In march of this year, I finally was dragged kicking and screaming into the smartphone world. As a person who has worked his entire adult life in the computer and networking field, you’d think it would have happened much sooner. The main reason it didn’t is that I’m a tight-wad. I didn’t mind shelling out some cash for a smartphone, but I didn’t want to pay money every month on a data plan. At the time, I was using a “dumb phone” and getting service for $30 a month from Straight Talk.
So in March I moved over to the $19/month unlimited-everything-with-some-caveats plan offered by Republic Wireless. I didn’t specifically choose the Motorola Defy XT. You might say it chose me – it was the only phone offered by Republic Wireless. At the time I purchased it, I did an unboxing video and did some basic camera tests. Since I’ve used it for a while, I now am ready to do a more detailed review.
The Bad Stuff
The phone is using Android 2.3, and there’s no indication that there will be an update.
Limited internal storage.
You won’t be able to install many apps until you run out of internal space. Many apps can be moved to the SD card, but some cannot. I’ve moved all of those that allow me to, and I still am pretty much maxed out.
I haven’t found the speed hurting my productivity with the phone, but it is clearly not very speedy. When dialing a phone number, I can press three digits before any of them appear on the screen.
WiFi quality suffers at times
Some WiFi calls are fine. Other ones have quality problems or a noticeable delay that causes people to interrupt each other.
No MMS messaging
You cannot send or receive text messages with this phone that contain photos or video. If somebody tries to send you such a message, it will not be delivered, and they will not get a message to let them know that you’d didn’t receive it.
The Good Stuff
$19 a month is a hard price to beat.
At my home, I do not have cell coverage from any of the major networks. With WiFi calling, I can make and receive calls on my mobile phone for the first time
In spite of a not-so-great phone, I’m pleased with Republic Wireless. The plan is cost-effective, and the WiFi calling just makes sense. Why pay to send a call through a cell tower when you have a WiFi connection? For somebody who was accustomed to a “dumb phone”, this phone was an upgrade. Not only that, but I pay less per month than I used to. However, if you want state-of-the-art and don’t mind spending more money on a plan, go someplace else. Or, you can just wait a few months. Republic Wireless has just announced that they will be offering the Moto X, a much better phone, later this year.
In the old days, building a desktop computer was a way to save money over buying a pre-built one. Over time, that advantage has gone away. Now, the economics usually don’t work out unless you are building a PC for a particular purpose such as gaming or graphics design.
However, there is still an economic case to be made for building a server. At my place of employment, for example, I recently built a server for roughly half the cost of one sold by a major manufacturer with the same exact specs.
In addition to saving money, building a server also gives you a final product that is free from proprietary parts, so getting replacement parts is easy. With many servers offered by major manufacturers, the only way to to ensure that you can get replacement parts in a timely fashion is to purchase an expensive service contract.
The video you see on the right shows the process of building a server designed to run Proxmox VE and host virtual servers. I built this as a side project for a local non-profit organization. It hosts four Linux virtual servers, three of which run all the time and one that is used from time to time. Below is a list of the parts I used for the server built in the video:
If you keep up with the news, you probably know about the recent power outage in the county of India that affected more than 350 million people. You probably also assumed that you will never see something like that happen here in the United States.
Your assumption could very well be incorrect.
According to this National Geographic article, it is more a matter of when than a matter of if. A solar storm big enough to cause massive power outages already happened. Fortunately, it was in 1859, long before electricity was an important part of our lives. When we have another solar storm of that magnitude, the results could be devastating for developed countries that are dependent on electricity for communication, transportation, and even for access to drinking water. Another storm like that one could cause widespread chaos, particularly in urban areas. It could very well bring about the end of our way of life.
I have attached a video from National Geographic explaining this in detail. Watch and learn.
It had never occured to me that security bugs in multiple pieces of software could be linked together and exploited. Not that I recall very well anyhow. But after reading this article from Threatpost, It made sense. (As much sense, I suppose, as it could have considering my limited investigation of the example given and the concept in general.) Billy Rios developed one of these “Blended threats“, as they are called, and presented a talk about it at RuxCon and BayThreat last year. I would suggest that anybody interested read his blog post. Slides containing the code are available there as well. This is interesting stuff. See video below. Oh yeah, theres a live demo up as well. See slides.
