Use your Android Phone as a Wireless Adapter for your Computer

So my Linux install going messed up somehow and I was left with no wireless driver installed. I know that you can use Android phones to USB tether mobile data (e.g. 3G/4G/LTE) but I didn’t know that you can do the same over WiFi!

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Now while in OSX I’m pretty sure it worked out of the box previously, it seems that you need now need to download theĀ HoRNDIS driver. With Linux (Ubuntu) it worked out of the box and in my previous usage of USB tethering, Windows should work automatically as well.

Joikuspot + bmobile Zoom! + OS X = Data Corruption?

So I’ve been using Joikuspot to tether my bmobile Zoom! wirelessly to my MacBook Pro running OS X and I noticed some weird hiccups and glitches that show some sort of corruption of the data bits I’m receiving from the Internet. The 4 main issues are

  1. Corrupted Webpages: that will show HTML markup in the middle or end of the page or even load gibberish

  2. Corrupted Images: the image will not fully load and reloading will not solve it (forgot to try clearing the cache though, I used Opera Turbo instead)

    Check out Lizzette Piltch’s Photos at Dragon Con 2010 for the full TMNT costumes among others

  3. Corrupted downloads: downloading the same file multiple times gives different md5sum hashes. Downloading directly from the phone seemed to get the file properly (so perhaps this rules out bmobile’s Zoom! as part of the problem)

  4. Interrupted videos streams: YouTube shows that it has loaded the whole video (after seeing the red progress ‘bar’ load fully) but in the middle of the video it just stops (this is different from truncated video streams where if you monitor the red progress bar it will jump from the middle to the end abruptly when loading the file)

Marul seems to have no issues for his Joikuspot so could it be OS X? Or could it just be an unreliable Internet connection from bmobile? Whatever is the cause of a combination of causes it does get annoying and wonder if there are ways to detect what’s going on and solve this strange problem of mine.

Quick Mac Tip – Search for Menu Commands in Help Menu

I encountered this cool tip while watching some Mac Break Work. If you can’t remember where to find an exact menu command in program in OS X

  1. Go to the Help Menu
  2. Type word to search for the command. This will populate a list of possible matched commands

  3. Highlight the particular command and click it to execute it or just hover over it and see the ‘magic’. Not only will it open the menu under which the command is listed under but it will also have a little moving pointer that points you to the command

This is great for exploring commands and just finding where a particular command has disappeared to in the menus

Multiple Instances of VLC on OS X

Despite there being an option for Windows version of VLC, it seems to be absent in the OS X implementation of it. In order to run multiple instance of VLC on OS X you will have to open up Terminal and run the following command
/Applications/VLC.app/Contents/MacOS/VLC
Source

This assumes that you installed VLC into the Applications folder. Otherwise you will have change it to the appropriate path where it is installed. It seems that running multiple instances of a program is discouraged by Apple’s usability guidelines (as mentioned by the forum poster) which would be ironic as I believe QuickTime files in Windows all open in a new window / instance as opposed to using an existing one.

OS X Desktop Icon Placement Issue

So I was trying to lay out some icons on the desktop (OS X 10.5.8) and noticed a weird and frustrating issue/problem.

  • I clicked and dragged an item (using the Trackpad)
  • Moved it to a location I wanted to place it
  • I let go of the trackpad

Now we would all think the item would place itself where I had placed it or if auto-arrange is on, to the closest square in the grid. But oddly enough that didn’t happen. If anybody has an answer for me

The things I like and love about OS X

In all fairness after all my issues with OS X there are still things I like and even love about OS X.

Functional/Usable OS
When I talk about functional I’m comparing it more to Linux. The Windows operating system is pretty much mature to the extent of OS X but in all honesty Linux still has a fair way to go for the desktop market share. I say this as a Linux user for over 3 years now. Any long time (or even regular) Linux user can possibly tell you of issues they have with Linux. Multiple desktops or even getting video out on a projector can still be an issue for Linux users. This can be seen in the opening of the “Linux Sucks” by Bryan Lunduke from the Linux Action Show (now renamed to the Computer Action Show to cover a wider range of topics). MP3, DVD and other codec support has some licensing and legal issues. Installing applications can be an issue too. I have to say I love the way that OS X application installation is done, and I believe BSD is similar to this. For OS X, typically you have an installer (similar to application installing on Windows) or you just drag and drop the application to the “Applications” folder: simple and easy. With Linux there are various ways to install applications depending on your distribution. For Debian based applications you can have .deb files that you double click and it installs similar to installers for Windows, however if there are unmet dependencies the installation will fail. You will have to hunt for the dependency, install that before you can install your application. Now this process is simplified with “apt-get” or variations based on it via the command line or a graphical user interface such as Adept. “apt-get” is great that it brings all software into one searchable index but having a single installer file that requires just a double click to install and ensures the application will work on any single Linux platform is still missing, making it hard to distribute applications on any sneakernet or person to person.

