IoT’s, I don’t have any IoT’s do I?

IoT devices

IoT devices, do I have any?

Here is a newish term that has been getting brandished around the Internet for some time now. At first as a techie I may think, Institute of Technology devices, Oh, I don’t have any of these. However, I would be so wrong. So what are they and what does it stand for?

IoT’s or Internet of things devices are now all around us whether we like it or not. They are devices that require an IP address to access the network or Internet. I like to think of them as Internet on Technology.

Your mobiles and any tech wear that you have, card reader machines, cash points, smart TV’s Tablet computers and any smart home devices that you may own. Your car, security cameras, home thermostats, amoung other things, even ticket machines and some vending machines.

What does it mean?

It means that things have progressed along a road that had been predicted, but the faster broadband speeds and methods of connectivity have meant it is now a reality.

Let’s rewind a little, A few years ago we have a desktop PC and then maybe a laptop and at first they did not connect to the Internet at all. We then got dial up Internet and we all tentatively put our toes in the water that was the Internet. Well, from there speeds just got faster and faster and Mobile phones came along, then they became smart. This meant connecting to the Internet and using it as a resource to feed you constant information. This meant improving phone signal strength and so we got up to 4G with 5G on its way.

Other devices then came along and allowed us to stream content around our houses and cars, how great was all this connectivity. Well, it is amazing how far we have come in such a short time.

So what’s all the fuss about, surely this is great news?

The reason that these devices are in the news a lot today is that there are now hundreds of thousands of them, being made by well-known companies and also so not so well known but less expensive alternatives and they all connect to the Internet. Now, securing our stand alone network that had no Internet connection was easy, what you put into it was the only danger. Now that these devices are on the Internet all the time they are able to pull all sorts of data into your device and if it is connected to your network, then onto your network as well.

You would think that this was matter of the device being smart and you being able to configure all the settings and hence protecting all that is does. However, loopholes in the software on these devices, not them all, but some are causing the security world a massive headache and some of the attacks to systems that you have read about recently have been because the software on these devices is not well written and is very insecure. Hackers are catching onto the fact that the world has a massive amount of these types of devices and there are more switched on each day and they are targeting their weaknesses.

So really the question is, “When is a smart device not so smart?” when it runs badly written software that has security holes that you can drive a programming bus through.

Here are a few articles to give you some more information: –

http://www.csoonline.com/article/3119765/security/hackers-found-47-new-vulnerabilities-in-23-iot-devices-at-def-con.html

http://www.darkreading.com/vulnerabilities—threats/internet-of-things-contains-average-of-25-vulnerabilities-per-device/d/d-id/1297623

What are your thoughts about this and have you bought into any of these devices and are you using them. I have to admit I have some.

So much to report on, where to start……….?

technology report

So much to report!

Hi guys, I have so much to report on that I am writing this all inclusive blog post.

So, what are the main headlines then? Well, I have had so much that here are the areas I will touch on in this blog post.

  • Nexus 5X usage and how that is going
  • Nexus 9 revival and discovery
  • Android Beta Testing Nougat 7 and the final version, on the Nexus 9
  • Update on Android Wear from last year, how is that going then?

My everyday life

I am really letting you into my everyday life, my devices that sustain and support me as I go about my daily tasks from business to personal. How I interact with them and how they perform and allow me to do what I need to do or not as the case may be…

So where to start? Well, let’s start with my mobile phone, as we all have one and it ends up being our mainstay most of the time.

LG Nexus 5X

So, to recap I have been using the Nexus 5X for the last month or so and it was to replace my older Nexus 5 that was a tremendous phone and caused me little to no problems. The main thing about the Nexus 5X is the slimmer shape and the more up to date hardware and the fact that it today as I finish this article has updated to Android N (Version 7, Nougat). It has fingerprint launching and better camera etc.

So how has that been going?

