Showing posts from June, 2016

China Unicom Broadband Service, Liangmaqiao, Beijing Part 2

Continued from China Unicom Broadband Service, Liangmaqiao, Beijing Part 1

Obviously, the onsite tech couldn't run the line and noise test on the Ethernet port-deprived Macbook Air and my Windows 10-powered HP Stream 8 tablet, so I apologized and told him he can't test the service with my machines. His boyish and red face broke into a smile and he pulled out a battered Lenovo Ideapad. The service clocked in at more than 20MB and he gave me a grin. The installation experience was as pleasant and as quietly accommodating as what I experienced with the two goofy gents from China Telecom, Shanghai.

It seemed, however, that my apartment's location and my 6 months away from China's capital resulted in some changes in China Unicom's service. For one thing, the minimum broadband service for China Unicom is now 20MB, which anyone with any telecommunications background or experience with the Great Firewall can attest is doubly misleading. For another, the standard CPE is now (…

China Unicom Broadband Service, Liangmaqiao, Beijing Part 1

After finishing a brief stint in Guangzhou and experiencing the Southern version of China Telecom's broadband service, I found myself once again visiting a China Unicom branch, this time in the Liangmaqiao area, Beijing, to subscribe to their broadband service.

Although there are smaller broadband Internet providers available, I opted for China Unicom because I had previously subscribed to their service during my previous stay in Beijing. 

The closest China Unicom branch from my hovel/apartment was in Liangmaqiao, an area well-known for expatriates. I visited on a holiday when the store was empty, because I knew from experience I might delay the queue. A young intern smiled shyly at me from the salesdesk and quickly referred me to an older customer service rep who spoke no English, but swiftly dialed the China Unicom 10010 Customer Service Hotline to get ahold of a young, well-trained, English-speaking Chinese customer service representative. As it turned out, the rep was somewhat…

Notes on terminating your Yahoo account

In an effort to keep my online footprint small, it's my practice to close an account before signing up for a new one. Services that I tried out and permanently closed over the last decade include Geocities, AOL, Tripod, Adobe, Yahoo Australia, Behance, and more recently, Tumblr and Pinterest
A few years ago, I backed up my extremely dated and neglected Yahoo Email account using Thunderbird on my Linux Mint machine. I deleted roughly half of my inbox from the Yahoo servers and kept the rest for sentimental reasons. Truth be told, I should have terminated my account then, but I had been using the Yahoo account as a placeholder whenever I signed up for online services that I didn't take seriously. With most web services today expecting either a Facebook, Twitter, and Google account, a Yahoo account was now unnecessary. 

Even if you aren't indignant about incompetent Marissa Meyer walking away with tons of cash, consider closing your Yahoo account if you haven't used it…

Unsolicited Question: Shotwell and Mac OSX Photos Library

Q: Can you import RAW files and JPEGs from the Pictures folder in a Mac OSX machine using Shotwell?

You can't import images stored in the Photos Library of a Mac OSX machine using Shotwell. Mac OSX's Photos application uses its own way of managing images, which Linux servers won't immediately recognize.

Note: There are, of course, ways to work around this. One way is to use an external storage for storing Mac OSX photos. Western Digital's MyCloudproducts, for example, supports Mac OSX and Linux extremely well and you can set up cross-platform access to the Photos Library using their included software.

However, you can import images from user-created folders in the Pictures folder in a Mac OSX machine using Shotwell. Mac OSX's network share implementation is well-supported by Linux machines, so you can download photos from other folders in a Mac OSX machine as with any local or networked folder.

This article was tested with Shotwell on an Ubuntu 16.04 LTS PC and Mac…

Quick Fix: Garmin Connect, HERE/Windows Maps, and step length

To get the most out of your Garmin device, it's highly recommended you set your user settings accurately in the Garmin Connect, particularly your stride length for walking and running. Garmin's system adequately approximates your step length based on your height if you don't specify the length in the accompanying app. However, even casual users should take the time to use the app's built-in calculator to determine your stride length. To do this, you will have to perform a fairly simple task involving walking a specific distance, and manually counting your steps.

