Archive for Category: Android OS Tablets


Europe 2012 – Day 1

Monday, 25 June 2012

I should call this minus day one and not count it, but I am in Europe, so here goes.

This post will be filled with the nitty gritty details of my journey here. I haven’t really been anywhere yet, so skip it if you only want to know about seeing Europe and doing research. This one is kind of more about venting.

I didn’t sleep at all last night because I wasn’t close to being ready. I do that far too often actually when I fly somewhere. Driving, I just leave a little later. I still have things to do to plan for the trip I’m already on.

Amazingly, and to my own surprise, I was able to pack for a month in two carry-on bags. (I figured ten days of clothes was good.) I called for the shuttle and took a flight to JFK. I was three rows from the back of the plane and all the small children were back there. And yet, the flight was fine. The elder gentleman sitting next to me was friendly enough. And I guess most of the kid noise was drowned out by the engine noise. We even arrived a little early.

At JFK, it started going downhill. There was a shuttle to my terminal but there was no sign about it where there needed to be. I had about 30 minutes left of my two hour layover, after walking through the terminals, to check out the Delta Sky Club. I got some free passes for it a while back. The clerk let me in without keeping the pass since my time was so short, but they expire soon anyway so when else will I use them? (When arriving early to SLC, would be the appropriate in hindsight answer.) I was not impressed, then took the bus to the new terminal.

Because I pay attention to things, I saw the sign about one carry-on and checked it. The flight was very long. I dozed off many times but never got any real restful sleep. They served breakfast before landing but surprised me with dinner too, which I missed because I was half asleep. Exiting the plane, I saw a guy with three bags. I guess nobody enforced that sign much. I should have ignored it myself.

And then, I was in Europe. If I haven’t mentioned it enough, this is my first time off the American continent since I was 12, and that was the only time back then. After a walk through the airport, I got to customs and stepped into the shortest line, which moved at least eight times slower than all the others. And I’m not exaggerating about that. I now have an Amsterdam stamp in my shiny new passport.

My next flight boarded and it was less than two hours in the air. They gave us two sandwiches each. Seriously, US airlines are pathetic in comparison to the KLM service; the number of meals, drink service, the long flight even had warm towels for everyone multiple times just like I’d only seen in movies.

Warsaw is not a large airport. At least, it didn’t seem like it. After the bags went around and no more came out, there was a line at the missing baggage office, all from my flight. That’s right. I packed two carry-ons, checked one, and it didn’t make it to Poland with me. My first lost bag ever.

I was planning to use a bigger bag and check it, carefully packing a few clothing changes in the smaller bag, but once I realized I could go with two small ones, the second bag only held what it needed. I do have a few extra shirts, all my Androids and their chargers, my camera, and a few other things. Several hours ago, the KLM web site said they’d initiated delivery to me. It’s almost 4am. Are they waiting for sunrise? Not cool. Their Twitter person said someone would contact me. Then they said they would forward it in the morning. That had better be really, really early.

Now, about this hotel… It said it had a hotel shuttle when I booked it, which is why I came so far out from the airport. They changed the listing already. My taxi driver had trouble finding it even with a map. It also doesn’t mention the lack of air conditioning. Actually, I don’t see that listed for my next hotel either. It’s raining too, but not cooling off enough for me. That’s bad for sleep, but sleep is bad for this trip. I don’t have time for sleep or weekends.

What else went wrong on day one? My bluetooth keyboard refuses to pair with all of my Androids suddenly. I brought all my charger cables, but only one for two devices, and it’s the two I use the most. They’ll just have to take turns. I only brought my USB cables and not all the plugs, but one device actually needs its own plug and won’t charge. I haven’t eaten and I got hungry around 11pm in the middle of nowhere. Breakfast is in 4 hours. I still need a SIM card for my phone.

(Future note: take the plug for the biggest device. And do some doggone testing first.)

But those really cheap American to European adapters work just fine.

I think I’ll just kind of start over tomorrow. After breakfast, I will take the train to the city center and get started on my plans. I just booked my next hotel but not the rental car.

Also, when I got to the Warsaw airport, I followed the signs to customs and thought I took a wrong turn when a door just opened with no guard. No customs here for me. No Poland stamp. Too much European cooperation. I stepped back and took a picture. Hey, it’s better than pictures of my planes.

image

You may have also noticed that I’ve been trying to learn some Polish. I don’t know why I feel weird trying to speak to them. Maybe today. I eventually turned on the TV just to listen. So weird. US shows. Not captioned or dubbed how you might think. They play the original audio but a man overlaps it with a translation slightly louder.

Wait, I do have one other picture. I had a window seat only on the last flight. I took a picture of my view for most of that trip.

image

I didn’t have my camera ready as we approached for landing. Pretty. Lots of green and all orange roofs.

Gosh, that was a lot of venting, wasn’t it? I’ll balance that a little more.

HEY, I’M IN POLAND! :-)

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Android Tablets and Genealogy

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Dick Eastman wrote an article on his blog that was just begging for a response. Someone was asking him about the Nook and the Kindle Fire for genealogy uses. He actually owns both of those devices, but went on to tell his readers that neither is good and they should buy iPad. He clearly hasn’t been paying attention to other genealogy bloggers who use Android devices, because we have just been raving about them and about the apps that can be used for genealogy. And because he uses devices that have crippled versions of the OS, he doesn’t understand what Android is capable of. In the end, he tells his readers that Android is no good and they absolutely have to buy iPad if they want to use them for genealogy. This blog post is the long version of my response: he is completely wrong.

