Entries Tagged as 'Communications'

CyanogenMod 7.1.0

While loading customer firmware on a smartphone isn’t something new (I did that with my HTC Touch Pro and HTC Touch Pro 2 Windows mobile devices years ago) it is something that is very easy to do with Android handsets.

My Droid A855 (that’s the original Verizon Droid — and I actually have two) with it’s slow 600 MHz ARM processor has been running Gingerbread (2.3) for almost a year; and as of last night the handset I carry has been updated to the third build of Gingerbread.

Why?

Well, Android is far from a finished and polished product; and Froyo (2.2) which is officially supported on the phone lacks a number of features.

To take advantage of a custom ROM you first need to root your phone (which has other advantages besides just allowing you to install a custom ROM, but if you’re going to root — you definitely want a custom ROM).

Once you’ve rooted your device, you can choose between a number of different custom ROMs — I try and go for stability; and I’ve tried a number of different ROMs, CyanogenMod is the one I’ve settled on.

Also, if you purchased an HP Touchpad — CyanogenMod has an Alpha release of Android for you… that may make your tablet a great deal more usable.

CyanogenMod.com

Originally posted 2011-10-20 02:00:15.

Concrete5 Review

Content Management Systems (CMSs) strive to make maintaining a web site simple; they generally are focused on allowing one person or many people to effectively contribute and edit content, change the overall appearance (without needing to re-enter content), produce reports, etc.

Many CMSs have a fairly steep learning curve before a user can build and deploy or even manage a site.

Concrete5 is different.

Concrete5 makes the task of managing a small to medium size web site as easy as using a WYSIWYG editor.  I installed the software and had it running in less than ten minutes.  The administrative interface was straight forward enough that I really didn’t need to refer to any documentation at all to use the product to publish content, change content, and add pages.

Downloading themes required me to register for the Concrete5 Market Place (registration is free, and many of the downloads are free, but some of them are not).

Concrete5 core is open source, and free; some of the add-ons for Concrete5 are free, some are not.  Concrete5 actually started as a closed source, commercial CMS, which recently became an open source (and free) product.  Concrete5 software can be downloaded and installed on your web site / server, or you can run a hosted site on Concrete5.

Concrete5 includes a RSS/ATOM feed add-on (I actually wrote one that’s a great deal more flexible for use on my web site, but you get this for free with no work) which makes it easy to provide live content on your web site.  Additionally there are free Flash, Google Maps (you need a Google Maps API key to use it), YouTube, and several other free add-ons as well.

One great feature of Concrete5 is that it keeps page revisions, so it’s easy to roll back to a previous version of a page; or to just see what’s changed (I do this on web sites I author from scratch using a source control system — and many CMSs provide this ability, but not as cleanly and as simply as Concrete5).

Overall, Concrete5 is simple, and will likely handle the vast majority of user’s needs — though a two page boiler-plate web site will handle the vast majority of user’s needs, so that’s not a high mark.

Snippy remarks aside…

If you can use a WYSIWYG editor, and you understand simple drag-and-drop paradigms and you’re comfortable using a web application and moving through menus you can maintain a web site.  You might need help setting up the web site, and you likely will need help installing the software — but even those are straight forward and something you could learn in less time than it would take to do simple tasks in a more sophisticated CMS.

The short of it, Concrete5 has a very low learning curve (almost no learning curve indeed); and will allow most any user to build and maintain their own web site with [virtually] no training.

The number of add-ons available for Concrete5 is small; but it appears from reading the information on their site and several other reviews that the add-ons all work, and work together (which isn’t necessarily the case with other CMSs).  Though as I’ve already enumerated, many useful add-ons are available and free.

For users who understand CSS, HTML, PHP it’s very straight forward to build your own themes; and actually extending Concrete5 would not be a daunting task.

What I like about Concrete5…

It’s easy to install, easy to use, and provides most basic functionality that a CMS should provide — and the core is free.  It does not overly abstract core parts of a web site (no doubt that’s where it get’s it’s name).  Concrete5 has a lot of potential.

What I don’t like about Concrete5…

The web site goes out of it’s way to criticize other content management systems (and that to me is ridiculous; both Joomla and Drupal are capable of being used to build more sophisticated sites — but both of those are much harder to use to build a simple site); it doesn’t support tables prefixes (which means each instance of Concrete5 needs it’s own database, and it’s dangerous to try and share a database between Concrete5 and any other software (this is significant because some hosting plans greatly limit the number of databases you are allowed); it’s a relatively new “community” project, and thus does not have a large body of people working on it or eyes reviewing it (which means it’s more likely to have security issues than some of the more mature CMSs).

