site  contact  subhomenews

New tent and backpack

March 13, 2016 — BarryK
I have purchased ultra-light tent and backpack, and taken them on an overnighter.

Wrote up a report, with photos:

Not a comprehensive test of the tent, as the weather was perfect. Reached 30 degrees C, 40% humidity, hazy sky.

I left the fly of the tent rolled back all night, so able to watch the bush around me and the sky. Very pleasant, and the mozzies just buzzed around outside the tent!

Tags: light

Solar power testing 2016

February 04, 2016 — BarryK
I did some testing of solar panels and battery-banks, to charge smartphones and other USB-chargeable devices, back in 2014:

I have started another round of tests, this time focusing on ultra-light traveling, using a very small panel charging my smartphone directly, no intermediate battery-bank.

It's a work-in-progress, but good result so far:

I have posted about this to an Australian bushwalking forum:

Tags: light

Hiking test

January 25, 2016 — BarryK
It is mid-summer here in Australia, and the weather has been pleasant. Thunder, lightning, rain early this morning, but the last few days have been mostly sunny, temperatures climbing to mid-30s.

Very nice weather for hiking, though it did get a tad warmish yesterday. I was off on the trails, of which we have many in the hills close to Perth.

January 2015 I did some hiking, but carried too much. This time I have experimented with ultra-light.

Here is a field test of my latest gear:

Lots of fun!

Tags: light

Mobile-friendly static HTML

January 14, 2016 — BarryK
My web pages are all "old school" HTML. I have dabbled in CSS and Javascript, but mostly create web pages with simple static HTML using tables.

My web pages look fine on a desktop screen, but not so good on a mobile phone. Typically, I create a centered table with a fixed width, and all content goes inside that. Basic structure:

<head ... > ... </head>
<table align="center" width="700" ... > ... </table>

On a high resolution mobile phone screen, the table renders very small, with large blank space both sides.

However, I discovered a very simple fix. Just insert this line into the <head> section:

<meta name="viewport" content="width=700">

Remarkable, on my Android phone, my pages scale, both in portrait and landscape orientation, so that the table width fills the screen. Everything, text and images, scale correctly.

See my example page:


...though, I haven't even read most of that. Just took a punt on the "width" parameter, and it worked.

Tags: light

Remix OS Mini PC

July 18, 2015 — BarryK
Longtime Puppy fan and active Forum contributor cthisbear, posted this:

Actually, I had a few months away from Quirky development, and also wasn't reading the Puppy Forum, except for occasional glances. Today though, had a good read, and found the post from cthisbear.

Which linked to here:

And the Kickstarter project:

I'll be in that! $40 plus $15 postage to Australia, for the 2G RAM model. That's a good price.

I really want to play with Remix OS. I like Android, on my phone anyway. Remix promises to give me a desktop experience, and I can use all the Android apps, some of which I have got to like very much -- such as SafeInCloud, that I reported on recently:

I have been experimenting with Bluetooth mice and keyboards with my phone:

...which has been a good experience, and I am excited to find out how much more enhanced the experience will be with Remix OS.


HB-2000 keyboard design fault

June 12, 2015 — BarryK
In my on-going "traveling light" project, I wrote about the tiny Bluetooth HB-2000 keyboard:

I own a couple of other Bluetooth keyboards, that are unwieldy in comparison. The HB-2000 is smaller and considerably lighter than them, eminently suitable where size and weight are important, such as traveling with a backpack or when a "carry on" bag is one's only luggage.

The HB-2000 is also considerably cheaper than the brand-name keyboards. However, I have discovered a design fault, shown in this photo:

At each side at the front, there are rubber feet, that glue to the printed circuit board. See the cutout in the metal frame.
The problem is that the printed circuit board is only glued, with sticky glue, to the metal frame, and the rubber feet are affixed to the board only, not the frame.

Consequently, after using for awhile, the printed circuit board lifts away from the metal frame, and the rubber feet sink into the frame.

I first noticed this when the keyboard started to wobble on a flat surface. At first, I wondered how the frame could have become distorted, then closer examination revealed the cause.
Is this just stupidity, or didn't the designers care?

