Huawei Mediapad T1

I’ve been contemplating buying a tablet for a year or two now. But had mostly decided against it, mainly due to the lack of use it will get. I had previously owned an IPad 2 which I won in competition in 2012. I had sold it several months after winning it as I wasn’t giving it the use I felt it deserved, and as a student heading off overseas I felt the funds could be put to better use.

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Slots for MicroSD and MicroSIM exposed in top left (tablet’s bottom right)

And I didn’t regret it. Recently however I’ve been travelling more frequently and my future plans appear to contain a lot more travelling too. Specifically flying. I have on several occasions travelled with my laptop. Which is OK. But it’s heavy, bulky and awkward to work on when on the move when you don’t have a desk or somewhere to place it. My phone on the other hand, while being very capable, is not something I’m going to get much work done on.

So for the past few months I’ve been trawling the second hand tablet market. Which in East London is slightly worse than the already poor SA 2nd hand market. Tablets seem to hold their value remarkably well. I’d hoped for an iPad, preferably with a retina display. iPad Air would have been ideal and I was specifically looking for a device with mobile data. The prices however were (for what I was wanting) exorbitant.

3.55mm audio jack, power button and volume rocker

3.55mm audio jack, power button and volume rocker

I tried Android equivalents but they were no cheaper. Eventually resigning my fate to that of a 720p screen. Still in the market I started monitoring specials and deals from the various technology outlets. Eventually settling on a Huawei T1 Mediapad.

And it’s ticked all the boxes. Takealot had it on special and with a significant amount of eBucks I managed to pick it up fairly cheap. Takealot advertised it as a 4Gb model without SD card slot. Research however showed this did not exist, so I ran the risk and ended up with a 16Gb unit that I added a 64gb microSD card to. I ordered a black unit but they delivered a white one. Not the end of the world and I chose to not bother with the return procedure.

charging port at bottom is updside down

charging port at bottom is upside down

It came neatly packaged with earphones I haven’t bothered to use and surprisingly only a 1A charger with separate micro USB cable. Not much else needed. The first thing I noticed when turning it on was the resolution. I didn’t think it would bother me, and I’ve gotten over it with time, but 720p on a 10″ screen in this day and age is a crime. My 3 year old Galaxy S4 has 1080p on a 5″ screen. Tablet still works fine, but low pixel density is noticeable.

The tablet hasn’t give me any trouble really. I’m not a big fan of the EMUI (v3.0) interface and may run a jailbreak at a later stage but will stick it out for now. It gives transparent icons a green background and all apps are on your ‘desktops’. No apps menu. I also prefer hardware interface buttons as opposed to the on-screen ones Huawei use.

Why do icon backgrounds go green?

Why do icon backgrounds go green?

The volume rocker sits directly below the power button which means I regularly turn the screen off instead of changing the volume. Both are located top right which works well. The charger plugs in at the bottom, however goes in upside down. Unusual. Headphone jack located on the top. Right hand side bottom hides the micro SIM and microSD cards. Cameras are nothing to rave about, but I won’t use them for anything more than Skype for which they are adequate.

The 4G works well and the phone allows for voice calls and SMS as well. The tablet runs Android KitKat and besides Google Camera not working, I haven’t experienced any other major problems. At times the tablet will freeze momentarily. This is most noticeable when playing music and doing something else where the music will not play for a short time before continuing. This is noticeable in some other apps too when you push a button and it will freeze for a short time. Although slightly annoying it doesn’t majorly impede the use of the tablet and I’m not sure of the exact cause.

Overall I’ve been happy with the performance of the tablet. I’m by no means a power user and am slowly finding more and more uses for the tablet. Another slight annoyance is the lack of locally available covers for the Media pad. I’ve had to resign to doing an eBay order to get one which will probably still take another month (took 6 weeks in total in the end) to arrive assuming SAPO do their job.IMG_20160515_132852

The touch screen is mostly responsive but can be a bother at times, requiring multiple taps, specifically on smaller targets, to register.

Time goes on and as it does I discover more I like and dislike about the tablet. But I won’t be selling this one any time soon.

