Android Wear: LG G Watch – Day 1

gwatchSo, I have an Android Wear device. More specifically the LG G Watch – the reason we went with this over the others is purely fiscal – it was £100.

So, what have I found on the first day of use? Is it as amazing as I’d hoped? Is it a gadget to bring Sci-Fi comms units one step closer to reality? Or is it something Dick Tracy would have discarded in favour of his wrist radio?

Pros

  • Notifications for SMS, Hangouts, Mail and Calendar are amazing.
  • The screen is nice and easy to read in all light conditions.
  • It’s more comfortable on a bigger wrist (such as mine) than I thought it would be.
  • The vibration notifications are apparent, but not as overly strong as I feared. Discreet!
  • The set up was unbelievably simple.
  • It charges fast on the supplied unit
  • Voice recognition and dictation is surprisingly good. It even gave me a delightful Wikipedia article on ‘Bollocks’ when I poured coffee on my hand mid demonstration.

Cons

  • To be effective, you have to fully enable all features on your phone. Location services being a big one.
  • This enabling of features caused my battery to go from 100% to 22% in under two hours of light use. This could well be a bug or a fault with my phone, but it only started when Android Wear was installed.
  • The battery life of the watch itself isn’t two days, as I’ve heard thrown around. At 18 hours of use, we’re at 33%. That’s not going to last 48 hours.
  • You’ll really need two charging cradles if you plan to use this at home and the office.
  • The home screen could do with some tweaks – it’s just not effective enough to allow changes to the settings or apps.
  • More watch faces that haven’t been designed in what looks like MS paint please.
  • A few more ‘disconnections’ than I’d like, given that my phone never left my pocket.

So, all in all, I’m enjoying it and I hope that the battery issue (both my Nexus 5 and the LG G Watch) is one I can solve with some fiddling and investigation. As with most technologies, I have to adapt to it to a certain degree, although talking into a watch will always make me feel like budget Dick Tracy, only fatter and without a yellow flasher’s mac.

 

We’ll see how we faired after  a week then.

Shamu aka Nexus X (or Nexus 6 too, if you prefer)

Exciting news for fans of the Nexus line of Google Android devices, it looks like the Nexus X is nearly upon us.google-nexus-6

Yet more details have been emerging about what the device will have to offer and as it stands it looks to be mightly impressive, although a bit of expensive than the impressive launch Nexus 5.

So, the Motorla Shamu (as it is known at present) looks to feature:

  • Android L (5.0)
  • 2.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor
  • 3GB RAM
  • 5.9″ 2560 x 1440 QHD display
  • Qualcomm Adreno 420 GPU
  • 12-megapixel rear camera that will be capable of recording 4K UHD video

Which all shapes up to make a tasty looking bundle. The price? Well, if the leaked price from Zuaba is to be believed, it’s £349/$579, popping it in a slightly higher bracket than the Nexus 5, but still well below iPhone prices.

The beefed up stats look like they justify the price increase nicely, so I’ll eagerly be awaiting the first reviews of the unit before jumping in myself.

 

 

 

Google Wear – What’s on sale in the UK?

googleWearSo, in recent days both the LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live have gone on sale in the uk at Google Play. Both are the first wave of devices using Android Wear – Google’s foray into the smartwatch market – and to be honest, they all look pretty nifty!

Given that I normally struggle to choose yoghurt flavours, how can I decide on which device to buy?  What staggering differences are there between them? Well, first impressions say that actually, there’s not that much between them at all. They both run the identicle, vanilla Android Wear experience, they look *kinda* similar and they both last about a day on battery (although the G Watch has a slightly more powerful battery and can manage 1.5 days at a stretch). That makes choosing between them a lot harder – Let’s try to break down some stats and see what comes out on top

LG G Watch

  • £159.99
  • Processor: CPU 1.2 GHz
  • Memory: 4 GB internal storage with 512 MB RAM
  • Display: 1.65” IPS LCD
  • Battery: 400 mAh
  • Weight: 63 g
  • Dimensions: 37.9 x 46.5 x 9.95 mm

Pros: Slightly cheaper, Slightly better battery life, Slight bigger screen, nicer charging cradle than the Gear Live, comes in two colour schemes

Cons: Screen suffers ever-so-slightly in bright conditions from banding.

Samsung Gear Live

  • £169.99
  • Processor: CPU 1.2 GHz
  • Memory: 4 GB internal storage with 512 MB RAM
  • Display: 1.63” 320 x 320 SuperAMOLED (278 ppi)
  • Battery: 300 mAh
  • Weight: 59 g
  • Dimensions: 37.9 x 56.4 x 8.9 mm

Pros: Beautiful screen

Cons: None.

So. Both devices are incredibly close in terms of performance and all of the pros and cons are so tiny, it really makes hardly any difference. Even battery life isn’t a factor because both devices are designed to be charged overnight on their cradles and once you’re into that habit, the extra oomph from the G Watch won’t figure in at all.