You can find out the distance between two points fairly accurately using either Apple Maps, Windows Maps, Google Maps, or HERE Maps on your mobile device. Windows Maps is now the default map for all Windows 10 devices, while HERE Maps can be installed on Apple, Android, and Windows devices, with an older version preinstalled in Windows Phone 8.1 smartphones.

This article uses the Garmin Connect app for Android a…

Big mistake, Brits

Captain Britain goes nuts in Spider-Man #25 (1992)

A more experienced Spidey outclasses and outmatches the powerful Captain Britain in Marvel Team-Up #65 (1978). Brian Braddock, as an exchange student from Thames University, briefly stayed at scholar Peter Parker's Chelsea apartment while visiting Empire State University. The two became fast friends and Peter would later assist Braddock's X-team, Excalibur, in London, twenty years later.

Tech on Film: Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Season 1-3) Part 2

Continued from Tech on Film: Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Season 1-3) part 1
6. Bill Hader makes a surprisingly unfunny appearance as Captain Seth Dozerman, who introduces a customized tablet to increase the police department's productivity. The tablet, which is hard to identify due to the plastic tablet sleeve, is more likely an entry-level AndroidASUS device in most of the scenes, and an iPad Mini in one office scene with Jake. Curiously enough, the writers used Backgammon as a running joke - the app isn't installed in Windows 10, iOS, and Android by default.

Dozer pad from season 3, episode 1.
It's actually not unheard of for companies to disseminate cheap tablets to their employees and configure them to have alarms and notifications (as well as GPS). You can also certainly connect it to the PA system wirelessly (which Dozerman uses to tell everyone to lay off Jake), but there would be a lag. Also, it's highly unlikely that tablets can really monitor your activities accuratel…

Tech on Film: Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Season 1-3) Part 1

Although Brooklyn Nine-Nine's season 3 was the weakest after two enjoyable seasons, the police sitcom is still a great alternative to shows that focus too much on death, rape, sex, and hot women. Moreover, Jake Peralta's (Adam Samberg) team never fails to forget the silliness of how people use their tech. In many ways, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is more in tune with consumer technology than HBO's popular Silicon Valley, which focuses more on the seamy business side (the backend so to speak) of enterprise technology.

1. The opening sequence of Brooklyn Nine-Nine introducing Stephanie Beatriz as Rosa Diaz is actually a very old, but real example of tech rage - she is shown hitting a display repeatedly in frustration. Millenials are probably more educated about the difference between the display and the tower or computer chassis, but they are even LESS tolerant about tech issues  than previous generations.

Unless that VGA cable is loose, hitting a display isn't going to help…

Unsolicited Question: Stalled file transfers from PC to Android storage

Q: I'm trying to copy files from my PC to my Android tablet's micro SD card and it stops midway or fails.

When copying numerous and large files from a Windows, Linux, or Mac OSX PC via USB to your Android device, you may find yourself canceling the transfer due to problems with file transfer speed or copy errors. The Android File Transfer tool for Mac OSX, for example, has a file size limit for file transfers. Windows, despite supporting Android file management fairly well, can have problems copying files to the external micro-SD inserted in an Android device. There are a lot of factors that affect file transfer between the PC and Android device - type of micro USB cable, speed/class of the micro-SD card, and processor of the Android device can all affect copy rates and reliability.

Rumors of huge internal memory for upcoming Huawei and Samsung devices are floating around, and consumers can already purchase 128 GB upwards of micro-SD cards for Android devices. In addition to o…

Tested: TrackID app on the Sony Xperia C3 Part 2

Continued from Tested: TrackID app on the Sony Xperia C3 Part 1

With the Sony Xperia C3 next to my Ubuntu 16.04 LTS workstation, I played back video to parts where the music was clear enough to identify. In some cases, particularly with two Taiwanese movies, the TrackID app gave up too soon and I had to press the identify button more than once so it would listen a bit longer. As with standalone music files, triggering TrackID during the refrain rather than at the start of the song works better. Dialogue can prevent TrackID from recognizing notes, but it was surprisingly efficient even with the background noise during Madonna's duet in Dick Tracy (1990).

