Older Nissan Leafs Lose Their App, Are They The First Of Many?

There was a time when all you needed to use your car was a key. On older vehicles it was a traditional metal key, on more recent ones it had some kind of RFID chip for the immobilizer. As vehicles have become more and more computers on wheels though, the key has disappeared in favor of an electronic key using RF, and in many cases a smartphone application. It’s even used as a selling point: “Look how amazing our car is, you open it with an app!”

Now the obvious flaw is beginning to show in this strategy, as Nissan Leafs made before 2016 and on the road in the UK are to have their app support withdrawn. The manufacturer cites the withdrawal of 2G services, but this seems a little fishy when you consider that the older networks will continue to exist in some form until 2030.

Frankly, there’s part of us that welcomes this news. On one hand, it affects relatively few early adopters. But at the same time, it has the promise of finally educating a gullible public that while a car may last into its second or third decade, the superfluous technology with which it has been loaded probably won’t. If it makes consumers clamor for longer support, or better built vehicles, it can only be a good thing. We’re guessing stories like this will become increasingly common in the next few years — luckily for Leaf owners, its relatively trivial loss of functionality won’t be the worst among them.

If the carmakers have forgotten how to make a vehicle without the dross, we’d be delighted to remind them.

Header: Kārlis Dambrāns, CC BY 2.0.

Thanks [CampGareth] for the tip.

A pixellated image of pinokio

On-click Install local AI Applications Using Pinokio

Pinokio is billed as an autonomous virtual computer, which could mean anything really, but don’t click away just yet, because this is one heck of a project. AI enthusiast [cocktail peanut] (and other undisclosed contributors) has created a browser-style application which enables a virtual Unix-like environment to be embedded, regardless of the host architecture. A discover page loads up registered applications from GitHub, allowing a one-click install process, which is ‘simply’ a JSON file describing the dependencies and execution flow. The idea is rather than manually running commands and satisfying dependencies, it’s all wrapped up for you, enabling a one-click to download and install everything needed to run the application.

But what applications? we hear you ask, AI ones. Lots of them. The main driver seems to be to use the Pinokio hosting environment to enable easy deployment of AI applications, directly onto your machine. One click to install the app, then another one to download models, and whatever is needed, from the likes of HuggingFace and friends. A final click to launch the app, and a browser window opens, giving you a web UI to control the locally running AI backend. Continue reading “On-click Install local AI Applications Using Pinokio”

Finally Run Useful Apps On A Windows Phone

Not every piece of technology or software can succeed, even with virtually unlimited funding and marketing. About the same number of people are still playing Virtual Boys as are using Google Plus, for example. In recent memory, the Windows Phone occupies the same space as these infamous failures, potentially because it was late to the smartphone game but primarily because no one wanted to develop software for it. But now, you can run Android apps on Windows Phones now. (Google Translate from German)

To be clear, this doesn’t support all Android apps or all Windows Phones, and it will take a little bit of work to get it set up at all. But if you still have one laying around you might want to go grab it. First you’ll need to unlock the phone, and then begin sending a long string of commands to the device which sends the required software to the device. If that works, you can begin loading Android apps on the phone via a USB connection to a PC.

This hack came to us via Windows Central and Reddit. It seems long and involved but if you have any experience with a command line you should be fine. It’s an interesting way to get some more use out of your old Windows Phone if it’s just gathering dust in a closet somewhere. If not, don’t worry; Windows Phones were rare even when they were at their most popular. We could only find one project in our archives that uses one, and that was from 2013.

Does Library Bloat Make Your Smartphone App Look Fat?

While earlier smartphones seemed to manage well enough with individual applications that only weighed in at a few megabytes, a perusal of the modern smartphone software store uncovers some positively monstrous file sizes. The fact that we’ve become accustomed to mobile applications requiring 100+ MB downloads on what’s often a metered Internet connection in only a few short years is pretty crazy if you stop to think about it.

Seeing reports that the Nest app for iOS tipped the scales at nearly 250 MB, [Alexandre Colucci] decided to investigate. On his blog he not only documents the process of taking the application apart piece by piece to find out just what’s eating up all that space, but lists some potential fixes which could shave a bit off the top. Even if you aren’t planning a spelunking expedition into your pocket supercomputer’s particular variant of the Netflix app, the methodology and tools he uses here are fascinating in their own right and might be something worth adding to your software bag of tricks.

