Ubuntu 8.10  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in , ,

Over the past couple of years, Ubuntu has matured into one of the most stable, universally liked Linux destros. Previous versions have enjoyed a lot of popularity, in part thanks to ease of use, regular support from the developer, and easy configuration.

This popular OS recently got an update to version 8.10, codenamed 'Intrepid Ibex'. After putting it through its paces for a longish period of two weeks – resulting in some inevitable flak from my editor(s) for the delay – here's my take on the new release.

Ubuntu, like other Linux distributions, offers a variety of options for installing the OS without too much fuss. There are the standard 32-bit/64-bit installers, the live desktop CD, the server edition, and with the introduction of 8.10, a 'Netbook' version. We selected the 64-bit version, downloaded it off the canonical FTP, burnt it on to a disc and were all set to go.

We chose to install it on an AMD Athlon X2 machine with 2GB of RAM, 160GB HDD, Nvidia 8600-series card and 24-inch monitor. Barring the monitor, this is a very ho-hum system specification, and given the very low requirement of the OS, a perfect machine for our test.

The installation procedure was flawless. We booted off the CD, started the install process, and used the guided wizard to allow the OS to do its thing. Mind you, while we installed it on a completely formatted machine, the installer is quite open-ended and for power users offers a large variety of options to customize the install.

This availability of choices comes as a very welcome move. For example, if you're a Windows user who would rather not disturb your current OS, there's an option to install a demo that will allow you to experience the OS without a problem.

The Windows-based installer also allows you to completely replace your current OS, partition etc without fuss. The GUI is on par with anything Microsoft offers. Not only does it look slick, it’s very functional in the way install options are grouped. It also offers step-by-step installation instructions for first-time users.

The install process in our case took around 40 minutes. Since I had performed a guided install, all I had to do in the end was give the installer a machine name, create a user for standard login, and restart. (story Link)

Sony Alpha DSLR-A200  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in , , ,

This camera sure took its sweet time coming to our labs. But now that it's here, let's see what you're getting in this attractive, low-cost package, and how well does it compare to the budget cameras today.

New users may want to keep our camera glossary open for explanation of some of the used terms.

Compared to the bite-sized consumer DSLR camera bodies we've been getting lately, the A200 seems a bit bigger at 131x99x71 mm and also somewhat heavier, weighing 572g. But considering the number of goodies that the A200 packs inside, the bulk is well justified.

The plastic body of the A200 seems surprisingly cheap. Though the build of the camera seemed sturdy and durable, the feel was just not good enough. That said the hand grip was very comfortable to use, even for longer durations. Some of the shots I tested with required me to wait patiently for the subject to move to the right position, and that was easily achieved with the comfort level of the hand grip.

The button layout seemed quite odd on the A200 with the power button placed at a considerably hard to access location i.e. the right above the LCD screen, to the left. Though I did get used to it after a while, I still found the placement very uncomfortable, especially when I only have one hand free.

In fact, the overall button placement on the camera is not optimized or even intended for single hand use. While the shutter release is placed on the right, the mode dial is placed on the left of the camera. The worst part is aperture size control in the A200, which need you to press down the AV button, right next to the viewfinder at the back, and use the shutter speed jog dial placed in front of the shutter release. This has got to be the most uncomfortable way to change the aperture size ever! (story Link)

Unreal Tournament 3 Free This Weekend  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in , ,

If you’ve never experienced the fast paced multiplayer mayhem of the Unreal Tournament series you can now do so for free since Unreal Tournament 3 is playable absolutely free just for this weekend on Steam.

This new and improved Unreal Tournament 3 Black Edition also includes:

  • 16 New environments - four Warfare, three CTF, six Deathmatch, and three CTF maps - that are new to the PC and PS3 versions
  • Three bonus pack maps, CTF-Face, CTF-Searchlight and DM-Morbias
  • The namesake Titan mutator, which lets players overwhelm opponents as a 15 foot tall titan, or crush them as a 30 foot tall Behemoth
  • Greed and Betrayal, two gametypes that breed new-found fervor throughout the competitive UT3 arena
  • Two powerful weapons, the Stinger Turret and Eradicator Cannon artillery
  • Two valuable deployables, the X-Ray Field and Link Station
  • The Slow Field power-up, a portable version of the Slow Field deployable
  • Stealthbender, a new vehicle that carries two spidermine trap deployables, one EMP mine, and one each of the new Link Station and X-Ray Field deployables
  • Two new characters, Nova and Kana
  • 57 awards attainable as Steam Achievements
  • Significant AI enhancements, especially in vehicle gametypes; networking performance upgrades; greatly improved menu flow and UI usability; better mod support
  • Client-side demo recording, highly improved Server Browser, a new maplist system, plus mid-game mutator and gametype voting functionality for PC

Head right here for more. (story Link)

AT&T Tilt  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in , , , , ,

Smartphones are everywhere, but not all mobile phones are equally effective e-mail and messaging devices. If there is a smarphone that stands out as an e-mail workhorse, it is the AT&T Tilt.

