Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Ubuntu Live CD on an Apple Powerbook Pismo

After dropping my Pismo last week I discovered, rather unsurprisingly, that the hard disk drive had suffered some damage in the fall. In order to discover the extent of the damage I needed to remove the disk and place it on a test rig so that I could run Spinrite on the drive. This left me with a problem. How to use my laptop without a hard drive.

The answer that came to mind most rapidly was to give the Ubuntu Live CD for PowerPC a try. I've used both Ubuntu and Knoppix live CDs on PC platforms but until now I'd never successfully run Linux on a Mac. I had already downloaded the ISO for Ubuntu 5.1.0 PowerPC so I decided to use this again. After a little bit of messing about due to my Lite-On DVD-RW not wanting to CD boot I managed to get Ubuntu up an running.

When you boot up for the first time you go through a number of steps setting up the system. Obviously since you're running off read only media any configuration data is saved into a ram drive. After about 5 minutes you're up and running with a fully operational OS.

Ubuntu had no trouble installing drivers for my system so everything was working well. Also the Ubuntu Live CD comes installed with Firefox, Evolution Email, a MSN/AOL client and Open Office as well as a whole host of other useful applications. This means that you can use your pc for pretty much all of the basic everyday tasks without needing to install anything. It's pretty snappy too considering that it's running off of a CD. I was able to use this setup quite happily all weekend. The only downside is that plugins such as Flash do not come pre-installed and installation is not possible due to the limitations of a Live CD.

I highly recommend experimenting with a Linux Live CD if you get a chance. Not only does it give you the chance to test drive another OS but it can also prove to be invaluable in case of an emergency. One final point I liked about the Ubuntu disc is the ability to run up the live cd and then choose to install a full version of Ubuntu onto a hard disk drive from the live cd. This means you don't need to create more than one disc if you wish to carry on using Ubuntu on a more permanent basis.

Some final thoughts on Ubuntu. It is without a doubt the most user friendly version of Linux that I've encountered. If you've been put off of trying Linux before because you didn't know which distribution to choose or how to get started then I suggest you try Ubuntu. Their motto is: "Linux for Human Beings"

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

New Use for your old PowerMac G3

Natasha G3
Originally uploaded by avriette.
Not sure how feline friendly this is but it certainly seems to be a good way of reusing your old PowerMac.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Inbox Zero: Processing to zero

Inbox Zero: Processing to zero @ 43 Folders

If you're like me and you struggle to keep your inbox undercontrol then you'll find this article and others in this series very helpful.
The truth is that you probably can take the average email inbox — even a relatively neglected one — from full to zero in about 20 minutes. It mostly depends on how much you really want to be done with it. The dirty little secret, of course, is that you don’t do it by responding to each of those emails but by ruthlessly processing them. Is that how you thought this worked? Answering 500 emails in 20 minutes? Jeez, it’s no wonder you’re such a mess. Your cognitive dissonance is epic.
Give it a try, it's very liberating to have an inbox that reads: 0

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Flashing from K750i to W800i

I've never been much of a mobile phone kind of guy. In fact up until last week I was using a 6 year old Nokia mobile. Last week I upgraded to a Sony Ericsson K750i, a very nice little phone. It's got all the usual features of a modern phone but also it has a number of features that would normally only be found in a PDA or an iPod. A number of contact and calender functions as well as MP3/4 audio and video playback. Surely everything a boy could ever need?

There were a number of features missing from the K750i that would cover all the bases for me. Not after reading this blog post I discovered that it would be possible to flash the firmware in my K750i to that of the W800i Walkman phone (this is possible due to the hardware of the two phones being identical). Obviously I wouldn't have the funky exterior of the W800 or the improved headphones but I would have the ability to run the phone in 'Flight Mode' thus enabling me to use the phone while travelling by plane. Also the Walkman features of the W800i extend the functionality of the media playback as compared with the stock K750i.

My Sony Ericsson K750i before modification:

After switching off the phone, connect it to your PC via the USB cable.

Download and run the update software (I chose to use Davinci Team).

You select the firmware that you want to flash the phone with. Then after purchasing a flash credit you're ready to begin the flashing process.

After about 10 minutes the phone's firmware is now updated. If you by chance select the wrong firmware the flashing process will not complete (I know from experience!). Now you have the heart stopping moment waiting for the phone to power up with the new firmware.

