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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.
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The coil connects to two small pins on the inide of the cover:
wireless-charging-card-for-samsung-galaxy-s5

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):
51WiGIeRF7L._SL1000_

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:
wireless-charging

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.

8034985l

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

Physicals
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

Specs
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.
Screenshot_2015-06-10-16-49-15
Screenshot_2015-06-10-16-49-27

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.
Screenshot_2015-06-11-05-43-15
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 …
samsung-galaxy-s5-6
20140223_165620_1-580-90
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.
001SamsungGalaxyS5_35833441_MWC2014_GS5scanner

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 or 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!

s5-charger

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.
8034985l

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.
guleek-2

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?
guleek-back

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

Roku Stick review mini review

Recently Amazon had a sale on these devices so I grabbed one, curious to see how far the product category has come. I have played with a few in the past, including a generic Android on a stick, a generic miracast adapter, a Roku 2 player, Microsoft wireless display adapater and Amazon Fire TV etc. I generally use Kodi (formerly) XBMC as the center of my multimedia content (music, movies and pictures). Right off the bat the Roku does not support Kodi (which I knew). Roku has what they call channels. One such channel you can add is Plex. Plex requires a Plex server that is what serves up and index all your content (music and movies). You can any number of Plex clients and they all see the same content and it is the server that remembers what has been watched. If the server is logged into your Plex account you can even access your content remotely, obviously limited by the ability for your home internet connection to keep up. There are Plex clients for Android (free), Windows (Free), Kindle Fire TV ($6.08 one time) and others.

Ok, let’s get started with the stick. in the box was the Stick itself, a nice long micro USB cable, a compact USB charger, and a remote control (apparently WIFI).
Roku_Streaming_Stick-20
The remote itself has basic keys and feels just fine in the hand. There is no pigtail for the HDMI port so if the Roku doesn’t fit in your TV your shit out of luck. If your TV has a USB plug (and it provides enough current) you can ignore the USB charger and plug it directly into the TV.
roku-stick-out (1)
The Roku has dual band WIFI and worked fine with my 5G WIFI (although I have no idea what speed it connected at). Here are the overall specs (from Wikipedia):
HDMI (3500) 720/1080, WIFI a/b/g/n dual-band, Processor BCM2835 600 MHz.
For whatever reason the Roku defaulted to 720p in spite of being plugged into a 1080p monitor, but that was easy enough to change.
That BCM2835 processor is what I played with in the Roku 2 over 3 years ago, and is much slower than the BCM11130 900 MHz that comes in the Roku 3.

Once the Plex channel (discussed above) is loaded onto the Roku and your plex server is setup the Roku stick plays smoothly and is a more than adequate Plex client. Frankly this isn’t what I bought the Roku for. If it was I think I would be reasonably happy. I actually still prefer Kodi thats a personal choice.

Roku added the ability to be a miracast adapter, which is what caused me to buy this, at this price it would be a bargain. Once turned on miracast just sits waiting for clients in the background. My Windows tablets (Vivotab Note, Asus T100 transformer) as well as my Android devices (Samsung Note 3 and Note 8) found, connected and saw the Roku as being capable of mirroring. I was getting excited, but my hopes were quickly dashed. In all cases when you scrolled down on say a web browser there was a ton of digital corruption. If there was much happening on the screen it was unusable. For me it was useless. The device just does not have the horsepower to implement this feature (Miracast). Interestingly a colleague has a Roku 3 and he says it works flawlessly (one of the reasons I took a chance on this device). Back it goes :(

June 25, 2015 Posted by | Android, Mutlimedia, Other reviews, Windows tablets | Leave a comment

Android Wear 5.1.1 mini review

Recently Android Wear for my Samsung Live got updated to 5.1.1. There are some welcome improvements in the release. It’s funny when I went from my Samsung Gear 2 neo to my Samsung Gear Live (going from a Samsung only release to Android Wear) I took a bunch of steps backwards in usability and features. Slowly Google are fixing Android wear, and it’s been welcome. Google Fit which is integral to Android wear for fitness data also got a freshening a while back and now includes Calorie count and distance on top of steps and amount of active time. Now no one is saying the calorie count (or distance) is accurate but that is another topic altogether :) At least it’s a start. Still missing from Fit is continuous or regular heart rate data. Fortunately apps like Cinch and Heart rate OS fill this somewhat obvious gap.

