Notes from inside TouchWiz ATT S4 SGH-I337

The Heimdall stock flash worked, in that it got the OS reinstalled on the phone.  GPS never seemed to work.  TowelRoot still works. To get “Wireless Hotspot & Tether” working I installed WanamXposed and if I recall correctly “X Tether” module.  Anyhow, this all worked on Bell up north.

There is another version of the stock image called “337UCUFNB1_100%_Stock” which can be rooted also with TowelRoot, this module and some of the Google Play Edition TW /SafeStrap ports of the SGH-I9505 also worked with GPS.

Currently here’s what I’m running / the process:

1) SafeStrap (has to be installed over a stock rooted ROM, ODIN, Hemidall, etc).

2) Advanced wipe everything but the SD card with the installer data on it (ROM, NB1 modem modules, SU Update).

3) Graviton S4 v3.2 for SafeStrap (4.4.2 NB1).

4) [MOD][Script] SmartDebloater [4.3-4.4] (note: don’t remove Samsung Calendar as TW requires it, I also left the camera and calculator)

To get the Google Now Launcher to work correctly as the default (and not TouchWiz Home) I installed Nova Launcher, disabled the Google Now Launcher, set Nova to default, and then re-updated/installed the Google Launcher.

I installed Wanam Xposed, a few modules, and GravityBox.  Graviton has a number of tweaks baked in.  I tried the “SlimSung NI1 ROM” but the radio seemed screwy since it was built for the NI1 update, the NB1 radio seems okay in Graviton, GPS and wifi seem to work fine.

Quickoffice isn’t available on the Play Store anymore, but this link goes to a Google support page, that launches a “browser only” Play Store whereby you can install the app to your device via the web play store interface.  Worked for me anyhow.  I’m sure the APK is available somewhere as well.  All other apps can be installed via the Play Store.

GravityBox has a tweak whereby you can set the double-click behavior of the home button to launch Google’s Voice Search which is nice.  The Google Now Launcher swipes left-to-right from the home screen to get to Google Now.  You could also just leave “Google Now Listening” on from all screens.

Another nice GravityBox tweak is changing the number of home screen icons to display, the stock GNL is 4×4 which looks huge on the S4, I think 5×5 or even 6×6 means you might only need a single page.

The one “feature” of TouchWiz which seems impossible to get around is the ability to take photos from the lock screen while using a PIN or password unlock.  I’ve tried nearly every conceivable hack, it simply doesn’t work.  If you have no security (e.g. swipe unlock) you can take photos, but any sort of PIN or pass means you have to unlock to get to the camera.  Oh well.  The S4 camera seems pretty decent, definitely an upgrade from the N4.  Probably not from the 5S.


Consolidating photo libraries from multiple drives

I’m trying out “The Big Mean Folder Machine” version 2.29 to consolidate (or “merge”) various years of photo cruft.  The process of culling and consolidation will hopefully allow me to have a single photo directory backed up to Amazon Glacial forever.  I believe as I mentioned in another post, mechanical disks fail so having a redundant and offsite backup strategy is crucial.  And certainly a key part of of this is limiting the number of places you’re storing your local data so that you can create redundancy.

I’ll write more here when I get all this data and drives sorted out, but so far I was able to run a scan and it the BMFM was able to create a folder hierarchy from multiple drives.   I may need to do some merges first and then a split.

Increase an NTFS partition while decreasing & moving EXT4

About one year ago I installed Ubuntu 12.04 LTS on a friend’s machine that came with Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit pre-loaded.  It is a refurbished Lenovo Thinkpad T430s to be precise.  I decreased the NTFS partition to about 40GB and gave the rest of the 500GB drive to  dual boot Ubuntu (leaving the Lenovo Recovery and Win7 recovery partitions intact).  Long story short (and no fault of 12.04 LTS which has been running very well) the friend and spouse needed more space on the NTFS Windows 7 partition (because everyone loves a bloated Win7 install).

