From the Canyon Edge -- :-Dustin

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Thinking of ditching an iPhone for an Android? Do it!

One of my esteemed colleagues, at Gazzang, our lead Sales Engineer Robert Linden asked me a great question via email this week.  As I wrote my response to him, I realized that I've composed similar answers before to friends and family and colleagues who have asked me about iPhone and Android devices.  With Robert's blessing, I'm posting both his question and response here in my blog.  Enjoy!
On Tue, Apr 17, 2012 at 5:53 PM, Robert Linden wrote:In the spirit of open source, trying new things, etc...   I'm considering replacing my iPhone with an Android phone.  I've done some research, but wanted to get your thoughts on things.   I know "Ice Cream Sandwich" is the latest release of the OS, and next month the big wave of new phones will hit the market with this version of the Android operating system.   I believe that the Samsung Galaxy is the only one currently out with the latest OS already on it, right?
Some things I'm wondering about are... Is there a phone / carrier that is more 'open' than others?  I heard Eddie talking at the All Hands how he had just upgraded to 'Sandwich' on his phone... I know that this isn't always possible to do, is it? The "guy at Best Buy" mentioned a phone that had "less bloat-ware" and "free apps" installed (a desirable situation I think).   I didn't make note of this.   Can I "un-bloat" my phone? Do you have to "jailbreak" some Android phones, like you can do with iPhone to open it up?  I'd appreciate any advice / recommendations if I do decide to make the switch soon...
Hey Robert,

These are great questions!

As a rule, I always "root" my phone.  It voids the warranty (to some extent), in that if I have to return the phone to manufacturer, I'd need to "unroot" my phone before mailing it to them.  If it's still functional, that's possible to do.  If it's totally dead, then it's not possible.  In which case, if the manufacturer can tell that I've rooted, they *could* possible refuse to repair it.  I also have to "hide" the fact that I've rooted the phone from Sprint (my carrier).
Mostly, this just means being smart when you're talking to them on the phone.  It's about like hiding from your parents in high that you occasionally went to parties when kids were doing less than wholesome things :-)  Sprint *probably* knows that you've rooted your phone, but definitely don't flaunt it or even admit to it.

For me, it's a matter of personal choice.   I buy my devices out right, without any contract or rebate.  I often buy them used off of  I like to "take control" of my device, uninstalling the "bloat ware" and "crap ware" that comes with the device from the manufacturer, and re-installing the OS and all applications per my choice.  That's not for everyone, of course.  My wife, for instance, doesn't really care.  Nor does most of the waking population of the world.  But for hard core hackers, it often is important.  That's actually one of the interview questions we've started working into our engineering interview process...asking if the candidate has ever rooted their phone or tablet or router, etc.  :-)

So yeah, step 1 is rooting (unlocking, jailbreaking) the phone, which allows you to replace the bootloader.  This is easier on some devices, and harder on others.  Some are "development" models (like my old HTC G1, and my original WebOS Palm Pre), which basically come rooted by default.  I flash my bootloader with a tool called ClockworkMod (CWM).  This allows you to do two very important things...make a complete backup image of your phone, and boot any kernel/os you choose.  Note that most, but not all, devices are supported by ClockworkMod.  You'll need to check that website to see its compatibility with your device.  If you're buying something that just hit the market, it can sometimes take 3 months for the very smart developers to port CWM to it.

Next, I backup my stock image from the manufacturer.  This is what you'd need to re-image the device with, if you ever return it.  I've had to recover and send back to the manufacturer one phone (HTC Shift), and one tablet (Lenovo A1) for repair.  Both HTC and Lenovo fixed my device exactly as requested, no problem. 

Then, I typically install CyanogenMod (CM).  Cyanogen is a "distribution" of Android, much like Ubuntu and Red Hat are distributions of Linux.  Cyanogen removes all the bloatware and adds some really nice utilities and functions.  It's sort of like the DD-WRT of Android (if you're familiar with the DD-WRT Linux distribution for routers).  Cyanogen actually DOUBLED the battery life of my HTC Shift, having removed all of the crap ware that Sprint and HTC load the phone with, and tweaking a number of power settings.

Cyanogen has its own versioning scheme.  I'm running CM7 on my HTC Shift.  You mentioned "Ice Cream Sandwich" -- that will be CM9, which is currently in a beta testing mode.  Again, you'll need to check the
Cyanogen website for compatibility with your device, but if you want a stable CM9 installation for your device, you might need to wait a few more weeks/months.

Hopefully this all makes sense :-)  I usually allow about 2 hours nowadays for:
 - rooting
 - installing CWM
 - backing up
 - installing CM
 - configuring to my liking
However, the first time you do it, the first 2 steps might take you a bit longer.

If you don't mind buying something slightly used, I highly recommend  There, you can find many gently used Android devices that are *already* rooted, and some are already running Cyanogen. Perhaps do a little browsing there before you overpay "the guy at Best Buy" for a brand new phone brimming with bloatware :-)


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Kirkland 12.04 LTS Released -- Hello World!

AUSTIN, Texas -- Kirkland Family Life Enterprises are thrilled to announce the timely release of the first product of its next generation -- Kirkland 12.04 Ultra LTS (code name: Camille).

Chief Architect and Lead Developer Kimberly Kirkland (code name: Mommy) delivered a perfect new child process at 9:35am on April 12th, 2012 -- impressively, three days ahead of schedule.  As with most technical projects, the development team labored all the way through the night, having begun the release procedures with an all-night Sprint that kicked off around 7pm the previous evening.

