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Ubuntu for Phones Preview

phone-photo-heroThe developers of the popular Linux distribution Ubuntu have showed off an Android based phone OS with no JavaVM running on a Galaxy Nexus phone today. From first look it’s got some slick things that make the UI different from normal Android like swiping from edges to open menus and information, kind of stealing this from how Windows 8 works. From hands on videos it is very slow and things lag when opening. Of course this a early release but it’s nothing impressive.

On the website they show a block with app icons and just say “Go make us apps” using HTML5/Native, but lots of those like Gmail and YouTube would never make it to this OS natively just look at the large number of full on Android devices that don’t get support for Google Apps. So its very misleading to people thinking this would be cool to have because somehow it’s going to be more open then Android.

The one think I ask is what is the point, right now the big 3 are Android, iOS, and BlackBerry, with BlackBerry slowly dying away and Windows Phone not even something that anyone is looking at. This sounds like a lot of extra resources that could be put into making Android better, or making Ubuntu work better on the desktop. There is also Ubuntu TV but don’t expect much from that ether, their may be money in these markets but trying to do your own thing won’t work out or you will get people who get one of these devices and wonder why they can’t get the apps there friends on Android have.

Check out some photos to see what it looks like but don’t hold your breath for this becoming more than a waste of our time. If any new phone OS had any chance other than Android and iOS it would be Windows Phone just because they have the money to lose. And as we have seen from other Phone OS’s such as WebOS and even Windows Phone, just because you are different or have some special features it all comes down to getting things working together and getting lots of phones running it.

If this sounds harsh, it’s just true that you shouldn’t expect much to come from this.

Facebook for Android now Native

Facebook Friend AndroidFacebook announced the new Android app that runs in native code and not as a HTML5 web based app that it used to. By doing this it should run much faster and give them the ability to add more features that are part of the Android API. The app should load faster and run much smoother, I noticed that once images were loaded on my Galaxy Nexus scrolling thorough the time line was much easier. Also the images are loaded as you view them in the time line so they open right away and can be zoomed, liked or commented on right away without that annoying loading spinner. Also if you load a friend’s time line you should see a speed improvement.

I got it as an auto update when I got on WiFi but if you don’t have that on go get the update from the Play Store and you should be happy with the speed improvements of using native code.

Verizon still Not Blocking Block on Google Wallet

Looks like Verizon is still at its “were not blocking Google Wallet but you can’t use it because we are blocking it” tricks again. Looks like a letter sent to the FCC about it shows they are still blocking it because they say it uses a “secure element” in the device. This sounds funny because when Google Wallet came out they said it was insecure and they didn’t want it for that reason, now they are saying sorry it’s too secure and you can’t use it.

But what this boils down to, Verizon is building their own mobile payments system and will most likely be using the same “secure element” in the phone and made so you can’t uninstall it unless you root and rip it out. I have Google Wallet on my rooted Galaxy Nexus and it works just fine, of course it says it’s not a supported device being a Verizon phone and rooted. Too bad Google doesn’t just make it available on the Play Store and disregard the block Verizon is putting on it.

Kindle Fire HD – Mini Review

My Field Trip took me on to see the Kindle Fire HD that was setup, and it made me happy I have a Nexus 7 tablet. It did have some store app showing how things worked and I closed that because I don’t need it, and I went in to seeing how things looked.

The first thing I could see was that when swiping through the apps and content it would stutter and wasn’t all the smooth. This should be something that would always be nice since people are going to do that first thing. So I took note of how it was not performing well and went on.

I saw Cut the Rope was installed and having played it on my Nexus 7 though it would be a good comparison. But again the system was very slow to load the game; it took almost 30 seconds to load and also took some time to load the level. The game performed as it should and seems fine but the low-speed had made me not so interested in the device. I also was seeing that the price was just too close to a Nexus 7 where I could get a full Android experience.

With the modified Android OS that Amazon hides you miss out on a lot of things that the content doesn’t always make up for. Mostly missing those Google Apps that just add the full experience you would want such as good email, maps, and even the Google Now search that is way better than anything Siri can give you.

I would not recommend one of these for someone looking for a mid-sized tablet especially when you can get the Nexus for the same price but with more power and a better app selection. You do miss out on the Amazon Prime video and books but you can make up for that by getting the Amazon Kindle App and Netflix.

iPad Mini – Mini Review

Yes the title is kind of strange. But I got to play with an iPad Mini on today’s Field Trip.

