New Personal Website

I just wanted to post a link to my new personal website which has information on myself as well as a separate blog I will probably be posting on in the future. It is still very much a work in progress so keep that in mind.

Link Here

Android Rant Part 1 – Google Now

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Google Now is awesome they say. Tells you all the information right when you need it, but there’s one glaring problem they forget to mention. The system is completely redundant. A quote from the Google Now website: “Google Now gets you just the right information at just the right time.” Google Now is trying to notify you of things that may be important to you, which sounds all fine and dandy until you realize Android has a notification tray already built into the OS. On the right you can see a perfectly functioning notification tray showing someone their next appointment. This is extremely similar to Google Now notifying you of appointments other than the traffic information which could easily be included in the notification. This is true for almost all things featured in Google Now. Flight information, reservations, events, sports, movies, packages, etc. can all be displayed in the notification tray. In fact Google Now even gives you the option to display card notifications in the tray. So the fact that they don’t just put the information there by default is ludicrous. In the rare case that the notification system does not have the capability to do something and the Google Now app does it seems like it would be a much better use of Google’s time to add that feature to the notification system so 3rd party apps can make use of it instead of just adding pointless apps and randomness.

Valve saving Linux?

Valve announced Steam’d Penguins recently. It is Valve’s mission to bring Steam and the Source Engine to Linux. This is a very exciting move for Linux as much as it is for valve. With the current move by Microsoft and Apple to locking down the application distribution in their Operating Systems other application distributing services should begin to feel pressure about possibly being pushed out at the Operating System level. So this is probably a good business move by Valve since it will get their service out as much as possible.

More importantly it will be great for Linux. Gaming on desktop Linux has been a subpar experience. The open-source games are usually of low-quality or not expansive enough of an experience. Now that Valve is porting the Source Engine to Linux we will start seeing many games show up. First off they are releasing Left for Dead 2. There are however many other titles sure to follow. Some of these games include Portal, Portal 2, Dota 2, Counter Strike: Global Offensive and Team Fortress 2.

Another notable way that this is good for Linux is that Valve will push Linux development forward. Valve needs improved graphics drivers to provide a enjoyable experience. Valve and Intel engineers are working together to provide better Intel driver support. This is great not just for Valve games but for desktop Linux in general. We will probably see Valve talking to AMD and Nvidia as well in order to provide a better service on the Linux platform.

It is worth noting that to begin with the only supported Linux distribution is Ubuntu. This is of concern since there are many users who do not use Ubuntu. However I believe that once Steam is released it will also be released as a .tar.gz and will most likely be able to be used on a variety of distributions. Even if this is not how they package it I’m sure valve will try to get their software on as many distributions as possible with time.

This is definitely good news. I’m extremely decided to see if this helps Linux take off on the desktop. It’s definitely an exciting time to be a Linux enthusiast or a Linux Gamer.

Why I quit FaceBook

I got my FaceBook account back in 2006 after I finally switched High Schools to one that gave out .edu email addresses. This meant that I could finally get a FaceBook account, which back then required email authentication to prove that you were a member of an academic institution. It provided a functionality similar to what I was used to with Myspace but with a UI that wouldn’t crash my browser every time I went on a friends profile. It also provided an easier way to manage and keep in touch with friends.

For about a year or two this was great. The functionality was great, my friends on FaceBook were great. Everything was fantastic. For me the problems started around 2008. I began noticing an exponential increase in FaceBook applications. This cluttered FaceBook and almost made it feel like Myspace 2.0. The clean system that I had come to love was gone. Ever since then FaceBook apps have in my opinion gotten better and less intrusive but often appear places I’d rather them not. This was the beginning of FaceBooks shift in order to try to monetize their efforts. I understand that they need to make money off of their product to appease investors and keep the service running. They should however attempt to do this without ruining the service.