Here are some steps to make this work.  The best piece of advice I found was this, “Use Linux tools to resize Linux partitions and Windows’ tools to resize Windows’ partitions” (gparted’s support for NTFS resizing is/was deemed experimental which is why I decided to use PWHE 8.11) and of course it goes without saying but I’ll say it, “backup your $***”:

  1. backup the EXT4 ‘home’ folder of the Ubuntu user.
  2. boot gparted live to backup/copy the 3 NTFS partitions (MS recovery / Win7 “C:” / Lenovo recovery) onto an external drive.
  3. gparted resize and move EXT4 partition to give an equal split for NTFS and EXT4.
  4. Unallocated space must now be “to the right” of the nearly full NTFS partition.
  5. Burn Partition Wizard Home Edition (8.11) via Ubuntu & Unetbootin to a USB key.
  6. Boot into PWHE 8.11 and “extend” the NTFS partition to reclaim about 100GB for Win 7.
  7. Test both OSes. It is now an even split between NTFS & EXT4 ~230GB each.


MacBook 5,1 upgrading to Mavericks and some notes…

A buddy of mine was upgrading an older MacBook (Unibody Aluminum, Late 2008, Model ID 5,1) from 10.6.8. In theory, you press the “upgrade to 10.9” button from the App Store and everything goes swimmingly. In his case it resulted in a serious disk error and wouldn’t boot into recovery mode; it would only boot the initial OS install utility screen and then fail to install the OS. Repeatedly. A recovery partition had not been created as the machine was running 10.6.8 and he also did not have the original 10.5 DVD that came with the Mac nor access to another Mac to create USB sticks from.  So there’s the rub.

He had  10.6 Time Machine backups, of course, so this wasn’t a catastrophic issue but the quandary here was that he couldn’t initiate the Time Machine recovery without the the original 10.5 DVD or from the new 10.9 installer. And the old hard drive still had errors.

Here’s a list of a few things we tried until it finally sorted itself it:

1) Create boot USB sticks of 10.8 from Ubuntu – (no go, same problem as 10.9)
2) “Restore From Backup” option on 10.9 Installer did nothing
3) Put in a new 320GB Western Digital Scorpio Black and 8GB of fresh RAM
4) 10.6.2 retail iMac install DVD – (loaded Time Machine Recovery but would not install 10.6)
5) Confirmed “secret EFI firmware” version of the MacBook 5,1 can use 8GB ram, 64bit mode

So at this point the machine is back online. He has recovered 10.6.8 from the Time Machine backups onto a new 320GB drive. He confirms that the EFI firmware has been updated to the latest version and the RAM gets upgraded to 8GB. He’s back running 10.6.8 at least.

The question then is if he hits “Install Mavericks” from the App Store will the machine kill itself again? He has the backup so he rolls the dice and it works, the machine updates successfully from 10.6.8 to 10.9.

From here it is rote. Make a fresh backup of functioning 10.9 (don’t delete your 10.6.8 backup just yet!). Do a fresh install from a working USB stick of 10.9. Migrate the crap from the old installation.

That’s it. Not more than 20-30 hours of your life. But hey, the late 2008 Unibody MacBook is now running the latest and greatest.

12.04 LTS for everyone.

SSH debug

The crux is that SSH even when connecting w/ -vvv  or -vT modes won’t tell you precisely why it’s not connecting for obvious security purposes.  This is presuming you’ve double checked all other obvious issues and your public/private key pairs are setup correctly.

In the linked post above Kent Martin writes, the answer is to bind debug to an alternate port on the server side:
/usr/sbin/sshd -d -p 2222

then similarly from the client machine:
ssh -v -p 2222 user@machine_I_am_trying_to_ssh_to

On the server machine terminal you’ll see a more verbose debug log and hopefully it will tell you exactly why your client machine is being rejected.

Android 2.2 Wifi > Bluetooth : bridge & tether DUN

This isn’t a common situation, but without root it seems you cannot share or rebroadcast a given SSID using your Android’s wireless chipset, however, using PdaNet, you can share a wifi signal via bluetooth with a laptop or another device running PdaNet.

So there, I hope that’s the answer you are gøøgling right now.

Once paired successfully over bluetooth, on the client laptop you’ll need to enter “123” as the dial up phone number in the DUN settings.

You are welcome.

