Android provides better parental controls than iOS

Great article on parental control. Not only does it give a good comparison, but some good solutions.

It’s all about the parental controls. While iOS includes some basic app-blocking and content-filtering optioans[sic], the protection is largely limited to the software baked into the operating system, like iTunes or Safari. Android doesn’t offer very robust protection out of the box either, but the open-source OS gives developers access to much deeper parts of the operating system than Apple. That’s led to a thriving ecosystem of third-party parental control apps.

Read the full post here
Does Android provide a better parental control than iOS?

A Poor Man’s Wispersync

Arguably one of the Kindle’s most loved feature is the Whispersync technology. Whispersync, for those not familiar with the technology, is the ability to synchronize ones Kindle books across all kindle devices, be it an eReader, Tablet, iPad, Smartphone, PC, etc… This is all done on the application layer so the user need not lift a finger to get this great feature. However this technology is not without its limitations. One major limitation is that Whispersync does not work for personal eBooks it only works for eBooks purchased from Amazon.

For those s are completely bought in to to Amazon’s ecosystem it’s not such a big deal, but what happens when we’re not? What about those that require some degree of freedom.

Note: when I refer to a “Kindle device” I am referring to an Android device with the Kindle app installed on it.

 

THE PROBLEM

I read a lot on the go and I often find myself reading books on my phone and on my Android tablet. As a result of my reading habits the Whispersync is an important feature I can’t do without. For books I have purchased through Amazon this is no problem unfortunately for me most of my books are not from Amazon.

Considering a large majority of my books where purchased outside of the Kindle’s ecosystem the vast majority of my books could not take advantage of this excellent feature. To replicate this features I had one of two choices: I could repurchase all of my eBooks from Amazon or manually sync all the notes, last page read, and annotations for each book. While both solutions work, they are both costly.  Repurchasing the books is financially expensive and manually syncing the books is time consuming and prone to errors.  Neither was an option for me.

THE QUEST

Not happy with either option I set out to find a solution that would work for me. I did a little research and found out a neat little trick with the kindle app. It seems all of the annotations are kept in an MBP file that is generated the first time you open a MOBI/AMZ file from your Kindle device. By coping the MBP, file from my kindle device to any other kindle device, I was able to keep my devices synced. (Note the ‘last page’ setting is stored in the MOBI file, but I always used the bookmark feature to track my last page read and that information is stored in the MBP file.)

While this manual process wasn’t so time consuming or difficult, it still had its pitfalls.  I still had to remember to connect to a PC and manually copy the files from one device to the other. If I did not have access to a PC and both kindle devices with me I could not sync my devices.

So while I was one step closer to finding a solution, I still was not satisfied due to the limitations previously mentioned.  The next iteration was to use a cloud solution like Dropbox. This was a huge step in the right direction. I could now sync my device(s) without the need of a PC or having to have both devices with me.  However there was still some major limitations. There was the human element, I often forgot to upload the files to Dropbox or did not have a wireless connection to upload the changes.

So even though I was a step closer the current solution, it was not adequate. The flaws were still large enough to keep me from having a working solution.  …And so my quest, for a better solution, continued.

 

THE SOLUTION

I came to the conclusion that the only real solution is to come up with a fully automated system anything short of that would lead to failure.

The solution would required that my eBooks (MOBI and MBP files) on my Android devices sync automatically to all of my Android devices.  My first step was to see this feature existed within the current cloud apps like Dropbox, Sugarsync, Box. etc…. Could the eBooks on my Android device get pushed up to the cloud automatically and can they get automatically refreshed if the files changed in the cloud. No dice, while their PC apps did offer that feature, their Andoid clients did not.

The next step would be to look for any app that integrated with Dropbox, Sugarsync, Box, etc…. That’s where I struck gold!  An app, called DropSync, did just what I was looking for. This app allowed a user to synchronize all files within a directory on an Android device to one’s Dropbox account.  The app was written by a guy who was just as frustrated with the limitations of the Dropbox app as I was.  In particular, how Dropbox lacked the synchronization feature that existed with the desktop.

Like many apps on the Play market there is a fee version and a paid version.  The free version is a light version and has a few limits imposed by the developer. As of this writing, the limitations are as follows: you can only synchronize one directory, there is a size limit on synchronized files, and you can only use the default periodics to kick of the synchronization process. For the purpose of this article these limits do not affect us. However, I did purchase the license because I read large PDF files that do exceed the limit, also its nice to support the developer who created such a fine product. One thing I will add is this developer is very active and keeps his product up to date, something you don’t always see.

