Hugo Barra Debunks Microsoft Partnership with Xiaomi

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In a G+ post, Hugo Barra has come up to clear the air regarding Xiaomi’s apparent defection to Microsoft Mobile that has been aired all over the Internet.

In a strongly worded post, Hugo had this to say.

– This is an experimental program led by Microsoft, working directly with the Mi fan community in China.

– Microsoft is working on a build of Windows 10 specifically for Mi 4 devices. This Windows 10 build will not be running on top of Android nor be available as a dual-boot option. A small number of Mi 4 power users from the Xiaomi Forum in China who choose to take part in this experimental program will have to manually re-flash their Mi 4 devices with this Windows 10 ROM, in the same way they would re-flash other Android ROMs.

– At Xiaomi, we are very supportive of users trying new things and we encourage them to do so all the time! That’s why all of our devices ship with unlocked bootloader, for example. That’s also why Xiaomi welcomes Microsoft team members to interact directly with members of the Xiaomi Forum in China. More details will be announced by Microsoft in the coming months. This program will only be available in China.

This shows that Xiaomi has no official relationship with Microsoft as portrayed by the Tech Press and isn’t planning on releasing any Xioami phones running Microsoft for the global market. As is, Microsoft has teamed up with the Chinese user group to test their Windows Mobile 10 on Mi phones. It’s not going global even if it can run Windows Mobile as there are patent issues that has to be resolved in specific countries.

Xiaomi has introduced its brand into the US and has not officially open a channel to sell their smartphones because of patent issues. In India, Xiaomi is faced a nasty lawsuit from Ericsson AB. So far it has not encountered similar problems during its release in Singapore and Malaysia but it remains to be seen if Xiaomi has the clout to withstand challenges from the likes of Apple, Google or Microsoft should it ever attempt to go global.

Xiaomi phones can run stock android from Google should it be released in the global market. However it still has to pay a minor licensing fee should it adopt Google services and apps running within its Mi launcher. Xiaomi runs a forked version of Android as Google’s services do not work in China. This forked Android operation system however does not include the patent protection it needs to sell hardware outside of the Chinese market.

– Xiaomi continues to fully embrace the Android ecosystem through our MIUI software platform and we’re moving ahead full steam building many exciting new Android-based features and services.

Bluebox Finds Malware on Xiaomi Mi 4 (China Version)

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Before we jump the gun, let’s be clear on one thing. Bluebox runs a security check mobile app for Android that measures the security level of your phone. It can be downloaded here.

What the folks at Bluebox found was that their test device was, let’s say obtained, from third party sellers which may have compromised. They ran the security check app and found loads of malware.

The Xiaomi Mi4 phone itself was a Chinese version, this means it’s not the international version sold in Singapore, India or Malaysia that is at fault.

What they found on the phone is scary. The third party Chinese retailers have been busy installing stuff into the phone without you knowing about it.

One particularly nefarious app was Yt Service. Yt Service embeds an adware service called DarthPusher that delivers ads to the device among other things[2]. This was an interesting find because, though the app was named Yt Service, the developer package was named com.google.hfapservice (note this app is NOT from Google). Yt Service is highly suspicious because it disguised its package to look as if it came from Google; something an Android user would expect to find on their device. In other words, it tricks users into believing it’s a “safe” app vetted by Google.

Other risky apps of note included PhoneGuardService (com.egame.tonyCore.feicheng) classified as a Trojan, AppStats classified (org.zxl.appstats) as riskware and SMSreg classified as malware[3]

So how do you know if your device is safe? You can take the Bluebox challenge and find out yourself. All you need is to download the free software from Bluebox on the Google Playstore

BlueBox Android App

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What this app does is explain some of problems found on your OS. Most of these are not fixable on your own and require updates on the OS. For example the “Settings PendingIntent” vulnerability and ‘GraphicsBuffer Overflow’ are system based. You can’t change them on your own.

Apps with System Level Privilege

Another problem here is Bluebox will flag your device if  you have too many System Level Privilege mobile apps installed. This is something out of your control as the apps are on Google Playstore with these requirements. Developers will make use of these APIs in order to create a functioning app and in the process, needs to read your phone state. This makes it difficult for people to approve or deny the system privileges as should you deny them, the app won’t install.

What you can do is write to the developer to ask them for clarification on why they would require these privileges in the first place before installing. If they ignore you, you can flag them up as suspicious.

Beyond this, there is nothing much you can do. Even by having security software installed, you can only detect suspicious apps during installation and avoid them. Security problems inherent in KitKat can only be solved when the system is updated. In the past, at least for my Samsung device, security updates have been rolled out to address some of the problems but Android security problems are much deeper and can only be rectified by Google themselves.

Hola Browser for Android VPN Beta is FREE for Now

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I live outside of the US and love using VPN to mask my actual location, but not for safer browsing but for region coded content found on the Internet.

I have in the past written about VPNs for use in many situations, least of all for posting to Facebook while in China. But for us who live outside of where the content is region coded, then it becomes a censorship problem. Web censorship is real. Everywhere you go, there is some form of censorship where URLs are blocked for political or religious reasons. But for some of us, we just want to enjoy free content which has been region restricted. For example, YouPorn.com is blocked in many countries and if you happen to love watching free internet porn, you have come to the right place. Hola will satisfy all your desires….for free!

P2P VPN is here…at a Cost

All things free isn’t what it is believed to be, so here’s the stuff Hola won”t tell you. Hola VPN doesn’t make use of a secure connection but a mix of P2P/CDN. Think of it like TOR, the secure network used by Edward Snowden, every computer becomes an exit node, so if you are a user based in China, Hola lets you access Facebook via someone’s exit node in the USA where Facebook isn’t blocked.

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Browsing YouPorn from Singapore? You gotta have Hola!

Hola relies on YOUR data download and upload bandwidth when you use their VPN to serve other users. So if you happen to have a paltry bandwidth limit on your mobile and keep Hola running all day long, you will exhaust your data limit in a day or two. This can happen if more people choose to browse from the country where you reside. Inside the mobile app, you have a long list of country to choose from, and from it, pick a country you wish to browse from. Hola also operates a CDN, content distribution network, which caches popular content for user to download and stream.

Hola is a free Android app that you can download right now and I suspect that the app is still in Beta. But don’t let that deter you as it works pretty much like a web browser with VPN access. The VPN service is unlimited and is automatically switched on when you launch the app. Hola is still adding more content sources and sorting out the bugs within the app. Even their latest update was very buggy (Feb 18).

How Hola Aims to Change Your Browsing Habits

The P2P network protocol used by Hola is pretty vague at the moment. By opening your own Internet connection to others, you are letting dudes like the NSA come through your browser and into your computer or mobile device. Data leeching can happen since you can’t tell if they are real users or data mining bots. The only security control is to bypass this is to sign up for their premium plan where Hola is prevented from using your computer or mobile as an exit node. Hola could change the way you browse the Internet in China but Chinese URL blockers will eventually find a way around it once they determine the exact DNS Hola operates from. For now, it is a free for all for everyone.

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However if you are hoping to browse for content from the US, well you are in luck. Hola works perfectly. With it, you can pretend to surf from the US or for that matter Australia, Britain or Iran for that matter….the choice are up to you but if you are looking for content, just stick to the old time favs.

Hola integrates several streaming services with its own app, such as Pandora, Hulu and Netflix. For Netflix, you need a paid account to get access but you can fib your way to a free one month trial by signing up (with a credit card). I didn’t need to test Facebook or for that matter Google Plus since those are not banned from where I was. But it would be of interest to those who are heading to China.

There is a desktop plug in for PCs, created for Firefox and Chrome and the moment you install it, you will notice some slowdown when you browse using Hola. It could be using your connection as an exit node. To avoid people piggy backing on your bandwidth, you can sign up for Hola premium.

On Android, Hola app pretty much uses a default USA setting for streaming media so you have to change it to the UK if you happen to use it to access BBC content.

For now, Hola for me is the place to go to for all my TV shows on Hulu. My only regret is that I don’t have a Hulu Plus membership to get to all the episodes I want to watch.

Hola for iOS is NOT Free

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Please don’t ask me why but you only get a 7 day trial after which you have to pay as long as you are a Apple user. iOS has never had it this good as users are generally considered richer than their Android cousins thus Apple iPhone users have to pay to get access after seven days. This is the premium sign up. So you don’t get people hogging your bandwidth. It is the perfect solution for iPhone users who love using their phones all the time.

Offload your images and video to The Egg

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Billed as the portable network storage drive for the iOS totting masses, this little device is precisely what the doctor ordered whenever you complain of not having storage space on your iPhone. Now as you may have guessed, someone in the US has sued Apple over the claims of usable storage space on base iOS devices recently. A 16GB iPhone has 23 percent of its storage taken over by the operating system. Though not exactly cybersquatting, Apple’s iOS occupancy cannot be evicted from storage, thus making it difficult for people with borderline budgets to buy an iPhone with larger storage capacities.

