Sunday, July 16, 2017

Windows 10 System Restore

From Windows 10 Forums:
System Restore is a way to undo system changes by using restore points to return your system files and settings to an earlier point in time without affecting personal files of users. System Restore uses a feature called system protection that regularly creates and saves information about your PC's drivers, programs, registry, system files, and settings as restore points.

If you are having recent problems with Windows 10, then you could do a System Restore to restore Windows back to an earlier point in time, called a restore point. 
But it's hard to use System Restore if it's turned off.

And Windows 10 tends to turn off System Restore every time you do an upgrade, e.g. Creators Update.

So....

After you upgrade Windows 10 press the Windows key and type "Create a restore point".


Click on it and you'll see this dialog.


Yep. System Restore is turned off. Click on "Configure".


Click on "Turn on system protection" and drag the "Max Usage" over to something 5% or greater.

Click on "OK" and you're done. And safer.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Android Auto / Car Play

My 2017 Honda Pilot supports Android Auto and Apple's Car Play on its "infotainment" system with a 9" touch screen.

Overall the infotainment system is confusing and the smartphone support doesn't mitigate that.

The Pilot has a specially designated USB port for smartphones. When you plug the smartphone into this port the car app automatically launches. I bought a USB cord that supports both microUSB and Lightning connectors.

I've played with both Android Auto and Car Play. While generally similar in function, as expected, they differ greatly in execution.

For example, when Car Play launches the iPhone screen is still usable. You can still interact with the screen. On an Android when Android Auto launches the screen goes blank and the only way to interact is with the Pilot's touch screen.

On the iPhone apps have to be specifically designated as enabled for Car Play. This results in that you can only use Apple Maps for navigation and not Google Maps.

On an Android phone there is much more flexibility. There is a list of apps available in each category. In the audio section on my phone you can choose from Google Music, Pocket Cast or Tune In.

But most of the time I want to just listen to the radio. It took a little exploring but you can do that and the setting persists over turning the car off and on. What I did is after the car app launched, press "Home" on the Infotainment system then choose "Audio". Press "FM" and the radio will begin playing. The car app will still override with navigation prompts.

I played with both Apple Maps and Google Maps for navigation. Apple Maps is, well, Apple Maps. To my surprise the first time I used Apple Maps it cautioned me about traffic congestion ahead of me without my giving it a destination. Google Maps does that all the time but I wasn't expecting Apple Maps to do that.

That is about the only surprise I got from Apple Maps.

Comparing to Google Maps, Apple Maps doesn't give lane directions on upcoming turns, doesn't do pinch to zoom, and doesn't use the Pilot's dashboard display (more later). I probably don't need to tell you that Apple's directions still aren't as good as Google's. My daughter lives in a neighborhood with a street that has been closed for a decade or more. Apple Maps insists on routing visitors to that closed street.

Android Auto

As you approach a turn Apple Maps presents a redundant representation of the upcoming turn. I couldn't figure out why until I used Google Maps. When that same event occurs Google Maps sends that mini representation to the Pilot's dashboard where the mileage or tire pressure is displayed! How awesome.

Android Auto

When using navigation on Android Auto you can mute the navigation prompts. But even better you can mute the navigation prompts EXCEPT if there's a traffic alert.

Android Auto

Android Auto

And just as a bonus Google Maps will show you gas stations and prices.

Android Auto

I've liked using Android Auto so much that I've added a line to my cell phone plan and left my old Moto X in the Pilot all the time.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

iPhone Field Test Mode

I was investigating AT&T's signal strength in a specific location recently. On an Android phone getting a numerical reading for cellular signal strength was easy - Settings / About phone / Network.


But nothing is that easy on an iPhone.

But on an iPhone there's a really neat trick that is actually better.

Here is how the signal strength is normally displayed.


Dots.

Now go into the Phone app and switch to the Keypad like you were going to dial a phone number. Dial *3001#12345#* and press the Call button.


This will launch the Field Test Mode app and where the bars/dots were in the top left corner of the screen, you'll now see a negative number. The negative number is the decibel signal strength reading and should be followed by the carrier name and then the network type.


Bigger absolute numbers are bad. Remember these are negative numbers. -100dBm and lower down to -115 is sometimes iffy but mostly usable.  -90s OK,  -80s good, -70s excellent, and -60s off the chart fantastic

To exit and return your iPhone to normal status, all you need to do is hit the Home button.

But here comes the trick.

If you want your iPhone to always display numerical signal strength instead of signal bars, you can perform the following process.

Once in Field-test mode (accessed by entering and dialing the code above), hold down the power button until you see “Slide to Power Off”, then release it.

Then hold the Home button until you’re returned to your main app screen. Now you’ll see your numerical signal strength while you use your phone, and you’ll be able to tap the signal numbers to switch to signal bars, and vice versa.

