Witt's Twaddle

What is rooting and why should I do it? The pros & cons of Android rooting

Posted in Tech by Witt on July 28, 2010

Everywhere we look, there are posts about phones being rooted, the ability to flash alternate ROMs, and more. So why should you root your nice, shiny phone? What are the benefits? Well, that’s what we are here to talk about today. Before we go any further, however – a word of caution: rooting or modifying your phone in any way can cause the device to no longer work, or “brick” it. You are at your own risk, should you choose to root or flash your phone, and we assume no liability for any damages.

What is rooting?

Before we get started, I want to explain what “rooting” is.  When you root your phone, you gain “superuser” privileges to the Android operating system. When you are using a stock device, you have the equivalent of “guest” privileges. If you are familiar with any Linux operating system, you know that the superuser privilege allows you to gain access to administrative rights. This level of access gets you down to the nitty gritty of the OS with no restrictions, lets you make changes to the system, and run scripts that would normally be blocked with a standard user account. As long as they are not encrypted, that is… such as the case of the Droid X, which has an encrypted bootloader. With superuser privileges on an Android phone, you can install programs that need complete access to the OS – such as ROM installers (like ROM Manager), theme modifiers (such as Metamorph), and simple apps like DroCap2, which takes screenshots from the device without having to plug it in to your computer.

While the act of rooting does not do much for an end user, it means the world to a coder or developer. Rooting your phone gives you access to run the applications that developers create that need elevated privileges. Always be careful what you install, though, because the wrong program could take over, or even brick your phone.

Advantages

ROMS

So, what are the advantages of rooting your device? Once you have root access and the bootloader is cracked, you can install custom software onto your device. I mentioned ROMs before, and you might be wondering what they are. A “ROM” is the software your phone is running. It is stored in the read-only memory of the device, and is executed after the boot process. Think of a ROM as the OS itself. This is where you can add some features and upgrade others – such as the Froyo (Android 2.2) upgrade. By installing a ROM based off of the Froyo 2.2 software, you gain those features before your device is officially scheduled to receive them. This is great for EOL (End of Life) devices, such as the Droid. While it may still receive a few updates for a short period of time, long term support is not guaranteed. If you look at the T-Mobile G1 , that device is still running strong, thanks to custom ROMs. With ROMs and other add-ons, you can install custom themes as well. The Ultimate Droid mod is big on using dark themes for their ROMs. I, personally, am running Bugless Beast V0.4 on my Droid, which is a Froyo build. This allowed me to have the new version of Android before it was officially released, or even supported. There are tools, such as ROM Manager, that help make the process of flashing your phone much easier.

Custom Themes

As I mentioned above with the Ultimate Droid mod you can install full themes or change just about any graphic you want. There are two ways to do this and that is installing theme packages using installers such as Metamorph or by using the ABD shell in the SDK kit to push the images to the file system. Below are two examples. The first one shows the whole theme applies with the installation of Ultimate Droid. Notice the black notification bar and the different dock icons on the bottom. The second picture was taken on a vanilla install of Bugless Beast V0.4. In this example I used Metamorph to install a few custom icons. The Bluetooth, WiFi, and Signal icons I made and created an installer for them. The battery icon I found on another forums and installed using the same method.

Kernel & Speed

In addition to the visual aspects of rooting your device, you can also update and change other aspects as well. Two main features that are widely changed are the kernel and the baseband. The kernel of a Unix device (such as an Android-powered phone) is the heart of the software. The kernel is the layer of code that handles communication between the hardware and the applications. A lot of developers tweak the kernels for added performance, battery life, and more. Take the original Droid, for instance. The Droid uses the Arm Cortex A8 processor, which is clocked at 550 MHz under standard conditions. Developers, such as the well known ChevyNo1, have made custom kernels which allow you to run your Droid at higher speeds… some at over 1 GHz. Other kernels, however, have been tweaked to conserve battery life by running at slower than stock speeds. It’s all a matter of preference, which is really the entire basis of rooting your device in the first place.

