Tag Archives: android

Google Latitude Replacements

Google Latitude completes it’s migration into Google Plus this week and after the 9th of August historical location history stored in Latitude is going to be deleted. Make sure you get over to Google Takeout and save your data!

If you’re a heavy latitude user like myself with my close friends and family then this suck. Google+ locations is not up to scratch… You can’t see how long ago the location was refreshed. How are you supposed to tell if the location is still valid or not? You pretty much can’t. You don’t get a distance reading to nearby friends, and there’s no way to hide people who share their location with all their circles.

Update 31/08/2013: Google+ now reports the time that your friends location was updated! They listened, and now it is considerably more usable.

Current Alternatives

Anyway, this has prompted me to look for replacements. Glympse looks good, except the longest you can share your location to someone is 4 hours. No Latitude replacement. I found an open source project on Github called Rockwell which had some server code as well as code for an iPhone app. This got me thinking, why can’t I create my own for my friends and family?

Some other alternatives include Chronos which is a life logging app (it doesn’t let you share your location with friends) that allows you to import your data from Latitude. Another alternative is called Hemisphere which apparently replicates most of the functionality that we’ve come to love. I haven’t tried either of these yet, however.

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More thoughts on the Google Nexus 7

I’ve been using the Nexus for a few months now, and honestly I still do love it. It’s an awesome piece of kit available for less than £200, but it does have some issues.
My screen slightly lifts on the left hand side, but it’s not noticeable with the official case and doesn’t seem to affect the usage in anyway at all. I’ve got it covered on Gadget insurance, so if anything does happen it won’t be a problem to get it fixed. A bit annoying, but I can live with it!

My other main issue is that I experience some wicked slow down after general usage. I’ve read this doesn’t happen to everyone but it definitely did both to mine and to a friend of mine’s. After a few days, opening new apps would grind to crawl and the whole experience was just shit.
In a previous post I mentioned flashing AOKP, rooting the device was really simple. It’s worth doing if you’re comfortable with the process. The Nexus 7 is completely different with 3rd party roms. I haven’t experience the slowdown, and now I get the proper tablet android experience (including a horizontal homescreen!!)

Between Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Cloud MP3 Storage (a topic for another post in a few weeks…), and EZ PDF reader my nexus is well and truly ready to help me out at uni over the next 12 months.
The best thing about a £200 tablet? In a years time, there will be a new one. And I won’t feel bad buying it because it’s only £200….. If it gets lost or stolen.. well it’s not as bad as losing a £500 iPad…

Lack of wifi won’t stop me…

The halls I’m moving into in Bangor don’t have wifi internet access, which I guess is understandable because large scale wireless network deployments are hard to get right; especially when the target users will spend all day streaming media content over it..

Whatever, we’re allowed to plug in an unmanaged switch into our network port so not all is lost. Using a USB OTG adapter, and an Apple USB Ethernet adapter I can get my Nexus 7 online via a cable. It can sit next to my laptop and stream Netflix or whatever whilst I’m working away on laptop without getting in the way. I even bought some long Ethernet cables so I can casually use my tablet in bed…

The Samsung Galaxy S3 on the other hand doesn’t support USB Ethernet using the stock Touchwiz rom, so that’s another reason to root and flash CM10 when it gets a stable release. Apparently I’d even be able to charge at the same time if I bought an MHL adapter but I need to look into that more.

Nexus 7 OTG Adapters

I’ve used a USB OTG (On the go) adapter with a variety of things so far on my Nexus 7, including:

  • Wired Xbox 360 Controller (Although, I hear it should work with the wireless one with the correct USB dongle)
  • Playstation 2 Controller via a USB adapter designed for a computer
  • Playstation 3 Controller via USB (Haven’t tried using them wirelessly yet.. I think root is needed for that.)
  • 32gb USB memory stick (via Stickmount, root required)
  • Apple USB Ethernet Adapter
  • USB Keyboards and Mice

The variety of add-ons I can use with my tablet is pretty amazing. I remember using my iPad with a Wii Remote after I first jailbroke it. But wow, all these pretty much work in Android without any major steps/changes to the tablet with the exception of rooting for Stickmount.
All of the game controllers that I tested worked great with Snesoid, and Snes9x EX. I probably use those much, since the emulators on PC are that much better but the fact I can is neat.

The Ethernet adapter is really special. The halls that I’m likely to be moving into in September are stuck in the last decade and don’t have wifi access! I just plugged it in, turned off the wifi and everything continued to work. It was a bit strange because there is no indication at all anywhere in the UI that I had even plugged in an ethernet adapter let alone that it was functioning perfectly.

