Exercise Stats

Exercise statsHere’s my current exercise stats, just for the record, as of today:  I started using Cardiotrainer on December 13th, 2010.  That’s about 18 months.   I have traveled 323.48 miles in 290 workouts, and have worked out for 172 hrs and 49 min, burning 65,890 calories.  My data has been through two Android phones, and will be moved to a third one in a week or two.  Unfortunately, I haven’t recorded my weight along with this data to show its overall decrease, but since 12/13/10 when I started, it has definitely been going down, slowly.  I’m still way too heavy (303 lbs on the Rec-Plex scale last weekend), but much better than my last weigh-in at my doctor’s office.  I’ll find out the exact change from last time when I see my doctor again in a couple weeks and I’ll be sure to post the results here.  I’m really anxious to get below 300 lbs permanently!  Maybe even by the time I see my doctor again…that’d be awesome!

Flickr Backup

This morning I decided I wanted a create a few photo collages for my website’s header using all of the photos from a specific photo set I have in Flickr–“Swimming at Rosemary’s”.  Since all of these photos were taken on all different dates and years, I didn’t have a single “local” copy of them all in one place, like they are on Flickr–all of my local photos are organized by date taken, and also include all of my “garbage” photos (bad takes, out of focus, etc.)–which are kept for use in photo mosaics when I need them (they make great fillers).  So I set out to find a way to download an entire set of photos from Flickr.  Flickr itself has a lot of options, but this isn’t one of them.

Most utilities of this sort that I found are apps–they’re for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.  After some searching, I found what I was looking for: FlickrEdit for the PC.  I downloaded it, and it’s not even an installer, just an exe that runs immediately.  It’s very straightfoward and easy to use.  It even connected directly to my Flickr account, only asking for Authorization from Flickr to access my account, which I was already logged into.  Once I accepted, it started loading my thumbnails.  It displays 50 photos per page, so you don’t have to wait for entire sets to load, if you have more than 50 photos in a set.  You can simply select the photos you want to download, or select an entire set, then download it to a specific folder.  It’s pretty quick too–it downloaded my entire “Swimming at Rosemary’s” set (302 photos) all at their original sizes, in about 20 minutes.

FlickrEdit is a really nice app, and it’s a relief to know I now have it available for those times when I need a complete set of photos from my Flickr account, and just knowing there’s a simple method available if I need some disaster recovery of all of my photos some day.  I added a couple new photo collages to my website header, so you’ll probably see them up there once in awhile.  For a few days though, while it’s still super-hot and dry around here, I’m going to leave it on one of them as a static header, just to chill.

New Xoom Launcher

I recently found a new launcher for Android that’s really awesome!  I had been using ADW Launcher for some time now, and thought it was the best one out there… up until about a week ago.  I’ve given it a week to make sure it didn’t turn out to be another one of those flashy homescreen apps that turns out to be riddled with bugs, very clunky and a terrible experience, before I went ahead and posted something recommending it.  So you can rest assured, it’s a pretty sweet launcher.

I found it after browsing around on mycolorscreen.com and looking at other users’ homescreens.  Several of them were using something called “Apex Launcher Pro”, and that intrigued me.  The next thing I know I’m installing it on my tablet and digging in deep.  This one isn’t for everyone though–it’s only for ICS (a.k.a Ice Cream Sandwich, or Android 4).  So it won’t run on my phone, only my tablet.  That is, until US Cellular finally releases an Android 4 phone… then I’ll be all over THAT.

Anyway, since it’s designed specifically for Android 4, it looks and feels a LOT like the stock Android 4 launcher–everything is there, the very smooth-scrolling screens outlined in their box containers (only seen when scrolling your homescreens), the smooth page-by-page app drawer icons and widget pages… everything is still there, except there’s tons MORE you can now do and change.   Every feature seems to have added abilities.  Everything from Folders (which can now have square outlines, circle outlines, custom outlines, or even take on “iPad-like” grid qualities) to what happens when you press the Home button, to how you want your app drawer to look and act… and yes, you can even adjust your “grid size”, having more or less icons and widgets on each homescreen, whetever you prefer.  You can cram them full with a grid of 10×10 (100 icons per screen!) if you like, or even bring it down to 4×4 to make it look just like a phone display on your tablet!

