The Chrome for Android beta was released today a few days ago and so far, it’s been a smoking release. In a lot of ways, it’s similar to other Webkit based browsers and while there’s a lot different under the hood, I wanted to show a select few of the front end features that I think rock. Keep in mind that it’s ICS Android 4.0 only, so you won’t be able to run it on your older phone unless you root it and upgrade to Cyanogenmod9 or similar.
1. Synchronized tabs with desktop. Want to keep reading a website from work at home? Just leave the tab open. You can still hibernate, and the tab is saved so that you can resume on your phone or tablet. You used to use Chrome2Phone for this, but now it’s been eclipsed.
2. Clustered link selector. That wasn’t the link you were trying to hit with your thumb? Chrome zooms in when there are a few links clustered around in one spot so that you can hit the right one
3. Synchronized bookmarks. I’ve always been a bit lazy with my bookmarks, letting them roam wild on every single computer or device I’ve had. Now they’re all totally identical. I had to do some categorization to make it work for mobile, but now I’ve got all my links in all the same places.
4. Sweet tabbed interface. On the phone, tabs are sorted vertically, while on a tablet, they’re sorted horizontally. Looks awesome, and makes it easy to switch between websites.
Likely will never get Flash support, which comes in handy the odd time.
That’s it. The browser has a more sensible UI and with the features above, it dominates the other browsers out there. Even though it’s in beta, I’m already using it in place of the standard browser. Add it to your shortcut bar today.
Google’s podcast manager for Android, Google Listen, was starting to get really messed up when playing podcasts over Bluetooth in my car, so I hunted around for a suitable replacement. If I wanted to go really low tech, I could use Google Reader and then download the mp3 podcasts to my Android phone. But there’s a better way. If you have an awesome data plan, you can stream using Stitcher, but I really wanted to download them to my phone over wifi so I wouldn’t stress my data plan. Pocket Casts from shiftyjelly did just that. I originally ran Pocket Casts on my Samsung Galaxy S Captivate, and recently started using it on a Samsung Galaxy Nexus.
Must download podcasts over wifi
Must auto-delete old podcasts (I’ll only listen to a podcast once)
Must take incoming calls or other interruptions and properly handle Bluetooth control with my JVC avx740
Nice to have: auto download and retry failed podcasts in the background. The wifi reception in my office can be a bit spotty in parts, so I’d like a podcast manager to tenaciously retry failed downloads. Realistically, I can just click the download all button when in wifi range, but this is 2012 damn it! I want my $2.99 app to do all that for me!
I primarily listen to podcasts on my daily commute. Pocket Casts alerts me when a new podcast I’m subscribed to is available, and if I’m on Wi-Fi at home or work, downloads it automatically. In the car, I have to pull out my phone and start Pocket Casts. I’d rather just hit play on my deck, but whatever. Once started, it plays the podcast just fine. Calls, navigation instructions, etc interrupt the podcast being played just fine. There’s lock screen control as well as a homescreen widget. I have Pocket Casts set to auto add any new downloads to the playlist as well as to delete any that have been played. The Pocket Casts Android app handles the use case that I outlined above just fine.
Knocks Against Pocket Casts
The UI seems overbuilt for me. Several of the screens do almost the same thing, and I find that I don’t need 80% of the features provided. Maybe if you’re a real podcast power user, you’d appreciate some of the extra categorization and segmentation. I don’t really need it.
The app developers seem to be in a state of flux on whether they use the Android download manager or their in-app one. It’d be nice if this was better tested to understand which should be used.
For Ice Cream Sandwich, the system settings button should be used instead of the in-app gears.
Pocket Casts Android Podcast Manager Review
Reviewed by Adriel Michaud on Feb 14, 2012 product An easy to use podcast manager for Android If you’re looking for a great way to spend some time in the car and not have to listen to commercials or the same song over and over again, load up a few hours of podcasts using Pocket Casts and you’ll be set.