The recent Android wear release includes improvements in usability including a three wide menuing system making it easier to use the device without having to resort to voice commands. A welcome improvement. You can also now control the fonts on the watch. Yes! For someone who’s eyes ain’t getting any better I say yes to this one! They also rolled out a feature enabling WIFI on the watch. The idea is to use WIFI to stay connected to your watch even when you are out of range of Bluetooth. As long as your phone and watch are on the net somewhere, the watch can continue to give you notifications etc. They cleverly have you head over to the phone to enter the wifi key for the watch. Unfortunately they don’t take it from the list on your phone if the WIFI is already saved. The watch will only use wifi if the bluetooth connection is lost.

Smartwatches number one weakness is battery life. I suppose their second weakness is having to be connected to the phones (which this attempts to resolve). WIFI power consumption is higher compared to bluetooth. LAN Vs PAN. I saw lots of posts about the feature but none of them addressed power consumption. So I had a look. I turned bluetooth off on my phone and connected my Samsung Gear Live to my WIFI. In 3.5 hours it dropped 22%, 6.3% per hour, or a projected battery life of about 16 hours. By comparison from the Gear Live review the watch draws 5% per hour for a project battery life of 20 hours. So using wifi cut about 4 hours of battery life off of the watch. Oddly the first time I used it I saw bizarrely high power consumption of 13% per hour.

So Android wear continues to move forward.

June 18, 2015 Posted by | Android, Android Wear (Smartwatch) | Leave a comment

Navmii in car offline free Navigation

One of the things missing for Windows 8 has been a decent in car Navigation app. I played a bit with MapsPro. It works but to say it has a hokey interface is being kind. Then one of my readers commented I needed to check this one out, and so I did. Navmii is available on many platforms including Windows/Android/Blackberry and iPhone. It is an in car, offline, totally free Navigation system. I’ve played with both the Android and Windows version. The idea of cross platform is always something I like, allowing me to be device agnostic. I have numerous tablets, phones etc, if I can run the same app everywhere it’s a plus. The app can be found in the Windows store and downloaded for free. Once you have the app you download the maps. Warning these can be pretty big, like around 1G. So if you are on a device with limited storage be aware of that. And given this is a Metro app it means the app and it’s data in Windows 8 can ONLY go on the C drive. I even tried mappping in an SD card into the space, no joy. So you will need the free space on the C drive to accommodate the app and the maps. On Android you can redirect the maps onto the SD card.

navmii-3
The app includes a userid sign up which would allow saving on one device to be visible on the other of things like favorites. Sadly on Windows this does not work and just keeps getting an error in server response. On Android it does work.
navmi-error

The routing, navigation, turn by turn directions are all impressively good.
navmii-4

If there is one main weakness in the app it is in search. Sadly if you can’t get search working you can’t find where your going and your SOL. I found searches involving two words like say Durham Forest returned everything that had duraham and forest. Virtually useless. The search can be targetted to FourSquare, Google, Places (if your online) and address. The address allows a free form text to be entered but the search with this address was hit and miss for me. The Android app even allows you to search your contacts (Not in Windows). If your lucky enough to find what you want you click on the result on the bottom of the screen drag it up and you can add it to your favorites. If your going to be working offline if you can do your searches while online and add them to favorites then you will have better luck offline. In Android Navmii also links in as an app you can use to get directions, nice integration.
navmii-search
navmii-search2

Overall I like Navmii, I’m thrilled to have discovered it. Of course your next challenge will be determining if your Windows tablet has a GPS. Not all do sadly. My Asus T100 does not, my Asus Vivotab Note does. In device manager here is what my GPS shows up as:
gps

If they can improve the search functionality they would have a killer product and another use for Windows tablet!

June 7, 2015 Posted by | Windows tablets | Leave a comment

Lenovo Bluetooth keyboard

I spend a lot of time on keyboards. Banging out posts, emails, text messages etc and I hate on screen keyboards. Most of them are so bad I find myself waiting until I get to a real keyboard even to reply to small messages. I find I even do that subconsciously. I’ve bought a number of keyboards over the years and learned lots. First off keyboards rarely are good for more than one platform. Windows, Android and IOS all have different custom keys. Some keyboards give you switches to move between them but inevitably there are missing keys, or keys in the wrong place infuriating me.

Unlike some folks I make use of the PF keys, as well as keys like insert, delete etc. So when these are not in the right place, or missing altogether I find myself inefficient and clumsy.

I’ve tried a number of smaller keyboards, everything from thumb to 7″ tablet size etc and again find myself less than thrilled.

Imperfections like I had on the Acer Switch 10 (it dropped the first key after waking up) also drive me squirrely. My Asus T100 has the annoying habit of connecting and disconnecting when opening and closing the display. And to top it off it is not great on the bottom row of keys for some odd reason leading to missing everything from space bars to others. Again less than satisfying.

