Thursday 24 July 2014

.. and now for something completely different, an anti-rant! Thank you Richer Sounds and Apple...

Why don’t I write more often, because all I do is whinge and moan, and it’s not healthy to write negatively all the time. My grievances are though not without substance, they are very genuine and often not addressed. ‘Often’ is quite important here, because the service I have received from Richer Sounds and Apple (Apple are now in my bad books for reasons that will appear in a later blog) left me, well, gobsmacked. In effect the ‘service’ I have been ‘provided’ by Orange, Google, Acer and ‘friends’ has been so appallingly bad that I just didn’t expect any better. I wrote this some time back, December last year, but better late than never.

The amazing Richer Sounds experience!

So first up Richer Sounds, I simply told them that I wasn’t happy with Humax’s service, and even suggested that selling Humax products doesn’t enhance their brand. They took the trouble to read my comments, and most surprisingly, offered a refund on something I had purchase almost two years ago. Initially I decided to decline the offer of a refund. I was intent with just registering my unhappiness

However the Humax box died and was subsequently replaced; I’d managed to overlook something critical. The 500GB of almost exclusively HD recordings that I had kept a backup of, and managed for over a year, using no less than an Excel worksheet to keep track of, simply didn’t work on the new box! I knew they were encrypted, and wouldn’t play on anything other than a Foxsat HDR box, but it turns out they won’t play on ANY other box other than the one they were recorded on. I’m quite sure it was just the power board that had died, had they taken it away, replaced that and returned it, that would have been fine. But they did what looked like a useful service, collect the dead one and leave you with a new one, but this knocked the stuffing out of the ‘Sky+ HD’ is closed and Humax is open and therefore better justification, and my recording efforts.

The neglected Sky+ HD box was pressed back into service, and first major surprise, new UI, it looks quite cool now, second surprise, no overnight crashes, in fact none at all. So it was never the hardware, it was the blinking software all along. Most striking is that the image quality for non-hi-def transmissions (now there’s an olde word!) are of a noticeable better quality. 

Now I e-mailed Richer Sounds back and asked for refund. They agreed. I tried to bring it near Christmas, but I was told they will be closing until Boxing Day, and as it would be busy, later would be better. So I thought, OK, maybe I shouldn’t be in such a rush to get rid of the Humax box. However on Boxing Day, I received an e-mail instead asking when I wish to bring it in! Amazing I thought, they remembered, even though I was still in two minds about a refund. As I was about to reply saying that I’ll be bringing it the next day, I thought, looking back at my messages, it is not explicitly obvious that I bought it almost two years ago, the only references was my blog post URL, and I’ll turn up at the store and be told, a refund, on a purchase that old? You must be joking. Now you might think otherwise, but I don’t like confrontations, I’d rather avoid them, and I do take a good deal of poor service before I snap and make my displeasure known. I thought I’d e-mail them and make sure that they know how old it is, the reply came, yes, the refund is on. Next step went down to the store, a chap starts taking details, another appears,’ ah the chaps who’s been e-mailing’, ‘yes it’s me’, and that was it, they started to do the paperwork for a refund. They asked for the card used to pay, and I thought, oh no, this reminds of a shoe shop argument some ten years back where they insisted I bring the card back I used to pay for it, as my brother had bought it me as a gift that didn’t fit, they were concerned that I’d be ‘ripping off’ my brother. We gave up and left back then. This time however it was a case of give any card. So I did, and it was done! Double wow! So retailers have THAT much latitude with regards to refunds, they just choose not to offer it?

Well done Apple too! (No longer! Details to follow).

Next up Apple, yes ours is an Android phones, but Apple tablets, household. Imagine my surprise when my son goes to sleep 23rd of December, wakes up on the 24th with a dead iPad mini. Dead, totally dead, we switched chargers, leads, hard resets (long press home and off etc.) nowt happened. So we went to the Apple store (Trafford Centre) the same day, it was detour in a planned journey, and arrived as it was closing, so I was able to ask a few questions. Is it OK that I didn’t buy it from Apple? The answer was ‘yes’. Next question, when can I bring it in? ‘The 26th, though we prefer you book a Genius bar appointment’. So I went home and looked at making an appointment. The nearest was almost a week away, so I booked one. Then I thought, why not just post it back myself, and decided to try to book an on-line return, so I cancelled the appointment. The website went through the motions of wanting to run diagnostics with it connected, but it was dead Jim, totally dead. So with the on-line status stuck on awaiting diagnostics, two days later, we knew we’d be going by the Apple Store yet again, so we walked in and I was expecting fireworks. I am not going to describe what I was expecting, read my older entries for that sort of thing. So first up, no appointment, no problem, a chap assigned me slot that was due in 10 minutes. OK, that’s not bad. So 10 minutes passed by quickly, and a young chap had a look at the iPad, confirmed that we had nothing important on it and if wipe would be OK to get it going. He tried charging it briefly, tried to turn it on, no response. So he turns around, opens a cabinet and pulls out a box. Whoa! He’s not just about to replace this on the spot within five minutes of seeing us is he? Yes he was!  Here’s your replacement iPad, you still have 200 odd days of warranty left. Well I was stunned, I had only a few weeks back upgraded to a Sony Xperia Z1 from a Z, because I had no smartphone to use whilst Sony (or rather their repair agent SBE) took almost two weeks to repair and return it.

