Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Its been a while ...

    Yes, I have been away from the blog for a few days and I do apologize. My birthday was over the weekend and I enjoyed it immensely. There was no cake, no ice cream, no fanfare. No, instead I chose to just have a really great day with my family. But I digress, I promised I wouldn't get too personal on this blog. So there it is, I am a year older now. On to the post at hand.

    While I was away from the blog I found a great way to take screenshots of my Android phone. With one tiny app that requires no additional software on my Mac I can now take screen shots with my web browser like this one:

 
    The Android app is called PicMe and is available in the Android Market. It does require "root" to use. Their are other "non-root user" ways to take a screen shot, even get live video of your phone working. I merely had no intention of installing the Android Development Kit and other pieces of software on my Mac to get it done. I wanted a nice simple solution, and this is the one I have found that works for me.


    I suppose a little bit of background on my phone is in order. I am currently using the first generation Moto-Droid. I have had this phone nearly two years, yet I am not eligible for an upgrade from Verizon until January 12th of next year. Both Verizon and Motorola have stopped supporting this device as of a few weeks ago, changing its status to "end of life." Creepy eh? Its like they tried to kill it.

    Still, I cannot "upgrade" without paying out loads of cash that I don't have. For the time being at least I am stuck with this phone. Well, stuck isn't quite right either. I still like this phone. What I have done instead of spending a great wad of cash is to "root" the device. For the less-than-geeky of the world, that is the same as running in "administrator mode" on Windows. Now I have access to everything in the system, including the entire file system. I can now remove those pesky apps that come with the phone that no one ever uses, so I did. Goodbye Amazon MP3! I also upgraded to the latest version of the Android OS, Gingerbread, also called 2.3.4. By upgrading manually and gaining this "root access" I have been able to "overclock" my phone to an amazing 1.3GHz, though I currently have it set to 1.1GHz for better battery life. The stock speed is a mere 600MHz, or 0.6GHz.  Basically,  I have nearly doubled the speed; I made it twice as fast.

    So what does all this mean and why should anyone care? Well, you don't have to care, but what it means is I can now use my phone, and keep updating until I am eligible for an upgrade. I have extended the life of the phone so that it stills feel new(ish) and fresh. It can even run most of the newer games in the Marketplace.

    If you happen to have a "newer" phone with decent graphics you may want to check out Claystone. Claystone is newer launcher available from the Android Market that is essentially a new "Home Screen".

    Using the PicMe app I took the following screenshots:
    The animations in this thing are just amazing, and now that I have sped up my processor and have the latest system updates, it runs very smooth indeed. It has an unlimited number of "screens" or "panels" or whatever you want to call them. You can add or remove them as you see fit. Really though, you should checkout the Android Market listing or the Claystone homepage to watch a video on it. It really is very nice. They also say it will work nicely on an Android Tablet, but I don't have one so I can't say.

    It is, however, less than perfect. Such as, there seem to be no way in which to re-order the "panels". This would be a great, even necessary, feature as it seems to always default to the "top most" panel when returning to the home screen. Also, use of the "padlock" icon on the top left is a bit confusing at first. When you select it, it turns red as you can see here:

    Notice the fourth choice near the bottom of the screen. This is the "contacts" panel. What the padlock does, is pre-open the panel, loads all of the data into it that it needs, then leaves it there to do nothing. I selected my contacts to do nothing, great. With the padlock off, it pre-opens the panel, loads all of the data into it that it needs, then brings it to the front. Wow! I clicked something and made it work! That is amazing!

    I really don't see the purpose of this "padlock." It lets you get ready to do something, without actually doing it. I am sure there is some reason someone may want to open a bunch of data and even applications without actually using them, using the resources that all of that requires and thus slowing down your phone. I just can't figure out why anyone would want to do that. This "padlock" feature needs to be re-tasked or removed. Using it to stop changes from being made to that particular panel would be a better, more intuitive use of it than to pre-open data.

    Overall I would give this home launcher 4.5 stars if could. Since the Android Market only works in whole numbers I will give it five stars. This is because even with its shortcomings, it is far and away better than any of the "launcher" apps currently in the Marketplace, and this one is free.

    Most sites would tell you that you should never root a device or you will void your warranty. I say root away! Have fun with your devices! Chances are they will be outdated before you are allowed to upgrade anyway, like mine!