Sunday, March 25, 2018

Change is Essential

I seem to really have a soft spot for niche phones. I've had a Moto X , a Nexus 5, and a BlackBerry PRIV just to name a few.

I've done it again. I just bought an Essential PH-1. In late 2017 it was estimated that only about 50,000 had been sold. That makes the BlackBerry PRIV look like a runaway success at about 600,000 sold.

Essential was founded by Andy Rubin, the inventor of Android.

It's a gorgeous phone closely resembling the iPhone X in appearance and size.

Here's how it compares to my iPhone 6s.

Apple iPhone 6sEssential iPhone
Device typeSmart phoneSmart phone
OSiOS (10.x, 9.x)Android (7.1)
Dimensions5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches (138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm)5.57 x 2.80 x 0.31 inches (141.5 x 71.1 x 7.8 mm)
Weight5.04 oz (143 g)6.53 oz (185 g)
MaterialsMain body: AluminumMain body: Ceramic; Accents: Titanium
FeaturesFingerprint (touch)Fingerprint (touch)
Physical size4.7 inches5.7 inches
Resolution750 x 1334 pixels1312 x 2560 pixels
Pixel density326 ppi504 ppi
Screen-to-body ratio65.71 %84.85 %
Colors16 777 21616 777 216
FeaturesPressure-sensitive, Oleophobic coating, Scratch-resistant glass, Light sensor, Proximity sensorScratch-resistant glass (Corning Gorilla Glass 5), Ambient light sensor, Proximity sensor
Camera12 megapixels13 megapixels
   Aperture sizeF2.2F1.9
   Focal length (35mm equivalent)29 mm
   Camera sensor size1/3"
Sapphire crystal lens cover, Autofocus, Back-illuminated sensor (BSI)Dual-camera (13-megapixel), Autofocus (Laser, Phase detection)
Touch to focus, Face detection, Self-timer, Geo taggingTouch to focus, Face detection, Self-timer, Digital zoom, Geo tagging
Camcorder3840x2160 (4K) (30 fps), 1920x1080 (1080p HD) (120 fps), 1280x720 (720p HD) (240 fps)3840x2160 (4K) (30 fps), 1920x1080 (1080p HD) (60 fps), 1280x720 (720p HD) (120 fps)
   FeaturesTime-lapse video, Continuous autofocus, Digital image stabilization, Video calling, Video sharingVideo calling, Video sharing
Front-facing camera5 megapixels8 megapixels
System chipApple A9 APL0898Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 MSM8998
ProcessorDual-core, 1840 MHz, Twister, 64-bitOcta-core, 2450 MHz, Kryo 280, 64-bit, 10 nm
Graphics processorPowerVR GT7600Adreno 540
System memory2048 MB RAM4096 MB RAM
Built-in storage64 GB128 GB
Maximum User Storage

Storage expansion

Talk time14.00 hours
Stand-by time10.0 days (240 hours)
Capacity1715 mAh3040 mAh
Not user replaceableYesYes
Wireless charging

Music player
   Filter byAlbum, Artist, Genre, PlaylistsAlbum, Artist, Genre, Playlists
   FeaturesAlbum art cover, Background playbackAlbum art cover, Background playback
SpeakersEarpiece, LoudspeakerEarpiece, Loudspeaker
YouTube playerYesYes
Built-in online services supportYouTube (upload), Picasa/Google+YouTube (upload), Picasa/Google+
CDMA800, 1700/2100, 1900 MHz800, 1900 MH
GSM850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz
UMTS850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz
FDD LTEBands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 20, 21, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30
DataLTE-A Cat 6 (300/50 Mbit/s), HSPA, HSUPALTE-A Pro Cat 16 (1000/150 Mbit/s)

PositioningGPS, A-GPS, Glonass, Galileo, Cell ID, Wi-Fi positioningGPS, A-GPS, Glonass
NavigationTurn-by-turn navigation, Voice navigationTurn-by-turn navigation, Voice navigation
Wi-Fi802.11 a, b, g, n, ac, dual-band802.11 a, b, g, n, ac, dual-band
   Mobile hotspotYesYes
   ConnectorProprietaryUSB Type-C (reversible)
   FeaturesUSB chargingUSB charging

OtherNFC, Tethering, Computer sync, OTA syncNFC, Tethering, Computer sync, OTA sync
NotificationsService lights, Haptic feedback, Music ringtones (MP3), Polyphonic ringtones, Vibration, Flight mode, Silent mode, SpeakerphoneService lights, Haptic feedback
SensorsAccelerometer, Gyroscope, CompassAccelerometer, Compass, Gesture
Hearing aid compatibilityM3, T4
OtherVoice dialing, Voice commands, Voice recording, TTY/TDDVoice dialing, Voice commands, Voice recording
Officially announced09 Sep 201530 May 2017
FCC Approval09 Sep 201526 Jun 2017

The day after I got it it updated to Oreo 8.1.

Then I sold it within a week.


I searched for a spring-clip belt holster without finding one. I know that is only slightly less geeky than a pocket protector but it is what I'm used to.

My bank's debit card doesn't support Google Pay. Apple Pay is supported.

The PH-1 has a weak vibration motor like the OnePlus One.

I tried to use Dropbox to move pictures from the PH-1 to my PC. Most of the pictures I was saving were being texted to me so they were in Android Messages. Messages saves them in Photos / Messages and Dropbox wouldn't look there for the Camera Uploads process.

