Friday, December 24, 2010

Mystery (probably) solved; how Samsung pulls off its GPU magic.

EDIT - Hmm. One of my readers (who has been an enormous resource in the past) has posted below in the comments why I am likely incorrect in my theory. Be sure to check out the comments at the end of the article!

So, despite my efforts to pull myself away from ARM architecture, Android, and specifically, the mysteries surrounding the Hummingbird processor, I can never really extract myself. One of these days I'll get around to obsessing over something else (hopefully career-related) but until then, I'll let you know what I think I've uncovered as the solution to how Samsung solved the GPU bandwidth issue (which I puzzled over in my original Hummingbird vs. Snapdragon article.)

There have been a few opportunities where I've had to step in and correct people when they post that a Galaxy S phone has only ~320 megs of RAM. It's an error I see made frequently when people use Android system info applications that can only see the 320 megs of volatile memory, despite the fact that the phone does actually contain 512 megs of RAM. We see it happen every time a new Galaxy S phone is leaked, even the Nexus S.

The explanation for this has always been that a certain amount of memory have been "reserved" by Samsung for the Android OS, and that memory is not visible nor available to applications. Despite this, I've never been able to figure out exactly how the system provides the 12.6 GB/sec of memory bandwidth it (theoretically) needs to push out 90 million triangles/sec with the PowerVR SGX540 GPU.

I'm not quite sure how it happened, but in my meanderings across the interwebs, I ran across the following image on, of the block diagram of the S5PC110 that they use for their developer board.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Friends don't let friends use Quadrant...

Image courtesy cicada

You've heard my express my concerns over the benchmark tool Quadrant recently.

Well, I decided to put it to the test, and in doing so, I've set some records. Read on past the break!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Insights into the MicroSD card black markets...

Trust me, if China's hardware black market fascinates you like it does me, you'll find this blog post very interesting.

I've never read anything else by this guy, but apparently he's a production manager for the Chumby, which is a rather interesting piece of hardware itself, particularly if you're the kind that likes to tinker.

Essentially, his production line ran into a rash of quality control failures and upon investigation, he found that Kingston had sold him a large batch of MicroSD cards from a very questionable source.

He goes into great detail and even drops a bunch of chips into acid to find out where they actually originated from. I learned a lot reading this article, and will undoubtedly be looking much closer at the SD cards I purchase in the future...

Flaws in Quadrant demonstrate the need for care when analyzing benchmarks

Android benchmark enthusiasts, check out this article:

I'm not sure how I've missed this article, but it's quite interesting. I knew that the problem with the Quadrant I/O performance in the Galaxy S phones (causing them to score significantly below phones like the Droid X, which do not have as powerful a CPU or GPU) could be remedied on the I9000 Galaxy S and the Captivate using a fix from XDA developers.

The above article demonstrates however that the issue may go beyond the way the file system is set up in the Galaxy S. While the fix does produce actual performance gains on the hardware, phones like my Epic 4G apparently have no need for the fix. While Quadrant scores are still affected, Samsung appears to have made changes to the file system on the Epic 4G to allow for quicker loading of data from NAND flash instead of the SD card.

TL;DR - An I/O bug in other Galaxy S phones was rectified in the Epic 4G, but the performance gain is not reflected by Quadrant benchmarks.

Friday, November 12, 2010

How To: Manage an Active Directory directly from a remote PC.

The Active Directory Users and Computers MMC is commonly used to administer users in an Active Directory via the domain controller. The MMC snap-in is designed to be used by a user that exists on the domain that is being administered; it will determine your rights to make changes to accounts based upon your current login ID.

So let's assume you want to manage an Active Directory on a different domain than the one you are on. Not only do you need to log in as a user on that domain, but you also need to force the snap-in to connect to a seperate domain controller. To do this, you will want to create a .BAT file that employs a runas command. (NOTE: This method can also be used as an additional layer of security so that you can administer the Active Directory from a non-administrative account, avoiding the risks of a trojan or virus gaining access to Active Directory information.) Hit the Read link for details!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Poll Closed: Which Galaxy S Phone should I get?

NOTE: I won't be direct linking the polls any longer. It looks like Google reuses their poll IDs, so over time it'll just end up showing the results of someone else's poll anyhow. I will be posting the numeric results however.

Below are the results of the poll:

Verizon Fascinate 3 (13%)
Sprint Epic 4G 11 (50%)
AT&T Captivate 3 (13%)
T-Mobile Vibrant 5 (22%)
Votes so far: 22

FroYo on the Epic, coming Soon™

Report is in that Sprint has released Android 2.2 (FroYo) for the Epic in beta form to select Sprint employees. The FroYo build was leaked to XDA-Developer "noobnl", who has chosen not to leak it partly because the build is incomplete and buggy, and partly to protect the indentity of the Sprint employee who distributed it. He did however distribute the build to two other trusted developers who will use the code to prepare custom FroYo mods.

