December 11, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
Every time we get a first-party app update from Google, it seems like Christmas a bit early. Today’s update to Google Play Books is no exception. The new update brings significant new functionality, as well as increased performance.
First and foremost, this new update brings the ability to manually upload your own EPUB and PDF files to the cloud, directly from your client device. It now works with the standard Android Intent system, and serve as a handler for those two file types. Once uploaded, the file can be viewed from any of your connected Google Play Books devices or any Internet-connected computers. While it’s not local file access, forcing users to use the cloud isn’t the worst thing in the world.
In addition to the app’s newly found upload abilities, the note taking UI is significantly improved. With the new update, you are now able to define your note colors and more easily get rid of them. Furthermore, the app has also been optimized to more quickly and smoothly open your books.
Aside from these major changes, a few other minor modifications were made. As seen in the changelog on the Google Play listing:
- Books open more quickly and smoothly.
- Upload EPUB or PDF files to your library from your phone or tablet. From email or Downloads, touch the file to open it and choose Upload to Play Books.
- Improved look and feel of highlights and notes.
- Lower brightness settings, for better reading in low light.
- Read any book in landscape view.
- Dismiss recommended books in Read Now.
- Additional improvements in performance, stability and accessibility.
Naturally, you can wait for the staged rollout and/or install the app manually from Google Play. Luckily, however, users can sideload the update a bit early thanks to the fine folks over at AndroidPolice in the Via link below.
What are your thoughts on the PDF/EPUB upload feature? Would you have rather had native PDF/EPUB support without having to rely on the cloud? have you tried the new note taking UI? We’re interested in hearing your thoughts in the comments section below!
Increasing speed and efficiency is a normal process in our modern world. We have many things to do and only a little time to finish everything. That’s why applications like Tasker or Llama are so popular. It’s not new that Android devices are used as some sort of electronic calendars where you can write everything down.
If you are a part of the team or like to share a lot with your friends, you should take a look at an application by XDA Forum Member pytel. He created an app to help you with your to-do list. As an added feature, you can share your tasks with your friends or colleagues thanks to synchronization with your Google account. Tasks together can be quite useful either in personal life or as part of a group. You won’t forget to buy a milk with it, and neither will your comrades. The application can also use your GPS to notify you about upcoming tasks when you enter a predefined location.
If you are interested in finding an application to make your life a bit easier and more organized, Tasks Together might be an interesting option to check. Please visit the application thread to try the newest version.
December 11, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
Just yesterday, we talked about how the Google Chromecast just got a whole lot more useful thanks to ten new supported applications. Well as it turns out, that’s not all that’s going on in the Chromecast world. An update has actually been in the process of rolling out ever since last Tuesday, and it is now finally starting to make its way to most devices.
The new build comes in at version 14651 (replacing 13300), and it brings many new features. While the update bills itself as a bugfix release that also brings a new home screen, it seems to pack quite a bit more. XDA Senior Member ddggttff3 detailed some of the changes in this post:
Trust me, its more then a bug update So far the biggest notable changes:
- Support for new Chromecast V2 API
- New Homescreen/Images
- Initial support for some sort of “screen sharing” protocol
And lots of other little things here and there.
The new API, as well as the initial screen sharing support make it quite an interesting update. Though it is curious that many of these updates have not been officially disclosed.
Those who just want to look at the pretty pictures can do so by visiting this link, which was discovered by XDA Forum Member celebi23 in this thread. That link cycles through all of the pictures in a nice, pleasing slide show.
Has your Chromecast received the 14651 update? If so, how do you like it? The prospect of a new update, as well as the ten new supported apps, may just make me take mine out of the cabinet and connect it to my AV system again. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
[Source: Google Chrome Blogspot]
December 10, 2013 By: Jimmy McGee
In the world of cars, there are enthusiasts who push the limits way beyond what the manufacturers originally intended. This can be accomplished many ways, from a blown Chevy to Japanese ecobox with a body kit and a forced induction 4-cylinder engine. Of course we shall not cast stones from our glass houses, and we soup up our Android devices
In this episode of XDA Xposed Tuesday, XDA Developer TV Producer TK reviews Android Tuner. XDA Senior Member 3c created this Xposed Module to allow you tweak and tune the performance of your Android device. TK shows off the module and shares his thoughts, so check out this app review.
