A cricket bat!
Twelve years, and four psychiatrists!
I kept biting them!
They said you weren't real.

Sunday, October 09



Easiest thing to do turned out to be reset Windows entirely.  Azusa is working now.  And also suddenly has lots of free disk space.  

So, yay.

I'm not getting a signal on the HDMI port, but I'll wait for the post-install stuff to finish before I worry about that too much.

Edit: After poking around in the Intel drivers, I found the setting to re-enable the HDMI output.  This model  - a Dell Inspiron 15 7000, model 7548 - has dual graphics, integrated and dedicated, and switches between them dynamically.  It seems that resetting Windows caused it to forget how to do that.  Still better than the Black Screen of Death, but hardly ideal.

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Git The Princess

This is 110% accurate.

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Saturday, October 08


CursorSense + BetterSnapTool

And Apple, if you would kindly stop breaking essential functionality, I would appreciate it.

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Monday, October 03


Crapware Live Blog, Part 71732

I managed to get the Xperia tablet to move apps to the SD card again.  The problem was not the size of the card, or the amount of free space, but the partition table.  The Android disk partitioning utility creates disk partitions that are incompatible with Android.

I partitioned it on my Mac (you can't partition SD cards on Windows (because fuck you, that's why) and the Mac Disk Utility doesn't work either, but you can do it from the command line.

Meanwhile, my Dell notebook got the Windows 10 Anniversary Update.  And now it doesn't work any more.  The Black Screen of Death - where the update kills both your display driver and your network driver.

And of course, updates are mandatory.

It should be straightforward enough to fix once I find the right drivers, work out how the hell you get Windows 10 into safe mode (shift-click the restart button, yeah, very intutitive that), and install them and reboot a few more times.

But seriously, Microsoft, you've bricked two of my Windows 10 systems with your crappy updates already.  If you're going to make updates mandatory, they have to work every single time.  Otherwise you can just piss off.

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Saturday, October 01


Android Adoptable Storage, A Review

Update: Most of the problems detailed below seem to be Sony's fault.  I've been testing with my Moto G4, and the problems for the most part simply don't arise.  So I'm back to blaming Sony again.

It's a complete fucking mess.

To update the earlier updates:

I criticised Sony for disabling adoptable storage on their devices.  Having used it, I now agree with them; the user experience is awful:
  • Some apps refuse to install to adoptable storage, and there's no practical way to know which ones this will affect.
  • Some apps install to adoptable storage, but won't run from it.
  • Some apps show that they are using adoptable storage, but when you check the details they are actually still on internal storage.
  • Some apps show that they are using adoptable storage even when you check the details, but when you add the numbers up, you find that they are still using internal storage.
  • Some apps that support storing data on normal (portable) SD cards don't work with adoptable storage.
  • If you format your card as a mix of portable and adoptable storage, you end up with two storage devices named "SD Card".
Plus (and this one is Sony's fault - it doesn't happen on my G4) the used storage numbers go negative.

There were three goals I wanted to achieve:
  • Store my SF magazine subscription on SD card instead of scarce internal storage. I've had a digital subscription to Analog and Asimov's since shortly after I got my first tablet, and have 39 issues of each.  They weigh in at 60-115MB per issue.

    This doesn't work.  The Kindle app shows that it's storing them on the adoptable storage, but this is a lie.

  • Move large games like Final Fantasy to SD card.  This doesn't work at all.  In one case I had Final Fantasy VI not showing up on either the adoptable storage or the internal storage.  It was actually on internal storage, and stays there no matter what.

  • Move many small games and apps to SD card.  This is mostly a failure.  All the Kairosoft games (I have 35 of them, everything they've translated into English) install on the adoptable storage, but only about a third of them will run that way.  They others either crash or request storage permissions that you can't grant.
And even when it does work, the Android storage functions are completely inadequate for working out what has been put where.

This is all on Android 6.01; maybe some of this has been fixed on the recently released Android 7, but I don't have access to Android 7 on any of my devices yet.

And finally, for some bizarre reason, even after reformatting the card back to portable storage, I can't use Sony's home-grown function to move apps to SD cards, because my card is bigger than 32GB.  I tried reformatting it down smaller than 32GB and it started working again.  So now I've reformatted back to normal and I'm filling it with my PDF archive.

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Thursday, September 29



So, Android adoptable storage.

I stuck a cheap 64GB micro SD card in my Moto G4 Play, set it as internal storage, and it works.  Took a few seconds to set up.  Just works.

On my Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact, you have to enable it via adb over a USB cable, and once you've done that, it doesn't work.  Not at all.  Completely bloody useless.

The only thing wrong with the tablet is the limited internal storage, Google handed them a solution on a silver platter, and they deliberately fucked it up.

Update: So now I've reset my device twice, and it ain't got nothin' on it no more.  Fortunately I can sync it from my phone - apps, data, and settings.  But it takes a while.  Several whiles, really.

Update: And now, to add insult to injury, it won't use the SD card any more.

