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Android customization – Android Lollipop Priority mode and Interruptions settings

Posted by wicked December - 19 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

Android Lollipop Priority Interruptions

Last week in our Android customization series we took our fist look at a manufacturer specific feature, LG’s Guest Mode. The feature allows you to lock down your device so you can securely hand it over to someone to play with, it has its limitations, so be sure to check it out before you put it to use. This week, we’d like to look at a new set of options in Android 5+ Lollipop that allows you to, if nothing else, automate your device to be silent at bed time.

The feature is listed under the header Interruptions in your Sound & notifications main Settings. We’ll be looking at this on a device running Android 5.0.1 Lollipop.

Before we get started

The best thing about today’s project is that it does not require any fancy software to continue. Perhaps that is incorrect, with the somewhat slow roll out and relatively new release of the latest version of Android, that’s Android 5.0 and Android 5.0.1 Lollipop, many devices do not yet have the required OS.

If your device does have a stock Android 5+ Lollipop release, you are ready to go.

Android Lollipop with Google logo

Creating a sleep mode with Android 5.0.1 Lollipop Interruptions settings

Before we show you the required steps to continue, allow us to discuss exactly what Priority mode and Interruptions are and how they work.

As most of you are well aware, Android previously required you to manually adjust your audio settings, specifically your ringer and notification volumes, when you needed times of silence, like while you are sleeping, or at work (or both.) We have taken the time in the past to work with Tasker to automate these settings based on a set schedule, and now Android wants to do it for you, too.

Google has made it simple to get started with Priority mode. You have undoubtedly seen the option to turn on Priority mode, which you can quickly access by pressing your volume rocker buttons to change your ringer volume. You are presented the three options of None, Priority and All, along with your standard volume slider.

When Priority mode is turned on, only a certain set of notifications are allowed to fire through to disturb you. This brings us back around to that Interruptions section in Settings, which allows you to control what falls into the Priority category, and what is left silent during your sleeping hours. Let’s get started.

Configure Interruptions

Android Lollipop Priority Interruptions settings

Head on into your system Settings.

In the Device section, tap on Sound & notification.

Tap on Interruptions.

Now you get to make some decisions. The idea is to leave When calls and notifications arrive set to Always interrupt during your normal day. Then, use the Downtime settings to automatically go into Priority mode.

I have chosen for my Priority mode to only allow calls through, leaving Events and reminders as well as Messages silent. In the next section, I have configured it so that those incoming calls are only from my Starred contacts. Again, all notifications come through during daytime hours, but only calls from my starred contacts come in when set to Priority mode.

Automating the process is handled in the Downtime settings at the bottom.

Android Lollipop Interruptions settings

Tap on Days to set your required silent days. The wording is a bit confusing, asking for the days that silent mode starts, not the days that is should be on, if that makes sense. So, if you choose Monday to Friday, your device may wake you at 3am on Monday morning, because it is not set to go silent on Sunday night.

Tap on Start time and End time each to configure your bed time and wake time.

That is all there is to setting things up. Be sure to remember your way in here, if you are like me, you’ll be back soon to tweak things regularly until it is perfect. For example, I was awoken before my alarm this very morning by a wrong number, which is when I changed to allow calls from starred contacts only.

What’s next

As you have seen, the Interruption settings allow for just one set of on/off times. This means you will still need to take action to handle things completely. You could manually turn Priority mode on/off easily enough by pressing your volume button then choosing Priority, just remember to turn it back to All when your meeting, nap or movie is done.

Guess what? Tasker is once again your friend. Having just rolled out an update that includes the ability to set the Priority setting to one of the three options. Now, you can either use the system to control one set of silent times, or just go all out and use Tasker to do it all.

Android Lollipop Priority Interruptions none

One last word of warning, be aware that the None option of the Priority notification settings in Android 5.0.1 Lollipop also turns off the alarm. That’s right, not even our old Tasker alarm project works now, but don’t worry, I’ll go back and update it for you soon.

Next week

We have a bit of a special opportunity next week in our Android customization series, it will be Christmas day. This is the perfect time to head back to the basics of Android with a little refresher on how to change your Homescreen wallpaper. Perhaps we’ll be able to hook you up with some holiday themed wallpaper while we’re at it.

How is Android Lollipop’s new Priority mode working out for you?

Android customization – how to use LG’s Guest Mode

Posted by wicked December - 12 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

LG Guest Mode enter from lock screen

Last week on our Android customization series, we took to the default Android settings menu to control your display timeout. As an added bonus, we showed you where the automatic security lock lives as well, giving you the simplest and most basic control of your device to make it so that your display stays on longer, if that is what you desire.

Today, we would like to break the ‘good for all’ trend, by looking at an LG specific feature, Guest Mode.

The idea of a guest mode, as we will review today, is not exclusive to LG, Android introduced multiple user accounts a while ago. However, LG’s Guest Mode does not create a full separate user account, as the Android solution does. Guest Mode simply creates a new environment with limited access to apps and features, which operates on top of the existing user account.