Not So Expensive

The only tablet that is useful for genealogy programs without modification is the Apple iPad or possibly one of the more full-featured and expensive tablet computers that run the Android operating system.

Those “full-featured and expensive” Android tablets cost less than his iPad. And not only are they full-featured, they probably have more features than his iPad does. Just because the only Androids he’s ever used are crippled and require jailbreaking does not mean that he has any experience with Android.

He is correct that the Nook and Kindle (Fire) are aimed at the ebook reader market and are not as full-featured as the iPad. He is correct to tell the questioner that the iPad is better for genealogy uses. He is wrong to suggest that every other Android is just as useless as these crippled Android ebook readers.

Not So Incompatible

Neither Legacy nor Family Tree Maker have versions that will run on the Nook Tablet or the Kindle Fire nor on any other Android or iOS tablet computers.

Via Twitter, Caroline Gurney quickly pointed out that “Ancestry App allows you to do 2 way sync between Family Tree Maker 2012 database and Android device.” Also, there is an app called Families for both OSes that will read and sync with Legacy Family Tree.

Those apps may not run on his Nook or Kindle, but they certainly run on other Android and iOS tablets.

Not So Bad At Web Browsing

However, most tablet computers do have web browsers. If you are within range of a wireless network connection, you can access a web-based genealogy application. However, my guess is that most tablet computer owners will not be happy with that solution. None of the web-based genealogy programs look very good on a 7-inch screen.

Has he ever used a “real” 7″ Android tablet? Not only is he comparing two 7″ tablets to a 10″ tablet, it’s clear he’s never used any other Android 7″ tablets. I agree that web sites do look best on 10″ tablets, but they are just fine in 7″ and some don’t even need to be zoomed to be read if you have young enough eyes. (Dick may be too old to see any kind of small print.)

Not Needing Modification

Both the Nook Tablet and the Kindle Fire run modified versions of the Android Operation System.

This is true, but he still uses this against all Androids by saying that none of them are as good as his iPad.

Dick then goes on to discuss hacking the devices. He ran his “hacked” Nook off of a microSD card, so clearly he either doesn’t know how or didn’t try to hack it properly. My first tablet, a ViewSonic gTablet, required hacking to access the Android Market. I did not use a microSD card, but installed the mod right onto the tablet’s memory. There was no lagging like he experienced with his not-really-hacked Nook.

He then talks about sideloading. Again, having never used a non-crippled Android, he doesn’t realize that the Android OS allows you to sideload apps. Maybe the Nook and Kindle don’t, but every Android I’ve ever used has had the option to allow apps from somewhere other than Google’s market. It is not hidden and it is not difficult. The iPad does require jailbreaking to install anything not from the Apple store.

Not So Many Drawbacks

In my mind, modifying or hacking a device of any sort always includes some drawbacks. I’d suggest the better, simpler, and more effective method is to purchase a tablet computer or cell phone that is designed to have all sorts of third-party programs installed, including genealogy apps. Admittedly, this is usually a more expensive solution.

But he hasn’t actually done that. He’s comparing his iPad to these two other tablets, not to the “more expensive” Androids that cost less than his iPad and do more.

Not The Leading Candidates

At this time, the leading handheld candidates for using genealogy apps are the Dell Streak tablet, Samsung Galaxy Tab, the T-Mobile SpringBoard with Google tablet, the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer, the T-Mobile SpringBoard, the Apple iPad for Apple’s iOS operating system, and a wide variety of “smartphones” (cell phones that include complete computers).

Um, what? What’s a T-Mobile SpringBoard? How does he figure that’s a “leading” tablet and why did he list it twice? Not only do I know a lot about a lot of Androids, but I use T-Mobile and I’ve never heard of this one specifically. The Dell Streak is also not a “leading” tablet. He failed to mention the Acer Iconia, Toshiba Thrive, and Motorola Xoom; those along with the Asus Transformer (and the brand new Transformer Prime) and the Samsung Galaxy Tab are more like the “leading” Android tablets. The Acer and Toshiba both have full size USB ports for flash drive, external hard drive, keyboard, or mouse. Does his iPad do that? These Androids are more “full-featured” than his iPad.

Not So Lesser Known, And Some That Are

If you search online, you can find many more Android tablets although most of them are lesser-known devices.

Sure, to an iPad fanboy. Actually, there are a lot of Android devices, many of which are “lesser-known”. But that just means there are that many more options, so instead of being forced to buy the one and only model available, you can buy an Android that does what you want it to do and not what Apple thinks you should do with it. Given his “leading candidate” list, he doesn’t even know which Android tablets are lesser-known and which aren’t. Some have full size USB ports, some have full size SD card slots, the Transformer has an attachable keyboard making it like a netbook, the Thrive is built like a netbook will full size ports, etc.

Not So Outsold

The Apple iPad is by far the most popular tablet computer. In fact, Apple sells more iPads than all the other tablet manufacturers combined.

Is he using old information? The only reason no one model of Android has outsold iPhone/iPad is because there are so many to choose from that people can buy what they want and what they need, and not be forced to by the only model available. (Yes, I’m repeating myself now.)

While I can find multiple web sites that state Android is currently the dominant OS in smartphones (with varying numbers depending on the time frame), it’s harder to determine the tablet market. Most iPads have 3G and thus show activations just like smartphones, but the vast majority of Android tablets have only wi-fi. So counting activations is not a fair assessment. Also, Apple only reveals their shipment numbers, not their purchase numbers. Several sites said that Android has a greater market share in the US and worldwide, but many were before the iPhone 4S was finally released. Of course, many people buy the iPhone for the “prestige” and not because they’ve compared it to an Android. My favorite find, while looking for a statistics link, was this article from, well, tomorrow (according to when I first wrote this), stating that Steve Wozniak, Apple’s co-founder, prefers his Android to his iPhone for the features it offers, including Android’s voice features over the much-hyped Siri app.