So with the Humax box gone, and the Sky+ HD box in use, we concluded that we really to miss being able to series link, though the desire to keep a series has now been diminished by the manner in which we lost years’ worth of recordings. So the Sky+ box is there, but no longer being used either, the ancient Sony RDR-HXD910 is pressed back into action, it was used as a DVD player, long ago. It has series link and dual tuner Freeview, but no Hi-Def. However the speed at which it operates really surprised us, the Humax box’s slowness is now all the more apparent. The series link, well it appears to start bang on time, and hasn’t missed recording a complete programme no end clipping, for the few weeks it’s been running . However the image quality is grotty to say the least. Now my telly, the Samsung 59” 3D-TV does have a Freeview HD tuner, but no way of recoding anything. It does, it appears to have the feature on the remote control, but it doesn’t work for me. There is now a new ‘fight’ on with Samsung, the start has not been good, and it doesn’t bode well for how this will proceed.

The dreaded “COM Surrogate has stopped working” error..

Right, handy tip time. After a Windows update, my HP Envy 17, that has an AMD Radeon Mobility 5750 graphics chipset, started to generate  “COM Surrogate has stopped working” error messages when trying to start Microsoft’s picture viewer. The solution was simple. Install the official AMD drivers, problem fixed.

Apparently I hadn’t updated the drivers in a while, and lo and behold, Windows update had ‘newer’ ones.  Fantastic job it did, took me a good few hours to work out that the Microsoft supplied driver was the culprit.

Tuesday 22 July 2014

The quest to get the Jelly Bean update for my Sony Xperia T

So what happened next with quest to get the Jelly Bean update for my Sony Xperia T, for the odd person out here that maybe interested, here’s what happened.

Good that Sony replied, however what they told me wasn’t so good. IT was down to T-Mobile to release the update, even though my phone was unlocked and not tied to them, it was stuck with their schedule, that appears to be two months out of step with Sony and O2.
This however contradicts two issues, why is that the update can be performed via Sony’s website and why were ranges of IMEI published for Xperia S when it was updated to Ice Cream sandwich?
So, I went to the T-Mobile twitter site, where they appear to be so ready to help, they replied with this:-

T-MOBILE UK ‏@TMobileUK 21 Mar 2013
@GreatFurbian As yet we do not have the release date, we hope to have this information as soon as possible.
… I replied in kind…..

@TMobileUKhelp So what's the hold up? O2 managed it almost 2 months ago? I've been 'checking' on and off for most of those 2 months.

.. and received the same again…

T-MOBILE UK ‏@TMobileUK 27 Mar 2013
@GreatFurbian We do not have date for this as of yet, please keep checking as it will show once available.

I was due to fly abroad and had a few hours to kill, so decided to do the update myself using Flashtool. My wife noticed me using the Sony PC Companion’s backup software, and congratulated me, “oh good, you’ve decided to do it yourself”. I wasn’t quite as enthralled, but she had been on jelly bean for the past two months.

So I performed a backup, last one was done December last year, I kept that one and performed a fresh one. After some messing around, usual getting it into a flahsable state, using Flahstool, which is not the most user friendly piece of software. One problem I do recall is the absence of ABD, (or is it ADB?) drivers for when the phone is in a flashable state. The easiest way to get this appeared to be via Sony’s Susy software. I downloaded this, installed it and tried to run it. Apparently I had to register with Sony to use it, so sent off a registration request. Not that it nattered as it had already installed the drivers needed for Flashtool. For the record, to date, many months on, Sony never bothered replying. So after much ado getting into flash mode, it was done. I restarted the phone and the colourful ribbons that Sony phones appear to start with these days seemed brighter, I confirmed with the misus and she goes yes, that’s jelly bean.

I had taken seven picture image snapshots of all the applications I had installed on the phone, no idea which were Play store and which were Amazon. So now it was time to start restoring the applications  that had associated data, which, apart from call logs, contact and SMS messages that belong to the ‘system’ per say, were saved games. Games I didn’t care for I didn’t bother with for now. This as expected took a while, Play store is quite nippy, you can queue up downloads by launching one after another.

Amazon store is SLOW, really slow, and appears not to multitask, but it does, but again, very slowly. It appears to freeze if you try to queue up downloads, but does trudge on.

There is one handy feature though that Sony’s PC backup program has, it shows you what is unable to/didn’t restore, usually because the app and is associated directories are missing. 

So next I restored the phone from the backup. IT did its usual sit for 20 minutes in a frozen state, Windows 7 deems it unresponsive every time and gives you the option of closing it. But one learns to ignore this and let it wait. But I missed some games that did have save data, so I repeated the restore, and then again a third time.

