Category Archives: Notes

The Surprise Brought by ChromeOS

I had been trying to seek an ideal portable device that could be used to draft posts, watch videos, and code. I tried to use my Macbook for this, but it was too heavy for portable use.

I considered several solutions, but all were canceled by myself, for example:

  • GDP Win: I don’t have any interest in Windows. Furthermore, the keyboard is too small. Calluses must be at my fingertips if I use this to draft posts and code. Besides these, the price is not ideal either 🥹
  • DevTerm: Linux, 1 point gotten. But the screen is too small for long-time use. It seems the battery life is also not good enough.
  • PinePhone: This Linux phone equipped with its official keyboard kit is similar to DevTerm. It could be flashed to an Android phone if it was not good enough. According to the announcement of Pine, the product is not mature enough and is aimed at Linux developers with extensive knowledge of embedded systems and experience with mobile Linux. That is to say that we may face many unknown and unpredictable issues. I don’t refuse to troubleshoot, but don’t want to do that for my daily portable devices.

When I was lost in the options, one word popped into my mind: ChromeOS. Before, my understanding of ChromeOS was just its Chrome-based mechanism, which meant we could only access web pages and run web applications on it. And its lightweight also brings high cost-effectiveness. After a thorough go-through on this, I found its functionality and usability were both significantly improved. So I finally decided to get one. Actually, I will not share the functionalities and features of ChromeOS and Chromebook because Google’s official sites introduce these better. Instead, I will share more about the surprise I experienced during my initial experience of ChromeOS.

Deep Integration of Three Operation Systems

Currently, Chrome not only supports web pages, web Apps, and PWAs, which are Progressive Web Apps, but also supports Android Apps and Linux Apps. And it is not simply running an Android simulator and a Debian simulator on ChromeOS. Overall, the experience is similar to the Coherence Mode of Parallels Desktop. We can run Chrome browser, web Apps, PWAs, Android Apps, and Linux Apps as native Apps simultaneously without managing three separate desktops of three OSs or rebooting.

As the screenshot above shows, we can see Google Play running in the upper left corner and Kodi in the bottom right corner, both Android Apps. We can also see LibreOffice running in the bottom left corner. In the upper right corner and the middle of the left side, we can see ChromeOS built-in Chrome browser and the PWA of Outlook. Except for the UI differences caused by the system toolkits of three operation systems and permission differences caused by the sandboxes, there are no other significant differences when switching across different types of Apps.

Android App Streaming

If the phone paired to a Chromebook is running Android 13 or above, the Apps running on the phone can be streamed to ChromeOS. This streaming of Android App is not casting but as a native App running on the Chromebook like the screenshot above. Actually, the running App is not installed on this Chromebook.

Global Extension Support

I keep trying to improve my English, including English reading. Recently, I have found a way of reading called Bionic Reading, and it can enhance reading effectiveness.

So, I started to use Jiffy Reader, an extension to automatically show the chosen web pages in the Bionic Reading mode. I hope there will be a tool that globally shows as much content in the Bionic Reading mode as possible on the macOS level, but obviously, it is nearly impossible.

But, on ChromeOS, most Apps are web pages, web Apps, and PWAs; However, Android Apps and Linux Apps only form a tiny part. The former part of Apps are all running on top of Chrome; therefore, in a nutshell, nearly all the Chrome extensions work for this part, including Jiffy Reader. I enable the Bionic Reading mode for Outlook, so we can find the bold letters in the Outlook Home, View, and Help menu items shown on the ChromeOS desktop screenshot above.

In this case, we can use our favorite extensions outside web browsers now 😂

Seamless Mode Switch

ChromeOS supports tablet mode and laptop mode. The tablet mode is called Touch UI Layout, similar to an Android tablet or Android phone; certainly, laptop mode is like a laptop. There is a configuration that makes Chromebook automatically switch between laptop mode and tablet mode seamlessly based on whether it connects to a mouse or a touchpad.

As shown above, I bought a detachable Chromebook. Whenever I attach or detach the covered keyboard, the Chromebook can switch back and forth seamlessly. It is pretty convenient.

