Modernizing a lifebook from 2003 with Lubuntu

Lubuntu 11.04 My doc was a bit confused about the age of this computer when he gave it to me to setup.  We spoke about a 5 year old laptop. It turned out to be a beast from 2003: a Lifebook n series by Fujitsu.  I’ve always said that Fujitsu must be run by a supervillain or at the very least, a rebel billionaire.  They make industrial equipment and infrastructure, while at the same time making laptops and other select home electronics.  Like someone just wanted their ideal laptop and then as an afterthought sold it as a product.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to disparage Fujitsu in any way.  Quite the opposite in fact.  I have relied on their hard drives for my most precious data and their Lifebooks have always been some of the best out there.  The fact that this 13+ year old laptop is operating with all original parts and a working battery is testament to Fujitsu’s commitment to quality.

My first clue was the XP sticker.  I decided to go with Lubuntu, a minimized variant on the popular Ubuntu Linux.  Ubuntu is a wonderful distribution, especially for those new to Linux, but it’s built on top of Debian, so it’s not just for beginners.  For years, I’ve used some of the older (still supported) Ubuntu versions for old machines.   I hate to see workin computers fail because of a lack of software support.  Thanks to the good people at Lubuntu, Ubuntu, GNU/Linux, this is a thing of the past. This guy is running all the latest in security and cryptographic technology, a fully modern web browser and a full suite of productivity software fully compatible with the latest MS Office.

 

End of an era! cydia.be3n.com shuttered after 7+ years!

In truth, I haven’t touched it in years.  I haven’t even touched cydia recently. Sadly, all this work would only be useful for someone with an original or 3g iPhone. Apple certainly doesn’t support those devices anymore.  Does anyone still use them?  Unfortunately, my ISP insists that I remove the content.  After 7 years of hosting it, they realized it violates TOS.  I should check the logs.  I wonder if it will even be missed.  People say the internet never forgets.  Sometimes it is quite the opposite. For nostalgias sake, I left the instructions site up: http://cydia.be3n.com/ (at least that does’t violate Dreamhost TOS).  For the record, much of my work continued support well into iOS 4.

cydia.be3n.com site

. . . Maybe it will rise again on S3?

Apple is getting between me and my TRIM!

At the device level, SSD drives function entirely differently then conventional mechanical disks.  As a result, the way that operating systems traditionally use these devices lead to progressive performance degradation and even shortened lifespan.  Technology was needed to offset this failing.  Enter TRIM.  Apple introduced it in 2011, but believe it or not, even today, Apple refuses to automatically enable TRIM for 3rd party SSD drives.  Not only that, but if you manually enable it yourself, it is then disabled during any OS upgrade (i.e. 10.9.1-10.9.3).  You can check your TRIM status from the System Profiler/System Information under SATA by selecting your device.  I switched my favorite utility from Chameleon SSD Optimizer to Trim Enabler.  I made the change for two reasons.  First, Chameleon has some compatibility issues.  Second, Trim Enabler has a feature to check on startup.  Makes it easier to reenable after a software update.

I found a great utility to enable TRIM on 10.6.8-10.9.5: Trim Enabler
Don’t forget to reenable it after each OS X System Update.

Technical Details from Wikipedia:

Because of the way that file systems typically handle delete operations, storage media (SSDs, but also traditional hard drives) generally do not know which sectors/pages are truly in use and which can be considered free space. Delete operations are typically limited to flagging data blocks as “not in use” in the file system.[6][7] Contrary to, for example, an overwrite operation, a delete will therefore not involve a physical write to the sectors that contain the data. Since a common SSD has no knowledge of the file system structures, including the list of unused blocks/sectors, the storage medium remains unaware that the blocks have become available. While this often enables undelete tools to recover files from traditional hard disks,[7][8] despite the files being reported as “deleted” by the operating system, it also means that when the operating system later performs a write operation to one of the sectors, which it considers free space, it effectively becomes an overwrite operation from the point of view of the storage medium. For traditional hard disks, this is no different from writing an empty sector, but because of how some SSDs function at the lowest level, an overwrite produces significant overhead compared to writing data into an empty page, potentially crippling write performance.[7][9]

SSDs store data in flash memory cells that are grouped into pages, with the pages (typically 4 to 16 kB each) grouped together into blocks (typically 128 to 512 pages per block, e.g. totaling 512 kB per block in case of the 4/128 combination).[6][10] NAND flash memory cells can only be directly written to when they are empty. If they are considered to contain data, the contents first need to be erased before a write operation can be performed reliably. In SSDs, a write operation can be done on the page-level, but due to hardware limitations, erase commands always affect entire blocks.[10] As a result, writing data to SSD media is very fast as long as empty pages can be used, but slows down considerably once previously written pages need to be overwritten. Since an erase of the cells in the page is needed before it can be written again, but only entire blocks can be erased, an overwrite will initiate a read-erase-modify-write cycle:[6][11] the contents of the entire block have to be stored in cache before it is effectively erased on the flash medium, then the overwritten page is modified in the cache so the cached block is up to date, and only then is the entire block (with updated page) written to the flash medium. This phenomenon is known as write amplification.[12][13]

iPhone 5 and iOS 6, much ado about almost nothing

iPhone5 With the pre-sales of the new iPhone 5 in full swing, Apple released iOS 6 today. It can be installed on iPhones 3gs and newer, iPads 2 and up, and iPod touch 4th gen. (compatibility chart) I am going to start by discussing the software changes and by the end of this post will mention a thing or two about Apple’s latest revolutionary device.

