Android Timer Fault

Android Jelly Bean suffers a weird problem when setting a timer that is not on a ten minute interval.

I first noticed it when setting a timer for frozen pizza. They take 12 minutes, but I found that the alarm didn’t sound until much later. With some experimentation it seems that asking for a timer to be set over 10 minutes, but not at a ten minute interval, breaks things. It adds 90 minutes to the time.

Timer fault on Android
Illustration of Android timer fault

In this example I said “set a timer for 12 minutes”. As you can see from the time in the top right corner it was just after 10pm. The timer should have been set for 10.14pm but has been set for 11.44pm. If a request is made to “set a timer for 20 minutes” it seems to work.

I see this fault on both my phone (HTC One S running 4.1.1) and my Nexus 7 (4.2.2).

This issue seems to be fixed by recent updates.

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Laptops and Linux

I’m looking for a laptop and it’s proving very difficult! This will be my main machine, used for programming and general web stuff. It must run Linux, preferably Fedora. This is what I’m after:

  • 14 or 15 inch display with better than 1366 by 768 resolution
  • Graphics card that is supported under Linux. Needs to be good enough to run Gnome 3 but it won’t be used for games, so integrated graphics are fine
  • DVD re-writer, not bothered about Blu-Ray
  • 256Gb SSD drive (128Gb would do)
  • Intel Core i5 or better
  • Decent battery life
  • Backlit keyboard
  • USB 3 port(s)

I’m working up a table of manufacturers/models which I’ll publish here soon. In the mean time, any pointers would be very welcome. Thanks!

Update 1: Dell Latitude are looking like the favourite at the moment. Only missing USB 3.

Update 2: After much deliberation I have gone for a Dell Vostro 3550. The other factor that I didn’t include above is now much I’m willing to pay for a laptop. The Latitude looks great, but at nearly £1,500 it’s way too expensive. (It also doesn’t have USB 3 ports.) The Vostro doesn’t match on a few of the requirements; resolution is 1366 by 768 and the hard drive is a 320Gb SATA, though spinning at 7,200 RPM. Given that my current laptop is an Asus A6000 the new machine should be a joy to use!

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Libraries, bookshops and e-readers

Recently I nipped out of the office at lunchtime to get some air. I called into WHSmith, not for any particular reason, just to browse I suppose, and saw the book to the right: The Most Human Human

The cover is delightful, the title intriguing; I picked it up and began to read. It was fascinating! I wanted it. Whilst Amazon do their best to feed me adverts for stuff I might want, bookshops offer the opportunity to easily discover books quite by accident. However, I have found that WHSmith always have higher prices than any other shop. I checked Amazon, found it on Kindle and within minutes had it on my phone at half the price.

I have also been visiting the library every week recently to get books for Wendy (my partner). She broke her ankle and was in plaster. She reads crime novels, lots of crime novels, more so whilst she was off sick. These events lead me to consider libraries, bookshops and e-readers.

I’m opposed to Kindle for a number of reasons:

  • Kindle uses a DRM format
  • Users can’t easily share or pass on content
  • The format doesn’t allow for easy navigation
  • You can’t borrow Kindle books from the library

The first of two of these are obvious, the third and forth perhaps less so. I find that because an e-book has no physical form it’s not so easy to comprehend where I am in the book. With a physical book "about half way" has a meaning, it feels like half-way. It’s also fast and easy to flip between pages, useful when reading technical matter. Page numbers are also rather meaningless. For example, a quick check of the book I’m currently reading (Bravo Two Zero) gives my position as 847 of 7340. Is that 7,340 pages? If I had a Kindle, with it’s larger display, would I have fewer pages? It doesn’t make sense.

The restrictions make it difficult to borrow books from a library, but not impossible. But it’s not how Amazon anticipate users will use the books. They want users to buy the book, even if they only read it once. This is how Wendy reads crime novels; once. I keep a list of books that I have borrowed for her, to avoid duplicates. If she had purchased these on Kindle, at an estimate of £5 each, it would have cost her over £100. That’s a lot of money for books that she won’t read again and can’t pass on to friends/charity shops.

