Monday, December 22, 2014

Android 5.0 Available for LG Nexus-4

A few weeks ago, I received the prompt on my LG Nexus-4 informing me that there was a system update available for it (Android 5.0 / Lollipop).

One of the reasons I've purchased the Nexus line of products is because they are the first devices to get new system updates. Although my LG Nexus-4 was over 2 years old, I was glad that it was still slated to get Android 5.0 (Lollipop) when Lollipop was first announced.

For information about Lollipop, you can refer to the official website *HERE*. The 2 things that were of interest to me was mainly the improved battery life and the improved notifications. The battery life of my LG Nexus-4 was still very good and it could stay on standby with WiFi activated for over 24 hours between charges but not having to charge it as often is always something that I look for especially during those times when I am not able to charge my phone easily.

The update as mentioned in the above image requires a minimum of 500MB free on the device. I had a little over 1GB of space free on my LG Nexus-4 before going ahead with the upgrade and didn't experience any issues during the upgrade.

The upgrade process took me a little over 1 hour. My LG Nexus-4 had encryption on which might have increased the upgrade installation time. Personally, if upgrading, I would recommend planning not to have the use of the device for ~2 hours (depending on download speed).

After the upgrade, I noticed that a few of my applications were not Lollipop compatible (such as BT Notification application that came with the U8 Pro or UPro1 smartwatch). With the non-compatible applications, I removed them from my Nexus-4. Something else that I noticed after the upgrade was that for some reason, when I woke up in the morning, my LG Nexus-4 would be in a "frozen" state. When it was in this state, I could not get the screen to activate and would need to power off my device, wait a few seconds, and then power it back on again. The weird thing is that during the rest of the day, my phone would never go into this "frozen" state. It was only after I woke up that I wasn't able to power on the screen and it was also not something that happened every morning.

Prior to upgrading to Android 5.0, the Google Voice search on my Nexus-4 ("OK Google" search commands) worked seamlessly. However, after upgrading to Android 5.0, the "OK Google" search commands were more problematic.

One of the things that I noticed about Android 5.0 was that the phone could be unencrypted when powered on by using the pattern method. Prior to Android 5.0, the pattern method was not an option to encrypt/unencrypt the phone.

In terms of whether I'm happy with Android 5.0 on my LG Nexus-4, I would say that because my phone would randomly be "frozen" when I woke up, I can't really recommend people upgrading to Android 5.0 (although some of my friends who have upgraded to Android 5.0 didn't have the same issue as I experienced). Also, because I am using a U8 Pro or UPro1 smartwatch which relies heavily on the old Android notification system (and isn't compatible with the newer Android 5.0 notification system), Android 5.0 does limit some of the smartwatch's features which rely on the BT Notification app.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Asus Transformer Book T100TA Review

I've been testing/evaluating an Asus Transformer Book T100TA for a few months and that that I would write my thoughts on the product.

The Transformer book came installed with Windows 8.1 and is a quad-core based system where the screen is ~10.1" touchscreen. The version that I tested had 32GB storage for the operating system as well as the applications. This isn't a lot of space in my opinion and after installing only the Chrome browser onto it as well as doing the Windows updates, the total available free space was ~6GB. It has a microSD card reader, 1.2 megapixel web camera, bluetooth capabilities, a Microphone-in/Headphone-out jack, a USB 3.0 port, a micro-USB port, and a micro-HDMI port.

I'm not sure how to classify this device except to say that it is a hybrid tablet/netbook. The touchscreen is detachable from the keyboard and as a Windows 8.1 tablet, it functions very well.

I use the device mainly for browsing the internet, watching Netflix/YouTube/videos, and reading books/newspapers and I find that it is very fast. Boot up time for the device is ~20 seconds.

In terms of what I like about the device, I like that it is fast (at least for what I use it for) and the battery life for the device is very good as well. The price-point of this device when it is on sale is also good. I also like the fact that it charges via micro-USB and not using a proprietary charging cable.

In terms of what I don't like about the device, there are many things that I don't like about this device. The first thing that I don't like is that it is running Windows 8.x. Just like a lot of users/consumers, I'm not a big fan of Windows 8.x. Between Windows 7 and Windows 8, I prefer Windows 7. I find the keyboard a bit too small for me to type as fast as I normally would on a full-sized keyboard. Another thing that I find annoying is that when I touch the address bar on my browser, even when the physical keyboard is attached, the onscreen keyboard will show up on the screen. The final thing that I am not crazy about in terms of this device is that the storage space is very low at only 32GB where the usable space is ~6GB. Even though I have access to installing Microsoft Office on the device, I opted not to do so since I find the amount of free space to be too low.

