Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Review of the Ewin Bluetooth keyboard for 7-inch tablets

While I wait for my more "competent"* computer to compute the Mann-Whitney-Wilcoxon test on a 2x4000 dataset , I thought I'd do a first-impressions review of the keyboard I recently got for my Nexus 7 (2012 version).

I had previously been using one of these (yes, it's a Japanese link, but they were definitely available in the UK, which is where I bought it), and to be honest, that was great; it fit snugly around the Nexus, protected the screen from harm, and was ultra-portable. The only real complaints I had about it were the lack of a TAB key, and the fact the letters eventually wore off**.

There are new versions of the keyboard that have the TAB key, and I would have gotten one; however, I was seduced by the idea of having a nexus case that enveloped the whole device, not just the screen-side.

Consequently, I bought this little gadget (not the pink one, the black one!). The device itself was (like any other keyboard I've come across) simple to set up; just turn on and have the tablet search for bluetooth devices. I've not had any problems with connection, and the keys are very responsive. Indeed, the keys have much more depth to them than my old device***, making it easy to feel whether you've hit a button sufficiently. However, I did have the backspace pop off the keyboard a couple of times at first (perhaps due to a bumpy ride here?). I've not had the problem since, but I'm inclined to be gentle with the device for the time being.

The keyboard itself is only marginally larger than my previous one; however, the extra vertical spacing between the buttons makes the keyboard feel decidedly less cramped, and I think I'm making far fewer typos as a result. The layout is a bit different to what I'm used to, but I know from experience that I'll adapt in no time.

The biggest change in this keyboard is the introduction of function keys. This is great as it allows for a more spacious layout and it also allows me access a number of the tablets functionality without lifting my hands from the keyboard****. However, because this is a generic keyboard, it has buttons that cater only to iProducts (a cmd button that appears to have no use, and non-functional brightness keys). Oddly, some of the typographical keys are also relegated to fn keys: the apostrophe, inverted commas, square brackets, and parentheses. If you like your apostrophes, this will take some getting used to. Luckily, being acclimatized to Japanese keyboards and their odd apostrophe placement (shift-7), I suspect that I'll adapt to this keyboard soon enough too.

Of course, for just over 2000 yen, I'm not surpised that the faux leather is of uninspiring quality; however, the product doesn't look ugly, and it is functional. One advantage that the case has is its ability to fold back and form a stand that actually positions the screen at a natural distance from the user. Even better, you can detach the keyboard from the case entirely for completely free placement of the device. I found the inability to do this with my previous keyboard decidedly awkward.

So, all in all, I think the keyboard is well worth the money. Despite some initial mishaps, it feels like a sturdy product and, having used it to type this article, I feel it functions better than I need it to.

*the lab workhorses could manage this within a few seconds...

** This ended up being the downfall of the keyboard; in an effort to maintain its usability, I resorted to using correction fluid to write the letters back on it, which worked well enough, but I didn't fancy going into work and using it (it looked decidedly DIY, and not in a good way). So, I bought some letter stickers from the local 100-yen store, and used nail varnish remover to (after much effort) get rid of the now-ingrained correction fluid. Unfortunately, I got somewhat carried away in this cleaning, and at some point the keyboard stopped working. All I can say is that keyboards and acetone don't mix...

***I hear that some people enjoy the sound of keyboards clacking. I'm indifferent, but the keyboard might satisfy such people.

****My particular favourite being the unlock button, as the lock button on my Nexus 7 has been temperamental since I bought it.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Getting LuneOS running on the Nexus 7 (2012 ver.; grouper)

I had a go at installing LuneOS on my Nexus 7. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it, given the performance issues; however, here is how I achieved it:

0) Install and set up MultiRom Manager

1) Download image
2) Copy onto device
3) Boot into Recovery
4) Advanced > MultiROM > Add ROM > Android ROM - then navigate for the zip file in your device
4) Backup > Select system and boot
5) Go back to main recovery menu and check the "Restore" section to see if the backup ROM is present
6) Install > navigate to the luneos grouper zip file, uncheck "inject MultiROM after installation" and swipe to flash
7) You may get a message saying "no OS installed" and another "not set as root". Ignored both messages and reboot.
8) I got fed up of waiting and turned off during the Google logo; however, after rebooting the device and waiting for ages at the Google logo, some minutes later the LuneOS logo appeared and the OS booted up!

