Sunday, October 23, 2016

Galaxy Note 7 and possible causes of fires

When thinking about the possible reasons why Samsung Galaxy Note 7 became flammable, I asked myself several questions: Can a magnet affect a phone battery? Are there magnets in the S Pen — the stylus that comes with the phone and that stays inside the phone case when not in use? Were users with phones that burned, using leather holsters with magnets (as many people do with other phones do)?

As a disclaimer: This blogpost is pure speculation rife with theories and hypotheses unconfirmed by hard facts (scientific or otherwise), much of which is original research. Neither do I know very much about how smartphone screens are made, and my knowledge of chemistry and physics is lacking. Many of the claims are qualified with terms, such as "likely", "possible", "probable", and so on. The intention of the post is to ruminate over what caused the fires, since finding the cause would be in the best interests of Samsung, other smartphone makers, and the public at large. In addition, I'm a user of two Samsung phones, one of which is a smartphone.

I began looking for news articles about Samsung Galaxy Note 7 and magnets, and came across this one from August 22, 2016 published by Korea Joongang Daily:
"Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 is marvel of waterproofing".

The article explains, that:
The Note 7 and its S-Pen can work under water, because the phone's LCD and the S-pen respond to one another through a magnetic field in much the same way pieces of iron move in the direction of a magnet, when said magnet and iron pieces are separated by paper.
Even with water between the display and the S-Pen, the device "recognizes and responds to the S-Pen’s magnetic field."

My conclusion is,

that the phone battery was susceptible to magnetism, because it wasn't sufficiently protected from magnetism inside the phone, where the S-Pen was housed. The additional reason could be, that the internal phone battery, apart from some plastic, seemed (according to teardown photos) to lack any other protective material to shield it from magnetism.

All this suggests, that the Note 7's LCD is a magnet, and the S-Pen is, too, and the battery in the phone is still about the same in terms of its own housing as used in earlier models.

This is based on the assumption, that the housing of this kind of internal battery has not changed much from earlier internal Galaxy Note and Galaxy S batteries. The fact, that batteries with similar housing didn't combust in earlier Galaxy models, was because magnets (or magnetism) were not used in the screen and the new S-Pen.

The possible design mistake in the Note 7 is, that the engineers probably forgot to account for the fact, that the battery, with its usual housing, was susceptible to magnetism that emanated from the phone's screen and the S-Pen, either during use or when idle.

Samsung won't refurbish the recalled devices, and won't reuse its components.

Whether the magnetic screen and the magnetic S-Pen are the reasons for fires in the batteries, is unknown. Whether Samsung is currently aware of these as the underlying issue(s), is also unknown. And if it is, the public should know when the company first realised this.

If I were a mobile phone manufacturer, and realised, that the magnetic screen and stylus were affecting the batteries, then as a matter of business, I would halt production of this model of device, and choose not to refurbish or reuse the magnetic screen and pen that would adversely affect any normal battery that's close by.

The most widespread photos of exploded Note 7 models show, that it was the screens that burned through the most, but not the backsides of the poor phones. Investigating the burned phones for the direction of the burns and fires should confirm this. Granted, the backsides of the phones were made of metal and other materials that were stronger than the screens, and explosions and fires would move towards the area that would first give way.

Another interesting thing that the photos of burned Note 7 phones show, is that the screens burned through completely at the location of the batteries. Part of this burn-through could be attributed to extreme heat from the burning batteries, but I'd imagine, that the displays, made of mostly glass, would stay intact.

I do not know, whether it was the S-Pen, or the screen, or both that were ultimately culpable for affecting the batteries.

No issues were probably found in testing, because the effect of the magnets was not immediate.

I can imagine, that both the phone and the S-Pen were developed by separate teams, and I think it inconceivable, that the S-Pen was never inside the phone during testing, or that they were not tested in conjunction.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission would be very smart to subpoena the carriers and Samsung for lots of Note 7 devices (not just tens, but more) to find out independently what went wrong.