I have played with iPads before and didn’t see a reason to go away from the Android systems I like, but lots of people like iOS. As for the iPad Mini its operation seemed smooth and things loaded fast and the screen was nice and crisp. As for the size, I have bigger hands than most but the feel of it was too big to the point that my hand was stretched way out to hold on to the device, making it hard to hold and at that point you may as well get the extra 2 inches. But if you wanted the smaller form this would be good if you are already in the iOS world and have only an iPhone or an old iPad but you wouldn’t want to get this if you have a newer iPad.

One other thing is the flaw of only having that Home button, I opened up the iBooks app to see how a book looked, and while it was nice there is no obvious way to get to all of your books or the table of contents. I tried holding Home but Siri wanted to help me find something, swiped from the edges but only a small bit of something came from the top but wouldn’t pull down, double tapped and even did a long tap and only got page turns. While this is only one app it does point to the fact that if there is no menus on-screen and no buttons what are you supposed to do if you have no other instructions. At least on Android you know that the menu button will get you some kind of menu, but also on Windows 8 I see this as a problem until you know that if you slide from one side a menu opens.

My experience with this app should not say if you are going to get an iPad Mini for the smaller size it should be a good experience, but it isn’t something you would go buy the iPad 4th generation and then need one of these. You would kind of just pick one based on the size you want since all of the same apps work on both devices.

Google Nexus: Ask Me Anything

A new video from Google shows off the Nexus 10, Nexus 7, and Nexus 4 and how you can use Google Now to search for information. Check it out below or on the YouTube Page.

Google / LG Nexus 4

Google had an announcement canceled by the weather but they still put out the new devices including this Nexus 4 phone, the Nexus 10 and an update to the Nexus 7. While there was some leaks of what this new Nexus 4 phone would be here is the real info. It is a 4.7″, quad-core, wireless charging, and Android 4.2 devices. Wow lots in one sentence but they also updated some apps too such as a new swipe type keyboard called “Gesture Type” so you just run your finger over the letters to spell words, and a new camera app “Photo Sphere” that lets you do panoramas that go up and side to side.

This phone will come in two sizes an 8GB and 16GB but at a great prices unlocked on GSM/HSPA+ networks starting at only $299 and $349 making this easy to get if you are in a contract but want a new devices. There is no LTE but HSPA+ is fast enough right now, and there are so many different LTE bands out right now you would have to put some more expensive chips in and that would drive the price up probably $100+. There is also the added SlimPort HDMI connection that is new. If you’re on a GSM network this looks like a good upgrade and it’s nice to be on the cutting edge of what other phone makers will add to their Android phones next year. There isn’t much information on the wireless charging yet but the make note of it on the Play Store website, most likely this will be an added $40-60 for the charging mat and isn’t included in the box. Will keep an eye out for accessories, but this would still be a good phone to get.

Screen with Gorilla Glass 2 4.7″ 1280×768 resolution
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro
Cameras 8MP back, 1.3 front
Network Unlocked GSM/UMTS/HSPA+
Memory 8GB + 16GB / 2GB RAM
Connections Micro USB, SlimPort HDMI, 3.5mm headphone
Wireless Wireless Charging, Wifi, NFC, Bluetooth, GPS
Battery 2,100 mAh Lithium
OS Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
Sensors Microphone, Compass, Ambient light

 

Hands on With Windows 8 Release Preview on a Tablet

With the Windows 8 release looming for October 26th 2012 and Microsoft Surface pre-orders started I wanted to take some time and play with Windows 8 again and see if it made any more since to run. I had installed an older version of Windows 8 on my tablet a ASUS EP 121 that is running an Intel Core i5 with 4GB RAM and has both Touch and a Wacom pin. So this should be a good system for testing Windows 8 on.

After downloading the disk image of the OS I used the Windows 7 DVD/USB backup tool to put the installer on a 4GB flash drive after to install the files on my Tablet. The installer booted and offered to install Windows 8 I changed some settings and pushed the OS to upgrade Windows 7 and all it did was move all of Windows 7 and the apps installed to Windows.old folder.

When the system rebooted it asked me to connect to my Wi-Fi and then login to a Windows account and set the colors of my Start Screen. At this point you are dumped to the Tile interface that is the only real thing Microsoft is showing in all of the advertising of what Windows 8 is. So now on the Start Screen I was showing it to my Wife who is not a techie person and my Son who is 3 and we started looking through the Photos app because it was smart enough to look for photos that are on my main desktop and somehow it had access to them even though the Tablet had not connected to the HomeGroup or logged into my desktop, this may have to do with me being logged into a Microsoft account on my Windows 7 desktop and by logging in with the same user on the tablet that it lets me not have to use my desktops username and password to access files.