On the other hand though I find Kindle (on my phone) useful:

  • I always have a book to hand if I’m bored
  • I can carry many books and I don’t even realise it
  • I can read at night in the dark
  • If I see a book I like I can get it immediately at a reasonable price

So as you can see, I’m torn. What are your thoughts about e-books?

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Android Testing

The Art of Agile Development, by James Shore and Shane Warden is an excellent book. I recently read it and found it inspiring. Whilst many of the practices don’t work for a lone developer, test driven development seems like it will.

So now I’m trying to set up unit testing for when I’m developing Android appications. However, I found the guidance on the Android developer website unclear. Having spent some time getting frustrated at my apparent inability to follow simple instructions I made it past the first step. I share that first step in the hope that I can help others.

The developer notes give examples using relative paths. I found that this didn’t work. Here is the relevant folder structure for my application, which is called Aoide.

~\
  Android\
          aoide\
                AndroidManifest.xml
                build.properties
                build.xml
                default.properties
                local.properties
                proguard.cfg
                bin\
                gen\
                libs\
                res\
                src\

The Testing Fundamentals page shows that I want to create a tests folder in the aoide folder. I found this command, run from the Android directory, worked for me:

tools/android create test-project -m ~/Android/aoide \
    -n AoideTest -p ~/Android/aoide/tests

Now to figure unit tests…

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Internet Explorer #fail #hate

I was asked if I could create a page on the intranet that had navigation something like this:

Page navigation with heading left and two rows of four buttons

This is the Firefox rendered version, I don’t have the original Word document. The requested design had top right corners clipped, but Sharepoint messes with CSS. I created it with HTML/CSS as a list, so that it would degrade nicely. I just sat there, design on one display editing on the other. After a while you understand the language. You know what to alter in the code to make it look right. A few iterations and I was happy with it, so I published it.

Now, I’m lucky enough to be allowed to use Firefox in the office. Everyone else uses Internet Explorer. I have IE8 installed on my machine. I didn’t test it in IE (yeah, I know!) I just assumed that it would look ok.

I rang the requester. They weren’t happy with the result:

broken rendering in Internet Explorer

Well, I can see why! So I checked it in Chrome:

Page navigation rendered by Chrome, heading top left, two rows of four buttons

Chrome and Firefox agree on what it should look like.

And this is why I hate Internet Explorer! It takes my thoughts, my translation of them into HTML/CSS, and completely mangles them! It’s not the first time I’ve seen this either. Previously I have had minutes render as I invisaged in Firefox, Opera, Safari and Chrome but fail in IE.

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Gingerbread [part 2]

A follow up to my last past.

Don’t Bother!

If you have an HTC Desire and you’re considering installing the developer update then don’t bother. HTC still include lots of crap that you don’t want and hide/replace the Google goodness that you do want.

I have been asked about battery life. It might be a little better, I have no hard figures, but after a few weeks of general use I have to say that I am underwhelmed. WiFi notification is annoying, but probably a result of improvements to aid power conservation. I got to the point where I tried to root the phone so I could clear stuff off it. I can’t do this now as the software is too new.

I have also noticed that synchronisation fails when storage falls below the threshold; 15MB on the Desire. Is this and Gingerbread feature?

Apps

It would also be really good is developers made their applications installable to the SD card. None of the Twitter clients that I’ve tried (Tweetdeck, Seesmic, Twitter) will do this. Google+ won’t either, and at 8MB it’s pretty big. I know that there are limiting factors. Applications that run as a service, for example, must be installed on the phone. But I also believe that this is easy to work around, perhaps by spliting the application into two parts. (The Ebay application provides notifications but can be moved to the SD card.)

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Gingerbread

Upgraded my HTC Desire to Gingerbread today.

The upgrade was promised some time ago but then HTC said that there wasn’t enough memory. There was outcry and, after removing some of the Sense UI stuff they freed enough space. However, the update is “only intended for developers”. I read one blog saying that there might be issues with SMS and MMS messages. I did wonder if, post update, I had a Wi-Fi issue, but it seems okay after a power cycle.

