SSD Fever

Solid State Disks or SSD Prices have been on the downtrend with discounted prices reducing from approximately US$1 / GB to the current US$0.75 / GB. Amazon is currently selling the Crucial M4 SSD at less than $200. The Crucial M4 SSDs have been on the market nine months, and have built a good track record around mainstream value and reliability in that time. It has fantastic read speeds and strong write speeds as well. The Marvell controller is one of the better reliable ones and at the 256GB price range, this is currently one of the best deal.
However, prices in Singapore are still significantly marked up compared to US! A check on prices in Sim Lim showed that the same model Crucial 256GB SSD is currently retailing at S$379! That’s a significant $120 or 50% more expensive. Foregoing the warranty does seem like a viable alternative to buy from the US. Furthermore, with shipping concierge companies like VPost and ComGateway, make full use of their services plus the lower prices in the US to get an SSD for yourself. The average shipping price should be around S$15-$20 and for first time subscribers to both services, the initial discount should offset the price by approximately S$10, so do make full use of the first time offer! (DBS offers $10 off and 10% for first time ComGateway user.)

If you are considering a lower price point, another alternative for a great SSD is the Mushkin Chronos 120GB. You can buy it directly through Amazon through our Top Deals page. The Mushkin Chronos 120GB is an excellent performer and is currently one of the lowest priced SSDs around. I am using one myself and I am amazed by the speed boost it offers over a traditional SATA harddisk. After shipping, you would still save approximately 40% off the local retail pricing.

Most people tend to neglect hard disk speeds and focus on the storage capacity. An SSD, compared to a normal HDD, has no moving parts which limits the speed of the normal HDD. Similar to system memory, SSDs are microchips designed to store information. However, these are nonvolatile memory chips that can retain information the way hard drives do. For this reason, a computer that uses an SSD as the main storage device boots and shuts down very fast and can resume from sleep mode instantly. Software applications, including heavy ones like a 3D game or video-editing application, also take significantly less time to start and operate, compared with when the computer uses a hard drive as the main storage. For the amount of time we spend infront of the computer, application loading times, waiting for access to files, they all add up. Adding an SSD would reduce this time significantly and with the lower prices available today, now’s a good time to join the SSD fever and find out what you have been missing. A number of my colleagues have hopped on the bandwagon recently and they are enjoying the new found speeds!

A new SSD would help to speed up your computer in several ways:

  • Boot times will be significantly reduced.
  • Launching applications will occur in a near-instant.
  • Saving and opening documents won’t lag.
  • File copying and duplication speeds will improve.
  • Overall, your system will feel much snappier.

Huawei Honor ICS Update – Malaysian Version

The Huawei Honor is out of stock currently but be a little patient. Rumours are that M1 and Singtel would start offering this phone soon so for those non-Starhub contract people out there, there’s hope! Also, apparently during the first day launch, there were a couple of fortunate souls who bought the phone without contract at $428, it is unlikely that Starhub would continue to sell the phone without contract but perhaps one can try when M1 and Singtel launches. Confusion tends to exist with first day chaos.

Since there are more users out there now, here’s an ICS video showing off the capabilities off the phone with ICS loaded. The Huawei Honor comes with pretty decent specs and why restrict it with Gingerbread? Free your phone :)

The malaysian version of the 4.03 ICS ROM has also been recently launched and you can get it from the Huawei Malaysia website here. Apparently this version is non-beta and comes with more features than the Cambodian one. When would there be a Singapore version? 

Starhub launches the Huawei Honor Non Camera Version

Starhub has annouced that it will be selling the non-camera or camera removed version of the Huawei Honor U8860. This would benefit many Singaporean military personnel and those who work in sensitive locations where camera phones are disallowed. The price is only $48 with a low-end data plan and makes it very attractive to personnel in this industry whose other smartphone non camera choice is the Blackberry (RIM has been going downhill) and small numbers of the camera-removed Apple iPhone 4S which has since been discontinued. I’m quite certain that blackberry adopters would drop significantly with the launch of the Huawei as the Blackberry experience isn’t as good and forces people to sign up for a BIS plan.

