Past Phones

08 April 2020

Over the years, I’ve chosen my mobile devices pretty carefully. I’ve usually chosen them for connectivity options, Java capabilities, and eventually the quickest Android updates.

  • Ericsson S868 This was my first device in about 1999: futuristic GSM on a small start-up network in Lancaster.

  • Ericsson 289LX After my old phone carrier let all their cool features (email to SMS) fall into disrepair, I jumped to an older TDMA network on AT&T, but it worked.

  • Siemens S46 This was my second phone on AT&T. This one had a couple colors and a better WAP browser, so I started coding WAP mobile sites for it.

  • SonyEricsson T68i A friend gave me this tiny phone with an attachable camera accessory. This was my first phone with Bluetooth data tethering.

  • SonyEricsson T616 Now I had an integrated camera and Java, and I think I likely started coding for J2ME apps and games with the T616.

  • SonyEricsson T637 This was just an update to the T616.

  • SonyEricsson S710 This device had an odd form factor of a large screen and hidden keypad that made it more of a camera that had a phone feature.

  • SonyEricsson W810 I returned to the tiny, featureful candy-bar phone with this one. Java capabilities and connectivity remained my most important concerns. I was really stretching these little feature phones to do as much as possible, and I believed they continued to have a future. This device was a "Walkman"-branded device, so it had a bit of storage and decent audio capabilities. I think I also flashed a new firmware onto this device to get full email support.

  • Nokia E71 I jumped to a smartphone with Symbian OS with the full keyboard and internet capabiliites. I never coded any S60 apps for this, but it continued to run Java apps well.

  • Samsung Nexus S I finally jumped to Android and a touchscreen, and I had every intention of jumping right to coding Android apps. (Spoiler: With all these Android devices, I never started.) I really stretched this device to a point where I barely had enough memory to run GPS navigation (Waze) and podcasts (BeyondPod) or music at the same time. I loaded lots of 3rd party Android ROMs on here.

  • LG Nexus 4 I continued to chase clean Google Android devices. This devices brought NFC and wireless charging that didn’t work as well as it should.

  • Huawei Nexus 6P This phone was huge, and I never went back to smaller phones, but it lost wireless charging. It lasted long enough for me to need to replace the built-in battery. I started coding some mobile JavaScript for this device.

  • Google Pixel XL The 6P’s battery died again, and the latest phones (Pixel 3) were being released in 6 months, so I bought a refurbished Pixel XL to tide me over, but it proved to be an excellent phone, so I hung onto it until it no longer got updates.

  • Google Pixel 3 XL I wanted something newer that would get Android 11, so I bought this device refurbished. I had to buy some headphone adapters, but I’ve been enjoying having good wireless charging. I finally got started with some ClojureScript for mobile web apps on this device.


Pixel 3 XL

03 March 2020

In Summer of 2018, I had a Nexus 6P that was on its last legs, and I couldn’t quite wait for the Pixel 3 phones to be released in the Fall, so I picked up a refurbished Pixel XL to tide me over until I could see the new devices. That Pixel XL was fantastic, so I just kept it for nearly 2 years. Back in October, the Pixel XL got its last OS update, and I’ve now started seeing news of Android 11 previews, so I got the itch to replace the old Pixel XL even though it still runs pretty well.

I finally got that Pixel 3 XL just a year and a half later. Compared to the Pixel 3a XL, I figured I’d appreciate the higher screen resolution and the bit of water resistance. This device doesn’t seem too much different from my old Pixel XL, though now I’m buying a couple headphone adapters, and I might just end up using my cheap bluetooth headphones more. I’m excited to have wireless charging again, which I had given up with my Nexus 4. The front-firing stereo speakers are back and sounding good, but it’s an adjustment from the way I used to carry the Pixel XL with the single speaker blasting podcasts from a pocket as I wander the house. It seems that maybe driving the extra speaker may drain battery a little quicker. After a couple days, I had to pop into the Developer Options to hide the notch. It’s just a bad idea: I have too many notifications to allow room for a notch cut out between them.

