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New Phone: The considerations

July 21st, 2009

I am looking forward to spending some of my hard-earned money on a new phone. I got into the smartphone world with a 1st Gen iPhone 8GB that was given to me by a friend when he upgraded to an iPhone 3G. It is beat up, has some screen sunspots, and overall looks like crap. At the time though, the software worked great and I was hooked.

I am on T-Mobile, so I was spoiled. When I jailbroke and unlocked my nice beat up iPhone, I used my old ‘T-Zones” data package which gave me unlimited data for $6 per month. It was slower than normal EDGE (it ran through some sort of compression proxy) but it worked. High speed was achieved by using my WiFi.

Unfortunately,one fateful day my iPhone was handicapped. Some old glitch or something (details are sketchy) popped up and rendered most of my iPhone’s communication system. My WiFi failed (showing just the simple scanning icon while puking lots of errors into the log)and it would not receive phone calls if the phone was ‘alseep’ (commonly achieved by turning off the screen). This is quite a hindrance to my mobile productivity so I spend some time searching for a fix. It was around this time that I happened to be able to use a BlackBerry 8800. Awesome smartphone, though its required data package was a hefty $25/month. I learned to enjoy the true-push e-mail, the keyboard and the powerful multitasking. Another fateful day came and made that phone useless.

While it was performing a operating system upgrade, the phone froze and disconnected via USB. It refused to boot or even show life except for the little red LED, which now just blinks twice. Back to the iPhone it seems.

After an extended amount of time without any phone (surviving by bumming phone time off people and using the awesome-ness of Google Voice) I finally restored my iPhone to a working order (of sorts). It sill does all the issues it has been doing, but at least it works.

I will be starting work soon and will be paid for some work I have done recently, so I have decided to look in earnest for a new phone.

My Requirements:

  • T-Mobile: I am too happy with their customer service and cheapness to move.
  • Smartphone (DUH)

My Preferences:

  • Touchscreen is a great thing, if not a great keyboard
  • Music abilities
  • WiFi (T-Mobile does have its drawbacks, but I am happy to use my blazing fast net)
  • Open Bluetooth (tether?!?!)
  • Cheap
  • Recent and powerful!

My possible phones are:

  • T-Mobile MyTouch 3G (HTC Magic / Google Ion) : Cost: $199
  • Backberry Curve 8900: Cost: $149
  • T-Mobile G1 (HTC Dream): Cost: $149
  • T-Mobile Dash 3G: Cost: $169
  • T-Mobile Shadow: Cost: $149
  • T-Mobile Sidekick LX: Cost: $199
  • Samsung Memoir: Cost: $199
  • Samsung Behold: Cost: $79 (Open Box)
  • Samsung Highlight: Cost: $149

The Samsung phone are out because of the OS. I doubt their OS even has native Twitter and Facebook apps.

The Shadow and Dash 3G are Windows Mobile phones, and operating system I quite dislike. Though I could tolerate them if necessary.

Sidekick just ain’t my style.

The G1 is already an older phone and not exactly ‘cutting edge’. Its slow, looks funky but has a nice physical keyboard. Modding potential is also great.

Blackberry Curve: New BB. I do love the BB OS and the type of doing things, but the allure of the next phone is just to great, even to save the $50

The MyTouch 3G looks great. Though it lacks some things I like (physical keyboard, dedicated headphone jack) the Android OS is a big draw. I use almost all of Google’s applications and having a phone centred around this sounds like a big plus. It also has good Google Voice integration

Other phones have been suggested, such as the iPhone 3G(S), other HTC phones, or even waiting a little bit longer for a new phone to come out (like the HTC Hero). I would wait, but I have been waiting for quite some time for a ‘new’ phone. There is always a good reason to wait but at some point I just need to commit.

iPhones are all well and good. The one I use is plenty fast, has lots of good games, and is an awesome music phone. Problem is I hate iTunes. And with the iPhone I am suck with iTunes. There are also no background running of apps. Push notifications are great too, but not a complete replacement. The iPhone does not have a true GMail app and its Google Voice integration is nonexistant. Its just an app. Everything is just an app. I would also lose many of the ‘homebrew’-style apps that the Android Market is full of.

That is to say nothing of the issues I would face while using it unlocked on T-Mobile. I would much prefer to use a native and correct phone for my network. If I moved to AT&T, I would be greeted with not only higher costs, but the issues at face most iPhones: non-functioning voicemail, spotty service and 3G, lack of tether…

Nah, the MyTouch 3G (HTC Magic) looks like its the best option. What say you? Any suggestions?

Using U3-Enabled Drives as the Ultimate TrueCrypt Solution

January 14th, 2009

TrueCrypt is an open-source solution to encrypting data. It allows the user to create an encrypted container file or to encrypt an entire drive. Full drive encryption is the best solution as it allows the full space of the drive to be used. On USB flash drives it also enables the wear-leveling system built into flash drives to extend the life of the drive as much as possible.

TrueCrypt-encrypted drives require the TrueCrypt software to be accessible to access the encrypted data. This makes sense. But if an entire drive is encrypted, how can the software be stored where it is accessible. I have gotten around this by carrying a second smaller drive with the TrueCrypt software loaded. This enabled me to load the software then decrypt the larger drive. Not the optimal solution but it worked.

A U3 Drive connected to a PC. A CD drive and removable disk in one!

