Category Archives: Computers and Internet

Windows Phone 8 still sucks

So I’m feeling the age and suck of WP7.8 on my LG Quantum.  It’s almost three years old, can’t work as a wireless access point, and I’m starting to feel some envy for features like NFC tags.  I went looking for a replacement and I was not impressed.

First off, I’m an admitted Microsoft fanboy, so my first requirement was that it run windows phone.  I’m nominally in bed with ATT, so I looked at their phones first.  That left me with a choice between an HTC 8X and Nokia Lumia 920.  But ATT fcked the dog on both, neither are very available, and they can’t even figure out where the wirelss charger is stocked (‘cause it sure ain’t in any warehouse).

But even if I could get around that, there are still dealbreakers.  Neither phone has a built in keyboard.  That’s been a requirement since day one.  I don’t care if the phone is thicker (in fact, I would strongly prefer that if it had a better battery life – this barely 22 hours of run time thing doesn’t cut it).  Friends told me to get with the decade and just use the on screen keyboard.  I figured I would consider it, then use a tiny bluetooth keyboard for serious typing… then research showed that Windows Phone 8, the shiny new version that they just rebuilt from the ground up DOESN’T SUPPORT BLUETOOTH HID PROFILES.  Seriously.  Basic functionality, removed in the previous version, STILL isn’t there.

It also doesn’t support opening WAV profiles.  Apparently the built in audio app is crippled and only supports an archaic (and almost completely unused) style of PCM codec in WAV files, and you can’t change what app opens them.  So you won’t be listening to anything you’re sent through MMS, or your voicemail, or anything else except music you sync.

There are all sorts of other less important failures too.  But yeah, there are just too many dealbreakers here.  What kills me is that they have been major issues for three or four years now, and they either haven’t been addressed, or they are critical features that have been dropped since the last version.

Onward to Android?

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Windows Phone Apps

I keep searching for this list of apps that I post around.  It’s the stuff I use all the time on my LG Quantum and pretty much consider killer.

  • Multicheckin – automatic foursquare checkin

  • Sleep master – monitors sleep cycle through the accelerometer and sounds an alarm near your target time when you’re in the lightest sleep

  • Stormglass (free, sideload only) – weather that can automatically update its live tile with the current location and conditions

  • Outdoor Navigation – topo and street maps from a variety of sources, breadcrumbs, map caching, made for hiking/biking/offroading

  • accurate tuner (free) – music instrument tuner

  • Amazon mobile (free) – includes upc scanner and one click buying

  • lookuptonight – iridium flares and ISS passes for current location through heavens above

  • myfitnesspal (free) – exercise and food intake log

I’m also looking at Radio Controlled and MetroRadio even though Pandora STILL doesn’t work right on the pc.

Resolved: Windows Media Player shared libraries won’t show up on other devices

I recently had an issue with WMP where my shared libraries wouldn’t show up on other devices.  Specifically this is WMP12, sharing libraries over UPnP. 

I tried all sorts of troubleshooting – even built a UPnP monitor so I could see what was being advertised – they all were (note that WMP won’t show its own shared libraries on the computer that’s sharing them under other libraries).  I noticed a pattern.  The Tablet PC library would show up on both the Laptop PC and the Media PC, and the Tablet PC would see EITHER the Media PC or Laptop PC libraries, but never both.

I tried reconfiguring the home group, rebuilding the libraries, and all that.  I even re-sysprepped the Laptop PC and Media PC.  None of it helped.  I dug in the registry and found something… Turns out it was my export/imported profile causing the issue.

The list of UPnP media servers is in the registry, under "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows Media Player NSS\3.0\Servers".  Turns out that the Laptop PC and Media PC had the same serial number, and that serial number is supposed to be unique per the spec.  So I closed WMP, stopped the related services (UPnP Device Host and Windows Media Player Network Sharing Service), deleted the subkeys, and started it all up again.  And they came right back.

More digging found that those keys are related to "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\UPnP Device Host\Description".  The next leap took a few minutes.  It looks like when you set up sharing, WMP registers its library with the WMP NSS service, which stores the reference under "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows Media Player NSS\3.0\Server Settings".  WMP gets that data from its local settings cache in "HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\MediaPlayer\Preferences\HME".  And it pulls data into that from any library it finds.

