The other day I was having a conversation with a few friends who were talking about smartphones. The topic came up because my friend’s daughter keeps asking him for an iphone. His response was to show him his ancient cell phone and proclaim that he doesn’t need an iphone so why should his daughter get one?

For luddites, the question of necessity is always the first objection to any new technology. Necessity is always a relative thing. Luddites always question the value of a new technology by proclaiming that they don’t need it. But what technology do you actually need?

If you ask most people today, they will probably declare that they need a cellphone. Twenty years ago, if you asked the same people they would probably claim that a cellphone was completely unnecessary. The same is true of the computer, ATM cards, the automobile, electricity, running water, plumbing, etc, etc, etc. Back in the stone age I’m sure there people who claimed that horses were unnecessary.

Parents questioning the need for a child to have a smartphone reminds me of my own childhood experience. Way back in 1993, I was a 15 year old who wanted to have a pager. Back then pagers were only associated with doctors and drug dealers. A few of my friends had pagers, and I wanted to get one too. I scrounged up enough cash to buy a “used” pager down in Philly and brought it back up to my hometown to get activated.

My parents were not happy that I bought a pager. They associated pagers with drug dealers and didn’t understand why I needed a pager. As with any technology, the question of need was brought by those that oppose the new technology. After a heated discussion, I was able to keep my pager.

A few days later, I was out with friends and my parents needed to get ahold of me. They tried calling my friend’s house, but I wasn’t there. So what did they do? They paged me, and a few minutes later I called them from a pay phone. At that instant, my parents saw the value of the new technology and no longer objected to the pager. In fact, they loved the idea of the pager since they could reach me no matter where I happened to be.

Luddites are people who constantly object to new technologies by questioning the need, but really they are just people who don’t understand the value. There are always going to be people who irrationally object to new technologies, but for most people once you communicate the value, the question of need is no longer an objection.

Garmin Edge 800
The Garmin Edge 800 is Garmin’s latest GPS enabled cycling computer. I decided to pick one up last fall when they came out, after being the satisfied owner of two previous Garmin cycling specific models. (Edge 305 and 500) Garmin tends to always release new products in the Edge line with beta quality firmware at best, which I totally understand. However; the Edge 800 firmware can’t even be called beta, its more like alpha at best. I’ve owned the Edge 800 now for 5 months, and Garmin has had one lousy update. All of the rave reviews somehow missed the major bugs with some of the most basic use cases for the Edge 800.

One of the most basic features of the Edge 800 is the ability to give you turn by turn directions with a map card installed. Plot your course on, export it to the Garmin, and you’re on your way. Amazingly, this feature is completely broken with the Edge 800. Turn by turn directions do not work without doing a laborious workaround.

Another basic use case that’s completely broken with the latest Edge 800 firmware update is plugging your device in to a computer. With the 2.1 firmware version, plugging the Edge 800 into a mac does not initiate USB drive mode. The workaround is to hold the reset button while plugging in the USB cable, then releasing the reset button.

How such a bug got through the most basic level of QA is beyond me. Many users are experiencing rides where suddenly the Edge 800 reports that they went 3000+ miles. I experienced this the bug the other day ruining the data from my ride.

I think the Edge 800 has a lot of potential, but the current firmware is just too buggy to actually recommend the device at this time. Garmin’s lack of timely updates to their flagship cycling device is simply inexcusable.

Today, as I prepare to buy the Ipad 2, I want to revisit my orginal Ipad rant titled “Why the Ipad will be synonymous for failure.” A year later, the Ipad is obviously not a failure. So lets look at some of the points from my previous post.

The Kindle is a Superior E-reader

This is still true to this day. The Ipad is not a good book reader. Most people I know with Ipads also own a Kindle. At the time of that post, there was no Kindle application, and no indication from Apple that competing e-reader applications would be allowed.

Why buy an Ipad when your smartphone already has the same functionality?

I made a really stupid assumption. The assumption was that human beings are logical when it comes to making purchasing decisions. The fact is, people buy things based on appeal and desire, not left brain analysis. The world economy is driven by illogical purchasing, and I’m just as guilty as anyone else.

Lack of multitasking and user profiles makes it a bad product

Apple fixed the multitasking issue for the most part, but the user profile concern is still valid. However; most people don’t care about such a feature and Apple sure as hell doesn’t want to promote people sharing Ipads. Steve wants to sell more Ipads.

There is no camera, there is no video out, there is no usb port

The camera issue is fixed with the Ipad2, and there is a video out adaptor. I prefer the built-in hdmi adaptor on the Xoom, but I’m not sure I have a use case for video out on my tablet. A USB port would be nice, but Apple doesn’t want to sell the Ipad as a computer and they don’t want expandability. I expect that to change as the competition from Android matures over the next two years.

It all started with a few e-mails. A bunch of receipts for $50 iTunes purchases. When I first saw them, I assumed they were phishing attempts. A lot of phishers will use fake receipts that contain links to lure people to fake websites for acquiring passwords. I looked at the source of the e-mail and it looked legit, so I went on iTunes and discovered that my account was hacked.

There were several $50 purchases that use a feature called “Itunes allowances” which allow people to give others iTunes credit. The allowances were sent to a bunch of Yahoo! china e-mail addresses. Needless to say, I was pretty shocked. My password security is pretty good, and I’m very careful about what I do on the Internet.

