New Gadetry

So Lorna got a Samsung Galaxy S7 yesterday. She wants to be the one to do all the work on it. Like, remove the bloatware, figure out how everything works, all that. I’ve walked her through a lot of stuff and let her do it all herself. She was really hands-off with her S3. And I do mean really really hands-off. I’ve had to do a few things, though, because I had to look them up and fiddle with it for a while. Like get rid of that blanketyblank visual voicemail thing (fancy name for voicemail to text on the screen because we are too damn lazy to dial 1 and listen). I wouldn’t want it if it were free so why the heck would I want to pay for it? The app is annoying because the notification won’t go away and keeps insisting you pay attention to it. So I did. And I told it…well, you can imagine the colorful terminology I used as I used my Google Foo (to no avail) then figured it out myself how to turn the notifications from the app off. You can’t turn it all the way off or you aren’t notified AT ALL that you have voice mail. Pain. In. The Ass.

Anyway…

When I started looking for her a new phone, I was hesitant to get the S6, even with as few apps as she has. The S6 was teh stoopid because it did not have the expandable memory. I wince at the non-changeable battery concept (if I wanted an iPhone, I would have gotten one!) but I draw the line at the lack of memory (again, didn’t want an iPhone). I also knew I didn’t want the S5 (poorly designed), and knew I didn’t want to go all the way back to the S4. When I read the S7 brought back the expandable memory (but not the interchangeable battery, dammit), I was hoping I could talk her into it. Lorna’s not a technophobe but she’s not all that friendly with them either. So a brand new, made this year phone? Good luck, I thought. It actually wasn’t that hard. She was so tired of her S3 and it’s crankiness.

The S7 is brand spankin’ new (just came out in early March) but that newness comes with both good and bad. Good ’cause freebies! We got a free wireless charging dock thingybob whatsit. And a big discount from Sprint. And because we had to upgrade her half of the plan (Sprint was so weird a few years ago: we have two lines on the same plan but we each had different “plans” within that plan), we actually are now going to be paying LESS each month! That doesn’t happen often.

The bad is there’s some weird quirks with the S7. Heat issues have been reported. It did get hot as it was charging and updating but that’s expected. It is something she will have to watch for this summer when she is on the mail route. Her S3 overheated a few times and turned itself off just sitting there in the car, out of the sun. The other weird thing about it makes me glad this is not my phone. For example, let’s say you have 5 pages/screens. With our other Samsung phones, you swipe from 1 through 5, you then swipe again, and you are back at 1. It was like a loop. As someone who has the max pages/screens allowed, I loooove that. You could do it in the Apps and in the Widgets, too. Lorna’s new S7 wouldn’t do it and I thought it was a setting. I couldn’t find it so I went to the wonderful peeps at Android Central and asked about it. It’s a Samsung thing and they done took it away. I’ll be keeping my Note 4 for a while!

The other gadget I talked her into (and have been for probably two years now) is another tablet. She’s been using her Nook that I got her for her birthday 4 years ago. Then Barnes and Noble stuck their heads up their ass, said it was dark, and began messing up a good thing. I have downloaded all her books from their website (they took away the download buttons and links so I cheated) and removed the DRM via Calibre (which I heart muchly). Now we can put her “Nook books” on any device and read them there. So when her Nook finally died (and no, I didn’t help it along although I was tempted) she finally agreed to getting a tablet.

We got a Galaxy Tab 2 (8″) and I think she likes it more than her phone! Setting it up was a little trickier so she let me do a lot of it. I got it updated, installed a bunch of apps I use on my tablet, and then gave it back so she can arrange it the way she wants. And what is she doing? Not reading ebooks, nope. Watching Netflix. Sigh.

I like her little Tab but it is too small for me I think. And I like the pen function of my Note 10.1 (2013 edition). But she’s loving the small size and the light weight. She is also loving her new phone. They didn’t have the screen protectors in stock so I got a “folio” case for now. She didn’t like the idea but, HA, she actually likes it! She likes that it is also “grippier” than her Otterbox case she had on the S3. And as we all know, as long as she’s happy, that’s all that matters!