I would honestly base my decision on the most basic factor – which one you prefer the look of. Both devices can swap out their standard straps for any 22mm strap on the market, so each one is customisable to a certain degree.  I think with that in mind, I’ll be looking to snap up a nice custom band for an LG G Watch in the very near future!

 

 

Android users can now run Firefox OS apps (all six of them)

 

Open Web Apps

Mozilla’s Firefox OS is based on Gecko — the same core rendering engine that its desktop and mobile Firefox web browsers use. This unified framework goes to the essence of what Firefox and Mozilla are about. Mozilla sees the future of apps and browsing as two sides of the same coin. To push its vision for “Open Web Apps,” Mozilla has rolled out v29 of Firefox for Android, which enables you to download and install Firefox OS marketplace apps on your Android device with no additional configuration.

With the new support for Android, all you need to do is install the updated Firefox browser from Google Play — attempting to grab anything from the FF marketplace with Chrome results in an error. The apps will go through the standard Android installation dialog (packaged as an APK), and even show up in the app drawer. They open like normal apps, but all the rendering is done through Firefox’s Gecko engine. As for usability and performance, web-based apps like this have definitely come a long way over the years. They work, but the design language is much less refined.

So, go ahead, have some fun!

Mobilizing Google Slides – or rather, not.

I was particulary excited to see the release of the Google Sildes App for Android the other week. It timed nicely with a trial I’m running with suppling our senior sales staff with Nexus 440x330-nexus-angle110 tablets for field presentations, rather than their clunky (although modern) laptops. As our sales staff are fully ‘Google’ (we use Drive and Apps for all of their collateral, documents and email), it seemed a far more sensible choice to go for the Nexus than iPads, as each account is already there, as are the documents, chat and email.  Also, I really don’t fancy running corporate iTunes accounts.

Before the release of the Slides app, our staff were creating their presentations, then saving them locally to the Nexus from the Drive menu. This was allowing them to present the presentation from PDF format, using Quickoffice, in case their client had no wifi connection. The issue here is that all of their funky transitions and animations were now flattened into the PDF – ‘Less flashy, less cashy’ was a delightful term I’d heard bandied around. Sales pitches love an animation.

Naturally, with the Slides app, we got a bit excited over the prospect of streamlining the whole ordeal. We’d hoped the process would now be:

  1. Create presentation on Laptop in Slides, in Drive
  2. Open in app, on Nexus
  3. Save it to device
  4. Present from in the app, even if there is no wifi.
  5. Make massive sale.
  6. Have party.

So, it comes as somewhat of a surprise to discover that you cannot present in the app if you’re offline. Sure, you can create, edit and muck around with it – but present it? No way! You instead get a wonderful ‘Presentation mode is unavailable Offline’ message. No matter how many times you hammer the present button, it resists your endeavours to get it to use the local copy you just saved RIGHT THERE.

We were so surprised that we assumed we were somehow being stupid – as all the release material states you *can* present offline. We must have made a mistake, surely? So, I have a quick search for anyone else suffering this issue. Nope. No one. Lots of people announcing how awesome the app is, but no one suffering our issue. In fact, it loosk like everyone is talking about using the app… without actually using it.

In our desperation and between bouts of thumping the Nexus against our foreheads, we decided to ask someone who should know. Our Google supplier. Google expert suppliers to the rescue then, surely? Well, no. They’d also not tried it and seemed somewhat surprised when they too encountered the infuriating message. They’ve promised to get back to us as it makes as little sense to them as it does to us.

We’re continuing to hammer away, hoping that this is caused by some weird setting in the Google Apps admin panel, but as it stands, it actually looks like the biggest feature of the Google Slides App for us, is in fact, a dud.

I would say it’s a poor show but I can’t tell, as the show is offline and unavailable.

 

 

 

 

 

Pixel art – Making a sprite into a lump of plastic

pixel_artWith a little one of the way and being a massive geek, the wife and I decided that the little one’s room should have a bit of geeky decoration.

What could be more geeky than 2D 16-Bit (and some 8-bit) sprites made from beads? I still love my 16-bit and 8-bit consoles, and the characters from the games I loved so dearly obviously have a special place in my heart. So, given that I’d seen pictures of these creations all over the web recently and being the kind of person that likes to have a go and making anything I can, we gave it a shot.

Firstly, let me say – this is easy. In terms of arts and crafts, this is one of the most simple things you can do.  Secondly, it’s cheap. For example:

Equipment needed

  • Pot of Hama (or equivelent) beads. 10,000 for £5 here. However the colours are very basic. I’d recommend getting some other shades too direct from the supplier, if you plan to do anything with the correct colour palette.
  • 4 peg boards. £5.50 for 4.
  • Ironing paper. £2 for 15 sheets.
  • An iron. You should own one of these unless you like creased clothing. If you don’t own one, grab one for £5 from Amazon you lazy wretch.

