2014/01/21

Cloud storage update

While AeroFS is good, I think that in the coming months I will be switching all my data sync over to BitTorrent Sync. I am currently using it to sync one folder between my laptop and a server in another country and see that it matured to the point that sync is reliable. Moreover, it offers some serious advantage over AeroFS (which is going to focus on enterprise), and it is that it works on Windows, Linux and Android/iOS. I now spend more time in Linux, but my shares are on NTFS volume, and AeroFS refuses to work with fuse-mounted volumes, while BT Sync just keeps going. And Android/iOS apps perform real syncing, which is a pure win.

One month with iPad Mini Retina




One month with an ipad mini retina wifi 64gb. Before purchase, iOS looked to me like a steaming mix of shitake and Steve Jobs' charisma. But I thought, maybe I miss something, maybe iOS users know something, millions of people cannot be SO WRONG, after all.  Now, I must admit, that iOS is in a direst hole than I could imagine. This isn't just a walled garden, this is a walled asylum.

Welcome to 90-ies, memory leaks accumulate to the point, that when you switch between 2 tabs in Safari, both of them keep reloading every time. Programs quit here and there, iOS performs harakiri on itself unexpectedly, but even this doesn't help, you need to reboot it manually once in 2-3 days to keep ipad in sane working mode.

App ecosystems advantage is a myth. There are more nice games for toddlers, but no seriously useful apps over android. Moreover, android apps scaled from phone to tablet look better than iphone apps scaled to ipad. And of all apps, foursquare only has iphone version. WTF?

Lack of app intents (ala android) and file system is plain stupid. Paid games, even after being bought for 3-5 EUR, keep peddling in-app purchases to my kid, driving me mad.

Build quality? Good, but not better than LG G Pad 8.3 or Nexus 7 costing 30-50% less.

The only "plus" about iPad mini retina is about its battery life. Its seriously delivering on 10 hours of reading time (whether in web or pdf books). With 100% brightness it would work for about 8 hours. Outdoors its still ok to read books, but no longer good enough to watch movies on a sunny day.

TLDR - I will keep this thingy until android 8-incher comes around with good battery life. Then I will pass iPad to my daughter. This thingy is good for reading and games but not much else.

2013/09/28

Simple, non-incremental breakthrough for desktop PC

While Intel keeps getting their CPUs slightly faster each year, and slightly less power hungry each year, Microsoft keeps making Windows slightly better going from 7 to 8 and then 8.1 (yes, I think Windows is getting better despite Metro UI) – the elephant question in the PC universe is “why sales go down each year?”. Wintel tried netbooks and failed. They tried ultrabooks and failed to reverse market trends. Many people were quick to declare death of PC, but I think that PCs are more mature than ever, they are more powerful than ever, and we see decline in the “renewal” purchases, because experience with PCs purchased 3-5 years ago is still good. There is no incentive go out and buy new PCs unless you are into extreme overclocked dual- and triple- GPU gaming or bitcoin mining. If anything, PC sales were eaten by cheaper RAM and SSDs. For most home users 8GB RAM is a lot, and by replacing HDDs with SSD, any PC gets tremendous boost, which is enough to delay purchase for another 3-4 years. I personally use Core2Quad overclocked to 4GHz , with SSD, and only thing that I might need to upgrade, is gaming GPU (HD5870).

That was prelude, however. What I would like to emphasize now, is that “normal” users usually do not know GigaBytes from GigaHertzs and couldn’t care less. For them, incentive to upgrade will come solely based from feeling rather than from technology buzzwords. I suggest, that the next upgrade wave will be triggered by fully silent and fanless PCs. Note here, I am not talking here about laptops or ultrabooks, those still got many things to improve technologically, e.g. speed/battery life, and for F### sake, outdoor display readability.

baytrail CPUs

Intel’s BayTrail Quad core CPUs in the J2000 series look like a very close hit. I have used 2 previous Atom generations for htpc, and this one, finally, seems like a non-compromise htpc for family movie/web usage. It is powerful enough to simultaneously show several movies and keep torrenting in background, along with a cloud file sync and even host my web development projects. And it is fully silent, and low-power, so that I can keep it on 24x7.

Let’s revisit this in 3 years time and see how it went, ok?

