Keeping a Mobile Diary

tumblr_inline_mt28u2XV5j1qz4rgpThe recent paranoia about the NSA going after your private information has left a bitter after taste for many of us. So what is private anymore? What about your diary or daily journal?

There are two schools of thought. The diary can be a private place, but some might prefer to show it off online. Some may just want to record their darkest days in writing and never share it with the world.

If you have a need to keep a daily journal of some sort, the last place you’d keep them would be Facebook or Instagram. turning your daily thoughts and feelings into words has consequences.

Then you have the problem of monetization. Cloud based diary platforms need to make money to fund their service. A cloud based service that is free is probably a good idea but you will find them shutting down if it proves to be unprofitable. Every diary platform startup is looking to social media as a means of monetization. Who knows? Mark Zuckerberg could just drop by your front door and buy you up. This was the case for DAYS for iOS where Yahoo snapped them up out of the blue.

Diary for Mobile for iOS and Android

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This is actually the web app for the service Diary.com. It is not a bad site and addresses the simple issue of having both private and public pages. Public pages are for people to read your stuff, so don’t post porn.

Besides this, the site also supports pictures, which you are free to add at anytime but unfortunately, there isn’t any room for video.

For people looking for the most basic option of having to write and post pictures of their daily life, Diary Mobile is probably a good place to start. The short learning curve means you’d be posting in no time at all.

For users who want are aiming to have something more social, like a journal or blog. This fits the cake nicely but there are huge differences between the two mobile version. The iOS version is straight laced, no editing after posting, no task list. Whereas the Android version has this and more but the picture posting capabilities  are non-functioning at the time of review.

DAYRE for iOS and Android 

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Public diary. It’s a good start but users are few at the moment and if you are looking for followers, it might not be the place as it has yet to gain much user traction. For writing, it is not the best option as there is a 500 character limit on your post. As a visual diary with a few words thrown in. It has its appeal.

The UI is clunky. You are given a choice of blogging using locations, words, video or with pictures. Location information is optional of course if you want to keep you blogging destination secret. The inclusion of cartoon stickers somehow seems to create the impression that it is more for the young and if you happen to be a hip brand for youngsters, it could be a good place to start.

Like most photo sharing apps, the app gives you a range of preset filters to color your world. Not the most imaginative option but it does the job. Images and topics can be hash tagged for easier searches but exploring the community is a bit of a hit or miss affair. There is no way around this. It is very similar to Instagram and limits your text post to under 500 characters. The chronological post platform isn’t conducive for marketing and you don’t automatically get a grid view of all your post.

Dayre doesn’t have a web browser interface and this means it only exist on mobile. It might give you web access eventually but it could be quite a while in waiting.

DAYS for iOS

Yahoo made quite a splash when they purchased this new startup which publishes a timeline diary that is more photo centric. The visual diary catalogs what you capture on a daily basis and arranges them as a daily post. You can only post items from a day ago rather than post as you go along.

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Sharing is possible by connecting it to Facebook but that’s hardly a innovation these days. I like the concept of Days but its execution is flawed. The UI profile reminds me more of a photo sharing site than a visual diary. That said, there is nothing stopping you from doing the same with your current Instagram feed.

What’s more, you don’t get to enter much information. It does however recognize photos that are taken in a quick sequence and puts them together as an animated gif.

The time stamp of your photos are basically put up in bold before you upload them to your visual time line. Each of these represents the hours of the day and it up to you to add some captions to them.

There is no separate blogging feature where you can go “Dear Diary…yada yada yada yada….”. That said, it might suit those who have little to say or prefer to let their pictures speak for them.

Memoires: the Diary for Android

This is an app created by a Victor Nakonechny, and it is probably one of the best examples of an old world diary made current with the help of technology. There is no public post, no web platform for social discovery. Nada.

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It is a private diary app that has everything you need to pen your journal and file it away in secret to the cloud. Even the NSA would have a hard time getting to it once you encrypt it. You can add voice notes, location information, pictures and weather information. Data then can be encrypted for safe keeping. This is probably the best way to keep a private journal, and by syncing it to cloud storage, it can be  kept anywhere you choose. Full marks for it being a private journal of sorts.

Backkom Diary

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Designed to work on with the Samsung Galaxy Note series of devices, this has gotta be the most whimsical of all diary apps. There is a non-pen version on the Samsung Store but haven’t seen it on the Google Playstore. It’s been around since the first Galaxy note and I don’t know if it was meant for kids or grown ups who want to be kids. The app is clunky to navigate. It even has a calendar function which you add birthdays, anniversaries, etc for good measure.

Backkom is really the name of a animated character named Bernard the Polar Bear, where in South Korea, he’s known as Backkom. Not sure if you’d swing with this but the whimsical tone and UI does turn people off. Again, this is not a social or cloud storage based diary. Your pictures and scribblings are saved to the device itself and there is no way of exporting. Personally, it functions better as a To-do list. There are alarms that you can set but beyond this, not much else.

Choosing a Platform that Suits You

I hate to say this but the free wheeling days of a the startup is over. After the consolidation of social media platforms, the big names in SNS are not buying up diary platforms to integrate to their existing social media properties. Facebook probably might buy one up eventually as this is the missing puzzle from their suite but Google already has the capability by integrating its blogging platform, blogspot.com, into G+. Mobile only access is probably one of the difficult justifications for a diary. What if you have no access to your mobile device, how would you put in an entry?

If you want to be publicly noticed by the NSA, then keep a journal or a blog online. Those diary apps are not going to win you a legion of followers unless you’re a porn star. The only advantage a mobile diary is that you have access to it as long as you are free to write or record plenty of pictures at the end of the day.

There are plenty of other diary apps out there which are competing for social interaction. I could review dozens on iOS and Android platforms so take your time to shop around for one that suits you best.

Android Holo User Interface Craze

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When one speaks of design, the Android platform is a wild place. I have written previously about getting custom ROMs and launchers for your device but the one that stumps people most these days is the use of the term ‘holo’ for User Experience (UX) and User Interface  (UI) Design. The UI is open to manufacturers to determine, thus you have TouchWiz, Sense UI and even Xperia UI just to name a few.

Google on the other hand presents its own stock standard UI which is still evolving and one of the design principles behind the UI is the Holo design theme. You can browse this site to find out more about how the Holo theme is implemented by third party app developers. You can also add your own custom Holo theme app from some weird folks who just ‘skin‘ a current app by taking it apart and reapplying the Holo theme but do beware, these have to be downloaded outside of the Playstore so you have to enable app installations from a third party in your settings menu.

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Note the icon changes and tiny design modifications to the official Instagram App

How Holo can it Be?

Design fragmentation is a bad thing but not entirely so. You get a personalized look and feel and it makes it pretty unique except that Google doesn’t like it. Since ICS 4.0, Google has added pressure on manufacturers to conform to certain design rules. These Holo design rules are to be applied across board to any manufacturer that ships Google Android with the official Playstore. The Holo design API is standard with the SDK and cannot be removed by manufacturers so any app developer can make use of these design APIs to create a Holo-fied app.

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Holo is very similar to Apple’s iOS 7, and Jonny Ive was reported to have ripped design elements from Android to fit the new Apple UI. Chief among the elements is the flat design look, where colors are muted and cooler in appearance.

Custom ROMs are not Spared

Even custom ROM developer, Paranoid Android is moving to that sphere with design elements implemented using Holo Theme. These guys rock. They have redesigned the whole UI to give a different experience to the user. The main difference as you can see here is the use of a PIE type navigation where you can touch and hold the screen to bring up a PIE type navigation wheel.

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But before you jump in to download this particular custom ROM, let me remind you that it is only applicable for the Google Nexus line of devices. Putting it into your Galaxy or HTC device will probably brick your set.

Changing the Look and Feel

There are still  other ways to change the look and feel of your User Interface without resorting to a custom ROM job. The folks at mycolorscreen.com have a beta app which is nearing completion. It has a tonne of User features for your home screen to give it a more personal touch with the Themer App. Zooper Widgets, which are highly popular and customisable, has been integrated into the Themer App fold. So you can literally design a Zooper widget to fit any Android screen and sell it as your own on the Playstore.

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So far, the app has yet to exit Beta testing after a copyright claim from Apple threw a spanner in the works. Apparently someone had ripped off icon elements from iOS7 in one of the home launchers and Apple took action. There are plenty of Holo type home screen launchers available but you have to wait till the Themer app goes prime time. Until then, your best option for a custom UI is to flash a custom ROM.

Movies on Android: Showbox Option

Hulu-App-Coming-to-iPad-Subscription-Planned-Unconfirmed-2Content is king so they say and for some sinister reason, you can’t get all the content you want unless you do this illegally. This has been the case for fan of TV series and Movies from the US as you can’t buy anything legally unless its on a DVD. The iTunes store and Google Play store is no different. The latest stuff on TV never makes it here. Movies do of course provided you have a Playtstore or Appstore account.

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Where I live, I have Google hasn’t yet given me the freedom to buy TV programs or Movies. Bummer. Instead, Google themselves expects you to consume movies by ripping your own DVD, which is a pain of course. I am not going to tackle the question of copyright. That’s a minefield as leasing to own a copy versus owning a copy is two different things. Hollywood prefers the leasing model. You don’t own the movie when you buy it offline.

The question of copyright and a right to copy is as old as prostitution itself. If you have seen a movie, does it mean it is against the law to keep a copy? After all, what is this about the rental and ownership thing? Just coz you bought a legal DVD of the movie, doesn’t mean you can’t rip it and load it onto your device. The question goes on and on.

Chinese Connection

China for some reason, streams movies via the Internet to some of its mobile app like Sohu, LeTV and PPTV. Problem is, some of the streams are blocked but some Hollywood, China, Taiwan and HK movies are available.

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The next problem is, it is all in Chinese. The navigation and titles are all in Chinese but that should not stop you from browsing content as there are thumbnails of the moves on display. These apps are totally legit, and I have not heard of anyone trying to take them down.

Getting Hulu or Going for Netflix

I have explored this on a previous post on VPN, and you can of course spoof your IP address just to watch the latest TV shows on Hulu or Netflix. There are apps that do this but with limited bandwidth. I streamed a program called BBC Top Gear and the 45 min took up roughly 400MB of data. You need to download the BBC TV streaming app to do this.  So if you are addicted to the latest Sherlock Holmes series, you are better off with a VPN subscription to spoof you location and watch all the content you want till the cows come home. Or if you wish, you could also install a little known plug-in for Firefox and Chrome browsers called “proxmate”. It helps to spoof your IP and lets you consume all the TV and Movies you want on Hulu, HBO or Netflix (some may need a paid subscription)

Russian Movie Connection

I am not allowed to tell you where but you can drop by to showbox.me to find out where to get this app. I must say that it rocks. It is the best streaming movie/TV app found on the Internet and it is free. I first discovered this app on the Playstore and since then it was yanked out of the list. I remained faithful so I downloaded it again later whenever it got updated.

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The Russians have no use for Hollywood and they have made this app just to get Hollywood all riled up. I must say they are doing a damn good job because I found the app to be formidable vitriol as several DMCA orders were sent to get them to take it down. So they did. But that doesn’t mean you can install in on your Android.

Within the app, you’ll find a treasure trove of all the latest TV shows from Hollywood. I watched the whole season of Sleepy Hallow while taking a peek at Breaking Bad. The site allows you to stream directly to your device or store the file for watching later. Due to bandwidth limitation, each login is only allowed one slot for either downloading or streaming.

Make Sure you have a Malware Scanner

As with all apps installed via an independent source, make sure you have a malware scanner in place before you do so. The reason is simple. Every APK can be taken apart and reassembled without you ever knowing loaded with malware code.

Aside from this, you should be quite safe. ShowBox is an app that thrives on advertising. So if you happen to like the app, all you have to do is click the link.

Apple iOS users will be the biggest losers as the only way to get illegal apps onto a device is to jailbreak the device. But there is an option, that is to get a proxy server in China and install the Sohu, PPTV Chinese apps from the Appstore.

Morally, what you are doing is wrong as you are depriving the movie and TV moguls from making money from your TV station or movie cineplex however if censorship is your main problem from where you are living, then be prepared to be blown away with this app. It simply rocks.

VPN: Do you really need it?

InternetAccessVPN_thumbVirtual Private Network or VPNs have been around for ages. During the dawn of the Internet, VPNs were the only way to access the Internet for countries that didn’t have such a service. You paid a subscription and dialed in to a local number to get Internet access.

These days, it is much simpler. You can subscribe to a VPN and use the given IP address to log in.

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Why VPN?

Since the Snowden affair, some parties are getting very anxious that maybe some of their emails have been compromised, these bunch of folks include lawyers, politicians, arms dealers, bankers, stock traders, drug dealers, money launderers, pedophiles  and pretty much everyone else in the world who have something to hide.

If you happen to fall into one of the said categories, please read on. For everyone else, you can skip this post and wait for the next.

Not all VPN will Protect You

A VPN may help you get around unnoticed but I am sure the NSA has a back door to accessing your stuff even if you tried to hide it. That’s because FISA can subpoena an Internet host to surrender any emails or messages as long as the server is located on US soil. VPN services based out of the US need not obey this court order so you’d be better off with a Malaysian VPN.

VPN on Mobile

Of late, there is interest on how secure your communications is with the outside world on a mobile device. 8

Personally, I think that VPNs are good only for corporate use. It is a savvy way to monitor the online presence of staff members to ensure they are using a secure channel to communicate with the world. This is relatively easy to set up, and even if you don’t belong to the shader side of world economy, you could still use a VPN by subscribing to a service.

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VPNs are available for iOS and Android via the settings tab so be sure to look out for them.

VPNs for other Naughty Things

Yea, I am aware that some of you are browsing location specific content from the US or UK. That said, you need a VPN or Proxy Server to give the impression that you are from the same locality.

There are a few ways of doing this which I will narrow down to two.

