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December 12, 2014

My new toy: the Moto 360 smart watch

So I have a new toy that I am super excited about and It is a birthday gift from me to myself. :) I have been wanting to get a smartwatch since last year when the Samsung gear came out but when I saw the gear I didn’t like the way it looked so ended up not buying it. Now that I have bought the Moto 360, I am glad I didn’t buy the gear because it beats the Gear hands down, no questions asked. I have been using it for 3 days now and I love it.


The Moto 360 with the default Face

The initial setup of the watch was easy, I just had to download an app on my phone and follow the prompts, took me about 2 mins (excluding the time to download the app) to complete the pairing and setup. Once the app was installed the watch downloaded the latest firmware and upgraded automatically after I charged the battery which was surprisingly very fast. Once the upgrade completed it was connected to my S5 and has been working like a charm.

The default apps on the 360 are the Fitness apps, ability to receive any notifications on the watch and control the music app and the Google camera app from the watch. It has built in voice recognition which works fantastically great and is integrated with Google Now. Tonight we tried it out in a restaurant where we had gone out for a team outing and it had no trouble with the voice recognition even with the background noise. In addition to the default apps so far I have also installed a flashlight app, a dictation app and another camera app that lets me use the watch as a viewfinder for the camera on my phone. I keep finding cool new apps for the watch every day so will probably be installing a lot more stuff on it in the near future.

As I said earlier Voice recognition works for most of the things I would want to do on the watch, like use to to initiate a call or dictate a reply to an SMS, start an app etc. For the rest the touch screen works fine. Took me a bit of time to figure out how to run the new apps I installed because that isn’t really intuitive initially (or maybe I was just sleep deprived) but once I figured that out I was good to go. I think it would have made sense for them to put this in the help section.

The watch is not bulky at all and is lighter than my other watch. Lots of folks have complained about its size online but I didn’t find that to be an issue. However the battery life could have been better. In my daily use I am down to about 35% charge by the time I am ready to sleep after starting with a full charge in the morning. The charger looks nice and the charging is fast, however since the watch has a custom charger it means that I have to make sure that I carry it with me when I am traveling because none of my other chargers work with it. Sure, I can buy another charger for the office but it’s a pain.

The other issue that I noticed with it is that the heart rate sensor is crap. Every single time I have tried to check my heart rate (using both fit and the Moto software) it has failed with a sensor time out message, although Vinit did manage to get it to work once so I know the sensor works.

For the most part I have been using the watch to read my SMS/Whatsapp/Email messages without having to pull out my phone and monitoring my step count. Apparently I walk around a lot more than I thought which is good. :) Also the ability to decline calls with a message from the watch is very handy when your phone is at your desk and you are at another desk working on something or in a meeting.

I am planning on installing the Analog keyboard for Android that I blogged about earlier but that will be over the weekend when I have some breathing room to experiment. I will share my findings and experiences going forward so if you are interested do keep an eye on the blog for new posts.

Well, this is all for now. It’s time for me to crash for the night. Will post more later.

– Suramya

November 4, 2014

A Cardboard Computer that actually works

Filed under: Computer Hardware,Interesting Sites,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 12:31 AM

No, this is not a joke or a toy for a 5 year old. In the 70’s the computers were still not in the affordable range for 99% of the population so a bright chap by the name of David Hagelbarger working at Bell Laboratories designed CARDIAC (CARDboard Illustrative Aid to Computation) as an educational tool to give people without access to computers the ability to learn how computers work. Basically it is a micro-processor made out of cardboard.

The CARDIAC computer is a single-accumulator single-address machine, which means that instructions operate on the accumulator alone, or on the accumulator and a memory location. The machine implements 10 instructions, each of which is assigned a 3-digit decimal opcode. The instruction set architecture includes instructions common to simple Von Neumann processors, such as load, store, add/subtract, and conditional branch.

Operating the computer is fairly simple–the cardboard slides guide you through the operation of the ALU and instruction decoder, and the flow chart shows you which stage to go to next. The program counter is represented by a cardboard ladybug which is manually moved through the program memory after each instruction completes.

