Anker Soundbuds In-Ear Sport Earbuds

I bought a set of Anker SoundBuds In-Ear Sport Earbuds and I’m VERY impressed. Apple Earpods are my baseline, and it’s hard to find a pair of third-party earbuds that compete, let alone a pair of wireless earpods.

A3233011_TD01

Inexpensive (Usually around $25.99 on that Amazon link), great bass, comfortable, and they stayed put when moving around. I wore them for 3 hours without a complaint.

The cable connecting the earpods is similar to headphone wire, without any stiffness. My other pair had a stiff plastic bridle connecting the earpods and it was too small and uncomfortable.

Anker does a great job with packaging. The headphones come with a small carrying case and a nice USB cable with velcro wrap. I was looking for a small light USB cable for my everyday carry bag, and the Anker one fits the need nicely.

They were easy to figure out, easy to pair, and didn’t suffer drop-outs when walking like my Plantronics Voyager Legend, an extraordinary noise cancelling mono headset. I wouldn’t trade it for any other headset, but for streaming audio it lacks somewhat.

If you’re looking for a nice pair of wired earpods to work with your Android phone, Amazon Premium Headphones, Android’s answer to the Apple Earpod work well and have a magnetic attachment that connects the earbuds together, making storage a snap. The cable is a flat cable from the yoke to the connector, which I like.

Samsung S5 Abnormal Reset

The Samsung S5 I’m working on boots up, thanks to a vanilla firmware update that I found on the web. Once I flashed the firmware using ODIN, The phone booted up and went through the setup steps. After setting a Google account, I was left at a screen asking for an old Samsung account.

There are scores of videos that walk through a step to get to the settings menu to turn this feature off via voice settings, but this phone bypasses the menu that allows this.

What I did find was having the ability to sideload an app to go to the settings menu using a USB 3.0 OTG Flash Drive. Here’s one of several videos:

Samsung Challenge

I’m happy with my Samsung S3, now that I’m running Cyanogenmod 12.1 on it. With the new OS, I don’t have the storage issues that came up with KitKat, but I still haven’t found anything to match the functionality of “Priority Senders” in Samsung’s email app (not for trying, I even tried loading the Samsung apps on Cyanogenmod, but they need Touchwiz to work!)

I received a Samsung S5 in mint condition, with the issue that it’s rom-locked and won’t boot. I’m playing now with Cyanogenmod ROMs and vanilla Samsung ROMs trying to get it to work. Lighter than the S3, with a 12 megapixel camera, faster CPU, sharper screen and support for 128 GB micro-SD cards, it’s a worthwhile exercise to try and revive it.

Google to help improve Samsung’s Touchwiz?

One thing I noticed when I started playing with Cyanogenmod Android images on my phone was that the images felt much faster without Samsung’s TouchWiz interface. As most vendors do, Samsung has added quite a bit to the stock android images. Some of them are show-stoppers for me — I need to have the priority senders feature that Samsung’s apps have and other mods don’t.

TouchWiz is a front-end interface installed on Samsung devices, which can be customized using various themes. Some of the problems with TouchWiz is that it ships with many preinstalled applications that cannot be uninstalled and it consumes substantial amounts of memory. Now there are rumors that Samsung may partner with Google to optimize the TouchWiz interface.

The rumor about Google helping Samsung enhance TouchWiz comes at an interesting time. In the past, Google has worked with HTC, LG, Motorola, Huawei and Samsung to build Nexus devices. Now there are reports that Google is going to start building its own phones. Even though Android has a dominant share in the smartphone market, Apple AAPL +3.36%’s iPhone leads in profits. Plus Apple’s larger-sized smartphones like the iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6S Plus are convincing Android users to switch over. By creating its own hardware, Google could ensure higher quality products powered by stock versions of Android.

BitTorrent Sync

I’ve tried or am currently using most of the cloud sync providers out there — Dropbox to share camera uploads from my phone and wallpapers/files between Linux and Windows, Onedrive as part of an Office365 test, and Google Drive for music and movie streaming. All of them share one common fault — saving data in the cloud.

Dropbox has been in the news apparently reading files in their cloud; while you could put a VeraCrypt container in Dropbox it would gain security but lose a lot of convenience.

OneDrive and Google Drive have a nice mix of features, but no native Linux client.

I downloaded BitTorrent Sync and am impressed. Instead of using a cloud service and someone else’s servers, BT Sync creates a peer-to-peer secured connection between clients – similar to the Bittorrent protocol for file transfers.

Bittorrent allows “all-or-nothing” sharing for free, and has various licensing plans for business and personal use. With the free plan, I’m able to share my files between my iPhone, Linux laptop and Windows desktop, and upload photos from my phone automatically to my sync folder.

So far, so good.

Spigen Air Vent Magnetic Mount for Smartphones

magmount

I bought the Spigen® Magnetic Air Vent Phone Mount and it’s a great addition to my car. I’m managing phone calls for work from my car every morning, and couldn’t find a convenient place to store my phone. Spring-loaded phone holders are unattractive when the phone isn’t mounted, and finding one to fit my Samsung Galaxy S3 or new iPhone 6S was tricky.

The Spigen mount uses a magnet to connect to the phone. The mount comes with 2 metal plates, so I could use one in my Samsung and one in my iPhone. You can either slip the plate into an existing case, attach it using the included adhesive to the back of your phone, or buy a case from Spigen with a cutout for the plate.

Amazon has a couple of Black Friday sales going on, check them out!

Upgraded

Since I last posted here, I’ve played with Cyanogenmod firmware images – since AT&T is limiting updates to my S3 to KitKat, I needed to take matters into my own hands to upgrade to Lollipop.