Samsung Note 4

I recently got the Note 4 to replace my possessed Galaxy S3. I loved my S3 from the beginning. But, yes, it was possessed. For one, it would not connect to the computer with the cable that came with it. Not on my computer. It would on my computer with Lorna’s cable, but not my cable. Then it would connect to Lorna’s computer with it’s cable but not Lorna’s cable. And yes, I knew which cable went to which. So finally we just switched cables and that was that. Then the headset port decided to not work. Most of the time it would, sometimes it wouldn’t. Totally random. It would be playing fine, plug in the headset or speaker, it would go to full volume for two seconds then nothing. The program would pause. Sometimes Google Voice Search would open. Sometimes not. Sometimes Dragon Voice Search would open, sometimes not.

See what I mean by possessed?

Meanwhile I had my tablet with the pen which I used more than I thought I would. I got the pen because I figured I would like to freehand notes and the like. Actually I fell in love with the handwriting-to-text software. I was thinking of getting the Note 3 but Lorna had a co-worker with one and she said it was just too big. Then my sis-in-law got one and I got to play with it. It’s big, yes, but not overly so. When I heard the Note 4 was due out, I decided that was what I wanted.

And I am glad I did.

And yes, it is big. But I wear men’s pants with real pockets so no problems with carrying it. Lorna is going through a phase of wearing women’s pants which has pretend pockets and she can’t even carry her S3 in her front pocket. If I were thinner, I’d get a holster for it and carry it that way, just to be cool. Right now I am carrying it naked. I’m not naked, the phone is.

Let’s start off with what I don’t like. Some of what I don’t like is the different version of the OS, KitKat 4.4.4. My S3 is running 4.4.2.
– I can no longer turn off/on the mobile data with just a tap of an icon in the “drawer”. I actually have no clue where to access it. I’ve not been in a situation yet where I have had to force it to do it so maybe they fixed that problem.
– If the screen is off and you have the phone locked with something other than a simple swipe, a missed call only shows up as a missed call. No other information (other than time) shows. They consider it a “privacy setting” and assume that if you don’t lock your phone, you don’t care who sees it but if you lock it, you do. There’s no way to change that. Really?
– Accessing widgets is a PITA. On my S3, they are with the Apps. On the Note 4, you have to long press an empty spot on the screen and access them via an icon that way. Why??
– The screen is slightly curved on the edges and Samsung neglected to let anyone know this ahead of time. All of the case and screen protector designers who had made things ahead of time were left scrambling to not only recall and offer refunds on things they had sold, but to now redesign their stuff.
– There are two mic holes and depending on who your carrier is depends on which mic hole you use. Verizon folks are SOL when it comes to cases right now. For some stupid dumbass reason, they use a totally different mic hole than everyone else so unless the case has an open bottom, yep, SOL. We have Sprint!

What I do like:
– Very, very sensitive screen. I am tempted to not put a screen protector on it because I love the crisp, clear screen (Zagg’s plastic tends to cloud up).
– What a beautiful screen! Wow! So clear! We went to BestBuy so I could see one and as soon as I turned it on, I knew that was what I would get.
– The pen? It is awesome. It is like a mouse, actually. I can draw, select, move, cut, paste, write, erase. I use the phone for quick notes for the manuscripts as well as just various “don’t for get to do this” kind of notes. And I write them by hand! Amazing! I don’t write much by hand anymore because I tend to grip a pen too hard. And it hurts anyway. But the stylus, I grip lightly and don’t press as hard.
– Probably more to do with the OS than the device itself but the widgets are grouped together. On the S3, if an app had 12 widgets, they were all listed, 6 to a page. But now they are grouped together into kinda like folders that are kinda open. This makes finding things MUCH easier.
– To move icons from one screen to another, you don’t have to hold and skim from page to page. You hold it and little images of the other screens appear below. You can then drag it to the image of the page you want to put it on, it pops up and you drop it there. Done. Great for when you are doing massive re-arranging!