Now the actual reasons that I quit FaceBook began occurring much more recently. About a year ago I began noticing that FaceBook would make rapid UI and development changes. As a software developer, I love being on the bleeding edge and testing Beta software. The problem was FaceBook would roll out half-baked changes. The UI would change on some pages but not others and half the time it would not even work. The notification icon would often not clear itself, the chat system would often be broken and my wall would be extremely unreliable. So I understand them wanting to get the latest changes out but they should also fix bugs as soon as they were made aware of their existence.

A lot of tech enthusiasts and more accurately security enthusiasts dislike FaceBook because of the privacy implications. I however am not one of those people. My FaceBook had barely any privacy blocking at all. The reason for this was that I wanted the information I posted on the internet to be accessible by the internet (crazy concept). What did bother me was that the settings I would set on FaceBook seemed to have no permanent hold. They would be reset every few weeks and this would create an annoying cycle of me having to tweak settings consistently.

The final and primary reason that I quit FaceBook was that it offered me nothing. It offered weaker messaging that I had an obligation to use since everyone else uses it. It provided a stream of posts most of which I don’t care about in a less readable format than what G+ or twitter provides. It provided tons of fan and business pages which are nothing more than meme generators. And it tried to consistently pull me back in to check on stuff I really didn’t care about.

The only problem I’ve had since deactivating my FaceBook is on other services. It is ridiculous that you can’t use Spotify without a FaceBook account. It’s trying to force me to use a substandard service in order to use a great one. Similarly the number of Android apps which have a recommended login of FaceBook is obscene. If any Android Devs are reading this use this logic, if my user has an Android phone they most likely have a Google account. Use the Google Account do not just assume that they have a FaceBook. Not to mention the Google account is probably already linked to the device.

So to sum it all up FaceBook is now a replacement for a bunch of better services with interfaces that actually work.

What does a $349 Galaxy Nexus really mean?

Now that all the Google IO buzz has settled down I’ve decided to write about what I’ve taken away from it. I’m not going to focus on the same news everyone else has been reporting since everyone knows the highlight reel from this

years IO. The hugely publicized and ridiculously cheap Nexus 7 is now available for $200. I ordered mine 20 minutes after it was announced. However a more interesting price point to me was the $50 price drop on the Galaxy Nexus.

Ever since the advent of the feature phone we have been locked into carrier contracts in order to get a decent phone. This is extremely evident if you look at AT&T’s website. If you want a modern Android phone off-contract you are looking at a $500-$600 purchase. This is approximately the price of a cheaper end laptop and for the average consumer a very high price point for a device with a lifespan less than 2-3 years. The immensely popular and relatively old iPhone 4S off-contract costs a ridiculous $649. So as it stands buying phones off-contract is not a feasible option unless you are a well paid tech enthusiast.

All of this is starting to change since Google IO. The Galaxy Nexus, even though it is a 8 month old device, is running the latest version of Android (4.1 Jelly Bean) and arguably the best running Android phone. So for the sake of argument the Galaxy Nexus is a modern phone. By dropping the price point of the Galaxy Nexus to $350 dollars Google is now saying that it is a viable solution to buy your phone from Google without a contract or being carrier locked. This price point is very important because $350 feels more like a pleasure purchase and less like a major decision purchase. For example it is closer to the price of a gaming console, portable gaming system or an iPod touch. This shows a completely reasonable system for someone to buy the Galaxy Nexus and not feel as bad for upgrading to the new phone in a year.

This change will probably have some lasting effects in the industry over the next couple of years. First and most notable, more and more people will begin buying their phones off contract and not through their carrier. This will mean manufacturers will be in control over their customers devices instead of the carriers. This will result in less carrier bloatware, less carrier restrictions most importantly faster updates. Second, carrier hopping will probably increase exponentially. Now that consumers will be without contracts, when the carriers start charging erroneously and increasing rates consumers will now be able to leave without having to suffer harsh termination fees. This will most likely result in more competition between the carriers and better service. Possibly the most important repercussion of this is that Google will be able to communicate with their customers much better than they could before. In a way that in the past only apple did regularly.

As far as other phone manufacturers, hopefully we will see some of them selling their phones off-contract for a reasonable price. In my opinion this would do nothing but help the industry as a whole and the consumers will definitely benefit.

