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Showing posts from 2020

Mons Rumker: the Chang'e 5 Moon Landing Site

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Mons Rümker is the Moon landing site of the lander-ascender spacecraft of Chang’e 5, China’s lunar sample return mission. It’s one of the most interesting volcanic areas of the Moon. To explore this unique feature, I made a video of Mons Rümker in Google Maps . Mons Rümker in Google Maps. The video opens with the bright crater Copernicus at the center of the view. It then centers on and zooms in on Mons Rümker, rotating around the plateau to show its 3D structure and relief. I made the video by recording on my Chromebox a screencast of Google Maps at 1080p. Finding Mons Rümker may not be easy, as it's a subtle area and you need to know where to look for. Unfortunately, Google Maps doesn’t let you search for or share features on planetary bodies other than the Earth. The video hopefully helps to locate the area in Google Maps, here’s how: visit maps.google.com zoom all the way out click Satellite click  ☰ to open the menu click Globe zoom out more click Moon click 3D to show the c

Space Apps for Android: 17 Nov 2020 Update

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 I released version 17 Nov 2020 of my ebook Space Apps for Android: Discover the Best Astronomy and Space Apps . If you purchased the book, the latest version is available for free download in ePub, Mobi, and PDF format where you originally downloaded it, on Gumroad or Leanpub . The cover of the Space Apps for Android ebook in the Kindle app on my Pixel 4 XL. Chapter The Planets now has an introduction. I also revised the chapter’s text and added the Mars Explorer app. Some apps are no longer available in the Play Store, so I removed their entries from that chapter: Physical Mars, Pluto Safari, Space Weather, and The Red Planet Mars. I removed Mars Explorer (unrelated to the app by the same name I added) too, as it now serves ads and no longer meets the book inclusion requirements. It’s amazing how many Android developers remove their apps from the Play Store, including several Space Apps for Android covers. But the ebook is a work in-progress and I regularly update it with the Lean

View the Surface of Mars with Mars Explorer for Android

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Mars Explorer is an Android app for viewing the raw images of the surface of Mars taken by NASA’s Curiosity, Spirit, and Opportunity rovers, and the InSight lander. Mars Explorer on my Pixel 4 XL phone. You can get the latest images from the active missions, Curiosity and InSight, and browse the image archives of the completed missions, Spirit and Opportunity. The app lets you view, save as favorites, and share the images. To drill down to the ones you’re interested in, there are options for selecting the relevant Sol (Martian day) or terrestrial date. In Mars Explorer you’ll also find general information on Mars, the vehicles that take the images, and their instruments. Weather reports and environmental measurements from the Curiosity rover complete the feature set. The app runs well also on Chrome OS, where it takes advantage of the large screens of Chromebooks by providing an alternate layout that better organizes the content and the navigation elements. The layout activates on And

Practicing Google Featured on TestingCatalog

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Issue 162 of TestingCatalog featured my newsletter Practicing Google . The TestingCatalog newsletter. TestingCatalog , one of my favorite newsletters , provides news, updates, and insights on Beta and unreleased Android apps. It's a great resource to feel the pulse of the Android apps world and keep up with what developers are experimenting with. Thanks TestingCatalog!

Narakeet Review: A Narrated Video Editor

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Narakeet , formerly Video Puppet, is an impressive web tool for making narrated videos with an AI voice generator . It’s now out of Beta and open for business. Artwork on the Narakeet home page. What sets Narakeet apart is the ability to automate most or all of the production steps . From generating visuals, adding background music, and synchronizing media, to synthesizing voice over narration. The tool is great for quickly putting together instructional or marketing videos, tutorials, demos, and more. The narration features leverage some of the best machine-generated voice synthesis systems in the industry like Amazon Polly and IBM Watson Text to Speech. Although Narakeet’s over a hundred voice models in more than 20 languages are very natural-sounding and lifelike, it’s possible to provide recordings of your own voice narration. To create a video, upload a PowerPoint presentation with the slides containing the visuals and the voice over text in the speaker notes. Or write script fil

Don't Publish Large ePub or Mobi Ebooks

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Do you sell ebooks directly on Gumroad or on your website? Don't ship large ePub or Mobi files, they may make it impossible or impractical for readers to load the files in their favorite reading apps. Here's an example of an ebook I bought on Gumroad and available in PDF, ePub, and Mobi format. I'd like to read it on my Android phone and tablet. My ePub reading app, Google Play Books, is ubiquitous on Android. It can sideload files up to 100 MB, but the ePub version of that Gumroad book has a size of 105 MB. I can't use the Kindle Android app via Send to Kindle because the book's Mobi file is 33 MB. Gmail, along with most other email clients, can't send attachments over 25 MB. For larger files, Gmail sends download links that don't work with Amazon's automated Send to Kindle system, which can't click links. Also, Gumroad doesn't provide a Send to Kindle button for the file the author supplied. This leaves the PDF file. However, it’s a suboptimal

