Thursday, August 4, 2011

Motorola Droid Bionic Release Date Update

Motorola has now alluded to a release date in September. Tipsters at various sites are pointing to possibly early September.
Given how allusive the Bionic has been, I wouldn't hold your breath :)
With the iPhone 5 possible date getting closer, you would think Motorola would like to get a head start, we'll see.
Collection of sites to review for Bionic info and details:
http://www.ubergizmo.com/2011/07/motorola-droid-bionic-release-date-revealed/
http://www.droid-life.com/2011/07/27/droid-bionic-poses-for-new-photo-more-than-likely-headed-for-early-september-launch/
http://androidandme.com/2011/07/news/motorola-ceo-droid-bionic-release-date-coming-in-september/
http://www.androidauthority.com/motorola-ceo-confirms-verizon-release-date-of-motorola-droid-bionic-20356/
http://www.timeswireservice.com/news/Motorola_Droid_Bionic_release_date_confirmation__specs_make_it_best_1312349152/

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 4G Quick Review

Overview

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 4G Verizon tablet has been released in all of its android glory.  The interface on the Samsung is slick and fast with its dual core processor.  The screen is bright and crisp.  Sometimes when the lighting is lower than usual the display dims more than you might like, but generally stays readable.  Responsiveness was excellent with screens coming up very quickly in response to the touch interface.  It took a little bit getting used to the interface coming from the phone.  There is no menu button on the main UI like there is on an android phone.  You will find a soft menu button in some of the applications on the top of the screen rather than the bottom where you normally would find it on something like the droid X.



The keyboard was easy to use in portrait mode with two thumbs, in landscape mode it was too big for my hands to hold it and use my thumbs easily.  The keyboard feels comfy in landscape mode if you can put the tablet down.



The boot time is fairly quick, it seems significantly faster than a droid X though I haven’t timed it.



Ports

Sim card

Power/docking connector

Headphone jack



Tethering

I was able to tether this through a phone.





Speed

The speed of the user interface is very fast.  Perhaps the fastest android UI available on the market.  The browser has been much improved and also renders and loads very quickly.  Even going over 3G and comparing a phone over 3G the Samsung galaxy tab browser seemed much faster.  The 4G browsing speed seemed almost as fast as wifi.  I did notice some occasional signal drop outs  with 4G signal during my daily commute.



Apps




Installed:

Google Books

Browser

Calculator

Calendar

Camera

Clock

Contacts

Downloads

Email

Gallery

Gmail

Google search

Latitude

Maps

Market

Media Hub

Movie Studio

Music

Navigation

Places

Quick Office

Talk

Videos

You Tube



I had been hoping to find that Netflix would be accessible but it is not.  I also could not find the facebook app either.





Browsing

The browsing experience seems much improved over the phone browsers.



Android

Android version 3.1



Data plans

The Verizon data plans start at $30 for 2GB.

If you have a phone already with a hotspot and a data plan you might consider using the hotspot on your phone as the plan might be cheaper. 



Summary

The galaxy tab may be the first android tablet that meets or beats the functionality of the ipad in many respects.    That said the lack of equivalent good apps makes for a bit less of an experience.  I wanted to run Netflix and get wired magazine for example but those are iPad only apps at the moment.  Also even the facebook app seemed to be missing (although the google+ app seemed available).  If you can live with the fewer set of apps this android tablet seems by far the best I have seen so far.  I’ve only spent a few days with it so far, and I’m liking it a lot, just wish some of the ipad apps were available on android.


Friday, July 29, 2011

Device Insurance - What to do when you can't buy extended warranty from your point of purchase

Recently I found myself considering the purchase of the samsung galaxy tab tablet 10.1 4G from Verizon.  Then I realized that they don't offer insurance unless you stay on one of their data plans.  Since I don't plan to regularly use their plan then there is no insurance option.
Two thoughts popped to mind:
www.safeware.com
and
www.squaretrade.com
I had safeware for years before the company/division was sold years ago, they dropped all of their policies once it was sold and their terms became much more restrictive and expensive.
I've purchased square trade warranties but never had to use one yet.
I'll assume a purchase for a tablet of around $700.
SquareTrade 2 Year Extended plan - $54.99
Safeware 2 Year Extended plan    - $79.00
Safeware 3 Year Extended plan    - $89.00

Square Trade 2 year plan w/Accidental damage - $99.99
Safeware 2 year plan w/Accidental damage     - $149.00
Safeware 3 year plan w/Accidental damage     - $189.00

Square trade prices are obviously better. Safeware seems to offer another year on tablets are a price that is only slightly more than their one year.  Square trade seems to claim they typically have a better price than best buy warranty's.  Looking for comments/reviews online showed up many on epinions.com for squaretrade and very few for safeware.  Squaretrade most reviews seemed positive with just a few negatives here and there.  If not a huge difference in price depending on the item if a store offered in store replacement/fixing you might prefer that over mailing a device in.  Squaretrade may be worth a try if you want a lower price option than in store, or is not available from the place of purchase as long as you don't mind mail in repairs/replacements.

