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July 1, 2015

Solar Impulse Flight is Halfway around the world

As I type up the draft to this entry, the Solar Impulse (Airplane that is 100% clean energy using the Sun to charge it’s battery) has made more than half way around the globe.  It is currently traveling on its eighth leg from Japan to Hawaii.  What makes it really cool is the amazing website it has setup for the world to follow along the journey with the pilots who have already been traveling for more than 114 days at time of writing.

The website provides live video stream and full on cockpit information so folks (nerds) like myself can be part of the action.  You can see the flight at night which relies 100% on the battery which at the time of writing is just a tad over 50% charge and it predicts the power to drop down to 41% in 1 hour… that’s craziness; few hours later the charge is up to 99% with the Sun fully out.  Think about all the science and calculation behind this project to ensure it has enough battery capacity to flight throughout the darkness or cloudy day. 

This project is really cool, it really is the pinnacle of human technology (energy, mobility, communications, technology).



May 11, 2015

Is there a need for Apple Watch?

The question extends beyond Apple Watch; I've raised this question against all smart watches for the past couple of years.  The novelty of having a watch that can provide relevant information with a flick of a wrist is interesting.  In an information driven age, those who can get the latest information fastest will often get the advantage.  But is the smart watch providing the information fast enough (or convenient enough?)

While I still can't answer that just yet, I am most certain that at its infancy, its certainly is not easy enough.

1. Smart Watches are Phone Dependent (at least to make it useful):  Until I can walk out of my house with a smart watch only and still make/receive calls, send/receive emails and texts and take a picture without tethering to a smartphone, this is just another device for me to carry along.

2. Smart Watches require charging daily (or maybe even twice daily);  Under light usage, you might be able to get away with charging it over night and use it until the evening; if you play with it more often, you will likely need to take it off to recharge during the day and there lies the irony as you would be without your smart watch during some part of your day removing any incentive you've attributed to having this watch.

I can't live without a smartphone; I use it to call, email, text, work, fetch data/files and entertain.  Oh, and I also use it as a watch as well as an alarm.  Since I have to carry this with me at all times, I can't seem to justify the need of an Apple Watch.


January 23, 2015

Nexus 6 Battery Life (Last almost 3 Days under light usage)

Ever since I optimized my battery settings for the NEXUS 6, it can last long enough where I only charge it every other night (skipping a day).  I realized even then, most of the time, the phone would still have almost 50% of battery left by the second night.  So I've decided to see if I can make it last one more day.  The result is: YES!  By the 3rd evening at around 10PM, it had 7% juice.  That same night, I was actually out with friends.  I chose not to put the phone in battery saving mode, at around midnight, the phone finally ran out of juice.

Needless to say, I am quite impressed with the result.  It seems like either Lollipop is really optimized for Nexus 6, or my coverage with AT&T has improved where the phone is not wasting battery trying to connect to the network all the time.

I do remember when I first received my NEXUS 5, I was impressed with the battery optimization (62% of power left after a full day of use); but few months later, things got weird and battery behavior became erratic (perhaps after an android update).  I am hoping the NEXUS 6's performance will hod up longer.

(Screen capture of NEXUS 6 after approx. 60 hours or 2.5 days of use... still 7% left!!!)

January 17, 2015

Nexus 6 Battery Life (and Optimization)

So, each time I upgrade to the new Nexus devices, I always offer some tips to optimize battery life.  Historically, Google always choose to run lean on the battery size; but for Nexus 6, they beefed it up to 3,220mAh which is big but IMHO should have been even larger.  That said, the tips I am about to give might not be necessary, but in my usage test, I was surprised a single charge lasted two days of use for me (well, almost two days).  At the time of writing, my phone has been off a charger since Friday morning around 7AM.  It is Saturaday evening at 9PM (approx. 38 hrs later) and I still have 27% of battery life left... pretty cool!

So for what its worth, here is how I am optimizing for battery life:

1. Brightness Level:  Approximately 10% of the brightness
2. Adaptive Brightness: OFF
3. Ambient Display:  OFF
4. Sleep after 30 Seconds of Inactivity
5. Bluetooth Off
6. NFC Off
7. Preferred Network:  3G  (HSPA+)
8. Turn WiFi on at home and at work

Note that, if I need these features, I will turn them on or turn them up as needed.  I have noticed that battery life is impacted big time depending on the way the OS is setup, so I hope future updates doesn't mess things up for the NEXUS 6.

