Tag Archives: electronics

Fujitsu Lifebook A514 Review (30 Months Later)

For the very few who followed this blog two and a half years ago, I wrote a review of the Fujitsu Lifebook A514 notebook computer I had bought back then. I called her Misty, after the character in Pokemon. Misty was my first laptop computer, something I had been dreaming of owning ever since my friend from school had demonstrated his Sony Vaio (a beautiful machine with 2 GB of ram and 250 GB of hard disk space for a staggering INR 80,000 price tag). To a 13 year old, a laptop was magical, especially the trackpad. You can just touch it and the cursor moved. Amazing.

So there was november of 2015, I ordered my Fujitsu, a brand I’d not heard before that moment. The only reason I had bought it was that it was the only laptop with 8 GB of RAM, decent processor, half a terabyte of hard disk for a price point of INR 21,000. I got an SSD separately and replaced the stock hard disk with that (this was a day after receiving her). Effectively, I had a laptop with lots of RAM and an SSD for less than INR 25,000 with a 500 GB 2.5″ drive to spare for other projects (remember my Raspberry Pi cloud setup?).

Debian was what it had for almost 20 months and Arch for the last 10, XFCE all along. The hardware resources were adequate and I almost never felt short on anything (except for maybe when I was working with VMs). The screen was ordinary, TFT panel with an anti reflecting matt finish, 768p and lots of flex. The keyboard was nice and feedback, although a bit spongy, was decent enough for a lot of typing (all articles on this blog after that point were written on that laptop, except for this one, which I’ll come to in a minute). The best bit about that laptop was that it never had any hardware problems, and was very reliable as a work and play laptop. In all of the 30 months, I only had to reinstall my OS twice, and one of them was intentional. In other words, the setup was stable (or maybe I was experimenting a lot less).

The review that I wrote for the laptop got somewhat popular, and my blog had started to list on first page for keywords like ‘Fujitsu review’, ‘Fujitsu lifebook’ and others. Naturally, there were a lot of queries in the form of comments and emails asking me how the laptop was doing, and this is the answer to that; Misty was fine until a month or two ago when the right side hinge started to loosen eventually giving up. Now Misty has become non-mobile because I never close her lid to not risk breaking the wires to the display and webcam. Overall, I feel that the laptop was a good investment, and not to forget, she’s still going strong, just not mobile anymore.

Learnings From Misty

Although I still believe that Misty was and is a very fine laptop, I realized that from a programmer’s perspective, the priority list while getting a new laptop has changed a bit, like for example, build quality and reliability matter more than the raw features. I’m now happy with a 4 year old processor and decent RAM, but the laptop has to be something I can rely on, that can take the jerks of Mumbai local train travel everyday but still keep working the way it is supposed to, battery life can be compromised, since I’m mostly at some or the other desk while working. It doesn’t have to be ultra light or ultra thin, but it has to be hackable, repairable and the spare parts have to be available in abundance, and 14 inches is more than enough for everything. This is what I’ve learnt after using my first laptop for 30 months, and I used this data to help myself with a new laptop that I’ll write about in the next post.

Also, a word about warranty. I did get a one year warranty with Misty, but there are absolutely no Fujitsu service centers around (the ones that exist are just outsourced local stores), and after warranty services are a big No. Given Fujitsu’s business facing nature, the services are extremely expensive and parts will cost you more than the laptop itself (the cost of a hinge replacement was quoted at around INR 13,500; ~60% the cost of the new laptop. That’s just Apple crazy). This was something I wanted to keep in mind. Either get a non fancy laptop that you or any laptop shop around the corner can repair, or get a laptop with extended warranty with service centers around.

In Closing

If you are interested in review of the new laptop, keep checking this blog or subscribe to the RSS feeds. I’ll write more about the decision making process and other things about the new purchase there. Thanks for reading.

Phone Review – Nokia 105

But why a new phone?

Not many people buy a Nokia 105 for reviewing. I certainly didn’t. My Samsung phone had developed this weird syndrome that it would randomly decide not to let me hear the other person’s voice in a phone call. And while I was okay with something as minor as that, many of my friends and family members weren’t so much. I mean, it worked fine for 95% for the things, except for making a phone call, which I average at around 1-2 every day.

So after couple of months of this struggle, I decided that I had two options. Either fix the phone (which involved flashing stock rom, do some A-B testing and if it still doesn’t work, visit the service centre), which was a lot of work and may require money, or get a new phone just for calling, which was easy but definitely required money. After thinking for a bit, I went with this nice phone that I found on Amazon. The deal was in around INR 948, which felt decently cheap, so I bought it.


