Written: September 14, 2014

Android Woes and a Fix

The two largest cell phone operating systems are iOS from Apple and Android from Google, so you’re probably using one of these for your own cell phone. Both Apple and Google provide updates that provide new features and fix things like security bugs. The latest Android release was dubbed KitKat, or version 4.4.2 and it came out about a month ago or so. My oldest son had read up about the new features and encouraged me to upgrade, so I did.

KitKat 4.4

My upgrade to KitKat was flawed, because all of a sudden my bluetooth headsets started to crackle and disconnect. The only way that I could make my bluetooth headsets work was to hold the phone two inches away from the headset, so that was certainly not practical. A quick Google search revealed that hundreds of other cell phone users were experiencing the identical issue as me, Android 4.4.2 had effectively killed their bluetooth capability. I phoned the 800 AT&T support and they suggested, “Oh well, just wait for another release to fix this issue.”

Samsung Galaxy Note 2

What, and in the meantime, how do I operate hands-free?

Not satisfied with that answer, I phoned up the local AT&T Customer Service on Barbur Boulevard in Portland. They told me to come visit the store for diagnosis. The local tech asked some questions, then decided to re-image the phone by installing their master version of 4.4.2, and as a side effect it would remove all of my Apps. I signed the consent form, and waited maybe 12 minutes.

He handed me the phone back, and then paired my bluetooth headset, it now worked just fine.

I was so glad that my local tech support guy at AT&T knew what to do in order to make my phone work again, because I always use my bluetooth headset and it allows me to keep my hands free for typing or driving. I learned not to always follow the advise from the 800 number.

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My Take on the Apple Product Announcements Today

In America the popular press talks almost non-stop about: Disasters, politicians, celebrities and Apple. Yes, Apple. Today I watched the live cast of the new Apple product announcements.

iPhone 6

Two new iPhones on the right

iPhone 6
First, the see things differently video started playing, then the live stream died so I had to turn over to CNET where they were live commenting. 30 years ago the first Macintosh computer with iconic mouse-based graphical user interface, and bit-mapped graphics was announced at the Flint Center. Today we heard about the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, like rumored, in screen sizes at 4.7″ and 5.5″, catching up to the Samsung Galaxy Note introduced in 2011.

The A8 chip has 2 billion transistors, designed in the 20nm process node, and a 64 bit architecture. The M8 is the new motion chip which allows Apps to measure acceleration, count steps, stairs, altitude and barometric pressure. About 28 minutes into the announcement the Apple Live cast came back to life.

Related: A Brief History of IC Design at Apple Computer

Apple-A8-Chip

The A8 processor chip

Usability improvements:

Apple fanboys can wait in line on September 19th, or just go online to pre-order on September 12th.

iOS8

On the software side iOS8 comes out on September 17th across most iDevices. Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon did celebrity promo videos for the iPhone 6 and 6+.

Related: A Brief History of the Apple MacBook Pro

Apple Pay

Next up was how Apple is replacing physical credit cards with a new payment system called Apple Pay, based on Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S5 already use NFC for secure payments with the Google Wallet app. Expect to see Apply Pay launch next month and in a few dozen big-name retailers.

Apple Pay

Apple Pay holds your credit card info

 

Apple Watch

One more thing…. As expected, we heard about the new Apple Watch, drawing a standing ovation from the crowd.

Apple Watch

One of many looks for Apple Watch

The strap is detachable, allowing users to customize the look to fit their own taste. The user interface is new, using the crown dial to select and navigate by clicking or turning. The display is sensitive to both touch and tapping, in a 3D sense. A taptic engine provides physical feedback. The custom-designed chip is called the S1, and complements the Taptic chip. Fitness metrics like heartbeat allow you to track health. You get three Apple Watch choices: Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport, Apple Watch Edition. You’ll need an iPhone to operate your new Apple Watch (not stand-alone, or interoperable with anything else), and other features or apps include:

Maps

Zoom on maps with twist of watch crown

Health and fitness was the final topic and Tim Cook talked about how the new Apple Watch gives you daily and workout feedback using technology like:

Charging is required daily for the Apple Watch. This watch will cost you $349, and is available in 2015.

Summary

The new generation of iPhone 6 and 6+ are a step in the right direction, as Apple finally offers more than one screen size, following on the success of other consumer product competitors like Samsung and HTC. For me, bigger screen size is always better and I’ve been enjoying a 5.5″ display with my Galaxy Note and Note 2 devices for a few years now. The custom A8 and M8 chips make the iPhone 6 and 6+ possible, continuing the tradition of in-house, ARM-based design.

Apple Pay looks to be another promising merge of business deals and NFC technology to make retail purchasing easier. Apple Pay uses fewer keystrokes than Google Wallet on an Android phone to make a purchase, so that’s an improvement.

