8 November 2009 - 8:33pmMotorola Droid

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At 8 AM on Friday morning, Joelle and I were at the Verizon store in Camillus checking out Verizon’s two new Android-based phones: the Motorola Droid and the HTC Droid Eris. Joelle got me the Droid as an early Christmas gift and, at the request of Ryan, I’m taking some time to post here about my initial experiences with the phone.

The Home Screens

home_screen_2 home_screen_1 home_screen_3 locked_chargin

These are the home screens on the Droid. There are three available and you switch between them by dragging your finger across the screen. You can put shortcuts to any applications you like anywhere on these screens as well as widgets that serve various purposes. You can see that I have a few shortcuts on my middle home screen (which is the main one) and on the top of each screen is a widget.From left to right: the Facebook widget which shows status updates from your friends, the Power Control widget which allows you to switch wi-fi, bluetooth, GPS and syncing on and off, as well as adjust the screen brightness (this is one of the best widgets I’ve found since these are otherwise buried in the settings menu, this is included by default as part of the OS), and finally the Weather Channel widget (which I have recently replaced with the Weather Bug widget). I’ve read elsewhere on the internet that having a lot of widgets can slow the phone down considerably and can also be a battery drain so I’m going to try to stay away from using them too much. The last picture on the right is a shot of the phone while locked. Touching and sliding the unlock symbol to the right will, obviously, unlock the phone. This screen looks slightly different if you have a security code set. In that case you would see a 3×3 grid of dots which you have to connect in the special way you picked in order to unlock your phone. You can also put the phone on silent by touching and dragging the speaker to the left.

The Phone

phone phone_call phone_answered call_ended

Next is the phone application itself. The dialer is easy to use and the tabs across the top of the screen make it easy to view your call log, choose from your contacts and access your favorites. The second picture is what the screen looks like when you’re receiving a call. To answer, touch and drag the green button to the right (to ignore, do the opposite). While you’re in a call, the screen shows who you are talking to and gives you options related to the phone call. You can easily add a person to the conversation using the “add call” button (a feature I have not tested), end the call, go to the dialpad (to enter DTMF tones at an automated menu, I assume), mute, and go to speakerphone.  One thing that’s really sweet is that the phone automatically turns the screen off while it’s touching your face (meaning you’re talking on it) and turns the screen back on when you pull it away from your ear (so you can end the call or whatever else you need to do). This prevents accidental button presses and works very well in my experience.  That last shot is just what the screen looks like after you end the call.

Miscellaneous Menus

settings storage apps market

These are just a few screen captures of random menus and such on the Droid. The settings menu obviously contains any setting you could ever hope for, including the SD card and phone storage settings. That shot shows how the Droid is limited to storing applications on its internal memory rather than utilizing the included 16GB SD card. This is an odd restriction but doesn’t seem to be a big deal so far since I have 10-15 apps installed and have barely used any of the internal memory. The apps menu lists out every app you have installed. Shortcuts can be dragged off of this menu and onto the home screen for easy access. That last shot is of the Android Market where you can search for applications to fill your every need.

The browser and other stuff

browser battery_usage text

Here’s a shot of the browser in landscape mode. As you can see the entire width of the website is visible and you can zoom in by double tapping on the screen. The next shot is of the battery use menu which shows what applications/services are using your battery. As you can see the screen is the biggest culprit (I’ve since been trying to keep the screen brightness way down) with wi-fi being a close second. The last one here is the text messaging interface which is pretty simple but displays your texts in a conversation format, which is a big step up from my Windows Mobile phone.

Bonus Material

Those are most of the key things I’ve discovered so far. Below you’ll find a gallery of pictures with all the ones I’ve showed you so far with a few more I didn’t. One thing I didn’t take time to mention was the Barcode Scanner application which is capable of scanning normal barcodes found on items in the store (as seen in my picture where I scan the barcode on my propane canister and then have the app look it up on Google) as well as special 2D QR codes which can contain other data such as a URL. Below is the QR code that links to the Barcode Scanner on the Android Market. Scanning this code with the app will give you the option to open that application’s page in the Market. Edit: to download this application, search for “barcode scanner” in the Market; the application is named exactly that and will show up in the search results.

You’ll also find a couple bonus pictures in the gallery of my favorite novelty application so far. If you’ve watched any Star Trek you’ll recognize it as a Tricorder. It uses realtime data from the phone’s various sensors to fill the screen with all sorts of graphs and numbers, which is pretty awesome. Another application I really like is Gmote. Installing this application on your phone, coupled with a server component running on your computer, gives you full control of your desktop from the comfort of your living room couch. It has built-in compatibility with VLC (unfortunately, not Media Player Classic) and has the ability to control the mouse and keyboard of your computer using the screen as a touchpad and either the phone’s physical keyboard or the onscreen keyboard.

