John Galea's Blog

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Anker PowerDrive+ 1 (Quick Charge 2.0 24W USB Car Charger) review

When I did my S5 review I noted that the S5 had the ability to charge dramatically faster than the S4. In the car I was not getting the same quick charging in spite of it being a 2A charger. To give you an idea on a standard (non quick charge) you get about .6%/min for a from dead charge time of almost 3 hours. The factory charger brings this up to 1%/min up to 90% and then trickle charges the last bit. It cuts charge time in half. So I bought this charger and put it through it paces. It does not come with a cable. When I first plugged it in I noticed I was still not getting the proper charge speed. So I used the factory supplied cable and levoila quick charging. In fact I used the factory cable and got almost the same quick charging on my existing 2A car charger when I used the factory cable. So I did some digging. The S5 can take a standard micro USB cable or it can use the USB 3 cable. Some of the standard micro USB cables can deliver the full 2A charge, but some can not. It turned out my issue was not with the charger it was with the thin flimsy standard micro USB cable I was using. I bought some spare micro USB 3 cables and they all were able to deliver the full quick charge. So what it means is to get the quick charge experience you need a good 2A charger (car or home) and either a good micro USB cable or a usb 3 micro USB cable.

Testing this one out (The Anker) with the factory cable I was able to get 0.9%/min Vs 1%/min on the factory charger. So a mere difference of -11%. So it is working as it should. So before you leap out and buy a new car adapter (because as it turned out I didn’t need to), try the factory cable and see if that solves your issue.

In this graph you can see the charge curve by comparison.
charge graph


September 21, 2015 Posted by | Android | Leave a comment

Frozen Front Android Game review a turn based battle SIM

I’m not much of a gamer. First person shooters inevitably bore me. The bizarre combination of buttons you have to press to make it do anything and the eventual road block I have no idea how to get past mean they just aren’t my thing, never have been. But give me a turn based battle simulation where I can use my brain to map out strategy plan attacks, build resources and that’s my kinda game! Back in the day (I hate that phrase, what day are they talking about anyway? Lately it seems it’s been used by EVERYONE :)) I loved board games like Machiavelli, Supremacy and the like. Then along came Military Madness on the TurboGrafx 16! I bought the game console just to play that one game. And play I did. On Android I actually found a version of Military Madness. Loved it. Then eventually I found Populus Romanus followed by Populus Romanus 2
The same developer then came out with Wargame 1939
The games were well written and I spent hours playing them. The graphics were rudimentary, but still well worth the money. Recently I discovered this game Frozen Front. (You knew I would get to the topic of this post eventually). The game can be played 100% for free but it is heavily laden with fixed and video adds that quickly gets annoying. But at least you get to play it and decide if you want to purchase it. It’s inexpensive $3.49. You can buy gold that you use in the game and that makes the game play a whole lot easier but where is the fun in that :) The game takes place in WWII on the Eastern front. You get to play the Germans sometimes and the Soviets others. The game includes the reality of having to keep your tanks fueled and rearmed. Get too far ahead of your supply trucks and too far from your supply base and your tanks run out of gas! The author has included a vast array of equipment and troops, all named authentically with the time period. This adds an interesting dimension to the game. Recently I read a number books on the Eastern front and playing this game just seemed to add a reality to the stories. There’s troops, tanks, artillery, and planes. You get gold every time you destroy an enemy and you have to decide how you want to spend that gold. Buy a more powerful tank, and then have it destroyed by planes or artillery? Buy just troops and have them mowed down by enemy tanks and Katushya rockets? All in all I love this game. Excellent game play, great graphics hours upon hours of fun. It’s quite immersing. I can HIGHLY recommend this game. Very well done. You can even play online against real people :) Check it out!

September 14, 2015 Posted by | Android | Leave a comment

HP LaserJet Pro P1102W review

I have had an HP Laserjet 1020 for a very long time. It is a simple small cost effective, quiet, black and white laser printer. The printer was not network enabled so it’s been a bit of a challenge to print from multiple devices (tablets, phones laptops etc). So I decided it was time to look at a new one. This one came up on RedFlag deals at HPShopping for $79 so I pounced. The experience with HPShopping was fine, but they were a little slow to ship compared to others (it took 8 days). The printer is WIFI enabled. Overall setup is pretty straight forward. Getting all of the shipping restraints off the laser cartridge and the like was the most difficult thing I had to deal with :) The picture instructions were less than helpful or clear. Bring back the words and forget this multi language nonsense. We all speak Engrish anyway don’t we? (Just kidding:) ).

The printer came with a simple setup CD and believe it or not came with a USB cable. First time I’ve seen that in a while. Very welcome. As usual the CD is out of date compared to what’s on the web so start by downloading the current. I did the USB setup first then did the WIFI setup. Both were trivial and problem free. As is often the case you end up with different printing queues setup on the machine (USB, network and different printer support) which can be confusing for some. Once on the network it was easily found (through uPNP) by Windows 8.1, Windows 10, and even Windows Server 2012. I used the CD to add the printer drivers. I could not find the drivers in the base Windows or on Windows update. Surprising for Windows 10, but a minor annoyance.

The printer itself does not support cloud printing but HP does have their own variation called HP ePrint. There is an Android app as well as a PC app that allows you to fairly easily print from anywhere connected to the net. A nice touch. You install HPePrint, then give it your email address (the same one you registered your printer with) and it sends an activation code back to your email you which you then enter. Better than a password.

