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March 15, 2016

Project Fi Update

After a couple of days of usage, I have some updates.

1. As seen from the image here, the LTE speed from my apartment is pretty AWESOME.  76mb down and 30mb up is faster than my FIOS network at home.  I am loving it so far.

2. I use a 3rd party text app called TEXTRA, for now it seems to have trouble with MMS setting (my guess is that it has to do with the fact that the app doesn't know how to behave amongst two potential networks).  For now, I switched back to the default messenger app.

3. Google's WiFi Assistant is great at finding reliable and secure network connections to save you on the data network, I found a handy reference here to show you what each icon means, including the little "key" icon which stands for trusted wifi net

March 13, 2016

Project Fi, Here I come.

"Wow, you've been with AT&T since atleast 2006, possibly longer since my system only goes back that far..." said an AT&T Contract Specialist during an intro conversation when I told them I am going to cancel my plan with them.

I've been with AT&T for a long time, since the Cingular/BlackBerry 8500 series days... by my estimation, I've been with them for approx. 12-14 years.  Since the iPhone 3G era, I've primarily kept an unlimited data plan of $25 + $5 SMS plan for as long as I can remember.  AT&T grandfathered me in the unlimited data through its EDGE, 3G, UMTS, 4G, HSPA, HSDPA and the eventual LTE bandwidth evolution.  I managed to leverage free tethering via Google Nexus Devices and was okay paying approx. $75/month after all the bullshit fees and taxes thrown at us consumers.  All was "well" until my Nexus 6 arrived and suddenly AT&T's provisioning for tethering kicked in; I had to let go of my unlimited data plan for "choose your data" plan.  In the interest of saving some money, I opted for a 2GB plan w/ rollover and was paying about $65/mo. after fees.

I had heard about Google's Project Fi from my company's ex-CTO when he was invited to join early on.  I received an invite shortly after but sat on my ass because I was too lazy to be bothered with.  Recently, I have been thinking a lot of all of the recurring monthly expenses (cable, cell phone, parking, etc. etc.) and when I read about Project Fi is now open to public, I started to look into the benfits and decided that I'd give it shot.

By now there are tons and tons of reviews on Project Fi, so this post is not intended as a review for Project Fi, I will only go over the rational that I went through which help me decide it could work for me:

  • In the past, I preferred AT&T being that it is the best GSM network within the US, and works aboard; Google knowing T-Mobile or Sprint's network along cannot compete in terms of coverage so they combined the ability to switch between the two... I figured it's worth a shot in terms of coverage... we'll see.
  • I travel abroad once a year and have lots of friends and family aboard; Project Fi works well with 120 countries.  From the US, you can text internationally for free.  While abroad, data is charged the same as domestic at $10/GB and calls are around $0.20 per minute.  Compared to the AT&T international Data plan  of 200MB at $30 and the 50 SMS for $10 I was paying, this is a huge benefit.  I like knowing that I have this flexibility.
  • Monthly fee is determined by me; and I aim to do so at $30 ($20 basic + $10 @1GB Data); I have Wifi at my residence and work; and I live in one of the most WiFi abundance city in the world.

Now I know going with Project Fi changes the way I fundamentally operate, I no longer have the bragging rights of "unlimited data" to stream and do crazy mobile things independently.  I also happened to be paying for a couple of ISP plans on my own dime plus where I work, I have access to WiFi.  As a consumer, I have to wise up or pay the ultimate price since every company out there seems to think its okay for a consumer to repeatedly paying for ISP services (ie. don't get me started on car commercials that boast about cars have 4G LTE wireless network built me).

Its worth while noting that this is one of Google's recent (and noble) attempt at disrupting the telecom ecosystem; this reminds me of the early 2000's Google where they just come in and say lets reinvent the way we do things (ie. Google Maps, Google Talk, Google Reader, Google Voice, NEXUS phones for $300, etc, etc.).  I miss this Google, please give me more of this Google.

