Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A quest towards faster start-up on Ubuntu 16.10

Recently I was noticing slow start-up on my laptop. It has Ubuntu 16.10. It comes with systemd. I had a number of programs collected through almost one year of use.
So I first went through Synaptic and removed the ones not required any more. This helped to some extent. Systemd has a nice tool called systemd-analyze that gives you a clear picture of all that's happening with your system at start-up. So using systemd-analyze critical-path, systemd-analyze blame, and systemd-analyze plot > plot.svg, I got loads of information about the bunch of things that are making the start-up slow.
So I went through disabling a number of unwanted services and removing few more programs/utilities and finally got the boot time down from 57sec to 32Sec.
I'm stuck there though. But again my laptop is five year old Lenovo with Pentium D 2.1GHz processor and 2GB of RAM and a 320GB SATA HDD, so maybe that's the best it can do!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

3rd Service of Hero Duet

    We have been struggling with the leaking front fork seals for a while and Pratibha Motors Authorized Service Center didn't have the replacements for about a month. So I searched and found Mulraj Auto Authorized Service Center. Wife took the bike there for servicing. Next day we got the bike back. Actually previously we were looking only for seals replacement, but by the time the bike reached the service center it had covered about 3100KM, so we thought to get the 3rd servicing done. 
    The bill was INR 430/-. They had tightened the bike. Looking at the engine assembly it looked like it's all opened up and put together. The bike was cleaned, with grease applied to brakes etc. The leaking seals were fixed of course. The idling was tuned a bit and the scooter doesn't stop while idling. But still it idles like a haffing dog!!! I checked it out with a 5km short ride, and I could see the difference in pickup. Maybe they replaced the faulty crankshaft and flywheel. So the bike is very peppy now from idle. Previously the torque would come after you have crossed initial dog-zone where it was like 5yr old activa. Now it's comparable to Jupitor in terms of pick-up and acceleration. 
    To test it out further we decided on a long ride to Lavasa next saturday. The distance is about 100km. The traffic till Pirangut was light, and after that no traffic. We had fun riding the empty roads doing 60-70. Also we came to know about the engine overheating problem. The engine was almost fine till 40Km and we reached Temghar Dam fine. Since then it's uphill climb and the engine heated up and started knocking and puttering. But it was just few more km to Lavasa so we didn't stop. Just kept going. It was funny hearing the engine do putt-pott and have the bike do hee-haww. But it got us to Lavasa Entry gate. 
    We did not have any plans to go ahead and visit Lavasa. The 200Rs per bike entry fee confirmed our belief that Lavasa is not worth any repeat visit. So we had Chai-Poha in a nearby hotel and started our return journey. The Chai was awesome and we had two cups each. Also there were about 2 dozen bikers each on a Duke/Pulsar/Enfield etc. 
    By the time we left the bike had cooled off. So not much engine putt-pott till we reached Hinjewadi. Also the traffic kept us at low speeds of 30-40. By the time we reached Hinijewadi it was 10'o'clock and the heat had climbed up several degrees and so the engine started knocking a bit. But we kept to low speeds and reached home safely. 
    So after 3rd servicing the Duet is doing much better. But still there are issues. Also we didn't measure the fuel consumption this time. But I think I should start on the fuel part to see how much fuel efficient the Duet is after 3 Services. Lets see. Ciao!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Hero Duet Silent Recall

https://www.motorbeam.com/2017/03/bikes/hero-maestro-edge/hero-maestro-edge-recalled-silently-1-5-lakh-units-affected-scoop/

So some news about our Hero Duet. Looks like hero motocorp has fucked it up for good. 

We have done about 3000 km till date. And the scooter has become kind of rubbish with leaky suspension and reduced pickup. Probably needs a service. So hearing this news I asked wife to dump it for servicing. 
Let's see if the servicing guys fix this turd. 

On the positive side - Hero did get some things right. Above 55kmph no vibrations. So good for highway riding. So is stability at high speeds - which may be because of the weight. But still with good suspension it gives you confidence. The light is not enough in night and needs tune-up for proper focus. But we keep on forgetting it every time we give it for servicing. Maybe I'll correct it when I start self-servicing the bike. Oil change and basic engine tune up doesn't look all that difficult. 
The seating is not that bad. We got a replacement seat cover that's made up of mesh like material which keeps bottom aerated and so saves on ass-burn on long trips. In India's hot and humid weather leather seats don't make much sense. 
The accelerator is easy on pull. Recently I rode an old active and the accelerator was murderous. After 10mins my wrist was burning like hell. The brakes are also fine, though being drum type they lack bite and you have to be cautious when riding at high speeds. 
Storage space works fine. The two hooks at front work great. The grip at the back is bit overkill but is comfortable. The styling like looks too much like Activa but works. Overall the Duet is a fine dream designed in a hurry. But seems like hero was not finished with the refinement. And still the rushed the product to market without enough testing. And so now thousands of units later, the black dots are coming to the fore. 
From my experience working in automotive domain, getting a vehicle working perfectly is difficult. The many parts sourced from number of suppliers often have their own issues and in the middle of it all maintaining the desired quality is difficult. Due to this an often given advice is to skip the first generation of any product. 
So where to from here? If hero can fix the problems and the bike experience gets better, then there is future for Duet. Or else people will avoid all hero branded bikes. And in this competitive bike market that can cause your downfall however big you are. 
Let's see what happens. Ciao. 




Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Overheating Lenovo G580 laptop - various causes and solutions

Recently I noticed my almost 5Yr old Lenovo G580 laptop which comes with a dual core 2.3GHz Pentium B930 processor, was running hotter than usual. Generally I use my laptop for internet browsing, little bit of office documents and mainly watching movies and TV Serials. So it was not as much bother, but upon looking into it - I noticed with the help of HWMonitor program, that even on idle it's running at about 60 degree celc. This is hotter than average. Two problems I could see was 1. The thermal paste has dried out and become useless, 2. The fan is not kicking in.

