Thursday, July 28, 2011

Regarding Android Activism

I wrote this article in regards to a contest for a G2X put on by Android Activist. Sadly I lost, but here is the winning submission. Congrats to the winner! I really liked my submission so I thought I would throw it up for all to read. Enjoy . . .

Creation and innovation are communal endeavors. As such it is integral that these elements be left open to grow and evolve, which is precisely the reason I choose to promote Android. While Android has had its open-source stutters as of late (Honeycomb), it remains a shining light against the backdrop of closed operating systems working within a closed ecosystem. The ability to have Android co-exist with many different OEMs has brought innovation to devices, and at a juggernaut rate of speed as well. From the G1 to Google TV, and now Android@Home, it is clear that Android's belief in open is not a fragmented hindrance that many spoke of in its infancy, rather it is a pathway to technological advancement, and at the recently announced 550,000 new activation's a day it is certainly not a poor business model either. 

When I was first introduced to Android I was not entirely sold on the platform. In fact, it was my wife who really wanted the phone so I gave in. I was quickly taken aback at what the phone could do, but was also irritated with what it could not do. It was at this time that I stumbled across the "Android Community." I quickly rooted my phone and installed CyanogenMod. I was amazed, perhaps even moved, at the constant assistance one could receive from developers in the forums. Developers work day and night in order to get the latest software updates on to their specific phones--benefits that would never be offered or available on the original device. The worth of one's device grows exponentially within the Android ecosystem as developers offer more each day. The Android developers, in conjunction with an open system, have created a product that can do nearly anything--all that is generally required of the consumer is a Google search and following directions. This has led me to become an activist for Android.

I recently started a blog,, where I write about the Android OS. Moreover, I created a Twitter account, @GhostWriterv9, where I try to push Android news out to keep individuals informed of Android's activity. Innovation is a responsibility of all within the Android community, so the greater we grow the more we evolve. Moreover, the open-source concept, while not created by Android, is rarely represented by such a mainstream organization, and this is very important because it creates a place where information is available. Open access to information is something that I champion in my Android activism as it is a type of liberty ideology that I believe holds true in all elements of life, not just technology.

In sum, I am an activist because I believe Android is much bigger than a phone--it is an illustration of what happens when a community is given open-access to information. And what is the result? Progress.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Quick Reviews On Some Of The Top Phones And Tablets

I finally got around to heading out and sampling some of the better devices out there and to be honest I found some really nice devices. Below is a quick synopsis of each device along with its pros and cons.


The G2X is fast. Really fast. It was one of the more smooth and buttery feeling phones available. While there have been a lot of complaints of reboots (never happened while I had it) and screen bleeds (did not really notice it) I found the phone to be one of my favorites. It is also getting a tremendous amount of dev love, so you should look for really great things from this phone in the future. The ROM is stock Android and there is very little bloatware, but that is easily removed with rooting.


Dev Devotion


Reported errors like reboots and screen bleed
LG is untested as a company
T-Mobile could become AT&T

Kyocero Echo

The Kyocera Echo is a standout for being a dual screen smartphone. Unfortunately, it also stands out for being a horrible smartphone. The dual screen is an interesting concept, but I found it to have very little practical use and the big line down the center of the dual screens made it impossible to use. Moreover, I found the phone to be very sluggish when compared to the other phones mentioned here.


Interesting design
Greater screen space


Line in the middle of the two screens is intrusive
Does not work well for all apps

Blackberry Playbook

I was talking with a friend earlier today and the only comment we could come up with for the Playbook was that it is an outstanding failure. I use this description because there is a part of me that honestly believes that the Playbook is the best tablet on the market, but the OS is a bit of a dying platform that is loosing its identity and the fact that it does not have email is ridiculous. If it had email it would be sitting next to me now. The Playbook is incredibly smooth and fast, but it is too bad that such a great device got botched by RIM's failure to include email and keep Blackberry as a viable competitor. Look to see RIM fall behind WebOS and Windows Phone later this year.