Even though the CARDIAC is dated and very simplistic, it is still a useful tool to teach how microprocessors work. Although modern processors include multi-stage pipelines, finely-tuned branch predictors, and numerous other improvements, the basic principles of operation remain the same

You can print your own by visiting Kyle Miller’s Site. More information about CARDIAC and how to use it is available at cs.drexel.edu and on it’s Wikipedia site.

Thanks to Hackaday.com for the story.

– Suramya

October 11, 2014

Microsoft Research releases Android Wear keyboard prototype

Filed under: Computer Hardware,Computer Software,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 5:33 PM

Yes, you read that correctly. Microsoft Research has released the prototype of it’s new keyboard for Android Wear which allows you to input text by drawing letters on the watch face. This is not the first time MS has released stuff of android and I am quite happy with this trend.

The idea of inputting text by drawing characters is not new. If you remember the Palm OS devices they had a keyboard call Graffiti which used a sort of shorthand of letting you input text. I used to love it and had it installed it on my Galaxy Nexus and used it quite often till it got replaced by the voice typing option on the Google Keyboard.

As touch screens are getting smaller, soft keyboards are getting harder to use. For example, on a 1.6” smart watch, a soft keyboard with 10 keys across has keys less than 1/8” (3mm) wide. Speech recognition can be a viable alternative, but unfortunately, speaking into your watch is not always appropriate or even possible (noisy environments).

With the Analog Keyboard Project we are exploring handwriting recognition for text input on small touch screens. Handwriting, unlike speech, is discreet and not prone to background noise. And unlike soft keyboards, where many keys have to share the small touch surface, handwriting methods can offer the entire screen (or most of it) for each symbol. This allows each letter to be entered rather comfortably, even on small devices. In fact, it has been shown that some handwriting systems can be used without even looking at the screen . Finally, handwriting interfaces require very little design changes to run on round displays, which are becoming increasingly popular.

Interestingly the developers decided to support lower-case alphabets instead of upper-case in this first release. I would have thought they would go the other way as it is easier to identify upper case letters for the most part than lower-case.

Please keep in mind that this is a prototype (Alpha) release so it possibly has a lot of bugs and is not production ready. Plus it can’t be installed on the watch from Google Play, it has to be side loaded and the process is a bit complicated so might not be the best option for non-tech savvy folks right now.

Source: androidcentral.com
Project Page: The Analog Keyboard Project
Download: Analog Keyboard for Android Wear

– Suramya

July 8, 2014

World’s smallest 3D-printer pen allows you to create 3d art in air

Filed under: Computer Hardware,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 6:10 PM

I have been meaning to blog about this for a bit now, but better late than never… Lix, a UK based company has unveiled the world’s smallest 3D-printing pen. To give you an idea of how small, it is about the size of a regular fountain pen and weighs about 40g. It is supposed to go on sale with the final production model by Sept and price is not that bad either (~$180)

Basically, Lix is a professional tool that enables you to sketch in the air without using paper.

Lix 3D pen is a dream coming true. With Lix 3D Pen you can create anything from small to big, from details to prototypes. It allows you to express your creativity on a whole new level. We are changing the world’s view on 2D as we are now giving the possibility to make your creations in 3D in an never-been-so-easy way!

I am eagerly waiting for it, not because I am an Artist (god no) but Anjali is and she could create some cool art with it. Plus it is a cool toy to have to play with. :)

Source: The Register
More details: Lix Kickstarter

– Suramya

July 24, 2013

My RaspberryPi Camera module finally arrived and it works great!

Filed under: Computer Hardware,Linux/Unix Related,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 2:06 AM

After months of waiting (about 2 to be exact) my RaspberryPi Camera module finally arrived today and I took it for a brief spin. Setting it up was really easy, I just installed the Rasbian image I have, updated the install to the latest version and then enabled the camera. Once that was done and I rebooted the Pi, the camera started working without any issues. The instructions I followed are at: RaspberryPi Camera.

As part of the test I got the pi to transmit the images to my desktop and the clarity was pretty good, there was a slight lag in the display of about 1/2 a second but at 1080p I don’t think I can complain. Below are some pics I took of the setup and of the image being streamed to my desktop.


The Camera module next to my keyboard for a size comparison


Photo of my hand being streamed live to my desktop from the Pi.

I do plan to take pics using the camera module itself, but there is nothing interesting on my desk that I wanted to take photos of so you will have to wait for a day or two and I will take pics of the view from my window and post.

