Unsplash.com – where images are abundant, beautiful and free

I was recently pointed to Unsplash.com by a friend. This site is filled with so many beautiful, Creative Commons Zero licensed pictures, I almost want to blog again.

Average Facebook outrage soloution

“I have a misguided solution to your non-problem, non-issue, non-existing law, or video that ruined your morning,” exclaims Facebook comment. “Glad to fix it for you with the first result from a search engine. Here is a link to an unvetted news source with bad information. ”

World saved.

Yosemite, Trim for SSDs, and the pain of the bleeding edge.

Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 1.59.36 PMSo you want to run Yosemite, the new public beta of OS X and you are one on the brave few who decided to update your hard drive in your Mac to solid state. Well, to get the best performance out of the SSD, you need to need to instate the “Trim” command. But the Cupertino company does not like this – it means you are not running Apple sanctioned hardware. I got a grey screen with the “NO” symbol after I turned Trim on with Yosemite. Not a good feeling.

Cindori Software came out with a Trim Enabler interface that made instating the command as easy a flipping a switch.  Thank you Cindori.

Back to Yosemite – Apple’s attempt to flatten out OS X to match IOS’s flat interface and bring the 15 year old OS X into the future (not that I don’t like Yosemite- it’s just different looking). Cindori has a full write up on what Apple has done to make it harder to use your own SSD in Apple machines along with a fix and updated Trim Enabler.  All I will say is that Apple is locking the OS down to make such tampering harder. The reason is either for a more secure OS or to stop the tampering. But blocking a computer from booting altogether as a security measure is throwing the baby out with the bath water – which is exactly what happens unless you do Cindori’s voodoo fix.


What do I think of Yosemite generally? Everything is where you expect it to be; and it is not Windows 8. I like that a lot.


Agent – do not disturb & more: a review

AgentNever do I come across an app that floors me. Well now I have. Agent has so much functionality that I am surprised this program is not immediately swallowed up by Google to become part of the base Android operating system.

In a nutshell, Agent senses what you are doing, where you are at, and shuts off interruptions based that information.

Driving? All instant messages get muted and an auto response can be sent to senders telling them you are driving.

Sleeping? Like with IOS, you have preset do not disturb times.

In a meeting? The phone goes into “shhhhhh” mode.

It is very configurable and very adaptable and very accurate. And very FREE. It WAS $2.99 some months ago, but, that is not longer the case for now at least.

Swipe this one up and give it a go… https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tryagent

The Campaign to Make Data Rarefied

Recently I was watching live television for a quick morning news fix and between weather and traffic I saw an ad promoting Bright-House Networks Free WiFi access spots. The crux of the ad was promoting that their WiFi was everywhere and it is cheaper to use this service than use your 4G access on your cell plan. I am not disputing the claims in the ad because there is some veracity to the spot that is encouraging subscriptions to Bright House Networks. But where the hell did the unlimited plans go? When the hell did data get so, well, rarefied?

I have an unlimited plan at home. I have an unlimited plan on my phone. Right? That was the word THEY used, not me. I think it is too late to take the thing that I was, and still am being told there is an unlimited amount of, and then, after the fact, “limiting” the thing.

Just in-case you think I am wrong, it’s working… for them.

Comcast, for instance sold unlimited internet. Here is a box that hooks up to the computer. “Use it. Eat all the bits you want – we’ll make more” to paraphrase. Then the letters started going out. I did not personally receive one but I have been told about the 300 GB  per month limit. That may seem like more than you could ever need, but this is the new definition of the word “unlimited” that I have not been previously aware.

Data was rarefied before – in the 1980s and early 1990s. CompuServe was expensive. Dow Jones was expensive.  America On Line was expensive.  AOL is an interesting case – they were an expensive 500 pound gorilla and creator of premium content, that became aggregator of premium content, that became a deliverer of webpages. Then they became just an ISP. Then just host of your email address with a good free IM. Then just some website. Well that was the order that happened for me. Your experience, if you were around, probably looked different. It was like watching the snowball effect, backwards – snatching defeat from the mouth of victory.

