Do you need or even want an instant-on netbook?

There’s been a good deal of chatter and even video posted lately about Hyperspace, Phoenix Technologies instant-on OS for netbooks. Sony seems to have felt the pressure as well launching the Sony Vaio P with their XMB start-up option.

In both cases, you get a limited OS but access to things you are most likely to want to check quickly – email, web, voip music etc … It sounds good though as I’ve thought about my own usage, I don’t actually turn the machine off. My laptops and netbook are basically always on. I put things in standby when they go in my bag for my commute and even when I’m heading to the airport. I’ve never felt that the limited loss of battery life was substantial enough to be concerned with or something that warranted turning the computer off to conserve.

According to liliputing, the boot time savings is about 30 seconds on a Lenovo S10 they tested recently. AllThingsD recently gave this a test as well:

“It’s misleading to say that the Phoenix HyperSpace products offer a faster way to start up your computer, because they don’t actually open Windows, which is your computer’s heart and soul. Instead, they offer a primitive, bare-bones user interface that relies on Web-based applications. For example, you can send and receive email, but only by using a Web-based email program like Gmail or Hotmail. Documents must be created using a program like Google Docs, and when you watch videos, you must use a player like YouTube rather than something like Windows Media Player or QuickTime. Photos can be viewed either via a photo Web site like Flickr or in the HyperSpace browser. Nothing like Word or PowerPoint is available in this slimmed-down environment.”[AllThingsD]

If something like an email needs immediate (of course a very relative term) attention I’ve got my phone. Otherwise I think waiting the few extra moments will give me to tools to deal with a situation more effectively.

OSX DUN on the Samsung NC10 Netbook

It’s been a while since I’ve had the pleasure of traveling with a Mac laptop and even though my current setup is a tad unique, the same rules apply. The Samsung NC10 netbook is a killer travel machine … light weight, strong battery life, great keyboard etc. It also happens to run OSX like a champ and I’m really very happy with my sub 3lb mac hackintosh. A few kinks to work out still (brightness controls and sound through the headphone jack) but generally speaking this a great way to go – though far from a simple out of the box experience.

With a PC running windows it’s easy to get a bluetooth to phone data connection using either PC Suite or Ovi Suite and your choice of Nokia handsets. On the mac side, you need some modem scripts and and a little patience. I hope this brief guide helps. I’ve written about DUN connections previously but thought this would be a good time for a new post as the conditions have changed. OSX 10.5 has moved things around in the network panel though it’s not too hard to track down what to do. For this example I’m using a Nokia N85 and ATT.

The first step is to define a PPP connection and you do that right on the first panel once you’ve selected Bluetooth. I’ve set the following options:

Telephone Number: WAP.CINGULAR
Password: CINGULAR1

Network Control Panel - DUN

Ross Barkman’s excellent modem scripts are still THE way to go for anyone looking to use a phone as a modem on their mac. I downloaded the HSDPA scripts and dragged them over to /LIbrary/Modem Scripts. Once there they become available within the Network Control Panel though you need to select other as your brand of phone. I chose the first script which is the Nokia HSDPA CID1 version. Enable error correction and compression in modem is active and I’m ignoring dial tone. I turned sound off too though because you are not actually dialing I don’t think that actually matters.

Network Control Panel Advanced - Modem

Last step is to check the far right tab under advanced for PPP. I did not change anything in mine, though you can certainly check the box for Connect automatically as needed if you find you’ll be doing this for an extended time. That will make sure there’s an open network connection anytime something makes a request so be sure you are comfortable with your data plan.

Network Control Panel Advanced - PPP

Hasty Airport Purchase – Kensington Universal 70W DC Power Adapter

01/10/2009 - kensington power adapter

While I had power on my recent American flight overseas it was not via  standard jack and unfortunately was of the cigarette lighter variety – a plug I did not have in my bag.  Passing back through Heathrow yesterday I decided to check into the Dixons there and was sold the Kensington Universal 70w DC Power Adapter .  Like similar systems from iGo, there are a number of tips that work with various devices and Samsung was listed on the box so it seemed good to go.  Unfortunately, the Samsung NC10 is not a currently supported device so I have a sleek travel power adapter that’s worthless for my rig.  There isn’t even a tip for my Lenovo work machine so this unit is a total wash for me.

