T-mobile Test Drive

I recently found out about T-Mobile’s program, test drive. This program allows you to use an iPhone 5S, which they provide, for a week on their network. All you have to do is provide a credit card. They will put a hold on the card for the amount of $700 plus tax. After a week, return the phone to the nearest retail store and the hold is cancelled. Make sure it’s a corporate owned store and not an authorized reseller. Also the phone must be in good condition upon return. They will charge you a minimum of $100 up to the original price of the phone.

I currently have Verizon and have been happy with the service. But recent events have made me want to look for another provider.

  • Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed more frequent buffering when streaming with Spotify. There have been reports of Verizon throttling connections to services like Netflix – so it isn’t far-fetched to consider them doing this to Spotify on their cellular service.
  • I cannot use Google Play edition phones on the Verizon network. The last phone that worked was the original Samsung Galaxy Nexus.
  • The monthly cost along with the bandwidth cap is starting to add up. I didn’t mind the price increase from my previous carrier (T-Mobile) as long as the data coverage is better, which it is. But after over a year of monthly cost increase, it’s adding up. To add, Verizon has a bandwidth cap, in our case it’s 4GB, which we easily can go over.

So I decided to check out T-Mobile. They provided a great service for us with the voice coverage but the data coverage was lacking. Which is why we switched to Verizon. Luckily they have the test drive program where we can access their network for a week and decided if it meets our needs. Here is the package I got in the mail.

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It’s a 32GB iPhone 5S space gray. It came with all the accessories, minus the Apple box. The $80 monthly access also includes an unlimited data plan. This is truly unlimited with no speed throttling after surpassing a specific amount of bandwidth. Their lower plans are considered “unlimited” at 5GB or less and once you reach that amount, you will get throttled to a lower speed. It’s an appealing package considering Verizon will charge you extra if you go over the cap.

So I played with my Verizon and T-Mobile iPhone 5S. I installed the Speed Test app and compared results. The 4G LTE areas for both providers are fast. I’ve gotten results as fast as 40Mbps down and 20Mbps up. They also have their areas of coverage and areas of limitations. The biggest difference is with T-Mobile, the phone just gives up and has no signal where as Verizon will continue to try and on many occasions able to connect or try its best to keep the connection alive – these are areas with the limited coverage.

It looks like T-Mobile is improving their coverage but has yet to win me back. I guess you have to pay a little bit more if you want better coverage. This is based on my usage and the areas I travel. I’m not implying that Verizon is the better provider for everyone. In my case, it is the better provider. T-Mobile’s test drive program is a great program and I wish more providers did this. I will try it again next year.

Avery template for Google services

I wanted to print out some labels using Avery products. They have templates on their website to help create them. Before, I would use Microsoft Word to do these. I’ve been trying to use Google Drive instead as a free alternative and cloud base. I found what I was looking for at the Chrome store but the warning scared me a little bit.

avery template

View and manage files in my Google Drive? Allow it to run when I’m not present? I think I’ll pass and continue to use Word. For those who are still interested, you can find more info athttps://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/avery-label-merge/onacejilpbdgdhhoijnggpjolbdajepo.

Lepow Moonstone 3000

It’s been a while since my last blog post. We’ve been on a brief hiatus. During our hiatus, we’ve found ourselves needing a portable charger when electricity isn’t available. After coming back, I checked out what was being offered. Newegg put the Lepow Moonstone 3000 on sale for $12.99. I figured it’s worth a try since the price was affordable. Supposedly it also comes with a free home charger. I didn’t get it with the original shipment of the Lepow but Newegg contacted me and will be shipping it in a few days. It has horrible reviews, but free is free.

Back to the Lepow. So far it has worked great on my iPhone 5S. It can charge 50% of my phone in a bout 45 minutes – this is just having 1 phone plugged in. It has 2 USB ports so you can ideally charge 2 USB devices at the same time, though it may take longer. The charger’s battery capacity is 3000mAh and from the looks of it, can charge 2 cell phones before needing it to be recharged. I estimate about 2 hours to fully recharge the Lepow. Not bad, when you find yourself not having a place to plugin your devices. I haven’t tried it with my 4th Gen iPad but from what I’ve read online, it mentions iPad Mini but not full-size iPads.

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Here’s what the box looks like. It’s neatly packaged.

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There’s a travel pouch with a security tag. Scratch it off to find a security tag. You can enter this on their website to validate the product if you wish.

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It comes with a micro USB cable that let’s you connect it to a powered USB port on your computer or laptop to charge it. You can also get a USB to AC adapter. The cable can also be used to charge other devices such as Android smart phones.

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I’m charging it using a computer. The LED on the bottom shows how much charge it currently has. It’s showing 2 of 4.