Whether I would recommend this device or not, I would recommend it even with the shortcomings/negatives that I mentioned above.

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Monday, December 8, 2014

U8 Pro (U8Pro or UPro1 or U Pro1) Smartwatch Review

I purchased a U8 Pro Smartwatch a few weeks ago. Based on my research, this watch is also sometimes advertised as a U Pro Smartwatch.

I was interested in something that would alert me in real time about calls that I was receiving on my smartphone since I often miss calls when my smartphone is either in my backpack or in my pocket and I either don't hear the ringing or feel the vibration from an incoming call until it is too late.

I considered getting a bracelet that would alert me of incoming calls but since the cost between one of the bracelets and a U8 Pro or U8 Smartwatch wasn't that much, I opted to go with the smartwatch. The main difference between the U8 Smartwatch and the U8 Pro Smartwatch (which is what I purchased) is that the U8 Pro Smartwatch will also work independently as a cellphone. Since the price difference between the U8 Smartwatch and the U8 Pro Smartwatch was under/roughly $10, I opted just to get the U8 Pro Smartwatch. In order for the U8 Pro Smartwatch to function independently as a cellphone, it requires a miniSIM card which is inserted into the watch underneath the battery.

The U8 Pro Smartwatch has the following features/icons: Call (which allows you either to make calls when connected via bluetooth to a smartphone or make calls if you have an active miniSIM card inserted into the watch), Messaging (which allows you to send text messages either independently if using a minSIM card in the watch or send text messages when connected via bluetooth to a smartphone), Phonebook (which shows you the local/watch's phone numbers or the phone numbers on your smartphone via bluetooth), Call History (shows you the watch's call history or the call history of your smartphone), Image Viewer (views the images taken using the smartwatch), FM radio (allows you to listen to FM radio as long as you use the included earphones which also function as an FM antenna), Audio Player (which allows you to listen to the music from your smartphone), Camera (which allows you to take pictures with the smartwatch), Alarm (allows you to set alarms), Stopwatch (pretty self-explanatory), Settings (which allows you different sound profile settings and configure some of the independent phone features of the watch), Bluetooth (to connect to your smartphone), Notice (to get notifications from your smartphone sent to your smartwatch), Anti-Lost (alerts you when you are away from your smartphone), Pedometer (estimates the number of steps that you've walked), Personal (allows you to set personal data for a more accurate pedometer calorie display), Car Theft (I'm not sure what this does), Find Phone (I'm not sure what this does since it didn't work with my smartphone), Remote Capture (allows you to use your watch to take a picture remotely on your smartphone), and Sleep Monitor (monitors your sleep patterns). Some of these features will only work with Android phones such as the Remote Capture and the Notice applications since they require an Android application to be installed/configured on your Android smartphone.

Even though the U8 Pro Smartwatch will work with almost all bluetooth enabled smartphones, in order to get the full functionality of the device, you will need to have an Android smartphone since some of the features will require the BT Notifier application to be installed on the phone. The instructions that came with U8 Pro Smartphone aren't very good to say the least. It makes mention of downloading a mode.apk file from with the username "uwatch" and the password "good123". However, the QR code that is produced on the watch when trying to use a feature which requires the application to be installed on an Android phone is:

I've used the above application *HERE* as well as the 2 files that I obtained from the above FTP site *HERE* and *HERE* and all of these Android applications work relatively well with the smartwatch. I also tried using the application on the Google Play Store called "Mediatek SmartDevice" with relatively good results as well.

In terms of the functionality of the smartwatch, I find that it works relatively well. The notifier application on the smartwatch will notify me of Facebook posts, Android BBM messages, e-mails, and any other Android application which uses the standard Android notification area on the upper left corner of the Android phone. The watch will notify me via a vibration and/or a sound. The amount of information that is received on the watch varies but in most cases, I found it lacking and I needed to use my Android phone to see what exactly the particular notification was regarding in detail. The reason for this is that depending on the notification APK program that I was using on my Android phone, I was either presented with 1 line on the watch showing me the name of the application that I was receiving a notification or sometimes 2 lines showing me the name of the application as well as the sender of the message. Also, a lot of the smartwatch's applications which depend on the Bluetooth Notification APK file on the Android phone will work sometimes or will not work at all. For example, when I got the Remote Camera feature to work properly, a few hours later, it would not longer work. I could get it to work again by rebooting my smartwatch but during times that I might want to use the Remote Camera capability, having to reboot the smartwatch before doing so is a nuisance. Most of my testing was on my LG Nexus-4 running stock Android 4.4.4. After upgrading my LG Nexus-4 to Lollipop (Android 5),  the smartwatch's features which depended on the BT Notification app no longer worked (ex: Remote Capture) and the smartwatch notifications became limited to only phone calls and SMS (it no longer would notify me of e-mails, Facebook posts, Android BBM messages, etc.)

