How to update to Android 4.3 on your rooted Nexus 4

A while ago upon applying the freshly received Android 4.3 OTA update on my Nexus 4 the following happened:

android-update-fail

Although the error message looked rather troubling after rebooting Android got successfully updated to 4.3 to my surprise.

Even though my phone got updated some days later the update re-appeared among my notifications. This time I went over the same process just to make the nofication disappear. Some days later when the update notification popped again I really wanted to get rid of it on the long term so I delved deeper. As it turns out the solution is surprisingly easy.

1) Unroot your phone in SuperSU.

android-update-unroot

2) Apply the update.

android-update-apply

3) Reinstall SuperSU through CWM.

That's it, enjoy!

DXF to SVG to KICAD_PCB converter

Recently, I've written dxf2svg2kicad, a highly polished online DXF to SVG to KICAD_PCB converter which I'm very proud of. To be explicit this tool converts:

  • DXF to SVG
  • SVG to KICAD_PCB (used by KiCad EDA)
  • DXF to KICAD_PCB

Speaking to the technical-minded, my tool runs 100% on the client side and I used lots of cutting-edge web technologies to make it happen. You're welcome to check out the code on GitHub.

Nowadays I simply publish my work on GitHub and rarely blog - I've created this post solely for SEO purposes because given the usability of my tool Google should rank it higher.

Wifi is not designed for seamless switchover

A while ago I embarked on the quest of extending wifi coverage to our whole backyard.

Having a venerable ASUS WL-500GPv2 sitting at the front side of the house, my natural approach was to place another access point (AP) near the back side of the house which would cover our whole backyard. That is, in theory. As it turns out in reality things are a little bit more complex.

After installing the AP I was getting complaints from my sizeable user base (my sister and my mother) that the connectivity of their smartphones and tablets got shitty beyond imagination. After investigating this problem I realized that upon entering the house from the backyard wifi devices connected to the AP and as they moved towards the front of the house this connection stayed alive despite the router having a much stronger signal level at this point than the AP did. I even set up a multiple-AP (roaming) network configuration as suggested but the same thing was happening, only that I couldn't see right away which AP I was connected to.

wifi-switchover-fail

I was dumbfounded by what I saw. I assumed that wifi devices always (re)connect to the AP with the strongest signal level. Wouldn't this be the Right Thing to do, after all? Well, not so much.

The first problem is switchover lag. Wifi is not GSM. With GSM you can travel through the country, move across dozens of cell towers without noticing a thing. With wifi, switchover lag is noticable and is highly unwanted when using streaming applications, especially VoIP.

The second problem is deciding when to switch over. The hardcoded client policy is to switch over when the current AP becomes totally unreachable. Another policy could be switching over as soon as there's another AP in the vicinity with a slightly stronger signal level. This wouldn't be optimal either, however. Just imagine being located right between two APs and taking some steps back and forth and back and forth. That'd result in lots of unwanted switchovers. I guess manufacturers could put two wifi transceiver into each device to solve this issue but it probably wouldn't justify the price and this method would draw excess battery power.

Given that clients implement a hardcoded switchover policy let's see what could we do on the server side. A buddy of mine who worked as an admin at an ISP suggested using RouterBOARD appliances with which one can specify a dB treshold below which the appliance disconnects the relevant clients so those clients can switch over to another AP in the vicinity. Unfortunately, such uber feature is out of reach for most and I don't know about any other devices implemeting this feature, not even OpenWrt.

So what did I end up with? My buddy also suggested placing my router to the attic and ditching the AP. Now the overall coverage is better than it used to be. It's not perfect but the signal is almost always within reach on our property. As a rule of thumb one should place the wifi router to the highest and most central location. I'm pretty happy overall, althought a wireless-N MIMO router would probably boost signal levels like crazy but I'm in savings mode right now and I don't wanna spend a ton of money on an ASUS RT-N66U Dark Knight until it's totally justified.

