Wednesday, May 29, 2013

First Look: Korean export 9 inch PoPad HDMI MHL portable display

Have you ever wanted to use your 10" tablet as a portable monitor? I have and always wondered why companies haven't implemented HDMI inputs in their devices. Well, today I have what could be the next best thing. It is a Korean export 1280x800 portable HDMI/MHL monitor in a 9/10" tablet form factor. This is a rare bird you won't see often in the US - the iTechKorea Popad 9" portable HDMI/MHL monitor. Below, you can see it charging and providing external display for my Galaxy Nexus from a single USB MHL cable.

It also supports HDMI which means it can be used as a portable extended display for your laptop or computer.

Like the GeChic 2501m I reviewed months ago, this has similar I/O. It has micro HDMI, MHL, and USB.  The MHL port also charges your phone while the micro USB port is used to charge the actual device.

The device is 240mm wide, 160 mm high, 12 mm thick. In comparison, the iPad 3/4  is 241.2 mm wide, 185.7mm high ands 9.4mm thick. The device is slightly narrower in height and girthier than the iPad. Here is a picture of it stacked on top of my iPad 3.

For now, this is a short first look. I will write a follow-up review when I have more time to play with it. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

How to make yourself look busy at work with some terminal CLI apps

When I first started my career, my mentor showed me a pretty cool trick at the time. He pulled up his desktop screen (which at the time was the first fancy Silicon Graphics 20" LCD) and filled it up with four terminal windows and he simply ran "top" in each window. As a young guy in the business, I didn't know any better and asked, "whatcha doing?" He replied, "making myself look busy."

Supervisors, managers, and bosses may be clueless to the UNIX/Linux world. To them, screens with a lot of cryptic windows makes you look busy. It has worked for many people I know over the years and today, I'll show you some CLI (Command Line Interface) terminal apps to "make you look busy." I won't go into the obvious like vim, emacs, and real productivity console apps.

Since today is the slow Friday before a long three day weekend, this post is appropriate for those slackers. Look below.

Here I have the following running on my Thinkpad :  mc, alsamixer, clmatrix, htop, w3m or lynx.

Going from top left:

mc commander is a file manager. It makes you look like you are copying files. Sure, you may be really copying files but I just leave one window open with it. The blue background makes a good contrast and distracts from other windows.

If you are running Linux, you probably already have alsamixer installed. It looks like the metering tool for some energy nuclear turbine levels. Not really, it is simply the command line utility to control your sound card.

clmatrix (cmatrix under OSX mac ports)
This isn't really an app but it looks cool. It is an animated Matrix screensaver that runs in the terminal.


htop is an improvement over the default top. It shows you CPU load and memory usage like your typical system/activity monitor. Believe me, anything with progress bars and scales looks important to the untrained eyes. Bosses think you are monitoring disk space or checking some load balancing. Maybe you are monitoring web traffic. Either way, look for any apps with meters and progress bars.

w3m or lynx

Those other apps are pretty much diversions for the real app you will be using.
Lastly, this is the most important thing to have. a text only web browser. There is the trusty old lynx but I use w3m which acts and behaves more like a desktop graphical browser and even supports mouse clicks.

You can also go to sites like craigslists, which over the past 15 years, has been very text-only friendly. It is great for searching for your new jobs.

If you are paranoid, run a tab and run one of the previous apps mentioned above. You can always toggle when the bosses come by.

Now go google those apps and figure out how to install them. If you are running debian, you can always do apt-get install 'program_name' like 'sudo apt-get install clmatrix'. And if you are running Mac OSX, you can probably get most of these apps via macports.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Pear OS 7 long term review from a Mac user

Today I am going to give my readers a review of Pear OS 7. Unlike my last "short preview," I have a been using Pear OS 7 on a live machine for more than a month now. If you want to know what Pear OS is, it is basically a Mac OS X imitator Linux distribution based off Ubuntu. It is designed to look like OSX running Linux.

I'll start off by saying. If you want a OS X experience, this is not it. Yes, the look is there and it has lot of cool things but the looks are not skin deep. It doesn't have the Mac philosophy behind it. Skinning something and adding icons does not make it a Mac experience.