Mockup Generators for Google Devices

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 Mockup generators are tools that combine screenshots with renderings of the frames and bezels of the desktop or mobile devices they are taken on. The generators can also overlay the screenshots to photos of actual devices. The Previewed mockup generator with some Android device frames. The combined images are used as illustrations or for promoting apps, ebooks, websites, or other digital products. There are several mockup generators for mobile and desktop devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops. But they usually focus on Apple hardware. The few frames in the Google ecosystems like Android phones or Chromebooks, when available, are often out of date. Google's own Android device art generator is missing the latest generations of flagships. Chrome can take screenshots with device frames but, again, there are no recent Android devices. Yeah, the cobbler's children have no shoes. List of mockup generators for Google devices I use mockup generators for sharing Android and

Running Linux Astronomy Apps on Chrome OS

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I got a Pixel 2 XL for its unique astrophotography features, along with a tripod for long-exposure photography with the phone. This is not enough, though. The workflow for producing images of the sky is best achieved with specialized astronomical image viewing and processing software. There are two good such Linux apps that work fine on my Chromebox in Crostini, Siril and SAOImage DS9 . I can install the .deb files from the Chrome OS Files app or the Terminal. Siril (left) and DS9 (right) for Linux running in Crostini on my Chromebox. Siril is an advanced image processing app . Although it loads all the major general-purpose image and video file formats, it internally works with FITS, the leading format for astronomical images and data. Siril supports calibration, stacking, background and noise removal, scripting, and many more features. With the Pixel 4 XL I take photos of the sky in RAW and export them as DNG files, the format the Google camera app that ships with Pixel devices s

A Tripod for Smartphone Astrophotography

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 As an amateur astronomer, Astrophotography mode is one reason why I got a Pixel 4 XL . But there’s another essential piece of gear for taking long-exposure photos of star fields or astronomical phenomena, a tripod. The one I bought for the Pixel 4 XL is a Phinistec photo tripod . My Phinistec tripod with some accessories: a carrying pouch, a phone adapter, and a Bluetooth shutter. I do all my astrophotography from an apartment building in Milan, Italy, where I live. It’s a light-polluted urban area, but these days I can’t wander around much. I observe the sky from the apartment’s small balconies, which have the area of a medium-sized carpet. This constrains the camera holding gear I can use. I wanted a full-height tripod that can extend to at least waist level, not a tabletop tripod, as I can’t use tables or other elevated surfaces to set the photo equipment on. The Phinistec tripod can extend to a height of 125 cm. It’s cheap, compact, and very light . It comes with a smartphone ada

AppGyver Composer Review: First Impressions

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It’s not just non-coders who use no-code development tools. If anything, having some programming experience gives an appreciation of how much time and effort these tools can save. This is why, despite having been a hobby programmer for decades , I’m interested in no-code solutions. The ones I tried in the past are App Inventor and Thunkable , for creating mobile apps, and Bubble for web apps. An Android app under development in the AppGyver Composer IDE on my Chromebox. A few months ago I discovered AppGyver Composer, an impressive app builder for developing both mobile and web apps that seems more powerful than the others I’ve seen. Here are some quick notes on my experience with the tool so far. Keep in mind I'm still exploring AppGyver, not using it for real projects. About AppGyver AppGyver Composer Pro is the best no-code, drag & drop app development environment I've seen. It allows to create both web and mobile apps for Android (even Android TV) and iOS,

Why I Got a Pixel 4 XL When Google Discontinued It

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Google discontinued the Pixel 4 in August 2020 and pulled it from the US Google Store. As soon as I learned of it, I ordered a Pixel 4 XL from the Google Store in Italy where I live and the phone was still in stock. Why did I get it? Because I like the 4 XL more than the current and planned Pixel models . I don’t mind the issues and limitations others criticize. And it’s not clear whether the Pixel 5 will ship with a telephoto lens, which I want. The packaging of my Google Pixel 4 XL phone. My previous phone I had been using a Pixel 2 XL since January 2018. This is no surprise as I always used Google-branded Android phones as my daily drivers. The Pixel 2 was the first of the Pixel family distributed in Italy. I was eager to try a Pixel and went with the 2 XL because of the higher specs, a more capable battery, and a better experience. In October 2020, a couple of months from now, the Pixel 2 line will reach the end of life with no more system updates and support. Expe