(screenshot of my phone after almost 2 days of usage on a single charge!!!)

(Log of Battery Life from 2 day usage, figure slowly improved to about 50%!!!)

Nexus 6 is a Gigantic, Powerful but Unpolished Beast


I am a bit surprised at myself, for deciding to get the NEXUS 6.  When this phone was announced at first, I was against the idea of a super-sized phone; I thought Google's approach was rather progressive since they didn't produce two sizes like the Apple iPhone 6, 6 plus approach.  (Although many have considered NEXUS 6 is a larger twin of the MOTO X, which would have been interesting had Google/Motorola considered a NEXUS X... but I digress).

Why did I change my mind towards the this "Phablet"?
In short, my own laziness.  Over the holidays, I was visiting family and I realized I had a checklist just to pack all the chargers, cables for the entire family's iPods, iPads, smartphones, etc.  When I was away, I was spending most of my time with my phone, the act of pulling out the old iPad or walk to the next room to grab another tablet was even too much.  I was spending so much time reading on my old NEXUS 5 that made me realize that the potential of a Phablet (bigger screen for reading, bigger battery to last longer) can be the solution to be the one device that rules them all!

Why did I choose this Phablet - NEXUS 6?
Over the years, I made a rule for myself.  I would only be interested in phones that come with un-adulterated OS which pretty much leaves me with two options:  Apple iPhones or Google NEXUS "Play Edition" phones.   (Side note:  Play Edition is the only way to go and truly unlocked, because even if you bought a NEXUS 5 or 6 from Carrier... they still manage to load some small provisioning software on their version).  Since I still held on to a legacy unlimited data plan, I always enjoyed Google Play Edition phones ability to let you run HOTSPOT without limitation.  The latter rational is weakening as I am typing this entry with the latest announcements from Tmobile and ATT which allows for some forms of Data rollover.  Oh, and having the Qi Wireless support + "Turbo Charging" helped me with the decision making.

So, Whats my Impression after 1 week?
The phone is heavy, sturdy and well... BIG.  The irony is by looking at NEXUS 6 laying flat across a table top, it looks manageable, "barely" larger than a NEXUS 5; however, grabbing it in your hand feels like you are picking up a small tablet, adding a case just makes the phone feel just big enough to be uncomfortable.  The phone for the most part, matched somewhat on my expectation:  BIG, POWERFUL, and FAST.  But then I start to notice some areas that could use some polishing.  So without further a due, here are my complaints:

1. Software could use a bit polishing: With Lollipop 5.0.1  I lost the ability to turn on/off auto-sync data; as a result, the Power Control Widget that I have gotten used to in Nexus Galaxy, S, Nexus 4, 5 and 7 became non-existent.  I find it so frustrating whenever Google engineers decide to remove features... Also, what happened to my LED pulse notification light?  According to this article, a hidden LED does exist but is currently disabled in favor of the Ambient Display notification feature (which I dislike). Another feature removed was older Android OS gives you some option when you power down (ie. power off, air plane mode, mute, vibrate, etc...), those shortcuts were handy... again removed without reason... or substitute.

2. Missing Key Hardware features... and this time, don't tell me its the cost cutting as the phone cost $649 and up out of pocket:  Google and Motorla, where is the MicroSDHC slot?  Where is infrared port? 

3. It's a big phone already, why skimp on the battery size... 3,220 mAh is IMHO barely big enough.  Why not go up to 3,500 or 3,900 and make the beast last two full days of med-heavy usage?  (Note, my personal usage has allowed the phone to last me 2 days so I can't really complaint, but under sub-optimal conditions like poorer receptions or lack of WiFi, I can't be confident that it can last 2 days.

I have had the phone for 3 days now and it is starting to grow on me despite the short list of complaints above.  The phone is fast, powerful, sharp and BIG!  I know the software portion may be addressed some day, so there is hope, but its too bad the hardware side is stuck as is.  When I reviewed the NEXUS 5, I tolerated missing features since Google subsidized some of the costs; with this one being full price; however for the price of this phone, it should have just come packing and give Samsung a run for the money.

