Gotta be said: Huawei Nexus 6P and Apple iPhone 6s Plus Compared – subjectively

Six is when kids normally start school. Both iPhone model and Nexus Android OS numbers have reached 6. Both have improved enormously up to now and I do believe it’s a kind of coming-of-age for Android. Where iOS improvements are incremental, this Android version is quite a stride IMHO. Now the two are definitely comparable. Google just needs to ensure ALL Android devices get the new OS ASAP. Maybe make an ecosystem a la Apple to force updates where possible and not wait for all the malware that service providers insist on installing to be made compatible. What Apple does, Google should be able to do in spades… I believe a start would be to get one service provider to use only pure Android, which might well be to the detriment of others, who would then quickly follow. Sure, it means their micro-eco systems would either be integrated into Google’s mega one, or simply an addition, but with some thought that could be a good thing.

Size wise there’s not much between them, the Nexus 6P phone is a tad thicker and a little longeN6P.6SPlusr and wider than the iPhone 6s Plus, the Nexus screen is also a little longer. Specific millimetre values and pix are found easily on the Web. The Nexus screen is also AMOLED with a higher resolution than the iPhone 6s Plus.

I was quite taken with the iPhone 6s Plus when I first got it and like so many objects of our passions, when fresh they enamour, to then lose their fascination after a while – the so-called “honeymoon” period. There are a few niggles I have with iOS 9.2, like when a link is used, say from email, to open a browser window, resulting in the small “Back to…” top left appearing. That browser window takes forever, or longer, to open – often the blue indicator line just sticks at its initial effort never to move again. Perhaps connected with that is a further niggle, the fact that Apple insists you use their Safari browser for links tapped elsewhere that then go – nowhere when Chrome using copy/paste does get the job done! Another, quite substantial annoyance is the iPhone finger print recognition not doing what it’s supposed to after a day or even shorter duration. Then there’s Siri, which seems to have been educated as a kind of entertainer rather than helper. Make a comment or ask a question a bit unclearly and a cryptic comment is assured.

The Nexus 6P feels quite hefty in the hand, especially when enclosed in a soft plastic case, but is still lighter than the iPhone 6s Plus! I’m still exploring the new OS Android 6 Marshmallow that seems to have made everything easier to use and faster. The large screen pleases with its OLED brilliance, the fingerprint recognition happens mostly as it should and everything else is snappily at beck & call. Speaking of which, OK Google, the Android equivalent to Siri and unlike that robotic search system, is all business. Indeed, a relatively impersonal veritable factotum would better describe it, where Siri endeavours to mirror an individual, including character flaws. OK Google can access functions within the OS that Siri just can’t. For example, tell Siri to “Turn on flash-light” and hear “I can’t do that” whereby OK Google executes such a bidding without compunction, oh, and will also turn it off when told to. It might be that OK Google is a little more tightly integrated than Siri to its respective OS, or maybe it’s just that, as mentioned, Siri tries to be an individual where OK Google doesn’t and is more a service with insight – and then there’s Google’s navigation help... An opinion here too: Siri vs. Cortana vs. ‘OK Google’.

Talking about sound: the Nexus 6P has dual front-facing speakers that simply blow you away when you turn the phone from vertical to wide orientation the sound suddenly becomes all-encompassing – awesome!

There’s one app I really like on the iPhone: email. A simple app that lists emails received with a simple way to mark them all as read, or whatever, is what I’m talking about. The Google email app with its categories is just too much for the phablet screen size and the presentation is not simple. The desktop version is AOK, but in the hand? Mmm!

And now last, but by gum not least, those buttons: the newer iPhone annoys me immensely by having the power button diametrically opposite the volume buttons, as so many smartphones do, so when the sound needs adjustment, by accident the phone gets turned off! Even worse, try giving an iPhone 6(s), or many Android phones, to someone to show, say, a picture and likewise – off it goes! People grip device sides not screens. I can still hear my Android using pal quietly cursing that his phone had turned off again in the middle of a call through an accidental button press! Apple even copied that setup! Where’s the form follows function philosophy in that? Put that accursed button back at the unit top out of the way where it used to be on the iPhonethe top of the phone is not that far away, see iPads! Oh, and an added advantage of placing that button at top of the unit is that it’s a further indicator of where top is on an otherwise nearly symmetrical unit making choosing orientation easier which will become even more difficult to discern if/when the iPhone loses the headphone socket and maybe others follow suit.

