Apple Ecosystem

Apple gets a lot of flack for being seen as the epitome of wealthy consumerist culture.  I suppose being at the top attracts al the haters on the planet. I used to be in that bandwagon and regularly gagged when I heard the prices of their computers, laptops, and phones. Used to wonder what kinda morons would spend their money on a brand name when you could get a machine with higher specs for a fraction of the price.

I was soon to eat my words when I got myself a Macbook Pro. The build quality, stability and support from the mothership was amazing. It helps when there are limited versions of a product from a company thus allowing a critical mass of users for them to be able to iron out any flaws. It also allows for a better design.

Anyhoo, last week my harddrive finally died after warning me for many months. I tried doing what Apple suggests and walked into one of their resellers or service centers and asked them what a replacement would cost. The figures quoted were beyond ridiculous. They even wanted to charge me for installing the OS. A whole 6,000 bob.  Please note that every Macbook comes with OSX and so it follows if I show up with a macbook, then at some point OSX was installed on it. To charge me to return it to that state is rather ridiculous and actually illustrates why people see Apple as a money hungry beast.

I decided to just buy a harddisk of the shelf and I managed to get a 1TB disk from Bestell in town and bought the T3 screwdriver set long Luthuli Avenue and replaced the harddisk myself using the iFixit guides.

Am not rich so paying some guy to pop a DVD into my drive and clicking Next didn’t sound like a plan. Attempts at cloning my drive were fruitless as the thing was barely spinning up.

I was frustrated and just went home, connected to ethernet and switched it on. Didn’t know what to expect but after a minute or two it asked me if I want to start internet recovery. I had few options and so said yes. Long story short, it downloaded a bunch of files and installed  a recovery partition after which I was asked if want to install OSX Mountain Lion. It downloaded the files and installed with very little intervention from me.

I doubt there are any other software platforms that offer such a service from a fresh harddisk with no software on it. Ofcourse this means that there is some rudimentary or maybe not so rudimentary OS that runs above whatever is running on the harddisk and that connect to the internet and send or receive whatever it wants. This is clearly a nightmare to security conscious people but this is a non issue for me. I am not running a govt agency from my laptop, yet.

I am liking this also throwing in the free software upgrades and maturing ecosystem I am slowly getting sucked into the Apple Universe. I hate the locked up nature though and this may be what will prevent me from getting an iPhone. Its too limiting and they have no twin SIM configurations. Thats a deal breaker.

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Securing your Smartphone : Antitheft Software

Smartphones have become a vital part of modern life at least to most urban dwellers of my age. I still meet people my age who can easily afford a smartphone but still operate rudimentary devices and I can’t help but be puzzled.

With the ever increasing computing power in our pockets, a lot of our lives is managed through the touchscreen be it managing finances, love lives, business or pleasure most of us turn to the palm sized bricks in our pockets.

Losing your smartphone thus becomes a micro nightmare especially if you saved a tiny fortune to keep up with the trends. Kenya Orient insurance have recently launched a mobile insurance product that is rather discriminative in terms of the gadgets they consider qualify for insurance cover. All I know is my Chinese android gadget is not swanky enough to merit insurance. Their loss either way.

So I recently got mugged and lost my phone (A Tecno N7) that was more infamous for its humongous size than for its tacky brand. I must say for its price point it more than delivered on it promise and I pretty much managed my life through it be it todo lists, maintaining social contacts, and planning work. The google navigation also saved our skin several times when making road trips.

On advice from a good friend,  I had installed avast! mobile security suite that includes backup, antitheft, antivirus etc. I was rather sceptical about the abilities of the antitheft module but I have now swallowed my words. I installed it as a system application and obfuscated it by giving it some generic name so that it doesn’t raise alarm amongst the bandit fraternity.

I was headed for Kericho the following day and so did not even report to the police or even attempt to lock or wipe remotely. A week later after a trans rift valley road trip, I settled down to see how useless or useful the avast! app was. There was no response for a few days and I assumed that the damn thing was already uninstalled. This morning however I logged on to the avast account dashboard and there it was. The bloidy pilferer in glorious GPS.