Unetbootin my old friend, Dell XPS 15″ 1st gen, my enemy

Was having a devil of a time getting 10.04 LTS Unbuntu (Lucid Lynx) to install via USB flash key.  It would boot off the key fine, then during installation step 3, choose your keyboard layout, it would hang, no matter what I selected.  A couple of people suggested it was the maker of the USB key, so not having a spare key, I tried the “Alternate” text based installer, which also failed while recognizing disk partitions at 43%.  Someone else had this exact problem, which leads me back to this post, and the USB key as culprit:

Apparently partition size of the USB key can effect installation, so I’m going to try a 1GB partition and see if that works.  Otherwise, most users were able to either install 9.10 Netbook version or 11.10 with no problems, so I’m going to try that next, because as it stands I tried three different USB boot key creators (Pendrivelinux, Unetbootin, and LinuxLive USB) and three different versions of 10.04 LTS, no joy.  So hopefully this 1GB partition gets the installation flowing.  For the record, the machine is an old Dell Inspiron XPS 15″ 1st generation, Pentium 4 3.4GHz.

Update 30.Jan.2012: I got this working, as of a couple of days ago. I ended up booting from an old 8.04 or 8.10 CD-ROM I’d burned and the did an upgrade over the internet tubes to 10.04 LTS. It works, the Broadcom wireless adapter required a non-open driver but that auto updated as well, which is nice. And, I will say this, that 1920×1600 15″ LCD is massive on this thing. Ubuntu seems to really handle display settings much better than XP did, and Windows 7 would never be able to run on this thing, especially considering the poor performance I’ve seen from Windows 7 on Netbooks, I’d say 10.04 LTS or 9.10 Netbook is a safe bet for older machines.

EMU 0404 USB driver finally updates….

I’ve never been displeased with the price performance of the Creative/E-MU 0404 USB 2.0 [DAC] MIDI audio interface, but seeing as how I mostly use it for music listening I’m not super reliant on the latest and greatest drivers, it’s worked fine with OS X.

From past experience, I know configuring just about any USB audio interface in Windows XP was a headache, and I am told Vista/Win7 fixes some of the audio path issues. But I don’t run Windows 7. I have 10.6.8 on my systems now, the Mini is the main playback hub. The E-MU drivers for it were old, think Rosetta, possibly PowerPC binaries, as in old, but they worked. And despite being capable, Creative/E-MU has never enabled 24 bit 192KHz playback with the 0404 USB under OS X. I’m sure it’s possible. This is all to say, when I updated to the latest drivers for 32/64 bit Snow Leopard / Lion compatibility I just wanted to make sure it didn’t break anything, if it sounds better, great, so long as it doesn’t break functionality.

Here’s a link to the October 14, 2011 64 bit Lion driver download page:

I can’t hear any difference but it didn’t seem to break anything. Still no 192KHz up-sampling option.

On a side note, C says it’s not worth it yet to sync all the songs to the cloud, too much lag, in which case I need to upgrade to a 1TB 9.5mm 2.5″ SATA drive in the Mini, as I’m running low on space. I like having most albums at 16bit/44.1KHz lossless audio, and I occasionally buy CD’s and rip it to such. For streaming over the cloud 320kbps .mp3/aac seems to be standard. At $5/mo Spotify doesn’t sound very good, comparatively, $10/mo apparently bumps the streaming quality. At home FLAC/Apple Lossless sounds better, for sure.

MacBook Pro Magsafe Charging Issues…

No one is alone here with MagSafe issues.  Apple recently announced a MagSafe replacement program (US only) for which I’m quite sure I’m a good candidate (I see some insulating wire); the strain relief on the head of the magnetic adapter simply isn’t up to snuff, which forced a redesign a couple of years ago (along with the requisite California Class Action fire hazard lawsuit).  All of this is to say, if you can see wires sticking out of your MagSafe, the strain relief “issue” qualifies under warranty for replacement.

But what about the ‘ole “MagSafe won’t charge battery” issue?  Well, as it turns out this could be related to the pins in the magnetic tip, or it could be the “System Management Controller” on your laptop.  This is the exact wording of the Apple Support Document for resetting the SMC on a laptop with removable battery:

  1. Shut down the computer.
  2. Disconnect the MagSafe power adapter from the computer, if it’s connected.
  3. Remove the battery.
  4. Press and hold the power button for 5 seconds.
  5. Release the power button.
  6. Reconnect the battery and MagSafe power adapter.
  7. Press the power button to turn on the computer.