The FroYo build does not appear to contain USB TV-Out and FM tuner options that many Epic owners have been clamoring for, since it appears it's merely a software / firmware issue to enable these features. We may have to wait for XDA-Developers or Cyanogen to add these features. And, speaking of Cyanogen, it appears that they have been working on Cyanogen 6.1 for the Epic, which could end up being pretty... well... epic.

So, long story short, FroYo is coming to the Epic 4G as promised... so fellow owners, hang in there.

UPDATE, 11/13: It seems XDA-Developers has been working faster than expected. Only 1 day after I posted this, the following rooted leak of Android 2.2 was posted. This build is, for the most part, stable, though some applications will force close (however, this is quickly being rectified on a day-by-day basis). Stock browser performance is somewhat poor and there are a few other minor quirks. Quadrant performance is not stellar, but it is a beta build and we've already discussed why Quadrant scores should be taken with a grain of salt on Galaxy S phones.

I may load it onto my phone later today if I have time.

The Epic Experience

I finally got around to rooting my Epic 4G the other night, and after replacing the stock recovery boot software I proceeded to install the Phoenix kernel and the Epic Experience shell.

I have to say, I'm very impressed with the performance of the kernel and the features provided by the shell. In addition to some nice little tweaks offered by the shell (such as 270 degree rotation, performance tweaks, additional options, removal of ads, and all the software on the other Galaxy S phones), the kernel has managed to run my Epic for over 16 hours from full to empty, including 10 hours of standby, 1 hour of light use, 2 hours streaming Pandora via the speaker at nearly max volume, and about 3 hours of video playback with the screen brightness at max and speaker blaring. All with a boot sequence that takes about half as long and no loss of Android speed or performance.Very cool!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Samsung Transform - Sub-par hardware in a pretty package.

Just finished reading the review on Engadget of the Samsung Transform, a "mid-end" Android phone launching on Sprint that shares a lot of similarities with my Epic 4G on the surface. But as the review notes, hardware performance is pretty terrible. And that's not surprising since the Samsung S3C6410 inside is an ARM11 chip that was released in 2008.

That's some pretty tired hardware chugging underneath the surface of the Transform, almost comparable to the hardware in the Droid Eris. The problem is, the hardware in the Eris was called old when it launched nearly a year ago. We shouldn't be seeing ARM11 chips anymore. We're almost 2 generations ahead of that tech. 

Keep in mind that Cortex-A8 chips are way faster MHz for MHz than the ARM11 chips. The 667 MHz processor in the Transform accomplishes the same amount of instructions per second as a Cortex-A8 running at 417 MHz. On top of that, Cortex-A8's ARMv7 architecture accomplishes more with less instructions than the Transform's ARMv6. 

In short, the 550 MHz Cortex-A8 processor in the original Droid (which launched almost a year ago) kicks the pants off this chip. And that's not even going into graphics processing power, where the Mali-200 GPU in the Transform doesn't fare any better.

Releasing phones like this is not healthy for Android, which is moving in a direction that requires phones with better hardware, not stuff that's nearly 3 years old. The new JIT compiler in FroYo (Android 2.2) will allow this chip to perform at least reasonably well by boosting average CPU performance over 4 times. This seems to be the only possible justification that Sprint might have used to launch this phone. Unfortunately, they've made one major oversight; it won't help the miserable performance of the GPU.

Here's hoping this isn't a trend. Improvements to Android's compiler should not be used as an excuse to launching obsolete hardware.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Red handed...

So I caught the guy who had been breaking into cars in my driveway, again and again back in April. No, it wasn't with the home surveillance system I set up (and still have yet to write up a How To on). My webcam did not have a separate IR filter like most do, and I'd been unsuccessful in getting it to be able to see anything in the dark, when the guy had been sneaking into the driveway. No, I've just been keeping my car locked and telling myself that I'll get around to getting up a night-vision camera set up.

I'll start at the beginning. Sunday, Lynn and I took our daughter out on the Wayne County Apple-tasting tour. Wayne County is kind of like the "rural farmland" in Monroe County's backyard, but has a lot of fruit orchards and wine vineyards due to the proximity of Lake Ontario, which provides a lot of moisture. It was a long but exciting day as we trekked across the county to visit various farm markets and vineyards (though we had to avoid more than a few sips of wine). We arrived home and collapsed in the house. An hour or so passed before Lynn realized she'd left her new Blackberry in the car, so I went out the back door to get it. That's when I met our thief. Read past the break for the full story.

Monday, October 4, 2010

An Epic upgrade...

