Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hangouts Urges to Use Messenger for SMS

The strange product policy continues. Hangouts, the chat and messaging app from Google, urges users after the latest update to use "Messenger" for SMS and MMS.

Messenger is a chat app for SMS. It offers a wide range of features that users of Hangouts can only dream of. Audio-messaging e.g.
While before, Hangouts was suggested for SMS, too. It was a logical move to unify messaging. All over now. That is not a very encouraging move and raises again a question: Where is Hangouts going? It loses ground against competing services, which all offer modern features like sending audio-messages and better stickers. Facebook e.g. even offers to send money with it's messenger.

There is something going very wrong with Hangouts. The most wanted features are certainly:
  • audio messages
  • end to end encryption for specific messages
  • more stickers
  • easier find and contact people in your phone directory
But most important: Get the missing notifications fixed!

At least the Version 7 of Hangouts got some minor improvements. You can now reply directly from the notification.
Very handy is the new shortcut directly to a conversation. This is very nice to chat with the most important contacts right away, as a click opens the conversation and you're ready to type.

If you're concerned about me, the continuing little updates are nice, but it won't keep Hangouts fall falling back behind of the other messengers. I can't believe Google employees don't recognize this. And if they do, the question is if there is not enough interest at Google to push this. What's wrong.
But giving an SMS/MMS messaging app features that are much needed in Hangouts is the wrong signal.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Google Developer: OnePlus 2 USB-C Adapter & Cables Can Damage Your Hardware

+Benson Leung has got the attention of the media for some weeks now. The Google Developer is testing USB-C cables on his own to see if they are compliant to the standards.

In fact, most of the cables available are not keeping up to the standards and some are dangerous for your hardware. In worst case scenarios your charger/computer or even the phone could be damaged using those.

One of these potential dangerous adapters is sold by OnePlus as he pointed out.
The problem is, to my understanding, that a wrong resistor is used, urging to charge the device with 3A no matter what. If your charging device is not able to give that amount of power, it might get damaged. Normally, if the cable is compliant, this would be no problem. The power would be reduced to the correct and safe amount. Benson Leung is very clear on that:
"Don't buy this #USB   #TypeC  adapter for your Chromebook Pixel or Nexus 6P/5X phone. It uses the wrong identifier resistor."
Well, I think this is a big problem with USB-C. The specs are not "fail-safe". It seems much more complicated than with a standard USB-Cable were the handling of power is managed by the devices itself. You can easily plug a device that uses up to 2A on an old USB connector with 500mA. But these days seem to be gone. You need a safe cable not to ruin your devices. Maybe that's we manufacturers are not getting it. They need to realize that the devices with USB-C now relying on the cables. Well I'll guess nothing is perfect. Not even USB-C.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Chromecast Audio and new Chromecast Setup

And so, after the disastrous try to set up an old Chromecast, it happens that I bought the new video Chromecast and the new Chromecast Audio :).

First let's take a look at the Chromecast Audio which was the reason I'm even trying to engage in the Google Cast universe again.

As you can see, the configuration is pretty much straight forward even with my Fritz.Box router. I edited the time waiting to continue out of the video. It can take a bit longer than shown.

The interesting part now is, opposed to the presentation, you can of course not only connect a speaker to the device. It works with headphones, but for a speaker you'll need an amplifier in between. I bought a bunch of Lepai 808 amplifiers which are perfect for the job. To save even more space, I'll do something that doesn't comply with my usual principles on audio. I will use 1 speaker. Yup, right, mono. It's enough for the scenario, which I will come later to.
The problem though is, one can't just simply connect only one speaker ;). The Chromecast Audio of course delivers a stereo signal, which means there are different sounds on the 2 channels. With some music you won't notice it, with some it's like you listening to a complete different song. Or not even try to listen to discussions or other speech tracks, because they often use one channel for a single person. So you won't hear one person at all. Do not try to crosswire 2 speaker outputs to 1 speaker. It will likely kill your amplifier.
I chose to use an stereo to mono 3,5mm adapter between the Chromecast and the amplifier input. That way, you have both channel on 1 channel together. You connect only one speaker on the correct speaker output and it works. The Lepai 808 can handle a one speaker output just fine.
Later I'll build my own, very compact, stereo speaker with the Chromecast Audio integrated. That will be something for another post.
So the audio only solution stays kind of portable. It can be quickly put from one room to another with the tiny amplifier and the compact speaker.

For the living room, I bought the new Chromecast for video. That's totally okay since I have a Samsung H-series TV. You can completely shut off your LCD (not only make it dark), but the speakers remain on. That means you save a lot of energy, and your screen panel will be spared.
The configuration of this was really a hassle. The problem seems to be that, despite that now the new Chromecast supports 5Ghz WiFi, it needs to be in that same frequency. I could not manage the Chromecast to connect to a Fritz.Box with the phone in the 2.4Ghz range, and the Chromecast in the 5Ghz range. Since it seems random which device connects to what range, even my 30+ tries didn't work out. I ended up making the 2.4Ghz and the 5Ghz two separate WiFi-networks with different SSIDs. Also, it did not work with a hidden SSID in 5Ghz, but fine with hidden SSID in 2.4Ghz networks. I assume that's a bug. So now I could force the 2 devices in the same range and I could setup the Chromecast. Now it works like intended.

