Disable Banners on Sony Android TV (2019 Model)

I’ll try to make this quick. I started gaming on my 2019 Sony Android TV, and it frequently displayed a banner at the top with connection and resolution information. I hate when things constantly pop up, but it also blocked a pretty large portion of the screen. After some research, I found references about older versions of the operating system where Banners have their own menu item. Not on my TV, though, and I was starting to become very frustrated.

The option is there! It is in a location where I did not expect it. Open the settings and navigate to "Watching TV".

I associate that with a cable connection which is why I never looked there in the first place. I do not have cable. Next, disable "Info banner" and feel relieved.

Install Minikube in VirtualBox on Remote Machine for Kubectl

At work, we are using Kubernetes as a way to run our application services. To test and debug deployments before they go into code review and to the development environment, a local Kubernetes is beneficial. That is where Minikube comes into play. Unfortunately for me, our application services require more resources than my work laptop can provide, especially RAM. Either I close all applications and run Minikube, or I have a helpful browser and IDE window open 😉.

Since I need the local K8s cluster from time to time, I wondered if I could run it on my personal computer and access it from my laptop. This way, I can dedicate at least six physical cores and 24 GB of RAM to the VM (even more, but that was a nice number and more than enough).

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OpenRGB – An RGB Software I Want to Use (It Runs on Linux!)

If you are in the market for anything gaming PC or gaming laptop related, chances are, you have come across the industry-wide trend of RGB illuminated hardware and peripherals. Everything is RGB, from the graphics card to the RAM, to your headset (because you can see the lights when you wear it 🙄), and many, many more. I am not against RGB lighting per se, but if you follow the industry as a PC hardware enthusiast, it is evident that in some aspects, this has gone too far.

Quick side note: after a rant about RGB software, I will show examples of using OpenRGB on Windows and Linux. If you are interested in only that, skip the rant and scroll to the bottom.

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Apple, Stop Parenting Me – Rant About iOS 14 Auto-Volume Reduction

Apple is a company that tends to believe it knows best what its customers want. Sometimes a company – not specific to Apple – does actually know better than the customer. Apple has been very active in the past years to push customer health and provide hardware, the Apple Watch, and software, the Health app, to facilitate this push in the form of products they can sell. I do not own an Apple Watch, but I genuinely view it as a good thing.

Now, with iOS 14, Apple has gone a bit too far with regards to health monitoring. It now enforces rules I, the customer and user of a device, cannot override. I am talking about the automatic volume reduction when iOS thinks I have been listening to loud audio for too long.

This is not okay!
This is not a situation where a company knows better.

It is actively limiting its product’s usefulness to me, the customer who paid a lot of money for it. I understand the motivation, but I cannot condone the action taken. Apple cannot even know why I turn up the volume to levels it deems inappropriate for a more extended period.

Here are a few examples, some of which already happened to me.

  1. Bluetooth-pairing the phone with my car’s audio system.

    I usually crank the phone’s volume to max to roughly match the other audio sources, like music on a USB stick (yes, I am a cave-man that has music on a stick).

  2. Listening to podcasts while going for a walk or run next to a busy road.

    Imagine my surprise when the voices speaking to me seemed to have disappeared because iOS lowered the volume to a point where the audio was drowned by traffic noise. I thought my phone had died – which has happened often enough thanks to an iOS bug that incorrectly reported battery percentage and dropped from 30% to turning off within 15-20 minutes.

  3. Listening with studio headphones that have a high input resistance (in ohm).

    I recently bought a new pair of headphones, and the quickest way to compare them with my old ones was to plug them into my phone. 80 Ω is not a lot, but enough to have to crank up the volume a bit higher to get a decent fun level. In the end, it is still much quieter compared to my PC soundcard that supports up to 600 Ω headphones.

No. 1 has not yet happened, but I assume it might once the world is rid of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I can/must travel to work a couple of times per month. On longer car rides, I usually listen to podcasts, and as mentioned, I turn up the volume on my phone in those cases. The other two issues have already managed to annoy me, and No. 3 prompted me to write this little rant – although that is the least likely of the three examples to occur regularly. Most of the time, it will be No. 2 when I am out walking or going for a run. The traffic noise is much worse than people talking to me. I am not even listening to music, which is also worse than people talking to me. I prefer Apple to turn down the car noise on the roads instead of my headphones. Until they can do that, stop messing with my volume, please.

(Is this a ploy to get me to buy horribly expensive AirPods Pro with
noise cancellation?)

I can agree that a notification is a good start to educate users. But please do not take any automatic action. At least make it configurable. I am an adult, and I should be able to decide for myself. On top of that, there are legitimate use-cases where a higher "theoretical" volume is required.