  • Use a Proxy Server Setting that Spoofs any location login
  • Use a VPN to spoof a location Login

It works for the Google Playstore but you have to remove your SIM card as that is tracked by Google. You cannot buy apps from the specific country store unless you have authorized payment for that country.

To spoof your IP location just to watch movies, well it’s easier. I have done this successfully with TunnelBear VPN, which is really neat to use.

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Say you have Hulu or Google Play on your device and you need to spoof the IP from legit location. You can fire up Tunnelbear to give you a fake login location in the US or UK and stream your media to your Android device.

Tunnelbear is free for the first 500MB and gives you a further 500MB if you tweet about them. Beyond that, you need to get a subscription. Hotspot Shield is another service you could try. So far, I have not had the time to test them all but I can assure you they work as I have streamed TV programs from the US through Hulu on desktop. The mobile version shouldn’t be any more complicated. You will need to pay to subscribe to the service after the trial runs out.

How Secure is Secure?

There are four different VPN platforms, the most popular for mobile use is Open Connect, which offers point to point protection of data. You need to connect to a compatible network to secure any communication channel. There are three other VPN platforms to choose from so knock yourself out if you don’t think Open Connect is for you.

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If you want secure, look for the encryption level. 256-bit is the best foot forward.

Encryption Technology  Summary (Geek Porn)

With the NSA prowling the Net for juicy bits of data, people have been asking how does the NSA beat the encryption technology used today. Well, apparently they know it takes far too much computation power so they decided to use a back door by forcing ISPs to surrender their data instead. For trivia, here’s what I found out.

A 128-bit key cypher would require 3.4 x1038 operations to reliably break.
In 2011 the fastest supercomputer in the word (the Fujitsu K computer located in Kobe, Japan) was capable of an Rmax peak speed of 10.51 petaflops. Based on this figure, it would take Fujitsu K 1.02 x 1018 (around 1 billion) years to crack a 128-bit AES key by force.
In 2013 the most powerful supercomputer in the world is the NUDT Tianhe-2 in Guangzhou, China. Almost 3 times as fast as the Fujitsu K at 33.86 petaflops, it would ‘only’ take it around a third of a billion years to crack a 128-bit AES key. That’s still a long time, and is the figure for breaking just one key.
A 256-bit key would require 2128 times more computational power to break than a 128-bit one as 265-bits is roughly equal to the number of atoms in the universe!

VPN for Facebook in China

This is bound to crop up. Facebook is banned so you want to find out which service to use while in China to post? Unfortunately, Tunnelbear and Hotspot Shield is blocked in China, so no point trying.

The Chinese authorities are constantly looking for new VPNs to block and the free ones are the first on their list. There are two VPN services that offer this service but at no time would there be a guarantee that it won’t be blocked by the time you read this. So I am not giving any links here for good measure.

It would be easier if Facebook sold to China and that would solve the problem for good. Right now subscriptions to VPNs cost between US$10 to US$20 a month. Now if you are willing to pay that much just to access Facebook in China then you have a very serious social media addiction. I’d save that money for some social  therapy instead of having to ante up on a VPN.

Let’s Try Tor!

No, it’s not about summoning an old Norse God with a Sledgehammer to unblock an IP but rather rout your data to secure Tor channels that exist in China. Tor uses a bridging system to connect data to the outside world and for the system to work, you need to root your device. There are several Tor apps on the Playstore but you need to root your Android device for it to work.

tor_in_chinaTor is very slow. It bounces data all over to confuse the ‘enemy’ and if you are ever thinking of streaming TV shows and movies illegally, you better forget it. Edward Snowden uses this all the time to get around data detection by the NSA. So if you happen to wear the same shoes, well this could be an option for you.

Paper Makes Facebook Cool again?

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So how do you make your service cool again? Having spent the last 10 years milking the same traffic, Facebook has to reinvent itself and this is where Paper comes in.

I am one of those who resolutely refuse to install the Facebook App on my primary device, it is by all accounts a resource hog and taking up a massive 56MB of RAM. On Android devices, Facebook offers you Messenger for chat and Facebook Pages to manage your brand and followers. The total cost in RAM? Roughly 100MB of RAM space when all three is running. You could delete FB Messenger and save roughly 36MB of RAM since it also duplicates your SMS app but that’s about all you can save.

Ultimately, this is a lot of space for those who are already saddled with 1GB of RAM, the Facebook app works in the background getting notifications and stuff from your fan pages so you can’t power that down. I ejected Facebook app from my primary smartphone since it is just a browser for my timeline. It doesn’t do much beyond that.

I did explore the possibility of using a third-party app, which at best, did the same thing….feed me with lots of adverts right into my time line. But these are poor copies that duplicates the service via the mobile web app feed.

FB Paper 

Why would Facebook put out Paper (which is at best… a Flipboard clone)? Well the original Facebook app isn’t cool anymore. With Paper,  you have the ability to browse content outside of your Facebook network, which makes it a handy app to use on a day-to-day basis without looking at the same old Facebook timeline content.

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Paper borrows heavily from Google Now as it uses a card base system to feature content. To read more or dismiss a card, you only have to swipe it away. The old Facebook app was complicated and didn’t support swipe controls—it was designed to work just like the desktop browser based timeline and that was a dull move. The left to right and right to left swipe didn’t do much but for Paper, it does a hell of a lot more. The idea behind it is really to get people to use the app more often and NOT just to view their Facebook timeline so it is more useful.

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Paper also has the neat feature of tilt to pan any landscape picture using your accelerometer instead of you having to swipe left or right. There is also more emphasis on images than text so people get to see more within a content card as opposed to just headlines.

Content and Control

Before you start using Facebook paper, you are given the freedom to customize your preferred content feed. These would be news items from various sources but for some reason of other, you cannot add your own content feed into the app.

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Content aggregation is probably one of the best places to start when you want to control advertising on apps. No more filler memes, nonsensical videos or borderline porn links posted on timelines as everyone will be digesting the same newsfeed on Paper. These kosher timeline feeds will make it far easier for Facebook to link advertising to them.

Second guessing a timeline post based on keywords can be a disaster for advertising so let’s not go there. Instead, put up an advert just like what Flipboard does within the content feed and you’d be safe.

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What’s more it also makes sharing of kosher content so much easier on mobile devices instead. For now, Flipboard does a damn good job in that department which Paper has to match.

Paper is sans advertising and I think this is the version that should not get updated. It just feels right without having tonnes of adverts pushed my way but if you look at how the App is designed, pushing adverts can already be done natively once the servers are switched on. Advertising cards can be inserted into content feeds and there is no opting out.

Paper’s Availability on Android

This will eventually come but it will be a while. Right now Facebook is testing the app on iOS and for good reason. Google has in recent times become a competitor in the content aggregation business with Google Play Newsstands replacing the Currents app as of November 2013. Newsstands app works just like Flipboard so you get to share any content link with any app on your Android device. Whereas the Google Newsstand app is heavy in content aggregation, Paper by comparison is much lighter and will appeal to those who just want to be entertained.

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Paper is probably the right direction for Facebook at least for now. Facebook has opened a new monetization channel with content aggregation, that is until you get bored with all the same news feed everyone is reading and junk it for Flipboard or Pulse. That said, Facebook’s Paper looks more like an app that would appeal to Hipsters—which is nothing more than a stop-gap measure to arrest declining revenue from a decade old service until the next big thing comes along.

Google exits the Nexus Sphere?

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For the longest time, I have been waiting for the Nexus 6 from Google. Now Geeks around the world know that there is something special that should come with the Nexus 6 after all, it was strongly associated with the cult hit “Blade Runner” where replicants (codenamed Nexus) were bred to operate as humans. The Nexus 6 was supposed to be the most advanced version of all replicants, thus Google had a name to live up to as users waited with bated breath for the Motorola Nexus 6. Previously, Google had partnered LG and Samsung to give life to the Nexus. But not anymore.

Google sold its entire mobile unit to Lenovo for a princely sum of US$2.91 billion while keeping almost all of its trove of patents. This effectively marks the end of Google’s foray into the smartphone business as it concentrates on the core activities of producing a better Android operating system.

Red March from China

The anti-Chinese sentiment is strong in the US, and with the mid-term elections coming up, there will be more Chinese bashing to come but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

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Lenovo has made a name of itself in China but it hasn’t got the same muscles as Samsung to crack the international market. Even Asus has done better and now that the Oppo has also made its foray into the Global market with CyanogenMod, we can only expect to see more China brands invading the US market.

Going global for the Chinese is all about cracking the most difficult foreign markets. Having a go at the US market without the distribution, retail and service infrastructure is tantamount to suicide. This is what Lenovo bought into. Anyone can buy a brand name, but core assets are infrastructure are vital in a war against the likes of Apple.

Lenovo’s own K series and VIBE models haven’t score much of a hit globally and with the Motorola name in its best, it could finally develop a phone that people will rave about.

Nexus Users feel Cheated?

Eric Schmidt was seen sporting a Motorola X and from that day, Android fans were excited about the prospect of having a Motorola Nexus 6.

Well it might as well be a Lenovo Nexus 6 if you get my drift but you won’t be seeing that way as Lenovo intends to use the Motorola brand name to extend its reach. Google will continue to use the Nexus name, and the Nexus 6 will live on. Motorola will continue with the X2 or X3, and it will be no slouch.

The biggest manufacturers of handsets in the world are the Chinese. Regardless of your brand, you manufactured in China to get the best possible deal.

Google has never been a hardware manufacturer, its core strengths has been in firmware and software. I have always suspected that when Google bought up Motorola, it was for its patents and not for the physical assets so with this out of the bag, Google will continue to make a better Android for everyone.

 

 

Cyanogen Mod Mac Installer goes Beta

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Android jailbreakers take note. Cyanogen Mod has finally landed on the Mac, well at least in Beta. As Guy Kawasaki once said, it is Beta than nothing.

You need to join the group of guinea pigs or large Capybaras to be allowed into this highly secret cabal of testers. They can be found here. From the forum, you can see how others are doing and sad to say, there isn’t much to offer for International users.

Most of the rants are on the Installer failing. Why should it? It is in Beta and that is why you downloaded it. So far, no one has bricked their device, though that is highly probable.

Two Step Processing to One Step

Installing and flashing your device use to be a complicated affair, it is so complicated that only geeks did it in their free time. By releasing Cyanogen Mod with a client software that runs on both PC and Mac, the dudes with code made it into a one step process.

All you need to do is run the Mac installer, plug in your device and things will be done automatically. Please don’t fret, if your device is not supported, it will tell you that it isn’t but unfortunately for Beta versions, this one doesn’t always work but it doesn’t mean you could install a wrong firmware.

Why My Device isn’t Supported?

As I have said before, CyanogenMod is staffed by geeks who in their free time tinker with the Android OS and frees up some of the bloatware that comes with it. It is not a paid profession. Since the launch of Cyanogen Oppo N1, talent has to be diverted to things that need focus, thus don’t expect all of your devices listed as mod-able.

Another problem is the Global version of your firmware. Many ‘modders’ have access to firmwares that is released in their country, this means those with a global or international version will be left out. For now, most country specific firmwares are available while International versions are left out. Local language supported firmware is also missing so if you happen to be Chinese or Korean, chances are there isn’t one for you.

Trial and Error

I have been monitoring the forum on the G+ group and there is good feedback on what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes, you just need to wipe clean your device before modifying it to use the CyanogenMod installer. Most of the devices are US centric, some may even have European firmwares but not all of them are supported.

If you can’t wait to kick ass your device into hyper speed, I suggest you wait till the Mac installer software is more stable, but if you can’t, heck, just give it a shot now.

Cyanogenmod: The begining of the End?

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Cyanogen Mod is a great little addition to a rooted device, but it never really worked well. You have to understand that Cyanogen Mod was never really intended to be commercial, at least until now.

Oppo, the branded Android gadget from China has made its debut in USA. That said it is a commercial grade release under the Cyanogen Mod brand name. Hardware wise, the Oppo rocks, but I really have no idea if the Cyanogen brand name will stand up to scrutiny.

Why do the Mod?

Speed, performance and removal of bloatware. What started out as a forum for would be geeks to tinker with Google Android code led to the development of Cyanogen ROMS, which has to be flashed onto your hardware device. What’s the advantage?

Pros

  • Remove unwanted programs (“bloatware”) installed by your carrier
  • Receive more frequent security updates (ie, get the latest fixes from Google in the newer OSes)
  • Having access to the most current version of Android available (including new features)
  • Better performance
  • Extra features

Cons

Common concerns include the following:

  • Some device manufacturers or mobile providers may offer a limited or voided warranty after modifying
  • It is possible that by installing a rooted operating system, you may be introducing new potential security issues (although this argument could be switched– older operating systems may be insecure as well…)
  • Non-stock firmware could contain malicious code – which is a good argument for making sure you download custom ROMs from a trusted source, or even better, learn to build it yourself!
  • Stability issues may arise when using an experimental operating system. However, for many people, CyanogenMod has proven to be more stable than most ‘official’ ROMs.

I would like to highlight the claim on the last line “CyanogenMod has proven to be more stable than most ‘official’ ROMs”.

This is not true. Any firmware modification will affect the performance of the hardware. Some of the most frequent complaints are that the device camera or Wifi connection doesn’t work. Still it hasn’t stop legions of followers from rooting their devices.

Rooting for Freedom

Android has many variations, those from Samsung and HTC are similar in operation but are different in design. Think for a moment about the Google stock standard camera app and you’d know what I mean. Google released its Photosphere feature with a 4.3 update but this was not featured in updates by Samsung for obvious reasons. If you are still keen to get a Mod, you can get it here.

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This app isn’t just for anyone so please read the following section before installing.

The Dark World of Rooting

In the iOS world, the art is known as Jailbreaking, but for Google Android it is known as rooting. Like Yin and Yang, they both co-exist in the app ecosphere. Android however has one advantage, you can choose to install apps outside of the appstore if you so dare whereas Apple absolutely forbids it.