Apex’s settings screens even look exactly like Android 4’s settings pages, so it all blends together perfectly, making it just feel right.  I think this is really the first launcher I’ve used where, after a week of use, I really have no complaints at all.  I haven’t found a single one of those little “gotchas” yet that spoil the whole experience.

There’s a free version of Apex Launcher, so you can try it out and see if it looks like it’ll work ok for you.  Then there’s the full “Pro” version, which is actually just a key that unlocks all of the free version’s features, for $3.99.  The Pro version includes a bunch more transitions and many additional features that make it a truly great experience way beyond the stock launcher.  Give it a shot if you’re running Android 4… go ahead, add some sprinkles to your Ice Cream Sandwich!  Hey… aren’t those called “Jimmies”?  Ha!


Launchers, Phones, and Books, oh my!

Well, I’m back to using ADW as my tablet’s launcher.  Tons more room per screen and enough options to keep me happy.  I found that even the Android 4 stock launcher has a few issues that drive me nuts.  The biggest of which is when you go into the app drawer where all of your apps and widgets are.  Most of the time when I open it, it will be showing my widgets, but the tab for my Apps will be selected.  So I can’t just click on Apps to go to apps.  If I do, nothing happens.  I have to switch to widgets, then back to apps, then it starts working right again.  This happens often enough to be very irritating.  The only major problem I have besides that–again, is what I’ve always complained about with it–the wasted screen space.  So there, that’s done for awhile.  I’m very content with ADW, it just keeps getting better and better.

Which brings me to my next topic.  I got a new phone recently.  Of course, another Android.  A Motorola Electrify with Android 2.3 (Gingerbread).  I never realized the dramatic difference that happened between Android 2.2 (Froyo) and Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) for phones.  It sure makes a huge difference, especially with memory management.  And my main excuse to root my phone is now gone–screenshots.  Yes, 2.3 includes the ability (though hidden and apparently different on every carrier’s Android) to take screenshots!  On mine I was directed to a little app in the marked called “Screen Grabber” and was instructed to install it, then go to its settings and turn off the “require root” option.  After doing this, it takes screenshots with ease on my phone.  No more need to root!  My only other complaint (that I always had on my HTC Desire) is eliminated now as well–space for apps.  My new phone came with 16GB of internal memory, which is split with half for apps, half for media.  But since the “Apps2SD” lets you optionally move a good portion of most apps to your “SD Card”–which is what the “media” half of the 16GB is considered–I can install dozens of apps and use next to nothing from my app memory.  I now have every app I normally use installed and working, and still have a ton of space left.  The phone even uses the same Tegra 2 processor as my Motorola Xoom, so I can install and play any of my favorite “THD” games on it!  As a comparison, my HTC Desire had 348MB of memory for my apps (and a 32GB SDHC card for media), and after a full wipe of the phone, and the re-installation of all of the updates just for it’s pre-installed apps, I was left with about 135MB of memory, even when using Apps2SD to move everything possible to the SD card.  I could install most of the apps I normally use, but not all of them, before I started getting the “WARNING – memory is low” message.  At this point, I could still install a few more apps, but it’s very dangerous to go lower.  I usually ended up with crashing problems and the phone spontaneously rebooting once in awhile when it crashed.  Not good.  So space is no longer an issue, at least with this phone, and this should be a lesson for everyone out there who has had a bad experience with an Android device–if you bought cheap, it just might be that memory space issues are your main problem.

I also just started reading a new book.  Looking for something to grab my interest after finishing Ready Player One, I stumbled onto “One Second After” by William Forstchen.  It’s about EMP–Electromagnetic Pulse, which is apparently a very real and dangerous possibility.  It’s a novel, meant to explain the dangers of EMP and what could possibly happen if our country were attacked using a weapon like this.  It’s not my usual cup of tea, but just the publisher’s summary was enough to grab me and make me want to read it cover to cover.  Take a look:

In a small North Carolina town, one man struggles to save his family after America loses a war that will send it back to the Dark Ages.