Specifications

    Tri-band UMTS/HSDPA & Quad-band GSM

  • Windows Mobile 6 Professional
  • Wi-Fi (802.11b/g)
  • Stereo Bluetooth 2.0
  • Push to Talk
  • 3-megapixel camera
  • Dual Core 400MHz Processor
  • 256 MB Flash ROM/128 MB SDRAM
  • 2.8″ 240×320 color QVGA screen
  • Integrated GPS
  • Lithium Ion battery
  • Talk time: up to 4 hours
  • Standby time: up to 8 days
  • Dimensions: 4.4″ (l) x 2.3 (w) x 0.7″ (d)
  • Weight: 6.7 oz
  • Cost with no commitment $449.99
  • Cost with 2-year contract $299.99
  • Additional information

Who is it for?

The AT&T tilt is designed for mobile business users who send lots of e-mail and text messages while on the go. The Tilt lacks the iPhone 3G’s elegant, finger-driven interface and BlackJack II’s pocket-size design. However, the tilt’s solid QWERTY keyboard and ease of integration with Microsoft Exchange make it an excellent choice for enterprise road warriors.

What problem does it solve?

The problem with many smartphones, particularly when considering them for business use, is that they excel in one function but fall short in another. The iPhone 3G is stylish and the touch interface is truly innovative, yet it lacks of a physical keyboard, a must for heavy e-mail users, and it can be difficult to synchronize with Exchange. The BlackJack II has a physical keypad and is more easily synchronized with Microsoft Exchange Server, thanks to its Windows Mobile OS, but it lacks a touchscreen interface, the keys are a bit small for large fingers, and the screen’s fix orientation makes reading long e-mails and documents difficult. The AT&T Tilt is designed to solve this problem by combining many smartphone features needed by business road warriors into a single package.

Standout features

  • QWERTY Keyboard - As with the AT&T 8525, the Tilt’s solid QWERTY keyboard makes entering text (even multiple sentence e-mails) a quick, comfortable process.
  • Tilt screen - The Tilt’s screen tilts up 40 degrees–giving the devices its name. Initially I didn’t think the feature was very useful as thumb-tying with the screen flat was more comfortable than with it tilted. But, the tilting the screen does make viewing the device easier when it’s placed on a flat surface.
  • Integrated GPS - Combined with Microsoft’s Live Search for Windows Mobile the Tilt’s integrated GPS radio is a handy feature if you find yourself trying to find your next business appointment or the closest sushi restaurant in a strange town.
  • Integrated Wi-Fi - If you subscribe to AT&T’s unlimited data plan, you may not use the Tilt’s integrated Wi-Fi very often–I didn’t. If you don’t have the data plan, the tilt’s Wi-Fi support makes syncing with your e-mail server/service.
  • microSD expansion slot - The microSD slot allows you to significantly expand the Tilt’s storage capacity. The Tilt will accept up to 4GB microSD cards.
  • Direct Push synchronization - The Tilt supports Microsoft’s Direct Push technology, which provides real-time e-mail delivery and automatic synchronization with Exchange. If your organization uses a VPN that has a Windows Mobile client, there’s no need for a third party messaging solution, such as Good Mobile Messaging. Just fire up the VPN and the Tilt acts like almost any other VPN connected device. You can even access Intranet Web pages.

What’s wrong?

  • Windows Mobile 6 Professional Interface - Let’s face it, current Windows Mobile UIs lag behind the iPhone’s touch-based GUI. You shouldn’t need a stylus to quickly navigate through your e-mail folders, and on a Windows Mobile device you do. Don’t even get me started on browsing the Web with Windows Mobile Internet Explorer. To Microsoft’s credit, they are trying to improve their UI–HTC’s TouchFLO is a good example. But for now, going with touchscreen Windows Mobile device still requires you to that stylus handy.
  • Poor talk-time battery life - The Tilt’s battery life depends on how heavily you use the device. When continuously connected to your company’s network through a VPN connection, I was lucky to get more than 1 1/2 days of battery life. Add a persistent IM connection and I got less than a day.
  • Problematic GPS acquisition - Although the Tilt’s integrate GPS feature is a real plus, the radio regularly had trouble acquiring a GPS signal–often requiring several tries.
  • IM client requires AT&T data network - The Tilt comes preloaded with AOL, Windows Live, and Yahoo instant-messaging clients. You can even be logged on to multiple services at the same. Unfortunately, you can’t use any of the IM service over the Tilt’s Wi-Fi connection. If you want to use the IM client, you must buy AT&T’s data service.
  • (full Story)

Novell SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in , , ,

If your business is ready to migrate from Windows to Linux the choices of distributions can be overwhelming. But when you narrow the choices down to enterprise-ready distributions the selection grows much smaller. Of those choices SuSE Enterprise Linux Desktop 10 from Novell stands out as one of the best.