Do you game late into the night, to the chagrin of your family members? Do you want to watch action movies at their intended volume without having police show up at your door? Then, my friend, you need a headset. I was looking for one to hook into my PS3 and ideally my computer too. Extra points if I could use standard comp cables to hook into my audio receiver, if the headset was wireless, and if the headset was easy to setup and use day to day. While this headset didn’t match all those requirements, it hit the ones that mattered at a price point that was reasonable. I compared features and reviews with the Turtle Beach PX3, P21, and a few Tritton’s. Overall, the Sony unit was the lowest cost wireless option with virtual surround. Usability was easily the best on the Sony unit.
The form on the Sony PS3 Wireless headset is a take it or leave it kind of design. The main headset band is fine, but the side panels jut out and make the headset look chunky. Personally, I wouldn’t wear these things in public. But in private in my house late at night, who cares? Those big chunky side panels have nice volume and chat vs game sound sliders that traditional headsets can’t hide. No dial or external controls, just easy to use bits right on the headset. As other reviews have noted, the extendible mic boom is all plastic and isn’t super robust. I’m not quite so sure that it matters, as the un-replaceable battery would probably wear out before the mic boom would. The headband part can extend for different sized heads, and fit both my 3 year old and mine with room on both sides. So unless you have some sort of mutant shaped head, it’ll fit. The ear cup material is faux leather and will probably make your ears sweaty in the summer. Charging is via a mini USB port. While the headset doesn’t come with a mini USB cable, these things are everywhere and used by everything including your PS3 controllers, digital camera’s, and some older cell phones.
This headset is a textbook example of great usability. Take it out of the box, plug the USB dongle into your PS3 or PC if that’s what you’re using, hold the side button for 3 seconds, and you’re off to the races. Click that same button instead of holding it down for microphone mute/unmute. That side button is easily found while gaming, which makes it easy to mute in-game so that you don’t broadcast your personal off-line conversations to all the people you’re gaming with. If you’re using the headset with your PS3, an on-screen notification can show headset statuses like battery level, microphone mute/unmute, and whether or not you have the virtual surround sound effect on. Turning the headset off swaps you back to your speakers.
I found the sound to not be as powerful as other headsets I tried, but by the time I hit max volume it was loud enough anyways. This headset uses 40mm drivers, were 50mm are more standard on other sets. That all said, I found that it delivered plenty of bass, and tanks in Battlefield3 sounded fantastic! With my 5.1 speaker setup, I normally had to have the subwoofer set to minimum to avoid waking the dead. With the headset, it’s like a totally different experience. The virtual surround lacked the same kind of directionality that I had with the 5.1 surround setup. With the headset, I had to move my head in game to get a good lock on where shooting was coming from, whereas I could instantly resolve direction with the 5.1 surround to about 5 degrees of accuracy to where the shooting was coming from. That slowed me down about a half second in some situations. Where the set made it up was hearing quieter sounds from enemies closer to me. A guy shouting that he was throwing a frag is now a marked man, where I barely would have made it out at the volume I played before on the 5.1 setup. It’s also a lot easier to make out different guns and vehicles with the much better range on the headset.
I really wish they had just made this thing Bluetooth. I’m sure there’s a great reason why they didn’t use the built-in Bluetooth that PS3’s come with, but it would have saved me having a vulnerable USB dongle sticking out the front of my PS3, just waiting for a 3 year old to snap off. I put in 5 hours of gaming and movie watching last night and didn’t phase the batteries one bit. A lot of the reviews out there are claiming 8-10 hours of real world use, which is phenomenal given the fact that the headset doesn’t weight a ton from heavy batteries. Using better li-ion batteries instead of cheaper ni-mh or ni-cd batteries like most cordless phones out there probably helps with weight. I did use it with a PC running Windows 7 to watch a movie and it was slick. I had to tell the PC to use the new audio device, but it detected and installed it without any issues.
Sony PS3 Wireless Headset Review
Reviewed by Adriel Michaud on Jan 19, 2012 product You can’t really get a cheaper and easier to use wireless headset for gaming on the PS3. The Sony PS3 Wireless Headset is super easy to setup, sounds good, and integrates voice/game beautifully. You can’t get the features in this headset elsewhere for under $150.