Gotta hand it to him though he aint daft. Whoever he sold it to is in Morogoro, Tanzania. Crossing borders makes it that much harder for the authorities to nail the bastard. If he was still in Kenya I would have his name by now and would be pestering the cops to nail the guy seeing as I would have his current position and no. and interactions.

Culprit's GPS positions

 

Apparently the root app is not so easy to get rid off however many times you factory reset. And it will not budge if you don’t know the PIN, which I only know. . muhahaha.

So now my interest was piqued. I promptly asked to receive all call and SMS activity sent to my line.  and they started trickling in. If this is anything to go by, then being a smartphone thug is becoming more and more dangerous.

Le Bagga

 

For now this is pure entertainment and the thought that the guy is having his airtime drain inexplicably is hilarious from all the way over here.

For now lemme watch.

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iPhone 4 locked to Three UK

If there was ever a pain in the rear quarters it would involve a slab of fancy glass, aluminium, plastic encasing even fancier electronics in the name of an Apple product that so happened to be sold by a certain telephone company trading as Three in the UK.

For those not in the know(And I hope that is very few) once you buy  an iphone who’s origin is “overseas” you better hope it is unlocked. This is to mean it is not locked to a particular network which would mean you are shit outta luck if you put your battered Safaricom or Celtel Sim card in it. It will look back at you like you cant afford it.

I happened to be given the seemingly simple task of unlocking an iPhone 4 for a pal. This ought to be more routine than a walk down the street or buying a smokie from one of those roadside guys but just like Murphy discovered, what can go wrong definitely does.

Of all the networks the damn thing could be locked to, it happened to be locked to Three. Unlocking it using the IMEI ( The only permanent and easiest method) happens to cost 5 times what unlocking from other networks costs. I actually googled it and there are zero alternatives. If the Phone happened to be from O2 or Verizon then I would have gotten away with a 3,000/- unlock but Three demands a 14,000/- payment. Damn you Cupertino.

I have no idea why there is such a discrepancy between providers from the same country but I have to assume it is because some manager somewhere is being anal. All I know is this is aking my life unreasonably expensive. It even stops being economically feasible.

A second hand unlocked iphone 4 on OLX costs 25,000/-. Little incentive to spend 15,000/- on an unlock on a used phone when you can get better quality and less battered hardware for 10,000/- extra.

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Mac OSX Mountain lion

The standard user interface of Mac OS X
The standard user interface of Mac OS X (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am not known for my exemplary patience and if anything I am quit horrible at bidding my time for just about anything.

I was thus not about to not update Vivian (My Macbook Pro) from OSX Lion to OSX Mountain lion. For starters, I was not aware that there are lions that live on mountains. Doesn’t sound very liony.

Cougar / Puma / Mountain Lion / Panther (Puma ...
Cougar / Puma / Mountain Lion / Panther (Puma concolor) closeup. Philadelphia Zoo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyhoo I should have known from my previous experiences in updating a plethora of iOS based devices for pals that the hype behind the update is hot air.

Apple fanboys/loyalists/paid goons will tell me am tasteless, dont understand technology ad nauseam but notification centers and facebook integrations are not features in my book. These are stickers on a car not additional airbags for the toddler in the back seat.

All the same I try remain current and not disappoint my geek gods lest I get excommunicated. Kickass torrents quickly availed a usable copy of the mountain lion installer and I got on my way. Now before you start shouting yourself hoarse about piracy, I qualified for a free copy but due to technical issues I could not redeem it from the cupertino buggers. Its their fault.

Upgrade went on without a hickup , I think seeing as I left it happening overnight, and absolutely nothing of note changed on my desktop experience. Well that was a 4.5 GB dissapointment. Little did I know this was the beginning of my problems. After a while   the laptop started acting all slow at times even hanging and other times geting all hot and bothered.