Before we get started

There are no downloadable apps to install today, but you will need an LG device that is equipped with Guest mode. Guest Mode first became popular on the LG G2, but I will be showing it off on a brand new LG Realm. If this $20 phone, running LG’s skin on top of Android 4.4.2 KitKat, can handle Guest Mode, there is a good chance your newer LG device can too.

Finally, Guest Mode requires that you secure your device with the Pattern type security lock. If you are not already using a Pattern to secure your device, you’ll want to set that up now before you can proceed.

Enable and configure LG Guest Mode

If you are still a little unsure of what Guest Mode is on an LG device, be sure to head back to our previous coverage of the LG G2 and Guest Mode itself. The info is a little over a year old, but the premise remains the same.

To enable Guest Mode, simply head on into your main system Settings.

Under the Personal header, choose Guest Mode.

Look for the On/Off toggle switch and turn it on. If you have not yet set Pattern as your lock screen security, you will be prompted to do so now. Without a Pattern in place, Guest Mode will not turn on.

LG Guest Mode Settings

Tap on Set Pattern.

Create a new pattern that will be used by guests to unlock your device. Hit Continue, repeat the pattern and hit Confirm to complete this step.

LG Guest Mode Set pattern

Last, we need to decide which apps your guests will have access to. At first glance this sounds like a simple task, but keep in mind that Guest Mode is not a unique user account on your device, it is merely a locked down experience using your main account. What this means is that guests will have access to your data in any app that you give them access.

If you are setting up Guest Mode for your children, so that they can access games on your device without being able to access any other features, your privacy is easy enough to manage. However, if you are handing your device over to someone else, you may be tempted to include apps like a web browser, maps and more.

I will leave it to you to think this through, but a couple quick examples to be aware of, providing access to Google Camera allows a user to view your camera roll. More straightforward of an example, providing access to Gmail does not give them a blank slate to work with, it gives them your Gmail.

Simply tap on Set apps.

Hit the Edit button in the top right corner.

Choose the apps your guests get to use. In this particular LG device, you are limited to 20 app selections.

Tap OK to save and exit.

LG Guest Mode Set apps

That is all there is too it. Exit settings and go about your day.

How to use Guest Mode

LG’s Guest Mode is triggered from the lock screen on your device. You will need to turn off your display, and wait for the required time for the auto lock to secure your device. Be sure to look back over last week’s Android customization post if you need a refresher on how to manage this, or the Tasker tutorial on controlling your display, if you are using that.

From the lock screen, enter the Guest Mode pattern you had created earlier.

LG Guest Mode enter from lock screen

Once inside, guests are presented with a basic homescreen with icons for the apps you have provided access. Guests cannot access any other apps, nor can they get to the notification bar or app drawer. Guests can long press each app to re-arrange the layout of the homescreen, but that is about the extent of functionality, aside from running the apps, of course.

When finished, simply turn off the screen and back on again to get back to the lock screen. Enter your normal pattern and go back to your normal use.

One final note, guests can not access the Recents list, but anything they use will show in your list. This is a simple method to monitor what your guest was up to, if needed. Of course, if you are in the habit of keeping an empty Recents list, this just gives you a handful of apps to swipe away.

What’s next

While LG’s Guest Mode is not the absolute best way to secure your data when handing over your phone to anyone else, it does provide a decent method to allow a trusted user to access an app or two without messing with your stuff.

I would not consider Guest Mode to be secure enough to effectively lock out law enforcement, Customs or a TSA agent, if that becomes a situation for you during any holiday travel this Christmas season.

Next week

android 5 lollipop (2)

We hope that the LG users out there found this week’s Android customization post to be useful. We promise not to make a habit of offering tips and tricks on manufacturer and device specific tools, but we like the simplicity of LG’s Guest mode, and we thought you would too. Next week, we would like to take a look at a brand new feature in Android 5.0 Lollipop that allows you to take control of your device for your sleeping hours. I hope you’ll join us.

What tools do you use to secure your device when you hand it over to someone else?

Flow Home Review: A Windows 8 Styled Homescreen Launcher For Android

Posted by wicked December - 8 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

Flow Home Banner

One of the most powerful features of Android is the ability to have a custom homescreen launcher. Don’t like your stock launcher’s appearance? Not comfortable rooting your device? Do you want to root your device and add further customization? No problem, launchers are where it’s at.

Before I begin, I find it important to note that this app is in Closed Beta. You can download the app, but without the invite code, you cannot access it. Larva Labs Ltd does make it very easy to get this code by going to their Twitter account here.

I am making the disclaimer that Flow Home is in closed beta because it is obviously in its infancy and there are a few bugs plus a few other missing features. I will point out one in particular, but I have zero doubt that Larva Labs will have these things addressed by the time the app goes live.

Additionally, this app was written about a few days ago here at TalkAndroid by Jeff Causey, but I wanted to take a moment and give a full review from my personal experience with it.