Specifications

  • Supported CPUs: AMD64, Intel 64, Intel Pentium 4, 2.4GHz or higher
  • RAM: at least 512MB
  • HD: at least 2.5GB
  • Graphic resolution: 1024×768
  • Additional information

Who’s it for?

Novell’s take on the enterprise Linux desktop environment is designed for any enterprise-level deployment looking for a solid, secure, user-friendly operating system. Now, thanks to Novell, the Linux operating system is 100 percent ready for the desktop. If you have any doubts, download SLED 10 and request a trial license. My guess is that it won’t take you more than a 24 hour period of use before you realize that installing SLED is an upgrade to the operating system you are currently using. Not only is SLED 10 easy to use, it contains everything the enterprise desktop needs and more.

What problem does it solve?

For most individual Linux users the standard distribution is all you need. But for the enterprise user, distributions such as SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) are more applicable. The SLED distribution solves a problem that could easily doom other distributions — SLED eases the user from the Windows desktop to the Linux desktop with both ease and grace.

Standout features

  • Beagle 0.2.18
  • Evolution 2.6
  • glibc 2.4
  • GNOME 2.12
  • Java 1.4.2
  • KDE 3.5.1
  • Kernel 2.6.16
  • GroupWise gwclient 7.0.3
  • OpenOffice 2.4
  • OpenSSH 4.2pl
  • OpenSSL 0.9.8a

What’s wrong?

The installation of SLED hearkens back to old-school ways of installation. When you purchase SLED you will have (either from a boxed set or downloaded ISOs) seven CDs. As you would expect, the installation is quite lengthy. There are a lot of extra steps involved in this process.

For example, during the installation process, your system will ask if you want to connect to the Novell Customer Center to create or manage subscriptions. The Customer Center provides technical support and product updates. Another added step is the ability to authenticate with various types of setups, such as: Windows Domain, LDAP, Local, and NIS.

The installation is so lengthy it seems to me that SLED is intended to be installed once and then cloned for deployment. SuSE has even added such a process at the end of the installation. The very last step asks if you would like to Clone the installation with AutoYaST. This system allows for automated installation without user intervention. Taking advantage of AutoYaST would allow for very simple large deployments of SLED 10. Considering the length of the installation, this would be a smart tool to take advantage of.

Outside of length, the installation of SLED is certainly one of the most thorough installations I have come across. This is certainly one installation geared specifically for the enterprise user. (full Story)

QuickBooks 2009 for the Mac  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in , , , ,

It’s getting to be tax time here in the U.S. and if you’re like me you dread it. I usually end up promising myself to keep better records and be more organized next year. Well it’s next year and time to get your financial act together. If you work for yourself you need good accounting software and the leader in this category is clearly QuickBooks from Intuit.

The new QuickBooks 2009 for Mac starts with a wizard that asks questions about your business (”do you pay employees?”), then prepares an easy-to-understand interface with icons suited to the relevant aspects of your business. The updated “home page” (pictured) lays everything out in a clear and concise manner.

QuickBooks Pro 2007 for Mac lacked several key features that were available in the Windows application, namely being able to download and reconcile bank and credit card transactions directly from the institution – forcing many people to use the Windows version. Mac users had to download a “QuickBooks Web Connect QBO” file from the bank’s Web site, then import that into QuickBooks. The Windows version, meanwhile, can connect directly to most banks from within the application itself.

I’m happy to report that QuickBooks 2009 for Mac fixes that. It now works seamlessly with more banks (I tested it with Chase and Citi) and imports transitions directly from within the app. (full Story)

Dell Studio Hybrid PC  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in , , , ,

The Dell Studio Hybrid PC is a small form factor PC that retains much of the power found in large desktop computers. The compact design gives the Studio Hybrid a smaller desktop footprint than a notebook and even some netbooks. With an Intel Core 2 Duo and 2GB of RAM, this may be all you need for your next workstation PC purchase.

