Category Archives: Reviews is an awesome site to sell or buy Android phones

1 minute, 24 seconds

I recently discovered Swappa. This is great site to sell or buy an Android phone. Why? First off they only sell good condition phones with clear ESNs. You won’t find any “only good for parts” deals here. As well, every phone posted for sale is verified by an actual employee at Swappa, so there’s no scammers. Further, they have lower fees than ebay.

However, I take the the blawg-o-sphere today because of their amazing customer service. The other day my one year old and I were hanging out by our pool. When he thought I wasn’t looking, he jumped in (ok, fell in) the pool, face down. Only thinking of ensuring my son didn’t drown, I jumped in and pulled him out. Only afterwords did I remember my Galaxy SIII in my pocket. After a week of letting it bake in the sun and still no speaker or mic working, I deemed it dead.

I went to Swappa, found my replacement phone, and purchased it. It was easy to find the exact phone I wanted, which even came rooted and with CyanogenMod 10.1. The seller told me it would ship out the next morning.

On a whim I powered up my old, left for dead phone. Oh my gosh! It totally worked! I even stuck my SIM card in there and I could make calls with the speaker and mic working no problem.

I embarrassingly asked the seller and Swappa if I could back out of the sale. Both agreed to help me out. The seller refunded my money, keeping $20 at my request. Swappa even refunded my buyers fee, which I had said they could keep. This all took hours and was tended to by the same Swappa employee who had verified the phone for the initial sale. What service!

I could not give them a higher recommendation and plan on purchasing all my phones from them. You should too!

7″ Android Tablet Spec Comparison

1 minute, 38 seconds

For a long time I’ve always thought that tablets are not of much use until you reach the 3rd or 4th use case. You know, you have a laptop on which you can have 20 tabs of browsers open, have a full blown IDE to code in or even run a local instance of your dev environment. The second use case is your smart phone for when you’re on the go, don’t want any bulk or weight but still want to surf and check emails and listen to music. It’s not until you’ve got all those covered that you’ll consider spending hundreds of dollars on a 3rd device (or 4th if you have a desktop).

The wife is considering having a bigger screen than her Incredible to watch Netflix and read blog posts, news and library books on. This will likely spill over into reading kids books for our kids Emmett and Violet as well. Below are the tablets we’re considering. Each item has a product, review and purchase link in the first row. The second row is the presence or lack of a camera. While researching this piece I found Lisa G’s 7″ Tablet Smackdown on Mobile Tech and John P. Falcone’s Kindle vs. Nook vs. iPad on CNET reviews quite helpful. Also, those that wanna blow past the 7″ screen (to 7.7″) and $400 price should consider waiting for the Samsung Tab 7.7 ($600-$800 at this writing). Of course that depends on where you fall in regards to my and Moore’s law. Finally, if you’re looking for cellular connectivity, consider the T-Mobile Springboard .

Samsung Tab 7+ $399

HTC Flyer $299

IdeaPad A1 $229

Kindle Fire $199

Nook Tablet $249
ProductReview$ ProductReview$ ProductReview$ ProductReview$ ProductReview$
Front and Back Front and Back Front None None
1024 x 600 1024 x 600 1024 x 600 1024 x 600 1024 x 600
7.5″ x 4.7″ x 0.45″ 7.7″ x 4.8″ x 0.52″ 7.68″ x 0.46″ x 4.90″ 7.5″ x 4.7″ x 0.45″ 8.1″ x 5″ x 0.48″
12.1 oz 14.82 oz 14.08 oz 14.56 oz 14.08 oz
dual-core 1.2GHz 1.5GHz 1.0GHz dual-core 1.0GHz dual-core 1.0GHz
WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS WiFi WiFi
16GB Int & MicroSD 16GB Int & MicroSD 16GB Int & MicroSD 8GB Internal 8GB Int & MicroSD
Android 3.2 Android 2.3.3 Android 2.3 Android 2.3 Android 2.3

Update: I’ve added lil’ thumbnails for each tablet.

.everyother { background:#ddd; } .tablettable {border:1px solid black;}

Meego Redux: 1.1 Released

1 minute, 33 seconds

If you recall, I fell in love with Meego a bit ago. Then, we broke up, and I left Meego for Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR). Guess what? Yup, just like the title of this post suggests, I’m back to Meego. Yesterday was their 1.1 release and the netbook flavor with Chrome is ready for the Live USB Key, easy install testing. I skipped over the live USB thing and cut right to the chase to install it over UNR.

I went to go install some of the key apps that I use and bumped into a few problems. I’ll sketch ’em out here in case any one else is an early adopter like me:

  • No more yum: Well, yum is still available to install, but it’s not there by default. Instead the fine folks at Meego are shipping ZYpper instead. Works just the same, but for the not so distro savvy nerds like me, I had to search around in the forums to figure what was what. Thanks physalis!
  • KeepassX: The next problem I found was that Keepassx’s download page had 404 links for the fedora packages. When I found that Fedora 12 page DIDN’T 404, I downloaded THAT version of KeepassX. Welp, that version didn’t like the current version of QT that ships with Meebo. Finally, I searched around and found a slightly out of date version at
  • Dropbox: Nothing really tricky here. Their download page has a “Fedora (x86 .rpm)” package. For both KeepassX and Dropbox, it looks like this to install it :
    sudo zypper install nautilus-dropbox-0.6.4-1.fedora.i386.rpm

For those keeping tabs, I did do a write up on configuring Meego mail and calendar which appears to all be the same in 1.1 as it was in 1.0. At first blush, it seems a little tricky to set up with Google Apps, where’s mail is, but we’ll hack away.