In the headline, I claimed that this app is Windows 8 styled. What I mean by that is the interface is very similar to Microsoft’s handling of the homescreen: a vertical scroll that goes through your personal apps like text messages and emails, as well as your social media, and puts it front-and-center. Texts and emails, and other information that is of higher importance, take precedent and are placed at the top of the launcher’s feed.

Unlike Microsoft’s UI, these tiles are not “live” tiles. Meaning each and every tile links to a single location. For example, a tweet from TalkAndroid will show up as a tile that allows you to click it, opening up a pop-up that gives a bit more information and a link that will open this app and direct you to that entry. Plus, our notification and navigation bars are still present.

Want to see newer tiles in your feed? This is accomplished by dragging the feed down to refresh it, similar to what we do in almost every other app that has feeds. Want to dismiss a tile? Swipe it to the right.

But what if you don’t have a tile and want to open up an app? Larva Labs has included a circular, floating button in the bottom-right that will open up your favorite app shortcuts. The style of this button is in keeping with Google’s Lollipop material design and animation. The shortcuts can be rearranged or you can drag-and-drop them off of the pie interface to get rid of them.

In addition to this, the user can swipe from the right, opening the app drawer.

Do you have too many apps? You can hold down the bottom-right button to engage an app search. This can be done from the homescreen or the app drawer.

Flow Home also allows a bit of customization to its theme and behavior. At the very top, you can click your profile picture. This will take you to the launcher’s settings where you can change the theme, change the feed behavior, and even customize your user and top banner picture.

During my time with the launcher, I absolutely loved its unique approach to our beloved Android homescreen. Similar to Aviate, it puts the user’s life in the spotlight. Unlike with Aviate, which for me seems to be more business oriented, Flow Home is more personal.

Some things that I missed was my Google+ feed. I contacted Matt Hall, co-founder at Larva Labs, who said that there is a problem with Google+’s API that doesn’t allow feeding similar to Twitter and Facebook. He did say that they were working on Google+ and claimed that Feedly, Reddit, custom icons and widgets were on the list to be implemented.

Perhaps in the meantime, the developers at Larva Labs could create a setup with Google+ similar to how Flipboard does?

Also, the themes seemed a little lacking. I enjoyed the double-column option, but they only had “light” available at the moment. Readers will know that I like darker themes, so hopefully we can see this in the future.

Another thing I would like to see is having the top banner be expandable. For example, when unlocking your device, you’re greeted by the nearly-full banner, then swiping up will reveal the entirety of the feed.

Finally, I ran into a small bug that required me to uninstall and reinstall Flow Home. When I swiped away all the tiles, the launcher would no longer load new tiles. Again, closed beta…

In closing, I see a very bright future for Flow Home Launcher. The folks over at Larva Labs definitely have a winner on their hands and I sincerely hope they stay focused and energized to quickly give this brilliant application to the masses of people looking for a great stock launcher replacement. My personal favorite launcher, Nova, better watch out!

See below for a screen recording from my Nexus 5 as I walk you through the launcher. Below that is a link to the Play Store for Flow Home.

Click here to view the embedded video.

qr code
Google Play Download Link

 

Come comment on this article: Flow Home Review: A Windows 8 Styled Homescreen Launcher For Android

Nanoport: A Magnetic Technology That Can Change Smartphones Into A Tablet

Posted by wicked December - 5 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

Nanoport_1_to_3_picture1

In the tech world, like physics, there seems to be a quest for unification. One, ultimate, idea that encompasses all other ideas. This hunt manifests itself in the constant debate about the size of smart devices. Whether consumers would be happy with something the size of a phablet and only own one device or would people rather have something that fits better in the hand and also own a tablet?  (This generalization assumes that many would not see the utility in owning both a phablet and a tablet.)

Nano Magnetics Ltd has now begun working on the development of a device that straddles the middle-ground of this discussion.  It’s introducing the concept of possessing multiple small devices that can turn into a larger, connected device.

Nano Magnetics is the company that is famous for its electroplated Nanodots, which are usually the size of balls from ball bearings, and people are able to construct whatever they see fit as if they were playing with magnetic Legos.

How it works is that a user can have one smartphone then, using Nanoport magnets and technology, can connect this first device to another and another and so on. Once the Nanoport magnets are activated, the devices will instantly and seamlessly share data among each other.  So if you wanted a tablet-sized screen, you can connect multiple Nanoport enabled devices.

A Nanoport example device debuted at last January’s CES 2014, but what was shown was more of a demonstration of the hardware aspect, specifically how the magnets stood up to the stress of usage.  Today, as we inch closer to CES 2015 this January, Slashgear has reported that Nano Magnetics will demo a fully functioning Nanoport device.

What we are left in the dark on is how exactly are we to turn pre-existing smartphones into Nanoport “blocks”.  Will we be able to DIY upgrade our current phones? Can we only obtain this function by purchasing devices that come with Nanoport technology?  And how annoying will it be to watch a movie that has gaps in the screen from where one smartphone’s display ends and the other begins?

