Category: Geekitude

SystemUpdates by Zzte on Axon 7

My secondary phone line (used for work) is on a ZTE Axon 7 running Android 7.1.1. A little while ago, I found an app that was running called SystemUpdates by Zzte. The app can not be uninstalled nor easily disabled. (You can use Settings > Apps > Show system apps > System Updates > disable, but this has other repercussions like no longer being able to perform system updates.)

The reviews of this app on the Android Play Store imply that SystemUpdates is malware. A quick Google search on the app seems to confirm it. Until you dig a bit deeper and find out that apparently SystemUpdates by Zzte is an official ZTE application, confirmed by a ZTE community rep on the Axon 7 forums. However, after reading an article on Digital Trends about Chinese spyware installed on devices, I have my doubts. (ZTE is on the list of devices manufacturers, but Huawei is not.)

Like the other people on the Google Play store who found this app and had no idea what it was doing on my device, I opted to do a hard reset and restore the factory default settings on the phone. Other people had claimed that this got rid of the application. It does not. App is still present on the phone. Now, this makes sense if the SystemUpdates app is indeed an official ZTE application required to perform system updates.

So now I’m stuck with a reset phone and can no longer access my work email on any of my devices. Tech support and I are going to have some fine quality time on Monday at work.

Meanwhile, given the questions I have about the ZTE phone and the possibility of the manufacturer installing applications I don’t want to have on the device, I’m looking at other options.

I’m investigating unlocking the bootloader on the ZTE Axon 7 and installing Lineage OS 15.1 (Android 8.1 ROM). This does not look like a method for the faint of heart. My phone is a USA unlocked model on build b35. The steps required for installing a different ROM on a phone varies depending upon the build number and version of Android that is installed. Honestly, it gets confusing. I’ve watched several hours of YouTube videos watching how people have tried various ROMs which gave me an idea of the overall process. I’ve read a lot of posts on the XDA, ZTE Axon forums, and reddit.

The method I’m going to try is this one: [GUIDE][TREBLE] Axon 7 Custom OREO ROM installation for newbies – 2018.08.05 by Oki. It seems to be a safe, all-in-one solution. (Well, as much as any of this process is safe when there is a good chance I’ll brick the phone.)

I will post updates on this process as I do it. This is the first time I’ve flashed a ROM on an Android phone. I used to flash the ROM on the Nokia N900 to various versions of developer ROMs, but that was easy because the phone was completely unlocked and was meant to be a developer’s device. And it was a great phone.

Bookmarking the pages I’ve been using: 

CM QuickFire TK on Mac OS Yosemite

A friend of mine at work gave me my first mechanical keyboard, an older, well-loved Razer with either brown or blue switches. I loved typing on it. Unfortunately, the connector cable has been losing its connection and it would quit working.

If you are a touch typist like me, mechanical keyboards offer a different feel than regular keyboards. The feel of each key can be customized by changing switches. Google differences in switches for mechanical keyboards and you’ll find a wealth of information. Brown switches are usually one of the best choices for typing. They are clicky, but not as clicky as the blues.

I found a CoolMaster QuickFire TK on Amazon for about $55 (Warehouse deal), which is a great price for the mechanical keyboard. (It’s also backlit and pretty, which doesn’t hurt.) The keyboard is short enough to fit in my small keyboard drawer, too, which is a bonus. However, the product description does not include support for Mac OS. I took a chance and ordered the keyboard. (Any firmware updates will have to be done from a Windows box or VM, which will be interesting since I don’t have either.)

I’ve found two issues with the keyboard so far: the numlock didn’t work (only had access to arrow keys) and the keyboard didn’t work after the system went into hibernate. I have to reboot the computer to correct the issue. Unplugging and plugging back in the keyboard doesn’t seem to help.

The Geek Hack keyboard enthusiasts forum posted a solution to fix the numpad issue by using either Karabiner or ControllerMate. I opted to use the Karabiner solution and so far it seems to be working great. Numpad issue is gone. We’ll see if that corrects the other hibernate-no-worky problem.

Enabling Edimax AC1200 adapter on El Capitan

I replaced my reliable Linksys 54G router with a new ASUS model available from T-Mobile, a “Personal Cellspot” router available to customers. It’s a rebranded ASUS AC1900 wifi router, which, for $25 deposit, is a no-brainer.

I live in a row of townhouses with a lot of wifi networks. Every house seems to have one or more networks. Lots of conflicts. The wifi apps that can help recommend a channel to use to have better reception didn’t find any available channels on the 2.4 GHz networks.

