Tag Archives: Android

My sister in law Denise Gets a New iPad


My sister in law Denise, pictured here, just got a new iPad for her birthday. Sorry for the photo quality. It was taken at a restaurant and looked better on my daughter’s iPhone screen. If I find a better one, I’ll post it.

Over the last several years, we’ve gotten a Windows 7 laptop and an iPad for Denise, on my recommendation. The PC was just too complex for her to use and her parents refuse to learn current technology, so it’s been a source of frustration for her. The iPad generally allows her to use it without too much trouble and we can often troubleshoot any issues over the phone. She cannot read or process much complexity so the fixed, simple, and symbolic UI of the iPad is pretty ideal for her. She likes to type simple letters to people using words and other patterns she’s memorized or written down.

Denise has an iPad 2 with 16 GB of storage and she wanted a new device for her birthday. I suggested that we all get her a new iPad Air with 32 GB and a keyboard case, so she can have the impression she’s using a laptop. She loved the idea. Her other family members bought the iPad and I just need to find her a good keyboard case. This new device should be easier on her eyes due to the excellent screen and the extra storage will allow us to load it with soap operas and other content she likes so she can enjoy it whenever she wants.

Before anyone asks, I’ve thought about trying an Android tablet with Denise, but this is one case where Android is sub-optimal. She loves to see me use my Nexus devices, but the complexity of Android would cause her grief and you can only hide so much of it. I develop for, use, and recommend Android devices for many people, but for someone who just wants a device with a rich ecosystem and a straightforward symbolic user interface that presents one simple path to accomplishing any given task, iOS is the best there is.

I recommend iOS devices as much as Android because many people just want stuff to work and they’re happy to live within the confines of the Apple system to get that. This preference is a matter of personality and priorities rather than intelligence. If you want the freedom to choose from a wide range of options for every major use case, then Android is your best bet for a mobile device. For the rest, there’s iOS.

Nexus 4 and LTE

I have 3G on an iPad that’s plenty fast for my mobile needs and an HSPA+ T-Mobile Android phone that’s also plenty fast and has a battery that lasts all day. LTE is a superior technology if you want to stream movies or use your phone as a data server, but how many actually do that on mobile?

If I could get LTE on the Google Nexus 4 I’m buying, I might do it for just in case reasoning, but I use T-Mobile pre-paid for a crazy cheap monthly price and their HSPA+ provides everything I need in speed and coverage. I’d also much prefer to have a longer battery life than faster data speeds.


Samsung Threatens to Strand Indian Bloggers

Samsung is getting more corrupt by the month. They recently lied to some Indian bloggers to get them to come to a German tech show and then threatened to strand them in Germany if the bloggers didn’t wear Samsung uniforms and act as shills for the new Samsung devices. I’d already decided not to buy Samsung anymore because of their terrible support and bad corporate behavior. This just confirms I made the right decision.

Google, please let other companies make the Nexus phones. I really want to buy an unlocked GSM model, but if it has Samsung’s name on it, I’ll go without.



Android verus iOS – Reply to a Rant

I ran across an interesting perspective on Android (previous and current versions) from a confirmed Apple lover. It was a decent article, fair and well written. Then I ran across an anti-Apple rant from an idiot and felt compelled to respond. (I know, why respond to an idiot, but I’m mental that way.)  Here’s a link to the article and then my response to the bad comment, which is also posted there, but I want my comment to stand on its own.


My Comment 

I wasn’t going to bother commenting but then I saw @tim’s comment ignorantly bashing Apple.

I am a technology guy, with no religion as to what tech to use other than a slight anti-Microsoft slant because of the way they do business and their often sloppy engineering. I have an older iMac and white Macbook and a year old Macbook Pro my wife and I use at home. My kids use Windows laptops for games and homework. We have an older iPod Touch and three of us have Android phones. I have both the original Galaxy Tab and an Asus Transformer. At work, I lead a team doing development on Windows and Linux client and server platforms as well as Android. We are just ending our support for Sparc Solaris and I’ve developed for other systems in the past. So I have broad experience with the hardware and software available over the last 15 or so years.

Now, to address @Tim first. he bases his argument against Apple’s cloud on a single anecdote I’ve never heard and then says, without justification, to trust him on this. Only the most ignorant would trust the author of a rant, especially one who’s obviously loose with facts and has no apparent experience in software or systems engineering. He then says that he think Apple (presumably iOS) is plain, ugly, and cheap looking. I think he’s in the minority here, since the iOS UI is widely praised and isn’t much different from the Android base UI. He goes on to rant about bad Apple acts without specifying them. So much for @tim.