As you may have guessed, I've gone and gotten an Epic 4G from Sprint, which I'm currently taking for a trial run.

Sprint's network has definitely proven to be a bit more spotty than Verizon's, but not unbearably so. I've been spoiled on Verizon. 4G coverage is actually reasonably good, even if the speeds still don't compare to the WiFi connection I have when at home.

I've had the phone for almost 3 weeks now (yeah... sorry for not mentioning anything earlier, life has been busy), so I'm coming up on the end of my trial run. I think I'll be sticking with Sprint, though the network may prove to test my patience.

I'm not going to rattle on too long about the phone, there's dozens of reviews on the web that'll tell you about the Epic 4G. All I can say is that it definitely meets my expectations and is an excellent piece of hardware. It is not, however without its faults, as Samsung's build quality issues do show through. In the first couple of days I got the phone, sometimes the capacitive Menu button would spontaneously and repeatedly act as if it had been touched, even if I wasn't touching it. Other times it would not respond at all. I found that the device was running a pre-production ROM, and had to manually update it. Once I did, I immediately got an OTA update and the problem disappeared. Perhaps Sprint should take the blame for that one. There are also a few very thin gaps (fractions of a millimeter) between the glass on the front and the bezel, which already are gathering small amounts of dust.

But the complaints are few when compared to the great things I have to say about this device. The screen is amazingly bright, colorful, and responsive. Tilt and acceleration sensors are very accurate. Battery life is good, all things considered. I've had no issues with the GPS since the updates have come through. Front camera works right in the main camera app (Self-Portrait option) and the slide-out keyboard has a nice spring open, feels solid, and the keys themselves are well spaced and have excellent response and travel.

The phone is zippy, but does hit an occasional snag. I'm hoping Froyo works this out of the system with the new JIT compiler, though the problem ultimately likely lies with the I/O bug that plagues the Galaxy S line. I know that the XDA developers have produced a fix for the Captivate, hopefully we'll see one soon for the Epic.

As for Samsung's UI, I've played around with a couple custom home launchers and themes but I keep finding myself coming back to TouchWiz. It might not be pretty, but it does get the job done. Perhaps I'll get rid of it when I get around to rooting my phone, but I've got my 7 homescreens already organized at this point and I'm perfectly fine with the way it looks.

I'll leave things at that for the time being. I'll have further things to write about regarding the phone and Android in general in the coming week, so stay tuned... I'll try to do a better job of keeping my blog up to date, I promise!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hard drive failure...

So Lynn's Sony VAIO laptop started failing S.M.A.R.T last week. I put in a rush order for a replacement drive on Newegg on Wednesday after spending a day or two backing up data from her laptop to mine and waiting on a response from Toshiba about whether they're able to replace the drive under their warranty or if I have to go through Sony.

After I got no response, I decided to just replace the drive myself. I really don't want to ship the laptop off to Sony and wait weeks for it to get sent back. My girlfriend in particular isn't too thrilled with that idea.

So Friday the new drive (a 320 GB Seagate Momentus) arrived. Yesterday morning, I attempted to clone the data on the Toshiba drive (250 GB btw) to the Seagate drive. Clonezilla refused to do this, stating that the drive was flagged for disk checking. Unfortunately, ChkDsk freezes when attempting to repair the drive. I tried cloning with Ghost, and while it allowed me to run the clone process, it froze not long after reporting the detection of a few bad sectors. Last night I fired up HDD Regenerator and began recovering the bad sectors. Frankly, I should probably have done it earlier; but this stuff ain't easy when you've got a 2-year-old running around.

So HDD Regenerator is about halfway done after approximately 12 hours. It's recovered 3 bad blocks on the Toshiba HDD. My girlfriend was frustrated last night about not having a laptop to use, so I burned an Ubuntu 10.04 CD and booted direct from CD. A little unnerving running an OS with a gaping hole in the bottom of the laptop where the HDD is supposed to be; it feels a little unnatural! In any case, by the time I'd burned the disc and come back to the bedroom, she was fast asleep. But hey, now she can use the laptop until I get her new drive cloned.

Hopefully once the drive is repaired, Ghost won't have any issues cloning the damaged drive. Once the damaged drive is copied over, I plan on pulling it apart and taking a look inside. I'll report back here on my progress. :)

UPDATE: After 24 hours of rebuilding data, I've given up. 12 hours has seen about another 1/6th of the data on the drive recovered, and even then, only about 2 out of 3 bad sectors are being successfully restored. I've copied the hidden Sony Recovery Volume to the new drive and I'm simply reinstalling from factory default that way. I've saved the most important data to my own laptop and I'll move it back after a clean install (once I've gotten rid of the Sony bloatware).

