Posts from the “Technology” Category

Minecraft : The Story Of Mojang

Saying I was into LEGO as a kid would be an understatement. LEGO was always amazing and I can’t imagine not having spent hours building stuff with LEGO bricks. I even went to LEGOLAND once. It is really sad to see them resort to just movie franchise stuff now. The imagination is gone for the most part. LEGO right now is in the same state as physical books. The difference being Minecraft will soon replace LEGO completely. Minecraft is the LEGO of today.

I just watched Minecraft : The Story of Mojang last night and it blew my mind. The amount of time being spent with Minecraft in schools for educational purposes is amazing. It is a great creative outlet for everyone. I’m glad there is a modern replacement for LEGO for the current generation. Just spend 5 minutes on google searching for Minecraft creations and you will see what teamwork online can do. People have created functioning ALUs and the Starship Enterprise to scale in Minecraft. I look forward to playing Minecraft being extremely late to the party as usual.

Thank you 2 Player Productions and Mojang for this documentary and Minecraft. You can buy it here or download it on The Pirate Bay here. 2 Player Productions has uploaded it to The Pirate Bay for reasons stated on the torrent page. It is a very bold move and I fully approve.

The Android Tablet Conundrum

This post is limited to the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 because the other Android tablets are not worth talking about or existing.

After releasing the Nexus 7, I have noticed many popular apps getting updated for a tablet UI. The Nexus 7 is very popular and is selling well. The tablet app ecosystem on Android is growing, albeit very slowly.

The Jellybean tablet UI is pretty much the phone UI stretched unlike the ICS tablet UI. This is both a good and a bad thing. It is good because now nexus tablet and phone owners will have a similar UI on both devices. It is bad because people used to the ICS tablet UI earlier have to go back to the phone UI. Google can get away with a phone UI on a 7 inch tablet because most apps are just phone apps stretched to a large screen but on a 10 inch device like the Nexus 10 that will be released soon, apps that have no tablet UI will look terrible. That tablet was made to be used in landscape mode anyway. The Nexus 10 has an insane resolution that is higher than the 3rd/4th generation iPad. It has the resolution you see on most 27″ displays today. I think Google jumped the gun here. While this is a great screen and for the price will be a great tablet for media and games, you could probably count the apps that will work well on this screen on one hand. The Nexus 10 will either encourage developers to work on a tablet UI for larger screens or just slowly die like the other large screen Android tablets. Another thing I don’t understand is why it took google so long to release an update that enabled landscape mode for the Nexus 7. I was shocked that this wasn’t possible on the stock launcher. I used Nova Launcher Prime to enable landscape mode for the homescreen but the lockscreen remained in portrait mode until the recent 4.1.2 update. You should also consider getting that for your Android device if you like using gestures on your device. From the looks of it the Nexus 10 is to be used only in Landscape mode which sucks because tablets should be flexible. The iPad works perfectly in both orientations thanks to its aspect ratio.

Duarte has brought tons of good things to Android and if it weren’t for him, I probably would have never considered buying an Android device let alone owning and liking one. Google recently introduced tablet UI design guidelines. While this is a good thing, Google is not doing their part by featuring apps using these guidelines. The “Staff Picks for Tablets” section on Google Play is full of games and barely any apps with a UI designed for tablets. I still don’t understand why they don’t feature more apps that use their Holo design. Why feature only apps that sell when you want your ecosystem to grow with quality and not garbage like Beautiful Widgets? I can only hope that with the introduction of the Nexus 10 this month, Google ups their game on Google Play. Apple is known to feature apps that take advantage of new hardware. They have a separate section in the App Store for this with every launch. Featuring games and a few sub par apps while other great apps like TV Show Favs that work beautifully on tablets will only prove how weak the ecosystem really is.

Releasing Nexus tablets is something they should have done a long time ago. Featuring quality apps and not just popular apps will only help the ecosystem grow. Google, please feature apps that adhere to your guidelines because I want the tablet ecosystem to grow. The developers are working but Google needs to showcase their work being put in for a better tablet experience.

On Tweetbot, Tapbots, Paying for Twitter Clients, Tweetbot for Mac Pricing and the Future of Twitter

After TUAW posted prematurely about Tweetbot for Mac and revealed the price, all hell pretty much broke loose with people including yours truly complaining about the price. I overreacted at that time but after thinking about the price, the developers and the platform, I felt the need to write a post about all of it.

On Tweetbot
When I joined Twitter, I used Twitterrific and eventually moved to the official iPhone app when it was released. I also heard a lot about Tweetbot which was supposed to be the best Twitter experience bar none. I bought it for $3. I am yet to regret that purchase. As far as I’m concerned, Tweetbot is Twitter for me. I have tried other apps and hated them all. Nothing comes close to it. I also bought it on the iPad. It makes me want to use Twitter more. The sounds and gestures are all amazing and I can’t imagine Twitter without any of them. Having a powerful muting system is a huge added bonus because my timeline gets filled with stupid brands promoting their stupid crap through stupid people.

