Adventures With a Chinese Android

It all started eighteen months ago…

Cheap, small, curvaceous but not as slender as more expensive models my droid arrived late and wasn’t quite what I’d ordered…

Chinese Android

Chinese Android (image credit: Andy Vickers)

The picture showed a proper USB port, this didn’t have one but never mind.

I’d been contemplating a tablet computer for a while but wasn’t sure I’d get much use from one so I didn’t want to splash out on a Samsung or Asus I might regret getting.  I could see the advantage of a handheld, touchscreen computer for web browsing, picture and video viewing, quick email or Facebook viewing and so on especially since Apple and Google had managed to make operating systems that suited the way people would use them, i.e. with fingers, and because unlike previous tablets they ran smartphone software not desktop software they could be smaller and lighter.

My MID Epad looked like a shrunken iPad and even came in a very nice, Apple-esque box with a magnetic closure and it was packed with technology that iPad owners would snigger at; old-fashioned resistive touchscreen, an old processor, little memory, low-res screen, plastic back – PLASTIC!  Short battery life.  Not being a perfectionist and being careful financially with such experiments I accepted that what I had wasn’t cutting edge, so far from cutting edge in fact that you could butter bread with it.  Anyway, it was quick enough to play videos, the screen responded well enough to flick through ebooks.  I could even play Angry Birds.

The first problem was that these tablets come with Android but are not approved by Google so can’t access many of the apps in the Play Store, the default Google apps such as the contacts app won’t synchronise properly and often you don’t get updates.  For some these are not problems, if all you want is to browse and get email and read ebooks.  Gizmodo UK recently proclaimed that chinese tablets were all “crappy” and that Google was having to keep Android open to support this flow of effluent but it depends on how you define crappy, what you find acceptable and whether you’re looking at your £65 tablet from the point of view of a well paid tech journalist, someone who just wants to look at the odd web page or a blogger on the minimum wage.

It niggled me admittedly but again I lived with it and was able to get round the issues in a way that isn’t possible with out of the box Apple devices – I put apps on manually, sideloaded them, having downloaded them from app sites.  Most were old versions and again they wouldn’t get updates.  Playing videos from the computer required some research on how to make the software access a shared network drive, though as usual the net provided excellent step-by-step guides, though if anyone mentions the word Samba near me I may cry.  Ok, so it didn’t “just work” as certain fruity products are supposed to do but as a bit of a geek it was interesting.  The hair I pulled out has grown back.

It was a challenging device all in all – it had to be charged after a couple of hours use so I had to make an adaptor lead so I didn’t have to sit two feet away from where the power supply plugged in and so I could have a right-angle plug into the device.  Sometimes the internet browsing was painfully slow.  I loved reading books on it, even using it in a tent in the middle of the Lake District until the battery died again, though using it outside in sunlight was out of the question – one-nil to Kindle and paper.  Being non-approved some of the apps I wanted I just couldn’t have, and the dream of sharing data across computer, phone and tablet would have to wait a while.

The more I used it though the more I saw that the arguments of those people on gadget blogs who complained that tablets were too simplistic, that you “can’t code on them”, and so on were wrong.  The tablet is the perfect consumption device, I can lounge on the sofa and read the news, read a book, browse a website, check mail, listen to music or watch video streamed from my computer, I even have apps filled with tasty recipes which I haven’t yet got round to cooking.  I can share things I’m interested in there and then, add to my read it later.

Now, of course, this is well known and Kindle Fires, Nexus 7s and iPad Minis have been this years big Christmas gift – my mum got a Kindle Fire for her birthday last week because it was the perfect computer for her; so simple to use, just point and tap to read, browse the net or get more books or games.  I now have an Sony Xperia Android smartphone and a Nexus 7 tablet myself, both have newer versions of the software, I can listen to music via bluetooth from either and do even more than with my Chinese Droid, my emails, contacts, to do lists, notebooks, reading lists and bookmarks are automatically synced and available wherever I want them, all from small, thin light devices.

I remember seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek and similar, seeing those little pads of information and thinking how great it would be to have all that in your hand.  And it is.  Amazing.

Tweeting 999 – No Laughing Matter

Texting on a qwerty keypad phone

Texting on a qwerty keypad phone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently in both the USA and UK emergency services have announced plans to allow people to inform them of an emergency via other modern communication methods like texting, Facebook and Twitter.

Cue howls of laughter and derision from writers about how it’s typical of our lazy society that people can’t be bothered to look up from their phones for thirty seconds to phone 999 or 911.  For once I partly disagree.

Normally I too would think it’s another example of people’s disconnection from others, that they wouldn’t want to actually speak to someone, they’d be happier texting etc.  And for some that may be true.  It could also be open to abuse by those who already troll the existing services using fake accounts, names and addresses.

