Apple iPhone 5 Problems

I’m coming very close to throwing my iPhone 5 against the wall.

  • Rattling sound that comes from somewhere along the top edge of the case – it’s the camera lens, says the Genius.
  • Power button gradually failed
  • SIM issues: Invalid SIM, SIM Failure, then No SIM

Luckily, Apple is brilliant at handling these issues as long as the phone is still within its warranty period. Getting a replacement unit was as easy as bringing up the Apple Store app on my phone, making an appointment for two hours out, and showing up. The Genius quickly took my old phone to the back, where the problem was confirmed, and then a new phone was brought out to me.

How to Make Your Home A/V Setup Better

A major rewrite of this article is in progress

This post would be more aptly titled, “How I Made My Home A/V Setup Better in 2013”

I spend a lot of time optimizing the systems that I engage with on an ongoing basis. My home A/V setup is one of the systems that has seen gains in the first part of this year. I’ll briefly describe my home A/V setup, and introduce some areas for continued refinement.

My Existing Setup

Display: Panasonic Viera TC-P55ST30 55″ Plasma TV
Audio: Logitech Z-5500 THX Speaker System
Media Storage and Retrieval System: Apple MacBook Pro 15.4″ laptop
Media Storage: 3*LaCie Quadra D2 external hard drives
Human Interface Device: Apple Bluetooth keyboard, Apple Magic Trackpad
Audio Playback: Audio Technica AT-LP60 Fully Automatic Belt Driven Turntable

The focus of the setup is the Panasonic Viera ST30 class plasma TV. Advances in plasma technology over the past half a decade have made plasma TVs excellent choices for video playback. I could write an essay on the comparative differences between plasma and LCD technology for video playback — the big three that you’ll be interested in are contrast, viewing angle, and size. Plasma televisions offer impressive contrast and can display deeper blacks than most LCD sets. The viewing angle on plasma televisions doesn’t suffer at extremes. LCD televisions must be tuned for placement in order to provide a good viewing experience. Setting an LCD television at a suboptimal viewing spot results in reduced contrast and image quality, whereas plasma TVs are very forgiving because of their wide viewing angles. Finally, plasma TVs are typically cheaper than equivalently sized LCD sets.

My audio setup hasn’t seen updates for a few years. The Logitech Z-5500 speaker system is a 5.1 system that was designed as a computer sound system. It does its job well in its current location, where all five speakers have been laid out in-line. The Logitech Z-5500 control unit has an optical audio input that I run directly to the TV. An analog input supports playback of stereo tunes from my media storage and retrieval system. The system produces enough power for my living room, though I could upgrade it for greater audio fidelity. There is a tradeoff that one makes in audio between size and clarity. Smaller speakers stow away easily, and the Logitech Z-5500 can always find a comfortable place on my office desk.

The turntable is a more recent addition into my home A/V setup. It is a fairly basic model, as far as modern turntables go. A built-in pre-amp eliminates the need for additional A/V equipment on my part, and it produces great sound for the price. It’s my turntable. Belt drive with a replaceable stylus, and fully automatic.

Changes from 2012

Previously, I had a second generation Apple TV (MC572LL/A). It was my main media retrieval system for about one year. My MacBook Pro laptop was kept in another room, along with the external hard drives. I jailbroke the Apple TV and installed XBMC on it, which allowed it to play back files outside of my iTunes library. This worked fairly well, though I encountered serious streaming issues when playing back larger files. I suspect this was due to a problem with XBMC and its ability to work with Apple Filing Protocol (AFP) shares. Furthermore, the Apple TV had an output resolution of 720p, which meant that higher resolution content was being scaled back. Not that I could play back anything in 1080p, anyways, but it was a factor for consideration.

I contemplated the purchase of a new router, but stopped myself several times. I had researched the maximum wireless throughput of the top routers available on the market using SmallNetBuilder.com’s Router Charts before purchasing a Cisco-Linksys E4200 Dual-Band Wireless-N Router in the summer of 2012. Other options that retained the Apple TV 2 as the media playback and retrieval unit included migrating my media library to Plex or moving away from AFP and towards SMB for home file sharing.

Then at the start of 2013, I moved the MacBook Pro and my external hard drives to the living room. The external hard drives house my media files – everything from music to movies to digitized home videos is stored (and backed up) on those drives. The MacBook Pro has a 3.5mm audio out jack that can transmit audio data digitally using TOSLINK. Now I can play back all of my media files on the big screen with few issues. Having the computer hooked up to the rest of my home A/V setup also provides me with added functionality above and beyond that offered by traditional A/V components.

Using an old computer to serve up content was not without its faults. I found that Netflix lagged when playing back HD videos at 1080p resolution. Any workaround that involved tweaking the computer would have meant compromise on some other part of the setup. For a time, I swapped in the Apple TV 2 whenever I wanted to stream a film on Netflix. Luckily, I found that my TV had some smart TV functions that I had not previously experimented with. I found that it not only had native support for Netflix, but the TV’s built in Netflix app was quite good. Ultimately, I sold my Apple TV 2 for twice what I paid for it because it was no longer a necessary part of my home A/V setup.

Future Changes

My home A/V setup would benefit most from having a dedicated home theater sound system. I am quite satisfied with the amount of power produced from the existing system. However, better components will produce greater tonality and clarity. I am quite enamored with sound bars – they do a good job of producing sound for a TV setup, and they can be cleanly integrated into most home A/V setups. My budget pick for a sound bar would be the VIZIO SB4021E-A0 40-Inch 2.1 Home Theater Sound Bar. Pie in the sky, money is no object pick would go to the Bowers and Wilkins Panorama 2 Integrated A/V Sound System ($2199.99 at the time of writing). For full disclosure, I’ve experienced neither one of these two, but the B&W set looks very sexy.

