Category Archives: Opinion

New Life for Old Laptop

In this article, I am going to discuss ways I gave my five-year-old laptop a new life.

In 2007, I purchased a used laptop to learn .NET programming. Since it was an old laptop, the machine barely had enough horse power to run Windows Vista. Soon, my job no longer require .NET programming, I promptly wiped the hard drive and installed Ubuntu Linux on it. What a difference does that make! My laptop started much faster, ran applications quicker and I did not have to worry about malware, trojan, or virus. Life was good.

Fast forward to last year, after several updates, my laptop was running a current version of Linux Mint, but it seems not fast enough. At that time, I had two choices: upgrade my memory from 2GB to 4GB, or upgrade the hard drive to SSD. After a little research, I decided on the later. I ordered a 40GB SSD drive for about $100. Again, the new drive blew me away: I was able to boot up my system in about 37 seconds (including the time to type the password). Applications now start much more quickly than before. I even compare my laptop with those of my brothers and it blew the newer laptops away. Yes, I know I am comparing apple with orange (Linux vs. Windows, SSD vs. hard drives). My laptop now makes an excellent machine for daily use: Facebook, email, web, watching videos, and development (scripting, C, C++).

In summary, if you have an old laptop, don’t hesitate upgrade it to SSD and install Linux on it (I recommend Linux Mint for ease of use). You won’t be disappointed. Not only your machine will run much faster than before, you get peace of mind knowing that your machine is realatively safe from malware and the like (relatively because there is no such thing as absolutely safe operating system).

Dealing with Promotional Announcement Emails at Work

At work, I frequently encounter email messages that announced the promotion of someone. These messages often followed by a string of “congratulations” Reply-All. Yes, you heard me, the sinful “reply-all”. These reply-alls does not serve any purpose except for a) to tell the world that a person have read the message, b) to blatantly tells people how important the one who replied to all is, and c) to hope that he/she can win some recognition.

When I encountered such a thread, I usually read the first message, which is important, then discard the rest. I wish there is some sort of mail rules which detect this condition and discard all, but the original message.

As for those who sends out the original announcement messages (if you are reading my post), I wish you sent via Bcc, which effectively prevents reply-alls.

iPhone 4 Handsfree is Terrible

Since the purchase of my iPhone4 last year, my BlueAnt Supertooth speaker has been forgotten … until now. The Supertooth is a handsfree speaker for bluetooth-enabled mobile phones. Since iPhone 4 has a speaker for handsfree conversation, I thought I would retire the Supertooth, which results in one less gadget to carry. However, after nearly a year of using the iPhone 4, I have to admit that the handsfree is terrible. Most of the time, the other party did not get any clear voice from me, which often led me either to abandon handsfree or hang up.

This morning, I made a call using the Supertooth to my brother and I did not notice any complains from him, so I guess that’s the Supertooth is not permanently back in service.

My Brief BSD Adventure

I was bored. My old laptop has been running Linux Mint for a while and now I want something different so I checked out BSD, PC-BSD to be more specific.

In the past, I have been flirting with BSD several times, and ended up abandon BSD for Linux. This time is no exception. Before going into the bad parts (at least for me), I would like to state that PC-BSD 8.2 is an excellent OS. The installation is smooth and trouble-free, unlike my previous encounters. The default KDE window dressing are attractive and clean looking. Overall, applications are fast.

There are a few things that I subjectively found not up to my taste; again, the keyword here is subjectively. The default shell for PC-BSD is csh, but my choice is bash, so I changed it at installation time. PC-BSD uses KDE as its primary window manager; personally, I like gnome better. The default installation includes Tcl 8.5, but it is called tclsh8.5, without any softlink to tclsh at all. I had to create that soft link myself. On most Linux systems and on the Mac, the shell is called tclsh, simply enough.

Now, comes the things that drove me nut for the two days I ran PC-BSD. First off, after installation, I ran software update. After reboot, I logged into KDE and found a screen with just a wall paper, nothing else. I tried alt-tab and saw a bunch of applications in the task list, but none of them is visible. I tried to fix it for two hours and finally gave up and ended up re-installing the OS from scratch.

I then left my laptop unplugged and went to sleep as it was late. The next day, I turned on my laptop and found that the battery was drained, so I plugged the power cord in and turned on the laptop. I thought the laptop was in hibernation; but it booted up as if it was turned off. That means I lost my works from the previous night (a couple of C++ files). I thought PC-BSD should have hibernate the system when battery went down. Furthermore, the power saving should have sleep, then hibernate the system, in order to save battery in the first place.

