Archive for the ‘Hardware’ Category

New Laptop! Dell Inspiron 7000 13-7378

Amazing. Amazing on two fronts. First that I have actually gotten off my bum and decided to make another post, and secondly that I have finally decided to pull the trigger on getting a new laptop.

I am one of those guys who likes to talk himself out of making a purchase, even though I need it. I have been working with some pretty old equipment for a long while. Using two old Dell laptops, one of which has a bad (dimming) screen, and the other whos dvd drive and sound card have blown out. Of course the parts are not interchangeable between the two. Well, at Christmas time I finally decided (my Mom talked me into it) that maybe since I spend most of my life banging on my computers that I ought to just go out and get a decent one to use.

I actually decided on a 13 inch Macbook Air, which is really a pleasure to use, runs linux just fine (of course I would run linux on it) and is aesthetically pleasing, light and durable. Well, it just so happens that I had my wife shopping with me and she started looking at the Dell laptops and saw one that was similar in look and specs to the Apple and a couple hundred dollars cheaper (bingo!).

This Dell is a 13 inch 2 in 1 i7 laptop encased in aluminum with 12Gb ram, 256Gb ssd, backlit keyboard and a *gorgeous* high def display. It has all the usual ports and, like you would expect, everything works right out of the box with linux. I am running Mint 18.1 on it at the moment and couldn’t be happier. Now not only can I see what I am doing, but I can hear sound on the laptop too! Having good battery life is another bonus with a new laptop 😉

If you are looking for a really sweet deal on a darn good new linux laptop, definitely go give this one a look. I found it for $700 at BestBuy and it was the last one they had in stock. Plenty of the i5s and i3s still there though, of course 😉

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Boom in 30 seconds

Aiwa Exos 9

Aiwa Exos 9

That’s how long it took, and that may be overestimating things. I opened the box, pulled out the unit, plugged it in, switched it on and noticed on the top there was a touch sensitive display that said “Link” so I touched it and then poked the bluetooth icon on my phone, paired the device and just like that I was playing music! It really happened as quickly as you just read it.

It was many months ago I had heard that Aiwa had been resurrected. Purchased by a Chicago company headed by CEO Joe Born, a fellow I have come to know as an innovator and generally one smart cookie through my interraction with him through the Linux Link Tech Show. I was thrilled. I knew big things would be coming, and now, here it is sitting in my livingroom!

The first (that I know of) product release from the new Aiwa is, and this is how it should be, a “Boombox for the new millennium” called the Aiwa Exos 9. This is in essence, a BIG portable bluetooth speaker. It’s big in size, big in sound and big in features. It’s about 12×19.5×7.5 inches. It weighs about 12-15lbs (my scale is not great) and does 200 watts. In short, it rocks.

I just happen to have been born in 1970 and, as a child of the 80s, this whole thing brought memories flooding back to me of how EVERYONE back in the day used to run around with a boombox, playing their favorite toons. Remembering scenes from “Say Anything” where John Cusack is holding his boombox up playing “In your eyes” by Peter Gabriel. Those were good times with great music and this felt like a welcome homage to that (and Aiwa made some rockin’ boomboxes and sterios back in the day).

Now, it should be noted that I am NOT an audiophile, so if you are, and you are dying for more technical specs, you should look what these guys say. I have been heavily involved in music my entire life. I have studied it and was even a union card holding professional musician for a while. I have listened to a LOT of music, and *I* like the way this sounds. It’s clean. It has good base response that doesn’t distort the music and it sounds good at low and high volume levels. This reminded me of this great pair of Bose 901’s I used to listen on (and they are wickedly expensive). I really liked this and if you read the reviews on Amazon, etc., I am not at all in the minority on that sentiment.

Did I mention this is portable? That’s right. Like a boombox, this is ready to go on adventure with you to your patio or to a pool party or picnic or beach. It has a rechargeable battery that lasts 8+ hours and you can buy an extended battery with double the time. And don’t forget the built in handle on the back to make it easy to take it with you.