There’s lots more of course. Some good, some bad. There’s some battery issues. This battery gets hot while I never noticed the S3 ever getting warm. But it has a “fast charge” where it goes from dead (1-2%) to 100% in 1hr 37mins (I timed it). It took forever to get it to die, though. A guy who does YouTube reviews and stuff was able to get the iPhone 6+ to bend which then cracked when he tried to straighten it out. The Note 3 did not bend at all, although there was a slight warping to it. The Note 4 bent some but he was able to straighten it out without it breaking. What else? The more I use it, the smaller it gets. Really, it’s not as big as it seems. I mean, yeah, it’s big but for my old eyes? It is just right.

A great resource for most things Android is Android Central. Their forums are quite active and huge. I have learned a lot from the forum for the Galaxy S3 and now the Note 4. Since the wifi only tablets are rather static (I have the Note 10.1), not much happens to them but I go to that forum sometimes just to see if any update is expected. It is still on 4.1.2 and I doubt it will ever get an update.

S3 (left) and Note 4 (right) – the app is Sol Calendar

Widget screen for the Note 4

Widget Screen for the S3 (yes, those are all for one app and yes, there’s more)

How to access the widgets for the Note 4. PITA, IMO.

Writing Apps

So what mobile apps do y’all use to do your writing? Even research? And by mobile I mean not laptop or netbook, but tablet or phone.

I use all Android on my Samsung Galaxy S3 phone (soon to be upgraded) and my Samsung Note 10.1 tablet. When I do write away from home and it is not on the laptop, it is on the tablet. With the Note’s pen, I can either do it by hand or use a keyboard (bluetooth or onscreen). I went with the Android because, as a writer, I wanted the ability to easily get to my files and keep backups on a card vs being forced to use a cable or cloud the iWhatever is limited to. My Note has a 32gb card that holds all my WiP files as well as my music, ebooks, and bunches of other stuff. My phone has a 64gb card because it has ALL of the music and a ton of other useless stuff. I keep the tablet more “professional” (less games, for one).

If I like a program, I don’t hesitate to buy the pro or premium version. And if it is free, I like it, but the ads are annoying or I don’t like the permissions, I won’t use it.

The two I use the absolute most are OfficeSuite Pro and AndFTP Pro.

OfficeSuite Pro – word processing. Tracks changes that actually transfers to the desktop. Reads the .odt format (open document, which is what OpenOffice uses) but cannot save in it. It can, however, edit that document then save in .doc which OpenOffice can then handle. Which is why I love OpenOffice.

LectureNotes – I heart this muchly. You can import an image or pdf file then take notes on it or beside it. It is mostly for college students to use this way. You can also create your own drawings, notes, or whatever. There is a fully functioning trial version (has some limits, of course).

Write: Tablet Journal – well organized note taking or journaling kind of app. I use this for world building and idea growing when away from home. I can export them in .txt format when I get home. Easier to manipulate the text than a simple note program yet not overly complicated. The notes can be organized into folders. There is also a version for phones.

WordWeb – I use this on my desktop, too. Dictionary and thesaurus program that can also tap into Wikipedia and Wiktionary. Freakin’ way cool program. On the desktop, I use this a lot.

Aldiko Premium – eBook reader. Reads epub, pdf, and acsm formats. I upload the books (including L’s Nook books) to my tablet via Calibre, a free ebook organization program. I just now found a Calibre Companion app which, somehow through wifi, works with your phone/tablet and Calibre on your desktop to keep your books organized. It won’t read them, but it can help you tag them, mark them as read, etc. I haven’t tried it yet but I will soon!

SimpleMind – a mind mapping / brain storming program. I have it on the desktop, too. I prefer Novamind, however, but that program doesn’t have an app just yet so when I need it while away from home, I can explore the thought process with SimpleMind then transfer it when I get home.

Rory’s Story Cubes – excellent and fun way to get a little spark back into your creativity! Hard to explain so you’ll have to check them out. They existed in “hard format” first and I think I would prefer them that way.