The Egg helps you sort this mess out as it operates as a virtual network drive with WIFI/USB connection to offload your images and videos you have on the device without having to resort to messy Cloud storage. Now, we all know that Cloud is great but the slower upload speeds often gives a bitter sweet after taste upon backup. Upload speeds are often a third of what you get with download speeds for either WIFI or 3G and since 4G is not an ever present option, people often struggle with slow uploads for back ups.

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Right now, this Egg is still finding support on Kickstarter.  Based on the prices advertised so far, it’s not cheap. The 64GB version cost you US$199 and for the price of a 128GB version, you can virtually buy yourself a portable WIFI HD with 1TB of storage.

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Yes the Egg can work for both iOS and Android but from the looks of it, iOS users are the main target since storage is not expandable. The network storage is itself a computer using Samsung’s Tizen operating system. Just read the tech specs below to get a better idea.

TECHNICAL SPECS
Application Processor and OS
Intel® Atom™ Processor
1GB RAM
64/128/256GB eMMC
OS: Linux (Tizen)
Connectivity
WiFi a/b/g/n, BT4.0
Micro-USB 2.0 type-AB with USB charging
Audio
Vibra motor (haptics + silent ringtones), Speaker notifications
Display
Size: 2.4” Multi-Touch capacitive touch TFT
Resolution: 240×320; 262K colors
Sensors
Accelerometer, Compass, Ambient Light Sensor
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Now with WIFI, you can virtually connect to any device that supports it, including GoPro and DSLR cameras. But would you? The makers of the Egg will give you a website on eggcyte.com if you back them early but there is no mention of functionality or would this be another Cloud based storage should you want to back up that ‘backed up’ album already on your Egg.
Storage Alternatives
WD already makes a Network Drive that is mobile and portable and for 1TB of storage, it cost less than US$199.
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The only difference is that there is no user interface on the WD drives as compared to the Egg. Price wise per MB, it is of course cheaper with WD Passport WIFI drives but it’s also a bit larger too. Women might find the Egg a better option (no ovulation pun intended) as it would fit nicely in a Prada handbag.
For the rest of us who take loads of videos and photos, the WD drive would be a better option. With 1TB storage, you can probably shoot till the cows come home and still have plenty left over for the next.
Li-Ion Battery Pack, 1800mAH

Showbox App Revisited

header-uiOne of the beauties of the Android environment is that you don’t have to root your phone to use apps deemed illegal by Google. Try that with Apple too and you’ll be booted out faster than greased lightning. So with that in mind, I will like to dedicate this post to all those who are fans of illegal movie downloads, who probably need a daily fix before bed time.

Showbox Hosted on a burnt Wire

Previously, I could not put a link up because, there was no link to Showbox app. But today, it is gone again. It was originally hosted on a Chinese server, showbox.me, but you can get copies of the app from various places. The Aptoid link is still live so  that is one place you must look. There are updates and I suspect that the whole deal about Showbox is that the media files are hosted on a dedicated server farm.

Each time Showbox goes online with an app download, it gets snuffed out like a burnt wire. Compared to Popcorn time, which is hosted in Europe, it has no server location since the media files are hosted by users as opposed to a centralized location for Showbox. The app has no assets whereas for Showbox, the assets are hosted on a physical server in Russia.

What’s the Difference Between Popcorn Time and Showbox?

Plenty.Just so you know, I have made the distinction here.

Popcorn Time

Popcorn time is a torrent application. What it does is that it seeks out movie streams on torrent links and downloads them into the app. Popcorntime is available on desktops as well as mobile. But the downside of Popcorn time is very evident from the moment you hit the download to watch button. It just won’t stream instantly. It has to build up a buffer or download the entire movie first. The instant streaming fix you need is impossible. The app does not allow you download the files to your device either. For this, you need a dedicated torrent downloader.

If you see a torrent link, make sure you blast it!

If you see a torrent link, make sure you blast it!

Lastly, the movie selection is limited. You can only find the latest and most popular movies on torrent. Anything older than your dog would be a difficult find. One of the advantages of torrent files is that it can pick out a desire subtitle option.

Showbox

Instant gratification as long as you have a fast internet connection. The system protects itself from leeching by allowing only one download or streaming activity at a time. So the speed is consistent. The download option is fabulous. You can download the entire movie file in low, medium or high quality. High in this case often means up to 1020p. What I love about Showbox is its simple interface. You can have all your files downloaded to watch later.

Showbox link is live? Wow that is cool!

Showbox link is live? Wow that is cool!

The choice of movies grows by the day and yes, it even supports TV series. So if you are looking for the latest season of Anthony Bourdain’s  Parts Unknown, you will find it here. Showbox also has a distinction for having the latest movies as well as favorites from 2 decades ago. They have some older movies from the 50s and 60s as well but these titles are limited.

VK the missing Movie Streaming Link

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Vladimir Putin may have something to do with VK social network site but one thing is for sure, you can get plenty of the latest blockbusters for free as Russia does not recognize the DMCA take down. The best kept secret on the Internet is actually Vkontake or VK.com. Once you join, you can stream almost any movie known on the planet. I was asked to find a torrent on “To Kill a Mockingbird” and could not locate one until I searched on VK.com.

VK.com has a mobile app that allows you stream movies online, and yes, there is even porn if you know where to look. Thanks to this, VK has gotten a lot of flak from movie producers and studios but it is the best kept secret in town if you want to watch just about anything. What’s more, music can be streamed for free! Fuck yea! No more Spotify subscriptions to pay! Just add that into a playlist and you’re good to go.

VK.com is a social network and works in a similar way as Facebook except for the free music and movies you get to stream. There are even third party video downloaders which will rip the videos directly to your PC if you want to keep a copy. VK app is available on IOS, so for iPhone and iPad users, this is your only choice to enjoy streaming movies.

VK comes highly recommended for both Android and iOS. Not sure if is available on Blackberry or Windows Mobile but if it is, you better start using it.

 

 

 

NEXUS 6 or iPhone 6+?

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For the longest time, I have always suspected that Google harboured a secret love relationship with anything robotic and hence they doubled down on Android as an operating system. In Geek speak, what could be closer to the future than the sci-fi fantasy Blade Runner? In the movie, the test product of the Tyrell Corp goes rogue. It had cutting edge technology to boot too. The product was a Nexus 6 replicant (which Deckard is long suspected to be one as well) So does the Nexus 6 live up to that expectation?

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In smart phones, it was the Apple iPhone that broke new ground or did it? Wasn’t the User Interface eerily similar to the Palm Pilot? The only difference was that you only needed to stab the iPhone screen with your finger instead of a stylus. So let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that Steve Jobs was a genius. Nor can Tim Cook be responsible for the success of the iDevices.The cunning marketing ploys by Apple has of course played to the dark side, encouraging you to ante up on Hardware that at best, is only useful for them to make even more money out of you.

NEXUS 6 Versus iPhone 6+

Big screen devices dominate. No point giving credit to Apple when Jobs himself hated that. He was in denial that a bigger iPhone screen is what people wanted. Today we have the iPhone 6+, a huge…almost iPad Mini like device which kicks butt. Or so it seems.

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Apple Pay is No Ace

Cash is king. No doubt about it and Apple Pay offers American societies to pay via NFC terminals—which a merchant must invest in. Can you use this outside of the US? Apparently not. NFC capabilities are nothing new of course but presently, using this is locked into Apple. It does nothing for you if you live outside of the US. Apple Pay is touted as a secure service, but for the average user who doesn’t need to go to get his daily highs on Starbucks, Apple Pay is a only useful for those who want cashless POS.

Fingerprint Sensor Saves your Ass

A good way to lock in your product and get another layer of security authentication. Is this big deal? Apparent so if you happen to work for some secret intelligence agency or have your credit card hijacked by crooks with the regularity of your own bowel movement. Fingerprint sensors are the way forward if you are prone to such unfortunate incidents. But the hardware has to be written off anyway once you lose your device.

Health Apps

An apt reminder to the majority of Americans who are overweight—you may view this as Tim Cook’s legacy to get you into shape. This applies to the rich Chinese too who love spoon feeding their overweight children until adult age.  If you love the way you are without having to go to the Gym. Health apps can be a waste of time and an insult to your self belief. However if you are fat, overweight and hate yourself for it, then maybe the iPhone will do you some good.

iOS 8 versus Lollipop

For iOS nothing has really changed since Steve passed on. Is there a new way to notify you? Sure. But that’s a Cydia clone. For the longest time, iOS was trying to compete with Cydia Jailbreaks that offer so much more than the stock standard version from Apple. Free apps are the draw of any OS. Both have a suite, Apple has given Pages for free for work use while Google as Docs Apps.

Lollipop seems like a good step forward but remember this is Google. They basically auction you as a piece of data for advertisers to buy into. Do I have a preference for either? Sorry not really. Both have their caveats.