The Nexus 6P thankfully, has all the buttons placed on one side and in such a location that the phone can be gripped on the side below AND above them without activating their functions – simple! Of course, the SIM card slot is on the other side. Pass the Nexus 6P to someone to show them a picture and they grip it at its sides above the buttons, and get to see the pictures first time round.

Someone else here asks iPhone 6s vs Nexus 6P: Can iOS Take on The Might of Android Marshmallow? that gives a little more detail to my subjective judgement.

Slightly edited Jan 26, 2016. Nothing world moving.
The opinion hasn’t changed, only some spelling.

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Activity Trackers I have worn… Withings Pulse Ox vs Fitbit Surge – Smartwatch Coming or Going?

I first bought the Withings Pulse O2 Activity and quite liked it. It is small, fits under cuffs reasonably well and has most activity functions except GPS tracking and constant heart-rate monitor. The Bluetooth sync is though often slow to connect, although it does eventually. The fact that the unit has two holders, one for wrist wear and one for belt or wherever it’ll stay, is nice. It being so small is, as well as making it easy to wear, also the reason I found it felt a bit like a toy on my wrist – I like big diameter watches and this is primarily a pedometer!

The Withings Pulse’s toy-like appearance, no GPS, heart-rate monitor on demand only and somewhat hinky Bluetooth connection prompted me to try the Fitbit Surge.

The Surge is quite expensive and even though the wedge shape is interesting it makes the unit overly thick. Because of that the wearability is really hampered as it’s simply too thick to fit under clothing. The silicone armband and casing are rubbery and sleeves will not slide over them. Oh, and the strap cannot be changed! Of course, if you wear it like the guy in the Website where there’s no shirt, then there’s no problem – except when the strap wears out… I also found the Surge’s screen disappointing for such a promising piece of equipment. The touch-screen display is white on black, difficult to read in low light, the back-lighting is dim and the LCD display seems otherwise a bit experimental, i.e. not really a selling point as it definitely needs more pizazz – maybe even colour.

I found that using GPS on the Surge sucked the battery dry in relatively short time – I mean like hours so, although that was one consideration for its purchase, I didn’t use it and if it was really important for me I still had the phone to do that trick. The Surge needs charging every few days, i.e. 5-6, depending on settings and the Withings Pulse lasts through four or five days, so both can be charged up while I’m physically inactive, working – excellent!

So now, after wearing the Withings Pulse O2 for a while on my arm and trying the Fitbit Surge too I’m back with the Withings as a belt, or wherever it’ll fit, tracker and I am also able to wear one of my normal watches again!! That last is a smart-watch deal-breaker for me. Who wants to always wear the same watch every day, but not want to forgo having an activity tracker in use now they are connected OTA? Multiple Apple Watches? They’re all a bit chunky and all the same shape too. Oh, and iOS only – no Android yet – so, no thanks.

Both the Withings Pulse O2 and the Fitbit Surge units are compatible with iOS and Android devices, one of the many things going for them, and their on-line website displays are both good, informative and usually up to date. They are for activity tracking, not presenting and socialising.

As far as satisfaction is concerned, I am not really, not yet. Although the Withings comes close and I know Withings offers the Activité and Activité Pop that look like watches. Although I am sorely tempted, as I already use their Smart Body Analyzer scales that offers weight, body fat % and heartbeat and also synchronizes making all that bothersome data recording automatic, they also demand to be the only watch worn otherwise the tracking stops. The scale software has also recently been updated OTA so yesterday’s activity and the day’s weather is now presented when weighing in.

The future must hold something different than the Apple and Android smartwatch iterations, i.e. Wearables, if only for the simple reason that the watch has become a piece of jewellery that is changed with the occasion or wearer’s mood – i.e offers choice. The smartwatch on the other hand demands to be always the same one or one loses some functionality or information and 24 hour activity etc. values make more sense. Ergo something’s gotta give. Packing all those functions into one small housing just because it’s possible doesn’t make it the ultimate right way to go.