BeyondPod – I was into podcasts for a while but then if I missed a day or week, I got behind and then it is hard to catch up and and and…so I don’t anymore. But I still have the app for if I ever want to get into it again. This was THE best app I tried (and I tried a lot of ’em) for finding the source, downloading, sorting, and then finding the download to listen to it.

And finally, AndFTP Pro and S3Anywhere Pro. AndFTP is an ftp app that lets me upload/download to/from my backup ftp site. I do regular backups and syncs (yes, I do both) from my desktop and when actively writing, I do daily syncs of the active project. That way, when away from home, I can access the most recent version from my tablet, even if I haven’t put it on there. S3Anywhere allows me to access the cloud service I use (I use DreamHost’s DreamObjects). I don’t often use it but in case something happens to the FTP version, I still have the cloud version. And ya never know! The two apps are made by the same company.

There’s a few more that I tap for reference but these are the faves. OfficeSuite and the ftp one are used the most. I’ve tried a LOT of different apps over the past, what, two years? I really liked Kingsoft, which became WPS Office but it couldn’t handle the odt format. Remembering to save in doc and to upload it was a pain in the arse. It had some other issues as well (clearing the “most recent” list had a tendency to delete the files themselves!) and I was pleased to find another app.

Butch Bag Part 2

A while back, I got myself a new bag. Not a purse, a bag. Yes, there is a difference. As I said in that one, I self-identify as butch yet carry too much crap to keep in my pockets.

I loved the bag for about a week or two but some things about it just didn’t work for me.

– One, it is all black inside. I couldn’t see a thing. Normally, I see just great in low light but apparently that does not transfer so well to a dark bag.
– Two, it has velcro on the front flap. There’s a clip but then you had to peel the velcro apart to get in the bag. Noisy. Although it meant you didn’t have to clip it closed all the time.
– Three, in that dark inside were too many pockets. I know, sounds odd coming from me but it was just too many. It wasn’t like I could just feel my way to whatever I was looking for.

Lorna, however, loved it. So she stole it. She says she appropriated it. Whatever. She likes all the pockets, can find things relatively quickly, and really likes that it has the pocket for her Nook Tablet. And neither of us feels we wasted the money since she is using it.

I’ve been looking around, still trying to find something that worked. Duluth Trading Company has a cool leather bag but I just could not justify spending the money ($149). Same for the LL Bean oiled canvas bags they have.

A few weeks ago, I went back to eBags to see if they had anything new and I found it. It is actually the same bag, just updated. The two major updates? No velcro and the inside is yellow. Way. Cool. The other bag was 11.75″ x 8.5″ x 4″ and this one is slightly larger at 12″ x 10.5″ x 4″.

It came the other day and I’ve messed around with it some. The flap has a pocket. It’s odd shaped but roomy. My phone fit just fine but it made the flap heavy. Under the flap is another zippered pocket. This is where I’ll keep my phone. On each side of the bag are pockets. One is a mesh bottle holder and the other is a fleece lined pocket for sunglasses. My sunglasses are prescription so I’ll keep ’em in the case and not there. Not sure what I’ll use that one for. Inside is a large pocket for a tablet computer on the back and in the front are a few pockets. One for a pen, one narrow one, and a wider one that just holds my sunglasses case. Behind them is another big pocket. In the back is an odd pocket they say is for your boarding pass. I’ll try that out going to Dallas in a month. And I just looked at the photos and saw another pocket. It’s a zippered one. Maybe there’s as many pockets as the other one after all. But maybe they feel like less since I can see them.

