Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rooting: And You Can Too!

I am going to put a hold on my "Privacy, Security, And You" post for now. I don't know how late I am to this party, but for a lot of phones that were difficult to root in the past are now one touch rootable. Now, please, please, please. Do not go trying to root your phone with out reading, knowing, and understanding what you are doing.
'Gingerbreak' on xda forums
In fact, I'll go right out and say, Don't go rooting your phone. Go read about this process and make a decision. I'm just going to help spread the word about this. Note that this method is not designed for any specific phone, though there are some phones known for it not to work. My best suggestion is to have or use an alternative SD card as well because this process requires a formatted SD card.

Good luck, and spread the word.

On another note, if you do decide to root your phone, I highly recommend this be your first post-root app. Titanium Backup. This does two things. The first thing you should do is backup all of your system data and apps. If you ever shitbox your phone you'll be able to go fix it with this. The other thing this can do is remove bloatware if your phone has any.
Titanium Backup

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sharing is Caring

How we share and send information can range from a convenient and fun way to show how awesome your life is with vacation pictures or it can be an anxiety bomb trying to get school work or time sensitive documents to your professor (or boss) on time and in the correct format.

When I was in Elementary School if you wanted to get information from one computer to another you'd have to whip out a 5¼-inch floppy, in Jr High it was 3½ inch (Who else remembered having stacks upon stacks of those bad boys). After that we started seeing CD-R / CD-RWs or the thwomping 128MB USB thumb drive. At this point it was possible to email small files, but we're still having to compress and zip and unzip and it was still a huge hassle. But now, users have a ton of options available from usb drives vast enough to contain operating systems and entire media libraries to 'the cloud'; that I had an Apple Sales rep try claiming 'Apple coined the term cloud, and invented modern cloud computing', trying to sell me a two some odd year subscription to MobileMe at something like $100 a year.
Cloud is to server as Personification is to 'God'. Cloud is really a general term that gives an image that most people can understand when describing servers and how they and the internet actually works. If you look at a series of internet connections, it sort of looks like and somewhat acts like a cloud. What cloud computing typically is, is a service that offers hard drive space (on a server) allowing you to access data from one device to another seamlessly from anywhere that you have internet; in some cases allowing you to physically control your computer from another to retrieve documents. (But, that's a discussion for another post)

Here are some of my personal favorite information storing, saving, and sharing services and methods be it photos, links, documents, or whatever dumb crap you want to show your friends.

QR Barcodes

I feel like these little squares are really underutilized.
One of the easiest methods I've found for generating a quick QR code to share links is with, googles url shortener, then adding '.qr' to the end of the shortened URL.
For example, I shortened 'ShitBoxMyCompter.Blogspot.Com' to ''
Then can instantly convert that into a QR code by adding .qr to the end of it. For Smartphones, be it an Android, Blackberry, iPhone, or Windows Phone, there are a ton of apps to easily and conveniently use decode, encode and share via sms or email.

Google Docs

When I was in college and Google released it's 'Docs" service, it was almost instantly a life saver. Since then they've made a lot of improvements. Not only is this a great service for small businesses and organizations to collaborate ideas and databases, this includes a decent 'on-the-go' word processor. Although the word processor isn't up to snuff against an actual word processing suite such as Microsoft office, iWork, or Open Office, it absolutely makes due in a pinch. When I was ready to hand in my final thesis in my last semester of college and realized that I had written my paper in the wrong literary format as I was heading to class, I ran to the library to find the only computer available... which of course only had a really out dated version of Microsoft Works; a piece of software that I like to call 'File Not Compatible'. So I through open the also outdated version of Microsoft Explorer, logged into Google Docs, fixed the typos and formatting, and saved the day. Since then I have never kept sensitive or important documents on my hard drive or at least kept multiple back ups on Google Docs.

 This one lately has been my personal favorite. DropBox is a service now available on all major platforms. How it works is simple,  creates a folder on computer, your phone, laptop and has a web accessible interface all of which keep seamlessly synchronized. Anything you put into that folder becomes accessible from any other folder. Got some files you need on your phone in a jiff, toss them in your dropbox folder. Have some dumb file on your phone that you need on your computer, dropbox. Dropbox also has a 'public' folder which allows you to generate download links for sharing, you guessed it, anything. Just be careful as to how you use and what you put in your public folder.  Personally, when I'm working on a document, I save to my dropbox folder and set the auto safe refquency to one minute. Never let a neglected laptop battery be the cause of losing hours of work again.

