Wednesday
Aug172016

Upgrading Your Toshiba Encore Mini from Windows 10 to Windows 10 Anniversary Update

I have a Toshiba Encore Mini Tablet that I bought a couple of years ago and managed to upgrade it to Windows 10 last year. I document that effort here.  It was quite a task as the Encore Mini is really crippled: 1 gb of RAM and only 16 gb of storage. Minimal, indeed.  So, how was going to do this upgrade?  Well, pretty much the same way as the original upgrade.

Since I do not use the Toshiba for much, mostly Candy Crush, web browsing and some video watching, I didn't have a whole lot on the device. So, the first thing I had to do was clean it up.

I freed about two gigs of space and then tried the upgrade using the system update.  That did not work. I needed over five gigs on C:\, which would be next impossible. Windows itself takes nearly ten of the sixteen gigs, so freeing 5.76gb was a no go.  So, I tried to use an SD card. I put in a 32 gb card and tried again, this time telling it to use the SD card. That bloody thing still needed nearly three gb on C:! 

I then remembered the Media Creation Tool.  I put the card in my desktop and fired up the tool.  UGH! It did not let me use the SD card! 

WP_20160804_21_48_19_ProI figured out, as well, that the bloody SD card was bad. I kept having to format it...which you should not have to do. I put it aside and found a 16gb card.  I then tried everything again and...failure greeted me at every step.  As a last ditch effort, I downloaded the 32 bit ISO to the SD card. Put it in the Toshiba, mounted the ISO as a drive and ran setup from there.

Setup did point out the lack of space on C:\ but did allow me to use the SD card AND 2gb on C:\. 

The upgrade took quite a bit of time.  I'm not sure, because, after an hour, I went to bed.  I finished overnight.

When it finished the initial user setup, it began to hang on me.  I tried everything I could think of, even trying to reset the operating system using the OS Refresh/Reset feature. They, too, locked up. On a whim, I removed the SD card and rebooted the tablet.  It has worked perfectly since.  I have WP_20160805_07_38_37_Proformatted a 4gb SD card and that has been working splendidly.  I'm not sure why the ISO SD Card caused a problem, but I am also glad I figured out what was wrong.

The tablet has been running well.  It is a bit speedier, but that might be because it is a new install of Windows.

So, there you go, a tablet that, by any definition, is a turd, has been upgraded--not painlessly--to the latest and greatest Windows.  Life is good.

Wednesday
Aug172016

Pebble Smartwatch and Windows Mobile 10: working, at last

WP_20160815_20_13_28_ProSince I got my Pebble Classic Smartwatch, I’ve only been able to use a smattering of its features. The problem is that Pebble does not and, apparently, will not, support the watch on Windows Mobile.  But, as the watch is very open, anyone is free to develop software to run on the watch and companion apps on any platform.  So, several enterprising souls did that. The second big issue was that Microsoft closed off parts of Windows Mobile-notifications and running in the background-which pretty much killed most of the functionality.

Well, fast forward a year and Microsoft has released Windows Mobile 10 Anniversary Update which fixed these issues.

So, there are now two apps that work with the Pebble smartwatch line of wearables: Pebble  Time Manager 10 and Pebble Essentials.WP_20160815_20_16_37_Pro

I downloaded Pebble Time Manager 10 and began using it.  For a free app, this thing rocks.  I did plunk down a buck to ‘unlock’ the health features and to give the developer SOMETHING for this great product, which is free.  Did I mention it is free?

Pebble Essentials I have not yet tried out, but will sometime soon. This write up is about the Time Manager.

Pebble Time Manager allows you to:

  • Download and install apps and watch faces from the Pebble store
  • Display all notifications from your mobile device
  • Track your health stats (provided you paid for the module AND your watch supports it)
  • Manage installed apps and watch faces
  • Direct Access to the Pebble Store

The notifications is huge.  Being able to get my phone’s notifications and NOT have to have an app running is tremendous.  Previously, you could get Twitter, Weather, email and, maybe Facebook notices but an app had to be running. Since the Windows AU came along, you no longer have to do that. You still run the app, but you can then dismiss it and the notifications keep on going.

WP_20160815_20_14_15_ProThe other big deal is direct access to the store.  Tap an app or watch face and see everything about. Tap the download icon and download the item to your phone. Tap it on the phone and it is sent to the watch.  The app, however, cannot tell you how much space you have, though.

