Phone Apps & Disasters

I’ve been home for the past few days, taking time off for the holiday before heading back out of town. Before I came home, my wife called and asked if we should purchase one of those systems where you can turn your lights on and off no matter where you are in the country. Seems you buy those things from your cellphone carrier, and ours is Verizon. It sounded good to me, so she bought it before I came home.

My apps with Todos
Creative Commons License Nicholas Volodimer
via Compfight

As I talked about when I wrote about my Franklin Planner, I do well with lists. When I got home I put together a list of all the things I had to get done before I left town. This item wasn’t on my list, but luckily my wife had put it on her list. So, Monday night her alarm went off and it was time to load this sucker.

The first step involved deciding which 3 rooms we’d hook this thing up in. In 3 boxes were these big plug things (aren’t I descriptive?) that you put into the socket and then plugged a light into it. We decided to try 2 rooms first, since the other lamp she wanted to use needed a new bulb. That part went pretty smooth and the lights were turned on.

The next part involved downloading some software to our phones called WeMo by Belkin. The instructions in the box said to download the software, or app, and just follow the instructions.

The instructions were pretty simple. I downloaded the app, then went to my settings to see if each unit was showing under the WiFi area, and they were. All you do after that is open the app, put in your router password, and it would do the rest.

Unfortunately, the rest never came. My phone kept trying to find the server… actually that’s not quite accurate. It kept trying to load one of the things we’d plugged into the wall as the server. And it was failing miserably. I tried it on my wife’s phone; nothing doing. I thought maybe if I did one plug at a time that maybe it would work better, but not only didn’t that work, it still saw both units even after unplugging one.

And that’s not all. After trying to get this thing working for maybe 30 minutes I decided to take a break from it and, noticing that someone had sent me a message on Instagram, wanted to check that out. However, the phone was telling me I had no internet connection. When I went into my settings I saw that this WeMo thing had overridden my settings and made itself the primary router over my real primary router. When I tried to change it… I thought I heard an evil laugh as it refused to acquiesce to my demands.

Alachia Does Droid 2
alachia via Compfight

Eventually I remembered how to get into all apps, find that bad boy, and disable it so it wouldn’t bother me the rest of the night. Tuesday afternoon my wife and I trouped up to the Verizon store to see if we did anything wrong. The guy we got said that it can be tricky and that it had taken him almost an hour to figure out how to get it working; really? He said he couldn’t do anything in the store because it had to be activated where the lights were, and to try it one more time. We left unsatisfied, but what can you do?

We got back home and I decided to start from scratch and uninstalled the program. Before reloading it however, I finally looked at the ratings, only to see that it averaged less than 2 1/2 stars; that’s not good. After reading a few of the reviews I called my wife into my office and read many of them to her. We both decided it wasn’t worth the grief, I uninstalled it from her phone, and we took those plugs back Tuesday late afternoon for a full refund; just to let you know, the plugs were $50 each.

Of course the recommendation is to always look at the stars and read through reviews of things before you download them to your smartphone, just like you should before you download programs to your computer. In this case, since it went through Verizon, my wife and I thought it had to be legitimate because, after all, they’re a large company.

As we left the store last evening I remembered that probably half the apps in both the Google Play store and Apple’s store are bad and haven’t been checked by anyone because of the volume. Had I been with my wife when she bought the thing I’d have hoped I would have asked questions beforehand and checked it out online so we could have made a better decision earlier; it certainly would have saved a lot of time.

How many of you have made purchases of things that you should have checked out before you did so? What about bad apps on your phones that gave you grief? I know I’m not alone; go ahead, admit it. 😉
 

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5 More Android Apps I Recommend

Continuing on a theme I’ve been on for some of the last few posts, the last time I talked about Android applications I’m using that I liked was December 2011; man, I’m slow in getting back to stuff, but at least this time I’m not as far from the last time.

Multi-Touch
Creative Commons License DaveLawler via Compfight

I know for sure that 4 of these I downloaded independently; the last one I’m not so sure about. I know I’ve written about #4 here, but it earns a second mention:

1. Dropbox I have to admit that I was really hesitant to add Dropbox. Sure I had added Evernote, but I wasn’t moving any large files or personal files to it, just some notes and such. But an organization I belong to wanted all of its directors to set it up, and I did and it’s been a godsend.

How? Most of you know I’m working out of town. Over the winter I’ve been staying out of town almost an entire month, then going home for a long weekend. I’ve always needed stuff, and finally I decided to move all my written files, all my web files, and a host of other files over. Then the other day my wife called me while I was leaving work for lunch and was frantic because she didn’t have a couple of files she needed. I had them in Dropbox so I pulled them up, and you can email files from Dropbox. She had them in a minute; catastrophe solved.

