Posts

Explore Planetary Systems with Eyes on Exoplanets

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Eyes on Exoplanets is a NASA web app for visualizing extrasolar planet systems. This simple app packs and organizes a lot of data on planetary systems of other stars in a series of clear visualizations.


The app is actually a website, so to open it visit exoplanets.nasa.gov/eyes-on-exoplanets from your browser. This responsive site works very well also on mobile devices. It runs smoothly in Chrome on my Android devices, a Pixel 2 XL phone and a Lenovo Tab E7 tablet..

Eyes on Exoplanets provides an interactive 3D model of the distribution of the known exoplanets, as well as the ability of viewing the systems on a sky map from a location on the Earth. Either way, you can select a stellar system and zoom into another visualization showing the orbits of its known exoplanets, along with the highlighted habitable zone. You can further zoom in on individual planets or their star to view artist depictions of what the bodies might look like.

The app provides a wealth of information and data on …

Google Keep Is Chugging Along Nicely

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I still remember the shutdown of Google Reader in July 2013 — who doesn’t?

It was one of the first high-profile product shutdowns that shaped and contributed to Google’s reputation (and countless memes) as a product killer. With the shock and disappointment of Google Reader’s loss still fresh, many questioned the future of Google Keep.


This new product had been initially released just a few months earlier, in March 2013. The conventional wisdom was to not use Keep because it was likely going away soon, too. Yet the product has been going on and regularly getting new features for over 6 years. Another high-profile shutdown, the one of Google+ 8 years after its launch, is a hint anything may still happen. But the death of a specific product doesn't necessarily affect the fate of another.

The case of Google Keep is worth reminding each time Google unveils a new product.

Missing or Misplaced Keyboard Shortcuts on Your Non-English Chromebook? Here’s What to Do

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Are any keyboard shortcuts missing from your Chromebook with a non-English keyboard, or aren’t where the documentation says? It’s not just you. So star these issues in the Chromium tracker to let Google know they are widespread and require action:

Docking windows using "alt + [ or ]" does not work on German keyboards as there is no "[ ]" keyVirtual desks shortcuts missing from the Italian keyboard layout

If you have a Chromebook with a keyboard layout of a language other than English, you likely realized a lot of shortcuts work only with different keys than the ones the Chrome OS help center or the Settings > Keyboard > Show keyboard shortcuts tool list. And some shortcuts are missing altogether.


There's a common cause.

It’s an issue involving the missing shortcuts for docking windows filed almost 3 years ago to the Chromium bug tracker. Although assigned to a team member, the issue is still open, and no progress is being made as it requires a lot of work.…

I Was Interviewed by Repl.it

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Nathan Zilora interviewed me for Repl Talk and Repl.it Weekly, the Repl.it community forum. After a brief introduction I talked about how I started using Repl.it, how I plan to combine astronomy and programming in my activities, the Astropy astronomy Python library and how programmers can learn to use it, the space podcast I co-host, and the Google Product Experts Program I'm a member of.


Thanks to Nathan and Repl.it for the opportunity of sharing my experiences and thoughts!

Repl.it is a multi-language cloud IDE. It supports dozens of programming languages and frameworks. It’s my favorite IDE because it works fully in the cloud, a killer feature for a Chrome OS enthusiast like me.

Repl.it pushes the limits of what development tools can do in the cloud. It’s constantly improving and provides some advanced features, such as Multiplayer Mode for collaborative development and Git/GitHub support. Another neat feature is that you can deploy a server by just listening to a TCP port in yo…

Revisiting Building Android Apps in Python Using Kivy with Android Studio

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One of the books I read on Kivy, a Python cross-platform GUI framework, is Building Android Apps in Python Using Kivy with Android Studio: With Pyjnius, Plyer, and Buildozer by Ahmed Fawzy Mohamed Gad (Apress, 2019). My comments on the book, which focused on it not being a good match for my learning needs, sounded negative. Perhaps unnecessarily so.


The author, Ahmed Fawzy Mohamed Gad, emailed me concerning my feedback. He provided more context on how he researched the market to position the book, planned the content, and selected the topics to cover. This is valuable information, so I’m publishing it here with his permission. Here’s what Ahmed wrote:

At first, thanks for the feedback you posted considering my book titled "Building Android Apps in Python Using Kivy with Android Studio". I read your feedback carefully and managed to send this e-mail to thank you for the time spent reading the book.  As you said, my book does not cover many widgets about Kivy compared to the o…

See What’s Up On The Red Planet With Mars Sky For Android

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Mars Sky is an Android app for viewing at a glance the major planetary objects in the sky of Mars at a given location.


This unusual app doesn’t show an accurate representation of the sky but a simplified view of the celestial sphere with the major Solar System objects. The view places the planetary bodies at their approximate positions in the sky.

The celestial objects Mars Sky features are the Sun, the planets (including the Earth and our Moon), and the moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos. You can get position and visibility data of each body such as the coordinates, the angular size, the brightness, and more. A list of major events like the rising and setting times of the objects is also available.

There are some preset observing locations to choose from, such as the landing sites of spacecrafts, but you can add more.

Mars Sky displays dates and times using a martian calendar you may not be familiar with. So be sure to check the app’s Help screen, under the main menu, for some backgrou…

My First Encounter With Android Bloatware

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I’ve always heard about the bloatware vendors preinstall to their Android devices but never experienced it. Until now.

A few days ago I turned on my Lenovo Tab E7 tablet and an unknown icon showed up at the left edge of the home screen. You can see the icon in this screenshot.


Dragging the unknown icon to the right brought up a screen that resembles the home page of YouTube as shown here.


Tapping the icon featuring a head wearing headphones, at the top right of the YouTube screen, opened a Lenovo account sign in and sign up dialog. The YouTube screen slid onto the main home screen from the virtual screen immediately to the left of the main home screen. This spot, where Pixel devices have the Google Discover feed, is not usually accessible on my Lenovo Tab E7.

Along with the unknown icon, when turning on the device that day I got an Android system dialog requesting permission from the Lenovo launcher to manage phone calls, which I declined. And besides, I have no SIM card.

Another dial…