Tag Archives: android

Toward predictive interfaces: ‘Google Now on tap’

In a prior post I compared “Google Now” and the concept of a Proactive User Interface. It looks like ‘Google Now on tap’ will finally be a step in the right direction.

My first impression from a quick read of some articles is that it is an expansion of the info cards concept with more correlation with current UI context. This is such a powerful, and an extremely obvious feature, that you wonder why this was not done years ago. True, Google will put more search and Big Data power behind this. But, is it really predictive and will it “learn” a users information patterns?

An information pattern example (from my prior post) is a User is viewing a web site. There is a probability that if a certain amount of time is spent or a certain page or article type is visited, that clicking a share button will be followed by predictable actions. For example, sharing a link with a colleague or loved one. The UI presented will then present a proactive plan. See “Proactive User Interface“. Generating information related to context is still requiring the user to perform wasted effort to form and act on immediate action plans. So what are those octocore chips for?

Proactive Interface v2
Diagram of idea

Updates

  • Nov 9, 2015: Google just open sourced a Machine Learning system, TensorFlow.

Links

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Note 4 can’t connect USB to Windows 7 PC

Tried a few things trying to connect Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Only thing that worked was uninstalling the Samsung driver in the Device Manager of PC. Then when you connect the phone with a USB cable, there should be an auto detection and installing of the drivers. Three things are installed

Of course, your cable must be the right kind (not just a power cable) and so forth.

I got the tip by “xfaega” at: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showpost.php?p=49040275&postcount=19

Strange that this was always working then stopped. I wonder if it was that attempt to update Android recently that was continually interrupted. Darn amazing phones.

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Google Play cannot access music on SD card

There are reports that on the latest Android devices you can now store your music on an SD card and the Google Play Music (GPM) app can play them.

This is incorrect. GPM can store cached music from its own service to an sdcard. That way you can play them offline without losing valuable memory on your device. It is also Google’s way to lock in content and services; maybe due to industry legalities?

Another music player app, Poweramp, can play music from an SD card.

Anyway, if the above is incorrect, please respond with directions on how to copy music from a device onto an Android phone and allow Google Play Music to access it.

I tried all this on a very recent tablet running KitKat.

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Speed up Android home screen display

I followed the suggestions in “Speeding up the Samsung Galaxy Note” which worked, but now a new problem: after pressing the Home button, the ‘desktop’ takes very long to show the icons. This is on my Samsung Note (original) i717 with Android 4.1.2, on AT&T network.

Searching I found that many were blaming the lack of memory.

What I did
Using the SystemPanel Lite app, I saw that there were a bunch of apps in the Inactive (Cached) Applications list. I closed these. Now the home screen pops up a little quicker.

Issue?
I don’t think it is just a memory issue. Something is wrong with this OS version on my phone. More likely the caching system needs a major revisit. Are the latest versions of Android any better?

Links
SystemPanel Lite version 1.3.1

So What” by Miles Davis from “Kind of Blue

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Relax Melodies app review

The “Relax M.” app is available for Android and iOS. This app is recommended for helping one to relax for sleeping, for help with Tinnitus, and general relaxation.

This post is related to the 2.3.3 version on Android. Apparently the iOS version of the app is much improved.

I read some reviews that missed the whole point of the app. Relax M. consists of a wide range of “soothing” sounds that you play, sure, but the big thing about it is that you combine these sounds to create your own personalized “mix”. For example, you can add windy day sounds to the sound of rain. The free version offers 46 sounds, the paid app 96 sounds.

Though this app is marketed as a sleep aid it could be used for other things:

  • Noise suppression
  • Background sounds
  • Hearing problems
  • Soothing sounds for baby (careful with volume on anything next to a child!)
The 46 free sounds in the free version
 * Afternoon                * Heavy Rain     * Orchestral          * Thunder 
 * Birds                    * Humming        * Oscillating Fan     * Thunder Storm 
 * Butterfly                * Icy Snow       * Piano               * Toskana 
 * Campfire                 * Immersed       * Rain                * Underwater 
 * Cat Purring              * Lounge         * Rain on Roof        * Urban Rain 
 * Cavern                   * Medieval       * Rainstorm           * Vacuum 
 * City Ambiance            * Melody         * Rainy Day           * Waterfall 
 * Duduk                    * MonkChant      * River               * White Noise 
 * Flute                    * Music Box      * Seaside             * Wind Chimes 
 * Frogs                    * Night          * Slow Waves          * Winds 
 * Grandfather Clock        * Ocean          * Storm               * Zen 

How this app could have been better?
1. Allow the user to add new sounds and music. Maybe someone will find that a freight train or steam locomotive is soothing. Me, I would find the sounds of the “L”, BMT Canarsie Line in New York City very soothing.
2. Easier way to change the volume of each sound in the current mix.
3. Easier way to find sounds: alphabetic, type, last used, and so forth.
4. Easy pause button.

