Sunday, April 30, 2017

Acer Chromebook R11

Readers of this channel might have noticed over time, that I am very open to unconventional things, such as chromebooks. And yes, I am also known to canibalise stuff, e.g. chromebooks to cheap and cheerful Linux Laptops.
Well, the chromebook got a new boost a while ago, when Google brought two of their system together: ChromeOS and Android. So, after a period of struggle, I finally put down the money a bought an Acer R11 quad core chromebook... one of those having a touch screen and allowing for Android applications to run.

Acer got it spot-on! The keyboard is the best I have used in years! Honestly, this device has got a very very good keyboard. On the web, some people seem to dislike the screen and the touchpad. Well, fair enough, not me though. The touchpad is just right in terms of size, the click is a bit mushy, but this is something I can live with. What the screen is concerned, I do not really understand the critics. This screen is brilliant and sharp. The colors are vibrant and the black is really black. In terms of viewing angles, the display could be better, but is much better than many similarly priced products out there.

Talking Android, there is one favorite application of mine, which made a big deal in my decision: snapseed. Snapseed allows you to not only work with RAW files but also allows for local adjustments (brushes). While using snapseed on my Huawei P9 is pretty fun, the screen of the phone is rather small in comparison to my fingers. Now, snapseed is available to me on an 11 inch touchscreen - very very cool!
Originally, and I shared that with friends, I had the 13 inch version of the chromebook, the Acer R13, on my wishlist. However, the R13, having a 1080p screen, lacks in a single but essential feature: a fullsize SDHC card-reader. When using for photography, you want your device to accept fillsize SD cards, no matter what!
Message to Acer: replace the microSD card reader with a fullsize SD card reader.
As added benefit the R11 fits into the bag I am using to go to my classes. "Classes?" you may ask... Yes, I am back to university, sitting classes with peers half my age. Coool, eh?!

There are things I do not like about the device, in particular when the device is in tablet mode. For a tablet, the device is pretty heavy to my taste. When grabbing the "tablet", one grabs into the keyboard or the clicky touchbad, which feels very strange. Yes, those devices are all deactivated in tablet more, but still... it feels just weird.
Multitouch gestures, i.e. more than 2, are a bit confusing and hard to replicate in a productive manner.

The shell of the device is made from white plastics. Which looks incredibly cheap, however, feels pretty solid. Cool move! Who wants to nick a cheap plastic netbook, when there are supreme solid aluminium devices are available? In addition to that... is stolen, my data is still with me, on my account in the cloud.

Concerning compute power, finally there is a chromebook fit for music reproduction. There are a few DJ-applications out there for chrome, however, many of the regular chromebooks, at least the ones I used, struggled severly when throughing high bitrate audio at them... it seem that the 4 Celeron cores are doing a pretty decent job here. I had some frozen screens when audio spectra were processed, but, the music did not stop or stutter at all during the processing. I would go so far to state that I would be confident of play music for an entire night using some USB storage devices and the R11.

Conclusion: if there is a device I would be able to recommend in 2017 it is the Acer R11 (CB5-132T).

Friday, March 24, 2017

Printer HP LaserJet Pro MFP M130fw

Sorry for the long silence on this channel. There were so many things on my plate, I had no time sharing any of my latest IT (Linux) adventures.

For my place in TO (Toronto, Ontario), I thought it might be important to finally upgrade my IT with a printer. And talking printer, I envisioned a laser printer, for documents and boarding passes ;-)
There was a sales campaign with HP going on. So, I ended up with buying a relatively recent model, which is able to also scan (copy and fax).

My IT in Toronto is all based on Linux Mint 18.1 MATE. The printer, being a recent model, is not (yet) supported in Linux. However, the model is also a cloud printer. So, while I wait for native support, I linked it up to hpeprint, which allows for printing PDFs by sending emails to hpeprint.com.

Concerning scanning, a similar email based approach can be selected. However, the printer can connect to SMB-shares on Linux Mint.

In order to configure the printer, connect to its web-server using it IP address. I recommend to assign an address in your router's DHCP-server.