Not So Few Genealogy Apps

Dick Eastman (the cause of this rant blog post) goes on to link to an earlier article of his about genealogy apps for iPhone/iPad. Tamura Jones has recently compiled lists of Free Android Genealogy Apps and Paid Android Genealogy Apps. There are a lot more apps for Android users. Maybe not for Dick with his crippled Nook and Kindle, but for the rest of us.

Not So Unrepetitious

In short, anyone who wants to use a full-featured genealogy program on a tablet computer needs to purchase an Apple iPad (which has many genealogy programs available) or one of the “leading handheld candidates” listed earlier that run Android (and will then be limited to only two or three genealogy programs). However, none of these choices can match the low prices of the Nook Tablet or of a Kindle Fire.

Again, he mentions those leading candidates that I’ve already pointed out are incorrect, and thinks they are limited to two or three programs, which Tamura proves is incorrect.

While the original question was about two tablets that Dick actually owns, the Nook and the Kindle Fire, he did not even offer a comparison of the two. Instead, he compared them both to his iPad. The two tablets are not even in the same league or remotely within the same price point as the iPad. If he wants to compare an iPad to something, he should try a 10″ Android that hasn’t been crippled by its manufacturer to be just an ereader.

He is also wrong about the prices of Android tablets. I purchased my 7″ Galaxy Tab for the same price as the Kindle Nook. Because Apple controls the iPads, they have set the prices. But Androids can be purchased from a variety of sellers, sometimes refurbished, but working like they are new.

To have a really fair comparison for Nook and Kindle, he should have compared them to other 7″ tablets. But wait, Apple doesn’t make one. There are no options in iOS for something the size of an ereader, and sometimes the size and weight of it is the big draw. No, he’d have to compare to the 7″ Samsung Galaxy Tab, the HTC Flyer, or the Dell Streak. The HTC seemed a little overpriced to me. The cell providers don’t sell the old Galaxy Tab, but there is a newer version now, that with a two year activation, would probably cost about the same as the Nook and Kindle. Does the iPad cost less with the activation like the Androids do? This I don’t know.

Conclusion

Just because Dick Eastman has been blogging about technology for so many years doesn’t mean he’s always right. And even if he owns the devices in question, it doesn’t means he answers his readers’ questions about them, other than to steer the reader towards a device that was not even a possibility in their mind.

Also, as of the posting of this blog, he has not approved of any of the comments that have been left, as I know for a fact that there have been at least three. Does he not like to be told he’s wrong on his own blog? Possibly. I don’t know. Maybe he’s been busy since sending it out into the social networking world.

If the reader of EOGN wants to buy a more inexpensive and smaller Android tablet for genealogy uses, I recommend the 7″ Galaxy Tab, which can be purchased refurbished for about the same price as a Kindle Fire. If willing to spend a bit more, and wanting a 10″ tablet, the Asus Transformer refurbished is available as of this moment for only $300. Take a little time to research the tablets and find the options that you want. I have purchased all of my Androids on woot.com and deals.woot.com; I purchased each from a different seller whose deal was listed on that site.

Sorry Dick, but in this case, you should have asked your readers to answer for you. You just don’t appear to have enough experience with real Androids to answer.

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Review – MyHeritage App

Thursday, 15 December 2011

MyHeritage released an API and started a programming contest for it a few months ago. I considered trying for it but knew it was probably a waste of my time because they were likely working on the app that I had in mind. And today it was released. I immediately downloaded it after their Twitter account sent out the link to the press release. I wonder why they sent out a link to a tech site before the press release on their own blog. I didn’t see a link to the market in the press release until I checked the one on their blog, but I found the app in the market.

On the first try, the app told me I needed Adobe AIR. Especially since the press release mentioned HTML5, and their other apps all require it as well, I knew that was going to be the case. But they failed to mention that in the description. Sorry, if I require some other app on my device to run yours, you have to tell me before I try yours. This is one reason they’ve gotten some negative reviews for their other app. Not only do people not like AIR, but they don’t even tell you that you need it.

So I installed AIR and the app loaded very slowly. I thought it had crashed because the screen was black for so long, but it got faster after the next restart. I imagine it was setting up files on my Android but didn’t tell me what it was doing. I don’t even know if it was AIR or MyHeritage that took so long to start.

I think they’ve combined all of their apps into one. There are three main options: Family Tree, Share Photos, and MyCeleb.

Family Tree

I went for the first option, logged in, and had access to my tree. This seemed to work well, though the usual zoom in and out gestures did not work and I had to click on the + and – symbols. It is a little slow loading, so I think it fetches my tree every time I open it. The main view is similar to the main family tree view on their web site, showing the graphical interface of the tree. Tapping on an individual brings up a different view with three options for Info, Events, and Family. The family list shows, in order, spouse, children, then parents, and you can click on each of them. I checked someone with two spouses and it listed them out of order. The database doesn’t have marriage dates for either, but they are in order in my program.

There is an option to turn off the upper menu and the search function to see a little more of the tree at once. This also flips to landscape mode as it should.

I shut off the wifi to see if the app cached any information, but it did not even let me into this part of the app without a connection. Because my Androids are not phones/have no data plans, this would not be helpful anywhere without wifi, for instance, if I was in a cemetery and found curious gravestones nearby and wanted to investigate my family tree. Assuming a constant Internet connection is a regular occurrence among Android apps, unfortunately. In my opinion, if you need the Internet, why bother programming an app? How about just do a mobile-specialized web site?

