Monday, June 15, 2009

Nokia E75

So I got a Nokia E75. Great phone, with some awesome features. Except for two things; the battery life sucks, and some of the best features of the phone seem to be poorly implemented or executed.

To elaborate, the high-level feature set that I was interested in was

Sounds great, but what doesn't work ?

  • the 1-business day battery
  • the fact that the built in E-mail client doesn't understand Destinations, Nokia's implementation of access-point bonding (i.e. try WLAN A if its present, otherwise WLAN B if its present, and then as last resort, 3G)
  • the fact that the built-in accelerometer doesn't seem to work with the tap-to-silence feature
  • the stupid Vodafone firmware on it (which amongst other things disables the built-in Nokia SIP client

So, how to get around these things ?

  1. Go read this thread, and download the Internet telephony client
  2. Go and download Birdstep SmartConnect, which implements bonding correctly
  3. Charge the damn thing daily
  4. Change the firmware to make it a generic Nokia phone (haven't figured this one out yet)

I hope a new firmware upgrade comes out soon, because this is currently not that great. But it beats the pants off an iPhone, which, BTW, can't even do any of these things that are badly implemented.

Handy tip: I bought an application which I see as very important to me; Best Profiles auto-switches the phone profile to a silent one when I have a calendar entry, and changes it back when its scheduled to finish. Now that is useful!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Upgrading from 5400RPM to 7200RPM - worthwhile ?

My unibody Macbook Pro 15" shipped with a Hitachi 320GB 5400RPM drive. Nothing wrong with it, but not quite as zippy as I wanted.

So, I ordered a Seagate ST9500420AS, which is a 500GB 7200RPM drive. Nifty! Except, its been on back-order since February (yes, its now June). I finally got it into my grubby hands, used SuperDuper to migrate all the data, and then compared the xbench results. Data attached.

Summary; its worth the upgrade!

In terms of impractical, bogus numbers, startup time has dropped by 7 seconds, and application launching time by 28 seconds. Real-world usage shows a subtle (but important!) increase in I/O which means you see the beachball of death less frequently.

PS. Came across fseventer, a great file system utility. Worth downloading (credit to Macworld for the find).

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Networking around Time Machine's stupidity

Time Machine, the integrated backup system that ships with Mac OS X 10.5.x (aka Leopard), is notionally a great tool.

  1. it allows unattended backups to occur
  2. its free
  3. it does incremental backups
  4. it occurs in the background
  5. its got this kick-ass trippy restore interface
  6. its easy enough for the average Mac user to get it

So whats the problem ?

  1. it doesn't allow the backups it makes to be encrypted
  2. you can't limit how much space it'll consume (i.e. it'll consume everything, meaning you have to either have a dedicated partition or disk to make it work properly)
  3. if you have encrypted DMG on your file system, it'll mount it and store those unencrypted in your backup
  4. you can't tell it how frequently to run
  5. exclusion criteria are limited to file systems, not files or directories
  6. if you backup across the network, and you change the network interface (e.g. from WiFi to Ethernet), your backups will not transparently resume

To get around this, I decided to store Time Machine backups on a FreeBSD-based workgroup file server. I was going to use a CIFS-based Samba server, but thought that is a bit too open. Rather use Netatalk, an open-source AppleTalk and afp server implementation (it does tons more, but I'm only interested in the afp component).

It is obscurity, but access to the network is locked by a WPA2 key, user account and physical proximity (the WiFi doesn't propogate very far). That is a lot better than a drive on my desk, me thinks.

PS. You need to issue the magic command
defaults write TMShowUnsupportedNetworkVolumes 1
to get Time Machine to see your new share as a valid destination. I also found creating the backups a pain; this blog post was very helpful.

Now to get a 802.11n WiFi access point; candidates are the Airport Extreme, a lousy, expensive and underperforming device which hardly ever works, or a Belkin Vision N1, which just looks cool (but has also gotten some rave reviews for performance).