In addition, The Times of Malta reported, that "a team scientists at New York University led by Alexej Jerschow, developed a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique to see inside the batteries as they are charging."

This new method could be used at the behest of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to investigate the extant Galaxy Note 7 devices—both original ones, and replacements. Care should be taken with the fact, that the screen and the S-Pen of Galaxy Note 7 phones are themselves magnetic.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Windows: Creating a shortcut to select a file in a folder

I often need to find out which version of Skype installer was automatically downloaded into the local temp folder.

While the Windows UI makes it possible to create simple shortcuts, then there is no UI for more complex stuff.

After some searching, the correct Target line in the shortcut properties must be this:

C:\WINDOWS\explorer.exe ,/select="C:\Documents and Settings\A User's Account Name\Local Settings\temp\SkypeSetup.exe"

It is important to separate the executive and its options from each other with a space, after which the comma starts in that line.

This also works from the command prompt.

Applies to Windows XP, but should also work in other Windows versions. YMMV.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Postimehe otseblogi ja NoScript

Firefoxis on NoScript laiendus kasulik selleks, et blokeerida skripte ning säästa arvutiressursse — et arvuti oleks kiirem. See sobib olukorras, kus masin pole kõige uuem, kuid ajab asja ära.

Probleem seisnes selles, et Postimehe otseblogi miskipärast ei näidanud, ehkki NoScriptis olid kõik Postimehe/PMO domeenid lubatud.

Tegemist oli konkreetselt töölaua-Firefoxiga, kuid sama asi kehtib teiste Firefoxi- ja Gecko-põhiste lehitsejatega, sh SeaMonkey, GNU IceCat, Debian Iceweasel jt.

Selgus, et otseblogi laaditav failitüüp ei olnud Firefoxile sobilik (failitüübi kontroll ei lasknud faili läbi), ning otseblogi ei laadinud enam. See paistis silma lehitsejakonsoolis (Tööriistad > Veebiarendajale > Browser Console).

  • Minna about:config lehele, otsida parameeter nimega
  • Väärtusele lisada järgmine tekstiosa koos tühikuga alguses:*.liv
Otseblogiga artikkel tuleb uuesti laadida, ning nüüd peaks otseblogi töötama.

Väike ääremärkus, et Androidi-Firefoxi ja IceCatMobile lehitsejatega, kus ka NoScript peal, selliseid probleeme pole, sest nendes on NoScripti mobiiliversioon vähemfunktsionaalne.

Lahendus oli NoScripti foorumis.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Temporary workaround for if your ThinkPad restarts due to overheating


 (Jump to workaround
The lion's share of desktop computers, portables and notebooks are equipped with fans to cool the processors and other innards, and fan-less notebooks and PCs are in a minority. (Still as of mid-2016)

Every once in a while, the computers and their fans inside collect dust and other micro-materials that together form a certain mass that blocks airways. If the machines are not maintained by way of dust removal, then excess heat fails to exit airways blocked by dust, and this can cause the devices to overheat and become a serious fire hazard.

Notebooks, laptops, portables, and netbooks make up a majority in desktop-type PCs (this also includes Macs), and they are more susceptible to eventual overheating due to several reasons:
* Their compact design;
* Use and placement in and on comfort zones; these often include people's laps (clothes, hair), beds, and mattresses. Fire department officials wisely tell people to avoid placing their notebooks like that.

Most ThinkPad notebooks are no different in that regard, as they are also equipped with fans.

As with many notebooks from major producers, ThinkPads are equipped with factory-installed power management software.

As opposed to most factory-installed cruft, ThinkPads' utilities are actually useful. To keep those, a user should consider having at least 2 Gb of RAM memory with Windows xp, and at least 4 Gb of RAM memory when running Windows Vista or greater. The utilities do have to be kept up-to-date for security reasons.

The workaround

Recently, I came across one ThinkPad that had begun restarting because of excess heat and restarts during video playback, and since the owner did not have time to take it to maintenance, I discovered a temporary workaround that alleviates the problem.