Well this is all for now, I should go get some sleep now considering I have an early start tomorrow.

– Suramya

April 16, 2013

Adafruit launches educational show aimed at kids

Filed under: Computer Hardware,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 4:11 PM

If you are like me you love tinkering with technology and honestly speaking there is no age too early to start teaching kids about electronics and how they work. Adafruit has launched an educational show aimed at kids which is going to be a episode based series and their first episode is titled “A is for Ampere” and teaches the basic theory behind electrical current.

If you have young kids in the family, you should definitely check it out. I am going to try get Vir hooked on to it once he reaches the age where he doesn’t try to eat everything that is given to him. Don’t think Surabhi and Vinit will be happy with me if he manages to swallow a diode or a capacitor. :)

Source: Adafruit Launches educational show for Kids

– Suramya

June 27, 2012

Installing Citrix on the RaspberryPi + Other Pi related stuff

One of the use cases I had for the Pi was to use it as a portable thin client that could connect to a Windows server using Citrix. After a little experimentation I managed to get Citrix installed on the Pi and was able to connect to a Windows server successfully and work. I documented the steps I followed to get this to work on the RaspberryPi forum, check out the Tutorial (How to get Citrix working on a RaspberryPi) if you are interested.

Getting Citrix working was a positive thing, other than that I spent some time trying to install my Wireless network dongle (3Com OfficeConnect Wireless. Model # 3CRUSB10075) on the Pi and hit some hurdles in the process. If you remember the last time when I tried this I thought the problem was caused because the card was pulling more power than the Pi could provide. So I went and got a Belkin powered USB hub (I needed it anyways as I need to connect more than 2 USB devices to the Pi).

When I initially plugged in the hub everything seemed to work without issues and the keyboard + mouse I had connected to the hub worked without issues. So I plugged in the wireless dongle, as soon as I plugged it in my mouse and keyboard both stopped working. I then unplugged the dongle and both the mouse & keyboard started working again. I then plugged the keyboard directly on the Pi and the dongle on the hub, now the keyboard worked but the mouse had issues. Looking at the /var/messages log I saw a ton of error messages like the following:

Jun 21 18:10:46 raspberrypi kernel: DEBUG:handle_hc_chhltd_intr_dma:: XactErr without NYET/NAK/ACK
Jun 21 18:10:46 raspberrypi kernel:
Jun 21 18:10:46 raspberrypi kernel: DEBUG:handle_hc_chhltd_intr_dma:: XactErr without NYET/NAK/ACK
Jun 21 18:10:46 raspberrypi kernel:
Jun 21 18:10:46 raspberrypi kernel: DEBUG:handle_hc_chhltd_intr_dma:: XactErr without NYET/NAK/ACK
Jun 21 18:10:46 raspberrypi kernel:
Jun 21 18:10:46 raspberrypi kernel: DEBUG:handle_hc_chhltd_intr_dma:: XactErr without NYET/NAK/ACK

Tried a few things but nothing worked and since it was 3:30 in the morning I gave up and crashed for the day. Will try again when I have had some sleep and get some dedicated time to play with the Pi.

– Suramya

June 20, 2012

I am now a proud owner of a RaspberryPi

Filed under: Computer Hardware,My Life,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 11:54 PM

After waiting for almost 6 months from when it launched, and a month after I placed the order I am now a proud owner of a RaspberryPi :) For those of you who are wondering what on earth I am talking about, its a computer the size of a phone (see pic below comparing it with my old Nokia N95) costing $35 that is powerful enough to play Quake3. Its amazing how small this thing is and the features they have managed to cram on to the box. It was delivered yesterday and I was a bit upset at the customs duty I had to pay on the device (paid about 50% of the cost of the device + the cost of shipping as duty) but it still turns out to be a lot cheaper than any other contender.

I was really excited to work on it but when I got home and started to set it up I found that my SD card reader/writer was no longer functioning :( so after a few hours of trying and turning the house upside-down for the other card reader that I know I have and just couldn’t find, I finally gave up and messaged Krishna at 12:30am asking him to bring a SD Card reader with him to the office (which he did, thanks!) the next day. Had to wait a day to get back home and once I got home with the reader I then downloaded the Debian image to my computer and wrote it to the card, powered the system with my old blackberry charger, plugged in an Ethernet cable and a HDMI cable (actually HDMI to DVI cable if you want to be picky) connecting the Pi to my second monitor. That’s when I hit a snag. Turns out that I don’t have a single USB keyboard at home, all my keyboards are PS/2. :( So now I either need to borrow a USB keyboard or go buy a small one. In any case I powered the Pi up to see if it works ok and it powered up fine.