Fast Charging

Nexus 6 wins this one. I need fast charging. Nexus gives you 6 hours of use with just 15 mins of charging. iPhone will not give you fast charging. Furthermore, Nexus 6 supports Qi Charging, which is a wireless charging method reviewed here some time back. I am not totally sold on Qi charging as it is more convenient. Nexus 6 fast charging is via cable use only.

Big Screen Display

To an ant, this is IMAX cinema. For the rest of us, screen density is what determines the quality. That said Nexus 6 has a way better screen than the dated retina technology hogged by Apple. Nexus 6 pixel density is higher than the iPhone so let’s leave it at that. No more BS on retina display from Apple.

Camera

Apple is offering you what they gave people back on the iPhone 5S. It’s a decent camera and it is by no means innovative. The problem I have with the stock camera app is the limited capture options. You may have 240fps slo-mo video in 720p but the Nexus has 4K video in 30fps viewable on that UHD widescreen TV you just bought home. What’s more, Google’s new HDR+ feature on the stock camera app rocks! It kicks Apple ass anytime! So what all this means is that you are not getting a better camera app on iOS.

Conclusion by Images

When the iPhone first came out, it was sold based on a unique user experience. This is no longer true since Google released Android. The idea that something like the iPhone 6 is cutting edge is probably true if you live on a desert island surrounded by Elvis impersonators.

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For the rest of us. we are proud that Motorola (Lenovo) has given life to a product worthy of the Nexus 6 namesake. That’s all we were asking for. Hardware innovation. Apple has failed to deliver that. It’s ok. I can live with it. As for firmware innovation, how far has it gone? If it made a goose step, would that count as a leap?

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Viddy To Shut Down in December

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Sad but true, Viddy is shutting down come December as they come to terms with their failure to gain traction.

So how did this happen? Apparently they walked away from a US$100 million offer from Twitter in 2013 and things turned from bad to worst when their CEO was fired because of this.

Since then, the slide in its 30 million users has decimated its popularity.

For us at least, it’s the end of another great app for both iOS and Android. I think Viddy had a lot of promise and since it has been acquired by Fullscreen, a company that in the video advert business, things might turn around.

So What Else is there for Video?

Besides Instagram and Vine, the two heavy weights of the instant video industry, you still have Vimeo and YouTube.

Vine clone, Lightt is still around too, though its similarities to Vine might not get them noticed. What makes an app unique is the UX and the social connection. If you get to break those barriers, then people will use your app in social network post.

Western tech firms don’t innovate enough. They fail to understand that being a clone of something else like Vine or for that matter Instagram isn’t going gain them much followers. There are just too many of the same thing going on.

Innovate or Die

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One of the video apps that have come out of China that would have easily thrashed the living daylights off the likes of Viddy and Lightt would be MeiPai, a video app from Xiamen Meitu Technology, an Internet Network company in China. They have broke new ground with a different model which makes the app easy to use while creating instant music videos based on templates you choose.

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It has a nice touch but unfortunately it lacks global appeal. Content is mostly from China and even though there are some from outside of it, it’s predominantly Chinese. Menu and navigation is still in Chinese but an English version might be coming soon from the looks of the screen snapshot seen here.

Monetization is via MV templates where you can buy in-app. This one touch Music Video App is very easy to use. Take a clip of 15 seconds, choose your MV template and music. Everything is  done for you. It has fewer steps in content creation than Kanvas app, another video content creation app that has some cool features but available only on iOS.

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Kanvas App recently had their music feature pulled out from under them. They have for some time been using iTunes’ own music snippets as a way for people to add music to their videos. Naturally the music owners took a swipe at them, taking this feature down along the way.

MeiPai app gets away with this as it has created a list of free and royalty free music for you to use— sort of like what Google has done with Internet Web Fonts. It may not come from a brand name source but it sure feels and looks like it.

This is one app model that I want to see duplicated and it remains to be seen if someone out there has the right eye to see this potential.

 

Wireless Charging: The Power of Qi

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I bumped into Chris of Waltzcomm a company specializing in Qi Chargers who was kind enough to give me a run down on what he was offering. For the longest time, people have been talking about wireless charging for iOS and Android devices and not many know that there are third party suppliers in the market who can do just that, make your device charge wirelessly and this includes the iPhone!

What is Induction Charging

When you hear people talk about Qi charging, one has to recall a few years ago when there was a Smartphone product called the Palm Pre, where a touchstone was used to charge it wirelessly. Well it’s the same thing. Using magnetic waves to charge the battery, it was way ahead of its time. Since then, the whole Qi charging community went wild when Google announced that the Nexus could be charged wirelessly as well. Wow…what a brilliant idea…but who cares it was three years too late. The technology isn’t new. It’s been around since the 90s and was used to charge the first generation electric vehicles.

Today, no one  talks about wireless Qi charging because over the years, the benefits are far too few for those who are in a hurry. Some smartphones have built in connectors for Qi charging but Apple is slow to follow. What’s more, if you are willing to sacrifice the lighting port on your iPhone 5, you can have wireless charging as well but it will void your warranty if you decide to install one in your iPhone.

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Capacity: 7000 mA Battery Bank

So you need both a transmitter and a receiver to load up on battery juice and this isn’t going to be easy if your phone wasn’t made for it in the first place. Fortunately for iPhone users, the receiver can be housed in a protective cover jacket for your iPhone while it plugs into lightning port. This also means you can’t use the port for anything USB related until you remove it.

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Usage in the Real World

It took a while for me to write this review as there were some experiments I had to run. For instance, if your charging transmitter is not place directly (albeit partially) over the receiver in your device, charging of the device will be 50% slower. So it does affect your charging times even if you dump your device in a hurry to get a quick top up.

Now Qi chargers are 30% slower than USB charging. The efficiency is probably the biggest deal here and doesn’t work to your advantage when you are in a hurry.

Putting a Qi charger in your car too doesn’t make much sense. At a slower rate of charge, you won’t be topping up any juice if you happen to use your device for playing music or video at the same time or for that matter leaving it in charging mode for short drives. Half an hour driving isn’t going to help you juice up much.

The biggest benefit really is that it has an overcharge circuit and when you put it to charge mode during the night. When we sleep, 8 hours or more, there is a tendency that the normal USB chargers will charge it up quickly and recharge it several times over during the night.

The slower rate of charge for Qi chargers makes it ideal that this does not happen, plus the fact that it maintains a 95% charge during trickle mode. This mode only kicks in once the battery is fully charged at 100%, then it stops charging totally until the battery falls to 95%, before topping it up again to 100%.

Because of this cut off, there is no constant trickle charge to keep your device at 100%, ensuring a longer battery life. Waltzcomm has several rather creative solutions, including Qi battery packs, LED lamp with built in Qi Charger, Car Qi Charger and dual Qi chargers. The downside is that those are made only for smartphones and not tablets. According to Chris, tablets draw too much power and have much larger batteries making Qi chargers useless. So for now, it’s only good for iPhones and Galaxy devices. Please note that not all Galaxy devices support the wireless receiver module you need to plug into the back of your smart device. Only the S series and the Note series are currently supported. If you look it up online, there are third party Qi chargers selling for less than US$30 (including the transmitter and receiver) so you can get them cheaper but these products come without warranty. Waltzcomm offers a 12 month warranty for all products purchased from them.

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Apple creeps up on the Galaxy Note

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Steve jobs was adamant. Before he died, he had said that no one would buy a bigger screen smart phone. But before he passed on, he was involved in two contradictory products, a bigger iPhone and a smaller iPad. He never lived to see that come to fruition. His padawan underling, Tim Cook, broke ranks and made the iPhone bigger, so much bigger that Steve would be tossing in his grave if he ever found out.

Needless to say, the new iPhone 6 Plus will be a hit for those who were waiting for more. The new iPhones will make billions for Apple and the chief reason is this. The iPhone is no longer a consumer product. It is a fashion statement. Take a look at the prices below for the new iPhones without contract and you’ll get what I mean. All prices are quoted is USD.

  • iPhone 6 (16GB): $649
  • iPhone 6 (64GB): $749
  • iPhone 6 (128GB): $849
  • iPhone 6 Plus (16GB): $749
  • iPhone 6 Plus (64GB): $849
  • iPhone 6 Plus (128GB): $949

Price Factor for Success

Let’s examine what you get from it all. Chief among them is the fingerprint scanner, Health Kit integration, Apple Pay and OIS camera stabilisation either digital or optical for the new iPhones. The camera stays the same, some may be disappointed by this but truth be told, Apple fan boys will buy into this regardless. Mobile photographers will no doubt be disappointed as the flock in droves to Nokia’s 1020 64GB shooter which offers the purest photography experience. Mobile Videographers on the other hand have already defected to Samsung Galaxy Note 4 thanks in part to its 4K video capture. Artist who like to draw in freehand have already doubled down on the Galaxy Note, so that leaves the rest of you out there sitting on the fence, undecided.

