Pixel & Pie – WTF Google!

Google Pixel (Very Black)

After carrying Nexus phones for years I bought a Google Pixel in December 2016. That was just after the Pixel 2 was released, so the older Pixel was priced well and still offered great performance.

I was very pleased with the Pixel until quite recently. The OTA update to Android 9 (Pie) in August has been a huge step backward. Since that update the phone’s battery life has been dramatically reduced. Where it once lasted all day with my typical usage, it now lasts only about 7 hours with only light usage. Further, the phone is often noticeably warm to the touch.

Being the inquisitive sort, I’ve done some experiments to try and find out why this is happening. There are no rogue apps running. Or at least the OS reports no app using more that 2-3% of battery power.

I put the phone in Safe Mode for a day so only the factory installed apps would run. Battery life remained abysmal. That suggests that the problem is not caused by an app at all.

I’ve come to believe that I’ve identified the source of the problem. It’s related to the Wi-Fi. If I turn off the Wi-Fi the battery life is closer to what was experiencing running Oreo. Turn it back on and it plummets.

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How-To: Using an RTSP Stream as a Source for a WebRTC application

This post arises from a question posed by someone via Quora. I’m not all that engaged with that Q&A platform, but this question seemed novel, so I offered an answer. I thought the answer worth sharing in a little more depth, so I offer it here as well.

The question was, “How can I use the RTSP stream from an IP camera as a source for a WebRTC application?”

There are two parts to solving this puzzle; (1) Connect to the RTSP stream and (2) Make it appear like a webcam to the client application.

Obvious Answer: vMix

At the outset, let me say that I would address this using vMix. vMix solves both parts of the puzzle handily. If this is all that you needed to achieve, the $60 Basic HD license would suffice.

Of course, you’d need to learn a little about the application, which is deep. To my mind it’s fun, but some might find it daunting. Further, vMix requires a considerable host platform. You’re not going to run it on trivial hardware.

Let’s just say that we’d like to solve the problem with less spending and requiring less knowledge overhead.

Less Obvious Answer: VLC & NDI Tools

VLC is the ubiquitous, open source media player. Available on all platforms it can play anything I’ve every wanted to open. Beyond files, it can open network streams. I’ve used it to listen to my local PBS radio station. I’ve also used it to watch video streams from our Grandstream surveillance cameras, as shown below.

VLS viewing RTSP stream

NDI stands for Network Device Interface. It’s a network protocol, developed by Newtek of TriCaster and Video Toaster fame, that allows low-latency, lightly compressed video to be passed over a gigabit Ethernet network. NDI is impressive, but I won’t wax poetic about that here.

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A Novel Widget: fit-statUSB from Compulab

Here’s a cute new widget from Compulab, makers of my beloved Airtop-PC. A first glance, fit-statUSB looks like a very small USB memory key, but it’s actually a programmable color status LED.

Costing just $12 this wee LED looks like a serial port to the host computer. You can send simple commands to the com port to set its color, brightness, make it sequence, etc.

fit-statUSB

It’s easy to think of many possible use-cases. I can imagine a rack of gear where a servers process status is indicated by a front mounted fit-statUSB. When a critical process goes down the LED indicates this immediately, without requiring a sophisticated management or monitoring system. Just a few scripts.

Might be fun to play with one (some?) of these one day soon.

Asterisk on Raspberry Pi now has FXO, FXS and GSM Interfaces

The combination of Asterisk and Raspberry Pi harkens back to a time when I was seeking to run Asterisk on an small, embedded platform. I was a little ahead of the curve, seeking this before Digium released AsteriskNOW. I tried Michael Iedema’s Askozia PBX and settled upon Astlinux on a Soekris Net4801, which I used for a couple of years.

Of course, all this was before the now ubiquitous Raspberry Pi was released. It makes sense that someone would try that low-cost SBC as a host for Asterisk. However, there hasn’t been much hardware support for that effort until recently.

oak2_1

Today I read that SwitchPi is now offering modular and multi-port FXO/FXS interfaces, as well as a GSM interface.

  • OAK8X base module (4 onboard Asterisk FXO channels) $130
  • OAK8X base module with 8 channels (8 Asterisk channels, 4 FXO plus 4FXS) $180
  • OAK8X base module with 8 channels (8 Asterisk channels, 8 FXO) $180
  • PiGSM single channel GSM interface $99
  • PiTDM base module $89
  • PiTDM 2 channel FXO module $20
  • PiTDM 1 channel FXS module $10

This is exactly the sort of hardware I tinkered with when I was using Asterisk. I used a TDP400P card with FXS and FXO interfaces. I also used a SIP-to-GSM gateway, documenting the project in the early days of this site.

SwitchPi seems have started in January 2018. It’s good to see hardware support for running Asterisk on Raspberry Pi evolving and affordable.

Warning! Avoid Everquote.com

We’d all like a deal, right? Most especially a better deal on something that you have to buy anyway, like car insurance. So it was that a couple of weeks ago I succumb to an online ad for EverQuote, a company that purports itself as disrupting the insurance business. I regret the decision to try the service. It was a moment of weakness that haunts me still.

We’ve been with the same company for auto insurance for a long time. They are not the company that has our household insurance. I had thought that it would be worth the time, on a Saturday morning, to see if this disruptive young startup could provide me with a couple of quotes. My hope was that, with just a few minutes at the keyboard (actually my phone in this case) I’d have some insight as to whether we were paying too much.

It didn’t work out that way.

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