Compared to Linux I believe the “Macs just work” tagline is mostly true, but there is a caveat in that they work according to how Apple wants you to use it. There a issues that I’ve mentioned and just some features you don’t even get. In Snow Leopard‘s enhancements it states that only now you can “Restore deleted items to original folders” and put “Date in menu bar”. Honestly that is pathetic considering Windows has had these features for years. Features that are missing may not be ground breaking but it can be annoying and somehow it feels that you are being forced to use your computer in a certain manner rather than having the freedom of actually using the OS.

More Hardware Compatibility
I compare this solely with Linux as Linux typically gets the least support from hardware manufacturers and I can understand that from a business level: there are not enough users to justify developing a Linux driver and with respect to the packaging problem with different distributions it makes it even more costly to get a general installer. Linux hardware support can be great and it can be bad; there are alot of (older) hardware that will work with current Linux distributions (e.g. Ubuntu) out of the box without the need for manual drivers installation. The same can be true for Windows but sometimes to a lesser degree. While Mac hardware support will never match Windows hardware support it is definitely nice to have manufacturer support for hardware available for the Mac that is not possible with Linux.

Anti-Viral
OS X and Linux really have a great one up over Windows as being more secure in terms of design making viruses practically non-existent. This is to regards to the typical user end viruses and malware (spyware, trojans) that users will get from opening unsafe attachments and visiting malicious websites or just inserting a USB drive in Windows. The lack of viruses is also due to the smaller market share of OS X and Linux compared to Windows. Sad to say that malware production is a business and the people behind them aim for the biggest and easiest targets: Windows users. Now take note that OS X will still not prevent things like phishing that requires user education. Educated Windows users would typically know the risks and take the necessary precautions when using a Windows system.

Great Software Applications
Apple’s iLife is great for the typical user. It makes things easy to do what you get out of them is nice looking: certainly much better looking that any typical Windows or Linux application. For the creative types or people being put in positions to make media content quickly, iMovie and iPhoto enable users to quickly make movies and slideshows without too much effort. GarageBand is great for musicians / podcasters trying to create their own content. iDVD makes burning DVD videos / slideshows simple and the end result looks spiffy. Linux suffers pretty severely in this aspect. Video editing is hard: there is no easy solution thus far that provides functionality similar to Windows Live Movie Maker or the older (some say better) Windows Movie Maker.

Other great software would be Expose, Spotlight, Quicksilver and Automator. Expose gives a nice looking overview of all windows open at the moment and is something the typical user would use all the time.

Expose in action on 3 Finder windows:
expose finder

OS X indexing is a great thing as it enables Spotlight and basically OS X’s search to find documents, applications, emails and more quickly and easily. Spotlight is my default application launcher that lets me open applications straight from the keyboard: Command + Space, type in a few letters of the program, Enter > program starts. Need to look for a document or folder? Just type it it and you will see it in spotlight

Spotlight in action:
spotlight in action

Quicksilver is Spotlight on steroids and has so many uses that make it a power user’s dream. It can do a ton of things and can be extended through the use of plugins and triggers can be combined with scripts to perform a greater multitude of tasks. (Learn more: Beginners Guide to Quicksilver | Top 10 Quicksilver Plug-ins | Quicksilver – A Better OS X in Just 10 Minutes)

Various functions of Quicksilver:
quicksilver in action email files move files resize images

Automator is another great tool for power users and provides greater functionality of the OS so easily through user created Automator actions and if you can’t find an Automator action that does the task you want, you can create it easily through a simple graphical user interface. Resize all photos in a directory and save them elsewhere? Check. Renaming a bunch of files in a directory? Check. Categorize downloaded files into folders and add downloaded music to iTunes library? Check. Just like Quicksilver the applications are practically limitless. (Learn more: Getting Started with the Mac OS X Automator)

automator resize images

Multi-touch
Supporting multi-touch and having a multi-touch enabled trackpad is wonderful: it brings simplicity and functionality together with intuitiveness. Multi-touch is in many notebook trackpads but one of the earliest real uses of it, similar to OS X’s, is in the Asus EEE 900 netbook. Multi-touch trackpads are one of those things that once you have, it’s hard to go back to life without it.

Conclusion
OS X is a great platform. If viruses and malware don’t chase you away from Windows, the “things just work” (and work nicely) scenario just may bring you over to OS X. That being said, OS X technically requires a Mac computer which is something, myself included, dislike. This is where OSx86 Project, Hackint0sh.org and Hackintosh.com come in: they document hardware that is compatible with OS X and provide ways to install OS X on your regular PC without the need to buy Apple hardware. This is a legal gray/black area and may not get you a fully working version of OS X (I’ve heard EFiX provides a fully working OS X installation, including software updates, not sure about any other routes). All this hacking to get OX to run on a regular PC just shows how much people want to use OS X but just not on the limited/expensive hardware Apple offers. I guess it shows how much some people just love the OS.

