Category Archives: Electronics

Consumer electronics, portables, whatever

My table tennis racket sized phone

I upgraded my Nexus 5 to a Nexus 6 the other day. It is a biiiig phone, and just to show you how big I made a little picture showing all my Android phones so far using the correct relative sizes. It certainly isn’t very far away from a table tennis racket in size now. My Android track record so far goes like this: HTC Magic, HTC Desire HD, Nexus 4, Nexus 5 and now Nexus 6.


As shown, this latest step is probably the biggest relative size change in a single go. If the next step would be as big, imagine the size that would require! (While you think about that, I’ve already done the math: the 6 is 159.3 mm tall, 15.5% taller than the 5’s’ 137.9mm, so adding 15.5% to the Nexus 6 ends up at 184 – only 16 mm shorter than a Nexus 7 in portrait mode… I don’t think I could handle that!)

After the initial size shock, I’m enjoying the large size. It is a bit of a clunker to cram down into my left front-side jeans pocket where I’m used to carry around my device. It is still doable, but not as easy as before and it easily get uncomfortable when sitting down. I guess I need to sit less or change my habit somehow.

This largest phone ever ironically switched to the smallest SIM card size so my micro-SIM had to be replaced with a nano-SIM.

Borked upgrade procedure

Not a single non-Google app got installed in my new device in the process. I strongly suspect it was that “touch the back of another device to copy from” thing that broke it because it didn’t work at all – and when it failed, it did not offer me to restore a copy from backup which I later learned it does if I skip the touch-back step. I ended up manually re-installing my additional 100 or so apps…

My daughter then switched from her Nexus 4 to my (by then) clean-wiped 5.  For her, we skipped that broken back-touch process and she got a nice backup from the 4 restored onto the 5. But she got another nasty surprise: basically over half of her contacts were just gone when she opened the contacts app on the 5, so we had to manually go through the contact list on the old device and re-add them into the new one. The way we did (not even do) it in the 90s…

The Android device installation (and data transfer) process is not perfect yet. Although my brother says he did his two upgrades perfectly smoothly…

Keyboard key frequency

A while ago I wrote about my hunt for a new keyboard, and in my follow-up conversations with friends around that subject I quickly came to the conclusion I should get myself better analysis and data on how I actually use a keyboard and the individual keys on it. And if you know me, you know I like (useless) statistics.

Func KB-460 keyboardSo, I tried out the popular and widely used Linux key-logger software ‘logkeys‘ and immediately figured out that it doesn’t really support the precision and detail level I wanted so I forked the project and modified the code to work the way I want it: keyfreq was born. Code on github. (I forked it because I couldn’t find any way to send back my modifications to the upstream project, I don’t really feel a need for another project.)

Then I fired up the logging process and it has been running in the background for a while now, logging every key stroke with a time stamp.

Counting key frequency and how it gets distributed very quickly turns into basically seeing when I’m active in front of the computer and it also gave me thoughts around what a high key frequency actually means in terms of activity and productivity. Does a really high key frequency really mean that I was working intensely or isn’t that purpose more a sign of mail sending time? When I debug problems or research details, won’t those periods result in slower key activity?

In the end I guess that over time, the key frequency chart basically says that if I have pressed a lot of keys during a period, I was working on something then. Hours or days with a very low average key frequency are probably times when I don’t work as much.

The weekend key frequency is bound to be slightly wrong due to me sometimes doing weekend hacking on other computers where I don’t log the keys since my results are recorded from a single specific keyboard only.


So what did I learn? Here are some conclusions and results from 1276614 keystrokes done over a period of the most recent 52 calendar days.

I have a 105-key keyboard, but during this period I only pressed 90 unique keys. Out of the 90 keys I pressed, 3 were pressed more than 5% of the time – each. In fact, those 3 keys are more than 20% of all keystrokes. Those keys are: <Space>, <Backspace> and the letter ‘e’.

<Space> stands out from all the rest as it has been used more than 10%.

Only 29 keys were used more than 1% of the presses, giving this a really long tail with lots of keys hardly ever used.

Over this logged time, I have registered key strokes during 46% of all hours. Counting only the hours in which I actually used the keyboard, the average number of key strokes were 2185/hour, 36 keys/minute.