To maybe answer that last question, I give you a YouTube video uploaded by Nano Magnetics:

Click here to view the embedded video.

Source: Slashgear

Come comment on this article: Nanoport: A Magnetic Technology That Can Change Smartphones Into A Tablet

Android customization – how to make your screen stay on longer

Posted by wicked December - 5 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

Android screen display sleep timeout

So, how many days until Christmas now? If you had followed along last week’s Android customization project, you’d be able to answer this question by just saying the words out loud. Of course, that was a bit of a larger project, focused on using voice input and output, as well as heavy duty variable management in Tasker.

This week, we need to take things a little easier. Heading back to our basics, let’s look at how to manage display timeout settings on your Android device, to control how long your display stays lit before it puts itself to sleep.

As always, we’ll be working off of a stock Android device today, your settings may differ.

Before we get started

There are many factors to consider when you start playing with your display sleep settings. The two main concerns are battery consumption and security.

Adjusting your display timeout is an exercise in managing the aspect of your device that consumes the most amount of energy. Increasing your display timeout, even by just one minute, will likely result in noticeable battery life changes over the course of a day. Which means, turning the setting down can save you battery life.

By default, Android is usually configured to enable your screen lock shortly after your display goes to sleep. In my experience, you get 5 seconds. Should you happen to misplace your device with the display turned on, which is more likely with a greater timeout setting, there would be nothing stopping anyone that finds your gear from accessing your system.

How to make your screen stay on longer

Stock Android, as well as most other versions of Android, have built in tools to manage your screen timeout, and the process is fairly simple.

Android screen display sleep timeout settings

Head into your device Settings.

Tap on Display.

Tap on Sleep. (Your device may say Screen timeout, or something similar.)

Simply choose the amount of time that works best for you.

That is all there is too it, go ahead and exit your device Settings and enjoy your new display sleep configuration.

What’s next

I mentioned above that your device will automatically enable your security lock a short time after your display goes to sleep. For my use, this feature is more problematic than the display just turning off. Sure, Android 5.0 Lollipop, more specifically, Google Play Service 6.5+, is able to use a new feature to disable your lock screen based on the proximity of a secured device or network. For now, the default 5 seconds before the device auto locks after the display goes to sleep is not long enough for my needs.

Android Security Auto Lock

You can change the auto lock settings in your device Settings -> Security -> Automatically lock. Choose an appropriate time for your needs and enjoy not having to unlock your device over and over again.

While you are in there, you’ll also see the option called Power button instantly locks. This option does exactly what it says, I like to turn this off as well, leaving the Auto lock setting from above to take control of my security.

Finally, everything we’ve looked at here today is controllable by apps like Tasker. Indeed, we’ve previously put Tasker to work on this very project, check out that Android customization project for more details.

Next week

If your display has been going to sleep too fast for your needs, or staying on longer than you’d like, I hope today’s Android customization tip has saved you some grief. Next week, we’d like to break our own rules a little bit by looking at a brand specific feature. We’ll be taking a look at how to enable and configure Guest Mode on your LG device.

What is your preferred screen timeout setting?

Tasker Task Days To Christmas Widget

I hope you’ve found some use out of last week’s Android customization post, certainly, being able to fall to sleep to your favorite music is a great thing. This week we give in, just a little bit, to the urges of the season. That is, with many of you reading this while resting off a Thanksgiving day meal, it is time to start thinking about Christmas.

Perhaps Christmas is not your thing. Please do not get caught up on this part of the process, you can use this project for any day you desire. What we wish to look at today is utilizing voice input and some tricky variable management in Tasker.

Before we get started

Get it on Google Play ButtonYou will require Tasker to follow along today. Tasker will run you $2.99 from the Google Play Store. For best results, I recommend using an Android 4.0+ device, and please keep in mind that some Samsung devices with S-voice do not play well with Tasker’s Voice input and text-to-speech output.

Now would also be a good time to track down an appropriate image to be used as your icon for the project. To keep it simple, here, take this one I slapped together using the Androidify app.

Androidify Christmas Lollipop

Before we go diving in, this is a rather involved project that focuses on two new concepts we’ve not touched before, and expands on another that we’ve only used in its simplest form. The project itself looks to take your voice command as an input, act on your question and by converting and comparing variables, then output an answer to your question through your device’s text-to-speech feature.

Without the technical explanation, we will be asking our Android device “how many days until Christmas?” and it will answer us out loud. Let’s get started.

How to collect voice input through Tasker

Create a new Tasker Task and name it uniquely and concisely, I’ll call mine “DaysUntilX“.

Tap the “+” button to add our first action.

Tasker Task Voice input

Choose Input.

Choose Get Voice.

You do not need to do anything here, but I find that adding a Title enhances the experience. I’ve added in “Say: how many days until Christmas.” Then hit the system Back button to save and exit.

Tap the “+” button to add a new action.

Tasker Task Voice to Variable

Choose Variables.

Choose Variable Set.