Share Photos

The Share photos section brought up the pictures that I’ve uploaded to the site. The camera icon lets me take a photo or choose from the library on the device. The share icon (though Android usually uses a different icon; maybe this is a standard iOS icon) gives me the options to share photo or save to camera roll. I don’t know what the second option actually did. The first doesn’t do anything for me. It seems that the option is for sharing with people who can already access the tree on the web site but I have no other people there. It gave me the option to add emails within the app, but I didn’t follow through.

Flipping to landscape mode here lost all the functionality of sharing or taking photos and I could just look through the photos. On the Galaxy Tab 7″, the photos fell off the side of the tab. On the Galaxy S Wifi 5.0, they were centered properly.

MyCeleb

MyCeleb let me choose a photo or take one. I had my usual photo on my Android and it matched me the same as the web site had. I don’t want to discuss the results I got from snapping a picture, but it seemed to work. This part of the app works exclusively in portrait mode.

Programming Issues

Probably in part, or entirely, because it’s programmed in AIR, it doesn’t always work like a regular Android app. The back button often doesn’t do anything, though in every other app it either closes whatever has opened, it goes back to the previous view, or it eventually closes the app. Sometimes it did go back, but very often it did not, for instance, any smaller pop-up windows did not close and I could not exit the app via the back button. The Android menu button also does nothing in the app. To close the app, I had to use the in-app menu button.

I Have Email

While writing this review, I received an email from MyHeritage, likely activated when I logged in via the app. It states “now the whole family can contribute to your family site… and stay in touch via iPhone, iPad, and Android.” Well, how? I guess they mean mostly the photo sharing, because the email specifies that v1.0 is read-only for the family tree section. They also claim more features are “in the works”. I assume they mean writing and editing abilities in the tree, but they don’t say what else. We’ll just have to watch for that.

Conclusion

Overall, the app seems to work pretty well. Some things lagged, in part probably because it was setting itself up or it had to access the Internet. My tree showed up and I was able to move around it and view individuals’ details. It doesn’t remember my data for offline use. I didn’t log out, so it remembered me each time I restarted it.

I still have a lot more information in my own program that wasn’t in the GEDCOM that got uploaded to MyHeritage. I don’t know how much more data would show up in this app if I had all kinds of odd events and notes in there; it might show those or it might just show the “normal” events, like the ones I included. I still want to try out some of those options on the web site, so I will remember to check out the app again when I do that to see if it can access more data.

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Android Wars

Friday, 7 October 2011

This post was originally called Tablet Wars. Then I forgot to post it before I ended up with a third tablet. Now I’m on my fourth Android, and the latest isn’t a tablet.

Three Tablets and a Small Android

My first Android was the ViewSonic gTablet that I bought from woot for about $280. When that died, I graduated to the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7″ from Best Buy, on sale for $300.  When I returned that, I couldn’t bear to leave the store without another Android and bought the Asus Transformer for $400. Then woot, usually the ones to get rid of old stock, had an exclusive sale for the Samsung Galaxy S Wifi 5.0 for about $180, which isn’t yet released officially in the US. (I’ll refer to this later as the S5 for brevity.) So here is my comparison, what went wrong with the first two, why the last two are the best, and why I can’t stop buying these things.

Hungry for an OS?

The Asus is the only one running the Honeycomb OS, version 3.2, made specifically for tablets (3.x is for tablets). All the others have Froyo 2.2, which I discovered is shorthand for frozen yogurt. (Who already knew that?) All the OS versions have food names: cupcake, donut, eclair, gingerbread, and the future ice cream sandwich.

Size Matters

The gTablet and the Asus are both about 10″. These are measured on the diagonal, so the 7″ Tab seems about half the size of the 10″, and the 5″ is possibly a quarter of the size.

I bought a bag for the gTablet, which also suits the Asus. The Tab fits in my purse. (Not that I use a purse, but I do own a couple. So I used one for a couple weeks for that.) The S5 slides easily into my back pocket. It is the same width as my Palm TX and a little taller. I was not the only person to notice that someone had finally created an Android replacement for the PDA. Palm OS is unfortunately obsolete, but I still rely on my PDA. Once I get all my data out of that and into the S5, I’ll be sad to retire it.

Because the S5 is not a phone, some people are calling it a tablet. I prefer not to, after having three others. I consider a tablet to be much bigger. It’s, you know, tablet sized.

Monitor Matters

The biggest complaint from everyone about the gTablet is it’s viewing angle. As one person put it, for something that is entirely a screen, and from a monitor manufacturer, it should have been better. I really only noticed it while playing games in bed, propped up on my elbow, with the gTab lying flat on the bed.  It did offer more privacy where my neighbors couldn’t see it so well, like on a plane. Other than that, I think they all have beautiful displays.

Charging Matters

The gTablet died just as I started traveling with it. I really wanted to use it all week at a genealogy conference. (I wanted to not bring my laptop, but didn’t feel confident that the gTablet would suit all my needs. Of course, if I didn’t have the laptop, I might not have dropped and killed the gTab…) It was charging, fell off the chair, and the AC plug just disconnected itself from the circuit board. (I dissected it later.) It never charged again. Very sad. But it uses a standard plug and if it was the charger itself that had broken (like I initially thought), I could’ve gotten a replacement at Radio Shack.

The Asus has a proprietary connector for charging. The wire just beyond the connector feels a little flimsy to me. I saw a few complaints online that it stopped working for other people, and a replacement is expensive.

