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Showing posts from 2012

Repairing your own Smartphone to Save Money

Here is my story and advice regarding fixing your own smartphone.

Last week, I stupidly left my phone on the roof of my car and drove off, resulting in the phone flying to the pavement at about 30 MPH.  Happily I recognized the situation immediately, and found the phone... with a shattered LCD.

My phone still worked, but the front glass was shattered, resulting in (at least) a painfully embarrassing handset.

At first, I thought I'd take it to a local shop to fix it.  They charge about $90, which I thought was a pretty good deal.  But then I saw that I could by the LCD part and fix it myself for a mere $30!  That was a $60 savings!  So why not?

So I went to my favorite on-line shop and bought a kit which included the LCD touchscreen and a specialty toolkit for $30.  A few days later it arrived in the mail, exactly as I expected.

Then I went to and checked out the instructions.  There were about 27 steps to get at the screen... but none of the steps seemed to hard.  So I …

Getting Paid for Being Wrong

I have been using iOS6 Maps since the day it was formally released, and I think the new Maps app is great.  To me, it is a real step up in quality and UI over the old Google-based map solution.  I have zero complaints.

But some in the press seem to be "creating controversy" in order to "create revenue".

Considering the things I've heard and read (like "Maps claimed I was traveling North in the city, while I was actually traveling South"), I conclude that some in the press, including many bloggers, don't have the experience or expertise to publish on technology topics.  At least I hope so.  The more cynical side of me thinks that it could be that "controversy sells ads".

When one writes about technology for the public, the public expects that the author is coming from a place of expertise.  Someone who has done research, and who can appropriately and comprehensively explain things.

The public deserves more than personal opinion and pers…

The iPhone dock connector was bad, and Lightning is awesome

Numerous people in the press are mourning the loss of the iPhone's 30-pin dock connector.  A separate vocal group has often complained about the lack of a Micro-USB connector port on the iPhone.

Both these groups are complaining about Apple's new Lightning dock connector.

But at the end of the day, the Lightning connector is a great move for Apple customers.  Here's why

Limitations of the Micro-USB standard The 2007 MicroUSB-B connector became a European standard for cell phones in 2010.   Although USB is a good standard, it is far from adequate for modern smartphone use in terms of power, data, or flexibility.

In terms of data, the 2000-vintage USB2 standard provides a practical maximum data rate of roughly 35 MB/second.  However, most smartphones need to deliver faster I/O.  HDMI, for example, requires a consistent 500 MB/second data stream with very low latency rate.  USB2 to HDMI conversion is therefore impossible without a loss in quality.

In terms of power, the USB2 …

Stuff to Buy for my iPhone 5!

I have my new iPhone 5 on order, but before I actually get it I want to make sure I have all the stuff I need to keep it healthy and happy.  Here are the items I have on order.
CaseCrown Case for the iPhone5 I want to keep my new iPhone5 looking like new.  But how?

I love my CaseCrown Slide-on case for my iPhone4.  It looks great, is slim, but is very strong.  It has kept my iPhone4 looking like new.  And so it only makes sense for me to get another CaseCrown for my iPhone5.  Happily, there is a CaseCrown for the iPhone5!  Find the CaseCrown Case Here.

CaseCrown Case for iPhone 5
A Lightning to Dock cable Some are complaining that the Dock Connector is going away.  I say good riddance - the Dock connector was always an unwieldy hodgepodge, supporting about 20 analog and digital standards.  A standard very high speed connector will do much more in a compact and reliable package.

That said, I do have one key dock connector item that I love - my car FM transmitter.  My 12+ year old car does…

HP LaserJet Keeps On Ticking

I've had a lot of printers over the years, but there is one that just keeps on working for me - my HP LaserJet 4L. This little beast is over 18 years old!

My 4L is the slowest laser printer on earth, printing at a mere four black and white pages per minute.   And the paper tray holds a paltry 100 sheets.  But it keeps going and going.

I haven't had to replace any parts, and the toner cartridges - which last for about 3000 pages - are inexpensive and readily available.   The last one I bought was $19.  Do the math and you'll see that it beats the pants off of any modern inkjet printer.