A quick update is that the battery still drains very fast and when taking photos and running Bluetooth all the time it seems to drain even faster. I am hoping this will be much improved now I have updated to Android N. Which has better battery saving than ever before. It does have the USB C connection and fast charging so as long as you can access that or a power pack that I carry a lot, then it can be back up and running quite quickly. The camera on the rear is excellent and creates great photo shots. The only problem I have had with this so far was that after about a week of having the phone, the camera refused to focus on anything and made a clicking noise when trying to focus. A tad scary as I hadn’t dropped or miss-used it. I Googled it to see if anyone else had experienced this and found that many had. A simple restart cures it. So restarted and it corrected itself and it hasn’t raised its head again since.

Strange one that. I have put a slim Spigen case on my Nexus 5X and this has great grip and acts as a bumper to protect in case of a drop or bump. But all in all loving the phone and no issues other than the camera weirdness to report.

Nexus 9 Revival and Recovery

Yes, yes, yes. I know the Nexus 9 don’t go there device and all the bad reports I had posted. Well if you remember the last report I stated that I had stuck the Beta testing of Android 7 (Nougat) on it. Well, it seemed worse and everything was just confirming my fears that this device had missed the plot a lot and really needed to be avoided. I kept running it, however, as I am persistent if nothing else, I noted that the battery was running out very fast and I constantly had to recharge it and that the processor was running hot. This intrigued me and I installed a few apps to see what the processor was doing and why it was hot etc. I found it was running at 89% to 94% most of the time. Further checking revealed that the Facebook Messenger App was responsible for my battery dying and probably the processor usage. I uninstalled it and guess what happened? Go on have guess?

The processor went to normal and was hardly running and the battery lasts up to two days unless heavy use. Thanks a lot there Facebook. That won’t be going back on anytime soon. It is important to note there that this App runs on my mobile phone and has none of the above aspects there. So I can only assume that Facebook hasn’t optimised it for Android 7 yet. Which will now be interesting as my phone has just updated?

So, the tablet was behaving a lot better, still slightly unstable with some things, but remember that I was running a Beta version of Android 7. The good news is because I was enrolled on the Beta programme I have now been fully upgraded to the finished version of Android 7. The tablet has improved again with the apps being much more stable and the tablet being more responsive. Some Android 7 features won’t work with some Apps but that is the Apps suppliers needing to get their apps updated. This will come. So I am slightly more positive and happier with my N9 than I have been for a while. Time will tell, though.

Android wear

Well, only a short update here. I am still wearing my LG G Watch that I got last year and have only needed to replace the strap as the original failed on me. Easily done though and it is performing well apart from the following: –

  • Charging when it sits on the docking station. Sometimes does not charge overnight and I find it has not been pushed in fully or has just not done it?
  • I have replaced the charging cable and repositioned the charging base to try and help and I still get the fear that it won’t charge overnight.

Other than this it is a great piece of kit and I missed it when I had no strap until my new one arrived and was fitted. It is so convenient for all sorts of apps that allow walking info and all messages coming in to be quickly reviewed. The phone can be muted from the watch and this saves taking it out my pocket in my jacket. Talking and sending a text quickly from the watch is another great feature. No, it is well worth a look and I think I will be looking at the next generation of these devices to see what they are building into them as it can only improve and get better.

Desktop PC

Thought I would just pop this in at the bottom, I still haven’t gone up to Windows 10 as there still seem to be some major issues floating around with it.

I hope that gives you a flavour of my devices and how they are developing and improving with updates and patches etc.

What are you using and how do you use them? For business, pleasure or both?

Nexus 5X: – Usage update

Well, hi again folks, just thought I would pop by and give an update on my usage of the Nexus 5X as per my previous post. Seen here.

General usage

Well, the general usage has been Ok with no real major issues that have caused much of a problem. So comparing it to my usage of the Nexus 5 over the last two years, there has been nothing I have had to cope with that is out there, so to speak.

Any Problems

The one problem I have encountered and only on one occasion was that the rear camera refused to focus and was making lovely clicking noises whilst trying to do this. I did the usual research online to find that I was not alone and others had experienced this problem as well. I had restarted the phone and the issue has gone and I have never experienced it again. But very puzzling with an online mix of, get a replacement to don’t worry if restarting it has cured it all will be fine. I have decided to monitor and see if it reoccurs and if it does a replacement would be in order I feel.

Battery life can also be an issue and I have noticed that it is not as good as my Nexus 5 and that had a reputation of battery burn. So again recharging when at my desk and then just keeping an eye on it as the day progresses when I am out and about.

