Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Braun ET-66 Calculator

I've been busy lately so I haven't been posting much. My interests lately have been non-gadget, tech related. Today, I'm going to break that silence and write about a simple calculator.

The Braun ET-66 calculator designed by the famous Dieter Rams. This is a remake, re-issue from Braun. I hate to use the word replica as Braun is the original manufacturer and they have the right to re-issue a product from their past catalogue.

The calculator cost $50.

Yep, you read that right. $50. Sure, you can get any calculator from the drug store for $3. Heck, your smartphone probably has a calculator in it. In fact, if you have an older iPhone, the Apple's calculator.app is basically a rip-off of this iconic ET-66 design. Steve Jobs was enamored with Ram's work that they made their calc app a digital copy.

Does this calculator do anything fancy? Nope! So what is the big deal.

Here is a quote from an amazon customer review that sums it up:

This calculator is considered a design classic, by one of the most famous industrial designers of the 20th century. The people who will buy this are interested in the aesthetics and maybe the status of showing off their design acumen. It has nothing to do with the function of the calculator. 

You either get it, or you don't. I'm not going to convince you otherwise. It is a good looking piece of tech. Rams has been quoted many times as saying "Design little as possible. Less is more." The last quote originally came from Mies van der Rohe.

The nice thing about the calculator is the round keys. It is so damn simple and round. Why is this a big deal? Back when I was a kid, most calculators had square or rectangular keys and when you pressed on them, they would get stuck in the cut-out. That is why this design is so genius, Simple explanation for a simple problem. That is Dieter Ram's legacy.

So why did I get it? I got me a new expensive desk ($2400) so I needed some desk accessories. This would look good on it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hand Off and Continuity on OS X Yosemite and iOS 8

After using Handoff and Continuity between iOS 8 and Yosemite, I have some thoughts on this. Hand-off is the ability to have Mac OSX computers and iPhone/iPads pick up from what you were doing. For example, if you are composing an email on your mac, you can easily walk away from your desk and pick up to the exact sentence you were typing on your iPhone.

So after a month, how does it stack up? Read on.

In theory, the idea of interchanging tasks between devices sounds pretty amazing. In some instances, I really like it but in general, hand off isn't a game changer. I'll go down the things I like and things I don't really care for.

Performance and reliability.

Picking up web pages is pretty quick. Only downside is if you are authenticated in a logged in session, an iPhone isn't going to know you are logged into a secure site and you'll be prompted to a login page. There is no way around this. However, the ability to see what other devices and what pages are opened have existed way before Handoff. When you create a new tab, you can previously scroll down and see what other linked iCloud devices have as their recent or open tabs.

Email works great for short messages. When you have emails with large attachments, there is a lag between switching between iPhone/iPad and a Mac. It does have to copy/transfer large attachments between devices over bluetooth. Thus, the transition doesn't feel smooth.

I haven't tried Pages or any of the other iLife suite.

It is also a hit or miss. Sometimes, I see the hand off icons and sometimes I don't. This is something that needs to work all the time to be useful. I also think it may be attributed to the fact, I have multiple iOS devices around my mac so there is a possibility, the Macbook doesn't know to notify my phone or tablets.

Hand Off is only a small part of what Apple calls Continuity. Hand Off may be a bit half baked right now in terms of performance but the rest of Continuity is pretty compelling.


(This is a phone# from some telephone spammer making a robot call to my Mac)

Answering calls from an iPad or Macbook is pretty cool. I know this has been done ten years ago and I remember doing it from my 12" Apple iBook but the whole experience is a bit seamless. In fact, too seamless. When I get a call, my iPad, Macbook, and a iPod Touch all ring in addition to my iPhone.

I also like the fact, I do all my SMS composing with a Mac now. I have proper diction and grammar in my text messages instead of doing it on a phone. I wasn't a big user of iMessage because I do work with people and have friends/family who are not in Apple's ecosystem. So the ability to do SMS from an iPad or Mac is very good.

Lastly, the biggest value to me is AirDrop. That is the most compelling feature to me. Yes, people will say you can do that you can transfer files with Bluetooth and apps. It isn't the same. There is no pairing involved and no set-up. It just works. It works with other users within your vicinity.