To exit this persistent field-test mode, simply re-load Field Test Mode and exit it via the Home button.

Source: UberSignal

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Asus Transformer Mini

I've always been looking for a tablet solution that I could use to take handwritten notes that would convert to text.

On my Nexus 7 I tried MyScript Smart Note and on my iPad Air I tried MyScript Memo. That both platforms ended up with MyScript apps was just coincidence. But the coincidence doesn't stop there.

The Microsoft store carries the Asus Transformer Mini in a Signature Edition.


Tech specs
Display10.1 in LED-backlit touchscreen (1280 x 800), 10-finger multi-touch support
ProcessorIntel Atom x5-Z8350 1.44 GHz with Burst Technology up to 1.92 GHz
Memory4GB DDR3L 1600 MHz
Hard drive size64GB eMMC
Operating systemWindows 10 Home, 64-bit
PC type2 in 1
Optical driveNone
Media driveMicro SD card reader
AudioICEPower Audio Wizard, Realtek Audio Manager
VideoIntel HD Graphics with shared graphics memory
Ports1 USB 3.0
1 Micro USB
1 Micro HDMI
Headphone output/Microphone input combo
Battery2-cell polymer (up to 11 hours movie playback)
Camera2MP webcam
Wireless802.11ac (Miracast enabled)
BluetoothBluetooth 4.1
DimensionsTablet: 10.43 x 6.89 x 0.32 in (264.92 x 175.00 x 8.20 mm)
Tablet + keyboard: 10.43 x 6.89 x 0.54 in (264.92 x 175.00 x 13.90 mm)
Weight1.80 lbs (0.81 kg)
ColorGray
OtherModel number: T102HA-C4-GR
Instant ID sign-in
TPM 2.0
Includes keyboard and pen
Precision touchpad
Touchpad dimensions: 93 x 51 mm

The keyboard snaps on magnetically like the Microsoft Surface. And when you flip it around behind the tablet it is not sensitive to touch. It also has a kickstand like the Surface when you're using it on a desk. The keyboard has a small loop to hold the pen.

While the Asus Mini comes with its own charger you can simply use any microUSB charger. And you can easily make it all day on a single charge.

The light weight is impressive. Even with the keyboard the Asus Mini weighs 1/2 as much as the ThinkPad X220 that I was using and that's without the ThinkPad's charger.

For protecting the Asus Mini I got a sleeve from eBay. The one for a 10" tablet fits fine and I even store the Asus' pen in it.

The sleeve protects the Asus Mini when you are traveling with it but I wanted to protect it from scratching when I set it down on a rough surface. I found a faux carbon fiber skin for a Macbook. A few minutes with a razor blade and it looks like it was made for the Asus Mini.

It came with Windows 10 Home but I upgraded it to Windows 10 Pro with a key from SCDKey. I didn't have to have an new DVD. I just entered the key and sat back a couple of hours. Don't forget to cleanup the old files when you're satisfied with the upgrade.

Then I did a Windows 10 "reset" just to make sure it was clean. That took another couple of hours.

It also comes with a free copy of Office Mobile. While this is somewhat limited the functionality is fine for casual usage. It's a little bit picky about which versions of Word documents that it will open for update but it will convert most versions to the current format.

But the magic is the handwriting app. The program I use for handwriting is Nebo from MyScript (remember them?). I got it for free right after it was released. And I'm not the only one impressed by Nebo.

Nebo supports exporting to Microsoft Word. Handwritten notes can be exported to Word or saved as text. Headings, paragraphs, lists, color, bold, highlight, are all preserved. I use the "View in browser" feature to save as PDF.

In that the Asus Mini has an active pen, the Nebo app is insensitive to your palm touching as you write. The MyScript apps that I have used on other tablets have tried to address this with a palm "screen" but are generally unsatisfactory.

Besides its handwriting function don't forget it's a full Windows 10 PC, e.g. Chrome, Dropbox, etc. Yeah, it's not the fastest but everything works. If you need more disk space than the 32GB drive provides you can add a microSD card. I still have more than 20GB free on the internal drive.



Sunday, June 18, 2017

archive.is

I've been burned before when I link to a web page in this blog and then it disappears. (I'm talking about YOU Microsoft.) Sometimes I will even screen capture the pertinent parts of the web page and present it as a jpeg.

Recently I came across this article in Lifehacker that mentioned archive.is.

The idea is that archive.is will go capture the web page at the point in time and give you a shortcut to it. Further you can download a zip file with a stand-alone presentation of it.

Here is the archive.is copy of the Lifehacker article.


You still have the risk that archive.is goes away. I don't see any ads so I'm not sure of the business model.

Shrug.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Back and Forth

I probably switch phones as much as anyone you know. I have loved my BlackBerry PRIV.