Normally, I’d put this on Top Draw’s blog, but this one’s pretty nerdy and we’ve already got lots of posts for now. If you’re in website analytics, you might be a bit bummed that Google has decided not to forward on organic keyword data for logged in users of Google.com. And while that loss of data is too bad, we’ve accidentally gained a new insight: information on how many of the customers in that segment are logged into Google. With my blog, I’ve got a bit of a unique situation in that almost all of my traffic is organic, and almost all of it is topical: people come in for information on one topic, and then leave. I’ve also got a range of Google-centric and Google-uncentric blog posts to compare against. Without further ado:
Let’s Use Science!
First, we need a base segment that could be affected by the change: google.com users on non-mobile devices. To get there, I chose the following advanced segment in Google Analytics (Hopefully, I’m getting mostly Google.com users which is why I’m only segmenting US visitors)
I added the “not provided” keyword for my next segment and chose to apply these 2 segments to landing pages so that I could effectively compare, side by side, the Google market saturation on a topic by topic basis (at least, from Google’s own search engine). I’ve also limited the date range to just that most affected by the change.
Users of Bing/Yahoo are probably unwashed and using a non-Gmail email. Which would bring down the real world % shown above.
Not everyone is going to be logged in all the time. Which would bring the real world % from above up a bit.
All in all, this is telling me that Google has somewhere around 20-25% penetration into the online US market, which I found to be pretty good for email/docs/other reasons people create and stay logged into Google Accounts. Email accounts are somewhat fragmented, and many people that I meet have had the same email address for 6+ years. To put it into context with their greatest internet competitors, I guess Google still has a ways to go before they have the 52% of Americans that Facebook does.
While some of the eBay auctions for the Klarus XT2C I picked up came with their own 18650 batteries and chargers, I had not quite finished researching them so didn’t want to jump into a rash decision. Some of the packaged 18650 batteries were the Ultrafire brand and from reading more on Candlepower forums, there are some knockoffs out there that were not “true” Utrafires. There also appears to be a “good” charger that correctly uses a CC/CV charging method, and a crappier version of charger that follows a more conventional charging method. The CC/CV ones are not the majority out there, neither are the “good” batteries, as those are typically sold to battery pack makers and manufacturers like Tesla to power electric vehicles. High capacity li-ion batteries are in very high demand. To make things more difficult, unprotected cells let themselves get discharged or overcharged enough to damage themselves, whereas protected cells protected themselves. The good unprotected ones come from brand names like Samsung, LG, Panasonic, etc. The good protected ones come from non-brand names like AW, Redilast, etc. If you’re doing a multicell flashlight or if you’re absent minded, you should probably go with a protected cell. You can go unprotected and get more capacity for less money, but there’s always that risk you might just make an inadvertent pipe bomb with your fancy high capacity li-ion cells stuffed into your sealed aluminum flashlight.
Finding 18650 batteries turned into a bit of a problem for me, because finding a good battery and charger place that’d ship to Canada for a reasonable price was damn hard. Locally, there was NOTHING! I checked battery world, The Source (Canada’s Radio Shack), everywhere. And let me save you some trouble in case you go looking for it: everyone that has 18650’s has a kinda junky ecommerce website. None of the websites that I came across really exuded a confident buying experience. But one definitely rose above the rest in the ways that counted: onlybatteries.com. I noticed that they sold unprotected cells from decent brands, and the non-good chargers, added a few to my cart and checked what shipping would cost. Then I left, and they did something that only pro ecommerce sites do: they followed up.
Since they use a 2 part shopping cart checkout, they’re able to capture some of the shopper’s info and follow up on non-purchases, a technique called shopping cart abandonment recovery. The very fact that they did that flagged them as professionals and gave me a good feel that they’d ship on time and would stand behind their product. Keep in mind, I’m in internet marketing so I approach these things a bit differently that other people might. The hunch was right. I ordered on a Friday and had the batteries at my house by Wednesday. When I received the package, I was surprised to learn that the company had shipped from Montreal. The company has US and Canadian offices. I’m not so patriotic that I strive to buy from only Canadian companies, but I can appreciate where taxes can be saved and shipping speed can be increased.
Enough gushing about how much I love a fast painless transaction and onto the batteries! I bought unprotected 2800 mAh LG cells and a bundled charger for about $50 with shipping. I don’t believe the charger is the “better” CC/CV type, but I’m not sure this is a super big deal because even respected battery dealers like AW were selling the regular type. Would the CC/CV type give me better lifespan? Probably. Will battery technology be 50% better by the time my batteries die anyways? I’ll bet on it.
