48 Hours With the Samsung Note 8

I have been using iOS as my main phone for a few years, but I always have a line with an Android device on it for testing and playing (I also had a third line for Windows devices, but alas that is no longer needed).  I have had Nexus devices, the original Moto X, as well as two from Samsung.  So it was time to replace the S6 with a newer Android device.  So now I have a Note 8!
I am going to write more about this after using it for a few more days, but a few notes.

  • The screen on this phone is breathtaking.
  • Samsung has finally figured out Android.  While the tech press goes on and on about “vanilla Android” and devices that run it they miss a huge point.  Most people are not tech nerds, and they want a finished product out of the box.  This is why Google has now started adding their own differentiators on the Pixel devices whereas the Nexus devices did not.  Yes you can still change defaults, but if you don’t you have a device that works and works well.
  • A big concern I had going in was Bixby. Again after reading about the device online all I kept reading about was how Samsung has Bixby instead of Google Assistant when Assistant is better.  Turns out this is not true.  First the phone has Assistant and Bixby turned on by default when you get your phone.  They have different trigger words, but holding the home key down launches Google Assistant the same as it does everywhere else.  It also turns out that Bixby and Assistant do different things and have different uses.  Imagine complaining your phone came with the Gmail app because it comes with a browser that can also access that Gmail.  That is pretty much what is going on here.

I am going to put my phone through the paces, but here is my home screen as I start my first work week using this phone as my main device.  The second image is from a Samsung slide over feature.  You swipe in from the right edge and you get a list of apps, people, or tasks that you always want access to. I have put most of my messaging apps there and have been using it a lot.  This was a feature I thought I was going to disable.

Update: One thing I was rightfully worried about with this phone was the awful location of the fingerprint reader. Well it’s not great, but once I put a case on I found it much easier to use. I was also plesantly surprised how well the iris scanner works.  I had only used this before on a Lumia 950 and the process was slow and clunky so had low expectations. Samsung also offers facial recognition to unlock, but it’s not secure so just skip that.

Amazon Link to case: Spiegen Thin Fit for Note 8

More to come……

How to Handle All That News

So much news, so many sources, so much to read, so where does one start? If you are a news junkie as I am this is the ultimate question of our times (tad exaggeration).
My system for trying to keep up is not complicated, but it works for me and something similar might work for you. First I have 3 “old media” sources that I subscribe to so I read those as you would have in 1950 at the kitchen table. Those would be The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. These three are also the only news apps that I allow to send me notifications on my phone, breaking news only of course!

The next bit is how I take in the rest. It pretty much works like this. I see a link in a number of places and save it to Pocket. There are a few services that allow you to save items to read later, but Pocket works everywhere and has the best tools. Then a few times a day I go into Pocket on my phone or PC and read away.

I have two primary ways to find stuff I want to send to Pocket. That would be my RSS app (RSS explainer) and Twitter. Since the death of Google Reader I have used Feedly as my RSS service. I do however use third party apps to use Feedly though they provide more than adequate first party apps. On the MAC and iOS I use Reeder, and on Windows I like Nextgen Reader. Both apps do a great job of syncing with the Feedly service and most importantly make it easy to save to Pocket. For Android I still have not found anything better than Feedly for Android.

Those that know me understand I like and use Twitter a lot. While the social stuff is fun, I have found it be a useful place to see what news is breaking in the now. With the right Twitter app you can save anything that looks interesting with one quick click. On the Mac and iOS I use Tweetbot, on Android I like Talon, and on Windows I like Tweetium.

While a setup like this can take time to curate it is quick and easy to use. During the day or when I am busy I just quickly scan my Twitter and RSS feeds. If I see a headline or lede that draws my attention, I just click save to Pocket. Then when I have a few minutes I open Pocket and read!

Like anything the news is only as good as the sources you choose to follow and read. Don’t just read the sites and authors who you know you will agree with. Push your boundaries, remember there is a world outside of the borders you live within, and become an informed citizen.