So after finding out I was hacked, the first thing I wanted to do was call Apple. Want to actually call Apple about something? You’re shit out of luck. The only way to contact Apple about iTunes fraud is to send them an e-mail, and don’t expect a timely response. It took 12 hours to get a reply. Apple doesn’t really handle fraud at all. They tell you to contest the charge with your credit card issuer or Paypal. I was shocked at how poorly Apple handled the situation, which I guess is why scammers are using iTunes as a platform for exploitation.

My Apple account was tied to my Paypal account. Apple forces iPhone owners to have some form of billing setup, even if you don’t actually buy anything from Apple. I had my Apple account linked to my Paypal account. The eight $50 charges went to Paypal, so I contacted Paypal too.

I have to give Paypal some credit, someone called my cell within 10 minutes of me filing the fraud compliant. Paypal will be sending me a refund. However, the refund process takes 10-15 days! Paypal instantly withdrew $400 from my bank account, but it takes them over 10 days to issue me a refund. Oh, and here is the best part. The refund is sent to my Paypal balance! Then I need another 3-5 days to transfer the money back to my bank account.

How did my itunes account get hacked? I’m not sure. My computers are all secure, but I did reuse the Itunes password on several different other websites. It was a password that I used on quite a few Internet forums. My best guess is some forum site got hacked, and thats how my e-mail/password was grabbed. Thats my best guess. My security questions are too tough for anyone to guess, and while Apple is completely inept when it comes to security, I can’t imagine anyone brute forcing my iTunes password.

supermicro 5036
Since I started working for a software vendor, my personal use of virtualization has grown exponentially. Everything I demo is contained within a VMware virtual machine. When I need to test new products or complex multi-product configurations, virtualization is the obvious choice, especially considering that my office is my home. I’ve been doing most of my work on a laptop, but I’m constantly running in to resource limits. Not enough disk space, not enough RAM, and lacking the CPU/Storage speed necessary for simulating enterprise software.

To solve my resource limitations, I decided to build a workstation that would function as a VMWare ESXI server. ESXi was the obvious choice since its the most widely used, and its completely compatible with the virtual machines I run on my Ubuntu laptop using VMware workstation. I wanted to get a pre-built whitebox that was supported by VMware. I selected the Supermicro 5036, which basically has server class hardware in a mid-tower form factor. I picked up a 3 ghz quad core i7 CPU and 12GB of ram. For storage I chose 4 1TB drives that I was planning on using in a RAID5 array.

When my hardware arrived, I burnt the latest ESXi iso (4.1) to a CD and began the install. I quickly discovered that ESXi does not support the on-board RAID capability of the motherboard. I naively assumed that when VMware said a device was supported, that all the functions of that device were supported. I really wanted to utilize RAID in my configuration, so I found a ESXi 4 supported 3ware RAID card on Ebay for a reasonable price. When the RAID card arrived, I installed the card and quickly discovered that VMware dropped support of the 3ware 9550sxu-4lp RAID card with version 4.1, so I would need to utilize 4.0 update 1 if I wanted to use RAID with my current card. The bottom line is VMware ESXi hardware support is very limited and subject to rapid changes.

So I downloaded and installed ESXi version 4.0 update 1 and the driver for 3ware RAID cards. I had 4 1TB drives setup in a RAID5 array, which seemed like a very basic configuration. However, when I logged in via the client I found out that ESXi cannot handle disk arrays over 2TB. My compromise configuration was to set up 2 drives as RAID 0 and 2 drives as RAID 1. One datastore for speed, and one datastore for data integrity.

With the installation complete, I was able to quickly move my existing VM’s to my new server using VMware converter. Besides the hardware compatibility issues, I’m really happy with the performance of the ESXi server. My only big gripe is that the Vsphere client used for accessing the ESXi server is Windows only, which is absolutely inexcusable.

The United States is a great country, but after spending 10 days on a whirlwind trip across France, here are a few areas where the USA can learn a thing or two.

In France, tips are not expected, even at full service restaurants. In the United States, the tipping culture has gotten out of hand. Its gone way beyond wait staff at full service restaurants, today we see tip jars popping up all over the place. I’m a generous tipper, but things are out of control. Employees are getting underpaid, and consumers are expected to fill up the gap.

alex driving
I was amazed how well motorists behave on the highway in France. First off, nobody clogs up the left lane. Everybody moves immediately to furthermost right lane when not executing a pass on the highway. Nobody passes on the right hand side.

After driving over 2500 miles, I was shocked how smooth the highways are in France. Literally, I did not hit a pothole of significance during the whole trip. I don’t know what the French are doing differently, but their roads are clearly superior, and I didn’t see much construction going on during our trip.

Gas Station Coffee

In the United States, if you want drinkable coffee you are forced to go do a dedicated coffee house. Gas stations and rest stops have horrible coffee. I’m sorry folks, but Wawa and Sheetz have shitty coffee. Donut shops have shitty coffee. In France, every rest stop has automated espresso machines that make decent coffee. Its not great, but its way better than anything in a gas station in the USA.

There is great food in the USA, but its not the norm. You can easily have a bad food experience. Its hard to have a bad food experience in France, especially if you avoid the touristy sections.