SwiftKey Flow Public Beta Available

I personally have used the Swype keyboard on my android phones since it was in beta. It was exciting to see SwiftKey launch its own variation on this type of keyboard. Swype has always had issues differentiating between “if” and “of” and other similar letter combinations. It was a nuisance to go back over every message and proof it for these typographical errors. I used SwiftKey 3 for a few days to test it out a few months ago. Their prediction is vastly superior to Swypes built in dictionary and word prediction. SwiftKey learns from your writing style and increases it prediction accuracy over time. There are even options to scan your text messages, emails, and facebook posts to learn your writing style. I didn’t mind letting it scan my text messages, but I was not interested in it reading my emails and facebook posts. A major difference between Swype and SwiftKey Flow is the option to never lift your finger until your done typing. Using Flow you simply move your finger across the space bar and move on to the next word. Being used to lifting a finger to either allow Swype to insert a space or manually hitting the space bar, it took some time getting used to swiping down to the space bar and continuing on. Once you get used to this method of typing you will notice a nice boost in your typing speed.

Being a Beta (the first Public release) there are still some issues to be worked out. Currently once SwiftKey predicts the incorrect word the only way to change it is to stop typing and delete it. There are ideas being thrown around in the VIP forum on how to fix this. The two methods I liked are either you swipe left from the delete key to remove the last word typed, or be able to swipe up to the prediction bar to the word you want, then continue on with your message. SwiftKey also has problems properly predicting words that have two of the same letter together like “too” and “fell” which becomes “feel”. It is also currently having issues with words that incorporate an apostrophe. Surely the SwiftKey team is working on ironing these issues out and the release version of this keyboard will be fantastic.

Overall I can see myself using this keyboard going forward. Even in its Beta form it is more fun, and more accurate than Swype. If you do not currently own SwiftKey 3, now is a good time to grab it. It is on sale for $2.00 in the PlayStore at this LINK!

The Flow Beta can be found HERE!

Dell Latitude ST and Windows 8 Wifi connectivity

Installing Windows 8 on this tablet went off without a hitch. For a severely under powered device it is actually running Windows 8 very well. After reading numerous comments around the net about how slow it was running Win8, I was curious to find out for myself.
So far I have only found 2 issues. The first being the Windows 7 N-Trig drivers were not compatible with Win8. Secondly the Dell Atheros Wifi drivers were also not compatible. The N-trig issue was an easy fix. N-Trig has drivers on their site at n-trig.com that are compatible with Win8. The wifi on the other hand took some more tinkering. After a couple hours of learning the new UI and figuring out where everything was I decided to take the time to get Wifi up and running. The Dell A06 driver install package as I mentioned above is not compatible with Win8. However it does have the required driver packaged up inside. Before unpacking the install application I tried to install it under Windows 7 compatibility mode which also did not work.

Here are the steps I took to get the wifi driver installed:
Execute the installer package and it will extract the files into your Temp folder and the Atheros Installer.msi will be located in one of the {insert random number and text here} folders. The installer itself will throw an error stating that you must be using Windows 7.
Before you hit OK, using windows explorer browse to your C:\Users\yourusername\AppData\Local\Temp\ folder and find the Atheros Installer.msi. Copy or move that file to wherever you want, just make sure you remember where you put it. It is now safe to hit OK on the Dell Installer.
The installer will most likely clean up the temp folder automatically and you would not be able to find the file after hitting OK.
Use msiexec to extract the contents of the installer.
Open up a command prompt with administrator privileges. Once there the following command will be used: msiexec /a filepath to MSI file /qb TARGETDIR=filepath to target folder.
Now look in your Device Manager you should have an exclamation point listed next to SDIO Device. Click on that and update driver. Choose the folder you extracted the msi to and Windows will take care of the rest.
If for some reason you already have a driver listed for your dell mini card you will have to uninstall the driver and reboot. Upon reboot follow the above instructions.

GFI MAX Service Provider Tool

I have no data to back this statement up but here goes: every IT has heard of LogMeIn.

I offer an alternative: GFI MAX. http://www.gfimax.com/remote-management

On the advice of himuraken I have been using MAX to support two Windows servers, one Windows desktop and (now in beta) a Debian server. I still have a ton to learn but the initial though it that this service is pretty solid. The main IT user interface is the dashboard which is very intuitive. Similar to LogMeIn Central, the monitored devices are split up in to client groupings. A big advantage of LMI is that all the cost is in the connected server/PC fee. There is no additional cost for the dashboard functionality.

Agent install is straight forward with multiple delivery options. You do have to configure the remote control separately from the monitoring agent.

Much more to come as I dig in to this service. Certainly interested in hearing from anyone that uses this.