December 9, 2013 By: eagleeyetom
Recently, we’ve covered dozens of amazing Xposed modules. This isn’t going to change any time soon, as amazing modules are created almost every day, and it’s really hard to envision an end of this amazing phenomenon.
XDA Senior Member MohammadAG created a module to replace the indeterminate progress bar with a smoother variant. The progress bar that I’m writing about can be seen while loading Internet pages in the web browser or syncing a new account.
The developer replaced it with one similar to what is currently used in Gmail application when the messages are refreshed. MohammadAG presented the difference in a .GIF] animation, which can be found in this post.
The project is open source, so it allows other developers to contribute the code and make it even better. As you can see, Xposed Framework can be used to port some great functions like in GravityBox, but also for theming. That only proves how innovative this technology is.
If you use Xposed Framework and want to change some animations in your current ROM, make your way to the module thread and give it a try.
With official and unofficial Android 4.4 KitKat roms appearing on a fair amount of devices in the Android world, both the new and the old, it’s with no doubt that many of you are wondering when your device will get to experience the newest flavor of Android. Owners of newer devices likely have the assurance that their respective OEMs will introduce Android 4.4 sooner or later. But for many people, this isn’t the case. With this in mind, people look towards the alternative: AOSP-based source-built aftermarket ROMs.
This is why the ‘Porting AOSP Roms using source code’ tutorial on XDA University is a great starting place, especially for beginners who are willing to learn the ‘behind-the-scenes.’ The tutorial lists all the necessary tools and pre-requisites such as a Github account and an Android development environment, and does a great job covering the steps of the porting process. From helping you navigate Github the very first time you visit the page, to cloning repositaries, to vendor trees, helpful screenshots and images accompany the steps, providing welcomed visual aid to the learning process.
Of course, if you do come across issues or have questions to ask, we encourage you to refer to the wealth of guides written by XDA forum members and made available to all on the XDA forums. If your issue is device-specific or you can’t find a remedy, ask the community in the respective forums for the best chance of help.
If you would like to get started, head over to XDA University for the complete tutorial.
December 9, 2013 By: eagleeyetom
XDA is the place where many amazing projects start. We have seen the first Android builds for the HTC HD2, first root on many devices, and many other epic projects. That’s why we are calling XDA a place for developers, by developers. A few days ago we talked about about JDroidLib, which was meant to improve the communication between PC and phone. Now it’s time to highlight another amazing piece of work.
XDA Recognized Developer AChep (Artem Chepurnoy) wrote a library to replicate the effect seen in Google Music and other Google applications. In these apps, the image visible on top of the screen becomes less visible while scrolling down. Achep was kind enough to demonstrate the functionality of his library on YouTube in order to allow everyone to see the library in action. You can also download a sample app to check it on your own.
This library can be used to improve the aesthetics of Android apps. The library is available for Android 4.0+ (master branch) and 2.1+ (android-support). Now it’s up to app developers to see Header2ActionBar in action.
The library is an open source project and doesn’t contain a binary file. If you are interested in the project, go to the original thread to learn more. You can also contribute to the project by submitting a pull request.
I surely don’t have to mention that AOSP Android lacks a solid File Manager. That’s why users are forced to download external applications from the Play Store or XDA to get this functionality. Most of them are closed source and lack root privileges, so modifications are almost impossible without working some smali magic. Luckily, there are some interesting new offerings on the market.
XDA Forum Member anurag.dev1512 put his efforts to create an open source file manager with many cool features. In addition to the standard tasks that file manager should do, File Quest has some unique options. First of them is transparency, which makes it look quite different than most file managers. Superuser support gives an ability to modify the /system partition. But of course, your device must be rooted to provide full shell functionality. File Quest is still in the development, and many of features will be added in time. Being an open source projects has its perks as well, as people can contribute the code and make this project even better.
XDA has always supported open source projects. That’s why File Quest should be an interesting option for all Android enthusiast. If you are looking for a solid file manager, go to the application thread and give it a shot. Don’t hesitate to contribute to the project as well.