We want to create a local variable that will take the collected voice input for evaluation.

In the Name section, enter a variable name starting with the percentage sign followed by lowercase letters, I’ve called mine “%voiceinputx“.

In the To section, enter the collected voice input by typing “%VOICE“, without the “‘s, of course. You could have also tapped the labels icon and scrolled through the list to find %VOICE.

Tap the system Back button to save and exit.

Now that we have collected your voice input and saved it into a variable, lets act upon it. First things first, we evaluate the input and exit the Task if something doesn’t look, or sound, right.

Evaluate the voice input and terminate the Task if anything sounds wrong

Tap the “+” button to add your next action.

Tasker Task variable match Alert Flash Voice

Choose Alert.

Choose Flash.

Under Text, write yourself a quick message that will display if your voice input is not adequate to proceed. I simply put “Sorry, I don’t understand %voiceinputx, please try again and repeat the phrase exactly.

Now, most important, hit the “+symbol to the right of IF.

In the first text field, enter your voice input variable name, mine was “%voiceinputx“.

Tap the “~” button and choose Doesn’t Match, which will change the button to “!~”.

In the second text field, enter the exact phrase that you want used to trigger your project. I have entered “how many days until Christmas“.

It is important to note that this is a case sensitive comparison. Most of us will want all of the words to be lowercase, but capitalizing “Christmas” should still work. You may need to play with this, luckily, our flash alert will display what text it has collected if you’ve entered the variable in the Text above.

Tasker Task Alert Flash Error Message - Edited

Tap the system Back button to save and exit.

Now, if the above phrase didn’t match, we want to outright halt the Task.

Tap the “+” button to add a new action.

Tasker Task variable match Stop

Choose Task.

Choose Stop.

Tap the “+symbol beside If and repeat the input as in the above Flash Alert action. This way, if our text collected does not match the text expected, the command Stop will terminate everything that is to come.

Tap the system Back button to save and exit.

Having collected voice input and used it to evaluate whether or not to proceed with the task, we will actually no longer need it today. From here, we just want to work with variables, then respond with our answer. We have some crazy work to do with those variables, so hang on. If you find that you are struggling to understand what exactly is happening, please just follow along, I suspect you’ll find that it is easier to understand this project when everything is in place at the end.

Here is what we are going to need to do. We will need to set a variable and tell it when Christmas is. Create another variable with today’s date. Compare the two. Finally, add that value into a text-to-speech string. That almost made this sound easy, let’s do it.

Create and compare Tasker date variables

We are going to be using the same basic procedures a few times over here, so, for further reference, to create a variable, tap the “+” button to add a new action, choose Variables, then choose Variable Set.

Tasker Task Variable Set

Your first variable will be for your actual target date. In this case, Christmas.

Tasker Task Variable xmasday

Variable Name will be something like “%XMASDAY“. Note that I made it all capital letters, so that I can use this variable in other projects.

Variable To will be the date, “12-25-2014“, or whatever date you wish to work with.

Tap the system Back button to save and exit.

Create the next variable, for today.

Tasker Task Variable today

Variable Name something like “%today“. Note that this is all lowercase characters, I won’t need this variable for other projects, so I keep it local so that it deletes out of RAM when the Task is complete.

Variable To should collect the current date, which is available as a built-in variable, “%DATE“.

Tap the system Back button to save and exit.

Now we need to compare the two variables. The problem we face is that Tasker cannot do a mathematical calculation on dates, so we will need to convert the values to something that Tasker can work with, seconds.

Tap the “+” button to add a new action.

Tasker Task Variable Convert xmas

Select Variables.

Select Variable Convert.

Variable Name will be your Christmas day variable, I had called mine “%XMASDAY“.

Under Function, select Date Time to Seconds.

Under Store Result In, create a new local variable, I’ll call mine “%xmassec“.

Tap the system Back button to save and exit.

Tasker Task Variable Convert today

Now, repeat the steps for your today variable. That is, choose Variable then Variable Convert, Variable Name “%today“, Function Date Time to Seconds and Store Result In “%todaysec“. Finish up by tapping the system Back button.

Do math on variables

From here, we need to identify how many seconds difference between the two dates, then turn that into a manageable value. For each step below, we will just create a new variable for each action, I think that will help you understand the process a little easier. In a perfect world, we would just change the value of the existing variables. More on that another time.

Tap the “+” button to add another action. This will be another Variable Set action.

Tasker Task Variable Do Math to sec

Variable Name%secstoxmas

Hit the check mark beside Do Maths.

In the Variable To field, enter “%xmassec – %todaysec“.

Tap the system Back button to save and exit.

Now, we have the value in seconds, let’s create a new variable to convert to days. Basic math, really.

Tasker Task Variable Do Math to days

Variable Name “%daystox“.

Hit the check box beside Do Maths.

Variable To%secstoxmas / 60 / 60 / 24

I left the math long so it was easy to see what I was doing. Seconds divided by sixty gives minutes, divided by sixty gives hours, divided by 24, of course, gives days.