Best tablet out there
Super fast
Buttery smooth


Dead platform
No email client
little to no app support

HTC Sensation 4G

The Sensation was awesome. It was really nice to hold and easy to use. Sense 3.0 has clearly made some huge adjustments and was very speedy. Not much lag, if any. On T-Mobile this would probably be my next choice. Locked bootloader is deal, but not a big one since HTC is saying that they will unlock it. This is a great phone for any user, but it is apparently having some wifi issues.


Great device in the hand
Beautiful display 


Presently locked bootloader
Sense 3.0 (I just don't like it)

HTC Evo 3D

The Evo 3D is basically the same phone as the Sensation. Yes, the outside is a bit more boxey, but all in all it really felt the same (although a little clunkier to hold). The 3D is much ado about nothing. I barely noticed it. The 3D pictures and video are annoying to look at, but the 3D movies are pretty awesome. If you want to watch, and will watch, 3D movies on your phone then I would grab it for that, but outside of this one feature it is not different than the Sensation.


3D Movies


Presently locked bootloader
Sense 3.0 
Gimmicky 3D


I tried a lot of phones recently and they all were very good. In fact, most consumers would be happy to have any of the above and I would not discourage them (except for, perhaps, the Kyocera Echo). They are all very solid devices. With that said, however, not one of them can replace the Nexus S. I am waiting for a device to wow me enough to let it go, but it is just not happening. The Optimus 3D? Not likely. The Nokia N9? I am buying it (MeeGo OS), but it will not replace the Nexus S as my daily. It is just too good a phone and even though some might say the specs have been passed up, and they have, the phone is just that good. Now, the upcoming Nexus Prime might just do the trick . . .

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Ultimate Xoom Review! (But, Perhaps I Am A Bit Biased.)

Look, I can sit here and write a bunch of sunshine about the Xoom, but, quite frankly, little of it would be true. The Xoom is quirky. As has been reported some apps force close, it can lag a bit, and twice I’ve gotten it to freeze so bad I was not sure that it was coming back. All of that said the Xoom is the best tablet on the market. 

How could such a faulty device be the best tablet on the market? Well, the Xoom represents what makes Android great. The Xoom, and Honeycomb, are both only beta products at best. There is no SD card or LTE functionality on the Xoom and Honeycomb is really a hackjob waiting to be cleaned and toned up (which is presumably going to result in Ice Cream Sandwich). But let’s look into my Android history a bit and see how this band-aid device and OS surpass the other tablets on the market.

I started Android with the MyTouch3G (HTC Magic). It was an awesome little device, but by the time I got it the phone was already behind. I then purchased a Samsung Vibrant, then the Nexus S and Nexus One, next the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the LG G-Slate, and finally the Xoom. Each and every device had issues. The MyTouch3G was slow. The Vibrant was laggy and the GPS failed miserably. The Nexus S would routinely reboot (sometimes during a phone call) and even to this day I will get calls and the screen will freeze and not let me answer. The Nexus one’s buttons are not exactly set correctly, so you need to actually press above the symbol to get it to work. The Galaxy Tab’s email app will not allow you to accept invitations. The LG G-Slate has a whole set of issues that can be found here. The point here is: Android, no matter the product, is always full of problems.

Review after review written about the Xoom discussed how it was going to or did fail. It is too expensive. It is not finished. But everyone is missing what the Xoom is, and frankly what Android is, entirely. The Xoom is not finished and no one pretended it was; rather it is the promise of something greater than an enlarged phone, a la iOS. Android and the Xoom are betas that are in constant transition to be something better. As that journey progresses there are laggy hiccups and reboots, but always, always moving forward.

