Sunday, 30 January 2011

VirtualBox and USB scanner

I wasted some time this weekend trying to get my scanner working on Ubuntu+VirtualBox again. 'Again' because it was working okay back on Hardy but when I tried it recently it was not working. This is probably because I upgraded to Lucid a few months back and haven't used the scanner since, well not on VirtualBox anyway. The reason for that is that there are scanner drivers that come with Lucid that work on my Canon scanner. So no need to use the Windows ones. Yay!

Not so fast.

I have a need to do OCR scans. Not many but I tried various tools available on Ubuntu and while I could make them work, the error rate was way too high. I've seen much better on the tools that come with my scanners. But they run on Windows. Sigh.

Anyway there are tricks to this. You have to make sure you get the right version of VirtualBox. There's the ose (Open Source Edition) which doesn't have USB support and my scanner is a USB one. That's fine, the non OSE (called something like PEUL) version supports OSE, and is free for personal use. But you have to download it from the site, not from the usual repositories. Okay.

A little more complexity comes in when you get the latest version (4.x) instead of 3.x because the rules changed. There is only one version now plus extensions you install on top of it and those handle USB. Actually I gave up on that and went back to 3.2.

Then you need to make sure you have a user group called vboxusers and that your username belongs to it.

With that in place it still did not work for me, although Windows could see the USB devices (well the devices showed up in VirtualBox and they had a tick beside them). But no joy. What fixed it was this post. It worked fine after I unchecked the USB 2.0 box in VirtualBox settings.

Now I can scan from Windows, more importantly I can OCR.

Monday, 3 January 2011

New Smartphone

I got a Samsung Galaxy S just before Christmas and I'm still impressed. My previous phone was an SE G502, not 'smart' which is what my immediate comparison is. Things I like about the Galaxy:
  • Voice dialing. I'd heard that this was a bit awkward on Android 2.1 when using a bluetooth headset, mainly that you had to pull out the phone and press a button (issue-1412). For the G502 I had to 'record' my voice saying the name for each target I wanted to call by voice. Not bad, but the Galaxy just understands who I meant and finds the name in the contacts. Nice. It seems to be accurate enough as well. I only need to press a button on my headset to initiate a call, on Android 2.2 (Froyo), which is what I want.
  • Bluetooth generally: Pairing with my headset (Sony DR-BT21G) was no sweat. The buttons all work for volume and changing tracks etc.
  • Music management: I walk a lot and I listen to music when I walk. But on the G502 I never got around to organising music into playlists. But the Galaxy interface (which is just the standard Android player) is easy to use so I did.
  • GPS: I heard there were problems with the Galaxy S relating to GPS prior to the Android 2.2 upgrade. I put off buying until that upgrade was available. It also let me see how committed Samsung were to future upgrades. Anyway, I've had no issues with the GPS. I tried out the navigation operation on both a walk and a drive, and it worked just fine. I noticed it adjusts the 'turn left in 300 metres' up to 'turn left in 600 metres' according to the car's speed. Nice.
  • Tasks/Email. Well, it is Android. So it integrates with everything Google seamlessly. Not quite, actually. The tasks don't sync along with the email (odd, eh?) but if you install GTasks (free, ad-supported) from the store you've got them. I use tasks all the time now. It is simple to note down a 'must do' and assign it a date, then forget about it until it comes up. Email does the obvious and does sync perfectly well. I can fine tune the tasks and events in Google Calendar using my laptop when I want.
  • Aldiko eReader. I'm working through some books I don't get around to reading. I thought the screen would be too small but it is just fine. The display is very bright, that helps, I guess. I changed it to white writing on black rather than black on white. That way I can read when the light is off and not wake my wife.
  • Video player: I like to pedal my exercycle to keep fit. But I get bored. Now I can watch videos on the phone. I do this very early in the morning so I need the bluetooth headset on to avoid noise. Anyway, this encourages me to pedal longer and I now have time to watch things about JBoss ESB etc that I never get around to during the day. I did try this using a monitor off my laptop a while ago but I couldn't reach the controls so I stopped.
  • Texting: This is the one gripe I have, and I suspect if I look hard enough someone has it solved. I usually send my wife a text when I leave work. It is always the same text, but there doesn't seem to be a 'send again' function. The GE502 had a template I could re-use. Of course retyping the text is far, far easier on the Galaxy, but a resend would make it even easier. I'll keep looking, and I may eventually develop one if I don't find it out there.
  • Browsing: It is so handy to be able to browse anywhere. I normally hook into my home wireless network rather than clock up 3G traffic, but I met some friends in a cafe last week and needed to show them where I live, okay Google maps pulls up a map (actually using the maps app rather than the browser) and it was all so simple. If they'd had one of these I'd just send them the location and they could navigate from that.
  • Weather info: there are various apps that show the current and predicted weather on the main screen. It is accurate enough. A lot of my day to day activities are weather dependent and I find myself flicking my tasks (in GTask) around based on the weather predictions. I know I can look this up on the web (or wait for it to play on the radio) but it is better to have it right there in my face.
Edit: Now I have found out how to copy/paste  the texting issue is gone. The 'long press' is just a new part of the UI to learn.