Sunday, November 09, 2014

Podcast meets longform - Serial

Ok, not strictly a technical topic. But a couple of weeks ago I stumbled over the Serial podcast.
Serial is a new podcast from the creators of This American Life, hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial will follow one story - a true story - over the course of a whole season. We'll follow the plot and characters wherever they take us and we won’t know what happens at the end of the story until we get there, not long before you get there with us. Each week we'll bring you the latest chapter, so it's important to listen in order, starting with Episode 1.
I really perfectls combines the podcast format/medium with long form journalism (one whole season!). And the podcast is technically perfect as well.

Hint: it is about an investigation into a Baltimore homicide from 1999. So, if that's not your kind of content, bad luck :)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

New Google Calendar Provider for Thunderbird/Lightning

Finally a Google Calendar Provider for Thunderbird/Lightning has been released that's based on the gdata api, and not just a network XML link.
Problem with the later approach was - to me - that you needed to add each of your calendars separately via their URLs. That seemed to have performance impacts as well. I had about seven such calendars, and it significantly (with my other CalDAV calendars) slowed down Thunderbird start-up time.

When the new provider was released a couple of days ago, I first really noticed, because it forced me - with a separate pop-up - to authorize it for my Google account. With seven calendars this step kept popping up - seven times, of course - but still for the old calendar URLs.
Performance was really nasty...  Thunderbird was unusable essentially.

For some weird reason, I tried a "New Calendar" > "On the Network" > "Google Calendar" and found, that it was actually letting my select Google calendars by account, instead of just letting me add the XML link per calendar like the previous version.

So first thing, delete all my old Google calendars in Lightning, and try the "New Calendar" > "On the Network" > "Google Calendar" again, with my Google account, and voila, it presented all the calendars I had on Google. With the color as on the web. I only needed to select the ones I wanted in Lightning, and that was it.

Should have been like this from the start :)

Thunderbird start-up performance is back to a couple of seconds now (from about 1 minute+)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Broken Google Maps Rendering on Chrome on Windows

The other day, I noticed that Google Maps rendering on my Chrome (v 36.0.1985.125) on Windows (7) was so broken, that Google Maps essentially became useless.
Streets/Roads were mostly invisible - looks like the line for the street has been overwritten by the street name:

At the same time it worked fine in Firefox and Internet Explorer (yes, I admit to having IE on my machine, just to test stuff like this).

So some testing and googling ... ok a lot of googling, since "google maps broken chrome" reveals essentially every rant on google maps there ever was...

Finally with some refining of search terms, I found the following hint.
Turns out, in this case you should disable the video hardware acceleration in Chrome.
Just open the settings, then search for "accel", and disable it, i.e. unmark the checkbox, if it is marked.

Restart chrome, and it works fine again:

Sunday, July 20, 2014

USB Debugging a Nexus 5

It is described all over the internet, so let me repeat it here :)

To USB debug your Nexus 5, first enable USB Debugging in the Developer options.
If you don't yet have the developer options visible in Settings, then enable them like this:

Go to Settings and About Phone, then scroll all the way down to "Build Number" and then tap 7 times on the item "Build number"  (yes, weird)

Once done, in the Settings menu under the Developer options enable "USB Debugging" and connect to the PC via USB.

From a command line check if you can see the phone with "adb devices".
If none shows up, you might want to kill any running adb.exe instance from the task manager and retry.

If this still fails, open the Windows Device Manager, and look for the Nexus device right at the top under "Android devices".

If this shows an error or warning, you need to install the proper driver.
Right-click on the "faulty" android entry in the list and select "Update driver software". Point the update to the android-sdk path on your computer.
So check where you installed the Android SDK into. From the SDK path it is  under extras\google\usb_driver
(e.g.  %appdata%\..\Local\Android\android-sdk\extras\google\usb_driver)
It should find the "Android Composite ADB Interface" driver.

Once this is installed, your Nexus 5 should be visible to the debugger. Again, kill any running instance of adb.exe first, just to make sure)

If not, google is your friend :)

Friday, July 11, 2014

How sorting gets ruined.