On Tapbots
I never paid attention to their apps barring Tweetbot for iPhone when I bought it. When I met Preshit and saw every tapbot app on his phone, I asked why he got em all. He told me to use them and see for myself. I ended up buying every tapbot app in the store that night. I love their apps. I even bought Netbot for iOS on iPad and iPhone. I don’t really care for them as people but they make great apps. People who don’t use their apps probably think it is all overpriced. I disagree. Convertbot makes you want to convert stuff for no reason just to gaze at the pixels.

On Paying for Twitter Clients
Most people are shocked at the very thought of paying for Twitter clients. I’ve heard stuff like “Twitter is free so Twitter apps should be free” and “why should I pay for this here when I already bought it there”. My logic is simple. If something improves your experience with something else considerably, it is worth the cost. I know people who use Tweetbot for iPhone on the iPhone and iPad. I really love both apps. I use them a lot. I have invested into other Twitter apps on iOS and Windows Phone. There is nothing close to Tweetbot on iOS. Windows Phone has some great apps like Mehdoh that are full of great functionality. I am yet to buy one on Android because barring Twidere that is open source, the apps are all garbage. If you think Twitter apps should be free, use the terrible official apps that suck on every platform. Tapbots are smart. Twitter has gone from having great apps after acquiring Tweetie to absolute garbage. Tapbots have put their Twitter apps on sale after the official apps changed for the worse and made money out of it. I’m glad more people bought their apps because the Tapbots Twitter experience is the best Twitter experience. To the people complaining about having to pay for the same app on different platforms as opposed to a universal app, think of how much effort goes into designing for different devices categories. While it may not matter to you, developers spend time and work hard to make their apps work well on different devices. The very fact that people are willing to sit through promoted tweets and ads in their timeline in apps that have almost no features just proves to you why Twitter thinks they can get away with the bullshit they are pulling with their latest API rules.

On the Future of Twitter
Twitter has put a token limit on all existing apps and new apps. Their new API basically takes away tons of features that we have grown to use often. Twitter started off as a geeky platform for people who were sick of Facebook for the most part and now it is becoming the very platform the early adopters despise. The very fact that App dot Net exists proves that there are users who are willing to pay for the ability to have an ad free experience with good third party clients. The new API limitations basically kill all 3rd party development on Twitter apps and how this will change in the future is yet to be seen. I started using Twitter with 3rd party apps and still continue to do so because of 3rd party apps. At the rate Twitter is going, it looks like the only way to tweet without resorting to garbage official apps is through the native iOS integration. This is something I love about Netbot for iOS. Cross posting to Twitter bypassing their stupid rules using native iOS integration.

On Tweetbot for Mac Pricing and the Future
Tweetbot for Mac was released as a public alpha for free. Tons of users enjoyed it and continued to use it into the beta. Tapbots had to block more tokens getting created to make sure they have enough for a Mac App Store release. The app finally released today and is priced at $19.99. This price seems excessive and the reasoning behind it is something that most end users don’t care about. I have been using it since day one and absolutely love it. It is feature packed and the gestures work well on the magic trackpad. The question here is not about investing into Tapbots but investing into Twitter as a platform when 3rd party apps are slowly being killed off. My favourite app on Android is Twidere and they have had to implement rate limiting for timeline refreshing. It is really annoying. Twitter is forcing you into using their official crap. There are a number of issues that need to be addressed by Tapbots. They say that the price is justified because of the lower number of probable app users which means less money. So a higher price will ensure support for a long time. I am completely confident in them to support the app but am not confident at all in Twitter as a platform for 3rd party apps. When it comes to updating the app from the Mac App Store, I want to know how they will continue to update an app that cannot be downloaded by new users after the token limit is reached. Also wont people using the pirated version of the app use tokens? A higher price means less users jumping in so a longer period of the token pool lasting. The choice of going Mac App Store makes sense because there’s no other way to implement iCloud integration and the sync Tweetbot has across all devices is great. Echofon was $20 at one point with a free version that had ads and that app has nowhere near the functionality that Tweetbot has.

Investing so much into a platform that is killing off 3rd party apps slowly is a tough decision. Investing into Tapbots is not a bad idea given their track record. I’d love for this app to be able to post to App Dot Net and Twitter but apparently Twitter has another rule about this that doesn’t allow it. I for one will be investing into Tweetbot for Mac simply because I can’t shift to an app like TweetDeck or god forbid, the web. While Twitter is slowly killing off apps and features power users love, App Dot Net is slowly flourishing with some great apps on every platform including Android. The choice is yours. If you decide to buy Tweetbot for Mac, it is available on the Mac App Store for $19.99.