Apps you will need, for this tutorial, are all found in the Play store.  These apps are, Kindle for Android, DropBox, and DropSync.

 

 

HOW TO CONFIGURE:

1. Install the Kindle app to your Android device.
2. Login to your Kindle app and download a book, this will create the kindle directory on your Android device.
3. Install the Dropbox app.
4. Login to the Dropbox app(create an account if it’s your first time–that is a 5min. process.)
5. Download the Dropsync app.
6. Configure the app to sync with Dropbox. (see images).

 

Step 1: Link Dropbox with Dropsync

Step 1: Link Dropbox with Dropsync

Step 2: Accept the authentication, depress the "Allow" button.

Step 2: Accept the authentication, depress the “Allow” button.

Step 3: Read screen and hit the "Next" button

Step 3: Read screen and hit the “Next” button

Step 4: Select the Kindle folder

Step 4: Select the Kindle folder

Step 4-b: After selecting the Kindle directory in step 4, click the"Select" button.

Step 4-b: After selecting the Kindle directory in step 4, click the “Select” button.

Step 5: IMPORTANT this is on the Drop box Account. 1. Create a kindle directory. 2.Select the directory. 3. Depress the "Next" button.

Step 5: IMPORTANT this is on the Drop box Account. 1. Create a kindle directory. 2.Select the directory. 3. Depress the “Next” button.

Step 6: Setup is complete hit the "Done" button.

Step 6: Setup is complete hit the “Done” button.

 

And this is all there is too it. You will have to repeat steps 1-6 for every android device you wish to synchronize with.

7.(Optional)  You don’t need to install the desktop version to sync the devices but having the desktop makes it very easy to deploy files to all devices after you create the MOBI.

 

That’s all there is to it,

    Enjoy and keep reading.

 

Is the iPad the New Kindle?

Is the iPad the new kindle?  I can’t tell you how many times, while sitting in a public setting, how often my  nook is mistaken for an iPad.

I remember back when I would carry my SONY PRS-505 and be constantly asked if it was the kindle. Well time has passed and the kindle is not the new kid on the block.  And just like an old pair of sneakers the Kindle has been tossed out from the publics mind. Only to be replaced with the newest, hottest toy the iPad.

Maybe I’m a contrarian by nature, a rebel who must sport the device that goes against the grain. As I have chosen devices with no fame like the PRS 505 and for my newest aquisition it’s a nookCOLOR over the popular iPad. I like to believe that the real reason is because I make educated choices and buy the best devices at the best prices.

And so history repeats itself but the details are different. It’s not a SONY PRS 505 I’m rocking, it’s a nookCOLOR and folks are not asking if I’m reading with a Kindle but an iPad.  However the conversation is the same and so is the reaction.  Below is a reprint of the typical conversations.

The story goes like this:
“Wow! is a that an iPad.”

I look up, but I’m hesitant to say the truth for I know what is to come. But being earnest I’m compelled to answer truthfully. So I answer, “No it’s … “. I know the answer matters not, for as soon as they hear the word “no” the twinkle in their eye is gone; the excitement in their face disappear. I finish the sentence “… a nook. “

As if I dashed their dreams or shattered their hopes of exciting new frontier of gadgetry some folks quickly walk off.   Most do stick around for a a full explanation…politely smile and quickly scurry off.

I’m not sure what to make of this phenomenon, but only this.  The public mind and media only has appetite for a few high profile gadgets along with a short attention span.  So when all the hype is gone and a new toy is in the limelight and people no longer huddle around your eReader.  Ask yourself this, do you still enjoy your gadet and do you still use it daily?  If so I congratulate you for you have bought for your needs and not into the hype.

Seton Hall University in New Jersey will become the first university to roll out the brand new Android-based Lenovo ThinkPad

This fall Seton Hall University in New Jersey will become the first university to roll out the brand new Android-based Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet to faculty and students. (more…)

There have been several threads and even articles written on how much “serious” work can be done on tablets. I’ve always felt like most of the tablets today are content consumer driving and not for content production. My reasoning is simply because there is no efficient way to create content on tablets today. I don’t feel this will be the case in the future.