I fixed it by moving the rubber feet onto the frame, and might look around for bigger feet that will cover up the metal cutout.

I still love this keyboard!

Another thing that I want to do is construct a cover, to protect the keys when packed tightly inside a backpack or whatever. The cover can be opened up, and I envision having a slot in it, into which my phone can be inserted, so it becomes a mounting base for the phone.
...if anyone has this keyboard, or plans to buy one, and wants to design such a cover, I welcome your thoughts on it.


B-Folders password manager review

June 11, 2015 — BarryK
I recently wrote a mini-review of SafeInCloud, a very nice password manager:

These days, a "password manager" holds much more than just usernames and passwords, and can be used to keep a wide variety of information secure. I found SafeInCloud to be one of these modern secure information managers, very customizable, and a delight to use.

However, as I explained in the review, I decided to discontinue its use, due to lack of a virtual keyboard for entering the master password.

Since then, I have been testing more password managers, and finally I have found one that ticks all the boxes: B-Folders.

The developers of B-Folders have put a lot of thought into security, and I cannot see anywhere that might be a potential weakness.

The Android version uses an internal webkit-based browser, to take care of secure auto-filling for login, though external browsers can be used, even the clipboard (which is cleared immediately after use).

B-Folders can use a virtual keyboard for entering the master password, the lack of which worried me with SafeInCloud and many other password managers.

However, the virtual keyboard is only for numeric input. For alpha-numeric entry, the standard Android keyboard is used.
Hmmm, a numeric password will have to be very long to be uncrackable -- see further notes on this at the end of this review.

B-Folders does not support a fingerprint sensor for login. There is probably a good reason for this, as B-Folders does not want to store the master password. Using a fingerprint scanner means that the master password has to be stored locally, encrypted of course, but that is still a potential weakness.

I obtained B-Folders from the Google Play Store:

OK, it is free, but offers an in-app purchase. This is a "Utility pack", that cost me $6.20, with some useful, though not essential, extras.

B-Folders does not have the "bling" of SafeInCloud, and in a few places is less intuitive. So, I had a good read of the online docs. I found that it actually is easy to use, and was soon entering data and testing online logins.

It is the "card" paradigm, in this case with folder hierarchy. There are ready-made cards, which can be customised for each instantiation, and new card templates can be created. Overall, extremely flexible for entering any kind of textual data.

B-Folders is touted as a password manager, notepad, task manager, contact manager, bookmark manager, and journal. Or anything else requiring secure textual storage.

It runs on the desktop also, on Windows, Mac and Linux --for a price of US$30 each. Here is a desktop snapshot:

Running on Android though, the UI is a bit more constrained. Showing the equivalent of the above picture, this first snaphot shows the top-level:

Here are cards inside the "Banking" folder:

This is the content of one of the cards:

Clicking on a URL in a card, there is an offer to open with internal or system browser (or any other browser that is installed) (this is all customizable):

Sync and backup
SafeInCloud uses the Cloud for storage and consider it safe, as the database is a single encrypted file. The very fact of it being in the Cloud may be seen as a security threat, but if the password is uncrackable, all should be OK.

B-Folders takes a different approach, achieving syncing with its own wi-fi direct connection (or USB cable) between two devices. I haven't yet tried this, however, I have read user feedback, and they are positive reports.

Backup creates a copy of the database file. I tested this, and it reported a file "storage/sdcard0/backups.dat/2015-06-10_10-15_56.jrb" has been created.
There is also a restore from backup option.

Perhaps it would be nice to have send-to (share) for backup. Individual cards can be shared (which I think requires the paid Utility pack), and this sends a .vcf (Electronic Business Card) text file.

Master password
This is a snapshot of the virtual keypad for entering the master password:

Yes, it is good to have a virtual keyboard, I am happy about that. Numeric-only though, hmmm. I did some experiments, and yes, I can create a very secure numeric-only password, but it has to be quite long.

Here are some password strength checkers, that also estimate time to crack:

...warning, do not enter your actual proposed master password into these checkers! They could be sneakily collecting passwords. These sites are probably OK, but you never know.

