Google Duo – Day One First Impressions

I’m truly at a loss to understand why Google has released yet another messaging platform. I try to give them the benefit of the doubt since Android and Google Voice are my platform of choice but I just can’t seem to see the point of Duo and the yet to be seen Allo.

My first issue is you can only use it on one device. I was able to install it on my phone and my iPad(LTE) but could only be signed in, in one place at a time. I was not able to install it on my Nexus 7 as it wasn’t “compatible”. Talk about a step backwards. As a hangouts user I can run it on any device I have with no conflict. Some argue it’s because it’s using your phone number and not your google account well, a phone number is an account if they did it right. It’s my same complaint with Snapchat, WhatsApp, and ect. For years we seemed to be on the path of device agnostic apps now we are going the other way? Why? Was something broken? Is it too hard? Frustrating to say the least.

I made one video call with it and it seemed no different quality wise than a hangouts video call which i also don’t really use. I typically text and make occasional phone calls rarely do I need/want to video call anyone. It would actually be more useful if you could just make a voice call only option?

Hopefully, I’ll use Allo more if it ever comes out but most likely not if I can only use it on one device. I’m not a fan of SMS. It’s an old outdated messaging service. The only purpose it’s serves is a way to send messages when you are having severe network congestion and your data won’t work and your network phone calls won’t work and maybe you can get an SMS out when everything else fails. However, because all of my contact use it I have to use it but Google Voice makes SMS more like an IM messenger so that’s the appeal to me.

Hangouts remains my messenger of choice for these few powerful reasons:

VOIP done right. Utilizing Google Voice I can take and place calls from any device whether it is connected via wifi or cell network and the same with Text messaging. I can text from any device and it’s already cross platform.

While we haven’t seen Allo yet I don’t think Duo/Allo are going to be able to take on Hangouts as my messaging platform of choice. I just hope Google will actually improve it.



Tech I’m using update 2015

I’ve been away from my blog for a while. The reason is mostly time. Starting a new family was a huge time hit to my blog as well as the convenience of quick updates available through social media (Twitter, Google+).

As a follow up to an old article I wrote here:

I wanted to give an update into the tech I’m using.

After my Aria phone, I upgraded to the HTC Vivid which didn’t last long because I managed to get it wet in a pool and had to pay an enormous amount of money to get a Samsung Galaxy S3 which i kept for a few years.

In September 2014, I upgraded to the Moto X (2014) and also got a smart watch the Moto 360. A few months earlier Google announced smart watches and i was hooked but i did wait for the Moto 360 before jumping in. Even a year later I still think it’s the best looking watch on the market. However, the biggest drawback is the LCD display as it doesn’t take advantage of the Always on because of how it activates all the pixels vs how an LED display does. It’s not a huge issue for me. I have grown very accustomed to getting text and select notification on my wrist can’t wait to see how the product matures as smart phones have. I’m still on the Android side of the fence. While battery life and platform fragmentation are still my biggest gripes I still love the platform as a whole and am still more excited with anything Google does that what Apple does.

I had a brief time with an iPad at work. While I was blown away at how great the battery life was and how much more convenient Cisco Anyconnect is that’s about all the praise I could give it. I sorely missed all the customization I’m use to with Android. I was surprised how many Google Apps could be installed over there but it was missing Keep. Couldn’t stand the keyboard even though I installed SwiftKey it’s just not what I like on Android. Wasn’t sad to give it back.

In 2014, I also dropped my AT&T grandfathered unlimited plan due to the throttling reasons than anything for which they got slammed for from the FCC  (ha ha ha). I got a promotion program where the 15GB plan was upgraded to 30GB for the same price. Plus a few months after I signed up they started roll over data too. I’m on a shared plan with another family member but they are not heavy data user. At least no throttling for the same amount of data I’ve always used.

I also got the Nexus 7 for a tablet. Very nice to be on Google’s update schedule vs the carriers. The tablet is basically my phone when I’m at home. Thanks to Google voice and last year’s hangouts update you can take and place calls and text from hangouts essentially making any device on Hangouts an IP phone. They can also MMS now even though I’m not a big MMS person.

I’ve been bouncing around twitter clients again. Plume is by far the best client for Android and feature rich but I’ve had to leave for the Official twitter client because for some reason after they did the material design update the program became very unstable and crashes often. I’ll keep an eye on it in hopes they fix it. 

I really enjoy Google+, in my opinion it’s the best social platform however user adoption and perception is not great. I sure hope it survives. I love the notification control and threaded conversations. Communities are great little social gatherings. I use it for games I play and tech devices. I think if they had a write API it would help.

I cut cable about 3 maybe 4 years ago. While I pay for a few streaming services, I’m well under my old charter and dish bills. Internet providers are slowly raising rates so that’s cutting into the savings as well.

I cut land line about 3 years ago. I use gvmate to hook up my cordless phones to Google voice.

Since Google Listen shut down I went over to Pocketcast which is a far superior podcast app.

Home automation and smart devices are my next projects. I’ve got my eyes on for a way to watch the front door even while away, Smart thermostats probably the nest, and/or maybe a full home camera system? 

