Lamenting some smartphone repairs

Yesterday before noon the repaired Pixel 7 Pro smartphone from Google arrived. For the last couple of weeks I had moved back to my Pixel 5 which remains a pretty good smartphone. Apparently, they repaired the phone that I sent back to them via a nice cardboard package they sent me for traveling with a postal carrier. The phone I received back has the exact same IMEI as the one that was sent to them for repairs. Based on that I’m pretty sure they actually repaired the unit that was sent in for repairs and did not issue a replacement phone. I took a close look at the actual phone and didn’t really see any evidence that they heated up the glue that holds the screen in place and got inside it to make some type of repairs. They had it from February 21 to February 28 so it is entirely possible that they did take it apart and effect some type of repair to the screen. I’m not entirely sure what happened and to be honest nothing along the way shared any details about what exactly went wrong or what they did to correct the problem. 

Based on my observations something within the screen went very wrong. When you hit the power button the top half of the screen would flash with a dark green sort of tint or the whole phone would flash white and then nothing would happen. The phone itself was probably running and waiting for some type of user input, but the screen was dark and unresponsive. A few people certainly encountered this and I tried to look around for solutions or at least other people to chat with you had experienced the same problem. For the most part, when a smartphone behaves like that people send them back for a replacement. In my case the warranty part of the service cycle would have done that for me and has been fine before. I used it when my screen got cracked. They pretty much sent a new replacement phone and I sent the cracked one back to the warranty center. This time around the warranty and repair was done by Google. 

I loaded the data, contacts, and well everything from my Pixel 5 to the newly repaired Pixel 7 Pro using a standard USB Type-C cable. I pretty much only use official cables from Google chargers that I ordered from the Google store online. The only other charging mechanism that I happen to use is a Google stand for charging. My preferred method of charging is to set the phone on the wireless charging stand. It’s so much easier and used to feel like the future, but now it is more routine than anything else. Completing the data transfer process included moving about 62 gigabytes of data between the phones. It took around 20 minutes and then I had to sign into all the applications which took another hour of time. Getting all the authenticator stuff changed out took maybe another 15 minutes. It was a quick reminder of why I kept my backup phone in the first place. Getting things back in order without some backup would be a lot harder. Based on this exercise about 2 hours of time needs to be reserved to complete the phone transfer process. 

This post might come across as if I’m lamenting some smartphone repairs and that truly is the case. Overall my trust in the Pixel line of products has been diminished. I was a day one device order for the first 5 generations of Pixel smartphone products. I sat out the Pixel 6 as my enthusiasm for it was limited and some of the initial reports conflicted about the build quality. I jumped back in and ordered two of the Pixel 7 Pro phones and the Pixel Bud Pro’s to go with the phones. Maybe delivering hardware is not the thing that Google is most focused on achieving. My Fitbit certainly has not gotten any great updates or support after the acquisition by Google. I actually switched to the Oura ring recently and abandoned using my Fitbit smartwatch. We will see what happens within the organization changes at Google over the next year. I would not be surprised if hardware fades away altogether.

Oh those weird Pixel 7 Pro errors ruined my weekend

Several generations of phones have been made by Google by this point. I have owned a bunch of different versions. Most of my phones were mostly purchased the day they were released to the public. Right now I have moved back to using my Pixel 5 which works well enough. It is a much smaller phone than the Pixel 7 Pro. However, it has the distinct benefit of working. That is a huge game changing advantage. 

Things started to go very wrong on Friday in a very strange way. After taking the phone out of my pocket the screen just stayed black and was otherwise non responsive. Things like that have happened before and I knew to hold the power button and the up volume buttons at the same time for like 30 seconds while I wanted for the phone to reboot. This series of events happened several times during the day and it blocked me from being able to make or receive phone calls. You can imagine that it was a very frustrating experience. It really was problematic. 

