M365

Toys

No, this isn't a post about Microsoft, judging by the title. I'm talking about the Xiaomi M365 electric step. I've been looking lately to use my car way less, partially due to the fact that parking space is very limited at the train station. Getting fines for not parking at designated places surely doesn't help either. It took me a while to obtain a M365 before summer, but eventually I got it. The e-step has an autonomy of 20km (in my case), and this just suffices for the round-trip from/to the station. The step has a maximum speed of 25km/h, which is 'acceptable' : I would have preferred a bit faster, as taking over bikes sometimes takes a while.

This e-step is quite high-tech : it features cruise-control, ABS and KERS, which makes me hardly use the brakes. Cruising at 25km/h really is a blast, and I have really become quite fond at my daily ride with it. Additionally, it allows me to explore different routes, is more versatile than a bike, and can be taken with me on the train (although the size, even when folded, is quite large).

There's a quite active group of 'developers' around this e-step, creating custom firmware which allows to change different parameters such as maximum speed or KERS control. I've tested out a few, but additional speed comes with too much impact on the battery, so that I decided to stick with the official firmware.

Oneplus 5T

Mobile phones

I'll take back anything I said about the Xiaomi Mi Mix. Well, at least about the slippery part : 5 months after my purchase, I placed the mobile phone onto a pile of papers on my desk. Five minutes later, it must have seen it wasn't 100% horizontal placed, and decided to go for a walk. Fell on the floor, cracked screen. This thing *is* slippery as soap.

I still find the design of the phone the most beautiful I've ever seen, and the large screen just is gorgeous ! But you cannot use this phone without a cover, and that just breaks the beauty of the phone. That, in combination with the fact that mobile reception is zero without band 20 support, and the fact that putting a light sensor at the bottom of the screen is just irritating, were enough reasons for me not to reorder another Mi Mix again.

I've switched to a Onplus 5T as a new phone. The design just pales in comparison with the Mi Mix, but the development support is fantastic, and my Oneplus One was brilliant. I hope I'll can say that again within 3 to 4 years about the OP5T.

The bezelless beast

Mobile phones

I'm using my Oneplus One phone since 3 years, and my god, what a pleasant device this has been. And also a testimony to the rise and fall of Cyanmod Inc. It is currently the most used device with LineageOS, and will probably the first one to receive LOS15. People were laughing 3 years ago with OnePlus 'flagship killer' theme, but now, 3 years later, new mid- and highrange phones still carry 3 GB of RAM. So finding a worthy replacement was hard.

As I commute by train nowadays, I wanted to breach the 6 inch barrier to have a nice big screen, and battery life was extremely important. To make the jump from my Oneplus One reasonable, it should have at least 4GB of RAM. And only 2 devices seem to fit the above : the Xiaomi Mi Max 2 and the Mi Mix. I was lucky that the Mi Mix 2 was announced, as most webshops were dumping the Mi Mix at affordable prices. I quickly ordered one, and received it some weeks later.

This device has a surprisingly low footprint, as it's not much larger than a 5.7 inch phone, so it's quite portable. The ceramic glass is slippery, but not the bar of soap most of the web reviews make of it. The real problem is that the phone is slippery and heavy, so I'm a bit reluctant to use it without a case. Luckily, it comes with a nice leather premium case as well. The screen is fantastic, and it really is the star of this mobile phone. Viewing angles are great, vibrant colors, and nice outdoor readability.

So fantastic hardware, what about the software ? It came to my surprise with an unlocked bootloader, and with the MIUI Global ROM installed. TWRP installation was unsuccessful, as the touchscreen didn't worked, and I had to install a customized TWRP in order to get it working. Quite shocking, and being used to the openess of OPO, rather an unpleasant experience. I quickly installed the Xiaomi.EU ROM, as it sports full Dutch language support, and decided to try out MIUI during a week. MIUI is something people either love or hate, and after one week of usage, I must admit I fall into the latter group. I kept loosing myself into the settings screens, and could not live with the MIUI quirks. Especially notifications - you must enable notifications per application in 3 different settings screens - madness ! Notifications are broken in MIUI, but I'm convinced they are broken by design, to maximize battery life. And gosh, battery life is really impressive. I got 9 hours SOT with 3 days on a single charge with medium to heavy usage.

