Which picture should I pick???

•January 23, 2012 • 1 Comment

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My favorite Website for all things Android (Android Central) is hosting a photo contest. Here is the winner and the runner-ups from last week’s assignment, “Sunset or Sunrise“. This week’s theme is Transportation (click for instructions). I need your help. Which of the 2 photos above would you send in for judging? I’ll take comments until Friday. Please encourage your friends to put in their 2¢. Thanks.

At the end of this contract, lets update our officials…

•January 20, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Most of us care more about which cell phone we’ll upgrade too than we do who we are going to vote for. Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate that priority. This business with The Senate’s SOPA bill and the House’s PIPA bill has shown many things about our elected officials. It helped provide a crystal clear illustration of the power of lobbyists in our government number one, and it also helped to show how out of touch and ignorant many of our elected officials are in terms of technology.

Most of them have some type of social network account and all of them have websites, yet few, if any of them really use them choosing instead to have a staff member update them on their behalf. The workings of the interwebs are completely foreign to them. The president’s use of tech has been rather unprecidented among presidents. His familiarity with the power of the internet has a lot to do with why he was elected in the first place. In this world, this connected society, if you ignore the internet as a mass communications tool then you are missing a large section of the populace. Our elected officials also need to realize that the internet is a community, it’s not something that can be censored.

Both the House and Senate have been trying, at the behest of the RIAA and MPAA, to pass legistlation to allow the U.S. Government to censor the internet on a whim though. The actions have been done under the auspices of ending piracy. It would be like dropping a nuclear bomb off the African coast to end the Somali Pirates. Talk about overkill.

On January 18th the citizens of the internet took a stand and had a bigger impact on our government than all of the occupy protesters combined. You see, on January 18th many popular websites harnessed their power by staging a protest. If you went to some sites, such as the English Wikipedia site, you saw something similar to this:

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Others took a less dramatic approach:

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But all of them had a link of some type helped to enable the populace to get their voices heard and participate in the political process. The response was brilliant. There were over 8 million calls and emails to congress as a result of these protests.

In the wake of this 29 Congressmen, bill sponsors included, in a bipartisan exodus, removed themselves from these bills. And now it is being reported that the bills may be pulled altogether (Lifehacker.com). It was a wonderful example of how our democracy can work. The people actually had a voice and an influence.

Now while most of our “leaders” may not be tech-savvy enouh to understand what they did/didn’t read in the bill they were supporting, it would appear that some actually do have some sense to them.

I may not agree with everything that he stands for, but when asked during tonights debate about his stance on SOPA, Newt Gingrich actually came across as possibly the only man on that stage that knew what he was talking about.

                    “You’re asking a conservative about the economic interests of Hollywood,” said former Speaker Newt Gingrich. “On the other hand, you have          virtually everybody who’s technologically advanced, including Google, YouTube, and Facebook, and all the folks who say ‘this is going to totally mess up the Internet, and the bill in its current form is written really badly, and leads to a range of censorship.”

“I favor freedom,” he said. “If a company finds that it has genuinely been infringed upon, it has the right to sue. But the idea that we’re going to preemptively have the government start censoring the Internet on behalf of giant corporations’ economic interests strikes me as exactly the wrong thing to do.” (ars technica)

With an answer like that I will forgive his mentioning Google and Youtube as though they were separate entities (for those that don’t know Google owns Youtube). The former Speaker of the House sounded like the only person on that stage that not only actually read the bill but understood the bill instead of simply using talking points. Nice job Mr. Speaker.

I’ll finish this off with the cartoon from the successful webcomic XKCD regarding SOPA:

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Google Currents is just a little too ahead of it’s time.

•January 16, 2012 • Leave a Comment

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Google currents is the new reading app from Google. It’s easy to see that it is being positioned to replace Google Reader and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Reader go the way of Picasa and be folded into another project. Currents is beautiful. The images are crisp and the pages are responsive on my Transformer, but the controls themselves are in desperate need of review.

The Good:

-It’s visually appealing
-It’s somewhat intuitive
-Updates are unobtrusive
-It’s fully integrated into Google (You can add in Google Reader subscriptions and your current subscriptions are saved and sync’d over each instance).

The Bad:

-It absorbs and holds data
-It’s only somewhat intuitive
-No way to sort by category
-No easy way to reorganize the subscription
-No notification to let you know that you have updated subscriptions

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This is the main page that you see when you open Google currents. You have your subscriptions on the right and photos from the subscriptions on the left. Swiping side to side easily takes you through your pages of subscriptions. It’s best to think of each as an individual magazine, that makes it easier to understand. Where you have everything categorized for easily viewing the most up to date enteries from each category in Google Reader, you have to come back to this screen to go from subscription to subscription. It really get’s kind of annoying. Updated subscriptions have their titles highlighted. Like I said, it’s very nice to look at.