My case for a portable desktop

About two and half years before I invested in a heavily capable laptop, an Acer Aspire 8935G.  After having spent all this time using my laptop I finally reached the conclusion that I'll avoid laptops like plague in the future.  I understand that it's quite a harsh stance, especially given a laptop of this caliber but there are too many reasons against them from my perspective.

My first reason of not buying a laptop ever again: Neither suspend nor hibernate works on Linux

Just tell me a more essential feature that you expect from your laptop.  When I go to sleep I wanna suspend my laptop to have a silent environment and to be able to continue my work from where I left off.  When I leave home for some hours I'd also like to suspend my laptop just to save some power.  Hibernate could also work (in a suboptimal fashion) in such situations except that it doesn't.  Upon resuming my laptop it freezes in no time. Let's also take into consideration that I use a really complex session with lots of applications spread across multiple workspaces and lots of passwords to type upon startup. This shit costs me about a boring quarter an hour every time I wake up.  It may not seem much but I despise this ritual and I cannot forgive for such an essential feature not working.

So far I've surely spent more than 100 hours trying to make resume work with no success.  I've tried a number of distributions, fiddled with various parameters of s2ram, tried to suspend from console, switched the graphics card and did pretty much everything under the Sun. According to my understand the major problem is that the iGPU gets resumed instead of the eGPU and the BIOS provides no options to disable the iGPU.  In general this BIOS is dumbed down crap, providing only a handful of options at most.  I'm not in the mood of elaborating in detail about this but it's been a sickening experience which I couldn't solve despite having a strong Linux background and spending a *lots* of time on this issue.

The major problem the way I see it is that most laptop manufacturers (Acer surely included) don't give a shit about Linux support.  I can't really blame them considing the 1% market share of Linux but it's sure as hell that I won't give them a fucking cent ever again for not being able to suspend such a crazy-expensive laptop.

My second reason of not buying a laptop ever again: I have to pay for the sub-optimal hardware and software configuration most of which I already have

Let's suppose that one already owns a laptop and is about to buy a new one.  Let's just go over of what hardware components could be used from the old laptop:

  • Screen
  • HDDs, SSDs
  • Keyboard
  • Wifi module
  • Bluetooth module
  • Case

(I didn't list the motherboard, the CPU and the graphics card because Moore's law ruthlessly obsoletes these components.)

Some of these components (HDDs, SSDs, Wifi module, Bluetooth module) could be easily reused in a new laptop, but manufacturers provide no means to order a laptop without these components.  Other components (Screen, Keyboard, Case) could also be theoretically reused in a new laptop but manufacturers couldn't care less about designing according to the need of reusability. As a result customers have to pay for all components every time when buying a new laptop.  This is the opposite of the PC world.

And let's not even mention that nowadays almost every laptop come with glossy screens which I utterly hate because of their reflection, hence my journey of searching for a replacement matte screen begins, making me spend a hundred-something extra bucks but only if I get lucky enough to find a replacement matte screen.

On the software side of things given that I dislike Microsoft as much as I do and I don't even use Windows my first thing to do is to send back the laptop to Acer for them to remove Windows which takes about two weeks and I almost don't get any money back because I have to pay for my laptop to be shipped to the Acer service center. Fail!

The portable desktop

My approach involves using 1 main station and N dock stations, N being the number of places that I frequently spend time at doing heavy computing. If you're like most people then you only heavily use computers at home and at work.  That's two places.  I personally work from home but I have two locations between which I travel on a frequent basis and spend some time every time, leaving me with two places, too.

The main station is a Mini-ITX box composed of:

  • Case
  • PicoPSU power supply
  • Mainboard
  • CPU
  • RAM
  • Graphics card
  • Optionally Wifi and/or Bluetooth depending on the motherboard and on your needs

A dock station is composed of:

  • Monitor
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse
  • USB hub
  • DC power supply

Price comparison

Let's pick a super-capable desktop-like laptop like the Acer Aspire 8950G which will set you back with about $1,600 and will be replaced in every few years. (So far I could only see laptops with 18.4" screens which I consider desktop-like from Acer.)

Versus...