There is an interesting difference between the 2 Chromecasts. You can not stream YouTube audio to the Chromecast Audio directly. Yup, big bummer. If you have a big collection of music on YouTube forget about to simply listen to it with your Chromecast Audio. I hope this will change in the future. For now there is only one, very inconsistent way to listen to YouTube audio. You need to cast the screen/audio completely to the device. But that means your phone is streaming directly, which drains your battery, you network is under more load, and the sound quality is a bit lower. Chromecast usually streams directly from the source, not your phone. This is one big advantage over bluetooth which will be completely lost.

So it works. With some hiccups. If you know that I have a pretty simple WLAN, it will not end up well for some non-techy people. The audio quality on both devices is good. If the devices run, it is an easy thing to start listening to music or watching video where you want. Great that you don't need another remote control flying around, because we all have our phones or tablets in reach, right?
The price... well just order a few. It's so cheap you can have one in every room. Google continues developing and will soon offer multiple room audio features. You always wanted that but couldn't justify spending $900+ for a 3 room setup? Now it's your time. Together with a normal active speaker you can go at $70 for a room for a total of $210 bucks. Of course, with a decent speaker you'll pay more. But what you get for $450 is probably better than the competition in terms of sound quality.

Monday, September 28, 2015

How to scan directly to Google Drive with your Android phone

A lot of people on the web are asking how or if you can scan to Google Drive directly. Yes, you can ;).
It's easy. Open Google Drive, click on the + somewhere down right on your screen, and select scan.
After you made a picture of your document or photo, don't be afraid if it doesn't look like expected. You can open the menu and select to crop and click on the little palette to select how to handle the photo. Black&White, Color, Color Drawing or None. For plain documents try Black&White or color drawing. For other things, like flyers or color manuals, try color or None.

If you're done, click on the checkmark and it will be saved.

Now if you do that a lot, you can place a shortcut on your homescreen or dock, and even set a folder where it should store the scanned document into. Check the video, it's very simple.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

It's here, the Z3TC in short. Just a short introduction to this interesting Phablet. Yes, you have full phone functionality integrated.

Tech specs:
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 2.5 GHz quad core
  • RAM: 3 GB
  • Flash memory: 16 GB
  • Expansion slot: up to 128 GB microSD
  • 8.1MP rear camera
  • Front-facing camera 2.2MP
  • PlayStation certified
  • PS4 Remote Play
  • 8 inch TRILUMINOS display 1920 x 1200 / X-Reality
  • MHL 3.0 support
  • USB high speed 2.0 and micro USB support
  • Native USB tethering
  • NFC, DLNA Certified, ANT+
Antutu Benchmark is at 43409 which is quite good for a device around 6-7 month on the market. The Benchmark ran under Lollipop 5.0.2. That explains the extra points in comparison to the benchmarks under KitKat.

By the way, the update went smooth on the new device without any apps installed. No stuttering even in bright sunlight (with battery saven and stamina off). Around 2 days with normal usage is quite okay. Of course, if you use it intensively with the screen on for a long time, I could manage to drain the battery within 12 hours. Still okay.

As you can see in the photo, I also ordered a magnetic charging cable to easily charge it while in the case. And it's charging quite fast there with about 3,5 hours until charged from 1% to 100%. Nice! However, the connector of the cable (not the phone) gets extremely hot. Can't say if it's this particular cable, but I read a lot of reports that these magnetic charging cables getting hot quickly. With 2.4 Ah it isn't much surprising. So much for QuickCharge... As I always said any modern phone can charge quickly by giving enough power from the charger. And no fear, the phone only takes as much as it can without damaging something.

Unfortunately my Nano-SIM hasn't arrived by now (nearly a week now, groar), so I can't say much about reception or speech quality, but I don't expect something special.

So here we go... More to come.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Pebble app & Matejdro Notification Center not working

I wrote this morning to the developer of the Notification Center for the Pebble, because the latest updates completely broke the app, and now I'm having quite some problems with notifications and with the connection to the Pebble. Something terrible was changed.
Let's see if I get response. I hope the dev of this app does have more motivation today, because this is a very urgent problems.

Meanwhile I also contacted the Pebble Team about their official Pebble app. It does not work with apps installed on the sdcard. Should be solvable, but the problem with apps not being recognized from the pebble app (and turned off!) at device startup is reported for month now. Remailed it a week ago, and today again. It's urgent. At the moment it's totally unreliable and almost useless to me using an original Pebble. *sigh*