Thursday, November 29, 2012

Droid VNC Server on GSIII - again, not working

I have the same problem with text entry that is described in this thread on XDA.  It sort of works, but not really.  It's only half a solution, as I can't really control the phone properly.

It's such a pity these are all so difficult.  The idea is soooo awesome.

I re-rooted my phone, may try AndroidScreencast again, but I prefer wifi over tethered USB.

Note that I had to use RealVNC in order to (a) get a connection and (b) be able to re-size the Droid VNC Server window from HUGE/IMMENSE down to a reasonable size.  I couldn't figure out how to do either very well using TightVNC.

Both apps have problems with screen rotation.  I put my phone in landscape orientation on my little stand so I can plug it in.  VNC and Screencast both show it sideways.  :-(

AndroidScreencast on Samsung Galaxy S III (4.04 Jellybean)

[Update 2]:  As of 2015, just forget about AndroidScreencast and go with Teamviewer. It (mostly) just works.

Original post below.

I can't get it to work.

[Update]:  Just figured out the latest Android update broke my root access, so I can't chmod the device properly.  Will have to wait until a new upgrade rom is available, I guess.

You can try the instructions here, but they are (at best) incomplete.  Useful links below, you have to put all the pieces together yourself.


  1. The Android SDK landing page has changed.  What you want to get is the SDK installer executable file.  Click "Download for Other Platforms" to see the Windows .exe file, which is what you want.  Don't use the "Download Package" button you see first - clock "Download for Other Platforms", look for "SDK Tools Only", Windows EXE file.
  2. When you install, do yourself a favor and put the installation in an easy-to-find directory.  You will be needing to find it very soon.  Having a long path name is a pain.
  3. RUN the SDK Manager.  You will get a list of packages available to install.  Install "Android SDK Platform-tools".
  4. Make sure your devices has the USB debugging enabled.  Only works over USB, so plug phone in.
  5. Check that you can "see" your phone using "adb devices".  "adb" is in the installation directory - told you that you were going there soon.
  6. To get OUT of ADB (i.e. quit) try Control-D and/or "exit'" command.

My try failed at the chmod 777 for dalvik-cache, which I cannot execute although my phone is rooted.  Information suggests that AndroidScreencast doesn't work on Jellybean at all, because some APIs have been rewritten and the application has not kept pace.

So you can see the phone but not control it.  Not terribly useful for me.

Useful link 1
Useful link 2
Useful link 3

Good luck, hope you have more success than I did.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Photoshop Elements Organizer and Zoner Photo Studio tagging is brutally slow

I tried Zoner Free to try to get around Adobe, which was acting very slow.  Unfortunately, Zoner was worse - faster for viewing, but unusable for tagging.

The answer is:  It's the network, stupid.  I host all my photos on a central file server, which was just too slow for either Adobe or Zoner, Gigabit connections and RAID6 notwithstanding.  The only solution is to move everything to a local drive.

You can kind of forget about any kind of graceful migration from one photos location to another using Adobe Elements Organizer.  I have never seen a program that has such brain-dead defaults and crappy file handling in my life.  It's almost like they make it intentionally difficult for you to re-organize anything at all.

Example:  everyone says to "backup" and "restore" your Adobe catalog in order to move drives.  Awkward, as the backup / restore functions take HOURS.

Then, when you restore, you will probably check "Restore original file locations" (or whatever it is) to restore your previous directory structure.  But when you do this, Adobe will NOT restore the original structure.

Moving from \\myserver to USB drive P:\, if your photos were at:


they will end up at:


INSTEAD of at:


which, of course, is where you want them.  Why Adobe saw fit to prefix the path with the server file name and drive letter is beyond me.

Do anything wrong and you are forced into the dreaded "Reconnect missing files" which has the worst UI I have ever seen in my life.

Now, maybe most people out there do not care so much.  But I find it really irritating when an application takes control of my files from me.  The fact that Adobe tends to pollute my directories with thousands of .XMP files is bad enough - now it is telling me where I can store them??  Not cool.

Unfortunately, there seems to be NO WAY to get tag information out of Adobe and into Zoner.  So I may end up with Elements after all, or end up having to re-tag all 54,000 of my photos with Zoner.  Not fun either way.  Zoner is neat, but I don't know if it is THAT neat.