Already cited on the floor of Congress and discussed in the corridors of the Pentagon as a book all Americans should read, One Second After is the story of a war scenario that could become all too terrifyingly real. Based upon a real weapon – the Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) – which may already be in the hands of our enemies, it is a truly realistic look at the awesome power of a weapon that can destroy the entire United States, literally within one second.

This book, set in a typical American town, is a dire warning of what might be our future and our end.

That was it.  It’s now on my phone and I’m reading it to and from work.  It’s very very scary, and as you read it you start to wonder how you and your family would fare in the same situation.  Food for thought.  A LOT of food for thought.  If you want to know more, here’s a link to the Audiobook, and here’s a link to the author’s website.

A deeper look

At the moment I’m trying to tolerate the stock launcher in Android 4.  Here’s a look at my new main home screen.  Kinda sparse, but that’s the best I can do with it.  I do like a lot of other things in it though, which is why I’m willing to tolerate the limitations of the home screens…for now, at least.  The full-page flipping of apps in the new app drawer is awesome–it’s always fast and very smooth, making it a breeze to find anything I want very quickly within all of my icons.  This, along with the same page functionality for all of the widgets, is really nice.

I also found some deeper “hidden” features in Android 4.  If you go into “Settings” >> “Developer Options” you’ll see a lot of new “User Inferface” settings that you can tweak to your liking, or experiment with.  These options are intended for developers to use when testing their apps.  Options such as “show touches” and “pointer location” will highlight exactly what the user does on the screen, but they’re also handy for making sure your screen is working properly.  You can test out your device’s “multi-touch” capabilities by turning on “show touches” and then pressing 5 or 10 fingertips on the screen at once and watch the fireflies!  “Show CPU usage” is good for monitoring your system when anything else is running–it sticks on the screen no matter where you are in the OS or in another application, constantly showing you your CPU usage and exactly what apps are using it.

The options for “Window animation scale” and “Transition animation scale” can even be adjusted to slow things down, making windows pop up and transition much more smoothly, which Kevin actually adjusted to 5x and likes it this way.  For me, I’m just the opposite.  It defaults to 1x for both of these settings, but I prefer to set the both to “off”.  They only delay whatever action you’re doing, so why not make it as fast and responsive as possible?  I love having the option though.  As I said before with the home screen pages, why didn’t they just give us all of the options like this for the homescreen grids and transitions??

I also now have second thoughts about the new panorama feature that’s built-in.  Yes, it’s nice to have it included, free of charge, but after some experimentation, the resulting images are pretty low-res.  I found an amazing alternative that does the same thing with much better results though–it’s called “Photaf THD”.  There’s a free version (with ads) and a paid version without the ads.  I’m not sure if there are any other limitations in the free version than there are in the paid version, but I’m always will to pay a few dollars to support the developer of a good app, and this is one of them.  It’s very simple to use, yet has some complex options inside for tweaking how to make your panoramas, and also includes some quality options.  Plus, this is a “THD” version, which means it’s “Tegra High Definition” optimized (Tegra 2 is the chip that drives a lot of Android tablets, including my Motorola Xoom), so it’s optimized to work with my device.

Lastly, there are also a lot more “hidden” features scattered throughout Android 4, even if you’re familiar with Android 3, which has many of the same features–a lot of the same Settings sections now include new options.  One of these, in particular, really shocked me today, and I love it: In “Settings” >> “Security” you can now select “NONE” for the screen lock!  This was never an option before–you always had to use either one of the security options, whether it was “slide”, a password, or a PIN.  With “NONE” selected, the lock screen is disabled!  I can now power on my tablet and I’m instantly on my home screen, or wherever I was when I last turned the screen off!