That is all. I will keep digging and will share more surprises that I meet. 😁

My Nostalgia for Physical QWERTY Keyboard Phones

Recently I got a niche physical QWERTY keyboard phone named Unihertz Titan Slim. This phone ignited my enthusiasm for QWERTY keyboard phones again, so I am starting to draft this post to note this enthusiasm.

From what I can recall, it was in 2008 when I was still studying for my master’s degree. I was totally a Microsoft fan, and using my first touchscreen cellphone, which was running Windows Mobile OS. It was pretty interesting because I could flash the phone with different kinds of third-party ROMs sometimes and also could implement cellphone-dedicated software by myself in C# when I could not find suitable software to meet my own requirements. We even did not call software an App. But I must say, the touchscreen didn’t provide a good experience. Also, the interaction of mobile OS was not fully evolved, and most of the operations should be performed with a stylus.

Samsung i718

One of my classmates, Solrex, introduced his BlackBerry cellphone to me. Although the BlackBerry cellphone also has a non-touchscreen like other mainstream phones, its OS, together with the side pressable scroll wheel, made a pretty fluent interaction that totally attracted me. After that, I also got a second-hand BlackBerry 8700 for myself. As I know, only second-hand BlackBerry phones were available in China in 2008.

BlackBerry 8700

This became my first physical QWERTY keyboard cellphone.

Blackberry 8700

At a time when stroke and nine-grid input methods were dominating, the QWERTY keyboard was kinda a breath of fresh air in the cellphone market. The experience brought by the full keyboard really kept me from using the numerical nine-grid keyboard for quite a long while. Furthermore, the fluent experience of the pressable scroll wheel significantly overpassed the most popular combination of arrow and confirmation buttons. At that time, BlackBerry mainly focused on the business sector, and it was deniable that BlackBerry made a lot of effort to hardware interaction to improve the efficiency of the operation to a new level.

Actually, for quite a long while, BlackBerry was just a niche brand focusing on the business sector until former U.S. President Obama made a stubborn decision that brought BlackBerry into public sight. Theoretically, Obama should replace his own cellphone with a presidential cellphone when moving into the White House, but Obama insisted on retaining his BlackBerry cellphone. This interesting decision successfully pushed BlackBerry into the headlines.

With the rising market domination of Android and iPhone, most of the Apps stopped to improve the compatibility with BlackBerry OS, so I had to stop to use a physical QWERTY keyboard cellphone. Still, I never stopped to wait for BlackBerry to release a new fantastic product. Finally, it came.

BlackBerry Passport

BlackBerry is called Passport because its shape and size are the same as a passport.

Size of Blackberry Passport

Its unique design language, such as the square screen, deeply attracted me. Furthermore, BlackBerry innovatively added a touch feature to the QWERTY keyboard that can allow you to scroll through menu items and browse web pages by sliding your fingers on the keyboard, which really amazed me.

Navigating the cursor by sliding your fingers on the keyboard

Moreover, the BlackBerry OS 10 running on BlackBerry Passport supports Android Apps, although only up to Apps of Android 2.3, this definitely could meet daily requirements at that moment. This was one of the significant reasons I used the BlackBerry QWERTY keyboard cellphone again.

To buy this phone, I tried overseas shopping for the first time. I ordered from the US BlackBerry official site, and shipped it to Hong Kong, then asked my friend to help bring it from Hong Kong to mainland China.

Generally speaking, except for the UI compatibility issue caused by the square screen, all is well 😄.

The End of BlackBerry Cellphone

Since 2016, BlackBerry has stopped to develop any cellphone hardware. Instead, it started to license third-party companies to release cellphones. Although BlackBerry no longer developed hardware, it still participated in the design part, so several cellphones released by TCL, one of the third-party licensed companies, such as BlackBerry KEYone, was still good product. However, TCL also claimed it would not design and release any BlackBerry cellphones in 2020. BlackBerry ended all the BlackBerry cellphone services in 2022, leading to the end of BlackBerry cellphones.

One Gift to Physical QWERTY Keyboard Cellphone Enthusiasts

Although BlackBerry phones have exited the stage of history, there are still some niche companies carrying on this nostalgia, such as Unihertz. The cellphones released by this company are all very niche and distinctive. For example, the Atom XL, which is also a walkie-talkie; the Jelly series, featuring the smallest 4G phone in the world; the Tank with a terribly long battery life (22000 mAH); and the Titan series that replicates BlackBerry cellphones with a physical QWERTY keyboard.