Practicing Google Featured on The Slice

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Issue #008 of The Slice featured my newsletter Practicing Google . The Slice is a weekly newsletter to discover new and emerging creations such as SaaS products, podcasts, and newsletters. It offers actionable resources for founders and makers. The sign-up page of The Slice newsletter. Listory’s interview with The Slice’s author Nic opens with «The Slice highlights the underdogs of the tech world». I love this characterization and focus because typical case studies and success stories highlight the most successful entrepreneurs, authors, or products. The outliers, the unicorns. I’m actually more inspired by smaller, realistic achievements such as newsletters with a few hundred subscribers, or ebooks that make hundreds of Dollars a year. They are closer to where I am in my journey, more approachable. These are goals I can see myself reach given reasonable time and effort. I don’t even bother thinking how to imitate the outliers. Therefore, I’m extremely pleas

A List of Newsletter Directories

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Growing your newsletter can be challenging. Especially at the beginning, when few know you or your work. Having your newsletter listed in specialized directories that attract potentially interested readers is a valuable discoverability opportunity. The InboxReads newsletter directory. These directories are databases that let readers search or browse newsletters by category . Sometimes the directories share the newsletters to their social channels or in email updates. The continuous flow of subscriptions coming from directories, even if small, adds up. Maybe it's just an impression. However, I’ve been noticing a small but steady flow of subscriptions since submitting my newsletter Practicing Google to several directories. It's just a trickle right now. But noticeable. I have been bookmarking and keeping track of directories since working on my newsletter. I share them here and I’ll keep the list up to date. Open directories You can submit your news

My First Year of Blogging With Blogger

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One year ago today, on 15 July 2019, I returned to Google Blogger and started a new blog . It was the conclusion of a journey that began over a dozen years earlier with my first blog on a self-hosted platform. I later published another blog on Blogger. Next, I left blogging for a few years. For several more years, I used Google+ as a blogging platform. Finally, I briefly tried the IndieWeb, which is not ready for prime time but intriguing. The Blogger dashboard of my blog Moonshots Beyond the Cloud. What was my first year on Blogger like? Uneventful. I chose Blogger because it’s a simple tool which doesn’t get in the way of writing and publishing . It does all I need and lets me focus on content. Google has been refreshing Blogger with a gradual redesign for the past couple of years. They’re rebuilding the platform on foundations rooted in a modern, mobile friendly design language and infrastructure. However, the new Blogger doesn’t provide much in the way

My First 10 Years With Ebooks

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Ten years ago, in July 2010, I left traditional print books for ebooks, and I haven’t looked back. Over the past decade, I bought about 300 ebooks and half a dozen print books and read around a hundred free ebooks. Of these print books, two were very interesting but unavailable in digital format. I bought a couple other traditional books because friends wrote them or I contributed to works, so I wanted a tangible artifact as a memento or signed copy I could hold in my hands. Finally, I got the last couple of print books to give as presents. My first ebook reader, a Bookeen Cybook Opus e-ink device. My transition to ebooks and digital reading happened almost overnight. I never had regrets or second thoughts. I regularly shared my experience with ebooks on Google+ and later on this blog where, in 2019, I posted a retrospective of my first 9 years with ebooks . The 10th anniversary is a suitable occasion to tell in some detail how the transition happened, what my exper

Repl.it Redesigned the Mobile Experience

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The cloud IDE Repl.it was redesigned to improve the user experience on mobile devices. On smartphones, now the focused REPL pane takes up most of the screen. The redesign takes advantage of native mobile design patterns and lets you switch to a different pane from the bottom navigation bar . There are panes for the code editor, the console, and the output. A Python REPL in Repl.it on my Pixel 2 XL phone. Tapping the code in the editor brings up a contextual menu with some options of the desktop version. You can select, search, or paste text, or open the full command palette. On my Pixel 2 XL phone in Chrome, lines with up to 42 characters fit in the editor’s width. The editor wraps longer lines. But most of the code usually keeps the original indentation and its structure is still clear at a glance. The console pane wraps text, too, so no horizontal scrolling is required. You can get an idea of what Repl.it looks like on mobile by opening the browser on your

Following: A Marketing Guide To Author Platform

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Indie writer David Gaughran published the ebook Following: A Marketing Guide To Author Platform . It’s a free bonus you can download by subscribing to David’s weekly book marketing newsletter . David Gaughran’s Following ebook in Google Play Books on my Pixel 2 XL phone. The book brings clarity on the confusing issue of building an author platform writers and authors face, especially when going indie and self-publishing. Its greatest value is a concise and clear definition of what an author platform is and what it's supposed to do, along with a prioritized roadmap. Although you’ll find practical advice in Following , the book comes with an online resource section David keeps up to date with how-tos, step-by-step guides, videos, lists of service providers, and more. David presents a framework grounded on two pillars, an author website and a newsletter . You can add other activities and online presences modularly on top of those as your time and resources allow.

