Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Android Screen Timeout

When things go dark!

Whether you are a long time owner of mobile devices, including laptops and early generation cell phones, or have only briefly held a mobile device, you have likely had to deal with a screen that turned off on you or stayed on after you were done with it. There are a number of factors that come in to play when it comes to controlling the screen on Android, let me walk you through a few.

Quick theory: Your Android device is designed to automatically turn its screen off after a set amount of time, usually a minute. Applications on your device are able to keep the screen turned on for longer, even indefinitely. Since the screen is the greatest battery drain on your device, keeping it turned off as much as possible can be important, also, touch functionality is turned off when the screen is off, making it safe to put the device in your pocket without fear of pocket dialing your friends.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Tasker for Android - A Basic Volume Changer

Let's see how it is actually done.

Tasker is a very powerful application on Android that allows a user to code a number of actions (here on known as Tasks) based upon a number of events and triggers in the Android OS. If that did not make any sense to you, let me try an example scenario: At 10pm your ringer volume is changed to 0. Where the time change is an Event/Trigger from the OS and changing the volume is a Task that you code.

It would take a great amount of time for me to now outline even half of the stuff Tasker is capable of, so let us just say that it can do almost anything that is capable of being done in Android. Setting your ringer volume is pretty basic, creating a full application is tough, but entirely possible.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Android as an FTP Client or Server

Sounds good. Now, how is it done?

There are a number of methods and apps that can turn your Android device into an FTP Client or an FTP Server, I will talk about ES File Explorer, as it performs both roles in a few easy steps. Before we get started, let's cover a couple definitions:

FTP Server: essentially, a folder on a computer that has been shared over the network and only accessible using FTP (File Transfer Protocol) using a FTP Client. A host name is issued, which is often just the IP Address of the server, and access to the folder/file structure is governed by credentials.

FTP Client: any application that is able to access a FTP Server. This can be a simple application, and is often handled with your basic Windows Explorer or a web browser.

FTP, and the associated secured versions SFTP and FTPS, are commonly used on the internet for many uses such as website file storage, shared storage for teams or families, and of course, wireless file transfers.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

ES File Explorer File Manager

If ever there was one that could do it all, this may be it.

ES File explorer is a whole bunch of tools all wrapped up in the guise of a File Manager. At the heart of it, of course, ES File Explorer is a great file explorer for normal and Rooted users alike. From there, it adds value by offering as many related functions as it can muster, including app backups, cloud and network file navigation, media players and even fire up a WiFi hotspot. Let us focus on one function at a time:

Monday, December 16, 2013

Chromecast - Continuing to Add Value

In a recent app approval group launch by Google, allowing apps to officially connect with the Chromecast, one key app was approved that I believe is extremely powerful: Avia Media Player.

After a generous $2.99 in-app fee to "Unlock Extras" on top of the free install, Avia makes available two key functions that I had previously not been able to accomplish with any great success, 1. Cast media stored on your Android device to your Chromecast, and 2. Cast media stored on select Cloud Services to your Chromecast.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Transferring Files on Android - Using Wireless Technologies

Wired, Wireless, or something in between? Part 2 - Wireless Techniques

In Part 1 - Wired and Physical Media Solutions, we talked about using USB cables, SD Cards and Flash media to transfer your files onto a new Android device. If those techniques didn't work to get your movies and music, photo collection or other files onto your Android device, you still have several options ahead of you.

Transferring Files on Android - Using Wires and Physical Media

Wired, Wireless, or something in between? Part 1 - Wired and Physical Media Solutions

One of the first things you may try to tackle after you get a new Android device, and poke around all the cool features and settings, is to transfer some files to it. This holds doubly true if you are upgrading from an older Android device that you now need to get files off of. Whether you have movies and music, a photo collection or just an encrypted PDF of your ID, you have several options ahead of you.

This is Part 1 of 2, in which we cover transferring files using wires and other physical medium, feel free to jump ahead to Part 2 - Wireless Techniques.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Google+ Auto Awesome Photos

Fancy features for people that just take pictures.