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You can see the different methods of navigating within subscription above. You can either navigate by swiping until you see a story that you find interesting and then click on the story, press the little open book icon and it brings up the list of items in the subscription or if you really want to waste some time you can swipe until you come across the actual stories instead of the previews.

Reorganizing your subscriptions is painful. The best implementation I have ever seen was in the app Newsroom. Moving subscriptions was like rearranging apps in iOS. Heck, make it like rearranging folder programs in Ice Cream Sandwich and I wouldn’t complain. Now I have a list of subscriptions and there is a lot of forced scrolling to rearrange them. I also said that this is a data hog…and it is. It collects data and then doesn’t seem to let it go. When I looked a little bit ago it had over 500MB used. Just for storage. That is a little bit rediculous. I had the same complaint about the Facebook app and it has been tamed a little bit.

Overall this is a nice first effort. Allow me to switch from subscription to subscription without going all the way back to the home screen (a side scrolling pop-out with the subscription icons accessible from with in subscriptions would work just fine), make it easier to rearrange subscriptions and make it not hold so much data and you will have a great app. Like I said, the app looks beautiful and with a little more time to refine it I will gladly give up my Google Reader for this.

Google currents is available in the Android Market for Android 2.2+.

Oh and a big thanks and shout out to the guys at Android Central, the subscription that I displayed in most of my screenshots. Phil Nickinson, Jerry Hildenbrand and the gang are some of the most knowledgeable people around when it comes to all things android. The forums are a great resource for those who are hesitant to jump into XDA and the Greatest Android Podcast in the World has earned it’s name multiple times over. Thanks for the great work guys.

I love some vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich…

•January 15, 2012 • 1 Comment

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Ok, so before this gets too out of date I believe that it may be time to actually sit down and write my review of Android 4.0, a.k.a. Ice Cream Sandwich. The first device to have Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) installed was the Galaxy Nexus. I was lucky enough however to receive the update to the second officially updated device, the Google Nexus S. While this means that I won’t really be doing a hardware look, most of the delicious frozen treat did make it’s way on to my phone.

Google has said that their number one focus with Android 4.0 was the User Interface. It’s obvious from the myriad of visual improvements that they were far from playing around. Their new Director for the Android User Experience, Matais Duarte, has worked his magic on Android just like he did with WebOS. I don’t think that it is too far to say that he is to GUI’s what Sir Jonathan Ive is to hardware. Both are truly visionaries.

What’s Missing:
-Face Unlock (A novelty to be sure, but still.)
-Camera Zoom (come on now. It’s a software, digital zoom. How can you say that my phone’s not supported with a straight face.)
-0 Second shutter (it’s a lot quicker than it used to be though)
I’m sure that I’m missing something, but it must not be anything worth missing. Google didn’t leave much out in this release, and for the things that were, I’m sure that there was a great reason.

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The Lockscreen: Before ICS I used the app Widget Locker to access my playing music and camera from the lockscreen. Now there is no reason to even have that app installed. As you can see they have adopted Microsoft’s idea of a quick way to access the camera while the phone is locked. This picture also shows the new lockscreen music player with ICS. It works beautifully. When not in use the music player disappears and is replaced by user information and the time and battery status (while charging). Not a bad layout. One other nice improvement was the ability to access my notifications from the lockscreen. I can swipe them away or with the addition of More Quickly Panel I can toggle radios on and off without unlocking my phone.

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The Home Screen: The homescreen has probably taken the most getting used to of all of the changes. It used to be that I could add folders, widgets, icons and even change wallpaper simply by long pressing on the home screen. That isn’t the case anymore. Long pressing now simply brings up the wallpaper menu. You can see down at the bottom of the above screenshot that there are now four spots and the app drawer button. Those four spots were browser, messenger and screen location in previous iterations of Android, but, now they are user replaceable. I have replaced mine with folders of things that i access the most.

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Folders:The folders are completely different from before. They show the top 4 items inside of them when closed and when opened the title is now at the bottom. The inside shortcuts can be rearranged now and they are incredibly simple to create. Simply put one icon on top of another and BOOM! you have a folder. It’s really that simple.

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Widgets: Widgets have had some changes also. Like I said you no longer add them by long pressing the home screen. Now they live in the app drawer. The screenshot below shows the 2 tabs in the app drawer now. Aside from that though, the biggest change is that a number of widgets are now resizeable. You have to have the original size space available to place them, but then you can resize many of them. Some, like the calendar widget, can be resized from Fullscreen (4×4) to just 2×2. Oh and on top of that, the Home Launcher now supports scrolling widgets. So that calendar widget can show your schedule for multiple calendars over multiple days at the flick of a finger.

