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Installing Windows #rant

I am a Mac user, and there is a reason why I switched to OS X a while back. Well, apparently there is a Windows only program that I have to use. So, here’s an adventure in installing Windows 8.1 on my Macbook Air.

First thing first, I would need an ISO of Windows 8 for OS X’s boot camp. Why Windows 8? I have a Windows 8 upgrade key, and no, Windows 8 key cannot be used to activate Windows 8.1, despite Windows 8.1 being a free update. It’s amazing the things Microsoft went through to make sure legit users are inconvenienced.

Now the ISO itself. Guess what, Microsoft does NOT provide one. Yeah, Microsoft has gone above and beyond to ensure that you rather purchase a new Windows 8 computer. If you have a friend with a Windows 7/8 PC, you are in luck as you can simply download the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant and it will allow you to download the installation set and create an ISO.

But what if you are stuck with only a Mac at your disposal? Well, Microsoft does provide an ISO for the Windows 8 Enterprise trial. (Hint: their link for the 64bit actually will download the 32bit version, and vice versa.) Yes, Microsoft, a huge software company, cannot even put the right link to their software. Just another step to discourage user from downloading an ISO, I guess.

After downloading that and running boot camp, I managed to install Windows 8 Enterprise trial. Can I use my key to activate this into a regular Windows 8? Nope. Apparently this trial version cannot be used for anything other than a trial. But at least I have a Windows installation now that I can use to download Windows 8 upgrade assistant, right? Nope. Apparently Windows 8 was not available for download in my area for some reason. WTF Microsoft? Still, all hope was not lost. I Googled “upgrade windows with only a product key,” and Microsoft has a utility that can download an ISO for Windows 8. Great, progress.

Now that I have a real Windows 8 ISO instead of the trial, I purged the Windows 8 Enterprise trial install, created a new boot camp with an actual Windows 8. So far so good. But then it cannot be activated since my key is an upgrade key. Yes, Microsoft makes sure that you cannot use the product you bought. Good thing there is an easy workaround for this one, using the “rearm” technique. I still had to make a phone call to a Microsoft rep that gave me a set of numbers, but finally my Windows 8 install was activated. So time to update to Windows 8.1. Easy, right?

Nope. Windows 8.1 is available from the Windows store, and Microsoft forces you to download it from the store (no ISO). If you use the utilities I mentioned above, they will tell you to go to the Windows store. Problem is, downloading Windows 8.1 from the store would always result in an error and failing to install. This was extremely annoying as the error happened AFTER I had to wait for the 3+GB download to finish. Subsequent retries forced me to redownload the whole thing again and again. Oh my Lord.

After browsing the net to find a solution, I finally decided to do a “reset” of Windows 8. This is a nice feature of Windows 8. It basically “re-install” your Windows 8 installation without deleting your data. Programs not from the store will be deleted, but it’s still more convenient that having to do an actual full re-install. Problem is, this process uninstalled all the Apple drivers and boot camp, so I had to re-install those afterwards. Oh, and of course there were 92 patches that I needed to download and install for every fresh Windows 8 install I did.

After days of downloading, installing, and installing stuff, finally, Windows 8.1 update from the store managed to run properly. Yes, finally! Such a ridiculous process. Really, does Microsoft expect a lay person to be patient enough to go through all these just to use a Microsoft product?

So Microsoft, if you want people to install Windows from your store like Apple, make sure it fuckin works. If you cannot do that, the least you could’ve done is to provide straight ISO downloads so people can simply do an update the traditional way. But no, you rather have your legit customers annoyed and confused.

There is a reason why I switched to OS X.

/rant

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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WWDC 2014 Impression

Apple was streaming the keynote live, and it is up for streaming on demand. This is a great trend as couch commentators like me can talk crap about it without having to wait for Apple to “post produce” it.

Anyway, let’s get on it.

As usual, the keynote started with a video of people saying how various apps have changed their lives. Looks like the focus is on the people. It would’ve been great if Apple had mentioned more groundbreaking apps instead of some useless ones like Candy Crush, but oh well. Tim Cook started with the usual stats. Mavericks vs Windows 8. Oh, Windows 8 only has 14% of market share. But 14% of how many users Tim? Remember that world wide market share of OS X is really tiny, minuscule compared to Windows. So even 10% of Windows users count as a LOT. Typical Apple reality distortion technique. Fact is, we are seeing more and more Windows devices in tablet form factors that are only $300-$500. 

