Alert readers will note that none of those services have an M. Hopefully that helps drive home that none of them are yet mobile friendly.
I can almost give Microsoft a pass given how recently they introduced the mobile version of their service, but Dropbox has been around forever and Google is the owner of Android for goodness sake.
In Dropbox you still (several years after the request was first made) can not favorite a directory - only individual files. Nice way to eat through a chunk of data having to call the file down again and again. Also I have not been able to figure a way to get Dropbox to let me use an external program to open the images short of exporting them (one by one) to my SD card.
Google Drive gives you more options for syncing, but does try to convert most files (yes you can override, but that is it's own pain), and I have yet to have a multi-Gig upload of subdirectories actually finish copying without the transfer choking around the 1 Gig mark even though I have close to 10 Gigs free.
One Drive can be setup to sync on a folder basis, but has no option to sort the directories. That seems like an even bigger miss as it means I have to search to find the real file one, then search for file two, then...
Seriously, with mobile taking the center stage, how can all these services that are supposed to augment the mobile experience suck so bad? How do you miss a feature as simple as allowing someone to sort by name?
Feel free to leave suggestions for any alternate services I might not be aware of in the comments.
Friday, March 07, 2014
Alert readers will note that none of those services have an M. Hopefully that helps drive home that none of them are yet mobile friendly.
If you haven't already heard, Samsung has borrowed (copied) a page out of Nokia's playbook and started their own new music service - Milk. I wasn't surprised to see it worked on my Note 3, but was very pleasantly surprised to see it also works on my "burner" phone - an older Galaxy Exhibit 4G.
The Milk service runs on top of Slacker, and so the music catalog has the same breadth (and occasional omission) you will find there. However the service also has the lovely feature of having no ads. So it's like the best of Spotify without the premium charge.
Even better (in my not so humble opinion) you do have a DJ on every couple of songs to give you a bit of the backstory for the song. So it's like having the best of Alt Nation without the Sirius XM subscription. More importantly also without any chance of running into Madison.
So if you own a recent Samsung phone, you should definitely check the service out. A future upgrade is supposed to add the Slacker feature of letting you cache a station on your device for off-internet usage which will let my next West Texas road trip a much more pleasant journey.
Thursday, March 06, 2014
Having been doing this for several months now, I thought it was about time to share some of my tips and tricks for folks who might be planning to commute to work or school on a daily basis. Much of this would also apply to folks who are not using a powered bike, but you should keep in mind that making that choice could affect the priority of some of these things.
Tip 1 - You want a "Walk Through" or "Step in" frame
Once upon a time bicycles were referred to as being "Male" or "Female" models based on whether there was the high bar crossing at the top of the frame or not. In an ebike (as well as a bike for anyone of a certain age) you are going to want one where you can slip forward and not land on a cross bar. This makes it easier to get on the bike if you are wearing a rain suit, carrying a backpack (hopefully not), and so on.
Tip 2 - Try to get a Commuter Bike, not a Racer
If you are going to be commuting, you want a bike with wide tires, a strong frame, and thorn resistant tubes. You don't want to have a bump in the road throw you off, and you don't want to have to try and change a tire in the middle of rush hour traffic. A Gatorskin tire from Continental or the like is probably what you want here.
Tip 3 - It's ALL about the battery
When you are looking at ebikes to buy, you want to find one where the battery can be easily removed. I am a big fan of the ones where it is mounted just below a rear rack, but anything where it can easily be brought inside with you is good. You will find the bike is a lot less appealing to thieves if the battery is out, and given that the DC motor and the battery are about 2/3 the price of the bike it also lessens the financial hit.
Obviously it's easier to recharge if you can bring the battery in as well. I have a charger at work and a charger at home. It's much simpler not having to carry a charger around with you, and it's also easier that I don't have to find somewhere to plugin in the parking lot at work.
Related to this tip, you need to plan with the battery in mind. IOW, you are going to want to make sure that the length of your ride and your battery specs align. An ebike is a lot of fun in part because you can be in less than the best shape, and still keep up with other cyclists. It also turns hills into a bit of work rather than a soul-stealing exercise grind. The minute you have to pedal the bike with NO assist from the battery, you will find that all the extra weight to make the bike more comfortable and help it carry a larger load becomes an anchor. You do not (!!!) want to hit the last hill near home and have the battery die halfway up the hill while it's dark and cars are speeding past you.
