John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

How can I help myself if I lost my iPhone

So, you’ve lost your iPhone now what? Well there are lots of things you can do to repatriate yourself with your digital lifeline. Logging onto iCloud and using Find phone can get your iPhone to tell you where it is … But if the battery has since died your kinda outta luck. If your a user of Life360 it takes it one step further and remembers where it was last seen.

Here’s were you can help yourself, by adding some information to the phone so that if someone finds it, and is good hearted enough to want to return it, then they have a way to find you and repatriate your beloved gadget … As you may know a locked iPhone has a button on the bottom called Emergency.

If you press that you get to a dial screen. From there you can press medical id, from here you can get information about the owner of the phone. This information is pulled from, Health app, medical id tab. In here you can provide information like your name, emergency contacts. Well this could be used to get your phone back to you … BUT, you to have enter it. Not that long ago I found someone sitting on a bench saying they had found a phone … of course the user had entered nothing in here so I was unable to be helpful. My message here is go into your medical ID and enter something … anything. If not for it’s real purpose, helping save your life, then enter it for your own benefit, getting your phone back if you loose it. Do it … NOW!

December 4, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

6 quart Crock Pot review

Ya I know, a little off topic … Ya I know why did you buy a Crock Pot slow cooker when everyone else is buying InstaPots? Well … I asked myself what would I use it for? And of the 2000 modes an InstaPot has (okay maybe a slight exaggeration?) how many would I use? Now the first answer is one, a slow cooker. The second answer is maybe a pressure cooker. So with that I bought it. Canadian Tire had a sale on for $45 so the investment seemed small. And the oval shape of the slow cooker seemed like a better choice than the round shape of an Instapot for things like Chicken, Duck etc. So with that I bought it. Now the one I bought is absolutely low end. There are no fancy stirs, and no digital indicators for temperature, and not even an LED for when the heater is on and off. Just an LED for high, low, warm and a count down timer to being done. Once done it slides automatically into warm mode for what seems like indefinitely.

So the first question is what is the difference between low and high? Well this got muddied because the first one I got wasn’t working right, it was in high all the time and over cooked meals. So when I contacted Crock pot, who were reasonably responsive by the way, their response was pretty clear. And I quote:

“The slow cooker uses 120 volts AC and consumes electricity up to 240 watts. The low setting uses less electricity than the high setting. Moreover, the low setting should be reaching the temperature of 209 degrees Fahrenheit at around 7 to 8 hours. If the slow cooker is already on the simmer point of 209 degrees Fahrenheit on low setting before it reaches 7 to 8 hours, the slow cooker is heating faster than it should be.”

So what this means is the slow cooker simply cycles the one heater on and off allowing it to come to cooking temperature slower. A watt meter shows exactly this behavior.

What’s a slow cooker good for? Lots, think stews etc. You can take less expensive cuts of meat, cook them low and slow and still end up with a delicious, complete meal ready to eat. And you can set it and forget it.

Power wise, as Crock pock answered the heater draws 240 watts, I did duck set for 6 hrs, ended up on warm for 2 hrs, and it drew 1.652kWH total. Now even on peak time of use rates your looking at 23.2624 cents/kwh which would mean this cost a whopping 38 cents in electricity, cheap!

Clean up is super easy, the ceramic main pot is easy to clean. I have been warned by friends that this can be easily broken, so be aware of that …

So what have I done with it?
Rabbit stew I did for 7.5 hours and it was a little over done probably more like 6. I should have seared the meat first.
Pulled pork in beer done in 6 hours, completely fell off the bone
Pork baby back ribs done in 3.5 hours and then finished with BBQ sauce in the over for 15 mins
Roast beef done in 5 hours was pretty darn good and the drippings made terrific gravy
Corned beef done in 7.5 hours was super tender and tasty
Duck was done in 6 hours and literally fell off the bones as it was lifted out. If you want to crisp up the skin in the oven on broil then do it a lot less.