There were a couple of things I might change though. Firstly, with the speaker grill on the unit looks pretty plain. I took off the grill to expose the speakers and found that much more aesthetically pleasing. The unit also includes an equalizer with 8 programmable presets. It would be helpful for non audiophiles like me if *some* were pre-programmed for things like Jazz, Rock, Classical, etc.. I would LOVE to see them include a spectrum analyzer to give the unit some bling while it’s playing at those late night parties. Lastly I have heard several people mention perhaps side clasps for a carry strap, although I seem to be able to make due just fine with the back built in handle.

So, where does that leave us? Why, the price of course! This sells for $299 on Aiwas site or on Amazon. I think it’s a steal. You are SURE to spend a similar amount of money on a decent sounding stereo for your home and this will give you robust sounding music in your home and abroad for the same price point. Slam dunk! And for the seriously adventurous, these units will allow 2 to link together for bigger sound! I have yet to be able to test this myself but I can only imagine being able to rock the entire block with a similar setup.

It’s time to let your music run free of your earbuds again, and hear it the way it was intended, and Aiwa has just the thing to help. The Aiwa Exos 9. I would grab one now while they still have stock. You’ll be glad you did!

IMG_20160514_155135160

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Saturday, June 11th, 2016

Replace HD in Dell Inspiron N5110

I am no stranger to replacing bad equipment in servers, desktops and laptops, but some laptops don’t make it easy. This was one.

A couple years ago I swapped out an aging hdd in an older Dell Inspiron with a new ssd and, boy, the performance improved drastically. Lately, I have been using a new(er) Inspiron, an N5110 and have noticed that it sure took a while for things like bootup and Chrome to initially load. It was really starting to annoy me, so I looked up the specs on the original hdd and found that there was a squirrel in there pounding out the bits with a chisel, so I decided it was high time for a modern drive and splurged on a 240Gb ssd. I assumed that this was a simple pull the panel off the bottom and swap kind of procedure like the old Dell, so I pulled off the hdd sized panel and boom. The only thing under there was more plastic and a small memory slot???!!

Not to be outdone I turned to youtube, just like an self respecting techie would and was pleased to find some instruction there. You can find the video i used here if you are interested:

That is where is starts to get fun. Apparently you have to disassemble THE ENTIRE LAPTOP to get the hdd out. You have to pull out the battery, memory, all the screws on the bottom, the dvd drive, then flip the machine over and pull off the keyboard, unscrew and pull off the top plate and all the ribbon cables, then unscrew and remove the entire motherboard and one of the monitor mounts. The hdd is underneath the motherboard. Unreal.

Believe it or not, after all that I only had one extra screw(?) and the laptop booted up on the first try. Now came the good part. How to get my existing Linux Mint install onto the new ssd. Normally I would have just used a disk cloning program or dd to do it but the old hdd was 500Gb and this new ssd is only 240Gb. There are also some complicated tutorials on the web on how accomplish this task but let me share with you the easy way.

Do a clean install of your OS. Really. With Linux it takes 15 minutes tops. Don’t bother with any of your configs or personalization. It’s a dummy install to not only get the partitioning correct on your ssd but generate the correct /etc/fstab file (or get the new uuids and make the correct partitions bootable.

Once you are done, boot into your install media again (I used USB because it was faster) and mount your new installation AND your old hdd (I used an external usb drive case for this). I made the directories I needed by doing (as root) “mkdir -p /mnt/newdisk ; mkdir -p /mnt/olddisk” and then putting things in place with “mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/newdisk ; mount /dev/sdc1 /mnt/olddisk”. I should mention here that my partitions were the default Mint layout with a big Linux partition first, then an extended partition, then swap, on both drives.

Once mounted I made a backup copy of the /etc/fstab on my olddisk (the hdd) and then I copied the /etc/fstab from the newdisk to the /etc/fstab on the olddisk. Now the fun part. Go to (cd) the /mnt/newdisk directory. MAKE SURE IT’S THE NEWDISK DIRECTORY, and “rm -rf *”. That is going to delete all the files you just installed. It’ll only take a second.