In 2013, Google launched a powerful set of free photo customization features that it has been continually improving and enhancing in an effort to automatically take your photos from normal to awesome! The feature set includes tools such as color/brightness/contrast enhancements, stitching together a string of photos to make panoramic views, converting multiple shots of the same thing into animated gifs and more.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Zooper Widget

A whole new look to your clock.

In its simplest form, Zooper Widget offers a unique new set of designs for the clock on your Android Home and Lock screens. Under the hood, it has a great number of customization aspects to let you tweak to your desires. The thing is, unless you wish to switch back and forth between different designs, the free version is good enough. However, if you are an avid Tasker user, it is extremely well worth ponying up the couple dollars for the pro version.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Android 4.4 Kit-Kat - A Few Key Features

This is not a full feature list, just a few items that make a difference for my testing.
(And again, this is pure Android straight from Google, I will ignore all custom and manufacturer ROMS, for now.)

There have been many visual changes to the system. I will compare exclusively to Jellybean, but know that every version has had its own changes, improvements you might say, along the way. As soon as you boot the system, you notice the change in the boot animation where a small orb of 4 circles spins around, which is actually a significant visual change from the somewhat eerie alien rotating glow around an "X" that was the Jellybean animation.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Android 4.4 Kit-Kat

The trademarked tasty treat name. 

As many already know, Google's Android has had a history of naming their alphabetically progressing releases after tasty treats, such as Donut, Froyo and Jellybean, carefully choosing generic, non-branded names. For their most recent release, however, they surprised all of us that were expecting Keylime Pie by announcing Kit-Kat.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

To all my American friends, and of course to all that have anything they wish to express thankfulness for, American or not - Happy Thanksgiving.

Here, enjoy the Google Doodle for the day:

And don't forget to eat pumpkin pie, or don't, leaves more for me.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Android Update Nightmare

4.4 Kit Kat is out, and finally available for my devices. The install went smooth and things are going well, so far (more info coming soon), but last night I had a terrible dream, as represented in the images below.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ubuntu GNOME

Translated: A really great Linux distribution with a really great windows environment on top. Or, in one word, win!
Let me explain for those that don't understand what I just said: First, Linux is an Operating System; so is Android or Microsoft Windows Xp/Vista/7/8, one of which you are likely to be using to read this now. Operating Systems are very complex, but let's just call them 'what you interact with / what makes your computer work.'

Friday, November 22, 2013

Good To Know

At risk of extreme redundancy, here is a link to a bunch of stuff that really is Good to Know.

The website and documentation mainly cover online security best practices, as pertains to Google services, but a great place to get started if you want to take your online privacy and security to the next level.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Before You Ask Friends and Family for Technical Assistance:

Do you require any technical assistance? If so, and you are willing to read an interesting article (just click the image below), please get to the end before you accuse me of 'whining'.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

TWiT Network

No 'er' about it. 

It occurred to me recently, after a long conversation with a friend about Android, that I had never promoted my favorite technology news website +TWiT.   (

On their robust network of shows, I have never missed an episode of +All About Android (AAA) or This Week in Google (TWiG), but sadly admit that there just are not enough hours in the day to catch all of the other 30+ themed shows from security, law and daily news through to HAMM radios and home entertainment. All while, of course, covering Android, Google, Microsoft, Apple and a bunch more in between. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Chromecast, or Not to Chromecast?

That is the... er, let's call it... a question.

For a very affordable $35, you can get your hands on Google's entry into the 'tiny-pc-for-your-tv' market, the Google Chromecast. You may be asking yourself where this stands versus GoogleTV, this is smaller. For those that have not heard of it yet, it is a USB stick sized unit that plugs into the HDMI input on your tv, is powered by usb (from your tv, or the supplied power unit) and let's you play online, and some offline, content on your television.

The primary use-case would be to fire a YouTube video from your Android Tablet up to your TV so you can continue to surf on your tablet. Sounds magical so far, but is it? Depending on your needs and expectations, yes, it is magic. If, however, you just wanted to play content you already own, maybe not so much.