With that we will resume our regular programming 🙂

December 2, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Proterra electric bus in Toronto

As I was walking in downtown Toronto I noticed a Proterra Electric bus, part of the TTC’s green initiative. Well this got me to want to do some reading. The TTC’s site gave some interesting information.
“The TTC has purchased 60 all-electric buses from three manufacturers: 25 from Proterra Inc., 25 from New Flyer Industries Inc. and 10 from BYD Canada Co. Ltd.”
So let’s have a look at some interesting (but useless) tidbits. I’ll focus on the Proterra offering. From what I can see, I would guess the buses that were purchased are the Catalyst 40 ft bus, E2 model. It contains a whopping 440kWH battery, for comparison a Tesla Model S has a 100 kWh. There is no mention of the type of batteries. They claim the battery can be charged in 3.2 hrs from dead drawing 200A from what appears to be a 600V charger. This is one of the benefits of being in a commercial space, there is access to higher wattage than what would be available in a home. So from a duty cycle point of view if the bus drove an average 40KM/h with a total range of 200KM that would imply after 5 hours of driving it would need 3.2 hrs downtime. Curb weight is 30,050 lbs Vs a comparable diesel bus which would be around 26,500lbs.

There are some interesting facts in this article on eBuses:
“Rapid recharging is labor-intensive, since a worker must supervise it.” I’m not sure what that quote is about.
“The four routes appear to have gone from 46 trolleybuses to 82 BEBs without any increase in service frequency, presumably because BEBs have considerable down time for midday charging.”
“BYD-made electric buses … the city had paid $1.2 million apiece .. and after it returned them it bought diesel buses from New Flyer for $870,000 each”

November 6, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Displaylink Adapater review

Samsung introduced DEX which is a well designed, clever way to allow you to use your phone/tablet as a desktop. It even gives you more normal looking windowing, something that has been missing from Android. But not all of Samsung’s devices support video out and not all support Samsung Dex, including my relatively newly bought/new to market Samsung Tab A with S-Pen support. Or for that matter maybe you just want to output video from your tablet to a big screen for video playback. I had read there was a possibility of getting around the lack of video out on the Samsung by finding a DisplayLink USB-3 adapter. I found this one on Amazon, it was the cheapest. Given it’s USB-3 it can be used on almost any device and is supported on Windows/Mac and Android.

Under Windows this has a number of discrete drivers, a USB to HDMI video adapter, and an audio driver to allow the HDMI audio to work. I’m unsure if the audio is stereo, 5.1, other?

The DisplayLink chipset looks like a separate video controller to the system, it just happens to be hanging off the USB bus. It can be configured as usual to mirror or extend as you see fit. The video has a max resolution of 1920x1080p. Beyond this, there isn’t a lot to say, it just works. The drivers are built into Windows or you can update them to the latest from Windows update. You can also download the most current ones from the DisplayLink website.

Under Android things are a little different. You have to load an app called Displaylink presenter. Then when you plug in the adapter, the video is mirrored to the second external display. The video output is fixed at 1920x1080p, and because this is mirrored it can be somewhat limiting in that on a larger screen you might want different zoom on your web browser for example. So using this as a desktop, while it works, is clumsy. Video output for things like movies however is perfect. For the Samsung that is USB-C you can use a USB-C converter or one of the USB-C mini docks.

I found a mini dock on ebay that lied and said it was a DisplayLink chipset which seemed like the grail. As with most things if they are too good to be true, they probably are. Well this one is not Displaylink, and given my Samsung does not support video out the HDMI on this dock is useless on Android. Works fine on Windows. The dock includes 2 USB 3 ports, 1 USB-C port (which you will use to power the device while in use), an SD card slot, and a wired Gig ethernet port. All of these features worked fine on Android and Windows. I love the convenience of USB-C and the existence of these kinds of docks. Gone are the days of proprietary docks!

Under Mac on my MacBook Early 2013 I couldn’t get the display going at all. Not a big loss for me, but notable none the less.

October 4, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Garmin Fenix 5 handlebar mount

There are a couple of ways to get your Fenix 5 onto your handle bars. The first is to use the bike mount which will work for any watch and is not specific to Garmin. The biggest challenge with this is you can’t use it with a metal band, and may not want to use it with a leather band. It’s cheap at $25 on Amazon.

