Equip

First Impression: Automatic Smart Driving Assistant

I had been keeping an eye on Automatic Labs’ Automatic Smart Driving Assistant for some time, after seeing their announcement of IFTTT support and a $20 discount on Best Buy’s eBay store, I decided to take the plunge. Despite their Android app still being in beta, it is quite functional, and other than their web site omitting my car from the list of supported vehicles (which proved inaccurate), the process from discovery to installation and setup was a fairly smooth one.

The first “trip”, however, did not seem to “do anything” – there were no audio alerts, and the app didn’t seem to indicate that anything was “happening”. [Update: Automatic Support got back to me in < 24 hours and explained this was due to a firmware update in progress] Toward the end of my second trip, however, I did finally notice a “hard brake” alert, and upon arriving, found that both trips were logged to my phone after all. The trip summary with MPG, cost, “driving feedback” and a little route map was exciting to see. Though that is really all it does for the most part, other than summarizing the same data each week, as well as diagnosing “check engine” lights should they happen to arise.

Read More…

The Elephant on Your Wrist: Evernote for Pebble

The launch of the Pebble appstore has brought Kickstarter’s most funded project of all time dramatically closer to the promise made to backers almost two years ago. With Evernote for Pebble, the wearable evolves from pretty face to legitimate business tool.

Evernote for Pebble allows users to browse Notebooks, Reminders, Checklists, Shortcuts, Tags, “Nearby” Notes (based on current location), and Saved Searches and view basic, raw note text. Formatting is not preserved – this has been problematic for me since I tend to use strikethrough to cross items off of lists – though I may start using more Checklists since these are the one type of content that can be edited right from the Pebble. The app is being marketed as v1.0, but at times feels more like a beta. I have 1000s of Notes, and dozens of Notebooks, so may be an edge case, but I encounter frequent “Loading…” messages while waiting for content to be displayed, and even the occasional “App crashed” – but Pebble users, like any earlier adopters, are used to the occasional hiccup. Such convenient access to the immense body of information that is my Notes is of tremendous value, and less-than-stellar performance and the occasional crash is a small price to pay. Evernote and Pebble are an obvious symbiotic pair, each of whose utility and enjoyment are increased by the other.

I Have Forgiven You Pebble

Almost seventeen months after backing Pebble on Kickstarter, and two and a half after the initial (severely delayed) unit died within hours of arrival, I finally have a working replacement!  The RMA process was actually pretty impressive – a little over a week from filling out the form to holding a replacement in my hand (or…wearing it on my wrist!).  Despite the initial disappointment, I’m quite pleased with the device now – controlling music while driving and being able to see who’s calling when I’m not next to my phone so that I can decide whether or not to run for it is just as good as it was in my imagination for the year and a half during which the Pebble existed as no more than a figment of it.  It still seems rather limited and beta-y, but ignoring the wait and other tribulations, I’m happy enough with its current out-of-the-box functionality, and look forward to finally getting a chance to hack on it! (⌒o⌒)

Disappointing Pebble is Disappointing

My excitement about the Pebble watch had already started to wane long before the unapologetic lump of plastic and disappointment finally made its way to my wrist. I received shipment notification over 13 months after backing the Kickstarter project, yet this was preceded by numerous milestones of disenchantment. The failure to make good on the original September 2012 delivery estimate was to be just the first of many upsets. The device being available for retail purchase in Best Buy before mine had even shipped was perhaps the most bold, in that it required a decision to be made by Pebble to intentionally mistreat original backers (unlike for example OUYA, which I backed a month after Pebble and which I received only 3 months after the original estimated delivery date (over a month before Pebble), and as promised by OUYA, before they started selling in retail stores). It was at that point that I became completely disillusioned with the product and with the team, no longer anticipating the watch’s arrival with excitement, nor bothering to be offended by subsequent delays and other missteps.

When it arrived, I opened the box more out of morbid curiosity than of hope that after Read More…

Nexus 7 Dock: Can You Pogo Or What?

I’m really into docks. If I get a device, and they make a decent dock for it, I buy! Glancing across my desk right now I see an iPad dock, an S III dock, one for my 3DS XL…my PSPgo…my Fujitsu U810…and several others for devices I don’t even use any more! Until recently, however, there was a glaring exception – the continual absence of the Nexus 7 Dock forced me to improvise – combining a generic portable stand with the standard USB charger. I wanted to keep my N7 docked in order to use the Currents Daydream to supplement my Chumby/Dash and G19 information feeds – but the pathetic truth is that while I had found myself favoring the N7 over the iPad for casual web browsing etc. since its arrival, the meager chore of having to continually unplug it and plug it back in had me favoring the slightly less tedious action of lining up the iPad’s connector with its dock lately.

I would regularly search to see if there were any developments on the release of the Nexus 7 Dock, leaked so long ago, yet with no news or release date mentioned. Then they started to show up on Amazon, but well above list price – but one day, when I’d all but given up, I finally stumbled upon an article announcing their availability, dated only one day prior – with a link to the Google Play product listing! But, it had sold out – in less than one day (in fact, almost immediately!). I kept Read More…

Solved: Evernote for iPad “Could not sync note” Synchronization Error

I made the switch from OneNote to Evernote several years ago due to the latter’s superior app availability for the plethora of devices that I use. Despite comparatively feeble editing capabilities, Evernote’s device agnosticism gave it the edge for me. In the past few months, however, it had become barely usable on my iPad due to a “Could not sync note: The content is invalid” error that would pop up continually while I was trying to work. After finding no solutions initially, I pretty much gave up and resorted to brief read-only sessions only when using the iPad. But I decided to give it another shot today and while perusing a very long thread documenting others’ experience with the issue, found one post that mentioned finding the offending notes in the Trash. Frankly, I’d never even noticed the Trash on the iPad app, but managed to locate it eventually under Notebooks, and then sorted by Title to find and eliminate all notes titled “Untitled note” – there were a fair number, but I eventually made it down to one from several months ago which still had the little blue “pending sync” arrow next to it, and deleting that note immediately silenced the pop-ups. I vaguely recall that when this started I had accidentally created multiple notes with a few errant taps, and must have deleted the duplicates faster than it could sync or perhaps during, which seemed to be the cause of this issue. I’m very pleased to have Evernote back to normal on my iPad, not popping up an error message continually and making the app unusable!

Sprint/Ting Galaxy S III Jelly Bean Update!

Sprint is the first US carrier to deliver Jelly Bean for the Galaxy S III, which means Ting customers benefit too!  My impression of the S III to date has been that it is an amazing piece of hardware, which brings with it some brilliant innovations, but also many frustrations, primarily in the software layer – after only a short while with the 4.1.1 update, my affection for the device is growing rapidly – in addition to obvious things like the Google Now functionality that I’ve been raving about for ages, there is a comprehensive “blocking mode” (for e.g. preventing notifications and other disturbances while you’re sleeping – except specific important contacts!), better input options, and “Smart Rotation” which rotates the screen based on your eye position rather than the accelerometer (meaning your screen stays the way you want it, even if you’re lying down!)! (ô_ô)

Google Play’s Customer Support Is Pathetically Low Tech

I’ve found Google Play’s Customer Support and general experience frustrating and sub-par since the moment I ordered my Nexus 7 – my initial order had my billing address (a PO Box) as the shipping address – a physical impossibility – yet refused to let me cancel the order, claiming that seconds later was already too late to cancel.  I got it sorted eventually, but was left with a bad taste in my mouth before I’d even received my device.  Now I’ve discovered that the device is faulty – I was already concerned that it was starting to suffer from the infamous screen lifting issue, but recently tried to use the 3.5mm stereo jack only to discover that the resultant audio was mono – and that swapping to a different cable, or even headphones, made no difference.  I had a great experience returning a faulty mSD card to Amazon recently and hoped Google might offer something similar – but instead was presented with no option but to give them a call – something I would find shocking from even a small online retailer, let alone a global technology leader like Google. (゚Д ゚ )

 

 

Google Nexus 7 with Google Now: Return of the PDA

There are plenty of reviews enumerating the Google Nexus 7‘s impressive specs, its obvious deficiencies and compromises, and flippant comparisons to the bigger and vastly more expensive iPad. Instead of rehashing these topics, this blog post concentrates on the experience of using the device.