Next is the long part. I used rsync to copy all my old files over. If you aren’t a hoarder like me with six linux dvd isos in your download directory and 50Gb of music files, it’ll go a lot faster, but all the same, it’s pretty cool to watch. I did a “rsync -rvlpogdstHEAX /mnt/olddisk/ /mnt/newdisk”. Make note of those /’ in there or you’ll end up having to move stuff around afterwards. In retrospect, I think you could use just rsync -av, but ymmv. What you will see is every file on your old drive being copied to the new one. Like I mentioned, this takes a few minutes, just sit back or grab a coffee. Once it’s done you are *almost* ready.

The very last thing you’ll need to fix is your grub.cfg file. These days everyone wants to use uuid to assign devices and your boot file is still looking for your old hdd. Open up a couple terminals. In one, vi /mnt/newdisk/boot/grub/grub.cfg and in the other vi /mnt/newdisk/etc/fstab. In the fstab file you will see the uuid for your new ssd drive. It’s the first uuid mentioned and mounted at /. Io You need to replace the old one in there with the new one from your fstab. It’s easier than you think in vi. Just do a “:g/olduuidstring/s//newuuidstring/g” and hit enter where olduuidstring is your old uuid and newuuidstring is your new uuid from the fstab file. Once it is finished replacing you probably need to save it with a “:wq!” because your system will undoubtedly say it’s a read only file. The reboot! You should be greeted shortly with a much faster but very familiar linux install, complete with all your goodies.

One last note. You may want to increase the life of your ssd ehink in vi. Just do a “:g/olduuidstring/s//newuuidstring/g” and hit enter where olduuidstring is your old uuid and newuuidstring is your new uuid from the fstab file. Once it is finished replacing you probably need to save it with a “:wq!” because your system will undoubtedly say it’s a read only file. The reboot! You should be greeted shortly with a much faster but very familiar linux install, complete with all your goodies.cat by adding a couple options to your /etc/fstab file. Those options are discard and noatime. These options deal with extra disk writes that you really don’t need on ssd. Your / line options in the fstab should look something like “ext4 discard,noatime,errors=remount-ro 0 1”.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

Retro Tablet?

asustf101
I was on a trip to visit my uncle recently and while there and talking shop (he’s a techie kinda fellow) he started telling me about this old tablet he had that I could have if I could get it fixed. It seems he purchased a tablet years ago, didn’t like it, then the os became corrupt and he just sort of shelved it, probably some 5 or 6 years ago and got himself an iPad instead.

He dug this thing out and it happened to be an Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101, a tablet that I actually had long ago myself. This one was dirty and no charge and badly in need of a fresh reimage of the OS but after that, it’s a perfectly functioning, practically brand new (hardly been used) TF101, now updated to the latest OTA update available for it, 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich).

So now I have this new old stock tablet and I have decided to get some use out of it (came from my uncle so it holds some sentimental value) and I actually kind of dig it. Of course it is no rocket ship compared to modern android devices but it does chug along and the 4.0.3 OS is still viable in the android store so some apps are still current. I can get my mail and social media and watch videos, listen to music and the like just fine (even netflix). What I like most about it right now is using it as a portable terminal (juice ssh). The included keyboard dock makes that particularly nice.

I have been wondering, though, what else I can do with such a device and am seeking opinions and experiences. I know there are several server suites available for android. I could use it hooked to an external USB drive for a file server or web server, etc.. Perhaps I could somehow shoehorn an actual Linux as a native OS on this thing. Then, there is the possibility of putting custom Android ROMs on it – I think there is one called KATKIT that people are having great success with. Never having installed a custom ROM before on android I am a little hesitant and don’t want to brick the machine. So, what do you think? What should I try first?

