Ooohhh! This looks cool: USB Charger with a Built-in Ethernet Adapter!

USB-OTG is very handy. It allows someone to connect a variety of different USB devices to a tablet or mobile phone. Most often I’ve made use of a simple USB OTG cable to connect a flash drive or USB headset to one of my devices.

You can also use a USB hub to connect multiple devices, all while keeping the tablet powered. I have on occasion connected a USB headset or Blue Yeti microphone. These I use in conjunction with Audio Tool.

Today I discovered that Google offers a USB charger that has a built-in Ethernet adapter. Called the Ethernet Adapter for Chromecast, it’s just $15 from the play store!

Ethernet Adapter for Chromecast

This is fantastic since it eliminates reliance upon WiFi as the primary means of connectivity! That could make many things, admittedly obtuse things, that I might wish to try more reliable. As I’ve stated previously, wherever possible I prefer to leverage Ethernet over WiFi.

I simply had to have one of these for use with my new nVidia Shield K1 tablet! There’s an open question as to whether it will work with the K1, It only delivers 850 mA, which may not be enough for some devices. At just $15 it’s a risk I’m willing to take. More news to follow once the goody arrives.

A Lament for the 3.5mm Mini Jack

It seems that Apple has pressed the world into abandoning one of the oldest standard connectors still in use, the 3.5mm mini-jack. Apple, Samsung and others are now offering mobile phones sans mini-jack, much to the delight of the Bluetooth Consortium and those who make adapter dongles.

I’m not going to waste any more ink, digital or otherwise, with respect to the logic of abandoning the ubiquitous little connector. Enough has been wasted on that already, and it changed no one’s mind.

Nexus 5 top

That said, I am able to comment on the shoddy state of the 3.5mm jack in the past generation of mobile phones. The mini-jack on two of my last three my last mobile phones became defective. Both of those phones, a Nexus 4 and Nexus 5, were made by LG, so perhaps the problem is specific to them.

I have other devices that don’t seem to suffer this fault routinely. Of course, it’s also possible that I don’t used a wired headset as much with those devices. Still, over the years I can’t recall as many simple mechanical failures of the mini-jack as I’ve seen with recent mobile phones.

My suspicion is that the lowly mini-jack simply doesn’t get much respect. In the drive to pack more junk into ever thinner handsets, the elderly connector gets squeezed to the point where it’s mechanical integrity can’t be sustained. It’s not a complicated thing. I suspect it’s just gets ignored. Even under-engineered.

It’s a pity since there very reason that the mini-jack has survived this long is the fact that it can be both robust and cost effective. Not to mention that fact that there are millions of existing headsets that use the little devil.

If someone should decide to not include a mini-jack, I get that. I may not agree, but I understand the decision. To include a poor implementation is another matter entirely.

Undecided: Replacing a Nexus 7 Tablet

Nexus-7-2013 360pxUntil very recently I was seriously committed to Google’s Nexus line of devices. From the Galaxy Nexus onward, with just one exception, I carried a Nexus Series mobile phone.

I was so happy with the Galaxy Nexus, and Nexus 4 after it, that I jumped on the first generation of the Nexus 7 tablet in 2012. Similarly, my experience with that tablet was good enough that I bought the Nexus 7 2013 edition immediately upon it’s launch.

Later, when Google stopped offering them, I even bought a spare! I regret not purchasing the HSPA+ capable version when I saw it offered by Expansys at a discount.

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T-Mobile Moves Beyond HDVoice

T-Mobile Nexus5 EVSI’ve been a T-Mobile customer for a long time. In fact, my transition to T-Mobile happened when I bought my first smart phone, a Blackberry 8100 (aka Pearl).

More recently I’ve been using an LG-made Nexus 5. No, not the newer 5X. Late last year I semi-regressed from a One+ One to a Nexus 5. One of the reasons for that step backward in time was to finally be able to enjoy mobile HDVoice calls to my wife, who also carries a Nexus 5.

T-Mobile, who lead the US in the rollout of mobile HDVoice, supports it’s use for in-network calls between a list of supported handsets, including the Nexus 5. That initial rollout of HDVoice came before the big build of their LTE network. They enabled the AMR-WB codec (aka G.722.2) over their existing 3G HSPA+ network.

Most other US carriers waited until their LTE rollout to launch HDVoice. An LTE network is natively an IP network, readily supporting advanced voice codecs and video. When the voice calls are handled over the LTE network it’s called Voice-Over-LTE or VoLTE, which is very different from how voice was handled on 3G networks.

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Replacing My One+ One…a not-so-smart-phone

Nexus5 lock screenMy history with Android-based mobile phones isn’t really that long, at least not when expressed by what I’ve owned; T-Mobile G2 (aka HTC Desire Z), Samsung Galaxy Nexus, LG Nexus 4 and the One+ One. Transitioning away from a Blackberry 9700 in 2010, I liked the G2, adored the two Nexus models, but I regret the decision to buy the One+ One.

I bought it back in February. There were two motivating factors at play; my Nexus 4 had become unreliable, and I was taken-in by the One+ One’s combination of reasonable price, flagship specs and limited availability.

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User Experience: T-Mobile’s Continental Plans

TMobile-Phones-CoOmpositeEarlier this year T-Mobile altered their US Simple Choice Plans to include coverage in Canada and Mexico without roaming charges. The plans eliminate roaming while out of the country, but also eliminate international long distance when calling Canada and Mexico. Further, they include “4G LTE data in Canada & Mexico.” Since we go to Canada to visit family at least once a year the new plan sounded quite useful.

Change is hard…

Last month we made our annual trek to the Great White North. While making plans an associate, who is also a T-Mobile customer, recommended that I call T-Mobile and make sure that we had the correct plan. Failure to do so would result in us incurring the usual roaming charges for platinum-plated voice and data service while travelling.

On the very eve of our departure I remembered to call T-Mobile and make the change to the account. In fact, I called from the airport (IAH) while we were awaiting the departure of our initial flight to Toronto.

Of course, I called the from my mobile phone. The automated system advised that there would be some on-hold time, and I could opt to have them call me back, which I did. The callback took about ten minutes.

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