The HTC U11 USB-C to 3.5mm adapter now works with other Android devices

Should’ve been compatible from the start, but I’ll take it.

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HTC’s USB-C Digital to 3.5mm adaptor (it’s “adapter,” guys) now works with other Android devices, thanks to a firmware update. It previously worked with HTC devices only.

I tested it successfully with my Moto Z2 Force.

Windows 10 UWP apps installed but missing from Start menu &/or taskbar? Do this

Do you accept PowerShell as your lord and savior?

I recently installed a new Windows 10 Insider Slow Ring build, only to find all my pinned taskbar UWP shortcuts missing. The apps didn’t show up the Start menu either via searching or manual scrolling.

The fix is here and involves a bit of PowerShell wrangling for batch operation, but all you have to do is literally copy and paste commands. I highly recommend you close all UWP apps before doing it, but don’t worry about “resource currently in use” error messages after that as the commands will work just fine.

Yes, the Moshi USB-C Digital Adapter with Charging works with the HTC U11 & Moto Z2 Force

$45 for a feature your previous phone had. What a time to be alive.

If, like many people, you’re frustrated by the increasing number of new phones shipping with a headphone jack, you can take solace in the fact that the only USB-C device – that I know of – that allows simultaneous charging and (wired) headphone use probably supports your phone.

I got one recently and it successfully tested it with the (US unlocked) HTC U11 and the Lenovo (Motorola?) Verizon Moto Z2 Force (MOTXT178901). Given that, I’m willing to say it’ll probably work with any USB-C Android device, and not just Google’s new Pixel 2.

I’ll try testing it on a (Sprint) Samsung Galaxy S8+ (SM-G995U) when I get the chance.

I found the sound quality and volume excellent; the adapter will definitely drive demanding earbuds.

The only drawbacks I’ve found are:

  • It’s definitely on the larger side of things. The good news is this makes it much harder to lose.
  • The cable is much stiffer than some of the product photos would lead you to believe.
  • $45 is pretty expensive for a dongle.

You can find it at Google or Moshi. Part number is 99MO084242.

 

List of Android devices and ROMs that support adoptable storage

Android’s most powerful feature is found on only handful of devices. None of which are Google’s. *sigh*

After Googling the above turned nothing up, I decided to start an XDA thread about it.

Please comment at the thread; I’ve disabled comments here to prevent folks from chiming in without reading the very important rules.

How to find the right coax cable digital splitter

Yet another topic there’s much less documentation on than there should be

If you have cable internet or are using the coax cable inside your house for MoCA networking, you might eventually want to split a cable outlet between 2 end point devices, e.g. a set top box and a modem, or a network CableCARD tuner and a MoCA adapter.

You’ll need a digital splitter for that, and the most important spec for the job is the frequency range the splitter is rated for. It must be from 5 to approximately 1000 MHz. I say approximately because some splitters that work are rated for 5-1002 MHz.

Splitters that have worked for me – most recently with an Actiontec ECB6200 – include the Extreme Broadband Engineering BDS102H, CommScope SV2G, and Regal ZDSB3DGH10. If you can’t find any of those or a splitter that meets the 5-1000 MHz spec, then get one from a cable company truck. I did this myself years ago by just hanging out in the cable company office lot until a truck came by. I told them what I needed a digital splitter for, and they tossed me a couple.

How to update Samsung Galaxy S5 stock partitions without breaking custom ROM or recovery

Don’t just flash modem firmwares and think you’re done.

The following is directed at Samsung Galaxy S5s running custom ROMs and custom recovery environments only. The Galaxy S5’s internal storage has multiple partitions, each with its own separate image. For the sake of this discussion, we’ll divide the partitions into 2 groups: customized and stock.

Customized partitions are the ones you’ve put a custom image onto. For most devices running custom ROMs, that’s the /recovery – this is where TWRP, CWM, etc. live – and /system – where the actual (custom) Android phone OS lives – partitions.

Stock partitions are the partitions with unmodified OEM images. For most devices running custom ROMs, that’s every partition except /recovery and /system. Because some of these partitions contain firmware for the phone’s hardware components and said firmware was developed for a particular version of Android, it’s important to keep them updated. It isn’t too hard to see how, for example, pairing firmware designed for Android 4.4.2 with a custom Android 7.1.1 ROM could cause problems.