With photos showing up my Wife and Son took over and we’re having fun flipping through photos, at some points the app would crash and leave us back loading the app and then thumbnail images of the folders only showed up a gray boxes and would change to a thumbnail if you went into the folder for enough time that it would load every image. This is the first of many times the Tile apps would crash that night, and yes this is a “Preview” but if you are releasing it things shouldn’t be crashing when loading photos over a home network.

I wanted to try out some of my Windows 7 applications that are installed still under that Windows.old folder, after finding my copy of ArtRage Studio and long tapping to pin the program to Start, it opened up just fine and ran in the Desktop mode. This is when I started finding myself using the good old desktop mode more and more. Now that I see it works I install Google Chrome because I like using Chrome and how it works, so Internet Explorer took me to the desktop even though I used the link on the Start screen but whatever and I went about downloading chrome.

For ArtRage to work right I needed to put in my registration key that I had a screen shot of save in Google Drive so I installed the desktop application and went about opening the file in an Explorer window but it wanted to no preview it but open it in the Photos app, only problem is that takes over my screen and doesn’t let me have more than one window open so I can get the code, another fail for pushing me back to the Start tile interface. After long pressing and going to preview it went back to the Start menu and said that another program can open that file and I told it to use the desktop image preview application and got things done.

Chrome was nice enough to install both a Desktop application version and a different version that worked in the Start menu but they are different apps/applications, this is a restriction Microsoft put in making software makers build two different programs, this is another fail because you may have something open a link on the Start tile interface but then you need it on the Desktop and this can’t be done.

I also at this point found out that the driver for my Wacom pin was not working right from what was pre-installed and I had to find the Windows 7 drivers and after a restart the pin worked great.

So it’s getting more frustrating to use but I went ahead and loaded the Music app, but for this app it didn’t know to look on my desktop for music and couldn’t find anything I had, but sure did want to sell me music thanks for that, not really the preview was ok but not what I wanted. So I went ahead and though good time to setup the tablet on my HomeGroup because mentioned something about joining to show my music, cool so after going through to another interface and back and forth with the onscreen keyboard that you have to change views to get a number I was connected to my HomeGroup and could see my desktops music in the Desktop mode and if I was to load a specific file in the Music app it would play one song not a folder full. So thinking as I do I added my music library from the desktop system to the local music library and then things started showing up in the Music app.

The Music app does not do good with lots of files, I was able to crash it doing almost anything now, if I play all it will shuffle through my songs but crashes because the background to songs with no cover art is a bunch of other cover art so each time you skip songs it reloads this wall of images, and then crashes. Now if you want to look for an artist that will crash with my large collection of music it hangs on switching and doesn’t scroll and finally crash again.

With the Music app crashing when looking for an Artist I looked for them using the Desktop mode and had it play the folder of music I wanted to play and test out, fail again I had to go back to the old way of doing things to get things working fast and easy.

Now I was going to install some apps from the Store, after finding some they seemed to work out just fine SketchBook Express and Wikipedia loaded just fine and I was able to use them, Wikipedia needs some work to use up more white space and make it easier to read because when you are reading most people are used to scrolling down not to the side but it was still usable. The WordPress app had some problems with logging into my site, it kept asking for me to update the Jetpack plugin but there is no update that I can get.

Back to stock apps, I went and tried the Mail app this required me to login to my email account and it had Google as an option, the only problem was it would not connect. So thinking what about updates they may have fixed some problems, well there was 9 updates and I let it update and restarted the Tablet and I was able to login to my Google account and my mail did show up but the Mail app is a little hard to use, like when you switch messages you have to select the text not just the area that is around it making it hard to use with your finger. Also by logging into my Google account my calendar showed up but only the main calendar content not all of my sub-calendars or others I have joined from other people. I hope Google makes some apps for their products that work as if I was on Android or I would have to just use the websites.

New day new problems, so I could get screen shots of things I installed an application called Greenshot and found myself installing VLC Media Player but Windows 8 doesn’t know the publisher so it wanted me to be protected from installing the program. So I tried to do it again by running the installer as Administrator but got the same message, this time I thought well let’s see what the learn more link does, at that point it said nothing other than it was an Unknown Publisher and I could run it any way. Too bad that made no sense or wasn’t obvious to let me install it.