Next up: Installing Skype. Happy Meebo-ing!

Update: Skype installed no problem, and QT warning seems to be around fonts. A forum tip around font hinting worked wonders to make Skype and KeepassX look sharp (actually, look anti-aliased).

Ubuntu Netbook Remix update

0 minutes, 54 seconds

I know, I know you have been waiting to hear how it is going with new OS on the netbook. Well my dear readers, I have some good news and some bad news.

First the bad news. The bad news is that Meego really felt snappier and more polished. Though there’s a lot of overlap in software like Evolution is standard on both, something about the simplicity of Meego won out. Both come with a simple window manager and both can be easily extended with new apps, but Meego was more of what I wanted and less of what I didn’t. Example: auto hide task bar on Meego is nice because screen real estate is so precious. This I want. Ubuntu entire open office suite, this I don’t want. Also, Meego loads apps faster (eg Chrome) and boots waaaay faster.

Now the good news: the sleep problem is fixed and AIM totally works. The sleep fix was very satisfying, just follow the included script on superuser totally worked. Snap the lid shut and it goes right to sleep. Click the power button and it springs back to life in under a second. In general Ubuntu is quite nice.

I wonder how EasyPeasy is doing these days?

Bye Bye Meego, Hello Ubuntu Netbook Remix

0 minutes, 54 seconds

Meego, as I mentioned before, is really really cool. I was able to get all my apps installed and even managed to get my Google calendar, mail and contacts syncing by just adding it via the email client under IMAP (BTW – Meego, you should really highlight that feature!). All the apps even appeared as a native icon alongside the pre-installed ones which is a really nice touch. Alas, the lack of a working AIM client is just too much. It’s my primary IM network and it just bugged me that it didn’t work. Which is too bad, because Meego is so close to being perfect. Well, too about AIM and about sleep.

So, what to do? After reading Mr. Doctorow’s latest post, I was reminded about good ol’ Ubuntu. Sure enough, there’s a Netbook remix. Let’s give it a whirl! USB key is prepped and primed and install is imminent.

Also – I love love love (yeah, 3 times)!. This is a super easy way to create bootable USB drives (aka live “CDs”) of your local linux distro. The old days of some crazy fdisk silliness is gone. Now it’s just point and click. Love it.

Stay tuned for my Ubuntification!

New Love: Meego

0 minutes, 44 seconds

A bit ago I read a post about Meego 1.0 being available. I had a Acer great netbook that was suffering from a slow slow install of XP. I’d been thinking of going to Linpus, which originally shipped with the Aspire Ones. However, Meego had great live, bootable USB download which allowed me to give the whole OS a spin on my hardware. Everything just works: webcam, USB bluetooth dongle, wifi, NIC and internal SD Card.

Last night, I took the plunge and installed it over XP.

Today, I’m happy to report I’m never going back to XP on this lil’ guy. I got Dropbox, KeepassX, Synergy and sshd all working with out a lot of hassle. The boot time is insanely fast. Google Chrome is WAY faster than FF3.6 in XP. I am a very happy camper.

Go Meego today! Full disclosure – sleep looks to be broken :(

Update: It looks like AIM is broken too. That’s a real bummer because it’s my main IM network.

On theft, privacy and data loss

4 minutes, 58 seconds

I’ve recently taken a serious look at the reality of theft of computers as well as ensuring privacy and reducing data loss should such a theft occur. Take a moment and and take inventory of where you store you data and how accessible and backed up it is. What would happen if:

    • You dropped your cell phone in the toilet? (data loss)
    • Your cell phone got stolen? (data loss & theft)
    • What about that ‘it will never be stolen’ desktop computer at home? What if some one stole that? Do you have a password on login, do you have your email password saved and your browser remember all your passwords? Do you file your taxes online and store copies? Do have resume with references, previous address and social security number? (Data loss, theft, and loss of privacy)

With the sheer number of accounts we create at every new site we register with, we’ve become lazy and no longer want to remember passwords. Most folks either check ‘remember password’ in their browser of choice, use the same password for every site, write down the password or all three. Further, most folks don’t password protect their smart phones. Compliment with all personal data stored on a laptop or a desktop, this creates a recipe for catastrophic data loss, serious violation of privacy potentially leading to identity theft.

In this post, I’m going to outline a number of suggestions to help fight data loss and identity theft while protecting your privacy. I’ll give each suggestion a PITA rating of how hard and how long it will take to implement. A PITA of 1 is easy a PITA of 10 is, well a real PITA!