Some watch apps require a settings page. Previously, you just took the defaults, but TIme Manager incorporates the ability to access and use these settings.  A nice touch.

The user interface could use some polish, but it works and is functional, if not a bit bland.  It does not have to be pretty, though, because it just works. And works well.

All in all, the app is worth much more than the developer charges (which is nothing) and is very easy to use. 

Stay tuned for more.  There are a lot of things it will do and some it won’t.  Oh, there’s a desktop version as well.

Wednesday
Aug172016

IT’s HERE! Half-Byte Tiny Basic 3!

randomdotsOne of the things I have really enjoyed since embarking on my Arduino journey and this blog, is seeing others take things I’ve worked on or created and expand upon it. This is especially true with Half-Byte Tiny Basic, something that started out as the work of Mike Field, who, himself used the work of another person. HB Tiny Basic is an iterative work, built on the work of others as well as myself.  For HB Tiny Basic 3, I have incorporated the work of others to make it better.  I would love to take credit for these changes, but, I cannot.  This release is strictly due to Hill Satoshi of the Hirosaki University Faculty of Education and someone named ‘Koyama’.  A Big thanks to them. 

Please visit Hill Satoshi's page. There are a lot of great ideas, basic electronics information and some code snippets…be careful, some features of the basic there were not incorporated in HB Tiny Basic, like the motor control and PLOT (which is the same as Set and Reset.)

Among the additions and changes are an auto load and auto run feature (requested by many of you) and a better eSave and eLoad feature.  In fact, I like much of what was done to the language and may incorporate more at a later date.

So, what’s new?

Two new statements have been added: NUMLED and BMP.  A new function, TREAD.  The aforementioned auto load and auto save feature.  Three new operators: %, & and |. % returns the remainder of a division, & is logical AND and | is a logical OR. 

What’s changed?

The code to do a eSave or eLoad has changed and should be more reliable.  The startup code has changed a little, dynamically calculating the amount of ram that is available.  Ability to read in characters from the serial input as if it were the keyboard. This means you can connect to a serial terminal and enter and run Tiny Basic code without a PS/2 Keyboard attached. And a few minor tweaks here and there.

New Statements

The first new statement is NUMLED.  If you connect a seven segment LED directly to the device you are running HB Tiny Basic on, you can output directly to the LED.  The syntax is:

NUMLED x  where x is a digit from 0 to 9.

EXAMPLE: 

 

20 for I=0 to 9

30 numled I

40 delay 1000

50 next I

60 goto 20

 

 

BMP

BMP allows you to draw a bitmap on the screen.  It is very much like the DRAW statement in old Microsoft Basics. It feature its own mini design language for you to draw on the screen. A minimum of three parameters are required: x,y,string.  Where x and y are the start points and string is the definition. 

Table of Commands for Mini Language:   

CMD

Pattern
(0 is black;
1 is white)

CMD

PATTERN
(0 is black;
1 is white)

0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7

0000
0001
0010
0011
0100
0101
0110
0111

8
9
A
B
C
D
E
F

1000
1001
1010
1011
1100
1101
1110
1111

EXAMPLE:

1: 10 cls

2: 20 bmp0,0,"ffffc00000007fff","ffffc00000001fff", "fffe0000000003ff","fffc0000000000ff", "fff80000000000ff","fff000000000007f", "ffe000000000003f","ff0000000000003f"

3: 30 bmp0,8,"ff0000000000001f","ff2f00000000000f", "ff1fc0000000000f","ff000c000000000f", "ff003f000000000f","ff0020400000000f", "fc0000fc1800000f","fc00000f7f3c000f"

4: 40 bmp0,16,"f80000037f7e000f","f8000000007e0003", "f01c00c0001cf7c3","f03e03c00000efcf", "f03e07c00e00000f","c03f1ff01f000003", "c03ffff03f800003","cf3ffff87fc380c3"

5: 50 bmp0,24,"ce3fffffffc3c0c3","c03fc03fffe7f1cf", "c03f003ffffff3c0","ff3fff3fff0fff88", "ff1ffffffc0fff1c","ff9ffffff043ff3c", "ff8fffc03ff3ff38","ff8fffc03ff3fe00"

