Ok Google, You Jacked Up My Skype

The last few times I’ve tried to use Skype from my phone, I’ve had a problem where the person I’m calling says I sound like a chipmunk and they can’t understand anything I say. The first time it happened, I didn’t really think anything of it. I just figured there was something messed up with Skype and/or my phone that would work itself out after some time. But then it happened again a few weeks later, so I figured I should do some troubleshooting.

I tried uninstalling and reinstalling Skype, but no dice–the problem persisted. Then I did what I probably should’ve done first: googled “android skype chipmunk.” The first hit was an AT&T forum with a bunch of people describing my situation. Essentially, “I have a Galaxy S4 and peeps can’t understand me because I’m chipmunk’d.”

The accepted answer on the thread said this:

Think I figured it out – I had enabled ‘OK Google’ from any screen – turning it back off solved the issue.

Gah, for real? I headed over to the Google app and disabled the option to listen for “Ok Google” from any screen. Sure enough, problem solved. This is a disappointing resolution because I really like saying “Ok Google” to initiate and execute voice searches from anywhere, but apparently I have to choose between having that and having to manually turn it off when I use Skype.

After scouring forums for a while longer, I did find a Hangouts thread where some Google folks acknowledged that they were looking into the issue but no word on finding a cause or timeline for a fix. Other posters on the forum cited problems with LG phones. This coupled with the fact that it’s an issue with video chatting in Skype and Hangouts indicate that this is not a Samsung or Skype problem.

So, okay Google… Fix this!

Find the Best Wifi Channel with Meraki Wifi Stumbler

Recently, I’ve been having network connectivity issues at home. Browsing the internet is generally fine, but if I try to stream a video or play games online, I have disruptions every few minutes. One of the suggestions that I got from Comcast was that there might be interference on the wireless channel that my router is using.

I’m not wireless pro, but that seemed like a reasonable thing to check out. Before arbitrarily picking a different channel, I wanted to see what other wireless networks around me were using. After a quick or search or two, I found a free wireless analyzer called Meraki WiFi Stumbler.


WiFi Stumber is a simple app that gives you basic details about the wireless networks that can be found. It’s easy to see the signal strength, encryption, and–what I was looking for–channel. Using the app, I did a quick scan to determine a channel that wasn’t being used by one of my neighbors and plugged it into my router. Now I can check wireless interference off my list of possible culprits!

Guide Me, O Phone Gods

It’s been about a year and a half since I switched from Windows Phone 7 to Android. I was happy with Windows Phone, but I felt like I was missing out on a big part of the smartphone experience: the apps. WP7 was so new that there weren’t a lot of apps. The biggest and most popular apps generally came out for iOS first, followed by Android, and then, sometimes, they’d make their way into the Windows Phone store. I switched to Android, and I felt like I was joining the rest of the world in terms of apps.

In addition to the apps, it was the ability to “unlock” features like mobile hotspot by installing custom ROMs that drew me to Android. The free mobile hotspot is the main reason I’m considering sticking with Android, too. I know that other carriers give you free mobile hotspot with a metered data plan, but I’m sticking with Sprint’s unlimited data for the foreseeable future.

Upon making my switch, I had been running a very stable, very good Gingerbread ROM, and I ran it for over a year. It started to feel stale, and I upgraded to Jelly Bean. I love the updated look and feel of JB, but I’ve had unreliable GPS, poor battery life, and other assorted problems as I’ve hopped from ROM to ROM in search of stability. It’s a tough spot to be in. On one hand, I’m free to upgrade as quickly and frequently as I like. On the other hand, there are always defects, and the quality is ultimately at the mercy of the development community for my specific phone. My phone’s not getting any younger, either, so that community that I depend on is shrinking each day. Getting back to a stock ROM isn’t an option. The phone–a Galaxy SII–is too old, so there won’t be any updates coming from Sprint, and I can’t go back to Gingerbread or even Ice Cream Sandwich after getting a taste of Jelly Bean. And there’s no way I’m going to exchange my mobile hotspot for a bunch of Sprint bloat.

Windows Phone and iPhone are looking like better and better options. I’ve been really happy with my Surface, and I liked my Windows Phone 7. But will I again be dissatisfied with the amount of apps available to me? My wife has an iPhone, and it always seems to “just work.” There aren’t a lot of people that I know who don’t like their iPhones, but what if iPhone has peaked? Is joining in the post-Jobs era a bad move?