To make matters worse, Zoner does not support drag-and-drop tagging for multiple files at once.  This is how I have always tagged groups of photos in Adobe.  Instead, Zoner uses a right-click menu option that I find awkward.  This will make any re-tagging operation extra laborious.  Plus Zoner does not really support non-destructive editing, which is a surprising and concerning omission.

Picasa, on the other hand, barely supported tagging at all last time I checked.  The new 3.9 seems to have tagging, so I may need to revisit that.  Same problem as Zoner, but perhaps facial recognition will eliminate some of the tagging issues for me.  (Yeah, right.)  Picasa is all web-oriented, though, which I suspect is the wrong focus for me.

Make no mistake, the vendors want to lock you in to their photo organization system.  Be smart and pick the right one before you start.

Hiren's Boot CD HBCD menu missing when booting on Vaio Z3

I wanted to back up my Z3 using Hiren's Boot CD.  I have done this before, and it worked well.

(I recommend Image For Windows, available on Hiren's, but you should buy a licence.  IFW seems to be one of the only programs out there that can actually do a bare metal restore.)

Oddly enough, when I booted the Z from the USB stick, I did not see Image for Windows.  In fact, I did not see any programs at all.  Mini Windows XP ran fine, but all the programs were missing!

Scrounging around the File Manager turned up nada.  It looked like the USB stick was not there, even though the machine had booted from it just fine.

The conflict in my case was an SD card that I had added to the system.  It seems Mini XP got confused after boot and replaced the USB stick drive with the SD card.  XP was not capable of reading the SD card owing to the large capacity, and essentially got stuck, unable to locate or load any of the Hiren's apps.

Removing the SD card (as well as the uber-small Sandisk Cruzer Fit I had added for extra storage) fixed the issue.  On that boot, Mini XP correctly loaded the Hirens HBCD menu application as well as a bunch of other stuff related to Hiren's.

So - if you have problems with Hiren's Mini Windows XP not loading Hiren's apps, try removing all of your other USB storage devices first.

Note that I was able to plug in an external USB hard drive for the actual backup - an essential for my Z, as Hiren's 15.1 doesn't support the network adapters in this machine.  So you may be able to plug in other USB drives after booting.

[Update]:  Ran into the same issue on another machine - this time a desktop that does not have USB thumb drives or SD cards inserted.  I was not able to find a fix for that issue.

[Update 2]:  Has the same problem re-occur on my Z3 (SVZ13), even with other USB drives / SD cards removed.  Oddly, when I switched the Hiren's stick to the other USB port, it started to work.  I don't know if this is consistent behavior or not.  On my machine, the USB port closest to the front appeared to be the 'working' one.

Also, with Hiren's on the 'wrong' port, MiniXP could not recognize my Sandisk 64 Gb USB stick.  It saw it, but claimed it was only 8 Gb big, and unformatted.  With Hiren's booting 'right', it found it without issues.

Peerless Auto-Trac tire chain fitment and review

So two years ago, my car got stuck in a snowdrift.  In my defense (and that of my car), more than half the city got stuck that day.

Ironically, by 1:00 pm it had gotten so warm out that ALL the snow had melted.  If I'd known, I would have walked home and come back 3 hours later to drive the car away.

(It also made those people who took a "snow day" and stayed home from work look a bit silly.)

My car is equipped with the best snow tires money can buy, and had 100 lbs of sand in the rear, but they were no match for this snow.  It was heavy, wet, and deep.  The RWD just could not do it.

Now, I hate being stuck.  Possibly more than some people, it is a recurring nightmare for me.  I used to own an AWD sports sedan that would not get stuck, period.  In bad weather, I could literally wait for a couple of 4x4s to lay ruts in the medians and follow right along.  I loved that about that car, and the RWD of my current vehicle is the only thing I dislike about it.

After this episode, I ran across the Peerless Auto-Trac tire chains in a brochure.  They looked cool - practical and gadgety at the same time!  Unlike my old AWD, clearance was not an issue on the car, and for around $100 they seemed like an OK value.  Who could resist?

They are not sold locally, but I convinced some friends to drive them across the border for me.  Ordered on-line with (with free Super Saver shipping) to a shipping depot.  (Sport Chalet had them too, but I think they were out of stock or something.)

Of course, there would be no possibility of returns, so I triple-checked the fitment and model numbers.  Several weeks later, I finally had them.

And they did not fit.