The average week day (excluding weekend days), I registered 32486 key presses. The most active sinngle minute during this logging period, I hit 405 keys. The most active single hour I managed to do 7937 key presses. During weekends my activity is much lower, and then I average at 5778 keys/day (7.2% of all activity were weekends).

When counting most active hours over the day, there are 14 hours that have more than 1% activity and there are 5 with less than 1%, leaving 5 hours with no keyboard activity at all (02:00- 06:59). Interestingly, the hour between 23-24 at night is the single most busy hour for me, with 12.5% of all keypresses during the period.

Random “anecdotes”

Longest contiguous time without keys: 26.4 hours

Longest key sequence without backspace: 946

There are 7 keys I only pressed once during this period; 4 of them are on the numerical keypad and the other three are F10, F3 and <Pause>.


I’ll try to keep the logging going and see if things change over time or if there later might end up things that can be seen in the data when looked over a longer period.

Crashed and recovered in no time

Working from home, even writing software from home, my computer setup is pretty crucial for a productive work day.

Yesterday morning after I had sat down with my coffee and started to work on my latest patch iteration I noticed that some disk operations seemed to be very slow. I looked around and then suddenly an ‘ls’ of a directory returned an error!

I checked the system logs and I saw them filling up with error messages identifying problems with a hard drive. Very quickly I identified the drive as the bigger one (I have one SSD and one much larger HDD). Luckily, that’s the one I mostly store document, pictures and videos on and I backup that thing every night. This disk is not very old and I’ve never experienced this sort of disk crash before, not even with disks that I’ve used for many years more than I’ve used this…

boomI ripped the thing out, booted up again and I could still work since my source code and OS are on the SSD. I ordered a new one at once. Phew.

Tuesday morning I noticed that for some unexplainable reason I had my /var partition on the dead drive (and not backed up). That turned out to be a bit inconvenient since now my Debian Linux had no idea which packages I had installed and apt-get and dpkg were all crippled to death.

I did some googling and as my laptop is also a Debian sid install I managed to restore it pretty swiftly by copying over data from there. At least it (the /var contents) is now mostly back to where it was before.

On Tuesday midday, some 26 hours after I ripped out the disk, my doorbell bing-bonged and the delivery guy handed me a box with a new and shiny 3 TB drive. A couple of hours ago I inserted it, portioned it, read back a couple of hundred gigabytes of backup, put back the backup job in cron again and … yeah, I think I’m basically back to where I was before it went south.

All in all: saved by the backup. Not many tears. Phew this time.

Bye bye Nexus 10 it was fun while it lasted

In the middle of my otherwise happy summer vacation, my Nexus 10 had a serious case of depression and took a nose-dive from a little over a meter above floor level and crashed into the mighty fine stone tiles. It got some serious damage and there are cracks all over the screen.

Nexus 10A while ago I posted a service request on Samsung’s site to get it fixed (they manufacture the Nexus-10s and the device have a product number and everything in Samsung’s systems), and they responded and directed me to my nearest “quick support center” for screen and display repairs. The nearest one happens to be located just a few hundred meters from where I work these days.

Today I stepped in there and asked to get my screen fixed.

– “It’ll cost you some 2000-3000 SEK” one of the two service guys says at once. Clearly not really wanting to fix it.

– “Eh, that’s a bit unspecific. Can you tell me with some better accuracy?” I reply. After all, I didn’t pay an awful lot more than 3000 SEK for it as new – in the US and I wanted to figure out if a repair would be worth the money.

– “Okay”, he says and leaves the room through a door and is gone for a while.

– “Do you have the serial number for it?” the guys says returning and yeah, I brought it there in its original box and the serial number is there. The guy leaves again.

– “Did you buy that device here?” He’s back. Without really specifying where “here” means but I figured he means in Sweden so I of course had to tell him

– “No, it’s purchased in the US”

– “Then we can’t fix it.” and then he explains how they can’t order the parts necessary for the device and that’s it. Nothing to do. They can’t.

Okay, so I knew there’s always a risk when “grey-importing” so I’m not really very upset. I’m mostly baffled by their response and also by the fact that there apparently is something different with the Nexus 10 display if it was bought in the US – or at least they say so.

