John Galea's Blog

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Heartbleed bug

Everyone including me (personally and professionally) are scrambling to figure out what to do about this latest bug. If you live on another planet maybe you haven’t heard but a bug in OpenSSL has become common knowledge (the bug has existed for about 2-3 years) that allows hackers to gain access to private users information. Credit card, address, SIN numbers you name it. Frankly there is only so much you can do. But you have to start somewhere as an end user. The main issue IMHO is that companies are not being forth coming with whether they were exposed and what they have done. The main thing you can do is change your passwords. If you use a common password and only one of your sites becomes compromised all of your logons are compromised. But there is no point changing your password until the site itself has taken steps. One of the more proactive sites of all of the organizations I logon to is TeamSnap. They stepped up and here is what they said:

1) “To our knowledge, there were no attacks to TeamSnap or its stored data.” Frankly the bug does not leave behind logs so knowing they were attacked and lost data is not as easy as one might otherwise think

2) “The OpenSSL folks have already put out a fix, which has been picked up widely. On the TeamSnap side, we found out about the bug — and the fix — when it was announced and immediately went into action. We checked to make sure all of our servers had the fix, we contacted our tech partners to make sure they knew about the bug and were also adopting the fix, and we revoked our previous security certificate and private key and issued new ones.” This is exactly what needs to be done to plug the hole. All of these steps are necessary

But the reality is all this does is stop future leaks and does nothing to remediate already lost data, because really nothing can be done.

3) “Despite the fact that we don’t think TeamSnap information was compromised, we highly suggest users to change their TeamSnap password.”

Kudos to TeamSnap. That’s the way every company should behave in a situation like this.

Yup changing your password especially to any web site that you care about, has personal info, credit card etc is crucial. And wherever practical use different passwords. But it also helps to know if the site has fixed itself as teamsnap did above. If you can’t find out (because the reality is companies are hiding the facts because they don’t want to admit they were exposed, and are using open source FREE software) there are a few test web sites out there you can use that will checkout if the site is now patched. Checkout fillipio and lastpass. Now I can’t give any info as to whether these sites work or are accurate but at least it’s something to do.

You can also check Mashable and other such summaries telling who was and was not exposed. Well that’s about it. I can only imagine how many identity thefts are going to come out of this mess.

April 16, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

RunTastic Pro (and Runtastic Pedometer)

Amazon had a free app sale and this one was on the list so I grabbed it. I been a fan of RunGPS for a long time now. I’ve played with a number of these apps Endomondo, MapyMyRIde, CascaRun (on BlackBerry) etc. All these apps do a similar function. Track and log your exercise. So I was interested to see how RunTastic stacks up and whether it can unseat my all time favorite RunGPS.
Screenshot_2014-03-30-09-53-27
The opening screen looks VERY good. It allows you to change the sport (click on the running icon), connects to Bluetooth heart rate monitors (like my Zephyr), displays a map of your exercise as well as the weather (including the wind). (It does not support Ant+ heart rate monitors.) All very nice. The app is integrated with Google+ as well as Facebook for social media integration. Includes voice coaching, and your friends can even encourage you while your exercising! At the end of the exercise it uploads to a portal that you can easily share and includes lots of stats of the excercise. Here is a sample:
Sample map.

Overall the ap is well done and thorough. Like most apps in this category there is no non-GPS mode (think indoor gym), pedometer mode, or hear rate monitor logging mode.

Compared with RunGPS the one thing missing from Runtastic Pro is the ability to use this app to navigate. Imagine your out on a hike. I have no idea why this feature is missing from every other app (other than RunGPS).

RunTastic Pedometer
Interestingly enough they have another product called RunTastic Pedometer. Likely a way of making sure they can get a few more dollars out of you. Fitness trackers like fitbit and the like are all the rage. Let’s face it, these devices are an accelerometer and an algorithm to figure out what to do with the data from the accelerometer. Most modern phones have accelerometers in them anyway. So this app (RunTastic Pedometer) makes sense. So I ran a comparison. I started RunTastic on one phone and RunTastic Pedometer on my HTC One (different devices pedometers may be better or worse) and went for a walk. Runtastic using GPS showed a distance of 1.7 kms and a calorie count of 75 calories. The pedometer showed 1.5Kms and a calorie count of 75. This is delta of a mere 8%. Wow. I’m shocked at how accurate it is. So I used it for the day at work. While I can’t say it had no effect on battery I can say it wasn’t massive draw to have it always running. It seemed to pickup stuff correctly. I put it in a belt holster. I ran into only one issue, it came up and said it was having trouble recording steps in the background. What I really think is it couldn’t figure out what to do with prolonged periods of time while I was sitting working (ie not walking). They likely didn’t think about this use of the app. That said, once it tells you of the issue you can say ok never tell me again. So it’s all good. As an interesting aside it says at work I did 1166 steps and burned 70 calories walking around work. I’m an IT guy so I don’t walk around a whole lot. If you want to see the whole trace check it out. So all in all it worked just fine as a pedometer. No complaints. No idea if the pro of the Pedometer includes heart rate support. The RunTastic Pro (the non Pedometer app) does. If the app isn’t sensitive enough for your device you can increase the sensitivity and you can even tune the size of your step to make it more accurate.