I’m neutral on the fact that parts of Concrete5 are offered free, and parts are offered at a (generally) modest price.  I agree that developers are entitled to make a living off their software, and as long as it doesn’t become a razor/razor-blade type model I’m fine with it; but success often breeds greed (like familiarity breeds contempt).

One thing to keep in mind:  always select the right tool for the job.

What Concrete5 does it does well; but decide what it is you want to do before you select the tool.

http://concrete5.org/

Originally posted 2010-04-03 02:00:42.

Smart Phones

Early last month Sprint shipped a 4G Android based smart phone made by HTC — it sold out; they receive more from HTC — they sold out; they can’t keep them on the self.

Late last month Apple shipped the iPhone 4 (not a 4G phone), and AT&T sold out the first day in many metropolitan areas.

The day before Apple shipped the iPhone 4, Motorola shipped a new Android based smart phone — sales were brisk.

I’ve had a smart phone for many, many years — and frankly I’ve been amazed at how many people have been buying them in the last few years, so I did a little research.

I figured a good place to start would be to see what kind of applications people where downloading for the iPhone — well I was totally shocked.  On almost every list I could find the top applications were games (and people were paying for them).

I’m not even going to waste my time writing what I think this says about Americans (and we probably shouldn’t limit it to just Americans)… obviously the economy must be doing fine if people have several hundred dollars to throw away on a cellular handset to just enable them to play games — and have a fashion accessory (which must be meant to indicate that they have money to throw away).

I always considered my smart phone a tool; but I guess in the age of PSP and Wii it’s just another electronic toy to keep mindless people entranced so they don’t need to think or pay attention to their surroundings.

Almost enough to make me toss my smart phone in a trash can and get rid of my unlimited data plan.

Originally posted 2010-07-01 02:00:46.

GSM Hacked

Computer security researchers have reported that GSM phones (the cellular protocol used by most of the world — roughly 80% of all cell phones) can be cracked with a relatively small amount of hardware and free Open Source tools.

The weakness exploits the older 64-bit A5/1 algorithm not the newer 128-bit A5/3 algorithm.  However, it should be noted that most GSM providers have been slow to update their networks and do not currently employ the more secure 128-bit encryption standard.

The result is that conversations carried on GSM networks can be overheard and recorded.

No such weaknesses exist in the CDMA protocol; nor would this indicate a potential vulnerability in LTE.

Karsten Nohl, a German computer programmer, claims he demonstrated this weakness (and published the code) to encourage GSM carriers (and manufactures) to take serious the poor security that is currently in place.  ESTI (the standards organization behind GSM) claims that this hack (while legitimate) is too complex and would in fact not give hackers the ability to listen in on phone calls.

Originally posted 2009-12-29 02:00:50.

Google Music (Beta)

Google launched Google Music Beta a little over a month ago, and I’ve been using it since shortly after that.

Currently it’s free; allows you to upload up to 20,000 songs, and will play back that music through any browser, or through Android’s Music App (you will need the updated version that’s icon looks like a headset).

The Music Manager can be installed on a number of operating system, and can upload directories of music, or upload music from an iTune or Windows Media library… you do need to be patient, even on the fastest setting the manager will take quite some time to upload a large music library (I have 17,998 sound; origially I uploaded about 14,500 songs and it took almost 10 days).

The manager will detect changes to the files and automatically sync with the music cloud storage — and you can edit meta tags via the web interface as well.

The biggest downside of Google’s Music Beta is that there isn’t really any way to download the music from the cloud — say you had a local disk crash and wanted to get the music back in a library format (it does allow you to cache content locally for off-line playback).  Obviously the files are downloaded to your computer, but it’d take quite a bit of work to reorganize them (I’ll actually experiment with the cache to see if you could use something like MediaMonkey to reorganize the cache into a library — I don’t know if the ID3 tags are pulled down with the music stream or not).

While it’s free, it’s a great value — and it works very well; I’ve had no problem streaming music on 3G (you’ll want an unlimited data plan for sure)… the only potential issue you might have is that if your home internet provider caps your transfers per month (or charges for overages) you may want to upload parts of your library over several months (my library is 128GB — so almost the entire amount AT&T allows on DSL service and half what AT&T allows on U-Verse service once they start metering ).

Provided you’re not an iPhone user — I recommend you take a look at it; now if Google starts charging, you may want to consider using the Amazon service.  It’s $20 per year for unlimited music and 20GB of anything you want; or $5GB (total) if free.  The downside of the Amazon plan is that the MPAA and RIA are allowed to scan your files (there’s no privacy), and the price may change.  I can’t really speak much about the Amazon service since I’ve only played with the free storage (which isn’t anywhere near enough to store even a meaningful fraction of my library).  If you’re an iPhone user, you’ll want to look at the Apple music cloud service.