Ah, but if only it were so simple. I recently watched this video on YouTube:

Macbook Battery Not Charging Fix







What Kris tells us, with one critical difference from the official Apple support document, is that after pulling the battery he reconnects the MagSafe, waits five seconds, and then re-installs the battery. I did this tonight with my 1st generation MacBook Pro and it solved the charging issue immediately, which makes me think that this is indeed the correct order. YMMV.  Godspeed.

One good reason

One good reason I’ve found to stick with Android is this:

RedPhone by Whisper Systems

In case you don’t feel like reading about it, it’s a free (for personal use) end-to-end encrypted VOIP client.  There may be other methods out there, including personal Asterix PBXs, but this seems to work with the least fuss. Google Voice may or may not work with it I believe, as native SMS’ing must be working by default on the phone.  To test I used my native phone number instead of my GV number, it worked fine over data.

Also for Android, AGP offers OpenPGP compatibility and the K-9 Mail client app then integrates the GPG functionality.

Bingo. Bango.

UPDATE: As of late November 2011 it appears RedPhone has been pulled from the Android Market and the app itself can no longer connect to Whisper Systems’ servers.  The application was in Beta, so this could mean there is a full release coming out or perhaps something required that it be pulled from the Android Market.  So for right now, I’m unaware of any other end-to-end encrypted VOIP applications for Android.

Virgin, VOIP & the LG

As a follow-up, after a couple of months using the LG Optimus V (on Virgin Mobile) I’d say for the cost, it works as well as can be expected. When you stray too far from the highway 3G and 1X data often disappear completely. Sometimes the 3G radio doesn’t refresh (which apparently is a bug in Android 2.2, but this phone certainly exhibits it) so in a spotty 3G location it takes a few minutes to find the data signal. Again, for $25/month this seems acceptable. A higher end smartphone, or an iPhone, cost closer to $90/month. Depends what you need as an end user, but Z & I find it totally acceptable, especially considering the cost savings and Google integration.

The downside of the $25/month plan is only 300 “anytime” cellular minutes (and no free night/weekend minutes). To get around this I’ve registered my Sipgate One phone number with the Nimbuzz app for Android. When I have a quality wifi connection I disable all cellular radios (Airplane Mode). To make an outgoing call I use the Google Voice Callback app, so I must first answer the call in Nimbuzz (Sipgate has free incoming calls like a landline) and then it connects me to whomever I’m calling. I tried using SipDroid and CSIPsimple, but neither worked consistently. For whatever reason, Sipgate and Nimbuzz work better together.

As far as apps that make the small screen on this phone more usable, I really like the Miren Web Browser over the stock Android Browser. For one, you can easily go in and out of full screen mode. Secondly, it’s easy to turn off images over 3G to improve browsing speeds. For a while I searched high and low for a decent RSS reader app to sync to Google Reader, and finally I realized a better browser would really make the difference, and I was right. Miren using Google Reader’s mobile page is quite usable and is much quicker than any of the other stand alone “readers” I tried. Thirdly, the stock Android Browser didn’t support HTML5 audio and video tags correctly, Miren seems to handle these better and is much quicker than Opera Mobile.

While certainly not Siri on the iPhone 4S, Android’s ‘Speech to Text’ functionality works quite well. I’ve taken to using it for sending short SMS’s and for dictating short emails, especially while walking. The touch keyboard isn’t great, especially on a screen this size. Swype is better for some things but I find the predictive standard 2.2 keyboard to be a little bit faster. Again, I think the dictation engine is clearly the “way forward” but right now on this phone, it can be a little sluggish at times.

I think if you’re willing to accept these limitations this phone is a terrific value. I’m pretty sure the Optimus V can be bought outright for ~$100. Virgin’s $25/month plan increased recently to $35/month and for $45/month you get 1200 minutes (with “unlimited SMS & data”). So again, it’s still significantly less expensive (per annum) than any of the other carriers, but you must be willing to accept potentially sub-optimal cellular coverage and a smallish screen on a slightly underpowered phone. But it works. And I have been quite happy to have unlimited calling on Wifi. So there you go.