Resources

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What slowed down Galaxy Note with Android 4.1.2 update?

In my prior post on how to speed up the Galaxy Note I added an update on changing the battery.

Update Dec 26, 2013: I got a new battery for the phone. Hmmm. It’s faster. I’ll give it a few days of use to make sure it is not a fluke. The original battery was 2500mAh, the new is 2700mAh. Should not matter!
 

So, far the phone is noticeably faster. Its like getting a new phone! I’m trying to remember if I changed something else, or did not access yet an app I normally use.

The only thing I did was in the developer options of phone, checked off “Do not keep activities”, but I unchecked it before leaving the screen. So no configuration changes were made. All I did was put in the new battery, turned off the phone and let the battery charge up to 100% overnight, took out the battery for about 10 secs, put the battery back in. Restarted the phone.

One last test is to put the old battery back in. Will do this tonight. I’m hesitant, you know if its working don’t fix it.
—————————————————-
I put the old battery in, and the phone is still fast. Didn’t really use it for long. It is faster with the new battery. When I go from the Sonos controller to the home screen there is a slight pause. With the new battery there is no pause. Now I’m puzzled. Something changed. Oh well.

Links

The Helix Nebula: a Gaseous Envelope Expelled By a Dying Star
Source: Hubblesite.org
The image is of: The Helix Nebula: a Gaseous Envelope Expelled By a Dying Star

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Bloatware should be outlawed

Since smartphones need to run as efficiently as possible in a small memory space, the issue of Bloatware has become more important. Is anyone doing anything about it?

What is Bloatware
The term Bloatware is used in many ways. As used here it refers to the inclusion of software into a device (smartphone, pad, PC, Smart TV, …) that the user did not request, cannot be used without extra fees or privacy compromises, cannot be removed, and that use up storage and/or processing resources. Not sure, but this may be primarily an American consumer issue. The EU may have more laws regarding this.

Why Bloatware
Lets give the manufactures and sellers some slack and say that they have perfectly good reasons for the use of Bloatware. There must be some remuneration involved, and this ultimately brings down the final price the user pays. There are also various non-directly financial reasons, like Zawinski’s law of software envelopment. Thus, we have systems with eye-tracking that can’t see, gesture recognition that ignores, and bells and whistles that only hum.

Issues with Bloatware

  1. They take up space. One article says up to 45% on some devices
  2. Sometimes cannot be removed or disabled
  3. May be trialware
  4. Could be compromised since will not be updated by user
  5. May be secretly active
  6. May be sending usage and other information
  7. Can pull in unwanted supporting libraries or programs
  8. A source of advertising
  9. Are just fronts for paid services, sometimes with free trial periods
  10. Unused and unwanted
  11. Make it harder to easily update non-bloatware

Adware and Snoopware
This situation is even worse than it appears. Two other issues are making things even worse: Adware and Snoopware. Adware is also running amok in the industry. Everything and anything is a vector for targeted ads and upselling. This adware also takes up bandwidth and processing resources. The other, Snoopware, is the bandwidth being used to invade privacy and security. This is being done by the large social media and search giants but also by the small players. Snoopware is also used by the law enforcement agencies and is also a bandwidth and processing drain.

Thus, Bloatware, Adware, Snoopware, are reducing the frictionless use of what we are paying for.

Apple and Bloatware
Not being a fan boy, I’m not up on the Apple side of the house. Since Apple products are in a sense a ‘walled garden’, one could say they are the bloat. The premium pricing is payment for not getting other people’s bloat. Just joking here. 🙂

Removing Bloatware?
If you search, you’ll find many sites giving info on how to remove this software. Unfortunately, these approaches are not very practical. Only a small subset of users would wipe a PC or install a custom ROM in their smartphone by Rooting to get rid of junk. In fact, I’m sure many consumers don’t really have a concept of Bloatware. Regarding rooting a phone, see The Pros and Cons of Rooting Your Phone.

What could be done
It will take more than one thing to reduce bloatware. Some steps may be:

  • Make this a more visible issue
  • Start a petition to make Bloatware illegal
  • Disclosure: System vendors must supply a truth in packaging document listing the Bloatware. They don’t have to use the term “Bloatware”, just list which software or devices are ‘extras’ supplied by 3rd parties and are not required to use the system. And, what are the true costs of using these extras. This info is needed so concerned consumers can make a better buying decision. Of course, will do nothing; who reads the EULA? Its up to the news and web space to bring these comparisons to view.
  • The configuration screen for applications and settings must state which are critical to the device operation. Since many apps and features are locked, who knows?
  • A default opt-out of the use of any Bloatware must be in effect. This is critical if said software will eventually require a fee for its use. Navigation and communication apps are a prime example. Some applications have a default setting to also install virus and spyware detectors. These should be defaulted to opt-out.
  • Models of the system must be made available that have no extras installed.
  • Must provide ability to not only disable but also remove any Bloatware. The consumer can decide if they are willing to pay the different prices.
  • Congressional bills (or whatever in your country) to put some rational guidelines on this. (yes, rational and politics are contradictory).
  • Boycott devices that contain Bloatware
  • Create a non-carrier carrier
  • Bypass commercial carriers using a dynamically allocated peer mesh network