My tire size is 245/45R18, and I bought model  0155305 chains.  According to Peerless, these chains fit my car, but they did not.

I added the zip tie for clarity, and to allow me to take the photos hands-free.  Obviously I could not drive like this.  Trust me when I say that I tried my damndest to get the chains on for almost an hour, and this was in a dry and relatively warm garage.

This story is not a bad review, however.  I sent the photos above to Peerless via their e-mail customer service address.  I got a reply the same day saying someone would follow up.

I had my doubts, but on the weekend (!) I got a call from a fellow who said he had just gotten back into the office and saw the email.  He said there was obviously an fitment issue and offered to send me a bigger set of chains at no charge.

I still expected I was screwed.  I explained that I was in Canada, and that UPS Ground would charge me rapacious brokerage fees on the shipment.  I was very surprised when he quite cheerfully and without hesitation changed the shipping to UPS 2-day Air so I would not get burned.

A few days later, I had another set of chains - model 0155505 - that did fit the car quite nicely.  (They also fit my wife's SUV, which is a nice bonus.)  The carrying case had some kind of plastic partition or liner it in that disintegrated in shipment, but the chains were brand new.

So I have to say that the service from Peerless has been quite exemplary.  There are not too many companies who would help so much.

As for the chains themselves, they are what they say they are.  They are obviously not heavy-duty, but will probably do you more than nicely in a pinch - say, when the CAA/AMA queue for a tow is 4+ hours long.

You will want to test-fit them ahead of time.  Not only to make sure they fit (!) but to get the hang of it.  It is really very simple once you see how to go about it.

The crafty - but plastic - tensioners really do very little work.  Their only function is to snug the chains to the sidewall of the tire, and they bear virtually no load.  In fact, the side chains are relatively lightweight - not that the tread chains are massive by any stretch, but the red chains shown above do not take much stress at all.

One might be forgiven for unconsciously expecting the chains to come in a left-side and right-side version.  They do not (a little thought will tell you why).  As such, when you mount the chains, the RED lead always starts off positioned for your RIGHT hand.  Once you try it you will understand what that means.

I imagine taking these off after use could be a pill, because you will have to unhook them at the back without being able to see the connection points.  It's easy if you mount and dismount them without driving, because the rear-side cable latch point is at the top where you put it.  After driving it will be in a random orientation, and it may take a bit of fiddling to get it unlatched.  No big deal, so long as they get you out of the snowbank in the first place.

They do come with a plastic installation guide that is supposedly intended to double as a mat to keep your knees dry.  You might want to put some disposable gloves in the carrying case, though - things are likely to be mucky and wet when you have to put these guys on.

The clearance requirements appear to be very small.  The rear side of the tire only mounts a smooth cable, and the chains on the treads are very low profile.  Unless you've slammed your ride, they will probably fit most any car, and almost certainly any SUV or truck.

Mounting them with lower rides can be a little bit harder just because it's harder to get your hands between the fender and tire.  They're unlikely to damage rims, but if that is your worry maybe you should not be driving your ride in the snow in the first place.

I have not had to use these in anger yet but they are compact and do not take up much space in any trunk.  For me, I will be happy in this investment if I use them or not.

Just double-check with Peerless for fitment before buying.  I imagine there could be other fitment errors in their catalog.

Update!:  I had occasion to use the chains today. 

The bad news is that the snow has been pretty bad and the plows can't keep up, so most residential roads have not been cleared.  So I got stuck on an unplowed road going up a hill.  I was not the only one.

The good news is that the Auto-Trac chains went on fairly quickly and got me unstuck, and up the hill, in fairly short order.  They also got me through the return journey, past the other folk who had gotten stuck going the other way.

Getting them off was about as difficult as putting them on - not easier, but not harder either.  The problem is finding the connection in the rear cable.  Of course, being at the rear of the tire, finding that spot can be a little awkward.  Be prepared to roll the car a foot or two, if necessary, to bring the connection to the top of the tire.

I did notice some bumping in the wheelwells with the chains on.  I looked once and one chain had gotten misaligned, and I was driving on the tensioner.  The 2nd and 3rd times I looked I didn't see anything wrong, but the thumping persisted.  I took the chains off as soon as I could because of this.

So they work pretty much as advertised.  On time was about 15 minutes, off time was about ten (maybe), and they did get me up a previously impassable road.  They're inconvenient, to be sure, but between a six-hour wait for a tow truck and a half-hour work, I'm pretty happy with the option.