I did end up adding an inexpensive Parallel to USB adapter to the HP - and plugged it into my trusty Airport Express.  Now my HP is always on the network and ready to handle the print jobs of the twenty+ nearby devices.  Wow!

My only concern now is my future ability to buy HP 4L cartridges.  I am definitely going to start keeping my used up carts for refill, as I can imagine that retail avail…

802.11n Channel Width Optimization

After much research and experimentation, I have optimized my 802.11n channel width.  I have set it to the unconventional, yet best performing setting of 5 MHz.

I live in a busy city, and often count more than 15 visible access points with in range of my home.  All these access points compete with mine - they share the same spectrum, and if they're talking at the same time my wireless router is talking, error detection and retry protocols kick in.

802.11n has a standard width of 20 MHz, and optionally can be expanded to 40 MHz.  This improves performance, right?  Well, not exactly.

If you live in a WIFI void, with no competition, 40 MHz is awesome.  But in the real world, some other device chatting within that channel is going to result in significant clashing, resulting in performance-killing error correction protocols.  So I took the counter-intuitive approach and brought my router to 5 MHz.

But 5 MHz is a lot smaller!  Yes, with a narrow channel your theoretical bandwidth slows …

iPhone Model Lineup Changes in Store

Currently, Apple produces four technically-distinct iPhone models:

The iPhone 4S, GSM/CDMAThe iPhone 4, GSMThe iPhone 4, CDMAThe iPhone 3GS, GSM
... plus a new model in the pipeline, which we all call the iPhone 5.

Although there are component cost differences between the four current models, their costs are very comparable.  The parts and manufacturing costs of an iPhone 4 is virtually identical to that of the iPhone 4S.  The parts and manufacturing cost of an iPhone 3GS is within $35 of the iPhone 4S - and converging.  The delivery and support costs of an iPhone 3GS is virtually identical to that of an iPhone 4S.

To reduce its overall costs, Apple needs to reduce its overlapping product lines.  To stay competitive, it is clear that Apple will start to drop off it's older products in order to maximize economies of scale.

Therefore, I suspect that the iPhone product line will soon be substantially overhauled:


iPhone 5, $200 and up price range


iPhone 4S, $0.99 - $99 pric…

Fixing and old iBook Keyboard and more

Repairing and upgrading an older 12-inch Apple iBook G4 laptop.
A great friend of mine had a 12-inch iBook laptop from 2005 - with a broken keyboard.  She asked me to help her shop for a new Mac to replace her old tried-but-true laptop.

Whenever anyone asks me for computer advice, I ask them what they want to do with a new computer.

She told me that she used her computer for basic email and surfing the web - she said the old iBook was great for many years, but that now, with a broken (and dirty and gross) keyboard, it was time to move on.

After thinking about it for 15 minutes with her, we concluded that the best approach was to fix her old laptop.  A little upgrade is a LOT easier than going out and buying a new machine, and then migrating 6 years of data and apps.  Also, the price is a lot less than a new machine.

We went on-line and bought two things:

A replacement iBook keyboard, for around $40, andA 1 GB memory stick, for under $20.
The replacement iBook keyboard (bottom) and 1 GB …

Connecting your MIDI keyboard to your Mac

MIDI and the Mac.  It's easy, fun, and shockingly inexpensive!

I enjoy fooling around with musical instruments, and so when Garageband originally came out several years ago, I was very excited to start using it with my cheap little Casio keyboard.

Initially it seemed expensive and complicated to get the right parts together to connect the Mac to my keyboard via MIDI. I didn't want to spend a ton of money in professional-class electronics. I wanted to fool around.

Happily, I discovered that it's inexpensive and easy.  If you know where to look, a Mac-compliant MIDI adapter can be purchased for under $10! That's right, for less than $10 I connected my Mac to my MIDI keyboard and by MIDI drum kit.

I bought an MIDI-to-USB interface, in particular, one like this really inexpensive USB MIDI Cable available through Amazon. The adapter is a simple device that has a MIDI "in"/"out" connectors on one end, and a USB connector on the other.  The adapter doesn…