Monday, October 18, 2010

How The Financial World Will End (Maybe)

I was just reading a bunch of very interesting posts over at Gonza Lolira's blog including one about How Hyperinflation Will Happen. I don't know that I buy any of his specific guesses for what the trigger event(s) will be but I do agree with this basic premise:
  • U.S. Treasuries are a bubble market
  • When the bubble pops there will be a rush to something/anything more tangible, e.g. commodities
  • This will trigger a new bubble in commodities
I also agree with the first part of his prediction:
  • This new bubble will trigger inflation in energy and production prices
  • Energy costs will trigger inflation in food and manufacturing
The questionable part, however, is that Mr Lolira thinks that the new bubble will be so massive as to constitute hyper-inflation, i.e., where price increases feed on themselves. Curiously, he also says that this inflation will not affect things like houses which instead will continue to decline in price. I think this is based on historical precedent?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Comparison of new/old HTC Hero on Sprint

UPDATE: Last week Sprint introduced the Sanyo Zio and LG Optimus phones, instead of the HTC Legend (as anticipated below...)

I was one of the first people to get the HTC Hero on Sprint last year. Now, a year later, the phone is starting to look a little 'long in the tooth'. The update from Android 1.5 to 2.1 really caused a big slowdown in the phone's performance, and the bluetooth feature causes the other radio (Mobile/Internet via Sprint) to lock-up.

So I was very excited to read about the new HTC Legend and the rumor that Sprint was going to start carrying it as "the Hero2". Come this October I'll be eligible for the discounted upgrade pricing so hopefully it'll be available by then?

The following is a quick review of the improvements I see listed on the HTC web-site:
  • Slightly faster (600 MHz vs 528)
  • More RAM (384 MB vs 288)
  • Slightly lighter (128g vs 135)
  • Better screen (AMOLED vs TFT) – same size, 3.2”
  • Proximity sensor (allows ring to quiet-down when you pickup phone, auto-screensaver when you talk)
  • Micro-USB plug instead of Mini-USB
  • Single ‘big’ call button instead of two little buttons
  • FM radio tuner
  • Fancy metal case! oooh...
  • Definitely going to get a (HTC supported!) Android 2.2 upgrade
Note - this is a relatively entry-level phone, not comparable to the Sprint EVO 4G or anything fast (1+ GHz processor) like that.

Here are the respective product pages from HTC, where I did the comparison:
old Hero,
new "Hero2",

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Troubleshooting ATT DSL

There's been a lot of news lately about hacks of home/SOHO routers like Linksys and D-Link. Even though my router-and-firmware combo is on the 'ok' list (D-Link DIR-628 v2.22) I decided to upgrade it to the latest v2.24 firmware. Unfortunately this set off a series of mishaps that took me hours to resolve.

The instructions from D-Link warned that the upgrade would erase the configuration but that you could make a backup beforehand, then restore it afterwards. The upgrade itself went fine as did the restore of the configuration. But then my Internet connection would freeze after only a couple of minutes. I tried power-cycling both the router and the AT&T modem (a Westell modem/router) but the problem only got worse. Finally, I could no longer get the router to login anymore and so I called AT&T Tech Support.

They wanted to 'upsell' me to their 'Advanced Support Plus' department, i.e., paid support! I resisted this since I assumed the problem was on their end. The regular technician was very polite and tried resetting my password for me, but to no avail. Finally I acquiesced to paying for the advanced support, but then it was too late -- they'd closed for the night. At this point, the technician asked, "Did you say that the 'Internet' LED on your modem was lit?" Yes, it was. That was the turning point! I'd been assuming it was an 'activity' indicator when in fact it was a logged-in indicator, i.e., the modem was doing the PPPoE login instead of my router.

When I first received the service I had assumed that the built-in router was a NAT device. So I'd disabled the auto-login and switched the modem to 'Bridge' mode -- just act as a pure modem-to-ethernet device. At some point in the evening's testing the modem had done a full reset? Probably, AT&T had triggered this when they saw the link trying/failing to connect. Once we realized what had happened we were easily able to switch the modem back to bridge mode and I was back online.