Now, for my review.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Source Code Pro Font

I was looking for a font that would look good of my Retina display and I have found it.
It is called Source Code Pro and it is open sourced from Adobe. It s a great monospace font that works great on hi-res displays (as well as low-res). I find it great for code work or anything with color on black like the Terminal console or Sublime 2. This is the best font for Macbook Retina displays.

In the terminal, it is super sharp.

I particularly like the Light version which is a much thinner, yet still legible typeface.
At 10 or 11 pt, it works great on dark and light backgrounds.

These screenshots don't do it any justice. I suggest you try it out for yourself. I've installed it on all my Macs and Linux machines. For Linux, I simply put it in my ~/.fonts directory.
Sublime 2, TextEdit, TextWrangler, GEdit, Bluefish, they all look good.


Portable monitor solution round-up.

Have you ever wanted to have a portable monitor out in the field? Many of us work with multiple monitor displays in our homes and offices. Some of us, would love to have this option in the field. For example, editing videos or retouching photographs remotely with multiple displays would be pretty great. Well, I've been covering a few portable monitor solutions on my blog. Today, I am going to summarize some of those options in this one post.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Gadgets that are worth a second buy

You know a product is good is when you go out and buy it again. If I like something, I'll go out and get a second copy. One for the office and one for the home.

The two things I like right now is the Motorola Atrix LapDock (my review here) and Logitech 811/810 keyboard (review here).

I couldn't resist. The Atrix 4G Lapdock is a must have accessory for the tinkering gadget guy like myself. It is also cheap if you know where to look. They won't last long and I figure by next year, the inventory will dry up on these.  Here, I have three monitors connected to my laptop. Two of those external monitors are the Lapdocks using a simple HDMI converter. I know for a fact I'll find continual use for these.

I liked the feel of my new Logitech bluetooth K811 that I ended up getting another. This time, I got the Windows version, the K810. The difference is the darker grey finish and Windows keyboard layout instead of the mac layout on the K811. Both are identical in features.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Some USB 3.0 sticks. Not all are created equal

Over the past 9 or so months, I've been accumulating various USB 3.0 sticks. I usually get them on discount at Frys, NewEgg, or Amazon. I usually have a discount alert tracker and if it falls under my threshold, I usually pick a few up. For 16Gb, I target $10-15. For 32Gb, I target $20-30. And for 64Gb, my price threshold is $50.

I did splurge on a SanDisk Extreme Flash 64Gb for $75; thinking a name brand made a difference. It turns out, that particular has problems of four distinct different PCs with USB 3.0.

So, today, I am going to give you some of my thoughts on some of the various USB 3.0 sticks you see that often pop up on sale.

Not all USB 3.0 sticks are the same. There is a wide variance of performance and you need to do your homework. I usually read the customer reviews on Amazon and Newegg. Many of the speed benchmarks are pretty much dead-on with an exception. The sticks benchmark real good but real copies turn out differently. For example a USB stick may start writing at 80 MB/sec for the first minute then drop down to 6 MB/sec for the last 50% of the copy.

I use these sticks for all sorts of uses. Namely, shuttling VM files via sneakernet. They also make good portable installers where I load them up with app installers or portable programs that run off USB. Lastly, they can be used as bootable operating systems and rescue/recovery systems.

Glancing at the picture below, I'll highlight some of the different sticks I've purchased.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Chromebook Pixel Effective resolution 1280x850

So I was in Best Buy, looking to pick up a Samsung Chromebook and the halo Chromebook Pixel was on display next to it.  The LCD panel has a 3:2 aspect ratio and native pixel resolution of 2560x1700. This outclasses the 13" Retina Macbook in terms of pixel density but still does not compare to the 15" Macbook Retina's range topping 2880x1800 resolution.

I was curious and glanced over and was a little disappointed when I checked the resolution.

It has a non-scaling effective resolution of 1280x850 !!!! This is comparable to a normal 13" Macbook Pro with slightly 50 more pixels in vertical space. Effective resolution is what the viewable display viewport will be. It basically sees the same viewport as a low end laptop but only with sharper text. You'll basically see the same number of email messages in GMAIL give or take 3-4 extra lines due to the extra 50 vertical pixels.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Cheap portable HDMI monitor for your laptop. The original Atrix LapDock

What you see above is a 11.6" Lapdock being used as a secondary, portable extended display for my 15" Macbook Pro Retina.