Tap the system Back button to save and exit.

Congratulations, you now have the answer of how many days it is until Christmas, or whatever you have made your target date. All there is left to do is something with that value. Here comes the text-to-speech, because, why not.

Tap the “+” button to add yet another action.

Tasker Task Say text to speech

Select Alert.

Select Say.

In the Text field enter an appropriate statement, including your final variable from above. I have entered “There are %daystox days until Christmas.

Feel free to play with the rest of the settings, if you desire, then hit the system Back button to save and exit.

Tasker Run / Play TaskThat is all there is too it. I say that like this was simple. In a way it really was, just a lot of steps to get to this point. Anyhow, go ahead and tap that Task Play button in the bottom corner to test out your project. Don’t be disheartened if it does not work the first time, some tweaking may be required.

Last thing before you exit out of the Tasker Task, tap that icon button in the other bottom corner and add an image to your project, this is where that picture I gave you above comes in.

Tasker Task icon

What’s next

Of course, I have not given you a trigger for this project. You may opt to simply place a Tasker Task widget on your Homescreen. That is probably easiest. From there, if you are really into this thing, why not add it as a piece of a Zooper Widget Christmas design. Wouldn’t hurt to display the countdown right beside your clock. Then, of course, you can remove the voice input validation and simply have it read out the days remaining statement when you click it in your Zooper Widget design.

Tasker Task Say text to speech options

For bonus points, you can add extra text-to-speech commands. In this case, you would want to turn on the If parameter in each Say action. What I’ve done is create three Say actions, one that fires if Christmas is yet to come, another for when it is Christmas day and the last to gently remind me that I’ve missed the special day.

Back to the beginning of this project, we only put voice input into this project for the sake of learning how to use it. It truly does not serve the project very well. Feel free to axe it from the lineup. Tasker includes the ability to disable actions within a Task, without having to delete them. Long press on the desired action, then select the power icon that appears in the top right, or the word Disable, depending on your version of Tasker.

Tasker Task Voice Input Box

Finally, we have a little treat for you today, I’ve gone ahead and packaged up the entire project into an importable XML file. Download it to your device, then long press the Task tab header to choose Import. You’ll have to put your own icon for the project though. For your security, the download hashes as MD5 Checksum: D7B6AE1D1B1975F1DBB57948D8C82E3E

Next Week

We hope that you’ve found use for this week’s Android customization project. Please keep in mind that Christmas is just an example, this project will let you count down to any date you desire, and is good for any time of the year.

Next week, we need to take it a little easier, let’s look at methods to keep your display on longer. Yes, we touched on this subject before, using Tasker – this time out, we’ll show you what the Android OS itself can do, and how to manage those settings.

What is the best use of voice input controls you have running on your device?

Tasker Task Timer Stop Start Music

Last week in our Android customization series, we walked through the basics and tools needed to hook up a USB flash drive to your Android device. As a recap, you need an USB OTG capable device and connector cable, then an app, usually your favorite file manager, to connect. So much simpler than you might have thought it was.

This week, we want to look at our favorite customization app, Tasker, and use it to control our music. Perhaps down the road we will create a full music player, today all we want to create are a sleep timer that shuts down your music automatically, and another timer to fire up your music after a set amount of time, let’s call it an alarm clock.

In the end, today’s project is mostly a lesson in using Tasker’s Task Timer widget.

Before we get started

Get it on Google Play ButtonYou will require Tasker for our project today. Tasker is $2.99 in the Google Play Store. Be sure to check out some of the capabilities of Tasker and a few of the other projects we’ve built with it, if you are not sure it is worth the price.

Create a music sleep timer using Tasker

This project draws upon an idea I floated a few months back, utilizing the media controls in Tasker to start and stop music playback. First things first, we’ll need to start with the Tasker Task to stop media playback. It’s pretty easy, let’s get started.

Tasker Task Stop Music Media Control

Create a simple Tasker Task and name it concisely and uniquely, I’ll call mine “StopMusic.”

Select Media.

You may have the urge to hit that Music Stop button, resist it. Instead, select Media Control.

Under Cmd, select Stop.

Tap the system Back button.

Tasker Task Stop Music icon

In the bottom right corner, tap the icon with the nine little squares in a grid. You are now setting up an icon for the Task, so follow through the selection method and choose something that appeals to you.

Tap the system Back button, all the way out of Tasker.

Before we continue, it is crucial that we test out the Task we’ve just built. Fire up some music on your device, re-open the Tasker Task and tap that little run button that looks like a media play button. If it does not work, you’ll need to modify the Task a bit. Try turning off Simulate Media Button for starters. If that does not do it, you may actually try out that Music Stop option. The only right or wrong option here is to choose the one that works on your device.

Create the Task Timer widget to stop music

Find an empty 2×1 space on your Homescreen and perform the actions required to place a widget. For most of you, that means long pressing the empty space. Stock Android users will be able to choose the widget from within the applications dock.

