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'