Google recently removed the OneClick app for Cyanogen installs from the Playstore. As a competing operation system, it was expected that they get the thumbs down.

Not all devices have rooted ROMS. The OneClick app made it much easier to install and flash your ROM but it is your responsibility to find out the common issues (bugs) associated with the release. They do not guarantee you a glitch free buttery smooth operation even though there are certain advantages to removing the bloatware.

Telcos often include a host of stuff, sponsored none the less by conniving brands that occupy space in storage and RAM. Samsung on its own loads it up with WTF ? apps which you won’t bother using but can’t remove. This again occupies the limited internal storage space and there are no avenues to move it to external storage.

Older Devices to Benefit from Cyanogen Mod

This is true. Devices with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage with no access to external SD card are prime targets for rooting. Dealing with the bloatware will be a welcomed move and there is no two ways about it.

With newer devices, with between 2GB to 3GB of RAM, the attraction of rooting your device diminishes with the amount of internal storage you have. 16GB is probably quite ok as long as it is supplemented with external card storage.

So if you have an old device that needs a breath of fresh air, you can do no wrong by heading down to Cyanogen Mod and installing the OneClick app.

Cyanogen’s move to a more commercial platform like Oppo will ultimately mean one thing, a signal to an end for Cyanogen Mods for other devices. Software engineers who have tinkering with it for fun will have to be paid and resource will be focused on Oppo style Cynanogen Mods of commercial quality.

So this will be the End for Cyanogen Mod and the beginning of Oppo Cyanogen Mods.

Photosphere on Android: No Root Required

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One of the most exciting thing to come out of Android in the 4.3 update was Photosphere, a bubble photo capture feature found on Nexus devices but Google unfortunately did not make that available to all as it was included as a native camera app. So if you have updated to 4.3, chances are that you’ll still be missing this feature unless you got yourself a stock standard Android update like those found on Nexus and Motorola phones.

Photosphere APKs to the Rescue

The folks at XDA released an APK file for users to download and install the Google Nexus camera app and you can find them here.

But a word of warning. It doesn’t actually work on all devices running Android 4.3. Part of the problem is probably the hardware. The Galaxy Note 2 did allow me to run the app but the images shot on it were far from stellar. The overlapping images didn’t stitch well and the whole bubble image turned out to be more of a psychedelic attempt at feeding LSD directly into your brain. You can view my failed attempt here.

Shooting a bubble is relatively easy. It can take anywhere from 3 to 5 mins to complete the photography cycle before you can stitch it all together.

The APK file is actually a Gallery and Camera app, the camera’s bubble capture capability is buried under this APK. Samsung has its own dedicated camera app in Android 4.3 that doesn’t support Photosphere so you need to remind yourself to launch the Google Gallery or Camera app instead of your usual device camera app to capture and view bubble photos.

Photo Bubbles are Hip

Well, Instagram is so old school so why not get some new school shooting with Bubble photos? Allow me to give you an idea what Photosphere is to Google.

  • It is to be used alongside Streetview, where places prove inaccessible to their cars.
  • Photosphere can be shared on G+
  • On mobile, Photosphere can only be viewed in real-time using the Maps application or Web browser.

Both iOS and Windows Mobile have competing Bubble type photography features but on unfortunately on iOS, it is not native. Apple couldn’t care two hoots about Bubble photos but a few Apps that support the iPhone, including Microsoft’s Photosynth.

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Google Maps and Photo Bombing Opportunities

In recent past, Photosphere was the domain of the DSLR. You needed one of those to shoot the photos and put them together. However with the new mobile capability on Google approved devices, ANYONE can shoot a photo bubble, upload it and have that seen all over the world. For advertising mileage, there isn’t anything better! People who contribute to Photosphere can effectively Photo Bomb the image with banners and advertisements before uploading those to Google maps.

Hardware Compatibility Issues

Right now, Google hasn’t got any plans to make Photosphere a standalone app, but it might do so if it wants more people to contribute to the platform. The chief reason for this omission so far has to be hardware issues. Dual core devices with 1GB of RAM won’t cut it. Shooting photo bubbles and stitching them together is a RAM intensive operation. There is also the question of accelerometer compatibility as this is used heavily when all the photos are being put together.

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For now, you can download the Google approved Gallery APK with Photosphere and try it on your device. It might not work but if it does, then it is good to go. Google has released a slew of APIs to support Photosphere for use on websites and blogs so you won’t be seeing the last of this for a very long time.

Make your Day with Memes

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Memes. I have had a love hate relationship with them from day one. Hated the loud, badass, vulgar and stupid ones that are very American in culture. Memes are often created with pop culture icons from Hollywood, using stolen pictures from the Internet.

On the flip side, the Memes also gave birth to the Insta-Text, where words and pictures mix together in a seemingly fertile jelly of self expression. These memes are then posted on Instagram, the Polaroid snapshot of today — emblazoned with words of wisdom and cliched quotes. There is nothing risque about them, something which we all seem to associate with the memes of today.

Memematics on your Mobile

This is actually a spin-off topic while researching for my other blog, techmystique hosted on WordPress. It was a study on how people could generate content and in the process create content that was worth passing around.

Having assessed the apps on both the Appstore and Playstore, I have listed down some of the stuff you an get online that works out for both iOS and Android. There are basically two types of photo editing apps, one type is for beautifying your photos by allowing you edit and add filters to change the exposure while another type works by adding layered text onto the image.

Memes are created using the latter, and to make it more user friendly, these apps are built with a variety of graphics and font add-ons.

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Rhonna Design and Over

My personal fav has to be Rhonna Design App, which of course is only available on iOS and recently on Android. On the iPhone, it’s a pain when are born with big fingers. For this, the Hobbit wins hands down. Stabbing at the small screen is a tough task, much tougher than trying to destroy the Ring by tossing it into a Mordor volcano.

screen568x568Rhonna creates beautiful design motifs that is included in the app but there are extra font packs and graphics available via a in-app purchase method. The Android version is just catching up and has yet to allow full screen editing.

Each font/graphic pack can be purchased separately from Rhonna’s in-app purchase feature and these are priced at US$0.99 a pop. Good to go once you have the graphic pack or font of your choice. The downside of Rhonna’s app is that it is not free. Nor is there a free version for you to play with before buying it.

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Over app on the other hand uses similar Jedi mind tricks to get you to buy their graphics and font packs but at least they allow you to edit and save your stuff in a rectangular format. Over still has much refining to do as it’s quite limited in terms of choices.

Both Over and Rhonna Design apps allow you to download your own font, OTF or TFF types only, to your iDevice but you need to upload them to Dropbox or Box storage and open them within the app when prompted to do so. Android users probably have it easier by using iFont app but using it within the app is still a bit of a mystery for now. Over is currently only available on iOS.

Overly, PicLab & InsPhoto for Android

To be fair, Rhonna Design’s App is probably the best on offer for mobile but it does not support importing of graphics from custom sources; for this you need Photofy.

Photofy, available to both Android and iOS is the closest thing so far to being able to give you beautiful graphics and buying the unlock version allows you to import up to 24 custom designs of your own creation. The downside of Photofy is that it crops to a square format and is very rigid in its approach to adding elements on screen. For Android users, you probably need to use Rhonna Design and Photofy at the same time to create something really unique with a corporate logo.

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Photofy is a good app, but there just “so-so” when it comes to features and capability. There are loads of free content like mottos, quotes and cute text options. The sheer number of optional insta-text is what makes it super unique and the best choice for those with a wild imagination. Photofy is promising a new revised cropping tool for the app in future updates.

The editing options are less than satisfying. For one, you can’t add more than two elements and there is no avenue to import third party fonts for use within the app.

For corporate use,  Photofy is the best choice. Companies who use Instagram will find the freedom to import their own logos most useful. On the other hand, I don’t like the one line text caption that you are allowed to use for any of your images, furthermore, there is no way to skip the customary requirement for a graphic image added to your photo in the first instance.

In its own way, the app is pretty rigid in its approach. PicLab, which is also found on the Android platform doesn’t quite cut it as all it does is add text over your image.

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There are a few others that do exactly what PicLab does, so I won’t mention them here as they are not game changers. InsPhoto is similar in that respect. You can add text and enhance the image with a variety of settings but you can’t add graphic layers to it.

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Overly, which is still in Beta is not a clone of the Over app on iOS. I won’t add anything here on Overly as it has yet to make a proper debut and even if you take it for a spin, you’d get the idea that the app still needs a fair amount of work to be really useful.

Photo App Conclusions

Not all photo apps are made the same. There are so many free ones these days that we often cloud our home screens with them. Bear in mind that many are not suitable for meme making. Those with more complex editing options have a much steeper learning curve but you’ll get use to it soon enough. These apps work by adding layer upon layer of graphics over your original photo, decorating it before finally flattening the image as a JPG. Not many apps can do that but such editing options adds to the complexity. Therein lies the attraction, it becomes a blank canvas where your creativity is set free to make a simple picture more attractive. So prepare to amaze your friends with those one of a kind Memes from yours truly.

iOS versus Android: Christmas Shopping List

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Truth be told, I have never given up on my past times, some of which can only be found on iOS. For the most part, Android for me is more of a productivity tool. It connects and entertains but it has its weaknesses. In the coming Christmas season, you’d be wondering which platform you should get onto. Eric Schmidt of Google may have penned out this thoughts on how an iPhone user should switch to Android but technically speaking, that’s like ignoring the real issue at hand, that is…you gotta have some pretty good software to cater to different folks. Here’s a run down on what you should be buying this Christmas based on the strength of the apps found on both platforms.

Music Making

Hands down. iOS wins. Garageband in particular is fab, so are those DJ mixing apps and drumming, loop and any music generating apps. Best to get an iPad to do that. The iPhone is far too small to use as a music productivity tool. The iPad be it the mini, or the Air will be the darling of the music industry this Christmas. Android plain suxs on this. There is nothing on the playstore that can even come close to Garageband, let alone exceed it.

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Games

Again, hands down, iOS wins. There are more paying customers on iOS than on Android and that’s the reason why game developers cannot ignore the iOS platform when releasing games. Android may have a larger user base but there are problems in getting games to play on different devices made by a variety of manufacturers. iPads are the best for gaming. iPhone is just too MEH….

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Mobile Photography

Sorry but Android takes this one. Forget the Nokia 1020 for a moment and think about the apps available on Android only. They kick iOS ass. Apps like Cameringo and native Android apps found on the Sony, HTC and Samsung can double down and win this race without bating an eyelid. A long time ago that Android camera apps were lacking, these days, it shines brighter than the star that Steve Jobs sits on. Cameringo alone puts all the other filter based iOS apps to shame. Forget the Hipstamatic app from iOS. It’s rubbish. And what about Photosphere? You can’t have that for free on iOS while it’s a standard feature on all Android 4.2 devices. The Google app lets you upload 360 pano bubbles to Google Maps, which is free for all to view.

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Work Productivity

So you want to do some serious work, encode files, upload to cloud and save files on flash drives? You can’t beat Android. iOS may have pioneered the mobile office suite but its iWork modules with new hardware running on iOS 7. Google already gives out its own Quickoffice for this and it’s not restricted by hardware. What’s more Android devices support read and write to flash drives using a OTG cable. Plug and Play. For iOS, you gotta be psychic to beam a file onto a flash drive. Bluetooth? Have you seen an iOS device send a Microsoft file to an Android device? How about NFC and WifiDirect? Does iOS have these under their belt? Both iOS and Android have productivity tools to do your work but it’s iOS that needs a data line to be of any use.

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Drawing and Art

As much as I love the Galaxy Note series with their pressure sensitive stylus, iOS wins hands down when it comes to drawing and exporting your art in Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG). Exporting a drawing in JPEG or any type of rasterized image is plain silly. People should be able to edit a drawing without compromising on the quality or the brush strokes. SVG allows you to do this as the data is vector encoded. Android’s support for these type of file is very poor at the moment. iOS wins hands down.

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Entertainment and Video

Android is the clear winner and by a mile. There are numerous apps that lets you consume video like never before. For Samsung devices, they have an All Share feature which can beam content to your set top box via Wifi. Third party apps are also available for you to do this. Connecting a DNLA device isn’t a problem on Android but it is a huge problem for iOS. Apple wants you to stream stuff through their Apple TV box. Making iPads or iPhone DLNA compatible for video is ritual suicide. Third party apps on iOS can support streaming of music but not Video. Streaming of music or video on Android is a no brainer. It just rocks.

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Buying Guide

You get what you pay for. Apple’s tablets and iPhone is on the highest end of the retail chain but price alone should not dictate your choices. Both devices have their strong and weak points when it comes to apps. You have to pay for apps, not expect them to be made free but there are times when the free apps alone will do fine.

For any internet device, there are two schools of users. Those who use their devices to maximize their creativity and productivity, and those who just consume digital media.

Consuming is easy. These are the same folks who use social media, play games with friends, read the news, read books and magazines. For this, any device be it from iOS or Android will do the trick.

Those of you who are more productive —who want to take pictures and have control over their captured parameters, make and create music, draw or take work along with them, will need something more. So choose wisely this Christmas and you’ll be duly rewarded.

Lift Off: Android Launchers Review

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Android’s winning feature has to be its customization capabilities. Stock standard home screens can be an incredible bore and Google has even addressed this in KitKat, where you can select a custom launcher of your preference from the settings menu.

Home Screen Launchers offer you a way out of your standard Smartphone UI (user interface) and Apple iOS user can’t help but look on in envy as you show off a new home screen every day of the week. But sadly, not many devices will allow you this freedom. First you need plenty of RAM and a fast processor. Quad Core is best, dual core…not so much — with at least 2GB of RAM. Here is a run down on some that I have tested on various devices, for both Tablets and Smartphones.