Right out of the package, the batteries measured 3.79V, which I hear is good. They’re a lot thicker than the CR123 batteries that you can also use in many of these flashlights, and they give a better fit. I couldn’t find my dial calipers or micrometer, so I used an adjustable wrench to give a quick idea of the size difference: not a lot, but enough that the CR123’s rattle just a bit in the flashlight body compared to the 18650’s.
After checking voltage, I put the batteries into the charger and checked voltage again. I saw .02V to .03V more than resting voltage applied, and the batteries never heated up a bit while charging. (Though, I don’t know if this is even important)
I know that some people, myself included, wondered if the flashlight would get brighter using the 18650 batteries rather than the CR123’s. I’m afraid the answer is “no”. Since the Klarus XT2C is regulated, as long as the batteries meet a minimum Volts X Amps, the flashlight will pump out the right amount of light. If you think otherwise, let me know which of the below images are of the flashlight using CR123’s, and which are of the flashlight using fully charged 18650’s.
I picked this flashlight up after reading some positive reviews of the Klarus XT10 on candlepower forums, which is pretty much the place to go for info on these high powered flashlights. This light appeared to use the same high power 470 lumen CREE XM-L T6 LED and 18650 Li-ion battery, just in a smaller package. I wanted to pick up the flashlight as a camping flashlight and as a potential tactical add-on flashlight if I ever got anything that would support it. The flashlight itself feels high quality, with no sharp edges and good balance and utility. The interface is also much more intuitive than a lot of the tactical flashlights I’ve played with, and it seems like this feature puts the XT2C above a lot of others. Like many other high end flashlights, this one is designed for an 18650 li-ion battery or two CR123 camera batteries. If you’re not in a major metropolitan area, you may want to order your flashlight with batteries and charger as I’ve found the 18650 to be impossible to find locally, even from battery specialist stores.
The switch interface on this flashlight is spot on for the intended application. Mode-less operation means that actions are always the same. A light press on the main button pulls the flashlight up on high, whereas a harder press clicks it down to stay on. That by itself isn’t fantastic, it’s how the flashlight incorporates the strobe functionality that I find really usable. Strobing flashlights are supposed to confuse and disorient targets using the Bucha effect, but incorporating another mode into a flashlight in an intuitive way is difficult. Most flashlight interfaces are somewhat confusing to use. With the Klarus XT2C and the XT10, you can press the “Mode” button to get straight to a momentary full brightness strobe.
After you’ve held the strobe on for 3 seconds, it stays on. The mode button is quite different from the main button and wouldn’t be confusing even with light gloves on. So the flashlight offers 2 quick ways to get to full brightness or full strobe, and these are the operations that an officer or soldier would need on a moments notice. From full bright, a few more clicks on the mode button dims the flashlight to 150 lumens, and then 10. The 10 lumen setting will be great when camping where blazing brightness isn’t always required. With all the buttons on the back and a compact 1″ body, this flashlight would be a great candidate for mounting on a pistol or CQB rifle.
Box and accessories
Altogether, the Klarus XT2C comes with:
2 extra O ring seals
Extra rubber switch boot
The extra O rings and switch cover gives the flashlight a longer potential service life, which would be great if it was used in law enforcement, military, or other hard use applications. The holster is also built for these types of applications by offering a multitude of carry options. As a camping flashlight, I imagine I’ll use the lanyard more often than the holster.
The light beam on the XT2C could be described as “floody” and very wide. The reflector is fairly small and uses an “orange peel” style texture rather than a smooth one. When you point it at something , it floods the whole area with light instead of focusing tightly where you aim it. This is perfect for the intended use as a weapon mounted or CQB flashlight. If you need any serious medium to long distance light, you should move up a size to a bigger flashlight that will throw a beam further with a more efficient reflector.
You probably wouldn’t drop your flashlight into a glass of water, but it’s nice knowing that it can handle some water without any problem at all. The flashlight is spec’d at fully waterproof to 2 meters and handled my quick glass of water test without any difficulty. After opening unscrewing both the top and bottom portions of the body, I could see that the o-rings on both sides had stopped the water from getting past. This light is also impact resistant to a certain height, but since it’s about -15 outside and I don’t want to drop it on my floor, that test will have to wait.