The Xoom, along with its bluetooth keyboard, are the closest one can get to replicating the laptop (Transformer notwithstanding). It is remarkably easy to be productive on the device. Rather it be blogging, checking Twitter (I prefer Plume’s Honeycomb setup), or utilizing the amazing email application--the Xoom makes life much easier. For every insignificant failure one can find ten things about the device that are veritably awesome or at least show such promise that it keeps one coming back again and again. Reading the news is pure joy and Google Books works wonderfully. The GMail app is one of the most stunning and by far the best email app available on any OS working on any device. Scrollable and resizeable widgets (Honeycomb 3.1) make organizing the screen easy, and the USB connectivity is something that has been missing for far too long--and Apple is to afraid to make that happen. And in line with it's namesake the Xoom is fast! 

Oh, and there is one other thing that sets the Xoom apart--a functionality completely foreign to all other tablets on the market, and for the time being the only tablet to even be considered for this option. I am, of course, talking about the unlockable (and relockable) bootloader. This has sparked a heavy dose of development, even if the source is being withheld from us. For any Android enthusiast there is nothing sweeter than plugging in a device, typing in that little phrase Fastboot oem unlock, and voiding that warranty. You cannot get that on any other tablet, save the Xoom.

There are some really great tablets coming out, especially notable are the Samsung devices, but the Xoom is certainly Google’s baby--one need only look to IO to realize that. The Xoom is going to get upgrades for a substantial amount of time and the development community is very strong already. If one is going to make an investment buy the Xoom so you can experience progress, however if one wants to look cool while spending a lot more money, then I would suggest the iPad. (Yes, after buying all of the apps needed to make iOS actually be compatible with anything it will inevitably cost you more money). 

We can all be sure that there will be something better that comes along eventually--the quadcore Xoom is already rumored for this summer--but the Xoom will do just fine for a long time, especially a consideration for those locked in for two years on Verizon. There are very few times that I would tell a person not to hesitate when it comes to tech devices, but the Xoom (and I have to plug the Nexus S as another worthwhile device) is worth the money and worth the risk.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rant: Google Wallet = Google Betrayal

Any other T-Mobile Nexus S owners feel a little bit irritated that one of the main features that made the Nexus S standout is being held back from the original Nexus S? Google Voice integration, Google Wallet--seems like the real Nexus S, at least from Google's perspective, is the Sprint version. 

Now, this is not all that bad. When T-Mobile is slaughtered by that evil, lying villain, then the next best alternative is certainly Sprint, which means that, chances are, I will one day be a Nexus 4G/Wallet user, but that does not mean I don't like being tiered as Nexus S owner. 

The question is: Is Google to blame? Probably not. T-Mobile, I am nearly sure, is the culprit here. And it could be a direct result of the merger (I really like to blame AT&T because, hey, they deserve it!), but it is still very difficult to swallow.

One thing that I do find irritating, and Google has addressed this at IO, is the fact that as soon as you think you've got the best thing you get one-up'd. What was the exception to this? The Nexus line. The only thing that beats a Nexus was the newest Nexus. Now, one could argue that the 4G is the newest Nexus, but it is not a true contender as that will be the yet announced Nexus 3 (LG?), which should come around Christmas time. No, this is Google making new partners as they go along.

. . . As they go along.

Google seems to utilize this moniker like it is the corporate strategy. I know Google releases beta products all of the time, i.e. Honeycomb, (have they actually finished a product?) but all of this fragmentation (the real kind, not the scrolling kind) has a lot to do with Google, and one cannot put all of the blame on the phone makers/providers. The user cannot get comfortable with Google. Everything feels, similar to their OS, just a bit unstable. I appreciate it, actually, I like the work in progress. I, like other Android users, want the latest technology now--and I will take it with bugs--but it is getting really expensive to do that.

Google announced at IO this update policy of theirs, and we all know that it is a facade, but it is an appreciated mask nonetheless. It is just annoying to go get that precious Google vanilla, just to be outdone by the next player as Google sashays across the dance floor tossing away partners and accepting them back quicker than the consumer can pull out their credit card.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Hack The Planet . . . , Or At Least Your Phone

I recently read an article that discussed how Android was losing its “hackability” and I must admit that at first glance I might have agreed, but in a very short time several things have happened that make me think that Android users are on the brink of something truly revolutionary in user control.