Titan Brought me Back to BlackBerry.

Unihertz Titan

Because of my love for BlackBerry Passport, Titan caught me at first glance. Although there was really a big gap between Titan and BlackBerry Passport, some of Titan’s design elements made me feel that Unihertz truly understands some of the characteristics and pain points of BlackBerry.

The Dilemma of the Square Screen

The most frequent problem during the usage of BlackBerry is that some of the applications cannot be compatible with the square screen. However, Titan allows us to toggle the mini mode, which can change the aspect ratio of the screen’s display area by wiping the screen downward with three fingers. This is really convenient.

Toggle Mini Mode

Excellent Inheritance and Optimization

Also, besides inheriting some advantages from BlackBerry Passport, such as using the keyboard as a touchpad, and physical QWERTY keyboard, it provides the Kika input method that is highly optimized for a physical QWERTY keyboard.

Too Heavy!

No matter whether Titan is a replica of the BlackBerry Passport or a rugged cellphone, it is both qualified. But it is so heavy that it causes wrist soreness after using it for a while. Maybe the good thing is this can significantly reduce my screen hours. Besides this, with the rising complication and functionalities integration of applications, the square screen definitely becomes a terrible bottleneck.

The high frequent toggle of mini mode and heavyweight made me eagerly hope that Unihertz will release a slim and relatively light physical QWERTY keyboard cellphone. Finally, Titan Slim came.

Titan Slim

Unihertz Titan Slim

In the image above, Titan is on the left; in the middle, it is Titam Slim, and on the right is Titan Pocket. Titan Pocket was released after Titan before Titan Slim. Although it is lighter, its square screen made me give up.

Unihertz Titan Slim

Regarding hardware and software, Titan Slim has certain improvements compared to Titan, but it does not have significant changes overall. Besides inheriting several UI features from Titan, such as using the keyboard as a touchpad, physical QWERTY keyboard, etc., finally, it uses a rectangle screen to replace the square screen to have better compatibility with current mainstream Apps. Maybe due to the physical QWERTY keyboard, Titam Slim is still relatively thick, but at least it is much lighter compared to Titan. Long use of this cellphone doesn’t easily cause wrist soreness. So at present, Titan Slim is my primary cellphone.

Will BlackBerry Like Cellphone Continue?

In fact, continuing with BlackBerry is not an easy thing. Nowadays, niche manufacturers such as Unihertz are still remastering BlackBerry cellphones, and I can’t say the remasters are perfect or satisfying. To continue with BlackBerry, I have to make some compromises. For example, Samsung is my favorite none physical keyboard cellphone brand, but I had to temporarily say goodbye to physical QWERTY keyboard cellphones to use Samsung cellphone. And now I need to leave my Samsung cellphone for a while to use Titan Slim as my primary cellphone. Maybe the only thing that comforts me a little is mostly I need two cellphones, one for primary use and one for work. But actually, the screen hours of my work cellphone are very few. Mostly, I use my work laptop.

So I always hope that a more perfect physical QWERTY keyboard cell phone will come so that I don’t need to make compromised choices.

Talking about Device Management and Multi-computer Management: Is Wireless Always More Convenient than Wiredness?

As a former CS student and an ITer, the computer has become an inevitable part of my life. And also how to well manage the computers and peripherals is always a changing problem.

Why does this problem keep changing?

Environments Decide the Requirements

When I was in university, what I could control was just a tiny desk in the dormitory. So at that moment, I hoped all the peripherals would be slim and wireless so I could quickly put the mouse and keyboard into the drawer without unplugging the cable.

I have to say that if we forget to turn off the mouse and keyboard, the receiver drains the battery really fast 😂. There was no Bluetooth then, and the early versions of Bluetooth were unsuitable for data transmission between computers and peripherals.

One Wireless Mouse and Its Receiver
One Wireless Mouse and Its Receiver

Looking at the HUGE CRT and chassis, having a laptop became my dream then. In this way, I could take it everywhere. Especially during summer and winter vacations, I could take it home 🤭.

