TomTom 720 GPS

TomTom 720 GPS
I went to visit my parents this weekend and I helped them setup their new TomTom 720 GPS . It’s got a nice 4.3” touch screen and the text was large and legible which was key for my parents. It also speaks the street names instead of “turn right in 200ft”, which was also important to them. It also had bluetooth so you could use hands-free phone operation.  It was loud enough for my parents which was  controlled using an on screen slider bar. We got it at BestBuy for about $250. Overall a nice GPS.

Yelling at your computer actually slows it down

If your frustrated that spreadsheet is taking forever to open or you’re totally getting pwned in Counter Strike don’t yell at your computer because it will actually slow down further according to an experiment performed by Sun’s Fishworks group. This article found via Engadget suggests that the vibration of loud noise negatively affect the performance of the hard disks by increasing latency. So the next time you feel like screaming at your computer,  yell at your cat instead. I wonder what the effects of t-bagging your PC are?

Blackberry Curve Battery Lifeless

Blackberry Curve

I just got a Blackberry Curve and my first impression is not how cool it is, but instead how much the battery life sucks. I have to charge it up on a daily basis or the battery dies. I got a new battery and I charged it for 24 hours and I still don’t get the battery life that I expect to be getting. If I forget to charge it at night it’s dead by morning.  I’m on the Sprint network and I am connecting to my home WiFi for local internet connectivity. I leave it in the holster which I thought was supposed to use less battery. I was wondering if there might be some options I can change to conserve battery life. As I was searching I found an article about a company called M2E Power that is making a device that charges your cell phone or iPod while you walk. I thought this was a great concept considering how many devices that require batteries are for people “on the go”.

Twitter for team building

Even though you are around your co-workers all day, sometimes I feel that I have no idea what they are working on. It would be nice to send out some kind of unobtrusive message to let people know what you are up to. A service like Twitter would be a good solution to this problem.

Twitter is a great social networking tool for keeping up with what your friends are doing. Your inbox is overflowing already, so sending an email will get ignored and you might be the target of aggression if you send to many. Instant messaging is too “in your face” and is not designed to send out message to multiple people. Twitter allows people to post short messages that other people can subscribe to and read at their leisure. In my organization Twitter is blocked and to be honest I would only want my coworkers to get my updates, so a private server would be great. I did some searching and found a few open source options, but none of them ready for production or not easy to setup. In my searches I found a very interesting article that suggests using WordPress as a Twitter-like service or more of a shared “microblog”. I setup WordPress and use the Prologue theme to make it look more like Twitter and while it’s not exactly the same it does get the job done. You could even leave comments to an individual post. This might be useful if you asked the group a question. Now my team can just update their status via a browser or email, for mobile users, and I think this would facilitate communication among the group, especially if the group is geographically distributed. The last step to make this as effective as possible is notification when your team makes updates. This can be accomplished via the built in WordPress RSS feeds. You can set up any number of RSS readers to notify you of updates of status. The hard part is getting others to update often otherwise it is not as useful.


Update: We were quoted on the Winning Workplace Blog.

Xbox RRoD really sucks

My Xbox 360 displayed the 3 Red Ring of Death (RRoD) last week and I’m understandably perturbed. Now I’m no stranger to the RRoD (this is my third), but in the previous instances the Bestbuy warranty allowed me to simply exchange the defective unit no questions asked. I figured after the first 2 times the third times a charm and Microsoft had figured out the bugs and fix this issues. Right?! Wrong! Here I am again 3 years later and now my warranty is expired. To top it I had modded the DVD to play “backups” of my games, thus voiding any manufactures warranty.  I heard there were some “fixes” for the RR0D and I figured I had nothing to lose. Apparently the issues is caused from overheating and potentially the CPU/GPU getting separated from the motherboard. I tried the penny trick and it

Penny  trick
Penny trick

worked once, now it’s RRoDing again. I also added a fan to try to cool the system down further (See pic).

The next “fix” I found involves bolting the CPU/GPU down with machine screws. We’ll see how that goes.

Update: I fixed my Xbox using the screws. See my latest post.

xbox 360

Solid State Drive Do’s and Don’ts

I was just looking at the new Asus Eee PC and realized that it has a solid state hard drive in it like an Apple iPod nano . Then I saw a Hak5 episode that talked about data recovery on a solid state drives and how it differs from primarily used mechanical hard drives with spinning platters and heads that are in most computers today. The solid state drives, or SSDs, use electronic gates or switches to store the bits that make up the data. Each time the data changes the switch gets turned on or off; a binary 0 or 1. Over time they will actually “burnout” the electronic switches if they are over used, rendering part of the sold state drive useless. I use SpinRite for data recovery and maintenance on my hard drives and it works great for detecting bad sectors and moving the data to good sectors. So I wondered if the program worked it’s data recovery magic on SSDs too. I emailed GRC, the company that makes Spinrite owned by Steve Gibbson, and asked that very question. This is the response I got:

SpinRite was never designed for solid state media. So, we would not recommend running SpinRite on any solid state or flash drives.

SpinRite will be of *no* help or benefit with non-magnetic drives. In fact, since the total number of writes to Solid State Drives is somewhat limited, you should neither run SpinRite *nor* defrag these drives. You *MUST* also not run a swap file on these drives since that will tend to burn them out quickly.

Thank you for your cooperation, time and patience.


Gibson Research
Technical Support

Defraging your hard drive, which is completely irrelevant and damaging on solid state drives, used to be a way to speed up slowing hard drives. We will just have to see what researchers come up with to deal with the reliability, performance, and recoverability of SSDs in the future.

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