I like the physical muting switch on the iPhone. Android has a complicated "Do not disturb" process that involves stared contacts, downtime and priorities. I just want it to not make any sounds but to still vibrate.

The fingerprint reader on the Essential is so much better than the iPhone 6s. It's in a natural place and reads quick.

Both of my Bluetooth ear buds misbehaved on the PH-1. They tended to switch the audio between ears occasionally and then switch right back. It wasn't continuous and wasn't very frequent.

The PH-1 uses USB C for charging and earphones. I had to buy USB A to USB C cables. While this was a short term hassle, long term it is clearly the direction.

Android is not nearly as aggressive as iOS at throttling apps running in the background. Even after Oreo 8.1 GasBuddy used 10% of my battery capacity on the PH-1 and I had NEVER launched it. The flip side of this is that iOS doesn't give Google Maps' location services frequent GPS updates. This makes my Google Maps Timeline have poor resolution (more on this later). Similarly Google Maps often opens with the wrong location on the iPhone.

Android Oreo 8.1 is really improving battery life (after I uninstalled GasBuddy). Admittedly my sample is very small but the mAh/hour for the PH-1 on Oreo 8.1 was 68.5 compared to 52.8 for the iPhone 6s for the last 5 weekdays I tracked. There are more details here.

I can't believe I gave up a flagship Android for a 2 year old iPhone but I did.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

One Hour and Six Minutes

I continue to be a huge fan of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

I still have Android Auto active in my Pilot all the time. I've gotten to where I input my destination any time I have to travel on the Interstate even if I know my route blindfolded.

Using traffic data Android Auto and CarPlay suggest alternative routing based on conditions.

Every now and then as I navigate I-240 in the Memphis area Android Auto will suggest getting off and then back on the Interstate to avoid a traffic slowdown. The savings are typically in the single digit minutes for a sub-30 minute drive.

Nice but no big deal.

However recently we were in Jackson, MS. As we entered I-55 I tapped the "Home" button on the Android Auto screen. It calculated a route and an ETA and off we went.

I have Android Auto muted except for traffic alerts. Within 2 miles Android Auto piped up with something to the effect "Due to a traffic slowdown on your route there is a suggested alternative route. This will reduce your ETA by one hour and six minutes."


Needless to say I took the alternative route. There was a wreck on I-55 that had it closed in both directions.

The alternative route had me exit I-55 and travel on a parallel surface road to the next exit. Reentering the Interstate there was no problem as there was no traffic coming from behind me. 😀

If your car doesn't have an Android Auto or Apple CarPlay head unit, look at this.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

It's Not Our Fault

I follow the Internet Storm Center's diary. Recently one of the entries related a situation with a personal NAS (Network Attached Storage) with terabytes of data. It was configured with RAID5. The NAS vendor offered a cloud backup service that he used.

He had a detailed backup plan consisting of:
  • a daily backup to a cloud storage provider
  • a monthly backup to an external disk (physically stored away from the source)
  • a file restore test performed every month (ex: restore file ‘x' backup at time ‘t’)

While this diary is about a personal situation the lessons apply to enterprise as well.

The power failed in his area and the NAS crashed hard. He reloaded the operating system and rebuild the RAID5.

No data was lost.

But then he had to “relink” the existing cloud backup with the new backup task on the NAS. That  failed with strange error messages saying that some files were not found.

After the normal "Turn it off and back on" with no success the vendor responded:
Thank you to try to log on your cloud service console to check if your files are available. If they are not available, please contact your cloud service support to get more help. We already notified them about this issue and we received a lot of complaints from other customers who are facing the same issue. You should try to see with them how to recover your files, if possible...
Remember that "your cloud service" was arranged by the NAS vendor.

Yep, his cloud backup was lost (1.5TB of data).

What if that had been YOUR enterprise data?

Have a plan. Have a backup to that plan. Test it. Test it again.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Microsoft Image Composite Editor

Recently I was scanning some newspaper clippings. They were larger than the bed of my scanner so it took several scans to capture all of them.

One even took 4 scans. I was dreading trying to put those together to create a single image.

So I went to my favorite resource: Google.

One of the top hits was Gizmo's Freeware's page on "Best Free Digital Image Stitcher." I liked the price already.

The first entry in the list was Microsoft Image Composite Editor. I had never heard of that.
What is Image Composite Editor?
Image Composite Editor (ICE) is an advanced panoramic image stitcher created by the Microsoft Research Interactive Visual Media Group. Given a set of overlapping photographs of a scene shot from a single camera location, the app creates a high-resolution panorama that seamlessly combines the original images. ICE can also create a panorama from a panning video, including stop-motion action overlaid on the background. Finished panoramas can be shared with friends and viewed in 3D by uploading them to the Photosynth web site. Panoramas can also be saved in a wide variety of image formats, including JPEG, TIFF, and Photoshop’s PSD/PSB format, as well as the multiresolution tiled format used by HD View and Deep Zoom.
The web page is dated 2008 and the last post on the support forum is from 2011. The downloads are dated 2016 though.

But it just works!

I downloaded the 64-bit version and installed it on my Windows 10. It stitched my 4 scans together seamlessly, let me rotate easily and then crop. Exporting was one-click (after I added ICE.exe to my Controlled Folder Access).

Where has this program been all my life?