 

 

 

Specifications

  • CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo, 2.1GHz
  • RAM: 2GB DDR2
  • Hard drive: 320GB
  • Intel Integrated Graphics Media Accelerator X3100
  • Slot Load CD / DVD Writer
  • On board high definition sound
  • Five USB 2.0 ports
  • Firewire (IEEE1394a) port (4-pin)
  • HDMI video connector
  • DVI video connector
  • Network connector 10/100/1000 (RJ45)
  • Digital Audio: S/P DIF Out
  • Analog Audio: Headphone (front); Line-in / Line-out (back)
  • 7-in-1 Media Reader
  • Standing vertical with stand (as pictured) — H 8″ X W 3″ X D 8.3″
  • Additional information
  • For a closer look, check out the Dell Studio Hybrid First Look Photo Gallery

Who is it for?

The Dell Studio Hybrid PC is designed to be a powerful computer in a stylish, small footprint package. This PC can perform the function of a typical low graphics-required workstation, but without the large rectangular box on or under the desk.

What problem does it solve?

If desktop real estate and aesthetics are a concern, at the receptionist’s desk for example, the Dell Studio Hybrid PC is a safe bet. If a professional sleek office décor is important to your business, this small PC can be deployed unobtrusively anywhere a workstation is required.

Features

  • Small form factor: The power of a workstation in a package smaller than a bread basket.
  • Style: Available in many colors, the Dell Studio Hybrid PC can be deployed without infringing on the office décor.
  • Performance: With an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, 2GB RAM, and a 320GB hard drive, the Dell Studio Hybrid PC has enough power for your average business workstation needs.
  • Digital output: With DVI or HDMI output, the Dell Studio Hybrid PC can be deployed without a multitude of cables.
  • USB 2.0 connections: There are five USB ports for connecting peripherals and flash drives.

What’s wrong

  • Not expandable: With the Dell Studio Hybrid PC, what you see is what you get. There is no room for stand-alone graphics card or additional optical drives.
  • Lack of 3D graphics: With the Intel integrated graphic chip set, the graphical performance, especially in terms of three dimensions, is marginal at best. You could not use the Dell Studio Hybrid PC for almost any graphical workstation.
  • Cost: At $750 for our review model, the Dell Studio Hybrid PC is definitely in the highest-price range. If you want style to go along with your performance, you are going to have to pay the premium.

Bottom line for business

The Dell Studio Hybrid PC is very capable small form-factor machine. For the traditional workstation relying on e-mail, office software, and data entry applications, this computer will surely handle the workload. If style and office décor are important, a Dell Studio Hybrid PC can be found that will meld with just about any style. However, because these machines are not expandable and tend to cost more than conventional workstation PCs, the Dell Studio Hybrid PC is really a niche item. If you don’t have that niche to fill, it is likely more typical PC will have the better ROI. (story Link)

Number of iPhone apps surpass Windows Mobile  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in , , , , , ,

I thoroughly enjoy using the 3rd party applications on all of my mobile devices and many applications serve essential functions not found in the applications and utilities of the operating system. While the iPhone device is fun to use, the hardware is not the best available in the mobile space. That really doesn’t seem to matter much though as the Apple App Store and iPhone applications are the “killer” feature of the platform, IMHO. 3rd party applications have been available for years on Windows Mobile, S60, Palm, and BlackBerry devices, but until Apple put the software store on the device it seemed to be mainly the die hard phone users who were finding, downloading, and installing applications. According to MacDailyNews Apple developers have passed up Windows Mobile in the number of applications, 25,000 compared to an estimated 20,000.

It is a bit difficult to count the number of available Windows Mobile applications since there is no central repository of applications and I am not sure if this count considers only the applications available today. Windows Mobile/Pocket PC has been around now for nine years while the Apple App Store is just about 8 months old. I personally have a ton of 3rd party applications on my iPhone and find them to be quite good for the most part. The sheer number of applications alone doesn’t mean everything though since there are tons of junky apps for both the iPhone and Windows Mobile, but it does show that there is considerable interest in the iPhone. If I was a developer I think it would be tough not to develop for the iPhone given the fact that you wouldn’t have to worry about multiple screen sizes and resolutions, different device form factors, and all the other variables seen in other mobile operating systems. I have seen more and more traditional Windows Mobile developers releasing quality iPhone applications and am pleased to see them expanding across platforms.

With over 25,000 applications now available for the iPhone/iPod touch I hope that Apple continues to update the store to make it easier for users to find the good and worthy applications. It gets more and more confusing trying to find applications to try out due to the sheer number of applications available.

I have also been browsing through the Android Market on my G1 and even with priced applications now available I am not seeing anywhere near the quality of applications present on the iPhone yet. (story Link)

Installing Mac OS X on a Dell Mini 9  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in , , , , , ,


If you’re looking to get a notebook to install Mac OS X on, I recommend the Dell Mini 9. It’s one of the best, no-compromises platforms according to the BoingBoing compatibility chart for netbooks running OS X and one can be yours for around $400 depending on the options that you choose.

