Saturday 31 December 2022

Bad Moto: The Motorola Moto G22

A few months ago my beloved Motorola Moto G10 started having microphone issues, so I looked around at what budget Motorola phones were on the market and the G22 looked a good spec phone for its price.

I am not a heavy user, mainly calls, social media, listening to music and shooting youtube videos. I’m not a gamer. The octa-core processor, 4GB RAM and 64GB internal storage seemed decent enough, but perhaps I should have read some more reviews before purchasing one – well two actually as my wife got one too.

I have never had any performance issues with Motorola phones. I switched to Android about 7 years ago and have had several Moto G handsets in that time. They have all been solid work horses with excellent battery life.

However, it was a very different picture with the Moto G22. From the moment it was out of the box and setting it up, it just felt different. The screen was unresponsive, going through the menu and set up was delayed and I seemed to be in an update loop for a while.

Once set up, the problems got worse. Opening one app was fine, however trying to do two or more things on it at once just brought the whole phone to a crawl. I was willing to let this slide, perhaps it was just busy doing a lot in the background – so I thought I would give it a day or so.

Even after a few days, nothing improved – in fact the problems got worse.

Firstly, there is no fast charging on this phone. Something I thought was a little odd in 2022. But the bigger problems were the glitches in the operating of the phone itself. Apps would freeze or quit and on numerous occasions the phone dialer would open to a white screen so you couldn’t make a call and randomly throughout the day the keyboard wouldn’t pop up while writing a message or trying to do a Google search. Even a reboot didn’t always resolve it.

With all these issues I decided to contact where I bought it from, but was told because it was used I couldn’t return it. So I decided I would have to grin and bear it and thought maybe a software update would resolve the main issues at some point.

A month in to using it and the problems had not gone away. Not being able to make a call or reply to a message when needed has caused no end of problems over the past few weeks.

My wife was experiencing the same issues, so I knew it wasn’t a problem with just my handset.

So I decided to contact the retailer I bought it from again and this time I got a bit further. I was told to speak to Motorola – which I did via live chat – and within minutes I was told to return both handsets, so that was progress.

At least I won’t have to suffer these issues any longer, but a phone with these performance issues and horrendous bugs should not be allowed on the market.

Looking around at tech review sites and personal reviews, most have had similar problems with a lot of the issues being put down to the severely under-powered Helio chip, just not being able to cope with even the most basic of tasks.

I have never had an issue with any Motorola handset I have had in the past, all exceeded my expectations and outperformed some high end phones.

I just can’t believe a phone with this many issues which performs so badly could ever get released. Did nobody at Motorola notice it in production or testing?

Has it put me off going down the Motorola Moto route in the future? I have to say it has.

Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at

Tuesday 8 November 2022

From a 2006 Macbook to a 2012 Macbook Pro, what a difference!

So, I got a mid-2012 MacBook Pro as a birthday present, yes I know what you're thinking, I'm a Linux man, why have a Mac? Well, right now, making music on Linux is tricky, the JACK control system is a pain to setup, still. I've always made music on a Mac, from my old PowerPC Macs - Powermac G4s, iBook G4 and Powerbook G4s - then eventually to my old white 2006 MacBook (which I got in 2016) and now this Macbook Pro. I still occasionally use a Powermac G4 MDD for older PowerPC-only music software. I have a whole bunch of tools and plugins I have collected over the years. This is the first time I have had a reasonably quick Mac that can run a recent version of Mac OS (and can be made to run the latest, Ventura), and up to date apps too. 

The mid 2012 is still the best choice on a budget, since it, if I remember rightly, was the last to have upgrade-able RAM, up to 16GB na done of the most repairable before everything became soldered and glued together. Mine currently has 4GB but it's still usable for what I want to use it for, Garageband and plugins. And that's pretty much all I plan to use it for, and for any other occasion where I can't find a way to run something on Linux. This MBP is in good condition, other than the rubber feet need sticking on a bit more firmly, they keep falling off! There's no obvious scratches or dents. It came with a replacement 60W PSU which works fine. 

The Macbook Pro came with Mojave installed on a 500GB hard drive, but I decided to upgrade it to an SSD and dual boot two Mac OS versions, Mojave and Catalina, so I can run older 32bit apps that Catalina cannot run. 