Windows: provides the most compatibility with applications and hardware with the expense of having to know how to use the system carefully due to malware. (on a personal note, Windows is the most productive OS)
Linux: offers a sense of freedom that cannot be matched: free (as in beer and speech) applications that provide a completely non-restrictive environment with great stability but lacking in hardware manufacturer support and software areas (e.g. video editing). The most open platform.
OS X: great stable “that just works” operating system with restrictiveness in terms of hardware and software. The most closed platform

Nothing’s perfect and people use the computer for different reason and applications. The best is to use each operating system and see what works best for you. For Linux it’s easy: you can get live CDs, you can install them as virtual machines. Windows can be installed as a virtual machine and is generally available, however buying a retail version can cost you quite a bit (~B$300) and it may be better to just buy a cheap netbook that would be bundled with Windows XP (and soon to be Windows 7). To my knowledge OS X cannot be installed in a virtual machine and since it only runs on a Mac (legally) there is no choice but to borrow or buy a Mac to try OS X and thus is the hardest to test. So at the end of the day you’ll just have to pick you poison.

[category Apple, Technology]

Playing Nice with Filesystems

If you have played around with any 2 of the 3 major operating systems (Windows, OS X and Linux) and start transferring files to and from external hard disk you will probably run into an issue with the type of filesystem you choose for your hard disk. Windows likes NTFS, OS X likes HFS and Linux likes ext. As you can see none of them are the same. Being different is not so much an issue, but being compatible and accessible to all is.

Based on default system settings:

  • NTFS is readable on all operating systems, but not writable on OS X. Most modern Linux distributions can write to NTFS drives
  • HFS is readable on OS X and modern Linux distributions, and not writable on Windows or Linux
  • ext is only readable on Linux and not writable on Windows or OS X.

or to put it based on operating system

  • Windows can only read and write to NTFS, nothing else
  • OS X can read and write to HFS and read NTFS
  • Linux can read and write to ext and NTFS and read HFS

Take note that there is also the older FAT32 filesystem that is fully supported for reading and writing by all operating systems but due to limitations of FAT32, I rather not consider this. Basically the main issues with FAT32 is that the maximum file size is 4GB and the maximum partition size is 32GB (actually Windows can’t format a FAT32 partition greater than 32GB but can read FAT32 partitions of more than 32GB. Use GParted or just filter this Google search to be able to create and format a partition of 32GB). If these are limitations you can deal with, for the sake for interoperability stick with FAT32.

Now to solve the problem of support for each filesystem in each operating system:

NTFS:

  • OS X: NTFS-3G + MacFUSE
  • Linux: NTFS-3G
  • I’ve been using NTFS-3G in Linux for many years and haven’t had any problems with it and so far it’s working well with OS X too
  • On another note if the NTFS drive is not unmounted properly or there are some issues with the file system integrity, it is necessary to use Windows scan disk to rectify the problem. Thus this requires a copy of Windows to fix the filesystem.

ext:

  • Windows: Ext2 Installable File System for Windows
  • OS X: Mac OS X Ext2 filesystem
  • I’ve had issues of only being able to mount an ext2 partition in Linux and it gave a mount error in Windows and OS X and was due to an inode issue as new Linux distributions create the file system with inodes of 256 bytes but Ext2 fs only supports the older version with 128 bytes. And the only solution is to back up the files, and reformat partition with inodes of 128 bytes (-I 128) and restore the files.
  • Filesystem integrity issues should be able to be fixed with “fsck” from a Linux distribution / live CD. The great thing about this is that you can get a Linux distribution for free and this recovery can be done with out any strings attached.

HFS:

  • Windows: MacDrive (US$50, read and write), Paragon HFS for Windows (read only)
  • Linux: Enabling HFS writing in Ubuntu
  • Note: I have not personally tested these so I cannot give first hand experience of how well it works or what issues can be had with this.
  • I believe that HFS+ journal
  • I would believe any filesystem repairs would have to be done in OS X (similar to NTFS and Windows) and if so this enforces that you have OS X at hand, and in order to have OS X you must have Apple hardware or a Hackintosh either way this is very restrictive.

So it is pretty easy to get full read and write support of all 3 default file systems on the 3 major OS’s but there are issues. So far I’m inclined to stick with ext2/ext3 just due to the fact that it has no restrictions in terms of filesystem repair. I’ve had many NTFS issues related to damaged filesystems that required Windows and the inconvenience of taking the drive out of my box to find a Windows box was too much.