We still have another Nexus 10 in the family and I’m ordering a 2nd gen Nexus 7 now to replace this dead thing with…

I’m with Nexus 4

About two years ago I purchased my Desire HD made by HTC, which has indeed been a trusted work horse of mine. Even if does lack on the battery side and the micro USB connector has gotten a bit worn out so that most cables fall out unless I take precautions to avoid it.Nexus 4

Back then I upgraded from an HTC Magic to a rather high end device of the time. This time the bump goes like this in pure specs/numbers, and it is interesting to see how two years have changed the scene…

Size and weight

HTC Desire HD: 164 grams, 123 x 68 mm and 11.8mm thick. 4.3″ LCD

Nexus 4: 139 grams, 133.9 x 68.7mm and 9.1 mm thick. 4.7″ LCD

Two years ago many people asked me about the “big” phone and had objections. Today, that old 4.3″ thing is small in comparison. As you can see, the Nexus 4 is basically “only” a centimeter taller than the old one, while a bit thinner and much lighter. The extra centimeter and the removal of the bottom buttons basically gave the extra screen reel estate.


HTC Desire HD: 800 x 480

Nexus 4: 1280 x 768

Roughly 2.5 times the number of pixels on screen.


HTC Desire HD: 1230 mah

Nexus 4: 2100 mah

70% more battery juice. Should come handy but won’t stop me from dreaming about some real battery evolution!


CPU: 1GHz single core is now a 1.5GHz quad-core.

RAM: 768MB of RAM has now grown to 2GB.

Price: The price on this new phone is lower than the old one as new!

Buttons: I find it interesting that I’ve gone from 6 buttons, to 4 to none through my three Android phones.

HTC Sense vs Stock Android: I’ve never been particularly upset with Sense, and now when the Desire HD is stuck on Android 2.3 and Nexus runs 4.2 they feel very different anyway.

A feature my HTC phone has and that I like, but that stock Android lacks is the ability to completely block (ignore) certain contacts on incoming calls. I can add sales people or telemarketers and then completely not see HTC Magic them at all, no matter how many times they phone me – not even as missed phone calls.

One thing I’ve actually been slightly annoyed with in the Desire HD is its really crappy camera. I believe the Nexus 4 camera has the same amount of pixels but I do have hopes that it’ll allow me to take better pictures while being out and about.

I figured this posting wouldn’t be complete without also include a picture of my first Adroid phone, the HTC Magic.

I’m with Nexus 10

I held off this long but now I’ve joined theNexus 10 tablet owning part of the world. I brought home my new and shiny Nexus 10 yesterday (purchased in the US, it is not yet available to buy in this dusty and dark corner of the world).

Android 4.2 on a 10 inch 2560×1600 screen is a lovely experience. It is the 16GB wifi-only version. Did I mention that the screen is awesome?

My five ADSL modems

bredbandsbolagetI previously blogged when my network hardware died. Here’s the recap and continuation of that story and how things evolved…

One day my ADSL modem could no longer get sync, I couldn’t send data and my (landline) phone was dead. My phone is connected into the ADSL modem through which it does IP telephony. Other times this has happened I could just switch off the modem for 10 seconds and then back on again it would work again for another 6 months or a year or so.

I’ve had ADSL at roughly 12mbit working flawlessly for several years so this was an unexpected breakage.

On 14 sep 16:16 I called my operator’s (Bredbandsbolaget) support about the issue when the modem hadn’t been able to get contact for a whole day – I was suspecting some kind of glitch in the service from the other end. The support person said that I had a “very old modem” and they immediately decided to send me a new modem by mail that would fix my problems.

xavi technologies x5258-p2At 16 sep 18:51 I called support again. I received modem #2 and installed it this day. The modem, Xavi Technologies X5258-P2, is a much more fancy model than what I had been using for the last couple of years – the new one had 4 Ethernet ports and wifi. Not that I really care about that cruft as I want to use my own wifi router anyway to get control of things better.

When I plugged in modem #2 I noticed that it lit up the ‘phone’ LED at once (which normally would only be on if I use the phone) and while internet data seemed to work, the phone did not. When I called support again to ask about this, they decided it was a broken modem they had sent me and would send me a replacement at once.

