Dell XPS 13 9360 – Trackpad Issue

Summary: My Dell XPS 13 9360 laptop has issues with the touchpad. The Dell support site is the pure horror but the Dell support team via Facebook is fast and helpful.

Long story: Several days ago the trackpad stopped working. It started when I connected a Apple Magic Mouse for more convenient playing. When I disconnected the mouse, I realized that the trackpad stopped working. Thinking the laptop just swallowed up I restarted the system. And sure enough, the trackpad worked again… for some hours. After that I just stopped working again. Sometimes it repeaired it self to the point that I could use it, but no multi touch gestures (pinch, scroll etc) would work. I had a look in the Hardware-Manager of Windows and saw a yellow exclamation mark next to a I2C HID-Device. The error message states “A request for the HID descriptor failed”, what ever that means.

Error Message in device Manager
Error Message in device Manager

Unfortunatelly there is no solution known to me. In the Dell forum two threads (one, two) describe my problem yet nothing seem to solve their issue. I’ll see the Dell support for this :-/

Update 08.03.2017

After reinstalling Windows 10 and installing all drivers from the Dell website for my laptop the issue still persists. Therefore I rule out wrong configuration and wrongly installed drivers.

I tried to make sense of the Dell Support site, but am utterly displeased. You are always forced to download Dell System Detect, regardless if it is already downloaded and installed. Chat Support is not available, Mail Support redirects to the same page again and I try to avoid telephone support because of the international calling fees (I’m in Australia atm). I asked the Dell Facebook team when the chat is avialable… Stay tuned.

Related but not Dells fault: Obviously the disk I made my backup on, starts to fault… As if a broken laptop isn’t enough…

Update 22.03.2017

After reaching out to Dell via Facebook a service member reached out to me. Four hours after my message to the Facebook page I had a service call, a remote session and reference number for replacement. As I had booked a flight to Japan the support asked me to get in touch with Dell Japan as soon as I arrived.

In Japan I had some problems with the support (for a on-site replacement I need to be able to speak Japanese) and I was not keen to hand in my laptop while I’m travelling… So I decided to roll with the punches and use an external mouse for the rest of the holiday. I’ll start the support process again as soon as I’m back in Germany

Travel Laptop

When we started our tour three month ago, I replaced my trusty Lenovo Thinkpad T520 with a shiny new Dell XPS 13 (9360). The reasons where many fold: As weight and volume are premium while travelling half the weight and less than half the volume is awesome. As I didn’t intended to do a lot computer stuff, I settled for a 13 inch screen instead of a 15 inch screen. The other main reason is definitely the battery life. 10 hour of light work or browsing is easily accessible. My previous laptop seldom stayed alive longer than three hours, even with the bigger battery pack.

Obviously I had to make sacrifices somewhere: I already mentioned the smaller screen. Also, I traded power with battery life. Before I had a Intel i7 Quadcore. Now it’s “only” a dual core (although a faster one). I also had to omit a dedicated graphic unit which I had before. But my main drawback is the missing trackpoint. I know people either love or hate them and I loved it.

Configuration
Out of the different configuration I had chosen the 8Gb, Core i5, Full-HD No-Touch display with 256Gb disk and Ubuntu pre-installed. Because I did not know if I would use this laptop after our travelling as much as while we were travelling, I tried to keep the costs as low as possible. Although I knew I would install Windows, I used the Ubuntu installation a while. A quite nice experience I have to admit.
Nonetheless I installed Windows. After some start problems (the WiFi card was not supported from scratch by windows, so I couldn’t download other drivers…) I installed Windows 10. I also installed “Dell Update” for up-to-date drivers.

(Not really a) review
I would love to do a review of my machine, but I do not use it enough to call it a real “review”. I use it for to keep track of my balance, booking of tours and for some light gaming. Also the occasional programming task when ever an idea struck me. Nonetheless can I say that I am (was) very happy with the laptop. The battery life is fantastic. The display is crisp and the fan spins up only while gaming (or Windows Update running wild…). The bezel of the display is slim and gives the laptop a very good size to display ratio. smaller drawbacks are the missing “roll” button (which I never use, but was activated on Windows by default; Use on screen keyboard to toggle it) and the Fat-Chin-Camera (The camera is located in the lower part of the bezel).

So all in all: A good laptop and I’m looking forward to give Ubuntu another try when I’m back 🙂

Is this thing dead yet?

I did it, I finished my masters in Informatics. After five and a half years I finally don’t have to worry any more about exams and tasks for the university. A relieving feeling.