But...

It's big.

It's heavy.

And I don't use the physical keyboard.

So I crossed over again.

I found a refurbished carrier unlocked 64GB iPhone 6s on eBay for a great price. I Google-ized it and avoided the iMessage trap (so far).

The phone I got is model A1688. A1688 is known as the "everywhere" phone and supports all the LTE bands that the AT&T variant (A1633) does except that there is no LTE band 30. AT&T uses it as a supplemental band to increase capacity in urban areas.

It has worked fine for me on AT&T even supporting HD Voice. The A1688 also has CDMA so it supports Sprint and Verizon.

I really like:
  • Form factor
  • OS updates
  • Stability
  • Apple Pay
  • Mute switch
  • Not getting nagged about having a Android phone

BlackBerry PRIVApple iPhone 6s
DESIGN
Device typeSmart phoneSmart phone
OSAndroid (6.0, 5.1)iOS (10.x, 9.x)
Dimensions5.79 x 3.04 x 0.37 inches (147 x 77.2 x 9.4 mm)5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches (138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm)
Weight6.77 oz (192 g)5.04 oz (143 g)
FeaturesFull keyboardFingerprint (touch)
DISPLAY
Physical size5.4 inches4.7 inches
Resolution1440 x 2560 pixels750 x 1334 pixels
Pixel density541 ppi326 ppi
TechnologyAMOLEDIPS LCD
Screen-to-body ratio71.58 %65.71 %
Colors16 777 21616 777 216
TouchscreenMulti-touchMulti-touch
FeaturesScratch-resistant glass (Corning Gorilla Glass 4), Light sensor, Proximity sensorPressure-sensitive, Oleophobic coating, Scratch-resistant glass, Light sensor, Proximity sensor
CAMERA
Camera18 megapixels12 megapixels
   Aperture sizeF2.2F2.2
   Focal length (35mm equivalent)
29 mm
   Camera sensor size
1/3"
   Hardware
   Features
Optical image stabilization, Autofocus (Phase detection)Sapphire crystal lens cover, Autofocus, Back-illuminated sensor (BSI)
   Software
   Features
Touch to focus, Face detection, Digital zoom, Geo taggingTouch to focus, Face detection, Self-timer, Geo tagging
Camcorder3840x2160 (4K) (30 fps), 1920x1080 (1080p HD) (60 fps)3840x2160 (4K) (30 fps), 1920x1080 (1080p HD) (120 fps), 1280x720 (720p HD) (240 fps)
   FeaturesOptical image stabilization, Continuous autofocus, Video calling, Video sharingTime-lapse video, Continuous autofocus, Digital image stabilization, Video calling, Video sharing
Front-facing camera2 megapixels5 megapixels
HARDWARE
System chipQualcomm Snapdragon 808 MSM8992Apple A9 APL0898
ProcessorHexa-core, 1800 MHz, ARM Cortex-A57 and ARM Cortex-A53, 64-bitDual-core, 1840 MHz, Twister, 64-bit
Graphics processorAdreno 418PowerVR GT7600
System memory3072 MB RAM2048 MB RAM
Built-in storage32 GB64 GB
Maximum User Storage

Storage expansionmicroSD, microSDHC, microSDXC up to 2000 GB
BATTERY
Talk time
14.00 hours
Stand-by time
10.0 days (240 hours)
Capacity3410 mAh1715 mAh
Not user replaceableYesYes
Wireless chargingBuilt-in (Qi, Powermat)
MULTIMEDIA
Music player
   Filter byAlbum, Artist, Genre, PlaylistsAlbum, Artist, Genre, Playlists
   FeaturesAlbum art cover, Background playbackAlbum art cover, Background playback
SpeakersEarpiece, LoudspeakerEarpiece, Loudspeaker
YouTube playerYesYes
INTERNET BROWSING
Built-in online services supportYouTube (upload), Picasa/Google+YouTube (upload), Picasa/Google+
TECHNOLOGY
CDMA

GSM850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz
UMTS800, 850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz
FDD LTE700 (band 12), 700 (band 17), 700 (band 29), 800 (band 20), 850 (band 5), 1700/2100 (band 4), 1800 (band 3), 1900 (band 2), 2100 (band 1), 2300 WCS (band 30), 2600 (band 7) MHzBands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29
DataLTE-A, HSPA (unspecified), HSUPALTE-A Cat 6 (300/50 Mbit/s), HSPA, HSUPA
micro-SIM

nano-SIMYesYes
PositioningGPS, A-GPGPS, A-GPS
NavigationTurn-by-turn navigation, Voice navigationTurn-by-turn navigation, Voice navigation
CONNECTIVITY
Bluetooth4.14.2
Wi-Fi802.11 a, b, g, n, n 5GHz, ac802.11 a, b, g, n, n 5GHz, ac
   Mobile hotspotYesYes
USBUSB 2.0Yes
   ConnectormicroUSBProprietary
   FeaturesUSB chargingUSB charging
HDMI

