Linux

Review: Sylvania 9″ Tablet PC and Portable DVD Combo (SLTDV9200)

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SLTDV9200Recently I came across a unique combination: an Android Tablet/DVD player combo by Curtis/Sylvania . DVDs nowadays are practically obsolete and that the ones I previously purchased from Walmart are gathering dust. I therefore saw this as a way to watch DVDs that aren’t available on Netflix, or anywhere else for that matter. In addition, when it comes to road trips this would be handy since we don’t utilize Wifi to stream shows and it would give enable my kids to watch videos while on the road. Intrigued, I purchased a copy since the price seemed right at $118 CAD.

So far I’ve been very happy with it, considering the price. Here are some of the specs :

Functionality

It’s a practical device that does what I need it to do. In addition to playing DVDs via an app on the device, it also allows for streaming via a Netflix app or an SD card (though no microSD).

Speed

At 1 GB RAM the speed is perfect for the version of Android running (5.1)

Audio

Audio works great. I was able to increase the volume enough to hear what I wanted.

Storage

At 8 GB storage, there aren’t too many apps that can be installed. An SD card can address that but don’t install too many apps on it with data pointing to the SD card. From experience, a) the core App files still remain on the tablet, and b) when Google Play issues an update to an app, sometimes the app data goes back to the tablet (instead of the SD card). The tablet is meant to play DVDs and videos moreso than being used for other purposes. As long as you’re aware of this you will be fine.

Screen quality

Screen quality also isn’t the greatest. At 800×480 resolution there is some pixilation. However, for the price of a budget tablet screen quality is expected to suffer.

Battery life

Battery life is a bummer. The DVD specs state that operation time is 2 hours fully charged and indeed, watching two DVDs back-to-back brought the tablet from 100% charge to 5%. This is worth noting when taking it “on the road” to make sure it stays charged during the way. Connecting it to a multi-USB car charger (see below) should address that .

 

Warranty

Warranty is only 90 days, as is in all budget brands.

Conclusion

Overall, what amazes me is that other manufacturers have not made a similar product. Samsung released a DVD player that connects to a tablet, but that’s not the same. For what you pay, you are getting a solid product.

Budget Tablet Rating: 9/10

sylvania sltdvd9200

10 Free OnePlus One Apps You Need Right Now

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Courtesy of oneplus.net

Without a doubt, the OnePlus One has taken over the world by storm. Based out of China, OnePlus devised an affordable, budget-friendly alternative to pricier smartphones, such as the iPhone, Samsung Galaxy and recently the Nexus, which doubled in price once the Nexus 6 came out. Even with its upcoming price increase it’s still competitively priced considering you are getting the phone unlocked.

All that having been said, as awesome as the phone is, there are always apps that can be purchased to enhance your phones’ experience. Here are ten of my favourites:

1. Camera: CameraNext Mod

One massive complaint the phone had was in the camera quality: it produces photos that are too grainy, especially in low lighting. Looking into it, I realized that the issue must be software-related since OnePlus took the camera hardware from Sony, making the hardware component top-rate.

I was looking for different alternatives. Of them, the best one was the Cyanogen-modded CameraNext app. The pics and videos there are among the clearest I’ve seen. Here are the links:

Why are there two different apps? Because, when you upgrade to CM12, Panorama crashes the CM11 version of the app. Why the links? Because the apps were fan-modded by pro developers and aren’t available on Google Play. I still prefer this app over to what’s commercially available at the Play store.

Honorable mention goes to Google Camera, though my issue with it is in the video where it seems to auto-focus in and out.

2. Recording: Titanium Recorder

My issue with the stock recorder was that it would only record a message for a minute, then stop once the phone went to sleep. Titanium Recorder continues playing after the phone sleeps, and produces excellent audio quality.

The App is available on Google Play.

3. Messaging: GoSMS Pro

I personally find the stock Messaging app to freeze and crash too often. Apparently it cannot process/handle the contacts and messages. Enter GoSMS Pro. It’s free, gives a choice of six colors, and works amazingly well.