Then I saw a post on the Fenix 5 group on facebook about a source file that could be 3D printed to make your own. It’s always seemed odd to me that Garmin don’t offer a mount that would utilize the quick connect of the Fenix 5. So I set about learning about 3D printing. I contacted a couple of 3D printing services and got quotes. I hadn’t even thought about companies offering 3D printing as a service, makes sense though. And then I had a colleague tell me he has a friend that does it as a business. So I thought what the heck, let’s try it. Well 3 months later this fellow tells me this is a “difficult part” to print. He gave me back a part and while it was quite coarse it was “good enough” The mount goes around the neck of the handlebars, and is one of the limitations of the mount. It means the Fenix is mounted quite low, taking your eyes away from the road/trail.

The part consists of a couple of parts you assemble with an added screw and a spring from a pen. It’s lacking a nib that would make it easier to remove the Fenix when your done. That said, it’s quite well designed. The Fenix is held quite securely, I was skeptical, but it really works well.

I found a couple other options including one from Raceware that seems quite reasonably priced, but it’s unclear how the fenix is held in place.

Another one looks perfect, but is outrageously expensive from Bikespot.

September 17, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Luxtude 5000 mAH battery pack for an iPhone/iPad

Every now and then your out and about and you need some juice for your phone. A battery pack needs to be small and light enough that you never leave home without it, or it just won’t be there when you need it. Battery packs these days have become relatively inexpensive, and some have been cleverly designed. Some vendors like this one are even going so far as to spend the time and money to get MFI (made for iPhone/iPad) certification. This vendor has even spent time and money to make the battery pack look nice. This one looks a lot like the size and shape of an iPhone. You could easily mistake it. Weighing in at 135g this isn’t light, but the build quality is quite exceptional given the price of $31 on Amazon.

On the device you will find a button that shows you the current battery status in a series of 4 LEDs, as well as starts you phone charging. The last one flashes as the battery is nearing dead. The LEDs also show the amount of charge as it recharges, simple but well done.

Smaller battery packs like the ones I’ve previously reviewed can only pump out 1A limiting the charge speed, it’s a limitation of the number of cells. It’s what lead me to look at this one because it claims to output 2A. It also claims to be able to take in 2A of current which should cut back on the recharge time too … So with this in mind I decided to put this through it’s paces. On the end of this battery pack is a lightning connector so this is intended for iPhone/iPads. Not saying youc an’t buy converters to use this with micro USB or USB-C, they do exist. Starting with the iPhone 8 (what I’m using for this evaluation) these finally support quick charging, ie current > 1A, BUT the phones don’t ship with anything but the usual 1A charger. I wrote an article on Quick charging on an iPhone 8 and used some of that material as guidance for what to expect from this charger. The reality is, how the iPhone works, drastically limits what this charger can do for you. Android devices I’ve played with are way more straight forward. So looking at a graph of the charge speed measured in %/min Vs how charged the phone is shows this complication, this is with a iPad 12W charger.

So this is a limitation of what you can AT BEST expect from this charger. One of the most obvious points you can see is there is NO BENEFIT to having greater than 1A output at anything greater than ~70%, the phone simply won’t use it. And the best benefit of having the additional current is when the phone is below 50% in the band Apple has allowed quick charging.

Ok so now let’s see how this charger does by comparing it to an iPad 12W or an Aukey 10W charger.

As you can see it does shockingly well, holding it’s own. Not perfect with a gap in the end of around 10%, but really quite exceptional, and quite a bit better than even the default iPhone charger which most 1A battery packs can at best hope to achieve.

Plugged in at a low amount of charge for an hour here’s what you could expect:

So in an hour you would have 29% more juice into your phone than if you were using a 1A battery pack!

I have to say, once I crunched the numbers I was surprised at how well it actually did!

The battery pack is 5000 mAH and I was able to get 2.3 full charges out of the pack before it was completely dead and it charged as hard as it could right up until the bitter end. This would give you an efficiency of 83%, which is REALLY good compared to past device.

Once dead recharging drew ~1.5-1.7A which is below what they had said which was 2A but who knows what charger they were using. With this it charged to 3/4 full in 2 hours and then tapered off taking 3.5 hours to completely fill. The last bit takes quite a bit of time. But the fact that it’s 3/4 full in a short time is not awful. This is by no means modern quick charging.

At no time during charging, or discharging did the pack get warm. And given that it’s off until you press the button, it ought to be reasonably safe in your pocket.

So all in all, while not perfect, this is a darn good battery pack and one of the best I’ve seen to date!

