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The New Chromecast

Will it beat out Apple TV In The Livingroom?

Facebook Home Features & Problems

As Facebook releases Home, here are the top 3 features and problems with the new launcher.

Is Two-Step Security Right For You?

Two-Step security is safer, but is it too complicated for most people?

Fun With Customization

It's always nice to add your own personal touch to your devices.

Is The Nexus 7 For You?

See my review of the Nexus 7 to find out what works and what doesn't.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Google acquires Bump

One of the reasons I've switched over to the Google ecosystem from Apple is that I think they are developing at a faster pace. This recent acquisition is a good example. I love Bump, it was the first sharing app that I downloaded and was impressed by. I rarely used it because both parties had to have the app installed to use it, and I got tired of telling people to download it so I could bump stuff to them. It was faster to text them the picture, contact card, etc.

But if this technology is built into the Android OS, that could change how we share information quickly and securely. To be fair to Apple, in iOS 7 they implemented Airdrop which is an awesome local sharing tool. I think the benefit to Bump is that it is cross platform. And that really is a huge benefit, to be device non-specific.

Google's recent acquisition of Waze is another example of an interesting technology purchase. I am going to be very excited to see how they implement these technologies into their mobile OS in the coming iterations.

Source: Google acquires sharing service Bump | Android Central

Monday, September 9, 2013

Google+ Embed-able Posts

Google+ just added a new feature that is kind of interesting: embed-able posts. The benefit of embedding a post is that it isn't static. People can see the post, but also comment on it, look at the original author, etc. And as the post changes, it will get updated. Ver interesting. To do this, all you have to do is find a public post, click on the drop down in the upper right corner and select "Embed Post." Let's try it out.



Thursday, July 25, 2013

Why Chromecast Is So Exciting

Yesterday Google announce the Chromecast device. A small HDMI dongle that plugs directly into your TV to stream content from the web. Here is why it is so brilliant.

Number one the Chromecast is a small device that plugs directly into the TV and hides behind the TV. You will never see it. There are some reports that if your TV is new enough, the power will be drawn directly from the HDMI port. But if not there is a small USB wire that can plug into the TV as well to get power. So you will never see a cord hanging down around the TV. I love the minimalism of it.

Next I think that the creation of playlists on YouTube (and other apps) is brilliant. One of the big problems I've had with Apple TV is that you watch something, and then you have to find the next thing and then watch that. In addition, performing a search using that tiny remote is PAINFUL. With Chromecast, you use your phone to do the search, and as you find stuff you can quickly add the video to a queue that will play automatically. All this while the content is still playing on the TV. So there is no disruption to your viewing experience. Seamless and brilliant.

Next I love that it is cross platform. Anyone with any device that is connected to your home network can pause, fast forward, and control the queue. So more than one person can add to the queue and there is no fighting over the remote. Well sort of, I predict this will create different types of fights.

And lastly, I love that this works with tons of apps and even your laptop browser. Although The Apple TV can mirror your desktop, the fault with it is that it is mirroring your desktop. The smart thing about Chromecast is that it is pulling the content from the web. So you can do other tasks while the content is playing and that isn't displayed on the TV. So smart.

Can you tell I love it!


Friday, April 26, 2013

What I Want From The 2013 WWDC


Apple has announced (and sold out) it's World Wide Developer Conference for 2013. This is the event where they discuss upcoming improvements to Mac OS X and iOS. In addition they often debut new products or updates to products.

Here is what products I want them to announce: 
  • A New Mac Pro - I mean come on, it has been years since they have revamped their pro line of products. This needs to happen, and Tim Cook has hinted that it will. This thing needs to be redesigned, it need to be smaller, lighter, and much faster. 
  • iPhone 6 - That's right, not iPhone 5S or a cheaper iPhone mini. They need to jump to the iPhone 6. Android phones are flying out at customers at an amazing pace. Apple need to step up it's game or they will be left behind. 
  • AppleTV - I can go either way on this. I could go for an actual LCD TV that has AppleTV built in, with Siri control. Or I'd be happy with a new version of the set top box, but with install-able apps from the app store.
Here is what I hope they don't announce:
  • iWatch - There has been so much speculation around this and it is really unnecessary. I don't think this will solve a huge need that is out there. Maybe I'm wrong, but it just seems unnecessary
  • Same Mac Pro - If the Mac Pro is exactly the same, but with performance bumps I will scream
  • A cheap iPhone - There already are cheap iPhones - they are the previous models. You can get them for free with a phone contract. Done. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Top 3 Facebook Home Features & Problems

Let me start off by saying that I like the Facebook Home concept. I think it's a very innovative way to integrate social media into your every day behavior. I also think the design is clean and simple which is always good. I have not used Facebook Home yet, so the following is based off of Facebook's media event and numerous hands on videos that have been published.

