Showing posts from August, 2015

Hotel Wi-Fi Review: River Rhythm Hotel, Tianhe, Guangzhou

River Rhythm Hotel, Tianhe, Guangzhou is a business hotel at the south side of Guangzhou next to Keyun Road. If you're arriving from a red-eye or a late evening flight to Baiyun airport, you'll get charged a somewhat hefty 200 RMB - 250 RMB ($40.00) taxi ride to get to the hotel. Although you'll probably be sharing the taxi ride with strangers and the meter doesn't reflect the taxi fare accurately, the price is actually reasonable considering it's a long, winding ride from the airport. Unless you're familiar with China's third largest city, I don't recommend hoofing it or taking any chances with transportation. The often wet twisting highways of Guangzhou would make you marvel at the daredevil 80KPH speeds taxi drivers reach while getting you to River Rhythm Hotel.

Tianhe Road is a long highway with many twists and turns with overpasses and crossroads blocking visibility. Don't expect taxi drivers to know River Rhythm considering that the area is lit…

Moneygraph app for Windows Phone

In the old days, I used KMyMoney or GNUCash on openSUSE or Mandriva to keep track of my expenses. Later on, I built a multi-tabbed Microsoft Excel worksheet that automatically created tables for my daily and modest expenditures. When I started using a Lumia 925, I loaded the Excel file and regularly filled out the Excel sheet using Excel for Windows Mobile whenever I forked over cash.  
This month, I installed Moneygraph on my Lumia 925 and realized that I had been wasting my time using the .xls file I created. Moneygraphis a basic Windows Phone expense recording app that provides just the right options and features for users who want to track their daily expenses and accounts. 

There are other apps with more robust features such as the option to scan receipts, but if your needs are simple (like me) and you want to see a visual summary of your purchases and spending activities, then Moneygraph is perfect.

Unlike KMyMoney or GNUCash, you don't need to follow debit and credit accountin…

Quick Fix: Linux Image issues from mobile devices

If you're on a Linux desktop and download images from an online storage service or your Android/iOS/Windows Phone device, you may occasionally find yourself unable to attach, share or send them via email. 

If you get an error attaching or sending an image file in Linux, just use ImageMagick to save the image to a different file format. 
To convert a JPG file to a  PNG file using ImageMagick in Debian 8 Jessie with Xfce:
1. Right-click on a JPEG file and click Open with > Open With "ImageMagick (display Q16).
2. Right-click on the image and click Save.

3. Input a new filename with the file extension .png. Click Save.

Note: In my tests, using a photo editor such as Gimp and using the export command does not resolve this issue but ImageMagick works every time.  

Shout out to the Sony Mobile Documentations Team (Beijing)

In a change of pace from the detached disembodied voice here at Unsolicited But Offered and a break from the Linux and mobile device articles, I'd like to give a shout out to the lovely people at the Technical Documentations team at Sony Mobile, Beijing.

I absolutely enjoyed working with everyone and I will definitely miss the kindness and patience of the Beijing team. Good luck and I hope to see everyone again soon!

*All photos taken using a Sony NEX-3NL and cropped and resized using Gimp in Debian 8 Jessie.

External optical drives and the ASUS SDRW-08D2S-U

I was slightly miffed but unsurprised when a co-worker (a Millenial) asked me what the white, flat box connected to my Toshiba NB520 running Debian 8 Jessie was. It was an ASUS SDRW-08D2S-U - a previous generation, affordable, basic DVDRW external optical drive designed for Macbooks and Windows ultraportables.  When I told her it was a drive and showed her how the button pops out the tray, she asked me if that was the only thing it can do.

I didn't bother to launch K3B or Brasero on my Linux desktop just to have the pleasure of  promoting ISO creation and old-school media ripping. The truth is, I can't blame anyone for mocking external optical drives. However, I still consider optical drives invaluable for Handbrake, backing up music CDs and my hard drive, creating Linux LiveDVDs/CDs and troubleshooting laptops and PCs. In fact, I recently created a "mixed tape" (or to be precise a music DVD) using iTunes from Windows 10. While I was at it, I created installation di…

Unsolicited Question: Bamboo Stylus and Kobo Glo

Q: Will the Bamboo Stylus Solo work on the Kobo Glo?

The Kobo Glo is an excellent ebook reader but the touch screen, as with most e-ink devices, can be less than ideal for highlighting and making notes, especially if you're using your finger. 
The Bamboo Stylus Solo is an entry-level stylus for touch screen devices. It has a rounded rubber point and works well with large devices such as the iPad 2 and smaller smartphones such as the Sony Xperia Z. The Stylus Solo can also be used with the Kobo Glo and is great for selecting text for highlighting or adding notes.

To select text on the Kobo Glo, place the stylus on a word and press gently, then drag across text you want to highlight. When you lift the pen, options will appear for highlighting and adding a note.