All in all, for $60 you can do worse. The Cree XM-L is a great LED and really pumps out the lumens in this small flashlight.
Klarus XT2C Review
Reviewed by Adriel Michaud on Jan 1, 2012 product A small flashlight with incredible 470 lumen output The light is compact enough to throw in your pocket and would do a great job as a CQB or weapons-mounted flashlight. Fantastic light output for the size and cost
I wanted to compare voice actions on Android 2 vs Android 4, so I made up a quick video comparing the two. There are differences, but in basic usage cases they didn’t amount to too much. Anyways, I’ll let the video speak for itself.
How many of you have a separate digital TV receiver, TV, audio receiver and more separately connected devices in your home theater? How many of you experience frustration in switching inputs between them or have difficulty with family members figuring it out? How many remotes do you have on your coffee table? Enter, the Logitech Harmony series of remotes.
The Harmony 650 is one their midrange remotes. Fancier versions have touchscreens, IR blasters, and other fancy gizmos. This one is just a really smart replacement for your other remotes. With standard remotes, there are 2 big problems:
Crappy “universal” remotes that come with your TV, audio, or satellite receiver aren’t all that universal and often have compatibility issues or only implement partial sets of functionality.
Switching audio and TV inputs to the correct ones can be a pain in the butt. Confounding the problem, audio receivers usually don’t have enough video inputs to be the universal box that switches everything, and TV receivers usually don’t have enough audio ins and outs. Since your standard remotes have buttons that can’t be reconfigured, you get stuck with ridiculous scenario’s like using the DVD/VCD button for computer audio.
The Harmony simply supports more devices than pretty much any other remote out there and it sets up really easily. Want to check if it supports your TV or devices? It will, but just in case, check out their quick compatibility check. Even if it’s not in there, you can use the learning IR port in the back of the remote to learn new commands.
The remote is programmed over a micro USB on the front to your PC or Mac using either their device software or a web based program.
The software itself has bit of a learning curve, but uses wizards to help configure all along the way. It makes it easy to pick out buttons, customize the home screen, and set out scripted actions like “Watch TV” or “Listen to Music”.
The colors aren’t actually as bad as the pictures show. I couldn’t capture them with either my Canon point and shoot or my smartphone camera, but just trust that they aren’t so ugly. Also, the custom TV channel images have to be programmed in manually. That means you have to download the image from the internet, and program it into the remote. It’s not seamless, but it’s easy enough.
If I had one criticism for this remote, it’d be the battery springs. Rather, they’re bent tabs, and the metal they’re made of is soft and not very springy. What this means is that when the remote is dropped from a coffee table, the battery clips compress, and the batteries are able to wiggle around and the remote has connection problems. Bending the clips back to shape fixes it, but I feel like some engineer at Logitech really dropped the ball here. Springs work, why fuck around with bent tabs?
There are already a lot more thorough reviews out there, but I thought there would be room for one more with a Canadian/business use view of it. The Galaxy Nexus is the newest Google phone and the platform of choice for the Ice Cream Sandwich version of Android (4.0). In Canada right now, this phone can only be purchased on Bell or Virgin Mobile. Virgin is Bell’s “fighting brand” in Canada, so Bell makes the claim that the Galaxy Nexus is a “Bell Exclusive”. Indeed, if you try to buy it from a Bell store, they’ll be a bit snooty about it and claim that it’s a “Bell Exclusive” and can only be used with their plans. Virgin is a bit less snooty and will sell you the phone on as short as a 30 day contract. Most Bell and Virgin stores are VERY confused about this phone, the unlock-ability, and the sell-ability of it. The Galaxy Nexus I purchased from Virgin Mobile was unlocked, though a few phone operators and store workers thought it was locked. It was a good thing it was unlocked, because I needed to use it with Rogers. So, bought from Virgin, popped in the SIM card, and it worked right away.
Upgrading to a Galaxy Nexus from a Galaxy S
My previous phone was a Galaxy S Captivate, which is one of Samsung’s previous generation Android phones. To upgrade, I needed to move my pictures, contacts, email, and programs. This was an absolute breeze. After starting the phone and logging in:
I setup Wi-fi.