August 28, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Amazon Kindle

Let’s start out with the simple, what is a Kindle? It is Amazon’s hardware (or software) way of reading their digital books. I bought my daughter a kindle a long time ago. She never really embraced it, preferring hard copy. Books are a LOT cheaper on Kindle for obvious reasons, no printing, no delivering. I’ve resisted the temptation to buy a Kindle device and preferred using the Windows, Android or iOS apps which work fine, the worst of which is the Windows Store one which barely works these days. But then I found myself carrying around a heavier, more expensive tablet that I had to keep charging. A colleague at work showed me his teeny tiny Kobo and thus the spark of discontent was lit. Thanks Greg 😦

Content is king and content owners have lined up under specific platforms Kindle, being one, Kobo being another etc. It is not at all impossible a book you want to read is only available on one platform or another. This sucks but is reality. To think you can buy one device and read any kind of book is just not happening. There is also an industry standard called ePub that is used by lots including some local libraries using an app called Overdrive that lets you digitally sign out a book. Overdrive is NOT compatible with Kindle.

There are apps like Calibre that can even convert between different format books. Books can be downloaded from things like torrents or purchased digitally. Purchasing them digitally is elegant and allows a book to be read on a variety of platforms and some amount of the money goes back to the author. Your progress is kept in sync (assuming the device is online) across these devices. I am most familiar with Kindle so will now shift to talking about Kindles.

Kindles are first and foremost, single function book readers. That’s it.

There are a lot of versions of Kindles, with lots of different features. Common amongst the hardware devices is outstanding battery life (weeks to months), super light and crisp easy to read screens. The screen on a kindle ONLY draws power (for the most part) when a page is being turned. This gives them outstanding standby battery life too. There are lots of ways to get your content (books) onto your device including illegal (read free) ways. If you choose to buy your books they are simply and effortlessly delivered to all of your devices. It really is well done. So much so you wonder why you might bother with other ways. You can make markups of your books, keep notes of what you liked for future reference and the like. Highlights are done using the buttons on the bottom. It works just fine albiet a tad clumsy, something I always like doing. I’ve been a fan of Kindles for quite a while. This isn’t to say Kindle is better than say Kobo, it’s just somehow where I landed. It wasn’t a specific, intentional, or comparison driven choice, it’s just where I ended up and I can’t even say how?

From a hardware point of view there are a dizzying array of models out there. There are TONS available on Kiji and ebay at stupid low prices. So to start out with you need to look at differentiating features, figure out what’s important to you and choose one for the price your willing to pay. Or just say WTF and buy on off Amazon. Really they are so cheap as to say who cares. And when you look at how much cheaper the ebooks are the reader is paid off pretty quickly. Back to features, early kindles had a physical (albeit horrible) keyboard for entering setup data such as wifi.

Amazon pretty soon after realized this was a waste of real estate and eliminated it. I recommend you skip the ones with the keyboard.

Connectivity wise there are two versions, WIFI and 3G. The 3G are marvels in that you pay NO monthly fee and yet from almost anywhere in the world can download an ebook and start reading. This really takes convenience to a whole new level.

Amazon had continued to play with resolutions on the screen but the bigger differentiator is touch screen or not. This is a personal preference as to what you want.

Some kindles can even play back audio books, which takes a lot more storage, although why you’d bother is beyond me, your phone is a MUCH better audio book device.

Up until recently kindles didn’t have back lighting making reading them in the lower light challenging, and impossible in the dark. You could use a standard book light I suppose. If this is important to you, watch for this. Not something I care about, at least for now.

Storage is something that you can watch but frankly ebooks are teeny so who cares? How many books do you have open at any one time? Do you have issues with completing something even as simple as a book 🙂 Storage becomes more important if you decide your going to use it for audio books as that takes a LOT more storage.

As a statement of the obvious these things are black and white and low res compared to say a tablet. So if you thought you were going to use this to read magazines, or comic books your going to be underwhelmed. I’ve also not seen newspapers embrace this space either, leaning more to tablets.

