John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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!

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 240ร—169.5ร—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!

2048ร—1536 iPad
1800ร—1200 Surface Go
1920ร—1280 Surface 3
1280ร—800 Asus Transformer Mini (it shocks me that Asus STILL use displays this low res)
1280ร—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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ 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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
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

MacBook Air 2014 review

I had a chance to play with a MacBook Air Early 2014 version recently. I’ve not played with a Mac in a very long time so this was long overdue. My big question was could I live on a Mac 100% and replace my Windows Laptop.

Spec wise it’s Intel Core i5 1.4 with 8G DR3 and a 120GSSD. Display is 1440×900. The display for today’s time is clearly on the lower end of things. But then it is a 5 year old machine so what do you expect. But hot on the heals of the brilliant display on the SurfaceBook this is SUPER noticeable.

Power wise it comes with a 45W, 14.85V 3.05A charger that brings the macbook from dead in a little over an hour. A far cry faster than the Surfacebook that took 5 hours. The battery on the Macbook is 54Wh vs the 69WH of the Surfacebook. Weight wise it’s 2.96 pounds Vs the Surfacebook at 3.48.

Straight off I was handed a machine that had been used by other people so I started out by wiping the Mac from the Recovery Partition and then reinstalling the OS. The machine was on 10.13 High Sierra Vs current which is Mojave 10.14. I could have futzed about with downloading an ISO blah blah but instead I just reinstalled the OS from the recovery Partition and then upgraded it (which is basically a reinstall). So in all I guess I reinstalled the OS twice. All settings and apps I had from 10.13 carried perfectly into 10.14 and was no issue at all. Happily my hardware was supported on the latest version of the OS … yay. Upgrading the OS also upgraded the recovery partition as well.

Once up initial setup was easy and immediately started to see some of the wonderful things you get from being in Apple’s ecosystem. First and foremost is that iMessage now goes seamlessly from my iPhone/iPad and now Mac. How well this works is amazing. The list of cross functional items from your iPhone include:
– iMessage seamlessly
– Find Friends widget on the Mac
– Handoff which allows you to continue working on one device you started on another
– Macs can participate in Airdrops
– Reminders
The iPhone and Mac are just integrated instead of separate devices with lots of cross over! The fact Microsoft was NEVER able to do this is disappointing.

I was quickly able to install Chrome, Plex, OpenVPN and Kodi (from their download sites). Kodi was an unknown publisher so gave me a little grief in terms of having to tell the Mac to install it anyway but once done it’s good to go. OpenVPN was equally trivial and I just downloaded my ovpn file and away it went. Shockingly easy. Chrome syncs nicely so I have complete platform agnostic behavior.

Microsoft RDP and Onenote came out of the App store and work just fine. In fact I love the way the latest version of Microsoft RDP works, it creates a complete desktop space for the connection. You can then easily move between your RDP sessions and your Mac using the three finger swipe that is used for “Mission control” (silly name), however Mission control also allows you to have multiple desktop spaces and quickly move between them allowing better smoother multi tasking.

Using Windows shares is pretty well done on the Mac allowing you to add you favorite servers, favorite shares and have different logons that your signed into account. It seems to work fairly well.I usually sort my photos by copying them off the SD card into a Windows share. While copying them on the Mac was easy, the photo viewer was super clumsy when the files were not local. And locally they have to be imported. I’m sure this is more about learning, but I’ve not found a way to do this well on the Mac.

Power management on the Mac is outstanding. Run time, standby time are all better than comparable on a PC. Resume from suspend is also faster than on a PC. This always amuses me when in reality Macs these days are running for the most part on the same hardware as Windows PCs, and yet they do so much better.

The one place I notice the Mac being quite slow is accessing Windows SMB shares, for example within Kodi. Once the list of files from a large directory is up though, performance is good enough to ensure smooth playback. Being an older Mac, it of course does not support some of the faster WifI modes like MUMIO. Using iPerf I measured only 45Mb/s Vs 329MB/s for my Lenovo T450s. So this is definitely a place where this older Mac is lagging badly.