We went out to do an errand this afternoon and I got to actually use it. My water bottle fits just fine. Took some convincing but that should get better with use. At least it holds it in! Everything else I carry fits just fine, too. It is the same width (front to back) as the first bag but it feels and looks wider. They added a pocket, removed some of the inside ones, and changed the design of the front flap. I don’t need the strap right now so I took that off when we got back. It’s just extra weight and gets caught on stuff. Lorna catches the dogs with it every day when she comes home. However, that strap will be great for Dallas since I can hang it on the back and carry extra stuff in there. AND my camera fits, too. There’s a cool camera store here in Asheville called Ball Photo. We were there not that long ago and I saw they had a lot of the old style camera cases/covers. We’ll go back and see if I can find one to hold my camera. I dropped my sunglasses case into the main compartment then later had trouble getting them out. So I’ll try standing them up on one of the smaller pockets to see if that helps. This is the fun part of getting a new bag, figuring out where everything should go!

Of course, pictures!

Top row: the bag and my Nalgene OTF. Next row is my phone and the bag that holds my folding headset. Then there’s the glucose meter, wallet, sunglasses case, glucose tabs, pen, and bandana. Still to be put together will be the medication supply, eye glass cleaner, and a small notebook. Hey, that can go in that padded pocket! (also, as a side note, that thing dangling from the arm of my chair is my holder for the water bottle.)

The next two are the inside of the bag.

The two bags together.

Keyboard Revisited

So I’ve had this keyboard for a while now, the Kinesis Freestyle (I wrote about it a while back). I’ve almost gotten used to it and can now give a decent review of it.

For one, the keys being separated is weird. It truly feels as if each hand is doing its own thing. I mean, they’re doing the same thing if they’d been on a single keyboard piece but for some reason, it feels really weird. It took longer to get used to than I thought. I have slowly been putting them further apart, trying to find that placement as well, but the further I go, the more I have to relocate my hands on the keys. Weird.

Instead of resting on the keyboard like usual, my hands kinda float over them. I really really hate the placement of the backspace and delete key. I’ve slowly gotten used to the backspace location but I have to stop and look to find the delete key. The home and end buttons are odd too but I don’t use them that much. I do miss having a keypad. I’d just started to enjoy it now that I am using a desktop and now it is more like using a laptop again. Sigh. I am a touch typist and have realized, with this keyboard, that I am having to relocate my hands to the proper place. I have gotten into the habit of twitching my index fingers to make sure they are on the F and J keys (the ones with the bumps) whenever I stop to think or first start typing. It is almost like learning to touch type all over again. I am constantly hitting the / key when I want the . one. Which is probably why I know the backspace key location so well!

I’ve also been surprised at the horizontal angle my hands feel the most comfortable with. The left is not much different than before, straight on. A little turn (top toward the right) but not by much. The right one, though, wow, what a tilt. The top is really angled toward the left. That shoulder is my loosest and tends to splay outward so that is probably why. But it is strange to see it revealed this way. The right one is also more forward and the left is closer to my body.

I’ve tried the different ‘tenting’ angles. I don’t like the full one so far but I’ve not used it that much. I switch between the lowest and the mid one. (can’t recall the actual degrees). The left hand likes the midrange tilt. The highest one makes the hand hot faster. And that’s the other thing. My left hand gets very warm the more I type. No clue why. I need to ask my PT friend if she knows. The right one may eventually like the highest tilt but, like I said, I’ve not used it much. I am finally starting to type more lately and will do another review later.

In some ways, the keyboard seems solidly made. But in other ways, it feels cheap. Could just be the keys themselves and how they react to pressure.

I keep the mouse between the two pieces. It fits nicely, even when the pieces are fairly close together.

Overall, I like the keyboard. I like that my hand placement can be nearly anywhere, depending on how I am feeling and how I am using it. Ergonomic? Yes, definitely. Worth the money? Yes, definitely again. Recommend it to others? Only if you touch type. If you use the ‘hunt and peck’ method, you will hate hate hate this keyboard. But then, if you hunt/peck, you don’t need it.

New Toy – Keyboard At Last

Several years ago (2005) I wrote an article on alternative keyboards. In that article, I briefly talk about a lot of different keyboards and the various options available. I also say that I will get the Kinesis Evolution with the desk mount option. Sadly, that particular keyboard was discontinued a short time later. However, Kinesis has several other very ergodynamic keyboards now.