After going through a number of articles on internet about thermal paste I decided to get the cheaper version abd try it out. Mind you the average ambient temps here are in 35 degree celc range these days, this being summer. So last week I ordered an el cheapo thermal paste for 130 INR, that about $2 - qty is 10gm. Got it yesterday. Went home and after unscrewing a dozen screws and getting nicked here and there, I managed to get to the motherboard. After removing the heatsink-fan combo, I used simple cotton to wipe out the old grease. It was indeed dried out. I wiped out the underside of the heatsink as well. Then fumbling about I managed to fix it on the chip. Then screwing a buttload of screws and then done.

It all took me about an hour. After practise it may be a 20 mins job. But good learning experience for me. So after all was packed in, I learned I have missed couple of screws. Put them in the thermal compound wrapper for next time. Then crossing my fingures I turned on the laptop. Apparently I managed to put everything back together in working order. After running it for about an hour, I could see some improvement - the temps were down by about 4-5 degrees. Now idle temps were hanging around at about 55-56 degree celc from the 60 degrees.

The fan though is acting like a turd. It just doesn't move fast enough to expel the heat. Maybe I need to see what's wrong with it. The only time it moves fast is when I run the dust expelling routine in Lenovo Performance Management app. Found couple of suggestions on the net - but the fan control is not available in my BIOS, and other ways to control fan speed didn't work.

So still something to be done. But some improvement too. Cheers!  

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The fine points of various Mediatek SOC's

My last purchase of Panasonic P75 was a bit puzzling for me when I checked out the soc name and the specs. Point was, the soc was mentioned everywhere as MT6580. But my previously purchased phone Panasonic T44 also has the same soc. Plus the same specs, but when I used both the phones I could clearly tell which one was faster and which one was slower. 
As I saw in daily use Panasonic P75 is definitely faster, smoother etc with same 1GB of RAM, with same soc clock speed of 1.3GHz. So what's wrong?
Turns out the soc info for the cheaper phone was incorrect. It has MT6580m soc. This is what's a watered down version of MT6580. And so this is what's causing the difference in performance. Since from what I saw in actual usage - the mt6580 is faster so Android is smoother there as compared to mt6580m which feels only adequate. 
Ciao.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Tale of socket->deletelater

One of my test servers was crashing with multiple connections. Digging in I found out that I have used same object for QTcpSocket and disconnect signal was not getting received before getting new connection.
So client should send disconnect before connecting on new connection. So digging in client code, I found nothing. Okay. Documentation... Found out there's close() function in unistd.h which can be used to close a socket connection.
Okay, made a call to that with socketfd, and voilla! Bug fixed! Server's safe.

But going to have to add handling for rogue clients. Adios.

New Cellphone Purchase - Panasonic P75 - Hands on

I wanted an entry level android for my mother. Being entry level meant about INR 4000/- of budget. That is about $60. I looked at a number of phones in budget segment, but problem being there was no main-stream brand present here. All I could find was Micromax / Zen / iBall / Intex / Xolo. No Samsung / LG / HTC / Motorola / Lenovo / Xiaomi / Oppo / Vivo etc here. I found couple of old gen ZTE's and one current gen Alcatel ( Pixi 4  - retailing for INR 5000/- ). Not interesting enough. The oddball is Panasonic which offers decent Android phones from INR 3000/-. In fact I use a Panasonic T44 these days as my main driver - bought it for INR 3200/- or about $48. It serves me well with 2500mAh battery and all needed functions. The only thing I miss is IPS LCD, but for me battery anxiety is a thing of past now. Apparently we have too many other things to be worrying about instead of cellphone battery. Haha.
Anyway so for me the criteria for the purchase was set. Big battery, decent specs, and IPS screen - mostly 5Inch HD, but I would take a 4inch IPS screen too. Sadly didn't find one. The couple of ZTE had IPS screens but had smaller batteries, and older chipsets (and Kitkat Gaah!).
So after looking at all the options I settled on the Panasonic P75. Mainly because the reviews were not terrible - sometimes average can be good.


So I spent the sum and ordered it for next day delivery since I'm leaving for my hometown in couple of days. All this done on Amazon. Yesterday I received the parcel.
Lets take a look at the specs:

Panasonic P75 Full Specificatons

General
2G NETWORK     850/900/1800/1900
3G NETWORK     900/2100Panasonic P75
SIM         Dual Sim

Body
DIMENSIONS     144.9 x 71 x 8.95 mm
WEIGHT         157 g
Display
TYPE         HD IPS Display
SIZE         720 X 1280
MULTITOUCH     yes
PROTECTION     NO

Sound
LOUDSPEAKER     yes
3.5MM JACK     yes

Memory
CARD SLOT     yes Up to 32 Gb
INTERNAL     8 Gb
PHONEBOOK     yes

Data
GPRS         yes
EDGE         yes
SPEED         14.5 Mbps
WLAN         Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
BLUETOOTH     yes

Camera
PRIMARY     8 MP
FEATURES     Auto Focus
VIDEO         Yes 720P
SECONDARY     Yes

Features
OS         Android 5.1
CPU         Mediatek MT6580 1.3GHz quad-core
SENSORS     Proximity sensor Accelerometer Ambient light sensor Gyroscope
GPS         A-Gps
JAVA         No
COLORS         Champagne Gold

Battery        5000 mAh
STAND-BY     1500m
TALK TIME     659min

So for INR 5000/- we are getting good specs.

After work when I reached home, I opened the retail box to check out if everything was alright. Thankfully it was. Inside comes the handset - Battery is mentioned as Non-removable, but I saw only a sticker over the battery. Maybe peel it off and put in a new one whenever this one dies. The charger provided is 5V 1.5A, which is better than plain 5V1A chargers we get with all others. There's a headphone with in-ear kind of tips. The micro-usb cable is long enough and looked to be of good quality. Also provided is a screen protector. That's it for the box.