Movies played on the Videos application on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS:

Moondance (Bookstore) - Wen Hsu - Au Revoir Taipei (2010)Credits track - Cafe Waiting Love (2014)Good Lovin' - The Young Rascals (1983) - Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)Come go with me - The Del-Vikings - Joe Version the Volcano (1990)Pop! Goes my Heart - Hugh Grant - Mus…

Tested: TrackID app on the Sony Xperia C3 Part 1

The TrackID app for Sony Mobile has been around for awhile and was previously preinstalled in Xperia devices. Old-fashioned music listeners like me prefer older tunes rather than the newer stuff that are published today, so it's exceptionally gratifying to find out that music identification technology has improved greatly over the years. Gracenote, which powers TrackID, has done a good job maintaining their music database.

I was especially impressed that it was able to identify audio coming from my 5 year-old 4th-generation iPod Touch, which in comparison to today's devices, has puny external speakers and somewhat limited music reproduction capability. TrackID initially had problems with a somewhat obscure Spice Girls song ("If you can't dance"), an equally forgotten track by The Jets ("Crush on you") and Denieve William's excellent "Let's Hear it for the Boy". As it turned out, the delay in identifying the tracks was because my Sony …

Tech on Film: A Life Less Ordinary (1997)

The 1997 Peter Boyle film, A Life Less Ordinary, seems like an odd choice for a post on Tech on Film here at Unsolicited But Offered. However, an early scene on the romantic comedy/fantasy film is remarkably prescient about how robots will eventually supplant the human labor force.

Two years before the excellent Ewan McGregor would skillfully slice his way through droids in The Phantom Menace (1999), he was hurling a cleaning robot to an office floor and later shooting it dead with a pistol.

The future Obi-wan Kenobi plays a janitor and frustrated independent author (like the millions of morons submitting books at Amazon Direct). The intellectually challenged, but sincerely genial sanitorial engineer is made redundant at the office building he is working at, loses his girlfriend to an aerobics instructor, and ends up demanding his job back from the company owner. Although workers today probably won't go through the extremes of accidentally kidnapping the owner's sophisticated…

Why Garmin Vivosmart HR? Part 3

Continued from Why Garmin Vivosmart HR? Part 2.
Move Alert and Move Bar I must confess I was excited to use the Move bar when I first bought the Vivosmart HR. I wouldn't mind a regular reminder I was slowly morphing into Jabba the Hutt. Unfortunately, in practice, the Move Alert isn't very practical when you're at your workstation and reviewing code or technical documents. Contrary to other reviews that explain all you need is a walk to the watercooler to remove the Move bar, I had to walk 7 floors to get the symbol off the display. One time during the weekends while I was tinkering with my Linux machine, the Move bar persisted even after I did 10 chin-ups, 15 prisoner squats, 50 jumping jacks, and 5 burpees. By the time I got the Move bar off, I wasn't in the mood to work on the openSUSE server I had been maintaining.

After the firmware upgrade, the Move bar was more reasonable and it took a few floors to get the bar off the screen (though walking still had no effect)…

Why Garmin Vivosmart HR? Part 2

Continued from Why Garmin Vivosmart HR? Part 1.
5. The Fitbit Charge HR is certainly slimmer than the Garmin Vivosmart HR, but I actually prefer the screen and functionality of the latter. The larger screen on the Vivosmart HR's gives users more control over settings and is more informative. Plus, the trade off isn't that a huge deal since the Vivosmart HR is actually pretty comfortable to wear and doesn't mess with your typing the way a traditional watch would. It's true that tapping on the screen of the Vivosmart HR takes some getting used to if you have big fingers, however, particularly when pressing the Return/back option.

You need a bit more effort to press the physical button on the Vivosmart HR, but this design is clearly to supplement the IP waterproofing rate of the device. Besides, I prefer the firm button over the clumsy implementation of the Charge HR, which was incredibly frustrating (and even painful) to use when you were troubleshooting the device.