I admit that things looked pretty dismal for a bit. HTC’s G2 was released with some wonky lockdown method. Stories of Motorola’s DroidX booting into recovery if a custom ROM was attempted. Motorola’s Atrix bootloader lockdown. And the final straw, Google’s announcement that they would not release the Honeycomb source code. (See my discussion on Google’s decision here.) I too thought all was lost, but then a company that has been a relatively weak player in the Android handset market changed the game.

Sony Ericsson released a statement that their phones would not have a locked bootloader if the customer bought the product outright. Then, to prove their new found acceptance of the Android dev communitiy SE offered a tutorial on how to unlock their phones and build a kernel. Motorola followed suit, in response to an online poll, with an announcement that none of their future phones would have a locked bootloader. LG released the G2X and G-Slate with unlocked bootloaders. Google announced that they will release Ice Cream Sandwich source code and that the Nexus S is the most open device on the market, near completely open--save a few proprietary drivers. Regarding the Nexus S’ maker, Samsung, their devices are ridiculously hackable and nearly impossible to brick. Samsung devices use a proprietary tool named Odin that allows users to flash new ROMs on to their phones as well as return to factory stock. Finally, today while installing the Amazon Cloud Player on to the Xoom I saw that Amazon made edits to its code to make it more compatible with CyanogenMod 7!

These examples show a staggering resolve on the part of hardware companies and corporations to allow the consumers, who spend a great deal of money on devices, to have root access. There are, however, real concerns that need answering, such as: Should one root, warranties and support, and economic impact and billing. The Android community should be politely aware that every company has an economic interest and without taking care of that interest the company ceases to exist. That said, it seems as though the hardware companies and corporations are not the threat the community original thought they were, but need to focus on the real threat to openess, which is carriers. Carriers are going to fight this (especially AT&T who has a special dislike for hacking . . . and sideloading . . . and data use . . . and fair prices . . . and the truth . . ., moreover, Verizon has not commented on Motorola having unlockable bootloaders, but rest assured they will have something to say about it) and the community needs to show support for carriers, and hardware companies as well, that allow openness to prevail. Consider SE, LG, Samsung, and Moto first as they are showing their support for open. Consider T-Mobile over another carrier as T-Mobile has continually supported the dev community (unless AT&T buys them, then head to Sprint as they are also supportive, albeit less so).

In sum, the development is not ending any time soon. The Android Dev community is the strongest there is and they can wade through a lot of junk to expose some really nice phones and devices. Make sure to support those companies and carriers, but most of all--Support the Devs themselves. Go to the forums and hit the donate button for your favorites. They work incredibly hard to get the job done and make things easier for all of su.  


As always, all of the information you need to do your own research is below. I encourage you to look up the sources and read the stories for yourself, leave a comment here if you have something to say, and follow my Twitter (@GhostWriterv9) and the social networking pages of the person's involved so that you can get a diverse take on the story.



Social Networking Sources:


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Life's Not So Good for the T-Mobile Ghost-Slate

I recently purchased the T-Mobile G-Slate and have been using it for about two weeks now. Let me start by saying that this is not a post on how I am displeased with the G-Slate, because, quite frankly, it is a pretty amazing machine. It is incredibly fast and where Honeycomb lacks, the G-Slate hardware makes up. Is the 3D video camera gimmicky? Yes, of course, and it is not that great either, but it is fun. Is the size a bit long/tall? Yes, and at first I found it a bit awkward, but after awhile I really think that this is a great size (albeit less productive than a 7" tablet). The real issues that the G-Slate has so far as usability are Honeycomb issues, not hardware. So why is life not good you ask? One word: Visibility.

