Thursday, 26 November 2015

Another personal project

Yet again, I'm using this blog as a diary of my attempts to do something rather than writing something interesting. Hey, who knows? Maybe it'll work and THEN it'll become interesting.

So, what's the project? Quite simply put, it's in-car entertainment for the kids.

You see, there's the obvious easy option of buying a dual screen DVD setup. But they're a bit rubbish; in many cases still expensive; and the kids have to watch the same thing. Now, any of you out there with multiple kids will know that they NEVER want to watch the same thing. So how am I going to beat this?

Well, the plan is to use a Raspberry Pi and a couple of cheap tablets. At the moment this is all Pi (ha!) in the sky, but the idea runs thus...

  • I find a MiFi/Battery Pack combo that is capable of powering the device plugged into it whilst it's charging. This provides continous (hopefully) playback at times when I switch off the ignition (like petrol stations).
  • Off this I run a Pi and a USB hard drive (not sure how the Hard drive is getting power yet... possibly from the MiFi/Battery Pack?)
  • The Pi runs some kind of DLNA software serving out copies of the kids' various ripped DVDs
  • Also, the MiFi has a 4G SIM in it providing internet access...
  • The kids each have a cheap Android Tablet attached to the back of the front seat headrests.
  • These tablets are able to stream media from the Pi or over 4G to entertain the kids.
The major obstacles here are, I think, finding an appropriate MiFi/Battery Pack and, potentially, the bandwidth available as I'm doubting that the Pi will be powerful enough to transcode.

So, research begins, will post updates on my findings.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Experimenting with Deploying Windows 10 via MDT 2013 Update 1 Preview

Riveting title I know. As with many of my previous posts, this is more of a dumping ground for my thoughts and findings than a full blown blog post designed to guide someone through the process. Might help someone somewhere though...

So, building this on a test server running 2012 R2.

Joined to the domain and then installed the WDS role.

Following the guide at

First major hitch is when coming to download the Windows 10 ADK. The installer gives the error:

Install did not compete successfully.
An error occurred while installing "Documentation"
Unable to verify the integrity of downloaded content. It might be corrupter. Please check your network connection and try again.
Review the Setup log files or contact your system administrator.

A bit of rooting in the logs and a small amount of Google-Fu seems to indicate the the source files have been updated but the installer hasn't. Tracked down an updated installer at which seems to work.

Following that, pretty much a standard run if things so far. Installed the ADK, checked for updates, launched MDT.

Within MDT I've  created a Deployment Share as usual, imported the Operating System from the ISO for build 162, and created a standard task sequence.

As of just now, I'm updating the Deployment Share and waiting for the boot wims to be generated so that I can feed them into WDS.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Rooting an HTC Desire (or RTFM)

As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm enjoying my Nexus 7 tablet so much that I've given my HTC Sensation Xe to my wife and am now using her HTC Desire. Which is fine, apart from the fact that when she got it I upgraded it to the official HTC release of Android 2.3.3 (or Gingerbread) which left the phone with very little internal storage. She's mentioned it before but, to be honest, I hadn't realised just how bad it is. It's awful. The phone constantly reports being low on space with little or no apps installed.

Well, now that it's MY phone, it's time to do something about it.

There's a whole bunch of resources out on the internet about rooting. So many in fact that it's pretty overwhelming when all you want to do is get a single phone rooted with the minimum of fuss. I've spent a fair bit of time getting it sorted and at least part of the time I wasted doing it was because I didn't read the instructions properly. So, as I've done before, I'll attempt to put together a simple set of instructions to summarise what I did (on Windows 7 for clarity and for my very specific set of circumstances) in the hope that it might help someone else.

Okay, firstly, no matter what you do you're going to need to install some drivers. You'll need two sets - one for when the phone is in 'normal' mode and one for when it's in HBOOT mode.

for the normal drivers I'd recommend downloading and installing HTC Sync - or at least starting to. It'll first install all of the drivers for normal operation. Once that's done it'll start a standard-ish installation wizard for HTC Sync which you can and SHOULD cancel. You don't want HTC Sync installed at this stage as it messes things up so, if you've already got it, uninstall HTC Sync now.

Next you need the drivers for HBOOT so pop over to and download the HBOOT drivers there then unzip them somewhere. Then put your Desire into HBOOT by turning it off and then turning it back on using the volume down and power buttons. If you find that it doesn't work, see if you've got Fast Boot enabled in the settings menu. If you can't find it, whip the battery out and put it back in and then turn on using power and volume down.