We know how the mobile phone has evolved into a full-blown mini-computer with all its advantages and shortcomings, but information technology has a habit of changing rapidly. Now it’s the watch’s turn. Are these smartphone devices a flash-in-the-pan? Will they go the way of the cassette Walkman? After all, mobile phones do have the tracking function already integrated! Maybe the way forward is a different kind of mobile phone… The Bluetooth earpiece is not that popular so hands-off operation that way doesn’t seem likely, unless the earpiece can be made so small as to be comfortable – and then there’s the necessary microphone to consider…

I wonder what the future will hold. Multiple configurations seem likely, perhaps a necklace or pendant-cum-broach with interchangeable casings and/or innards that sits snugly against the chest, or a belt buckle – same fashion problems as the watch, but modular electronic watch strap sections are being introduced. Maybe some kind of under the skin tech that allows the ultimate of configuration while fulfilling our need to know what’s going on inside our earthly shells? However, we humans don’t seem to like the idea of foreign things in our bodies that don’t replace a failing life function. We tolerate replacement teeth, pacemakers & defibrillators and the occasional organ. Technology though? By choice? Not yet… We are in the digital age, but have not fully embraced the implications. So, for the time being whatever comes next will have to be external, as in Wearable. But a watch? We need some really inventive and innovative thinking here.

All in all, the current spate of so-called smart watches is still just a load of glorified convenient pedometers trying to be watches – nay, even jewellery. Remember the digital watch vs analogue and what happened there?

Note: I have used both for a few days and find the results differ quite a bit. If the Surge value is taken as 100% the Pulse shows 85% for the same activities. I guess the Pulse doesn’t like playing second fiddle!

Updated: September 01, 2015

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Use Konica-Minolta C220 Bizhub printer with Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon 64 bit – Success!

index_img01This is a rehash of a previous post in which I described how I got LM14 and a KM C220 Bizhub working nicely together. This success is now even simpler with LM16 Petra Cinnamon 64 bit as the LSB is now already part of the initial OS installation, so only the KM driver is required. I seem to have triggered something there – or maybe it was just time for it to be noticed. Nevertheless, everything now works and is simple to configure. LSB is already installed so, download the driver C360 Series Linux v10001.0000.zip file from here [Color Multifunction Printers>bizhub C220>Drivers>Linux and click Search] and note its download location – no checksum file is provided. Then unzip C360 Series Linux v10001.0000.zip. To install the driver:

  • Under System Settings/Printers click Add
  • Select Network Printer
  • Select the Konica Minolta C360 that shows “AppSocket/JetDirect network printer via DNS-SD”
  • Click Forward – wait while a driver search opens “New Printer” window
  • Select “Provide PPD file”
  • Go to where the unzipped “C360_Series_Linux_v10001.0000/CUPS1.2/EN/KOC360UX.ppd” file is located
  • Click Open, Forward & Forward and write the Location if required
  • Click Apply, and Print a test page.

That should do it except for fine-tuning paper size and other specifics of your setup.

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My current mobile… Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (au KDDI SCL22)

Image
This phone is far better than its predecessor, the SGNII!

Of course for the future a few questions remain to be answered:

  • When will Android KitKat be available for the Galaxy Note 3? 
  • Will the iPhone 6 be as good?
  • What size will the iPhone 6 screen finally be?

Such impatience!

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Connect to two Netgear Stora NAS, also with mobile…

Yippee! As an avid NAS user I just found out how to, and actually did, access the Albums and Media Library sections of my Stora from my mobile phone! All the files on it are available; pix, music, vids, the lot! There are only four things to remember:

The last three items are set by the user, so need noting somewhere. For computer browser access the same three items are required, but for home browser access on the same LAN as the Stora, the last two items are required and access is quite quick – I’ve got a Gigbit network which can usually be easily installed – swap out the router and WLAN with the faster 802.11a/b/g/n performance if you need Wi-Fi, replace all cables with CAT5e or better CAT6 and swap the Ethernet (LAN) hub, if one is used, for a Gigabit version. I can only recommend Apple Airport products, which I use, as they are powerful, use multilingual software so wherever you are and whatever language you understand there’s no problem, and they are easy to set up through Mac or Win AirPort Utility – use Wine with Linux.

