Saturday, September 12, 2015

Penclic mouse, what's the point?

It is just a small ordinary mouse with a dumb bar hanging on the top.

It is even not ergonomic (its advertized selling point), because the scrolling wheel is not on the pen but still on the mouse like a normal mouse. So your finger must fly between the wheel and the buttons, all the time. Further more, the buttons are located too low, you still have to twist your arm, like working with a traditional mouse, to reach these buttons.

Why not just make a real pen without the mouse base?  Obviously, there are plenty of space to seat the optical sensor, the wheel and the battery, all within a single pen body. At least, move the wheel onto the pen body and move the buttons higher, then it would be truly an ergonomic and revolutionary mouse/pen.

My workaround:

Modify the back and forward buttons to be scroll down and up. Then I no longer need to touch that stupidly located wheel. A very simple AHK script can do it:



Now I can conveniently use my thumb to scroll up and down, but it is still an awkward device. Swapping left and right buttons might make it more comfortable, but I'm done with it and it is going back to the store.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Three essential tweaks for FireFox

The following tweaks work for all Mozilla based browsers such as FireFox, Light, WaterFox, Pale Moon and etc.

RememberPass add-on

This add-on forces FireFox to remember passwords for sites that do not want you to.

Toggle animated GIFs

Not only very annoying and distracting, animated images also consume computer resources (i.e. slow down), run them hot and drain your laptop's battery. With this add-on, you can make them quiet by default and, when you do want to see the action, click on them to play.

For Flash, you can, and you should, make the plugin to always "Ask to Activate":


There are two more annoying things to block: scrolling (marquee) and blinking text. Find the profile directory (e.g., Palemoon\User\Palemoon\Profiles\Default) and create a new folder "chrome". Within this new folder, create a new file "UserContent.css" and copy and paste these two lines into it:

marquee { -moz-binding: none; }
blink { text-decoration: none ! important; }

Then restart your browser. Don't worry, you can still see the text in full, just not scrolling nor blinking, nice, ha.

All above methods has no side effects like ad and flash block add-on while making your browsing experience entirely calm.

Watch this video for before and after:

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tweaks for Dell Venue 11 Pro 7140

I have been using the Miix 2 8 for about two years now as my only computer. When editing video for youtube, I felt the desire for a faster CPU like the Core M. I bought a Dell Venue 11 Pro 7140 when it was on sale for only $299:
  • It has the fan-less Core M CPU that's much faster than Atom found on most tablets such as the Miix. Now editing HD video in PowerDirector is totally smooth including preview and rendering speed is at least 3x faster. Core M drains more battery than Atom but still far less than i5.
  • It has a 1920x1080 FHD screen. A non-16:9 screen (4:3, 15:10 or even 16:10) is still far better, but the higher resolution, 1080 vs. 736, is less painful. And, the screen is fabulous, top class, for both entertainment and text work.
  • Optional keyboard that makes this tablet meanwhile a true laptop. I just cannot accept the soft keyboard (also available) like the one on Surface.
  • SSD, 4G, WiFi are all easily upgradable. For example, I can swap the 64GB SSD with a 256GB one for $100 or less.
  • Charged via a dedicated micro USB port, allowing me to share a charger between my phone and other devices. The included Dell charger can auto switch between 5V and 19V and charge it much faster than 5V.
  • Loud and clear speakers. Again, this tablet is ideal for both entertainment and serious work.

First thing first, the keyboard can only open up to 110 degree; i.e., the tablet is almost vertical when mounted on it - way too uncomfortable.  We must mod it.

Before and After:

Watch this video on the mod:

Yes, the tablet/laptop still stay well on a desktop as you see in above photos, because this keyboard is whopping heavy at 1.5 lb. In addition to a 28 Wh (3250mAh, 7.2V) battery and a metal case, there are two metal pieces inside for nothing but balance weight of 2.55 oz.

Another big problem is Death during Sleep (DdS). Randomly and frequently, the tablet cannot wake up from sleep. Here is what I did to fix this problem.
  1. Download and update the A02 drivers, especially the Wi-Fi driver, from this cab file. And upgrade BIOS to A07. Older and newer drivers have this or that issues. For example, after I updated the Wi-Fi driver to the latest from Intel website, I could never finish copying a 20MB file from another computer over Wi-Fi.
  2. Removed Adobe Flash Player and installed (x64) (Non-IE) and (x64) (IE). This might not be necessary and both removing and installation are tricky (feel free to ask your questions). In a nut shell: delete Macromed under Windows\System32 and SysWOW64, download and run the Flash uninstaller, run Non-IE install and select "never check update" at the end, run IE install in Windows 7 mode and regsvr32 the ocx found in the deleted Macromed folders.
  3. Avoid using 32-bit Flash player plugins and ActiveX. I think this is the key, in addition to the Wi-Fi driver, to avoid DdS. In Internet Explorer, check "Enable 64-bit process for Enhanced Protected Mode" under advanced options. This forces IE to use its 64-bit version only, otherwise IE always opens tabs in 32-bit mode by default and thus uses 32-bit ActiveX. For 64-bit FireFox-alike browsers, there are Pale Moon, WaterFox and FireFox Light etc. and I picked up Pale Moon Portable 25.1.0 (x64). There is a 64-bit Chrome as well, but never install anything Google on your computer, because it is very difficult to remove them and prevent them from auto updating.
  4. If you use your phone to tether via USB, this is another thing to check if you experience DdS. Better not using this feature at all, because I haven't found a solid answer for phone USB tether, diag and ADB drivers that never crash my computers. In my case, I change the driver from Microsoft "Remote NDIS based Internet Sharing Device" to Samsung "Mobile USB Remote NDIS Network Device". If all fail, give PDANet a try, it uses its own serial-over-USB driver.
Core M supports connected standby like Atom, but it drains significantly more power during sleep. Therefore, it is a must to put the tablet into hibernate mode after, say, 4 hours, by following this MS article. Without hibernate, the keyboard battery will go down to 50% after 10 hours standby.

So, this article is more about fixes than tweaks. PC is a mess, but at least it is quite open, flexible, customizable and fixable; I don't have to "hang myself on a single (Apple) tree" (an old Chinese saying). If interested, you may find this tablet for as low as $400 often in BestBuy after coupons and even lower in Dell outlet after 50% discount.

[update 9/29/2015] My 7140 has not crashed a single time since I wrote this article. So, couple days ago I started using 32-bit Palemoon for Atom and thus 32-bit flash as well. Still no crash. Therefore, the key to avoid DoS is to use an old Flash. 64-bit Mozilla based browsers use way too much memory; this is to be expected - the 32-bit ones are already horrible in this regard, 64-bit can only be double horrible.