CRT and Chassis
CRT and Chassis

After graduating, nearly all my computers are laptops. And due to Apple, most manufacturers are simplifying the ports on the laptop, so I have to make sure most of the peripherals should support Bluetooth. Then, due to the need for confidentiality at work, I had to ensure all Bluetooth devices could memorize multiple pairs to separate my personal laptop and office laptop so that I could conveniently switch one set of peripherals between my personal laptop and office laptop.

Is Wireless Always More Convenient than Wiredness?

However, due to the requirements of my employer and myself, my device management has become incredibly complicated 🤦. I need to ensure one set of peripherals can switch smoothly across four laptops and one chassis. Obviously, Bluetooth is unable to handle this.

By the way, owning five laptops is not weird. When I was working on a mobile project at my former former company, I had more than ten cellphones, several tablets, and four computers, but of course, nearly all of them did not belong to me but my employer. At that moment, there was no cloud testing platform for mobile projects, so all the tests needed to be processed on local devices.

Let’s get back to the main topic. Luckily most of the peripherals I had were dual mode, which means supporting cable and Bluetooth; this made me figure out a compromised solution. I connected the keyboard, mouse, and display to one multiport adaptor, and I could easily switch this adaptor from the currently connected computer to another chosen one. Since the COVID situation is not so intense, I sometimes need to go to the office. When I need to go to the office, I can unplug the display and put the laptop into my backpack with the adaptor, keyboard, and mouse.

Days ago, one question popped up in my mind. If a device named HDMI switch can switch the video sources smoothly, why is there not a device that can help us conveniently switch the peripherals across the computers? Then I found it, and it is KVM Switch. This KVM is not a Kernel-based Virtual Machine; it is the abbreviation of Keyboard, Video, and Mouse.

KVM switch (with KVM being an abbreviation for “keyboard, video, and mouse”) is a hardware device that allows a user to control multiple computers from one or more sets of keyboardsvideo monitors, and mice.

From Wikipedia
KVM Switch Diagram
KVM Switch Diagram

This switch really saved my life. I don’t need to leverage more than one set of peripherals to cover all my computers or don’t need to plug in and out whenever I switch across my laptops. This switch also makes my desktop tidier, although it is still not quite tidy.

Choose the Suitable KVM Switch

The type of KVM switches varies and is not easy to choose. If you want one, keep an eye on the tech specs, especially the HDMI part.

  1. Confirm the number of devices you would like to switch across.
  2. The type of USB ports. Due to the velocity gap between USB 1 and USB 2, consider it based on your own devices, such as whether you have external high-capacity storage devices or others.
  3. The type of HDMI ports. If you have devices supporting HDMI and Dolby Vision, such as Apple TV and Xbox Series X, please check whether your chosen KVM switch supports this. And HDR has several types of video formats, such as HDR, HDR 10, HDR 10+. The same as audio, its encoding varies.
  4. High resolution and refresh rates are pretty important for video and game enthusiasts.
  5. And also, hot-swapping affects the user experiences a lot.

Hopefully, this small talk can help guys with multiple computers a little.

Blog Reopens

The blog finally reopened!

You may be aware that this is not the first time I have created a blog based on the title, and I think this is good timing for me to recall the history of my blog. Since it happened a long time ago, the timings mentioned may shift a little from reality. Here is the evolution of my blog:

Sina Blog –> Live Space –> Wordpress
Blog Service Blog Service Self-built with WordPress

The blog started to become popular in China when I was a sophomore, so most of the famous web portals released the blog services. I also registered for one on the Sina Blog service to catch the trend. But I didn’t manage it well, and I just regarded it as a notebook.

After a short while, I found that Sina Blog services set up too many limitations. As a CS student, I couldn’t stand that. Therefore I decided to transfer my blog to Live Space which Microsoft just released. There were not many posts, so I manually moved them. At that moment, I began to post more about myself on my blog and regarded it as a place where I could share my emotions other than as a notebook.

When I was a second-year graduate student, self-built blogs on VPC became the trend. Based on the recommendation from Solrex, one of my classmates, I registered a domain name and began to continue with my blog by using WordPress on Hostmonster VPC provided by Jun Gu. I choose as the domain name of my blog. I never expected that selecting a CN domain name would be really a huge failure, and I will share with you why later.

