Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Pure Android: The Way It Must Be

Recently I purchased the Nexus S for a great price on eBay. My other phone*, the HTC Desire was becoming dated; the camera was horrible, it was getting no more updates beyond 2.2 (fragmentation is a pain) and the internal storage was getting extremely low. As a side note, one thing that you notice with low internal storage is how much larger in storage the applications are getting (especially Google+). After spending just 10 minutes with the Nexus S running Android 2.3.6, I never want to go back to a phone running bloatware again.

To be fair, the HTC sense overlay was nice, but the problem is that it took up a lot of the system resources, especially the Desire's precious internal memory, and this led to issues such as system slowdown and apps not opening. So far on my Nexus S I have all of my previous apps plus more loaded, and there has been no slowdown. The battery life is great (it lasts twice as long as the Desire), the overall look and feel is much simplier which makes finding things easier, and I am a big fan of the launcher. Finally, the camera is fantastic! Over the holidays I took most of my photos with the Nexus S, my point and shoot sat silent in my backpack.

December in NL, captured with my Nexus S (unedited)

If you have the money and want to experience Android the way it's meant to be, get a phone with just Android and none of that crapware/bloatware. Its the only way to go.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Streaming It

Approximately 1 year ago I canceled my TV subscription, the extra $50/month and the freedom of not having TV control my life are both fantastic! In this short amount of time, downloading has basically disappeared  from my life.

During the first few months of being cable-free I would purchase items on iTunes, possibly (wink-wink) download movies via torrents, and get some loaners from my friends. Now I basically stream* everything from Netflix, TV Channel Sites, JustinTv, YouTube Movies, and the National Film Board. There still isn't a lot of live sports streamed, but sports networks such as TSN and CBC are starting to live stream some of their games (all highlights are viewable on their site). It has been approximately 5 months since I downloaded anything, the need is just not there anymore.

Along with downloading, the traditional TV model will die and will be replaced by a web-based model in some shape or form. People won't have to be home at 10:30 to catch the latest episode of Fringe, they won't be limited to watching it solely on their TV, and they won't be in zombie mode as they are watching it. It may take a while, Apple TV and Google TV may be the Neanderthals of this new model, but it will happen, and we will all love it!

*Note: I live in Canada and we don't have streaming services (legally) such as Hulu and Amazon Video

Friday, 18 November 2011

Arrested Development Returns and it's on Netflix!

Great news for all of you Arrested Development fans out there, the Bluth family are returning with new episodes that will air exclusively on Netflix. It will be available to US viewers as early as 2013, hopefully :) it will open up to other countries. This, along with original content coming to YouTube  is another reason (plus many more) to cut the cable TV cord. Die cable TV Die!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Ubuntu: It Was Nice To Know you

Ohh how the times have changed. About one year ago I was praising the well-known open source OS, now I am abandoning it. Why?

My primary problem with Ubuntu is Unity, and how it's not the Windows 7 taskbar. I have been known to criticize Windows, but one thing that the big M did get right is the taskbar. It just works. Unity on the other hand, doesn't. Quite often applications fail to launch, menu items don't appear when hovered over, and when multiple windows are open for an application, I can't close any of them using Unity. 

I hate Unity!

Other problems besides Unity that I need to complain about are
  • I can't easily adjust the mouse scroll speed
  • Flash often fails. This is crucial since I watch most all of my TV online. 
  • No Netflix support!
  • No Google Earth Plugin!
  • Issues with dual monitors.
  • Unity and the top panel have dissappeared on my dual boot work computer, I'm not sure why and I have no idea how to fix it!
  • Random problems such as the Print Screen button not working. 
Maybe I will switch back to Ubuntu, maybe they will get rid of Unity, or maybe I will do everything on my Chromebook

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Chromebook: Initial Thoughts

Part 1 to this post was "Chromebook: Will I Buy One?," and yes, I did buy one and so far I love it.

To begin with, how did I buy a Chromebook? I live in Canada and they are not released up here yet. I checked Amazon and Best Buy and neither would ship to Canada so I did some browsing at eBay. After about 2 weeks of searching/following, I bought a Samsung Series 5 3G for ~$350 with shipping; thank you high Canadian Dollar (it has since lowered). Within 10 days it arrived in an oversized boxed filled with camoflauge paper packing.

