the itjerk

my adventures with technology

Tag Archives: Google

google home

Yeah, I’m a sucker for IoT things like this. Amazon’s Alexa found a new home via eBay in Rockford, and I have to admit, we felt a little empty with the gap she left. “Alexa, what’s the weather” mostly.

So I jumped on board when Google announced their own voice-activated assistant, Google Home. I preordered directly from Google for $129 sometime in October, and it arrived just this week. Setup required me to download the “Google Home” app on my android phone, and I was then prompted to enter my Google account info. A simple process, it did some updates, knew somehow it was in my kitchen, and connected to my home wifi network.

Firstly, there is no privacy with these devices. Google knows who I am, where I live, and can listen to all the conversation maybe even in the entire house. That near-field technology is quite good, and even when laying down in an adjacent room Google Home could hear my commands, all given with the obligatory “Okay Google” salutation.

Unlike Alexa, Google Home, or rather the Google Assitant is quite smart, rattling off answers to questions like “Who just won the World Series” and whatever else we could think of. The biggest surprise was when I asked her to play some music. I have precious little in Google Play, but based on one album I bothered to upload sometime ago (The Blossom Toes’ Ever So Clean), she offered a quite satisfying playlist of late 60s psychedelia I could imagine. Bravo.

So here she will sit, ever listening and patiently awaiting our commands, until we too get bored with her!

uh-oh, what bricked my nexus 5X usb

I did the July 5th, 2016 Security Update for my Nexus 5X running Marshmallow 6.01 and guess what – no usb connection. The phone charges when connected, but no USB menu when I swipe down from the top. My better half also happens to have the same phone, which with the same cable still connects to the same computer. Her Android security patch level? June 1, 2016.

Called Google to tell them yet all they wanted to do was a factory reset. Oh the woes of level 1 support…

Screenshot_20160712-212941

Ends up that I did finally backup my phone to my google drive and do the factory reset.  USB still not working so thank goodness my phone was still under warranty. Replacement on the way. So what bricked the USB? Bad cable? Bad USB port? Or was it that security patch? I’m thinking I need a warranty…

Update: USB still not working with the replacement phone, so Google is sending me another!

project fi from google

I dumped T-Mobile. Not because there was any issue, rather, since upgrading to a phone that supports LTE I’ve been quite please with them. No, this was strictly based on price. Instead of paying $64 per month, I am now down to $38 for the same service: unlimited talk and text, plus 1GB of cellular data.

What’s Project Fi? It’s Google’s virtual wireless service. It uses the chip inside the Nexus 5x or 6 to pass calls between Wifi and cellular networks. Of the latter, it includes T-Mobile, Verizon and now US Cellular. So that’s the catch: you have to use their specific phones, which for me was fine because I already had one. If you don’t have their Nexus phone, Google offers a no-interest payment plan.

Upside? It’s less expensive for at least equal service. I do notice that in buildings where cellular service was spotty (you know, those dark back stairwells and basement tunnels), Wifi can fill in the gaps in coverage. Downside? Well, when the kids start youtubing on a cellular network. Since you only get charged for the data you use, if you have a month where you’re under what you signed up for, you’ll get a credit on your next bill. The flip side however is that you’ll also get charged (at the same data rate) when you go over your data limit. T-mobile would allow me to go over my data limit for the same cost, but at excruciatingly slower speeds.

Screenshot_20160613-120248

On the web: Project Fi

 

recaptcha 2.0

unnamed
Got an email from Google about upgrading reCaptcha: “You’re receiving this email because you’re registered as a website administrator for a site that uses reCAPTCHA.” If you haven’t noticed, gone are the days with unreadable letters and house numbers, and in is a simple box asking to to check “I’m not a robot”. I upgraded my reCaptcha module on my drupal website and edited the settings.php file after installing it (depending on your version, you’ll get an error on your status page, also telling you how to correct). But it didn’t work! That’s because I needed to generate new public and private API keys for 2.0. So if you do ever get locked out by reCaptcha, you can always delete the module, login, fix what needs to be fixed and then reinstall.