In theory it’s solid, but in practice not so much so…

I’ve gone Netbook

So I finally went netbook and got the Samsung NC10 which I am seriously loving after just a few days.  The amount of power that’s packed into such a small package is really quite amazing.  While the netbook category tends to be viewed as a cheap alternative, it’s really quite a bit more than that. The reduction in size affords an enhanced degree of mobility and I don’t feel I’m making much a sacrifice in order to get there … in fact I feel like it’s actually rather something of the opposite.

Over the past year I scaled my work laptop from a 15″ to a 13″ Lenovo X61 and the weight was a huge break on my shoulder and back.  The smaller machine runs about 3.5 pounds with the larger battery which also offered a longer range (~4hours) than what I found in the previous (T61) machine.   This small system has been serving me well.  The X61 does offer a weaker video card and which can’t play some of the videos we tend to embed in powerpoint for presentations.  Until the NC10, the X61 offered the longest unplugged time of any laptop I’ve used.  I know there are newer Lenovo systems that offer better specs but I don’t have any current ability to request an upgrade.

The NC10 on the other hand is my personal system.  I chose it compared to other netbooks based on the build quality, larger keyboard (93%) and 6-cell battery which allegedy can deliver close to 8 hours of battery life.  I gave the system it’s first real unplugged test this week and am very happy to report that the battery easily went through a day of meetings which started before 9:30 and lasted until 4pm.  There was roughly 30% left on the battery at that point which could have lasted about another hour according to the meter.  I was connected to wifi the whole day except during lunch when I left it on standby in our conference room.  That’s 6 and a half hours!!  With another hour to go it looks like 8 hours is actually a doable number.  I was running XP and the Samsung has a an custom power management application which is part of their standard install.  My screen was between 2 and 3 degress of 8 on the brightness scale.  The screen actually gets quite bright but is definitely not required for a day of work.

One thing I’ve immediately noticed about the NC10 is that the smaller size does not in any way feel cramped.  Swapping the Samsung NC10 into my bag for the first time I was very pleased to note the weight (~ half a pound) reduction on my shoulder.  While the 10″ screen is the current upper end of the netbook size range, it’s hardly massive and I felt worthwhile for the close to full-size keyboard as well as the potential for eye strain on the smaller system.

I’m going to upgrade the RAM to 2GB from the 1 that comes standard and may eventually consider an SSD hard drive over the 160GB one that comes standard as I think I could make do with less storage once I sort what OS I plan to run.  I’m currently triple booting the system between Windows 7, XP and OSX.  I’ll have some more to discuss on that shortly as well.  The trackpad does take a bit to get used to though I think that may actually be more of a personal thing as I’ve been trackpoint only on the X61.  The trackpad is shorter but wide so a bit of finesse and you can easily handle it.  Typing this on an airplane tray table is quite comfortable and fortunately the guy in front of me has not reclinced (coach on Finair).  Overall this machine is really quite remarkable.  I’m loving the
access, responsiveness and really can’t think of anything negative
about it.  I know it’s a bit more than quite a few netbooks out there, but even after paging through the CES announcements I’m not feeling like anything really beats the range I’ve got.

I’ll have to see how far I can push my use into regular business life.  I’ve yet to install any office suite so some attachments — powerpoint in particular are impossible to review or edit.  At least google docs can easily handle word files.  I suppose I can always install office or open office if I feel compelled.

You have 10 minutes to get the F— out!

Location based services are something that’s been hyped for a years now. While everyone has heard of the coupon from Starbucks example, how about a real world practical use case?  The emergency system in Israel is the first time I’ve heard of anything like this and sounds very impressive.

The 10 minute warning system that Israel has been using to notify civilians in the vicinity of structures they will be bombing is fascinating. I could not find an online description of the system but the way it works is that civilian neighbors of a structure that will be attacked are given a 10 minute warning by phone to evacuate the area. It appears to be fairly precise given the counterproductive nature of giving evacuation warnings across too broad of an area.