There is also a portalthat allows you to see the status of the printer remotely anytime, but this is basic. It does not show you the status of the cartridge, details about the hardware (such as serial number), and oddly does not even provide a link over to HP support to download drivers etc.

You can also setup an email address that anything sent to that email address get’s printed. This can be controlled for only “allowed senders” to avoid wasting paper on spam or having your printer wake you in the middle of the night. Oddly there is no way to see the print queue remotely.

The printer also supports what it calls direct printing. The printer itself sets itself up as an access point that guests in the house can connect to and print without being on your WIFI. This can fortunately be turned off to avoid the unnecessary RF chatter in the house.

If there is a computer in the house that has chrome on it and the printer has been added to that computer then that computer can act as a Cloud printer gateway fixing the one missing pieces of the pie. Why HP didn’t include this is beyond me. But in all honesty, I knew it when I bought it so really can’t complain a whole lot.

The printer itself has a web page you can access to see almost everything possible about the printer. Oddly there is no place to check the current Vs installed firmware of the printer.

The firmware on the printer itself turned out to be old 20140916 Vs a current of 20150114. Oddly no where did it tell me there was a firmware update available. Of course no info on what’s new in the firmware. The firmware is upgradeable over the network, a nice touch.

All in all I like the printer. Small, quiet, fast, good quality, network connected and good drivers. If it had included cloud printing I would have been thrilled but even without it, it is a great little printer for a bargain basement price.


August 27, 2015 Posted by | Other reviews | Leave a comment

Windows 10 is here

Windows 10 is finally here. I played with the technical previews for Win 10 but found enough issues I couldn’t make it my primary device. July 29th came around (the release date for Win 10) and went and my machine had not downloaded Win 10 yet. You first “reserve your copy” then are supposed to be informed that it has been downloaded and is ready for you. I got impatient and downloaded it myself. You download a media creator tool (you have to get the right version of the media creator tool depending on what you are running it on, a 32 or 64 bit machine, oddly if you download the wrong one you don’t get a nice clear error message so that wasted a bit of my time), then say whether you want to download an ISO or make a USB bootable drive. I downloaded the ISO to start assuming I could then convert the ISO to a USB drive but that failed and would not let me boot to it. So I went ahead and allowed the tool to download the USB image. Once I had the USB image I had two choices, I could use the USB to upgrade my machine in which case the licensing is taken care of. Microsoft are giving away the Win 10 upgrade for now. The second choice is to boot off the USB drive and do a clean install. The clean install can then be used to create a dual boot with your existing Win 8. All you need is a partition large enough to hold win 10. I did this at first expecting windows to pick up the hardware key from Win 8. It didn’t. It asked for a key at install time (which I just said skip) and then kept wanting to activate. I probably should have tried to manually activate but I didn’t so at this point I don’t know if it eventually would have needed a new key or what. I checked my tablet and box and there was no key for Win 8 anywhere so eventually if I didn’t solve this I would to shell out for a Win 8 license. After about a day of looking for show stoppers I was impressed enough to go ahead and give up on dual boot and go ahead and upgrade Win 8. On my second tablet I just went ahead and did the upgrade. On my 32G Asus Vivotab Note 8 which start with 9G free using the USB Win 10 I was able to upgrade it in a little over an hour. After which there was 4G free :(

Microsoft have been IMHO slow to embrace tablets. Win 8 really was limited in how well it handled tablets, ie touch only devices (no keyboard/mouse). To remedy this issue Microsoft have introduced a new “Tablet Mode”. Tablet mode has been only half assed implemented in my humble opinion. Even on a tablet you find yourself needing to switch out of tablet mode frequently. And while it is quick to go in and out of tablet mode, it isn’t instantaneous (but I would admit to nitpicking on that). Start up any kind of an install of a normal windows application and you find yourself wondering where the install box went to. Well slip out of tablet mode and low and behold there is the install box waiting for you to press next. Microsoft have also been really dumb in that they have not given you a Metro file explorer. I only recently discovered you can pin to start My Computer (or any other drive short cut) allowing you to from a Metro tiled interface to have access to file explorer. Why this isn’t a default setup is beyond me. In tablet mode and using Edge (Microsoft’s new web browser) and low and behold you finally have an on screen keyboard that predicts what your typing. Slide out of tablet mode and levoila the prediction is gone. Maddening. In tablet mode there no longer is a shortcut to the desktop, meaning the only way to get back to the desktop is to turn tablet mode off (yet again).

Microsoft STILL has not included a tile to show the battery life on your device. You can see a small battery guage down in the tray but that is so small as to be virtually useless.

If you have a desktop, or a convertible with the keyboard attached you won’t be spending a whole lot of time in tablet mode. It just isn’t useful. And the on screen keyboard still pops up when a physical keyboard (or bluetooth keyboard) is attached. Fortunately it goes away quickly once you start typing.

The Metro interface is still full screen and prominent in tablet mode, but sufficiently depreciated in desktop mode. The interface is a little different now in that the apps are listed up and down instead of side to side.

In desktop mode low and behold there is the old start menu. And the Metro apps and tiles now show up on the start menu just like any other app. The gestures we learned in Win 8 from either side of the screen now do different things, so time to learn again and only work in tablet mode. And the start menu is rather small and not finger friendly (and I have small fingers) in tablet mode.

There now is a back button similar to Android and it works nicely.

The one thing that is most irritating with Win 10 is how differently it behave in Tablet mode from desktop mode. You get use to one and have to remember which mode you are in to remember which way to do something.

Some of the menu selection items in desktop mode have been nicely increased in size to make them more finger friendly, a good start.

