5.10.2017

LG 360 Camera - Software Problems

The LG 360 camera is an interesting device with dual 180 degree cameras that provide a full 'sphere' photo.  It retails for $199 but was shipped as a bonus for many early LG G5 adopters.

I chanced upon one of these on Amazon at a reasonable price.  This post will chronicle the ongoing difficulties I have had trying to get this device to work as LG designed.

I ordered the camera on April 17th and received on April 19th.  After charging the camera powered up, can take pictures via the shutter button and I can retrieve the photos via USB cable.  The main issue is pressing the button requires me to be in each photo (with my arm extended towards the shutter button).

I downloaded the LG 360 Camera software from the Google Play store and tried to connect to the camera- and nothing.  I tried again with a Galaxy Tab S2; same results.  I repeated my attempts with a LG V10, a Samsung Galaxy S6, a Samsung Galaxy S5, a Google Nexus 5 and an Amazon Kindle HD8 with the same results.  I assumed the camera was broken and requested a return from Amazon.

Not being one to give up on a gadget, I thought I would take it apart to see if it was fixable before returning; the tear-down video from iFixit discouraged me from attempting.  I did have the idea to try the camera with the iOS version of the 360 Camera application- and it worked!

The connection to the camera is a little odd; in the iOS app, I tap the 'search' icon and it finds the camera via Bluetooth 4.0 LE.  The app connects and the camera makes a chirp to indicate it has enabled WiFi.  On the iPad, I connect to the LGR105xxx WiFi SSID of the camera and a the camera makes a different noise- indicating a device has connected via WiFi. Opening the application again reveals the camera connected and it can be remote controlled from the iPad.

Going back to android, I discovered I could initiate this by attempting to manually connect to the camera via Bluetooth.  This sounds the alert that WiFi is on and I can see the LGR105xxx SSID. I am unable to establish a WiFi connection to the SSID from any android phone.  (It does sometimes make the second noise- and Android OS times out when connecting.

After some research in several LG 360 camera forums, I found the latest versions (5.11.1 and 5.2.x) of the LG 360 Camera software for Android require a firmware update on the camera.  I managed to find a website with older versions of the LG 360 software.  Installing v5.1.9 allows me to connect to the camera from my android phone! :)

I believe the firmware (R10508e) on my camera is an early version. LG 360 forums indicate there was a large update in April 2016 (R10510e) and several updates since then (R15010L is current).  The phone is updated with the LG Bridge application- but it will not connect to the camera.  30 seconds after my camera is connected, LG bridge responds:

With this information, I opened a ticket with LG support as I was sure there was an easy fix.  After a few disappointing conversations with 'Abby', it was clear LG no longer cares about supporting this product.  

I was informed the latest LG Bridge software would allow me to update the firmware.  I tried to explain I had already tried this- on several PCs- and it does not connect.  I think I would have been better off beating my face into a concrete brick wall than bothering with LG support...  The 'tech' regurgitated her script, continued to apologize that she had no clue as to what was going on and provided me with instructions for downloading LG Bridge... 

Some forum users have reported issues with USB controllers so I tried on a few different PCs (five) and a MacBook Pro; all have the same issue.  The PC OSes vary between Window 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10.  The camera was tested in different USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports on each PC with a variety of USB C cables; all exhibit the same issue.

LG 360 Camera User Forums:


I tried downgrading LG Bridge to an older version (v1.2.10) but it insists it needs and update when the application is started; if I decline, the app shuts down.  The work around is to disable Internet connectivity before starting LG Bridge.  I have tested on two PCs and both are unable to connect. (The latest LG Bridge also insists on installing LG's own 'LG AirDrive' cloud software that I have zero interest in using- and it required to use the LG Bridge software...)

The LG drivers were also downgraded from v4.2 to v4.0.4. (LG Bridge will try to update this if it is run while connected to the Internet) with no change in results.  