April 9, 2014 Posted by | Android, Blackberry 10 | Leave a comment

Amazon Android Marketplace

The Google Play Store is the pre-eminent MarketPlace for Android. It is however not the only one. Some devices don’t ship with the Google Play Store, and there is no way to load it onto BlackBerry 10. As an aside Snap is the best way to do Google Play Store on BlackBerry 10.

So Amazon is another alternative to the Google Play Store and the topic of this post. You can freely download the Amazon Marketplace and install it on Android or Blackberry phone or tablet. You then sign in with your Amazon account. If you don’t have one you create it. Any apps you install or purchase are tied to your Amazon account, not your device. Using the Amazon Marketplace is one of the ways you can load paid apps onto a BlackBerry. You can’t do that with Snap or with Google Play. You can easily transfer an app onto a new device and in some cases even load a paid app onto multiple devices. From the Amazon web site you can also manage your Android Apps and see your history.
amazon-a amazon-b

From the Marketplace you can see any Android Apps you have installed on the device tab, any apps that you have bought or downloaded on other devices that are not installed on this device on the Cloud tab and any updates that are available to installed apps.
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The process is quite simple (even on BlackBerry 10) find the app you want and click it. That downloads the app and opens the installer. These pics are for BlackBerry but it’s similar on Android.
IMG_20140326_103700IMG_20140326_103711IMG_20140326_103720
All in all it works well and provides additional options as well as cross platform (Android/BlackBerry) options for paid apps!

April 7, 2014 Posted by | Android, Blackberry 10 | Leave a comment

802.11n wireless

There is no end of tekkie stuff to burn your time on. It amazes me how complicated our industry make it for average shmoes and even tekkies like me to get the most out of their products. To this end I submit this blog post on 802.11n. 802.11n existed in draft mode for a very long time. A number of companies jumped aboard the draft standards early. This lead to some not so compatible devices. At this point in time the standard has been ratified for quite a while. I last reviewed my LinkSys E3000 back in March of 2011. Now I have to admit I did not spend a lot of time focussing on use with N. At the time my laptop didn’t support N, nor did my tablet or phone.

Fast forward to now and I have a new laptop My Asus X202 as well as my HTC one and lastly my Q10 all of which support 802.11N. So I decided to take some time and look into why I was not getting much of a speed boost out of my wireless network (compared to G). Using some wireless analysers such as Android Network Signal Info as well as Android WIFI Analyzer, not to mention Windows network status I was able to confirm a link speed no better than 72Mb/s, well below what N ought to be capable of. And so the research began. As usual Wikipedia had a good article describing N. I also found another excellent article on DDWRT. Armed with this information I began to look into my router’s settings.

Frequencies
So let’s start out with some simple stuff, and I will try to keep it as simple as I can. More technical stuff can be found in the above two articles if you so choose. First and foremost 802.11n can be implemented in two different bands 2.5GHZ and 5GHZ. Not all 802.11N adapters (as well as routers) support both frequencies (some only support 2.5GHZ). My Asus has a broadcom and it only support 2.5GHZ while the HTC One and Q10 both support 2.5 as well as 5 GHZ. I changed the SSID on the router for the 2.5 and 5 GHZ so I could easily see who had what bands. If yours don’t have the 5 GHZ band then you might as well turn it off on the router and save the radiation :). 5GHZ is MUCH more limited in range. You will see this in lower signal strength from the same router. Both 5GHZ as well as 2.5GHZ have older legacy 802.11 standards in the same frequency band. 2.5GHZ covers B/G/N and 5GHZ supported both A/N (although very little 802.11A was shipped IMHO). In both cases the presence of legacy devices can impact the speed you will get from your network. To the point that you may want to setup a separate router for those legacy devices. You do not have to have 5GHZ to get the max speed out of 802.11N