Books can be bought from Amazon when connected on WIFI, or they can be manually downloaded to Kindle by micro USB cable which is also how it’s charged. I love that they stuck with an industry standard. Books can also be emailed to the Kindle but I’d be cautious of this with illegally downloaded books. At some point Amazon is going to do something about this …

So given all this I dove into the used market and looked for something small, cheap and light. Something to fit in my back pocket. For $20 I found a Kindle 4 which can be identified based on a first four digits of 9023. The device I bought is a WIFI only, non touch screen, no keyboard, with no audio support.

Spec wise the one I bought, a Kindle 4, are the following:
6-inch E Ink Pearl screen 16 levels of grayscale (No back light)
800 x 600 pixel resolution
WiFi (802.11 b/g/n)
2GB memory (1.25GB available)
Cloud storage
Micro USB 2.0 port
Battery Life: 3-4 weeks
Supported formats: Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI and PRC
Weight 171g
166 mm x 114 mm x 8.7 mm

If you’ve ever considered buying one of these, there are lots of them on the used market, ebay and kiji for very little money. Grab one, you won’t regret it!

Update: After 11 days of fairly heavy reading, the battery low indicator came on. Outstanding battery life! It took about 1.5 hours to recharge from the warning and drew about 0.5A so you can use just about any USB port/charger.

July 12, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Reactine a warning

I’ve been on Reactine for a long time now as an antihistamine for my allergies. I moved to it when Claritin stopped working. It worked ok until a cat moved into my home, then it was not enough. In speaking with my Dr she moved me onto a newer medication called Blexten. After about a month off of reactine I noticed something interesting, I was no longer hitting my high heart rate alarm during mountain biking. I’d added training in heart rate zones because I noticed my heart rate was going well above what I thought was ok. So when I hit the alarm I would use it as a trigger to slow down or rest a bit. So I started scratching things and did some more reading on the side effects of reactine. Now the list of side effects for any drug are pretty much everything under the sun so I have to admit to not paying a lot attention to them … One on the list is fast heart beat. Hmmm so I decided to look at some data, and remember, I only looked at this because there was a noticeable/measurable change. I took a look at two mountain biking rides, at the same place, roughly the same length and compared them, one with reactine in my system for a while and one without reactine (and with Blxxten) and the results are interesting to say the least. Now to say this proof of any kind is a stretch … interesting none the less. So this is the data with the time in zones with and without reactine:

So what you can see is I spent zero time above 180 without, and there is a shift in heart rate numbers and time in zones by roughly 10 bpm. Comparing the ride stats you can see a decrease in the average heart rate of 7 BPM and a decrease in max HR of 9 BPM.

I wasn’t able to see any kind of change to resting heart rate, but this is more about how trapped that data is, too hard to mine.

So all in all, it’s something to be aware of in case you or loved ones are using reactine.

July 8, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 9.7 with S Pen review

Yup, sorry, another tablet review. This time I’m shifting gears and moving over to Android to play with. I haven’t touched Android since Samsung pissed me off enough with the S5 to cause me to go over to an iPhone back in 2016 and haven’t looked back since. Oddly enough the S6 was an excellent phone, but the damage to my patience and loyalty was done.

I still love my iPhone 8 and it’s been one of the most stable phones I’ve ever owned. But my now ancient Samsung Note 8 worked well in it’s day so i thought I’d see what’s changed on the S Pen and in the Android world, and thus you have this review. As always I’m looking for as general purpose tablet as I can get with the specific focus being on taking digital notes by pen, often in crowded environments.

The specific model number of this tablet is the Samsung SM-T820 and it is currently running Android 8.0.0 so Oreo. No firm date when it might get Android 9, with the usual delays coming from Samsung.

Size wise, repeated from previous artricles:
350g 136x211x7.95 Asus Vivotab Note 8 (560g with the case I use)
478g 240×169.5×7.5 iPad 9.7 6th gen (840g with the case I use)
522g 245x175x8.3 Surface Go 744g with the type cover and 880g with the case I use and no type cover
622g 267x187x8.7mm Surface 3
530g 262x175x8.2 Transformer Mini 798g with keyboard
434g 237×169.0x6.0 mm Samsung Tab S3
As you can see the Samsung holds it’s own being the lightest and thinnest in the pile!

