Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gunplay, Adrenaline, and Things to Come

Well, this week has certainly been interesting. I have somehow managed to pick up my third illness in two months - another sinus cold!  I hope this one will go away without the need for medical intervention, but it did cause me to miss my Thursday evening To-Shin Do class. Thankfully I was feeling well enough on Saturday to attend class that day.

Remember how I said in an earlier post that I was worried that "it just wouldn't be the same?" Well, I couldn't have been more right, and it seems like that's a good thing. As it turns out, the training I'm receiving now is more geared towards potential real-life self-defense situations than previously. This is natural since the instructor has worked in law enforcement and private security for decades. Now, please don't interpret this as a put-down to my former school. Those guys know what they're doing, too, and I'm grateful for the instruction I received there. In fact, it's a testament to their awesomeness that I'm doing as well as I am, starting at level 3 at this new place after 2 years off. It's just .. different, that's all.

Now, with all that said, Saturday felt like my brain was going to explode due to information overload. Or was it sinus pressure?  Well .. maybe both. The highlight of the class, for me anyway, was the workshop we did on gun defense. I was able to play the role of a gun-wielding defender and an un-armed defender. In both cases, the idea is simply to not get shot, and therefore staying out from in front of the barrel is the main goal - for both people. In either situation, once the un-armed party decides to try to take the gun, it no longer really matters how it started - both are fighting for their lives at that point. It was pretty eye-opening for me in a few ways. First of all, I learned that if you're forced to use a gun to defend yourself, it's not a good idea to let your assailant get close enough to think he has a chance to take your gun from you .. and if he's already that close, you're better off just leaving your gun in your pocket and going hand-to-hand. It was also encouraging to find that I seem to have the skills and intuition to have a pretty reasonable chance at surviving a close-range encounter with a gun-wielding assailant, or an assailant trying to disarm me.

This was an experience unlike any I've had before .. even though I knew the guns we were training with were safe, I still felt quite a surge in adrenaline each time I had to defend myself. I had tried to put myself into the mindset at the time that all that mattered was not letting that thing be pointed at me no matter what, and that I really was fighting for my life. While I realize that there is no substitute for the real thing, I hope that were I ever to face the real thing, I would at least know that I know what to do to survive, and my training would kick in.

The other neat thing that happened in class was that my instructor told me I'd be ready to move up a belt rank soon. This is an especially big deal to me because I've been at the same rank now for 2 years. Just as a comparison, it look me about 2 years to go from a beginning white belt to where I am now. When it happens, my new belt will be solid green, and it will mean a lot to me, just because of all the struggles, internal and external, that I will have overcome to earn it. In fact, I will probably consider it one of my greater achievements over all.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Speakerphone Echo on the Samsung Fascinate

Some of you may recall a year or so ago when I released a hacked-up version of the Glitch kernel for CyanogenMod 7 on the Samsung Fascinate. In this kernel was my first of many successful shots at fixing that phone / ROM combination's abysmal in-call audio quality.  Some of you may also remember that the kernel I released made the phone unbearably loud.

Since then, I've released a few more patches, and they've found their way into most, if not all kernels for MTD ROMs for the Galaxy S line of products. The major improvement over that initial release is that the "boost levels" are configurable now.  Thanks to The Immortal JT1134, there is now on most ROMs a nice application to modify these parameters, allowing you to adjust them pretty much on-the-fly.

My In-Call Volume Settings
note the values for Speakerphone
One draw back, though, is that in some distributions, the default settings aren't ideal - especially when the Fascinate's speakerphone is used. This results in an unpleasant echo heard by the person on the other end of your conversation whenever they talk. I've posted to the forums dozens of times about this issue, yet it keeps coming up as a new question no-one can find the answer to.  Therefore, this post.

The speakerphone echo is caused by a combination of too high of a boost in the speakerphone call audio plus too high of a microphone gain in speakerphone mode. Both of these can be adjusted in a few places, but my preferred method is to use the Home Screen -> hit the menu button -> "System Settings" -> "Device Options" -> "In-Call Volume Controls" path.

Once you've got that open, adjust your "Speakerphone Volume" setting down to 1. Some people prefer 0. 2 will almost certainly cause echo. 3 will give you echo with severe distortion and probably melt your eardrums while causing a significant space-time anomaly in your fridge which will immediately consume all your beer, sending it back to 1955. You've been warned.

Next, adjust your speakerphone mic gain down some. I've found that 14 is a good value. Some may prefer slightly more or less. I've found that anything above 19 usually results in an echo. You'll just have to play with this one. If you have it above, say, 25, then you will almost certainly get some echo along with over-modulation, and the kernel will freak out and send an email to your parents and grandparents with your entire collection of nasty sheep porn attached. You've been warned.

Finally, make sure you hit OK, or all these settings will not be applied. They *should* stick after a reboot. Mine do.