Bluetooth (Not space, sorry :( )

Hello all! It’s been a very busy week and I know you are all eager to read, because the Internet is just a horrible black hole without anything worth reading. I just briefly contemplated using that as a really terrible segue into talking about space (see my last post and how I had planned to talk about it), but it’s been a week and a lot has happened since then.

First, and most importantly to me, I finally finished my last class ever (with an A-), which means that to finish my degree all I need to do is give a seminar (which will very likely be on the topic of real-time MRI, an AWESOME technological advancement which could easily revolutionize medicine) and then write and defend my thesis. I’m hoping to have this done by mid-October, and it’s really all I’ll be doing until then. So that’s pretty hella exciting.

Secondly, last week Dell was having a summer sale, as they do quite frequently. I scan the deals they offer as there is usually one or two really good deals, and since I do enjoy technology and electronics in general, I’ve made a few of these purchases. The really exciting one which I’ve been using non-stop all week is a pair of Bluetooth headphones. I wasn’t sure of the purchase as I was making it, because they are over the head headphones, which are a little bulky and make the wearer look like a huge nerd (or in some cases a rich, snobbish audiophile depending on the size). They were $50, down from $100, and I had a little disposable income, so I decided to jump even further into the world of wireless audio. Last time I had used Bluetooth was probably 2006-7 when I needed to transfer phone numbers from one phone to another without a SIM card. As I remember it it was a horrible clunky technology which was mainly used either for moving small data such as contacts from point A to point B, or connected to a jawbone headset for phone calls. While these things are undoubtedly convenient, I basically ignored the technology for the intervening 4 years.

Now that I have these headphones (which were delivered in less than 24 hours from the time of order, another small plug for Dell and Purolator here, they are awesome) my mind has completely changed on the technology. In the week I’ve been using my wireless headphones I have just charged them a second time since opening them, although they weren’t dead (4 days seems to be the average, but I didn’t want them to die). I should also make the point that I have been using them almost incessantly and the battery life is just stupendous, although they are still very light. The right speaker has volume and playback controls, as well as a talk button, microphone, pairing button and power button. It is the easiest thing to use and is easily made compatible with everything. All Apple products come with Bluetooth adapters, which made it incredibly easy to connect to the headphones. My computer (which would have come with bluetooth for an extra $20) doesn’t come with it, but that was easily remedied with a small bluetooth dongle, which is actually much smaller than the end of my thumb. The part which sticks out of the computer is about half the size of the part which is required to go in. This (which as you can see attaches to my keychain really easily) can plug into whatever computer I’m sitting at and connects me instantly and wirelessly to the audio coming from that computer. It a wonderful setup, and the last thing I’ll say (besides the obvious of not distracting people around you) is the 30′ radius which allows you some freedom to move around without having to bring anything with you. The example I’ll use is for television, but it applies equally with other media. When I was watching the office in the living room but wanted to get some water, normally I would have to bring the tablet or if I was watching it on tv I would just miss part of the show (or pause it). Now I can simply walk away and the audio will follow me. It’s great technology!

Anyhow, this is long and I want to save something for another day, so I’m going to delay talking about space, though I do really want to.

My app of the day for today is the Google+ app, which has been on Android for a few weeks and was recently released for iOS as well. It’s all very exciting and to all my Facebook friends who are complacent, please do consider getting Google+, I’m sure none of you remember saying “Facebook. What’s that? Sounds cool, I haven’t talked to my high school friends in a while” Well this is so much better than that. I implore you!

My jailbreak tweak of the day is called DeepEnd. It came out today and can be found on Ryan Petrich’s repository. It gives your wallpaper a cool 3D look using the gyroscope in the phone and doesn’t use a noticeable amount of memory, it’s just a neat little effect!