If you've got an HBOOT USB option in the HBOOT menu then select that using the volume up/down to move and the power button to select then plug your phone into your PC with a USB cable. If the option's not there, just go ahead and plug it in anyway (I did, and it worked fine).

Windows won't recognised the device and so you'll end up with an unknown Android 1.0 device in Device Manager. Right click, update driver and point it to your unzipped HBOOT driver folder. You'll get prompted that the driver isn't signed so you'll have to approve it to proceed.

Once that's installed, unplug the phone and reboot it (battery in and out again if it's easiest).

Now, here's where it depends on what version of Android you've got as to how you proceed. From what I can gather, the best option is unrevoked3 but it doesn't work for me on Android 2.3.3. I believe it works on Android 2.2 and earlier, but I can't guarantee that as I can't test it. The instructions seem pretty simple. Enable USB Debugging from the Settings>Applications>Development menu, plug the phone into the computer, change the USB mode to Charge only (from the pull down menu) and then run Unrevoked. It pretty much does the rest for you.

If, like me, you're stuck then you need to turn to revolutionary. Following the instructions over at you should first download ClockWorkMod and put it in the root of your C drive for simplicity. Make sure you also follow the link it posts to the "Useful Downloads" section to get the latest username and password for downloading it. Next follow the set up instructions for ADB and FastBoot in the [FAQ] ADB and FASTBOOT for Windows post. You'll need this to install the recovery image.

Continue following the instructions - at this point you should be just starting step 4 (downloading revolutionary and the root file). Read the instructions, download the files (save revolutionary on your PC and the root file on the SD card), generate your beta key and then unzip and start running revolutionary. DON'T INSTALL THEIR RECOVERY IMAGE. You're going to install your own in just a minute.

Now boot into fastboot mode (power button plus volume down - see above) then select the fastboot option. connect the phone to the PC once again and you should see FASTBOOT USB on your screen. Open a command prompt on your computer and type:

fastboot flash recovery c:\recovery_CWM_2.5.0.7.img

(if you get some message like "command fastboot not recognized" then go back, read the ADB and FASTBOOT instructions again, and make sure you've modified your PATH variable.)

Finally, you need to apply the root file you downloaded earlier. Reboot into HBOOT (surely you remember how to do it by now?) and this time choose Recovery from the menu. Choose to "install zip from sdcard" then "choose zip from sdcard" and finally pick the zip you downloaded earlier (

Reboot and you're now rooted! Woohoo!

So, now I'd recommend installing ROM Manager from the market which makes it incredibly easy to download and try out different ROMs. I'm using the Desire ISC ROM by Sandvold which is pretty good. The important part though is that after following the instructions at I am now installing all Apps straight to the SD card and not running out of space. Wonderful :)

Monday, 6 August 2012

Update on the Nexus - how's it going a few weeks in?

I recently had a friend contact me asking if I was still enjoying the Nexus 7. I thought my reply would actually make a decent blog post with some minor modifications so here we go.

I'm still very happy with it. In fact, I'm so happy with it that I've given my Sensation Xe to the wife and taken her Desire as I'm barely using my phone any more and she's benefitting far more from the improved phone.
I've replaced the default keyboard with the Swift Key keyboard which is excellent (possibly even better than the HTC one!) I've also installed Ultimate Rotation Control as the fixed portrait homescreen is, frankly, stupid and particularly annoying when switching between two apps that you want to use in landscape.

I've opted to not use a screen lock code/face recognition as I prefer being able to get in to things quickly (kind of defeats the purpose of Google Now I feel if it's many clicks to access it). Instead I'm using App Lock on my mail app to comply with my own IT security policies :)

Google Now's pretty clever. My only complaint is that it doesn't do train times in Edinburgh, only bus times. I still think it's got potential to grow a huge amount though.

The lack of Flash is a bit pants. Not because I want to look at flash website particularly, but because the iPlayer app doesn't work. I presume that the BBC are working on a non-flash version for Android (presumably the iPad version is non-flash) but it's not here yet. In the meantime I've installed FireFox Beta and the Flash apk and that's working for the most part, but it's a bit clunky and not how I ideally want to be using this device.

What else? Err... Okay, bought a nice cover and stylus combo from Amazon for a tenner. It's this one:

Although would probably have bought this one if it had been half price at the time I was looking (which it is now):

The cover's quite nice as it has two angles - a shallow one for typing and a steeper one for 'consuming content'. If you're wanting to use it for taking notes, an external bluetooth keyboard might be better but I'm finding Evernote/Skitch adequate at the moment.

