Android audio playback diagnosis

Half of the joy in computing is figuring out complex problems, coming up with that solution that eludes everyone else, bonus points it is simple and elegant to boot. That’s all fine in theory when you are doing it for work or out of idle curiosity, however when it affects something you do often then it starts to drive you a little bit crazy.

Enter stage left the problem I fought for about a week with my phone. The symptom was simple, I opened the Youtube app, started watching a video and about 3 to 5 seconds in it would pause. I could un-pause it and it would resume fine, but 3 seconds later it would stop again.

My first thought was network issues. I ran a speed test on my phone. It showed about 50Mb/s so that wasn’t it. Maybe it was Youtube themselves. I know Google is huge, but even the best of them have issues from time to time. Nope, played fine on my desktop. I also wondered if my network/phone combination had screwed it over. Played on 4g just fine. I quick restart and no change. OK, at this point I considered this infuriating but it was time for sleep.

The next day I concluded the issue had to be the Youtube app. According to the play store the app had updated a a day ago. I tried uninstalling the app, but I’m not allowed to do that (yey non root access). The best I could do was roll it back to the version that came installed on the phone (LG G6). I did that and no change. I also tried clearing the apps stored data, settings and cache. Again, no change.

The following day I tried to show a colleague the issue at work. Ignoring that my phone seems to have major issues with the work wifi, the video played back fine. I didn’t find this even more frustrating or anything.

That evening I was scrolling through Facebook and spotted a video I wanted to play. It to also played for a moment then stopped. Plot thickening. I continued to experiment with a few different sources of video over the next few days. Local video also had the same issue, as did videos on my local network.

During this time I was googling most evenings trying to find anyone else with something vaguely like this. I discovered a battery saving mode on the Samsung’s can often affect video playback like this, however it was a feature/setting specific to their phones so that was out the window. Everyone else who had this issue was basically just working with a poor internet connection and hitting buffering issues. I ruled that out in several ways.

I then went to show my colleague at work the local playback issue and it failed to happen and played back just fine. OK, at this point I actually felt like we were getting somewhere. I knew it had to be related to my house, not necessarily my network. That evening I tried disabling the wireless, no change, then I disabled bluetooth on my phone and like magic video playback worked as normal! Success!

Well, sort of. I actually use bluetooth day to day (connect to the car, headset, speakers etc). After a couple of days of running the phone without bluetooth on permanently I got fed up of that. The other day I sat down and started un-pairing connections to see if any made a difference. I eventually narrowed it down to the Logitech BT adapter I have connected to an amplifer to allow phones to connect the lounge audio system.

You see, I have had that for years, but only recently did I use it on my current phone for the first time. If you viewed the bluetooth screen on my phone at the time it looked like this:

If you note the top bar it shows bluetooth not connected, but the adapter is paired. That is not quite right. You see the bluetooth adapter in the lounge is on all the time. Once I paired my phone to it it was connected all the time and put all the audio through it. This was not what I wanted. To get round this I went into the settings for that device and un-ticked the media profile it had.

This would allow them to stayed paired and connected, while not causing my phone to use it for audio. Well, so I thought. Turns out my smart solution was a bit too smart for the phone. It still tried to play back through the adapter, but failed and in the meantime never showed it as connected, causing me to never realise this was the issue.

If this was someone else’s phone it would not have been nearly as annoying. However, if it had not been so annoying, I probably wouldn’t have persisted enough to work it out.


Machine Performance Testing

Some years ago Jonners put together a blog post showing some basic machine benchmarking scores using CrystalMark 2004. Being the competitive/curious fellows we all are, over a little while various friends and colleagues submitted their own scores to this post and it became a light-hearted competition (no-one actually put their machines together for this purpose, we are not that sad, but it did serve as an interesting way to compare them).