I was able to play various video files from my 32gb USB key through MX Player including a bluray that I had ripped myself. Various other video files also played great. I had less luck with VLC, and MX Player seems to be the player of the moment!

First week with the Google Nexus 7

I’ve had my 16gb Nexus 7 for nearly a week now, and here are some of my initial thoughts from this first week.

The device is amazing. I don’t miss the iPad at all, surprisingly. As I said in a previous post everything I mainly used on the iPad has a fairly decent Android alternative and this is definitely true. I even found a brilliant replacement for Goodreader! (EzPDF)

I rooted the Nexus the day I got it using the Nexus Root Toolkit, but I did have to manually download the Google USB Driver from the SDK before I could get it to work properly and then I had to fully remove that USB driver before the MTP drive would mount properly again. (I think I went into Device Manager and forced Windows to use the normal Nexus driver rather than the ADB driver)

Once I was rooted, I downloaded Stickmount and tried a 32gb USB key with an OTG adapter I bought for around £3. It played a bluray that I ripped myself perfectly using MX Player, something I thought (because of the sentiment on various forums) wouldn’t work! Alas, it worked perfectly!

Onto my thoughts of the device itself. I love the smaller 7” screen compared to the iPad. Yes, it is smaller but it’s actually higher in resolution than the iPad 2 that I migrated from! The device feels well made, and mine seems to have escaped the problems with loose screens which is nice! I haven’t had enough time to properly sit down and play a Tegra enhanced game on the tablet yet, but from what I’ve seen of other people playing them at work they look particularly awesome. Widescreen for videos is neat, too.

The USB OTG adapter works great with both a wired Xbox 360 controller and a Playstation 2 controller through a USB adapter! (Adapters all the way down…). These worked out of the box with Snesdroid and Snes9x EX. I haven’t gotten around to testing any others, or the controller support of Tegra enhanced games. Nor have I tried a keyboard or mouse which should work too!
So yeah, one week in I am really happy with the device! As I find more stuff out and explore more features I will post more entries etc.

Switching to Android

I’m quite interested in the new Nexus 7 tablet from Google for a few reasons which I’m going to outline in this post. Briefly they include cost, reliance on iTunes, and the fact the apps that I actually use regularly on the iPad are now on Android too.

I traded my iPhone 4 in last September for a Samsung Galaxy S2 and haven’t looked back yet, I really doubt I’d ever buy another iPhone. I continued to use my iPad, but this might change soon!
I’m quite interested in the new Nexus 7 tablet from Google for a few reasons which I’m going to outline in this post. Briefly they include cost, reliance on iTunes, and the fact the apps that I actually use regularly on the iPad are now on Android too.

Nexus 7

I’m pretty sure I can migrate away from Apple completely without too much fuss, here are my thoughts anyway… The 16gb Nexus 7 is £199. The base iPad is £399, but I bought my current iPad second hand for around £300, and I could probably sell it for that soon (Yay for family!). My current thinking is buy the Nexus after payday and see how I get with it before I head off to uni in a few months, and sell the one I don’t want. If I sold the iPad it’ll pay off the Nexus, and I’m sure I could find someone to sell the Nexus to if it turns out I really don’t get alone with it.

iTunes on Windows is a piece of shit. It runs slowly, fails to sync all the time, and seemingly goes out of its way to annoy you. I know you can use an iPad without iTunes now, but that makes it harder to sync podcasts and the like. iTunes Match is a prime example! If you enable the service, you can no longer locally sync your music via USB you must download everything you want directly on the iPad. Awesome… A major draw of an Android tablet is not needing iTunes at all!

Anyway, onto the apps that I actually need to justify a tablet. Here is a quick rundown of what I mainly use on my iPad from day to day.

I guess I’ll lose access to the magazines I’ve bought over the last few years, but honestly it’s not a major concern. If I had physical copies I generally read them once, put them in the cupboard for a few years, then take them all to the tip; losing access to Retro Gamer and Wired isn’t really the end of the world.
As for the rest of the apps I just mentioned, they all appear to have fairly decent Android versions available. I’ve bought so many games on the iPad that I just never play, so I’m not that bothered about losing those either. Oh no… pocket planes…. Winking smile There is occasional Humble Bundles for Android anyway, so I can just wait for one of those to start stocking up on more Android games!