I personally suggest a system that uses at least a 36V Li-on battery, and would suggest looking at the newer 48V ones if your pocketbook can handle it.
Tip 4 - It's ALL about the battery - continued
I'm separating this one out because this is more about how you lengthen your ride and conserve battery power. On many bikes you have the option to use either a throttle control or a pedal assist. In Pedal assist the bike generally is providing 50% power along the whole ride. In Throttle assist you control how much power you are using. I am a fan of Throttle control because I've found that I can let off the throttle on even the slightest incline, and coast or pedal easily a good distance. This means that for every quarter mile or more that you can coast you are going to get at least a quarter mile more range. Now that DOES require you to actually let off the throttle completely. I have found little difference in mileage from my battery between holding the throttle at 50% and mashing it to 100%.
In the same vein, I always (!) pedal when I first start up as a good bit of battery often goes toward getting the bike up to speed. On some hills as the bike really gets bogged down, pedaling as well as using the throttle will get you both a little more speed and a fair bit more range.
Tip 5 - Your cycling gear
This is one that holds true for any commuter. I strongly recommend a light riding "suit" that is waterproof and that can go over your clothes as your outer shell. It should be bright and as much reflective material as you can get. I went with a Nelson-Rigg Stormrider suit for the "coat" and then substituted GloWear rain pants for the pants that came with the N-R suit. This makes me hard to miss in the early morning, and wearing the rain pants even if it isn't wet will protect your pants from any splashes off the road from other puddles. The wind breaking will also help you stay a little warmer.
To augment this in the winter months (wet or dry but no snow) I have a pair of Touchscreen gloves and a DeWalt Heated Jacket. The DeWalt uses the same battery as many of their powered tools, and the other power tool makers offer similar jackets. The point is that it keeps your core warm. In the DeWalt case it also offers the ability to recharge your USB devices.
On the front of the bike I bought a Bell Dawn Patrol LED headlight, and on the back I have a wireless turn signal (Buztronics). I also have a couple wrap on rear lights to help with early morning visibility.
My bike came with panniers, and I would recommend a good set as a way to carry stuff back and forth. Whatever you get, you want something that is at least water resistant and where you can buckle or tie down the flaps. I do NOT recommend using a backpack as it can throw off your balance, particularly if it shifts while you're leaning into a curve or having to make a quick maneuver.
Tip 6 - Planning your trip and the first two rides
Google Maps has a nice bicycling option I suggest you use to get ideas for what your route should be. Pick the one that looks like it will have the longest stretches on a bike path or quiet street. Once you've done that, try driving the route (if possible) looking for any sketchy intersections or other issues that might make you want to reroute. Try to keep an eye on the bike path (if there is one) to see if it's separated from the cars, if it appears to be in good shape, and if it is relatively clean.
I personally suggest that you then make your first ride on a weekend. This should let you get a feel for how the bike handles when there is less traffic, as well as help you make sure that your battery will get you all the way there on a single charge. Since most batteries need 2+ hours to charge, make sure there is somewhere to eat near where your office or school is, and then make the ride back. For many people the ride back will be on a different path due to different traffic patterns. So you really do want to make the ride and not just have someone pick you up.
Finally on your first "real" ride in, be sure to leave extra early. Even with all your prep you will find things you need to do differently with the real traffic patterns and possible changes in performance due to it likely being cooler in the morning. Similarly try to make sure that you leave a little early the first day on your return ride so you aren't getting flustered if it takes longer or you have to adjust your trail.
Tip 7 - Keeping things running smooth
If you've done all this, then the one more thing you want to do is to keep everything working smoothly. You won't be using your chain too much, so the usual tips for keeping it lubricated would probably be overkill. However I do recommend taking your bike into your local bike shop at least twice a year to make sure everything is tensioned properly, that the chain is in good shape, and especially to have them check out your tires. I can't stress enough that you really don't want a flat during a commute.
When it comes to the battery, if you are using a Li-on type (as you should be), the trick is to make sure you are at least discharging it 50% each day. On a short ride that might mean not recharging during the day. Most newer batteries have a lifecycle of 600 - 1000 charges. That translates to 2-3 years, and given the cost of a new battery you may well decide it's almost as cheap to buy a new bike when the time comes. That's a little easier if you're not replacing it every year due to the battery losing it's ability to charge early.