Channel width
One of the tricks 802.11N uses to bump the network speeds is to use two channels. One of the first places to check is to see if your router is set to use 1 channel (20MHZ) or two (40MHZ). For my router you could set it separately for 2.5 and 5GHZ.
80211n-1
When I checked the wireless status screen on the router I saw that it was only doing single channel which explained the 72Mb/s speed.
80211n-2
Other routers in the area (as well as Bluetooth, DECT cordless phones) can all make 2 channel mode impossible. To get the router to stay in two channel mode I had to take it off auto channel and choose a channel where there was 2 free channels. I played with the channels until I found one where the router stayed in 2 channel (40MHZ mode). The router’s wireless status screen was helpful to see that I finally got it right.
80211n-3

Next up you need to focus on the wireless security you have chosen. From the DDWRT site I quote:
“You MUST use WPA2 authentication with AES encryption only, or use no security at all if you wish to achieve N rates. Anything else is against the N spec and typically results in the client falling back to G rates.”

Even with all this right I was unable to get more than 72 Mb/s or a single channel out of the 2.5GHZ band. I worked this with a Linksys E3000 as well as a DLINK DIR 501 router. From a client point of view I was using the wireless Broadcom card in my ASUS X202, my HTC One phone and my Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7 plus. In the 5 GHZ band using my HTC one I was able to get link speeds up to 150Mb/s standing right beside the router. I was also able to confirm doubling of the bandwidth when I got the 150 Mb/s. Using AND FTP connected to an FTP server in my home (don’t use an SFTP protocol, the processors in Android phones really does not do SSL well) I got 9MB/s when I got double channel 150 Mb/s link (big B means byte, little b means bit, multiple b x8 to get B) and around 4.5 MB/s when I got a link of 72 Mb/s link. I max out at 72 Mb/s link on SFTP at around 1.5 MB/s. See what I mean about SFTP being super slow on Android. So translating on a 150 Mb/s link I got 72 Mb/s actual data rate.

So I was about to give up when in comes my girl friend with her laptop a Lenovo Flex 15 which has an Intel N 7260 wirelss N card. Without changing a thing on her laptop it linked up at 2.5GHZ, dual channel 144 Mb/s. And I was able to clock out 100 Mb/s data rate. Wow. So all in all it seems to be a combination of sender and receiver. And when the stars line up and the moon aligns with venus you get a decent wireless rate. Grrrrr….

With my S4 I was able to measure a 9% increase in standby power when connected to 5G Vs 2.5G. So there is some price to pay for the potentially faster speeds of 5G.

April 2, 2014 Posted by | Android, Blackberry 10, Electronic gadget reviews | Leave a comment

HTC One (M7) Rogers review

Jump right to a section:
Introduction
Physicals
Limitations
Hardware Specs
Movie Playback
Built in Apps
HDMI out
Charging
Sharing DLNA/Miracast
Bluetooth Tethering
Summary

Introduction
HTC were pioneers in the smart phone industry. The HTC Magic and Dream were one of the first Android phones to hit the market. HTC Sense (HTC’s proprietary front end) was migrated from Windows Mobile to Android. HTC quickly fell out of fortune, Samsung and Apple had HTC for lunch. I have had a number of Motorola and Samsung phones but I have not touched an HTC phone since the One V and have not owned one for a long time. A colleague at work bought one of these and has raved about it. So I decided to grab one.

Let’s start by setting the stage. My current phones are a BlackBerry Z10 (personal) and a Q10 (work). I love the screen of the Z10 but love the keyboard of the Q10. OnScreen keyboards are good but at one point or another I get totally frustrated by them. With the small screen of the Q10 I find I have stopped playing games, and use my tablet more. BB10 really is a smooth well written operating system. The add of Android apps has all but eliminated any app discussion. Although the odd screen size of the Q10 meant certain apps either didn’t work or were clumsy. The Q10 is hands down (pardon the pun) the best one handed device I have used in a very long time!

My last android phone was an international Samsung S3 i9300. I loved the quad core but the phone did not support LTE so I lost the blazing fast network speeds. And in spite of how fast the processor should have been I found more and more the S3 had maddening pauses where the phone went away and did something. No friggin idea what. And audio bluetooth that I use every day was hit and miss.

Physicals
Let’s compare size/weight:
S3 70.6 x 136.6 x 8.6 mm 133g 4.8″ screen 720 x 1280
Z10 65.6 x 130 x 9 mm 136g 4.2″ screen 768 x 1280
Q10 66.8 x 119.6 x 10.35 mm 139g 3.1″ screen 720 x 720
One 68.2 x 137.4 x 9.3 mm 143g 4.7″ screen 1080 x 1920

I always found the Samsung a bit plasticy. The Z10 is a good solid phone. The HTC one is a solid block of aluminium. Similar to an iPhone. Aluminium is light and reasonably strong but it is also a soft metal. So the HTC is a nick and ding magnet. I will get a skin for it right away to make it easier to hold and hopefully protect it from dings.