Updates
March 4, 2014: The new Samsung Galaxy S5 is will come stuffed with premium apps and subscriptions worth over $500. But, you read further and find that all these have limited subscriptions. For instance, the Wall Street Journal is only six months, the LinkedIn Premium account is only three months, etc. Hence, bloatware. Can any of it be removed if unwanted?

Further reading

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Android recovery mode on Galaxy Note I717

With so many Android devices out there, some people get wrong info on how to get into Recovery Mode. On the original Samsung Galaxy Note supplied by carrier AT&T in the USA the process is:

  1. Power off the device
  2. Hold in three buttons:
    • Up Volume switch
    • Down Volume switch
    • Power button
  3. Wait for Android logo to appear
  4. Let go of buttons

Now why would someone want to go into recovery mode? Repairs, troubleshooting, or install of new OS. I will eventually want to install a custom non-bloatware ROM in my device. So much stuff I don’t even use.

Works on
Samsung Galaxy Note SGH-I717
Android 4.1.2

Some links

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Will first generation Samsung Galaxy Note get Android 4.4 KitKat?

Consensus from scanning news and web search is: NO!

Latest news: According to this article, Samsung has officially said that 1 GB RAM is not enough to run the Android KitKat version. The article further theorizes: “we will point out that KitKat runs fine with that amount of memory only on stock Android, which does not have any of the added features or bloat that Samsung (and other non-Nexus phones come with.)”. Ah, bloatware.

What if could have meant
If it does though, this coming Android version, KitKat, is good news. KitKat is supposed to bring some welcome capabilities for older devices. There is already something from Cyanomod, “Note 4.4 Rom review of CyanogenMod 11.0“.

The Aging original Samsung Galaxy Note is a very good high tech device. This thing has enough compute power that could have guided businesses, spacecraft, and whole cities in the past. There is no reason why it can’t be upgraded to be useful for another few years.

Would it really have made a difference?
Will Android 4.4 really allow Samsung to improve performance, as reported here, Android 4.4 KitKat Top 5 Optimisation for Samsung Galaxy S4, S3, Note 3, Note 2 and other Galaxy Devices? Or will that performance, if any, will be gobbled up by the Bloatware already installed?

Jelly Bean upgrade mess
However the recent upgrade of the original Note device to Jelly Bean has apparently had many negative results. “AT&T Galaxy Note Jelly Bean Problems Continue: Lag & Battery Life.” It made the Galaxy Note unusable! Since this is an official upgrade I’m surprised there isn’t a class action lawsuit or some negative press about it.

According to “Samsung Galaxy Note First Gen Won’t Have Android 4.2, 4.3; Android 4.4 Will Grant New Life Cycle“, KitKat will support older devices that have hardware or memory issues. A list of devices is given here, “Android 4.4 KitKat OS: 13 Samsung Galaxy Phones, Tablets Getting New and Fresh Life Cycle“. Another article confirms that Galaxy Note 1 will not get the update.

Android 5?
Is Android 4.4 just 5.0 re-branded, or another release added to the pipeline? Whatever happened to the concept of the using “Google Play Services” to update the OS, as mentioned in “Balky carriers and slow OEMs step aside: Google is defragging Android“?

Updates

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Swype keyboard review

I was using the trial version of SwiftKey. At the end of the trial period I had to decide, buy it? It was good, but i was not convinced. Typing was still a clunky affair. Suddenly the real Swype was released. After such a long beta period.

I’m amazed. Using Swype, the keyboard becomes a non-issue. It is almost 100% accurate on most approximately correct gestures. The word prediction does not get in the way and since it gives more than three potential matches for each word, one can usually spot the desired word.

Issues
Of course, it is not perfect. For example, starting on the wrong first letter of a word is invariably a problem with gesture based keyboards. I want to type “quick”, but I started my actions on the “b” key, thus I get “buick” and related options. That is ok, perhaps, we don’t have artificial intelligence in keyboards yet.

But, correcting a word is not the best; you click on it and you get an edit cursor. This is fine, unless you want to re-swype. To re-swype the word you have to click and hold the text until it gets fully highlighted, then you can re-swype. Since swype is the text input mode, I would expect that touching a word would select it for re-swyping, if you need to edit it, the second touch would change mode. Not a big issue.

Another problem I have with it is finding the non-alphabetic characters. Where the heck is “-“? Not easy to get to. And, the font size of the alternate characters above the keys is just too tiny and too faint on all the keyboard themes.

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