And then I saw this keyboard. Now I have to admit I hesitated. This damn thing is pricey. I saw it for over $100 but then saw it on Mikes for $69 so I jumped at it. The feel on the keyboard is excellent. Placement of the keys is near perfect. Windows 8 has depreciated the PF keys in favor of media functions. This keyboard gives you back the control to use them as PF keys by locking the FN button. Brilliant. Power management is near perfect. The keyboard when you touch any key or the mouse wakes up, catches the key you pressed, links up on bluetooth and moves forward. Fast, efficient and flawless. It works so well that you never actually need to power the keyboard off manually. Just leave it on all the time. Charging the keyboard is done via a microUSB connector and the keyboard can be used while charging so you could have it plugged into the laptop charging if needed. All in all this keyboard is very well done.

IBM invented trackpoints are love them or hatem. I happen to love them. I find them space efficient and more accurate than a glide point. The middle mouse button can be used to scroll. I am so good with the trackpoint I find little to no use for a mouse!

This keyboard is probably the best one I have used to date. It can add a whole new dimension to today’s generation of Windows tablet that really cry out for a decent keyboard! Now that said here are some limitations of the keyboard:
– it does not support multi pairing, so you can only pair to one system at a time. You can easily delete a computer and re-pair it but multi would have been nice
– this is a Windows keyboard. It does not have any of the special keys for any other operating system.
– there is no way that I have seen to know the status of the battery
– you can no use this as a USB keyboard, the microUSB is ONLY for charging
– the keyboard is not backlit

That’s a pretty short list!

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May 26, 2015 Posted by | Windows tablets | Leave a comment

CHUWII Vi8 Windows/Android tablet mini review

Recently there are host of inexpensive tablets coming out of China to tempt us. This particular tablet come with both Windows and Android loaded on it. You can switch relatively easily/quickly (<30 seconds) between the two. This tablet is available for under $100 on places like BangGood.com (trust me I couldn’t make up a name like that :))

The hardware is relatively good with the exception of the screen. 32G SSD, quad core Atom Z3735f, 2G of memory and some pretty bad cameras. Port wise it has a microUSB for charging/UST OTG, microSD (with 64G support), microHDMI (impressive), 3.5mm audio bluetooth and Wifi.

The screen is 8″ 1280×800 or 189 pixels per inch. It is by far not the brightest, or most vivid I have seen. It is reasonably responsive. I’ve seen lots of complaints about it scratching easily. It comes with a screen protector from the factory that is pretty bad. On one of the ones (two of my colleagues bought one of these) I saw there was imperfections either between the screen and screen protector or under the screen. I’m not sure which. There are comments about imperfections and dead pixels littered around the web. This is definitely a place where they saved some cash. There is a soft Windows button on the front that also doubles as a home button when in Android. Android relies on soft buttons for back/home/options.

The case itself is as usual quite plasticy. I can’t imagine this being all that durable. Think of it more as a disposable device.

The choice to have Android and Windows is an interesting idea, but I’m not sure it’s all that practical given hardware limitations. With no GPS one of the things I would want an Android 8″ tablet for (GPS navigation) is out the Window (pardon the pun). Dual boot literally shuts down one operating system and starts the other. And the device restarts in whatever operating system it last booted on. They have not given you tools to remove one of the other but it can be done manually. You simply need to traverse the dizzying number of partitions on the SSD, 17 if you can believe it. And your going to need to do some work to properly back up the SSD. Most solutions would only handle Android or Windows. There are of course backup solutions that simply do raw copies of the partitions that can be used.

Of the 32G Windows itself gets 13G leaving 7.5G free on first boot. Install patches and the like and your going to be kinda limited in space REAL fast. Android reserves 8G for itself. The Android load is impressively 4.4.4. No idea if or when it might get 5.0. The Android load is very vanilla and stripped down. It does impressively include the Google PlayStore for getting Android apps. The SSD registered 49 MB/s write and 69 MB/s which is reasonably quick. For reference the T100 was 25/40 , 25/46 for the Asus Vivotab Note 8, 66.2/81.6 for the Dell Venue 10 and 47/93 for the Acer Switch 10.

The tablet includes a 5000 mAh battery. I didn’t have enough time to play to get consumption numbers.

The quad core Atom is powerful enough for Windows and Android. And even runs Kodi on both Android/Windows for high def movie playback.