The App is available on Google Play.

4. Messaging: WhatsApp

Need I say more?

The App is available on Google Play.

5. Battery Management: Qualcomm Snapdragon BatteryGuru

One issue with OnePlus, which also goes for all Android devices, is battery management. Battery management especially became an issue once the Cyanogen Mod 12 (CM12) came out. BatteryGuru saves some of that juice.

The App is available on Google Play.

6. Contacts

I personally use Contacts+ to import my contacts from GMail, Facebook, and iCloud. To backup your contacts into a CSV file, SuperBackup does the trick.

These Apps are available on Google Play.

7. Readers

For readers, there are:

a. Pocket, which lets you locally download any web page into your account for future access in areas where no wifi/data is accessible

b. Amazon Kindle, for those eBooks requiring Kindle reading (and where I can download my purchases)

c. Aldiko, for other eBooks

The Apps are available on Google Play.

8. Skype

To communicate with other users with video for free across Wifi, there’s still nothing better out there.

The App is available on Google Play.

9. Social Media

Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIN. Goes without saying.

The Apps are available on Google Play.

10. Coffee Shop Apps

I’m referring to Starbucks and Second Cup.

When you need a coffee and are in a bind without your card, you simply add your card number to an account that you tie in with an app on your phone. It simplifies the process greatly.

The Apps are available on Google Play.

 

Glad you enjoyed!

The Skinny On the OnePlus One Phone in Canada – How Much Does It Cost, and How Long Does it Take?

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Courtesy of oneplus.net

Courtesy of oneplus.net

I recently ordered and am looking forward to the OnePlus One phone, which has great reviews and can replace my semi-functional iPhone 5. The “hook” is that at $350 for a 64 GB model, the phone costs less than half the cost of a regular phone, and there’s no plan you need to be tied into. Sounds great, right? I’d like to think so.

The pricing in Canada, though, is a bit more than the $350 price tag would lead you to believe. In Canada I purchased the phone at $350 base price. In addition there’s the shipping. With shipping there are two options, one at $28 and one at $37. The one at $28 doesn’t provide tracking and is not Canada Post, therefore, the only real option is the $37 one. That brings it up to $387. Then there’s payment through Paypal. Paypal in my case converted $387 as $462. Fine, though we’re already at more than $100 over. Lastly, there’s the inevitable duties I will need to pay for it which is over $50. That brings the phone to over $500!

Also, there’s getting the necessary accessories such as the plastic screen protector, case, and backup charger, which amount to another $36.

Live and learn I guess. Hopefully though this phone will last me a good couple of years so I can justify the investment.

Getting a OnePlus One Phone – Addressing Site Navigation Issues

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Courtesy of oneplus.net

Courtesy of oneplus.net

I have been using an iPhone 5 for the last two years and noticed apparent issues with it since I needed to get a bloated lithium-ion battery and screen replaced, among other things. For one thing, the sensor on the top wasn’t always working when I placed the phone to my ear, causing my cheek to dial numbers to my chagrin, as well as to the chagrin of the person on the other line. It also caused my cheek to do things like mute the conversation or put it on speaker. In addition, the charger would only charge if positioned a specific way. It was very inconvenient. To make matters worse, the phone was under Apple Care warranty for the first year, so they would have charged an arm and a leg being that I was past the first year.

Since I am presently in my final year of a 3 year plan with Rogers, and Best Buy doesn’t have the deal for an iPhone under Rogers like it used to when an iPhone 5 64 GB could be had for $200 during X-mas/New Years, I found myself stuck with a defective iPhone for another year. Even if I were to trade in my iPhone 5 and pay the difference, I would still need to pay something like $160 for the remainder of my iPhone before I could get another one from Rogers (can one say #rogerssucks ?). What was there to do?

I thought of Android phones, but most of them, especially Samsung devices, have relatively poor battery life and are flimsy unless you get an extended battery with a casing that makes it feel insanely thick. There had to be a better way.