The physicals on this device are quite good. The bezel around the screen is quite small. Speakers above and below. Micro USB charging port (which doubles as a MHL HDMI port (more about this later), as well as standard USB OTG port (I tried USB keyboard/mouse and USB flash drives all of which worked). As usual with only one port you are limited to what can be used at the same time. Volume rockers on the side. Standard 3.5mm headphone jack and a power button on the top. The back of the device is curved. It really feels quite good in the hand. Especially when compared to how cheap and plasticy the Samsung S2/S3 felt. The curved back has a downside, when you have the phone on a flat surface the phone rocks.

The screen on this phone is bright vivid and very responsive. A definite highlight of the device. Nicely done.

Like most phones in this form factor the power button is on the top and in this case the left hand side. So powering it on usually means shuffling the phone in your hand to find (and hopefully not dropping it) the dam button. Less than convenient. I really enjoyed the ability to turn the Z10 on without using the power button. This is suppose to be coming in HTC Sense 6 we will see if this version of the phone can do it.

HTC oddly chose to only include 2 buttons, home and back, the options button is missing. I’ve noticed some apps don’t deal overly well with that. An odd decision by HTC. But on the positive side they have a nice place to put their logo. Right where the third button belongs.

Limitations
Right off the bat the obvious negatives of the One are 1) no SD slot (so limited to 32G and no expansion) 2) non removable battery (can’t carry a spare)

The phone immediately had an Android 4.4.2 upgrade ready for it when I powered it on. HTC seem to be keeping this up to date. It helps that HTC has far fewer models to keep up to date (Vs Samsung). The HTC customizations such as blink feed and sense are great but they mean there’s work more work to do to support new Android releases. So Kudos to HTC for getting the update out quickly. Mine is a Rogers phone by the way.

Hardware Specs
The hardware specs on this phone are pretty good. 1.7G quad core SnapDragon 600 ARM V7 processor, Full LTE support, ABGN WIFI, BT 4, FM radio, 2.1Mp front camera (for selfies) and 4 MP back camera (quite low compared to the S3′s 8Mp) and a 2300 mAh battery (which is not that impressive for a phone with a non removable battery). click here for a full list of specs.

Initial startup is clean and simple, standard Android. Once up and running HTC’s Blink feed is front and center. A glitzy fluffy news aggregation that reminds me of FlipBoard. You can change around the home screens order (push and hold anywhere empty on a screen) and you can fully customize the icons on the bottom of the screen (push and hold any soft button on the screen to remove and then change it to whatever you want). Blink feed can be totally turned off too. I really like the flexibility. In case it’s not obvious just slide your finger on the screen to get to the next screen. There is a setting to sort your apps alphabetically in the list, otherwise they are in some less than obvious order (which you can manually customize). I prefer the Samsung system which allows you to slide down the list of apps (rather than one page at a time on the HTC) and wraps around from the bottom to the top (which the HTC does not). I just find it more efficient.

Plug the phone into a Windows computer and the One shows up as a Portable Music player. You can copy directly into the file space of the One. I do not see an option for the phone to show up as a flash drive instead. Copying files this way is not exactly zippy.
one

Movie Playback
Movie playback of a highly encoded YIFY was not perfect with the native gallery player (occasional hiccups) but played better with the XBMC hardware accelerated libstagefright nightly build. Lighter encodes had hiccups with the native player too. Seems like the native player is not that well optimized. MX Player also was jerky even with the ARM V7 plug in. Oddly turning hardware acceleration off and using software decoding improved playback. Also a negative for movies is the HTC one does not support exFAT formatted USB flash drives (fat32 does not support file sizes greater than 4G which HD movies can be). On the positive side

Built in apps
Music playback includes the ability to display lyrics, update album artwork as well as be able to share what your listening to. A step above some basic music players.

Contacts are searched as you type in a persons name into the dialer. Something sadly lacking on Blackberry (but common on Android and Windows Mobile). Yo BB … wakeup!

The calendar app actually works properly with Google, as expected. For some reason I never had good luck with this on BB 10.

HTC have included a neat TV ap. You setup rooms. Each room can have a TV/Home Theater system. Then you tell it where you get your TV from including over the air. It then shows you what’s on now (including a plug in for BlinkFeed, nice integration) as well as gives you the ability to control the TV and or home theater system (a virtual remote). Cool. It is missing the ability to create smart activities such as turning both the TV and Home Theater on or off with one button. Too bad.

