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Showing posts from September, 2014

Buying Electronics in Beijing: Zhongguancun vs. Chaoyangmen Part 2

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Continued from Buying Electronics in Beijing: Zhongguancun vs. Chaoyangmen Part 1

I wasn't looking forward to checking out the electronics stores in Chaoyangmen because I thought the experience would exactly be like my disappointing trip to Zhongguancun. During the much shorter subway ride from Wanjing to Chaoyangmen using Line 13 and the Inner Loop Line, I promised myself that I would just bite the bullet and order the 89RMB TP-Link router from JD.com if Chaoyangmen was a no go.




Once you exit Chaoyangmen station, follow the stream of Westerners and locals heading to the direction of the Jian Hypermarket and the overpass. I crossed the overpass and ended up walking around banks and companies, though I did hit a Wal-Mart and a few electronics stores after a good 15-minute walk.

I recommend staying on the side of the Jian Hypermarket. You'll bump into a lesser-known Chaoyangmen tourist attraction - an old Chinese mansion turned museum.




I'm too stingy to take a gander at the pla…

Buying Electronics in Beijing: Zhongguancun vs. Chaoyangmen Part 1

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Buying electronics in China can be a tricky affair and not because of suspicious and questionable hardware (dodgy electronics can be purchased anywhere around the world after all). Products purchased in the Fragrant Kingdom can have issues regarding firmware and software limited to only one language or character set, limitations to applications (particularly with Google-related mobile apps) and extensive customizations focused only on the Middle Kingdom market.

Note: It's well-known that buying an Android-powered smartphone in China can be an issue due to the lack of Google APIs and restricted access to Google Store and Google services.

For tourists and casual users of electronics visiting China, I recommend purchasing electronic products in your home country and shop for tea, food or clothing instead. However, for the adept, patient, adventurous and capable, there really is no harm purchasing electronics in Beijing and you might actually learn something new.

Bing or Google "sh…

Lumia 925 Battery Life after Windows Phone 8.1 Update

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Since upgrading to the official Windows Phone 8.1 Cyan update roughly 2 weeks ago, I've been especially vigilant about watching over my Lumia 925's battery so I can write about it on Unsolicited But Offered. I'm not a creature of habit when using my devices but by 1730, the Lumia 925 is already warning me to run for a socket or USB port or risk missing calls and messages (as if Miranda Kerr would call or a winning SMS from the lottery would arrive).



On one occasion, I charged the Lumia 925's battery to full at night, went to bed before 1030 and was up by 630 am. The battery meter reported a remaining battery life of slightly more than 80%. This was curious, but thankfully battery power didn't wane as badly the following nights and clocked in at 90% or higher.

Now, I'm not a smartphone power user. I have an iPod Touch with me when I commute and use other devices for entertainment and study at home. I don't have a data plan and my SMS use consists of a message …

Easy DLNA with Rygel (openSUSE 13.1 KDE)

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You have a variety of options for setting up your openSUSE machine as a media server but if you prefer to use DLNA, you can try either miniDLNA or Rygel.

This short tutorial uses an openSUSE 13.1 KDE on a Toshiba NB520, a WD TV Live Media Player running the 2.02.32 (8/2014) firmware and an ASUS DSL-N55U AC router.

To set up Rygel on your openSUSE 13.1 machine:

1. Using Zypper or YaST2, install the Rygel package.

Note: Rygel was designed for the Gnome desktop and will look somewhat odd on KDE but the user interface works fine and installation doesn't require any additional Gnome dependencies.

2. Configure your firewall for DLNA streaming.

Note: Changing firewall settings in YaST2 or configuring AppArmor is beyond the scope of this article. If you just want to try Rygel on your DLNA network, disable openSUSE's firewall temporarily and enable it afterwards.

3. Connect your openSUSE 13.1 machine to the same Wi-Fi connection as the WD TV Live.

4. Launch Rygel from the KDE Kickoff men…

ASUS MemoPad HD7, Miracast and WD TV Live

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The ASUS MemoPad is listed as one of the devices supported by the WD TV Live Media Player for Miracast streaming.

This short tutorial uses a MemoPad HD7 running Android 4.2.2, a WD TV Live Media Player running the 2.02.32 (8/2014) firmware and an ASUS DSL-N55U AC router.

To use set up Miracast with a WD TV Live Media Player:

1. Connect your MemoPad HD7 to the same Wi-Fi connection as the WD TV Live.

2. On the MemoPad HD7 Settings page, tap Display > Wireless display (Miracast) > ON

Note: You can also tap the Miracast icon directly from the notification tray.