2013/09/02

Bootable ext4 Micro SDHC card reported as “Damaged SD card” by Android phone

TL/DR – if you have ext3/4 partition on your Micro SDHC card (e.g. you boot some Linux from it) and then try to put this card into Android phone, it will complain about “Damaged SD card” until you erase (zero out) bootloader from ext3/ext4 partition.

 

http://www.lg.com/uk/images/lg-mobile-phones/p920/gallery/medium07.jpg

Android phone complains about damaged sdcard after bootloader installation. But not just any bootloader. It actively dislikes any bootloader on ext3/4 partions. It complains and refuses to mount sdcard. If you force mount in terminal/ADB - it will mount, but bootloader will be corrupted (do not know exactly why, but has to do something with security and signing of Android system bootloader). My card is multi-partition, and while I mount PRT1 (FAT32), Android corrupts Partition Boot Record (PBR) on PRT4 (EXT4). To avoid this problem I zeroed out PBR on PRT4 (where Linux resides) and Android immediately stopped compaining about the card. Mounts it, scans it, uses for camera/gallery storage, etc.

NOTICE AGAIN: ZERO OUT EXT3/4 PARTITION BOOTSECTOR to allow mounting of FAT32 partition in Android. Strange, I know. I think Android is crazy cautious about EXT3/4 bootloaders, to prevent booting unsigned ROMs from any EXT3/4 filesystem, no matter if it is on internal or external sdcard.

I couldn’t google up anything on this topic, and spent couple of days understanding and then solving this issue. Here goes more detailed explanation. Hopefully it saves time to other people trying to read bootable FAT32/EXT4 card in Android (keywords: USB multi-boot, Micro SDHC, Android, SD Card is Damaged, bootloader, grub, mbr)

I use Sandisk Ultra Micro SDHC (UHS-1) 64 GB card in my phone (LG Optimus 3D, ICS 4.0.4) and in compact Lexar USB3.0 card reader on a keychain.

64GB

On Android, I use excellent app DriveDroid to expose bootable IMGs to PC via USB cable (mostly Windows Defender Offline x32/x64, and Windows 8 Install/Recovery). But I also use USB 3.0/MicroSDHC reader with  multiple ISOs, Porteus Linux and a real installation of Linux Mint on EXT4. It is fast enough. Boots in a minute. Speed is OK, feels like a slow laptop HDD of 2010.

ultra64@r630lexar

Card is partitioned into:
MBR  with BOOTMGR (here and in other cases, installed with BOOTICE (free Windows app) 
PRT1: FAT32 -50GB with BOOTMGR (NT6) - Largest partition for data - compatibile with most devices
PRT2: NTFS - 1GB NTLOADER*
PRT3: NTFS - 1GB NTLOADER*
PRT4: EXT4 - 12GB - used to be GRUB2, now empty boot sector

*PARTITIONS 2 and 3 are small stubs between FAT32 (max space) and EXT4 (limited space at the end of  card). I figured that one day I might want to reduce FAT32 and experiment with another or two partitions, without having to move EXT4. I guess PRT2 and PRT3 are not relevant further to this topic.

I played quite a lot with the PRT1, it boots Windows 8 BootMgr, and from there I have added syslinux and grub4dos and can go between them, chainloading each other in circles.  What is interesting, is that I can put any bootloader on FAT32 (PRT1) and it will not affect my card when I put it into Android phone.

THE PROBLEM BEGAN AFTER INSTALLATION OF LINUX ON PRT4(EXT4). Android refuses to mount the card. I forced it through terminal with
su
mount -t vfat /dev/block/mmcblk1p1 /mnt/sdcard/_ExternalSD

File explorers then can see the card but message about Damaged SD Card still hangs there in notifications. When I unmount the card and try booting Linux, it freezes silently. Turns out bootloader of GRUB2 in PRT4 is corrupted.

In order to solve this problem, I booted Mint's vmlinuz/initrd directly from GRUB4DOS on PRT1 and reinstalled GRUB2 on PRT4, then used BOOTICE to copy PBR from EXT4 partition (512 bytes) and save it into file on FAT32. Now I can boot it from BOOTMGR directly into GRUB2.mbr file and use Linux. Then, I used BOOTICE's sector editor functionality, to fill first sector (512 bytes) of PRT4 with zeroes. After doing, this, Android stopped compaining about the card and happily mounts FAT32 partition.