A few days later I got modem #3 and installed it. I also got the joy of sending back two ADSL modems.

3 oct 20:25 – I called the support again. Modem #3 hung occasionally and I wanted to get their help to fix the problem. The support guy I talked to claimed his sometimes happens if a wifi router is too close to the modem and adviced me to put my ADSL modem and wifi router further apart. It sounded like a suspicious analysis and theory to me, as why would the modem completely hang from this and if it did, why would it keep on running for days at times after a reboot? The support person also revealed that he had detailed logs going back a few weeks at least where he could see my ADSL modem power recycles and he could also see “bad CRC” counters going up before my restarts. I moved my devices two meters apart.

A little side-story: the modem has wifi support, but as I run my own wifi router behind it I don’t want the modem’s wifi. I noticed it ran on a different channel than my regular one so it wasn’t an immediate concern. It did however turn out that in order to switch it off I had to configure that with a Windows program and in order to install that program I had to enter a username and password that I didn’t have. Asking support for the credentials, they instead offered to simply disable the wifi from their end instead. That was fine by me, but again showed what fancy controls they have over these things.

For a week or so my connection actually was better and I actually thought my suspicions about the fishy advice were wrong. But no. It turned out I was only lucky for a few days as then it started hanging again every few days. It would stop transfering data in/out, and the “phone” led would blink slowly. How on earth could a device like this hang in any circumstance? I’ve been an embedded developer all my professional life, I know hanging is the worst possible thing. I much better but still ugly way to resolve a problem without any obvious way out, would be to reboot. A reboot would’ve been annoying as well, but far from as annoying as this.

Now, after all, I have a fiber installation coming “soon” so I figured I could possibly just shut up and endure this ADSL mess and it will go away or at least change drastically once I get my new connection…

But eventually it got too tedious, also partly because my kids and my wife also found it annoying and troubling – I had to give up the eduring. The fiber installtion also seemed to be delayed. Who knows how long I was supposed to remain on ADSL.

So, on 5 dec 18:38 I was back on the phone with the support people and complained about the hangs I frequently get with modem #3. The guy listened to me explaining the issue, he checked the reboot logs from his side and swiftly decided he would send me a new modem. He decided to send a modem of a different brand this time to see if this made things work better in my end.


On dec 8th I got modem #4. A different model this time compared to #2 and #3. It was now a Zyxel P-2601. I got home from work at 18:15, had a quick dinner and then I connected the new equipment. Would this really be the end of my troubles? Anticipation!

– Oh harsh reality, how thee can be rough and cold.

This modem can’t be powered on. If I flip the power switch and turns it on, all the leds switch on but as soon as my finger leaves the power-on toggle again the modem turns itself off… At 18:52 I tried to call support, but a voice claimed they had “internal systems problems” so I gave up.

12:45 on Friday Dec 9th I called again and reported my broken modem and the friendly support woman was a bit surprised I had gotten a broken device as she said “straight from the factory”. She even expressed some sympathy about the replacement unit, modem #5, not being able to reach me until Monday.

On Monday the 12th I got an invoice wanting to charge me 500 SEK for one of the broken modems they claimed I never sent back so I had to call customer service again and have them not do that. (I find 500 SEK for a broken ADSL modem quite a hefty charge when that’s basically the price for a completely new and working unit…)

December 13, modem #5 arrived and I connected it. It didn’t work at once but the phone worked which gave me a clue, so I connected a laptop directly to the ADSL modem and when I then tried to use a browser on that network I reached an admin interface web server and by using that I could switch the modem over to “bridge mode”. It turned out the default setting for this device is to function as a DHCP server and all sorts of other funny things that I didn’t want it to do.

At the time of this writing, number five has been running without problems for 72 hours.

I like a good firmware bump

So I have this TV that I got for Xmas 2009. As it happens the guys at Philips clearly kept fixing the software and removed bugs after that moment. No surprise there really. I’ve been an embedded software developer for some twenty years by now. I know that software never gets “done” and that what ships in products is only what seems to be “good enough” at some point in time. Sometimes of course not even that good.

So the other day I took a photo of my TV firmware version. It shows how the firmware was made in April 2009. I did it during a discussion with a friend who happens to have the exact same TV as I do, and it then of course turns out he has a different (newer) firmware.