At that moment, there were lots of posts. Manually transferring them one by one was really a mission impossible for me, such a lazy guy, not to mention that I need to retain all the tags, updated times, etc. I implemented a GUI tool to move the whole blog from Live Space to WordPress to finish the transfer rapidly. I didn’t open-source this tool due to a lack of sense of open source then. And I lost the code when I switched to a new laptop once. What a pity, If I open-sourced this, this tool could help others a lot when Microsoft shut down Live Space.

Since I used WordPress, my blog changed a lot in my mind. I started to contribute a lot to manage it. I made sure that I posted once every week and quoted others’ excellent parts indicating the source instead of directly quoting the whole post. And most of the posts should be technique-related.

In comparison to other CMSs, WordPress was quite good. However it still had many issues since the version I was using was quite old, such as encoding issues, dirty DB data caused by version upgrading, backend hung due to plugin upgrading, code reverted caused by upgrading, etc. If I detailedly introduced them one by one, I could publish several more posts. 😄

RSS was once quite a popular way of subscribing to blogs, so many bloggers liked to use RSS subscriber count to show the quality and popularity of their blogs. I was also one of them. But the build-in statics of WordPress is totally a mess, so we preferred to use Feedburner to burn a feed. And Feedburner could also fix some XML syntax issues in the original RSS.

The bloggers also show the Feedburner subscriber count as below on the page.

Feedburner Subscriber Count example shown on blog
Feedburner Subscriber Count

it is pretty hard for the bloggers whose audiences are mainly in China to show this fantastic counter. This counter is inaccessible from China because Feedburner is under the Google domain, which is

To resolve this, I had to implement a plugin named ImgCache. Suppose the attribute “ref=imgcache4wordpress” is added to an <img> tag. In that case, ImgCache will automatically persist the image into the local disk and replace the link with the local path so that this image becomes accessible from China. I used this way to show images provided by Feedburner and Twitter.

The latest updated time was 12 years ago. These days I went through this plugin and really could hardly bear my poor English and coding. It shows I will resolve the known issue in the next release. So it seems nothing needs to be fixed if no newer version is released 😅. Maybe I should take some time to release a new version to fix that.

Besides ImaCache, I also implemented another plugin called Custom URL Shorter. I knew shorter should be shortener, ignore please 🤦‍♂️. The plugin name could not be updated, and it is not sure whether it can be updated now. A single slip may cause lasting sorrow. (Developers can update the plugin name now, and I have updated the name to Custom URL Shortener.)

My blog meant a lot to me, but I made a tough decision three years after I graduated from the graduate university: shut down my blog.

I kept being annoyed by these:

  1. The blacklist way of GFW: Once a site under IP outside China contained any sensitive data, that IP would be blacklisted. That was to say, all the sites using this IP would be banned from China. So I had to ask the VPS provider to change the IP repeatedly. No clue that the situation could be better.
    I was not sure whether that was due to GFW. Accessing my blog from China became unstable, but accessing from outside China is quite good.
  2. The complicated registration: the instruction for registration kept changing. The MIIT always asked for new files and documents, asked to renew the information, and asked to add further information on the pages.
    Every time one Email would be received with a very close deadline. If you could not meet the requirement in time, your site would be shut down immediately
  3. Cyber attacks: After joining an Internet company, I became swamped, so I always forgot to upgrade WordPress to apply the security patch. Therefore, my blog was attacked several times. Although I had backups, restoring still took much time.

OT in the daytime, dealing with the none technique stuff such as GFW, registration, etc., in the evening really made me tired. Finally, I gave up and chose to shut down. Shutting down my blog has always been in my mind, and it isn’t easy to erase.

Actually, I already planned to reopen the blog when I arrived in Singapore. But first time joining a foreign company delayed this plan. The arrival of my wife and baby kid delayed it again. I never thought that taking care of the baby without the support of elders would be so difficult. Finally, I have decided to reopen the blog now. Cause I have not touched this for a long time, I don’t know much about the VPS providers. Thank Xintao Lai, for recommending DigitalOcean to me.