How to Get the RSS Feed of a Revue Newsletter

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To get the RSS feed of a newsletter hosted at Revue , enter the URL of the newsletter’s sign up and archive page into your feed reader . This returns a partial feed with an entry for each issue. An article in the RSS feed of my Practicing Google Newsletter in Feedly. If the reader doesn’t recognize the feed, add ?format=rss to the newsletter’s URL. For example, the URL of my newsletter is http://newsletter.paoloamoroso.com and I can get the RSS by rewriting it as http://newsletter.paoloamoroso.com?format=rss Another trick is to append ?format=text to the URL of an issue to get the ASCII text with some HTML formatting. An example is this URL of one of my issues http://newsletter.paoloamoroso.com/issues/freeing-up-storage-on-android-deleting-youtube-s-watch-history-and-more-252454 that returns the text via http://newsletter.paoloamoroso.com/issues/freeing-up-storage-on-android-deleting-youtube-s-watch-history-and-more-252454?format=text The usual way of receiving a

FindYour.Blog Showcases the Essence of Blogging

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Update The FindYour.Blog was unfortunately shut down and is no longer online. FindYour.Blog is a new blog directory — remember those? — aimed at new or niche bloggers. It lets you browse, search, review, and like blogs. You can also submit your own blog. The home page of FindYour.Blog. The directory has a clean design and is easy to use. But there’s something that makes it stand out: the community . FindYourBlog seems to attract passionate bloggers who value writing, sharing, and thinking. There are almost no marketers and the blogs in the directory don’t smell of SEO or have pushy selling, modal pop-ups, or heavy ads. Their posts focus instead on content and ideas with not much thought to ranking in search or selling yet another course. The writing has readers in mind, not search engines. Submitting blogs requires approval, and the editors are doing an excellent curation job. FindYour.Blog is a labor of love that brings back the roots and essence blogging had i

All Blogs Are Minimalist

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One feature that made Medium popular is the minimalist design of its blogs. They emphasize text and images and have no blogrolls, widgets, tag clouds, or other distracting elements. It was a unique feature in the days of the desktop web when Medium came out. A post of my blog in Chrome on my Pixel 2 XL phone. Now the web is mobile-first and all responsive websites have a similar minimalist design on the smartphone and tablet screens the majority of readers use. They hide most of the design complexity behind a hamburger menu with links to other pages. If you open a post, the text and images dominate the page area. Just like Medium. For example, my Blogger blog has a responsive template that works the same way. Visit it on your phone. There are a few links at the top of the page and a handful of post recommendations at the bottom. These minor elements are hardly distracting. WordPress blogs and most other responsive websites do the same. The mobile revolution

Experimenting With Selling App Recommendations

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Are you looking for an app that does something you need but can’t find it, or don’t want to put in the time and effort to search for it? For a small fee, I will search the app for you and recommend one that matches your requirements. The app recommendation services I sell on my Buy Me A Coffee page. I can search for Android apps, web apps, cloud tools, Chrome extensions, add-ons, or websites that work in Chrome. Except for games as I’m not into gaming. I’ll recommend at least one app that does what you want , summarize its key features and issues, and try it on different Android and Chrome OS devices to report how it works — if possible or practical. If no such app exists, or I’m unable to find it, I’ll suggest one that does something similar or matches some of your requirements. I have extensive experience with searching for Android and web apps. I love looking for and experimenting with new and interesting apps I may need someday. I showcase some of the best apps

Supporting Web Publishers With Scroll

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Scroll is a new monetization platform for news sites and blogs alternative to advertising. The readers who pay a subscription to the platform can access the partner sites without ads. Scroll shares the revenue with publishers based on the visits they get. The home page of Scroll. After a free trial and an introductory price of $2.49/month, the subscription will cost $4.99/month . I stumbled upon the platform when Android Police announced joining Scroll as a partner. Android Police is my favorite Android tech news site for its great content and distinctive voice. I have been subscribing to Scroll for four months and, of the over 300 partner sites, Android Police is the only one I read regularly . My visits to other sites are a blip on the radar. The fraction of my visits to Android Police vs other Scroll partner sites. And this is the problem with Scroll. If I subscribe at the full price, I'll end up paying $60/year for a single publication, which would be too much for the valu