Here’s the thing. It’s free, and the more things you add to it so you can access it, such as your computer, laptop, smartphone and, for me, my Nook, the more free space you get. You can also pay for 100 GB at a nominal rate. And if you get other people to download the software via your link, you earn 500MB per person, up to 16GB of space. I don’t know if that’s forever but hey, here’s my link if you want to download it or check it out; help a brotha out! 🙂

2. WatchESPN Y’all know I’m a Syracuse Orange sports fan. I’m also in the south right now. Because they’re a top flight team I’ve been able to watch many of their games on ESPN, but not all of them.

The WatchESPN app lets you watch any game for any sports that ESPN happens to cover for free online via their app. So the night Syracuse beat North Carolina State with a final steal and scoring with 9 seconds left, I was sitting at a desk in my hotel room watching it in high definition on the Nook; life doesn’t get better than that.

3. Flixster I hadn’t paid any attention to having a Flixster account previously. I knew I had an Ultraviolet account, but at some point they must have merged. Anyway, turns out that I have 2 digital movies that I can watch either on my smartphone or on the Nook, and I can add more via streaming from their site or purchasing the digital rights via Barnes & Noble. Here’s one more thing; if you purchase any movie anywhere and it offers you a digital copy, you can hook it up so you can watch it on your platforms without having to find someone to crack the software… not that I know anyone who knows how to do that anymore (cough).

4. Instagram I wrote about this in June 2012 once it was finally available for Android and I still love it. Not only can I share my pictures with others but if I don’t have it downloaded to my computer I can link my own pictures to my blog via a link. Also, it’s a great way to store pictures if you want to download them to your computer or other platforms later on. And now you can upload 6 second videos, although for the life of me I can’t seem to figure it out; oh well…

5. DU Speed Booster I was having problems getting a couple of apps to work on my phone one day and I happened to come across an article in PC World Magazine about this one. It runs optimization processes on your smartphone (they don’t have it for the Nook so I don’t know if it’ll work on the iPad) that not only helps to resolve conflicts, but clears out all those extra files for whenever you upload, download, or update programs and other apps. It’s fast and speeds up your smartphone at the same time.

There you go, a recommendations post and, funny enough, post #1,499 on this blog. I wonder what’s coming up next…
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mitch Mitchell

What Technology Do You Own To Access The Internet?

Today’s post is something a little different. Who am I kidding; all my posts are a little something different. 🙂

In this case I’m asking a question, which you’ve already seen above. I ask it because I’m not the guy who’s on the cutting edge of technology anymore. As time goes on and priorities shift, there’s just too much stuff that costs too much for me to keep up with.

Hipster
Creative Commons License Joel Bedford via Compfight

I wasn’t always like this; then again, I didn’t have to be. I used to know all the computer brands, how much RAM they had, the technical specs of monitors and all the accessories; I was the guy to come to.

Where am I now? I still know enough about regular computers to be dangerous, and I can compare specs on laptops. And that’s where most of what I know ends. And yet, there’s so many more things people have and can do in accessing the internet.

I have a smartphone, a HTC Thunderbolt that’s already out of style. It’s big and wonderful and yet they don’t even make batteries for them anymore; it’s just over 18 months old. Two months ago, when I went looking for a battery, I was told they stopped making them 6 months ago, which means I have to order them online; what the hey? Is technology supposed to pass us by that fast?

Last year I bought my wife a Nook Color, and luckily they still sell that, along with the Kindle Fire But there’s so many other things that are on the market that I know nothing about. I have seen an iPad, but only twice ever; what’s that about? Last night a friend of mine showed me, online, her new tablet, the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity. I didn’t even know who made these things besides Apple, Panasonic and Samsung; isn’t that a shame?

I know I’m only touching the surface, so I thought for once I’d ask you what you have, why you like it (or them), and whether you got what you wanted or what something else. I’m feeling like an old guy here; sigh…
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Mitch Mitchell

Instagram For Android

Some years ago I went to a Syracuse University football game with my friend Josh when they were playing a team they had better have beaten, which they did. There was one guy who pretty much lost his mind on every play, whether the team was playing offense or defense, and at one point Josh decided to take the guy’s picture on his phone and upload it… somewhere. I thought “how cool is that”, and wanted to do that sort of thing one day, but I didn’t have a smart phone.

picture on Instagram
One of my
Instagram pictures lol

Last May, I finally got my first smartphone, but found the transition from a regular cellphone for more than 15 years to a smartphone kind of daunting, so I decided to take my time before figuring out which image service I was going to use. It took me a long time, probably 9 months, before I finally decided which way to go.

I decided to go with Instagram for Android, since it had just come out, because there were so many iPhone users that were talking it up so much that I figured it had to be relatively easy to use. I found that it was easy enough, but that there were also some things associated with its use that, if you don’t know about them, will throw you off.

For instance, it probably took me 3 or 4 days to figure out how to take a picture with it. I thought it would work like Barcode Scanner where you just opened the program and it would open up the camera so you could take your picture. Instead, it opens up and you see this little toolbar at the bottom with 5 things on it, and the one in the middle activates the camera.