The Pixel 3 XL seems pretty well-balanced with features I want at a reasonable price (about $300 USD for the refurbished one). I already have the March 2020 update before I’ve even owned the device for a week, and I should have updates through 2021. When updates run out, I’ll look at upgrading again. I’ll need to find a use for the original Pixel as a webcam or something, since it’s still in such good shape and had plenty of computing power.


Using Google Calendar Effectively

21 September 2019

Google Calendar makes the world go 'round, especially for kids who travel between households and have lots of school events. There are a couple things you can do to get the most out of your calendar.

Set Locations

Calendar events obviously come with times and fixed reminders so many minutes before the event. It doesn’t matter where you are or where the event takes place: that notification is coming at the same time.

With a location set on each calendar event, other software, like Waze GPS, can continuously watch your current location and offer you a more useful notification giving you time to travel based on distance and current driving conditions along the way.

Set the Earliest Time

Most my calendar events have just one start time, but my kids' events aren’t that simple. A marching band performance may be at 7pm, but the bus to the stadium leaves at 4pm. Since we live by notifications, it’s important to get those notifications at the earliest time at which we need to act. The other times are likely just extra details that can go into the event title or event details. I can get a notification for 4pm and realize I don’t need to be there until 7pm, but I can’t tolerate a 7pm notification if I was supposed to be dropping a kid at the practice at 4pm.

If I find it’s important to see notifications for all the potential times of an event, then it’s probably best to break that event into more than one event: drop-off, performance, and pick-up.

Share the Calendar

This is the first and most useful collaboration feature of Google Calendar. A personal calendar benefits one person, but invite the other participants (the kids), and then they can start adding and maintaining events and following these rules as well.


Google Apps on Kindle Fire Tablet

28 June 2016

Ben’s birthday is approaching, so I picked up the inexpensive Amazon Fire Tablet from 2015. It’s running FireOS 5.1.x.

He played with it running stock for a week or so, using it to mostly read library books, and of course, to play some games from the Amazon Appstore.

Reading was the main purpose to have the tablet, but I also wanted it for communication and organization. That means getting the Google Apps installed on it. The only things available in the Amazon Appstore were these shell apps that were nothing more than a wrapper aronud a web pane, so I needed to proceed to install the Google Play framework and app store.

Before even buying the tablet, I had found some links, so I was pretty sure it could be done. I started with a post on XDA which got me the link to an all-in-one ZIP of everything I’d need.

It came with the APK files and directions to run a Windows BAT file, which obviously isn’t going to happen on any machine I have, so I cracked open the BAT, and followed the script running the important bits by hand:

  • Login to the tablet as the original login — Ben’s secondary login didn’t work.

  • Enable Developer Options — Settings → Device Options → tap serial number serveral times, and the Developer Options will appear.

  • Enable USB Debugging — Settings → Device Options → Developer Options → Enable ADB to Enabled

  • Enable Side Loading — Settings → Device Options → Developer Options → Enable Untrusted Sources

  • I was on a Mac, so the USB drivers were already good, and I had Android Developer Tools already installed.

  • Unpack the all-in-one ZIP.

  • Run the commands at the shell:

    # see that tablet device is listed
    adb devices
    adb install com.google.android.gms-6.6.03_\(1681564-036\)-6603036-minAPI9.apk
    adb install GoogleLoginService.apk
    adb install GoogleServicesFramework.apk
    adb shell pm grant com.google.android.gms android.permission.INTERACT_ACROSS_USERS
    adb install com.android.vending-5.9.12-80391200-minAPI9.apk
    
    # disable ads on cheap tablet, though I already paid to have it disabled.
    adb shell pm hide com.amazon.kindle.kso

After those couple commands, I found I had the Play Store icon, and fired it up, did the Play Services upgrade, and started installing the Gmail, Calendar, Hangouts, and Keep. I did find Inbox would crash after setup, but Gmail was fine.


All the Posts

April 2020

March 2020

September 2019

June 2016