Returning a company laptop

If you've worked in a company that uses laptops/portables rather than towers, thin-clients or workstations, then you probably understand the travails and advantages of having a company-issued machine, whether it's running MacOSX, Linux or Windows.

Yes, IT admins will wipe or reimage the hard drive once the device is returned but no, not all companies require a rigid purge or debugging of the hard drive. In most cases, they don't have time to perform those tasks or the department heads need the laptop out on the field as soon as possible. Here are some thoughts from an IT admin regarding what to do before you return your laptop/portable:
1. If you had administrator access or installed applications on the portable, uninstall all your personal applications as a courtesy to your friendly neighborhood IT guy. Again, they will wipe the drive but it's nice if VLC, uTorrent, Portableapps or any open-source software is off the drive when he performs a routine checkup.
2. Back up…

Windows 10 Checklist: Edge and IE11

The initial reaction to Edge was a careful applause from the media and it's nice to see mainstream users welcome Microsoft's efforts to build a new, sexier browser. For my part, however, Edge is a pretty good browser for casual use, but not yet quite up to serious tasks in IT or even daily tasks such as banking and booking online services. It isn't Microsoft's fault, however, since it's really up to web developers in different industries to keep their sites compliant with the latest browsers.

For sites such as  Mashable, Askmen, Newsarama and Superherohype, Edge does have a leg over it's cousin Internet Explorer 11. In fact, the telecommunications training site, which still uses Flash for their older training lessons, loaded faster with Edge, whereas Internet Explorer 10/11 required a high-speed Ethernet connection to run the lessons.

Moreover, I like the news feed powered by MSN and can't wait to try it out on a dedicated Windows 10 ta…

Quick Fix: Displaying character-based languages in Office 2010

Even if you have the proper language packs installed on your Windows machine (Windows 7/8.1/10), Excel or Word may still have problems displaying character-based languages such as Chinese or Japanese. The document may still display characters as gibberish.

If the document is a one-off, just change the default language for Word 2010 or Excel 2010 temporarily by clicking File > Options > Language.
Select the character-based language such as Chinese or Japanese, then click Set as Default. Click OK. Note: If the language isn't listed in the Language options, add the language using Settings in Windows 10 or Control Panel in Windows 7/8.1.  Close the Office application and then open the document again. The characters will now appear properly.
To save the properly rendered file or the content of the file, you can do any of the following: 1. Use File > Saveas and save the document using a different filename. Even if you revert back to English as your default language in Office,…

Do you use banking apps?

From Africa to Japan to remote islands, banking apps are used in Android, Windows Phone, Windows and iOS devices. They are amazingly convenient and despite rampant criticisms for banks all over the world due to malpractices, obscene banker salaries and scandals, mainstream users today appreciate a bank that provides a frontend to their online banking service.

International banks are selective when it comes to providing apps for specific markets and regions. There are no dedicated HSBC apps for some parts of the world but they do provide several versions depending on what type of customer you are.

Meanwhile, Standard Chartered provides a different version of their Breeze app for most of their major markets, tailoring not only the display language but the options in the UI.

Apple's iOS is clearly the winner when it comes to the number of official banking apps available, but Android is getting some attention too thanks to big players such as Samsung, Huawei and banks such as Citiban…

ASUS USB3.1 drivers and USB Type-C motherboards

If I still built desktops and servers for my own network rather than using tablets, online services and low-powered hardware with Linux, I'd love to try out the new ASUS motherboards that support USB 3.1 and include a USB Type-C port. I'm pretty sure hobbyists and enthusiasts will soon be building high-powered systems with the recently released ASUS drivers and motherboards.  Even those who already own high-end ASUS motherboards (Z-series) can start using USB 3.1 by updating their BIOS and downloading 3.1 drivers (which would be interesting on a Windows 10 machine).

Working with motherboards, old or new, can be pretty fun. For Millenials who have no clue building machines and are addicted to smartphones, Android tablets, Chromebooks (vomit) and 2-in-1s, they're really missing out. As much as I adore Raspberry Pi and Arduino boards, there's something about really hardcore, pricey, fully-kitted motherboards.

Windows 10 Checklist Part 3: Language packs, speech and handwriting

Continued from Windows 10 Checklist Part 2

There's a slight difference in setting up input languages in Windows 10, though the principles are largely the same if you've used multi-language versions of Windows before. Windows 10 was distributed freely all over the world so language options aren't as limited as it was with Windows XP, 7, and 8.

To add an input language in Windows 10 Pro:

1. Click Start > Settings > Time & language > Region & language > Add a language.

2. Select a language.

Adding a language using this setting doesn't install the complete set of supplementary language packs for keyboard input, speech and handwriting. If a language pack is already installed, you will have options for handwriting, speech and keyboards.

If supplementary language packs are available but not yet installed, the language listed will indicate this. Adding Spanish and French to the language list is enough, for example, and doesn't require a separate languag…