Enjoy, and share in the comments your weird and geeky setup. I am really interested in miniscule and versatile computers and what you use them for.

2013/07/09

Enable LAN access (browsing Windows network shares) via Connectify Lite

Situation: Vacations. Internet access through busy WiFi hotspot at the hotel. You have some movies/cartoons on the laptop. You want to make those accessible to the kids on the Android tablet. In principle, you can access Windows network shares through common AP (Access Point), but speed is horrible, AP coughs and freezes. It is too far and too many people use it simultaneously.

Problem: You install Connectify.me Lite. Follow all usual steps to share WiFi to your mobile gadgets via laptop. However, Lite version doesn’t allow you to connect to laptop’s shares.

image

Solution.

1. Go to Network and Sharing Center

image

2. Click on the connection properties. In this case, Local Area Connection*12

3. Then click Properties

4. Then disable Connectify LightWeight Filter

image

5. and press Ok.

Now you should be able to access your network shares on the laptop through Connectify.me WiFi LAN. I use excellent and free ES File Explorer to browse network shares on Android tablet. BS Player also has LAN mode that fulfills the same function.

!!! THIS MIGHT DISABLE INTERNET ACCESS THROOUGH CONNECTIFY, hopefully this is not a deal breaker, as you can always switch back to the original hotel WiFi network to get online.

2013/06/10

Make Windows 8 remember adhoc WiFi connection password

Found great article that explains how to solve this in Windows 7. It works for Windows 8 too. See my comment there dated 2013/6/10.

More here

2013/03/23

Walking in the clouds

Oh, the joy of assymetrical internet access speed. 1MB/s down and only 100KB/s up.


I have setup cloud sync for my files. 2x25GB in Skydrive plus 22GB in Dropbox and the rest (around 100GB) went into AeroFS (which is not a cloud, strictly speaking, rather cloud sync filesystem).
 
To get 70 GB up into the cloud, it will take approximately 9 days. In the meantime, bandwidth throttling between those 3 services and 3 PCs, is a real nightmare. AeroFS does LAN sync, Dropbox does both LAN and cloud sync at the same time, and Skydrive, (bad word goes here), syncs only through cloud. Sad, especially taking into account, that Windows Live Sync was blazing fast over LAN.
 
There is setting in all of them to throttle bandwidth, but when 9 instances struggle over 1 pipe, result is disastrous. As, Forrest Gump said circa. 1995, Internet is like a box of URLs, you never know what error code you gonna get.
 
P.S. It is possible to run 2 different Skydrive accounts on the same server (Windows 7 in my case), each under different account/session.


2013/03/14

Nokia 808 glass and touch digitizer replacement

IMG010

This is my damaged Nokia 808. Bella dropped it from 1m height, on a wooden floor. Glass broke, but sceen and touch were intact. I glued screen protection sticker on it, to re-inforce screen a bit and prevent cuts while using it for couple of weeks, while figuring out my repair options.

Authorized repair quoted me 200 EUR for the job of replacing both glass and display together and said, that, according to Nokia manual, it is impossible (or prohibited) to dismantle lcd/glass assembly. There is however a separate glass part available from ebay seller “easyworldwidetrading” (also ewwt-au, ewwtnet, ewwt-oz), for mere 20 EUR (price delivered to Europe). I ordered slightly more expensive kit (25 EUR), which included 2 plastic separation tools, and 2 smallish screwdrivers (one of the Torx T5). In my case, those tools weren’t much help. Moreover, one needs Torx T6 instead, to disassemble Nokia 808. I had to buy it separately at the last moment at the local DIY hypermarket. So, if I had to do it again, I would buy a cheaper kit, without tools. NB! Screen is identical to Nokia’s orginial part, but there is small mark on the upper front lip saying “proto.nokia.com”. This will give away that you tempered with device, and will most probably void warranty.

2013-03-13-0261

There are 2 videos available on youtube, from LE55ONS. First, explains how to take out LCD+glass assembly out.

2nd video explains how to separate LCD from glass/digitizer.

After this, you still need to separate glass from the carrying plastic frame, and there is no video on youtube to guide you. This operation is quite messy and time consuming, but you can do it too, just don’t rush and give yourself plenty of time. I never repaired phones before, and doing this first time took about 2 hours for disassebmly and 1 hour to glue parts and put everything back together.

