generation. The software is available for a limited time. If you intend to update be sure to download before it is removed

The release fixes several issues including

  • Slow web-browsing
  • Slow page turns in bright sunlight.

I find it ironic that page turns with the current Kindle 3 are slower in bright sunlight, especially after Amazon’s latest TV ad poking fun at the iPad’s readability in bright sunlight. I’m sure they will release the software update as soon as possible to save getting too much egg on their face regarding the sunlight issue. I believe their TV Ad campaign is flawed, read more here.

.To learn more about the Kindle visit the Kindle product page





New Kindle Owner – Week 1

19 09 2010

I placed my order for the latest Kindle 3 with Wifi + 3g on September 3rd 2010 and it arrived a few weeks later on September 16th. I’ve used it for a few days now and here are my first impressions :-

The Unexpected

Being sold out and on back order I resigned myself to having to wait 2 weeks to get the device before I could use it. However as I read up on the Kindle I quickly discovered you don’t actually need a Kindle at all to read Kindle books. Amazon have released Kindle applications for computers and smart phones. Visit this web page for more details.

I was able to install the Kindle app on my Android phone and start downloading and reading Kindle books immediately.  You don’t need to have ordered a Kindle to do this, the software is freely available.

I read HG Wells War of the Worlds. I had seen the TV reenactment of the famous radio version of this story. The book however was both different and delightful. Quite a satisfying read. I was amazed how readable the book was on an Android phone. I had read the entire book while waiting on the Kindle to arrive in the mail. I found the ‘Sepia’ theme to be the easiest on the eyes. I also experimented with the Desktop application on both Windows XP and Windows 7. It worked great and synchronized my reading place between devices across the internet. Amazon refer to this sync feature as WhisperSync. It works remarkably well.

I also discovered that many classic books are free, and some books are offered for free on short term promotions. Many books offer the first chapter for free.

By the end of the first week I had purchased 17 books. 15 free, 2 paid for, for a grand total of $10. I had registered 2 mobile devices and 4 computers to my Amazon account in addition to the yet to be received Kindle.

The Good

The Kindle arrived and I found the reading experience to be much better than anticipated, even given the positive reviews I had already read on the web. The text is very sharp thanks to great contrast. This is my first time to experience ‘e-ink’ and it is quite phenomenal. In bright light I find the readability to be superior to physical books.

Not only were all my purchases available directly upon opening of the box, but all my Audible titles were also available for download. The automatic synchronization between my Kindle and Audible accounts was seamless and the audio books sound great on the Kindle. I was able to pick up reading Stieg Larssons, ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ where I had left off on my android device.

Free 3g wireless for the life of the service/device. What a deal!! No contracts, no fees just download content from anywhere with 3g data. It even works with Edge if 3g isn’t available.

The Bad

The price of e-books. You’ll notice I ‘purchased’ a lot of books at no cost, this sounds great, what can I complain about? The reason I selected free books is that current books are in my opinion over priced, as a rule of thumb, e-books are priced the same as paperbacks, or a smidgen less. Don’t blame Amazon, they wanted to price most e-books at $9.99 or less, but the publishers lead by Macmillan were successful in strong arming Amazon into charging more. Read more here . It is dismaying to see Apple at the center of the price hike as a result introducing the iPad earlier this year. More competition leads to higher prices!?! Am I missing something? I refer to higher e-Book prices that is, thanks to Apple the Kindle price is cut in half, hence my purchase :-)

Click to enlarge image

Amazon advertise the latest Kindle as having 4GB of storage. Well actually its more like 3GB usable storage. I’m accustomed to GB inflation from hard drive manufacturers, but 25% difference? Hmmm….

The Ugly

‘Experimental Features’ such as the MP3 player and Web Browser are not easy to use on the Kindle. The MP3 player is simply a jukebox that plays your MP3’s in the order they were loaded on the device. No controls.

The Web Browser is slow and very difficult to use without a pointing device. Using up/down/right/left arrows to navigate is very frustrating. One good note however, the browser scores 100 on the acid3 browser test and renders sites such as Gmail very well. Why offer a browser at all? To sell books of course.

Summary

I like it. I like it a lot. I recommend you get one even if you already have a laptop/notebook/iPad. This dedicated reading device is very compelling.





Why Amazon’s Kindle vs iPad ‘pool ad’ is a mistake

17 09 2010

Recently Amazon have aired an ad that makes fun of the iPads readability (or lack thereof) in bright sunlight.

In my opinion this is a huge mistake. The two products are complementary not competitive. What Amazon should be doing is comparing their Kindle Library to the Apple iBook Library. Content is king, devices will come and go, ones e-book library will by contrast persist for much longer.

Amazon’s Kindle library can be accessed on a wide range of devices, including the iPad no less. Making fun of a platform that you officially support is rather silly. Do Amazon really want to sell Kindles or do they want to sell Kindle books? Kindles are merely a delivery mechanism for the real product, a book, magazine, newspaper etc.

