Sunday, 15 December 2013

Android 4.4 KitKat Hands On Review

Android KitKat was one of the most anticipated versions for 2013 due to the marketing strategy and other expected features.
Finally it was released in 1st week of November along with Nexus 5 release.

All Nexus 4 users, including me were waiting for the update since we heard about the new Google Now integrated launcher and ‘Okay Google’ stuff. But compared to other OTA updates, we had to wait for few weeks to get the Android 4.4 update. As usual, Indian users need to wait longer period and hence updated my device using Factory Image from Google Developer Site



Experience

What did I see after upgrade? UI was more or less the same with 4.2 launcher. But, the size of the apps are reduced significantly and also the RAM usage.

My battery was draining faster and it became better after rooting and installing Greenify. I have seen many complaints from user about the opaque notification bar and big icons are missing in Nexus 4.



There are links available to download ‘Google Experience Launcher’ or GEL which will give the Nexus 5 experience –
Swipe left to get Google Now
Google Search bar with ‘Okay Google’ option
Transparent status bar
Big icons

I also tried GEL and felt it was consuming lot of battery may be microphone will be listening all the time to hear ‘Okay Google’. Apart from that, no customization was possible including the desktop margins or changing the icons.



Then I heard about KitKat launcher, which gives similar UI with more customization –Icons can be changed (with same Nova/Apex icon packs), remove the search bar in the home screen, disable left swipe for Google Now and reduce the icon size.




What’s new in KitKat?

As far as I know, Google has made architectural changes in 4.4 to target devices with less RAM (even 512 MB). This will reduce the fragmentation issues since Android runs in both low end and high end devices. Ironically Google released few many versions of KitKat for various reasons

4.4 - 1st Factory Image - krt16o – 2nd week of November
4.4 - 2nd Factory Image - krt16s – November 3rd week – OTA version
4.4.1 – Patch – KOT49E - December
4.4.2 – Patch - KOT49E - December

Too many versions so far and it becomes difficult for other partners to start the rollout.

Now, let me move on to the features

1) Dialer – This is a significant improvement – UI looks clean, search and favorite contacts in 1 page. Also search is integrated with Google database to list the local yellow page (I don’t need to view the number in Chrome and copy paste, instead directly type ‘Taxi’ and view local vendors)



2) Hangout SMS – Hangout app will become the default SMS application and we can replace it with another SMS app. This is a nice feature since I don’t need to switch between 2 apps to send MMS and SMS



3) Setting default Home screen – minor change in the Settings screen to change the default launcher



4) ART – this is experimental stuff and may be running in beta or something; an option to switch the runtime between Dalvik and new Android Run Time. I did not find major difference in the performance since no graphic intensive apps are not installed in my phone.

ART Compatibility – All of my apps were compatible with ART except WhatsApp and it was resolved after updating 4.4.2

List of apps and status of compatibility - http://www.androidruntime.com/list

5) RAM – I was amazed to see the RAM usage after the upgrade; Nexus 4 has 2 GB RAM and only 400-450 MB was used by the background process. I have seen my friend’s Galaxy S3 that uses approx 1GB RAM and un-used Samsung process running in the background. I love Stock Android!!



6) Location preference – We can see the apps that use Google location data and can switch based on need – Device only / Battery Saving / High Accuracy (Navigation works with this option alone)



7) Lock Screen

Music widgets (Google Play Music, Tune-In Radio etc) in the lock screen looks great in the full screen view



8) Immersive mode

A new immersive mode is added in the library to view apps in the full screen without status bar and navigation bars. Only few apps like Google Play books have utilized the feature as of now.

Issues

I was lucky that I did not face the issues like – Google Dialer crashing / hanging and drastic battery drain (may be since I did not update via OTA)

Some of the minor issues faced are listed below

1) Media Server process – this process was running and battery was draining fast;

Followed below steps mentioned in Google Product Support Forums and I did not see the process again
A) Remove unwanted sync options – Currents, Google Play Music, Play Books, and TV etc

B) Stop the Google Currents process

C) Remove the dial and touchpad sound

2) Wi-Fi process – This process was running though I did not switch on Wi-Fi; switch off the “Scanning always available” option in the advanced Wi-Fi settings



3) Rooting

I was aware that after each update, root access of the phone will be lost due to the firmware changes. But, after updating 2nd factory image, I was getting error while opening superuser. Tried flashing zip file multiple times using Clockwordmod recovery and result was same. Finally found solution from Google+ to try TWRP recovery to flash the zip and issue was solved

Below is the superuser versions used in various KitKat versions

Version 1.65 - Sup...erSU-v1.65.zip –4.4 - Factory Image - krt16o
Version 1.75 - UPDATE-SuperSU-v1.75.zip – 4.4 - Factory Image - krt16s
Version 1.80 - UPDATE-SuperSU-v1.80.zip – 4.4.1 and 4.4.2

Conclusion

Overall it is a great experience to use KitKat; Nexus 4 became smoother and faster; Battery life got improved. I did not feel any change in the Camera app or quality of the pictures though I read it happened in Nexus 5.