In the case of a numeric-only password, a 18-digit to 24-digit non-repetitive, non-sequential password is very secure, taking centuries to crack. Of course, this depends on the hardware that is thrown at it.

The challenge though, is to create a long numeric password that can be remembered. And it must be remembered, as your entire life is in that file!

I love this app, the best password manager that I have found so far.

I would like to make some recommendations to the developers:

1. A custom folder for "Login list". Just as there already exists "Task list", "Contact list" and "Journal", which are effectively folders in which tasks, contact and journal cards can be created.
2. Send-to or sharing of the database file, as another way to backup or archive.
3. Markup for notes and journal cards.

Number 3 would be a nice enhancement, I think. Currently, the notes field in a card is plain-text only. It would be nice to be able to specify things like bold, italic, list, which can be saved as RTF, BBCODE or something similar.
I already tested entering a URL into a note, and it got recognised and became a link. Well, this principle can be extended, even perhaps to displaying images (img link, perhaps not embedded images).

Developer JointLogic website:


TurboScan mini review

June 05, 2015 — BarryK
I own an actual scanner, a Hewlett Packard ScanJet 4200C. I was reading recently about scanner apps for phones, so thought that I would give it a go.

For those who have not been following my blog, I own a 4G 64-bit Mlais M52 Red Note phone, with 5.5 inch screen and Android 4.4.4 (KitKat). I purchased it from China, for about AU$200.

What these scanner apps do is enable you to take photos of paper pages, have them auto-cropped and enhanced for readability, and exported as JPEG or PDF. More or less.

I tried a few, with mixed results. Let's see, my testing included these: Genius Scanner, SimplyScan, Fast Scanner, and PDF Scanner (by Grymala).

With all of these apps, I found it difficult to obtain a sharp image. That is, at night with room light turned on, and using the phone's flash. I did get significantly better sharper images during the day, with light coming through a window, also using flash.
So, some experimentation is needed to get good results.

Some apps have inadequate adjustments, for example one created awfully huge images, like 5MB for one page, with no way to reduce the size. One of them seemed unable to create multi-page PDFs.

I wasn't really enamored by any of them and was about to give up, then I discovered TurboScan, created by Piksoft. There is no free version, it cost me AU$2.99 from the Google Play Store:
...user feedback rates it at 4.6 stars.

Based on my prior experience with blurry images, I chose a feature of TurboScan called SureScan, in which you take 3 shots of a page, doing your best to hold the phone steady -- well of course my hand did move between shots, but I was amazed at the result. The images are extremely sharp. Cropping to page edges was perfect, as well as contrast/brightness -- in fact, no background "noise" or "artifacts" at all.

As well as creating lovely sharp images, the file sizes were the smallest. For example, the page that created the worst-case 5MB file reported above, was now only 455KB.

Creating a multi-page document was very intuitive, and I was able to email a PDF, just a few clicks.

TurboScan created these perfect images without me having to tweak anything. The only thing I changed was "B/W" to "Color" setting.
In fact, these images are better than I obtain using scanning applications such as Xsane in Linux -- where I always have to fiddle with the settings to minimise backround artifacts.

There was no need to read a manual, usage is completely intuitive. I could post some usage photos here, but no need to.

Here is the developer's site. Note, TurboScan is available for the iPhone also:

Another review
These guys compared CamScanner, Scanbot and TurboScan, and rated TurboScan 3rd:

...well, CamScanner is subscription-based, whereas TurboScan is a small one-off price. Scanbot is rated 4.1 stars at the Play Store, and is free but then offers in-app one-time purchase or subscription for full features. Here is the Scanbot developer's site: -- it looks good.
I haven't tried CamScanner or Scanbot.

There are other "reviews", however the ones I found are just superficial abbreviated listing of some of the features, hardly rating as a review.

That $3 was well-spent. SureScan is a winner for me -- I don't know how they combine 3 shots into one, but it works well. I did test single-shot camera mode, and got a sharp image, however SureScan creates a significantly superior accurate reproduction of the original page.