But consider someone who can’t use a voice service – someone in peril and hiding; someone unable to speak or hear whose only form of communication at that moment is a mobile or a computer; someone who has no phone available but does have, for example, a 3G tablet; even someone who for perhaps psychological reasons can’t talk to someone on the phone.  Any communication would be better than none.

The emergency services have said that this is an attempt to enable communication with them through modern technology – this forward thinking should be admired not laughed at.  Or maybe we should abandon the new-fangled phone too and go back to bells and whistles.

Dark Skies & Night Lights

Milky Way

Milky Way (Photo credit: TierraLady)

The only time I’ve ever seen a truly dark sky was while staying in a cabin near Hartsop in the Lake District, once my eyes had adjusted I could clearly see the misty band of stars we call the Milky Way, the Via Lactea, home.

I know in this country the weather has a lot to do with this but light pollution from streetlights, security lights and so on also makes a huge and surprising difference, even a town over the horizon can still cast a glow where you are.  Many people ask why it matters, it’s only astronomers and misty-eyed romantics that want to gaze at these distant pinpricks of light.  You may as well ask why people want to look at flowers – some study them, some find them beautiful.  Seeing the light of the galaxy from somewhere away from streetlights can give you a feeling of awe, of being a tiny speck in a unimaginably vast universe.  That sight inspired astronomers and philosophers for centuries to seek the answers to what was out there, where we are and along the way they created instruments and developed sciences to discover and explain what they saw that have benefits beyond their original purpose for example the glasses I wear are possible because of lens grinding techniques developed for telescopes.

The modern world is lit up so much that out planet looks like some kind of cosmic glitterball and most of the light that is emitted upwards is wasted.  Well, except for landing lights at airports, we need them.  It is worth fitting newer shaded lights and more efficient bulbs and even new lighting technologies to both save money and let people look at the night skies.  Flagstaff, Arizona is the worlds first International Dark Sky City and hopefully more towns and cities will follow their example.

[International Dark Sky Organization]

Listful Thinking

I guess I ride a bike now.

It’s not really something I like to talk about because bikes, like magnets and former governors of Alaska, have polarizing effects. Maybe it’s different in other towns, but here they’re a pretty divisive issue. Of course, neither side presents itself very appealingly.

On the one hand, you have the people who are decidedly anti-bike. Some of their points make perfect sense- I also drive a car. I know how annoying bicyclists on the road are. When I’m riding my bike and a car comes up behind me, I want to nod sympathetically and yell, “I KNOW! I HATE ME TOO!” The problem is, the anti-bike types are surprisingly aggressive. There’s no quicker way to get someone to call you a dirty hippy than to show up somewhere on a bike, and three bicycle-riding friends have been hit by cars in the last year…

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A link to more interesting research showing that out modern lives could be preventing us getting proper rest.

The Art Of Living Deliberately

Today I read a great article regarding sleep patterns, both current and historical.

Dr Joseph Mercola, an Illinois physician who is known worldwide for his work in health and wellness, covers the subject of sleep patterns.

Dr Mercola argues that our sleep patterns have changed radically throughout the last century, and that some current sleep disorders, may actually be an instinctive attempt to return to a natural biological sleep pattern.

Read the article below and decide for yourself.

comments are welcome, but please read the article first…

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Talin Orfali Ghazarian

A few days ago, I encountered a website that I did not like at all. Getoffmyinternets or something like that. I discovered that a few people have been writing terrible things about me and my blog. I am quite disgusted at that. I write blogs about bullying and social issues and I get shafted. I do not appreciate those people who did that to me. They said all sorts of mean things about my blog and I am not a happy camper. Yes I have a few things more to learn about writing styles and everything, but that does not give the right for these people to judge me and make assumptions about me saying I am an attention seeker. I never thought that my blog about bully prevention and social issue prevention would make people be rude and cruel. I couldn’t believe the crap I was reading about me…

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It’s Christmaaaas!

Obligatory Cute Christmas Cat Photo

Obligatory Cute Christmas Cat Photo (Photo credit: Rochelle, just rochelle)

If you’re in the UK it is obligatory to read the title in Noddy Holder’s voice.

Just to wish all my readers a happy and peaceful Christmas time and a prosperous new year.

Tinsel and Biscuits

English: tinsel

English: tinsel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With a couple of days before the big day I bring you some advice from Book View Cafe on being careful this Christmas.

The list of past holiday season injuries is staggering (as are many of the people involved it seems) and includes injuries from plastic parts of toys on the floor; Christmas pudding lighting – more than just singed eyebrows; eating inedible decorations and trying on new sweaters while smoking, another good reason to quit.

For good measure they also outline the injuries caused by the humble (sneaky) biscuit (or cookie) which includes the man who got stuck in wet concrete trying to save a lost biscuit and the many scolded while attempting the tricky art of dunking.

Have a Happy Christmas and be careful out there.