That’s enough beads, boards and paper for you to make 30+ of the white and green mushrooms above. That’s all for less than £15.

Then it’s just a matter of finding a sprite you wish to recreate, mapping it to a grid to save you going insane, and pegging it out line by line. Once you’re done, cover the beads with the ironing paper and smoosh with a hot iron until the paper is trasnparent. Then your beads are melted and can be safely pulled from the peg board and paper.

The Link sprite above (which is woefully colour matched due to a bead crisis) took around 10 minutes from start to finish. I could have even melted the beads more to remove the ‘holes’, however that was a first attempt. We’ll see what we can do with some practice.

So, give it a shot, it’s a particulary relaxing pass time and allows you to harness that inner geek!

 

 

3D printing on a budget

3d-printingI really like the idea of 3D printing (and have used Shapeways and i.materialise in the past), especially for my prop replica projects as it gives me the ability to rapidly construct a clean master copy with clay or sculpting with epoxy.

Anyhow, I’ve been watching machines along the way and waiting for pricing to drop to affordable levels (well, affordable for me anyway), and have seen quite a few models now that make home 3D printing a reality. Having said that, beyond (possibly) backing the MOD-t, I haven’t yet put my money where my mouth is, so my opinions have no basis in reality. Pretty much like most other tech blogs then.  Avante!

If you’ve not seen it, the MOD-t (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/new-matter-mod-t-a-3d-printer-for-everyone) is perhaps the most exciting. A 3D printer (which appears to have decent specs and print size) for under $299. Well under in fact, as first round early-birders could have nabbed one for $199 – astonishing value if it does what they claim.

Of course, the good old Makerbot is there as well, with an exceptionally polished offering, however the cheapest and smallest model on offer is $1,375. Still, cheap for a 3D printer, but expensive compared to the MOD-t.

Maplin in the UK are offering  the Velleman K8200 for £499 now, however it is in kit form, so patience is required to get it up and running. I generally think the kind of people who’ll buy a 3D printer are more than capable of putting a kit together, so it could be a solid and affordable choice for UK peeps.

For the mega cheap, there is also the mega-tiny Peachy Printer for $100.  This little box of tricks isn’t going to be printing anything large format, however it’s so tiny and cute, it’s almost worth buying for a party piece. That’s if you go to those kind of parties where the main attraction is someone with a 3D printer that takes several hours to make a chess piece.

Anyway, if anyone else has any good recommendations or ideas on how to get a replicator into every home, I’d love to know!

Chromeboxes – What could possibly go wrong?


Warning: mysql_query(): No such file or directory in /home/skoravensis/bluffalo.com/Blog/wp-content/plugins/who-hit-the-page-hit-counter/count_who_hit.php on line 181

Warning: mysql_query(): A link to the server could not be established in /home/skoravensis/bluffalo.com/Blog/wp-content/plugins/who-hit-the-page-hit-counter/count_who_hit.php on line 181

Warning: mysql_query(): No such file or directory in /home/skoravensis/bluffalo.com/Blog/wp-content/plugins/who-hit-the-page-hit-counter/count_who_hit.php on line 31

Warning: mysql_query(): A link to the server could not be established in /home/skoravensis/bluffalo.com/Blog/wp-content/plugins/who-hit-the-page-hit-counter/count_who_hit.php on line 31

Warning: mysql_num_rows() expects parameter 1 to be resource, boolean given in /home/skoravensis/bluffalo.com/Blog/wp-content/plugins/who-hit-the-page-hit-counter/count_who_hit.php on line 31

Warning: mysql_query(): No such file or directory in /home/skoravensis/bluffalo.com/Blog/wp-content/plugins/who-hit-the-page-hit-counter/count_who_hit.php on line 35

Warning: mysql_query(): A link to the server could not be established in /home/skoravensis/bluffalo.com/Blog/wp-content/plugins/who-hit-the-page-hit-counter/count_who_hit.php on line 35

Warning: mysql_query(): No such file or directory in /home/skoravensis/bluffalo.com/Blog/wp-content/plugins/who-hit-the-page-hit-counter/count_who_hit.php on line 166

Warning: mysql_query(): A link to the server could not be established in /home/skoravensis/bluffalo.com/Blog/wp-content/plugins/who-hit-the-page-hit-counter/count_who_hit.php on line 166

  So, after a year of supporting our enterprise deployed Chromeboxes, it’s probably a good time to gaze back over the year and see what has worked and to admit what hasn’t from an Operational point of view.Samsung Chromebox It’s been a great year for us and Chrome appears to have really picked up too, with some very healthy sales figures. But is it still the right choice? What could (and possibly did) go wrong?

