Category Archives: GeekyTechy

Switched to Samsung Note 3 from iPhone

I had been an iPhone user for a few years  but as of a few weeks ago I switched to a Samsung Note 3. My last iPhone was the iPhone 5. The goal of this post is to report my experience of the switch.

General Considerations

I initially wanted to switch to Android because I was tired of giving money to Apple only to see my devices “expire” from a performance standpoint after a year or two. As I informed myself about the smartphone landscape outside of The Big A, I was surprised to find out that Android constituted well over 80% of the global market. A good enough reason to try it out. Maybe I had been caught in a bubble but it seemed that everyone around me owned an iPhone (Android’s market share is not quite as large on the US market alone). Nearly everyone I would interact with understood iPhone lingo and was happy to share their favorite app, etc. I have to say though that as I started a new job fairly recently, I found myself surrounded by younger people (early 20s) who all owned an Android phone. Not one of them is using an iPhone. Thought this was interesting. It’s as if the younger demographic of Tech-savvy people tends to go toward Android while the older crowd (30+) gravitates around the iPhone. I am thinking that this might have something to do with when the iPhone came out. The people I work with were at an age when they could not afford an iPhone therefore did not get one. Does this mean though that when people are given a choice they go for Android? That would be a bit of a stretch.

Also given that global 80% market-share picture for Apple I believe there is a bias of the media toward the iPhone where they talk about it in a disproportionate way (Compared to Android). I come to the same conclusion when looking at the not so dramatic number of the US market. Surely the fact that “iPhone” means both a device and an OS has something to do with that. Android exists in many different shapes or forms and makes it hard to round up on the context of the smartphone discussion.

Anyway – Here is the user I am – I think it might help put anything I am about to write in perspective:

  • Very little time talking on the phone – Maybe 1h a month – Thought that is a figure that for some reason is growing
  • Nearly no texting
  • Nearly no web
  • Fair amount of video watching
  • Fair amount of email reading. Little writing
  • Lots of listening to podcasts. Up to 3 hours a day
  • Carrying unlimited AT&T data plan from a few years back*

*BTW why do people insist that unlimited doesn’t matter when I use 5 to 10GB/mo for a monthly $30?

iPhone vs Samsung Note 3

My friend P got an iPhone pretty early and his was the first one I saw. I remember how anxious I was when his phone was in my hands. It felt like an amazing piece of hardware. And it was. Certainly the world had never seen something like this. Things we take for granted now felt amazing back then: Swiping. A phone that didn’t require 10 taps to make a phone call (Making a call on my HTC 8525 was actually hard to do. Convoluted. Slow. Crashing. Well it wasn’t the best choice as far as phones). (Nearly) Edge to edge screen. Light. Powerful. That thing was a great jump forward which propelled the whole industry until now. Or at least it showed the way.

Apple let all of its now competitors in its settling dust and if you recall they struggled greatly to catch up. At the risk of sounding late to the game: These days the competition is really close to Apple. There are devices out there which legitimately compete with the iPhone in terms of size, performance and overall quality. The Samsung Note 3 is one of them.

Certainly the Samsung Note 3 is a different beast than the iPhone. Switching from the iPhone 5, which is what I had, to the Note was not easy. The size felt awkward for a while, the buttons were not where I expected them to be. More than once I struggled to turn my phone on … Passed the initial issues thought, after a few days I started loving the Note – A lot of it having to do with its size:

  • It’s a pleasure to read on. I find myself reading a lot more than on my iPhone (too small) or my iPad (too big)
  • Videos are great too. A lot of my data usage comes from watching videos on my phone
  • It’s fast and smooth
  • Battery life is pretty good. It easily last all day which is a major plus
  • The stylus is pretty nice. I find myself using it a lot. Text recognition works pretty well
  • I bought four wall chargers for $9. USB!
  • The camera is impressive in terms of quality

… all of those things allowed me to take the decision of getting rid of my iPad, which I was using sparingly anyway. I like the idea of owning less electronic inventory.

The things I don’t like about it:

  • It’s big. I’m happy I have large hands as on-handed operation is not the easiest. Not impossible though
  • The camera seems a bit slow. Haven’t figured that one out yet but it seems that the picture is not taken right as I press the button

… all in all things I can live with.

iOS vs Android

Some of the below might sound obvious to those that have already used an Android device – I had not used it before getting the Note, and this is where I met most of my issues – A few of which I am still working on resolving. iOS is clearly designed for the iPhone, in line with one of Apple’s core principle of matching hardware and software. Things flow pretty easily on the iPhone and it’s only when those same things are not as easy to do on some other device that you realize it.