In this post I’m going to detail the easiest way to install Mac OS X on the Dell Mini 9. This tutorial borrows heavily from John Mahoney’s excellent piece on Gizmodo, which in turn is based on a tutorial on the MyDellMini forums by “bmaltais” — and both deserve high praise. Refer back to Mahoney’s piece on Gizmodo if you run into problems and if you really get into a bind you’ll have to refer to the MyDellMini forums for help.

A note about Hackintoshing: Apple doesn’t like it and may send the black helicopters from Cupertino to visit you if you follow the instructions after the jump. If you end up in Gitmo for installing OS X on non-Apple hardware, please let me know so that I can blog about it.

Note: I’ve separately posted a photo gallery of the process.

Prerequisites:

  • Dell Mini 9 with 16GB SSD (around $400)
  • A retail copy of Mac OS X ($129) not an OEM/bundled/upgrade version
  • An external USB DVD drive ($50) or Blu-Ray ($99)
  • About 8 hours (albeit mostly unattended)

Mahoney’s tutorial for Gizmodo walks through installing Mac OS X on a USB Flash drive, which is overkill IMHO. Do yourself a favor and invest in an external USB DVD drive as it saves about eight steps over the “Mahoney method.” I opted for the slimline Blu-Ray drive from FastMac which costs$100 for the Blu-Ray reader, $300 for the 1x writer, $400 for the 4x writer.If you don’t want to purchase a USB optical drive you can also use a high-capacity (8GB+) flash drive as outlined in the Mahoney Method, but it will take a longer.

STEP 1
Download the  “Type11″ bootloader DellMiniBoot123v8.01.iso.zip unzip it and burn the resulting .iso to a standard CD-R using Apple’s Disk Utility. If the download link eventually breaks, search for the file name on the MyDellMini forums.

STEP 2
Connect your external DVD drive to your Mini 9 and power it on and press 0 (zero) at startup to bring up the list of bootable devices.

STEP 3
Choose optical/DVD from the list (it should be the second choice) and you’ll end up a command prompt that says “boot:”

STEP 4
Take out the bootloader disk and put in your retail Mac OS X install DVD, keeping the Mini 9 running. Press Escape at the boot: prompt to bring up the drive options. Then type “9f” (minus the quotes) then press Enter. (”9f” is the hex code for the external DVD, “80″ is hex for the primary internal SSD. )

Tip: Give it some time. Mine took two plus minutes for the OS X DVD to boot. I got a weird EBIOS error but it eventually booted from the OS X DVD. If it never boots from the DVD drive, you may have to go the Flash drive route outlined in the Mahoney Method.

Note: While you’re installing Mac OS X, the screen will be stretched to 800×600 rather than your Mini’s native 1024×600 resolution. This is normal and will be fixed later.

STEP 5
Before running the Mac OS X installer you need to format your SSD via Disk Utility. Create a single Mac OS X Extended (Journaled) partition, go to Options and select GUID Partition Table. Then click Apply. The 16GB SSD nets about 13 usable GB

STEP 6
Go back to the Installer and install OS X to the SSD. Click Customize and uncheck as many options as possible to save space on the SSD. I turned off everything except the printer drivers for my specific printers. The install will take about 47 minutes to an hour, so go talk to your family, they miss you. If you come back to an Install Failed error message at the very end don’t panic. It’s normal.

STEP 7
Swap discs and boot back into the Type11 bootloader by holding down the zero key at boot and choosing the optical drive. At the boot: prompt hitEscape and type “80” to boot from SSD, press Enter. Back at the boot: prompt, type “-f” and hit Enter again to boot. This will load all of OS X’s kernel extensions (.kexts) to enable things like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the webcam. Mac OS X will boot and it’ll walk you through the typical OS X setup process.

STEP 8
Time to clean house. After a base 10.5.1 install I had used 11.4 of the available 13GB on the SSD. In order to make room for the base 10.5.6 update (which needs a minimum of 4.9GB) I trashed a bunch of apps I knew I wouldn’t run on the Mini 9 (AppleScript, Automator, Chess, Front Row, Image Capture, PhotoBooth, etc.) then I ran Monolingual and removed every available Language, Input Menu, and all the unwanted PPC code using the Achitectures tab.

STEP 8
Run Software Update and install the 10.5.6 Update, again you need about 4.9GB free for the base update and about 6.0GB free for the corresponding QuickTime, iTunes and AirPort updates. I installed just the base 10.5.6 update first then I installed the other updates.

Note: The 10.5.6 update takes about two hours to download and another two hours to “Install and Shutdown.” Again, talk to your family.