In order to install a Cyanogenmod image, I needed to Root the phone first. Rooting is a process where you give yourself elevated permissions on the phone.

I tried a handful of “quickroot” tools that promised a one-click root experience. None of them worked. I ended up installing a recovery ROM image using ODIN, booting into a recovery mode, then running a program to root the phone. Once that was done I was able to load the boot image and boot into my new Lollipop environment.

I like the new Material Design look and feel. Lollipop has some interesting features, like a priority notification mode.

What I didn’t realize was that one of the tools I rely on, Priority senders in email, is a Samsung feature and isn’t on the generic ROM. What I was hoping to do with Lollipop was to improve on mail notifications from specific senders and ignore everyone else. Apple does this well with their VIP feature, Blackberry did this way back when with two levels of notification.

I’m downgrading now to a stock AT&T image and NILS, my previous lock screen solution. While I’m going to miss the eye-candy, KitKat seems to have all of the features I need for work.

Upgrade time

I’ve had to replace SIM carriers in both of my phones — a Samsung S3 and a S4 Active. The S3 is stuck at KitKat, but the S4 Active is being upgraded as I type this to Lolipop. I’m curious to see the new design and see if the lock screen notifications are improved over KitKat.

s4-kitkat-lollipop-1

Android Repairs

This is a series of blog posts documenting my switch from iPhone to Android. To read the whole exciting saga, click here.

One nice thing about the iPhone is the SIM carrier — it’s a metal frame that holds up well under repeated SIM changes. The Samsung Galaxy S3 has a thin metal carrier that uses friction to press the contacts against the card. Between my card wearing out and using a SIM carrier adapter, my phone has lost connection with the SIM card.

On an iPhone? I’d probably need to replace the phone. With a Samsung? I bought a replacement SIM carrier online – $1.88, with free shipping. bought another battery with a wall charger, so I can swap batteries and not worry about charging on the road.

Samsung Diagnostic Codes

Samsung Cell Phones – Programmer Codes
Suggested by: GodCube, 11 Apr 2007 | Print version
Type these codes into the phone where you normally would make a call.

#646# then press the Call button: T-Mobile Customers only, shows minute usage.
*#06# : Show IMEI.
*#9999# : Show Software Version.
*#0837# : Show Software Version (instructions).
*#0001# : Show Serial Parameters.
*#9125# : Activates the smiley when charging.
*#9998*228# : Battery status (capacity, voltage, temperature).
*#9998*246# : Program status.

Read More

One Hour Photo

onehourphoto

There’s a critically endangered species in the world of photography businesses: the one-hour photo shop. With the decline of film developing and photo printing, the one-hour photo niche has become the single fastest-dying business in the United States.

How bad is it? There are only 190 of the shops still open in the whole country.

[ read more on petapixel ]

Image credits: Header photograph by USAG- Humphreys

Google Play Music

I’ve got music everywhere — on my laptop and desktop at home, a subset of that music on a work laptop to sync with my iPhone, music on a USB stick in my car and music on an SD card in my Android phone. One of my biggest pet peeves with my iPhone has been the lack of expandability – I always feel like I’m running against a limit with a 16GB model.

Keeping music metadata in sync is a pain, too — trying to keep genres, albums and artists in sync, and adding new music everywhere is troublesome.

I’m thinking about picking up a Chromebook and have been playing with the Google app suite. I started using Google Play Music – they’ll let me store 50,000 songs, the bandwidth required is pretty minimal, and most importantly, I can organize my music in one place and listen to it at home, at work, in my car or on my phone — and free up 5 gigabytes on my phone I can use for Google apps and podcasts.

playmusic

Chapter 12 – Android Battery Drain

This is a series of blog posts documenting my switch from iPhone to Android. To read the whole exciting saga, click here.

I’m moving back to my iPhone for a while — while I’m loving the Android environment, I’m getting about 8 hours of idle time out of my Galaxy SIII, and that’s just not enough flexibility for me during the week.

I’ve tried Qualcomm’s Snapdragon BatteryGuru, tried removing all of the Samsung apps, turned off the motion sensors, turned the brightness down and turned the auto-brightness setting off — and still I can watch the battery icon draining. Oh, I’ve bought a new battery as well, thinking it might be a Li-ion battery going south.

Between the lack of lock-screen notifications in Kitkat and the battery issues, I’m better off with the iPhone for a while. I found a Lolipop ROM for my old Atrix 4G, I’m tempted to try it out on a rooted ROM to see if the notifications are any better in the new OS version.

Chapter 11 – I removed iTunes!

This is a series of blog posts documenting my switch from iPhone to Android. To read the whole exciting saga, click here.

I removed iTunes from my computer yesterday, and it was the culmination of several years of frustration. iTunes does a lot of things from updating phones to tracking podcasts, providing store access, iPhone backup and restore and AirPlay streaming to other devices. As a result, it became more complicated as time went by. There were a couple of times over the years where iTunes would break and I’d have no option but to remove it completely and start from scratch.

Apple made changes to iTunes over the years and broke third-party compatibility at least twice – I used to use EvilLyrics to import lyric info into my music (which would scroll on the display while the song played) but iTunes made an API change which left EvilLyrics broken.

At one point I had over 300 songs in a compilation folder that I’d play by selecting the folder. I accidentally told iTunes to manage my media, and iTunes faithfully took my folder with 300 songs and converted them into 300 folders with one song each! I spent quite a bit of time after that working on metadata – adding genre, album cover, and artist/compilation info.

Now that iTunes is gone, I’m back to Winamp – the first MP3 player I used under Windows, and it still  works just fine. I can select a folder to play, or use the media player feature to select by artist/genre/etc.

Copying music to an Android phone? Plug it in and drag/drop files. Couldn’t be easier.