The handset supports one micro-SD cards and two micro SIMs - no hybrid sim madness here. The back cover is wraparound type and the plastic is of low quality and wobbly. The champagne color is garish, but better than white at hiding abuse. The screen is good being IPS and of OGS variety.

So overall okay handset. I then turned it on and checked out basic operations. It was fairly fine - kind of about Snapdragon 400 kind of performance. Good enough.

Lets put it through a thorough review later.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A bit of script for downloading images from a website

So I wanted to download only images from this one website for archival usage. After looking at all ready available page, I couldn't find anything suiting for my purpose. So I decided to throw in a little shell-script.
It went on as follows:
The pages are incremental in index. So I can use a while loop to fetch all pages one by one. Done.
Need to fetch the page. Wget is fine. Done.
Then I need to look for the image URL in retrieved HTML. Hmm. Bit of grep with cut does that. Done.
Next get the actual image. Again prepare the image URL and wget. Done.

Error handling? Gaah. Nothing since this is not that trivial.

After testing for few pages it was golden.

So I put it up with counter loop of hundred images at one time. That's because this script is kind of slow since I don't know nor care to put in multithreading in shellscript. Gaah.
Plus as I later found out having 100's counter is good since wget hung out when the net went down for a moment, and I had to restart the script from that page count.

And somehow https proxy is set on my laptop. Why, god only knows. Below is the script.

###########################
#!/bin/bash

export https_proxy=""
count=11000

while [ $count -gt 10800 ]
do

echo "Downloading page $count..."

content=$(wget https://www.mygallery.com/photo/$count -q -O -)
#echo $content
echo "Page downloaded!"

line=$(echo $content | grep -b -o "class=\"main-photo\"")
offset=$(echo $line| cut -d : -f1)
((offset1=offset+50))
img="https://www.mygallery.com/resized/"$(echo $content | cut -c$offset-$offset1 | tail -c18)

echo "Getting Image: "$img"..."
wget $img -q
((count=count-1))
#echo "count: $count"

done
exit 0
###########################


First big problem with our bike Hero Duet

Yesterday we went out for an outing on our bike. It was about 90kms round trip. We left in morning and planned to be back by noon. Going was nice, with normal weather. After reaching the place and sightseeing for about couple of hours we left by 11:30AM.
We could feel the heat. It was not scorching yet, but we felt like we should have left an hour early, since it was easily an hour and half's ride back with all the traffic. So we were only 10kms away when the scooter lost power. We tried electric start first, but it won't start. Then we tried kick start, and still nothing. So we searched the net and found a mechanic and had him sent someone over.
Then after 45 minutes couple of young mechanics reached us. After fiddling with the scooter they managed to kick start it. Initial prognosis was dead air filter. So we rode to their garage, and got it replaced in about half-an-hour. In Hero Duet the filter comes as a block of striped foam. In bikes it's often a round hose-like design. It was pretty gunky from what we saw. The replacement cost us about 250Rs, that plus the mechanic visit of 150Rs, totalled to 400Rs.
At least now the scooter runs better.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

LG phones bootloop/ restarts/ slowness issues

Been reading about the troubles with LG. To be frank, LG actually has crappy phones. Their mid range is non-existent and their high end is in search of identity. Add in these QA issues. I mean come on.... I have seen phones getting literally cooked at about 45-50 degrees when gaming and they did not fail - e.g. my Nubia Z9 mini and few more older phones. If LG cannot make a phone motherboard, they need to be put out of phone making business.
Latest news is they have a Class Action lawsuit in US. Hmmm let everybody know LG hardware is crap.
For comparisons we have not heard such things from almost all other manufacturers. And please leave aside chinese knock-offs. They can't even align their plastic edges. Haha.
Cheers.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The death of Canonical Unity (and Mir)?

It was a surprise announcement. But then again maybe Mark Shuttleworth saw the writing on the wall, and thought about stopping the bleeding. And so the culling began...
I was kind of shocked when I read Jono Bacon's post. Why? Because I'm not much online on G+. And Jono's was the latest post on Planet Ubuntu.
Anyway I did try Unity 8, and it did look slick. Funny think is probably KDE has similar graphics and animations for ages, and they never appealed to me. Frankly I just hate the way KDE looks. The odd highlights, the cramped fonts, the weird effects I immediately disable... gaah!!! What I saw in Unity 8 though, I liked it. Anyway again Canonical has few resources and they are better spent on improving Canonical's longevity. Because It's Canonical that took Linux to the masses and not Redhat or SuSe or anybody else.
For that..... Salute!!!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Boot Ubuntu Fast

Recently I noticed that my Ubuntu installation has become slow to boot. It has seen couple of dist upgrades and a lot of application install/remove's.
So I decided to dig in and see if there's anything I can do about it. First thing is how to measure current boot time. After a quick google search I ended up with following commands.
systemd-analyze
systemd-analyze blame
systemd-analyze critical-path
systemd-analyze plot > plot.svg

systemd-analyze prints something like:
Startup finished in 9.002s (kernel) + 22.322s (userspace) = 31.325s
Which means system is taking 31.325 Secs to boot, out of which kernel part is 9Sec and remaining is user part.

systemd-analyze blame prints list of applications/ services according to time taken to load.
critical-path option shows a critical path graph and highlights applications/services which are taking more than average time.
plot option plots a nice graph of the booting process.

There are other ways too. E.g. if you want to see more in what kernel is doing for 9 secs, you can look at output of dmesg command.
For more details on userspace operations there's journalctl.

Anyway to start with I noticed my machine taking almost a minute to boot. After going through above data I noticed following:
Networkmanager wait online service taking long - not needed - masked it.
modem-manager service not needed - mask it.
VirtualBoxDriver taking more time in dmesg logs - don't need VirtualBox anymore - purge it.
Some more minute tuneups - and now my system boots in 30-40 secs, which is huge improvement from a full minute.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Using Mate and WTF is wrong with Nautilus!!!

