Posted by Alan Buckingham at 7:33 AM on April 28, 2013
Google’s Nexus line of phones and tablets have been popular since debuting last year — well, the tablets and also the latest phone debuted in 2012. Price and the promise of a pure Android experience has lured customers and provides good competition for Amazon and its Kindle Fire lineup.
If you have been procrastinating on the purchase, then today is the day that you may wish to reconsider. Computer retail giant NewEgg, a staple of my shopping locations, has the Nexus 7 on sale for $149. This is the 16 GB model, which also comes with an NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor (1.20GHz), Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), full Touchscreen and NVIDIA ULP GeForce.
The tablet is a refurbished model, but NewEgg is also a trusted source and I have purchased refurb hardware from them in the past. Yes, this is not new, but it comes with a 90-day warranty and the price can not be beat.
Retail for a 16 GB Nexus 7 is $199. NewEgg is offering this for $189 with a $40 rebate. The deal is good through May 6th of this year, so if you want the tablet, but were debating spending the money, then this may be the time to act.
I remember driving around back in the early 1980’s dreaming of what it might be like if I could listen to what I wanted when I wanted to. Back in those days, in many areas of the country, there was nothing to listen to but farm reports and hog prices. AM and FM stations would quickly fade in and out. Driving cross-country it was necessary to constantly change stations as they faded in and out, often vainly searching for something worthwhile to listen to.
When podcasting came along in 2004, in many ways it was the answer to that dream. Suddenly there was new content to listen to, on demand, on a wide variety of topics. It had to be downloaded and put onto a player in advance.
The past few years I’ve been experimenting with mobile streaming. For a long time, it just wasn’t practical in rural areas. Pandora would generally work better than all the other streaming services, but attempting to stream regular radio stations or even podcasts was generally not going to work.
However, now things have changed once again. With the widespread deployment of LTE mobile networks, successful casual streaming all kinds of different audio is not only possible, but practical in most of the areas I’m driving in. This opens up yet another new world of possibility.
Podcasting itself is a good case in point for something that came together because enough bandwidth was available. MP3 files had been around for a long time. Computers had already had the capability of recording digital audio for quite a number of years. RSS had been around for a while. All of these things converged and became something new.
Today I’m spending a lot of time with the Stitcher app on my Google Nexus 7 here in my truck, suction-cupped to the truck’s windshield and connected to stereo speakers via Bluetooth. Stitcher makes a great streaming mobile radio service. Now that the mobile data network is good enough in most areas to make streaming practical in the real world, new possibilities have opened up.
All of these things have been around a while. Stitcher is not new. The streaming concept has been around for quite a number of years. Podcasting as well has been around for probably at least nine years. What is different is now I don’t have to fuss with downloading them ahead of time. I really like the way stitcher lets you search for a keyword or two and then sequentially plays the different podcasts that showed up in the search. I find myself on a voyage of discovery, bumping in to podcasts I’ve never heard of. Because everything is on demand, like watching Netflix or Amazon streaming video, if I find an audio podcast I don’t like I simply skip ahead to the next one.
I can’t predict exactly how this will eventually develop. However, I can say, now that the mobile data bandwidth is a reality, there’s something here, and it’s pretty interesting. It beats the heck out of listening to farm reports or hog prices. It also beats having to fumble around with an iPod and auxiliary audio cables.