Now that we are talking SAMBA (SMB), I might just drop a few word about Linux Mint's caja-share file browser's inability to connect to shares.
This is not a fault of caja-share. It is not a fault of the samba-server in Linux Mint.
The problem lays in the file /etc/samba/smb.conf ... locate this:
# Change this to the workgroup/NT-domain name your Samba server will part of
        workgroup = workgroup
        name resolve order = bcast hostand add the line in boldface.
Don't forget to restart your smbd!
Having done that, not only Linux Mint computers will be able to share directories, also the HP LaserJet MFP M130 will be able to connect to the shares and depose files in said shares.

Taking it back to the printing aspect of the HP device. Installing cloud services was working fine in my environment. While the "All-in-One Remote" and "HP ePrint" apps are working fine on my Android phone, the HP Print Plugin is unable to locate the printer in my network...



Sunday, January 1, 2017

Acer C7 Chromebook on Linux for good

Having played with the device again for a while, I realized that not that much changed concerning the use of Chromebooks. With C7 with its HDD is surely less snappy as the Samsung Chromebook, although graphics performance is a lot better.
I figure, a real chromebook needs to be used in the cloud and not as a standalone device. All in all, 300GB of storage don't seem to make a lot of sense.

New BIOS

The decision to flash the Acer C7's BIOS fell yesterday.
The following 2 pages contain all the information needed to do so:
https://www.coreboot.org/Chromebooks
https://johnlewis.ie/custom-chromebook-firmware/rom-download/

Should you need visualization, Johnny Phung made a comprehensive video. Johnny also got a video for getting Linux on the device.

Thanks to John's work, the process of backing up the original ROM is a lot easier. John hosts a script which takes care of everything, you have to be online to run it though.
Installing coreboot with a SeaBIOS payload was the easiest thing in the world!

Linux

My choice of distribution fell on Linux Mint 18.1 64bit (MATE) https://linuxmint.com/ , since I already made a USB dongle for this distro. Further reasons (actually reasons why I created the dongle in the first place) Linux Mint MATE is relatively lightweight, still very comfortable.

The installation was pretty straight forward. Although here is a slight change a made: using 4GB for swap rather than 2GB as suggested by the installer. A personal choice, nothing spectacular.


After the install there were 2 things not working, not at all: the touchpad and the special function keys.

Most important piece, the touchpad.
Searching here and there, this page popped up: http://marstella.net/?p=278
Some searching in my little minted C7 revealed, the cyapa module seems now part of the chromeos-laptop module.
KI4GDT, the author, indicates the importance of the order in which modules are loaded. It seems, with the chromeos-latop module loaded first, everything goes belly up. To blacklist the module appears a good idea (/etc/modprobe.de/blacklist.conf).
For reasons unknown to me, loading the modules with /etc/modules did not work; yes, I know, it should.
I am a pragmatic guy, so I placed the following lines in /etc/rc.local
modprobe i2c-i801
modprobe i2c-dev
modprobe chromeos-laptop

Now, the touchpad works just fine.

The function keys for audio volume control.
This was certainly a lot easier to fix. Linux Mint offers a configuration tool for keyboard shortcuts.
Menu => Preferences => Keyboard Shortcuts
My choice: MUTE [ctrl]-F8; Volume down [ctrl]-F9; Volume up [ctrl]-F10
In this way, the F-keys are still available for other purposes.

The function keys for screen brightness control.
There might be a more elegant solution using mate-power-control.
My approach: xbacklight.
Here is what needs to be done (in a terminal) to install it:
sudo apt-get install xbacklight
In the keyboard shortcuts application you need to create "Custom Shortcuts" by pressing the add button. I created the following:
Name: Backlight darker - Command: xbacklight -dec 5 - assigned to [ctrl]-F6
Name: Backlight brighter - Command: xbacklight -inc 5 - assigned to [ctrl]-F6
With every hit of the respective shortcut, the brightness of the display varies by 5%.