Hopefully this will encourage you to get out there and ride, or at least make sure you're safe if you do so!
Monday, March 03, 2014
I had mentioned a while back that I was quite pleased to have gotten a Motorola X, and in general my experience with the Motorola part is still a happy one.
Unfortunately I bought it through Republic Wireless. That meant I got it pretty cheap (at the time), and the service promises as well as their promise of KitKat by Q1 of this year led me to believe I had made a wise choice. I was even considering dropping my Verizon MiFi service later this year and moving to their unlimited plan.
A couple months later, and the truth has won out. First off, I was originally on their $10/month for WiFi and backup cell for calls and text only. Due to an issue with their custom rom, rarely a day went by where the phone wouldn't drop the WiFi connection. That didn't hurt calls or texts, but when it dropped to Cell then any apps that used data would be cutoff. Nothing as infuriating as climbing a hill on my bike and Spotify shuts off because the stream was cut by the RW bug.
Worse, in a discussion in their community forums this weekend, RW admitted that KitKat for the Moto X is now their number 3 priority after adding a new phone and making it possible to reactivate phones after the service has been cancelled. A quick look at the calendar suggests that they will still make Q1 for KitKat - just that it will be Q1 of 2015...
Cancelling the service was easy, so I'll give them that. But they are one of the few places that sell Moto X that will not (!) let you unlock your bootloader. So I can't put any other ROM of 4.4 on the phone even if I'm willing to give up the RW service.
Fortunately, I will soon be receiving a Samsung Galaxy Note 3. It's an unlocked (N9005) model and I will be using that as my main device going forward. The Moto X will become my bike computer - running just Spotify, Navigate, and a couple other bike and travel specific apps. Kind of a waste of a powerful machine, but them's the breaks.
In any event, if you are considering Republic Wireless, I would highly (!) suggest you give someone else another look instead. From my personal experience I would suggest T-Mobile for their inexpensive pre-paid plan, or Verizon for their coverage where no one else has a signal (such as Cody, Wyoming).
Hope this helps!
Sunday, January 19, 2014
To attempt to protect the innocent, lets just say that someone I know saw a demo... yeah, that's it, of a concept for the next version of Civ. Instead of Civ VI, if this is to be believed, the next version will instead be called Civ VR.
As the VR might imply, this is being created to take advantage of the Steam/Oculus VR device that is supposed to be coming later this year.
Game opens with you in the "palace" as decorated appropriately for your era you are starting. Interface is a table with items representing your resources, and the ability to look out your window at your capital. As the science progresses your interface and the representations are improved as well. There is a side room which is the "Magic chamber" in early periods and the "War room" in later periods that gives you a more conventional representation of what is going on. In this room is also a long table where you can sit down with your advisers and talk things over. As you can imagine, this is proving to be one of the harder elements to get right as they are trying to get more realistic speech and ability to understand more "natural" questions.
On the other side of the palace is a room where your medals and awards are kept (yup, a trophy room).
There is also a room where you can entertain visiting foreign dignitaries. Unlike the current CIV, you no longer meet with the leader of that nation for most things. Instead they have a representative that shows up for trade and general discussions. That makes a state visit a rarer and more anticipated thing, as well as giving more flexibility to how diplomacy can work.
World Congress sessions now involve you actually entering the main room and voting using the appropriate technology for the age, and the session actually gives time for some bartering to occur as opposed to the current setup where you have to make your bribes... err suggestions... before a session.
As all the above may suggest, diplomacy is getting a bit more rework again. Not much significant change to battles. Evidently some consideration was given to letting you be in the "midst" of the action but was felt that was too much to program let alone to have to try and control.
Multiplayer in this setting also has a bit of an upgrade that allows you to determine who is allowed to actually join you in the man palace room versus folks who stay in the outer diplomatic hall. Which allows for a bit more nuance in your relationships. Similarly there is consideration to allowing you to buy additional features for your palace - some decorative and some that would give you a play boost.
Anyway, take this rumor for what it's worth. But I think if there's any truth to it at all, it shows a willingness to take a fresh look at the game that should make it a great VR title.