In a nutshell: FM radio, a 3.5 mm headphone jack, torch, Micro USB connector for charging and a removable battery that lasts more than a week of normal usage.

I opened up the box and the phone instantly felt nice, something new, something interesting to look at, to start, to go through the menu. It was like the first time I went through an Android phone. Nowadays, everything is either Android and iOS, and there’s not much to look at in your colleague’s new phone. But this felt new. The phone doesn’t lag, and key-press to ready-for-operation time is negligible. They keypad is backlitted, and keys are soft to touch and takes some getting used to, not exactly my most preferred keyboard, but works fine for most things (which is just texting and dialing numbers, to be honest).

The display is QQVGA, which is quarter of a quarter of a VGA. For comparison, Apple Watch has 6.3 times more pixels on its screen than this phone. And just for the heck of it, Samsung’s current flagship phone, the Galaxy S9 has 222 times more pixels. Yes, two hundred and twenty two times. But here’s the thing, it more than works for most purposes. It has 4MB of RAM and 4MB of ROM. You can even play Snake on this thing. Isn’t that super cool?

It has a very dim torch too, but works fine and can be switched on from homescreen with a double click on the top arrow key. The features that set it apart from the many phones I’ve seen and tried in the recent times are the FM radio, 3.5 mm headphone jack and a week long battery life. In all honesty, I charged this phone last Sunday afternoon, and today is exactly a week since that. The battery indicator is still around 30-40%, and I’m certain it will last 2-3 more days. Isn’t that plain insane? The sizes of battery may have improved but so have the components that will drain it. And then suddenly you have a phone with a decent battery size (around 800mAh) but nothing to actually drain it and it feels like a phone from another planet. Thumbs up for that.


The phone is good, the quality is decent, most importantly, it just works. If you need a secondary phone that won’t die out in the middle of the day, this phone can take that spot. If you just want to get away from the habits of checking your social apps during commute, then you might consider using this as your primary phone and using that smart phone as an mp3 player cum ebook reader. It is a win win win; 1. You have a phone with amazing battery life. 2. You don’t get distracted and can finish reading that book without the urge of checking reddit/replying whatsapp. 3. Your smartphone’s battery life improves quite a bit without a SIM and data connection.

Thank you for reading

Tinkering With OBD-II Port

I’ve been seeing people hook up their computers to their cars from quite some time. It is a common sight if you watch any motorsport event on television, where technicians are seen working on their laptops that is connected via a cable to the car or bike. I found it quite fascinating. “What interesting tweaks must they be making to that machine with that computer!” I thought. The idea of tweaking a machine to improve it’s characteristics wasn’t new to me. Overclocking is nothing new. But obviously, since I saw all those professionals do it, I assumed there was no way for such an interface to exist on our everyday road vehicles.

And I was wrong. I discovered that, by law, it was necessary for all cars to have a diagnostics port, called the On-Board Diagnostics port. The latest revision for that port is v2 or OBD-II, and all cars manufactured after 1996 should have one. Also, sometimes, the automotive Youtubers I followed showed various stats on the screens such a the engine rpm, throttle position, boost pressure etc. So that implied there exists a way to extract those stats out of the vehicle’s ECU. Interesting. A quick Google search for “odb scanners” revealed that they’re not very expensive either (with cheap clones available for as low as INR 300, USD 5 or even lower). After researching a bit, I learned that there was loads of data that came out of that little adapter, and that great Android applications (like Torque and DashCommand) exist which spit out the data into beautiful dials and graphs (like the ones on the Nissan GTR ♥) I was awestruck. What more can a nerd ask for!

All this happened a couple of months ago. I knew I needed to get one of those. I waited a couple of months and finally ordered it earlier this month. The first challenge was to find the OBD port. Unlike some other cars, Zacky’s OBD port was hidden behind the fuse box cover, the adapter had to go inside there. I managed to access the port without opening the fuse box and problem solved! Plugged in the adapter, paired with with my phone and it started sending data. That was one of the best feelings ever!