All in all I’ve enjoyed the Mac and could pretty much live on it Vs a PC. There was one place I struggled, which was in sorting images from cameras. One of the time, in just looking at the pics it reset the dates on all of the images to the date I looked at the images. This is hugely problematic for me. I’m sure this is surmountable.

June 13, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Asus T102HA transformer mini review

Hot on the heals of the EPIC failure that is the Surface Go I thought I’d wade into the Asus Transformer mini which is supposed to be a lower cost alternative to the Surface. First off I discovered there are three models of the Transformer Mini. T101 does NOT have a pen and that’s primarily what I want to do with this tablet. I can’t say for sure if it actually has the digitizer to support the pen or not? The Transformer 103HA for some reason is MUCH heavier at 772g so this one is out. So this narrows the field to the T102HA.

From my Surface Go article (repeated so you don’t have to go back to that one for reference) letโ€™s start with physicals:
350g 136x211x7.95 Asus Vivotab Note 8 (560g with the case I use)
478g 240ร—169.5ร—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

So you can see size and weight or the T102 are similar to the Surface Go.

2048ร—1536 iPad
1800ร—1200 Surface Go
1920ร—1280 Surface 3
1280ร—800 Asus Transformer Mini (it shocks me that Asus STILL use displays this low res)
1280ร—800 Asus Vivotab Note 8

Quad core Atomโ„ข Z3740 Quad-Core, 1.33 GHz Asus Vivotab Note 8
Dual Core Gold 4415y 1.6GHZ Surface Go
Quad-core Atom X7-Z8700 1.6GHZ Surface 3
Quad core Atom Z8350 1.4G Asus Transformer mini
The processor is so different on the iPad as to be not worth mentioning from a comparison point of view

The unit came with 4G DRAM and 128 eMMC.

Port wise:
1 x COMBO mic/speaker 3.5mm audio jack
1 x Full size Type A USB3.0 (USB3.1 GEN1)
1 x micro USB port for charging
1 x micro HDMI
1 x Fingerprint
1 x Volume up/down
1 x micro SD card
Sadly no USB-C here, it’s too old.

The charger it comes with supports the ubiquitous 5V 2A 10W, but it also supports 9V 2A so 18W. Obviously way below the Surface’s including 25W or supported 54W charger. This will obviously impact recharge times. The battery is reported to be 30WH.

The one place I have noticed in the past to be painfully slow on Atoms is installing apps and updates. This remains true. I did a reset the tablet to get a fresh start, who knows what the last person left laying around for me. 8 hours later it hadn’t even got to the 1809 update which took another 1.5 hours. Patience is definitely the order of the day when it comes to installing updates on Atom.

Like the Surface, the transformer includes an infinitely adjustable kickstand. It’s not quite as elegant as the Surface’s but it work.

Also like the Surface the transformer includes a type cover based keyboard. It’s more rigid than the one on the Surface but the key positioning and depressed design of the keys make it harder to touch type, and of course it’s small for large hands. The keyboard is not backlit. The magnet that holds the type cover is not strong enough to bring the keyboard around the back of the tablet when in use and keep a strong connection. When it is connected it does detect it’s around backwards and disabled the keyboard. You can reverse the keyboard so the keys face the back of the tablet and this feels better in the hand and works perfectly. The pen loop on the keyboard is too small even for the included pen? WTF. I wonder sometimes whether companies ever test their products when they miss something as glaring as this. The keyboard DOES wake the tablet from sleep when pressed, and does wake/sleep the tablet when opened and closed, and even ignores accidental power on presses when closed.

The pen they use is indeed an N-Trig based pen, the same digitizer used in newer Surfaces. The pen Asus uses has two buttons that can not be changed they do eraser and right mouse button. There is no bluetooth in the pen so it can not be paired and so it’s functions are predefined. All in all it feels fine in the hand, has a clip, but no eraser on top. Hopefully I remember that and don’t end up scratching the screen trying to use it as an eraser as the Surface’s do. The buttons can get in the way when writing and the pen get’s detected close to the screen making scrolling a little more clumsy than it ought to be. All in all it works well, albeit imperfectly. A common thread in using pens on tablets. It’s amazing years later than Wacom still did the best job ever and none have since measured up.