– habanero_joe

12/30/12 Update

I am still using this service and I am really enjoying the notification system. Alerting is very easy to configure and can be applied to groups of systems that have similar needs.
The Linux agent is now in general release. Looking forward to getting more clients set up (and paying!) for this tool in 2013.

– habanero_joe

Product Review: EnGenius Access Point

Last week I ordered an EnGenius EAP300 access point from NewEgg (a vendor who deserves a review of it’s own) and it was waiting for me when I got home today. I have been having trouble with a NetGear WG103 and contact with support has been unsatisfactory.

The product design is very functional. It pretty much resembles a large smoke detector. I was looking for a small ceiling mountable device that supported PoE and this fits the bill. This device is advertised as a business-class, high power access point. Several standard security options are supported.

Configuration was fairly easy for anyone familiar with provisioning wireless devices. However, I do not like devices that come configured with a static IP. It is a minor hassle to reconfigure a laptop or other device to configure the access point. Once I got past that it was a simple matter of connecting to the device’s web GUI.

Initial tests included watching shows on NetFlix and Hulu Plus from an Apple TV. The streaming was flawless. The next test was streaming a .mkv movie to a PC. Again this worked flawlessly.

Next step will be to mount this device in its final spot and test out the PoE adapter. Stayed tuned for further info.

– habanero_joe


The iPhone 5

The smart phone market just got hotter. The Apple iPhone 5 ($200-$400) didn’t quite wow us, but it does bring some cool features that are ground breaking for apple, that¬† includes a 4-inch widescreen Retina display, brand new A6 processor,¬† aluminum and glass enclosure, 4G LTE and dual-channel 802.11n 5GHz networking, an improved 8 megapixel iSight camera with panorama mode, a FaceTime HD camera, 16, 32, or 64GB of storage.

To Root or Not?

A question I get asked often is why should I root my phone? Typically if you have to ask this question, that is a great reason why you should not. The risks involved are not for the common user who wants to sound cool by saying their phone is rooted. In my experience if someone goes around boasting about their device being rooted, they are one of the suckers who paid someone to do it. Furthermore, they have no clue what their device can actually do that sets it apart from the stock OEM setup. Look I have a SuperUser icon! The benefits of rooting / bypassing the security on your Android device are nearly endless for the right person.

I just wanted to take a few minutes and share my thoughts on what I believe are the powerful benefits of rooting Android devices. This will not be a how to root, flash custom software, or unlock bootloaders. There are plenty of forums and websites dedicated to that.

First off let me start with discussing the risks associated with rooting, flashing, and unlocking bootloaders on these devices.

1. The Android Paperweight: This is a term normally used for a Hard Bricked device. What is hard brick? When your device will not power or show any signs of life. If you pull the battery (not possible on all phones anymore) and after replacing it your phone shows no signs of life whatsoever you may very well have yourself a brand new few hundred dollar paperweight. Most of the time unless you really screw something up it, is hard to truly hard brick your device. If your leds light up, you notice screen initialization, or other signs of your device booting up, you are more often than not in a category called Soft Brick. Soft bricks are caused by a number of issues but normally easy to fix.

2. Your warranty is now void: All manufacturers will void your warranty if they know that your device was rooted. Sometimes it is possible to unroot your phone or tablet before sending it in for warranty work. If done properly the manufacturer will never know it was rooted and your warranty work or replacement will be covered. Some Samsung devices are shipped with a Flash Counter. This will count how many times your device has flashed a custom kernel, or ROM. There is also speculation that simply rooting your phone will increase this counter as well. What does this mean? If you take your phone in for warranty they can tell even if you have unrooted. I personally have not had to deal with this yet. There are posts around the www that claim to have discovered ways to flash without triggering the counter, or claim the ability to reset the counter.

3. You have the power to screw your Android device up now: Once you are rooted you can modify the software however you want. This also means you can delete important files and brick your device. Lets say you choose to root your phone to remove bloatware, if you delete these files completely and your carrier pushes and OTA (over the air) update your phone will most likely not boot once the installation was initiated. The ota will verify the currently installed software and if it notices a missing file you will typically end up on a blue screen with angry Andy in the middle of it. There are ways around this. Do some research before you dive into the world of a rooted device.

There are other risks associated with taking control of your phone or tablet, but I feel those are the three most important.

The advantages of rooting, like I mentioned above are endless. You gain total control of what is on your device, and how the kernel operates. I’ll cover a some of my favorite benefits.

