Sunday, March 12, 2017

A blog returns to its roots...my adventures in tech - starting with my new cell phone

When I began this blog back in 2008, it was a log of my adventures in tech.  The idea was not so much that others would  be interested in every one of the entries, but instead, if I solved a problem that solution might be discovered by someone else searching for a solution to the same problem.

And then I let it lapse into mostly posts pointing to my most recent column.  Recently, I withdrew the column from InsideNova.  There may be a future column for another outlet; details as they develop.

My latest post was more in the old vein. I had a problem with Android Auto, investigated it and found others had reported it.  I also came up with a work around.

I just bought my next smartphone; my fourth.  It made me think about the path to here.  I just re-read some of my posts about my first smart phone.  It was a Samsung Instinct back in 2008.

I replaced it with a Samsung S3 in 2012, my first Android phone, and then a LG G3 in 2014.  I kept the G3 longer than any phone; almost 30 months.  That is longer than most people it seems, but is in keeping with a trend of people keeping their phones longer, as Business Insider explained recently.

The LG G3 served me well. As a geek though, and a columnist, I want the latest version of Android to play with. My wife's iPhone and Watch keep me up to speed on that end of the equation.

Sprint, my provider, turned out to be the only carrier to not upgrade the G3 to Marshmallow.  What's worse, is they lied to me about their intentions to do so.

So it was with bated breath to see what Google would bring out to replace their aging Nexus phones. Phone's from Google do not rely on the manufacturer to modify the latest Android for the phone, and then the carrier to further test and modify it and push it out.

That can take a long time, if it happens at all.  If one were cynical, you'd think carriers do not want phones over a year old to have the latest version. It might keep people holding on to their phones a bit longer and not buying an upgrade.

The Google Pixel phones seemed awesome but expensive. I soldiered on with my G3.  I had a small fleet of batteries and two chargers that would charge the battery out of the phone. That was the phone's downfall.  I swapped batteries almost daily. Finally, one battery contact started to go bad.  At the end I could get a battery to make contact if I fiddled long enough. I knew I had to leave that battery in place. The phone also shutdown at random due to that bad contact. And the Bluetooth went out, something others had seen in aging G3s.

I was waiting for the Pixel XL 128 gigabyte to be available, but the LG was dying fast, so I pulled the trigger on a Pixel XL with 32 gigabytes. I'm not sorry. The 128 is still not available.  And I have 100 apps on the phone (that I actually use) and have only about half filled the phone.

What do people do with 128 gigabytes?  I don't listen to a lot of music. And my photos and videos upload to Google Photo, so other than apps and my current podcasts there is little else on my phone.  That's how I work; others might need more space.

The Pixels have a built in battery.  The phone came with two type-C USB cables and I immediately bought two more. I have the rapid charger in my home office, a cable hooked to a standard Android charger next to the bed, another in my car and the final one at my desk at work.

Turns out I didn't really need those two extra cables.  The battery is awesome!  I commute 45 minutes each way with Android Auto on, Google Maps navigating and podcasts playing. At work, I don't use the phone that much, but  on the way home I'm also calling and texting by dictating via Google Assistant. By the time I go to bed, I still have several hours left on the battery.  And I use the phone a lot for surfing.

My battery status right now.

And the rapid charger can charge the phone in 15 minutes for seven hours of use.

And the beauty of this phone most of all -- I'll get the next Android version--probably the next several.

I can't wait for Google IO in May now more than ever.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Using Automagic to get around a bug in Android Auto

I recently purchased a Google Pixel XL 32g phone. It is by far the best phone I've owned.

It is great company on my daily commute. The Android Auto app warns me of traffic, plays my podcasts for me, and lets me dictate text messages.  I've combined it with ReadItToMe so that my incoming text messages are read aloud.

I noticed on my first afternoon commute though the Do Not Disturb icon was turned on on my Android watch. At the next traffic light I discovered that Do Not Disturb was on on the phone as well.

A Google search at home found I was not alone in noticing/suffering this.  The Android Product Forum had mention of it.

People first reported this back in November 2016, so hopefully a fix will be coming.

Meanwhile, I worked out a workaround using AutoMagic.

The flow below detects the launch of Android Auto and then turns off Do Not Disturb by setting the Ringer on, and turning the audio volume up. I have tested it briefly here at home, but not yet on a commute.



Update: 3/10/2017 A link to the XML file to make this flow in AutoMagic.


Update: 3/14/2017:  I am finding this does not always work reliably. Use at your own risk.  It may also interfere with navigation.  Testing continues...