The Update Process

This was annoying. I downloaded the zip file and unpacked it only to find that I needed a Windows PC. I run Fedora on both my desktop and my laptop. I borrowed my daughter’s laptop. Next, I had to install HTC Sync. This required Adobe AIR and three other components. (All were included in the HTC install file, no wonder it’s 55MB!) The update did run smoothly and quickly once it started. There were plenty of warnings too. Rightly so; all operator content, messages, contacts, settings got wiped. Like it says, backup before installing!

Benefits

Not many!

If I’d known how little difference it would make I wouldn’t have bothered. I wanted the pretty new keyboard and more space. I’ve got a little more space, but the keyboard is still HTCs version and there are still many HTC applications that I don’t want and can’t delete. The Stocks tracker – not interested. And why does the HTC mail application take 3.95MB. I don’t use it, I use GMail and that takes 1.47MB. Are they the same?

The way that Wi-Fi works seems slightly more annoying. It tells me that a network is available, long enough for me to wonder if it will connect. It does connect, most of the time, I think. Perhaps the signal threshold has been changed.

Update: I’ve come to the conclusion that if the signal is weak then no attempt is made to connect, just notification given that a wireless network has been detected.

Power management is another improvement, but I’ll have to see how it goes for a while before I can tell if that is improved.

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Photographer?

A fellow photographer posted an interesting article asking “Does Photo Editing Dilute True Photography?”. It raises a number of questions that are now swimming around my head demanding answers.

In camera

Lynda uses a term “straight out of the camera (SOOC)” and argues that there is no such thing. I see what she is saying, but I disagree. From the reading I’ve done on the way that digital cameras work, they are somewhat more complex than a lens focusing light onto a sensor. I recall that Canon had a problem (with the 5D?) that caused image defects under certain extreme conditions; it must be quite a complex process.

I would hope that I could pick up any digital camera and obtain a similar result from each. There will be differences, the closely guarded proprietary secret algorithms used to convert sensor data to (usually) JPEG. So all digital cameras do some processing to convert light to a digital image. The processing is done in camera and there is little that the photographer can do to influence it.

Except that the photographer can influence it. With an SLR the photographer can alter the image. They can change the exposure level, add flash, change white balance, effectively crop the image by changing/zooming the lens. Even point and shoot cameras allow the image to be captured in monochrome. All of these changes are “in camera”.

Post-processing

So, is there anything wrong with altering images once they leave the camera? I don’t think that there is, images have many difference uses. If a camera provides the easiest starting point to create an image then so be it. So, as Lynda asked, is photo-editing just a cop-out for the untalented photographer? I don’t know. So I asked myself this:

If you were asked to judge a photography competition then (1) what would be your submission criteria and (2) how would you score the submissions?

Would your entry criteria be point and shoot cameras only? No post-processing? Colour only? Would these criteria exclude a potential Ansel Adams from entering? So what if you allow printed submissions? The film photographer gets a second bite (or nibble perhaps) to influence the image when printing it from the negative.

Pre-processing

D.O.G.So would you allow monochrome submissions to the competition? Would the photographer be allowed to use coloured filters? These can significantly alter the way the camera “sees” light. Is this pre-processing??

Might the composition of the image be considered pre-processing. The image to the right doesn’t truly represent what I could see when I took it. In front of me, out of frame, was the horse box. To my right a wall, my left the steps down to the field. I may have set white balance to daylight, but that’s because cameras struggle with that (see my previous post Whiter than white).

Okay, so I think most would agree that the photographer should be allowed to point the camera where he pleases! But what about a different lens?

One of my favourite photographers is Henri Cartier-Bresson. He is best known for his candid street photography. He used a Leica with a 50mm lens. He didn’t crop the captured images. He never used flash. He didn’t post-process during developing/printing. In 1957 he is quoted as saying:

Photography is not like painting, there is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative, oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever.

Perhaps I shouldn’t call myself a photographer?

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UK Government ICT Strategy

I have read the Government ICT Strategy a few times now. As a user and keen advocate of free/libre open source software I hope that strategy is effective. As a local government employee I am, regrettably, sceptical.

