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Android niceties: One year on

It’s been a year and two days since I started Android niceties. What a year it’s been!

The site began as an experiment in Tumblr, and got going with this rather misguided post on /r/Android. Considering some of the apps I chose to initially include and the lack of customisation I put into the base theme, it’s little wonder that I got slammed in the comments. There was more than enough encouragement there though.

I plodded on, and woke up to a flurry of emails on December 2, 2011 when Matias Duarte, the head of Android Design shared it on Google+. Then The Next Web a couple of days later, and Gizmodo Brazil a week after that.

The introduction of the official Android Design site by Google earlier this year has really helped Android apps to begin forging their own direction and visual identity. The action bar, the typography, the minimalism. I think it’s safe to say apps look uniquely Android now. Even scrolling through the site in the last five months, you see that coming through loud and clear. 

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Rear Window in the age of oversharing

‘Rear Window’. The master of suspense in perfect control of his craft, focusing the lens on a subject that has been taken to the extreme today, and will only go further; voyeurism.

“We’ve become a race of Peeping Toms” – Readers Digest, April 1939.

Watching people when they feel they’re safe, alone, in the comforts of their home, where they can be themselves. It’s a perverted concept. It’s also a darn intriguing one. “Mind your own business” doesn’t really work too well against the curiosity of human nature, especially when the concept has essentially been flipped on its head in today’s world of oversharing every little aspect of your life. Imagine someone looking at a Facebook feed for hours on end every day. Oh, wait…

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One travel service to rule them all? If only.

I was working in London the past five weeks, and with that over, I’ve been travelling a bit across Europe. 

In this last six weeks, the realisation has dawned on me that 95% of the travel-related research and purchases I’ve made have been online. Local transport is one I just wasn’t comfortable purchasing online, and wanted the assurance of going to a station and buying that first ticket, getting any stupid questions out of the way with a person. Quickly. It’s fine buying a ticket, but essentially not knowing how to use it, and getting lost is not a prospect that’s fun.

Back to that 95%.

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Trialling NetBank Vault for Android – #NetBankLab

Commonwealth Bank are piloting their NetBank Vault app on Android. I got to try it this weekend.

Oh, what is it?

It’s a secure online storage service where you can upload, organise and manage all of your files and documents. Think of it like a personal virtual safe deposit box; store receipts, payslips, photos, you get the idea.

I’ve become a heavy Dropbox user lately, and I’m using Google Drive too, for the extra storage space. They’re both pretty similar in their functionality, and both their Android apps are slick.

tl;dr Vault has a long way to go.

The login screen

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The labels above the fields really aren’t needed, and unnecessarily clutter the screen. Tumblr and Pocket are two examples of apps I’ve seen recently that do it cleanly.

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YouTube’s Coachella Live is how I can only dream all festivals could be

Destroyer’s Kaputt was my favourite album of 2011. I’d given up hope of ever seeing them live, as I doubt they’d ever tour Australia. The Vaccines’ What Did You Expect from the Vaccines? was a close second for album of the year. I got to see them both today. Live, back to back.

Oh, and did I mention the Arctic Monkeys, Pulp, The Black Keys, M83, Yuck, We Were Promised Jetpacks, St. Vincent, Bon Iver and Radiohead.

I’ve had the best two days of Coachella! It’s just that I’m 12,000km away, and have the wonders of streaming technology, social media, YouTube and State Farm to thank.

Yes, it’s not the same as being there, but it’s a darn close second!

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You’re making it easy for me to leave you, Grooveshark

Let’s be clear on this, I love Grooveshark. I have professed my love several times on this blog, and I’ve championed it to the extent that quite a few people have signed up and paid for the yearly membership [SORRY]. The promise of Grooveshark was to give me easy access to the music I love, anytime, anywhere. This has been broken lately.

Duplicates of songs and albums, incomplete listings and ID3 information. I noticed these blemishes long ago, but hey, no one’s perfect, and the relationship had way more ups than downs; platform independence, access anywhere, and a shared collection of music. Its ease of use was unparalleled, and it wasn’t that much of a stretch to cobble an album or playlist together.

Grooveshark has always skirted a legal grey area, but as of late, their legal woes have caught up with them. All four major record labels are suing them, and its outright blocked in Germany, last I heard. I haven’t bothered reading up on whatever other troubles they’re in.

And then songs started disappearing.

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Bangalore revisited, six years on

What a strange, delightful feeling it is returning somewhere that’s so familiar, but so different at the same time. Hell, even the name of the darn city’s changed; “Bengaluru” just doesn’t sound right. Yet.

Clearing customs and what not at the airport was surprisingly quick, calm and organised. Step out the door of the airport though, and the chaos and cacophony of Bangalore greets you warmly!

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Comparing social networks to movies on the basis of Attention? Flawed.

Sigh. I was rather enjoying my Monday until I read this infuriating piece by Alexia Tsotsis over on TechCrunch – I’d Rather Watch Instagram Than A Movie.

The basis of the comparison? Attention. The basis of the preference? Simplicity and relatability.

The appeal of Instagram is, for lack of a better word, simple; the world is moving too damn fast and we don’t want the cognitive load of figuring out what we’re looking at — we just want to see simple pretty things. This simplicity is what makes services like Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest a joy versus other entertainment offerings.

The truth is that on any given day, I’d rather check in on Instagram then watch a movie.

Call me a snob, but I feel sorry for the simple mind that can equate one form of attention to another so easily, and put it down to “killing time”. It is total underappreciation for film as an artform.

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TIL Netflix is not the place for new movies

This post from tnl.net, entitled Where the hits are streaming in 2011 was a real eye-opener, and one that I first heard on TWiT 336.

For each movie of the top 100 movies at the box office, I pulled data on for stream­ing info on Net­flix, Ama­zon on Demand, iTunes, and Vudu. I also pulled up avail­abil­ity of DVDs to use as a yard­stick in terms of over­all movie avail­abil­ity.

Streamingchart

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Taking technology for granted [AKA the parent lens]

I live in an unbelievably large technology bubble. I’m rather happy living in it, and haven’t stepped out of it for a while. A couple of days ago, I momentarily did, through the lens of my mother; it was hilarious.

To cut a long story short, we were looking for a new TV, went to Harvey Norman [oh, the irony] and bought the thing. We were told there was a warehouse a few kilometres away where we needed to pick it up and given an address.

As we got in the car, my mother started rifling through the glove compartment and back seats, and worridly said, “I can’t find the street directory. How are we going to get there?”. If I was in a TV show, I might have said something like, “two words, Google Maps”. Good lord, that sounds corny.

Ahem, anyway, I entered the address into Google Maps [“oh, you’re calling someone to ask for directions?”], and that lovely British accent started telling us where to go. I handed the phone to her and said, “just hold this, it’ll tell you where to go”. Suffice it to say, she was astounded.

We get back home, and the first thing she says to my father is, “do you know his phone just tells him where to go? He’ll never be lost with that thing”.

It really is as simple as that. Google Maps is my favourite travel accessory. I was in New York earlier this year, and the transit directions helped me navigate an unfamiliar public transport system with ease. Clearly I’ve taken it for granted, but seeing someone experience its magic for the first time was fun!

Then of course the TV’s set up, and she asks, “can you watch those TV shows from your computer on this now?”. Gosh, I hadn’t even thought that far ahead.

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