Enable Ubuntu Unity


I have been having problems with Ubuntu Unity on my Parallels VM, that I was finally able to resolve with help from the Ubuntu forums. It turns out Ubuntu Unity Plugins was disabled for some reason.

Use the following sequence of commands to run CompizConfig Settings Manager.

sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager
export DISPLAY=:0
ccsm

Select Ubuntu Unity Plugin. Check Enable Ubuntu Unity Plugin if it is disabled. Enable other required plugins if you are prompted to do so.

Posted in Miscellaneous

Lumia 630


A couple of years back I never thought I’d be buying a Windows phone. At R$ 320 (approximately US$ 104) I found a Lumia 630 to be a really good upgrade for my wife, after a LG L40 she’d been using.

Nokia Lumia 630

Here’s what I like about it:

  • 4.5 inch screen with good viewing angles and blacks.
  • Nice sturdy plastic body.
  • Replaceable 1830 mAh battery. The phone lasts almost two days on a charge without heavy use.
  • Dual Sim.
  • Quad-core Snapdragon 430 with sensor core technology for activity tracking.
  • 5 megapixel back camera with autofocus.
  • Digital TV.
  • It’ll get a free update to Windows 10 for phones.

Here’s what could be better:

  • It has 512 MB of RAM. The kinds of apps my wife uses hardly demand any more.
  • No camera flash. The situations where that would help are very few. It does make a handy flashlight though.
  • No screen brightness adjustment based on ambient light.
  • Mail app could integrate better with GMail. Windows 10’s new Outlook app will hopefully fix that.
Posted in Review, Windows

Listening to FM radio using RTL-SDR


I am tinkering with an RTL-SDR dongle to listen to FM radio, on a MacBook Pro with OS X Yosemite, and a Windows 8.1 VM running on Parallels Desktop 10. There are several software options available. I’ll go into those that I tried, others that I didn’t, and one that is surprisingly good.

librtlsdr

This is a multi-platform library available as open source. On Mac OS X, you can obtain it using homebrew

brew install librtlsdr

Here’s how you can use the rtl_fm sample available with the library, to record wide-band FM

rtl_fm -f 88700000 -M wbfm - | ffmpeg -f s16le -ar 17000 -ac 2 -i - wbfm.wav

I pipe the output of rtl_fm, which is in signed 16-bit little-endian PCM format, to ffmpeg to produce a WAV file. The WAV file can then be played using Audacity, or any music player of your choice.

SDR#

SDR# is a Windows freeware that used to be open source in the past. It is fairly easy to listen to FM radio by following the SDR# FM radio tutorial from Adafruit. The quality of audio is not so good on a Windows VM.

I attempted to build an older open source version of SDR# using Xamarin Studio for Mac OS X. It fails to run because run-time dependencies such as libsndfile and portaudio, installed through homebrew, are 64-bit binaries. 64-bit build of mono 3.12.0 and libgdiplus (the latter depends on cairo installed through homebrew) from source also does not work due to crash in native code invoked by System.Windows.Forms.XplatUICarbon.CGDisplayBounds. Windows Forms on 64-bit Mono on Mac OS X is currently a no-go.

There’s HDSDR, another Windows freeware, that I haven’t tried. A Mac OS X port of gnuradio is something else I want to try, but it is only available through MacPorts. I don’t use MacPorts, and building gnuradio from source looks daunting due to the number of dependencies.

Radio Receiver Chrome App

Radio Receiver

The open source Radio Receiver App from a developer at Google, is probably the best way to listen to FM radio using RTL-SDR. The sound quality is awesome, and it’s mostly implemented in JavaScript! How cool is that!?

Posted in .NET, HTML, JavaScript, SDR

Why Apple should do more


Apple is a phenomenally successful company. It does not behoove it to be stingy in fixing inherent problems in its devices. Why did it take so long and a class action suite to instate the MacBook Pro Repair Extension Program for Video Issues?

This is not the only instance where they’ve actually messed up but not fessed up. I’ve been sitting on an iPhone 4S with a Wi-Fi issue, apparently caused by a flawed chip that cannot handle enough heat. That problem appeared after two years of use, but many have encountered it right after unboxing.

I didn’t actually contact Apple, but those who did were offered not so cheap replacement options. Apple being Apple, shouldn’t be stingy about fixing its problems. I haven’t purchased an iPhone from Apple since I encountered the Wi-Fi issue. I’d rather purchase a cheap Android phone than an expensive iPhone that cannot last two years without exhibiting a serious issue.

Posted in Product, Rant

Moto E


Moto E

I just bought a Moto E for my daughter. At R$ 360, approximately $ 140, it is quite cost-effective. It’s in white, has digital TV, and comes with a couple of extra back covers. Here’s what I like about it in comparison to an LG L40 (D175F) I bought almost a year back

  • At 1 GB, it has twice the RAM of the L40
  • 5 MP back camera
  • A 4.3 inches, 256 ppi (540 x 960 pixels) display
Posted in Android, Review

Recursively copy to output in msbuild project


I have this very specific need to copy all files and folders from a source folder, to the project build output, akin to xcopy. Here’s an AfterBuild target that does that.

  <Target Name="AfterBuild">
    <ItemGroup>
      <HtmlContentSource Include="..\html\**\*.*" Exclude="Web.config"/>
    </ItemGroup>
    <Message Text="### Copy HTML content ###" Importance="high" />
    <Copy
        SourceFiles="@(HtmlContentSource)"
        DestinationFiles="@(HtmlContentSource -> '$(OutputPath)\html\%(RecursiveDir)%(Filename)%(Extension)')"
        SkipUnchangedFiles="true"
    />
  </Target>

It uses MSBuild transforms.

Posted in .NET, Windows

Comparison of Personal Finance Apps


Here’s a comparison of personal finance based on features I’ve come to consider as necessary. After using Pocket Money for three years, I have chosen Account Tracker as my app of choice.

Personal Finance Apps

Posted in Product, Review, Survey
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