Civic Involvement



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iPhone TomTom GPS App (Singapore & Malaysia)

Jan 4th, 2010 by Atelier | 0

The prices for a dedicated GPS have dropped over time and it is now possible to buy it for as low as $300 dollars.

I’ve always wanted to get one but felt that it would not be fully utilised. After all, in little sunny Singapore it’s almost impossible to get lost. Just keep heading straight and you’ll come across a sign directing to one of the expressways.

Over the long Christmas and New Year break, we decided to cross the borders for a short get away to Malacca in Malaysia. So instead of buying a map, I finally pulled the trigger to get a GPS. Since I already have an iPhone 3G with a built in GPS, the cheapest route was to purchase a GPS navigation app.

There are a few GPS apps available on the iTunes app store by TomTom, Sygic and Ndrive. The reviews I read on other blogs about these apps compared showed that Sygic included maps of Singapore, Malaysia and even Thailand while TomTom only included maps of Singapore and Malaysia.

So from a cost to value ratio, the Sygic app seems the better choice. However, since I don’t think I will be driving up to Thailand, I decided to get the TomTom app. The current version is 1.2 and people who bought the earlier 1.0 version have been getting free updates. I’m not sure if map updates will be free as the software update seems to be for resolving bugs and improving certain features.

After buying the TomTom GPS app, I found that it included maps of Brunei. In fact after my holiday and a bit more post purchase research, the Sygic app actually includes maps of Indonesia and Brunei too. That’s a total of 5 countries.

Before setting off for Malacca, the iphone was placed in a cradle on the dashboard of the car and it quickly located the GPS signal and locked on to my current location. I then added my home address into the app for quick future navigation home.

Next, the navigation icon was selected and the Malaysia map was selected. I typed in Malacca and it prompted for the street. ‘Tun’ was entered and the correct street ‘ Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lok’ together with a few other street names was listed. I selected the correct street name and it quickly analysed and found the correct route.

It did prompt that toll road would have to be used as the crossing over the boarder requires a fee. The ‘use toll roads’ was selected and off we go.

Navigation was clear as it indicated the number of meters to the next turn. The voice prompt also guides the drive to switch lanes early in preparation of the next exit.

However, we quickly hit a small problem. Shortly after crossing the causeway, the GPS indicated the correct way to hit the North South highway was to go straight. At that junction, the road ahead had been blocked off with temporary barricades with a detour sign directing traffic to the left.

We followed the road signs but the GPS kept prompting to make a u-turn when possible. After following the road signs for another few minutes, the GPS finally recalculated the route and guided us to the North South highway correctly. Actually, at this point of time, no GPS was really necessary as the road signs were quite clear.

During the rest of the trip, the GPS worked properly and we did not encounter any further differences between the GPS map and the actual roads. The battery on the iPhone 3G ran low after about 3 hours. However, it has to be noted that the iPhone 3G was already more than a year old. A car kit with a charger is a must for longer drives like this.

For places like Malaysia with different states, it is logical for finding the address or street where you are heading starting with country, state and then the street name. However, for places like Singapore, it is difficult for to enter the name of the town. After all, Singapore is a small country and most people refer directly to the street name and not the town where the street is located. It would be great if we could easily search for the street name directly instead of entering the name of the town first.

It’s my first time using a GPS navigation product and it’s been kind of interesting. If did help to remind me when I exceeded the speed limit and avoid getting a ticket on the way when many other cars were pulled over for speeding at a hidden speed camera. The screen of the iPhone is smaller and is a bit difficult to browse the map. Moreover, the entering of the destination address was a little trickier than expected.

The price at $59 is not too expensive but could probably buy quite a few maps or street directories. Perhaps if I had more time to do a little research before my purchase, I would have bought the Sygic GPS app. Let’s hope they update the destination entry system soon.

Free Online Backup Services Compared

Dec 7th, 2009 by Atelier | 0

It is quite common for people to own multiple devices and it is difficult to ensure files are properly syncronised and backed up. A possible scenario is trying to keep data accessed easily across a desktop at home, personal laptop or netbook, office workstation and perhaps a smart phone or work issued laptop.

So for those who don’t want to read my random babbling and frustrations, scroll down to the end to see the table of various online backup services compared.

For me, I actively use a MacBook, iPhone and Dell desktop running windows XP at work. That’s excluding the many other Macs around used casually for internet surfing, iTunes streaming and fiddling with.

In the last few years, I’ve been upgrading the hard drives approximately every 1 to 2 years and each time, the capacity increases about double. The MacBook came with 80 gb which was replaced with a 250 gb and now 500 gb hard drive.

With each digital camera upgrade, my photo file sizes have increased as a result of a greater number of pixels quickly filling up all that space.

So it seems like after all the increase in storage, I’m still running out of space. While I am trying to figure out a better backup system, from an external drive running time machine backups from the Macs running leopard and cloning for the older Macs, I came across dropbox.com.