In the technology world if your device gets forgotten, then you better like what you have because you are not getting anything else. With that said, I think many consumers will really enjoy the slightly overpriced G-Slate, but many of us are not the average consumers. Many Android users want unlockable bootloaders, ability to customize, and quick updates to the OS. This is where the G-Slate fades and disappears like a ghost--like it never existed.

I am a rabid T-Mobile fan and wanted to get the tablet that T-Mobile was putting out, but to my surprise T-Mobile really did not advertise the G-Slate. Sure there was the billboard or web advert here and there, but nothing to write home about. Moreover, the release date was really awkward. The G2X was being released on April 20th and all of the communications from T-Mobile stated that "another" device was being released as well, which we all knew was the G-Slate. But where T-Mobile might have been trying to generate excitement backfired into them not really announcing it at all. Once the tablet dropped there were a few reviews, most favorable and nearly all received it better than the Xoom, but then crickets. No follow up . . . no discussion. 

I had learned enough about stock and wanted to delve into the tablet so I headed over to my favorite forum, XDA Developers, but was disappointed to not see a forum created for the G-Slate. They have a forum for the Motorola Flipout, but not the G-Slate?! It is not really that insignificant of a release as it is the second Honeycomb Tablet and the first with 4G connectivity (I know, I know, but I am not going to get into the 4G war right now; however, I will tell you that the speed on T-Mobile's HSPA+ network is excellent as I cannot even tell if I am connected via network or WiFi the speeds are so solid). I contacted LG and @theLGgirl about the bootloader and asked if it was unlockable, but no response. At this point I realize that this machine is dead in the water, a vision of something that could have been, a ghost, . . . but just then a light.

Chandon, a member in the XDA forums figures out a way to get root (it can be found here). It is a but trickier than the usual, but nothing impossible. I am not an avid Ubuntu or Linux user, but I was able to do it in about 15 minutes and there seems to be very little risk involved. Coupled with the fact that I know that Cyanogen and KMobs both got a G-Slate, I am thinking that the tablet is about to takeoff, but alas, no. 

Google IO started today and there is mention of a lot of things, in fact, many devices have been heralded and name dropped, but nothing said about the G-Slate. In fact, it was so obvious that a tweet from @theLGgirl stated:
In the Honeycomb highlights session at I/O...proud to have 1 of the first/only 4G Honeycomb tablets. Love my @TMobile G-Slate w Google!
It was as if the silence on the LG product was so deep that she just had to say something. What came through from Google IO was just as we had assumed: The Xoom was the tablet that Google was going to take care of (first to get Honeycomb 3.1 and Google Music). In fact, Google went out of their way to update the Xoom before any other tablet (and as of right now there is only one other carrier tablet out there . . . you guessed it, G-Slate). This is like a slap in the already battered face of G-Slate owners. 

I am not sure now if I am going to keep the G-Slate. There is a solid chance that it will be returned and I will go with the Xoom. The updates alone make the tablet worth it. I realize everyone says that consumers should buy something for what it is, not what it will be. But these devices are too expensive and that makes looking to the future very important. I think, however, that I will wait and see if that elusive Nexus Tablet will be announced at IO and that would make the decision pretty easy.

The G-Slate is an excellent device and in this case it is not the device's fault, but if one thought the Xoom was headed to market death, then that means that the G-Slate's coffin is already being nailed down. Too bad, because the Ghost-Slate could have really been something great. 


As always, all of the information you need to do your own research is below. I encourage you to look up the sources and read the stories for yourself, leave a comment here if you have something to say, and follow my Twitter (@GhostWriterv9) and the social networking pages of the person's involved so that you can get a diverse take on the story.