Like any well trained consumer of Google products I went online to the store and found the information to report the problem and try to file an insurance claim to maybe get a new phone as this one was obviously breaking down. I have done this series of steps before a couple of times when I had broken screens. I actually have both of my old Pixel 5 smartphones that are at the ready as backup phones. That is a luxury for sure. Keeping a set of working backup phones is not something that everybody is going to maintain. In this case it was a necessity. 

My request to trigger warranty support was actually denied. I have never had that happen before and it was really just confusing. I went into the support queue and found a chat option to ask about what to do in this case. I tried to report that my Pixel 7 Pro runs Android 13 and has two distinctly weird things going on right now. First, the phone is becoming non responsive and having to be hard reset over and over again. Second, the top half of the phone screen is showing some kind of weird green dots, flashing green motion, general green hue, or going completely dark. The weird screen green coloring, flashing, and motion was certainly something that I have never seen before. 

During the support chat it was recommended that I need to factory reset the phone. It actually made me wonder how many people are getting this weird black or green screen problem. The last actual backup of my phone was from several hours earlier in the day which was not really a big deal. The loss of some phone call records or texts is not really a big deal. Having to restore all the second factor authentication elements and sign back into all the applictions is really the only super duper annoying part of the equation. Given that the phone was not really operational I went ahead and after the next reboot issued the factory reset. During the reboot the same things mentioned above happened again. I had that moment of fear where I wondered if the phone would now be bricked. A few minutes later something happened and the screen showed the normal first use start up sequence. 

Being a little flustered at that point and really just lacking any enthusiasm for the event I missed a step and it loaded factory fresh. I had to then execute another factory restart and follow the steps to catch my last backup. My only regret along the way here is that I did not get any photographs or video of what the Pixel 7 Pro was doing. Sadly, I had pulled the Pixel 5 out of storage and after powering it on it wanted to immediately execute a bunch of updates. Instead of snapping photographs I just let the device update. I’m going to circle back to the start of this essay and edit it from start to finish again before moving on to the next paragraph. Right now the Pixel 7 Pro is sitting on the charger. I just don’t trust it at this point and don’t want to carry it around. You forget just how much carrying a smartphone is about trusting that it will be your nexus of communication.

Spending some time looking at new computers, again…

It was one of those days that looking at new laptops happened again… this time around I took a look at two different ones including: and

Both of them circle back to being able to run the Pop!_OS (a linux based operating system). You can spend a lot of money using some of the configuration tools for those laptops and desktops for that matter. Over the years, I have mostly built my own custom computer desktop. This Dark Base Pro 900 powering the keyboard being used to write this weblog post is a custom built set of computer parts that I selected over the years. 

My next build is likely going to be into an entirely new computer case and be entirely different parts. If you have been reading these posts long enough, then you might remember the Storm Stryker case which has since been discontinued. You can see a picture of it here:

I’m going to tell you upfront that the Dark Base Pro 900 is a much quieter computer case. I have been really happy with it so far. Managing the thermals did involve installing a Corsair Commander Core XT which is currently controlling 5 fans and collecting data with two different temperature probes.

No more Tumblr posting for me

My weblog menu has been updated to remove a link to my Tumblr page for the top menu bar of the site. This seemed like the right thing to do given that I just deleted all my content and account on the Tumblr site listed below. I have not posted any original content on that site. The only content that was posted was pushed over from this weblog. It seemed like that echo was not very useful and given that my weblog does not have to have a digital shadow to exist I went ahead and hit delete on that Tumblr page.

If anything ever ends up back on that page, then it was not from me and is unauthorized as far as I’m concerned. Right now it just says, “There’s nothing here.” At the moment, that is just fine given that my intention was to delete all the content and stop using the site. My big plan for the night after hitting that delete button was to write this weblog post and hit publish before the month comes to an end. I’m ready for October.

My current social media strategy for this weblog is to allow WordPress to post a link with each post title to Twitter. That will probably continue for the foreseeable future. I’m not sure it creates much traffic from Twitter back over to the weblog, but it seems to be something that brings me joy so it will be allowed to continue.