SpringPad (or Evernote)
SpringPad is another personal favorite of mine. I am horribly disorganized, but between the phone app and desktop extension, SpingPad helps bring some order to the chaos. Throughout the day there is a lot of things that I need to remember; on top of that I often get some ideas that I'd like to jot down, oh hang on, it's whats-it's-faces birthday... Sometimes I'll see a billboard for a movie I'd like to see, or hear a song I like on the radio I wanna download, and oh yeah the Bruins are playing tonight, or I'll be out to eat and see a meal I want the recipe of or a drink I wanna make but crap, almost forgot our anniversary. So I gotta pick up a gift, get that thing for the party do the laundry, hmm. The lawn really needs to get cut and I think the shed is starting to rot, What time was that appointment again?
So if you're brain is anything like this, I'd recommend it.

If you're ever on more than one computer and hate trying to keep bookmarks organized this extension available for most browsers is the best. It synchronizes your bookmarks; though I have had problems where it created 50 of each bookmark and folder I had. I'm not sure which Smartphone browsers have xmarks extensions yet, but I do know Dolphin Browsers for Android does.

Zamzar is a free file conversion service. Plug in a file, pick a new file type, check your email. It's that simple and usually that fast depending on the file size.  It's also an easy way of ripping audio from flash videos from websites, or downloading the actual video itself. There other options for file conversions and download videos but, I've found this to be the most convenient. I know this isn't really a sharing or storage service but felt it deserved mention.

Nothing beats the most reliable Data storage method:
A USB thumb drive powerful enough to load an OS, stock with system recovery tools, password reset utility for Mac or Windows, and store any important files you'd like to keep safe with a strong encryption to go with it. It's the best PC first aid kit, weapon, or personal vile vault.

What are your favorite utility applications and services?
Have any stories where one saved you?

Monday, May 23, 2011

In response: iOS outdoes Android

I couldn't help but noticed that there was a recent Life Hacker post listing the "top 10" ways iOS out does android. I felt it would be great to supplement my previous post by addling a bit of a response to that. While in my previous post I tried to stay neutral to it and show the merits and short comings of each, I didn't really mention the strengths of iPhone, which Adam has done a pretty good job of. I'm going to go over some of the points he made and offer some comments.

10: The iTunes Media Store
This is something that has struck me as odd with google. If you go to the Android Market on your browser, you'll see that you're able to search and browse Apps, Books, and Movies. But if you use the Android Market app, all you'll have available to you are Apps. You'd need to use third party applications for music or movies. (And even then there isn't a huge selection.) I have high hopes to see this change in the near future with the public release of the anticipated Google Music. But yes, if being able to download DRM crammed music on the go, iOS has (at this point) outdone Android. On the other hand, I could just download a torrent client from the android market and have any number of music, books, comic books, or movies almost instantly. But, then again I would never condone piracy. ;)

On that note, Apple needs to god damn stop using the word intuitive so much. 

9. AirPlay

No. AirPlay is a toy for people with disposable income. I'll use Adams own point against him on this one.
"There are plenty of alternatives to Apple's AirPlay... AirPlay doesn't really seem all that useful if you don't own other Apple devices"
What he is talking about is AppleTV, which is an overpriced POS considering Xbox and Playstation both do what it does, but better. Or, if you aren't into video games, theres still always a ton of options such as Roku for the fact that more and more TVs are wifi packed. Can't wait until my TV can boot Windows or Linux. Speaking of which, Can you boot into iOS on a computer and you know have it still be practical to use.  No? Oh.. Android can.

8. Find My iPhone

Android did this a long time ago. It's call Lookout Mobile Security. It also does a ton more than just find your phone. Next. Lookout also comes with an anti virus packed into it. Android is, after all a linux based system. Right about now iPhone asshats are probably scoffing about the fact that viruses would never affect them. Keep scoffing bro.

7. A Better Support System

Do you need one? I mean really. Any questions or problems I've had with Android I've been able to solve by googling around or checking one of the Android Help Forums
"What happens if your Android phone breaks? There are a few answers to that question, but often times it means dealing with your specific carrier."
A long time ago I had an iPhone 3g, back when 3g was the thing to be. Then one day it just stopped taking or holding a charge. I took it into an Apple store and was told despite having paid for insurance (applecare) and despite that the phone was sitting on my dry desk, my phone had suffered water damage and that I was shit out of luck. Fiddle sticks.
Recently, I had a droid do the same exact thing. I called Verizon and they said it was probably a hardware issue. They sent me a new phone and a shipping label to return the old phone. I didn't even have insurance. 
God damn dealing with your specific carrier can be a bitch. 
I'll also note here that AT&T is just as bad as Apple when it comes to this sort of thing. But I'll detail on that in another post.