The Galaxy Tab has an apparently very rare but not proprietary plug. The S5 has a standard micro USB.

Market Matters

The gTablet has to be hacked to get to the Google Market, where too many Android apps can only be found. Even then, I still didn’t have access to many apps. The other three come with the Market. I read that the Tab had limited access, and I noticed a couple things missing. The Asus probably has slightly different access also, because it’s a different OS version. The S5 seems to have almost everything.

There are a few apps I’ve found that Market says are incompatible with all of my Androids. The requirements match, so I have no idea what they’re doing.

Typing Matters

All three tablets, even the 7″, are easy enough to use with the on-screen keyboards. The gTablet needs an app to use the bluetooth keyboard that I purchased specifically to use with it. Even then, it has some trouble.

The wifi Tab has the bluetooth keyboard support deliberately deactivated by Samsung. This really bothered me, especially after avoiding the Verizon 3G version (for $100 less) because of the same problem. The 3G has better hardware than the wifi version. I was ready to live with the lesser hardware, but not when I discovered the keyboard issue, which was the reason I returned it.

So when I returned the Tab, I brought my keyboard to the store. I was really there to check out the Acer Iconia because I’d just read there was a 7″ version and I was loving the size of the Tab. I knew the store didn’t have it, but they had the 10″. I ended up turning on the bluetooth on both the Asus and the Acer, and both paired up flawlessly. I decided not to leave the store without another Android and bought the Asus. (The two were virtually identical with only a couple of differences.)

I was incredibly pleased when the keyboard also paired right up with my S5. I learned quickly how to type with the on-screen keyboard, but can’t fathom how people with even smaller screens can type so much.

The Asus does have one advantage when it comes to the bluetooth keyboard. When the keyboard is paired, the on-screen keyboard is hidden. I don’t know if there’s a setting for that on the S5, but I’m sure there’s a hack somewhere. Especially with a smaller device, on-screen real estate is more precious.

Hardware Matters

The hardware inside the gTablet was compared to the Motorola Xoom, which I assumed was good given the higher price of that one and the other geeks who raved about it. The wifi Tab has lesser hardware than its 3G siblings. It lags on its home screen with the included launcher. Once I installed LauncherPro, it worked better. The other two are wonderful. The S5 has the same processor of the 3G Tab. I’m skipping the technical details, so I won’t look up the processor GHz and such for each. (But the S5 has the 1GHz Hummingbird processor, if you know what that means. It’s the only one I know about without looking it up.)

Differences

The gTablet is the only one with a regular USB port so I could plug in a flash drive or just about anything. (The Acer Iconia has one also.)

The Asus is often reviewed with its keyboard, which practically doubles the battery life and includes an SD card slot and two USB ports. But I had no plans to buy their keyboard since I already have one.

When my gTablet died, I considered buying an identical replacement. However, since I was already started with Android, I realized why I shouldn’t. There are numerous apps that require a camera or GPS. I want to use them and the gTab doesn’t have them. (I had a couple of GPS-faking apps, but when I hacked it for the Market, they stopped working for me.) Specifically for genealogy purposes, both the BillionGraves and RestingSpot apps require GPS, BG requires the camera, any scanning of QR codes needs the camera, etc.

All of my Androids since the gTablet have had GPS and camera.

No Cell Phones

None of my Android devices has been a cell phone or received 3G or 4G signals. They each require a wifi signal to connect to the Internet. This does put a damper on things sometimes, like apps where you check-in wherever you go or if you want to be in constant contact with people via Twitter or instant messaging.

I bought a 4G wifi hotspot for my trip (the one when the gTablet died) but did not buy a long-term plan. I can activate it whenever I want and have done so. It has a very short battery life, compared to the Androids, but it will allow any of these devices to connect online wherever I can get the 4G signal (in all major US cities). Also, it allows five devices to connect at once. Many Androids allow tethering (using the cell phone signal to connect another computer to the Internet), but sometimes the cell plans do not allow it.

The Winners

I definitely improved on my device with each purchase. The gTablet was my introduction to Android. The Galaxy Tab was my introduction to what an Android should be able to do. The Asus Transformer is what an Android can do. And the Galaxy S Wifi is the replacement for my Palm.

I loved the Tab, and especially the size of it. It’s similar to the Kindle and the Nook, smaller, easier to hold. It was the lesser hardware than the 3G version and especially the lack of keyboard support that made me return it.

I loved the Asus. It is a little bigger than the gTablet. But it has the newest version of the Android OS and does not need to be hacked to work. I almost kept it, but I anticipate a drop in price when the next version comes out. I’ve already seen some early evidence of that. If it wasn’t for buying the S5, I have no doubt that I would have kept it.

I love the S5. I also love that I have a device that hasn’t been released in the US yet. Several other purchasers tried to research it; one person determined that we have the Central American and Caribbean version. For once, I’m actually ahead of the technology, sort of.

I Keep Coming Back

Once I had my first Android, I was hooked. When it died, I was crushed. I almost couldn’t replace it fast enough; I just needed to have another. I was hoping to transfer my affection and my data from Palm OS to Android. My affection is certainly there, but I haven’t finished with all of the data quite yet.

I don’t remember when I bought my first PDA, but it was a Visor Handspring and the 1990s. When that died, I replaced it with a Sony Clie, and then the Palm TX in 2006. The Palm is still going strong. When I leave the house and make sure I have everything in my pockets (wallet, phone, keys, etc.), I always check my back pocket for my Palm. Well, now it will be my S5 instead.

When you hear advice that you should always have pen and paper or a smartphone to record people’s phone numbers or other information, that back pocket is what I reach for.