Application notifications abound

My ecosystem of applications where I’m a daily active user is and has been dropping. I’m generally exhausted by and tired of the endless string of notifications that don’t really notify me about anything substantial. I still remember a time before the advent of smartphones. For the most part, I remember having a flip phone that did not do very much beyond being able to make calls and receive text messages. Nobody really sent pictures with those phones. The resolution of the cameras was terrible. At that time, the phone companies still charged you by the text message or limited people to a small monthly allotment. Things were very different from today.

I’m really considering returning to just not carrying a smartphone around. Much like sending an email and getting an asynchronous response I could just let me smartphone always go to voicemail for the most part. Most phone calls are not really all that urgent anyway. These are the thoughts on my mind at the moment. I’ll probably be nostalgic for the grand experience of going to the mall at some point today. That is how things are shaping up. Right now, I have some music streaming on Pandora and I’m writing in the Microsoft Word desktop application. I did end up spending a few minutes fixing some of the navigation formatting at the start of that adventure, but now things are pretty much setup to be able to write on a daily basis out of this document. Working out of Microsoft Word has not been a smooth transition it is nowhere near as good or useful as Google Docs. The design aesthetic and the usability are very different. It is very much like Microsoft Word is exactly the way I left it year ago and it has not improved very much over the years.

Right now, I should be deeply focused on bringing the most important concepts to the forefront of my thoughts as I begin the day. Instead of working toward some type of meaningful writing I’m stuck on the medium where the writing is going to occur. Most of my writing is still occurring at my main computer in my office. I’m using this Corsair K65 RGB mini wired keyboard. It’s 60% the size of a normal keyboard and does not have the number pad or arrows. Strangely enough I have been really happy with it after getting a Kensington wrist rest to support a slightly more comfortable typing experience. The mechanical keyboard works really well for typing at speed in my office while concentrating on the process of starting the day. To that end, the keyboard has been wonderful and while I have used a natural ergonomic split keyboard for years this one has worked out well enough.

Quick tutorials on most anything

It may only be Friday, but I am ready for the weekend. Several things are ready to be recorded and some other things need attention. One of the things that the weekends afford me is the opportunity to really deeply focus on things. Finding the time to really deeply focus on something is what helps push my learning efforts forward. Every single day I approach the opportunity to learn something with vigor and enthusiasm. That is really one of the keys to being able to enjoy the hunt for new things. We have such an opportunity to pick up and learn new things. It is hard not to take that for granted just how open and easy access to vast amounts of things has become with the advent of the internet and how people are electing to share things. Keep in mind that historically guilds and other organizations aligned to professions that kept information and shared it within an apprentice system. Now you can just boot up YouTube and get a quick tutorial on most anything. 

I’m going to call it. Our access to information is probably at a peak right now given a few things that will inevitably happen. Even the best knowledge graphs that were scaling up as all the internet content blossomed will struggle with separating current content from out of date information. Things change and even tutorial videos drop out of relevance as change occurs. Structuring your knowledge graph to be able to handle those changes in usefulness is difficult at best to sustain over time. Designing a recursive relevance function against stored graph information requires a baseline and method to establish that base. Beyond the problem of figuring out what is really the freshset information to share with people, a very real problem exists from the vast overcrowding that is occurring within the knowledge graph. Large language models are creating a scenario where more content than previously generated by humanity can be generated by an endless running prompt. Separating the real from the endless stream of synthetic content will be nearly impossible. This creates a scenario where the knowledge graph may want to be designed to favor previously created content that existed before the great flooding of information occurred online. However, the aforementioned problem of things going stale is going to occur as favoring previous content only creates freshness problems. 

That means that right now we may have the best possible access to information. We may have hit peak information and nobody is really appreciating it. At some point, curated knowledge graphs inside platforms and metaverse style realities might be the gold standard for information access. Something is probably going to change here in the next few years and it will be interesting to see how that happens. A lot of people are investing in a VR headset based version of that access and interaction. I don’t really want to login to something wholesale to experience an alternate reality. Yesterday, I walked the dog and read part of Isaac Asimov’s science fiction book about the Second Foundation (1953). That experience was perfectly satisfying. I’ll admit that during working hours I certainly sit in front of a computer screen which is less immersive, but not wholly different from being committed to a VR experience. For the most part within that working experience the world in front of me shrinks down to the content contained within the screen.

