Category Archives: Hardware

A Tablet PC Wedding

A few weeks ago, Ponzi suggested that we could read our marriage vows from our respective laptops during the ceremony. I was amazed that she would suggest such a thing, but it just goes to show you that she really understands me (and respects my unhealthy fascination with technology). We have a couple of relatively unsexy Thinkpad’s, and they’re not quite lightweight.

I asked a few Tablet PC enthusiasts for suggestions, having never owned a Tablet PC – or never really needing to own one. James Kendrick pointed me in the direction of TabletKiosk. A UMPC would certainly fit the bill, and two eo UMPC v7110 256/40 (white) units were soon en route to our new home address – and Ponzi was none the wiser. Feel free to watch James’s review of the hardware if you wanna know more about it.

The Ultra-Mobile PCs arrived on Thursday, and I quickly unboxed them as if it was early Christmas morning. During the wedding rehearsal, I surprised Ponzi and the wedding party by unveiling them. Ponzi joked: “Is this my wedding present!?” We had mutually agreed to skip the spousal gifts, so I figured a twin set of UMPCs was a decent compromise.

Per my dad’s suggestion, I printed a copy of our vows (and taped them to the back of each computer) – just in case something went haywire. I thought I had covered all my bases – coping the vows to each UMPC, charging the battery, shutting down all unnecessary services, etc. What I didn’t do, however, is tweak the power management settings.

The two boys (Patrick Scoble and Lane Lawley) approached the chupa and I read my vows first. Of course, I can’t wait to get everybody an audio/video copy of this part of our ceremony – a photo simply doesn’t give you the full story. Immediately after I finished, Ponzi read her vows – and as she was just about to finish, the UMPC suspended itself! Ponzi said that Windows crashed, the audience exploded in laughter, and I quickly flipped her tablet around so that she could refer to the printed copy.

It was fun to do, and I think our friends and family got a kick out of it, too. Several people wanted to know more about the TabletKiosk systems – for good reason. They’re sexy, compact, and perfect for this kind of event.

As much as it pains me to say it, one of our wedding tablets was (likely) stolen from the venue later that night. We established a crime timeframe, and security tapes were analyzed. Ponzi and I have been invited back to Harbor Club Bellevue to review the potentially incriminating footage – as the suspects are not employees. As you can imagine, I’m completely unnerved. I really, really don’t want to see who did it – and I’d ask that if you know anything about this situation, you come forward sooner rather than later.

Woot Isn't Always Worth a w00t

A friend of mine pointed out that Woot was running a special today on the Gateway M275 Tablet PC – for $599. In my humble opinion, this isn’t much of a bargain. I’d probably buy one at $199, but at $599 I’d just as soon put an additional $400 into it for a truly better Tablet PC experience.

You’d be better off spending $400 more ($999 total) for a basic Gateway CX210S – better processor, better power consumption, better RAM modules, slightly better screen resolution, likely faster hard drive, twice as much disk space, and it’s Vista Capable (Vista Ready with a memory upgrade to 1GB, whereas the M275 isn’t even listed as Vista Capable).

If you have $599 to spend on a Tablet PC, you have $999 – and at $999, your experience with the Tablet PC is going to be far better (from everything I’ve heard – not ever having owned one). Understand that Windows Vista is going to bring with it a lot of tablet-specific hooks. If a machine isn’t even Vista Capable today, I wouldn’t spend more than a couple hundred on it.

Intel’s Core 2 Duo processors changed “everything” – and I can’t wait to have one in my next laptop.

Media Temple (mt) Grid Server Outage

For giggles (and scalability reasons), we set up a Media Temple (mt) “gs” account – setting up some of our sites on their new Grid Server service plan. This morning, it all went to hell. By the afternoon, I started to get antsy – and blitzed a request in their general direction. I received a response quickly, which pretty much said that I wasn’t the only user having issues on the Grid today. Then, in the early evening, I received this update – which I share with you now, in case you’re also a Media Temple gs customer:

This update is intended to summarize the many smaller micro-updates and progress that has been made with this issue since 4:25pm.

– Issues were discovered with the new firmware patch that was provided to (mt) Media Temple this afternoon. This new patch, which was designed to solve the stability issues with our storage segment, introduced new issues. The patch solved the crashing issues, yet introduced performance problems and possible incompatibilities with our GRID technology.

– BlueArc impressively has responded expediently throughout the issue and has escalated (mt)’s issue to the highest level within the company. Constant communication between engineering departments has remained all day.

– During the diagnostic phase (mt) Media Temple found techniques to dramatically reduce disk I/O load from the web segment. This improvement has been scheduled to roll into GRID Master Release (v.1.1). This action has restored the web segment to full performance while the root is issue is discovered.

– Performance issues in the email segment continue to come and go, currently exhaustive work is being done in this area.

– Commitment has been made by both teams to work continuously until permanent resolution is made.

I’m not quite sure what all of that means, but… I sure hope it doesn’t happen again. I mean, I don’t expect much for such a small amount of money, but Media Temple (in my mind) has one of the best Web hosting reputations on the planet – which is largely why we’re dipping our digital toes in their waters. Things seem okay again, although my Comcrap connection has made the Internets close to unbearable.

Weird, Strange, and Odd USB Gadgets

I love USB – it’s simple, sexy, and ubiquitous. I’m probably the only guy on the planet who would describe the Universal Serial Bus as “sexy,” but I still remember fiddling with RS-232 ports back in the day (very unsexy). If a device doesn’t accept a charge by USB, throw it back – it’s simply not worth the hassle, otherwise. And if you think that the world of USB has been relegated to storage devices and media players, think again:

And there are thousands more USB devices that are equally as… strange. I’ve seen some serious doozies in my holiday shopping travels. If I could, I’d collect every strange USB gizmo on the planet. I was half hoping to find a few listed on pt’s open source gift guide.

