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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Bean There, Done That: Android Jelly Bean Announcements

It was a year ago this month that, inspired by Karl Fife and growing frustrated with my G2, I ordered a Samsung-made Galaxy Nexus. Google was not yet selling the handset directly so I ordered it from an online deals web site. I paid just over $500 for the handset, which would sell for just $350 just eight weeks later when Google began to offer it direct.

Of course, the Galaxy Nexus arrived running the newly minted Ice Cream Sandwich flavor of the Android OS. It wasn’t until Q4 that it received the Jelly Bean update. The aged G2 was upgraded from Froyo to ICS , but that’s where it’s path ended.

The leap from Gingerbread on the G2 to Jelly bean on the Galaxy Nexus was considerable. ICS was clearly better than it’s predecessor, but Jelly Bean was vastly better than ICS. The Galaxy Nexus experience inspired the purchase of the Nexus 7 when it became available, but that is around nine months ago.

I am constantly befuddled by the steady parade of announcements proclaiming device XYZ is getting Jelly Bean. I was reminded of this today when a customer told me that his Droid Bionic just received Jelly Bean.

Really, Jelly Bean just now? That’s Incredible…and Bionic…and RAZR…and MAXX…and various other ‘droids as well!

It simply amazes me how long it takes for vendors and carriers to roll out Android updates. Motorola isn’t the only laggard. HTC, Sony and others exhibit similar behavior.

This fact alone has me convinced of the wisdom of staying with the Nexus series of devices. If you’re choosing the Android experience then you might as well choose the current Android experience, without any bloatware from the carrier. You’ll get the latest OS on day one, and fastest access to the updates as they become available. It just makes so much sense.