Update: The phone has been selling well and has fast emerged as the non-camera phone for the military and other sensitive industry personnel. Gadgetreactor is consolidating a one-time mass buy for the phone at S$398! Details are available here.

 

The Huawei Honor is equipped with high end specs (1.4 GHz Snapdragon CPU with 512mb of RAM) which should be able to cope with many of the applications and demands today. Storage is expandable through a microSD card and it comes with 4.0″ LCD display. GPS, accelerometer and all the standard connectivity options are included. The provided battery at 1950mA is larger than its competitors and should see this phone lasting awhile longer. The OS is dated as it comes default with Gingerbread 2.3 but it is easily upgradable to ICS 4.0, by downloading the upgrade file here. Yes, it is the Cambodia version but it is an English ROM and works well.

After this, create a dload directory on your phone’s SD Card and copy the ZIP package to the directory.

Now, remove the connected USB cable and turn off the phone and then boot the phone into the idle mode.

Next, Click the Menu button to select the “Settings”> Storage> Software Update> SD card upgrade> select “OK” to perform the upgrade operation.

After this, when the screen displays “Upgrade Complete” means that the upgrade phase is completed, the phone will restart. It will likely take another 3 minutes for the boot process before it is completed.

Getting Google Music out of the United States

Google Music elevates your music media to the Cloud. It allows you access to all your songs anywhere in the world, purchase music (only when based in US), and download them back to your computer or phone for offline access when needed. The only catch: Google Music would not work in Singapore as you would need to be ‘based’ in US for the initial registration. And location can easily be spoofed.

The following is a quick guide to enable Google Music

  1. Download and install Hide-My-Ip which comes with a 14 day trial. Choose a US Proxy.
  2. Alternatively, try out http://www.superfreevpn.com/win7-free-vpn/ – preferred method
  3. Turn on Incognito mode or Privacy mode for your browser. This ensures a clean new connection without any pre-existing cookie or cache.
  4. Visit music.google.com or through play.google.com and start using the service. You can try adding a couple of the free playlists and upload a couple of songs through the music manager. The upload feature continues to work even after you deactivate the proxy.
  5. And that’s it. Google music activated. The Play Store limits access to the Google Music application if you are not in US but you can download it separately through the XDA Forums.Note: You can probably use other VPN services such as anonymisers or hotspot shield, but the easiest way for me was through SuperFreeVPN and then Hide-My-Ip.
Did it worked for you? Let me know through the comments, thanks!

I am in the process of moving my music collection on to Google Music.The free online storage locker for music has space for up to 20,000 songs that can be streamed through a browser on any computer or mobile device (including even iOS). With all my devices connected to the net, I don’t see a need for storing them on my hard disk offline and well, for those devices that I need to transfer music to, it shouldn’t be that much of a hassle to download a couple of albums or play lists for offline access. The quality of the music through the browser interface is good and it has a Pandora-esque instant mix function for quickly finding similar songs catered to your taste. It looks like it will take at least another two more weeks before I finish uploading all my songs, but the cloud does indeed seem the way to go.

The Complete Jailbreak Guide for iPod/iPhone/iPad

Jailbreaking lifts the limitations set by Apple and allows developers to expand the features on your iOS device (iPod / iPhone / iPad. More importantly, jailbreak is not illegal in the United States! However, with every iteration of iOS, there’s less reasons to jailbreak and increasingly, it has become harder too.

The below Jailbreak guide is for iOS version 8.4
Follow instructions at http://www.taig.com/en/tutorial.html.