AVIATE

Still in beta, this is made by ex-Googlers and based around the Google Now card concept. This is an extremely intelligent launcher that is developed to be more functional than beautiful. The card concept isn’t something that will make ducks take to water, as the rectangular boxes that represent your widgets may put fashionistas. The home screen is multi faceted as it detects your location and this is what sets it apart from the rest.

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Aviate has three custom functions, that is to segment the apps you’d use while at home, work or when going places. For example when it detects that you are at work, it offers you a chance to pull out a productivity drawer which has all the apps you’d be normally using. When at home, it gives a different drawer for home use, like maybe playing music or watching videos. You add apps to each of the drawers or download the suggested app. These drawers will also carry app suggestions from the Aviate should it be empty.

The ‘going places’ drawer is the most interesting. You have a choice of bar and foodspotting apps as well as Four Square check ins. For me, I don’t use four squares so you can replace some of these suggested apps with one you’d normally use.

Widget support is rather weak as not all third party custom widgets are supported. However the standard ones that come with it is enough to keep most people happy.

The no nonsense approach is probably best for the more rational users who do not like the clutter of seemingly artistic UI touches. Aviate also scores well for memory and storage usage as there isn’t much going on behind the scenes to take away the user experience.  For now, Aviate is only available on Smartphones but I suspect a Tablet version isn’t far off.

Themer

Mycolorscreen’s Themer offers the best options for styling your home screen but is very complex to use. This project started with a website called MycolorScreen.com, where people shared home screen designs. It graduated to a whole new level with the Themer launcher.

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The folks at Themer even bought out Zooper Widgets in the process, making it the defacto widget customization tool which you can use. This is not to say that it won’t work with your other widgets, just that it might not work as well as it should.

I will not talk about the bugs here since this is still in Beta and it works well on any quad-core 2GB ram device. That said, you will experience performance issues with dual core 1GB devices. The widgets and the number of customized screens you can add is very enticing for fashion conscious users but as usual, it comes at a price as the more widgets you add, more resources will be consumed.

Themer’s business model created around  brand sponsored home packs for you to decorate your home screens. This means the launcher will remain free. Sponsored branding will generate  revenue to pay off the development cost of Themer and I do think that’s a great idea. You can customized each Theme with Zooper Widgets and this is where it gets a bit complicated. Size, color, looks can be changed but it does take time. Predesigned themes can also have several scrolling home screens for you to customize so you can be spending hours tinkering with the look. The moment you start adding more home screens and widgets, the overall responsiveness will be affected.

Themer also pays individual designers a small fee for designing a great launch packs which you can download and use for free. Not sure if this will transition to a paying model as the app is still in Beta.

Themer is available only for Smartphone use for now.

Espier iOS 7

Espier is a German word for spy. So I am not too sure if you’d be compromising your safety if you used this. Built as an iOS7 look alike and developed by some folks from China. Espier gives your Android device a Jony Ive look without having to pay for Apple hardware. It looks good and works on a unique business model. The launcher has its own hub where some of the functionality have to be purchased. What I like about the Espier is that it works pretty much like the Apple version, right down to the multi touch to remove apps from your home screen or folder. It has a notification bar widget which you can add on to give it a more authentic Apple feel but at a price. Some of the features like widgets cost money, and widgets are proprietary. You can’t add stuff on a home screen like you would on other launchers.

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On a quad core, 1GB RAM device, it worked ok. There were momentary hiccups with the icons but the responsiveness wasn’t affected. On dual core 1GB devices, user responsiveness was akin to prodding a dead possum to life. To be fair, the look and feel of iOS is looking very dated. The Jony Ive look is way over hyped and a tad boring but then again, you can have this look for cheap on Android hardware—and on a larger screen too.

Espier will work on both Smartphones and Tablets.

Buzz Launcher

Looks and feels very similar to Themer, which an option to download themes designed by users. Each theme can be made with a host of widgets and Buzz Launcher, which like Themer, offers its own widgets as a separate download. Users can also add third party widgets.

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Buzz isn’t meant for dual core 1GB devices. Some of the theme packs designed by users make use of a wide range of third party widgets to the point that it overloads the RAM. There are simpler home themes which do far less device resource but if you are a power user, you need a faster device with a minimum of 2GB of ram.

Buzz is available now, and there is a lot of activity from designers who offer their own themes. The missing widgets for the custom themes can be directly downloaded from the Play store, but not all of them are free. Some designers have made use of paid widgets so you need to replace this with something to your liking.

Overall responsiveness depends on the theme and number of widgets it uses. It might just scrap through with a 1GB RAM dual core device but you soon get bored and want to try some hipster home screen that is resource intensive. Widgets don’t always work due to lower RAM so you have been warned. It was slow and turgid on 1GB dual core devices when I tested it.

What makes this a winner is the sheer variety of Theme Packs which you can download for free. It is bewildering!

Buzz will work on both Smartphones and Tablets.

Hipsters Look Out!

Just coz you can hijack your own homescreen doesn’t mean that it will work on all devices. I have always said that having enough available RAM is very important if you want to have a custom screen, a fast quad core processor is preferable over dual core.

Android KitKat’s was designed from the ground up to take advantage of custom home launchers by selecting it from the home menu. What’s more KitKat is also more efficient in juggling storage and RAM, though I have not personally tested it, I am sure it will work better than what you have experienced on Jelly Bean.

There are also dozens of other home launchers which I haven’t reviewed so remember that any custom home launcher you install will have their own quirks. Each widget you add on your home screen will affect your RAM availability. The more widgets you have, the harder it will be for your device to keep up. So don’t go reporting bugs and slow performance issues when your device just doesn’t have the muscle to do the heavy lifting.

Home screen Launchers are the darlings of the Android world. Apple iOS can’t even come close. Five years ago, the Apple home screen revealed by Steve Jobs was ground breaking but by today’s standard, it is merely functional. This is why Android rocks and will continue to do so for a long time to come.

Android KitKat: No Surprises

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The world is flat. I don’t have an issue with it but this flat design approach is probably taking it a step in the wrong direction when it comes aesthetics as Apple fan boys hated it. But let’s not go postal over this. Feature wise there isn’t much to talk about except the following:-

Google Now is the Home Screen

Yea, but only for the stock standard KitKat, so if you have Touch Wiz or some other launcher working ontop of this, you won’t see much of it. This sort of optimization is going to encourage more telco and manufacturer bloatware, which you can’t remove but have to put to sleep manually using the Android App Manager.

Works on 512MB of RAM

As silly as it sounds, but not many devices are shipping with 512MB these days. And even if the stock standard KitKat will only be less of 512MB of code, manufacturers will put in their own bloatware ontop of it so don’t go celebrating this by buying a round of drinks for all your buddies at the bar.

QuickOffice is Free

It has been free since Google bought it out and now comes as part of KitKat. The app gets updated automatically via Playstore so it resides as part of the OS, the bad news is that you might not be able to delete it to free up storage.

Third Party Cloud Storage for Photos and Media

No big deal here. You could already use Box or Dropbox to upload content automatically to the cloud. You can even auto upload to G+. With Gallery integration, you can how back up all your photos of the day to Cloud Storage for sharing or self whoring.

Hangout with SMS, forget FB Messenger

Yes, Hangouts has been improved to take on every sensible communicative process including MMS and SMS. Time to dump your Facebook Messenger app! This will no doubt cause a lot of pain in the patukis  for Zuckerberg and gang who had earlier intended to hijack your messaging app.

Emoji for your Keyboard

No more fiddling around with those icons, it comes free with your standard Google keyboard, which I don’t use anyway. Emoji might change that as you can use this icon pack instead of purchasing those proprietary icon packs when expressing your angst.

Air Printing is now a reality

Wifi is handy, you got a printer on a network, you could just send that PDF you got to the printer in the office. There is a printer hub which printer manufacturers can now release an option for. No more messing around with the network copier and printer for those who hate doing manual labor.

Immersive Mode Full Screen

No more dodgy notifications, jarring buttons or status bars. You go full screen with the app the moment an app launches for media playback. Multi touch support is from the center of the display. Not bad not but nothing great.

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Memory and Storage Optimization

Probably the most important feature that you can’t see. Android has a pretty weird way of dealing with memory/storage and optimizing the process is going to make apps more  efficient. This could mean more fluid app dynamics and leave plenty of room for gaming and social media distractions.

When can I get KitKat?

If you are running stock standard Android, you can get it now but there is a caveat. It won’t work on the Galaxy Nexus, its innards are too old to support the new firmware.

Samsung and HTC will take a good six months before it decides which sets will get an update. As far as I remember, Samsung promised a Jellybean update for GN 1 and it never came, though I was told it was rolled out to certain countries. KitKat isn’t a massive improvement, it is an update to sort out some user experience issues and memory grabs by apps that were poorly coded.

Like iOS7, it is more aesthetics than features. Samsung would be loath to release an update but the smaller KitKat foot print could give them more room to inject more bloatware. For now, you best bet would be Cynogenmod, those band of independent developers have promised to release a 4.4 update as soon as they can pare down the code.

The only visible thing you’d be getting from KitKat are the icons. Since the stock standard KitKat will carry the new and improved icon pack, device manufacturers won’t see the need to skin them into another form.

Who Will be Getting KitKat?

New devices from all he major brands with the exception of Motorola of course—who now offer only stock standard Android. HTC and Samsung will have their own interpretation of a home screen so you won’t be cursed with a Google alternative. The majority of devices with a minimum of 1GB RAM will be able to run KitKat — preferably with a dual core processor.

One Version to Rule them All!

Fragmentation was pretty bad with Android Gingerbread and Honeycomb. This fork has now been unified. All devices shipping with Honeycomb for Tablets can now offer KitKat and this is of particular interest for tablets and phones offered in third world countries where only 512MB of RAM is often the defacto standard for cheap knock offs.

To a large extent, KitKat is like iOS 7. Nothing to shout about, has some nice optimization which you won’t see much of and can be incredibly boring for those who want more. Google Now with Voice command is given more prominence but if you happen to speak with a lisp, chances are you won’t be using it.

The Pen Stylus is Vogue again for Apple?

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I recently had to retire my original GN and take on the GN II, used of course, but with much hesitation. This is not my eulogy to a machine that has served me over the last 20 months but rather, a poetic farewell to a device that I long enjoyed. Now Samsung’s Galaxy Note series of Smartphones and Tablets are the envy of Apple users. That’s right. It is a sleeper hit as far as Apple is concern though Tim Cook has no idea why it should be the case.

As a drawing and sketching tool, it is hard to beat. What’s more there is pin point accuracy with the built-in stylus. What the Galaxy Note lacks is a good SVG editor, which you have to buy on the Google Play. But a more interesting note is that the folks at Adonit wants to convert your iPad into a Galaxy Note with bluetooth enabled Pen called the Jot Script. This gadget isn’t cheap, costing US$75 sans apps. There are some free apps on the Appstore which you can use but this really depends on you. Evernote also has an app that supports the Adonit pen.

For wanna be artist, the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 edition is the one to kill for. Forget the Adonit imitation that works on the iPad and iPhone. It just will not cut it in the same way as the Samsung’s next big tablet with a stylus.

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A Question of Different Stylus

Remember those blunt head stylus you can buy for a song from your smartphone shop? Well, they are made that way because it is simply not possible to get it to work with a fine point. Apple has patented a new active stylus but has yet to announce a product release date, it might come once they have their new iPad line fully stocked up

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Adonit’s pixel point technology uses bluetooth, whereas the one from Samsung Galaxy Note is from Wacom’s own Bamboo Stylus technology. I have owned two Wacom tablets and love the way the feel in your hand but it wasn’t until the Galaxy Note that revolutionised the Wacom Tablet technology as you can draw directly onto the device display. Both types of Stylus are pressure sensitive.

The old Styli which you often find fashioned with a bulb like capacitive foam tip but you could never pin point your pen tip to a drawing. Pin point type stylus are rare as there is quite a fair bit of tech that goes on behind it. For example, Adonit has released a SDK that allows app developers to integrate its function.

Alternative Stylus from Adonit

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When I was using the iPad, I toyed with the idea of using this weird Stylus that has a flat head. It didn’t look like but it promised pin point accuracy for drawing and note taking. It didn’t take long for me to toss the idea as it would be easily damaged and the extra point heads given to you would be all used up.

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Apple’s new patent for a Stylus reflects its desire to bridge what Samsung has done so far with the Note series of Tablet and Smartphones but would that be too late to market? It could certainly satisfy the Apple fanboys who have longed for such a device if they didn’t already have an Adonit Stylus. That said, this alone isn’t going to change the user landscape much as it would take Apple another 18 months to get something like this to market.

Free to use Word Processors for Android

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I still remember the days where term ‘wordprocessor’ was used to indicate an over glorified typewriter. I used WordStar on a Apple II, so I know how far this has been going on.

Over a decade ago, I told someone that office tools needed to be moved into the cloud so that you don’t have to pay those expensive licenses to Microsoft for use of their office Suite. This was before Google and just around the time of the decline of Netscape.

Today, with Google Docs, we can do this, all free of course with your Google account but we have all know now that this works best on paper . So when Google decided to buy out QuickOffice and gave it for free to Android users, everyone rejoiced.

The only users who didn’t were those who had paid for QuickOffice before it went the freeware route.

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QuickOffice Versus Polaris Office Versus Kingsoft Office

Cloud based office tools like Office365 and Google Docs need you to be online to use. This is fine if you are working form a desktop. When you are offline, you’re better off with a mobile app that does just this.

There are three office programs which I am familiar with, there are more but I don’t usually go for them as I need a spell check feature. Having been schooled into the British system, I have to revert to American spelling when I write online and this is where the spelling gets choked up. I don’t do presentations nor do I like doing it on a tablet or mobile device. The problem is the workflow. To add and edit, add, save and create files on mobile devices is a slow process.

On my Android Tablets, you should be able to find about three different type of Office tools. Namely, Quickoffice, Polaris Office and Kingsoft Office. I had to test drive the word processors before deciding which best suited me.