How to setup a Brother Multifunction Wireless Printer/Scanner (MFC-L2700DW)

I don't usually do "tech support" articles.  But having recently upgrade to a new printer with one of the most confusing support documents and mis-informed description from manufacturer's website.  I figured I would do an article (and hopefully it gets indexed on Google) to help out the general public.

What Printer Did I get?  Brother MFC-L2700DW

Why did I choose this model? Because it met my criteria, see below:

Criteria 1:  Must be a laser printer, I am tired of ink jets drying on me when I need to use it at home.
Criteria 2:  Must have a scanner WITH a document feeder (so I can scan a pile of paper at once)
Criteria 3:  Must have Wireless (and Wired) Networking, the placement of my printer requires WiFi
Criteria 4:  Must be a dark colored printer (I hate white printers turning yellow over time)
Criteria 5:  Must be in the $100 range (this one is actually $129 at time of writing, reg. $180)
Criteria 6:  Must be not too big: its for home, so I don't want a ginormous tower in my room
Criteria 7:  Have the ability to scan or print from the cloud (Google Drive, DropBox, EverNote, etc.) ***This is where things got hazy.  According to Brother's website, this printer was listed under one of the ones that support their cloud service dubbed as Brother Web Connect.  (See picture evidence below taken at time of writing).  This is also the reason why I decided to write this post to help you setup your Brother and not get frustrated.  Earlier this morning, I finally heard back from Brother's tech support via email that they admit it was mistakenly labeled and this printer doesn't support Web Connect (I think only the fancier models with color LCDs have built in firmware to access Web Connect).

Lets get started, this will be the easiest setup guide to follow, 3 steps and you will be on your way to true bliss (and not having to spend 6 hours figuring it out):

1. Get printer on your network (Do this from the printer):
a. Wired (it should be a breezy, plug in the RJ45 cable from router)
b. Wireless WiFi (From printer menu go to: Menu>>6.Network>>2.WLAN>>3.SETUP WIZARD>>SSID>>WEP/WAP KEY)

2. PC or Mac Users:   You can download the Brother Driver and Software so you can connect your computer to printer.  Again two options:
a. You can get the driver only package for basic function or...
b. You can get the driver + software support so you can do fancier stuff...
I think driver package is enough... because the gravy is actually in the 3rd Step...  
3. If you have an Android or iOS device:  Please do your self a favor and download the Brother iPrint & Scan app (assuming the model of your Brother printer supports this feature).
In short, this app basically turns your phone or tablet into the missing "color LCD" or the Web Connect Software from this printer.  Its surprisingly easy to use and you can basically use it to operate the printer to Scan or Print to and from the popular cloud storage services.  The app itself can be linked to the various cloud services so you can print from the cloud, etc..  Just make sure both the printer and your device is on the SAME SSID or network.
4. Final Tip:  From any device (laptop, tablet, or phone), as long as you are on the same network, you can configure the printer's setting via a browser; just have to find out what internal IP address your router has assigned it to be, ie. http://192.168.1.5.  Once in, it gives a word of options to configure.

I am very pleased with this printer once I figured the last two tips.  I just wished the manufacturer's quick installation guide would have been written clearer to save me a few hours.  Well, here it is folks, I am transferring my hours of research for you.  Enjoy!

  
Brother Web Connect Solution for MFC-L2000DW Laser Printer

January 7, 2015

Motorola's Turbo Charger (Nexus 6) Demystified

If you are blown away by Google and Motorola's claim of 15 minute charge which restores 8 hours of play on the new Nexus 6, you must be wondering how it can be accomplished.

For starters, the "Turbo Charger" plug is in fact different, it is capable of sending more power than the standard 5V usb chargers.  According to this article, (and from what I can see from the text on the photos taken), the turbo charger has three levels of voltage outputs (other charger models may vary):
5V@1.6A(8W)
9V@1.6A(14.4W)
12V@1.2A(14.4W)
Now, I do not have any electrical background so please do not hold me to it, but my understanding is that the higher the voltage, the higher the "force" or "pressure" (think of a bigger pipe) electricity is being delivered); hence the ability to quickly replenish power to a drained battery.