Oh right, I wonder if I can upgrade to a newer one? Once I’ve mastered the maze of the Philips web site I eventually found a download link and PDFs that told me how to. The list of fixes since my version was extensive and I noticed a few flaws mentioned that I have actually experienced!

The TV firmware download was a whopping 43MB. I realize this is because it is a full-fledged Linux system with kernel and God knows what else they’ve crammed in there. I decided to give it a closer check! The result of that was a little disappointing. It is quite clearly encrypted after some basic initial header.

hexdump -C firmware image

The data that starts on offset 0x220 is not x86 instructions and in fact nothing in the beginning of the file looks like x86 code (I just ran a quick “objdump -D –target binary -m i386” on the file). Of course, I don’t know what architecture my TV runs so perhaps even checking for x86 is wrong. I know MIPS is popular in DVDs, settop-boxes and related graphics stuff but…. Nah, I decided it really wasn’t worth the effort so I stopped investigating. I have no real intention of hacking on it anyway.

So I instead proceeded to the actual procedure of upgrading the thing.

Unzip the zip file and put the file in the root dir of a FAT32-formatted usb-stick. The instructions of course didn’t say it needs to be FAT32 but I used that and it worked, and I just smug in the dark to how a manufacturer like this just assumes that we would have FAT32 on our usb-sticks…

But I digress. When I inserted the upgrade USB, the TV switched itself off, was dark for a short while and then turned itself on again and showed the firmware upgrade screen.

The process was very fast, just like 30-40 seconds or something like that and then it was done and asked me to remove the “media” and restart. Of course we know that a usb stick is “media” so I removed it from the TV set.

The instructions were very clear that to “restart” the TV I must only press the ON/OFF button on the remote once and only once. So I was careful to do just that… ;-)

Nothing strange happened, but after a brief moment of black screen the regular and familiar interface.

I jumped into the firmware version menu to check it out and yes, it shows an updated version now:

I did a quick check to see if I could detect my previous quirks now, but they may really be gone. They’ve been related to sound through HDMI and some graphical “glitches” when feeding the TV with full HD from a laptop.

So, with this firmware that was shipped many months after I got my TV, I seem to have gotten a better product.

I haven’t yet tested this new version to a significant degree so I don’t know yet if I’ve gotten some new nasty side-effects from it, as sometimes these kinds of firmware upgrades really cause you pain when something that formerly used to work so good suddenly turns out to not work that good any longer.

The cookie RFC 6265 is out!

Back when I was a HTTP rookie in the late 90s, I once expected that there was this fine RFC document somewhere describing how to do HTTP cookies. I was wrong. A lot of others have missed that document too, both before and after my initial search.

I was wrong in the sense that sure there were RFCs for cookies. There were even two of them (RFC2109 and RFC2965)! The only sad thing was however that both of them were totally pointless as in effect nobody (servers nor clients) implemented cookies like that so they documented idealistic protocols that didn’t exist in the real world. This sad state has made people fall into cookie problems all the way into modern days when they’ve implemented services according to those RFCs and then blame their browser for failing.


It turned out that the only document that existed that were being used, was the original Netscape cookie document. It can’t even be called a specification because it is so short and is so lacking in details that it leaves large holes open and forces implementors to guess about the missing pieces. A sweet irony in itself is the fact that even Netscape removed the document from their site so the only place to find this document is at or copies like the one I link to above at the site. (For some further and more detailed reading about the history of cookies and a bunch of the flaws in the protocol/design, I recommend Michal Zalewski’s excellent blog post HTTP cookies, or how not to design protocols.)

While HTTP was increasing in popularity as a protocol during the 00s and still is, and more and more stuff get done in browsers and everything and everyone are using cookies, the protocol was still not documented anywhere as it was actually used.

Somewhat modeled after the httpbis working group (which is working on updating and bugfixing the HTTP 1.1 spec), IETF setup a mailing list named httpstate in the early 2009 to start discussing what problems there are with cookies and all related matters. After lively discussions throughout the year, the working group with the same name as the mailinglist was founded at December 11th 2009.