All in all this is not a bad a bad tablet. And given how cheap it is it’s hard to complain.
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May 19, 2015 Posted by | Android, Windows tablets | Leave a comment

Asus TF100T Windows tablet review

Another day another tablet … In my quest to replace my Asus TF701 android tablet I have had a couple of bad devices. The Acer switch 10 as well as the Dell Venue Pro 10. Interestingly enough this tablet was the one I was first going to buy and then changed my mind. The TF100T has been in the market a while (Sept 2013). A fact that tainted my interest in the T100 originally. On the positive side there are lots of accessories available for it, and there are lots available on ebay and the like for very good prices.

Asus has freshened the product line with the T200 which has an increased screen size (11.6 Vs 10″) but sadly they did not increase the already low screen resolution leaving the pixels per inch even worse. The T200 also adds in a 2.5″ drive bay into the keyboard for more storage.

To frame this review, I am working at finding a Windows replacement for my Android Asus TF701. That’s a tall order. The TF701 is an excellent device. Fast, instant on, great battery life, high resolution, very usable keyboard but it has one HUGE limitation. Android. Web sites that don’t display right, constantly getting the modile version of the site, no decent Microsoft Office solution, clumsy multi tasking, clumsy cut and paste as well as RDP issues etc left me wanting to return to Windows.

Physicals
10.4x263x171mm 544g
10.75×279.8X176.4 mm 437g (for the dell Venue 10).
The edges are more rounded on the Asus making it actually feel better in the hand.

Ports include USB 3 on the keyboard, microHDMI, microSD, 3.5mm audio and a microUSB for charging and USB OTG. The adapter is a standard microUSB 5V 2A charger so as usual it is not the zippiest charge. Everything is a trade off. The microHDMI is a great thing to have!

Specs
10.1″ 1366×768 resolution for a pixel per inch of 155 which is a little low
Atom Z3740 1.33
2G RAM
64G SSD (but there are 32G ones out there)
Note this model does NOT have a GPS. Not a big deal since there are little to no decent navigation apps for Windows, but still a little disappointing.

The SSD measured 25 MB/s read and 40 MB/s write which compares well for the generation of device (25/46 for the Asus Vivotab Note 8) but compared to newer devices like the Dell Venue 10 at 66.2/81.6 MB/s and Vs 47/93 for the Acer Switch 10 is slow. The T100 is really starting to show it’s age.

Compared to newer atoms like the Z3735 in the Dell venue the CPU is about 10-20% slower. So not all that significant.

The keyboard is well laid out with all keys where they are supposed to be. The unit is entirely passively cooled (it has no fan) so is entirely silent. Since all the electronics are in the tablet the unit does not get all that warm and is very comfortable on the lap. The tablet itself does make the unit a little top heavy and it can tip. The locking mechanism between the tablet and keyboard is a little mushy requiring you to push it until you hear it click. Once in place it is reasonably solid but when you close the device it is possible for the keyboard/tablet to loose connection. The keyboard has nothing else in it. No extra battery like the TF701 and no hard drive bay like T200.

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There is no rear facing camera (no big loss), there is however a front facing camera, albeit low res. There is no flash on the camera so this is basically a web cam.

Overall performance is smooth. Boot is reasonably quick. Resume is instantaneous. If your using it in tablet mode I highly recommend you add a pin to your windows account sign on options which makes unlocking the device much quicker (albeit less secure). You can find that in account settings, sign in options. Be ware that Windows 10 has a bug and this feature is not there.

As expected pens do not work well on this device at all. There is no digitizer. I tried a thin capacitive pen and it was completely ignored. A thick capacitive pen pen was somewhat registered but was not usable.

All in all there is little to complain about on this device. It works well and when you add in the price you can get it for on ebay it’s a bargoon. The 2G of ram is limiting but the reasonably quick SSD helps with swapping speeds. I’m not sure if I would pay new prices for it, too many other choices.

I played around a bit with Ubuntu on the device. After some futzing I was able to get a Ubuntu EFI boot USB drive to run following this post. (More on EFI in a future blog post). Ubuntu did boot and will install. On first boot the touch screen works but not the broadcom SDIO abgn network card. From what I can see it is not possible to boot off of the SD card. I tried to install to a USB hard drive but that would not boot once installed. I wasn’t ready to wipe the internal drive so left it at that.

I also played with Window 10 technical preview on this tablet. The 64G SSD leaves enough space to dual boot. Once all the Win 8 drivers were installed from the Asus web site Win 10 runs fine. It’s a little slow to come out of suspend compared to Win 8, and I had some instabilities in the networking. Other than that it runs well.

May 1, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized, Windows tablets | Leave a comment

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