A few months back, I reviewed a cool gadget, a 15" MHL HDMI portable monitor from GeChic which can be read here. Yes, it was a cool gadget but a bit bulky and pretty pricey for something that may not be used on regular occasions. I then turned my attention to the Motorola LapDocks because they have been great in the gadget scene. First, I got myself a newer LapDock 100 and that didn't turn out so well. The newer docks have been made more difficult to use as a dummy monitor. Well, after a few weeks, I ended up with the original Motorola Atrix Lap Dock. And I have to say, I am very pleased. These are still selling for $60-80 which, in my book, is a STEAL of a bargain!

To use this as a portable HDMI monitor, all you need are some cables, couplers and adapters. The device has two ports: Micro-USB male and Micro HDMI-D male for video. To use as video, you need to get a female Micro HDMI-D coupler. Then you connect to anything that can use HDMI which includes displayport, mini-displayport, and Thunderbolt.

Quick Review: Logitech Bluetooth Easy-Switch Keyboard K811

Today I am going to give a quick review of the Logitech Bluetooth Easy-Switch Keyboard  also known as the K811 keyboard. If you ever wanted the same illuminated glowing feature of the Macbook for your desktop, this is the keyboard to get. It retails for $99 but can be had for $60-80 when shopped aggressively.

This is a pretty slick keyboard. It is roughly the same size as the Apple wireless bluetooth keyboard.

Design wise, it is plastic with an real aluminum front plate finish. The aluminum is a nice touch and not some faux painted plastic. The black on silver is reminiscent of the current Macbook island keyboards.
It is pretty slim as well.

What makes this keyboard so great are:
- USB charging. No more replacing AA batteries. It uses standard micro-USB.

- 3 device Bluetooth pairing. I love this feature. With a switch of a key-press, you can toggle this between computers and devices. I have this paired with my iMac, 13" Macbook and iPad. It takes less than a second to switch over between the devices. I simply love this! This alone makes me want to replace all my keyboards at my various locations. It is so convenient to switch between my iPad and iMac at any given time.

- backlight keyboard. The thing glows at night! This alone is one of the key selling feature.

Overall, I dig this keyboard. The incurve keys are evenly space with some good tactile feel. It feels like a Macbook keyboard and is much better than Apple's own.

Here is a comparison picture to see how this would fit in with your Apple gear. I think they should have make it more subdued without the logo and black bar on top. Otherwise, it is a very handsome design.

And a few pictures at night where this device really shines.

Late night work on the iPad is a pleasure with this keyboard!


Waiting for Chromebook refresh

Rumor has it that there will be a new, updated quad-core Exynos Samsung Chromebook announced at Google I/O in the next few weeks.

I've been really tempted to get the current one for tinkering. Why? Why not. I am not interesting in cheap x86 netbooks you can get for the same price. Sure, a few of you can point to some nice 11.6 ASUS touchscreen ones for a few bucks more. Moreover, I already have enough laptops lying around. What interests me is the ARM architecture; running anything but INTEL. I really just want a super light-weight, portable, long battery device to do some MySQL work locally. I'm currently using an iPad w/ keyboard SSH remotely. It works but I prefer to run something locally.

I don't know if I could deal with just Chrome OS. I've been playing with it under VM and I can't see myself using it full time even with developer mode and cruoton. I've also been paying attention to the latest Linux kernel support and running Linux on those books in general. Things are progressing to a point where full-time ARM linux desktop is viable.

Lets see! I may pop for one in the next few weeks. If the new one is compelling, I may get it. If not, I', heading over Best Buy to get the current one open-box at discount. They get a high return rate so there are plenty of open-box returns at great prices.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Short Review: Kanex DualRole portable Gigabit plus 3 port USB 3.0 hub

Here is an interesting little gadget for the road-warrior.

Kanex DualRole Gigabit Ethernet + 3-port USB 3.0 hub. Designed with Macbook users in mind, it is a small portable USB 3.0 hub with a VIA USB 3.0 controller and a fairly popular ASIX AX88179 USB 3.0 to Gigabit chipset. These are currently shipping for $50 on Amazon.

I've dealt with this type of hardware before in other hubs and USB 3.0 gigabit adapters. So the performance is pretty much standard fare if you ever used a VIA USB 3.0/ASIX gigabit adapter. What makes this device unique is the packaging and portability.