Parsons, C. (10 May 2011). Android 3.1 rolling out today to Verizon Xoom owners. Android Central. Retrieved from 

Ricker, T. (10 May 2011). Google Music Beta to stream 20,000 songs for free, official! (updated). Engadget. Retrieved from

Social Networking Sources:


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Galaxy Tab Is The iPad Killer: Its Just Nobody Knows It

Tablet Introductions

The first tablet I ever bought was an iPad, which makes me [pause] just about the same as everyone else. It was great, ok, I admit it, it was great. I bought a keyboard for it and raved at how I could type papers and reports on it while on the go. Checking email was ok and surfing the web, well, it was about mediocre too. In fact, every time I set down the iPad and walked by it later I would think “Man, that is a really cool device,” then I would pick it up and enjoy using it for a few minutes, set it down, walk away--life is great. Then, I needed it for something (i.e. messaging, cloud computing, etc.) and this is where the iPad runs into trouble. With an Android device there are options, however, the iPad is purposefully limited and there is little one can do about it--except for spend money that is. And I spent a lot of money to get my prized tablet to communicate with the world. Then Samsung, defying Google, released its tablet: The Galaxy Tab (hereafter GT).

I admit, it was not great. I went into T-Mobile (RIP) and played around with it and it was, well . . . it was ok. I did, however, start to realize that the integration of what I was doing was better and the multi-tasking was far superior. I could not write my papers on it, which was frustrating and eventually I sort of left the tablet game for a bit. Then I needed an alarm clock . . .

I used the iPad for a gigantic alarm clock, but found the Digital Frame app on the GT, which worked very well. When I woke up in the morning I grabbed the GT instead of the iPad to check my email and as I sat at the table eating breakfast I realized that I did not need an extra table-insert for my tablet to rest on and had no issues holding it up like a book as I read the messages. I quickly flipped through the morning news and then Twitter and Facebook and then stood up to go to work. The GT slid nicely into my back pocket and it was then I realized my tablet choice was made. The GT, for me, became the iPad killer.

How Samsung Killed The GT Before It Could Kill The iPad

In all of the marketing for the GT I never once saw it played to its strengths. In fact, when I bought the GT I did not even know what its strengths were. Checking email, social networking, reading the news, e-reader, etc. all of these daily functions are better delivered on the GT than the iPad, much better actually. The GT is a product for the CEO on the go, the coach at the game, the dad reading his son’s homework, or the mom at the grocery store (nothing sexist here--I am quick to admit that I do the grocery shopping and yes, I use my GT to make my grocery list). It will not replace either your phone or your computer (which the iPad might do to some degree), but it is the quickest way to complete simple tasks. In sum, it is helpful where the iPad is merely stylish. So, how did Samsung kill the GT? They failed to market it as a daily tool instead marketing it as a multimedia device, which it is not. Samsung marketed the GT for the one thing it could never beat the iPad at: Multimedia. The iPad is the hands down winner there, even if the original did not have a camera. I would prefer to watch a movie on an iPad over the GT any day of the week. Not to say that the experience is bad on the GT, because it is not, but if given a choice I am going to go with the better of the two and that is the iPad. (Note: I will admit that it is much simpler to add a movie to the GT, which requires only a USB connection whereas the iPad requires a conversion to a proprietary file type then into iTunes then . . .finally . . . to your iPad.)

Don’t Believe The Critics

I have spent several months with both the iPad (which I still own) and the GT and I will champion the GT for what it is: An excellent device that helps me throughout the day. I would purport that it would be worth it for any person, at any stage, to get the GT. It will undoubtedly make your life easier and assist in completing tasks. If, however, your objective is to look cool, and as Dell executive Andy Lark said, "Apple is great if you've got a lot of money and live on an island. It's not so great if you have to exist in a diverse, open, connected enterprise; simple things become quite complex." His words ring true. As an Apple consumer (I also own an iPhone, Apple TV, and a Mac), I can confidently state that the GT is a superior device. 


As always, all of the information you need to do your own research is below. I encourage you to look up the sources and read the stories for yourself, leave a comment here if you have something to say, and follow my Twitter (@GhostWriterv9) and the social networking pages of the person's involved so that you can get a diverse take on the story.


Zeman, E. (30 March 2011). Why Dell Is Wrong About The iPad. InformationWeek Mobile. Retrieved on 30 March 2011 from