Note of full disclosure: I bought my LG Optimus V at retail price using my own funds. I have no stake in LG, Sprint Nextel or Virgin Mobile. This is simply a blog post about a phone.

Follow Up, 212+ Installation

C was here for a few days. Our last project was getting the Cooler Master Hyper 212+ installed. Installation went pretty well. We likely used too much thermal paste, but nonetheless, it reduced my CPU temperatures by about 20 degrees Celsius, so I’d say it works. It can often be found on sale for $25 from Newegg, so really if you have a large enough computer that’s running hot, this seems like a no brainer. I’m not entirely certain the CPU temperature readings were always correct, but I figure it’s better to err on the side of over cooling.

The one trifling problem I’ve had in my “Almost Vanilla” *OS*X*86 install was not achieving a full power off after shutting down. I found many threads related to power & sleep issues, but I finally found the one thread here referencing the specific settings for the BIOS on my Gigabyte G41M-ES2L motherboard. The answer was this:

Power Management Setup:
ACPI Suspend Type: [S3(STR)]
Soft-Off by PWR-BTTN: [Instant-Off]
PME Event Wake Up: [Disabled]
Power On by Ring: [Disabled]
Resume by Alarm: [Disabled]
HPET Support: [Enabled]
HPET Mode: [32-bit Mode]
Power On By Mouse: [Disabled]
Power On By Keyboard: [Disabled]
AC Back Function: [Soft-Off]

Although it turns out HPET Mode: [64-Bit Mode] works just as well. The crux was the three options below Soft-Off by PWR-BTTN, those three all must be disabled. Now when it turns off the case isn’t consuming 90 watts. Which is still a lot for any computer, but I try to only use it as a part time server for media backup. It consumes 5 watts in its “OFF” state but at least now it shuts down fully.

At least…

The prices on high quality heat sink fans have come down. I recently converted the old Intel e5200 htpc/server into an “OSX”86 server. It turns out that you can now fill the 4 SATA drive slots with about 12TB of storage now for like $100 (I’m joking, but storage is cheap). Right now it only has a single “green” Seagate 1TB drive, but at least I don’t feel constrained any longer. In theory I could’ve continued running 10.04 Ubuntu and Netatalk, but I figured it was worth trying to get a native AFP server going. Lifehacker had a really easy to follow post and it’s pretty quick now as a 1GigE backup/media server (my original build used “compatible” hardware). Faster than the 4 year old Time Capsule when transferring large files, that’s for sure.

But yeah, Intel’s stock coolers, at least in the LGA 775 chipset models appear to be terrible. The 212+ cooler requires a backplate, so I’ll have to pull the motherboard, but once this thing is installed I should be able to run Handbrake 24 hours a day and hopefully the CPU won’t go above 50C. Currently this thing idles at 57C, as the stock heat sink just doesn’t seem to mount flush.

Cooler Master - 212 Plus Cooler

Cooler Master - 212 Plus Cooler

Bottom heat-pipes, direct contact

Bottom heat-pipes, direct contact

No more shiny plastic discs

The latest updates from the Cupertino camp have included the elimination of the plastic encased MacBook from the notebook lineup and the disappearance of any sort of optical drive from the Mac Mini. And perhaps saddest of all no black anodized MacBook Air. All the newer Macs are now reasonably up to date with mobile Core i3, i5 or i7 processors and “Thunderbolt” ports.

But say again, no DVD drive? What about a Blue-ray Disc drive? Surely iTunes or Amazon isn’t about to start streaming 1080p movies anytime soon. In fact when I recently rented a movie on iTunes to my last generation Mac Mini (late 2009) it forced me to download the entire 1.4GB SD video. Craziness. At least Netflix has HD streaming working well. I think perhaps the Apple TV supports streaming films from iTunes, it’s unclear, though it’s likely a licensing issue.

I mean, I understand where they are going here, people are using discs a lot less. The App Store now allows direct downloading & upgrading of the latest OS (10,7). But I thought the Mac Mini was good for servers & HTPCs? Doesn’t that sometimes require a disc? And why has Apple never been excited about Blu-ray (beyond the awkward hyphenation)? The biggest gripe I have about the Netflix pricing hike is that there simply aren’t nearly as many good films on demand as there are currently on DVD.