1. Bye Bye Bloatware: Unless you buy a pure google phone the carrier will always add garbage to the OEM software. Blockbuster, NFL mobile, and so many other apps come preinstalled it drives me nuts. If I want the app I will gladly download and install it. The fact that it is impossible to remove these preinstalled applications without rooting is what makes this so annoying. Once rooted you have the ability to remove these apps. Like I mentioned earlier if you plan on remaining on OEM software and simply gaining root access it is important not to completely remove these apps. It is good practice to use an app like Titanium Backup and first freeze the app. By freezing the applications you remove them from the system data. Once they are frozen you can ensure that they will not cause your system to become unstable. After you have used your device for awhile and confirmed that it will still operate as intended you can safely make a backup off the app and then delete it. When you know there is an OTA available for your device all you need to do is restore the applications you have removed and then let the upgrade install. Loading a custom ROM is another way to avoid bloat and experience the true capability of your phone.

2. Free wireless tethering: When I first started rooting devices this was a major benefit. There are some apps available now that can achieve this without actually rooting. The fact that carriers want to charge for a feature that is part of Android is absurd.

3. Faster, Stronger, Meaner: Custom ROMs give you the option to change the look and feel of your phone. There are numerous developers that can take your phone to the next level. The tweaks and performance you gain make it totally worth checking into custom software. If your stuck waiting on an update to ICS or JellyBean there is a good chance there is already a custom ROM build out there if your device can handle it. With custom kernels you also gain the ability to overclock the processor. Of course this is a risky process just like in full size computers. Unlike your fullsize computer though, your phone does not have any active cooling. They can get HOT. Play around with different frequencies and make sure the phone will remain stable. Do not load the settings at boot until you are completely sure your 100% stable. Locking these settings at boot will cause bootloops if you set the frequency to high. Most of the time the performance gains are significant.

4. Backing up your device: It is wonderful to have the option of completely backing up apps and settings. Apps that store data on the SD card are handy, but what about progress in a game or if your SD card dies? With apps like Titanium Backup, or My Backup you have the ability to back up everything you want and send those backups to the cloud. If your phone gets lost, broken, or stolen you can now restore your information when you get your new device. If you end up flashing multiple custom ROMs these backup utilities make setting your phone back up significantly faster. With batch restore options you can simply initiate a batch install and the apps that you backed up on your Sdcard will be installed with one click. No more waiting for downloads and searching for the apps you want.

5. Squeeze a couple more hours out of your battery: Very few phones are good at battery management. Custom ROM developers have to take the time to make sure that their software is not going to decrease battery life. If they do not the community will give them a severe tongue lashing. Removing unnecessary apps and software will stop some of the random data connections and wasting battery power. Many of the ROMs out there come with various settings and tweaks that help increase battery life. Overclocking under load, underclocking while the phone is asleep and undervolting give a nice speed boost with less battery consumed.

By now it is obvious that I am for rooting and unlocking bootloaders. With lots of research and patience most people should be able to do most of this on their own. Paying to have someone root your device teaches your nothing. Nor will you have any idea what was done and what to do if you screw something up. Hopefully this has helped some of you gain insight into what the advantages and disadvantages of rooting are.

Migrating from VMware ESXi to QEMU/KVM

For a myriad of reasons, I have been looking at alternatives to VMware ESXi for a few months. Virtualizing a few machines here and there has proven educational. Learning the ropes of working with qemu/kvm, libvirt, and virsh has been challenging at times, but overall a pleasure to work with. Working with kvm is great although it takes some getting use to coming from a VMware/ESXi centric environment.

Up to this point all of the virtual machines that I had worked with were new systems. After some research and a few backups of my current VMs running on one of my ESXi hosts, I decided to migrate a few production VMs. Here are the steps that I used to move virtual machines over from a licensed vSphere 4.1 installation to a Linux host running qemu/kvm.

For starters, be sure that you have full backups of any VMs that you plan on working with. With that out of the way, you are ready to start:

1. Remove all snapshots from the virtual machine across all virtual disks.

2. Uninstall VMware Tools and then perform a clean shutdown of the guest operating system.

3. Copy the virtual hard disk(s) over to the qemu/kvm host. The virtual disk is typically the largest file within a VM’s directory and will usually be named something like ‘guestname-flat.vmdk’

4. On the qemu/kvm host, change to the directory containing the .vmdk file. Assuming you are using qcow2 disk images, run the following command to convert the .vmdk: kvm-img convert -O qcow2 guestname-flat.vmdk newguestname.qcow2

5. Create a new VM on the qemu/kvm host and choose the recently converted disk image as your existing drive/image. It is important that you create your new guest with the same or similar settings as it had before. I recommend cloning the MAC address over to the new guest for added simplicity with NIC detection, assignment, and third party software licensing.

6. Attempt to boot the system. Depending upon your guests virtual disk settings and other factors, the system may hang during boot. Edit your virtual machine and set the controller type to SCSI assuming that was the controller type back on ESXi.

At this point your system should be up and running on the new host. I did find notes and suggestions that qemu/kvm can run vmdk files/disk images, but there seemed to be a handful of caveats so I decided to convert the vmdk’s over to a native format.