Stora Remote Access can be through a mobile phone, tablet (there’s are Android & iOS Apps for that!) or computer – indeed any device connected to the Internet after setting up your home Stora to allow access from outside. This means (after first checking for and installing all Software Updates available) making a few settings in the Stora Preferences interface page under Server Preferences:

  • At Network Services (4th down) and under Available Network Services set Enable FTP access to your local LAN and Enable FTP access to the Internet to Yes. The former probably was set to “Yes” but the latter blocks access and setting it to “Yes” unblocks access and lets you get in, password protected, from the internet.
  • At Remote Access (7th down) check the box next to Enable remote access and enter the Stora Name.

That makes all the files on your Stora at home available from work or anywhere else for that matter. I know the browser interface is very dark, but with some use I’m not liking it (Purple text on black background. Yikes!) but having to accept it as there’s no other option than to work with it. I now have two of these Stora boxes – and both are available through my file manager. I searched a while and found in the Netgear forum from 2010/2011 that there is a Device Services Rename Tool web-page that simply changes the device name from Stora to whatever you called the device at set-up by entering the Product Key (Home screen, bottom left About Stora). Brilliant! HIPSERV          After renaming, the utility asks for a Stora reboot so the changes can be applied. Running recovery brings the Stora name back – watch for album and contact data changes when recovery is run. Some help with recovery is available here. Oh, and should you wish to increase the HDD size that, in summary, should be done as follows: copy all data off Stora to some other place, format both new, bigger, drives in the Stora (or just one if you’re hard up), copy data back to new drive(s) in Stora. It’ll take a while, but that’s part of the joy of low-cost hardware… If you don’t follow those steps your new and bigger drive(s) will have the same size partition as the old one had! So take the time and do it right – this is not an upmarket device. Finally, I must admit that going with the Stora NAS solution was not the best of decisions as things are not as they are with ReadyNAS NV+ & NVX, or even the newer RN-104 or maybe the D-Link DNS323 and Buffalo LS-WSGL-R1 LinkStation Mini! All those have easier to use, more standard interfaces, are generally visible to files managers, but don’t always come with free Remote Access ability. One last thing though, the Stora boxes work.

P.S. The hardwarehackers and openstora sites are both down, neoangelus has some ideas and utilities, but is no longer updated… My suggestion: if you have two of these boxes, change the Stora names with the above utility and otherwise use them as is – unless you’re really into tinkering.

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Once upon a time

Once upon a time there was a site named http://anandesh.wordpress.com/ where it was postulated that “Stuff happens”. Now that “Stuff” happens elsewhere. Here!

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LibreOffice – Change language and from U.S. Customary to Metric units, Letter to A4

LibreOffice - US to Metric

LibreOffice – US to Metric

Click on image for larger version.

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Linux in public service

Unbelievable? You’d better believe it! The City of Munich has completed the migration to Linux of 15,000 desktops! An interesting short read of a decade long project. If you want to stretch your German here’s the original article. You could also offer it to Google Translate… A longer report is here with a concluding critical look at the cost & support situation.

No, LiMux is not available for download as that belongs to the City of Munich but, there are only detail difference to Ubuntu. They saved more than 10 million Euros up to now…

A more tech detailed account and how M$ tried to prevent the change is here. There is an anecdote of that era told at LinuxTag 2013 by Peter Hoffman (LiMux project leader) about the time when Bill Gates himself spoke with the Mayor. At one point, Gates asked the Mayor what his reasons were for this Linux migration. The answer ‘We want more freedom” did not satisfy Gates, and he asked “Freedom from what?”. The major replied with “Freedom from you, Mr. Gates!’”

The German Federal Minister of the Exterior said it succinctly here, and I quote:
LinuxTag joins users, developers and software vendors from many different countries to discuss latest development and future perspectives. Linux is a global synonyme for free software. But beyond “free software”, there is more to discover. It is a symbol for an open society, both from the inside and the outside. Open source benefits from the fact that development is not centralised with a single person or a company, but lies within the hands of many developers all over the world. Therefore, it benefits from a greater intellectual capacity. I am deeply convinced of this colloquial and public approach, which is promising now and will gain even more importance in the future.

It seems in some areas democracy is still alive and there are government departments that support it! Software by the people for the people… and ISO is also part of the game, publicly standardizing instead of privatizing how things are done or should be.

