The Kindle and I

Posted on July 6th, 2011 by Luke Sheldrick.
Categories: IT / Tech, Personal.
Tags: , , , .

6 07 2011

I’m well late for this party, but having recently got an Amazon Kindle, and I have to say, I am very, very impressed with it.

Sure, it doesn’t play movies, it has a laughable web browser, and the audio play back is awful. However for what it was designed for, reading books, it is simply the best device I have used.

I’d previously tried to read paper books, using iBooks no the iPad, Android Tables, Phones, and my iPhone, nothing really felt right. I went on a long weekend to Tenerife a few weeks back, and wanted to try out a few books I’d been recommended. Previously I hand’t really been a ‘bookworm’, sure I read tons every day, but usually they’re technical books, RSS, Blogs… that kind of thing, but not novels or that kind of thing; even rarer to read it from cover to cover.

So I picked up a wifi Kindle, for £90, ordered a few books on the store, charged the thing up, and shoved it in my bag. Whilst sitting by the pool, I started to read ‘A Million Little Pieces’ a book a good friend had recommended. The first thing I noted was the eInk screen, and how easy it was to read in the bright sunlight – something no other device I have can be said about. The second was how comfortable it was to read with it. The buttons are exactly where they need to be on both sides, and the Kinda is very light, lighter than most books, so holding it for any length of time isn’t an issue.

The things that are clearly awesome about it:

  • The price – It’s really rather cheap in comparison to my normal gadgets.
  • Ease of use – It’s so simple, even Mother can get on with it.
  • Ease of buying – The system Amazon has built around buying eBooks is so simple. I can request a sample of a book, read the first chapter, and if I like it, at the end of the first chapter, I have a buy button; that’s it, I then have the book.
  • Screen – The eInk display is really rather impressive. The only downfall to it is the lack of backlight, so as soon as it’s not overly light where you are, you can’t see the thing. They do have a case with integrated night light. This also works quite well, as it uses the power from the device for power.
  • Weight/Shape/Controls – They are all very well designed.
  • Battery – Two weeks of use, and I still haven’t charged it.

The things that aren’t so awesome:

  • Screensavers – They’re awful. I had to jailbreak the device, to get rid of them.
  • Cases – To get a backlight, I bought the official case – they’re not cheap.
  • VAT – not an Amazon or a Kindle issue – but in the UK, you still get charged VAT (20%) for eBooks. So eBooks are more expensive than paper books – CRAZY!

One thing I really wish I had done now in reflection is to buy the 3G model. The only reason I’d want that is the page sync. I’ve found that the Kindle app for Android is surprisingly very good. I use it on my ZTE Blade, which has an AMOLED screen. Putting the background to black and text to white, doesn’t use a lot of battery at all on the Blade, and being able to turn page by using the volume switch, makes it quite a good device to use when I don’t have my kindle on me. The only issue with this is, I need to remember to turn the kindle wi-fi on and sync the pages back to Amazon – if I’d bought the 3G model, this would just do it for me.

I’ve tried the Kindle app on the iPad, and whilst it’s all there, I just don’t find the iPad that great for reading for any length of time, the lack of a ‘turn page button’ and it’s slightly too heavy. It is however neat to have a synced copy of all my books on all the devices… just in case.


Unsecured Call?

Posted on June 7th, 2011 by Luke Sheldrick.
Categories: IT / Tech.
Tags: , , , .

7 06 2011

“The Cellular network you are using is not encrypted. This call can be intercepted by unauthorized listeners”

Running the first iOS 5 beta on my iPhone 4. Got this come up when I received a call this afternoon.

Apple looking to put in end-to-end encryption of calls?


Motorola Xoom

Posted on May 8th, 2011 by Luke Sheldrick.
Categories: IT / Tech.
Tags: , , , , , , .

8 05 2011

Last week, a colleague at work bought a Motorola Xoom, I had a quick play in the office and was very impressed.