UPDATE 2: All went as planned. Killed all the VAIO crap bogging down startup and copied the important data back onto the drive. Lynn's happily using Windows once again. :)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Help me pick my Galaxy S...

Alright folks, I need your help. I have to decide which Galaxy S phone I'm going to buy this fall.

Currently, I'm torn primarily between the Verizon Fascinate and the Sprint Epic 4G. Here's the Pros vs. Cons for me:


Already on Verizon (and so is my girlfriend)
Better network
Thinner and lighter

Bing Search (Per Engadget it can't be changed to Google either!)
No front-facing camera.
Expensive monthly payment
Only 3G connection

Epic 4G

4G connection (available in my city too)
QWERTY keyboard
Front-facing camera

Would have to switch carriers (and my girlfriend doesn't really want Sprint)
Less reliable network
Still a fairly expensive monthly payment, and $10 extra for 4G data service.
Phone is heavier and thicker

Thursday, August 12, 2010

HTC Glacier and my friends over at

A couple weeks back, I was checking on a comment posted in response to my Android Benchmark blog post regarding some interesting performance values for the Droid X on

GLBenchmark has been a useful tool for me in the past; specifically I used iPhone 3GS performance values to estimate graphics performance in my Hummingbird vs Snapdragon article. I replied to the comment and noticed something strange, a new contender named "HTC Glacier" sitting on GLBenchmark's results list above the Galaxy S phones which were reigning supreme at the time.

It made me raise my eyebrows... an HTC phone of that power could only contain a new Snapdragon of some sort. I started to dig into the specs a bit... and then I was pulled away from my computer by the joys of fatherhood. HTC Glacier was forgotten as I scraped up food flung all over the place by my misbehaving daughter. I remember being tired that night, heading to bed soon after I managed to get my temperamental child down for the night.

Fortunately, someone else was paying better attention; my good friend MrK over at who has hosted my article and several of my blog posts, and with whom I communicate regularly. He spotted the HTC Glacier as well, and wasted no time in doing some sleuthing, finding that the person who posted the HTC Glacier was a T-Mobile Design Manager... quickly answering the question of which carrier Glacier will end up on. He also theorized that the Glacier contains the 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8672, and it wasn't long before his article was being linked on tech blogs across the web.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Is the future of gaming in the cloud? OnLive tested; my impressions.

Today, I walked into Burger King while Lynn's car was in the shop, plunked down my laptop and played a game that can't even be run on the laptop's hardware, much less at the resolution, frame rate and graphics quality I was playing it at. How? The cloud, my friend, the cloud.

It seems like the future of everything exists in the cloud, those huge server farms that process and store massive amounts of data. Video games have taken advantage of key elements of the cloud, such as with online gaming and MMOs, but they've almost always required that some sort of application or client run on the PC that the player is using. The landscape is changing quickly however, and I believe that the future of gaming also lies within the cloud, allowing players to play games that they don't actually run on their PC.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Android phones benchmarked; it's official, the Galaxy S is the fastest.

Consider this post a follow up on my ruminations post, in which it turns out I was likely completely wrong.

But hey, you can't win 'em all, and at least I was right about one thing; the 1GHz OMAP 3640 3630 isn't terribly different than the 550 MHz OMAP 3430 on the Droid, and at 1 GHz doesn't really give us any surprises when it comes to performance.

Then why did it score so well in this test? Taylor Wimberly, owner of (yes, the same website I've frequently complained of putting bad data in its articles), has performed a series of benchmarks that explains why.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hands-on with T-Mobile's Galaxy S: the Samsung Vibrant.

Took a pit-stop by T-Mobile on my way home today to finally take a hands-on look at T-Mobile's Vibrant, the original Samsung Galaxy S.

All-in-all, very impressed. The phone was playing Avatar when I came in, no stutter whatsoever, and the display truly was amazing. The colors just popped from the phone, and alongside other phones displayed nearby, it definitely stood out.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ruminations on various benchmarks for the OMAP 3600s, Hummingbird, and Snapdragon.

EDIT 7/17/2010 - The benchmarks have been explained for the most part, see my post "Android phones benchmarked; it's official, the Galaxy S is the fastest." Or, feel free to read on, but I was probably wrong. :)

I've been thinking about some of the performance benchmarks I've been seeing on AndroidAndMe.

CPU performance from the new TI OMAP 3630 3640 (yes, they're wrong again, its 3640 for the 1 GHz SoC, 3630 is the 720 MHz one (TI disagrees) is surprisingly good on Quadrant, the benchmarking tool that Taylor is using. In fact, as you can see from the Shadow benchmarks in the first article, it is shown outperforming the Galaxy S, which initially led me to believe that it was running Android 2.2 (which you may know can easily triple CPU performance). However, I've been assured that this is not the case, and the 3rd article seems to indicate as such, given that those benchmarks were obtained using a Droid 2 running 2.1.