6. Better Battery Life and Management

Horse shit. My friends iPhone can never seem to make it through the day. My phone can make it through the day after texting, calling, googling, shooting shits playing angry birds all day on a single charge. Damn it feels good to be a gangster. Now, of course battery life is going vary from phone to  phone. It's kind of a shithead thing to say that Apple has taken strives and really considers battery life. All major phone designers do.

5. iTunes and Tethered Syncing

Double Twist. Moving on.

4. No Crapware
Also known as bloatware. This is something that I mentioned in my previous post. Something that I also mentioned is that Androids are relatively easy to root or unlock. Rooting is an term new or non-android users may not be familiar with. Rooting usually means you're performing a system exploit to gain full access to root files that are otherwise "read only". This gives you the ability to run some root specific apps or remove all that nasty Bloatware, which can sometimes bog down really nice phones. Rooting for most phones can be as easy as downloading an apk and running a program, although on some phones it can be a pain in the ass, either way there is typically a 0% brick risk factor doing this. Rooting also lets you do something that iPhone users can never dream of: Flashing custom roms. I'd like to do a post on this in the near future. If there is any cosmetic feature, application, utility, look, feel, sound, anything. Anything on your phone that you do not like, you can change; if it's powered by android.
All that being said, the higher end phones are going to be bloatware free. I would definitely check before buying one, but these days you're less likely to get it and if so it's easy to deal with.

3. A Bigger and Better Variety of Apps

"While the iTunes App Store is never going to sell classic game console emulators and other questionable apps—and that's a shame—there is, on average, more money to make when developing for iOS. The downside is that most apps cost a bit of money"
lolwut? Let's break this clusterf*ck of claims down. Firstly. Emulators. You'll never need another game app, though there are a ton at your finger tips. Robot Unicorn Attack has also proved that any developer that actually cares about making money is going to migrate their apps to both markets. Derp. I already mentioned this in my previous post. If it exists in one market, it's either also on the other, in development for the other, or there is most likely a reasonable alternative. "There is on average more money to make when developing for iOS". That there is a pretty bold statement and I don't see much backing for it. Recent market trend predictions are showing Android meeting or beating iOS in tablets and phones by 2015. Those market trend predictions were also posted on LifeHacker a few weeks ago I believe.  "Most apps cost a bit of money". Cool. Check the Android Market. Most of the time, if an app costs money, theres usually an ad supported version as well.
"They may be a bit more restricted than Android apps, but it's not like you can't jailbreak if you're looking for more."
In these sorts of breakdowns you should probably avoid jailbreaking or rooting or unlocking. It's like comparing two cars and saying "Well this one has a bit of a set back, but you can always post sale modify that". Just redirecting thought back to the overall experience each devices and OSes offer at POS condition. 

2. A Well-Designed, Intuitive User Interface

And sometimes, Change is bad.
Yup, I'm too f*ucking stupid to figure out how to open the app drawer. An argument Adam used here is a link to ugly android UIs users have created. Though some of them are crappily funny, that's like showing childrens are and saying "heh, look what good painting is". That same open environment allows for beautiful and some pretty incredible UIs. Stock is boring sometimes. Change is good. He also compares how easy iOS is to use that a baby can do it. Yup. Sounds about right for the general apple community. If iOS is so intuitive guess what. You can flash a custom rom and get some launchers and icons and a sound and ringtone pack and make an android indistinguishable from an iPhone. (talking interface here)

Elitist and subjective. Moving on.

1. Consistency

Know what I like about new android updates? They are free. Have an iPhone Gen2 and want the Gen4 ui? Get out your wallet. Yes, there are a wide variety of flavors with android phones. But you're making the same assumption, again, that users are too stupid to figure out how to use a phone in less than a minute and a half. I like to think of it this way. iOS is like McDonalds, and Android is like Burger King. At McDonalds, you can order a #1 at any McDonalds anywhere in any place and get the same BigMac in the same packaging with the same ingredients that you aren't aloud to know or change and buy it from the same shit heads that will spit in your food and probably in your face if you don't like something about it. And then at Burger King, you have it your way.

Oh yeah, see this thing? 
This thing is a piece of shit.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Android VS. iOS

Good to see that we all survived the rapture. Let's move on.

In the past 10 or so years smartphones have become cheaper, faster, powerful, and well ...smarter. If you're still using a dumb phone (oh and, a qwerty keyboard doesn't make a phone smart.It's just one of the best marketing buzzwords to get people to overpay for nearly useless devices in the past decade). I'm going to make a pretty bold statement here and claim that the first smart phone with powerful utility was blackberry. The problem for blackberry is that they didn't quite make it onto the touchscreen bandwagon. It seems blackberry hopped on for a moment and then fell off scraped it's knee, weeped for a moment and kept going with that same old small screen difficult-to-navigate-menu-bar-style-interface and brickylooking qwerty square.

