Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How to Upgrade (and fix if needed) Last Year's First Version Electree ( for $10

I participated in the limited-run prototype fundraiser for the coolest product on the planet, the electree, last year and thought I'd share a little hack I did to effectively increase the battery capacity & protect against the dreaded 'battery can't charge because it has no battery' bug that occurs in many devices including some cell phones, the original cr-48 chromebook, and a few first-gen//prototype electrees purchased on

A quick aside- electree just launched a Kickstarter today! They will be giving all backers (like me) a 'significant discount' on the new electree (the electree+). Scroll down to the Risks and Challenges section.

Firstly, note that you can easily jumpstart most batteries by shock-charging with a power source - in the case of the Chromebook, you simply insert & remove the power cable gently repeatedly ~10x until the light comes on, then let it charge. For the Electree, it's much simpler - you simply plug in the USB port on the underbelly to a wall USB adapter or backup battery like this. Instant fix.

While I was at it, I decided to both increase the battery capacity and prevent the charging bug by permanently installing a secondary battery. I opened up my 'chargers, batteries, and sparqs' bin and found a few options:
A little $10 Energizer that alone really doesn't serve much purpose and larger newtrent and zagg battery-chargers. I decided to put the Energizer to use, as I still sometimes travel with one of the others.

Start by removing the tree portion and flipping the base over:

Next, remove the rubber feet and unscrew the 4 screws:

Pry off the panel:

At this point I wasn't quite sure where the new battery might fit, so decided to tackle the wiring first.

You can remove the bottom-side USB port by unscrewing the 2 screws and severing the glue:
(Initially done to snake the new USB cable through)

I experimented with threading the Energizer's USB cable through the main USB panel after removing the main computer board:

But after a bit decided it would be too difficult to access the battery, and figured I'd make a more flexible solution. After removing the bottom-side single port, thread it through the inside dual USB port panel by first removing the board (it has 2 screws):

Screw the board back on, and secure the 3rd USB port down (I used hot glue)

Now you can hook up an extra battery to the electree, using the repositioned 3rd USB port to charge the electree, and one of the other two USB ports to charge the battery.

I ended up swapping the Energizer for a larger capacity NewTrent, giving me ~20,000 mAh total :)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Do Cool Stuff w/Your Phone's Built-In NFC! (You know you've been wanting to try it)

After I got my Galaxy S3, I rooted, swapped ROMS, and added Google Wallet (which you can now do on most Verizon devices without root thanks to the FCC ruling regarding tethering).

I kind of forgot about NFC until a couple weeks later when I left my wallet in the car and needed to checkout at Meijer (the better version of Target). I fired up the app, picked my AMEX from the list of saved cards, and bam. Paid. No more cutting out the RFID from my fast-tap enabled credit card and stuffing it behind the phone's back cover for me ;) ! 

But after that, without mainstream adoption (cough cough, Apple, cough cough) or NFC-enabled payment readers in most stores, I didn't really find a practical use for my phone's shiny new capability.

Most NFC writers will only encode primitive actions, such as displaying a URL, launching an app, or checking in somewhere on FourSquare. Big whoop. So I started trying to hack together a more robust solution.
Using Tasker App Factory, you can cheat the NFC writer's limitations by creating an App to perform a custom Tasker function and then encoding the NFC tag to simply launch said app. A little hack-y, but at least it opens up a wide variety of actions that can be controlled via NFC.

Still, how useful is it, really, to use NFC to launch a Tasker macro? Does it really save you time? If you have to unlock your phone, swipe past the lockscreen, then tap your NFC tag, the answer is no. But what if you could launch a task using NFC while your screen is off, and without pressing any buttons?

Imagine being able to activate your phone's LED flashlight simply by tapping it to your keychain... or to start your music or go to next track without removing your phone from your pocket! or to send a pre-written text message (to your girlfriend when you leave work, for example) just with a quick tap of an NFC dongle. All of a sudden, NFC would become a highly modular extra button for your phone that you can program to do virtually any set of actions.

Thanks to xda-developers and the enthusiastic community of Android devs in general, you can very easily force NFC to remain active even while the screen is locked and off :) Here's the original article from June, and here's a direct link to instructions for the Verizon Galaxy S3. As for Tag Writing apps, check out my favorite, NFC Task Launcher.

So where to get NFC tags? There are plenty of places online to find stickers for a few bucks a pop.

OR you can use NFC ReTag to rewrite some of your old Metro cards you have lying around :)

But I've found stickers aren't very fun. They restrict you to sacrificing the tag by leaving it in (and adhered to) one place permanently. And I don't particularly want to carry around a bunch of extra metro cards... So I thought:

Why not have an encased NFC tag (or several) on your keychain, instead?