The below Jailbreak guide is for iOS version: 5.1.1

The Quick 3 Step Guide to Jailbreak

  1. Update your device to iOS 5.1.1 through iTunes.
  2. Download Absynthe and extract the app to your desktop. Plug in your device, open Absynthe, quit iTunes (if its not closed automatically), and click the jailbreak button.
  3. Be patient. Your device will go into a fake restore session and reboot. When it reboots, DO NOT TOUCH IT OR UNPLUG IT. You will be notified on-screen when Absynthe completes the jailbreak. When it’s done, you can unplug your device from your computer.

And, it’s done. It IS really that simple.

Android Software Recommendation for the Nook

As of last count, Android’s Market has approximately 250,000+ apps to iOS Appstore of 350,000+. The numbers are steadily increasing and while the total number is not representative of the quality of the apps or the platform, it is a healthy sign indicating that the Android platform has attracted its fair share of developers. Having used Android for some time, I will recommending my favourite apps that I can’t seem to do without.

1) Pulse Reader – Pulse is a popular RSS Feed Reader for the Android Platform. The reason is simple. It is breathtakingly beautiful. It presents the newsfeed in a colourful interactive mosaic that maximises the use of the touch screen, i.e. both horizontal and vertical scrolling. While it may sound complex at first, the navigation is intuitive. It is easy to browse through the articles and a clean and elegant in-depth view is readily available at a click.

2) imo.IM – my current Instant Messenger of choice is the imo.IM beta. It provides a clean interface, tabbed chats, supports different IM protocols (Facebook Chat, Google Talk, MSN, Skype and more). Also, it allows multiple logins for MSN which doesn’t seem to work with the other clients, like Meebo, Palringo etc. The simplicity is one of its biggest attractions. It doesn’t try to add in too many extra features, bloating the memory footprint. It just does exactly what it needs to, and it does it well.

3) MoboPlayer – By far, the best video player on Android! It supports a large range of video format, from the standard AVI, MP4, MKV and even the more obscure RMVB format. It has subtitles support and has a clean library interface with auto-thumbnail generation. It does not add any watermark to the video, providing a sleek interface and none of the other competitors in the video playback category comes close. It’s a must have software for my nook color.

4) ³ (cubed) – The default Android music player is just average, and is strikingly lacklustre if you were to compare it to Apple’s alternative. If you are a frequent music listener, there are much better options out there, and for me, that option is ³. Your album list is displayed as a cube that, when you swipe up and down, spins around, scrolling through your albums. You can also swipe left and right to scroll through the alphabet instead of through your albums (which makes the process a bit faster). It has album-art fetching, and a last.fm plugin.

5) Adilko – I was looking for the Nook application when I stumbled upon Adilko and that stopped my search for an eBook reader. It supports a variety of formats and notably ePub, the industry standard format for digital publications and incorporates facilities for browsing online catalogs on thousands of books (including thousands of free public domain work) and downloading them directly into your personal library. The application features a day / night reading mode and the standard tweaks to borders / font sizes and also features a bookshelf-like user interface that allows for easy browsing and navigation of the books.

Review: Nook Color from Barnes and Noble

Hello! Welcome to GadgetReactor. We are a technology blog in Singapore and you read more about us here. As the iPad 2 starts making its launch around the world, an unknown little tablet has grown in popularity and started creating its own waves in the budget tablet department. The Barnes and Noble Nook Color is a 7 inch e-reader, developed based on Android. It has a brilliant display, 16 million colors on a top of the line IPS display, with a resolution of 1024 x 600. It is remarkably similar to the specs of the Samsung Galaxy Tab, differing in the availability of the 3G connection, GPS, camera, and an inbuilt microphone. The caveat is that a stock Nook Color from B&N has majority of the android functions disabled as it is primarily an e-reader, but it can easily be hacked to unleash the full potential. Oh, I also forget to mention, the Galaxy Tab retails at approximately S$988 while the Nook Color can be purchased for US$249 or approximately S$345 with shipping included.