Project Manager and Community Coordinator Dustin Kirkland (code name: Daddy) multitasked a stream of procurement and support requests, and helped ensure a smooth delivery.  He tagged each milestones with numerous snapshots, offering encouragement throughout each work item.  Kim and Dustin were bolstered by an expert pair of support engineers, Stephanie Carter (code name: Nanny) and Gerri Gros (code name: Mimi), who joined them on-site for the final QA and the initial release party.  Dustin wore an Ubuntu 9.10 "Karmic Koala" t-shirt for the duration of Sprint, with Kim noting that the Koala face made her smile any time the going got tough.

Camille 12.04 is an "Ultra" Long Term Support release, with first class expert support for at least 18 years (wow, take that, Ubuntu!).  She is already showing tremendous input/output capabilities and impressive throughput performance on both ends.  A contract technician confirmed that her dual-channel stereo input is in good working order, and that her analog output volume, while still a bit inarticulate and compressed, is quite audible.  "I thought release day would never come," says Kimberly, exhausted but joyful.  Kim sheds a tear, "We've been waiting to meet her for so long!"

Complete release notes do state that Camille is currently prone to frequent, spontaneous reboots and random periods of inactivity.  Fortunately, her init and shutdown sequences are quite efficient.  Kim and Dustin shared the design responsibilities for Camille's look and feel.  They seem to have done quite an elegant job, having achieved a bit of unity around her outer shell.  She has a simply gorgeous greeter!  They are still getting used to the new user interface.  And they're working their way through the various documentation and manuals whenever she enters one of her multiple sleep states.

"We've wanted this for so long, we're going to cherish every second of uptime!" says Dustin, while dealing with Camille's un-handled garbage collection on the system console.  "We've actually decrypted and documented a few of her error codes."

Camille is currently in a limited-release mode, with access only granted to a few privileged associates.   But in another 6 weeks or so, she's expected to make her first GA appearances, with a formal release party still to be held.

While Kirkland Family Life Enterprises are most certainly still in start-up mode, their trajectory looks quite promising, as we confirmed with Board of Directors chairmen Allen Kirkland (code name: Paw Paw) and Robert Gros (code name: Bob).  "We're extremely pleased with our venture investments and they have our complete fact, they're looking reeeeeal good!" claims the chairmen.  Technical Advisors Donna Kirkland (code name: Gran) and Gerri Gros (code name: Mimi) said, "We're so proud of the whole team, they're really doing a fine job!"

Asked if there's a 2.0 update in the works, Dustin, wearing his VP Product hat, shrugged and noted that they still have plenty of development to do on this one.  "Let's work on maturing our 1.0 with a few stable release updates before we start talking about a whole new product line -- there's so many SRUs to process!  We're not on a time-based release schedule, so just ask me again in a year or two."


Sunday, April 1, 2012

For sale: 1999 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe, 59K miles

Kim and I are expecting an addition to the family and baby car seats and Corvettes don't mix. And so I'm parting with my pride and joy (replacing it with a Cadillac CTS-V), but I'm hoping it finds a new home that will appreciate it and baby it as I have!

I'm the second owner, having bought it in May of 2003.  I have since put 31,000 miles on it over the last 9 years. Meticulously maintained and cleaned, it has always been garage kept, and rarely even driven in the rain (like count-on-one-hand times). The Pewter on Tan leather color combination is very classy and distinctive. Even with C6's cruising around, this car has plenty of speed, power, and handling and you'll always get 2nd looks when you
drive around with the top off ;-)

This car has the variable suspension package, allowing you to switch the ride from rigid, corner-on-rails "performance" mode, to deal-with-potholes-in-a-parking-lot "tour" mode. It's nice to keep it in between, in "sport" mode, and switch it up to "performance" when you know you want to hug the road on some tight turns, and switch it down to "tour" mode when you're on the interstate high way or between stoplights downtown. I typically get 22mpg driving around town and 28mpg on longer road trips -- which ain't bad for a 350hp sports car!

It also has "active handling", which keeps your rear tires on the road. Active handling is usually on by default, but you can turn it off any time with the push of a button and peel out in 1st, 2nd, and even shifting to 3rd gear. The removable hard top is really the best of both worlds. When the top is on, there's no interior noise and never any water leaks (like you'll find in a convertible). But the top comes off in seconds and then you're cruising in style!

Lots more pictures are posted at:
  • 5.7 Liter V8, 350hp
  • 59,500 miles
  • Manual, 6-Spd
  • Adjustable Suspension Pkg (Tour, Sport, Performance)
  • ABS (4-Wheel)
  • Bose premium stero
  • Power Steering
  • Tilt Wheel
  • Air Conditioning
  • Power Windows
  • Power Door Locks
  • 2 x remote key fobs
  • Cruise Control
  • Dual Air Bags
  • Dual Power Seats
  • All leather
  • Premium 5-spoke chrome wheels from 2002 model
  • Drilled, slotted high performance brake rotors
  • Oversized chrome exhaust tips and Corvette emblem plate covering rear transaxle
  • Oversized Blackwing air filter (adding 10-15 horsepower)
  • 10-disc Sony MP3 changer added to the trunk, controls in the ashtray
  • Cast aluminum gas pedal and dead foot pedal to match brake/clutch pedals
  • Brushed aluminum gear plate on shifter
  • Corvette emblem floor mats
  • C5 fitted canvas cover in trunk (in case you ever have to park it outside)
  • LS1 engine plate in glove box
  •  Bypass installed to remove 1st-4th forced shifting