Anyway, exciting times for technology changes. 

Until next time!


Google Music

Finally playing around with Google Music after getting into the beta way before it released.

Concept is to upload your music collection to the service then it’s available to you via app or browser anywhere. After transferring for 4 days I now have access to my 14GB collection anywhere. If I’m on my phone I have the option to stream or make available offline anything I want.

It’s much easier to maintain playlist because I know if wont’ loose it since it’s in the cloud vs tied to a pc.

Google music solved everything I hated about iTunes and Double Twist. Yet another Google product that has changed the way I do things!

Google Listen

I’ve never been an Apple guy, but trying to use an old windows mobile 6.1 phone to run with and listen to podcast on was a horrible experience. A few years ago, I bought a used iPod nano 2nd gen and began using it for podcasting and Nike+ for running.

Unfortunately, about a month ago the iPod took a trip through the washer and is no more.

I had gone with Android for my last phone so I thought maybe give it a try instead of spending the ridiculous amount of money they want for a new apple device.

I came up with Google Listen.

I have to say I’ve been pretty impressed with it. I have to point out the barrier to entry is high, its probably not for someone who doesn’t know what they are doing or understands basic RSS feeds. However, I’m a developer, I live technology.

I found the search for a podcast really worthless. (I’ll be using TWIT as my example through the rest of the article.) I tried searching for TWIT – This Week in Tech and I found about everything under the sun that wasn’t it. It was in the list but if you didn’t know, you weren’t finding it.

Going to the podcast home page, I found, was the best way to get a RSS feed url.

Feed Url’s are the driving force behind Listen. When you go to a website and view the podcast feed you are looking for it to enclose the audio file (usually an mp3) in the feed.

Site links sometime setup like this:

What a feed looks like in Google reader Notice the “twit0309.mp3” shows and can be played in reader:

Notice my use of Google Reader, the backend sync for Listen is google reader. While it doesn’t sync your play time (meaning you can’t listen on in reader and listen or switch between and keep your place) but it give you an easy way to manage and add new feeds.

However, to get that to work properly, I ended up adding one feed manually in Listen:

Once i did, I now have a new folder available on google reader I can associate podcast feeds with for Listen specific feeds.

Let’s take a peek at the dead simple interface.

My listen items is anything available to listen too.
My subscriptions shows what you subscribe too.
The other too are worthless to me.

Fresh items are waiting for download or waiting to be organized in the queue.
Queued items work like an ordering system to how your podcast will play (order: top to bottom).

Menu and settings are pretty basic, i recommend only downloading on wi-fi though.

That’s it you are now enjoying your favorite Podcast/Netcast via Listen on your Android phone!

Oh, and I use Endomondo to track my running now (for Android and iPhone), it’s uses the GPS instead of the shoe sensor!

What I’ve been up to: Video creation with XtraNormal

Did you see the EVO vs Iphone 4 video? If not here it is: (warning foul language)

Well, I dug a little deeper and found it was created from a website:

So I threw this together:

Guys at work go out to eat at least once a week and the conversation about where to go seems the same.

I also put this together:

We have a running group at work and we are always joking around so here’s a taste of their humor!

Why I passed on the iPhone (again) and got the HTC Aria! (Android)

For any of you that read my post and follow me on Twitter probably can tell that the Mobile Phone Space is what I’m interested in and very excited about.

A little history:

I got my first cell phone back in 1997 and I went with AT&T because they were the only carrier that worked where I lived in west central Alabama.
I got my first Pocket PC (Windows CE, what became windows mobile) back in 1999.
In 1999 The internet was still something you had to use a dialup phone connection to access however broadband was starting to no longer be a luxury item for internet access.
Ever since then I knew it was a matter of time before we all had handheld computers with internet access everywhere.

1st iPhone pass:

Apple released this 1st iPhone in 2007 and it caused a lot of hype (or iHype as it was later referred).
I was never into Apple computers for no particular reason, it’s just my career lead me into windows development and business application development, you can’t really do any of that on Apple so I never considered them in a Phone purchase.
In 2007, I got my first Windows Mobile Phone with a data connection and loved it! It was the AT&T Tilt.
Just the idea of posting real time pictures and updates of stuff going on was just revolutionary shift in the way things were and where they were going.
So, for the next 2 years I got to see friends and family with their iPhones and I began to see the appeal of a nice user interface and how touch screens was really where phones were going. That’s what got me thinking that the iPhone would be my next phone purchase (windows mobile wasn’t keeping up).

Windows Mobile downfall:

Windows Mobile began to show it’s staleness by the end of 2009 (probably earlier by what I was reading online around this time). By that I mean they really never changed the UI in ten years. Most phones were still resistive screens instead of the new capacitive screens. But what was the final straw for me was that developers (my peers) where no longer creating/updating apps like Android and the iPhone were getting. Twitter clients were horrible. The one I found that i liked quit updating the program so it didn’t recieve the new retweet format (essentially you missed some updates). The facebook app was horrible as well. What’s a phone that can’t do Twitter and Facebook (LOL, can’t believe i just said that)?