Craig was up next to talk about the new OS X. Craig Federighi always seems like a d-bag to me, but the script of the keynotes and his jokes were usually quite funny. The joke was on trying to find new name for the next OS X. OS X Weed? That would’ve been awesome. :D So the next OS X will be named Yosemite. And, another video, showing the new flatter look, inspired by iOS7.

So, what’s new? Translucency everywhere. Kinda like Windows Vista. New dock (flat, just like right now if you put the dock on the sides), new trash can icon. Dark mode, with white on black translucent background. I have a feeling I will like the dark mode, a lot.

A big update is for the notification center. Now you can have different widgets on it. Just like… yes, Windows Vista’s Gadgets. Remember those? :D New Spotlight. In previous versions of the OS, Spotlight has always been on the top right corner, out of the way, simple. In Yosemite, it will be at the center of the screen with huge search bar. I don’t like it. It feels that it is on my way, blocking what I am doing. Why the change? It was fine on the top right corner. Context wise, it fits as the search icon is on the top right corner. In Yosemite, having it in the middle of the screen just doesn’t feel natural. Boo. On the bright side, you can do unit conversion on Spotlight now. Sounds like it’s baby step of putting Siri on OS X. Maybe next version. Spotlight has become universal search ala Siri.

Oh, Craig kept showing the translucency. Seriously, who cares? Do people really want to be reminded how Yosemite is copying Windows Vista?

Next, iCloud Drive. What? Remember when Steve Jobs announced iCloud, how it’s not another “drive in the sky.” Well, Steve Jobs is rolling in his grave now. iCloud is basically just like Dropbox/SkydriveOneDrive/Google Drive in Finder. I don’t think this is the vision of iCloud. Is this the signs of Apple crumbling without the vision of Jobs? Mail drop, basically using iCloud as a reservoir for your email attachments, kinda what Microsoft and Google have been doing (using OneDrive and GDrive respectively). Oh, the file size can be up to 5GB. Whoop dee doo, as free iCloud accounts has ONLY 5GB. :roll eyes: An interesting feature is the built-in markup within Mail. Signature on PDFs is also great.

Safari now has more awesome bar, with built-in Siri Spotlight. More power efficient, which is great (poor Firefox, but I still prefer Firefox). Demo by somebody named Brian. Err, yeah, not sure who he is… :D I don’t think Favorites in the search bar is good. If you only have few websites, sure, but I have a boatload of sites in my Favorites. I never realized the “Send to” feature though, even though it’s been there, at least on Mavericks. The auto shape and dialog bubble recognition of the new Markup feature in Mail looks neat though, but I hardly use the OS X Mail app anymore ever since I have the iPad.

Airdrop between iOS and OS X. Finally! Although I wonder if there’s a limitation on which hardware is supported. The Hand-off feature seems too good to be true. Will have to see how it works in real life. Ability to do a hotspot when you have an iPhone nearby is awesome though. iMessage syncing all messages with all devices. And phone calls too, including using the Mac as a speakerphone. Gee, sounds familiar… I think Palm did this, and Motorola also did something similar. Of course, Palm is gone and Motorola is bought by Lenovo. These features may not be new, but Apple’s implementation across all Apple devices and Apple’s presence would probably put these feature to the mainstream. Oh, and a call to Dr Dre, hinting on Apple’s purchase of Beats Audio.

Free OS X Yosemite in the fall, with public beta program in the summer.

100 million iPod Touches. Maybe it’s time to update that Tim. Oh, time for a jab at Android, and how people bought an Android device by mistake. Ha ha Tim, very funny. Your iPhone is not water proof yet Tim. What Tim Cook was suggesting is the superior experience of iOS, unless if you have A5 devices or older, which are bogged down by iOS7. Another jab to Android is fragmentation. Valid point this time. Malware on Android, 99%… Err, oookay, good point, but Apple has its own problems.

iOS 8. “Giant release.” Spoiler: new programming language with Swift.

Craig is back (since no more Scott Forstall). Interactive notification, eg. ability to reply to a message right in notification. Android has something similar, but it’s not universally supported, and the variants between OEMs don’t help either. Better Safari UI for the iPad. One thing I find annoying with the Mail app on iOS is that when I’m composing a new email, I cannot do anything else. No multi-tasking within the mail app. This is highly annoying. Luckily, looks like Apple noticed that, and on iOS 8, you can swipe down the compose “window” to get back to there mails. Nice! People probably won’t appreciate this as I see most people are still using web-based emails (instead of using the mail app to access their accounts).