6: 60 bmp0,32,"ffcfffff3ffffc01","ffc7fffffffffcff", "ffc3fffffffff8ff","fff3ff007ffff1ff", "fff1ff0c7fffc3ff","fff0ff0c7fffc7ff", "fffc7f0c7fff8fff","fffe3f807ffe1fff"

7: 70 bmp0,40,"ffff3fc0fffe3fff","ffff07c3fff07fff", "fff023ffffe1ffff","ffe0203fff83ffff", "ff07e00000003fff","fc0fe3ffff8f0fff", "fc3fe3ffff8f0fff","f0ffe3ffff8fc1ff"

8: 80 shift 1,3:delay 99:goto 80

Aviary Photo_131159334768733501

The example code above produces this bitmap.

 

 

New Function:

TREAD is an alternate method for reading a temperature sensor. It does not require any additional libraries and reads the sensor directly. Usage is: Var=TREAD(pin)  where pin is A0 to A7.

EXAMPLE:

100 a=TREAD(A3)

The example reads in a value between –30 and 50 degrees Celsius.

Auto Load and Auto Save

HB Tiny Basic will now load the saved program in EEPROM.  You have three seconds to press a key or the loaded program will auto run.  If you press a key in those three seconds, you will get the normal prompt as in the past.  This feature is useful if you want to use HB Tiny Basic for embedded use or simply to restart if the device loses power.  There are a lot of uses for this feature.

Other small changes have been made, but are not worth discussing as they are mostly cosmetic or code optimizations. 

In reviewing my code, I see just how sloppy it has become. I am going to clean it up, but, until I do, please feel free to offer up any suggestions you may have for features or changes.  As always, the code is free and open.  I ask that you leave the regular header intact, at the top of the code. I want all involved to be recognized.

Thanks and let us know what you do with Half-Byte Tiny Basic.

Download Link: Half-Byte Tiny Basic 3

Wednesday
Jun152016

T-Mobile, the un-carrier, is just like the others

5055w_front_back-groupRegular readers of this blog know I am a Windows Mobile user and, dare I say, fan.  I am on my third Windows Mobile phone now (Two Nokia's and one Alcatel-Onetouch) Two of the phones I used on T-Mobile and one on Verizon.  My experience with Verizon was, I thought, the pits.  This company cares nothing about any of its users except for those using Apple products. Android and other devices are treated like second rate citizens. 

So, after getting fed up with Verizon's treatment of the Windows Mobile devices, I decided to buy into John Legere's statements about the un-carrier, T-Mobile. Now, I had used them while on Sprint.  I got a Nokia Lumia 521 to see if I would even like Windows Phone (as it was called then) and, if I did, perhaps I would switch us over to them. Well, the Icon was released on Verizon and that was the phone I wanted anyway. So, once my Sprint contract was up, I went to Verizon.  That was prior to realizing just how poorly they treat their customers and what they thought of anything other than Apple. I should have known when the salesperson laughed when I asked about the Windows stuff.

When my Icon got to the point where it was only staying charged for a few hours, I decided to jump to T-Mobile, they had just gotten the Alcatel Onetouch Fierce XL with Windows 10.  Not a terrific phone, but it was more up to date and fairly cheap, $140 US. So, I switched. 

After a few days, I realize the coverage really isn't that great.  Then I got an email inviting me to use a couple of apps to make the experience better. Guess what? Those apps were for iOS and Android. Guess how many apps they have for Windows Mobile? TWO.  The account app, which is just a wrapper for the mobile 'My T-Mobile' site and the TV app.  Thanks, t-mobile.

Then, because I selected the 3gb Simply Prepaid plan, I discover I am not eligible for the Binge On feature they so heavily promote. Now I feel like I've been mislead.

Then, Mr. Legere want's to 'thank' everyone for using T-Mobile. Great.  I go to participate only to hit road block after road block.  There's no app for the Windows or Blackberry devices, so you are directed to a crappy web site. I go there, only to be told I am in-eligible because...get this...I am PREPAID.  I have to use the APP for that. Buuuut....there's no app for my device.  Seriously? So, I take to Twitter. Bitterly complaining, even whining about it.  At that point, I wasn't so much interested in free stuff (though that is always a good thing, right?) but was more upset over the misleading ads, tweets and bs from T-Mobile about this and everything else. It was, as they say, the straw that broke the camel's back.