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Chart is from Android Authority

There is no mention of RAM by Apple during the launch, which of course is a good thing for Apple because you won’t know when it fails and run out of memory so you end up blaming the app developers instead for creating something buggy. Apple will be blameless for this, even though they set the highest parameters for apps that go through their store, the onus is on you when you download and run them.

Battery life will vary, and is said to be between 20 to 30 percent for the 6 and 6 Plus models over the older 5S model. This doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be wall hugging from time to time. The main problem as always the display. Bigger screens need more power.

Going Big Against the Galaxy Note 4

Presently, there is no comparison. The IPS displays from Apple cannot match the pixel resolution of the Galaxy Note 4 and it shows. To think that this is going to change the game would be a mistake. Apple’s 5.5 inch screen is rated average and is nothing to shout about.

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Chart from Android Authority

In terms of display real estate. The Galaxy Note’s 5.7 inch might be a tad too big, while the 5.5 inch screen is more ideal as it is still pocketable for the bigger folks. To be honest, screen density is subjective. If you suffer from any vision problems, no amount of pixel is going save you. The only benefit is of course the large text that appears on screen, which is a boon to the old.

Screen density is most noticeable in movie playback. The details on the screen will be sheer joy to your eyes.

Why the Apple iPhone will be a success

The majority of us are only looking for a device that meets our requirement and sometimes a bigger screen will just do it. Apple lost a huge market to Android because of this and technically speaking, there is no real advantage between both the platforms. You have all your productivity software given to you free to meet all your office requirement. Facebook app works out of the box for both, and so does Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest, Foursquares, and Twitter.

Beyond this, it’s just your learning curve. Trusted that Apple’s iPhone is designed to be more fool proof than fool hardy, those who have been dissatisfied with the complexities of the Android platform can now safely move back to the iOS sphere where it is no longer saddled with a smaller display screen.

For the rest of us who have migrated over to Android, there is no real reason to go back. And that’s the way it will always be.

GN4: Let the Big Screen Battle Begin

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With the iPhone 6 looming on the horizon, Samsung’s other flagship product, the Galaxy Note, needs to claw itself above the competition. The much rumored 5.5 inch display of the premium iPhone 6 will be keenly watched by Samsung as they have seen their other flagship product, the Galaxy S, being savaged by Chinese competitors.

Samsung’s own Galaxy Note 4 isn’t going to die standing and as a way to fight back, it has delivered two products, namely the Galaxy Note 4 and the Galaxy Note Edge. The Edge is a strange device, like an infinity pool with a curved drop off, the screen’s cutting edge is revealed, though you can’t really slice bread with it.

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Galaxy Note Edge

The build quality has improved, but sadly, I have no idea why they did this as it will only make it more expensive for the consumer upgrading from a previous version. The body frame is now made of aluminum. D’huh!

With the exception of women with handbags, men often carry their phones with a jacket or a cover installed, so you never get to see the plastic frame of previous generations. Why has Samsung pandered to the ivory tower? I really do not know. The issue of a metal frame is really a non issue. Who the hell cares if it has a plastic frame given it’s shock absorption capability? Aluminum frames will just bend out of shape the moment you drop them and with the added weight, gravity will not be kind to it.

Display Stays the Same

Yup, it has a 5.7-inch Quad HD resolution of 2,560 by 1,440, matching that of the LG G3. With a 515 ppi pixel density, this is something that the iPhone 6 will have a tough time with as long as it sticks to retina displays. Such densities on a LCD screen makes it cool for 4K video. Watching movies would be a boon except that it won’t hold up to endless hours thanks in part to the paltry battery 3220 mAh. Then again compared to the iPhone users, they are wall huggers. GN users can still move about with a spare battery in their pocket, just swap it out and you’re good for another 12 hours. The new iPhone 6 will have a bigger battery but that is not going to save you from hugging walls. You do need a battery pack booster and I am sure you will find the space in your tight fitting jeans for it. 

Camera has been Improved

Following in the footsteps of Apple, there is a finger print sensor but Samsung has also thrown in a UV sensor for those Dark Ops moments. Not sure if you can sense fake dollar bills but if you can’t, I hope the UV sensor will do the trick. The included heart rate monitor would only be useful before you actually commit to buying this device, not after. Nor are there any claims to having your heart rate reading splashed on Twitter but I suppose some  brilliant soul would come up with an app for that.

The Galaxy Note 4’s camera has also been updated, and now features a 16-megapixel shooter with Smart Optical Image Stabilization, putting it right on par with the Samsung Galaxy S5. A 3.7-megapixel camera can be found up front for camera whoring and those thinking of posting nude pictures of themselves will be thrilled to know that you can now do so in full HD. 

Video killed the Radio Star

Today it is Ultra-HD Video (UHD) and if you happen to be in one of Samsung’s showrooms, they would have a Ultra-HD TV set for all to see. The resolution is lovely but the Galaxy Note 3 didn’t quite measure up to expectations previously and Samsung will have another go at it with a larger 16 megapixel sensor. 4K video takes your breath away but you need to have a huge TV screen to enjoy it. Think 52 inch and you’ll get my idea. 

This is where Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 will shine. The video can be recorded in 4K and stored on microSD. If you run out of space, just flip it open and drop in a new 64GB microSD card and carry on. No problem. Try that with the freaking iPhone and you will know how frustrating it is.

4K video capture will be limited to 30fps. With post processing to 24fps, you get a cinema like experience from the video. Low light capture is rumored and with the help of optical stabilization, video footage on the Galaxy Note 4 can’t be beaten by iOS. What’s more, the iPhone 6 hasn’t been rumored to support 4K video capture. If that happens for real. Great. If not, well you have been warned.

More Storage for the Masses

Depending on how you feel about adding microSD storage, this time round Samsung has made it a 32GB work horse with 3GB of RAM and microSD card storage. That’s ample compared to the current 1GB RAM of the iPhone 5s…and with no external storage, you’re better off not recording any video while on holiday. Apple might increase the RAM size to 2GB for the iPhone 6 but that’s still 2GB short of what a 64bit processor is capable of.

Historically speaking, Apple is fond of selling you a Ford Mustang with skinny wheels and rims. The power is under the hood but you can’t fully use it.

The Cost of Technology

The chief reason why a price wasn’t announced at press time is that Samsung wants to know how much the iPhone 6 would cost and make a decision on it thereafter. It is a fact that the iPhone 6 will cost more, it’s just a matter of how much more and for that, how much would you pay for a premium Android device.

Both the iPhone 6 and GN 4 isn’t going to be cheaper. So if you are thinking that technology will get cheaper in time is probably quite misleading for brand name devices. Both the iPhone and GN are flagship devices and even when sales are falling world wide, the thrust of the matter is to make those who can afford it pay more.

With that said, I don’t think I will be upgrading to one too soon unless Santa sends me one before Christmas.

 

 

 

 

Time to say Goodbye to the 3.5mm Audio Jack

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Recent announcements by both Apple for it’s iOS8 and Google’s Android 5.0 hints clearly at the possible demise of the humble 3.5mm audio jack and that’s troubling

Both operating systems feature a new API that allows for audio to be passed through digitally thereby bypassing the Digital to Analog Converter (DAC)  found on current handsets. The reason? Better sound quality they say.

This might sound like an audiophile’s dream but trust me, it’s not good news for you and me. First let me clarify that I am very fond of the 3.5mm audio jack. Back in the days of the Sony Walkman craze, I have found that the jack delivers and depending on how your file was digitally encoded, it was nothing short of marvelous.

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I had for a brief period flirted with the MiniDisc system from Sony and loved it. The ATRACC encoding was nothing short of excellent and it delivered the quality I expected from the humble 3.5mm audio jack—the quality is far better than the highest MP3 encoding found today.

To say that smartphones can do better by going all digital with a digital output is nothing short of a political travesty.

Android’s USB Audio

Google announced the USB Audio API for handset makers to dabble in and in doing so, has opened up a can of worms. I remember once I had a Sony Ericsson P1i and it didn’t have a dedicated 3.5mm stereo jack. Instead, what they gave you was a proprietary adapter and with it an external cable that housed the 3.5mm jack socket. It was a nuisance to use, fell out when you least expected it and flimsy in construction.

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Here, I am reminded of this same possibility, that people from Samsung, HTC to Motorola will start to implement their own proprietary socket to get you to buy into their digital audio accessories.  Digital files, especially those MP3 files aren’t necessarily better in quality. You could have FLAC based files which are excellent for audiophile use but take up a warehouse of storage. Handsets are not made to handle audiophile quality digital files so it will not satisfy the purist.

Audio accessories that plays digital music must have a built-in DAC. The DAC has to convert incoming music data  before you hear anything that remotely sounds like music. This also means that headsets would  need to have their own power source to drive the DAC process. Siphoning power from a cable plugged to your smart device could work but this will affect your battery life, which at best is just enough for a 12 hour day.

