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.

 

 

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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.

Suck it Up with Clean Master

Clean_Master_App“Massstarrr, the House is very Messy!”

“Well Igor, CLEAN it up!”

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

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

Why Your RAM is Stuffed

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

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

Clean Master Rocks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.