Now that the K750i has W800i firmware you're asked if you want to "Start Phone" or "Music Only". (Something weird happened the first time I powered on the phone, if I selected "Start Phone" it would load up as "Music Only". After trying again I worked out that selecting "Music Only" would start the phone in phone mode. Subsequent power on selection is fine, just seems to be during the initial power on.

Now my K750i is running with the advance features found in the W800i Walkman phone. The pause play button will now function even without the headset attached. Also the shortcut button now loads up the Walkman player. Within the Walkman player is a graphic equalizer not found in the K750i software.

The menu now looks slightly different (as shown below). The first option is now "PlayNow", taking you to the Sony website. The Media Player button is replaced with a Walkman button. Also the firmware includes the Walkman themes, which are pretty cool.

Overall I'd say this is a worthwhile upgrade, especially if you want the 'Flight Mode' option. The added functionality of the Walkman software is very useful too. On the down side you will no longer be able to connect your phone to the Sony Ericsson update service since it sees that your phone has been flashed. I don't think that's a major problem now since the firmware in this phone is mature enough that most if not all the bugs are worked out.

There is only on thing that bugs me on this phone. When you're watching a video and you want to fast forward you use the joystick and push it to the right. The problem is that right and up are not so far apart so you end up skipping to the next video. Trust me it's very annoying. If anyone knows a way around this I'd love to know about it!

In conclusion I'm satisfied that this was £7 well spent. All I need now is an adapter so I can use so better headphones and a nice 1GB Memory Stick Duo.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Solio - Portable Hybrid Solar Power Charger

I heard about the Solio - Portable Hybrid Solar Power Charger on today's Daily Giz Wiz. I thought it was such a neat little gadget that I'd post about it here on the Gadget Blog too.

This little device uses solar power to charge an internal li-ion battery which in turn can charge various other devices such as an iPod or a Mobile Phone. It's designed to fold up for easy transport then fold open again when you need to harness the Sun's power. It comes with various adapaters enabling you to connect it to different devices.

What a great idea! This would be so handy for trips when you're away from areas that have readily available electricity.

Monday, July 17, 2006

IBM Says It's Lucky to Get 10% to 20% Yields on Cell Processor

DailyTech - IBM Says It's Lucky to Get 10% to 20% Yields on Cell Processor:
"The Cell processor is so complex that IBM even accepts chips that have only four out of the eight cores working. Not all cores end up functional says Reeves. In regards to why the yields are so low, Reeves says '[defects becomes a bigger problem the bigger the chip is. With chips that are one-by-one and silicon germanium, we can get yields of 95 percent. With a chip like the Cell processor, you’re lucky to get 10 or 20 percent. If you put logic redundancy on it, you can double that.' According to Reeves, Sony will be using Cell processors whether they have all cores functional or not. Reeves says that the PlayStation 3 requires at least seven of the eight cores operational."
If you read the last post and mix it with this post then Apple's move to Intel becomes even more important. It seems the Cell is a bit of a stinker to fab. Yet further bad news for PS3?

AnandTech: Intel's Core 2 Extreme & Core 2 Duo: The Empire Strikes Back

AnandTech: Intel's Core 2 Extreme & Core 2 Duo: The Empire Strikes Back
Intel's new Core 2 Duo / Core 2 Duo Extreme chips might look like Pentium-D chips but looks can be deceiving:
"What you see before you is not the power hungry, poor performing, non-competitive garbage (sorry guys, it's the truth) that Intel has been shoving down our throats for the greater part of the past 5 years. No, you're instead looking at the most impressive piece of silicon the world has ever seen - at the fastest desktop processor we've ever tested. What you're looking at is Conroe and today is its birthday."
These are the chips that will return Intel to their pre-Pentium 4 market domination. Of course it'll be equally interesting to see how AMD responds. There's no doubting the fact that the GHz war is over. The Core war has only just begun however.

Toshiba give you MSN Search Toolbar... Thanks!

What a wonderful selling point! I wonder how much of a discount Microsoft are giving to vendors who distribute MSN Desktop Search for them?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Microscopic U.S. flag comes from nanotechnology experiment - Microscopic U.S. flag comes from nanotechnology experiment

Students from the University of Texas at Dallas created the likeness of an American flag so small it would take more than 10 to span the width of a human hair.

Only one problem:
"They don't have a method to actually see the flag."