And because the audio data is totally digital, your headphone or audio device must provide for the DAC process. So speakers which worked on the traditional analogue audio input will be made obsolete. That Altec Lansing speaker system you got for last Christmas is now a massive door stopper. We have all seen how that happened when audio devices which pandered to the iOS socket of old were beaten out with a new lightning connector. The same is going to happen once the 3.5mm audio jack is tossed out with the bath water.

March with the Beat

Well know you know why Apple bought out BEATS audio for a song. It’s not just for the streaming music service alone but for the hardware technology behind it. Beats headphones (yes those all too popular headgear worn by sports stars) has its own power source in the form of a battery to give you those great sounding bass beats. These headphones can be transformed to carry and process digital signals without relying on the iPhone or iPad for power.

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Lightning connectors used on Apple’s iOS devices will be the future digital audio source and by saving on the DAC chipset, Apple has effectively made it impossible for you to downgrade to analog earphones or headphones.

Why Digital will be more Expensive

It is an ecosystem that is suppose to bind you in, and not let you out. Analog in this case is an open system, digital however makes more money. Apple can license the lightning connectors to third parties and make a killing from it. You as a user would have to buy only those products that interfaces with your iOS device. Apple hopes to enslave you with their paper thin logic for better sound as long as you ante up to a digital listening apparatus.

Google’s USB Audio API also does the same thing but Google themselves are not in the accessories business. Instead, they have given out a blank cheque to handset manufacturers to create their own audio ecosystem.

I want to be using my favorite headphones for many years to come but with such a possibility looming on the horizon, your headphones could be toss onto a dung heap at your next hardware upgrade.

The only other way to interface your old world analog audio device is to get an external DAC unit that pushes analog signals thru a 3.5mm headphone jack…but why in the world would I do that? This would mean carrying another accessory just to listen to music. Sounds like a bummer doesn’t it?

Handsets will continue to have a DAC but you may not access it

As much as handset manufacturers would want it, it is virtually impossible to remove the use of a DAC in the first place. Games, movie playback and streaming audio data has to be processed and output via a device speakers. The initial fear here is that the DAC will coexist with your device but there is no way to output analog sound via a 3.5mm jack. This rather inconvenient way will mean that you have no other choice but to ante up on a digital accessories or a Bluetooth speaker that works wirelessly. Now that’s a scary thought if I may add.

 

 

 

Controlling the FC40 Camera from your mobile

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The FC40 is a keychain type camera that is being sold with the Phantom 1 that can be controlled via a iPhone or Android app with FPV capability. Now FPV is nothing new, it means First Person View, so like the critter cam, you can strap it to your dog or pet Moose and have them wander around giving you an idea where they are going. Don’t expect this to be long distance though. It has a limited range of around the ballpark of 100m.

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picture quality isn’t great but this is a cloudy day

In flight, you probably are able to get far more distance since you are down on the ground but put this camera around tall buildings and you will see it fail. As a GoPro competitor, the FC40 offers real value for money on the cheap. Think of it as a toy, which you can rough up but it is not waterproof or for that matter shielded from everyday grime and mud use since the ports, and buttons are totally exposed.

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Edited image, warming it up with WB controls

The 720p output should not be an issue since the majority of you guys don’t even mind downloading 720p porn. So why should this be an issue? The quality of the video however isn’t great. The FC40 may have a 30 frame rate but that doesn’t quite translate to better video quality. It is smooth when you move around but when it goes too fast, the 30fps capture isn’t going to hold up. For high-speed recording, you need 60fps and that’s a GoPro device. There is a slight lag when you hit the capture controls on your smartphone or iDevice so it’s not really for fast action responses. the FPV video feed is low resolution so things don’t look as sharp or bright but the actual recorded footage stored on the microSD card is much better once you download it. Remember to use microSDs that are below Class 10, Apparently there are some problems when you insert a Class 10 card into it. When it gets a card it can’t access, the FC40 will freeze up on you, refusing to work and connect to any device for FPV. Even though the settings menu does allow you to format the card, it is hardly useful. Once the camera freezes up, you won’t get pass the WIFI connection phase so it’s totally useless.

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The other thing with the FC40 camera is that it comes with its own holder which is very user unfriendly for the use. It also protects the camera from everyday exposure to use. Furthermore the FC40’s indicator lights are very dim (probably to save on battery life) so in bright light, you’re not sure if you have turned it on and running. For about US$80, you can’t expect too much from a camera like this. The GoPro Hero3 has a WIFI operating distance of 150 meters and for that price, I doubt it will be a huge draw unless of course you want better image quality. Trusted that the GoPro cameras offer far better overall imaging and video and is more robust than the FC40, I think you have to draw the line on what your imaging and video goals are before you decide on this. For home users on a budget, the FC40 is probably a fairly good compromise.

The FC40’s WIFI signals can’t be boosted. It is pretty much made that way but you have the option of investing in a GoPRO Hero 3 and with a optional signal booster for FPV and capture control. What’s more, you can get a stablizing gimbal for the GoPRO for less than US$100 for mounting on the Phantom but that’s another story. The FC40 is a compromise.

But in use, both the iOS and Android app suffer from the same problems, if you have too many applications opened in the background, chances are you won’t be able to run the FC40 app. All images are in JPG. There is no White Balance settings for the camera or for that matter, RAW file saving. This is after all, a 2 megapixel camera and images are at best, very subjective depending on the weather. WIFI transferring of photos and videos are supported within the app but the Android app only supports transfer to device storage and not external storage. Before you run off to record, please do remember to sync the time stamp on the camera with your smart device. That’s the only way to set the time on the FC40.

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Importing the images from your FC40 camera to your iDevice or Android is simple, just tap o the image and it will be transferred via WIFI and you can connect the camera via a cable to your PC to do this as well. Generally speaking, the operations were smooth and the only time when the camera acts up is when you lose the line of sight of the device. Signals aren’t strong enough to penetrate through walls so even if you use this as a critter cam, you need to stay within the line of sight of the camera.

The image quality of the FC40 camera is probably idea for sharing on social media. Making that jump to selling stock video footage would be a tad too ambitious.

1) Image sensor: HD 720p/30fps
2) Resolution: 1280*720
3) Lens: Aperture f/2.2
4) FOV: 100 degree wide angle
5) Focal range: Minimum distance of 25cm
6) Wireless: IEEE 802.11 b/g compliance
7) Wireless mode: Direct mode
8) Mobile Wi-Fi video size: WQVGA
9) Storage: Micro SD/SDHC/SDXC up to 64GB
10) Battery: Built-in 700 mAh Li-ion battery

KitKat Update: Freeing up Storage on Galaxy Note 2 for Noobs

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This is an exasperated post for those thinking of upgrading your Galaxy Note 2 to KitKat with the official Samsung update. As some of you may have been forced to notice, Samsung GN2 on Jelly Bean is a mouthful. There are many bloatware apps from Samsung to get you to buy books, movies, apps while coercing you to use their  ChatON app. I had two choices, that is to kill off the system with a Cyanogen Mod technique while risking some app incompatibility or use the official Samsung KitKat with all their customized nonsense thrown in. I decided on the latter since reselling an old device would be made easier if it had stock a standard operating system.

First, let’s examine the GN2 with KitKat. It was supposed to be spiffy but a warning came up on my device telling me that I have roughly 1.9 GB of internal storage all a sudden after completing the installation process….so I said…WTF??

 

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I have  16GB internal storage of which the new KitKat occupies 5.54GB! Yes, I know. Koreans are not known to be fat but this is seriously super sized. Compare it with Apple’s own iOS7, I think system use is kept at a minimum at 3.1 GB of storage which is a good thing considering the antiquated features it has, iOS 7 keeps humming.

Now Bloatware from Samsung is not new. Samsung has a host of services like Samsung Hub, Samsung Appstore, Samsung Print Services, in-app Services, ChatOn and a host of other stuff which you don’t use like Music and Movies. What I hate about it is that the Samsung Appstore doesn’t quite function as well as it should. Some of the apps point right back to the Google Playstore and though Samsung Appstore does have some gems, like the Moleskine App for GN series that is full featured app not found on the Playstore. However I don’t use that much often. The inbuilt stylus type apps was more than enough for me.

Spring Cleaning is a Chore

Spring cleaning. Think of it as a memory game and you’ll have some fun while doing it. The first thing you should know is that you CANNOT touch the system memory. This stuff is reserved for running KitKat.

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STEP ONE:

Go to your Settings>MORE>Storage and start cleaning out those files! Remove Apps you don’t use!

STEP TWO:

Proceed to USED SPACE. Click and Clean up the Applications list. Take a long hard look at the Apps you don’t need, don’t use or have downloaded but forgotten about.