A U3 Drive connected to a PC. A CD drive and removable disk in one!

There is a way around it. U3 is a technology built by SanDisk on some of their flash drives. A computer sees a U3 enabled drive as a flash drive and an 6MB CD drive. The CD image is loaded with the U3 software which is set to autorun on Windows PCs. There is a TrueCrypt package for U3 but the software is stored on the flash space of the drive, making drive encryption still useless.

As expected, the U3 portion of the drive can be re-flashed with the latest version of U3. The updater (LPInstaller.exe) retrieves the latest ISO image from the U3 web site (http://u3.sandisk.com). This URL can be intercepted by a simple HOSTS file change and redirected to a local IP where a custom ISO can be served.

An ISO can be created using IMGBurn. The official ISO is exactly 6.66 MB (6,991,872 bytes). Though it is untested, some people have successfully flashed a larger image.

The steps are quite easy to replicate and my method leaves several MB for an additional payload, including a “If found, please return to” message.

1) Download the necessary files:

  • U3 updater and local web server pack (files available at the bottom)
  • The latest edition of TrueCrypt. Installation is not necessary, as the installer offers to just extract the necessary files.

2) Generate your ISO -OR- use mine:

  • Use IMGBurn and create your ISO. Some specific requirements for the ISO image include:
    • ISO9660 +UDF mode
    • No hidden files
    • No subdirectories

Your image should include an “autorun.inf” file to set an icon and start application. It also should include the TrueCrypt files. The easiest way to do this is to run the Traveler wizard inside TrueCrypt.

Place all the files you want inside a folder and create the folder into an ISO image. Be sure that the ISO is created with the contents of the folder and not actually the folder.

Once the ISO has been created, or you decide to use mine, the next step is to update the U3 device with your newly created ISO image.

3) Flash your ISO image to the U3 device:

This part can be a bit confusing, so be sure to follow all the steps!

  1. You will first need to modify your HOSTS file on your computer.hosts-file-cropped
    On Windows Vista, it is located at “C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc”. This file is protected by they system and you will need administrator privileges to update this file. I have provided two hosts files, one modified and one not. Feel free to use it by simply copying it into the directory.
    If you want to use your own, simply add “127.0.0.1 u3.sandisk.com” to the bottom. This redirects the URL u3.scandisk.com to your computer. The next step will handle the reviving end.
  2. In the download I provided you will find HFS, a easy to use local web server. Be sure to select NO to the popup that comes up first.
    Click no!!!

    Click no!!!

    Once you are into the program, all you need to do is to drag-and-drop the “download” folder into the left pane of the program. This folder has the correct folder structure (”download\apps\lpinstaller\isofiles”) that relates to the original site.

    "Download" folder added to HFS

    "Download" folder added to HFS

    Once this is done, this URL ( http://u3.sandisk.com/download/apps/lpinstaller/isofiles/) should look like this:

    Your newly intercepted U3 update site

    Your newly intercepted U3 update site

    This will coerce the U3 updater to download your file “cruzer-autorun.iso” instead of the offical one from the web site.

  3. Removing U3 Launchpad

    Removing U3 Launchpad

    Now, if you already have U3 installed onto the drive, you will need to remove it. This is easily done by running “launchpadremoval.exe”, which is included in the “U3Hacks” file you downloaded.

  4. The final step is upon us! Simply run “LPInstaller.exe”. It will prompt you to proceed. It is not recommended to back the files up as it can really make things much slower.  After it is done, two disks will show up. One will be called “EncryptedDisk” (if you used my ISO). The other will be the eventual encrypted drive.

You have now done the hard part. The final part is to encrypted the drive. The method is exactly the same as usual, except you will be creating a new partiton.

Be sure to select "Non-System Partiton"

Be sure to select "Non-System Partition"

The final dangerous step is to select the correct partition. The easiest way to make sure you are selecting the correct partition is to cross-reference the size of the target. Be careful!

Choose carefully!

Choose carefully!

Once this is done, you can remove your thumb drive and do the final test. It will function fully but there are some extra tips that I will include.
Your drive’s encrypted partition will show up in Windows Explorer as an invalid drive. Clicking on it will generate a window prompting a format. DO NOT DO THIS! The easy way to prevent this is to remove the drive letter from windows explorer. Inside of “Computer Management”, select “Disk Management”. Right-click the volume and select “Change Drive Letter and Paths”. Remove the drive letter by selecting it and clicking remove!

Be sure to not add a new letter!

Be sure to not add a new letter!

Thats it. When you connect the drive, run TrueCrypt from the old U3 Partition. In the mount box, select the proper device and enter your password. Enjoy!

If you have any comments or suggestions, or you see some horrible spelling/grammar error,  please feel free to contact me or leave a comment here!

Installing OSX on a Dell DXG051

January 7th, 2009

I am finally going to install OSX (iPC_OSx86_Public_Beta.iso) onto my Dell DXG051. Its specs are:

  • Intel(R) Pentium(R) 4 CPU 3.20GHz (HT)
  • NVIDIA nForce4 SLI Intel Edition rev. A3
  • 2×512 DDR2 PC4300 RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX
  • Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 2 ZS

We shall see how this goes…

Welcome to my site!

December 26th, 2008

This is the start of a new little project of mine. Expect to see my odd rambling, extended thoughts reposted from Twitter, and quite a few technical comments. Feel free to throw your own comments back in!

Oh and I really need a new theme. Now.