Tasker Task Timer Stop Music

Select the Tasker widget called Task Timer.

Choose your “StopMusic” Task.

Verify all looks well and hit the system Back button to save and complete.

As an added tweak, you may choose to resize the widget to 3×1, if you find that the text does not display properly.

Using your new music sleep timer

Tasker Task Timer control Stop Music

To put your sleep timer to work, tap on the icon portion of the widget, on the left hand side. This will open up the time selection tool. Set your desired time and tap OK to start the countdown.

I suppose you’ve chosen just a few seconds at first, just to test things out. If all went well, go ahead and pump it up to half hour or an hour or more, fire up your tunes and head on to bed.

Wake to music in the morning

As I hope you gathered, the process to create an alarm clock is almost exactly the same as your sleep timer.

Create your new Task, named appropriately, perhaps “StartMusic” will do.

This time out, in your media control choose Play [Simulated Only].

It will again need an icon and you will again want to test it out before continuing. This time out, there is a Toggle Pause option that may also work on your device.

With the Task created and tested, follow the same instructions as above to place the Task Timer widget for your alarm clock. Once created, simply choose your amount of time and tap OK to be awoken by your own music come morning.

Tasker Task Timer Stop Start Music

What’s next

You have a bunch of options available to you on this project. You may, perhaps, have a very regimented schedule, in which case you could skip the widget and simply create Tasker Profiles that will stop music at an appropriate time each night and fire up the tunes every morning, without having to bother with the widget.

You should find that once you’ve used the timer once, instead of tapping the icon of the widget to re-select a countdown, you can simply tap the timed countdown numbers to restart the timer using the previous value.

Myself, I like have a visual confirmation of the action. In my Task, I’ve added Alert -> Flash -> “Music Stopped.”

Tasker Task Timer Music Stop notify

Finally, and I apologize if you’ve made it this far without success, you’ll find that Tasker’s media controls are not very precise. I am working on an Android device with Google Play Music as my main music player, and I have a music widget set on my Homescreen. You should not need to have these yourself for the project to work, just be aware that Tasker is firing off generic start/stop media commands that may not work with your desired music player all that well.

Considering the commands are fairly generic, it is also very important to note that the StopMusic Task will stop all media. If you are watching a video on your device when your widget countdown reaches zero, expect that your video player will accept the stop media command and come to a halt.

If you absolutely do not like how this project works, Tasker has the ability to select and play local media files. If you have a single song or folder of songs on your device that you would like to wake to each and every day, you’ll want to use the Media -> Music Play or Music Play Dir options. Just be sure to also have a Tasker built StopMusic tool, or it’ll just keep playing.

Next week

Next Thursday will be Thanksgiving day in the United States, and that means that Christmas is only a short time after that. But just how many days is it exactly until Christmas? Wouldn’t you know it, we’ll use next week’s Android Customization post to create a Christmas countdown for you.

Androidify Christmas LollipopSince most of you will have the day off, we’ll make this a crazy one. We’ll make it a voice activated project that does some hard core variable manipulation to reach our goal. I’ll explain the process as we go, for those that wish to use these tools for other projects. At the same time, I’ll make it easy to just follow along, so you can be up and running with your own ‘days to Christmas’ reminder in no time. For those that do not celebrate Christmas exactly, don’t worry, you can use this project to count down to any day that you desire.

I hope you find a use for the Task Timer through Tasker. Using this tool to play music as an alarm clock, and stop music as a sleep timer, are fairly simple implementations, what great uses have you come up with?

AT&T bumps 10GB to 15 for mobile share value customers

Posted by wicked November - 19 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

AT&T_Logo_01_TAAs of yesterday, AT&T is offering Mobile Share Value customers 15GB for the price of 10 or a limited time. That’s right, for the $100 per month price tag that normally comes with 10GB you’ll get an extra five. According to AT&T you can do a lot with 15GB of data.

With 15GB you can stream 160 hours of music and 30 hours of video, surf the web for 300 hours, 1,000 photo posts to social media, download 100 apps or send and receive 10,000 emails.

The deal is available for existing consumer and business customers. It includes domestic unlimited talk and text, unlimited international messaging from those sent from the US, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to 190 countries for texting and 120 countries for picture and video messages.

So if you’re in the market for a new plan or want to take advantage of an extra 5GB you better hurry. Like I said before, it’s a limited time deal.

source: AT&T

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Android customization – how to connect a USB flash drive to your Android device

Posted by wicked November - 14 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

Android USB OTG flash drives

Last week on our Android customization series, we rounded out a string of Tasker and Zooper Widget tutorials that made it possible to rock your Homescreen with custom widgets. With the software customizations we’ve been working with, perhaps it is time to look at something a little more physical, like connecting a USB flash drive to your Android device.

Flash drives spent a good amount of time as the number one way to take your files with you wherever you needed to go. As some of that has changed with Android devices and cloud storage, many of us still have those USB flash drives kicking around looking for a good use.

