Saturday, January 20, 2018

Logitech C920 camera not working on Windows 10 fix

So by now you are probably done with the Logitech support folks.  As usual the manufactures don't hire anyone that has a clue. 

The C920 worked fine on Windows 7 and early releases of Windows 10.  Then Microsoft came along with the Creators update and presto no more reliable webcam.  It sometimes works, for a minute or so and then disappears.  Logitech support will have you do the usual handstands and it won't solve the problem. 

The fix is simple enough provided you have a USB 2 port.  Don't plug your C920 into a USB 3 port.  It won't work reliably with USB 3 and Windows 10.  Once I moved my C920 to a USB 2 port it's back to normal.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

LED 3D cube using 512 LED to form a 8x8x8 matrix

I built an inexpensive electronic soldering project kit from eBay.  This brought back my memories of when it was popular to build Heathkits.  This kit is a lot of fun to build and will test your soldering skills and patience levels.  One thing for sure, it's no Heathkit when it comes to the documentation.  After receiving the kit I was directed to a Google Drive link that the eBay seller had included in the packaging.  It was already a bad sign as the link was a lengthy set of numbers and letters that was photocopied one too many times and was borderline unreadable. 

I finally had to contact the seller because after entering the link countless times I could not get the documentation.  The seller got back to me within 48 hours with a working link.  Well it was not much help as the link included a bunch of out of focus photos and a video that was so poorly done it reminded me of the days of VCR like quality after a tape had been recorded on a few hundred times.

After searching up and down on Youtube, there was no video posted for this specific kit.  I decided I should have the video camera ready to document my project build.  I can't say I did a stellar job either as it was not possible to go back and film something again once I soldered a step together.  But it's better than what they provide you and hopefully some of you will find it a decent resource if you decide to build this electronic kit.

You will need a 25 watt soldering iron, pliers, cutters, electronic solder (60/40 rosin core), 3rd hand and some masking tape.  The kit provides plenty of extra LED's in case you have a few bad ones.  I would also highly recommend a volt meter with a diode check feature.  Without it you will have to risk soldering this whole project together to later find out you might have a bad LED in the matrix.  And that's no fun, as for some odd reason I had one even though I tested each one.  It took a minor miracle to de-solder that one LED out of the matrix and replace it. 

You will also need a USB power source.  I used a cheap phone charger dongle that can easily be had at your local drug store like Walgreens.  The cube pulls under 200mah at 5 volts.

Once I had the kit soldered up and fully working I went back on eBay and bought the plexi glass cover for the project.  I highly recommend this, it makes the kit look better and keeps it free of dust and someone accidentally bending the LED's.

I never did find out what that USB board does.  The cube's built in demo animation show is good enough.  It's a great conversation piece.  Anyone that comes over to you home will instantly notice it and love the coolness of it.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Using Google Voicemail with AT&T or Cricket

Over past few years I have been using Android since the Galaxy S3 came out.  My only gripe with Android is you don’t get the same integrated visual voice mail like iPhones have.  Yes AT&T / Cricket have apps to give you visual voice mail but it’s a watered down version with few features that does not integrate well with Android. 

Then I read about CCF (Conditional Call Forwarding).  This is a feature that most carriers support.  It allows you to call forward unanswered calls to a different service.  Many of us already use gMail and can setup a free Google Voice account.  By forwarding your unanswered calls to Google Voice you get much better integration with the Android operating system.  The notification bar works beautifully with voice mails now. You also get transcribing in your notification bar!  I rarely listen to my voice mails anymore, I can read them easily with excellent results.  And another great feature, I can manage and listen to my voice mails from my Windows PC. 

To use CCF you bring up your dial pad on your phone.  You need to type this into the phone:


So replace ‘yourgooglevoicenumbergoeshere’ with your GV phone number including area code.  You then press the send/talk button and the code is sent to your carrier.  You should get a response from your carrier if the code was accepted.

That’s it!  AT&T / Cricket will now forward unanswered calls to your Google Voice account.  Make sure to install the Google Voice app to access your voice mails.  If you want to disable CCF type the following into the dial pad:


Then press send/talk. 

Google Voice app:

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

My Nexus 6P experience

The Nexus 6P was a phone made by Huawei for Google.  I bought my Nexus 6P when it first went on sale. I anxiously waited for it to arrive in November 2015.  I was excited at the time to get an Android phone with no bloatware installed on it.  It would be my first Android phone with stock Android.

I have to admit the 6P was a total disappointment for me.  The monthly updates Google sent out for the 6P made me feel like a beta tester.  The updates frequently had Bluetooth updates that royally broke the phones ability to connect to other Bluetooth devices.  One of Google’s Bluetooth updates caused my Toyota 2015 Highlander’s Entune system to reboot continuously while I was driving the car (It used to work perfectly before the update).  I was ready to make an appointment with the car dealer assuming the radio had a loose wire but I researched the program and found out it was the Nexus 6P causing my car to reboot!!  Once I unpaired the phone from the car, my Toyota was working perfectly.  I paired my Toyota with several other branded cell phones and they all worked fine, it was the 6P causing my issues.