Friday, March 11th, 2016

“Fixing” an old laptop

Dell Inspiron 1545

Dell Inspiron 1545


A few years ago when I was in the market for a new laptop I picked up one of the then wildly popular and cheap Dell Inspiron 1545. There are gobs of these running around now and you can find them cheap if you look (click the pic for links to Amazon). I used this for for, it seems, forever. I only ever had one problem with it – a small plastic chip in one of the corners that I repaired with superglue (you would never notice). Lately, though, it has been running noticeably slow. I don’t know if it’s because it’s actually getting slower, the software is just getting fatter, my work computer is blazing fast in comparison, or a combination of any/all of those. Either way, it’s really been bugging me so much lately that I had considered just getting a new lappy. Before I did, I decided to look over the specs to see what I actually had here. Mine is a core duo 2.2Ghz with 4Gb ram and a 320gb HDD. Running Linux this thing *should* run like it was on fire. So why so freaking slow? A quick look at “top” revealed what had to be the problem. I was at almost 0% CPU and only 1.5Gb ram. It HAD to be the slow as pencil and paper hard drive writes and reads. A quick search says that somewhere in between now and the last time I came up from air at work SSD drive prices dramatically reduced, so I stopped by a bigbox store and picked up a 240Gb SSD for <$100 and screwed it in and WHAMO! It's like I have a brand new laptop! Seriously! Not only is the difference noticeable, it's amazing, so much so that I needed to break my blogging silence to tell you about it. If any of you have an aging laptop like me that runs but is "meh", it's totally worth it to spend the 15 minutes it takes to do this upgrade. It certainly just saved me $500 and I am now, once again, perfectly happy with my trusty old (but well kept) Dell Inspiron 1545.

Sunday, April 26th, 2015

Adventures in Virtualization

A long long time ago, I virtualized all my home infrastructure onto an ESXi 4.0 server. It has run perfectly fine, minus one hard drive failure, for quite a few years. Lately, though, I had been wanting to upgrade it because it’s not terribly fast and I have run out of resources to be able to add new VMs. It was running on a dual cpu machine (single core) with 160Gb HDD and 4Gb of ram, and I was just using it all up. No more ram for new stuff.

I decided that I would upgrade the matching spare server I had and try out KVM because I had used it a bit for RedHat training and it worked so well. Of course, Fessenden’s law, as opposed to Murphy’s law, stated simply that “Something will go wrong.” And it did. Over and over again.

First off, let me say that on an enterprise class server system, if it says it needs registered ECC ram, it is NOT kidding. I must have swapped ram around in that server 50 times before I noticed 2 sticks of non-registered ram in there. Once I got over that, I had 8Gb of ram and a new 250Gb HDD and I was ready to rock! Or so I thought.

I decided to use CentOS 6 as my virtualization host OS and that went right on but I soon discovered that my CPU doesn’t support virtualization. Ugh. So I decided that I would switch gears and go with virtualbox instead so that I could continue using my current hardware. I have often used virtualbox on other machines and it is a fantastic platform. I set about getting things running.

When I installed the base OS, I did a minimal install. No GUI, etc.. There is no sense in putting stuff on there you don’t need on a server right? Well, the very first thing I found was that I could not use the virtualbox gui controls because I did not have any X installed. To rectify that:

yum -y install xorg-x11-xauth dejavu-lgc-sans-fonts

You need the auth to be able to forward your X session, and need the fonts to be able to actually see words on your app.

Next I copied all my vmdk files to the new server. This takes a LONG time for old servers to move around 100Gb. Once there, however, I discovered that virtualbox cannot read native vmdk files. Ugh again.

yum -y install qemu-kvm

And then I could convert the vmdks to raw images, and then again to native vdi files for virtualbox.

qemu-img convert machine-flat.vmdk machine.bin
vboxmanage convertfromraw --format VDI machine.bin machine.vdi

I put all my machines together and noticed that virtualbox was complaining about uuid on some of the disk images. To fix that:

vboxmanage internalcommands sethduuid machine.vdi

The first machine I started up was a CentOS 6 machine and that fired right up, however, udev immediately reassigned my ethernet device to eth1. In order to get thatr back where it was supposed to be I had to go into /etc/udev/rules.d/70-persistent-net.rules and delete the ethernet rules in there and reboot.