Open Standards/Open Source

These terms are used throughout the document, including these actions:

  1. To create a level playing field for the use of innovative ICT solutions, the Government will publish a toolkit for procurers on best practice for evaluating the use of open source solutions
  2. To assist with the development of agile solutions using open source technology, the Government will establish an Open Source Implementation Group, a System Integrator Forum and an Open Source Advisory Panel. These will aim to educate, promote and facilitate the technical and cultural change needed to increase the use of open source across government
  3. To enable delivery of interoperable and open ICT solutions so that they can be shared and reused, the Government will publish a reference architecture
  4. To allow for greater interoperability, openness and reuse of ICT solutions, the Government will establish a suite of agreed and mandatory open technical standards

It sounds like good stuff, but I’ve heard it before. Back in the government published their Open Source Software Policy document. From that document:

  • UK Government will consider OSS solutions alongside proprietary ones in IT procurements. Contracts will be awarded on a value for money basis.
  • UK Government will only use products for interoperability that support open standards and specifications in all future IT developments.
  • UK Government will seek to avoid lock-in to proprietary IT products and services.

It seemed to have little or no impact. For example, vendor lock-in, which is also mentioned in the new strategy, paragraph 36 … The adaptation of compulsory open standards will help avoid lengthy vendor lock-in….

Microsoft is a master at vendor lock-in. A powerful example this is the Home User Programme. It allows employees to buy a cheap copy of Microsoft Office so long as their employer has an Enterprise agreement. In 2010 the NHS terminated their Enterprise agreement. The knock on effect is that employees can no longer legally use Office purchased under the HUP license, as noted on the Microsoft NHS Resource Centre page.

Microsoft claim that it’s docx, xlsx etc formats are open. Those that follow Groklaw will understand that this is not so. My understanding is that even Microsoft Office is incapable of producing documents that strictly adhere to the OOXML standards. The standard is flawed and they incorporate elements that prevent them ever becoming truly open. Read more on the Groklaw ODF/OOXML Resource page.

ICT Projects and Providers

The strategy also talks about reducing waste on ICT projects. This is supposed to happen through the application of lean and agile methodologies and promotion of a public service economy based on open ICT markets with increased participation of SMEs, the voluntary and community sector, and other diverse providers….

Well, things will have to change then. ICT departments like to buy products that are supported by the supplier. They like to be able to pass the buck back to the supplier when things don’t work. The strategy does seem to recognise this; Government has become over-reliant on external expertise from consultants, contractors and interim staff…. This is spot on. Want a new Sharepoint intranet? Better get in some consultants.

Desktops

This is the final point I want to highlight. Action points 18 to 20:

  1. To improve the flexibility and reduce the cost of desktop solutions, the Government will publish a common desktop/device strategy with detailed implementation plans.
  2. To examine the benefits of delivering standardised desktop services using a cloud-based model, the Government will develop a desktop prototype for the cloud.
  3. To detail how services will shift to cloud-based technologies, the Government will publish a Cloud Computing Strategy with implementation plans

So, a standard desktop. Will it be Windows? If the standard office product is Microsoft Office then how can it be anything other than Windows? Last time I checked Microsoft didn’t do a version of Office for Linux. So will it be a product that supports ODF? That would widen the choice of products that support the format and, for example, Libre Office is cross platform.

Cloud based services. Really? We like to keep all of our data on our own servers. We cripple machines through the use of software to lock down all useful services, like wireless, like Bluetooth, like USB. So is the government going to produce and host it’s own cloud? That wouldn’t be cheap, and government is facing big budget cuts. Would we ever us Google Docs? (I think some US government bodies do.)

To summarise then, some promising plans, and I really hope that open source and standards prevail, but I really don’t think much will change.

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Invisibility

Well, I think I’ve found my next big challenge; Making channel-e visible in Google search results. (Yeah, I know, I have lots of slow moving/stalled projects going on, whatever.)

I was on my phone just now and couldn’t be bovvered to type “channel-e.co.uk”. Instead I searched for “channel-e”.  This site might be on the list. Somewhere. But I got bored looking for it.

Time to put into practice some of that stuff I’ve heard about at Think Visibility :-)

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