First there’s the tried and true Contoured. Very similar to the Maltron ($825), the Countoured ($399) keyboards are very popular. But without being able to try one, I wasn’t willing to spend that amount of money.

I revisited the Kinesis website and was pleased to see that their Freestyle and Maxim were still being produced. I wandered over to The Human Solution website and did some more research. I was stuck between the Freestyle (true split keyboard) vs the Maxim/Goldtouch (split but attached to a base). I found an article about just that sort of decision and, based on that and in discussions with Elena, I decided to buy the Freestyle with the V3 riser thingy and the 20″ extension.

And it came today!

I have the riser thing on and I’m not quite sure if I like it. I didn’t go with the other kit, the VIP, because I knew that plastic on my wrists was going to kill me this summer. I have it on the 2nd setting (10 deg). My right shoulder is pitching a fit lately so I’m not sure which is to blame for the uncomfortable-ness. It will take a while to get used to it. I am a touch typist which helps I’m sure! Hunt/peck method with the keyboard split apart would be a major pain in the ass.

I just switched to the highest incline (15 degrees) and while my left arm is still quite comfortable, my right is not. I am fairly certain it is the shoulder and not the keyboard.

Anyway, there’s a few different things (besides the fact it is in 2 pcs on purpose?) about this keyboard.

It has some built-in macros. For example, it has cut, paste, and copy buttons on the left side. But I’ve used the right click and the Ctrl C/V/X for so long, I doubt I will easily switch to a button format.

It doesn’t have a keypad. It has a function key to access a keypad like setup (just like most laptops). Twice now I have hit that Fn key instead of the Ctrl key. Kinesis sells a “low force” keypad. But the price ($54) is outrageous compared to the $19.99 one I can pick up at BestBuy.

The Delete key (a writer’s most used key, second only to the Backspace) is oddly located. It is way up on the top row, well out of easy reach. That’s going to take some getting used to. On the left, with the copy and paste bound keys, is another Delete key. The Escape key is way up there as well but everyone is used to that.

I’ll use it for a few days then let y’all know what I think. And let me know if you want more or different photos of it.

(click image for larger version)

iPod Touch Stuff Again

I was lucky enough to get the 4th generation iPod Touch for Christmas. I’ve had the 2nd gen for quite some time and love it. There have been updates to the “software” it uses but it could only do so much with what it had. This one, however, rocks.

Transferring over the apps and music was simple enough. Some bumps along the way but I think I have it figured out. This one comes with a camera, too, so I also had to figure out how to get the pics from there to my computer. Disgustingly simple, really.

Then I realized I had all my notes on the standard Note program. I tried to email them to me but for some reason, I get an error message. Then I remembered the newest thing for iPod Touch and the iPhone. Used to, if you wanted to transfer docs from the device to the PC or visa versa, you had to use a desktop program that may or may not work. Then Apple, in its wisdom, decided some of these transfer programs were illegal (especially the ones that actually worked). It was one of the big reasons why I don’t do much writing on the Touch. In one of the recent updates, transferring became much more simpler. Mostly.

screenshot of the file sharing section of iTunes

To transfer the Notes from the 2nd gen Touch to the PC, I copied the text and put it into Notebook as a ‘note’ (vs a ‘book’), a writing app I tried. I used this one because it opened the fastest. Then I plugged in the Touch, opened iTunes, and went to the apps tab. Below the apps listing is the File Sharing. Any app you have that allows this will be listed. Clicking on the Notebook app listed the folder it uses to store notes. I selected the folder then the “save to…”. Viola! There they were. I plugged in the 4th gen Touch and went to the file sharing. I selected Notebook app, then the “add” button and added all the text files I had made (you can also drag-and-drop).

But when I checked the device, none of the files were listed. I think it is because Notebooks uses a folder. You cannot open that folder and put the files directly there. If you select the folder then the ‘add’, the files are not put in the folder that way either. This time I tried DocsToGo and it worked. I will probably leave most of them there and only copy/paste over the ones that I use the most. Otherwise, I will just view them via that program.

Now, how to transfer over the ebooks…..