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Showing posts from January, 2017

Quick Fix: Typing the @ and " symbols on the Surface Type Cover keyboard

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If your Windows 10 user preferences included the UK Language Pack, or your Surface Pro 4 is preinstalled with the UK keyboard option, you may encounter an issue where pressing the Shift+2 key on the Surface Type Cover keyboard types double quotation marks (") rather than the expected At (@) symbol. The reverse also occurs with pressing the Shift+" key typing the @ symbol. This occurs regardless if you toggled the FN key on the Type Cover.



To revert back to the more familiar US keyset, just tap the Input methods ENG on the Taskbar, and then select ENG English (United States) US Keyboard instead. You can, of course, opt to retain the UK character set and just remember to press Shift+" to display the @ symbol and to press Shift+2 to display the " symbol.


Microsoft Store, Fashion Valley and Surface Pro 4

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When I visited the Microsoft Store at Fashion Valley, San Diego, I reminded myself I wasn't going to purchase a Surface Pro yet (Pro 5 is allegedly coming this March) despite spending the last 6 months toying with the idea, and having recently bought a boxed copy of CorelDraw X8.


The Microsoft Store is on the upper level of the Fashion Valley mall and places Surface products and XBOX One offerings front and center. The staff that greeted me were friendly, but thankfully not aggressive. I'm not a fan of service staff that hover around you, so the conditions were ideal for me to pop in and ask questions.

Note: Apple fans can hoof down to the ground floor for an Apple Store, with the slightly creepy grinning Apple staff greeting you in their blinding blue shirts.

I approached M.H. (I don't want to give his name away) and asked about the Chinese New Year deals advertised. The Pro 4 already had a price cut at the Microsoft Store and at Best Buy because of the upcoming Surface …

Motorola G4 Plus (2016) Charging Issues

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The Motorola G4 Plus is a solid smartphone and the late 2016 release is still a good device if you're not interested in high-end Android mobile devices. However, note that the G4 and G4 Plus' fast-charging feature has had a long history of discussions in the forums. The issue regarding power charging has been discussed to death online and there are thousands of articles written about managing and troubleshooting an issue involving slow charging.


I encountered this issue with a newly purchased Motorola G4 Plus. After exceptional charging speeds using the provided charging adapter and micro USB cable, the G4 Plus' charging slowed to a crawl, with my Lumia 650 (Windows 10 Mobile) and Sony Xperia C3 fully charging in considerably less time than the Motorola.

However, it was easy to figure out the reason why the issue occurred and surprisingly not discussed often in G4 Plus forums. If you plugged the G4 or G4 Plus to a Windows, Linux, or macOS machine with a low-powered USB po…

Tested: Free Gogo Entertainment on Alaska Airlines

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Alaska Airlines provides free access to the Gogo Wi-Fi flight entertainment service on selected flights. On a quick trip from Seattle to San Diego, I tested the service with my Sony Xperia C3.


The fast download of the .apk for the Gogo Entertainment app gives an indication of how reliable the onboard Wi-Fi was on the Alaska flight. After installation, accessing Gogo's service was simple.



The Xperia C3 isn't a high-end device, but it was able to render the HD movie I decided to watch to keep me awake, though scrubbing through scenes was an issue if you don't give the movie enough time to load. Gogo's app included a simple script to prevent users from taking screen captures so there is some effort with security, but downloading an .apk and manually installing it to an Android device isn't always the safest method to provide software to users.

Normally, I always find something interesting when it comes to in-flight entertainment selections, considering I hardly watch…

ExpressVPN in Beijing (6 months and counting) Part 5

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Continued from ExpressVPN in Beijing (6 months and counting) Part 4

21. Amazon users should be aware that there is an Amazon.cn that is separate from the Amazon.com site. Both are freely accessible with or without VPN running. On the downside, Amazon accounts for the China and US-based site are separate so digital purchases are also separate. This means that Kindle purchases from the US-based site will only download via VPN, though it is excruciatingly slow and unreliable.

Interestingly enough, if you have a Fire HD 8, the Amazon app store, including Amazon Underground, is freely accessible without VPN and downloads are fast and reliable, regardless if you are using a US Amazon account or not.


