Sunday, August 28, 2016

How to remove the armrest on a 2015 Honda Accord (9th generation)

Quick post without any pics; my phone is sooo far away (in the next room).

I just wrestled with my 2015 Accord's rear armrest and I was unable to find any information online about how to remove it, so now I'm posting the secret :-)

On the right-side of the armrest there is a plastic spacer.  This is easy to find and remove, and implies that you should now be able to push the armrest 'in' on the right to unclip the opposite side.  But it wouldn't move.  Eventually I figured-out that you have to pull back the carpeting around the left side and then you'll see a spring-loaded clip holding the left-side in place, too.  Pinch to remove and now the assembly can be pushed out, to the right.

It also looked like there was a bolt on the left side and I took a wrench to it, shattering the plastic.  I don't think it needed to come off, the assembly was just stuck.  But, by then, I was impatient :-)

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Review of Yamaha MusicCast WX-030 for DLNA playback

ABOUT MY DLNA COLLECTION

I have a large library of music on my home computer which I share throughout the house via J River Media Center and its DLNA service.  I also use the BubbleUPnP app on my Android phone and tablets to act as the front-end, to select songs and direct the playback to either the local device (typically bluetooth headphones) or my family-room stereo.

Over the years I have gone through multiple AV receivers from Denon, Sony and now Yamaha.  They generally work alright but both the Denon and Yamaha receivers tend to freak-out if I skip a song, i.e., they corrupt the playback and need to be power-cycled.  Also, the playback is restricted to one room -- albeit the most important room.  But I still hoped to find a solution for music listening in the kitchen and other rooms.

MY SEARCH FOR DLNA SPEAKERS

About six months ago I started a thread on the AVS Forum asking for input about DLNA playback on all the available network speakers, e.g.

  • Sonos
  • Denon Heos (Play-Fi)
  • Paradigm
  • Samsung
  • BlueSound
  • Definitive (Play-Fi)
  • LG MusicFlow
  • Polk Omni (Play-Fi)
  • Martin Logan Crescendo
Unfortunately, none of them seemed like a perfect match for my needs. The Play-Fi based models could act as DLNA 'Renderers' at least, but they were very expensive.  I had been prepared to pay a lot for high-quality sound but then, for instance, the Definitive floor-models (at Best Buy) had broken buttons so I worried about their design.

NEW YAMAHA SPEAKER

Now I have a new toy -- the Yamaha MusicCast WX-030 network speaker.  It's very affordable @ $250.  It has its own MusicCast app which allows you to playback from various streaming audio services like Pandora or Spotify, but I've yet to commit to any of those. It also lets you playback from 'Server' (DLNA) but then its track/playlist control is non-existent.  Fortunately the speaker also works perfectly with BubbleUPnP.  Probably the most important feature of the app is that it allows you to EQ the speaker as well as couples two speakers into a stereo pair.
BubbleUPnP playlist

DLNA Playback

When the speaker is asleep, I can initiate power-on and playback entirely from BubbleUPnP.  I can also control the volume.  And I specifically tested the EQ -- the settings I chose from the MusicCast app are saved by the speaker, they're not dependent on using that app.  So once I 'fixed' the EQ I never need to use their app again, I can rely exclusively on BubbleUPnP.

HOW DOES IT SOUND?

well... You get what you pay for?  It sounds alright, good enough that I'm not going to return it.  But its definitely a small speaker without any deep bass, also the EQ seems to change based on volume.  At low volumes the speaker sounds muffled, enough so that I boosted the high-band in the EQ.  The bass sounds better at high volumes, probably because of the relative-loudness phenomenon.  I also dialed-back the mid-band because the speaker seemed 'shouty'.

In conclusion, I am happy with the speaker.  Maybe 3 out of 4 stars?  I plan on buying a second unit and pairing them together for stereo.  That can't help but fill the room with sound, and hopefully it will improve the bass performance, too.

UPDATE: August 2016

I still rate it 3 of 4 stars.  I bought a second unit and set up stereo-pairing but it quickly had problems. If the system had been 'asleep' and I woke it up from either the MusicCast app or BubbleUPnP (DLNA), the two speakers would be horribly out-of-sync.  The right/master speaker would play on while the left/slave speaker would stop and start.

