Saturday, July 3, 2010

Asus K42Jk and K52Jk laptops

I was able to get my hands on two very similar and current models of Asus that has the latest Intel Core i3 series processors. The Asus K42Jk-VX027R and K52Jk-SX055 have replaced the previous K40I series that put Asus back into the value-level market in laptops during the 2nd half of 2009.

Just to start off, let's list down the specs that are packed inside these models. Both of these units have identical specifications and differ only on the size and keyboard layout.
  • Intel Core i3 - 350M Processor, 2.26 GHz
  • Intel Mobile HM55 Chipset
  • ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5145, 1G DDR3 VRAM
  • 4 GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500 GB HDD, 5400 rpm
  • Maximum Screen Resolution of 1366 x 768, LED Backlit Screen
  • Wi-Fi b/g/n. Bluetooth, LAN
  • 6-cell battery
  • DVD-burner, 3-in-1 Card reader, multi-touch pad
  • the other usual stuff in a laptop
From my first hands-on experience, it feels solid and more robust compared to the plastic-hollow feel from its predecessor. With the rough carbon-lookalike chassis on the palm rest and solid-chiclet keyboard similar on what Sony Vaio has, it really isn't bad.

These models support Linux-distros and Windows 7 (as it only has drivers for this OS) from my experience, so don't bother trying to install an XP in this machine as I think it will be a waste on this. The latest Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid and Mint 9 Isadora works out of the box, but of course with very minor bugs. Some of which that I've encountered is the proprietary ATI drivers not working well (in fact, the default modules work better and boots faster with it), and the suspend session when the lid is closed hangs-up. Overall though, it is still good and with some reading from forum sites, you'll find some fixes and workarounds.

I do think Asus has once again created another laptop that is again reasonably priced and I think was bit ahead against other manufacturer brands. The 14" K42Jk is priced at around PHP 42,000 that already includes a Windows 7 Basic 64-bit installed, while the 15" K52Jk is at PHP 39,000 doesn't have any OS included but has numpad keys. The 15" variant I believe will have another version that comes with a Nvidia graphics chipset, which might be a good news for those who are more comfortable and loyalist on Nvidia.

If you're looking for decent laptops at this point in time, I would recommend these... but of course, other manufacturers will definitely show up with something of similar calibers as these two.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Samsung Spica i5700 Galaxy in the flesh

As a somewhat avid fan and user of anything by Google, be it the simple Gmail to the complex power of Google Apps, of course I wanted an Android-powered phone which will fit my budget. This constraint of budget-issues was then answered when Samsung released the Spica i5700 Galaxy during this Q2.

Samsung did a brilliant job of immediately tapping this consumer market of tech-savvy but budget-restricted people with their introduction of the Spica i5700 Galaxy. At first it was a far-cry from my old conventional phone (I came from a SE K810i) which is somewhat weird at first. The Spica ain't that all good looking but rather kept a practical and simple look. Indeed it is all made of plastics and all compared to an iPhone, but hey, you get what you paid for, which is around Php 15,000 or even lower (I got mine on a deferred payment scheme of 12-months 0%-interest, with a total of Php 16,290... yeah it costed me a bit more).

The unit initially entered the market with an Android 1.5 (cupcake) OS, but of course this was a very slow and restricted version until they introduced an official update to the 2.1 (eclair) series. I bought my unit which was already updated into 2.1 (a good call if you ask me) and with an extra red back case. Packed with Samsung's own 800 mHz processor an a pseudo-AMOLED (yep, it is only a TFT screen), it actually looks good and feels good. I installed a Tag-Home app which replaced the defaulted Home-theme developed by Samsung, which I think was a bit sluggish in terms of response, and didn't have a landscape view when tilted on the "Desktop" area.

The Spica only has a 200 MB internal storage memory that covers all your caching (mail, browsing, text messages, etc.) and your available space for installing other apps. Of course the hoped-for Android 2.2 (froyo) that supports installing apps into your SD card is in the window, its only the matter of whether Samsung will create an official update to it. Leaving the internal storage space aside, it is actually a jam-packed unit which covers everything that you might and will possibly look for; bluetooth v2.1, wi-fi capable (BG range), in-built GPS, micro-SD slot that supports up to 32 GB, accelerometer for sensing orientation and for other apps, 3.2 mpixel camera, and of course 3G capable since this is targeted as an internet-reliant phone because of all the Google services built-in.

Now onto the Google services I mentioned. The Android OS requires you to have a Google account, which is no biggie. This is initially troublesome for other people, I myself wasn't spared, because of the initial task of migrating from your old phone. It did however proved me wrong of being hard to migrate because all you need is a way to export your contacts to a file that will be accepted by Google Contacts for "import contacts" option, and the power of the Internet. Having my own Google Apps account made things a lot easier because of the immediate integration of my mail, contacts and calendars... if you think of it, it is actually the same for a regular Google account.

