Samsung Galaxy S4 Android OS

Android OS Failure

This is the reason why I have a hard time truly recommending an Android phone – Verizon pushed an update (NG6) which caused the phone to reliably crash every half hour or more frequently.  Full factory reset didn’t fix the issue.  They then pushed another update, NK1 I think, which fixed the crashing, but battery life has gone to crap.  This was with location turned off.  Nothing else was above 3%.  If the OS is taking 2x the power what should be the most power hungry part of the phone, the screen, then that OS is failing.

I don’t know if this is due to whatever customizations Samsung puts on Android, whatever additions Verizon tacks on, or due to Android OS itself.  The OS updates  come through Verizon, so from what I’ve read, they’re most likely to blame.  The updates are virtually forced in that if you don’t do them, you are prompted every time the phone is unlocked to update.  It really doesn’t matter who causes the issue – each participant will just point to the next.  Verizon doesn’t care because you’re on contract.  Samsung doesn’t care because they already have your money and would rather you buy a new phone anyway.  Google may or may not care, since it’s not a base OS issue (other devices are fine) and has no way of forcing a fix anyway.

I’m sure there are issue with Apple devices.  I don’t own one and I don’t particularly want one, but at least when your iPhone gets broken by an update you know exactly who caused the problem: Apple.  I think this alone gives Apple a huge advantage in that they are in full control of the OS (and the hardware), so if a fix is needed you know exactly who’s responsibility it is to take care of it, and they know they have premium reputation to uphold so at least there are better odds that they will take care of it.

Some things that Android OS could benefit from:

  • Individual feature permissions for apps – very few apps should ever be allowed to query my location.
  • Better kernel control over functions – if an app is hammering the GPS for a location and it’s not available, shut it down.  No app should be able to single handedly burn through a battery in a few hours unknown to the user (yes, I have had this happen).
  • Consolidated settings, specifically notifications and permissions for each app.  There are some third party apps that try to do this, but it should be rolled into the OS.
  • Fewer manufacturer and carrier customizations – I know there are a few google play version devices out there and I will consider them if I’m still interested in Android as of my next renewal time.
  • App longevity – I have seen apps that are forced to expire (present an “outdated” notification and exit) once a new version comes out.  Problem is that the new version can have reduced features.  Yes, I’ve seen this exact scenario happen, and it makes me hesitant to ever purchase any apps since I consider them all to be temporary.

2012 Summer Olympics and NBC

Despite not caring much for most sports, I really like the Olympics, with a heavy weighting toward events that showcase strong individual performances. Since they started a few days ago, and I don’t have cable or (in an apparent change since the Winter Olympics) a useful antenna reception, I was more than slightly concerned about my ability to watch.

I figured the internet would save me. NBC has exclusive coverage and a dedicated site, That hope was short lived. nbcolympics requires you to have an NBC subscription of some sort to watch much of the content.

On some random chance, I entered that I had Comcast Xfinity and it let me in without further credential check. Hopes renewed… temporarily.

The internet coverage appears to be largely junk. Some of the videos still don’t work, the ones that do often stutter for buffering. Worst of all many, maybe most, of them appear to be just a video recording with no production, specifically announcing, at all. Now, I’m not a fan of announcers in general, but when I’m watching a judo match, some background information is almost essential. Hopes dashed, again.

Today, I stumbled across a Facebook post about circumventing the Comcast / NBC monopoly in the US. has a nice article about how to use the UK’s expat service to watch BBC video.

After following the simple instructions and installing the proxy software, I’m off an running on the BBC’s web site as promised. My initial impression comparing a few days of watching on NBC’s web site vs. the BBC’s is that the BBC’s coverage is absolutely amazing, or rather that NBC’s coverage (and organization) is embarrassingly poor.

As an example, with no wading through ads, I can easily pull up 2+ hours of the latest swimming coverage with the following benefits:

1. Beneath the progress bar are quick links for all the individual events.
2. The video can run full screen, outside the browser (great if you have two monitors and want to write on Facebook while watching).
3. Unlike Youtube’s (apparently shit) back end, I haven’t hit buffering once, dispite running a proxy through the UK and having a relatively slow internet connection.
4. Video quality is vastly better than NBC / youtube.
5. There don’t appear to be any ads. NBC was trying to sell me a Chevy at least once every five minutes.
6. No special interest stories or other filler. The may be available, but they’re not mixed into the event coverage.

Down side:

Announcers have British accents.

NBC has exclusive rights to Olympic coverage, I think for the next ten years, and they’ve handled it so poorly that their potential customers are virtually leaving the country to circumvent them. I guess that’s what happens when profit from subscriptions and advertising overshadows having a product people are interested in. Maybe in two and half years, they’ll get their act together for the Winter Olympics.

