Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A tale of three Android mail readers

I recently decided to explore some options for different email clients on my Android 4.3 smart phone.  I've got three different email accounts that I access regularly from my phone.  Two are GMail accounts, but one is a traditional IMAP account at work.  After a little online research, I limited my choices to three options:  Samsung's stock Android 4.3 email app, K-9, and SolMail.  The short story is that after playing with them simultaneously for a few days, I settled back in with the stock app.  The long story follows.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Android 4.3 update on a rooted Samsung Galaxy Note II

I rooted my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 as soon as I got it.  I survived the over-the-air (OTA) update from 4.1.1 to 4.1.2 easily enough, as outlined in an earlier post.  When the 4.3 update came out, I blindly assumed that it could be applied with equal ease.  Not so, unfortunately.  If I'd done my research before hand, I probably wouldn't have applied it at all.  In order to fix the mess, I had to do a fresh install of a custom ROM.  All the gory details follow.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Free DIY soldering iron holder

I was probably in junior high when I bought my soldering iron.  It's a simple, 35W pencil style iron that probably cost all of $15 at Radio Shack.  For 30 years, I've used it with the tiny little support that it came with to keep the hot iron from lying on the workbench.  All the while, I prayed that nobody would walk by and bump the power cord, dragging the iron onto the floor in the process.  After seeing a much better holder design for sale commercially, I decided to make one of my own using some scraps I found in my garage.  It only took me about 30 minutes to make (not including drying time for the stain) and didn't cost me a cent.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Why isn't rsync deleting old files?

For many years now, I've been using the old Unix utility rsync to backup my computer to an external hard drive.  As outlined in two earlier posts (here and here), it has always seemed to work quite well for me... until recently.  After replacing a failed hard disk and restoring my /home filesystem, I noticed that one of my two backup drives contained many more files than did the other one.  After inspecting these files, it appeared that most of the extra files should, indeed, have been deleted many months ago.  I've always given the "--delete" option to rsync, and it's appeared to work, so why did these files not get removed?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Upgrading the CPU in an old motherboard

My primary desktop computer at home is now five years old... well, at least the CPU, motherboard are.  It's a custom-built system that gets upgraded piece by piece.  Anyway, the dual-core AMD processor has really started to show its age during all the photo editing I've been doing.  I looked into replacing the CPU/mobo/RAM, but couldn't bring myself to pay the $600 it would cost to buy a new setup that I'd be happy with.  It eventually occurred to me that my current motherboard could hold a much faster CPU than I had, so after an $84 eBay purchase, I had a used CPU en route that would (according to the published benchmarks) be three times faster than my old one.  Of course, nothing is ever as easy as it should be, and this purchase set in motion a whole slough of problems that required many hours over nearly a week to get resolved.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

OTA update on a rooted Samsung Galaxy Note II

My Samsung Galaxy Note II phablet uses the stock ROM, but is rooted.  On 25 April 2013, Sprint pushed out an over-the-air (OTA) update to fix some minor problems.  Android is very persistent about asking you whether to install OTA updates, so I eventually gave in and installed it.  Because my phone was rooted, I ClockworkMod Recovery presented me with several questions on how to proceed.  Here's what I did...

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cheap, DIY cell phone kickstand

My previous smartphone (a Motorola Photon 4G) had a built-in kickstand that would enable me to stand it up on edge while watching a video or listening to music.  My current phone (a Samsung Galaxy Note II) lacks this feature, and I kind of miss it.  I started looking for aftermarket cases that had a kickstand built in, but they all were either poorly made or had other fatal flaws.  I eventually gave up that search and instead made my own kickstand from a jumbo paper clip.  Here's how.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

WiFi Tether on a Sprint Samsung Galaxy Note II

One of the benefits of rooting your Android phone is that you can set it up to act as a WiFi hot spot, allowing nearby non-cell-enabled devices to share your 3G or 4G data connection without paying your carrier for such a service.  You often have to jump through some hoops to get this working on each individual phone, and that was the case with my new Samsung Galaxy Note II on the Sprint network (model SPH-L900).

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

X Line case for my Samsung Galaxy Note II

My biggest complaint about my Samsung Galaxy Note II phone was that its smooth exterior handled like a wet bar of soap. I could have lived without any additional protection, but I desperately needed a case that could provide better traction for my hands while still allowing the phablet to easily slip in and out of my front pocket in my blue jeans. For aesthetic reasons, I really wanted a grey case. A brushed aluminum look would have been perfect, but the only option there was made of hard plastic and provided zero protection. Adding just a little bit of protection for the phone was also on my wish list.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Settling in with a new Samsung Galaxy Note II

As mentioned in an earlier post, after my Motorola Photon 4G started flaking out on me, I upgraded my phone to a new Samsung Galaxy Note II.  They call this thing a "phablet" because, with a 5.5" screen, it's a cross between a phone and a tablet.  In fact, the size is exactly half way between my old Photon and my son's Nexus 7.  In the process, I upgraded from Android 2.3.5 (Gingerbread) to 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean).  After a few weeks with the new phone, here are my thoughts on it.  This post may seem a bit incoherent, so try to take each paragraph as an individual point.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fixing a crackling speaker on a Nexus 7

My son bought a Nexus 7 tablet shortly after they came out in July 2012.  By November, we started noticing that the external speakers (but not the headphones) were putting out lots of crackly static, especially at higher volumes (above 50%).  This is a chronic problem with the Nexus 7, and one that Asus will fix under warranty if you catch it soon enough.  However, if you don't want to live without your tablet for a few weeks during the warranty repair, there are some things you can do to address the problem yourself.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Upgrading to a Samsung Galaxy Note II "Phablet"

After owning my Motorola Photo 4G for about a year, it started to inexplicably slow down.  Even the dialer would take 15 seconds to launch after tapping the icon.  A moderate amount of diagnosis turned up no causes.  Additionally, as a photographer, I've always despised the Photon's poor-quality camera.  The the opportunity presented itself to upgrade, I spent some time researching options and eventually decided on the Samsung Galaxy Note II.  At 5.5", it's the biggest phone out there, but is still enough smaller than a tablet that it remains pocketable.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Resetting a Samsung Transform Ultra

My son's Samsung Transform Ultra (M930) cell phone was acting up.  It started force-closing nearly every game he tried to run.  It had gotten to the point where it was basically unusable.  The "battery usage" screen under the system settings showed that "Android OS" (Gingerbread 2.3.6) was using 94% of the battery, which is a Bad Thing.  Several online sources said it was time to do a factory reset.  Not wanting this to be any more disruptive than necessary, I jumped through a lot of hoops to get things working again.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

SNMP, DNS, DHCP and Ubuntu 12.10

I love rabbit trails... or maybe not.  I just spent a couple days trying to track down a problem that first showed up as a sporadic SNMP failure after I upgraded my 32-bit Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise Pangolin) computer to 64-bit 12.10 (Quantal Quetzal).  The root cause turned out to be the way the DNS resolver handled being given multiple DNS servers by DHCP.  Additionally, the problem only showed up because I was trying to resolve the name of my firewall, which uses the same name but different IP addresses for the internal and external networks.  Read on for more details.