First Impressions of Android 4

Android 4 Screenshot (using ADW Launcher EX)Android 4, also known as “Ice Cream Sandwich” or “ICS”, has been out for a few months in the Android community, first as just a “raw” version from Android, and most recently as the newest OS for Android phones and tablets.  The Motorola Xoom (the tablet I have) was supposed to be one of the first tablets to receive ICS, and it’s being pushed out over the air this week to them.  Kevin got his yesterday, and I got mine this morning.

If they could have been just a few weeks quicker, this would have made a great Christmas present for all Xoom owners!  So far I’m really enjoying all of the new features and enhancements.  The only thing I can complain about (and I have the same issue with ALL Android versions to date) is the way they design their launcher home screens.  They really don’t give you much room for widgets and icons, leaving huge chunks of screen real estate on the left and right sides and between objects, just so you can click the edges to flip home screens and to make everything very clear and separated.  It’s not like it’s an impossible task.  They could at least throw in options to change your grid size & border sizes, and make the defaults what it has now.  That way, geeks like me could always dig in there and tweak things the way we like.  I’m sure there are plenty of Android fans out there in addition to me, who went “the Android way” primarily for the freedom it provides in many ways–from the ability to install apps from anywhere, not just the official Market–to the ability to add all the widgets and icons you want all over your home screens, so why wouldn’t they just throw in all of the options under the hood?  Maybe they’re leaving it open for the developers to build upon… which is exactly where I went to get the launcher I always dreamed of.  Read on.

That’s all I can complain about with ICS though, it’s home screen layout.  And that’s nothing really, because there are plenty of alternative home screen launchers available to give me what I crave.  I settled on ADW Launcher Ex a while back, and I haven’t found a better launcher since.  Particularly for Honeycomb (Android 3) and now ICS.  ADW has been frequently updated and enhanced to work with these versions, and it shows.  This isn’t a review for ADW though, so let me get back to ICS.

ICS is the first version of Android to have built-in screenshot capability!  POWER-VOL-DOWN on the Xoom will snap a screenshot.

All of the built-in apps have been enhanced a great deal: The camera and video recorder both have many new features, including the ability to take great 1-click panorama photos, add live facial special effects to videos, and much more.

A new font called “Roboto” makes the entire interface look much slicker, sharper and clearer, as well many apps which use the system’s default font.

A basic photo editor is now built into Gallery (called “Photo Studio”), so you can do basic editing, color correction and even perform a lot of photo effects without even installing an editing app.

The browser is much better, faster, smoother, and includes more zoom & pan features as well as the new ability to save web pages for offline viewing.

You can create folders by simply dragging one app onto another one. (Nice feature for Android to finally have, but it’s been in ADW for a long time, so it’s nothing new to me)

It has improved spell-checking and keyboard functionality, as well as new options for typing what you speak.  I haven’t tried the speaking features yet though, so I can’t comment on them yet.

You can now resize most widgets whatever way you want, which is awesome, but again, ADW has done this for some time, so it’s nothing new to me.

You can now go directly to the camera from the lock screen, and if you’re playing music, the lock screen also shows the music player options and the album art for the music currently playing.

To sum it up, I think this is an awesome upgrade from Android 3, so if you have the option on your device I wouldn’t hesitate to install it.  This is also Google’s first “unifying” OS–designed for both Android Tablets and Android Phones, so you can expect to hear about it more and more in the future.  You sure can’t beat the price, that’s for sure!

Alternate Android Launcher

One big advantage Android devices have over Apple is their ability not only to to allow the user to completely customize their  home screens using widgets and icons, but to change the entire “launcher” app itself!  This is the interface delivering the experience which connects the user to their device and apps.  Yesterday, one of Google’s 10-cent paid app sale items was ADW Launcher EX.  I have owned this app for quite some time, and I’ve used it often, but kept running into a “deal-breaking” snag causing me to revert back to the stock Honeycomb Launcher on my Xoom.  So, even though I had already purchased it some time ago for full price, I clicked on it anyway.  Turns out, to my delight, it’s been updated quite a bit!  So once again I switched to it.  The changes are nice, and many of them target Honeycomb devices, and devices with faster speeds and large screens, so it’s a lot better than it used to be.