Baseband

The Baseband, mentioned above as the other major change in mind when rooting, controls the radio for your phone. It is, essentially, what controls the phone’s ability to make and receive calls and data. By changing to updated or fixed basebands, you can try to improve both signal and call performance. If you noticed in the pic above, I am running baseband 43.01P for my Droid.

Disadvantages

With everything that’s good, there have to be downsides as well, right? The answer: absolutely. Due to recovery software for Android, such as Nandroid, there isn’t much that you can’t recover from, should something go wrong. With that being said, there is always the chance that you could “brick” your phone by altering it. This is especially true during the initial rooting process, as well as while flashing the bootloader.

Other than bricking your device, there isn’t much more that is seen in the way of disadvantages. I suppose one other would be that it is not available on every device. It is up to the communities of developers out there to find a way to root the phone and crack the bootloader. As we recently discovered with the Droid X (which has an encrypted bootloader), it’s like the old saying goes… where there’s a will, there’s a way. A developer named ‘Birdman‘, along with other developers, recently found a way to root the Droid X, which is just the beginning. With time, the device will (hopefully) be unlocked and flashable so we can have all the custom goodness.

As you see, there are a number of reasons to root your phone. Each phone is different, so be sure to read over any provided documentation carefully. I was once the type that said “I would never root my Droid!” I though it was pointless, but I can tell you now that I would never go back to stock.

Reblogged via Alan Matson for TalkAndroid.

9:11pm, 28 July 2010.

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Inception

Posted in Everyday by Witt on July 18, 2010

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Starring

Leonardo DiCaprio as Cobb the Extractor

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Arthur the Point Man

Ellen Page as Ariadne the Architect

Marion Cotillard as Mal the Shade

Tom Hardy as Eames the Forger

Ken Watanabe as Saito the Tourist

Cillian Murphy as Robert Fischer, Jr. the Mark

Michael Caine as Miles

Directed by Christopher Nolan

The dream is real…probably. I don’t know. Call it the Matrix gone analog. Arguably the best movie in the last 10 years.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Cobb is an extractor. A person who steals information in your mind while you are dreaming. He’s the best out there. But he has some baggage himself.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

How is the beautiful Marion Cotillard the villain? She is Mal, wife of Cobb. She’s the baggage Cobb can not let go of. Trapped in section of his mind.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Like in this scene, where Mal enters the dream of Saito to interfere with Cobb’s work.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Miles is Cobb’s father-in-law, Mal’s father. A professor at the university. One of the few characters in the real world. He understands what Cobb does for a living as he was once an architect of dreams himself. Cobb asks his help to find a new architect.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Ariadne is the young new architect in Cobb’s team. Quick learner but emotional. She tries to help Cobb with his issues about Mal.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Cobb then enlists the help of a forger named Eames for their special dream project, Inception.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Cobb tries on a sedative concocted by a chemist named Yusuf (not in picture) to create induced dreaming. A sedative so powerful that if you die in the dream while on it, you go into limbo. Which is not good. You might be wandering why Saito is in this picture? He’s the one who hired them to do an inception.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Arthur is the point man. He’s usually in charge of everything while in the dream.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The Mark, Robert Fischer, Jr. This is were inception begins. The team will insert an idea into his mind to alter the future. Four levels of dream. Insane!

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The Dream Team assembles in the first level of Fischer’s dream.

Review:

148 minutes of thinking, awesome visuals and what’s happening next. Keep your eyes open, ears clear and mind everywhere. Christopher Nolan is fast becoming my favorite director, next to the great Martin Scorsese.

Verdict:

Watch it at least thrice and own a DVD when it’s out.

9:57am, 18 July 2010.

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The Twilight Saga Eclipse

Posted in Everyday by Witt on June 30, 2010

Before seeing the film, we get to watch Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III swear in as the 15th President of the Republic of the Philippines. Proud to be Pinoy! Mabuhay!

Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

The third installment of the Twilight Saga.

Starring

Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan

Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen

Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black

Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

The movie started where the last one ended. Edward giving Bella the promise of marriage. As a reply, she asked to be changed.

Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

More confrontations between Jacob and Edward. But the Quileutes and the Cullens get to work together to save Bella.

Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

Bella learns more of the Quileutes’ history and beginnings and the tribes connection with the cold-skinned ones.

Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

The gang are graduating from high school. The Nth time for the Cullen kids. Jessica (Anna Kendrick) is the valedictorian. For the first time, they get invited to the Cullen’s place for a post-graduation party. First, I thought they’re all gonna get eaten or something ala Hostel 🙂 On a side note,  Anna Kendrick was in hot water hours before the premiere of Eclipse for this comment on Twitter.

Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

The Cullens. Carlisle and Esme continues to lead the family. Alice forsees the return of an old foe. Jasper finally emerged from his shell. More talk for him. He even trained the Quileutes on how to easily kill a Newborn.

Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

Beautiful Rosalie opened her heart to Bella. Tells her the story of her transformation and the perils of being immortal. Emmett got some action with both vampires and werewolves. Still less talk from him.

Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

The Volturi led by Jane continue to keep a watchful eye on Bella and the Cullens.

Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

Victoria got a lot prettier portrayed by Bryce Dallas Howard. Why wasn’t she the first choice again? She’s still out to avenge the demise of her true love James.

Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

Newborns headed by Riley. Fooled by Victoria. Men are easy whenever a girl looks as good as her.

Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

Quileutes and Cullens team up against the strong Newborns.

Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

Back in each others arms. Bella once said, “LOME”. Abbie corrected me on this one, LOME = Love Of My Existence.

Verdict: Once is enough.

11:52pm, 30 June 2010.

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Shanghai Short Story

Posted in Fests, Food, Trips by Witt on June 19, 2010

The family celebrated the 34th wedding anniversary of our parents in Shanghai, China. Here’s a few snaps I took with my Motorola Milestone.

Not very pleasing experience here that I will not be divulging. The Consular Section is at the World Center, 330 Sen. Gil J. Puyat Avenue, Makati City. Come early and take a number. Business hours begins at 9:00am. Requirements: New Visa Applicant – Completed application form, passport with a least six months validity, birth certificate, marriage certificate (if married), NBI clearance, bank certificate with OR and P50k show money. Previous Visa Holder – Completed application form and bring the old passport with the Chinese Visa.

Yes, they have flights to Shanghai. I think they just recently added Beijing to their new destinations. On time, maybe even earlier at times. Cheap. No food.

We arrived at Pudong International at around 11pm. Had some cash changed to Renminbi or Yuan (¥). They can also change your Peso, so you need not have to change it to USD ($) back home. Our chauffeur was there. It took us over an hour to get to our hotel. A series of skyways and flyovers. Simply spectacular. The moment we got out the van, cool breeze. Around 18-21 degrees Celsius. Very nice. Chun Shen Jiang Hotel is situated at East Nanjing Road in the heart of Huangpu District. Where everything is. Food, shopping, everything.

I suggested we eat something familiar for breakfasts so as not to upset our stomachs for the day. They try to be as environmentally sound as possible, no plastics or styrofoam here. No rice though, but they do have strawberry jams for pancakes and ground black pepper packets which I particularly liked.

When in Shanghai, the Oriental Pearl Tower is a must see. Fastest elevators I’ve ever ridden. Don’t forget to check out the Sight-Seeing Deck. 360 degrees of clear walking glass.

Same taste.

The Shanghai World Expo opened on the 1st of May 2010 and will run until the 31st of October 2010. ¥160 for a standard day pass, ¥100 for seasoned citizens. Luckily, we have two. Security was tight. They even held me for some time due to the Starbucks Shanghai City Mug I bought for Abbie. Expo hours begin at 8am and closes at 10pm except for times when there are special activities which can go on until midnight. The park is massive, as in colossal. Like a small town with hundreds of thousands of people. It’s impossible to scan the whole park in one day that’s why they’re selling 3-day and 7-day passes at ¥400 and ¥900 respectively. We just breezed through some. There’s a number of electric cars which serve as free ride in the long “highway” of the park. The longest queue: USA Pavilion. It has three short movies for its presentation mostly themed on saving the environment. Of course, we definitely have to see the Philippine Pavilion but unfortunately it was just a so-so. As we entered, a male vocalist sings Freddie Aguilar’s Anak followed by a lady singing a “kundiman”, a Filipino serenade. Then followed by a DJ… a DJ?! WTF! The pavilion showed the immense influence our conquerors. There is “hilot”, a Filipino massage/therapy, of course with pay. And the only one with a restaurant inside. Filipino food at skyhigh prices. The only thing good about the Philippine Pavilion, Pinoys need not queue. Another thing I noticed, Filipino travelers are one of the snobbish bunch there is. Don’t be like one, smile back. Did I say the park was enormous?  Huge portalets. Food is everywhere. Expo goodies galore. Everything is 20-30% more expensive though. Tip: Wear you favorite, most comfy footwear.