But! There was no virtual keyboard... I couldn't get fingerterm to load, and bluetooth wouldn't load, so I had no software or hardware keyboard. Consequently I had no way of entering the LAN password, and thus no way of pulling any new packages that might have helped solve the problem. Oh dear.

Worse, the system was fairly slow to respond, and after several attempts to get the above to work, I ended up ditching the OS in the end, rather than pursue further to see if the keyboard worked in a nightly build.

(LuneOS Version 38 build 286)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Installing SailfishOS alongside CyanogenMod on the Nexus 7 (2012 version; "grouper")

The cyclic frustration that is my old Nexus 7. As I install more apps and things get updated, the poor thing eventually struggles to keep enough RAM to remain responsive. Consequently, I have tried a few ways of coaxing it into doing things a little faster.

Installing a fresh OS (be it the factory software or otherwise) keeps things smooth for a while; however, the accumulating apps, data, or updates (I'm not sure which is the most problematic here) does tend to slow things down.

Recently I installed Sailfish OS. It seems fast enough, but I managed to kill the OS when installing Japanese input. Whoops.

Anyway, if you care about not voiding your warranty, and have a rooted Nexus 7 try this:
1) Install MultiRom Manager
2) Download the Cyanogenmod and Sailfish OS images linked at this page.
3) Copy the downloaded files onto the home directory of the nexus
4) Run MultiRom Manager and have it install all the necessary kernel patches etc.
5) Once (4) is finished and you're back in Android, use MultiRom Manager to reboot into recovery
6) Go to "Advanced" and find "MultiRom" then "Add ROM".
7a) You can now follow the pictures.
7b) i) If you dislike pictures; select "SailfishOS" as the ROM type and press next
      ii) Select the CyanogenMod and SailfishOS zips (in "/data/media/" if I recall correctly)
      iii)Press install

When booting up, you can interrupt the boot countdown and then select SailfishOS from the list.

Have fun!

EDIT: I did also try "Plasma Active" which feels much more "old-school linux"; however, its small keyboard led to immediate removal.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Getting anaglyph 3D working on old games

More so the internet retains a copy than anything else, I thought I'd write down my experiences in trying to get anaglyph 3D to work on TESIV: Oblivion. I have lost my 3D specs, so I actually can't comment on the quality of the end product; however, it appears to be working, so this is what I did:

1) Downloaded Vireio Perception 2.1.6 *
2) Open Perception\cfg\profiles.xml
3) Scroll down until you find "Fallout 3"
4) Copy the entire tag and paste a new entry
5) Edit the game name and exe tags:
game_name="Oblivion" game_exe="Oblivion.exe"
6) Run Vireio Perception as Admin
7) Run Oblivion.exe **

You should see some green writing after a short delay on the loading screen.

I suspect the reason this was so simple was that Fallout 3 and Oblivion use pretty much the same engine. I might give some other games a try and see what happens.

What, you haven't run off to try this for yourself? Fair enough. If you're interested, I used to use iZ3D (which I believe is still available). That was my first experience with 3D immersion in a game, and while I'm sure some would be horrified with the loss of colour quality using red-cyan glasses, I quite enjoyed it. Unfortunately, Windows 8 was completely incompatible with iZ3D, and I've never since been able to play around with true-ish 3D immersion in games. In contrast, the above technique got things working for my win 10 laptop, so it looks like all I need to do now is get hold of some 3D glasses again!

*There exists a version 3+; however, I was fiddling with 2.1.6 when I got it working, so I can't yet comment on whether the more recent version is more appropriate.
EDIT: You can use version 3+; however, when you load up the game, press Ctrl-Q to bring up a menu, select the "3D reconstruction settings" option, and turn "projected FOV" OFF.
** I copied the dlls from perception/bin/ into the Oblivion game folder; however, this might be unnecessary.