I contacted Samsung tech-support and they insisted it was something wrong with my home network.  They showed me where to access the diagnostics screen and that solved the problem.  It is accessible in the MusicCast app under Settings > (speaker) > Information > Diagnostics.  From this screen I could see that the right speaker could 'see' 5 or 6 of my neighbors' wifi and the ping time sometimes jumped from 0.03 seconds to 4.5 seconds!  The left speaker didn't see any neighbors and its ping was consistently solid at 0.03 seconds.

So I installed a PowerLine ethernet adapter for the right speaker.  So far it works perfect, although time will tell.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Fix for Sony HDR-CX430V video playback on Plex

CAMCORDER UPGRADE


About a year ago I upgraded my old Sony CX7 camcorder to a new Sony HDR-CX430V model.  The old CX7 recorded in 1440x1080i and was having trouble focusing, while the new CX430 supported full 1080p @ 60fps and also included Sony's 'pro-level' Balanced Optical SteadyShot.

PROBLEMS WITH PLAYBACK


I have the Plex media-server app running on my home PC and serving-up all of my home videos, mostly from the old CX7 but also various smartphone videos etc.  I love Plex!  It rescued me from years of fussing with HTPC, XBMC, MPC-HC and on and on.  Now, I can simply load the Plex viewer on my Samsung smart TV and everything 'Just Works'.

Except that the new Sony recordings wouldn't play.  The issue turned-out to be the specifics of the h.264 video recordings.  The CX430 was recording 1080p @ 60fps with h.264 L4.2 encoding but the Samsung was only capable of decoding L4.0.  What's more, the Plex server was only able to transcode up to L4.1 (not confirmed but that's been my experience).  So all those new L4.2-encoded videos now need to re-encoded -- a lot of work since I've been using the camcorder for about a year now.

NEW RECORD SETTINGS


The long-term solution is to switch the record mode from 60p to 24p / Standard.  I found this option in the MENU under Image Quality > 60/MP4/Std > 24p > Standard.  A quick test reveals that the 24p recordings use L4.0 encoding.  And, finally, I confirmed that they playback correctly on my Plex/Samsung combination.
I don't think these encoding specs are listed in any of Sony's manuals.
__________________________________

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Review of the 'mystery' Samsung WB380F smart camera

MY NEW CAMERA

I just bought a new Samsung WB380F smart camera through Best Buy's online store.  It's a mid-level compact point-and-shoot that has wifi and online connectors for several online photo-sharing services.  I specifically wanted something that could link to my cell phone (when switched to hotspot mode) and directly backup photos and videos to Flickr.


That didn't work out so well.

ACCIDENTAL BETA TESTER

Apparently Best Buy listed the camera for-sale before it was supposed to be released?  That's the only explanation I can think of for the strange experience I've had with the camera.  In general, I like the camera and it definitely takes better photos than my Nexus 5 smartphone!  But there's no longer a Flickr app.  That was an included feature on the predecessor model, the Samsung WB350F, but apparently its been dropped.  I tried to find a list of supported services but the 350 is still the model listed on the Samsung U.S. web-site. In fact there's no mention of the 380, at all.  When I tried to google "samsung wb380f" all I found were references to camera stores in Germany where it had gone on-sale in January (two months ago).  I couldn't find any reviews or anything in English.

So I submitted a tech-support request through Samsung's web-site.  Their response was, "This is not a U.S. model."  Um, then why is it for-sale at Best Buy?  Why are all the buttons and manual in English?  I tried googling it again and now, just 2 days later, I see it listed on the Samsung Australia and Samsung UK web-sites.  What's more, the older 350 model is now sold-out on the U.S. web-site.  So clearly they're getting ready to switch models and I simply got ahold of one early.

ONLINE BACKUPS

Meanwhile, I had started experimenting with the remaining online services -- Picasa, Facebook, YouTube, and Dropbox.  Picasa is really Google Plus: Photos.  Dropbox won't let me login and I think the issue is that it doesn't recognize the 380 as a supported model.  (I didn't try Facebook or YouTube because I don't plan on sharing anything online; I just want a mobile backup in case I run out of storage or lose the phone.)  I called Samsung's phone support and they agreed that my issue needed to be escalated.

I tried using the built-in Picasa backup but I don't like the Google Photos web-site, e.g. I couldn't see any way to organize my unsorted photos.  You can either view the (already sorted) Albums, or you can View All which is a big mess.  (My phone has a built-in Google Photos backup but that was the same result as the camera's app.)

I tried using my phone's built-in Google Drive backup but then there's no 'photo awareness' of the files.