OnePlus One: A Better Solution

Enter the OnePlus. The new company from China has made a $350 USD Android phone with 64 GB storage (close to $500 CAD – bummer, but still) called the OnePlus One with oodles of features and great battery life by doing virtually no traditional advertising. Due to the overall positive reviews, I’ve wanted to get one for a while but to do so, you need an invite which can get very tricky. Once you get the invite, you have 24 hours to purchase the phone or else you need to start from the very beginning. I was recently lucky enough to get one invite after trolling the social media landscape (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN, Google+, you name it). Each person gets that one invite to distribute on an odd day (I’m still waiting for mine) and it’s treated like gold.

Website Navigational Issues

Once I created an account, though, it was practically impossible to log in in order to get a phone. See the below screencast:

So what was I to do? No matter what I did I couldn’t log in, even to submit a support ticket. After pulling out a few hairs, I contacted the Facebook/OnePlus community and was advised on the stupidest thing on the planet which actually worked. To “log in” you need to first select a country. How does one do so? Visit this page (https://oneplus.net/choose-country) while logged in. Once the country gets selected, the country “session” gets logged and allows  you to proceed. I’m being serious here: without that you’re essentially a sitting duck!

Now that that hurdle has been passed, I have now ordered my phone and am eagerly awaiting a phone in the mail that has all the great features of a top-notch smartphone at a fraction of the cost, and without being tied into any cellphone agreement.

***UPDATE December 21, 2014***

It appears that the website issue for OnePlus has been fixed.

Sayonara Proscan PLT1044 Tablet, It Was Nice Knowing You

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A couple of years ago I obtained a Proscan 10.1 inch tablet and wrote instructions on how to install Google Marketplace. It served its purpose at the time. However, at this point I think it’s time to kiss it goodbye.

Why? Simple: the Lithium Ion battery pretty much exploded, causing irreversible damage to the tablet and screen, popping it open among other things. Here are some screenshots of the wreckage.

IMG_8504 IMG_8459 IMG_8455

IMG_8466 IMG_8471

For me, it served its purpose. Now that it’s gone it’s time to put it to rest. Goodbye, sweet sorrow 🙁

Linus Torvalds’ Guided Tour of His Home Office

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linux-penguin

Who wants to see Linus Torvalds‘s office? Mr. Torvalds was the founder of Linux, an open-source operating system widely used in many capacities. It’s popularly used for website hosting, but has gained a following among desktop and mobile users as well.

Anyway, we now have the unique opportunity to see the workspace of a genius always coming out with newer, better things while balancing that with family time.

WHM – How to Log in as Root in SSH

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wheel group usersSSH is a very powerful technology, though not very user friendly. Sometimes things need to be done at the “root” level. However, for security purposes a regular user cannot simply log in as root using “su -” if not granted access.

How do you add a user to this access? Simple: in WHM when you log in, go to Security Center, then Manage Wheel Group Users. Over there you can add users to this “Wheel Group” to get in as root.

Hope this helps!

How to Build a Chromebook on Hard Disk Using Windows

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Building a Chromebook containing Google’s OS is a very messy process. I have seen many sites and YouTube videos explaining how to do so, but all of them involve having Hexxeh’s Vanilla OS installed on a USB key and booting from there. What if I wanted a “true” Chromebook?

I finally found an article that explains what to do. My head already is spinning and I’m debating whether or not an all-internet based operating system has real advantages over a Windows XP installation, which from experience works very nicely on slower netbooks. Nevertheless, here’s an excerpt from the article.

How do I Install Chrome OS on the Harddisk?

Guide to Dual-Booting Chrome OS with Windows

How To Dual-Boot Chrome OS with WindowsIf by now you have managed to get it working off of a USB stick, you might be wanting a more permanent solution. Installing Chromium OS on to your hard disk is much trickier, especially if you want to keep your existing OS.