Since then over the years the tool has become less and less able to run fully, giving us no choice but to mostly let those scores stand as they are. With that in mind and given I just purchased a new Windows laptop (Dell XPS13 with 8th gen i7) we were looking for ways to compare machines again. In all those years we have always used http://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu_list.php as one of the best ways to compare CPU’s and GPU’s. While it isn’t perfect, it is very comprehensive in the variety of units you can compare. So when we were looking for a tool to do some system benchmarking Passmark (their tool) was an obvious choice. So far those who have joined in this game have their scores in the table below. (Thomas also did a separate post with my initial score included)

Name System CPU GPU RAM HDD / SSD Total
Model Score Model 2D 3D
Craig Custom Desktop i7-3770K 8833 GTX 670 613   2389 12063 4603
Craig Custom Desktop (clean run) i7-3770K 9990 GTX 670 755 5548 2636 13053 4989
Craig XPS 13 i7-8550U 8821 Intel 620 771 1232 2443 13178 3865
Shaun Custom Desktop i7-3770K 9755 GTX 970 706 9626 2774 4299 4589
Shaun Custom Desktop (clean run) i7-3770K 9679 GTX 970 744 9414 2821 4423 4705
Shaun HP Compaq Mini 311C Atom N270 292 Nvidia Ion 88 134 262 1736 283
Thomas Custom Desktop Q6600 2837 GTX 950 340 3349 629 2371 1619
Thomas Custom Desktop (clean run) Q6600 3154 GTX 950 354 4106 784 2129 1791
Thomas Frankentop (Thinkpad R50P) Pentium M 755 253 ATi Mobility FireGL T2 186 47 281 692 219
Rick Custom Desktop Ryzen 1700X 14681 RX 480 776 8637 1862 4096 4654
Nik Custom Desktop i7-4760k 11251 GTX 1060 971 6238 2706 2873 4852
Jonners Custom Desktop i5-750 3708 GTX 1060 511 7436 1069 1472 2185
Jonners Custom Desktop (v2) Ryzen 5 1600 12527 GTX 1060 616 9651 1764 5187 4200
Andy Custom Desktop i7-8700K 16417 GTX 1080TI 917 14886 3511 5167 6239
Dave Custom Desktop QX6850 2389 GTX 285 311 1219 748 1475 1406
Dave Acer Aspire 8930G X9100 2276 GeForce 9600M 376 185 870 2294 1001
Nelson Custom Desktop i7-6700K 11551 Intel HD 530 733 1311 3022 15642 4252
Rob H Custom Desktop i7-8700K 16222 GTX 970 1099 11030 3295 5436 6573

Some of them are there to serve as a reminder how far things have come with no expectation of a high score, some of them show how actually even 5 year plus old CPU’s such as mine and Shaun’s are still more than capable today (both scores are without the over-clocking the k edition is more than able to take).

While as I write this I am top of the table, my PCIE M.2 SSD is a major reason for that and if others were to do something similar my score would be left behind by a number of them. I did however due to the age of my hardware have to go through the pain of adding a new module into my BIOS in order to get that drive to boot, so it was not an upgrade for most without a whole new motherboard/architecture.

For me the most interesting take home was that my new laptop is actually at a level of performance that I consider to be fairly close to comparable to my desktop. While clearly my desktop is getting on a bit in computing years, it is still very able. It just serves to demonstrate that laptops really have not stood still, especially in this most recent round of upgrades from Intel. It is now within sane reach to have desktop performance (minus graphics, although that is an option for larger laptops) in a very portable package.

Other benchmarks welcome, these were all done with version 9 of the trial.

And for the doubters of my scores, see below:

EDIT @ 05/01/2018: Added Jonners v2, Andy desktop, Dave Desktop, Dave Laptop

I have been knocked off my top spot thanks to my brother Andy. His build is an example of what happens when you throw down a huge pile of cash and see what happens. For me the CPU is very impressive, but for my money Ryzen is much better value, as shown by Jonners v2 and Rick.

EDIT @ 27/06/2019: Added Rob H from work

We have a new winner. Rob’s the same spec as Andy in a number of key points. If anything I’m not sure why there is a win for Rob in this, the he looses more than he wins. Assume there is some odd weighting going on in the software. I suspect a up to date run from Andy will mean he has a short lived time at the top. Nice to see my disks still winning. That may also be short lived now.


Saying “those who have done nothing to wrong have nothing to hide” is playing with fire


Voting Conflict

I retain that each time voting comes around my biggest challenge is having to decide who I distrust the least instead of the other way around. This has never been more true than it is now.