So that was my hands on review about Android 4.4. Hope you enjoyed it. Please leave valuable comments and share with your friends. Happy New Year!!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Google Cloud Print Review - Amazing

Google introduced a new product this month called “Cloud print”. The beta version is available as and android and Chrome application.



Let’s see how we can leverage this technology

Concept
Google cloud print is created to connect printers on the web – to make home and work printers available for anyone around the world. This means I can take a picture in US and print in friend’s printer in India without e-mail and fax. Also this will work in phone, tablet, Chromebook.

Classic printers can be connected to make it available in the cloud with the help of Chrome - https://support.google.com/cloudprint/answer/1686197?rd=1

I was very excited to see the announcement and downloaded the app on 1st day in my Nexus 4. But I was not able to really test or enjoy the power since there is no printer in home and office printer is secured.

Now what happens if the Google Cloud print app is opened in phone?

Launch the app and it will show all printer jobs



Click on the pint button to choose a file – you can choose all storage applications - Google Drive, File manager, Gallery, Drop box etc



Once selecting the file, it will show all registered devices (including printers) - It did not make any sense to me at that point of time.



But today, I found out the use of the devices!!

If you make online payment, you will see the transaction message at the end along with Print button.

If you want to save these details, you can take a screenshot and e-mail to yourself for future reference. Otherwise it is possible to convert this to PDF using Chrome browser – find my previous blog for more details.
Now along with the PDF a new section appears – Google Cloud Print, in which I can choose all my devices. Select the device and the PDF will be transferred to the device (or printer too).



This is amazing. No screenshot, saving and sending to mail – just push to any devices with one click

So, what’s your story? Did you find real time benefits of the app? Please add your comments 

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Skype vs. Hangouts (Goodbye Skype and welcome Hangouts)


Hello everyone. Today I wanted to give a candid feedback about Google Hangouts after the 1st usage.



Before Hangouts - Skype
Flashback about my video chat using Skype to communicate with wife and kid, a year ago.


Skype was installed in my PC and Android version Samsung Galaxy Tab 2. Also Skype user name was created for both users.


It works well for one to one video chat as a free user, but the video goes off if I invite a third person and continue as audio chat.

Okay, no problem, I understood a free user deserves only thatL. Video clarity was also good when I was using Wi-Fi and broadband in both locations.

But things changed, replaced WI-FI with 3G (SIM card in TAB) due to various reasons and Skype started under-performing. Video was lagging behind the audio and most of the time 3G user goes offline and Skype tries to reconnect. It was bad experience!!

Things changed again, I moved the 3G connection to my mobile (HTC Desire) and used WI-FI Hotspot to connect my Tab. It was terrible experience since user goes offline every 5 seconds.

Advantages
Skype supports multiple platforms – Android, IOS, Blackberry, and Windows
It can act as calling card – paid users can make calls to any phone

Disadvantages
Separate account need to be created
It needs to be installed in all devices
Interface is not modern (chat window looks ugly)
No group video chat for free users
Video lag and connection issues for low bandwidth

Story about Hangouts
I started exploring about Hangouts (part of Google +) from last few months since I heard it supports multi user video chat. I did not get a chance to try out due to reluctance from users to use Google +.


Finally Google announced in IO 2013 that they are replacing Google Messenger and Google talks with single app Google Hangouts. The app made available for both Android and IOS and it became major rival for Facetime, BBM (Blackberry is planning to launch android version soon)

Cool stuff – all conversations are stored in cloud and it will sync across all devices and we can have never ending conversations. It is not necessary to install app in PC, the browser can be used to start conversation, which is also quite convenient

Today I tried video call using Hangouts – one end in Chrome and other in Galaxy Tab2. It worked perfectly even in 3G and WI-FI tethering. No video lag and connection issues.