Along about this time my server powered off. No idea why. It powered itself back on again about 30 seconds later. I checked everything on the server and it looked fine. Curious, but I kept on going.

Next I tried to start up my remaining Centos 5 VMs. These were problematic. The very first thing I noticed here was that they were barking because I never uninstalled the vmware drivers. I fired them back up on the original server and ran the vmware-uninstall.pl program. I turned them back off and spent hours re copying the over, and then reformatting the vmdk files into vdi.

Starting them back up, I found that, again, they would not run. This time I received the error that it could not locate any LVM partitions. This, it turns out, is because the initrc files did not have the appropriate drivers in them. Fixing this was fun. First off, you need to add a cdrom drive to the vm and put a CentOS rescue cd/dvd there. Boot it up in rescue mode, chroot to the /mnt/sysimage and then fix the /etc/modprobe.conf file:

alias scsi_hostadapter mptbase
#alias scsi_hostadapter1 mptspi
#alias scsi_hostadapter2 ata_piix
alias scsi_hostadapter1 mptscsih
alias scsi_hostadapter2 mptscsih

The entries with the #s are the ones I had to change. Then I needed to rebuild all of the initrd images.

cd /boot
for file in $(ls init* | cut -d'-' -f2,3 | cut -d'.' -f1-6); do mkinitrd -v -f /boot/initrd-$file.img $file; done

After that, the machines came right up! Of course, the host powered right off. Several times over the next day. Grrr.

I figured that there was a hardware issue with the host somewhere and resolved to buy myself a new server. I picked an open box refurb from microcenter that had 8Gb ram, a 750Gb HDD and a nice quad core cpu that supported virtualization. Wohoo! I can now switch to KVM!

I set up the new machine and installed KVM and started copying vmdk files over again and, bingo, kernel panic. I rebooted and the machine would not even get past bios. This went on for a couple days until I took the machine back to microcenter. I picked up a different machine, better quad core with 12Gb of ram and 1Tb HDD and set about getting it running.

This time, success! I set up CentOS 6 and KVM, added the bridged networking and copied over the vmdk files. KVM will read vmdk files but I decided to convert to a more native format, qcow2, the preferred format for qemu, anyhow. that is fairly simple to do.

qemu-img convert -O qcow2 machine-flat.vmdk machine.qcow2

I put all the machines back together again and started them back up. I still had to do the initrd fixes on the CentOS 5 VMs to get them going, but after that all has been running fantastically!

Somewhere along the line here I figured out that my issue with my secondary server powering off was a bad port on my UPS.

KVM is really easy to run and manage for a Linux geek as opposed to VMware 4. The native gui tools do the job just fine, although they are not quite as intuitive to me as VMWare’s VIC. I am quite happy, though, with the switch. I now have more than twice the resources of my initial virtualization environment. Now I am good to go for several more test VMs and the new machine is nice and quiet and doesn’t have to hide under my couch 🙂

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

GeChic On-Lap 13.3″ LCD

GeChic On-Lap 1301 13.3” Portable and USB powered Thin, Light, and Plug & Play LCD Monitor

GeChic On-Lap 1301 13.3” Portable and USB powered Thin, Light, and Plug & Play LCD Monitor


You would think that my lack of posts here lately meant I had simply dropped of the face of the earth, but that isn’t really so. I have just been extremely busy with the day to day problems facing me in RL, including how to squeeze >that< much more work into my overly busy day. This particular recent purchase, the GeChic On-Lap 1301 13.3” Portable and USB powered Thin, Light, and Plug & Play LCD Monitor, has helped me do just that.

One of the things all high-end computer workers need to enable them to multitask better is more screen space. This has been researched and documented in a variety of different places. Well, what are you to do with your mobile workstation? You can buy one of those external USB screens, that’s what. Almost a no-brainer, right? The problem with that for a Linux user is the drivers. Most of these types of screens push video through USB, which means you have to have a working usb to video driver, not to mention video over usb is a little slow. Enter the GeChic!

