How to Print To your iPhone or Android Phone

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Microsoft SkyDriveYes, this is not a typo – printing To your iPhone, I know it sounds weird! It is actually very handy, saves plenty of trees and makes “printouts” easier to carry around and find in the future. There are specific cases where you want to “print” a confirmation of an appointment from a website, both to remind yourself and to show at the business you are heading to. Other times it could be a receipt for online order, or any other “generated” page which you can’t easily link to, but may need to reference in the future. Some places will accept coupon printed this way, where you can simply show it to the cashier or scan it from the phone.

Step 1 – If you don’t already have one, get a free account with Skydrive, Dropbox or Google Drive. Right now Skydrive gives most free space while Dropbox had more native clients for iOS, Android and many others. For those unfamiliar with this category – this basically creates a file system in the cloud, where everything you drop into special folder gets synchronized

Step 2 – Works best from Chrome browser, because it has excellent Save As Pdf feature in the Print window! If you are on the Mac, Print window for Everything comes with Save As Pdf button. Finally, on Windows you can install PDF driver, like this PDFCreator which is open source and free. Then, simply Print to it from any App.

Step 3 – Save the PDF into a Dropbox (or Skydrive, etc) folder on your computer. I recommend you actually organize things with subfolders into categories. I have Confirmations, Coupons, Manuals, eBooks, etc.

Google Drive and SyncStep 4 – Open the Dropbox (or Skydrive, Google Drive, etc) dedicated client on your iPhone and just access the PDF whenever needed. Depending on the client app, you may need to “pre-download” the file before going out of Data range or on a flight.

In fact, you can use this simple trick instead of things like Instapaper, Readability and others. There’s really nothing wrong with these other options, I just find that having too many accounts and places to keep information is distracting and chaotic. If anything, Evernote is the one you should consider. Coupled with Clearly addon, it is sometimes better way to save large articles for later offline reading.

There are tons of Free eBook PDFs online: educational, fun and classics. Simply download and drop into your Cloud folder – Voila.

Zen and the Art of iOS

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iPad Apps NightmareToday I want to reflect on Zen of iOS and overall Apple philosophy. But first, there’s a disturbance in the force that I must deal with. My overall tranquility has been compromised, and by Apple Genius Bar employees, no less.

Here’s the issue at hand – the list of icons displayed at the bottom of iOS device when you double-click The Button. The “Geniuses” at the Bar insisted that All These Apps were Running, even though I just fully rebooted the device! Furthermore I watched them toil for a long time to Delete My Icons, from a VERY long list which came together as I tried most of my 400 apps, and apparently were the cause of my broken iPad microphone.

Although I am yet to reference Apple SDK on this, I feel that my own understanding here is correct. I believe that iOS shows icons of apps that are Running together with recently used apps. If I open too many apps and device starts running low on memory, it will silently shut down Apps in the background, but leave the icon on the list for re-launch as expected. When I tried to contradict Apple employees on this, I was asked whether “I work for Apple”, which furthered my disturbed serenity.

On the way back as I was enjoying excellent Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance audio-book, I think I developed deeper understanding of what “Intersection of Technology and Liberal Arts” really means at Apple. It is all about device keeping us “at piece” with how we expect it and the World to behave – Serenity is the secret sauce!

Still, back to the disturbance – I have noticed that this specific “running apps” issue is a source of frustration for many people, even some who don’t know true source, but are still frustrated. This is especially felt with iPhones, as they can’t understand why their device lasts all day on one occasion, but dies prematurely the next day, seemingly with exactly same amount of usage! I believe that a person who was deciding to show Running iOS apps list was approaching it from Simplicity and Practicality perspective, not from the Zen  and Tranquility Angle! Otherwise, something as simple as Glow or Highlight on an App that is actually running and consuming battery/resources, however little, would make All the difference people need to eliminate this frustration!!!

