I’ve been using Google Photo’s since it came out with the new version. I used to use Picasa occasionally but it was just a place to view the photos on my hard drive. I installed Google Photo’s on my iPhone, iPad, and my Mac so that all my photos could be uploaded for safe keeping. One of the cool parts about it is that Google Photos starts doing neat things with the photos it finds. The example I have in this post is a panoramic that Google Photo’s put together from 3 separate photos that I took while waiting to take off from Miami. I’d say it came out pretty sweet.
There are other things that it does like make short videos, turn things black and white, and make collages on its own based on the time the photo was taken or where the photo was taken. It takes all that meta data from my iPhone that saves things like the location and date/time stamp and uses that to make smart albums. I think that Apple is trying to do the same thing with Memories but minus some of the other cool functions that Google Photos does.
While Photos from Apple is pretty awesome, there are a lot of storage limitations because I don’t pay for iCloud storage and only use the free options so I can’t back up everything. I have well over 20,000 photos and around 1,000 videos and all that takes up a lot of storage. Google Photos is just one means of backing things up but the fact that it does cool stuff with my photos is just some nice bonus stuff. I also get the option to save the little creations from Google and I take full advantage of that, you never know when I’m going to look back on some of this stuff whenI get older and see how cool some of my pictures came out with a little bit of Google magic.
I’d post more stuff but its hard to do so on WordPress from Google Photos, it doesn’t like the share links that I use. I had to go around that problem by uploading to Flickr then using their share links after making the photo public. If I get more cool stuff like this, I’ll post it here or using Twitter to give it more exposure.
After finally getting fed up seeing a “Your iCloud Storage is Full” message on my Mac, iPhone, and iPad occasionally I’ve decided to turn off the photos and video backup offered by Apple. I’ve probably ranted about this before on Facebook or something but this time I’ve gotten peeved enough about it to actually risk losing all my pics in the iCloud library. Im not all that worried though, I’ve backed up everything to Google Photos. I think I won’t have everything at full resolution but I don’t look at my pics all that often anyway. I might miss the slow motion videos but those can be recreated.
What would be awesome is if Apple would give iCloud account users storage that equals their current device size and for each device that is signed in. That would give me over 300GB of space so I can actually back up my device to the cloud instead of my laptop. I’ve resorted to backing up my iDevices to an external drive which kind of goes against my whole home mobile strategy by having to tether my laptop to an external drive but I needed the space. I don’t think Apple anticipated that over the long term, backups would et up tons of drive space on computers. Although this may be a clever ploy for the consumer to buy more storage from them which I refuse to do.
He kicker now is that I have to constantly remember to run Google Photos and my IFTTT recipes so my pictures on my iPhone is all backed up. I’ll have to figure out something else for my DSLR and my water proof camera. So long iCloud Photo Library, when I get more free space maybe I’ll come back.
During the holiday break from work, I’ve been messing around in the Googlesphere just for fun. This Christmas my sister-in-law got me a Chromecast which is Google’s answer to the Apple TV… sorta. I wanted the Chromecast to take to work with me so I can actually watch something good on TV while I’m sitting in my hotel room. I tried it out here at home and it works pretty well for Netflix and YouTube but thats about it. I haven’t tried casting from a computer yet but thats because I don’t have Chrome installed on my MacBook Pro. I did discover that I can’t really cast anything from my tablet other than YouTube and Netflix so thats kind of a bummer since I have a lot of movies on the actual devices and being able to stream it to the Chromecast would have been pretty bad ass. I even got a portable wireless router to make sure that I can stream from all my devices.
The next piece of Google tech I’ve been experimenting with is Google+. I’ve generally written off this service as a social network since no one I know save maybe 1 person is actually posting on it. I did finally find a good use for the service though, photo and video backups from my MacBook Pro and my iPhone. I think the service needs a little work since the uploads are super slow (its going to take a few days for my MacBook to be totally backed up) and its almost random on what its uploading to my account but it is cool to see my pictures up online automatically. I’m using it in conjunction with iPhoto and Apple’s Photostream which is still also very useful but I have to turn on my MacBook every few days to download all the pictures since I know I’ve missed a few here and there. I’ve attempted to use it as a social network but there still aren’t enough people on Google+ for me to use it beyond cloud picture storage at the present moment. If they keep on making awesome improvements though, I might start using it more and more.
Lastly, I’ve been messing around with Hangouts which is a mashup of Google Talk and Google Voice. I’ve been using the legacy services for a while but since they recently combined them I’ve been experimenting with it sporadically. What I do like is that I can start a voice call on one device and continue it on another one. I tried this out when I needed to talk to tech support at work. I was able to start the call on my work computer, monitor it on my iPad Mini, and then finish the actual call on my work laptop when they finally picked up. What is difficult is trying to use it on the computer, the dedicated app for iPhone and iPad are way better so thats an area of improvement right there. It’s also difficult to send SMS messages to people like I used to be able to on Google Voice. I still have a Google Voice app on my iPhone but I hear that the API will no longer work pretty soon. I’ll be sad when this happens because that was some awesome functionality that I hope they are able to replicate in a future version of Hangouts.
I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to play in the Googlesphere but I do know that I’m not going to switch to Android anytime soon since I’m too invested into the Apple one.
I think it’s been a little under a year since I got my wife a Nexus 7. I mainly got it for her to read her library of ebooks that she gets for free from Amazon.com and for the most part it’s done its job. However the time has come to say goodbye to the Nexus so that I can get her an iPad Mini 2 when its released this fall.