The task switching screen is now cluttered with favorited contacts at the top. Not sure if this is a good idea as there’s no context between the task switching screen and contacts. On the iPad demo, the auto recognition of messages for calendar events seems neat. Spotlight on iOS gets richer ala Yosemite (and overlapping with Siri). This extends to the search bar on Safari. QuickType, predictive typing. Just like the various keyboards on Android like Swype or Swift key. Neat, but I rather have support for multiple language in one keyboard instead of switching keyboards back and forth. Continuity brings integration with iDevices. This is going to be great.

Messaging app gets a lot of improvement. I still think iOS Messages to be better than the dozens of SMS apps on Android. Video and voice messages. Nothing new, but iOS 8 makes it easier to actually do it right on the Messages app. The summary on group messaging is great. Many SMS apps, even well known ones, on Android cannot even handle location on Vcards properly (many not at all). The skit with Craig is pretty funny. I can see the auto reply audio messages can be frustrating though, with people sending unintentional messages. Looks like now Apps can share files, instead of importing and exporting stuff when dealing with multiple apps.

Enterprise, with Craig focusing on security and privacy. Those two words seem to be the buzz words of the year. Imo this is where Android is lagging.

Health. Yup, the rumored Healthbook, dubbed HealthKit and Health app. Integration with other apps and Mayo Clinic. This is going to be interesting, and we will see which companies that can adopt this. Healthcare companies are usually slow in adopting new techs. Interesting is also the mention of Epic. Many hospitals are using Epic, so this can be huge. See, a lot of tech bloggers only care about iWatch, but Apple is taking a much bigger leap than the others by working together with healthcare providers. That’s real innovation. 

Family Sharing, a long awaited feature. It’s basically the ability to aggregate purchases of family members, and great notifications for parents.

Updated Photos app. Seriously, I think it’s time for Apple to just consolidate iPhoto into this. Updating the stock Photos app seems dysfunctional when there’s iPhoto (that seems to be ignored). The new editing features are really great. It basically make the editing I usually do in Lightroom into a simple scrollable setting. The inter-devices editing is great as previously, you will have multiple copies of the photo. Photos on the Mac? WTF happened to iPhoto? Did Apple just kill iPhoto? Oh, and an app for Windows too? This is BIG imo.

And now, your photos, and videos, will be using the iCloud drive’s storage space (previously, photo stream doesn’t count). Oh and yes, stingy Apple only gives you 5GB free. For photos, that may be okay, but for videos? Come on Apple. Of course, Apple wants you to pay more. 99c per month for 20GB. In contrast, Google gives you 15GB free. Microsoft gives you 7GB free, and an additional 3GB if you use the auto camera upload feature. Apple’s 5GB free doesn’t look as great anymore. Apple has 200GB plan for $3.99 a month. This is actually not that bad. In comparison, Google gives 100GB for $1.99 a month, while Microsoft wants $100 annually for 200GB. Dropbox, which imo is the gold standard, offers 2GB free (with many promotions to add more free storage), and 100GB for $9.99 per month. So iCloud drive is not bad if you are willing to spend some money, but for freebies, you get better deal elsewhere.

Okay Hey Siri, basically a copy of Okay Google. No demo, so I wonder if this would be more of a feature for the new iPhone. I would think the “always on” feature would drain the battery on current and older iPhones.

Tim is back. Now developers can bundle apps. App previews, which is just a video trailer/preview for an app, something that is nothing new on Google Play. TestFlight, ability for debs to invite users to beta test their apps. Craig (Superman… Really? :roll eyes) came back to the stage with some new features form the SDK, namely extensibility. It allows apps to share things back and forth more openly, just like Android, but Craig said it is still secure. Yes, hopefully more apps will utilize the sharing feature. Widget on notification tray. By the way, the extension has three dots, just like… Android. The extension on Safari seems awesome though. The demo is for Bing translate, but I’m hoping there will be deeper extensions to allow things like Adblock or things like that.

Third party keyboards. Say what? Yeah, now iOS allows third party keyboards. Hopefully there will by Swype for iOS. TouchID for 3rd party apps. Camera APIs for manual controls. I can sense more fancy camera apps. HomeKit API, common protocol for home automation. CloudKit, basically offering developers a free “server.”