It’s a free service with options to pay for more storage space beyond the free 2 gb. A software is installed on the most often used computers. Any files stored in a special folder will be automatically synced to the dropbox.com server and accessible by the other computers when online. It can also be accessed from any computer with an internet access though their website.

It’s not going to backup my entire almost full 500 gb hard drive but it’ll be a useful tool to keep track of my work related files. As I often lose my flash drives, I starting emailing files back and forth which was a little clumsy. I eventually used the Air Sharing app on my iPhone by Avatron. It allows easy access from my office windows box to copy files to my iPhone and once home onto my MacBook.

However, this process results in confusing versions and files scattered everywhere. So the idea of using this service to keep my often used files backed up and in sync was great. Moreover, there will be no possibility of losing data and flash drives which could have great implications for sensitive data. For example projects in progress that have yet to be realised or private and confidential client data.

After a bit of googling, here’s the summary of some of the available free online storage.

I have not tried all the different products listed above so if you’ve tried any of the services, please leave some comments and share your views.

dropbox.com box.net mozy.com humyo.com wuala.com zumodrive.com spideroak.com
Free Storage 2 gb 1 gb 2 gb 5 + 5 gb media 1 gb 1 gb 2 gb
Size Limits 25 mb files
Windows Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Mac Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Linux Yes Yes Yes
iPhone Yes Yes Yes
Web access Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
File Versioning Yes Yes Yes Yes
Undelete Yes (30 Days) Yes Yes Yes
Others Grid network iTunes, iPhoto integration

White MacBook Core Duo 1.83ghz

Dec 1st, 2009 by Atelier | 0

A few months ago, we bought a used white MacBook. It is one of the first models of intel macs and come with a 1.83ghz intel core duo processor.

The hard drive and ram has been upgraded to 160gb and 1.5gb respectively. The only problem with this macbook is a faulty combo drive and a missing apple remote.

Since the combo drive is to be replaced, a search online was done to locate an upgrade to superdrive. In the end, we bought an LG drive on ebay.

The superdrive ships from China and a call to the post office confirmed that it will arrive in two days time.

Harman Kardon Soundsticks I (USB)

Nov 16th, 2009 by Atelier | 0

After some years in storage, we found that the original USB apple speakers that came with the G4 Cube was no longer working properly. The black rubber surrounding the chrome speaker cone was starting to disintegrate.

The Harman Kardon Soundsticks have always been a visually appealing set of speakers. The shiny clear acrylic speakers with a jelly fish like sub woofer have always attracted me.

The original speakers that came with the G4 Cube was designed by Harman Kardon and so both are of a similar design. As the G4 Cube does not come with a built in audio port, finding replacement speakers will be a challange.

Griffin Technologies introduced one of the first products to address this issue. It is called the iMic and connects to any Macintosh via the USB port. A microphone and headphone port allows users to connect external speakers and audio in.


Even with this device or something similar, the rest of the speakers available probably will not match the all clear transparent minimalist look of the G4 Cube, Apple Studio Display and Apple Pro mouse & keyboard.

The prices of the Harman Kardon Soundsticks have remained pretty high and so we have never bought it. The G4 Cube is also not in active service hence it would seem a lot of money to spend on speakers for it.

That was untill early this morning while I was checking my email and dropped by my favourite mac forums. Someone had a brand new sealed in the box Harman Kardon Soundsticks I for sale. At a price of almost half the cost of a new Harman Kardon Soundsticks II, a quick text message to the seller sealed the deal. I guess the saying is right, early bird catches the worm.

The difference between the version I and II of the Harman Kardon Soundsticks is a different connection. The original version used USB and can not be connected to an iPod or other audio device limiting it’s use to a computer. The second version is more flexible and uses a common audio jack.

So here it is, the unboxing of a pair of brand new Harman Kardon Soundsticks speakers at least 5 years young.

Time Machine Backups

Oct 30th, 2009 by Atelier | 0

In the past before OS X Leopard 10.5 was launched with time machine backups, we used to clone our hard drives with CCC or carbon copy cloner.

It was straight forward as easy, just plug in an external hard drive and the software could be set to automatically run. While it does provide a backup should the laptop go missing or damaged, it is not considered a proper backup solution as there is no way to retrieve accidentally deleted files.

Having upgraded to OS X Leopard 10.5, we purchased a new external maxtor 500gb hard drive as a time machine backup drive. Without reading the documentation and how time machine works, I just plugged in the external backup drive.

Apple products always emphasize ease of use and this is no different. I was immediately prompted if I wanted to use this external hard drive as a time machine backup. After clicking okay, the backup started.

When the backup was completed, the hard drive was unplugged from the MacBook Pro and plugged into the MacBook. The process was similarly simple and all went well.

