Friday Bits and Bytes

Been a while, but frankly, I haven’t had much to say lately. So, I rolled a few updates into a single post. Enjoy.


Over the weekend, I watched “Urbanized,” the final installment in Gary Hutswit’s design trilogy. If you read here, you’ll recall that I thoroughly enjoyed the first two parts, “Objectified” about industrial design and “Helvetica” about typeface design.

“Urbanized” is about city design and planning, a topic about which I know very little. As with the other parts, this one was fascinating. I’ve always thought city planning would be a fun job, even considering all outside pressures, i.e. politics, costs, contractors, etc. “Urbanized” is a great collection of stories that showcase aspects of modern city planning and the many aspects it must consider.

Coincidentally, I also assembled a train table for my daughter over the weekend, an early Christmas present. It’s a city and almost immediately, I noticed all the problems. She and I will have to redesign it, especially the very sharp turns that none of the trains can make without crashing.

If you like documentaries and design, definitely watch all three films. They’re very thought-provoking and highly interesting.

Macbook Pro Wifi Woes

The ongoing saga of my Macbook Pro’s wifi issues has a couple more chapters now. I’ve been working with a senior tech at Apple Care, and the last piece of advice was to reinstall OS X, not a small task. I did some more digging before committing to that and found a couple other tips that have helped others.

First, I turned off the hard drive’s sleep mode, which kept the problem at bay for several days. This probably isn’t a good long-term solution, given that hard drive’s do fail, and I suspect running all the time might accelerate that failure.

I also found what seems to be a credible diagnosis of the problem, i.e. the Broadcom network adapter drivers may be to blame. Most people report possible fixes without any indication of the root cause, so this was an interesting find. Apparently, a similar issue occurred with Atheros drivers in the past and downgrading to the last version of the drivers that worked fixed the problem.

I followed the instructions in the post, downgrading back to the Broadcom drivers in OS X 10.6.4, but after a reboot, the OS doesn’t report any wifi adapters, borking wifi completely.

Color me very disappointed. Anyway, I’m still leaning toward this as the root cause, and if it is, a reinstallation of OS X is unlikely to fix the problem. I’ve reached out to the tech at Apple Care to get his thoughts.

Fun with Android

I treated myself to a new phone, the Nexus 4, and yes, I was one of the poor saps who got caught in the fiasco last week. Thanks to a stubborn will and lots of refreshes, I finally got my device, which arrived yesterday.

So far, I’m liking it a lot, especially Android 4.2. Now, I just need to get service for it. Yeah, I know it doesn’t have LTE (or at least, the LTE radio isn’t active), but I can live HSPA+ and no contract.

The Nexus 4 isn’t my first brush with Android 4.2. Since I got the Xoom back from Noel (@noelportugal), it’s been an early Christmas for me. The Xoom is a great device, and I’ve had a ton of fun modding it. I normally would wait for Google to update it. After all, the Xoom is essentially the first Android developer tablet, but sadly, it won’t get Jelly Bean 4.2.

Actually, the one I have is locked to Verizon, and it may not even get Jelly Bean 4.1.

So, I unlocked it, rooted it and then had some fun. After some research, many reported that the Stingray (Verizon Xoom) worked with the Wingray (Wifi Xoom) image, minus of course the Verizon bit. So, I flashed it to 4.1.2, using this guide and ran Jelly Bean for a few days.

Then, I decided to try to run JDeveloper on the Xoom, which should be possible using a Linux VM. I quickly discovered, however, that my root was borked.

After some unsuccessful attempts to fix it, I somehow got onto the idea that I’d flash Jelly Bean 4.2.1, having run across this guide. I was stoked to find that this worked too, and I enjoyed running 4.2.1 for a while, until I hit some nasty bugs. One of the things I’m really looking forward to with the Nexus 4 is using the improved Google Now in 4.2.1.

I don’t know about you, but when I get deep into a project like this, I tend to fall into deep ratholes and find myself wondering hours or days later how I even got there. I know Chet (@oraclenerd) has this issue too. Anyway, this was one of those times.

By now, I had a buggy mess on my hands, so, I decided to start all over, just like when I’d first unboxed the Xoom. To do this, I relocked the bootloader and reapplied the original stock image of Honeycomb and then walked through the half dozen or so OTA updates.

After that, I unlocked and rooted again to try the VM install of Linux to get JDev running. I hit a few snags downloading the Ubuntu image, so stay tuned for the rest of that story.

After all that modding, I’m reminded of why I’ve stayed with Android; there’s something rewarding about being able to bend a device to your will. In the past, I’ve lost patience with custom ROMs, which is why I always gravitate to Nexus devices. Still, if you have the time and patience, modding is fun.

Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean are very capable on tablets, and the Xoom has replaced my original iPad as my tablet of choice. Sadly, the OG iPad is stuck on iOS 5, and as apps update to iOS 6, I’m seeing more and more random crashes.

Something funny I’ve noticed. Even though Android is the largest smartphone OS by share, very few people I work with carry Android phone. Even Noel, a maker at heart, insists on iOS. He barely even turned on the Xoom.

Food for thought as to why.

Noel’s Business Card Hack

I’ll leave you with a post from The Var Guy on Noel’s business card hack. Great to see the coverage.

If any of this strikes you as comment-worthy, you know what to do.





  1. If you like trains/makerstuff, looks like you have a model expo this weekend in Portland. I think that is the same one I used to take my kids to, if so, well worth it. The look of wonder on their faces, and stuff for us old geeks too. One I went to in Long Beach had a talk by the guy who built the trains at Disneyland and Walt’s house. Of course, conventions have lifecycles too, so never can tell ahead of time if they are over the hill.

  2. I took my daughter to a model railway exhibit a couple weeks ago. Good times, hadn’t heard about one this weekend. Deets?

    We rode the Holiday Express recently, an old steam train that used to run Seattle-Spokane, now does Christmas runs along the Willamette, all lit up w Santa and all that. Planning to go to the train society’s museum very soon, newly opened.

    Of course I like trains. Who doesn’t? Seriously.

  3. Figured you could look at your local “what’s happening” as well as I could post Oh wait newspapers, haha!

    Of course everyone likes trains, but some ( ) more than others ( ). One of my college roomates had two posters on the wall:Mott the Hoople and an Amtrak national map.

    Last night one of the other train-buddy groups had a big party (Xmas?) at the station and on the train. I saw them recycle a couple of wine bottles and hold up what looked like a half-gallon of Stoli. Good times.

    (And thank you, I had been scratching my head for a while about where I had seen a particular train photo, and just found it).

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