Data over dial-up internet became reasonable quickly in the mid to late 1990s. ISP’s were competing hard for your dollar, beating up big ol’ AOL. An ISP’s service could be had for 20 bucks per month. But  ISPs had to keep upgrading their data centers to keep up with peak-time data connections, or just oversell the network. Then came the always-on, unlimited cable-internet and always-on, unlimited DSL with much more speed, bathing you in all the bits you could ever want, for what was only double the price – beating up the dial up ISPs. The advent of ISP began the age of “unlimited.” We did not have to worry about a thing.

But, competition vanished.

No more ISPs. We now have one or two choices for the home and five or six choices in our pockets. Data, which was so plentiful it couldn’t be contained, has now become precious. Or faux-precious.

Over cell and over the line, we are entering a world where we get smacked on the knuckles with a ruler when we go over some measly limit. The encroachment has begun, with warning shots across the bow with warning letters and passive-aggressive text messages.


And there is a huge battle on the horizon. When 4K video, video 4 times the size of HD, starts being offered  in the next few years, suddenly you will constantly be reminded of your 300 GB limit. Or pay extra for your provider’s 4K offering. But that is down the road. The tees are being setup today.

Have we come too far to go back to the days of all you can eat data plans? Not yet. Maybe. This may not be an issue for you. Yet. Until it is 8pm and you are using your Roku and your kids are on the iPad watching Netflix, while somebody is in the office VPNing into their work computer to finish up some last minute bit of something. After which you may get a letter stating that this thing, that you though you had an unlimited amount of, is a thing you ran out of because it has been made rarefied.

AntennaPod – The Best Free, Ad Free, Open Source Podcasting app for Android.

unnamedThere are lots of podcast apps for your Android phone. Few are good. Fewer are free. One is good, free, ad free and open source – AntennaPod. The hardest part of switching from IOS to Android was finding a good podcast app. Really. No kidding. I was using Podkeeper Free but it made the process of subscribing, downloading and listening very manual and laborious if you listened to more than five podcasts regularly. AntennaPod has some very nice automation built-in, so you can just listen.

Give it a go: AntennaPod on the Google Play store.

Good old phone tech with carrier fallout…


I think the cell phone market has a tendency to get ahead of itself. My Samsung Galaxy S III, or, as it was known – “the iPhone Killer,” I just bought is considered “old.” And since it was released in May of 2012 I guess it is old by industry standards. Let’s talk about release dates for a second, the iPhone 4 I loved for 3 years was released June of 2010 (still available), and its better step-up, the 4S, was October of 2011 (still available). The miserable HTC Evo design (available, barely), which I hated for an annoyingly long five months, was also released in October of 2011. But sometimes time and order does not matter, to the chagrin of all history teachers.

The HTC Evo Design was a miserable experience. The lesson I learned with that phone was simple; don’t buy a questionable phone then expect to depend on it.  Because. You. Can’t.

So I picked up a what will be a 2 year old phone and I am just tickled the Galaxy S III is so well done. And they are planing to port the KitKat OS to this phone at some point.  Bully for me.

I am going to get a little nostalgic here, but, do you remember the days when your PC was considered ancient if it was over three years old? To some people this may still be old. But the times have changed. Even a junk laptop bought 5 years ago, if it is loved and cared for, can still be the work horse of today. I know. I have seen it. If I were to put a point on the moment when this happened, it would be when dual core processors were cheaper to the masses around 2007 – this was already too much processor for every day tasks. And it is plenty enough processor for the cloud computing.

Fast forward to today. And the phones we buy are as fast as the multi-core processors of 2007. Which brings me to my point: if you purchase a state of the art phone from the last two or three years, treat it well and with care, and you will be hard pressed to find a good reason to upgrade in the next couple years. We have finally reached a singularity with phones.

And look out carriers, the contracts you have gown to love so much are going to expire with people holding perfectly good phones in their hands. The carriers may actually have to start competing harder then ever to get your attention.