My friend that originally convinced me to move to Android tells me that I just need a new phone, and maybe that’s the case. And, to his credit, I’d be pretty happy if everything always worked on my Jelly Bean phone. If I stick with Android, I’ll probably keep it stock–I’m just not interested in keeping up with custom ROMs and the defects that come with them. I’m worried that I’ll be happy out of the gate but grow frustrated with the lack of updates over time.

I’ve still got a few more months before I’m eligible for a new phone, so I have time to sort it out. I’m confused, vulnerable, and directionless. Maybe I’ll just get a BlackBerry.

Triage Android Battery Drain with BetterBatteryStats

I’ve really been digging JellyBean on my Galaxy S2, but the battery life has been a dagger. With my previous Gingerbread ROM, I was easily getting about 1.5-2 days of normal-use on a single charge. Since upgrading to CyanogenMod 10 (Beta 2), I’ve only been getting 8-10 hours, and most of that is standby! I’m never away from a convenient charging location for more than a few hours, so this is more of an annoyance than a deal-breaker, but I’d still like to get it fixed.

I thought that maybe the battery drain had to do with CM10, so I switched to AOKP over the weekend. The good news is that I like it just as much as CM10, but I didn’t really see any improvement in battery life. Using the standard battery details in Android settings, I was able to see that the vast majority of my battery—70 to 80%–was being used by Android OS, but that’s as much detail as you get. That’s not very helpful, and so I turned to BetterBatteryStats.


Looking at the screenshots, I wasn’t sure how useful the app was going to be. It was also $3, which is pricey fare for the app store. The app was recommended on many-a-forum, though, and I decided to take the plunge. I’m happy I did.

It’s easy to see what’s eating up your battery by looking at the Partial Wakelocks. Right away, I could see that NetworkLocationService was a major culprit. After just a few minutes of googling, I found that this service was linked to the Wi-Fi & Mobile network location setting in Settings > Location Access. I had originally linked this setting just to wi-fi. I knew I should keep wi-fi turned off when I wasn’t using it to conserve battery life, and I (incorrectly) assumed that the location service would be disabled-by-proxy when wi-fi was off. Upon re-reading the setting, it was using mobile data to update my location. Battery life is a much bigger priority to me than location-based services, so I turned off the setting and improved battery life significantly.

A few hours later, I decided to check the battery stats again. This time, it was the GPS. Like wi-fi, I knew that I was supposed to keep GPS turned off to conserve battery life. I got tricked by the fact that the GPS icon in the status bar was only visible for certain apps, though. I turned it off and boom–more battery life.

If you’re experiencing battery woes, I’d give BetterBatteryStats a look. It was well worth the $3 investment for me. In a day of monitoring and tweaking, I’ve gone from under 10 hours to over 20.

Sync Android Photos to SkyDrive

One of the features I really liked (and miss) on my Windows Phone 7 was the pictures live tile. Any pictures I took on my phone would rotate on my home screen. It was a great way to see and view my pictures without actually opening and browsing through my gallery—something that I’m unlikely to do just because I’m bored.


So, I was happy to see that this same pictures-live-tile functionality included in Windows 8. By default, the Windows 8 tile goes out to SkyDrive—where all my Windows Phone pictures were synced to—and uses those pictures in its rotation. One problem, though: I’m no longer using Windows Phone. So my Windows 8 live tile only rotates through 300 or so pictures that I took a year ago and doesn’t include anything recent. Bummer.

No problem, I figured, I’ll just sync my Android photos to SkyDrive and problem solved. I headed to the Play Store and found an app called FolderSync—which comes in both free and paid versions. FolderSync lets me do exactly what I want: pick a folder on my phone (my camera/pictures directory) and sync it to cloud storage (SkyDrive camera roll). Setup is easy, too. You just configure the application with your account, create a folder pairing, and you’re done.


Now, any pictures I take will upload to SkyDrive. And then, in Windows 8, they’ll be in rotation in the pictures live tile. The only thing that’s less than ideal about this is that the application won’t upload pictures on a scheduled interval. I’m not sure why. It allows automatic syncing to a local folder but not to a remote one. No big deal; I just have to remember to open the app and sync manually from time to time. Other than that, it’s perfect!