The next day, unfortunately, the connection had failed again. I decided there must be some change in the way my D-Link router was performing the PPPoE login that was incompatible with AT&T's DSLAM. Or, maybe the modem just really really wanted to be the router :-)

At this point I decided to test my other assumption, that the built-in router was performing NAT. It wasn't! I switched the Westell device back to it's original router/PPPoE configuration and programmed it with my new/updated login. I also had to reconfigure my router to use a different IP range. But then I was successfully able to open a Bittorrent app and get full two-way communication, so it was clear I wasn't double-NAT'd.

In the long run this goes to show the value of relying on a vendor's default configuration as much as possible. I should have tried to use my router with AT&T's default modem configuration instead of assuming I had to work around it. If I had I never would have had any of these problems.

UPDATE 8/15/10 - I take it back: I am double-NAT'd and I am not able to get 2-way Bittorrent connections...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Suggested printers for Linux (and Ubuntu)

Another quick post re Ubuntu. My love/hate relationship continues with Ubuntu! Even though I've continued to use my Canon MP620 printer (because the printer itself seems really solid) I also continue to be dissatisfied with Canon's linux drivers, or lack thereof.

So what's an Ubuntu-phile supposed to do? HP is clearly the best supported as HP has excellent drivers available, but I've really turned against HP after just ONE TOO MANY poorly designed units. (I think the last straw was a mid-level inkjet printer which started to refuse to print because it's 'user convenience' paper-upside-down detector failed and the failure-mode was to deny any further printing!)

There is an online database of printers with Linux support but it's maintained by user contributions so it's less than authoritative,

But I eventually learned (and from a single offhand comment in a single post in a long discussion of printers on the Ubuntu forums, whew!) that Brother has Linux drivers available! And, in fact, the 3rd-party Linux Printing database confirms that there is a huge list of Brother printers that have been reported to work perfectly out-of-the-box.

So, my next printer will probably be a Brother.

Where can I recycle non-rechargeable batteries?

I've been wanting to blog about this for months but I haven't come up with any good solution. Now, I'm just tired of thinking about it so I'd post something.

For several glorious years I was able to take my generic alkaline batteries to IKEA for recycling. But apparently they ran afoul of some federal regulation re transportation of dangerous chemicals like those in batteries.

So IKEA stopped rather than spend more on their recycling program.

I've since learned that Europe mandates that all battery resellers must offer recycling, as well. In the US we have something similar but it only covers rechargeable batteries. I suppose this was meant to encourage people to buy the more expensive rechargeable models, but I also suspect it had more than a little to do with keeping resellers' costs down (and profits up).

2/14/11 UPDATE: The announcement on IKEA's web-site is no longer there. Instead -- and just to prove I didn't make the whole thing up! :-) -- here's another blog that mentioned the same incident, Sincerely Sustainable.

Also, I have since learned that the local Waste Management Corp will recycle non-rechargeable batteries! Their web-page re Household Hazardous Materials does not include batteries but their Recycling Center accepts them, i.e., they're not really considered 'hazardous'? Also, this service is only supposed to be available for residents of East County?


Also, and I don't think I blogged about this earlier, there is an official City of San Diego plan for recycling batteries but it's preposterous. Basically, it's illegal to throw away batteries but your only (free) legal alternative is to make an appointment at the city's Hazardous Waste Dropoff. This is the building outside the Miramar dump. Sounds good, right? Well, they're only open from 9am to 3pm on Saturday and you need to make an appointment first?!

Now, let's try to do some math here: There are 3M people living in San Diego and assuming there are 6 people per household (which I think is too high but the math is easier) then there are half-million households needing to drop off their waste/batteries. The drop-off is only open for 6 hours per week, times "50" weeks per year, equals 300 total hours for 500,000 groups to do their drop-off. Even if just ONE PERCENT of the households try to comply with this rule that leaves them each less than 4 minutes to do their drop-off. And that's if everything is perfectly choreographed. If ten percent of households tried to recycle properly then they'd each have 30 seconds to make their dropoff. Hmm....