maandag 15 december 2014

Sony releases tutorial Unlock your boot loader

Unlocking the bootloader is, more often than not, the gateway to squeezing out every bit of functionality from your Android device, specifically via rooting and installing custom ROMs. While not exactly necessary for most users, it has become both tradition and requirement for developers and power users. Trying to endear itself to that crowd as well, Sony has just released a video tutorial that guides users through the process of unlocking an Xperia device's bootloader.

Sony can perhaps be credited and praised for being the only major device maker to actually support modding their products this way, though with the necessary disclaimers and warnings. You can find many guides on the Internet about rooting and unlocking Samsung, LG, HTC, and whatnot, but, aside from Motorola, which is a very special case, Sony is the only one that provides detailed instructions for doing so. It even provides a tool for flashing the stock Sony ROM. And now they have a video that ties all those up together.

That said, the process isn't entirely easy as Sony doesn't provide a one-click tool to automate it all. They do it the official and multi-step way, perhaps to ensure that only those who dare take that journey are really those who are sure of the consequences. Users will have to request for an unlock code from Sony, download the Android SDK from Google, and fiddle around with ADB and Fastboot, among other things. Those steps indirectly serve as checkpoints to make sure that the user is really aware of what they're trying to do.

Of course, unlocking the bootloader isn't a necessary operation and Sony reminds users of that. Of course, they'd prefer users to stick to their own custom Android experience, but there are also technical considerations as well. Depending on the device, most especially the more recent models, unlocking the bootloader and installing custom ROMs results in some functionality being disabled, commonly the camera, noise reduction, and sometimes even cell radio, which practically renders the device useless. But at least for those who do live for these kinds of things, and those that develop the ROMs that other users install, the option and the instructions are officially there.


donderdag 11 december 2014

Nest thermostat gets Insteon smart home integration

Smart home addicts relying on Nest for their HVAC can now hook the learning thermostat up to an Insteon automation system, integrating it with their lighting, security, and more. The new support, added in an update today to the Insteon Hub as well as the iOS and Android apps, allows Nest users to remotely control their home or office temperature.

That was of course already possible with Nest's own apps, which allow settings for the thermostat to be manually controlled remotely.

Update: Insteon tells us that there is currently no macro support for its Nest integration. In the future, the company says, the hope is that the thermostat can be included in macros, such as changing HVAC settings alongside lights. Insteon supports various timer- and motion-triggered actions, like unlocking doors or opening the garage, and so you could presumably have the heating turned up when you arrive home, even if that's outside the times that Nest itself has learned you're around.

Insteon relies on a combination of AC power line and wireless to communicate between devices, and is flexible enough to work with third-party devices like Revolv's Hub which we reviewed last year.

Meanwhile, Nest is believed to be one part of new owner Google's own smart home ambitions. According to rumors, the search giant is still harboring home automation ambitions that could include streaming media among other things.

You'll need an Insteon hub in order to use the new Nest integration, of course, which runs to $129.99 if you opt for the company's own model, while Nest itself is $249.

maandag 8 december 2014

Buy A Chromecast, Get $20 Google Play Credit christmas bells From Now Until December 21st !

Google christmas bells  Chromecast HDMI Streaming

Media Player

Google seems to be making a final push to get people buying Chromecasts before Christmas. If you buy one between today and December 21, you'll get a $20 Google Play credit to buy some new movies to stream on your TV. They don't make it too clear, but it appears you will need to buy fromthe Play Store to redeem this offer. Update: As commenter SEJ326 points out below, Chromecasts from both Amazon and Best Buy are also eligible for the offer.