Master Passwords

If there’s one thing you actually do, do this one. I use both Thunderbird and Firefox. As I said, most folks are lazy and want all their passwords stored and remembered for them as needed. This is all fine and dandy until your laptop walks an the thief can use all your accounts with out ever touching the keyboard. Both Firefox and Thunderbird offer the ability to set a master password. Every time you open your browser or mail client and a password is needed, you will be prompted for a your master password once. Then all other passwords will be filled in for as normal. Note: close your browser and mail client often ; )

OS Level Passwords

A no brainer. Both Windows and OS X (video) have it.

Set a phone password

PITA: 9, then less
When I first set a password on my phone it was a real pain in the ass. I had to enter it every time I wanted to make a call or check my email. I have a Palm OS phone (not a Web OS phone), so it’s not that sophisticated. I know that Android based phones have a quick pattern you can trace which is quite easy. The iphone has a number pad you can use. Any which way, over time, this becomes second nature, so the PITA rating will fade from 9 to a lower number.

Remote Backup

I’ll explain my backup technique in a sec, but take this one seriously. If your house were to burn down while you were out of town, how much data would you loose? I hate to be all doom and gloom here, but most folks don’t shoot analog any more, so all photos are digital. Maybe you upload to flickr or the like, but there’s nothing like have all your photos organized just so. I strongly suggest you look at commercial providers for this.

Our household has both local and off site backup. We start by backing up all devices (two laptops and a desktop) to our local qnap server via robocopy (think rsync for windows). The qnap is just linux, so it runs all sorts of great things like rsync and secure copy (scp). A friend has a qnap as well. We first connected an external drive to our own qnaps and made a backup of all our backups. We then swapped external drives and connected them to our respective qnaps. We now have a remote backup that we can rsync our data to over ssh and the initial gigs of data are already there.

Remote, Secure Backup

PITA: 10
I have a subset of my data that is hundreds of PDFs. I generate them via my trusty and some what spendy sheet feed scanner. This guy creates searchable PDFs that have the OCR text embedded in them. Genius. In comes a bill, tax return or sensitive document, out comes a PDF and some shredded paper to recycle. Cross cut, of course.

This data set is a treasure trove. Should my desktop with hundreds of megs of PDFs walk out my front door one sunny afternoon in a thief’s hands I’d be up you know what creek with out a paddle. Data loss aside, it would be little effort to apply for a credit card after a little address change. Bad times indeed.

Enter Drop Box. This is an excellent free service (for the first 2 gigs) that allows you to do what I would call very rich man’s rsync. Store all your PDFs in this folder, and now they’re not only backed up, but remotely accessible!

Wait – what about the stolen desktop? The default behavior of Drop Box is to remember your password. Should someone take your computer and gain access to it, the PDFs on Drop Box are good as local on the drive.

Now enter the second layer: TrueCrypt. TrueCrypt is the no-joke way to store data securely. They support both an encrypted boot drive as well as the spook spy stuff: plausible deniability. Ignoring the more advanced features, TrueCrypt’s quick start guide will walk you through creating an encrypted volume that’s encapsulated in a single file. This file can be any size, thus the drive can be any size. You could then store you hundreds of PDFs in a TrueCrypt volume in a file on Drop Box. True secure offsite backup.

I’ve even gone so far as to create a small TrueCrypt volume that has all my passwords. It’s the keys to the kingdom, but I’m going to be vigilant about protecting this file and only the one closest to my heart knows how to get in there.

Caveat emptor

I’m not a security expert, take my advice with a big grain of salt. There are ways of hacking the master password for firefox and thunderbird. OS Level passwords are trivial to bypass for a skilled IT professional or evil intentioned googlist. Even TrueCrypt can be accessed via social engineering or a sloppy operator who writes down their password.

Good luck and happy securing!

American Born Chinese

1 minute, 10 seconds

abc_monkeyTime to kick of the “review” and “book” tag of this ol’ blog here. As I just finished the OG Watchmen, I’ll start with another graphic novel I read a while ago. Let me preface this by saying it is not only the best graphic novel I’ve ever read, but is in the top 10, possibly top 5 of the best books I’ve ever read. Yes, that good!

American Born Chinese is the title of this wonderful tale about a young Chinese boy growing up in the U.S. What really ties this book together are the three plots woven into it. The author cleverly works the hormone filled, acceptance seeking trials of a blonds, American teen along with the unique adventures of a newly immigrated Chinese boy oh so wisely offset with action packed, water breathing inception of a kung fu monkey demigod. Yes, one of the three main characters is a power hungry monkey demigod who does not wear his shoes on his ears, but on his feet.

There were some solid themes from the hero’s journey in this novel, akin to The Alchemist, but you know, with more fisticuffs, high school brawls and kids speaking Chinese. I must say, of all the themes in this book, the ancient monkey demigod’s struggle is my favorite. His plight to become the equal of the more powerful and wise god gods is chock full of morals, wisdom and humor that is right up my alley.

This book went on to win many awards. Go pick up a copy at your local, locally owned bookstore and find out why.