I cannot imagine studios are going to kill off the DVD anytime soon. And certainly Blu-ray Disc is the last generation of physical media out there. Anyhow I’m glad I’ve got my not very upgrade friendly 2009 Mini.

I Can Blink

C turned me on to Blink, a very high quality SIP communications package, which just happens to be GNU General Public Licensed, v3. With Android 2.2 and Google Voice I’ve been forced to use a mix-mash of modes to make cSipSimple work reliably. Part of the issue is forwarding phones. With Google Voice I am now forwarding to Gmail, Virgin Mobile, and now SIPgate One. When I turn off all cellular communcations in theory cSipSimple should be the only phone to ring, and in theory it shouldn’t use mobile anytime minutes.

I managed to get this to work on the PEAP encrypted 802.1x Wifi on campus, so in theory at home it should work fine. ICE/STUN with NAT seems to help call quality. The SIPGate iOS application also seems to work fine, though sometimes there is a bit of crackling not present on SIP>SIP calls using other clients.

A third option, which may or may not be in the works at the Googleplex [sic] is the integration of SIP directly to Google Voice. Google was likely testing this functionality as Dan York wrote in his blog, however, it appears Google pulled the plug on it publicly. It would be incredibly convenient to not have to route via the PSTN for Google Voice because as Dan mentions, the calls are already IP based, if only they could stay that way Google Voice users would have higher quality calls and an easier time of it. To test if you have any SIP functionality, plug in, where that number is your GV number.

Cutting Cords & the Best Deal Going

So I finally got another Android phone. This time I think it’ll stick. My little prepaid Nokia 2330 on T-Mobile was finally proving itself too expensive, especially in comparison to the current deal Virgin Mobile has with the LG Optimus V Android phone. For $25/month I now get 300 minutes of talk and unlimited SMS and data. Not that SMS matters too much since I use Google Voice as my carrier, but nonetheless, it’s nice not having to pay $0.10 per SMS as I did using T-Mobile Prepaid (which will soon be owned by Bell/AT&T).

Like all Android phones Google Voice integrates very well. The Optimus V runs a mostly stock version of Froyo, Android’s version 2.2 OS. Compared to the Huwaie Ideos (T-Mobile Comet) that I owned briefly, the LG Optimus V is fast. That’s not saying much, but the phone has been very usable so far. There are are a few things that are not as polished as iOS 4.x (on our iPod Touch), but the fact that it can make and receive phone calls, a feat I was unable to replicate consistently using the iPod Touch save for making Skype Out calls, makes it worth the $25/month.

My latest effort to avoid using up my 300 minutes of talk time while I’m at home is getting SIP to work. It’s a similar idea to Skype, except you’re not paying Microsoft for your minutes. Unlimited Skype outgoing usually works out to about $3/month. With a free SIP number from SIP Gate One I can reroute calls via Google Voice to the SIP number while I’m at home using Wifi.

If I’m on the computer I’ll usually make calls via the Gmail Gchat voice call-out function. The best Android SIP client I found so far is CSipSimple. It is in active development, works well, and requires significantly less setup than SIPdroid. Android’s “Gingerbread” OS update (2.3.x) actually integrates SIP calling natively into the mobile operating system. Sadly, it seems most carriers do not push for the latest updates on their phones, and with the exception of the flagship models or “Google Phones” like the Nexus One and Nexus S, you’ll need to root/flash the phone yourself if you want 2.3, if there is even a stable port for your phone.

So those are my first impressions. I’ll write more about the LG Optimus V and SIP as I get some more use out of it.

Virgin Mobile's LG Optimus V

Virgin Mobile's LG Optimus V

Refrigerator compressor, the bane of my existence

So, to give a little back story, the refrigerator in our house is an older GE (freezer above) full sized kitchen unit. It’s seen better days and the compressor is a bit noisy. I keep it set at “1”, however, during the heat of the summer I turned it up to “3” or “4”, but most of the year “1” keeps the fridge at 40 F & the freezer at 20 F.

