How to get a replacement Belt Clip for the ‘obsolete’ Driod.

18 01 2011

If you own the original Droid, getting accessories has become more difficult. Verizon do not stock accessories for the Droid now that they no longer sell the phone. (They now sell the Droid X or Droid 2). This is a little frustrating since I am still under contract for another 8 months, not stocking accessories for phones less than 2 years old and still under contract leaves the customer at sea.

I recently broke my belt clip and looked for a cheaper generic belt clip. I soon found they often use a magnet to hold them closed, which puts the Droid into driving or desktop modes. So I tried the local Verizon store only to be told I was out of luck, they no longer sell Droid accessories.

I was about to leave the store when I noticed a Droid 2 belt clip. I enquired if it would fit. ‘No’ was the answer, ‘the Droid 2 has buttons in a different location’. I asked if could try and soon discovered the holster fits the original Droid like a glove. It is the front and rear snap on components that don’t fit the original Droid. My belt clip was broken at the holster, the snap on components are just fine and match the new holster both in color and design.

Problem solved.

Don’t readily accept a no from a Verizon sales rep, they only want to sell new stuff. I won’t sign a two year contract again either. A one year contract is plenty long enough given the pace of change in the smart phone marketplace and the rapid abandonment of the products by all involved

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New Kindle Owner – Week 2

22 09 2010

Reading Experience

I’ve read a fictional novel in the past week and have started to read a non-fictional book. It was great for the Kindle system to keep my place in the books and be able to easily switch between my Kindle and my android phone and pickup where I left off on the other device. I did not use my PC’s to do any reading last week. It is neat to see your progression through a book represented as percentage complete.

I found if light got low and a reading light was not readily available, switching to the droid allowed for low light reading. I didn’t do this often, most of the time I had enough light to read by, as one would with a physical book. The automatic bookmark synchronization between devices was very convenient. I never lost my place once :-)

Why I chose the Kindle in the first place

Amazon Kindle

Several of my blog readers asked me to compare the Kindle to the Nook. I don’t have a Nook but will share with you  my reasoning for picking the Kindle over the other e-book readers on the market. I was looking for an e-ink device so will not compare to the iPad in this analysis.

In my opinion the front runners in the e-book reading marketplace are the Kindle and the Nook. The Kobo and Sony are e-ink readers but I quickly eliminated them from my choices available based on the market share they have and reviews about them I had read online. The Kobo got poor reviews and the Sony I saw in Office Depot and did not like how it handled or looked.

The Nook and Kindle are both backed by large libraries of e-books, and both offer free classics.

B&N Nook

The Nook has some unique and interesting features that make it very attractive.

  • Free assistance from employees at Barnes & Noble stores
  • Read any e-book for free for one hour while at a Barnes & Noble store.
  • Color touchscreen book covers and menus, (book text is black & white).
  • Ability to ‘lend or borrow’ books between Nook friends, restricted to 14 day loan period.
  • Reasonable quantity of  Text Books in e-book format.
  • Extend-able memory through Micro-SD Memory slot.
  • EPub ‘open’ e-book format supported.
  • Runs on open source Android operating system, a true computer OS.

The Kindle 3 also has some unique features.

  • WhisperSync – keeps your place between reading devices (Nook website says ‘coming soon’).
  • Integration and account synchronization with Audible.com audio book library.
  • WebKit based browser which results in great web page rendering.
  • Extraordinary battery life – one month without wireless.
  • Lightest e-book reader in its class.
  • Free 3g web browsing.

The Nook features are very strong and technically it probably is the better reader, so why did I choose the Kindle over the Nook?

The two clinchers for me were

  1. The Financial solidity of Amazon. With e-books they are stored by the host company in a library. You can download from the library to your device. If you lose your device or it breaks, the books you purchased are still with the host company and available for download again. Barnes & Noble are unprofitable and in August 2010 put themselves up for sale. What will the future of the B&N e-book library be? No one can know and the uncertainty of this makes me skittish about putting dollars into a library of books I may lose control / access to in the not to distant future.
  2. Integration with Audible.com. I have been an Audible subscriber for 6 months or more and have quite a collection of audio books. These are instantly available on the Kindle because Amazon own Audible.com. I have listened to some of my audio books on the Kindle and they play as well as any MP3 player I have. For now one still has to buy audio and e-books separately and could end up paying twice. I am hopeful, as Amazon continue to integrate Audible into the Kindle ecosystem that a single payment will give access to both formats.

Had Barnes & Noble been more financially stable, my choice would have been much closer.