It is more than just transferring files. I am an extensive user of Apple "Notes" with over 3,000 entries of technical information from code tidbits, bash scripts, general how-to I use to diagnose problems for my work. It is my encyclopedia of knowledge. My notes are often formatted RTF style. Now, I can share those with colleagues and friends. For example, last week, they were stuck with some Cisco commands. I had an entire write-up with code snippets that I was able to AirDrop from my Mac to a friend's iPad. He then shared it out to two other colleagues who had iPhones. That was a Eureka moment. I didn't have to convert my notes into a Word file or PDF and email it. I feel more secure AirDropping an RSA key locally then sending it as an email attachment.

Another big plus are photos. I shoot mostly with my iPhone now. However, I like to edit them with my iPad due to the larger screen. I can round up 10-12 images and simply AirDropping them is very fast and intuitive. It is basically two clicks of a button and I will have my images ready for Pixelmator on the iPad. This to me, is the best feature of Continuity.

I haven't tried the hotspot feature as I have a work issued Mi-Fi and have no need for it. 

Overall, I like the new integration between mobile devies and desktop computers. I am starting to use iCloud much more now in the past month than I ever have since it was available.  In fact, I never touched it before iOS 8 as I had other alternatives such as One Drive, Google Drive and DropBox. With new iOS apps taking advantage of it and the ability for me to quickly share things to those apps, it now makes a compelling use case to use iCloud. Many of the great apps I do use also have DropBox integration but I am starting to see a push toward iCloud.

Monday, November 10, 2014

HTC Dot View Case

I have to admit, since I got my iPhone 6 Plus, I haven't been using my HTC ONE M8. It has been sitting in the carry brief for more than a month. However, I like to keep current gadgets relevant so I got me the HTC Dot View Case. As a result, I pulled it out this afternoon to try on my new case and there it is.

If you want to know what it is, it is a gimmicky folio case that is unique to HTC and gives you some notifications through the case.

The case retails for $45-49. I strongly do not recommend anyone purchase it at retail. It is simply not worth it. There is no real protection and the case makes it really hard to hold in the hand when making phone calls.

You can tell by looking at this picture that a flip out case like this will effect the ergonomics; especially one handed use.

However, I didn't pay $45 for this. Instead, I got it for around $12 and a month delivery time from China. At  $12, it is still gimmicky. I can see the weather and the time.
I can answer calls and cue my music playback tracks.

The dot view notifications are pretty limited. It supposedly supports text messages but none showed for me. Rather, it prompts you to open your case. It would be nice to have it delete messages.

So far, I'm not that impressed. It would be nice to get at least GMail or calendar notifications.

It does support some theming.

In conclusion, I think this is gimmicky at best with no real value. Especially at $45. I think your money will be better spent on a Spigen case that would offer better phone protection.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Going back to the iPad after using Windows 8 Tablets. From a DevOPS Dad.

The picture above summarizes what I use my tablets for. As a convenient on-the-go device when I am out and about. I regularly take my kids out to the local play park on a daily basis. I'll pull up in a stroller and watch them play. Occasionally, I’d get a call to log into some remote Linux server in the cloud or query some database for a client report. In these instances, I don’t want to lug around my $3,400 laptop, a top-of-the-line 15” Macbook Pro Retina. A Macbook won’t fit inside the diaper bag or the stroller. After trying a bunch of Windows 8 All-in-Ones and convertible tablets (as chronicled on this blog), I've decided to go back to the iPad. The iPad Mini.

Pictured above are a Dell Venue 8 Pro, the iPad Mini Retina, and a 10" 1920x1200 HiDPI Lenovo Miix 2. With all the hype of convertible, do-it-all all in one and the allure of running native x86 software in a tablet, I mistakenly went for that sales pitch. I ended up getting a few devices I no longer use. Now, I decided I need something that simply works when I'm out and about. That device ultimately is an iPad.

Read On.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

iOS METAL Graphics iPhone 6 Plus versus HTC ONE (M8) SnapDragon 801

With the release of iOS 7 and iOS 8, Apple introduced a new bare metal graphics API. This new framework promises to give iOS an edge in mobile gaming. So how does it compare to a standard Android Flagship running something like the SnapDragon 801 SoC? The new A8 chip on the iPhone 6  Plus is indeed a powerhouse. Well, I took it for a spin and compared two cross platform games that has Metal support on iOS. These are merely screenshot comparisons as I played some games on both platforms.

I think comparing the HTC ONE M8 to the Apple iPhone 6 Plus is a fair comparison. Both are driving 1920x1080p resolution. Both were set at full detail max resolution gameplay.

Asphalt 8: Airborne and Beach Buggy Racing.