Retrospective

Looking back at the time in the university (University of Applied Sciences Berlin) I’m happy that I took the challenge of starting to study. As I don’t have the normally mandatory “Abitur” I was only able to study because auf my apprenticeship and work experience. This actually helped me a lot to put some of the content of the lessons into context. Also I think that my higher age (compared to my fellow students) helped me, to take the study more serious.
The curriculum of the University is in my opinion OK. In the bachelor one of the specialization I tried for one semester (facility management) was not useful at all but the updated curriculum already ditched this topic. What I recommend to add to the curriculum would be a tutoring about Version Control, Build Server and CI early in the study. If I remember correctly those topics never arose but were introduced to students by other students who worked in companies.
The Master curriculum was a bit more disappointingly. The master has a focus on research, which is reflected in 32 credit points out of 90 being research related (plus the master thesis which is also research related). This was somewhat cumbersome. I learned a lot in those topics but as it stands now I don’t want to do research (see next section).
Additionally to learning about a lot of different topics, I met fantastic people over the course of the study and am glad to know them. I had a great time learning different topics and I realized I like to learn and switch topics often. Sometimes I wished I had more time at a specific topics but the next topic also were interesting. So much to learn so little time.
I also started to work besides the study at a company (BIG Social Media GmbH) where I learned a lot about C#, .Net, Node, Docker, CI and Version Control. I could use a lot of the ideas for my study (as well as the money obviously), so I recommend working besides the study. Also if you are in Berlin and looking for a job doing Bots, Node and JavaScript as well as C#: Have a look at there openings.

What will be next?

I have no idea what will be next. Currently I’m on holiday, travelling the world or at least some parts of it. I’m thinking hard about what I will do after that. I’ll need money so I have to work. And this work will be something with informatics. But what it will be explicitly: I have no idea. Maybe working as a consultant or freelancer as this would enable me to have different projects often. Or starting my own business as I have plenty of ideas (some of them even are not completely useless!). Or I find the perfect company which fit to my needs.
At least for my own desire to learn I have gifted my self some ebooks from Manning (I had a 50% off coupon):
  • Richard Feldman – Elm in Action (MEAP v3)
  • Enrico Buonanno – Functional Programming in C# (MEAP v6)
  • Dustin Metzgar – .NET Core in Action (MEAP v2)
  • Benjamin Tan Wei Hao – The little Elixir & OTP Guidebook
  • Jim Bennet – Xamarin in Action (MEAP v3)
As one can see functional programming (Elm in Action, Functional programming in C# and The little Elixir & OTP Guidebook) are one topic of interest as well as .Net (Functional Programming in C#, .Net Core in Action and Xamarin in Action). After I finished these I will post a short review (at least about the MEAP Versions)

Solved: ImageJ / Fiji error: “IllegalArgumentException: adding a container to a container on a different GraphicsDevice”

For my master thesis I am experimenting with ImageJ / Fiji. While working with some image registration algorithms I happend to run in a strange bug I couldn’t explain to me:

Workaround / Fix:

If you happen to have this bug make sure all instances of ImageJ / Fiji windows are on the same monitor. This bug only occured to me when my Fiji toolbar window was on my main monitor and the plugin windows (Image Sequence loader and Linear Stack Allignment with SIFT) were on my secondary screen.

Reproduce:

If you want to reproduce this issue, use a system with the above mentioned spec (see stacktrace).

  1. Open Fiji on the main display
  2. Use “File / Import / Image Sequence…” to load at least two images
  3. Execute “Plugin / Registration / Linear Stack Allignment with SIFT” on the images
  4. When the registration is performed, move all Fiji windows but the Fiji toolbar to a second display
  5. Close all the Fiji windows but keep the Fiji toolbar open
  6. Repeat step 2) and 3)
  7. Exception gets thrown

Resources:

Related bug in the ImageJ forum

Bug on the Oracle bug tracker

 

Didaktics of media: Learning Environment – Recap

This will be the last article in this category, as the course nears its end. I will have a short recap on my experience in this course and how it changed my learning behavior. This is the logical follow up to my post Learning Environment: Status Quo.

 

Experience in this course

This course differs from all my other courses because this is the first course I took outside my “normal” curriculum. So all fellow students had a different background than me, probably already knew the professor etc.

Yet the course was one of the best I had in University. I think I learned a lot in this course and had contact and insight to many topics which I probably would never had deemed worth investigating. Although the professor is strict and the workload is not deniable, I am happy I chose this course.

Methods

In the mentioned article I listed five methods I use when learning:

  1. Information consumption
  2. Training
  3. Discussion
  4. Information curation
  5. Reflection

1 – Information consumption

I still rely heavily on my ability to consume and process an huge amount of information. So no changes here.