I’d previously owned the original iPad, however had grown quite bored of it’s lack of customisation ability. I found my self using it less and less, and eventually sold it, luckily just before the iPad2 was announced. I’ve been an advocate of Apple kit for quite some time, having owned every iPhone since they have come out, however last week whilst I was waiting for my number to port over to Three UK, I was using my ZTE Blade (running Cyanogen 7), and was really surprised how much it had come on from when I had last properly played.

motorola xoom

So when I had a quick go on the Xoom, I was quite impressed. Being the impulsive gadget lover, I went after work to buy one. At the moment they’re only available on the high street from Carphone Warehouse, on a 24 month data contract. Unfortunately I managed to get a parking ticket as I was being slightly optimistic that I would only be in the shop for two minutes, however it was more like forty.

The only tablet I have used before is the original iPad, running iOS 4.3, so my opinion and comparisons are limited. I’ve used the Galaxy Tab, but not in any great detail.

The Xoom is the first tablet to be released to the mass market running Google’s Android operating system, 3.0 aka Honeycomb. The Xoom has all the usual features you would expect from the tablets on the market today, these include front and rear cameras, 3G, wifi, bluetooth, HDMI output, 1G DDR2 and based on the Nvidia Tegra 2, which is a 1GHz dual core processor.

The first impressions of Honeycomb are very impressive. It’s been well designed for use on the tablet platform and feels very smooth. However after a bit more use, my opinion has changed somewhat.

What I like

  • Honeycomb is a big improvement over v2.x of Android, on a tablet.
  • In comparison to iOS, the ability to customise Android is far superior. Widgets, shortcuts, themes, application integration, all are much superior.
  • The inbuilt browser is very fast, and well presented. Has all the features I would expect.
  • The aspect ratio at 1280×800 (wide-screen) works really well, and the screen is almost as responsive as Apple’s multi touch sensor.

What I didn’t like

  • The device has the Tegra 2 chipset. A dual-core processor, which supports up to 720p. However no video player is included in the OS. Many of the ones I tried from the market, either didn’t work, or didn’t fully utilise the GPU, so getting the full 720p didn’t work.
  • Honeycomb crashes quite a bit, having to force apps to close and settings windows quite often.
  • The device has a micro-usb port for connectivity, however doesn’t charge from this. Instead they use a proprietary connector to their custom power brick. This in my opinion sucks. I have a Micro, a Mini and an Apple charger, by my bed, in my bag, on my various desks, and by the couch. Having one of these chargers just is a big draw back for me.
  • The speakers are on the back of the device. That’s a bit of a design flaw to start with, however even worse, is they’re right where I hold the device, so even worse.
  • The device seems heavy in the hand. The original iPad was 1.6lbs for the 3G model, which is the same as the Xoom. However in comparison the the iPad2, which is 1.33lbs, so seems much heavier.
  • At launch flash wasn’t supported. Something iOS has come under fire for, and something the Android lovers have always commented on. This should have been there at release.
  • The Micro-SD card isn’t supported as yet. I’m not quite sure how you can release a product without full support of the hardware provided.
  • The Micro-SD card is on the same adapter and slot as the SIM card, so when it is supported, to swap the card over, you’ll also need to power down, as the SIM isn’t hot-swappable.
  • There are very few apps designed for honeycomb and even less for the tegra2. This is to be expected, as they’re both only just out.
  • Accessories for the device are very limited. When the iPad came out, this was exactly the same, however I very much doubt they’ll be quite as much choice.

There is one more annoyance, but that is neither to do with the device or the OS. Why mobile providers feel the need to sit proxies in front of their customers, which resample images to almost unviewable versions is beyond me. Sure you may save a few KBs, but really? The device is supposed to be use as a consumer device, however if I look at flickr I want to see a decent quality version of the photo, not some re-sampled crap version.

Overall, it’s an ok device, but it isn’t amazing. Honeycomb I expect will be really very good once it has some more time to mature. The overall experience of the device is it just hasn’t had the thought and attention into how it will be used. A few small changes could have really changed this. Honeycomb feels like an initial beta release. In my opinion it’s not quite there, in both stability and support (of other apps). Given time, I honestly thing I would prefer Honeycomb to iOS on the tablet, it just needs to mature somewhat.