No need to root, just load a ROM…

The other day, out of nowhere, in the middle of the day, my FreedomPop HTC EVO Design decided not to respond. To anything. AT ALL. The phone was in a race condition. I could not turn it on or off. I had to take the battery out and put it back in and take it back out again and put it back in. And then it booted. Finally. I should not be surprised. Are you noticing a theme with my posts yet?

As stated before, I am done. So, before I give this phone up, let’s see if I can get this thing livable. Though, I will explain why ‘livable’ truly cannot happen. But, for the sake of completion, here are 2 Android ROMs that I got to work on my HTC EVO Design and gets rid of the crappy, buggy, slow software this thing came with. I almost (read: almost) came close to NOT giving up this phone all together because of these roms (I was very impressed), but I will and, as I said, I will explain why…

The following two roms you can replace your stock rom with and get better performance, battery life and general experience than with this phone’s stock roms. If you got a phone from FreedomPop, it is already rooted, you can skip ahead in the linked threads/articles. Speaking of which, read the articles carefully before you attempt any of this and learn make a full backup of your phone that you can recover from if things go horribly wrong. And also, the cleaner your phone is to start with, the better, in my experience.

1. JellyBean/Cyanogenmod for HTC EVO Design
Oh my, this thing is beautiful and modern and fast – and unofficial. When you push it really hard, it barely flinches; it is amazing. I wish FreedomPop used this! 2 Problems: 1… Netflix does not work (could be that Nextflix does not like C.M. JellyBean. This may fix it – I have not tried this.) And 2… the 4G cell network doesn’t work with this rom. Now get this, I could make a call over 3G using FreedomPop’s Messaging app, with an unbelievable amount of lag, but it worked. I could not do this before. This OS is a joy, all the programs I used work better, the built-in music app, Apollo, is great, and the system just, mostly, works as a phone should.

2. ForgottenKingdom
This is an older rom, running Ice Cream Sandwich, but it gives you the ability to get rid of all the HTC Sense UI garbage, which is what I suspect was giving the mediocre experience on the EVO Design. This rom comes a lot closer to what the stock experience SHOULD HAVE BEEN! Sense UI just needs more juice than this phone has to offer I guess. ForgottenKingdom also has this great interface for setup that you can customize the heck out of – very good work by the maker of this rom. And, I understand 4G does work with this rom of the box. And this one comes with the radio.app should you choose to install it. It is an old Android version, but well done. Faster than stock but not as fast as JellyBean/Cyanogenmod.

I am grateful to the developers and hobbyists that put so much effort into this kind of work. I am in awe. Thank you.

But, why, after all this, is this phone is still untenable? The FreedomPop Messaging app, which does the calling, is too unreliable to call this cell phone a cell phone. Even with the better roms and a more responsive phone, the Messaging app is still as unreliable as ever.

A Samsung Galaxy SIII is in on a truck with a label that has my address on it.

Research Links:

…and in the end. Final Review…

Back in my late teens/early twenties I owned a 1978 Chevy Monza. Not a well maintained, 8 cylinder example, but a poorly maintained hand-me-down from my sister with a rebuilt 4 cylinder engine and a Jerry-rigged radiator. The plastic was crumbling on the interior. The carpet had water damage from the windows being left open. The tires were mostly bald. And this is how I got the car when it was new to me. The car, quite often, would randomly stall on occasion, randomly not start on occasion and randomly make odd unidentifiable sounds that could lead to the other two random aforementioned issues. It was a deathtrap with a horror show with bad paint with a radio that was not nearly loud enough to drown out the “issues”.

There is no surprise turn here where I say “But I LOVED it.” and you pat me on the back for being almost pithy. No, it was stressful and not fun. I did not realize how stressful and not fun it was till my next car: a 1982 Honda Civic – the little tank that was more reliable than I realized a car could be. And that is the point full of the pith. It is with life’s variances we realize things are better or, in this case, worse.

What I originally hoped this blog would become is a journey of happy discovery within the Android platform and the huge benefits of a free phone service. My hopes were to have recommendations of how one would get the most out of any Android phone. What this blog had become is a sounding board for me to complain about how absolutely inconsistent the phone and service are for me. I will no longer be writing posts at  freepophtcevo.blogspot.com because even I grow tired of the repetition. So, one last waltz, if you please.