My desktop application of the day is called Teamviewer. I have spoken with many of you about it, and it works on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android and can access computer via the Internet as well. I will only give a teaser of what it does, but if you have more than one computer, or a phone and computer, it allows you to control and view your desktop remotely. There are INFINITE uses for this technology, and I strongly recommend you try it. Those looking for a demo or instructions, feel free to ask, I would be more than happy to help!

Hopefully I’ll be back again this weekend to write more!

Busy times call for short posts

Hey everyone, I’m going to be really busy this week, but I’m planning a longish piece on space and astronomy (with the last space station mission having just docked with the ISS) hopefully before the weekend! Anyhow, I did still want to share some of my favorite things with you, as a bonus today I have a great app to share with everyone, for those smartphone owners among us.

Jailbreak Tweak: Running List

This tweak lets you use otherwise wasted space in your spotlight search area to show all the apps you have running, and allows you to quit them by tapping on the icon on the left and then pressing quit, or with a simple swipe across the name followed by quit. This app saves time in quitting apps and lets you easily access apps which are running if you don’t like the multitasking dock.
Google+ Feature: Hangouts

While this video is low on details, it gets the basic point across quite nicely. Basically you can start a chat conversation or “Hangout” and then invite people to join you. People you have allowed who log in will see that you are hanging out and will be able to join the hangout, up to a maximum of 10 people. The main video automatically focuses on the person who is talking, just like in a conversation, although you can also choose to focus on one person by clicking on their video. You can also selectively mute people in the conversation, as well as the awesome feature of playing a YouTube clip as a “member” of the group chat. Conversation volume is lowered, and a walkie-talkie-esque push to talk button appears so that the video clip has focus. It is a great way to show friends you can’t be with clips and gauge their reactions in real time since everyone is watching the same part of the clip at any given moment. From experience it also makes for really fun dance parties when you can’t actually be at a club, for example mid-afternoon.

Smartphone app: Viber (iOS)/Viber (Android Beta)
This app is an extremely basic yet extremely useful one. It lets you send SMS messages and make voice calls for free using data/WiFi. This can be extremely useful as the calls are of very high quality and long distance is still free and doesn’t use any more data. From what I have seen the data usage is also minimal. The best part about this app is that signing up is as simple as installing the app and inputting your phone number. The app then finds your friends who also have the app installed and shows you those people. You can also make calls to people who don’t have the app installed through the app, but it will use your minutes. There is no account to worry about, your phone number is your account and it is how people will find you. The more people who use this, the better, so get crackalackin! I have also heard that there is an Android version conducting beta testing, so please do try this out and see how it works, I would love to see everybody get this to try!
I hope to have a real post for you soon!
-Robert

Contract Killer

Hello again, I have been asked to discuss the pros/cons of cell phone contracts. This is an issue which I’m sure impacts almost all of you, so hopefully you’ll get something out of it whether or not you actually care.

First of all, in the 8 or so years I’ve owned cell phones (don’t quote me on that number), I have run the gamut of plans and contracts, so I consider myself a wealth of knowledge in this area. My first cell phone was a pay-as-you-go throwaway phone from Telus back around the start of high school. When I describe it as a throwaway phone I mean that it was being sold for $30 with $30 worth of pay-as-you-go included on the account. The phone was a piece of junk, but it was really only for emergencies and arranging rides with my parents, so all in all it was a good first experience, but a short lived one. My second phone, the first one I got without my parents, was also pay-as-you-go, with Bell. It was a beautiful Nokia bar phone which I loved with all my heart. I knew even then that contracts were a terrible idea, and that at that time I also didn’t have the money or requirement for a plan, so paying 15c/txt wasn’t a huge deal, and I rarely made calls with it. That setup also didn’t last long, which was the beauty of paying for service as you use it, because there was no commitment to any particular carrier. Next I moved on to Virgin Mobile, still on pay-as-you-go. I had the same Nokia phone for a while with Virgin, but I think I went through 3 phones with them in the span of less than a year. I was working part time in high school and had disposable income with nothing to buy, so spending $50-80 on a phone every 3-6 months wasn’t the worst thing in the world, and I enjoyed always having a new phone, so I was never bored. Through first year of university I still didn’t have any need for a plan since I barely used my phone, but I was suddenly hit with the knowledge that I could sign a piece of paper, receive a phone, and with the promise of paying a bill every month, I would be set for (at that time) life!