22. ExpressVPN works well with Microsoft Office online, which only partially works in China. OneDrive, for example, works via the macOS, Windows, Windows 10 Mobile, and Android apps, but doesn't work via any web browser without a VPN. Word, Excel, OneNote, and PowerPoint via a browser work o…

ExpressVPN in Beijing (6 months and counting) Part 4

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Continued from ExpressVPN in Beijing (6 months and counting) Part 3

16. Torrents can either become faster or slower if you are running ExpressVPN. Downloading an openSUSE ISO is considerably faster without ExpressVPN enabled, but files hosted overseas download faster with the VPN enabled. Most illegal sharing torrent websites are only accessible over VPN in China.


18. ExpressVPN is most useful for visitors in China who require constant access to social media sites and Western video streaming services. Without VPN, accessing web pages with social media or video streaming data/tools/components embedded on a page using Java, Javascript, Python, or HTML5 causes the site to either crash or only partially be displayed on Firefox, Safari, IE, Chromium, Edge, or Chrome.


19. It's not recommended to always have the VPN enabled when you are online. Contrary to popular belief, Internet services in China are more than adequate for most user needs. Most European sites are left unblocked. Eurone…

ExpressVPN in Beijing (6 months and counting) Part 3

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Continued from ExpressVPN in Beijing (6 months and counting) Part 2


9. Updating the ExpressVPN app for macOS is done manually with a set up wizard, and somewhat inconvenient. On the plus side, you won't have to register the macOS PC if you registered it before.

10. The Android version of the app has TLS-authentication issues depending on the version of Android your device originally came with. My Sony Xperia C3, which came with Android 5.x, requires a manual VPN configuration after an Android reset because a reset of the system lacks the necessary TLS software and certificates to support ExpressVPN. Once you update Android components via Google Play, the ExpressVPN app works as designed and you can do away with the manual configuration.

For additional details, refer to ExpressVPN TLS-authentication issue (Android 5.x and later)

11. Uninstall and reinstall the ExpressVPN desktop app if you upgraded the macOS desktop app or performed a macOS OS update, and ExpressVPN is inaccessible…

ExpressVPN in Beijing (6 months and counting) Part 2

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Continued fromExpressVPN in Beijing (6 months and counting) Part 1

3. The desktop apps for Fedora/CentOS/Ubuntu/Debian are simple scripts and easy to set up. I haven't experienced any conflicts or issues with the RPM and DEB software packages, though it's clear it doesn't get as updated as often as the Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android versions.

For more details on ExpressVPN on Ubuntu, refer to Tested: ExpressVPN app on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS and Debian 8 Jessie.

For more details on ExpressVPN on Fedora, refer to ExpressVPN on Fedora 24 and Windows 10 Mobile Part 2.

4. A manual VPN connection to ExpressVPN servers can be set up on an openSUSE or ArchLinux machine and works well enough, though user experience may not be as reliable compared with using the native Debian/Red Hat apps provided by ExpressVPN or the router configuration recommended from their support site.

For more details on ExpressVPN on openSUSE with Cinnamon, refer to Setting up ExpressVPN on a Cinammon desktop (o…

ExpressVPN in Beijing (6 months and counting) Part 1

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Having purchased ExpressVPN services in Beijing back in June 2015, I've been using the service regularly for more than six months now for my PCs and mobile devices.  The VPN was accessed using a China Unicom 20 MB broadband service with a stock Wi-Fi-N generic CPE router.

For more details on ExpressVPN and China Unicom refer to ExpressVPN + China Unicom 20MB, Beijing.

I've tested the service using the following devices and operating systems:

1. iPad 2 with iOS9
2. Windows 10 Pro on a Zotac ZBOX Nano mini PC
3. Windows 10 Home 32-Bit on an HP Stream 8
4. Debian 8 Jessie Xfce
5. Fedora 24 / Fedora 25 Gnome 3
6. Ubuntu 14.04
7. Sony Xperia C3 with Android 5.1
8. Lumia 925 with Windows Phone 8.1 (manual steps from ExpressVPN site)
9. Lumia 650 with Windows 10 Mobile (manual steps from ExpressVPN site)
10. openSUSE 42.1 KDE/Cinnamon (manual configuration)
11. Macbook Air with macOS



I use the VPN to mostly access Western web services such as Blogger, OneDrive, Linux file servers, a…

Playing MP3s using Groove Music, VLC, and Music X Lite 2.x for Windows 10 Mobile Part 2

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Continued from Playing MP3s using Groove Music, VLC, and Music X Lite 2.x for Windows 10 Mobile Part 1

Although VLC for Windows 10 Mobile is a good multimedia player, it's not a dedicated MP3 player, and users have compared it unfavorably (and unfairly) with the more familiar Android, iOS, Linux, and Windows version. VLC for Windows 10 Mobile actually very, very well-written, but unfortunately requires processing and RAM that most Windows 10 Mobile devices don't have.