Depending on your current setup, there are a number of methods that you can use. The most likely scenario is that you have Windows as your main OS, and you want to have Chromium installed for quick access to the web.

What you will need

  • A netbook or laptop running Windows.
  • A USB memory stick with Chromium loaded on it (see above).
  • Another USB memory stick, hard disk or CDROM drive.

IMPORTANT!

Here be dragons!

How your computer is actually setup will change the steps you need to make Chromium OS work from the harddisk. You might already have some extra partitions on the disk, or your devices might appear in a different order. I recommend you take the time to become familiar with the tools you’ll be using and how your computer works.

Be sure to double-check everything before making changes.

Phase 1: Preparing the GParted Live Boot Disk

Once you’ve got Chromium OS working off of the USB stick, we need to go through a few hoops to get that copied on to the hard disk. For this you’ll need another bootable storage device, either a USB flash disk, USB hard disk or a CDROM drive.

Note: resizing and adding partitions on your hard disk is an advanced topic, and not for the faint hearted. If you’re not comfortable messing with the disk partitions then this might not be for you.

Warning: There is a reasonably high chance that you will break your Window installation if you don’t do this right. Make sure you have backed up all your important data first.

  1. First, download a copy of GParted Live. Make sure you get the .zip version if you plan to boot from disk, and the.iso version if using a CDROM. Follow the instructions on that page on how to make the disk bootable.
  2. Reboot the computer, with the bootable drive or CD connected. Hopefully it will boot up into the GParted Live system. It will ask you a few questions, and the default answers will probably be fine.
  3. Once you have GParted running, the first thing you will need to do is make some space for two new partitions. This is done by selecting the last partition, and reducing its size by 2 or 4 Gb. [see Image 1] Having done that, click on the Apply button.
  4. Switch the device (button in top corner) to the flash disk you installed the OS on to. You will see very many partitions, but the only two you are interested in are the ones labels C-ROOT and C-STATE. Make note of the exact sizes for these two paritions. [see Image 2]
  5. Switch back to your main disk device, and create two partitions C-ROOT and C-STATE with the same sizes as you noted down above. Click on the Apply button to make the changes happen.
  6. Go to the flash drive, select the C-ROOT partition, and click on the Copy button on the toolbar. Then switch over to the main hard disk and select the new C-ROOT and Paste. Repeat this step for the C-STATE partition too.
Double check that the pending actions are correct, and click Apply.

Screenshots from GParted

  •  

    Image 1: Reduce size of main partition on main hard disk to make space for Chromium OS.
  •  

    Image 2: Make note of the sizes of C-ROOT and C-STATE partitions on the flash disk.
Phase 2: Getting Chromium OS to Boot

Now that you have successfully copied the OS to your hard disk, the next challenge is getting it to boot. The following instructions are specifically tailored to Windows users who want to minimise the impact on their existing configuration. This method won’t touch the MBR, nor will it change how Windows is booted.

Note: All settings and data within Chromium OS will be wiped.
(Seeing as all your data is stored in “the cloud”, this shouldn’t be a problem.)

  • First, download a copy of Grub for DOS (most recent is grub4dos-0.4.4-2009-06-20.zip). From this zip file you just need the file called “grldr”. Copy this to your C:
  • Create a file in C: called “menu.lst” with the following contents:

    timeout 0

    title Chromium OS
    root (hd0,2)/boot/vmlinuz quiet console=tty2 init=/sbin/init boot=local rootwait ro noresume noswap loglevel=1 noinitrd root=LABEL=C-ROOT i915.modeset=1 cros_legacy BOOT_IMAGE=vmlinuz
    You’ll need to change (hd0,2) to point to whichever partition is C-ROOT. In this example, (hd0,2) is the 3rd partition on the 1st disk (counting from zero).

