the itjerk

my adventures with technology

Monthly Archives: October 2015

nexus 5x

New phone time! It’s been three years of 3G phone service on my Nexus 4, so I wasted no time to pre-order Google’s Nexus 5X when it was announced a few weeks ago. Offering LTE service was the main reason to make the purchase ($349), but having a new “modern” phone was the real enticement. The phone is again made by LG, and while the specs aren’t that amazing (those are reserved for the pricier Nexus 6P), they present an upgrade in processor, screen resolution, and significantly, camera from my old phone. Let’s face it, our phones OUR are cameras!

unnamed

I did have to walk down to my local T-Mobile store to purchase ($15) a nano SIM card in order to activate my phone, and I’ll need to replace all my USB cables with “c” type in order to connect/charge it with my computers. Speaking of which, there’s a menu now to select what type of connection you want when you connect the phone to a computer:

Screenshot_20151021-092828

The Nexus 5X has the latest Android, Marshmallow 6.0, which wanted to update itself immediately upon starting the phone. I was impressed with the lack of crap-ware preloaded on the phone, and having an extra 8GB of storage is great for my use. The fingerprint sensor took me a little bit to get my head around exactly how it works, but it works like a charm. After scanning a fingerprint and entering another security method for backup (if your fingerprint doesn’t work, or for another user), you just touch the senor on the back of the phone and viola! the phone is both on and unlocked. As one who hasn’t every used a lock on my phone because of the hassle of entering it, this is indeed an upgrade.

Anyway, I chose to install everything from scratch (and not transfer devices) because a clean start is great. But with Google Play, going to My Apps and the All tab shows what apps you’ve put on your other devices.

I received my $50 Google Play credit received three days later, and purchased a case from Amazon. All set.

On the web:
Nexus 5X at iFixit

dns, search engines and browsing

Secure browsing is much more than clearing your browser’s cache when done surfing. While Tor Browser isn’t for everyone, two quick and easy things I recommend are using DuckDuckGo as your default search engine and switching to either GoogleDNS or OpenDNS for your web browsing. And use a modern, up to date browser!

DuckDuckGo bills itself as “the search engine that doesn’t track you”, which is reason enough to switch. The search engine results are very good, but even better, the use of bangs (!) allows searches directly to thousands of sites, including encrypted to Google (g!). Plus, it’s easy to install as the default engine on your browser.

DNS servers help resolve domain names and their numeric ip addresses. Most ISP’s DNS is notorious for being spotty, and of course, not very private. Using either Google or OpenDNS’s can speed up your browsing, protect from DNS hijacking, and offer protection from phishing. There’s a lot more to using these services than I’ll write, but just entering them into your router is the place to start.

Remember, however, that browsing security also ends with one’s exit on the web. Subject for another time…

One the web:
DuckDuckGo
Google Public DNS
OpenDNS

el capitan, thank you

Don’t know if it’s just me or not, but doing a clean install on an old Mac computer has been a pain, since 10.6 Snow Leopard. Back in the early days of Mac OS X, you could boot a Mac into firewire mode and copy an image over. As Apple moved away from firewire, that became more and more difficult. Doing a clean install of an operating system became even more problematic after the switch to Intel processors, as Apple made version-specific demands on installers; this disc only worked with this machine, etc. Of course a few years ago, Apple did away with optical drives all together.

Fortunately, that’s changed, and now making a bootable flash drive is easy business. To perform a clean install of 10.11 El Capitan, go to the App Store and download the free installer, it’s about >6GB and will end up in your /Applications directory. Take a big enough USB drive, format it to “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)” and name it “Untitled”. Providing you keep these defaults the same, you just need to run this simple command to make your very own bootable installer:

sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ El\ Capitan.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/Untitled --applicationpath /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ El\ Capitan.app --nointeraction

Boot the Mac by holding down the option (Apple) key and you’ll be able to choose the USB drive as your startup device and proceed with a clean install.

Now that Apple is giving away free upgrades to their OS X, there’s really no reason to not run the latest and greatest version of OS X. (Well, maybe*). El Capitan will run on most any Mac that’s got a 64 bit processor, and you’ll have to go back a decade or so to find one that doesn’t have one – like my little Mac Mini with its core solo* that keeps chugging along after all these years!