I did get a charging pack a year or so ago that allows me to charge my tablet and phone when out and about. Again I had to buy a USB C cable for this as it did not have one.

The other thing I found whilst researching online about the Nexus 5X was that the power charger supplied maybe issuing a charge all the time and may not be stopping when the device does not ask for any. This is called intelligent charging and in some cases the Nexus 5X charger doesn’t act intelligently. I haven’t tested this out in any way as I am not sure how to at this stage. The video I watched online was a chap that does this for a living and had built kit to test these out and asked you to check your own one. Of course, most people won’t be able to.

Conclusion at this stage

My conclusion at this stage, which is still early days of usage is that I am happy with the phone and the amount I can get done, the most useful thing is the fingerprint scanner for the very pickup and unlock facility. Negative on this however, would be putting the phone away in my pocket and accidently touching the sensor on the rear and unlocking the phone to put it in my pocket. Done that a few times. Not a good thing.

Other than that, a good phone, at a great price when I bought it and will hopefully keep me going for a while.

Will try and do some features on the camera and other functions as I encounter their usage.

Houston we have a…..Nexus 5X, what’s all the fuss about?

Nexus 5 phone

New Nexus 5X phone

So it seems my love affair with Google’s Nexus range hasn’t been too badly damaged by the Nexus 9 experience, largely due to my painless daily use of a Nexus 5 phone for a good few years now. Like all good things that has now come to an end; it’s time for a change to ensure I get the full use of Android Nougat when it’s launched later this year. With that in mind, I decided to bite the bullet and get a Nexus 5X – after all, it seems the next sensible step after my great experiences with the Nexus 5.

Granted, it has been out for a while now (and I did wait for the price to drop) but a sale made it too good to pass up, so I purchased it. The plan being that the 5X, along with my sim only package on Three, will keep me going for a while now (unless someone wants me to test drive a phone for them?).

What is the Nexus 5X?

Seems a reasonable question for any of you who have not heard of it before. It is the second five-inch handset from Google and LG, and has much-upgraded hardware over the original Nexus 5, as well as some nice built in extras (including a fingerprint reader and one of the best camera’s to be found in a mobile handset).
LG Nexus 5X hardware specifications

Operating System Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Display 5.2 inches
FHD (1920×1080) LCD at 423 ppi
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Fingerprint- and smudge-resistant oleophobic coating
Rear Camera 12.3MP
1.55 μm pixels
f/2.0 aperture
IR laser-assisted autofocus
4K (30fps) video capture
120 fps slow motion video capture
Broad-spectrum CRI-90 dual flash
Front Camera 5MP
1.4 μm pixels
f/2.2 aperture
Processors Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 Processor, 1.8GHz hexa-core 64-bit
Adreno 418 GPU
Memory & Storage RAM: 2GB LPDDR3
Internal storage: 16GB or 32GB
Dimensions 147.0 x 72.6 x 7.9 mm
Weight 136 g
Sensors Fingerprint sensor
Sensor Hub
Accelerometer
Gyroscope
Barometer
Proximity sensor
Ambient light sensor
Hall sensor
Android Context Hub
Ports Micro USB Type-C
3.5 mm audio jack
Single Nano SIM slot
Battery 2,700 mAh
Other LED notification light

 

The phone came nicely presented in a box with sliding sleeve that, once removed, let you remove the lid and expose the contents as per the cover photo.

The box contained the phone, USB C charger and cable, a small tool to remove sim port cover, and the usual quick start leaflets etc. The handset has a very nice feel in the hand, and the weight is Ok. Side by side, the screen appears to be larger height wise than my old Nexus 5, but the width looks very similar.

Moving data across

This is always the time-consuming part, but it’s not anywhere near as bad as it used to be. With the use of a Google account, and your data being backed up online in various guises, it is now a much easier process when it comes to re-establishing a phone, or setting up a new one.

I choose the option on setup to transfer account information from a previous device. Following the onscreen instructions, I simply touched the back of the devices together and the transfer started. In a short time the account and then all the apps and setting came across to the new handset.