Top 3 Features

Chat Heads

I think everyone can agree that name is terrible! The functionality is brilliant though. The problem they were trying to solve is an actual problem that I can relate to. Let's say you're typing an email. You get a notification that you have received a new text message. Currently you have to make a small decision: do you switch over to your messaging app and reply - and then have to switch back to your email, or do you ignore the message with a potential of forgetting to respond. With Chat Heads that problem is eliminated. You no longer have to switch apps. The message stays on screen all the time no matter what app you are in, and you can answer and get back to what you are doing quickly and easily. It is a great idea, and I think the best feature of Facebook Home.

Cover Feed

Cover Feed is a beautiful way to display your news feed. It's simple and elegant, and it takes advantage of the growing number of high definition screens. Swiping to the next post is logical, and double tapping to like is a great idea. As people use this, I think it will promote more engagement as it makes it easier to do so.

User Interface

Although this isn't a specific feature per se, it is something that should be called out. Facebook has made a smooth and fluid user experience. From the videos I've seen, the animation is like butter and it is super simple to get tasks done with the flick of your thumb. Also it looks like functions are laid out logically, you can tell a lot of thought went into usability. Photos are center stage and they pan subtly as you view them. You can press and hold a photo to zoom out. All these little gestures are well thought out and look to be built solidly. Of course the proof will be in the pudding, no one has put it through some real world usage yet.

Top 3 Problems

Advertising

This is the thing I have heard across the board as the biggest fear. If this is going to be the center of my phone, I am allowing a company to more easily push advertising in my face. Facebook has said that advertising won't be in the initial release, but their stock has gone up as investors have seen the potential of how advertising can be used with this. Because lets be clear, this is not an app, this is a launcher which means that you can't get out of it easily.

No Quick Phone Access

Maybe I am missing something, but it seems that every video I've seen there is a clear lack of a phone functionality. When you unlock your phone, you press and hold on your photo at the bottom and you get three options: Messenger, app drawer, and last app used. So then you have to go to your app drawer and select the phone app. What??!! I'm sorry, I thought this was a phone and not a magical Facebook portal. Why would they not put a phone functionality in that initial photo launcher? Fail! 

It's Only Facebook

This is obvious, but I think it's one of the core problems. This is a great user interface, but it's a way to infuse only Facebook into your everyday life. I would love this to be a little more open. Imagine if this could integrate Twitter, Google+, etc. into the Cover Feed. Imagine if Chat Heads worked with any messaging system, not just text and Facebook Messenger. This could be a great launcher, but I fear that as people get fed up with Facebook (or something newer and better comes along) it might become obsolete. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Apple Implements Two-Step Password Security

Apple recently implemented two-step security for it's Apple ID system. If you haven't heard of two-step security, it's usually where a site asks you to log in and then sends you a code, or you have to enter a code from an app, in addition to your login credentials. This has been going on for years in many corporate VPN systems where companies ask their employees to carry around dongles that generate random numbers every 30 seconds or so. Due to online account hacking, many sites are implementing this technique as well.

I use two-step authentication with my Google accounts. Google released their own app Google Authenticator which generates numbers that you have to enter before logging into your Gmail or any other Google linked account. It was annoying at first, but Google then allowed "trusted" devices which meant that you didn't have to enter it every time. This sort of defeats the purpose if your device gets stolen or compromised, but it helps cut down the annoying factor.

Apple is a little late to the party, but I'm sure they were forced to do this because of their growing popularity. The nice thing with Apple's implementation is that you can set up multiple devices and they will push a four digit code to those devices. With Google Authenticator, I can only have the app on my phone so I have to make sure my phone is with me all the time (which it usually is).

