Tag Archives: android

What Makes the Nexus 7 So Great?

In my opinion, the best Android tablet on the market is the 2nd generation Nexus 7.
The hardware may be a little on the fragile side, but under normal use it won’t be a problem. Especially when you consider the advantages the Nexus 7 has over other tablets:

– It has the best display on the market.

– It has premium specs at a budget price.

– It gets updates to the OS immediately

These OS updates are great. Have you ever tried to update Android on another device. It’s a pain if it’s even possible. In the video below, check out how easy it is to update Android on a Nexus.

I received a notification that said System update downloaded, touch to install.

When I did, it let me know that this was the Android 4.3 System Update. There was a button that said Restart & Install…so I did, and the Nexus 7 did the rest.

The Nexus 7 is powered off and rebooted on its own, then it began installing the system update. It took several minutes, so be patient.  When it’s done installing it continued to boot for a few more seconds. The Nexus splash screen appeared for a few seconds as well. When the device is done booting, it will begin upgrading Android:
– First it will optimize your apps. The length of this step will depend on the number apps you have installed.
– Then it will start your apps, upgrade contacts and media databases, and finish booting.

…and that’s it. You can unlock your screen.

If you look in the notifications you’ll see that apps are still upgrading so your tablet may be a little sluggish until its done.

*Update Description:
This software update will upgrade your Nexus 7 to to Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, which improves performance and stability. Create restricted profiles, for example, to limit family members’ access to apps and  content on your tablet or to secure a tablet in kiosk setting. Capture your thoughts on the go with Google keep. To find out more, visit http://www.android.com/about/jelly-bean/

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Chromecast Setup & First Impressions

I purchased a Google – Chromecast HDMI Streaming Media Player from Best Buy for $35 and received 3 months of Netflix for free. Since I’m already a Netflix customer, they just credited $24 to my account.

I’m impressed by how small and simple everything about this device is…the packaging is attractive, the instructions are simple, and when you consider what its capable of, the Chromecast is tiny.

It’s just a dongle with a small button and micro USB port on the back, an HDMI connector in front and an LED indicator.

Back in the box we have a USB wall charger, an HDMI port extender, a micro USB to USB cable, and some tiny instructions.

Setup is easy. First, plug the Chromecast into an HDMI port on your tv. If the LED indicator doesn’t light up, you’ll need to attach the dongle to a USB port on the tv or an outlet. My tv’s USB port didn’t supply power, so I’m going to use the provided  charger to to plug it into an outlet.

Now that the  Chromecast is receiving power, the LED indicator will light up.

Next, switch your tv to HDMI input…and you should see the setup screen.

To set up the Chromecast, you’ll need a computer with the Chrome browser installed or an android device. We’re using a Nexus 7. Launch the Chrome browser. And you’ll be prompted to launch Google Play. The link will take you to the download page for the Cromecast app. Install the app. I had to give Google my phone number to proceed…

Now open the app and accept the terms.

Select Setup and allow your device to connect to the  Chromecast. Let your device know if you see the code on your tv. Now you can choose a name for your Chromecast.

Then you’ll have to put in your wifi password so the Chromecast can connect to your network.

Once it’s connected, you  can watch a tutorial or just finish setup. You’re still in the Chromecast app, so go back to the home screen and launch Netflix or YouTube.

Even though I couldn’t setup the Chromecast with an iOS device, I can still cast YouTube and Netflix videos from my iPad to the tv …in fact, you can cast from any iOS or Android device that’s logged onto your wifi network…no app is required.

We went my YouTube channel and tried playing one of my old video. When you press the cast icon you’ll be given the option to play the video on your device or on the tv. It just takes a few seconds for the Chromecast to start streaming video…at this point you can do other stuff on your device or just let it go to sleep…the Chrome cast takes care of streaming the video.

When your done casting, tap the icon and send the video back to your device.

Chromecasting works basically the same on both Android and Apple devices. One thing to note is that you’ll have a few more options on an Android device…like access to video playback controls from the drop down notifications menu and from the lock screen. That’ll make multitasking more convenient.

Overall, the Google Chromecast is a great value at $35.


Gadget Decisions

Update: I’ve decided to stick with my iPhone 5 for now, so I’m counting on Apple to design the smartwatch of my dreams…

I have a difficult tech decision to make: Apple or Android.

Rumor is that Samsung will be announcing the Galaxy Note 3 in September.