Nook Color Specifications
Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.0 x 0.48 inches
Weight: 422g
Processor: ARM Cortex A8 OMAP 3621 @ 800MHz, Overclockable to 1.1 GHz
RAM: 512MB Ram
Memory: 8GB of Internal Flash Memory, Expandable via microSDHC (up to 32GB)
Screen: 1024 x 600 IPS (169 pixel per inch density)
Connections: WIFI B/G/N, Bluetooth

The Nook has a nice charcoal colored case, that has adequate heft and provides a sturdy feel to the tablet. Even though it’s constructed of plastic, it doesn’t feel cheap. The back of the Nook is made of a soft rubbery material, which gives it some extra grip. The bottom corner is open like a loop, though it is more of a design feature than being useful for anything.

While using it as an e-reader is all fine and dandy, the real fun comes in when you hack the Nook for the full functionality it can offer. First up, there are multiple options available for the Nook in terms of the Android Operating System, ranging from Eclair (2.1), Froyo (2.2), Gingerbread (2.3) and Honeycomb (3.0). I have tried Eclair, Gingerbread and Honeycomb and am now predominantly on Gingerbread. It offers the nice compromise between stability (Eclair) and cutting edge development (Honeycomb). In Gingerbread, the interface has been tweaked and it runs a little snappier. Flash 10.1 is available and majority of the apps in the Android market are available. The current disadvantage is that Graphics Acceleration is still not available on Gingerbread. In comparison, the basic Eclair (version the Nook was developed on) has the full functionality. I am currently running Cyanogen Mod 7, based on Gingerbread 2.3.3 which receives tonnes of developer attention and majority of the new developments for the Nook will be seen here. As we speak, basic hardware acceleration for CM7 is has been achieved and though slow, it is a promising sign that we will see full functionality very soon. Honeycomb is also seeing some promising development, with full 2D hardware acceleration in all applications. Exciting times are just round the corner.

Hacking the Nook Color

There are multiple ways to use a customised ROM on your Nook Color.

The easiest method would be to copy the ROM image to your micro SD card and boot your nook with the mSD card loaded. It is as simple as that. A decent image writer will be the win32 image writer (https://launchpad.net/win32-image-writer). SD images for NC can easily be obtained from XDA Sub-Forums : Barnes & Noble Nook Color. Currently, CM7 (Gingerbread 2.3), Honeycomb (3.0) and Nookie Froyo (2.2) have an SmD boot image for you to experiment the various features and trial the roms before you commit to your preferred version. The disadvantage is that this a rom running off mSD is slow and is not optimised, often resulting in laggy performance.

The next method involves flashing the eMMC, which is the Nook embedded storage.

  1. Extract the ClockworkMod recovery (http://legacyschool.us.to/nookdev/clockwork/0.1-ext4/)
  2. Use win32 image writer to burn the *.img file to the mSD
  3. Put rom zip file (don’t need to extract) at root of mSD.
  4. Put the mSD into your NC. Turn it on.
  5. You should see a screen with a lot of options in text. To select use the home (n) button. To go back/up one menu use the power button. To scroll use the volume up and down buttons.
  6. Navigate to Mount and Storage. format all of the following: data, system,and cache. Each require you to separately navigate down to YES to wipe.
  7. Go back to the home screen using the power button and select install zip from SD card, choose zip from sdcard, select the rom zip file
  8. Go back to Main Menu. Select ‘mounts and storage’ and press ‘unmount sdcard’.
  9. Take out mSD. Go back to main menu again and press ‘reboot into system’. Your device will now reboot with the new ROM boot up.
  10. The first boot up might take awhile, so be patient :)

Update (May 2012): The Nook Color has been replaced by the Nook Tablet, which offers a better processor, more ram, and larger storage. However, android development on the Nook Color is still very much active, and despite the lower-end specs, it is still quite usable in today’s context. CM7 has full features activated on the Nook Color, with full hardware acceleration, bluetooth, video playback activated. With the launch of Ice Cream Sandwich, developers are actively trying to bring a stable version to the Nook Color. The XDA Developer Forums are very active and do visit there for the latest details on how to bring the CM9 and ICS 4 experience on to the Nook Color.