After the install was complete I had to uninstall a bunch of apps Microsoft decided I needed. Bloatware. This is irritating …

The new Calendar, People and mail apps now fully support Google. Yay!

I had almost no issues with the new Edge browser Microsoft has included. I had a problem with cellartracker which worked perfect in Internet explorer on Win 8 but did not see the Dymo label printer plug in. Fortunately Internet explorer is actually still in Windows 10, although it is hidden. From within edge you can select settings and open with Internet explorer. Not sure why Microsoft have hidden internet explorer. I do find edge noticeably slower than chrome.

All in all most of the compatibility issues I encountered on the preview are gone. Older Metro apps for the most part work fine. I had issues with a few (Amazon Kindle and 7 Little words) not properly adjusting to full screen in tablet mode. Taking it out of tablet mode seemed to resolve the issue.

Win 10 is a good step forward. Microsoft still have a ton of work to do before a Windows tablet is less clumsy, but I have to say, all in all this is a good start. If you haven’t upgraded yet, I’m not sure I see a reason not to. But if I were you I would make sure I have created a USB recovery key so at least you can get back to Win 8 if you need to.

Update (8/19/2015): On my Asus VivoTab Note 8 Windows 10 has been a disaster. The pen stopped working, required numerous reboots to get working, OneNote 2013 wouldn’t let me bring up the on screen keyboard when in full screen mode, numerous crashes etc. And to top it off it seems Microsoft didn’t think about palm detection and the task bar kept getting selected when I started to write. So back to Win 8 I went. It was a painless downgrade. Microsoft did (smartly) ask question as to why I was going back.

My Asus Transformer T100 however is working quite well on Win 10.

August 16, 2015 Posted by | Windows tablets | Leave a comment

The new Google Fit

Back in December I reviewed Google Fit and was utterly amazed how lacking the app was. Fast forward 8 months the app is at Version 1.52.44 and it has come a long way. The app now includes an estimation of active time, distance walked, calories burned and steps taken (for the pedometer). It does a reasonable job of tracking cycling too although there is no way to add a heart rate monitor (or any other sensor for that matter) to your activity. There is also no way to manually start/stop an activity. Theres still is no measure of stairs climbed but other than that Google have really brought fit up to par. Google have also not added the ability to periodically take your heart rate from the Android wear smartwatch. Add in an an app like Cinch and you can overcome that limitation. Google have included a portal to allow you to view all your data online rather than stare at a phone. A nice touch. If you don’t have an Android wear device (or it is disconnected) Fit will use your phone’s accelerometer to calculate steps. And since all this data is in the cloud changing devices does not mean loosing all the data that you’ve accumulated (as it does with Samsung S.Health).

Accuracy on Fit calories or steps is an expectation thing. If you expect it to be better than +/- 15% I think you will likely be disappointed. I’ve seen pedometer numbers all over the map. And calculating calories is somewhere between a fine act of fiction, magic and science. What’s more important IMHO is not necessarily the number (calories or steps or whatever) what is important is the trend. Are you doing more or less activities?

A number of fitness tracking apps including two of my favorites RunGPS and Endomondo both can automatically sync back to Google Fit. Both have to be manually setup in the app to enable this feature. Both seem to have quietly added it without much fanfare or notice. When the activities comes over Fit keeps all of the data, (heart rate calories, distance etc) that the app has. The data shows where it came from. And Fit itself does not double count for runs/cycling which it could have easily done had they not thought of that.
Setting up Google Fit in RunGPS/Endomondo
You can also add manual activities on the portal. The benefit of this feature is you can get a complete picture of your exercise all in one place. This was always elusive in the past. It’s definitely a nice to have!

There is no way to manually import activities from other sources. Also missing is an ability to manually export ANY of the data.

From the app or the portal you can manually log your weight. I am not sure if there is a way to get a wireless scale to work with fit, I haven’t played with that.

I was playing with a sleep tracking app Sleep for Android and it has integration with Google Fit, although I can’t for the life of me see where that data goes. It’s no where in the app or the portal.

Also missing is an ability to enter your food eaten or liquids consumed.

You can see graphs of the various items like calories, steps etc, but it would be nice to be able to see daily/weekly/monthly summaries. The orange colored line by the way is inactive calories. I am not sure how they calculate that. If it’s basal calories then I have no idea why it’s not constant. It almost seems like Fit only calculates inactive calories when you are indeed inactive. I am not sure what Fit is using as a basal calorie count. Some apps are smart and tell you straight off what your basal calorie count is.

So all in all Fit has moved WAY forward. There are still LOTS of places Google needs to improve just to catch up, let alone innovate. A number of these programs are data rich information poor. Add some intelligence to the data, interpret it for me, and tell me something, anything, that I can use to help me make sense of the data and guide me to a healthier life style and your providing value add. I look forward to seeing Google continue to advance this now useful tool!

August 11, 2015 Posted by | Android, Android Wear (Smartwatch) | Leave a comment

Moto 360 review

I’ve owned a number of smart watches at this point. Two Sony and three Samsungs. Most recently the Samsung Gear Live. I’ve been interested in the Moto 360 for a while now. The LG-R is an interesting product (one of my colleagues bought one) but the price is more than I am willing to pay. The Moto 360 is starting to really come down in price (likely getting ready for the next gen of it to come out), so much so I decided to give it a go. One of the things I really don’t like about the Gear live is the annoying band. I actually bought a metal band for it only to figure out it was too long. I tried a leather band and it too was too long. The combination of my small wrist and large watch means it’s challenging to find a replacement band.