The FreedomPop HTC EVO Design beta test is a failure. Why? Read on.

The HTC EVO Design is so underpowered, the clock on the phone will stop working if over-taxed. This is not a small problem. I cannot understand this in 2014 or in 2011 when the phone came out or 2003 or 1995. This phone’s clock stops. There are, at times, not enough processor power for the CLOCK to work, but, I don’t know when those times are because the CLOCK stops. My first cell phone from 2003 did not have this problem. Crap free phones, cheap pay-as-you-go phones and old iPhones NEVER did this. My Commodore 128 never has this problem. This phone has this problem.

The FreedomPop service, which I still maintain is revolutionary, hinges on two well meaning but poorly executed things. Thing one is Sprint’s 4G data. I have lived in 2 major metro areas and have found the idea of Sprints 4G very enticing, what I have not found was consistent service, at least not if I am moving faster than 2 miles per hour. I would guess the quality would be good sitting under a Sprint 4G tower, unfortunately, I don’t live or work there.

Thing two is the FreedomPop Messaging app. Here is what I know, what I don’t know and what I am guessing at. I know that when activated, the Messaging app will use so much power that I will have a dead phone in 5 hours. I don’t know when this will be fixed, though there was some major and minor improvement with updates, I must leave my phone plugged in when this app is running. I am guessing that the Messaging app is based of some version of CSipSimple which I understand to be a great piece of mature open-source software that FreedomPop, let’s say, remade in its own image, poorly.

So, for fun, here’s a situation wrought with peril: this phone is my alarm clock. (Side-note: here is a very good recommendation, Timely, this app is not only terribly useful and configurable, it is also very beautiful – my sincerest compliments to Bitspin.) But, when you have a phone that, doesn’t keep proper time, and at times, though you don’t know when, will run out of juice if not constantly plugged in, the situation comes back to stress. It is stressful when you can’t rely on your clock to be a clock.

And when you can’t rely on your phone to be a phone, to be the thing that it looks like,  to be the thing it says it is on the box, and it is dead or it can’t make a connection or it is on 3G, not 4G,  or its app that you depend on all this to work is just not working for whatever reason – it is not the thing it says is. It is stressful. It is useless.

Google Voice Tips With an Expiration Date

May 15th 2014 is the date which you can say good-bye to Google voice apps that use XMPP to make and receive free calls using a bevy of soft-phones or Android apps or iPhone apps. That is it – no more. What are they going to do next? I still don’t know.

Here are some pointless software recommendations to fill your time for the next four months:

So, lets see… Talk-a-Tone the totally o.k. app with an oldish interface and the odd name, that previously used Google Voice’s XMPP, has opened up a freemium service of its own. If you upgraded the app recently, you get to become a customer of theirs, not Google’s.  For Talk-a-Tone, this is the difference between staying in business and going the way of the do-do. Good luck to them.

The app I have become fond of is GroVe-IP-lite, the little sister to GroVe-IP. The developers of GroVe-IP have decided to for this app to go dark on the 15th of May. They have said as much in the description of the app in the Google Play store. Unfortunate – this is a pretty nice bit of kit to have available – good interface, call quality was good, and pretty reliable when in use.  From what I could tell, the only difference between the two versions of the app was that you couldn’t use your carrier data plan with GroVe-IP-lite. 

In so far as computer based soft(ware)-phones, I was using the open source YateClient with Google Voice on my Mac with much success. It gave me the best quality with probably the least intuitive interface, but, once you get used to this softphone, it doesn’t matter. An interface that stops you from wanting to use the program is bad, YateClient’s just made me have to think more. Again, it is another causality on the 15th of May for its Google Voice hooks, but it is also a SIP client so this will probably live on just fine.

What will I do after for cheap/free service after the May 15th, I am not sure. I will probably end up cobbling together something with some SIP service with Google Voice to get me through. As for what is Google going to do to Voice – I think that a clue lies in the conversion from SMS client to MMS client for the Messaging piece. Is this to serve a service like Hangouts or to possibly serve the Android platform? We shall see, soon enough.