Saturday, January 3, 2015

Gadget Goodies 32 - Rolling (Partly) in Non-tech

As I said, last time, switching to low tech has had its surprises.  Some good, some not so good.  The basic premise of the plan is valid.  But there have been some quirks in the implementation.

That's a picture of the Nexus 7, to the right.  Besides the size and quality, one of the reasons I chose it instead of something else was the fact that it was already being upgraded to Android 5.0. When it arrived, I quickly got it out of the box and plugged it in to charge.  Once it had spent some time charging, I turned it on.  That's where I got my first surprise -- actually several surprises.  Mostly good.

Turning on the Nexus started an avalanche of sorts.  Once I had set up wifi, it started updating the OS -- five times.  The original comes with Android 4.3.  That updated to 4.4.1, which updated to 4.4.2, then 4.4.3.  The next two were 4.4.4 and 5.0.1.  So, I had the "latest and greatest" version of Android.

Along with that, I had apparently had my previous Nexus 7 set to backup and restore my apps, as necessary.  So, in the midst of all those OS updates, the Nexus was also restoring the latest version of all the apps I had on my previous Nexus 7.  Pretty cool.  Although, as circumstances changed over time, I was no longer using some of those because some never updated for OS compatibility, others were replaced by different apps that better suited my way of working, and I just stopped needing a few.  Some were going to need to be uninstalled and replaced with other things.

Then there is the phone.  Yes, flip phones look cool to use. And my Samsung is a lot more pocketable than my Z Ultra. It does have great audio and good reception.  Plus battery life is out of this world.  But there were some things I hadn't considered. Reception at my home office isn't that great. Hills and buildings between me and several nearby towers make my location not quite ideal for cell usage.  I'm not sure if I missed comments about the GT-C3520 not having wifi or I assumed cell reception ought to be sufficient.

Not paying attention to whether the phone had wifi was a mistake on my part.  My apartment is bi-level.  Part of the living areas are in the basement.  Cell reception on the first floor is good, although turning the wrong way can change that some. Calls connect in the basement, too.  But moving or turning the wrong way can leave the person on the other end not hearing me at all.  Since I have a VOIP landline, that's not good, but not a total disaster.  That's where high tech comes to the rescue.

Google has a thing called Google Voice.  I can make or take calls from Google Hangouts or either my home or cell phone.  Those who are closest to me (or for ministry reasons need greater access to me) have been given my Google Voice number.  Everyone else has either my home or my cell number.  So, I have control of who can reach me, where.  And I have control of which way is best to take a call.  That's exactly how it should be.  I rarely ignore a call, except if I'm in a place where taking a call would disturb those around me.  But it's nice to have the choice.

Copyright William E. Kraski, October 2, 2014
I mentioned, last time, that my Z Ultra was going to go up for sale.  My experience, so far, has modified that thought.  First, the Z Ultra does have wifi, so it's fully usable anywhere in the house. Second, because my new cell plan is unlimited calls and text, with no data, when I'm working upstairs, I can shut off wifi.  No wifi equals no distracting notifications, which, for me, is perfect.  I can turn wifi on when I go into the basement or when I'm not working. Third, the Z Ultra will also get Android 5 in the next three months.  Which makes it more usable, if not always easily pocketable.  If pocketability is an issue or I just want to get away from much of my tech communication, I can slip the sim card into my flip phone, shove the phone in a pocket, and go.  So, both phones stay.

That now leaves me with a choice.  I can resell the Nexus 7 or I can have it duplicate only the things I expect I'm going to want with me, no matter whether I'm using the Z ultra or using the Nexus 7.  Along with the latter, I can move most of my video entertainment stuff onto the Nexus, making the Z Ultra leaner and meaner for the things I originally intended.  The jury is still out on that decision.  It ought to be clearer once the Z Ultra also has Android 5.0.

One final note.  I succumbed to the lure of the smartwatch.  I first tried the Pebble, which didn't do enough to put something with limited appeal on my wrist.  That got returned.and replaced with an LG G Watch R, which is a really nice watch. AndroidWear has some really nice watch faces.  And it's really good at making sure you don't miss notifications.  If that's your goal, while having a watch that looks good in any circumstance, the LG G Watch R is a winner.  Which is exactly why I shouldn't have gotten it.

If you think the sound of a phone set on vibrate is attention getting, try a watch that vibrates your wrist every notification.  So much for avoiding distractions.  There is no ignoring it.  I will be reselling the watch.  I just can't justify spending that much on a watch that I can't wear all day -- even if I sometimes need the notifications.  So, the watch will soon be for sale on Amazon so it can get in the hands of someone who can make better use of it.

I hope you had a great New Years Eve/Day.  Here's to a distraction free, productive 2015!


  1. Great post Bill (Its Andrew Penner btw, too bad the "Google Account" login points toward a long-dead blog of mine).

    Anyway, great read and here are some quick thoughts. Personally I'd have pretty much everything duplicated between the tablet and the Sony phone as far as apps go. Makes switching between the 2 seamless, and eliminates the "opps, the app I wanted to use is on the OTHER device" situation. That's my take - and it's what fits my usage patterns - but I can see your point about setting each one up for a more specific use. I find that aside from calls and texting (which is phone only of course if you don't have Google voice, which I don't) it's easier on my brain to just be able to switch between the 2.

    Interesting thoughts on the watch. If I were to get one, the G Watch R is the one I'd get. But as much as I like gadgets, and being "connected" - I hesitate to be THAT connected, even if I could justify the expense - which I can't.

    As far as the phone goes - I wonder if a budget Android phone but set up as lean and minimal as possible would be a better choice (say the MotoG for example) would be better? It does have wifi - but it is another gadget and not near as "back to basics" as the classic flip phone.

  2. Hi, Andrew. Let me clarify a couple of things.

    At one point I had a Note 2 and a Nexus 7, previously. And they did match, app for app. It was driving me nuts having to manually clear one or the other because reading emails or posts on one didn't mark them read on both devices. Newer versions of those apps seem better at it, but I only need some of that duplication. on both.

    Multimedia stuff is better on the Nexus than the Z Ultra. There's only a .6" size difference in the screen, but it's a really noticeable difference. If I get stuck without the Nexus and really want one of my streaming apps, I can always install as needed.

    In reverse, there are some mobile things that are less useful on the tablet. And, like the streaming apps on the phone, I can always install them if I really need them. And I do have a Google Voice # that, for those who have it, will ring my home #, my cell, and my Hangouts apps.

    The LG G Watch R is, to my way of thinking, the best of the best, right now. But it's also the exact opposite of being distraction free. That's not a problem with the watch. It's my inability to ignore anything clamoring for my attention.

    I thought of a low budget Android phone. But there was still the notification issue. Having found a no data plan that allows me to do wifi only for data works in favor of that. But then I can stick with the Z Ultra and get the same effect. And, having experienced Android 4.4.4 and 5.0.1, I know I wouldn't be happy with older versions that, on low end phones, almost certainly won't get updated to 5.0.

    Finally, the comment system here is Disqus, not Google. Which is why you could comment anonymously. And you could create a new Disqus account, which will work on all of the thousands (if not millions) of blogs using Disqus.