2048×1536 iPad
1800×1200 Surface Go
1920×1280 Surface 3
1280×800 Asus Transformer Mini (it shocks me that Asus STILL use displays this low res)
1280×800 Asus Vivotab Note 8
2048×1536 Samsung Tab S3
Again Samsung holds it’s own matching the best of the pile the iPad which is impressive remembering that there is actually a newer Tab S4. The screen is pretty darn vivid and crisp. Head and shoulders above the Transformer mini.

The tablet itself is really quite nicely made. A huge departure from the older Samsung 10″ tablets that seemed like plasticy cheap devices. This one has metal edges, glass back and and overall nice appearance. The bezels are sill on the larger side, not much to say about that.

Port wise I applaud Samsung for using USB-C which easily allows one port to do faster charging, as well as USB 3 connections. A decision I wish Apple had made on the new iPad mini. There is however a MAJOR flaw in the ointment, according to Samsung they do not support any form of video out from the S3. Now while this is likely RARELY used, rarely doesn’t mean never and I would probably have been one of those that would have. There are comments that it can work with a DisplayLink USB3 video adapter but I can’t confirm that as I dont’ have one 😦 If video out is important to you then you’d be better to step up to the S4, more on that later. There’s also no dock available for the S3, but there is again for the S4. It also has a standard 3.5 mm audio plug which a lot of people will appreciate over having to use converters like you do on iOS devices.

In the Android space companies have continued to play with processor configuration trying to find the balance between performance and battery life. Going from all out quad core devices, to dual quads (often incorrectly referred to as Octo cores) to this processor. I say incorrectly referred to as octo because at any time only 4 of the processors are active at a time. 4 super low power ones when it’s doing nothing and 4 higher performance processors when there’s something to do … In the tab S3 it uses a Qualcom APQ8096 Snapdragon 820. I had read that this had two low power low speed processors and two high speed processors but this is wrong. This has 4 CPUs that can ratchet themselves from 300MHZ all the way to 2.1GHZ as needed. An app like CPU-Z can clearly show the processors properly ratcheting up speed as need be. While I still think the Octo core was a good idea, and yielded some very impressive standby times, it comes at the cost of extra silicon = $$s. Overall performance of the tablet is good with mild delays. I’ve often found this to be Samsung’s customizations although this is anecdotal, but try a Google pixel with similar hardware and no customizations and you will feel what it could be. Nothing ruins ones patience quite like an iPad/iPhone, they just do everything instantaneously and create an level of expectations few can achieve. There is no way this tablet could be mistaken for an iPad from a performance point of view.

As with past Samsungs this tablet is filled with bloatware that can’t be removed. Everything from forced versions of Excel/PowerPoint/Word to Samsung browsers. As in the past these often require updates that chew up even more space and can’t even be hidden/disabled. The fact that this still exists today is ridiculous IMHO. Now I know the iPhone too has programs that can’t be removed, but the sheer number of them is MIND BOGGLING on this tablet. This kind of crap is the kind of thing that irritated me enough to leave Android. Now in reality with 32G of space there’s enough room for this to not be an issue for a while, but still …

Samsung tablets/phones have always been heavily customized with what Samsung refer to now as Samsung Experience (used to be called TouchWiz). It gives Samsung the ability to differentiate themselves from the pack. Like most things a positive has negative side affects. Google releases Android, then Samsung has to redo (if they choose to) Samsung Experience on each device before the end users get their upgrade. This ongoing cycle has left devices in obsolescence long before their time. Now while Android Treble is the fix for this issue, this tablet is unlikely to be new enough for it to be saved by this innovative approach which is very exciting stuff in that it separates the OS from the vendor customizations meaning you are no longer dependent on the vendor to release updates. This could mean your Android device can live longer and still be current!

As always the built in Android find will allow you to find, make sounds and wipe your missing tablet. This is nothing new and has been there for a while.

This tablet includes a fingerprint scanner, but I’ve found it to be particularly hit and miss, virtually useless for me.

It also has a GPS, so if you can find a way to mount it in your car you can use it for navigation like Waze if you tether it for mobile data. As always cross platform tethering is a little more clumsy. The iPad/iPhone played nicely together. Tethering still works it is just more manual on cross platform. And as always don’t forget to tell Android your tethered connection is a metered connection so that it can help preserve your precious data. (Settings, Connections, Data usage).