December 9th, 2007 was the night when my life changed. My shiny new Motorola W510 arrived in the mail and I hurriedly called to confirm and activate my service. I had locked in a 36-month contract with Fido and with the awesome phone number 613-255-3311 I was off to the races. In my adolescent naivety I had signed up for a 3 year contract in order to save $100 dollars on the price of my phone, which was originally $150. My plan was $60+change/month, and included several instances of the word unlimited. At the ripe old age of 19 I was all too susceptible to reacting favourably to the word unlimited. My plan came with UNLIMITED text messaging, UNLIMITED incoming calls, UNLIMITED evenings and weekends starting at 7 PM. It had all the call display, voicemail and call waiting options included, and it was more than what I needed. That is all well and good, but I didn’t use all of my minutes, and ended up that most of the time I used was both incoming as well as evening, so both weren’t really necessary. After 2 years, Fido changed their plans and so I was able to change my options and  save about $10/month getting rid of the redundant unlimited options. I also decided at that time to add data to my plan, as well as upgrading to add unlimited picture/video messages and extending my evenings/weekends to begin at 5 PM, which only cost $5/month all together. I was very frustrated with having a contract at this point, but it didn’t bother me too much because I was very happy with my plan.

Fast forward now to December 9th, 2010. I still have the same plan, and I am now paying $45.20/mo consistently for 100 daytime minutes (ie. 9-5 weekdays) a month, with unlimited everything else (data and texting) besides long distance. I have the ability to make calls through Google on my phone as well as any computer with a microphone, which is what I do for long distance since the long distance I use is always from home this isn’t a big deal anyhow. I am still extremely happy with my plan and expect to continue to use it as long as I can. I bought my last 3 phones at cost without the contractual subsidy because I have come to realize that contracts are a gigantic rip-off (in most cases) designed to take advantage of people who don’t have the money to buy a snazzy new phone up front but still want one. People see this as an advantage because as humans we find it extremely difficult to think long term. That being said, there are certainly cases, especially with smartphones, where you are saving up to $500 with a contract. This contract though, is worth over $2000 to the carrier in most cases, and in the cases where you are saving $500, you are usually still paying anywhere from $50 to $300 dollars for the subsidized phone. With new phones being pushed out every few months, and older models being made obsolete within a year or two, three year contracts have become a little bit less pervasive, with some carriers also offering two year contracts, which are a little bit more reasonable. Even still, contracts are certainly not worth it for me without considerable perks.

I have decided in light of some discussions I have been having with friends that I would like to show reasons people why iPhones should be jailbroken, as well as why Google+ is the future of social networking, not just a fad.

Jailbreak Tweak: SBSettings

This utility allows for quick toggling of items such as WiFi, bluetooth, brightness, and gives the ability to close processes. If you are tired of going into settings to change these things, they are accessible with a quick swipe of the status bar on a jailbroken phone. It is a very easy convenient way to access these settings, and I recommend everybody jailbreak their phone, even if just for this tool. A quick visit to http://www.jailbreakme.com is all it takes for the time being!

Google+ Feature: Sharing options

Lets you choose who specifically [or which groups (called circles)] you would like to share things with. You can add a photo (or album), a video clip, a link (or embedded video or photo) and your location (even from desktop computers) should you so desire. It is a beautiful smooth interface so you don’t have to share new baby pictures of your cousins with your acquaintance you met last night at the bar, and you don’t have to share pictures of you cheersing your bar mates with your boss when you call in sick the next day. It is a beautiful thing, and extremely easy and intuitive to use.