And then there is the very positive security assessment done by the UK Government.

Finally, some of the pros & cons of the available operating systems are discussed here.

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Konica-Minolta Bizhub C220 printer on 64 bit Linux Mint 14 MATE – The Final Solution…? For Linux Mint 15 Olivia too!

Well, maybe I wrote too soon: the previous entry has proved to have no sustainability!
Having gone round in circles, tried older drivers (Bizhub C250) and generally flailed about and asked for help – I even tried our local representation to no avail – I at last seem to have stumbled upon the solution to all the hoo-ha I encountered when trying to print to a Konica-Minolta Bizhub C220 using the K-M supplied driver with 64 bit Linux Mint 14. The solution I found somewhere buried in some K-M documentation I can no longer find. Nevertheless, the OpenPrinting installation guide does mention lsb3.2 main under apt-get indexing.
Before installing the printer driver, install LSB using Synaptic.
A Debian OS, and its derivatives like Linux Mint & Ubuntu, needs the Linux Standard Base 4.0 support package (LSB) installed to work with the supplied Konica-Minolta drivers. When installing LSB in Synaptic, the package triggers the installation of other lsb-* items such as lsb-printing.
As the LSB package description in Synaptic states, and I quote:
“The Linux Standard Base (http://www.linuxbase.org/) is a standard core system that third-party applications written for Linux can depend upon.
This package provides an implementation of all modules of version 4.0 of the Linux Standard Base for Debian on the Intel x86, Intel ia64 (Itanium), IBM S390, and PowerPC 32-bit architectures with the Linux kernel. Future revisions of the specification and this package may support the LSB on additional architectures and kernels.
The intent of this package is to provide a best current practice way of installing and running LSB packages on Debian GNU/Linux. Its presence does not imply that Debian fully complies with the Linux Standard Base, and should not be construed as a statement that Debian is LSB-compliant.”
So, to business in 64 bit Linux Mint 14 MATE:

  • Install LSB – Linux Standard Base 4.1 support package with Synaptic
  • Download the driver C360 Series Linux v10001.0000.zip & MD5 files and check that the zip file is good from here. [Color Products>bizhub C220>Drivers>Linux and click Show]
  • Unzip C360 Series Linux v10001.0000.zip and note where.
  • To install the driver:
  • Under Printers click Add
  • Select Network Printer
  • Select the Konica Minolta C360 that shows “AppSocket/JetDirect network printer via DNS-SD”
  • Click Forward – wait while a driver search opens “New Printer” window
  • Select “Provide PPD file”
  • Go to where the “C360_Series_Linux_v10001.0000/CUPS1.2/EN/KOC360UX” file is located
  • Click Open, Forward & Forward and write the Location if required
  • Click Apply, and Print test page.

If all is well that test page should have printed and you’re ready to set the paper size to your standard.
I hope this is the end of the Konica-Minolta saga. If only I or someone else could have made it clear earlier that Debian needs a LSB tweak to use the drivers for this printer…!

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The i7 Sandy Bridge Machine

If you read the post about the computer I designated “beast” then you’ll know that I also utilized an OWC SSD in that build. Time brings change with it and firmware updates too. So that SSD had one due, but OWC could not help directly as I run Linux Mint on it and they have updaters for Mac and Windows only so I had to find another way. I’m pleased to report that the firmware update on my Linux Mint 14, 64 bit MATE SSD install went without a hitch.
I used OWC Mercury SSD Firmware Updater – 5.0.7.1.zip for PC on a Windows 7, 64 bit computer that I didn’t own as I don’t run any Windows OS. I just took the SSD and the zip file on a pen drive with me, started up Windows with the drive connected by SATA and placed and unzipped the updater on the desktop. Windows did, of course, not recognize the SSD, but the updater did and updated the SSD within seconds after I selected the MP-5.0.7.ffp file. I put the SSD back in its home machine and it booted up in double-quick time with no apparent difference other than the satisfied feeling that all is up-to-date, well and perhaps a tad faster. Illusion? Maybe.

The upshot? OWC hardware and service is for Mac and maybe Windows, but not Linux although they do use the OS (Ubuntu) to help update a Mac’s SSD firmware!
QED

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