Fortunately, you can also use a Surface pen, but there are a number of versions of the Surface pens. The original version of the Surface pen was a Wacom, which won’t work with this tablet. I found a good article showing version of the pens. Visually you can tell the versions of the pen by the number of buttons/appearance. I wuold guess a version 2,3,4 should work fine.

I was able to test a Surface version 3 and 4 pen, and paired them with Bluetooth and they worked fine. From the Pen & Windows Ink settings screen you can program what clicking on the end button does. For me, OneNote is what I wanted. There are no ways to adjust pressure and the like as you can on a Surface, that is done within the Surface app … The battery of the pen can be viewed on the Bluetooth settings when the pen is connected.

From (from the wikipedia article) a part number point of view the version Microsoft 2 part numbrt are 3UY-00001 (Silver), 3UY-00012 (Black), 3UY-00021 (Red), 3UY-00030 (Blue) version 3 3XY-00001 (Silver), 3XY-00011 (Black), 3XY-00021 (Dark Blue) and 3XY-00051 (Gold) and version 4 part numbers are EYU-00001 (Black), EYU-00009 (Platinum), EYU-00017 (Cobalt Blue) and EYU-00025 (Burgundy)
Across the board the surface pen works much better than the Asus one. The buttons and placement of them get in the way repeatedly. The pen is not as smooth …
Use of a pen can be broken down into a number of categories:
1) When you start writing how quickly and smoothly is this picked up. This was reasonably good on this tablet. It was improved by the Surface pen, but was improved by tapping the pen on the screen.
2) Ability to move from writing to scrolling. This was particularly slow on this tablet often requiring multiple taps to get it to realize I wanted to scroll. It was overall quite frustrating and experience.
3) ability to erase. This was reasonably good with the default pen and perfect with the surface pen.
Overall The experience with this tablet and the pen was good, but far from great even with the surface pen.
And to complicate matters I’ve been unable to find a decent cast with a hand strap to hold the tablet and take notes ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Windows 10 enables hibernate and sets it by default to 24 hours. Hibernate can be added to the start menu following this guide. You can also set connected standby to disconnect from the network when in standby mode. This can control power use while in standby. It’s sadly about the best you can hope for with this generation of Atom (and 4415Y as in the Surface Go.)

I did three power runs in standby with network connected and got 0.5, 0.6 and 0.5% per hour power draw which would imply at best around 50 hours of standby before dead

Performance on the Quad core atom is not bad, it’s by no means a Core i3 even, but it is quite noticeably faster the the 4415Y of the Surface Go. It’s good enough to be used on a trip making this a super companion on the Go! And the battery life is actually quite good.
The microSD slot seems to be slower than it ought to be, perhaps it’s connected by USB2. I got 28MB/s Vs 40 on the same card on other PCs.
The WIFI clocked in at 204Mb/s Vs 329Mb/s on my T450s.
The 128G eMMC clocks in at 24.5MB/s write and 85MB/s read. Comparable to devices of it’s time, obviously way behind newer true SSDs.
The USB 3 is full speed and I was able to get a full 101MB/s out of a USB flash drive, which was pretty much it’s speed.
Playback of WIFI content using Kodi and Plex was fine, nice and smooth, no issues. As usual the Windows store version of Plex sucks.

Charge speed is as expected not that quick. It drew a pretty steady 15-16W right up to 85% (18W would be the max out of the adapter) and I would estimate a full charge from dead to take just under 3 hours with the system in standby. It will take a LOT longer if the system is being used, and would take a lot longer with a phone 10W charger. I have no idea if a higher current charger could help this, I doubt it.

The microUSB port that is used as charge can also be used as a USB OTG port.