I have a 2009 Mac Pro upstairs, at the farthest point away from the only cable connection in the house. To get network connectivity to the Mac Pro, I could use wifi, pull an ethernet cable, or use a powerline adapter. I tried the wifi option first, with mixed results. Hackintosh sites reported good luck using the 300Mbps Wireless N PCI Express adapter from TP-Link (model TL-WN881ND). It’s a relatively inexpensive card, too. I installed the card and the kexts and got Mountain Lion to recognize the card. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a stable wifi connection. The same thing happened with the Edimax AC 1200 dual-band USB adapter. It seemed to work okay, but then would drop connection every few minutes. Neither the PCI card nor the USB adapter was usable.

I ended up purchasing Netgear powerline adapters. They have worked surprisingly well. I have one plugged in behind the router downstairs and another adapter plugged in next to the Mac Pro. The speed tests show that about 12 Mbps down and 5-6 Mbps up (sometimes faster, depending upon who knows what).

After I installed the Personal Cellspot router tonight, I decided to revisit the wifi adapters and see if anything had improved. Edimax hasn’t released the El Capitan drivers for the AC1200 EW-7822UA yet. (Drivers for other OS X versions are available here; you can register to be notified when the El Cap ones are available.)

I found instructions on how to extract the OS X 10.10 drivers from the Edimax OS X 10.10 DMG and get them working on OS X 10.11 for the Edimax AC1200 wireless dual-band USB 2/3 adapter. The Mac Pro can handle simultaneous network connections (has dual ethernet ports, for example). I got the wifi adapter working and set the priority network to be wifi. The adapter is currently connected to the 5Ghz 802.11 AC network.

And then ran some tests using speedof.me, a speed test that runs HTML 5 (not Flash). This site has been my baseline test for the powerline converters and wifi connection speeds.

The ethernet connection I’m using is via a powerline adapter. It connects at about 12-15 Mbps down and 2 Mbps up (6 Mbps up on a really good day).

With the wifi adapter plugged into the USB 2 slot on the front of the machine, I am getting 35 Mbps down and 12 Mbps up.

When I move the wifi adapter to the USB3 PCI card in the back of the machine, the signal strength is slightly diminished. However, the speed is rock solid. I’m getting 61.2 Mbps down (with a max speed of 117.5!) and an upload of 12.22 Mbps, which is basically the same.

Damn! That’s an improvement! The only problem is the wifi adapter sometimes causes the system to randomly reboot. That’s not good. I’ll have to see how frequently that happens.

Update Feb 19, 2016: The wifi adapter driver causes the system to not awaken from hibernation or sleep. When the system goes into hibernation or sleep mode with the wifi adapter active, the system does not respond to keyboard or mouse movements. The only way to reactivate the system is by a hard reboot. However, if I unplug the adapter and quit the wifi enabler software prior to leaving the system, then hibernation and sleep function as expected. The system becomes active again after moving the mouse or typing on the keyboard.

Update Mar 21, 2016: Edimax released drivers for the USB adapter today that support OS X 10.11. I’m going to try these tonight and see how they work. Hopefully the hibernation issue is fixed.

Update Mar 26, 2016: The new drivers appear to work fine. Instead of having to use a Wireless Utility app to control the adapter, the new driver now integrates with the Network control panel and provides a control menu.

Upgrading Mac Pro video card

I upgraded the Mac Pro’s stock video card to a Gigabyte nVidia GeForce GTX 600 with 2 GB of video ram. The card requires a special power cable: PCIe Power Cable for Mac. No local stores had this part in stock, so I ordered it from Amazon. It finally arrived so the card was installed last night.

I followed the video instructions below and had the card installed in a few minutes. It was a little disconcerting because when the system booted the screen remained black until the login screen appeared.

I’ve been running a few days with the card installed. The only problem I’ve had is that the system doesn’t always seem to come back from sleep. When that happens, I end up having to reboot the machine. Not crazy about this but I’m not sure what’s causing the problem.

More investigation, which means another post!

New-to-me Mac Pro

Periodically at work they offer old systems to employees as part of a employee-only sale. For the first time that I can remember, Mac Pros were available. There were a few early 2009 and 2008 models. My friend and I were lucky enough to get the only two early 2009 models left.

I currently have an iMac that I bought in early 2010 (listed as late 2009 model). It has a Core 2 Duo Intel processor. I’ve upgraded it to 8 GB of RAM, which helps. It has a lethargic 256MB video card that barely keeps up with the games I’d like to play. The hard drive was replaced under warranty. The screen is lovely with no bad pixels.

I bought the iMac when my old Hackintosh quit working. What I had really wanted instead of the Hackintosh was a Mac Pro because of the upgrade capabilities and power. Unfortunately, the cost of a Mac Pro was way out of my price range.

Until now. The Mac Pro might be old, but it still has a better processor, graphics card, and upgrade possibilities (four PCIe slots and four hard drive bays!). The system I got had 8 GB of RAM, a 640 GB hard drive, and the standard 512 MB nVidia graphics card. No operating system was installed.