Faulty Guitar Hero Guitar – multiple button presses (disassembly)

A friend recently picked up a 2nd hand Guitar Hero guitar. It worked mostly well, but at times when pressing some of the frets, other frets would also register. This makes playing the games normally a nightmare, as you’re currently being penalised for mistakes you didn’t actually make.

I took it apart but couldn’t find much wrong with it, besides some odd design decisions. /start side rant

There are 5 buttons on the fretboard. So if I were to design it, I would have 6 wires, 1 for each button, and one ground. But the fretboard has 8 connectors. I’m not sure if it allows a wire to be damaged and it to continue to work, but it doesn’t seem so. All I can think is that they had 8 pin connectors, and decided to use them. On the guitar itself, the 8 pins connect to a small PCB, with 6 lines coming from it straight to the microcontroller. It confuses me.

/end side rant

I didn’t have any way to test the guitar, so I gave it back, but my friend returned saying it seemed slightly worse. This was concerning. I got him to return it to me so I could take another look, this time requesting the receiver dongle as well so I could do testing myself.

USB Guitar Hero Dongle

USB Guitar Hero Dongle

The USB receiver is detected by Windows, and shows up as a game controller, so it’s quite easy to test the response of the system. What I found is that when the red button was depressed, the yellow button would trigger for a few 100ms as well. And likewise when depressing the yellow button, the red button would also be triggered for a few 100ms.

Windows sees the Guitar Hero as a gamepad, allowing one to monitor the inputs.

Windows sees the Guitar Hero as a gamepad, allowing one to monitor the inputs.

So again I opened up the guitar, spent some time with a multi-meter probing around, but didn’t find much. The connection from the buttons to the microcontroller all seemed to be in order, without any obvious problems. I don’t know what the problem actually was. The soldering on the board was relatively poor in my opinion, quite a bit of splatter, and several potentially joined lines. I took a scalpel to the board and cleared off any extra residue and solder I noted. Plugged everything back in and it all appears to be functioning 100%.

Main PCB, some solder contamination noted.

Main PCB, some solder contamination noted.

Again, I don’t know what was/is actually wrong with the board. Time will tell if the problem reoccurs, but at the moment it seems to be working well.

Disassembly
The guitar is fairly straightforward to disassemble. The fretboard pops out and is secured by multiple Torx-screws, and inside the PCB is secured by the same screws.

Screws to loosen to open fretboard

Screws to loosen to open fretboard

Two screws holding PCB in place. Slight press-fit.

Two screws holding PCB in place. Slight press-fit.

The body of the guitar is similarly assembled. Remove the face plate and loosen all the screws on the back (11 in total, one is hidden behind a ‘warranty void’ sticker). Take care when separating, as the whammy bar needs to be threaded through, and some wires connect the two halves of the guitar together (namely the battery connector), these can be unplugged fairly easily.

Location of screws to loosen to open guitar body

Location of screws to loosen to open guitar body

The main PCB is secured by screws which can be easily removed to give access to the board.

Location of various items within the guitar body

Location of various items within the guitar body

Remington F4790 Partial disassembly

Recently the foil on my Remington F4790 got a hole in it, it makes the foil and cutter part of the razor unusable. While I placed replacement foils on order, I figured I’d just use the trimmer, but then trimmer stopped working.

Apologies for the poor image quality, they’re screengrabs from a video.

The foil and the cutters pop straight off with a little bit of a pull. Thereafter there are two small screws at the hinge point which can be loosened.
GP012706.MP4_snapshot_00.01_[2015.10.13_19.56.49]The foil and cutter head then comes out. Take care when reassembling to align the pop-out with the slot on the head.GOPR2706.MP4_snapshot_10.54_[2015.10.13_19.59.41]

From here there are 4 screws easily accessible that can be loosened.

