Thursday, November 24, 2011

What is out there smartphones update

I almost brought a smartphone from China.  But they don't have Black Friday.

The latest 4G phones are free.  iPhone 4S is not free, but it's not 4G either.

Basically the latest spec, very new across all the major carriers, are qHD phones with 960 x 5??, slight less pixels than iPhone's 960x640.  These Androids are pretty standard sized at less than 5" in height vs apple's 4.5".  The iPhone won't fit in any women's pocket anyway.  Bigger screen allows easier touch tying - keys are bigger!

8MP camera with 1080p HD video capture.  Front camera 640x480(?) VGA video conference.

Android 2.3 has multi-touch, while iPhone haven't.  Some brands announced that they will upgrade your phone to Android 4 pretty soon.

4G for AT&T is available in the form of LTE.  It's symbolic as at the moment as even 3.5G HSPA isn't that widely available.  For this reason the iPhone don't have LTE yet.  LTE should be the world standard following GSM/WCDMA.  But because of frequency fragmentation across the world, I doubt if the current LTE phones will work all over the world with it roll outs extensively throughout the world.

The mandatory entry level data plans are symbolic.  You can't do anything smart with that.  But the expensive plans more than offset by the free toys.  If you don't have a pocket sized 1080p camcorder yet, you save yourself another $100.  When the time comes to impress somebody with 4G speed, you can just run over the limit and pay extra for once.

Verizon and Sprint split on 4G.  Verison offers LTE while Sprint has WiMax.  Maybe the reason is that Sprint is on the PCS band while Verizon is on the traditional mobile band.

There are no generic qHD phones from China yet.  Data at best is HSPA (HSDPA, HSUPA).  And I doubt if the LTE phones they may offer at a later date will work well in both Europe and America.

Of course, you need a plan and a 2 year contract for the awesome free phones.  But I can tip you off with a small secret.  Third part credit checks are less dirty than carriers' own.  Carrier's share non-public blacklist database, while you know what is on your credit history.  So walking into a carrier's own wireless shop is the worst that you can do if your credit have problems.  Third party wireless shops are better.  Online check is best.  They have to be automatic and in the open.  So try Amazon wireless if you need to.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The what is out there buying guide for smartphones

With multitouch gestures and swype, my faith in smartphones is restored.  I'll probably going to try one.

Tiny physical keyboards are out, so it's really iOS (iphone) vs Android.  I'm sorry to say that Apple is going in the way of the PC market.  Android has taken over, huge, but Apple will remain profitable, trend setter, and cute.


The first thing to look at is the screen resolution, not the size.  iPhone 4 and 4S has 960x640 pixels.   At 326 ppi (pixels/inch), Apple call it retina display.  If you are old enough, it should look like those light boxes for viewing films for slides.  Anyway, you should not be able to see pixels.

But density and resolution isn't that crucial.  It's image problem, yours.  You may not want to see all of a web page in a 3+ inch screen.  At that super density, it will be sharp but there's other coloring and lighting problems.  I won't and can't go into that but really it's your image problem.

iPhone 3 is worthless at 1/4 of the resolution and about 1/4 of the density.  There are plenty of Android devices at the same resolution and size - even cheaper.

There is the new Android phone, Galaxy Nexus, that has HD display 1280x720p.  The screen is slightly larger at 4+", but that's pretty standard in Android phones.  There are the odd one or two Android phones with screens slightly denser than the iPhone 4, but they don't really sell, and hard to find.

The most common Android phone has screen resolution 800x480, about 4"+.  It doesn't look that much compared to iPhone 4.  But imagine that the best netbook, like the MacAir, with it's screen height squeezed into less than 4 inches.  You need good justification to have a higher ppi screen, other than my phone is sharper and smaller than yours.

The screen has something to do with playing back HD videos.  Piping out the data via the Himi connection to the TV is easy.  Decoding, resizing and filtering to display on a smaller phone screen takes more processing power.  So expect jitters if you don't have HD screen, and a powerful processor.

Next criteria - carrier and network. 

You still want a phone right?  In US, the network is still split between AT&T and Verizon/Sprint, the same old GSM vs CDMA network.  Now that GSM becomes WCDMA/3G/UMTS, it would be rather confusing.

You can't go wrong with AT&T and it's resellers.  Phones will be compatible worldwide, and most phones are quad band, not limited to USA or rest of the world.  Either you have to get an expansive, unlock phone without contract, or you unlock the phone yourselves if possible.  In past experience, you can unlock your phone via your carrier after a few months, saying that you need to travel.


Carriers find three different ways to charge you - voice, text, and data.  It is ridiculous as not so long ago, text is only popular in countries such as Czech, for younger people to save money on phone bills.  Now text cost more than voice, and voice is worthless.  You can have free text, via data, but you need a smartphone with apps to go with it.   Another justification for a smart phone.

Data speed is a major differentiator for networks.  Verizon/Sprint got there first and call it 4G.  The similar thing in AT&T is HSDPA for the rest of the world.  These are normally included other than the most basic data package.  However, unless you have a lot to upload and download in a rush, like HD video, 3G speed are decent.