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STEP THREE:

Go next to INTERNET DOWNLOADS and select OTHER DOWNLOADS. Here are all the APK files you have downloaded but not removed after installing. You can also find files like forgotten PDFs on those “How To” moments, as well as songs and porn images you have downloaded that you have no idea that you were responsible for. Snuff out those you don’t want.

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STEP FOUR:

Go back to Storage settings and now purge Cached Data. Those data which are not needed will be cleaned out while essential data will be kept to a minimum.

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 STEP FIVE:

Under Storage you will find Miscellaneous Files, here you will find a lot of folders for apps you have deleted. Remove the ones not in use.

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 STEP SIX

Lastly, go to Settings>More> Application Manager and Uninstall all updates for Samsung type apps like Samsung Apps, Chat On, Chrome, Game Hub and Samsung Link. Once you are done uninstalling, make sure your turn it OFF as the same time! I recommend kicking out all the Samsung related apps as long as you don’t use them. However if you have bought into the Samsung eco-system, well. I can’t help you. 

As much as I like Google’s Chrome as the browser of choice, it is still very buggy. It can’t handle WebGL very well and that was what I needed so I took it out and made it dormant. What’s more, when you have browsers such as Firefox and Opera, it makes very little sense to use Google’s chrome.

Total Space Saved?

I manage to claw back about 1.1 GB of space from so from my cleaning alone, I now have 3.14 GB of free space. It still is very small compared to what I have but the problem of resolving the storage issue has come a long way.

RAM versus Internal Storage versus External Storage

One of the consistent problems with Google is that since its transition to Jelly Bean, apps must reside in Internal Storage with a RAM footprint for it to remain active for alerts and notifications. External storage is only used for storing images, music and video. So for this, you have to take note of the following:-

  • Camera settings should be set to “save to” external storage

  • Video settings on any third-party app should be set to “save to” external storage

  • Move eBook files that may reside on your Internal Storage to External Storage using a File Manager

  • Clean your download folder on your internal storage using a File Manager regularly if you happen to love downloading files such as PDFs, music or images.

Internal Storage is used to store all the important files needed to run apps. As many Android apps are getting bigger (namely games and freemium content) much of these new files have to reside within Internal Storage to work. This leaves your External Storage completely free for you to load up on your music, movies and ebook files. When you run out of Internal Storage, you can’t install any more apps. In Android, Google has enabled a low memory task killer for RAM usage but that doesn’t mean you should not close your apps once you stop using them.

Apple iOS doesn’t have this problem as all storage is taken as one big chuck of real estate. It does however have a RAM problem as apps competing for that miserly RAM space don’t have enough of it to run smoothly— like a real estate boom where too many people move into a building and not having enough space to move around.

Android has its own kinks. That said, I don’t have a problem with it as I know what I can do with the given space and where to store the miscellaneous media files without hogging on the limited internal storage. This is why I would suggest that if you are getting your next device, ensure that your Internal Storage is at least 32GB if you love downloading new apps to test.

Finally, external storage has also been sealed up to make third apps more accountable for its files. This means that any app without the proper permissions cannot download files to be stored on the SD or microSD card. This could be a hassle for some who use cloud storage to download file to their own devices but there should be a work around to this soon. Apps must have  external storage access permissions before doing so and at the same time, creating their own folders within external storage. To bypass this block, at least for now, is to root your device and use the SDfix app found on the Playstore to restore previous privileges.

 

Anti-Malware: Why Scam Apps are not Covered

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For fear mongers, this is probably the first and last place to be when it comes to detecting malware on your Android device. AV-testgo.org is an independent antivirus testing lab that does one thing, review and text Android anti-malware apps for effectiveness. Nice place, but does it work for Scam ware? Sorry, I am afraid not.

Scamware Doesn’t quite Count as Malware

One of the problems with a listed apps directory is that Scamware doesn’t quite get detected in the first place.

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We all remember the scam camera apps from iOS. These blokes passed off the same app with different names and promised you the sky. People who paid for it found it to be sub par in quality and your only way to get your money back was within 15 min of downloading the app. So if you were one of those who downloaded the app, and didn’t check on it fast enough, you would have lost your money.

Google Android has the same problem, it can’t weed out the Scam Apps fast enough. But there is room to maneuver if you made a direct request to Google Playstore.

There is a developer policy which has to be understood by all. And this is very simple.

Section 3.4 of the Android Developer Distribution agreement authorizes Google to provide returns of apps that cannot be previewed for up to 48 hours after purchase:

3.4 Special Refund Requirements. The Payment Processor’s standard terms and conditions regarding refunds will apply except the following terms apply to your distribution of Products on the Market.

Products that can be previewed by the buyer (such as ringtones and wallpapers): No refund is required or allowed.

Products that cannot be previewed by the buyer (such as applications): You authorize Google to give the buyer a full refund of the Product price if the buyer requests the refund within 48 hours after purchase.

Why Aren’t they Stopping the Scams?

This is the most difficult part. They can’t. Malware is easier to deal with, they infect your handset with a virus or get it to send expensive SMS to a foreign country. This sort of double-dealing is all in the code. Scam apps don’t rely on code or APIs to cheat you. They win your confidence over like a trickster.

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Apple iOS has a built in set of APIs which you cannot change. You are not allowed to develop an app using your own API routines but even this is no promise of safety as Scam apps basically pretend to be something they are not. There is nothing in the code that yells “CHEATER” in the app. Android is more lax, there isn’t such restrictions so any badly made app can be labeled a scam app if it doesn’t work on your device. What’s more, Google was late to the party when it came to parsing code for malware whereas Apple has locked down the APIs as far back as five years ago.

Difference between Scamware and Malware

Malware comes in a few guises, some steal passwords while others will run background apps in secret to mine Bitcoin without you ever knowing it. Finding them isn’t easy unless you have a Malware or virus scanner. Scam ware is even harder to detect. You can only bring such apps to the attention of Google or Apple and ask for action. From a legal standpoint, when an App does not work as advertised on your device, it cannot be automatically assumed to be scamware.

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The problem is further compounded by the absolutely giant market place on the App and Play store. Badly designed app isn’t a crime and if that app suddenly tells you that it can grant you wishes at any Vegas slot, well who are you to disagree? You are already assuming that Apple has protected your interest so it must be true that this app will work.

Google has made it clear that the Playstore is an anything goes place, and they have taken some steps to stop the malware apps but not the Scam ware.

Scams are omnipresent all over the world, there is even an App that tells you about the other worldly scams but not the apps that scam you.

No Solution

The only solution is to have an app depositary that blacklist the very people who sell such apps online. Don’t count on Apple or Google to do this for you. It’s not their beef.

Scam apps are made by snake oil salesmen, they want you dollar and the only way to get it back is to ask for a refund after the first 15 minutes of downloading the app from the Apple Appstore. Apple will not entertain any refunds thereafter unless the purchase was made by a kid. If you were an adult, I think you will have to convince them that you had a child even when you don’t have one to get your money back.

There is still hope for Google if you found out that you have been scammed. Just tell them the app don’t work and doesn’t launch, and you will have your money back as long as it is reported within 48 hours of purchase.

Beware of the in-App purchases

There are loads of in-app purchases that can be classified as scam ware. They don’t offer you anything that works beyond the freebie you just downloaded. I know it sucks but that’s how the way it is. There is no 15 min grace for testing the in-app purchase. So once you hit the buy button, you’re shanghai-ed into another world.

Reading reviews on the app doesn’t always help to validate what it does. These reviews can be manufactured and all you have to do to get a gig going with them is to rate an app advertised on  numerous freelancer sites around the world that are looking for mobile app reviewers. These freelancers get paid to list such reviews and upon doing so, misleads the whole world into a scam trap.

I have Kingsoft’s mobile security install and running all the time on Android. I would recommend you to do the same if you happen to like downloading lots of apps to play with. It is by no means the most secure net, though it is highly rated, since there is no way to protect yourself from scams in the first place.

Your best bet is to read reviews on trusted mobile app review sites to get an idea if this does what it claims to do before buying them online.
 

 

Wireless for Sound: Stream Music to your Device

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Of late, there has been loads of interest in streaming music to both iOS and Android devices. It has suddenly become a hot new area of interest to the point that even Twitter jumped into the bandwagon, fell off it and wants to get back right in with a new music discovery app.

Why is music streaming so hot now? Well you don’t have to look far to realize that people want content and they are not going to pay for it.

Pop songs are a dime a dozen these days. People don’t care much in terms of music copyright as they have taken the liberty to rewrite the definition into something that sounds like “a right to copy”. If the music you hear on radio is hot, what makes you think that you are going to like it after listening to it fifty times? And once you get tired of the song, you’d be wondering why in the world did you pay for it since all you got was a a download and not a physical object that contained the music that you could eBay one day. In short, a music download is vaporware.

How Music Streams Works

Musicians, journalist and photographers who worked on the traditional career model can count themselves as casualties of the Internet age. Album sales and single sales don’t make much sense now. Record companies have traditionally used single sales as a way to promote an album but these days, you may as well give away that single in the hope someone will buy the album.