IMG011

LAST REMINDER, this is messy, fragile, risky. You may damage underlying AMOLED display and of course, even if successful, it voids manufacturer’s warranty.

This is how I thought I would proceed.

IMG013

But despite continuosly heating the screen and frame, I could not separate it from the frame. The problem was when trying to separate glass from frame, separation tools would go in-between glass and digitizer (both glued to each other as well).

IMG016

After half and hour of trying around edges, I went for more aggressive approach and ran separator between glass and digitizer. (continue heating).

IMG017

Notice, how this credit card goes between 2 glass surfaces. By the way, sharpened edge of the old credit card, is all the tool you will need. Well, maybe 2 cards. Be careful with the frame. Breaking glass is ok at this point, breaking the frame is not.

IMG018

This is what I had after separating the upper glass from the frame. Digitizer screen is very fragile, broken easily. However, new replacement part comes with the new digitizer.

IMG020

Now, I cleaned the frame from the remaining glass and glue.

IMG021

Result. Frame (backside) separated from front glass, digitizer in pieces.

IMG023

Frame (front).

IMG024

I used simple rubbery adhesive glue, the one that needs to dry for couple of minutes before pressing both surfaces. You could use a superfast and super strong glue too, but if you ever need to repeat this procedure, only rubber glue would allow it. I had to work quickly and carefully, with a narrow screwdriver, to apply very thin layer of glue around the digitizer’s position on the frame, to avoid any glue going between glass and AMOLED display, when parts are pressed strongly to each other. Did not have time to make photos, as glue was drying rapidly. Keep protective pads on both sides of the glass.

Then, I connected all electrical parts and powered the phone up. It worked. (including touch)

IMG028

Went back to AMOLED and glass. Used dry cloth on amoled, then used vacuum cleaner to suck all dust from amoled, (repeat couple of times) then removed protective film from digitizer and clicked amoled and glass together. Powered all electronics on again, checked that there is no dust between glass and display, no traces of glue, etc. Finally, assembled the phone.

IMG030

Before and After. Good luck if you try this yourself.

2013/02/27

Nokia Phone Switch app on Nokia 808 PureView, Nokia Belle FP2

image

This is something I was surprised to find. Switch app does not appear in the menu, but if you press search button (on the homescreen menu) and search for “switch”, one of the results will be “Phone Switch App”.

Or just find it under Phone-> Settings->Connectivity->Data transfer->Phone Switch

2012/05/13

Cloud sync and backup

I have been using http://wuala.com for couple of years to keep ca 80GB in safely synced and backed up in the cloud, for free. But they changed from p2p storage to commercial centralized server model, as a result, I am going to loose that  free storage. What are my options at the moment?

I took a look at

- Windows Live Mesh (will become Windows SkyDrive and loose p2p sync ability). Storage limit is good though at 25GB.

- I have beta invite from Cubby (by LogMeIn) – only 5GB in the cloud, but promise of free and unlimited p2p sync

- Google Drive – only 5GB, but good gmail/gdocs integration, no p2p sync

- Dropbox – up to 16GB storage after referrals, hmm. Plenty of mobile clients, but nothing else going for it, other than ability to game it easily to grow storage.

- Ubuntu One, SugarSync, Megacloud – 5GB free cloud, some mobile clients

- Bitcasa – speaks about unlimited cloud storage for $10/month, using p2p similar to wuala?

I am sorry, to see wuala go nuts like this. Theirs was the best option for owners of 24x7 servers (e.g. home NAS + torrent server + wuala cloud peer). After fallout, not many options are left, most of them are good for usual users, who do not have own server and fully depend on the cloud for sync. However, I see opportunity to achieve most of what wuala did for free by combining various parts of different services.

Here is what I’m going to try

1) for unlimited p2p sync (which provides backup too) between my server and several laptops

2) to raise protection bar – e.g. unlikely event that both laptops and server are destroyed by fire at the same time – p2p sync to my parents PC – this is good for anything, bar nuclear strike :(

3) Google Drive for my working docs (5GB)

4) Dropbox/SkyDrive for my music/photos files (16+25GB)

Other services, like UbuntuOne, SugarSync, MegaCloud, Bitcasa – I do not see much use for, with current pricing. I will however, try them to see if I missed anything.