First off, many users will notice that the YouTube app is gone. That’s right, with the Apple/Google breakup complete, Apple has removed it from their default installation and reduced it to an App Store install. Not a big deal and Google has taken the opportunity to add a few features and to revamp their user interface. Along with YouTube, the Maps app has also been deGoogled. Apple claims a whole world of new features in their new Maps app. Unfortunately, unless you have an iPhone 4s or better (or an iPad), you will not get to experience 3D topographical flyovers or turn by turn instruction. All you will notice is a conspicuous lack of Street View.

In addition to Google related changes to the home screen, Apple has introduced their new mobile ticketing platform, Passbook. This unsurprising new feature is the reason Apple has been denying alternative mobile ticketing and payment methods. A clear attempt by apple to expand it’s payment processing to event/flight tickets as well. I am sure I will expand on this as it develops. Apple introduced a panoramic photo feature built into the Camera app that only new devices and iPhone 4s can utilize. In fact, just about the only features that older devices get from iOS 6 are Full Screen Safari, Offline Safari, VIP email, and Do Not Disturb. Jailbreakers have had all these features for years. (not to mention FaceTime over cellular, even on the iPhone 4 gasp!) VIP email can easily be done with gmail or any provider that allows for filters/sorting. Do Not Disturb is just a switch, like airplane mode. Not a timer or a time period. No white or black lists.  Lame. The rest of the bunch are useful, but not really the big release material you find in a whole number iteration. This really should be iOS 5.2 at best.

What irks me most is the devices and features Apple choose to support (or not to). For example, Apple opted to support the iPhone 3gs (introduced June 2009), but not to support the original iPad released 6 months later (January 2010). Much like the iOS 4 blockade on the original iPhone, despite supporting the 3g (with exactly the same cpu/gpu/spec). FaceTime on cellular is only available on the iPhone 4s. This is interesting because the 4s and 4 have nearly identical cellular hardware. This begs the question, why? The answer is obvious and unfortunate: Planned Obsolescence. Apple decides what features will push users to new devices and those are conveniently left out of earlier models. This is most evident with Siri. Siri is almost entirely a web service. None of the actually processing of speech is handled by the mobile device. Originally an App Store app available on ANY device, now Apple only allows the iPhone 4s/5 and the latest iPad. With the frequency of Siri outages, I have mostly been unimpressed and primarily use it as a novelty.

Finally we’ve come to the new iPhone 5. I like the ideas of better power management and a bigger battery. I remember that the iPhone 4 was the first iPhone with the power to run my life all day without recharging. This was quickly undone with the 4s who’s power hungry A5 processor ate through the larger battery faster then ever. The specs we are seeing online look impressive and put the iPhone back on top of the smart phone benchmark.

We will not know if these claims are true until they arrive in fanboy (and girl) hands and we see how they do. What I can tell you is why I will not be getting one (at least not on launch day). Honestly, it has less to do with the features of the phone then that of the carriers. I have been using an unlimited data plan since I started iPhoning around in 2007. That ends with the iPhone 5. In the US, both AT$T and Verizon have ended their unlimited data packages. Any grandfathered users loose their unlimited as soon as they upgrade to an LTE device. Only Sprint remains as an unlimited data provider. Like I would ever go back to them. (if you think AT$T has bad coverage? try Sprint) I have learned that Tmobile will be adding LTE coverage as well as iPhone support for such a network. They also provide unlimited data. I may possibly switch to them in the future. I love LTE speed, but I am a data junkie and my habit is bad.

In conclusion, the iPhone 5 is alright, but iOS 6 is laughable. Apple better get on the ball with some real features or they won’t keep ahead of Android for long.

Update: I forgot to mention the new dock connector. I actually like the more durable and reversible dock connector. My only complaint has to do with the available adapter. It actually fails to adapt most audio equipment. The new connector has removed the analog audio line out. Now, the only analog from the new iPhone is from the pre-amped headphones port. This will cause problems with speaker sets, and car adapter kits from here to Singapore. See: Planned Obsolescence.

Update Java. Seriously, do it right now.

20120405-000044.jpg
Another Java privilege escalation exploit spotted in the wild. Trojans and web based java classes are already installing remote access tunnels into Macs across the globe. Apple finally updated their java binaries and you should too! Protect yourself! Just run Software Update from the Apple menu.

Apple Info:
http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5228

More info (including a AppleScript test for infection):
http://mashable.com/2012/04/05/mac-flashback-trojan-check/

AirFlick- awesome new way to send media to your apple TV!

AirFlick is a new piece of software that easily lets you send videos and pictures to your apple tv from a computer without hassling with itunes. it is simple, fast, and best of all free!  It’s created by teacher, writer, coder, hacker, and all around great gal, Erica Sadun.

Oficial Site for Erica’s AirPlay related software
http://ericasadun.com/ftp/AirPlay/