Tip: My Mini 9 got a little weird during the long installs with no user interaction. When I came back to check on the install, the screen was frozen in time, still saying 47 minutes remaining for example. But after a few clicks and waiting upwards of 3-4 minutes the screen would suddenly refresh and the Restart button would suddenly appear. Do not force quit or power down in this scenario. Be patient, young jedi. Click around and press Enter a few times and the screen should eventually refresh.

STEP 9
Boot into the Type11 bootloader one last time by press zero at boot. At the boot: prompt hit Escape and type “80” to boot from SSD. In OS X navigate to the DellMini9Utils folder on the Type11 CD and run the DellEFI installer. This will load all of the Mini 9 .kexts and drivers as well as a special bootloader to boot your SSD install. Do the default install and resist the urge to check the two unchecked options.

STEP 10
Reboot one final time, this time directly off of your SSD and enjoy the glorious 1024×600 resolution!

OPTIONS

  • The “AboutThisMac.pkg” inside the Type11 utilities folder on your bootloader CD fixes the “Unknown Processor” bug in the About This Mac window, replacing it with the proper “Atom 1.6GHz” designation.
  • While you’re at, do a Get Info on the DellEFI Installer application, click on the cool Mini 9/Leopard icon and copy and paste it to be your SSD icon. Much better!
  • This trick fools oversized windows into shrinking to better fit the Mini 9’s 1024*600 screen.
  • This trick can enable some multitouch features (i.e. scrolling) on the Mini 9’s Synaptics touchpad.
  • This trick will enable mobile broadband – if your Mini 9 has it (mine doesn’t).
  • The MyDellMini forums are your friend. Register for an account and search there if you run into any problems.

Congratulations, you did it! You’re now rocking the best netbook in town.

As always, I encourage you to post your experiences in the TalkBack below.

Update: Life’s not all peaches and cream in netbook-ville. It’s not a Mac, so don’t expect it to act 100% like a Mac from Cupertino. For example, my Mini 9 is currently having narcolepsy issues. It will often go to permanent sleep requiring a power cycle to bring things back. Sleep in general appears to be a little flakey, so beware. Also when booting/rebooting you need to see the grey Apple screen with the spinning wheel below it. No spinning wheel, no boot. Try again.

Update 2: I got 2.5 hours of battery life running an iTunes music stream over Wi-Fi with the visualizer on and display sleep set to Never. I’m pretty confident that 3+ hours of run time is attainable with minor conservation. The Mini 9’s battery takes about two hours to fully re-charge.  (story Link with Thanks)

Plethora of Apple software updates released  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in , , , ,

Apple this morning released four software updates via Mac OS X’s built-in un update mechanism of the same name. Two address features in the new AirPort and Time Capsule base stations and two are targeted at Apple’s iLife ‘09 software suite:

  • AirPort Client Update 2009-001 v.1.0 (1.8MB) - “addresses issues with roaming and network selection in dual-band environments.”
  • AirPort Utility Software Update 2009-001 (Mac) v.5.4.1 (19.5MB) - Software for managing the Airport Express, Extreme, and Time Capsules. (A Windows version was also released)
  • iLIfe Support v.9.0.1 (52.3MB) - “improves overall stability and addresses a number of other minor issues. It is recommended for all users of Aperture, iLife ‘09, and iWork ‘09.”
  • iPhoto Update v.8.0.1 (13.6MB) – “improves overall stability and addresses minor issues in a number of areas, including internet connectivity, keyword import, and slideshow export.”

As usual, if you don’t absolutely need them, I’d recommend that you wait a couple of days to see if there are any problems. Me, I’m a glutton, so I’m restarting right now. See you on the other side with an update. (story Link)

BlackBerry App World priced apps start at $2.99  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in , , , ,

After I wrote about the naming and further information of BlackBerry App World, Kevin emailed me about some information found in the developer information that he found a bit shocking. There is a tier for free applications in the App World, but the minimum price for paid apps is US$2.99 with tiers up to $999.99.

I personally think this pricing tier chart is just fine since I firmly believe that developers of quality applications deserve a fair price. I think Apple screwed up by allowing way too many 99 cent applications that has left many buyers expecting to pay this measly fee for quality apps. Have any of these iPhone buyers ever purchased applications for Windows Mobile or Palm? Applications for these older mobile operating systems were commonly priced at $19.95 or more and for quality applications people were willing to pay these fees. I think iPhone applications are priced too low in almost all cases and have no qualms about paying $10 or more for a quality application.

People regularly pay $3 to $5 for a cup of coffee or $6 to $8 for a single meal at a fast food restaurant so why can’t you pay that same price for an application that you use on your mobile device all the time? Don’t you think applications are more valuable than a simply drink or single meal?