Now, @Connor makes several good points in his article. He hits the nail on the head with his comment about vendors skinning Android. It’s counterproductive, doesn’t add much if anything to the user experience, and makes OS updates more difficult. He also talks about how good the iCloud is for easily accessing content. This is clearly true. He even gives credit to Google for vastly improving their market offerings so that now Google Play is a true competitor to Apple’s cloud. Finally, @Connor notes that Android 4.0 has a UI that’s well ahead of iOS in many ways. Also true.

Apple makes great hardware and software that work well together. I use Apple’s OS-X at home because it lets me just get stuff done without a fuss. I also appreciate the beautiful engineering of their hardware. The pervasive myth that Apple is overpriced is largely just that, a myth. Paying $1100 for a Macbook Pro seems like a lot, but if you want to buy a Windows laptop of comparable quality, it costs about the same. It’s the same with iMacs. Apple will rarely be the least expensive option for a computing device, but it will very often be the most capable and elegant.

I feel compelled to mention that Apple is on my Do Not Buy list right now because they knowingly allow their products to be made in China with slave-like labor and pocket the extra profits. That’s just evil. I knew Steve Jobs wasn’t a nice guy, but the revelations coming out about his labor practices and conspiracy to inflate the price of eBooks is despicable. I won’t be buying Apple again until they demonstrate that they’ve cleaned up their act and chosen to join the ethical path.

Now, your choice of iOS versus Android comes down to personal choice and your personality. Some points:

  1. A good device (both hardware and software) will melt away into the background and appear as an extension of the user, requiring no thought of how to use it. This is the holy grail of usability. The user should be able to focus full attention on the task at hand, without thought for how to “use the device” to accomplish the task. Apple approaches this ideal pretty closely. Android, ideally, can also approach this ideal with the new Android 4.0 interface.
  2. Both iOS and Android now provide a very compelling ecosystem for accessing content, whether it’s games, music, movies, or books. The iOS interface is a little smoother and easier to navigate, but Google is getting awfully close with the Google Play store.
  3. If you worry about safety and demand that things just work on your device, then Apple’s iOS is still king. Apple operates a walled garden where everything that makes it into the app store is carefully screened first, so you can be pretty confident that downloads from the app store are safe to run and will work as advertised. Android takes a different approach, allowing anyone to upload apps to Google Play and relying partly on users to weed out the bad ones. As a result, there’s a lot of apps on the Android store that you’ll likely never see on the iOS store. Google does have the ability to remove bad apps from your device remotely if they discover it, so the situation isn’t quite the wild, wild west.
  4. As part of Apple’s walled garden approach to their mobile devices, they decide what’s appropriate for you to have on your iOS device and make it very difficult to access content they haven’t approved. It’s very possible to hack your device to allow you access to more content, but if you feel like you want an open system, you really should be using an Android device.
  5. Do you like to tinker with things or customize them to make them reflect your personality? If so, your only real choice is Android. Android lets you change almost everything about the appearance and functionality of your device and there are many apps that make it easy to customize your device to suit you perfectly. Apple allows very limited customization because they’ve decided what’s best for you. In fact, I recommend an Apple iOS or Android device to others largely based on whether they want to tinker or customize it.

The bottom line: If you just want your device to be like an appliance that lets you do very cool things, then get an iOS device. If you want a device that you can make work just the way you like and then use it to do very cool things, then get an Android. Everything else is secondary.

Why iOS Will Lose to Android in the Long Run

Slate writer Farhad Manjoo recently wrote a “iPads are the greatest ever, ever, ever!” article that, while not technically wrong, was nothing more than a huge fanboy victory lap for a short-lived victory. Frankly I expected better from Slate. The comments are predictably populated by loud and angry proclamations on both sides, punctuated by more reasonable people leaving sensible comments. Damn those reasonable people!

Below is my response to a commenter claiming that Android tablets have failed disastrously, can’t compete on price, have no applications worth using, etc.

1. Android Tablets have failed disastrously.

The claim that Android tablets have failed disastrously is pretty silly. I live in a pretty affluent area and I see more people here with Android phones and tablets than iOS devices. I know several people at work who have an iPad but I also know several who have Android tablets and some who are looking to get their second, with the latest hardware. This isn’t just techies I’m talking about. It includes a lot of not very technical adults who just want something they can own and not have to put up with Apple’s ecosystem.