Let me explain. Right on the box it advertises that it can handle YouTube, Netflix, Google Play content (video and music) and pass a tab from your Chrome browser. The first thing you'll notice is that the first three items are streaming services, if your home internet regularly leaves you buffering, don't expect the Chromecast to speed things up. If you are lucky enough to live in a Gigabit world, where buffering is not an issue, you will love the Chromecast for these services. Luckily, audio is a little easier to tackle, so popping your music to the tv, via Google Play Music, is a snap.

Monday, November 18, 2013

System Update

I previously posted that I was using an all Windows environment, and that I was about to install Windows 7 on most of my machines. I had done that, I ran the Windows 7 beta from start to finish, but I never did make a full install after that.

I moved to the world of Linux!

I messed with a few main distros, but landed on Ubuntu. As I came to learn later on, the distro didn't matter to me so much, I really fell for Gnome and Nautilus. Today, my main machine (is actually my Android Tablet, but let's ignore that a moment...) is dual booting Ubuntu 12.04 and Mint 13. Both fully fitted with Gnome. I do have a secondary machine that is running Windows 7, but I don't like it, it is for work purposes and all that.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Microsoft Security Essentials

     For those still using a Microsoft Operating System, the world of computer viruses is becoming more and more sophisticated and robust on a daily basis. We all try to use best practice to keep ourselves and our computers safe from harm, but nothing works better than a solid antivirus program. There are many on the market ranging from simple and free to super-complicated and way too expensive. 

   Across our machines and through personal experience, we have tested over a dozen different antivirus programs, most of them free, and have found our favorites. For the category of "Ease Of Use," nothing we tested compares to Microsoft Security Essentials. It is a wonderful set it and forget it program that does everything it needs to keep you safe. Just look for the Green House in your task tray and you know you are covered. 

  We recommend this program for anyone that isn't sure if they have antivirus already and don't want to be bothered with performing any tasks to ensure security. 

  For those that want to take hands on control of their antivirus security, check back next month when we will be announcing our favorite for the category of "Advanced Options."


Alright, it sounds like a politically incorrect joke, but it actually stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. "What is this" you ask? GNU is a name associated with a developmental Unix-like operating system, but is more commonly referred to for User Licensing - look it up. I won't even attempt to explain Image Manipulation or Program; basically, GIMP, in it's default setup, can be called a super powered baby Photoshop. 

Many, including myself, think that GIMP is better than Photoshop, especially if you become an active part of the GIMP community and share tools and tricks. An advanced user (not myself) can use GIMP to put Photoshop to shame. We use it mostly because it is much easier to learn than the rest and it comes pre-installed on some of our favorite flavors of the Linux Operating System. 

If you ever have need for some basic image manipulation tasks such as designing a logo or print document, we urge you to give GIMP a try. I will only ask that you try to contribute to the GIMP community; maybe a new Brush design or a script that combines a drop-shadow with lens-flare plus image skew & rotation to simulate the look of something baking in the sun - nice and easy!

Team Viewer

   Team Viewer logo                                   Team Viewer

We were recently turned on to Team Viewer through the power of the Google Search Engines. The long and short of it is that we had need to help a friend having some computer issues; among these issues, an inability to use remote assistance and/or remote desktop. 

Team Viewer  can connect to almost any PC regardless of location, Local Domain or operating system. It uses a unique number applied to the computer, instead of relying on an IP address. Users on both ends have control over access, so there is no worry of someone taking over your machine. 

Just for Fun


One of these is the new Windows 8 Logo, but one is the Flag of the Mexican Insurgents.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Let's Try This Again.

Consolidation and commitment. 

In an effort to make this a compelling and informative blog, I am hereby eliminating my pure tech blog, once found at, and rolling everything into this blog. Also required because I have moved to the United States, and can no longer own the .ca domain.

This blog will become mostly technology related, and most of that will be about Android. I am a huge Android fan and user, and slowly working on becoming a proficient developer. I hope you have as much fun with this as I will.

Before I get started, I will be dumping in a handful of posts carried over from KnownIssues, be ready for some computer tools....