Some of the best authentic dimsum I’ve tasted are found here at the Shanghai Tea Houses near the Yuyuan Garden, center of the Old City. My favorite, the “Soup Siopao”. You stick a straw in it and sip its juices, tastes like “balut” soup. Yum!

The nearby Yuyuan Shopping  City is the “Divisoria” of Shanghai. Haggle-fest! Sub-story: Dad and the rest of us had a miscommunication on where to meet up after an hour of shopping. Hence, we waited and searched for him for four hours. We even summoned the assistance of the police. Tin went on the PA system which was funny-cool. Later he claimed that we’re the ones who got lost 😀

Boxing Cat Brewery‘s Knockout Stout. Two of this and you’re done. Crazy soccer hooligans pack the place at the time of the World Cup mania. Located at the French Concession, 82 Fu Xing Road West (Near Yong Fu Road), Xu Jia Hui District.

Xintiandi is a small district in Shanghai where old China and new China meet. The best restaurants can be found here. One is XinJishi Restaurant located at Building 9, Xintiandi beili, No.2, Alley 181 Taichang Road. The tofu is my favorite.

The vacation would not be complete without a trip for the faith. St. Peter’s Church is situated at 270 Chongqing Nan Lu. English Mass at 5pm every Saturday and 12noon on Sundays.

Free. ‘Nuff said.

Before flying out, I had a bowl of beef ramen from Ajisen Ramen at Pudong International.

To end, Shanghai is a beautiful megacity. You cannot capture it using a Motorola Milestone. Do not be discouraged if the locals turn you away when you ask them for directions or what not, they just do not speak English. Shanghainese are kind, welcoming people. Would love to go back and have more fun.

7:52am, 19 June 2010.

Shrek Forever After

Posted in Everyday by Witt on May 23, 2010

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

End of an era. The first film to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature goes to its final chapter, in 3D! I think this is the 2nd 3D movie Abbie & I saw together, Up was the first. An adventure, funny as always, cute as ever. We will miss this franchise but there’s a Puss n’ Boots spin-off in the works so that’s something to crave for. Thanks Shrek, Fiona, Donkey, Puss and everybody.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Salute!

10:11pm 23 May 2010.

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Ultimate Taste Test 4.0

Posted in Fests, Food by Witt on May 15, 2010

image

Hands down, the best P200 spent ever!

Over 40 food choices from main dishes to desserts to drinks packed in NBC Tent at The Fort last Friday, 14 May 2010. Hundreds of amateur food tasters, including Abbie and myself, queued up to savor new and familiar delights in town.

Favorites:
1. Lattize’s Lengua Sulipena and Corned Beef
2. Dulcelin Gourmet’s Angus Short Rib Steak
3. JAM Food’s Angus Beef Tapa
4. Crave Burgers
5. Pellegrino’s Roast Chicken
6. Cambeli Patisserie’s Dulce de Leche Cheesecake

Sign me up for Ultimate Taste Test 5.0 in August!

9:24am, 15 May 2010.

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Iron Man 2

Posted in Everyday by Witt on May 10, 2010

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Starring

Robert Downey, Jr. as Anthony Stark/Iron Man

Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts

Don Cheadle as Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine

Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko/Whiplash

Scarlett Johansson as Natalie Rushman/Natasha Romanov/Black Widow

Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer

Directed by Jon Favreau

It begins where the first one ended. Tony Stark is Iron Man. Iron Man is Tony Stark. And he’s full of it. Same old Tony; brash, arrogant, smart. His newfound fame made him an easy target. The government wants in on the Iron Man suit technology. Of course, he refuses.