Truth be told, I was never a fan of Polaris Office, a Korean developed office suite that has very basic features. It works almost like a basic word processors with very basic functions. I didn’t test drive the spreadsheet as that is something I don’t really use either. Google owned QuickIOffice offers one of the poorest workflow performance so far. I don’t mind the minimalist approach to its design and UX, but it is almost like using an electric typewriter.

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QuickOffice document formatting can be found on the top right hand corner and that’s all you are getting!

Polaris is way better than QuickOffice I am afraid. For one, it will open any word file format. QuickOffice has given me errors and problems on opening files in both .docx and .doc. But the limitations of the office suite is probably one big caveat. How Infraware has gotten away with it so far boils down to its Korean roots. Polaris is given free with every Samsung Android device. So if they made a dollar on every Samsung device sold, they would be millionaires.

QuickOffice supports a document spell check and has a ‘check as you type’ feature to correct words and spelling. You can choose to go and resolve the spelling as you type or do it at the end of the document when you are done. Words and suggestions for spelling is supported with a dictionary and it relatively intuitive. Aside from this, both Polaris and QuickOffice don’t seem to fall very far from the same tree.

Behold the King!

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China founded Kingsoft rules the roost when it comes to Office tools. They are way better than some of the PAID Office Apps and will totally kick Microsoft Office365 into hyperspace. And yes, Kingsoft Office is FREE.

Now its feature rich UI design is a welcome change from the minimalist type word processors like QuickOffice and Polaris Office but it comes at a price. It is heavy on RAM usage and there are issues such as lag, sudden crashes and a less than stellar spell check function.

There is no ‘check as you type’ feature and the word suggestions are poor. It could not point out the correct spelling for spelling error syntax like “dont” for “don’t”. This Neanderthal intelligence is probably the one that irks me the most.

Conclusion?

Apparently there is no clear winner. All of them suffer from some handicap and at times, I wish the developers would pay more attention to the user experience (UX) and not the user interface (UI).

The biggest losers are Microsoft, which until this day refuses to put up a challenger in the hope that people will buy into their Windows RT platform just to access the Office Suite. Microsoft has one app on Android called OneNote which is more for note taking just like EverNote. All three provide some support for Cloud based storage, which I  abhor since there will be a time where data lines become inaccessible with no way to retrieve your files when you most need it.

There is much hope on Kingsoft, which for some reason has put out a desktop PC version of their Office suite. They seem to be pouring in loads of money to develop a very ambitious and free office suite. So let’s keep our fingers cross and hope that they will get it right in the next upgrade.

Lastly, I do not think I would write an entire book using a mobile wordprocessing app for one reason—user experience. Typing is far more rewarding on a physical keyboard than an onscreen version. The tactile feel is just right for you to keep your fingers moving. With a touch screen keyboard it’s just not the same. I still dream of using the IBM Keyboard that was made with a buckling spring. Fortunately it is still manufactured by Unicom but only for the PC and Mac.

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Sell your Smartphone Photos on FOAP

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If you had the chance to clean out your old photos from your Android device, you might be wondering if any of it would be good enough for people to buy. Sure, you might post it up to Facebook or G+ but that said, it’s not going to make you a cent.

So how much are your photos worth if you do sell them? That’s rather subjective. Alamy, which sells stock photos will take your mobile photos but only for news related photos. So if you happen to see Godzilla come on land one fine day at the beach, well your photo will be worth something.

FOAP will take ANY of your photos, price it as a stock image at US$10 a pop and give you 50 percent of the proceeds from each sale. The only thing stopping your photos from getting on the retail shelves are the community reviewers who look at the photos and rate them. You need to get an average 2.6 star rating from five reviews to qualify.

What’s the Catch?

There is one. Your mobile photos should be at least 900 pixels on the shortest end to qualify for upload and all the uploading must be done from your mobile device.

This means, you get to shoot and upload as you go and that’s a very interesting proposition. The Android app itself does everything and you input the tags, GPS location and title of your photo. Once you put it up for review, would-be sellers will be asked to rate it. You’d be asked to do the same for five other photos. Once you complete this, then you are free to get back to your Angry Birds game.

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The webstore on the other hand is purely for retail purposes. Mobile device photographers are not allowed in and have no way of getting in to upload your photos because FOAP doesn’t want you to. They want your mobile photos so you do everything from the mobile app available for iOS and Android. Even payment (cashing out your earnings) is managed from the mobile app.

Royalty Free, the Bane of Cheap Photos?

Five bucks is not much and FOAP’s licensing covers both print and web use. An eight megapixel photo is probably good enough to use for print and even with the best pixel scaling software, you could stretch that a bit to about three times. FOAP licensing doesn’t cover image editing so people who buy these photos have the right to chop it up and create multimillion dollar branding with it.

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FOAP’s target buyers are brands that need cheap photos. We all know how cheap these brands are in America and this will sit well with them. Photos can be used in social media and branding with impunity or those cheap memes that get floated onto your FB timeline. Corporate America isn’t interested in paying top dollar for photos so why not give them some cheap alternatives?

Pro Photogs reading this could well declare Jihad against the likes of FOAP as the sully the good name of licensed images but hey, that’s life. Royalty free is here to stay and there is no stopping them.

What are the Security Issues?

Yes, with no way to get back to your earnings except from the app, you don’t exist outside of the mobile internet world. This means if you lost your phone or tablet, you can only reactivate your account via a new device. Anything else, you need to contact their support unit directly. This also means that all your photos on your device could be stolen and uploaded by the culprit under his name.

There is also the fear of stolen images ending up in some other conniving image thief. All they have to do is steal your flickr photos or device images, get them onto a device storage like a microSD card and then uploaded to FOAP as their own via the FOAP app. Then again if all you ever shot was your pet cat, I don’t think you’d be earning a pretty penny from them.

FOAP takes a hands off approach to copyright theft and if you have any grounds to chase them for copyright, then you could take it down using a DMCA complaint. It is a scorched earth policy you have to take if you want to put up photos for sale.

Should I, or Shouldn’t I?

If you shot solely on your iPhone or Android device, chances are you might have shot something that is worth something to someone. Large stock agencies on the other hand rarely pay attention to mobile stock images as their quality is suspect but not for the guys at FOAP. They think it is good enough and they might just be right.

So instead of relegating your mobile device photos to a wall post on Facebook, why not make some beer money for yourself? It is certainly worth a shot.

Why the Galaxy Note 3 is good value for Money

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Dollar for dollar, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is far better value for money than the iPhone 5S anytime and you don’t have to look far to know why. For the longest time, I have had sleepless nights thinking that maybe I should get back into Apple’s ecosystem after having invested so much money on apps. But the truth is, this is changing. The apps you have on the old Apple iOS 6 is a different breed than that of iOS 7. Developers have seized this new opportunity to develop new apps for iOS7 and want you to pay (again) for the same app you paid for iOS 6.

Upgrading seems insanely infantile. Just coz you want a new OS, you have to rebuy some of the old apps you had previously—all for a spiffy new iOS7 look.  What’s more, Apple forgot to mention that the 64 bit architecture isn’t going to speed up your iPhone one bit thanks to the limited amount of RAM you’re saddled with.

Hardware versus Hardware

Apple fanboys will take a blood oath and swear upon their mother’s grave that the hardware on the new iPhone 5S is the best value for money. Phoeey to you. Dollar for dollar you get more screen real estate from a Galaxy Note 3 than on the iPhone 5S. The two are priced within the same ballpark, with the Galaxy Note 3 getting cheaper as it matures.

Apple’s new camera sensor is suppose to take better Panoramas and low light pictures but that doesn’t mean you are going to hunt vampires in the night. What about the wide open vistas you are hoping to take? I do agree that the variable exposure settings is a pain on the old iOS6 and is much better on iOS 7, but how often do you shoot wide angle panoramas?

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Let’s not forget the Stylus. Sure, Steve Jobs wanted you to point with your finger and he had vehemently denied the usefulness of a pen or stylus. He could be right, I never saw anyone pick his nose or any bodily orifices  with a stylus or pen. But when it comes to drawing and taking notes, writing is indeed faster than an onscreen keyboard.

RAM is an issue with lesser Android devices but it is not so for the iPhone? You now why? Apple’s iPhone could never do multiscreen multitasking! It has always been a poor performer on multi tasking but it gives you the impression it could be a multi tasking beast as long as you have your music being played while you surf the net.

What about the radio? Apple’s iTunes radio service isn’t free as advertised. You have a data plan? Good. Watch that run out within a few days if you stream your music everyday over LTE or 3G. The Galaxy Note 3 has a Free-to-Air radio feature to get RF local stations won’t cost you a dime to use it, only battery juice. The only way you can get such a free radio service on your iPhone is to strap a transistor radio to it.

Need more room for storage? Ok, well ante up to the new iPhone 5S with 64GB of space. On the Galaxy Note 3, you could just pop in a microSD card with 128GB written on it and it will work. You want more storage on the iPhone 5S? Go get another iPhone.

What about video? The iPhone 5S is the top of the range device that supports 1080p video. The Galaxy Note 3′s top of the range model supports 4K video. Of course it won’t mean much to you if you have a puny 1080p TV, but wait till you get your hands on a 4K TV. Apple thinks it is a bad idea to future proof your device with 4K video capture so you have to wait for the iPhone 6 to enjoy this.

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Finally, iPhone’s retina display isn’t a big deal anymore. In fact, it is so old school that in it has become almost geriatric. Let’s not talk PPI. It puts the iPhone to shame. A long time ago, Apple’s retina display could boast of having the highest pixel density of 326ppi. Today, there are over a dozen models that can beat that score.

Innovation please…?

Buoyant by initial demand for the iPhone 5S, Apple fan boys will line up to be one of the first to own it. But sadly, even Wall Street knows that it isn’t worth the hype it was created on. Dollar for dollar you are paying so much for so much less in terms of hardware and features that you have to be blind in one eye to see any value in such an investment.

My scathing remark has to do with value and nothing else. I love Apple products. I still carry an iPod 5G for good measure. I wish Apple tried harder to win me over but they don’t see the value in doing such things. All they want is your money. Innovation is a forgotten inducement. My fear is that Apple becomes another Blackberry. Too late to innovate and too stubborn to listen. That’s what brought it down.

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As much as the credit goes to Jony Ive for the new iOS 7 update, that isn’t going to save the iPhone ecosphere— especially with a design borrowed from Android. Take a look at the Shade feature and you’d know what I mean. Parallax image background themes are old school Android themes made new again on iOS. That said, Jony has done nothing to change the way iOS operates. It just gave it a face lift and called it new. Neither Tim or Jony wants to be risky with innovation it could cost them a ton in stock options. They have so much more to lose. That said, innovation is dead at Apple.

Microstock Agency Makes Android Debut

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It’s been a while but  Microstock library 123RF.com has taken almost forever just to make an Android app for RF photo submissions and it just made it to the Playstore. For some years, 123RF had an iOS app, called 123RF OTG which gives you the freedom to submit photos shot on the iPhone but it never did bother with Android community until now.

For the record, Microstock libraries are niche type operations and offer extended licensing. What is this licensing all about? Think of it as having pawned your crown jewels before ever having a chance to use them—with the business model similar to that of the oldest profession in the world.

How does it Work?

First, you have to submit a photo that is shot on a a 5 megapixel mobile device camera, have that vetted by their own team of photo editors before being approved for sale on the site. Now sale is misleading as they count towards downloads instead of image sale. What you get is 30 percent if you make it pass their censors and more if you happen to contribute more regularly.

Unlike FOAP that specialises in Editorial images, 123RF has commercial potential as they accept images with models and sell them with verified model releases. If it was at a specific location, you also need a property release, like if you posed a model next to the MI5 Building in London or the CIA headquarters in Langley, USA. Failure to do so could land you in a jail with the keys thrown away for good measure.

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The vetting process should take a few days, depending on how free they are to look at your badly mauled Instagram inspired pictures. Once it is up, you also need to send in your complete verified details as photographer and owner of the images you have submitted. This way, no one will claim that you lifted their pictures off Flickr for misrepresentation.

At the moment, 123RF also accepts news pictures and video feeds as well but that’s another story. You cannot be shooting a video and posting it to them via this app they have created. They take any 1080p video feed so you can try to shoot something with your smartphone and see if that sells. Uploading on the other hand has to be done via a web browser.

Benefits of Signing Up

There is one benefit, that is 123RF has specially created contest submissions you can take part in just to spice things up on your mobile. The contest will have different themes and you can submit any photos that fits into that category and win yourself US$300 bucks. That’s a pretty good deal compared to the returns you get from your images to the stock agency.

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The other benefit is that the contributor account you have with them also qualifies you to submit artworks, audio and video files. This is pretty interesting as you can record unique soundbites and have them submitted as well.

Before we jump the gun, the smartphone app only allows you to submit photos and not anything else. All other submissions have to be done via their web browser.

Dude, Show me the Money!

To be frank, it is not very lucrative for the smartphone photographer to indulge his or her passion in microstock photography. 123RF works on a per-download basis so you don’t get paid on per use. They use a popularity system and pay 30 percent on that but it can go as high as 60 percent. If you have more downloads from that image, you score more on their scale. They don’t even have a published rate that speaks in layman terms! All the earnings information is available to you only if you didn’t fail maths in school. Beyond that, you can only hope that they are not out to bamboozled you out of your day to day earnings. Cashing out can be done via Skrill or Paypal. Minimum is US$50 bucks so to make that cut, you should have at least 500 image downloads. You do earn more for other submissions like artworks, eps vectors, audio and video. Smartphone Images are unfortunately categorised as cannon fodder. Works shot on a DSLR is more highly rated and if suitable for print, you can earn far more.

123RF transitions to this mode of payment only recently. Just to make it cheaper for publishers and image buyers. They even have a weird Creative Commons giveaway, where you give up all rights to the photos for free to use. These gimmicky approach is to attract would be image buyers to sign up but I think it’s a waste of effort. It will no doubt attract the free loading content thieves who ply the Flickr route.

