Saturday, July 09, 2011

Google Nexus S

So back in May I ordered a new mobile phone.  As much as I liked my old iPhone 3G, it was getting to be a little long in the tooth.  It worked, but was a bit on the goofy side when I tried to do certain things.  Plus, there was a bit of screw you AT&T for trying to buy T-Mobile in my choice.  I ended up with the Nexus S.  While I personally am new to the Android world, my other half has been in the Android world for almost 2 years.  She has the G1.  Now that I’ve had the phone for a couple of months, I wanted to document some of my experiences.

First and foremost, one of the best features of the phone is the built in Wi-Fi hotspot.  Now, to be fair, the newer iPhones do have it built in as well, but since I’m on T-Mobile, the additional feature costs me nothing extra.  And it’s legit.  No jail breaking, no side loading, nothing.  Just a built in feature of the phone.  In fact, I’m at a coffee shop here in DC right now watching over my child process (also known as Alex) and I didn’t even bother getting a code for the Wi-Fi here.  Instead, I’ve conducted some basic business over the portable hotspot on my Nexus S.

And while it’s handy, one thing I’ve found rather astonishing was the fact that during a recent trip to Philadelphia, my Nexus S was better for internet connectivity than the major name hotel I was staying at.  I was even able to watch Netflix streaming on my iPad over the personal hotspot while I couldn’t over the hotel provided Wi-Fi.  Now, there was also a wired connection and I wonder if that would have worked better, but since my iPad lacks an ethernet jack …

Other surprising things for me included:

  • Speed: even though the Nexus S is only on 3G and not T-Mobile’s HSDPA+/4G, using the phone itself is quite snappy.  And compared to the EDGE connectivity I was getting on my old iPhone, this guy’s a downright speed demon
  • Usability: if you listen to the Apple faithful, the Android phones are a pale comparison of the iPhone.  I guess in some ways they are correct.  The iOS devices are definitely slick and I do still enjoy my iPad (though it’s become a bit flaky lately).  Now, that being said, I do like my Nexus S.  It works and generally works well.  Once over the hump, I do think it works as well for me as the iPhone did.  There are more rough edges, but it’s not the night and day difference some think.
  • Auto Updating: it may be a simple thing, but knowing that my phone will just be constantly up to date is a great thing.  There’s no hooking it up to the computer to run updates, it just does it.  And even better is if you allow it, all your applications will automatically update themselves too.  Maybe that’s less of an issue for me, but for others (like my other half), having it keep itself up to date is a great thing.
  • Music: the music stack is not as nice as the iOS versions for sure.  However, I like the choices I have.  If I don’t like the Google-provided apps, I can always install something else.  In fact, one of the best things I have is access to both the Amazon MP3 music store and Cloud Music Service, but also the Google Music service.  They are a single source for storing my music and then syncing to my phone.  It saves me from having to decide exactly which music I want to download and have.
  • Apps: now, any Android phone can share the same apps as my phone, however there are a few exceptions.  One big surprise for me was that any restricted applications, such as Netflix, always target the Google phones first.  That means that when Netflix shipped their streaming app for Android, it supported two phones: the Nexus One and the Nexus S.  I sort of assumed that since the phone wasn’t that popular, I would get those last.  I guess that targeting the pure Google phones is a better idea than I thought.

There are definitely some things I miss and some of the applications aren’t as good on the Android as on iOS, but overall, I’m quite happy with my choice.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Next Redbook is out

Last fall I spent 3 weeks in Costa Mesa helping write the updated IBM FileNet P8 Platform and Architecture Redbook.  It’s finally done and posted (or more specifically it was posted about 3 weeks ago and I missed it.  Here’s a link:

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Switching mobile phones

I finally broke down and switched mobile phones this week. I had been using an iPhone 3G (bought new and unlocked at duty free in the Rome airport) on T-Mobile. While not perfect it was a quite serviceable little phone, even though I could only use EDGE speeds for mobile broadband, not the 3G my wife's Android-based G1 used.

For two years, the iPhone was exactly what I had wanted and was a joy to use. Two things happened to make me choose to switch. (well three if geek wanderlust is factored in).

First off, iOS 4.0 came out and many apps started to require it. Because of this, I ended up having to upgrade. Now, for 3Gs and iPhone 4 users, that wasn't t a big issue, but for us 3G users, it wasn't the best upgrade. While it did work, there were a few limitations, most importantly, the speed dropped. iOS just needed a beefed CPU than what my older and aging 3G offered. Now, while annoying, Apple did say at the start, a 3Gs was the minimum for good performance.

