Pixel & Pie – WTF Google!

Google Pixel (Very Black)After carrying Nexus phones for years I bought a Google Pixel in December 2016. That was just after the Pixel 2 was released, so the older Pixel was priced well and still offered great performance.

I was very pleased with the Pixel until quite recently. The OTA update to Android 9 (Pie) in August has been a huge step backward. Since that update the phone’s battery life has been dramatically reduced. Where it once lasted all day with my typical usage, it now lasts only about 7 hours with only light usage. Further, the phone is often noticeably warm to the touch.

Being the inquisitive sort, I’ve done some experiments to try and find out why this is happening. There are no rogue apps running. Or at least the OS reports no app using more that 2-3% of battery power.

I put the phone in Safe Mode for a day so only the factory installed apps would run. Battery life remained abysmal. That suggests that the problem is not caused by an app at all.

I’ve come to believe that I’ve identified the source of the problem. It’s related to the Wi-Fi. If I turn off the Wi-Fi the battery life is closer to what was experiencing running Oreo. Turn it back on and it plummets.

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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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Android App Tip: Notification Center

Notification-Center-on-Nexus4As I mentioned during the pre-roll before last week’s VUC call I’m surprised and a little dismayed at the lack of control of notifications in Android. This bubbled to the surface one day last week when my Nexus 7 started to repeatedly make noises at around 3am one morning. My wife further commented that my cell phone & tablet occasionally issue notices without actually managing to stir me from my slumber.

It’s not too hard to figure out why this happened; 3am CDT is around 8am GMT so folks in Europe & the UK were starting their working day with some Hangout chatter. It just so happens that the group in question had one or two people, like myself, in must more western time zones. Thinking about this a bit, it’s surprising that such consideration have not been added to the core of the OS. The “Snooze” function in the Hangouts app is far too crude to be considered useful. Surely other people have felt the need for more fine grained control of notifications?

In fact, others have felt that need. The excellent Android mail app K-9 Mail, recommended to me by Karl “one-last-question” Fife, has a Quiet Time function that disables all “ringing, buzzing & flashing” during a user-defined portion of the day. Since it’s a function of the app, that setting applies only to incoming email notifications.

A quick search of the Play Store turned up a solution in the form of Notification Center by Nicolas Chaix. This $1.99 app delivers flexible control of what kind of notification are allowed and when.

The app allows the user to create multiple profiles that define different notification settings. For example, if listening to music on a wired headset the presence of the wired headset can automatically silence audible alerts from messaging. The fact that the phone is sitting on a Qi charger, presumably on my night stand, can automatically silence all alerts. It even allows for profiles based upon connection to a certain Wifi network or Bluetooth device.

While I’ve only had the software installed for a few days, thus far it has proven to be exactly what I needed. Highly recommended!

Chromecast Tricks

As a participant in the Android ecosystem and committed early-adopter I was quick to order a Chromecast when they were introduced in 2013. Sadly, our older Sharp Aquos HDTV lacked the input switching to make the little dongle convenient in my intended application. Since then I’ve struggled to find a use for the little guy.

This week I stumbled upon a new use case for the Chromecast…digital signage! This was inspired by a couple of apps for Chromecast I found in the Play store; Big Tweets and Countdown.

Both of these apps would have been tremendously useful in my past life. I surely would have used them in staging trade show presentations.

Big Tweets cycles through a tweet stream with a selection of nice graphic themes. It even allows custom themes for the graphically handy. Just plug it into a monitor or HDTV and set it up via an Android device. No keyboard or mouse. Low power. Reliable. Lovely.

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New & Shiny: Google Introduces Chromebox For Meetings

Chromebox-For-Meetings-TVVideo conferencing is changing. It started about a year ago. That’s when I first heard about DIY room systems. Then I got wind of “Huddle” systems, which are basically smaller room systems. Today Google introduced their own play on this trend.

Chromebox for Meetings looks to be their spin on Vidyo’s DIY room system. It’s basically a very small PC, running the Chrome OS, with the requisite accessories (USB webcam & speakerphone) to make it a video conference end-point. Just add a decent monitor or HDTV.

All of the PR points to the use of a Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920and a Jabra SPEAK410 USB Speakerphone, both of which have graced my desk for a year or more. Both are leaders in their respective product categories.

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Webcams 5: SparkoCam & My Canon Rebel XSi

When is a webcam not a webcam? When it’s actually a DSLR!

Canon-Rebel-XSi-Asus-Monitor-SparkocamAround here we are strong believers in DSLRs. Our first DSLR was an Olympus E-10, but these days we have a couple of Canon Rebel XSi’s. Released in Q1-2009 these are not the latest and greatest by any stretch, but they’re nice cameras. We also have a small selection of lenses.

As DSLRs have come to shoot video it would make some sense that they could also be used the more sedate role of webcam. Our Rebel XSi’s don’t shoot video, but they do make nice 12 mega-pixel pictures.

It happens that many Canon cameras, including the XSi, have a feature called “Live View” that’s intended to stream the image to the LCD viewfinder or even across a USB connection.

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