Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Hollywood Geek news. Han Solo is back

Disney and the Star Wars Lucasfilm folks have announced casting for the Episode 7 of Star Wars. All the original major cast members are back and it looks like Harrison Ford will take on a big role. Apparently, Han Solo will be have a big role in the new trilogy.

Very cool indeed.

Some Links:

Friday, April 25, 2014

Ubuntu Folder colors. Aka Macintosh Finder Labels

Mac OS 7 had this back in the mid 1990s. Now, you can have this same feature on Ubuntu 14.04 in 2014. Mac OS calls it labels. This is basically the same principle.

I gotta say, this is a cool system add-on. It is handy for organizing work. Unfortunately, it is not built-in the OS. You will need top download and install it from the link below:


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Andy Warhol and the Amiga

This is a pretty cool article on Engadget. A group of people (Carnegie Mellon University's Computer Club and a team of artists, archivists and curators) found and extracted some lost work Andy Warhol did on the now, retro defunct Amiga 1000. In the mid 80s, Warhol experimented with computer graphics. The most notable work was the one where he retouched Debbie Harry (aka Blondie) on stage. However, unbeknownst, he had a 41 floppies of un-seen work. This is the equivalent of finding a Picasso, Monet, or Rothko on a paper napkin.
I find this story pretty cool because I like Warhol and I loved the Amiga. This totally brings me back to nostalgic times of the 80s.

The Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum of Modern Art will be showing the premier on May 10th to showcase of some Warhol's experiment for the public.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

5,000 mile update: Fiat 500e electric car.

I've had my electric Fiat 500e for over 5  months; totaling 5,000 miles. Since then, I have not once visited a gas station. My overall "fuel" cost to drive 5,000 miles is less then $120. That $120 would only last me two weeks in my Range Rover Sport. Is that amazing or what. What other car can go that far on $120?

So what do I have to report?

Parallella Kickstarter. A year too late

Here is a Kickstarter projected that I help funded more than a year ago. ETA delivery was May 2013. I finally get this April 2014.

This is suppose to be a super-charged Raspberry PI. It is billed as a "A Supercomputer For Everyone."
It comes in 16 and 64 core configuration. The 16 core hits 13 GHz and 26 gigaflops performance. It is a dual core ARM A9 SoC with either a 16 or 64 core "co-processor" RISC chips. You can also cluster these little babies. I was going to build a little Debian/Ubuntu mini box with this. However, for now, I think I rather go with an INTEL NUC.

I'm pretty much glad I didn't lose my money on this but I've lost my enthusiasm. For the time being, this is going ino the drawer. After being stood up for close to a year, you can see why I'm not so enthusiastic any more.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ubuntu 14.04 LTS HiDPI

So Ubuntu 14.04 has been released and it promises to have better support for HiDPI (Retina) displays.

I decided to take it for a spin inside VMware Fusion on my Macbook Pro. 
I have to say, it is a major, major improvement. In fact, it is pretty good. There is a good slider in the display that increases the icons and interface. It isn't quite 100% perfect as many applications don't work quite right. There are some icons and sliders that don't work right in a few places here and there. But overall, it works pretty good.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blood Moon, April 14th, 2014 Lunar Eclipse

I stayed up past my bed-time for this. They made a big stink about this on the night-time nightly news.

Now, I just need to invest in a better zoom lens for future astronomy photographing.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Creating beautiful drive icons. Simple and easy on OS X.

I've been asked how do I make such beautiful desktop drive icons on my mac. Pretty simply, I find a picture I like, remove the back-ground and copy-n-paste into the drive I want.

I've been doing this since 1996. 18 years now. NO need for .icns, .ico,  autorun.inf,  hidden text files, or folder.jpeg files. On Mac OS, it is copy-n-paste. With the advent of HiDPI Retina screens, my icons are usually 500x500 pixel high resolution and they look amazing.
Sure, it is skeuomorphic but I like it.

My technique and steps are pretty simple. Google the image (preferably high-res) and remove the background. Then copy-n-paste.