Music Phones to Challenge the iPod Supremacy?

A fairly interesting article that touches a chord with me since I'm using a K750i as my phone / mp3 player:
"At first, 26-year-old London resident Rachel Slack carried around both her Apple iPod and her mobile phone. But in November, after buying a Sony Ericsson W800i Walkman phone with enough memory for about 100 songs, she started leaving her iPod at home."
One thing this article doesn't mention though is a lack of support for DRM. That means that unless you have an Apple blessed phone, ala Rockr, you're not going to be able to play anything you bought on iTunes unless you take some steps to remove the DRM (breaking the law, yada yada yada). This is where DRM holds part of the key to Apple's domination. People are locked in to playing on Apple iPods, iPod phones or iTunes on a PC.

read more | digg story

Symantec researcher: At this time, there are no file-infecting viruses that can infect Mac OS X

MacDailyNews | Symantec researcher: At this time, there are no file-infecting viruses that can infect Mac OS X:
'A little neglect may breed great mischief: for want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for want of a horse the rider was lost.'
Right on! The Benjamin Franklin school of internet security.

Microsoft Virtual PC 2004 - NOW FREE

In a surprising move Microsoft have made Virtual PC 2004 (a Windows only version) available as a free download. It's downloading as I type, but I don't think it will run the Vista Beta I've got waiting to be installed. This is a really useful piece of software, especially for testing set-ups/beta software, and I intend to use it to run a clean Windows OS with the Office 2007 Beta installed later today! Excellent; now, why would they do this? And when is the Mac version going to be free?

Edit: for the answer to the first question see the Virtual PC Guy's blog post.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Software Gadget: | Your Digital Life, Anywhere™

What is a Portable App?
"A portable app is a computer program that you can carry around with you on a portable device and use on any Windows computer. When your USB flash drive, portable hard drive, iPod or other portable device is plugged in, you have access to your software and personal data just as you would on your own PC. And when you unplug, none of your personal data is left behind."
USB memory sticks become a whole lot more useful when you make use of the apps on this site. Potential gold dust!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

TV-B-Gone on The Daily GIZ WIZ

Episode 102 of the Daily Giz Wiz featured this cool gadget, the TV-B-Gone.
"Shut off just about any TV set! The TV-B-Gone turns off virtually any television. Small enough to carry on your key ring It can turn off 90% of all TV’s 17 seconds. The range: 20 to 50 feet (7 to 17 m), depending on the make and model of the TV. It contains 209 turn-off codes. The regular version works on TVs in US, Canada, Mexico, and many Asian countries. A European version also available! Lithium batteries included (last about 3 months to one year depending on usage) Dimensions: 1.92' x 2.27' x .675' Weight: 26 grams with batteries. There's a new model out now with Instant Reactivation This feature allows you to press the button at any time to restart transmission of all of its infrared codes. Since the codes for the most popular TVs are closest to the beginning of the sequence, you can shut off more TVs faster, without waiting the full 69 seconds, as with the original version. $24.95 If original models are still available, they're about $18."
What a superb gadget! I want one.

Boing Boing: UK ISP to British recording industry: "get lost"

Boing Boing: UK ISP to British recording industry: "get lost"
You state that such evidence is "overwhelming". However, you have provided no actual evidence in respect of 16 of the accounts. Further, you have provided no evidence of downloading taking place nor have you provided evidence that the shared drive was connected by the relevant IP address at the relevant time.
Looks like the Police will have to go in an raid all of Tiscali's servers just like the Pirate Bay case in Sweden. What a joke! What's the deal with the recording industry thinking they can strong arm everyone? Are they some kind of cornerstone to society or something?

iPod Fun!

Originally uploaded by The Creative Life.
I have recently had a chance to do some rather extensive testing of the iPod 5G. As you can see I can confirm that the Pod makes a perfect bath time accessory - just don’t nod off!

The video playback is pin sharp, with only the slightest hint of blocking, even when playing back a DVD compressed (H.264) down to just 410mb. Sound is excellent and the battery life is . . . well, it’s just about passable.