All looked good, everything was back it seemed, call logs, contacts, and games saves for the few I tested, excellent. But then disaster, no SMS messages. Where had they gone? When I used Sony backup  some time ago with my Xperia S, it would sometimes state that SMS messages had not been saved. So I tended to repeat the backup. I also used the SMS back and restored app some times.

I now tried restoring just the SMS messages by themselves using Sony’s backup, a few times, again, no messages. It was now time to fly, so I left, taking my backups and the phone with me.

So a few days later, a few thousand miles away, I decided to find the messages. After much Googling, I turned up these links that commented on the problem, identified where the messages actually resided within the backup, and finally a tool for extracting android packages.

I had worked out that Sony’s .dbk files were obviously simple zip files, in this was application data. Now where were the messages, there was no obviously named file, so I sorted them by size and went through the files from largest to smallest, and could not find anything that remotely looked like it could the large number of SMS’s I had. Googling revealed that messages go in com.sonyericsson.conversations, I was expecting a com.andoird.  So I found the file, but it was only about 4k, this just did not look right, and it seemed obvious that they were not in there. I persevered and decided to unpack this file, I use the 7z compression program and it could not decompress it despite the multitude of formats it supports. More Googling revealed it to be an android package type. I found an extractor for this and managed to get at the contents, which turned out to be a few directories, within which I found the XML file I had been after all along, containing, just the template for an SMS message!

OK, not good, but not a disaster, I had an older backup, I’ll just look in there. Err the file is just a few k again, oh dear, it didn’t bother backing them up then either, and more significantly didn’t say it hadn’t backed them up, or give any indication of any log having been generated or where it goes, assuming it actually generates one.

Now remember I used to have iPhone 4… and two models of iPhone prior to that? This sort of thing, the backup, restore, text message XML file hunting, simply never happened. True jail breaking seemed a necessity at times, and was an absolute pain, but the whole ‘Android’ experience isn’t much better.

So all my text messages now appear to lie in an old Apple backup, however I was in for a bit of luck, I had used, goodness knows why, SMS backup and restore just before new year’s day, so my loss has been restrict to three months’ worth of text, i.e. not the end of the end of the world. More than a years’ worth and I would have been much much more unhappier.

Going back to why the Everything Everywhere/T-Mobile/Orange cabal didn’t have a ‘date’ for when the update will be released, going through the phone, there appeared to be no branding, nothing in setting, no apps, not even the Orange Maps that used to be on the Xperia S. However I found it, I found what T-Mobile are unable and/or unable to apply to the jelly bean OS release, that O2 managed to do 2.5 months ago, at about the same time that Sony released it to unlocked phones (mine was unlocked after all, but on T-Mobile initially). It was … well this…

An ‘EE recommends’ tile on Play store. That was it! Pathetic really.

My next, or any phone ever, will NOT be anything by Everything Everywhere, or rather Nothing Anywhere as they should be more appropriately named, might have said this before, and I’m saying it again, big deal. Along with Acer on those companies that you learn to avoid no matter what deal they offer, because dealing with the devil you know just doesn’t work here. Some are just the worst of the worst and not worth dealing with.

Sony, I have a love hate relationship with. Apart from Android issues, i.e. what sucks about it, the phone is actually quite nice in use. I cannot understand why reviewers keep going on and on, and then some about  the Samsung S3 having a superior AMOLED screen. At times it looks like a hacks house style, "AMOLED  is better than LCD". Well I’ve never liked AMLOED, Samsung’s anyway, it’s dull, even at maximum brightness. I only bought the Sony Xperia S because it had a bright crisp display with a high pixel density, and felt like a home from, with regards to display quality, after my iPhone 4. But it’s Sony’s backup programs, to use a Nothernism, that did the dirty. It fouled up causing extra pain.

But I’m not changing anytime soon, my verdict on jelly bean? Well the phone is now very very speedy, Sony’s shell is much better than before, and the new unlock method, screen slide, is great. That’s it. I’ve been through all the settings menu expecting something new, and have, well, nothing of interest. A bit disappointed really, I did expect just a bit more. Oh one fly in the ointment, Sony’ shell/launcher, uses such huge icons with such a large amount of icon spacing, especially in the vertical, that it’s grid of 4 by 4 is even worse than an iPhone 5’s which has a much smaller screen There appears to be no obvious way of changing this, i.e. icon spacing, if you know, let me know. To add to this, the smallest calendar (for events) widget is now even larger! I had to look through 4 different downloadable widgets before I found a semi-suitable replacement. I really don’t want to use a third party launcher, I tried three, and settled on one, and they then changed it is you longer had a chronological view of apps installed. They latter half rolled this back with a ‘recently installed’ sort method, but after going to jellybean, I did not go back to it. Worst of all, all the launchers I tried imported icon inclusion and placement settings from other launcher, but not from, yes, that right, the Sony shell launcher. Brilliant.