Some of the data it sent that I found particularly interesting to read was

  1. Boost pressure from the turbocharger
  2. Engine RPM
  3. Coolant temperature
  4. Engine load
  5. Error codes and provision to reset them
  6. Horse power, torque, acceleration and other such “calculated” data by combining sensor data with phone’s sensors like GPS and accelerometer and known parameters (like vehicle weight, engine displacement etc)
  7. and loads of other cool stuff

Note that the available sensor list varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, so keep that in mind. But even with the most basic, the experience is fun. It’s like opening task manager on your computer for the first time. Wow, so I can actually run this h4ck3r stuff, right?

Interesting Learnings

– Negative boost pressure When you start the car and drive it normally, you’ll notice that the boost pressure gauge will read negative (technically, not pressure but vacuum). Only when driving hard (shifting late, for example), will you notice the boost pressure rising. I thought it was some erroneous data from the sensor so I read up a bit. Turns out, at high rpm, the turbo forces the air fuel mixture into the cylinders. But what happens when the turbo is running too slow for compressing air? It simply works as a naturally aspirated engine and sucks in air during the intake stroke. THAT sucking part explains the vacuum. Cool!

– Driving modes So Zacky featured this thing called driving modes. Putting her on “Sports” made the throttle more responsive but reduced fuel economy while putting her in “Eco” did the exact opposite. Now I could’ve told you that this isn’t just marketing and if you test it out, you can even feel a noticeable difference, but that was all I knew. Now, after driving for a while with the boost pressure gauge in front, I made this little observation. When in normal drive mode, the turbo does not spool over 4-6psi boost. But as soon as I go ‘sport’, the turbo goes well over 10psi, even 12 if the sensor is to be believed, which is pretty fantastic.

– A better understanding of the relationship between torque and horsepower, and what each number actually implies. Yes, power is work done per unit time, but what exactly does that feel like. Why do diesels have same horsepower figures even after having loads of torque. It gets really clear once you see the torque, the rpm and the (thus calculated) horsepower figures side-by-side.

Torque curve So there’s this thing called a torque curve of an engine, which is just a curve with torque on one axis and RPM on the other. For an IC engine, the torque is not linear (as with electric motors), but a curve with a peak at some specific RPM (or RPM range, which is why a torque (or horsepower) figure is always accompanied by a RPM range), and tapering off at both the ends. To get the maximum acceleration, you have to keep this curve in mind when changing gears.

Now show me some kode!

Yeah, right. So while I was on all of that, I thought, why not study the protocol itself and try writing a little script to pull the raw data from the sensors out, just for fun. Right, but how? This thing is running on Bluetooth, and how do you sniff that. Is there something like Wireshark for bluetooth? Googling “Wireshark for bluetooth” reveals that Wireshark is the “Wireshark for bluetooth”. Damn!

But before wireshark could sniff, I needed to get thing thing connected to my laptop. That’s pretty straightforward. After having it running at /dev/rfcomm0, fire up Wireshark and keep it listening on Bluetooth interface.

Okay, pause. Here’s the funny part. The above text was written some 4 months ago. Then I had to do a lot of physical work to take my laptop into Zacky and do all the research/coding from there. I remember going out at least 3 times, but for some weird reason, never bothered to finish writing this article. I’m putting this out right now so that I will remember to write the part-II for it during the next weekend. Stay tuned.

Fun With Infrared Motion Sensor

Very few of the projects I’ve done actually had any real life purpose. The rest were just Can I do it? projects. Here’s one more to that little list. So last year, the fan switch in my room changed its position, from the spot where it was in a one arm distance behind my desktop computer table, to a spot where I had to walk three steps, climb my bed and walk another three steps to reach. Too much effort for something that is required to be done tens of times in a day. Naturally, I didn’t bother to turn it off whenever I left the room, and at times, the fan used to stay running long after I had left, until mom or dad noticed it and turned it off again, just before giving me a nice stare. Something had to be done.

I had this PIR module that I had bought a couple of years ago with a friend. PIR [for Passive Infrared] sensor triggers when a hot body comes in its range, like a human being. I had to make use of it somehow to control the fan in the room. I had to Google just about everything about this project, and slowly I discovered that you cannot just put the AC mains and DC circuits on the same breadboard, and expect them to be nice to each other. As a result, relay was discovered. [The one I have used is a more compact, cheaper version].

So a relay to act as a switch to turn the fan on and off, a PIR sensor to detect me entering the room and something in between to interface the two. Arduino should do it. So next is to code the arduino such that on receiving a Truefrom the PIR, the arduino would close the switch, activating the relay to close the switch of the fan, and stay like that for a couple of minutes. I didn’t want it to go on-off every 3 seconds, hence the timeout.