The functionality of the Google Latitude, which is already tied with the Maps app in the phone, is something that I suggests to be tried-out and played in this phone, although I admit Philippine support in terms of roadway and traffic are still in need of updating. But just a reminder, if you are hiding from people, better turn this service off or make sure you know whom you granted access to see you on Latitude.

The phone, after a few settings tweaked, will automatically sync all of these when it has an Internet connection, be it a wi-fi connection or 3G. This ain't exactly a user-friendly phone at first glance, and will probably require some patience (for total newbies in anything Google) but of course everyone will get used to it. As for the size and weight, it is relatively light but not exactly a slim phone as people initially think of when comparing with an iTouch or iPhone.

Overall, I think this phone is worth it in terms of the functionality and definitely on its cost. Of course if you want to make sure you get the most-responsive unit around the market, the Spica ain't exactly that one and will definitely costs you a bit more (like it's brother, the i9000 Galaxy). But of course, in a practical perspective, this is a must-buy and it will surely be of good use, giving you a new look on how you use a mobile phone (more like a PDA of sorts) that won't hurt your wallet too much.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

O&B is now an Authorized Google Apps Reseller Partner

Google has formally recognized and authorized Orange and Bronze Software Labs to be its Google Apps Reseller Partner here in the Philippines this May 2010.

This has been in progress since the Q4 of 2009, when Google has been starting to penetrate the market of hosted mail services, particularly here in the Asia-Pacific region. It targets companies who are looking into alternatives on upgrading their current Microsoft Exchange or Lotus Notes (with Exchange 2010 just officially released on Nov. 2009) and following a growing trend where companies are outsourcing some IT-related services that they use.

In a nutshell, Google Apps Premier Edition is Google's business solution for communication and collaboration for the corporate setting. Quoting a portion from the Google Apps Official website, "Google's web-based messaging and collaboration apps require no hardware or software and need minimal administration, creating tremendous time and cost savings for businesses.", which is basically it's main selling point... reduced cost but still a powerful tool for your business. To know more about Google Apps Premier Edition, visit the product's homepage.

For those interested, most especially companies here in the Philippines, do not hesitate to forward your questions or inquiries to this email address. If you wish to know more information about Orange and Bronze and other services that are offered, visit their website.

Friday, February 26, 2010

PLDT WeRoam Dongle and Linux (Ubuntu)

I was able to test out a PLDT WeRoam dongle at our office, and to those familiar Linux users out there, there isn't a default configuration avaiable to use the PLDT dongle. The closest configuration is the one saved for Smart Bro.

The configuration that I used to make it work are the following:
  • APN: weroamplan
  • username: pldt@weroam
  • password: pldt
  • number to dial: *99#
  • authentication method: PAP (or sometimes CHAP)
  • allow BSD data, Deflate data and Header data compression
  • IPV4 Settings: automatic PPP address only, add (GoogleDNS) as your DNS server.
The performance if you might ask... it is pretty quick and somewhat reliable (in my case it works like a charm in the Makati area). This setting works like a charm, especially the addition of GoogleDNS (really, PLDT's own DNS suck big-time).

As for those who are having troubles configuring their dongles to work, might I suggest to search over my previous blog posts on some of the guides I have written for it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Using Apt-Mirror with Debian/Ubuntu netbooting

Just want to share my experiences in configuring your own local apt-mirror to use with netboot installation methods of Debian/Ubuntu. I did this setup in a Debian Lenny 32bit Server inside a VM instance.

First off, the main packages that you do need to install onto your server are...

For your netboot:
# apt-get install tftpd-hpa dhcp3-server

The DHCP server is optional if your network already have a separate machine that handles that since we could use that...

For your apt-mirror and sharing it:
# apt-get install apt-mirror apache2

The first thing that you initially have to do is add something to the configuration file of your DHCP server. Apart from the basic configurations in defining your intended subnet, there is a few additional configurations to be added specifically for your netbooting. You have to add a few lines inside your /etc/dhcp3/dhcpd.conf that will handle redirection of those requesting an IP address and are in PXE booting mode. Below is a sample that needs to be added inside your subnet declaration.

#this is what is inside my DHCP server conf file

subnet netmask


option broadcast-address;
option router;
allow unknown-clients;

#this is what I added for the netboot
next-server (URL or IP of netboot server);
filename "pxelinux.0";

Afterwards, you need to edit your /etc/apt/mirror.list to point to the desired mirror server ubuntu/debian resources that you want to copy or mirror. The contents and format of mirror.list is quite similar to what is contained on your /etc/apt/sources.list. There is only one more important detail that needs to be added, which is a "main/debian-installer" and "restricted/debian-installer". To do this, just add an additional entry of a source in your mirror.list that looks something like below, just change the values accordingly to what you intend (if debian or ubuntu and what distro version).