The GeChic solves these problems by NOT usung usb for video, it actually has both a vga and a dvi input along with being usb powered. That’s right, no extra power cord, just plug in the usb cable and pick your input method and you are rockin’ and rollin’. This means it will work with literally ANY laptop or desktop which supports those types of video output, regardless of operating system or driver issues.

The unit itself is a little pricey at $200, however, it makes up for it’s few downsides by giving me my much needed screen space, in an attractive, easy and mobile form. I did say few downsides, and there are a couple other than the price. The first is the color. It just doesn’t want to color match my laptop’s LCD no matter how I seem to adjust it. The second is that using vga input the picture quality lacks a little. To be fair, dvi input is far superior to vga anyhow, and the vga problems could just as easily stem from my machine than from the monitor and I didn’t spend a whole lot of time messing with the settings on vga before just trying out dvi. Ymmv.

What I do like is that this is an attractive little lcd screen with a nice resolution of 1366×768. You can use it while physically attached to your laptop or it can sit standalone next to it in several positions with its included stand. To connect it to your laptop it has surprisingly strong suction cups that attach it’s swing-base to the top of your laptop and it can simply fold up or swing out for use. This allows you to also do neat things like show a presentation on the back of your laptop while you watch the front, etc..

No matter how you slice it, this little thing is mighty handy to have around and everyone who has seen it in action immediately wants one of their own. Boy, I wonder if I could get a kickback from NewEgg on this? Even at that price, I think we have a winner.

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

Mint 12 RC – Dig it!

Mint 12

Mint 12


I just couldn’t wait any longer so I grabbed a copy of the gnome 64 bit cd iso image from http://ftp.heanet.ie/pub/linuxmint.com/testing/. Well, I also grabbed the DVD image as well, but I actually used the cd image to install. It’s a live cd/dvd so I set about checking out the live version first, of course, just to make sure things looked ok.
I figured I would just go for it and started installing to disk on my new laptop. I should mention here that while I like Mint 11, there are certain things on my new laptop that just do not work well with it. It has a new i5 sandybridge processor and the associated graphics which didn’t do well with acceleration and suspend and my trackpad only registered as a mouse, which was usable but a pain in my behind. Needless to say I have been chomping at the bit for a try at the next release to see which, if any, of these issues might have been addressed.
The installer was quick and efficient and I don’t recall anything in particular standing out from what has come to be a normal mint install. That being said, everything after that was fascinating and exciting.
On your first login you are greeted by the new desktop environment, a sort-of Gnome 3 mashup. It’s Gnome 3 but has some of the niceties that *I* believe are needed to make Gnome 3 usable and all the UI goodness that I have come to expect from Linux Mint (and why I keep returning to them). You have 2 taskbars (one would probably be enough though), icons on the desktop and a pretty looking new menu system, not to mention the interesting Gnome 3 new UI things. Previously I tried Gnome 3 on Fedora and absolutely hated it, but in this configuration, it is quite pleasant and completely comfortable and usable.
After the install you will see that Mint welcome screen, which, at the bottom, gives you the opportunity to ad all the multimedia codecs and also to upgrade to the DVD version. Nop matter what I did, those links did bupkis. Undaunted, I looked at the code behind this to see that the packages that should be installing are meta packages, so I popped open synaptic and after a quick search I found and installed mint-meta-codecs, mint-meta-gnome-dvd and mint-meta-mate, which, after installation seemed to get the welcome screen not to display those links anymore, so I am assuming that’s what was needed. I am sure this is something that’ll be fixed as days go along. After all, this isn’t even really an official RC at this point yet, really.
After doing all my software updates and installing the few packages I just have to have in order to function (sshfs smbfs irssi vpnc screen vlc mencoder vim moc openssh-server subversion git twinkle curl php5-cli mutt clusterssh) I set about checking things out thoroughly.
To my surprise, ALL MY LAPTOP ISSUES have been fixed, or at least seemingly. I now have nice screen acceleration, my laptop suspend works flawlessly, my trackpad has actually been detected as a trackpad and I even have 2 finger scrolling working now. WOOT!!! Of course the rest works too. I have sound, wireless internet, usb support, etc., etc..
This is very exciting for me and I, for one, cannot wait to see the full release coming in the future, but if you think I am uninstalling this in favor of something else while I wait, boy are you wrong. I am hooked! Go Mint!