One of the initial sparks to get the httpstate group going came from Bill Corry who said this about the start:

In late 2008, Jim Manico and I connected to create a specification for
HTTPOnly — we saw the security issues arising from how the browser vendors
were implementing HTTPOnly in varying ways[1] due to a lack of a specification
and formed an ad-hoc working group to tackle the issue[2].
When I approached the IETF about forming a charter for an official working
group, I was told that I was <quote> “wasting my time” because cookies itself
did not have a proper specification, so it didn’t make sense to work on a spec
for HTTPOnly.  Soon after, we pursued reopening the IETF httpstate Working
Group to tackle the entire cookie spec, not just HTTPOnly.  Eventually Adam
Barth would become editor and Jeff Hodges our chair.

In late 2008, Jim Manico and I connected to create a specification for HTTPOnly — we saw the security issues arising from how the browser vendors were implementing HTTPOnly in varying ways[1] due to a lack of a specification and formed an ad-hoc working group to tackle the issue[2].

When I approached the IETF about forming a charter for an official working group, I was told that I was <quote> “wasting my time” because cookies itself did not have a proper specification, so it didn’t make sense to work on a spec for HTTPOnly.  Soon after, we pursued reopening the IETF httpstate Working Group to tackle the entire cookie spec, not just HTTPOnly.  Eventually Adam Barth would become editor and Jeff Hodges our chair.

Since then Adam Barth has worked fiercely as author of the specification and lots of people have joined in and contributed their views, comments and experiences, and we have over time really nailed down how cookies work in the wild today. The current spec now actually describes how to send and receive cookies, the way it is done by existing browsers and clients. Of course, parts of this new spec say things I don’t think it should, like how it deals with the order of cookies in headers, but as everything in life we needed to compromise and I seemed to be rather lonely on my side of that “fence”.

I must stress that the work has only involved to document how things work today and not to invent or create anything new. We don’t fix any of the many known problems with cookies, but we describe how you write your protocol implementation if you want to interact fine with existing infrastructure.

The new spec explicitly obsoletes the older RFC2965, but doesn’t obsolete RFC2109. That was done already by RFC2965. (I updated this paragraph after my initial post.)

Oh, and yours truly is mentioned in the ending “acknowledgements” section. It’s actually the second RFC I get to be mentioned in, the first being RFC5854.


I am convinced that I will get reason to get back to the cookie topic soon and describe what is being worked on for the future. Once the existing cookies have been documented, there’s a desire among people to design something that overcomes the problems with the existing protocol. Adam’s CAKE proposal being one of the attempts and ideas in the pipe.

Another parallel IETF effort is the http-auth mailing list in which lots of discussions around HTTP authentication is being held, and as they often today involve cookies there’s a lot of talk about them there as well. See for example Timothy D. Morgan’s document Weaning the Web off of Session Cookies.

I’ll certainly track the development. And possibly even participate in shaping how this will go. We’ll see.

(cookie image source)

Back in the printing game

HP Officejet 8500AAfter my printer died, I immediately ordered a new one online and not long afterwards I could pick it up from my local post office. As I use both the scanner and the printer features pretty much I went with another “all-in-one” model and I chose an HP model (again) basically because I’ve been happy with how my previous worked (before its death). “HP Officejet Pro 8500 A910” seems to be the whole name. And yeah, it really is as black as the picture here shows it.

This model is less “photo-focused” than my previous but I never print my own photos so that’s no loss. What did annoy me was however that this model uses 4 ink cartridges instead of the 6 in my previous, but of a completely different design so I can’t even re-use my half-full ink containers from the corpse!

My new printer has some fancy features. It is one of them that I can give an email address and then print on by sending email to it. The email address then gets a really long one with lots of seemingly random letters, it is in the domain and I can set up a white-list of people (From: addresses) that is allowed to print on it via email.

It also has full internet access itself so it could fetch a firmware upgrade file and install that entirely on its own without the use of a computer. (Which made me wonder if they use libcurl, but I realize there’s no way for me to tell and of course there are many alternatives they might use.)

Driver-wise, it seems like a completely different set for Windows (hopefully this won’t uninstall itself) and on Linux I could install it fine to print, but xsane just won’t find it to scan. I intend to instead try to use the printer’s web service for scanning, hopefully that will be roughly equivalent for my limited use – I mostly scan documents, bills and invoices for my work.