I took the SSD out of my old 2006 Macbook, which was already in two partitions (I had it dual booted for awhile but then stuck with just Lion and a data partition), and put it in the MBP. Then I attached the original HDD via USB and booted off it to install the two Mac OS versions on the SSD, including transferring settings and data off it.

The guts of the machine are accessed from underneath, by undoing a bunch of screws and taking the base off, I followed the guide on iFixit. I did also try putting the RAM from my old Thinkpad X201 in it, but it didn't seem to be compatible. One day I will get two decent 8GB sticks to max it out.  

The only thing I am not keen on, hardware wise, is the glossy screen (apparently they can be replaced with a matte one but I am not bothered enough to do that). The keyboard is decent enough and it's the first Mac I have had with one that  is backlit, as is my Thinkpad T430s too. I now miss having that whenever I use a laptop without it, such as my old Acer Chromebook 14.

The MBP feels slightly heavier than my Thinkpad T430s, due to the metal body, which takes a bit of getting used to when sat on my lap. It has almost the same CPU (2.5 GHz i5 instead of 2.6 GHz) and the same Intel 4000 graphics as my T430s.  Naturally the Thinkpad has more ports, it's a bit annoying having only 2 USB ports on this MBP. I usually have USB MIDI keyboard, M-Audio M-Track Solo external soundcard/input box and a mouse plugged in. I prefer the precision of a decent mouse over a trackpad. I've actually been lazily using an old Apple keyboard as USB hub! I should find or buy a proper hub sometime, though I'm sure I have one somewhere...        

I am not that keen on the Apple App Store, it feels kind of bloated and there's a load of paid for apps, including a "Pro" version of FileZilla that I didn't even know existed. Apparently it has a paid cloud service and other cloud plugins. The free version is not on the store but can be downloaded from their website. I've also removed a lot of apps off the Dock I don't plan to use like Apple Maps, Music etc, all I plan to use it for is music production.  

Although Garageband is right there in the App Store, it wouldn't let me download and install because Catalina is not new enough for the latest version. The newest version requires Monterey. I found version 10.3.1 elsewhere to download, to use on both Catalina and Mojave. A dual boot is a little inconvenient when you can't easily share stuff between them, particularly with file encryption enabled on Catalina. And I am still not really keen on Finder, it's a poor file manager compared to the powerful Dolphin on KDE that I am used too. Also, out the box, I miss certain open source tools, like wget on the command-line. To do ad that, you need to install MacPorts, which requires Xcode, which I can't install from the App Store because, yet again, Catalina is apparently not new enough! The newest version it can run is 12.4, old versions can be downloaded manually from the Apple developer site, it is a 10.86GB download.

It's nice to finally have a fairly up to date version of Mac OS that has the dark theme that older versions didn't have. I am not so keen on how Disk Utility seems to have been dumbed down compared to the version in Lion that I was used to.  Also, I chose to have two Mac OS versions so I could still run old 32 bit apps, but sadly Native Instruments B4 just does not show up as an instrument in Garageband, though it will run as a standalone app. it seems Native Instruments moved on and want you to buy their Komplete software and plugins. The organ emulator built into Garageband just doesn't match the B4. I can't seem to find any advanced settings for it. On the plus side, the newer Garageband has better drums, and generally better built-in instruments, I particularly like the Mellotron sounds they've added. 

I couldn't use this Macbook Pro for everything, but it's fine just for music production. Mac OS is just too restrictive for me, it feels like a straitjacket compared with the freedom of  Linux, particularly KDE Plasma desktop. If I don't like the default theme on KDE, then I'll change it, change the icons, change the titlebar theme, or even swap out KDE for something else if I want to. Whereas on Mac OS there's two themes (light and dark), a single set of icons and that horrible file manager, Finder. And as mentioned before, I really like Dolphin file manager on KDE and I don't like basic file managers like Nautilus and Nemo on Linux which are too similar in dumbness to Finder. Having said that, this 2012 Macbook Pro should hopefully perform its one job of making music for a good few years, particularly if I max out the RAM to 16GB and, at some point, use Open Core Legacy Patcher to make it run Monterey and/or Ventura. What I replace with it after that I don't know, but I'll use this until it dies, so watch this space!  