Think for a second about what it would take to make such a system effective. First and foremost, they would have to have a map of every structure in Gaza, which is clearly something Google does on a daily basis, but then they would have to have a database of phone numbers attached to every person in each structure (remember this is predominately a mobile based telecom system). [Venture Chronicles]

Nokia Internet Stick CS-10 – Almost

Nokia Internet Stick CS-10

The Nokia Internet Stick CS-10 made a quiet appearance at Nokia World earlier this month and the news piqued my interest. Though after a quick check I saw it only supports the 850/2100MHz bands which is a real bummer unlike other higher end 3G modems which also add in 1900MHz for tri-band world compatibility this Nokia device will be hard to consider for purchase.

The 850MHz band is something that tends to appear in a more limited capacity here in the States, though this device should be just fine if you only travel in Europe.

Dear AT&T – Why is a modem locked??


Kevin Tofel brought a new 3G modem to my attention today and I got very excited about the possibilities as it supports Tri-band HSDPA (850, 1900 and 2100) which would work in my global travels.

It was impossible to tell from the AT&T site whether the device was locked so I picked up the phone and called it in. After confirming my identify multiple ways to the customer support agent, I was placed on hold while she checked things out. She reported that the modem was able to take additional SIM cards which was promising, but given it took a few tries to explain things to her, I was honestly not very confident with the information. Well, I just checked it out at an AT&T store on my way to the train and was told that in fact the device is locked.

With mail-in rebate the unit is free which is what made it so attractive, but there’s no way I’m paying international data roaming charges regularly. I would love to know why something like a USB modem is locked by ANY carrier. In this case I would potentially be signing up for a 2 year contract which includes a $60/mo plan. Whether I actually use the service or not I’m committed to the contract and they get the money.

Why would I also be required to use their SIM when traveling overseas … and actually how is this thing even locked? This policy just cost AT&T a sale and 2 years of data revenue.

Ok … so more one Netbook for consideration – The Samsung NC10

Samsung NC10-14GW netbook

So I’ve had some great comments and discussion since yesterday’s post on finding my likely netbook (the MSI Wind) and it seems the Samsung NC10 is clearly worth a serious look as well.

For starters it offers a considerably larger keyboard (93% vs. 80%) and battery life is well over 6 hours … possibly closer to 8 through conservation. Both of these features are well worth a pause over the Wind and believe me, I’ve spent some time researching again today. What I think is really driving me though is the option for a SIM slot. Apparently, the Samsung NC10 has a SIM slot hiding behind the battery (a 6-cell comes standard) though it’s unclear so far if the current model actually has a modem inside. The modem / SIM combo is what initially drew my attention towards the HP Mininote, but it seems the MSI wins on a few counts there – for now anyway. Netbooks are hot and the competitive nature of the various companies is bringing new features and enhancements pretty rapidly.

Back to the Samsung… I need to confirm the SIM slot is functional of I’ll be waiting for the next rev to arrive — or will just wait it our for that updated MSI model. You can get an Acer at Radioshack now for as low as $99 if you are willing to sign up for a 2-year data plan with AT&T though I’m quite certain I can get data for less than $60/mo. The Acer did feel quite solid though – especially compared to the ASUS systems I saw recently at Best Buy.

I think I just found my netbook

MSI Wind U120

via jkkmobile of course!

This new MSI Wind U120 system sounds killer!

  • 10 inch 1024 x 600 screen
  • 1.6 GHz Intel® Atomâ„¢ with1GB RAM
  • 160GB HDD
  • Wifi b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 2.0edr
  • 3 x usb2
  • 4-in-1-card reader
  • 1.3Mpix cam with mic
  • 4400mAH 6 cell battery
  • XP Home

Of course I’m still more than capable of being swayed by a surprise from Apple if they feel up to it at MacWorld.


Yesterday I had to attend to some personal business in Philadelphia and as a former local I needed a fix … Jim’s was more than happy to oblige.

13/12/2008 - Jim's Cheesesteak!