On the web:
reCaptcha Developer’s Guide

new year brings model b+, beep, chromebook

Happy holidays and all that. Xmas brought a few new electronics to the household, here’s a very brief recap:

Raspberry Pi B+ replaced the old model B. I have a feeling that the old one was a dud somehow because every time it had an unclean shutdown, I had to reformat the SD card. Anyway, in with the new out with the old.

I received my Beep unit just before the holidays, in fact, even before email notification of the shipment. But of what use is a music player – one that handles digital output btw – if there is not any software that can access the music that you actually own!?! In a box it will sit until I can use it with something other than Spotify or Pandora.

The Acer Chromebook is quite nice, though the keyboard takes a little getting used to. Supervised mode is a bust because although you can limit/restrict web access, it is not possible to allow a supervised user the use of apps or extensions.  Really Google?

lollipop battery issue

Upgraded my Nexus 4 smartphone to Android 5.0, aka Lollipop. Not without issues, especially some app that’s draining the battery, take a look:

Screenshot_2014-11-26-19-30-53

On the web:

https://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=80950

https://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=79907

chromebook acer

Finally got fed up with the girls’ iPad. Fixed one too many times, it’s just time to move on to something different. My oldest told me that she uses a Chromebook at school, and having been impressed with my Nexus tablet and the Android universe, I decided to give it a look.

A Chromebook is a laptop. Sort of. It basically boots to a built-in Chrome browser, and includes everything Google – Drive, Docs, Play, Books, etc. While the offering of Apps is nothing near what’s available for the Android OS, that’s okay as they mostly stick to Youtube and I’m kinda over them playing Candy Crush, Fruit Slice, etc. Plus, I want them to have a laptop with a keyboard, ostensibly so they don’t have to use the wife’s, but in actuality because they’re just getting to that age.

81xTJR-HCGL._SL1500_

Off to Amazon, I found the Acer CB3-111-C670 for a super cheap $179.99. It’s got an 11.6″ screen, with a 16GB SSD, 2GB of RAM and an Intel 2.16Ghz Dual-core Celeron processor. It sports an 8.6 hour battery life, 802.11 AC wireless, SD card reader, two USB and one HDMI port, and a built-in camera. In other words, it’s a notebook computer! And hopefully the hardware will be a little more durable than the iPad wasn’t!

I login with my Google account and viola, it already knows who I am, has my synced apps and bookmarks. That’s not that big of a deal, my Android phone does the same thing. But here’s the coolest thing: I can then setup Supervised Users. These are accounts for my kids that I can total be big brother about. When I browse to http://chrome.com/manage, I get a full report of their browsing history, and the ability to block whatever websites I want. Perfect for a parent. Santa delivers it on Xmas eve, more about this in the new year.

Capture

On the web:
Acer Chromebook

google nexus 4

T-Mobile recently came out with the "un-plan" – no contract and unlimited talk/text and data (up to 500MB at 4G) for only $50 a month. Considering I was paying $49.99 for considerably less service, it was a very good "upgrade" for me. It also coincided with my two year anniversary with my old LG Optimus-T. A good phone, it was getting a little long in the tooth, especially once I started using my Google Nexus 7 tablet, which features Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean).

I purchased the Nexus 4 from Google direct, and the number one reason for my choice was price: $299 for the 8GB model (which was really $341 by the time it got to my door). No contract, no monthly payment, no waiting for an anniversary, I straight up bought the phone. It's comparable in features to the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One and probably even iPhone 5, but make no mistake, price was the deciding factor. The phone is made by LG, and known as their LG E960. You can read all about it's features at the link below.

And after two years with the Optimus-T, yes, I did have a change of heart with "cheap phones". So, yes, I did pay a fair amount for the Nexus 4. Maybe it's because of the Nexus 7, or maybe the maturity of the Android operating system, but cheap phones don't cut it anymore. I wanted a phone that can do everything, quickly, and I want the full-features of a top-of-the-line phone. Nexus 4 fit the bill.