The permament parts of the main station cost $216 and composed of:

The soon-to-be-obsoleted parts of the main station cost $474 and composed of:

A dock station costs $400 and composed of:

You surely won't get the parts for these exact prices but the numbers are in the ballpark. That's $1600 recurring cost vs. $1016 one-time cost + $474 recurring cost.

Conclusion

I personally never needed a laptop, I needed a portable desktop.  The pros of these solutions are fairly apparent but I list them for completeness' sake:

Laptop:

  • Portability

Portable desktop:

  • Cost
  • Having the exact hardware configuration that you want
  • Better compatibility allowing you to suspend, resume on Linux

Right now I'm not sure when will I ditch my laptop. So far I'm satisfied with its performance but the time will come eventually, inevitably.

Given the lack of portability my approach is not for everyone but I think it's thought-provoking because many people don't even think about the possible advantages of such a configuration in this laptop-centric world.

EDA tools going online

According to Atwood's law this was a predictable happening. These are the ones that I know about but I'll be keeping this list up-to-date in the future:

Although the above webapps are schematic drawing tools I can foresee fully-fledged online EDA solutions getting implemented in the future.

Launchpad feature set proposal: Bounties

Abstract

The objective of this post is to propose a new feature set for Launchpad to provide a way for users to create monetary incentives for developers to fix specific bugs or to implement new features.

The problem

The latest and greatest release of Ubuntu, Natty contains more than ten thousand packages.  The sheer number of packages inevitably contain an even larger number of bugs.  At the time of writing there are 90198 open bugs in Launchpad.

Many times Free Software developers work on a project for the reputation of their peers and for the challenge involved but often they cannot devote enough time to their project because they have to make a living.  As a result their project suffers which manifests itself in a large number of bugs and / or missing features.

Millions of users of Ubuntu have to deal with these bugs on a daily basis, usually by working them around or tolerating them.  Sometimes bugs get fixed quickly but many times they don't get fixed for a long time.  In the latter case users cannot do anything to make a bug fixed apart from reporting the bug or fixing it by themselves, the latter being very time consuming and requires lots of expertise.

If users could create monetary incentives for developers to fix specific bugs or to implement specific features then it would be more likely for those bugs to get fixed or those features to get implemented.

Proposed solution

The model to be proposed works like the online marketplaces designed for freelancers to be employed.  In particular, I'd like to highlight Guru.com because they're on the top of their game and they've implemented various practices that make sure that the job actually gets done and all parties are satisfied.

The actors involved are:

  • Donor: A user is a donor from the point on he/she deposited a bounty for a bug.
  • Developer: Can be an upstream or third-party developer who's about to fix a bug for a given bounty.
  • Judge: An independent and competent third-party who has to make justice if donors have any objections about the completeness or quality of the fix after the developer has claimed the bounty.

The process could work like this:

  1. If a user chooses to provide a bounty for a bug, a deposit gets created for the specific bug and the desired amount gets added to it using PayPal or credit card transfer.
  2. Other users can also add funds to this deposit.
  3. At this point any donor can withdraw his/her bounty at any time.
  4. As soon as the bug gets assigned to a developer the deposit gets frozen and donors won't be able to add or remove funds to it.
  5. The developer should deliver the fix within an approved timeframe and claim the deposited bounty.
  6. The bounty gets transferred to the account of the developer if none of the donors have any objections within a week or so.
  7. If any objection occurs then related parties can discuss it or eventually they can raise the issue to the arbitration phase where a judge is involved.

Some further thoughts:

Because of their dedication, familiarity with the given codebase and proven track record, upstream developers could be given the privilege of being able to exclusively work for a bounty for a specific amount of time.  This exclusivity period could last about one week from the creation of the deposit, for example.

It should be made sure that no developer is able to block the resolution of a given bug.  This could be either done by defining close deadlines or by allowing for any bug to be assigned to multiple developers.  In the latter case whoever resolved the bug first could claim the bounty.

It may make sense for such a system to automatically notify upstream in advance and ask them to agree to merge the upcoming fix and also request the developer to provide a fix in a format requested by upstream.

