Posts from the “Software” Category

Why automation makes life easier

Let’s face it, we carry super computers in our pockets.  Alright, not really, but although our smartphone companions are not super computers, they are still pretty darn smart and with that comes device and app automation that can drastically improve and simplify your life.  An app that I personally love is IFTTT (If This Then That), which brings a beautiful interface with jaw-dropping applets (recipes) that you put together according to your needs.
ifttt_1

IFTTT for iOS (Android interface is similar).

Need to know when you make it to the gym?  Turn on location services and add a quick note to your calendar whenever this happens.  Want the lights in your home to turn on when you pull into the garage?  There’s a applet for that.  Auto photo upload, auto WordPress posting, auto tweeting — you dream it (additionally you have certain accounts that can be linked together so that they can talk to each other) and IFTTT can make it happen.  Although from my screenshot you may assume that this glorious app is available on iOS only (you know what happens when you assume, right?)  — wrong it’s multi-platform available on iOS and Android — with a web interface!

Additionally, IFTTT isn’t the only player in this game, Microsoft recently introduced Flow, which has a unique spin on task automation itself.  And for those that are looking to get extremely granular on Android, there is one app called Tasker which essentially can do it all.  (Note: I advise only experienced users to play with this app).
Bottom line:  Everything is easier when magic “just happens” in the background for you, give IFTTT and other platforms a try!

Google Pixel First Impressions

Google’s latest flagship smartphones have been revealed with the monikers Pixel (5″ version) and Pixel XL (5.5″ version). Nexus is officially dead. You heard it here first folks. The Nexus team will still be providing support; however, these phones note the end of an era of vanilla Android goodness and Pixel will take it’s place.

Features:

  • Google Assistant built in with Android 7.1, first device with this software addition.
  • Camera bump gone with a unique tapered design.
  • Best scoring camera of any smartphone….ever.
  • Newly designed Pixel launcher to getting to your favorite apps quickly and accessing Google Assistant in a moment.

Bottom line:  The new Pixel devices from Google seem promising.  Another step at taking back Android from OEMs and making a solid entry into doing that.  With phones made by Google, users can expect a lot more from their devices such as quality support, updates when they are released and non-crippled experience that wouldn’t be bogged down by carrier and manufacturer bloat.

Google Duo & Allo — Failures Waiting to Happen

Google’s newest messaging and video chat platforms, Allo and Duo respectively are poised to potentially fail — hard.
Google has Hangouts already, which is almost a complete product;yet, they’ve invested time, development dollars and more on two new separate apps (that are end-to-end encrypted, by the the way).  The company is also touting the fact that these apps are “specialized” with the fact that they do one thing.  Certainly an interesting notion.
The real issue here is that Google is confusing consumers, they don’t know if they should use Messaging, Hangouts or the new combination of Allo and Duo.  Furthermore, we certainly do not know what OEMs will include on the devices that they ship once these apps are live.  Will they include the apps made my Google or will they make their own terrible emulations of them (cue Samsung)?  THAT is the issue.  We need clear direction of where Google and Android want to take messaging as it has been a mess for years with many consumers simply sticking to whatever app is thrown on their device.
With the rollout officially underway, download these from the Play Store or App Store when they are available and give them a try.
Bottom line:  Google, make your intentions clear!

YouTube Music, the app no one needs

Google Play Music, Google Play Music All-Access, YouTube Music Key, then YouTube Music Key becomes YouTube Music and we also now have YouTube Red.

My what a tangled web you weave dearest Google.

“Hello, Confusion.  How are you?  We are the internet!”

In my case, I have it easy, I pay for Google Play Music All-Access, so I get all of these extraneous YouTube bits; however, what about the potential customers that did not start out by having a subscription to Google Play Music?  One can certainly see how there is room for confusion, especially with the duplicity between the apps that are presented to us.

YouTube Music is essentially the YouTube app with a focus on music.  It behaves just like YouTube with all of the swipe gestures you are familiar with; however, it curates music in a fashion that is similar to Google Play Music All-Access — certainly a good thing and allows for a bit of content discovery along the way.  But the question here is does this app do anything that the traditional YouTube app cannot do?  Certainly if I fire up the latest video from Maroon 5 or Jeezy both apps will display content that is like what is playing, rap songs showing more rap, pop songs showing more pop — this is content discovery.  Here is where it gets mushy, YouTube Music behaves like Google Play Music as it streams playlists together for you, which if you were in the YouTube app, you would have to create those playlists yourself — but does this really matter?  In both cases, since I subscribe to Google Play Music All-Access, I can put YouTube or YouTube Music in the background and listen to the audio rather than seeing the video.

The paradox here is that people certainly go to YouTube for music, but is the experience of having YouTube Music that much better than just using the regular app?

I don’t think so.

Bottom line:  Why?

Android Custom ROMs

Android, probably the most powerful mobile operating system on the planet, is great for numerous reasons:

  • Customizations to make the device yours
  • Great multitasking
  • Fully integrated with Google services
  • Many different OEM custom skins to suit everyone

However, there comes a time that users want to do a little more and have full control of their device.  So, what is done — we root.  Why do people root their Android devices?  Here are just some of the reasons:

  • Backing up apps and data
  • Tethering
  • Ad Blocking
  • Removing carrier bloatware
  • Wireless and network tricks 😉

Also, with a rooted device means that your bootloader is also unlocked so that you can flash custom ROMs to your device.  A custom ROM is essentially the Android operating system from Google that a set of developers have taken and added their own custom tweaks for speed, functionality and differentiation.  Custom ROMs can improve on battery life, allow you to customize your phone to a completely different degree and give you an overall great experience.

galaxy-nexus-customROM

With so many ROMs to choose from, which do I prefer?  Well, on my Verizon Galaxy Nexus there have been over 100 ROMs flashed from the popular Cyanogenmod, AOKP, JBSourcery and more.  See below for a brief analysis of the top trio:

  • Cyanagenmod — This ROM is probably the first custom ROM that any root user learns about and becomes enthralled in the sheer number of customizations that are available to you.  However, in my experience I have seen that all of the options in this ROM absolutely destroyed my battery life and made the device quite slow.
  • AOKP — After a stint with Cyanogenmod, I switched to AOKP and fell in love with the customizations and stabilty of the ROM, there is not a lot (if any) bugs in this ROM.
  • JBSourcery — this is the most stable highly-customizable ROM that I have ever ran on the Galaxy Nexus, includes a JBSourcery Tool Center which offer complete manipulation of everything about your device.

So, which custom ROM is the best?  That is a question that you must answer.  Go forth and flash away my friends!

Visit RootzWiki for Android custom ROMs and kernels.

Bottom line:  The world of hacking, modding and flashing new firmware to your device is fun and it is great that Google allows us to do it!