Conclusion

The performance of the Acer C7 could certainly be improved by the use of an SSD. For my purposes, this won't be required.
My C7 came with 2GB of RAM in a single module. Since RAM is so cheap nowadays, I might just get another 2GB module.

Monday, December 19, 2016

ACER Chromebook mounts SMB shares

A few years ago, you might actually find it on this blog, I bought an ACER Chromebook. At the time, the hope was to hack it, get some 3rd party BIOS on it, or temper with it in weird ways. Nothing of that happened actually.

Chrome-OS serves the purpose in most cases. The interesting bit about the ACER was that it is provided with decent mass storage. Getting data on said thing mass storage is a totally different beast.
Lately, I found a little piece of software that allows to mount samba-shares:
https://github.com/yoichiro/chromeos-filesystem-cifs
In the Chrome Web Store, look for: File System for Windows.

There seem to be other solutions too, the above mentioned works for me, since my file server offers smb service.

The plan is to fill the HDD with media and have a cheap walk about chromebook for media reproduction.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

That was stupid!

Nothing wrong with my HP ProBook running OS-X El Capitan, I was tempted to install Sierra (for no good reason). Guess what... it all failed.

More shocking, it took me 3 days (evenings that is, since during the day, I do perform some sort of day-job).
To be learned from that: change the HDD/SDD before attempting to upgrade. A strategy I was doing before, which never was needed... now that I did not follow it, it was :-(

Anyway, I had my backup... and after some failing attempts, I got my backup restored.

The HP ProBook is back to being a HackBookPro :-)


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Ferment Your Brew Keeping the Carbonation

Yep, this is about brewing and fermenting again. I have not written about this topic often, but I believe it is worth sharing a quick tip for guys who make their own beer (and other carbonated alcoholic drinks).

Today, it is all about keeping the carbon dioxide in your brew (the easy way).

My present technique is to brew my mash, let it chill down to about 24 degrees centigrade and infect it with the yeast of my choice. 4 to 6 days later, I should have my young beer. So for, so traditional, you know all about this!

The next steps from here could be either filling the young beer into bottles (glass of what have you) and add some sugar or in a keg (adding carbon dioxide from a bottle).
The cheap chap that I am, I can't be bothered with a keg and all the fuzz with bottles of CO2, regulators and stuff. Too much going on here.
I also hate to clean, prime, fill and cap 50 to 100 bottles when the primary fermentation is done.

So, this is what I came up with.
I am filling (after cleaning and priming) decently sized PVC soda containers with my young beer. Of course, a soda container will never withstand the full pressure of beer in a secondary carbonizing fermentation. Here, today's tip comes in: Pat Mack's Home Brewing Caps.
If you can ferment your brew using those caps and soda bottles in primary, secondary should not big of a deal at all.

So, rather than getting a 20 liters keg for €200 (not including the CO2-system), I use 10 of those caps on 10 pcs 2 liter bottles of soda (bought at the right super-market, are costing next to nothing).

Given advantage: when the beer in the specially capped soda bottled is matured, you can cool and open a bottle at random times, not having to care much about the remainders of the batch, contrary to an entire batch filled into a single 20 liters container.

Cheers, 17!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Surprised by Win10

Yep, this is about Windows!


In my living room, hooked up to my TV, I am running a EeeBox-PC, one that came with Windows7 and 2GB of RAM. The thing was not ideal, but it was ok, running Win7, for displaying Youtube at 360p. And this is what that particular unit was used for.


Some month ago, I got this little tray icon, indicating that I would get Win10. "Why not?" crossed my mind.


Tonight, I finally got Win10 installed on the box, early, I figure. The upgrade was pretty smooth, nothing to report.


The Win10 OS seems to handle OK. Sure, I still got to figure out this and that... However, now, under Win10, the small Atom-based PC shows Youtube at 720p w/o any problems. That alone was worth the (free) upgrade to me.


Just a first time experience. Could be that some updates will spoil the fun... that is was I experienced before with Microsoft products. Fingers crossed that Win10 wont be overloaded in time, ending up as a sluggish OS once again.