Category Archives: Useful Stuff

Damn. Dropped my iPhone.

From a design standpoint, I really dig how the iPhone 4 looks, with its front and back glass surfaces, wraparound metal band, etc.

From a practical standpoint, it sucks. I can’t count the number of times I’ve placed the phone on a flat surface only to have it slide off. The thing is like an air hockey puck. Fortunately it’s usually only fallen a few inches, so no harm done.

But it’s also slipped out of my hand a couple times when I’m pulling it out of my pocket. One time I had my earphones plugged into it, which basically slowed it down enough so that when it hit the ground it only chipped one corner of the back glass.

On Sunday I wasn’t so lucky:

Yep. There’s a crack running from one corner of the back glass all the way up to the camera.

I have the Apple iPhone 4 bumper, and I do use it, but normal 2.5mm jacks and the older 30 pin connectors don’t fit, so I’m constantly forced to take it off if I’m not using the supplied earbuds or 30 pin connector. In this case, I took it off on Saturday to play podcasts in the car through the auxiliary input and dropped it Sunday at the Brentwood Country Mart.

Fortunately for me, I was able to schedule a Monday morning appointment at the Genius Bar, where the nice Apple Store Repair guy replaced the back glass for free (normally $29). I also bought a new case from Amazon, which shouldn’t have the same issues as the Apple bumper.

Revitalize your desktop

Now that I’ve got the new machine up and running, I’m trying to figure out what I should do with the old one. Windows was running like a dog on the old box, which is why I wanted to upgrade in the first place. Just for kicks, I decided to install Ubuntu, a free operating system based on Linux. I’m really impressed.

Ubuntu was easy to install, had no problems recognizing any of my hardware, and feels like it runs 3x faster than Windows 7 on that same machine. Even browsing web pages seems faster than on my new Windows 7 machine. Plus it comes with a bunch of software pre-installed for viewing/editing/saving documents, spreadsheets, presentations, photos, videos, and songs. All for free!

The interface is kind of like a cross between Mac OS and Windows, so it might not be something that some will want to use if they’re used to the paradigms of a particular OS. But if you’ve got old hardware and want to wring more performance out of it at no cost and no risk, I’d definitely recommend giving Ubuntu a shot.

If you use the Windows installer, you can install Ubuntu alongside Windows and choose which one to load when you turn on your computer. This way you can try out everything that you’re used to doing and compare (i.e., how does Ubuntu handle re-tweeting stupid things, watching videos, reading email, and occasionally doing work?). With the dual boot, you can then load Windows whenever you need to play on Full Tilt Poker or play a PC game.

As a side benefit, there’s almost zero chance that you’ll get infected by a virus or spyware. The people who make viruses and spyware target operating systems and browsers based on market share, and Linux has only about a fifth of the market that Mac OS does, and Mac OS is completely dwarfed by Windows (20:1). Using Ubuntu does not, however, protect you from accepting a check from a Nigerian ex-President / foreign exchange student who wants to rent your room / overeager Craigslist buyer who wants your car and getting ripped off in the process. That you’ll have to figure out on your own.

Installing Windows 7 from a bootable USB drive

There are a lot of Google search results with guides on how to create bootable USB drives from which you can install Windows. Unfortunately, a lot of them are outdated or missing key pieces of information. Fortunately, I found two pages that were pretty helpful:

Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool – Who needs a guide when you can have software do it for you? Microsoft’s online software store has a tool that makes it easy to make a bootable USB drive or DVD from the ISO.

at Kevin’s Blog – Kevin has put together a fairly complete guide to how to make a bootable USB drive. It’s useful even when you use the Microsoft tool because you might end up having to manually run bootsect (e.g., you’re making a x64 installer on a machine running the x86 version, so you can’t actually run bootsect from the x64 ISO).

As I type this, my computer is busily rebooting away during the installation process. I think it’s almost done.

Pack a power strip

Whether you’re at the airport or on jury duty, busting out the power strip can make you look like a genius. The non-geniuses are the ones walking around hunched over, laptop and power cord in hand, desperately looking for an open outlet that just doesn’t exist. Power strips are also handy for dealing with the ridiculously short length of Apple’s iPhone USB cable.

IM on the go with meebo for iPhone

I’ve already talked about using meebo’s web app, but now meebo has an iPhone client:

one app to rule them all

The Meebo native iPhone app. It’s fast, it’s pretty, and it just flat-out works. Available now for iPhone and iPod touch.

via Meebo for iPhone | meebo.

Like the web app, the iPhone client has an elegant interface and keeps you logged in and alerted to all your latest IMs. Now that they’ve got both the web and the iPhone covered, I can’t imagine using anything else for IM.