“Well what charger do you need!?”: Standards at an Awkward Time, and How much longer does Android have?

This was an encounter that made me realize what the state of the current landscape is. We have standards in computing – USB, WiFi, Bluetooth, but how many out there actually understand them? This exchange was specifically around USB ports. Someone needed to borrow a charger – and I’m a solid iOS/Mac user for everything, however I have devices that use other connectors, so I tend to keep an array in my backpack, specifically mini-USB, micro-USB, and USB-C, as they tend to be standard with my other devices. Someone asked if they could borrow an “Android Charger.”

I said, “What connector do you need?”

They responded, “The Android One.”

I was in the middle of something and couldn’t immediately break away, so I proceeded to ask, and we went back and forth for a few mins, other chimed in, but this led me to a realization of how many various consumer devices are using different connectors at the moment. And on top of that, how little people know about their devices in some cases. I understand that people just want a device that works, but shouldn’t people have a better understanding of just how it works? In school we all get the basic science of computers explained to us Hard Disk space, versus RAM, etc., but as time goes on things change, and we have to educate ourselves on those changes. It can be difficult to keep up sometimes, but if you want to use these devices, you should be able to sound some semblance of educated, or at least have a basic understanding of the question. Knowing what type of port your phone is should be a minimum, as when you go shopping for a new cable as we all have to do, you should know that you need a lightning connector, or a micro-USB.

While we’re moving towards the standardization of the USB-C port (keeping in mind different protocols from USB 3.1.2.3 or whatever it is, versus Thunderbolt 3 all working off that connector), with even Apple adding it to the latest generation of iPad Pro, and the MacBook having it for over a year now, this comes at kind of an awkward time in technology. The average life span of mobile devices, as apple pointed out in it’s last report, is longer than ever – therefore the transition over to a more standard connector on new devices is going to take a little more time than it would have in the past to actually get rolled out. For the time being, the most that anybody can do is just keep an eye on what’s going on with this, and as things move over, try to stay on top of it. Standards only become standards because people want them.

Sure, this whole exchange above led to an Android versus iOS debate as it always does, and as someone that has used both I have settled on iOS as my preferred mobile operating system – admittedly due to being committed to iTunes with purchases, and much preferring iMessage over any other messaging service. There are various applications where I can see Android being a much better alternative, but for me that’s not the case. This brings up a question based on Google’s history – How much longer do we really think Android will be around? This month Google is killing a bunch of applications, and launching a gaming service with ChromeOS in mind. All of its new hardware (short of the Pixel phones) are running versions of Chrome – could Android be among the services that Google is considering ending? The Chromecast is right up there with the Fire Stick, and Roku as far as affordable streaming devices, and has support for iOS as well. Its new Stadia service will be usable on a Chromecast Ultra.

What’s your opinion? Is Android on its way out now that they’ve gotten it to a refined point? Is Android what it once was, the space where the geeks could do what they please with the OS, or is it becoming as locked down as iOS with a different shell?

Amazfit Bip – Two Weeks Later

About two weeks ago I posted about a Chinese Wearable, I’m thoroughly anti buying products that are not directly sold through US retailers, however I figured for the price, and the overall high customer satisfaction score that it had off of Amazon (which I guess technically classifies as a US retailer), I’d give it a shot. This is the second time I’ve done this with products there over the last year or so – the first being a pair of Bluetooth Headphones branded “Popchose,” I’d never heard of them, and honestly still have no clue who they are, however they are to date the best Bluetooth Headphones that I’ve owned to date, miles ahead of the LG Tone set, and about on par to the Plantronics, however the battery is much better… but I digress. This was the catalyst for me deciding that maybe these were okay, and that I should give them a shot. Besides, it has a decent return/exchange policy, and again, the reviews for both customer service and the product itself were very positive, so why not? I was in the market for a new smartwatch, my previous “Pebble” smartwatch (RIP Pebble) was some odd company I had never heard of, and they blew up, so I wound up ordering it.

This product arrived on a Tuesday, and it was Saturday morning before I ever put it on the charger because I wanted to test the battery life a little bit. It was at 81% when I removed it from the box, and after it performed all of the “day one” updates. I installed a custom watch face that has seconds ticking, so that tends to drain the always on display a bit more than the traditional minutes only display. In addition, it continually updates my steps/calories burned every minute, and measures my heart rate every 10 minutes, and I also configured it to maintain a GPS connection as well. Basically, I wanted to set this up to have as much wear and tear on the battery as possible to deem exactly how long I could get it to last without a charge. I took it off when I went to bed that night, leaving it off of the charger, and it remained at 81% when I checked the next morning. I work in an environment where I am constantly moving, and always on my feet (sure, there are some exceptions to this, but for the most part I’m always moving), which means that it will constantly be documenting my motion, and steps. For the first day, it was a really busy day, therefore I was moving an above average amount, it kept right up – to kind of calibrate for my own piece of mind, and understanding before I left for the day – I picked a fixed point, and walked to that place. It was 96 steps by my count, I started at the top of a minute, it took me under a minute to get to my stopping point, so when I stopped, I lifted up the watch, waited for the minute to be up and for it to update my steps, and when it did, there were 96 steps added to my count for the day. I was impressed, I mean I shouldn’t have been, it’s just the device doing it’s job, but the odd company I had never heard of was more accurately counting my movement than my Samsung Gear Fit, or Apple Watch Series 1 ever did.