Musicians in particular have it hard. Gone are the days where music artist could rake in 20 to 50 million album sales globally. They would count themselves to be extremely lucky to get a million album downloads—which you would should be so lucky to cash in that check to pay your gas bill once the Record company takes its cut of the revenue. So for this alone, it’s best for music companies  to strike while it is hot. Get the music out there, carpet bomb the music streaming services, and get the artist to work his or her ass off at Live concerts just to earn the dough.

This is why music streaming is hot. You get to listen to almost ANY up and coming artist on Streaming audio. Music stations, both free to air and Internet based, are a dime a dozen too. Don’t like the voice of the DJ? Flip the switch on the Internet and you can be listening to a station playing live in Iceland.

All you need is a fast Wifi connection in the office to enjoy this. On mobile, you need to have unlimited data (without those artificial fair use policy caps). Streaming music is best at 128kbps, any will affect the music quality. Oh yea, and a paid subscription. That’s the only way to do the offline listening on your mobile device.

Let’s Start with GrooveShark

Available as an app on Android and some say iOS. Grooveshark has been in and out of the iTunes store in many guises to the point that it is officially denied entry by Apple in 2012. It has since been booted out to Cydia, where it thrives today.

Google also booted Grooveshark out of the playstore. Many still skin the HTML5 web login as an app. Just do a search and you’d find many imitations but Grooveshark is cool enough to let that happen.

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Officially, Grooveshark wants you to access its service via your mobile app browser where the HTMC5 version resides. So it’s no big deal here. What I like about this service is that you care able to search for any songs you like and play them on your device. Look under the broadcast list for radio stations to listen to, the list isn’t that long and the choices may be limited. You can broadcast your own list of songs to the world and though you can voice over them like a DJ, you could gain followers who admire your music taste.

Spotify is Not as Groovy

These blokes want your money. Enough said. They give you a few days to test the service then demand a subscription payment. Which is fine if you like their service. After the trial period, they will not allow you to play randomly selected songs from their store house of music. You can select an artist and play the whole album. Add songs to a playlist you create and enjoy that later…which is another way around their restrictions.

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Spotify has an offline mode which allows you to listen to songs within a playlist once you become a premium subscriber. This will consume lots of storage so please mindful about your storage capacity. BTW, Spotify is owned by the music companies so in that sense they want your money real quick. It cost US$10 a month for this service should you ever think of going premium.

Rdio sounds Awesome

Operates in the same way as Spotify. Choose your music, set your playlist and play away. The desktop version is lovely. The mobile app? Well, you need to get a paid subscription to listen in offline mode.

rdioI like Rdio better for some reason, maybe because their trial period is far longer than the nonsense Spotify sells you. You also pay less than what Spotify charges, with US$5 a month for the service for mobile and web use.

SoundCloud is for Musicians

Free to play and use, this is an artist haven, at least for those starting out in the music business. You give people a listen to your latest mix and get feedback. It’s not a streaming service as is but there is a large crowd out there who upload (yes, you can upload music directly to your account) copyrighted music. Any playlist you make can be made public, which is great if you want to gain followers of your taste in music.

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Since this was made for musicians, only bands and singers (DJs too) are the target audience. Soundcloud PRO charges users US$6 a month to upload 4 hours of music. Free service only allows for 2 hours max.

The amount of copyrighted music uploaded here is unbelievable. I mean, if you don’t care too much for offline listening, this is the place to start. There are unique mixes to all the pop music your hear and hey, you can get started with a DJ mix if you want to.

The Rest of the Pack

Pandora, Beats Music App, Last.fm all do the same thing in varying degrees. The problem is which of these suits you best in terms of your pocket money. In the past, that’s in my time at least, we all budgeted money to enjoy music. Every month, we would spend 15 to 50 dollars on buying albums on CDs or Vinyl. But this is no longer the case with the Internet. The free music you get on the Internet just didn’t make it sound anymore.

Among the services you find online, the  oldest is Pandora, which has been around since 2000.

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Pandora is facing a slew of copyrighted music problems so that said, the playlist is going to be limited. The newest kid on the block is Beats Music, which unfortunately only exist for the US market only for now.

Free music is here to stay. Just like those professionally shot photos being passed around the Internet like a cheap whore, it just doesn’t make sense to buy music anymore. So if you want to make it a fair to the music companies, why not use a streaming service?

To take the best option, get the Mobile Streaming App, buy a monthly subscription for a service and listen offline till you can listen no more. By then, there would be fresh music on the scene to refresh that playlist. At least by doing this, you are making it worthwhile for your fave bands and singers to keep doing what they do.

 

 

 

 

 

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)

UPDATE: 30 April. 2014 Hulu has actively blocked VPS. Viewers from overseas cannot use a VPN to watch movies.

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.

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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.

Photosphere

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?

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What Blue Box’s Android Security Flaw Means to You

Image 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 Image 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”.
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

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.

Smart-RAM-Booster-Pro-Apk

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.

Get Mobile Notification on your PC with PushBullet

Pushbullet-640x401 Everything has been done to death so when someone thinks of something so simple and yet so useful, well, you gotta hand it to them.

PushBullet is one of those apps that resides both on your mobile and your Desktop PC that deserves attention. Why? Coz for the longest time, everyone wanted something like this but no one bothered to do it as it just seems…well too simple to be of any serious use.

There are other ways to achieve what PushBullet does, but as a complete package, there are no competitors.

The Great Mobile Disconnect

Push notifications on your mobile reside on your mobile, and each time  you get a notification from your mobile app, you have to pick up your device to reply and read those messages.

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While on the desktop, you could be looking for some information and when you find a link you need to pass on to your mobile device, you can’t because the only way is to use Evernote or Google Keep, pasting the URL, and getting that on your mobile device.

How about the time you wanted to pass on an image from your mobile to your desktop? The fastest way was actually to save it to Dropbox and have that file saved back locally on your desktop PC hard drive. That’s like taking the scenic route to the book store.

PushBullet can do this and more. It can also make use of your mobile functions like replying your SMS from your desktop computer as long as the two are connected.

PushBullet on PC

Currently, it supports browsers such as Safari, Opera, Chrome and Firefox. The sharing of links and files is pretty solid except for maybe large files which will take a while to send over to your mobile device. There is another app, Caast.me, which is similar but uses a QR code to connect your mobile to your PC browser.

For Pushbullet, the connection is done only once on your computer, that is once you link your mobile to your account, it will forever be there. To add more desktops, tablets and phones, you just click to add on your profile dashboard and you’re done.

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What’s more you can also message your friend who are PushBullet users. If they are not PushBullet users, they will be notified to join up. I know this sounds kinda lame, since IM is probably the most abused and misused feature on mobile these days and with so many providers already offering IM services, it cease to be a unique selling point. But when integrated as a package, I can see the difference in the overall workflow experience.

PushBullet Workflow

This is what sets everything apart. As a stand alone app on your mobile, you can say that it is pretty useless as the only feature it has which differentiates itself from the rest is the news channel subscriptions.

There are several news channels or news aggregators which you can subscribe to for free—allowing you to periodically receive the latest news on the Internet. It doesn’t have proper news channels like CNN or NYT but it does support a host of industry channels from gaming to tech happenings. Beyond that, it offers nothing else for mobile users.

However for people who work from desktop PCs and mobile devices, this is a very handy tool as files and links gets passed around easily and shared with people on your IM list.

What’s more, you can also have project group mates who you might want to send URL links to instead of writing them an email. And who reads emails these days? When you get 100s a day, it gets pretty lame trying to sieve through them, and these are work emails and not the spam variety you find on supermarket shelves.

The UX is very well thought out. On mobile, it sits there as any standard app without IM capabilities. So there is no fussing around. You can also turn off the pushed notifications whenever you like or have them pushed ONLY while you are connected on WIFI.

The folks at PushBullet are still building this beast of a service in the hope of being bought out. I think they have done a great job coming this far. Lets hope it stays that way. I can already the hawks in the Internet industry descending on them to take them out. What they provide is inherently very simple but it is the way that it is delivered that makes them world class.

 

Android to be Fragmented by the Big Guns of Mobile?

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Recently, Microsoft was reportedly an investor in Cyanogen, the rogue Android operating system that Google hopes to kill one day. With the investment, Google probably has to deal with another camp within Android that will split their control over the OS.

This is not the first, Amazon was the big player who decided to go its own way with the Kindle and launched a competing version of Android that has no relations with the Google version. Then came Nokia’s X series, which Microsoft decided to kill off upon taking control on the Finnish company.

Windows Mobile is still a struggling OS. Blackberry isn’t much of contender unless you’re the Snowden type so for the rest of us, it’s just Android and Apple iOS. The others like Tizen, Ubuntu and Sailfish OS have yet to deliver a viable competitor to the old time favorites. So Cyanogen seems to be a good bet, or so it seems. But the folks at Mi (rice in Chinese) have a better idea, why not take Cyanogen and skin that to their ecosystem?