Now I have bootcamp installed on half my harddrive because for technical folk in my field Windows applications are bread and butter. This has worked flawlwessly for the past 7 months but on one random day last week the laptop took 15 mis to boot. I forced a reboot and this chewed up another 10 mins. Here my problems began with the damn thing refusing to boot into Mac OS and only running Windows 7 when the startup disk is changed.

Long story short, the 500 GB drive developed S.M.A.R.T errors specifically a 2047 value on the Reallocated sector count. Trawling the forums turns out this is a common error upon the upgrade with the only solution being provided is replacement of the drive. I think I will do this when My warranty is close to its end or when the damn thing just dies on me but I think this is utter bullcrap. That the error is not random should be telling no?

For a system that “just works” there is a lot of tinkering to get simple things done without regularly turning you into a pauper.

 

 

 

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Mac OS X vs Windows 7 Usability

I use a Macbook Pro running Mac OSX 10.7.5 and its safe to say its a tough sale for anyone with a linux and windows background. The OS is restrictive, very few customizations that I can use and though beautiful, wants you to buy all the apps. It also doesn’t help that the proprietary format of the apps and the immense cost of owning one of these machines greatly reduces its mass market appeal.

Screenshot
Screenshot

Recently the need for a windows environment necessitated the installation of windows on the macbook and nowadays the only way to go is 64 bit so as to utilize the full RAM. The process was painless enough what with the help from the mac based Boot Camp app that does the hard disk partitioning for you and downloads the latest windows drivers for the apple hardware.

I find the mac environment to be more stable(as compared to Windows 7), tends to consume less resources of the machine doing the same task and feels more fluid in carrying out transitions between windows, minimizing , maximizing and related actions on the interface. Application interactions with the OS are however much more restricted leading to some frustrations if you are a previous windows or linux user. For instance, I have not found a way to configure a bittorrent client to initiate a system shut down when it finishes    downloading a torrent. I do not like wasting resources and keeping the Macbook on all night with most of those hours spent doing nothing sounds unattractive to me. Also no USB tethering of your smartphone for internet access. I did not understand this one.

Also moving files back and forth between an external hard disk and the macbook is a pain for no particularly apparent reason. A multitude of other nuances that are taken for granted in the other environments are just not doable here. I suppose these are meant to make the OS very limited in terms of what an unknowing user can mistakenly change by installing a rogue app.

I still find myself mostly booting into the Mac environment more when I want to have some fun be it writing this blog post, playing music or watching a movie. The windows side is for the boring stuff, project work, report writing, document editing etc.

The Mac is made for the wealthy as is evidenced by its price, content and usability quirks. That being said I do not find its interface advantages big enough to warrant investment by a regular laptop/computer user.

 

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Tablet awesomeness

I have recently gotten access to a monster of a machine at least when it comes to its price tag and am impressed so far.

The iPad 2 is a gloriously easy machine to use and much is to be expected with the kinda mulla you will shell out to own one of these babies( come to think of it this is a grown up). Just about everything advertised about it works as well as you expect it to and I now understand why apple fanboys exist. It is sleek, light, and holds charge for longer than it will take kplc to screw you.

I believe the guy who said the apple guys are really obsessed with user experience. It is said android gadget makers are obsessed with the gadget itself what with the manufacturers competing who’s contraption is more complex, has the most rediculously intimidating name and annoying as hell to use with next to no regard to Agatha who just wants to take pretty pictures and put them on Facebook. The apple guys on the other hand don’t bother to include bluetooth file transfer coz lets face it, that protocol is bloody slow and will turn any smile into a scowl. Scowls are not good for business and Apple know that.

It is said that touching the screen reprioritizes the processor to focus on whatever it is your finger wants done. That makes for awesome user experience. Android on the other hand will do no such thing and will proceed with downloading some obscure update that you didn’t want anyway and thus turn your tablet/phone into a sloth.

Just finished updating the pad and can’t say it was a pain but the update download was 750mb. Thank the heavens campus net is on steroids and offline updating is possible.

Mission 2012 is to get a nice ice cream sandwich based tablet.

What’s your plan?