Well, I have been using Ubuntu 16.04, then 16.10 and now about to upgrade to 17.04 whenever it gets released. Problem is with Unity is we get updated Nautilus. And over the time I have seen the changes that have made me say WTF!!!
More on this later. But this caused me to switch to Mate. I didn't want to replace my existing installation because there are about a dozen apps and half-dozen drivers that I have installed for office work. And I don't want to go through re-configuring everything again. So I just installed Mate desktop and been using it.
Frankly, Mate is killer. It's lightweight and so fast. Very responsive. I didn't have much problems with Unity's search the app metaphor since I pin half a dozen apps which I use regularly, and that's it. But Unity has been pretty sluggish and I used it only because the indicators and stuff keeps running without breaking over updates.(Have used XFCE and LXDE, both exhibited this issue.)
Anyway, so Mate it is for me.
Lets get back to Nautilus. Mate's using fork of Nautilus from Gnome 2 which they have named Caja. Now, the Gnome dev's have really messed up Nautilus. First they trimmed the top bar. That means the various options and view types are gone.
Then the split view is gone.
Then they replaced the copy/move dialogs with silly popups. I mean really??? When I have two windows side by side and when I copy a big file from one to another these two shitty popups show up both the places. WTF??? And they don't even go away when the copy is complete!!! Gods!!!
Add to the insult, previews stopped a month back and whatever I try, no more previews. Damn! Got fed up!!!
Anyway's am going to install Mate on my home laptop too since I cannot take this shit anymore. F U Gnome 3 devs. Take back your free shit!!!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Ridiculous NTFS.3G and big file write

I started noticing this issue recently when I used Ubuntu to copy large files - anything more than 600-700MB. When the copy started, it would start with good speed of about 25-30 MB/S, but then after about 300MB it would slow down and soon go into single digits. Also System Monitor would show kswapd0 popping up and bogging one core so that system performance would take critical hit. This would happen only when the source/destination was ntfs partition.
At first I thought kswapd0 to be the culprit since it was the one hogging the system. But after lots of google searches I found out ntfs.3g driver to be the culprit. What happens is that ntfs.3g driver - whatever version is available in kernel 4.4, allocates huge buffers and does not free them, so if you looked in top, you would see the buff/cache part of memory swelling to ridiculous sizes - in my case when copying 1GB file buff/cache swelled to 3.5GB (WTF!!!) from 500MB.
Anyway after trying a number of solutions below one is the one that worked for me:

while true; do echo 1 > /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches; sleep 5; done


I run this above script in a Sudo shell. It clears the cache every 5secs. It's not the best way, but it gives me responsible system with steady ntfs file copy speed of about 16MBps.

Cheers!!! 

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Little Phone - Panasonic T44





I recently parted ways with my Nubia Z9 Mini. Gave it to my younger sister as her Karbon S1 Titanium ran out of steam. Thing is I can do with an entry level phone. So I was on the lookout for a decent and cheap android. There are some compromises though - screen is going to be small, RAM not much - 512MB to 1GB, and battery life might take a hit depending on the capacity and model. After browsing through multiple times on the roaster, I settled on a Karbon A91 Storm but the unit I received came with a damaged battery - with a dent in it. It did work when I popped it in risking an explosion, haha. The phone was totally meh with a terrible build of android and the hideous champagne-white color scheme (which by the way I mistakenly selected :C) made it a no go. 
Further hunt led me to a number of cheap phones - some from companies whose names were totally new to me, didn't even have websites etc, to costly entry level phones from established brands. I also decided that I needed to up the budget - The Karbon was for INR 2200/- which is about $22. So I stretched it to INR 3000/- which is $37. For this much money I think with the Panasonic T44 I'm getting a good deal. It set me back by INR 3300/- = $41. For this much money I'm getting following:

Android 6 Marshmallow
4" 800x480 TN Screen - kind of okayish.
Mediatek MT6580 SoC (Arm A7 4 core at 1.3GHz + Mali 400 MP2)
Dual SIM Dual Standby - One Mini SIM One Micro SIM Slots. 
Separate SD Card slot - can take upto 32GB SD Cards
Proximity, Light, Accelerometer sensors.
Removable back cover with 2400 mAh LiIon removeable battery
Front Capacitive buttons
Cameras 5MP Fixed Focus with LED Flash back / 2MP Front
3.5mm Headphone Jack
MicroUSB charging/Data port with 5v 1A charger provided

Overall it's a nice phone for such low price. The tradeoff from my point is the screen - which is not nice. I remember buying ZTE Blade C V807 for INR 4000/- three years back and it had an IPS screen - which was tremendous value for money. All other specs were very much entry level but that screen did save the day. Not so much for this Panasonic. Anyway as I have accepted it as a compromise, lets move on. 

The two SIMs are interesting - one Mini SIM and one Micro SIM means you can start using your old SIM as it is. These days service providers provide new precut SIM's, but again, if you have an old cellphone, just pop in the old SIM and get ready to go. Most mid end phones these days need nano SIMs, while only few provide Micro SIMs.

The separate SD Card is also a win in my mind, since you are not crippled in any form. The hybrid slots are the ones I always look to avoid, since even if the device has 32GB of storage, you can max it out with just a bucketload of stuff like 3-4 big games and few movies. Also in case the phone dies - has happened to me a few times - you can at least pop out the SD Card and get some data out like your photos. And don't tell me about online backup - google can pull the plug on your account any time, and data connectivity is not best in india anyway.
The battery was a bit flaky at start but after couple of full charge - discharge cycles it seems to have settled down. Being 2400mAh, it gives solid two days runtime. I remember the ZTE V807 used to give me about a day on it's 1600 mAh battery with moderate usage. So this - T44 - is good at battery.

