Category Archives: Review

Review: Meenova Mini MicroSD Card Reader for Android

Ever since phone and tablet makers have started including powered USB OTG (Ability to plug in full size USB devices into a phone or tablet). The main use so far has been plugging in flash drives, card readers, keyboards, mice, and game controllers. The issue with this setup for flash drives/card readers was that it was rather bulky.

Bulk Flash Drive
The Meenova project was released on the crowd funding site KickStarter with the goals of selling a compact OTG centric micro SD/SDHC/SDXC card reader back in early 2013.  One key part of the  product was the inclusion of the adapter to use it on your desktop or laptop computer and the ability to carry it on your keyring. Provided you use a fast enough MicroSD/HC/XC card (eg. clas 10) you will get some pretty fast transfer speeds.

Of course having a Android phone is not enough for this to work your phone needs to be on the supported device list. The common supported devices are most Samsung, HTC, Motorola, Nexus (except Nexus 4), and many other devices. Also on some devices you may need to use 3rd party software such as Nexus Media Importer, StickMount or  OTG Disk Explorer (Last two requiring your device being rooted).

Over all I’d say Meenova is well worth it if you heavily use your phone or tablet and got limited storage due to no expansion card support or want to have additional storage. It is a real bonus for owners of rooted devices since you can backup/restore your device in addition to install roms from it.
If you are interested check it out at their site http://www.meenova.com.

Unboxing / Review: ONTOP Nugget D5

I got a chance get the ONTOP Nugget D5 in thinking it may be a good budget phone based on the demo unit and overall specs…

DSCF4935

Of course we know how everything isn’t what it is expected to be and this is no different.
The classic line “You get what you pay for” truly applies as there is many shortcomings to
this device.

In the box you got your typical setup of plastic wrapped sleeve covered box with phone in
sleeve and power supply, USB cable and battery below it so not much more to say here.

Over all it was a ok device and would serve well for a kids first smart phone or a light
users phone but for a power user there is major issues. The main issue is that it uses the
classic android 2.x and older storage configuration with 500mb of app/data storage, 2gb
internal sd and a sd slot that is capable of 32gb.

The storage layout configuration is huge issue since most apps are huge now days for example I ran out of space just installing Google apps to fill the gap left by the lack of them in the system ROM. The camera even tho being 5mp does leave a lot to be desired as it handles light rather badly and the flash makes images rather washed out.

Software wise I also experienced some rather odd software issues with a odd out of memory overlay appearing and apps crashing, some random reboots, and chrome being unusable. Also there is NO Google play support out of the box you got to install a manually triggered ota to install a 5mb update that adds it which isn’t obvious.

While those those issues are pretty major as I said before it is a ok phone for a kid or a
light user but beware there may be other issues that didn’t pop up for me.

 

Android Launcher Fun

One key feature of Google’s Android that many over look is the ability to change launcher. There is many of them out there that provide many variations of options that likely will fill the needs for nearly any user.

The customizations can range from modified/enhanced stock to extreme fringe feature/style wise. Usually the tweaks are practical and provide good usability but sometimes the end result only gets a niche set of users which is not bad but can limit its profitability. The extreme fringe can be anything from simplified to complex reinventing how the platform should look.

For this post I choose three launchers that cover the general areas… customizable but stock style, stock with a twist, and extreme fringe… The launchers are: Nova Launcher (Prime), Action Launcher Pro, and Smart Launcher Pro. Each of them has free versions but some features may be limited or non existent.

Nova Launcher (Prime unlock key) – CA$4.00
First off is Nova Launcher which started off as a fork of the stock Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) launcher and now is based on the latest Jelly Bean (Android 4.2) launcher. The features have been developed rather fast yet well implemented and the developer was fast to update the core as Google updated Android’s launcher through out the android versions.

This launcher comes in free and paid prime unlocker with the prime version unlocking many things such as new transitions, features and  much more making prime worth it.

Pros: Fast, Clean pure look, Customizable
Cons: None that i know of

Action Launcher Pro – CA$3.99
Next is Action Launcher Pro which is another fork of the stock Android launcher but with a interesting twist.. it is designed around getting you to where you need to go faster while still being close to Google’s ideals. Instead of a four icon dock with item for drawer you got a 5 icon drawer with action bar on top for triggering slide out app list, search, Play store, and menu. This model does feel more speedy especially since you can quickly get to app list by pressing home again or swiping right. Based on how items on the home screen move around it appears to be based on the latest Jelly Bean (Android 4.2) launcher. How you add items to your home screen is quite different here as you can’t drag apps from the app list you got to add them via tap and hold or menu then customize and drag them from the apps list there. Over all not a bad app plenty of room for improvement though.