Google sent out monthly updates, it was comical to see how my Toyota could work for one update and then go broke for the next update.  My background is software development, it was clear to me Google was doing a lousy job testing their software. 

Then in August 2017 came a total surprise when I discovered my Nexus 6P screen had pushed itself out of the phone!  For the first few seconds I thought my 6P came out of my Spigen case.  Once I took the case off it was clear the glass display had separated from the phone.  My 6P had never been dropped or serviced.  There was no reason for the screen to lift off like that…..  Well there was.  My first thoughts were the glue/tape had simply let go.  But when you tried to push the screen back on the phone it resisted you like a strong spring.  Then the bell went off in my head, the Lithium battery most likely had puffed which would cause something to have to give.  In this case the glass screen.  It could have been much worse, sometimes when a Lithium battery expands it could push against a sharp edge and damage the thin foil casing the battery is made of.  If it were to get punctured the battery could catch on fire. 

Lithium batteries when they start failing have a nasty habit of expanding in size, commonly known as puffing.  I have seen this in old Apple iPods that used the click wheel.  I had done a video on how to repair a stuck click wheel on an older iPod which was caused by a Lithium battery that had puffed over the years. In that case the battery was many years old and it was understandable that it eventually failed.

The surprising part here is my 6P was not even two years old.  How could a Lithium battery start to puff so quickly?  I suspect the amount of faulty battery failures in the 6P can be blamed on the ‘Rapid charging’ technique that Huawei used.  It was not based on the Qualcomm’s quick charge technology which is what most modern day mobile phones use.  More than likely the technique that Huawei used to rapid charge the 6P is a design flaw.  Charging Lithium batteries quickly is a tricky set of logic that monitors amps, voltage and temperatures. 

What came next really bothered me.  I decided to call Google even though my one year warranty had expired.  My reason for calling them was I felt the Nexus 6P’s battery failures was a manufacturing defect and should be covered by Google since it's their brand.  With no surprise the person from Google support was not in the USA.  It was some overseas support member who dazzled me with total stupidity.  She asked me where I got the phone and I said directly from Google.  I tried explaining to her that my glass screen had separated from the phone due to a puffed battery and was well aware that these batteries were failing prematurely. I had informed her this was a common problem and was well documented from many complaints online.  She informed me that there had been no issues with batteries or screen coming out. That was clearly a lie and I told her to use Google’s search engine to see how many customers were having issues. Her next statement was a jaw dropper. She asked what recent apps do you have installed on the phone, the screen probably got pushed off from an app you installed ………  Yeah think that one over for a second.  She is claiming an app from the Google Play Store has the ability to push the screen out of the phone……. 

Ok Houston we have a problem, I got a bonafide dumb ass on the line.  I told her no app would cause this sort of problem, this was a hardware problem and not software.  It did not matter to her, she basically shut me down. She stated the phone is out of warranty and you have to contact Huawei and pay them to repair your phone.   So Google does not even arrange for the repair! It’s the usual finger pointing game.  I was not happy with her answer and requested a supervisor.  She told me none were available and I could be put on a call back and the maximum wait would be 30 minutes.  I waited 5 hours and no call was ever made.  They never called me back.

So I did my research on Huawei’s repair process and was not surprised to find out they stink.  You don’t get your own phone back.  It will be someone else’s phone that they ‘maybe’ repaired.  It was common to read user experiences where they sent back a phone in perfect cosmetic condition and get back a phone with scratches and dents.  And in most cases Huawei does not even replace the battery!!!  They can send you back a refurb where the battery won’t even hold a charge for half a day.  So clearly Huawei’s refurb process is poor.  I’m used to companies like Apple where their refurb process includes a new battery and a new shell.  The device looks like new.  After reading all the complaints it was clear to me sending my phone back was not an option. 

There are numerous articles that explain how to get a Nexus 6P apart.  I watched several videos and decided to try it.  I ordered a new OEM battery on eBay and some double sided stick tape to bond the glass back to the phone.  You will need a heat gun or hair dryer to successfully take the 6P apart.  The heat gun is required to help melt the glue that holds the back glass on by the camera and the lower edge which is plastic. You will need a hobby knife, some old credit cards or guitar picks and a small Philips screwdriver.  It’s a royal pain to get the 6P apart but it’s doable.

Once I got the phone apart, it was surprising how difficult it was to remove the battery. They glued the battery in.  And you cannot use a screwdriver or knife on the battery, if you puncture that thin layer the battery could easily catch on fire.  I used a credit card very carefully to wedge under the battery to release the glue.