Here is a visual walkthrough.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

128GB USB stick. Yep, PNY 128GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive Review

128GB USB flash drive? For under $80? Sounds too good to be true. Well, PNY is offering the Turbo High Performance USB 3.0 Pen Drive at an reasonable price. Retail is $80 but you can score these for $50 on sale if you are diligent.

This flash drive is rated at 190 MB/sec reads and 130 MB/sec writes for sequentially large file.

The benchmark corroborates with the manufactured claim. No qualms about it. Pictured below is BlackMagic Disk Speed Test with the drive formatted exFAT and FAT32. These benchmarks on are within the advertised specs.

However, the random 4K writes are pretty slow. Based on my test and many of the reviews I've read, this thing writes at  0.110 MB/s [ 26.8 IOPS] when dealing with 4K files.That is pretty slow in my book. So forget about using this as a boot drive or transferring small files.

It is good at handling large media files. So if you want a cheap medium for copying movie rips, this is it. Otherwise go with an SSD or mSATA.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Dell Venue 8 Pro Quasi-review. An 8 inch Windows 8 Bay Trail Tablet.

Where do I begin with this? I normally don't cover Windows on my blog much. I do run Windows 7 and 8.1 on some of my computers but I don't use it much by a long shot. Every time I need it, I run it virtualized. But here, today, I have a Dell Venue 8 Pro 8" Bay Trail Windows 9.1 tablet. Let's rewind a bit.

Back in 1997, I had my first taste of an ultra portable Windows machine, the Philips Velo. This was my introduction to "Pocket Windows." I progressed throughout most of the late 90s to the mid 2000s with various Windows Mobile devices.

10 Years ago, I spent close to $1,000 on Dell's latest and greatest pocket wonder, the Axim X50v. It was a 3.5" Pocket PC VGA device that was top in in it's class. I spent $500 or so on the PDA and another $700 in accessories from extended batteries, a GSM cellular CF module, CF/SD cards, GPS dongle, keyboards, video,  and numerous docks. At the time, I wanted to run "Windows" in my pocket. Pocket PC was the closet thing with Pocket Word, Outlook and Pocket IE. I've owned practically every high end Pocket PC/Windows Mobile devices from the late 90's up to 2007. I've probably spent close to over $10,000 on various Pocket PC devices and accessories. You have to remember people were spending hundreds and thousands of dollars on flash storage back then.

I stopped my crazy buying spree right after 2007. That is when the iPhone happen. Then the iPad. The rest was history. Mobile computing changed dramatically after 2007. The whole ultra mobile UMPC, netbooks, and uber expensive librettos are long gone.

Fast forward 10 years from 2004, I now have another Dell marvel of Windows miniaturization. It is not quite the top-of-the-line class mobile device they have. Rather, it is one of the cheapest offerings on the market, the Venue 8 Pro.

Now read on for my take on this.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The HTC ONE (M8) 2014 model Preliminary overview / review

For as long as I can remember, I have been a dual OS phone user. First with Windows Mobile and iOS. Then with iOS and Android. I've always carried two, three phones on me at all times.

I've owned and carried several Android phones through the years - Moto Droid, Droid Incredible, Galaxy Nexus.  None of those phones kept my interest besides the fact they were partially work issued. Now, in 2014, my latest work issued phone is the HTC ONE (M8). This is HTC's current flagship phone. The company is riding on this phone to be a success. Will it?

I can pretty much pick any phone I want that runs on Verizon - LG 2, Galaxy Note 3, etc but I chose the HTC One. I chose the HTC One for it's incredible build quality and overall compromises on features. Is it the fastest? Does it have the best camera? Does it have the largest screen? The answer to those questions are no.The Samsung Galaxy Nexus left a very bad taste in my mouth (due to Verizon and Google's handling of the updates and poor battery life) that my main concern was battery life and overall usability. Stock Android isn't a big draw to me any more (aka Nexus 5 and stock Android) and HTC Sense 6.0 doesn't offend me much.  And I'm still stuck with Verizon (due to work) so this was my best option.

I'm going to be playing with this phone for a while and report back with my findings. But for now, here is a first review.

Spec wise, you can read about it all over the Internet as this is a fairly recent new flag-ship phone from HTC. Quad-Core SnapDragon 801 processor, 2GB RAM, 32GB Storage, 5" 1080p LCD display, yada-yada. This is my personal review from a dual OS, multi-platform agnostic user.  Since I'm a dual OS handset kind of guy, the Android vs iOS debates are pretty silly.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

ZTC mSATA enclosure and Crucial M500 240GB mSATA powerhouse combo review

This blog covers a lot of storage reviews. I buy lots of drives of all types. There hasn't been anything lately that has gotten me excited until today.

I carry a lot of portable drives with me everyday. I carry about 5-6 USB 3.0 sticks, a few USB 3 and portable Thunderbolt drives. USB 3.0 sticks are pretty cheap and ubiquitous but they are still pretty slow. Even some of the fast ones rate around 150 MB/sec reads and 90 MB/sec writes sequentially. Random read are a mess and they'll crawl to a snail's pace when you copy thousands of small files. SSDs solve the USB 3.0 pen drive problem but they are pretty big. Well, today, I put an mSATA SSD into a micro enclosure and it was an epiphany.

(size comparison mSATA, USB, 2.5" Thunderbolt drive)

Today, I have a $20 micro mSATA enclosure made by ZTC and a Crucial M500 240GB mSATA drive. I originally bought the M500 for a NUC project I was planning but decided I didn't need another small form factor PC. Since I got the M500 at an extremely good price ($105 street), I figured if I didn't use it in a computer, why not put it in an enclosure. I checked out the reviews of the popular MyDigital Bullet mSATA enclosure but was turned off on the over-heating issues and random issues with Crucial mSATA drives. Also, I didn't want to spend to much on experimentation so I went with the ZTC which was less than $17.

Looking at the pictures, you can see it is amazingly small. There is a small circuit board and a regular micro USB 3.0 connector. It comes with a small cable which is handy. However, I have a gazillion of those cables everywhere at every job site and in all my bags that all I need is just the little drive.

Oh boy, it is a fast little, powerhouse combination.

The competing MyDigital case comes with a UASP chipset. I couldn't find any documentation on this ZTC but in the system profiler, it comes up as a JMicron controller. Regardless of who makes it, it is smoking fast. Using Black Magic Disk Speed Test, I got over 400 MB/sec reads and 260 MB/sec writes over numerous benchmarking.

Is it as portable as a USB 3.0 stick? No. However, I no longer have to carry 4-5 sticks anymore and the performance is on a whole different level. I might just spring some more money and get myself a few 480GB mSATA SSDs for my new workflow.

Need I say any more? This is a pretty powerful, portable micro combination in storage gadgetry. I can run my 100GB Virtual Machines off this combo. I'm giddy with my little toy.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

PNY 128GB StorEdge SD card for Macbook Pros

Now here is a gadget tailored towards the Apple Macbook Pros, the PNY 128GB StorEdge SD Card. This is a half height SD card designed to fit Macbooks; especially for those with smallish SSD storage.
If you have a machine with 64, 128 or even 256GB SSD, you can find yourself running out of storage pretty fast. This is ideal for storage music, videos, photos.

On the 15" Macbook Pro Retina, it is pretty much flushed with a slight 'grab-able' edge. I've read it is also flushed on some Macbook Airs but it sticks out quite a bit on the 13" Macbook Pro Retina.

The retail on the 128GB is pretty hefty at $199 but I got this on sale for $60 so I jumped on it.

It mounts and looks like an external icon on your Mac Desktop.

As for speed, I ran Black Magic's Disk Speed Test and got pretty much the same results for both exFAT and HFS plus formatted file systems. Expect to get 50 MB/sec writes and roughly 87 MB/sec reads from a 15" Macbook Pro. This isn't amazingly fast but because of the convenient form-factor, it is pretty good.



Upcoming Blog articles and reviews

It has been pretty slow lately and I have time to catch up on some new gadgets I've gotten.

Yep, I got some new toys. Windows 8" Tablet, HTC One (M8) 5" Android smartphone and a few other things.