Tag Archives: Android

Ode to the Nexus 7

The Nexus 7 Android tablet has been discontinued in favor of the Nexus 9. (via Slashdot.) I’ve had a Nexus 7 (2012) almost since the beginning, and while it’s showing its age, I’ve been trying to stretch out its lifetime, because I actually do still use it on a regular basis.

Most of what I do these days with it is reading. Email. Books. Comics. Feedly. Pocket. Some photo management and searching. My four-year-old plays games, most of which run fine once they’re up but they take forever to load. I’ve also started introducing him to photo editing apps like Pixlr and Aviary. I used to do more typing and web browsing on it, but it’s just gotten so slow that it’s actually faster to pull out my phone or go over to a computer. Katie doesn’t use it much at all because she has a Note, which is almost into tablet territory already. (She’s not alone. Since the iPhone 6S came out, Pocket has noticed that people with both tablets and phones use their tablets a lot less often if their phones are larger.)

But the 7″ tablet form factor is perfect to keep with you at the breakfast or lunch table, or kick back on the couch.

The thing to remember about the Nexus 7 is that the original release was a proof of concept. There were android tablets before, but the market was still considered something of a joke compared to the iPad, and Google wanted to prove that (a) there was a market for a good Android tablet, and (b) there was a market for a tablet larger than a phone and smaller than an iPad. The iPad Mini didn’t exist at the time, and Apple was still ridiculing the concept.

It succeeded. But they made some mistakes with the hardware that were corrected in the 2013 model. Unfortunately those mistakes have made the first edition notorious for slowing down.

Mine was getting close to unusable around the time Lollipop was released, and upgrading finished the job. Fortunately wiping it and doing a fresh install cleared up a lot of the problems, though as I’ve added more apps, it’s continued to slow down. Chrome is too slow to use, and while Firefox is a little faster, I basically can’t surf the web on the tablet anymore.

But for a core set of apps, it’s still useful. I’ll read/reply to email and skim Feedly in the morning at breakfast, saving items to Pocket to read later. Then at lunch I may read a book or catch up on those saved articles. Since Gmail and Pocket both work offline and sync in the background, I can still use them in places without WiFi. Mobile data would be nice, but offline+sync makes it less critical, and I’ve saved a few hundred over the last three years by not having an extra data plan.

I am going to have to replace it soon, but I can’t decide what with. I don’t want the larger size that the Nexus line is moving toward, and while I’ve been looking at Samsung’s Galaxy tablets, the models I’ve tried all feel a little too small or a bit too big. I don’t want a 10″ tablet, and I don’t want a giant phone. I want a device that’s just big enough to read a full comic book page on it, but still small enough that it feels like a paperback book.

Note: I didn’t actually post this when I wrote it. I’ve backdated it to the original date because it’s no longer timely, but I wanted it online so I could link to it.

Android App Crashing on Start? Clear the Cache

I ran into some problems with the ComiXology app on my Nexus 7 tablet the other day. I tried to add a comic I’d unlocked on the website (the backer pre-release of the next chapter of Code Monkey Save World), and it crashed. From that point on every time I tried to launch the app, it would crash immediately. At the time I was in a hurry, so I set it aside for later. Within a day, an update with “bushels of bugfixes” came out, so I figured it was probably a known issue and put it out of my mind.

I didn’t test it until this morning, though. Wednesday = new comics day, of course. The same thing happened, even though I’d powered the tablet off overnight.

Great.

I figured I’d follow the standard troubleshooting pattern of clearing data (but that would mean re-downloading all the comics that I hadn’t read yet, or was keeping on the tablet to re-read), uninstalling/reinstalling, etc. A pain, but a necessary step before submitting a bug report.

So I opened Settings, then Manage Apps, then the Comics app… Continue reading

Apple opens dictionary, abandons lawsuit over “App store”

Apple and Amazon have settled their two-year legal dispute over the term “app store.”

It’s about time common sense prevailed. Even though Apple had the gall to deny it, “app store” is as obviously descriptive of a store selling apps as “book store” is of a store selling books, or “grocery store” of a store selling groceries. Insisting on trademark protection was ridiculous.

Actually, that reminds me of the time way back when that Barnes & Noble (I think it was B&N, anyway) tried to bring a false advertising claim against Amazon for saying that they were the world’s largest book store. The idea was that since Amazon didn’t have a physical storefront, they weren’t a book store, but a book seller. I seem to recall that didn’t stick either, but took a similarly ridiculous time to settle out.

Apple: Supported After All

The other night I had to take the MacBook into the Apple store to get it checked out after a toddler-related spill. I got there for my appointment and waited…and waited…and waited….

Killing time with my Android phone felt a bit weird. If I hadn’t needed to stay close to the Genius Bar I could have at least browsed the gadgets and played with an iPad or a newer laptop with a Retina display, or something. There’s only so long you can spend looking at boxes of headphones and cases for devices you don’t own. I briefly considered reading the new Flash comic book I’d picked up earlier in the day, but thought to myself, “Nah, I bet this isn’t supported here.”

Then I saw this on the wall:

Flash at the Apple Store

Well then, I guess it’s supported after all!

What’s Wrong With Facebook Updating Itself on Android?

Yesterday, my phone suddenly started downloading something called “Facebook build (somethingorother).” It didn’t show any progress, wouldn’t go away, and I worried that maybe it was a piece of malware or something buggy. A quick search turned up nothing. A later search found other people asking what this was. Late last night, there were articles about “Hey, why is Facebook updating itself!”

It turns out that yes, Facebook is now downloading its own updates on Android phones and tablets instead of just pushing them out through the relevant app stores (Google Play and Amazon, mainly). I’m sure they thought it was a great idea — web browsers like Firefox and Chrome have been doing this for several years on the desktop.

The problem is that it violates expectations of what the app will do, and where your software is coming from.

Imagine your car’s manufacturer issues a recall. Now imagine three scenarios:

Scenario 1: You receive a notice of the recall, asking you to make an appointment to bring the car in for maintenance. (For those of you who don’t drive, this is how it normally works.)

Scenario 2: You receive a notice offering to send a technician out to do the repairs at your home or workplace. (This would be awesome, but impractical.)

Scenario 3: You’re sitting in the living room when you hear a noise from the garage. You go out to investigate and find someone messing with your car.

That’s what this feels like.

It’s one thing to offer software through third-party channels. The fact that it’s possible is one of the reasons I prefer Android to iOS. In that case, notifying me of updates, maybe even simplifying the download would be very convenient — if I know ahead of time that it’s going to happen. And if they’re not switching channels on me. A download coming from some new location, but claiming to be a familiar piece of software, and a notice telling you to install it? That’s how trojans work.

In short, it’s a violation of trust…and if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Facebook over the last few years, it’s that the social network has enough problems with trust.