It can also replace other messaging apps – Viber, Whatsapp etc. As of now, there is no SMS feature, but it is most requested feature – can be anticipated soon

Advantages
Google account can be used to sign in
Browser also can be used to start chat
Data resides in cloud and it can sync across devices
Never ending conversations
Group video chat and users can also share any video in the chat
No video lag and works in low bandwidth

Disadvantages
No phone call options
Volume was bit low compared to Skype

So, that’s it. My 1st hangout and I really enjoyed it. Please try it out and hope you will also enjoy the experience.
Comments are always welcome

Thanks for reading



Monday, 4 March 2013

Firefox OS – another Mobile OS


Here comes another OS for smartphones to compete IOS, Android, Windows 8 and Blackberry OS. Is this a game changer? Let’s see the details

There is something interesting about this OS though the news did not excite me being a hardcore Android fan and user. Firefox OS is a Linux based open source OS developed by Mozilla that can integrate HTML 5 applications directly with hardware using JavaScript. The OS and apps are fully built based on the powerful features of HTML 5.

The concept of the OS is similar to Google Chromebook, treating website as apps, runs without native code. Also similar to Chrome OS, Firefox is a web browser running top of Linux.

HTML 5
Now the question comes about HTML 5. Is it powerful enough to replace Java or C++ and build entire mobile eco system? There was news about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s comment about HTML 5, that it is not ready and Firefox made a big mistake by choosing HTML 5. HTML 5 developers took this challenge and created an app called Fastbook, which was extremely faster than IOS and Andropid versions of Facebook native app. 

Have a look at the video - http://vimeo.com/55486684. One thing which stopped me developing android app was Java and HTML 5 is a good start to create some since it’s extremely simple.

Architecture

Different layers of Firefox OS are

Gonk: - Middleware, which contains Linux kernel + Software Libraries + Hardware abstraction Layer à Runs on top of mobile chipset and drivers
Gecko: - Application runtime, which implements HTML 5 + CSS + JavaScript
Gaia: - User interface which includes Home screen + Application launcher


Devices
Sony has shown the guts to experiment with Firefox OS and launched Experia E for developers. Also the 1st smartphone should be released by July 2013, first in South Africa, and later to Asian and European markets (good that they choose African country to avoid competing with latest and powerful OS versions – Android 4.2 and IOS 7). Also Mozilla is working with other manufacturers – Alcatel, LG, ZTE and Huawei


Issues
Security will be a main concern since there is no native code and hackers started targeting smartphones these days.

The End
So, is this a game changer? I don’t think so at this point of time. Even though HTML 5 is good, not sure if it can create all apps available in Android, IOS and Windows 8. Anyway, it’s good as a develop to create few apps and explore the smartphone development



Reference



Saturday, 29 December 2012

Why Google Chrome is better than Internet Explorer - Chrome vs IE

It’s been more than a year I’m using Chrome and never wanted to go back to days of IE. I have recommended this to many friends and they had similar experience

Why I like or feel Chrome is better? Here are the reasons that I have explored so far (comparing Chrome 23 with IE 8)

1) Chrome is lightweight and fast

I can feel the difference while launching the browsers: - IE have a lag and it’s very bad in my office due to so many restriction rules written, entire browser hangs up). Auto-complete feature is awesome in Chrome and we can customize this with any search engines. See the results in 2 browsers when typing “fl”

In Chrome

In IE 8


Chrome is powerful while booking railway tickets. All Indians who have traveled in train will know how difficult to get TATKAL tickets since millions connect at the same time. Though I don’t have any proof or know the reason, Chrome is better for TATKAL tickets (Go to Settings – Advanced Settings – Disable “Predict network actions to improve page load performance”). Chrome will wait for longer time to get the page rather than giving 403 errors


Print – Chrome allows me to download as PDF, while IE gives me no-printer error (very helpful when i dont have printer with me)

In Chrome

In IE 8

2) Tabs & copy text

These are 2 small but useful features

Tabs in chrome can be easily separated from main window, no need to start a new window. 

Copy text - Its very easy to copy a part of text from paragraph in Chrome :- select the text and press right arrow to highlight and this does not work in IE

3) Favorites / Bookmarks

This is my one of the favorite feature in Chrome. Adding to bookmark is very easy – click on star icon on the top of the page. Once bookmarked, the yellow star will be shown in Chrome. There is no way to know a bookmarked page in IE. The bookmark manager interface is also really cool in Chrome

In Chrome

In IE 8

4) Downloads

Another unique feature, all downloads can be viewed and managed in single window. Even we can pause the individual file downloads and prioritize. Also I can set the destination folder to avoid the target confirmation on each download



5) Multiple Account

You can add multiple Google accounts and manage all personal data including history, bookmarks etc. I explored this feature after hearing regular complaint from my wife about difficulties in using IE.