Once I got the battery out and installed the new battery the screen easily went back into the phone.  So the battery was puffed enough to force the screen out. I used some double sided tape to hold the screen down and used a couple of strips on the new battery.  Reassembling the phone was easy.

The new battery is doing a lot better than my original.  I can only hope this battery will last maybe 18 months?  But will the Nexus 6P last that long?  While researching all the battery issues another hot topic was discovered – boot looping.  It’s a huge issue, the Nexus 6P won’t finish booting and gets stuck in a loop.  It’s not software, the motherboard has a CPU issue.  There are many possible reasons for this problem but they all point back to another manufacturing defect caused my Huawei. 

So where is Google on this?  This is where I feel Google is a total failure.  They contracted Huawei to manufacture their flagship phone for 2015.  The Nexus line is Google’s brand.  But in spite of that fact, Google passes the buck and tells their customers to call Huawei.  Does Apple tell their customers to contact Foxconn when their product fails?  No, of course not.  And just this year (2017) Google has surpassed Apple in worth yet Google offer’s support that feels like a 3rd rate company.

This is what my phone looked like with the puffed battery:

And a video:

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Facebook Purity – Finally a solution to make Facebook what you want

Let’s face it, like it or not many of us use Facebook on a daily basis. But Facebook has some very annoying things about it and until recently I was putting up with the non-sense.  Then I found a comment on the Facebook community page of a user telling everyone about Facebook Purity. The problem was they could not share the link, Facebook was blocking it!!!  No surprise because this program is awesome.   And it’s Free. 

Purity has several pages of settings.  You can tweak your Facebook as you like.  Some of the best features are being able to disable Suggested Posts which is nothing more than advertising.  Games people are playing, I don’t care about that non-sense and with Purity you will never see that again.  You can finally disable those auto-play videos.

Purity has a feature to filter content on keywords that you define.  So if you are fed up with your friends complaining about Donald Trump for example you can filter those posts from your timeline.  Maybe you don’t want to see spoilers for your favorite TV shows, now you can do it.

Here’s another good one you can filter on image content likes cats, selfies, dogs or food.  On a diet, I would filter the food photos. 

Do you want to know when a friend removes you from their list?  Now you can with Purity.  You can hide all photos or videos if you wish.  You can hide the chat bar if you don’t use it. The list goes on and on.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Block ads with Adguard Adblocker

I have been a user of Adblock Plus (ABP) for many years.  But lately many web sites I visit can detect this technology and block viewing their web site until you disable ABP.  Android Central is one example.  Their web site is riddled with ads and it is necessary to use an ad blocker to control all the popups and an animated ads they run.  I understand these sites need revenue to continue providing content, but some go too far and don't properly vet the ads they present on their web pages.  It's their own fault that ad blocking technology is needed.

I recently tried an app called Adguard Adblocker and this app is invisible to these same web sites allowing me to view their web pages with no ads.  It also uses less memory and seems a tad faster than ABP.  They make a Chrome app for free that works really well.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

AT&T wireless service how to save some big bucks switching to Cricket

It’s not well advertised that AT&T bought a company called Cricket back in 2013.  Cricket is pre-pay service that uses the same radio towers as AT&T.  Because they use the same towers you get the same coverage at much cheaper rates.  They have an easy to follow web site where you can order their SIM for $10 which includes 2 day shipping and port your number for free.  The Cricket stores can charge activation and porting fees which are waived online. 
When you go online the Cricket web site will ask for your IMEI number to confirm that your phone is compatible.  You need a GSM phone for Cricket.  In my case I used a Nexus 6P from Google. If you have a compatible phone there are a series of questions to help you migrate your account over before your SIM arrives.  You need two pieces of information that you may not know, your account number from your current provider (it’s not your phone number) and your PIN code. This data is entered in advance to help verify if porting is possible.  Keep in mind if you are still under contract you will have to pay some ETF (early termination fees) from your current provider. 
When your Cricket SIM arrives there are some simple instructions to switch services.  Since you entered everything in advance it goes very quickly.  Within 15 minutes of me porting my number I was receiving calls and text messages were fully working after about 30 minutes.  Outgoing calls/text work instantly.  
Cricket also offers a visual voice mail app for Android users.  I had a slight problem getting my PIN code setup with the Android app, I had to dial the voice mail number and setup my PIN code through the voice mail system, the Android app refused to store it correctly. 
The savings are worth the effort of switching.  I was paying AT&T $50.51 with taxes for an unlimited voice/text and 200meg of data.  Cricket has a basic plan which is unlimited voice/text and 2.5gigabytes of data for $35 including taxes.  To get the $35 deal you must sign up for autopay, otherwise it’s $5 more each month.  Other plans are available if you need more data.  In my case I saved over $15 each month to have the same coverage and increase my data by over 2gigabytes.