What’s the weirdest USB device you’ve ever heard of?

Canon PowerShot SD800 IS

I became a Canon PowerShot fan a few years ago – having fallen in love with the G2 and its feature set / form factor. My first pocket camera (ever) was an SD550, though I sold it and moved to the SD700 IS when it became available. I use the SD700 IS way more than I do my S2 IS – though I’m getting ready to sell both of ’em. Why? The Canon PowerShot SD800 IS is coming:

  • The PowerShot SD800 IS features a 7.1-million-pixel CCD sensor. This high-resolution imager ensures every picture will have excellent detail, even when printed large, or cropped.
  • Brand new lens design integrates a wide angle zoom (28-105mm equivalent) and image stabilization. This 3.8x wide zoom lens was designed with fewer yet “smarter” optics (dual sided aspherics and UA) to achieve a compact size with wide angle and IS while maintaining impressive image quality. The SD800 IS is the first Digital Elph to feature both of these exciting lens technologies.
  • Takes the performance and speed of DIGIC II to even higher levels of processing power including new face detection function, up to 1600 speed ISO, high-ISO noise reduction, lower power consumption, increased speed for SD media cards, and higher resolution image processing for enhanced LCD viewing.

It’s an incremental upgrade from the SD700 IS, which is still an amazing camera. Anybody want it or my S2 IS? 🙂

A Better Battery Life

I was surprised – our battery interview turned out to be quite informational. PC World also has a handful of iPod battery tips, although I believe the suggestions trancend Apple’s platform. Here are my takeaways from both pieces:

  • Don’t leave your battery-driven devices plugged in all the time.
  • Let your batteries drain completely before recharging them.
  • On the iPod, “Standby” doesn’t save as much juice as “Pause” does.
  • Turning off sound equalizers may also increase battery life.
  • Batteries drain quicker in warmer environments.

My biggest beef with batteries is that they’re not all removable, they’re not all rechargable, and they’re not as interchangable as they should be. Moreover, I’m wholly unimpressed when I can’t charge a device by USB.

Linksys Router Firmware Upgrade

When I registered my Vonage complaint the other day, somebody sent me a link to HyperWRT Thibor – suggesting that I flash to the community firmware and forego official Linksys code altogether. I was a little apprehensive about making the move, but ultimately decided to give ‘er a shot (believing I had nothing to lose).

HyperWRT is a GPL firmware project for the Linksys WRT54G/WRT54GL/WRT54GS and WRTSL54GS wireless routers based on the latest stock Linksys firmware. The original goal of the HyperWRT project was to add a set of features – such as power boost – to the Linux-based Linksys firmware, extending its possibilities but staying close to the official firmware. Over time, it has continued to be updated with newer Linksys firmware, and incorporated many more features typically found in enterprise routing equipment.

As documented, the upgrade was seamless – and my Linksys WRT54GS now has twice the amount of options:

  • I can adjust the router’s transmit power, higher or lower
  • The hardware now has 14 wireless channels
  • There’s more Port Forwarding & Triggering fields
  • QoS Device is now infinitely easier to configure
  • Uptime and load average statistics are now visible
  • A reboot button has been added to the ‘Management’ page
  • Local domain names are now a possibility
  • A much needed “site survey” utility is now built-in
  • Dnsmasq for DNS is ready-to-go

Plus, dozens more tools and features that I have no idea what to do with (or how to use, since documentation is beyond sparse). Of interest to me is the “WDS and Wireless Bridge (WET) capabilities” – considering I have more than one router in this house. In combination with OpenDNS, my home network is tweaked.

USB Charger for Airplanes

Okay, so it’s not exactly for airplanes – the Inflight USB Power Unit was designed for airline passengers. “Plug compatible with any standard USB charging cable. The Inflight USB Power unit plugs into the passenger seat audio jack and outputs regulated power to the attached USB charging cable/connector.” If only I could get every device manufacturer to let me charge by USB, I’d be in heaven. This is a must-have USB charging device. I play with my PSP on just about every flight, and it’s nice to know I could connect my iPod as well. Consider this sucker ordered and owned.

The Fastest Flash Drive

Don’t ask me why this isn’t documented anywhere, but I have it on good authority that the best USB memory stick to use for Vista’s ReadyBoost is an Apacer Handy Steno – the 2GB version. Apacer also has a 4GB version, although it’s been reported that the 4GB model has reliability issues (though I don’t know how “reliablity” is defined or charted). No matter, Microsoft is apparently using Apacer USB sticks for the ultimate speed boost (ReadyBoost) in Vista. From Mwave, a list of features:

  • All in one design: to avoid losing the cover
  • USB 2.0 Interface: Truly plug and play
  • Slender body makes USB ports accessible
  • High capacity support
  • Docking included for user-friendly usage
  • High performance (Max.) *: Read speed-25MB/sec. & Write speed-14MB/sec.
  • LED indicates data transfer in transferred
  • Security/Booting/Formatting/Compressing functions
  • Write Speed around 14000 KB / sec.
  • Read Speed around 25000 KB / sec.

I would rather get the 4GB model than the 2GB one (for obvious reasons), but not if there are stability / consistency issues. Anybody else have experiences with Apacer? That’s a brand I just haven’t heard of before.