Next was mounting all of it together. A breadboard would’ve been unsafe, as per the Internet, hence I bought a perfboard for the purpose. I soldered everything to its place, and the final result was something like the following. Oh but first, some code.

The code which was shamelessly ripped off Arduino.cc

Here is how it looked [Heavy images. Patience!]

My desk that beautiful day!

Now Aditya would’ve told you that this project is what electronics people do when they’re like 5. Nevertheless, I was too proud of this. Not just because I could do it, but because I needed it.

So did it work? No. The range of the PIR sensor was a bit too small for the entire room, and I had to literally dance in front of it to trigger it. Solution? Multiple PIRs to cover the entire room. Also, I realized how easily I could just add the tubelight to the same circuit. Just add another relay and connect it to the LDR sensor and set it to trigger when the daylight fell below a certain threshold.

Suddenly, automating stuff in the room seemed a bit too simple, and it really is, even for an electronics novice like myself. The Internet gives you that power. As always, thank you for reading, and pardon any silly technical mistakes that I must’ve made in the post (even better, correct me ;).

Fujitsu Lifebook A514 Review

Hey guys, I bought the Fujitsu Lifebook A514*. I had a strict low budget of INR 20k and I had to squeeze the most out of that. I don’t play games, nor do I watch movies and hence I could cut on the graphics card and hard disk space. A powerful processor was also not much necessary. All I needed was lots of RAM and a speedy disk. I got that.

Main Highlights

  • Intel i3 4005U 3rd Generation 1.7Ghz Dual Core (4 threads)
  • 8GB DDR3 1600Mhz RAM
  • 500GB HDD 5400rpm SATA III (Which I upgraded to a 120GB Kingston SSD* worth INR 3,400)
  • 15.6in anti-glare display 1366×768
  • Comes with no OS, clean
  • VGA, HDMI, 3 USB 3.0s and 1 USB 2.0, SDHC, Mic, 3.5mm, DVD-RW, Gigabit Ethernet, Wifi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth
  • Looks great, feels sturdy

Complete spec list on fujitsu.com

The Design

Top view
Security lock, ethernet, exhaust, VGA, HDMI, 3 USB 3.0s
Earpiece, mic, USB 2.0, DVD, power
Indicator LEDs, SSHD slot

The laptop looks beautiful on the outside. The plastic feels premium, not glossy. It has a brushed metal finish, with a sparkling Fujitsu logo right at the back which looks fantastic. On the right, you have a DVD drive, earphone and mic jacks and a USB 2.0. On the front, there are some usual indicator LEDs and a SDHC reader. On the left there is a physical lock, ethernet, VGA, HDMI and 3 USB 3.0s. One of the 3.0s is an always on anytime charge USB, meaning that you can connect your phone to it and it will get charged even if the laptop is switched off. Overall the notebook is just like any other notebook, with most of the default functionalities and you won’t miss on that.

On opening the lid, you’ll notice a somewhat odd placement of keys. For example, the right Shift key is smaller that usual, and a double pipe (‘|’) key is present in that place. The Enter key is a little odd shaped too. Apart from these little changes, everything is pretty standard. A power button, web cam, trackpad (larger than average). The screen is not that awesome, but pretty common for something at that price. Viewing angles are average, and it becomes hard to see beyond about 30 degrees on either side. Brightness is, too, average. The anti-glare thing works, but don’t expect it to perform extremely good under the sun. The overall built quality is above average, and can easily match the slightly higher ended models from HP, Lenovo and Dell.

About Performance

Turning the device on for the first time, you will be greeted with a message to install an operating system. I went with Debian Jessie. Boot up times were good, and the laptop felt snappy. The performace is good if you are not much into graphics and animated stuff. I haven’t tested it but GNOME felt smooth and XFCE is, of course, lagless. There was no problem finding drivers for Wifi (you can actually just apt-get them), and sound was smooth too. Pulse ran without a problem, and though the sound of the notebook speakers is not an awful lot, it just works.

Getting SSD

As I mentioned, I replaced the stock 500GB hard disk that came with it with a Kingston 120GB solid state drive. My needs were not a lot of disk space, but a fast disk. The benefits can be seen right from the time you install the OS. It takes about a third of the time to get the OS installed and I was done with Debian stable in under 15 minutes. The boot up time went down from 15-20 seconds to 3-4 seconds. Is it worth to go for an SSD and sacrifice on disk space? Well, it depends. Do you do a lot of compiling, I/O and work with Intellij IDEs, Android Studio and stuff? Do you not care about backing up important data like photos, songs and movies or have a secondary storage device for it? Your productivity increases on a fast system (which is pretty obvious)?. You are not planning to dual boot it? If all or most of your answers to the previous questions are yes, then you can say it is time to invest in an SSD.