Books Read last week

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larrson. Murder Mystery fictional book. Highly recommended

Lies, Damn Lies and Science – Sherry Seethaler – Non fictional – Not enough read to recommend.

Oh yeah and I read the Kindle Users Guide :-)





Froyo Woes – Maps and Pandora

7 09 2010

Google Maps navigation voice prompts stops Pandora music playing!

The Android 2.2 update has brought many good things to the Droid user, however I discovered recently that since the 2.2 update Maps does not play nicely with Pandora anymore. While getting audible directions while navigating I used to enjoy Pandora, maps would simply mute Pandora while it spoke its directions. Now Maps paues Pandora and Pandora eventually dies, requiring a restart.

The problem is definitely a result of the Android update, I found an official Google support forum where many hundreds of users complained of the same issue. Apparently the issues affects the stock media player as well.

Let’s hope a fix is in the works – soon.

Update October 3rd 2010 – Recent updates to both Pandora and Google Maps seem to have resolved this annoying issue. Now I can both navigate and listen to my favorite music channel  on my Droid once again.





Transfer Audible.com content to Droid

22 04 2010

Audible.com have been slow to provide an Android application for their service. Audible .aa files are DRM protected and will not play natively on android phones. As a paying subscriber it can frustrating to pay for an audible book and not be able to listen to it on the primary device you own.

There is a way to convert Audible .aa DRM protected files to MP3 using iTunes and a program called NoteBurner. NoteBurner is free to try and costs $35 for the un-crippled version. The quality of the converted mp3’s is awesome.

The process is fairly straightforward, however I have found a few glitches in the NoteBurner software that requires some tweaking to get it to work reliably. It’ll take 5 minutes to setup the first time, but conversion thereafter is just a few clicks.

Initial Setup

  • You need to register your Audible content to work with iTunes.
  • Then download NoteBurner, I suggest you use the free version to prove it will work on your setup. (Some Mac users have complained the software is unreliable on that platform).
  • Open the Noteburner control panel and change the MP3 quality from 160 Bits/sec down to 96, this will make the process more reliable and the spoken word does not require high bit rate for  quality result.

    Click to Enlarge

  • Setup the naming of files to be album /number/artist / title so the ‘track number’ is attached to the begging of the file name, this is important if NoteBurner splits the audio into separate segments, which it will for longer audio tracks.

    Click to enlarge

How to Convert aa  file(s)to MP3 file(s)

  • In iTunes you add the audible content to a play-list and click on ‘burn’ as if you are going to burn the content to a CD.
  • In iTunes select the NoteBurner virtual CD Burner instead of your CD drive. I elected to do volume leveling with no gap between tracks. Be sure to tell iTunes to include CD text.
  • Once you click OK to begin the burn process, iTunes does a preparation step prior to beginning the actual burn process. During the burning process you will see a NoteBurner progress bar pop-up out of the notification tray showing progress.

N.B. Audible.com content can only be burned to a CD once, if you make a misstep or a problem comes up you will not be able to repeat the conversion. So do not do other tasks on the computer they may interrupt the operation. Experiment with free content from Audible first before converting paid for content on audible. I have successfully transferred the New York Times daily digest (complementary content) from iTunes podcast to my droid to listen to during my morning commute. The audio quality is awesome.

Transfer considerations to the Droid

I have found NoteBurner splits up the audio into 7 minute and 30 second  segments. If you had NoteBurner put a track number on the beginning of each file then when you transfer the files to the droid they will be sequenced perfectly. I have found the transition from one segment to another is almost transparent, sometimes you hear a click as it goes onto the next track, other times it goes unnoticed.

Can you do this without forking out the $35 for NoteBurner?

Yes. Instead of burning to MP3 via NoteBurner, burn directly to a physical CD-R, you can now play this in a CD player.  This is less convenient, but the advantage is that one now has a physical backup of ones ‘paid for’ content.

Is this Legal/Moral/within Audible Terms of Service?

Probably so. My answer is prefaced by the statement that I’m not a lawyer and don’t pretend to know copyright law, the laws where you live will no doubt vary. Here is my take on using this tool.

  • The Audible content has been paid for on Audibles website using a web browser and subsequently downloaded using Audibles download tool.
  • I’m keeping the content to myself. Nothing is being sold, shared or given away.
  • iTunes is authorized for use with Audible content.
  • Burning Audible content to a CD device using iTunes is not only provided for by Audible, they encourage its customers to backup their paid for content. Here is an excerpt of their terms of service.
    • Accordingly, we encourage you to make back-up copies of purchased Audible Content as referenced above.
  • Once I have listened to the content on my Droid I delete it.