Another plot comes from Ivan Vanko, a troubled physicist. Son of Anton Vank0, a former partner of Tony’s father, Howard. The first team to design the arc reactor. He wants revenge for the disgrace brought by the Stark family to the Vanko family. Powered by an arc reactor he made himself plus a whip-like attachment which harnesses the power of the reactor.

A new love interest comes in the form of Natalie Rushman, a lawyer from Stark Industries’ legal department. Later known as Natalie Romanov aka Black widow, member of the elite group. S.H.I.E.L.D. But Tony eventually ends up with his secretary turned CEO then quits CEO Pepper Potts.

Tony’s friend, Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes gets to wear a Mark II suit and has a little scuffle with Iron Man during Tony’s “alleged” final birthday party. He takes off with the suit and surrenders it to the military for study and enhancement. A slow weapons-design rival in Justin Hammer has an ultimate chance to modify the Mark II suit to become War Machine.

Outstanding but seem short fight scenes. The ladies, as always, very fine. Very funny at times. More integration from the storyline of S.H.I.E.L.D, probably in preparation for more Marvel characters in the works. Best scene: the suitcase suit, damn! Wait for the after credits.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Verdict:

See it again & again & again.

10:54pm, 10 May 2010.

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The Hurt Locker

Posted in Everyday by Witt on April 18, 2010

Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

Starring

Jeremy Renner as Sergeant First Class William James

Anthony Mackie as Sergeant JT Sanborn

Brian Geraghty as Specialist Owen Eldridge

Directed by Katheryn  Bigelow

The title says it all. War is the Locker. Deep psychological film seen through the eyes of three young elite EOD personnel. First, a wild man, verging on suicidal Sgt. James. Second, the straight but undecided to grow-up Sgt. Sanborn. Last, the very young and clueless Specialist Eldrigde.

Indeed a better choice as Best Picture in this year’s Academy Awards. Perfect casting. Excellent sound and score. Watch out for notable “cameos” from Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes and Evangeline Lilly.

Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

Verdict: Must see, at least twice.

8:36am, 18 April 2010.

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The Smartphone: A Shackle Once More

Posted in Tech by Witt on April 4, 2010

Here’s a phrase many of you will remember, probably from the late 1990s: “Yeah, I’d get a cell phone, but I don’t want to be on, like, an electronic leash, you know?” People had land lines, pagers, car phones — the pocketable mobile phone was still a luxury and, to some, an unwanted responsibility. Over the next 10 years or so, the mobile phone gradually reached such high levels of market penetration that it’s quite difficult to find anybody without one. It is simply too practical and affordable to refrain from at this point. However, in the last few years, as smartphones and texting have become the default mode of communication for many people, the tone has changed again; the electronic leash is returning.

Why is this? It’s actually pretty simple: once a tool reaches a certain level of integration with the social and communication norms of a person, it receives the same level of cognitive consideration as, say, speech. Do you wonder whether you should end a text message with an exclamation mark, a period, or nothing at all? This is because texting and email are approaching the same level of integration with our daily lives as the speech and gestures we’ve been using for millennia. I realize one could have said this at any time over the last decade, but I’m saying it now for a specific reason.

As someone who works online, I have a bit of an unusual communication situation, to be sure. Most of my interactions take place via text boxes. IM, email, the CrunchGear chatroom and task manager where we administer the site — these are my main methods of social interaction during most of the day. Even at my previous job, where I worked in an office and spoke to clients regularly, the volume of email and otherwise written communication approached that of “real” interaction. I’m sure, dear reader, if you were to submit your life to this analysis, you would also find a startling amount of what people like to categorize separately “virtual” (or some such descriptor) communication.