While the speed thing was annoying, the second issue that started plaguing me was what appears to be an increasing reliance of mobile data. It seems that more and more applications I used frequently seemed to put a greater and greater strain in the data pipe. What this looked like is more and more apps just seemed to stall for no good reason. On wifi, the problem was less noticeable, so I'm inclined to think they were assuming there was a good 3G connection.

The other reason I chose now to upgrade was the AT&T buyout of T-Mobile. I've been a customer of T-Mobile since 2000, or when they were VoiceStream. I've loved their service and their pricing. And since I live in a big city, coverage was never an issue for me. Well, there was no coverage in my parent's hometown in southern Illinois, but I'm nit there too often, so it wasn't a real issue. Now, with AT&T buying them, I can only assume that means my bill will go up, and up, and up. (hooray for no competition). Upgrading phones now means I signed up for a two year contract extension which means that when our clueless government approves the deal (which it will, even though it's bad for everyone but AT&T), I will still be under contract and they have said they will honor all existing contracts.

Oh, and my current plan is unlimited everything (phone, data and SMS) for both Felicia and myself, for about the same price as everyone else's non unlimited plan. Take that death

I've really only started playing with my new phone, a Samsung Nexus S. So far I really like it. Switching is a strange experience, one I will document more as time goes on.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, April 15, 2011


For those of you who missed my last post, I decided to take the old and convert it from a long disused home for our pictures and make it more of a life stream or aggregation of all our other social networking sites and blogs. What made this an interesting project was that I was able to pull out of mothballs my old FileNet WCM / eGrail virtual machine. It ended up being a decent vehicle for doing this kind of project. After a few weeks of messing around, the new site is now officially launched. It's still a work in progress in that it only tracks Twitter (and anything we cross post there) and our blogs. I hope to add more sites as I have a chance to get my RSS parser built for other sites. But in the meantime, this should track us relatively well. - Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, March 28, 2011

An old friend

In an ongoing effort to keep both friends and people who don't really care up to date with what I and the family have been up to lately, I decided to take my wife and my website,, and turn it from a place were four year old content went to die and make it a one stop shop for following us and our life. Frankly, I would have liked to have used FriendFeed with a custom URL for this, but since it's been bought by Facebook and seems to have been left out to pasture, I decided that a roll your own solution may be just the ticket. Though to be fair, roll your own is a bit of an overstatement.

So, to that end, I dug out and brushed off an old friend, FileNET WCM 5.1, or more specifically eGrail. It may have needed a bit of dusting and removal of a small amount of bit rot, but once it got it back up and running, it felt and still feels like home. I do have to admit, that it has taken me a bit of time to remember all the old tricks, but even after almost 10 years, the software seems as good as ever.

I often wonder what would have happened if FileNET would have kept working on it ....

Anyway, I decided to take the old syndication module out for a spin and so far it seems to be working just great. I already have it pulling in feeds from Twitter and Blogger. Not sure the other feeds I'll pull in, but if it has RSS, then it's fair game as far as I'm concerned.

So far the only real issue I've seen is that WCM seems to expect a single article per XML file. That meant I have to preprocess the feeds using Java, but I had to do something to download the data anyway, so it does seem l be working out. As soon as it's ready, I'll post a link.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, March 12, 2011


I hate it. I really hate it, but after seven years with Speakeasy as my primary Internet provided, I ended up having to switch to Comcast. There was just something increasingly wrong with my old POTS-based DSL line. When I first moved into the new house, I was getting a solid and very reliable 5.1 or 5.2 Mbps. While not the best, it was sufficient for my home office and enough to reliably do Netflix streaming in HD.

But it was definitely expensive. I was spending about $105 per month for the service, which was a bit high. However, it was business class and was running on a dedicated loop, meaning it wasn't sharing the line with my current telephone service.

However, after. Year and a half of service, something went wrong and the speed and reliability began to drop. Toward the end, about the best I could reliably achieve was about 4.0-4.2. I'd lost about 20% of my performance. And that drop was just enough that I could no longer stream Netflix at HD. In addition, with Felicia quitting her job to take care of Alex, we had additional demands on the service.

So, in the recommendation of my brother in law, I looked into Comcast Business service. I ended up with the cheapest package for both Internet (10x2) and basic cable television as well as a telephone line. The true triple play as it were. Now, I did end up opting for the static IP address at $14/month, I think.

All of this together, even with the static IP, ended up being $50 per month less than what I was paying for my DSL line and telephone before. And just as important, it's been reliable so far. I've been with them for going on three weeks now and I can't really complain so far.

As time goes on, I'll try to report back if I see any throttling or bad traffic shaping.