To start off with, it’s best to set expectations. What do I like and expect from a smartwatch? First and foremost it is a standalone watch, alarm, and chronometer (timer, stop watch). Second of all it is a way to get secondary notifications from your watch. Buzzing with a call is coming in, a message etc. To make this effective it is important to minimize unnecessary notifications. A well designed app allows you within the app to turn off notifications. Sadly not all apps do that. Happily Google gave you the ability to strip an aps ability to use notifications at all. You go settings, applications, find the app and click off allow notifications. I also turned out Google now cards which are an absolute plague on Android Wear watches. So much useless info. And the third use for a smartwatch is to act as a secondary display to an app running on the phone. The watch is a companion to your phone with some stand alone functionality. IMHO.

I bought a Moto with the metal band and silver so it looks more like a real watch. The band has an odd sequence of two clips (one from each side) to do up. It’s a touch clumsy but if does work. I have to say the metal band is a HUGE improvement over the Gear Live. Even with my small wrist there still is more room to adjust the band. Motorola really left lots of room for adjustment in the design of this band.

The charge cradle on the Gear live connects to the watch with a plastic nib that mates with a plastic hole on the watch. It is susceptible to wear and cracking. Mine broke on the cradle and wore on the watch. Fortunately I had a spare cradle, but the watch cracking is going to get serious enough as to render the watch unusable and also make it hard to resell.

The moto cradle is much smarter in that it uses wireless induction charging. It takes just under 2 hours to charge from dead.
The cradle has a light on it to show it is plugged in and a notch to make sure the watch is in the right place but no indicator to show it actually is charging. I would have liked the light to change color when it’s charging. Motorola built in a bed side clock into the watch when it’s charging. Some people don’t like this. To turn the screen off you can manually tap the button on the watch twice and the watch enters theater mode, but that is a manual thing. There is an app called Slumber which does this automatically for you. The wireless charging is Qi so if you already have a Qi wireless charge pad you should be able to use it on the 360. I tried a Samsung one I have for my S5 and it worked fine. I bought a knock off backup cradle from ebay and interestingly enough they were smarter than Motorola. The light only turns on once the watch starts charging. Much smarter.

Display 1.56 inches 320 x 290 Vs 1.63″ Super AMOLED (320 x 320) for the Gear live
205 pixels per inch Vs 278 for the Gear live
Battery 320mAh Vs 300mAh for the Gear live
Projected battery life of 1 day Vs 1.5 for the Gear live, more below
11.5mm thick Vs 8.9 for the Gear live, and the metal band adds more

The thickness of the watch is quite noticeable and is quite square (on the edges) compared with a normal watch. It is susceptible to caching on sleeves.

With the Gear Live set to always on it would get around 16 hours of battery life. enough for a day. Turning off always on extended the battery life on the Gear live dramatically, like 30-36 hours. The moto does not have an always on mode, it has what it calls ambient screen mode, which has is similar (and different) always on mode (more like almost always, it eventually completely dims). It simply extends the screen on time. With ambient screen mode off on day one the battery was at 44% after 12 hours with a projected battery life of 22 hours.So in spite of having a similar battery size the battery is definitely worse than the Samsung Gear live. With Ambient screen on the battery was down to 14% after 12 hours and was completely dead in 14 hours. Battery life is one of those things everyone has to be concerned about. You have to have enough (IMHO) to last a min of a day. For most people that is 16-18 hours. Having more than that is great but if it ends up only being a day and half how useful is that. So for me 14 hours means this is not a function (ambient screen on) I can use everyday. For me, the Moto 360 is just barely good enough for the day. So one has to be careful what uses you are making of the watch that might end up with you without a watch before the end of the day :(

The Moto 360 does not have a full 360 degree screen. The bottom of the screen is cut off. It’s often referred to as the flat tire. For some people this is irritating. For me I knew about it and accepted it. How noticeable it is depends on the color of the watch face. If your watch face is black it is way less noticeable.

The reason for the flat spot is that is where the ambient light sensor is. On the Samsung it was so bad in bright sunshine that anytime I was going to be outside, I simply left the Gear Live at home. The Moto on the other hand is able to adjust and compensate automatically making it possible to use it outdoors. This is a HUGE step forward for me. As a snowboarder and mountain biker I spend a reasonable amount of time outdoors, so I am happy for this feature and if it is the justification for the flat tire, it’s well worth the trade off. You still need to be careful with the watch face you choose, some colors, specifically darker ones are still hard to read in bright sunlight, but still, it’s like a night and day difference in readability in the outdoors.

One of the reasons whey I used always on with the Gear Live was the wrist detection on it was not great. The screen would turn on at times when I didn’t want it to, and not when I did. It wasn’t to the point of maddening but it was frustrating sometimes. The moto works a little different. You can sit there and shake and twist your wrist like an idiot (an action that would often wake the Sammy) but on the moto it looks for the distinct action of twist and then stop to turn the screen on. So shake all you want and it ain’t coming on. It was a bit frustrating at first until I got use to it.

The whole square Vs round debate for watches is an interesting one. Most text based information like notifications etc suit a square face better. But getting good looking analog style watch faces on square was a challenge. Round actually suits the watch faces much better. And being a watch is what this primarily for so round as it turns out, for me, is a better choice. I was surprised how much so for me. The larger round screen also meant I was able to turn the font size down on watch faces and still be able to read it. So all in all I like round, even more so than square. I’ve seen no down side to round over square and lots of upside. As an interesting note, Facereop (a repository of watch faces) has 107 pages of square watch faces and a whopping 471 pages for round. I guess that kinda says a lot about round Vs square. One of the things I really like about the Moto is the screen goes pretty much to the edge of the device instead of having a dead bezel around the outside. It’s one of the things that makes the watch faces look so good IMHO.

