Sunday, May 19, 2019

Amazon Fire HD 8

I know that Android tablets aren't really a thing but I use one every day. I've been through 2 Nexus 7s. My first was a Nexus 7 2012 and then a Nexus 7 2013.

I liked the size of the 2012 but it was soooo slow, even after I upgraded it to Nougat. It stays in my car now.

The 2013 was fast enough but the battery has just played out. It will indicate 100% battery available and then just cut off.

Then I came across an Amazon Fire HD 8 (2017) without special offers for $50. I didn't know much about Fire tablet but for $50 it was worth playing with.

The Amazon Fire HD 8 (2017) is a favorite with hackers. There are instructions on how to install the Google Play Store on it. That was easy.

But then Google Contacts didn't work. There's a fix for that.

And the Amazon launcher was odd. There's a fix for that.


The launcher "fix" is still flaky. Amazon blacklisted the apk and it quit working. The creator rebuilt it with a different name. That's working for now.


Recently Amazon pushed an OS update. Suddenly the navigation buttons and the notification bar disappeared. You could navigate to an app but couldn't get out of it. Reboot and you still didn't get the navigation buttons and notification bar.

I suspected the launcher "fix" app. So after a hard reboot I uninstalled it and rebooted. That took me back to the Amazon launcher and the navigation buttons and notification bar were back.

Then the rest of the OS update kicked in. Afterwards I reinstalled the launcher "fix" and it worked this time.

That's pretty much the story of the Amazon Fire HD. It always seems to need something fixed.

That would be tolerable if it was blazingly fast but it's not.

It only has 1.5 GB of RAM so apps are constantly restarting. The launcher "fix" works by letting the Amazon launcher run then running the alternate launcher so you get a noticeable flash every time you press the Home button.

I'm just not sure.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

AT&T Does It Again

On May 3, 2019 at 5:15AM I was at the Memphis Airport. My daughter took a picture on her iPhone XS and added it to a long running iMessage thread (using MMS, not iMessage service, i.e. green bubbles).

I didn't get the text. That began a problematic weekend of missing some texts from that thread and, actually, any MMS thread. Sometimes I would get the message. Sometimes not. Sometimes I would get one of several pictures in a message. Sometimes none.

I spoke to a relatively knowledgeable rep at AT&T. He gave me the standard, and probably usually correct, advice of deleting that thread on an iPhone and rebuilding it. That wasn't going to happen. That thread has YEARS of pictures in it.

That was the response I got from Apple several years ago when I couldn't get my number disassociated from iMessage. Eventually something happened at Apple and I started getting messages.

So I was just going to ride it out and hope it fixed itself.

Then during the day on Monday, I got a notification from Essential that the May 2019 update was available. I went to the reddit subreddit to see the comments. Everything seemed good so I planned to apply it that evening.

While I perused that subreddit I came across this thread.

Turns out I wasn't the only one having this problem and it wasn't specific to Essential phones. Here and here are threads on the AT&T forums.

I applied the workaround suggested and all is well.

Obviously this was something that AT&T did in their network, apparently with no regard for non-iPhone users.

This reminded me of the situation back in August 2016. We were in Bar Harbor and Campobello Island and there were plenty of places that didn't have any AT&T coverage. Every time I would enter one of those areas, my BlackBerry PRIV would lose cellular connectivity and then not reconnect until I rebooted. Similar to this week's issue, there was a workaround to change the cellular connection.

BlackBerry finally pushed out a fix for it but AT&T never owned up to what they did.

Then in September 2016 Apple announced the iPhone 7 with an Intel modem.


I suspect that the iPhone 11 is going to only have a Qualcomm modem. Although iPhones have had Qualcomm modems before, since the iPhone 7 Apple has deliberately slowed the Qualcomm modem to be the same speed as the Intel modem.

I'm wondering if since Intel is pulling out of the cellular modem market that Apple is going to let the Qualcomm modem run at native speed in the iPhone 11. And if this is causing AT&T to adjust their network accordingly.

We'll find out in September.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

R.I.P. Dropbox

I have a long and varied history of file sharing tools. I've used FolderShareAllway SyncLive Mesh, and most recently Dropbox.

The Dropbox ride was a good one. I used referrals and got over 20GB of Dropbox space. I shared folders with my daughter and my mother. I even put my laptop's Desktop folder into Dropbox.

Then on March 1, 2019, without forewarning, Dropbox limited the number of devices for basic (free) users to 3. There was an uproar but Dropbox hasn't blinked.

I have over 20 devices linked. Most of these are obsolete entries but 1) 3 is way too few, and 2) reconciling the active vs. inactive devices is a big task. To relieve this restriction Dropbox wants you to upgrade to Dropbox Plus for $10 per month. Not gonna happen.

So I'm outta here.

I looked around at Box and OneDrive. Due to the kindness of a co-worker I have a free 50GB Box account. With OneDrive I exercised several promotions and have 40GB.

Given my experiences with a number of Microsoft syncing offerings I was reluctant to look at OneDrive.

