Monday, October 27, 2008

This is the Earth I was looking for...

Well I wasn't waiting all that long as today Google released Google Earth for the iPhone.

Sure enough there is geo-location support and the controls are fairly intuitive, including the use of the accelerometer to control your viewing angle which is a fairly neat trick.

Disappointingly, at least from my point of view, there isn't any support for Google Sky. Or at least there isn't any support yet, I'm still hopeful. Time to start lobbying the people I know in Google. I guess the Google Sky and MS WWT tutorial at ADASS will be a good place to start. I'm already talking there anyway.

To get Google Earth on your iPhone, visit the App Store in iTunes...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Living with the Dell mini 9 and Apple's iDisk

This is another quick note about living with Dell's new netbook...


I'm storing most of my files off-board in the Cloud using Jungle Disk and Amazon S3. But since it's been around longer and I've got a bunch of files on it, at least for now, I also needed to mount my Apple iDisk. While there is the iDisk Utility for Windows XP from Apple it grates that you have to use a seperate bit of software for something like this. Fortunately you don't actually need it...

Like a lot of seemingly proprietary bits and pieces from Apple, the iDisk isn't, it's basically just a simple WebDAV share, and Windows has built-in support for that. All you need to do to connect to your iDisk is go to My Computer and click on Tools > Map Network Drive and enter \\\username in the pop-up and select an unused drive letter. Enter the username and password when asked. Your iDisk should now show up as a network disk in Windows Explorer.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Living with the Dell mini 9 and ISO images

Just over a month ago I picked up a one of Dell's new netbooks...


I rarely use the DVD drive on my Macbook, and generally there is only one reason that I need to fire it up, that's to install commercial software. Which is exactly what I need to do with the mini today.

However rather than go out and buy an external USB DVD drive I decided to work around the mini's lack of internal DVD by using my Macbook to create an ISO image, transfer the ISO onto a USB memory stick, and then mount it directly on my mini 9.

Inserting the CD into my Macbook I opened up a Terminal window and unmounted the disk from the command line,

$ diskutil unmountDisk /dev/disk1

Then I created an ISO file with the dd utility, you'll either need to do this,

$ dd if=/dev/disk1 of=image.iso bs=2048

or this,

$ dd if=/dev/disk1s0 of=image.iso bs=2048

depending. You can test the ISO image by mounting the new file using the command line,

$ hdid image.iso

or simply by double clicking on it in the Finder. If all is well, copy the ISO image onto a USB memory stick and plug it into your netbook.

If your mini is running Linux, you've now got everything you need. Login as root and create a directory to use for your mount point, and then mount the image on the mount point as follows

# mkdir /mnt/iso
# mount -t iso9660 image.iso /mnt/iso/ -o loop

On the other hand if your mini is running Windows XP like mine, there isn't anything pre-installed that will let you mount an ISO image. Fortunately however there is an unsupported, and more or less unadvertised, freeware utility from Microsoft that lets you do just that, the "Virtual CD-ROM Control Panel for Windows XP" allows you map an ISO image and make it look just like a normal drive to the operating system.

At which point you should be able to install your software as normal and even, for those bits of software that demand the original disk in the (non-existant) drive, run it as if a disk were present by leaving the ISO image mounted as a mapped drive. Although, depending on how picky your particular bit of software's thrice-cursed DRM turns out to be, your mileage may vary on that one...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Three's 3G Wi-Fi router

Back in May I noted that Three were thinking about rolling out a line of home routers...

So this is just to note that they're now offering their D100 Wireless Router for £69.99 when purchased with one of their USB broadband dongles which I recently had for review. The nice thing here is that, unlike some other 3G routers, this one uses the USB dongle to provide the network connection, which means that you can pull the dongle out and take it with you when you're traveling.

It's nice to see this sort of technology trickling down into the consumer market at last. Of course, I'm still more interested in getting my hands on a femtocell. Is there any network that's even doing a closed beta trial of femtocells in the UK?

Update: Unboxing video from KCJH (via 3mobilebuzz)...

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Mini 9 from Vodafone

So as I've mentioned before Dell's new netbook, the Inspiron mini 9, is going to be available for free with an 18 month mobile broadband contract on Vodafone here in the UK.

The launch date is the 13th of October, but the netbooks have already started to arrive at Vodafone's offices in Newbury. Disappointingly it looks like the rumours were correct, and I won't be able to just install a WWAN card in the off-the-shelf mini 9 which I picked up a couple of weeks ago.

Netbooks causing a stir at the Vodafone offices...
Posted to Flickr by jonmulholland.

Perhaps I should grab another from Vodafone, and then install Mac OSX on my current mini 9?

The mini 9 running OSX

Tempting, but I'd really like to see how integrated the WWAN is into Windows before signing up for an 18 month contract. Or, thinking about it, whether anyone can get Vodafone's card to work under OSX if it comes to that. One of the things that seriously put me off the HSDPA USB dongle I had on loan from 3 was the hassle involved in actually using it...

Update: Dean Bubley has a cost analysis of Vodafone's offer, comparing it against an off-the-shelf mini direct from Dell with a 3G dongle. To cut a long story short it's more expensive, which at least to me, isn't exactly unexpected. You're paying, or at least being charged, for the extra convenience of having things built-in rather than having to carry around extra "stuff". Essentially you're paying an early-adopter premium.

I must admit I'm still very disappointed that I was unable to specify a vanilla 3G module when I bought my mini 9 directly from Dell. To be honest I wouldn't even mind having to post-purchase a WWAN card from Dell's co-marketing partner, in this case Vodafone, and slot it into my mini myself. However if the off-the-shelf mini's really are lacking the internal antenna infrastructure needed to support the card, that's probably a non-starter. Oh well...