The Worst “Accept Cookie Policy” Implementation

All the cookie policy notifications on every website are a nuisance in and of itself. There is one special kind however, that not only bugs you to accept it, but also throws a giant blocking “dialog” in your face that prevents you from using the site while it’s doing… well… I have no friggin’ clue what it’s doing. What I know is that it takes forever to get out of my way.

There’s not much content here other than this short rant about this terrible TrustArc / TRUSTe cookie accepting widget thingy that takes about a minute to do its thing. Why do websites add this to their page? Don’t they test it first? Does that save so much time in development that annoying the users is worth it? How much does that tell you about a website’s owner? I hate these things!

The Switching Windows to Linux Experiment

(Beware of the many text)

For the longest time I have been a Windows user. My first computer came with Windows 98 SE (ignoring the Amiga before it) and I’ve used Windows as the main operating system for almost all that time since then. There was a brief excursion into the Apple world for about a year or two, but apart from that: Microsoft’s creation. It’s not that I have not tried using Linux, it’s just that for many years my needs could not be easily satisfied by a Linux based operating system. For one, I have always enjoyed PC gaming and I still do. I’ve tried going with a console, but that was one of the worst decisions I had made in 2019. There also was a long period where I had used my computer as a TV, a time where Youtube and all the other streaming services hadn’t existed. And although I had managed to get the TV tuners to somehow work, it was not comparable to the experience on Windows. For my use case, over all those years, Microsoft’s OS simply was the Vulkan choice. But now in 2020, this isn’t the case anymore. Things have changed, including the maturity of Linux as well as my own needs and my views. Therefore, it’s about time that I revisit this topic.

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Ryzen Master not Resetting to “Auto” Control Mode

Recently I set out to figure out how much clock speed I can squeeze out of my Zen+ based Ryzen 5 2600. To make life easier I figured I use Ryzen Master so I can change the settings while I’m in Windows so I don’t have to reboot every time I increase the clock speed. This has worked nicely until the point where I figured the viable maximum was. The next step was to dial those numbers "into hardware", meaning setting the options in the BIOS so that Ryzen Master is not required any more. And this is where my issues started to appear.

The Error

First, here’s a screenshot of the message Ryzen Master was giving me. After that I’ll explain what had happened.

In order to set the CPU multiplier you have to change from automatic to manual mode in Ryzen Master. I wanted to reset all options to their defaults after setting the overclock in the BIOS, but I always kept getting the message that Ryzen Master wants to restart Windows because the setting was changed to "Manual" – which it wasn’t, but more on that later. So I did as it asked multiple times with the same outcome every time. Effectively, I was doing a boot loop manually.

So, how did I get there?

The Journey

In brief:

  • Find a stable overclock in Windows using Ryzen Master.
  • Reboot to BIOS and set the overclock closer to the hardware.
  • Reboot to Windows and reset everything in Ryzen Master.
  • Manual "Boot Loop" a few times.
  • Notice CPU always at 4GHz, no more Cool’n’Quiet operation mode.
  • Undo overclock in BIOS.
  • Still see overclock in Windows.
  • Uninstalling Ryzen Master.
  • Still see overclock in Windows.
  • Ryzen Master still not resetting.
  • Manual "Boot Loop" a few more times.
  • Getting pissed and searching the Internet – apparantly I was not alone.
  • More reboots and tests with BIOS settings.

The Fix

It was the frickin’ BIOS! Ryzen Master was not to blame.

I have an ASRock B450 Gaming mITX mainboard with the latest non-Matisse (Ryzen 3000) BIOS. It is not recommended to upgrade unless a Ryzen 3000 is installed. There’s a weird bug in the BIOS that still applies the overclock even if the setting is set to "Auto by AMD CBS" (or something like that). There were two things that helped:

  1. Load BIOS defaults.
  2. Enable manual control and set the correct CPU base frequency at 3400MHz.

When applying the overclock with 4000MHz it effectly ran at 4GHz every time, even in idle. When setting 3400MHz it properly clocked down and also boosted as a R5 2600 should. The same setting only with a different clock value produced a different behavior. And unless the BIOS defaults are loaded the "Auto" mode doesn’t do what you expect – if you’ve set an overclock previously.

Curiously enough, booting Fedora Linux from an USB stick did properly scale the CPU frequency based on the load, even with the overclock applied. Apparently only Windows or AMD’s drivers didn’t manage to do that. Booting a Linux helped me to rule out Ryzen Master as the root of the always applied overclock although the BIOS setting was set to the default Auto mode.

The takeaways:

  • Don’t overclock on this mainboard.
    • The OC options for the CPU are laughable at best. No way to set the multiplier per core.
  • Next time buy a higher-end mainboard for overclocking (ITX is expensive though…).