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I grudgingly sold my 1st gen Galaxy Note when it squirted out of my pocket and cracked the screen. I switched to an iPhone 5 because I like that the compact iPhone fits in my pocket and doesn’t pop out every time I move. However, I’m starting to miss all that you can do with the Note’s screen area and I really miss the S pen. So, I’ve been excited about the prospect of getting a Note 3.

Now Michael Tong from the Apple Byte over at CNet says that his sources are saying that Apple will be launching an iWatch sometime THIS YEAR!

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I have always wanted a good smartwatch – that means useful features and attractive design. I think Apple is most capable of delivering…but…it will be one more device locking me into the iOS ecosystem (I also have an iPad 2).

Decisions, decisions…at least I have some time to weigh my options.


eBay is a Gadget Fanatic’s Friend

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I think the Samsung Galaxy Note series of smartphones are the best phones ever made…for men…who wear cargo pants.

I ordered a Note the day it was released by AT&T and enjoyed using it as my phone/tablet for a year…until it fell out of my tiny little girl pockets onto a concrete floor and cracked the screen. The phone was still fully functional…but now it was UGLY!

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First, I consulted YouTube and watched several videos about screen replacement. I determined that replacing the screen myself was iffy and too expensive to risk it.

Next, I checked out eBay. I figured I could pick up a used Galaxy Note or SII, maybe even an SIII pretty cheap. Maybe not. Used phones were selling for more than $300 and ones with cracked screens…$200+

Finally, I knew what I had to do, what I always do, sell my old gadget on eBay and and get a new gadget. In this case I sold my Galaxy Note for $276 and bought an iPhone 5 for $200.

Now my only problem is deciding what gadget to get with the remaining $76.


Smart Watches!

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I’m a watch person…and I’m the kind of person that thought calculator watches were cool. So imagine my excitement when some of the early smart watches started appearing running Palm OS. Now imagine my disappointment when I saw one strapped to the arm of a grown man.

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An average size 1st grader has a larger wrist than me. But I REALLY wanted a watch with a touch screen interface and access to my calendar and todo list (I have memory issues).

Like many people, when the battery died on my watch a couple years ago I didn’t replace it, I started using my phone to tell time. But like I said, I’m a watch person, and all this talk recently about smart watches has me excited again. And they appear to be getting smaller…

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The previous generation iPod nano was attractive when paired with the right strap…

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…and Sony has a similar smart watch

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…but the clip makes it stand out from the wrist too far. Also worth noting, it’s not compatible with all android phones.

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Cookoo has a nice design, but I’ve seen one on a man’s wrist and it looked bulky.

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The Pebble Watch is the most intriguing prospect I’ve seen recently…

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…and it doesn’t look too bulky, does it?

I haven’t even begun to dig into the features of the various smart watches, so leave a comment if you have any advice about choosing one.


Equation Editors for the iPad (or Android Tablets)

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Last year I tried replace my laptop with an iPad. I’m a math teacher and I needed to be able to create and edit word documents that contained equations…lots of them. I found a few apps (like MathBot) that would allow me to create equations. The downside with these type of apps is that they are not word processors. You have to export each equation as a photo or PDF, then you have to paste it into a document you’ve created in another app, then you have to adjust the size and if you have several equations on the same page it is nearly impossible to get them all a uniform size. And there is no editing the equations once they’ve been exported.

It’s a lot of work, and the end product is not that great.

I continued to look for a word processor with a built-in equation editor. I nearly bought a Microsoft Surface RT because it came with MS Office, but the price ($599) convinced me to keep looking for a more affordable option.

I found the perfect solution: Refurbished iPad 2 ($319) + CloudOn (free).

CloudOn is an office suite with built-in equation editor, just like MS Office.

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It’s a web app, so you must have internet access, but finally there’s a productivity suite with a built-in equation editor. I’ve used it on an iPad 2 and a Nexus 7 and it works great on both tablets.

Check out my overview of CloudOn’s equation editor.


Google Drive – Spreadsheet and Docs on a Nexus 7

I wrote a post last summer describing my experience using the spreadsheet editor in Google Drive’s Android app. My opinion was that editing existing spreadsheets was acceptable, but creating new ones was not very intuitive.

However, the spreadsheet editor is now much more user friendly. Here are some screenshots of Google Drive on my daughter’s Nexus 7.

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I find thumb typing in portrait mode very comfortable on the Nexus 7.

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I prefer landscape view on an iPad, but on the Nexus 7, you can’t see much of the document.

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Google Drive has a very clean, attractive user interface.

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Here’s a YouTube video showing a Google Drive Spreadsheet on my iPad.

…and here’s a Google Drive Document on my iPad.