Given that I still have the Gear Live I was interested to see how Android and other watch apps dealt with having more than one watch at a time. It actually works fine. Android wear attempts to connect to both watches and the apps loaded on the watch end up being the same ones for both watches. My watch face editor (WatchMaker) had to be manually changed over to the watch type. This particular app did not deal with multiple watch types well, blending watch faces from both devices into the same stream. Other than that it worked fine, surprisingly so actually.

The pedometer on Android wear has been a bit on the odd side. The watch itself provides an acelerometer that can be queried and interpreted but there is not one place to go get the simple question of how many steps have I done. This means Google Fit, Moto Body (Motorolas health and fitness watch app) and any other app on the watch all can interpret the results differently. Why this wasn’t created as a generic API by Google is beyond me. So on full day one for example:
10,767 steps, 10.47 km, 581 kcals – Samsung S.Health on the phone
11,099 steps, 4.57 km, 1344 cals – Google Fit on the watch
8433 step, 5.44km – Moto Body on the watch.

Moto Body is odd. You can entirely control what it does on the watch (turn heart rate on/off, set units etc). There is no app on the phone to see the data (pedometer/heart rate). There is no web based portal to see the data. Moto body does not seem to interact with Google fit (thus the difference in steps). It does however send you a weekly summary (a digest) of your activity. All in all I have to say I am not sure I see the point in Moto Body (and thus Moto connect). Moto connect does however have a neat feature to allow you to see the last location of your watch should you happen to loose it. Neat feature.

A while back I did a post on the Samsung Gear Live’s heart rate monitor so I was interested to see how bad the Moto 360’s was. So I did a little 20 minute walk and compared to my Scosche Rhymth+ heart rate monitor. I used RunGPS to capture the heart rate off the Moto. One of the first things I noticed its that the heart rate seems to only get a lock periodically. Much less frequently than on the Gear live. The Scosche saw an AVG heart rate of 110, min 66 max 132. The Moto saw AVG 78 Min 50 Max 91. So as bad as the Gear live was the moto is even worse. To call the heart rate monitor a random act of fiction is not far off.

August 4, 2015 Posted by | Android, Android Wear (Smartwatch) | Leave a comment

Cell phone wireless charging

Recently cell phones have been adding wireless charging as an option on top of the usual micro USB charging. It is a convenience. It consists of a wireless charging dock and a receiver on the phone end. You plug in a normal 2A micro USB charger into the dock and it creates a magnetic field that in turn imparts the current into the phone. Now to say it is inefficient is an understatement. A 2A micro USB charger imparts a mere 0.8A into the phone. The highest I have seen is 1A. This means this is by no means a quick charge .

As with any new technology there are two competing standards. One called Qi and one called PMA. Phones like the Samsung S6 has added both just to be compatible. My Samsung S5 came with neither but I discovered a Samsung option that you can purchase to replace the back and add a Qi wireless charging receiver. Why Samsung didn’t just add it to the S5 is beyond me. So I went onto Amazon and ebay and started to do some research. I found an inexpensive kit that you can add the wireless receiver yourself to the S5. It fits between the phones back and cover. I bought the kit for a whopping $10.

The coil connects to two small pins on the inide of the cover:

The kit did not include any form of tape or adhesion to keep the coil in place inside the phone. The connector is a round ball so to say it doesn’t want to stay in place would be an understatement (yet another one:) ). Using electrical tape I was able to get it in place and the back of the phone holds it all in place. If you really want to use this option I recommend buying a back cover with the coil integrated into it. To avoid the irritation of having to try and get this in place. And the way I had to tape it in place removes the possibility of carrying a spare battery, one of the reasons I chose the S5 (over the S6) in the first place.

This charge base has two lights on it, one to indicate the micro USB charger is connected and one to say it sees the coil in the phone. If the phone doesn’t start charging it indicates there is an issue with the connection to the phone from the coil. This actually reveals an issue with the solution. First of all you have three lights on (two on the dock and likely one on the phone). And since the coil is on the back of the phone the phone has to be turned screen side up. So in the event that the phone wakes up for some reason you have a bright light from the screen lighting up the room you maybe trying to sleep in. You should also be aware it is a pretty strong magnetic field so keep badges, credit cards and the like away from the charger to avoid them being wiped out. The positioning with this charging dock is finicky. If you don’t get it right it won’t charge. Knock it during the night and it might move. This dock did not include any form of non-slip surface so even a vibration from a notification could move the phone off the magic spot. All in all while a neat idea some futzing is involved. My solution to the bright lights was to make a flap out of electrical tape that covers the lights when you don’t want to see them but you can lift when you do. In doing more digging I discovered some much better designs that solve these issues including multi coil charging docks that may make it far less finicky to get the phone in exactly the right spot. Like this one (of course more expensive):

I had some issues with chargers and this dock. I tried 5 different chargers and only one worked correctly (my black berry quick travel charger). The others would start charging then stop, then start … And this caused the screen to come on and off as it cycled and sadly woke me up in the middle of the night with this silly thing flashing until I realized the issue was with the charger itself. A compatibility issue of some sort.