Why not indeed. The only thing sweeter would be a way to tell your different tags apart.

I'm happy to announce, that as of today, you can now order as many NFC Keychain Dongles as you want with custom engravings to tell them apart - a world first :)

So head on over and grab the newest product from,
the NFC Keychain Dongle!

The first 50 buyers will get a FREE extra tag!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

How to Watch Any TV Show for Free & Download Any Video from the Web (including Youtube, Putlocker, Sockshare, etc)

UPDATE 9/16/2012 - I modified the PutlockerDownloader chrome extension and made one to work with Sockshare :)
Grab it here.

UPDATE 9/23/2012 - I combined my Putlocker/sockshare downloaders and made a Modifier that puts direct download links right on the page! See it here.

This post somewhat deviates from this blog's intended content, but does incorporate elements of 'mobile' and 'watch' :)

I canceled Comcast last year when I got LTE (screenshot showing 33mb/s down that I'm getting right now) and thus had to find alternate sources for media consumption. I created a Chrome Extension called PlayMode to help consolidate the slippery free video links (as the hosting sites often get shut down), but since getting my Samsung Galaxy S3 have noticed that video streams tend to get broken during view, often forcing me to reload the page. This is annoying.

Here's the solution.

1. For Youtube, how much does it suck to have it freeze right at the best part of a funny clip or music video? Download in HD and watch videos as they were intended (anytime, even without internet...) with YTD Video Downloader (if you have a steady internet connection) or VDownloader (if you rely on tethering). The former seemed to often fail on larger files (400+mBs) for me while tethering, but otherwise is quite good. VDownloader is a bit better, even though its UI isn't quite as simple- if a download freezes/loses connection, you can pause and resume without a problem. It also has built-in conversion to pretty much any video format you'd like. Unfortunately, the video quality choices are limited (I can only get average quality or 1080p, not 720p).

2. For downloading TV Shows and the like, use, a site similar to sidereel or, but that actually works (flawlessly). After you find your show, look for putlocker or sockshare links (they work 99% of the time, load very quickly, and fast-forward//rewind works properly). Here's the trick to download video streams:
Get the video to start playing on the host site- if you're watching it on free-tv-'s site, just click anywhere a couple times and it will open up the host. Once you get to the actual movie file (with the play button), right click the page and select view source. Now ctrl-f (find command) the string '/get' and you will see something like this:
Copy this and append it to, then load that URL. You may have to install an XML viewer extension like XML tree. Once loaded, you will see the download URL!
If it's on Putlocker and you use chrome, I've automated this process with my chrome extension PutlockerDownloader. For sockshare, you need to append the 'key' value right after the ==.
For some videos (often season finales and what-have-you), it can be hard to find a Putlocker link, but rather you might only see sketchy video sites like Fortunately, for these links, if you view source right from the gorillavid free-tv- watch page, there's a direct URL to the .avi (just do a ctrl-f for .avi). Open the URL (do not include the "&provider=http" part) and presto download!

Note, to avoid popup ads and ads of all types (including on YouTube), download the Adblock plus chrome extension.

Let the bingeing begin!

Recommended shows (each so addictive you will want to watch the entire series in one sitting, except for *s which designate solely intellectual/futurist/guilty pleasure and less addictive):
Arrested Development
Battlestar Galactica
Better Off Ted*
Breaking Bad

Flash Forward


PS I also stumbled upon RealPlayer which seems to offer a 'download any video you're watching online' feature as well. I'm about to test it out (I have to restart Chrome first).

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My Ultrabook's SSD is Running Out of Space, is Yours?

Not too sure about Mac (although a scan with Crap Cleaner is probably a good bet), but if you have Windows, here are some tips you may not know about:

1. Disable hibernation (it will remove a file the size of your RAM located in c:\, so between 4gB and 16+gB) by opening a command prompt (press start/Windows key, type 'cmd', then press enter to open it) and typing 'powercfg -h off' then enter.

2. My 'softwaredistribution' folder (in c:\windows\) was 4 gB. Not cool! That folder is for Windows Update. You can delete it (it will be called .old) after you do run the following in the command prompt:
net stop wuauserv
rename c:\windows\SoftwareDistribution softwaredistribution.old
net start wuauserv
3. Use Revo Uninstaller to not just uninstall programs, but remove files and registry keys normally left behind by the regular uninstaller.
4. Run ccleaner (if you've never done this it will probably get rid of 2+gB alone)
5. My MSOCache folder (in c:\) was 500mB. I deleted it and don't seem to have any problems with word/excel (actually, they seem to load much faster).
6. My Installer folder (in c:\windows) was 3.6gB! unfortunately, I couldn't get this down much, but you might be able to (folks on the internet were able to free up a lot). This folder contains uninstall information so the contents are necessary, but there may be extra ("orphaned") information in there which you can remove by downloading msicuu2.exe and running 'msizap G!' in the command line after navigating to the installation folder ('windows installer clean up' in program files)
7. My C:\Windows\ServiceProfiles\NetworkService\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Media Player folder was 600mB, mostly of album art... I deleted it immediately (who uses WMP, anyway?).