Let us take a good look at connecting a USB flash drive to your Android device, but fair warning, you’ll need to purchase a new cable to proceed.

Before we get started

As mentioned, connecting a USB flash drive to your Android device will more often than not require a special cable called an USB On-The-Go or OTG cable. I will be using a simple $1.47 OTG cable from Monoprice today, but you may be more comfortable looking at this $1.09 cable from Amazon.

Beyond the basic OTG cable, you can step it up to a powered Y-splitter OTG cable. Be aware that this is not intended to charge your device, rather it is to power your connected USB peripheral. You shouldn’t need this for your basic USB flash drive, but it is highly recommended if you are attempting to connect a full external hard drive or anything that will draw more than 500mA of power.

If you do not already have a flash drive or ten kicking around, you may consider one of the OTG capable USB flash drives or card readers already on the market. Equipped with a micro USB connector, these unit will attach directly to your Android device.

USB OTG MicroSD

There are also some folks over on Kickstarter that have taken the OTG Flash drive all-in-one approach to the next level, creating a microSD card reader that can plug into either your computer or Android device, plus much more. Feel free to head on over to Kickstarter to learn more about the project, then, if it appears slightly beyond your drone flying, GoPro packing, smart TV flash drive needs, maybe this simpler USB OTG microSD card reader will better suit your needs.

Connecting a USB flash drive to you Android device

This is the easy part. For best results, plug your USB flash drive into your USB OTG cable first, then plug the OTG cable into the micro USB port on your device.

Android USB OTG flash drive

With the right cable, connecting a flash drive to your Android device is a simple thing, but what do you do now?

Apps that can read USB flash drives

Once your USB flash drive is connected to your Android device, you’ll need to use specific apps to be able to access the data. There are a number of options here, of which I will cover just two.

ES File Explorer

In addition to being one of the few apps that can take advantage of your installed microSD card on device, ES File Explorer can also read and write to your connected USB flash drive. Best of all, no root required.

Install ES File Explorer

With your USB flash drive connected, open up ES File Explorer, you will be greeted with a permissions screen. Click OK to allow ES File Explorer to access your USB flash drive.

Now, swipe in from the left hand side to access the side menu. Open the Local section and choose your USB flash drive, mine was named “USB1002″ but this is not the first time I’ve connected it.

ES File Explorer OTG USB flash drive

To eject, simply close out of ES File Explorer then unplug. If your USB flash drive is equipped with an indicator light, make sure that it is not flashing before you unplug.

Special note: Although I’ve used ES File Explorer today, you should find that most file explorer apps will perform the same task in their own way. Check out our list of favorite file explorer apps for suggestions.

Nexus Photo Viewer and Nexus Media Importer

Don’t let the names fool you, these apps should work on any USB Host enabled Android 4.0+ Android device.

Nexus Photo Viewer is a simplified free version of Nexus Media Importer. Do try out Nexus Photo Viewer before spending the $4 on Nexus Media Importer. Both apps should connect to the media on your OTG cable connected USB flash drive.

As above, simply connect your USB flash drive to your OTG cable, then plug the OTG cable into your Android device. These apps will act on the USB attached intent and will immediately ask if you would like to connect. Click OK to proceed.

Nexus Media importer Nexus Photo Viewer OTG USB flash drive

Once in either Nexus Media Importer or Nexus Photo Viewer, you will be able to view your stored content, with extra features such as a photo slide show available in the paid version. There is also a basic file explorer too, so you will be able to transfer files to and from your USB flash drive.

Disconnecting from Nexus Photo Viewer and Nexus Media Importer is done by accessing the menu button in the top right, then choosing disconnect. Then simply unplug.

What’s next

Do not think that a USB flash drive is the extent of devices that you can connect to your Android device. I have successfully tested several powered external hard drives, USB mice and keyboards. Just keep in mind that 500mA limit, as we’ve heard reports of high draw USB peripherals causing damage to phones. Personally, I’ve been lucky in that my device has rebooted on me, without causing any noticeable harm. I was attempting to connect a webcam, just for fun, but it didn’t work.

Android USB OTG mouse

Next week

I’ll give you some time to play around with this week’s Android customization post, let you try attaching all of your USB components to your Android devices. I’ll give you some time, let’s say, on week. Next week, I’d like to use Tasker timer widgets to mess around with music. A sleep timer and an alarm clock should be a good start.

Have you found any fancy USB devices that have unexpectedly connected to your Android device?

Verizon Offers Football Leather Moto X

Posted by wicked November - 7 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

FootballMotoxFor all you football fans out there waiting for your pigskin phone, your wait is over. Verizon has added the Football Leather option to the online Moto Maker website. There was already a leather option, but this option looks and feels like a real football.

If you want to show your love of the gridiron, you’ll have to cough up a few extra bucks—twenty-five of them to be exact. However, that will be a small price to pay for true football fans. Head over to Moto Maker and check it out! Source: Verizon Wireless

Come comment on this article: Verizon Offers Football Leather Moto X

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