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The App Drawer: There isn’t much to say about the app drawer. The home button is gone from the bottom, the widgets have been moved in and it scrolls horizontally instead of vertically now. Oh, and on the botton there is a little bar that shows where you are in the drawer.

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The Notification Bar: Android has always handled notifications really well. Like I said before, Matais Duarte has put in A LOT of swiping. On the screenshot above you can see a notification being swiped away. It is great, I swipe away calendar notifications all the time. It’s just easier than actually unlocking the phone just to hit dismiss. You might also notice that the settings are accessible from the shortcut at the top. The only thing that I actually found I miss about the old notification bar is that pressing on it doesn’t show the date anymore. You actually have to pull the notification bar down.

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The Camera: The Camera…wow. Another place that has seen some awesome improvements. There is a panoramic mode now and it is fast. I said that it didn’t recieve the 0 sec shutter, but it’s pretty close. Another new addition was the ability to edit pictures. I mean really edit, not just crop pictures.

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The Music App: If you have used the Google Music app then you have seen the ICS music app with one exception. Yes, that’s an equalizer in the screenshot. It’s a feature that most people have been asking for and they have finally received it.

As much as I would love to say that that covers all the changes, I would be lying. These were just some of the biggest. There are more developer’s options available now. There is hardware acceleration. Even though the colors scheme reeks of honeycome, Everything has changed. Google said that they were focusing on a better User Interface for ICS and I would have to say, Mission Accomplished.

As for usability, I have to believe that my knowing Android already actually serves as more of a handicap than a help with this release. I can see differences better because I was a user before, but I also have to unlearn things that had become a normal part of use. A great example is adding something to the homescreen. I still long press and then have to back up and go in to the app drawer to get to the widgets. I also forget about the music controls on the lockscreen and the access to the camera from the lockscreen. I’m sure that I will get used to it, but I can’t help but think that it would be easier if I hadn’t had them before.

Over all though, I have been really satisfied with this release. The features are great, the improvements are wonderful and there are few places that it still lacks. Android has moved into the future and it’s great to see everyone else trying to play catch-up.

If you’re interested in picking up the update for you’re GSM Nexus S click on this link for the download and instructions.

Wait, that’s a touchscreen?

•January 15, 2012 • 2 Comments

I was sitting with a friend today reading Google Currents and I reached up and swiped the screen with my hand. He reacted just as I thought he would; with surprise. “Wait, the screen’s a touchscreen?” “Not just a touchscreen, but a tablet,” I answered as I seperated my transformer into two parts.

He’s not the first to show amazement at the transformer. There have been quite a few people that are ‘shocked and awed’ at the device. Actually with the amount of interest that people show when they see it “Transform” I can’t believe that Asus isn’t advertising more. Sure my geeky and nerdy friends are interested in this thing, but more importantly my non-geeky/nerdy friends are. I even had one tell me that he wished his wife had asked him for input when she bought a computer for him. He would have gone this way.

So Asus, the time has come. We need television commercials showing this thing off. This thing is a game changer and at a price that can actually take the lead from the iPad. Let’s do this, be the leader that I know you can be. You just announced a couple of new tablets at CES. It’s time. If you want a hit, show this thing off.

Just thought that I would share…

•January 9, 2012 • Leave a Comment

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I started with a little more than 50% on my dock’s battery 5hours ago. It’s just now down to 3% and that’s streaming music, sharing pictures via bluetooth and downloading Music in the backgroud for Google Music. Not bad, downright impressive.

Update: Oh and appearantly my brightness is up full.

I have seen the Future…

•January 9, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Today I received in the mail the keyboard dock for my Asus eeepad Transformer. Wow. Seriously, Wow. When combined with the dock this becomes what I believe will be the future of computers.

With 16+ hours of battery life; expandable through hard drive/ Thumb drive and SD/Micro SDHC cards; a port to view through an external source; and finally a trackpad and keyboard…Why do I need a traditional computer?

The only thing that this can’t do that my netbook can is burn CD’s. Honestly though, is that really a worry? If we look at Apple as the trendsetters that they tend to be, then it won’t be long before there are no CD/DVD drives in commercial use. Why do I need one when I can write to a thumbdrive?

The tablet computer that can become a full laptop at the click of a dock; combining a keyboard, mouse and touch is where the future is going. Already the Transformer and Transformer Prime have been best selling tablets. Lenovo is preparing to release a similar device and some of the best selling cases for the iPad have had bluetooth keyboards built-in.

Again, welcome to the future. It’s thinner, modular and more customizable than we’ve seen before. Let’s just skip over ultrabooks this year and go straight to this.

 
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