Whatever you do, don’t quit your day job just to live the life of a pro-stock photographer. The commission you earn isn’t going to help you pay that mortgage but it could pay for the tent you had in mind for camping out in the woods.

What you need to know about 64 bit Processors

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As silly as it might sound but Samsung has committed itself to a slew of new mobile processors after being told by Apple to buckle up. This was after the launch of iPhone 5S where it was announced that 64 bit is where the A7processor stands today. The A7 is so new that no games or apps has been tailored to meet the new 65 bit requirements…oppss….requirement is the wrong word. Let’s back track a little.

Android Can’t talk 64 Bit

This is true. All the current line of Processors for the Android platform run on 32 bits. Even the code from Jelly Bean, the current OS from Google refuses to talk in 64 bit. Samsung promised that it will have a 64 bit processor ready….soon. Well, soon maybe a bit too early. Try next year when Android releases Kit Kat and find out for yourself if that is truly 64 bit . Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3, which is suppose to take on the Apple devices this year has only a 32 bit processor! So does it mean anything?

iPhone’s Spiffy new Processor

iOS 7 and the A7 are both 64 bit compliant. That’s crazy if you asked me. Too damn fast for something that small. But how is that going to add up in terms of performance? Guess, what…..its zilch!. Here’s Why it won’t work.

Where’s My Gas Tank Dude?

Did you know that Apple claims that it has a 10 percent larger battery? Yup. If you are lucky, it is suppose to give you a further 10 hours or talk time, that’s provided you use it for talking and not playing games and other stuff. With any luck, your new iPhone will tank out  an hour later than previously assumed if you had all the connections made thru WiFi, IM, FB, Instagram running all at the same time. 64 bit processors are very thirsty to run. If you don’t have the fuel for it. You won’t go the extra mile.

Where is the Extra space Dude?

Apple never claimed anything extravagant about RAM, and that’s where it will give you the most problems. The iPhone 5 only has 1GB of RAM. The Galaxy Note 3 has 3GB of RAM. And guess what? For a 64 bit processor to show its true prowess, you need a minimum of 4GB of RAM! So if you unwrapped your new iPhone 5S, and find out that you only have 2GB of RAM tops. You are not going to seen any difference! Apple has been mum about the whole affair hoping that you won’t know the difference.

WTF is the Upgrade in plain English Dude?

There are no apps that are optimized for 64 bit processing but it will come later in the year. Then you have the problem of another kind, seeing some speed gain or superficial speed gain, which at this moment is negligible. Google doesn’t think you need 64 bit processing as yet for one simple reason. There is no reason to!

Apple has technically sold you a car with a fantastic new engine but without the necessary hardware to make it move faster than it was originally claimed. WTF is Apple doing? It can only be pointing in one direction. All of Apple’s processors for their desktops are running 64 bit. This new A7 will fit into the Apple TV Games Console that has yet to be announced. It will run iOS, and you’d be able to play games designed and developed for the iPhone and iPad. Makes perfect sense if you asked me. Games and software can be ported to iOS and then to its future TV device once it is ready for prime time.

In short, Apple has asked you to invest in their future. You bought into some redundant firmware and hardware which won’t run on that multicolored iPhone but heck, you have paid Apple to develop their spiffy new console device with your kind patronage. That kinda sucks doesn’t it?

Custom Themer for Android

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My ColorScreen is a launcher developer that is about to release a really cool beta app that promises to change your home screen.  Now most of you know that there is one thing that sets Android apart from iOS device is that the former has loads of customisation options. There is always one popping out of the Google Play store that garners legion of followers only to be flatten by less than stellar performance on any Android device.

Themer from My ColorScreen is seems pretty slick but then again, this is just a intro video to their launcher. The candy colored theme is probably a bit too sweet for many of you.

Not too long ago, one particular theme launcher that debut on Kickstarter was asking for a 30K of funding and got double that. But since its launch, the theme has been panned by users and critics for being bug infested and laggy.

The Chameleon theme looks fabulous. You can’t deny it. It has a touch of sophistication which unfortunately did not materialise in the final product.

Chameleon Launcher for Android

Chameleon Launcher for Android

And to add insult to injury, the problems still persist even now though I suspect not all of the problems are entirely their fault.

Where’s my RAM Dude?!

Not too long ago, we all had only 1GB of RAM on our devices. This is the storage area used by the device’s CPU and works more like a “warehouse” than a storage room. Apps that needed to work move in and out of this warehouse, and those you leave on your device to run operations like launchers and persistent apps reside here. Each time an app is launched, it is moved into RAM to do its work.

Persistent apps such as those like IM and apps that have push notifications require a fair bit of space in this warehouse to serve you. They work in the background so you won’t see them much until they receive a work order to generate a notification to display. You can view how they occupy RAM by going to settings>applications>running apps.

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One of the problems with limited RAM is that you really don’t have much room to move about once you have manufacturer type bloatware home screen TouchWiz and Sense UI. When you install a custom theme launcher, it squeezes the resident home screen launcher into the background. This means even more RAM is used up. The only way to remedy this is to go for a total removal of resident bloatware home screen launchers but this means you have to root and flash your device with custom ROM. These often work better and faster but at the expense of app compatibility. Some Google play apps may not work once you root your phone.

I have installed several popular launchers on my 1GB RAM devices and all of them behave like they had too many rounds at the buffet table. It’s just not happening. Custom launchers just do not have the sort of room to move about even when you have loads of internal storage (as opposed to RAM). What’s more, there are launchers are very resource intensive, those which checks for regular updates and new notifications are prime suspects. These have custom widgets that give you social media updates, galleries of your flickr photos, animated backgrounds or news feeds make it worst. It is this sort of stuff that will eventually kill your appetite for launchers.

Solution is just over the Horizon

More RAM, that’s one remedy, with a faster processor. That’s provided that the bloatware on your device has not been increased, or would you want to increase them with all sorts of social media feeds and IM apps like KakaoTalk, Line, Viber, Skype and Whatsapp.

The new generation devices have up to 3GB of RAM and with quad core processor to boot, running custom launchers would be smoother.

iOS doesn’t have this problem even with limited RAM as they don’t have custom screens. The concept behind the no nonsense UI is that you can get to any app you want from home screen. Android launchers on the other hand are supposed to decorate your home screen and give access to information you deem as important, hence the time, notification updates, calendar and newsfeed widgets. The new iOS 7 look does not address the issue of launchers so they are in a different league.

There is no right or wrong to this approach. It is just that Android home screens are built differently and with newer devices with loads more RAM, custom launchers will be the way forward for people who want a tad more personalization than what you find on iOS.

BBM on Samsung Galaxy: Too soon or too late?

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Apparently BBM is going to make its debut on Samsung Galaxy phones in Africa after its long promised launch of iOS and Android. But who would want to use that now? Word out is that Apple is evaluating the BBM app. Should they even be afraid?

For one, I firmly believe that the only way out for Blackberry is to die a natural death, just like the Palm Pilot with it’s later resurrection WebOS that came with a crash and burn effect.

BBM is as fashionable as wearing inch high shoulder pads with all your attire. There are so many more ways to skin a cat than to have BBM on Android.

Same old Same old…

Who in their right mind would pay for the BB World service is beyond me. In the past, BBM was king. No one could touch it. Talk anytime you want, anywhere you want and chat with friends from all over the globe. Today, if you need IM, why not consider the likes of LINE, WECHAT, KAKAOTALK, or ChatON? BBM was part of the BB  service, you pay a monthly fee just to chat and all data connected with chatting is covered by the fee. Big deal. Even if you chatted all day and all night for 30 days, I doubt you’d rake up enough bandwidth to move a movie through P2P. With the move to BB10 operating system, the new open platform herald a free BBM service that rides on your data plan but legacy users still had to PAY to get BBM. Why not make it open for everyone? But of course they didn’t.

Blackberry made IM chic, but you have to pay to access this service as it was their business model….which is suppose to be premium for those Exec types. However if you take a look at the landscape for IM, there is no reason to go BBM even if your friend can only be found on BBM. There are IM services like Viber, WeChat, Skype and Whatsapp, all of which are available on some of BB’s devices. You also need to thank BB for fragmenting its hardware to the point of no return. With so many different processors, hardware configurations and touch screens, mobile app developers clearly do not want to make an app work on just ONE platform.

Where is my BBM now?

“BBM Me” used to be a buzzword. Wow. You’re a blackberry user. Today, it has to be whispered just to avoid being labeled “old skool”. BBM will make its debut in Africa, a land where poor data bandwidth dwells. The limited infrastructure makes perfect sense if telcos aim to make money on data bandwidth rather than SMS. All you need is an EDGE connection and you can be text messaging all day till the Lions come home.

Samsung’s spearheading the attack into Africa is well planned but for BB, they need to either sink or swim. BBM is tied to BB devices, so if you want to be flooded by messages placed through your server by Android and iOS devices, what are you going to do to make money? You don’t have to look far to see the business model that both LINE and KakaoTalk are subscribing to. It is not in the billions but with some creative foresight, it might work out for the better.

Facebook already has a separate Messaging app that runs outside of the Facebook App, they know where they are going with it and how that will make money for them. BB just has to emulate that. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out.

I haven’t the faintest idea on when BBM will land on iOS but Apple isn’t pleased either.  Its own iMessage and Facetime has proven to be an abject failure for users and is now buried in the message pane, hopefully forgotten until rediscovered while you are out cleaning  your apps. Yes, Apple’s own iMessage is a fucking disappointment. Worst still is the Facetime function which was sold to many as a game changer on desktop Macs. It clearly doesn’t work as well and if you paid money for the Desktop version, you have been had.

Facetime and iMessage was suppose to revolutionise the messaging platform but it just didn’t handle the calls placed as quickly or efficiently even when you have over 50 million people who are said to be subscribers. Apple probably feels these folks are freeloading on their servers and since they don’t pay to have the service, well the service has got to suck.

BB should learn from this mistake. Just because you have mass, it doesn’t mean you got the muscle to manage it all.

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BBM is very secure. So secure that the NSA can’t hack into it.

What are my Options?

Got sakes, just take a look around.  IM has replaced SMS and if you are still using SMS, then you are truly a 20th century kid. You can virtually connect through ANY of your friends via Skype, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangout, LINE, WeChat, KakaoTalk or the lesser known KiK messenger. I am sure if your friend on Windows, BB, iOS or Android will be on one of those and as long as you have three of them working on your device, it should cover the entire spectrum of friends.

There was a time, a long time ago that is, when people used BBM. Today, it is as dead as the Dodo and yes, you may think that it is sexy but I can assure you that times has changed and that bell bottom trousers you been saving since the 70s isn’t going to come back into style anytime soon.

Who would be the future users of BBM? Well, these should be drug dealers, human traffickers, terrorist, paedophiles. arms dealers, the Taliban, communist Insurgents, Neo Nazis, North Korea and criminals from the world including dictators and their henchmen. Blackberry does a damn good job in keeping the BBM messages secret so if you happen to fall under those guises, please stay on BBM. Your life depends on it.

March of the Android Watches

Neptune Pine

Where is Apple’s iWatch? I suppose it is on the horizon come Sept when Tim Cook announces it but then again he might not. But when Apple does come into play, the Watch market could be quite crowded.

Sony is planing an update to its Watch and there are already a few Android watches to date, so why not welcome another one that is up for pre order right now?

Neptune Pine Enters the Frey

If you have US$335 to spare, well put one down for a 16GB version. This baby isn’t just a watch, it is a fully fledged Android device! Neptune Pine sounds like an Apple product judging from the price of this baby.

2.4 inch TFT capacitive touchscreen 
320×240 QVGA resolution

Cellular Networks
GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850, 900, 1700, 1900
UMTS/HSPA+/WCDMA 850, 1700, 1900, 2100


Memory
512MB RAM 
16 or 32 GB mass storage

OS
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

Connectivity
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n 
GPS 
Bluetooth 4.0 
USB 2.0 
Micro-SIM

So if you ever wanted to be like Dick Tracey or Batman, well this could be your next bet. Now, here is my beef with the product. How the hell do you type?

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The 2.4 inch screen is probably pretty big if you were born Hobbit sized but then again, you could probably be able to type better on this than most of us can if you were that small. The keys are tiny! And please don’t use the long fabled example of Apple’s own tiny keyboard on the original iPhone. Judging from the number of “auto correct” faux pas we have seen, Putin could have accidentally text Obama his declaration of War if he ever used one. I don’t believe that such a keyboard can be optimized for anything more than just sending coded Text messages.

It is true that the mobile phone decimated the market for watches and right now, it seems to be going the other way. Will it work? Will it be a hit? Only Geeks and fashion victims may apply.

 

 

 

Android Device Manager Locates your Device

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Amnesia? Dementia? Or just plain forgetful? Google has just announced Android Device Manager for you to control your device’s security remotely. It’s not the best tool but just something to rival Apple’s FindMy iDevice app. All it does is enable a security data wipe as well as tracking ability if you happen misplace your mobile device.

Will Not Located Stolen Devices

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Contrary to popular belief, you cannot possibly find a stolen device. Thieves these days are just petty criminals. They are only interested in selling your stolen device, stealing your email, facebook or paypal account is a little far-fetched these days with all the security features implemented by Banks and Credit Card Companies.

The can cause a tonne of hassle if they do access or try to steal your Facebook or Instagram account but that’s about it. Pro hackers and thieves will prefer to Phish your account than to take your device and try to decipher your password.

I should know as I had my own device stolen and my FB account hacked in the process.

Many Device, One Manager

Yup, you can manage multiple devices from just one account. This is probably the best way to take care of your mobile toys and its available for Android devices from Froyo (2.2) to JellyBean.