Replacing my Pixel 5 smartphone

You may have guessed from the title of this post that my smartphone got replaced. It was a warranty replacement of a Pixel 5 smartphone with another one of the exact same make and model. Yes, this is a replacement of the 128 gigabyte Sorta Sage (mint green) phone I have had since 2020. Overall it has been a perfectly serviceable phone. Zero complaints exist from me about the device build or operation outside of the recent battery related incident. Apparently, unbenounced to me at the time the battery in my Pixel 5 smartphone was swelling up within the enclosure. The swelling was bad enough to actually separate the screen from the body housing by about two guitar picks. Generally the phone sits in a thin sort of clear plastic case unless it is being cleaned to help protect it from falls. This problem became noticeable for me based on the degree of rapid battery degrediation. I had to start charging the phone a couple of times a day which was undesirable. Online searches occurred and I was about to get a new portable battery pack. That action however would not have fixed the underlying problem. Based on the battery degradation symptom I ordered a replacement phone. 

It arrived yesterday and the process of switching phones was reasonably painless. It was better than I remember the last time around. Both phones had to be mostly charged and connected together using a USB-C to USB-C cable. At this point, all of my cables are from the Google Store. After I started using the charging stands for the most part my cables have lasted a lot longer. The old phone provided charge and sent over a bunch of data to the new phone. Apparently, I have well over 100 applications that need to be downloaded and installed on the new phone. Really the only applications that are problematic for me are the 2 factor identification applications that have a unique key association. As you start to dip into the passwordless world of managing things by approval in applications you want to really make sure that your smartphone never gets lost or breaks. Keeping stacks of backup keys is generally problematic. 

In practical terms, for the 2 factor identification applications and keys I had to make phone calls to talk to people about resets and other authentication things. That of course was a solvable problem and just took a bit of a commitment of time to resolve. You can certainly imagine the next problem beyond managing the 2 factor authentication concerns was entering passwords for accounts. The phone to phone transfer process did not sync all the accounts to be ready to rock and roll. That was not even an option during the process. I’m sure it is an option that does not exist for my own protection. The only thing I forgot to work out during the setup process was to enable bedtime mode to prevent unwanted chips, alerts, and other notifications overnight. That problem has been resolved this morning.

A photo of the battery swelling case separation

Considering equations in ML papers

During the course of the 4th of July I got a chance to read a few PDFs of papers. Being able to write within the academic tone that papers usually have is a skill. Sometimes the papers include great scientifically based research, but are difficult to follow due to being poorly written. In the machine learning space this is one of those things that happens and could be compounded due to the mathematics the author is trying to share. Within the abstract and introduction things will start out on the right academic footing, but then as the mathematics start to get introduced things will veer off into the wild unknown. Most of the mathematics that gets shared within the machine learning space is not a provable theorem or something that you can easily break down and check. Every single time somebody starts to walk me through a series of equations in a paper I start to evaluate the work. Most of the time you cannot check the actual output given that the equations in the paper are implemented as code. Generally, that code is not shared so you cannot work your way backward from the code to the paper or the other way around to figure out what the author did for the actual delivery of the mathematics. 

The other piece of the puzzle that often worries me is that the equation presented in the paper is theoretical as an implementation and they are using an algorithm built into software that was already written. Within this example the author did not implement the mathematics within the code and probably is not deriving a perfect reflection of equation and implementation in the paper. Being able to run code as a part of a software package and being able to work through the equation using LaTeX or some other package to articulate it within an editor are very different things. I would have to work it out with pen and paper and then bring it over to the paper after the fact. Generally, I would be working with a known transform or algorithm within the machine learning space. It would be unlikely that I would be advancing the equations denoting the mathematical machinations beyond the original efforts. Within the coded implementation I might do something in an applied way that could ultimately be represented as a novel piece of mathematics. However, most researchers would be better off presenting the code vs. trying to transform the code back into a series of mathematical representations within an academic paper. 