There are so many great things about the Kindle ecosystem that they could promote, the device isn’t that important. The fact that the 3g model has free worldwide 3g without any monthly cost or commitments is quite frankly amazing, push this and compare to the price of the iPads data plan. Free vs $$$ per month.

Learn more about the Kindle here.





The black art of Wireless Networking

16 05 2010

It rained all day today so I was able to resolve a wireless issue I had experienced on a laptop a friend gave me to repair/rebuild.

After replacing a faulty hard drive and loading Vista from scratch I discovered the wireless would not link in to my wireless network.  Other computers in my home ran just fine on the wireless network so I ‘knew’ there was no problem with my network. In addition I could boot the laptop to Ubuntu 10.4 on a  Live CD and it worked just fine too. This ruled out the laptop hardware as well. The finger pointed at Vista and the Intel Drivers.

After a reload of the Intel drivers from both HP and Intel, and a reload of Vista from scratch again and still no joy. I was running out of options.

I did discover that if I set the IP address as fixed on the laptop it worked just fine, so it was connecting to the router just fine but not getting an IP address. Puzzling since I could get an IP address assigned automatically using Ubuntu using the same wireless adapter.

Out of options I rebooted a wireless access point even though all other computers and the same computer using Ubuntu worked just fine. That fixed the problem. Note the router I rebooted was NOT the one assigning IP addresses, just the access point the laptop was connecting to. Somehow the access point was preventing a specific combination of hardware/software from getting an IP address from another router. Weird.

Not sure what can cause a specific combination of Wireless router, Operating systems and Wireless divers to fail to get an IP address, but there you go. Wireless sometimes eludes any logic.

The old axim of  ‘reboot and try again’ lives on….

Equipment

  • Buffalo WHR-G54S Wireless access point (DHCP off) with DD-WRT
  • Buffalo WHR-G54S router (DHCP On) with DD-WRT
  • HP Pavillion DV2910US
  • Windows Vista Home Premium SP2 32-bit
  • Ubuntu 10.4 32-bit
  • Intel 4965AGN Wireless adapter
  • Marvell Yukon 88E8039 Nic




Solid State Hard Drives – Performance Boost worth the money?

25 04 2010

Short answer – No.

Long answer follows.

I recently compared the performance of a good quality Solid State Hard drive compared to a traditional magnetic hard drive in use in most computers today.

My tests were restricted to start-up and shutdown times on a new Acer Netbook. Here is what I recorded.

Windows 7 Starter Edition – 32 Bit

Conventional Hard Drive – 160GB 5400 rpm Hitachi

  • Start-up time – 31 seconds
  • Shutdown Time – 11 Seconds

Solid State Hard Drive – 80GB Intel Mainstream

  • Start-up Time – 21 Seconds
  • Shutdown Time – 8 Seconds

This shows about a 1/3 reduction in time to start-up or shutdown the same computer with an identical installed image of Windows 7 Starter Edition. The solid state ‘mainstream’ hard drive from Intel costs around $200 and is only half the capacity of the original drive shipped with the Netbook. So it only makes sense if you really need to have every piece of extra speed or durability from your computer. (The Netbook only cost $225 to purchase in the first place). To buy a 160GB Intel Solid State drive to match the 160GB traditional drive would cost $400.

The start-up and shutdown times were averaged over three operations. Start-up was measured as the time it takes from the power button being pressed to a password prompt being presented. Shutdown was measured from the time shutdown was selected until the computer turned itself off.

By Comparison Ubuntu 9.10 Netbook Remix on the same Intel SSD took 14 Seconds to start-up and 5 Seconds to shutdown.

The drivers for investing in a Solid State Drive should be

  • The need for every bit of speed one can muster
  • The need for a drive that is very durable and can absorb shock and impact of up to 1500G’s without failing.

Use cases that come to mind are

  • Server System Drives, where speed and not capacity is most important.
  • Laptops that are subject to considerable vibration/impact. Either in an industrial environment, or subject to constant vibration in a moving vehicle.

List of Equipment used in this quick test





VTel Video Conferencing Presentation

31 03 2010

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

On March 31st 2010 I attended a presentation hosted by Sprint and VTel showcasing a video conferencing system (and Sprint wireless connectivity for the device). The lunch and learn was held at Maggiano’s in Nashville TN.

VTel CEO Richard Ford lead the presentation and was joined by Ken Hall the South East Regional Sales Manager.

They showcased their iPanel Room video conference system. It comprised of an HDTV,  High Def SVideo Camera, a customized slimline PC (that was attached of the rear of the Flat Panel TV) and a paired wireless keyboard. A Sprint wireless device was tethered to the system to provide 3G connectivity. (Sprint mobile 4g is not available in Nashville currently – Sprint 4g is currently limited to WiMAX via their relationship with Clearwire). Read the rest of this entry »