I love my Chromebook...and my Ikea table

Next, how was the setup process? It was extremely easy! It took less than 10 minutes, I entered my language, connected to the wireless network in my apartment, did a system update, signed into my Google Account and bam, done! Since most of my information is synced, all of my apps, extensions, form information, bookmarks, and theme(s) were present.

The Browser is the Desktop...

What is it like without a desktop? Initially it felt alien, after the first few hours I realized that the Chrome New Tab page is an excellent replacement for the desktop. In general, computer users are spending more time solely in the browser and the need for a desktop is disappearing.

After using the Chromebook for about 4 weeks, I have discovered how important battery life is to me. I am getting ~9 hrs on one charge! Other aspects of the Chromebook that I absolutely love is the weight, chicklet style keyboard, rarely hearing the fan kick in, anti-glare screen, and the fact that the bottom of the Chromebook never feels hot, just warm. I also like the simple folder system and reduced system options which makes finding things extremely easy. I am currently on the developer channel and since the start of this post I have been getting weekly updates; there is now an offline photo editoroffline Gmail, Netflix support, and offline Google Docs (view only); Google realized that the world is not completely online....yet.  

The Worlds Simplest Photo Editor 

The Worlds Simplest File System

On the negative side, sometimes the Chromebook does feel underpowered, there is no Google Earth plugin, certain sites render extremely slow, and I miss having the Home and End keys.

In summary, if you have $500, do most of your work in the cloud, and regret buying that tablet which is impossible to type with, treat yourself to a Chromebook, it is the future!

Note: As you may have guessed, this post was written with a Chromebook. 

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Original Content Coming to YouTube

For all of you cable-cutting people out there, rejoice the the following news: original content (aka online tv channels) are coming to YouTube. The list can be found here, and includes some big names like Ashton Kutcher (Two and a Half Men is so much funnier these days), Shaq, Tony Hawk, and Jay-Z. The "channels" are expected to hit YouTube next month and more will be added over the next year. This should make Google TV more appealing and persuade more people to ditch the cable TV bill. Die cable TV Die!    

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Android Fragmentation: It's an Ugly Picture

Technically it's not a picture, it's a chart and a great one created by Michael DeGusta at his Tumblr blog: The Understatement. The basic color rules apply here: green is good and red is bad. As you can see from a quick glance at the chart, Android users have a lot more red than iPhone's green :(  Check out Michael's analysis for more details. 

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Google Earth Flight Simulator

They say that everyday you learn something new, today I discovered the Google Earth Flight Simulator created by Xavier Tassin. The simulator uses the Google Earth Plugin (sorry Linux and Chromebook users) which means that it's all done online....awesome! There are 10 aircraft to choose from, real time local weather conditions, chat, and many great animations. Check out the video below to see it in action:

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Canadian Downloaders Beware

Life has been pretty good for illegal downloaders up here in the great white north, but the times are a changing. Voltage Pictures LLC, which owns the copyright to the film The Hurt Locker has sued thousands of downlaoders in the USA. Voltage used the Montreal-based IP law firm Goudreau Gage Dubuc to force three Canadian ISPs - Bell Canada, Cogeco Cable, and Videotron to hand over subscriber account details. These people will probably be sent letters insisting they pay thousands of dollars for copyright violations. I miss the good ol' days :(

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Browser Blast From The Past

Yesterday a coworker found and booted up an extremely old laptop. Here, it all its beauty, is Netscape 1.0. It's definitely light years away from today's browsers. Enjoy!

Friday, 27 May 2011

Desmos: Collaborative Educational Whiteboard

Techcrunch Disrupt happened this past weekend and one of the great startups that showcased their product was Desmos, a free online collaborative tool that's focused on the education sector. I signed up and tried out their web app (offline program also available), the editor is quite good (lots of options), the app is very intuitive and educators can collaborate on a whiteboard (file) in real time. Apps like these are badly needed in the educational world to stop the fragmentation associated with new technology. I will definitely be giving this a try for the Fall 2011 semester. Long-live the cloud!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Life Without Windows: 8 Weeks and Counting

In the past I have dabbled with Ubuntu, 2 months ago I made a more dedicated commitment; transforming my 1.5 yr old Windows 7 laptop into a dual-booting Ubuntu beast. The process was quite easy; download the image, burn it to a disk, restart windows with the disc inserted, and after about 30 minutes and a few clicks, Ubuntu is installed.