The main “deal breaker” I hit last time was still there, however:  I would layout one home page with all of the icons and widgets just the way I like them, then save all my settings in ADW’s settings page, then I would reboot.  Every time it came back up, every single widget would be missing, with the message “problem loading widget” in its place.  They would never load, so if I wanted that layout back I’d have to re-create my home page every time I rebooted.  Simply unacceptable.  But, since ADW has come so far, this time I took it a step further and googled the issue.  After a few minutes I found the answer in a Xoom forum.  Turns out that either Android itself or specifically the Xoom have problems when you place widgets on multiple launchers.  Not multiple home pages on the SAME launcher, but on multiple launchers.  My default home screen on both the stock launcher and on ADW were nearly identical, so I went back to the stock launcher and deleted all of my widgets on my home screens.  Then, once more, I re-built my default home screen in ADW.  After a reboot, voila!  My widgets reloaded perfectly!

With this now working, I am once again giving ADW a chance to be my launcher of choice.  So far so good.  It still has its quirks, just as all launchers do (including the stock launcher), but all the additional features and functions in it make it much more desirable and fun to use than the stock launcher, so I’m going with it.  I love having so many options!  I’ll never go back to the “KISS” method Apple uses.  Ever.

ADW is still just 10 cents this morning–if you don’t have it yet, you can’t go wrong, give it a shot.  Just remember to delete all of your widgets from your current launcher’s home screens before you start using it.

10 apps for 10 cents each for 10 days!

Google just hit 10 billion downloads in the Android Market, so to celebrate they have worked with their top developers to offer a huge 10-day sale!  Some of the best (and most expensive) paid apps in the market will be for sale for 10 cents.  There will be 10 apps a day, changed daily, for 10 days, all for 10 cents each!  You can’t lose–hurry up and go shopping!  You can get them all every day and only spent $1.00!  Hurry!  Today was already day 1, so go grab some deals in the Android Market!  Even if you don’t already have your dream Android device, go buy them and they’ll stay on your account until you DO get your new Android.  This is even better than Amazon’s free paid app every day (except it ends in 10 days).

For me, I blew it–Just in today’s ten I had already purchased most of these apps for full price a while ago 🙁  I paid $6.99 for Asphalt 6 HD, and Great Little War Game is also pretty cool.  I did grab Minecraft – Pocket Edition for 10 cents though–this one is normally $6.99 too, so I’m happy.  Kevin has been drooling for it for awhile but I kept telling him he’d have to buy it himself if he gets a tablet for Christmas…  Today he offered me a dime to get it.  I told him to keep the change.

Netflix finally officially available for Xoom!

Netflix on XoomNetflix 1.5.0 now officially supports the Android Honeycomb OS.  This means you can install it on any Android tablet.  I have been running version 1.4.1 on my Xoom for a few weeks and haven’t had an issue, so 1.5.0 should be pretty Honeycomb-stable.  I was prompted to update my Xoom yesterday with the new version.  Here’s an article.

iOS 5

I finally got iOS5 installed on Kevin’s iPod.  I must say, I’m not impressed.  Very little has changed.  And from what I can see, a bunch of it was lifted from Android!  Clearly Steve Jobs had little, if any, input about the iOS5 updates.  The feature that is most clearly lifted directly from the Android is the “window shade” status bar!  You can now slide down the bar containing the clock and status icons to view your recent notifications.  Is it better?  Of course!  It’s been working great on Android for years!  Apple’s finally getting a little closer to reality.  Now if they could just add something to their interface so users don’t have to stare that those worn-out “Chicklet” icons all the time… Hey, I know!  GADGETS!  WIDGETS! APPLETS!  (hey, that last one might just be a winner–it has the word apple in it…) Whatever, just some interface customization options.  I still think they’re new slogan should be “Apple: Yesterday’s Technology at Tomorrow’s Prices!