All of this is based on a rebranded Qualcomm technology known as Quick Charge 2.0; which intelligently selects the voltage depending on how empty your battery is.  Somewhere I read in the comments that they do this to avoid over-heating the battery if you give it a constant high voltage charge.  Below, you'll find some reference by Qualcomm talking about this technology.  The really good news is that it seems like there are already devices supporting Quick Charge 2.0, but I think Google/Motorola is the one that really marketed in a big way (atleast enough for me to take notice).

Link 1 (Quick Charge 2.0 has arrived)
Link 2 (Quick Charge Partial Supported Device List)

Some of the devices currently supporting Quick Charge 2.0 are:
* HTC One M8
* Sony Xperia Z3
* Moto Droid Turbo
* Samsung Galaxy Note 4
* Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet

October 29, 2014

CVS, Rite Aid, MCX and Apple Pay, big drama of Mobile Payments

[Update: 10/29/14 4:45PM - MCX's CurrentC just got hacked, so far, it seems emails of people who signed up is taken; apparently, to sign up requires driver's license, SSN, etc...  yikes!]
Wow, the drama and development of this mobile payment story is getting more interesting by the day.  At first, CVS and Rite Aid was the social media punching bag (take a look at their respective Facebook pages, every comment there is extremely negative threatening to take their business elsewhere).  Engadget just reported from a different perspective which is that the contract MCX members signed prevents them from using rival technologies...

For those unfamiliar with MCX, its known as "Merchant Customer Exchange", their end product is known as CurrentC, which is a payment method designed to avoid credit card (or it's fees) by asking customers to link this payment type directly to their bank account.  In the end, retailers gets to save 2 to 3% from their credit card sales which, frankly speaking, can be quite significant.  They just need to figure a way out to "spin it" so customers feel like there is a big benefit.

While this technology is not yet to be rolled out, Apple Pay's launch must have tossed a major monkey wrench catching them off guard.  Keep in mind that Google Wallet has been trying to push for mobile NFC payment for a couple of years now and they've had minimal success.  Apple Pay is suddenly making everyone jump on the band wagon; I can certainly see why the folks at MCX decide to wave it's contractual terms at its members in a holding pattern or as Tim Cook puts it, its a "skirmish".

Here is the point of view I am taking from a consumer mobile experience stand point:
No. 1 - As a consumer, I do not give a shit about the 2% or 3% credit card fee retailers gripe about
No. 2 - As a savvy consumer, I enjoy the benefits of using my credit card as a). a layer to protect me and b). get some type of incentive back to me such as mileages, points, cashback, etc..
No. 3 - Do not take away choices or options; I love having options, the more the better; consumers work hard for their money, respect them enough to give them all the methods for payment
No. 4 - Retailers doesn't get consumers or mobile technology; here is a clear example of MCX retailers under estimate the power and reach of Apple and it's fan boys (aka consumers), still thinks it can engineer something to change customers minds...

I am curious to see how this story will develope and will the power of consumers get Apple Pay or Google Wallet back in their store.

October 17, 2014

Big Phones, Silly Technology!

I haven’t been very active lately on this blog, especially by way of opinion pieces.  But after the recent iPhone 6 and Nexus 6 announcements, I felt like the smartphone space has taken a drastic turn, enough to write or complain about it. So here we go.

How’d we get here
The physical size increase of smartphones are obvious; if I were to blame or credit the one company that started it all then it would be Samsung when it launched the “Galaxy Note” smartphone.  Right around that time, a slew of smartphones hits the scene with screen sizes larger than 4” (LG Optimus, Sony Xperia Z Ultra, Google Nexus Galaxy-4-5, LG G2, Samsung S4, S5, Moto X, Droid Razr just to name a few).

This Sh!t just got real
As mentioned earlier, the real shocker for me is when the two iconic giants Apple and Google both released their flagship phones with larger than life screen size without having any other choice for smaller options.  (I know iPhone 5s and Nexus 5 might stick around for a bit, but by definition, they are no longer flagship phones, see related post from Engadget). This, for me, is marking for the end of an era… going forward, if you want flagship devices, you better carry a purse, messenger bag or at-least wear cargo pants so you can carry the phone with you.