Now, the OMAP 3600 series is simply a 45 nm version of the 3400 series we see in the original Droid, upclocked accordingly due to the reduced heat and improved efficiency of the smaller feature size.

If you need convincing, see TI's own documentation:

So essentially the OMAP 3640 3630 is the same CPU as what is contained in the original Droid but clocked up to 1 GHz. Why then is it benchmarking nearly twice as fast clock-for-clock (resulting in a nearly 4x improvement), even when still running 2.1? My guess is that the answer lies in memory bandwidth, and that evidence exists within some of the results from the graphics benchmarks.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

1337 h4x in Ubuntu... I think?

So I've decided to play around with Linux some more. I've got an Ubuntu Jaunty Jackalope dual boot on my retired desktop (retired since it doesn't handle a cable attack by a 2-year-old very well) but my laptop has just been running Windows 7.

Well I got bored the other day and decided to tinker around with it some more. Downloaded Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx yesterday and got it set up. Since I'm just tinkering, I went with the somewhat lame-o "installed within Windows" Wubi install. I'm not really looking for max performance, and I really didn't feel like repartitioning my hard drive, so give me a break. :-p

Once it was done installing, I rebooted, and selected the Ubuntu boot. One thing that always bugs me is that if you do the Wubi install, you have to go through 2 bootloaders, Windows and GRUB. I might just axe one of them later today. One thing that has always impressed me about Ubuntu is it's capability to run well "out of the box". Sure enough, everything was functioning great; I had my Google Talk and Gmail all configured and was connected to the wireless in minutes. I downloaded Chrome and began surfing the web, installing Adobe Flash 10.1 on the way.

Then I noticed one little problem; tap-to-click on my touchpad was enabled. Now, I understand a lot of people like this feature. I hate it. My hand rests on the touchpad in such a way that my thumb rests on the left mouse button. It doesn't take any more effort for me to click with my thumb, and sometimes I quickly touch the trackpad to move my cursor short distances, which often gets registered as a tap. Either way, I can't stand it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Samsung Galaxy S Pro exists; fulfills my every desire.

You may have read my article, "Hummingbird vs. Snapdragon: The 1 GHz Smartphone Showdown". I definitely favored the Samsung Galaxy S in my performance review, but personally, the lack of an LED flash has been a detractor for me.

I've also preferred a hardware keyboard, and my understanding was that this was something I'd have to give up for my new smartphone. I'd dismissed rumors of the Samsung Galaxy S Pro, as there was no visual proof and it seemed far-fetched.

But the Samsung Galaxy S Pro has been outed as a reality, and the idea of getting a Galaxy S with a keyboard has been an exciting possibility, however the recent info on the Droid X has been enough to make me ponder my other smartphone options, as it sports a 4.3 inch display and supposedly a 45 nm 1 GHz TI OMAP 3640 SoC (no, not a 3630, Engadget got it wrong, that's the 720 MHz version).

Two game-changers have been dropped on me to make me change my mind, and both hit me with 1 spy shot of the new Galaxy S Pro.
And here are some other shots of the front:
The very first thing I noticed is an LED flash. Awesome! Now no more worries about taking pictures in low light. But what's that above, next to the Sprint logo... 4G?! Sweet! Wait... doesn't Sprint have a tiny 4G network? Yes. But wait... my home city of Rochester is on Sprint's 4G launch list for July?!

... Yeah, I know what my next phone is going to be. This thing is the dream device I've been waiting for since last year. Amazing processor and graphics hardware, 4 inch Super-AMOLED display, 5 MP camera with flash, front-facing camera, slide-out physical keyboard, and 4G connection (with 4G available!)

Knowing my luck, something even more amazing will show up a week before it launches... no, let's not even imagine that!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Preferred Mobile Device Operating System Poll Closed

Wow, interesting results. I think we can safely say that this poll is more representative of the type of traffic my blog gets; which is primarily Android OS users.

I think most of you are still coming here to see my Hummingbird vs Snapdragon article, (though I mostly link people directly to the article now).

Anyhow, it's below for your review. I'll try to think up another poll and get it up soon.

Thanks for voting!


Saturday, June 5, 2010

City of Chicago Service Desk...

So, as it turns out, at my new job, I'll be providing Tier 1 IT support for all City of Chicago municipal employees.

This includes but isn't limited to the Police Dept, Fire Dept, Health Dept, Aviation Dept, Water Dept, DOT, Sanitation, Parks District, and Delegate Agencies. Basically, if you work for the City of Chicago and you have an IT problem, my team and I are the ones you call first.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mini-project: Fixed my Trackball Explorer

I don't think anyone truly understands my love for my Microsoft Trackball Optical Explorer.