If you managed to hold off on buying the Chromecast during Black Friday, you'll be glad to know that Google is now offering a $20 Play Store credit toward purchasing movies and other digital content to stream to the device. The deal is in addition to three months of free Google Play Music All Access (for first-time subscribers) and two months of Hulu Plus that Google is already giving away to all buyers of the Chromecast.
The deal is only valid to customers buying the Chromecast during the promotion period, which is from December 7 to December 21. After purchasing the streaming media player, you have until January 31, 2015 to receive a code for the Play Store credit, which is accessible from this link.
Note that the deal is US-only, and is applicable on purchases made from Amazon and Best Buy in addition to the Play Store.
Source: Google
  • Stream online video, music, photos and more to your TV using your smartphone, tablet, or laptop
  • Supports a growing number of apps including Netflix, YouTube, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Pandora, ESPN, MLB.TV, Google Play Movies and Music, Plex, MLS, crackle, Vevo, Rdio. Allows to cast a Chrome browser tab.
  • Box includes Chromecast, HDMI extender, USB power cable, and power adapter. No remote needed.
  • Easy setup: Plug into any HDTV and connect to your home WiFi network
  • Works with Android phones and tablets, iPhone, iPad, Mac, Windows, and Chromebooks 
Brand NameGoogle
Item Weight0.2 ounces
Product Dimensions    4.7 x 4.7 x 1.4 inches
Item model numberH2G2-42
Color Nameblack
Item Display Height3.5 centimeters

donderdag 4 december 2014

64-bit Android phone

Over the coming months, we’ll see a lot of new phones trumpeting 64-bit processors. Should you run out to get one? Is 64-bit silicon twice as good as that crummy 32-bit technology we’ve been using for years? The short answer is no. The longer answer is that the move to a newer ARM architecture includes some nice enhancements, but being 64-bit isn’t, by itself, all that important.

Before you pull out your wallet to snag the first 64-bit Android phone (the HTC Desire 510), or begin salivating over any of the other 64-bit phones coming this fall, let’s discuss what the term 64-bit really means, and why you should, and shouldn’t, care about it.

Just what is a 64-bit processor, anyway?

Ask around, and you’ll hear numerous definitions of the term “64-bit processor.” Most often, you’ll hear that it means the processor can use more than 4GB of RAM. This isn’t really true, as a chip’s “bit count” doesn’t really have anything to do with how much memory it can address.

Processors use two kinds of numbers to perform operations like addition, multiplication, and moving or copying data in memory. You have your integers (whole numbers like 90210) and floating-point numbers (those with decimals like 3.14159265359). If a processor can handle integer operations up to 16 bits long, it’s a 16-bit processor. If it can handle a 32-bit integer operation, it’s 32-bit, and (you guessed it) a 64-bit processor can handle 64-bit integers.

Apple introduced the first 64-bit, ARMv8 phone processor last year with the A7.

A 32-bit processor also uses 32 bits to point to locations in memory, while a 64-bit processor uses 64 bits. That means that a single program can address only 4GB with a 32-bit chip, even if the processor itself can address more. A 64-bit processor points to memory locations using 64 bits, allowing individual programs to address 16 exabytes—a practically unlimited amount of memory.

For most apps, a 64-bit processor doesn’t offer much benefit. Most of the apps we use on our phones and tablets really don’t have much need for 64-bit integer operations, or more than 4GB of memory per program. In fact, a 64-bit app can sometimes run slower than a 32-bit app, because using all those 64-bit memory pointers can make the app larger, sucking up more cache and RAM.

So why are 64-bit mobile processors better?

The move from 32-bit to 64-bit ARM processors in our Android devices is just one development in a greater, much more important change: the move from the ARMv7 architecture to ARMv8.

For nearly the past decade, all the chips in our smartphones have been based on one principle set of supported instructions and features—ARMv7. All our modern smartphones, from the original iPhone and T-Mobile G1 through the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S5, have been built with processors that adhere to the ARMv7 specifications. Yes, ARMv7 has had its share of improvements and extensions over the years, but at its core, it’s still the same fundamental architecture we’ve been stuck with for almost a decade.

And ARMv7 is getting a little long in the tooth. So about three years ago, ARM introduced a new standard all the chip makers can build processors around—ARMv8.

ARMv8 includes a whole host of improvements. It takes all the ARMv7 instructions that today’s processors must handle by default, and streamlines them. New instructions for modern applications have been added, and old, depreciated instructions have been thrown out. Special instructions applicable to encryption have been added, too. What’s more, the spaces inside a processor where commonly used instructions and data are stored—they’re called registers—have roughly doubled in number in ARMv8. That’s a big deal, because it means an ARMv8 processor will spend less time pulling data from memory.

