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AVG Android Performance Apps

Posted by Andrew at 8:28 AM on November 11, 2013

AVGAnti-virus outfit AVG have released a suite of small Android apps which aim to improve the performance of your smartphone or tablet. The free apps Cleaner, TuneUp and Uninstaller all help to keep your device ticking over smoothly. Here’s what each app offers.

AVG Memory & Cache Cleaner – The Cleaner apps cleans out all the cruft and detritus that accumulates on your smartphone or tablet in caches, downloads and histories. Overtime, this material can build-up and have a significant impact on functionality. For example, on my tablet the Play Store sometimes gets stuck and can’t upgrade an app until I clear out its cache and this app sorts it out. The app provides plenty of options to clear out certain sets of information while leaving others intact but the best feature is the Auto Clean which lets the user set how often the Cleaner app removes the rubbish. I have mine set to clear out once a week and I’m regularly seeing 100 MB or over being tidied up.

AVG Cleaner

AVG Battery Saver & TuneUp – This app has four distinct parts, Task Killer, Battery Consumption, Data Usage and Storage Usage, which together are less focussed that the other two apps. However, this doesn’t stop them being useful.

  • Task Killer is self-explanatory and kills user-selected tasks and processes. I think tasks are the same as running apps and processes are equivalent to background processes, but this could be clearer. Helpfully the tasks can be ordered by memory use so you can see which apps are hogging the space.
  • Battery Consumption lets the user setup a power saving mode by turning off various radios and other options. When the battery level reaches this level, the power saving mode is entered automatically.
  • Data Usage does what it says, monitoring the data used by the phone and alerting you when it gets to a predefined level. There are quite a few options around setting volume and reset dates but there doesn’t seem to be any discrimination between 3G and Wifi data which would be a useful enhancement.
  • Finally, Storage Usage shows the apps that use the most storage space with the option to uninstall the worst offenders. There’s an overlap here with the Uninstaller app but it’s no big deal.

AVG TuneUp

AVG Uninstaller – The Uninstaller app doesn’t just uninstall apps, though it seems to do this competently enough. What it does do is present different views of apps on the device so that you can make an informed choice as whether to uninstall an app or not. The four views provided are by usage, by data, by battery and by storage. Personally, I find by usage the most useful as it lets you see the apps that you really never use and aren’t going to miss. There’s a weekly reminder feature which reviews the app usage and recommends apps for uninstallation based on lack of use.

The other Uninstaller views could be useful if you are having a problem, but I already know that Ingress is consuming a large percentage of my battery. The storage view is handy too if you are wondering where your memory has gone but that option didn’t throw up too many surprises for me either.

AVG Uninstall

Overall, these are all handy little apps that are worth the free download. If you’ve already got AVG Antivirus, you’ll find that these apps integrate into the Antivirus app so you can launch Cleaner and Uninstaller from within Antivirus. The Battery Saver and TuneUp app’s functionality is already built-in to the Antivirus app so this app is not required if you have AVG Antivirus.

The only irritating aspect of these apps is the advertising. It’s not that I’m against the advertising per se – the apps are free after all – but it’s that the adverts are for apps that I’ve installed already! AVG, please don’t waste the screen real estate for apps I’ve got, and if you were to introduce paid versions, I’d buy them.

All are available to download from the Play Store. Tomorrow, I’ll be looking at two other AVG apps, Privacy Fix and Image Shrink & Share.

Pandora now on Chromecast

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 1:25 PM on October 31, 2013

Pandora When the Chromecast first came out in late July it connected to very few things. You could cast YouTube, Google Music, Google Movies and Netflix. Hulu Plus was added in mid October. Today Pandora has been added to Chromecast.

It works great on my HTC One which is an Android phone. The icon shows up at the bottom and it works exactly like all other Chromecast enable app. It also works on the iPad. However I did run into a glitch while trying to run it on my iPad mini. First it took me some time to find out where the icon was, if you tap on the volume button it is right there next to the Airplay button. Like the Android device the iPad version connects perfectly and starts playing and you can control everything on the iPad.   The problem came when I was trying to disconnect Pandora from Chromecast. On my HTC One you simply hit disconnect and it stops casting. On the iPad there is no disconnect button. I tried to switch to iPad as my choice, but it continued to casting to my TV. Then I started to play a different song on the iPad but the older song continued to play on the Chromecast. The only way I could get it to stop casting was to start YouTube and cast that and then disconnect. I suspect that this is something that will be fixed in the next update.  Other than this glitch it works great.

If you are a Pandora user and don’t have a Chromecast I recommend getting one. I think it adds value to the Chromecast, which in my opinion already was well worth the $35.00 I spent on it.   Being able to play Pandora through my big screen TV which is connected to my full sound system and control it on my tablet or phone is great.

Much Speculation About Mysterious Barges

Posted by JenThorpe at 5:14 PM on October 29, 2013

San Francisco BayWhat, exactly, is going in with the large barges that have appeared more than one port? The speculation on the internet points to Google. Are these mysterious floating structures intended to become Google Glass stores? Might these become new data centers for Google? It doesn’t seem like anything is 100% confirmed as of yet.