I might have been happy with the Palm forever had I not tried Android. But the TX would have eventually died and the only replacement would be someone else’s 5+ year old used PDA. It was time for something new and I’m thrilled to find that Android is an excellent successor.

I’m not the only one who instantly fell in love with their Android, am I?
(Well, OK, iPhone users can comment too.)

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I Hope The Third Time’s The Charm – Another Android Tablet

Sunday, 18 September 2011

I was really liking my Samsung Galaxy Tab 7″. I loved the size of it and how light it was. I could pull it out of my purse and it didn’t seem like some large, unruly thing. I even forgave that the wifi version had inferior hardware to the 3G versions; once I replaced the packaged launcher with LauncherPro, it rarely lagged on the home screen.

The gTablet, my first tablet, had a USB port. I could have bought a USB keyboard, but I thought ahead to any other gadgets I might use with it and bought bluetooth. The keyboard was working with the gTablet, some of the time; there were some quirks. I had avoided buying the Verizon version of the Galaxy Tab, having seen clearly that Verizon disabled the bluetooth keyboard support. Surely, if everyone was blaming Verizon, Samsung wouldn’t do that to their wifi version, right? Wrong. After trying to connect the keyboard, I found the answer online that it had been disabled.

And back to the store it went.

About the same time, I read of another 7″ tablet. I really liked that size tablet, so I wanted to check it out. I knew it wasn’t at the store, but they had the 10″ and the very little research I did suggested similar hardware. Arriving at the store, the Asus Transformer and the Acer Iconia were on display next to each other. Before doing almost anything else, I pulled out the keyboard from my back pocket and turned on the bluetooth in each tablet. The Asus found the keyboard and paired up beautifully. Next, the Acer did the same thing. OK, so what was the difference between these two? I really like having an Android now, so I didn’t really want to go home without one. (It seemed my idea of another 7″ was gone already, but it was the Acer that I was looking at for that.)

I compared and contrasted, and a saleswoman helped. We each took one tablet and looked it up online. For the most part, they were almost identical. The Acer had a better forward facing camera and a flash on the back one, and a real USB port. The Asus has a pricey keyboard attachment that just about doubles the battery life, has 2 USB ports, and an SD card reader. I messed with both, finding other very small differences. In the end, the saleswoman went for the “expert”, who happened to be the same salesman from two weeks before who told me the Asus over the Acer, which he reiterated. His biggest reason was the wifi, that the Asus had better hardware and the Acer had wifi troubles more than anything. (I had seen complaints in reviews about it already.)

I would have liked the USB port, but I went with the Asus. Then, after all that decision making time, they were out of stock. The store in Murray had it, where I drove directly and bought it. I had already checked online and it wasn’t much cheaper, so I sprung for the slightly higher price to avoid the wait for shipping.

Magically, Android Market started downloading my apps as soon as I set up my gmail account. It only missed one that I noticed, but it was easy to download again. I quickly went through the Amazon market and got the good ones out of that too, tried out some of them, and plugged it in to finish charging.

The screen feels much bigger than the gTablet, though both are about 10″. The whole unit is bigger. From what I remember, the resolution of the Asus is higher than the gTablet. I have a newer version of Android OS now, made especially for tablets. So far, my usual apps are working. I’ve only found one that didn’t run, but it was replaceable; another crashes, but only if I try to access it from the notifications link. The Asus came with a picture frame widget so I was able to put some family photos on the “genealogy” home page.

Visiting the FHL with it, I was pleased again with its use. The 7″ felt easier to walk around with, but the 10″ doubles as a tray to carry the films on.

My next Android? I still wanted something smaller and was shopping for a phone at a cheap price, though not to use as a phone. And then today woot had something brand new, which I just ordered.

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New Technology

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

If you’ve kept up with my IAJGS conference blogs, especially the ones before the conference started, you know that my Android tablet died on the way to DC. I was glad I’d brought my laptop along because I was not planning to. Of course, if I hadn’t brought the laptop, I probably wouldn’t have dropped the tablet and killed it. C’est la vie.

Last night (as it’s now morning here), I bought a new tablet. I found the gTablet online for $250, but just as I was about to buy it, I stopped to think again. I loved that tablet, but it had a couple of major flaws. Once I owned it, I realized how much you need the back camera and the GPS. I had hacked Google Market enough, but it still could have been better.

The fire sale on HP TouchPads started while I was still in DC, so I didn’t pay enough attention or jump fast enough to buy one. I’m still waiting for those to be available again and I will still buy one then.

So before buying an identical replacement tablet, I decided to go see what else was out there and went to Best Buy. Luckily, I didn’t see the store right away (it’s an odd mall) and went to OfficeMax first, where they had two tablets and I played with the Samsung Galaxy Tab. It was nice. Best Buy only had two 7″ tablets out, the HTC and the Blackberry. I tried the various 10″ models, even looking at the iPad when someone was trying to sell me on it. The Asus Transformer was a really nice one, and recommended, but twice the price of the gTablet.

In the end, I bought the Galaxy Tab wifi model that I knew was on sale. It has GPS and a back camera. There is no USB port like the gTablet (which I found very useful), but only one or two of the tablets had them. The Galaxy Tab 10″ didn’t even have a microSD slot. (This does.) I’d also read that the wifi version has lesser hardware than the 3G version and not the full market. I’m still concerned about this as I’ve noticed some lag (especially on the main screen), but not enough to return it yet. I have two weeks to test it out before the return window is over.

I like how much smaller and lighter it is than the 10″ tablets, except for the web browsing. I haven’t noticed anything else that feels squashed besides that yet. I have two bags suitable for 10″ tablets, but this is dwarfed by those bags. It actually fits into my purse, but will need a case to protect it if I put anything else in with it.