Another and probably more recent contender is the windows 7 phone.. which actually having windows 7 in my pocket sounds cool but, I know next to nothing about these phones, haven't seen them in any near by stores, and I don't trust windows in this market, yet.

So this comes brings us down to android phones and well, the iPhone. Now before I go any further, I'm going to make nearly the same comment that I made about the PC Mac crapfest. Both iOS and Android (just like both OSX and Windows) can technically both do the same things. How you'd go about doing it, is what the difference is. One of the major points of confusion for a lot of people is what an android phone is. If I said "hey bro check out my sweet new iPhone." You'd know exactly what I was talking about. The only customization or variation in iPhones is the 'storage size', which I will tell you right now apple charges out the ass for on upgrades. On the other hand if I said "Hey check out my new Android Phone (which sounds really awkwardly worded and no one would ever say it like that) Most people wouldn't know what the shit you're talking about. Theres the same confusion a lot of people have with computers. A Mac is a mac is an apple is an apple, but a pc could be anything. In fact, schmucks probably roll over in their mind (HP, Dell, Windows, linux what's its, bestbuy, compuserv)
Since Android is an open source OS, nearly anyone and everyone has been loading it onto devices ranging from super awesome phones and tablets to (my personal favorite), the e-pad:

The good part of this is having a plethora of solidly good phones in the high-end department. What this also means, is that you have mid range phones. Mid-range android powered phones makes smartphones affordable for anyone that can afford a dataplan. In fact, most carriers offer their midrange phones for free (or next to free) with a contract. The downside to this is that you will also see low-range devices such as the epad and the Huawei Ascend. One other potential android offers is to let it's carriers cram so much bloatware into the device, it'll lag so much that calls can take upto 20-30 seconds before it begins to ring, sometimes going right to voice mail. Good to buy a phone that doesn't even do what it's main function is supposed to be right?

The biggest joke going.
Nice try Metro/Cricket.

This, coupled with a large amount of confusion that carriers generate with 3G and 4G* and dataplans and pay out the ass for unlimited everything plans... a schmuck upgrading from a dumbphone may wonder what's the point, or may try to just keep things simple and walk into a store and say "here is a blank check. Shitbox my bank account on a monthly basis and give me the best thing you have" or walk into an apple store and say "here is a blank check. Shitbox my bank account on a monthly basis and give me an iphone."
Here is what I would recommend doing. Ask yourself, and more importantly the customer service or sales rep at whatever carrier is screwing you over monthly's store, a few questions.

What do I want my phone to do?
-play games
-text a lot
-quick and easy web browsing
-app selection
-sync calendars, contacts, and everything else
-read books
-facebook all day everyday
-watch movies
-listen to music
What is your current carrier, what phones do they have, how much are their dataplans, are you willing to switch carriers?
What exactly does unlimited mean to your carrier?
What matters to you:
Size of the screen
Keyboard style
Camera and Video
Voice ultility
Call quality
Syncing with your computer

"Hey bro, this is all great and stuff but what about the iPhone"
When you stack an iPhone side by side with any other top comparable android powered phone (Droid, Evo, htc, ect) You aren't going to se major differences in video quality, performance, or call quality. Apps will run just as smooth as both, and any app on android market will either exist on the app store, or a decent alternative will exist. They'll cost about the same, and can pick one up for around $200 with a contract. The problem that I have with the iPhone is it's limitations. It still uses its unique apple style charger, where most android phones are using a generic usb. iOS is a very locked down system, and android, although not as free as promised is still a far cry more open than iOS. But, your typical user isn't going to care about how easy it is to unlock, root, jailbreak ect. a phone without bricking it.

What it comes down to is preference. If you want something simple that performs well and you probably wont brick unless you drop it in water. You know, so long as you don't buy it from an apple store.
If you feel like actually shopping, go with android. If you shop around you'll find something that fits your needs and you can end up saving a lot of money.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Mac Vs. PC Conundrum

I've been trying to decide a good first actual post should be about, when I read another annoying article about why PCs are so much better and cheaper and more efficient than macs and another article blabbing on and on about how much better macs are and outright lying about a lot. So I'd like to clear up a lot of the myths surrounding this debate.
The first thing I'd like to clarify is what a PC actually is, which is a "Personal Computer". A Mac is a PC. Arguably, Macs are more PC than 'PC'. For one reason or another PC has become the short hand for any computer running on windows.
Macs are not immune to Malware.
The most common argument I hear for Macs is that they are invulnerable to viruses and spyware. This is an outright lie. "Macs just don't get viruses". Not true. If a Mac 'genius' or anyone from an apple store told you that Macs do not get viruses, you have been lied to. Before going any further let's just define some words so theres some better understanding. All the time I hear being saying "durr my computer is all slow and stuff I bet I've got some adware virus"