The call quality is below average. The other side sound like we are talking in a long pipe. But at least it's loud. Maybe that's because this does not have active noise cancellation. In Nubia Z9 Mini with noise cancellation the call volume was a bit low - but much clearer. Here it's like back to a feature phone but then again lets not ignore the elephant in the room - the price. So I would say that for the price telephony is okay.

The cameras - I'm not considering them. The main reason for me purchasing Nubia Z9 Mini was the cameras. It's cameras are really great. In fact I have a number of great selfies, and a boatload of incredible photos I captured on it. Here it's not the cameras so I'm not even going to talk about it. For someone else - yes, they are there and they give you some pictures - fitting to price.
Lets come to Android. Having Marshmallow is kind of great. Nubia Z9 Mini officially doesn't have Marshmallow. But then again this T44 is definitely going to have Nougat anyway. I guess it's the case with android - updates are just not in the focus. Doesn't matter for me, because for the price I am getting a quite smoothly running, just previous to latest version of android. It's enough. It runs fine. Panasonic has installed some bloatware which you can easily disable. There are some extra apps like memory cleaner baked in - they are almost inobstrusive and in some cases useful. 

Storagewise 8GB is limiting, but for my kind of usage it's more than enough. Here on T44 we get about 4GB memory. After in installing the usual suspects, I have about 1.6GB of space remaining. Again I have a 8GB SD Card which I use for bulk data use like download location, music and other data etc. So spacewise it's fine. 

Plastics quality is average, but not as bad as the Karbon A91 Storm. Fitting is nice, edges are well aligned, there are no untoward squeeks or any kind of flex. The buttons are clicky and not squishy. The front capacitive buttons are well responsive. In case of Karbon A91 Storm the home button was not that responsive. But here there's no such case. The back-cover is like a shell that wraps around the phone 2/3rds of the way. The corners are sticking out but it's excusable on such entry level device. The Electric Blue color of back cover is very dark and most will mistake it for black. But it's good since it doesn't attract any attention. 
What grabs the attention on front is the shiny Panasonic logo done in chrome, and the capacitive navigation buttons too. Looks weird. Even weird is the front camera location - it's right in the middle below the earpiece. Totally freaky! But now after a few days I have gotten used to this eye like feature. Worst case though is the blue colored notification LED - I think it's misaligned. So instead of a proper blue light, you see a blue point of reflected light appearing somewherenear top left corner. Funny thing is my ZTE V807 had similar notification LED - it was properly aligned, but it was so effing dim - it was useless!!!
From screen protection point of view, I really don't know if whatever's on the display is glass or just plastic. There's nothing that I can find on the net either. It's not gorilla glass for sure!

So that's it - my review of the Panasonic T44. Mind you there's a Lite version with 2MP back VGA Front camera circulating in the market. It's similar to this one but only with lower quality cameras. As to the Panasonic T44, it's good bang for the buck with right compromises and even some good points. I would say total value for money!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Using Intex AquaFish as a daily driver for a month

It just so happened that AquaFish was the only smartphone I had at hand when my Nubia temporarily died. I used AquaFish for almost a month and these are my findings.
It's a good device - screen is good, call quality is above average, Sailfish OS runs well, almost no weird behavior like dropping signals/missing SMS/ call hanging. Telephony was quite good. The handset feels good in hand and I had people asking me which this orange phone is!!! The crown is of course Sailfish's gesture driven UI. It's quite natural and I have never missed android's home/recent/back buttons.
The UI is responsive and there were not one native application hangups. Few android applications hanged up in various use cases - e.g. WhatsApp with GIF's etc. Not a huge deal breaker. The SD Card support worked fine, MTP connection to Laptop Windows/Linux was solid. No weird 0 Byte files or anything. Camera worked fine. In fact I captured some good photos. I have attached a snap here. Notifications worked and the so like quick toggles were more than enough.
Overall good experience. I can say Sailfish OS 2.0 is indeed ready for the masses.
Now the negatives:
One of the biggest hurdle that I faced was Sailfish OS yet doesn't support Enterprise WiFi networks which meant I was offline in office time, because I am not subscribed to any data packs right now.
Second issue is there are boundary bugs - like multiple SMS reception and call connect disconnect related issues. There's more missing functionality like Keyboard autocorrect, more multi-lingual support, and some enhanced system functions like Battery monitor. From customization and home-screen point of view
Sailfish is on par with android - especially if you ignore replacement home-screens. To be frank I prefer Sailfish approach to home-screen and find it more usable and unique. But then again Sailfish has it's own quirks like the five second action timer - this complicates certain action like deleting pictures etc. There should be a better approach to this.
Still there are a lot of positives and far less negatives. This says something about the tremendous work Jolla guys are doing with a small team.
Looking forward to Sailfish OS 2.1 lijoki!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Bringing back Nubia Z9 Mini

I was almost ready to give up on the Nubia - already had given up on it.
But then today I put it up for charge and lo behold! The notification LED
started blinking in an SOS pattern. So I googled the internets, and found
similar cases for various brands of mobiles. I let the phone charge on.
There was nothing on the display yet.
Then on one post someone mentioned that they had more luck with a 2.4A
charger. I remembered that I had one microUSB power adapter I had purchased
for my Raspberry Pi3. So I plugged in the phone to this 2.4A 5V adapter.
And suddenly the charging animation showed up. I cannot explain my joy!
Then I let it charge till 20% on it. After I used normal 1A charger to
fully top up.
And now the Nubia Z9 mini is back!!!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Monday, February 27, 2017