Microsoft are 280m euros lighter

Microsoft has been fined 280.5m euros ($357m; £194m) by the European Commission for failing to comply with an anti-competition ruling.
Ouch! I wonder who the Commission gives the money raised by this fine to? It ought to go to the Open Source community but it probably goes on Champaigne and Caviar! I wonder if there was any real way in which Microsoft could have avoided this fine? Probably not.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

DailyTech - BitTorrent Preps Another Major Distribution Deal

DailyTech - BitTorrent Preps Another Major Distribution Deal
BitTorrent has just signed another major distribution deal, this time with the independent movie distributor Image Entertainment. With the new deal, BitTorrent will add approximately 1,600 movies to its distribution library.
So 2 major distribution deals in the pipe for Bit Torrent. Meanwhile in the wacky world of anti-piracy the MPAA are investigating BitTorrent. Maybe they'll also investigate Ford too since people who distribute pirate disks down at the local market often use Ford Transit vans.

Also where does this leave bandwidth shaping for Bit Torrents? Dead in the water hopefully!

DailyTech - Microsoft Thinks Highly of the Low-End with Vista

DailyTech - Microsoft Thinks Highly of the Low-End with Vista:
"Windows Vista beta testers who don't have the graphics hardware to run the operating system in all of its Aero Glass glory have been presented with a rather drab, dreary interface to navigate. This will change in future builds of Vista according to Microsoft's Nick White."
6 years in the making and they won't have a decent GUI for the average user. Nice! I still am amazed at how well OS X Tiger runs on my G3 500Mhz. There's no way Vista will run smoothly on anything as low as that.

Also Bill gates says that there is an 80% chance of Vista arriving in January.

For anyone who thought that ntl were the worst network provider in the world...

Matsushita to launch 103-inch TV

BBC NEWS | Business | Matsushita to launch 103-inch TV
Matsushita, which owns the Panasonic brand, says it has already taken orders from the US for the 103-inch panel TVs.
It's a flat screen TV arms race!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Dell's Inspiron 1300 & Some Scary Facts

(click on image for larger version)

I had the pleasure of spending some time (about 4 hours) this weekend checking out (cleaning up) a friend's new Dell Inspiron 1300 (that's the Dell Inspiron £349). I thought I'd pop over to Dell to take a closer look at this Dell budget beauty. While looking through the various upgrade options (no point taking any of them, the best thing about this machine is the price, increasing it make the whole thing pointless) I came to the 'Dell Scary Facts' section and I just had to share it with you all. Cracking!
Scary Facts:
There are over 100,000 viruses in existence
An unprotected PC connected to the Internet will be hijacked in under 10 minutes
Spyware infects 91% of home PCs

Well Dell... here are a few other Scary Facts that I'd like to add:

Your Dell PC comes bundled with a ton of bloatware / Adware that will take a good hour or so of your time to clear off. Think of it as pre-installed Spyware
Your Dell PC comes bundled with IE 6, making your a million times more prone to Spyware, the safe alternative is a free download of Firefox but Dell kindly don't pre-load that for you
Your Dell PC does NOT come with Windows Defender, the best anti-Spyware tool installed
Your Dell PC will run many times slower than expected thanks to all the Bloatware installed on it
Worse of all... none of the above applies if you save up a little more cash and buy a MacBook... Are you scared yet!!?!?!

All in all the Dell Inspiron 1300 - £349 is a solid little laptop. If you can get Dell to bundle the DVD-RW at no extra charge then you're on to a winner. Just make sure to get yourself some extra ram because 256mb with 64mb being used for video is no fun at all! This is throw away computing at it's best!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Jeff Minter criticises Sony

BBC NEWS : Video game legend criticises Sony

Jeff Minter should know all about smug console makers having been associated with Atari right up until their demise. Of course his comments are obviously true. As far as I can see the PS3 is the next CD-i or 3DO. It's late, overpriced and trying to be too many things.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

PROLINE - Cordless jug kettle

Ok a quick quick review:

It's a kettle, it's white, it boils water and it's £7.99.

What more do you need to know?

PROLINE - Cordless jug kettle

BT Studio 1100 Cordless Phone

The BT Studio 1100 Cordless Phone is a decent sub £30 cordless phone. Using the DECT digital system the audio quality is very good. The 50 metre indoor range is more than enough for the average house. The handset is pretty easy to configure. You can store up to 30 names and numbers in the internal phonebook. Also the phone features caller I.D.

The unit comes with two AA rechargable batteries which have a 10 hour talk time. The base unit is mains powered so don't expect to use it in a power cut.

You can pick these phones up for £20, at that price they're a bargain.

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