Monthly Archives: September 2011

iPhone 4S, iPod Updates Expected At October 4 Media Event [Updated]

As has been widely reported, Apple has announced a media event to occur next Tuesday, October 4th.  Invitations sent for the event simply say “Let’s talk iPhone” and the event is largely expected to introduce new iPhone hardware.

Previously I posted my expectations of what the next iPhone hardware would look like.  At the time I expected a new form factor to be introduced, however since then the only concrete evidence to emerge has indicated that the next iPhone will continue to use the iPhone 4 body style.  Therefore, here are my updated predictions based on the latest inventory intel from 9to5mac (1,2).

iPhone 4S

  • Internal code-name N94
  • Single hardware platform for CDMA and GSM networks. Sprint to become 3rd US carrier.
  • A5 processor, 1 GB of RAM
  • 8 MP camera
  • HSPA+ support for GSM networks.
  • Slightly better battery life.
  • Likely to keep 16 and 32 GB capacities and price points. Update: a 64 GB model may indeed be introduced alongside existing 16 and 32 GB capacities.
iPhone 4
  • Slightly revised hardware, code-named N92 Update: code name is apparently N90A. Original iPhone was N90, with CDMA iPhone being N92.
  • Likely a single hardware platform for CDMA and GSM
  • 8 GB only, likely only in black
  • Either $49 or $99 under contract
  • Cheaper, iPod touch-grade retina display
  • A4 processor
iOS 5 will ship on all new hardware and will be a free update to all eligible iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 users as well as a paid update to iPod Touch 3rd and 4th generation users.
Apple is also expected to make moderate changes to its iPod line at the event.  A white iPod Touch will  likely be introduced, and price points will likely be adjusted downwards especially for the 8GB iPod Touch.  The iPod Classic and iPod Shuffle may even be discontinued according to one recent report.

Windows Consistently Freezing? Run VMs? Time For An Upgrade

Any long-time reader will know that I cannot stand user interface lag, going so far to suggest OS improvements to get rid of unnecessary spinning wait cursors.  However, what if the user interface lag is so bad that not even the spinning wait cursor will display?

I recently had the pleasure of having my work machine freeze multiple times per day, often for 2-10 minutes at a time.  I was absolutely baffled as to why my machine was performing so badly; I was running a Core 2 Quad with 8 GB of RAM and two SATA 3.0 Gbps Hard Drives.  The disks had been defraged relatively recently, and hardware diagnostics didn’t detect any failures.

My co-worker/technical lead had similar issues (though less severe) and decided to get a new computer - specifically with Intel’s latest Core i7 2600.  His issues vanished!  That’s when we figured out why…

At work we develop in virtual machines (VMWare Workstation).  I can often have 3 VMs running at one time, each with a memory footprint of between 1 and 2 GB (thank you Eclipse/Visual Studio).  Any time I happened to catch the freezes with process monitor, the windows kernel would peg extremely high on I/O Interrupts right after the freeze.  This alone didn’t tell us much as this could mean any number of things, but we noticed that Intel introduced Extended Page Tables in it’s Nehalem architecture.  From wikipedia:

Extended Page Tables (EPT) is an Intel second generation x86 virtualization technology for the memory management unit (MMU). When this feature is active, the ordinary IA-32 page tables (referenced by control register CR3) translate from linear addresses to guest-physical addresses. A separate set of page tables (the EPT tables) translate from guest-physical addresses to the host-physical addresses that are used to access memory. As a result, guest software can be allowed to modify its own IA-32 page tables and directly handle page faults. This allows a virtual machine monitor (VMM) to avoid the VM exits associated with page-table virtualization, which are a major source of virtualization overhead without EPT.

Without too much hassle, I got approval for a new computer and I have been running freeze free for over two weeks now.  If you run VMs on older hardware and encounter interface lagging and freezing, I highly suggest a hardware upgrade.  It will be well worth the investment!

DIY Home Security, Part III: Programming

Previously I posted that I was installing my own home security system using DSC’s Power Series (rather than using newer, flashier protocols such as Z-Wave of Zigbee). In Part III of the series I provide a guide on how to set up a basic wireless home installation.

DIY Home Security Series Contents


Before we go any farther, let’s get something out of the way, especially (but not only) because we are dealing with issues of life safety:

The information provided in this and all posts on are for informational use. While we believe the information contained to be accurate, no guarantee is provided and use of such information is AT YOUR OWN RISK. By continuing to read the below material, you agree that you cannot and will not hold or its author(s) liable for any damages that occur from use of the posted material.

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Apple’s Thunderbolt Display- Almost Perfect Docking Solution [Updated]

Apple’s new Thunderbolt-enabled display will be shipping any day now.  While I haven’t gotten to see the display in person, if history is to be any indicator then the display is sure to be top notch.  Apple usually chooses top-tier display panels that have extraordinary color representation and viewing angles, and their industrial design is, well, Apple quality.

The Apple Thunderbolt Display brings Apple back to providing data and video over the same cable – something we haven’t seen since the proprietary Apple Display Connector (ADC) which also carried power.  However the Thunderbolt Display is far beyond the Cinema Displays of yesteryear: in addition to providing video and USB, the Thunderbolt Display also provides gigabit Ethernet, Firewire 800, as well a Thunderbolt port for other Thunderbolt devices (including the possibility of another Thunderbolt Display).  This is all in addition to built-in peripherals that include a webcam and speakers.

Assuming Apple’s Thunderbolt Display delivers all of this promised technology, it could become a near-perfect accessory, albeit a pricey one at $999.  The one thing I’d like to have seen is an option to include a dedicated graphics processor in the display.  Sony is using such a solution in their Power Media dock for the Vaio Z series, and I’d love to see it be possible for MacBook Air models to get a graphics performance boost when plugged into an equipped display.

Update: It turns out that Belkin is previewing a Thunderbolt dock at IDF that offers the same connectivity options (minus the webcam and speakers) for presumably a much cheaper price, though price has not yet been announced (via DailyTech).


Whirlpool Duet Dryer Design Fail

Over the US Labor Day holiday I visited my parents.  Having a young child, we of course had laundry to do, so we made use of their relatively new Whirlpool Duet Washer and Dryer pair.  Unfortunately, despite Whirlpool’s reputation for building quality products, I have to report a design failure for the Dryer.

The door of the unit has a design failure that prevents the unit from latching closed reliability.  Whirlpool places door’s handle as well as one latch on the left-hand side of the door, however there is apparently a latch and door-close sensor at the top of the door as well.  If the latch at the top of the door does not latch, the door close sensor will not restore and you cannot start the dryer.  Because they located the handle on the left-hand side of the door and because the door is mainly made of plastic, it is easy to find yourself in a situation where the door latches at the left side, so you think the door successfully closed, however the top latch (and corresponding door sensor) does NOT latch.

A better and more common-sense design would be to have the door closure sensor located in the same location as the handle.