Showing posts from August, 2016

Fotopro RM-100-1F, bendable tripods, and using them with mobile devices Part 2

Continued from Fotopro RM-100-1F, bendable tripods, and using them with mobile devices Part 1

The bracket add-on for attaching smartphones to a tripod is flawed for a few reasons. The most obvious reason is that unless you position the smartphone properly, the clamp pushes down on either the Lock key, Volume keys, or worst, the dedicated camera button of your smartphone.

Both my Lumia 925 and Sony Xperia C3 have a dedicated camera button, so using the accessory was problematic for both. The smaller Lumia 925, in particular, didn't work well with the clamp because there wasn't enough space for it.

The 5.5" Xperia C3 was better suited for the accessory, though it had the worst camera. Moreover, unless you preferred using the front-facing camera (which generally has the lower resolution), using the touch screen of the smartphone was awkward.

The Fotopro RM-100-1F, thanks to its dexterous arms, doubles as a tablet and smartphone stand. It works well with larger tablets such a…

Fotopro RM-100-1F, bendable tripods, and using them with mobile devices Part 1

Bendable tripods have been around for more than a decade and I admit I've always been sceptical about mounting a camera on a tripod that was designed to cling to objects. 

As Peter Parker would say after webbing his customized Leica underneath a building cornice "My camera isn't exactly going to survive a fall from this height". 

I'm not much of a photographer and years of boxing and age have resulted in shaky hands and difficulty in pressing buttons on my Sony NEX-3NL and to a lesser extent, my Lumia 925. Thankfully, manufacturers have been creative about catering to users who use both standalone cameras and smartphones.
The Fotopro RM-100-1F retails for 48 RMB / USD$7 on and has various incarnations in It's very light and in my informal bend tests was able to cling to various objects as designed. You don't need the proportionate strength of a spider to bend any of the bulbous legs. However, it takes practice to get the angl…

Stories from a Tech Writer's Studio: Network and Online Security

After a huge software release recently, I found myself chatting over the watercooler with one of the security devs responsible for network, media, and copy protection for a variety of online streaming and hardware-based components.

I made an off-hand remark about trying out PFSense and setting up FreeBSD on my small home network composed of Linux, Windows, and mobile devices. After the usual discussion on logging, cron, and the type of router my ISP provided, I told him that I had once been contacted by someone allegedly from a place the media calls the 'Dark Net'.
The gentleman paused and asked me what was on my machines anyway. I told him I mostly had a few years of scanned comic books, personal photos that don't have me on it, 6 years worth of screenshots from my articles for Unsolicited But Offered, my unpublished novel encoded in a legacy format (PageMaker), and a few ripped CDs of artists like Rick Astley, Lester Young, and Eric Marienthal. Most of m…

Fistful of RAM: Ubuntu LTS on a Celeron mini-PC

More than a decade ago, Linux was endorsed by users because of its ability to work well on slower machines with modest hardware. Older PCs were rejuvenated with early releases of Ubuntu, SUSE, Knoppix and Mandriva. Today, that is still largely the case, with distributions such as Debian, Archlinux, and Mageia doing a fair job keeping older hardware alive.
On the other hand, it's also true that the demands of mainstream Linux distributions today have increased. Ubuntu, arguably the most popular distribution for both enterprise and consumer users, doesn't exactly fly as well as before with entry-level components. Ubuntu's divisive default Unity desktop environment slows down to a crawl on 4GB of RAM. You can get away with other Fedora spins with conservative hardware, but Fedora 24 Workstation with Gnome isn't a spry chicken, and neither is openSUSE LEAP with KDE or Gnome. Unless you choose the MATE release of Linux Mint, you can get more from Linux Mint w…

CentOS 7 Gnome Basics: Setting up Dropbox

Dropbox can be integrated with Nautilus File Manager in CentOS 7 Gnome for syncing all or select Dropbox folders.

To set up Dropbox on CentOS 7 Gnome: 
1. Download the 32-bit or 64-bit version of the .rpm file for Fedora from

2. Install the rpm file.
rpm -ihv <nautilus-dropbox-version>

Note: Dropbox installation closes Nautilus during installation. Click Yes when prompted.

3. If an error regarding a dependency involving a specific libgnome version is displayed, install the libgnome.x86_64 software package for 64-bit machines or libgnome.i686 for 32-bit PCs. 
yum install libgnome.x86_64
4. Run Dropbox setup by clicking Applications > Internet > Dropbox.
5. Click OK to download the Dropbox daemon. 

6. Enter your Dropbox email and password to sign in.
7. Click Advanced settings to specify which folders are synced to CentOS or which location is used as your Dropbox folder.

Unsolicited Question: HP Stream 8 tablet drivers for Windows 10

Q: Do I need to install the HP drivers after upgrading my HP Stream 8 to Windows 10?
The HP Stream 8 tablet came with Windows 8/8.1 when it was first available. At the time, the HP drivers were essential for getting the most out of the hardware components such as the touch screen, display, and battery.