Not a lot is known right now. We know there is a barge in the Portland Harbor in Maine. Its registration number is “BAL 0011”. The Portland Press Herald says it is currently docked at Rickers Wharf.

There is another barge in San Francisco Bay, with a registration number of “BAL 0010”. That one is docked at Treasure Island. According to KSBY, there is a second barge in San Francisco Bay with the registration number “BAL 0001”.

I’m not sure where the fourth barge is located. Several articles have noted that the fourth barge has the registration number of “BAL 0100”. Many have noted that BAL001, BAL0010, BAL0011, and BAL0100, are binary code for “one”, “two”, “three” and “four”. It appears that the structures on the barges might have been made from shipping containers.

One idea that has been tossed around the internet points at Google. It has been said that Google has a patent for a floating data center that would use the ocean water for cooling. Could that be the purpose of these barges? Again, right now there is much speculation with little confirmation. It will be interesting to see what happens with the mysterious barges.

Image San Francisco Bay from Wikimedia Commons

Google Testing Banner Ads? Goodbye 2005 Decree…

Posted by J Powers at 9:34 AM on October 25, 2013

Back in 2005 Google created an enhanced strategic partnership with AOL, which caused some rumblings. Google’s blog (a post by Marissa Meyer, who was VP of Search Products & User Experience at the time) cleared up some misconceptions – including not putting banner ads on their search site. However, times are changing and Google has to look at all possibilities for continued growth. That includes banner ads.

The AOL partnership mostly brought on concern that AOL search results would get priority and bias competitors. Google posted it’s reply to most of those, including:

There will be no banner ads on the Google homepage or web search results pages. There will not be crazy, flashy, graphical doodads flying and popping up all over the Google site. Ever.

Ever is a big word. While Google is probably still not going to place “crazy, flashy, graphical doodads”, there might be some other product placement on Google search results.

Google's testing simple banner ads

Google’s testing simple banner ads

Google confirmed they were testing images on top of search results. This is to make up for falling ad prices and slower desktop search results. While images on top of a page might not be called “banner ads” per se, it kinda feels like a banner ad.

Of course, Google runs tests all the time. Therefore it goes to see how people would react to an image at the top of the screen.

It’s also an ad that shows up if you are looking for air travel or information on Southwest. So if you are looking for it anyway, would an ad at the top be invasive?

Ads have been on Google for a while – in text formats to the right. It’s part of Google’s “Multi-year evolution” – adding text ads and videos to the site.

It’s all about a lack of mobile ad solution to search, since people are switching to their phones and those dedicated apps. After all, how many of us did a search for Facebook or Twitter and clicked on the link in the search results to get to the website?

Is the new Nexus 10 imminent?

Posted by Alan at 12:11 PM on October 24, 2013

nexus-10It has been since mid-summer when Google released a Nexus device, rolling out the second-generation Nexus 7, with a fantastic HD screen. Since then, rumors have abounded of what is to come, with Nexus phones and tablets.

The wait may just be over — the Android KitKat Twitter account has dropped hints that seemed to lead viewers to believe the 18th or 28th were viable options. The 18th has clearly passed and the 28th now looms large on the horizon, but there are a couple of signs that may just point to another date entirely.

First and foremost, Google is holding an event this evening in New York City — it’s billed as a “Play” event and journalists have been asked to not write about it. Second, the current Nexus 10 has today gone to an “out of stock” listing on the Play store. Couple that with various leaks which began appearing today, portending to show press renders of the tablet, and throw in last week’s “accidental” posting of the Nexus 5 on the Play store.

Both devices are obviously very close to release. Will they be unveiled under some sort of NDA tonight? Is too much being made of the hints and the show tonight? We will soon find out, as both devices are surely just around the corner.

Chromebook gets a bit more family friendly

Posted by Alan at 1:34 PM on October 22, 2013

Google is taking aim at the PC market with its increasingly better offerings of Chromebook hardware. Now the search giant is also touting “family safe” as one of its selling points.

If you are using the beta channel version of Chrome, you now have access to monitor and control what other users access through the browser/operating system. “Let’s say you’ve recently purchased the new HP Chromebook 11 and want to share it with your son. He’ll be able to use your Chromebook as a supervised user. This means once you’ve created a supervised user for him on your Chromebook, you’ll be able to visit chrome.com/manage to review a history of web pages he has visited, determine sites that you want to allow or block, and manage permissions for any blocked websites he has requested to view”, says Google’s Pam Green.

The feature is called “Supervised Users” and has been in testing in the Canary build for sometime. Canary, if you aren’t familiar, is the cutting -edge version of the browser that customers can opt for — at their own risk.

google-supervised-users

Google + is Adding Shared Endorsements

Posted by JenThorpe at 3:40 PM on October 11, 2013

GoogleGoogle has changed its Terms of Service in a way that some people are not going to like. As of November 11, 2013, your Google Profile name and photo may appear in Shared Endorsements. In short, this means that your name and image may be placed into advertisements (without notifying you before it happens).

This reminds me a lot of the Sponsored Stories that appear on Facebook. I cannot think of a more obvious way for a social media company to proclaim that it sees users as living, breathing, advertisements.

Neither Facebook’s Sponsored Stories, nor the Shared Endorsements from Google +, will result in paying the people that are includes in ads. One difference is that the Google + Shared Endorsements are not limited to Google +. Your Google Profile name and photo could also pop up in the Google Play music store.

You have a couple of options if you want to avoid becoming part of an ad on Google +. The most obvious way to do this would be to quit using Google +. Not everyone is going to want to immediately go with the “nuclear option” though.

Another way to try and avoid becoming an ad is to go into the Google Account Settings and opt-out. Look for a box that has already been checked for you. Next to that box, it says: Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads. Uncheck that box! Don’t forget to click “save”.

There is another difference between Facebook’s Sponsored Stories and the Shared Endorsements from Google. Facebook automatically assumes that parents of users who are under the age of 18 have given Facebook permission to use their child’s name and photos in ads.

There is a note at the bottom of the Shared Endorsements information in the Google Account Settings. It reads: If you are under 18, you may see shared endorsements from others but your own name and profile will not be paired with endorsements in ads and certain other contexts.

Google finally releases official Nexus 7 cases

Posted by Alan at 11:32 AM on October 8, 2013

Google released generation two of its Nexus 7 tablet back on July 24th, and the device has received largely positive feedback. From the beginning, customers could buy cases for their new tablet from Amazon and other retailers. Despite that already available, and rather large, selection, today Google has got around to releasing its “official” line of cases.

The company advertises a collection of four cases that are “custom-molded to protect your Nexus 7, with a microsuede cover and built-in stand. Choose from four colors”.

nexus 7 case

The collection contains a solid black model, a white one with a swipe of red and two grey models — one with a swipe of red and other with a bit of blue. All four are designed the same, and each opens to function as a stand. All retail for $49.99 and can be purchased directly from the Google Play store.

The cases are extremely sharp looking and appear to be well made, but the price is a bit steep, given what can be found on Amazon — I bought a nice rubberized case by Poetic for only $8 just a few days after I received the device.

Jazooli’s Portable Tablet Desk Stand Review

Posted by Andrew at 2:29 PM on September 29, 2013

For some time I’ve been looking for a decent desk stand to hold my 10″ tablet but all the ones tried so far have some annoyance or niggle. Usually the stand wouldn’t work well with the tablet still in its case, but others would be bulky, flimsy, only for the iPad or just plain rubbish. The good news is that I think I’ve found the answer in the shape of Jazooli‘s “Portable Lightweight Universal Foldable Desk Stand“. They’re fibbing a little with the “lightweight” but in all other respects this is a good product. It’s solid metal, folds up, has two positions and works while the tablet is in its case. Perfect!

When folded up, the Jazooli is nice and slim, fitting neatly into a little pouch. At 200g, it’s not what I would call lightweight but the mass does mean it’s not easily knocked over.

Jazooli Folded

There are two ways that the stand can be stood up. Here it is in the upright position, which is good for viewing movies or keeping an eye on Twitter.

Jazooli Upright

For typing on the tablet, the stand has a reclined mode, aka “I-dont-want-everyone-else-in-the-office-to-see-I’m-on-Facebook-instead-of-working” mode. This position works well with ultrabooks, notebooks and small laptops to give an angle to the keyboard.

Jazooli Lying Back

There’s an extra smaller leg that pops out from the main support – it’s more obvious in this close up. The metal finish is better seen in the image too.

Jazooli Close-up

Finally, here’s what the stand looks like with a 10″ Android tablet on board. Note that the tablet is still in its case.

Jazooli Stand with Tablet

 

In summary, Jazooli’s portable foldable desk stand is currently my favourite tablet stand. Obviously your needs may not be the same as my needs but as it’s currently available from Amazon.co.uk for £5.99 and from Amazon.com for $2.55, it’s hard to go wrong!

[Disclosure: this was a personal purchase]

Google Quietly Released Hummingbird

Posted by JenThorpe at 8:29 PM on September 26, 2013

GoogleThe new version of the Google search algorithm is called “Hummingbird”. It has already been released. For whatever reason, Google decided not to make a specific announcement about the release of the new algorithm before switching over to it. For good or ill, it has already affected how your blog is placed in order of the results that appear whenever someone does a Google search.

The purpose of Hummingbird is, in short, to keep up with how people use the internet. Many people will type an entire phrase into the search engine, instead of just one word, when they are looking for information about something.

This means that the algorithm has to “understand” the entire meaning of each word in the phrase, and how they relate to each other. Once it “gets” what you are looking for, it can show you websites that match what you are hoping to find. Things have gotten too complex for a “Boolean” type of search system.

In other words, “Hummingbird” has been designed to give us better results when we do a Google search. This is because it is going to “get” the meaning and context of what you typed in the search engine.

Overall, I see this as a good thing. My hope is that this will bring the blogs, articles, and websites that have the best content (based upon your query) to the top of the list. I cannot help but wonder if the blogs that have been crafted in ways that were designed around SEO, but that lack quality content, will notice a drop in their page clicks soon as a result of Hummingbird.