I got some nice responses from T-Mobile's Twitter response team. They even gave me free Pizza from Domino's, which my family thoroughly enjoyed.  I was told the 'problem' was fixed, I'd be able to participate.

So...it's T-Mobile Tuesday again and I try. And get the same ineligible message I got the first time. So, back to Twitter.  Direct Message, then tweeted it.  I got a response:

"I care about you and want to make sure you can properly get thanked for being a T-Mobile customer.  Currently prepaid can only play on the app versions.  I know this is never fun hearing when you have a device that this does not work with.  I care about you and we love having you as a customer.  I have offset your account with a $40 credit as a one time courtesy to show you that we truly value you as a customer. 

Your current plan does not have Binge On, but it does have Data maximizer: If you activated a Simply Prepaid plan on or after January 24, 2016, then you already have our Data Maximizer, a network enhancement that optimizes all detectable video streaming to DVD-quality (typically 480p or better). This feature is automatically enabled, allowing your high-speed data to last up to 3 times longer.  We do have Binge on available on our $65 North american prepaid plan that includes 6GB of web and I would be delighted to help change to that plan,  if that is something that you would like. 
*NevinB"

So, while they gave me a forty dollar credit-thanks for that-I am told, bluntly, that I'm not good enough because of my device and plan selections, even though they had said 'all customers' and I was told specifically, that it was fixed. I was also told that prepaid or not, I should be able to use the web site.  Basically, they lied.

"Everything should be working now can you give Firefox another go and try Chrome for us as well? If it still fails can you provide us your version numbers for both browsers? We'll keep working on this until you are a part of T-Mobile Tuesdays and get to join in on all the great merch! Additionally can we give you a call tomorrow and start setting things right? A time including your time zone would be greatly appreciated.  *KeithM"

Again, it isn't about getting something for nothing. It's being mislead and outright lied to...by the help desk staff, by the ads and by Mr. Legere himself.  So, like Sprint and Verizon, if you don't get their expensive plan and phone, then you don't matter.

As for the wrong platform, that's just nonsense...Microsoft offers tools that takes iOS app source code and converts it UWP code. From what I understand, it is a rather straightforward process and does not take a lot of time.  There are several apps out in the Windows Mobile store that were developed this way...the latest Candy Crush Saga games were done this way as well as some banking and other non-gaming apps.

I did go back and look at the Binge On ad...buried in the very fine print, they do specify the plans it applies to...but the ads and Legere's Tweets, imply otherwise.  Same for this current promotion.  Now I know that in any future promotion, I will be treated the same. Unless I buy an iPhone 6 or Samsung Galaxy S whatever and go on an expensive $65 a month plan. 

No thanks.

AT and T, can you do better?

Wednesday
Jun152016

Non-Tech Fun: Vacationing in the Mid-Atlantic Area

It’s that time of year when vacations are starting and you are looking for great places to take your family and relax and have some fun.  And, what better places to take them than to the amusement parks, right?  Well, sure, but there are new types of amusement parks that do not involve rollercoasters or ferris wheels.  First, though, I am going to talk about rollercoasters.  BIG ONES, at that.

Overview of Carowinds entranceThe tallest giga-coaster on the East Coast, and one of the tallest in the country, is called Fury 325 and is located in the very nice Carowinds theme park located near Charlotte, North Carolina.  This thing is 325 feet tall, has an 85 degree first drop and is over 6600 feet long. It towers over the park.  Now, Carowinds isn’t a one trick wonder. No, it also has another tall coaster: the Intimidator. Named after the late, great Dale Earnhardt, this out and back coaster features a first drop of over 200 feet and, prior to Fury 325, was the south easts tallest and fastest roller coaster.  Rounding out Carowinds collect are Nighthawk, a coaster where you lay down and Flightdeck, a hanging rollercoaster that is very fast and features many inversions.  Carowinds is a delightful place to take your family and won’t break the bank.Overview of Carowinds entrance

Charlotte is also home to an NFL team and, of course, NASCAR.  The NASCAR Hall of Fame is located in downtown Charlotte, just minutes from the theme park.

Travelling north, to Virginia, you will find not one, but two world class theme parks, lots of museums, and history, a ton of history from the revolutionary war era, to the Civil War and both World Wars. 

