Sunday, August 23, 2015

OMG(oogle) Now

On a recent trip to the Gulf Coast we were driving through a heavy rain. I got an unusual alert tone on my OnePlus One. It was Google Now with the following alert.

And it really was a severe thunderstorm because soon I got another similar alert.

As we approached the location the information got more complete.

This accident was reported by a Waze user.

By now I was fascinated with the Google Now cards that were being presented to me. As I scrolled down I saw this one.

All this was completely passive on my part. I was not using Google to navigate nor had I searched for gas stations.

On Mondays, I visit my mother and take her to my brother's house. Here are the Google Now cards I had on a recent Monday morning.

Later that day Google Now reminded me of my frequent dinner destination on Mondays.

Some may call this creepy. I call it pretty useful.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

OnePlus One GPS

Cell phone GPS capability has gotten so much better since I struggled with my Samsung Captivate.

I captured this screenshot on my OnePlus One as we were driving on the Interstate. I was impressed with the quick GPS fix and the accuracy.

Then I installed Cyanogen OS 12 and things changed.

The next morning when I went out for a walk Runkeeper didn't get a GPS fix. Well, I had just updated Runkeeper the evening before. So off I went without a GPS fix. When I returned I discovered that while I was walking Runkeeper had gotten a GPS fix. Yeah, something wrong with Runkeeper.


The second morning Runkeeper didn't get a fix again so I fired up GPS Test. No fix. Can't blame Runkeeper for that.

I stood in my driveway for 5 minutes or so and finally got a GPS fix and took my walk. When I returned I headed to Google.

What I found was that elongated times to get a GPS fix were particularly common after upgrading fom Cyanogen OS 11 (KitKat 4.4.4) to Cyanogen OS 12 (Lollipop 5.0.2).

There are all kinds of mystical fixes out there but the one that seemed to make the most sense to me was to reset the AGPS data.

It turns out that GPS Test has Clear AGPS and Update AGPS functions hidden in its menus. Tap "..." at the top right.

A couple of taps later and my problem was gone.

In the following screencast you can see that the GPS gets a fix in the 6-7 seconds that it took Runkeeper to paint the screen.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Windows 10 Early Report

tl;dr Overall, I couldn't be more pleased.

I've been playing with Windows 10 through the Insider program since it started.

I ran Windows 10 Technical Preview in a VirtualBox virtual machine. While Windows 10 always ran well, the installation and upgrade process wasn't smooth. I believe that was due principally to the virtual environment.

I have an old ThinkPad T61 that was still running XP. All I did with it was run iTunes offline. That seemed like a perfect opportunity to load Windows 10 on. It had 2GB of RAM and a 60GB hard drive. It was a  Intel Core2 Duo T9300 64-bit.

I had a copy of Windows 10 Enterprise so why not?

I deleted the XP partition and redefined it and did a clean install of Windows 10.

It was an absolutely flawless install. Everything worked the first time.

There have been a couple of things I've fiddled with. The wireless adapter doesn't always reconnect after restarting. I haven't searched to see if there's a better driver for it. The TrackPad center button doesn't scroll on Metro Modern Universal apps. Unfortunately that includes the new Settings dialogs.

I fought with the desktop theme. I prefer to use a desktop image with a white background. Windows 10 insisted on using a white font for the desktop icons with a black drop shadow. If I turned off the drop shadow, the icon text simply disappeared. In a minute I'll get to the solution.

What that under my belt I moved on to a Windows 7 instance on a ThinkPad X220.

The X220 was running Windows 7 Pro 64-bit and was eligible for a free upgrade. I followed these instructions and forced the upgrade in place.

From start to finish the procedure took just under 3 hours. Again it was an absolutely flawless install. Everything worked the first time.

I haven't had any problem with the wireless adapter and the TrackPad center button works like it should. I had already hacked around with the desktop icons to get them looking like I wanted them under Windows 7 and they stayed "fixed." The X220 had Office 2013 installed and after a brief "installation" dialog all the Office apps worked fine and retained all the settings. Even little things like power settings stayed intact. Oddly all the printers went away but were easy to reinstall. And Windows 10 has its own "Print to PDF" service. Microsoft Security Essentials quietly disappeared.

Back to the T61 desktop. I exported the desktop theme from the X220 and installed it on the T61. Then again turned off the drop shadows. After logging off and back on the desktop was fine. I've tried everything with the TrackPad driver. The driver dialog doesn't have the "ThinkPad" tab like on the X220. I even tried reinstalling the driver in Windows 8.1 compatibility mode. I used Device Manager to uninstall the device and let Windows reinstall it. No luck.

So far I've stuck with the new Windows 10 Start menu. I don't like it but I think it'll be Ok. It's taken both systems a while to successfully build the index and search right.