I am very impressed with this phone so far. It’s fast, easy to use and a lot of fun to play with. The only thing I haven’t liked so far is the battery life, but I have a feeling that will get better once I’m not playing with the phone every minute. If you have any questions please post them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them. Now, the gallery.

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14 May 2008 - 10:34amAndroid Winners

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A list of the 50 winners of the first portion of the Android Challenge has been posted on the Android blog.  After reading through the titles, I found a link at the bottom to the Phandriod site where links to many of the winner’s websites or videos have been aggregated.  Take a look at them.  These people developed some pretty outstanding applications.  I looked at several of the 50 that sounded interesting based on the description and I’ve picked a few favorites.

  1. Commandro – A new take on social networking, Commandro utilizes the Android platform’s location-based services to show you where your friends are and what they’re doing at all times.  It makes good use of the Google Maps functionality available on the device and the interface looks very intuitive.
  2. AndroidScan – This application is really cool.  Using the phone’s camera, AndroidScan allows you to take a picture of a barcode that it will then process, giving you a list of places where you can buy it and the price it’s being sold for there.  In addition to websites carrying that item (which you can view by clicking a link), the application also searches for nearby stores with that product and, in the case of a book, nearby libraries.  One thing I thought was particularly cool is that if the barcode you scanned belongs to a CD, the phone will access the Amazon MP3 store and give you the option to listen to the 30 second previews for each track on the album.  The AndroidScan website has a 3 minute video that shows it off pretty well.
  3. ShapeWriter WritingPad – This application is truly phenomenal.  Developed by ShapeWriter Inc., this application facilitates entering text into your touchscreen phone in a way I’ve never even imagined.  The best way for you to see what I mean is to just watch the video.  This application is really cool.

Now I can see more clearly why our application was not among the top 50.  The applications that won had truly innovative ideas that were almost flawlessly implemented.  Though I thought (and still think) that our idea was innovative, taking the whole social networking thing from a different angle, we didn’t have the skills or the time to implement it in such a complete way.

Edit (3/9/09): Thought I’d add in some information about our entry to the Contest.  Our team consisted of 6 students from Clarkson University (all undergraduates of various class levels) and one professor.  We developed an application we call “Digital Lifelines.”  Basically, it allows the user to custom create timelines of any type by choosing what fields to include for each entry.  These are created by following a simple XML format and then pulling that XML file from the internet for loading into the program.  Users add entries at will and then have the ability to browse through all their entries in a timeline-like fashion.  Our goal was to develop a web component where users could log on and see their timelines presented in a more visually appealling format, but that feature has yet to come.  We do, however, have a website you can visit where the source code will hopefully be posted sometime in the near future (we’ve been neglectful in attending to that).

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12 May 2008 - 4:04pmGoogle sucks

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As may be evident by the title of this post, our team of 7 was not one of the 50 winners of the Android Developer Challenge. We were informed by email Friday afternoon that, regrettably, we would not be receiving one of the $25,000 prizes.

In all reality I knew we didn’t have much of a chance. I saw a few of the other entries that people had posted on the internet and our application just doesn’t even compare. I’m proud of what we did and I had a lot of fun doing it… I wish we’d had more time and energy to come up with a submission that could have competed better with the top entries.

There’s another Android Challenge starting later this year, perhaps we’ll continue work on our application in preparation for another submission then. At some point in the future the write-up we submitted (and possibly the source code) will be posted on our website.

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30 April 2008 - 9:55amHappy Birthday Joelle!

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Today is Joelle’s 21st Birthday! If you see her or have some way of contacting her, wish her a happy one. I’ve got to get her a present this weekend (or maybe I already did…).

It has been a long time since I posted on this thing, so several items of importance follow:

First, an update on the RSS Challenge I mentioned that we had in COSI. I didn’t win, Ryan did. My entry had some database issues and several bugs which needed to be ironed out.

An update on Android: We submitted our entry to the contest on the April 14th deadline and are now waiting anxiously to hear from them. Winners for round 1 are notified on or about May 5th.

School: Last week was dead week (the last week of classes before finals). That means I had a buttload of work to do and no time to do it all. I had two programming assignments due last Thursday, a project presentation on Friday, another presentation this past Monday as well as write ups for each of those. I had one final each Monday and Tuesday and I have two today (one of which is already over). Good news is that I got everything done and turned in on time and I think I’ve done decently on all my tests so far.