All in all I like this tablet. It doesn’t have the nicer design of the Surface, the pen experience on the Surface is better, but the weight and general performance are better than the Surface. So the choice becomes what are you looking for? A generic device that also does pen (for this the iPad is better), a single function pen device (for this the Surface does better) or other? So where does this device fit? I find myself wondering exactly that. An imperfect pen experience even with the surface pen, good general performance but no where near an ipad? Insert head scratching …

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

Surface Go 4G 64G review

When I bought my iPad 9.7 with the pencil I somehow missed that this device even existed in my consideration for replacing Vivotab Note 8. As you may recall I take digital notes as part of my other hobby Wine tasting. During events I am walking around a crowded room, tasting wine, and making notes. So it’s quite a challenge to find a way to do this efficiently. The case, the pen, the weight, balancing the glass … Heh I like challenges ๐Ÿ™‚ While the iPad works well there are a number of irritations I find like the pencils idiotic power management (or lack thereof). Errant marks that seem to come out of nowhere while writing. And weight. The pencil itself works well, but the dimensions being so long, slippery and thin are not great, and is missing easy ways to erase, and it clumsily does not start writing in OneNote without you manually selecting the pen. Now this being said, these are all nit picks. But I have to admit, one of my character flaws is little irritations like this get to me over time when I know there is better out there. And with that framing you have this review. In reading so many other posts about the Surface Go I found a number of my questions were just not answered. I’ve played with a number of other Surfaces in the past but the weight was just too high for my use.

For reference the other device I briefly consider was the Asus Transformer Mini. One of the plagues of this device is there are a LOT of models and I can’t tell which ones support the pen and which do not. Now maybe they all do?

Let’s start with physicals:
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
530g 262x175x8.2 Transformer Mini 798g with keyboard

Price wise in CDN$$ $529 for the 4G/64G, $169 for the optional type cover (more on this later), and $103 for the pen (although there are cheaper ones out there), so all in your looking at $801 with taxes $905.13. So this is no cheap venture. I managed to find a used one for $500 including type cover and pen, an amazing deal.

Now onto ports, now this is a mix of good and bad. Microsoft definitely were forward thinking when designing this tablet, but forward thinking can have risks and costs. The ports consist of a USB-C, standard surface dock port (also used for the included charger), a 3.5mm audio port and a micro SD hidden under the kickstand. The USB-C can be used for video, USB-3, charging etc. The USB-C is great, but I have zero USB-C so the first thing I had to do was buy some converters. I bought two on Amazon, one from Artek that includes USB-C to charge back the tablet, HDMI, and a USB 3, and another that is a simple USB-3 converter, both from Amazon. They were cheap enough, but still another $30 onto an already expensive venture.

The combination USB3, USBC and HDMI converter I bought worked ok, but when the USBC was plugged in the HDMI didn’t work reliably, at least not with the USB-C charger I have for my Lenovo T480s. I bought a second one from Javontek and this one worked perfectly including full speed USB 3 while using video. I have to admit, I love the convenience of everything being on one port, kinda like a mini docking station. And I LOVE that there’s no upside down on USB-C!

Finding a case for use while writing and holding the device with one hand is surprisingly difficult. I eventually found one I could live with that includes a strap for the hand. I found one from Amazon, quite reasonably priced, Spigen for $25.99. I watched carefully the weight on case only to discover they lied. Turns out it’s 364g not the 90g they had advertised.

Spec wise:
2048ร—1536 iPad
1800×1200 Surface Go
1280×800 Asus Transformer Mini (it shocks me that Asus STILL use displays this low res)
1280×800 Asus Vivotab Note 8

The better display of the Surface and the expected better pen experience were key factors in my decision to choose this over the transformer mini.