December 8, 2013 By: eagleeyetom
As many of you undoubtedly know, Android is built atop the Linux kernel. This means that most of the commands known from Linux can be used in terminal emulator or adb shell. It’s a limited list, however, as Linux offers a more extensive stock set of commands as well as easily addable external modules.
Unfortunately, Android doesn’t support so many commands, but this can be easily changed thanks to XDA Forum Member jaromil.rojo, who ported the ZSh to Android. ZSh is a shell designed for interactive use, although it is also a powerful scripting language. It gives an ability to use a lot of external commands on our device. As of now ZShaolin supports following projects:
And smaller tools like:
As you can see, it’s a powerful tool that allows you to do things such as push your repo to Github or even decode a movie on Android. Everything can be done on an unrooted device, which makes this app even cooler. Jaromil.rojo compiled the app by using his own toolchains, but the project is open source, so everyone can build it and add his or her own code contributions. Most of the features are available in free version, which lacks binaries for ImageMagick, FFmpeg, Vim fully featured, Emacs, RSync, and more ASCII games. If you want to use ZShaolin for those services, consider supporting the developer with the premium version.
ZShaolin is a small, but yet powerful application. So if you are looking for a tool to give you access to many services on your Android device, make your way to the application thread and get the newest APK.
For many, Tasker is a big part of their smartphone or smart-gadget experience, offering the flexibility to perform a wide range of tasks with simplicity and ease. In fact, it’s usefulness and practicality has been covered numerous times on the XDA Portal and video series.
With this in mind, it’s obvious that the next logical step in the Tasker journey is integration with the smartwatch world. This is especially true, considering the increasing amount of rumours in the past year of big OEMs working on ‘the next big thing,’ and with Sony and Samsung both releasing their own take on the wearable device concept, namely the Sony Smartwatch 2 and the Samsung Galaxy Gear.
One example of this is the Tasker extension for the Sony Smartwatch 2 developed by XDA Forum Member babanomania. Once installed on your connected phone or tablet, the app allows you to conveniently see the Tasker tasks you have on your device, as well as execute them with only a couple simple swipes and taps—very useful, especially when on a watch. The extension is open source as well, so you can tinker with it if you feel the extension is missing something.
If you would like to give this a whirl, check out the original thread for more information.
December 8, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Despite its limitations, the Google Chromecast is a great little device for its paltry $35 asking price. However, it’s certainly not perfect, and one of the main limitations is in the limited number of content providers.
Those lucky enough to have rooted their device before the first OTA blocked the root method have some fun options to play around with such as a custom ROM and the like. But those who received the automatic OTA before getting a chance to root are unfortunately out of luck.
Now, it appears as if new first party functionality is coming soon to the device. This comes in the form of two new APIs new to Android 4.4.1: CAPTURE_SECURE_VIDEO_OUTPUT and CAPTURE_VIDEO_OUTPUT. These APIs will only be available to Google and OEMs, presumably for copyright-related reasons. And if that’s the case and proprietary DRM is used, this means that the previously covered Cheapcast and other Chromecast emulators will probably not work.
Regardless of the issues, this is very good news for Chromecast owners. Since the cheapest Miracast receivers are approximately twice as expensive as the Chromecast, this could be quite useful for budget-conscious users looking to mirror their Android devices onto the big screen.
This, along with rumors of a Nexus TV, has us excited to see what Google has in store for the living room in the months to come! What are your thoughts? Do you own a Chromecast? Do you actually use it, or is it just needlessly sagging the HDMI ports on your TV, preamp-processor, or A/V Receiver? Let us know in the comments below!
December 7, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
Remember that ambitious modular smartphone platform project that Motorola announced a little over a month ago? Despite the backing from Motorola and now a 3D Printing hardware manufacturing partner, many have written off Project Ara as technically improbable and realistically impossible. Well, perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to downplay this potential game-changer.
According to Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside, Project Ara is very much real. So real, in fact, that Dennis stated in an interview with YouTuber Marques Brownlee that a working prototype is just around the corner. While not much was revealed about the device will function, he reiterated the goals of the project:
There is a prototype, and it is pretty close. The idea is you have a skeleton that holds together a set of components, and the components slide in and out. If we have the interfaces and the protocols that enable the speaker to speak directly to the CPU, then this would all be possible.