Blackberry has a service called Protect, Samsung’s is called Dive. Both allow you to locate, lock, wipe and ring your phone in case you’ve misplaced it. HTC previously had this but for now it seems to have been removed. From their web site “HTCSense.com is undergoing a renovation to improve the services and value we deliver to customers like you. Until the new services are ready, features previously available on HTCSense.com will no longer be available. If you would like phone location or backup services for your device, please visit Google Play (formerly called Android Market) and download an application the best meets your needs.” Google play does offer location services that may let you find your phone (as well as ring, lock and erase).

Oddly they do not include any kind of a file manager in the app load. I used ES File manager and it easily allowed me to see the USB flash drives contents as well as copy to and from. Speeds were relatively good 5-10 MB/s on a class 10 card (which should be good for 10).

I must say coming back to Android from Blackberry the things I missed from Android were 1) Llama (a location based automation app, and location alarm) 2) Where’s my droid 3) the Gmail priority Inbox 4) Google Maps (with Google play services for access to favorites etc).

SD Tools shows the speed of the internal storage at a whopping 21 MB/s read and 153 MB/s read. Wow. (sometimes I ran the test and got even higher numbers!).

HDMI
HDMI output on a phone is something that is rarely done right, fortunately it’s also rarely used. The HD resolution of the screen means it matches that of a HD panel. Using a standard MHL cable (I used my Samsung S2 cable, the S3 cable did not work) HDMI worked simply and easily. Interestingly the MHL worked even without power (Samsungs always require power to the MHL). I did try USB OTG at the same time as MHL but that didn’t work. I didn’t really expect it to but tried anyway. As with the Samsungs when the phone overheats the charge circuit shuts down. And playing a movie, while charging and outputting to HDMI was enough to cause it to overheat. I watched a TV show through HDMI and it took a reboot to get the charge circuit to come back on once it over heated. Even with the charge circuit working, and using the stock HTC charger the phone barely holds a charge while outputting to HDMI (and that’s without pushing the processor at all).
mhl
As is typical with Android by default the home screen does not rotate even when outputting to HDMI leaving it displays as a ribbon down the screen. Fortunately with the use of my handy dandy Ultimate Rotation tool this issue is solved by using forced auto rotation. Also as usual there is no setting to keep the screen on. Screen Timeout app fixed that little miss. All this by the way is pretty typical of my experience using HDMI on Android.

As an interesting aside I watched a 45 min TV show with no power using XBMC output to HDMI and it consumed over 50% of the battery! Sure can draw a whack of power.

Bluetooth keyboard worked correctly including the home and back buttons, something that is needed to use the phone remotely from the screen. As in the past the lack of soft buttons for home and back is problematic when using an HDMI display. As usual they never get this right. Probably knowing few actually use it :( Bluetooth mouse worked fine but also as usual the right mouse button is incorrectly implemented. It is the same as the left.

The 32G of storage is shared between content (music/video/pics) and apps. Which is nice in that you can make whatever mix of use of the memory you choose.

Charging
The stock charger from HTC is oddly only a 1A charger meaning a full charge will take 2.4 hours. This is particularly noteworthy given the non-removable battery :( And a higher current charger does not buy you anything. I tried a Samsung as well as a BlackBerry high current charger, neither charged the phone even as fast as the stock HTC charger. The phone is only designed for this slow charge. Pretty big limitation.

As with most modern phones, you can’t get enough power out of a USB 2 port so the HTC One doesn’t charge through the computer’s USB port, more like maintain.

Sharing DLNA/Miracast
From a sharing point of view the HTC supports DLNA as well as Miracast. It can be done from inside the gallery, or music player apps or it can be done using the media output setting which outputs the whole phones output to the display (for Miracast).
Screenshot_2014-03-19-22-26-51 Screenshot_2014-03-19-22-26-24 Screenshot_2014-03-19-22-26-00
As an interesting aside as you can see in the pic, XBMC makes a great DLNA server across platforms and can help to bridge desperate environments!

From a bluetooth point of view my Ford Sync still does not display the song playing and still does not recognize this phone as one that can read text messages. So at this point I have idea what it does support because everything I have tried (BlackBerry Q10/Z10, Samsung S2/S3 and HTC One) all do not support these features. This seems to be an issue with my Ford Sync (2010 Fusion) rather than the phone.

I loaded up the Ant+ drivers but it seems there is no Ant+ radio in this phone :(

Google Play was for some reason set to auto update, something I positively hate. Inevitably it causes pauses in the phones responsiveness while updating. Android sucks at this. Installs/updates take every bit of performance they possible can. Grrr. Google … throttle them, SOMEHOW.