I've used mice and trackballs interchangeably since the family first got a computer back in 1993. I've always preferred trackballs. There's been one trackball in particular that has served me well over the years, and it's the Microsoft Trackball Optical Explorer, known affectionately among it's cult following simply as the MTE.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Speed Dial: Must-have Firefox or Chrome add-on

I love this extension for Chrome. Just found out that it has a Firefox version too, so I figured I'd share.

In short, this is what a new tab in Chrome looks like for me:

You can choose between Chrome-style screenshots for your bookmark icons, a set of included commonly used logos, or put in a URL to a logo of your choice. If you use a logo you've picked, the program automatically resizes it to fit on the icon, so it's pretty simple; bookmark a favorite site into Speed Dial, copy and paste a logo URL into the extension, and you're all set.

You can select from a series of color backgrounds, or add your own background image. For a while I debated using one of the amazing HDR photos from here: Gizmodo HDR Photo Shooting Challenge, but eventually chose to stick with a minimalist blue.

You can also adjust numbers of rows and columns, add the recently-closed items bar, and pretty much customize it as you see fit. A great way to make opening your favorite websites a visually-appealing one-click deal!

Speed Dial for Chrome

Speed Dial for Firefox

New Opportunities...

I haven't posted in a few weeks, and the primary reason is that I've had my hands full since I'll be starting a new job on June 1st!

I'll be working as a TSR (Technical Support Representative) at a Help Desk. It's kinda low on the totem pole, but the pay is a step up from my current job (working for a large home and business alarm security company) and opens new opportunities for me in the IT industry.

Hopefully I'll have a little more time to work on my blog here.

I should give you a brief update on the last two postings about setting up a surveillance system.

I've set it up, but the webcam I have is, go figure, one of only a handful of models that are virtually impossible to convert to IR without risking damaging the CCD (image sensor) of the webcam. If I can find a cheap enough cam, I'll convert it and complete my how-to.

More importantly, I've got to finish my post on how to set up the home surveillance / motion detection system using your existing desktop and integrated laptop webcams.

Yike, a lot to do; I've been slacking!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

iPad Opinion Poll closed.

I'm closing the iPad opinion poll. But for posterity, here are the results:


I tried to change the color of the values and percentages, but Google won't let me (which makes sense, it's a poll!)

So if you can't read it, the values are 7 (7%), 12 (13%), 32 (35%), 38 (42%) accordingly. 

EDIT - Odd... it's changed completely. Google must re-use the IDs they use in their polls; it must be showing the values from someone else's poll!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Shame on me once, Shame on me twice...

So... the other week Lynn's car got broken into. I'd left the door unlocked by mistake. I was pretty mad about the whole thing, both at myself for leaving the door unlocked as well as the fact that someone actually went up my driveway into my backyard and went through her car while we were home.

Now I've got to admit, I feel like even more of an idiot today. My car, sporting a new tire, is back in our driveway. And I left the door unlocked last night.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How To: Convert your webcam to see infrared

Okay, so I should put in a bit of a status update here on Operation Fury. The surveillance rig is up and running (a couple minor hiccups with the wireless connection, the culprit being a bad wireless adapter).

I still plan on doing a How To on setting up the actual surveillance setup itself, but I should probably do this one first. NOTE: This is a project in progress, I'll update the post when I'm completely done.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Operation Fury: Revenge is a dish best served cold...

Words cannot describe the rage I'm feeling. Someone is messing with the wrong dude...

Lynn's car got broken into last night. I shouldn't really say broken into, as I left it unlocked. Part of my anger is directed at myself... but we had 2 play houses for my daughter to get unloaded the other night from her dad's car, and I was carrying the little one, so we spent a good deal of time focused on getting everything into the house, so the car was left unlocked.

My car is waiting on a replacement tire at her parents because it got a nail in the tire, so there is one less car in our driveway. Typically we take my car when we go places, leaving Lynn's car alone in the driveway. Last night was our anniversary, and instead of going out, we decided to order out.

Since my car wasn't there last night, someone probably thought we weren't home. The thief probably went up the driveway as the property is fenced in pretty well on all sides (high, wooden fence) and it wouldn't be the first time I've witnessed someone sauntering down my driveway after casing our garage (cops showed up within a minute or two with a canine unit, the guy was already gone by then).

He opened Lynn's car, went through the glove compartment, center console, threw stuff around. I haven't even had the chance to check the trunk (we found out this morning as we were rushing to work) to see if anything is missing there.

Fortunately, there's not a lot to take; Lynn says her insurance card and registration is missing, but we'll have to take a closer look after work.