Initially I had planned on splitting my computer usage 50:50 between Windows and Ubuntu, it's actually worked out to 99% Ubuntu and 1% Windows (I haven't been in Windows for at least 2 weeks). The switch has been so good that I also changed my work computer and teaching computer to dual boot machines. What am I enjoying about it so far?
  1. No antivirus: Not having this has been great. No more do I have to deal with virus updates or scanning.
  2. Ubuntu is better at updates: Approximately 2-3 days of the week Ubuntu has to be updated. This may seem like a lot but very rarely does it have to be restarted.
  3. Great free software: I have not been in a situation where free software can't get the job done. I use Libreoffice for "office-like" work, Inkscape for vector editing, Picasa for photo editing, and Dropbox for file sharing.
  4. Fantastic customization: With compizconfig, basically everything (desktop icons can be different sizes!) can be customized.
  5. Easy on System Resources: Currently I have Chrome, Google Earth, and Libreoffice open, and I am only using 700 MB or RAM, Windows 7 uses over 2 GB.
  6. It's Free!: If I want to upgrade Windows, it's going to cost be anywhere between $200-$300, with Ubuntu it's free and occurs every 6 months. Also, these upgrades take about 1 hr and do not require clean installs. 

The only negative thing I have encountered is the lack of Netflix support, I use the Wii for this but the video quality is low. Hopefully Chrome will get this support at the same time that Chrome OS does.

So far it has been an excellent 2 months as a part of the Linux world. The learning curve has not been steep, and with the Unity interface, the switch to Ubuntu is even easier. If you haven't tried it yet, give it a shot, you may become hooked!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Chromebook: Will I Buy One?

The Chromebook - Google's version of a notebook that uses the browser as the OS. There is no desktop, no antivirus, no installation of software (web apps), and no annoyingly-long boot times. All of this sounds great, but what if I do need an offline app? As an example, Google Docs works great, but sometimes I need that bit of extra formatting (merging rows in a table) and this is only found in offline office suites such as LibreOffice. Also, computer intensive tasks requiring photo and video editing can be done online, but it's extremely slow and limited (editing photos in Picknik).

Currently, I think the Chromebook will work as a great secondary device. It is built for the web, and it does a great job with it. It will eventually fall into the primary device category, the web hasn't evolved enough to put it there yet.

So my answer to the title of this post is .....maybe.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Livestreaming Bald Eagles: I love the Web

Here's another reason I love the web: a continuous livestream of a bald eagle nest. With over 100 million views, this is the most watched live streams ever, take that Royal Wedding!

Free live streaming by Ustream

Friday, 25 February 2011

Cable TV: I don't Miss You

For a New Year's resolution, I decided to cancel my cable TV subscription. I was paying $50/month for it, and was about to increase $65, and I really only watch about 5 different TV shows.

The change was different but not difficult. I purchased a VGA-audio cable on ebay (computer cables are much cheaper here than in brick and mortar stores) and then easily set up my Windows 7 machine for dual monitor. For the first 2 weeks I would think, "hmm, it would be so nice to channel surf." Those thoughts disappeared and were replaced with "Cable TV really does have a lot of commercials" and "I love being able to watch my show whenever I want" and "downloading TV shows is great!" Currently my "channels" are simply bookmarks in my browser which I can access from any computer since I use Google Chrome Sync; for background TV I put on something from, and I also pay for a Netflix subscription ($7.99/month and the selection is getting much better). For the most part I can watch anything that I want online that I want, the exception are Sports highlight shows (no problem to find individual highlights) and high quality sporting events.

To sum up, I am really enjoying the freedom from cable TV and the $50/month in savings. To everyone out there with a TV subscription, "Cut The Cable!"