To give you an idea of how slow on my S5 the charge went from 22%-90% in 1 hr and 5 mins on the stock charger. To do roughly the same took 2 hr 40 mins using wireless, so more than double. Here is a graph comparing the charge rate:

I’m surprised the dock does not have some physical bar you can slide up to indicate when your phone ought to be sitting. Now maybe it’s just this dock but I am underwhelmed by just how sensitive to EXACT positioning of the phone the dock is.

So I did some more digging and discovered the Source was carrying an Sview cover with the charging coil built in. I was planning on buying an Sview cover anyway and this kit included the cover, as well as the charge pad. Now it wasn’t cheap at $69, but that said the Source was the ONLY place carrying it this cheap. So I bought it.


The charge pad on this one has only one LED and it is multi color. The LED is more conveniently located on the side of the dock so it’s not so bright. Again I had issues with chargers. Oddly the Samsung wouldn’t work. My blackberry travel charger again worked. And again it woke me in the middle of the night flashing when the charging stopped due to an incompatible charger. Fortunately unlike the el cheapo once it had an issue it stayed off so at least the phone wasn’t going on and off. But of course it also meant that the phone didn’t charge either. The Samsung charge pad again did not include a non-slip surface and it too was a little finicky in placement of the phone on the pad.

So in the end on a phone like the S5 where you have screw around with the silly charge cover wireless charging is handy, and neat tech. I wouldn’t pay a whole lot for it, but it is a cool add. For charging through the night where you don’t care how long it takes it’s a good choice. I can also see having it on a car phone holder would also be super convenient.

July 10, 2015 Posted by | Android | Leave a comment

Samsung S5 review

My last device was a Samsung Note 3. I like the pen but since I have pen enabled tablets (Samsung Note 8(Android) and the Asus Vivotab Note 8 (Windows)) I didn’t find I used it enough to justify the inconvenience of carrying such a large phone. A colleague made in interesting comment, he said it isn’t big enough to be a tablet, but it is too big to be a phone. An interesting thought. In the winter the size was less of an issue because I had jackets with big pockets, but now the summer is here and the size of the Note 3 is irritating me. Especially when mountain biking. My device before the Note 3 was a Samsung S4. At the time there was not enough new in the S5 to entice me. Now I am motivated to look again. I looked at the S6 but ruled it out for a number of reasons 1) nano Sim (vs a Micro) 2) non-removable battery 3) no micro SD slot.

The exact model I have is a Samsung SM-G900W8 running Android 5.0

So onto the S5. It really is nothing more than a freshened S4. Samsung have been quietly bringing minor improvements to their product line. Nothing revolutionary. This is in part IMHO due to the quick turn around time between models. Samsung have been moving pretty fast. Physically speaking the S5 like the S4, S3, S2 before them are plastic devices with a big screen and small bezel. There’s faux chrome around the outside of the device but as usual the device is scratch and ding magnet. Samsung have happily gone to an easily gripped dimpled back rather than the uber slippery backs of so many previous devices. Some folks criticize it and even make fun of it, but I like it. There’s the usual assortment of buttons and a microUSB 3 port (compatible with older microUSB 2 so you can use your old chargers) for charging, USB OTG and MHL.
Galaxy S5 Black_comp

72.5 x 142 x 8.1 millimetres (S5) Vs
69.8 x 136.6 x 7.9 millimetres (S4) Vs
79.2 x 151.2 x 8.3 millimetres (Note 3)

145 g (S5) 130 g (S4) and 168 g (Note 3) Oddly it’s heavier than the S4

Processor Quad Core 2457 MHz Vs 1890 MHz (S4) and 2265 MHz (Note 3)
All three are 1920 x 1080 but the S5 is 5.1″, S4 5″ and Note 3 5.7″ so the PPI is better on the S5

Battery is 2800 mAH Vs 2600 on the S4 and 3200 on the Note 3.

Like the S4 and Note 3 the S5 supports Ant+ (for Heart rate monitors etc) as well as BT 4.

So all in all the specs bear it out as an improved S4, on par with the Note 3.

HDMI output
As usual Samsung have half implemented HDMI output. The home screen does not rotate and depending on how many buttons you have along the bottom of your home screen the apps button which is pretty key to using it is off the screen. And as usual the back, home buttons are on the device rather than on the screen further complicating much use of HDMI. That said, it does work.

As usual Samsung support FAT32 and eXFat formatted microSD cards, but not NTFS.

The device is suppose to be waterproof. To enable this there is a rubber seal inside the plastic back. I kept getting messages about it every time it rebooted. No idea if this is an issue or not. Reading around getting at reboot isn’t so much an issue as long as you don’t get it when running. It does however mean you will need to insure you buy only Samsung OEM covers or this message is going to plague you.
There is also a flap and seal on the bottom where the microUSB 3 port is. I wonder how long that will last before it breaks off. And it keeps reminding you every time you unplug the phone to put that door back …
I’m not sure I’m ready to go swimming with the phone to test it out, but on the off chance I got caught in the rain it’s a minor comfort.

I did find a posts on how to disable this message, but they do require root. All in all I think this has been particularly poorly implemented. This nag ought to have a NEVER EVER TELL ME AGAIN click box :)

The device has the contacts to support Qi wireless charging and you can buy an optional wireless charging back on Amazon (it’s an official Samsung) if that’s something that your interested in. I looked at the option, it cost about $50 for both the back and charge pad. Wireless charging takes a 2A adapter and outputs about 1A into the phone. So it will not be a quick charge. More on this in a future post.

Like a number of current phones the options button has been replaced with a task switching button. Push and hold it and you get the options button back. Something you have to get use to.