Bags of Crap

This post is one of pride as well as shame.

I purchased a “Bag of Crap” from Woot.

For the uninitiated, Woot is a site that features one item (often techy) for sale every day, available until midnight central time or it (occasionally) sells out. Then, there is the Woot-Off… a multi day event where an item goes up for sale until it sells out and is the replaced my the next item. The problem I have is that people often buy stuff they don’t need and often don’t even want on the chance that the next item might be better. “Bags of Crap” are an item that invariably come up a fwe time per Woot-Off and sell out almost immediately. When they come up, the web site nearly crashes and a few people end up paying $1/ea. for up to 3 craps and $5 S&H. Your $8 gets you a box of (3) random odds and ends which can vary from a broken MP3 player case to a 46″ LCD TV. Obviously, some is complete garbage and some is worth hundreds to thousands of times the price you paid.

The pride aspect is that snagging one of these “Bags of Crap” is very highly revered in the geek community. Which brings me to the present… the crap was on my doorstep upon returning from TC.

A High School Musical pink kids clock!

A t-shirt. Kids size 6. Anyone understand the pattern? Anyone have a kid who is or will be size six?

A steam cleaner. This had an RMA number and a remanufactured sticker on the box. It appears to work as new, but I can’t vouch for its ability to clean anything.

A three pack of gym totes (not sure why I got four items). I’m seen guys wear these, it makes me embarassed for them.

And… all orders include a flying screaming Woot! Monkey. This guy will get to live at work until his screams annoy someone into destroying him.

So, there you have it. The contents of my first Woot! Bag of Crap.

Cash for Clunkers

The bill made it through congress about two weeks ago and has now been signed by Obama. The quick summary is that for cars, if it gets 18mpg or less you’ll get $4500 trade for anything getting 10mpg improvement. For trucks, that $4500 comes for a 5mpg improvement. Both have lower requirements which get $3500.

I have several issues with this:

  1. It’s essentially tax payers subsidizing new cars which is just stupid. Even stupider is pointedly subsidizing those who possibly just made careless choices when gas was $0.82/gal.
  2. If it’s to be a convincing “green” bill, subsidizing anything that counts as a truck is rather silly.
  3. It only applies to new vehicle purchases. In some cases the environmental impact of a new car’s production is greater than the expected emissions savings over the life of the car. It’s also an issue because it severely limits who can take advantage of this – someone who can’t afford a brand new car probably still cannot afford a brand new car after $4500 discount.
  4. It was passed by tacking it onto a war spending bill, which is bullshit, not just in this case, but as a general rule. Wasn’t Obama supposed to quit spending money on war?

The major complaint I have read is people whining about having a piece of junk car that still gets 25mpg and thus getting nothing from this bill. While unfortunate, the bill’s purpose is not to help you buy a nicer car, it’s to reduce fuel consumption. The most commonly suggested compromise is money for any vehicle based solely on % improvement in mileage. The issue here is that an old car that gets 25mpg replaced with hybrid gets 45mpg (80% improvement) saves less fuel per year than moving from my Jeep which gets 15mpg to something that gets 22mpg (46% improvement). Despite the percentages, the former would save 133 gallons of fuel per year while the latter would save 254 gallons – near double. So, that being said, money allotted based on expected fuel savings might make good sense.

So, as said, I don’t really approve of the bill, but since I do pay taxes and all, I have little moral issue with taking full advantage of it to replace the Jeep. Which, pronounced in Spanish is Heep.

Also, for anyone who cares, Consumer’s Reports appears to have one of the most complete yet simple breakdowns of the bill:

Austin, TX Rev 6 or so

Took off Monday evening for Texas to visit a customer for some development guidance and discussions. Hit work early Tuesday to bring up the latest revision of hardware. Had a couple false-issues – one with a temp sensor and another with a couple FETs on the board which I erroneously thought needed reversing. As it turns out, neither of these were an issue and there was a firmware bug which was impeding proper operation. Problem solved by Wednesday. Had a couple discussions and proceeded with some testing for the remainder of the week.

Thursday night saw some t-storms coming toward Austin. I was oblivious to this when I ventured out for some dinner at a nice Korean restaurant near the hotel. When I was partially through dinner I became aware from all the staff nervously gathered around the TV that a tornado had been spotted somewhere to the Northwest and was expected to pass between Round Rock and Austin. I’m not really familiar with tornado protocol, but I figured if the employees weren’t leaving or heading to the basement, it must be safe for me to finish my dinner.