Overall, I couldn't be more pleased. My "Big Honker" server offered to install Windows 10 Pro today and I declined for the time being. That system has a couple of applications that, although cleared by the compatibility checker, I'm concerned about, e.g. Picasa, Tivoli Continuous Data Protection, and a USB scanner. That system is 5+ years old and I wish it had USB 3. It may be simpler to just replace it.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

NFC and Android Beam

With the recent announcement of the OnePlus 2 which doesn't have NFC (Near Field Communication) I felt like I needed to revisit NFC and Android Beam.

I've written about this technology previously and described the use cases but with all the grumbling about the lack of NFC on the OnePlus 2 I wanted to actually demonstrate how NFC and Android Beam work.

To turn on NFC and Android Beam go to "Settings". In the "Wireless and networks" section, tap on "More". Tap on "NFC" to enable it.

Android Beam will show "Ready to transmit app content via NFC".

Here's how it actually works.

This function isn't limited to Google Maps. For example if you have a web site up in your browser on one phone and tap two phones together the URL will be sent to the second phone and it will open in the browser on the second phone.

Android Pay, successor to Google Wallet, also uses NFC. Here's my post on Google Wallet. It was written before the announcement of the iPhone 6 with Apple Pay. The proliferation of NFC ready cashier terminals has accelerated with refresh of terminals due to the upcoming EMV transition.

Enjoy! Unless you have a OnePlus 2. Or an iPhone.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Google My Maps

After my Geotagging IV post I realized that I didn't cover how to make the Google maps I included.

Set GPSLogger to "Log to KML" and to create a new file "Every time I start". Also set location providers to "GPS".

After recording a track use GPSLogger's integrated support for Dropbox to upload the KML files.

While logged into Google, go to and click on "My maps."

Then click on "Create."

Click on "Untitled map" to name the map. Click on "Base map" to specify the background map.

Then click on "Import" to import your KML.

Drag your KML files (from Dropbox) here.

You can change the line color and width by clicking on the paint bucket.

Have fun!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

OnePlus One

I volunteered for Motorola's Test Drive of Lollipop 5.0.2 on my 2013 Moto X. Let's just say it didn't go well. After I got the replacement device I got the itch for something new.

I'd bought a couple of OnePlus Ones before and sold or traded them off. In early June, OnePlus started having "flash" sales of the One. I bought a 64GB SandStone Black for $299.

My OnePlus One came with CyanogenMod 11S. OnePlus has had a squabble with Cyanogen and subsequently built their own Android ROM called Oxygen. OnePlus has Lollipop variants of both of these but mine shipped with KitKat 4.4.4. They're promising 5.1.1 "soon." I haven't been in a hurry to flash Lollipop on the OnePlus One.

The OnePlus One goes against my bias toward modest, even small, phones. I'm still struggling with the One's size. The things that sweeten the deal are the gorgeous screen and the long lasting battery.


I never had the Moto X battery completely go dead but I found myself "managing" the battery by just not using the phone. I didn't think that was what you were supposed to do with a phone.

The OnePlus One's battery life isn't "magical" but I don't not use it for fear of exhausting the battery. At the end of the day I often find that I have more than 50% battery capacity left. You can watch my battery usage here.

The OnePlus One came with a pair of SIM trays. One for a micro-SIM and one for a nano-SIM so I was able to just slip the nano-SIM out of my Moto X and into the OnePlus One. I did this before I did the initial power up and the LTE has worked perfectly on AT&T.