Hackintosh finally working

After going back to the iPhone, I started to miss using a Mac for my desktop. I have an older iMac but it’s just too slow/old. I have a nice i7 iMac at work but it doesn’t have SSD (once you go SSD, it’s kind of hard to use anything else). I have a very nice hexacore 3930K build running Windows 8 that I’m bored of using – maybe it’s just Windows I’m bored of, the hardware is a beast. I decided to give Hackintosh another try.

I found a nice guide http://www.tonymacx86.com/mountain-lion-desktop-guides/100560-guide-gigabyte-ga-x79-up4.html. It wasn’t a quick hack. I did run into some issues but at the end I’m able to run 10.8.5 with everything running normal, including network and audio. Just to sum up, I had to add the following entry to my org.chameleon.Boot.plist file.

npci=0x2000

Using 0x3000 killed my network. Removing the entry gave me a kernel panic. So the entry has to exist. I’m not overclocking. It’s running at the stock 3.5GHz with 32GB ram. I ran Geekbench and was able to get 17025 –http://browser.primatelabs.com/geekbench2/2324148. It’s slightly a lower score than when I ran it on Windows 8 – http://browser.primatelabs.com/geekbench2/1999535. Too lazy to really look into it. I just wanted the numbers to be where the average is. Some are getting over 21000 but their CPU is overclocked. I’m more for running something stable. Shout out to @jampot for giving me some tips.

So far I found 3 things of a minor complaint. Other than that, it’s running great so far. Hopefully it stays stable.

  1. The blu-ray drive spins randomly for a few seconds.
  2. The internal card reader doesn’t work. I have to plug my DSLR using the USB.
  3. My old webcam doesn’t work. I’ll have to find something that’s compatible. Here are some screenshots I took.

about mac

This screenshot shows it doesn’t recognize the processor. However, everywhere else it recognizes it just fine.

about mac

drives

I’m currently running 4 hard drives. Mountain Lion is installed on SSD 120GB. A 1TB for data. 2x 1TB in a RAID0 for scratch disk, temp folders, and Time Machine. I may move Time Machine to an external drive or a drive that’s not raided just to be safe.

ram

4x8GB ram with quad channel. Not sure if OSX recognizes/utilizes the quad channel. Only using half the slots. I could get another set and get 8x8GB for a total of 64GB but for now 32GB is plenty. We’ll see once I start doing video production again. I have a nice ADVC110 to play with.

UPDATE: 2013-10-17

I forgot I had set my bios to default and did not change my memory profile. This is why my ram was running at 1333 MHz instead of 1866MHz. After setting it to Profile 1, it now detects it correctly. Still the benchmark is lower than what I had with Windows 8. It did go up about 300 points.

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benchmark

You can see the full score at http://browser.primatelabs.com/geekbench2/2328011

Here’s a peak at my Cinebench scoring. I’m just running everything stock.

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Goodbye Android OS

bye android

I have been using smart phones powered by Android for many years now. My first Android phone was myTouch Slide 3G. It was a great phone with a built-in keyboard. Next, I had the Sensation 4G. Another great phone from HTC. Sense UI is great as well. The third Android phone I had was the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (vanilla from Google). Though I miss Sense UI, this by far was my favorite Android phone. My last phone is the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 – unlike the previous ones, this ran on the Verizon network.

Before starting my run with Android, I owned an iPhone 3G. It was with the AT&T network. At that time, AT&T was the only carrier that had it but unfortunately, the coverage was horrible. I really liked iOS but I guess the network coverage left a bad taste that it affected my decision for future smart phones – as well as AT&T’s exclusivity with the iPhone. I should’ve went back once Verizon started to carry the iPhone.

What I loved about Android:

  • It integrates with Google services seamlessly. Why Google? Because Google and its services seem to work with multiple platforms (Apple and Microsoft).
  • Battery can be replaced. Though I have yet to take advantage of this. All my batteries never needed to be replaced or upgraded.
  • Expansion of memory with the use of micro SD card. This was a big deal before but as many services are in the cloud, I find it less appealing. No need to store movies locally when there’s Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Go, just to name a few. No need to store music locally when there’s Spotify, Google Play, iTunes Radio, Pandora, just to name a few. In fact, for me, storage will be primarily used for photos and videos. 8GB internal memory may be questionable but many phones come with 16GB.
  • So many different offerings from different manufacturers.
  • Lower cost of the phone.
  • Wireless sync with Google (recently, iOS no longer requires iTunes for syncing).

So why am I going back to iOS after all these years? Here are my reasons.