It needs more apps developing for it that take advantage of the screen size. There's a few apps that I'd normally have that aren't available for it yet. Amazon's a good example of that although the website is easily accessible at this screen size through the Chrome Browser. Nice feature of Chrome actually - if there's two links close together and, when you click, you don't quite hit either/hit both, it shows a close up of the area to let you click again.

As a bit of a laugh while we were away recently, I tried to use it for Sat Nav by downloading some maps for use offline. It doesn't work though - it needs an active internet connection to plot the route. I don't know how well it would work if you started the navigation before you left home and then carried on from there. Presumably okay but, honestly, it was just for a laugh - nowhere to mount a 7" tablet in my car just now.
For internet out and about I'm using the phone as a hotspot and that seems to work great. Finding it preferable to use the tablet bounced off the phone than just use the phone.

So, that's essentially where I am now. To wrap up, I'd like to answer a question I posed a while back -namely, are apps as relevant to tablets? Well, having had my tablet for a while it's an overwhelming YES from me. Whilst many website are wonderfully functional, they're not all designed to be interacted with via a touchscreen. A great example is GMail. I thought it would be a strong contender for abandoning the app, but it's just not as convenient. Using the web interface really underlines how much thought has gone into making the App clean and easy to use with minimal presses; using the web front-end quickly becomes frustrating.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Nexus 7 Review

It's here.

I got so frustrated with waiting for my Google Play order to arrive that I went out this evening and bought one from Currys. I'll just have to refuse delivery of the other when it finally arrives.

But enough of that, here's my review. And it's the first I've ever written so we'll just have to see how it goes.


I have no idea what all of the fuss is about. Took about 10 seconds. Maybe if any of them had a knife to hand to cut the stickers...

First impressions

It's really nice. Looks pretty sleek, the genuine pleatherette back gives it a good surface to grip. Not in love with how close the volume and power buttons are, but that's mainly bugging me right now for producing screenshots (which I'm not going to be doing a lot of after this!). As reported elsewhere, very minimal other than that - there's a micro USB port and audio jack on the bottom and four little brassy dots on the bottom of the left hand side which I believe are something to do with a magnetic cover reported elsewhere.

First switch on

Following a welcome screen, you're prompted to select a Wi-Fi network. After this you're asked if you have an existing Google account and then if you want to join Google+. I'm assuming that if you're already joined this step is skipped. After a couple more setup screens (Google location, services etc) Setup is complete and you're taken to the homescreen.

Having a play (no pun intended)

Everyone who's seen anything about the Nexus 7 will be familiar with this screenshot by now. The default homescreen has the My Library widget front and centre showing you the free content you've got access to. As you'll have read elsewhere, the widgets can be resized and the content in them resizes to match. It's a pretty nice feature that makes you ask "Why haven't they always done that?".

I couldn't resist testing the screen and dove straight in to Transformers: Dark of the moon. The picture quality is astounding. And, to my far from well trained ear, the sound was fine too - I wasn't expecting 5.1 surround but it was certainly loud enough for me to be able to hear exactly what was going on despite my 2 year old watching TV in the same room. The movie is streamed by default but you can download it in the background for offline viewing. I'm a bit disappointed that there's no way to stream the movie via DLNA to my TV. I'd love to see this in the future (assuming that the software isn't that hard to implement).

While I've been typing this the screen has timed out so I may as well talk about the lockscreen now. Once you press the power button to wake up the tablet, you get a pretty simple screen with the time, date and charge level in the top half and a padlock icon in the bottom half that pulses once to draw your attention. Dragging the lock to the left, right or bottom takes you back to whatever was open when the screen locked. Dragging it up brings up the much touted "Google Now". Right now, it's pretty useless showing only the local weather "card" and the card for the distance and travel time to my work (15 minutes! ha!) but it'll supposedly learn over time what I do and when I do it and automatically bring it up here. We'll see how that pans out.

At this point in the review I've just noticed something - I'm not really missing the hardware buttons and I thought I would. If there's one thing I am missing it's the menu button - I'm finding it a bit hard to locate the new triple dot button on some occasions (at least once because it wasn't there).

One last point in this section for now - I found very quickly that the screen wasn't rotating when I thought it should. It would appear that Google want you to use it in portrait by default (and that's certainly backed up by the design of the hardware). To that end they've disabled screen rotation. You can quickly and easily re-enable it though using an icon in the redesigned taskbar pulldown menu (which also offers access to the settings menu and the ability to dismiss one or all alerts).

General Performance

Damn it's slick! I'm yet to see it stutter or pause. I've downloaded a couple of pretty graphics intensive games like Dead Trigger and Glowball to give it a go and they're as smooth as silk. I refuse to say butter. Damnit!