For the Lumia 650, VLC also has to comb through the external micro SD card every time when launching the app and regularly crashes when attempting to index media from a 64 GB high-speed Samsung micro SD card.

Note: Android apps, in contrast, don't suffer from external micro SD card issues. VLC for Android quickly detects changes in content in local or external storage without any performance issues. The preinstalled Sony Music app on Sony Xperia devices can even handle extremely large micro SD cards now availab…

Playing MP3s using Groove Music, VLC, and Music X Lite 2.x for Windows 10 Mobile Part 1

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The Groove Music version included with Windows 10 Mobile isn't a bad MP3 player, in fact, it does a good job when it comes to pulling metadata and album covers, and provides an easy way of creating playlists.


Unfortunately, due to how Windows 10 Mobile is designed, it occasionally has issues indexing MP3 files from an external micro SD card, particularly if the files are already sorted or previously managed by a different app.


Moreover, Groove Music for Windows 10 Mobile occasionally assumes your MP3 is from their MP3 service, and not music you ripped from a CD and stored on your mobile device. Worst, Groove Music will indicate the album "isn't available for offline playback" even though it's right there on your internal or external memory.

Note: I encountered both issues with Groove Music when it came to playing MP3s which I copied to an external micro SD card. Some of the MP3s played back, while others were either not indexed, or had to be played manually using …

Unsolicited Cautionary Tale: Xperia C3 falls into a bucket of water

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When I purchased the Xperia C3 from a store roughly two years ago, I was quickly informed by the salesperson that it wasn't waterproof. Having worked with almost all the Xperia models, I had specifically purchased the entry-level C3 because of its price, not because of any feature. Apart from the extremely limited 8 GB internal memory that renders the device pretty much useless to most users, and the horrible camera, I use the Xperia C3's large screen, Sony software, and surprisingly capable hardware regularly for entertainment and use the C3 as my primary smartphone when traveling.


When the C3 accidentally fell into a bucket of water in the toilet, I moved swiftly and plucked it out. It was streaming Bill Nighy's rendition of one of Charles Paris' mysteries for BBC radio, when the C3 took its impromptu dive. The smartphone was in the cold bucket of water for less than two seconds, and when I took it out the screen's touch screen surface was responding to the dropl…

LibreOffice Writer Basics: Technical writing and user manuals Part 4

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Continued from LibreOffice Writer: Technical writing and user manuals Part 3

Diagrams and Figures
It is recommended that you create diagrams and figures in a dedicated program like Dia, Inkscape, or Gimp and embed or import the image to your writer document.



However, for simple illustrations, you can add callouts using Writer's Shape (Line, Basic, Symbol) tools.



Formatting code and markup
Writer comes with two styles for formatting code and markup. You can use either the Preformatted Text or the Source Text style. The first DOCTYPE in the screen capture uses the Source Text style and the second DOCTYPE uses the Preformatted Text format.


Most documentation, however, use color coded styles for markup and code to allow readers to easily identify tags and elements. Most IDEs and text editors include plugins for exporting the code to .rtf for copying to word processors.
For more details about this type of plugin, refer to Quick Fix: Retaining Notepad ++ styles for Microsoft Word using …

LibreOffice Writer Basics: Technical writing and user manuals Part 3

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Continued from LibreOffice Writer Basics: Technical writing and user manuals Part 2

Headings and Numbering
By default, Heading 1, Heading 2, and Heading 3 styles do not have any numbers. If you prefer to structure your technical document using the more traditional 1, 1.1, 1.1.1 and so forth, edit the style for the heading.



Setting up Heading numberings:

1. Click Tools > Outline Numbering.

2. Select Level 1, and select the Number.

For this example, the format 1, 2, 3 is selected and a full stop is added as a separator.


3. Perform the steps for Heading 2 - 3 to add numbering for the headings.

Although up to 10 levels can be made, and you can create new styles as needed, the maximum numbering is recommended at 4 or 5 for technical documents.

3. Click OK.

If you need to adjust the indentation for a particular heading style, click the Position tab and add a Tab stop or adjust the alignment.

For the following example, Heading 3 starts at 0.50".




Clickable PDF Bookmarks based on Head…