The only thing I am mildly concerned about is the state of PDF readers on Android. I use Goodreader on the iPad and it is absolutely amazing. Annotations, copes with massive files, etc. I’ve never had an issue with it, and I hope there is something equally as good on Android!

Apple’s new Podcast app on iOS is terrible. In the week I’ve been using it, it’s hard locked three or four times, and several other times not been responsive to touch inputs for a few seconds after the app is launched. Looking forward to using DoggCatcher again, which in my experience is hands down the best podcast client I have ever used!

I realise the Nexus has limited memory (around 13gb free according to reports) but that is easily remedied by rooting the device, installing stickmount and acquiring a USB OTG adapter for a few quid. From what I’ve read so far, it won’t play movies directly from the USB memory, but you can juggle the files around and copy them to the internal memory which isn’t that bad really. I can’t even remember the last time I actually watched a film on my iPad.
All in all, I think I could jump ship without a lot of fuss. I’d save myself a load of money when I sell the iPad, and I’d be a lot less upset if anything happened to the Nexus because it would be less than £200 to replace if it gets lost/stolen/broken.

Android Applications that are Awesome

This post is mainly for my friend Jack’s benefit, since he has finally gotten up to speed with a new HTC One S. You might find it handy too, though. What follows is a run down of the applications that I use on my phone on a regular basis.

3G Watchdog

Keeps a track of how much data I use in a month, making sure I don’t go over the allowance. Handy. Sits quietly in the notification tray.

DeskSMS

Sit phone in cradle on desk. Send text messages from browser on laptop. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome.

Juice Defender

I don’t really care about push emails, or getting live facebook notifications (much..). Juice Defender lets you choose how your phone manages it’s data connection (which uses your battery). Mine is set to the extreme preset which disables 3G until whitelisted apps open such as twitter, the email client or facebook for example. You may need to buy the Plus or Ultimate versions, I think I did (a long time ago…)

DoggCatcher

Do you like podcasts? If yes, then this app is awesome and lets you manage podcast subscriptions from your phone and features the ability to only download when on power and wifi etc. Also, subscribe to our podcast!

Reddit is fun

Self explanatory. Although apparently bacon reader is the hot new app in town.

Remember the milk

I already use this webservice on my computer and iPad. Let’s me organise my assignments and actually have a hope of doing them on time. The homescreen widgets are really handy too


Hopefully this list is helpful for someone, if you have any app suggestions feel free to leave a comment! I’ll do a similar round up for iPad next.

Android O2 MMS Settings

My Galaxy S2 has been failing to receive picture messages (MMS) since I flashed it with CyanogenMod a few months back. Not a big deal, but it was kind of annoying. No amount of fiddling with the APN settings seemed to help, and I was at a loss.

Along came ‘Tweakker’ a free android app that promised to correct my settings. And it did. First time. I rebooted my phone, and the picture message I had received earlier in the morning downloaded immediately!

Worth a shot if you flash custom roms, or your settings just flat out do not work. It’s free from Android Marketplace.

Logitech Bluetooth Stereo Adapter Review

I recently purchased a Logitech Bluetooth Stereo adapter to compliment my Airport Express and allow me to stream audio (podcasts!) from my Samsung Galaxy S2 android phone. It’s a neat little piece of hardware that has only one button and a few audio connections on that back. That’s it.

logitech02

Setting up the device is simple with the provided 3.5mm to RCA jack connection. Either connect the auxiliary jack on the on the device or the red / white jacks to the appropriate connection on your speakers. In my case, I went auxiliary to red/white but from what I can tell it works whatever way you want to.

IMG_20120120_210145

Audio quality listening to podcasts was perfectly acceptable, and listen to high quality streamed tracks on Spotify sounded good too (Video Games by Lana Del Ray sounded fine, this is currently my goto test song as well as my current favourite song…)

I’ve tested the unit with a Samsung Galaxy S2 running Cyanogen Mod 7.1 which worked as expected. Before I installed CyanogenMod on my phone, it had problems pairing to a set of bluetooth speakers (the Bose Sounddocks) so I am not sure if this will have the same issue. If someone has tested this, I’d love to know if it works or not. Additionally I have tested with a first generation iPad (wifi model) and it worked streaming audio from the Music app as well as Youtube.

Overall for £30 this is a pretty cool gadget if you like listening to music or podcasts and own a device for which there isn’t a lot of docking systems available for. Totally worth it, as now my alarm clock from my phone is an awful lot louder and I get to keep my phone by my bed without running cables across the room…

Available from Amazon, Dixons and other retailers. Check out Google Shopping, or something.