The differences on Gameloft's Asphalt 8 is very hard to tell. You really have to look for it and I don't think it really makes a compelling difference in gameplay. Yes, there are some differences but again, you really have to look for them.

Here are some screenshots.

On the first track, at launch, you can see the iPhone has some extra details. The other racer's launch usually has a flamed induced burn-out. Everything else is the same. The texture mapping and polygon count on both platform are the same. You are not going to see anything majorly different.

iPhone 6 Plus


Monday, October 6, 2014

Fixing the BASH Shellshock vulnerability on OSX 10.5.8 and 10.6.8

Apple released a BASH update that addresses the vulnerabilities of ShellShock but they neglected operating systens older than 10.7 Lion.

Well, I happen to know people who are running various 10.5.8 and 10.6.8 Snow Leopard machines in production. They are used in automation and rely heavily on BASH. Thus, I upgraded  over a dozen legacy Mac OSX Servers and it was pretty straightforward.

I'm not going to take the credit but most of what you need is at this link:

You will need to download the latest Xcode for each respective OS.
The only gotcha as 10.5.8 and cURL. 10.5.8's built in cURL does not support SSL so you will need to add a -k (insecure SSL) flag in the instructions.

Here is an example:
For 10.6.8

curl  https://opensource.apple.com/tarballs/bash/bash-92.tar.gz | tar zxf -

For 10.5.8
curl -k https://opensource.apple.com/tarballs/bash/bash-92.tar.gz | tar zxf -

That is it. For 10.5, add the -k flag for each cURL request you download from Apple's servers.

Once finish, you should be able to address all of these vulnerabilities:

Bash should be updated to 3.2.55(1)

Once you are patched, it is time to test.
You can go to shellshocker.net and download a bash script that run through all the vulnerabilities.

Or run it from the shell via cURL.
curl https://shellshocker.net/shellshock_test.sh | bash

I hope this helps.

Once you compile it, you can easily tar the files up and use it for re-distribution to similar machines. I only had to compile BASH twice (one for 10.5 and one for 10.6). I then took my Releasebuild binaries and rsync them across various OSX machines from my iPad.

I tested it extensively on some VMs and then to production servers. I was a bit worried about going the homebrew route as that method will install newer 4.3. That is a major generational change and there would be some major breakage somewhere. Thus, sticking with a 3.2.XX version of BASH with all the updates will be the most painless. I have OS X servers running MailMan listservs, some are used for  production automation that runs rsynch, mounting NFS shares, CalDAV, and the likes. So far, nothing has broken.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Lenovo Miix 2 10 inch 2-in-1 hybrid tablet ultrabook

 A new toy so I have a new write-up. Today's gadget is the Lenovo Miix 2 10 is a 10 inch Windows Bay Trail 2-in-1 hybrid tablet.

Here are the specs:
10 point multi-touch FHD screen (1920x1200)
1.33 GHZ ATOM Z3740 QUAD Core Processor
2GB RAM and 64GB Flash Storage

Monday, September 29, 2014

iPhone 6 PLUS versus HTC ONE (M8) preview

I finally got an iPhone 6 PLUS to go along with my HTC ONE(M8). This isn't meant to be a complete shoot-out. I'm just going to jot down some initial impressions. When I have more time, I may do a full write-up.

This might be an odd comparison since the HTC ONE M8 size is a closer match to the smaller 4.7" iPhone 6. However, because of the screen resolution, I think it is a better comparison to the 6 PLUS. The HTC ONE is straddled between both iPhones in terms of size.

Both are premium machined metal bodied made devices but I have to say the iPhone 6 feels really good in the hand. The HTC One is a bit fat in the middle. However, I'd say the HTC is a better one-handed phone to use.  Prior, I was carrying the iPhone 5 and HTC ONE. Back then, I thought the HTC ONE was huge with it's 5" screen but after a week with the iPhone 6 PLUS, the HTC ONE feels really small. I guess what I am saying is you will get acclimated to the size difference.

The feeling of smallness on the HTC ONE is probably attributed to the UI of Android and HTC Sense. Even though both are 1080p (1920x1080) resolution screens and both have the same physical resolution real estate, the iPhone 6 Plus simply shows more data. The fonts/typeface (even at the smallest settings), the title bars, menu bars are simply way to big on the HTC ONE (M8). Screen real estate is also affected by the Android virtual soft key buttons.

Here are some examples. These are the screenshots of the mail list of my Outlook account in landscape mode.