The New Consumer in Me

I’ve been a excessive consumer as long as I can remember. This has always had pros and cons. Most of the cons are obvious: lack of money, bad for the environment and wasteful. The pros however are not always obvious.

The manner in which I have always been a consumer has never had a lack of research. I’ve always researched every technological purchase I make extensively. This has resulted in my technological knowledge increasing rapidly over the years whether I actually purchase the products or not.

I have noticed a major change in the manner in which I purchase technology. I used to purchase items which seemed cool and provided very “complete” systems. This is why I used to be a Mac person. It’s also why I’ve always been a heavy user of Google’s services and the Android “ecosystem.”

Lately though I’ve been buying technology to maximize their use. A mind-blowing concept, I know. Basically 5 years ago if I wanted a TV remote control. I would have bought one of the super expensive Logitech Harmony remotes. These are very nice and polished and are extremely easy to setup. Now however the entire concept seems silly to buy a touchscreen device with the strict use as a remote control. Now I’d be more likely to just buy an IR blaster and configure my phone or an ARM powered tablet (preferably running a non-Android Linux distro) for use as a remote. This may take a bit more configuring and know-how but I get a lot more bang for my buck. I result in not wasting an under-powered tablet computer and re-use technology for a brand new purpose.

People may wonder why I don’t really support Android for a lot of these purposes. I will further elaborate in a future post but basically. Android phones for the most part are locked down. This means they can generally only run Android resulting in the inability to ever change one’s mind on the operating system of their device. Also since Android is constantly evolving newer versions require higher and higher hardware requirements. Using regular distributions of Linux however has very low system requirements and even if they don’t, you can find other distributions.

In conclusion, I have changing my buying habits and I believe that western culture as a whole should begin considering what they want and need, not just whats available.

[Rant] Frustrated with Bloatware

I recently got a Samsung Galaxy S II smartphone with AT&T. First off from a hardware standpoint the phone is glorious. In fact I prefer parts over the recently released Galaxy Nexus. It’s main pitfall is its software. No I’m not talking about Android 2.3.4, I’m talking about the debauchery added to it by AT&T and Samsung.

First off, having been an owner of the original Samsung galaxy S, I’ve never been a fan of Samsung’s touchwiz interface. I know they are trying to make their phones unique but I feel like in a large part they are going in the completely wrong direction. They should do things like offer unique services not offered by Google which can enhance their users experience. They should also offer apps which integrate will with the android ecosystem instead of trying to replace the android ecosystem. Applications added by Samsung such as their own voice control system are an unnecessary addition to the operating system in my opinion but what is even more of a problem than the wasted development time creating these applications is the inability to uninstall the applications. In fact the primary reason I rooted my phone was strictly to uninstall the apps provided by Samsung.

In my opinion the touchwiz interface itself is not as good as the stock android interface. I do appreciate some elements such as messages for call rejection and swipe contacts to call but the dock and app drawer are not nearly as efficient as regular android 2.3. I just wish that Samsung would include a method for flashing a plain ROM without any modifications.

For the main grievance I have had with my new phone is AT&T’s changes. I pay approximately 30 dollars a month for an unlimited data plan which AT&T then blocks parts of my phones functionality. Mainly I’m talking about wifi tethering. I feel like if I’m paying for unlimited wireless tethering I should be able to use it regardless of the device that I am using it on. AT&T however feels that they have the right to charge me not based on the service they provide but on what I do on the internet. This results in me rooting my phone and uninstalling all of there wifi tethering tools in order to get access to the default wifi tethering setup in android. There are also the other AT&T provided apps such as ATT Navigator and MyATT. Navigator is not nearly as nice as Google Maps. I actually enjoy the use of My ATT to view account details so no problem there. But once again these apps are not removable which is a huge complaint. I do believe this device also has CarrierIQ installed so unauthorized tethering makes me nervous even though I encrypt all traffic through a SOCKS proxy since ATT might be monitoring everything happening on my phone.

Anyways those are my thoughts on the subject. ThekKid Signing out.