Startup time from power off is about 1 min 10, so definitely not zippy, as always with Android there is no such concept as suspend or hibernate as there is in Windows.

One place Android and the Snapdragon family of processors really shine is in standby power sipping. With WIFI off I estimate a whopping 19 days of standby power. And even with WIFI on this only drops to 15 days. This is earth shattering by comparison to say the Surface 3’s abysmal two days. Hugely impressive. One of the areas that Android stand out is in the ability for users to automate and customize. Apps like Battery log make short work of coming up with data like this. And apps like Llama automate make it easy to automate functions like turn off WIFI, or mute the audio at a time of day. I’ve missed this type of automation since being on an iPhone.

As always one of the things I harp on is battery recharge. Older Android tablets were so bad you kept them plugged into make sure they never got really low. The default charger that comes with the tablet is a USBC 5V 2A = 10W or 9V 1.67A = 15W adaptive charger. This took the power from 5% to 90% where it levels off in 1 hr 48 mins for a projected full charge in 2.2 hours. This compares to 3 hours for the Surface 3, so faster but not earth shatteringly so. I tried a Lenovo 56W USBC charger and it made no difference at all so don’t bother trying to buy a faster charger. I also bought a USBC to MicroUSB converter and used a standard 2A 5V charger and this performed abysmally, it added 24% in 1 hr 7mins which would project a full charge up to 4.7 hours. So this while possible is dog slow. I also tried a Qualcom 2.0 quick charger and it completely matched the Samsung charger in charge speeds. And this didn’t matter if you used it with a USBC to microUSB converter or a straight USBC cable. A long time ago I bought a Aukey 5 port charger on Amazon and I love it. I never travel without it. It is so flexible all my devices work perfectly with it and when travelling it’s all you need, and work perfectly with the Tab3.

For comparison the Samsung Tab S4 the next generation uses the follow on Snapdragon 835 which includes a number of enhancements including true Octo Core (Vs quad) at speeds up to 2.54GHZ (Vs 2.15). It is also higher res, charges faster and includes DEX support allowing external monitor support. For a list of all differences with the Samsung S4 Vs S3. It also sports a redesigned S Pen.

And finally onto the pen on the S3 … Samsung has been working with Waacom on the S Pen for a very long time at this point. The current generation of the Pen on the S3 is quite nice. Not Surface nice, but nice none the less. It has one button and the button is well placed. The pen feels ok in the hand somewhere between a pencil and pen. Writing on the screen also feels quite good. Palm rejection has always been perfect on android and continues to be so, something Windows still struggles with.

I’ve created a comparison of all of the tablet pen experiences compiled into a table. The Samsung S3 comes in third behind only the Surface 3 and Surface Go.

Replacement pens (non Samsung) can be found on Amazon for $28 or genuine ones from Samsung can also be found ~$80-100. At least you can get them in the tragic event of loosing or breaking one. And since this is a Waacom there are other non samsung pens you can buy that ought to work fine but I’ve not tried any of them.

By going larger than past S Pen’s it feels better in the hand but there is no longer a slot in the tablet to hold the pen. They have included a clip on the pen to hold it in place in your pocket. Something that ought to be obvious (well it is to anyone but Apple). The pen is missing an erase function sadly. Samsung have taken time to design something they call air command. Any time the pen is near the screen it hovers over the screen allowing to quickly and efficiently call up pen related functions. And you can edit this list until your hearts content.

Samsung have also developed their own apps including Sketch/ Screen write, Smart select, etc that all enhance the usability of the pen. None of this is all that new by the way, the series of Note phablets had this as well. The pen by the way is 100% passive so no battery to worry about EVER. I tried pens from a number of Waacom tablets, my Samsung Note 8 , my Lenovo Yoga 12 and they all worked perfectly.

The S4 includes a whole new evolution of S Pen that feels even more like a real pen in the hand, I tried and it worked fine.

There is little to no cross pollination between anything but a Samsung phone/Tablet. I tried in vain to make this work. I downloaded and installed Samsung Side Sync on my PC to discover the Tab S3 does not support SideSync. So then I tried to use Samsung Flow, installed it on my PC only to find out PC to Tablets isn’t supported. And just to make you giggle, both of these were recommended by a rep at the Samsung store when I asked? LMAO. What kind of idiots do you have working here … Only the finest! There’s an hour and a bit of my life I won’t get back, Thanks Sammy!