I also tried using the official Flickr app but it only backs-up photos you take with the phone, i.e., it ignores photos you copy from elsewhere.
_____________________

MY CURRENT BACKUP TECHNIQUE


  1. I installed Flickr Upload on my Nexus smartphone
  2. I installed Samsung Smart Camera app on my Nexus
  3. I take pictures/videos on the Wb380F
  4. Put the camera in 'wifi' mode, then select Mobile Link > Select Files From Phone
  5. Open the Samsung Smart Camera app on my phone
  6. tap the back of the phone to the 'NFC' label on the left-side of the camera
  7. on the phone, click Select All checkbox, then COPY
  8. The wireless copy is fast, e.g. 2-3 MB/second
  9. Flickr Upload sees the new files and immediately re-copies them 'up' to the cloud
Even though this is a two-step transfer I only need to select the photos/videos once (in the Samsung app).  Everything else is automatic.  And I like the Flickr site because it has multiple views you can select, e.g. the new Camera Roll sorts by date and makes it easy to Select All > Add To Album.

WIDE-ANGLE = FISH-EYE!


One thing I noticed is that the camera has a wide-angle lenses so everything looks far away.  If you try to fill the image by walking close to your subject, there's a 'fish-eye' effect.  Instead you need to use the 21x optical zoom.
______________________________________________________

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Workaround to Acrobat 9 updates not working

Has it really been 6 months since my last post??  Here's a new Quick Note, as always.

My company still uses Adobe Acrobat 9 Standard but for the past month I've been unable to auto-update my new installs.  Whenever I've tried the built-in Help > Check For Updates it reports "No updates available."  I think I've now found the reason, as well as a workaround.

ROOT CAUSE?
The base install of Acrobat 9.0.0 includes their older updater which is located in C:\Program Files x86\Common\Adobe\Updater6.  Inside that folder there are two digital certs, e.g. AdobeUpdate.cer, which are dated 4/16/2008.  I suspect those certs just expired last month?

WORKAROUND
The workaround is to manually update Acrobat 9 until you get the newer AdobeARM updater which was included in Acrobat 9.2.0.  Worst case you'll need to manually download and install all the following updates:
9.1.0 > 9.1.1 > 9.1.2 > 9.1.3 > 9.2.0

The downloads are located on this Adobe page:
http://www.adobe.com/support/downloads/product.jsp?product=1&platform=Windows

There might be some shortcuts?  For instance, some online discussions say you can skip directly from 9.1.0 to 9.2.0.  Also, you might try copying the C:\Program Files x86\Common\Adobe\ARM folder from an updated PC to an un-updated, then run the AdobeARM.exe ?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Custom ringtones on Nexus 5

I just got my new Nexus 5 through the Google Play Store.  In general it's a great phone!  My only complaint is that it has crashed on me twice -- once during the initial Google Play apps-sync, and again while using the USB 'Media' link to copy several GB  of MP3s onto the phone.

Some of those MP3s are custom ringtones that I'm accustomed to using for particular contacts, i.e., so that I can tell who is calling by the ringtone.  Unfortunately, I could not find any way to select a custom ringtone using any of the built-in menus or apps.  (In the past I've been able to use the built-in music player to set an MP3 as a ringtone but Google Play Music doesn't seem to have that.)

Ultimately what I did was install another file explorer (in this case "ES File Explorer" but I suspect any would work).  Now, when I go into the ringtone selector -- in either Settings > Sound or in the individual Contacts' ringtone -- there is a prompt to choose which file explorer.  If I use ES File Explorer I can then choose any MP3.

Monday, June 17, 2013

fix for Windows Update error 8024402F

I've just reinstalled my main home-office workstation and Windows Update started to fail after I installed Microsoft Office.  The specific error-code is 8024402F.

I tried all sorts of suggested fixes online:
- reboot (MANY times!)
- ran WindowsUpdateDiagnostics tool
- ran System File Checker (SFC)
- Reset the content of the Catroot2 folder
There were other more-involved fixes, too, but I wanted to avoid them if at all possible.  I mean- this was a brand-new install so how could any system files have gotten corrupted?  I hadn't had crashes or other errors before this point.

Solution

The key was that Windows Update was configured for both Windows and Microsoft app updates.  I went into 'Change Settings' and unchecked the option to update Microsoft apps -- i.e., Office -- and the problem went away.  Honestly, the only Microsoft app I have installed is Outlook 2003 so I'm not expecting any updates.  And, apparently, there's something about how Office 2003 registered itself that confused/broke that Microsoft Update feature.