Do you think the $2.99 minimum price for paid applications is unreasonable for BlackBerry devices? (story Link)

I’ve been busy installing OS X on the Dell Mini 9 (CNet review) and fellow podcaster Rob Parker prefers the Acer Aspire One (review) but guest blogger Bob DeGrande thinks that the Asus 901 (review) and MSI Wind(review) make better high-end Mac OS X netbooks.

I think there is a better deal on a Linux netbook at the moment. The Asus 901is a high end netbook.  It normally sells in the $360-380 range, but there is a $100 rebate going on through early March, bringing it into the same price range as the Aspire.

It has excellent features - a 1.3MP webcam, Bluetooth, 6-cell battery, 20GB of SSD in the Linux version, and a Synaptic touchpad which supports two finger scrolling like a MacBook. The Asus 901 network card identifies itself internally as a gigabit card (even though the specs say 10/100) and it also has 802.11n wireless (most others only have b/g).

http://www.tristarcctv.com/images/msi_wind_black_425%5B2%5D.jpgI have some experience running OS X on a netbook (I have a legal license). I use the MSI Wind. I have upgraded to 2GB RAM, a 7200 RPM 320GB hard drive, and a 9 cell battery.  It’s still under 3 lbs., and this machine runs OS X well - I load up Spaces with Tweetdeck, Firefox, Mail, and iTunes, and I have no problem running additional applications without slowing down.

Time Machine works, including using Migration Assistant to move apps from an existing Time Machine backup by USB.  There are some minor issues, I have to run a program to switch between speaker and headphones and there is a program that runs at startup to connect to Wi-Fi, but that is automatic. I am also dual booting XP, as I have a digital TV USB stick that only works with Windows.

BoingBoing has recently updated their compatibility chart for netbooks running OS X. What’s your favorite netbook for running Mac OS X? (story Link)

BlackBerry App World announced by RIM  

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Earlier today RIM announced that the upcoming BlackBerry software store would be known as BlackBerry App World. The site informed visitors to come back at 10:00 PM Eastern for more exciting news. After this time, the site was updated to its current design and let’s you register to be one of the first to know when the store launches and also setup your PayPal account to enable purchases of applications. The site states that PayPal is needed to download BlackBerry App World.

BlackBerry App World will not just be an application storefront, but will allow you to message friends, track stocks, and much more from a single application. You will need a BlackBerry with OS 4.2 or higher and a BlackBerry with a trackball or SurePress touch screen so it looks like the BB devices with scroll wheels are not supported with the application store.  (story Link)

Evernote Mobile Web site optimized for Google Android browser  

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I’ve been waiting patiently to see Evernote come to Android and S60 and while there are still no native clients yet for these platforms, they did just launch a new G1-optimized website for Evernote. You need to visit www.evernote.com/m with your G1 browser to access this new site. As you will see it does give you a much better experience than the standard mobile site.

Check out this Evernote blog post for more details on this optimized site, including this list of what’s new:

* Easier search and navigation with quicker access to commonly used features
* Touchscreen optimization makes browsing easier and faster
* Works in both portrait and landscape modes
* Dynamic user interface takes full advantage of the Android browser

Evernote Mobile Web can also be used by other devices and I plan to try it on my S60 devices as well to see how it works out. The good news is that Evernote does plan to release a native client for the Android OS and other mobile operating systems that probably include S60 and the Palm WebOS. (story Link)

Who’s buys a Mac mini?  

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Apple on Tuesday updated its $599 Mac mini and said that the box is faster and greener than before — a no brainer since its been ages since the line was refreshed (a year and a half) and this update was something that Mac watchers have fretted over. But what kind of customer buys a Mac mini? I say: Mac and Linux geeks.

The common wisdom says that the Mac mini appeals to switchers from Windows. In this model, the customer is totally interested in the entry price of the  box.

Certainly, with the current economic distress, this price-point consideration must be growing.

Still, since its introduction in 2005, I’ve met very, very few switchers who have bought a Mac mini. They mostly purchase iMacs and MacBooks.

When Steve Jobs introduced the Mac mini in 2005 in his keynote address for the San Francisco Macworld Expo, he said that the Mac mini was first a “Mac that costs less.” Next, it was quiet. And  that it was a “robust computer, but it’s very very tiny.”

“We want to price this so that peope who are thinking of switching will have no excuse. [For] people that want a second Mac in their house — or a third or a fourth — it’s really going to be easy,” he continued.

From what I’ve seen there are two segments that buy Mac minis. First, there are customers from the installed base of Mac owners, who want an inexpensive Mac and who already own a monitor, display and keyboard. These persons are either purchasing a second (or third or fourth as Jobs said) machine or are replacing an ancient PowerPC-based Mac.

