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 »





Is it worth Pre-Ordering the iPad on March 12th?

8 03 2010

Now that Apple have announced that pre-orders are being taken for the iPad on March 12th with shipments beginning April 3rd I wondered if I should buy one to see what the all the fuss is about.

The Netbook we have is up for replacement so I tried to list the things we do with the Netbook and if the iPad could replace it. The answer is no, and its not even close.

Here are the uses we put the Netbook to :-

  • Call the UK on Skype. The lack of a webcam or USB port to accept the USB  headset we have is an issue. Would need to buy an adapter for USB devices. Not sure if headset is compatible.
  • Watch shows on Hulu – Hulu use Flash, so that rules the iPad out.
  • Play games on Facebook. Once again Flash is the issue.
  • Browse the web and check email. OK the iPad can do that well most of the time.

Since there are problems with Skype, Hulu and Facebook all being limited or non-functional, I think I’ll look for a Netbook instead that has a decent battery life and is faster than the 2nd gen Netbook we have. When you think of it, the iPad makes a poor laptop device, to get the viewing angle right you’d have to hold it with one hand or sit with your legs crossed. Crossed legs doesn’t work too well with a recliner.

Maybe the iPad 2 will be a more compelling device if and when it comes out.





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.

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To read more about Ubuntu visit





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 »