Frequent readers - or close followers - of this blog will know, that the share feature (SEND intent) is one of my favourite features on Android.

To recap: it allows any application to share content via (or send content to) any other application, e.g. email, facebook, google+, sms/text, bluetooth, ... You name it.
All that needs to be done is for the target app to register itself for handling certain content types, and then it can be picked by the user, whenever a suitable content type needs to be sent. Android will automatically generate the list of all apps that are available for this content.

So far, so god.

Now in order to be at the top of that list, most apps "fake" and "A" into this name. But this is getting out of hand.

Let me draw your attention to exhibit A:
Exhibit A - the share menu
So this makes the alphabetical sorting totally pointless.
This has to stop.

Next app will probably register itself with an underscore....

Reminds me of my times at Sun Microsystems not too long ago. Obviously a lot of things started with S there ... Sun, Solaris, SPARC, ... but then they created lines of business called Server, Storage, Software, Services.... So even when you sorted a list alphabetically, 90% would cluster under S...


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Say Hi to my Nexus 5

So, I finally did it.

The lack of Android updates and the (inevitable) decline in battery duration - my HTC One S was already 2 years old - made me go to the Google Play store and get a Nexus 5 (32GB). With the wireless charger.

tl;dr: happy happy happy.

Buying it
Apart from UPS's blunder on literally the last mile (the guy cannot read building numbers or name plates) the buying and delivery process was excellent. Really close to one-click :)

It came with 4.4.3 and this night updated to 4.4.4.

This time I went for un-rooted and no bootloader.

Transferring apps and data was easy...Google-Login and then the apps just re-install from the play store, 99% of the data is in the cloud anyway... The most cumbersome part was getting the login and account credentials into all the apps.
Even this was easy with LastPass on Android - expect a separate post on this.

Only for two apps I needed to move local data; one was BeyondPod, my podcast manager and player. However, this was totally easy: do a backup on the old phone, choose to share the backup via PushBullet to my Nexus 5 (also an upcoming story), within a second receive a notification and the backup on the new phone, and open it in BeyondPod. That's it. All subscriptions incl listened-to state are now on the new device.
The other one was my weight recorder, and copying was easy as well, with the help of DropBox and Astro FileManager. I'll spare you the details of the file :)

The call history, sms/text and Wifi settings I got with a Titanium XML Backup (does not require root) and restore. Not too important for call log, but great for Wifi settings.

UI Experience
So now I'm sorting out where I really miss HTC sense, but it's not a lot.
Turns out the HTC contacts, mail and calendar apps had some nice advantages over stock Android.
Also turns out, that the (stock) Google Now Launcher does not have badges anymore, so I'll miss the little red number on my email/gmail and others.

The Google Now launcher is OK, especially with the Google Now just being there.
But - by Max's recommendation - I'm now testing the Aviate launcher... Sigh... 3rd story that I need to write. Suffice it to say, it's free, by Yahoo, intergrates well, and - most importantly - guesses your context (i.e. work, home, travelling, ...) and adjusts the app/widget groups accordingly.  Let's see in some weeks how this works.

So, stay tuned for some more stories on it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Google Now on Chrome vs. Celsius

A couple of weeks ago, I enabled Google Now notifications in my (desktop) Chrome browser.

One thing I noticed, that on the weather card the temperature for Vienna, Austria, was given in Fahrenheit, instead of Celsius. Weirdly, there was no setting for this.

My PCs are definitely all running with Austrian locale (so it should be Celsius), this particular PC even with German language (and the combination of German and Fahrenheit is rather odd). And nowhere could I change this.

My mobile devices are also all on Celsius, so I thought it could not have been picked up from there.

Oddly, however, on my other PC (laptop), it displayed in Celsius. And even more oddly, this PC had English as language.

So did some Googling and found suggestions that you need to change this on the iPhone (iPad in my case), and that maybe switching to F and back to C could work.

That's what I did. Go to Google app on iPad, then into Settings > Google Now > Weather > Temperature.
Change for Fahrenheit, save.
Repeat with Celsius.

And voila, it is Celsius on the Desktop Chrome as well ...
Weird, but part of my software developer brain actually understands this.