When Technology gets Silly
The irony here is that I’ve always believed technology is suppose to enhance our life.  Thinner/lighter laptops, flat screen TVs, cars with more power and mpg, etc.  While Smartphones have drastically improved our lifestyle, but going beyond 4” seems like we’ve peaked out and the larger sizes now start to create a problem.  Aside from not fitting in our pockets comfortably thus starting new etiquette discussion such as this one, the physics of leverage can easily stir up more potential for the “bending” iPhone 6+ if you did manage to squeeze these larger phones to your back pocket.


October 6, 2014

Where is my iPhone 6?

I needed an iPhone 6, unlocked, for research purposes.  Given the only option on the Apple Store is a "Contract Free" iPhone 6 as opposed to the "Unlocked or Sim Free" version which is previously available to the 4s, 5, 5s.

Anyways, I was happy to see Apple shipping out the device pretty quickly (faster than the 7 to 10 business days estimate), it only took 4 days to be shipped out, however, its taken quite the journey since then.  I used to recall a 2 or 3 day Fedex delivery, instead, the device has been on a long trip since Oct 2 out of China, its spent a few days in Korea hanging out and finally gets over to Alaska.  Needless to say, I find it a bit crappy for it to take longer for its shipping time than manufacturing time.  My best guess is that this has to do with minimize shipping "cost" and it is probably better for their P&L to have it shipped this method via UPS.

Once I received the phone, I will post a confirmation on whether this phone is unlocked as they say: here and here.

May 16, 2014

Nexus 7 (or Tablets in general) Battery Life Extension

The following tip is mostly for Android-based Tablets w/o a built in Data Modem (ie. WiFi only models).  I noticed if I turn on Airplane Mode but keep WiFi on which essentially works as normal, my battery life on a 2nd Gen Nexus 7 extends by a day or two while on standby.

I don't really know why this is but my theory is that Androids by default is written for Smartphones with Voice/Data modem and it probably has a bunch of processes and checks in the background to ensure the smartphone is working properly (ie. checking cell signal strong, etc.).  For a Wifi-only tablet, there is no need to keep those processes running, hence by turning on the Airplane mode and leave Wifi on, it disables all cell-phone or data modem related processes on the background.

I am currently testing this on an iPad, we'll see if iOS can benefit from such tip.

May 15, 2014

Affordable, Unlocked Smartphones in Abundance

Just a couple of years ago, to buy a smartphone, you have to sign away for a 2-year contract or spend $500-700 to buy one out right.  The ownership includes a costly monthly data plan and it was definitely considered a "luxury" item.  At that time, a premium device can run on BlackBerry OS, Windows Mobile, iOS or Android which is still pretty limited experience considering even two latter operating systems were still at its infancy and hardwares are still restricted (2G data, no front facing camera, lack of apps, etc.).

Yesterday, Motorola announced an update to the bargain-basement priced Moto G Google Edition phone (was $199, now $219 with 4G upgrade and MicroSDHC); as well as an even more economical model called Moto E at $129.

This is absolutely amazing news to consumers.  At the time of writing, Google Play Station has 6 unlocked, Google Play Edition devices.  Offering from LG, Samsung, HTC and Sony.  The prices are being lowered left and right.  Consumers have so many choices today without having the need to be tied to a contract.  And with T-Mobile leading the way in more affordable pre-paid or pay as you go plans.  We are really at an intersection of Technology and Affordability.  

Current Prices for Google Play Edition Phones (unlocked):
Google LG Nexus 5 - $349-$399
Sony Z Ultra - $449 (was $649)
HTC One M7 2013 - $499 (was $599)
Moto G - $179-$199 (New version coming soon at $219 with upgrades)
Samsung S4 - $649
HTC One M8 2014 - $699
Coming Soon Moto E - $129

This makes me happy because I genuinely believe Smartphones are empowering.  From information sharing, utility, traveling and productivity standpoint, it is changing the way we live our lives.  By having these affordable options available, I am glad to know the public have more options than ever before.