Here’s what happened with Android tablets in the beginning. Google and Android moved into tablets too soon, pulled into it by overeager manufacturers like Samsung with their Galaxy Tab. The Galaxy Tab is a great device (I bought one the day they came out) but Android wasn’t ready for tablets. Android 3.0 Honeycomb was better but still a quickly thrown together tablet OS, unlike Apple’s always carefully prepared iOS releases. Now, with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, Android finally has a unified OS for phone and tablet that works well with both. The user experience will not be as smooth as iOS for awhile because Apple’s control of the whole manufacturing chain and totalitarian control of the content they allow on their devices means they can more tightly control quality and ensure that everything works well together. But eventually, Android will reap the benefits of having opened itself up to the world, letting basically anyone make an Android device.

Android will become ubiquitous in mobile and embedded devices and Apple will increasingly become a non-dominant product. Apple is dominant now because its philosophy it to dominate a market very quickly, just as with the Apple IIs and Macs. I had an Apple II as a teen and I have three Macs my family and I use daily, so I understand how well designed their products are. But very few people use Macs at work because Windows is good enough to get the job done and there’s Linux for people who need real power and control, both of which I use as a software architect.

The article’s author, Farhad, makes points that aren’t necessarily wrong, but are misleading. He’s taking a very narrow and short-term view of technology.

2. Android can’t compete with Apple on price.

As far as price, one of the primary reasons Apple can offer such great prices is because they use slave labor. It’s recently come out that Apple has conspired with book publishers to inflate the price of eBooks and will be sued by the US government. So Apple’s playing with a fixed deck in at least a few ways. I’m disappointed because I genuinely like Apple products, but Apple the company is increasingly becoming someone I’d rather not know personally. I’m afraid that Steve Jobs went beyond not being a very nice person, to being sociopathic in his drive for power, perfection, and profit.

3. There are no good tablet apps.

I’d like to ask the people claiming there are no great Android tablet apps whether they’ve actually used an Android tablet in the past six months. There are more great apps, games and otherwise, than my kids and I have time to even try out, much less use daily. It’s an embarrassment of riches. Most of the good iOS games are also on Android, many of them for free, and Android also has a huge number of independent games and tools that aren’t available on iOS.

4. Conclusion 

I have two 11 year old boys and a 15 year old daughter. They are all very tech conscious, as most kids are these days. iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touches are hot, but the big thing to have now is Android. My wife, daughter, and I all have Android phones, cheap no-contract ones that cost about 1/3 the price of an iPhone off contract, provide all the core functionality, and cost us a total of less than $100 US per month in cellular fees. My boys love to play with my older hand me down Android phones and their friends with IPod Touches or iPads beg to play with my Asus Transformer tablet when they visit.

Kids and young adults love to tinker and they realize very quickly that Apple’s “My way or the highway” philosophy won’t let them be creative, making their device into something personal. An Android device for a kid is just a core system that allows him to load all the games he wants, most for free, customize everything about it, from the lock-screen to the launcher to the keyboard to the menus, everything. And he can do whatever he wants with it. This freedom matters greatly to kids and young adults. That’s partly why Apple will steadily lose market share, remaining the favorite of technophobes and other people who just want something as an appliance, but losing appeal to everyone who really wants to own their toys.

Theft-Aware Android Security App

I work on a program that supports a wide range of platforms, including Android. Android support is new and just leaving beta, but Android phone and tablet sized devices are the future for many of our customers. It would be overreaching for us to recommend specific security apps to our Android customers, but we need to be aware of advances in the field. I use a different security solution (Lookout), but this looks very promising. For military systems in particular, there needs to be a way to locate a lost device and deactivate or render inoperable a device that is lost or falls into enemy hands during a conflict. This app shows there are already solutions adaptable to meet this requirement.


Elixir 2 Review

I’ve been meaning to do reviews on Android apps for awhile, but I never seem to have the time to take the screenshots and write a thorough review of the many great apps I use on my Galaxy Tab, so I guess I’ll just link to reviews I approve of for now.

Elixir is a Swiss Army Knife (multiuse admin) app for Android that’s been around awhile and now version 2 is out. The same basic functionality is present in the new app, with improvements. There are several good admin apps for Android and it really comes down to personal taste which you prefer. Elixir gives you an amazing amount of system information, helpful utilities for killing and monitoring tasks, moving apps to the SD card, and much more. And it has a good set of widgets too. I’m happy to pay a few bucks for a good app, but there’s no need here because Elixir is free.




Apple’s Suits Against Samsung Are Anti-competitive

Apple has recently filed suit against Samsung in Europe to prevent the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 from being sold there. Aside from the malicious mis-representation Apple lawyers are engaging in, the entire undertaking is anti-competitive. Apple’s whole case seems to be that the Galaxy Tab looks a lot like the iPad 2. So what?!  There are only so many ways to make a modern tablet that is desirable and makes physical/ergonomic sense. I am typing this on an iMac and have three Macs in the house, so I’m not anti-Apple. But Apple is way over the line here, suing instead of innovating to stay ahead.