But Box still requires a client on each device. And OneDrive's client is just built into Windows.

So I'm taking a run at OneDrive. I'm moving slowly though. As I touch a file/folder in Dropbox I'm moving that to OneDrive.

So far, so good.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Primary, Secondary, Tertiary

I've been following the situation with Boeing's 737 MAX airliners. I came across an article ( / image) on USA Today that was a pretty good summary.

In that article they mentioned that Boeing's 777 airliner's flight computers were not only triple redundant but from different manufacturers.
For the 777, Boeing's twin-aisle intercontinental jet, engineers created triple redundancy for its computers, hydraulics, communications and electrical power. Perhaps the best illustration of the lengths the company was willing to go on backups was found in the plane's primary flight computer. It was built with three microprocessors instead of one, and each came from a different manufacturer: Intel, AMD and Motorola, according to an account by a Boeing engineer.
I like their thinking. One of our clients was doing a backup solution consisting of external USB drives that he was going to alternate weekly and take home. For his needs that was good but I encouraged him to buy two different brands of external USB drives. Just in case.

This reminded me of an old post of mine on redundancy.
At FedEx we learned to have primary, secondary, and tertiary plans. When loading an airplane 1) run weights and balances, 2) put ballast in the front of the plane, and 3) tie the nose wheel to the ground. And always have a backup plane, e.g. "Plan Z."

And an older post on "Belt, suspenders, and raincoat."

I've been known to carry an umbrella as well.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Wyze Cam

I'm not big into surveillance cameras but a while back I thought I had deer playing in my back yard. I wanted to capture them jumping the fence.

I came across the Wyze Cam. It is a cube about 2" on each side. It takes 1080p video and automatically records a 10-15 second video when it detects motion or sound. These are encrypted and uploaded to Amazon AWS where they are available for 14 days with no subscription plan required. These snippets are also stored on the microSD card if available and the last 32GB are retained. That's a lot of 15 second videos.

While the Wyze Cam is intended for indoor usage, it is pretty tolerable of outdoors. I have mine on a screened in porch.

Watch the cat walk around!

Notice how it highlights motion.

It has infrared LEDs so you get black and white video at night. Initially I placed mine on the porch table near the screen. The infrared LEDs produced a glare from the screen so I taped over them. I still got good video with the ambient lighting. I could have just turned them off with the app.

It connects to your Wi-Fi and there are apps for Android and iOS. It will connect to Amazon's Echo if you have one with a screen.

You can set it to send you an e-mail when it detects an event, motion and/or sound. I haven't used that.

It comes with a variety of mounting bases but I have mine just sitting on a table.

Its power is USB and it comes with an AC adapter. I've thought about putting it away from the house and running it off of a battery pack.

The Wyze Cam costs $39 with shipping and a 32GB microSD it needs card to allow local recording. If you have a spare microSD card laying around you can get the camera and shipping only for $26.

There's even an open source project to let you connect the Wyze Cam to an existing security system. And of course there's a subreddit.

Here's some screenshots from the Android app.

The intruder in my back yard wasn't a deer but a raccoon.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Outage Communication

This post isn't bashing cloud providers, although that's an easy target.

What this is about is to give some examples of outage communication from various providers. And yes, Google and Facebook are in different sectors but the wide differences in their outage communications are still interesting.

On March 12, 2019, Google suffered an outage that impacted Gmail and a variety of their services that depended on their file system. Over the next several hours they posted 3 updates on their G Suite Status Dashboard. The first noted that they were having an outage. The second update was posted in under 2 hours and stated that they were continuing to investigate. It also enumerated the services that were impacted. The final update was 2 and 1/2 hours later and said that the issue was resolved.

But Google didn't stop there. 2 days later they posted a thorough postmortem ( that identified a root cause and remediation and prevention.

That's the way to communicate.

On March 13, 2019 Facebook had a 14-hour outage which took down the Facebook social media service, its Messenger and WhatsApp apps, Instagram, and Oculus.

Here's Facebook's communication on that outage.

Yes, that's it.

Which of these would you prefer from your services provider? Ask about that before you sign a contract and consider putting a requirement for communication and follow-up in the contract.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Just Don't Play Facebook Games

If you're my friend on Facebook, please don't play games on Facebook. When you do, you authorize Facebook to share your profile information with the game company. This often includes details such as the Facebook user ID, a list of Facebook friends (that's where I come in), likes, photos, groups, checkins, and user preferences like movies, music, books, interests, and other.

Once the game company has your data (and mine) Facebook has no control over what the game company does with it or who it shares it with.

Oh, I'm sure they have policies about what can be done with the data but there really is no way to enforce it.

As an example, the company that operated the "At the Pool" Facebook game, left all their Facebook user profiles, etc, on a publicly accessible Amazon Web Services (AWS) server for anybody to access.

Here's an excerpt from an article on ZDNet on this Facebook data leakage:
[T]he company has lost control over its most important asset - its users' data - which is now leaking left and right from all the no-name companies and mom-and-pop developer firms who've collected it over the past few years.