Monday, June 11, 2012

Happy Philippine Independence Day!

Google's Doodle today displays elements of the Philippine flag
and leads to entries on Philippine Independence.
Click the doodle below to see those links.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Down to Earth... The Next Google Earth

Google has recently announced their next update for Google Earth... an extremely detailed 3D render of the whole planet.

This is the next Google Earth...


**On a side note, a while back, Apple bought a Swedish company called C3 that offered a very similar mapping technology. Who will be the dominant map? That will probably depend on the efficiency of the 3D engine and updated accuracy of the maps**

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Life Begins at 4.0 - Xperia ray Ice Cream Sandwich Update Part 2

Ok, you're now on 4.0 ... now what? What's the big deal? Well, I think it's leaps and bounds better than both Gingerbread (2.3) ... why? Well, a lot of little things. And for me, it's the little things that count.

First thing you will notice is the sleeker interface. A new font (Roboto) is now system-wide and looks very refined. By default, ICS on Xperia has a bluish/teal look to it, just for highlights and stuff. Animations feel smoother and the phone feels faster over-all. Take note, most performance tests will show that the 2011 Xperia phones run slower on ICS, but it doesn't feel that way.

A new lock feature called Face Unlock is added to the Security menu. More of a novelty, it uses your phone's front camera to unlock it. It fails more often than it works, until they develop a better algorithm to process images, it's not really worth using. But it's fun to show off for a few times. The flaw is that any change in lighting or facial angle and it doesn't bother to reprocess and defaults to the secondary unlock mode right away.

For data hogs, there's now a built in Data Usage meter that also alerts you when you're getting close to your limit. You can allow it to cut off your data when your limit is reached to prevent data charges. And a neat feature seems to be that after a few days, it can plot your average use and will give a projection of data usage for the rest of the month as well!

App switching is better too, press and hold the home button for a thumbnail view of recently used apps. You can scroll through recently used (or still running) apps and a small thumbnail of it's previous state is displayed.

Voice Search is more integrated into the core system now, and can no longer be found as a separate app. It's part of the Google Search widget or app already and functions much better. Assuming a stable 3G (or better) connection, the text transcription now happens as you speak with each word appearing right after you speak it instead of after the whole sentence. This is highly network dependent and not a reflection of Google's voice system. On WiFi this performs reliably enough to not really need the keyboard anymore. As always, this can also be enabled in the system keyboard to allow easy access while typing.

Access to system settings is now made easier through the task bar. Simply swipe downwards, as if to access a notification, there you will find a shortcut to the system settings. No big deal, there were apps that could do this, but I prefer having small functions like this built into the core system, rather than having an app for it.

There are also 2 tweaks that you can do that are hidden in the Developer Options Menu, Animations, and Show All ANRs (Apps Not Responding). The Animations menu used to be under Display, and has now been tucked away from regular users. You may set the speed of the animations, or switch them off. I've found that only 1x and off work well. The rest kinda glitch up. The ANR function comes in handy. Usually, when an app hangs, Android shows a pop-up saying that the app is not responding and asks if you want to wait or close it. Show All ANRs does this even for certain background apps that are hidden by default (like Viber). This is quite handy as it functions like a task killer, but only for apps that are hanging. So no need to waste resources with a 3rd party task killer.

ICS task management is also way better, I've rarely had any resource problems that would require me to manually kill tasks. It does this quite efficiently and silently. If you have a lot of background tasks, you may get pop-ups from the ANR feature, but ICS can handle this task quite well even when not enabled. I just prefer to be notified and given the option to close the offending app.

So far, 4.0 is a big leap forward for Android. The system stability, improved interface, and general tweaks on core functions are well worth the slight decrease in performance over Gingerbread (2.3). I've been using it for a month now and have no regrets upgrading.

**Since I upgraded, Sony has already issued a new software version, 4.0.4**

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Life Begins at 4.0 - Xperia ray Ice Cream Sandwich Update Part 1

A couple of weeks ago, the official Android 4.0 (codename: Ice Cream Sandwich) update for my Xperia ray was released. This was a promise by Sony Ericsson (now Sony Mobile) that all 2011 models (Xperia ray, mini, mini pro, neo, neo v, active, and arc) would all be getting an official ICS update.

How do I update my phone? Don't worry, it's easier than you think. I'm on a Mac, so my screenshots will be showing Sony Bridge for Mac (update your Bridge software, it should already say Sony Bridge, not Sony Ericsson Bridge) For those running Windows, the Companion Software does the same thing, the process is similar, even though the screenshots are different.

First, place your phone in Media Transfer Mode (MTP). You can find this in your phone's SETTINGS Menu under Xperia > Connectivity. Don't worry if you started the update without doing this, your phone will give you the chance to do it later on, this just eliminates the extra step.

Next, plug your phone into your computer using the supplied USB cable. Then start Sony Bridge for Mac (or Sony Mobile PC Companion for PC users)

A pop up screen saying that there is new software available for your phone will appear. Click on Update to start. A webpage will open on Sony Mobile's site stating the new features and other information on upgrading to 4.0, you don't really have to read this and can close it to begin the update.




That's it! Wait for the update to download and install. The whole process should take about 30 min depending on your internet connection.

When the update is done, unplug your phone and turn it on. It will take about a minute for the screen to even come on, this is normal for any major Android software update.


When the screen first turns on, you will see the SONY logo, replacing the Sony Ericsson one on your 2011 phone. Then the boot up. Congratulations! You're now using Android 4.0! In the next entry, a review on the big changes in 4.0

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Past Tech Gospels

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