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Cyanogen have been given a fresh start with a capital injection rumored to be around 70 million from Microsoft. It was struggling under its own open source weight and could not get enough geeks to support the numerous devices listed on its site. When Cyanogen decided to go commercial, they were not prepared for the task at hand so the money from Redmond will help sort out its own mess. Oppo has partnered Cyanogen in the past with the N1 variant but Oppo has since taken on itself to move forward into the Global market with a Google approved version.

MIUI Alternative

Hugo Barra may have left Google for greener pastures  in China. In Silicon Valley, he’s just another tech guy but at Xiaomi, he’s driving both MI phones and operating system to global markets. Xiaomi is an ass kicker in China. It runs and supports its own eco-system which emulates what Apple has done to some degree.

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For example, Xiaomi’s own MiMarket, which is just like Google’s Playstore, operates on the same principle as Apple’s Appstore in that it weeds out malware apps before listing it on its own store. However MiMarket is predominately in Chinese and is a hindrance to the English speaking world. Even though Mi user interface on Android have been floating around for people to download and install — many still do not know of its existence. MiUI isn’t exactly an ecosystem, what Xiaomi has done is to use the MIUI on Cyanogen Mod for people to experience what they have created on HTC, Samsung and Motorola.

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This means there will be bugs though the support forum is relatively active to stamp those out. MiUI has its own channels in China that supports group buying, videos, music and games. It does not however offer Google type services such as Playstore and Gmail. Your MI account only gives you additional benefits such as a Cloud hosting account but beyond that, it’s pretty much the same.

Licensing Agreements with Google

Whenever a phone manufacturers wishes to use stock Android, it has to sign an agreement and pay a license fee. That fee is paltry, but you must offer standard Google services such as Maps, Playstore, gmail, etc before you can distribute it.

MIUI in China skips this process by breaking the stock google OS and installing its own with access to M i Market. So this means MIUI is a rogue Android OS just like Amazon’s. A rogue OS works best when you craft your own code into it—allowing you to access MIUI APIs that are proprietary. By doing so, it can also break certain app functions that adhere to strict Google standards—making them less likely to work when the app calls certain hardware routines. MI has a team monitoring the MI forums for bug reports and responds to them accordingly. So far, it’s been pretty good at handling concerns for MIUI for MI devices but but there is always a lingering concern that brands other than MI will not be entertained. There are loads of hardware issues that are not addresses and this has to do with Cyanogen Mod since MIUI doesn’t quite include the support for running its skinned OS on Samsung or HTC devices. MIUI is a good alternative to HTC Sense or Samsung Touchwiz but that’s generally where it ends.

Global March is a Slow One

Mi’s primary market is still China. Although Hugo Bara is spearheading its spread to third world nations, the problem with this march is that it is making baby steps instead of giant leaps, MIUI isn’t quite ready to offer the same eco-system that Apple does on a global scale. It is nice to see that Xiaomi has plans for global domination but it probably needs the necessary funding to go global at a more rapid pace.

What’s more, Xiaomi’s current Redmi Note 4G hasn’t got spectacular hardware specifications. 8GB internal storage along with 2GB RAM barely cuts it these days as more Google apps seem to occupy more storage space than ever. To think that the specs will last you 18 months into the future will be a gamble. Apps are getting more storage hungry and by this, you have to get a warehouse of sorts to keep them at bay. Every update of an App seems to swell in size and in the end, it just won’t hold all that without you first deleting and managing those that you seldom use.

Should I or Shouldn’t I?

To be frank, I hated the bloatware that came with Samsung devices. It tired to blend in a complete eco-system but failed at launch due to its lack of interest in competing with Google. As such, much of what you get on the Samsung app market is the same as those you get on Google Playstore. Trashing the Samsung bloatware is the main attraction for me at least.

The only difference is for the Galaxy Note series, where a series of apps were released to support the stylus input through Samsung’s own Appstore. Beyond that, Galaxy device users will find it very difficult to maintain those Samsung bloatware. Bloatware such as health apps and Samsung video and media centric apps cannot be erased.

Microsoft is in a very good position to hijack Android and splitting it from Google’s paws. It has the financial clout to pull it off and even make proprietary versions of it just like Amazon and Xioami in China (Xiaomi’s global march will be powered by an official version  of Google’s Android with MIUI 6 on Lollipop).

With the new investment in Cyanogen, Microsoft has to learn to find the right balance. Cyanogen opens the doors to users from HTC and Samsung that could be Microsoft centric—puffed up with a slew of Microsoft own services from Outlook mail, Bing Maps, Bing Streetview, Office 360 and Bing Search. Such a underhanded tactic could well destroy Google’s hold on Android. Will Nadella take this swipe at a rival after coming onboard as CEO? Only time will tell. Xiaomi does not have the clout to fight off patent lawsuits that will start flying when it enters global markets but Microsoft is already a patent leader in mobile technologies. As a matter of fact, Microsoft makes more money from mobile based patent royalties than it does from Windows Mobile licensing.

The long term view here is that Xiaomi will just be another User Interface for the rest of us while Microsoft could have its own ecosystem embedded in future releases of Cyanogen. That would be, in short, the worst nightmare for Google.

 

Andromium aims to replace your Desktop Computer

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I remember the first Apple Macintosh which had only 512K of RAM. Hard disk was optional and if you needed one, it came in MB instead of GBs. Fast forward to your Android and iOS device. If you compared that which you now hold in your hand, you are actually in possession of a Mainframe computer in 80s definition.  Now Mainframes are just a class below the Super Computers in its day—developed to solve complex mathematical problems. Performances of Mainframes are measured in MIPS, and in its day, anything that performs approximately 15 MIPS is a mainframe.

So with that in mind, why not turn your hand held into a computer? This is what most tablet manufacturers want to do, and the Asus Fonepad is just one example. But the UX is somewhat different. The usability with a mouse and a large screen becomes clunky as both iOS and Android were developed for hand held use. Android OS allows you to create a navigation layer on top of the default OS and this was its main appeal in the first place.

This is where Apple’s iOS gets left behind. There is no way to turn your iOS device in a full fledge desktop even if you tried. But for Android, things get interesting with Andromium.

The idea was no doubt hatched from Chromium OS, the Google operating system for Chrome Browser. This cloud centric OS is slowly becoming a worthy stand alone device so much so that Microsoft is now battling with Google for control for the netbook/cloud computing hardware.

Andromium is a Kickstarter project, where a dock is used to enable your Android device to work as a desktop. This dock is super cool and allows you to connect up a mouse, HD TV and a keyboard to make your Android device truly usable at home as a Desktop computer.

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This disruptive technology will allow you to replace that notebook PC you carry along on your business trips as all you need are the cables for the hotel HDTV, wireless keyboard and mouse to get you going. Internet connection is secondary as apps for word processing, drawing, presentation and spreadsheets already work off line. You only need to connect up with wifi should you want to send or receive data.

According to the development blog at Andromium, they are sorting out some of the caveats of some of the popular handsets. One of the most pressing problem is the ability to have simultaneous USB-OTG and Display Out as some of these functions are often disabled when a port is used for either USB or Display Out.  The support list is growing and for now, LG, HTC, Samsung and even OPPO is to be supported via this unique dock.

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The dock includes three full-sized USB ports for all the accessories you would need on a desktop computer, including gaming devices. It connects to your screen using an HDMI cable and has an integrated power cord, so your phone is always charged.

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For those without the benefit of having a HDMI capable TV or monitor at your disposal, you can always use a PICO projector that cost in the ballpark of US$150.

UX/UI Development

Andromium is all about the software and how it creates a layer on top of Google’s Android to make it easier to use apps in desktop mode. This also means that once in desktop mode, the phone continues to work as a smart device, receiving all your calls and text—which makes it even more useful that your notebook computer. For additional storage, one of the USB ports could easily support an external HD, which will give your device more functionality than Chromium based netbooks.

iOS can never allow you to replace the UI, and adding a layer to iOS is sacrilege. Tim Cook would come round to your front door one day to blow you to bits with a shotgun if it came down to it.

How Mobile is Disrupting the Notebook Business

This is bound to happen and I think Google, Apple and Microsoft knows this. The Andromium dock will sell for less than 50 bucks once launched (when successfully backed) after their kickstarter campaign and if you did the maths, you’d know that your desktop or notebook computer may well be your next door stopper when it launches.

With mobile devices packing more RAM and quad core processors, any casual PC user would find its appeal difficult to resist. You have storage access to the cloud if you are online and with the right hardware accessories such as a HD, HDMI display, mouse and keyboard, there is no further need to duplicate purchases on a desktop environment.

Mobility is helping to define this new technology in spaces we never thought possible and I am all for it. You can support the Andromium project here.