Apps and services mentioned above:

My New Favorite Bluetooth Keyboard

I have never been a huge fan of many of the portable bluetooth keyboards being sold out there. Logitech and Microsoft both make some of the better ones, but even those felt small and crowded at times. I was just browsing on Amazon last week and a keyboard from Anker popped in my recommendations.
On sale for $19.99 I just went and ordered the Anker Ultraportable Keyboard. While it is a little heavier, and a little bigger than some of the competitors I love this thing. It feels and sounds like a true desktop keyboard. I have been using it with my iPad Air 2, but you should have no problem using it with any device. I have not used enough to test the battery claim since it says it can go 6 months on one charge. I obviously have not had to charge it yet!

Anker Keyboard

Other recommendations:

Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard

Logitech Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard

Hey Siri, You are Not Useless!

this post was originally posted by me on The Agnostic Tech Podcast Site
I devour a lot of news in a day, my RSS reader has a ton of feeds on every different topic you can think of. From politics in the US to the latest news in business in Africa. Shocking no one who knows me, there happens to be a lot of tech news mixed in there. One thing seems to be constant when discussing Apple and iOS, no matter your opinion on any number of issues, everyone agrees Siri is useless.

With that in mind when I switched to iOS I had zero hope for Siri. On my Android phone I really like Google now, and I find Cortana to be making great strides in Windows 10. Here is something you won’t read a lot, “I am using Siri, and liking it”.

read the rest of this post on Agnostic Tech Podcast site….

Note to Microsoft Press and “Fans”: Stop The Whining

I have not written in a while, but thanks to IFTTT my Instagram photos have been keeping this site full of fun and exciting pictures.  Okay, maybe they are not fun or exciting!  Then I see something that makes me angry, so here I am.

This week Facebook is cutting off access to a very old version of their Graph API.  An API that has been updated over and over again.  At an event well over a year ago Facebook announced that they would be cutting off access to this old version, and that anyone who uses it should update their app or service to use the new version.  So this week Microsoft posts that because of this change many Microsoft services that were connected to Facebook using this ancient version of an API were no longer going to work.  Then comes the crazy and stupid headlines.  Some said that Facebook was f**king Microsoft, and many others made it sound like Facebook was going after Microsoft users specifically.  This was factually incorrect, but that does not matter.

This reminds me of the Google cutting off Exchange Active Sync story from a couple of years ago.  If you just listened to and read many that covered or followed Microsoft you would think that Google was targeting the twelve Windows Phone users (I was one of them at the time).  The truth is that this was a move by Google that impacted a lot more iPhone users who used EAS to connect their Gmail accounts.  Google was trying to force their free users to use the Gmail app in order to have push e-mail.  If you still wanted EAS access, they said pay up for a Google Apps account.  You can disagree with what Google did to their users, but this was not a shot at Microsoft or Windows users.  They were doing what every company is doing, trying to get their users to use the official app.

Then there was the YouTube app debacle.  Google once again did not make an app for Windows Phone users, so Microsoft at the time decides to build their own app.  There are ways to make a third party YouTube app that works, but that is not what Microsoft did.  They built an app that broke every rule Google had set for app developers in order to get the reaction they did from Google.  Microsoft even had an option to download videos in the app!  This was going on at the same time that Microsoft was running an online and TV ad campaign called “Scroogled”.  Somehow people wanted you to believe that Google was the one targeting Microsoft here.  The truth is that Microsoft was poking Google over and over again trying to get Google to react so Microsoft can spin it and use public pressure to get an official app.  Well that did not work.