Pros: Fast, quick access to apps
Cons: Minor useability issues, lack of customization options

Smart Launcher Pro – CA$3.49
Now for Smart Launcher Pro which has one main goal simplicity on install it asks you what apps you prefer for browser and such and it sets what the developer calls the “Flower” to have icons to go to your preferred apps. You can add other apps to the flower if you want tho it wasn’t obvious how (tap and hold one icon to get edit mode and add is in center). The app list is accessed by larger but recognizable app drawer icon in lower left and is presorted in preset categorizes with access to search, Play Store and menu in upper right.

This launcher comes in free and pro variant with the pro unlocking a woefully incomplete widget mode that should be a fully versatile home screen mode with widget resizeablity making the pro not really worth it unless you want to support the developer is worth it tho since he is actively working on it.

Pros: Fast, Extremely simple
Cons: The woefully incomplete “widget mode” makes pro not worth it

Over all the launcher landscape for Android is quite diverse and this barely scratches the surface of it.

Review: Bulkr Pro

I was given a copy of Bulkr Pro from ClipYourPhotos. The Application is a powerful cross platform (Windows,Mac , Linux) download & backup tool for Flickr users. The feature set varies depending on if you are authenticated to your account or using the public access.

When you first launch the app you are greeted with Connect to Flickr & Search Photos buttons. You can use the app without a account linked for downloading public photos from other users as long as the uploader has allowed downloads.  After you link your account the home tab provides a backup option.

First off let’s get started with the features related to linked account. Starting with backup… you get to choose what size to backup as (All the usual Flickr file sizes), Destination for the backup, and how to handle the metadata (embed in EXIF and/or Save as text file). The backup seemed quite speedy on my collection of 1,706 photos.  With photostream downloads you can search or pick from your most recent uploads.  Selection is as simple as clicking on the pictures you want and a blue checkmark is added. The other options when you hover over the thumbnail for each picture are view larger image in application or view it on Flickr site. Downloading from your sets offers most of the same features as photostream other than search & viewing. The download from photos you have in your favorites falls under the public photo rules.

The search is feature rich and lets you choose the license, search type, and enable/disable save search and works quite well. Downloading from user’s photostream lets you choose from sets in addition to selecting from from the usual grid of thumbnails. Group downloads work as expected from the other download modes. Explore is a cool feature that shows the interesting photos for the day you choose.

Over all this is the best app of its class I’ve used yet but one nagging issue haunts me between all of the Flickr download tools I’ve used to date… The apps can’t tell videos from pictures leaving me to pick through photos and figure out what uploads are videos and which ones aren’t. Despite the minor video issue I’d fully recommend the app.

There is a free version with slightly less features but pro is fully worth it. Pro normally costs $40 but if you act fast you can get it for $29.95.

Grab your copy @ http://clipyourphotos.com/bulkr

 

Review: Air Video for iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

I was given a copy of of Air Video from InMethod to review. It provides simple and easy to use streaming of your videos from your local machine to your iOS devices over local network/internet. The product comes in two forms… a free server for windows /mac & a free (limited)/paid client for iOS devices.

The server is java powered and provides a simple interface to add/remove folders to share, conversion status, settings, remote enable and such. It is provided for Windows and Mac and uses java and ffmpeg. For some of the features the developer recommends use of a Core2 Duo or better cpu but will work on less. Remote access is possible if your router is capable of UPnP/NAT-PMP or you manually forward port 45631.

Now onto the iOS application… adding servers is simple since local network ones show up via Apple’s Bonjour and you can add remote ones via server pin that is configured on server or ip address. As the title suggests the mobile app is universal and works on iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch… as of such there is two different interfaces tailored for the different resolutions but is equally as user friendly on both. It is capable of adding selected video to conversion queue or playing with live conversion but as I mentioned before the core2 Duo recommendation is for the live conversion but it does indeed work with lesser cpus quite well in my testing. Of course with anything that involves any kind of conversion there is a variety of settings you can change such as max width/height, quality for offline conversion, and bitrates for live conversion.

In my test I used various machines as servers for this but I settled on my hyper threaded atom dual core based NAS with 1gb ram. For most uses you could get away with using a lower cost machine to serve the content instead of a more costly one depending on number of users and the format of the videos.

As per playback it worked rather well even over internet. Before you choose to live convert or offline convert you can choose zoom level or volume boost. Also if you stop playback then come back later it will have remembered your position so you won’t have to scrub to the position you were last in. Performance wise the server machine does take a slight hit but what that’s to be expected with something that involves ffmpeg conversion.

Of course no app is without flaws… I was able to find a a few qwerks that are rather minor in the grand scheme of things such as sometimes connecting screen is upside down, status bar shows on bottom no top, or folder add inconsistencies in server.

Over all the app works quite well and delivers on the promised features. Despite of the minor qwerks I’d still recommend the app for any iOS device owner who wants to get more out of their device.

The full app costs $2.99 and can be downloaded here of course if you want to try out the free one it is available here.