Be sure to read the details of each there are many requirements and limitations.  Often warranty must be purchased between 60 days of original purchase.  Accidental damage sometimes only covers factory new purchases.  Pre-existing conditions aren't covered, etc. (Read very carefully.)

Are warranty's worth it?
I would say it depends.
For expensive devices likely to break and hard to repair it may be worth it if not too expensive.
Accidental damage can happen very easily to a laptop, netbook, smartphone, tablet - they are small relatively fragile devices that are often fairly expensive.


Anyone have experience with actual repairs/replacements from safeware/squaretrade?  Please leave a comment.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Finding a Super NAS Drive one user’s story

Update from an older blog entry: (7/20/11)

I still have the Readynas Pro Business mentioned in the article below.  It works well at the moment.  I did want to point out some additional information/points.

There is a 5 year warranty.  It was only a little more money to get the extra hardware warranty they offer to allow for faster service/replacement swaps, etc.  That turned out to be a good deal as when I had an issue they swapped my entire unit out, and they also replaced one of my drives that failed.
If you need software support on using the device, that can get expensive, prices for a 1 year support plan ran around $300 if I recall.  Luckily if you search for the SKU you might find it a lot cheaper somewhere.  I did and picked up the warranty for a fraction of that amount.  Having the software support made working with Netgear support much easier to deal with and helpful.

The issue that started happening with my readynas was it kept dropping off the network, nothing I could change or do seemed to keep it working.  I noticed if I factory defaulted the drives the problem went away... so the only option was to backup ALL my data (luckily still fit on a 2TB USB drive), and factory default the Readynas unit with 6 drives in it and reload the data.  That solved the problem.  I think perhaps trying to install a third party add-on at one point perhaps caused issues, I don't know if that is the case or not just speculation.

With all of that corrected it is running ok.  I do seem to notice that drives seem to fail in it more often than I would expect. I've had probably two drives fail in the last 6 months or so and another drive seems about to fail.  I don't know if that is the drives, the unit is sensitive or some other factors are involved.  The drives should be under warranty if I can find the time to get warranty replaced.  Often I just upgrade to the next size up to increase my storage.

Another note is the power saving spindown option never seems to work well for me and often seemed to take the unit offline and requiring a restart of the unit to get things working again, I haven't tried with the latest firmware as I gave up on this feature a while back.
On the good side I haven't lost any data with this NAS running in X-raid dual redundancy mode even with drives failing once.  I wish that the xraid was a little more flexible like the Drobo units raid, but all in all the xraid seems to be doing a fine job.


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Older Blog entry below:

Finding a Super NAS Drive one user’s story

May 21, 2009
I’m going to offer this from the point of view of just a power user looking for a good NAS to provide redundancy for data/backup. I did review a lot of sites drive reviews. I only looked at data I could find on web sites and did not have drives to test myself. The reality is often times most of us looking to buy something have to decide based on limited/imperfect data.

When I went looking for a NAS drive, what was important to me was keeping my data safe, backing it up as quickly as possible, providing enough storage for the future, easy upgrading of storage, raid 6 (or mirror striped 10 support for speed and redundancy.), Good support and available recovery services in case any issues ever arose.

Other NAS drives I considered:
Thecus N5200Pro
Thecus N7700
Synology DS-508
Buffalo NAS drives (varied Terastation, etc.)
QNAP

Criteria
Handling dual drive failures:
Since the 4 drive units didn’t generally support striped mirror (except buffalo units) or raid 6 I decided to focus more on the 5+ drive NAS drives. This allowed for handling two drive failures while still being able to handle easily 3-4TB of space with today’s drives.
If you don’t support two drive failure cases if one fails your data is unprotected until you swap the drive (other than backups).

Speed:
I wanted to focus on devices using Sata II or later for speed. This dropped the dated ReadyNAS NV+ out (though was dropped earlier for space and redundancy reasons).

iScsi (optional but nice):
While not essential this is a nice option if you want to add drive space to a computer and have it look like and actual drive, while having the data be stored safely on the NAS. Windows Vista can support iScsi right out of the box connection to a partitioned drive on your NAS as an iScsi target as if it was an actual drive, often times could be better performance than a pure NAS.