ThinkPad Power Manager allows users to manually adjust CPU speed relative to which user-created power scheme is used. (This does not apply to factory-made power schemes, which are locked from editing.) Such advanced power management features are not present in Windows itself; in this case, Windows XP.

CPU speed and other power management settings can be set for all user-created power schemes, or just one. Because this particular ThinkPad kept overheating during video playback, I set CPU usage to low in all power schemes.

Instructions based on ThinkVantage Power Manager 5.20 in Windows xp sp3, running on ThinkPad R60e.
  1. Launch ThinkPad Power Manager. Either:
    • Right-click on the ThinkPad battery icon in the Windows taskbar, click on 'Launch Power Manager...', or
    • launch ThinkPad Power Manager from the Start menu:
      Start > All Programs > ThinkVantage > Power Manager
  2. Use the Advanced view (click on bigger button on the upper right to switch to it)
  3. In the list of tabs, choose the (usually default) 'Power Scheme' tab
  4. Create new power scheme, give it a memorable name
  5. In the main space (to the right),

    • Expand System setings, and at
    'Maximum CPU speed':
    'Battery settings' 'AC settings'
    (when plugged into mains)
    Set 'max CPU speed' to Lowest Low

    'Adjust idle timers':
    Settings set by me:
    Battery AC
    Turn off display 5 min 15 min
    Stop hard drive 5 min 20 min
    System standby (sleep mode) 15 min 30 min
    System hibernation 20 min 45 min


This essentially resolves the issue, but the owner must still take their notebook to maintenance to have all the dust removed.

Friday, July 1, 2016

How package management in Linux is different from installing programs in Windows

This was written in reply to someone on Google+ who converted from Windows to Linux, and still claimed, that he needed to download software from the Internet, which I assumed meant 'from the web', and not a distro-native package repository.

Downloading software on Linux is different from Windows.

Now, each major Linux distribution (distro) relies on their own software repository; each distro uses one of the two major package management systems, and package management software built around them.

Ubuntu is based on Debian. In Debian, the very basic package management system is dpkg, but actual work is done by APT (A Package Tool). Some other distros use RPM as their package management system.

Package management software is usually component- and command line-based, and typically has a graphical front-end.

So, Debian and Debian-based distros use dpkg, and it is relied on by the more automated APT, which can be operated with Synaptic, which is a graphical front-end to APT. Individual packages each have the .apt extension appended to their filenames.

For comparison, dpkg is a basic installer component with a purpose similar to Windows Installer. dpkg may check for dependencies and report those to the user, if there's a software package that is missing.

APT still uses dpkg, but greatly automates package management. Missing packages are downloaded either in console (via command line), or with Aptitude (a text-based graphical program), or with the fully-graphical Synaptic (not to be confused with touchpad pointing device maker Synaptics).

Synaptic can be used with Ubuntu, too, but Ubuntu has its own primary app store-like program called Ubuntu Software Centre (_Software Center_ in U.S. spelling). This is what you should use to download software for Ubuntu.

There can be two or three major software packages, that can be downloaded separately from the package manager. One of these is LibreOffice, because each new LO release offers more and better features; and the other is Wine (their site is winehq), which can run applications made for Windows. Wine is not compatible with all Windows programs.

There is a possibility, that Ubuntu builds/backports versions of newer software to its LTS release, but I have not confirmed it, because I don't have experience with Ubuntu.

For most things, Linux already has a large number of functionally similar counterparts to Windows programs — with the exception of some specialized software with unique functionality that does not have a Linux-based alternative.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Recommending wearables based only on media exposure

This was inspired by a post in Google+ that was reshared by a person I follow.

The post was titled "Top reasons people stop using wearable technologies", and listed a bar chart with said reasons. At URL.

Most likely, the market for wearables is still starting out, and hasn't yet found its footing. There is also no standard or common/dominant design, such as Windows in PCs, and Android/iOS on mobile phones.

Since I don't have any wearables, then my knowledge is based on actual media exposure (=article titles) of practical benefits. This has boiled down to two very different brands.