2 – Training

As I mentioned in the linked post, doing is better than listening. In the time of the course I hadn’t had that much training (of any kind, not even my martial art). So I hesitate to write something about this part. The only thing I can think of is the third learning unit (the MOOC), where I had a lot of hands on work to do (see my result here: Instagram)

3 – Discussion

As in the section before, not that much changed here: I went to some meetups and also had good high quality discussions with colleagues. But nothing drastically differed by participating the course.

4 – Information curation

Not that much changed here as well: Only 26 upvotes on good questions or answers on Stackoverflow.com for example.

5 – Reflection

Of the five sections, the “Reflection” section is the one with the most changes, I would think. I wrote 17 posts for this course alone, that’s more than for all other topics in that time span. It feels good to recapitulate the learned topics and to put whole sentences on the blog.

Tools

The tools section changed as well. For example I reduced my amount of Feedly and Facebook to 30 minutes a day (StayFocusd for Chrome). The other mentioned tools didn’t change that much. I blogged a little bit more than usual (which is good) and used Stackoverflow and Evernote a bit less.

Something I did add to my toolbox (based on this course) is Pluralsight, a very good training site. I really recommend is warmly. Something I also use since the course is DuoLingo, mostly on my mobile phone. Currently I learn Swedish with DuoLingo and binge watch every thing actor model related on Plurasight.

Didaktics of media: Learning unit four – Report

This blog post is one part of the series “learning diary” for a course at my university.

Goal of this report is to take and rate a online learning unit. For the fourth and final learning unit we should take a mobile learning unit. I used the app Learning Japanese (Google Play Store) for my mobile phone. As an experiment we have been asked to create a video for the review: https://youtu.be/LUS9Tu6RVpo

Short synopsis of the unit:

Learning Japanese is a language learning software for the Android platform. It consists of three main components: The Kana learning (Kana being the two basic alphabets of the Japanese language), an expression trainer (Dates, Time and numbers) as well as a vocabulary trainer.

The app focuses on Kana learning, as all other components build on the ability to read Kana. Based on that skill the “daily expression” tab provides lists of numbers, dates and times as well as tests for these sections. Somewhat easy to overlook is a small icon on the top right corner of the numbers section on which you can enter numbers, which get translated to the corresponding sign (including a sound file).

The third section is reserved for the vocabulary list of the Japanese-Language-Proficiency Test (JLPT). This test is similar to TOEFL or IELTS but for the Japanese language. The needed vocabulary for the five level of this test is listed in this app and can be trained and tested.

Reflection on your personal learning experience

All in all, I’m disappointed. I started (and stopped…) to learn Japanese several years ago and hoped this app could maybe reinforce my small knowledge of the language. Even better I hoped it could ignite my desire to finally learn the language again.

Unfortunately, it didn’t ignite anything. The app may be suited to learners of Japanese which had a more recent encounter with the language but it is in my opinion not helpful for beginners or people looking to refresh their knowledge.

My learning experience with this as (again, basically as a beginner) was frustrating. There is no learning concept at all, just different components like the syllables to memorize.

Did you achieve the stated learning goals?

No, I did not achieve the stated learning goal. As stated before my learning experience was not as good as expected. I think I’m not the right target audience for this app. Maybe with a hint at the description page of the app I would have chosen another app.

Did the given time suffice?

There is not statement how long it does take to memorize all Kana or the provided vocabulary and expressions. Taking the 90 minutes in considerations the mobile learning units should take, I would say that the time is not sufficient.

Even if the learner had some training in the past, the 90 minutes aren’t enough to memorize even one of the Kana (not to speak of the vocabulary and the expressions). I managed to remember the first set of Hiragana (the first of the Kana) after roughly four hours of use, with mediocre results on the tests.

Comment on the design – what was good, what could be made better?

Two main points regarding the design are worth mentioning, when discussing this app: Usability and the used learning method.

Starting with the usability I need to add that I’m not a user interface designer or an expert on this topic. Yet, in my opinion the app lacks usability at certain points:

  • No introduction. It would be nice to have a brief introduction in the app. “What is the intended order of the lessons?”, “What can I do on the different lessons?”, “What is Kana?”
  • No information about location. When the app is started, the first screen is the Gojûon (“Fifty Sounds”, the Kana training area, see Figure 1). Most of the screen is empty, but the information that you are located at the Gojûon chapter is missing (at the top would be a good place). This is true for all menu elements. In the actual trainings this is no issue as there is a title on these screens.
  • Usage: The hamburger menu (Figure 1, top left) is a more or less known element for menus in many apps. Yet it resides unremarkable on the menu screen and I didn’t expect it to contain the whole control flow of the app.
  • Another annoying design issue with these app is the need to download every single sound file manually. A sound file for every single syllable on the Kana table (Figure 2) gets downloaded on the first click on these syllable. This is usually fast (less than one second), yet breaks the “flow”. It would be better to include these file directly in the installation or (if the initial app size is of concern) provide a “download all sound files” button.