This guide will show you how to update as many of the stock partitions as possible without touching the customized partitions:

  1. Download and install 7-Zip.
  2. Download the latest stock firmware (where “firmware” in this sense means an archive containing images for all partitions) from SamMobile.You’ll need to search by your phone’s model number at that page.
  3. Decompress the archive from the above step. If you find it contains a .tar.md5 file; decompress that too.
  4. In the folder containing the extracted files, select the following:
    • NON-HLOS.bin – This is the 4G LTE modem firmware.
    • modem.bin – This is the 2G & 3G modem firmware.
    • rpm.bin – This is the resource and power manager.
    • sbl1.mbn – This is the secondary bootloader.
    • tz.mbn – This is the trust zone.
    • sdi.mbn – This contains transmission band info (?)
    • aboot.mbn – This is the phone bootloader. SELECT THIS ONLY IF YOUR PHONE SHIPPED WITH AN UNLOCKED BOOTLOADER (i.e. DO NOT SELECT IT IF YOU’RE USING A VERIZON S5 AS YOU WILL RE-LOCK THE BOOTLOADER.)
  5. Follow Steps 6 to 11 here.

And that’s it. All your partitions will be safely updated without touching your custom ROM or custom recovery.

Thanks haggertk for the method, E:V:A for partition details, and Campbell Vertesi for the NON-HLOS.bin and modem.bin descriptions.

Where to find the latest version of Odin

Is it Odin or Odin3? 🤔

If you’re reading this, you probably already know what Odin (or Odin3? Because that’s what the window title bar says) is and what it does. For the unitiated: Odin is a Samsung-internal Windows graphical utility that allows you to update Samsung Android phone storage partitions using image files from your PC. Samsung Kies does almost the same thing, but it downloads official files from Samsung only, while Odin allows the use of any image files compatible with the phone. It’s basically ADB for Samsung, but with a GUI.

Because it’s an internal tool, there’s no Samsung-official download site for it. However, you should always be able to find the latest version at XDA here. Odin is a portable .exe, so you can run it from anywhere.

Logitech C922 Pro Stream webcam + Personify ChromaCam review

Logitech’s HD webcam reign continues

The 2 major choices on the market for webcams that do background removal are the Logitech C922 Pro Stream and the Razer Stargazer. The latter uses Intel’s RealSense hardware technology and retails for $149.99 while the former uses Personify‘s ChromaCam software and retails for $99.99. I bought and tested the Logitech only, so I’ll review it here.

What’s included

The C922 ships rather unceremoniously in a tiny box containing:

  • The webcam and attached USB cable.
  • A warranty notice.
  • A quick setup leaflet.
  • A license key for a free 6 month subscription to XSplit Premium.

Setup

Unlike the Stargazer, which uses USB 3.0, the C922 still uses USB 2.0 for connectivity. Connecting it to my Windows 10 Pro 14393 machine resulted in it being instantly recognized and usable. I didn’t even see a driver installation notification.

You can go right ahead and start using the webcam, but accessing advanced settings and enabling background removal require installation of Logitech Camera Settings and ChromaCam by Personify, respectively, from the webcam’s support page. Shockingly, aside from a web link, no details about enabling the extra functionality are included; the user is left to figure it out on their own. Like far too many other OEM utilities, installing Logitech Camera Settings results in an entry being added under the Startup tab in Task Manager, so be sure to disable that so it doesn’t slow your PC down when you’re not using it.

ChromaCam installs a dummy camera device to Windows that has to be selected in the video/imaging app you’re using for the background removal feature to work (read: Windows sees it as a separate, selectable webcam even though you’re still using the same physical device.) This dummy camera produces output corresponding to the settings within the ChromaCam app itself. In the latter, you can select from preset or add your own custom backgrounds, in addition to adjusting preference for performance or quality using  a slider.

Output quality

Quite a few other outlets have covered this, but I’ll say it myself: the C922’s picture quality will blow you away. It’s a huge improvement over the legendary C920, especially in low/natural lighting.