I’ll be exercising my 14 day cancellation period tomorrow, and taking the device back.


Eye-Fi Pro X2

Posted on April 17th, 2011 by Luke Sheldrick.
Categories: IT / Tech, Photography.
Tags: , , , .

17 04 2011

Last year I bought an Eye-Fi Pro X2, as a neat addition to my photography kit. It boasts a 8GB Class6 SD card, with integrated geolocation and a wifi uploading. Quite neat I thought.

I went for the Pro model as it supported RAW uploading, but was quickly disappointed by the limits of the card.

  • Geolocation – I’m not sure why I was expecting more, but this is only using so-called ‘wifi-location’. This is fine in the city, but quite often the reason I want to geotag my photos is because I am in the middle of no where, this wont work there.
  • Geolocation – To get your photos geotagged they have to be first uploaded to their servers. I can kind of understand this, as card it’s self doesn’t have enough grunt to process the current wifi macs it can see, and properly geotag them. However these seen macs are stored in the image, so when it is uploaded to the eye-fi servers, they can do the lookup to the database, and assign the correct geotags. Why their app cannot do this, is beyond me. It seems completely stupid to upload 8GB of images, to have them tagged, to download them again, to process. 16GB of transfer, for what would probably be <1Mb if they did this the logical way.
  • RAW – Whilst the RAWs will be uploaded, they wont be geotagged. When I contacted eye-fi, they state that there is no standard for the EXIF location tags for RAW. This certainly wasn’t mentioned on the box/site/anywhere.
  • Upload to open and public networks – The X2 range come with this service for free for a year. This seemed perfectly fine to me, a lifetime of free uploads would be good, but probably not sustainable. However, it didn’t actually include the access to public networks, i.e. BTOpenzone, The Cloud..etc this only enabled the card to join these networks once you had setup your card with one of the premium accounts that you’d need to pay for separately. Again, this certainly wasn’t mentioned beforehand.

This was all a bit annoying, but not the end of the world. I still used the card, paired it to my MiFi from three. As I have 15GB allowance, uploading wasn’t an issue. I had setup selective sync, so it would only upload photos I ‘protected’. This worked quite well, often when I was at expos, I could be uploading the photos to eye-fi, then using their mobile optimised website, select where I wanted to share the photos too. Giving an almost instant upload to the web, throughout the day. When I got home, the eye-fi agent had downloaded all the files, so I could process them further if I wanted. All quite neat.

I then had a card corrupt totally, not readable in a number of machines (running Windows, Linux or OSX), and none of my cameras. Their RMA process was awful to be honest. Weeks to get a response via email, then a huge delay when thye had received my card back. It seemed they only stated to respond timely when I mentioned them on twitter.

Since then, on my D3o0s, I have set it up to put the jpgs to the eye-fi card, and raws to the CF card. As I don’t use raw on the eye-fi, this works well for me. I in effect have a raid-1 setup, so if a card corrupts, I have the images on the other card.

The other day I saw that eye-fi had launched a new product, the Mobile X2, which allowed direct uploading directly to an iOS or Android device. This is something the hacker community have had for a while, but finally supported by eye-fi is cool. They said they would be upgrading the firmware on the current X2 range to implement this feature.

Today I opened the eye-fi manager on my mac, and it indeed said it had an update. It then listed direct mode as a feature for my card, but that required a firmware upgrade too, great. Or not, it listed the firmware it needed as being the current firmware, so failed every time. Looking on their forums a few people here and here. It seems their PR department had been working overtime, and all marketing shouldn’t have gone out yet. Oh dear.

Anyways, reading further into it, I could upgrade my card manually upgrade the firmware by unregistering it and registering it again, losing my settings. Not something I’m overly fussed about. So once I had done that, I downloaded the iOS application, to find out, the new one isn’t on the store yet. I guess this might be what they’re waiting for.