Could you have your Audible account canceled by doing this? Quite possibly, Audible reserve the right to cancel the agreement whenever it suits them.

I look forward to the day when there is an Audible application for the Droid to make all of this extra effort and expense unnecessary.

Update: 2010-09-08: Hooray!!!  The official Audible app is now available in the Android Market!! Read more here.






Time to Swarm the Country Music Marathon

12 04 2010

Foursquare is a relatively new mobile social networking tool, aimed at smart phone users. The concept is that you ‘check-in’ to a venue on the Foursquare app on your phone and you can get discounts or coupons from the venue if you meet some criteria set by the venue. (See the end of this post for an update).

One also finds out if any of your friends recently checked into the same venue, or you can search the locale you are in to see which places your friends are currently at.

‘Badges’ are awarded to Foursquare users as a motivator to use their service more. You can get badges for achieving certain milestones in your Foursquare journey’s. Foursquare make many of these milestones obvious and achievable, but many badges are either ‘hidden’ or difficult to earn and are considered to be coveted by those that can earn them.

One badge that is clear but difficult to earn is the ‘swarm badge’, it is earned when 50 or more people are checked-in to the same place at roughly the same time. Big venues and events are where one can earn such a badge. Hey, fellow country music marathon runners/walkers/spectators, we have the perfect opportunity to earn a ‘swarm badge‘ by checking into several checkpoints as marathon participants and spectators. I have setup in Foursquare all the main milestones for the Country Music Half Marathon, i.e. Start line, each mile marker and the finish line. (Search for marathon and you’ll see them on Foursquare).

Click to Enlarge

Let’s check into all of these as we go around the half marathon and hopefully 50 or more of us will pass that way at roughly the same time and earn us all this difficult to achieve badge. Plus we can share in real-time ‘unofficial’ times as we pass each mile marker, so our friends and family can see our progress on the marathon as it occurs.

Even more coveted is the ‘Super Swarm’ badge where 250 or more check-in at the same location. Not sure there are 250 Foursquare users registered for the marathon. Consider it our ‘stretch goal’ :-)

You are coming to the Country Music Marathon on April 24th this year but you don’t have Foursquare on your phone? Well get it and sign up!! It is free and available for iPhone, Android and Blackberry devices.

Update: 2010-04-16

Today (April 16th) was Foursquare day and there was an attempt by Nashville Foursquare users to earn the ‘swarm badge’. Unfortunately we fell short with just 33 simultaneous folks checked in at the Parthenon. Let’s see if we can do better on the 24th. You will need your cell phone with the Foursquare application installed and signed in. (Click here for details).

SWARM DETAILS

Between 7am-8am on the the 24th April 2010 check-in at the following ‘start-line’ venue created just for the marathon.

http://foursquare.com/venue/2063149 (This is near Centennial Park)

Between 1pm-2pm on the the 24th April 2010 check-in at the following ‘finish line’ venue craeted just for the marathon.

http://foursquare.com/venue/2312039 (This is at the Titans Stadium)





Skype on Android / Verizon = Crippleware

27 03 2010

At long last Skype is available on my Droid!!!! The news on the new app is Good, Bad and Ugly.

Click to enlarge

The Good.

  1. Cheap calls to international destinations directly from your cell phone. This is Huge!
  2. Skype calls do not use any of your wireless plan minutes. Yak all day long if you want to! Especially useful for those long tech support calls to 1-800 numbers during peak hours.
  3. All of your Skype contacts are automatically imported/synced when you sign-in to Skype.
  4. Contact presence is indicated. The online contacts filter to the top of the list, just like with the desktop application.
  5. Call Quality is good.
  6. It’s available at last – Yippee!!!

The Bad Read the rest of this entry »





Google Maps 4.0 OTA update available for Droid

11 02 2010

I got an Over the Air update this morning on my Droid for Google Maps. The new version is 4.0, just last week we got version 3.4 which added multi-touch.

3.4 to 4.0 sounds like a significant jump, however the only new feature I could find was an additional map layer that is integrated with Google s new social networking product, Buzz.

Multi-touch was a huge usability improvement and got no mention from Google, it was just slipped in. Clearly they are jazzed about buzz at Google. I’ve got one follower on Buzz and automatically was made follower of 12 others. Looks like Google are going after twitter with the way the Buzz network is setup. Is buzz a twitter killer? I don’t think so (just yet) because it integrates with Twitter, right now I view it more as a supplement to twitter and other social micro blogging. It maybe a freindfeed killer.