[Masthead via Jorge]

The Nexus 7 and Android 4.1 – Prologue and First Impressions

Ever since Matias Duarte joined Google’s Android team, they have been changing for the better. Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) was a massive upgrade from all previous versions of Android. I was impressed. It even made the Nexus S a much better phone overall. With Google’s new design guidelines, more and more developers started making their apps adhere to these guidelines and hence improving them by a long shot.

Google announced Android 4.1 (Jellybean) at Google I/O this year and they made a number of improvements most notably in the smoothness of the OS. Project Butter as they call it has really made a difference. Jellybean also introduced expandable notifications that let you save time. Google also demoed tons of stuff that they were launching for iOS including Chrome for iOS and updates to other apps with the introduction of an iPad app for Google+. So right now Chrome is available on iOS and Android 4.0 and above. The majority of Android devices in use today are still on Android 2.x. This move was very interesting to me. Google clearly knows how important the iOS ecosystem is. They released a YouTube app for the iPhone that is much better than the native app that was bundled in iOS before iOS 6. Google also introduced a low cost tablet made by ASUS called the Nexus 7.

The Nexus 7 has great specs and a decent screen along with an amazing feel thanks to the textured back. I decided to buy one given the price and my curiosity with the latest version of Android increasing more and more each day. I would also now be able to review Android apps for Beautiful Pixels. It cost me close to $300 and boy was it worth it. Google also sweetened the deal with $25 of Google Play credit which I have now fully used. Google is smart. They saw the Kindle Fire gain popularity thanks to its price but fail overall because of its limited use outside countries with the Amazon ecosystem. A $200 7 inch tablet that has an OS that is smooth and great specs with a decent screen got the attention of everyone including tons of iOS users and bloggers. After buying it around mid august and spending a lot of time with it, I decided to write about my experience with my first Android device.

First Impressions and Screen
The Nexus 7 is to Android what the iPod Touch is to iOS. A gateway drug. The Nexus 7 is a great device. I love that it has an IPS LCD display as opposed to an AMOLED one because the bluish tinge on those annoys me a lot. Jellybean is really really good. Android has come a long way since its garbage gingerbread days. The Google Play credit helped a lot. The first app I installed on my Nexus 7 was Pocket. After reading stuff saved in Pocket for some time and holding the device in one hand throughout, I realised that there is a market for a 7 inch device made well and that read it later apps are amazing on the Nexus 7. The screen is not even close to that of my 3rd generation iPad but it is really good. I have to often remind myself of the price difference between both the devices because for some things, the Nexus 7 is the clear winner.

I’m sad that the Play Books app is disabled by default in India because none of the actual book reading apps are good. All of them lag and the best of the lot is the official Amazon Kindle app. I haven’t read any books on this for that very reason. I spend a good hour before I sleep lying in bed reading stuff saved in Pocket on the Nexus 7. Flipboard while slightly laggy (I will talk about this in more detail later) is another great app to use on the device. Android has tons of apps that let you watch videos regardless of format. I use MX Player and I never thought I’d be able to sit through an entire movie while holding a tablet in my hand comfortably. That back texture is just plain awesome.

I found it really funny that landscape mode on the homescreen was disabled by default and I had to enable it in Nova Launcher. The 4.1.2 update enables landscape mode for the homescreen and lock screen. As of this writing, it is not available for my device. Even though this is not as big as an iPad, it feels weird using it only in portrait mode.

The stock Jellybean keyboard is really good. Almost everyone I know on Android uses some 3rd party keyboard and when Swiftkey 3 went on sale for $1, my friend Deepak told me it would change the way I type. It did. After linking it to my twitter account and using it for a month, I can type without looking and not worry about typos. It is amazing. It is stuff like this that really shows you the power of Android. I am yet to find a good writing app on Google Play that even comes close to the likes of IA Writer, Elements and even Drafts on iOS for that matter. The more I praise the OS, the more I realise how lacking the app ecosystem is.

Overall I’m impressed with the Nexus 7 and I think it is a great device even though Google Play has barely any tablet optimised apps. I’m really happy I bought this device and persuaded Preshit to get one as well. Android 4.1 just proves that Google is moving in the correct direction with their OS. Emphasising on UI and UX is really important and I’m glad Matias Duarte is finally making Google realise this. The Nexus 7 is only held back by the minuscule number of good third party apps on Google Play. There are so many apps that are laggy and unusable with great ratings. I will be posting about my experiences with third party apps, gaming and how the stock gmail app annoys me more and more each day in future posts. If you made it this far and are wondering why this isn’t a full review about the Nexus 7, please head over to Anandtech for their epic review of Google’s exceptional device.