Sunday, August 02, 2020

Essential Lineage

Previously I shared that Essential had shut down effective February 2020. And that I was using an iPhone X. I don't give up that easily.

Finally, Lineage has published an Android 10 release of their ROM for the Essential PH-1. They are dropping nightlies that are stable enough for a daily driver.

I followed the Lineage instructions for Essential (mata) here. The phone I was using already had an unlocked bootloader and an old system image, i.e. before February 2020.

The whole process went well but there are a couple of tips I want to share.

While the instructions are accurate, there are subtleties here and there that even a non-noobie like me needs help on.

For example, there are a couple of times where the instructions say to hold down a specific key combination. Then the next step is "Once the device is in..."

Uh, when do I release the keys and in what sequence? How do I know that the device is in the desired mode?

Here's the detail for Fastboot from Essential Support:
  1. Press and hold the Power and Volume-Down buttons.
  2. When you see the Essential logo on the screen, or you feel the phone vibrate, release the Power button (but keep holding the Volume-Down button).
  3. Release the Volume-Down button when Fastboot Mode appears.
Another place is "Once the device is in fastboot mode, verify your PC finds it by typing: fastboot devices".

And THEN what should I see?

Well, I didn't get ANY response from adb which I figured wasn't good.

It turns out that I had to update the Essential device drivers AGAIN while the phone was in Fastboot mode. The instructions are here.
  • Open device manager
  • Find Unknown "Android" device (likely listed under Other devices with an exclamation mark)
  • Update driver
  • Browse my computer for driver software
  • Let me pick from a list of devices, select List All Devices
  • Under "Android device" or "Google Inc", you will find "Android Bootloader Interface"
  • Choose "Android Bootloader Interface"
  • Click "yes" when it says that driver might not be compatible
After flashing the Lineage ROM, I flashed Open GApps micro for ARM64. As it was flashing I got messages on the phone about "zip signature verification failed".

What did that mean? Was it bad?

The answer to that is here.

TWRP (LOS recovery in my case) would need to incorporate a copy of LineageOS's public keys in order for its signature verification feature to work properly.

So, not to worry.

Whew! I'm glad I had done this before so when I stumbled I at least knew to go looking for answers.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Chillin' With an iPhone - Part 4

I started to entitle this post "Don't Save in My Photo Stream" but I figured I'd get hate comments on that. Recently I posted on Photo Storage/Backup but this isn't about that.

Currently I'm using an iPhone X. Apple make it so easy to share photos using "My Photo Stream." But I discovered that Apple significantly reduced the resolution of photos stored in "My Photo Stream." While I didn't test iCloud sharing I expect that the same reduction is true of that as well.

To test this I took a photo with the iPhone X.

I looked at it in the iPhone X's "Recents" and "My Photo Stream." Then I let Google Photos and OneDrive upload it and looked at the pixels, resolution, and size on disk.

There were 2 surprises and one thing I can't explain.

First, "My Photo Scream" pretty well destroyed the photo. It reduced the resolution 50% which consequently reduced the number of pixels by 75%. The size on disk was reduced by almost 95%. This indicates that the JPEG compression was increased significantly creating more JPEG artifacts.

Second, Google Photos didn't resize the photo at all. In the Google Photos app on the iPhone X, I had set "High quality (free unlimited storage)" which in my earlier experiments had "significantly resized, around 40%." I can only speculate that Google has reduced or eliminated their resizing at this image size, i.e. 12.2MP.

The thing I can't explain is why the OneDrive backup doubled the size on disk. I wonder if that is some metadata they've added but that seems like a lot.

These results also make me wonder if now is the time to switch to using Google Photos as the source for my backup process. What I would do is to omit the OneDrive backup and then download photos from Google Photos into my archive process.

One downside is that Google Photos keeps the filename from iOS which tends to create duplicates over time. OneDrive creates unique filenames from the exif data for each photo.

I'll keep an eye on this and let you know if I make a change.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Windows 10 2004 and OneDrive - Again

With my new iPad and Nebo, I've kinda parked my Asus Transformer Mini.

I pulled it out recently and ran Windows Check for updates. Surprisingly it didn't offer Windows 10 2004. It doesn't run Storage Spaces so I thought it would be ready to upgrade.

So I took a backup, went to Microsoft's Download Center and clicked on "Update now".

The Asus isn't very fast so it chugged away for a while. Then it suddenly finished with a cryptic error: "Windows Update will offer this version of Windows 10 automatically when these settings are supported."


I put this string into Google and came across this article on Winaero.

There is a problem determination step and then a workaround.

Look in  C:\$WINDOWS~BT\Sources\Panther folder for the a file that whose name ends with HumanReadable.xml. See if it calls out OneDrive. (What the hell is the "Panther" folder? and "HumanReadable" as a file name? Come on, Microsoft!)