As interesting as sound bars are, I could see myself going in a whole different direction. I have done some research into DIY speakers, and some of the builds that are floating around out there are marvelous. As with any system, the sky is the limit when it comes to the upper dollar figure that you could spend.

July Update

Added Bluetooth to my Logitech system

Interesting today

Hydroponic Gardening

http://www.windowfarms.com
Mentioned in an article from http://www.popsci.com/diy/article/2013-02/you-built-what-vertical-veggie-farm

Sous-Vide Cooking

http://lifehacker.com/5984614/how-to-sous+vide-without-a-sous+vide-machine
http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/04/cook-your-meat-in-a-beer-cooler-the-worlds-best-sous-vide-hack.html
http://www.popsci.com/diy/article/2010-01/cooking-sous-vide-inexpensive-diy-way

How to eliminate paper documents and go digital

I’m still very old-school when it comes to note-taking and record-keeping. For the past few years, I’ve retained all of my notes from my college courses, keeping them in the original binders and notebooks that I used to take to class. Together with my college textbooks, these items filled three entire shelves of my bookcase. Alas, our lives are in a constant state of flux, and there came a time when I felt that I would rather do away with the paper. It’s difficult for me to imagine moving without the assistance of a corporate relocation package given the number of things that I have amassed over the years. I could clear the paper out from all of my binders and collect it for a monumental bonfire, but this wouldn’t help very much if I wanted to reference these materials later.

It all began here..

I started paying more attention to taking my paper documents digital after reading a post on LifeHacker (Source). The process involved in transitioning from hard copy to digital is quite.. involved to say the least. While tremendous gains have been made in so far as to the extent that software can simplify the process, the hardware aspect of digitizing documents requires some consideration. The author of the aforementioned LifeHacker article used a Doxie portable scanner. I found a listing on eBay for a Doxie One – Standalone Paper Scanner (buy it on Amazon.com) with some generous bundled items and began watching it, but acted too late. That listing ended up going for just under the retail price of a brand new Doxie One, a steal for whoever won the auction.

The process of taking hard copies and turning them into digital documents

There are myriad ways to approach the task of converting from hard copy to digital documents. At the most basic level, you’ll need a scanner. I have an HP Deskjet F4480 all-in-one with a flatbed scanner. It’s very spartan when it comes to meeting scanner needs. I combed through my binders and came across a sizable stack of loose papers to begin testing my process on. I started by scanning the hard copies using Mac OS X’s Print & Scan utility. I set scanning resolution to 200dpi to minimize scanning time while maintaining an acceptable level of quality. I previewed my scanned documents before selecting a portion of the workspace, and outputted to JPG. From here, I intended to use ABBYY FineReader Express to further process the documents into useful formats. Using this flatbed scanner turned out to be a non-trivial process. I had to get up from my desk, lift the scanner lid, align each document with the lip of the scanner bed, and preview the scan before committing it to my external hard drive. All told, I averaged about one scan per minute across 18 scans. This was not a very encouraging rate given the enormous volume of paper that I would have to deal with.

Managing your workflow

The elements universal to any process are:

  1. A document scanner
  2. A repository for scanned documents
  3. A means of cataloguing scanned documents

Document scanners are available in a wide range of form factors. Some feed sheets through a stationary scanner element while others move a scanner element across a document. Choose the document scanner that provides you with the greatest utility given your typical usage scenario.

Document scanners may come with internal or expandable memory used for storing digital images of hard copy. Some document scanners feature WiFi or ethernet connectivity, which provides the flexibility of not having to tether the document scanner to a computer.

It’s important to manage digital files in a way that makes them easy to retrieve later. I started by keeping my raw scanned images in an organized folder structure that would make them easy to navigate. At the moment, I am scanning hard copy directly to my external hard drive, which resides next to my home server machine. Moving from image to text is another step that will be detailed in a future post.

Portable scanners for Mac OS X compared

I took this as an opportunity to survey the current solutions available for digitizing large volumes of paper before settling on the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i Mobile Document Scanner, which got a very favorable (and detailed!) review from Wired GeekDad columnist James Floyd Kelly (Source). I went into this search with the following criteria:

  • Must be portable
  • Must have official driver support for Mac OS X

Of course scanning speed was an important consideration, as was a document feeder. Some of the portable scanners on my list have duplex scanning abilities, meaning that they will scan both sides of a double-sided document in a single pass. Talk about efficient! Here’s the shortlist of scanners that made it into my consideration set.

Scanner Scanning Quality (dpi) Scanning Speed Power Internal Memory Expansion Legal Size Duplex Scan Document Feeder Purchase Link
Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i Up to 600 dpi 12 images per minute (300 dpi color) AC adapter or USB power No N/A Yes Yes 10 sheets capacity (A4 20lb) Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i Instant PDF Sheet-Fed Mobile Document Scanner
Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 Up to 600 dpi 7.5 seconds per page (300 dpi color) USB power No N/A No Yes No Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 CLR 600DPI USB Mobile Scanner (PA03610-B005)
Doxie Go Up to 600 dpi 8 seconds per page (300 dpi color) Built in rechargeable battery, rated to 100 scans per charge
Optional power adapter
Yes SD + USB flash drive port Yes No No Doxie Go – Rechargeable Mobile Paper Scanner
Doxie One Up to 300 dpi 8 seconds per page (300 dpi color) AC adapter or 4 AAA batteries No SD (comes with 2GB card) No No No Doxie One – Standalone Paper & Photo Scanner