My Newsletter Publishing Process

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It’s been almost four months since I launched Practicing Google , my weekly newsletter about practical resources on Google products and related technologies. The newsletter is a spinoff of my efforts to learn about and keep up to date with the Google ecosystem. I share links from my readings and content consumption habits. I wanted to focus on the entire Google ecosystem with a practical angle, an empty niche I thought there would be interest in. As a byproduct of activities I already do, I hoped producing the newsletter wouldn’t take much work , and I’d be able to keep the overhead low. This proved to be the case, thanks to a combination of tools and workflow. Here is how I produce, edit, test, and publish each issue of the newsletter Tools I use the Revue newsletter publishing platform. My primary production tool is Revue’s issue editor that allows to add rich text, links, media, and embeds. Revue also provides tools for integrating with and importing content

How to Set a Folder to Save Documents Scanned With Google Drive

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How do you scan documents with Google Drive for Android? Let me guess. You open the app, tap the + button, acquire the document, edit the filename, select a folder, and save. A document I scanned with Google Drive on my Pixel 2 XL phone. This is fine. But Google Drive saves scanned documents in the current folder which is often the root of My Drive like when opening the app. If you scan other documents in the same session, the current folder is again My Drive’s root. This requires extra folder selection work if you want to scan over one related document to keep in the same folder. Here’s a trick to save a series of scans in a specific folder without having to select a folder each time. Navigate to the desired folder before tapping the + button to scan . This changes the current folder which sticks for all subsequent scans in the same session. For more practical resources on Google products and related tech, subscribe to my Practicing Google newsletter. You'll

I Installed WhatsApp Because I Love Mom

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In these days of isolation because of the COVID-19 pandemic, even tech bloggers are more introspective and share personal stories or thoughts. Now it’s my turn. At the end of March 2020 my mom was hospitalized for pneumonia, but unrelated to COVID-19 as she repeatedly tested negative. It wasn’t clear whether she would make it. And I couldn’t visit her in locked down Italy. The only way to communicate with mom was through the WhatsApp video calls her doctors did. My early experience with WhatsApp For years I resisted re-installing WhatsApp. I had already used WhatsApp and uninstalled it the day Facebook announced acquiring the product in February 2014. I have no technical issues with the app, I just don’t like Facebook the company. WhatsApp’s settings screen on my Pixel 2 XL phone. But installing WhatsApp was the only way to see and talk with mom at the hospital . Everything went well and mom came back home after over a week at the hospital. Although I n

My Lenovo Tab E7 Tablet 5 Months Later

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It’s been five months since I bought a Lenovo Tab E7 Android Go tablet . My main motivation was I always loved the 7” slate form factor. Now I have much more experience with the device and what’s best for, how are things going? The packaging of my Lenovo Tab E7 Android Go tablet. System and performance Performance is still more than adequate, with a caveat. Although the tablet boots up reasonably quickly, it’s still laggy for some time after the lock screen shows up . Given the limited hardware resources, the device needs time to start up all system services and the built-in bloatware, as well as caching enough key apps and executable modules. A workaround is not to use the device for at least 5-10 minutes after powering it up so that the lag can settle. Despite being a low-end, cheap device released two years ago, the Tab E7 continues receiving system updates . As I write this in early April 2020, I have Android Go 8.1 with 28 Feb 2020 baseband and 5 Feb 2020 se

My Favorite Tech and Creator Newsletters

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I don’t like the social platform algorithms that decide what ends up in my feed. That’s why for my content consumption I want tools that, instead of filtering , deliver all the content only from all the sources I want. My information hub is an RSS feed reader, Feedly. In addition, since before starting my own email newsletter Practicing Google , I have been subscribing to a growing number of newsletters on a variety of topics . From technology and software development, to content creation and publishing. The week in newsletters, a newsletter I subscribe to. Here are the newsletters I subscribe to. I prefer niche, obscure, or unique sources, so I hope this list will help you discover valuable content that’s not mainstream . Android Intelligence : Practical tips, personal recommendations, and perspective on Android news. Better Sheets : Tutorials, tips, and examples to use Google Sheets better. Blogging for Devs : Tips, content ideas, and relevant news about growing technic