• Much more affordable from the outset;
• Its charge can last a week;
• Works as advertised;
• Its health tracking functions can be used to determine better diagnoses related to heart disease and a number of other ailments, where health logging becomes important;
• Can save lives.

Conclusion: Fitbit doesn't do everything, but it does well the things it's meant to do.

Apple Watch &#mdash;
• Expensive (aka "Worth its price");
• Short battery life (requires recharging each forthnight);
• Creeping featuritis — not enough useful features vs. too many useless features, therefore no direction.
• Water-resistant, but not waterproof.
• Difficult and expensive to fix, if gets broken.

• The advantages are integration with iOS and Siri. Of course, health improvements, too.
• Apple Pay (if you forget your wallet home), but that's only in the U.S.
Can save lives.
Can run Windows 95. But that means other operating systems, too...?

Conclusion: Differing functions, no special use-case. Has app ecosystem.

Footnote: Given that wearables log information about a user, they can also be very useful in forensic investigations, such as evidence-gathering or coroner's reports in determining the exact time of death (that is, if the device clock is correct) or another potentially life-harming event that needs to be investigated.

But this also requires, that wearables data must per user reques be stored (encrypted, hashed, and salted) in such a way that it couldn't be tampered with. I speculate, that current implementations might not meet such strict storage regulations, and their data can thus be used on the basis of assuming good faith.

So, at this time, logs of wearables can be used as supporting material when building a case. Whether wearables data can be used in courts of law, is a matter to be resolved by the legal profession.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Useful apps exclusive to Android

This is a copy of a comment I wrote in a YouTube discussion to someone who recommended that "[I] get an iPhone".

I've formatted and edited the comment with some additions into this blogpost. While it does harken back to a previous post I wrote about reducing one's Android's resource usage, then this one is more about some of the useful apps I use that are exclusive to Android.

An iPhone or any new smartphone is beyond my means, and I wouldn't be able to run some specific apps only available on Android, such as:
  • Adblock Plus for Android. Works only on Wi-Fi, but blocks in-app ads;
  • Firefox for Android. It's got Reader Mode, which saves an article, only keeps relevant article content, and allows white-on-black reading.

    Firefox extensions, which only run on Firefox-based mobile browsers:
    • NoScript Anywhere — blocks scripts and trackers run by scripts, and thus reduces browser resource usage. Its whitelist allows running scripts on sites I whitelist through the NoScript menu in Firefox;
    • Privacy Settings — allows users to switch off a number of default Firefox settings to make the browser less resource-hungry and more secure;
    • Stylish — allows users to locally change the appearance of webpages displayed in a browser (make them dark, etc. to save battery life). People can download or make their own userstyles.
    • Save Link Menus — allows saving links or webpages from Firefox to the local file system.

  • Vim Touch — a very advanced text editor. This adds to productivity (I can create and edit content);
  • Hacker's Keyboard — I need this to use VimTouch, to easily navigate in text, and to quickly switch between languages without going to settings every time. This keyboard app is very lightweight compared to most native virtual keyboards;
  • Unicode Map — to search for, view, and copy Unicode characters;
  • VLC Media Player. 'Nuff said;
  • Arity — a scientific calculator, but I sometimes use it to calculate expenses when shopping for multiple things with a limited budget.
There some other apps with functionality not particularly unique to any mobile ecosystem:
  • Sparse RSS — to subscribe to podcasts;
  • Units — a very nice unit converter;
  • MuPDF — a lightweight viewer for PDF, OpenXPS and CBZ files;
The above apps are all Free / Open Source Software (FOSS), and available at the F-Droid app repository.
    Stock app —
  • FM Radio. I can listen to plain FM radio and listen to great music for free and without ads. Estonia's public broadcaster ERR is just that awesome. They even provide small "what's playing" pages, so I can check out the artist and song.

    FM radio functionality is not on most iPhone models, and not on most Windows phones either. My phone even supports RDS.

  • Some proprietary apps:
  • TeamViewer — I sometimes do computer support for friends and relatives;
  • The local weather widget.

This post is licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.