#my sample here is something for Ubuntu Karmic mirror

deb http://(URL of external mirror site)/ubuntu karmic main restricted
deb http://
(URL of external mirror site)/ubuntu karmic main/debian-installer restricted/debian-installer
clean http://
(URL of external mirror site)

Upon doing this, do a "sudo apt-mirror" so that it will start fetching the packages and such into your local mirror server. For the sample I shown a while ago, it was around 6.7 GB worth of packages, therefore be mindful of the storage capacity of your server and your bandwidth. This will definitely take some time, so let's configure the other stuff you need.

Remember I had you install apache2? We're going to need this to make your apt-mirror visible and can be shared over the network easily. What we only need to do, as a quick configure, is to make a soft-link of your apt-mirror sources file directory (/var/spool/apt-mirror/mirror/) into the default directory of apache2 (/var/www/). Below is a sample on the command to do this.

#if you are making a debian apt-mirror
sudo ln -s /var/spool/apt-mirror/mirror/(URL of external mirror site)/debian /var/www/debian
#if you are making an ubuntu apt-mirror
sudo ln -s /var/spool/apt-mirror/mirror/(URL of external mirror site)/ubuntu /var/www/ubuntu

Afterwards, run your apache2 server and try to view it with your browser (localhost/ubuntu or localhost/debian). You should see a directory on display that somewhat contains packages and stuff that is being fetched by your apt-mirror.

Now we configure your TFTPBOOT. First off, we need to edit your /etc/default/tftpd-hpa file. Try to mimic the settings shown below.

#defaults of the tftpd-hpa with RUN_DAEMON set to YES

OPTIONS="-l -s /var/lib/tftpboot"

The directory /var/lib/tftpboot is the default directory where your intended netboot images will be placed. You are free to change this value but just be mindful of the needed permissions or ownership of the file or directory as it might be cause some trouble. You can copy into this directory the netboot files of either Ubuntu or Debian. The images that you need can be downloaded here for Debian and here for Ubuntu. In some cases, the default directory doesn't exist so you might need to mkdir one.

After you have placed a netboot image, we then try to run it by...

# /etc/init.d/tftpd-hpa start

To check if it is working, try to boot-up a PC (of course with PXE network booting capabilities) that is connected to your network. If that PC boots up to a network installation menu of the distro that you pasted in your tftpboot directory, it means that things are working for your netboot.

To check if your apt-mirror is working and sharing, during your netboot installation it will ask for a mirror site, you should select the topmost option from the list which gives you a way to manually define the mirror URL. Just type in the IP address of your mirror server and press enter for the defaults of the remaining questions related to it. if it proceeds to the next step of your installation, it is therefore working.

One problem that I encountered while configuring my apt-mirror is that the "debian-installer" is missing, and possible reasons for this is not being included in the /etc/apt/mirror.list or the selected URL site being mirrored doesn't have that resources. Changing the sources and re-run the apt-mirror should do the job.

Some sources I used in making this are listed below. Credits to the writers of the guides.
Hope my guide helps some of you guys out there.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Netboot linux installation solutions

Over these past few days, I have been looking and conducting trials on the various forms of massive or volume based formatting of some of our desktops with linux-based distributions. Since I have the network infrastructure resources at the office (where I work in) at my "diligent" disposal to use, an obvious solution is creating a system that will catch network boot (netboot) requests.

Some few months ago, I have been taught on using DRBL together with Clonezilla for "mass-producing" thin-client units for one of the office's projects. I was planning to integrate this service onto our network but somehow having trouble in configuring it's DHCP server to cooperate or simply use the one already present and implemented on our gateway server. I also partially abandoned the cloning idea because you are basically limited to cloning.

With some discussions done with my peers at the office, this side-project is once again up and running about, but this time I'm experimenting the use of tftpboot and FAI-server. Basically, my current objective is to create a server (a small VM instance) that will handle any lookup for a boot loader. Right now, I have been able to set up a Debian Lenny server with tftpboot installed and configured our gateway/DHCP server to point into that server for pxeboot image request (not sure on how this is called). To test, I stored a generic (available) netboot image of a Debian and Ubuntu Karmic installer that will be thrown into the target desktop PC. So far it is working but of course I still need to figure our a way of optimizing it.

The next steps that I am trying to undertake is studying how to then set it up with FAI (fully automated install). Things are still a bit fuzzy on how to implement this; from what I read, I still have to prep-up a nfs partition or such that will store the images and scripts I plan to install.

Maybe next time... if I have some free time... I could make a detailed blog on configuring each of those features I did mention.