While vague, this hints at an interface protocol in the MDK, which will be used to standardize all input directly interface with the device processor. Unfortunately, no such standardized protocol currently exists, so there are some large technical hurdles to be overcome. Furthermore, with modularity and standardized interfaces generally comes added bulk. And given recent hipster trends, an extra millimeter or a fruity logo can mean the difference between a device that is considered cool and one that is not.
In addition to the technical challenges, the rest of the increasingly disposable mobile technology industry may not be ready to adopt a user-upgradeable and user-serviceable alternative. This could potentially limit OEM and ODM adoption, as well as keep prices prohibitively high.
Finally, Dennis Woodside also briefly touched upon the success of Moto Maker for the Moto X, and the consumer demand for customizable devices. As such, it’s not unreasonable to anticipate that if and when Ara comes to fruition, it will be launched through Moto Maker. As stated by Dennis:
Moto Maker was the beginning of a more exciting and longer term story, which is how do we involve consumers and give them more choice. Ara is much further out, but you can see how those two things tie together and how as we introduce new materials into Moto Maker we’re gonna pursue that theme across our product line going forward.
What we’d like to eventually get to is functionality within the device, and that’s where Project Ara and Moto Maker may converge.
What are your thoughts on Project Ara? Are you hopeful about its potential or are you too skeptical that its lofty goals will see fruition. Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below, and also be sure to make your way over to the MDK Hacking and Discussion forum to get in on the MDK action.
The full interview can be found below, and it is definitely worth your watch if you have any interest in the future of Google-owned Motorola, its upcoming products, or Project Ara and customizable smartphones.
I am, and have always been, an early adopter of a lot of things, particularly when it comes to technology. My cell phone voyage started back in the year 2000 with a Nokia 5110. Back then, only a handful of people had phones, and seeing someone on the street with one was a somewhat rare sight. Nowadays, the same cannot be said. Cell phones have become a massive commodity—one that gets a lot of attention, and certainly one that is likely one of the most profitable industries in the world today (in the tech sector anyways).
Every Joe Schmuck and Jane Doe sport the latest Galaxy devices or one of Apple’s latest iconic iPhones (just to mention a few manufacturers). Sure, they all have a somewhat interesting appeal, and many of them are loaded with more unique functions and capabilities that (in theory) make life a lot easier. However, looking at the overall market and trying to overlay an innovation line through the timeline from the early 2000′s (when Nokia reigned supreme) ’til today, we can easily notice a few trends that are worrying and don’t necessarily correlate with what anyone would expect from “progress” or “development.”
Going back to the very beginning of my article, I mentioned owning a dinosaur of a phone, the Nokia 5110. The device was a jewel, and it did exactly what it needed to do (and far more). The device was relatively cheap to get with a 2-3 year agreement. So, the device manufacturer (again, in this particular case, Nokia) knew that in order to have a good customer base, the devices needed to last that long. After all, not everyone could spend $400-600 USD on a phone upgrade while still being locked in the middle of a contract, nor were they willing to do so either.
Nokia designed the 5100 series with a few crucial engineering concepts in mind: good battery, reliable, easy to service, and durable. I had my device for the length of my contract before I decided to upgrade (mainly due to swapping carriers). I have to admit that it must have been one of the best cell phones I have ever had the pleasure of using. Not because of the usage per se, but rather how the device gave me 0 issues in the course of 3 years of ownership. Needless to say, the thing was built to last, as the body was virtually indestructible (exaggerating a tad here, but it was a tough device). When I upgraded, I went with a Nokia 8210. They had done a good job because with their mindset, they created a device that prompted me to want to see what else they could come up a few years down the line—all that without compromising my ability to enjoy the one I currently had. Ah, those were the days.