Trust me when I say this is absolutely delicious and that there is simply no such thing as a Philly Steak with Cheese. A Philly Cheesesteak exists only in Philadelphia and in my experience from only a few key institutions. My personal favorite is actually Pat’s but they don’t offer indoor seating and yesterday was way too cold to try and power though.

Is T-Mobile down in Barcelona?

I have 6 phones and 5 SIM cards here in Barcelona (yes I know it’s a sickness) and only T-Mobile refuses to work at all. I can get the network time to update but am unable to connect on any of the 4 networks that are available for roaming. I’m sure I have international data as this SIM has traveled the world with me over the past few months … not sure what gives.

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Contemplating the benefits of membership

I’m currently sitting in the American Airlines Admirals Lounge thanks for my recently earned Platinum status which lets me get a bit of sanity even when flying coach. For international flights like tonight I also get access to the bar which is a nice perk. The thing I apparently don’t have access to though is the member wireless connection. After entering my frequent flyer number I discovered my credentials are not good enough … instead I’m connected via the pay per use T-Mobile connection which is lame.

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Optimumwifi goes live in Westchester

I believe I’d previously covered the announced rollout of Cablevision‘s metro wifi network and it seems to have actually gone live now. I see it along my Metro North commute as we pass through the various stations and while I have not had a chance to test the connection speed it feels quite peppy. As a Cablevision Optimum Online subscriber I get access for free which is a nice bonus. I think everyone else is SOL as Ii did not see any way to pay for the connection when I started browsing from my Nokia E71.

Before you get too excited about wifi on the train though, this service has been clearly designed for fixed mobile connectivity. It only works within range of the stations – not while the train is cruising along. I realize that’s considerably more challenging and expensive but it actually offers some real value as well. 3G from ATT, Sprint and Verizon is easily accisible and while it might be slow and victim to things like the dead spots we all deal with in our part of the woods, it works at 70 MPH from the comfort of your seat and was the only way I could connect and post this from the train.

I suppose the main beneficiaries of this service are the businesses near the stations who can suddenly offer wifi connectivity to their patrons. Of course you still need a login from your home connection unless someone wants to get more creative and re-stream things with a router…

I would like to suggest that Cablevision alter their authetication method a bit for mobile users. The page certainly rendered well for the handset, but keeping a browser window open to stay connected is ridiculous. I’ll have to try using devicescape one of these days to see if that makes things easier.

ATT 3G in San Diego … MUCH faster than the hotel broadband

ATT 3G in San Diego ... Faster than the hotel broadband


I was actually getting a much better connection in my room, though it was still less than 1MB down. Much better of course being quite relative.

Because we can is not a sufficient reason to charge for broadband. You need to provide something of substance and 1MB (if that!) is not acceptable when you are being asked to pay $15/day.

Continental’s Mobile Boarding Pass

When I was confirming my seat earlier in the week with Continental I saw there was an option to get a mobile boarding pass and I decided it would be pretty cool to go paperless and signed up to receive my boarding pass on the phone. The way it works is that you get an email with a special link to your boarding pass which then must be displayed on your phone or PDA. I’d seen mobile check-in opportunities with American and Luftansa recently but nothing quite like this:

mobile boarding pass

What you are looking at is a poorly merged set of screenshots from the E71. I wiped out my frequent flier number and the trip confirmation code, but otherwise this is what you get. The QR code was scanned by the TSA at security with a handheld device and I made sure to mention to the next TSA team that my boarding pass was my phone since that had to pass through the larger scanners … No problem and I walked right through. At the gate, I think I was the first passenger to present a mobile boarding pass to the particular gate staffer as he had no idea where to put the phone to scan it in the table-top scanner. His colleague showed him you just place it on the base and a moment later I was checked-in and on the jetway.

I hope more airlines start offering this service because one less thing to deal with is a benefit when you are traveling. I always have my phone and it was very easy to simply show the screen instead of fumbling with a piece of paper.

One tip for Nokia users … I’ve had bad coverage in airports previously and was not going to take any chances with boarding and security process so I used the ever helpful but easy to miss “Save this Page” feature of the S60 browser. Once saved, I simply navigated to my bookmarks, went into the saved pages folder and chose my boarding pass.