Using A1SD to benchmark speeds I was able to get 250 MB/s read on the internal storage, and 32MB/s off my microSD card (pretty much the same speed I get off a PC with the same card). Using a USBC to USB3 converter I was able to get 73MB/s off a USB3 flash drive.

So all in all impressive speeds with no bottle necks. Getting data on and off this tablet are impressively well done. After running into no end of bottlenecks with Atom based Windows tablets of days past, this is a refreshing surprise!

The SD card by the way is hidden behind a phone SIM card like tray making it not so easy to change on the go unless you carry a SIM tray remover (or a paper clip or pin) with you. I really dislike this, but it is what it is. One the the wonderful things about Android is you have pretty much free rain to easily manage your space. Create directories, move around files. Download stuff do what you want, the way you want. Try that with an iPad and you will discover the joy of iTunes.

Network wise I was able to connect to my 5GHZ wireless and measure 330Mb/s using HE tools which is comparable to my Lenovo T450s laptop. Impressive for a little tablet!

Using the same USBC to USB3 converter you can also connect keyboards and mice that work flawlessly. Something that still to date is impossible (no mice support) on an iPad although this is supposed to be changing fall 2019.

Samsung have brought about a kind of split screen on this tablet (and honestly have offered it for quite while now). It works ok, frankly with the size of the screen it’s of limited use and a little clumsy. DEX on the S4 works more naturally feeling more like a desktop experience with better multitasking and floating apps. Another thing that iPads are trying to play catchup and will add in the fall of 2019.

Cases are always a challenge and this one is no exception. I bought a case that seemed like it had what I wanted, a little protection, a hand strap for use when writing, off Amazon, but it was poorly made, and felt like rubber in the hand. Very poor quality materials. I did find a TPU case that fits the tablet well and makes it easier to hold again from Amazon.

A list of my favorite apps. I actually had to go back to an old post from 2012 to refresh my memory on the useful apps, and then find the ones that were still around and worked on this tablet.
2x a free RDP client that works great.
Amazon Kindle ebook reader
Battery info a simple battery level widget.
CPU/GPU monitor a good CPU graph for the tray
CPU Z see details about your CPUs
CX File explorer with Network file share support
Microsoft OneNote for taking all my digital notes and keeping cross platform and web accessible at all times!
Sense UI a nice flip clock and weather widget I’ve always liked
Swiftkey a fantastic replacement keyboard. As good as the stock and Samsung ones are, this one is even better. Why Microsoft didn’t just buy the company to resolve the MAJOR issues with windows on screen keyboards is beyond me.
Plex media player
Kodi media player, sadly my digital environment includes both 😦
Weather network

Happy color coloring app that works well with the pen
Free cell

So all in all I’m impressed with with the Samsung S3. I made a choice to not go too old as they are likely to end up out of support sooner, and were more plasticy. I think it was a good decision and I like the feel of the S3.

June 25, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

SSDs the best place to spend your upgrade $$s

When it comes to homes, they say you get your best bang for the bucks in kitchens and bathrooms. When it comes to upgrade $$s for an older PC, or a new purchase replacing older spinning drives with an SSD these days is a total no brainer. They are super cheap and have a profound affect on the performance of your PC. This performance boost comes in two forms, first is random access time. On a physical media the drive has to move the heads to the right sector, wait for the right sector of the drive to come under the head then access the drive. The latency on this is killer. A secondary speed boost comes simply from the fact the SSDs are faster. How much faster? Well this depends on the SSD of course but at this point even the cheap ones are way faster. I recently bought a Kingston 240GB A400 for like $45 bucks off Amazon. I used CloneZilla to replicate the drive over to the new one. Once cloned I was able to measure 162/181 MByte/s Write/Read Vs a spinning media of around 45/50 MB/s. So as you can see a HUGE difference. If your low on memory this can help as well because the swap file ends up on the faster SSD.

As additional benefits the SSDs draw less power (and thus less heat), and are completely silent. Going forward I would highly recommend for any device make sure your operating system is on SSD. If you need added space then the cost per bit is still cheaper on spinning media so for bulk storage don’t waste money on SSDs IMHO.

June 20, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment