Entries Tagged as 'Technology'

Tablet Wars

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Not really — and it doesn’t have much impact without a score playing — but, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the Apple iPad appears to have sparked an all out battle for control of the tablet market.

A number of “new” tablets (and tablet prototypes) are being shown, some with a price tag as low as $199!!!

Maybe the competitors won’t be quite as “slick” as Apple’s iPad, but they’re all guaranteed to be more powerful, more affordable, and more open.

Freescale 7′ Tablet $199

ODROID Tablet

EAFT Magic Tile and Compal Tablets

ICD Tegra 2 Tablet

Originally posted 2010-05-06 02:00:15.

Windows Security

Sometimes I wonder if Microsoft employees actually run the products they work on.

Elevated security, something that debuted on Windows Vista — and apparently derived from OS-X is a good example.

It’s a great idea.

As a user I should get to decide whether or not a pieced of software is allowed to make changed to my computer.  But the failing of Microsoft is they didn’t really think the problem through before they blindly copied what OS-X did.

In Windows there’s at least two levels of changes that should be approved…

When a piece of software I want is approved for install it should be able to make changes to a set of locations that is owned by the software vendor once I approve it’s installation.  However, it should not be able to make changes to my system configuration unless I specifically approve that.

What Microsoft should have done is something more along the lines of this.

A piece of software is launched and requests the user permission to install itself.  Microsoft fetches the security certificate bound into the executable and presents the user with that information when the system asks for the approval (the dialog should also have an additional detail button).  The user approves it, and the task is run with a security token created on the fly that allows the installer access to the vendors specific structure.

Should the installer desire to change system components it should have to ask to an additional elevation; at which time the operating system should again ask for approval and clearly indicate what system level resources the installer has requested access to.

Installers, would, of course generally be designed not to request access to modify the system (meaning they couldn’t install auto-start, install services, install device drivers, etc without a user knowing these things were going to happen).

When you installed software that did not have a certificate the system would still be able to present two levels of authentication (provided the installer properly requested the different access levels properly).

This would make Windows a far more secure environment… and it would prevent software vendors from install unwanted features onto a system.

Why doesn’t Microsoft implement something like this?

Well, it’s any ones guess… I prefer to believe that the people who design Windows don’t actually use it — but there are lots of conspiracy theories that could be put forth as well.

Originally posted 2010-01-18 01:00:02.

4% of the Market; 50% of the Profit

Apple’s iPhone accounts for only 4% of the cellular handset market for “feature” phones, yet account for 50% of the profits…



asymco.com

Originally posted 2010-11-29 02:00:46.

Better late…

It’s been a quarter century after the automotive industry received a wake-up call and they seem to finally get it.

A few auto makers toyed with all electric vehicles in the early 90’s; but Honda introduced us to the hybrid vehicle, and Toyota catapulted it into a business success.

Both Honda and Toyota had hoped to introduce fuel cell technology vehicles, but with the world’s economy in shambles building out the infrastructure for that isn’t likely to happen any time soon.

Now we have virtually every auto maker introducing electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid; many are also introducing high efficiency (bio) diesel vehicles.

Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, Ford, GM, Volkswagen — just to name a few — have made a serious commitment to increasing the fuel efficiency of their fleet (and thus decreasing their carbon foot print).

GM announced a 100,000 mile, 8-year warranty on their new Volt — displaying to consumers that they have a great deal of confidence in their offering.  Other companies like Tesla have offered a pre-purchased battery replacement.

I haven’t done exhaustive research on all the offerings; the Prius is likely to continue to be a near term winner, it get’s a plug-in option next year; and the Insight get’s that the following year.  However the Volt goes the other route and is an electric car with a backup generator (giving it over 300 miles range, and a somewhat simpler design since it doesn’t require the complex drive system found in most hybrids).

I’m still driving my 1997 Toyota 4Runner, it’s got 350,000 miles on it and going strong.  I’d considered replacing it during the “cash-for-clunkers” program, but it just didn’t seem to make sense to me since I couldn’t find any suitable replacement vehicle that got better than 30 miles to the gallon — and the math just didn’t work out financially, nor did the impact on the environment for disposing of a perfectly functional vehicle seem right.

It might not be until 2014 or so that we really have a number of good options for vehicles that provide the features and economy we’re looking for… but finally we’re on a path that should reduce the environmental impact of the continuing car culture.

Originally posted 2010-07-27 02:00:24.

Virtulization, Virtulization, Virtulization

For a decade now I’ve been a fan of virtulization (of course, that’s partially predicated on understanding what virtualization is, and how it works — and it’s limitation).

For software developers it offers a large number of practical uses… but more and more the average computer user is discovering the benefits of using virtual machines.