The battery life is good. I had it running for about 3 hours and the battery has gone down from 100% to 64%, doing all kinds of stuff like installing softwares off the internet and the like. The laptop is producing very little heat, probably due to the low clock of the CPU.

Finally, I think Fujitsu is a great brand which I realized after getting my hands over it. Maybe like most of you reading this, I was quite skeptic about putting 20 grands on a company which I had not heard much about. I would have well settled for a ‘reputed’ brand like HP or Dell with half the features, but I risked it a bit, and in the end, I am extremely happy about me choice. If you are at a stage where you are not able to decide whether or not to go for this brand, I hope to have given you an answer. This review is for those like me, who buy smartly, decide which product to buy, read reviews and stuff online, before handing over their hard earned money to someone else.

Have a thought? Drop it in the comments below. Peace

*Links contain affiliate code. If this review helped you, please consider buying the laptop (or anything else) from my affiliated link. Thank you for the support!*

Why you must get a RaspberryPi

Since you are reading this, I can assume you have some sort of interest in computers and technology, as that is all this blog has. It is also very likely that you might have heard of this single-board computer called Raspberry-Pi which literally took over the internet back when it was launched. A $35 PC sounds great, and if you ask a tech freak like me, that sounds mouth watering. So what is it that you can really do with this machine and well, do you really need it?


$35 is what you pay for the board. But keep in mind that the board comes as it is, without the supporting material (microUSB charger and SD card) which are a must to boot up the Pi. So it is obligatory expenditure once you buy the Pi, but that’s not too much either. In around $45, you have a ‘working’ Pi. Next problem is of the input and output. Even though the Pi is running, you aren’t really giving it input and taking output, right? For that. you have an array of options. I choose the cheapest; bought a ethernet cable, hooked the Pi to my router and I was able to work on my Pi via SSH. Basically, I had a secondary PC (or server as I love to call it) set up in $50, which is still very cheap, considering the alternatives.

Or, if you got some extra money to put, and to make a proper computer out of it, you can do as one of my friend did. He bought a $30 second hand monitor, a cheap set of mouse and keyboard and set them up like a real pc. The benefit of doing this is you don’t have to depend on your primary pc to work on your Pi and makes it independent. The disadvantage of this, apart from the obvious bigger price tag is that it results in waste of the precious memory, which you should consider when only 512MB is available at your disposal. This option will cost you around $100, if you manage to get the components cheap like my friend did.


This might be the more important thing to consider for most. If you are a techie like me, then you might have already guessed the benefits. Let me just point out a few, that I felt, using it for about 4 months now.Firstly, being a nix fan boy, I tend to troubleshoot more than use something, anything. It might seem normal to some, but earlier, I had to format my desktop every other week due to some or the other troublesome application that I install. Now, since I have a secondary PC to experiment on, I don’t fear of destroying the data or anything, because a new clean OS install just a ‘dd’ away. It really helps you to worry about whats really important, lol.

I use my Pi as a web server most of the time. Earlier I had a Linux VPS with DigitalOcean, the $5/month one. I had my blog on it, and also I used to experiment on it. Problem was, since I had that sole server to experiment on, I would mess it up at times and my blog used to go down. Another problem was, the connection speed. I own a slow internet connection at home, so uploading large files to test was a pain. Now, thanks to my Pi, my web server is just a network hop away. It has really saved my time.

It is not that prototype thing that only a few other know, but Pi has evolved into a very successful computer on the arm platform. Many popular distros have a specialized R-Pi version, instruction set and its dedicated community.

Pi can be used as a compiler or interpreter for the project you are working on and can act as an excellent emulator.

The actual uses of a Pi are only bound by your imagination. You can check out youtube for some inspiration on what people use their Pis for. I have seen amazing quad-copters, small time security systems, robots, model planes and much more, powered by this small device. I didnt do anything interesting with it, but I sure will, till then, a web server works too.


So after telling you this, it might be a little more clear as to why you should get yourself a Pi. It is all about learning something new and building something with what you learnt. I will add some of my small time projects on this blog soon.