3. The MemoPad will detect Miracast devices in your wireless network and display WDTVLive. If needed, tap Search for displays.




4. Tap WDTVLive. Your MemoPad's screen appears on the display connected to your WDTVLive.

Miracast performance really depends on the speed of your wireless network but the MemoPad HD7 can actually stream even videos played using VLC for Android without any lag to the WD TV Live Media Player.



Note: A Mira…

Nokia Play to and WD TV Live

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Nokia Play to is Windows Phone's free app for streaming photos, videos and music to a DLNA device. This short tutorial uses a Lumia 925 running Windows Phone 8.1 Cyan, a WD TV Live Media Player running the 2.02.32 (8/2014) firmware and an ASUS DSL-N55U AC router.


To use Play to with a WD TV Live:
1. Connect your Windows Phone to the same Wi-Fi connection as the WD TV Live.
2. In Nokia Play to, tap the Options button and then Connect.
3. The Wi-Fi network item lists the current Wi-Fi SSID. Under Stream to, tap WDTVLive.



Note: The Lumia takes a moment to display the WD TV Live under the Stream to list.
4. Tap Photos, Videos or Music and select the file to stream to the WD TV Live.



Note: Unfortunately as with many Windows Phone apps, Play to cannot access content stored in other apps on the smartphone. For example, trailers downloaded using the Nokia Trailers app can't be streamed using Play to. Only videos stored on the Videos folder are accessible.
5. As your media is streaming, tap th…

Proofreading for Tech Writers Part 2

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Continued from Proofreading for Tech Writers Part 1

Grammar/spelling tools are good and are getting better all the time but doesn't excuse you from proofreading. Even if your editor or a peer will end up reading your document, you should always give your document a once over (or several) before submission. 


Screen capture from Evangelion 1.0: You are (Not) Alone
Here are some suggestions to ease the pain of proofreading:
•If possible, read a plain text version of a document. Formatting or any markup is distracting.
•Remove formatting, notes or annotations if you're reading from a word processor such as Microsoft Word or a PDF viewer such as Adobe Reader. If you're reading from a web browser, consider plain text instead.
•Pretend that you don't know anything about the product or topic as you read. If possible, read the technical document with the product in hand. At the end of your proofreading, ask yourself if you actually learned anything from the document or if you we…

Proofreading for Tech Writers Part 1

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Proofreading is the process of reading and reviewing a document to check for language, tone, style and grammar errors. The primary purpose of proofreading is to improve the document as a whole. In many ways, proofreading is the opposite of skimming. Skimming is the act of reading a document quickly by mentally focusing only on the meaningful words and parts of the text and ignoring the rest. Readers and users skim through technical documents, but writers should always proofread their documents.


Screen capture from The Shining (1980)

Unlike Ruby, Java or any type of programming language, the English language can't be debugged according to a set number of rules or tested using a compiler, platform or browser. The XML markup on a piece of technical document can be validated against a DTD or Schema but grammar and clarity is checked only by the reader and the writer. Debugging code is a laborious task but the rules are clear-cut and precise. English language usage, on the other hand, do…

Quick Fix: Accessing a newly created Windows 8.1 User (PPPoE connection)

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One of the controversial changes Microsoft did with Windows 8 is the use of a Microsoft Account to log in to the Windows desktop. On the one hand, the move was in line with trends in other mobile operating systems and users can opt out of it using an offline setting. On the other hand, the change can be annoying particularly if you created a second user account from an Administrative User on a PPPoE connection. If you reboot and attempt to log in using the newly recreated account, you won't be able to log in and authenticate because no PPPoE connection has been set up yet for that user account. Wi-Fi is also inaccessible from an initial user set up screen.
To work around this issue, log in to an account that has Internet access via PPPoE. Press the Windows button and on the Start menu, click the user account and select the newly created user account. You should be able to sign in to the second account without problems. The PPPoE connection from the first account will be retained an…

Tech Book Review: Visual Quickstart Guide - HTML5 and CSS3

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The painful truth about mainstream technical/computer books is that everything is already on the Internet. Do you want to learn DITA? Head off to the OASIS website. How about PHP? Visit the PHP developer site and pass by phpMyAdmin while you're at it.

One of the obvious uphill battles of computer book publishers is that the younger generation can learn code and technology quickly and easily without needing much reference other than a good search engine. Another obstacle is how fast standards change. Some unknown obscure coder or developer or engineer probably figured out at least two dozen ways to add markup better when he woke up this morning. By tomorrow, whatever the author and editor had sent to the printer's/ebook publisher is obsolete.