Now, the level of expression possible in 140 characters, or a two-paragraph email, or in a chatroom, is clearly not equal to the level of expression possible in a face-to-face conversation. That is a fact, as far as it goes… partially because our brains are actually designed for the latter sort of interaction, so it’s not really a fair fight. And although the expressive bandwidth, if you will, of a series of text messages is very small, we are beginning to imbue these impersonal, telegraphic communications with the subtlety and power of a normal conversation. You see? As text begins to more completely supplant conversation, conversation more completely informs how we create and interpret the text. Observe this overly simplistic diagram that took way too long to make:

This is, I believe, why our phones are beginning to be electronic shackles yet again. Oh, I don’t mean that because we can write a 🙂 or :(, it’s just like looking in someone’s face — but what was impersonal only a couple years ago is rapidly becoming extremely personal, as we project ourselves more completely onto it, as we must necessarily when it takes up such a large portion of our social interactions. Think of the way correspondence made up such a huge portion of communication before the age of the computer. The Victorians, my god! Half their life was in trunks of letters, and lovers of 19th-century literature will recall the minuteness with which letters are scrutinized; it was at least as important a form of communication as face-to-face conversation, and it got the weight it deserved. Similarly, the delimiting of microcommunications like texts and tweets over the last few years (socially and monetarily) has put them more firmly on our cognitive maps.

So why is it suddenly a shackle, then? Have things really changed so much in the last year or two? Well – it’s an ongoing process, obviously. The best way to see it in action is to hearken back to when BlackBerrys started getting popular. People were glued to them, because as major email users and connected people in general, they were the early adopters not just of the technology, but of the repercussions of relying on that technology. So you’ve got CrackBerrys blowing up, and then you’ve got the iPhone and the popularization of the smartphone that it brought. Over the last couple years, many more phones have integrated push email, instant notifications from things like Facebook and Foursquare, and so on — to say nothing of the increasing popularity of unlimited texting. The reliance on the phone as primary (or close secondary) method of communication is an expanding circle, and it’s starting to envelop the “man on the street,” whereas not long ago it was only the tech-savvy guy, or the business guy, or what have you. The personalization of impersonal communication is happening on a large scale, and the implications of that are interesting.

I say “interesting” because it’s hard to say they’re important, or huge. They’re just that: interesting. The change from phone as passive receptacle of information to active conduit between you and everyone you know means that what the earliest adopters in the 90s feared is coming true. Once a text message or email is as immediate, personal, and important to a group of people as face-to-face conversation, that means by definition that everyone you know can address you at any time, with the reasonable expectation of response.

After all, you don’t just turn away from someone’s face when they’re talking about something uninteresting at a bar, or if they invite you to an event you can’t make it to or don’t want to attend. You nod politely, make excuses, change the topic — all the skills of conversation come into play, because that person is right there and you can’t ignore them, or rather to ignore them is itself a positive act (that is to say, not simply inaction but deliberate inaction). Well, it’s getting to the point where to ignore a text message, email, or evite is also a positive act. How many times have you seen recently someone angry that another person didn’t text them back, or on the other hand, say disdainfully “I’m not even going to respond”?

In other words: our phones no longer simply make us available, as they have for years; they make us present. As close to physically present as corresponds to your level of reliance on the phone. A bit weird, isn’t it?

For the younger generation, this will be even more pronounced. This isn’t a bad thing at all, I should say: people complain loudly about how kids are texting each other all day and not really communicating. Okay, grandpa — I won’t take any wooden nickels, either. This method of communication is new, and we’re adapting to it as best we can, but just like the parents of my generation deplored the constant phonecalls (imagine the fortune telecoms made on second lines) and their parents deplored the baby boomers’ obsession with… I don’t know what, cruising in your hot rod maybe? Free love? I’m out of my depth. But you get my drift: the communication paradigm is changing, not for the worse, just for the new.

So I call our phones shackles, and then I say it’s not a bad thing. Well, it’s not a good thing, either — it’s just a thing. You’re “shackled” to your neighbors and your city. You’re “shackled” to your car payments and your futon. But you’re also “shackled” to your kids, your computer, your hobbies. Not every shackle has a ball and chain on the end — it’s just another name for attachment. This new shackle, a shackle of constant connection with the people in your life, is, like most technologies, neutral. In D&D terms, it’d probably be chaotic neutral, since it’s disruptive to the way we’ve been living, but neutral nonetheless.

