March 09, 2013

All my Flights

Till now, I have flown a total of 481,333 miles. That is more than 19 times around the world, and twice the distance to the moon.

I have done this via a total of 187 flight segments, passing through 37 airports, in 11 countries and utilizing 24 carriers.

I have flown as north as Edinborough (EDI), as south and east as Kuala Lumpur (KUL), and as west as San Francisco (SFO).

The longest flight I have taken is the 14 hour leg from Dubai (DXB) to New York (JFK). The shortest is the 37 minute hop between Milwaukee (MKE) and Chicago (ORD).

All these stats are thanks to two things. One, my idiosyncrasy of keeping a log of all the flights I have ever taken. The second is the site for people like me called

All I needed was a bit of excel transformation to convert my existing flight log into a format acceptable to the site, upload and done.

That is how I know that if I had taken all the flights one after another, I would have spent 43 days, 22 hours and 39 minutes in the air. In reality, if I include all the check-in and waiting times, you could call it about two months in airports and flights around the world.

January 18, 2013

Powerline ethernet and HW design

Powerline Ethernet is a relatively new concept, that uses the existing electrical wires within a house to deliver wired networking capabilities to different parts of a house. I had been following the development of the standard with anticipation for a few years now, but I was not apparently paying attention as the technology was commercialized relatively quickly.

I came upon the commercial implementations anew, when I was looking for a solution to help extend the wireless range of my ageing router. Wireless repeaters were a potential option, but the idea of taking a degrading signal to re-broadcast it was not something that I appreciated for just an aesthetic point of view. Further, that would also constrain the location of the repeater and leave me open to the need for additional repeaters.

Enter Powerline networking and in particular a company called TP Link. After a bunch of research, I figured I was not sure if this would even work in my house and was not willing to pay the premium of a recognized brand. TP Link was a good balance between positive reviews and price.

Turns out, using the electrical wires in the house to transmit Ethernet signals is ridiculously easy.

You need a couple of pieces of hardware to get things going. The first is the base unit, that plugs into a power socket next to the broadband router. The port on that base unit plugs directly into one of the router ports. This essentially makes the entire home “live”.

You then need a client unit, that you can take anywhere in the house and plug into another power socket. Now, on that unit is an Ethernet port that effectively works as a live network port, that can route packets through the electrical wires, through the base unit, the router and out on the the internet.

If you were only looking for an extension of your wired network, you are done. If however, you are looking to have the second unit act, also, as a WiFi access point you have additional work to do.

The additional work is because the default access point is a cryptic SSID, running an unencrypted signal. I wanted it to have the same SSID and authentication parameters as my original WiFi router, so I could roam upstairs and downstairs between either access point. Figured I'd just configure the TP-Link Powerline client access point that way.

And all hell broke loose.

TP-Link essentially hard codes the configuration IP of the second access point. The address unfortunately was the same as the base of my home network. This resulted in a few hours of mental and networking gymnastics, just to be able to configure the second access points with the SSID and authentication parameters that I liked.

Which brings me to the second point of this post - good core technology but crappy hardware design. The two Powerline plugs were not elegant by any means, but they were functionally simple and effective. But an underlying assumption that one would be OK with default access point parameters, led to some questionable hardware design choices ultimately rendering an otherwise attractive product cumbersome. If only these smaller companies took some of these underlying assumptions seriously enough, there is almost no reason why their products cannot easily compete with the big dogs - in not just the marketplace, but also the social marketplace of the star counts on

Seriously guys, you should just fix it.

January 06, 2013

All on Jelly Bean

Officially off stock firmware on all three Android devices at home.

The Toshiba Thrive is running a CyanogenMod 10 build (JellyBean) called Dastardly Dingo. The UI is a Go Launcher HD app.

Just as the warranty on the SII ran out, I rooted and upgraded the firmware to the latest JellyBean build. An AOKP JellyBean build.

The UI is a Nova Launcher, providing additional functionality to the stock launcher.

The final device, a Nexus one, is running Android 2.3.7 (Gingerbread), limited only by it's hardware specs from upgrading to ICS or JellyBean.

The biggest difference, of course, is the really powerful Google Now application, that syncs itself across both the JellyBean devices. More details post on Now at some point later, but safe to say, one of the first, well polished, functional and useful personal assistants on today's phones.

Whew - all aboard on JellyBean.

Hang in there, it gets better...

At around 60 page views a day, I must have reached a 100,000 page views for the site about 10 days ago - December 27th, 2012.

It has been a crazy few months, but the blog has been churning out page view on autopilot. I was not even paying attention as this milestone crept up on me and the site.

Hang in there, it gets better - is the constant encouragement I've heard over the last few months. And it does, in some ways. And one of those signs of getting better is me thinking about this blog again.

But this time, I am planning for this to be a little less social - not private, just not broadcasting. And towards that end, emails subscriptions are shut off and the Twitter updates have been put on hold as well.

Over the last few months, I have definitely missed checking in on the site. But more importantly, I am missing keeping a log of some of the things I have been able to sneak in on the side. Hoping I get enough time to get back to this again.

And a Happy New Year to all!

July 08, 2012

ICS Power Management

Moving to ICS on the Samsung SII has been underwhelming for the most part - partly driven by the fact that the UI has been kept relatively stale by Samsung, and made worse by the fact that ICS while powerful, has more than a few hiccups during operation.

But there is one aspect that ICS is really good with - memory management. ICS comes with a Honeycomb inspired task switcher that also doubles as a task killer. Flicking an application in the task switcher kills it, releasing the memory and plausibly making battery usage better.

Well at least that was the theory, till I tried to put it in practice and presto - it worked! Check out the screenshot showing a run time of a day and eight hours with more than 40% of the juice still to go. Yes, the usage was not as heavy as I normally do with the phone, but still a 32 hour run time was not something I had frankly expected.

June 27, 2012

Some Carat Juice

Finally, looks like there is a potential solution for the battery drain problems within the Android eco system. Carat is a research project that aims to detect energy bugs - app behavior that is consuming energy unnecessarily - using data collected from a community of mobile devices. It is an active research project, run out of Berkeley.

For the first week, the tool merely sits around, waiting for you to run it so it can report usage data back to the mother ship. And once you have enough samples sent back, the tool begins to give you personalized recommendations. My biggest recommendation was to kill the “Accuweather” weather widget. I did that and - presto - my battery use graphs seem to have gone flatter than usual.

The most interesting part is the approach taken by the team - not with an analysis of the API calls an application makes or their abuse of wakelocks etc. Instead it is statistical, based on a massive data mining effort of similar devices. Innovative and for the moment, seems effective.

June 25, 2012

Finally - ICS for Galaxy S2

AT&T had been hinting at the Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade to the Samsung galaxy SII for a while now. Last week it even went so far as releasing the update and then rolling it back after some customers were able to get it.

Looks like whatever kinks Samsung had in producing a custom version for the US market seems to have been taken care of and my phone is now running ICS. Here is a screenshot.

The upgrade process itself was smooth - took all of about five minutes once the backups and such were completed. The only nit-pick, was that you had to install Samsung Kies to actual do the update instead of doing it over the air (OTA). But considering this was a major version upgrade, I did appreciate the backup opportunity Kies presented.

First impressions - not that many actually. Because the version of ICS is a Samsung customized, AT&T pre-loaded version, it is not that different from the Gingerbread copy. But, just beneath the surface there are differences. The biggest being the smoothness with which the interface seems to be working. And of course the subtle UI elements, like in the settings menu. It seems like someone actually spent time thinking about the end user while putting these together.

More details later, but for now, screenshots of the upgrade itself.