(I am totally not a purse-using person unless forced to be by lack of pockets. I actually own two purses, but I’m not sure where the other one is. In a drawer maybe. It would fit in that one too.)

I spent some time downloading the apps I regularly used before and was happily able to get Google+ right out of the market. It also gave me Twitter but not Facebook, and MACU but not ING Direct (my banks). So it’s an odd selection from the market, but better than the gTablet, as I couldn’t get any of those five before.

As I said, I’m still testing it. The worst of the lagging was from the launcher and the Twitter app. I’d been using Tweetcaster before for Twitter, preferring it to TweetDeck on Android, so I just loaded that on instead, and it seemed to be better. I also have no idea what some of the preloaded apps do yet, but I have some time to find out. I wonder if I can delete them if I don’t want them?

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IAJGS – T Minus 2 Days

Friday, 12 August 2011

Today, I learned that my tablet’s power supply is, in fact, working. After trying several replacements at Radio Shack (why couldn’t we do this the day before?), Renald plugged it in to a DVD player, and it worked. Realizing I’d already voided the warranty by rooting it, I dissected it. I snuck down to the lower floors to see if the IT guys for the conference could help with a screwdriver, but ended up borrowing one from the concierge. Sadly, to have a chance to fix it, I needed to remove about a dozen more screws, so it will be a project when I get home. And I really wanted to use it this week.

It was fun to walk into each room and be greeted by someone I knew, Marlene Bishow, Anne Feder Lee, Susanna Leitner Bloch; it’s good to know people. I also saw Jeannette Rosenberg manning the pre-registration table, Todd Knowles and John Kitzmiller of FamilySearch came by while I was hanging out at said table (I see them a lot on the British floor of the FHL), Doris Nabel by the elevators, and Daniel Horowitz arrived, trading texts with Elise and phone calls with both of us until the three of us went to dinner together. I was mistaken for Susan King by someone in the elevator, and I saw a few other people whose faces were familiar but names usually escaped me. And Elise brought Pamela Weisberger back to our room to say hello while I was typing this blog entry.

I also went to lunch with Elise and we walked around a bit, finding a series of sculptures along New York Avenue from the National Museum of Women in the Arts. I posted a picture of one sculpture (and my dissected tablet) to my other blog. My bandwidth is limited, so I won’t upload it again here; there were some issues with the amount of bandwidth T-Mobile thought I was using. I think I really did use almost as much as they claimed, because I found SugarSync was a huge bandwidth hog, and apparently Dropbox wasn’t much better. I shut them down but I’m still limiting myself. So far, I haven’t hit another GB yet. When the conference gets started, I’ll have that wi-fi to use, so it seems I’ll be hanging around on the conference floors more than in my hotel room, even in the off-hours.

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Google+ – My First Thoughts

Thursday, 30 June 2011

I woke yesterday to a pleasant surprise, an invite to Google+. It came from someone in the same group that helped me get into Google Wave. I jumped on the bandwagon again!

According to other Twitterers, there is no limit to invites like with Wave, so anyone I added to a circle should get an invite. I went ahead and added some people who were suggested because I had emailed them from gmail at some time. The first person who asked me for one didn’t get an invite, so I told her to wait, that maybe they were sent out in batches when Google was ready. We’ll see.

Google+ looks much like Facebook in how it works. There are friends and there is the Stream — that’s like Facebook’s News Feed. So far, the main differences (besides that hardly anyone is on G+ yet) is the Circles and the Hangout. Circles are exactly like friend lists in Facebook, but instead of shunting them to the background, G+ puts them front and center, which I like. No more seeing someone in my news feed and wondering who they are because I added them for a game on Facebook and they’ve changed their name. Hopefully G+ will stay away from the game connections, but it’s hysterically easier to find what Circle someone is in — just hover over their name in the stream. There’s also a list of who’s in my Circles at the top right and I can hover there too.

The other big difference is the Hangout. On Twitter, Paul B. Allen mentioned that Hangout would be the killer app of G+. Once I investigated and traded a few tweets, I saw what he was saying. Hangout is video chat. I thought Skype could do that, but apparently it’s not free for group chats, which I didn’t know. I don’t usually use the video in Skype, but I can turn off video in Hangout too.

So, I’ve added some people to my Circles and hopefully some will sign up so I can see what this can do, and if it’s different than Facebook. Part of the trouble with Wave was that we didn’t have invites and the whole purpose was to collaborate. Google seems to have learned it’s lesson. G+ is social networking, and it takes being able to invite people you know to network with them.

Another problem I pretty much expected was getting Google+ on my Android. Google Market says a lot of things are “incompatible” just because it doesn’t like the gTablet. I was able to find the APK (installation) file and side load it. It seems to work. It doesn’t come with Hangout, but it has Huddle, which is not on the web site. Huddle is group chat. I need some people on G+ to actually try it. So much for being incompatible; when will Google learn to stop trying to lock out compatible devices to their market?

There is no hover in Android, so finding someone’s Circle requires clicking (well, touching), but then it’s right there for me to see. Also, looking at the list of who’s in my Circles shows their email address, where the web site requires a hover.

Another bonus of G+ over Wave is Gmail integration. I posted something to my Stream and got responses — they showed up in a Gmail thread. That could get redundant, but it can be shut off in settings.

Update: I also like how Photos are easy to get to. Every time I try to post pictures on Facebook, or especially to add to an existing album, it’s buried deeper and deeper. G+ appears easier to find them. But the way it uploads multiple photos at a time, if the first photo isn’t the quickest, then they end up out of order and I can’t see how to change the order. Although, with the G+ upload, I can add comments once the photo is uploaded and while the rest are still going.