That brings me to yet another disturbance that Apple is suffering from, in my book. In the Real-World, the number of mediocre to purely useless Apps is continuously growing! Sometimes, what was state-of-the-art on iOS 2 is almost offensive on iOS 5. Yet, nothing is there designed to help us depreciate our unused Apps, and suggest newer alternatives. Normally I would jump on this as “Startup Opportunity”, but Apple locked up this opportunity for allowing us to Innovate management of Ocean of Apps. Even as brave Appsfire still managed to sneak in there, the efforts are painful and can’t fully develop,

In short – the Magic we’ve come to expect from Apple devices is being compromised! These little things band together into a growing disdain, something Steve would never accept! Seriously, putting “Talking Tom the Cat” (or Ben the Dog) right up at the top, next to ABC, Wall Street Journal and Netflix apps – makes sense to you?!? Clearly these appeal to VERY different audience, and although App Genius tries to resolve some of that, not being able to remove old apps or categorize Kids versus Adults, is a Big issue.

For me, the mere act of putting these thoughts out there and reading your comments is sure to restore the Tranquility – that and the next iOS upgrade!

PS: Thanks to my old friend Eran Zadok for recommending this wonderful book to me about 15 years ago – yes, I am a bit behind on my reading list Smile

Solved: The driver detected a controller error on \Device\Ide\IdePort2

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Microsoft Answers PictureMy son and I went through rather painful ordeal with this Event 11 that Windows quietly generates. It took us few weeks to fully work out why Windows suddenly started hanging, misbehaving or even crashing with blue screen. Now that I feel it is fully resolved, I thought I’d share my conclusion (and the process) – hopefully it will help few others out there who are struggling with this. Ridiculously, many people are likely affected by this issue, but unless they open Event Viewer and search for this event id 11, they will not realize that hanging is not “normal” behavior, even for Windows! OS seems to silently recover from this problem 10 to 60 seconds later, which is really strange in my book – considering that user isn’t even alerted to this serious atapi error.

For impatient souls among us, here are my conclusions:

  • First thing – check the SATA/EIDE and power cable connection between your hard-drive and the motherboard. If possible, try another SATA outlet on motherboard or another SATA cable if available.
  • If it still happens, the bad news is that this is likely a disk controller error, which is especially problematic since nowadays disk controllers are built into the Motherboard. If you are in a budget crunch, one potential workaround is to slow down your HD to use different PIO. This may avoid hangs, but will slow overall performance, so no fun solution…
  • Proper solution appears to be to replace motherboard, hence replacing disk controller. There are many motherboards starting at just $50 and in most cases it will improve overall performance and stability for you, even if you keep the same CPU and other components.

I am pretty confident that this is the right diagnosis, as we went through a lot of trial and error investigative work, in a space of few weeks, after it started abruptly. At first, I was pretty much convinced that HD is dying. The system had two hard-drives, and the older hard-drive was seemingly working just fine, even with the same SATA cable and connected to the same slot on the Motherboard. Turns out it was using slower PIO by virtue of it being older HDD. During the troubleshooting process I reinstalled fresh Windows 7 64 Bit multiple times, on various HD drives, only to see the issue start happening almost instantly after clean install. Few days ago a fresh HDD became available (separate long story), so I tried replacing the “dying” HD. Guess what, it being newer HD, it was instantly affected by the same issue, even though I put clean Windows there also. Thus it was concluded that controller was faulty, and I went shopping for a new motherboard. As an aside – DDR3 memory is Ridiculously Cheap. I was able to pick up 8 GB of Gamer grade memory for $25 (after rebate), so that is another bonus with upgrade.

We ended up replacing CPU also (time for upgrade anyhow), but all other components stayed the same. Right now I have 3 Hard-drives happily working flawlessly there, including the “dying” HD, and the rest of the computer is faster and better than ever.

Feel free to leave comments if you are still struggling with this issue, and I will try to answer. Good Luck and Happy New Year!

PS: As a bonus tip – while I was troubleshooting, I had to reinstall Windows 7 couple of times on various HD drives. Did you know you can avoid “tarnishing” your license in such scenario by Skipping product key page during Windows 7 setup? Very handy, and then you have up to 28 days to put your real key in and activate. During that period Windows is fully functional and we had used it like that for over a week while troubleshooting.