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

We’ll miss ya, Steve.

RIP Steve

RIP Steve


I saw the news mere minutes after I got my newest mac. I just picked up a nicely used 17″ iMac. I may even have to name it “jobs”…

Much as many of my opensource cohorts are occasionally at odds with Apple, the company, I believe whole heartedly that we have lost a real visionary. He had a big hand in not only making personal computing a reality, but also beautiful. Apple has always pushed the idea that not only should functionality be a consideration but aesthetics as well. I can only hope that Apple can keep up with his legacy.

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

The New Xoom Review, Comin’ Right At You!

xoom


OK, I am dating myself here but there used to be this show on when I was a kid, called the New Zoo Review, and for some reason the theme song was playing in repeat in my head while I was thinking about writing this review. That’s how the title comes about, and it’s been a wickedly long week, so that’s about as clever as I can muster right now.

I bought the Motorola Xoom wifi only tablet the day it came out because I have been wanting / looking for / dreaming of a device that *could* be android powered that would be a respectable netbook replacement for me. I wanted something with at least a 10 inch display, fast processor speed, decent storage and memory and significantly thinner and lighter than my netbook that I could use as a daily carry. What goes without saying, there, is that there needs to be functionality with all that I do.

Unfortunately, with the Xoom, this was not to be…

The Xoom is a very appealing looking device which appears to meet many of my basic needs quite well. It is thin and light. It has a beautiful and very functional touch display. The battery lasts quite long at around 2 days of use. It’s only everything after that that is a disappointment.

Let’s start with the price. This was $600 + tax for the wifi only version. I believe this to be a bit excessive, even if the device actually *did* deliver. That being said, I did, and would pay it again to the company that does it right, but there are a lot of disappointments with this tablet:

This tablet does not act as a usb mass storage device. You heard it right. When you jack this into your computer, you have to fumble around and try to find a utility program and/or drivers that do Media Transfer Protocol. I DO NOT understand why they would do this unless they are intentionally trying to irritate their customers. My Moto Droid (the original) could connect as usb mass storage, why can’t this??

This tablet will not charge via the usb cable. Again, what were they thinking. You have to use a needle thin charger plug that has every appearance of wanting to snap off at the slightest bump. Once I finally got the majority of my power and data needs consigned to a single USB cable, Xoom makes sure you have to carry another proprietary wall-wort.

Honeycomb is NOT ready for general use / release. As pretty as it is, the new android OS has lots of bugs. I cannot tell you how many times apps like facebook, gmail, email and the browser crashed on me in the week I used this tablet. The apps are beautiful when they work, but also lack important functionality. For instance, the email app doesn’t do filters. Also, I was particularly thrown back when I could not get my pandora app to run at all!! Ack!

I think the straw that breaks the camel’s back for me is lack of a cisco vpn client. Granted, this is not really the Xoom’s fault, but I need to be able to do some real work with my tablet and this is a HUGE hindrance for me. This one thing means I have to carry a netbook with me anyhow which was the point of getting a tablet in the first place.

Bottom line is if you are looking for some cool tech and do NOT neet to do work with it and / or can wait until they fix a bunch of things AND you have a spare $600 to shell out for said broken product, then run to your nearest store and buy one of these. If you are like me and need a small, slim, lightweight. functional tablet with more stable software and a decent vpn client to replace your netbook, then wait ’till the iPad 2’s are back in stock. Sorry android and Motorola, you lose on this one.

Friday, April 1st, 2011