The same list in portrait mode.

And the contents of the same email newsletter. Note, I had the fullest zoom-out on both emails.

You can say this is the fault of HTC's mail client and their apps. Yes, that is possible. However, even compared to Google's native GMAIL client, the iOS email experience is a little bit better. The gesture selection is very intuitive when it comes to deleting, filing and archiving emails on iOS.

However, not everything is perfect in iOS. There are apps that still need to be optimized for the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 PLUS. Legacy apps look blown up on the new iDevices. Case in point: Instagram and Facebook. These also suffer from overtly large UI elements. However, due to the volume of iPhone users, I'm pretty certain most apps will be upgraded soon enough. Twitter on iOS 8 looks very good.

Going back to iOS 8 after an absence is pretty good. I really missed the quality apps and I have to say, there are so many good iOS apps.

For example. SSH clients. This is what I use my phones for most of the time. To access remote UNIX/LINUX servers remotely.

Here is Cathode on iOS. A very cool and awesome SSH client.

Now compare it to what I've been using on Android for a while. JuiceSSH.

As you can see the HTC ONE (M8)'s UI is made smaller with status bars and the virtual soft keys.  I simply think screen real estate management can be better handled on Android.

Now what looks more fun to use? Both have SSH-Key authentication and virtual soft keys. If you don't want silly geeky fun of Cathode, there are countless other great iOS SSH client apps. There are also better MySQL Clients, RDP, VNC,etc on iOS.

First party apps are also a joy to use on the new iPhone.

Pages compared to Google Docs.


Compared to Google Docs.

Simply, there is still a lot of awkwardness and I can't pinpoint it on the HTC. Maybe it is the careful selection of typography that Apple spends details on.

Again, the use of real estate on web browsing also makes a big impact on user interaction and satisfaction.  I really like the feel and transitions of the full screen on Safari. I missed the tap to top for months and now I have it back with the iPhone 6.

By default, you don't get full screen on Android as the virtual keys take up space. However, there are 3rd party apps and full screen solutions on the Google Play Store (that don't seem to work quite well).

Again, I guess the point I am driving home with this comparison is that despite the fact both have the same screen resolution, the iPhone 6 Plus makes better use of it. As I said, the HTC ONE (M8) simply feels small now.

I really dig the landscape mode. Yes, I know I've been able to do it for years on Android with various launchers but it is really nice to use it on iOS. It makes having the Plus worth it for me over the standard iPhone 6. As most of my work revolves around emails, remote Linux server connectivity, and database work, I prefer the landscape orientation. I use my iPhone for work and now it is even a better tool at it.

There are also some other major differences. The iPhone 6's camera is simply awesome. I'm not going to go into detail here as you can read dozens of online reviews and analysis from such places as DxoMark. Simply, the iPhone 6 has a very good camera.
The HTC ONE M8 camera's IQ wasn't that bad. Not as bad as you would believe from Internet trolls. But the major problem with the HTC ONE isn't the picture quality, it was the physical construction. The iPhone 6 uses a sapphire coated lens whereas the HTC ONE uses some film coating which leads to scratches. Simply, it easily gets scratch and this really bothered me. I wrote about it here : http://fortysomethinggeek.blogspot.com/2014/08/htc-one-m8-little-details-that-piss-me.html

The scratched camera lens on the HTC is a common problem and it really pushed me away from using it for photography for months. For months, I carried my Fuji XF1 because I could not rely on the HTC.

Then there is the other issue with the HTC ONE (and Android in general). The SD card. I bought an  128GB microSD card and it was rendered useless as you can read here: http://fortysomethinggeek.blogspot.com/2014/05/htc-one-m8-android-kit-kat-sd-card.html .
Seriously, the idea of a removable SD card is a major selling point of the Android ecosystem and Google now has deemed it not worthy so they have been locking it down. For that reasons, I opted to get the 128GB iPhone 6 Plus. Considering the cost of an UHS-1 128GB micro SDXC card, the new Apple price tiering isn't so bad and actually worth it.

Then there is the issue of Linux compatibility. I could never get the HTC (or ANY Android device since the Galaxy Nexus) to properly mount in Debian based Linux. There were work-arounds and stuff like that but it never worked reliably. MTP Android and Linux is still an issue for me. The iPhones (and iOS devices in general) were always problem free for me. They simple mount on Linux and I can copy files easily to my apps. If I wanted to copy a 8GB MKV to a video player, it wasn't a big deal. This was all great until now. As of this writing, I can only mount iOS 8.0.2 and the iPhone 6 safe volume. This is the volume where you can pull images, PDFs,etc. At this time, I can't mount the other volume where I can drag and drop files for my 3rd party apps. So it isn't quite perfect right now but usually after a new iPhone introduction, the libimobile utilities are quickly updated.