-  When test fitting, take into account any ballast you intend to carry.  Fitting with an empty trunk will not be the same as when you have your five sandbags in there for winter.

-  If you can, reverse out of wherever you are stuck.  Find a relatively clear/flat spot to put the chains on so you're not swimming in snow.

-  Drive downhill if you have to - twenty feet away from your destination is not going to kill you at this point.

-  Unfold the instructions sheet and put it in your open trunk for reference.  It won't blow away there.

-  Be prepared to get cold and dirty.  (Rig drivers: cue laughter here.)

-   Read the instructions.  You put them on once a year, so every time is the first time.

-  After mounting, back up or go downhill first to get your tires on the chains.  Then start moving forward/upward.

-  Check shortly after mounting to ensure the chains are on correctly and you're driving on the links, not the cable or tensioners.

-  Be prepared to move the car a bit to bring the rear cable connection to a place where you can reach it, to unhook the cable.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

$100 reward for two Vantek DPS3305 USB power supplies

So I tried posting this on EEVblog, and promptly got kicked in the nards.  I had little hope that the thread would progress but some good folks did take up my cause (for the promised $100, of course).

Results of my search to date are here.

[Update]: eBay seller 99cent Hobbies has been able to source two units for me through TaoBao (Chinese only).  The supplied units have been verified to have the USB port and software CD, and reportedly have no overshoot issues (unlike the Quakko and Protek).

[Update 2]:  I have gotten the two units are they are as advertised!  One supply has an issue where it only will output up to 9.0V, but it is almost certainly just shipping/manufacturing issues and not the fault of 99cent Hobbies.

So far the supplies have exceeded my expectations for functionality.  Even the 9V issue on the one has not really gotten me down on them.  The software is better than I expected.

If you are interested in any, you may want to talk to 99cent Hobbies to see if he will agree to procure one for you.  He was good to me and tested the units before forwarding them on, which he did not really have to do.  His communication and helpfulness has been most excellent.

Keep in mind shipping is somewhat costly owing to the distance and the weight of the supplies.  Even with S&H, though, the supplies are still a massive bargain compared to the next best supplies available via conventional North American channel suppliers.

Also keep in mind the reliability of the Caltek units is not the best.  Don't blame the seller/distributor if you get a dud or defective unit.  It happens.  One of my units is imperfect, and the CD-ROM on one of them was also defective in a very odd way:

The units also come with UK power cords.  "Normal" power supply cords from PCs, available at any PC store, will fit.  (For the technically minded, it is an IEC 60320-C14 plug on the power supply, an IEC 60320-C13 cord will fit it.)

So all in all, it is good that I bought 2.  I got one working CD-ROM and 1-1/2 working supplies.  Not too bad, considering what they cost.

Original post below for reference/SEO:

I am looking for the Vantek DSP3305P USB programmable power supply, and I can't find any.  So far, two vendors have given me refunds because they cannot source them.

As I am tired of looking, I am offering $100 via Paypal to anyone who can supply me with a source for two DSP3305P power supply units.
  • NON-OVERSHOOT models only!  Overshoot models (Yori, Quakko, Protek) NOT allowed.
  • Must have the USB port and be supplied with cable and software.  No non-USB models!
  • Equivalent models that use the Vantek software are OK. 
  • My understanding is the 3A model never comes with USB, but if you can find one 3A is fine.
  • No gouging.  Total price should be around $200 or less.  I will look at higher prices but can't say I'll bite.  If I do, you'll get the bounty.
  • Source must be able to ship to Canada.
  • NO UPS GROUND shipping.  I do not care to pay UPS the $100 I will owe you!
  • Payment when I actually get the units in my grubby little hands.  As noted, two sales have already fallen through.
  • $50 bounty for one unit, $100 bounty for two units.

I have already tried:

None of them can get the right unit.  I know they say they can, but I tried purchasing from Precisegauge AND Kibuck, and have talked directly with Goodlucksell and MIB Instruments.  None of them are USB.

Please, no suggestions for alternative brands models.  As far as I can tell, the Vantek software is the only suite that meets my needs.

I will entertain offers from owners who want to sell theirs.  If you have one, make me an offer.

If you can buy them new and re-sell them to me for a fat profit, more power to you.  I will buy them anyway plus pay you the $50/$100 bounty.