Before I go, I want to mention a couple of things worth noting; Project Fi seems to be an evolution to the Google Voice system; if you decide to sign up, you can choose to use your existing Google Voice number (if you have one) or you can port in your own phone number.  If you choose the latter, Project Fi will tell you that you will forfeit your existing Google Voice number.  Have no fear, because the wisdom of Internet told me that you can forward that number to a different Google Account (which I did).  That said the porting process was pretty easy as well.  1. You enter all of your existing telecom information on Project Fi while you wait for your Project Fi SIM card to arrive, 2. Call your telecom to tell them you want cancel your plan, plan to spend some time here as they will try to plead with you by offering $5 offer or some other insulting amount, 3. Once your SIM card arrives, plug it into your NEXUS device (oh, by the way, it only works with Nexus devices for now) and for me, within 1 hour, the number was ported and I was ready to rock!

Last tip!  One of the best reviews I came across thus far was from Venture Beat.  They tipped their readers off on some poor indoor call quality as it relates to the default Wifi-Calling feature which can be turned off.  So please do that and enjoy the calls!

So far, everything is going to plan.  I will report back if I have more things to say (or to gripe).

December 19, 2015

USB Type C - What a magnificent pain in the ass!

USB consortium's latest Type C cable is the future of USB.  It transfers data much faster, draws up to 3A of power for super fast charging and is perfectly symmetrical in every way (plug designs and both ends).  But what happens when you get a new phone that is USB Type C.

As it turns out, it is a huge pain in the ass.  If you are like me, then you have outfitted your house, car, office and backpack with an abundance of USB type-A adapters, car chargers, and cables.  Well, you might as well trash all of these cables since USB type-C doesn't work with them.

While Amazon does offer a ton of accessories like Type-A to Type C adapter dongle or adapter cables and car chargers, you are never sure if these generic manufactures are giving you something up to spec, according to Google's very own engineers, we should steer clear of generic brands.

Assuming you are okay with buying new Type-C cables at $19 to $29 a pop, you still have to invest in adapter dongles so it can be plugged into your computer and existing USB Type-A plugs. 

Oh, and thanks to the genius at Google that omitted the Qi charging technology in their latest Nexus 5x and 6p offerings, it also rendered my collection of wireless charging pads useless.

I guess I will hang on to my Nexus 6 for a while longer until the USB Type-C cables step up in quality and step down in price... 

September 23, 2015

Qi Wireless Charging is Going Strong?

When wireless charging was introduced back when Google released NEXUS 4, I wasn't really sure if it would stick around. Very few manufacture support it (Nokia had it, Samsung supported it but required customers to upgrade their battery cover on their own dime).  I invested in a couple of chargers but they were generally expensive ($30-50 range).  Personally, I find it to be extremely convenient and having a charger at home and work makes sure my phone is always charged because I simply set it down on the charge pad when not in

I have recently taken notice on the increased awareness and availability in Qi Wireless Charging.  Could it be that this format of charging is going strong?  Take a look for your self:

1. Regular Qi-Charging device can be had for less than $15 these days, take a look on Amazon or other stores


2. Toyota announced their 2016 redesigned Tacoma features Qi charging, I then discovered a host of other Toyota vehicles support it as well including the 2016 Avalon and Camary.


3. IKEA announced a series of their furnitures and lamps supporting the Qi Wireless Charging standards.  Thats huge support in the Qi Wireless standard as they are now integrated to their affordable furniture for the masses.


4. More new or random appliances are now integrating Qi Charging.  I stumbled across two in the past 48 hours which is what prompted me to write this entry.  Take a look at this pretty cool looking OLED desk lamp called AERELIGHT with Qi Charger as well as a JBL speaker system with built in NFC and Qi charging.

August 13, 2015

Smartphones in Cuba

I just watched a news segment on CNBC titled "Smartphone for Offline Use" which talks about the current state of affairs for Cubans and smartphone usage.  Report states that they are buying slightly older smartphones like the Galaxy S4 for $360; due to the lack of wireless internet coverage and it comes with:

  • Pre-loaded World Wide Map
  • Pre-loded Wikipedia Content
  • (I am guessing its off contract) 

My conclusion:  Cubans are actually ahead of us in terms of practical smartphone experience!

While I understand having reliable 3G/4G connection is a privilege, I can't tell you how much I resent the movement from Google or Apple to force us to be depend on said internet connection.  If you have ever caught yourself in a position where your phone is rendered useless because there is no connection (ie. rural, woods, camp sites, airplane), you'll know what I mean!

Smartphones should be able to operate without internet connection; otherwise its just a dumb phone.

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.  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):
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