As an over-the-road truck driver, I’ve been playing around with GPS various devices and mapping software for several years. Maps and GPS’s have radically improved over the years. Does the perfect GPS exist? Not yet. So what is the solution? The solution I’m currently using is multiple GPS’s running at once. “Isn’t that a bit extreme?” you ask. Not really. Let me explain my current setup. I have a special Garmin GPS that is aimed at commercial truck drivers as well as those driving around in large motorhomes and other recreational vehicles. It differs from a standard Garmin or other stand-alone GPS unit in at least a couple of important ways. First, the user inputs the overall dimensions of his or her vehicle. The Garmin attempts to calculate routes based on known truck routes. It attempts to calculate routes based on keeping to known truck routes, and avoiding roads and routes that trucks and large vehicles are prohibited from. Secondly the Garmin has a database of truck stops, truck washes, scales, rest areas, etc. These two elements are theoretically updated with each new periodic map update. The Garmin does a decent job, but it has its quirks. I also have a Google Nexus 7 which has the excellent built-in Google Maps and Google Navigation, which are actually two separate apps that are tied closely together. I have found the Google satellite view and Google Street View to be invaluable aids on a daily basis as I am constantly having to find and go to places such as warehouses I’ve never been before. I can usually get a great idea of the size of the place, how it is laid out, if there is truck parking either on the property or nearby, etc. I also have the TomTom for Android GPS app along with a subscription to TomTom’s excellent HD Traffic service. Since I have a full-time data connection via a WiFi hotspot, I often run the TomTom software in parallel with the Garmin since TomTom’s HD Traffic service is generally pretty accurate when it comes to major traffic tie-ups and slow-downs. But wait, there’s more. Let’s say I’ve got the same destination programmed in to both the Garmin and the TomTom software, but I want to know how far it is to a particular point of interest along the route, for example a particular truck stop. The TomTom software continues to run in the background as I go to the Nexus 7′s menu and start Google Maps and/or Google Navigation. Yes, it is easily possible to have TWO completely separate navigation programs running on the Nexus 7 at the same time, even in the background. Of course if one runs any GPS program it’s a good idea to have the Nexus 7 plugged in since it will drain the battery in just a few hours’ time especially if one keeps the screen turned on. Also, with both the TomTom app as well as the included Google Navigation app running simultaneously in the background, it is still possible to open the regular Google Maps app and search and browse the satellite views as normal. As an extra aside, I frequently also have an app such as Audible or DoubleTwist running in the background attached via Bluetooth to a Bluetooth stereo speaker setup. The Nexus 7 is easily able to handle all of these tasks in stride with no slowdowns or stutters. So I find that having multiple GPS apps available in front of me (stuck to my windshield on the Nexus 7 via an inexpensive windshield mount I found on Amazon) to be an invaluable extra navigational aid. I personally believe one of the Nexus 7′s biggest strengths to be the built-in GPS chip, a feature that the Amazon Kindle HD’s lack, as well as all iPads that lack a built-in data connection. A built-in GPS chip really adds tremendous amount of value to any tablet, regardless of what the intended use might be.
Posted by Alan Buckingham at 9:06 AM on April 1, 2013
Last week Google began rolling out its brand new Compose feature, a version that had been a part of Labs for testing over the past few months. Originally, it appeared that the roll out of that feature to all users was irrevocable, but now we have learned that is not actually the case….yet.
As it turns out, Google has built in a way to go back to the old compose feature and, no, this is not part of the company’s annual raft of April Fool’s jokes.
When you click the Compose button and receive the new pop-out box that it generates, simply move your mouse to the bottom right of the screen and click the down arrow that appears there. From here you will find an option to “Temporarily switch back to the old compose”. Its that simple. However, the resulting warning does let you know that this feature will be going away “soon”.
April 1st has been described as the absolute worst day to go on the internet. Pranks abound, and, if they are good enough, you just might find yourself believing them. Personally, I find the plethora of April Fool’s Day jokes to be very amusing. Here’s a quick review of a couple (just in case you missed them).
Twitter posted a blog called “Annncng: Twttr”. The blog says that, starting April 1, there will be a change.
Starting today, we are shifting to at two-tiered service: Everyone can use our basic service, Twttr, but you only get consonants. For five dollars a month, you can use our premium “Twitter” service which also includes vowels.
The blog points out that “Y” should always be free to everyone – today and forever and that it will be included in the free Twttr service. Read the full blog for the inspiration behind the idea.
The Guardian has launched new “augmented reality” specs that have been specially designed to offer immersive liberal insight. They are called Guardian Goggles.
The device will enable users to “see the world through the Guardian’s eyes at all time”. Users will get an overlay of a real-time stream of opinions from The Guardian that are connected to whatever the user is looking at – be it a restaurant or a cinema. The article goes on to say the Guardian Goggles will also feature an optional built-in “anti-bigotry technology” that will automatically block out certain columns “as soon as the user attempts to look at them.”
Google has been busy! It announced it’s new Google Blue which is ready, after 6 years of developing the technology for it. According to Richard Pargo, Project Manager for Goole Blue was:
How do we completely re-design and re-create something, by keeping it exactly the same?
There’s more! Google has added a special feature to it’s search engine. Under the regular box, it says: “What’s that smell? Find out with Google Nose”. It is currently in beta. Users can “take a whiff” of the Google Aromabase, which includes 15M+ scentibytes. For the first time, ever, you can share a smell with your friends! There is SafeSearch function for users who are “wary of their query”.
YouTube will be shutting down, forever, at midnight, April 1, 2013. Their video explains that they will stop taking submissions at that time and will begin reviewing each and every video in search of a winner.