One of the things that I didn't really like about the smartwatch was that in order to see the time when the watch's touchscreen was off, I would have to push the button on the side of the watch. I discovered that it would turn on if I turned the Pedometer function on when I abruptly moved my hand in a fashion similar to me trying to look at the time but this only worked approximately 50% of the time.

I tested the Pedometer function of the smartwatch and it seemed to be relatively accurate. It calculated the steps that I took and the moment I stopped, the number of steps didn't increase. I also tested the Sleep Monitor but I'm not sure how accurate it was since when I kept it on during a 24 hour period, during part of the day that I was at work sitting in front of my computer and typing, according to the chart on the smartwatch, it mentioned that I was in a "light sleep" mode.

The watch has 4 faces in order to tell the time which you can easily toggle through.

When the smartwatch is linked to my Android phone, all the sound produced by my Android phone was relayed to my smartwatch similar to my smartwatch functioning like cordless/wireless speakers.

In terms of battery life, I find that based on my usage, the watch lasted for over 24 hours. Of course this will depend on how often you receive notifications on the smartwatch and how often you check your notifications on the smartwatch. I generally will turn off the bluetooth function on my smartwatch in the evening to preserve the battery since I don't want to be notified of things like Facebook messages while I sleep.

I find that the vibration is noticeable on my wrist when I receive a phone call. I mainly purchased this smartwatch in order to be notified of phone calls and it does this well. The other features are a bit of a hit-and-miss.

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Monday, December 1, 2014

RCA multi-directional amplified flat digital antenna CANT1450BF Review

After purchasing the GE Passive Indoor Antenna a few weeks ago and not really liking it, I returned it and decided to get the RCA multi-directional amplified flat digital antenna CANT1450BF.

I wasn't sure how a "multi-directional" antenna would perform but decided to purchase one to try because didn't want to constantly adjust the antenna. The RCA CANT1450BF was at a decent price so I decided to purchase it and give it a try with my Samsung UN32EH5300 LED 1080p Smart TV (HDTV).

RCA has four reception quality grade/categories (good, great, excellent, and superior) and they rate this antenna as one of their "excellent" reception quality antennas. According to the information, it supports 1080 HDTV broadcast and has 360 degree reception with no adjustment necessary. The frequencies supported according to the instructions is 54-88 Mhz, 175-216 Mhz, and 470-698 Mhz.

Inside the box is the digital flat antenna with a coax cable, an easel stand, a removable amplifier with coax cable, and the power supply.

The digital antenna either plugs in directly to the television or it can be plugged into the amplifier where the amplifier plugs in directly to the television. In my case, I plugged the amplifier to my satellite receiver's external antenna port and then connected the digital antenna to the amplifier. I tried not plugging the amplifier to the AC outlet but managed to get only 1-2 stations (similar to what I received with the GE/Omni Passive Indoor Antenna). If using a standard power bar, the AC plug will take up 2 AC outlets due to its size. It doesn't fully cover the second outlet on the power bar but does render it unusable.

I tried placing the antenna flat behind the television on the floor (close to a window) and after using the television to scan for available television stations, I managed to get 3 out of the 4 local stations that I was interested in. I moved the antenna and placed it flat on a table and I rescanned and got 3 stations (2 were the same as what I had gotten previously and 1 was different). I decided to connect the digital flat antenna to the easel stand and hang it over the table so it would be vertical (and facing the window). This time rescanning got me 4 of the local stations that I was interested in so I decided to keep this position. For this antenna, having the amplifier properly connected and plugged into an AC outlet does make a difference. Once I obtained the 4 local stations that I was interested in, I disconnected the amplifier and with the antenna positioned in the exact same location, I was only able to view 1 of the 4 channels. The other 3 channels produced a "weak signal" message. Surprisingly, as mentioned in my GE/Omni Passive Indoor Antenna review, with some adjustment and proper placement, my old rabbit ears non-amplified antenna was able to get the same 4 stations.

In terms of whether I would recommend this antenna, I think that it works well. I could probably get 1 or perhaps 2 more stations by readjusting the antenna but since I was mainly interested in the 4 local stations in my area, I didn't feel the need to readjust and then rescan for stations. Despite the information on the box, it will still need to be positioned in order to get the best signal (the information inside the box indicates that the antenna needs to be positioned in order to get the best signal).

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section. Please note that comments are moderated and any comment that contains an embedded URL link will be flagged as being spam and will not be posted.