My Nubia died, and other news

Happened on 25th Feb. What happened was I put it in my rucksac as I was riding a motorcycle back from some trekking, and my trousers didn't have a decent pocket. When I reached home, took out the phone for downloading all the awesome photos I took on the trip, and it was dead as a rock. Tried to revive it using charger, nothing. Then connected it to laptop and saw a USB malfunction error, means either the port is damaged or the board is damaged. So a f*#+ moment. Called zte customer care no and got address of nearby service center. Lets see what they say.
On the other news, haven't yet gotten around to get a TV or monitor for the pi3, so its sitting quiet, waiting.
Ubuntu translation continues in my free time on launchpad.net - about 170066 strings remaining.
Nothing much else.
Ciao.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Ubuntu Translations Update

For last few months I have been hammering Mr translations for Ubuntu on Launchpad.net. It's exciting. As of this date Marathi is top translated Indian language for Ubuntu. The count of untranslated strings is still too high - 170601 as of this post, but I'm hammering at it one string at a time.
Sadly there are not many contributors. Maybe if I could recruit even a handful of people that would increase the pace many fold. But I'm not much social and so refrain from it.
Well, That's it. But I'm happy to note that I love this work.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

TCP IP blues, Nokia C5 5MP audio, using Aqua Fish as daily driver etc.

TCP IP blues
Recently the project I'm currently working at job started sending some
diagnostic data from vehicle to server. I was involved in the vehicle
side development. So it was UT time. Found out manually testing the
various datasets is painful. So to automate this, I used my Qt skills
and hammered together a small TCP IP client for sending prepared
datasets to remote server. This will help us in UT.
Nokia C5 5MP audio quality
I have the old Nokia which my sister abandoned after shifting to
Android. I have put some songs on it and use it as a Mp3 player. And
funny thing is its audio quality is superb. As compared to my android
phone - Nubia Z9 Mini, wife's Honor 5x the Nokia sounds better. I
don't know why, but it just is better. An actual metric would be this:
the Nokia can comfortably drive my Sennheiser HD 439 while with both
the droids, the sound is tiny. Sucks!!!
Using Intex Aqua Fish as daily driver
I'm using the Aqua fish as a daily driver for about a week now. The
thing is my sister's Unbranded android phone is on the brink of death
and I'm going to hand over my Nubia Z9 Mini to her. Instead I'm going
to use Aqua Fish as my daily driver. If it fails somehow I have the
Nokia C5 to fall back on. But so far Aqua Fish is working out quite
well. The telephony is alright, though there can be some improvements
in dual SIM use cases. And it doesn't connect to WPA Enterprise
networks, so no more office WiFi. And the cameras are meh - but not
going to use them as much anyway.
So that's it for this little bit of a while.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Another update in the works for sailfish os

Just read about the latest update which was given out to early release testers for sailfish. 
It's version 2.1 and it updates qt to 5.6, users bluez5 for Bluetooth, and contains a bootload of bug fixes. 
Feeling excited. 

Trying out nougat dev builds for Nubia Z9 mini

So back at the end of Jan the dev builds for Android 7.1.1 started up on mokeedev. 
I didn't want to go for them till they had a stable release out. But eventually I got bored and one fine evening downloaded the latest nightly and gappa for Android 7 and went ahead. 
The installation was similar. On first bootup I had a surprise - a lot of apps wont start. Looking around I found out that the permissions are reset. The apps should be asking for permission instead of crashing. But anyway, I enabled various permissions for apps based on my knowledge. It sorted out about half of them. The remaining stubborn or rather badly coded apps I reinstalled from store. Then they all worked fine. 
Performance wise there's not much difference. The overall experience seems a bit smoother. Battery life is similar to Marshmallow. 
There are not many crashes, just an occasional app hiccuping once in a while. Functions are not complete e.g. USB tethering doesn't work yet. Otherwise camera is fine, calling is fine, sms work, all the sensors are fine. So overall the Nougat Mokee ROM is quite stable. And maybe we will soon have a release. 
Let's see. Cheers for the Mokee team. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Mokee Android 7.1.1 Nougat builds are running for Nubia Z9 Mini

Noticed this after repeatedly checking their Downloads section. Want to try them out but they are nightlies still, and I'm loathe to break my only android phone these days...
Lets see when a release gets out. Still excited!!!!

Resetting Intex Aqua Fish

I had to recently reset the Aqua fish and I remember last time I said that when resetting it, you lose all your updates too. 
Well, so when I reset it, I was booted to 2.0.2.3 which was the version it shipped to me. OK. I added a Jolla account, otherwise it won't search for updates. Then I checked for updates and it did get latest 2.0.5.6 update. After updating I reinstalled a number of apps and checked all the functionality. It was all working alright. 
Well, this is the thing to remember with Sailfish Reset, you get back to the version that's available in your phone's ROM?/ recovery image. But if Jolla Update is working, you can grab the latest update too. 
One thing I don't know yet is what if Intex Aqua Fish did not get the latest update, then what? Do I have to un-Intex the Aqua Fish and then try to get the update - which seems obvious - or something else?
 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Investment Proof submission for Income Tax Assessment

Investment Proof submission for Income Tax Assessment

Hi, This is a yearly practise that we have to go through here in India. This is applicable for salaried employees whose Income Tax is deducted by the paying organization itself. 
Generally at the start of financial year (April here) you are asked to declare whatever future investments you are going to do in the current financial year. Then based on that and your current salary package, your monthly Income Tax outgo is calculated and accordingly deducted from your monthly salary. 
This goes on till three months before FY ending - Dec here. So in next month - Jan., we are asked to submit actual proofs for the declared investments etc. So we have to submit the actual proofs and based on that the actual tax for the year is calculated. Then the remaining tax is deducted in three installments in the remaining three months - Jan, Feb and March. 
Then by May you get Form 16 - your annual income tax report and based on that you can file for any applicable return. 

For investment proofs here's the check points for process here at my current company:
1. Get xeroxes/ prints of various documents and self-attest them. (sign on them.)
2. Print your actual declaration and sign it. 
3. The organization may have specific/ extra forms for each category - e.g. Form 12C is there for declaring income/loss from self owned property where you can declare interest amount as Lost income. Then there's a summary sheet for all Life Insurance Premia. You have to fill all Life Insurance Payments in it and sign it too. 
4. Also put your emp id, Name and telephone no. behind all the sheets so that they can be relocated in case they get separated from your other docs. 