Already in the app tray are Calculator, Calendar, Chrome, Clock, Currents, Downloads, Earth, Email, Gallery, GMail, Google, Google+, Latitude, Local, Maps, Messenger, Navigation, People, Play Books, Play Movies, Play Music, Play Store, Settings, Talk, Voice Search and YouTube. Here's my thoughts on most of them...

Calculator - Better than the one I'm used to. My current phone is an HTC Sensation XE and the HTC calculator is not good - I didn't think you could mess up a calculator design but HTC managed it. The Nexus is much cleaner

HTC Calculator
Nexus Calculator

Calendar - This is stunning. The last time I saw a stock Android calendar it was awful and I was so grateful for having HTC's take on it. But this beats the pants off my phone's calendar. It's cleaner and crisper with a well thought out design for the day, week and month views. But it's the agenda view where I can see me spending most of my time. It's so simple to navigate and offers the ability to set reminders and send emails to meeting attendees right there - a nice touch.

Chrome - Chrome rocks as a browser on the desktop and the new version included with JellyBean doesn't disappoint. It's fast and responsive, renders pages well and does a good job of resizing when rotating the screen. My only complaint - no Flash. Damn you Adobe!!

Clock - First app that's not as good as the one on my HTC. It's clean but very basic with just the time and the ability to set alarms. No World Clock, Stopwatch or Timer. Shame.

Currents - Well, I've never heard of this before so can't tell you if it's new to JellyBean or just omitted from HTC builds. But boy is it good! It's a news reader app but formatted far better than what I'm used to in a very magaziney and compelling way. Just found myself spending 15 minutes browsing the stories rather than writing this. Oops! Having just checked, it's available in the market on my Sensation so it's just that I've never heard of it before.

Downloads - Yeah, this isn't really an app. It's a way to view stuff you've downloaded (but not through Google Play). 'Nuff said.

Earth - I've never used Google Earth on Android before so have no comparison but it's pretty smooth and usable. I'm honestly not sure how much (if at all) I will use it as I've always found Google Earth to be more of a novelty than a useful tool. Sorry Google!

Email/GMail - Both have had a tablet makeover and look good. Folders are listed down the left-hand side with emails listed to the right. Mail and GMail seem to be very similar these days in both design and functionality which is a good thing in my opinion.

Gallery - I'm not sure there's much to say about this. It's a gallery, it works, its smooth, you can see pictures with it. Err... that's it.

Google - Is, it turns out, the Google Now app. Ahh, I see. Well, as I said before, we'll see how well this works out.

Google+/Messenger - I'm so dedicated to writing this review that I've re-joined Google+ to test it out. The app's pretty good and I think I'm going to stay but I'm still not sure it's for me - Practically nobody I know actively uses it right now and I've never managed to get into the "What's Hot" and "Hangouts" side of it. Still, it's a tablet optimised app so that gets it plus points

Latitude/Local/Maps/Navigation - I tend to class these as different facets of the same app. And there's not much, if any, difference between them on my ICS phone and here on a JellyBean tablet. Not a bad thing per se but there's nothing new to report. Hopefully they're going to get some tablet optimisation in the future. I'd say that the best feature to note is that, since a recent upgrade to Google Maps, you can make maps available offline which is going to be pretty much essential as the tablet has no mobile connectivity and relies entirely on Wi-Fi for data.

People - Hmmm. This is an odd one for me as I don't use People app on my mobile. If I want to call someone I go straight to the phone; text I go straight to messaging; email straight to GMail etc. So, I see even less of a need for an app of this nature on a tablet with no mobile network connectivity (and therefore no voice calls or texts). That said, it's been tablet optimised and does a decent job of letting you see a bunch

Play Books/Movies/Music/Store - All of these (with the exception of Music) look the same to me as they did in ICS on the Sensation. The music app's a new addition for me but functionality has been severely limited as the Google Play Music store isn't available in the UK. Essentially, it's the mp3 player. I haven't had the chance to transfer and mp3s yet but will see how well it bears up.

Settings - Has also not changed much from ICS. Not sure whether it's an HTC affectation but the icons in the settings menu of my phone are colour whereas the ones on the Nexus are just black and white. Also different (for me) is that accounts are listed seperately in the root menu instead of a sub-menu.

Talk - Is still just the chat functionality of your Google account. And looks pretty much the same as it always has.

Voice Search - Is pretty good. It's quick, accurate and gets me the results I'm after. I tried a few searches for places, people and movies and always got the info I wanted in the first set of results. The results page looks very clean and links take you off to Chrome, maps etc. I think the key here is its integration with Google Now which could be very good, I just need more time to test it.