A tough decision:

My contract for the Tilt ended in late 2009.
I could either get the iPhone 3GS which came out about 6mo’s earlier or wait another 6mo’s for them to release a new one (if at all). I decided to wait.
Android 2.0 was just picking up steam about this time, however AT&T had no Android phones.
Rumors of 5 Android phones the 1st half of 2010 was finally announced by AT&T.
In March, the Motorola Backflip was announced but it was still running an older version of Android and the design was just not what I was interested in (including the hardware specs).
Now, what is really interesting and perhaps ahead of it’s time, Google announces the Nexus One. A phone you can order online unlocked ($530) or subsidized through some carriers ($179 or so).
Several advantages to getting an unlocked phone include: no contract, no plan change, no AT&T software, android market freedom, and quick updates from google.
After being underwhelmed by the Backflip and not seeing any more Android announcements from AT&T, I seriously considered the Nexus One but just couldn’t justify the unlocked cost.
Again, I decide to wait.

Final decision:

After being in wait mode for over 8 months, Apple and AT&T announces the iPhone 4.
I had every intent to get this phone on the 24th but still said unless there is an HTC Android phone announced before the 24th.
1 week after the iPhone annoucnement came the HTC Aria announcement for the 20th. I still had a week to make up my mind between the 2 phones. I was disappointed that the Aria didn’t have a 1Ghz processor but other than that the phone looked great. I did a ton of online research on the Aria and by Friday my mind was made up.

Fathers Day Present:

After a lunch, with the family in Tuscaloosa, I went to the AT&T store and picked up the Aria and have been very pleased with it. While it doesn’t have a 1Ghz processor that 600Mhz does a fantastic job. If I didn’t know that’s what was in there I probably couldn’t tell. I also got a $50 loyalty credit, so I got the phone for under $100 plus I didn’t have to change my data plan. I grandfathered in a truly unlimited data plan from my old Tilt phone (no 5gb cap even). I wasn’t going to the iPhone and loose that!

A Quick Review:

AT&T has locked side loading apps from outside the android market as well as select apps in the market (namely Easy Tether). This is very BAD AT&T and against what Android stands for!! This will not allow you to beta test software and such.
I like The HTC Sense Software! I don’t run everything they offer because I do like the android version pretty well and I prefer to run apps like Twidroid and the Facebook App intead of using the HTC version that merges them both. While that is very cool you don’t get functiality like in the main apps.
The HTC Contacts are cool because you get a favorites widget and you can link you google contacts to facebook and get notifications when a contact you are looking at or a favorite updates.
Facebook Sync is cool because now my contacts have pictures without me having to add them manually.
The GPS locks on very fast, I haven’t played with it very much because the network location is usually all I need, but it was like under 30 seconds for a lock where as my old phone it was serveral minutes. (standing still).
Google! If you run many of the google services Android is the way to go. My particular favorite is the Google Voice app! You also get push gmail and push google apps email, google maps, googles, skymap, earth, reader via the browser, buzz, latitude, and the list goes on.
The Aria has an optical trackball which frankly is not useful to me and I wish it didn’t have it. I would have rather seen a larger screen than that. The trackball isn’t really needed with touch screens in my opinion.
I like that it does not have a slideout keyboard even though I can type faster on them.  Without, makes the device so much thinner and lightweight.  Since you have a landscape keyboard typing is pretty accurate.
7 home screens (no sure what i’ll do with all of them)!
Android 2.1.

So, I have 18 to 24 months before i have to do all this again will i get the iPhone then?Probably not but only time will tell.  I really like Android and I think it will be even better by then! The power of open source vs closed!!

Using Twitter Effectively during Severe Weather

With Twitter becoming more mainstream everyday, it becomes obvious that people will use and adapt it to what they do day in and day out.

As some of you know I work with the ALERT group. ALERT is a Ham Radio group that works directly with the National Weather Service in Birmingham to pass spotter reports to forecasters. We are always looking for ways to help gather reports for NWS.

With the help of James Spann the use of the hastag #alwx was born.  Hash Tag terms are used in Twitter to denote ways to search for topics of interest. In this case #alwx stands for alabama weather.  Many spotters across the state (and other states) have adopted this style tag. Other states would use their abbreviation ending in wx. (example: mississippi #mswx, georgia #gawx, ect…)

Now that  you have some background how can you facilitate this?
Here are some tips:

  1. Twitter web page: you can type in search terms in the following box, once entered you get the option to save that search.
  2. Find Twitter desktop client you can run on your pc or mac.
    • Seesmic Desktop: has a way to save searches much like the twitter home page utilizing the bar at the top:
      then you will get a new column that you can click on:
      image  image
    • TweetDeck: also has a way to add a search column to the application.
      image  image
  3. Find a client you can use mobile.
    • PockeTwit: a windows mobile client that has saved searches as a feature as of today.  At the time of this writing I’m not aware of any other mobile clients that have integrated search.

I hope that give you a starting point! I look forward to seeing your weather reports around the Twittersphere!

Questions or comments can be posted here or give me a shout on Twitter! @KV4S

Russell Thomas, KV4S