I was able to use a capacitive (fat) pen along with Evernote and Papyrus to do hand writing reasonably well. Not bad for a device with no digitizer (like a Samsung Note). Athinner pen was almost completely ignored.

Web browsing is quite good on this device. I hesitate to say iPhone like. Smooth pan and zoom, responsive. The quad core processor really shines. Overall the devices performance is excellent very responsive. I would say above the S3. Reliability is also very good. Bluetooth is better than the S3.

I hesitate to say it but this device is quite a bit better than S3. Smoother, more responsive, no in explainable pauses, no BT misconnects. Overall this is a surprisingly better device in so many ways (within the limitations of the device, no removable battery and no SD slot).

Battery life is one of those things, there is never enough. I managed to get 14 hours of somewhat normal use and there was still 20% left. At that point the power saver kicked in. This would stretch battery life even further. Power Saver moderates CPU, Mobile data and display. Power Saver mode can be manually initiated any time. This is as good or better than my Samsung S3. I will do a more in depth power consumption post in the future.

The on included screen keyboard on this device has a nice feature, on your second try at spelling something it stops trying to correct you! Excellent! A little less infuriating than usual for an onscreen keyboard!

802.11N (WIFI) supports B/G/N including both 2.5 and 5 GHZ bands!

The one has a notification LED, but I have to say, it’s super small and not as easily visible as some. I prefer the big obvious notification LED of the S3, but at least it has one (unlike the S2)!

There is a good assortment of accessories for the HTC One. Everything from cases to car docks, to desk docks. All on ebay and Amazon for reasonable prices. Accessories can make a big difference in a devices fun! The Z10 belt case by the way fits the HTC One just fine.

Bluetooth Tethering
Bluetooth tethering works well, but is often the case with Android it does not start on reboot (fortunately reboots are rarely needed on this phone). Like previous Android devices I’ve played with the processor seems excessively busy while BT tethering leading to higher than expected battery consumption. Having a tablet I use BT tethering often. Speaking of BT tethering you can use this phone in tablet like mode (turn the cell radio off) and then bluetooth tether it to another phone. Nice feature. By the way, the Z10 couldn’t do that.

As with every Android device I’ve played with to date I could not get acceptable call quality out of VOIP. I was using CSIP simple but have tried others. Oddly Skype out works fine. I have no idea why Android sucks at this. I’ve tried (in the past) different providers, different SIP clients all to no avail. While on BlackBerry the same provider works ok.

I have an old Zephyr bluetooth heart rate monitor. On some devices it just does not pair well. Sadly the HTC One is another of these. It would pair work fine then the next time I went to use it I had to enter the PIN each and every time.

Like all Android devices I’ve played with this one unlocked quickly, and inexpensively. Bought an unlock code on ebay, sent the IMEI code, got back an unlock code, plugged in a non-native SIM, it asks for the unlock code, type in what was provided and your permanently unlocked. Cost me $5 and about 10 mins. Now I can put a SIM in from any provider.

Summary
Limitations: non replaceable battery, no SD slot for expansion
Bugs/poorly implemented: slow charge, poorly done HDMI, poor hardware acceleration of the movie player
All in all this phone is better than the Samsung S3/S2 (I haven’t touched an S4) in pretty much every way. Smoother, more reliable, etc.

With past devices they have been a collection of unfinished code and a collection of bugs. Which device you chose was which device had the bugs that bothered you the least. This device IMHO is one of the better if not best devices I have touched in a while!

htc_one

March 26, 2014 Posted by | Android | Leave a comment

Chromecast

I last played with an Airplay/DLNA/Mirrorcast adapter. That device was based on industry standards. This one, a Chromecast is a totally different animal. Chromecast relies 100% on an app being coded to support “casting” their output to the Chomecast adapter. These and only these apps can use the Chromecast. And I was shocked how small the list was. I got it working on Windows Chrome by adding an extension (ridiculous that this isn’t built in). This is a small point and is a small fly in what is a big steaming turd. Once setup Chrome browser can case 1 tab at a time out to the Chromecast adapter. And for me I was shocked how slow even that was. Now any movie played within a browser can be sent out to Chromecast so I guess there is that consolation. And I was shocked to see that Chrome on Android (remember Google owns both Android and Chrome) does not support extensions and thus can not use Chromecast. Even on the latest Android 4.4.2. Your kidding right? Left hand meet right hand. Not get in a room and get on the same page will ya. So in the end Chromecast is very (small) niche product. Save your money, don’t buy one. I’m just happy I borrowed one to try instead of wasting cash. Useless product. Thanks Google. If your thinking this is super short post (from a guy that go into detail on almost anything) that’s because there is nothing more to be said …