Intelยฎ Atomโ„ข Z3740 Quad-Core, 1.33 GHz Asus Vivotab Note 8
Dual Core Intel Gold 4415y 1.6G Surface Go
Z8350 quad core atom 1.4G Asus Transformer mini
The processor is so different on the iPad as to be not worth mentioning from a comparison point of view

Now the number one thing that gave me pause on this device was the dual core (vs quad) processor. I was super skeptical. I read this article comparing the processors and it lead me to believe it should be at worst comparable. There’s an old saying that benchmarks don’t lie … but only liars use benchmarks. Based on what I’ve seen/felt to date this is VERY true. There is not a chance the 4415Y is anywhere near as fast as the older atom Z8350. Don’t believe the hype. I lived on a Asus transformer which was based on a quad core Atom with 4G ram, and performance was way better than this surface. Basic tasks, photo sorting, and basic photo editing bring this tablet to it’s knees quickly. Exceeding it’s processing power is really quite easy, even Microsoft jigsaw is laggy. Performance goes from barely adequate to inadequate at best. This is VERY much a limited use device. Even travelling with it would be challenging. Even the much older Surface 3 performed way better. As an interesting side note, in searching I have not been able to find ANYONE other than Microsoft using this processor.

There are two models (three if you add the LTE version) of the Surface Go Ram/HD 4G/64G and 8G/128G. The 64G is a slower eMMC Vs a true SSD on the 128G, I could not get any answers on just how much slower the eMMC is. I also wondered about the 4G. Well I shoulda wondered longer. Once booted up Windows even in S mode (more on that in a bit) chews up 2.4G of the 4G and windows keeps an amount on standby meaning that it’s into swapping pretty quickly. Using this device for generic use and having lots of Windows open is going to require an IMMENSE amount of patience. With nothing else running just starting edge and bringing up Google mail on the web takes over 10 seconds. And there’s lots of lags while things load. Once loaded generally performance is adequate, but just barely. After living on an Apple device where instantaneous is just the starting point this is definitely NOT THAT. It’s usable, but more than once I’ll find myself wondering did I actually click that button or not?

64G on the hard drive leaves lots of space to do whatever you need to do!

The Surface Go does NOT have a GPS from what I can tell. Not a problem really, this tablet is too large to be used in a car anyway IMHO.

The Surface Go includes a Windows hello compatible camera allowing you to use facial recognition to login! There is however, no finger print reader. The Asus Transformer mini is the opposite. The camera works reasonably well and is convenient to login with. If it can’t recognize you then it falls back to a PIN which was automatically setup!

Windows S
Now comes one of the major unknowns, Windows S. WTF is this? Well Windows S is a severely locked down Windows 10. It is at the heart still Windows 10. Windows 10 has NOT been scaled back at all, just neutered. The idea is that if you have better control on what is running you can give better battery life and more reliable experience. Think Apple ๐Ÿ™‚ So what this means is you can only load Windows store apps (and only some). Cut and paste seems hit and miss as to where they have removed it from. There’s no command prompt to use for diagnostics. Edge or internet explorer are your only browser, no chrome. And only some live tiles seem to work. I’ve not completely sorted this out other than to say it’s limited/limiting. You do however get a completely functional file explorer including LAN access so at least there’s that. Drivers are also restricted so things even like printers may or may not be supported under Windows S. You can switch to Windows home from Windows S removing all the restrictions in a few clicks, it’s really quite trivial. The path back is a little more complicated requiring use USB recovery key, and of course don’t forget, this is USB-C. Using the recovery key will completely wipe your machine and return it to factory ship state so be aware of that. I’m intentionally trying to see if I can live on Windows S to give it a fair shake. So far I’ve played with the Microsoft Store apps for:
HDHomeRun (network based TV tuner) plays back fine
Plex played back fine over Wifi
OneNote (Some different things in the UI and some missing functions like clipping screen sections etc, but still way more functional than the iOS version)
Microsoft RDP
Games: Cribbage, Solitaire collection, 7 little words
It shocks me that Microsoft do not include tiles for Battery or clock
The Weathernetwork (although for some bizarre reason the live tile doesn’t work)
The built apps for Mail/Calendar work fine
So far the biggest miss is that I can’t load my OpenVPN software ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Connected standby
When the Atoms came out one of the “innovations” was connected standby. It allowed the device to sit in a low power state and from time to time wake up check for mails and the like and then then go back to sleep. It was an attempt to mimic what people are use to on phones, Vs the usual standby or hibernate of computers. Well, the only thing this ever insured was that your batter was always dead. At a most (well it’s supposed to be the max but it never quite worked out that way) of 2% per hour in one day sitting doing nothing you’d lost at least half your battery. I could not find anywhere whether the 4415Y kept connected standby or went back to the traditional standby … Well I’m here to tell you connected standby is still here. In 6 hours (the default time until it entered hibernate) it dropped 7%, so out of the box it looks like around 1.1%/hr. At least they enabled hibernate by default. I wasn’t not sure if there is a way to disable connected standby and revert to normal standby or not, there wasn’t on Atom, and then I tripped over it, they’ve quietly added a setting you can turn this off! Neutering connected standby YAY. This actually works really well and you can see the network drop off right after entering standby!