Metal, replacing OpenGL. (?) Yeah, Apple was big in pushing OpenGL ES as the standard, but now that they are the major player in portable gaming, looks like Apple decided to do its own, called Metal. SpriteKit for more casual games. SceneKit, to create 3D games easier, I guess? I sense Apple pushing more into gaming. Maybe a new beefier iPod Touch? Of even games on an Apple TV? Very interesting, but I wonder if this is more of an incentive to make games exclusive to iOS.

New programming language. This is very big. From Objective-C to Swift. Native Cocoa and Cocoa Touch. It is going to be interesting how this would attract new developers, and how current developers would adopt it.

iOS 8 in fall, supporting anything with an A5 chip onward. Yes, no iPhone 4 there, so that’s it for iPhone 4 users. The support for A5 is important as many small businesses are still using the iPad 2 (since Apple themselves was still selling it until recently).

Tim returned to wrap up the keynote. No hardware here folks, purely software. We actually saw a lot of new stuff here. iOS 8 is pretty much redesigning iOS under the hood with Metal, Swift, and the various Kits in the new SDK. Now I’m actually excited to see what Apple has in store for the iPhone 6 to take advantage of many of these new features. My 2 cents.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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WWDC 2014 Prediction

Obligatory post about the next Apple event. To be honest, I don’t feel like it’s going to be as exciting as some people would be hoping. Part of the excitement of past Apple events was the performance itself, by Steve Jobs. His mastery in the presentation is what makes the events enjoyable imo. Now, it relies more on the products.

So, what to expect on this WWDC? Well, the banners are up, so we will see announcements of iOS 8 and the next OS X. The next OS X is rumored to be called Yosemite. There are rumors that it will get some design cues from the “flatness” of iOS7. I think the big push will be on tagging. I think Apple is inching itself away from the traditional file system. Tagging is helpful, but it is not pushed as much as it is supposed to. Many apps still rely on the old file names paradigm, thus only provide that interface to the user.

Another interesting step is whether Apple is going to introduce OS X on ARM. I think this will be the next big thing. It’s no secret that Apple has prototypes of MacBooks running their Ax SoC. The move to 64 bit on the A7 is a big hint on what’s to come. These SoCs are becoming more and more powerful. Sure, they won’t be challenging intel in a Mac Pro anytime soon, but imagine an even lighter and thinner Macbook with even better battery life. And while on it, comes with built-in cellular radio. That would be THE laptop for everybody.

iOS 8′s banner has what seems to be an ocean background. I’m hoping for waterproof iPhones, but I think this will be more about the iOS, not a new iPhone. Can’t expect too much other than for Apple to fix the bugs of iOS7, and optimize it further so it is lean and fast. Right now, even on 7.1.1, my iPhone still has the annoying springboard restarts, even when it is just lying on the table. That’s ridiculous. But typical Apple, I’m afraid they will focus more on utilizing the co-processor of the A7 SoC, thus pretty much rendering anything with the A6 or older to be “less desirable.” Planned obsolesce. Annoying, but won’t be too surprising. When I had the iPhone 4, I thought I would not need to get any newer iPhone. It runs iOS6 okay. I upgraded to the iPhone 5 mainly for the camera and RAM. But we saw iOS7 putting the aging iPhone 4 to its knees. Even A5 devices are not doing so hot on iOS7, and Apple is still selling the 4S and iPad mini. Apple is using software to entice people to upgrade. I just hope Apple sees the legacy they have created. Due to the popularity of the iPad, there are a lot of people and businesses that are still using the old iPad 2, or even the original iPad. Imo Apple needs to start thinking about legacy support. The least Apple should do is optimize iOS8 to run great on the older devices, instead of just putting in more useless animations to make the older devices buckle.

Another rumor is Health book and wearables. There are leaks of a new Health book app, and the rumors of wearables from the legendary iWatch rumor to simply certifications of health/medical devices that are compatible with iDevices. I have a feeling the later to be more accurate. And I still think Apple won’t do an iWatch. The iWatch was simply a rumor conjured up by the tech bloggers, just like the rumor about Apple making an actual television. The tech bloggers keep using the iWatch rumor so much that they themselves are believing that it would be real. Personally, nah.

Some hardware rumors are an updated Apple TV. I think at least Apple need to update the chip as the last Apple TV is still running a single core A5. However, this can wait for the later events, not in WWDC.

