More Good Stuff

More Good Stuff

"Always on" displays on smartphones are great. These are referred to as ...LED (different technologies of active LED screens - AMOLED for example). They have no backlight, just an array of LEDs. Power is only consumed by LEDs that are turned on. This allows them to be used to display the time (for example) whenever the screen is exposed (no need if it's in a case). Even if the phone has been sitting, untouched, for an hour, you can glance at it to see the time. My Pixel 2 lock screen also displays notifications - email, text, etc. Older phones blinked a separate LED to let you know that there was email, etc. But you had to look at the phone for a few seconds to see the blink. With the Pixel 2 the notifications do not blink, so a quick glance lets you see any notifications. This is a huge improvement in usability. Note that many phones now have always on displays - iPhone X, Samsung S9 (and some of Samsung's older models), others. This feature is worth searching for.

Apple AirPods - wireless smartphone earphones. I covered these in a previous post. They are great.

Einsky Wide Brim Sun Hat - UPF 50+, 3.7 inch stiff brim, ventilated top. Unlike the last time I looked for a good sunhat (many years ago) there are many nice sunhats listed on Amazon. This one fits my requirements and works well.

While looking at sunhats, Amazon "also viewed" (or maybe "also bought") showed sunblock t-shirts - Hanes Men's Long Sleeve Cool Dri T-Shirt - UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) 50+ (>98% blocked). Many years ago, I got some long sleeve t-shirts for a trip to Florida. I made the mistake of getting my usual medium, cotton. These are useful in bright sun, but almost impossible to take off after sweating, and the style that I got had tight wrist cuffs. And I don't know the UPF as it isn't advertised for cotton shirts. This time I chose large, better ventilation and easier to get off. These are nice. The polyester feels nice. The wrists cuffs do not squeeze. A big improvement for a walk in the sun. And I can remove it after the walk.

Speaking of "also viewed", Amazon's product search often fails to find what I am looking for, but the "also viewed" section has it. Why didn't the original search find it? Regardless, "also viewed" is very useful.

Nimbus Microfine Toothbrush regular size (extra soft). These are great. Better than the Dr. Collins Perio Toothbrush that I was using. Look for them on Amazon.


Basics vs Features

Basics vs Features

I have repeatedly screamed at software designers to get the basics right before adding features. So let's go over what's wrong with Android.

Screen brightness control - you have two choices - set the screen brightness or turn over control to Android. If you set the brightness then you have to keep resetting it depending on the ambient light - that's a pain. So you can turn over control to Android, but then it's too bright in dark places (this obviously depends on the phone and user). And the brightness makes large steps with small changes in screen angle - very annoying when reading, especially with a white background.

How about a screen brightness versus ambient light function that lets you set a baseline at typical room light and adjusts the entire curve based on this point. Then reduce the step level and average ambient light readings over a longer time.

I use Lux to control the screen brightness, which doesn't have these issues, but it has its own problems.

Audio equalizer - this is important for music enjoyability and speech recognition. Android has a built in equalizer that can be accessed by apps, but there is no built in access for users. This would be okay, there are many apps for adjusting it, but many apps don't send their audio through the equalizer. Many music players access it, but I Heart Radio doesn't. Why can't I force all audio output to go through the equalizer?

Accessibility of navigation icons and notification bar - why are apps allowed to cover the notification bar and navigation icons? Maybe that's okay for some people. Not me. Why not make it a setting?

Pointless icons on the lock screen - the lock screen with always on displays includes notifications. Good idea. But all that counts here is missed phone call, voice messages, text messages, and email. The others just clutter the screen and make the others less noticeable.

Pause in Maps - I often pause when taking a road trip, food, rest, gas, bathroom. I would bet that most people do. Why doesn't Google Maps have a pause button? The moment I leave the highway my phone starts chattering at me how to get back on my route. Grr. Maybe, on a car based route, automatically pause when I'm going less that five miles per hour.

Meanwhile (June 6, 2018) a Yahoo Technology headline reads "Android P Beta 2 brings updated system images and 157 new emojis". I don't know - maybe the new emojis will solve the world's problems. Meanwhile my head has been boggled.


Wireless Earphones for Smartphones

Wireless Earphones for Smartphones

I was skeptical about adopting wireless/Bluetooth earphones for my phone. My past experience with Bluetooth was clunky startup - slow or no connection. Plus it is expensive to get multiple sets so I've got to keep the one pair with me.

After my Google Nexus 5 died unexpectedly, I got a Google Pixel 2, which has no headphone jack. So I jumped back into the Bluetooth world.

First I eliminated all of the products with flexible ear seals - I find these very uncomfortable. I thought that just left Google Pixel Buds, so I got a set. These are GARBAGE. I didn't even get to pairing them. They don't fit in my ears. It looks like they would fit if I cut the cord (a cord connects the two earpieces). They also look like the weight distribution will cause them to fall out if they fit in. The recharging box is clunky and big compared to the AirPods case (I didn't know this until I replaced them with AirPods).

I looked for more options and discovered that Apple AirPods are just Bluetooth earphones with some extra function that only works with Apple phones. Verizon made the trade from Pixel Buds easy - no paperwork, two cents credit to my account, and I walked out with them.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE! AirPods fit in my ear, are comfortable, and do not fall out. They feel just like Apple's old corded earphones, which have always worked well for me. After a little problem pairing them with my phone (I had to reboot), they are now paired and whenever I take them out of their recharging case, they are connected to my phone in a few seconds. You can can use either one or both. They sound fine. I don't care about any missing function dealing with digital assistants. The case is nice and includes a battery, so it can recharge the ear pieces even when it's not plugged in. It looks a lot like a dental floss case, so there could be an identity crisis on the horizon.

Apple - please keep your hands off of this superb design. I can't think of a design change that will make it better - it can only get worse.

A note from days later - rebooting the phone kills the pairing. Pairing is not hard, but requires the case. So not as convenient as I thought, but then I don't reboot the phone very often.

Google - you need to fire the people that designed Pixel Buds and everyone in your organization that approved the design.