Ordered over the weekend, it arrived to my door by Wednesday. I was eager to set it up, but that quickly was dashed when I realized that I needs a micro-sim card, and not the regular sim (Subscriber Identity Module) card from my old phone. I called T-Mobile and they assured me that I could go to a local T-Mobile store and they'd replace mine, without charge. Good thing he put a note in my account record, as the guy at the store first quoted me $30 for one (which was more than the $22 the guy on the phone quoted!).

Okay, got the new micro-sim card, used the tool to stick it in the Nexus 4, and then had to call T-Mobile to get it activated. Was a little disappointed when the rep asked for the sim number, as the guy at the store didn't give me the card the sim was mounted to (requiring me to take it out of the phone and squint like crazy to read the numbers).

When I started the phone, it immediately asked me if I wanted to sign into my Google account, and have Google manage my phone backup. I happily did, and after downloading a ton of stuff (yes, I was on Wi-Fi), most every app that was installed on my Nexus 7 tablet was now installed on my phone! I suppose you can argue whether that's a good thing or not, or about privacy concerns with having everything linked to the big G, but what's the point? It's just too easy.

I had a favorite ringtone (Neu's Euphoria) on my old phone, but when I plugged the Nexus 4 into my computer running Ubuntu 12.04 LTS to copy the mp3 file, it didn't mount. That's because the Nexus 4 uses MTP (Media Transfer Protocol). Fortunately, it was an easy fix, I just installed the Gnome virtual file system and rebooted.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:langdalepl/gvfs-mtp
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

Now, if I would have only known to copy the file to the Ringtones folder on the Nexus 4…

On the web:
Nexus 4 Tech Specs

nexus 7 tablet review

Tablet arrived yesterday. After getting it out of the box, (yes, no small feat), I started it up. First up was logging on to Wifi, and with that accomplished, the tablet knew who I was. I then entered my Gmail password and it was all ready to go. Easy, right.

Before I could poke around too much, I was notified that a System Update was available, Android 4.1.1. After rebooting, I immediately downloaded Amazon's Kindle and MP3 apps from the Google Play Store. It's significant: with these apps on board, why buy the Kindle Fire (which restricts what apps can be downloaded and doesn't offer Google's Play Store)?

The user experience is fantastic. It's sharp, it's fast, there's little to nothing to complain about. Asus did a bang up job and it only cost $199 plus tax and shipping, but with a $25 Play credit. Wifi is the limitation, but for a device that won't leave the house or office, there's no issue.

One thing I have to mention is that this tablet – any tablet for that matter – is it's kid glue. My daughters were chomping at the bit to get their hands on it, and within a few minutes of first possession, they had downloaded four games, along with some annoying shortcuts that appeared on the desktop. As a single user device, it needs to allow some protection from little meddling hands. Do I want my kids to access my Gmail? Spending with my Google Wallet? What prevents them from doing so?

A few oddities: There is no camera app, and I'm just not quite sure how the screen rotation works – I found it. In the notification drop-down at the top of the screen, there is a "lock" with two arrows. Simply "unlock". Also, arranging the icons on the desktop will always seems to be cumbersome to me.

Some cool apps:
Banshee Remote – control Banshee (linux music program) on local network
Squeezebox – app for controlling Logitech's Squeezebox
QuickDic – foreign language dictionairies

I'll update this as I use it….

google nexus 7 tablet

On order. I'd been contemplating one of the $100 Chinese tablets that run ICS, but considering the price of Google's own tablet, with the fact that it's got great hardware (Quad core TEGRA proc, 1280×800 graphics) and some seriously engineering on the firmware (Jelly Bean), AND despite its lack of i/o (no HDMI, no microSD), I sprang. Watch this space.

On the web:
Goolge Nexus 7