What I don’t see in G+ is a list of who’s online. The chat in G+ appears to just do regular Gtalk chat and it showed my usual list of suspects, but the Gmail tab shows some online where the G+ tab doesn’t. (Update: They are both showing the same list of people online now; must’ve caught a glitch earlier.) But for the Hangout or the Huddle, it would help to know who’s online to chat with them.

Do we really need another social network? Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Google Buzz (it’s still around), MySpace, Friendster, Hi5, Bebo, Ning (including GenealogyWise), etc. I never signed up to some of those, or barely used them if I signed up. Will video chat really make G+ stand out? Or the group chat? Or is there something else in there that people will prefer over the others?

And whatever happened to Diaspora? Didn’t a lot of people donate money so a few college students could program that last summer?

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I <3 My gTablet -or- Adventures of a New Android OS User, The gTablet

Thursday, 23 June 2011

This blog post is overdue to the point where it is probably going to be very long. I purchased my gTablet several months ago and this could probably have been a series of blog posts if I’d been keeping up my blog. I may yet have follow-ups.

I’d been wanting a more portable computer, smaller and lighter, like a tablet or a netbook. After seeing an old TED talk showing a multi touch screen (from before they were released), I knew I needed one.

Woot put the ViewSonic gTablet on sale for under $300. That beats an iPad for price, it works with Flash, and it’s the Android OS. I was worried they would sell out and I jumped on it. They sold over 10,000. It turns out that Amazon was just opening up an Android app store, and Amazon had not too long ago bought woot. Coincidence? You decide. (Woot has since sold the gTablet twice more. Keep watching and they’ll probably do it again.)

When I first started it up, things went a little wrong. The pre-installed apps didn’t work and everything crashed. Restarting brought up the EULA and the set-up screens like it was supposed to do. And the apps worked.

First, I tested the battery by playing Angry Birds all day. I think it lasted about 10 hours like it was supposed to.

I decided to use the stock OS for a while, though most people insisted you had to root and mod it for it to be any good. There were a couple who said to just try using it as it was, so I did, although apparently I rooted and modded without knowing it (I just downloaded and installed as I was told) to get access to Google Market. Some would argue it’s called Android Market, but if Google has to approve the device (and the gTablet is not approved), then it’s not “Android” Market

For those who don’t understand the previous paragraph, rooting the device gives you superuser access to do extra things and modding it means replacing the stock OS (what it came with) with a modified version that someone else has programmed. Doing this usually voids your warranty.

Coming from Palm OS for at least a decade, I had some issues with Android. First, it syncs to Google (and other web sites) and not to my computer. I like having the local copy and not letting Google know everything about me. Some of the basic Palm apps were missing. The calendar kind of sucked, my contacts didn’t transfer without repeated errors, and there was no built-in memo or notepad app.

I found an app that converted my Palm calendar to Google, so at least there was that, but the Android only syncs to the last few months and forward, so I don’t have all the old stuff on the tablet. Amazon has a free paid app every day. Early on, they offered Business Calendar that beats the built-in one by miles.

One of my goals with the gTablet was to go paperless for genealogy work. I had tried with my Palm TX, but the screen was too small and my neatly listed record look-ups word wrapped. Looking for a good notepad, I read about Evernote and Springpad, opting for the latter first. Everything seemed to go well, until my updates on the gTab didn’t sync up to the web site, then the web site synced down and deleted all my new notes. It was a “known issue”. I searched carefully about Evernote and found mention of the same. So I switched to Dropbox and plain text files; it’s never let me down.

Also for work, I tried a few apps for timesheets; I settled for one but have a couple others I’m still trying. I also found a simple expense manager, which was something else I used periodically on Palm.

Once I got started, I can’t ever remember now what happened, but I bricked my gTab. Technically, I didn’t brick it, as that’s about 99% impossible to do with this particular device, so I’ve read. I was stuck in a boot loop. So I followed instructions to go back to the factory settings and started over, this time deliberately modding. When I went back to Google Market, it thought I was using a different device and my download options changed. Some apps I already had wouldn’t download, but I could get others. Amazon worked much better with the “new” tablet. Many other apps are also missing from my options because Google doesn’t think they’re compatible. I get them from Amazon or find them elsewhere when I really want them. I haven’t paid for an app yet.

In the hopes of traveling with the gTab instead of the laptop, a keyboard was essential. While people fought over the iGo on eBay, I bought the Palm bluetooth keyboard. The Palm has the numeric row at the top which is handy for dates and FHL film numbers. It usually works well, but sometimes, I think when it’s idle a bit, it disconnects itself and doesn’t like to reconnect.

The gTablet has a microSD and a USB slot, so I can save data externally if I ever run out of memory; it has 16GB built-in. I haven’t loaded it up with music or video files, though I’ve tested both, so plenty more storage space is left. There’s no GPS or forward facing camera. Now that I’ve seen some of the apps, I understand why both are important. There are USB GPSes that I’ve read will work but I haven’t looked for them.

I am loving my gTablet, despite the setbacks and that I hate the contacts app that came with the mod. I haven’t lost any research notes since switching to Dropbox. I’ve got PDFs of things like genealogy word lists in Dropbox so I can access them at the FHL, where I used to bring them on paper. I have too many games (loving a version of Sudoku right now), but many I can “finish” and move on. The mod removed Angry Birds and I haven’t put it back, which has probably saved me from wasting a lot more time. Did I mention I love my gTablet?

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