 

Gojuon

Figure 1: Start screen

Kana

Figure 2: Kana screen

 

The second (and more important) design issue of these app in my opinion is the used learning method. As I mentioned earlier I had some training in Japanese several years ago. The learning method here in this app is best described as drill: “Look at these 200 foreign characters and remember them”.

The method I learned the Kana with was invented by James W. Heisig (J. W. Heisig/ K. Gresbrand – Die Kana lernen und behalten). It ties every single sign (and the modifiers) to a story which stays memorable longer. Just by looking at the Kana in this app table I remembered some of the stories from that book.

Probably the app can’t incorporate these methods because of intellectual property reasons (which is understandable) but the given learning method for this app wasn’t helpful for me at all. If the designer of the app would have tried to make the learning process a little bit less tedious (stories, small lessons etc.), maybe I would be more positive about the app.

Positive and negative aspects of the contents of the unit

Positive

  • Stroke order: On thing this app shines is the stroke order. For a “good” Kana sign, the strokes of a sign should be done in a certain order (if done so, some of the smaller hooks at the signs are more natural). Most Kana books show the stroke order with small numbers next to each stroke, but the app actually draws the sign.
  • JLPT vocabulary. For every learner of Japanese who wants to have a certificate of his language skill, the vocab list is very important (grammar is in general easy in Japanese, so vocabulary is slightly more important). The app provides a solid test tool (random tests, reappearance of wrong vocabulary, multiple choice for English to Japanese, solution to every answer) so for more proficient learner this app is a good choice.

Negative

  • Usability/Design:
    • No introduction
    • General control flow in the menus
    • The need to download every single sound file afterwards. Very annoying
  • Almost unusable if no (or very few) prior Japanese language knowledge exists

 

Grade the course on a scale of 0-10.

All in all, I would grade this app with a 5 out of 10. Most of the positive and negative points had already been listed in the previous chapter, but I really want to stress the point of the learning method for Kana (see “Comment on the design”). The method used in this app wasn’t helpful at all to learn the Kana (for me). I’m pretty sure one can learn the Kana this way, but it’s harder than necessary.

Other comments

The app got a bad grade from me. My main reasons for that are due to the fact that I’m not the right target audience. So if someone with more prior knowledge in Japanese rates this app, he could give a better grade. Also, the fact that this app is free should be taken in considerations, as other sources to learn Japanese like books (the mentioned one for example) aren’t free.

Didaktics of media: Storytelling

This blog post is one part of the series “learning diary” for a course at my university.

Goals:

Based on the title for that unit I assume we will learn something about storytelling in the context of didactic.

What have I learned:

People remember stories. If information is wrapped up in a story, it increases the possibility that one remember the information as well.

A story consists of a setting, a plot, a character, a narrator with a point of view, (words, pictures, sounds) and most importantly listeners or readers.

Scheherazade from 1001 Nights is one of the earliest cliffhanger provider.

Wandering storytellers

  • Minstrels, Jester (like street musicians)
  • Troubadour (for the higher in the hierarchy)
  • Minnesinger (in Germany, especially Walther von der Vogelweide)

Chansonnier

  • Secular song books. They not only told stories and song but wrote them down.

Icelandic Kvöldvaka

Because of the long winter all family members would gather in one room and one person would be chosen to read a storybook for all members. Usually a child or a guest did the reading.

There is more:

Songs, Music, Poems, Theater, Dance, Political satire

Narrative:

  • Story or part of story
  • Narrator and points of view
  • Time flow
  • fictional or true story
  • structure
    • Story / plot / figures
    • Most imortant: reception: What happens in the listener
    • Representation

Digital story telling

  • Point of view
  • a dramatic question
  • emotional content
  • the gift of your voice
  • the power of the soundtrack
  • economy
  • pacing

Green Eggs and Ham from Dr.Seuss only has 50 words!

Non linear structure

  • Nodes and branaches
  • attributes for the branches
  • circles
  • multiple stories

 

Elixir for aspiring Erlang developers

For the “Independent Coursework” of the University of Applied Sciences Berlin I created the following presentation:

 

Target audience are students of the bachelors degree Computer Science of the University.

If anything is unclear (or god forbid, wrong) drop me a mail or a tweet