Update update update: So...  Since I couldn't move apps to the SD card any more, I tried enabling adoptable storage again.  It doesn't use it as adoptable storage, but you can move apps to it manually.  And - this is a big plus - the Kindle app actually uses it.  My Kindle library is about 6GB and wouldn't fit on the tablet before, so this is a win.

I have the card configured as 40GB adoptable and 80GB portable, which should be plenty.  If I run out I can get a 200GB card to replace the 128GB one.

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Thursday, September 22


Moto G4 Play Plus Or Minus

My new phone arrived today - the Moto G4 Play.  It's not quite as physically impressive as the Xperia Z3 Tablet that showed up Tuesday.  The tablet is a premium device, and feels like it; it's just a premium device that came out in 2014.  The G4 Play is a 2016 release, but a budget model.

The back is removable to access the battery (replaceable), the two SIM cards, and the microSD card.  That's very practical, but makes the phone feel slightly cheap; there's just a little bit of give to the rubberised plastic rear cover.  (On the other hand, it's unlikely to slide off surfaces the way the glass-backed Nexus 4 does.)

In an expensive phone the plastic construction might be an issue, but at A$199 (US$149) I'm not about to complain.

As for use, so far: The screen is fine; only 720p, but that's enough for anything but VR, which doesn't really interest me.  It's IPS, but a cheapish one; there's a bit of a yellowish tint when viewed at a sharp angle, but it looks just fine when viewed at something approaching normal positions.  At one point I wondered why the screen was blurry, then I blinked a few times and that fixed it.

It uses a Mediatek chip with a 1.2GHz quad core A53 CPU.  This is perfectly zippy for basic functions - surprisingly so, about 60% faster than the Nexus 4, around the same as my late Nexus 5.  A high-end phone like the iPhone 7 or Galaxy S7 would three times faster than that, but that mainly matters if you're doing stuff I don't do on my phone - photo processing, videos, stuff like that.  If your phone is your main computer, it likely matters, but I have three desktop computers, two laptops, and four tablets to handle any serious computing.

The camera and speakers work - neither great nor awful.  Audio from the headphone jack is perfectly fine, and has a lot more volume than the Nexus 4 or 5 I used previously.  Maximum volume is far too loud on my Sennheiser PX-100s, instead of being the normal setting I use when I'm out and about.

It comes with Android 6.01 and about 11GB free of 16GB storage.  On a phone, that's plenty; the SD card will hold all the audio files I could want; a 128GB card equals about 2000 hours of MP3 audio.  (Okay, so I have about 2TB of MP3s piled up, mostly podcasts, but I don't need them all on my phone at once.)

Setup was dead easy.  I put in my WiFi and Gmail passwords, and it offered to import all my apps and settings from my Nexus 7.  I just needed to un-check Final Fantasy 1 through 6 and off it went.  That will take a while - it's about 100 apps - but that's a big improvement over selecting them all one by one in the Play Store.

Android itself is pretty much stock, with no layered cruft that I've noticed. I installed Nova Launcher - or rather, it installed automatically since it's on my Nexus 7 - and Paperland Pro, so it's set up just the way I like it.

I'm sure an iPhone feels nicer to user, more refined, but the current model starts at A$1079 and has only barely a higher-resolution display (1334x750 vs 1280x720), only supports one SIM card, doesn't believe that SD cards exist at all, and lacks even a headphone socket. (And don't even think about replacing the battery.)  So at more than five times the price it has inferior specs in several ways.

The only problem, if you want to call it that, is that now I've run out of microSD cards.

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Tuesday, September 20


Toys In Boxes

I've been looking for a while for a new tablet to replace my 2013 Nexus 7, and a new phone to replace my 2012 Nexus 4 (which was pressed back into duty when my Nexus 5 disintegrated).

Purely by chance I noticed that Sony was clearing out old stock of their Z3 Tablet Compact at 40% off - down from $499 to $294.  The only shortcoming of that device was that they only sold the 16GB model in Australia.  16GB is barely adequate if the device has microSD support - which it does - but not enough that I wanted to spend $499 on it.  At $294, though, I bit.

The only thing I really wanted from a phone was more storage, but all the cheap models have 16GB like my Nexus 4, or sometimes even 8GB, which is basically useless.  The new Motorola G4 Play has 16GB and a microSD slot - and I picked it up for $199 (normally $279).  Again, I'd rather have at least 32GB built in, but for $199 I'm not worried.  The storage is mostly so that it can replace my old 160GB iPod, and the three main audio apps I use support SD cards just fine.  I'll just need to keep prodding Big Finish to fix their app; their file sizes are huge.

The Sony tablet arrived today.  This thing is great.  It's an 8" tablet with a 1920x1200 screen, a 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 processor, 3GB RAM, and 16GB of storage, of which about 11GB is available and 9GB is free (they preloaded a lot of stuff).  That's why I don't like 16GB devices - nearly half is gone by the time you get it. 

That aside, it's very light (lighter than my Nexus 7 despite the larger screen) and very fast (the speed was immediately noticeable even under Android 4.4, and Android 5 is faster again).  The screen is bright, sharp, and clear, with vibrant colours.