If you upgraded to Windows 10 from Windows 8/8.1 on the HP Stream 8, Microsoft provides drivers for all the hardware components. As long as you upgraded the BIOS to Rev.A, you can pretty much use the HP Stream 8 without having to download and install provided HP drivers. Wi-Fi, the touch screen, audio, and the rotation sensor all function fine, as long as you are diligent with Windows 10 updates. If you check Device Manager on the Stream 8 after upgrading to Windows 10, you will find no bangs (? Or X) or any unknown devices listed.
Note: Unfortunately, even recent cumulative updates of Windows 10 don't improve the Stream 8's power and sleep issues. As good as Windows 10 is in gener…

GhostBSD/FreeBSD Essentials: Chromium and VLC

Continued from Setting up the MATE desktop environment on the FreeBSD VM and Getting started with GhostBSD and FreeBSD Part 6

Chromium on FreeBSD
Even if you're running FreeBSD or GhostBSD on a virtual machine, you will more likely still require a web browser for network tasks and accessing web applications. GhostBSD comes with Mozilla Firefox, but if you set up FreeBSD from scratch on your virtual machine manager, or prefer Chromium, Google Chrome's cleaner sibling, you can install or compile Chromium using pkg or the ports collection.

To set up Chromium on FreeBSD:
1. Install Chromium using pkg.
pkg search chromium pkg install <chromium-version>
2. For Chromium to launch properly, set up sysctl as instructed by the Chromium readme by editing /etc/sysctl.conf.
nano /etc/sysctl.conf
Add the following line to the configuration file.
VLC on FreeBSD
So you have GhostBSD or FreeBSD running and performing network and server tasks with the machine. If yo…

Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Doctor Strange, and Shang-Chi comic book ads (1970s - 1980s) Part 2

Continued from  Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Doctor Strange, and Shang-Chi comic book ads (1970s - 1980s) Part 1

Amidst the kung-fu craze of Bruce Lee and Hong Kong movies in the late 70s and early 80s, Danny Rand, the Iron Fist, was a wealthy white American character with Asian-style origins similar to Dr. Strange. Rand was a form of unrepentant whitewashing even back then.

Iron Fist is completely human and although writers all throughout the 80s and 2000s exaggerate the power of his iron fist and his skills, Fist was never considered a heavy hitter.

Iron Fist's contemporary, Shang-Chi, was clearly a marketing response from the aforementioned Lee after the actor passed away (and will no doubt appear in some form in the Netflix series, hopefully played by an Asian and not an Asian-American).

Shang-Chi had Sax Rohmer's classic character Fu-Manchu as both his father and primary antagonist, another sign of the lack of inventiveness and ignorance of Marvel's editors and writers of th…

Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Doctor Strange, and Shang-Chi comic book ads (1970s - 1980s) Part 1

The Luke Cage trailer and teaser for Iron Fist for Netflix is out and the Millenial fanboys are creaming their pants, though they have absolutely no idea about the history of the characters (even Verge writers).
Note: All scans from the author's own collection.
Luke Cage was a product of blaxploitation back in the 70s. The character itself was a weak push for diversity, though it was clear it was indirectly Marvel Comics' attempt to cash in on the popularity of violent, "cool" black culture. The book was poorly written and Cage himself was an odd character with a ludicrous and formulaic origin saddled with macho "street" dialogue that would've made Huckleberry Finn laugh in his grave. His original yellow garb was taken from a costume store.The Harlem stories were repetitive and heavily implied Cage's lack of education and employment prospects (thus the whole hero-for-hire plot).

Most comic book readers at the time were introduced to Cag…

Unsolicited Question: Portable Hotspot and VPN

Q: Can I set up a portable hotspot while my VPN is running on my Android device?

Most Android devices have the option to set up a portable hotspot. For Sony Xperia devices, the option for setting up a hotspot can be found at Settings > More > Tethering & portable hotspot.

If your mobile device is already connected to a router that is on a VPN network, then the portable hotspot from the mobile device will share the VPN access. However, if the tablet or smartphone is connected to a VPN using local settings or via a VPN service that is connected via an app or website, then Android disconnects you from the VPN before sharing the Internet connection.

Quick Fix: Garmin Vivosmart HR sensor light

Many reviewers comment that the green light sensor emitted by their fitness trackers is visible at night when they sleep. For the Vivosmart HR, the heart sensor actually only records sample rates periodically and isn't always on. When you aren't exercising, the sensor also switches on when you tap the screen and swipe to the heart rate screen.

However, if the Vivosmart HR's light really bothers you that much, there are two ways to switch off the heart rate sensor before you go to bed.

To disable the heart rate sensor, you can either disable the Heart Rate monitor or Activity Tracking altogether.

To disable the heart rate monitor:

1. Press the physical button on the fitness tracker, and then swipe to Settings.

2. Swipe to Heart Rate > Heart Rate On. Tap the ON switch to disable.

To disable all activity tracking:

1. Press the physical button on the fitness tracker, and then swipe to Settings.

2. Swipe to Activity Tracking > Activity Track. Tap the ON switch to disable…

Quick Fix: USB OTG, USB Keyboards and HP Stream 8

Q: My USB OTG connected to the HP Stream 8 works fine with USB storage drives, but when I connect a USB keyboard, it doesn't work.

The micro-USB connector of the HP Stream 8 tablet is notoriously loose. Depending on the quality of your USB On-the-Go adapter, the connector wiggles on the port.

If your USB keyboard isn't detected by Windows 10, perform the following steps:

1. Reseat the USB connector on the USB OTG cable and attempt to type on a desktop application such as Notepad, Word, or OneNote.

2. Disconnect the USB OTG adapter and reconnect the to the micro-USB port on the HP Stream 8 as firmly as possible. Ensure that the contact point of the USB OTG is not visible.

3. If the USB keyboard is still not working, physically rotate the tablet to portrait and then landscape again with the USB OTG adapter and USB keyboard connected.

By default, Windows 10 displays the touch keyboard when you tap any area on the screen which accepts text input, such as Cortana, search engines, or …