There have been a few problems mainly with the OS that I just can’t seem to overcome. The biggest one is the charging issue. It just takes forever to charge the device. My daughter also likes a lot of apps that are on her own iPad and iPhone that she uses and instead of lugging that around she can use my wife’s iPad Mini. I played a bit with the Nexus a little and I wasn’t that impressed. The Nexus was a lot like using a PC, it required a lot of tweaks here and there to get it working just right. My wife prefers using her iPhone for most things because she is familiar with the apps and it just works. I happen to agree with her on that part which is why I’m probably getting the upgraded iPad Mini for myself too so I can take a more lightweight device with me on the road. iOS 7 is going to help a lot too since I’m not upgrading my iPhone 4S until a jailbreak, if any, will become available. FaceTime over 3G is a big thing for me since I need it to see my family on the road.
Normally I would have kept the Nexus but there isn’t any use for it at this time and it would just collect dust like all my Treo’s that I still have. I decided to try out Gazelle to sell the Nexus 7. The good part is that I used points to get the thing and Gazelle will potentially give me $55 for it. I look at it as a $55 profit since in got the device for free and my wife can use that for even more books. I figure the $55 should keep her busy for maybe 6 months, it depends on the number of books being released that she wants this year.
Only 3 weeks till I send the Nexus away, can’t say it was the best decision I ever made from a tech perspective but I at least can say I tried it for a little bit.
I’m as avid as the next tech guy but I really don’t like Google Glass. It’s not from a privacy thing or because I don’t think the tech isn’t cool or anything, I just don’t like wearing glasses unless they are sun glasses these days. As a person that wore glasses for most of their childhood and adult life, putting a pair of glasses on to get augmented reality information is just not that appealing. I spent lots of time and cash trying to eliminate my need for glasses overall and the prospect of needing to wear something on my face just to get some snippet of information that I could probably get on my phone right in my line of sight just doesn’t jive with me. I will admit that the concept is pretty cool but if its anything like how people use cell phones and drive, I think I’ll be grateful if we can skip Google Glass because the roads are dangerous enough right now with people driving while doing (eating, texting, using a phone, checking email, playing a game, etc.). Google Glass would constitute one more distraction that really isn’t needed unless you’re maybe walking in an unfamiliar town.
I personally won’t be getting a pair of these, I’ll invest my money into a new iPad or maybe my mid life crisis car instead that has a lot of the things Glass does built in.
In the last few months, Google has released an update to their Gmail app. I’m pretty much an exclusive Gmail user these days, at least for my personal email. I normally configure the Mail app on my iPad to fetch my mail and it does a pretty good job of doing so. I decided to try the Gmail app for iPad since there are some limitations with the native mail app. The biggest limitation for me is that there isn’t a way to just see unread email. I’ve tried using search strings and looking in my all mail folder for email I haven’t read isn’t very efficient.
The Gmail app has a pretty cool interface and acts just like using Gmail using my regular web browser. I think the best part is that I can search for just unread email. I can also archive and delete my mail just as if I were using Gmail in Safari or using Mail on my MacBook Pro. I’ve been using the app for about 2 months now and I gotta say that I am enjoying using it more than the native mail app. There are just a few minor things that keep me from switching over permanently. One of them is that it only integrates with Google contacts that I have saved in Gmail. Right now the contacts that I do save are all in iCloud because Gmail saves all the contacts that I’ve ever sent an email to and I don’t want to see all that clutter in my address book. Second, I don’t know if I can use it in offline mode or not. This is something that I haven’t tried yet but I suspect that you need to be connected in order to use it.
Everything else about the app is pretty good. I’ve replied to various emails with ease, I’ve composed emails as well which hasn’t been a problem, and I’ve done some forwarding too. I think I’ll continue to use the app as my main mail app for my iPad but I’m going to stick with using the native mail app on my iPhone for now since it seems to be working ok. The only things that I have really sent to archive in my mail that I only check occasionally is just some promotions or newsletters that I read from time to time. Hopefully they continue to improve the app and make it more integrated into iOS to make it even more usable to me.
On Friday I received the Nexus 7 that I bought for my wife as an eReader. My wife and I are pretty active book readers (she reads way more than me though) and for quite a while my wife has been reading her books on her iPhone. I did buy her a Kindle 3 a year or so ago but that reader requires a light source and since she reads the most at night she needed something that she can use in the dark. She didn’t like the iPad because it’s too big and heavy for her and I’ll admit that it is a bit large to use late at night when you’re sleepy.
The setup for the Nexus 7 was pretty straightforward from my point of view. It just asked me a bunch of questions regarding a google account and it was up and running. One of the more important things is that I needed to be able to load mobi and ePub books that we already had. I downloaded the Kindle and Nook apps for this purpose and a decent amount of our books area already on Kindle so it made sense to use that app. During my research I also discovered that my local library does ebooks which is pretty sweet. I had to download an app for that as well but that wasn’t such a big deal for me.
There is a lot more functionality that the tablet can do but since it is meant to be an eReader, I didn’t download that many more apps beyond Facebook which I doubt will get used. I’ll admit that using the Nexus 7 took some getting used to because it didn’t use the App store or have most of the apps that I normally use on my iPad and iPhone. I did have an Android phone about a year ago and while it wasn’t bad, the user experience wasn’t the best. The Nexus 7 is pure Google though and the experience has gotten a bit better from what I can tell. I haven’t put any movies on it and I most likely won’t anyway. If I can pry it from my wife’s hands I’ll test it out a bit more but so far so good. At least I know we’re going to keep it and not return it. Now to see what Apple pulls out of its hat in September and if they really will announce an iPad mini.