I have carried a computing device of some manner or other about my person for close to two decades. In high school, it was the HP 95LX and 200LX DOS-based palmtops. In college, it was a succession of clamshell and “Palm-size PC” Windows CE devices, which eventually merged what was then called “PDA” functionality with that of a mobile phone. By this time, mobile computing and cell phones were becoming less of a niche, and this gave way to today’s widespread adoption of smartphones, tablets, and other specialty devices.

While a fair amount of software was available for these legacy devices, their utility was not really comparable to modern devices – without a wireless data connection, most would sync to a PC via a wired serial cable for calendar and contact updates – if that.  As such, one of their primary functions was to provide mobile access to so-called “personal data” as a replacement for Read More…

Ting FTW: Day One

Having activated my new Ting phone last night, today is the first time I’ll be using it in anger for a full business day.  The M370 is a decent little phone, but it simply cannot replace my Droid X.  Thankfully, I have a fairly ludicrous stable of other devices that I’m intending to select from in order to supplement the simplistic feature phone.  I could of course continue to use the Droid X on WiFi, but I decided to go large and test the Nexus 7 tablet as my primary mobile computing device.  I carry my Jack Spade Port Case with me most of the time, which easily fits an iPad and sundry accessories, so stowing it should be no problem – if I even choose to stow it, since it seems to be continually useful – more so than my old phone was, despite the larger form factor.

It was very strange not having access to email when I left my desk for the first time. But I had a safety net, since my wife Read More…

C U L8R VZW: Saying Goodbye to Big Mobile

I’m your prototypical early adopter.  I bought my first cell phone when I started college – at a time when people assumed anyone that age with a mobile phone or pager was a drug dealer…or perhaps Doogie Howser-style teenage doctor.  But this was also a time when landline providers charged more for long and even “local-long” distance.  So it actually worked out cheaper to get a cell phone with the area code of my hometown and use it to call friends and family as if locally than to use a landline from my apartment.  But somehow over the years my service has mutated from a cost-saving measure to a considerable expense. Unlike other technologies, cell phone service somehow seems to have gotten more expensive during the sunset phase as the market becomes saturated – between our family’s minutes, messages, data, and hotspotting/tethering, we were spending thousands of dollars per year. I had been holding out for Verizon’s rumored shared plan in hopes that it might bring things more in line with  Read More…

Quick $250 PC Build

Looking to replace an EeeBox PC with something a bit more capable, I recently pulled the trigger on Newegg Combo 864885 (and used ShopRunner to get it here in two days – free!).  For not much more than I paid for the diminutive supplanted machine a few years ago, this combo offers a Rosewill R363-M-BK MicroATX Case (with power supply), BIOSTAR A55MH MotherboardAMD A4-3400 Llano 2.7GHz APUG.SKILL 4GB DDR3 SDRAM, and Seagate Barracuda 500GB 7200 RPM SATA Hard Drive.  I added a second 4GB stick, technically pushing the total over the $250 goal, but well worth it IMO.  The build was absurdly fast – I stuck the kettle on, then unpacked everything and reviewed the instructions.  The entire thing was together in the time it took to brew a cup of tea and allow it to cool to a comfortable drinking temperature!  I was a little leery of the Rosewill case when making my original purchase, but it turned out to be a very attractive, high-gloss case with an amusingly large glowing power button.  The BIOSTAR mobo impressed as well, with an extensive feature set and clear documentation that quickly quashed any reservations I had about selecting it over the ASUS in the other bundle I’d been considering.  Very pleased with this combo so far, as well as the build experience! □_ヘ(^_^ヘ)

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