How about new Macs? Apple is just starting to ship the new Mac Pro, so I doubt anything new on that. Intel does not have a full refresh on their lineup yet, so I don’t think any of the laptops would see a refresh. The rumor is for a 12″ retina Macbook Air. Not so sure about this, but the Macbook Air do deserve some refresh on their screens. More and more Windows tablets have better screens than the current Air. If Apple is doing a new hardware design, I think it would be linked towards the goal of making an ARM based Macbook, so I don’t know if we will see anything right now.

The only hardware remaining that has not received Haswell treatment is the Mac mini, but updating the Mac mini is not that exciting unless Apple is doing some major hardware update (making it look like a mini Mac Pro, for instance). There’s a rumor of a cheaper iMac, but even if that’s the case, I think that will be only for the educational institutions, something that Apple has been doing in the past. The current iMacs are all running pretty up-to-date hardware. If Apple need to do something, my wish is to make the fusion drive as standard.

Another rumor is the iPad Pro, or something like that. Basically a larger screen iPad with multi-windowing system. Maybe that’s what iOS8 will bring. Samsung definitely thinks Apple would do this as they came out with their 12″ Tab Pro. I personally think the 12″ ARM running Macbook to be more plausible than this larger iPad.

On the business side, there’s the purchase of Beats audio. However, I don’t know how this would relate to WWDC. Even if Apple is announcing some new music streaming services or whatnot, the typical September media even would be more appropriate.

We will see what will happen in the next few days. I have a feeling this will be focused on developers, not hardware, so it might be disappointing to the gadget-lusting tech bloggers. I can’t wait for the headlines next week about Apple can no longer innovate and that they are doomed. 

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Attack on Titan dub #rant

It’s been a while since I blog about anything, but of course, it’s time for another rant. :D

Yes, Attack on Titan is already dubbed in English. I usually don’t like the idea of something being localized, but I have mixed feelings as technically Eren should be speaking in German, not Japanese.. :D But that’s beside the point. Dubbing, I mean localizing anime that is originally in Japanese makes no sense in this modern age, unless you have phobia against Japanese language. I would like to point out that even Chinese movies are now shown in theaters in original Chinese, not dubbed. Korean dramas are never dubbed. So obviously the public can accept the idea of watching a show in foreign language and reading subtitle. But Anime? “OMFG I DON’T WANT TO READ MUST BE DUBBED!!!” :roll eyes: No seriously, those are the responses from a LOT of people, including those claiming to be anime fans. Apparently to them, society only speaks in English.

Enough of that commentary, and back to Attack on Titan. My benchmark is Yuuki Kaji, the seiyuu of Eren. He is a pro seiyuu, having voiced a LOT of anime and video games, including Hope in FF-13 and Haruyuki in Accel World. His performance is just top notch, thus he is frequently appears in anime, either as the main or supporting characters. The English voice actor is Bryce Papenbrook. I have no idea who he is, but apparently he’s also the English voice actor of Kirito in SAO. Whatever. The performance will speak for itself.

On the video, fast forward to minute 18. Let’s start with the Japanese version of one of the key scenes in episode 1, when young Eren saw his house destroyed and his mom eaten by a titan.

Note voice acting, when Eren is calling for his mom, when he’s running, his shock when seeing his house and the titans approaching, and his scream when his mom is eaten. Also notice the performance of Eren’s mom. You really sense the desperation and panic. That’s called voice acting.

Now the English dub. Fast forward to minute 17:50 or so.

First, Armin sounds like shit. Seriously, it’s the typical 90s generic dub voice. The Japanese version used a female seiyuu, and it adapts to the character well. But obviously in English, they have to force a male VA, and it just doesn’t work. Let’s hear Eren. Oh man, talk about just reading a script with made up over-dramatization. When Eren is running, you don’t sense any panic nor urgency in his voice, only some artificial hysteria. Oh, and typical “localization,” they have to add dialogues that are not there in the original. When Eren noticed the titans are coming, he only gasped in the original. But in English, they have to add “Oh no.” Why? Because the “acting” is not good enough to reflect the same scene so a dialogue has to be added to tell the audience what he’s thinking? Come on. “Isoge Mikasa” becomes “Hurry up damn it.” Yes, using profanity to mask your crappy dub job. Seriously, WTF?