Brexit looms large over politics at the moment and it has left me with further contempt for our political system. That said, I still believe that voting is a civic duty which I should perform every time, for every time I chose not to vote, others will and I would rather make an active choice than idly watch other choose for me. Unfortunately this still leaves me having to make a choice and my current trust level is giving me a real headache here.

Theresa May has called a snap election having already triggered Article 50. So one way or another we will leave the EU. So far despite campaigning for Remain she seems to be steering a very hard right course in my view.That is simply not something I can vote for. I am and will continue to be an advocate for the EU and I would rather see the closest possible ties with the EU. This hard right turn is not something I can in any way support.

OK, so that’s easy right, I just don’t vote for her… well, maybe. You see, there is a strong possibility that she is being forced into a hard right thanks to her slender majority in the Commons. Her opposition is coming in the form of the Lib Dems, the SNP and a rudderless Labour not to mention her own MP’s who were Remain focused. With all this opposition her majority starts to look wafer thin. It is highly plausible that she has little choice but to appeal to the right of the party if she wants to get anything done.

It could well be that she has called this snap election at a time when opinion polls show her well in the lead. She could come away with a strong majority leaving her less at the behest of her hard right party members and she could steer a more centre ground course.

A more centre ground thing in my opinion would be a good thing. After all, when we had our referendum it’s not like the vote leave campaign won 90% of the vote, but that is what it feels like with the hard Brexit we are being offered. It might be that the hard Brexit deal on the table at the second is all negotiating fluff and bluster, but who can tell. The reality of the situation is we need the have the most amicable deal we can with Europe. Playing hard-ball with them only stands to damage us more than them.

The other by-product of a crushing Labour defeat would be to leave Jeremy Corbyn with no choice but to stand down. His political gamble would be shown to not be paying off and that would leave his position more obviously untenable than it is now. With him out of the picture the Labour party could make a break for the centre ground again and hopefully regain some seats next time around. Or if not seats, at least some of the requisite credibility that half decent opposition needs to actually oppose anything.

Of course, if my gamble on what Theresa May actually wants to do with a large majority is wrong then the last thing I want to do is vote for her. Anyone who isn’t basically a UKip voter should want to push back hard against the self flagellation version of Brexit she seems to be offering at the moment. If she really did want this mess then I would encourage the centre and left grounds in our political landscape to join forces and block her from getting anything like a mandate for this mess.

That said, unless there is a anything but a miracle we would just end up with Theresa May as PM with the self same slender majority she has now and again, a hard Brexit. If that left/centre miracle does happen however we will be left with Corbyn as PM. A man so authoritative his own party won’t follow him. And rightly so, his views on Europe seem to be about as laissez faire as they come.

So for me all of this boils down to what I think Theresa May really wants to do with her time in office. Do I think she wants to move away from the hard right views she is currently steering towards? Her views pre Brexit suggest she isn’t 100% behind her own party line at the moment. Do I think she will do a better job than most around her and dealing with this mess and actually she deep down is fighting for the strongest union that I would like to see? Or do I think this really is what she has settled on, WTO rules and a no compromise deal with us out at all costs?

As things stand the only option I have is to vote and take a chance. Who knows which chance I will end up taking though.


Towing Fees – Apollo 13

“As a joke following Apollo 13’s successful splashdown, Grumman Aerospace Corporation pilot Sam Greenberg (who had helped with the strategy for re-routing power from the LM to the crippled CM) issued a tongue-in-cheek invoice for $400,540.05 to North American Rockwell, Pratt and Whitney, and Beech Aircraft, prime and subcontractors for the CSM, for “towing” the crippled ship most of the way to the Moon and back. The figure was based on an estimated 400,001 miles (643,739 km) at $1.00 per mile, plus $4.00 for the first mile. An extra $536.05 was included for battery charging, oxygen, and an “additional guest in room” (Swigert). A 20% “commercial discount,” as well as a further 2% discount if North American were to pay in cash, reduced the total to $312,421.24. North American declined payment, noting that it had ferried three previous Grumman LMs to the Moon (Apollo 10, Apollo 11 and Apollo 12) with no such reciprocal charges.”