The first boot took about a min, but after that the system gets to the login prompt in about 15 secs, which is pretty cool. I can reduce the boot time further by disabling services that I know I won’t use (like NFS etc). Unfortunately SSH wasn’t enabled on the box, so without a keyboard and no remote connection I couldn’t really do anything more at this time, but I am full of idea’s for this device.

Below are some pics of the Pi in action:


Comparison shot of the RaspberryPi next to a Nokia N95


The RaspberryPi hooked up and ready for action


Initial Boot Sequence of RaspberryPi

I wanted to take a comparison shot of the Pi next to my Galaxy Nexus but I was using the Nexus to take the photos (didn’t feel like pulling out the camera, take a pic, take out the card and then upload the pics as compared to; take the photo, FTP to computer).

Well this is all for now, am a bit sad, but still excited. Keep an eye here for more on the Pi and my experiments with it.

– Suramya

January 11, 2012

Enter a 1 TB Pen Drive

Filed under: Computer Hardware — Suramya @ 1:43 PM

Have you ever despaired of not having enough storage space when on the move? Are the 16GB pen drive no longer enough for you? In that case this announcement from ‘Victorinox’ is just for you: their new SSD Flash drive will be available in capacities up to 1 TB (1024 GB) while still retaining the same size format as the regular pen drives.

Designed for the person who’s never deleted a single file and maxes out their monthly bandwidth limits on torrents, Victorinox dropped a bomb on CES with their new SSD flash drive which will actually be available in capacities up to one terabyte. That’s a thousand gigabytes people

It’s actually the largest flash drive Victorinox has created in terms of its physical size too, but it’s still very easy to slip in a pocket or tether to a keychain. It’s not like they just slapped their shield logo on an external hard drive and attached a pop-out blade. Read and write speeds are promised at 220MB/s and 150MB/s respectively, and from my personal experience Victorinox’s drives have been some of the fastest I’ve ever used.

I have a 8GB pen drive which is currently missing in action. But unfortunately this device is not available yet for retail and there is no information of the pricing yet, however I am sure it will have a hefty price. Still: me want!

Thanks to Gizmodo for the story.

– Suramya

June 11, 2010

The first foldable dual screen ebook reader/netbook is out

Filed under: Computer Hardware,Linux/Unix Related — Suramya @ 2:07 AM

If I would ever get a ebook reader I think I will go for this one or something similar.

This is an Android device which has a 9.7″ E-paper Display and a 10.1″ LCD Touchscreen Display. So you can have a book open on one side and surf the web on the other side. Or have a programming manual open on one side and code on the other.

The enTourage eDGe™ Specifications are as follows:

* Dimensions: 8.25″ x 10.75″ by 1.0″ (closed)
* Weight: approx. 3 lbs.
* Internal Memory: 4 GB (3 GB for user)
* E-reader File Formats: ePub, PDF
* LCD Touchscreen Display Size: 1024 x 600 (10.1″)
* E-paper Display Size: 9.7″ e-Ink®(1200 x 825), 8 shades of gray
* E-paper Input: Wacom® Penabled®
* Operating System: Linux with Google® Android®
* Screen Rotation: 90 and 180 degrees
* Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 b/g, Bluetooth capability
* Battery Life: 16+ hours utilizing the e-reader screen / up to 6 hours running the LCD screen
* Battery Type: Lithium-ion polymer
* External Memory: SD card slot, 2 USB ports
* Audio and Microphone Jack: 3.5 mm each. Includes internal microphone and speakers.
* Audio playback: MP3, WAV, 3GPP, MP4, AAC, OGG, M4A
* Video playback: 3GP, MP4, Adobe Flash Lite (H.264)
* Input: Stylus input on e-paper and touchscreen. Virtual keyboard. USB keyboard (optional)

The cost is $499.

– Suramya

Source: Handle With Linux.

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