Fast forward to 2007 (big jump, I know). The iPhone was released and the (back then) current king of smartphones, Windows Mobile HTC devices and Blackberry, were dethroned. Because of silly mistakes, loads of bugs, and a simple yet effective marketing strategy to get people to buy more, the iPhone 1G sees a successor not much later down the line. Seeing how many other manufacturers were now jumping into the bandwagon, stable and decent cell phone manufacturers saw themselves in dire need to release more products in a shorter timespan. This was primarily done to keep up with their competitors, who were quickly gaining market share due to shorter intervals between new products. The next thing that happened (and still does to this day), new models are released every 6-9 months, each one promising to be “better” than their predecessor(s). This last statement is the cornerstone of this entire article. Why are manufacturers releasing devices that are NOT designed to be the best they have to offer? It isn’t that they develop new tech for newer versions. Rather, they make enough (in)significant changes to the existing one, such that it can be labeled the “next best thing.”Does any of this sound familiar?
I myself am an engineer, as many of you are as well (or studying to become). It honestly makes my blood boil when I consider the engineering teams behind the product development of some of these devices. No longer are devices durable. Rather, they have gone entirely to the other end of the spectrum and have become practically disposable. I simply cannot believe that a $500-1000 USD item becomes “irreparable.” Product design basics dictate that any engineered product is designed to have a certain life expectancy under normal conditions, tear, and wear, and even leave some leeway for accidents. If products need repair, they should be perfectly serviceable by the manufacturer without having to charge the consumer exorbitant amounts of money to get the product back in working order. Needless to say, whenever a phone does break this day and age, sending it in for repairs is a fruitless ordeal due to the fact that more often than not, the device will be deemed as “not repairable” due to directions coming from engineering design teams.
Make the world a better place through the application of science? That is what product engineering should be about. Squeezing every last drop of sweat over your own design and making sure that you put your very best efforts into making something that people will have for years (not months) to come is what every engineering company should strive for. Unfortunately, this was quickly replaced with “ooh, look how shiny this new toy is,” which is then followed by “oh, your old one? pfft That is so 3 months ago…. you won’t get two pennies for it on eBay, and don’t even think about repairing it.”
We as consumers have allowed these companies to throw basic engineering practices out the window so that they can squeeze more juice out of us. Now, I have no issues with companies trying to make money. Hell, that is what they do after all. But when greed takes over your most basic principles, I simply have no sympathy. I still recall our friend XDA Senior Recognized Developer AdamOutler doing an unboxing of the new Droid Razr when it came out. His words have been stuck in my head ever since. “Motorola made this device to be disposable.” Why? What was the point of making the device “disposable?” Why did such an important part of engineering a new product (ease of service) gets tossed aside like this? Would it kill you to make your device fixable? Another example: I tried to fix the digitizer of my HTC Titan a few days ago, but ended up destroying the LCD entirely. Why would there be any need to superglue both LCD and digitizer and superglue that combo to the device’s body? To keep them in place you say? There are small, low profile screws that will do the job just as well without jeopardizing the serviceability of the device or its overall design (read: they will not make it any thicker).
The entire world has been sucked into a game that the companies play on a large scale. They are trying to see just how much they can shove down our throats, all while expending the least amount of effort in doing so. These practices not only have the effects mentioned earlier, but they can also have dangerous consequences (bulging exploding battery of SGS2 devices anyone?). The core activities here on XDA-Developers actually somewhat put a damper on this, as the allure of “a new OS version exclusive to a device” is now mitigated. But unfortunately, software is just but a small part of the overall equation.
Next time you are out there shopping for a cell phone, just think about a very important thing that goes beyond specs or pretty colors. Just think about how well the product you are about to purchase was engineered. Let that be your deciding factor, and don’t simply fall in line with the rest of the masses who will jump at anything shiny like fish in heat. There are manufacturers out there that still care about trying to keep their core engineering values. To these companies, kudos. To the ones like HTC, which used to be like this (my HTC Wallaby that I bought in 2003 and that has been through hell and back still works), look at your early years and try again. Get off the path you are in right now because you will lose this race. And to the companies that simply don’t give two flying feathers about engineering, progress, and making the world a better place (looking at you Apple), I sincerely hope that your lack of engineering values comes back with a vengeance and bites you where the sun doesn’t shine.
If I have to choose between a phone that is 0.0001 mm thick but that will break upon looking at it without any way to fix it or my old 5110, I’ll take my old Nokia any day of the week. At least, that has engineering at heart.