Since all the macs are on the same wireless network, I decided to try and mount the backup drive still connected to the MacBook on the MacBook Pro.

The surprise here was that when I tried to run the time machine backup, an error message indicated that the file system was not Mac OS Extended Journaled. I disconnected the external backup hard drive from the MacBook and connected it to the MacBook Pro directly and time machine worked.

I guess time machine backs up differently when connecting the hard disk directly or through wifi. So before you decide to start using time machine on a few macs, remember this and I hope it helps you avoid repeating the lengthy backup process especially after accumulating years of digital photos and music.

PowerBook G4 12 inch 867mhz

Aug 18th, 2009 by Atelier | 1

The PowerBook G4 12 inch LCD is one of the smallest laptops produced by Apple. Even the new MacBook Air although thinner has a bigger footprint due to the 13 inch screen.

This particular unit is the first generation with a 867mhz processor. It is also the only 12 inch PowerBook G4 with USB 1.1 ports. Today with most peripherals using the faster USB 2.0 ports it’s better to go for the newer models with a 1 ghz, 1.33 ghz or 1.5 ghz processor.

As the computer is more than 5 years old, the battery is already dead. The combo drive is also faulty and has been removed by the previous owner while he had the logicboard replaced and hard drive upgraded. The casing has got scratches and a few dings, definately a well used unit.

As the iBook G3 clamshell is acting up, this will make a good replacement for sharing the wireless access and acting as a file server through an external firewire hard drive.

One of the 20th Anniversary Macintosh (TAM) is also acting up. Perhaps I should pursue the dream of modding this powerbook into the TAM? Perhaps a newer machine like the Mac Mini would be more suitable as it will have more computing power than this PowerBook G4.

Moving to a new home

Aug 12th, 2009 by Atelier | 0

At present, all the Macs are scattered everyone. A few of them are displayed on a shelf while the rest are tucked in the store room and around the house.

The metal framing of the shelf was bought from ikea and the timber shelves salvaged from a shop that closed down.

As we are moving to a new place, it’s time to create a nicer display and work area. New white laminated timber shelves have been ordered and there’s now a small room approximately 1.5m x 2.8m to display the collection. 

(Photo Coming Soon…)

Behind the frosted glass is the kitchen. Initially we wanted to have it as clear glass so the Macs were viewed from the kitchen. But knowing that it might get pretty messy at times with Macs taken apart for repairs we decided to keep the glass frosted so that all the mess is contained within the room.

The frost is just a sticker and we intend to remove the frosted sticker over the little window on the right to place an LCD monitor for viewing recipes and catching up on the news or weather from the kitchen. Now if only I could find a cheap Apple Cinema Display.

(Photo Coming Soon…)

While the renovation works are going on, the Macs have been stored in the guest room. The wardrobe is filled with Macs. There’s the two Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh.

20th Anniversary Macintosh (TAM)

Jun 9th, 2009 by Atelier | 0

While surfing the net, I came across a new website created for owners of the 20th Anniversary Macintosh or TAM for short.

The original site can be found at tam.axon.net and is no longer maintained. This new site looks promising and there was a lot of interesting information and links that I have never seen while searching in google.

Having bought a used G4 Cube as my first mac, I was introduced straight to OS X. Using OS 9 or earlier seemed a little difficult to adjust.  I have yet to get the PCI ethernet card installed in the TAM till this day.

It’s a dream to shoe horn a mac mini, 12 inch ibook or powerbook into the case of a broken TAM to run the latest OS X and bring the computer up to date. However, searching online has never revealed anyone who has successfully done it.

Finally, on appletam.ning.com was a link to a youtube video showing how someone has a touch screen OS X running TAM. This guy in Japan has successfully installed an Intel Mac Mini into a TAM.

Besides using a mac mini, would the MacBook Air be the next best candidate for such a mod? It is wafer thin making it easy to fit within the TAM. The power supply is also a lot smaller than the one from a Mac Mini.

iBook G3 Clamshell- Weird Problem

Jun 7th, 2009 by Atelier | 1

The iBook has been giving some trouble after a year in service as a wireless base station. 

First the airport card started failing as the coverage of the wifi network started getting smaller. It is detected in the system profile and can be accessed from the system preferences pane except for not having any wifi output. The airport card finally stopped working over time.

The iBook also recently started freezing frequently. After spending the afternoon taking the iBook apart, the hard drive was tested and found to be working perfectly. The memory is working fine as it was swapped and tested with other spare memory chips.

I guess the logic board is causing the problems.

3rd Generation iPod

May 21st, 2009 by Atelier | 0

After leaving the iPod to dry for slightly over a week, everything was put back together except the battery.

Since the battery was already leaking, we did not plug it into the iPod. When the iPod was connected there was sad to say no response.

A search online found people with old iPods disconnecting the battery and it is still able to work when connected to a power source.

So this is it I guess, the iPod is dead.