Overall, while iOS takes a lot of decision for you, telling you how things should be done, Android offers a lot more flexibility. Nearly everything can be configured and customized to your taste. It means a lot more configuration work on the Android than on the iPhone. Since I’m not a big fan of playing around with settings and finding the best combination possible, it’s a bit annoying to me. At a basic level though I do appreciate being able to set things the exact way I want them. If only someone could have done that work for me :/

Somehow, it feels like iOS is pretentious, like a high-end sophisticated product would be, while Android is cheaper and more complex. Here are few of the things I noted:

  • Need to find an app for everything. Podcasting? Weather? These things are not built in. The app I found (and paid for) for podcasting is not great
  • The phone seems to learn me. Things that I couldn’t do yesterday will be easier today. It’s seriously weird
  • Notications suck – I haven’t figured that out. It seems that the Note 3 does not allow you to create widget on the lock screen so notifications are limited. It’s a known issue of the Samsung Note 3 though so not an Android thing
  • Crapware. Both Samsung and ATT have added their own apps.
  • Google Now is okay I guess … It tells me how long my commute is going to be, which is pretty useless. I must be running a few dozens Google searches a day so I get all sorts of useless suggestions like how long it would take me to drive to the headquarter of that startup whose product I checked out
  • The OS is definitely Google Centric which is a good since in my case a lot of my online activity is centered around their products. Once I managed to enter my Google credential in the device it loaded a lot of things from my google world
  • The App Store is cheaper. Some apps that are paying on iOS are free on Android. Also it feels like there are a lot more apps
  • Speech-to-text is amazing. Far superior to Apple’s

In conclusion

The Samsung Note 3 is as  beautiful device. I do not regret switching. While there was, and there still is some growing pain, I like the choice I made, and I like that I am not dependent on Apple and throwing more money at them.

It’s probably not for everyone but the phone fits my particular usage better than an iPhone used to do. Having said all that, I am curious to know how I would feel if Apple released a larger screen iPhone.

Looking for the right storage solution – Part 2 – Hardware purchased

After much reading about various components, and while keeping in mind the requirements that I laid out in an earlier post, I have purchased what will be my new NAS. I bought most of it on newegg.com as they had the best prices across the board. Here is the list of components:

Component Model Comment Price Qty
Case Fractal Design Define R3 Black Silent and clean looking $109.99 1 $109.99
MotherBoard ASUS M4A89GTD AMD 890GX  Integrated graphics $139.99 1 $139.99
Processor AMD Ahtlon II X4 640 3GHz Plenty of power $99.99 1 $99.99
RAM Mishkin (2*2GB) $20.99 1 $20.99
System HD Western Digital Caviar Black 500GB Planning on upgrading to SSD as soon as they are affordable $59.99 1 $59.99
Storage HDs Western Digital Caviar Green 2TB Standard lowpower storage disks $79.99 5 $399.95
SATA Card Rosewill RC-222 In case I run out of connecter on the mobo $24.99 1 $24.99
Power Antec BP550 Silent and modular $64.99 1 $64.99
CD drive ASUS Black Could do without but for the price … why not? $16.99 1 $16.99
TOTAL $937.87

In terms of picking the right software option, I will most likely give a try to FreeNAS. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll got for a trusty WHS installation (In which case I’d like to build a small Linux server for me to play around with).

I plan on having both systems (old and new one) working concurrently for a couple of months at least. It is critical for me to make sure that those new drives will not crash on me. Once I am confident that my new system is trustworthy, I’ll sell the old one.

Looking for the right storage solution – Part 1 – The options

So I have been using a Windows Home Server box with an 8 bay Sans Digital bay for a few years. I love it. I use 8 Western Digital 1TB Caviar Green. I like space as you can tell – Actually, I have been collecting Linux Distros since 1998. The drives are spanned using Drive Extender, a nice tool in WHS 2008 that was not carried over in WHS 2011 (boo).

My goal with having a backup solution is to be able to store data in a safe way, accessible from within my home network, and with some fashion of backup.

I am looking to upgrade for the below reasons – As I said I like my current system but I still have a bunch of problems:

  • I am tired of having two boxes (the server and the USB attached Sans Digital bay) and would really like to have everything in the same box.
  • The system as is is too noisy
  • The system is too slow and doesn’t allow me to run all the application I want
  • I’d like to run with less hard drives (2TB hard drives are by and large affordable right now)
  • My system has 4% of its total space free … if one of my duplicated drive fails, I’m screwed.
  • It’s fun

Requirements for the upgrade (addressing the above points + what I would like to add to the current system):

  • Disk Spanning
  • Some sort of “local” backup solution (e.g. replication of data across two disks) – I already save my most important files to Amazon’s cloud
  • Silent or near silent
  • Fairly easy to maintain
  • Fast (And I know that most processor right now will be fast enough for the type of use that I plan on doing, for example downloading Linux Distros automatically)
  • Ability to add new drives to the system without needing to tear everything down.
  • Headless
  • Cost-effective

Below are the different options that I have identified at this point:

  • Windows home server 2011 box
  • Windows home server 2008 box
  • Amahi
  • Linux + software raid
  • Linux + hardware raid
  • Freenas (Explicitly putting it in its own category)
  • Windows (7?)  + software raid
  • Windows (7?)  + hardware raid
  • Appliance, e.g. drobo

I need to do some more thinking … Some of those options above are clearly not aligned with my requirements. I need to think in terms of trade-off, in terms of must-have and nice-to-have, etc. In any case this is an interesting project and I am interested as much by actually doing it and the end-result than by making sure my approach is the right one and gets me to the best of all possible outcomes. We’ll see.