Motorola Moto XOnePlus One
Device typeSmart phoneSmart phone
OSAndroid (4.4.2, 4.4, 4.3, 4.2.2)Android (4.4.4, 4.4) CyanogenMod 11S UI
Dimensions5.09 x 2.57 x 0.41 inches (129.3 x 65.3 x 10.4 mm)6.02 x 2.99 x 0.35 inches (152.9 x 75.9 x 8.9 mm)
Weight4.59 oz (130 g)5.71 oz (162 g)
Physical size4.7 inches5.5 inches
Resolution720 x 1280 pixels1080 x 1920 pixels
Pixel density316 ppi401 ppi
Colors16 777 21616 777 216
FeaturesLight sensor, Proximity sensor, Scratch-resistant glass (Corning Gorilla Glass)Light sensor, Proximity sensor, Scratch-resistant glass (Corning Gorilla Glass 3)
Camera10 megapixels13 megapixels
   FlashLEDDual LED
   Aperture sizeF2.4F2.0
   Focal length (35mm equivalent)30 mm
   Camera sensor size1/2.6"1/3.06"
   FeaturesDigital zoom, Autofocus, Touch to focus, Geo taggingCMOS image sensor, Autofocus
Camcorder1920x1080 (1080p HD) (60 fps)3840x2160 (4K), 1280x720 (720p HD) (120 fps)
Front-facing camera2 megapixels5 megapixels
System chipMotorola X8 (Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro MSM8960)Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 8974-AC
ProcessorDual core, 1700 MHz, KraitQuad core, 2500 MHz, Krait 400
Graphics processorAdreno 320Adreno 320
System memory2048 MB RAM3072 MB RAM
Built-in storage32 GB64 GB
Maximum User Storage28 GB
Storage expansion
Talk time12.00 hours
Stand-by time10.0 days (240 hours)
Capacity2200 mAh3100 mAh
Not user replaceableYes
Music player
   Filter byAlbum, Artist, PlaylistsAlbum, Artist, Playlists
   FeaturesAlbum art cover, Background playbackAlbum art cover, Background playback
SpeakersEarpiece, LoudspeakerEarpiece, Loudspeaker
YouTube playerYesYes
Built-in online services supportYouTube (upload), Picasa/Google+YouTube (upload), Picasa/Google+
GSM850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz
UMTS850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz
FDD LTE700 (band 13), 850 (band 5), 1700/2100 (band 4), 1900 (band 2) MHz700 (band 17), 1700/2100 (band 4), 1800 (band 3), 2100 (band 1), 2600 (band 7) MHz
DataLTE, HSDPA+ (4G) 42.2 Mbit/s, HSUPA 5.76 Mbit/s, UMTS, EDGE, GPRSLTE, UMTS, EDGE, GPRS
PositioningGPS, A-GPS, S-GPS, GlonassGPS, A-GPS, Glonass
NavigationTurn-by-turn navigationTurn-by-turn navigation
Bluetooth4.0 EDR4.0
Wi-Fi802.11 a, b, g, n, n 5GHz, ac802.11 a, b, g, n, n 5GHz, ac
   Mobile hotspotYesYes
   FeaturesMass storage device, USB chargingMass storage device, USB Host, USB charging
OtherNFC, Tethering, Computer sync, OTA syncNFC, DLNA, Tethering, Computer sync, OTA sync
NotificationsHaptic feedback, Music ringtones (MP3), Polyphonic ringtones, Vibration, Flight mode, Silent mode, SpeakerphoneHaptic feedback, Music ringtones (MP3), Polyphonic ringtones, Vibration, Flight mode, Silent mode, Speakerphone
SensorsAccelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass, Thermometer, BarometerAccelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass, Gesture
Hearing aid compatibilityM3, T3
OtherVoice dialing, Voice commands, Voice recordingVoice dialing, Voice commands, Voice recording
Officially announced01 Aug 201323 Apr 2014

As with the Moto X I got a Seidio Spring-Clip Holster (HLSSGT3AS). This holster is for a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 but it fits the OnePlus One fine.

My OnePlus One came with a non-standard build XNF9XBS28K of KitKat. This is apparently a OnePlus internal build that is not intended to reach customers. Unfortunately many of the phones in the flash sales were shipped with this build. The downside is that this build doesn't receive Over The Air (OTA) updates so it won't get Lollipop. The upside is that it is really solid.

I followed the instructions here and flashed Cyanogen OS 12 (5.0.2) and it's as wonderful as I expected.

Oh, and I've installed the OTA Lollipop 5.1 on my Moto X.

Which one am I using?


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Google Photos

Google seems to be killing Google Plus with 1,000 cuts. Latest is moving photos out to it's own app.

I don't have the time or patience to address the "free" photo storage of Google Photos. Suffice it to say it's not "free."

Anyway on to a subject dearer to my heart, viewing.

I previously looked at Google Plus Photos and compared them to Picasaweb. All of my findings/comments from there still stand.

You'd hope that Google had noted those issues and addressed them in Google Photos.

You'd be disappointed then.

Just to recap here's the presentation of a photo in Picasaweb.

And in Google Plus.

No changes here.

And in Google Photos.

Aaarg! Still no way to see all the exif data. No way to zoom the map. No way to change the base map, i.e. to satellite.

Oh, do you want to change the sequence of the photos in an Album (or is it Collection?) in Google Photos? Sorry. You have to go back to Google Plus or Picasaweb to do that. And Google Plus will nag you when you do. It seems only a matter of time until Google kills Google Plus Photos.

What I do like is the sharing of Google Photos. You no longer get tangled up with needing Google Plus profiles.

After I wrote this Google did another flip-flop restoring function previously removed from Picasaweb.

This comment is exactly my feeling.
Matt Baer
At first I was against Picasa redirecting me to Google + photos. But after a few added features in Google + photos. I stopped trying to go to Picasa. I am really not a fan of the new Photo. Photos seems to be very limited compared to Picasa and Google + photos.