OtherNFC, Tethering, Computer sync, OTA syncNFC, Tethering, Computer sync, OTA sync
OTHER FEATURES
NotificationsService lights, Haptic feedback, Music ringtones (MP3), Polyphonic ringtones, Vibration, Flight mode, Silent mode, SpeakerphoneService lights, Haptic feedback, Music ringtones (MP3), Polyphonic ringtones, Vibration, Flight mode, Silent mode, Speakerphone
SensorsAccelerometer, Gyroscope, CompassAccelerometer, Compass, Gesture
Hearing aid compatibilityM3, T4M3, T4
OtherVoice dialing, Voice commands, Voice recordingVoice dialing, Voice commands, Voice recording
AVAILABILITY
Officially announced25 Sep 201509 Sep 2015
FCC Approval22 Oct 201509 Sep 2015
Source: phoneArena.com

While my BlackBerry PRIV supported Android Pay my bank didn't support my debit card on Android Pay. Apple Pay is supported and works great.

As I mentioned before I struggled to get my photos off the iPhone. What I'm doing this time is letting Google Photos back up the photos. Google Photos actually seems to upload sooner on iOS than on Android. I can't explain that.

I use Air Transfer to download the photos to my PC from the Camera Roll then delete them from the Camera Roll. More on Air Transfer in a future post.

Given that Google is fumbling their messaging solutions I had already separated my carrier's SMS messages from my Google Voice text messages. I still can't set a custom notification tone for Google Hangouts.

GasBuddy updated their Android app and made it less friendly than on iOS. No loss there.

Google has ported their keyboard to iOS so that's familiar. Apple still is insistent on not using an alternative keyboard for password or lock screen widgets but it's better than the Skype problems I had before.

I found Call Friends to create direct dial icons  This works fine. If you hit the limit of 2 free icons just uninstall and reinstall.

The iPhone 6s' Touch ID works much better than the iPhone 6's.

In the above chart, notice in Camcorder Features the iPhone has Digital Image Stabilization. Here's an example of that.


As I related my iOS experiences with a friend who is making the same journey I shared with him my boss' statement:
iPhone users just don't understand what they're missing.
My friend laughed and said "Yes I do!"

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Microsoft's Resilient File System

As I mentioned in this post when I built "The Trump" I used Windows Storage Spaces to create a mirrored data drive.

For the Storage Spaces I used Microsoft's Resilient File System (ReFS).

ReFS was relatively new to the consumer space as I had problems even finding a backup solution.

Recently though Winaero had an article on ReFS.

I don't understand some of the statements in this article, e.g. "ReFS is intended for file servers only. In Windows 10, it is in fact locked for server OS only." I'm using ReFS just fine on Windows 10 Pro 1607.

Regardless of the details, the Winaero article lays out the advantages of ReFS better than I'd seen before. These details came from Microsoft.
  • Integrity. ReFS stores data in a way that protects it from many of the common errors that can normally cause data loss. When ReFS is used in conjunction with a mirror space or a parity space, detected corruption—both metadata and user data, when integrity streams are enabled—can be automatically repaired using the alternate copy provided by Storage Spaces. In addition, there are Windows PowerShell cmdlets (Get-FileIntegrity and Set-FileIntegrity) that you can use to manage the integrity and disk scrubbing policies.
  • Availability. ReFS prioritizes the availability of data. Historically, file systems were often susceptible to data corruption that would require the system to be taken offline for repair. With ReFS, if corruption occurs, the repair process is both localized to the area of corruption and performed online, requiring no volume downtime. Although rare, if a volume does become corrupted or you choose not to use it with a mirror space or a parity space, ReFS implements salvage, a feature that removes the corrupt data from the namespace on a live volume and ensures that good data is not adversely affected by nonrepairable corrupt data. Because ReFS performs all repair operations online, it does not have an offline chkdsk command.
  • Scalability. As the amount and size of data that is stored on computers continues to rapidly increase, ReFS is designed to work well with extremely large data sets—petabytes and larger—without performance impact. ReFS is not only designed to support volume sizes of 2^64 bytes (allowed by Windows stack addresses), but ReFS is also designed to support even larger volume sizes of up to 2^78 bytes using 16 KB cluster sizes. This format also supports 2^64-1 byte file sizes, 2^64 files in a directory, and the same number of directories in a volume.
  • Proactive Error Correction. The integrity capabilities of ReFS are leveraged by a data integrity scanner, which is also known as a scrubber. The integrity scanner periodically scans the volume, identifying latent corruptions and proactively triggering a repair of that corrupt data.
Try it. You'll like it.