The Apple Watch isn’t first to market, but it certainly has the best marketing launch for a product in the wearable category, and I think that offering two different sizes makes more sense than one-size fits all. The $349 price makes this an instant, high-end, consumer status device. I look forward to learning more about the two custom chips inside of the Apple Watch family. As an Android phone user I am not compelled to buy an Apple Watch, and will continue to use my Cat Eye device to track cycling fitness.

Related: IoT Application – Road Biking Fitness

 

Full Disclaimer: I do own shares of AAPL stock and use an iPad Air plus MacBook Pro each day.

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Wanting to Learn WordPress?

With some 70,000,000 users world-wide, it is safe to say that WordPress is very popular as both a CMS and blogging platform. Here in Portland, Oregon we have a very active Meetup group that hosts two meetings per month, so for August you can learn more about WordPress at:

Note that the first Meetup is for developers (aka programmers), people that actually code with PHP, Javascript, jQuery, CSS, HTML or MySQL.

The second  Meetup is for users of WordPress, not developers.

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Upgrading Your MacBook Pro by Replacing the Hard Drive with an SSD

As a technical professional I’m using my MacBook Pro every day of the week for work, so making it run a bit faster is always attractive and offers the promise of more productivity in the same amount of time. One upgrade that I’d been considering for awhile was replacing the hard drive with an SSD (Solid State Drive). The hard drive device has been around for decades and it’s basically a spinning platter that uses magnetism to store data, they are cheap, plentiful, and also prone to crashing.

On the other hand the SSD is a solid state device and has no moving parts, so there is nothing spinning that can crash and cause a catastrophic loss of data. Yes, in 10 years or so the SSD can start to have regions that kind of wear out, but I don’t plan on having this SDD around in 2024. After doing some research on SSD devices I opted to buy the Samsung 500GB 2.5-inch 840 EVO:

The instructions provided by Samsung were straight forward, however they were for a PC, not an Apple MacBook Pro, so I did a bit more Google research and found some free advise on how to proceed.

Copying the Old HD to the New SSD

The first step is to make an identical copy of the old hard drive over to the new SSD. In the Apple OS X there is the Disk Utility tool and it can make a backup, although I quickly discovered that my 750GB hard drive was larger than my 500GB SSD, even though the hard drive only used 320GB of space. The Disk Utility wouldn’t work with this size mismatch, so I had to find another method. Carbon Copy Cloner was the recommended alternative, and it worked well, so I kicked it off at night and came back in the morning when it was finished. They let you download and use the full version free for 30 days.

carbon_copy_cloner_logo

 

Installing the SSD

I powered down my MacBook Pro, unscrewed the 10 small screws on the bottom of the case, removed the old hard drive, plugged in the new SSD, then re-assembled. About 5 minutes of work.

Powering Up

The moment of truth came when I powered up the MacBook Pro with new SSD, and it booted OK, although it took over 1 minute of time which seemed way too slow based upon what others had written about where they saw about 25 seconds. I then did another Google search, and sure enough there was one more step that I had to do. From the Apple menu I selected: System Preferences> Startup Disk

I had to click on the name of my new SSD, then click the button: Restart

Mission accomplished, now the MacBook Pro booted in 25 seconds.

Not Quite a Clone

All of my data and apps worked OK after the clone, however a few of the apps knew that I had a new SSD and that it was not identical to the hard drive:

For Dropbox I just had to retype my email and password, while Microsoft Office insisted that I retype my 25 digit product key before it would start up.

New Speed

Yes, when I click on any app it starts up much quicker now, where the icon on the Dock bounces only one time instead of 4 to 10 times while the app loads from SSD into RAM. If you are the least bit impatient, then an SSD will help solve that. Opening up large PSD files in Photoshop is a breeze, and you don’t have to go fetch a cup of coffee while waiting.

Value

I basically waited to upgrade from hard drive to SSD until the price for a 500GB SSD reached the $200.00 price point, my threshold for a good value. Just a few years ago the same 500GB SSD would set you back some $1,500, so with time I am rewarded with a better value.


4 Responses to “Upgrading Your MacBook Pro by Replacing the Hard Drive with an SSD”

  1. Sunny says:

    I have Mac-mini at the momentn and would like to replace my 17″ Windows HP laptop with a macbook pro, prferrably 17″ screen size.

    I want to upgrade the Hard disk to SSD drive but I dont know how to clone/immage my present Mac mini HDD to SSD with the carbon copy cloner, how do I connect the HDD to SSD in order to clone the operating system and the present software.

    Best regards,
    Sunny Anibaba
    +44 7950 252 921 (UK)

  2. Daniel Payne says:

    To clone your HDD to SSD there is an adapter that allows you to plugin the SSD to a USB port. Then run the Carbon Cloner tool, it will prompt you to select the old HDD and the new SDD. Be aware that the cloning can take several hours to complete, especially if you have a drive with 300 GB or so used.