GOPR2706.MP4_snapshot_01.24_[2015.10.13_19.57.57]A black rubber seal is then visible, which comes off easily to reveal two white plastic mechanisms which are driven by a motor. Align the drive shaft (1) on the motor so that the point is away from the trimmer. Plastic mechanism [2] can come straight off. Plastic mechanism [3] drives the trimmer and has a shaft going down. It can now be lifted out.GP012704.MP4_snapshot_00.53_[2015.10.13_20.09.58]There’s a round rubber seal between the trimmer and the motor housing which must be removed. The trimmer must now be fully extended. With a bit of jiggling the trimmer will come out completely. There is a metal spring near the bottom which might catch, see below.GOPR2705.MP4_snapshot_08.02_[2015.10.13_20.04.40]The trimmer is unfortunately a sealed mechanism. The outer casing is two parts which look like they clipped into each other, but looks like some heat was used to ‘seal’ it. Anyway, I pried it apart, because there was nothing left to do. Not too much seemed to break.

GP012704.MP4_snapshot_04.37_[2015.10.13_20.10.55]When I opened it up it was clogged up with hair preventing it from moving. I cleared all of it up, and the cover fortunately managed to clip back together and seemed to hold.GOPR2705.MP4_snapshot_03.06_[2015.10.13_20.02.47]I don’t really know how to disassemble the razor further. There are two screws visible, but loosening them doesn’t achieve anything. Through the clear motor housing other screws can be seen connecting it to the outer case, but no way to access them.

GP012704.MP4_snapshot_00.24_[2015.10.13_20.09.25]

I think the outer case is all just clipped together, but felt nervous in forcing it apart when I still want to use the razor. If my foils don’t make it in the post, then maybe I’ll do it, but for now I can’t see any further way to take the razor apart besides forcing the outer casing apart.

Chromecast – first thoughts

A friend got his hands on a Chromecast recently, but due to some technical restrictions was unable to use it, as such he lent it to me to give it a twirl. A Chromecast has been on my wishlist for quite a while. I really like the idea of the product, but the I haven’t been able to warrant the price of buying one when I have a PS3 plugged into my TV which will accomplish most of the things I want a Chromecast for.

chroneSetup was a cinch. Plug the Chromecast into an HDMI port and a USB port on your TV and it’s set up its own wi-fi hotspot. I installed the Chromecast app on my Android phone and connected directly to the Chromecast. Then used that connection to get my Chromecast onto my home wi-fi, after that I was good to go, or so I thought.

First thing I wanted to do was play music from my phone onto the TV. Open my default music app (Samsung Music) and continually press the ‘cast’ button, but am unable to find any devices. Realise this isn’t a Chrome’cast’ icon but  a Samsung feature. Decide to try Google Music instead. Surely. First I had to re-enable it. Can’t find a ‘cast’ icon. Update Google Music, still can’t find a ‘cast’ icon.

Samsung Music App

Samsung Music App

After much Googling, still can’t find out why my ‘cast’ icon isn’t showing, but find out that it will anyway only allow you to play music in your Google Music cloud, of which mine is empty. Give up. Open Youtube app, works perfectly. Youtube takes a bit longer to open on the Chromecast itself than what I’d like, but after its loaded it works fairly well.

After a while I found the LocalCast app. Install that and am finally able to play music from my phone onto the Chromecast. However the free version has horrendous advert implementation. After a few songs a video ad would start playing on my phone, and at the end of the advert the music would stop casting to the TV, this happened on several occasions.

Give up and try Soundcloud app. This worked fairly well, however after listening for a while, when the next song would come on, it would first play on my phone speaker for 10s before jumping over to the Chromecast, slightly annoying. I eventually gave-up on the phone and started playing with Chrome on my PC.

chromeI installed the browser’s Chromecast extension and connected to my Chromecast. Amongst other things this lets you cast your browser tab to the TV. This worked very well. I ended up playing individual podcasts and Soundcloud from my browser to the TV.

I then installed the recommended Videostream extension. From this I managed to watch videos on my TV. This worked relatively well, although depending on the file format, I could watch flawless 720p video, or get buffering issues on a 360p clip. A bit annoying; maybe my wi-fi is partially to blame.

chromeOverall I love the product, the apps however need some work. A lot of work. Maybe I didn’t try hard enough, maybe I should have tried out one of the paid for apps, but I really expected it to be better supported by Google application and extensions. I still don’t have a nice way to play music from my phone or computer in a nice library format.

In any case, I gave the Chromecast back. It’s still on my wishlist, and if there’s a massive sale I might buy one, but not at the R650 Takealot is asking.