High data speed is particularly relevant to WiFi tethering, where you use your phone as a WiFi router like you do at home, so all your WiFi capable devices can access the internet via your phone, anywhere where there is reception.  All smartphones have WiFi and most are tethering capable, thought some cheap carrier resellers hide it.  But the problem is that carriers charge an arm and a leg for it.

So I don't think data speed is relevant to average smartphone users.  3G speed is decent.  Download videos you made via the SD card.  And go to McDonalds if your computer need free WiFi.

iOS 5 vs Android 2.3

iOS is on the iphone 4S, not the 4, unless you hack it.  Latest Android on phones is 2.3, mostly come with 2.2.  Android 4 is only available on the latest Galaxy Nexus.  Android 4 unifies the tablet version with the smartphone version of Androids.

The killer app for iOS 5 is Siri, the voice assistance that allows you to do very sophisticated things, according to Apple.  Actually if you hack it, you can get it on iphone 4 too, and it's available to any OS soon, provided Apple don't crack down on it as in WiFi tethering.  I think for average smartphones, most will be satisfied with voice to text, saving you a lot of typing.

Android has multitouch, while still hidden in iOS 5.  I won't buy a smartphone without multitouch, the same that I won't get a portable without it.  Considering it's cheaper than apple, it's a no brainer.

Many Android has swype out of the box, or you can install it yourself free.  iPhone has it on app stores, but not as smooth and integrated.  There are similar things on the Android market place with varying degree of intelligence.  You can touch type without lifting your finger, by just sliding your finger on screen.

Android has better integration with Facebook, Twitter, and of course Google everything, if you like that sort of things.

Cam and Video

This are unrelated to playback on the screen.  Later phones has HD video capture at 720p.  The resolution is still less than 1 megapixels.  At CAM mode the resolution is usually a bit higher like 3mp to 7mp.  It's all about the len.  There's no point to use the phone as a SLR camera.  For HD video capture, it's worthwhile to get a cheap and small camcorder so you don't lost your expensive phone easily.

Most phones come with a decent len at the back, and many with an additional pinhole cam at the front for video conferencing, suitable on the go, with sufficient burring to compensate for the lack of makeup.


AT&T has the fashion accessory plan for the iPhone 4S, if you use the phone as fashion accessory only.  It's $40 plus mandatory $15 data plan for the 4S.  Text extra, if you don't know how to text via data.  With this plan, you can't do much for the data, and hence you can't be smart much.

In contrast, it's reseller, Simple Mobile, has the $40 unlimited everything plan, up to 3G speed, upgradeable to 4G.  It's BYO, bring your own phone.  For iPhone 4S without contract, it can be just under $700! 

Sprint reseller Virgin, has the $35 for unlimited data (4G?).  It's Android lineup is pretty update and cheap too.  But it's only for US and then some.


To maintain your international geek image without paying an arm and a leg, I recommend to get an Android direct from China, plus a Simple mobile plan.

Almost of the phones are made in China anyway.  It's sort of open source hardware plus open source software Android.  The display and chips are fairly standard.  The best ones, 800x480, are over $200.  It's International and 4G.

If you don't want that state of the art, $100 gets you a pretty smartphone and pretty display too.

Online marketplace sites like dhgate are ebay killers.  There are numerous scan artists like eBay in the beginning but there are good protections in place.  For standard electronics, you can get full refund if they don't ship you the numerous functions on the list.

Unlike eBay, they allows review too but people are't that talkative as in Amazon.  Don't like the idea that the Chinese mafia has your name and card number in their record?

Anyway, there are plenty of reliable merchants and the units they sold worldwide is staggering.

Other reasons you need a smartphone

GPS - smartphones use network information, internet, wi-fi, in additional to satellites to provide accurate information fast.  Some have turn to turn instructions and for me, a google map anywhere in the world is super for me.

Free text, free phone call via internet.  But you pay the data package.  A device good for HD porn will do your stuff justice.

Show your merchandise and portfolio any time.  I still remember a non-story about a traveling sale person showing his next seat passenger in his brief case, electrical extension sockets with extension wire.  Is that really still necessary?

A pair for grandma's and grand kids?  It's so easy and so cheap with video, apart from the plans.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric shared network printing

Shared printers over the network used to be so simple in Linux, as long as your printer is connected to any computer.  Even Windows is doing quite well.

Not anymore.  In Oneiric, you can't set the printer via the system settings any more.  You have to go through your own internet.  Browse to http://localhost:631, the standard CUPS interface.

And then what?  Who cares?  Can I print now?

First go to your server, the computer to which the printer is connected.  Check the printer tab if you see your printer.  Then go to the admin tab to enable most if not everything on the server list.

Then go to, say, your netbook.  Browse to the same interface.  Check the printer appears in the printer tab.  Then you also have to enable most if not everything on the server list, while your netbook is obviously the client.

If I know that I would have pay a few dollars more for a wireless printer.