There are quite a few basic functions built into it as well such as workout tracking, which I found to be simply okay. If you’re running on a treadmill, it does a pretty good job at tracking your heart rate, and calories burned, however you have to use it for a little bit for it to calibrate to you. There is a bit of learning required by the device. For example, when you finish your workout recording, say you’re getting off the treadmill and hitting end, it will give you a summary of what it’s recorded. When you hit next, it will allow you to calibrate the distance ran. My workout only recorded .85 miles on the treadmill, when in fact I went 1.01 miles. It was more accurate the second time that I used it, but still not quite synced with the treadmill from that perspective. Moving on to weight equipment, usually on other devices I can simply select an “other workout” option, where it’ll time me, record heart rate, gauge physical stress from that, and really I use it more just to track time doing specific workouts – this however does not have that option, which I see as a missed opportunity for more people in the fitness community. With that being said, I primarily will run, and bike, and this device has both of those in there, so I’m pretty well set for that.

The sleep tracking is an interesting feature, both my prior Apple Watch, and Samsung Gear Fit had these features, however the battery life was not nearly long enough to actually use there, and this is something that this does a great job at tracking. I’m thoroughly impressed at its ability to pinpoint exactly when I fall asleep, and when I get up, for the latter end it’s usually within about 3-5 minutes of when I actually get up, and as far as I can guess it’s quite accurate as to the time I fall asleep to, I’m not staring at a clock when I’m crashing at night. It shows you how you compare to other users, as it anonymizes your data, and compares to other users. According to the app, I usually go to sleep about 2 hours earlier than the average user, however I’m up earlier than most… and I also sleep better than more than 75% of users! There is something mildly creepy about sharing all of this data, but at the same time, it is nice to be able to see these metrics on my own screens, to change my habits if I’m not sleeping well, and see some data driven results as to how my changes are actually effecting my sleep from a more clinical perspective, and less of a “sure, that helped a little” perspective.

All in all, I think that this device is great for someone that wants a basic activity tracker with a few more advanced features, and does not want to pay an arm and a leg for one of the more main stream devices – Xiaomi is a large company overseas, and this is not meant to detract from that, however in the US they’re a no name, and I likely wouldn’t be prone to buying one of their devices normally… besides, we know about all of the conspiracy theories with Huawei and data collection, is Xiaomi another one that may be collecting data too, and we just don’t know it yet? Probably not, but a lot of people will err on the side of caution. With all of that being said, I do recommend this for someone as their first smartwatch, if you’re not sure you’re going to use the features, or remember to charge it, or what have you. If you have one presently, and are looking for an upgrade, I would say that depends on what you have now, and what you’re looking for. There is an actual watch UI, which is more than the Fitbit Charge or Alta has, but the workout tracking features just aren’t as advanced, so if you want more of a watch, and less of a tracker, this is for you. I would say that this is just a stepping stone to something like a Samsung Gear or Apple Watch if you’re looking for a device that does more, and that if you’re looking to really step into the world of wearables, look into those before you look too much further into these, because you’re going to be disappointed if you think you’re getting something like those, and get one of these.

Note Taking and Books in the Modern Era of Education and Enterprise – a 7 year lifespan is why Apple will consistently sell me a new iPad

When you’re in a professional setting, what do you use to take notes during a meeting? Paper and Pen, Tablet (either with or without some type of peripheral input), or a Laptop? I have been in the tablet mindset since I purchased my first device in 2010 – the WebOS HP Touchpad. While I eventually hacked it and put Android on it, that was merely for ease of application updating, as well as to give myself a much larger app database to work with, as HP eventually gave up on the Palm product, and left a few years before they eventually made the source code open. In my mind, the tablet is the perfect device for any setting – they’re relatively light, in fact my iPad 3rd Generation, and iPad Pro are 1/2 the weight of what the Touchpad was, and they all can do a lot in such a small package.