Worse yet, once booted up, I could no longer connected to my WIFI access point. Fast forward until the afternoon, I gave up my hope and gave up on BSD one more time. I was going to try Fedora 15 next.

Besides these annoyances, there are a few things about PC-BSD that I don’t like. On my 1.66GHz core duo laptop with a 40GB SSD, my Linux Mint 11.04 boots up in about 38 seconds. Fedora 15 does it for about 48 seconds. However PC-BSD took its sweet time to about 2 minutes and 37 seconds.

The default Linux Mint installation allows to use the right- and bottom edge of the trackpad to scroll. Fedora 15 allows to choose between using the edge or two fingers. However, PC-BSD does not allow to scroll using the trackpad. I am sure, eventually I will find out, but I wish they offer scrolling in the default installation.

These are a few things that prevent PC-BSD from becoming my primary OS. I hope that PC-BSD 9 will be much better. When it comes out, I will give it another try.

Enough with the Ads Already

Today, I was writing a short email to a local TV station’s webmaster complaining the fact that they keep flashing me with pop-up ads that none of my pop-up killer can detect. It is bad enough that they put adds all over the place: top, bottom, sides, middle of the stories. Now, they flash us with pop-up ads, too. This is the last straw. I wrote that letter and made it clear that I will go elsewhere for news. I know that ads will be here to stay, and that ‘elsewhere’ might not be better, but it is time someone has to speak up.

I also notice the same phenomenon in viewing TV: ads are popping up right below or sometimes, on top of the screen. This is on top of the heavy ads they already throw in your face. I understand that local TV stations must earn a living in order to provide free services, but enough is enough.

Tell me what you think.

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Tiger to Leopard Migration Tale

I have been preparing to migrate my Tiger MacBook to Leopard since October, and let me tell you right up: it has been relatively painless. In this blog, I am going to tell you my preparation steps, the actual upgrade process, and the adjustments afterward.

Background
My wife and I own two Mac laptops, I jumped in head first and install Leopard on her machine right away since she had virtually none of her personal information in her laptop. My MacBook is another story: I had so many data and applications installed that the whole system is very slow. In retrospect, I blamed myself for installing just about every software that I know of. So, I planned to erase my drive and install Leopard.

The Preparation
The first step was to take inventory of my currently installed applications and classified them into the following priorities:

  1. Priority one applications are the ones I must have: 1Password, Lightroom, ChronoSync, DevonThink, Epson scanner, EyeTV, iWork ’08, QuickSilver, SuperDuper, and VMWare Fusion.
  2. Priority two applications are the ones I found important to have, but not in the must-have category.
  3. Finally priority three are the ones that I will leave behind unless I need them down the road.

The next step is to (a) find out if my priority one applications are compatible with Leopard. If yes, then (b) download them, and (c) locate installation keys (AKA registration key, license key, license code) for them. Next, I put the installation images together with the license keys and burn them into a DVD. I also copy them to an external hard drive as a second backup.

Next, I fired up the excellent iBackup and make backup of the followings:

  • System Settings
    • Address Book
    • iCal
    • iChat
    • iSync
    • Keychains (which includes keychain for 1Password)
    • Mail
    • Stickies
    • System Preferences
  • Applications Settings (such as DevonThink, …)

I copy the back up to an external hard drive as well as burning it to CD or DVD.

I also print out my list of websites and passwords from 1Password and keep the hard copy just in case.

Finally, I use SuperDuper to make two cloned copies of my MacBook’s hard drive to two different external drives. I intent to leave my first copy alone for a while (a couple of months to a year) so if something is wrong with my Leopard setup, I can revert to this good old Tiger setup. The second copy is the one I keep with me to migrate my data files over.

Now, I am ready to erase my drive and install Leopard.

The Installation
The process is relatively uneventful that you can read about it in every blog.

The Adjustments
After installing Leopard, make sure that everything works, then I started the process of restoring applications.

The first step is to install iBackup, then use iBackup to restore my system and applications settings. Yes, I did this step before I installed my applications. Then, one by one, I install the priority-one applications from either the DVD or external hard drive. I made sure that each application worked before moving to the next. All and all, the process is relatively easy because of my preparation steps.

Conclusion
In a few hours, I had my system upgraded to Leopard with minimal fuss. The key to success is the degree of preparation I took. If you have any question or comment, feel free to enter them in the comment section below and I will try to response as quickly as I can.

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