What are the implications? Beats me, I’m a blogger, not a sociologist. Different implications for different people, probably, or none at all since the change is so gradual and natural as to be imperceptible. But see it or not, the change is happening, and the urgency and primacy of once-virtual communication is mounting as, increasingly, the virtual becomes indistinguishable from the real.

Reblogged via Devin Coldewey for CrunchGear

5:52pm, 4 April 2010.

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Master Google Android: 40 Tips and Tricks

Posted in Tech by Witt on March 21, 2010

The first time you use an Android phone, one thing becomes immediately clear: You’re not in Cupertino anymore.

Android, as recent Verizon commercials remind us, is the antithesis of Apple’s celebrated handset: It’s open source, fully customizable, and free from unexplained app rejections. If the iPhone is Apple’s inalterable masterpiece, the Android platform is Google’s open canvas. The palette is in your hands; it’s up to you to add color.

We’ve assembled 40 tips and tricks to help you make the most of your Android phone. Some are specific to Android 2.0 or later, but most apply to any Android-based device. And not one of these tricks requires you to jailbreak anything.

So grab your phone, and get started–it’s time for you to become a certified Android master.

Optimize Your Home Screen

Add to Home screen

1. Make the most of your space by using widgets–dynamic programs that operate right on your home screen. Simply hold your finger on any open space, and then select Widgets from the pop-up menu. Widgets come in a huge variety of sizes and functions, so search the Android Market to find what works for you.

2. Prefer not to be bothered by a sound every time an e-mail arrives? Head into Gmail’s Settings menu and set its ringtone to Silent. You’ll still see new-message alerts in the notification panel at the top of your screen, and you can always pull the panel down to get detailed information. You can configure text messaging and other alert-generating apps the same way.

3. Set up one-touch dialing for the people you call the most. Hold your finger on an open space and select Shortcuts. Then, touch Direct dial and pick the person from your contact list. If one-touch texting is what you crave, use the Direct message option instead.

4. To drop your favorite Web pages onto your home screen, long-press on any site in your browser’s bookmarks and then select the Add shortcut to home option.

5. Try using folders to keep your home screen organized. Long-press on a blank space and select Folders to create one. You can then drag and drop frequently used contacts, apps, or other shortcuts into it to cut down on clutter. To rename a folder, press and hold the folder’s title bar while it’s open.

Get Around Android

Astro

6. Make file management a snap with a utility such as Astro, which allows you to browse through your phone just as you would a computer, navigating directories and moving or deleting files at will.

7. Need to cut and paste text? Long-press on any text input area. If you’re on a Web page, tap the Menu key and use the Select text option.

8. Use Android’s hotkeys to do everything from zooming in to a Web page to opening a program. Check out our complete list of Android keyboard shortcuts to learn them all.

9. You can set your own hotkeys to open apps, too. Head into the main Settings menu, select Applications, and then choose Quick Launch to get started.

10. If the on-screen keyboard pops up when you don’t want it, touch it and swipe downward to make it disappear.

11. You can see the current date at any time by touching your finger to the top-left corner of the screen.

Stay Connected

12. To load files onto your Android phone, plug the handset into your PC and pull down the notification panel. Tap the USB connected box, and then tap Mount when the confirmation dialog box appears. Your phone will appear as a hard drive on your PC, and you can then drag and drop files as you wish.

13. Manage your music–and even import your iTunes playlists–with DoubleTwist, a free PC-based utility. The program’s intuitive interface makes Motorola’s Media Link offering look like a bloated relic.

Double Twist

14. Sync your Outlook calendar with your phone without the hassle. Install Google Calendar Sync and let it do the work for you.

15. To sync your Outlook contacts without using an Exchange server, try GO Contact Sync, an open-source utility for your PC.

16. Stay up to speed with your feeds with the help of NewsRob, a handy app that syncs your phone with your Google Reader account.

17. Want to have your PC’s browser bookmarks on your Android phone? Download MyBookmarks from the Market to import them.

Power Up Your Phone

18. Get extra calling power by integrating Google Voice into your phone. Once you’ve signed up for an account, download the official app and watch your options expand. Bonus tip: Add the Google Voice widget to your home screen for one-touch toggling of your outgoing-call preferences.