I still had to do some final tweaking in various apps to allow them to update on the new device, as well as some minor setup on the device itself, before I transferred the music and files I wanted across to my new device from my old one. But that was it, the phone was running and Bob’s your uncle. (Well I did have an Uncle Bob.)

Out of the box, the phone updated the Operating system – getting all the security fixes it had missed while it was hibernating. So here we are, after around 40 minutes for account transfer and updates, with a handset that’s ready to go.

How has the last 5 days been?

I have been using it for around 5 days at the time of writing, and here are my initial thoughts and experiences.

First of all, I must say I am impressed, it is great to use and feels great in the hand – I have it in a new case for extra protection. My biggest issue, if I had one, would be the USB C charging scenario – it sounds great and gives fast charging. Sadly the cable supplied with the phone has USB C at both ends and does not plug into my ANKER charging hub, it only plugs into the charger that came with the phone. I can’t even use it at my laptop to charge via a USB port. This is a bit of a nuisance and needs to be addressed – it has required me to purchase a separate cable with USB C at the phone end and a standard USB plug at the other. I will now need a few of these for the car and other areas I charge the phone a lot, leading to extra costs.

My other issue is no QI charging. I have a pad in my lounge that I used to drop my Nexus 5 onto and it charged. At my desk, I had a stand that I placed my Nexus 5 into and it charged. Sadly now neither of them can be used. Why drop this great way of charging a device?  It was very easy and meant there was no need to fumble about with cables. It seemed like the future, and yet it has been now taken out of the equation again.

The phone use itself is similar to the Nexus 5, in my day to day use the battery doesn’t seem much improved – I am still charging each night for the next day’s use. Screen seems sharper, and I am impressed by the fingerprint unlock – this means I can pick the phone up with either hand and it can be instantly unlocked with the touch of finger. The camera delivers very clear pictures, and the video allows for slow motion and delivers a nice clear picture as well.

I’ll be back!

Had to fit in a terminator quote somewhere. I will be back over the next few weeks with my findings as I use it for work and social purposes. But so far so good. Just need Google to sort the Nexus Tablet range out and I’ll be a happy chappy again.

Android Where? Or should I say Android Wear.

Android Wear

Android Wear

Yes, I have succumbed to the phenomenon that is Android wear and a testing a LG G Watch with my Nexus 5 phone to see what it can do and if it is really a great benefit to me in what I do.

I run a business and use mobile a lot as I am generally out and about and not tied to a desk as much as I used to be. This is a good thing and I like it, I use my Nexus Tablet and my Nexus phone to juggle all the information that is generally thrown at me every minute of every day. Up to this point the combination of my tablet, Phone and desktop have sufficed in keeping me mostly on top of the information overload.

Being a techie and as some would say a Geek I have also been aware of new developments and the hype around Android Wear, (and the Apple watch, bank loan wear).

So Father’s day came and I asked my sons to give me some money and I would add the rest and treat myself to not the top end but the lower end of the wear market as I am still uncertain how this will make my life better.

First Impressions

I have been using the watch now for around two weeks and here are my first impressions.

Ease of setting up was good and it immediately updated itself as the previous wear software had been getting bad press. The new software has changed the watch interface and usage considerably.
It connects to some of the popular Google Apps immediately and gives some interesting interactions through the watch face. Other apps are downloadable and there are a multitude of watch faces that can be installed to change the look and interaction with the watch.

The watch arrived with the watch itself, strap attached and a charging USB cable and cradle.

When placed on charge it automatically switches on and starts the charge. I have found that over the time I have been using it the battery charge survives depending on how much interaction you have with the watch, early on not long as I was using it a lot in setting up etc.

Connectivity was excellent and it connected to my Nexus 5 with ease and has interacted no problem. All though through Bluetooth and my other fear was the phone battery not lasting. At the start this may have been an issue as I was playing with the watch and downloading and changing settings etc.

But generally it has not drained the battery as much as I suspected it might. So that’s a good thing.

I have tended to place the watch on the charging cradle overnight and not worry about it during the day. It charges using pins on the rear of the watch body. I have cycled through some watch faces to get the one I use the most as well as playing with the LCARS one being a huge TNG fan.