If it does, then:
  1. Uninstall OneDrive. Open Settings > Apps > Apps and features.
  2. Find Microsoft OneDrive in the list of the installed apps on the right.
  3. Click on the Uninstall button.
  4. This will remove OneDrive from your current Windows version.
  5. Upgrade your Windows to Windows 10 version 2004.
  6. Install OneDrive. You can download the official client software from Microsoft.
Done. Upgraded. Frustrated.

I don't recommend rushing into Windows 10 2004.

I stub my toe so you don't have to.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Windows Explorer Search

Do you remember the good old days of Windows XP where Windows Explorer had a drop-down box in the search dialog where the keywords you could use were listed?

Well, that drop-down box has been gone for a decade.

BUT, the keywords are still available but not discoverable as far as I can tell.

Recently I was trying to find all the photos I had taken with my iPhone X. I could see that the detail information was there.

In a list of files in Windows Explorer, right click on a file and choose "Properties" all the way at the bottom.

In the pop-up window, click on the "Details" tab. There's a ton of information there. If you could only search on it!

Well, you can.

I found this on the Wayback Machine.

It's 10 years old but still works fine.

In my case, I put
cameramodel:"iPhone X"
in the search field of Windows Explorer and got just what I wanted.

Search around in that Wayback Machine article and see what you can find.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

The Crow Needs a Little Salt

I have to eat some crow. Do you remember my recent advice on Windows 10 Updates?
Take a system image backup. Cross your fingers. Apply them.
Yeah, I got bitten. Not once, but twice by Windows 10 2004.

My big desktop is running Storage Spaces.

I guess Microsoft forgot to test Storage Spaces.

I saw that my desktop system was offering Windows 10 2004 but I was going through my normal sequence of applying the update to my less critical systems first.

Then I came across Woody Leonhard's article on Storage Spaces. When I went back to my desktop, the update was blocked. And it still is.

You can see Microsoft's support page here.

One of my less critical systems was my former desktop system. It doesn't run Storage Spaces so the update to Windows 10 2004 was offered and I installed it.

When I revisited it a day or two later, I noticed a pop-up complaining about OneDrive.

I didn't think much about it and chose to download files like it prompted me to. OneDrive started copying ALL my files to that system. I didn't think that that was the setting I had so I started un-syncing most of the directories and went on about my business.

A day or two later, I checked back in. None of the files had actually synced and the transfer rate was 0.0.

HotHardware has a good article on it here but there hasn't been much coverage of this. I followed the OneDrive reset ( process and that seems to have resolved it.

I'm not in much of a hurry to install Windows 10 2004 on my remaining systems.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

The (Intel) Sky Is Falling

Clickbait drives me crazy. So much of the press grabs a quote and makes a story out of it where there really isn't any meat to it.

A recent example is a WIRED story with the headline:
Security News This Week: An Unfixable Flaw Threatens 5 Years of Intel Chips

Doesn't that scare you? 5 YEARS OF INTEL CHIPS ARE THREATENED!

WIRED refers to a blog post that says:
The problem is not only that it is impossible to fix firmware errors that are hard-coded in the Mask ROM of microprocessors and chipsets. The larger worry is that, because this vulnerability allows a compromise at the hardware level, it destroys the chain of trust for the platform as a whole.
OMG! The world is ending. The "chain of trust" is DESTROYED!

In a headline ArsTechnica called this flaw:
...a concerning flaw that’s unfixable
Finally (and ironically) The Register brings some sanity to this discussion.
Although exploitation is like shooting a lone fish in a tiny barrel 1,000 miles away
Whew! I think we're safe.

Intel said that "an attack would require local access, specialized gear, and a high level of skill, making it relatively impractical in the real world."

reddit posted a link to the WIRED article and one of the comments gave some really good advice.
Guess I'll stop inviting Russians over for dinner.
Yeah, me too.

Sunday, June 21, 2020


GroupMe is a free group messaging service offered by Microsoft. It supports groups of up to 500 users across iOS, Android, Windows 10, the web and SMS. Microsoft's introductory page is here.

It’s simple to add anyone to a group using their phone number or their email address. If they're new to GroupMe, there’s no need to download an app right away. They can start messaging over SMS immediately.

You can even use GroupMe to hold a conference call or conduct polls.

Many organizations such as schools and churches have used GroupMe for communication.

For myself, I use the SMS delivery so the messages show up in my phone's text messaging app. I change the text tone to differentiate GroupMe messages from other text messages.

Under the covers, GroupMe is pretty clever. Each GroupMe group is assigned a phone #. This is how the SMS and conference call features work.