And then Eren’s mom, simply reading a script. There’s very little sense of urgency and sounds more like a nagging woman than somebody that actually cares about Eren and Mikasa. In the Japanese version, she said something about “at this rate, all three of us…” It reflects their desperation and helplessness of the situation. In the dub? “You want all three of us to die?” Seriously? So Eren’s mom becomes a bitch that want to shift responsibility to the kids as the reason they would die? I guess it’s typical of the western culture to blame somebody else huh. This is why I extremely HATE dub. There is NO REASON to change dialogues in a way that it changes the characters. It’s bull shit. English dub producers seem to think that they are suddenly the “creator” and can change things willy nilly. Bull effin shit. ZERO respect of the source material.

When Hannes picked up Eren, the dubbed Eren said “Put me down you bastard.” Obviously no such profanity in the original. Again, using profanity to mask a crappy dub job, typical bull shit English “localization.”

And finally, the climax of the scene, when the titan picked up Eren’s mom. In the original, Eren simply screamed “Yamero!” with all his might. In the dub? “Stop it no…” LOL. It just happens in Japanese, “Yamero” has three syllables. You might say I’m nitpicking, but I guess they need to add more syllables to match “Yamero.” This is another reason that dubbing just does NOT work. To match syllables, you end up making the situation a bit awkward and/or unnatural. That’s like watching English movies dubbed in Japanese. It does NOT work.

Yes, I criticize Japanese dub the same way on contents that are originally in English. The difference is, you don’t see people saying they have to watch English movies in Japanese dub, unlike anime where the number of people with phobia against Japanese language is astounding. You would think in 2014 there is more tolerance for foreign languages and cultures, but I guess not.

So there you go. In short, bull shit dub job that changes dialogues and characterizations, pretty much the typical English dub, done by producers with no passion for the original material, and no respect towards the original. Oh yes, let’s add profanity some more to make it more “adult.” Bull shit.

On the other hand, I would be interested if they dub Attack on Titan in German.

/rant

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2014 in anime, rant

 

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Restoring from Time Machine on Thunderbolt Drobo

Apparently I tend to make my life more complicated than it should. I have been backing up my Mac to a Time Machine on a Thunderbolt Drobo. No problem, right? Well, I guess I spoke to soon.

Doing a complete restore of a Mac from a Time Machine is pretty straight forward using OS X’ Migration Assistant, but in real life, the result is not usually perfect, and can be quirky. Of course, I have to add an additional confusion to the mix, by using a Drobo. I love Drobo, but they can initiate a heart attack when they do not behave as expected.

The scenario is, I wanted to transfer the content of my Mac to another. There are many ways to do this, but OS X’ Migration assistant is usually pretty foolproof and fairly easy, especially since it has the option to do it from a Time Machine backup so you don’t have to have the original machine. So I reformatted the target Mac with 10.9, connected my Thunderbolt Drobo, and Migration Assistant could not seem to find it. Uh oh. So I set up the target Mac as a fresh Mavericks install, and although System Information detects the Thunderbolt Drobo, it’s not shown in Finder. A knowledge base from Drobo said that I have to have Drobo Dashboard installed. 

I downloaded and installed Drobo Dashboard, and the Drobo is mounted. Great. So I started Migration Assistant again. No go. Seems like Migration Assistant kinda did a “reboot” to run. Well, based on the knowledge base from Drobo, since it needs Drobo Dashboard to mount the Thunderbolt Drobo, that means Migration Assistant will never be able to recognize the Thunderbolt Drobo as it started before Drobo Dashboard is loaded. Double uh oh!

So I dug up the drobo box to get its USB cable. Meanwhile, I let the target system to update itself to 10.9.2. After 10.9.2 was installed, I tried Migration Assistant again, saving the USB route as last resort. Luckily, the Time Machine partition was shown. Hallelujah!

Moral of the story:

  1. Although restoring form Time Machine works, sometimes it is easier to just do a direct migration from the old Mac. So if you buy a new Mac, don’t sell or reformat the old one yet until you get everything transferred
  2. Update the target Mac to the latest OS X version and its patches. 10.9′s Migration Assistant did not recognize the Thunderbolt Drobo, but apparently 10.9.2 did (with Drobo Dashboard installed)
  3. Thunderbolt is great and fancy, but don’t dismiss USB just yet

Well, just another doki-doki adventure with Drobo.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Merry Christmas!

legalhigh santa

Excellent deduction Komikado. :D Just started watching this J-Dorama, Legal High.

Merry Christmas!