  • Finally, add Grub for DOS to the Windows boot.ini file. The method varies depending on which system you have:

    Windows 2K, XP: Add the line below to your C:boot.ini

    c:grldr=”Chromium OS”
    Windows VISTA: Open notepad as administrator and create “C:boot.ini”:

    [boot loader]
    [operating systems]
    C:grldr=”Chromium OS”
    Windows 7:
    Open command prompt as administrator. Use bcdedit to create a boot menu entry.

    bcdedit /create /d “Chromium OS” /application bootsector
    This prints a long number with { }. This long number is called “id”.
    Replace the “id” with your number in the following commands.

    bcdedit /set {id} device partition=C:
    bcdedit /set {id} path grldr
    bcdedit /displayorder {id} /addlast

  • Cross fingers, remove all USB devices and reboot computer. If successful, you will see Chromium OS boot up.
  • The first thing it might do is display the message like “Chrome OS is missing or damaged” or something similar. The it will enter Recovery Mode and rebuild the installation of the OS on your hard disk, which will take a few minutes. When it is done, reboot the computer.
  • It will be necessary to reconfigure the system, as Chromium OS will have wiped all your previous settings and data. This is a minor annoyance, but you should be back online in no time.

    Now that this is complete, you won’t need that USB stick any more…

     

    Update by kthejoker:
    “So perhaps an update is in order, since the build state of hexxeh’s Chromium builds has changed a bit …
    This is what I had to do to get it working:
    1) I used a free tool called MiniTool Partition Wizard to make my partitions. You can make these partitions in Windows without having to create a separate boot disk for GParted or any of that. As long as you have free space sitting at the end of your drive, creating partitions with this tool is a snap.
    So open up the Partition Wizard with your USB drive in the slot. Reclaim 4 gigs of space from the drive you want to install Chromium on. Then just copy the two partitions ROOT-A (formerly known as C-ROOT … catch #1) and STATE into your newly unallocated space. This will copy their size and state exactly. If you’re applying these to the same partition Windows is running on, you’ll have to restart for the tool to do its thing (ie it basically replicates GParted’s functionality.)
    2) Just like the instructions, download Grub4Dos. All you need is the GRLDR.MBR file on the root drive of your Windows partition.
    3) My menu.lst file looks like this:
    timeout 0
    Chromium OS
    root (hd0,1)
    kernel /boot/vmlinuz quiet init=/sbin/init rootwait ro noresume noswap noinitrd root=/dev/sda2 i915.modeset=1 cros_legacy BOOT_IMAGE=vmlinuz.A
    So 1) I couldn’t get it to use the ROOT-A label to load the kernel. If I run findfs, I clearly see that /dev/sda2 is my ROOT-A partition, but God help me, when you run the kernel bootstrapper, it just hangs or errors out every time. So I had to explicitly set the root to the right partition.
    To find my partition, I had to boot into Chromium US via the USB stick and run mount to see where it mounted all my dev partitions and then open each one till I found the one with ROOT-A’s folder structure (sbin, boot, etc.) I’m sure there’s a faster way, but I don’t know enough about Linux, so there you are.
    3) The biggest challenge: modifying the chromeos_startup file in /sbin. You know that init=/sbin/init command in your kernel bootloader? It kicks off chromeos_startup, and chromeos_startup thinks the stateful_partition (ie the STATE partition) is always located at partition 1 … except it’s not. Mine is /dev/sda5 (found the same way as the ROOT-A partition.)
    So if you go into the chromeos_startup file using vi, you can see a line in there that says
    STATE_DEV = {$ROOT_DEV}1
    Change that 1 to whatever partition your STATE partition is.
    Again, I had to boot into my USB stick to edit this file because Windows can’t mount those partitions. Maybe there’s freeware to mount and edit those files within Windows, I’m sure there is. Anyway, I just used vi at the shell prompt to edit it. Ask a Linux friend, they’ll know how to edit it.
    So in conclusion: different menu.lst entry, explicit root partition, edit chromeos_startup. If you have any questions, hit me at my username at google’s popular mail service.”