It's the principle of the thing that makes me mad. People think they can walk up my driveway, go into my garage, go through our property, and take what they want?! Hell no. I'm not putting up with that shit.

Read on to find out my latest project to bait and catch the bastard using a high-tech solution.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Cisco studies

Alright folks, it's time I returned to studying for my Cisco certifications. I've been studying networking technologies over the last year off and on... and over the last 6 months it's been more off than on.

If I can get my Cisco lab set back up, I'll post some IOS configuration stuff and the like. Hell, I probably just shouldn't even bother and instead just do it all through Dynamips/Dynagen. There's just something about the whir of a commercial-grade router that's hard to beat.

I'd like to give a brief shout-out to the regulars at the
[H]ard|Forum Networking & Security forum. I frequent the forum occasionally myself, usually sticking to handling questions about SOHO networking and wireless networks that are usually fielded by confused gamers and the like. Some of these guys are pretty friggin' smart though when it comes to networking. I spent a while on a project with many of them, called PeerIX. It was great motivation for my studies and I hope to get back involved in it again, if not something similar.

Anyhow, that's all for now. Today is our (Lynn and me) 3rd anniversary. Actually, we're not terribly certain, I asked her out in 2007 around midnight on April 15th... so it could actually be the 16th, which we're leaning towards because it at least it isn't tax day.

I'm going to spend the afternoon building our daughter a play house for the back yard, and then maybe I can take us out to dinner or something. Romantic, I know...

Friday, April 2, 2010


I haven't blogged in a week. I've been working off and on on expanding my article on the EVO 4G and the Samsung Galaxy S, as well as dealing with the daily life of being a parent that works full time. So little time, so much to do...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hummingbird vs Snapdragon: the 1 Ghz smartphone showdown

NOTE: This article has been officially hosted at For a better reading experience, you may want to view the article here!

If you follow smartphone technology at all, you're sure to have heard of the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. It's the reigning smartphone CPU heavyweight; a 1 GHz processor packed with a multitude of features, based upon the same ARM CPU technology that modern smartphones such as the Droid, Palm Pre, Nokia N900 and iPhone 3GS use. However, unlike those processors, the Snapdragon runs at 1 GHz while the others run at 600 MHz and under, and thus has become the chip of choice for premium smartphones.

The Snapdragon SoC (System on a Chip) has appeared on the market in several devices recently. The most well-known example is probably the Google Nexus One, though it had already appeared in a previous device, the HTC HD2. The HD2, released November 11th 2009, had a Snapdragon processor as well as a massive 4.3-inch display (diagonally measured), and received rave reviews that almost unanimously ended with one major complaint: the Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system. It’s an operating system largely unchanged from its predecessors and prone to software problems. In addition, to really make good use of the processing power of the phone, applications needed to exist that made use of that power, and the majority of applications written for Microsoft’s mobile OS just didn’t take advantage. The industry begged for an HD2 with Google’s Android mobile operating system, and HTC responded that it wasn’t going to happen.

But then Sprint announced the HTC EVO 4G at the CTIA 2010 trade show, and the mobile industry collectively went wild. Here was the phone everyone had been dreaming of; a 4.3-inch display and 1 GHz Snapdragon like the HD2, as well as a deployable kickstand, 8MP rear camera, 1.3MP front camera, HDMI port, and 4G WiMAX connectivity. The HD2 had essentially been reborn, new and improved, for the Android OS. Judging by the limelight cast upon the EVO 4G by the mobile enthusiast community, the EVO 4G is positioned to become one of the best selling smartphones of the year.

However, another device debuted at CTIA 2010 that was largely overshadowed by the launch of the EVO 4G: the Samsung GT-i9000 Galaxy S. This new phone, in contrast, has a 4-inch Super AMOLED display (more on that later), 5MP rear camera, 0.3MP front camera, (GSM/HSPDA) 3G/3.5G connectivity… and was mentioned almost as an afterthought to contain Samsung’s own 1 GHz processor. Samsung spent a lot of time at CTIA 2010 talking about the Super AMOLED display, and in contrast only a few moments disclosing details on the new SoC, stating that it has over 3x better performance than the leading competition (referring to graphics performance), and bests all other smartphone processors on the market today. Only later was it confirmed that the SoC was Samsung’s new 45 nm “Hummingbird” platform, the only production 1 GHz ARM processor thus far to challenge Qualcomm’s Snapdragon.

When the news of these phones hit the tech blogs, nearly all of the attention went to the HTC EVO 4G. The EVO 4G was what many had been waiting for, and the Samsung was typically given hardly a second glance. But let’s take a moment to really compare the hardware of these two Android 2.1 smartphones, and then we’ll even go a bit deeper into how the SoCs actually stack against one another when it comes to CPU and GPU processing power.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How To: Hack a driver to support your hardware

Okay, so for some reason or another you want to install a driver that doesn't officially support your hardware. Maybe it's a (much cooler) driver for a competitor's product, maybe you can't find the driver and you happen to have another driver for a similar device, etc.