Background removal

You can adjust whether you want background removal to prioritize CPU usage (Performance end of slider) or accuracy (Quality end of slider). The Performance setting is relatively sloppy and allows minor background exposure; I wouldn’t recommend using it. The Quality setting is much better at complete background removal. It’s excellent at what it does for privacy but not for subterfuge; don’t expect to fool anyone into thinking you’re somewhere you’re not using a custom background. It definitely won’t mess your face up though, which makes it suitable for interviews.

Performance

In testing with the latest Skype for Windows desktop beta build and background removal set to full Quality, CPU usage on my Intel Core i7-3770 was approximately 20 to 25% with very smooth output, which is good enough for video calls. I suspect it may be good enough for PC gaming too, especially if you have a newer CPU (my Ivy Bridge i7 hails from April 2012), but I’m not a PC gamer (yet?) so I didn’t test that myself.

Wrap up

Pros:

  • Costs at least 33% less than the competition.
  • Supports far more PCs than the Razer as Intel – artificially, I suspect – limits RealSense to 6th generation or later Core CPUs only. Only Intel would be arrogant enough to assume users would run out and buy a new CPU to support a webcam.
  • Excellent output quality and natural color reproduction.
  • Background removal has low CPU usage for video chat.
  • Background removal good enough for privacy.
  • Dead simple setup.
  • Available at significant discount online.
  • Comes with 6 free months of XSplit Premium, an approximately $30 value. 

Cons:

  • Background removal not good enough for special effects/camera trick purposes.
  • No Windows Hello support.
  • Poor, almost nonexistent documentation.
  • CPU usage may not be low enough for full bore gaming on older or lower end systems.
  • No 4K capability, which is odd considering my 2014-era cellphone supports 4K recording.

Should you buy it?

Solely based on the addition of the background removal feature, absolutely. This is a very worthy, practically impulse buy replacement for the C920 and is an upgrade from it in every way. I can’t think of any reason to get the Stargazer instead unless you absolutely need Windows Hello support or possibly lower CPU usage due to Intel ecosystem optimizations.

How to download pics and video from Instagram using a browser with no add-ons or extra apps

Yet another Firefox feature you won’t find in Chrome.

Every guide I’ve seen on how to do this talks about inspecting elements or installing add-ons or apps. None of that is necessary. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Open the image or video’s specific Instagram page (e.g. https://www.instagram.com/p/BOpZDePDQ2b/) in Firefox.
  2. Right-click on the background.
  3. Click Page Info.
  4. In the window that pops up, click the Media tab.
  5. Sort the results by Type.
  6. The pic you want will be one of the Image entries in type, while the video you want will be the Video entry. An example is shown below:
    clipboard01
  7. Select which one you want.
  8. Click Save As…

And that’ll do it. You’ll get the original .jpg upload or an .mp4 video. This method of downloading videos also works for Clippit.tv, with the exception that you might have to play the video first to allow Firefox to sniff it before clicking Page Info.

How to download music from My Mixtapez outside the app

Of course you need a PC to work around a subpar mobile app.

Yes, there’s a My Mixtapez Android app. Unfortunately, it really slows your device down with wakelocks and CPU usage, so here’s how to get music from the site otherwise:

  1. If you don’t have it already, download and install desktop Firefox (I prefer the Nightly builds).
  2. Open the My Mixtapez page corresponding to the song you want download. e.g. https://mxtpz.me/a/108717.
  3. Start playing the song you want.
  4. Right-click the page background to bring up Firefox’s context menu.
  5. Click Page Info.
  6. Click Media.
  7. Sort the results displayed by Type so that Audio is at the top.
  8. The entry corresponding to audio is the song that is currently playing. Select it as shown below:
    clipboard01
  9. Click Save  As… and download the file.
  10. Repeat Steps 3 to 9 for every song you want on the page from Step 2.
  11. Open File Explorer.
  12. Navigate to the location you downloaded the file to in Step 9.
  13. Click the File Explorer View tab.
  14. In the Show/hide group, check  the File name extensions box.
  15. Now that the file name extensions are visible, change them to .mp3 for all the files you downloaded in Steps 9 and 10 via renaming.
  16. In the Show/hide group, uncheck  the File name extensions box (it’s good to leave this unchecked in general as accidentally changing file name extensions can cause serious problems later.)

The files in Step 15 will all be the original, playable mp3 files.

The Page Info feature is one of the main reasons Firefox continues to by my main browser; it’s basically a built-in content sniffer.