I have the original Samsung Galaxy Tab and love it. It’s not much like an iPad. I would probably have bought a Tab 10.1 except that Samsung made it without USB or even a MicroSD port. Samsung actually had a great Galaxy Tab 10.1 with a great camera and other goodies ready for release and then went back to the drawing board to better compete with the iPad 2. They obviously wanted the Galaxy Tab 10.1 to be an Android version of the iPad2, attracting the same people. Many companies do this, seeing a successful model made by a competitor and then making their own version of the same thing, focusing on what people seemed to like about the original. Car manufacturers, TV Manufacturers, PC makers, etc. all do this. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery as they say, not a reason to sue someone.

I don’t even know what legal basis you could use to sue someone for making something similar to your product, but it’s inherently anti-competitive to sue on that basis. Technology improves so quickly partly because there are numerous companies competing to make the best X. Making the first X doesn’t grant you the right to rest on your laurels. Other companies will be trying to outdo you almost immediately and it’s on you to stay ahead of them.

As far as why people keep buying iPads and not Android tablets, the main reason is because Apple has gotten themselves into a situation where the public (Joe and Jane Sixpack if you will) believes that Apple is the pinnacle of quality, ease of use, and coolness. This is partly Apple’s hype machine in cahoots with a media that loves trendiness, but it’s largely due to Apple’s consistently making great products and with their mobile products, making beautiful hardware that works well within a tightly controlled ecosystem. This gives the average person what they want and there is no voice in the average person’s life telling them all the compromises they have to make with IOS. When I’ve talked to people about the IOS and Android choices, many choose IOS but many choose Android instead.

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is the first serious competitor for those who actually want an iPad but aren’t so sure about buying completely into the Apple walled garden, and Apple is stressed about the potential for lots of people who have Android phones or who are just moving to smartphones to choose Android. Many of these tech late adopters have friends with Android devices and may gain confidence from that to choose the Galaxy Tab or after looking into the Galaxy Tab and seeing how cool the Android ecosystem is may choose another Android Tablet.

TLDR: Apple is being anti-competitive, pure and simple.

Something’s Rotten in Cupertino – Apple Is a Bully

Apple has just gotten the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10 inch tablet, an arguably superior tablet to the iPad2, banned for sale in most of Europe. Apple lawyers went to Germany, known for being friendly to intellectual property (IP) holders, to ask for a ban on Galaxy Tab sales and the court’s agreement to ban the Samsung device means that most of the EU will follow suit, costing Samsung the momentum they’ve been enjoying with their Ipad competitor and perhaps destroying their chance to eat into Apple’s iPad based profits

The worst part of this situation is that Samsung didn’t even get a chance to plead their side of the case. They will in time, of course, but then it will be too late no matter what the courts decide. This use of lawyers and spurious intellectual property claims to destroy potentially superior competitors sounds a lot like Apple’s nemesis Microsoft.

It’s debatable whether Jobs ever had a soul, but it looks like Apple as a company has sacrificed its collective soul to the god of ultimate profit. It’s days like today when I feel almost ashamed to use my Macs. Still, there’s hope in that either:

a. Jobs will retire and a more ethical, more human CEO will lead Apple back to its roots as a company that stands or falls on great engineering rather than lawsuits.


b. The United States and other nations will get so tired of parasitic IP companies that produce nothing and large companies stifling smaller ones with lawsuits that they reform the IP laws to ban software patents entirely and limit other copyright and patents to a reasonable term and breadth of coverage.

We are so far from the point where IP laws stimulate competition and protect the rights of inventors to profit from their work that it’s time to start over with the idea of supporting innovation in the modern world.


Link: http://www.techradar.com/news/mobile-computing/tablets/apple-vs-samsung-something-here-is-rotten-990195

Don’t Factory Reset Your Rooted Android

I have an Optimus V I use for tinkering (it’s rooted) and sometimes for phone calls. I did a factory reset on it awhile ago with the idea of letting my son’s use it with their google accounts and then left it alone. When I returned to playing with it, I discovered it was stuck in a ClockworkMod recovery loop. No matter what I did, it would boot into the ClockworkMod  recovery menu. After a lot of poking around, I found the following pages that explain that

  1. Do not factory reset your rooted Android device.
  2. If you do factory reset your rooted Android device and get stuck in a recovery loop, there are ways to fix it.

There are several ways to fix this issue, but the easiest is to download a recovery zip file (see the first link below), load it onto your SD card, then use the ClockworkMod recovery menu to install this file. After that, you should be able to reboot your phone and return to the actual installed Android OS. There are instructions at the links below. I recommend you read them all before trying this.