In Windows 7 Microsoft has built the “Windows XP” compatibility feature on top of virtualization (which means to use it you’ll need a processor that supports hardware virtualization — so many low end computers and notebooks aren’t going to have the ability to use the XP compatability feature).

While Windows 7 might make running older programs a seamless, you can (of course) install another virtualization package and still run older software.

Which virtualization package to choose???

Well, for me it’s an easy choice…

  • Windows Server 2008 on machines that have hardware virtualization – HyperV
  • Windows 7 on machines that have hardware virtualization – Virtual PC
  • All others (Windows, OS-X, Linux) – Virtual Box

Now, the disclaimers… if I were running a commercial enterprise; and I didn’t want to spend the money to buy Windows Server 2008, Microsoft does offer Windows Server 2008 – Virtual Server Edition for no cost (you really need one Windows Server 2008 in order to effectively manage it — but you can install the tools on Vista if you really don’t have it in your budget to buy a single license).

And no, I wouldn’t choose Linux OR OS-X as the platform to run a commercial virtualization infrastructure on… simply because device support for modern hardware (and modern hardware is what you’re going to base a commercial virtualization infrastructure on if you’re serious) is unparalleled PERIOD.

If you’re running Vista or Vista 64 you may decide to user Virtual PC ( a better choice would be Virtual Server 2005 R2); but Virtual Box is being actively developed, and it’s hardware reference for virtualization is much more modern (and I feel a better choice).

To make it simple… the choice comes down to Microsoft HyperV derived technology or Virtual Box.  Perhaps if I were a *nix biggot I’d put Xen in the loop, but like with so many Linux centric projects there are TOO MANY distributions, and too many splinter efforts.

One last note; keep in mind that you need a license for any operating system that you run in a virtual environment.

Originally posted 2009-08-12 01:00:34.

Simple Mobile

For those of you who live in areas where T-Mobile has good service, perhaps the best deal in cellular might be Simple Mobile; you can either purchase a GSM phone from them (the price is of course not subsidized that includes one of their SIM cards), or just purchase a mini, micro, or nano SIM card from them for your unlocked GSM phone.  Monthly rates are $40, and that includes unlimited voice, unlimited SMS/MMS, unlimited 3G data, and up to 250MB of 4G data — all on T-Mobile.

I haven’t tried the service, mainly because T-Mobile coverage isn’t very good in this area; but again, if T-Mobile coverage is good where you use your cellular phone this should be one of the least expensive ways to get an unlimited plan.

If you already have a GSM handset that you’ve satisfied the contract on, there’s no question you can save money by switching; if you haven’t just subtract the cost of the monthly feed form your current monthly plan and then divide the cost of the phone by the difference (that’s the length of time it will take before you start saving money).

http://www.mysimplephones.com/

Originally posted 2013-03-18 08:00:10.

SPF / DKIM

SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) are two methods to help indentify email which is likely not SPAM.  SPF was originally proposed in 2003 by Meng Weng Wong and Wayne Schlitt (SPFv1 RFC4408) as an open standard (SPF is backed by the Sender Policy Framework Council); DKIM originally merged and enhanced DomainKeys from Yahoo and Identified Internet Mail from Cisco (RFC4870 superseded by RFC4871) forming an open standard (DKIM is backed by an industry consortium).

Both SPF and DKIM attempt to provide information to receiving SMTP servers about whether or not a particular email message is authentic.

SPFv1 uses a very simple approach where a domain’s DNS server provides a root level TXT record that supplies information about SMTP mail servers that are permitted to originate domain email.

DKIM uses a more complex digital signature on each message (information about which is stored in a sub-domain in domains DNS containing self-signed keys).

You can read up on the specifics of each through the reference links provided below.


SPF (Wikipedia)

Microsoft SPF Record Wizard · OpenSPF Wizard

DKIM (Wikipedia)

Originally posted 2010-03-06 02:00:56.

MoneyDance

A little over a year ago Microsoft announced the end of Microsoft Money…

In the beginning I used a program written by a friend of mine to manage my check book (he actually marketed it), it was basic, and worked reasonably well.

Then I switch to Quicken… which never worked reasonably or well… but did the job (sort of like hammering a nail with a screwdriver rather than a hammer).  Obviously from what I’ve said I never liked it and never wanted to contemplate going back — financial management is about function, not form (or in Quicken’s case, pretty pictures, graphics, and selling as much of your information to anyone who will pay anything for it they can).

One of my friends used MoneyDance, and I’d pointed him that way when he decided gnucash just wasn’t what he wanted… so at the end of last year when I decided to make a decision to move to a financial management (tracking) software that was a little more current I paid for MoneyDance… and honestly, I’ve regretted it ever since.