When I graduated High School in 2012, I was really trying to figure out what to do financially about college textbooks – I was already taking out a massive amount of debt just to attend, did I really want to dole out a few thousand more a year just for books? I then looked into Apple’s Education platform that they were launching at the time – interactive textbooks? Active hyperlinks to videos from the publisher? In book clips, or pronunciations for foreign languages? Sold. Not just that, but a book that could potentially cost $300 for the print version and a CD to try and load on my lagging Windows computer, when I could have an interactive version literally at my fingertips for $170? That led me to sit down and do the math – If I’m saving $130 here, $50 there, $200 on that – I’m up to $380 in savings in my first semester by buying them digitally and getting a cleaner version that has updates as they’re published. It would be stupid not to do this.

Of course, being the Apple-holic I am, and after some research that is, I went with the top of the line at the time iPad – this was the 3rd Generation iPad, 64gb Storage, Retina Display…..but Just missed the boat on the lightning connector. Sure, I did research some other tablets, and was sold on the HP Touchpad as mentioned before but the reason I got one in the first place is that I was able to get one was that I purchased it for $50 as HP had decided to discontinue the device, and blow them out of every store. The other device I was seriously considering was the Toshiba Thrive tablet – 32gb of internal storage, however it has a memory card slot, full USB ports, Full HDMI, and was spec-ed pretty similarly to the iPad, however it was running Android. As someone who has been an (almost) consistent user of Apple Phones for the better part of the last 10 years (with a year and a half off in there to try out the Motorola Modular Platform), not to mention having used iTunes for all of my music since 2004, an iPad made the most sense for multiple reasons. Less than a month after I bought my device, Apple released a very similarly spec-ed iPad, barely anything worth noting, but it had their shiny new connector – which funnily enough would become the new standard I would need to use between devices…. and had to keep a stash of 30-pin connectors for the older iPad.

Sure, I took the concept of gaming into account too, I’m active in and out roof the gaming world depending on how busy I am at the time, as I’ve stated before, I have too many hobbies to count, and I’m adding in some more as time goes on (of course), but iOS, and any of the mobile platforms for that matter, have never really took off as quality gaming platforms. Companies like Aspyr Media have released ported versions of games like Knights of the Old Republic, but originally designed games for iOS (or Android) have kind of taken a back seat it seems. Things like Angry Birds, and Fruit Ninja have really been the best we could ask for. With the sudden explosion of Battle Royale games like Fortnite, and PUBG coming on scene, and adding all platform capability, and the success of such, I feel like we’re going to see a lot more of this in the future… but I digress…

That original iPad purchase was in August of 2012 – it’s now February of 2019, and I still have that iPad, and it’s still functioning… for the most part. The OS is well out of date for sure as the hardware will no longer support the software, meaning that a lot of Apps will no longer update, and that a lot of things that I would previously do from it I no longer can. It still is a great tablet that I magnetically mount in the kitchen to display recipes, or watch a streaming service while cooking, but 7 years and out of date software/hardware, that’s about it’s usefulness anymore. And that alone is longer than the life of any Windows computer I have ever owned to date – therefore I’m okay with that. And it’s also why I purchased a new iPad when I was looking for a new tablet to power use, I was looking for something to run Google Analytics, do basic Excel functions, as well as potentially do some basic graphic design (which if you have any suggestions on programs, I’m all ears!), and the iPad offered all of those features and more. If I can get the sam lifespan out of this device, and Apple can consistently provide on this, they’ll have at least one customer until they discontinue making the product for sure.

Cord Cutting – Why Haven’t You, what are your options?

If you’re getting some amazing bundle deal, having cable or satellite makes sense I guess, but in the golden age of streaming where you have options that cost as little as $20/mo, and you can pick your channels, why would you still have cable? There are thousands of channels out there, but think about it, how many of them do you actually watch? And moreover, how often are you still using your cable box in reality? A few months ago, I discontinued receiving Cable TV, and realized a few things:

  1. It was never being used. I was so excited when that cable box arrived, all the channels we’d now get… and after 2 months, it hand been turned on to watch the 30 min looping news channel. The fact of the matter is that with busy schedules, and without the ability to DVR shows, it was being utilized maybe twice a week for something other than the local news.
  2. Cable Companies lie. By removing TV from my account, I was supposed to be saving right around $25/month, when in reality, I was saving $5, and now had to buy my own router… not that the last part was a problem.
  3. No longer having Cable TV coming in improved the consistency of my internet speed. Given, this could be a coincidence given that they were making infrastructure improvements at the same time, but I would hazard a guess that it wasn’t the only thing that contributed to that. There are no longer two carriers along that incoming line being put through a splitter, it’s now a single signal for internet alone.