I am starting to suspect that LG has blocked the older firmware out of LG Bridge in a similar manner as they neutered the Android app for the same users.  I cannot use the new app without updating the firmware- but I cannot update the firmware was LG bridge will not connect...

The LG website also offers a PC Suite 'for older devices'- it also will not connect to the camera (Windows or MacOS version).

I am continuing to look for older drivers and firmware in the crazy idea I may find a way to update this camera and re-enable updates of the LG 360 Camera software in Google Play- but it is looking bleak.

Some tips:
  • Holding down power + shutter for 4 seconds forces a wireless reset of the camera (Bluetooth & WiFi?).  
  • The camera will start beeping if I press power + shutter for 8+ seconds.  Pressing the power button within 4 seconds will factory reset the device.  

Why the Hell is this so complicated LG?  Did you hire the lowest wage 'agile' developers and neglect to create an outline of what was needed before they started work?  Why does the LG 360 Camera that was launched with the LG G5 have so many software and hardware stipulations to make it work?

My final thoughts:
LG 360 Camera Hardware: 7/10
-compact design, good pictures, decent battery, quality feel
LG Software: 3/10
-Incompatibilities between camera firmware/Android app/LG Bridge make the device frustrating to use.  LG bridge requires most recent updates and their cloud program to be installed before the software will start (if connected to the Internet).  
LG Support: 0/10
-I wasted my time contacting LG support; Googling for LG 360 Camera Issues (ignoring the LG link) allowed be to connect my Android phone to my camera!

This experience (plus a failed controller board in an LG LCD TV) has left me with a bitter taste for LG products.  At one time (many years ago,) LG was one of my favorite brands.  Going forward, I think I will be better off considering devices from Samsung, Sony and other reputable vendors before rolling the dice with a future LG purchases.


20170421_150715

5.09.2017

Portable Working

I have issues with misplacing information while working on projects as I will work in the office, from home or from a remote terminal session.  I was looking for an encrypted cloud-based system that will let met pickup work from almost the same spot I stopped (on another computer).  I am also a huge fan of Notepad++ and came up with this:

Cloud Service: Google Drive
Encryption: Boxcryptor
App: Notepad++

1. install Google Drive
2. Install Boxcryptor
    a. Create a free Boxcryptor account (works for up to 2 computers)
    b. Specify Google Drive to use as the 'location'
    c. Boxcryptor will assign a drive letter (W:, for ex.) and link Google Drive under the new drive
    d. Select folders and encrypt them with Boxcryptor
3. Create a 'Notepad' folder in W:\Google Drive\ and encrypt with Boxcryptor
4. Install Notepad++
    a. Settings -> Preferences -> Cloud.  Point to W:\Google Drive\Notepad
    b. Settings -> Preferences -> Default Directory.  Point to W:\Google Drive\Notepad
    c. Settings -> Preferences -> Backup  Set Custom Backup Directory to W:\Google Drive\Notepad
    d. restart Notepad++
5. Repeat the above on the second computer


3.14.2017

Today I learned...

Excel tips:

Delete empty rows:
1. Highlight column A
2. Press F5, Select 'special'
3. Select 'Blanks'
4. Hit Ok and 1st cell of each blank row will be selected
5. Delete -> Delete Sheet Rows
(note: column A is used as other cells may have merged contents)

Find duplicate cells:
1. highlight column
2. Conditional formatting
3. Highlight Cell Rules -> Duplicate Values...
4. Select a color and 'Ok'


8.26.2016

lol; I think I just officially switched into full 'maker' mode...

I am looking for privacy ideas for our outside (metal doors). I decided to build a curtain holder out of something (PVC, threaded rod, copper tubing, Legos, etc) with magnets to attach to door.

I was looking for pre-made panels that will fit this design and then decided to buy a sewing machine and make them out of existing fabric from around the house...