You can find my music on my Audius page.


Tuesday 1 November 2022

Windows Phone In 2022... Could I Use One?

I am having issues with my Android phone, audio in calls keeps cutting out, so I wanted a cheap phone to test if it was a network issue or a phone issue and I thought it would be a great opportunity to revisit Windows Phone, which I enjoyed a few years back, but the lack of app support became a bit of an issue.

However I have toyed with the idea of ditching the smartphone, so maybe going with one with a little less app support might be a happy medium. Windows Phone handsets have always been pretty decent and I thought the Metro UI was a unique take on a smartphone OS. 

So I ordered an HTC 8x which I had a few years back (a dual core with 1GB RAM, 16GB storage, 4.3” screen with Windows 8.1, released in 2012) It was a fantastic looking phone. However before it has even arrived I was looking in to what I wouldn't be able to use it for – I felt like I was already setting myself up for a fall.

My Motorola Moto G10 does everything. It really is - like for most people - a mini computer, key to everyday life.

So let's start with how my daily phone usage goes. First up is calls, obviously as it's a phone and a Windows Phone will do that as well as text messaging. 

In terms of social media most apps that did support Windows Phone now don't, with a few exceptions or third party tools, but don't expect a full experience. WhatsApp is definitely a no no and one that I use daily, Facebook and Messenger can be done as well as Telegram, via third party app and I think Instagram and Twitter can have web shortcuts.

Then it comes down to the app you wouldn’t think of straight away but you would miss not having. Not having my banking apps means I can't check my balances or manage my accounts.

There are some apps or services that can be accessed by a web interface, so you could use store cards, bonus cards and food delivery services that way, but it is a pain unless you can pin shortcuts to your home screen.

Although I am not sure how a Windows Phone browser can cope with modern browsing and services.

Gaming is not an issue for me. I don't game on my phone so the lack of mainstream games on Windows Phone isn’t an issue.

Taking pictures and shooting videos will be fine, just like any platform it all depends on the handsets as to the quality of the cameras, but even back in 2012, mobile phone cameras were pretty decent. It’s when you want to do something with those pictures – such as upload them to social media – or those videos – such as upload them to YouTube – that you will have issues, or just not find it as easy as a supported OS.

The lack of built in Google support – which I think was Google's deliberate way of stifling the growth of Windows Phone can be an issue. No native YouTube or Google Maps really was a hindrance for me back then – and having been invested in Android and the Google ecosystem the last few years, it wasn’t going to be easy.

I take a picture currently on my Android phone and it automatically uploads to Google Photos which I can access anywhere. I take a video and I can upload direct to YouTube.

You should be able to sync your Google account which should retrieve your Gmail and your Google contacts but that will be something I have to try.

As far as I can tell - as my phone hasn't arrived yet - the App Store is still up and running, but it's tricky finding items that will install and run on Windows Phone – especially one running Windows Phone 8 instead of Windows 10 Mobile.

I could have listed third party apps for some of the services I mentioned above, but I need to check them out before I recommend them.

There will be a part two to this article, where I have set up the phone and used it for a while. Depending how I get on with not having access to everything like I would on Android will depend how long I use it. Or I could surprise myself and it could be the break I need from having everything at my fingertips.

Watch this space.

Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at

Saturday 3 September 2022

Upgrading the mSATA Drive In My Dell Latitude E7250

I have had my Dell Latitude E7250 for just under a year. It is a great little fifth gen i5 laptop with 8GB RAM and a 13” screen and more than copes with everything I throw at it.

I’m not a gamer, but it handles the video editing using Kdenlive, image editing using GIMP and writing work using LibreOffice very well and anything else I choose to run.

It’s only caveat is the 128GB internal storage it came with, normally this wouldn’t be a problem – just open it up and replace it with something a bit larger – however, this laptop doesn’t take a standard SATA drive – it uses the smaller mSATA.

This brought about a number of problems. Firstly, mSATA drives are a bit pricier than standard SATA SSDs and a bit harder to get hold of. I did toy with the idea of replacing the whole laptop with something a bit quicker that took standard drives, but I really didn’t need to, so splashed out and replaced the 128GB mSATA drive that was in it with a 256GB mSATA drive.