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_13


Interesting explanation of challenges of exposure in the context of video

There is a pile of extra info in here I personally did not know, despite knowing quite a lot about how stills cameras work, seeing examples of how these same principals apply to videography. While this example is about high speed, most of the information is universal.


Trump supporters say the most daft things…


Long time coming

OK, I will admit it has taken me a little longer than planned…. but it has finally happened. Version 5 of my site is now live and for all to see.

There have been some pretty big changes since last time:

  1. It runs on WordPress again (this is the first time the whole thing runs on WordPress to be fair).
    1. It is much easier for me to update now.
    2. The code doesn’t make me cringe any time it does need updating.
  2. It is fully responsive, so works on mobiles as well as desktops.
  3. It supports more post types than just standard blog posts. It allows me to make quick updates to share something a simple thought, video, image, link etc.
  4. My gallery is officially gone. It contained far too many images I didn’t care about anyway.
  5. The projects section is gone, but not for long I hope. The grand plan is to integrate with all the projects I keep on Github.
  6. Bookmarks work again. This section is fed from my RSS reader as I find things I want to share

I can’t promise it will stay as up to date as I want it to, but I can promise it will be better than before. I am a firm believer that the interface dictate the use and the new interface is much easier to use.


LED Project Complete

A little over a year ago I set out on yet another of my projects. This particular cunning plan was to put up multi coloured LED lights around the top of the lounge. The theory being that owing to our white walls we would have low cost lighting of any colour we wanted.

Me being me what started as simple idea quickly turned into a rabbit hole of complications and discoveries.

First you have to choose what type of lights you want. LED strips can either come in multi coloured (RGB) or a single colour. That single colour is generally red, green, blue, warm white, bright white or natural white. Basically 5050 SMD lights are multi coloured and 3528 SMD are single colour.

Next you have to chose the density you are after. For 5050 type lights you normally have two density options, 30 per meter or 60 per meter. For 3528’s you can have 30,60 and 120.

In the case of the ones I selected they were 60 per meter which you can cut every 3 LED’s

All of these different options combined with how long a run you wish to do and how many runs you need then affect what controller you can use. In my case I wanted RGB lights which connect using a 4 pin connector.

There are quite a few options online (eBay and Amazon are some of the best places to buy this stuff) when it comes to picking a controller. The most important feature to look for is power requirements. In you need 0.6 amps per meter of 30/m density.

With that in mind I needed double that as I am running 60/m which given my total run of around 11 meters means I needed a controller that could put out 13.2A

The longer the run of lights the dimmer they get so in an ideal world if you can parallelise your circuit as much as possible it will give a more consistent light. In my case I ran some trunking in the corner of the room and had two strips running out from there. While the longer run does get noticeably dimmer towards the end I can live with it as it is the wall with the curtains etc so there is enough going on to draw your eye you don’t really notice.

The cunning plan for fitting them at the top of the walls was as follows:

Basically I took a 10mm square baton, countersunk holes in it and fitted it to the wall at the very top. I actually angled the holes to force it to have a bit of an angle when fitting. I then stuck the LED strips in under it. Turns out the 3m tape on the strips was actually quite poor. I ended up super gluing it to the baton.

The video below was shot (some time ago) when I first put them up. At this point there are only two sides done, the wall the left was done not long after. Connecting round the corner was quite a challenge until I found companies making little adapters. I still had to do a lot of soldering at this point. Since I did this a number of better connectors have come out making it possible to snap fix these. You could now build this setup without any soldering.

You can also see the wires running up in the middle of the corner. These have since been hidden away:

After I had all the lights up and running I actually had a number of issues which I have procrastinated on. One of my soldering joints failed just before I finished boxing it all in. Due to the strips being super glued in I needed to take out the damaged strip and solder the smallest joint I could, upside down. This was not even as easy as I am making it sound as I was relying on the surface tension of molten solder to keep it from falling onto the carpet.

Thankfully that worked. I have also since replaced the controller with something that can better cope with the heat of being on for a while. The old controller was in a plastic case and got very hot, the new one has a built in heat sink and stays much cooler. It seems few people are actually making efficient controllers for these still, although this market seems to be forever changing.