I start my co-op on Monday and will be working almost full time from then until Christmas. I intend to work on a few different things this summer, hopefully one of which will be Android (I really hope we win this first round). When the fall gets here I’m thinking I’m going to follow along with the Cryptography course Tino is teaching via Ryan and Jake. I’d like to take the course but I won’t have an opportunity since it’s only offered in the fall.

All that said, I have about 80% of my stuff packed and will be heading home tomorrow probably around noon. Hopefully I’ll have time in the near future to mess with the theme and get the colors the way I want them (I know some of you have said it’s too light, too boring, etc.).

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13 February 2008 - 10:51amThis class is boring…

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Some news. Again broken into categories for your convenience.

Life – This past weekend consisted of a series of activities that took place back at home. In no particular order: pizza from Rossi’s, Sportsman’s Show in Harrisburg, church, dinner at Russell’s Steakhouse, grocery shopping and two appointments. Now I’m back at school and very excited because Joelle is coming to visit me tomorrow!

Books – I just finished reading Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. It was an excellent book and I’m looking forward to reading the one’s that follow it, which I ordered yesterday. Check out my books page to see what else I’m planning to read.

New work – I’m going to be working with a high school student who is part of COSI on a website for some sort of cheese store (?) in the area. Should be interesting.

Databases Class – As boring as always.

Android – After a somewhat lax (is that a word?) week behind us, we should be picking back up this week and continuing to move forward. The new deadline for submissions is April 16th, so we have a good 9 weeks or so to get our project ready.

I guess that’s it for the time being.

2 Comments | Categories: Clarkson, COSI, Life

21 January 2008 - 4:46pmStuff

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It’s been far too long, blog.

This post is dedicated to new news. I will discuss this news in several categories. Enjoy.

My life: I miss home, Joelle, my family, and my dog. I’ve been back at school for almost 2 weeks now, just trying to slip into this semester’s routine and stay on top of my work.

Google Android Contest: As I’ve mentioned, a group of us from the lab have set out to build an application that will run on Google’s new Android platfrom (part of the Open Handset Alliance). Progress so far is very good and we’re actually hoping to have two separate submissions for the March 3rd-ish deadline.

Classes: They are going well. Most everything has been fairly straightforward so far but I’m expecting the workload to get somewhat heavier as the semester progresses. One thing I’m looking forward to is an idea Pat and I have for a project for our Computer and Network Security course. I’m not going to delve into too much detail here because I don’t want to leak information about it to anyone on the Clarkson campus (it could affect the results of our little experiment). If you don’t go to Clarkson and would like more details, let me know.

COSI: Maybe I should finish the time server project I started last semester. Hmmm…

K2CC: For those of you who don’t know, I’m a member of the Clarkson Amateur Radio Club. The club does a lot of neat projects, a few of which I get involved in here and there. Check out the wiki I set up. There’s a license exam coming up on February 2nd and I’m considering upgrading to a General Class license. I’ll let you know how it goes.

My Website: Recently added on the right hand side of my blog’s home page is a link to a calendar that shows my schedule. I’ll try to keep this thing as up to date as possible so that if you want to know when I’m available or what I’m up to you can check there. Also, I’m working on a photo browsing application (using some AJAX) that I hope to put up here at some point, I’ll let you know when that becomes available (it will probably be password-protected, so you’ll have to know me to check it out).

Clarkson: Is a mess. There’s construction vehicles all over and it’s become one huge mud/snow pit. Due to the abundance of dirt everywhere, maintenance has decided to use dirt to coat every slippery surface on campus. Not only does this make the surface somewhat less slippery, it contributes a great deal to the mud collection here at the University. This is as opposed to using salt which would effectively melt the ice and actually prevent a muddy mess, and that would be terrible.

Potsdam: It’s cold here (sorry, that’s not new news). This morning my computer informed me that it was -1. -1 is cold.

Snow and Mud

I think that will be all for today. I’ll try to post more often, I promise. :)

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14 December 2007 - 11:43pmYay for break

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I’m writing this post from my bedroom… looking forward to a good night’s sleep in my bed. :) Arrived home safely today around 1 and am very happy to be finished with school for a couple weeks.

Thought I’d update you all with an addition to the things to do list for break. Some of us from COSI have decided to participate in the Google Android Contest. We have a few pretty sweet ideas and work is to start over break with the hopes of having a basic prototype done by the start of the semester. If you’ve never heard of it, check out the site to see what it’s about. Should be a lot of fun.

Anyway, it’s late and I’m tired.

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