The second problem is that I have a number of external enclosures, but I don’t have one for an mSATA. How was I going to transfer my existing info from one drive to another?

I had decided I wanted to do a fresh install. I use Linux Mint and had done a number of system upgrades and thought it was about time to do a fresh install of Linux Mint 21 Cinnamon, to help clear out anything unwanted. But it still left what to do with all my files.

I could have just hooked up a large flash drive or connected one of the many spare laptop hard drives in a case – but I didn’t really think of that until later. Instead I opted to buy an mSATA USB enclosure.

So I made sure my Linux Mint 21 USB installer was ready, I removed the battery, took the inspection panel off the bottom of my Latitude, removed the old mSATA, popped the new one in and put the panel back on.

Then it was simply a case of booting from the USB installer and installing Linux Mint 21 on the fresh drive. I love installing Linux. It is so straight forward. Run the installer, tell it where you want it, include any updates and within 15 minutes you are staring at a fresh ready-to-go install. I then ran the Mint Updater to pull in any straggler updates which was about 700MB, which I decided to do over Ethernet as it's more reliable and quicker and then it was all done.

I put the old mSATA drive in the tiny little mSATA USB enclosure and copied across all the files I wanted to keep. That was very fast. It was copying at over 200mbs.

Everything is working fine and I just have the annoying task of getting everything how I like it and installing the few apps I need – but this is done easily via the Synaptic Package Manager.

My old 128GB drive was getting a bit tight, with only about 20GB free. After clearing up, a fresh install and only moving the stuff I wanted on to my new 256GB drive I have about 170GB free – more than enough for me.

What I will do with the old 128GB SSD I do not know? Do I keep it in the tiny enclosure and use it as a back up drive? I use a 64GB Sandisk Cruzer Micro USB flash drive for that, it’s so small it's almost flush with the USB port – just to keep a few things off the main drive in case of a disaster – with everything else held in a Dropbox folder for ultra safety.

Or do I sell it on and recoup some of the money I spent on the larger drive?

I am glad I kept the laptop and just changed the drive. I love everything about the relatively small and thin Dell Latitude E7250, which still has an amazing battery life and is super comfortable to use.

That is me sorted for a while, with a decent laptop and now decent storage size.

Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at

Monday 8 August 2022

How To Bring Back The "Leave" Option in the KDE Desktop Right Click Menu

 About a month or so ago, a KDE update removed the "Leave" option in the right click menu on the desktop for what I see as no sensible reason. It does not exactly take up much space! I have years of muscle memory of using it and it took me a little time Googling with the right search terms to find a solution, so I thought I would make a little post so more people know how to get it back. 

Right click the desktop... 

Choose "Configure Desktop and Wallpaper Settings"....

Select Mouse Options and click the configure button, 

...then click the Leave checkbox and you're done! I suppose it's simple when you know how, but still, it's just baffling as to why it was removed, anyway thanks to Steve Bolduc's Reddit post for the video of the solution, but some people, including myself, find it easier to follow written instructions with images.

Thursday 28 July 2022

Old But Gold: Lenovo Thinkpad T430s

I was getting tired of using the battered old Dell Latitude E6500 as my main laptop, and my Thinkpad X201 needs the fan replacing, so that's out of action, so I needed another laptop to use. Thankfully I managed to pick up a very tidy Lenovo Thinkpad T430s for a good price. It's in excellent condition for its age. It has a nice bright screen with no marks on it, an apparently not very old battery, and a replacement power supply, though I do have a Lenovo one that fits from my oldest dead Thinkpad. It has a very durable magnesium alloy and carbon-reinforced plastic construction. The screen bezels might be considered chunky but it helps with the durability. The T430 has a quad core i5-3320M CPU, 8GB RAM, and Intel HD 4000 graphics, 2 USB3 ports, one USB2 port, SD card reader, Mini Displayport, Gigabit Ethernet, a DVD-RW drive and came with a 500GB hard drive with Windows 10 installed, but that was the first thing to be ditched. 

Getting the Thinkpad up and running with Linux was as simple as swapping out the 500GB hard drive for the SSD from my old Thinkpad X201. It's just a case of removing the X201's little caddy and rubber mounts and putting the rubber mounts of the T430s on. The DVD drive can be replaced with an Ultrabay battery or second SSD/hard drive.