It's a couple of years old now - it came with Android 4.4 (and a 63% charge, somehow...)  It's now on 5.0 and updating to 5.1; 6.0 is supported and should be available as an upgrade from 5.1.  Apparently it won't support Android 7, because Qualcomm have decided not to upgrade the graphics drivers for their older chips, but Android 6 (Marshmallow) is good enough.

I've stuck in a 128GB microSD card that was parked in my notebook but not really being used.  Shortly I'll see if that works with Android 6's adoptable storage, which should pretty much solve the 16GB problem.

If adoptable storage works out I'm tempted to buy another one; it's that good.

The one odd thing is that it seems to have a SIM slot.  I wasn't expecting that.  I wonder if it actually works...

Update: Don't think the SIM slot works.  But Android 6.0 is downloading now, so that's something.  On the other hand, I'm down to 7.3GB of space on the internal storage and I haven't installed anything yet.

Update 2: Sony have royally buggered up the storage on this thing.  First, it only has 16GB.  Second, they've mapped the logical SD card to internal storage, so that apps that support moving to the SD card don't actually move.  Third, they've disabled the Android 6 feature to mount an SD card as internal storage, which would have fixed the first two screwups.  Ugh.

Update 3: It seems to have decided that it can move apps to the SD card after all.  That's got me the best part of 2GB back.  What it won't move to the SD card is, specifically, the Final Fantasy games, some of which weigh in at 600MB - quite a lot when you only have 7.3GB to start with.  Oh, and the Kindle app data, which adds up fast if you have a magazine subscription (Asimov's and Analog).  But in both cases it claims it has put the data on the SD card, which is more than a little annoying.

Update 4: The Kindle app puts about half its data on the SD card.  Why half, I have no idea.  They probably did it just to irritate me.  The Audible app works properly, as do Google's Music app and Pocket Casts.

Update 5: I don't think the Kindle app puts anything on the SD card.  It says it does, but it's lying.  But I have most of my stuff installed, and I have 3.3GB left internally.  (And 103GB left on the SD card.)  And that's without firing up ADB and enabling adoptable storage.

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Tuesday, August 30


Smoothmouse + BetterSnapTool

I got myself a very nice iMac late last year - Core i7, 32GB RAM, Radeon 395MX, 1TB SSD, and the 5k Retina HDR display.  It's just about the best desktop PC you can get.

However...  The mouse and keyboard handling in MacOS sucks compared to Windows.   MacOS only has mouse acceleration control; the base tracking speed is fixed and very slow.  

That means that you have to keep picking up and moving your mouse because the speed at which it tracks is variable.  And since the menu is always at the top left of the screen, you tend to move your mouse more than on Windows, which just exacerbates the problem.

Also, my workflow 99% of the time involves two windows side-by-side.  On Windows, setting that up is just a keystroke; on the Mac it's just a complete mess.  You can do it, but it's unnecessarily complicated and hides the menu bar and the dock, so the moment you set it up you end up hiding the tools you normally use all the time.

After trying a couple of other options (Steermouse and MagicPrefs) I gave Smoothmouse a try.  It has an option that says "make my mouse work like Windows" which...  Makes your mouse work like Windows.

There's another couple of apps called BetterTouchTool and BetterSnapTool.  BetterTouchTool does a whole bunch of stuff for mouse and keyboard management; BetterSnapTool only handles snapping windows based on mouse or keyboard commands (which are completely configurable).

BetterSnapTool is on the Mac App store, costs just a few bucks, and works perfectly.  It's eleventy billion times better than the idiot crap that Apple came up with.

I've been tending to use Kei, my (older, slower) Windows machine instead of Taiga, my (shiny, new) iMac because of these niggling UI issues.  And now they're fixed.

The only remaining issue is that I'm running VMWare Fusion on Taiga with Windows 10 and Ubunutu 16.04 instances.  Each VM has 8GB of RAM allocated, meaning that half my memory is gone the moment I boot up.

The 2015 iMac supports up to 64GB of RAM - but because Apple idiotically used DDR3 rather than DDR4 (even though DDR4 is supported by the CPU), upgrading beyond 32GB costs about three times as much as it should, so I've been putting that upgrade off.

But apart from that, it's pretty good.  I just hit Ctrl-left-arrow or Ctrl-right-arrow and it goes Zip! Full-screen Windows 10.  Zip! Full-screen Ubuntu.  Zip! Back to MacOS.

Meanwhile, Smoothmouse and BetterSnapTool both get the coveted Does Not Suck award.

Update: Can't get VMWare Fusion to use both monitors.  Or, well, it does, but the guest OS is mirrored across them at a resolution selected by throwing chickens at a bingo card.

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Tuesday, August 23


Hot Chips 28

The annual Hot Chips conference is on right now, where chip designers and manufacturers highlight new and upcoming produces, like Arm's new 2048-bit vector supercomputer CPU, Samsung's DDR5, GDDR6, and HBM3 memory (the latter will deliver 16GB of memory and half a terabyte per second of bandwidth in a single package), IBM's Power 9 architecture, AMD's Zen, and Intel's...  Skylake.  Which came out a year ago, but whatever.

I went looking for more details on some of the presentations, and now I'm hungry.

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