I can't imagine how hard it is for computer authors to write a standard reference or computer book without a million professionals, developers and black/white hats deriding everything the author put on print or .epub. I'd rather wr…

Sony PlayMemories Home Redux

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As a Linux user, I'm accustomed to using Gwenview and Digikam for importing and managing images but never found a good photo manager when working in Windows. I reviewed Sony PlayMemories Home last year and used the excellent application with my Sony NEX-3NL until I upgraded to Windows 8.1 a few months ago.

Unresolved issues with Microsoft Store and Windows apps on Windows 8.1 have kept me from using the default Photos app so I found myself installing the Sony PlayMemories Home once again.



The free multimedia and image viewer has had some really good updates since I last used the application and I realized just how useful the photo manager was even though I don't spend too much time taking photos using my Sony NEX-3NL. PlayMemories Home is fast even when handling a large library of images with different file sizes and formats. I aggregate photos and screen captures from different devices when writing articles for Unsolicited But Offered so I was happy PlayMemories was able to s…

Quick Fix: iTunes crashing in Podcast List View (Windows 8.1)

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Apple iTunes for Windows has never been the most stable of applications and most users prefer iTunes on their iOS device to download podcasts over-the-air. However, if you prefer podcasts playing on your desktop like I do, you may have encountered an issue with iTunes where the application will crash if you try to refresh your list of podcasts in List View.



To resolve this issue, switch to the My Podcasts or All Unplayed view instead. The error doesn't affect other views and is limited only to List View.



Note: The debut of iOS8 already brought along regular updates to iTunes for the Windows desktop so I'm sure the issue will be corrected soon.

Pirated posts - DO NOT visit freebsdlaptopsupport.blogspot

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Looks like Unsolicited But Offered has been leached on by some retarded prick who can't write his own articles. The site, freebsdlaptopsupport.blogspot.com has been republishing the author's articles since 2011.



If anyone can track this guy or this company down please provide me his/their online details. For the regular readers of Unsolicited But Offered or anyone who has benefited from this site, I appreciate any help you guys can give.




China Unicom 10MB Broadband Installation (Beijing) Part 2

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Continued from China Unicom 10MB Broadband Installation (Beijing) Part 1


Almost everyone told me it would take 3-10 days before an onsite tech sets up the broadband service. However, the nice young lady who processed my order actually told me it would only take 3 days (she raised three fingers). I took this with a grain of salt but secretly hoped it was true since my address was so close to their office.

I had mine installed on a Sunday - and I actually visited their office on a Friday! To be honest, the onsite tech actually called on Saturday and asked if he could come over in the afternoon to install everything but my poor Chinese skills failed to understand what he was trying to say and I scheduled it for next week instead. Thankfully, he called back on Sunday and visited my apartment 2 hours later.

Back in Shanghai, two China Telecom techs had installed my broadband service and I remember them telling me never to bend the fiber connector on the modem. This time around it was one swe…

China Unicom 10MB Broadband Installation (Beijing) Part 1

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Note: Since I previously wrote a 2-part article on the China Telecom experience when I was living in Shanghai, it's only fair that an overview for China Unicom is in order.

It took me a month and a week of Internet withdrawal (as well as my impending onling banking cutoff date) to finally web-swing over to the China Unicom office across Wangjing station and shell out cash for a year's worth of home broadband service. You can't miss the China Unicom office because the company shares the building with its competitor China Telecom. Moreover, there are three flagpoles outside the building and a huge China Telecom sign if you're walking from the south. At the corner of the telco building is a Starbucks branch and a Bank of China branch obscured by construction work.

Before choosing China Unicom, the locals told me the following:

1. If you're living in an apartment building, check with the apartment owner what service the building uses. In Beijing, it's more likely Chin…

openSUSE 13.1 and DITA-OT

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If you're already comfortable with writing XML files and understand the basics of writing DITA, use the DITA Open Toolkit to start publishing DITA content to PDF, .odt, XHTML and Web Help. Once you set up DITA Open Toolkit, you won't have to worry about the tool chain responsible for formatting and outputting DITA documents and you can focus on writing instead. Moreover, playing around with the DITA Open Toolkit is a good way to understand and learn how DITA output works.
The DITA-OT site provides everything you need to get started with DITA publishing along with a straightforward user guide for working in Linux, MacOSX or Windows
This short overview discusses setting up DITA OT in openSUSE 13.1 KDE and follows the instructions on the DITA OT site. Feel free to go directly there for the complete guide. 
Easy Install and Java
For openSUSE 13.1 KDE users who prefer a straight up DITA experience, all you need is Java JRE or JDK and the DITA-OT Easy Install package
If you're r…