Once installed, the outer panel screwed back on, KDE Neon booted up and was ready to use. I then installed all the updates it had missed while being offline. 

The T430 has a nice bright screen and a great keyboard to type on with its island keys. It's also the first laptop I have had with a back-lit keyboard (Fn key + Space to turn it on and off). The textured touchpad takes a little getting used to, though I do tend to prefer a mouse on older laptops. It supports multi-touch gestures like pinch to zoom, in Linux you press Control while pinching. The keyboard layout is a little different to my older Thinkpads, and my Dell Latitude, with a smaller rectangular Return key, which also takes a bit of getting used to. Of course being a Thinkpad has the Track Point, or Nipple Mouse as I like to call it, but I always disable it, I have never got the hang of using them.

Thinkpads are well known for being Linux-friendly (though I am not sure about the latest ones), so it's no surprise that everything works out the box - shortcut keys, graphics etc. The keyboard layout was not set right on the first boot, likely because I had swapped the drive from another machine, but it's easy to change that in KDE settings, to generic US layout. Even the grainy built-in 720P 1.3MP webcam works out the box, I installed kamoso to test it out, which is in the 'buntu repos. Bluetooth also works perfectly out of the box with KDE.

I got just a little over 2 hours battery life with heavy usage - Facebook, lots of YouTube video playing - with the screen at 50% brightness. That's not bad for an old battery, though when new it would have lasted around 5 hours. The only slight oddity is sometimes when the battery is really low, and you plug the charger in, KDE sometimes reports that it is not charging, when it actually is, eventually after a moment or two it shows as charging. The optical bay can be replaced with an Ultrabay battery that apparently adds around 3 hours of usage.

If you find that under heavy usage the temperature go up to 75°C, it may help to place the T430 on a flat hard surface, rather than directly on top of your lap, I find it goes back to around 40 to 50°C depending on usage. It may also be worth cleaning out the fan too. It's got a bit warm a few times with YouTube, not helped by the hot weather at the moment. I already had Thinkfan installed to control fan speeds, and the config is very similar to the X201, there's a how to here to set it up. 

Another slightly annoying thing I have discovered is that there's an admin BIOS password on this T430s, which is always a hazard when buying secondhand laptops, you can get in without entering a password but you won't be able to change certain settings. Without the admin password you cannot change anything in the "Security" section of the BIOS apart from you can add a hard disk password. and you cannot change anything in the "Startup" section apart from Boot Mode (Quick or Diagnostics). If you need to choose a boot device though you can press F12 when starting up and choose what you want. The one thing I want to change at some point is enabling hardware virtualisation (Intel VT). There are a few workarounds as detailed here, but you should be very careful to follow them correctly for fear of bricking the laptop. Right now I really cannot be bothered to go through all that hassle until I absolutely have to.   

Apart from the odd minor niggle, I am pretty happy with this old Thinkpad. It's amazing how compact and fairly lightweight the T430s is (compared to a beast like my Latitude E6500), but still has a decent number of ports and room for a DVD bay too. And I prefer the size of the 14 inch screen on this to the 12.1 inch of the X201, that's a bit too small for my liking. 14 inch is the sweet spot for me. I love how snappy this laptop feels with KDE Neon, compared with my old Latitude E6500 and even my Chromebook. It's very quick to boot and I like how when it dims the screen after I have left it for a bit, it also turns the keyboard back-light off until I start using it again. The trackpad beneath the spill-resistant keyboard could be a bit better, but it's often that way on older laptops, I've been spoilt by the excellent trackpad on my Acer Chromebook 14. The T430s keyboard is superb to type on though. The T430s is a pretty sturdy laptop, and pretty quick considering it was released back in June 2012, 10 years ago at the time of writing, and I hope it will last me a few more years without going wrong, but only time will tell. 

Wednesday 27 July 2022

Goodbye Endeavour Linux, Hello Manjaro!

Goodbye Endeavour!