Of Affordable Phones, Software Updates and Yearly Upgrades

With the release of the Google Pixel 3a I once again started thinking about what I want in a smartphone. As a reminder, the last time I was pondering the purchase of one I was musing of tall phones, curved displays and notches. I am not in the market for a new phone right now as my iPhone 8 is more than capable of fulfilling my needs. But, with the recent launch of the Pixel 3a I wished that this device had already existed a year ago because it is basically the perfect phone for me. And I also wish Google would get back into the market of less expensive phones with the latest and greatest hardware as was the case with the Nexus line.

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Writing a Custom Backup Solution

If you are a user of any form of computer and care one bit about your sanity, then you probably have a backup strategy. Otherwise, if all hell breaks loose and your whole computer burns to ash or the hard drive melts to a heap of metal, turning it into an ugly door stop, you’ll likely be kinda angry, maybe slightly pissed, your pulse most definitely at 180, that you’ve lost all your data. I’d certainly be, especially about all my pictures of all the festivals and places I’ve been to. 

(And maybe some family 😅)

But, to be honest, I’ve been a bit lazy about backups for some time now. I do have copies of all my important files, but that’s not a backup. It’s a copy. A backup lets you go back in time and get an older version of a file or folder, not just the most recent one that has been synced.

So why is it, that I’m not as diligent as I should be? There are a few factors in that equation. It’s laziness for one, knowledge that I do have at least one copy, the fact that I haven’t had any data loss so far and stinginess. Why the latter? Up until now, being a Windows user (not any more though, on my main machine), I was relying on Acronis True Image, a commercial backup software. However, the version that I own – 2014, I think – stopped being reliable in one of the past Windows 10 versions. I simply don’t want to spend the money any more.

I’m not here to tell you that I have changed my mind on that. No. I’m, of course, coding my own solution. Why wouldn’t I? Everything is done multiple times in the Open Source community.

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Windows Fluent Design – Rendering Bugs?

As an avid listener of Windows Weekly I often hear discussions between Paul Thurrott, Mary Joe Foley and Leo Laporte about Microsoft’s Fluent Design. Microsoft continues to evolve the visual language of Windows and thus it’s a regular topic on one of my favorite podcasts. I’ve been noticing it here and there myself, mainly in system dialogs, but I’ve never really paid any attention because none of the applications I use on a regular basis make use of it – and currently I’m rather happy about that fact. Just recently though, I was struck by one effect in particular and that was the spark that got this blog post going. To be honest, in most cases where I notice these Fluent Design elements I think of them as rendering bugs. Like sometimes in games, when the graphics driver is not yet optimized, or a badly programmed game engine draws odd pictures sometimes, flaws in an otherwise normal picture. I have a few examples to show to you.

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Of tall phones, curved displays and notches

This is a rant about modern smartphone design. I’ve had a few ideas in my head for some time, since MWC 2018 in fact, but never bothered to write them down as it was only focused on this notch thing that keeps on spreading. However, recently my sister’s phone died – thanks for the boot loop issues LG (it was my Nexus 5X that I passed on to her) – and so I helped her searching for a suitable replacement.

Although there are plenty smartphone makers out there, our go-to list wasn’t very long. For one, we had ruled out LG from the start. It seems that the Nexus 5X wasn’t the only one with recurring hardware defects. The next ones that didn’t make it to the list were basically all Chinese manufacturers like Huawei, Honor, ZTE or Xiaomi. I understand that they make very good handsets, especially Huawei has upped their game, but I do have my doubts regarding software updates. The last time I had read about the Android update situation sometime last year, these companies didn’t have the best track record (I don’t have the link to the website anymore, sorry). In fact, just throwing it out there, some Android phone manufacturers even lie about the patch level of their firmware.

<Insert your preferred curse>

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Windows Phone: 3 Months Later

What started out as a reasonable decision at the beginning of 2014 now reached its climax with the Surface Pro 3: switching away from Apple, in every regard, and move to the Microsoft platform. First the PC, then the phone and lastly the tablet. Since having a Windows based PC is nothing unusual (although I might be one of the few that actually came to like Windows 8 – just as I was one of the few that liked Vista over XP; what does that say about me?) and the Surface is still too new to write about it in any meaningful way, that only leaves us with the phone.
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Camera Shootout: Nokia Lumia 925 vs iPhone 4s vs. Galaxy S2 (Switch From iOS Pt. 3)

Apart from being a phone, the second most important feature of a smartphone for me is the camera. As I have written previously, the most time I had spent on researching available phones went into reading camera reviews. Since I was committed to about 80% to the Nokia Lumia 925 I was most interested on how this phone compared to my then current iPhone 4S. Unfortunately there haven’t been any reviews comparing those two devices. Most of them used the iPhone 5 or 5s as an opponent, which already had a better camera than my highly praised 4s.

Until now!
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