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March 19, 2014 Posted by | Android, Electronic gadget reviews | Leave a comment

Monitoring your blood alcohol level

Those of you that know me know I am a wine lover. My other blog is CanadianWineGuy.com chronicles my love for wine! Everyone knows drinking and driving is a problem. So keeping an eye on your blood alcohol level is very important. In this blog I am going to cover two methods. Neither is perfect. Neither is legal. Both of which can be used as tools. First off Alcodroid is an Android app. The way it works is you enter every time you take a drink. It’s flexible in that it allows you define whatever you want in terms of a drink as presets. This then calculates a blood alcohol level based on an algorithm. It takes into account your sex and weight. The program assumes you drink the whole thing the moment you enter it and then the blood alcohol level comes down from there. Of course this isn’t the way your body works but it is about the only way to do it. The program also keeps a running toll of what you have drank. It also can display statistics such as average number of drinks, number of dry (no alcohol) days and many other stats. The program is VERY well done. It also works fine under BB10 and fairly well even on the odd size screen of the Q10. How accurate the program is at tracking your blood alcohol level I can’t say, and remember this is not legally admissible.

alcodroid

The second device is a keychain sized blood alcohol meter called BAC Track. This device is handy in how small and portable it is. In the instructions it says clearly that you need to wait 20 minutes after eating or drinking anything before using it. I have found this to be VERY true. The number you get otherwise is just not reasonable. If you do, interestingly enough I find both these methods actually come up with VERY similar numbers! Wow.
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March 17, 2014 Posted by | Android, Electronic gadget reviews | Leave a comment

OBD II codes

Ever been faced by that nebulous check engine light? Gone to a mechanic and been told the outrageous fee to simply read out the code? Well there is a neat and easy solution to that problem! Cars have what is called an OBD II (On Board Diagnostic) port that is located under the dash, very close to the steering wheel. This is what mechanics plug into to read the code. The good news is there are lots of super cheap Bluetooth OBD II gadgets you can find on eBay that can allow you to read these codes. Devices such as an ELM 327 are readily available on Amazon and ebay for $10-$20.
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With this device you can load a variety of programs that will interface and read the OBD port’s data. To get started buy one of these now before you need one. They are inexpensive and have been a standard for a VERY long time. Once you have it manually Bluetooth pair it. The code to pair can be 0000 or 1234. Once paired you are ready to select your program. With BlackBerry now supporting Bluetooth for Android it means on BB10 your in luck and are able to use the wealth of OBD programs out there. I found: OBD car doctor and Engine-Codes were able to read the code out of the computer. Engine-codes.com web site as well as others have the ability to look up codes and turn them into English. Of course once you have that information you still need to get whatever caused it looked into. But at least you can have information for when you talk to the mechanic.

There is also another neat program called Torque that can display all kinds of neat information live from your car. Everything from fuel being consumed RPM you name it. Cool!

March 13, 2014 Posted by | Android, Blackberry 10, Electronic gadget reviews | Leave a comment

Fido Home phone

Every now and then a new product hits the market that makes you go huh … what’s that? This is one of those (for me).

I’ve been using VOIP in the house for a while now using an OBI 100 VOIP adapter (with Anveo as my VOIP provider). It works well but I have an issue that the torrents I run constantly in the house makes the call quality inconsistent. Sometimes it works well, others not so well. Cost is great. Ability to setup a ring group so a call rings on both my home phone, my cell etc is terrific. The way the voicemail get’s sent to your email is very convenient (especially when you travel). I can even use SIP.FM (a free SIP VOIP Client) on my BB10 phone to replace long distance on the Go!

Back to this device. As a current Fido customer they are offering $10 a month for unlimited Canada wide calling. Woh! This includes incoming (so you get a number) and outgoing. What a bargain. There is a $30 initial fee (to pay for the bridge). Sadly you can not use your Fido $$s to pay for it. I looked into it to see what options they offer. Sadly there is no Rogers One Number like services. No ability to have it ring multiple places. No ability to have it mirror your existing cell number. Nada. It is 100% a stand alone new phone number. It does come with voicemail and call display for this price.

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So how does this work? Well they give you a ZTE WF720. This device acts as a bridge between your existing phone lines in your home and the cell network. So you use your normal in home corded and cordless phones and the phone calls go out the Fido cell network. The device even uses a standard size SIM. Very interesting! I tried to put the SIM in a normal cell phone but they have been smart and this does not work. The phone sees the SIM, sees the phone number attached to the SIM but isn’t allowed on the network. Pooh.