The program basically works, and works on OS-X, Linux, and Windows… but one of the whole reasons to use financial management software is to be able to download transactions from your financial institutions and them just basically automatically match up with what you’ve entered and be done with balancing your records with your statement in a matter of a very few minutes…

And there in is the problem.

If you just let MoneyDance import and process those imported transactions you will have the biggest mess you’ve every seen — and the more accounts you have and the more transfers between accounts you do — well, let’s just say “exponential” growth only give you an idea of how bad it gets.

But, of course, like most “commercial” pieces of software, MoneyDance recently released a new version (I’m never in a hurry to upgrade to anything — even if I’m having minor problems I like to wait and make sure there’s no major regressions).  I did, however, install the update this weekend.

All I have to say is: are you F^(#ing kidding me… how is is possible to make an almost completely broken “feature” worse???

Now the transaction matching not only seems to do a worse job, but it’s on the side now rather than the bottom, so it obscures most of the (wrong) transaction it wants to match to so you have no idea what the F^(# it’s about to screw up…

My personal feeling is that you’re better of using crayons in a drawing book to track your financial records than wasting your time or money on MoneyDance… this has to be one of the absolute worst products I’ve ever seen, and based on the “features” that actually work you can stick with Microsoft Money, a 20 year old version of Quicken, or use a free program like gnucash… or a spreadsheet, because at the end of the day all you’re going to get with MoneyDance that works well enough to trust is a simple ledger.

Needless to say at the end of the year, I won’t be using MoneyDance, and if I can figure out how to get this years financial data out of it I will delete it (of course, this years data has very little value since to really “fix” the issues I’d have to go back and manually re-key everything).

Do before you reach for your credit card; consider saving your money and trying something else.

Originally posted 2011-08-08 02:00:00.

HTC Touch Pro

I’ve admired HTC cellular (PDA) phones for a very long time… their cost, though, has always made me choose an alternate.

With the release of the very popular Touch Diamond and Touch Pro (Windows Mobile 6.1) phones has come the opportunity to buy one at an aggressive price ($200 with no contract if you shop wisely on Craigslist).

Most all of the HTC phones are hackable, and there’s a large community preparing custom ROM sets for them.

You’ve never seen a HTC phone?  Well, you may not have seen HTC’s phones, but you’ve probably seen a derivative of their Touch Flow 3D interface… whether they’d like to admit it on not a company in Cupertino popularized that type of interface on a phone they sell in the US through AT&T.

You can check out HTC’s site (URL below) for a list of all the various handsets they make (and not all of them are Windows Mobile — you might notice they also make the Android based G1).

I purchased the Touch Pro because it has both a touch screen and a keyboard… it’s a little thicker than the Diamond Touch, but I’m just not willing to give up on the keyboard yet — but I wanted a touch screen to make browsing the web a little less tedious.  And with Windows Mobile 6.1 you can internet connection sharing built in (so you can tether you notebook very easily without paying any additional fees).

One of the first things you’ll want to do (even if you’re not changing phone carries on the handset you get) is unlock your phone… primarily so that you can flash a custom ROM in that matches your own tastes (you can even customize many of the ROMs yourself).

Touch Flow 3D is wizzy and cool… and will amaze your friends, but let’s face it — isn’t battery life and functionality more important?  And simplicity goes a long way in making the phone more practical for everyday use (after all, you’re probably going to use it as a phone most of the time… or not).

At the moment I’ve got Mighty ROM loaded in my handset; it’s fairly clean, fairly light-weight; and works… I’ll consider upgrading to a Mobile 6.5 versions once those are more stable, and I might consider customizing my own ROM to remove a lot of the apps I don’t every intend to use.

By-the-way, one of the things you may find you no longer need if you go to this phone is a GPS… you can run Google Maps on it, but that requires you have an active internet connection (and that doesn’t always happen in many places), I also loaded Garmin XT on my handset, so I basically have a Garmin GPS with access to Garmin Live (weather and gas prices, I think you can pay a monthly fee for traffic, but there’s no traffic in my area).

All I can say is it’s a GREAT phone, and a wonderful PDA… and my feeling is HTC has gone a long way towards providing us with a convergent device.  Microsoft is rumored to be working on their own handset; let’s hope they’ve studies HTC and will leverage off their design.

The only negatives are battery life (always an issue with a PDA phone, but far less of an issue when you can Touchflow 3D), and radio quality (I suspect that has to do with the way they designed the radio — it’s certainly adequate when cell coverage is reasonable, but you might not get good reception in fringe areas).

http://www.htc.com/us/

Originally posted 2009-06-10 11:00:22.

ISO Recorder

Alex Freinman offers a very useful and very free tool that allows you to write ISO images directly to disc without needing to go through several steps.  MSDN as well recommends it use (not exclusively).

Originally posted 2008-12-02 12:00:21.