We had a cold snap recently and I unplugged the noisy thing, thinking I could make ice (outdoors at night) to keep the fridge part cold and keep our freezer stuffs outside in a ice chest (but still contained from critters). Sadly (or fortunately) the days aren’t cold enough here in the mid-Atlantic. Partly, I think the fridge isn’t insulated enough to be a good ice box. Also, large blocks of ice are needed (to melt more slowly) and with nighttime lows in the 20’s or high teens, large blocks of water simply wouldn’t freeze through quickly enough. And then, to make matters worse, daytime temperatures caused the inside of the (outdoor) freezer chest to increase above freezing, thawing our frozen goods.

The moral of all this I think is 1) modern refrigerators aren’t actually that well insulated, 2) it needs to be pretty far below freezing at night to make large solid blocks of ice, and 3) it’s entirely possible to make this work if you live in a very cold northern climate but going outside to get frozen goods is annoying.

And then I found this amazing project by Paul – P^2 (via another project of his, a DIY Telecine for 8mm film footage) a hack to his unused freezer chest, which converts his freezer into a refrigerator using a “micro-controller powered temperature controller”, reducing its power consumption by a third (click the image to goto his Flickr write-up of the freezer/fridge controller):

Paul's Freezer Temp. Micro-Controller

Paul's Freezer Temp. Micro-Controller

And in a similar act of mad genius, Ben Krasnow created an entirely separate refrigeration and tap system for his home-brewed kegs of beer in his house, the entire write-up is here:

Ben's kegs in a separate fridge

Ben's kegs in a separate fridge

Skype is still down

Well, there I was saying how great a consumer service Skype’s $3/mo unlimited calling is and it’s been down for almost a day. Oh well.

When it’s back up, it’ll still be a good value. Sadly, it’s not reliable, as in “bomb proof” as in the “5 nines” and 99.999 % up time. Skype had issues earlier this past week with “login authentication” so clearly there’s been some sort of back end shenanigans that’s created this mess. Oh well, the separation pains from eBay perhaps. But, how about that T-Mobile Pre-Paid? It works. How about that Google Voice? Calls are free in 2011, booya! Except when people I call say it sounds terrible and I have to call them back on Skype. Oh wait a minute. Drat.

Goodbye Comet

I returned the T-Mobile Comet and exchanged it for a cheap candy bar style Nokia prepaid phone. Android 2.2, on the Comet, simply required too much work. Skype was nearly unusable. The Gmail native app from Google had to be updated, and even then the sync functionality with Gmail didn’t work correctly. Let me re-state that: Gmail didn’t work correctly on a Google phone. Thankfully contacts synced fine, but I had to update nearly every app that came with the phone.

So, maybe it’s something to do with Huwaei and the T-Mobile build of Froyo 2.2 or perhaps things simply aren’t as polished across the board. Compared to my experiences with iOS 3.x and 4.x I’d say it’s like night and day. Yes, it’d be nice to have a bulk task manager (other than double clicking ‘home’) in iOS 4.2, but it doesn’t really make a difference, you can run 20 apps “backgrounded”. In Android you absolutely must use a task killer or your phone runs out of memory and turns to molasses. Multitasking in iOS simply works and is more intuitive. Skype works nearly as well as a native phone dialer, Netflix streams terrifically, and the bundled iOS apps are all winners. And with the 4.2 update I can stream audio to the Airport Express directly from the iPod Touch and wirelessly print. At no point using Android did I think to myself, ‘Man this is so much easier/quicker/better than the iPod Touch’, in fact I lamented that for $180, despite being the cheapest Android phone on the market, it just wasn’t very good.

It’s unfortunate, in my limited usage of WebOS I’d say that Palm had a superior product that was poorly marketed, that suffered early quality control issues, and with HP’s purchase, has essentially died a premature death. Compared to Android 2.2 – WebOS 1.x feels significantly more polished – and really should be second to Apple in smart phone market share. When you go to the Verizon store and look at the myriad Android phones (several now bundled with Bing! as default search engine) it becomes clear that the carriers and Google simply don’t care about the user’s experience. While I’m sure the newest Nexus S is a better example of what Android can do, I don’t trust telecommunication companies to make good UID & IxD decisions.