Those last two bits (the registry keys and library data) are reinforcing.  WMP will rebuild the settings for one from the other.  The solution was to wipe all the WMP settings and the library, then run WMP again.  It will build a new library with entirely new settings (including a new GUID for the media server serial number).

In script form:

First use an elevated account to stop the related services:

net stop WMPNetworkSvc
net stop upnphost

Then wipe the duplicated data from the user account with the affected libraries:

taskkill -f -im wmplayer.exe
rd /s /q "%LOCALAPPDATA%\Microsoft\Media Player"
reg /delete "HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\MediaPlayer" /f

And restart the services from an elevated account:

net start WMPNetworkSvc
net start upnphost

And start Windows Media Player at your convenience.  It will go through the configuration dialog again, rebuild the library, and it should present a new serial number for the media server UPnP device.

Mini to Micro USB adapter

Has a USB Mini-B female socket on one end, and a USB Micro-B male plug on the other.  Plus a little tether so you can connect it to a cable.  With my mix of devices that have mini (battery charger, camera) and micro sockets (phone, nook), I’d have to carry around twice the number of cables.  Now I carry two cables, each with one of these adapters on it.  I also keep one on the car charger.

Gear: Goal0 Guide 10 4AA Battery Recharger

Goal0 Guide 10 4AA Battery Recharger

Background

I saw this on the shelf at Target one day and thought it might be a good contender for a travel battery charger.  I’d been using some crappy ones, and couldn’t find an all in one device.  Basically, I wanted something that would store two or four AA batteries, provide 5 VCD out, optionally have a flashlight, and preferably charge them from a 5 VCD standard USB port.

This one does all of the above.  And does it well.

Construction

The construction is rock solid.  The door doesn’t come open without some effort, and the body is sturdy.  After a month of heavy travel,mine has some scratches, but no cracks or damage.

It stores four AA batteries, and has a removable tray that lets it hold AAA batteries instead.  One gripe is that the tray comes out – I’d prefer they have some sort of flip-down spacer that changes the fit.  If it can be removed, it will get lost. I’ve standardized on AA batteries, so that’s not a huge deal for me, but it’s still annoying.

Unit overview

Specifications

The front face has a switch, a status indicator, a bright white LED light, a USB A Female port, what appears to be an EIAJ-01 coaxial power plug, and a USB Mini-B Female port.

Front face

  • The switch changes the function from off to power out to light.  It will recharge itself in any position, but will not power the output port and the light at the same time.
  • The indicator uses an intuitive red/orange/green system, and a key is on the back. 
  • The bright white LED appears to be a standard 1 W white LED.  It functions great as a convenient flashlight, and should last for about fifteen hours on a full charge (assuming you have 2500 mAh batteries). 
  • The USB A Female port (the kind most computers have for inserting devices, for people who haven’t bothered to learn what the types are in the past fifteen years) functions as an output port.  It spits out 2.5 W (5 V at 0.5 A, exactly to USB spec) when the switch is in the middle position.
  • The coaxial port is for charging.  It didn’t come with an external charger, but other goal zero products use 6.5 v with these connectors for the low power interconnections.  They make several solar charging mats like the Nomad 7M Solar Panel that use that connector and voltage.
  • The USB Mini-B Female port (like you have on your camera or phone, unless it uses the new thin Micro-B standard) is for charging from a USB power source.  They lose some points because it’s not standards-compliant – the device is supposed to negotiate before it draws more than 50 mA or so.  So if it doesn’t charge from your device, it’s not necessarily your device’s fault.  But it’s not like anyone else follows the standards.

Observations

It’s a trickle charger, made to work on 2.5 watts input.  It will take several hours to charge batteries.  That’s inherent to working with low power levels like this.  If you want something faster, get a high current quick charger.  The auto-off works fine, so you can leave it connected to a charging source.

Hook

Oh and it has a neat hook on the back… I have no idea what that’s for.

Conclusion

This meets my criteria for a travel device: compact, uses standard batteries, accepts standard power in, provides standard power out.  It’s not fancy, not expensive, and does its thing reliably.  If you need power or recharging in a portable platform, this might just be the best option out there.