I previously toted a Thunderbolt Gigabit or another ASIX USB gigabit adapter along with several SSD drives in my backpack. I've been trying to slim my carry-on weight down so I've been investing in 64GB USB sticks to substitute for 2.5" SSD shuttle drives. Other four port USB 3.0 hubs I have tend to be bulky so this pretty much solves my problem. I figure this is something to have in the bag in the event I need it.

The hub has 3 ports instead on the usual four but I would often end up using the fourth port for Gigabit anyways.  Since I already have four other ASIX gigabit dongles, this one was a plug-n-plug for me. If this is your first USB 3.0 Gigabit adapter, you will need to install thew pre-requisite ASIX 88179  drivers.

Overall, I really like it. I wish it had an aluminum finish instead of the mid-2000s iMac/White iBook white finish.  The ports are fairly evenly space and you will be able to add some thick USB devices. Still, I wish the ports were a little further spread apart like some of the cheap 4 port Anker USB 3.0 hubs. For example, in the picture below, I could not add two Patriot XT sticks side by side. With different arrangements, I can still all use three ports.

There is no extra USB cable to plug in which is nice. The short cable folds in when not in use. I've read some complaints about the length of the short cable. If you are using this mobile as pictured above, it shouldn't be a problem. However, if you use this in a docked desk environments, I can see where people can complain. Below is a picture of how it dangles when connected to a Macbook on a desk stand like the mStand.

Next, it does not come with an aux power adapter. It does have a hole for an AC power adapter if you plan to power something that requires a little more juice like some 2.5" 7200 rpm drives. This is fine with me since I would only be using this as a mobile gadget.


I think this is a fair price item. Most USB 3.0 four port hubs cost as little as $30 and a USB 3.0 gigabit adapter will run you $20-$30 on how aggressively you discount shop. The lack of a fourth port is made up with the Gigabit adapter. It uses the standard VIA and ASIX controller IC which works well with other products. I personally love the small footprint and short cable for portability reasons. However, I can see where people would prefer a longer cable in a docked desk environment.

The current competitors are SIIG and Startech. They cost a bit more ($60-$90) and are not as portable as the Kanex. They also use bulky longer USB cable which makes them more suited for a permanent docked desk environment. The SIIG and Startech USB3.0 combo Gigabit hub below. Another alternative are the DisplayLink PC USB 3.0 docking stations. They run $150 and up and provide USB 3.0 video which I don't need.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Running ESXi5 as a VM guests inside a Macbook

I really didn't think this was possible - running a VM hosting another VM.

Yep. That is a few layers deep.

I was able to run VMware ESXi 5.0 Hypervisor server inside my Mac via VMware Fusion. Virtualized ESXi was able to host and run an Ubuntu LAMP server. I managed the ESXi server from a VM Windows XP. Under XP, I could easily load up and deploy my OVA provisioned guests in a virtual network.

If this is all greek to you, I am running a Virtual data-center off my Macbook. ESXi is an popular Hypervisor server that hosts VM (Virtual machines).  I can do all my development on a Mac platform and test my provisioning virtually. The VM runs fairly responsive due to the fast SSD and Thunderbolt.

A portable data-center and development environment right here folks! I am making use of that 2880x1800 resolution screen as you can see below!

From the loo no less.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Running OS 9 on a 15 inch Macbook Retina Pro at 2880x1800

Yes, it is possible to run Mac OS 9 Classic via Sheepshaver on a retina Macbook Pro. In fact, you can run it at 2880x1800. Nerdy indeed!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

LapDock 100 update

A few weeks ago, I  got a Motorola LapDock 100 in the hopes of using it as an external HDMI monitor like the original Atrix lapdock. Apparently, the newer ones (100 & 500) have some electronic authentication that Motorola implemented. The older Atrix docks were great as dumb monitors.
These new ones are a bit more complicated.

After getting a bunch of cables and adapters, I came to same conclusion a few people had. The unit only powers up for 8 seconds and shuts down. 

Pictured here below, I was able to get a signal from the HDMI output of my Macbook Pro. Then it shuts off.

Fortunately, I was able to sell mine on craigslist and found a willing buyer very quickly. Good luck to those who want to use the LapDock 100 for their hacking causes.

I'll be getting an original Atrix LapDock.