19. You can send text messages for free through Google Voice–everything you need is in the app. Just make sure you change the settings to refresh every 5 minutes so that incoming messages won’t be delayed. If you want faster notifications, log in to the Google Voice Website and configure your account to send you e-mail alerts when a new text arrives.

20. Get unbilled talk time by using Fring, a free mobile chat client for Android. Fring lets you make calls over Google Talk, Skype, and any SIP calling service.

21. Cut down on calling headaches by using the free Dial Zero app to call the companies you do business with. It lets you bypass annoying phone trees and get right to human representatives.

22. Keep annoying callers away by routing them directly to your voicemail. First, open the offending person’s profile in your contacts list. Then, press the Menu button, tap Options, and check the Incoming calls box.

23. The Incoming Calls screen also holds the option for setting custom ringtones for callers. Tap Ringtone and change each person’s tune as you wish.

Dolphin Browser

24. Want to use your own MP3 files as ringtones? No problem: Make a new folder on your memory card and name it ringtones. Copy your MP3s there, and they will automatically show up in your selection list. Folders called alarms or notifications will do the same thing for those respective functions.

25. Check out the free app RingDroid. With it, you can easily edit an MP3 file to grab a precise segment of a song for a ringtone or system sound.

26. Android lets you keep multiple browser windows open at the same time. Long-press any Web link to open it in a new window. Tap the Menu key while in the browser to toggle between windows.

27. Prefer seeing Web pages in landscape mode? You can tell Android to always display sites that way. Select the Landscape-only display checkbox in the browser’s Settings menu.

28. Android’s built-in browser isn’t your only option. Try Dolphin Browser for cool features such as tabbed browsing, gesture-driven commands, and multitouch zooming (yes, even on the Droid).

Secure Your Smartphone

29. Android includes an option to use simple patterns to secure your phone; to unlock the handset, you swipe your finger across the screen in a specific pattern. Look for Screen Unlock Pattern under ‘Location and Security’ in the main System Settings menu.

30. Want to back up your phone’s data? Try MyBackup, which saves your apps, contacts, call logs, texts, and even settings to either your SD Card or a secure Internet server. You might also like SMS Backup, which periodically saves all of your texts into your Gmail account.

31. For even more protection, download Mobile Defense. The app allows you to use a PC to track your phone via GPS, remotely lock it, and then back up and wipe all of your data.

Add Essential Apps

Adobe Photoshop Mobile

32. If you handle a lot of Office files, Documents To Go may be just the thing for you. The free version gives you the ability to view Word and Excel files. The full paid version adds editing capabilities, along with PDF and PowerPoint viewing options.

33. Prefer working in the cloud? Get your hands on GDocs or ThinkFree Mobile Office, both of which make it a cinch to connect with your Google Docs documents.

34. If basic note-taking is all you need, download a PC-synced notepad such as GDocs Notepad With Sync. It saves documents directly into your Google Docs account for easy access.

35. For on-the-go photo editing, Adobe’s Photoshop.com Mobile app is tough to beat–and it’s free, too.

36. Jazz up your Android music experience with TuneWiki, which automatically finds and scrolls lyrics next to your songs as they play. Plus, it gives you access to Internet radio streaming and some cool community-sharing features.

Customize Your Phone Completely

37. Adjust how your phone acts by using Locale. The app lets you set custom profiles for practically any circumstance–having your ringer shift to silent when you’re at work, for example, or making your screen glow brighter at night.

38. Take full advantage of your phone’s LED by installing Missed Call, which configures your phone’s light to flash specific colors when calls from certain people slip by.

39. Edit Android’s custom dictionary to include your name and other proper nouns. That way, they’ll pop up in the auto-complete list as you type. Look under Language and keyboard settings in System Settings to get started.

40. If you try an Android app and decide that you don’t like it, return it. The Android Market will give you a full refund for up to 24 hours after any purchase, provided that you haven’t tried to return the same app before.

Reblogged via JR Raphael for PCWorld.

7:56pm, 21 March 2010.

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