Alternatively, $50 for a source for a conversion kit to convert non-USB models to USB.  And no, I do not mean a USB-to-232 converter - I mean a way to install a USB port into a Vantek that does not have the USB factory installed.

And no, I am not kidding.  $100 when I get the units here.  Email with info.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Finding a "Find My Phone" application for Android

Unfortunately, there are too many out there.  As usual.  (The market is so crowded, it's amazing anybody can find anything worthwhile.)

I only found about six:
  • Android Lost Free
  • Wheres My Droid
  • Plan B
  • SeekDroid
  • Lookout Mobile Security
  • Prey
  • Cerberus
I had to take quite a bit of time to compare them.  Some are free, but require monthly subscriptions in order to operate.  Some are PC-oriented.  Some - oddly - do not provide proper pricing information on their own web sites.  Some are just free period but don't support some of the nice-to-have features.

I could have possibly saved myself some considerable time by looking at this review from Android Police.  It has a handy - though not easy to read or modify - chart that shows a feature-by-feature showdown between many phone finder apps.  The "best" ones, arguably, are those on the left-hand side of the chart.

Anyway, I found the chart after I had already plowed work into doing the comparisons for myself.  But it did confirm what I found:  Android Lost Free is a clear winner for me.

Here's why:
  • App is free (you can donate)
  • More importantly, there are no subscriptions required
  • SMS and web UI support

Has nearly every feature you can imagine:
  • Force ring/alarm
  • Report GPS location, with a map
  • Send popup messages to phone
  • Send popup message to phone, then take a picture when user presses "OK" (sneaky)
  • Reports call logs
  • Remotely read latest SMS messages
  • Remote enable GPS and WiFi (when allowed by OS)
  • Remote lock
  • Remote erase
  • Notify on SIM change
  • SMS whitelist
  • SMS PIN code
  • Hides application from app drawer
  • Records from phone microphone
  • Take pictures using cameras
  • Browse and download files and content of phone remotely

You need a Gmail account to use it, but everyone with an Android should have (or, at least, can have) a Gmail account.  It looks like you can make it work without Gmail, though, if you must - IMHO it would be worth the trouble.

Things it does NOT have:

  • It does not have a passcode in the app because all the features are set up from  There is an SMS PIN code so random people cannot control your phone via SMS.
  • It does not support uninstall prevention.  INHO, this is a good thing, as people (users, devs) have gotten themselves into trouble trying this.  A few people have reported that they end up with a hidden, non-running application that they can't uninstall.  I prefer to use a lesser-known hidden application and trust that 99.9% of the people out there won't think about or know how to go about deleting a phone finder app.
  • Does not support multiple devices.  Try Prey.
  • Is supposed to allow you to forward calls remotely from your lost devices.  I could not find this option on the web site UI, so perhaps this feature doesn't exist.

The website is nice and clean, and easy to use.  Setup was also very easy, with the app taking care of registrations and all that crap for you.  (There are backup manual options on the site in case the process fails for any reason.)  The list of SIM commands is right there on the website, no need for a separate help site.

Note that the first time I tested the app, it took several minutes for everything to link up at Google's back-end and for things to start working.  Thus, the first commands I sent had a 5-7 minute delay, which was something of a concern.  After the initial sorting out, the commands took only ~1 second to get relayed to the phone, making the service quite responsive.

You can easily uninstall the app if you don't like it, and it's free.  Maybe give it a try.  I like it so far.  Hopefully I'll never need it!

It also occurs this would be great for my wife's phone.  Besides not calling her only to find out that she left her phone upstairs (again), this lets me find out where she is without bothering her when she's driving.  It was something I was going to do with Tasker, and maybe this will save me the trouble.

It would only work via SMS, though, unless I logged in to her Gmail account - it's not a "share my location" app by default.  So depending on how you want to use it, this may or may not do the trick for that particular function.

[Update]:  As of early 2015, Androidlost has worked well for me.  It is still limited as noted above, an initial inquiry can take several minutes, and it often reports back two or three times on one inquiry.  But it did locate lost devices as it was supposed to.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The unspoken pitfalls of DMM reviews

This is just some ramblings on equipment reviews.

Personally, I love EEVblog.  If you have not already done so, be sure to go over to and check out some of Dave's his ratings, rants and reviews.  Just listening to him is enough to make me say "hell, yeah!".  I wish I could do what he does.