After a week, I wiped everything in favor of LineageOS. So, what do you loose when installing LOS onto the Xiaomi Mi Mix ? Battery life, camera functionalities and reduced fingerprint scanner accuracy. I guess I've lost 2 hours of SOT, while still having 3 to 4 days on a single battery charge with medium usage. Still impressive. Camera has lost 4K recording and slow-mo, though some camera mods re-enable them. LED seems brighter on LOS than in MIUI. Fingerprint scanner is slower and misses more scans - I regularly need 2 to 3 attempts to unlock the device.

So far, I'm really happy with the Mix. A tad too heavy, but really beautiful, and with lots of custom ROM support. After the Galaxy Nexus, the Oneplus One, the Xiaomi Mi Mix will be again a legendary phone I will enjoy using.

Millenium Falcon

Hardware

My old netbook is currently seven years old, and shows its age : boot times up to two minutes, working in Chrome was a drag and took ages. And I'm not even talking about performing updates. All to blame on the slow CPU (never again an Atom !) and the slow hard drive. The last two occasions I used the laptop was on Config Management Days and Red Hat summit, and I can tell you the experience was unpleasant. So a new laptop was needed.

Luckily, the laptop market has reinvented itself after it collapsed during the tablet rise. Ultrabooks are now super slim, super light and extremely powerful. My new laptop needed to be :

  • fast : no Celeron or Atom chip was allowed. An i5 as minimum CPU
  • beautifull : I need a companion to my vanity. No plasticky stuff, well build and good quality.
  • well supportive for Linux : Linux would be installed, so the hardware needed to be supported
  • reasonable cheap : speaks for itself; a lot of nice ultrabooks are available, but I didn't want to pay an arm and a leg.
  • light and small : I carry this everywhere around the world, so the laptop shouldn't weigh more than 1.4kg

Soon, I saw 2 main candidates : first, the Dell XPS13 still is regarded as ultrabook king. It supports Linux nicely, and has that beautiful Infinity display. Disadvantages were that it was on the heavy side, and I wasn't fan of its design either. And a tad on the expensive side as well.

On the other side, there was the Asus Zenbook 3 (UX390) which was stunningly beautiful, had a nice screen as well and was extremely light with its 0.9 kg. However, I saw the silver variant in the shop, but found it a bit on the small side. So when I saw its 14 inch brother, UX430UQ, I was immediately sold. This is a 14 inch laptop - it is advertised as a 13inch laptop with a 14 inch screen, but don't believe that - which is as light as 1.25 kg, has a nice dark grey metal spun outerior and excellent keyboard and screen. Equipped with an i7 CPU and 16GB of RAM, it doesn't fail to deliver on the performance field. Shame that Asus doesn't provide a sleeve with this laptop, as it does with the UX390. Also, important, it doesn't has a safe lock hole, so don't leave this baby unattended.

I wiped the Windows 10 and booted the Fedora netinstall CD, but it seemed that both WiFi and trackpad were unsupported. I lost quite some time with this, but eventually decided to boot it with the Fedora LiveCD, to find out all was working out of the box. Probably the netinstall CD uses an older kernel. I baptised the laptop Millenium Falcon, as I switched to spaceship names on my hardware lately.

Pebble Time Steel

Toys

A year ago I made the upgrade to a Pebble Time Steel. I really have fallen in love with the Pebble smartwatch, and Android Wear of the Apple iWatch were no valid candidates due to their shortcomings in battery life & user interfaces. The PTS upgrades the Pebble experience finally with a color screen (though the readability indoors is disappointing), and the smartwatch really looks like a watch now (Pebble OG looked like plastic toy). This thing survives nine days on a single charge which is one of the main advantages of Pebble hardware. I could never support a daily charge cycle on a smartwatch, which makes the Pebble Round (2 days on a charge) a no-go.

However, Pebble Time still has its drawbacks : it carries a large bezel (which is now addressed in Pebble Time 2), and the screen resolution remains far below Android/Apple competing devices.

The largest surprise was the Pebble Timeline in firmware 3.x : it carries your whole daily agenda on a glance within a single button press, and this has become one of the most pleasant features of the smartwatch.

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