Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Android Device Manager

Google recently introduced a service which works similarly to Apple's Find My Phone feature called the Android Device Manager. The Android Device Manager will show you where your device is located on a map, allow you to cause your device to ring for five minutes at the highest volume, and even allow you to erase your Android device to protect your personal data.

To begin using Android Device Manager, go to and log in with your Google account. Note that you may get a prompt asking you for permission to allow Android Device Manager to use location data. Click on the "Accept" button to continue. It's that simple. However, if you want to be able to remotely wipe your device from Android Device Manager, you will need to activate that function on your device.

On the Google Nexus 7, you will need to go into the Google Settings app on your device and then click Android Device Manager. Once you check off the check box for Allow remote factory reset, you will be able  to wipe your device preventing anyone from getting to your data.

On the Samsung Galaxy S4, then you need to go into Settings and choose Security. Then select Device Administrators. When you touch the box to check off Android Device Manager, you will be taken to another screen that you will need to activate the service. Once that has been done, you will now be able to remotely wipe your device. 

Needless to say, Android Device Manager is a simple way to track and remotely erase your Android devices if it is lost or stolen. I can see this service adding new features and getting better with time.

Monday, August 12, 2013

What I Use: Leap Motion

The Leap Motion is a fairly inexpensive device that precisely tracks the positions of your fingers in front of your computer. The aim is to allow you to ditch the mouse and keyboard and instead use your hands and fingers to control all the action on your computer. Think of how cool it would be to manipulate your computer like Tom Cruise did in Minority Report or pretend that you are low-budget Tony Stark in the Iron Man movies. It sounds cool, but after a week of using the Leap Motion, I can say that it is a work in progress. 

The Leap Motion controller connects to your computer via one of the two different length USB 3.0 cables that come in the box (kudos for including two different size cables with the device). After connecting it to your computer, it will perform a firmware update on the device. Once it has been updated. you will need to download apps designed specifically to work with it from the device's Airspace app store. The few apps that exist for it work well, but the overall selection is just too small at this time. While most of the apps are for both Windows and OS X, there are several that are exclusive to either Windows or OS X. 

Airspace app store
Unfortunately, based upon my usage, the Leap Motion is not precise enough to allow for easy navigation of the Windows 8 desktop or metro/modern UI environments. Hand control is clumsy and cumbersome.  The imprecise nature of the device, not to mention arm fatigue, makes daily usability of the Leap Motion frustrating. While I thought that this would be a perfect match  for the Windows 8 metro/modern UI, I quickly discovered how difficult it was to use finger movements to manipulate windows and other items on the screen that were never designed for that kind of interface. However, I do have to admit that it is cool to wave my hand over the Leap Motion controller to wake my display and to unlock my computer.

To be honesty, this is a device that is better suited as a toy, albeit an expensive toy, marketed for kids than a game-changing interface device at this point (my daughter loves Boom Ball, Cut the Rope and Dropcord). The potential is there, but the 1.0 version is not quite ready for those expecting to emulate what they saw in Minority Report. While the concept behind it might seem cool, the Leap Motion just isn't as revolutionary as it could be...yet. Hopefully future updates will eventually improve the experience and usability of the device.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Five Things To Do With Your "old" Nexus 7

Those who know me know that I am a gadget hound. I love getting my hands on the latest and greatest gadgets that I can afford. So when the new Nexus 7 was released, I immediately got one. Now I have two Nexus 7 devices. If you are like me, you now have to figure out what to do with the old one. Here are a five things that I have considered:

1. Donate it. While this might not be the most popular option to choose, it's better than just throwing it into a desk d rawer to gather dust. Think of the donation it as a way of providing a piece of technology to deserving individual who otherwise could not afford to buy it themselves. Look at it as promoting the use of technology. Plus. if your family is like mine, they have no problem taking my tech hand-me-downs :-)

2. Sell it. If you're not to hot of the idea of just giving away your year-old device, consider finding someone willing to buy it from you. You might have some takers if it is priced right.

3. Install Ubuntu Touch Developer Preview. Ubuntu Touch is a touchscreen mobile interface designed for tablets being developed by Canonical, the ones responsible for the Ubuntu Linux distribution. Ubuntu Touch utilizes the same core technologies as the Ubuntu Desktop, so applications will run on either platform. As with any developer preview application (translation: beta software) use at your own risk.

How to install Ubuntu Touch on the Google Nexus 7

4. Trade it in at GameStop for in-store credit. You can get anywhere from $47.00 up to about $94.00 in-store credit for your old Nexus 7 at GameStop. Of course how much you get depends on the condition of the particular model you are trading in. The in-store credit that you receive can be used for buying that new game you've wanted to play or applying it to your Xbox One or PS4 pre-order. Alternatively, if you opt for cash, you can still get between $37.00 and $75.00 (again, depending on the condition and model).

5. Gazelle it. is an online reCommerce service. Basically, it's a site that will allow you to get cash for electronic devices that you may have lying around. I have used them in the past and have been very satisfied with their service. I haven't used them recently because they have limited the types of items that they will take (translation: they focus mainly on Apple products) but fortunately the Nexus 7 is an item they will take off your hands. Expect between $43.00 and $61.00 for one of the wi-fi only versions. The 3G models will fetch between $86.00 and $90.00. As with the GameStop trade-in program, how much you get depends on the model and condition you are selling.