6.09.2015

nVidia Shield Remote

subtitled: How to not build a remote

Nvidia released their Shield branded version of Android TV and it has turned out to be a very impressive device.  As the device is geared towards a gamer audience, it shipped with an nVidia game controller.  The controller can be used for browsing Netflix, Youtube, etc., but it is not optimal as it is big, it will power down if left untouched, and it features soft-touch buttons that are way too easy to accidentally press (specifically the $%@# voice search button)...

The nVidia offered alternative to this is a $50 bluetooth remote that initially looks nice (very thin, headphone jack, microUSB charging) but eventually fails when it is used for consuming media. It feels as if it was created in CAD by talented engineers and designers -but with no actual hands-on functional testing/revisioning before production.



The Shield Remote features three buttons situated below a four-way navigation circle with an additional button in its center.  The bottom half of the remote contains a stripe with a touch sensitive volume control (pretty cool!).  There is a mic at the very top of the remote (for voice search) and a headphone jack on the bottom (for roommate quiet-time or night use).  The remote is rechargeable via a microUSB port next to the headphone jack.

1st complaint: navigation pad placement
The navigation circle is placed at the very top of the remote.
The remote is flat and thin and has the sensation of not feeling 'stable' in hand: it wants to flip over on an edge and not lay flat while fingers are involved (it will securely lay flat in palm when not in use). It feels somewhat odd pressing the directional pad left/right with my thumb as I want to move my index finger up behind the navigation pad to brace -and that is a very unstable grip.  The end result is I often end up pressing the wrong (or multiple) button(s). Sliding the remote down orients the circle pad a little better, but then it is ass-heavy in the hand.

2nd gripe; the (completely useless) voice search button is in the center of the remote (where the navigation pad belongs).
I personally find voice search for a TV to be not-so-useful; I would rather browse around Netflix/YouTube/Etc.  However, the location of the button almost guarantees  will hit it when my thumb wanders away from the touch of the remote for an instant- resulting in the search overlay blanking my TV show, muting the audio, and providing a knowing 'chirp'...

3rd groan; the only 'backlit' button is the (aforementioned useless) voice search button.
I am really unclear on why anyone would design a button to light up in green to indicate a voice search request (covered by a finger at that moment) as the TV will also blank and provide an audible search 'chirp' affirming that same action.   That particular green LED would have been much better situated behind the directional pad that is located in wrong place...

This particular remote is headed back to Amazon as I personally cannot justify $50 for a dysfunctional search button stick.  Hopefully there will be a v2 (or a 3rd party) remote that addresses some of the above issues.

Continued rant about voice search:

Hands-free search is useful for a cell phone in a car- but not-so-much on a game console/media player/home automation system (or on the same phone in any other situation).  In the time it would take to pick up a remote and enunciate 'Battlestar Galactica' (-and assuming the search engine understands me on the first try) I could also browse through Netflix (or Kodi) and find the same movie with the same remote (and not appear to be going schizophrenic/tourettes to the roommate..).

6.01.2015

nVidia Shield Android TV Tear Down

I ordered an nVidia Shield 16GB Android TV and received it this morning.

My first thought is the 16GB be upgraded with a 2.5" hard drive like the 'Pro' model uses?

The console has no visible screws; the bottom readily popped off with a plastic tool.

Below are images of the innards of the nVidia Shield Android TV (note: serials obfuscated).

Initial opening; note the 2.5" filler in middle

HD filler and cabling removed.  No obvious SATA ports.
Also to note is a metal shield that was covering some memory (?) chips below the CPU:
The metal shield was held in place by the tape holding the cables... (odd)

Interesting cable; the J1 end looks like a BGA.


Section of board where J1 connects; additional unused connector is located above.
Two metal pegs align and the screw secures the the contacts.

Console partially re-assembled with base

Thoughts: no obvious SATA or power connectors on board.  There is a possibility that a second cable may be used in the pro version that would connect the additional space above J1 to a SATA cable? Or is the the 16GB flash on a board that can readily be removed and and replaced with a board that supports SATA? 

The nVidia Shield Pro Android TV isn't due to be released for another few weeks; hopefully more info will be forthcoming once it has been released.