For the time being, the Google service is the best deal in town… you can check it out via:

Google Music Beta

Originally posted 2011-10-15 02:00:09.

iOS 4

With the announcement of iPhone 4 Apple announced the a new version of their phone / media player operating systems — iOS 4; which will ship on the iPhone 4 and be offered as a free upgrade to iPhone 3G and 3GS users as well as second and third generation iPod touch users.

I’m sure everyone will be quick to tether their Apple device to iTune and apply the upgrades…

Originally posted 2010-06-10 10:50:15.

Two Weeks and All’s Well

It’s been over two weeks since I started the migration from 1and1 hosting to JustHost and right at two weeks since I moved my BLOG.

I have to say I’m very happy with JustHost.  Things worked the way they should (well, yeah, there were a few things I had to figure out, but that’s been true of every hosting service I’ve ever used personally or for clients), and things have continued to work well.

JustHost is different than 1and1 in many ways; and my main reason to seek another hosting company was to find one that offered Server Side Includes (SSI) at a reasonable price (yes, I can do most everything that SSI does through AJAX call backs, but it’s so much more efficient for the server to just send the information; and I could have actually wrapped the page in PHP and essentially done what a SSI would have done through PHP).

If you’re looking for a hosting company, I do encourage you to click the ad to the right and review their packages.  The price is extremely attractive, they get very good marks in most every review, and they just work.

Originally posted 2010-02-20 01:00:00.

Microsoft Office 2010

The ides of June (that was Monday the 15th) Microsoft announced the newest version of their Office suite — Microsoft Office 2010… yawn.

As part of the announcement, Microsoft also unveiled Microsoft Office Live — that’s a “scaled down” version of the office products offered absolutely free as part of the Microsoft Live website.

The online version, like the desktop version, has been in beta for quite some time, so none of the features of capabilities (or limitations) should be a big surprise to anyone who’s shown enough interest to try the online version or download and install the desktop version.

While I totally understand Microsoft’s need to sustain (and expand) their cash flow through upgrades (after all, Apple has now overtaken Microsoft as the largest technology company based on stock market valuation) — but why most people would even consider an upgrade to something they only use a fraction of the capabilities of is totally beyond me.

Microsoft is meeting competition on the office front from both Open Office (a free desktop office suite) and Google Office (an online office suite) — and competition in the office arena isn’t something Microsoft has had to deal with since killing off Word Perfect a quarter century ago!

I want Microsoft stock to appreciate (trust me, my portfolio still depends on it); but perhaps Steve Balmer should consider making Microsoft a leader through innovation rather than just putting lipstick on a pig (after all, it didn’t work in the last presidential election — and I serious doubt it’ll work in the technology race).

In my view, the features most people really need and use in an office suite are perfectly generic in this day and age — and most people fumble around to do the things they need to do anyway (read that as they aren’t an expert with the software), so why not pick out something that works, works well, and is affordable (free)?

Personally I don’t trust Google, and I don’t want my documents (or any other information) on their servers… so I’ll stick with Open Office, and I’ve been using the Go OO version (it’s a re-packing of the open source Open Office with some refinements to make it look-and-feel a little more like other programs on the host environment).  Try it out — and see if it won’t do everything you need — it’s priced right, it’s free (as in “free beer”)!

Go OO Open Office

Originally posted 2010-06-17 02:00:43.

One of the upsides of the internet…

One of the things that the internet allows almost everyone is the ability to express their opinion in a venue that others can “hear”.

Just do an internet search on almost anything you can think of… you’ll find reviews, comments, rants, and sometimes raves!

While you rarely know anything about the individual who wrote the posting, from a well thought out post you can gather some important questions to get the answers to before making a decision, so as a tool for an informed consumer the internet can be invaluable not only in locating the “best” prices, but also in finding the “best” products and “best” vendors!

It only takes a little effort to learn a great deal about any good or service you’re considering — it’s totally up to you whether you make an informed decision or just wing it.

Originally posted 2008-12-30 12:00:06.

Apple – Double or Nothing?

Yesterday Apple announced another record quarter in sales.  In fact, iPhone sales doubled in Q4 2009 (a good holiday present for Apple).

Tomorrow Apples announces a new tablet computer (at least that’s the rumor of what they will announce).

Google has a lot of ground to catch up with Apple in the phone market, and it certainly doesn’t appear that Apple is going to just stand by and wait for them.

I guess the one thing that Apples numbers show is that there is money to be made in economic hard times if you’ve got something people want.

Originally posted 2010-01-26 01:00:44.