My Foray into Jelly Bean

I’ve been a happy Android (Epic 4G Touch/Galaxy SII) user ever since I made the switch from WP7 (Samsung Focus). Since that time, my wife has switched to an iPhone. I was secretly jealous of features like Siri. Whenever we needed to remember to do something, I’d tell me wife to have Siri set up a reminder because it was so easy and convenient. I was still dedicated to Android because of the free mobile hotspot and turn-by-turn navigation, but I was feeling like my next phone should be an iPhone.

That all changed yesterday when I upgraded to Jelly Bean.

This was only the second time I’ve installed a custom ROM, and I was admittedly nervous. Part of the reason for my initial switch to Android was to get onto a custom ROM to unlock the free mobile hotspot. I stumbled through that, and hadn’t had problems since. I was nervous to do it again because of the satisfaction achieved in my first attempt.

I ran into some bumps along the way. Most significantly, I ran into the error described here when flashing the ROM. The solution offered by one of the replies got me over the hump, though, and it was smooth sailing from there. I’m now up and running on CM10 Alpha 5.3, which can be found here. It’s great!

Everything about Jelly Bean feels new and clean. The visuals and animations look and feel crisp and smooth. The every features like messaging, alerts, and email look better. I haven’t noticed any feature changes with those, but I also haven’t done more exploration.

What I’m most excited about is Google Now, Google’s answer to Siri. I can now ask my phone to set reminders, look-up directions, and send text messages. One of the features that Now boasts is “no digging required.” It’s supposed to learn what information I need and present it to me without asking. I’m very curious to see how this works. But for now, I’m happy with the voice search and command capabilities offered by Now. I can also hold the search button to initiate a voice command from within any screen–very Siri-like.

My allegiance and excitement have been renewed, and my gravitation toward iPhone has been killed. Sorry, Apple.

Spotify launches free and unlimited on Android | Radio & Television Business Report

Hooray! Pandora has always been my favorite music streaming service, but I must admit that I was jealous when Spotify radio was released for iPhone and not Android. Spotify radio let’s you save favorites for playback later–a terrific feature that’s missing from the free version of Pandora.

Spotify launches free and unlimited on Android | Radio & Television Business Report.

Dear WP7, I’m in love with Android

Ever since the 2010 PDC when I got my first Windows Phone 7, I’d been in love with it. I was coming from a Blackberry and was thrilled with everything I was getting–Zune, local scout, a decent camera, the UI.

Buuuut there were some things that I wasn’t so happy with, too. The biggest thing for me was the availability and quality of apps. Sure, there are some great apps. But there’s a lot of essential apps that aren’t available, like Pandora and Google+. The “standard” apps that were available–like Facebook and Twitter–were glorified bookmarks and didn’t have nearly the functionality that my wife had with her Android. The thing that finally pushed me over the edge was seeing a co-worker use Android’s mobile hotspot while on the road at a customer site. That justified a new phone platform right then and there.

So I’ve switched from my Samsung Focus to Samsung Epic 4g Touch, and I must say, I’m thrilled! What do I love about it? All the apps are great. I have two GPS solutions (Google Navigation & TeleNav) that are WAY better than what I had with WP7. I have unlimited data, which is incredible. (I know this isn’t a WP7 flaw, but it’s something that I didn’t have with AT&T that I now enjoy with Sprint.) I love having access to Pandora again. Oh, and MOBILE HOTSPOT!!

Is there anything I miss about my Windows Phone? Not a lot, but there are some things. The integration with SkyDrive and Office was nice. I love OneNote, so I liked having it as an app that would sync automatically to the web. The battery life was great. Battery life is what I was worried most about before switching. My wife’s EVO 4g has pretty sad battery life, but my E4GT seems decent.

So, WP7, we had a good run together, but my heart now belongs to Android. The E4GT is the everything I’ve ever wanted in a phone, and I plan on sticking with Android for the foreseeable future.


It’s HBO. Anywhere.

I just heard about HBO GO, and it sounds like a lot of fun! It’s a downloadable app for your iPad, iPhone, or Android device that let’s you watch HBO shows (movies, series, and originals). I’m a big fan of HBO, so I’m really excited to try it out on my wife’s EVO.

I sure hope they come out with an app for Windows Phone!

More info here: http://www.hbogo.com

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