And… now I need to shutdown and board my plane back to GR. Oh, and BTW today was my Friday off.

Further Issues with the Zune Software

So, I plugged the Zune in and fired up the software. I don’t have the external drive with all my music on it plugged in, but I want to see if I can make some playlists from the songs on the device. Dabble around a bit trying to figure out if this is possible – nope, it doesn’t seem to be. It would appear that the only way to do anything at all to what is on the device is to make that change to my music library and then sync the player. That sucks, but here’s what sucks more. The Zune software decided, since it couldn’t find my HDD with music on it, that I must have deleted all my music and it starts wiping the device. That is fucking ridiculous. I caught it before more than a few MB were deleted, but that would have been a sever downer to my skiing enjoyment.

I think I never should have strayed from my original claim that I would never buy a MP3 player that required proprietary software again. My debate now is should I sell the Zune, which is like new, or hold on to it in hopes that it becomes Rockbox supported?

Anyone with an iPod… does iTunes pull this shit??? Because really, that’s what Microsoft is competing with. Toshiba did a good job making a player, Microsoft is sucking ass on the Software end (which you’d think is where they’d excel).

Questions to Microsoft

I will preface this by saying that I am not trying to jump on the MS sucks bandwagon. If MS really sucked that bad, people would be using Linux. I have tried Linux and I do not believe it is ready for wide spread adoption by people who “just want it to work.” Now:

Why are Zunes completely locked until you sync them with your computer for the first time? You can’t even see what the interface will be like and what settings and options are available until it’s been synced with the Zune software.

Why is a Zune harder to install in Windows than an iPod? The Zune interface took an hour plus to install because it wanted to update it self first. Never was there an option to not download updates right now. It then spent more time “preparing the computer,” whatever that means. I’ve never had any other piece of software take that long just preparing to install.

Why does the Zune require the installation of the Zune software when a variety of other MP3 players work just fine with Windows Media Player and other third party apps? In iPod terms, the Zune software is equivalent to iTunes which puts the pre-installed Media Player as the equivalent to Quicktime (?). BUT, MS has gone to some length to make Media Player work with portable devices, why not their own???

The only hardware issues I have: why can’t the Zune show up as mass storage for non-music items, same as the iPod? Other than this, which is in reality an interface issue too, I generally like the Zune hardware, but the above software / interface issues are to be honest, ridiculous. How are you going to claim any semblance of ease-of-use when it takes 5 hours just to get the thing to work with your own operating system?

So, to Microsoft: Your hardware team (which may well have been Toshiba) did a good job. Your software team, they dropped the ball.

Frustration with IE and Vista

I cannot figure out how to make IE in Vista download Firefox. If I select run, nothing happens. If I select save, either nothing happens or it is saved somewhere unknown to me. When I go to tweak internet options, nothing comes up. When I search for any file that has firefox in its name, nothing comes up.

Thanks Microsoft, your pair of products has sucked. This experience has confirmed for me that I shan’t be upgrading to Vista or going back to IE any time soon.

Ron Paul

Ron Paul sounds like a right wing nut**. This is coming from me – who intends to vote based on gun possession. His most recent campaign ad basically has him endorsing the use of US military assassination as means of taking care of problems.

I remember being in fourth grade and wondering why we didn’t just go assassinate Saddam then. Yes, in fourth grade, that was my solution to Desert Storm. I don’t recall the exact explanation, but it boiled down to ‘assassinations are against the rules of war.’ Now, here we sit, 15 years later and a presidential candidate is calling for just that.

Personally, I still think it’s a good idea. Saves lots of time, money, lives, resources, etc. Just go whack the guy you want out of commission. The problem is that, when you are the most powerful nation on the face of the earth, examples and precedents need to be set. We cannot afford to show other countries that this is OK. We can also not afford to be blamed when some other organization takes someone out – and as the most powerful nation, I believe that is exactly what would happen.

**Must be punctuated as ‘right-wing nut’, not ‘right wing-nut’, because that would mean that he is the correct and simple pairing to a bolt.

Public Disservice

I just saw a commercial against cigarettes… it was one of the “truth” series. Some dude goes into a firearms shop and asks about light bullets or low lead shot shells. The owner tells him there’s no such thing, and he draws a parallel to light and low tar cigarettes.

If they’re going to advertise as “truth” they should be a bit more careful. There are shot shells that contain no lead – they’re for waterfowl hunting where lead pellets on the lake bottom would get ingested and kill birds. There are also what equate to light rounds – ie. a 357 can shoot a .38 special round, although it has much less power behind it.

I approve of the commercials against cigarettes. I don’t approve of them spreading misinformation about firearms.