So is two-step security right for everyone? I say no. Although I prefer to use two-step security, it can be complicated for some people. There are so may people I talk to that use the same password for everything and not a password manager app like LastPass. Adding extra steps seems too complicated for them, and I understand that. I am positive there will be a better way of adding an additional layer of security in the near future. Maybe it is a thumbprint reader app, or something that is less complicated. Sending codes or launching apps and entering numbers within a certain time limit is is not only frustrating at times, but it can even add a little stress. When I see that time limit winding down and I'm struggling to enter the code I get a tiny bit stressed every time. It shouldn't be stressful. It should be easing your mind that your accounts are more safe.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Google Keep Announced

Today Google announced Google Keep. It's a note taking app that allows you to quickly jot down ideas, pictures, lists, etc and store them in one place. It sort of incorporates a lot of the existing technology they have from Google Drive and even Google Tasks. The thing that I like about it is they incorporated a lock screen widget, which makes it super fast to jot down a note even if your device is locked. That I can see being very helpful.



Source: Official Blog: Google Keep—Save what’s on your mind:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Customizing My Homescreen

I wanted to create a custom home screen for my Nexus 7. I've been browsing through the tutorials on My Color Screen Its a great resource for well designed home screens. One of them caught my eye and I decided to try it out. I made a few minor changes but left it alone for the most part. I think it's pretty gorgeous. 

Here is the tutorial I followed:

Nexus 7 Review


The Nexus 7 is a fantastic device. It's not perfect by any means, but it's a great tablet. I bought the 32GB wifi only version. 16GB seemed too small, and since I can tether the device to my phone for data I doubt that I will need the cellular feature. 
One of the reasons I got the device was that I wanted to play with +Android 4.2 and see how it works in tablet form. It works great, although there are very few apps that I found that were designed for a tablet. Unlike Apple's app universe that has tons of apps specifically designed for the tablet format, may of the apps are just phone apps that resize for the larger screen. But Android does the resizing much better. If an iPhone app is resized for the iPad, it is just stretched which looks horrible. With Android, the apps just fill the screen. Many times this equates to wasted space but at least they aren't pixelated.
The device itself feels so good in your hand. It is fantastic to hold it in one hand and operate it with another. The screen is brilliant and very crisp. It puts the iPad mini screen to shame. And the rubberized back makes me feel comfortable setting the tablet down on any surface without a case.
My main complaint with the device is the responsiveness. Every once in a while the device seems to come to a crawl. I'll try to launch an app or switch apps and it will hang for several seconds. I don't know if its the low amount of RAM (it has 1GB, which I thought was enough), but I doubt it's the quad core processor. It's not too annoying but it's a little surprising considering the specs.
My other complain is minor but annoying. The location of the power button is frustrating. Many times I just want to turn on my device briefly to check the time, or the battery level, or the notification bar. Having had iDevices for a long time it is fantastic to have the home button that you can press quickly to get the screen to turn on. Nexus tablets don't have that, which is fine, but the power button is frustrating to push to get the screen to light up. The sides are tapered which is fantastic when you want to pick up the device, but annoying as hell when you're trying to push the power button while it is lying on a table. Hey, I warned you that was a minor complaint, but it frequently bothers me. 
What I like:
  • The size
  • The rubberized back
  • The screen
  • The Android 4.2
What I don't like:
  • The lag (from time to time)
  • The location of the power button
  • The battery life (it's good, but not great)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Damn You Nokia!


When Nokia introduced the new Lumia 920 this morning I was going to run out and get it. I have admired the 900, but wasn't ready to pull the trigger to move out of the Apple eco system.  But with the above video, I was convinced this was going to be the most awesome phone out there. The optical image stabilization looked like a videographers dream. Turns out is was all fake :(

First, an eagle eyed viewer noticed a follow van with a huge film camera in a reflection in the video. Then Nokia also posted a blog post stating that the video was to demonstrate the stabilization technology, not the actual device. What!? I know what optical image stabilization is, and how awesome it can be. But show me what your device can do, not what thousands of dollars of professional film equipment can do.

I'm still hoping that the Lumia 920 can pull off some great shots, but I am seriously frustrated with their choices in marketing.

Source: Nokia Faked Its PureView Demo and Then Claimed They Never Said It Was Real:

Here is the moment in time where the van can be seen in a reflection behind the girl.
 
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