It might very well be a good topic for a research paper to do an analysis of the equations presented in mathematical form in the top 100 machine learning papers by number of citations. It might be interesting to see the overlap in the equations across the paper. Alternatively it might be very illuminating to see if no overlap exists given that it’s possible outside of a shared statistical foundation the researches are not working from a shared mathematical base. A book on the mathematics of machine learning would be interesting to read for sure assuming it built from the basics to the more complex corners of the academy of knowledge surrounding the topic.

Some digital housekeeping

It is that time of year when I open the bookmark manager in Google Chrome and try to clean things up a little bit. The next few observations about the links I’m keeping around the top of my browser.

I have a guitar pedal link saved that I’m considering for purchase. It’s up first on the bar just below the tabs. That link will probably end up getting transferred to the “Older” links folder at some point. That is the final resting spot for links that get accumulated in Google Chrome. 

Next up is a link to the Google Doc that holds all of my Substack posts both previously written and outlined for the future. That document holds countless hours of effort from the previous year. At this point, I don’t really need to make a new document and storing all of the posts in one document has been useful overall. 

Right next to that Google Doc is my link to YouTube subscriptions. This is a stream of all the videos from channels where I’m a subscriber. Honestly, this is the best way to use YouTube to display the most recent content you care about. If you are just using the regular stream, then you are missing out on seeing all the content the channels you subscribe to in one list based on upload time. 

For some ineffable reason, I still have a link to the Newegg Shuffle right in the middle of my screen. I was checking this daily at one point to buy a new graphics card at retail pricing from Newegg. Right after typing this sentence that link is getting moved to the “Older” folder. 

After that link was removed the next 6 are just eBay searches that I like to scan every day as a sort of relaxing way to consider something different. I created a folder and put all 6 of the links into the folder to make the bookmark bar a little bit more tidy. Now it is very easy to right click on the new eBay folder and just open all of the tabs at one time. This will save me a bit of time moving forward. 

9 more bookmarks were hanging out after the eBay folder and I just moved them all to the “Older” folder as they are not currently important to me on a daily basis.

Thinking Pixel 6 Pro

Yesterday you could pre-order the Google Pixel 6 Pro from the Google Store. Throughout the last few years I have had every major series of the Pixel smartphone from the inaugural one to the Pixel 5, but yesterday for some reason I did not even consider completing the pre-order. This is a major shift in my technology buying habits for smartphones. For the most part the one piece of technology I have always been super interested in being an early adopter of was smartphones. For years now I have actively tested beta releases of Android software and enjoyed the process of being an early adopter. This time around I just decided to sit on the sideline. 

Part of that is my declining interest in using my smartphone all the time. You may have previously read about my efforts to contain my daily smartphone usage. First, I have a Pelican G40 personal utility go case that stores my smartphones to keep them out of reach during the day. It is crush proof and waterproof and is also a very effective deterrent to checking smartphone notifications. Let’s be honest about it, the vast majority of the attention grabbing alerts and notifications are just not all that necessary. I don’t need them to grab my attention throughout the day. Disrupting my focus and causing me to switch context between subjects is not something I really need from my smartphone. I have a tab in Google Chrome that shows me my text messages and that is really all I need during the day. Second, over the last few months I have been testing a vtech connect to cell system throughout the house. We have 3 house phones that ring any time somebody calls my smartphone and gets passed the built in Google call screening features. 

That pretty much explains my two pronged strategy to avoid my smartphone usage throughout the day. Due to the nature of my commitments both text messages and phone calls have to be answered, but everything else that is contained on my smartphone can simply wait till the end of the day. Part of that is trying to shift to using my main computer for anything that would need to grab my attention. That allows me to work toward getting some deeper work done and really applying my focus and attention to the problems at hand. I worked and was productive for years before having a smartphone and I want to get back to that simplicity.