Personally I think Lenovo has taken a step in the right direction. It’s not like lenovo’s tablet is revolutionary, however it has the right technology at the right time.

A trend that I have been seeing from the School is providing online books and homework online, not just for the computer science crowd. Many schools are now pushing the instructors to provide grade status online and accept homework online. I think we are at the tipping point where mobile portable devices will start becoming a must and no longer a toy.

Lenovo has the right mix the pen technology is great for taking notes (image based or OCR your notes), the WI-FI is great for uploading notes and doing research. And the Battery life 8-10hrs makes it dependable enough that it will last you the whole day.</p>

How To Increase Battery Life on an Android Device

A few months back I had a co-worker come over to my desk and complain about his Android battery life(hold off before you agree).

He explained that after he rooted/ROMed his phone with CM7 he now has lost 10% battery over a 6hr period. I look at him and say your kidding right that’s great battery life. He retorts back by saying usually by the end of the day he’s usually down to 2%. That’s 98% battery life at the end of the day.

So being a good friend with an open mind, I call him crazy and dismiss his claim. So he comes back the next day during lunch to show me he’s only at 1%. Sure enough he is. We track down what he does and what settings he has and it comes down to a Data plan. He’s on a Pay as you go and disables his data plan.

So I’ve been running some test over the last two weeks to see what kind of battery life I get with my data on and with my data off.

DATA
Here is the result.

Data ON 4% per hr Data OFF 1/2 per hr

Heavy Data (streaming/surfing/mobile AP) 10%-15%

For the data results above I’ve used my phone under normal circumstances, as a productivity tool(calendar, mail, to-do list) and reading books.

It seems my battery life didn’t match his battery life, but my screen is twice the size of his phone. I’m thinking that plus I use my phone more than he does.

CONCLUSION
It seems my co-worker was on to something and addresses something most android users suffer from, huge battery drain. While it’s not always an option to disable the data plan. Knowing this little trick can help keep your phone alive for those moments when you don’t have readily access to a power outlet.

New Android Market Initial Review

WOW I am really impressed with the new market. I remember all the hype and excitement with the previous app and I was not impressed.

I really like the new market interface. It really makes use of all the space and gives you a good high level view of the important facts, screen shoot, rating, name. The layout is the same for books, movies, and apps.

As advertised the app is much faster than the old market. Searches can be applied on the Market, Books, Movies or across all three.

The new product pages, when you select the app/movie/book looks great. It is laid out very nicely makes great use of the screen both on my phone and nook.

The integration is fantastic, opening books is seamless. Google sync works better than any product I’ve seen. The wispersync is close but not as good. If only google ebooks was not utter garbage compared to moon/kindle I might be tempted to switch over.

I did not try the movies. I guess I cant get over the hump of paying $3-$4 to watch movie on my 4″ screen especially when most of those movies can be streamed through netflix. I’d rather put those funds to lunch or buying an app.

For those that are excited about the Movie feature and want to see it in action. Here is a review done by the folks at phandroid

Phandroid movie review

Adding eBook Search Engines to your Firefox Search Browser Plugins

General Add to search plug-in:

Some book stores have their own search engines, most don’t. Below I’ve provided some links, for those sites that don’t have their own no worries, the plug-in below let’s you make custom search engines on the fly with no code experience.  After installing just right click on the search field of the store website and select

“Add to search Bar” Plug-in

Inkmesh:

A very good price and book search engine for only eBooks and audio books.

On rare occasions, it does not always return the correct searches and prices, but is a great start when searching for a book. I usually follow up buy using a site specific search engine.

Inkmesh search engine

Fictionswise:

Great bookstore, using a combo of sales and micro-rebates this store can provide the most affordable prices to date.

Fictionwise Browser Plug-in

eReader.com:

Sister store of fictionwise. Great if you have a book or ereader app. Sales follow Fictionwise and sometimes are better

eReader.com Browser Plugin

Diesel eBooks:

Good selection equal to Booksonboard. Great alternative when price shopping. Customer support is reported to not be the best.

Diesel eBooks Browser plug-in

BooksOnBoard:

Great selection of books. They where one of the first stores to start start adopting ePUB.
I find they are too expensive for my taste. Ever since amazon opened their doors to the public I find I no longer buy from here.

BooksOnBoard Browser Plug-in