Finally this is what it looks like with the cover piece on, painted and as it happens, with cards along it. Note the pink is not the colour we normally have it set to, but joyfully we can pick whatever colour we want.


Price of a digital life

I was going through a spec for a media center machine for home and got to the point where I spec’d the hard-drives. It seemed silly to put in a 2TB drive given I already have masses of storage space. Then I thought about it and looked at the cost and realised it would be silly not to put in that much. The price has just dropped so much faster that we have found ways to use it (although we are getting better with HD videos and alike).

This got me thinking about how much space I actually have and what it would have cost at a time when we simply didn’t have this insane amount of space.

First I counted up all the digital storage I had to hand:

Device Capacity in GB
CSK System 128
CSK Media 1000
CSK Temp 320
CSK Data 250
CSK Data Backup 250
Destiny System 1000
Destiny Backup 1000
NAS 8000
Media Center System 120
Media Center Video 2000
Tablet Main 64
Tablet SD 32
HTC One 32
HTC One Mini 16
Apple Powerbook G4 80
Memory Stick 8
Camera SD 2
Camera SD 2
Camera SD 0.5
Camera SD 0.5
Camera SD 0.5
Total 14305.5 GB

Then I looked into what that amount of storage (done in price per GB, not like for like) would have cost over the previous decade. Unfortunately I could only find prices in dollars so I looked up conversation rates at the time of the price which gave me the following data:

Year Cost in GBP
2000 £174,519
2001 £69,965
2002 £43,460
2003 £22,176
2004 £15,254
2005 £5,962
2006 £3,900
2007 £2,862
2008 £1,971
2009 £609

For real fun I then looked up the cost for 1981 using Apple hardware (with a cost of $700 per megabyte). I had to assume the exchange rate of 0.6 as I could not find the numbers. All of that came to £6,152,509,440. So by 1981 prices I have over 6000 million pounds worth of storage sat taking up photos and films…

By today’s prices all this comes to £436. Now that is progress.

References: Prices 1, Prices 2 and Currency conversion


Mindless Task

In the last year or so I have begun the process of doing what is probably the most depressing task I have ever tried to do. I am putting together information that would be useful in the event of my death.

This is not a Will or my last wishes as such (although to a certain extent it deals with some of that). This is my passwords, my online history, my accounts over the web, our home network, the wireless, the backups and the accounts. Basically the building blocks of my digital/paperwork life that so many things require.

In the last few years I have heard of a number of people who have died before their time, who took with them the passwords and the knowledge that maintained things important to those around them.

For example when one man I knew died his family could no longer get into the family file server he had set up which contained all their digital photos. I know of another where the rest of the family could not access the computer or the banking records or even quite get to grips with the filling system that was in place.

While I have always taken very seriously the idea of backing things up, I came to realise that while I did the basics like my pictures, music and files, I didn’t back up what was in my head. All the hundreds of passwords, account logins, e-mail addresses and even how it all hangs together.

In doing all of this work (still a long way to go) I have come to realise something else. I am not just doing this to make sure Demelza and my very small (but growing) family doesn’t have additional complications that I can avoid, but also it saves me having to remember it all. I have come to rely on my mind for so many things and maybe I need to start forgetting a few things and let computers and paper do what they do best.

I don’t want to depress people… I just think sometimes our backups forget the little things.


Interesting things: November 2013

This month seems to start with mainly videos. Wasn’t the intention specifically but I just seemed to keep finding one video leading me to another. Thankfully the rest of the month became more varied.


Interesting things: October 2013

OK so this post is technically late but it has been a busy work. If you take nothing from this set but one link, make it the last one and watch the video.


Interesting things: September 2013

Well this is two months in a row. Looking good so far. If anyone has anything they would like me to be looking out for then please ask and I will try to include it (assuming it is covered under my reading). What follows is about 20% off the top.


Interesting things: August 2013

I spend far too much time reading a lot of articles on the web. A lot of it is for work (if you are not running in this industry then you are getting left behind). I extend that same interest in new and better to as many things as I can. As such during the month I come across quite a few things that I should probably share. Given my many failed attempts to resume blogging this seems at least a worthwhile way to try and restart (again). If all goes to plan this will become a regular thing. If not, at least you got some links for your troubles.