That's it! Happy Tax Filing!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Seat Height Adjust on Hero Duet VX

Hmm, actually Hero Duet VX doesn't have a seat height adjustment capability. AFAIK on all the scooters, only Mahindra Rodeo line has this feature. Mainly it doesn't matter for average heighted ladies. But for someone of about 5Ft height, the default seat height of 70cm can be a bit too high. And my wife belongs to this group.
Thankfully many accessory shops help you with the seat height. After asking around we found couple of shops nearby and visited one of them for the change. It's simple, they shave bit of foam off the saddle to get it low. It cost us INR 150 bucks. 
But actually there should be an option for seat height adjustment for everybody. I don't know why bike manufacturers (except Mahindra on Rodeo) don't provide this. 
To look at it other way, your plain jane bicycle provides seat height adjust!!! J

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

SBI and SBIePay sucks

Whenever I have to deal with State Bank of India, it has been a thoroughly frustrating experience. Unfortunately since it's largest bank, gives almost best interest as well loan rates, it's the go to bank for a huge number of people. And generally it works, but then some times it plainly sucks. 
My first frustrating experience was when I opened a saving account - in SBI at the behest of my parents. Problem is there are always so many people at each SBI branch, and the whole branch is like a madhouse. The tables don't have proper boards, SBI people will move you here to there without any proper information and overall it's a pain in the ass just to visit the branch to get some work done. 
If you know the exact things to do, well and good. Otherwise get ready to be kicked around the branch for a while. So after going through this SBI incubation treatment for a while I got used to it. Also came to know thoroughly the lines, the delays, the slow staff, the overall chaos. Hmm. 
Thankfully I kept my interactions to minimum, never got chequebook, netbanking, and used it to minimum with saving account and debit card. That's it. This meant visiting the branch in a while for updating the passbook, and other misc tasks once in a while like getting college fee demand drafts.
Next came the part where I needed a home loan. And through consultation we finalized on SBI for cheapest loan rates. The problem is there's so much paperwork needed, it was much pain in the ass again. But somehow I soldiered through. More bank visits, and oodles of signatures everywhere. I believe I might have probably signed away my life and the life of my seven descendents. Hahaha. 
Then come the WTF part. See you need to provide a SBI Savings account from which the EMI is transferred monthly to the Loan Account. For this the SBI folks asked me to furnish a Standing Instruction form. But the first month I got the surprize - no transfer happened. I had to manually pay the amount. I went to the branch and enquired. Turned out the SI was not enabled since loan was not disbursed - it was already! WTF!!! Anyway I had them enable SI manually and crossed my fingers next month. Same shit next month. Again I went and enquired. Turned out to be system issue. F@#$ U I said! Next month again no transfer. So I went and told them to delete the SI, since it was not working anyway. And since I have been manually transferring the EMI myself for that home loan. Great SBI!
But since then I have completely stopped using that SBI account. And maybe it's figures are screwed too. Last time I checked it showed about 11000/- as balance and when I tried to withdraw it, it said insufficient balance. Hahaha. WTF!!!
Anyway I have given up on SBI. 
But they won't let go of you. This time I wanted to pay some government tax and found out they are using SBIePay gateway - which is SBI's own payment gateway like Billdesk or Billjunction. 
And WTF! Been trying for about a week now - their aggregator listener page just doesn't move forward. F@#$ U SBI!!!! 
Really someone shut down this shit of an financial institution!!!! 

Friday, January 13, 2017

My thoughts about KDE Desktop and new Plasma shell

I have briefly used all KDE flavours from KDE 3.0 to 4.0 to latest plasma shell with KDE 5 series. But I could not get along with KDE for too long. I use it for few months and then get bored or just annoyed enough with the way many of the things are and hop to other distro. 
My main gripes are below: 

1. The themes and the overall widget animations: Animations are good and bright, catchy colors are good too - if used sparingly. But with KDE it's just too much. Every time I have used KDE I ended up disabling almost all animations, and switching to an easier on the eyes color theme. The various themes just don't look natural - they look like some snazzy designers dream. Rather take a look at the Mint themes, or Ubuntu themes - they are muted and not eye catchy. But that's something makes you forget about them and concentrate on the work. With KDE it's exactly opposite. The various colors, gradients, and changes keep grabbing at your focus. Add to that the various popups and animations. You move the mouse to the window buttons on taskbar and every time a giant preview pops up. Man, that's so annoying.

2. Too much customization: The customization options offered are just too much. It takes more time to go through them all and just come to a sane combination. Rather useful defaults should be the norm. E.g. Why that giant taskbar button window preview thing on by default? Jeez!!!

3. KDE Has been RAM hungry: Previously KDE has been resource hungry. The KDE 4 series suffered from memory problems too. On many occasions I found out that I've max'ed the RAM in an hour. With plasma this situation is better, but still KDE runs so many services, it just uses more RAM and that means your 5-6 browser tabs can bog down a system low on RAM.

4. Difficult to trim down on the FAT: Since so many of these services are intertwined, it's difficult to trim down a KDE based system. That's one of my reasons to not use KDE much. Half the time you remove something critical and it breaks the system. With Ubuntu- unity, Mate etc the chances are less - in fact with Mate the system is already quite trim. Again plasma does better with this, but last time I tried trimming down a plasma based desktop  - plasma neon to say - I managed to break it!!! Grrrr!!! 

This is not a rant. But just some reasons why I've stayed away from KDE through the years. And it's more than 14 Years to date since I popped in a Slackware Live CD in a Single Core Pentium 1.8GHz based desktop's CD ROM drive. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

How to enable SSH on Raspbian

Previously enabling raspbian, meant you have to boot to the card. Then enable and configure ssh service. 
But with since 2016, there's a simple method. That is on the boot partition of your SD Card, create an empty file with name 'ssh' - without quotes - and when you boot from this SD Card, SSH services are auto-enabled.