It is pretty obvious that I am enjoying the iPhone 6 Plus. With the exception of the camera and sdcard issues on the HTC ONE, they're both good phones. I just think Apple did a really good job on this new iteration. I can see how it can capture sales. This is a solid release. When I have more details, I may go into some more comparisons.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Coolest SSH Terminal Client App for any Smartphone iOS - CATHODE

This has got to be the coolest iPhone SSH app. In fact, it is the coolest SSH client on any mobile smartphone. It is called Cathode.

Notice, how I did the BASH test for shellshock on my new iPhone 6 Plus in the screenshot above!

Last year, I reviewed the Desktop version and I said if they ever made an iOS version, I would buy it. And I did. Cathode is a retro, fun SSH client that mimics and old Cathode Tube monitor. The kind you had back in the late 70s and mid 80s.  The little details are great. For example, the reflections in the screen moves along with your gestures. There is burn-in effects and flicker. I love this little app.

This app wouldn't be good unless it supported what you needed in an SSH client - keyboard function along with SSH Key authentication support. The effects are fully adjustable and customizable.

Here are some images for your enjoyment.

iPhone 6 Plus in landscape mode. Here, I am connected to my FreeNAS box.

This is one of those cool iOS only apps and it is made better on the larger 5.5" iPhone 6 Plus.

Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/cathode/id656982811?mt=8

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Macally Quick Switch Bluetooth Keyboard. Pair up to 5 devices. Connect to 6 total.

Here is an interesting keyboard. The MacAlly Quick Switch Keyboard. This is a full-size bluetooth keyboard that allows you to pair up to 5 devices in addition to a 6th USB device.

It was cheap and available on Amazon for $29. This is normally $70 but I was able to pick one up at Frys.

I've used multi-paired bluetooth keyboards like the Logitech K810/811 but none of them support 6 devices (5 Bluetooth and 1 USB).

Switching and pairing is pretty straightforward. There is a dedicated button to switch. The keys multi-labelled for Windows and Mac OS.

I really like the fact that it supports USB. So if y ou have a computer without bluetooth, it  connects via micro-USB cable. Unlike the Logitech K810, it is a full size keyboard with a numeric pad.  In addition, it comes with a small tablet fold-up stand. It uses standard AA batteries so there is nothing to recharge. 

Overall, I like the flexibility of multi-device connectivity. However, as a keyboard goes, it is a bit mushy. It doesn't have a good tactile feel or feedback. If you are quick typist, you're not going to like it. It just doesn't have the tactile feel of a Logitech or an Apple keyboard. But if you have multi-devices on your desk, this is well worth the $30 bucks. Let me repeat it again, this can connect to 6 devices total. I have two laptops, two phones, a desktop pc, and a tablet.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Dell's USB OTG dual charging dongle for the Dell Venue 8 Pro

I've finally put my Dell Venue 8 to good use. It has been in the drawer since I got it months ago. After a week of usage, it really didn't fit my use-case. Even with a portable bluetooth keyboard, I found the whole touch experience with Windows 8.1 on an 8" screen painful. I never even use Modern UI, just the traditional Dekstop and using your fingers is hopeless. Desktop operating systems simply do not work with touch on a small screen.

Then out of nowhere, Dell releases a USB-OTG cable that simultaneously supports charging. It is roughly $20 on Dell's website. For those who don't understand the significance, it now means you can charge the Venue 8 at the same time you are using a USB device. Before, you couldn't do that.Thus, the single micro USB port limited it's use as a full time desktop computer.

There has been some D-Y-I type affairs but I wasn't keen on taking that route. This official dongle works pretty good. This should have been provided from the get-go or made available at release of the Venue 8. I paired it up with my Microsoft's All-in-One Multimedia keyboard. The keyboard has a built in trackpad, so now I treat the Venue like a little mini laptop.

I also have a hoot USB 3.0 3-port hub with built in Gigabit. Once you plug it in, you can make up for the lack of networking and multiple USB. It looks like this:

Now, it is a good VPN terminal. I run Cygwin and I use it as SSH client. When I don't use the Dell Venue, it simply stows away nicely.