Upgrades for a Mac Pro are different than upgrading a regular PC. Mac-compatible graphics cards are expensive, even old ones. If you know about building hackintoshes, then you know that there is an avid community that has written drivers for dozens of additional pieces of hardware. Why not use the kernel extensions (kexts, the equivalent of drivers) the community has written to enable hardware on a real Mac Pro?

I chose to add a new wifi card, upgrade the video card, upgrade the RAM, and add a new primary hard drive (since the 640 GB was probably original). RAM and hard drive were very easy to do: system now has 32 GB of RAM and a 2 TB hard drive, with the 640 GB available as extra storage space.

Quite a few of the hackintosh sites recommended a TP Link PCI express wifi card. The specific model (4800) wasn’t available locally, but the Wifi-N 300Mbs card (model TL-WN881ND) was in stock at a local shop. I installed the card and found a kext on a hackintosh site that let me get the card up and running immediately. Perfect.

I also got a MSI GTX 660 nVidia card, which should be natively supported from what I read. Unfortunately, I have to order a special power cable to be able to attach the card to the motherboard ($8 on Amazon). Hopefully by the end of the week I will have the system completely configured.

I’m using Migration Assistant tonight to move the data from the iMac to the Mac Pro. The cool thing is that I should be able to get enough from the iMac to cover the cost of the Mac Pro and the upgrades I’ve done.

Talk Nerdy To Me

This nerdy parody of Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty To Me” is so much better than the original. Between this song and the music videos from Jonathan Coulton and The Guild, it’s a pretty good playlist.

Lyrics

Get nerdy wit me…
Tell me what game that you get on, is it COD or EVE?
What kind of class do you play girl, in an RPG?
Cuz I know what them elf girls need, from WOW to M.E. (Middle Earth)
Im goin 30 hours online straight now…
You make it hard to leave

HOOK
Been to Middle Earth, do you speak my language?
Your elf ears don’t need explainin
All I really need for you to do is…just … please
Talk nerdy to me

Get nerdy wit me
You name all twelve of the Docs, I can’t resist that
And what’s the core in your wand? I think that ours match
Cuz I know, with me, you’d get sort, Durmstrang to Hogwarts
Im pretty sure, on me, you’ve cast a curse girl, the imperius one?

HOOK
Been to comic-con, hope you speak my language
Your Harley Quinn don’t need explainin
All I really need for you to do is…just … please
Talk nerdy to me

Bridge:
Uno, met a girl at E3
Dos, she wanted all my XP
Tres, My 64 makes her want me
Cuatro, Oooohhhhhh (vocal run)

(back ground shout: “One Ring!”)

Rap Verse:
Up, up, down, down, forward, back, A, B
You don’t need a cheat code, girl to get with me
Just add my clan tag, bring your high K/D,
Cuz the headshots we’ll be makin will be toppin the team
Or Magic the gatherin, Deck on Deck,
You like Twilight? Ya, I aint touchin your neck
I got nerd friends, but they’re friends with respect
I can call up Iron Man without breakin a sweat!

And I wanna hear your issues, ya, Im talking about your comics,
Cuz the fact of the matter, aint no girl badder than a girl that talks on electronics,
And for us to get along just tell me Lucas got it wrong,
Cuz clearly in Star Wars the first shot was made by Han. (Snap!)

HOOK
Love the Enterprise, now I speak the language
Your warp drive don’t need explainin
All I really need for you to do is…just … please
Talk nerdy to me

Vocals: Keith Evans
Rap: Keith Allen
Lyrics by: Keith Allen

Roku and Plex streaming

Last November, I got fed up with Time Warner being inconsistent in their offering prices. I was told when I moved from the apartment to my house that I could keep my old plan. Great, that worked. Except when I got my first bill, i ended up with a total that was three times the amount I had been playing at the apartment. I called Time Warner several times and each time I was given a different story. Suffice it to say, that I canceled the cable subscription and kept only the high speed internet. (There isn’t another option for reliable high speed internet except DSL.)

I bought a Roku, subscribed to Netflix and Amazon Prime, and haven’t looked back.

A friend of mine gave me a video that I was watching on my little Windows laptop. An 11-inch screen isn’t exactly prime viewing. On a hunch, I figured that there had to be a way to stream from a PC to a Roku. There is a streaming media server software called Plex that allows me to stream the videos you gave me from my Windows PC to my Roku. I’m currently watching Game of Thrones on the TV by streaming it from my PC. How cool is that? There are free and subscription services. I’m only using the free service.

There is a version of Plex available for Mac, Linux, and Windows.

This is really cool.

I love the Roku.