One of Dave's many services to the electronics community are honest, no-BS reviews of digital multimeters and other equipment.  He's amazingly thorough and calls them like he seems them, including teardowns to reveal the inner nastiness of some of the units.  He's managed to blow several up by just using them.

It's an invaluable service, but not without pitfalls.  Not knocking Dave here at all - I can't think of anyone I'd rather have telling me which equipment is good and which is crap.  But the whole review methodology is limited by design.

Here's the deal.

Variation is the thing.  Reviewers - any reviewer - can only review one (or, in rare cases, two) example of any given piece of equipment.  This does not accurately show variations within the entire lineup of units.

It is certainly unreasonable to expect more - both reviewers and those that donate the equipment for review have limited resources.  Testing a statistically representative sample is pretty much out of the question.  What you get is a spot check - a bright light on one individual piece of apparatus.

Now, that is certainly better than nothing.  Dave himself finds an amazing number of things from looking at only a single unit, including cases where PCB boards have been hacked up and messy jumper wires soldered in to make things work.  Knowing this sort of information helps provide a view of the manufacturers QC and standards so you know if they're deserving of your hard-earned money or just a junk peddler.

But a primary goal of these reviews is to determine the accuracy of the unit being reviewed.  Let's face it - no one wants to spend $1,000 when $55 will do, but no one wants to spend so much as $1 on an inaccurate piece of crap you can't rely on.

This is one of the primary reasons people spend thousands of dollars on premium equipment - having confidence that what is says is true.  You can get a DMM with all the bells and whistles possible for around $200, but some people would rather pay $1,600 for a high-end meter.  It's not the features - it's the confidence.

But consider the possible scenarios.  (I'll use a fictional reviewer named Tom, but it could be anybody.)

If a high-end piece of equipment is reviewed, variation is low, accuracy is high.  It gets stellar reviews for accuracy, with deservedly more nit-picking given to usability and durability.  People buy it, and are happy.  So far, so good.

But what of lower-end equipment?  Variation is higher, but we can't readily check it.  So what do we get?

Scenario 1 is that Tom gets a really good example of the breed.  Worst-case, the manufacturer has cherry-picked a perfect example to skew the results.  This cheap little meter (say, $99) gets stellar reviews.

Based on this, people buy it.  It's a great value, and the odd one that is perhaps not perfect for accuracy is overlooked.  But if the unit-to-unit variation is high, it may not be the best selection for some people, or the units may not perform consistently.  So the review makes the units look better than they actually are.

Scenario 2 is that Dave manages to score a poor unit.  This unit is the one-in-a-million unit that has relatively crappy accuracy - representative of the worst-case situation.  Dave pounds it and declares it to be crap.  Result:  nobody buys it.

The problem here is that this one unit is not really representative of all the units.  It is worse.  But you can't tell that from a single-unit review.  From this, people end up overlooking what may be a great value because of the poor performance of a single unit.  The review makes the unit look worse than they actually are, even though the average unit in the series might be quite good.

Neither scenario is particularly desirable, but both are possible.  To correct this you would have to test a number of units from different batches or factories over time, which is not going to happen.

So what do we do?  Well, just remember that a single-unit review is not the be-all and end-all.  Take a critical look at your application to see how much accuracy you really need.  Then study the DMM specs, hard, to see what you are getting in the worst-case.

Consider how many you want and need.  Take a good look at your budget - is it better to buy five inexpensive meters and toss one that is not accurate enough, or buy one really good one?  Can they be calibrated, and for how much?  Do you have reference equipment and the time to test the meters out for accuracy?

I personally am a huge fan of inexpensive meters.  I would rather have ten cheap meters on my bench than one expensive one - I often use four or five at a time, and have different ones with specific features for different jobs.  You can get a "good" datalogging meter for around $60, or 10x-20x less than the high-end version.

But what I want is not necessarily what you want.  If you can only carry one meter, and it has to work, because the nearest repair shop is 9 hours away from site and is closed anyway, and it's -35*C out and you may drop it and it just HAS to work - well, that is different.

Note that the caveats listed here do not apply to every review, but will apply for many.  In software, for example, the features will not vary but the ability to install and run on different platforms might vary quite a bit.  (Android has a lot of issues with this.)  Durability may vary; build quality and parts can change anytime.  And there is always the possibility of getting a lemon.

Variation sucks.