  • iOS just seems to be a smoother user experience than Android.
  • Most iPhones get OS updates. For example, iOS 7 is compatible with 4, 4S, 5, 5S, and 5C. That’s at least 3 generations of phones. What Android phone has this? Let’s not include rooting. We could include vanilla Android phones from Google but it’s GSM compatible only – the 3 generations of iPhones are all carriers – so is it a fair comparison?
  • To enjoy vanilla Android, you must have a GSM carrier. I’m on Verizon, so that’s out of the question.
  • My last phone, Samsung Note 2 (Verizon) has been plagued with the wifi bug on 4.1.2. After weeks of this problem, no solution in site. After getting my new iPhone 5S, I ended up doing a factory reset and it looks like it fixed it. I didn’t want to do a factory reset before getting a new phone because the restore in Android isn’t as I expect (see next bullet).
  • Restoring data in Android gets unexpected results – compared to my experience with restoring in iOS using iTunes. My phone never restores the same since the last update. Apps are all over the place. Some apps are reinstalled, some are not. Isn’t restoring from a back up supposed to be how the device was from the last back up? Well it’s not with Android, at least in my experience.
  • Siri is smarter.
  • My Note 2 has a quad core processor and was considered a “flagship” phone. Where’s my Android update??? I’m still stuck in 4.1.2. Rooting is not an option! Why root to get the latest? I paid for this phone, I shouldn’t have to root.

After all the frustration, I think I’ve had enough. Goodbye Android, hello iOS… again

Two failed Ematic tablets

I recently purchased an Ematic EGP007 from Altatac. It was refurbished and was a very good price. It ran Android 4.0. Upon receiving it, the tablet never worked. I turn it on and it would just freeze during boot up. Altatac refunded my money without any problems, kudos to them.

A few days later they had another special on a brand new Ematic EGM002. I figured, the price is good and it’s brand new, maybe I’ll have better luck. So here it is.

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I was able to play with it after a few days. It uses its own app store and you don’t need to create an account. It doesn’t have all the apps that you would find in the Android Play store though, but it’s good enough. If you find it lacking, you can always install Amazon’s app store for the Android. Overall, the performance is what you’d expect for a low cost tablet. When you first run apps, it’s very slow to load. But once it’s running, it’s tolerable.

Unfortunately, the touch screen became unresponsive. I contacted Altatac again, and again they made it easy for me to return the product for a refund. By the way, if this happened to you, the way to do a reset is to hold the power button down for 6 seconds. With the screen unresponsive, I couldn’t even restart the device and it took a few minutes to search online on how to do a hard reset. This could be my last attempt with Ematic tablets. Very affordable, but you get what you pay for. I would buy from Altatac again for their customer service.

Amazon S3 and Glacier with Cloudberry S3 Explorer

I’ve been using Amazon S3 service for quite some time. It’s a cost effective service for backing up files in the cloud. You pretty much pay what you use. I mainly use S3 for backing up my photos – both digital and scanned. At the time I wrote this post (June 2013), I am using around 35GB of space. For the space, Amazon is charging me under $3 per month. There are other costs like bandwidth and requests but my bill for May 2013 was $3.30. So in 1 year, if my storage size doesn’t grow, I would have paid under $40. Not bad considering that they are storing files I can’t afford to lose. I also have local back ups.

I also use Amazon Glacier. This service is similar to S3 but it’s more for archiving purposes. Unlike S3, where files are readily available, files stored in Glacier require a few hours of waiting time before the files can be accessed and download. For this reason, this service is cost is a lot more lower than S3. I use this service to archive old family videos that I’ve captured from VHS, High8, and DV. Video files can get large but at the cost of a penny ($0.01) per GB, it’s worth using specially having a backup in the cloud. So as an example, based on May 2013, I have about 38GB of files stored with Glacier. Amazon charged me $0.54 – includes storage and requests fees.

So how do I get all my files into Amazon servers? Well, there’s a great software developed by Cloudberry calledS3 Explorer. It’s very easy to use. It works similarly to FTP client software. All you have to do is enter your login credentials for Amazon. You will get 2 window panes. The left will be your local. So you can browse your computer for the files you want to upload. The right pane is where you select your Amazon account from the drop down. It will then display your directory structure in Amazon. Just like the left pane, you can browse around to a location where you want to store the files. You can click and drag the files over or highlight the files you want to back up and click on the Copy button above. A window pane in the bottom will appear to display the transfer status. Not only is it easy to use, it’s also free.

After a few months of using the free version, I got a license for their pro version. I wanted to get more customization and play with the IAM manager. The multithreading upload is a great feature as well. I do many large file uploads and wanted to take advantage of this feature. You can check out the comparison chart.

I highly recommend using using Amazon’s cloud storage service. I also highly recommend using Cloudberry S3 Explorer with it. They are great together.