Snapshots (optional but nice):
A very nice feature to freeze a snapshot of a view of your drive to allow you to backup files that might otherwise be in use. (Ideally enterprise NAS can have many snapshots at different points in time).
Snapshots are often implemented as a block level differences between the snapshot and the current drive state. This means space needs to be allocated to hold enough disk differences between the time you take the snapshot and the time you can release/delete the snapshot.

Expandability:
The ability to add hard drives or swap out a smaller drive for a larger drive

Recoverability:
In the event of a raid failure which company offered at least seemingly available and reputable data recovery services such that they should be familiar with their raid nas storage to facilitate recovery.

No extra software required on client machines.
Cost – (Of course)
Cloud storage (optional but nice).
Recycle Bin




ProductReadyNAS Pro (6 bay) RNDP6350 – 1.5TBThecus N5200 PRO (5 bay)Thecus N7700 (7 bay)Synology DS-508 (5 bay)Terastation III (4 bay) – 6TBQNAP TS-639
Feature
Raid6/10Raid 6Raid 6Raid 6Raid 6Raid 01Raid 6
ExpandableXraid2
iScsiYesYesYesNo (one model does though)
SnapshotsYes (1)YesYesYes?No
Recovery serviceYesNot found on siteNot found on siteNot found on siteNot found on site?
Cloud storageVaultNoNo???
Recycle binYesNOYesYes
U.S. SupportYes?????
Community supportYesYesYes???
Multimedia supportYesYesYesYesLimited?
Warranty5 years1 year?1 year?3 year
Street Cost$1530$585$906$1025$1923$1100


Thoughts:
The cost of the N5200Pro definitely made it worth considering. From all accounts it appears to be a formidable nas drive. The lack of recycle bin support was nagging at me for this one, along with some complaints about support, not being U.S. based or publishing their recovery service, along with short warranty made me decide against. The same thing could be said of the Thecus N7700 the allure of a 7 drive NAS, recycle bin support made me seriously consider this along with the virtual cd/dvd option on Thecus. If my criteria had been just a fast network storage location with great features for the money the Thecus units probably would have been my pick. If recovery at all costs were not a main theme on my mind I might have went for the Thecus line for cost and features.

Decision:
ReadyNAS Pro:
At first you would think why go with the readynas given the price. Many of the other units have their price with no drives and if you added 1.5TB would probably add around $210 or so to the cost. Plus the readynas units come with a 5 year warranty that could easily run another $150+. Still some of the units seem a better deal price wise. Then factor in xraid2, cloud storage capability, U.S. based support and recovery services available, at least for me kicked this one over the edge.





Cons:
Only one snapshot allowed.
Cost
Vault service - no real private key support, and allows online configuration to pull anything off your drive rather than limiting the shares.
FlexRaid modes do not support any volume expansion.



Pro’s:
Generally great recommendations and reviews online
Vault service – cloud storage available
Xraid2 – flexible volume expansion
Recovery service available
6 drives
U.S headquarters
One on the highest performance NAS drives
Good web interface
Good community support
Nice add-ons available



After purchasing and using found out:
Vault service:
Vault service seems to insecure for me as if someone hacked your password they could backup and view anything on your readynas (I leave the service disabled).

Power saving:
The ReadyNAS Pro Can’t run power down mode if you do not have a UPS and want drive safety, as journaling is required to be disabled in power down mode.

Authentication/Entitlements:
If you don’t use the same user name and password as your workgroup you will likely have login issues.
  1. Rather than selecting from a list of users configured it has you type in the name of the user free text.
Also you don’t set the read/write permissions for each user or group you instead add the user or group freetext to an a field.

UPS:
I discovered the costly way that older UPS’s (non-USB) don’t work with the readynas. Once I got an APC ups on their approved list it was just plug and play.

Shares/Configuring security:
Creating basic shares seemed easy enough, configuring the entitlements for read/write was a little non-obvious having to click on the CIFS icon on the share screen.


Frontview (web) backup:
The frontview (web) backup option to backup up many sources including remote shared drives is a nice feature. Backups using the frontview sometimes seem to slow down to the point of they might as well be stopped. Luckily restarting them usual it picks up speed quickly. The performance of writing to usb drives is fairly bad unless you enable the usb write caching option on the interface. Once that is enabled, the data rate seems reasonable at something like 1GB copied between 30-60 seconds or so. Cancelling backups are either taking a very long time or don’t work. I also had wished the backup logs could be viewed while the job was running (maybe it can and just doesn’t update anything till complete… I never saw any data till complete). I set up my backup to copy my entire volume all shares to my external usb drives on different days each week into different directories. I don’t have enough storage for daily backups to external, so I use once a day snapshots to help at least keep the previous 24 hours available on top of the 4 times a week backup I have to the usb drives.


iScsi Target:
The iScsi target worked fine, easily allocating space and connecting to it from a windows vista machine. Expanding the storage space for the iScsi drive also worked well.