Samsung offer a product called Samsung Switch to make it easier to move between phones. I used it this time and for the future … don’t bother. It copies minor amounts of your stuff (music, pictures, video etc) but for whatever reason didn’t take care of setting up all my accounts. Even the Samsung account didn’t get carried over.

As in the past there is USB tethering, WIFI hotspot but still no bluetooth tethering. I am sad to see that go. It works so well on Blackberry and is so much more power thrifty.

On the back of the phone is the camera and a heart rate sensor. Don’t get too excited about the heart rate it is for when your sitting still. No idea why they bothered. The camera is oddly raised from the rest of the back of the phone leaving the phone always resting on it. A stupid design that is also on the S6.

Samsung’s S.Health has been freshened, but still does not support the Samsung Gear Live Android wear watch. I honestly preferred the UI of S.Health on the S4 and Note 3. This one seems less fluffy :(

Samsung make some noise about how quickly the S5 charges so I decided to try it out. From what I have read it takes a special charger, the right cable and a phone to make use of the new Qualcom Quick Charge. The S4 took around 3.3 hours to charge from full.

With the factory charger/cable that came with the S5 the phone went from 22 to 91% in a mere 1 hr 5mins, and then another 25 mins to complete the charge. That would project a full charge in 1.6 hours. Quite an improvement. Interestingly the charger is still only a 2A charger.

I tried a number of other 2A chargers including one that came from Blackberry, one that came with an old tablet of mine and one that came with the Note 3. In all cases the result was the same. The charge rises quickly up to 90% and then slowly tops up the remainder. So a lot faster than the S4 and a noticeable improvement. And it seems to not make any difference at all the cable charger as long as it can put out the required 2A. The magic is in the phone. So no need to buy new car/home chargers to take advantage of this quick charge (If you already have a 2A charger)! The cable however does make a difference. It takes the new USB 3 cable to make it happen.


Samsung have included a new driving mode. The idea is good, but as is common with Samsung it is poorly executed. The app can be configured to automatically start with a bluetooth connection. Once started you can use a limited number of voice commands to do stuff hands free. But oddly it keeps the screen on even when on battery preventing the screen from sleeping, killing your battery. And while it connects automatically it does not disconnect so you are left having to remember to turn it off (and thus re-dim the screen). And to round out the misses Samsung do not allow you to turn the mode on when using a wired headset. You know, like cycling? Using drive mode is clumsy at best. I didn’t find the read message worked at all, but the announcing of the message or call did. And sadly, Samsung replaced their older handsfree mode with this new feature so all in all it is a net step backwards. So I turned this one off.

The My Files app has been upgraded to include FTP support, sadly no SFTP. None the less it’s nice to have the new feature.

Overall I found if there was a bug that existed on the S4 (or the Note 3) it is likely still there in the S5. Take for example the music player. I use mine in shuffle mode all the time. And randomly it goes off of shuffle mode. Next thing I know I am listening to songs who alphabetically follow each other. Irritating.

Radios in the S5 seem pretty much the same as the S4. If there is somewhere I got crappy reception with the S4, it’s crappy on the S5. Speaking of radios the S5 (like the S4) has a complete complement of radios including WIFI 2.5 and 5GHZ, bluetooth 4, and Ant+. I have a number of Ant+ sensors such as a heart rate monitor and bike cadence/wheel sensor so I like this functionality.

I had an S-View case for my Note 4 and liked it. It protects the phone from drops, protects the screen in the pocket, turns on when opened and displays a small window of notifications when closed. I looked into one for the S5 and first of all discovered I had (unknowingly) bought a knock off from Amazon for half price in spite of it being listed as a Samsung. It didn’t show the small display in the window and was never recognized by the phone as an Sview case. Anything that is too good to be true probably is. Second I discovered the case connects to the phone with two pins. These same pins (well one of them anyway) is the same one used for wireless charging. Which means you can not use a wireless aftermarket kit with the Sview case. It’s one or the other. Now Samsung do carry an S-View case with wireless built in so you get both. It’s pricey though at $69. Wow.

Update 7/22 battery life:
I did some runs on standby battery life. I left the phone alone and measured power consumption. In the past WIFI/Edge connected were the lowest power consumption by far with LTE being one of the worst. So I started with WIFI and got 1.9% per hour or a projected battery life of 52.9 hours. On LTE I got a shockingly similar 2%/hr or a projected battery life of 49.6 hours. This is the first time I have ever seen this. They clearly have HEAVILY optimized standby power consumption. Wow. Now active power consumption can still kill a battery in short order, especially with fast processors and a bright vivid screen like this. Turning on the WIFI hotspot jumps power consumption through the roof (as usual) up to a whopping 12% per hour or a projected battery life of a measly 8.3 hours. This is why I seriously wish Samsung would put back bluetooth tethering.

So all in all the S5 is a moderately improved S4. The Quick Charge and LTE standby power consumption are HUGE steps forward. The quick charge can go a long way to relieving the angst that comes from allowing your battery to get low through the day by being able to charge it back up quickly. And since this even works with external battery packs is handy when travelling.

July 3, 2015 Posted by | Android | Leave a comment

Guleek Windows 8 set top box

I was looking for another media player and stumbled upon this one. My tablets (Asus T100 and Asus Vivotab) have shown me that Kodi plays very well on the current generation of quad core Atom boxes. So I thought I would give it a whirl. I bought mine from Deal Extreme for $128. It took almost 6 weeks to arrive due to some shipping snafus.

Physically this device is super small and can fit almost anywhere. 15.1 cm x 8.2 cm x 1.1 cm.