Qualcomm's first 64-bit chips are low- and mid-range. But high-end chips like the 810 are coming soon.

And, of course, ARMv8 is 64-bit capable, all while maintaining compatibility with older 32-bit ARM software.

When all is said and done, the new ARMv8 architecture is what makes 64-bit chips faster and more efficient, not merely the fact that they’re 64-bit. You don’t get one without the other, but it’s a lot easier to celebrate “64-bit” in a press release than try to explain the benefits of increased register space or a refined instruction set.

Is 64-bit really going to make a big difference?

Well, yes and no. The first Android products to bear 64-bit chips will offer performance that’s all over the map. The HTC Desire 510, for example, is a budget phone powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor. The Desire 510 is based on the ARMv8 architecture and is 64-bit, but it’s still a low-end handset that’s going to be slower than most of the high-performance phones already on the market. Qualcomm’s next 64-bit chips to hit the market will be the mid-range Snapdragon 610 and 615 chips—and they’re still nothing to get worked up about. The pedal really hits the medal early next year, when we expect devices bearing the high-end Snapdragon 810 chips.

On the other hand, we may see tablets sporting the dual-core 64-bit version of Nvidia’s Tegra K1 chip before the year is out, and that processor should be very fast, indeed.

Consider this: Apple’s iPhone 5S has a 64-bit mobile chip, and it has been on shelves for about a year. It’s very fast, but that hasn’t stopped Android phones from matching its performance with lowly 32-bit processors. Moral of the story: Faster processors are always on the way, 64-bit or not.

So, don’t be hoodwinked by the inevitable “64-bit” checkbox on the specs sheet. The move to ARMv8, 64-bit mobile processors is a very good thing, but not every 64-bit processor is faster than every 32-bit processor.

64-bit really needs Android L to shine

There’s one more piece to this puzzle: the operating system. If you buy a 64-bit phone with Android 4.4 KitKat on it, you won’t really unlock its potential until it gets an upgrade to Android L.

You see, to properly utilize ARM’s new 64-bit architecture, you’ll need both operating system and application support. Android L has been designed to fully support ARMv8 and 64-bit platforms, while KitKat has not. But what about apps? Do you need to wait for app developers to create special 64-bit-optimized versions of their apps?

Android L brings with it a ton of new features, among which is full support for ARMv8 and 64-bit.

Well, apps will get faster and more efficient when developers optimize for these new chips, but you may not have to wait to see benefits. On Android, most apps are based on Java. So when you download an Android app, you’re really grabbing a package of zipped-up code and libraries that the Android OS turns into a functional program that can be understood by your phone’s processor. This is called “compiling.”

The compiler in Android L, known as ART, is made to produce code that’s optimized for the new ARM architecture. So, with Android L and a 64-bit processor in your phone or tablet, your apps could run faster without a developer lifting a finger to make special optimizations. And if they do make those optimizations, their apps could run even better.

By this time next year, we’ll have forgotten all about 64-bit

Marketing departments love the term 64-bit. Any time they can put a number twice as big on the box, they’re going to. You’re using a 32-bit phone now, so if you’re anything like the typical human, your emotional triggers will tell you a 64-bit phone is twice as fast. It’s why we see cameras crammed with more megapixels, and processors with more cores. More always equals better, right?

In this case, the marketing departments aren’t wrong, they’re just overstating the importance of 64-bit to the Android market. Yes, the new ARMv8 architecture—which brings 64-bit computing along for the ride—has a number of nice enhancements. And, yes, so does Android L, which is necessary to take advantage of the new architecture. But better processors and operating systems roll out every year. They’re never twice as good as last year’s, and these won’t be, either.

Within a year, nearly every hot new phone or tablet will contain a 64-bit-capable chip. Even the cheap ones. Android L will be everywhere, and we’ll already be pining for the next version of Android. 64-bit will no longer be a selling point worth calling out on marketing materials, and we’ll wonder why we ever made such a big deal about it in the first place.