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A New Parts Catalog Web Site

Trever Dougan and his partner are starting up a brand-new parts catalog company called ICDT and asked me to help them get it up and running this month. For the Content Management System I selected WordPress, because it is the #1 CMS now with some 70,000,000 users. Trever wanted his clients to see all of the electronic parts he offers, but not actually order them, instead they can request a quote. I choose a catalog plugin and then added the quoting feature. Here’s a photo gallery to give an idea of how a prospective buyer can find their part and request a quote:

After a training session Trever is able to add new parts to the catalog, upload photos, add PDF specifications, along with updating any page or writing news articles. The theme for this website is responsive, so it works and looks good on the desktop, tablet and mobile devices.

I wish the team at ICDT all the best in their startup company.

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Information Architecture

The title of this blog may not present a clear idea in your mind, however in the web world an Information Architect decides important things like:

To that end we learned all about WordPress and Information Architecture last night at the monthly WordPress Meetup group in Portland, our guest speaker was Lorelle VanFossen. You can see the presentation summary at Lorelle’s web site.

 

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Avoid This WordPress Theme

Last night I attended the monthly Portland WordPress Meetup group and learned about membership sites, thanks to our guest speaker Bob Dunn. After the meeting ended I stayed around to meet new people and answer questions. An author approached me with a question about making her WordPress home page appear correctly, because something funny was happening. We used her laptop and logged into WordPress, then saw that it was using a Theme called StormMusic from SMThemes.

SM Themes

Based on my experience I knew exactly where to look in WordPress to control the Home page content, so I said, “Let’s click on: Settings> Reading“. This is what I expected to see in the WordPress dashboard:

Settings> Reading

 

This dialog is where I can define that my Home page is a static page, and that my blog posts should go on a page called Blog. Nice and easy. If you instead wanted a Blog style of web site, then you would click the radio button choice for Your latest posts, instead of A static page.

To my horror, all of these choices were missing. How could that be? What would make this standard WordPress dialog not appear?

It turns out that the culprit is the theme author, SMThemes. In their theme they decided to remove standard WordPress features, and instead do something totally different. I would call this very poor design, because they took a standard WordPress feature and removed it altogether, making a WordPress user like myself wonder if I’d lost my mind. When a company makes a decision like this, then I will recommend that you stay away from this theme in particular and probably all themes they have to offer in general. What use is a standard platform like WordPress if theme authors come along and remove standard features?

You have been warned.

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Let’s Go Surfing

One of my favorite web clients is surfer Nancy Emerson, and she teaches people how to surf in Hawaii, Australia and Fiji. Her newly remodeled web site is filled with gorgeous photos of sunny days, something that helps me muddle through a rainy Oregon spring time. The Home page features wide photos that rotate automatically, helping to tell the surfing story.

 

The theme for this web site also makes uses of columns and rows, almost like a newspaper or magazine, and that is something that helps to organize ideas and force the eye along a set path. Finally, most pages contain real testimonials from happy clients. A strong marketing principle is to let your customers sing your praise, instead of you telling everyone how great you are.

We had converted Nancy’s original site into WordPress a year ago, so doing this remodel meant that we had to update WordPress themes. The beauty of WordPress is that you can update your look, or Theme as often as you like. Visitors enjoy a visual change every year or so, almost like how the automobile industry comes out with new body styles and colors on an annual basis. Change catches our attention.

Mahalo.


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What is a Bundle Builder?

Telecom companies love to offer us lots of services and upgrades, but often the process to order these services is cumbersome or requires a phone call. Working with TCT West, we came up with an elegant way to accept orders online for:

It’s all done with dynamic forms and the following video gives a good overview of what the process looks like:

This ability is called a Bundle Builder and was delivered in WordPress, so that TCT can make their own updates to pricing without hiring a web developer.

The logic used for TCT West is unique to their business model, however the concept can be applied to any telecom provider wanting an online ordering system.

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Using Forms to Gather and Track Info

I’m a member of the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce and we used WordPress to build most of their web site. Next month there’s an annual award celebration, so this month we needed to gather nominations for the awards. In WordPress we used the Form feature in the Jetpack plugin. Here’s what the form looks like in WordPress:

After I defined the form in WordPress, I viewed it in a browser to double-check that it looked OK:

Once a web visitor fills out this Form, then feedback is sent by email to the Tualatin Chamber, and they can also go into WordPress and see this one nomination or even export all nominations into a CSV file for use in Excel.

So it’s quick and simple to add forms to your WordPress site, view the results, and automate the process to save you time in organizing your association or business.

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