YouTube - Has had a make over recently which I wasn't aware of so initially thought "Oh! New for tablet/JellyBean!" However, it's the same on my phone. There's a new sidebar for navigation which is definitely an improvement and actually works better on the tablet than on a smaller smartphone. Again, it depends on how much you'd use this as to how good or bad you'd find it. I don't use YouTube much so can't really comment on that front.

I've downloaded a couple of other apps so far but not many. Google Drive has had a tablet-y makeover and looks good for it. Facebook has no apparent differences and neither does Twitter although both work fine on the bigger screen.

That, I think, is just about enough info on apps for now!

So, Any Complaints?

A few. But they're minor. The keyboard isn't as good as the HTC one so I'll be looking for a good alternative. As I said earlier on, I occasionally have difficulty finding the menu button and would have preferred it if it was included along with the back and home buttons at the bottom of the screen. And, also mentioned earlier, I'd like DLNA functionality at some point.

Other than that though, I'm a very happy bunny. It's a brilliant piece of kit at a great price. I'm looking forward to seeing how I get on with it on a day-to-day basis and will more than likely report back on that at a later date.

Refusing delivery of Nexus 7

If, like me, you want to go to a shop and buy the Nexus 7 rather than wait for delivery from Google Play, here's the instructions they've just sent me for doing so:

Thank you for contacting Google. It was my pleasure assisting you today.

At this point it's no longer possible to cancel this preorder. Preorder
shipment processing on your order has begun, which means that our shipping
provider is moving forward with delivery preparation.

Our expedited order fulfillment process ensures that packages are
delivered quickly, which also means that there is a very short window of
time to cancel an order prior to our shipping provider moving forward with

I recommend leaving a prominent note on the door to let our shipping
provider know that you're refusing delivery of the package. In some cases
our shipping provider has returned packages if their drivers see a note
for refusal of delivery. The note should include the following:

- Refuse delivery-Return to Sender
- Include signature
- Include tracking #

If your package is returned due to refusal of delivery, your order will be
cancelled and refunded within 2 weeks.

If the package is successfully delivered in spite of the delivery refusal
note on your door, you can still refuse delivery of unopened packages
within 5 days of delivery. To do so, contact our shipper directly to
schedule a pick up of your package. Make sure to let them know that the
pickup is specifically because you're refusing delivery.

IMPORTANT: Don't open the package. Our shipper won't allow refusal of
delivery for opened packages.

If there is anything further we can assist you with, please feel free to
reply directly to this email or visit our help center at:

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Actually, NOW I'm annoyed.

This just gets worse.

So, here's the story so far of the great Nexus 7 shipping debacle as far as I can tell. I have to say "as far as I can tell" as this is what I'm piecing together from Twitter posts and various articles on the web. The only communication I've had from Google arrived at 2:50am today and I'll come on to that in a bit.

So firstly, as I previously mentioned, eBuyer shipped some customer's orders in the UK last week (presumably jumping the gun) which was quickly followed by US customers who had ordered via GameStop getting notification that their orders were available for collection.

Following this, Google Play in the US started shipping its pre-orders out so over the last 5 or so days there's been a steady stream of Nexus 7s arriving at people's doors via UPS.

All went quiet over the weekend (unsurprisingly). Then on the morning of Monday 16th, UK pre-order customers started seeing their accounts being debited. Great news as far as we were all concerned as our order confirmation emails stated "You will not be charged until your order has been shipped."

At the same time there's also various reports of other UK suppliers changing their shippping dates on an almost hourly basis.

On the 17th there's further confusion as Google announce that they've shipped all (and then most, and then some) US pre-orders. Later amends to this statement say that all 8GB orders will ship by the 20th (that's this Friday) with 16GB orders placed before the 30th June shipping at the same time, and those after by next week.

This morning I've woken up to an email from Google. Behold...

If you can't read that, it's telling me that only 8GB models will ship before the 20th and 16GB models will ship next week. However, I'm already seeing on Twitter that some UK based customers have had shipping notification.

Just to be clear, I pre-ordered mine less than 2 hours after they were announced. Now, I'm not saying that makes me the front of the queue. But I'm damn sure I was in the queue before a lot of the people who've got theirs already. 


Of course, I can already tell you how this will end. My tablet will be shipped some time next week with my laughably "upgraded" next day delivery. TNT will attempt to deliver it in the middle of the day while I'm at work. I'll then have to wait until Saturday 28th to drive out to the middle of nowhere (wherever the TNT depot is) and collect it. That's the day I'm going on holiday by the way Google. And will be over 4 weeks after I placed the order.

Ridiculous. *sigh*