To create the file you can use following commands: 

touch /media/user/boot/ssh
sync

Touch creates the file and sync ensures that it's written to the SD Card, flushing any pending write buffers for the SD Card. 

How to prepare an SD Card with Raspbian

I used Ubuntu for preparing the SD Card and it's really simple. You connect the SD Card using a card reader. If it's auto mounted, then un-mount it using

sudo umount /dev/sdb1

assuming /dev/sdb is the SD Card with one partition.
Next extract the Raspbian image from the ZIP file. Note, the zip file is about 1GB but the image is 4.4GB since it's compressed image. 

Next use dd to put this image on the SD Card. 

sudo dd bs=4M if=[image file path] of=/dev/sdb 

This writes the image to the SD Card. Next pop the SD Card in the pi and power up! 

Raspberry Pi 3 Update - Raspbian working!!! Hurrah!!!

So finally last night I spent some time plumbing the software stuff together and got Raspbian working on the Raspberry Pi 3 board.
It needed some acrobatics but it did work. Below screenshot on my Ubuntu Laptop is the proof! J
The setup: 
Raspberry Pi 3 powered using Portronics 5v 2.3A power adapter connected to ethernet on  a Tenda N301 router. I don't have a HDMI display yet so I'm sort of using vnc for this. I'm using Raspbian on a 8GB SanDisk SD Card. 

The things I had to do:
1. Prep SD Card with Raspbian - straight forward using standard instructions on Linux. - All OK.
2. Power up the Pi 3 and use ethernet to connect it to the Tenda. - All OK.  
3. SSH to the Pi: Had to fumble a bit here but finally got around to it using a solution on Stackoverflow.com. - A bit iffy but Okayish.
4. VNC: Straight forward using inbuilt vncserver. Needed to install RealVNC client on Laptop. But then worked fine. - All OK with one download.

And voilla I could see the Pixel desktop. 

The things I tried: Opened LibreOffice, browser and file manager. Checked a number of files. Played some videos. 

Experience: Desktop is fast enough. Office, Browser OK. Could not find PDF viewer. OmxPlayer did play the videos and musics, but without HDMI, there's no video to be seen. OK. System OK otherwise. Maybe will get faster if I move the rootfs to even faster storage like an external HDD. 

BTW my 1TB WD My Passport external HDD did work fine without any changes needed to config. Apparently the Pi 3 maybe gives more current to the USB ports or maybe whatever 600mA it was getting is enough for this HDD. Huh!
That's it. Detailed posts follow for each steps of this adventure!!!

Products referred in this post:




Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Update on the Hero Duet Vx

Well, last I talked about it was when it's battery got discharged due to lack of use and severe cold. Since then we took it to a Hero Authorised Service Center. The guys there charged it overnight free of cost. And it's been running well since.
The odo reads 800KM to date and we will get it serviced by 1000KM for second free service. 
Lets see how it goes. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Got the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B

Update: Received Portronics 5V 2.3A power adapter and the case too on 9/1/2017.

Got Raspberry Pi, Samsung Class 10 16GB sd card and a HDMI cable. Still waiting for the power adapter and pi case.

Excited times ahead!!!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The case of our new Hero Duet and it's disappearing odometer

So we bought a new scooter couple months back. We bought it at my hometown because we don't have the necessary papers here in city. It's been sitting at home for a while and its winter these days. So the battery died. And we didn't have enough time to get it fixed, but we had to ride it to city. So the odometer disappeared and it kept coming back for a while but when the charge dropped it used to vanish. And it was all hilarious!!!!

Well to start, we (me and wifey) did not have any vehicle of our own. I never needed one and she never got hold of one. So few months back we decided to get one since we need it for moving around the city and travelling in buses is atrocious - costly and irritating due to all the small walks you need to do here and there.

So we asked around but the paperwork was stuck here and there. Wifey decided to buy one at our hometown. She goes there couple months back and buys one - a Hero Duet 110cc scooter cost us about INR 64,000/-. Good deal. Then it's couple of weeks till we get a number allotted and it's cleared from RTO passing. Then we have been scheduling a visit for a while so it's about two months by the time we get back.

But due to winter the battery is dead. Wife called up the dealer and asked for solution. He says he'll take about a week to replace the battery. We didn't have that time. So we decided to bring it to the city and get the battery replacement done here. While on the way we noticed these funny acts of the odometer.

The problem is the designers didn't seem to have considered the situation of the bike running with a dead battery. So the gauges remain dead most of the time. Then after running it for a while when the onboard alternator puts some charge in the battery - the odo comes to life and starts showing current speed, the digital display shows some km's etc. But then if you start any indicator/light it sucks up all the current and the odo goes dodo!!! :J After a while it comes back to life when the scooter has been running for a while. Totally funny!!

The biggest problem was we had to put it to main stand and then kick start it. Wifey doesn't have enough mass to kick start the motor, so it was me with sore right leg the next day.

Thankfully the scooter rides nice. The engine is good, got good pickup and is quite smooth. I guess it'll smoother out further by 1000KM. We have reached about 600KM by now. The shocks are nice and ride quality is great. The scooter is heavy at 116KG, but feels planted on highway even at 80KMPH. So looks to be good ride. Lets see how it works out after battery replacement and one more servicing.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy New Year 2017

Wishing you all a very happy new year!!!

Wassup for new year? I have just ordered a Raspberry Pi 3. So some tinkering with that. Maybe setting up a Digital Home Theatre - since I'll have all the components - a low power CPU in form of the Pi 3, wireless KBD Mouse - already have these, a display - going to buy at least 18.5" panel, and speakers - the 2.1 Sony's shall suffice. That's looking like good deal.