Gaming movies

A friend of mine suggested two movies. One of these I’ve seen before (Gamers: Dorkness Rising) and the other I haven’t seen> I own most of the D&D movies, even the really especially bad ones. Imagine my delight to find out that there is a D&D movie available on YouTube that I hadn’t seen. Here is my viewing for some time later this week.

D&D: The Book of Vile Darkness

The Gamers: Dorkness Rising

Night of the Doctor

BBC has released a mini episode prequel for the Day of the Doctor, which airs next week. This mini episode shows what happens at the end of the 8th Doctor’s life. Finally, Paul McGann is given an official role almost twenty years after the 1996 TV movie aired in the U.S. His Doctor was so happy-go-lucky and was just lovable. I am so glad that he was given the opportunity to do something official. (Now only if they would give him more opportunities. He was brilliant.)

There are even petitions to have Paul McGann come back in some way for more Doctor Who.

Little cuteness has Ubuntu

After many many hours of trying to install Linux Mint on the Acer Aspire V5-122p, I enlisted the Linux  Mint expert at work. (Wave at Nick!) We spent additional hours after work trying to get Mint to work and failed. Horribly. He was as perplexed as I was as to why we couldn’t get Mint to work. (Maybe it had something to do with secure boot or EFI?)

So… we tried Ubuntu 13.04 AMD desktop using the instructions found on the Ubuntu forums which explained how to download and install the correct graphic drivers. We had some wifi issues because the guest network requires a browser to authenticate and that’s not an option available during installation. We ended up copying the drivers to a USB stick and then installing them to the Acer.

Reboot and voila!
ubuntu on Acer V5.

Squeaky was most impressed.

20130926_225155The only trick might be that we might have to reinstall the drivers any time there is a kernel update. That’s okay. It’s working and it’s purty and it isn’t that abomination of an operating system!

Little netbook is dead

My little Acer Aspire One D150 has officially died. Can’t get it to boot and not sure what’s wrong with it. It’s dead dead dead. I’ll have to pull the hard drive and RAM and reformat it to remove any old data. I’m just glad that I don’t use anything local. It’s all backed up on cloud storage.

I’m kinda annoyed because I spent a lot of quality time with it lately. Once I had Mint Linux installed on the D150, I was using it every night for email and writing blog posts. And now I’m left with my desktop (which I almost never use except for gaming and doing things that require some processing power).

The worrying thing is that the last session I used the netbook, I heard a loud pop from the netbook or the power cord. I’m not sure which. From that point on, it hasn’t charged. I’ve used different power cords, done keyboard combinations to tell the computer to boot into bios mode, had the battery in (and out) while trying to power the D150 on. Nothing. No power lights, no screen, no charging light. Nothing.

It’s dead, Jim. (You grab the tricorder, I’ll grab his wallet.)

Which class and alignment are you?

Took the test and was either a 6th level Wizard or a 6th level druid. I’ll take the druid.

I Am A: Neutral Good Human Druid (6th Level)

Ability Scores:
Strength-14
Dexterity-16
Constitution-12
Intelligence-16
Wisdom-17
Charisma-17

Alignment:
Neutral Good A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment when it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Race:
Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Class:
Druids gain power not by ruling nature but by being at one with it. They hate the unnatural, including aberrations or undead, and destroy them where possible. Druids receive divine spells from nature, not the gods, and can gain an array of powers as they gain experience, including the ability to take the shapes of animals. The weapons and armor of a druid are restricted by their traditional oaths, not simply training. A druid’s Wisdom score should be high, as this determines the maximum spell level that they can cast.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

Bye-bye OS X, hello Mint Linux

I reinstalled OS X on the Acer Aspire One D150 and had it running 10.6.3. I left it running (plugged in) while I had dinner. I came back to check on it an hour or so later and it was stuck in a reboot loop. It looked like it had tried to hibernate and then rebooted, tried to restore the hibernated session, and then rebooted. Rinse and repeat.

I tried a lot of things to break it out of the reboot cycle. Using bootloader commands didn’t do anything. I couldn’t get the Acer to boot into safe mode or verbose mode. It would just come up to the bootloader screen, ignore the commands entered, and then try to restore the hibernated session. And then reboot again.

The only option seemed to be reinstalledin OS X for a third time. I had already invested 15 hours into getting this syten to work and decided I was going to do something else.

Plan B involved a bootable 16 GB USB stick that had Mint Linux 15 (MATE), Ubuntu 12, Ubuntu 13, and Fedora on it. (USB stick was configured using YUMI.) Mint loaded and installed with no problems. In all of 15 minutes, my little netbook had new life. Mint boots in seconds. It’s responsive and snappy and makes this little netbook seem like a new system.

I’m really liking Mint so far.