Posted by Alan Buckingham at 8:12 AM on March 26, 2013
Google may be the company we love to hate lately, but there is no denying that it dominates many markets, like search, advertising and mobile. The company also has one of the most popular web-based email services on the internet. Today it finally rolled out an anticipated update to its Gmail app for Android and it brings the features we had been promised.
The new app rolled quietly out to the Play store this morning and users should receive the update to their Android devices automatically, if they have that feature enabled. Otherwise you will need to manually install it.
The bigger question is, what do you get in this latest version? If you are fortunate enough to have a device running Jelly Bean (4.1 and up) then there is great new feature — the ability to reply, archive or delete from notifications, meaning there is no need to open the actual Gmail app.
For those running Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or newer, you will get faster search (including offline) and bug fixes. Those stuck on 2.2 and newer devices will get a new Labels API for 3rd-party app developers and some performance improvements.
Obviously all updates from 2.2 up are available to those running Jelly Bean, but that is sadly still a minority of Android customers.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! If you are celebrating in the United States, this day involves viewing a parade and drinking copious amounts of alcohol. If that doesn’t interest you, then perhaps the Google Doodle for today will.
Google has created an adorable troop of Irish dancers for today’s Doodle, who appear to be preforming a traditional Irish dance, (complete with costume and poofy hair). Each dancer is wearing one letter from the word Google on his or her outfit. This is not the first time Google has celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with a Doodle, but it is the first one that has been animated.
The first St. Patrick’s Day Google Doodle was created in 2000, and was very minimalist. The letters appear in different shades of green, and a green hat with a black band and a shamrock was placed on top of it. Since then, the St. Patrick’s Day Doodles have gotten more complex. In 2013, the word Google appeared as though it had been part of The Book of Kells. This year’s animated, dancing, St. Patrick’s Day Doodle may be the only thing Google has done lately that will make people smile.
The internet is freaking out today after hearing the news that Google has decided to kill off the extremely popular Google Reader. The reaction is understandable. Many of us rely on Google Reader as an quick way to keep up to date with the news and to easily discover when the blogs we follow have updated with new content. There are a lot of people right now who are scrambling to find a replacement for Google Reader before it disappears, forever.
Google mentioned the impending demise of Google Reader in their blog today. I’m not certain that their explanation for the reasoning behind doing away with the popular feature will be accepted by everyone. They said:
We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months.
In any case, we are all going to have to find an alternative RSS aggregator soon. As for me, I have decided to use an app called FeedWizard (which I found in the iTunes app store). FeedWizard is made by a company called Wunderkopf. It does not connect with, or require, Google Reader in order to function.
The app costs $0.99 to download, which is a nice price. It requires OS X 10.7 or later. I took a few minutes to manually load a few of the RSS feed that I had subscribed to through Google Reader into FeedWizard to make sure it worked. Everything was running smoothly, so I did as Google suggested and used Google Takeout to export my RSS subscriptions into FeedWizard. Simple!
FeedWizard does not have the ability to sync across platforms, and I realize that may be “deal breaker” for some users. Personally, though, I work from home and don’t have a need to check out the RSS feeds I’ve subscribed to unless I am sitting in front of my home computer, so this is not a problem for me.
Generally speaking, I’m not much of a game player. I do play the occasional game of Solitaire, or Words With Friends, not so much to win but more as a challenging exercise to see what words will go where and what letters can be made into words that function within the WWF framework.
I recently came across a simple yet addictive Android-based graphics riding game called Lane Splitter. The game displays a three lane freeway full of cars and trucks that periodically change lanes. These vehicles always use their turn signals signalling their intent. You the motorcyclist are racing down the freeway with the object of avoiding either crashing into the walls or other vehicles. As the game progresses, your motorcycle speeds up, progressively going faster and faster in ever more dense traffic. You steer the motorcycle by tilting your phone or tablet a bit left right from the level position.
Best of all, Lane Splitter is free and the Google Play Store. There are occasional ads in between games, but the ads are non-intrusive and never interrupt the game play itself.
Today’s smartphones and tablets are all expensive devices, whether they come from Apple or Samsung, and no-one wants to drop theirs on the floor with butterfingers. Mobio have a neat approach that should keep tablets and phones in the hand. Andy and Scott find out more from Darek Spring at Mobio.
The Mobio Grip is two part set, with a magnetic ring that sticks to the tablet or smartphone, and a handle which then connects into the ring. Holding the handle keeps the tablet easily in hand without blocking any part of the screen and the magnetic handle can be taken off to put the tablet into a case or bag.
Other variants such as the Mobio Pivot and Mobio Go use the same magnetic connector in a stand configuration or for in-car use. The Mobio Grip is $34.95 and is available through Mobio’s store.