Apps that have impressed

The usage of it I suppose is the question and I am still evaluating the benefits. However when an email pops in and I glance at my watch to see the heading and gist of it, I can take action quickly or just swipe it off to tackle it later. So I am finding that quite useful, not having to rake my tablet or phone out of my pocket every time it buzzes. Weather on the phone face and Google NOW journey times are useful at a glance.

My scary moment was the first time I used my phone for Google Navigation recently with the watch and it pinged the route navigation to the watch face. This caused me to giggle glance at the watch and loose concentration on the road. So good or bad thing I am unsure at this time with that one. I am sure you can disable it and I haven’t as yet.

Early days

So it is early days and I am sure I will find more intriguing benefits of having this Android wear device, I haven’t as yet answered a call from it in private or public. Looking like Dick Tracey I suppose. I suppose the answer to the title is Andoid everywhere.

I may post another update soon, but is anyone using these wear devices to great effect?

If so what are you using and what are you doing with it?

It would be great to hear from you.

OnePlus One Phone Review

OnePlus One Phone

OnePlus One Phone

History

Before arriving in the land of OnePlus, I had owned an HTC Desire, HTC Desire HD, Nobrand Chinese Phone™, and a Nexus 4 – the N4 being the nicest phone I had owned to date. Being nexus device, it was thoroughly hackable – I was frequently installing different ROM’s, kernels, etc. to get the most out of it. In finding out about the OPO, I was looking to see if the same flexibility would be present (and guaranteed to remain so). I wasn’t disappointed.

Introduction

Getting an OPO

This is the trickiest part. Having found out about the phone late summer, I was only really in the market for a new phone around October – this was, as family can vouch for, my time of bombarding social media feeds with competitions (winning is better than buying on the wallet) and posting inane chatter on the OnePlus forums. This is the prescribed way of getting an invite, which currently, of December 2014, is the only real way of getting a device (the two preorders seemed a bit shambolic with many users complaining of problems placing orders).

Unpacking the OPO

The OPO arrived in reasonable time and I set about unboxing it. What arrived was an envelope which contained a box, which just so happened to have more boxes inside. Boxception. However, a nice boxception with the inner boxes being fashionably designed and pleasing to look at. This being said, I didn’t look at them for long. The device itself is a large (coming from an N4) phablet, with a nicely textured back (I ordered the 64 GB “sandstone” model). I also ordered a clear clip-on case to prevent the device getting mangled when lying on desks.

Here are some pictures of the unboxing (admittedly, pretty poor pictures – I was in a hurry to unbox!): Images of unboxing. There’s also a size comparison between the Nexus 4 and the OPO.

Notice the plain, cardboard box that it all comes in. Fairly minimalistic!

Initial Impressions

Size

“This thing is BIG, but not too bulky…” This would be how I feel about the device a month down the line. It’s a big device to handle. My Wife is completely not interested in using it, as it’s too large for her hands. My hands, whilst not gigantic, have pretty good reach…and I still find myself using both of them to access menus.

Speed

In use, the OPO is a fast, responsive and pleasant device. CM11s (the custom version of CyanogenMod that runs on the OPO as stock) is well tailored to the device. I had no lag flicking through menus, no issues watching Netflix, or streaming content. It’s quite hard to tax the quad core 801 – 3Gb RAM helps to keep things moving along.

Screen

The 5.5” screen is gorgeous. I had read online that the colours aren’t as vibrant as other devices, and the blacks aren’t as black – I haven’t found this to be the case. It looks good. It responds well. The colours seem reasonably accurate – enough for a phone anyways. I don’t plan on doing huge amounts of image/video editing on the OPO!

Does it fit in pockets?

Sure does! Gets a bit awkward trying to sit down sometimes, but a little shuffling and all is well. If you’re a skinny-jeans type…you’ll definitely need another solution though!

Usage

Does it work well as a phone?

Yes.

How does it cope with media, Netflix, Google Play Music, Movie files etc.?

I’ve not noticed any slowdown, or difficulties in playing files, until I started using a Lollipop ROM where codecs weren’t quite plumbed in. This was soon resolved, and now I can watch movies and listen to music/podcasts to my heart’s content.

Any good as a PDA? Is the term ‘PDA’ even still used?