The second thing I learned is that you’re going to end up cropping your image in some fashion, which pretty much means you have to adjust your image on the fly to the proper size if you want to get it all into the picture. That is, unless you want to take the time to take lots of pictures of the same thing or start adjusting, realize it’s not right, and start over again. I’ve figured this one out; don’t get too close to your subject and you’re probably going to be good to go.

Cropping is pretty much one-dimensional; you’re going to end up with a square and that’s that. You can move your square around, but that’s the best you’re going to get.

The thing I’d read about that a lot of photographers didn’t like were these filters that you’re offered once you’ve cropped your picture. I tested them, as there’s your normal picture then 3 other choices, and frankly I can’t imagine why anyone would ever want to use the filters because they all make your picture look surreal; well, maybe that’s why you’d do it, but what’s the point of doing it on your phone?

The last thing you get to is what your picture is going to look like and where you want to send it. I send my pictures to Twitter, Facebook or both, and that’s pretty much it. There’s this GeoTag thing you can select if you want to let the camera tell people where you are, but I have that setting off by default; I don’t like being tracked, as you know. You also have an space above where you can type in your message; is has to be somewhat short if it’s going to Twitter to get your entire message in but if it’s going to Facebook only I guess you could probably write a book.

You’d think that would be that, but it’s not. Turns out that instagram.com is only a site promoting the app; you can’t see your pictures there, which threw me off. A quick question on Twitter brought a response saying to go to Webstagram (make sure you look at the link; you can’t type in what you think) and set up an account there, which is what I did, and then I could see all my uploads, which works great because now if I so choose I can download my images from there to use in blog posts later on instead of having to keep everything on my phone.

Now you’d think that was all there is but once again I turned out to be wrong. Just last week I found out that people can, and will, subscribe to your picture page. I started noticing the Instagram icon at the top of my smartphone, in the area where it’s usually showing things that are running, and I wondered why. I clicked on it and it told me I had messages and likes; really? I went to check it out and indeed, I not only had messages but there’s more than 40 people following me; wild! I decided to follow one person so far and we’ve talked about a couple of her pictures here and there. That’s an interesting social media benefit that I have absolutely no idea how to really use, and I’m going to have to think about this one some more.

If you’re predisposed to want to check out some of my images, you can go to my Webstagram link, and you can even follow. One of the people, someone I know locally, said I seem to post a lot of pictures of food. Hey, it’s what I like to comment on! 😉

Now you know what I know about it; if you have any tips you’d like to tell people, please go ahead.
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Mitch Mitchell

5 Things I’ve Learned About My Smartphone

As some of you know, I now have a smartphone. Man, do I feel old! Actually, I’m getting younger every day because it seems like every day I learn something new about it and thus I have these daily surprises that aren’t all that depressing.

I know there’s still a lot of people that don’t have smartphones, and it’s just possible that I’ve learned something that people with smartphones don’t know yet. I doubt that second one, but who knows, right? I figured this was fodder enough for a top 5 things post, so here we go:

1. These suckers run through battery power like whales eat krill. Initially it was like we’d charge the things all night and by 5PM we were down to our last bar, whether we’d done almost anything or not. Turns out there are apps for that (man, what commercial is that phrase in?) to help at least a little bit. One is called Open Advanced Task Killer. The other is called Juice Defender. None of them are perfect, but they have helped to a degree.

2. Some apps you just can’t get rid of. There’s a lot of junk on these suckers that comes pre-packaged. Unlike with computers, where you can delete it all, if it came with the phone it’s staying with the phone. Now, one might think that’s not all that problematic; unfortunately it is because…

3. Apps are always running, whether you’re using them or not. And even if you use the ATK I talked about above, it only temporarily shuts down apps. Now, if you downloaded something and turn that off it stays off, but all the other stuff already on there is always running, always consuming some of your battery power. The weasels!

4. You have to get a cushion of some kind to put around your phone. My wife and I got these little rubbery things to put on ours. You’re not necessarily putting it on for protection. You’re putting it on so you don’t accidentally keep clicking on stuff on the top and sides that you just can’t avoid otherwise. The other day I got a phone call from a friend of mine, only she didn’t mean to call me. She’d sent me a text, then set the phone down but accidentally hit the button to call me. My cell recorded about 4 minutes of whatever was going on in her car before it disconnected; I’m just glad she didn’t say anything bad about me. lol

5. It’s wonderful being able to access the internet wherever you are. Wow, how great is this? I can find out where places are, look up things that I can’t fully remember but have on the tip of my tongue, get directions, access websites, etc. I’m on one of those unlimited plans that I hear might be going away, and I hope I get grandfathered in. It’s just the neatest thing; I never thought I’d care but now it seems I do.

That’s all I have; what say you?

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 Mitch Mitchell