Steps to add and switch account 

1) Click on top right icon and go to Settings
2) Navigate to Users tab
3) Click on Add New User - enter Google account name and password
User icon will be visible on left top corner


4) Select the icon to switch to different account


6) Incognito window

Good one if you want to browse without leaving history behind

7) Web store

Unique feature – can play games like angry birds, cut the rope by visiting Chrome web store and adding them to my browser


Chrome is dong well in smartphones too - it was one of the top downloads in Apple store after the launch. Its compatible in Android 4.0 + devices and loving it in my tab 

So, that’s my experience. Have you tried Chrome and felt the same difference? Or did you find more useful features of Chrome? Feel free to write your comments… Thanks for reading

Chrome in playstore
Official Chrome blog

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Best movies and songs of 2012


My blog was started for TES – Technology Entertainment and Science. But I did not do justice to entertainment since I have written only 1 article in that.
Let me compromise a bit – an article about my favorite movies and songs in 2012 - which I never want to miss. Some of them may have released before 2012, but I’ve heard them this year and thanks to my music freak cousin for sharing most of them
Also it is my personal opinion and I don’t discount other songs and movies at all

Try the songs and movies listed (if you haven’t done yet) – hope you will enjoy it!!

Songs


1) Deshay Basara – Moroccan Arabic – BGM in Dark Knight rises –Music by Hans Zimmer
Entire OST and BGM is rocking and this one is the best...gives you goosebumps for sure 
2) Nenjukkulle – Tamil – from Kadal movie – sung by new singer Shakthisree Gopalan
Truly marvelous and the well presented in the MTV unplugged - 



3) Allah hi raham – Hindi – MTV Coke Studio – sung by Shankar Mahadevan
This song was out in 2011, but I heard it along with Coke Studio 2 – truly remarkable singing – no words about Shankar – he is a genius who can sing Hindustani and Classical - 



4) Madari – Hindi - MTV Coke Studio – sung by Vishal and Sonu Kakkar
Excellent presentation by Vishal and superb guitar - 



5) Banjara – Hindi - MTV Coke Studio – Vijay Prakash and Nandini
After hearing this, you will understand Vijay is an unsung HERO – classical portion is amazing - 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0fo6pjsiIQ



6) Yeh jo des – Hindi - MTV unplugged – sung by the maestro Rahman itself
The original was my favorite till Swades – he improvised it – mind blowing - 



7) I believe – Hindi/English - The DEWARIST – sung by Agnee , Parikarma and Shilpa
Inspiring lyrics , nice blend of guitar and voice - 



8) Sail – English - AWOLNATION
Heard this song along with Felix baumgartner’s space jump – song is amazing and well suited with the mission –



9) Gangnam Style – Korean – sung by PSY
Wow…this was a surprise of 2012, the song was a instant hit, millions of views – the song proves music will break all barriers – any age group can enjoy this and PSY taught us simple dance step too –



10) Subhan Allaha - Malayalam - Ustad Hotel - sung by Navin Iyer
Amazing song with Sufi and classical blend –
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4P7Qe4kBxg



11) Pareshaan - Hindi - Ishaqzaade - sung by Shalmali Kholgade
Nice song with rock blend

12) MTV Coke Studio Season 2 – whole program is amazing - 

13)  MTV Unplugged Season 2 – Rahman’s episode – I like the program but Rahman was outstanding – compilation was really cool -

14) Kyon – Hindi – Barfi – sung by Papon and Sunidhi
Another superb song from Papon - he deserves more songs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_axhnqa9D8



Movies

1) The Dark Knight Rises - English - directed Christopher Nolan
2nd best of triology - what a way to end an epic -
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1345836/



2) Gangs of Wasseypur - Hindi - directed by Anurag Kashyap
A masterpiece - Godfather's indian version -
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1954470/



3) Paan Singh Tomar - Hindi - directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia
Class acting by Irfan Khan -

4) Barfi - Hindi - directed by Anurag Basu
Loved because of Ranbir's acting and screenplay

5) Pizza – Tamil – directed by Karthik Subbaraj
Expect the unexpected!! – Different experience –

6) Ustad Hotel – Malayalam – directed by Anwar Rasheed
Superb movie – awesome background music and powerful performance by late Thilakan
There was also number of superb movies includng 22 Female Kottayam and Spirit..but this is special because of Thilakan's performance



Last One - Zeitgeist 2012  
2012 happenings – video compilation – really amazing

So, do you agree with my choice ?? Please post your opinion and comments... 

Hope there will be good music and amazing movies in year 2013 … Happy New Year J