Virus: a self replicating program that destroys system files and shitboxes your computer.
Spyware: a program that monitors and logs activity. May be used by hackers to steal your identity or passwords and shitbox your bank account. May be used by the federal government to catch you downloading child pornography or pirating music so they can shitbox your life.
Adware: programs or scripts that generate advertisements to you.
Trojan: program that creates a 'backdoor' to your computer for hackers to monitor you, steal your dataz, passwords or money, tarnish your reputation, or install viruses and shitbox your computer, your life, or your reputation. Trojans give complete strangers access to your computer.
Malware: a general term that refers to any undesirable programs noted above.

I'd like to go more into malware, how you get them, protect yourself from them and what to do if you have them. But that's a post for another day.

Back to the mac pc debate. Macs are not immune to malware. The most recent and pretty widespread attack is known as "macdefender". MacDefender was a mac targeted attack. You pretty much had to be a moron to be successfully attacked as you'd of had to manually go through it's installation process believe it's ruse and ultimately give it your credit card information. But, this wasn't just some pushover proof of concept virus, this was a legitimate attack aimed at mac users; the same style of attack Windows users have been seeing for years now.

In recent OS updates, Apple has been embedding an anti-virus software into it's operating system, yet they did so as quietly as possible even going as far as removing their "we recommend that you install and anti-virus on your mac" page from the apple website.

There is a plethora of other plain as day lies that mac users use to justify having spent so much on their macs such as "they just work" and "they never crash".  Macs, most certainly do crash.
Generally, The most common PC argument is true. Macs are just plain overpriced.

Apple marks up the cost of hardware by sometimes more than double. Go to and navigate to buy and customize a macpro. Then in a new tab, go to and start looking for the same parts. See for yourself.

When it comes down to it, I would recommend a mac to my grandfather, 60 year old father, or my 16 year old nephew about to go to college. Macs are not immune to malware, and they may crash but OSX has been so simplified that your average shmuck needs to know less about computers to successfully run it through it's lifespan. For someone like me

This is what I would call a personal computer. When I get tired of the GPU or want more ram or want to upgrade any of the hardware, I can pull the side of it off and get to work. Your average shmuck doesn't care about hardware or upgrades or Graphics.
This is not customizable. It's not upgradable beyond (maybe) ram. It is not breakable. In fact for $80 'applecare' insurance, if your mac shitboxes on you, apple will fix it for free. This is the difference. The only big difference and why I'd recommend a mac to your typical user is it's resale value. Go on craiglist and or ebay and try buying a 4 to 5 year old mac.

The real argument isn't Mac VS PC, it's OSX VS Windows. The biggest problem is macintosh right now is the fact that you can not (legally) install OSX on any machine not built by apple. Apple has done a great job of making their software idiot proof and easy to use.

The bottom line is, if video games, upgradability or price matter to you, keep with a home brewed windows or linux (but thats a post for another day) computer. If you want a computer to (for the most part) 'just work', that's been child proofed for you. Spend the extra money. The reason macs are so popular for college students is because college students are so great as shitboxing their computers.

In my next post I'm going to go over smart phones, tablets, and netbooks.

Mission Statement

Your average shmuck doesn't seem to know squat about computers, internet, security, or any the in-and-out basics of any piece of technology since about 1999 or earlier. I found myself occasionally sending "heads up" or FYI emails to people such as my parent's, brothers, roommates, friends, and co-workers letting them know about security loop holes, risks, and known recent problems going around and about. I have decided to keep all of this information that I've been spewing into their inbox here and help further pollute the internet with more useless crap most people wont, but probably should occasionally take a moment and read.

Face it.
Since the day the personal computer became as common if not more common than televisions, information technology has become a highly needed trade, just like mechanics, plumbers, or what have you. Just like you should know how to change a tire, check fluids, check out your car for tune ups, you should keep your computer in tip top shape. The difference here is if your car breaks down, you could end up having to pay hundreds to thousands of dollars in repairs. If your computer has security loopholes, your finances and reputation could be ruined for the rest of your life. Protip: Don't end up like this shmuck:

Throughout this blog I will not dedicate myself to proper grammer and spellcheck, but instead making what may seem like complicated computer and internet terms as clear to understand as possible. Besides, logic isn't always grammatically correct.