So I did a few battery runs to see how it would perform in standby with the network disconnected. This was sadly a VERY mixed bag. The most predictable is when little to nothing is running in the background. Even in S mode. So I shutdown everything rebooted logged back in and let it sit there … in 16.5 hours it dropped 12% or 0.7%/hr down from 1.1%/hr (as noted above). So while this is no where near as good as true hardware based standby it’s better. I double checked and there are no settings in the BIOS where you might be able to enable hardware based standby so I can only presume this architecture like the Atoms does not support it ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Type cover
Like all Surfaces this one has an optional type cover keyboard. It’s thin and light weighing in at 222g. Keyboard travel is short and it’s kind of spongy feeling. It’s not the worst keyboard I’ve ever used but not the best either. Key placement is good except for the page up/down home and end etc. It’s backlit and you can lock the Fn key allowing the usual PF keys to work as they did before Win 10. The glide point in spite of not being my fav works well and supports gestures such as page down etc. Given how bad the Windows on screen keyboard is compared to any others, this keyboard option can come in handy and add some additional usability to the tablet. Of course the use of the keyboard get’s tempered by the limited use cases this device has due to the very poor performing processor.

The Surface pen has continued to evolve over time and it keeps getting better. It has a bluetooth connection to the tablet which allows it to have buttons that can be used to erase, start apps and the like. It’s quite well done. And the battery life on a AAAA battery is amazing. No constant screwing around with charging batteries as you have to with the Apple pencil. The pen is capable of picking up tilt as well as pressure sensitivity with 4096 different levels. It really feels good in the hand, writes well and is one of the best paper like experiences. Using the pen works well with the usual annoyances with Windows. Sometimes the task bar selects when your writing (bad palm rejection). The easiest solution is to change the task bar to auto hide so it goes away. Microsoft messed with Palm rejection which worked well in Windows 8, sadly Win 10 is worse. I also turned off “Ignore touch input when I’m using my pen” because this made scrolling down slower as I had to wait and move the pen away from the screen. On the positive side the Windows version of Onenote that I use to take my digital notes in is more functional in Windows than iOS or Android. Within the Surface app you can see the current battery level of the pen, and it remembers it even when disconnected. Very nicely done! The pen is magnetic and can grip the side of the Surface reasonably tightly. An unpaired pen works to draw with but the buttons don’t work. This is handy if you have more than one Surface around, of course if the pen could pair with more than one Surface that would be even better ๐Ÿ™‚

Lots of laptops have great battery life and then take forever to recharge from dead. The Surface comes with a standard Surface 25W charger, but optionally it can take a USB-C charger, apparently up to 54W. The 25W charger takes 1hr 45mins from completely dead, so not horrible. I found I had a 65W USB-C charger that came with a Lenovo 480S (PN 01FR029) and this took charge time from dead down to 1hr 15mins, impressive! It’s nice to see this tablet adopt modern phone like quick charge speeds! The iPad for reference took 4 hours ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

The tablet does not get all that hot even when being quick charged.

Phone integration
With the phone app in Windows you can send a web page from your phone to your tablet and vice versa, but only if your using Edge. You can send text messages and share photos if your on Android (not iOS). So this is basically zero for me being on an iPhone. Not a chance I’m moving to Edge on an iPhone.

So all in all, while the Surface Go looked like an enticing package, I found it’s usefulness to be exceptionally limited by the completely anemic processor.