Another thing that seems to be a problem with the Music app, while writing this it is long and taking time, ok so my tablet screen goes blank, that’s ok because its saving power and not burning out my screen, but the Music app is now not signed in and can’t get my music from my local network even though I am still connected to the Wi-Fi. The only way to get my music back was to switch to another app, use the hard and unobvious way of closing a Start tile app by dragging the left edge of the screen and pulling down to the bottom to close it and have it reopen. Only then did it start to find my music again even though I did try the resign-in button on the app. I would have not known that it was even possible to close an app if I didn’t spend some time reading though a list of posts around the Internet of other people as confused on how to close an app.

To close this out, I am trying this new Windows 8 Start tile interface in its intended way on a touch screen tablet and not an a desktop because I already know that it was just a big fail, and found the operating system to be improved for touch but still lacking a full tablet experience and all in all not even close to being ready for a release. Microsoft should have just built a Tablet OS based on Windows Phone and not mess with the Windows Desktop OS but now they have screwed up both experiences once again. I wanted to see Windows 8 work out good on my tablet because Windows 7 is so hard to use on it, but there are so many shortcomings with the Apps and I just had to go back to the old Desktop interface to get things to work or make things easy. People are going to try things and just not upgrade ever to Windows 8, they will look at Android and iPad as the way to have a tablet that works all the time. This is going to be another situation like Windows XP and desktop users will not upgrade. Microsoft is betting big on this new interface, and they are getting pressure from PC makers and PC part makers such as Intel to help drive sales but this will not help, it will further stagnate the market.

All in all I would say Windows 8 is going to be a failure and it’s too late to change things. I will keep Windows 7 on my desktop for a long time, and I will just put this tablet away and not use it for much other than drawing once in a while, and just use my Nexus 7 for everything that I want.

Tour through Google Data Centers with Street View

Google today announced they have created Street Views of some of their data centers that let you go through and see parts of the building most would never see. There is also a video showing things off also, but it’s fun to see what you can find that they put in for fun such as an Android guy off in some corner or a screen showing something for fun.

While you can’t go every place in the data centers you can look around a bit and see what it would be like to work in one of these buildings. Including things like showing the crews brake areas and some of the office areas. Right now the only data center you can walk though is Lenoir, NC but it looks like they may add more along with the outside.

Check out the video they made of the data center or the street map of it for you self. You can also get more data center images on the Google Data Center About page.

Microsoft Surface Pre-Order Available

With the upcoming release of the Windows 8 and Windows RT Microsoft has been developing what they think is the ideal tablet experience for Windows RT. They call their tablet Surface and will be coming out in both a Windows RT version and Windows 8 Pro version. The announcement of the Surface with Windows RT came out today and will start at $499, shipping on October 26 2012. There are three different packages to order, the lowest priced one is just a 32GB Surface with no cover and the highest is 64GB with a Cover. You can also order extra covers in different colors or buy a cover with a built-in keyboard that comes in 5 different colors.

While I don’t see mass adoption of Windows 8 or Windows RT it looks to be an acquit tablet interface but lacks in apps and functionality that most users will expect from a tablet such as an iPad or Android device. As for running Windows 8 on a laptop or desktop is a complete failure on the part of Microsoft, and they have only shown how the start menu takes over the system and that is all they expect you to do with your computer is have the start menu up all the time. This tablet seems like a response to the iPad but done with out thinking through the entire experience along with the experience of how Windows 8 will work as a desktop interface.

While the Surface looks to be a decent tablet it will also come with Microsoft Office 2013 RT installed, while it will be a pre-release of Office Home and Student it should get updated to the full release when it comes out. They also include Internet Explorer 10, Xbox Music store and other Xbox branded games. Check out the specs and gallery below for more about the details of the device.

Software Windows RT and Office Home and Student 2013 RT
Storage 32 and 64 GB
CPU / Memory NVIDIA T30 / 2 GB RAM
Display 10.6 inch 5-point multi-touch
Cameras Both front and back 720p HD
Wireless 2×2 MIMO WIFI, Bluetooth 4.0
Ports USB 2.0, mircoSDXC, HD Video Out
Sound 3.5mm headphone, 2 microphones, stereo speakers
Sensors Ambient Light, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass
Price $499-699 + $119-129 for covers + HD Adaptor
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