Seems to be. The large screen is excellent for reading emails and web pages, viewing calendar entries, as well as social media feeds. The only downside to such a screen is the distance your fingers have to travel: the OPO is a big phone. As for using the term ‘PDA’, this was how I used to rock and roll: Palm IIIe.

How’s the camera?

As far as phone cameras go, the OPO is pretty good! I’ve never had a phone camera that can take such detailed and rich photos as the OPO. The ability to shoot and save a .DNG is a boon too: when things aren’t quite right, you can quickly adjust in your favourite editor and hopefully sort them out. They offer much more latitude than the standard JPEG output. See this link right here for some examples.

That screen looks good, but is it a pain to hold and use? How does it fare with colours? What about this yellow tinge™ I’ve read about?

A wee bit pain is a good thing, right? Means you know you’re alive! This was a valid concern for me when purchasing the phone – the Nexus 4 is a 4.7” device, so screen size wasn’t an issue as my ever-agile thumbs could quickly jump across the whole screen. Whilst the OPO did present problems at first I quickly adjusted – there’s a crafty way of holding it one-handed that allows for a slight adjustment and the top of screen is then usable. Take my word for it!

The yellow tinge that folks have been moaning about – this I did notice, and it bothered me for all of 30 seconds after which I realised that the amount of time I’d be staring at a pure white screen was pretty minimal. I’ve stopped noticing it now, and it hasn’t affected my use of the OPO at all. Even on text-heavy sites, where there’s lots of white-space its fine. Seems like folks have been finding this to be an issue that resolves itself over time (or with the use of a UV lamp…): Reddit page about the issue going away.

What’s the battery life like? Does it last all day with moderate usage?

This is where the OPO shines for me. I commute to work (roughly 40 minutes each way) and I enjoy listening to podcasts there and back. On previous phones, I could do this but would always have a nagging sensation that I’d run out of juice if I then wanted to view media/play games/photo edit etc. during the day. With the OPO, I don’t need to worry: the SoC (SnapDragon 801) has a nifty feature for audio playback which really maximises battery life. Watch the video explaining it all here. This has certainly proved true for me. Negligible battery drain whilst commuting, enough juice to back up the phone, download and flash ROM’s, play some games (Godus is the current favourite) and pfaff around on social media. Photos and the occasional video on a lunchtime stroll happen fairly regularly. At the end of day, I’m sitting happy with 30-40% left. This is without any custom kernels or underclocking.

So you enjoy some gaming – what games run well, and how’s the performance?

So far I’ve played some Ravensword (which runs well, but I’m convinced could look better), Godus, Carmageddon (looks identical to how I remember it back in the day), Cogs…so some new, some graphically intensive. So far, nothing has troubled it, although I did notice that Godus had intermittent issues – but I thought this was more likely the nightly CM12 build I’m on rather than the OPO.

There was a recent kerfuffle between OnePlus and CyanogenMod…

Ah, yes. This came across as playground politics. The OPO is still guaranteed updates for the next two years from CyanogenMod, so I’m not that bothered.

Caveats

Are there any caveats with the device? Anything that should make a potential buyer reconsider?

The only thing that I’ve read, that really seems to be a tripping point, is the returns procedure. It seems to be overly complicated and I’ve not really read of anyone successfully managing to return a device…but then again, I’ve not really been needing to research this as my OPO is currently working fine.

The only real caveat for me is the unwillingness of insurance companies to insure. My current company rejected my custom after I informed them I would like to change my policy to cover the OPO. Supposedly the OPO wasn’t shipped from Britain (it was, from the British warehouse OnePlus put in place). I reckon they didn’t know what it was, and so refused to insure. For £281 delivered though…is insurance something I need to concern myself with? The verdict is still out!

Conclusion

Any last words?

Buy this phone. If warranties are a concern, realise that you’re getting a high-end device (I know it’s not cutting edge, but then for £281? C’mon!) For not a lot. The build quality is good, the individual components are great, and the overall experience is pleasant. I’ve not looked back! This is genuinely the best device I’ve owned so far.

Guest Blogger this month is Gordon Thomson BSc Hons Applied Computing, Application Developer.