Friday, April 18, 2014

Flickr 3 Point Oh!

Flickr App Image Editor
You know your app is long overdue for a refresh when the latest release is big news across the web. Flickr 3.0 clogged the inter-tubes today and although the new version adds some great features it still doesn't live up to the competition.

The new interface is much more slick and you have some ability to manage your photo stream now. The biggest enhancement is automatic uploading of photos and videos (so apps like Flync are now somewhat redundant, but not entirely). The other big change is the camera.

Friday, April 04, 2014

What's the Best Android Camera App

Cameras in my Nova Launcher menu
One of the things I like to do most with my smart phone is take pictures. I've been through more than my share of camera apps, and probably purchased more than I needed to. Here's a run-down of what I've discovered along the way.

Samsung Camera UI
Samsung Camera UI
Update 1: I've made some discoveries regarding Snap Camera and A Better Camera that improve the review. I'd also like to highlight some developers who've been very responsive.

Obviously there were issues with the camera app that came with my Samsung Galaxy S3 that made me start looking for an alternative. The most egregious problem was that the camera app kept losing its settings, especially my selection of short-cuts, if I was storing photos on the phone (as opposed to the SD card). The other issues were the interface and functionality was pretty basic, and when launching the camera from the Cover lock screen I couldn't switch to the video camera.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Where is the Best Place to Host my Web App

Code in Google Apps Script editor
Web Apps are apparently the future. And why not? Browsers have become full fledged virtual machines capable of running powerful Javascript applications, and HTML and CSS have both evolved to include a lot more than just text and pretty colours.

One of the main reasons I'm looking into this is because I've made several unsuccessful attempts to build a couple simple web apps using Google Apps Script on Google Drive. Based on the documentation and the marketing it should have been simple enough. But I always ran into the same roadblock: Caja! Google uses Caja to sanitize (or cajole) your scripts and prevent any malicious activity on Google's network. But running within a Caja sandbox is a whole new world where libraries don't behave the way they should, standard features are blocked, and you need to use tricks for things that should just work.

Monday, March 10, 2014

What The Flickr! Three Things that Drive me Crazy About Flickr

Sets on Flickr
I've been using Flickr since before forever! Well, at long time at least. I never really made much of it, and I've reset my account on more than one occasion and started all over again. But now that I have a smart phone and I've got Flync installed on it I've got a lot more photos on Flickr than ever before. Just like Google+ my photos are auto-magically uploaded to Flickr via Flync. I also use it to host my Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr pictures in one shot!

So with all those photos on Flickr I need to do a bit of organizing. Flickr has a convenient Organizer that lets you manipulate batches of your photos all at once. But it does have a few short-comings.

Hopefully Marissa Mayer is reading this blog and takes this criticism constructively so we see some improvements to Flickr!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Three Things that Drive me Crazy About Google+

Don't get me wrong, I think the White Google does is awesome. Especially the the auto-awesome enhancements they make to the pictures automatically uploaded from my phone. But there's three things I really wish they would fix and then of would be perfect! 

ONE - Wait for it. . . 

The Android App is almost there. If the desktop web site is considered to be the fully functional implementation then the Android App has almost all the functionality, but not quite. It's really frustrating to get 90% done on my phone and then have to go to the computer to finish (ex.: choosing an Event's theme from my photos, as opposed to stock backgrounds, is only possible on the desktop).

I'm tired of waiting for the app to catch-up to the web site. Especially since they're both evolving at their own pace. Google's release early, release often mantra needs to be repeated a bit more loudly to the Google+ crew.

TWO - Just smell the roses and stop looking at the wall.

Google treats Google+ like the defacto social-network that everyone uses, ignoring the fact everyone's already on Facebook and there's no compelling reason to switch. Google used to be great at letting people who are on Google (i.e.: have Google accounts) create and share content with the world without requiring visitors to also get on Google. With Google+ they seem to have taken the attitude that if you aren't already on Google+ this must be your first day on the internet so you've obviously come here to sign-up! In fact, I just want to share photos with overseas relatives who couldn't care less about social-networks!

Everyone always points to Apple when they say Walled Garden but in this case Google is just as guilty!

THREE - Squirrel!

It's way too verbose! This may just be me, but the thing that keeps me off Facebook (apart from their flagrant disregard for my privacy) is how long it takes to get up to date. Big screen or little screen each post, plus comments, fills almost an entire screen. Reading down to where I left off last requires so much scrolling my fingers develop calluses!!! At least with Twitter's 140 character limit I can catch-up on all the nonsense within a couple screens and I really only expand the posts that catch my interest within their limited headline.

When you go looking for a quick update on Google+ (and Facebook) you end-up chasing squirrels in every direction but the one you came for.


So come on Google, forget competing with Facebook and just make it really really cool - like you used to. And the crowds will flock to you naturally when see all the awesome stuff being done there! 

Cross-posted on 2FatDads

Friday, January 17, 2014

Holiday Memories and Other Thoughts on Google+ Photo Sharing

Google+ Auto Awesome Year in Review

By now anyone who uses Google+ and regularly uploads photos - in particular auto-backups from your smartphone - has seen their Auto Awesome Year-in-Review video. Not withstanding your personal feelings about this you've got to admit this is a pretty incredible feat of technology to parse millions (billions?) of photos and videos and assemble them into personal time lines. It's the democratization of technology, bringing the power to the little people!

I had two reactions to this, probably the same reactions that everyone has had, they were:
  1. That is frakin' AWESOME! Google is so COOL!!! and
  2. I bet General Alexander is thinking WTF?! When Google does that stuff people say it's frakin' awesome! But when the NSA does it they go all George Orwell on us!
The Year-in-Review inspired me to try and use Google+ even more this holiday season to capture the memories of family and friends, of our gatherings, and all the activities we did together.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Alternative SMS Texting Apps for Android Round-Up

Captain, incoming message...

Given my recent disappointment with the way Google integrated SMS texting into Hangouts I went searching for a replacement to the stock messaging app on my Galaxy S3. The recent update to Android 4.3 added some nice little tweaks to the app, but nothing extraordinary. This takes advantage of one of the great features of Android: you can customize just about every aspect of your phone.

TL; DR: I settled on 8sms.