May 14, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Shark IONFLEX DUOCLEAN cordless ultra-light vacuum review

Every now and then I go off my regularly scheduled program and go off topic. Ya this is one of those. I’ve been lugging around a big canister vacuum cleaner for a lot of years now. It’s inconvenient to such an extent it gets dragged out irregularly. So the thought dawned on me, I wonder if I had a cordless, handy vacuum cleaner that could be used for doing little mess clean up and keeping the kitchen free from food on the tile, would it get done more often. So I bought this one. I have to admit I was super skeptical so I chose to buy a refurb from Factory direct , I paid $150 they had a sale on, regularly $350On Amazon

Straight off … spolier alert … This is a well designed vacuum cleaner. I’m thoroughly impressed, and my regular readers know I don’t say that often.

The number of attachments that this comes with is quite comprehensive. As well as the powerhead it comes with a neat dusting wand that works very well, crevice tool, furniture tool and something I can’t come up with a reason for ๐Ÿ™‚

Most of the tools can be used on the end of the long pole or on the unit itself, which makes using it for dusting, getting rid of cob webs and like easy. (Not my image I stole it from Amazon).

The unit can stand up leaned against a wall with no need to drill into the wall. It means you can keep the unit nice and close to the most common place for messes. I found a nice handy spot in the kitchen.

The power head has two modes which are controlled from the top handle for hard surfaces and for carpet (it changes the speed of the beater bars). It works very well and glides effortlessly. Given the weight it’s amazing how well this pivots and corners around. The power head can be used with or without the long pole so it can be used to clean things like your car. The suction this unit creates is quite impressive in even the extended runtime mode, and there’s a second mode that delivers even more suction. The power head has lights making it super easy to clean under beds and the like. The power head is well designed and stops quickly when it gets caught on anything, and then resets quickly once the obstruction is removed. The powerhead is about 10″ wide so not too bad, even for larger areas.

The bin where the dirt is collected is transparent so you can see as it’s filling. There’s a simple empty button and the bottom door falls open. Be careful I did it once by accident before I figured out how easy it was and dumped all the dirt right back on my floor ๐Ÿ˜ฆ DOH.

In addition to the dust bin there’s a simple to clean foam filter under top hood on the handle you can wash and reuse. It’s amazing how much this traps. This is by no means a HEPA filter, but it seems effective. There’s one final filter that can be removed and cleaned that’s just at the exhaust of the handle. All these filters can be replaced once worn out. A set of two is $31 on Amazon. I can only imagine, that if you properly care for these in washing them these should last a while.

The battery on this thing is huge measuring in at a whopping 61.74WH. This gives you about 1/2 hour cleaning time. There’s a convenient light on the battery you can see the whole time the unit is running which shows you how charged the battery is. And it will run all the way to the point of dead and then the whole thing just shuts down.

The battery once dead takes a whopping 3-4 hours to fully recharge before your good to go again. Some models of this unit shipped with two batteries. Given how slow this thing is to recharge I can totally see why. It can be charged in the vacuum cleaner or you can slide it out and charge it wherever convenient. The charger is quite large and has a barrel plug making it super easy. Spare batteries are not cheap, coming in at $85 US on the Shark parts web site.

All in all this is one impressive little vacuum cleaner, well worth the money especially if you get it on refurb.

April 1, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Garmin Fenix 5 upgrade/data transfer

One of the things Apple does really well is to make the process of upgrading from a previous Apple device trivial … Garmin not so much ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I’m coming from a Fenix 3 so I would like to able to make the setup of a new device as quick as possible. Ok forget that thought cause it ain’t happening.

On first power up Garmin ask you a series of stupid questions, age, height weight … all of this data is already in Garmin connect so why am I being asked it yet again? Moving on.

When you get your new device the first thing you need to do is to get it up to date. This can be done using the Garmin Connect app on the phone or it can be done with Garmin Express. The Fenix 5 does not have WIFI so this can’t be done that way (the Fenix 3 I had did have WIFI). This may take a couple iterations, and a couple watch reboots to complete.

