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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How Windows Phone could be salvaged

If there are investors that are not believing their misfortune it must be Research In Motion shareholders. watching your company move from dominating the smartphone market to limping about like an old diseased dog must be absolutely devastating.

Blackberry footsied about ignoring the growing dominance of iOS and Android devices and the rest as they say is history. At some point my adventurous self tried out the Blackberry Storm 2 and I must say save for the awesome camera the rest of the phone was crap. Slow to respond, heavier than a brick with some weird tactile feedback screen and the worst battery life I have ever seen in a new smartphone. Reminded me of pre 2008 laptops.

English: The BlackBerry Storm 9530 smartphone.
English: The BlackBerry Storm 9530 smartphone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But the one place Blackberry ruled and is still dominant to date is in the enterprise/corporate world. Suit wearers love the email and security features built into the device and I still see corporate types donning Blackberries albeit less and less.

And this is where the cousin of Blackberry (at least in the insignificant market share family) should be capitalizing and getting a foothold. As far as I can tell the dominant OS on most corporate desktops is still windows. Throw in a well thought out affordable windows tablet that can easily be hooked up to the offices intranet and CEOs will stop buying iPads. Put the same amount of effort if not more into a security and work conscious Windows phone and CEOs and their minions will go the Windows phone way. Make the entire ecosystem so rock solid and seamless that Windows phone becomes the default corporate hardware.

English: Picture from the Samsung Omnia 7 (als...
English: Picture from the Samsung Omnia 7 (also known as Samsung I8700) with Windows Phone 7 Homescreen. Deutsch: Bild des Samsung Omnia 7 (auch bekannt als Samsung I8700) mit Windows Phone 7 Homescreen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Forget the consumer market for now, you will get them later. Fighting the Samsung galaxy’s and iPhones now is not going to be easy and a lot of marketing dollars will be wasted. Go for the sure budgets and they will soon trickle into the consumer market, just like the Blackberries did. Then take the entire Blackberry model where they have preferential data rates etc. Hell buy Blackberry outright. Why not? They are cheap enough now.

Wasting time fighting with Android gadgets about who is prettiest is only wasting their money flogging a limping horse.

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How to Root the Tecno N7 and install CWM

The Users of the Tecno N7 know what a bargain the device is and for the enthusiastic modders and those wanting maximum control of their device, having root is important.

Being a chinese device there isn’t much that happens in the mainstream developer circles (XDA) concerning it but there is an active community complete with very easy to use tools that you can use to root your ching chong thing and have just as much fun as the rest of the android crowd.

Now few of the regular tools seem to work so I dug around the interwebs till I found the simplest rooting tool ever. It goes by the name SRSRoot and all it needs is adb drivers and you are good to go. Be warned though that it needs internet access to talk to its servers. This got me worried for abit before I realised I barely know what rootkits Google has hidden in the OS for the US govt and that I barely have any sensitive info on the phone anyway. All you do is click root and it looks for the best way to do it and does it. Pretty simple and straightforward.

Screenshot_2013-09-03-14-21-03[1] Screenshot_2013-09-03-14-20-51[1]

Installing CWM was the hardest part no small part for the reason stated before, the community is still small.

I however found a no brainer resource that shows you step by step how to generate a CWM recovery for your device.

Requirements:

  • A windows 7 based PC or Laptop
  • ADB drivers installed on your machine
  • MTK Droid Tools v2.4.8 which can be found here
  • Tutorial which is to be found here
  • If you want to dump your ROM or backup here is a tutorial

Its a pretty straight forward process where the  software will do all the heavy lifting for you leaving you with a custom made recovery for the Tecno N7 allowing you to flash whatever zip you fancy and to mod it to your hearts content with custom themes etc. I believe the procedure will work with just about any other chinese or otherwise device that is based on the Mediatek chipsets. Ie if your processor is MTKxxx then this is likely to work. Just about all Chinese made phones i.e mi-Fone, Tecno, etc have MTKxxx chipsets and should work. It creates a custom recovery based on CWM specifically for your device. It doesn’t get more custom than that.

MTKdroidroot

 

I am informed that Tecno have not released the kernel source and thus building a custom ROM for the device will be impossible.  I don’t know how true that is since there are some for the N3 so there may be hope yet.

I went through all this trouble because of a problem with installing Google play services on this device. It kept popping an error when it tried to install and it was driving me nuts. Some apps require it to run e.g Foursquare, Hangouts, Avast Mobile Security etc.

All I did was clear the dalvik cache and wipe all the phone memory (that is do a factory reset and wipe ) and flash the gapps for ICS again from CWM and I was back in business.

Try it out and tell me what you think.

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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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Ubuntu Phone

So Ubuntu, arguably the most popular Linux desktop OS out there has decided to jump into the mobile space.

Quite frankly  I think they took too long and it may just be too late. The problem is that we don’t have products anymore. An OS is not a product. Its an ecosystem. You need to have a large population of users, developers and manufacturers willing to bet on your system for future profit.

Windows had the biggest first mover advantage but they clearly botched it up and if their recent spending on R&D is anything to go by, they are not going to make that mistake again. The linux world has suffered from fragmentation and nonsensical duplication of features, code and effort. Why we have over 100  distributions(versions) of linux OS. Ubuntu itself is a modification of the Debian distribution and  Mark Shuttleworth probably wanted more control in the direction the OS takes hence the offshoot but nonetheless there is a lot of waste around.

That being said, the Ubuntu Phone is late to the party but it just might be the show stopper especially if they figure out how to run android apps. Also if the development and upgrade cycle is maintained for the phone ecosystem like it is on the desktop, then many (Technical) users would move if only for the frequent updates. It tends to make you feel like you are being taken care off.

Well I personally cant wait for the first phones to show up. Will definitely be on the line in wait only if the price is right.

 

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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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