The good news is that the new regime at Microsoft stopped the “Scroogled” campaign, and seems to have moved pass this mentality.  Microsoft is going back to what they do best, making software.  This software is now running well on every platform their customers run.  From iOS to Android to Windows, you can use Microsoft’s software and services and Microsoft says thank you.  It is time for Microsoft users and the press that covers them to realize the reality they now live in.  Facebook and Google are not going out their way to target Windows Phone users.  Apple and Google are in the middle of  a holy war over privacy, but Google is still creating new apps for iOS.  They are doing what they need to do to run their own business.  The same way Microsoft is now doing what they have to do.

Metro Design Lives On…

So it looks like the Metro design language Microsoft used starting with Windows Phone 7 continues on, just not on Windows Phone anymore.  Google is updating their YouTube app on Android, and it looks oddly familiar.
Screenshot 2015-03-15 11.57.47

New YouTube Interface Rolling Out To Some Users Ditches The Hamburger Menu

Many Windows Phone users and developers were not happy with Microsoft’s changes, and this will only add fuel to the fire.  As Microsoft plays catch up by adding in the Hamburger menu, it appears others are already moving away from a menu system that many find less productive.

Peter Bright of Ars Technica sums up my feeling about the whole thing three tweets.

A Way To Get Around Slim Margins for PC and Phone OEMs?

After Lenovo’s week from hell, I have been thinking on ways for Microsoft to get their partners to make computers without the cruft that makes these machines unusable and unsafe.  How about Microsoft shares store revenue with manufacturers that install a clean version of Windows for their users?  If you can tell Lenovo and HP that they can make money on their machines even after they are bought, that has to have some pull.  So if you user X buys $50 worth of apps from the Windows Store… $35 would go to developers, $10 would go to Microsoft, and $5 would go back to the OEM.  They can’t be making much on what they pre-install now, can they?

I think this approach would also have some Android OEMs take a look at Windows Phone if you promised them some post sale revenue.  The mobile app store has become a place people expect to spend money, so if you tell Samsung or HTC they will get a few bucks a year from each user….

Just trying to think outside the box!

Two Images That Show Off the New Microsoft

Frank Shaw, head of communications at Microsoft, tweeted this:
 

 

I do see that the individual Office apps are running on an Android phone.  This would be an update to the current Office Mobile, and would be the same as iOS and Windows Phone 10 (at launch).

 

…and then when you open the Sunrise app on Android you are greeted with this image:

2015-02-12 05.18.46

 

Twitter: What I Use

I get this question a lot.  What Twitter client do you use on X platform?  So now I can just send them here.  First let’s get this out of the way.  I don’t use the actual first party Twitter client on anything.

Android

 

Fenix – I have been using Fenix for a few months, and am thrilled with how it works.  It is used daily on my Samsung Galaxy S5 and Nexus 7.  The black theme and easy navigation have made this my go to.  Other good options are Talon and Falcon which just came out with a new version today.

Download Fenix from Google Play

Windows & Windows Phone

 

Tweetium – The future of Windows is universal apps, and Tweetium is living in the future now.  This app works on Windows Phone 8.1 and your PC running Windows 8.1 or higher. I use it on a Lumia 1520 and Surface.  This is the type of app Microsoft had in mind when they designed the new modern interface.  If there were more apps like this the story in Windows Phone land could be a lot different.  For those users looking for a Windows desktop app, launch Tweetdeck in your browser.  The only app I liked is gone! R.I.P. MetroTwit.

Download Tweetium for Windows 8

Download Tweetium for Windows Phone

Mac OS X and iOS

 

Tweetbot – I have not been in the world of OS X for a while, but have heard a lot of the chatter about Tweetbot.  I used it on an iPhone and was super pleased, and now that I have a Retina MacBook Pro I see why users love this app.  From design to ease of use this app gets it all right.  Just beware many users complain about the lack of updates to the iPad version of the app.  If you have an iPhone or a Mac, get this app now.

Download Tweetbot for iOS 

Download Tweetbot for Mac OS X


 

I will keep this post updated as I change the apps I use which seems to happen quite often.  What are you using to connect to Twitter on your device?