After a surprisingly long stint of usage with Endeavour Linux on my Dell Latitude E6500, one night the streaming app, the one I specifically installed Endeavour for, Mkchromecast, stopped working for no obvious reason. It's an old app that hasn't been updated since 2017 so I suppose it's easily broken if something else changes. Also I was getting tired of the distro for a few other things, and felt it getting a little sluggish.  Anyway, I went looking for other Arch-based distros, since mkchromecast only seems to work on them, it doesn't work properly on my favourite Linux flavour, KDE Neon, which is Ubuntu based. I was looking at easy to install and use variants of Arch, since I just wanted to quickly get the next distro installed and use it as quickly as possible. 

Hello Manjaro!

I have tried Manjaro before but it was a long time ago, a long time before KDE 5 came out, so it was an opportunity to see if it has improved since then. Naturally I chose the KDE variant, which is currently on version 5.24.6, though it also comes in Gnome and XFCE official flavours. There are also community flavours including Budgie and Cinnamon desktops. I used Balena Etcher to pop the KDE edition onto a USB stick for installation. The Manjaro installer is pretty neat apart from one thing, it does not have an easy way to make a dual partition setup, with a separate /home partition. I tried to create it manually but when I clicked next it came up with some warning about creating an 8MB blank boot partition for GPT, in the end I gave up and stuck with a single partition. 

Apart from that slight annoyance, the install went smoothly, and I was greeted by a Manjaro-ised KDE desktop with it's green accents and icons, which I am really not keen on. Of course the great thing about KDE is it's so customisable. I switched the theme to Breeze Dark and installed Papirus icons from the handy Pamac graphical package manager that comes with Manjaro. 

It's also nice that my favourite terminal app, Yakuake (a Quake style terminal emulator) was already installed, (all i had to do was add it to Autostart) as was VLC. I then installed all my favourite tools, including GIMP, K3B, Clementine music player, qbittorrent, Soundkonverter, Filezilla and Latte Dock. Manjaro has some neat touches like in the terminal it shows how long a task took to complete on the bottom right-hand side. 

Installing Chrome on Arch-based distros is still a bit of a faff, there are a couple of different ways, both requiring copy and pasting a bunch of commands, I used this howto here. Installing Dropbox also required a little tinkering too, similar to Endeavour, and I used this installation tutorialNext up I installed Mkchromecast (with yay -S mkchromecast) and then eventually realised it will not work without also installing python-pychromecast and now it works a treat, much to my relief.

There is one elephant in the room though, Manjaro's track record for security is not great, and they keep back packages in the distro for two weeks, which can cause issues with the very up to date packages in AUR. So far I haven't had any serious issues, and everything seems to be running fine so far, but we'll see! I am open to suggestions of other distros that Mkchromecast will run on. My Dell Latitude E6500 is basically a dedicated player/server casting to a bunch of Chromecasts, main laptop duties have gone to my newly acquired Lenovo Thinkpad T430s.


Wednesday 13 July 2022

Linuxiversary… Two Years With Linux Mint

Today marks two years of me using Linux full time, this time last year I was still getting used to the switch from a life time of using a Mac (over 20 years to be more precise), but a further twelve months on and I am feeling much more at home.

I have settled in to the operating system – Linux Mint 20.3 Cinnamon at present – and while I used a lot of open source and cross platform apps prior to moving to Linux I have really embraced them and any additional ‘non Apple’ alternatives I needed. I even find myself loading up the Terminal and typing in commands without that dreaded fear of messing something up.

Don’t get me wrong I am no Linux genius, but my friend, fellow Linux user and owner of this blog will attest that I have asked far less questions in the last year.

I have upgraded my laptop once again since my last article going from my Lenovo ThinkPad X201 to a Dell Latitude E7250, the jump in specs is superb and a noticeable difference in performance, but you would expect that going from a second gen i5 to a fifth gen i5.

Never have I felt so comfortable using an operating system as I do in Linux Mint. I have dabbled with it over the years either dual booting alongside Mac OS or virtually using VirtualBox, so I wasn’t a complete novice when I ditched the entire Apple world and set off using Linux full time.

Linux has come a long way over the years and it isn’t as scary or different – it is very user friendly and so far I haven’t had any hardware that won’t work on it – which was always a problem in the past. Even most software – except major developers like Adobe – are pushing the Linux platform.

So happy Linuxiversary to me – and here's to many more years of enjoyable computing.

Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at

Saturday 18 June 2022

Portable Dreams... YouTube Channel For Older Portable & Handheld Gaming

I have had a YouTube channel for over a decade and it has gone through various topics and changes, but the last 18 months I have revamped it and honed in on my passion for portable and handheld gaming. The biggest change is a recent rename to ‘Portable Dreams’ to give it a bit of branding.

I am a big fan and a collector of Nintendo DS consoles, with the majority of my videos focusing on these wonderful Nintendo portables – which is my main passion – but I do also talk about the Sony PSP, Sony PS Vita and even the NeoGeo Pocket range.

I have always been a fan of handheld games machines. Growing up I immersed myself in my GameBoy – it was just mine and I could shut the world out. That is what I like about portable consoles, there is no sharing. It might sound selfish but it was a way of escaping.

I carried this through into the Nintendo DS era and just loved them. I love older consoles, I’m not really into the latest systems. I wouldn’t class myself as a retro fan either – although I do play a lot of GameBoy and GameBoy Color games - just a fan of older consoles. The Nintendo DS hasn’t reached retro stage just yet.

So my channel covers console reviews, fixes to common issues, mods, tips, emulation, general talk, game reviews and homebrew.

So if you share an interest, are just curious or want to support a growing channel, then check out Portable Dreams.

Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at

Monday 9 May 2022

HARDWARE REVIEW: M-Audio M-Track Solo USB Audio Interface

I had a few issues with my old Digidesign Mbox2 FireWire input boxes (I have two) and decided that I needed an upgrade to a modern USB device, and having looked at all the options, an M-Audio M-Track Solo seemed decent bang-per-buck at around £40. There's also the slightly larger Duo for about £10 more. 


  • 48 kHz audio resolution 
  • Mac, PC or iOS compatible
  • Single Combo Crystal Preamp with phantom power
  • Switchable Line / Instrument input for guitar or microphone. 
  • 2-channel recording - use both line inputs simultaneously  
  • Powered by USB
  • Zero-latency monitoring of the input signal through both the main RCA outputs and 1/8” headphone outputs
  • USB/Direct switch adjusts the balance between the direct inputs and playback from computer software.

Inside the box there's just the box itself, a USB cable and the instruction manual. It's bus powered so there's no need for a power supply, which makes things simple and portable. Although it says on the box it comes with various software, there's no disc in the box, you have to go to the website and download it yourself by registering the device. Sadly I cannot use any of the included apps as I only have Mac OS Lion on my old white Macbook and these require a much more recent version. It's plug 'n' play, so should be no need to install a driver on most modern operating systems.    

When I first tried the M-Track, I had it working in Amplitube (a virtual guitar amp) but then spent ages trying to work out why I wasn't getting input audio in Garageband, despite setting it as the input device in Audio Settings in Mac OS. After much faffing about, I discovered that the issue was that each time Garageband makes a new track, it chooses the first input on the box, which is the mic input, when I almost always want the guitar/line input. Now I just have to remember to select the second input in the advanced section when creating a new track. 

I also tried the M-track on Linux, specifically KDE Neon, and although Plasma desktop automatically switches the audio output to the box, it does not seem to pick the right input, so even when you choose the box as the input source, there's no way to choose between the mic and guitar/line inputs in KDE's Audio settings. I have not tried it in Windows because I don't use it for anything but a few games. It will also work with an Android phone, but I have not tried that yet, as I need to get a USB C OTG cable for my Pixel 4a. Be aware though that, since it's USB powered, it will probably chew up a fair bit of battery power. 

So far then, the M-Track Solo has performed well, there's no lag, unlike the old cheapo USB device I had before and input audio is decent quality, nice and clear, so I am quite pleased with it, it's a good device for the price and compact enough to carry in my bag if I need to.  

Wednesday 4 May 2022

REVIEW: Stainless Steel Metal Watch Strap Wristband Bracelet For Xiaomi Mi Band 4

Having been through several of the original rubbery Mi Band straps, and a few of the third party straps, the last of which broke in several places, I decided to get a metal watch strap for my gen 4 Mi Band.

There are plenty on eBay end i chose one reasonably priced, at £9.76. It was from a UK seller though i suspect they just order from China anyway, but I digress... I chose a blue metal strap, but there are several colours to choose from, including just plain metal.