The bridge isn’t that bright. It will give a dial tone back to the phone even when there is no cell signal. So unless your near the bridge you will have no idea if it were down for some reason. And there are no voice prompts from the device either. So a little disappointing there.

All in all call quality is fine. If you have a cell signal in your area this definitely gives you a cheap home phone WITH 911 service (something VOIP either doesn’t give or kludges).

That’s about it. Pretty simple inexpensive offering. No bells or whistles, it just does it’s thang.

March 10, 2014 Posted by | Electronic gadget reviews | Leave a comment

Windows 8 tablets a rant

I’ve lived with a Windows 8 tablet for a while now and while there are new generations of tablets coming out, and Windows 8.1 is out now, little has changed. I’m reminded of back when Microsoft was faced with a dilemma with Windows Mobile back in 2003. They had come to realization that to be touch screen enabled, well more to the point finger friendly, they had to make a break from the past and do a total rewrite. The days of the stylus were dead. Long live the finger.

Fast forward to now and we seem to find ourselves in the exact same place and it seems Microsoft have not learned much from the past. The reality is this, Windows (at this point in time) is not a finger friendly environment. Step outside of the metro interface, and the Metro apps, and the finger is truly in need of a stylus or pen, or mouse. Go ahead and try it. While a touch screen is a natural evolution of Windows, and while I enjoy and will no longer live without a touch screen, one can not, with Windows in it’s current state, live without a keyboard and mouse. I dare you to try it. Navigate even within the operating system, not even mentioning the applications, without a keyboard and mouse (touch screen only). See how frustrating it is? And if you want an even more frustrating experience try and select some text (for copy and paste) on the screen with just a finger. See how many tries it takes you. Want a simple illustration? Let’s talk about the simple title bar which is everywhere in Windows.
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You use it to close, maximize and minimize the Windows in any desktop screen or app. Now try and click one of those with your finger. Now try that on a small 8″ tablet. How did you make out?

The first generation Atoms are severely limited in processing power and memory. The newer generation of tablets has brought the ante up from dual core to quad core but did nothing to resolve the number one issue with Atom, a max memory of 2G. Next thing you know Windows is closing apps, closing browser tabs without asking or telling I might mention, all to preserve the limited anaemic amount of memory you have.

And Microsoft have done some truly stupid things with Windows 8. For example, on a device with a keyboard why am I am constantly faced with an onscreen keyboard. What raving lunatic would use an onscreen keyboard when a physical (or Bluetooth for that matter) keyboard is attached. The solution by the way is to disable the “Touch Keyboard and Handwriting Panel Service” in services for any computer not used as a tablet. But really do we need every user on the planet to figure this out themselves? Can’t you (Microsoft) figure that out yourselves? Are your programmers really this stupid? Did they actually use their own products? How about dynamically adjusting this based on whether a physical keyboard is or is not attached? Is this rocket science?

Personally speaking I jumped aboard the first generation Windows 8 Atom based tablets despite recommendations from friends to not do so (you were right Lance). I bought a Samsung XE500T dual core Atom powered Windows tablet for $700. At the time it seemed like the right choice. Fast forward to now and the same device is worth barely $300. In less than a year. The memory is a huge limitation, and the processor is a big limitation. I’ve abandoned the Windows tablet and gone back to a Windows 8 touchscreen laptop the Asus X202 with a core I3, and 4G of memory and it s a huge improvement. And over Christmas I had bought a Dell Venue 8 Pro on sale at Future Shop for $199. I took some time to contemplate the purchase and thought to myself this:
1) I already have the Samsung 11″ Windows tablet which I have come to figure out is not all that useful in touch screen only mode
2) No HDMI output which means I can’t use it at friends places, hotels etc to play movies
3) is still limited by 2G of memory
4) and does little more than I can already do with my Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 Plus 7″ Android tablet
And promptly returned it unopened.

Now that said, I like Windows tablets. They can finally replace a desktop and aren’t just another device. Add them to a dock and you can have truly mobile functionality. But skip Atom. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out 2G of memory is going to be a limitation. Go with a Core I3 minimum. And set your expectations if you buy a tablet. Once you get outside Metro you are going to need a mouse and keyboard.

I find myself pondering, where is the king of touch in all this (Apple)? Why is it that none of the Macs have any form of touch screens?

Ok I feel better, do you? :)

March 4, 2014 Posted by | Electronic gadget reviews | Leave a comment

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