“What could go wrong?” is a real loaded question. After all, if I said this about Windows machines, like the Intel NUC we had considered, this would be a very different article. After all, we know what to expect with a Windows machine (better the enemy you know is a term that was bandied about) – Chrome devices, however, were a dive into the unknown, when we chose to deploy them we didn’t know of any other businesses in the UK who had done so. There have been plenty of education deployments, but nothing too ‘enterprisey’, so we literally went into it blind. We could only trial and test so much before we had to decide to take the plunge.

Eventually we decided to use the Samsung Chromebox Series 3 for our deployment – mainly as it was the only option available to us. Also, a bit of a bug-bear for us, was the switch between the black model and the white model when ordering from Google. We couldn’t dictate which ones we recieved, so the idea of a clincal looking all gloss white equipment set up was quickly dashed as we got one box of the black model and one of the white – and there was no room to switch any around. Not a deal breaker and not an issue with Chrome, but as an Enterprise supplier, Google have some work to do with their hardware provisioning.

So we deployed the Chromeboxes with a little fanfare and got our staff up and running. Initial deployment and training was easy enough – although you will always encounter the odd naysayer, these we’re quickly overshone by our Google Champions (an idea Google themselves suggested). The idea behind the champions is easy,  empower several users throughout the business early on by giving them early access to the new system. Spend time ensuring they’re up to speed and get all the help they could possibly need from your support function. Then, naturally these users will start to champion your cause for you, from within the business. After all, they’ve seen the improvements the new systems have brought and they’ve had the correct training and support to ensure they can then tell others and share their knowledge, making your job as a deployer much easier.

I’ll write another article soon about the deployment itself (and what resistances and issues you may encounter), but for now, lets get back to the task at hand. What are the Chromeboxes like to run Operationally.

So, to give some metrics, here are some headline Chromeified stats:


Total number of deployed Chrome devices: 132

Chrome Device failures (wherein a device ceases function) : 1

Chrome Device failures (wherein a device had to be swapped out and be opened up and repaired, then resumed function): 1

Chrome Device failures (wherein a device required a wipe and rebuild): 22

Total Chrome failures: 24


Now, it is worth pointing out the wipe and rebuild of these devices takes around 15 minutes and is entirely automated – meaning that for 22 devices, it took roughly 6 hours of Tech Ops time to rebuild them all, and during that time, you’re only ever going to be actively working on the unit for 2-3 minutes, so it’s more like an hour of your team’s time, total  – and that’s being generous.

So, before we go too hog wild with analysis, lets compare it to some Windows machine stats, taken over the same time period:


Total Windows devices: 138

Windows device failures (wherein a device ceases function): 2

Windows Device failures (wherein a device had to be swapped out and be opened up and repaired, then resumed function): 3

Windows Device failures (wherein a device required a wipe and rebuild): 14

Total Windows failures: 19


Now, the initial impression here is that the Chrome devices fail more frequently. However, quite often we discovered that our Windows users would encounter an error and attempt to fix the issue themselves, due to the associated time they’d have to wait for a rebuild of a machine, this led to less recorded issues. Chrome users, by comparison, would simply ask for a switch at the first sign of an issue. However, for the sake of fairness, we kept a record of only what we had to fix ourselves.

So, to address that big issue we touched on earlier – time taken fixing issues and rebuilds. Given the 15 minute maximum time to perform a Chrome rebuild versus the 55 minutes to rebuild and re-image a windows machine and get it back into action, we should add up the totals and see where we stand:


Total Technical Operations team time taken up by actively rebuilding or repairing machines (estimated)

Windows: 17 Hours 40 Minutes

Chrome devices: 6 Hours


This is where the Chromeboxes start to shine. Nearly the same amount of devices, but under half the amount of the Tech Op’s team’s time is spent working on them. This is also assuming your staff will sit and watch the Chrome OS rebuild for 15 minutes, as opposed to switching to dev mode, kicking off the process and doing something else important, like having a coffee. Or a beer. With Windows, you can do something similar, but it takes far longer, especially if you’re running rebuilds on a case by case basis for custom machines, like we have.

That’s the real bonus we’ve found by going Chrome – we can now run a very lean and agile support function with only two staff supporting hundreds. If a Chrome devices fails, we pop to the user’s desk, unplug the faulty unit and plug in a new one. Coupled with Google apps and a lack of local storage (hooray for cloud), the user is back up and running in uder 30 seconds. This frees up your support staff to concentrate on the bigger tasks and ensure that time isn’t wasted trying to get a driver working or backing up the 67GB someone’s saved to their hard drive.

With development and product teams becoming more flexible and IT moving towards a more agile and reactive environment, surely it’s wortwhile to make sure your support teams can do it too?

I’ll leave it here for now, but next time I’ll cover common Chrome faults that we’ve encountered and how we’ve dealt with them. After all, the road isn’t always perfect!