 

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2013 in funny

 

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Smartphone Buying Guide 2013

Since many tech blogs are doing a smartphone buying guide thanks to the holiday shopping season, I’m going to do one too with my own bias. :D If you read my blog for sometime, you know how I feel about provider locking, so this guide will focus mostly on GSM unlocked phones and GSM carriers/MVNOs. It’s actually pretty easy since unlocked phones is not the norm in the US.

Carrier Choice

In the US, there are only two major GSM carriers, AT&T and T-Mobile. Among those two, T-Mobile offers the best bang for the buck, and also the carrier that has a lot of MVNOs. The catch is coverage. So I would check their coverage first. Another great way to check coverage is to ask friends and family members as it will give you better real-life testimonies. Note that the coverage on T-Mobile’s website is assuming you have a phone with AWS band support. Unfortunately, since the number of carriers that use this band is extremely small, most phone manufactures don’t bother supporting it. Luckily, T-Mobile has also started to refarm the 1900 band for 3G in some areas, which is more widely supported than AWS as AT&T also uses this band. You can check this site to see if your area is a refarmed area. Note that this site is generated from user input, so the data is definitely more limited.

If you are not lucky enough to be covered by T-Mobile, next step is AT&T. In general, AT&T is more expensive, and has less choice in MVNOs. Their 3G speed is also slower than T-Mobile’s HSPA+. The upside is coverage is better in general, although I have been in areas where T-Mobile actually has better coverage than AT&T. This is their site for their coverage. Again, better gauge is to ask your friends or family members as the general map coverage usually assume that you are outside, not indoors. AT&T uses 850 and 1900 bands for 3G, and they are supported by many phones.

LTE

Both AT&T and T-Mobile have started to offer LTE. The main advantage of LTE imo is the much lower latency. Browsing the internet under LTE feels more like a landline broadband than a cellular connection. Speed wise, however, is not much faster, at least in my experience. You see people on the internet bragging how much faster their LTE speed is, but so far in my experience in trying Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile’s LTE, I usually get around ~10-20Mbps down at best, which is not much different than a good HSPA+ connection.

T-Mobile uses LTE band 4, and AT&T uses band 4 and 17. In short, phones that supports AT&T LTE will support T-Mobile LTE by default. LTE coverage is still very limited. I would rather have a good HSPA+ coverage than a paltry LTE coverage.

If you really must have LTE, then your provider selection is more limited. So far, I think there are no T-Mobile MVNOs offering LTE service, so to get T-Mobile LTE, you have to get a T-Mobile plan. AT&T only offers LTE on their own plans and their MVNO Aio wireless (at lower speed of 8Mbps).

Picking Your Plan

I have posted quite a bit of discussions on different MVNOs in this, and this posts. Just to quickly recap and to update things a bit:

T-Mobile and Its MVNOs:
Cheapest with good amount of data: Ultra mobile. $19 a month gives you 250 minutes, unlimited SMS, and 50MB data. You can add 250MB for $5. This is the provider I’ve been using so far.
Best deal for heavy data user: T-Mobile monthly 4G. No need to go to Walmart. Just order the SIM online from T-Mobile themselves. $30 a month gives you 100 minutes, unlimited SMS, and 5GB data at 4G speed (2G speed afterwards). This deal is so good that T-Mobile themselves are not making it easy to find it.
For unlimited talk: Straight Talk offers either AT&T or T-Mobile SIM. $45 a month gives you unlimited voice, unlimited SMS, and 2.5GB high speed data. It’s good that they specify the limit now. Another option is Simple Mobile or Spot Mobile, both are offering $40 a month for unlimited voice, unlimited SMS, and 1GB high speed data.
$50 and up: If you are willing to spend more, Simple Mobile offers $50 plan that gives you 3GB of high speed data (unlimited voice and SMS). If you are a really big spender, T-Mobile will give you unlimited everything for $70 a month.
Longest expiration date: This is a great option for a backup SIM. Spot Mobile offers a pay-as-you-go plan with $5 good for 90days.

AT&T and Its MVNOs:
Cheapest with good amount of data: Airvoice Wireless offers $40 a month, unlimited minutes, unlimited SMS, and 1GB data.
Best deal for more data: Straight Talk. $45 a month, unlimited voice and SMS, 2.5GB high speed data.
$50 and up: Red Pocket offers $60 a month, unlimited voice and SMS, 3GB data. If money is no object, Aio Wireless has a $70 a month plan with unlimited voice, SMS, and 7GB data.
Longest expiration date: Airvoice Wireless pay-as-you-go has $10 credit that is good for 90 days.