It automatically synced up my contacts + contact pictures.
I used Google+ to store the images from my previous phone, so those are all up on the cloud and I had to do nothing. If you didn’t know, you can store unlimited photo’s and videos as long as they’re not too high a resolution for photos or too long for videos.
As soon as I logged in, it started downloading and installing the same programs I had on my previous phone.
I had to pair it up with my JVC AVX740 to connect Bluetooth in my car.
I had to enter my work email info and authorize my phone.
All in all, a pretty easy upgrade. Android makes this easy even if you’re moving from a different platform, and easier yet moving from the same. It’s still not as slick or seamless as upgrading an iPhone, but because of the segmentation between apps, I feel like it’d be a bit more robust. If your email contacts fail to move on an Apple upgrade, you’re screwed. If they fail to move on an Android phone, it’d be easy to try to re synchronize them with GMail.
Screen and Form Factor
This is a big phone. If you’re looking for something small, this is not it. The trend lately has been bigger and bigger screens, and the Galaxy Nexus rocks out a 4.65 inch screen. The biggest difference to me was the height, but never mind the size, the resolution is incredible, packing a full 720p resolution on a phone. 3 years ago, that would have been an OK HDTV resolution, now it’s a phone. Innovation in technology is awesome! It means that high definition video looks awesome, images can be checked for details and quality, and web pages can be browsed at lower zoom levels. This was a big reason why I wanted higher resolution; web browsing at a lower resolution required jumping around the web page a lot and zooming in and out.
Check the other reviews on the web. I really like the no lag feature, because you can just take a million shots and keep the ones that look good. For kids, that’s awesome as they seem to be making weird faces about 95% of the time and wicked cute faces only 5% of the time. Just keep shooting pictures and you’ll catch them eventually.
More than a day, even with insanely high usage. That’s much better than the Galaxy S Captivate, and that’s all I care about.
Network Speed (Speedtest app)
Rogers HSPA: Galaxy Nexus 8.9Mbps down, 1.2 Mbps up. On my Galaxy S, it managed 3.2Mbps down and 1.2Mbps up.
On Wifi through Telus, the Galaxy Nexus did 2.4Mbps up and 0.9 up whereas the Galaxy S did 2.4Mbps down and 0.8Mbps up.
Findings: 1. The Galaxy S couldn’t handle the full download speeds that Rogers has to offer, but could handle everything else. 2. Telus’s DSL speeds suck. 3. I wouldn’t upgrade if you’re looking for much higher network speeds; a phone like the Galaxy S is still pretty capable on that end.
Like I said at the start, this phone runs the newest version of Android. Is it amazing? Not really. Is it better than everything else out there? I think so. Since the last time I reviewed the Galaxy S, most app makers also have Android in their plans. I had a friend over who was glued to X Construct, and he was really disappointed that it didn’t have an iPhone version. That’s pretty weird; having an Android exclusive app. For most apps, the iPhone version is still better or newer, but it’s getting very close to parity now.
Screw it. It takes a second to load up the front camera, and that’s too long for me. PIN or pattern unlock all the way.
I’d say that usability is improved. My 3 year old had no problems moving from the Galaxy S to the Nexus and still figuring out how to launch and close games. That should be testament enough that it’s easy to use and they haven’t broken too many conventions from the previous version. I could really care less, but it does look a HELL of a lot better. Icons, usage, it’s all a lot prettier, but still not glossy and frilly.
I’m on day 3 of a “.01” version and I haven’t had any crashes.
Right now, this is the best phone you can buy. The iPhone 4S has a better camera and slightly more integrated voice commands but has a lot smaller of a screen, and does not allow for the kinds of mucking around that the Nexus does. This is not really a great phone for someone with small hands. The curved screen fits well when on a call, and when in the pocket. I much prefer the speaker location to the Galaxy S’. That’s it. When it comes right down to it, the iPhone, Galaxy S, and Galaxy Nexus are all phones that use nearly their entire front as a screen, have really usable software in the background, and have app environments that encourage development. They’re all better in their own ways, yet all better in some ways to the old flip phones that a lot of people are still using. The fact that they’re all out there is encouraging and should encourage innovation in the future.