By passing the application’s files through a disk usage visualizer called GrandPerspective, [Alexandre] immediately identified some rather large blocks of content. The bundled Apple Watch version of the app takes up 23 MB, video and audio used to walk the user through the device setup weigh in at 22 MB, and localization files for various languages consumes a surprising 33 MB. But the biggest single contributor to the application’s heft is the assorted libraries and frameworks which total up to an incredible 67 MB.

Of course the question is, how much of it is really necessary? It’s hard to be sure from an outsider’s perspective, but [Alexandre] notes that a few of the libraries used seem to be redundant or obsolete. In some cases this could be the result of old code still lurking in the project, but the four different libraries used for user tracking probably aren’t in there by accident. It also stands to reason that the instructional videos could be offloaded to something like YouTube, so that only users who need to view them have to expend their bandwidth on it.

Getting a little deeper into things, [Alexandre] notes that some of the localization images appear to be redundant. As a specific example, he points to the images of the Nest itself displaying Fahrenheit and Celsius temperatures. While logically this should only be two image files, there are actually eight copies of the Celsius image, each filed away as language-specific. These redundant localization images could easily be stripped out, but with gains measured in only a few hundred kilobytes, it probably wasn’t considered worth the effort during development.

In the end there’s really not as much bloat as we might like to believe. There were some redundant files, maybe a few questionable library inclusions, and the Apple Watch version of the app could surely be separated out. All together, it might get you a savings of 30 – 40%, but still not enough to bring it down under 100 MB.

All signs point to the fact that modern smartphone software development is just a lot more burdensome than us hackers might like. Save for projects looking to put control back into the hand’s of the users, it looks like mobile operating systems aren’t going to be slimming down anytime soon.

What We Are Doing Wrong. The Robot That’s Not In Our Pocket

I’m not saying that the magic pocket oracle we all carry around isn’t great, but I think there is a philosophical disconnect between what it is and what it could be for us. Right now our technology is still trying to improve every tool except the one we use the most, our brain.

At first this seems like a preposterous claim. Doesn’t Google Maps let me navigate in completely foreign locations with ease? Doesn’t Evernote let me off-load complicated knowledge into a magic box somewhere and recall it with photo precision whenever I need to? Well, yes, they do, but they do it wrong. What about ordering food apps? Siri? What about all of these. Don’t they dramatically extend my ability? They do, but they do it inefficiently, and they will always do it inefficiently unless there is a philosophical change in how we design our tools.

Continue reading “What We Are Doing Wrong. The Robot That’s Not In Our Pocket”

Resistance Is… There’s An Augmented Reality App For That!

Like many engineers of a certain age I learned the resistor color code using a mnemonic device that is so politically incorrect, only Tosh might venture to utter it in public today. When teaching kids, I have to resort to the old Radio Shack standby: Big Boys Race Our Young Girls But Violet Generally Wins. Doesn’t really roll off the tongue or beg to be remembered. Maybe: Bad Beer Rots Our Young Guts But Vodka Goes Well. But again, when teaching kids that’s probably not ideal either.

Maybe you can forget all those old memory crutches. For one thing, the world’s going surface mount and color coded resistors are becoming a thing of the past. However, if you really need to read the color code, there’s at least three apps on the Google Play Store that try to do the job. The latest one is ScanR, although there is also Resistor Scanner and Resistor Scan. If you use an iPhone, you might try this app, although not being an Apple guy, I can’t give you my feedback on that one.

Continue reading “Resistance Is… There’s An Augmented Reality App For That!”

Top 5 Twitter Clients For Android

With the growing popularity of the Android OS for smartphones, it has become a contender for the likes of Apple’s iPhone. With the rise of Android came the facet it revolves around; Open Source. Besides it revolving around being open sourced it also has deep roots with social media. There has been an outbreak of different Twitter applications for the Android devices, each with their ups and downs suited for different types of users ranging from the socialite to the power users of twitter. These are the top 5 Twitter clients for Android (A phone running Android 2.1 OS – Éclair – will be used but most of these will be compatible with 1.5 & 1.6 OS and will be stated if they are not available to all OS versions) :

Continue reading “Top 5 Twitter Clients For Android”