The following question came from one of the readers of my blog:
Q. Does Ubuntu sometimes act buggy for you? It does for me. For example, sometimes on my Indicator Applet Session, my username partially repeats and covers up the power icon, so that I cant use that menu to lock screen, switch user, shut down etc. I’ve also had my screen re-lock just after I unlock it, forcing me to enter my password twice. I would like to think that these problems are my own fault. Otherwise, I could not convince as many users to switch to Ubuntu. (Where is is actually practical to do so) I’m using a computer that’s probably 4 years old, so I wonder if that has anything to do with it. I also wonder if I was not careful enough about verifying the hash of my iso, and checking the integrity of my cd. Those are the things that are somewhat in my control. I know you use newer hardware, so I was just wondering if you experience anything like this. I suppose on the server edition there is less to go wrong…
A. Interestingly enough, I occasionally have the very same problem with the power icon on my Ubuntu 10.04 laptop. I’ve never had the issue on my desktop, which is still runing 9.04. I don’t know if the problem is machine specific (such as a driver issue), or whether it is a problem specific to Ubuntu version 10.10. I’ve not done any research on the problem, since tapping the power button on my laptop brings up the power menu with all the options that are missing from the top of the screen. I think it is safe to say that the problem has nothing to do with not verifying the integrity of the CD or the hash of the ISO.
Although desktop Linux is commonly promoted with claims that it is more stable and faster that Windows, I’m not convinced that either is universally true. The core of Linux is very stable and fast, but once you add X Windows, background applications and the like, it is comparable with other operating systems. In some areas it is faster and more stable than Windows, but in other areas it is not as good. The main reasons I use desktop linux instead of Windows are cost and security, and it has some other minor benefits as well.
However, in my opinion the server version of Ubuntu is definitely faster and more stable than Windows Server. I’m basing this on my experience with the 2000 and 2003 versions of Windows Server. It is possible that Microsoft has improved their server products in later versions. In the years I’ve worked with Ubuntu Linux servers I cannot recall ever having something “strange” happen. In other words, when something is not working it simply means I have not configured it correctly. Ubuntu server is also faster and takes less disk space, letting you serve more people with less hardware investment. At work we put several “virtual” servers on each physical server using a Linux-based product call Proxmox VE. My estimation is that I can host six to eight virtual Linux servers using the same hardware resources required to host only two or three Windows servers.
Bernardo’s Tech Blog has been successfully migrated from the server in my basement to a Ubuntu 8.04 virtual server at RackSpaceCloud. All of the content was brought over from the old server, but you’ll notice that the theme has changed. I may be doing some additional remodeling in the days ahead.
Having the blog hosted in the cloud will allow me to make some needed upgrades and changes to my on-site server, which in turn will hopefully allow me to speed up the development of Hunting Adventures, my second facebook application. For those who have a Facebook account, you can check it out by clicking here. It is fully playable already, but there will be many more features added before it is complete.
My almost-three-year-old has gotten quite proficient at the game of memory. You know, the one where you compete to find matching cards. Not only is he good at remembering the location of the cards, but he can usually name the object or character on each of the cards. So he now can correctly identify Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Goofy, and more. While developing memory skills is a good thing, knowing who Goofy and Mickey Mouse are is not exactly a valuable skill.
I figure if he can learn to identify useless characters, he can probably learn to identify useful objects such as computer components. So I hunted down some sheets of blank 3.5″ diskette labels that had been in the cupboard for years, snapped a few pictures of computer components, and then designed and printed them using OpenOffice Writer. Then I applied the labels to cardboard I salvaged from an empty cereal box.
Although usually I’m content to be on the cutting edge of technology, occasionally I like to do things the old way. This week, after getting hammered by the second blizzard in that many weeks, I decided to build a house out of snow.
This was my first igloo, and now that I know the amount of work required to build one, it will likely be my last.
Some pictures are posted below for your enjoyment:
I have attended a number of classes at creativetechs training and in general, have been quite impressed at their business model. They have classes on Lightroom, Photoshop, Photography, Dreamweaver and more. I recently finished the iPhone web apps course and today I attended the first class in the Android Java Apps course. They also have ongoing events like Retouch Live, and the John Greengo Photography Show. Now, I was not in Seatle, WA in person, but rather I was in the worldwide classroom on the internet. The live events are free, and they make money off the paid downloads. Rather than explaining it further, I’ll just send you there: creativetechs.com/training