Redundancy/raid recovery:
Note that xraid2 with dual redundancy (basically raid 6) needs the 4.2.5 firmware or later and requires a minimum of 4 drives for the option to display. Also not that you lose the expandability normally associated with xraid2 unless all drives are upgraded. (also requires rebooting and setting up the array).
I tested switching to xraid2 dual redundancy and adding a 4th drive to make it redundant.
I also tested removing a drive and adding it back.

Email notifications:
Allows entering an smtp server to send email. These are nice but they notify on normal conditions for many items rather than just on errors.

Networking:
The plethora of features like dual NIC in failover or bonding mode for the ReadyNAS Pro wasn’t something that I had been looking for but was a pleasant surprise.

Fans:
When running with 4 drives installed noise is about the same as a PC’s fan. When first starting up the fans sound like they are cranked to their highest rpm and are quite a bit noisier. I have the unit in a closet I keep open about 7 ft away I can barely hear a faint hum over my pc’s noise.

Community:
The online community is pretty responsive and they seem to have ReadyNAS experts from netgear frequent the site often with answers to a lot of questions. Also helping users with purchase/product issues.

Add Ons:
There are a bunch of add-ons including things like wordpress blogs could be run on the readynas, some monitoring add-ons (performance), etc.

Summary:
I did find out a number of items after the fact like the lack of easy expandability in xraid2 dual redundancy mode. , Vault service not very secure, decided not to run in power saving drive spin down mode since journaling is disabled. It has been running well with automatic backups going to two external USB drives I have. One is an old 500GB western digital I just threw in a case. Another a USB Seagate free agent 1.5TB I connected to the front port as my rear port has the other drive and an APC UPS. I did find out after the fact only one snapshot is supported and I find myself wishing it supported multiple snapshots.
  1. I find I wish it allowed a separate password than using the logged in account and wish it ran as a pure service rather than just under the account the user logged in with.

Firmware upgrades were painless and easy done right from the frontview web interface.
Even with all of these things finding out after the purchase, I still find I’m pretty happy with the NAS. Other than the price of the NAS I would definitely recommend this drive to others. Knowing ReadyNAS Pro has a 5 year warranty, expandability, recovery service and a great community board at www.readynas.com, this is an easy one to recommend to a friend that had enough of a budget to cover this. Be careful the cheaper versions of the readyNAS pro the pioneer edition are reported to be lacking a bunch of features like snapshots and line bonding, etc (I don’t know all of the missing features from that model).



The best Spyware protection software?

Republish of an older blog entry.  I still find this to be one of the best spyware removal software packages and recommend it to people that are ok with paying for it.  Alternatively there are some free packages out there that are pretty good like Lava Adaware and Spybot Search&Destroy.  I continue to find times machines are infected and normal antivirus/antispyware programs like Norton, Mcaffee, or Kapersky won't find or remove, then I reach for Spysweeper and it usually sweeps it clean (I've only run into one case so far it didn't, then Microsofts old windows defender saved the day).


-----------------------------------

The best Spyware protection software?

May 29, 2009
Spysweeper from Webroot? This is not for viruses, but for adware, Trojans, spyware, malware, etc. My first experience with spy sweeper was a few years ago when one machine I had, seemed to be using an extreme amount of CPU. It seemed to me to be some type of virus/spyware/adware. I was using a beta version of Microsoft’s onecare at the time to protect my pc. OneCare did not find anything. I tried to download a few other products but they didn’t find anything either. I figured why not call Microsoft since they were offering free support on the beta for one care. I did, after an hour or so of trying to detect the spyware OneCare could not the MS rep told me here, try this link and download SpySweeper it usually finds everything. I downloaded and ran it. Sure enough it found the spyware and removed it. Even since then I have been using spysweeper. Spysweeper certainly does a good job of finding items on your PC, the only problem is it’s shields sometimes seem to consume a large amount of CPU time for no obvious reason. On occasion when I see that happening I will disable the shields and only run sweeps when once in a while and when I need to. Generally this is one of the tools I turn to when nothing else can find a problem. Given a recent experience I will likely try the built in windows defender first and follow up with spy sweeper. You can buy it retail for around $29.95, or possibly cheaper online.