So whatever your reasons are, this is possible, though the results can't be guaranteed. Hardware has plenty of differences that require a very specific driver to ensure that it works properly. But if you don't have any other option, read on to find out how to hack support for your hardware into a driver!

Adobe demos its new Content Aware feature; your Graphic Design degree is now worthless.

The best way to understand this is to watch it. This new tool allows an Adobe product to do what would take hours of manual, painstaking work in seconds.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sprint debuts the HTC EVO 4G: blows our minds.

Sprint's new 4G WiMAX-capable superphone has been announced, and currently outspecs any other phone on the market.

Packed into a slim package, this Android phone running 2.1 (with Sense) has a 4.3-inch-across capacitive multi-touch display, a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, an 8MP rear camera, 1.3MP forward-facing VGA camera, shoots 720p HD video, has mini-USB and HDMI outputs, has 512 megs of RAM, a 1 GB internal drive (with microSD slot for expandability), full Flash support, can function as a mobile 3G/4G connected WiFi hotspot, will come with mobile TV support, and even has a deployable kickstand for your viewing pleasure.

It suffers only one flaw: it's on Sprint!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

How To: Cracking a boot-time Supervisor password on an IBM ThinkPad

I've been doing laptop repair for a while now, and most of what I end up doing is opening a laptop up and cleaning out a heatsink to prevent overheating problems.

I do run into a fair share of problems like DVD drives that won't close, power jacks that have come unsoldered, displays that have been cracked / have daiquiris dumped on them, (there is such a thing as partying too hard), keyboard replacement, etc.

But a few months back I had an interesting request: unlocking an older IBM ThinkPad that had a boot-time supervisor password preventing access.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Driver hacking is serious business!

Look what just made big news on engadget:

Old news for me... the guy that did this back in March of 2009 is the fellow who inspired me to try hacking my ELAN touch-pad drivers.

Guess I should get crackin', huh? Now that it's got media attention, someone is going to try beating me to cracking open the ELAN drivers!

UPDATE: Actually, I'm wrong. These are WHQL drivers released by HP that happen to have a set of hardware profiles in its .INF file that support just about every Synaptics multi-touch device. See my guide on hacking drivers for more info!

NVIDIA's new GPU architecture: Fermi

In line with my latest news item, I encourage those of you out there who are interested to check out this excellent article on NVIDIA's new "Fermi" GPU architecture by AnandTech:

It sheds a lot of light on what NVIDIA is trying to do to compete with ATI right now. They seem to be banking heavily on tessellation performance, but whether or not game developers will actually take full advantage of it remains to be seen. More articles (including a great article that compares ATI and NVIDIA architectures) as well as my take past the break.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Apple vs HTC: The Empire Strikes Back

Okay. Let me make it perfectly clear; I'm not a fan of Apple. It's not really anything to do with their products, but the way they do business. They produce attractive, slick, intuitive devices. But they heavily control everything that the devices do, where they can download content from, use proprietary formats and lock the user out of options that would allow them to experience media not directly sold to them by Apple. On top of that, they charge a premium for their products (when it comes to comperable performance from competitors), and utilize an elitist ad campaign that focuses on bashing the competition instead of extolling the virtues of the product.

I have an intense dislike for companies like these. These "Nike"s of the digital age stress branding more than product quality or value, and rope users into a system by which they can continue to milk them for cash.

The one I least hate right now, is Google. They make money off of advertising, and while I would certainly prefer a world without ads, they're here to stay. Some people are concerned with their privacy on the internet, but frankly, if you're concerned about privacy, you shouldn't be on the internet. I've got nothing to hide, and if it means that the ads that pop up in front of me are for tech or IT products instead of creams for "feminine itch", I'm fine with that; and I won't be clicking on either regardless.

But back to the subject at hand, Apple suing HTC. They're doing it because they can strike at Google's Android without actually having to take on the search giant directly.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Current Project: Multi-touch on my laptop touch-pad...

I'm trying to hack a set of neutered touch-pad drivers to support multi-touch again. If you're interested, read past the break...

VBA in Excel, underused?

I just wrote up an application in VBA for Excel that does about 30 minutes worth of work in about 15 seconds. The sad thing is, people have been doing this process monthly for years... it seems to me that most companies don't realize that VBA in Excel can automate a lot of mundane tasks.

First blog...

Alright, so I've decided to give having my own personal blog page a go. I am, Sean-The-Electrofreak, apparently.