The android app had been, so I grabbed my ZTE Blade, and installed. The card now shows it’s self a wireless access point, so the app connects the phone to that AP, and that’s then how the card uploads to the phone. Took a few snaps and indeed, they were uploaded to the phone.

ZTE Blade receiving photo from Eye-Fi X2 Pro

However, now the phone is connected to the eye-fi, it itself now cannot get to the outside world. On Android, if you have a wireless connection, it drops it’s connection over the cellular. Naturally the eye-fi card doesn’t have an internet connection, so now both devices are isolated. Also an interesting thing, you can edit the setting on the card, from the phone, but only if you have an internet connection, which naturally now is broken.

Can't connect to internet

As far as I can see, I cannot change this behaviour in android, so looks totally broken.

It’s such a shame when companies hype a product so much, but when it comes to the crunch, it really doesn’t live up to the promises.


10.6.7 + Aperture 3 + Final Cut Express 3 = fail

Posted on April 9th, 2011 by Luke Sheldrick.
Categories: IT / Tech.
Tags: , , , , , .

9 04 2011

Yesterday, my flatmate looked like he was going to pull all of his hair out. He was on the phone to Apple, who kept fobbing him off. So I thought I’d be nice and help out.


He had bought Aperture 3 from the Mac AppStore, and was working fine. The 10.6.7 update came out, and he’d updated to that too. Still all fine. He’d then bought and installed Final Cut Express 3. After this Aperture panic’s when it opens with something like

Library not loaded: /Library/Frameworks/PluginManager.framework/Versions/B/PluginManager
Referenced from: /Applications/
Reason: no suitable image found. Did find:
/Library/Frameworks/PluginManager.framework/Versions/B/PluginManager: no matching architecture in universal wrapper

Attempted fixes

He’d tried un-installing and re-installing both Final Cut Express, and Aperture in all sorts of combinations. Nothing was working. He then called Apple who pointed him towards this article. However that was for 10.6.6, and he was now on 10.6.7, so couldn’t apply that update.

I took a look, and indeed with any combinations of re-installing, and even re-applying the 10.6.7 update didn’t fix the issue.

Looking at various forums, such as the Apple discussion forums, there were plenty of people having the issue. Reading those, and various blog entries, there were a number of suggestions, from applying the 10.6.6 update, to re-installing OSX (yeah, sure that would probably fix it, but not the best approach), there was even a suggestion to run Aperture in 32bit mode. Nothing worked.

My Fix

So I decided to give up on the forums and t’internets, and try my own method of tracking down the issue. I got my MacBookAir, and took a manual backup with TimeMachine (which backs up to my Solaris SAN). This meant I had a clean backup, if anything went wrong. I am also at patch level 10.6.7. I had a look in /Library/Frameworks and I had the folder PluginManager.framework.

I installed Aperture 3, and all worked. Folder was still there. I then proceeded to install Final Cut Express, and when the installer had finished the folder had been deleted. Wasn’t in the trash or anything. Interesting.

This naturally broke Aperture, as it did on my flatmate’s MBP. Just to see if I could resolve this, in a more methodical fashion, I un-installed Aperture and Final Cut, and then re-applied the 10.6.7 update. Still PluginManager.framework was missing.

I had a good copy of PluginManager.framework so decided to install Aperture and Final Cut, then copy PluginManager.framework back to /Library/Frameworks. After this everything worked as expected.

My flatemate doesn’t have any backups, so I scp’ed my PluginManager.framework folder to his MBP, and indeed, all worked.


So ignore the forums, they’re just going to have you running around in circles.

Restore PluginManager.framework from your backups, after installing Aperture and Final Cut Express.

If you’ve not installed Final Cut Express yet, make sure you take a copy of PluginManager.framework.

If you’ve already installed, and don’t take backups. Then well, that’s just silly. If you want a copy of my PluginManager.framework folder, leave a comment, and I’ll get a copy over to you. In my tests, going from a MBA, to a MBP, it all worked fine. Not 100% sure if it will work on say a MacPro or iMac, but I would have thought it would, OSX isn’t _that_ much different between machines, except for drivers.

Hope this helps someone else out there.


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