As you can see, it is clear that T-Mobile offers more bang for the buck, so pray that you have good T-Mobile coverage. :)

Picking a Phone

You have decided on your carrier and your plan. Now’s the fun part, picking your phone. :)

Under $100:
The Lumia 520/521 is really a good Windows Phone 8 phone at this price range. Unfortunately, you will be stuck with either AT&T goPhone plans or T-Mobile’s prepaid plans unless you can get them unlocked. Seems like since it’s a popular phone, it is getting harder and harder to find unlocks for these phones. Another catch is the 521 T-Mobile version doesn’t seem to support band I (2100) for 3G based on the spec on T-Mobile website. Something to think about if you travel as band I is the most common band used for 3G in Asia and Europe. Caveat emptor. I would spend more money to get better flexibility of unlocked phones.

~$200:
Motorola’s Moto G. There is no contest here unless you start looking at used phones. $180 for 8GB, $200 for 16GB. 720p screen, quad-core Snapdragon 400, near stock Android. It’s not shipping yet, but it’s the best deal on paper right now. It even makes the Nexus looks expensive. :D No LTE, but at this price point, who cares. Do note that there are two versions being sold, a global version and a “US” version. The US version supports AWS, which is useful for T-Mobile coverage, at the expense of lacking 2100 band support (the frequency band used for 3G in most Asian and European countries). Both versions do support 850 and 1900 bands, so if your carrier is AT&T, or T-Mobile has refarmed the 1900 band in your area, my vote is for the global version.

If you are a Windows Phone fan, Microsoft is selling the HTC 8X unlocked for $250. 16GB, 720p SLCD gorilla glass screen, dual-core Snapdragon S4, quad-band HSPA (no AWS though), LTE support for AT&T and T-Mobile. It’s a much better phone than the Lumia 520, but value wise, imo the Moto G trumps this. Check out my quick impression of the HTC 8X.

~$400:
Google Nexus 5. Penta-band HSPA, LTE support for AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint, Snapdragon 800, 1080p screen, latest Android KitKat. 16GB is $350 and 32GB is $400. Hard to beat at this price point. The only downside is probably the camera app. Check out my impression here.

Sony Xperia ZR is available around $450. It’s no Snapdragon 800 like the Nexus 5 and no LTE, but it is still a decent phone with penta-band HSPA, quad-core processor, 1080p screen, 2GB RAM, 8GB storage with SD slot, and it’s water proof. Something to check out if you need a phone that can withstand the environment a little bit. If you don’t need the water proofing, the Xperia ZL is bigger, supports LTE, and has 16GB storage instead. It’s hard to beat the Nexus 5 though for your money.

~$600:
The HTC One is available unlocked in regular Sense or stock Android versions. Ironically, HTC used to sell this for cheaper at $580 before the Google Play stock Android version came out. Spec wise, it has been upped by the Nexus 5, but it is still quite a beast with 1080p screen, LTE support (both AT&T and T-Mobile), Snapdragon 600, 2GB RAM, and 32GB storage. It only has tri-band HSPA though, no AWS support. I prefer the Sense version due to HTC Zoe as an added value. The GPE version is just stock Android, and at that price, might as well save the money and get the Nexus 5 instead.

iPhone:
iPhone is unique as it is only made by Apple. I wouldn’t get the iPhone 5c (16GB for $550, 32GB for $650). It’s basically a cheapened iPhone 5. If you are going to spend some $600, might as well get the iPhone 5s. Starts at 16GB for $650 and up to a whooping $850 for 64GB. It’s magical. Of course, the iOS experience is unique on iPhones, so the price premium might be worth it.

Well, there you go, my smartphone buying guide for 2013. :D Imo the real winner this year is the Moto G. Motorola was going to delay the Moto G in the US until next year, but looks like they were wise enough to ship it by December 2nd instead, and still catch the holiday buying season. At $200 for its spec, it really does offer great value, even arguably better than the Nexus phones. At this point, you have to really love your carrier to still buy a carrier controlled phone with contract. Nexus 5 is changing the game again, bringing top high end spec at mid-range price. iPhone is as magical as ever, and Apple doesn’t seem to be bothered by the low cost offerings of Android.

Hopefully this can bring some perspective into the plethora buying guides thrown in by tech blogs that are mostly focused on carrier controlled phones. ^_^ What phone do you want from Santa?

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2013 in Buying guide

 

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