I Like Android, But I Have A Gripe…

I’ve been a long time Android user – approximately four years now since moving off of a feature phone, and using an iPod touch for my media consumption and apps. I’ve been mostly happy with Android, especially the latest revisions (Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, and Kit Kat). So maybe this is less to do with Android itself, and more how Android devices are handled by carriers (and manufacturers)…
android-robot-logo-give-me-my-codeYes, I know I can root my phone, etc, to upgrade to a later version of code, but this is something that tech savvy people are likely to do. When I think of everyday users, these folks are not likely to do this, so they are stuck with whatever code their carrier has qualified. While new features are nice, what concerns me more are folks getting access to security updates.

I am reminded of this every time Apple releases an update to iOS. Just yesterday, iOS 7.0.6 was advertised to my son’s iPod Touch and my wife’s iPhone to fix a security issue, which I promptly installed for them. When Apple releases a code patch, it is available to the end user at that time. With Android, the user must wait weeks or months for the update to make it to their device, based on what testing is done at the carrier (assuming the device is not rooted, and the user has loaded their own version). My Nexus 7 (a wifi only tablet) is running 4.4.2, but yet my Galaxy Nexus phone is currently stuck on 4.2.2. While there is a 4.3 based code available for the Galaxy Nexus, Verizon has yet to release it to their customer base. (I’m not addressing Windows phone here since I have no experience with it, and honestly don’t know how updates are handled for these devices.)

So let’s think about it… Does my ISP (Comcast) dictate when and what patches or OS upgrades I can do to my home systems? Of course not – the idea sounds absurd, doesn’t it? So why are carriers essentially acting as the change control agent?

I hope this changes. Updates should be available to consumers at the time of their general availability.

RIP Steve Jobs 1955 – 2011

My New Nook

I hope the New Year is treating everyone well. As you can tell, I sort of took the Holidays off from blogging. For Christmas, my wife got me the Barnes & Noble Nook Wi-Fi, and I am enjoying it thoroughly.  I like e-ink as it is easier on the eyes than a backlit LCD display, especially since I do the majority of reading at night, usually just before bed. I charged it up for the first time Christmas night, and I have yet to need a full charge – it’s at about 80% currently. I will say I have hooked it to my computer a couple of times to transfer some pdf files. So in these cases, it did have a few minutes of charging while transferring, probably about 15 minutes total. Navigation is done by what I found to be an intuitive color touchscreen below the e-ink screen.

The first book I read on it was Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which is free as a “NookBook”. The next one, that I am currently still reading, is Exercises in Wood-Working by Ivin Sickels (this is the F+W Media/Popular Woodworking release of this title). Also, as I noted above, I connected it to my computer to transfer some pdf based documentation. The formatting of these pdf files stayed intact, and embedded links worked without issue. I did edit the metadata for the pdf files since I found this is how the Nook will display this information in the My Documents display (some of the pdfs had differing or no metadata). For this, I used a free utility called Calibre, which also gives a nice option to copy to the device. If you don’t need to edit metadata, it’s easy enough to copy files from your computer to the mounted drive for the Nook, typically to the My Documents folder.

Below is a picure of the Nook booting.

And this picture below shows the Nook open to the Exercises in Wood-Working book. You can also see in this pic how the size compares, thickness-wise with the hard cover copy of Benjamin Franklin, by Walter Isaacson (just short of 600 pages, including index)

Now back to some reading… 🙂

Droid X: Some Things Are Worth Waiting For

I promised to post my thoughts on my new Droid X. One reason it’s taken me so long to post is that the first unit I received was actually defective. It had a problem where the touchscreen had intermittent responsiveness, and I often would not be able to tap to do anything. Long story short, Verizon was very good about quickly putting in for a replacement. Unfortunately, due to lack of stock on hand, I had to wait a week to receive the new unit (I received it on 7/26).

The other reason I haven’t posted until now is that, simply, I haven’t put the phone down long enough to post! I really am enjoying this phone. This is the first Android device I’ve had, and second true smartphone (the first was a few years ago – The Motorola Q).

I wasn’t crazy about the screen protector from Verizon. While it covered the functional area of the screen, it did not fully cover to the outside edges. Also, since it was anti-glare, it gave the screen a grainy look. The silicon case I also ordered from them was okay, but i did cut away the button area so that I could see the buttons light up in a dark area.

I had a discount code for Zagg.com, so I ordered their Invisible Shield Easy Body Install shield for the phone. It went on fairly easily, but noticed after a few days – long enough to allow for any defects to work out, that the screen protector showed very annoying vertical lines that almost made it look as though the screen was scratched. I did some further research, and found some useful user review, especially from one person who has info on YouTube videos here. Because it was reviewed to have a good feel, and the fact they give you two shields in the package, I ordered the Bodyguardz for the Droid X. This has pieces for each section of the phone. Not difficult to install, just a bit time consuming – probably 45-60 minutes for the whole thing. So far, I like the results better – much better screen quality (no vertical lines) and a nice smooth feel, with less of the so called “orange peel” effect.

My goal in getting the phone itself was to replace my old phone, an LG evTouch, and my Gen 1 iPod Touch. This easily handles both tasks. I did try the app Doubletwist to sync music with the phone, but this kept failing, and took too long to act as if it was syncing before failing. So far, the easiest solution thus far I found was to simply put the phone in USB Mass Storage mode, and drag and drop the music files to the phone.

The main thing I did though with my iPod was to listen to podcasts and audio books – a great way to pass my one hour commute to work and back. It’s nice to actually be able to manage the podcasts directly from the phone. For this I’ve been using Doggcatcher – well worth the $7. For audio books, Audible.com now has a full release version of their Android client. I had been using their beta prior to the release without issue, and just upgraded to the full release. One thing that is nice about having my media player and phone in the same device is that if I receive a call, it will pause the media, and resume once the call is ended.

I could keep going and going, but I should save some stuff for other posts. But let’s just say I’m very happy with what the Android world has to offer.

Droid X Is On Order…

I’ll be sure to post my thoughts, comments, etc…

iWars: iPod vs. Zune

I got a kick out of this one… fun stuff.

(Full Disclosure: I do own a first gen iPod Touch, that I really like. I have no experience with the Zune, so I’m not in a position to compare the two – in other words, this is NOT meant to start any flame wars.)

SawStop: Electrical current = Safety

ss_logoOne usually doesn’t think of standard tools in the shop as high on the list of “techy gadgets” but one tool is using a pretty neat technology to help improve safety.

SawStop has table saws on the market that if any part of the user’s body comes in contact with the blade, the saw instantly stops, and the blade retracts into the body of the saw.

How does it work?  There is a small electrical current that runs through the blade.  Inside there is an electical sensor that if it senses a change in the voltage (by a finger, or in the case of their demo, a hot dog), it triggers the brake which stops the blade.  The momentum of the spinning blade stopping in a fraction of a section pulls it down into the body of the saw.   Pretty cool stuff.  Check out the vids below.

Of course, they are not cheap.  I think last I saw about $1800 for the contractor model, and $3800 for the cabinet model to start.