I stopped here, because it cleared up about 5gB :)

If you need more, grab a DockBox.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I Started Designing a Samsung Galaxy S3 Dock

I didn't feel like waiting for (or paying for) a dock for my new phone, and I couldn't find many good docks that work in both portrait and landscape modes. So I made one. Here's iteration 1! There's a design flaw in landscape, but I've since fixed it (2nd iteration is currently printing).

Friday, August 3, 2012

Samsung Galaxy S3, Recommended Apps, Homescreen setup, 50gB Free Dropbox Upgrade, Speed Test with Free Tethering, Verizon Wireless Unlimited Data & Upgrade (in)Eligibility

I designed a $20 dock that is NFC-enabled and works in BOTH portrait & landscape orientation! I put it on my 3D printing store, techneesh. Check it out!

Also, I highly recommend getting a clipboard manager to store commonly used text (like your email address)- like this.

Finally, I've switched to PAC-man rom, and I love it.

The Verizon Wireless Galaxy S III has slowly but surely chipped away my complacency for the Motorola Droid Bionic (the same phone as the Razr, with a slightly worse screen), which I've had longer than any other device since 2006 (except for a brief fling with the Galaxy Nexus). As a tech junkie with extra phone lines on my Verizon account whose sole purpose is to enable more frequent device upgrades, this fact is somewhat telling.

The reason is simple- there was really nothing more I could ask for. LTE, multi-core, 1gB+ RAM, hdmi out, expandable w/microSD, 4.3" qHD screen, etc.

Yet, who can resist picture-in-picture. Not to mention nearly 5" of 720p screen, with NFC, 2gB RAM, the lightness of a feather (if feathers weighed 4.7 oz), thinness of the Razr (.34" to be exact), zero shutter lag, the ability to take photos while video recording in HD, wireless charging, etc.

Apparently, I am not alone, as this was the fastest-selling gadget in history.[128][129][130][131]

A word of caution, however, for those grandfathered into an unlimited data plan with Verizon Wireless: you are no longer eligible for an upgrade discount on your grandfathered line. If you take the upgrade discount, you will enter a new tiered contract and lose your unlimited data. The only work-around is to absorb $10 a month extra and open up a new line.

For comparison, here's what my old phone looks like :)

Old homescreen:
New homescreen:
I know the homescreen probably looks ugly to others, but the optimization of efficiency is what looks pretty to me... scrollable task & email widgets, news widget, evernote, direct dial to gf, search, weather, calendar, one-click to activate: led flashlight, nfc, wifi tether, lockscreen, nfc, camera, search, spotify, etc.

In the first ~20 or so minutes after I got home with it, I rooted it with ODIN, installed Clockwork recovery, and then installed Bean's custom Stock ROM. At this point I made a nandroid backup so I can reuse the 50gB of free Dropbox storage on my other (or on my friends') accounts. I used this walkthrough. The reason I didn't wait long to do all of that was to enable free wifi tethering.

It was also nice to see that I can enable this to be used as a world (GSM) phone, too.

For some reason the transfer speeds are much faster on this phone than my old bionic- here's what I get while tethering wirelessly (using phone for computer's internet):

~30 mbps down is FAST. Probably faster than your home internet. Due to my grandfathered unlimited data for $30/mo plan, I don't actually need home internet - and haven't paid for it since I got LTE last year. The Verizon guys laughed when they saw my data usage (40+gB / mo).

Since first getting it, I've installed my typical slew of apps (some notable ones below) and a new favorite, TakeControl Lite, which is similar to Synergy; it gives you the ability to control your phone with your keyboard & mouse as if it was just another monitor next to your current one. It's awesome, I highly recommend it.

Widgetsdroid (make your own homescreen widget)
CircleLauncher (like putting apps in a folder, but way better)
Evernote (best task manager)
Unified Remote (control your computer)
CamScanner (excellent scanning app for any documents you want to digitize)
Rom Toolbox
Root Explorer
SMS Backup+ (auto backup of text messages to gmail under 'sms' label)
SQLite Editor
World Weather Clock Widget
Smooth Calendar

There are plenty of new tips and tricks with this phone (and with ICS in general), but I won't get into those. I really just wanted to write a blog post that said "TakeControl is sweet, try it."