Upon canceling cable however this pushed me to a new device, a Tivo Bolt. The $200 device doesn’t come with a hefty price tag, however the $15/mo subscription fee (or the fee a little over $500 for lifetime) makes you think sometimes that you may have just been better off keeping cable. The device, however, is well worth the cost. Not only does it allow you to DVR your shows (we still have an amplified antenna and get a dozen or so channels OTA), but you can also stream your recordings to your smartphone (iOS and Android both), but when you search for something to record, it will search the built in apps, and tell you what streaming services it is available on for you to watch from, or differentiate between streaming vs buying in the case of Amazon and Vudu. Yes, this device also works with cable via the renting of a cable card from your provider if cable is still your thing. This device is perfect for the cord cutter though, allowing you to work between apps with no problem. It also features Pandora Radio, and YouTube, but no Spotify.

With all of the various TV Streaming services out there though, it can get a dicey. The concept of being solely reliant on an ISP to be able to watch TV can give cause for hesitation for sure. The foolproof way to have everything the way you want it though, would be to switch over to one, and cut the cord. With TV Providers such as DirecTV, Dish Network, Spectrum, XFinity, and others getting upwards of $80/mo for basic TV access, and then having to pay a surcharge, or additional fee for access to your local channels, it’s obscene! We don’t need TV that badly that it’s worth paying those fees! There are other options out there from places such as Sling TV (a-la-carte options), PS Vue, YouTube TV, as a few examples. Most of which allow you to access everything from any device you’d like. You even have the option of managing from your phone, and, “casting” to your TV. Now the major providers are getting into this market as well, there’s the DirecTV Now, and Spectrum Choice as a couple examples as well, where the package for TV is $35/mo, and $21.99/mo respectively. The major providers are realizing that less and less people actually want over 1000 channels with nothing on them.

In short, to you, I’d highly recommend cutting that cord, switching over to a $20-$35 streaming TV service, getting a DVR, and an OTA antenna if you don’t want to be reliant on streaming for even the local channels. With that you’ll get all your local, big network channels without a crazy fee, and then your cable ones are a fraction of the cost, and you get what you want. If you don’t care so much about being reliant on an ISP for even the local channels, most of the streaming services offer those as well, in fact working with the local areas is why it takes a little while for the services to roll out in different areas. Just so you know, most of the streaming providers also offer DVR capability as well, so you can really skip the Set Top Box if you want.

Adobe Creative Cloud – Perks to Cloud Computing

What? You thought this was all about radio? Pfft… there’s more to talk about than that! Come on! Give me a break!

Ever since high school I have been a Photoshop junkie. During a photography class I learned some of the fundamentals, and worked on my own to learn the ins and outs more as time went on. I would spend every spare minute that I had in one of the photo labs or art rooms. Being a student, I had access to the software at a discounted rate, therefore I of course had a copy of that, and as time went on, I got into InDesign for working with layouts, and then Premiere Elements for some video editing – which never went far… couldn’t get past the sound of my voice.

The modern version of these programs is quite different from the days of merely purchasing a copy of the software, and getting keys for your PC’s you plan on running it on. It’s a nice, cheaper (upfront at least) solution to allow anyone to have this software package, as well as being the new trend with software to go “cloud based.” The “Creative Cloud,” is a subscription based service that is based upon what types of tasks you would like to do, there is one for Photo, and a separate one for Video. At the price of $10.99 a month, it’s pretty affordable. The basic functions of Photoshop haven’t really changed any in the last 8 years or so, all your tools and basic editing functions remain the same. What you’re looking at, and what does make this worth considering, is focused suites of software, instead of individual programs that involve you doling out hundreds of dollars a piece, when for $10.99 a month (year commitment – be sure to at least skim the terms and conditions to catch that one) you can have multiple programs. On top of that, you always have the most up to date version, as opposed to having to spend $600 every three years for a new program, at which point you may be a few versions behind, you’re spending between $300-$400 in that same amount of time, and you always are going to have the most recent. That’s a pretty sweet deal if you ask me.

Yes, you still have the full version of the software. In fact the software is still run locally even, you have to take the time to download and install it, just like you would anything else, and that definitely takes some time.

Sure, not all of us like the monthly cost, though that’s the way of the modern world it seems, we aren’t asking about total cost of something, we’re simply asking how much per month it is going to cost, and if there is a way to finance it. With that being said though, looking at this from a cost perspective, it definitely pays to go monthly. Having the most up to date versions, any security patches if you’re using the Adobe Cloud Storage platform, and most importantly, if your computer completely dies on you, all you do is login to your Adobe CC account, and re-download it. No monkeying around with finding license keys you lost a year ago, contacting them, verifying the purchase was valid, and MAYBE getting a copy on your new device. As someone who always wants to have the software disc on hand, this here is a cloud software package that I’ll cave for.