Canonical should get some portion of the bounty for developing and operating Launchpad and they could also provide judges.

Why Launchpad?

Launchpad is the ultimate umbrella project of the Free Software Universe.  As such, it relates and highlights every upstream project in a consistent manner.  Mark Shuttleworth said at UDS-O that "For most Free Software projects I wouldn't be surprised to find if there are more bugs filed against that piece of Free Software in Ubuntu than upstream."

According to the above it makes sense to implement this feature set on top of the existing, state-of-the-art and proven infrastructure instead of creating a whole new site for it.

Conclusion

There are many details left to be answered and nothing is written in stone, but I hope that this post is thought-provoking enough to start further discussions about the viability and towards the implementation of this idea.

I have witnessed online marketplaces working both as a freelancer and as an employer, but this idea could be so much cooler in regards of Free Software where everyone benefits from the work of developers and everything happens openly.

I'm looking forward to talk more about this issue, so if you have anything to say, please don't hesitate to let me know in the comments.

Tabs vs Spaces

Ok, this is some serious shit that drives me crazy. The reason why you should never, and I mean never and let me emphasize NEVER in your entire life use tabs for indentation is because:

  • We use spaces in the code to separate words anyways.  Why do you wanna introduce yet another character?
  • Tabs will be displayed differently depending on the editor in question.
  • People are gonna mix tabs and spaces in surprisingly novel (or just plain random) ways which will screw indentation even more than before because it's harder for editors to figure out the correct indentation in this case.
  • The mixture of tabs and spaces will produce lots of redundant lines in your {SVN / Git / whatever VCS} diffs because developers will (un)intentionally change them which is gonna be a lot of fun during code reviews.
  • Tabs are evil!  They're evil, evil, evil!  Don't use 'em! (Except for Makefiles (which as you may suspect are EVIL!))

As a last word, it's not possible to avoid using spaces for indentation in such scenarios:

<tab><tab><tab>function_call(arg1, arg2, arg3,
<tab><tab><tab>              arg4, arg5, arg6);

Long life to spaces!

Self hosting or cloud hosting: that is the question

I know many geeks. Most of them are smart. Some of them are brilliant. Few of them are world class. And guess what? Many of them blog on a regular basis. These are tech savvy folks who run their blogs on their own (or rented) server for maximum customizability and pay a monthly fee. What do you think, how long will the information they produced survive if some of them get hit by a train? It's very simple. You divide the amount on their bank account with their monthly hosting fees and you got the number of months in question.

What I wanna ultimately conclude is that there are lots of folks who create valuable content on a daily basis and their content is way too much vulnerable.

I was thinking a lot about this issue. I have 350 posts at the moment and although I know that mankind would happily survive without any of them, I feel the need to secure this information just in case.

Since I (and most of the people) use WordPress, I was thinking about a WordPress specific solution. The idea is to dump my self hosted blog to my cloud hosted WordPress.com blog on a regular basis from cron. Of course, there are some drawbacks, like Google may find the mirrored content along or before my primary site and I won't be able to really customize the cloud hosted blog but I think that the benefits outweight the drawbacks.

The term I'm about to coin is the "backup blog" what is a cloud hosted blog where you mirror your content on a regular basis in an automated manner. I'm about to do this but I'm not there yet.

Dynadot, the ultimate registrar

I was searching for the ultimate registrar a while ago.  My needs were the following:

  1. Crystal clean web interface
  2. The more top level domain is supported, the happier I am
  3. Decent prices

It's not a long list, but still it was amazingly difficult to find Dynadot.  Option 1 was the hardest one to find, believe it or not.  Have you ever looked how badly marketing people overloaded GoDaddy with loads of ads and how crowded their user interface is?  Then you understand why this option was so important to me.  I'm also 100% satisfied regarding all the other aspects of their service.

This is not a long post but whenever I find a service that makes my life easier I feel it worths pure gold to me because it saves me time in the long run.

You may also want to choose

dynadot-logo-full

as your registrar