The device specs are pretty decent:
CPU Atom Z3735F 1333MHz~1830MHz
2G of memory and 16G of SSD
Port wise there are two USB 2 ports (I confirmed they are only USB 2 saldy), 1 micro HDMI port, 1 micro USB port, micro SD slot
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n (2.5GHZ, no 5GHZ), bluetooth 4.0
And oddly a battery?

Note there is no wired ethernet connect. A shame I prefer it. More reliable, less lag etc.

In the box is the device itself which looks sleek, a micro HDMI cable, and a micro USB charger. I was impressed that they included the HDMI cable.

When you first plug it in you discover the first oddity. There are no lights on the front of the device? There is one on the back along with an uber small power button. Push the power button and eventually there’s something on the HDMI output. Be patient. The lack of lights gives no indication that something is happening.

Once past this little hurtle and since patience is my strong suit we are up and running.

On initial power up of the 16G SSD there is 4.27G free of 10.6G. Wow. Super tight on space. After downloading 490m and installing the 92 updates Windows needed there was a whopping 600M free. I discovered Windows by default enables hibernation. Hibernation reserves a file the same amount as the memory to do a dump to enter hibernation. So in this case 2G. That’s 20% of the HD. Well hibernation is not really needed on a media player (or tablet for that matter) with their low power connected standby mode. So you can disable hibernation. To see the size of the hibernation file:
dir c:\ /ah (that says attribute hidden)
You will see a file called hiberfil.sys.
To turn off hibernation simply enter this command.
powercfg -h off
What hibernation does is dump memory to the hard drive and turn off the system. It’s the lowest power saving mode and can be maintained indefinitely since it consumes no power. On next boot it sees it was in hibernate, restores from the hard drive and picks up exactly where it left off. The risk in disabling hibernate is you could loose whatever you might have been working on if the battery dies.

The SSD is reasonably quick clocking in at 23MB/s write and 73MB/s read. Since the USB is only USB 2 this means using USB to add drives is limited to the interface speed roughly 28MB/s is what I got out of it. I also had issues with the USB not being able to provide enough power even for a 2.5″ external USB hard drive. A powered USB drive worked fine.

Power settings have the device going to sleep on AC, but you quickly run into the next little challenge. It does not wake up from USB, so you will need to get off your butt and find that teenie tiny power switch inconveniently located on the back of the device to wake it up.

Overall Kodi installed easily and runs smoothly with playback working well even over WIFI. Since this is a media player for me I created a local account with no password and Windows logs into that automatically. I also added Kodi to the startup menu. I use a media center remote and it works fine on the device, although it does consume one of the only 2 USB ports. But you can always add a hub. As is always the case with Windows/Kodi/Media center remote the letters don’t work, nor do the equivalent of right mouse button functions like episode information, movie information and the like. So while you can get away with no keyboard, a mouse is pretty much a necessity. You can use a bluetooth mouse to save your USB ports if you like.

Now if your feeling inventive look over to a tool called Advanced MCE remote mapper . Using this tool you can bridge the gap and solve the missing implemented functions of using a Windows media center remote with Kodi. For example you can map ctrl-d to whatever you want and be able to get movie and episode information. Or remap C and get options like manage info etc. Or remap the delete key to allow you to delete episodes. The complete list of keys for Kodi can help you find the keys to remap. What this app does is set in the registry what a key on the MCE remote does. Once run it only needs to be re-run when you want to change the settings.

The BIOS is EFI so it means you are limited in terms of what operating systems (other than Windows) you could load onto the device. So using it for Ubuntu/Kodi for example isn’t happening.

All in all it is a good device. I like it and it will fit the bill! It isn’t going to replace UbuntuKodi or a FireTV as my fav device to date but it works well.

June 30, 2015 Posted by | Mutlimedia, Windows tablets | Leave a comment

Dymo Labelwriter 450

As some of you know I have a Wineblog as well as this tech blog. I have a small collection of wines and use to hand write up labels to put on the bottles to make them easier to find. I recently moved my database of the wines I have from a home grown solution that I wrote in Microsoft Access and ASPs over to CellarTracker and discovered CellarTracker has support for the Dymo Label printer to make nice neat, one size labels. Perfect for the anally retentive organization freak I am. So I went on ebay and bought a used one. And thus the framing for this review.

The printer came with 1 1/8 x 3 1/2 inch labels which is perfect for labelling the end of the wine bottles. So on with setup. I decided I wanted the ability to have the label printer connected to my print server (a Windows 8 VM) so that I could print from any machine on my network. So I started off by downloading the latest and greatest Dymo software. The CD that came with it was very old and out of date. I learned the lesson when I had my NAS to download the latest rather than use the CD that comes with these things as they are always stale. I plugged in the printer and got nada. Windows did not see it as a printer, had no drivers for it and basically ignored it. I installed the Dymo software and levoila, bam the printer was properly seen. I then added it to my Windows home group so it could be shared. On my Windows tablet I also installed the Dymo software and was quickly able to then use the shared printer. CellarTracker noticed the shared printer right off the bat and it just worked (well minus some issues with CellarTracker I worked through). Next thing I know I am printing labels!

The Dymo software allows you to make up your own labels, like address and return address labels you can use for envelopes and shipping. All in all once setup it just works! The printer is thermal in nature so you never need to worry about ink or toner cartridges. The labels are readily available and reasonably cheap.

So that’s about it! A great label printer for a reasonable price! Another OCD itch scratched :) (Obsessive compulsive disorder). I know not something to joke about … Moving on …

$_12 (1)

June 27, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment


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