Run Android on Windows 8 and Mac OSX

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For users of Windows 8 and Mac OSX, the idea of running Android on these systems may sound pretty far fetched but one company doesn’t think so. BlueStacks, a start up that is taking on the Ouya console, has been pushing its GameStop console to the masses but unknown to many, BlueStacks also offers TWO free versions of Android that will run on your Windows 8/7 as well as Mac OSX. The idea behind this is simple. The virtual machine app (app player) resides on top of your current OS allowing you to run programs and apps from the Android universe, well on paper it appears to be so but there are some caveats.

Virtual Operation Systems

One of the chief problems with a Virtual Machine OS is that it is rarely 100% compatible. This apparently is the case with BlueStacks app player.

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From the moment you install the app player, the program will ask you to link your google account to sync your BlueStacks app player. Once that is done, you’d realize that many of the options to install the apps are all there but once you start to use them, you’ll encounter problems running it. This is partly due to memory addressing, storage and of course the GPU which has to render the graphics. I tested it on one game and though it played, it was much slower.

For example it can’t handle many games that are graphics intensive. So forget about the FPS type games. It does play the Angry Birds games well enough but that’s rarely a graphics intensive workload on the GPU.

I found the inclusion of Facebook app for Android in the BlueStacks App player list totally laughable. Why bother to use a mobile app if you can access it from a browser of your Windows or Mac OSX device?

Where is the Future for BlueStacks?

Currently, the app player is still a work in progress while they ready themselves for a GamePop console launch. You can technically still run some productivity and utility apps from the Play store but that’s probably about it.

BlueStacks has set its eyes on the future as a gaming console. For a monthly fee subscription, you can use the console to pay games on your big screen TV.

I do foresee that the app player could be integrated into this eco system in the future where you can play Android games on your Mac OSX or Windows machine—which for now is a long shot.

Windows users may be a better bet for the Android apps for now. Microsoft has all to fear and loath them right now as people running this app will not see the benefit of buying full software products that run solely on Windows 8 platform. For Mac OSX users, the attraction will only be in gaming, where the OSX system is at a disadvantage. Unfortunately most Android games don’t run too well on them  so you will just have to wait it out.

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Jelly Bean and Gingerbread Man

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The latest figures on Android OS distribution is in and it shows that both ICS and Jelly Bean command more than half of the installed OS based for Android products. But a sizeable number, about 33 percent are still holding on to the old Gingerbread OS, which I have used and do not like but what gives?

As many of you may already be aware, Gingerbread is virtually the last OS that people can hold onto before they are propelled upwards to ICS where apps can be moved to SD card storage. This handy approach of course is one factor for keeping to Gingerbread as those with less than 1GB of internal storage will need the option to move apps to the SD or external storage. Gingerbread was  found on most smartphones during the introduction of dual core devices but there are also a lot of owners who own single core devices which ran Gingerbread. These devices, when loaded with ICS would be troublesome to say the least. In fact, the benefits outweigh the advantages when it comes to keeping your old device running. 

ICS has no inherent advantages except for smoother UX and better app memory and storage management. The Google bloatware that comes with it like G+ and Googleplay Services plug-ins are things you can live without. Any device without sufficient RAM will suffer from operational lag and will translate to nothing more than mind boggling frustration.

It’s the same with iOS devices, where the 3GS iPhone can run the updated iOS firmware but it starts behaving like an geriatric device in need of a mercy death blow.

Hacking or rooting your device on ICS is probably one way of getting round to some of the storage restrictions but it never really addresses the issue of app compatibility once the surgery is done.

My advice to you who are thinking of update your device hangs one pertinent issue. If it ain’t broke, why update it?

What Blue Box’s Android Security Flaw Means to You

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Before you jump the gun and throw out your Android device, let me explain how best to approach this.

This is a Google Android Problem

How this problem came about is really about the open platform that Google prides itself on.  Google doesn’t really scan for malicious code in the first place and if you thought that Google will protect you from Trojans at any previous occasion, well think again.

The Blue Box discovered flaw capitalizes on Master Key or  Security Certificate flaw which allows would be hackers to modify the code without ever tampering with the Security Certificate. The chances of you catching a bug like this and having it take over your whole device is actually quite remote if you have downloaded an app from a reputable company. If you only download programs from reputable gaming companies, like EA, Rovio, Gameloft and use apps from Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, etc, then you’re not going to be hit with a zombie code that takes total control of your device.

The Rooted Problem

Here is the greatest danger. Rooted phones. People love to tamper with the the versions of the OS and get new ROMs to replace that on a existing phone. You then play around with hacked apps, modified and claimed by hackers to do wonders for battery life, and with it, a rogue code is inserted into the modified app. You download it, and install it because your prefer to live dangerously and welcome the Trojan into your life. Good luck.

Fix is available with Re-Key

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There is a third party app that can fix this, but it is only for ROOTED devices. You can look this up on the Play store. I won’t be bothered to post a link here as people who root their phones are asking for trouble in the first place.

I don’t believe in rooting for one simple reason, the means outweigh the benefits. For one, many apps do not work well on rooted phones. They have niggling problems and having encountered a few, I decided that it wasn’t worth the problem.

Android allows you to install apps from ‘unknown sources’, meaning if you want your device to catch herpes, you could easily do it by enabling this feature and downloading apps from various other sources.

What you can do to protect yourself from Malware

First, get your device sorted out with a anti-virus app like Avast, Kaspersky, Norton, AVG, etc. The free version will protect you from the usual culprits as it scans and detects a host of malware developed so far. I have downloaded viruses and Trojans type apps from the Google Playstore and had to remove them by using these virus busters. Even though Google is paying more attention to Malware found in Apps these days, I don’t think they are as aggressive in checking them as Apple does on its iOS platform.

Be Safe than Sorry

Just a few things to remember if you wanna stay safe. It’s simple and works for me.

  1. Do not ROOT your device unless you want to catch some app cooties.
  2. Download and use only apps from reputable companies and sources.
  3. Do not enable apps to be installed from “unknown sources”.

Li-ion Bloated Batteries? WTF?

Bloated Battery from Samsung, an original battery that has given up its life in less than 18 months. The left battery is a third party battery

Bloated Battery from Samsung, an original battery that has given up its life in less than 18 months. The left battery is a third party battery

So you have heard that Yuasa, the li-ion battery maker for Boeing’s Dreamliner start to give problems, the whole fleet of plans had to be grounded.

You might think that such battery failure is rare but the truth is that it is more common than imagined because Li-ion batteries are one of the most volatile when used incorrectly. For mobile devices, it is the same as something has got to give when you have a power hungry device so here’s the deal. The battery in your Android and iPhone are never made to last more than 18 months. I got a brand new iPod Touch 5G which went kaput within four months of intense use. The end result was a brand new replacement.

My GN wasn’t so fortunate. After 14 months of use. It decided to die on me. This was the original GN battery from Samsung that gave way, to it goes to show that even if you buy branded, chances are that it will eventually fail.

Then my Blackberry Bold failed, battery was a third party product but a high capacity charged version. So that said, I am no stranger to battery failure.

Why Li-ions Fail

There are really just two reason. Over charging and excess HEAT. These are the two main culprits. So lets deal with the first one. Overcharging is very easy to do. This is when you leave the device running while charging at the same time. I know you can’t deal with the fact that your Facebook notifications goes unread during the hours you are fast asleep but heck, you are running down your battery at the same time.

What are Heat Problems

Remember the time I told you that my GN had battery problems because it was running the background apps over and over without stopping? That cause the device to run really hot, contributing to the overall overheating of the whole unit.

Viruses on Android  are also contributing factor when you suddenly find out that the battery you have is draining exceptionally quick after a full charge.

Bad apps, such as those found on both iOS and Android contribute to the demise of your  battery when the app goes OCD by checking and reconnecting for notification updates.

Proper Battery Maintenance

This new finding has also proven that Li-ion Batteries have Memory Effect. This means that the myth that your new Li-ion battery is immune to charge related problems is now busted. You need to maintain your battery to ensure a longer life.

1. Discharge your Battery completely ONCE a month

This is something many of you refuse to do. By discharging your battery completely once a month, you are allowing your battery gauge to recalibrate. Do not do this more than once a month as the recommended discharge recalibration is once every 30 charges. So if you happen to charge your device once a day, then remember to discharge you battery completely once every 30 days.

2. Stop  Running Hot

Never allow your device to run hot as this affects your battery performance. One of the key problems is bad apps and not properly closing games or other apps that stay awake. For example some online games will not allow your device to go into a sleep state. Once in stasis mode, even when the game is not actively running, the battery is consumed as the display is always on. Another problem is related to viruses on the Android platform. If you suspect you have downloaded a bug, just get a virus eradicator like the one from Avast, which will help you stamp out the rogue app that is causing this.

3. Getting a Full Charge versus Partial Charge

If you have charged up your device, then take it out of the charger. Never leave it running as a way to maintain a full charge state. There is this article on Li-ion batteries that you should read. And I quote it here.

Li-ion does not need to be fully charged, as is the case with lead acid, nor is it desirable to do so. In fact, it is better not to fully charge, because high voltages stresses the battery. Choosing a lower voltage threshold, or eliminating the saturation charge altogether, prolongs battery life but this reduces the runtime. Since the consumer market promotes maximum runtime, these chargers go for maximum capacity rather than extended service life.

Forget about what you read about the cut off charge in Li-ion batteries, that too is a myth. There is a trickle charge that makes sure the battery  stays on maximum capacity and this stresses the battery out. So leaving your battery in a charger is never good.

4. Turn Off the Device when Charging

This is to prevent the charger from sending out a trickle charge as a way to top off the battery’s optimum capacity. This might be a hinderance to iPhone or HTC owners who have no access to the battery to allow for some kind of swapping. This continuous charge to top off the capacity is what stresses the battery out. So if you are wondering why your battery isn’t giving you the hours you expect from it, well now you know.

5. Never charge at a higher Voltage

Some devices have built in detectors to monitor the correct voltage input before it allows the device to be charged. This is not a bad thing as some third party chargers promise higher voltage charges just to decrease the amount of charge time at the expense of your battery. If you have a device that doesn’t have such a circuit, then you are pretty much in trouble if you use a third party charger.

I have noticed that my ASUS transformer and iPod Touch won’t charge with just ANY USB charger, meaning they have built in a monitoring circuit to ensure you only use a charger that conforms to the device battery. By charging at a higher voltage, chances are you are damaging your battery by stressing it out. This is what happens when your battery gets bloated like the one in the picture.

Conclusion

All Li-ion batteries have a shelf life. Most of them won’t last more than 400 to 500 cycles of charging, which is good for about a year’s use. Taking into account that you need to charge your battery once a day, that’s 365 times in a year. By taking the correct precautions, you could extend your battery life a bit more than that. For those who are stuck on devices that won’t allow you to swap batteries, fret not. Take out an insurance cover that gives you free maintenance should your device ever break down due to battery related problems. Not all insurance covers are the same as some don’t cover the battery so please remember to read between the lines.

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Utilities to boost RAM and Battery Life

unnamedI have been doing a whole host of experiments to boost RAM and Battery life and I think it is high time you people out there know the Pros and Cons of installing these apps that have wild claims.

Boosting RAM

I downloaded a slew of RAM boosters, including one called Smart RAM Booster that has a Paid PRO version. Let me set the record straight on this one, RAM boosting is no different than going to your Task Killer or Application Monitor (found on Samsung devices) and quitting all your running apps. What you see is an immediate increase in RAM space but that slowly climbs up because certain apps (such as Social Media Apps) will start to demand their space to fetch notifications and updates. In short, it doesn’t really work to your advantage.

RAM boosting is ideal for quick fix RAM demands, such as when you are running an App that requires more space and need a one button “quit all” fix. It does two things.

  1. Boot out leftover Apps that you have forgotten to close upon quitting but remain in RAM
  2. Boot out all the notification widgets installed in RAM

RAM boosting unfortunately has limited use and doesn’t quite cut it as a long term app. There are loads of RAM boosters out there that promises immediate clearing of RAM but it never remains so for long.

Battery Saving

unnamed-1Your device screen is the main source of battery drain, those high density screens will suck up your battery juice each time you engage your device and there is no other way to avoid it. If you peek into the settings file on ICS devices, you’d see a battery status which will show what you have running that grabs the most power. The Screen and the OS are two that are unavoidable since you need that to run your device, the rest? Oh well. I leave you to decide.

So let’s talk about Deep Sleep Battery Saver. There is both a free version and a paid version. I tested the free version and came to the conclusion that if you are serious about setting up a battery consumption limit, you better opt for the PRO version that allows you to customize the settings to suit your usage style.

The point here is that the free version has little to offer. I did see an improvement in battery life, about 20 percent but this is at the cost of usability. Because it adopts a very aggressive method  of dealing with recalcitrant apps (it turns off 3G and WiFi to protect your battery), it will severely hamper all your IM and Social Media Apps.

Apps like Skype and Viber have no way of accessing notifications and they fight to reclaim their bandwidth when your device is turned on at intervals set by Deep Sleep Battery Saver. Your device will lag and takes ages to access even simple stuff like SMS and phone book. I have not tested this on a quad core device, it might work differently but on a dual core device, Deep Sleep puts your device into a coma even at a Gentle setting.

I am not endorsing the PRO version even though I think that having access to a customized experience can make a difference. It might…but I haven’t tried it.

Conclusion

RAM usage and Battery drain are related. The apps need to occupy RAM space to work and when they start working, they tap on your battery for power. I wish you could of course control this from the app itself. Like for example restricting the Facebook app to run at certain intervals instead of being active 24/7.

If you are serious about RAM problems, my only advice to you is to get a device with more RAM instead of relying on RAM boosters which are a waste of time. You could also optimize your RAM by making a habit of using your Task Manager to close all inactive apps.

Battery life is more subjective as it depends on your usage patterns. You cannot use a one size fits all battery monitor to cut battery drain. I have found System Monitor by Pavel Petrov to be quite good but that’s only installed on a Tablet for testing at the moment. The downside of this app is really the UI, a very bad navigation experience. Aside from this, it’s quite ok so far. You can preset the device to close all running background apps at a certain time. Again, such clearing is temporary as these installed apps already have permission to load themselves back into the device memory and keep doing what they have been created to do.