But from what I’ve seen in the past couple of years is that the growth segments are Mac and Linux geeks who are using these inexpensive Macs as servers, virtualization machines and colocation boxes.

There are several companies that offer hosting plans with dedicated Mac minis. Some Mac managers are more comfortable with these boxes since they can use familiar Mac tools for controlling them remotely.

At the Macworld Expo in January, I am fairly certain that I saw several rackmount solutions for Mac minis, including the MX4 Rack Tray, which holds 4 Mac minis in a 2U rack.

I remember the Internet News story from last year, where Sean Michael Kerner mentions a the Firefox development offices and discovered that they were running an array of 80 Mac minis, which dispelled his “illusions of Mozilla super cluster grandeur.”

From a testing framework point of view (since Mozilla is constantly building and testing) they are using an array of about 80 Apple Mac Minis. According to Beltzner the reason why they’re using Macs is easy — they handle  virtualization easily.

BTW: If you’re interested in packing a Mac mini with virtualized Windows or Linux machines take a look at the recently released VMware vCenter Converter 4.0. (story Link)

AirPort & Time Capsule go Dual Band  

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In addition to this morning’s raft of new desktop Macs, Apple also announced enhancements to its wireless product line. Apple updated its AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule base stations with two new features:

Dual Band iconSimultaneous dual-band — Some Wi-Fi devices use the 2.4GHz wireless band, including iPhone, iPod touch, and devices using 802.11b/g. Other devices can use either 2.4GHz or the higher-speed 5GHz band, such as the latest 802.11n-based Mac computers and Apple TV. Instead of choosing one of the bands, AirPort Extreme now operates simultaneously on both bands, and your multiband devices automatically use the best available band. This means all your Wi-Fi devices get the fastest possible wireless performance and the best possible range.

Guest Networking iconGuest networking — Simply enable the new guest networking feature using the AirPort Utility application and create a separate Wi-Fi network just for your friends. You can set up this guest network with a different password or with none at all. Your primary network — including your printer, attached drives, or other devices — remains secure.

Apple also improved its “Back to My Mac” feature to include hard drives connected to the new dual-band AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule. Previously Back to My Mac allowed MobileMe subscribers to connect to a Mac at home but AirPort-connected drives were off limits.

The new dual-band AirPort Extreme is available for $179 and the the dual-band Time Capsule 500GB is $299, while the 1TB version costs $499. All are listed as shipping within 24 hours. (story Link)

Windows 7 broadband bundles  

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Speaking to ZDNet UK at Microsoft's Growth and Innovation Day in Brussels on Thursday, Neil Holloway, vice president for business strategy at Microsoft International, said the company was in talks with telecoms companies and other service providers to work out how netbooks running Windows 7 could be bundled with other hardware and services, in order to increase market reach.

"Microsoft is working with telcos as a specific channel," said Holloway. "The way that Carphone Warehouse bundles phones, PCs and laptops is phenomenal. We will do something slightly similar, and make some offer which includes Windows 7 and Windows Live."

Holloway added that "netbooks are here to stay", and reiterated Microsoft's announcement from February that it is developing a pared-down version of the Windows operating system for use on netbooks.

Because of their inherent mobility, netbooks have become a standard offering from most mobile operators, who are keen to extend usage of their 3G networks.

Although the cheap subnotebooks started life as Linux-bearing machines, Windows XP is now the dominant operating system on netbooks — partly because Microsoft dropped its XP prices to encourage uptake among netbook manufacturers, and partly because of customers' familiarity with the OS.

Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer recently said that the Windows 7 Starter Edition aimed at netbooks would be made available "at the current Windows XP price point".

This article was originally posted on ZDNet.co.uk.

Firefox 3.0.7 fixes 47 bugs, 17 critical  

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The latest update to Firefox pushed out to users last night via automatic update addresses 47 bugs and enhancements, according to Mozilla. 17 bugs were marked as “critical” or higher.

Five potential security vulnerabilities were patched including these 3 that were marked as “critical”:

  • MFSA 2009-10 Upgrade PNG library to fix memory safety hazards
  • MFSA 2009-08 Mozilla Firefox XUL Linked Clones Double Free Vulnerability
  • MFSA 2009-07 Crashes with evidence of memory corruption (rv:1.9.0.7)

Glenn Randers-Pehrson, Martijn Wargers, Jesse Ruderman, Josh Soref, Gary Kwong, and Timothee Groleau were credited with identifying and reporting the problems.

Most of the issues involve common C/C++ memory management bugs such as freeing uninitialized memory or memory that has already been freed. If Firefox were written in Java or C# or any language with automatic garbage collection they wouldn’t have these problems, I’m just saying…

Mozilla has been updating Firefox 3 approximately once a month since its release in June of last year. Here’s a list of all the updates so far:

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