Monday, April 21, 2014

My first impressions of the second generation Google Nexus 7

I am not trendy.

I wrote the following back in 2011 while discussing low cost computing:

My netbook works fine for most of the things that I use it for, and its low weight and long battery life make it ideal for some situations. If (in the words of my comment on Feldman's thread) I treated computer purchases as short-term expenses rather than capital expenses, I'd go buy a newer computer in the same form factor that has 2 GB of RAM rather than the 1 GB that last year's netbook has. (Tablets or iPhones/iPods don't meet my needs; I like keyboards.)

Yes, I really like keyboards - my phone has one - but a personal use case has recently emerged for something that is lightweight, with a long (business day) battery life, that will allow me to take notes even if no wi-fi or power is available. Since the market for such devices has expanded since 2011, I was able to select a second-generation Google Nexus 7 this past weekend. (I'll eventually add a keyboard.)

I'll admit that my OCD mind is having problems with the name of the device. Back in 2012, Google marketed a device called the Nexus 7. When Google made some changes to the device in 2013, the new model was called...the Nexus 7. Therefore, when I made my purchase, I had to make sure that I was buying a Nexus 7, and not a Nexus 7. Argh.

Why Google? Because I knew that with a Google-branded device, I'd get the true Android experience. As it turns out, my old netbook and my new tablet are both manufactured by Asustek. However, my netbook has a low-end version of the Windows operating system, along with some so-called "value-added" stuff from Asustek that is jarringly different from the base OS. This is not only true of netbooks - take my Samsung Stratosphere phone, in which the Android OS has some "value-added" stuff from Verizon. Or even take the desktop computer on which I'm typing this post (again, I don't have the keyboard add-on for the tablet yet) - the computer has a regular-level Windows OS, with some "value-added" stuff from Hewlett Packard. Of course, Apple has operated that way since forever, but I have a commitment to both Microsoft and Google, so I figured that Android would be the way to go.

Since I set the computer up on Saturday, things have been going well. Most of the sites that I visit on my netbook are available as Android apps, and most of these apps have pretty good functionality. So far, I only have a few quibbles.

My first quibble involves the accessories that come with the Google Nexus 7 - specifically, the USB cable. The cable is two inches long, more or less. I exaggerate, but during my initial setup and charge of the device, it was disconcerting to be turned around sideways and staring at the power outlet all the time. I borrowed the USB cable from my phone a little later, and was then able to charge the device and use it simultaneously.

My second quibble involved the note-taking part. As I mentioned, I wanted to be able to take notes even when wi-fi was not available. I figured that Google Drive would do the job for me, since I had heard that this application can even work offline. And I set it up, and was actually able to VIEW a Google Drive document even when I was offline. Unfortunately, I couldn't EDIT the document - a problem encountered by others such as Benjamin Werres (see the first comment in this thread). However, Quickoffice appears to meet my needs - or will, once I get a keyboard.

My third quibble relates to some of the apps that are available for the Nexus 7. I had already been exposed to the Twitter app on my phone, and found that the tablet version of the Twitter app was equally limited. For example, if lists are available in the app, I can't find them. (Of course, I've recently had problems finding lists in the desktop version of Twitter.) In the Spotify app, I couldn't figure out a way to move a playlist into my folder of older playlists.

And my fourth quibble is a doozy.

I have been playing the online game Starfleet Commander for years. In fact, the planet "Morphing Planetrak" that I mentioned in a 2009 post is still there, although those mines are a lot larger. The biggest news in the Starfleet Commander world - other than the fact that Blue Frog Gaming keeps creating new Starfleet Commander universes every few months - is that a fully legal aid for Starfleet Commander users, OpenParser, has been available for a while.

By installing this script you will automatically and unobtrusively send the data from the galaxy screen in each of the Starfleet Commander and Stardrift Empires Universes to our databases as you play the game as normal. (Data from systems in which you have planets or a Heph/Titan is not parsed.) This information is then stored in the database and is accessible from your galaxy screen.

By clicking on the O! next to the player's name you will be taken to the main database with the players planets listed for you. You can then view tracking information for all of the player's planets, perform further searches by player name or alliance, and access other resources available.

By clicking on the (?) in the actions area you will open up a popup within the game window which will contain all the coordinates known for that person you are searching for. All the coordinates are clickable and will take you there, useful for checking if a target is online.

For the 99.9% of you who don't play Starfleet Commander, I should explain that the script helps you locate your enemies very quickly - an obvious help when playing a battle game. To the 0.1% of you who do play Starfleet Commander, get the script NOW.

So, how do you install the script? It can be installed in two browsers - Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox. (For Firefox, you have to install Greasemonkey first.) After you've installed the script as an extension, you can go merrily away looking for "O!" and "(?)" information.

Well, you can do this...unless you are running Chrome for Android, which does not support extensions.

Does Chrome for Android support apps and extensions?

Chrome apps and extensions are currently not supported on Chrome for Android. We have no plans to announce at this time.

This caused me to come face-to-face with an important decision - should I install Mozilla Firefox on my pristine new Google Nexus 7 tablet, even though Mozilla actively discriminates in hiring, is non-inclusive, and is non-diverse? I could demonstrate my principles by refusing to download Mozilla Firefox. But I really wanted to use the I downloaded Mozilla Firefox.

I then went to install Greasemonkey...but it is not compatible with the current version of Firefox, version 28.

So if you review all four of my quibbles, you'll see that I was able to find workarounds for the first two. At present I have to resort to a Windows operating system computer (netbook, laptop, or desktop) to work around the other two issues.

But the advantages of the Google Nexus 7 outweigh the disadvantages. It has the two gigabytes of RAM that I was lusting after in 2011, and at present that is enough for the types of multi-tasking that I do on the device. Some of the apps work better than their mobile phone counterparts because of the larger screen (my Solitaire app is a key case in point). And the device is much more portable than a netbook, and certainly much more portable than a laptop. And the battery life for this new device is even better than the battery life for the netbook when it was new (over the years, my netbook battery life has understandably decreased dramatically).

More later, I'm sure.
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