Upon arrival, opening the package, which was packed reasonably, it came with a little tool to remove the pins so you can take links out to fit smaller wrists. The tool instantly broke, being made from cheap plastic. Never mind, I went the less hassle but more costly route of going to a shop in town that does it for you, that cost £10 but that includes a bit of after care, you can go back to get it sorted again if needed within about 3 weeks. I had 3 links taken out to fit my wrist. 

The other slight issue is that the watch would not stay in place in the strap, until I used my pliers to gently bend the edge in so it gripped the watch a bit better, but it is still easy to remove to charge the device when needed. 

It's been a few weeks since I had the links taken out and have got used to it being on my wrist, as always it takes a bit of time to get used to, until I get to the stage of my wrist feeling a bit naked without it on. 

At first I was not sure if I would recommend this strap but as long as you are prepared to live with a slightly bent edge on one side and the slight fiddly setup, it's decent enough, and it was cheap to buy, even after spending a bit of money getting it fitted, though if you have the right tool you could probably do that yourself anyway. 

Monday 2 May 2022

Hello Endeavour Linux! Goodbye Endeavour Linux?

I finally got round to trying Endeavour Linux on one of my laptops, a Dell Latitude E6500. I have read good things about Endeavour, it often tops "best Arch based distro" lists and has some neat features. Things started out well with the installer working very well, choose a desktop to install and it gets on with it very quickly and efficiently. Upon first boot you are greeted with the Welcome Launcher with its useful tasks and suggestions....

However, when I then wanted to setup KDE Connect, that's when the problems began, followed by hours upon hours of Googling! In Debian and Ubuntu based distros, I've never had an issue with KDE Connect, it just works, picking up local devices and connecting fine, but not on Endeavour. I tried changing firewall settings, and tried disabling the firewall completely through various methods. 

So far I have learnt a lot about how to use the 'yay' and 'pacman' commands to install and remove software and have installed a lot of my favourite apps such as Filezilla, Strawberry music player, net-tools, yakuake etc. Using yay to install apps from AUR is useful for installing stuff that can't be had through pacman but I can't seem to get Webmin to install and run properly. Update - to get Webmin working I have had to install from the tar.gz file using the instructions here.  I've always found it easy to get webmin onto a Debian based machine. I cannot work out why else KDE Connect won't find any other devices. I am afraid that for me, is it curtains for Endeavour Linux? 

Update: I have found out that Endeavour Linux uses Firewalld for its firewall, and I have found the solution here, thanks to user "FaulesArschloch" on Reddit. 

Run these commands to allow KDE Connect through the Firewall:

    sudo firewall-cmd --zone=public --permanent --add-port=1714-1764/tcp
    sudo firewall-cmd --zone=public --permanent --add-port=1714-1764/udp
    sudo systemctl restart firewalld.service

Or alternatively just disabled the Firewall with 

    sudo systemctl stop firewalld.service

And you can also remove it completely with

    yay -R firewalld 

That also fixed the issue with mkchromecast not finding my Chromecasts too, but Gnomecast still doesn't find any Chromecasts, that's if it launches at all. Also BTW, as a sidenote, the equivalent to build-essential on Arch is base-devel, useful if you need to build apps from source. 

Apart from pacman and installing from aur using yay, you can also install flatpak for even more apps, install flatpak with yay -S flatpak. I found flatpak was useful for installing the ProjectM visualisation app (it's similar to Milkdrop) as for some reason the version from other sources doesn't seem to work, but the flatpak version worked straight away. If you need a flatpak installed app to access part of the filesystem outside of its sandbox, you can use Flatseal, instructions for that are here.

Another app I use a lot is Dropbox, there's no package on their site but you can make your own using these instructions and you'll need to import the gpg key from here.

Also, another slight niggle is every other boot, the login screen is at the wrong resolution, leaving black bars either side. Nothing major, just slightly irritating. 

Although I have fixed a fair few issues with Endeavour, I am still not that entirely happy with the distro yet, particularly as if I reinstall I will have to go through all these tweaks to get things perfect again. I am still having issues with Gnomecast, though at least Mkchromecast works decently well. I will persevere for now but if I cannot get everything to work, I will either pick another distro to try or go back to KDE Neon on this laptop.