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How to buy a Future Proof Android device

The guys at Apple magazine recently put a Samsung Galaxy S4 on its cover. For an independent magazine to do such a thing is tantamount to a sellout. Don’t matter if you are going to bash the device, it is never a good idea to put an Android product on an Apple Magazine, and here’s why.

It’s a hard look at future proofing your device, giving you the liberty to do more and have more fun. Apple iOS lost it. The innovation has come to a dead-end and you can safely predict the hardware spec on the next iPad or iPhone without gazing into a crystal ball. Apple has become very predictable in its choice of upgrades and you’d fall asleep once Tim Cook takes the stage. Apple Magazine could well be the next Android magazine if no new devices are coming out of Apple anytime soon.

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Tips for Choosing your Next Android

Smart Phones or Tablets? The choices are aplenty, but how do you buy one so that you won’t be out of date within 18 months? We all want a device for doing something we love and Android has it all, but how do you make sure you have a device that will last you the distance? With new models coming out every quarter, it becomes very difficult to choose one that will do the job without being outdated. Here is a list of things to watch out for.

1. Quad Core Processor

Forget the dual core, you need at least four cores to run things smoothly. The Octo-core processors will eventually make its debut within the next 12 months so you need a head start with a quad-core device. By early 2014, Octo-cores will be standard fare.

2. 2GB RAM minimum

This is the actual RAM on board the device. Forget the 1GB RAM devices, those are out of date. You need more RAM because true multi-tasking is just not possible without it. 3GB or more would be ideal if you can afford to get your paws on that one. By end 2o13, 2GB will be outdated. Going into 2014-15, you need to have at least 4GB of RAM to stomach future apps. Coz apps are getting bigger and they need more room to move around. Custom Launchers too like Chameleon need lots of free RAM to look slick. Bane or Bonus, custom launchers are here to stay. Many don’t work well now because of a lack of free RAM space.

3. More Internal Storage Please

Given the size of these apps, you need more internal storage. The 8GB and 16GB devices are passe, you need more coz there are more apps now on Google Play than ever. To future proof your purchase, you need 32GB of internal storage in 2013. Double that to 64GB in 2014-2015. There is also the issue of bloatware, which of course will reside in internal storage when you boot up. Bloatware on carrier branded devices could cost you a few hundred MB of RAM space.

4. Expandable Card Slot is a MUST

Got a cool device but no slot for additional external storage? Then you are screwed! The humble microSD card is getting cheaper and coming in at 64GB, you would be a fool not to have one. The external storage card can be very useful if you happen to consume media like crazy.  Got a load of MP3? Some movie files in MKV? Bring it on. You store all your files here. For some Camera Apps, you can specify a directory within your SD storage where it will save all the files. The card slot is your ticket to mass media consumption. You need this to put your music or your porn regardless of what turns you on.

5. Eight megapixel is Enough

You don’t need a 13 or 12 megapixel camera, just 8 will be enough. The reason is simple. The bigger the megapixel, the larger the file will be. No point shooting something to share when you only need 5 megapixel at most. So 8 megapixel will be just fine for everything else. What’s more, you can’t possibly rely on that tiny BI sensor to deliver pro quality images for print. It is a different beast you need to capture those photos. However for a social media whore, dang….8 megapixel make me look good! Don’t be fooled into thinking about those 16 megapixel shooters— which will be standard fare in 2014. Stay safe, shoot with 8 megapixels my friend.

6. Get a Great Color Display

I was deeply disappointed with the Galaxy Note 10.1 as the display was pretty poor. I am also pretty disappointed with the Galaxy Note 8 display too. You gotta know that a good display makes it all the more pleasing to use and trust me on this one. I find myself using my Galaxy Tab 7.7 more than my Asus TF300 just because the display is so pleasing to look at. There are many to choose from FHD OLED, Super AMOLED, Retina Display, TFT, Super LCD3, etc. Which one suits you best? Well it’s really up to you. A better screen is a joy to behold.

The Last Word

I don’t believe that a gadget you buy will last you forever. Every 12 months or so, a new gadget arrives but there are some which cost more that offers some future proofing. For example, the Galaxy S4, with 32GB internal storage and 2GB RAM can last you into the end of 2015. But a 16GB version will be very restrictive and chances are you’ll ante up to a new device by end 2014.

Apple products fortunately are made to last longer because of its poor hardware upgrades. If you have an iOS device, chances are you can use it for a good 18 months before the hardware becomes restrictive. Today, we see iPads with 128GB of storage. Tomorrow, we can expect to see 32GB iPhones as standard. Rumors of a cheap iPhone does not make sense. If you have poor hardware, people will compare that with Android devices and choose something from HTC  or Asus. A cheaper iPhone already exist in the form of the overpriced iPhone 4s and 4. If you need a second phone, the iPhone 4 fits the bill. If Apple offers an even cheaper iPhone, it’s one that would look more like the 3GS—gutted to fit a new processor and limited 16GB RAM.

The second biggest market for the iPhone is China, but the China Appstore is one that doesn’t make any money for Apple because of the rampant fraud that goes on with Appstore credits used to buy online media and apps. It just doesn’t make sense to make a cheaper iPhone for just that market.

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iOS versus Android: Multi Tasking Conundrum

urlMany people have fallen in love with the Galaxy Note 2′s multi tasking feature and on the Galaxy Note 10.1 but what about iOS multi tasking? Why hasn’t it taken off?

The simple answer is really the cost of onboard RAM.

Mobile devices have a very complicated way of using RAM. On the iPhone you have about 1GB of RAM (it’s more like 977 GB after formatting the RAM segments into usable memory space). The Galaxy Note 2 has 2GB of RAM (also a tad less after format) and so does the Galaxy Note 10.1.

The iPhone and it’s iPad siblings all have 1GB of RAM (with the exception of the iPad Mini which only has 512GB).

What we often get confused with is the use of Internal Storage (which is often quoted in 16GB, 32GB or 64GB). Internal storage is used differently by the processor while the absolute RAM is what determines the multi tasking capability.

What Samsung did with the the GN 2 is no rocket science. They just doubled the amount of RAM and allowed apps to run and used at the same time on one screen.

Apple can do the same thing with its iOS devices, just double down the amount of RAM and make APIs  for true multitasking. Why it hasn’t done so boils down to cost. By making it multi-task, it also makes it more expensive. Since there is a price point in which people are willing to pay for a device, Apple stands to make more money by debasing the hardware to its bare minimum to run its slew of apps. Technically, Apple makes you pay more for less hardware.

Android devices were made in the same vein as iPhones, with limited RAM. I remember owning my Acer Liquid Android phone that only had 512MB of RAM. With apps that has onboard tracking and notification, it will stay resident in RAM and refuse to be booted out. Facebook for example occupies 21 MB of RAM. It does not seem like much but once you add on all the bloatware, it will take a hefty chuck of RAM from you.

Once available RAM space is limited, you will start to see some lag and performance problems. That is why you have these apps that zap or reset the RAM with a push of a button. Next question, how effective is this? Not very I’m afraid.

Each app on Android require permissions to run and once you download them, its like saying yes to everything they think you need. Apps that need notification access and tracking via GPS often stay resident even after you have boosted your RAM space with a reset. The app will re-load these instructions into your Android RAM once they are turned on and keep them there until the next time you do another RAM reset. Just take a peep into your Task Manager and check the RAM availability and you’d be surprised to see just how many apps are camped out in your RAM partition. It listed Facebook as the number one culprit, with 21MB! Google Plus doesn’t even need half that much.

Apple doesn’t offer true multi tasking and as such, do not have such RAM related problems. But you will noticed that even in iOS, the iPhone does slow to a crawl once you have left too many apps open in the background.

This could change once more RAM is installed. Personally I would pay to have more RAM but that’s not remotely possible. “Obsolesce” is what keeps these people in business so each time your hardware gets old, best to toss out the old and bring in the new.

Samsung’s Jellybean Update for Galaxy Note

I would also like to caution those who are eagerly awaiting the Galaxy Note’s Jellybean upgrade to bring this multi tasking capability. It will not run well if you don’t have enough RAM onboard. The original GN just doesn’t have it to run two apps at the same time even though it is technically possible (try tossing Facebook app from your device for a start) if you cleared up enough space for it. Aside from this, battery drain will also be an issue as it has a much smaller battery than compared to the new Galaxy Note 2.

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Is there a Future for Gaming on Android?

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Gaming has always been Apple’s stronger face for iOS and this is a fact. Those of you who own Apple Macs will noticed that most of the entry level hardware is unsuitable for gaming as it lacks the necessary graphics card to do the heavy lifting. But on Apple iPads and iPhones, it rocks. There are more games on the appstore than there is on the Google Playstore and what’s more, the best games often make their debut on iOS before making it to Android.

At CES 2013, two new android devices were announced, one by Nvdia called Project Shield and the other by Archos with the GamePad moniker. Both have uninspiring names—which leads me to think that they weren’t very inspired in developing the devices. So what’s going on? Are these doomed to fail?

Apple’s gaming suit shines brighter for many reasons. Standard hardware is one feature though the platform is fragmented now thanks largely to the differing display sizes but this hasn’t really stopped people from gaming on the iPad Mini or the iPhone 5.

Personally I think Archos’ GamePad might have a better run than Nvidia for one simple reason. Price. At $169, it offers a good price point for people to take up mobile gaming on Android compared with Sony’s overpriced PS Vita. In fact, the Archos GamePad offers an even better entry to mobile gaming to Apple’s own iPod Touch 5G, which retails at $299.

Chicken or Egg?

Now here is the question that everyone wants answers to. Will the GamePad be successful enough to take Android gaming to a new level? Face with the prospect of a rather poor list of games from Google’s Playstore, the success of gaming on Android remains to be seen.

Sales are poor due to the nature of the Android system that allows root access and pirated games to be downloaded and run without a hitch. Developers who make games are not going to pour in the cash needed to develop great games unless there is a verified based of consumers who own a GamePad. Heck, would you like to make a game and have downloads of 100K just coz you had a $1.99 price tag? How abou the ugly comments and reviews you read online? This will definitely affect the purchase decisions.

What Archos needs to do is offer up an Appstore of its own where the games itself are certified to run on the GamePad. Gamers are always looking for that killer app (the one must have game) to justify buying he hardware and not the other way around and we are not talking Angry Birds here.

The GamePad has to appeal to the very segment of consumers who buy and use the PSP and PS Vita—hardcore gamers. Unless and until this happens, gaming on Android will be relatively pedestrian.

Even now, the number of hardware controller add-ons to turn your Android tablet or phone into a hardcore gaming platform hasn’t quite hit the mark. Jellybean has that capability built into its core but with only a 20 percent take up rate so far (Jan 2013), it has a long way to go before such game controllers will be standardized.

So if I were you. I’d do what I did when the PS Vita was released and that is to wait and evaluate the software before the hardware. The last thing you’d want to buy is an Archos GamePad in which you’d use to call home.

Suck it Up with Clean Master

Clean_Master_App“Massstarrr, the House is very Messy!”

“Well Igor, CLEAN it up!”

Android suffers from one major problem. Juggling files in RAM storage and leaving a ton of trash files behind. Those of you unlucky enough to own 1GB RAM devices, you’ll know what I mean. Apps that promised some form of house cleaning can be found all over the playstore, and many do NOT warn you that your RAM is dangerous close to being overstuffed…that is until Clean Master came along.

First, I normally do not spend much time testing utility types apps but this one has won me over. The app is one that tells me whenever I am near the limit of my RAM storage and this happens quite often.

Why Your RAM is Stuffed

I have mentioned this before and I will mention it again. One of the biggest culprit for junk files is Social Media. Each time you fetch a Facebook newsfeed or an Instagram post, the files are stored in RAM. Over the course of a day, you will have more and more junk files than you care to imagine. A single newsfeed refresh on Facebook can yield as much as 1MB of files and once you start browsing your newsfeed, it starts to fetch even MORE files. The breathing room for your device gets squeezed and that’s when you start to realize that it gets slow and turgid. This addiction to mass Social Media Consumption is what drives people nuts. They want their device to be quick all the time but they only have themselves to blame.

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The other big users of RAM are games online or multiplayer. You may not know how this feels until you start to see glitches in speed. Your gaming starts to stall and lag. You know the deal here when you see it.

Clean Master Rocks

Flushing the toilet after use is probably the best way forward but mobile devices aren’t made for cache flushing on its own. Clean Master identifies the problem and alerts you about it. It’s up to you to take that notification seriously. The app can be used for both normal and rooted access. For rooted access, you can grant it Super user privileges.

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But Clean Master does more than this. It also monitors your App usage, warning you that some apps haven’t been used and you should junk them. For instance you may have downloaded an app and totally forgotten about it. Clean Master makes a note of all those apps that don’t have much attention and suggest that you eject them from storage. It also tracks your internal storage files, allowing you to clean up that forgotten video porn you  downloaded while waiting for your boss to get back from lunch.

Unlike other RAM cleaning apps, Clean Master monitors your RAM state constantly while leaving a very small footprint. For now, there is no banner advertising and from the looks of it, they could go PRO by asking for a fee later.

Android’s operating system can never be as efficient as iOS because of Google took the multi tasking route. iOS is more linear in its RAM usage and this is also the same reason why Apple never gives you much RAM to play with in the first place. By limiting the RAM on the iPhone 5s to just 1GB, you can see why iOS can never be truly multitasking. Apps that are in the background will stay stuck until you bring it up front. That is why so many side loading apps that promises background operation don’t work.

Android users have to contend with the constant house cleaning as part of the Android structure, but those background apps keep humming along without you having to do a thing. Files can be uploaded to cloud storage as a background process and two apps can be running and sharing the same resource and computing power.

There is no one perfect operation system and as long as you’re aware of this, you get to keep working the way you do on Android.