Griffon, at Busch Gardens WilliamsburgStarting in Williamsburg, you have Busch Gardens, a true world class park.  It’s theming, food, service and, of course, its rides, all make it THE best theme park to visit, period.  For its rides, you have Alpengeist, a daring hanging coaster that was the tallest of its type for many years.  The Loch Ness Monster, which, when it opened, was the tallest and fastest coaster in the country. Then, there is the Griffon. Griffon takes you up 205 feet, dangles you over the edge and then lets you drop down an almost 90 degree drop.  It’s a real heart stopper.  Apollo’s Chariot is hypercoaster that will never cease to thrill.  Busch Gardens has terrific food as well.  Oktoberfest lets you sample German cuisine while Festa Italia gives you a taste of Italy.  Down the road from the park you will find Water Country, USA, a huge water park.

Also in Williamsburg, you will find Colonial Williamsburg for a sampling of life in the 1700’s.  There’s also shopping, fine dining and more touristy things to do like the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Odditorium. Finally, there’s mini-golf, go kart parks and the famous Williamsburg Pottery Outlets.

Oh, yeah, I’d me remiss if I neglected to mention Great Wolf Lodge.  This nice resort features a good sized indoor waterpark, included in the price of your room. 

And, don’t forget, to the east is Virginia Beach, about a forty minute drive. And Norfolk, which contains even more things to do, including an aquarium and battleship.  Virginia Beach also features an even better aquarium that also has zip lines and a rope course.

Loch Ness Monster, BGWJust north and west of Williamsburg is Richmond.  Richmond is rich in history, culture, fine arts and food. Lots of restaurants with everything from soul food, to country food to anything European, Korean, Japanese or Chinese.  There’s also a tremendous amount of Thai food restaurants.  You name, you can likely find it in Richmond.  In addition to shopping and food, you’ll find many art museums, history museums and the Edgar Allen Poe Museum.

There’s minor league Baseball, NASCAR twice a year (in April and September) and several short tracks for that weekly dose of speed.  There’s adrenaline junky places like Jumpology, a trampoline fun house.  Coming soon to the area is an indoor park featuring an American Gladiators type course, several zip lines and rope courses. 

A few minutes north of Richmond takes you to Virginia’s second world class theme park, Kings Dominion.  Kings Dominion is a sister park to Carowinds and, as such, contains many of the same types of rides and attractions.  It includes a nice collection of Dominator Rollercoaster, KDrollercoasters, including what was the tallest and fastest giga coaster on the east: Intimidator 305.  This 305 foot tall beast, also named for Dale Earnhardt, gives you the feeling of the high banked turns of Talledega and Daytona.  The first drop takes you into a sharp right turn that may cause a momentary ‘grey out’ in which you lose vision for a fraction of a second. This is normal and is not harmful, just weird. It is caused by blood flow and is harmless. 

Edgar Allen Poe MuseumThe park also features many ‘launch’ style coasters, where, instead of the train being pulled up a hill and released, linear induction motors propel the train forward at tremendous speed.  One of them, the Volcano, shoots you out of the station, around the base of a volcano mountain and then up and through the Volcano itself.  Quite thrilling and was my favorite coaster until I rode Fury 325.

Kings Dominion also features a nice but small collection of wooden rollercoasters, including the Rebel Yell, which is featured in the motion picture ‘Rollercoaster’. 

In addition to nice collection of rollercoasters, the park also features shows and a good collection of flat rides including a Ferris Wheel, a Carousel from the 1920’s and a smaller replica of the Eiffel Tower (this one is one third size at 300 feet.)  For thrills, there is the 300 foot tall Drop Zone tower and the 305 foot tall Windseeker, a swing that takes you up nearly 300 feet.

Richmond, VA - richmondcitybook.comRichmond is nicely located with Washington DC to the north, the beautiful Skyline Drive to the north and west and, of course Williamsburg and Virginia Beach to the east.  All of these destinations are within a two hour drive.  The Outer Banks of North Carolina are just three hours from Richmond.  But, there’s certainly plenty to do in the city and one could spend a week here doing it all.

The East Coast from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina all the way up to Ocean City, Maryland (two of my favorite vacation spots as well) offer up a tremendous opportunity for a fun filled vacation pretty much any time of the year (the amusement parks are seasonal, however) and none of it will break the bank either.