Once up to date you are ready to get your new device setup. There are a number of parts to the Fenix that need to be setup. First and foremost for me is the waypoints. I have A LOT. TO do this start up Garmin Basecamp with your old and new devices plugged in. Go to your old one on Basecamp and do whatever cleanup you need to do. The temptation is to do a copy and paste … don’t. It crashed my Fenix 5 and I found myself needing to do a hard reset of the Fenix to get it back. The right answer is to right click on your old Garmin and clip send to your new Fenix. And just like that the waypoints are copied. Be patient depending on how many you have this can take a bit. Believe it or not this is the least painful part of the process.

Next up comes ConnectIQ Watch faces, widgets and data field. There is absolutely no easy way to do this. You are going to need to one by one go through the connectIQ on the old device, then find it on the web and install it to your new device. Garmin could really improve this A LOT. Wait, your not done. First up comes the complexity that the ConnectIQ apps you loved on your old device MAY not be compatible with your new device. And if it is, you will need to go through the settings for each of the Connectiq apps. Sheesh.

Next up comes the individual activities you use. Sadly these can only be setup on the watch. So your going to need to review the settings for each activity on the old watch, note them, and manually setup them up again on the new watch. Tedious …

And with that you finally have your new toy ready to use.

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

Dlink Dir878 mini Review

Recently my daughter started having WIFI issues in parts of the home. As usual the first thing was to translate what she was seeing into what the issue is. She just kept saying she was getting kicked off the internet. I had to do some digging to find the problem. I used an app called WIFI Analyzer to have a look at what was going on in the air waves around me … Seems my neighbor had updated his WIFI to a higher power one and was overwhelming mine. I’ve been using a Linksys E3000 router for a while now, I’ve been looking for a reason to replace it, seems I found one ๐Ÿ™‚

Newer routers such as this are improved in three areas. First they have upped the transmit power. Now what exactly that means I can’t seem to find specifics but it was the cause of my woes. Second newer, faster speeds have been released, in this case AC1900. And lastly they have brought out what is called MU-MIMO which is supposed to be better at handling more than one user at a time and keep the one user from swamping the wireless lan. With external hi gain antennas (Vs only internal smaller antennas on the E3000) reception should be improved.

Immediately I could see the improvement in the signal strength from the new router and the neighbors signal was now below mine instead of them overwhelming mine. My router in the house sits comfortably and safely behind my Pfsense firewall which keeps it solid, reliable and unhacked. This means my router sits in bridge mode. Some routers have a setting for bridge mode, this one does not. So what you do is set your lan IP address to static and assign it to your internal networks settings. Then turn off DHCP on the router. The cable plugs into LAN port and your done. This is different than some that you plug into the internet port and put it in bridge mode.

Once setup it’s time to see what kind of improvements in speed you can get. To test this out I use iPerf which tests raw network speed. You load a server on one machine and then point your client at that sever and you get your results.

First up the E3000 on 2.5GHZ, sitting close to the router I got a link speed of 72Mbps and measured a speed of 45.4Mbps. By comparison the new router got a link speed of 144Mbps and a measured speed of 81.3Mbps. This translated into 79% faster on 2.5GHZ.

Next up lets try the E3000 on 5GHZ, again sitting close to the router and I got link speed of 144Mbps and 89.7Mbps. The new router got a link speed of 867 Mbps and a measured speed of 313 Mbps which translates into 249% faster, WOW.

I bought this router off Amazon after reading reviews for $100 refurbished. For such a low price the performance is exceptional and has solved my range problems to boot! There is another router that is supposed to be even faster DIR882 AC2600, but this is good enough for me. It’s worth noting that the DIR882 also has a USB 3 port.

It’s worth noting that this router does NOT have a USB port so can’t server up anything. It also with the external antennas is not the best looking thing in the room. It by means blends in, rather it sticks out (like a sore thumb). To get the best performance the router should be as close to your main living area as possible. It’s worth the time to run a network cable from the basement where your cable or DSL modem is likely located to the router.

February 19, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment