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Showing posts from July 21, 2019

Android Usage on Chrome OS Grows But the Experience is Still Suboptimal

According to Google, in Q4 2018 21% of the notebooks sold in the US were Chromebooks and Android app usage on Chrome OS increased 4X over the past 12 months.

Google is encouraging developers to target or adapt their apps to Chrome OS, for example by adding large screen and keyboard support to Android apps so they can run well on Chromebooks. But few or none of Google’s own apps do, starting from the Play Store. There are a few notable and encouraging  exceptions, such as the Roblox game that was optimized to run well on Chrome OS and take advantage of the additional exposure it can get on the platform.

Google isn’t leading by example and doesn’t provide enough incentives to developers.

Android Hardware

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I took this photo of the wall décor of a bathroom stall at Google’s offices in Dublin, Ireland. I always wondered what Android hardware and plumbing look like under the hood.


Not surprisingly, nearby there was a lovely sign directing to the restroom where the stalls were. I couldn't resist checking whether the facility was appropriately themed.


My First Nine Years with Ebooks

In July 2019 it’s been 9 years since I switched to reading only ebooks instead of traditional ones printed on paper.

Two reasons contributed to the switch. The first is back then my aging eyesight was making it increasingly uncomfortable to read printed text. The other reason is in July 2010 a friend bought an ebook reading device, a 6” Cybook Opus e-ink unit, and, as a geek, I was intrigued. I bought one for myself, started experimenting, and loved the experience, which I told in an ebook.

The Opus, with its high legibility and ability to increase the font size, made reading enjoyable again. And it made me discover the convenience, affordability, and wide selection of ebooks.

I later bought a Kindle 3 ereader but ended up doing most of my digital reading on Android phones with the Kindle and Google Play Books apps. I use the Google Play Books website on a desktop system, currently a Chromebox, to read content that’s not a good fit for small screens, such as programming books with sou…

What it Means the Cloud Is Someone Else’s Computer

The cloud is someone else’s computer.

It’s a catchy and widely popular line, regardless of its meaning and implications. But it’s typically used to emphasize its cons and negative connotations, such as data in the cloud may not be safe or may disappear.

However, there are also pros. If the cloud is someone else’s computer, they’re likely less sloppy with backups and security. And they have a team of skilled technicians and engineers who work around the clock to fix issues while you sleep, without the need for you to lift a single finger.

By the way, your money is data in someone else’s bank.

I Deleted My Facebook Account

I deleted my Facebook account on July 4 because Mike Elgan’s declaration of independence from Facebook inspired me. However, even if many others delete their accounts now, Facebook won’t likely notice any fluctuations in the noise of a rounding error.

Why? Why did I delete my account? I’m not against tech giants. For example, I feel comfortable with Google and use Amazon. But Facebook repeatedly crossed every possible line to such an extent it’s difficult to see any good faith or willingness to change.

It’s easy for me to delete my account because I never used Facebook much. Ahead of deleting the account I downloaded my Facebook data. It turns out I never used it much. Over the 4-5 years I have been active on the platform I generated 4.1 MB worth of data. By comparison I have used Google+ daily since day one for 8 years until it was shut down and I downloaded around 1.7 GB of data.

Deleting their accounts may be more difficult for others who have many contacts and use the platform ext…

Why I Want a High-end Chrome OS Experience

There are lots of cheap Chromebooks that provide a great value and are good for many tasks.

This may be the reason many just can't wrap their head around why one may want a high-end, premium Chrome OS device like a Google Pixelbook. They think it must be for running some kind of fancy Linux or Android apps, or for processing huge amounts of media and data. See for example these Reddit threads where some users wonder in disbelief:

People with high end Chromebooks What do you use them for and do you need all that performance?"Overpowered" Chrome OS devices

I have such a high-end Chrome OS device, an i7 ASUS Chromebox 3 with 16 GB of RAM and 256 GB SSD. But I got it for doing the exact same stuff a cheap Chromebook can do, just with better performance.

That’s it.

Feedly's AI Assistant Misses the Point of RSS

Feedly is testing an AI assistant that short-lists selected articles based on user preferences and machine learning.

However, such an algorithmic recommendation feature misses the point of RSS and feed readers, the ability to skim all the headlines of a feed in chronological order. If I wanted algorithms to organize my feeds I might as well use a newsreader like Google News or a social platform like Twitter.

With features like this Feedly is apparently trying to differentiate, attract more users, or pivot. But they’re neglecting the core reading experience. For example, it took Feedly several years to update the Android app and some of its usability issues still have not been addressed. And search, one of the key features of paid plans, is so ineffective I gave up on it long ago.

How to Limit Data Usage on Tethered Chromebooks

When I tried tethering my Chromebook to my Android phone I noticed it constantly used cellular data. Not much, but it adds up quickly.

Chrome Unboxed explains why and how to limit data usage. The reason is Chrome OS synchronizes account data and offline Google Drive files, which may be many and large. Turning off these options significantly reduces data usage.

Leanpub and Lean Publishing

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I published my book Space Apps for Android to Leanpub, which, unlike other self-publishing platforms, focuses on works in progress rather than completed books.


This is unusual and unique in the self-publishing space and, since Leanpub is less known than the major players like Amazon KDP and Apple Books, I often have to explain how Leanpub works when discussing it with other authors. Therefore, I decided to put together this overview I can refer to.

Lean Publishing Leanpub bears its name from Lean Publishing, a process for publishing works in progress inspired by the Lean Startup methodology.

A book is seen as the product of a startup, often a Minimum Viable Product. You write and release successive improved versions of the book, get feedback from readers, and iterate. Although Leanpub is genre-agnostic, the process is best suited to non-fiction and technical works on topics that change frequently, such as computing and technology, or that you plan to keep up to date.

An advantage of L…

Apollo-themed T-shirts

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Here are the cool Apollo-themed t-shirts I bought from The High Frontier spaceflight apparel, an online store selling unique, well done designs inspired by the history of space exploration. The ones I got feature the Apollo Lunar Module and the Command and Service Module.


I Want My Bezels Back

JR Raphael wrote a great piece on the insanity of smartphone screen notches and holes: The enduring absurdity of our smartphone bezel obsession. He points out the compromises punching holes into and cutting out parts of screens in the name of no bezels imposes for little or no design gain, which often defeats the whole point of making those changes to screens in the first place.

In the article No, the Pixel 4’s bezels are not a major crime against smartphone design, Andy Boxall later discussed why bezels are not an issue and why the dislike for bezels is largely irrational.

Beyond aesthetics, there are also practical drawbacks to using a device with thin or no bezels. I can’t tell how many times I inadvertently touched or activated unwanted user interface elements of apps on my Pixel 2 XL Android phone, which still has some bezel. This typically happens when I grab the device ringing for an incoming call, which often results in a declined call because I touch the wrong areas close to …