     

NASA Switches International Space Station’s Computer System to Linux, Also Funds 3D Pizza Printer

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nasa-logoNASA has had quite some movement in the tekkie world over the last couple of months.

NASA Switches International Space Station’s Computer System to Linux

As of March, NASA began to prepare their international space station with a migration to Linux from their Windows XP. As of earlier this May this seemed to take root, as numerous blogs have written about his transition. Some computers will be running on Debian 6, some on Red Hat and some on Scientific Linux. This shouldn’t be a surprise as the scientific world has long taken a shining to Linux systems. Case in point: CERN’s Large Hadron Collider is controlled by Linux. NASA and SpaceX ground stations use Linux. DNA-sequencing lab technicians use Linux. Evidently, there’s an impression of increased stability when using Linux over Windows.

Personally, while I largely agree how powerful Linux is, I’m not one to ditch Windows just yet. As a geek that owns and operates computer systems running Windows XP, Windows 7, Ubuntu and MAC OSX, I find that Windows has made some significant strides with their Windows 7 release (Windows 8 I feel is a disaster, sort of a new Windows Vista – experiment early, roll out early, fix the mistakes in the next model). Also, more programs run on Windows than any other operating system, including MAC OSX. As much as we all love to hate Microsoft, their desktop and network infrastructure is among the best out there fore serious businesses.

Being that the people at NASA are far from stupid, I suggest that there are some other possible underlying reasons that we’re not being told. Here are my thoughts:

1. By Increased Security, perhaps NASA  wants their people to write programs that cannot run for other Government-run systems, thereby keeping their information safer and more secure from other Government sectors seeking to shut down NASA due to the fact that the research organization costs the United States billions of dollars yearly without contributing anything financially worthy. Landing on Mars won’t pay the bills, and this is an increased threat when the global economy is in such bad shape when the national debt is in the trillions of dollars, not billions.

2. By Increased Security, perhaps NASA wants their people to write programs only for niche Linux systems that a regular Windows hacker cannot use to download and uncover classified information. Who knows? Perhaps Iran wants to land people on the moon themselves, and who better to copy than NASA?

2. By Increased Stability, perhaps NASA has gotten fed up with blue screens of death, unexpected shutdowns, and other lovely unexpected errors. Also, periodic disk defragmenting is a royal pain.

NASA Funds 3D Pizza Printer

This is interesting. With food being a prized commodity in areas of space where food is rationed in tubes, NASA utilized 3D Printer technology to come up with a 3D food printer. The printer will be utilizing edible powder to make items that look like food and can actually be eaten and have a shelf life of 30 years. Being that it all tastes the same (it must), I imagine it’s nothing more than a glorified way to make cereal. Think of Fruit Loops or Fruity Pebbles. Each loop or pebble looks different thanks to food colouring, but they all taste the same sugary way in the end.

Looks like fun!

Curtis/Proscan Products – RJH Solutions Doesn’t Provide Technical Support For Them

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PLT1044_medOver the last few weeks I have been asked via phone calls and emails with requests for advice on how to support a Curtis/Proscan tablet that doesn’t work for some reason, based on my website being linked to mine. I want to set the record straight: RJH Solutions does not provide technical support on products made or distributed by Curtis/ProScan (sorry).

Since Curtis/Proscan is generally a wholesaler and you likely have gotten it from a 3rd-party chain if you are reading this post, my advice is that you would need to contact either the store where you purchased the item from, or the manufacturer itself.

If that didn’t work, search for your tablet on ProScan’s website to find downloads related to warranty and manuals. If that’s not available, try contacting ProScan support. They really do help.

If it’s something else that’s Android related, if RJH solutions doesn’t have a solution (yet), Google it – seriously. RJH Solutions will provide a few technical specs on how to maneuver around Android on a Proscan tablet device, but if the screen is defective, for example, that’s unfortunately something we cannot support. Our apologies and best of luck to your device getting repaired or replaced.

That having been said, RJH Solutions wishes you a happy, successful new year!