Turning Point – Steve Jobs Book Purchase

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Steve Jobs Book CoverShort post – more of a call to arms, to discuss burning point for many people today. That is, What Platform to choose to purchase this iconic Steve Jobs biography eBook. I am completely at a loss – what could have been price war between heavyweights in this category, turned into a paralyzing situation for consumers (like me) preventing our purchase completely. My interpretation is that Publisher insisted on same pricing across all platforms! What Gives?

Anyhow, let’s recap the contenders

  • Kindle – Interestingly, I don’t own any – and yet I have Tons of options for reading Kindle books (iPhone, Tablet, PC, Mac, etc) and already own many books on the platform. This is truly an achievement, which I applaud Amazon for!
  • Nook – I really have nothing against them, but I have virtually no prior books on the platform and no dedicated eInk reader. Still, their readers looking better all the time and they caught up to Amazon with Nook software reader being available on most platforms. Good job, B&N!
  • Kobo – Once partner of failed Borders, is an independent maker of eInk devices and the software platform. They are also present on many platforms and ironically I do own that eInk reader I picked up at Borders closeout. We use it once in a while, but who knows about long term prospects?

Not in the running:

  • iBooks – Apple insists on closed platform ways – show me Android iBooks reader? Or how about PC reader? And not even corporate discount Winking smile Nope, no go…
  • Google Books – Serious contender and I am glad to see they have the book available. Brand is strong with this one, but I just don’t know if this is another “Google experiment” with books, or are they in it for the long haul? Plus, no native clients on laptops detracts from reading experience a bit – although Web reader is mighty enticing. In fact, I almost forgot about this option…
  • Microsoft eReader – Um, anyone remembers this one exists? Exactly…
  • Adobe Digital Editions – I don’t even know if any store uses this… In fact, Adobe themselves didn’t post this free eReader on their Download page – seriously?!?!

So, chime in – help me decide. Weigh in your Pros and Cons and tell me where you got this book, and why! And yea, I am so crippled with this decision that I walked into retail store to buy Real hardcover. But then I got sticker-shock – where B&N employee politely explained to me that their pricing is completely different from their own Web pricing and That’s that.

Seriously – we have industry behemoths trying to set platform trends for ages to come, where should we vote with our cash – and WHY ON EARTH would publisher insist on fixed pricing!!?! I am certain everyone would be selling this one At A Loss at this ciritcal platforms’ junction, given a chance.

Software Patents – Oxymoron

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home_hero1Just a quick post regarding the Software Industry drama unraveling here, here and here. Quick recap: Google is upset with “patent trolls” extracting fees from Android manufacturers via Patents. This ends up costing device manufacturers, and probably ends up making more money for Microsoft than they make from their Windows Mobile 7 sales!

As someone in the Software Industry I just wanted to say this: Over my 18 years in software industry I have seen Many ideas dubbed “revolutionary” at the time. But, I have not seen a single one that I would consider patent worthy. In fact – just about every “software patent” that I heard about was borderline ridiculous. More often than not same algorithms or coding concepts have been in use for years in various companies, but likely were never disclosed in the open. Sometimes, they may have been disclosed in open-source even, yet Patent office doesn’t check there, so they grant it anyhow.

Let’s say tomorrow I think of a clever double linked-list, combining hashed keys distribution buckets concept with bloom filters, to speed things up. Heck I could sit down and write it from scratch, all from my own head, simply because it seems like a great efficient idea to organize data in memory! Boom, someone else could patent it, even a year after I write it and use it, and now my code is violating patents?!

I promised short post so let me just sum up my thoughts on this:

  • Let’s abolish pure “software” related (algorithmic, code, etc) patents altogether, they just don’t make sense – much like protecting a Drink formula. (Yes, simply follow Coca-Cola’s advice and keep your source code secret, if you want to protect it).
  • For other Innovation and Patents – I respect the companies right to extract value from their unique ideas. However, with our increased pace of society now, patents should step up also. I say they should be granted within a month from application and kept valid for a year or two at most.

So there – all problems solved – and no more giant corporations squabbling over source code that was (mostly) written years ago by (undoubtedly clever) developers who since moved on to write even more clever code, for someone else (who probably doesn’t try to trick patent office into patenting it).

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed above are strictly my own personal thoughts

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